MIONTUAIRISC NA FIANAISE
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 10 Samhain, 1960.
Thursday, 10th November, 1960.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY COSGRAVE in the chair.
Liam Ó Cadhla (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste), Miss M. Bhreathnach, Mr. P. S. MacGuill and Mr. J. F. Maclnerney (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
VOTE 65—DUNDRUM ASYLUM.
Dr. W. J. Coyne called and examined.
32. Deputy Sheldon.—On subhead A.— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—I take it that the Supplementary Estimate was for increases in salaries?—Yes, the attendants got two increases during that period. They received a basic increase at conciliation level and they also received the general increase awarded to civil servants at the end of 1959.
33. Chairman.—On subhead B.— Victualling Patients and Rations for Staff—how much of that expenditure relates to the patients’ food?—It comes out at £87 10s. per head per annum, and if you multiply that by roughly 89 or 90 it will give you the approximate cost.
34. On subhead C.—Uniforms, Clothing for Patients, etc.—has any decision been taken yet on the new style of the overcoats?—It is to be taken next week. The attendants are going to the Civil Service Conciliation Council.
On the style of the coats?—The attendants want a gaberdine waterproof type of coat and the Department wants them to continue with the uniform type of coat they always had. They are thrashing it out between them and in the meantime we are holding our hand.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 22—STATIONERY OFFICE.
Mr. T. J. Malone called and examined.
35. Deputy Jones.—On subhead H.— Appropriations in Aid—Note No. 2, are these sales carried out by auction or by tender?—By tender.
In regard to the increase in the sale of publications, are these of any particular kind?—They cover the whole field of our publishing work.
Then they are general?—Yes, general.
36. Would farming interests be involved in the increases in the sale of maps?— It would be hard to say. I imagine tourism has a lot to do with it.
Deputy Sheldon.—On the sale of maps, could Mr. Malone explain the difference between the amount that is realised under Appropriations in Aid and the amount given in the Profit and Loss Account for the Government Publications Sale Office?* The amount in the Appropriations in Aid is given as £2,899 but in the Profit and Loss Account it is given as £2,758?—I think the answer to that is that there is a sort of carry over from one year to another. There is one item there, cash in transit, which naturally varies, and I think some of the items in the account—the item for Ordnance Survey maps—vary with it. If you like, I shall look into the matter and give you a note of it.
Chairman.—Yes, Mr. Malone. Please send a note on the matter.**
Deputy Sheldon.—Surely anything that is in the Appropriations in Aid is in cash? It must be received in cash before the 31st March otherwise the amount could not appear. How then could that figure be greater than the one given in the Profit and Loss Account which might contain cash in transit?—The only answer I can give at the moment is that those items are affected in some way by this cash in transit. I shall cover that point in my note.
37. Chairman.—What commission do you charge on supplies and services on repayment terms?—12½ per cent.; 20 per cent. in the case of stock items.
What services do you render to the Department of Social Welfare?—Printing, mostly.
38. Deputy Sheldon.—The second note on page 46 refers to an ex-gratia payment to a contractor arising from the correction of a clerical error. I realise this has been sanctioned by the Department of Finance, but, it strikes me that it must have been a very odd clerical error which managed to quote 90s. a ream for paper instead of 122s. 6d. a ream. How does the Department satisfy itself that claims of that type by contractors are correct— that it was really a clerical error?—One of the factors in this case was the previous price of the paper. By reference to the previous price and by reference to the figure quoted, it was obvious that a mistake had been made but, of course, we did not query the figure. It is not our business to ask a contractor if he is quoting correctly. We must take him at his word. In this case the Department of Finance was satisfied that there was a genuine error.
39. Do clerical errors ever turn up which are the other way around? There is one other item on page 46 where a loss of £13 is written off. Do I take it from that that there was no question of negligence in the Department of Defence?—I think what happened there was that the typewriter was damaged in transit in a lorry. We were satisfied that it was a genuine accident.
Chairman.—I should like on behalf of the Committee to tender our good wishes to Mr. Malone on his pending retirement.
