Dáil Éireann - Volume 8 - 27 June, 1924

COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - VOTE No. 11 (RESUMED).

Major COOPER: I want to call attention to the Vote for the Dublin Metropolitan Police, Kill-o'-the-Grange Barrack, Restoration. There is a vote there of £3,000 for an ordinary country police barrack which was, I presume, destroyed during the last five years. I happened to have a police barrack of similar size and character destroyed, and when I put in for compensation I claimed £1,400, and I got £1,200. Why should it take as much as £3,000 to reestablish this country police barrack when the compensation given in the other case is less than half? I think this is an estimate which requires a certain amount of scrutiny. It is a small sum, but it raises a question of principle. If private individuals can only get from £1,000 to £1,200 compensation for destroyed police barracks of very much similar size and character, I cannot see why there should be a vote down for £3,000 in this particular instance, and I await the Minister's explanation.

Mr. BLYTHE: I do not think any explanation is required. The Deputy's statement, I am sure, is as lucid as possible.

Mr. HUGHES: The Deputy was very lucky to get £1,200 out of a claim for £1,400. Some people fared a lot worse.

Mr. T.J. O'CONNELL: I was going to ask the Minister does he propose to deal with the points according as they are raised.

Mr. BLYTHE: I think it would be better to deal with all coming under one heading at once.

Mr. O'CONNELL: There is a matter under the heading of Post Office— “Dublin G.P.O., New Sorting Office.” I think everybody is agreed that it is most essential that provision should be made immediately for a new sorting office in Dublin. The only thing I wish to say on that point is to ask the Minister how soon the work will be put on hand. Since the old G.P.O. was burned down there was never any really suitable position for a sorting office in Dublin, even in the Rink. As conditions exist at the present time they are altogether unsuitable. I would like to urge that the work of providing this new sorting-office should be put on hand at the very earliest opportunity.

Mr. JOHNSON: In regard to “Cork Mícheal Collins Barracks, Reconstruction,” [51] in this table there is no reference to a sum having been voted last year. A sum of £20,000 is required for this year, and £10,000 is the estimated sum already spent. The revised estimate is £30,000. I would like the Minister to give us some information as to what that actually means. What was the nature of the revision? Is it a revision since the £10,000 already spent was voted? Does it mean an enlargement or an alteration in plans, or is it a reduction in the size of the barracks? I would like some information as to what the term “revised estimate” means.

Mr. HEWAT: I suggest, for the convenience of the Dáil, that it would be well to know where we are, because we are jumping from one page to another.

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: We are on “New works, alterations and additions.”

Mr. HEWAT: Is everything before that assumed to be passed?

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: You can raise any question included in the item “New Works.”

Mr. HEWAT: There are several subheads—Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education, and so on. It is rather hard to follow them, unless we take one sub-head at a time.

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: The Deputy can take any item under any sub-head. There has not been very much discussion on the Estimates so far.

Mr. JOHNSON: I want to make it quite clear in regard to £5,000 for the “Governor-General's residence and late Chief Secretary's Lodge: Improvements of Lighting,” that I am passing over that for the time, because I propose to ask for a reduction in the Vote by that amount. Then I propose to discuss that question.

Mr. BLYTHE: With reference to Deputy O'Connell's question as to the extension of the Library, that extension is several years overdue. The National Library is very congested, indeed, in the matter of space. In some [52] sections of it is not possible to have the files of newspapers that are attached to the Library stored away. It is proposed to erect at the rere of the School of Arts an extension which will cost the amount that is mentioned in the Estimates. For many years there have been in existence plans for that and for the extension of the National Library. The accumulation of books and other material requires additional space.

With regard to the loan under the Act of 1875 for teachers' residences, since the start of the European War and before the change of Government, the issue of loans out of the Local Loans Fund has been suspended. This year we have put in the Local Loans Estimate provision for a certain sum that will enable us to re-open to some extent the Local Loans Fund for the issue of loans. We are now considering under what category loans may be issued out of it. In view of the fact that we would have to borrow, and borrowing has its difficulties particularly at the present time, we were not able to provide a large sum for the Local Loans Fund; but we have devoted some money to that purpose, and I am hoping that a decision will be come to very shortly as to what class of work it may be possible to issue loans for out of that Fund.

I will consider the question of money for teachers' residences. Prior to the change of Government it was, I believe, recognised that the position indicated by the Deputy which enabled a house built for a teacher's residence to be sold as soon as the loan was paid off, was undesirable, but it was difficult when the loan had been paid off, and liability did not exist, to prevent the person occupying the house disposing of it. It is a matter that I have not looked into, but it can be taken up. I refuse to be drawn into a discussion on the Damage to Property Act, which was referred to by Deputy Cooper. I do not think I need say anything on the point raised.

For a long time it has been recognised that it was costly to have the Post Office sorting done under the circumstances in which it was done prior to the desctruction of the Rink, and that it is costly to have it done under [53] present circumstances. It is recognised that a new sorting office should be provided. Negotiations are now in progress for the acquisition of a very suitable site. I hope that before we come to the Post Office Estimate, negotiations will finally be completed, and it may be possible to indicate to the Dáil where the site is. Once that has been accomplished the work of carrying out the necessary building will be at once undertaken, and we hope by this time next year the Post Office will have possession of the new sorting office which it is intended to provide.

