Wednesday, 20 May 1925
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. JOHNSON: When we adjourned the discussion on this Vote on Thursday, I had raised a certain question regarding the position of the Parliamentary Secretary. The sitting was brought to an end just when I had opened my statement. I would like to make clear in this matter that I am not inspired by any animus to any individual in what I have to say. When the question of the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence  was under discussion, during the debates on the Ministers and Secretaries Bill, I queried and opposed the insertion of the provision which sets out that a civil member of the Council of Defence, being a member of the Dáil, should act as Parliamentary Secretary. I was not able then to see the need for the addition of a Parliamentary Secretary to a Ministry, the duties of which —in expectation—would gradually decline to comparatively small dimensions. None of us expected that there would be occasion, in respect of the Ministry of Defence, to have a Parliamentary Secretary, by Act of Parliament, when no such provision was made in respect of other Ministries. However, it was made an Act of Parliament and it is not the business of the Committee at this stage, I understand, to discuss the merits of the legislation. But we are entitled to discuss the salary paid to, and the duties of, that officer.
The provisions of Section 8 of the Act states that he will be responsible for such duties as are assigned to him by the Minister for Defence and that he shall act as Parliamentary Secretary to the Council of Defence. I think we ought to understand what, as a matter of fact, are the duties that are assigned to the Parliamentary Secretary. We have not had any experience, until yesterday, that any duties of a Parliamentary nature, at any rate, had been assigned to the Parliamentary Secretary. I am still of the belief that it is unnecessary to have a paid Parliamentary Secretary attached to this Ministry.
Then the question of responsibility for finance arises. The Parliamentary Secretary is designed as being responsible to the Minister for the finance of the Military Defence Forces. When that responsibility is attached to the same person who acts as Parliamentary Secretary it would seem to be obvious that the Dáil would look to that officer for information respecting the finance of the Department, leaving the Minister the time and opportunity to deal with the more important question, perhaps, of the defence of the country, military strategy, and such things as  that, in conjunction with the Council of Defence. I consider the request to vote £1,000 for the salary of the Parliamentary Secretary is not justified until we have reason to believe that the office is essential. It is quite conceivable that even within the statute a person who is a member of the Dáil shall be appointed, and it is conceivable, also, that that person would be acting as an unpaid Parliamentary Secretary. I would have no hesitation whatever in voting an adequate salary for any officer if I had any reason to believe that the office was necessary, and that there were duties attached to the office, but so far as I have been able to see there are no duties attached to this office, or there were not until yesterday. Yesterday we had an opportunity of finding out; in the absence of the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary was able to answer questions on behalf of the Minister. But, surely, it was obvious that a discussion of the Army Estimates was an occasion when the officer responsible for the finance, who presumably would have the duties essentially attached to that office and would be familiar with all the financial operations of the Department, particularly the Estimates of the Department, should be here to deal with the Estimates when they were under discussion.
I am sorry to have to say that it is somebody's duty to call attention to this defect, and to say that we ought not to be asked to vote a salary of £1,000 for such an office until we can see some evidence that the office is essential. I await the explanation of the Minister, first as to what are the duties that are devolved by him upon the member of Dáil Eireann who is responsible to the Minister for the finance of the Military Defence Forces, and what are the duties assigned to him as Parliamentary Secretary.
Mr. HUGHES: A Parliamentary Secretary, as Deputy Johnson states, has been appointed under Section 8 of the Ministers and Secretaries Act. The appointment was made in order to fulfil the requirements of that section, and to establish a Council of Defence. A Council of Defence could not be established  without a second civilian member, who was to be styled Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence. Deputy Nicholls has acted in that capacity for some time. Since he has been appointed, the Council proper has been set up. Further, I have assigned various duties to the Parliamentary Secretary in connection with pensions and matters of that kind that are cropping up daily. His duties are to go to the Army Finance Department, where he has an office, and to examine all the documents and papers that come to hand, and see that they are in proper order. He has also acted as chairman of various committees that have been sitting from time to time, and he carries out that work on my instructions.
If Deputy Johnson is stressing the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary was not here the first day on which the Army Estimate was being discussed, I wish to say that he was absent with my consent. The Parliamentary Secretary was unwell, and I knew of that fact. It was not for the purpose of coming under notice that he was here yesterday to answer questions on the Order Paper, but because I was unable to be here. If I could have been here I would have answered the questions myself, as I have always done since I became Minister.
As far as the Estimates are concerned I stand by them, and if I am in office this time twelvemonths when the Estimates come up again, I certainly will not assign their defence to the Parliamentary Secretary. I take responsibility for them myself, and I do not wish to put that responsibility on anybody else. As far as the Parliamentary Secretary is concerned, his office has been arranged in Collins Barracks, and he will have ample work to do there every day. Of course it was mandatory on us to appoint a Parliamentary Secretary, to constitute the Council of Defence. I try, as far as I can, to carry out the law as it is laid down for me. I sometimes find it very hard to do that because of pressure from every section of the House to break it. I, however, try to carry it out, and I am doing it in this case as well as in others.
Mr. WILSON: I think the Minister has missed the point of Deputy Johnson's complaint. This particular officer was to be appointed as a kind of financial expert, to supervise the Army finances in the interests of the Dáil. Is the Minister in a position to say that he has done that, or is his reply that he will do it in the future?
Mr. WILSON: Having an office in a Department is not everything. I would imagine that a Parliamentary Secretary, where there is a Vote of £3,000,000 coming before our Party, who are supposed to look after the question of expenditure, would be here to explain matters. How can you expect us to vote a salary to a gentleman we cannot see doing his work from our point of view? He should be here. We had one particular item on this Vote, in connection with veterinary instruments, that nobody seemed to know anything about. We looked on it as an absurd item. If the Parliamentary Secretary was doing what he is supposed to be doing he could have been here to explain that and, perhaps, remove any doubts as to whether we were doing right in voting for it or not. You must not take me as being personal in this matter. I look upon the voting of £1,000 salary to a Parliamentary Secretary in the light of a duty, but it is my duty, if I am to vote for it, to see that the Parliamentary Secretary will do his duty. Therefore I think it is not a fair proposition to ask us to vote for it. I certainly will oppose the granting of that £1,000.
Mr. HUGHES: I would like to say that if Deputy Wilson was in the same position as the Parliamentary Secretary—if he were laid down by illness— he would not be able to be here to answer questions. I have already explained that the Parliamentary Secretary was absent with my knowledge and consent. If Deputy Wilson expects an officer to be in this House when he is ill, I think he is expecting too much,  and I do not think the Dáil will back him out in it.
Mr. JOHNSON: I think this matter is not made easier by the Minister's explanation. There are included in this Vote an Army Finance Officer, a Deputy Army Finance Officer, and an Assistant Army Finance Officer. Now we are to understand, I take it, that the Parliamentary Secretary is going to be responsible in the office for the details of the finances. Then, of course, one would be inclined to ask what is going to be the function of the Army Finance Officer. I am afraid there is every appearance of a coming conflict there if the Parliamentary Secretary is deputed by the Minister to be responsible for putting the accounts in order and seeing that the details of the accounts are correct, and doing work which hitherto has been done under the direction of the Army Finance Officer.
Mr. JOHNSON: I stated that it was hitherto done under the direction of the Army Finance Officer. Now, we are led to believe that the functions hitherto carried out by the Army Finance Officer are to be undertaken by the Parliamentary Secretary. If that is the case, then I say there is going to be a conflict of interests, and that work ought not to be done by the Parliamentary Secretary. One immediately asks oneself the question: what is the meaning of the term Parliamentary Secretary, if the function of the person in question is to look after the accounts in the finance office of the Minister? I would expect that the person to whom is deputed the duty of acting for the Minister in respect to finances should make himself familiar with the general finance business and be able to relieve the Minister of those important matters, as between the Dáil and the Minister. Departmental officers, permanent officials, have not access to the Dáil. If it is to be said that the Parliamentary Secretary, to whom is deputed the responsibility of looking after the finances of the defence forces, is to undertake  the duty which hitherto has been carried out by departmental officers, then I am afraid we are coming to a pretty pass, and there is going to be confusion in that department before very long. I can fully believe that the Minister has explained very satisfactorily the functions of this officer outside the Parliament.
