MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 30ú Bealtaine, 1945.
Wednesday, 30th May, 1945.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY COSGRAVE in the chair.
Mr. J. Maher (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste), Mr. C. S. Almond, Mr. G. P. S. Hogan and Mr. L. M. Fitzgerald (An Roinn Airgeadais), called and examined.
VOTE 32—OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE.
Mr. S. A. Roche called and examined.
71. Chairman.—As to A.4—Legal and Technical Assistance—can you say, Mr. Roche, why no expenditure was incurred? —The main object of the subhead is to pay fees for a draftsman to assist the Superior Courts Rules Committee in making rules of court. The Committee, unfortunately, were not able to get any serious business done during the year as they were so busy with their normal functions as judges.
72. As to “Fees for Certificates under Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1935,” is there a record kept of the names?—Yes.
73. When people take out a certificate of Irish Nationality and Citizenship and change their names, is there a record kept of their old names?—There is bound to be a record, but I cannot say that I have ever noticed it in my Department particularly. It has never come under my observation, but I am quite certain that, if they change their names by any sort of formal process, there is bound to be a record of the old names. I have, however, never had such a case before me.
74. Deputy Briscoe.—Would not the procedure be that if a man came into the country under a certain name and wanted to change it he would have to do so by deed poll?—The subject of changing names is not an easy one. The ordinary law is that you can change your name whenever you like. There is no objection. If I might say so, I could call myself Mr. Murphy to-morrow perfectly legally.
75. What is the deed poll then?— Legally it is not necessary. It is a formality. I think it is clear that anyone can change his name as often as he likes with no legal formality whatever.
76. Deputy Sheldon.—Am I to take it that there is no register kept of aliens who have changed their names?—Not in my Department. I fancy it would be a question for the Department of Industry and Commerce, because the restriction on aliens changing their names is intended for trade and commerce and business, not for ordinary life.
77. Deputy Briscoe.—Is it not a fact that, in the case of a limited company where the names of the proprietors or directors have to appear on documents, they have to be their true names?—That is outside my jurisdiction. The register of joint stock companies is kept by the Revenue Commissioners.
78. Chairman.—Then it is a question for the Revenue Commissioners?—Yes.*
79. Deputy Sheldon.—As to “Fees for Documents of Identity”, these would be travel documents, I presume?—These documents are issued to persons who have no State status—aliens who are here and who want to go abroad. For instance, those who are called White Russians who are unable to obtain a national passport. They are a sort of emergency identity documents for persons who have no documents at all.
80. Like the old League of Nations passport?—Yes. If such a person says: “I want to go back to my own country, but I cannot get a passport because really I have no nationality,” we say: “We will give you a certificate to say you were here, and who you are.”
81. Deputy Briscoe.—A form of Nansen passport?—Yes.
82. Deputy Dockrell.—What are the fines under the Offences Against the State Act, 1939?—The title is rather misleading. These are really fines imposed by the Special Criminal Court, and I should say that in nine out of ten cases they are in connection with breaches of the Emergency Powers Act. They are described as fines under the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, because, I think, the Special Criminal Court was constituted under that Act, but the fines really have nothing to do with offences against the 1939 Act. The only reason they are here is that, as a rule, fines are paid into a fines fund which we keep. This being a special court, we did not quite know what to do with them, and they are put in in this way.
VOTE 33—GÁRDA SIOCHÁNA.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
83. Deputy Sheldon.—On Subhead E., I notice that the reason given for the surplus was that clothing provided for in the Estimate was not supplied within the year. How did it arrive that there was a Supplementary Vote, seeing that the original Vote was less than half expended?—We expected a delivery of clothing which did not arrive.
84. Can we take it that the Supplementary came practically at the end of the accounting year?—Yes. There is an exactly similar point under Subhead H., if I may anticipate it. We asked for £10,000 odd because just at the end of the year we were going to change our police cars from petrol to gas producer, to cost the £10,000, and we got the money; but at the last moment we changed our minds and did not do it.
85. On Subhead H., I think it was explained before that Transport and Carriage is different from locomotion expenses, as it refers to police cars?— Yes, that will be explained best by quoting the terms of the Estimate itself. Subhead H., Transport and Carriage, is described in the Estimate as including Maintenance and running expenses of Motor Transport—what may be called the police cars—Maintenance and running expenses of boats—which is a very small item—Carriage of Stores and Carriage of Provisions to certain stations, and it includes a big item, Repayable Advances to Officers to enable them to purchase cars. All those items come under Transport and Carriage. Roughly summarising it, it means that it covers the cost of maintaining and running the official police cars (not the officers’ private cars), and also the advances to officers to enable them to buy their own cars. Locomotion Expenses, Subhead D., is composed of Car-hire, boat-hire and railway fare for transport of police and prisoners, Transfer expenses of officers, Allowances to officers for the use of their own motor cars and Cycling Allowances. Roughly speaking, Subhead D. deals with repayment to officers for expenses actually incurred in running their own cars, whereas H. deals with the maintenance of our own fleet of cars.