With regard to the Estimate for the Mícheal Barracks, Cork, the revised Estimate is one of £30,000 as against £40,000 originally. The reduction was arrived at by deciding to omit certain works originally contemplated. We are building for 700 men, with the appropriate number of officers, and we are not reinstating the building fully. If that were done it would provide accommodation for 1,400 men and officers. The cost, therefore, would be much more than proportionally greater. It would amount to something like £187,000. It is necessary to have the accommodation in Cork, because, of course, it is a place where we are always bound to have a military establishment, and there is no excess accommodation being provided.

Mr. HEWAT: Under the heading of “Urgent Unforeseen Works” is it really necessary to vote any money? It seems to be something in the air altogether. Last year £10,000 were voted, and there was nothing spent. Now we are asked to vote £5,000. Is something unforeseen likely to arise? If something does arise could it not be put on the Supplementary Estimates? It is rather much to expect that the Minister is going to run through the year without Supplementary Estimates.

Mr. BLYTHE: Not being a prophet, I cannot answer Deputy Hewat, but I think there is really no harm in providing this small margin. We should aim at running through the year without Supplementary Estimates. If we decide on further buildings, for instance, for the Civic Guard, it will be necessary to have a Supplementary Estimate, but that would be for a definite and specific purpose. I think this is [54] not an excessive margin, and, contrary to what Deputy Hewat feared when we were dealing with the previous provision, it does not seem to have led anybody to expend money.

Mr. HEWAT: Perhaps they were in an economic mood then, and that may not continue.

Mr. JOHNSON: Under the heading of “Maintenance and Supplies” I wonder whether the Minister has taken into account the amount that might be saved in respect to the Governor-General's residence? Last year £11,000 were voted, and this year £10,000 are asked. For maintenance and supplies £7,500 are allocated; £900 for furniture, fittings and utensils; and £1,600 for fuel, light, water and cleaning. It seems to me that in the present circumstances the sum for maintenance of that residence, including the Private Secretary's lodge, is excessive as a charge upon the public fund, particularly in addition to all the other charges. I ask the Minister whether he is as economical in respect to this as he is in matters dealing with the public who are not Governors-General. To ask us to vote £10,000 for the maintenance of that residence, is asking us to show an example of extravagance. I want to bear in mind that this vote is additional to what was voted for the household. It is a sum intended simply for the purpose of maintaining the place and providing fuel, light and cleaning, things that would ordinarily come out of the pay of any other officer of the State. We are bound to provide for the establishment, but I am doubtful that we are bound to provide for maintenance at this rate. I think we could save probably £5,000 and still do the thing well.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE resumed the Chair.

Mr. JOHNSON: There are two items on this Vote, one of which is for new works, and I intend to contest it; then there is this item for £10,000, which I think is extravagance. I would like to have some definite assurance that the Minister has been as close in his scrutiny of expenses in this respect as he has in other respects, more especially when dealing with the average man in the street. I think the amount is too great, and there should be a reduction.

[55] Mr. DAVIN: I want to draw attention to the amount provided for the maintenance and repair of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Some considerable time ago Deputy Cooper, in the Dáil, and Senator the Earl of Mayo, in the Seanad, drew the attention of the Minister for Finance to the discomforts arising as a result of the lack of proper accommodation on this pier. In the Estimates for the year there is, apparently, no provision for anything in the nature of repairs to this harbour. I believe and am aware that engineers attached to the Board of Works and the different railway companies who do business at the pier and who have reason to appreciate the difficulties of the situation there, were in consultation some time ago. Naturally, one would expect something to result from their consultation. It must be quite obvious to anybody who has had experience of travelling either to or from England, especially in a boat where you have usually three or four hundred passengers or over that number, that there are discomforts, especially since the setting up of the Customs barrier.

Those discomforts are very great. I draw attention to this matter to show that although people may be interested, and are, no doubt, interested, in doing useful work in regard to the development of tourist traffic in this country, that the inconveniences and discomforts caused by lack of proper accommodation at Carlisle Pier are injuring the work those people are doing and the objects they have so much at heart. On to-day's Order Paper we have the State Harbours Bill put down for consideration. The Ministry of Finance are seeking the right, and properly so, to impose dues in Dunmore and Dun Laoghaire Harbours and to alter the laws which apply to those harbours. If it is the duty of the Government, and I believe it is, to seek those powers and impose those dues to whatever extent they may think fit, it is also their duty to see that the harbour accommodation is suitable. I believe the matter is purely an engineering one, but if it is the intention of the Government to alter the position in regard to Dun Laoghaire Harbour they should also make provision in the Estimates to [56] carry out necessary works. This, I consider, is a suitable opportunity to endeavour to ascertain from the Minister what is being done or what has been done to effect, what must be obvious to him, are desirable improvements. I would like if the Minister would indicate whether or not it is the intention of the Government to make any improvements in the existing accommodation at the Carlisle Pier.