We all have an idea of what the duties of a Parliamentary Secretary would be within, and in relation to, the Parliament; but while we may have our imaginations as to what these duties would be, we have not had very definite evidence. I hope the Minister will be able to give us more satisfaction in this respect. No doubt he is helpless to the extent that he is bound to appoint a member of the Dáil to act on the Council of Defence, and that person shall act as Parliamentary Secretary. But, again, I say we are not bound to vote or to approve of the payment of £1,000 salary in this way, without some evidence of the duties attaching to this office. I put it to the Minister and his colleagues that the time has come when there should be an amendment of the Ministers and Secretaries Act in relation to the Council of Defence. The Minister should be relieved of the responsibility of appointing a Parliamentary Secretary. That is, perhaps, just going near the borderland of disorder. Will the Minister explain to us what the respective duties are of the Army Finance Officer and the Parliamentary Secretary in relation to finance?
Mr. HUGHES: The duty of the Army Finance Officer is to see that all the accounts presented for payment are properly vouched and properly checked. His duties are very far-reaching. Every account, every pension, and everything else in connection with the expenditure of three million pounds—four million pounds last year —must go through his office. On the other hand, the Parliamentary Secretary has got to examine anything that is put up to him by the Army Finance Officer. He has to determine questions of policy in regard to certain matters that may come up in my absence, and he has to read and sign all documents  as far as pensions, gratuities, ex gratia payments and other things are concerned. Very often he will not take the responsibility on himself of deciding some of those matters, and they are referred to me. I take the responsibility and I am responsible to the Dáil for anything I do in that way. Through his staff, the Army Finance Officer is responsible to me. I assign certain duties to the Parliamentary Secretary, and amongst those duties is the financial end of the work that I am responsible for. That is as reasonable an explanation as I can give the Dáil.
The Army Finance Officer is the responsible accounting officer for every penny of money that is paid. If he recommends a wrong payment to me or to the Parliamentary Secretary, and puts it forward as being right and just and according to law, he is responsible for that, and I certainly would hold him responsible for any errors he may make in any respect. He is a responsible officer, an old civil servant. I think we all know the Army Finance officer for a considerable number of years, and I think he has earned the respect of everybody in regard to his work. His duties are not taken from him. He does the finance work and the careful examinations that are necessary. The Parliamentary Secretary determines questions of policy, or whether, in his judgment, certain payments should be made. He has plenty of work to do dealing with all the documents that pass through. I think that explanation is as reasonable as could be given. So long as the law is there the Parliamentary Secretary must be there, if we are going to carry on the Department of Defence. Otherwise, we cannot carry on.
The PRESIDENT: I would like to intervene for a few moments on this question. For something like eight or nine months I had an opportunity of estimating the amount and the character of the work which has to be discharged by the Minister for Defence. I think it is my fault that a Parliamentary Secretary was not appointed at an earlier date. It will be within the recollection of Deputies that it was not my intention to continue in the office  of Minister for Defence. From my experience of the office generally, I would have no hesitation in saying that the work, taking it in volume, is very much greater than the work in any other Ministry. At one time I had to attend every Sunday morning for about four hours in order to deal with some matters that could not be dealt with during the week. When acting as Minister for Defence, I was perfectly satisfied that a Parliamentary Secretary would be necessary in the Ministry. I do not think I could be even fairly satisfied that the Parliamentary Secretary could have accommodated himself to the duties of the office in the limited time that has elapsed since his appointment. It is possible even that the Minister could not lay down what might be called cast-iron regulations for the duties of Parliamentary Secretary.
This particular Ministry suffers from several disabilities. There are very grave doubts as to where the head office really is. When I was Minister I laid it down that the head office and all the other offices should be centred in one barracks, the Griffith Barracks. As far as I know, that has not yet been done. It should be done. It ought to be done in the interests of the service and in the interests of the Ministry of Defence. I also expressed the opinion that the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary to this Ministry ought to have been made twelve months ago. With the passing of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, it was the intention that the appointment would be immediately made. As the Dáil is aware, many things happened which prevented that being done at the time. In my view it is unlikely that the regular statutory duties that will be performed by the Parliamentary Secretary to this Ministry will be ready for nearly twelve months. The distribution of the work, and the character of the work that the Minister will need the Parliamentary Secretary to discharge, will need many months of experiment, examination and review in order to see how best the services of this officer can be maintained.
The preparation of the estimates takes place towards the close of the  calendar year. The Minister came into office at the very end of that period, and the Parliamentary Secretary was not appointed for some time. He was, in consequence, presented with estimates of which he could only get a superficial knowledge before they were introduced here. I suppose it would be quite within parliamentary procedure for him to stand for those particular estimates; but it must be within the knowledge of Deputies that the work of the pensions section of the Ministry, and a good deal of other administrative work, had to be attended to. While the term Parliamentary Secretary is used possibly in order to satisfy Parliamentary etiquette, the fact of the matter is that the Parliamentary Secretary has really been acting as an assistant Minister.
The various offices of this particular Ministry are spread over the entire city. There is portion in Parkgate Street, and another portion in Portobello Barracks. If I were Minister, I would not have any of the offices in a barracks in which there were soldiers quartered. There is a portion in Molesworth Street, and yet another portion in Griffith Barracks. For a short time some of the offices were in the College of Science. The mere gathering together of those offices is a work of very considerable difficulty. There are administrative difficulties placed in the way of a new Minister coming in, and a new Parliamentary Secretary coming in. There are reasons, for instance, why particular matters should be dealt with in a particular way. It would be unreasonable to expect that even if the Parliamentary Secretary were here to outline the duties he has to perform, he would be in a position perfectly to satisfy members of the Dáil. I think it is right that the statement made by Deputy Johnson should be corrected— that is, that the Parliamentary Secretary can interfere with the Army Finance Officer. He must be, and he is, the official responsible, but the Parliamentary Secretary is responsible in a different connection. His responsibility is mainly a political one, the  other being purely an official responsibility.
Mr. GOREY: This sub-head gives the ordinary Deputy some food for thought. Looking at the totals, we find £60,000 for 1925-26, and £52,000 for 1924-25, an increase of £8,000. If you go more closely into the figures you will find that there are some items that money had to be found in the Estimates last year that are not included this year. Last year over £20,000 was paid for temporary clerks. This year that is reduced to about £16,000. There are reductions in other Departments. Really, this apparent increase of £6,000 should be £23,000 or £24,000, when we take into consideration some of the positions that have been abolished. There is a new item in this year's Estimate of £1,000 for a Parliamentary Secretary. That is more or less balanced by the £600 that was allowed last year for a private secretary to the Minister. Then we come to the Deputy Finance Officer, which is a new creation, carrying a salary of £620. There is also another new officer at £550. There is an increase of two higher executive officers whose salaries amount almost to another £1,000. There is an increase of ten junior executive officers, accounting for an increase of over £2,000. There is also a staff officer, which seems to be a new creation, carrying a salary of £250. Instead of ten clerical officers there are seventy this year, the salaries amounting to £7,330. There is a reduction in temporary clerks from 128 to 90, with a corresponding reduction in cost of about £4,000. There is also a reduction in temporary messengers, so that evidently there is not as much work to be done. Last year the allowance for extra clerical assistance was £9,190, and this year nothing is provided. I make out the extra charges to amount to something like £25,000.
It strikes one as peculiar, when the Army has been reduced from 50,000 to 16,000, and the cost from £10,000,000 to £3,000,000, that an increased staff should be necessary at an increased cost running to my mind to an extraordinary amount. If two years ago, when the Army was three times its present size, this Department was able  do the work with a certain staff, what is the explanation for this large increase under this sub-head?
The PRESIDENT: It is scarcely fair to compare the £10,000,000 Army with the £3,000,000 Army. The comparison ought to be with last year's Estimate, which was for over £4,000,000, but the actual expenditure worked out at something over £3,000,000. As far as the comparison is concerned, it is really £3,000,000 this year as against three and a quarter millions last year.
