MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 27adh Bealtaine, 1942.
Wednesday, 27th May, 1942.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY DILLON in the chair.
Mr. J. Maher (Oifig an Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste), Mr. C. S. Almond, Mr. G. P. S. Hogan, and Mr. L. M. Fitzgerald (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
Mr. M. Deegan called and examined.
Subhead I—Improvement of Estates, etc.
“37. The Land Commission, with the approval of the Department of Finance, undertook, at an estimated cost of £530, the restoration of the premises of a tenant purchaser which had been destroyed by aerial bombing, on the condition that an undertaking would be given to repay to the Land Commission out of any compensation that might be awarded so much thereof as is attributable to the destruction of the house and out-offices, but not exceeding the amount the Land Commission will have expended on the work. During the year under review £25 12s. 3d. was expended in clearing away debris and preparing the site for rebuilding.”
488. Chairman.—Has the undertaking mentioned there been given, Mr. Deegan? —The undertaking to repay to the Land Commission was given.
489. By the owner of the premises?— Exactly.
490. I suppose the bulk of the expenditure envisaged, £530, fell in the present financial year and that accounts for the small expenditure in the financial year under review?—That is so. The law has slightly changed the arrangement for repayment; the law now provides that we will get the money from a Government grant under the Neutrality (War Damage to Property) Act of 1941.
491. I take it that your work in restoring this house is going on?—The house has been completed; the out-buildings have yet to be done.
Paragraph 37 (continued).
“In connection with the scheme whereby certain lands in County Meath available for the relief of congestion are reserved for allottees from the Gaeltacht, a net expenditure of £2,025 7s. 9d., incurred in providing the necessary roads, drains and water supply, the erection of dwelling-houses and out-offices, and for free grants for stock and implements, is charged to this subhead. The total expenditure borne on the Vote for Lands in connection with the scheme from its inception in 1934-35 to 31st March, 1941, amounts to £102,134 9s. 5d. In addition, expenditure amounting to £2,050 9s. 10d., which was subsequently recouped to the Land Commission by the Office of Public Works was incurred on the erection of a schoolhouse. The remuneration of a domestic economy instructress who paid periodical visits for the purpose of advising the migrants on matters of domestic economy is borne on Subhead D 3 of the Vote for Gaeltacht Services (No. 54).”
492. Deputy Hughes.—How much land was involved?—In all the Gaeltacht colonies?
Chairman.—I take it the Deputy means the land in County Meath?
493. Deputy Hughes.—I mean where the £102,134 9s. 5d. was spent?—They are all in Meath—2,924 acres.
494. What is the average cost to the State per family in that settlement scheme?—There are different costs. For instance, there is the cost of land, the cost of equipment, and the cost of special assistance. I imagine that the special assistance is what you are interested in. The average cost of the special assistance in the case of the Gaeltacht colonies was £301 per family. I have not worked out the cost of the land per holding, but I know that the cost for 122 holdings was £48,900.
Paragraph 37 (continued).
“The expenditure, apart from the cost of general improvements (roads, drains, fences, etc.), borne on the Vote for Lands in connection with the scheme for the provision of holdings in certain counties in Leinster for migrants from districts where there is acute congestion, from its inception in 1937-38 to 31st March, 1941, was £60,902 5s. 3d., made up as follows:—
Until the scheme is completed it is not possible to apportion the expenditure on general improvements in respect of migrants’ holdings on the estates.”
495. Chairman.—Does that paragraph apply to the Meath migrants as well, Mr. Deegan?—To any group migrants settled in Meath. These group migrants are settled in various eastern counties, Meath, Kildare, Westmeath, Dublin, etc. These are small groups of two, three, four and five migrants.
496. These are not all Gaeltacht migrants?—There are some Irish speakers amongst them.
497. They are from the Breach-Ghaeltacht and the congested areas?—Exactly.
498. Is it not much more expensive to be moving these people in small groups from the Gaeltacht, the Breach-Ghaeltacht and the congested areas than was the old system of moving one large farmer from the verge of these places and then moving the small families into the lands thus acquired?—It is more expensive.
499. Has it turned out in practice to be a more satisfactory operation?—It is not a question of expense or satisfaction; it is that we cannot find any more large migrants to move from the West to the East. If we could find a large migrant we would move him with pleasure rather than move the small men, but it is becoming a rare thing to find a large migrant. We still get an odd one and we move him with pleasure.
Special Suspense Account.
“38. In previous reports I referred to the expenditure on the repair of certain embankments which, pending the determination of the question as to how much thereof should be borne on the Vote for Posts and Telegraphs, is charged to a special suspense account by direction of the Department of Finance. The expenditure to 31st March, 1940, was £1,184 12s. 0d., while additional expenditure of £95 15s. 9d. was incurred during the year. The amount charged to suspense at 31st March, 1941, was, therefore, £1,280 7s. 9d.”
500. Chairman.—Have you reached agreement, Mr. Deegan, with the Department of Finance as to how this should be apportioned?—Yes, and the matter is now settled. The Post Office has paid our bill and the suspense account is clear.
501. Then the Comptroller and Auditor-General will be notified that this account is closed?—I am sure he will.
Unoccupied Holdings Account.
“39. I observed that, in the case of a holding of which the Land Commission had taken possession owing to the non-payment of the revised instalments, a scheme was approved for the division of the holding among 13 allottees who were put into possession in June, 1939, under Temporary Convenience Agreements, and that at this date £508 1s. 0d. was due for revised instalments, £9 8s. 0d. for costs and £121 6s. 4d. for outgoings in connection with the holding. I have been informed that it is intended to make application to the Minister for Finance for his consent under section 20 of the Land Act, 1939, to the allotment of this holding discharged from the amounts outstanding, and to the writing-off as irrecoverable of such amounts.”
502. Chairman.—Can you tell us, Mr. Deegan, how this matter was allowed to stand from June, 1939, until the date of this report before sanction was sought from the Minister for Finance under section 20 of the Land Act of 1939 for the procedure envisaged?—This was a rather extraordinary case, a case in which a gentleman in London, a solicitor, seems to have bought the holding in 1926 and never lived there. He lived in England and took no interest in this place, but there were some people who worked on it all their lives, worked on it before he got it, and they were allowed to occupy it. There are five of these people. It is a big place, 410 acres in extent and with a poor law valuation of £220. Half is scrub and waste and is more or less useless. The owner neglected it, never lived there, paid nothing, and when we took up the case we were advised that it was useless to proceed against him. There were no assets, apparently. As a matter of fact we could not find him, nor could the income-tax people. He seems to have moved from one place to another in England, and it was practically impossible to get after him. We have now succeeded in allotting the land, most of it to five members of a family who have been living and working on it all their lives. They live in five different houses on the holding and we think we have made the best and only settlement possible. It is one of those cases where it is not possible to say that you can get after the thing immediately. It takes time to get after that type of person.
