MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 21ú Meitheamh, 1945.
Thursday, 21st June, 1945.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY COSGRAVE in the chair.
Mr. J. Maher (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste), Mr. G. P. S. Hogan and Mr. L. M. Fitzgerald (An Roinn Airgeadais), called and examined.
Mr. D. Twomey called and examined.
“Subhead G.3.—Fertilisers Schemes.
“18. As in the previous year, the importation of phosphates and pyrites for the purpose of manufacturing artificial fertilisers was handled by a member of the Irish Fertiliser Manufacturers’ Association and payment of such subsidy as would enable the resultant fertilisers to be sold at controlled prices was authorised. The 1942-43 fertiliser season ended on 30th June, 1943, but no final payment of subsidy was made before 31st March, 1944, and the expenditure charged to this subhead represents payments on account in respect of the seasons 1942-43 and 1943-44. The disbursements amounted to £284,210 14s. 7d., of which £30,956 14s. 6d. related to the 1942-43 season and £253,254 0s. 1d. to the 1943-44 season. Including £323,441 16s. 5d. paid in the previous financial year, the subsidy payments to 31st March, 1944, in respect of the 1942-43 season totalled £354,398 10s. 11d. The charge to the vote in the year ended 31st March, 1944, was reduced to £259,210 14s. 7d. by the receipt, in October, 1944, of £25,000 from the concern to which the payments on account had been made in the first instance. I am informed that the Department of Supplies was consulted as to the amount of subsidy which might be advanced for the 1943-44 fertiliser manufacturing season, and that while that Department was not in a position to assess the exact amount payable, it furnished an estimate of the amount that might be advanced, based on the experience of the 1942-43 season, and payment was made accordingly. After the close of the 1943-44 season, as it was expected that overhead costs would be less than in the previous season, the refund of £25,000 already referred to was made by the manufacturers pending the final adjustment of their accounts, the examination of which had not been completed.
A supplementary estimate provided for the payment of subsidy on Avoca pyrites, but no expenditure was incurred under this heading in the year under review.”
197. Chairman.—Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—As stated in the report, this was a payment on account only. There was a refund of £25,000, as that amount was in excess of their requirements. I am not aware whether any final adjustment has yet been made.
Mr. Twomey.—It has been fully adjusted.
198. How much was the total refund?— There was a total refund of £29,000 in respect of that year. The overpayment turned out to be £29,000 and that has been refunded in full.
199. There appears to be a very wide discrepancy in the estimation?—In that particular year we were getting the raw phosphates from Florida and it was very difficult to estimate the cost of transport. It reached £28 a ton at one time and fell to £20 and eventually £18 per ton. It was because of that, together with the fact that certain overhead expenses of the manufacturing concerns were less than what we anticipated, that the amount of subsidy required was not as great as was expected at one time.
200. It depends primarily on conditions? —Yes, on freight and overhead charges.
201. Deputy Sheldon.—These transactions took place under Subhead G.3?— Yes, under Subhead G.3.—Fertilisers Schemes.
202. Deputy P. Cogan.—What form of check is carried out in regard to the manufacturers’ costs?—The Prices Branch of the Department of Supplies examine their accounts and give us a full statement and, in addition, we get the certified returns of the auditors of the Company.
203. With regard to the Avoca pyrites, have subsidies been paid since?—Yes.
204. I suppose work was not under way in this particular year?—That is so. They were making some deliveries, but the rate of subsidy had not been settled. The subsidy is on the basis of sulphur content so as to make the cost of the sulphur content of the Avoca pyrites equivalent to the cost of the sulphur content of the imported pyrites.
205. Chairman.—Are the imported and home-produced pyrites manufactured into one type of fertiliser?—They are mixed because, owing to the low sulphur content of the Avoca pyrites, they do not burn well except when mixed with the higher grade imported pyrites.
“Subhead H.—Grants to County Committees of Agriculture.
“19. The charge to this subhead comprises normal grant amounting to £108,834 10s. 0d., special temporary grant totalling £2,500, and payments amounting to £51,893 18s. 10d. for the purpose of supplementing committees’ expenditure on the provision of lime for agricultural purposes.
The normal grant of £108,834 10s. 0d. includes a sum of £72,854, approximately equivalent to the proceeds of the agricultural rate of 2d. in the £ levied under the Agriculture Act, 1931, and extra grants, amounting to £35,980 10s. 0d., equivalent to the amount of the income of committees from rates in excess of the statutory minimum 2d. rate.
In addition to the foregoing, a sum of £25 was paid to a committee from funds derived from penalties imposed under the Corn Production Act, 1917.”
206. Chairman.—Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—This is an explanatory paragraph which purports to give more detailed information than is contained in the Appropriation Accounts or in the Estimates. The final sub-paragraph relating to the payment of £25 from the Corn Production Fund is, as in previous years, in connection with the cider orchard scheme.
207. Is the cider orchard scheme availed of to any considerable extent, Mr. Twomey?—It is being availed of; there are considerable plantings under it in the South Tipperary district—that is, in the neighbourhood of the cider factory at Clonmel.