Mr. Malone.—Thank you very much, Gentlemen.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 34—CHARITABLE DONATIONS AND BEQUESTS.
Mr. J. S. Martin called and examined.
40. Chairman.—In connection with subhead B.—Law Costs—will the bill of costs fall to be met in the coming year? —We expect so. The amount is generally rather small and the practice is to let a couple of years run before submitting the bill.
Is that bill in respect of the costs of the solicitor to the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests?— Yes. The solicitor was the late Mr. Harold Maxwell. He is now Mr. James R. C. Green of the same firm.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 23—VALUATION AND BOUNDARY SURVEY.
Mr. J. Mooney called and examined.
41. Deputy Jones.—On subhead A.— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—have these vacancies been filled?—They have. The bulk of them have been filled. There are some extra posts created also which have been or are being filled.
VOTE 24—ORDNANCE SURVEY.
Mr. J. Mooney further examined.
42. Deputy Jones.—On subhead A.— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—I take it that these vacancies have also been filled?—Actually one of the principal posts there is not filled. It is blocked by an Army officer who, ultimately, will be absorbed into the Civil Service. It could be said it is not filled by the appointment of a civil servant. The officer is being paid by the Army. He occupies the post of Deputy Assistant Director. One of the other vacancies has been filled. It was blocked, in the same way, by an officer from the Museum, who has recently been transferred definitively to this service. Others of the vacancies arose through resignations and retirements, and I should say that, in the main they have been filled.
43. On subhead B.—Travelling Expenses—how many field sections are at work at the moment?—I am afraid I could not answer that offhand.
44. Deputy Sheldon.—On subhead G.— Appropriations in Aid—it strikes me, from the amount realised from the sales of maps that the vast bulk of the sales are not made through the Stationery Office?—Departments do not pay for the maps they get for their use. If you look on page 51 you will see a very considerable theoretical receipt in respect of the value of maps supplied to other Departments. Those sales, you see, are our sales to parties who pay for the maps. It is one of the grievances of the officer in charge of the Ordnance Survey under me, that the value the service gives is not fully reflected in the receipts here. Departments getting maps do not pay for them. We only get receipts from people outside the public service. The total receipts, if you took account of the value of maps supplied free to Departments, is very considerable. It would run to about £30,000.
But the Stationery Office is not included in this list? What you get from the Stationery Office must turn up in the Appropriations in Aid. It is somewhere in the region of £2,800 which means that £6,000 worth of maps were sold otherwise than to the Stationery Office. I just wonder in what way you sell them?— Easons and Hodges and Figgis are also agents.*
VOTE 25—RATES ON GOVERNMENT PROPERTY.
Mr. J. Mooney further examined.
45. Chairman.—On subhead B.—Contributions towards Rates on Premises occupied by Representatives of External Governments—this difficulty about the interpretation of the terms “beneficial” and “non-beneficial”, has not arisen before? Is this the first occasion it has arisen?—That has been going on for years, particularly with one external Government—America. It arises from the different practices in different countries in regard to rates. In a foreign country where a Head of Mission or his Government own a premises they pay no rates at all, but they must own it before they get that immunity. We give partial immunity whether the premises are owned or rented. There has been an accumulation here of provision for a number of years to meet these payments which will have to be met when we settle with the Government concerned the extent to which they will pay for non-beneficial rates.
46. In regard to item 4 in the Appropriations in Aid which relates to the final clearing of repayment in respect of premises occupied by British Departments, was the receipt an agreed figure or was it the actual amount which had been calculated?—I would say it would be the actual amount on the valuation— an apportionment.
Originally the estimate had been £560. That was why I was wondering had there been some dispute as to the amount?— I could not really say. The estimate would probably have been a little higher. We have to anticipate, in advance, what the rise in rates will be. This year we made provision for a 3 per cent. rise in rates. You will see it is fairly accurate, judging by the small saving.* *
The witness withdrew.
ELECTION OF TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.