86. On Subhead 1., I presume that the big difference there was due to the increased cost of turf?—Yes.
87. On Subhead M., I see that some of the amount was in respect of payments to individuals not members of the Force. Does it also include payment to members of the Force?—The great bulk of it is compensation awards for dependents of Guards who were murdered in the execution of their duty.
88. Chairman.—On Subhead P., I presume the reduction was due to the falling off in membership of the Force?—Yes.
89. Deputy Sheldon.—I suppose there was a check up on actual membership. Probably the rolls included people who were not active members?—The membership began to drop off. There was no activity and people will not come to do nothing.
90. On Subhead R., you referred previously to payments made to officers to purchase their own cars. I presume No. 1 here deals with the repayments?— Yes, they pay back in a period of two years, in instalments.
91. Item No. 2—Payments for services rendered by the Gárda Síochána: what type of service would that be?—In the case of a football match, where there may not be enough stewards or where the committee thinks the stewards may not have enough influence and that there might be a row, they may employ Guards. It is not strictly police duty, as they are employed by the Committee, who pay for them so much an hour.
92. Deputy Dockrell.—And that goes to the Exchequer?—Yes. My note gives examples, such as the R.D.S. shows, football matches, race meetings, Hospitals Trust Functions, etc.
93. Deputy Sheldon.—I see under No. 6 that there is a reduction in the amount of fees for various certificates. In view of the fact that under Subhead G., extra money had to be expended because barrack chimneys had to be cleaned more frequently, was there a reduction in the number of chimney sweepers?
94. On Item 10, Miscellaneous Receipts, where does the money come from, in the case of the unexpected receipts mentioned as being for loss of services of members of the Force injured on duty? Who pays that money?—If a motor car knocks down a policeman and the policeman takes an action in the courts for the injury to him and gets compensation, as an ordinary citizen would, we go in and say it is not alone an injury to the policeman as we had to pay him his salary, though we could not use him, and they have to pay us.
Chairman.—So it is an expensive business for anyone to knock down a policeman.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
95. Chairman.—There is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor General as follows:—
32. 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.
Have you anything to add, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—No, Mr. Chairman, that is the annual note showing that the examination of the stores had taken place and that the service had been carried out satisfactorily.
96. Deputy Dockrell.—The note with regard to Subhead E.—Fuel, Light, Water, Cleaning Articles, etc.—says: “A quantity of coal for a prison was obtained at less cost than the provision made for turf and wood.” You were rather lucky to get any coal?—Yes.
97. Chairman.—With regard to Subhead I.—Fine Fund—what is that Fine Fund?—Occasionally warders are fined small sums for not “clocking-in” at the right time, or for some other reason, and the fines are put into a little fund. That fund is distributed at the end of the year to warders whose wives or children are sick. or for some other compassionate reason.
98. Deputy Sheldon.—That is a sort of token vote?—Quite so; it has no significance from the State point of view.
99. The matter may have been cleared up last year, but I saw a note arising out of the investigations of the Committee of Public Accounts with reference to Subhead O. in the year 1941-42. There was a small amount of £4, and I think Deputy Dillon wanted to know where it came from, or what happened it?—The sum indicated here is £135. That is the amount actually paid during the year. That amount went very simply. The Cork Borstal Association got £25 out of it. A convent in Henrietta Street got £50, and the Catholic Male Prisoners’ Aid Society got £50. Two institutions in Dublin, one male and one female, got £50 each, and £25 went to Cork. We increased the grant to the Cork Borstal Institution during the year.
99a. In the Report for the year 1941-42 I noticed there was a balance of £4 which the Accounting Officer said he would look up in order to see what happened it. I wonder was the matter explained last year?—I fancy it was explained.
Chairman.—We would have to make further investigations in order to ascertain what happened.
100. Deputy Loughman.—What trades do they now teach the boys in the Borstal institution? Is it the same as what was taught in Clonmel?—Yes, tailoring and bootmaking.
100a. We were trying to get that changed. Have they taken a farm with the institution in Cork?—No.
101. When they were in Clonmel, the Minister was prepared to take a farm and I think it was the opinion of the Department that they should. Has that matter been shelved until a new building is erected?—Yes. The number is so small that it would hardly be worth while taking a farm.
102. I suggest that is a question of policy. I know it was decided at the time that the conditions under which they lived in Clonmel were not proper. They had about 54 prisoners, and, even if there were fewer, it was felt it would be an advantage to give them some place?— That is hardly a matter for the Accounting Officer. The great majority of those boys—I might say young men, and very tough young men—are Dublin born and reared, boys from the streets, and I do not know that farm work would be suitable.
103. Have they a playing pitch?— They have, through the courtesy of the Cork University College, which give them fields nearby. Every effort is being made to remedy the unfortunate fact that the prison building is not suitable. We have done a lot, and visitors are continually saying that the place is well kept and the boys are well treated. They have a gramophone and wireless, and they are allowed to meet in the hall to play dominoes or chess, and they are allowed out for walks with visitors and for cycle runs. We do our best to remedy the unfortunate fact that the building is fundamentally unsuitable for its purpose.