208. Deputy Sheldon.—That amount of £25 is less than the amount set aside for this purpose a couple of years ago?—It is. There is a final payment due now and that will exhaust the monies we have under this particular fund.
209. Deputy Cogan.—Does the Department find any difficulty in checking up the total quantities of lime delivered to the committees?—We have a number of lime supervisors whose duty it is to make checks and so far as possible a good number of sample checks are made.
“Subhead J.—National Stud.
“20. The property known as The National Stud Farm, Tully, County Kildare, was transferred to the Government from the British Government on 1st January, 1944, and pending the enactment of legislation providing for the establishment of a State Stud farm, ordinary farming operations were conducted on the property.
The expenditure in the period ended 31st March, 1944, totalled £2,913 18s. 0d., of which the principal items were £887 13s. 6d. for salaries and wages, and £1,733 15s. 0d. for the purchase of livestock. In the same period, sums amounting to £134 9s. 8d. were received from the sale of live stock and farm produce, and are included in the appropriations in aid.”
210. Mr. Maher.—That paragraph is for information purposes. This is the first time the item appears in the appropriation account and the purpose of the paragraph is to give a summary of the expenditure incurred in the first year and to place on record the fact that legislation is contemplated with regard to the farm.
211. Chairman.—Were any of the bloodstock transferred to the Government here? —No, they were all taken away to the New stud in England.
212. Did we make any effort to get them?—We did, very strenuous efforts for a number of years; but apparently the legal position was that the bloodstock was the property of the British Government while the lands were our property.
213. Did you get back any compensation for the use of the farm?—We did. We made a claim for user for the period from December, 1922, to the time they vacated it in December, 1943. We recovered about £28,000 for user during that period.
214. What condition is the place in?— Some of the buildings are dilapidated and the fences in bad condition. We have devoted the interval before the setting up of the proposed company to getting the place into fairly good condition. We retained all the grooms who were there in charge of horses and put them at improvement works and the place is now in much better condition.
215. Deputy Sheldon.—How far would the £28,000 go in restoring the place?— It would not require all that. Probably a sum of about £6,000 would cover most of the repairs.
216. Chairman.—It is suitable now for occupation as a stud farm?—Yes. We also availed of the opportunity to plough up land which was horse sick and needed to be refreshed. We have about 150 acres of tillage there. A number of the pastures were in bad condition and we availed of the opportunity to put them through a rotation of tillage and lay them down again.
217. I presume you have cattle on them?—Yes, they carry about 400 cattle.
218. Do you lease the land to farmers for grazing?—No, we stock it ourselves.
219. Chairman.—The next note by the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.4.—Grant in Respect of the Development of the Manufacture of Milk Powder.
“21. In paragraph 30 of my predecessor’s report on the accounts for the year 1939-40, reference was made to the payment to a co-operative creamery of subsidy on sales in this country of certain milk foods manufactured in the United Kingdom from milk powder produced by the creamery. Sums totalling £2,141 10s. 9d. were paid to this concern in the financial years 1939-40 and 1940-41, and no further payments have since been made. Departmental inquiries have disclosed that the payments referred to included amounts in respect of subsidy on milk foods which had been returned by the purchasers and I have accordingly asked to be informed of the position regarding the adjustment or recovery of the resulting over-payments and the total amount involved.”
Mr. Maher.—Since the report was written, the Accounting Officer has informed us that no payment has been made for subsidy on sales of food since March, 1941, and the amount due to the creamery under this head is very much in excess of the amount to be recovered and an adjustment of the account will be made at an early date.
220. Chairman.—Has any further progress been made?—There have been further discussions with the creamery recently and we feel that there should be no need for many further payments of subsidy. There will be some further payment, but the milk powder business of this creamery has turned out to be far more remunerative than it was at the time we agreed to pay them a subsidy. We think that apart from one further year’s payment after 1941 it should not be necessary to have any subsidy.
221. Chairman.—The next note by the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead M.5.—Improvement of the Creamery Industry.
“22. On and from 1st April, 1943, certain administrative expenses of the Dairy Disposal Company, Ltd., formerly borne on this subhead were defrayed from the funds of the Company and it was also arranged that while the salaries and wages of staff seconded to the Company should be paid, as before, from other subheads of this Vote, the amounts should be reimbursed by the Company, together with appropriate contributions towards pension liability. No expenditure was incurred under Subhead M.5. in the year under review, and a sum of £4,235 8s. 10d. was paid over by the Company; of this amount £3,708 17s. 5d., representing remuneration of seconded officers during the period 1st April to 31st December, 1943, inclusive, is brought to account as appropriations in aid, the balance falling to be treated as an Exchequer extra receipt of the Vote for Superannuation and Retired Allowances.
Receipts in connection with the disposal of creamery properties which are brought to account as Exchequer extra receipts, amounted to £4,798 6s. 11d. The total vote expenditure to 31st March, 1944, from moneys provided for the improvement of the creamery industry amounted to £1,197,847 5s. 6d. and receipts were £251,872 10s. 3d., leaving a net charge on public funds of £945,974 15s. 3d.”
Mr. Maher.—The Vote provision in this case was £2,000, but as stated in the report no expenditure was incurred this year mainly due to a change in the incidence of the administration charge. I understand also that the consolidated balance sheet furnished annually to the Committee has been received.*
Mr. O’Toole.—That is correct.