47. Chairman.—I wonder would the Committee mind if I left the meeting now? There is a motion in my name before the Dáil now.
Deputy O’Toole.—I move that Deputy Sheldon do take the Chair for the remainder of this meeting.
Question put, and agreed to.
DEPUTY SHELDON took the chair.
Mr. P. S. Ó Muireadhaigh called and examined.
48. Chairman.—Paragraph 97 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—
“Subhead H.—Grants to Health Authorities.
97. Health authorities are recouped 50 per cent. of their net expenditure on approved health services calculated in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of the Health Services (Financial Provisions) Act, 1947.
The accounts of the authorities are audited by Local Government auditors whose certificates and reports are made available to me. From these reports I noticed that the collection of sums due for maintenance in some health authority hospitals had not been satisfactory. Failure to collect such contributions results in increases in the grants payable from the vote. I have asked for the Accounting Officer’s observations on this matter.”
Mr. Ó Cadhla, have you anything to say on this?
Mr. Ó Cadhla.—It was noted from the auditors’ report for 1957-58 on the accounts of one local authority that arrears of amounts collectable in respect of maintenance in the County Hospital had increased from £16,000 to £21,000. The Accounting Officer’s observations on the position were requested and, in his reply, he said that, in order to ensure that an appropriate charge would be assessed, some authorities adopted the practice of debiting the maximum charge in any case in which there was not clear evidence of entitlement to free service. In many such cases subsequent investigation revealed that the original debit was in excess of the amount properly payable. In the case of the authority referred to, he has informed me that a review of the charges assessed resulted in reductions of £5,750, that £4,000 was written off after examination of unpaid accounts outstanding for long periods. The amount outstanding at 31st March, 1960 was £10,600. He also stated that outstanding charges reflect over-assessment of the liabilities of the persons concerned and not failure on the part of the health authorities to collect sums properly due and the grant payable from the Vote was not, therefore, increased in this respect beyond the amount properly payable. On the 31st March, 1960 there was still £10,600 outstanding on the account of this particular local authority.
49. Chairman.—Is there only one local authority involved in this?
Mr. Ó Cadhla.—A general question was raised on a number of accounts.
Chairman.—May I take it, Mr. O Muireadhaigh, that, in fact, other local authorities are also involved? —Yes, unfortunately. For a number of years the system, apparently, was lax. The local authority raised the maximum charge, made an effort to collect, and if they were not able to collect, they left the charge on the books without writing it off. In this particular case the arrears were down, at the 31st March last, as the Comptroller and Auditor General has said, to £10,606. On the 30th September the figure had dropped further to £9,533, largely as a result of the writing off of amounts alleged to be due which may have been outstanding for the past ten years.
I take it that the system used in the hospitals is in line with what is done by the Revenue Commissioners where they make a protective assessment to keep themselves right. They do not always believe that they can get the amount assessed or that it will prove to be an accurate figure?—That is so, but we hold that it is a wrong principle in this particular matter. The practice was to assess a charge of ten shillings a day on everybody. This was a rather iniquitous system because very many people should not be charged at all and others should only be charged a shilling or two shillings a day, but the honest person who wants to meet his obligations will accept the full charge as an obligation and will attempt to pay it, whereas, in fact, he should not, perhaps, have got a bill at all. We wrote to all the local authorities on this matter on one occasion and we drew the attention of individual managers to the matter at various other times. On the 7th October, 1958 we wrote: “It is understood that in some areas the practice is followed of imposing the maximum charge and reducing it subsequently only if representations are made to show that the patient is unable to pay the full amount. This is not, in the Minister’s view, a proper practice. He considers that unless an applicant appears bona fide able to pay the maximum charge a reduced charge related to readily ascertainable circumstances should be fixed in the first instance. The Minister would be glad if you would bear this in mind in the operation of the section”. The section referred to is section 15 of the Health Act, 1953.