The PRESIDENT: In that connection I may point out that I believe on examination it will be found that a number of Army officers were formerly employed at work which is now done by civilians. An examination of the various items here will disclose the fact that the £9,000 allowed for extra clerical assistance last year disappears this year. It will be noted, however, that the bonus which was £5,000 last year is £14,000 this year. That indicates a difference in the class of officers employed. In other words, there was a flat rate paid last year—I forget the exact amount—but it was about £3 per week. It will be noticed that the number of temporary clerks has decreased from 128 to 90. What has happened is that an examination has taken place, and the results are disclosed in the figures for clerical officers, who number 70 as compared with 10 last year. That means that the standing strength of the clerical section has been increased, and, as a consequence of that, the bonus has automatically increased. The Estimate is a complicated one, but on closer examination it will, to a large extent, defend itself, if allowance is made for the Parliamentary Secretary, the Deputy Army Finance Officer and the Assistant Army Finance Officer.
Mr. GOREY: I can quite follow that. I am making allowance for the reduction of temporary clerks from 128 to 90, and the increase of clerical officers  from 10 to 70. But that does not explain the rest of the items.
Mr. GOREY: Of course it does. This seems to me a very expensive department, and I do not think it is justified, in view of the reduction in the Army and the reduced volume of business to be attended to. Last year this department had to deal with a large number of claims for pensions, etc. Most of these claims have been dealt with, and the particular departments have been closed. Without further explanation, these figures do not appear to be justified. I do not think the public will accept the President's explanation as being sufficient.
Major COOPER: As the President says, this is a very complicated matter. I am not quite sure that his explanation gave us the whole truth of it. It is common knowledge to all Deputies that the work of the Army Finance office has been to a considerable extent dealing with accumulated claims from the time of the fighting. There have been claims for compensation, for billeting, for motor vehicles commandeered, and for arrears of pay, and a considerable amount of time had been devoted to that work. Very wisely those were dealt with by temporary clerks for the most part. The time has now come when some of these temporary clerks can be discharged, and have been discharged to the extent of 38 at some hardship to themselves, because some of them are over 55 years and could not enter for an examination to be made permanent. I would like a little more consideration given to the claims of the men over 55 years who have been discharged from the Army Finance office. I think they should be the last to be discharged instead of the first. However, that is in parenthesis.
What I want to find out is that although you reduce the temporary clerks, who were comparatively cheap, you are increasing enormously the establishment of permanent clerks who,  if they are required, are required to deal with a situation that is not a normal but an abnormal one, in connection with accumulated claims of the past. This increase from 14 to 24 junior executive officers, and from 10 to 70 clerical officers does need some justification more than the President has given. We should be told something as to the work that they are to do, and why this considerable expansion is necessary. After all, it is not merely a question of replacing temporary by permanent staff. The staff of the Department is increased by over 50 people —from 179 to 250—though, as Deputy Gorey said, the Army is smaller and the expenditure on it is reduced.
This is also a growing Estimate. All these clerical officers and junior executive officers are on an increasing scale of pay. Next year this Estimate will be higher; the year after it will be higher still, and they are all pensionable—at least, I understand they are. This is an uneconomic change. On the whole, it would have been better to have continued the temporary staff, rather than to create an enormously inflated establishment, as far as we can tell. The Dáil has no means of knowing what work is being done. On the surface it appears to be enormously inflated.
I do not want to attack the Minister on this ground, because, as the President said, he had very little time to revise the Estimates. But I do say that we are making a very big commitment for the future. It may be justified. Possibly it can be justified on the ground that it will give more rigid financial control; that it will prevent officers in the Army from incurring liability which they had no business to incur; that it will afford a more detailed and complete supervision of every item of Army expenditure. If that is the case it may be justified, but it has not been justified up to the present. It will be very hard for us sitting here this afternoon to balance fully all the issues that are at stake: the advantage of improved financial control as against the disadvantage of increasing your establishment and making yourself liable for at least 80  additional pensions on retirement. We are not in a position to balance these figures. I say now, as I said before, that it is evident from the discussion on these Estimates that some inquiry into the financial administration of the Army is needed, and, if the Government will not set up an outside Committee or a Committee of the Dáil to go into the Estimates, they should, at least, set up a sub-Committee of the Executive Council to go into the details of the financial administration of the Army.
Mr. DAVIN: I think that Deputy Gorey, in analysing the figures and the alleged increase, did not take carefully into consideration the explanation given at the bottom of the page. If he did so he would find that there is an official who is still acting as Private Secretary to the Minister.
Mr. DAVIN: Notwithstanding all this explanation, there is the fact that there is an increase of 53 additional officers, most of whom are permanent, to the establishment since last year. We were told last year by the Minister's predecessor that the arrears of work, to which Deputy Cooper has referred, had been cleared up. If that is a fact, there does not seem to be a justification for an increase of 53 additional officers. There is a remarkable thing about these Estimates, apart from other Estimates. It is stated at the end of the page that certain officers are on a personal scale. What is the justification for a personal salary in the cases mentioned here? Is there any necessity for supermen in this particular Department? How do these individuals come to get a personal scale above the salaries generally recognised for such positions? I could understand the reason for that, perhaps, in the case of the Army Finance Officer. Six higher executive officers are in receipt of a personal scale of salary. That is six out of nine, and that goes right down through the personnel of this staff. I do not think that there are as many permanent officials in the other Departments as there are in this; I mean permanent officials having personal  scales of salaries. I also want to ask the Minister what is the recognised scale paid to temporary clerks. I assume that there is no bonus attached to their wage or salary. I am not quite certain whether overtime is included in the £16,292 or in the £20,528 which was paid under this sub-head last year. Cases have been brought under my notice where clerks attached to units in the Army are working for scab pay. I hope that the Minister, like myself, regards clerical work as work of an important nature, and I hope that the House will not regard 27/- a week as a standard pay for clerks who are doing highly technical work. I would ask the Minister whether there is any standard scale of salary for these temporary clerks, and, if there is, why it is not shown in the Estimates. In the last figures in the sub-head there is shown a sum of £14,856, as against £5,447. That, I take it, is a bonus shared among the permanent officials of the Ministry. There were 128 temporary clerks last year, as against 90 in this Estimate. As against that there were 10 clerical officers last year, as against 70 this year. I want to know whether the increase from 10 to 70 has been due to the appointment of a number of those who were originally demobilised. I mean, were those amongst the 128 men employed last year. Was it a case of transferring temporary clerks to the posts of clerical officers?
The PRESIDENT: I cannot give it. I am saying that an examination was held for ex-officers, and these were taken out of that group. We do not discriminate between the rights of men who have national service and who have got employment and those who have not got employment.
The PRESIDENT: Yes, but, as between a person who applied to join and a person who joined, our responsibility is towards the person who joined and took the risks. We know that the intention on the other side was good, but the service of the men who joined is what we are concerned with.
The PRESIDENT: I want to say that the increase is accounted for as follows: — Parliamentary Secretary, £1,000; Deputy Army Finance Officer, £620; Higher Executive Officers, £1,235; Assistant Army Finance Officer  and ten Junior Executive Officers, £2,242; Staff Officer, £250; fifty-nine Clerical Officers—I think that should be 60—£5,867; typist, £66. That disposes of what I think we call the clerical element. Then there are five cleaners, five packers and porters, one storeman, one printer and one compositor. The bulk sum amounts to £12,645. The increase in scale due to increments and promotion is: Secretary, £25, and the Army Finance Officer, £195. I think the salary had not been fixed previously. It was a question, I think, of transfer and fixing the scale. The personal scale, I may inform Deputy Davin, is what is known as the British scale, and it was the scale in operation during the time of the British occupation here. When these offices are vacated it is not intended that they will carry the same scale of salary as now.
The PRESIDENT: No, just to the same extent as here. As a matter of fact, the Department of Defence was one of the new departments, and an inducement has sometimes to be given to a person to transfer from a peaceful occupation to one that is not quite so peaceful. The increase in the rate of typist's salary is due to the increased cost of living. As regards the difference between the bonus of £14,856 this year and £5,447 last year, the increase is due to the difference that occurred last year, 85 points as against 95 points.
The PRESIDENT: I take it that that was the scale operating throughout the service, and that there is no difference in the scale here. It is a matter that would more properly come under review in the Estimates for the Ministry of Finance. The actual rate is £3 1s. 3d. per week.
The PRESIDENT: The difference is between 197 as against 250. The Deputy will observe in the last six items in 1925-26 that there are five temporary messengers as against four, six cleaners as against one, one storeman, five packers and porters, one printer and one compositor. If you deduct 14 from 53 you will get 39, and that comprises a bigger staff than last year.