104. It is an improvement on the place in Clonmel?—I think the conditions are better.
105. Chairman.—If the materials are available, you will try to erect the new building?—We have actually secured a site near Dublin—tentatively—but we all know what it means to build nowadays. I cannot say when it will be erected.
106. Deputy Sheldon.—On Subhead Q., I suppose the drop in the receipts from the manufacturing department is due to the difficulty mentioned in Subhead P.— that only a small part of the provision for the purchase of material for mail bags could be utilised?—That is right.
VOTE 35—DISTRICT COURT.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
107 Chairman.—On Subhead A., are District Court Clerks pensionable?— They are, if they comply with the terms of the Superannuation Act, which requires whole-time service. Very few of them comply with these requirements. In very rough terms, there might be 20 out of 120.
108. Is that because there is not sufficient work for them to be whole-time in most areas?—This question is being investigated. The fundamental is this, that only whole-time District Court Clerks are pensionable, and you could have nobody but whole-time District Court Clerks, all whole-time and pensionable, if each clerk had enough courts to serve, but that would mean that half a county would have to be put under one District Court Clerk, one man in six different courts. That would suit us administratively; it would be a nice, precise, neat arrangement. The man would be paid, would get his pension, and there would be no trouble. But that does not suit from the local point of view. Locally they want a local clerk. There is that difference between what is administratively convenient— whole-time clerks—and the public demand. The public say “We want a local clerk here.” That matter is still being considered and I do not know what the eventual answer will be.
109. Most of the whole-time people are in Dublin?—All the Dublin people are established. In the country there are about 20 established. In places like Waterford or Cork City they have a whole-time job just as in Dublin. Others in the country have a great number of courts, five or six, or perhaps two big courts, and then you have 10 or 20 clerks for isolated groups of houses or little villages and they are paid about £70 a year and are not pensionable.
110. Deputy Sheldon.—If they were pensionable they would have to agree if they were moved anywhere?—Yes, but the main difficulty is: What will you do with the small outlying courts? You cannot have it both ways.
111. Chairman.—The courts in the rural areas?—Yes. In the days of the old Petty Sessions they got over the difficulty by not putting those people on the Votes at all. They had a separate fund of their own and they were all pensionable. If one had £50 a year, he was pensionable.
112. Has the pressure of work in the Dublin District Courts diminished or increased during the past year?—I should say it has slightly increased. The volume of indictable crimes, heavy crimes, has diminished slightly, but the volume or small offences has gone up. We have eight and sometimes nine Justices in Dublin, whereas when I came to the Department 20 years ago there were only three.
113. How many of the nine in Dublin are temporary?—There are three permanent Justices in Dublin and three assistant Justices who are permanent, but liable to be transferred. They are anchored in Dublin at present. The remaining two or three are temporary.
114. Can you say how many temporary Justices are in the country as a whole?— Only those two or three in Dublin and occasionally there is relief for Justices going on leave or sick. At the present moment there are in Dublin three temporary Justices and, outside Dublin, two.
VOTE 36—CIRCUIT COURT.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
115. Deputy Dockrell.—What do the incidental expenses under Subhead C. cover?—Advertising, printing, postage, carriage of parcels and small items of expenditure in connection with the revision of voters’ and jurors’ lists.
116. Do they vary very much from year to year?—I do not think they do. I do not see any reason why they should.
117. There was £486 left over?—It is a big difference.
118. It would represent about one-third? —Yes. I stated it was expenditure on advertising, printing, postage and carriage on parcels, but I forgot the most significant item, the one that varies most—the execution of Court Orders and Land Commission Warrants. That varies a good deal. The County Registrars act as sheriffs in nearly every county and we have to pay wages and expenses to Court Messengers. That expenditure varies a good deal. One of their principal jobs is the execution of Warrants and that depends on the measure of default in the payment of Land Commission annuities. If there is a heavy list of defaulters our expenses on the execution of Court Warrants go up; if the people pay up better, our expenses go down. That is the principal cause of the variation. Lately the collection has been definitely better than it was three or four years ago.
119. Would not these expenses be recoverable?—They are, by way of fees charged to the defaulters. I should say that there was a little profit on it.*
120. Chairman.—It is a good thing to be able to make a profit on something. Is the pressure of work as great as it has been, in the Circuit Court?—It is really only in Dublin that there is any pressure and the situation there is definitely a lot better than it was a year ago. This time last year we had roughly 140 criminal cases on the list to be dealt with and we have reduced that to under 50.
121. That was very satisfactory?—Yes, but we still have difficulty with regard particularly to accommodation. There is only one real Criminal Court in Dublin— Green Street—and sometimes we want two circuit courts sitting together and with the Central Criminal Court requiring to sit for six months of the year, it is a squeeze to accommodate them all. That is our chief difficulty.
VOTE 37—SUPREME COURT AND HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE.