222. Deputy Dockrell.—In what way was the amount of £1,197,847 5s. 6d. for the improvement of the creamery industry used? Was it for machinery, plant, etc? —It was used largely to acquire the properties and plant of two large creamery concerns which were operating in the southern creamery district in competition with co-operative creameries. It was with a view to rationalising the industry and preventing cut-throat competition between the private interests and the co-operative interests that the Government decided—I think about 1926—to buy out the private interests of these two concerns. The sums advanced are partly to pay these companies the value of their properties and as well there were a good deal of legal and other expenses. From time to time old creameries have been improved and new creameries erected and that has also added to the cost.
223. That sum goes as far back as 1926?—It does.
224. It was not just incurred in the year under review?—No, over a long period of years.
225. Deputy Cogan.—Was it not the original intention that this Dairy Disposal Company would be merely a temporary company to take over these private creameries and transfer them to co-operative societies?—Yes, that was the intention—that they would gradually be transferred to co-operative societies. That process has been going on gradually. Quite a lot of the properties originally acquired have been transferred and the receipt of £251,000 mentioned by the Comptroller and Auditor General represents mainly the instalments paid by co-operative creameries when they acquired premises from the Dairy Disposal Company.
226. Could you say what percentage of the properties acquired have been transferred? Would it be half?—It would be less than half.
227. Deputy Dockrell.—Will that sum of £945,000 eventually be paid off? Will the State be recouped that expenditure of £1,197,000?—No, because at the time the scheme was introduced it was agreed that certain expenses should be borne by the Exchequer. It was agreed that the legal expenses, certain administrative expenses, the liquidation expenses, and also the compensation for redundant employees of creameries which were closed would be borne by the State. I think that the sum legally due to the State, making allowance for these, is something over £800,000.
288. So it will nearly all be paid back? —It will, except these expenses, which it was agreed from the beginning should be an Exchequer charge.
229. Chairman.—The next note by the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead M.10.—Potato Subsidies, etc.
“23. The measures taken to cope with the shortage of potatoes in the Dublin area during May and June, 1943, included the setting up of the Dublin and District Potato Committee and the making of Emergency Powers (Acquisition and Disposal of Potatoes) Order, 1943 (Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 171 of 1943), which regulated the purchase, sale and movement of potatoes in relation to the area. It was arranged that the Committee referred to, which was granted a licence under the Order, should purchase potatoes of the 1942 crop at a price not higher than £12 per ton and sell them to wholesalers at £9 10s. 0d. per ton, and that any loss sustained, together with expenses, should be recouped to the Committee by way of subsidy. Under this arrangement, a sum of £2,930 13s. 9d. became payable and is charged to this subhead. It was also decided to divert supplies of early potatoes of the 1943 crop from the export market to the Dublin area and provision was made for the payment to growers of subsidy representing the difference betwen the home market price and the higher prices obtainable had the potatoes been exported. Sums totalling £13,472 1s. 0d. were thus paid out in subsidy. The balance of the expenditure charged to this subhead, amounting to £3,327 6s. 10d., relates to the payment of compensation, at the rate of £25 per acre undug at 1st July, 1943, to growers of early potatoes outside the Dublin area who sustained loss owing to the restriction on imports.”
Mr. Maher.—The provision for this charge was made by means of a Supplementary Estimate and the purpose of the paragraph is to give details showing how the expenditure was incurred.
230. Chairman.—Is the total cost of the scheme the sum of £24,500 shown in the Estimate?—The total cost is £19,730. There was a saving in the Estimate.
231. You have not found it necessary to keep this scheme in operation for another year?—Not this particular scheme, but last year the Department itself acquired a potato reserve as a precaution against a shortage of a similar kind occurring. There was some loss on the disposal of that reserve because, in fact, only a portion was required and the balance had to be sent to the alcohol factories at prices considerably lower than the prices we paid for table potatoes. Something similar occurred this year. We had to accumulate a reserve in case of a serious shortage in Dublin or other towns.
232. A shortage did arise?—Yes.
233. You had not to dispose of the potatoes to the alcohol factories?—It looked at one time as if the shortage would be very serious and that the reserve would not be sufficient, but as time went on and prices increased the potatoes began to come out. I do not think we have used the reserve in full and possibly some small quantity will go to the alcohol factories.
234. Chairman.—What do your reports indicate as to the effect of the frost on potatoes this year?—It was pretty bad. There was a good deal of loss of potatoes in pits and even in houses.
235. What about this year’s crop?— Frost retarded growth for about three weeks or a month and where they were badly damaged by frost the yield will probably be reduced by one-third and by half, in some cases.
236. Chairman.—Paragraph 24 in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is as follows:
“Subhead N.1.—Diseases of Animals (Ireland) Acts, 1894 to 1938.
“The expenditure charged to this subhead includes £2,393 4s. 6d. in connection with the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 1941, the main item being £1,969 18s. 4d. paid to the Corporation of Dublin in recoupment of expenses incurred in connection with the cleansing and disinfection of affected premises. Including payments amounting to £601,412 13s. 10d. charged to the vote in previous years, the total expenditure from the vote for Agriculture up to 31st March, 1944, in connection with the outbreak amounted to £603,805 18s. 4d.”
Is there anything you would care to add to that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—We understand that no expenditure has been incurred under this recently, and that this is probably the final paragraph in so far as the outbreak of 1941 is concerned.
237. Deputy Dockrell.—Does the sum of £603,805 18s. 4d. represent the total cost to the State of that outbreak?
Mr. Twomey.—Yes, including all travelling expenses, salaries, overtime and compensation to owners. Off that would come the sum, amounting to about £40,000, that was realised on certain stock that was salvaged.
238. So that everything from the beginning to the end in connection with that outbreak is included in that figure? —Yes.
239. Chairman.—Can you say, Mr. Twomey, how many animals were slaughtered?—I have not the figures with me at the moment.
240. Chairman.—Paragraph 25 in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead O.5.—Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Acts, 1933 to 1939, and Emergency Powers (Cereals) Orders, etc.
“In order to ensure the assembly of adequate stocks of spring seed wheat for the 1943 season, a scheme similar to that devised in connection with the 1942 season was put into operation. Each participating seed merchant agreed to assemble a quota of home-grown wheat of spring varieties, and the Minister for Agriculture gave an undertaking that merchants would receive a price of 60s. per barrel for any stocks unsold at the end of the sowing season, subject to a maximum, in the case of any assembler, of 25 per cent. of his agreed quota or of the quantity assembled, whichever was the lower. Conditions were also imposed regarding the variety and moisture content of the grain to be assembled. Stocks of seed remaining on hands were, by direction of the Minister for Agriculture, sold for milling, and the prices received being less than 60s. per barrel, sums totalling £958 11s. 2d. became payable in respect of the undertaking given and are included in the expenditure charged to this subhead.”
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—We understand that approximately 7,000 barrels of grain qualified for payment under the terms of the guarantee. A payment at the maximum rate of 4s. per barrel was made in respect of 268 barrels, the greater part of the seed being sold at the rate of 56s. 9d.
241. Deputy Cogan.—I take it that this represents a surplus of seed on the merchants’ hands?—At the end of the sowing season about 7,000 barrels were left. In all about 93,000 barrels were assembled under the scheme, and all that was sold except 7,000 barrels, which were on hands at the end of the sowing season. That had to be transferred to the millers and sold at milling prices.
242. I take it that this scheme is still in operation?—It is.
243. Chairman.—Is the quality of the seed assembled here satisfactory?—If you mean by the seed wheat assemblers, Mr. Chairman, yes. We find that they are working very well now. At first it was difficult to get seed merchants to take the risk of assembling very large quantities of seed, but in connection with this scheme and also in connection with the assembly of winter seed wheat, there is always plenty of seed wheat available now.
244. Chairman.—Paragraph 26 in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead O.10.—Emergency Powers (Tillage) Orders.
“Tillage Orders continued to be made by the Government under the Emergency Powers Act, 1939, requiring the occupiers of arable land to till a specified proportion of their holdings, and the Minister for Agriculture was empowered to enter on and take possession of those holdings whose occupiers failed to comply with the provisions of the Orders, and to cultivate such holdings or make conacre lettings.
The expenditure under this subhead includes £22,164 8s. 4d. in respect of the remuneration of inspectors and supervisors. Travelling and miscellaneous expenses totalled £15,121 5s. 8d., and the balance of the expenditure, amounting to £3,476 7s. 10d., was incurred on the purchase of seeds, manures, implements and fencing materials, and on tillage operations and the harvesting of crops on entered holdings.
In the previous report, my predecessor mentioned that, following the making of Emergency Powers (No. 275) Order, 1943 (Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 177 of 1943) which regulated the disposal of receipts from conacre rents and sales of crops on holdings of which possession had been taken by the Minister for Agriculture, certain accounting adjustments were effected in connection with the transactions relating to the tillage seasons 1940 to 1942, inclusive. These adjustments resulted in sums totalling £2,441 0s. 6d. becoming available towards paying debts due to a State authority or rates due to a local authority by the occupiers of entered holdings. After providing for expenses incurred by the Minister for Agriculture in connection with the 1943 season, a further sum of £762 12s. 6d. became available for the purposes indicated, making £3,203 13s. 0d. in respect of the tillage seasons 1940 to 1943, inclusive. Of this amount, sums paid out in the period ended 31st March, 1944, totalled £1,323 14s. 10d., comprising £1,057 18s. 11d. to State and local authorities and £265 15s. 11d. to the occupiers of the holdings concerned.
The total amount received from conacre rents and sales of crops for the tillage seasons 1940 to 1943, inclusive, was £9,167 11s. 1d. Expenses recovered out of these receipts amounted to £5,963 18s. 1d., of which £1,234 3s. 4d. is included in the appropriations in aid for the year under review.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—This paragraph is a continuation of a similar paragraph in previous years and is for the purpose of bringing the figures up to the 31st March, 1944.