503. Deputy Hughes.—Does not the question of compensation for his interest arise?—Not at all; he is a defaulter.
504. Was the property worth more than the amount he was in default?—It was completely neglected. It is a holding of 410 acres, with a poor law valuation of £220 and, according to our inspector, half of it is scrub and waste. It was very highly valued, highly rented, and the owner took no interest in it. There seem to have been mining rights attached to it at one time. Whether he bought it originally for the mining rights, I do not know.
505. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—No. The Accounting Officer proposes to approach the Department of Finance for authority.
Witness.—We have approached them.
506. Chairman.—Where do you stand in this matter, Mr. Hogan?
Mr. Hogan.—An application from the Department of Lands has been received and is under examination, that is, an application for the Minister’s statutory consent to the writing-off of the arrears. We have not yet reached a decision.
507. Chairman.—I suppose, for very shame’s sake, inasmuch as the income-tax authorities were not able to get him, they will have to consent to the procedure of the Land Commission?—Nobody in this country could get him and we have taken possession.
508. Maybe it is as well and it would seem that we are as well off without him? —He did not seem to be much good to the country.
509. Deputy Hughes.—Would you not think that the value of the property would at least be equal to the amount of the arrears?—We are advised that we could not possibly hope to recover the arrears. In fact, in recovering the annuities we are going very far.
510. Deputy Breathnach.—On Subhead A the expenditure on salaries, wages and allowances was £11,000 less than was voted. How do you account for that? I know the explanation that is given—that it is due to retirements, deaths, and so on. The point I want to make is that if this Department was going full-steam ahead, how could it be effective and efficient when there is £11,000 less spent on salaries?
511. Chairman.—Can you give Deputy Breathnach any information as to why you did not fill the vacancies promptly on your staff?—We endeavour to fill all the vacancies promptly but there are times when it is not possible. For instance, in regard to vacancies on the inspectorate, we are not filling them as a matter of policy. We are not filling vacancies on the inspectorate and there are certain indoor vacancies also which are not being filled. Everybody knows that the Land Commission is one of the Departments that has been selected for retrenchment in the present emergency. Our staff has been reduced.
512. Deputy Breathnach.—Does that £11,000 represent high wages or low wages?—Mostly low wages, I would say. You will always have delays in filling vacancies.
513. £11,000 in small wages is a tremendous lot of money?—Taking the ordinary salaries of, say, £200, £300 and £400 a year, very few vacancies will make up £11,000.
514. It would strike the ordinary man in the street, like myself, that if the Department was efficient when it was carrying the full load and if it is efficient when it is carrying the less load, it must have been overstaffed when it was carrying the full load?—I am glad to hear that we are efficient.
Deputy Breathnach.—I agree you are efficient. We are here to consider these matters and the explanatory note under Subhead A does not satisfy me.
515. Chairman.—Are we to take it, Mr. Deegan, that your view is that, as a result of a policy decision to retrench on the Department of Lands, certain vacancies that you might otherwise have filled remained unfilled?—Quite so. That would apply to portion of that £11,000 but not all of it. At the beginning of the year you provide for a complete staff. People die and people retire and it takes months to fill vacancies. The Civil Service Commission may not have people available. During those months you have salaries in abeyance and save something.
516. Deputy Hughes.—How many officers that are charged to this subhead are on loan?—At the moment, 285.
517. What is your total staff?—My total authorised staff is 1,090.
518. Deputy Breathnach.—Are they all pensionable or temporary?
519. Chairman.—Are they all established officers or have you unestablished officers on your staff, Mr. Deegan?—We have some unestablished officers. Some of our inspectors are unestablished; and some of our subordinate staff, but the vast majority of them would be established civil servants.
520. I think I am right in saying that a full detail of all your officers, their salaries and status, is contained in the subhead of the Estimate prepared for Dáil Eireann?—It will be found in the Estimate—all particulars.
521. Deputy Breathnach.—On Subhead I, there is certainly a tremendous difference between the sum expended and what was anticipated. I see the note on the subhead. Would Mr. Deegan give us some further information?
522. Chairman.—Could you tell us, Mr. Deegan, shortly, why so large a sum was not expended in your grant in this year on that subhead?—The explanation is given on page 175:—
“Savings due to the fact that operations on improvement of estates were considerably curtailed owing to delay and general difficulty in getting building contracts completed and bad weather conditions in second half of year.”
I think we all know it has been very difficult to get on with building, and land division with us is largely dependent on whether we can get our buildings completed or not. Since the war started, there has been great difficulty in getting either materials or contractors We have been advertising contracts twice and three times before we get a contractor. Of course, that means a saving on this subhead.
523. Deputy Breathnach.—It is not a saving on the State. It is a saving in cash?—Naturally, we do our utmost to get on with the work. If we cannot get on with it, the money in the Estimate is saved.
The word “saving” there has another meaning. I do not regard it as a saving. I think it is a loss to the nation that the money has not been expended for the purpose for which it was estimated.
Chairman.—There seems to be a misunderstanding. Mr. Deegan is using the word “saving” in its technical sense, which means expenditure less than the Estimate. Deputy Breathnach is using it in its broader sense.
Deputy Breathnach.—I am speaking of it in the broader sense.
524. Chairman.—I take it, however, that the fact is that this lesser expenditure on your grant is due to the fact that you could not spend the money because the material was not there whereon to spend it?—And for no other reason.
525. Deputy Breathnach.—I am not convinced of that at all. I happen to be a member of a public board in Dublin and we carry on our building and we are doing our job as best we can. Certainly, we are not at all curtailed to the extent that you are in this Estimate. I admit that we are doing less than we were doing, but not to that tremendous extent.
Chairman.—The Deputy will perhaps remember that he is fortunate in being a resident of Dublin and, unfortunately, Mr. Deegan has no duty to divide the lands of the City of Dublin but is dealing exclusively with the much neglected rural citizen.
Deputy Breathnach.—I am dealing with the question of building material, and so on.
Mr. Deegan.—If you look at this morning’s paper you will see a large advertisement over my name seeking contracts for the building of dwelling-houses in several counties.
Deputy Allen.—And you will probably get no contracts.
526. Deputy Hughes.—Where improvements were not concluded within the anticipated period, were the people settled on the land and permitted to use the land?—Every case depends on its own circumstances. If allottees come from a distance they may not be able to use the land, but if they are nearby and can use it, we allow them into possession.
527. Did you set in that case then for the 11 months?—We did, yes. We get revenue if we possibly can.
528. Do you try to give the land if it is at all possible?—If the allottees are within reach of the land. Some of them will take the land even if they are living ten or 12 miles away and will work it while we are building the house.