Mr. S. A. Roche called.
VOTE 38—LAND REGISTRY AND REGISTRY OF DEEDS.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
122. Deputy Sheldon.—With regard to Subhead F., in the Registry of Deeds Vote—transcription of memorials—would that transcription usually be done by a scrivener, that is, by hand? I notice that the transcribing clerk was replaced by a typist?—Ten years ago it was done entirely by hand. We are gradually replacing it by typists. Why there is an item in the Estimate at all, I do not know, because it seems to me to be just a part of the ordinary work of the office, and its insertion here year after year gives rise to queries as to what are memorials and why is the item singled out. I have asked whether the subhead could not be sunk in Subhead A.
123. Chairman.—I suppose it is only ordinary routine work?—Of a most routine kind—just plain copying—but I have been asked here on several occasions whether it has anything to do with ancient monuments.
Chairman.—That struck me when I saw it.
124. Deputy Dockrell.—It is merely a very ordinary part of the work of the office?—Absolutely.
125. Is it part of the Land Registry or the Registry of Deeds?—The Registry of Deeds.
126. Chairman.—I think the delays there no longer exist?—That is in the Land Registry, no. We are up-to-date.
VOTE 44—NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE.
Mr. J. Hurson (with whom was Mr. J. A. Duffy) called and examined.
127. Mr. Hurson.—With your permission, Mr. Duffy will answer questions on this Vote.
Chairman.—With regard to Subhead A.A.—Actuary—can you say if an actuarial calculation has been made in respect of the proposals submitted by Most Rev. Dr. Dignan?—No.
128. Probably it did not come into that year?—No.
VOTE 27—WIDOWS’ AND ORPHANS’ PENSIONS.
Mr. J. Hurson further examined.
129. Chairman.—Is this money paid over to the Investment Fund?
130. It is a statutory provision?—A statutory grant.
131. For how long?—It was originally for ten years, but it will be reviewed this year.
132. Is this the tenth year?—Yes.
133. Deputy Dockrell.—Is this really a sort of accountancy item, that is, this sum of £450,000 is paid into the fund and afterwards paid out?—It is paid into Widows’ and Orphans’ Pensions Fund under the control of the Minister for Finance and drawn out as required.
134. Under what Vote do we find it being paid?—It is paid in, and if there is any shortage of contributions, the amount is drawn from the Fund.
135. Who administers the fund?—It is issued to the Widows’ and Orphans’ Pensions Branch, and the pensions are paid by the Post Office.
136. Where do we find the sum of £450,000 actually disbursed? It is paid into the Pensions Investment Account, and is apparently only a sort of bookkeeping item. Where do we find the expenditure of that amount?
Chairman.—The accounts of the fund are audited and laid before the Oireachtas under the Widows’ and Orphans’ Pensions Act, 1935.
Mr. Duffy.—The accounts are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Mr. Hurson.—I will submit a statement to the Committee explaining the position fully.*
VOTE 41—LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH.
Mr. J. Hurson further examined.
137. Chairman.—There is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor General which reads:
“33. The expenditure charged to this Subhead includes an amount of £553 15s. 0d. in respect of the Tribunal appointed in March 1943, by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to inquire into certain matters connected with an outbreak of fire at St. Joseph’s Orphanage, Cavan, and from Subhead A. a gratuity of £15 was paid to the Secretary of the Tribunal. A sum of £40 2s. 6d. was received from the Cavan County Council for a copy of the evidence taken at the Inquiry and is credited to Appropriations in aid.
In addition to the expenditure charged to this vote, fees amounting to £241 10s. 0d. were paid to Counsel representing the Attorney General and are charged to Subhead B of the vote for Law Charges (No. 25).”
Mr. Maher.—That is an explanatory paragraph to bring under one heading all the costs connected with this particular Tribunal.
138. Chairman.—Paragraph 34 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead S.2.—Grants under the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts, 1932 to 1944.
“Grants amounting to £12,900 under section 5(1) (i) of the Act of 1932, were made to a public utility society in the year 1942-43, in respect of 129 flats erected by it. Under that section of the Act grants not exceeding two-ninths of the cost of provision or £100, whichever shall be the lesser, may be made in respect of each flat to any public utility society erecting flats in an urban area, subject to certain conditions including the requirement that the floor area of each flat should be not less than 500 nor more than 800 square feet. The application by the Society on which the payment of £12,900 was made was accompanied by a certificate on the prescribed statutory form by the appointed officer to the effect that each of the flats had been inspected by him on a previous date, that all were then completed in a proper manner and that, in compliance with the requirements of the Housing Acts, the floor area was in each case between 500 and 800 square feet. In January, 1944, the Society informed the Department that it had been discovered that the claim for grants was £900 in excess of the amount payable. It appears that the original plans had provided for 137 flats, including 129 with a floor area of not less than 500 and not more than 800 square feet but, owing to a change in the requirements of the tenants, only 120 of the flats erected had a floor space above the statutory minimum. The sum of £900 was refunded in the year under review and is accounted for as an exchequer extra receipt.