245. Chairman.—Can you say, Mr. Twomey, if there has been any reduction in the number of offenders against the Emergency Powers Orders dealing with tillage?—Yes. The land-owners as a whole have been much more willing in the last year or two to cultivate the quota required. We did not have much difficulty, particularly during the past winter and spring, in getting farmers to comply with the tillage orders.
246. Is exception of any kind granted in say, dairying areas in connection with the tillage orders?—No. The only thing is that favourable consideration is given in a case where, say, an owner is supplying milk to a large town or city, and where insistence on the tillage order requirements in full might mean that he would have to reduce the number of his dairy cows. In a case like that, we give some concession so that he does not have to reduce his herd, but in the case of the ordinary dairying districts no concession is given.
247. Is the same system of inspection carried out in every county?—Yes. There are a number of inspectors and assistants who visit practically every holding.
248. To see that the tillage orders are complied with?—Yes.
249. Deputy Coogan.—How many holdings were entered upon?—In 1942 the number of holdings entered upon was 118; in 1943 the number was 74, and in 1944 the number was 147. There has been a considerable drop in 1945, but I have not the complete figures yet.
250. Could you give us a rough idea of the acreage?—The number of acres involved in 1942 was 2,055; in 1943 the number of acres was 1,071 and in 1944 the number of acres was 1,813.
251. Chairman.—Paragraph 27 in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead P.—Appropriations in Aid. “Levy on the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep.
“As stated in previous reports, the provisions of the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts relating to the collection of levy in respect of cattle and sheep slaughtered for human consumption ceased to be in force as from 1st August, 1936. The amount received in the year under review in respect of levy due but uncollected at the date mentioned was £1,109 11s. 10d., and the amount of levy outstanding at 31st March, 1944, was £7,450 11s. 5d. As noted in the account, sums totalling £1,085 5s. were written off with the sanction of the Minister for Finance.”
Is there anything you have to add to that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—No. This balance is gradually disappearing, and I understand that at the moment it is down to about £6,000.
Mr. Twomey.—That is so.
252. Chairman.—Paragraph 28 in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—
“Extra Receipts Payable to Exchequer.
“In paragraph 18 of the report on the appropriation accounts for the year 1941-42 reference was made to the payment of a sum of £663 0s. 6d. to a co-operative society on foot of a guarantee given to the society in respect of flax seed imported for the 1940 sowing season and sold to distributors at prices fixed by the Minister for Agriculture. The guarantee provided for the payment to the society of the amount by which the proceeds of the sale of seed fell below the sum of the actual costs and expenses of the society in purchasing and selling the seed and commission at the rate of 3 per cent. on the purchase price. A similar guarantee was given to the society in respect of flax seed purchased for the 1941 sowing season, on the understanding, however, that any surplus receipts should accrue to the Minister. Seed costing £20,878 10s. 11d. realised £24,044 11s. 7d. on sale, while expenses and commission amounted to £1,498 0s. 1d. and £626 7s. 1d., respectively. A sum of £1,041 13s. 7d. was accordingly surrendered by the society and paid to the Exchequer.
As will be seen from the account, fees amounting to £465 were received in respect of licences granted under the Emergency Powers Act, 1939, and Orders made thereunder. These comprised £60, being £10 for each licence issued under the Emergency Powers (No. 254) Order, 1943 (Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 37 of 1943), which related to the licensing of persons engaged in the business of producing, processing and selling specified classes of agricultural seeds, and £405, representing £1 for each licence issued under the Emergency Powers (Export of Dead Poultry and Rabbits) Order, 1941 (Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 536 of 1941).”
Is there anything you have to add to that, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—In the first sub-paragraph it will be noted that in the year 1941-42 there is a charge against the Vote, whereas in the year under review there is a profit in payment to the Exchequer.
253. Chairman.—If there is no other question we can now take the subheads of the Vote.
254. Deputy Sheldon.—On Subhead E.1. —Technical and Advisory Work in Agriculture—I take it that the expenses incurred are, to some extent, off-set by the charges made for seed testing?—They are.
255. And I take it that a similar consideration would apply in the case of subhead E.2.—Veterinary Research?—That is so.
256. Chairman.—Is that the total expenditure on veterinary research?—It is, except such as is done at the veterinary college.
257. Deputy Dockrell.—And that is borne by the college?—On the College Vote.
258. Chairman.—From the recently-published report of the interim committee the expenditure seems very small in comparison with the estimated losses?—It is. We have propoals before the Government for increasing the facilities for veterinary research. They are included in the present year’s Estimates passed by the Dáil.
259. The accommodation is not sufficient?—It is entirely insufficient. It is too small.
260. Deputy Dockrell.—Is any original work done? Is this £5,861 successful in the way of obtaining results?—It has been. There has been a good deal of original work done on such things as contagious abortion in cattle, braxy in sheep and blackleg in calves and young cattle. At Thorndale Research Station they produce vaccines for these diseases which are issued to stock owners at reasonable fees. A considerable volume of work is being done in the way of issuing vaccines prepared at the research station. That is shown under another subhead.
261. Deputy Sheldon.—It is probable that an increase in the amount of work done in vaccines would not result in very much extra charge on the State, seeing that there are fees for the vaccines?—In the gross receipts, but, generally speaking, vaccines would have to be issued at reduced prices to ensure that they would be used generally. There would always be some loss in that way.