50. Deputy Jones.—May we take it that in the normal way the health authorities had a graded scale of charges? From my experience a patient entering an institution is charged ten shillings a day and unless representations are made at a later stage that charge is not reduced?— The practice varies, but, I think, most local authorities now make an assessment on the basis of the information supplied by the patient when he goes into hospital.
Deputy O’Toole.—There is a certain amount of flexibility, is not that so?— Quite.
51. Chairman.—We shall now take paragraph 98 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General which reads:—
“Subhead M.—Appropriations in Aid
98. The loan of £13,200 issued during the year 1957-58 under the provisions of section 16 (1) of the Voluntary Health Insurance Act, 1957 to the Voluntary Health Insurance Board and repayable with interest in instalments over a period of ten years commencing on 1 January, 1959 was redeemed in February, 1960.”
I take it that just means that the voluntary Health Insurance Board was in a better financial position than had been expected?—Yes.
52. Chairman.—We now turn to the Vote itself on page 197. I think I should remark that the notes are extremely well done, Mr. Ó Muireadhaigh. This method of explaining, in each case, what happened in relation to the Supplementary Estimate and anticipated savings is very useful?—Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Deputy Jones.—On subhead I.—Contributions to Local Authorities for the Improvement of County Homes, etc.— might I ask if the scheme for modernisation for these county homes is now practically completed?—It is very far from being completed. In fact, it is only now that they are making a real start with it. It was estimated some years ago that the full scheme would cost £5,000,000. At the moment only a little over £300,000 has been borrowed, so that we are about one-seventeenth way through the scheme.
53. Deputy Booth.—I do not know whether this is typical of Mr. Ó Muireadhaigh but it appears to me to be an incredibly close bit of estimation to find that out of a gross estimate of nearly £8,700,000 there is a surrender of only £1,443. I should not like to let that pass without some comment. It was a magnificent piece of estimation and there is no sign that the expenditure has been restricted in any way. The actual estimates appear to have been extraordinarily good?—We had an opportunity, at a late stage in the year, of revising our estimates because we had to take a Supplementary Estimate in which we took account of the then estimated savings and excesses. It was as a result of having to take the supplementary Estimate that we were able to achieve the result that the Deputy has mentioned.
The witness withdrew.
Mr. H. C. Brady called and examined.
54. Chairman.—Before beginning this Vote I am sure that our Chairman, Deputy Cosgrave, and the members of the Committee would wish that we should express our regret to your Department at the tragedy in the Congo and our sympathy with the relatives of those who have lost their lives and been wounded in this incident.
Mr. Brady—Thank you very much. There was better news this morning. Another survivor has been found. He is suffering from exhaustion.
Chairman.—Paragraphs 88 to 93 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General are as follows:—
“Subhead K.—Provisions and Allowances in lieu
88. Statements have been furnished to me showing the cost of production of bread at the Curragh bakery, and of meat at the Dublin and Curragh abattoirs. The unit costs are as follows:—
The average price of cattle purchased for both Dublin and Curragh areas was £79 per head, as compared with £80 and £77, respectively, in the previous year, while the average production of beef per head was 676 lbs. and 664 lbs., respectively, as compared with 713 lbs. and 675 lbs.
Subhead R.—Fuel, Light and Water in kind and Fuel Oils
89. A considerable increase in electricity consumption has occurred in recent years partly due to the use of unauthorised electrical appliances in soldiers’ married quarters. In reply to my inquiry I was informed that measures taken to control consumption had failed and it was considered that effective control could be achieved only by providing a separate meter for each married quarters. Proposals for action on these lines have recently been submitted to the Department of Finance.
Subhead S.—Barrack Maintenance and New Works
90. Reference was made in paragraph 67 of the report for the year 1948-49 to the purchase of equipment, including a locomotive, for use on works being carried out at a military aerodrome. The locomotive was not put into service and the sanction of the Minister for Finance was subsequently obtained for its retention for use on projects where its employment would effect a saving in labour and transport costs. In 1951 it was accordingly transferred to the Curragh Training Camp for use on the rifle ranges. But in the course of local audit it was noted that very little use had been made of the locomotive since its transfer to the Curragh. In reply to my inquiry I was informed that since April 1959 it had been put into regular service.