I am in communication with the Accounting Officer regarding the circumstances in which the inspection of the building did not reveal the reduction in the number of flats in respect of which grants were payable.”
Mr. Maher.—The Accounting Officer has, since the date of the Report, informed us that the officer who inspected the flats prior to the payment of the grant did not inspect all the flats. At the time of inspection, the flats were let and some were locked. The inspector did not observe that the plans were not strictly adhered to in the construction of the flats. As a result, an overpayment, as stated in my Report, of £900 was made to the Society which, on the Society calling the attention of the Department to the error, was refunded and has been credited to appropriations in aid.
139. Deputy Dockrell.—Was it the Society called the Department’s attention to it?—Yes.
140. Chairman.—Has any action been taken against the officer responsible for submitting the certificate?—Yes. He was a temporary officer, and he resigned at the time.
141. Could you say how he was recruited to the position?—He was recruited through the Civil Service Commission as a temporary housing inspector in connection with the administration of housing grants throughout the country.
142. Deputy Dockrell.—What were his qualifications?—He was a fully qualified engineer. He had been seconded to the Department of Defence at the beginning of the emergency, and when he returned from the Department of Defence he was retained in Dublin for a time. During that period he was asked to undertake this work. I might explain that the design of the flats was such that there was one room located between two flats, so that it could, without much trouble, be included in either flat. For this purpose it was provided with two-door opes, the one not in use being temporarily bricked up. The electric wiring was also duplicated, so that it could be linked to the system in either flat. As a result, the standard unit of three 3-roomed flats may be altered to consist of one 2-roomed, one 3-roomed and one 4-roomed flat at the cost of only a few hours’ work. The change was made just at the completion of the flats, and was made at the instigation of the secretary to the Society. It enabled a large family to be given four rooms, while a smaller family could be provided for in a 2-roomed flat. In nine cases a change was made from a 3-room into a 4-room flat, thus reducing the 3-room dwelling to a 2-room dwelling. It could happen that these 2-room dwellings could be converted back into 3-room dwellings if family circumstances required it.
143. Chairman.—What was the position of the flats at the date of the inspection? —It was ascertained that the inspector was unable to get into some flats, because they were locked and the tenants were out.
144. In submitting his certificate, did he supply any note to the effect that he was unable to visit all the flats?—No.
145. And, of course, not having visited all the flats, the certificate was inaccurate?—It was. He went more by an examination of the approved plans, and taking into consideration the standing of the Trust, he apparently accepted that the plans had been strictly complied with.
146. Deputy Sheldon.—Was not this a rather big job to give to a temporary man? Is it the normal practice to do that?—He was engaged in work of that nature through the country, although I admit it was not actually the same. He was engaged on the inspection of new houses, and possibly that did not give him the kind of experience required for the inspection of flats.
147. Are we to assume that the grants are paid not on the approved plans but on the actual execution of the work? —Yes.
148. So that he should have examined the work to see that all the requirements were fulfilled?—Yes.
149. Deputy Cogan.—Were certificates in connection with work done by other societies issued by this inspector?—In the case of houses erected by public utility societies, yes. He was regarded as an efficient officer.
150. In view of what happened in this case was his work re-inspected in other cases?—Not to my knowledge. In the case of a single house an officer inspecting it can normally have access to it, but in this case there were over 130 dwellings and he may for the reasons given have been unable to inspect them all at the time.
151. But in this case it was the Society that received the grant that brought the mistake to the Department’s notice?—It was.
152. Is it not natural to assume that there might be some other societies, or individuals, getting grants who might not be as conscientious as this society was? —Public utility societies throughout the country provide only single dwellings.
153. Chairman.—Except this one?— There are four other societies in Dublin that provide flats.
154. As a result of your experience in this case are you satisfied that inspectors appointed under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act carry out their investigations in a satisfactory way before they issue the certificates on which the payment of grants is based, or have you made any investigations since this case came to your notice?—In general they must examine each dwelling house. In the first place they give a certificate at the start of the work. Then they must satisfy the Minister that the houses have been erected in accordance with the approved plans and that the regulations governing the subsidy are complied with.
155. In this case it appears that, while the inspector visited the block in which the flats were contained, he did not visit all the flats. Could it happen in the case of inspectors throughout the country that, while flats are not subject to their investigation, they do not even visit the houses in respect of which they issue a certificate? —That could not happen. The certificate is quite clear on that. They are expected to visit each dwelling house, inspect it and give a clear certificate that the house has been erected in accordance with the regulations and is eligible for subsidy.
156. Deputy Cogan.—Is there any provision made for checking up on the work done by those certifying inspectors?—A senior inspector may do that, but to my knowledge he has not carried out anything like a general survey. It would have been a very big job at the time when large numbers of houses were being erected to get such surveys made.