Major COOPER: The President has not given us, nor has the Minister given us, any general justification for this Vote—I do not ask for justification in detail—by way of increased work or increased efficiency on the part of this branch. We have not been told anything to show why we should have six cleaners instead of one; whether additional establishments have been opened. That is, of course, a very small point, but it is the sort of point we have been told we have to go into here. The Minister for Finance and the Minister for Lands have got up and stated that there is no need for any Committee of Inquiry into Finance, that the Dáil is the Committee of Inquiry for Finance. That being so, we have to pursue these rather tedious inquiries and try and get some justification—even some general justification—for additions to the staff of something like one-fifth. The staff is one-fifth greater than last year, leaving out of account these cleaners, and packers and machinists, and so on. We ought not to let this Vote pass until we get some justification on this point.
Sir JAMES CRAIG: I intended also to call attention to this point. No explanation has been given of the increase extending from junior executive officers down. There is an increase from 14 to 24 in one case, and from 10 to 70 in another case, which means an increase of 70, whereas when we come down to the temporary clerks we have a reduction from 128 to 90. Therefore, we have a reduction of 38, as against an increase of 70, paying no attention to these storesmen and packers and printers at the end of the list. But I would like to know what is the extra work which requires this huge number of temporary clerks, with an increased number of junior executive officers and clerical officers. I maintain that there is a distinct increase of at least 32 officers in this particular line. I am sorry to press this matter, but it is really a matter to which some attention should be paid. I made reference, on a previous occasion, to a direction in which I thought some saving might be effected. I was rather amazed at the disparity between the answers I got with regard to that matter. I suggested that there was no necessity for St. Bricin's Hospital, that the soldiers treated there could very well be treated in the general hospitals in the city. The answer the Minister for Defence gave was that they did not intend to continue treatment in St. Bricin's Hospital; that they intended to treat only pensioners there. The President got up and said that they could not treat soldiers in general hospitals, that they must have discipline maintained. I am not sure whether it is necessary to introduce any very marked military discipline in respect of people on pension or not, but the answers given to me seem to suggest lack of understanding as between the Minister and President. The President is now attempting to answer questions which I think the Minister for Defence ought to answer. I think he should put up to us the case that there is a great increase in the work of his Department in order to account for the increased number of people he is employing. I think that is essential. The ordinary individual like myself thought when we were bringing  down the Army numbers that we could look forward to a considerable reduction in the staff in these offices.
Mr. DAVIN: I do not think a satisfactory explanation has been given in regard to the question I asked in respect of temporary clerks. This matter has been brought under my notice on several occasions during the past couple of years, and I am not prepared, as a member of the Dáil, to allow a vote of £16,292 to go through without knowing what that amount represents, and how it is made up. Under every other sub-head you have a scale given, plus bonus. Why have the figures not been given, if there is a standard scale of salary for temporary clerks? I had a case brought to my notice the other day of a man about 45 years of age who served in the Army, and risked a great deal from the beginning of the outbreak in 1922, and who is at the present time employed as temporary clerk at 27s. per week. He had grade pay allowance of 10s. 6d. per week, but it was taken off him. He made representations to the Army Finance Department, but they said that because there was some loophole in the regulations issued with regard to this unit, this individual clerk must continue to receive 27s. per week. From the President's answer it would appear that there are temporary clerks receiving £3 per week, and it is quite possible that there may be some temporary clerks receiving £6 and £7 per week. If there is a recognised scale, the figures ought to be put before us. If any qualified clerks—and I take it that the Army would not take on any except qualified clerks—are employed in the military barracks outside or in the Army Finance Department, and are receiving 27s. per week, I ask the Minister to say if he considers that a fair scale of salary for the work. I would be surprised if he said that he considered that a fair figure. If 27s. per week is the recognised figure, this sum of £16,292 cannot be properly analysed by me at any rate. Taking the figure as it stands, for 90 temporary clerks during the coming year it would work out at about £180 each. If that is the average for the whole lot, why not give  £180 to all temporary clerks? The Minister must be conversant with the staffing of his own Department and the scales of salary paid both to temporary and permanent officials. I ask him to give a more satisfactory explanation than the President has given, because we all admit that the President cannot be expected to stand up and defend the interests of a Department with which he is not thoroughly acquainted at the present time.
Mr. GOREY: The President has told us where the money goes, and why it goes. There the information ends. We know what officers got it, but in no particular has this Vote been justified or has an attempt been made to justify it either by the President or by the Minister. Our Army has been reduced, and our Budget has been reduced, but our staff on this Vote has been increased out of all proportion. We are preaching economy in the country. We want economy in the lower branches, and through county and local administration. Here we have this glaring increase which the President has not explained away. Deputy Sir James Craig has referred to St. Bricin's Hospital. That does not come under this Vote at all. But as it has been referred to, I would like to know what system would serve the Army if we had not St. Bricin's and a medical staff at the head of the Army. We have no ambition to get hold of St. Bricin's Hospital. It does not concern the Deputies of the Dáil, but I think St. Bricin's Hospital has worked wonders for the Army.
Mr. GOREY: I am more convinced than ever, after hearing the President's  explanation, that this Vote is not justified by the size of the Army, and it is not justified by the requirements of the country. There is no necessity whatever for this increase of £8,000, and the President has not convinced me that that £8,000 should not be £20,000 or perhaps £25,000.
The PRESIDENT: I overlooked one point in my explanation, and that was that there were quite a number of officers and soldiers engaged on clerical work in previous years. Now, this is a civil staff, and in cases where the Army Finance Officer took over offices which were manned by officers or soldiers, there are now civilians engaged. I do not think it is a fair comparison to put on one side last year's or the previous year's Estimate, and to put on the other side this year's Estimate. This year's Estimate does lend colour to the suggestion that there is a stronger establishment, but it does not follow that there is more money spent upon the administrative machine than was spent last year or the year before, because of the fact that it was not distributed so correctly as it is now.
Mr. HUGHES: We hear a great deal in this House about what the Army should cost and what it should not cost. Here is where you can either save money or spend money. If you are going to curb the management of this establishment so that the heads of that establishment will not be able to save money in the way they think they can save money—that is by proper accountancy—I say you are adopting a wrong policy. It will mean that more money will be required on this Estimate next  year. When the Budget was introduced it was urged that Army costs should be further reduced. If you are not going to make it possible for this Department to effect economies by strict accountancy, you cannot get reductions in the cost. You can disband men and reduce men's wages, but if you do not deal properly with store accountancy and staff accountancy you are not going to cut down your cost. The most important item, perhaps, in this connection, is the inspection of our stores throughout the country. These stores are valued at hundreds of thousands of pounds. They are taken into account and must be paid for. If we do not see that these stores are properly looked after, and if we do not send down proper officers to ensure that, we are going to lose a great deal more than the whole of this Vote.
As far as Deputy Davin's point is concerned, I have no responsibility for the pay of temporary clerks. It was fixed before my time, and the Deputy knows—he discussed this matter last year—that there are three grades, the highest of which receives £3 13s. 6d., and the others according to their grade.
Mr. HUGHES: I have not the exact numbers at the moment, but I will get them for you. These rates were fixed, not this year or last year, but some three or four years ago, when these men came in first, and they have continued at that rate. That is for temporary clerks. They do not get bonus. Other officers do get bonus, and that is the reason—the chief reason—for the £8,000 increase on this Vote. It is made up principally of cost-of-living bonus, and if there are discrepancies and certain people taken on and certain amounts placed opposite their names, these amounts do not appear in other accounts. They would appear on votes for officers and so on if they were charged last year to that Department.
 While a number of men were disemployed we tried, as far as possible, to see that these men got work in some other Department. The present strength of the temporary clerical staff is 67. Since the 1st January, 1925, 14 temporary clerks entered the clerical grades as a result of examination, and there were transferred to other Departments 39. There were discharged, but referred to a committee with a view to getting them into some other Departments, 33, and there were two resignations. That accounts for the temporary staff that we had to get rid of in our Department. I may say as far as the Department is concerned, that we were absolutely helpless in the matter. An examination for officers was held some 10 or 12 months ago. A certain number of them passed that examination. They were walking about the streets with no employment whatever, and we had no option but to employ them. The men whose services were dispensed with were employed on a week-to-week basis, but I succeeded in getting them two weeks' notice, or pay in lieu of notice. These men had no fixity of tenure whatever and it was simply because these other men had passed an examination, and because the Dáil thought they were entitled to some recompense for the sacrifices they had made that they were taken on of course. As far as some of the work that was done by temporary clerks was concerned, it was of such a nature that we should have civil servants to do it. It was not possible in the troubled times we passed through to get the required number of trained civil servants to do that work and it had to be undertaken by temporary clerks. We are trying to get the Department down to a proper footing, and though it may cost a little more money, this is the only way that we can get the Army accounts and everything connected with the Army on a proper basis. Seven or eight thousand pounds may look a lot, but you could lose it in one store in the country at the present time if you had not a proper system of accountancy and a proper system of supervision. I think, taking the Department as a whole, you are making for further efficiency by the re-organisation that has taken place.
