Committee Reports::Report - Appropriation Accounts 1941 - 1942::15 April, 1943::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 15adh Abrán, 1943.

Thursday, 15th April, 1943.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:





B. Brady









Mr. G. McGrath, An tArd-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste, Mr. C. S. Almond, Mr. O. J. Redmond and Mr. L. M. Fitzgerald (An Roinn Airgeadais) were in attendance.


Deputy Benson.—I propose that Deputy Dillon take the Chair.

Deputy Breathnach.—I second that. I think we would all agree with that, as he is a splendid Chairman.

DEPUTY DILLON took the Chair.

Chairman.—I am very much obliged to the Committee for appointing me once more to the responsible position of Chairman of this Committee. I think most of the members present have been members of the Committee previously. Has not Deputy Loughman been with us before?

Deputy Loughman.—No. This is the first occasion I have been a member.

Chairman.—Perhaps, then, it would be well to recapitulate briefly what are our functions. Our functions are, with the Appropriation Accounts before us, and with the assistance of the Comptroller and Auditor General, who is kind enough to come and help us in our work, to inquire of the Accounting Officers how they spent the money which Dáil Eireann appropriated for their various Departments. The usual pitfall for the unwary is to address questions to the Accounting Officer which should be more properly addressed to a Minister in Dáil Eireann. The Accounting Officer is not responsible for policy. His duty is merely to reassure the Committee that he has seen that the money which Dáil Eireann has decided to expend in certain ways has been expended in those ways and in no other. Any Deputy is entitled to ask the Accounting Officer who appears before the Committee any relevant question which he pleases to ask, and in the event of the Accounting Officer not having with him the exact information which the Deputy may require, he is free to ask the Accounting Officer to send a considered memorandum containing full information. However, although that is the right of any Deputy at the Committee, it is not usually exercised, except in some matters of importance, but subject to what I have said already, each Deputy is free to ask any question he likes. There is no restriction whatever on him in that regard, and his rights will be carefully safeguarded by the Chairman. We now come to Vote 44. I should like to mention to the Committee that the Comptroller and Auditor General has been good enough to furnish us with the customary annual list of special subheads opened with the special sanction of the Department of Finance during the year 1941-42.* None of these subheads relate to the Vote for National Health Insurance. One of them refers to the Department of Local Government and Public Health, which I shall mention when we come to it.


Mr. J. Hurson called and examined.

Mr. Hurson.—With your permission, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Duffy will answer in connection with this Vote.


1. Deputy Breathnach.—With regard to subhead A., what is the cause of the delay in regard to these vacancies? There seems to be a saving of £581 19s. 11d. here, and I should like to know what that is due to?

2. Chairman.—Perhaps Mr. Duffy could tell us if there are still many vacancies being filled?

Mr. Duffy.—The trouble is that it is not possible at the moment to get a new officer to fill the place of an officer who dies or retires. Provision has been made for the salary of the old officer, and the delay is the cause of the savings.

3. Chairman.—May we take it that these positions are being filled?

Mr. Duffy.—Yes, certainly, but it will take time.

4. Deputy Breathnach.—With regard to subhead G. 2., there is a tremendous saving there. What is that due to?

5. Chairman.—Is the saving under G. 2 due to improvement in the public health or to better enforcement in the reviewing of cases?

Mr. Duffy.—It is a very difficult question to answer under the two headings. I do not know that there is any great improvement in the public health, but in estimating for one year you are more or less guided by the experience of the previous few years, and in these previous years there might have been a major or a minor influenza epidemic, let us say, and you might possibly over-estimate as a result. I think that in this particular year it was due to some such cause.


Mr. J. Hurson called.

No question.


Mr. J. Hurson called.

Chairman.—There is a note here by the Comptroller and Auditor General which is as follows:—

J.3.—Grants in connection with the provision of Home Assistance in certain cases.

“30. The grants charged to this sub-head were payable at the rate of fifty per cent. of the expenditure incurred by Public Assistance authorities on home assistance afforded, by reason of the operation of Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) Order, 1941, to persons debarred from receipt of unemployment assistance by the Order. The estimate provided that the State contribution would not in any event exceed fifty per cent. of the amount of unemployment assistance which but for the Order would have been payable to each person assisted. The claims for recoupment furnished by Public Assistance authorities showed the amount paid as home assistance to each person and were certified by Local Government Auditors.

In the case of persons in receipt of unemployment assistance up to the date on which the Order became operative it was arranged that local officers of the Department of Industry and Commerce would furnish Public Assistance authorities with particulars of disallowances of unemployment assistance consequent on the operation of the Order, and of the rate payable prior to disallowance. The claims of the Public Assistance authorities for recoupment appear to have been furnished on the basis that the rate of unemployment assistance payable to each person prior to the disallowance would have continued to operate throughout the period of the Order. It was apparently not possible to obtain particulars of the rate of unemployment assistance applicable, and the period or periods for which it would have been payable, to each person during the currency of the Order. I am in communication with the Accounting Officer on the matter.”

