MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 13th Bealtaine, 1943.
Thursday, 13th May, 1943.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
Seoirse MagCraith (An tArd-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste), Mr. C. S. Almond, Mr. G. P. S. Hogan, and Mr. L. M. Fitzgerald (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
VOTE 55—INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson called and examined.
“Subhead H. H.—New York World Fair, 1939 and 1940.
“42. The charge to this subhead mainly represents expenses defrayed from imprest accounts, which has been charged to a suspense account pending receipt of certificates of expenditure by the Consul-General, and the settlement of certain questions which had arisen on some of the claims. I referred in previous reports to payments amounting to £1,448 15s. 6d. made on behalf of a London firm of display experts. These payments remain charged to a suspense account as the report of the liquidator of the company is not yet available. The total expenditure charged to the Vote to the 31st March, 1942, in connection with this Fair amounted to £71,387 12s. 3d., and the receipts credited to that date amounted to £4,764 13s. 7d.”
266. Chairman.—Have you, Mr. McGrath, any observations to add to that?
Mr. McGrath.—I think that the matter is now cleared up, with the exception of the suspense account. I am afraid that there will be a long delay in connection with that.
Mr. Ferguson.—This London company is in liquidation, and we do not see any prospect of recovering the balance. We had thought that, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, it might be well to proceed by way of supplementary estimate in the current financial year. We have discussed that question with the Department of Finance.
267. Chairman.—Has the Department of Finance any information to give with regard to this matter?
Mr. Almond.—As a matter of fact we have already suggested to the Department that the matter should be dealt with by way of supplementary estimate. A supplementary estimate will be introduced for other purposes this year, and this item can be included in it.
268. Chairman.—That would close the account?
“43. The charge to subhead K. 1. relates to a loan made under section 7 of the Slieveardagh Coalfield Development Act, 1941, for the purpose of establishing Comhlucht Gual-Láthrach Shliabh Árdachadh, Teoranta. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has fixed the rate of interest on the loan at 5 per cent, per annum, and the 1st January, 1944, as the date of repayment. Advances for the purposes of the business of the company amounting to £23,255, made under section 9 of the Act are charged to subhead K. 2. By virtue of his powers under section 11 of the Act the Minister for Finance decided that advances made in each financial year shall be repaid by half-yearly instalments over a period of twenty years, the first half-yearly payment to be made on the 1st January next following the financial year in which the advances are made. The 1st January, 1943, was accordingly appointed as the commencing date for repayment of the advances charged in this account. The Minister in exercise of his powers under section 10 of the Act has fixed 5 per cent. per annum as the rate of interest chargeable on advances to the company, and consented to postpone to 1st January, 1943, payment of the half-yearly amounts of interest then due, together with interest thereon. The charge to subhead K 4. is in respect of a loan under section 9 of the Minerals Exploration and Development Company Act, 1941, to pay the expenses of formation of Comhlucht Lorgtha agus Forbartha Mianraí Teoranta. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has fixed the rate of interest on this loan at 5 per cent. per annum, and the 1st January, 1944, as the date of repayment. The expenditure charged to subhead K. 5. represents advances to the company under section 10 of the Act. The Minister for Finance in accordance with the terms of section 12 of the Act, has fixed fifteen years as the period for the repayment of all advances made to the company, the advances made in each financial year to be repaid by half-yearly instalments over such period. Payment of the first instalment in repayment of the advances charged in this account was postponed to 1st January, 1943. For advances in each subsequent financial year the first instalment will be payable on 1st January in the year next following the financial year in which advances are made. The rate of interest on the sums advanced in the year under review was fixed under section 11 of the Act at 5 per cent. per annum from the date of each advance. The Minister has consented to the postponement till 1st January, 1943, of payment of interest due and accrued on these advances.”
269. Chairman.—That is purely informative?
270. Chairman.—Have the payments stipulated for the 1st January 1943, been made in these cases?
Mr. Ferguson.—No. It was necessary to postpone them until 1st January, 1944. We did that with the approval of the Department of Finance on the general ground that the work of this nature would not really have got under way properly on the date stipulated. The operation of a coal mine is slow and hazardous work. It was obvious that the profit-making stage had not yet been reached. The only practical thing to do was to postpone payment until 1st January, 1944, and then review the position.
271. Chairman.—May we take it, then, that in each case in which the 1st January, 1943, is mentioned in the report, we should read the “1st January, 1944”?—That is so. The company producing phosphates in Clare is in much the same position. That work has been very useful, indeed. The exploitation of pyrites at Avoca will, probably, prove quite useful if emergency conditions continue. This was, as you know, Mr. Chairman, virtually the only source of pyrites in Great Britain or Ireland about 70 years ago. There was a large export then. The emergence of Spanish deposits of a higher grade —50 per cent.—rendered our deposits less useful and they tended to disuse. If present conditions continue, they would be quite useful. They have been tested by Messrs. Goulding, and although inferior in richness to the Spanish varieties, they are quite good.
272. In connection with the phosphate work, may we assume that transport difficulties relating to inadequate roads have been surmounted?—I think that they have. The phosphate work has been proceeding, on the whole, satisfactorily.
273. Any phosphates recovered can be got out?—I think that I may say so.
274. Deputy Hughes.—Have you any idea of the coal output at Slieveardagh? —Speaking from memory, it would be about 150 tons. It varies from week to week.
“Turf Development Board, Limited.
“44. The provision under subheads L. 1., L. 2., L. 3. and L. 4. was in respect of grants to the Turf Development Board, Limited, between 1st April and 12th June, 1941. After the latter date issues were made from Vote No. 75, Special Emergency Schemes, and particulars of the amounts outstanding at 31st March, 1942, will be found in paragraph 78 of this report.”
275. Chairman.—I take it, Mr. McGrath, that the best course is to postpone consideration of matters connected with the Turf Development Board until the appropriate paragraph of the Report is reached?
Mr. McGrath.—The whole information is given under Vote 75.
276. Chairman.—The situation being that this was your responsibility and it has been transferred to another Department?—That is so.
277. What exactly was the purpose of subhead G.G.—Expenses in connection with Reports, etc., on steel production? I see nothing has been spent?—The Irish Steel Mills at Haulbowline had closed down and the question arose whether they should be opened or could be opened. For that purpose it was necessary to get an expert report. That report was made by an expert from Great Britain and had to be paid for. It will be paid for by Irish Steel Limited ultimately, but at that time it was necessary for the information of the Department. We had to obtain expert advice as to what we should do.
278. In connection with subhead I., are we still subscribing to the I.L.O.?—Yes.
279. But nothing fell due to be paid in this year?—A payment has been made since but not during the period of this account.
280. In connection with subhead J.— Prices Commission—Allowances, I understand that the functions of the Prices Commission have been transferred to some other body?—Yes, to the Prices Branch of the Department of Supplies.