91. The charge to this subhead comprises:—
The charge at (a) includes compensation amounting to £7,669 and legal costs amounting to £2,431 in respect of one accident. It also includes compensation of £850 and costs of £1,199 in another case. Further costs of £621 were paid in 1960-61 in respect of the latter accident.
Subhead Y.2—The Reserve Defence Force
92. Premises for use as the headquarters of a battalion of An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil were purchased in 1951 for £1,400 plus fees, on receipt of an inspection report that the buildings were in very good condition, needing only minor repairs. A further inspection in June, 1954 disclosed that the premises were then in very poor condition with practically all the timber suffering from dry rot and woodworm and that some of the out-offices were unsafe. I understand that arrangements are now being made to obtain alternative accommodation and that agreement has been reached for the sale of the property for £400. I invited the observations of the Accounting Officer as to the circumstances in which the premises deteriorated so rapidly and was informed that their condition was due to the presence of dry rot, which might lie dormant for a considerable time before propogation, and of woodworm which might appear at any time and is difficult to detect in the early stages.
Statement of Losses
93. Losses written off during the year are detailed in a statement appended to the account. The total is made up of:—
The corresponding figures for losses in the previous year were £726 and £6,029.”
55. These paragraphs are for information. In regard to paragraph 89, dealing with fuel, etc., has there been any progress?—No, the paragraph sets out the position at the moment. We have done our utmost to control unauthorised use of electricity through periodical inspection. There is a regulation on the subject and the particular paragraph is read out periodically at parades. The engineers have used different methods of limiting current consumption, but it is all to no avail. We feel that it is a matter for the Electricity Supply Board which is a public corporation for supplying electricity. Over the years we have been endeavouring to have the Electricity Supply Board take over the lighting of the quarters but we have not succeeded and, as a last resort, we have decided that we should get the necessary meters ourselves and, if, eventually we convince the Electricity Supply Board that it is their responsibility, we should be able to recover the cost of the meters.
Chairman.—Has the Department of Finance considered this matter and reached any conclusion?
Mr. MacInerney.—We have not reached any conclusion. We would like to be sure of the figure for saving that is likely to accrue and that it would justify the capital expenditure in the worst circumstances, that is, where the Electricity Supply Board would not take over responsibility and the charge would be left on the Department permanently. We hope to reach a conclusion very shortly.
56. Deputy Booth.—In relation to paragraph 90 could we know what does that mean? Presumably there was not a regular passenger or goods service from place to place? Is the whole outfit being moved throughout the country or is it just puffing quietly up and down the Curragh?—The rails were removed to the Curragh for the purpose of bringing targets out to the ranges and the bogies have been in constant use for that purpose. Up to two years ago the locomotive was not in constant use. There was difficulty in getting a driver but that has been overcome by using the pool of engineer corps drivers at the Curragh. The mile of tracks and the bogies have been in constant use and there is no alternative method of moving these targets. The ranges are not suitable for lorries. The targets are very heavy and would have to be carried long distances to and from a lorry. The tracks are essential for this purpose. The bogies were formerly pushed by manpower but, since April of last year, we have the locomotive in use.
57. Chairman.—In relation to paragraph 92 there is just one point about the woodworm. I fully appreciate what can happen about dry rot. It can be in a building which is not used, or a place which cannot be seen, and when the building is put into use and heated, the dry rot appears. I find it difficult to believe that a building which was reported to be in a very good condition would have woodworm, which was difficult to detect in the early stages, and which, in the course of three years, became very noticeable?—That is the information I have, that the dry rot and woodworm caused the deterioration and it was not noticeable at the time the building was purchased.
Deputy Booth.—Was the building in constant use?—The building was in constant use.
Does that mean once a week or every day?—It is in use as a permanent headquarters of An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil and it would be in use all the time.
There would be somebody there all the time?—Yes.