Mr. BEAMISH: We do not object to having the work thoroughly done and fairly paid for, but the Department is evidently dividing itself into two; it is discharging and recharging. Discharging when it is required is perfectly reasonable, but recharging is finding employment for the discharged. I am very bothered about that. My mathematics probably are altogether wrong. We are all willing to grant a reasonable staff, but why, as the Army is diminishing gradually in number, do we require another section to be rising? Water does find its level, I understand. Of course it is a very hard thing that men should have to walk the streets. As our worthy Minister says, they could, if it were necessary, be used most admirably, but where the work is being diminished and the Army is being diminished and the staff increased, the work is being done extremely inefficiently. I do not mean inefficiently by those few who were carrying on the work, but inefficiently because there was not a sufficient staff. But it looks very peculiar to see a diminution of the Army and an increase of the staff. Of course it is very awkward to reduce expenditure in an establishment. I have got a little business, and I know it is a very disagreeable thing to do; but I do not reduce my staff by taking on an additional establishment similar to the one I had before. If it was public money I might, perhaps, be forced to do it, but being a private concern I would be a bankrupt if I did it. If you discharge and recharge we do not get the economy we are asking for. An enormous sum of money is required to raise agriculture up to the standard that has been set for it, very wisely, by the Minister. If we want to get to this standard, where will we get the money? I do not see how you can get it by discharging and recharging. It is not a business proposition.
Major COOPER: I hope he will migrate. I want to ask the Minister  one question. I will be very brief. He is justifying this increase of expenditure on the ground that stores scattered all over the country need supervision. I want to ask him a question about this, as there is nothing in these Estimates for travelling expenses for any civilian official in connection with the supervision of stores.
Major COOPER: I suggest that this is bad accountancy, that it ought to be under sub-head (h). I see “Army Finance Office Inspection Staff, £2,000, lodging and subsistence allowance,” but there is nothing under sub-head (h)—conveyance by rail—for any civilian whatever, and I suggest to the Minister that he ought not to include railway travelling expenses in lodging and subsistence allowance. Involuntarily, and without intending it, he has been putting up a false issue to the Dáil. I say without intending it. We ought to have some particulars of what these travelling expenses are. We are entitled to them in order to compare them with the travelling expenses for Board of Works staff and other bodies, who have to supervise stores all over the country, and see whether the Army is more extravagant, or less extravagant, in this direction. We ought to have something shown to us. We have nothing at present. I am afraid we shall not get it. It only reinforces my plea for a committee to investigate these matters, a committee of some kind that could sit around a table and go on asking until they get an answer, instead of voting Estimates as we have been doing.
Major COOPER: Does the Minister mean to say that a member of the Army Finance Department gets exactly the same subsistence allowance, whether ordered to the Curragh or to Cork, without any regard to railway fares.
Mr. HUGHES: No. He gets his railway fare on the mileage he travels, and if he is out a night he gets a certain amount for subsistence and lodging. If he is out one night or two nights he is paid according to scale. His railway fare is paid on a mileage basis.
Mr. JOHNSON: I was going to call attention to that. The additional cost of inspection presumably is included in the £2,000. I expect the Minister could make a case for maintaining a staff as high as it has been, possibly higher than it has been, because of the necessity for organising the accountancy in a way that it has not hitherto been possible to organise it. I realise that all the case that could be made has not been made, that there is need for a much more complete accountancy staff than existed up to a year ago. It has been steadily improving. We have all recognised that, but this is the difficulty. Up to six months ago every Deputy knew that thousands of accounts had been under consideration. There were disputes, claims, disputes again, and claims again, from all parts of the country. I think this had been gradually wearing down, and only a few days ago the Minister told us that they had overtaken arrears. Having got over the difficulty of the outstanding accounts and got into something like working order, regarding pensions and claims for back pay and so on, still we have an increase in the total staff and an increase of £8,000 net in the estimate. I daresay that a case can be  made quite satisfactorily, but it has not been made, and I think Deputy Bryan Cooper is perfectly justified in claiming that there should be a justification from the Minister for this increased vote. After all, it must be borne in mind that the Ministry has been insisting in season and out of season on the necessity for economy, and they have a right to justify this increase, which may be economical.
Mr. JOHNSON: That is the point, but the Minister has not really made any defence of this increase, except the broad statement that it may be economic. I suggest to the Minister that it is quite desirable that he should explain the position of the respective sections of his Department in respect of what is required for one class of work or another, and that he has not up to this moment justified the increase in the staff or the cost of the staff. I believe it can be justified, but I would like it to be justified to the Dáil and to the public. It has not yet been justified.
The PRESIDENT: I may say it is rather difficult to expect the Minister to justify it. You have had three Ministers for Defence within, I suppose, fifteen months. The first Minister had the responsibility of the establishment of the Ministry of Defence. The second Minister came along and took over that establishment with huge arrears of bills, accounts, and so on, without the reorganisation scheme that has been dealt with lightly by the Minister in his explanation. Somewhere about last July the Finance Officer reported to me that he was sending some of his staff to the country to check stores. Other than having to answer a number of questions that were put here concerning pay, dependants' allowances, gratuities, pensions claims, compensation claims on behalf of persons injured, compensation claims in other respects, and so on, the present Minister could not have any idea of the difficulty of administration that existed in the department for two, three, or four years. The arrears of accounts have been cleared off even  though it has taken a fairly long time to do that, but certainly they have been dealt with much more expeditiously since the Army Finance Office was organised on a new basis, and since the period when expert internal administration commanded all the attention of the office. This particular establishment might not be so large in twelve months' time, as soon as it is properly organised. I will not, however, promise there will be any reduction. I have seen the returns and the expenses in the last year, and the figure was something like £48,000 up to the 31st March. The item for the last month was the heaviest for the whole twelve months. Taking it on that basis, this particular sum of £60,000 is, I think, justified.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: The President has made what, perhaps, might be called an appeal, that the matter be not pressed too far because of the short period of time the Minister for Defence has been in office. See exactly where that leads. Here are certain Estimates, and somebody is responsible for them. They have been drafted, presumably, in the main, subject to the authority of the Minister for Finance, by the permanent officials of the Department. The Dáil wishes to get at the figures, and surely it is not too much to expect that the Minister, if he is not himself fully conversant with all the details—I believe he should be, and is, conversant with them—should in any case be able to communicate to the Dáil some detailed justification of the increase in this item, having regard to the fact that the Army has been decreased. I think the Minister has indicated the lines of a justification—if I may make bold to interpret his argument—when he says that if this increase in this particular part of the Vote leads to a greater efficiency in the supervision of the finances of the Army, the result will be an increased saving in the end. That is an admirable statement, and, as such, it is by way of being towards a justification. That, nevertheless, does not go into a detailed justification of this particular increase—an increase in one section of  an army that has been so largely decreased. I do not think it is quite sufficient for the President—I say it with all respect—to put in the plea that the Minister has been only a short time in office, and, therefore, does not understand, or might not be in a position to answer, all the details. Having indicated the lines of justification, the Minister might have entered into a defence of the details.
The PRESIDENT: I did not enter into that sort of a defence of the Minister. I simply stated facts. There were three Ministers for Defence within fifteen months. The present Minister could not have in his mind what transpired fifteen months ago in that Department.
Mr. BEAMISH: We have got a Minister for Defence now, and I believe we have got a good Minister. I know the gentleman, and he is a charming man. Would it not be possible—I put the suggestion forward—until the explanations that are asked for are forthcoming, to pass a Vote on account and not touch these increases. We could pass a Vote on account until we get, as we believe we will get, a correct and charming statement from our present Minister for Defence. When we get that we can pass the whole Vote, if we so desire. A Vote on account is, I think, a reasonable suggestion. If our worthy President would set out an Estimate in the quick way in which he always calculates everything, it would be an excellent thing. That would carry us on  until the explanations that are asked for will be put forward. We believe they will be forthcoming. Then, not only the Dáil, but the whole country, will be much happier.