529. So there is really no material loss at all?—No material loss, except the loss of residence. When people are given land and are waiting for the house to be built, they do not like the land to be lying there. They and the Land Commission do the best possible with the land.
530. Chairman.—On Subhead X what are advances under Section 43 of the Land Act, 1939?—When we take back a holding or a parcel of land for arrears and have to find a new purchaser, very often the new purchaser is not able to pay up all the arrears, and we advance a certain portion of it. This subhead provides the necessary funds.
531. That advance is charged on the holding as an annuity, is it?—Yes; it just helps to pay off the arrears on holdings or parcels of untenanted land that we take back from defaulters.
532. I take it that payments under that subhead are charged as annuities to the new allottee and are recovered in due course by semi-annual payments?—They are. They become part of the annuity on the holding.
533. There are no free grants made under Subhead X?—No; no free grants in a case like that except you regard any portion of the arrears written off with the consent of the Department of Finance as a free grant.
534. Deputy Hughes.—On Subhead Y, where you serve notice of your intention to resume, is it the policy of the Land Commission to take over as early as possible after serving notice?—It is. It should be.
535. Do you realise that where notice is served to resume and where a considerable period of time expires, the land is often exploited by the owner in the meantime and the fertility reduced?—That may be. We have heard of a few cases of that kind. It is not general at all.
536. I am afraid I am not inclined to agree with you there. I know a number of cases where it has occurred?—That has occurred in a few cases—very few cases. Ordinarily, the owner hopes to beat us and carries on as before. He hopes to be able to retain his holding. In many cases the owner in such circumstances, having been notified by the Land Commission of their intention to take up the holding, works harder and better than before, so as to have a good case.
537. Have you considered at any time any means to prevent that exploitation? I think it is a very serious matter where it does occur?—The only means would be that we should be able to step off on the following day with our proceedings, but you probably know that in no section of our work have we been so held up by legal decisions as we have been in regard to resumption in recent years.
538. Deputy Hughes.—Where a man is served with notice of resumption that man says: “I have no future interest in this land; I will take all I can out of it while the going is good”, and he sets it in conacre?
Chairman.—I would invite you, Deputy Hughes, to address these questions to Mr. Deegan. I believe in fixity of tenure and I do not believe in giving Ministers power to seize their neighbours’ lands for the benefit of the local Fianna Fáil club.
Deputy Breathnach.—That is a preposterous suggestion.
Chairman.—That is why I ask Deputy Hughes to address his questions to Mr. Deegan, where he will have a more sympathetic audience.
Mr. Deegan, called and examined.
Subhead C 2—Cultural Operations, Maintenance, etc.
“40. A contract for the purchase of 12,000 rolls of wire netting at $5.50 per roll was placed without prior consultation with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, through which Department supplies of stores of this nature are normally obtained. As it appeared that the Department of Posts and Telegraphs had placed an order for 3,000 rolls of wire netting for Forestry at a lower price about the time this contract was made, I have asked to be informed of the circumstances in which the Department of Posts and Telegraphs was not consulted before the offer of the 12,000 rolls was accepted.”
539. Can you tell us, Mr. Deegan, why your Department accepted the contract for this wire before they consulted the Department of Posts and Telegraphs?— Because, as I have explained in my reply to the Comptroller and Auditor General, which unfortunately I was able to send only the other day, the offer came to us on the 10th of the month and we had to accept it before the 12th if we were to get this wire from America. We felt, the circumstances being as they were and the Post Office being unable to help us, that we should accept it. We got the sanction of the Department of Finance on the ’phone and by minute straight away and we accepted the offer. We have already got a good deal of the wire ordered, and it is that wire that has saved the situation for us as regards planting.
540. Chairman.—Have you any observation to make, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—No, Sir. The accounting officer has sent us a comprehensive reply. It would appear from the reply that they had been previously in touch with the Stores Branch of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on the question of obtaining wire as far back as December, 1939.
Mr. Deegan.—We kept them informed of our pressing need for wire and they had given us to understand that they saw no possibility of meeting it.
Mr. Maher.—We got the impression from reading the papers that, had the Department approached the Post Office, the latter might in view of their special facilities, have been able to get it at a somewhat cheaper rate, but we have no proof of that.
541. Chairman.—I take it your view was that in the circumstance in which you found yourself, you would have been unable to get the wire eventually if you had waited to consult with the Post Office.
Deputy Hogan.—I think that we should compliment the Department for acting so promptly in the matter.
542. Chairman.—The general experience is that if you do not take material when it is offered you may not be able to get it later. It is not always advisable to wait to check prices.
Mr. Deegan.—I should say, perhaps, that the Post Office have always been most helpful, and I am sure that if there had been time to consult them in regard to this transaction we would have done so. As I say, we got the offer on the 10th of the month and we were warned that it had to be accepted by the 12th. We got in touch immediately with the Department of Finance and received ther sanction to proceed with the deal. If there had been time we would have consulted the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in the ordinary way. They have always been most helpful to us.
Grant-in-Aid Fund for the Acquisition of Land.
“41. In paragraph 62 of my report on the accounts for 1937-38 I referred to a case where land which had been purchased by the Department could not be used for Forestry operations on account of local grazing and turbary claims. The Accounting Officer informed the Public Accounts Committee that it was proposed to hand back that portion of the land over which grazing rights were claimed and to call for a refund from the vendor. As the matter does not yet appear to have been settled, I have addressed an inquiry to the Accounting Officer.”
543. Chairman.—Have you received any reply to that inquiry?
Mr. Maher.—No, Sir. The Department has not yet replied to our query.
544. Chairman.—Can you give us any further information, Mr. Deegan, in regard to the matter?—I am sorry that a reply has not been sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General, but he has seen our file. The only thing we can say is that the matter is in the hands of the Chief State Solicitor, who has instructions to initiate proceedings as quickly as possible, and I am sure he is doing so.
545. Deputy Hughes.—Is it that that aspect of the matter, the grazing rights, was overlooked at the time of the acquisition?—Neither the owner who sold to us nor the previous owner seem to have known about these rights. As in the case of a number of other things, these rights come to a head and take shape the minute a State Department gets its hands on the lands. However, the rights do exist. There is no doubt about that. The people are not claiming anything to which they are not entitled.
546. Chairman.—However, you say the matter is being pushed through as quickly as possible?—It is.
547. Deputy Hughes.—Has the amount of compensation altered as the result of this claim?—We have paid for the land but we have not been able to plant it. Naturally you cannot plant land over which people have rights of grazing.
548. Did the original owner suffer as a consequence of this claim being staked?— He has not suffered yet. He has not returned anything to us. We paid him for the land and we then found that we could not use it because there were grazing rights there which could not be extinguished. The owner has got our money and will not refund it to us.