281. We have already decided to postpone consideration of expenditure in connection with the Turf Development Board until another Vote is under consideration. Can you give us any further information about subhead L.L.—Losses?—These are all, I understand, in respect of the sacks which have been before the Committee on a previous occasion.
282. These are the famous sacks?—Yes. I think the sacks have disappeared for such a long time that there is scarcely any possibility of getting any further information as to the position. There is nothing useful that one can say about them. The position is exactly the same as it was on the last occasion. These are merely book-keeping entries to keep the matter right.
283. This might be described as the swan-song of the sacks?—I hope it is.
284. Will this be the last entry in reference to the loss of these sacks?—I hope so.
Mr. Almond.—I might explain, Sir, that a Supplementary Estimate was taken to cover these losses. This is merely the record in the Appropriation Account of the amount voted by the Dáil.
285. Chairman.—Are we to take it that this ends finally the item in relation to these sacks?
286. Chairman.—There will be no further appropriation for them or no further Supplementary Estimate?
Mr. Almond.—No, Sir.
287. Chairman.—In regard to the subheads for the Industrial Research Council, have the functions of the Research Laboratory been transferred to some other body?—Yes, to the Emergency Research Bureau. The Industrial Research Council exists still, but the work it would normally carry on is being carried on by the Emergency Research Bureau.
288. I suppose some of the investigations provided for under subhead M. 5. were discharged by the Emergency Research Bureau?—Yes. I think, speaking from memory that there were one or two investigations going on under the Industrial Research Council, and that these are still being carried on. There were, for instance, the investigations relating to beet which were carried on by Professor O’Reilly in Cork. The two bodies have the same secretary—Dr. Lennon. They have one office, and all the work is conducted there.
289. As regards subhead M. 6.—Aids to Research workers and Special Research Committees—do these research operations relate merely to industrial matters, or does any other matter properly come under the ambit of this subhead?—The bulk of the expenditure was in regard to industrial matters, in fact almost all of it. The general policy is to confine research to practical things as distinct from scientific investigation. At one time it was suggested that there might be some weather investigations, and the test applied was whether the result of the investigations would be of any advantage to Irish industry, or would assist in the use of Irish raw materials. These researches are not purely scientific. A merely climatic investigation for scientific purposes would not satisfy the test, but if the result of investigation would assist industry it might be undertaken.
290. As regards the provision under subhead M. 7.—Research Grants to Students —who determines whether a student should receive grants or not?—Technically the determination lies with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, but he decides in consultation with the Department of Education. In that matter we are advised by the Department of Education and we act on their advice. The colleges put up these applications and their arguments in favour of a particular student and these are tested by the Department of Education who advise our Department.
VOTE 56—TRANSPORT AND METEOROLOGICAL SERVICES.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson, called and examined.
“Subhead C.—Subsidy in respect of Air Services.
“45. The charge of £32,000 to this subhead represents payments to Aer Rianta, Teoranta, under the provisions of the Subsidy (Aer Rianta, Teoranta) Order, 1941, to cover estimated losses by the company, and the subsidiary company (Aer Lingus, Teoranta) in the operation of an air service from the Dublin airport at Collinstown. The actual loss, however, as determined by the Minister for Finance, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce amounted to £30,101 15s. 4d., and the sum of £1,898 4s. 8d. due for refund by the company has been repaid and will be accounted for as an Exchequer extra receipt in 1942-43. As stated in the account, the loss during the year was less than anticipated owing to increased traffic receipts.
“The sum of £517 7s. 5d., shown in the statement of Exchequer extra receipts appended to the present account, represents repayment in respect of the subsidy paid in 1940-41.”
291. Chairman.—As far as I know, aeroplanes from Collinstown, those going to England, are all full to capacity. How is it that the company operates at such a substantial loss?—The answer is a simple one. The fact that the traffic has been increased, as you suggest, has reduced the loss. I cannot say at the moment the amount of traffic that would have to be carried to make the loss nil. That would be a difficult question to answer without notice. I have been reminded that the planes are not always full even now, but they are practically full.
292. Does the Minister, in view of his discretion here, take any measures to ascertain that the undertaking is efficiently operated?—Oh, yes. The company itself, like any other Government company, is responsible to the Minister for the money it gets, and we in turn are responsible to the Department of Finance and to the Dáil. In the case of that company it is very difficult to judge the point at which it will pay its way, because of the impossibility of getting more planes and increasing the number of passengers. Undoubtedly, more traffic would be carried if there were more planes, and in that way the company would get nearer the point of paying its way.
293. It is actually losing approximately £600 per week?—Yes—£30,000 odd for 1941-2.
294. Are you satisfied that no economy in administration could reduce that loss? —Yes. I do not think there is anything that could be done to reduce that loss. In normal times, more planes would be put on, and air travel would be made more attractive. The only way to get that deficit down is by putting on more planes and increasing the traffic.
295. Deputy Hughes.—Are the rates the same as pre-war?—The rates have been increased.
296. By how much?—Speaking from memory I should say by at least 25 per cent.
297. Chairman.—So long as you are satisfied that the maximum efficiency is being exercised in the management of the enterprise, I suppose that is all we can hope for?—If times were normal that company would have local services—you will remember that, for a short time, there was a service to Limerick—but in times like these it is impossible to gauge what could be done. The traffic is not normal. The board of that company is responsible to the Minister. They make a report, and so far as we can judge from that report and from our knowledge of the carrying on of the business of the company everything possible is being done. An assistant secretary of my Department is a director of that company. He is the official in charge of the Transport and Marine Branch, so we are kept in very intimate touch with the operations of the company. The secretary to the Department of Supplies is the chairman of that company. We have every reason to believe that everything possible is being done to keep that loss down to the lowest point.
298. Deputy Hughes.—As between one year and another, has any improvement been shown?—There was a slight improvement. In 1938-39 it was £33,000; in 1939-40 it was £26,000 odd; in 1940-41 it went up again, and in 1941-42 it is down to £30,000. There was an improvement in 1939-40. If you think of the dates, you can see the reason why additional traffic reduced the loss. The whole thing turns to the amount of traffic.
299. Deputy Hughes.—Is there much of an increase in the cost of operation?—I cannot answer that question, but there must be an increase in the costs of petrol, parts, and other items.
“Stores, Equipment, Machinery, etc.
“46. I have been informed by the Accounting Officer that inventories of stores, equipment, machinery and fittings at the Dublin airport are held and maintained by Aer Rianta, Teoranta, as required by the terms of the management agreement between the Minister and the company. I have inquired as to what records are maintained of supplies provided for use at the Shannon airport.”