157. Chairman.—As a result of your experience in this case, does the Minister propose to make any change in the method of inspection in order to re-check at intervals inspectors’ reports?—That has not been considered. In this case it was due to the design of the flats more than anything else that led to the change. It would not be possible to re-design a house down the country in such a way as to place it outside the Act unless you were to make some external addition to it and then connect it up afterwards. In view of the fact that so very few cases of the kind have arisen, it was considered that there was no need for the taking of any specific statutory authority to deal with the matter. The position was carefully considered from the point of view of the large number of houses built throughout the country. During the last ten to twelve years I am certain that there could not have been more than two cases where the houses built were so designed that they could be joined up after the grants were paid with another building so as to produce a dwelling that would be outside the area that qualifies for subsidy.
158. Chairman.—Has the Department of Finance, Mr. Fitzgerald, any observations to make on this?
159. Mr. Fitzgerald.—We are not familiar with this particular matter. I can see Mr. Hurson’s difficulty that if you are going to have an exhaustive check, the expense involved will be disproportionate. As he has said, in the case of these housing schemes, very few cases have occurred where changes of this kind could be made. I think that we might regard this particular group of flats as being rather abnormal in design. We feel that if you had another horde of officials inspecting the inspectors, it would inflate the cost enormously.
160. Deputy Cogan.—The one unsatisfactory aspect of this case is that the error was brought to the notice of the Department by the Society. The error was not discovered by the Department itself.
161. Deputy Dockrell.—I think that, in the main, that is a satisfactory thing, because it at least shows that you can trust the public utility society concerned.
Deputy Cogan.—You cannot trust everybody.
162. Deputy Sheldon.—We may take it that, in future, if a block of flats of peculiar design is being built, very great care will be taken?—Yes.
163. Chairman.—We can now take paragraph 35 in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General:
“Motor Tax Account.
“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 local authorities were scrutinised in so far as they were available, but in two cases this audit had not been completed at the date of my test examination.
The gross proceeds of the Motor Vehicle, etc., duties in 1943-44, including £6,779 10s. 7d. attributable to fines collected by the Department of Justice, amounted to £574,462 8s. 1d. This amount also includes fees amounting to £3,077 5s. 0d. received on behalf of the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána, under the Road Traffic Act (Parts VI and VII) (Fees) Regulations, 1937 (Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 92 of 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, 1943-44.”
Mr. Maher.—That is informative. In 1942-43 the number of arrears of audits was three, while in 1943-44 only two were outstanding, so that the position has improved.
164. Deputy Sheldon.—Does this mean that there may be some other matters outstanding?
Mr. Maher.—There might be very small matters that would be settled by discussion with the Accounting Officer, but these would not be of sufficient importance to bring them to the notice of the Committee.
165. Chairman.—We may now take the subheads of the Vote. On Subhead J. (2) —Grants for the Supply of Milk to Necessitous Children—does this mean that less milk is being distributed than that which is permitted under the grant of £90,000?—This sum of £90,000 is a fixed grant. It is necessary at the commencement of each year to notify each local authority of its proper share of it. It seems that the local authorities do not desire to exceed that amount. They have been requested on several occasions to expend the grant as fully and as effectively as possible, but there is always this recurring saving. There is no desire on the part of the Department to economise on a service of this kind.
166. Deputy Sheldon.—Can the Accounting Officer say how many local authorities used the grant in full, or is the position this, that some of them returned a portion of the grant?—Some use it to the full, and some exceed it, but the majority have a small saving. It is these accumulated small savings that have brought about the present position.
167. Deputy Cogan.—I should like to know what are the activities described as “Schools for Mothers” under Subhead J. 1. I was not aware that such a service was available?—These schools are in connection with child welfare, at which instruction is given to mothers.
168. Does this service exist outside Dublin?—Not to any great extent, except in County Boroughs.
169. Deputy Dockrell.—Ante-natal clinics?—Yes.
170. Deputy Cogan.—I was not aware of this service?—It is a very important service, and is availed of very extensively in Dublin.
171. Deputy Sheldon.—Under Subhead J. 4.—Grants towards supply of fuel for necessitous families—I suppose the expenditure under this head could not be accurately forecast when the Estimate was prepared, and that a Supplementary Estimate had to be brought in at the end of the year?—That was due to the fact that the original amount only applied to a winter scheme. As it was decided to continue to supply fuel during the summer, it was necessary to bring in a Supplementary Estimate of £20,000 to meet the expense of supplying fuel during the summer.
172. So the fact is that the supplementary and the surplus approximate bear no relation?—No. As a matter of fact, the expenditure on the fuel schemes last year exceeded £100,000.
173. Deputy Dockrell.—Under Subhead J. 5.—Grants towards the Supply of Assistance in Kind to Recipients of Home Assistance—the original Estimate was £50,000, and there was a Supplementary Estimate of £120,000?—The amount was originally fixed at £50,000, but it was subsequently decided to provide increased assistance up to approximately the extent allowed in the previous year.
174. Deputy Sheldon.—In Subhead L.3. —provision of equipment for emergency food centres, the note states that one claim had to be met which was greater than anticipated?—Yes. There was an outstanding account from the previous year.
175. Chairman.—On Subhead N.— Treatment of Tuberculosis,—the note states “expenditure by local authorities on special foods and clothing for patients fell much below the provision, which was based on the number receiving treatment. The position was somewhat due to the time taken by local authorities in making arrangements for the administration of the scheme of special foods.” It was surprising that the local authorities did not avail of the full grant for the treatment of tuberculosis?—The savings seem rather high but I should explain that that was the first year we introduced the scheme for extra nourishment in the form of eggs, butter and milk to patients while awaiting admission to institution or following discharge, after approved treatment therein. The scheme did not get along well at the start, although the local authorities were pressed to get it going. It will be realised that it was not easy to get contractors, and to arrange for every patient to get 3½ pints of milk, ½lb. of butter and 7 eggs per week. The second year the scheme did not come up to expectations but at present it is pretty well organised. The expenditure for the first half year in Dublin was only £600 but it has now gone up to £7,000. Even in Dublin where facilities for organising such a scheme are fairly general, there was delay in selecting purveyors to supply these goods. The same conditions obtained in other areas. All medical staffs engaged in the administration of tuberculosis schemes have been urged to encourage this scheme.
Chairman.—I suppose when the public become aware of the existence of these schemes they will apply?
176. Deputy Dockrell.—I think in the early stages the public was not aware of it. I remember that in the Dublin Corporation scheme the public did not apply for the benefits they could have got?— Dublin Corporation advertised their scheme and gave it as much publicity as possible. These special food schemes throughout the country have had a very good effect and are very much appreciated at the present time.
177. Chairman.—I am sure the medical officers of health realise the benefit of them.—Yes.
178. Deputy Sheldon.—Subhead Q.— Grants in respect of training of native Irish speakers in hospital nursing—I think there were queries in other years about a surplus arising under the Subhead. I suppose there is no way of getting over the difficulty?—The Department has done everything possible to get this scheme going.
179. I presume the difficulty is one that no Department could get over. It is a question of people changing their minds?— Taking the year 1942/43, four girls were sent to a Dublin hospital and three to a Galway hospital. One girl died and one girl was ill with pleurisy for a year. Six of the original seven are still training. In 1943/44 we got four girls into a Dublin hospital and three into a Galway hospital. One girl was discovered to have heart disease and had to abandon training and another was ill for almost a year. Six of them are still in training. In 1944/45 six candidates took up duty, one left after three weeks but the other five are at present in training. In the present year it is hoped to have ten applicants placed for training. We have been estimating for ten every year, but that number was not reached. That is the maximum number the hospitals could take.
180. Chairman.—In connection with Appropriations in Aid, how is the combined purchasing scheme effected?—That is a scheme whereby various kinds of goods and articles required by local authorities are obtained through official contractors. A section in the Department takes annual contracts for specified articles, and local authorities obtain their requirements from contractors so appointed. They get goods of assured quality and at best contract prices. It has been very successful during the emergency, as, with the help of the Department, local authorities were able to get reasonable supplies of everything they required.
181. Deputy Sheldon.—How did the refund of grant towards the supply of fuel for necessitous families arise. Perhaps it concerned goods required in previous years by local authorities that they did not use or return?—I am not quite certain about that, but I shall send the information to the Deputy. It may be that the grant exceeded the certified expenditure, and the amount was repaid instead of being brought forward to the following year. I shall look into the matter and let the Deputy know.
VOTE 42—GENERAL REGISTER OFFICE.
Mr. J. Hurson called.
VOTE 39—PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE.
Mr. D. Coffey called and examined.
182. Chairman.—What do “Incidental Expenses” (Subhead B.) include?
Mr. Coffey.—They include the purchase of records of historical interest which come on the market, the transport of the records from various depositories in the country, protective clothing, telephone service, and subscriptions to the British Record Association.
VOTE 6—OFFICE OF THE REVENUE COMMISSIONERS.
Mr. T. Cleary called and examined.
183. Chairman.—Paragraph 8 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General deals with this Vote and states:
“Revenue Account—A text examination of the Revenue Account has been carried out with satisfactory results.”
Paragraph 9 of the Report deals with extra-statutory repayments of customs and excise duties, and states:
“Extra-statutory repayments of customs duties and of excise duties, amounting to £5,435 14s. 5d. and £1,221 16s. 3d., respectively, were made during the year.”
Deputy Sheldon.—Both those amounts represent an increase on the figures for previous years?
Mr. Cleary.—No. The figure of £5,435 14s. 5d. compares with a figure of £11,963 12s. 10d. for the previous year.
184. Deputy Sheldon.—In 1941-42, the figure was, I think, about £3,000?— There is a big reduction this year. That arises from the fact that the bulk of the amount was in respect of duty which was repaid on goods for which licences were subsequently produced. Those licence repayments have almost ceased, because we have got legislation to cover the matter. They are no longer extra-statutory payments. The amount shown in these accounts is smaller than the amount for the previous year. We were rather alarmed at the amount previously, and there was no justification for treating it as extra-statutory, since it was occurring so often.