549. Do the people who have these rights pay a rental for these lands?—The rights are attached to the tenancies of their holdings.
550. Deputy Breathnach.—Were you aware of these rights when you purchased the land?—Of course not.
551. Deputy Allen.—Were you advised that you could succeed legally in that case?—That is a matter of law on which I am not competent to speak.
552. Would it not be better to compensate the people who have these grazing rights?—We think the owner ought to do that.
553. Out of the compensation paid to him?—Yes. He has handed over something to us which apparently he did not possess. It is not the only case of the kind, as I told you last year or the year before.
554. Deputy Benson.—What is meant by C 3—Timber Conversion?—Saw milling, taking round timber and turning it into planks for example.
555. Deputy Breathnach.—As regards subhead H—Appropriations in Aid—there is a tremendous difference in item (2), Large Sales of Timber and Thinnings, between the amount estimated and the amount realised. How has that arisen?— The explanation is given at the foot of the page, that it was due mainly to increased amounts and prices of timber sold to meet the demand created by the restriction of imports. We are selling more timber since the outbreak of war, and until prices were controlled the prices were extraordinarily high.
556. Is the Committee to assume that you are planting trees where you have cut timber?—We are planting although not as much as we should like, at the moment.
557. I think it is the policy to compel the ordinary citizen to plant whenever he cuts trees, and why should not the Department plant in every case in which trees are cut?—The Department does plant, and will plant, far more than it cuts.
558. It is bound by law to plant?— Neither the ordinary citizen nor the Department would be justified in planting trees for the benefit of rabbits and, without wire, that is what planting would mean. We plant to the extent to which we can protect plants, and the private owner is doing the same.
559. Are we to assume that you have realised £30,000 from the sale of timber? —Yes.
560. Have you planted any of that land? We planted 4,000 acres last year, 6,000 the year before, and 6,800 the year before that.
561. I am concerned with the Estimate before us which shows that £5,500 was the amount estimated from large sales of timber while the amount actually realised was £30,810. I want to know how much of the land from which that timber was taken has been replanted, if any?—I could not tell you how much of that particular land.
562. Chairman.—I take it, Mr. Deegan, that we have it from you that every tree that is cut is replaced in so far as your supplies of wire will permit you to protect them?—Yes, and replaced 20 or 30 times over.
563. And it is true to say that the particular trees referred to in these Appropriations in Aid as having been cut and sold are being replaced as fast as possible, subject to the limitations imposed by the scarcity of wire?—They are.
Deputy Breathnach.—I can say that is not the general opinion.
Chairman.—Mr. Deegan has informed us that they are.
Mr. Deegan.—I do not suppose that we cut down 4,000 or 6,000 acres in any year. We have planted 4,000, 6,000 and even 8,000 acres per year, and we hope to bring it up to 10,000 acres.
Deputy Breathnach.—That is a different point altogether.
564. Chairman.—If you have an acre of trees prepared for cutting for the purposes of sale, may we assume that that particular acre, as it is denuded is replanted at the earliest possible moment? —You may, most certainly.
565. Deputy Hughes.—Does not the law specify a certain time?—The law does not specify a certain time, but empowers us to grant a licence in which we specify the time.
566. What is the time specified?—We can specify a year or two or three years.
567. Is it not generally 12 months you specify?—12 months would be the minimum, I think, but we may make it two years. We realise that there are difficulties for owners as well as for ourselves. We plant as quickly as possible. It might take two years to fell and clear an area, and we plant as soon as possible after that time.
568. What do you mean by as soon as possible? What period would elapse?— Until the next planting season, as soon as the ground and the stuff are ready. We have the plants and the land and we have everything for planting at the moment except wire.
569. Deputy Allen.—Does it not take a considerable time to clear the land after the forest is cut down?—It varies in particular cases. In some cases you can replant very soon after felling.
570.—Deputy Breathnach.—In item No. 7 of the Appropriations in Aid— Miscellaneous, including Compensation for malicious injury to forest properties— there is a discrepancy between the amount estimated and the amount realised. Will you tell us how that arose?—That is also explained in the footnote which says: “The excess at item 7 is due to the disposal of the materials of old buildings, scrap iron, etc., at enhanced prices and an increase in the amount realised by the sale of rabbits.”
571. What does the word “malicious” as used in this context mean?—We have quite a number of forest fires. Most of them are accidental, but there are others. In such case we lodge a claim for malicious injury straight away, pending the result of our inquiries. In 19 out of 20 cases the fires are accidental.
572. Deputy Hughes.—Is there much of this timber used for commercial purposes? —Yes, we have big sales for commercial purposes.
573. Deputy Breathnach.—Could Mr. Deegan not use some better word than “malicious” in connection with this subheading?
Chairman.—That is the word in the Estimate and Mr. Deegan has used the wording of the Estimate.
Mr. Deegan.—The bulk of the receipts fall under the heading of “Miscellaneous”.
VOTE 54—GAELTACHT SERVICES.
Mr. M. Deegan further examined.
Subhead H 3—Grants under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929 to 1939.
“42. Under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929 to 1939, the aggregate amount of grants and loans which may be made is not to exceed £750,000.
At the 31st March, 1941, the position regarding such grants and loans was as follows:—
574. Chairman.—I take it that is an informative paragraph?
Mr. Maher.—Yes, it is an annual one.
Subhead L—Appropriations in Aid.
“In paragraph 65 of my Report on the Accounts for 1937-38, I referred to advances made to an agent in anticipation of commission to be earned from the sale of Gaeltarra Eireann goods and to the fact that at 31st March, 1938, the balance due by this agent amounted to £184 14s. 2d. Advances continued to be made to 31st July, 1939, and the employment of the agent was terminated on 31st March, 1940. At this latter date his indebtness to the State amounted to £313 9s. 6d. This sum as indicated in a note to the Appropriation Account is included in the amount of £8,029 in respect of agents’ commission deducted before arriving at the net balance of receipts from sales of products of rural industries credited to Appropriations in Aid. In addition, samples valued at £32 18s. 2d were not returned by this agent and the authority of the Department of Finance has been sought for the write-off of this amount.”
575. Chairman.—Have you anything further to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—The practice of making advance payments to this agent was referred to in the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Report for 1937-38 and was commented on by the Committee in its Report on the Accounts for that year. As the amount is now written off we thought it desirable to call attention to it in this Report.
576. Chairman.—Can you tell us, Mr. Deegan, by what series of events this rather unusual payment was made?—I imagine it may be ascribed to the terms of this agent’s appointment.
577. How did he manage to extract £313 9s. 6d. from the Department in excess of any claim?—We were opening a new line of business. As I told the Committee on the last occasion the payment to this agent could possibly be regarded as a kind of salary and came to about £100 yearly. That is how it worked out over a period of three years for opening up new business in the United States.