Major COOPER: This Estimate covers such a variety of subjects that I am afraid my remarks will rather follow the Scotchman's description of the haggis, a fine, confused feeding. But when one has to deal with Government offices and parks, the sea and the land, one must cover a good deal of ground. I would like to endorse what Deputy Davin has said about the Customs arrangements at Dun Laoghaire, and also Deputy Johnson's remarks about the Viceregal Lodge. I would like to supplement Deputy Johnson's remarks by asking whether any person who is fortunate enough to possess a house of the same size as the Viceregal Lodge would be allowed to deduct £10,000 for maintenance and upkeep from his valuation for his income tax. I return to the sea. We are in discussing this Estimate under one disadvantage that I do not know that the Dáil has realised. About three months ago I saw in the publications of the Stationery Office the annual report of the Board of Works. In order to discuss this Estimate, I will not say with more intelligence, but with less stupidity, I got that, and I found to my surprise it did not deal with the year 1923-24 at all; it dealt merely with the year 1922. So far from dealing with the destruction and the harm done by the Irregulars, it dealt at considerable length with the problems of taking over from the British. I do not blame the Ministry. They are following a very bad precedent, when the Irish Estimates were barely discussed, and if they were discussed the discussion was concentrated on one or two points, bad administration, or something of that kind, and the result was that no one read the Blue Books when they came out. The Board of Works are now [57] getting into the habit of thinking that it does not matter when they produce their official reports, but an official Department ought to be able to produce their annual report for the year it is dealing with, and we should not now be getting the report for 1922 instead of the report for the year 1923-24. I hope the Minister will consider this. Any improvements of this kind must be gradual, and I do not ask that next year we should have the Estimate instantly, but that gradually an endeavour should be made to expedite it. That is not the only thing which makes you know that the Board of Works is a Department which moves with somewhat dignified deliberation. The National Association of Fishermen are very anxious to obtain a fish-curing station on the West Pier at Dun Laoghaire. On May 21st the Ministry of Fisheries wrote to them that the decision of the Board of Works as to the establishment of this fish-curing station was expected in a few days.

Mr. ESMONDE: Would not this discussion arise on the general motion, and not on this particular Estimate, “Maintenance and other charges?”

Major COOPER: “Maintenance, repairs, and other current charges.” Dun Laoghaire Harbour comes under this, and I am questioning the administration of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. I think it is an appropriate time to raise it.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Dun Laoghaire Harbour is undoubtedly mentioned.

Major COOPER: That decision was expected on the 21st May, in a few days. It may, of course, have gone astray in the Ministry of Fisheries, and, if it has not, the Minister will have an opportunity of making a reply to that.

MINISTER for FISHERIES (Mr. Lynch): It did not.

Major COOPER: If it did not, I hope the Board of Works Ministry will realise that in matters of business sometimes time is money, and that long deferring the consideration of a matter of this kind is injurious, for assuming that the establishment of this [58] station is rejected, then some other station ought to be established somewhere else, and it is important to the people interested in the matter that they should know where they stand. I turn from Dun Laoghaire to Howth Harbour. I understand, but I should like more detailed information from the Minister, that regulations are to be issued, and administrative arrangements are being made, to prevent fishermen from mooring their boats more inland on the quay. It is obvious when a good many boats come in they can unload more quickly if moored end-on, and unless that does injury to the pier it should be allowed. It may be, I do not know, that there is no precedent for that. I know that in the Mediterranean I have seen ships so moored for a mile and a half, but that is not tidal water. The intentions of the Department in this matter should be made clear, for the fishermen are entirely in the dark in the matter. I leave the sea and return to the Phoenix Park. I understand a responsible body, the National Athletic and Cycling Association, which has control of athletic and cycling events in the Saorstát, made application to the Board of Works for ground for a pavilion for training purposes in the Park, and it was refused, and no reason was given for the refusal. I think, when we are dealing with a representative body of that kind, and where there is, as I think, space in the Park that could be used for this purpose, at least some definite reason should be given for this refusal. You cannot deal with a body that has a King's Counsel as Chairman, and a representative Committee, and who are sending people to maintain the honour of the Saorstát at the Olympic Games, as if they were a girls' school asking for somewhere to play hockey. I hope the Minister will make a case in this matter.

Another matter is the disposal of the present unoccupied buildings in the Park for which we are voting a considerable sum of money amounting, in all, to £12,000. The Royal Hibernian Military School, the Chief Secretary's Lodge and the Under-Secretary's Lodge were voted a large sum of [59] money. If it is not proposed to put these buildings to any use whatever, is there any reason why they should not be sold, and if there is, is there any reason why the cost of the upkeep should not be placed either on a Government Department or the occupant, whoever he may be? We are asked to vote £2,000 for fuel, light, water, and cleaning for the Royal Hibernian School. That is an excessive amount. A certain amount of heat is needed, undoubtedly, as the building would deteriorate unless it is kept warm, but I think £2,000 is a large order. It is not a proposition. I think, that any of us would adopt in the case of a house of our own, and nobody knows what is going to happen to this building. A statement of the intentions of the Government is, I think, overdue. Now, I come to the last point, which may be described as a small point, and that is the discrepancies in the amount voted for the service of various Government Offices. For instance, take fuel, light, water and cleaning, it costs £15 a year to light and clean the Postmaster-General, but it costs £25 a year to light and clean the Minister for External Affairs; why this discrepancy? The Postmaster-General has a very much larger Department, and there are many more employees; why should he be able to have his official Department warmed, lighted and cleaned for £15, while the Minister for External Affairs requires £25? Is it that the Minister for External Affairs entertains Oriental potentates, and that he has to keep up large fires in order to make them feel at home? The Minister for Fisheries comes half way; he costs £20 for fuel, light, water and cleaning, and I hope a certain excess of water may be allowed in that Department. I do not quarrel with that. I would like to know is it the policy of the Board of Works to accept what a Government Department puts down as necessary? For instance, for furniture, fittings and utensils the Postmaster-General's account is economical, costing £10, whilst the Minister for Fisheries costs £25. It may be the fishing utensils are fishing rods for use on holidays, in which case I would not quarrel with that.

[60] Mr. LYNCH: Our Department is new, and the office had to be fitted up almost newly.

Major COOPER: These things should be standardised to a certain extent. These are very small things, I admit, but as a question of policy there should be some definite scale, and every Government Department should be kept within limits. I will give the Minister credit for insisting on limits. If the Minister for External Affairs discovers it costs him £500 to light and warm himself, the Minister would say a good deal, but the limits should be made more drastic, and a definite policy should be adopted in these matters.

Professor THRIFT: I would like to support and supplement a little what Deputy Cooper has said in reference to the application of the National Athletic and Cycling Association, because that application, I understand, was made in reference to having some ground on which athletes might obtain the necessary training with a view to the forthcoming athletic events, and it does seem that there is very reasonable grounds, indeed, for their request. Provision could be made for them very adequately in the Phoenix Park. There is plenty of room there, I think you will all admit. It seems to be a very reasonable application, and apparently it has been turned down without any justification. I would like also to refer to the point Deputy Johnson raised, for the special reason that he refers to the different charges in regard to the maintenance of the Governor-General's residence. Now, I fully agree that if we are to maintain that residence we could do it on a scale that would be a credit to us; but I am not prepared to say whether the sums I see specified in the estimate are requisite for the purpose or not. As a matter of form, however, I think it important we should not have the same matter referred to in two distinct places in the Estimates. In one page of the Estimate we have a definite sum put down for the maintenance of the Governor-General's residence; apparently the very same heading occurs [61] in quite another part of the Estimates. There appears on page 36 a provision for the maintenance of the Governor-General's residence, £5,000, and then later on under the heading of “State and Official Residences” the maintenance of the Governor-General's residence is again mentioned on an estimate of £7,500. I think as a matter of form that every item should have its special place, and not appear in two distinct places.

Mr. ESMONDE: I see the Passport Office is put down under the heading of the Ministry of Home Affairs, but I presume that is a mistake, in view of the passing of the Ministries and Secretaries Act. There is the question of the coastguard stations and their maintenance. I wonder if the Minister can give any information as to the exact position of the coastguard stations at present. I know of a case of a coastguard station which presumably belongs to the Government, and which presumably was then sold to a private individual, and the Government now pays a substantial rent for a small section of the building for the benefit of the Civic Guard. I do not know how that transaction is brought about, but the Minister will, no doubt, give some information as to how coastguard stations were sold and what the position is in regard to them.

Mr. DAVIN: I desire to support Deputy Cooper in the request he has made in regard to the National Athletic and Cycling Association. I did not know, as a matter of fact, that the subjects mentioned by Deputy Cooper and Deputy Thrift could be raised on this point, but the matter has been brought under my notice by some people who are interested in the promotion of athletic clubs, and I have been asked to support Deputy Cooper and Deputy Thrift in calling attention to the matter. I might refer to the fact, that for a number of years I devoted most of my spare time, before I became a member of this House, in availing myself of the privileges of training with an athletic club in the grounds of the Phoenix Park. It must be obvious to everybody who has taken [62] any notice of the activities of such clubs in the Park that they are suffering under great disadvantages. You have to go to the Park, strip and dress in the open, and be attended to by your trainer in the open, if you are able to afford one. I think that is not right or proper. The Board of Works might out of the very great amount of land at their disposal in the Park, set aside some portion of their property as a ground for training purposes upon which an athletic club or the general body of the clubs could, at their own expense, erect a suitable pavilion for the purpose of seeing that athletes were properly attended to. I think, at any rate, the Minister might, if he has not got the time to consider the proposal, instruct the Board of Works to receive a deputation from the National Athletic and Cycling Association, for the purpose of discussing the application which has been already turned down. I think the claims of such bodies are entitled to more considerate treatment than they have received by the curt refusal which they have got from the Board of Works in connection with the application already made. I trust that in view of the Tailteann Games and the Olympic Games and the return to normal conditions in this country, that anything that is concerned with the promotion of sport will receive the support of the Government. If you get people to think more about sport and less about politics in this country you would have a more normal condition of things.

