Dáil Éireann - Volume 46 - 16 March, 1933

Public Business. - Land (Purchase Annuities Fund) Bill, 1933—Final Stages.

Question—“That the Bill be received for final consideration”—put and agreed to.

Question proposed—“That the Bill do now pass.”

Mr. Cosgrave: On that point, this is an Act which sets out, perhaps in the first section, all that it means, and it states: “it is hereby enacted that the moneys which are at the passing of this Act or shall from time to time thereafter be standing to the credit of the Purchase Annuities Fund shall be paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer at such times and in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct.” Now, there is a publication in this State called “Irish Oifigiúil.” On 10th January there appears for the first time a reference to some new account. I think it is called the British Claims Suspense Account, and it indicates that in that fund there is a sum of something like over £4,000,000. It has been gradually creeping up until within the last week I think it is over £4,600,000. This Bill is apparently a Bill to authorise the transfer of moneys from the Purchase Fund Account to the Exchequer. By statute all these moneys, which are referred to in that British Claims Suspense Account, should be in this Land Purchase Fund.

Mr. MacEntee: Not at all.

Mr. Cosgrave: All these moneys, excepting those which are included in the three items that are voted here on the Estimates—R.I.C. pensions, local loans and excess stock—should be in the Land Purchase Fund and neither the Executive Council nor any other authority in this State has the right to authorise the removal of moneys from this Account. If the Executive Council has power to establish a Suspense Account then they have power to put money elsewhere and [1008] what they have done is illegal and they have no right to do it. They could do it, I expect, in respect of the £2,000,000 for the three items I have referred to, R.I.C. pensions, local loans, and excess stock, although it is questionable as to whether they should without Parliamentary sanction. So far as this is concerned they had no authority whatever to do it, not even that of the celebrated lawyers on whose opinion they are partially acting.

This legal opinion that they have got is just in accord with practically the whole proceedings. Paragraph 7 of it commits a certain number of legal gentlemen to an absolute untruth. They say on page 12: “we may add that the state of Ireland in the years 1920-21, the Anglo-Irish war, the prohibition by Dáil Eireann of the payment of annuities”—a thing that never happened— “the non-collection and impossibility of collection of the annuities during these years, the outstanding fact that to all intents and purposes the annuities were a lost asset to the British, and the fact that the 1920 Act was on the Statute Book, are strong factors to be considered in interpreting the Treaty.”

The first part of that states that there was a “prohibition by Dáil Eireann of the payment of the annuities.” The President of the Executive Council, when questioned in respect of that, said that he had no knowledge of it and could not find it. Nobody even heard of it. There was no decree passed, and consequently on the face of it that is an untruth. As to the second part of the statement about “the non-collection and impossibility of collection of the annuities during these years,” £138,000 was the lowest sum outstanding in a period of 11 years—during the period when they speak of “the non-collection and impossibility of collection of the annuities.” It is the same kind of advice we are getting in connection with the passing of this Act. I observe that most of the meetings of the Executive Council are held after dinner. I am not surprised, having regard to the results. The Executive Council have acted illegally in transferring moneys without the authority of the Dáil. Having [1009] regard to whatever advice they have been receiving and our experience of them here during this week in which, confessedly, the President of the Executive Council committed himself to a statement a fortnight ago, a statement that was wrong in law, I am not satisfied that the Executive Council is well advised in this connection. Unfortunately, it is people other than themselves who will have to pay the price. I oppose the Bill.

Minister for Finance (Mr. MacEntee): I do not know what lawyer advised Deputy Cosgrave when he made the statement that the Executive Council has acted illegally in transferring to this particular account these moneys without the authority of the Dáil. I do not know whether the lawyer to whom Deputy Cosgrave presumably went for advice in this matter was presented with a copy of the “Irish Oifigiúil” and had his attention drawn to the following wording at the end of the Statement of Accounts: “Cash at bank to separate credit of British Claims Suspense Account.” Quite obviously there was more than one account involved in this matter. There is only one account which is not at the absolute disposal of the Minister for Finance, and that is “The Purchase Annuities Fund.” I do not know whether the lawyer's attention was drawn to the wording of Section 12 of the Land Act of 1923, or whether Deputy Cosgrave himself recollects the wording of it. It says: that notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in certain agreements that the purchase annuities in repayment of advances made or to be made in Saorstát Eireann “in pursuance of purchase agreements under the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, or any later Land Purchase Act other than this Act shall so far as not already paid into the Exchequer be paid into a fund entitled ‘the Purchase Annuities Fund’ to be established under the control of the Minister for Finance, and there shall from time to time, be paid thereout by the Minister for Finance to the appropriate authority,” certain other moneys.

What is the position? The fund is [1010] under my control, at my absolute discretion to pay out of it from time to time when I think fit.

Mr. Cosgrave: Nonsense.

Mr. MacEntee: These are the words of the section, to be under the control of the Minister for Finance, “and there shall from time to time be paid thereout by the Minister for Finance.” It does not say that on certain specified days or at specified periods money shall be paid out. The fund is under my control.

Mr. Cosgrave: No.

Mr. MacEntee: Placed under my control by this Dáil, under my unqualified control.