578. Looked at from the normal point of view he collected £313 9s. 6d. from the Exchequer to which he was not entitled? —We certainly hoped that he would have done better for us and that the business in the States would have resulted in commission sufficient to wipe out the advances.
579. Were any steps taken to recover the value of the samples with which he had been supplied?—I have some details about those samples. Our representative at the New York Fair saw some of them and they were then of no value whatever. They had been there for some time. A sum of £15 18s., for example, was transferred from the samples account of a trader in New York who had gone bankrupt. Other samples were small lots of carageen, handkerchiefs and so on.
580. Chairman.—This matter arose in the accounts ending 31st March, 1938, when attention was directed to the fact that the balance due was £184 14s. 2d. and in the Report,* paragraph 24, we stated:—
“The circumstances in which continued monthly advances of £25 were being made to an agent abroad, in anticipation of commission to be earned from the sale of Gaeltarra Éireann goods, were reviewed by the Committee and, in view of the fact that at the 31st March, 1939, the balance due by the agent had increased to £433, the Committee hopes that the arrangement under which these payments are made will be reconsidered at an early date.”
Mr. Deegan.—The Committee will remember that we discussed that at the time. We were acting on the advice of the Consul-General in New York, who thought we should retain this man until we saw the results of his work at the World Fair. The results were satisfactory in some ways but unsatisfactory because the commission earned did not reach the amount of the advances. We terminated the appointment on March 31st, 1940. When I was before you on the last occasion, I stated that we had decided to bring the arrangement to an end. We had hoped that business at the New York Fair would put a different complexion on the matter.
581. May we take it that any arrangement of this kind will not be made in future?—I do not think we are likely to repeat it.
582. Chairman.—Has the Department of Finance any observations to make?
Mr. Fitzgerald.—We were not very enthusiastic about the arrangement at all, but we thought the Gaeltacht Services should be given a chance to open up this market, and possibly recover the advances by sales of their products. However, it was not successful.
583. Chairman.—I take it that for an arrangement of this kind it will be difficult to get the sanction of the Department of Finance in future.
Mr. Fitzgerald.—Very difficult.
Chairman.—That is a relief.
“44. I have been furnished with a schedule concerning the Industrial Loans, from which it appears that advances made during the year ended 31st March, 1941, amounted to £320, being the value of looms issued to workers on hire purchase agreements. Arrears, including interest accrued, due at 31st March, 1941, amounted to £9,944 4s. 9d. as compared with £9,809 2s. 2d. on 31st March, 1940. Included in the arrears is a sum of £9,864 13s. 1d., due by a company which ceased to exist in 1925. Realisation of such security as is held by the State was the subject of negotiations, but owing to certain legal difficulties realisation cannot be effected.”
584. Chairman.—Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—The bulk of these arrears refers to the Galway Granite Company.
585. Chairman.—Are we ever going to wind that up?—It is a hardy annual. We are waiting on the State Lands Act to enable us to dispose of whatever asset is there. We will not get much for it. I think the Committee recognises that, and that the Auditor knows that this is merely a book transaction; an accumulation of interest year after year. We are thinking of going to the Department of Finance for authority not to charge interest on the money. It is just a figure in the books and means nothing. It has no relation to the assets.
586. Deputy Hughes.—What was the original amount advanced?—Something in the neighbourhood of £7,000.
587. You do not expect to realise a great deal of that?—No. We will realise a few pounds when we have the State Lands Act to enable us to dispose of the property.
588. What is the property?—A quarry and other property for which we get a small annual rent which keeps the interest charge down slightly.
589. The quarry is not being worked? —No.
590. Chairman.—It is a transaction that took place some years ago?—It was handed over to us by the C. D. Board.
591. Deputy Breathnach.—On Subhead D (9)—Spinning Industry—a note here states: “It was not found possible to make progress with the project for a Spinning Mill.” Is there any reason why progress was not possible?—That is a spinning mill we propose to erect at Kilear. I suppose there are the usual delays. The Board of Works is engaged on the building. We have got the boiler and engine and the machinery is on order, but we do not know whether we will get it or when. All these things are exceedingly doubtful.
Chairman.—If these are all the questions on this Vote we are very much obliged to Mr. Deegan for his attendance.
VOTE 55—INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson called and examened.
Subhead H. H—New York World Fair, 1939 and 1940.
“45. Provision was made by Supplementary Estimate to defray the balance of cost of participation in the Fair in 1939 and for the cost of participation in the Fair in 1940. As in the previous year, payments were in general made by the Consul-General in New York from imprests issued to him by the Department. During the 1939 session of the Fair two Irish Pavilions were open—the Trade Promotion Pavilion and the Historical and Cultural Pavilion. In 1940, only the Historical and Cultural Pavilion was open and there was consequently a reduction in maintenance and other charges.
The expenditure charged in the account, viz., £6,707 16s. 2d., included payments for salaries and wages, demolition of the Trade Promotion Pavilion, transport of exhibits, insurance, publicity and general utility services. Receipts totalled £313 2s. 0d. and were made up of £309 received from the sale of publications, credited to Appropriations in Aid, and £4 2s. 0d. received from the sale of property, credited to Exchequer Extra Receipts.
As it was found impossible to sell the Trade Promotion Pavilion, which cost approximately £23,600 to erect, sanction for its demolition at a cost of £401 15s. 0d. was obtained from the Department of Finance. In addition, the contractor was allowed to retain all salvaged materials and fittings.
As noted in the account, the charge to the subhead includes sums amounting to £462 18s. 0d. representing unvouched expenditure by the Consul-General in October, 1940. The supporting vouchers were lost at sea and the Department of Finance agreed that the certified statement submitted by the Consul-General of his receipts and payments for the month in question might be accepted, and the expenditure brought to account as a final charge against the subhead. In the circumstances I have admitted the charge against the Vote.
As also noted in the account, exhibits of marble, granite and limestone, which cost £2,335, were, with Department of Finance approval, presented to the Archbishop of Los Angeles, while an electrical map of Ireland, which cost £753. was permanently loaned to the Royal Dublin Society.
I referred in my last report to payments amounting to £1,448 15s. 6d., made on behalf of a London company of display experts, which are charged to a suspense account. I understand that the Department is still in communication with the liquidator of the company on this matter.
The total expenditure charged to Vote to 31st March, 1941, in connection with this Fair amounted to £71,142 18s. 3d., while receipts credited to that date amounted to £3,994.”
592. Chairman.—Can you tell us whether the matter of the liquidation of the company in London has been brought to a head?—At present there is a balance of £302 19s. 6d. due by the London company and we are in correspondence about it. We have withheld from the London company £1,246, but owing to the depreciation of sterling that difference should have covered us fully but it did not prove that way. We are £102 on the wrong side. This company is in liquidation. At the moment I do not think it is possible to say how much we will get back.
