PRIVATE BUSINESS. - CENSORSHIP OF FILMS.

I move:—

"That a committee of seven members of the Dáil to be selected by the Committee of Selection, be appointed to inquire into and report on (1) the circumstances which led up to the granting to the Irish Bonded Film Store, Limited, or Messrs. McConnell and Hartley, of the contract for the projection of cinematograph films for censorship purposes; (2) the terms of said contract and the charges agreed to be paid to the Irish Bonded Film Store, Limited, or Messrs. McConnell and Hartley, for such projection; (3) the fees fixed for the censoring of films and the orders and regulations made under the Censorship of Films Act, 1923, and the basis on which such fees were fixed; (4) the effect of the import duty on films and amusements tax on the cinema trade, and the incidence of said taxes; and (5) to make recommendations as to the arrangements for the censoring of films which should be made on the termination of the said contract."

Before I agreed to allow this motion to go down in my name I took every reasonable precaution, in consultation with other Deputies who are interested, to see that there was nothing in the motion that would in any way pass a reflection on the Minister himself, or upon any of those who have been advising him in connection with this particular matter. I am not going to say anything now that would, in my opinion, prejudge or prejudice the decision of the Committee, which I hope the Dáil will agree to set up for the reasons given in the motion. If the Dáil is prepared to agree to the setting up of a committee for the purposes named I think it is very undesirable that I should go into any of the questions which that committee would rightly have to deal with. As far as I can understand, the main complaint of the people who have grievances in this matter is that the organisation which represents the film trade has not been taken into consultation in the way that it should by the Minister, before certain decisions were arrived at. The motion requests that the Dáil should agree to the setting up of a committee of seven members of the Dáil to be selected by the Committee of Selection "to inquire into and report on (1) the circumstances which led up to the granting to the Irish Bonded Film Stores, Limited, or Messrs. McConnell and Hartley, of the contract for the projection of cinematograph films for censorship purposes."

I want to say here and now that if there is any contract in existence which is regarded as legally binding for a certain period I do not claim in this resolution that that contract can be or should be terminated in any way until the period of the contract has expired. That is not demanded in the resolution which I am asking the Dáil to agree to. Questions have been asked in the House, I think, on several occasions, and by several Deputies, and one long statement, at any rate, has been made by the Minister for Justice in connection with the whole matter.

Did you read it?

I did read it. As a matter of fact I listened very carefully to the statement at the time, if that is any satisfaction to the Minister. Statements of a contradictory nature were made by people outside as a result of that statement made in the Dáil. For that reason also I think it is only right that the Committee should be asked to go into the whole matter and examine the statements that have been made both by the Minister and by the people outside who are interested, so that a correct view may be taken of all the circumstances that led up to the granting of this particular contract. The trade organisation complained very bitterly that they had not been consulted by the Minister or his advisers in this matter. Information in connection with the fees was given to the Minister and it led up to the existing charges, which are regarded by the trade as excessive and unfair. It was stated, for instance, that the Minister was advised that the amount of films submitted for censorship would not exceed 50,000 square feet per week. I think experience has shown from the correspondence I have read, and even from the Minister's statement itself, that that figure has been exceeded. If the figure of 50,000 square feet per week was the figure upon which the Minister worked out the present charges, and if it has been exceeded, then I think it is one good reason why the existing charges should be revised. The Minister himself in a letter to representatives of the trade dated 9th February, stated "the present charge will be reduced, if it is found to be greater than required." I understand that the charges that are being made, and that have been made by the Minister are made for the purpose of producing revenue that will be sufficient to defray the expenses incidental to the working of the Act. The charge of 16s. 8d. per thousand feet, which is the present charge, is regarded as highly excessive for that particular purpose. The charge split up is supposed to represent 10s. for running the films through the censor and providing office accommodation and 6s. 8d. for expenses in connection with the Censor's Department. The estimated revenue based upon these charges has been given to me as £4,300 per year, while the estimated expenditure in connection with the working of the Censor's Department and all other expenses incidental to the working of the Act is £1,135 per year. That would leave a surplus of £3,165 per year. That is being thrown on to the trade, and it imposes upon it a burden which is regarded as excessive and unfair. In other words it is alleged that a private trading concern, namely, the Irish Bonded Film Store, Ltd., is being subsidised to that extent by the imposition of unfair charges.

There is another complaint with regard to this matter, a complaint which I think has already been put up to the Minister—that is, that the contract for the censorship of films was not advertised in the Press; at any rate, it was not generally made known to the people engaged in the trade that it was intended to give this work to a private trading concern. Some of the people representing the trade were led to believe—I am not saying it was definitely stated—that the work of censorship would be done by a Civil Service Department acting under the Ministry of Justice. If it is agreed to set up this Committee reasons can be given as to why that should be done. At any rate, good reasons can be given to show that interested people should not be employed by a private trading concern to engage in the work of censorship. All people engaged in the work of censorship should be regarded as Civil Servants or semi-Civil Servants, and should be directly under the Ministry. Returns have been called for to show the number of square feet of films that have been submitted for censorship in a particular period, and the average taken over six weeks was 107,000 square feet. Based on the existing charges, that would bring in a revenue of £83 per week, £33 of which is alleged to be set aside for the cost of the Censor's Department, and the remaining £50 for the Irish Film Bonded Store, Limited. The organisation representing the trade claims that the charges could be reduced to about half, or about 8/4 per square foot instead of 16/8, as at present charged.

There are other things dealt with in the Resolution which the Committee, if set up, should deal with—"the effect of the import duty on films and the amusements tax on the cinema trade and the incidence of said taxes." I notice there is an amendment by the Minister for Finance to cut that out. Complaints have been made, particularly by the general public who patronise the picture houses that the amusements tax as at present imposed is very unfair, especially to those patrons of the lower priced parts of the house. I am not a patron of picture houses, but I understand that most of the houses in the City of Dublin cater for the poorer classes, and that the tax on the lower priced seats is unfairly assessed.

The taxes, for instance, on the lower priced seats are roughly in the ratio of 33.1-3rd per cent., while on the higher priced seats it is reduced to 16 or 16.2-3 per cent. If there is to be a tax upon amusements, that tax should be imposed upon the people who have the greatest amount of money to spend, and there should be no undue or unfair tax placed upon the poorer class of people who may find a little pleasure in patronising picture houses from time to time. That is the reason it is suggested that they should be taken into consideration by the Committee. I repeat that I have no interest to serve whatsoever in connection with this matter. I am not a patron of picture houses.

As a matter of fact, I have only visited picture houses on one or two occasions, the last occasion being four or five years ago when I went to see the picture of some big fight reproduced. I have no axe to grind or interest to serve in moving this motion. I hope the Minister will see his way to accept it. If there is nothing that the Minister and his officers are anxious to hide, I do not see why he should object to the setting up of a committee to deal with the things mentioned in the motion. If the Minister for Finance is not disposed to accept that portion of my motion, to which I notice he has an amendment down, I suppose I must accept his amendment.

I do not think the Minister for Finance should take any exception to a Committee of the Dáil going into a matter of this kind, and making recommendations to him. I take it that if anybody is anxious to do so, there will be an opportunity to raise this matter on the Finance Bill or probably on the Estimates. I hope the Minister will take what I say into consideration in regard to the unfairness of the amusement tax now imposed on the lower-priced seats in picture houses. The Committee is asked also to make recommendations for arrangements as to the censorship of films. I take it that the recommendations of a committee of this kind are not binding on the Minister, but there are many reasons which even the Minister should welcome why this committee should be set up, so that any injustice which any individual or body of people may feel they are suffering from as a result of what has happened in the past, may be removed by the inquiries and recommendations of the committee. I put it to the Minister that so far as I am concerned I am not moving this motion for the purpose of casting any reflections on his attitude.

I beg to second the motion.

I take it that the amendment in the name of the Minister for Finance is accepted. It is as follows:—"To delete the words ‘(4) the effect of the import duty on Films and Amusements Tax on the cinema trade and the incidence of said taxes.'" I move the amendment for the Minister.

I beg to second.

I am accepting the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Davin referred in a passing way to the fact that on the 5th March last I made a statement on this matter on the adjournment. I find it a little hard to believe that the Deputy read the statement or paid any particular attention to it.

I can give the Minister the assurance that I sat here listening very attentively to his statement. If you look up the records you will find that.

Shall I say, re-read the statement, previous to putting down this motion. He has not suggested in what respect the statement was at all inaccurate or inadequate. It is simply mentioned by him and passed by. Now, in drafting that statement, I aimed at making it as full, as detailed and as comprehensive as I possibly could. I aimed at giving to the Dáil all possible information and enlightenment on the matter which was under review. I explained in the course of that statement that the basic thing in the transaction which was come to, was the average footage per week which would be censored. Although the Deputy states there was insufficient consultation—in fact, I think he put it there was no consultation with the trade—there was in June of last year very full consultation with both branches of the trade. the renters and the exhibitors. I sought from them all the advice and information which would enable my Department to arrive at just conclusions and decisions. In particular, I sought from them information on this important basic question of film footage. The renters, when asked for an estimate of the footage, gave estimates varying from 150,000 feet to 400,000 feet per week. The other branch of the trade, the exhibtors, ridiculed those figures and said that the figure was 50,000 feet per week.

Finding such a wide divergence of opinion between two branches of the trade, I sought from Revenue statistics some confirmation of one or other figure, and from the statistics which were available in June of last year, I got what I believe to be a confirmation of the lower figure of 50,000 feet. That would be, in fact, the estimate given by the exhibitors. On that estimate of 50,000 per week the transaction that was arrived at was based. At these interviews in June of last year both the renters and the exhibitors represented that it would be a great facility to the trade if films could be censored in bond, so that import duty would not have to be paid on films rejected by the Censor.