Captain REDMOND: I have also been approached in this matter, and I desire to put in a word on behalf of this Association. I understand the members of this Association come from the class who generally cannot join individual clubs and therefore have not at their disposal grounds such as Trinity College grounds or the University College grounds. I am also led to believe that when the Association approached the Board of Works they were received most courteously, and they also received a certain assurance that grounds in the Phoenix Park would be placed at their disposal. To their great surprise they were subsequently told that the decision had been reconsidered. Now this Association comprises young [63] people from all classes and walks of life in and around the City of Dublin, and I am told that there is no place at their disposal. They are not in a position to provide out of their own funds for suitable grounds, and I do not think that the expenditure, if any, would be very great on the Exchequer. At first I rather gathered from Deputy Davin that the Association wished that the Government should erect this shelter or pavilion, but I gathered afterwards that they were prepared to stand the necessary expense themselves. If that is so the only obstacle, in a financial way, at any rate, would seem to be the preparing of the ground or the marking of it off. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell the Committee what that would amount to. I do not think it would amount to very much, and in view of all these representations coming from different parts and different parties in the House, I hope he will be able to reconsider his decision in the matter.

Mr. HEWAT: I just desire to make a general criticism of the various items under the heading of B. It is very hard to follow the whys and the wherefores of the various alterations one sees in the Estimates, and this is, therefore, hardly perhaps the time to criticise them very minutely. There are some things, however, that strike the eye. Take, for instance, the Stationery Office. Last year the Estimate was £3,155; this year it is only £977. That seems a very meritorious performance and would seem to indicate the exercise of some economy in some direction, but where the difference can arise it is difficult to see without some explanation. On page 40 we have an item in respect of the Museum, School of Art, National Library, etc. That is an item one would imagine would be a reducing estimate, whereas the Estimate last year was £4,500, while this year it is £5,800. That is a fairly substantial increase on that particular item. Then, again, the Land Commission last year were satisfied with £2,008, and this year they want £4,344. No doubt there is some explanation which does not appear on the face of it. On page 41 we find that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce [64] were satisfied last year with £2,615; this year they are looking for £4,048. One would have imagined that there was nothing in the Department of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce that would call for that increase.

There, again, I can only draw attention to the fact that there is an increase without giving any explanation for it, because I have not got it. On the same page we find that last year the Ministry of Industry and Commerce was not called on to provide anything for Coast Life Saving Service, but this year they want a sum of £3,900. A Coast Life Saving Service is, of course, a very meritorious thing, but it is a new service altogether. There was no charge under this heading before, and one is curious to know how the necessity for this expenditure of £3,900 has arisen. Under the heading of the Post Offices a sum of £17,965 was sufficient last year for postal telegraph and telephone services, notwithstanding, I suppose, that there was some exceptional expenditure during that time. This year the estimate jumped up to £21,200. At a time when we are supposed to be exercising very drastic economy in all the Departments, some of these figures are rather startling. Further down on the same page one would naturally look under the heading of the coastguard stations for some increase, because under the new order of things it is very necessary to develop coastguard services throughout the country. A good many of them were shut up during the war, and one would expect an increase there. On the contrary, the estimate here shows that only a sum of £4,670 is provided as against £8,250 last year. I hope the economy in that direction is not false economy. Of course, it is very welcome to see a saving, but one would prefer to see these savings on the other heads that have an increased expenditure rather than on that particular service. Again, we want an explanation on that point. Deputy Cooper referred to the maintenance of the Chief Secretary's and the Under-Secretary's Lodges. They do seem to cost an extraordinary amount of money. In the case of the Chief Secretary's Lodge there is an increase over last year, and in the case of the Under-Secretary's [65] Lodge there is a very substantial increase. One would have expected to see the estimates under these heads considerably reduced.

Under the heading of Harbours, Howth has already been referred to. I do not know whether the trade of Howth is increasing by leaps and bounds, but it does not appear to me from casual observation that there has been such an increase in trade there as would warrant an increase in expenditure to the extent of £2,145 this year as against £1,664 last year. Under the same heading you get an estimate for dredgers of £9,350 as against nothing last year. That will probably be explained somewhere else, but this seems to be very considerable expenditure. I do not know that I have in my experience found that there is any unusual activity by the Government in regard to dredgers. Certainly the harbours in the neighbourhood of Dublin do not seem to have been dredged to the extent that that expenditure would indicate. I presume that is capital expenditure.

Mr. O'CONNELL: There is just one question I would like to ask before the Minister replies: has the Minister for Defence an official residence?

Mr. BLYTHE: I will take the matters raised in the order in which they were raised. On this question of the Governor-General, it seems to me that we generally have a political discussion masquerading as an economy discussion, and it is very difficult to take it always as seriously as some people would expect. The residence that is occupied by the Governor-General is a huge rambling building which is most costly to keep up. There are grounds around it which must be kept in some sort of decent condition, and the expense of keeping it up is not considered high in the circumstances. As a matter of fact, during the last years that there were Lords Lieutenant there, the cost of maintenance averaged about £12,500 as against, I think, £7,500 that we have down. I do not know that we could well reduce that without allowing the building and the place to become dilapidated and discreditable to us, as the establishment where the Governor-General resides.