Mr. DAVIN: Then, to put myself in order, I will vote a reduction of £16,292. The Minister may be, as Deputy Beamish says, a charming man; but, so far as I am concerned, he is not a charming man. He has been blindfolding members of the House with the figures he has given in answer to my question. Perhaps he did not do so intentionally, but I consider that his reply would lead one to believe he was trying to blindfold Deputies. He says that the maximum figure for temporary clerks is £3 1s. 6d a week. If you divide 90 into £16,292, you will find the all-round figure is about £180, which proves that in this Department there are clerks employed at a figure in excess of £3 1s. 6d. I contend that the Minister is either not thoroughly acquainted with conditions in his own office, or he is declining to give the correct information to the House. For that reason I think this Vote should be reduced by £16,292. I believe that clerical workers are entitled to certain payment, and under no circumstances will I agree that the wage, or the salary or, if you like, the pittance of 27s. a week, is sufficient pay for a man doing highly technical and important work.
I have before me the case of a man employed as a clerk. He attested as a clerk and his form of attestation entitled him to grade pay. When his period of enlistment expired, and when he reattested, his papers were also marked for grade pay. He applied through the ordinary channel for the grade pay which had been stopped  from him and, in answer to his application, this was written to him: “Prior to the 7th December last any soldier in the Army who performed certain specified duties, of which clerical labour was one, received additional rates of pay without any limitation as to numbers. Additional pay is now issued only in cases where the post is clearly shown in the establishment order as being a trade or position to be filled by one of the tradesmen eligible for additional pay.” If, through any fault of the people responsible for drawing up regulations, the position which the individual holds, and the work he is doing, is not clearly defined, it is surely hard on the individual. He gave good service. That case points to the unfair and unjust treatment meted out by the Minister, who is nominally, if not actually, responsible for those men employed under him.
Mr. DAVIN: He should be entitled to grade pay, according to the admission made by the Army Finance Department. He apparently did not get it because somebody did not read through the regulations issued. However, he is a civilian so far as the work is concerned. He is employed on highly technical work, store clerk's work, which, as the Minister unconsciously or consciously admitted previously, is work of a highly important nature. I contend that 27/- a week is not sufficient for that work. I want information from the Minister as to how many of the 90 temporary clerks are employed at the figure of over £3 1s. 6d. a week. How many are paid £5 or £6? There are other figures which the Minister had in mind, but he did not name them, and I think we are entitled to have them in the same way as we have received figures and information under other sub-heads. I move a reduction of the Vote because  of the answers given by the Minister. His answers are entirely unsatisfactory, misleading, and not correct. When men are employed on highly technical work of the responsible nature that the Minister himself even has admitted, they should be paid a proper salary, or at least a proper living wage.
Mr. BEAMISH: I trust it would not be objectionable or troublesome if I suggested that the Vote would be made the same as it was last year until we get from the Minister the explanations that have been asked for. I think the feeling is in the air that explanations should be forthcoming. Why not have £52,000 instead of £60,000? Then everybody can be paid and, when the satisfactory explanations come along, the figure of £60,000 can be reinstated. I do not think Deputy Davin would object to that suggestion. In fact, I think he will co-operate with me in regard to having some of the money kept back. Of course Deputy Johnson might disapprove of it, because there might arise other questions where other reductions might have to be made. I am only suggesting voting part of this money until the whole matter is cleared up in a more complete fashion. We could, for instance, leave the Vote as it was last year, and we could put on the additional sum required when the explanations asked for are brought forward.
Mr. BAXTER: I suggest, irrespective of what decision may be arrived at in regard to Deputy Davin's amendment, that as Deputy Beamish says, the air will not be cleared. It is a very healthy sign that Deputies on the Government benches are beginning to speak out their minds on important matters of policy. We will welcome more of it. I suggest to the President that this Vote will not be satisfactory from the point of view of Deputies or the country. A decision on a Vote like this will not be satisfactory. It would be more satisfactory, as Deputy  Cooper suggests, if the Vote were withdrawn for the present until the Minister would come back to the House with explanations on the different points raised—explanations that will be acceptable. That would be a better and a sounder step than to go forward and get a decision now on the Vote. The President himself instanced cases of regular officers who did this work last year. There ought to be some statistics showing the numbers employed at that work last year who were not civilians. The attitude that the Minister takes up, that money spent on this department may mean a saving on other departments, ought to be capable of being supported by facts. Let the Minister give consideration to this question, and come back to the Dáil with facts that will be satisfactory. It would be better tactics than trying to get a decision on a Vote, and leaving Deputies still dissatisfied.
Mr. HUGHES: If he has not the pay that he is entitled to as a soldier for doing a special class of work he must be a very simple young man, because he has got nothing to do except to put his case before his superior officer, and the matter will automatically come before the Finance Officer, who will see that he gets the rate of pay he is entitled to.
Mr. HUGHES: If the Deputy brings the case to my notice I will see that he will get the pay, if he is entitled to it, as well as any arrears. I cannot conceive that there is any soldier entitled to proficiency pay who is not getting it. He may, perhaps, think that he should be in a grade that he has not been put into. Any soldier entitled to proficiency pay gets that pay according to his grade.
Mr. JOHNSON: There is a matter of dispute, apparently. The person concerned is attached to the workshop and stores section of a certain corps in which no provision is made for the service of clerks. Apparently this man is doing the work of a clerk, though no provision is made for the service of a clerk. Therefore, according to the regulations under which the finance officer is acting, this man is not entitled to receive proficiency pay. But, if proficiency pay is not provided for in a particular department, surely they are not entitled to put a man at work for which proficiency pay ought to be granted. Some consideration ought to be given to the qualifications of a man who is being paid as a soldier without any proficiency pay, and who is doing work for which proficiency pay should be given. Apparently the man has hitherto being doing proficiency work, and getting proficiency pay. Now, because he is working in a department in which there is no provision for proficiency pay, he is not getting it. The work is continuing as it had been carried on for some time, but by the accident, shall I call it, or the design of the department, no provision was made for proficiency pay in that section. Therefore, the man is to lose pay for extra special work. In view of the Minister's promise that he is prepared to look into this case, we might leave it, but it should be made clear that if a soldier is going to be detached from military work and put on special work for which proficiency is required, he should be paid accordingly.
Mr. HUGHES: I do not know that there is very much more I can say, if that case has been disposed of. I am not in a position to give the number of temporary men and their grades that Deputy Davin referred to. I do not think I could be expected to do it. It has never been done. I do not believe it is done in any Parliament. If an  instruction were given that every employee in every department should be mentioned in the Estimates, and his pay and rank given, we would want a large addition to our clerical staff, and instead of this Estimate being for £60,000 it would more likely be for £70,000 or £80,000. We have the details in the office and if any Deputy gives me notice as to any particulars he may require I will have them for him within fourteen hours. It is not possible to carry about all the documents that are kept in an office of this kind, or to have the particulars at your fingers' end when questioned. This Estimate is a fair, reasonable and just estimate.
As to Deputy Beamish's remarks, I wonder when he wants to reduce his expenses in connection with any of his businesses in Cork does he start with the people who keep his accounts. I think they would be the last he would touch. I think that he would rather keep that department at its proper strength. That is what every business man would do. That is what we are doing, and I say we are justified in doing it. I trust that whoever presents the Estimates next year will be able to point to the fact that the Estimate has been reduced and that the expenditure is reasonable and is justified.
Mr. BEAMISH: On a point of personal explanation. As the Minister has challenged me, I may say that if I intended to make any reduction I would make a reduction. I would not make an increase and then give no explanation to my directors for that increase of 34 or 38 or 40 men, or whatever it is. I would have to have an explanation of any increase before I went to my directors. The Minister should have a clear explanation before he comes to the Dáil. He has not given it, and that is what we want. We do not insinuate that he has made any mistake.
Mr. DAVIN: On a point of personal explanation. I take it the Minister was  not listening, because he stated that the highest salary for temporary clerks was £3 1s. 6d. per week. If the multiplies that by ninety does it come to the amount shown in the Estimate? There seem to be a number employed in this Department with a salary of over £3 1s. 6d. All I asked was, how many men were employed at the three different scales referred to. Then we would be able to check the Estimate and see if it was correct.