6. Chairman.—Is there anything you care to add to that, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—The Estimate was that 50 per cent. of the amount payable on account of unemployment assistance would be chargeable under this subhead, but when the Audit Office tried to find out what would be payable in each case, and referred to the authorities which were charged with the assessment of these amounts, it found that the system under which unemployment assistance had been paid was not functioning; so that we were unable to check—we had no means of checking. I think it would help if I refer to the circular letter, dated 25th August, issued by Mr. Hurson, the Accounting Officer, in which he draws attention to the fact that information which, he presumed, he would be able to get, was not available, and asking the local authorities to change the headings under which these amounts would be accounted for. I think that under the circumstances the Estimate has not been carried out in the way in which it was voted by the Dáil and, on that account, I was obliged to bring the matter before this Committee.

7. Chairman.—Is there anything you can tell us in regard to this matter, Mr. Hurson?

Mr. Hurson.—I submitted an explanation to the Comptroller and Auditor General recently. I do not know if he were satisfied with it, and I have not got a copy of it with me.

Mr. McGrath.—You certainly did send in an explanation, but it does not carry out what is demanded by the Audit Office, and that is, that the expenditure must be strictly in accordance with the Estimate submitted to the Dáil.

8. Chairman.—Could you say, Mr. McGrath, in what particular did the expenditure actually depart from the Estimate?

Mr. McGrath.—The sub-head is J. 3. and the grants are in connection with the provision of home assistance in certain cases. Grants were made to Public Assistance authorities in respect of expenditure on home assistance paid to married men and widowers with dependents unable to support themselves by their own industry, or other lawful means and who were debarred from the receipt of unemployment assistance by the operation of the Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) Order, 1941. The State contribution would not in any event exceed 50 per cent. of the amount of unemployment assistance which, but for the Order, would be payable to each person. As I stated before, when my office tried to find out what unemployment assistance would be payable, we found that the authority which usually assesses these amounts had ceased to function.

Mr. Hurson.—The persons granted public assistance had ceased to draw unemployment assistance, and as the persons ceased to report to the unemployment officers the latter could not determine what, in fact, at any time, was the amount of unemployment assistance to which those persons would be entitled. As a matter of fact, the amount paid by the public assistance authorities was below the standard which the persons had been receiving at the time they ceased to draw unemployment assistance.

9. Deputy Hughes.—Was the local authority bound to pay on the basis of the payments made by the Department of Industry and Commerce?—Yes, that would be the maximum.

10. But they could pay below that figure?—Yes; in fact, most of them did pay below that amount.

11. Deputy Hogan.—You may be sure they did?

Mr. Hurson.—They did pay below it and, in the case of new recipients, persons who became unemployed and who would, but for the operation of this Order, have become entitled to unemployment assistance, the amount of assistance which they could get was determinable, and the home assistance rate was calculated accordingly; but in these cases, too, it was below the rate payable by way of unemployment assistance. In new cases there was no doubt in my mind as regards complying with the estimate.

12. Chairman.—Did you, Mr. McGrath, take the view that persons becoming entitled to unemployment assistance after the date of the Order were covered by the estimate?

Mr. McGrath.—There was an attempt to cover them, I must say, but the Audit Office has to have regard to the law in connection with unemployment assistance and, according to the Unemployment Assistance Act of 1935, the unemployment assistance officer is the only person who can decide the amount, the rate and the period in which unemployment assistance is payable. If this officer ceased to function, the Audit Office could not check the amount that would have been payable if the Order had not come into force. It should be remembered that each applicant for unemployment assistance has to go at regular periods before the unemployment assistance officer and repeat his application and also repeat the condition of his dependants; his own general condition; whether his dependants have increased or decreased; whether he is capable of taking up employment if it is offered to him. All these things are discussed between the applicants and the unemployment assistance officer. These things ceased to be discussed when this Employment Period Order was promulgated, and our difficulty in the Audit Office is that we cannot, in accordance with the estimate, check the amount which should have been payable. If the wording of the estimate is changed, I shall have no objection to passing the expenditure, and I am sure the Accounting Officer has done his best in the matter, but he is up against a difficulty which was not foreseen, even by the Department of Local Government and Public Health, when they were making out this estimate.

Mr. Hurson.—I am afraid that is so to a large extent, but on a liberal interpretation of the subhead there could be reference from time to time to the amounts determined by the Employment Exchange. The Public Assistance authorities, as I say, from our knowledge, kept below the amounts payable at the time the persons ceased to draw unemployment assistance.

Mr. McGrath.—But we cannot check any one of these. You are assuming that a man entitled to 9/-, 12/- or 14/- a week is entitled to continue that amount.

13. Chairman.—Mr. Hurson is not assuming anything. He has to deal with the local authorities who, apparently, made the assumption. Did any category of persons who were not covered by the estimate receive benefit, or was it that everybody got an amount which was not determined in a sufficiently close manner?

Mr. McGrath.—My point is that it is impossible for the Audit Office to check the expenditure in accordance with the estimate. We are not saying that any individual was overpaid; we are not making that assertion.