58. Deputy O’Toole.—Would it be right to say you had no inspection from such a person as Professor Bayley Butler on this matter? Was he called in?—No, he was not called in. Prior to our acquiring this building we had another building rented at £95 per annum, plus rates.
Chairman.—So that the premises were in use before 1951?—They were not, but we had rented other premises in the town.
Other premises?—Yes, for which we paid £95 a year plus rates. We have sold the building now to Cavan Vocational Education Committee for £400.
Deputy O’Toole.—Now we know where it is?—I should mention that arising out of the purchase of premises an assurance was given, in 1952, that, in any future cases, the services of an architect would be obtained from the Office of Public Works for the purpose of examining any premises proposed to be purchased. These premises, of course, were purchased prior to that.
Chairman.—Arising out of paragraph 93 we can deal with the losses when we reach them on the Vote.
59. Deputy Sheldon.—On subhead A. —Pay of Officers, Cadets, etc.—may I say you were rather unfortunate in the Supplementary Estimate. None of the items therein seems to have been particularly happy. Was the Supplementary Estimate taken early in the year?—The amount of the Supplementary Estimate was added to the original estimate, and then it is allowed for on page 176, savings of £40,000.
But, in spite of the Supplementary Estimate, there is still a fair amount of difference in practically all the subheads. I do not mind subhead H.—Transport of Troops—so much, but subhead B.— Marriage Allowances—was rather disastrously out?—In the case of subhead B., the excess expenditure was due to the increased number admitted to the married establishment, not to the increase in pay.
All I am asking, Mr. Brady, is this: was the Supplementary Estimate taken at a time which left you unable to allow for these other things that happened?— No. The Supplementary Estimate was only for increases in remuneration and it did not cover these other increases that occurred. The Supplementary Estimate was taken by the Minister for Finance to cover only increases in remuneration.
60. Deputy Booth.—Again on subhead H., reference is made in the notes to increased travelling of personnel of the Forces and increases in transport costs. Does that arise from the moving of various units around the country or is it individual officers in particular, being posted from one station to another?— Following the reorganisation of An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil there was considerable movement of officers around the country. There was a considerable amount of transfer of officers.
61. Does the same explanation apply in the case of subhead I.—Conveyance of Stores? The note on the subhead refers to the increase in the number of removals of furniture consequent upon the reorganisation of the Defence Forces?—Yes.
62. Deputy Jones.—On subhead M.— Clothing and Equipment—in the main it was An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil which was affected by the non-delivery of uniforms. Is there still a backlog in regard to the issuing of uniforms to personnel in An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil?
Deputy Booth.—I think subhead Y.2. refers to uniforms for An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil?—Yes, uniforms for an Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil come under subhead Y.2.
On that subject, this business of the non-delivery of uniforms seems to be a hardy annual. Do we ever catch up?— No, we do not. There are only a few firms in the country making military uniforms. We are more or less in their hands. We are not the only people who get uniforms. The Gardaí and the Post Office also get uniforms. We are all depending on the same two or three firms. We experience difficulty in getting delivery at times.
Deputy Geoghegan.—That is the cloth? —No, it is the making-up, the tailoring. The tailoring is a bigger problem than the cloth. We get very few firms to tender for the making-up of uniforms.
63. Deputy Jones.—Has the question ever arisen of some of these clothing firms seeking an order earlier by the Department?—We place our orders as early in the financial year as we possibly can.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Is it because we are not prepared to pay enough to these people? Is that the real cause of delay? —No. Post Office Stores do the buying. They send out tender forms to various tailoring firms. These forms quote a price and the Post Office people accept the lowest most suitable tender. Very often the successful tenderer is not able to live up to the terms of the contract. A tender for Army uniforms might come from firm A, but the Post Office people might feel that the tenderer could not possibly do the job in the time allotted because of his other contracts for uniforms and they would then go to the next lowest suitable tenderer. It is really that we have very little choice. We are confined to three or four firms. We do our utmost to improve it. It is better now than it was some years ago, but there is still room for improvement.