262. Under Subhead F.2.—Grants to Private Agricultural Schools—the note states that there were vacancies in students’ places. I thought the whole point was that we had not nearly sufficient room for all the students who wish to avail of additional agricultural teaching?—These were mainly in girls’ schools. There are 11 girls’ schools, in addition to three boys’ schools under the Department.
263. Under Subhead F.3.—Veterinary College—the note states that the excess expenditure was mainly due to increased cost of laboratory and surgery equipment, etc., owing to the increased number of animals under treatment. Is that a normal expansion, or was there something special about it?—Additional buildings were put up at the veterinary college to ensure that additional sick animals could be taken in there for the instruction of students. Sick animals are treated free for poor persons and there are reasonable charges for other persons at the college, partly with a view to giving students better practice. We have some additional stabling and stalls there and that means that additional animals can be brought in for treatment.
264. So that it is normal expenditure. Will it continue?—Yes, we are going to expand further.
265. I take it that Subhead F.7.— Educational Tours for Agricultural Instructors—refers to external tours?—Yes. To Great Britain and the Continent. We hope to resume them when conditions become normal.
266. Chairman.—Under Subhead G.1. —Improvement of Milk Production—has there been any improvement in production recently?—This is a good milk season and deliveries of milk to creameries are much better than last year. Of course, that is due to better weather conditions and a better grass season.
267. Deputy Sheldon.—Under Subhead G.2.—Improvement of Live Stock—the note states that expenditure on the purchase of stock bulls was less than expected. Is that due to a decrease in the number or to a lowering of the average prices?—There was a smaller number of bulls purchased.
268. Chairman.—Did that apply at home or from Scotland?—From Scotland mainly there was a decrease in the number imported. There was trouble with foot-and-mouth disease in Scotland and it was not possible to get the bulls over.
269. Deputy Sheldon.—In connection with Subhead H.—Grants to County Committees of Agriculture—the note states that expenditure on lime subsidies was less than expected, as the scheme was not availed of to the extent anticipated. Does that not give the wrong impression, suggesting that the county committees seemed to fail to carry out their duty when, as a matter of fact, they could not get lime?—The county committees adopted schemes for the distribution of the full quantities, but because of fuel difficulties and transport difficulties they were never in any county able to distribute the full quantity.
270. On Subhead I.1., the note states that there was a saving of £294 on the provision for erection and repair of time kilns as the number of applications for grants was fewer than expected. In view of the fuel and transport difficulties were any new lime kilns erected?—Yes, in the congested districts, especially where small kilns were erected that could burn turf.
271. Our difficulty was transport?— Yes.
272. Chairman.—Under Subhead I.3.— Instruction in connection with Land Settlement Schemes—what happened?— Where the Land Commission set up a big new settlement such as around Athboy and other districts, a man of the type of agricultural overseer is put into the district to reside there and assist the new holders in carrying out tillage operations, and generally to give the kind of instruction that small holders receive in congested districts.
273. Deputy Sheldon.—To whom are fees for agricultural reports paid?—To the instructors in agriculture.
274. That is not part of their normal work and would not come under Subhead A?—No. The County Instructors are employed by County Committees and they make reports for statistical purposes which are outside the scope of their work for the Committees. They get a small allowance of £10 each for carrying out weighing crops and for recording and reporting precise yields.
275. Deputy Dockrell.—Is that in order to assess what the crops were likely to be like?—Yes, and to check up on statistics generally. From each county we have a number of precise weighings by which we can check up reports and returns made by the Gárdaí.
276. It is part of a forecast of crop yields?—Yes.
277. Deputy Cogan.—There are various types of lands and the general belief amongst farmers is that the estimates are invariably higher than the average yield? —Their instructions are to average extremes either in the quality of the land or in what the farmers say, not to take yields of the best or the worst farms, but to try to get average holdings and average land. On the whole I think they do that fairly well.
278. Is it found that the estimates are confirmed afterwards as far as results can be ascertained?—Generally speaking, the Gárdaí report also on crop yields and crop returns that they ascertain by questioning farmers and these are compared with returns sent in by the instructors. There is never any wide variation. They are not precisely the same.
279. Deputy Sheldon.—You must have had experience of some returns very wide of the mark. I do not say that that is the fault of the Guards. It is the fault of those who give rosy information?— Sometimes, but on the other hand some men are inclined to depress the estimate. On the average the returns are fairly near the truth.
280. Deputy Cogan.—I think the average farmer would be inclined to represent his crop as being fairly good.
281. Deputy Sheldon.—Subhead M.4. note states that no applications were received for loans for the repair of corn mills or for the improvement of flax scutch mills. I presume in reference to the flax scutch mills that position arose because a grant was made by the British Government through the Flax Development Board?—Yes.
282. Chairman.—Is there a scheme of loans for the purchase of heifers in operation now?—Yes, run by the Agricultural Credit Corporation.
283. It does not appear to be very widely availed of?—Not in the last few years. I think the issue of loans of all kinds has decreased considerably in the last few years since there were better prices for produce generally. Farmers do not seem to want loans to the same extent as before.
284. Deputy Sheldon.—Was the excess on 0.3 due to the increase in the work of the potato inspectors? Was it due to greater disease or did they decide to tighten up the work with regard to disease in the potato crop?—There were more growers of certified seed and more men had to be put on the inspection of crops for their certification.
285. As regards Subhead P.—Appropriations in Aid—the amounts obtained from the sale of dairy bulls and the sale of colts show an increase on the estimates whereas the corresponding subheads on the expenses side show a decrease because there were not so many dairy bulls bought nor so many colts obtained?—The reduction in the purchase of bulls was due to the fact that we did not buy bulls from Scotland. These would have been leased, not sold, whereas the dairy bulls, which are mainly covered by this item, were sold at half-price. They were bought by the Department’s officers and sold at half-price to cow-testing associations. The receipt from selling a bull at half-price would be much higher than that for leasing a bull for that particular year.
286. Under item 21 (e) receipts are shown from fees in respect of allocations by the Cereals Distribution Committee. How does that item arise?—In that particular year, there was a Cereals Distribution Committee which made allocations to different millers. On making an allocation, they charged a fee. That was the year in which oats and barley, in so far as they came on the market, came under the control of this Committee. The Committee then made allocations to the different users and, in order to recoup their expenses, they made a small charge, on allocation, of so much per cwt. or per ton.
287. Deputy Dockrell.—Under item 25, there is a receipt of £10,000 from the Church Temporalities Fund. How does that arise?—It arises out of an old arrangement by which the original Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction was financed. In addition to a subvention from Exchequer source at the time, certain receipts from funds of this kind were handed over to the Department of Agriculture. That has been continued since because, to put the matter right, would involve a great deal of legislation.
288. Deputy Sheldon.—On page 93, there is reference to a thatch-making machine. What is a thatch-making machine?—The Turf Development Board bought this machine. It was a machine for stringing straw together in long bands. The straw was sewn roughly with twine and could be placed on the ricks. After a time, they did not find the machine satisfactory and we took it over at Ballyhaise school for the purpose of demonstrating to pupils and showing to visitors. It is not of much practical value.
Mr. D. Twomey further examined.
289. Chairman.—Paragraph 29 in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General refers to Subhead G.2.—Advances for Boats and Gear—of this Vote and states:
“Including the advances charged in this account, the total of advances for boats and gear to 31st March, 1944, amounted to £138,750. The half-yearly instalments of the annuities set up to repay these advances falling due to 31st March, 1944, amounted to £82,133 14s. 1d., while the sums collected by the Sea Fisheries Association from borrowers and transferred to the Department in payment of the annuity instalments amounted to £84,087 19s. 8d., including £13,208 19s. 10d. repaid in the year under review. At 31st March, 1944, therefore, the repayments were in advance to the extent of £1,904 5s. 7d.”
Mr. Maher.—I understand that the satisfactory position of the repayments is mainly due to the method of deduction in respect of principal and interest, from the receipts for the sale of fish taken by the members of the Association.
290. Chairman.—Paragraph 30 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General deals with Subhead G.3.—Advances for General Development—and states:
“No advances were made to the Sea Fisheries Association for general development during the year under review. The total of such advances made to the Association in previous years amounted to £2,522 14s. 3d., and this amount is repayable over a period of twenty years by half-yearly instalments, covering principal and interest. During the year, a sum of £974 12s. 9d., representing the value of outstanding instalments in respect of an advance of £1,000 made on 31st March, 1942, was received from the Association, and this sum, together with half-yearly instalments amounting to £164 7s. 9d., is included in the appropriations in aid. The advances in course of redemption amounted at 31st March, 1944, to £1,522 14s. 3d., and there were no arrears of instalments at that date.”
Mr. Maher.—I understand that the advances referred to, amounting to £1,522 14s. 3d., were repaid in the subsequent financial year?
Mr. Twomey.—That is so.
291. Chairman.—Paragraph 31 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General deals with fishery loans and is as follows:
“Repayments of fishery loans, which are accounted for as appropriations in aid, amounted to £17 6s. 4d., and the balance outstanding on these loans at 31st March, 1944, was £20,175 4s. 8d., including arrears of £20,137 10s. 3d. There were no remissions during the year under the Fisheries (Revision of Loans) Act, 1931.”
Mr. Maher.—That paragraph is inserted annually for the information of the Committee.
292. Chairman.—These arrears have been outstanding for a number of years? —Yes. The figures refer to personally-secured loans prior to the year 1928. A great many of the debtors are dead or have passed their labour. I am afraid that it will be difficult to recover any more of these moneys and the time is coming when the debts will have to be entirely written off.
293. Deputy Dockrell.—This amount was very much larger at one time?—It was. Payments were made from time to time but, during the past five or six years, we have hardly been getting any repayments owing to the death of some of the debtors.
294. The item has been coming before the Committee for a number of years?— Yes.
295. As regards item E.4, no grant is now being made under the Whale Fisheries Act, 1937?—No. The whalers which were registered in this country ceased to be registered here and we had no more responsibility for them.
296. Will they come on again after the war?—I doubt that they will. They registered here in order to escape certain restrictions elsewhere and, under an interment national agreement, we had to take responsibility for inspection of the vessels. We had an officer on board each whaler so long as they were registered here.
297. They were rather an expense?—We charged them fairly high registration fees which almost covered the cost.
298. There were no native whaling industries?—Those whalers went to the South Seas. They did not fish anywhere near here.
299. Deputy Sheldon.—This subhead will now disappear?—I think that there is no need for it now.
300. Chairman.—As regards G.3., can you say whether the amount of fish caught by our fishermen since the war was greater or less than in the pre-war period?—In the case of the inshore fishermen, the quantity was considerably greater but, in the case of the trawling companies, it was much less. We have only two steam trawlers at work in the whole country. The inshore fishermen have been far more active than formerly on account of the higher price of fish and they have been landing more fish.
301. Deputy Sheldon.—As regards item 4 of the appropriations in aid, does the increased receipt refer to the letting of sporting rights or to the sale of fish?— The letting of sporting rights.
VOTE 68—AGRICULTURAL PRODUCE SUBSIDIES.
Mr. D. Twomey further examined.
302. Chairman.—Paragraph 79 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states
“Allowances on the production of creamery butter were payable at such rates as enabled the price of milk supplied to creameries to be maintained at 9d. per gallon from 1st April to 30th November, 1943, and increased to 1/per gallon from 1st December, 1943, to 31st March, 1944. The expenditure thereon charged to this subhead totalled £688,183 10s. 4d. Allowances were also payable to butter factory proprietors and non-manufacturing exporters in respect of non-creamery butter acquired from producers, and sums amounting to £11,730 2s. 3d. were disbursed under this heading. As had been anticipated, the Vote provision was insufficient to meet the commitments involved and payments of allowances, amounting to £29,183 18s. 10d., were made from the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Fund in the circumstances referred to in paragraph 80.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—The purpose of this paragraph and also of the next paragraph is to bring under one heading the total expenditure incurred in connection with subsidies payable on dairy produce.
303. Chairman.—Paragraph 80 states:
“Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Acts, 1935 to 1941, and Emergency Powers (No. 270) Order, 1943.
“Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Fund.
“80. By direction of the Minister for Finance, the account of the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Fund, formerly appended to the appropriation account of the vote for Agriculture, is now appended to the account of the vote for Agricultural Produce Subsidies.
In connection with increases in the prices of creamery butter, levies were imposed on stocks of butter in hand at the commencement of business on 10th September, 1942, and 29th November, 1943, and the income of the Fund, which amounted to £297,924 as compared with £159,032 6s. 9d. in the previous year, was derived mainly from these sources.
Creamery butter was the only item of dairy produce on which export bounty was payable. A nominal rate of 1d. per cwt. remained in force, but exports ceased after April, 1942, and, consequently, no payments fell to be made. As stated in the previous report, Emergency Powers (No. 270) Order, 1943 Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 122 of 1943), made by the Government on 9th April, 1943, extended the scope of section 41(6) of the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Act, 1935, to permit the payment from the Fund of allowances on butter or any milk product, and payment of allowances in respect of butter produced during the year 1942-43 was made from the Fund in the year under review. The allowances referred to, which were additional to expenditure amounting to £486,828 9s. 11d. charged to the vote for Agricultural Produce Subsidies for 1942-43, totalled £87,643 11s. 7d., and included £75,411 6s. 5d. in respect of the production and cold storage of creamery butter, and £12,232 5s. 2d. in connection with the acquisition and the export of non-creamery butter. The Fund was also utilized to supplement the payments made from vote 68 for the year 1943-44 of allowances on butter produced in that year, and, as indicated in paragraph 79, sums amounting to £29,183 18s. 10d. were disbursed in allowances on the production of creamery butter and the acquisition of non-creamery butter. The balance of the payments from the Fund, amounting to £4,150, represented issues made to the Butter Marketing Committee to meet administrative expenses.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—I have only to say that the account of the fund will be found on page 240. As regards the second paragraph, the levies I understand coincide with the dates on which the increase in price of the various types of butter were imposed.
Mr. Twomey.—That is so.
304. Chairman.—Has this levy ceased to operate?—It has. It was put on butter in stock at the time.
Chairman.—The levy was put on all butter in stock at that date.
305. Deputy Cogan.—Does that mean that the Price Stabilisation Fund is now wound up?—It is still there, but at the moment there are only small levies coming in to it.
306. Is there a surplus in the Fund?— There is still a surplus but it is gradually being used up. The allowance on butter production will be paid entirely out of Exchequer funds.
Chairman.—We shall now turn to the details of the Vote itself on page 239.
307. Deputy Sheldon.—The explanation of the excess expenditure under Subhead B. is that it was due to the unexpected revival of a claim for subsidy on seed potatoes exported in prior years. In what sense was it unexpected? Was it one that had been overlooked?—It was due to the fact that the firm concerned, when they made their claim, were not able to produce Customs documents to show that export had actually taken place. Nothing was done about it until the later period when they did produce documents and then payment was made.
308. Deputy Dockrell.—In other words, they came late with their claim?—Yes.
The Committee adjourned.