14. Deputy Hughes.—If the information was available to the local authorities. why was it not available to the Audit Office? Obviously, the information was available to the local authority and Mr. Hurson has stated that the rate was not exceeded. Is that not so?—The Comptroller and Auditor General’s point is that in the interval when he was receiving public assistance he may possibly have been eligible for a lower amount.

15. You could not determine that?— No, but, as the Chairman points out, there was no class of persons admitted under this subhead who were not eligible. We must rely on the assistance officers to determine whether those persons were destitute and required public assistance. There is also the fact that they were dependent on unemployment assistance during a previous period.

16. Chairman.—Are you satisfied that the terms of the estimate were wide enough to cover persons who would have become eligible for unemployment assistance had the Order not been made, after the date on which the Order had been made?—Yes, that was my opinion at the time, but I realise the point put forward by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

17. Chairman.—Would you take the view, Mr. McGrath, that the estimate was wide enough to cover those persons who would have become eligible for unemployment assistance had the Order never been made, on a date subsequent to the making of the Order?

Mr. McGrath.—I certainly would, but that is not the point.

18. Chairman.—But those people were covered?

Mr. McGrath.—They were.

19. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor General is not satisfied that he has the material wherewith to make the necessary check. Can you make any suggestions to the Committee, Mr. McGrath, as to what should be done in the circumstances?

Mr. McGrath.—It is not usual for me to make these suggestions, but, if the wording of the estimate were changed, we could get over the difficulty.

20. Chairman.—Are you of the opinion that a Supplementary Estimate should have been introduced in order to meet this difficulty when it arose?

Mr. McGrath.—In theory, that would have been the proper thing to do; but I suggest that when Mr. Hurson realised the difficulty in the following year when he was introducing the same estimate, he might have changed the wording in the last sentence.

21. Chairman.—Did that course occur to you, Mr. Hurson?—I must say it did not, but on reconsideration I would now be inclined to modify it, although I feel that the subhead was substantially complied with.

Mr. McGrath.—I may say that I believe the Department has acted in the spirit of the estimate, but not to the letter and, unfortunately, I must go by the letter of the law.

22. Chairman.—Mr. Hurson now informs us that he will consider favourably the desirability of amending any future estimate, whether it be by way of a Supplementary or a Main Estimate which it may be necessary to introduce in regard to this matter. Will there be any estimate submitted to Dáil Eireann in the present financial year, Mr. Hurson?—Yes, in the same terms.

23. Do you contemplate adjusting it?— I shall consider that.

24. Chairman.—I take it that disposes of the matter.

25. Deputy Hughes.—Is this not applicable to the whole country, Mr. Hurson?— It is, in so far as the Employment Period Order applies. The Order does not apply generally—only to certain portions.

26. Chairman.—Did this money cover the cost of necessitous widows and other persons in that category?—They would not have been affected by the Order.

27. So this grant was applicable only to persons who would otherwise receive unemployment assistance?—Yes.

J. 4.—Grants towards the supply of Assistance in kind to recipients of Home Assistance.

“31. The scheme for the provision of assistance in kind to recipients of home assistance came into operation as from 1st October, 1941. The grants were allocated to the local authorities in proportion to the number of home assistance recipients in each area. The amount payable to each local authority was determined by the expenditure incurred by it as certified by a Local Government Auditor, limited to the amount of the allocated grant. The expenditure charged to this subhead represents instalments of grants paid in the period ended 31st March, 1942, and any balances found to be payable on the basis of the auditors’ certificates will be charged in a subsequent account.”

28. Chairman.—Do you care to add anything to that paragraph, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—That paragraph was written merely for information purposes.

29. Chairman.—Mr. Hurson, has assistance in kind been stopped recently?—No, sir.

30. I have had experience of one or two poor widows who used to receive orders every week entitling them to get butter and bread. They came in to tell me that their chits have been withdrawn. Is that due to some misunderstanding on the part of the local authority?—There was a circular issued recently continuing it.

31. Deputy Fagan.—It was discontinued for a while?—For a while in some cases.

32. Chairman.—It has been resumed?— Yes. There has been an increase in unemployment assistance in rural areas.

33. Deputy Hughes.—Is it usual for the local authorities to exceed the amount allocated under this subhead?—Very few of them did last year—possibly only one or two. There has been a falling off in the amount paid by way of public assistance and in the number of recipients.

Subhead L. 3.—Provision of Equipment for Emergency Cooked Food Centres.

“32. The expenditure charged to this subhead was for equipment for emergency cooked food centres in Dublin established pursuant to Emergency Powers (No. 109) Order, 1941 (Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 460 of 1941). The equipment remains the property of the State and is held on loan by the Dublin Corporation.”

34. Chairman.—Do you wish to add anything to that, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—No. That is merely for record.

35. Chairman.—Does the Department of Local Government and Public Health take any steps to examine this property on loan to the Corporation from time to time with a view to ensuring that it is kept in a full state of repair?—No; we leave that to the Corporation. They have it under their charge. So far as I know, no inspection has been made by the Department.