With regard to the discomforts at [66] Dun Laoghaire Harbour, I must say that I have crossed to England and back several times, got my luggage examined by Customs officials in the ordinary way, got no exemption, and I experienced no discomfort. I really think that while there might be minor matters on which it would be possible to have more ideal arrangements, there is nothing pressing about the present state of affairs.

On the question of reports, I will look into that. I think it would be impossible to have a report at the end of the year with which it would deal if the report were to be at all carefully compiled. Then, it must be remembered that on account of all the work that had to be done by the Board of Works during the last year or two years, not merely in connection with the military, but also in connection with the Damage to Property Act, there has been a very great strain thrown on that Department, and it certainly has been more necessary to try to get on with the current work than to be preparing reports.

Major COOPER: Would the Minister consider bringing out a report from the 1st January to 31st December at the end of the financial year— that is on the 31st March? That would be on a firm basis.

Mr. BLYTHE: I will consider that. With regard to the fish-curing station at Dun Laoghaire, I have really nothing at hand about it. It seems to me that this matter, like a couple of other matters that have been raised, should either be brought up in the Dáil, in the first instance, by way of question, or notice should be given that they would be raised on the Estimates. It is impossible for anybody to have notes or any means of answering offhand matters of casual operation by Departments when raised on the Estimates. It seems to me that to raise matters of that sort, in the first instance, on the Estimates, without notice, simply means that time is taken up, since no satisfactory answer can be given. Those are things about which anybody who is responsible must have notice. The same remark applies with regard to the application of the National Athletic and Cycling Association. I do [67] not know when this refusal was given. It may have been given recently or it may have been given some time ago. I do not recollect that any question was addressed to me in the Dáil, and certainly no notice was given me with regard to it. I simply know nothing about it. I could not be expected to answer questions regarding the everyday business of Departments in that way.

Professor THRIFT: I accept the Minister's correction, and I think it was well deserved. I think we ought to give notice of matters of this kind. But I would like to know whether the Minister will inquire into them.

Mr. BLYTHE: I will do that.

Major COOPER: Does the Minister realise that it was very hard to know when Estimates were to come on, in order to give notice? Estimates are so long on the Order Paper that we had almost given up hope of reaching them.

Mr. BLYTHE: Deputy Johnson gave me notice about a matter in connection with the Stationery Office a month or so ago. I may not be able to satisfy him, but I will not be able to say that he sprang the matter on me. Dealing with the question of unappropriated buildings, at present the Royal Hibernian School is used as a barracks. The expense is borne here exceptionally on the Board of Works Estimate, because it is not estimated that it will continue as barracks. If it were to continue as barracks the cost would appear otherwise. With regard to the late Chief Secretary's Lodge and the late Under-Secretary's Lodge, it is an extravagance to continue them as they are at the present time. I am not very keen on letting them to private individuals. I do not think it is very desirable that that should be done. The point has been raised as to whether at some later stage, so that disturbance would not be caused, the Chief Secretary's Lodge might not be a good enough establishment for some other purpose. However, I think this is a matter that might remain over.

Captain REDMOND: It might be utilised as a residence for the President?

[68] Mr. BLYTHE: If you are going to put the President there, you will have to give him a salary of about £10,000 a year. I suggested at one time that the President should occupy it, and he was very much offended, indeed. He was just as much offended when I mentioned the occupation of the Under-Secretary's Lodge. They are really houses that it is impossible to use for the residence of Ministers or any officials we have, because they could not afford to live in them. We have under consideration the disposal of these buildings. Meantime they have to be kept up, and the furniture cannot be allowed to become blue-mouldy. But I realise that the present position cannot be continued. Some use must be found for these premises, or it might be as well definitely to dismantle them.

Somebody referred to the official residence of the Minister for Defence. Lissonfield House was the official residence of the Minister for Defence, and he paid a rent for it. It was so set apart during General Mulcahy's tenure of that office, as it was considered desirable that he should be close to the centre of military activity. It is still occupied by General Mulcahy.

The discrepancies Deputy Cooper talked about, in regard to the cost of fuel and cleaning in the different offices, arise out of the size of the offices. The Postmaster-General in Government buildings only occupies two rooms. The Ministry of External Affairs occupies a greater number of rooms, and I do not think we could really ration them out and say that the cost shall be the same in the case of each Ministry, irrespective of the number of rooms occupied or the number of staff employed. On the question that Deputy Esmonde raised, I would have to ask him for some information. I would like to know of the coastguard station he referred to. I have nothing which would enable me to deal with the matter at the moment. So far, we have been simply holding on to the coastguard stations. A great many of them were burned and are in ruins. Until some decision has been come to as to what will be required in the way of a coast-watching service, for which they might be used, we cannot do anything.

[69] Mr. ESMONDE: I will give the Minister information about this particular case.