64. Deputy Booth.—On subhead T.— Military Lands—could we have any information as to what sites were required in Dublin as referred to in the note on the subhead?—There was one site in particular that we had in mind for the purpose of erecting stables. When our horses come back from the Continent they are put in quarantine for a certain period. It was proposed to erect stables for quarantine purposes. We did not go ahead because we were able to make other arrangements.
65. Deputy Jones.—On subhead Y.2— The Reserve Defence Force—what is the position in regard to the supply of uniforms for An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil? What kind of backlog is there in the supply of uniforms for An Fórsa?—There was a backlog of 24,000 at the end of that year, but the position generally with regard to uniforms for An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil has considerably improved. I do not think there is any cause for complaint now about delays in supplying uniforms.
From the time a man is attested about how long is he kept waiting for the issue of a uniform?—I could not answer that.
66. Chairman.—Would the non-issue of uniforms have affected the number reporting for annual training?—No, it would not be a factor at all. They would have their uniforms well in advance of annual training. The delay is in the early stages, when they come in.
Is the Department aware of any particular reason for the drop in the number reporting for annual training?—No. The number varies. We cannot assign any particular cause to it.
67. Deputy Booth.—In regard to item No. 14 in the Appropriations in Aid— Receipts in respect of barrack damages— the estimated sum is £750 and the sum realised £3,308. The note states that the surplus is due mainly to a receipt of £1,587 from the Irish Red Cross Society in respect of damage to Knockalisheen Camp during occupation by refugees. Allowing for this, the receipts in respect of barrack damages are more than double the estimated figure?—The figure is a pure estimate. We can have no indication in advance.
Business suspended at 12.10 p.m. and resumed at 12.25 p.m.
68. Deputy Booth.—Again on item No. 14 in the Appropriations in Aid, the point I have in mind is a rather sore one with me. It is a constant complaint from troops that barrack maintenance is being assisted to an unreasonable extent by payments by soldiers in respect of alleged barrack damages. I should like to know what precautions are taken to ensure that barrack damages are only payable in respect of actual wilful damage?—Of course that is purely an Army administrative matter, but, I think you may take it that payments are insisted on only in respect of wilful damage.
Chairman.—It is also a matter that is very near Departmental policy in this case and the Deputy could perhaps raise it in the House on the Estimate for the Department.
Deputy Booth.—I might do that.
69. Chairman.—On the question of losses—the great increase in losses arises from damage to aircraft?—Largely, yes.
Deputy Booth.—Damage to aircraft— did that lead to any loss of life?—It did, yes, in two cases. Two men were lost in one aircraft and one in another. This occurred early in 1957.
They are only coming in now?—Yes.
70. There is one small point on No. 14 on the losses on page 180: “One slaughtered beast was condemned as unfit for human consumption. The total loss was £78 but the sum of £9 was borne by the contractor and £4 was realised by the sale of the hide.” How was it that the contractor was only asked to bear the sum of £9 and that the balance of £65 was borne out of public funds if the beast was unfit for human consumption?—The agreement requires the contractor to bear a percentage of the loss in a case like this and not all the loss.
Chairman.—Do I take it that the reason for that agreement is that it would be impossible to get a contractor if you did not give some such agreement?— That is so. Previously the rate paid to the contractor was higher and the percentage of the loss was lower; when we pay less to the contractor our percentage of the loss is more on the loss of a beast.
Deputy Booth.—Is that a matter of general policy? I do not know what the percentage for beasts unfit for human consumption would reasonably be, but it still appears to me to be rather hard that we should be allowing the contractor to supply, or even to risk supplying, unfit meat?—The beast when bought, is alive and there may be circumstances in which it would not be known that it was unfit for human consumption. In making the agreement, under this proviso, if the contractor were required to bear the full loss for a beast found unfit for human consummption he would cover himself by making a higher charge for purchasing the beast for us.
Can we take it that this was the only slaughtered beast found unfit for consumption during the year?—That was the only one.
VOTE 58—ARMY PENSIONS.
Mr. H. C. Brady called.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned.