Thursday, 16 July 1931
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Lemass: I would like to say that I think there should be some provision by which information would be automatically given to the Dáil concerning advances to the Board as certified by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to be reasonably and properly required by the Board under the section. I realise that if this Bill goes through in its present form it is possible for Deputies to get information by way of Question, but I would prefer—and I think the Minister should have no objection— having an amendment put into the Bill which would require him to submit a return periodically to the House showing what advances were made.
Mr. MacEntee: Let us see how the Minister contemplates operating the section. Are we to understand that he will only advance to the Board as much money from day to day as is required to meet immediate commitments and liabilities, or, does he contemplate that the Board, having carefully thought out a scheme involving the expenditure of a substantial sum of money, will present the scheme to him? Having had it examined by his competent advisers he will then place at the disposal of the Board, as and when required by them to be drawn upon, a certain substantial sum of money. Has the Minister clearly marked out in his own mind in what way he proposes to handle this money?
Mr. MacEntee: I will put it to the Minister this way: Does he favour the supposition that from day to day he would dole out to the Board such sums and just such sums as will meet their liabilities as they accrue, or does he think the proper course would be for the Board, having carefully surveyed a project — say a proposal to ensure a better service of electricity for Dublin, to put up to him a comprehensive scheme with fully detailed estimates showing the cost of such scheme? Having received the advice to his competent technical and financial advisers, he will then say to the Board: “I  approve of this scheme and I will advance to you for the purpose of this scheme a certain sum of money.” Is that how the Minister proposes to operate the section? I think it is essential the House should know that.
The Minister asks us to table an amendment expressing the ideas we have in mind. We are anxious, if we can, to accommodate the Minister. We do not want to waste the time of the House by putting down an amendment which he will not be disposed to accept. Before the section goes through I think the Minister ought to give the House some clear idea— at least, his own idea, whether it is clear or vague, as to how he proposes to operate under the section. I think that that is a reasonable request, and that the Minister should meet it.
Mr. McGilligan: Speaking quite frankly to the House I cannot give any information, at the moment, as to how it is going to be distributed. I can see one very big disbursement immediately. I think that ordinarily the Board will not ask for money except it has a programme ready for the application of the money, because the Board has to pay interest from the moment any advance is made to it. It is not so much my view that will be taken into account as the method by which the Board will make submissions to me for money. I can conceive the Board asking for small sums occasionally but ordinarily the Board would have a comprehensive programme and then we would have the disbursements on which that programme was based. What will happen in the circumstances in which I am, at the moment, I cannot exactly say. Quarterly returns have been asked for. If quarterly returns are asked for merely for the purpose of informing the House as to how the scheme stands, that may be well and good, but quarterly returns on which a debate can be engineered on every occasion is certainly a prospect that I would not look forward to with any relish. If it is merely for the purpose of supplying information to the Dáil a paper can be laid on the Table of  the House giving the disbursements for the quarter some weeks after the quarter has ended. I have had a similar scheme in operation in connection with moneys guaranteed under the Trade Loans Act. I could follow a system of that kind, but if I do I would do it on the understanding that these returns will not be required or availed of for quarterly debates.
Mr. McGilligan: That is going into details. I do not believe these returns will be furnished in that form. The details of the advances, and the purposes for which they will be required will, if given at all, be under a very general heading.
Mr. MacEntee: I would not agree with the Minister that the headings should be general. Of course, I would not ask the Minister to make a detailed statement as to what each particular sum was expended for, but he could give it under three or four main headings—say the provision of a new generating plant, the extension of the distribution system, the provision of consumers' service material, in the shape of meters and things of that description. I do not say definitely that such headings should be adopted, but I am suggesting that the Minister might look at it from that angle. If we had three or four main headings the total amount advanced to the Board for expenditure under each of these three headings might be stated quarterly or half-yearly. While I agree with the Minister that it would be extremely undersirable from the point of view of the House, and the point of view of the electricity supply undertaking itself, that there should be quarterly debates, nevertheless, I think the House ought to have freedom to ask for a debate on any one of these returns if the return on its face would seem to justify such a request. We would be prepared to meet the Minister that it should be extremely undesirable that there should  be quarterly debates but, nevertheless, the House should not be limited beyond its own sense of discretion and responsibility, in having a debate.
Mr. McGilligan: Let me take one heading I gave yesterday. Clearly there is going to be a quarterly debate if expenditure under that head is given. One item I mentioned was provision for joining up certain towns to the Shannon scheme. We are going to have a kind of Land Commission debate on that every quarter. Deputies will ask: “Why was not a named town in my constituency joined up?” When a certain sum of money has been advanced every town that has not been linked up will immediately want a Deputy to raise that question.
Mr. McGilligan: If that question is raised, either now or in the future, my answer, my general answer to everyone will be, that I do not know, that such is not my business, and I do not intend to inquire.
Mr. McGilligan: You will then get two or three sub-headings. I do not know what information you are going to get in that way. Let me leave it at this point. The first disbursement will be a very big one and will have to be met. I do not know whether Deputies want a return of that. It will be simply the accrued liabilities which will have to be met. That would be approximately three-quarters of a million. After that is over, I can start some system of quarterly returns of a type that will probably have to be changed before final form is presented. The first one may not be satisfactory, but I will produce what I think is a satisfactory return later. After that there can be private conferences with Deputies as to whether that return is giving suitable information. By degrees we will arrive at the proper type of return. SECTION 4.
Mr. McGilligan: Except this, that as the Deputy says, the £2,000 was given without a trial. It is left in abeyance as to what the result of the trial might be, and money is being paid without any question.
Mr. de Valera: I have no authority to discuss it on any basis whatever, but we have a right to know on what basis the Minister arrives at this sum of £2,000. I could understand it if it represented full salary for the unexpired period. I take it that this represents a judgment by the Minister—we cannot regard it as anything else—as to the sum to which Dr. MacLaughlin is entitled. My own belief would be that  the proper sum would be such a sum as would cover the salary during the unexpired period of office.
Mr. McGilligan: My suggestion is that we pay £2,000 without any question. The resignation has come in and has been accepted and we simply make a free gift of £2,000. If there is any question of giving more, let it be raised afterwards.
Mr. de Valera: The question is: why should we give anything? We want to know exactly where we are as regards this matter. The view of the Minister might have been, “This sum is to be paid because circumstances arose in which the man felt he had to tender his resignation” and in which the Minister said, “I accept your resignation under the circumstances, but I take into account all the details and, therefore, I give you the salary to which you would have been entitled if you had served your full period.” I could understand that. But why give exactly a year's salary? Why estimate it at that amount? Obviously, that is a judgment on the part of the Minister. There has been no trial and I would like to know what is the basis on which the Minister arrives at this £2,000.
Mr. J.X. Murphy: If Dr. MacLaughlin gets £2,000, will it still be open to him to take proceedings against the Board in respect of the unexpired portion of his term, as outlined by Deputy de Valera, if he had a five years' agreement?
Mr. McGilligan: Any agreement there was in this case was not with the Board but with the Executive Council. The Executive Council have received a resignation. I cannot conceive of circumstances in which an action would lie for payment of money for the unexpired portion of a term when the person in question has resigned.
Mr. de Valera: I think it is quite clear that no action can be taken by Dr. MacLaughlin since he tendered his resignation. The point, however, is that there is down here a sum of £2,000 to be paid to Dr. MacLaughlin.  I should like to have some basis for that payment. I could understand payment for the unexpired period of the appointment. I could understand if the Minister said, “He has resigned under force of circumstances. I have not judged the case and because I have not judged it, I do not propose to deprive him of any salary to which he would be entitled if he had served. I propose to give him the full sum he would have got if he had served the full term.” I could understand that, but the moment you depart from that and try to fix a lesser sum, or mention a round sum, like £2,000, we should have some basis for it. It indicates a judgment on the part of the Minister. If Dr. MacLaughlin's appointment was one on a year's notice, I could understand £2,000 being given but in this particular case I think it would be very much better, if a sum is to be voted by the House at all, that it should be voted on the basis of full salary for the unexpired period of office.
Mr. McGilligan: The Deputy has said twice that this represented a judgment on my part. To my mind it did— it represented favourable judgment on the grounds set out in my opening statement. Deputies will remember that I devoted portion of my opening statement to this particular payment. Nobody has since referred to it.
Mr. de Valera: We should like to have an opportunity of considering whether other amendments should not be put in on Report Stage. We are altogether dissatisfied with the measure as it has been reported to the House. Therefore, we would like to have time—at least a week—to put in considered amendments to it.
Mr. McGilligan: Two points have been specifically decided on Committee Stage—the point regarding the two  million pounds and the point regarding the control of two Ministers. No amendments which would run counter to those two decisions would be in order. I submit.
Mr. Lemass: There are certain points in that speech which seemed to be in conflict with statements made by the Minister on Second Reading. We want to compare those speeches to see if that is so. The Minister referred to a big payment which is going to come out of this two million pounds to meet the liabilities of the Board. He gave us yesterday an estimate of the expenditure of that two million pounds, which did not make any provision to meet these liabilities.
Mr. Lemass: The point is that we feel that the Dáil should be given an opportunity of improving an intricate measure of this kind, and of examining the report of the discussion that took place on the Committee Stage before the House is asked to take the Report Stage.
Mr. Briscoe: I want to ask the Minister if he stated that the undischarged liabilities of the acquired undertakings would not be included in this two million pounds: that they would be paid out of revenue?
Mr. de Valera: We object. We think that a fair period should elapse between the taking of the Committee and Report Stages, and that it is a monstrous thing to rush a Bill of this importance through the House in this manner.