Mr. Cosgrave: No.

Mr. MacEntee: “And there shall from time to time be paid thereout by the Minister for Finance to the appropriate authority——”

Mr. McGilligan: Read on.

Mr. MacEntee: “——for the credit of the Land Purchase Account or the Irish Land Purchase Fund as the case may be an amount equivalent to the purchase annuities accruing due in respect of the aforesaid advances.”

Mr. McGilligan: As they accrue.

Mr. MacEntee: Not as they accrue. That is precisely the point. I have put The Purchase Annuities Fund into suspense, the whole fund, and I have acted perfectly legally in doing it.

Mr. McGilligan: You do not need this Bill then.

Mr. MacEntee: I do, of course, need the Bill.

[1011] Mr. McGilligan: Why?

Mr. MacEntee: Because I propose to withdraw the moneys from “The Purchase Annuities Fund” and to repay them into the Guarantee Fund to enable me to release to the local authorities the local taxation grants.

Mr. McGilligan: But sure it is under your absolute control.

Mr. MacEntee: No.

Mr. McGilligan: But the Minister has said so.

Mr. MacMenamin: The section provides that the moneys are to be paid as they accrue due. It is quite clear that the interpretation of that section is that the dividends are to be paid twice a year. The word “accrue” means that the dividends are to be paid twice a year, in June and September.

[1012] Mr. MacEntee: I am perfectly certain that lawyers will always differ. I am satisfied that the legal advice I received before coming to the House is quite as sound as any I have heard since I came here.

Mr. McMenamin: What is the meaning of the word “accrue”?

Mr. MacEntee: The position is that we have not acted illegally. The Land Purchase Fund, having been put in suspense, remains in suspense. What I am asking the authority of the House for is that in order that the local authorities should not be deprived of their grants in this and subsequent years, I should have authority to withdraw the moneys out of the Land Purchase Fund and to devote them to the general purposes of the Exchequer.

Mr. McMenamin: Pay them as they accrue due.

Question put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 39.

Aiken, Frank.

Bartley, Gerald.

Beegan, Patrick.

Blaney, Neal.

Boland, Gerald.

Bourke, Daniel.

Brady, Brian.

Brady, Seán.

Breathnach, Cormac.

Breen, Daniel.

Briscoe, Robert.

Browne, William Frazer.

Concannon, Helena.

Cooney, Eamonn.

Crowley, Fred. Hugh.

Crowley, Timothy.

Daly, Denis.

Derrig, Thomas.

De Valera, Eamon.

Doherty, Hugh.

Donnelly, Eamon.

Dowdall, Thomas P.

Flinn, Hugo V.

Flynn, John.

Flynn, Stephen.

Fogarty, Andrew.

Gibbons, Seán.

Goulding, John.

[1013]O'Reilly, Matthew.

Pattison, James P.

Pearse, Margaret Mary.

Rice, Edward.

Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.

Ryan, James.

Ryan, Martin.

Hales, Thomas.

Harris, Thomas.

Hayes, Seán.

Hogan, Patrick (Clare).

Houlihan, Patrick.

Keely, Séamus F.

Kehoe, Patrick.

Kelly, James Patrick.

Kelly, Thomas.

Kennedy, Michael Joseph.

Keyes, Michael.

Killilea, Mark.

Kilroy, Michael.

Kissane, Eamonn.

Lemass, Seán F.

Little, Patrick John.

Lynch, James B.

McEllistrim, Thomas.

MacEntee, Seán.

Maguire, Ben.

Moane, Edward.

Moore, Séamus.

Moylan, Seán.

Murphy, Patrick Stephen.

Norton, William.

O'Briain, Donnchadha.

O'Grady, Seán.

O'Kelly, Seán Thomas.

[1014]Ryan, Robert.

Sheridan, Michael.

Smith, Patrick.

Traynor, Oscar.

Victory, James.

Walsh, Richard.

Ward, Francis C. (Dr.).

Níl

Anthony, Richard.

Belton, Patrick.

Bennett, George Cecil.

Bourke, Séamus.

Brennan, Michael.

Brodrick, Seán.

Burke, Patrick.

Cosgrave, William T.

Costello, John Aloysius.

Craig, Sir James.

Davis, Michael.

Dockrell, Henry Morgan.

Dolan, James Nicholas.

Finlay, John.

Fitzgerald, Desmond.

Good, John.

Haslett, Alexander.

Holohan, Richard.

Keating, John.

Lynch, Finian.

MacDermot, Frank.

McDonogh, Martin.

McFadden, Michael Og.

McGilligan, Patrick.

McMenamin, Daniel.

Morrisroe, James.

Morrissey, Daniel.

Mulcahy, Richard.

O'Connor, Batt.

O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.

O'Leary, Daniel.

O'Mahony, The.

O'Neill, Eamonn.

O'Reilly, John Joseph.

Redmond, Bridget Mary.

Reidy, James.

Roddy, Martin.

Rogers, Patrick James.

Wall, Nicholas.

Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Traynor; Níl: Deputies Bennett and Seán Brodrick.

Motion declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: This is a Money Bill within the meaning of Article 35 of the Constitution.

Ordered: “That a Message be sent to the Seanad accordingly.”