Mr. BLYTHE: Deputy Hewat referred to a large number of matters, all of which I was unable to take a note of. In the case of the Stationery Office, the reduction that occurred was really due to the question of rent. During last year the Stationery Office Authorities were in a building which was let to them at an outrageously high rent. They had to take it at the period of the fighting which followed the Four Courts, when it was difficult to get a building, and when they were obliged to leave the building in which they had been, because it was not weatherproof. They had large stocks of paper and articles that would have been destroyed by rain. They went into a building which they hoped to occupy only for a few months until they would get into Oriel House or some of the military barracks. Delays occurred. They were not able to leave the temporary premises which they took at what was an excessive rent, and it was only comparatively recently they were able to get into Oriel House. The saving is due to getting into a building which we had possession of at a moderate rent.

I will consider whether it would be possible to set out those Estimates in some other form, which would enable the comparisons to which Deputy Hewat drew attention to be more easily made and to be more easily explained. But there are, as everybody knows, quite a number of casual expenditures in connection with every office—items that are not recurrent or not recurrent annually. These Estimates are bound to go up and down because of that. As regards dredgers, that matter arises from the fact that the cost of dredgers is now being shown separately, and is not being included in the cost of any harbour maintenance or other works.

Mr. HEWAT: Is the figure £9,350 ordinary cost, not capital expenditure?

Mr. BLYTHE: Ordinary cost.

Major COOPER: The only thing I should like to ask the Minister, with regard to compensation for premises [70] commandeered by the Army, is how far this Vote of £100,000 is likely to meet that compensation. Has he any sort of Estimate as to what is the total amount that will be required for compensation, because we know from a previous debate that there has been a great amount of damage—and sometimes unnecessary damage—done, and the compensation required will be very heavy.

Mr. PATRICK HOGAN (Clare): I would like to ask the Minister if he would give us some definite information as to what is the basis on which he calculates the compensation to be paid for these premises. There seems to be nothing definite in the matter. I had occasion here some time ago to make similar references and to point out that the troops occupied these premises perhaps months in advance of any investigation by the Board of Works. The Board of Works Inspector goes into these premises, and it is not what actually was in those premises that compensation is paid for at all. It is what the Inspector thinks should be in the premises. He reconstructs the house and the furniture and the general get-up, and he makes no allowances whatever. It would be impossible for him to do so, because he does not know what was there. It would be impossible for him to reconstruct the place even in his imagination. Unfortunately, he gives nothing like adequate compensation. These things are being referred to from every quarter in the Dáil, and it is nearly time the Minister gave us some definite statement as to how the compensation is assessed and on what basis.

There is also the question of delay. I have in mind at the moment one particular case where the troops were in possession of the whole place, which was, one might say, rendered useless for occupation for a considerable time. An assessement was made, and I drew the Minister's attention to it in a question here. Subsequently, with the applicant, I went to the Board of Works and put the position up to them. This applicant had to leave his house and live outside with his wife and family. I put it up to the Board of Works that the difference between what he could live in his own house for and what he [71] would pay outside was at least reasonable compensation to pay the man. That was put up six weeks ago. I spoke to the Board of Works people the other day, and I was told that that position was never put up. I put it up myself to them for two hours. Those are things that are likely to sap the confidence of any people in the sense of fair play of a Board dealing with matters of this kind. There is the method of assessment, the delay in dealing with claims, and the evasion of straight cases which one puts before them, and I would like the Minister to give us some definite statement on these three points.

Mr. HEWAT: This is an Estimate for £100,000 for the present year. I presume it has nothing to do with the year that the Estimate is for at all. These are claims that are coming in from a previous period. I would like to be assured by the Minister that the whole system of commandeering has ceased. It is not reasonable to commandeer any man's property, except in case of emergency. One recognises, of course, that it was necessary in the past, but I would like a clear assurance that in the future it will not be a case of commandeering any man's property without his permission or without has having agreed to terms. This question of the terms and the value of the service and all that sort of thing must be a very heavy item in administration, but it is caused by the fact of the Government coming in and taking a man's property without any agreement as to what they were going to pay or any recognised rule as regards compensation. If that has been necessary in the past, may we hope it will not be necessary in the future?

Mr. BLYTHE: With regard to the point that Deputy Hewat has raised, there is a definite Army Order against commandeering now except in cases of extreme emergency. It has been arranged that if such a case should occur, arrangements are to be made to have some representative of the Board of Works attend for the purpose of making a valuation of anything that may be there, with a representative of the owner, so that it will be possible to [72] have a firm basis to go on for compensation afterwards. But I would hope there would be little or no commandeering in future. It is impossible to know whether this Estimate of £100,000 will suffice. Claims are still coming in, and there are still large numbers of claims unsettled. It is difficult to know the precise figure, but this is the best Estimate we could make of what would be required. It is simply a shot at the amount, but it was thought it would probably be sufficient.

Deputy Hogan makes a sort of complaint about the way these matters are dealt with. There are one or two things I would ask the Deputy to bear in mind. The officials who deal with these cases have no financial interest in paying less than is due. It gains the official who cuts down a claim absolutely nothing. He gets no commission on reductions. It will gain him no credit or promotion if he gets the name of being unreasonable and of being likely to cause questions to be put here which cannot be satisfactorily answered.