593. You are left with a claim against the liquidator?—Yes.
Mr. Maher.—We understand from the Accounting Officer that the question of getting any payment from the liquidator is not likely to arise for some time?—I am afraid that is so.
594. Deputy Hughes.—What material was used in the erection of the pavilion? —I think mainly timber.
595. And you had to make a present of it and £401 15s. for its demolition to the contractor?—We did not go on with the pavilion in the next year.
596. Is it possible that the material used was not sufficient compensation for the contractor?—In a matter of that kind we were in the hands of the Consul-General in New York who, we understood, got the best advice. We had to depend on that advice.
597. What type of material was used? —Mainly wood and probably some steel supports.
598. It seems extraordinary to visualise such a thing happening to a building that cost £23,600?—I appreciate that it is an odd situation. These Fair buildings are usually of steel and there is a great deal of material of that type available. I am afraid very few buildings of that type can be disposed of at anything like the original cost.
599. Chairman.—Of course it is notorious that the exhibitors were held up by the building contractors in and about New York because they knew they had them where they wanted them?—That is largely true, too.
Turf Development Board, Limited.
“46. Issues to the Turf Development Board, Limited, from the Grants in Aid provided under Subheads L (1) (Cost of Administration) and L (2) (General Development) amounting to £10,950 and £1,600, respectively, were made during the year with the consent of the Minister for Finance.
The following sums were issued during the year, with Department of Finance sanction, from the Grants in Aid for the development of the bogs indicated:—
These issues are repayable by the Board on conditions which have been referred to in previous reports, and the amounts outstanding, including interest, at 31st March, 1941, were:—
Included in the figure of £239,913 0s. 2d. for Clonsast is an amount of £2,320 7s. 7d., representing the balance of principal outstanding of an issue of £2,500 made to the Board in 1937-38 from the subhead “General Development (Grant in Aid)”. The issue was made for the purchase of a sod-collector for use at Turraun in Offaly and was to be repaid with interest at 5 per cent. per annum. The sod-collector was subsequently transferred to Clonsast, and in July, 1940, £369 2s. 2d., being the charge on the Turraun undertaking in respect of principal and interest to the date of transfer, was received from the Board and is credited to Appropriations in Aid.
Reference was made in my last report to the amount due by the Board in respect of repayable advances issued for general development and also to the sum due by the Board for sacks placed at its disposal in 1934-35. The total amount, including interest, outstanding at 31st March, 1941, was £20,347 1s. 8d., and it was decided, with the approval of the Department of Finance, that the Board should be relieved of liability for this sum. The necessary provision has been made in the Estimate for Industry and Commerce for 1941-42.
With regard to the sum of £528 19s. 6d. outstanding in respect of certain office furniture and equipment transferred to the Board in 1934-35, to which reference was also made in my last report, this amount was repaid in May, 1941, and will be accounted for as an Exchequer extra receipt in the 1941-42 account. The Department of Finance agreed that no claim should be made in respect of interest.”
600. Chairman.—I take it that the prospects of recovery of some of this capital expenditure in respect of Clonsast, Lyracrompane, Lullymore and Kilberry are now very much better than they were? —I think that could be assumed.
601. I suppose it is no use dwelling unduly on the ultimate fate of the sacks? —That has been considered so much that we regard them as gone.
Chairman.—We may say that their obsequies have been adequately attended.
602.—Deputy Hughes.—With regard to the price of the sod-collector, the original cost was £2,500 and it was transferred to Clonsast at £369. Surely it did not depreciate to that extent?
603. Chairman.—I take it that by that time a substantial part of the purchase price had been paid off by Turraun and it was simply transferred to the other undertaking for the amount of the advance which remained unpaid at the date of the transfer?
604.—Deputy Hughes.—Does £369 represent the balance?
Mr. Ferguson.—It is a matter of division of the total as between Clonsast and Turraun. It is not a question of depreciation. £2,320 7s. 7d. was charged to Clonsast.
Industrial Research Council.
“47. The charge of £1,722 5s. 4d. to Subhead M (4)—Special Investigations —related to payments, mainly to University Colleges, for investigations connected with peat waxes and seaweed. These payments were covered by Department of Finance sanction.”
605. Chairman.—Have you received any report on these investigations?—Yes. The peat wax investigations have gone on for a considerable time, and, before I tell you the position to-day, I may say that it was a case of an investigation which seemed to be one of the most hopeful pieces of research that had been done. It was, if I may say so, almost hovering on the point of commercial results. The intention, as you know, was to use it as a substitute for the wax—I forget the name of it—which was mainly produced in Germany and which is the basis of floor polishes and various other things. The wax produced experimentally on a small scale looked as if it might be something which would replace that to a large extent. The results of the investigation have been protected by patent. It has to be borne in mind that the market would be entirely an export market and the question arose at the beginning of the emergency, when it had got to that point, of getting plant on a large scale and developing it on a commercial basis. It had got to the point when the obtainign of plant was the next stage. However, a product made in a laboratory which looks capable of commercial production can scarcely be tested until it is tried out. That has not been done. There were two difficulties in carrying out that next step. One was the impossibility of getting machinery and the other the necessity of conserving whatever turf could be produced for other purposes. That meant that the actual commercial exploitation was held up. The statement I have made with regard to wax applies also to seaweed. It was a case of getting to a point when the product could be used for the manufacture of heavy board for wall purposes. That also was a very promising investigation and looked as if it would reach the point of commercial production on a fairly large scale.
606. Chairman.—Both of which matters must be postponed until after the emergency?—That is what it comes to.
Balance of amounts received from the Drumm Battery Company, Limited, under the suspension arrangements.
“48. I referred to paragraph 58 of my last report to agreements between Drumm Battery Sales, Limited (a subsidiary of Drumm Battery Company, Limited) and the Great Southern Railways Company, by which the latter company covenanted to pay to Drumm Battery Sales, Limited, the sum of £45,600, with interest at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum, by 20 half-yearly instalments of £2,925 2s. 1d. each, in respect of batteries and equipment supplied. Under these agreements Drumm Battery Sales, Limited, was to to be liable for maintenance of batteries and battery guarantees. Arising from the suspension of the activities of the Drumm Battery Company, Limited, and the subsidiary company, the previous agreements were superseded by a further agreement executed on 26th October, 1940, under which the Great Southern Railways Company undertook to be responsible for battery maintenance and released Drumm Battery Sales, Limited, from liability for battery guarantees, subject, inter alia, to a deduction at the rate of £200 per annum from the half-yearly instalments.
The half-yearly instalments are paid over to the Department in repayment of the Grants-in-Aid made from the former Vote for Electrical Battery Development. The sum of £5,085 19s. 2d. shown under exchequer extra receipts in the present account is made up of the sixth instalment of £2,925 2s. 1d. payable under the original agreements, £2,825 2s. 1d. being the first instalment under the new agreement, and £35 15s. 0d. received from an outside firm in respect of rental of a battery; less £700 placed in suspense to meet certain commitments of the Drumm Battery companies.”
607. Chairman.—That is a purely informative statement, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—That is so. The purpose of the paragraph is to show the new position, following the supersession of the old agreements which were discussed last year.
Fees under the Sugar (Control of Import) Act, 1936.
“49. It will be observed from the statement of exchequer extra receipts appended to the account that fees receivable under the Sugar (Control of Import) Act, 1936, were estimated at £100 but that no amount is brought to account. These fees are fixed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, and are payable by Comhlucht Siúicre Eireann, Teoranta, in respect of licences issued to it by the Department of Industry and Commerce to import sugar under the provisions of the Act. A provisional fee of 1d. per cwt. is paid on the issue of a licence and an audited account is submitted by the company at the end of an importing period showing the expenses connected with the sugar imported, including the provisional fees, and the receipts from sales. The surplus, if any, on the account is payable by the company to the Department for credit of the Exchequer. In view of the position as disclosed by the accounts submitted by the company in respect of the importing periods since May, 1938, the final assessment of fees has been deferred and the provisional fees received have been credited to a suspense account pending the outcome of communications with the Department of Finance on the matter. The amount of these provisional fees held in suspense at 31st March, 1941, was £14,109 15s. 8d.”
608. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make on that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—No. The matter is with the Department of Finance.
Mr. Hogan.—We are anxious to clear this Suspense Account as quickly as possible and we are in communication with the Department of Industry and Commerce with that object in view. I hope that shortly we may be in a position to give a direction to the effect that the balance be paid into the Exchequer.
Mr. Ferguson.—That would be a very desirable result, I agree, but the difficulty in this case was that the Sugar Company was not to make any profit on the produce and sale of sugar. That was the basis of the whole thing. This fee of 1d. per cwt. was for the purpose of keeping the company clear—making neither a profit nor a loss. In the last three years, they made rather heavier losses than the 1d. per cwt. yielded and it is really a matter of adjusting the accounts, still keeping the same principle in view. They have, in effect, made a loss and if Mr. Hogan could see that some sum is transferred to the Exchequer, it will be extraordinarily good work.
Mr. Hogan.—Our approach to it was that we might be able to dissociate the accounting treatment of this provisional fee from the general issue as to whether the Sugar Company in fact made a profit or a loss. We know that they made a loss on importations in the last couple of years because they entered into the wider field of importing raw sugar for refining. These provisional fees, which are purely token fees, are there in the Suspense Account and our reaction at the moment is that we should pay these into the Exchequer and let the general question of any set-off the Sugar Company might claim be dealt with subsequently in the light of fuller information. Our object is to clear the Suspense Account by lodging this money to the Exchequer.
609. Chairman.—And in due course the Comptroller and Auditor-General will be notified of any final arrangement come to?
610. Deputy Breathnach.—With regard to Subhead L 6—Development of Kilberry Bog—why did this fall down? Nothing has been done apparently?
Deputy Hogan.—Work is being carried out there at present.
Mr. Ferguson.—It was a matter of the absence of machinery which affected the entire bog production, so far as machine production was concerned. Kilberry bog was planned for machine production entirely and Clonsast particularly was held up for the same reason. Kilberry had to be suspended entirely for that reason.
611. Chairman.—Does it remain suspended?—So far as I know, it does.
612. Deputy Breathnach.—You spent £2,000. On what was that spent?—On preliminary work, like drainage and so on, at a time when, I assume, there was a possibility, or it was believed there was a possibility, of getting plant.
VOTE 56—TRANSPORT AND METEOROLOGICAL SERVICES.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson examined.
Subhead C—Subsidy in respect of Air Services.
“The sum of £34,000 charged to this subhead represents payments made to Aer Rianta, Teoranta, under the provisions of the Subsidy (Aer-Rianta, Teoranta) Order, 1940. This Order, which was made by the Minister for Finance under Section 79 of the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1936, authorised the Minister for Industry and Commerce to pay to the company a subsidy of an amount equal to whichever of the following is the less:—
(b) the sum which the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Industry and Commerce estimate will be the losses sustained by the company and the subsidiary company (Aer Lingus, Teoranta) in the year 1940-41.
The Order provided that the subsidy should be paid to the company before 1st April, 1941, and also that if the actual losses of the company and the subsidiary company, as determined by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, were less than the estimated losses in the year 1940-41, the company should repay to the Minister for Industry and Commerce before the 1st September, 1941, the difference between such actual losses and the estimated losses.
The losses for the year were estimated at £34,000 and this amount was accordingly paid to the company. The actual losses, however, determined as stated above, amounted to £33,482 12s. 7d. and £517 7s. 5d., therefore, was due for refund by the company. This sum has been repaid by the company and will be accounted for as an exchequer extra receipt in 1941-42.
The sum of £2,544 4s. 9d. shown in the statement of Exchequer extra receipts appended to the present account represents repayment in respect of the subsidy paid in 1939-40.”
613. Chairman.—I take it, Mr. Maher, that that is a purely informative paragraph?
Mr. Maher.—Yes, I understand that these matters have been the subject of a recent amending Act.
Mr. Ferguson.—That is so, and the power of continuance of payment is to be extended.
Subhead D—Management of Dublin Airport.
“51. This subhead provides for payment to Aer Rianta, Teoranta, in respect of the loss incurred on the operation of the Dublin Airport at Collinstown on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The terms of management are defined in heads of an agreement between the Minister and the company. Under the arrangements made the amount of any actual loss sustained by the company over the relevant twelve monthly period when management costs exceed revenue is payable to the company. Final determination of the actual loss rests with the Minister in agreement with the Minister for Finance. The Minister has also undertaken to refund to the company such capital expenditure as may be incurred by the company on his behalf on equipment, works, etc., arising out of the management of the airport. It is also provided that the amount of any profit earned on the management of the airport will be paid to the Exchequer or otherwise disposed of as directed by the Minister in agreement with the Minister for Finance. The payment of £3,967 5s. 8d. charged to this subhead represents the loss, as determined, for the period to 31st March, 1941. No payment fell to be made during the year in respect of capital expenditure.”
614. Chairman.—This also, I take it, is purely informative?
“52. Included in the charge to subheads E 1, E 3, and E 5 are sums amounting to £291 15s., £18 10s. 4d. and £16 13s. 9d., respectively, in respect of which the original vouchers are missing. The vouchers related to payments made at Valentia Observatory and the Dublin Meteorlogical Office and had been received and examined in the Department but were subsequently mislaid. Bulk receipts were obtained from the employees concerned in respect of the sum of £291 15s. charged to subhead E 1, and the Department of Finance agreed that this sum might be regarded as sufficiently vouched, and also approved of the remaining items being charged to the Vote. In the circumstances I have admitted the charges against the Vote.
Is there any explanation of the loss of these vouchers?
Mr. Ferguson.—I am afraid not. It has to be admitted that they were simply lost in the Department. However, these vouchers, in fact, were checked before they were lost, and there are records of that having been done; so that to that extent the loss was not very serious.
615. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—It is usual, when charges are made to the subhead, which are not supported by vouchers, to call attention to the matter specifically. In this case, the major portion, £291 15s. 0d., was supported by bulk vouchers, and the Department of Finance agreed to accept these as sufficient. Accordingly, the actual total of unvouched payments is about £35.
Mr. Ferguson.—And it is possible also that these may turn up later. They may be in some voucher pocket in the Department that has not been traced so far.
616. Chairman.—I take it, then, that the matter has more to do with the loss of the vouchers than any question of actual money being lost?
VOTE 57—RAILWAY TRIBUNAL.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson called.
VOTE 58—MARINE SERVICE.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson further examined.
“53. Provision was included in a Supplementary Estimate for expenditure in connection with compensation for crews of ships registered in Eire or for their dependants in respect of loss, injury or detention arising out of the war. The Department of Finance approved of the proposal that compensation should be paid at the same rates as, and in similar circumstances to, the compensation payable by Great Britain to crews of ships registered in the United Kingdom, and the necessary legislation to give effect to this proposal is being prepared. I understand that provision will be included in the Bill to validate payments made before the enactment of the legislation, which will include the expenditure charged to Subheads I I, I 2, and I 3 in the present account. As shown in the account, the expenditure is made up of £2,484 12s. 8d. for compensation for loss of effects (Subhead I I); £394 2s. 10d. being contributions towards wages payable after ships had been lost or wrecked (Subhead I 2), and £259 6s. 6d. for pensions and allowances in respect of disablement or death (Subhead I 3).”
617. Chairman.—Has the necessary legislation been prepared?
Mr. Ferguson.—Yes. The draft of the enabling Bill has been prepared, and it is a question of whether we should go ahead with that or whether, as the matter is so urgent, it could be dealt with more appropriately by an Emergency Powers Order.
618. Chairman.—I take it that the matter is going to be regularised by one method or the other?
Mr. Ferguson.—Yes, definitely.
619. Chairman.—With regard to the Vote itself, what is meant there, in Subhead D, by inquiries into shipping casualties?
Mr. Ferguson.—I cannot tell you the details, but it is an official inquiry, for which the Act provides, in connection with ship losses. It is an inquiry to place responsibility. It is a full-blown public inquiry and is very necessary in regard to the safeguarding of lives and ships.
620. Deputy Breathnach.—With regard to Subhead I I, what is the explanation for that?
621. Chairman.—Yes, how is it that there is no expenditure under that subhead? You will notice, Deputy, that there is a note there which points out that the technical difficulties made it impossible to determine the claims within the financial year under review.
622. Deputy Breathnach.—But what is being done at the present time?
Mr. Ferguson.—These claims have to be examined rather closely, and they will appear, of course, in next year’s account. There has to be quite a lot of detailed examination of payments under this heading. It is a case of scanning each claim very closely, and a lot of items claimed for do not come under this heading at all.
623. Deputy Hughes.—I take it that that means that equipment has been furnished?
624. Deputy Benson.—With regard to Subhead K—Appropriations in Aid—I take it that the figure for Sales of Wreck is higher to-day than appears here?
Mr. Ferguson.—In that year, you will observe that there was a Supplementary Estimate, showing that the figure was increasing at that time and it has increased since. I am told that it is nearly double the amount now.
625. Deputy Benson.—Does a person who finds any wreckage receive any percentage of the proceeds of the sale?
Mr. Ferguson.—Yes, that is so, and that includes payments on account of effort put into the salvage of wreck, whatever it may be.
626. Deputy Benson.—And the value of materials?
VOTE 59—UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson further examined.
Subhead J—Unemployment Assistance.
54. “The expenditure charged to this subhead amounted to £1,207,951 9s. 1d., showing a saving of £242,058 10s. 11d. on the Estimate of £1,450,010.
During the test examination applied to these payments, cases came under notice where unemployment assistance officers, acting on incorrect information supplied to them, authorised applications for unemployment assistance which would have been disallowed if the correct information had been furnished. I have asked that the sanction of the Department of Finance be sought for the payments made in such cases.
Cash recoveries of overpayments of unemployment assistance, credited to Appropriations in Aid, amounted to £366 14s. 6d. As noted in the account, further recoveries totalling £789 10s. 5d. in respect of overpayments included in the accounts of previous years were identified since the close of the last account as having been made by deduction from unemployment assistance to which applicants subsequently became entitled.
Included in the charge to this subhead, with Department of Finance sanction, are sums amounting to £2 6s. 7d. in respect of payments of unemployment assistance for which vouchers were found to be incomplete. Signed declarations that the applicants were paid have been obtained from the local officers concerned and in the circumstances I have admitted the charge against the Vote.”
627. Deputy Hughes.—How is that saving of £242,000 effected?
Mr. Ferguson.—That was brought about by the operation of the Third Employment Period Order, 1940, which resulted in smaller numbers being listed in 1940-41 than in the previous year. It simply meant that the period over which people could not get unemployment assistance was lengthened.
Mr. Maher.—With regard to the second paragraph, we understand that the incorrect information referred to related to Poor Law Valuation.
Mr. Ferguson.—Yes, very largely.
628. Deputy Breathnach.—There seems to be a very wide discrepancy there when there is something like £250,000 shown as not having been spent?
629. Chairman.—I think I am correct in saying that the wide discrepancy to which Deputy Breathnach refers is accounted for by the fact that the Minister, on grounds of policy, altered the employment period?
Mr. Ferguson.—Yes, that accounts for the saving.
630. Deputy Benson.—On the Vote itself, I should like to know, with regard to Subhead G—Contribution to the Unemployment Fund—what is the present condition of that fund.
Mr. Ferguson.—There is still a small credit, and we are drawing on it, and in a very short time we feel that the fund shall be in debt.
631. Chairman.—Would it be too much trouble to ask you to let us have a note,* at your convenience, on the existing state of the unemployment fund?
Mr. Ferguson.—I shall be glad to do so.
The Committee adjourned at 12.30 p.m.
* Report (1937-38) dated 29th February, 1940.