300. Chairman.—Is there anything you wish to add to that, Mr. McGrath?
Mr. McGrath.—With regard to the last sentence there, we received a reply from the Accounting Officer, stating that records are kept locally, and promising the Audit Office that they would have those records kept at headquarters, so that we can go in and check them as against the delivery of stores.
301. Has that been done?—Well, we have the promise of the Accounting Officer.
Mr. Ferguson.—The records, as stated, are divided between the Shannon airport and the civil aviation section in headquarters. We have recently appointed a manager of that airport. The purpose of appointing him was to get the organisation of the airport into better shape. It may not be physically possible to keep all the records in Dublin, but, so far as it is possible, we certainly will do so. We have made a great many improvements in the last six months, and we are hoping for many more. It is a large organisation now, as you know.
302. Chairman.—I take it then that the Department will keep in touch with the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and go as far as possible to meet his requirements?—Definitely.
“Permanent Records of lands, buildings, etc., and rentals of property.
“47. A register and rental of all lands and buildings held by the Minister has not been compiled, but particulars of such properties appear to be available in records and files. I am in communication with the Accounting Officer on the matter.”
303. Chairman.—Have you had any further communication from him?
Mr. McGrath.—No. We have not had a reply.
Mr. Ferguson.—They are now available, and, if the Comptroller and Auditor-General has not got them, he will do so shortly.
304. Chairman.—And I take it they are complete?—All the information is now available, showing lands and buildings acquired by the Minister in connection with the Shannon and Dublin airports, and all the lands and buildings at the airport which have been leased by the Department. Some were leased for grazing as they were not needed.
305. Perhaps I may say, Mr. Ferguson, that an analogous matter has arisen on the Board of Works estimates for several years, and the Committee has expressed a very strong view that Government Departments holding land or real estate of any kind should be scrupulous to clarify their own minds as to exactly what they hold and the terms upon which they hold them, lest there should be any piece of property in the possession of the Minister for which the Minister is responsible, over which due supervision was not exercised?—I appreciate that. I think the register will meet that test.
306. I take it that the Comptroller and Auditor-General will receive a copy of it as soon as possible?—Yes.
“48. As stated in a note appended to the account, sums of 1/8, £1 9s. 4d., and £12 12s. 11d., the vouchers for which were mislaid subsequent to examination in the Department, are charged to the relative subheads with the approval of the Department of Finance. In the circumstances I have admitted the charges against the Vote.”
307. Chairman.—Is there anything you wish to say in regard to that, Mr. McGrath?
Mr. McGrath.—This is merely a record that certain vouchers are missing. We are satisfied with the explanation of the Department and we know that the Department of Finance is also satisfied.
308. Chairman.—With regard to subhead A.—Payments in respect of Steamer Services—is this the Galway to Aran service?
309. With regard to subhead D., does Aer Lingus Teóranta pay anything in respect of its user of the Dublin airport?— The position is that we own the ports, both at Shannon and Dublin. The Dublin airport is managed on an agency basis by the company. We are managing the Shannon airport directly at the moment. In normal times, the arrangement would be that it also would be managed by the company.
310. You have disbursed the sum of £6,147 5s. 1d. on foot of management of the Dublin airport. I take it that was paid in fees to Aer Lingus Teóranta for managing the airport for you? —Those are maintenance costs. Whatever expenditure is incurred by them is repaid. It is not a matter of paying them something for doing the work. This is to cover the costs they incurred in carrying out the management.
311. And they pay no rental to the Department for use of the port?—No. It is on an agency basis. It is our airport managed by them.
312. So it would seem that they have no terminal expenses at all?—That is so. The operating costs of running the planes is one section; the airport is another. In that sense, they have the airport free of charge. Again, the abnormality of the present times makes the position very difficult. Normally, the Dublin airport would conceivably be used by other companies, and the fees thus accruing would come to the Minister.
313. It is true to say, then, that the operating company incurred this entire deficit on operation costs as distinct from terminal costs?—That is so.
314. Deputy Hughes.—And this figure of £6,147 must be added to the total losses?—That is so. I would make the plea, both for the company and for ourselves, that when an airport is built— whether it be Dublin or the Shannon—the income of that airport is from fees charged to the companies using it. I need not say anything about that at the moment; the Dublin port cannot be used now except by the Irish company. That is what makes the position completely lopsided. In normal times the fees accruing to the airport would cover maintenance expenses.
315. Chairman.—In fact, in the past 12 months you have realised £957 5s. 10d. in extra receipts, which amount can be set off against the £6,147?—Quite. I should say that, if times were normal, there would conceivably be a profit after deducting operating expenses.
316. Chairman.—Quite. With regard to the Rosse Fund, under subhead F., Appropriations-in-Aid, could you tell us something about that fund, Mr. Ferguson?
Mr. Ferguson.—I think that it would be better if I were to send in a note,* with your permission, Mr. Chairman, dealing with it, as it is a rather complicated matter—that is, if the Committee would allow me to do so.
317. Chairman.—Thank you, Mr. Ferguson, and when we receive your note dealing with the matter, you understand that it will appear on the record?
Mr. Ferguson.—I appreciate that, and am grateful to the Committee for permitting me to do so.
VOTE 57—RAILWAY TRIBUNAL.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson called.
VOTE 58—MARINE SERVICE.
49. “I referred in paragraph 53 of my last report to expenditure incurred 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, and stated that the Department of Finance had approved of payment of compensation, pending the enactment of legislation, at the same rates as, and in circumstances similar to, the compensation payable by Great Britain to crews of ships registered in the United Kingdom. I understand that an Order is being prepared under the Emergency Powers Act, 1939, which will give effect to the scheme and will include provisions to validate payments made before the date of the Order, including the amounts charged in the account of last year and the expenditure charged to subhead I.1, I.2, I.3, I.4 and I.5 in the present account.”
318. Chairman.—Has that Order yet been made, Mr. Ferguson?
Mr. Ferguson.—Yes, it was made in March, 1943.
319. Chairman.—Have you anything further to say about that, Mr. McGrath?
Mr. McGrath.—No. That is merely for information.
320. Chairman.—Can you tell us, Mr. McGrath, what steps are taken by the various Departments, in making Orders of this character, validating payments, to keep you informed as to the making of the Orders, and the amounts involved?
Mr. McGrath.—The authority for these payments is contained in the Appropriation Act. In this particular connection, certain legislation was promised, but it seems that under the Emergency Powers Act, 1939, the Minister has power to provide for such legislation by Order. Accordingly, I do not think that the Audit Office can question the Minister’s authority for acting under an Emergency Powers Order, instead of under legislation, seeing that we have already got authority under the Appropriation Act.
321. Chairman.—Yes, but are any special arrangements made to keep you advised, when it comes to a question of authorising payments of this kind, when Orders of this character are made?
Mr. McGrath.—In checking individual payments the Audit Office would have to seek for Department of Finance authority and this in itself would necessitate legislation in the ordinary manner or any Order made under the 1939 Act.
322. Chairman.—Yes, but I think I understood Mr. Ferguson to say that this was in March, 1943.
323. Chairman.—Was any information given to you, Mr. McGrath?
Mr. McGrath.—I saw a draft of the Order, as a matter of fact, but I could not say that it was definitely issued.
324. Chairman.—Have you anything to say about that, Mr. Ferguson?
Mr. Ferguson.—We would have to get the prior authority of the Department of Finance before such an Order would be made. We would have to get sanction for the making of a payment of this kind, and as far as we are concerned the procedure followed in the case of an Emergency Order, under the Emergency Powers Act, is the same as the procedure that we follow in the case of ordinary legislation, and I suppose the same remark would apply to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The position is that, in connection with these Emergency Orders, we carry out exactly the same procedure as we always did in connection with ordinary legislation.
325. Chairman.—Do you think, Mr. McGrath, that it is necessary to request the Accounting Officers of the various Departments to send a special notice to the Comptroller and Auditor General where this procedure by Emergency Order, as distinct from pending legislation, has to do with the expenditure of money?
Mr. McGrath.—Yes. I think that it would be very advisable that that should be done.
326. Chairman.—Perhaps, Mr. Ferguson, you would consider that matter, and that where such Orders are made at the instance of your Department, authorising the expenditure of money, it would be a wise thing to give formal notice of that to the Comptroller and Auditor General?
Mr. Ferguson.—After the Order is made?
327. Chairman.—Yes—that you should give notice to the Comptroller and Auditor General that you will be spending money in respect of the Order concerned. Perhaps Mr. Almond could help us in this matter?
Mr. Almond.—I rather think that the Comptroller and Auditor General is supplied with copies of all relevant Orders. I certainly agree that he should receive such information.
328. Chairman.—Yes, but it occurs to me that these particular Orders are of a peculiar character inasmuch as they involve the expenditure of money. However, perhaps Mr. McGrath would go into this matter further, and, possibly, Mr. Almond would be able to give us further information when we return to this thing in the discussion of other matters.
“Subhead J.—Grants in Respect of the Equipment of Ships for Protection against Magnetic Mines.
“50. The expenditure of £9,996 2s. 5d. charged to this subhead relates to payments made to owners of ships registered in Eire in recoupment of the cost of protecting such ships against magnetic mines. The Department of Finance approved of the proposal that grants in respect of Irish registered ships should be based on the same facilities and financial assistance as are available to owners of ships registered in the United Kingdom, and sanction was accordingly given for payments of grants equal to the actual cost of equipping and fitting Irish registered ships with the necessary protective devices.”
329. Chairman.—I take it, Mr. McGrath, that that is a purely informative paragraph?
330. Chairman.—With regard to subhead D.—Inquiries into Shipping Casualties—can you tell us, Mr. Ferguson, whether the inquiry into the shipping accident on the Antrim coast has been completed yet?
Mr. Ferguson.—No, not yet; it is still proceeding.
331. Chairman.—Well, with regard to wreck and salvage, could you tell us, Mr. Ferguson, if lifeboatmen, who are ordinarily functioning when they take part in a salvage operation, receive a considerable reward?
Mr. Ferguson.—I take it, Mr. Chairman, that you are talking about wreckage?
332. Chairman.—What I have in mind is the case of lifeboatmen going out to a ship in distress.
Mr. Ferguson.—We have nothing to do with that. That is purely a voluntary service.
333. Chairman.—Then, what is meant here, under subhead K.1, K.2, K.3 and K.4, by Coast Life Saving Service?
Mr. Ferguson.—That relates to the saving of life from shore, by means of the sending up of rockets, and so on. There is a team to handle the rocket apparatus, but the lifeboatmen do the saving of life from the boat itself. Ours is a land operation, and is supplementary to the work of the lifeboat institution.
334. Chairman.—Quite. With regard to subhead L., Appropriations-in-Air, what does a man, who finds wreck and turns it over to the Commissioner for Wrecks, receive? If the value of the piece of wreckage were, say, £10, would he be entitled to receive a percentage of that?
Mr. Ferguson.—Yes, but it varies according to the type of commodity. Normally, the value would be quite small, but, in these times of emergency, it might be worth a considerable amount. For instance, the piece of wreckage might be rubber, or oils or fats, which are scarce and of considerable value at the moment. The original idea was recoupment for loss of time, but now there is the question that there might be a considerable value attached to wreckage recovered from the sea. Some people might try to sell such wreckage at the actual amount of its value. The amount realised from sales of wreck came to about £16,000, but in prewar days the amount realised from sales of wreck would be very small.
335. Chairman.—It just occurred to me to ask how much of that money went to the people who actually salvaged the stuff from the sea?
Mr. Ferguson.—Roughly, about one-third, but it varies according to the scarcity or value of the commodity.
VOTE 59—UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson further examined.
“Subhead J.—Unemployment Assistance.
“51. In paragraph 54 of my last report I referred to payments which had been made on incorrect information supplied to unemployment assistance officers. The covering sanction of the Department of Finance has now been obtained for charges of this nature in the accounts of previous years aggregating £194 15s. 3d. General authority has also been given for inclusion in the appropriation accounts of the vote of any similar payments which may arise in the future. A schedule of such payments accompanied by an explanation of the circumstances in which they were made will be submitted annually to the Department of Finance.
“As noted in the account, payments of unemployment assistance amounting to £227 15s. 10d., which were included in the accounts of previous years, but subsequently found to be irregular and irrecoverable, have been written off with Department of Finance sanction. Cash recoveries of over-payments of unemployment assistance credited to appropriations in aid, amounted to £339 14s. 5d. In addition, further recoveries totalling £651 7s. 4d. in respect of overpayments included in the accounts of previous years have been identified since the close of the last account as having been made by deduction from unemployment assistance to which applicants subsequently became entitled.”
VOTE 60—INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL PROPERTY REGISTRATION OFFICE.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson called.
VOTE—72—REPAYMENT OF TRADE LOANS ADVANCES.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson further examined.
“76. Sub-section (3) of section 10 of the Trade Loans (Guarantee) Act, 1939, provides for repayment to the Central Fund, out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, of any amount which remains outstanding after the expiration of two years from the date on which the advance was made, of an advance made therefrom on foot of a guarantee given under the Trade Loans (Guarantee) Acts. As stated in paragraph 5 of my report on the accounts for 1939-40, the sum of £89,265 18s. 10d. was issued from the Central Fund in July, 1939, in fulfilment of a guarantee given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce for a loan of £90,000 obtained by the Peat Fuel Company, Limited, now in liquidation. The amount of £89,265, 18s. 10d. was made up of £86,648 13s. 7d. principal unpaid, and £2,617 5s. 3d. accrued interest thereon. Sums amounting to £4,922 1s. 9d. since received from the liquidator were paid into the Exchequer leaving a balance as shown in the account of £84,343 17s. 1d. due for recoupment to the Central Fund. The final report of the liquidator has not, I understand, yet been received.”
336. Chairman.—When do you expect to get his final report?—We have actually got it.
337. Was there any further sum available?—The last payment we received from the receiver was on the 31st March, 1942, and it amounted to £71 7s. 3d.
338. And, subject to that deduction, this sum may be regarded as the total loss?—Yes.
339. Deputy Hughes.—What became of the property and plant?—It was taken over by the Turf Development Board and is still being run entirely by them. I was told incidentally that the Board have made some further progress in exploiting the method.
340. Chairman.—What did they pay the liquidator for the plant and equipment they took over?—The figure was given in last year’s account. £25,000 was the price of acquisition of all the assets of the Peat Fuel Company, Ltd. as a going concern.
341. Deputy Hughes.—What was the actual loss?
Chairman.—The figure shown in the account.
Mr. G. P. S. Hogan.—A first debenture was held by the bank. The trade loan was only secured by a second debenture. It was in respect of the State guarantee secured by the second debenture that this loss arose. It is not connected with the Turf Developent Board transaction at all.
342. Chairman.—The Turf Development Board are still liable on the mortgage to the bank?
Mr. G. P. S. Hogan.—The Board bought the first debenture which was met in full from the purchase price of the assets. The State was only left with the crumbs to meet the second debenture.
343. Chairman.—Are we correct in assuming that, in fact, the total loss of the State is represented by the figure of £84,343 17s. 1d. abated by the £70 odd which has since been recovered from the liquidator?
Mr. G. P. S. Hogan.—That is the position. The total loss arising from the trade loan guarantee is the figure shown.
344. Chairman.—Any further losses that eventually may accrue will not be known until the winding up of the Turf Development Board; whether the Board will be in a position to repay such advances as they may receive from time to time.
Mr. G. P. S. Hogan.—I am not suggesting that there will be a loss eventually from the Turf Board operations.
345. Chairman.—But is that the only other source from which a loss can accrue?
Mr. Ferguson.—The Turf Development Board is not my affair at the moment.
346. Chairman.—I know that none of us wishes to avoid the implications of questions. We are faced with a sum of £84,343 17s. 1d. abated by what has come to hand from the liquidator. Does that represent the total loss on this transaction, or is there some other contingent loss which may arise?
Mr. Ferguson.—No. So far as the trade loan guarantee is concerned and any public money that was thrown in the bricquetting plant, the loss on that transaction is represented by the figure here. A new situation arose from the moment that the Turf Development Board took over the property. If any losses have occurred from the date of the taking over, they are outside of what we are dealing with here.
347. Deputy Hughes.—Is it not impossible to determine what the losses actually are? Has not the Dáil voted substantial sums by way of grant, and could not losses incurred be covered by the grants made?
Mr. Ferguson.—No. I take it that we are dealing here with the bricquetting plant, and not with the general question of turf development.
348. Chairman.—I take it that the sum set out here, abated by the £70 odd since received from the liquidator, represents the total loss on this trade loan transaction?
349. Deputy McCann.—And it has no relation to the Turf Development Board at all?
VOTE 76—FOOD ALLOWANCES.
Mr. R. C. Ferguson called and further examined.
“84. Under the powers conferred by Emergency Powers (No. 107) Order, 1941, the Minister for Industry and Commerce made an Order entitled the Emergency Powers (Food Allowances) Order, 1941, for the granting of weekly allowances of food to certain specified classes resident in urban areas. The Order provides for the issue to eligible persons of vouchers exchangeable for food and prescribes the manner and time of issue, presentation, and encashment of such vouchers. A scheme was accordingly inaugurated for issuing food vouchers for the weekly allowance of bread, butter and milk which each beneficiary under the Order was entitled to receive. The vouchers when exchanged for food are ultimately presented by wholesalers who are paid the cash value of the vouchers as stated thereon. As regards beneficiaries under the Unemployment Assistance Acts the Order came into operation on 4th September, 1941, when the first issue of food vouchers was made to persons in this class. The expenditure of £76,745 4s. 6d. charged to subhead A. is accordingly, in respect of the period from that date. In the case of persons in the other specified classes whose allowances are charged to subheads B., C., and D. the Order applied as from 5th September, 1941.”
Mr. McGrath.—That is purely informative.
350. Deputy Hughes.—Who issues the vouchers?
Mr. Ferguson.—The Employment Exchanges and the Post Offices—the Employment Exchanges in respect of unemployed persons, and the Post Office in respect of old age pensioners and widows and orphans.
351. Chairman.—Who does the work under subhead D?—In that case the vouchers are issued by the Post Office.
352. Deputy Hughes.—How are the amounts determined?—Both in the case of unemployed persons and of widows and orphans the amount depends on the number of dependents.
353. Chairman.—A comprehensive explanation if the Department’s procedure is given in the notes?—Yes.
354. Who actually did become entitled to vouchers under subhead D? I observe that there was a misunderstanding between the Department and the National Health Insurance Society in regard to that matter? —The recipients of disablement benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts who are in necessitous circumstances.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 39—PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE.
Mr. J. F. Morrissey called.
VOTE 65—EXTERNAL AFFAIRS.
Mr. J. P. Walshe called and examined.
355. Chairman.—I wonder, Mr. Walshe, is there any means of setting out in simple terms what is the correct procedure for a person who wants to go to England but not through the big contractors who arrange for emigration. In such a case there seems to be some extraordinary difficulty about getting a permit?—So far as we are concerned, there is no difficulty whatever. Anybody who wants to go to England can get a permit from our Department, if the application is approved by the police. We receive the application from the police.
356. I understand that if he goes to the police and produces some document from the Department of Industry and Commerce the police will act?—Do you mean a person who is going over as a worker to England?
357. Yes?—There is no doubt that the procedure in such a case is extremely complicated. He has, first of all, to find an employer. The employer has to obtain the permission and ratification of his local exchange. The local exchange has to communicate with the British officials in Dublin, who refer the offer of employment to the Department of Industry and Commerce. If that Department approves, the offer is released to the applicant through his local employment exchange. The applicant can then obtain his travel permit and the British visa.
358. Chairman.—He does not always get the permit?
359. Deputy Hughes.—What is the position with regard to an agricultural worker?—The same procedure generally applies.
360. Chairman.—The position then is that, provided that the Department of Industry and Commerce issues the certificate, he has a straight passage through your Department?—Yes. We are never the direct or indirect cause of stopping anyone from going to the other side. We have to get instructions from the police on the one hand and from the Department of Industry and Commerce on the other hand. The whole question of employment, whether industrial or otherwise, comes under that Department.
361. Deputy Hughes.—He must get the release before he comes to you?—Yes, but there are large categories where there is no release at all.
362. Chairman.—There sometimes arise cases where a man cannot get his birth certificate. I take it that if a responsible person, such as the Parish Priest, certifies that there is a difficulty about producing that document, the difficulty can be surmounted?—We never make a serious difficulty about that.
VOTE 66—LEAGUE OF NATIONS.
Mr. J. P. Walshe further examined.
363. Chairman.—What exactly is the position in regard to this?—The position is that we are paying the League of Nations contribution a year in arrears. The contribution for 1942 is provided for in the 1943 Estimate. We have not paid it yet, but we probably shall. We are extremely good, compared with other members of the League, only about four of whom are paying.
364. Does this happen to be the year that we went into arrears?—No, we went into arrears first in 1941, for the year 1941-1942. We paid the 1939/40 contribution in the proper year, and in 1941 we postponed payment.
365. So that, in ensuing years, we may expect to find under this Vote the appropriate expenditure of a previous year?— Yes, unless something unforeseen happens.
Chairman.—We are very much obliged to you, Mr. Walshe.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 51—NATIONAL GALLERY.
Mr. B. MacNamara called.
Chairman.—I understand that the accounting officer is unavoidably abroad. The Comptroller and Auditor General has therefore consented to Mr. MacNamara appearing and answering for the Vote.
Mr. M. Deegan called and examined.
“Subhead I—Improvement of Estates, etc.
“39. In connection with the scheme whereby certain lands in County Meath, available for the relief of congestion, are reserved for allottees from the Gaeltacht, sums amounting to £528 14s. 2d. expended in providing necessary general improvements are 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, 1942, amounts to £102,663 3s. 7d. 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 in the erection of a schoolhouse.
In connection with the scheme for the provision of holdings in certain counties in Leinster for migrants from districts where there is acute congestion, the expenditure, apart from the cost of general improvements (roads, drains, fences, etc.) borne on the Vote for Lands during the year amounts to £23,542 7s. 8d. The expenditure on this scheme from its inception in 1937-38 to 31st March, 1942, amounts to £84,444 12s. 11d., 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.”
366. Chairman.—Have you anything to add to that paragraph, Mr. McGrath?
Mr. McGrath.—This is written every year and I merely bring the information up to date.
367. Chairman.—What is exactly the significance of the words “Until the scheme is completed it is not possible to apportion the expenditure. …” Does that imply that ultimately there will be a charge made against the migrants in respect of these improvements?
Mr. McGrath.—Yes, but we cannot allocate these charges until the Department finds out how many of the local people will have to be served under this scheme.
Mr. McGrath.—A man who is unemployed there on account of the division of this land is looked after and he may get a grant of land and his allocation will be kept out of the charge given here. He will be charged under a different heading of the Land Commission’s expenditure.
Mr. Deegan.—It would be charged under the same heading, but for the purpose of the return which is given to the Comptroller and Auditor General the migrants’ holdings are segregated.
Mr. McGrath.—You will not be considering him as a migrant but as a workman?
Mr. Deegan.—He might be a landless man, an ex-employee, a local migrant or a Western migrant, but for the purposes of this return to the Comptroller and Auditor General we show the cost of the migration scheme from the West to the East. Eventually, when each estate is completed we will be able to segregate the general improvements cost between the local men and the migrants.
368. Deputy Hughes.—You mean a man that has lost employment as the result of the acquisition?—Yes.
369. Are the same arrangements made as for the migrants in regard to housing? —Yes.
370. Apart altogether from his financial position, are the local people receiving land?—They get houses, out-offices, land and roads, but not equipment.
371. What is the average cost per family?—The average cost per group migration of 168 holdings so far is—the special expenditure—about £128 per family.
372. That is not the all-in cost?—That was the extra cost.
373. What is the all-in cost estimated for providing land, housing and equipment?—It would vary, estate by estate.
374. Have you an average figure for the scheme up to date?—I have not worked out the cost: the land cost varies and the cost of housing varies from year to year, since building costs have gone up.
375. You have no idea of the approximate figure?—It varies, estate by estate. I have here a figure showing that the cost of the land on 122 Gaeltacht Colony holdings was just £400 per holding. I gave details of the cost of the buildings in previous years.
376. Chairman.—Did I correctly understand you to say that it cost an average of £124 per family more to settle migrants on those lands than to settle a local person?—The cost of the extra assistance that we gave to 168 western group migrants so far works out, I estimate, at about £128 per family.
377. Deputy Hughes.—Would there not be other costs as well—transporting, etc.? —Transport is included.
378. Chairman.—I observe in the case of certain migrants as follows: Beckett, in Meath, with a family of three, the total cost of settling him, including building, poultry, fodder, removal expenses, was £1,412 17s. 3d. That is the first one in March-April, 1940 scheme. There were 74 migrants in that scheme. Then O’Rourke, Meath, for 12 members of the family the cost of migrating and settling was £5,759 8s. Surely, that represents a very much greater cost than it would cost to settle a local family of 12 persons?— There are 12 families on the O’Rourke Estate. These are estates in the first column.
379. I understand now that they are families. So one may say the average cost of each family is less than £500. Taking an average family you reckon it would cost about £380 to settle a local family?—It would be £128 less than the average cost of the 168 families brought up from the West.
380. Deputy Hughes.—Is not the over-all average much less than £500?—The over-all average of what?
381. The over-all average of the total inclusive cost of settling?—That would be the cost of the land, the housing, the improvements, roads and fences, and the special expenditure of bringing up migrants. The first cost—land, housing and general improvements would be the same for everybody, and will vary estate by estate and year by year.
382. What would the aggregate figure be for that? And the average up to date? I take it that the figure is progressively increasing during the emergency?—The figure for buildings has increased. I have not worked out the average of this group of migrants, but there would be no difficulty in doing so, and if the Deputy would like to have a special return I will have it made out and sent to him. I understand he wants the cost of the lands, the cost of the buildings, and of general improvements, and the cost of the special expenditure. I have not got it to-day, as I was concerned more with the special expenditure which is the main point in regard to these migrants.
383. Have any of the migrants been unsatisfactory from your point of view?— Just a few.
384. What percentage?—No percentage to speak of. Of these 168 group migrants, I see that one has been re-allocated which means that one has gone out, and another has been brought in. I think about half a dozen of the Gaeltacht migrants went home and were replaced.
385. Are they doing well?—Yes, the present scheme is working well.
386. Deputy McCann.—Where a migrant got a holding, apart from the tilling of the land, is there any provision to see that he actually occupies the house? I have in mind a holding at Fortunestown Lane, Co. Dublin, where a migrant let the house go into disrepair, and left it unoccupied. Nothing was done on the land for a couple of years, and the fences were broken down. I believe the Land Commission resumed that holding, but had to go to additional expense in putting up new fencing, and in putting the house into proper repair. It is a typical case, and I was in touch with the Commission about it?—I would not say it was a typical case, but there are such cases.
387. I understand there have been similar cases?—So far as migrants or landless men are concerned, where we have given them holdings and new houses and they have not occupied the land or the houses, we do inspect and get after such people. We got rid of a number and replaced them.
388. Deputy McCann.—So far as I know, that went on in respect of that holding for at least a couple of years. Although there were local people anxious to take over the holding who, in my opinion, were necessitous people, the Land Commission let it go on for a couple of years. Could not there be some quicker method?—When you are dealing with the legal question of putting a man out of his land, that cannot be done quickly.
389. Could a time limit not be fixed; say, three months, or six months, or whatever time you like to fix?— You may remember that in the 1939 Land Act we had to put in a special clause dealing with that particular point. The case you have in mind may be an old case where land was given to a man in exchange for other land. The migrant usually surrenders his own holding and is given a house and land in exchange and is the owner of that house and land and it is not easy to put such a man out.
390. Deputy Hughes.—Have not you the power to determine the tenancy if he is not working his land?—According to the agreement he must use his land properly. But you must draw a distinction, in practice as well as in law, between a landless man to whom you give a holding and a house and who fails to live in the house or to work his land properly, and the migrant who surrenders his own house and land to whom you give in exchange a new house and land and who does not work that properly. The two cases are very different and must be handled differently.
391. Chairman.—It is most pathetic to discover that security of tenure has so few defenders?—Many, of whom the Land Commission are, I hope, not the least.
Chairman.—So I observe with great satisfaction.
392. Deputy Hughes.—Would it be that the Land Commission are rather reluctant to admit that they selected a bad tenant? —No, they are not—not in the slightest.
393. What is the cause of the delay then in disposing of a bad tenant and putting in a good one?—There is no avoidable delay. In so far as we can proceed quickly we must proceed quickly when we hear about it. I must admit that we have not been able to inspect everybody. It is sometimes suggested that we should have a corps of inspectors travelling round to examine the people to whom we have given land, and doing that year by year. We have not been able to do that; we would like to do it.
394. In a case like that, generally you get notification from the local people?— Not always. We do not get notification from the local people—that is the extraordinary thing.
395. Even in their anxiety to secure land they do not make a complaint?— There are cases where these things have been hidden.
396. Deputy McCann.—Surely the system of inspection should be made simple; it could devolve on the local Gárdaí?—I should like to hear what the Department of Justice would have to say about that.
Chairman.—God be with the time when the three F.’s stood for something in this country. If the Gárdaí are to put us out of our holdings, God help us all.
397. Deputy McCann.—Not necessarily. But if the holding has not been occupied for a couple of years and nothing has been done?—We have no hesitation in dealing with a man to whom we give a house and land and who does not live in the house or work the land. We have a special section dealing with these people. We have reports about a number of them. We have not been able, owing to lack of inspectors, transport restrictions, and so on, to keep up that inspection work as we would wish.
Mr. M. Deegan further examined.
398. Deputy Hughes.—As to Item (8) of the Appropriations in Aid, you realised the sum of £63,000. How has that affected the forests; has it injured the forests in any way?—We have got rid of a lot of scrub and a lot of firewood timber, of which we are glad to see the last. We have supplied some 95,000 tons of fuel to Fuel Importers, Limited, and we have given about 12,000 tons of wood blocks to the Dublin Corporation, which is rather good work.
399. Have you done anything in regard to commercial timber?—We have sold large quantities of commercial timber. You have under Item (2) large sales of timber—£25,000 worth.
400. Deputy McCann.—In every case the sales are by tender?—Yes, by tender, except small sales under £5 or £10.
401. Deputy Hughes.—Have you much timber lying at present in the forests owing to transport difficulties?—Transport has been slow. We have had the same difficulty everybody has had. It has been slower than we thought it would be, but a great deal of stock has been got away. I think there is scarcely anything left now. The railway company has been very helpful.
402. Is your planting able to keep pace with the amount of land you are clearing at present?—I think the planting keeps pace with the amount of land we are clearing, though it is not anything like as good as we would wish, because of lack of fencing material. We cannot get this rabbit wire which is absolutely necessary. I think last year I told you we had ordered some 15,000 rolls of wire in America. We were lucky to get some delivered from there; we got about 3,000 rolls, but the balance is held up. There are 5,000 rolls lying now in New York If we cannot get that, and we do not believe we will, our programme will be still more restricted for want of these materials.
403. How long is it after an old forest is cleared out before you replant?—As speedily as possible.
404. Is it necessary to do fencing there again?—Everything will depend on the position. Some of the old forests can be replanted straight away, as they are sufficiently fenced. The stock fences are good enough. The stock and the rabbits are the two things we must fence against. There is also a shortage of seeds and tools.
405. Does that mean that there is an actual reduction in the acreage planted since the emergency, or during the last two years?—Yes. In 1941-42, the year we are discussing, we planted 4,482 acres; the year before we planted, 5,961; the year before, 6,915, so that there has been a reduction.
406. Was that the peak year?—No. The peak year was 1938-39—7,603 acres. This year we will do practically the same as last year—about 4,300 acres. Next year, if things continue as they are, the acreage will be still lower—not that we have not the land, but mainly because we have not the fencing. We have sufficient plants in the nurseries.
407. Are you still acquiring land?—We acquire as much land as we possibly can. We will take all we can get.
408. You have a substantial amount on hands?—The total area on hands on 31st March, 1943 was 165,500 acres. That is not all plantable. About 29,000 acres of that would be unplantable. We are buying all the land we can buy; we will buy the land and hold it, even though we cannot deal with it.
409. Deputy Loughman.—What would be the total area planted?—I have the total area planted up to March, 1942, the year we are discussing. Our own new planting came to 94,500 acres. You may add another 5,000 to that and say practically 100,000 acres of our own new planting to date.
410. Deputy McCann.—Your real peak year I think was in the neighbourhood of 10,000 acres?—No, that was our objective. We had worked up our nurseries and plants to a 10,000 acres programme. We want to reach that, but we have not been able to reach it as yet.
411. Deputy Hughes.—Does that mean that 10,000 acres would supply our requirements at some future date?—If we planted 10,000 acres a year, within a reasonable time we would be able to supply our estimated requirements. Forestry is a long distance transaction.
412. That means that if we planted beyond that we would probably have some for export. Can we take it that if we reach a point where we are planting 10,000 acres the production will eventually meet our requirements in timber?—So far as one can see at present. But, with modern developments in the use of timber, it is impossible to say.
VOTE 54—GAELTACHT SERVICES.
Mr. M. Deegan further examined.
“Subhead H. 3.—Grants under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929 to 1939.
“40. 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, 1942, the position regarding such grants and loans was as follows:—
“41. I have been furnished with a schedule of industrial loans outstanding from which it appears that there were no advances made during the year ended 31st March, 1942. Arrears, including interest accrued, due at that date amounted to £10,060 17s. 3d. as compared with £9,944 4s. 9d. on 31st March, 1941. Included in the arrears is a sum of £9,984 16s. 6d. due by a company which ceased to exist in 1925. As stated in my report last year, the 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.”
412a. Chairman.—Have you anything to add, Mr. McGrath?
Mr. McGrath.—If you could get rid of this item of £9,984 16s. 6d., due by the quarries in Galway—the company which ceased to exist in 1925—you would have only a very small amount of outstanding debts?—We would have very little to answer for.
It is a pity we cannot do something to get rid of it, instead of bringing it up year after year?—As we have explained every year, we are waiting for the State Lands Act to enable us to dispose of whatever assets exist there. If we had that Act, we could get rid of the item. It is really only a book entry. Interest is added in the books each year which makes it look bigger.
413. Deputy Hughes.—Can you give the Committee any information as to the taking over of the Belmullet factory and as to how the position stands at present? —That is the case which I think is referred to in paragraph 10 of the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Report.
414. Deputy McCann.—This is a case of your taking over a factory in a hurry without first consulting the Board of Works?—We took it over in a hurry and the charge to the Board of Works includes payments of £55 compensation and £26 costs. It is perfectly true that we took over the premises in a hurry. We wanted premises for our wooden toy factory at Elly Bay which had been burned out and we heard that premises and plant were to be had for a rent of £100 in Belmullet. We got in touch with the Department of Finance and got verbal sanction to do our best. We agreed with the man who owned the premises and plant to rent them for £100 a year. Almost immediately, some difficulties arose—domestic difficulties on his side— which prevented him from letting us have the premises. He was willing, however, to give us the plant at £48 a year. We had our Christmas trade coming along. We had taken contracts for these wooden toys. There was another hall in the town for which we at once proceeded to negotiate. We entered into a verbal agreement with the owner of it, that he would let us have the hall for the first year for £52—the balance of the £100 in respect of which we had Finance sanction to take the other place. The plant we were renting for £48 and we had £52 for premises, so we closed straightaway with this man for his hall for £1 per week for one year. We did not have any written agreement with him and our officer on the spot, who was not an expert engineer, did not make a condition survey, but the whole thing looked so simple and easy that anybody could understand it. We took the place at £1 per week and went into possession. We reported to the Board of Works, who proceeded to make the ordinary agreement. I understand that the negotiations became more difficult, but eventually the Board of Works got agreement at £1 per week for one year. When we were leaving, there was a certain amount of damage to the premises in respect of which the owner made a claim. We had a verbal agreement with him that we would be responsible for any damage done and it was merely a question of agreeing to the amount of compensation. The Board of Works’ representative was on the spot and our people were on the spot, as well as the owner’s solicitor. The premises undoubtedly were not in as good condition as they were when we took them over. We admitted that. The extent of the damage was agreed with the owner’s solicitor and it was ascertained that a local contractor could do the job and carry out the repairs necessary for a sum of £25. The owner, however, went back on his solicitor’s agreement and threatened to take the matter to court. Eventually it was settled, as paragraph 10 of the Report shows, for £55 compensation and £25 costs. Depreciation would have had to be paid for, whether we had a written agreement or not. We admit that we went into possession straight away, as we had our Christmas trade coming along and wanted to fulfil our contracts. We had, as I say, Department of Finance sanction to take premises and plant for £100 a year. We had got the plant for £48 and we agreed to spend the balance of £52 on the premises.
415. With regard to subhead D. 8.—Toy Industry—what was the additional expenditure required for?—The additional expenditure under that subhead and under subhead D. 6.—Materials—arose from the fact that we bought all we possibly could, knowing that materials and stocks were running out.
416. Deputy Hughes.—What happened with regard to subhead D. 9.—Spinning Industry? You spent very little on that subhead?—That refers to the spinning mill at Kilcar. We have the premises. They have been prepared for us, so far as necessary by the Board of Works. We have the boilers there; the spinning machinery is on order but cannot be got, and I think there is no possibility whatever of getting it until after the emergency.
417. Deputy McCann.—With regard to Appropriations in Aid, you realised nearly £20,000 more than estimated?—We did.
418. Your action in respect of Belmullet would appear to have been justified?— That money was not realised on toys alone, of course, but on rural industries as a whole.
419. The toy industry is flourishing?— The doll industry. We have gone out of wooden toys, but the doll industries at Crolly and Elly Bay are doing well.
420. You have plenty of raw material? —Not plenty, but sufficient for the moment. We bought all we possibly could.
421. Was there any substantial increase in your wholesale prices?—Not substantial. We have had to increase, but our prices are still reasonable.
422. Deputy Hughes.—Your sales of kelp did not realise what you estimated? They represent only about two-thirds?— I have the particulars here. We made provision in our estimate for the purchase of 800 tons of kelp. We bought 719 tons. We provided for 2,000 tons of dried seaweed, and we actually bought 1,356 tons.
423. What are you using the kelp for? —Are you making any potash?—The kelp has all gone for the manufacture of fertilisers.
424. Is it not a very small quantity? Is it not possible to expand it?—We are most anxious to expand it. The kelp was all sold and retained here for fertiliser purposes.
425. Could you handle much more?— We merely acquire it and hand it over.
426. You hand it over to some of the manure manufacturers?—Yes. We expect and we hope to double our intake of kelp this year.
427. They could manufacture a much greater quantity?—We will give them all they will take and all we can acquire. This kelp all went to one factory.
428. What is the explanation of the very small quantity? Is it that the price offered is not attractive, or that the kelp is not there? This is very important, as it is the only source of potash we have?— We are doing the maximum possible. In previous years we were exporting; the only market we could find for our kelp was the export market. The kelp was then ground and exported, but that market has now come to an end, and our kelp is all for home use. We hope to increase the amount this year. We are budgeting for 1,500 tons as against 800 tons in 1941-42.
429. Is it not possible to increase it four or five times?—I could not say whether it is possible or not.
430. Are you giving it any special consideration?—We are doing the maximum possible.
431. It is a most important matter?—It is.
432. Because the lack of potash is a very severe handicap to those engaged in agriculture?—I quite agree.
433. Your efforts to expand the production of potash will be greatly appreciated?—We are doing our best.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 43—DUNDRUM ASYLUM.
Dr. G. W. Scroope called.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned at 1.5 p.m.
* Appendix VIII.