So that, really, it must be taken that the people who are dealing with this, if they are stringent, are only stringent out of a sense of duty, and are only anxious to do what is fair to the State. But there is no reason why an official should go beyond what is reasonable and fair, and I do believe there are no cases where there is any attempt to do other than what is right. The Deputy must be aware that the great majority of claims put in are exaggerated. I heard lately of a series of cases—I think almost 200 cases—which were heard recently in one particular county under the Damage to Property Act, where the awards totalled eighteen per cent. of the claims. That is the sort of claim that we have coming in under the Damage to Property Act. We have really the same sort of claim coming in in great numbers in connection with commandeered premises. There must be a great deal of scrutiny, and there must be an attempt to get the people who claim for certain things to prove that they were there. I do not stand for depriving people of what is justly due, and there is no encouragement or any attempt to get any official to stand for that. On the [73] other hand, I think the officials who act in the matter have a duty to the ordinary people who are paying as well as to the individuals who are claiming, and they must examine these things with all possible care. In a great majority of cases we have been able to effect settlements and, so far as I know, the big majority of the people are reasonably satisfied, even if they did not get all they wanted to get. Even where they were excessive, they were put in from, what you might call, a comparison point of view. When people see damage they think of what it will cost to repair. They do not think of the amount of wear that has been got out of things and how they have depreciated. All these things are taken into account. People are often dissatisfied to a certain extent when they are beaten down. There might be cases where the thing works unfairly.

Mr. HOGAN (Clare): How does the Minister calculate the depreciation in things that are not seen at all by the Inspectors?

Mr. BLYTHE: That is one of the difficulties. I can imagine that there was a great deal of talk about things that never existed. An inspector would be up against that; he would have that sort of suspicion in his mind. As regards the matter of delay, of course, there has to be a great deal of sifting of claims. The very fact that there are claims which are not only excessive in the ordinary way of bargaining, but which are grossly and almost fraudulently excessive, take up a great deal of time. You cannot employ an unlimited staff in these matters. You cannot employ anybody off the street to deal with them, and there must be delays, but I think a good deal of the work is being got through.

Major COOPER: Would the Minister tell us if any steps are being taken to try and recover furniture that has been removed or commandeered? I have been told that a good deal of furniture removed from my house is now in Finner Camp Military quarters.

Mr. BLYTHE: In those cases steps have been taken, and in some cases we have people in gaol. With regard to Finner Camp, I think that is a matter [74] we will have to get the Minister for Defence to look into. In general, I think what can be done is being done. The Minister for Justice may be able to say more than that; he may be able to say more about that than I can.

Mr. HOGAN (Clare): Is the Minister aware that County Court Judges will not in any circumstances entertain claims for compensation where the military seized furniture, and which furniture could not under any conditions be traced?

Mr. BLYTHE: If that is so the matter can be dealt with by the Defence Department. I think there is no disposition to refuse to pay where a case can be proven that the furniture was taken.

Mr. NAGLE: The Minister, in his reply, stated there were some cases that might be considered unfair. I have a case in mind; I am going to ask him if he considers it unfair. There was a lady in Millstreet, a Miss O'Mahony, whose house was commandeered, originally by the military. After the military had been there about five months they evacuated it and left it idle for three or four months. During that time the windows and doors were open, the locks having been smashed. The wind kept the doors banging day and night. Finally she had it put into repair, and she was exactly one day in occupation, when it was again commandeered by the Civic Guard. Since then she has been living with a sister about four or five miles away in the country. She was awarded £75 compensation for the original occupation and damage done by the military. She has been unable to arrive at any satisfactory arrangement with the Board of Works in regard to the occupation by the Civic Guard. Finally they decided to offer £4 10s. a month rent. The house contains four or five rooms, and a shop is attached to it. The lady had been living for years in these particular premises. She had a small business of the usual huxter's shop kind, dealing in cigarettes, candles and other things. She claims that for many years she lived completely out of the profits of this shop. And the Board of Works offer her £4 10s. a month for the premises, making [75] no allowance for the loss she has incurred, due to her business being destroyed for the last eighteen months.

I would like to ask the Minister if he considers that one of the unfair cases, and if it is one of the unfair cases whether he will consider the whole thing with a view to having the lady compensated for her loss of business. I received a reply to a letter of mine from the Board of Works on the 9th June in which they stated that there are no alternative premises for the Civic Guard in Millstreet. There were some items on the Estimates about repairs having been done to Civic Guard barracks. I pointed out in a number of letters, extending over the last seven or eight months, that there is an old barracks in Millstreet. The information I got down there was that it belongs to the Government. It would not cost more than about £400 to put in proper order for the habitation of the Guards. Yet they are prepared to spend £3,000 in the repair of a Civic Guard barrack in the vicinity of Dublin. They would not spend £400 on this barrack so that this lady might get back her premises and be able to earn something like a living. I would like to ask the Minister is he prepared to consider that particular case as an unfair case.

Mr. BLYTHE: Just before we report progress, I want to say that I will have that case looked into. There is no doubt if there was a profit being made out of the shop that compensation should be given for loss of business as apart from the rent of the premises. A barrack, of course, could not be built instantaneously, and there is no discrimination against Cork in the matter of building barracks.

I move to report progress.