Deputy Breathnach.—It is in quite safe keeping.

Subhead S. 1.—Contributions towards Loan Charges under the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1932.

“33. Under Article 4 of The Housing (Loan Charges Contributions) Regulations, 1932 (Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 96 of 1932), each local authority is required to forward to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health an annual revenue account audited by a Local Government Auditor, in respect of each housing scheme towards which loan charge contributions are payable under this subhead. Audited accounts in respect of schemes administered by the Dublin and Cork County Borough Councils were not available. I was informed by the Accounting Officer that they would be submitted as soon as possible. Some of the schemes concerned were started in the year 1932-33.”

36. Chairman.—Do you care to add anything to that, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—The Audit Office has to treat the amounts charged in the accounts in connection with Dublin and Cork, as payments on account, and probably the Accounting Officer considers them as final payments. Do you follow that, Mr. Hurson?

Mr. Hurson.—I do.

Mr. McGrath.—It is unsatisfactory that the Audit Office looks at this from one point of view and the Accounting Officer from another. As the Accounting Officer has promised these revenue accounts which are very necessary for the Audit Office, I presume that the matter will be put in order as soon as possible.

37. Chairman.—Is there anything, Mr. Hurson, that you care to say on this note?

Mr. Hurson.—The revenue accounts for Dublin have been certified up to March, 1941, and will be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General within a week.

38. And those relating to Cork?—They will be completed very soon.

39. And will also, I take it, be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General?—Yes. The position in Dublin was different from that in other places because one scheme merged into another. In Dublin, scheme followed scheme very rapidly during the last ten years, and in its case the money was raised by stock issue. The issue was for an amount that would cover the provision of houses for the working classes, without reference to a particular scheme. All that matter has been fully gone into, and it is possible now to determine the actual amounts payable under such scheme.

40. Deputy Hughes.—Mr. McGrath has suggested that you have looked on these as final payments. How can you look on them as final payments if the accounts have still to be furnished?—I may say that, in the case of Dublin, the cost of building did exceed the subsidisable limit. In the case of flats, the subsidisable limit was fixed at £500. I do not think that either in Dublin or in Cork they were built at that figure. Similarly, in regard to single dwellinghouses—to qualify for the subsidy of 66⅔ per cent.—the all-in cost of building exceeded the subsidisable limit—by a small amount, I admit, during the years 1934, 1935, 1936 and since.

41. Chairman.—Did they get the subsidy on the basis of the £400, leaving the margin between that and the actual cost unsubsidised?—Yes.

42. Deputy Hughes.—Mr. Hurson did not answer my question as to whether he looked upon these as final payments?— Owing to the circumstances I have mentioned, they could be determined as final. We know the building costs from the tenders and also the development costs.

43. They expended sums beyond the limit?—Yes, so we could determine final payments in such cases.

44. Deputy Benson.—There is the suggestion that this is possibly due to laxity on the part of the Dublin Borough Council. Is it, in fact, due to laxity on their part, or due to laxity on the part of the Department in the matter of having the audits carried out earlier? I have seen where an order from the Department went out for the auditing of two years’ accounts. I would say that is entirely wrong?—The accounts of the Dublin Corporation for the year ending March, 1942, are, I may say, in process of completion. There has never been any delay in the audit of the Dublin Corporation accounts, and similarly in regard to Cork. This matter does not arise from that at all, and I would be sorry if the Deputy should think so.

45. I simply asked for information as to whether it was due to that or not. There have been cases of the kind I know. I cannot say whether it was in connection with the accounts of the Grangegorman Board, or what board it was, that I saw where an order went out for the audit of its accounts for two years?—That may be. The Auditors have very many calls upon their time. In the case of several subheads in this Vote the Auditors have very often to certify expenditure before they come to the ordinary audit of the accounts of a local body.

46. Chairman.—You are satisfied, Mr. Hurson, that the delay was not due to laxity on the part of anybody but rather to an inherent difficulty in the accounts themselves?—Yes.

47. And I take it that you, Mr. McGrath, share that view generally?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

Motor Tax Account.

“34. A test examination has been applied to the Motor Tax Account with generally satisfactory results. The certificates and reports of the Local Government Auditors who examine the Motor Tax transactions of the local authorities were scrutinized in so far as they were available, but in twelve cases the audits had not been completed at the date of the test examination.”

48. Chairman.—Before passing to the second part of this paragraph, is there anything you care to add to that, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—No.

49. Chairman.—Have the twelve cases of audit not completed at the date of this examination been completed since?

Mr. McGrath.—I will not be aware of that for some months to come.

50. Chairman.—Can you tell us, Mr. Hurson, if those twelve cases have yet been disposed of?—I think there are a few remaining, and they will be done very soon.

51. Chairman.—We can now take the second part of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s note on this Vote.

“The gross proceeds of the Motor Vehicle, etc., duties in 1941-42, including £7,720 1s., attributable to fines, amounted to £974,319 17s. 5d. This amount also includes fees received, on behalf of the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána, under the Road Traffic Act (Parts VI. and VII.) (Fees) Regulations, 1937. A statement of the gross and net receipts of the Motor Tax Account, and of the payments thereout to the Exchequer, appears on pages 6 and 7 of the Finance Accounts, 1941-42.”

That is a generally informative paragraph?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

52. Deputy Hughes.—Can Mr. Hurson say what was the normal corresponding pre-war figure?—In 1939-40 it was £1,138,000.

Chairman.—If there is no other question on these notes we can now take the subheads.

53. On subhead J. 1.—Child Welfare, Schools for Mothers, etc.—is the Department satisfied, Mr. Hurson, that the local authorities are taking full advantage of the scheme under this subhead? I notice that the amount of money granted has not been spent?—These schemes operate mainly in the four county boroughs, in the principal urban centres, and in about three or four counties. The saving indicated was apparently due to some overestimation in the case of the Dublin scheme.

54. Deputy Brady.—There is also a saving under subhead J. 2.—Grants for the supply of milk to necessitous children?

55. Chairman.—Was the saving in this case due to a temporary misunderstanding about the free milk?—What misunderstanding, Mr. Chairman?

I thought that for a short period there was a misunderstanding with the Dublin Corporation: that the Government desired them to stop the distribution of free milk when the scheme under the Department of Industry and Commerce came into operation?—No. The introduction of the food allowances did give rise to a larger distribution of milk. The moment that these food allowances came into being there was a bigger distribution of milk. It was not clear that the full £90,000 would be necessary in view of the provision that was being made under the food allowances scheme.

56. I have heard it stated that there is a great deficiency of milk in the dietary of the Dublin poor. Is it not somewhat surprising, then, that the full grant for the supply of milk for necessitous children would not be availed of?—So far as the Department is concerned the full amount is at the disposal of the local authorities, but in some cases it is difficult even to get the milk. I know that in some counties, possibly in Roscommon, there may be a shortage of milk, with the result that milk powder may have to be substituted. There is every desire on the part of the Department to see that the amount of the subhead should be utilised to the fullest extent.

57. Has the Department considered the desirability of facilitating the local authorities in securing pasteurisation plant where adequate supplies of Grade A. milk are not available?—Pasteurisation, in the first instance, rests with the local authority, and, in the second place, I doubt if you could get the necessary plant at the present time.

58. I understand that milk may not be distributed under this scheme unless Grade A. milk is used?—Grade A. milk is only available in Dublin, where it is produced. So far as I know, there is very little Grade A. milk produced throughout the country.

59. There is also the difficulty that milk suppliers to the local authorities under this scheme must conform to certain regulations, regulations which, I understand, some milk suppliers are not prepared to submit to?—They must comply with the regulations made under the Milk and Dairies Act.

60. Deputy Hughes.—Is not the difficulty in regard to pasteurisation this: that from the producer’s point of view it would not be worth his while pasteurising small quantities—a few pints, for example?—In such cases they could boil the milk and get the same results.

Chairman.—Boiling is rather a strong word.

Deputy Hughes.—Would you advocate boiling milk?

Deputy McCann.—Yes.

Deputy Hughes.—When you do that you kill certain vitamins in the milk.

Chairman.—I am afraid this is one of the cases where we are now moving over to topics that might be more properly discussed in Dáil Eireann.

61. Deputy Brady.—As to subhead Q.— Grants in respect of training of native Irish speakers in hospital nursing—the explanation given here does not satisfy me: “Provision was made for the training of new probationers, but the arrangements did not materialise within the year.” It seems strange that if the Dáil voted £120 only £24 1s. 8d. should be expended. One would imagine that in a scheme of that nature the Department would make arrangements at least to spend as much of the grant as possible and not return £95 18s. 4d. to the Exchequer. Why was provision not made for the training of new probationers?

62. Deputy McCann.—Is this the Gaeltacht scheme?

Mr. Hurson.—Yes.

63. They are being trained now?—Yes. In the present year we have provided for seven in Dublin and seven in Galway.

64. Deputy Brady.—That is only for this year. We lost most of the sum for 1941-42?—It has gone up to £775 this year.

65. Chairman.—The matter is one of detail and, if it would be more convenient for you, I am sure Deputy Brady would be very glad if you sent in a note at your convenience?—I will.*

66. Deputy McCann.—How many probationers would £120 be in respect of? —About three.

67. That would be £40 each?—It would come to about £100 now. We have to pay for entrance fees and uniform. It really amounts in the training period to about £100.

68. Deputy Brady.—The provision that was made for 1941-42 will not be carried forward?—No.

69. The Gaeltacht has lost that?—They will get it the next year.

70. Chairman.—I am sure Mr. Hurson in his note will be able to give a reassuring account of the scheme which has been recurring for the last ten years. We are all familiar with the difficulties of the Department in the matter?—One of the difficulties is the difficulty of getting persons from the Gaeltacht whom the hospital authorities will regard as suitable for training. They want almost a secondary education now before they are accepted for training as nurses. This was intended for girls in the Gaeltacht who were unable out of their own means to get trained, but their educational standard was somewhat low and very often when the Department, in conjunction with the Department of Education, made selections they were not regarded as suitable by the hospital authorities. When they are presented to the hospital they have to undergo a certain test, educational and otherwise. I think that is the reason why we failed in the past to some extent, but I should like to verify that.