Richard H. Beamish.
Bryan R. Cooper.
Sir James Craig.
Séamus Mac Cosgair.
Tomás Mac Eoin.
Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
|Risteárd Mac Liam.
Patrick J. Mulvany.
Aodh O Cúlacháin.
Liam O Daimhín.
Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
Seán O Duinnín.
Donnchadh O Guaire.
Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
Domhnall O Mocháin.
Pádraig O hOgáin (Luimneach).
|Earnán de Blaghd.
Seoirse de Bhulbh.
Séamus de Búrca.
Louis J. D'Alton.
Máighréad Ní Choileain Bean
Patrick J. Egan.
Seosamh Mac a' Bhrighde.
Liam Mac Cosgair.
Liam Mac Sioghaird.
Peadar O hAodha.
|Mícheál O hAonghusa.
Criostóir O Broin.
Séamus O Dóláin.
Peadar O Dubhghaill.
Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
Eamon O Dúgáin.
Aindriú O Láimhín.
Séamus O Leadáin.
Fionán O Loingsigh.
Séamus O Murchadha.
Máirtín O Rodaigh.
Seán O Súilleabháin.
Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.
Caoimhghín O hUigín.
Mr. DAVIN: Some of the items in sub-head (z) seem to me to be most extraordinary. There is an item, “Disposal of 12 horses at £7 each.” I would like to know how the horses were of equal value, although that value is not very much. Perhaps the Minister would tell us the kind of work which these horses have been doing.
Mr. WILSON: I am interested in the revenue from lands. I take it that it is in part of my constituency, Glen Imaal, that most of this money is earned. I would like to know how this revenue is estimated. I have received serious complaints about the condition in which that property of the State is being maintained, especially the trees planted  there, and also in connection with the letting of land. Perhaps the Minister could give us an idea of the way in which this property is conducted, and whether it is by open tender, or otherwise, that this revenue is collected.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: I want to ask the Minister about the same matter. I want to get some information in regard to the letting of lands. Does this apply to the letting of old discused barrack grounds where barracks have been destroyed? Is part of that revenue got from that source?
Mr. HEFFERNAN: I would like to know what the policy of the Minister is in regard to the future disposal of these lands. Are they let by public auction or is there open bidding? Has the Minister considered the question of selling these lands to municipal authorities to build houses under the recent Housing Acts? I know a particular case in my county where there is disused military ground and where the town commissioners are desirous of getting that land.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: Fethard. They are very anxious to build houses there. In certain cases I think that such ground might be used for playing fields. A great many of the small towns lack facilities for fields in which to play football and hurling. Life is very dull for young people in towns where they have no playing fields, and the young fellows are placed at a disadvantage compared with those in other towns where such fields are available. I would like to know whether these lands are at the disposal of the Ministry or the Board of Public Works.
Mr. JOHNSON: The question of Army lands is, of course, a very big one. I speak of them as Army lands because I think they are still under the control of the Ministry of Defence, but there are, as we learn, very considerable areas of land which were handed over by the British authorities, and, so far as we have learned, they  are not being put to the best use. Some information from the Minister as to the general policy in respect to these lands should be made available. There is a big estate at Kilworth. There is the Curragh and one or two other large areas, and there are a number of small areas. Some time ago I asked a question with regard to the use made of the former remount farm at Lusk. We learned that the greater portion of it was being let for grazing on the eleven months' system. While it would be capable of bearing a large number of labourers if properly utilised, it is being grazed, and a couple of men are employed over a large area. We were told that there was an increase in the area under tillage this year over last year, nevertheless the area under tillage is small. I think it is time that we had some information from the Ministry as to their intention regarding these lands. Whether that statement of policy is to come from the Minister for Defence I am not sure, but I would like to hear that proper consideration is being given to the question as to how these lands are to be utilised to the best advantage. We are not yet in a position to know the extent of lands under the Army control. This revenue, £7,423, is, I understand, the regular revenue accruing from certain leases and tenancies which have been made, and it is more or less a fixed sum, but the whole question of the disposal of lands under the control of the Army should be ripe for discussion. I would like to hear from the Minister whether we are within measurable distance of a declaration of policy in respect of the disposal and utilisation of these Army lands. I hope it will be promised to us that before any final decision is made as to how these lands are to be disposed of we should have the matter under general discussion in the Dáil, and that we can learn perhaps what the views of the Minister for Agriculture, or of the Minister for Local Government, or of the Minister for Industry and Commerce may be with regard to it. The question is a big one, and would be worth a very considerable amount of consideration and discussion before any final decision was arrived at. In  the meantime perhaps the Minister will give us some information as to the present position of Army lands, irrespective of this particular item in the appropriation-in-aid.
Mr. GOREY: I am more or less interested in the heading, “Sale of Clothing.” I am more interested in that than in the heading, “Unserviceable Stores.” There is an item here of 300 motor cars, twenty motor bicycles, and the sale of twelve horses at £7 each. Deputy Davin has enquired as to this price of £7. I might also ask what is the reason of these twenty motor bicycles at £20, and the 300 motor cars at £40. I take it that these are average prices, as much as the cars and bicycles are worth, and I am quite satisfied that £7 is as much as the horses are worth. If the price of hacks and of agricultural horses was taken into account twelve months ago, which probably was the time that these cast-off horses were dealt with——
Mr. GOREY: Even at that price I can understand a cast-off horse being sold, and you can buy agricultural horses and hacks, or horses broken down or sold because of old age, at a very small price. I can understand that being a very fair price for that class of horse; as a matter of fact it will be difficult to find customers for them. I think that there might be a good deal to be said with regard to the sale of clothing and the method that has been adopted to deal with it. I am given to understand that all the cast-off clothing of the several Commands was brought to Dublin. In all the barracks all over the country cast-off clothing has been heaped outside and allowed to rot. I have seen a considerable amount of it. It was ricked in the barrack squares, and as far as I can see from the time it was kept there exposed to the weather it was bound to rot. It may be more valuable in that state than when it is sound. I do not know. I am not an expert in these matters, and do not know whether it  is to be used for paper-making or be re-made into clothes. I understand all this stuff is brought to Dublin, ricked, and allowed to rot, and for the whole country it fetches £500. I think there is more necessity for an explanation of the small amount of this than of any other item under this sub-head, and I want an explanation of it.
Mr. HUGHES: Deputy Davin is very anxious about the price of these horses. Some of these horses might not fetch fifty shillings; some of them might fetch £50. I am not in a position to say what they will fetch. This is a mere estimate of what we think they will bring when sold by public auction, and they will be sold by public auction, and in no other way.
Mr. HUGHES: They are not hunters. If they were, we would put them down at a higher price. Deputy Wilson wants information about the Glen of Imaal. The Department have to do with the plantations there, and they have been handed over to them. Wherever there are trees planted we have handed the lands over to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, and we have no more to do with them. I will tell you in a moment the position with regard to these lands. Deputy Johnson asked a question about Kilworth. That has been handed over. This clothing that Deputy Gorey knows so much about is the old clothing collected and sold by competitive tender. This, again, is not what happened two years ago. It is the ordinary day-to-day clothing that we expect will realise £500, which will be put to this year's account as an appropriation-in-aid. We do not know what it will bring. From the following statements, Deputies will be in a position to judge for themselves the present position of the military lands:
“The total area of lands at present under Army Finance Officer's administration is about 26,000 acres, the greater portion of which is mountain land. The whole of these lands was used by the British for military purposes. The total rent payable is £6,292. In many cases where lands  were leased, the owners retained the grazing rights. However, in such cases, the leases in every instance are being surrendered as opportunity offers. Military lands are set for grazing purpose on the eleven months' system, by public auction, in lots to suit grazing tenants, or let through auctioneers by public tender to the highest bidder. Such lettings are made subject to military usage. Cattle, sheep and horses are taken on for grazing purposes at an authorised rate per head per week on the following lands:—Tallaght, Killeagh, Moore Park (Fermoy), Glen Imaal, and Cool-money. The revenue is collectable by trusted herds, who are responsible for the entry and removal of cattle, and their supervision whilst on the lands, and forwarded direct to the Army Finance Officer. On the Remount Farm, Lusk, a field area of about 10 statute acres has been cultivated and planted this season under a potato crop. When the crop matures the produce will be utilised for consumption by the troops. Hay is also grown on about eighteen statute acres, and used for feeding of military horses.”