Mr. T.J. O'Connell: I do not like the idea of taking the Report Stage of a Bill immediately in this way, but I think the circumstances are rather special in this case. In connection with this Bill there were two main points in dispute, the amount of money provided in the Bill and the giving of control to two Ministers. As a result of the two divisions just taken these two points seem to have been disposed of. If the postponement of the Report Stage meant that members would have to come back next week for no other business than to take the Bill then I think most Deputies would not be anxious to agree to that. I would like  to get some idea of the type of amendment that could be moved on the Report Stage. As I have stated, the two main points in dispute have been decided. I understand there was practical agreement between Deputy MacEntee and the Minister that quarterly returns would be made available. That seems to meet the point as to the kind of information that we would require. If there was to be no other business next week except this Bill and if we can get no idea as to the possible type of amendments that can be moved on the Report Stage, most Deputies I think would be inconvenienced if they had to come back next week. Many Deputies believed that the adjournment would be taken this week.
Mr. Lemass: It is not a matter of the personal convenience of Deputies at all. It is a matter of doing our business properly. This is the most important Bill that has come before the Dáil in the present session, and whether Deputy O'Connell wants to come back next week or not we do not think that the Report Stage should be rushed through now immediately after Committee.
The President: There is one point that the Deputies opposite seem to have overlooked. If the Report Stage is left over until next week there will only be about seven days for the Seanad to consider the Bill before the 1st August.
Mr. MacEntee: Surely the President is not going to try on that in the Dáil. We know quite well that the Dáil will decide exactly as the President and the Minister for Industry and Commerce determine. A free choice in the matter is not going to rest with the Dáil. The responsibility for the decision taken is going to rest with the President  and the Minister for Industry and Commerce. This Bill, as Deputy Flinn pointed out, relates to a concern in which about sixteen million pounds of public capital has been sunk.
Mr. MacEntee: I should have said in connection with the scheme. Surely, in connection with a Bill of such importance we are entitled to the usual facilities provided by Parliamentary procedure—that is, that as between the Committee and Report Stages adequate time should be allowed for the consideration of amendments to be moved on Report. It is unfair of Deputy O'Connell, and he knows it would be unfair as well as grossly wrong for him to challenge the principal Opposition in this House to state immediately on the conclusion of the Committee Stage what amendments they propose to introduce on Report. No serious and responsible Opposition could proceed immediately on the conclusion of the Committee Stage to draft and put in amendments for Report. Deputy O'Connell knows that well. If the Deputy had more concern for the public welfare and less for the private convenience of himself and his Party he would get up and ask that adequate time be given for the consideration of this Bill after it had emerged from Committee.
Mr. O'Connell: I do not think that it lies with Deputy MacEntee to lecture me in this House as to what my duty is. In matters of this kind I do not think it has yet come to the stage when he can deny me the right to express my views and the views of my Party as I see them. They may not be in agreement with what Deputy MacEntee thinks ought to be done, but that is no reason why they should not be expressed. The request I made was, I think, a reasonable one. I suggested that before we are asked to  make up our minds definitely as to how we are to vote on this question we should have some indication from the Deputies opposite as to the kind of amendment that could possibly be moved on Report.
Mr. Lemass: Suppose there was no amendment at all, as very possibly there may not be, should we not have a week to consider the Bill, and the discussions that took place on the Committee Stage before the Report Stage is taken.
Mr. O'Connell: If the indication that I have asked for was given, then I could come to a decision on the matter. I took it for granted that when the request was made to have the Report Stage taken next week that it was made with a view to putting in amendments. As I pointed out, the two main issues in the Bill had already been decided, and I wanted  to know the type of amendment that it was proposed to move on Report.
Mr. de Valera: The Deputy has asked with regard to the type of amendment that could be moved on Report. Take for instance the statement as regards the returns. We may consider that there is a better form of return which the Minister should be required to make. There are a number of other things too that may possibly arise. In any case, supposing, as Deputy Lemass has pointed out, that there was to be no amendment moved, it is not fair, we say, to rush a Bill of this importance through without allowing a reasonable interval between the Committee and Report Stages.
Aird, William P.
Alton, Ernest Henry.
Beckett, James Walter.
Bennett, George Cecil.
Bourke, Séamus A.
Byrne, John Joseph.
Cassidy, Archie J.
Cole, John James.
Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
Connolly, Michael P.
Cosgrave, William T.
Craig, Sir James.
Dolan, James N.
Doyle, Peadar Seán.
Duggan, Edmund John.
Egan, Barry M.
Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
Gorey, Denis J. Roddy, Martin.
Shaw, Patrick W.
Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
Thrift, William Edward.
Hassett, John J.
Heffernan, Michael R.
Hennessy, Michael Joseph.
Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
Law, Hugh Alexander.
Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
McFadden, Michael Og.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Murphy, Joseph Xavier.
Myles, James Sproule.
Nally, Martin Michael.
Nolan, John Thomas.
O'Connell, Thomas J.
O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
Redmond, William Archer.
Rice, Vincent. Vaughan, Daniel.
White, Vincent Joseph.
Wolfe, Jasper Travers.
Corry, Martin John.
De Valera, Eamon.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick John.
O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.
O'Kelly, Seán T.
Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Duggan and P.S. Doyle; Níl, Deputies G. Boland and Allen.
Question declared carried.
|Last Updated: 17/05/2011 18:58:47||Page of 58|