71. Deputy Breathnach.—How do you recruit them; how do you make contact? —Through the schools. They get a memorandum which I will send to the Committee, and girls who apply are inspected or put through a test locally by a representative of the Department, in conjunction with a representative of the Department of Education. Possibly seven or ten girls may be selected who are sent to the Richmond Hospital in Dublin and the hospital makes their selections. The final selection, I may say, rests with the hospital authorities.

72. Chairman.—Subhead T. T.—Expenses in connection with the supply of Beef to Necessitous Persons in 1936-37— is one of the special subheads opened with the sanction of the Department of Finance to which I referred at the opening of our proceedings and which I said I would mention when the time came. Are you of opinion, Mr. Hurson, that this finally disposes of the free beef scheme?— I should say so. It was a very small amount.


Mr. J. Hurson further examined.

Subhead E.—Appropriations in Aid.

“35. In my last report I referred to the losses incurred under an arrangement, made in August, 1939, whereby Irish-born residents in Great Britain who required travel permits could obtain telegraphic verification of particulars of birth from the Registrar General, Dublin, the approved search fee being 2/6, payable to the High Commissioner or local Passport Office on application for a travel permit. As stated in the account, the arrangement referred to was terminated as from 23rd June, 1941, since which date applicants have been required to prepay the search fee direct to the Registrar General, Dublin. Under the original arrangement, payments totalling £282 2s. 0d., including £140 19s. 6d. in the year under review, were received from the Department of External Affairs and brought to account as appropriations in aid. The total fees due to be collected amounted to £415 10s. 0d., and the balance of £133 8s. 0d. uncollected has been written off with the sanction of the Department of Finance as irrecoverable.”

73. Chairman.—I take it this is simply the winding up of a scheme which has been discontinued?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

74. There is nothing you care to add to that?—No.

75. Deputy Benson.—How does the sum of £133 8s. 0d. come to be irrecoverable? —I fully explained that last year. I intended bringing it with me but apparently I overlooked it. The arrangement was that Irish-born persons resident in England who desire to come across here have to produce birth certificates and there was an arrangement whereby certain particulars would be telegraphed to them. When they got those particulars, some of them did not come across to Ireland, and the search fee was not paid. The procedure was that when they applied for passports to come to this country, they would make the payment necessary for the searches in the General Register Office. I think people who expected to come made preliminary arrangements under that procedure, but did not follow it up.

76. Deputy Hughes.—It is pre-paid now?—It has to be pre-paid now by telegraphic money order.

Deputy Benson.—Surely the proper arrangement would have been to have pre-payment in any event. However, there is no use dealing with that now.

77. Chairman.—We have to bear in mind that these arrangements were made in a somewhat emergency atmosphere?— Yes.

The witness withdrew.


Mr. J. B. Whelehan called and examined.

78. Chairman.—What procedure do you employ for the sale of old typewriters?—When these sales were made we advertised the fact that there were so many for sale, and traders, usually, came and inspected them. They were given a form with the number of each typewriter set out on it. They took this form and entered after each machine’s number what they were prepared to bid for the particular machine. The form was returned in a sealed envelope. We inspected the forms in due course and accepted, of course, the best bid we could get in each case.

79. How are your stocks generally—are they reasonably good?—Not unsatisfactory.

The witness withdrew.

Chairman.—Before dealing with Vote 32, I desire to refer to a matter which, in my judgment, affects the privilege of this Committee. I believe this Committee is not averse to criticism of its procedure or proceedings by Dáil Eireann, whose servant it is, but it is a gross breach of the privileges of this Committee, which represents Dáil Eireann, to have its procedure discussed in Seanad Eireann, which has nothing to do with our business, and which, in my judgment, exceed the bounds of orderly discussion when they presume to criticise the procedure of this Committee. I therefore wish to be placed on record, as Chairman of this Committee, as protesting most emphatically against Seanad Eireann and the Cathaoirleach of that body permitting a discussion of the merits of our proceedings here in the full knowledge that there is no representative of this Committee in Seanad Eireann to state this Committee’s views on any topic that may be discussed relating to our proceedings, and more especially inasmuch as this Committee has no duty to Seanad Eireann, and is responsible exclusively to Dáil Eireann where its procedure can be discussed whenever that is deemed expedient. I think this Committee is bound to make it quite clear that it will not tolerate in silence any other body in this country except Dáil Eireann presuming to criticise or commend what we see fit to do in what we believe to be the discharge of our duty as members of this Committee.

Deputy McCann.—When the Report of this Committee is published, is it not public property? Before the Seanad discussion some extracts from the published Report of this Committee appeared in the Irish Times, to my knowledge.

Chairman.—In my view our Report, as published, is material for discussion by any body but the Minutes of our proceedings are subject to review only by Dáil Eireann, whose servant we are, and not by any body which contains no representative of this Committee to explain its procedure or to defend its proceedings.

Deputy McCann.—I am prepared to agree with that point of view, Mr. Chairman.

Deputy Brady.—When did that discussion take place, Mr. Chairman?

Chairman.—In connection with the discussion of the Censorship Motion in Seanad Eireann, the Minutes of Evidence were quoted and adversely commented upon by members of the Seanad which, in my view, was a grossly disorderly procedure. It is, of course, free to any member of Dáil Eireann, when the Report of the Committee is being discussed, to refer to our proceedings in detail because we are the servants of Dáil Eireann, but we are not the servants of Seanad Eireann and owe them no duty and are not called upon to answer to them, for anything we may do or fail to do.

Deputy McCann.—But they are entitled to discuss the proceedings of this Committee, once published. Any member of the public is entitled to do that.

Chairman.—I submit that our Report is a proper subject for discussion in the Seanad or any other body, but the procedure of our Committee or how we conduct our affairs is a matter for review only by Dáil Eireann. No one else has any right to criticise it.

Deputy McCann.—Very good.

Chairman.—I take it, gentlemen, that that view meets with the general approval of the Committee because, unless we are prepared to assert our privileges in that matter, we become liable to criticism and condemnation from a variety of unauthorised sources, especially in arenas where this Committee has no opportunity of defending its own record and its own proceedings. I may take it that on the general principle you are agreed with me that Dáil Eireann is the correct arena for criticism of our procedure, as distinguished from the substance of our Report?



Mr. S. A. Roche called and examined.

80. Deputy Benson.—Under “Extra Receipts payable to Exchequer” there is a sum of £22 10s. for travel permits. This, I take it, is not the ordinary travel permit, the fee for which, presumably, goes to the Department of External Affairs. Is this some particular travel permit as distinct from the ordinary one?—It is for what we call a document of identity.

81. For the purpose of obtaining a travel permit?—Quite so.

82. The words “Travel Permits” in brackets are apt to mislead?—Yes. Actually, I have a note here that these fees were for documents of identity for the purpose of obtaining visas in the case of aliens of uncertain nationality.


Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.

Fees for Verification and Stamping of Taximeters.

“28. The Weights and Measures (Taximeter: Section 136 of the Road Traffic Act, 1933) Regulations, 1938, relate to the provision and maintenance of standards and equipment by the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána and to the duties of Special Inspectors in connection with the inspection, verification and stamping of taximeters.

Under the Taximeter (Fees on Verification and Stamping by Special Inspectors) Regulations, 1938, a fee of 2s. 6d. is to be paid in respect of the verification and stamping of a taximeter by a Special Inspector. The Road Traffic Act, 1933, provides that such fees are to be paid to the Commissioner, and paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct.

In reply to an inquiry I have been informed that the Regulations have not yet been put into operation owing to certain practical difficulties.”

83. Chairman.—Is there anything you care to add to that, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—No, I do not think I can add to that. I merely draw attention to the fact that certain fees are payable, and payable to the Exchequer, and I found that they were not coming in. I wrote to the Accounting Officer asking the reason why and he sent me his explanation.

84. Chairman.—Is there anything you could tell us, Mr. Roche, to amplify that?

Mr. Roche.—The fact is that this new system has not been brought into operation because of practical difficulties. One of the practical difficulties is that measured distances of a mile, and so on, were prepared on a certain road for testing taximeters, but the Military closed the road after the outbreak of war. We have not been able to use it.

85. Chairman.—Are steps being taken to secure another measured mile?—I do not think the Gárdaí are in any great hurry about it. They do not regard it as a very urgent matter.

86. In the broad acres of Ireland one would imagine it would be very easy to secure a measured mile?—I think there are other reasons too. Some rather delicate machinery for testing and sealing the meters is required. This is a very bad time for getting that sort of thing and that has been the position for some years.

87. In the meantime, what is the Comptroller and Auditor General to do as he waits expectant for these fees to fall into the Exchequer and the cash register does not ring?—I think the Comptroller and Auditor General merely noted that there were no fees coming in and has asked why? The answer is that the machine has not yet been set to work.

88. Chairman.—Will that satisfy you for the present, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes, it will. I thought the members of the Committee might have some comments of their own as to why this machinery had not been put into force.

89. Chairman.—I understand, Mr. Roche, to say (1) that he has lost his measured mile, and (2) that he finds it difficult to get the delicate machinery required.

90. Deputy Benson.—Surely, if this Order was made in 1938 it was intended that it should operate in 1938; 1938 was one year before war broke out. One would imagine that the regulations would not have been made until the machinery was ready to be put into operation at once. In the meantime, I take it all these taximeters are running and have never been verified. Is that true?—I do not think it is correct to say that, in the absence of this new machinery, they were not verified. There was always a system of verifying them. It is merely that an improved system has not been put into operation yet.

91. Deputy Hughes.—Does Mr. Roche realise how important it is to have them properly tested and verified? In fact, a taximeter belonging to one car might be fitted to another and give wrong results?—I will see, Mr. Chairman, if we can do anything to hurry up the matter.

92. Chairman.—I think I am correct in inferring from what you said, Mr. Roche, that there is a check of the meter’s accuracy in operation but that the check envisaged in this order is a new and better check?—Yes.

Deputy Breathnach.—As a matter of fact, meters do not count “two hoots” in Dublin at the present time. If you want to drive four or five miles, you must pay so much down or promise to do so, meters or no meters.

Chairman.—I believe such contracts to be illegal.

93. (To the Witness).—In regard to subheads D. and H., what is the exact distinction between “locomotion” and “transport”?—Locomotion Expenses covers the cost of Guards travelling by train or by hired car or by their private cars or bicycles, whereas Transport and Carriage is to cover the use and maintenance of our own fleet of cars—the cars bought out of public money and under the official control of the Commissioner.


Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.

“29. The statement of the manufacturing and farm account appended to the appropriation account has been examined and local test examinations of the conversion books and other records, dealing with manufacturing operations, have been carried out with satisfactory results.”

94. Chairman.—I take it that is just an informative paragraph?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

95. Chairman.—As regards subhead M. —Maintenance of Criminal Lunatics in District Mental Hospitals—how do criminal lunatics find their way into mental hospitals?—When a prisoner is certified as insane, we ask the medical experts in the Local Government Department whether he should be removed to a local institution or to the criminal lunatic asylum at Dundrum. We take their advice and we have to pay for the maintenance of the persons concerned in the local institutions, but not at Dundrum.

96. It is a case of a person who goes insane in custody as distinguished from a person who is insane at the time of conviction?—Quite so.

97. I seem to remember that last year there was provision for a grant of £25 to the Irish Borstal Association. Unless my memory fails me, you stated then that this association always went on and that the grant was made annually. Question 48 in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Committee for last year was:—

“Was there any Borstal after-care committee?—Yes. The sum is very small. When you drew my attention to it last year, I looked it up and I was surprised to see how small it was, namely, £10 per year. It has been raised since to £25.”

The other questions were:—

“49. Who is getting that £10?—It is used to defray the expenses of the Committee in doing various things, such as looking after the boys when they come out, writing letters, looking for employment for them and that kind of thing.

50. There was a Committee in existence?—Yes.”

Subhead O. shows an excess of £19 and the note to that subhead says: “Excess due to the grant of £25 to the Irish Borstal Association, Cork.” If they were getting £10 the previous year and the grant for the year under review was £25, how does the excess amount to £19?— That is not the only item in the grant of £85. Several items are included. £50 is paid to the Dublin Catholic Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society, £25 to the Dublin Catholic Discharged Male Prisoners’ Aid Society, and £10 to the Borstal Association, making £85. We increased the Borstal Association grant by £15, which should have brought the total amount up to £100. I cannot account for the discrepancy. We must have given the small sum—£4—involved to some other association.

98. In view of the explicit nature of the note, might I trouble you to look into the matter? It does look a little strange taken in conjunction with your answers last year?—I shall submit a note on the point.*

99. Mr. Hughes.—What is the extent of the farms and gardens which give you an income of £679 17s. 8d.?—There is really only one farm—that at the convict prison at Port Laoighise. The area is about 30 acres. At Sligo, we have what is more a large garden than a farm. The area would be five or six acres.

100. Chairman.—Is the produce sold? —It is nearly all used in the prisons.

101. And credited to the farm account on the usual terms?—Yes.

Deputy Brady.—These farms of 30 acres, odd, seem to be doing fairly well.

Chairman.—The Deputy understands that the entire value of the produce is credited to the farm without any charge for labour or costs. The costs in respect of seeds, manures and implements come under a different subhead.

Deputy Brady.—Even allowing for that, the amount seems large.

Chairman.—Not for land so largely under vegetables.


Mr. S. A. Roche called.

No question.


Mr. S. A. Roche called and further examined.

102. Deputy Benson.—As regards subhead F., what does section 55 of the Court Officers Act cover?

Mr. Roche.—Certain expenses incurred by direction of the President of the High Court in looking after Wards of Court. They are not set out separately because we do not scrutinise them, as in the case of ordinary accounts. The President gives us a certificate and we pay on that.

103. Chairman.—Subhead E. refers to the salary, I take it, of an individual stenographer?—Yes.


Mr. S. A. Roche called.

No question.


Mr. S. A. Roche called.

No question.

The witness withdrew.


Mr. C. C. McElligott called.

No question.


Mr. C. C. McElligott called and examined.

104. Chairman.—As regards subhead D.—Photographic and Printing Equipment—I suppose it was not possible to buy any equipment?—No. It was not possible to buy any equipment during the year.

105. Deputy Benson.—I notice that, in the Appropriations in Aid, there is a very substantial increase in the amount received from the sale of maps. I take it that the sales were to the military because it is almost impossible for the ordinary person to get a map?—Sales to the L.S.F. principally accounted for the increase.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned at 12.30 p.m.

* Appendix III.

* Appendix IV.

* Appendix V.