185. It will disappear completely now? —Not completely, because the heading includes money such as we repay in respect of duty on goods received by diplomatic representatives. The item in respect of the licensing repayments will disappear.
186. Chairman.—Paragraph 10 of the Report deals with remissions, and states:
“I have been furnished with a schedule of the several cases involving a loss of £50 and upwards in which claims for duty or interest receivable under the Revenue Acts were remitted during the year ended 31st March, 1944, without statutory authority, from motives of compassion or equity arising out of particular circumstances in individual cases. The reasons given for remission appear to be satisfactory. The total amount shown in the schedule is £8,024 18s. 4d., as compared with £12,785 15s. 1d. in the preceding year. Of the total, £7,419 2s. 1d. has been remitted in respect of income-tax and surtax. £1,175 13s. 10d. related to six cases in which the assessed parties died insolvent or were destitute, and recovery was impossible; £5,006 19s. 9d. related to 12 cases in which assessments were raised, but subsequent evidence revealed no real liability, and £1,236 8s. 6d. related to four cases of bankruptcy or liquidation in which there were no assets to meet the claims. The remissions also include sums in respect of Excise duty, and of interest on Estate and Legacy duties amounting to £605 16s. 3d. The above figures do not include duty passed as irrecoverable for various reasons.”
Mr. Maher.—That paragraph appears annually in the Report, and is furnished for the purpose of information. Duty passed as irrecoverable represents mainly sums due by persons who are outside the jurisdiction.
Mr. Cleary.—That is so. As the Committee has been told frequently, the amount is passed as irrecoverable, for the reason that hopes of obtaining it are not finally given up. We have always the hope of recovering if the persons concerned come within the jurisdiction.
187. Chairman.—The Revenue Commissioners never give up hope?—We do, sometimes.
188. Deputy Sheldon.—It is interesting to find that persons assessed to surtax can die destitute?—Yes, but the assessment in these cases represents only an estimate. It is made to get the person concerned to disclose his income. When further information is obtained, it may be found that he has no liability. The assessment having been raised, it has to be discharged by the remission method.
189. Chairman.—Under Subhead L., there is expenditure for “Revenue Instruments”. What are revenue instruments?—They are instruments required for the purpose of the assessment of duty, such as hydrometers and saccharometers, which are used for the determination of proof spirit or the gravity of a solution of sugar.
190. There is a considerable increase in the expenditure under Subhead M. —Law Charges, Expenses of Prosecutions, Fees, Rewards, etc.—as compared with the grant?—Yes. That arises mainly from an increase in the amount paid to our preventive staff for detecting goods intended for export. It is set off very considerably by the increased amount we received by the sale of seized goods, and from fines arising from the prosecution of offenders. Those amounts come under Appropriations in Aid. It is difficult to estimate the extent to which smuggling will be carried on during the year, and we have to make a shot at it.
191. Deputy Sheldon.—I see that one outraged citizen tried to get his own back on the Department?—Yes.
192. Chairman.—As regards item 6 of Subhead R. (Registry of Business Names), is a person in business entitled to put up a name on his premises other than that under which he is legally registered?—If a man trades under any name but his own, he must register the name and pay 5/-to our Department as registration fee.
193. He is not obliged to put his own name underneath the registered name?— No. He can trade under the name which he notifies to us.
VOTE 7—OLD AGE PENSIONS.
Mr. T. Cleary further examined.
194. Chairman.—What are the extra-statutory grants referred to under Subhead E.?
Mr. Cleary.—These are pension orders which go out of date. The law provides that they cannot be cashed after three months. When appeal is made to us and we ascertain that the non-cashing of the orders arose through no fault of the pensioner, we seek the permission of the Department of Finance to pay them. That payment is not covered by statute and, accordingly, such payments are extra-statutory.
VOTE 8—COMPENSATION BOUNTIES.
Mr. T. Cleary further examined.
195. Chairman.—Under Subhead B. (Bounties on home-grown tobacco manufacture on which drawback is paid or found unfit for manufacture and destroyed) the expenditure was considerably less than the grant.
Mr. Cleary.—In the case of Subheads A. and B., the grants were obtained although we knew the bounty would not operate throughout the year. In the case of sugar, it ceased from the 1st April of that year and that sum of £600 was provided to meet claims which had come in. The bounties on tobacco ceased to be payable on the 1st December, 1943. We did not know that when preparing the Estimate and the sum of £400 was an overestimate. Both bounties have now ceased to be payable and we have surrendered the amount of the grant which we had in hand. This item will not appear in the accounts again.
VOTE 43—DUNDRUM ASYLUM.
Dr. G. W. Scroope called and examined.
196. Chairman.—As regards Subhead I. (Farm and Gardens) is the produce of the farm consumed in the Asylum?
Dr. Scroope.—The surplus is sold in the market. By “surplus” I mean what remains over when the patients have been fed.
The Committee adjourned.