Mr. HUGHES: I think it is less than 100—it is about 80 or 90 acres. There are some of our lands that were highly rented. We took them over and we had to take them under the old leases and conditions under which the British Government held them. We are very anxious to get rid of a good deal of these lands. We do not want to have them as a burden on us, and we lose a good deal of time and money in seeing after them generally. Some of them are held under lease, and until these leases run out or until we get some suitable way of getting rid of them, it is impossible to get them off our hands. We are losing money in many instances by paying these exorbitant rents. As far as the letting of lands for grazing  is concerned, the lands are let in the ordinary way to the highest bidder, and the whole thing is absolutely above board. We try to get the most money we possibly can get out of these lands. Deputy Heffernan wanted to know something about the case of Fethard. If we have lands and buildings and if we do not require them for military purposes, we hand them over to the Board of Works. They dispose of them to the Urban Council or to anybody that may wish to use the lands for public utility works. I do not know if I could lay it down as a public policy that we should hand over lands and plots indiscriminately to make into sports fields. We generally endeavour to find somebody who will take the lands off our hands and relieve us of the financial responsibility in connection with them. We have to keep some of them for use as rifle and artillery ranges.
We do not want three-fourths of the land that we must keep on our hands until we get a suitable opportunity of disposing of it. For instance, in Tallaght we pay £294 annual rent. That land pays all right, however. As receipts for grazing cattle we get £650. I must say that in other places we have to pay a higher amount in rent than the amount we receive for grazing. As regards the mountain land at Glen Imaal and other places that we have for our artillery ranges, we are negotiating with the Department to take over more than half of the Glen of Imaal for forestry purposes. These negotiations are taking place at the moment between my Department and the Department of Agriculture and as soon as they are completed we will hand over the lands. We will require some of that land and we are keeping portion of it. The general policy is to get rid of all the surplus land we have at the earliest possible date. As I said a moment ago, we must find a suitable time for that. There is a good deal of that land under lease. We have taken over certain responsibilities and it is a question of getting rid of them.
Mr. M. DOYLE: Does the Minister say that his Department is actually losing money on the lands? How much  are the losses? How much is the difference between what he pays for the land and what they are let at? In regard to the land at Kilworth, I would like to know if these ten acres of potatoes which the Minister mentioned, have been planted by three men. If that is so, I say these men are doing great work, especially in a season like this. Had these men the assistance of the military in tilling this land? I should have been very glad if the Minister for Agriculture were listening to the statements of the Minister relative to these lands. It would give him an idea of how hard people who hold land all over the country are hit. Here we have large farms attached to these military stations where they have a good deal of free labour, and other advantages that the ordinary farmer has not. Still the Minister complains that these lands are a burden on his lands, and that he is doing his very best to get them off his hands. That should be an instructive lesson to the Minister for Agriculture.
Mr. HUGHES: There are three men employed. If we want extra men we have to employ them, or if we want women to drop the potatoes we employ them. I think if Deputy Doyle were  asked: “How many men do you employ on your farm?” he would say: “Two, three or four,” as the case might be, and if he were asked: “Do you employ any more in the harvest?” he would say he employed three men normally and more in the harvest if he required them.
Mr. MICHAEL DOYLE: I was led to believe that you might have some assistance from the military in planting those lands and dealing with them. I presume that of the large number of men, you have some who know something about agricultural labour.
Mr. WILSON: Do I understand the Minister to say that he is anxious to get rid of the State lands? Under Article 11 he would be infringing the Constitution if he were to make away with them. He would have to place an agreement on the Table of the Dáil.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: I gather from the Minister's statement of policy with regard to those lands that it is the intention of the Commissioners of Public Lands to dispose of those lands to the highest bidder and to get the best price. As far as large holdings are  concerned, such as the large training grounds in Kilworth and other places which are available, I do not see any objection, but I think the process of free sale with regard to the small quantity of land attached to the old barracks which have been described ought hardly be resorted to without consulting the Dáil, for the reason that if those lands are put up for sale the local people who want them for the purpose I specified will always be outbid. I think the Minister and the Executive Council should consider whether some preference should not be given to local town commissioners or societies. I think some opportunity should be given to the people of the towns to develop those playing fields, and if even on the sale there were a small loss to the Ministry the good which would result would be altogether in excess of it. Although Ireland is a country in which land is plenty, in town after town you find that there are no playing fields or parks available for the people. Young fellows have to go into a farmer's field. They are hunted out and they go into another farmer's field. I think it is well worth the Minister's while to consider whether he could not help some of the towns by handing over those fields, possibly at a less price, to some body such as the town commissioners or whatever body is in charge. If the present policy is pursued, before we know where we are all those lands will be gone. The good which would result from the handing over of those lands in the way I mentioned would be altogether in excess of any possible loss which might accrue to the Government.
Mr. GOREY: I have heard the Minister's explanation about old clothing, that it was going to be put up for auction. I suggest that this old clothing should be disposed of in the different towns where it happens to be found. It would save expense, and would give an opportunity to the local people, who have as much claim as Dublin has to it, to procure this material that might be very useful to the inhabitants. I believe it used to be the custom to sell it in one heap, and that the Jews are the people who get  hold of it. It is said that one big Jew, who has been identified with army matters for some years, gets it. His name has been mentioned freely as the man who derives all the benefit with regard to this class of thing and some other classes of things. We have someone else to cater for in this country besides Jews. I suggest this clothing should be sold at the different Army depôts down the country, where it accumulates, and that it should not be brought up here and sold in one big heap to a big Jew.
Mr. HUGHES: I am not interested in Sayers and Co. I am interested only in getting the best prices possible for the material that we have to dispose of. I have been heckled all day and told I am not giving information. Now, when I try to get the best possible value for this material I am also heckled. There is no case put up for starting auctions or taking tenders for old clothing in every little post where there are 25 or 100 men. I am interested only in getting the highest price, whether the tender be from a Jew or a Gentile. I do not believe that better prices would be procured if Deputy Gorey's suggestion were adopted. As to the point raised by Deputy Heffernan, when lands pass out of the possession of the Army authorities, or when they have no further use for them, their disposition, according to the leases, rests with the Office of Public Works. I do not know if Deputy Heffernan was serious when he suggested that such lands all over the country should be handed over for playing pitches. My own opinion is that the land should be disposed of to the best advantage. If there are persons in the vicinity of towns where there are such lands, and if they put up a reasonable proposition to the authorities, I am sure it will be considered. I do not  think it would be good policy to lay down that preference for lands which were attached to barracks should be given to people who want it for such purposes. I think the lands should go into the market, and those who want it for public purposes can then make their case to the Office of Public Works, who will consider the question of giving them a preference, or of leasing or renting the lands to them. As far as my Department is concerned, when the lands are handed over we will have no more to do with them.
Mr. GOREY: I am very glad that the Minister and myself are of one mind as to the sale of old clothing. His ambition is to get the best price for it. That is also my ambition. I suggest that the proper way to get the most money for the clothing is not to sell it in bulk, so that only two or three men can buy it. The secret of shop-keeping in this country is to buy in the greatest bulk and sell at the cheapest price. Those who can do that make the most money. If the Minister accepts my suggestion he will get most money by selling in small lots wherever the clothing has accumulated through the country.
Mr. MICHAEL DOYLE: I notice an item on this vote of £1,000 received from shoemakers' shops. I would like to know who contributed that sum. Is it from repairs that are made to the  soldiers' boots? Under sub-head (p) I noticed an expenditure of £3,000 for leather.
Mr. DOYLE: I think I am in order, as I am only going to make a comparison. Under sub-head (p) there is an expenditure of £3,000 for leather, while the receipts are estimated at £1,000 from the shoemakers' shops. How is the difference accounted for?
Mr. HUGHES: We pay the soldiers who are shoemakers proficiency pay. A soldier has an allowance for his clothes and equipment. He gets the work done, and it is charged up in the ordinary way by the workman, who is paid by the Army authorities. If the soldier gets any repairs done outside what is allowed by Regimental Orders he has to pay for them. During the year we estimate that we will get £1,000 from such work. We may get £800 or £1,200, but we estimate for £1,000. The money goes to the general Army funds.
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