On that question of cost, exhibitors thought it would be necessary to charge between a half-penny and one penny per foot, and represented this as an excessive burden. They professed to be completely satisfied if the work could be done at one farthing per foot Now, the actual charge is one-fifth of a penny per foot, and one-tenth of a penny in the case of topical, travel, interest and educational films. So that, whereas you had these people representing in the month of June last that we would need to charge one half-penny and one penny, and that they would be completely satisfied if the work was done at one farthing, the work is actually being done at one-fifth of a penny in some cases, and one-tenth of a penny in other cases, per foot. I want to know from Deputy Davin, or any other Deputy, whether it is contended that the charges are too high. Perhaps Deputy Davin will answer me now?

I have argued that.

In England you have the British Board of Film Censors, a body set up by the trade, which deals with a far greater quantity of films than the Censor here deals with, and which should operate more economically. Yet the charge is 2s. per 100 feet or £1 per thousand feet as compared with our charge of 16s. 8d. per thousand feet. Now, suppose even that charge were high and compared unfavourably instead of favourably with the corresponding charge in England, who would be to blame? I submit that the people who represented that from a half-penny to a penny would be the minimum practical and who professed themselves completely satisfied if it could be done for a farthing would be the people chiefly to blame if the present charges had been somewhat high. But the present charges, as I have shown, are not high. They are below the figures with which the trade professed themselves satisfied. They are below the charges of a farthing per foot, and they are considerably lower than the charges for corresponding work in England under the British Board of Film Censors.

Does the Minister accept my statement that the fees charged are supposed to produce the Revenue that would be necessary to cover expenses incidental to the operation of the Film Censors Act?

It was made perfectly clear at the time the Act was being passed, that the Act was not to be a source of revenue, that it was meant only to cover the expenses of the administration of the Censorship. Now, the Deputy says the fees are too high. He is arguing that they are too high. The scale of fees was, in accordance with the Act, laid on the Table of the Dáil for 21 days, 21 days during which any Deputy might have raised his objection. There was no objection raised. The Deputy comes along now and says there should be an inquiry because the fees are too high. In the statement of the 5th March last I said and I repeat it now: "If experience proves that lower fees will suffice or that cheaper arrangement can be made, the contract with the Irish Bonded Film Store, Limited will not be renewed at the end of the year." That is the position. That has always been the position. Representatives of the trade coming to me on deputations have received that assurance time and time again. What is it they ask to be done? Is it that I should break the contract which my department entered into on the basis of information which was the fullest and the only information available at the time it was made? Because in practice a contract may work out slightly more advantageous to one party than to the other, is it to be repudiated? That is not my idea, and I hope it is not the Deputy's idea of a business transaction. In fact, the statistics for the year ending 31st March last showed that the footage works out at 70,000 feet per week instead of 50,000, which was our estimate and on which we based this bargain. The transaction had to be entered into in June of last year. At that time there were only figures available for three months of the financial year. The figures which were available pointed to the confirmation of the exhibitors' own estimate of 50,000 feet per week, and it was on that basis and on the basis of that figure that the arrangement was made. Now, I would like to think that I had disposed of the charge of lack of consultation. There was the fullest consultation with the trade on this whole matter of the Censorship. There has been a suggestion of monopoly and I want that cleared up. I want to know what information or what opportunity the contracting firm had which any other member of the trade did not share? It was well known to the trade that the Government would have to make arrangements for premises and make arrangement for the projection of these films for censorship. That was the whole matter under discussion and the probable cause of it.

Why did not the Government make that publicly known?

Well, now, the matter was one of letting premises, and one does not invite tenders for every little detail of administration. But the trade knew it. The trade knew that it was necessary for the Government to make arrangements for premises and for the projection of these films for censorship. Every member of the trade knew it, and they contented themselves with saying: "It will cost between a halfpenny and a penny, and we are entirely sceptical of the possibility of your doing it at a farthing." And they left it at that. In fact we are now doing it at one-fifth of a penny. We were able to arrive at that because this firm wrote in and offered to take on this task at a particular figure. That figure was refused by us. Later we entered into a bargain based on our estimate of 50,000 feet per week. Now the Deputy, with characteristic tact, says, "If there is nothing which the Minister is anxious to hide, I do not see why he should oppose the motion." Now I scarcely want to take up the position of opposing the motion. But I do suggest that the Deputy's leg has been stretched in this matter, just as a very elaborate attempt has been made, and a very sustained and intensive attempt has been made to stretch the leg of the man in the street.

And to stretch the leg of the Minister.

Whose leg is being stretched?

There is implicit in this motion an abuse of the forms of the Dáil or an attempt to abuse the forms of the Dáil. The real object of this Inquiry, and it will probably be news, and interesting news, to the Deputy, is to enable certain members of the trade to ventilate a grievance, real or imaginary against one member of the contracting firm. The matter is one extraneous to the contract, and is in no way a proper concern of my Department or the Dáil. But it is felt that if the Dáil could be induced to set up an Inquiry, that such Inquiry would provide an excellent sounding board for the ventilation of the grievance against the individual member of the trade.

That was as much as was stated to me by a representative of the trade. He said: "We have no grievance whatever against you or your department. Our real object is, so to speak, to get after the men with whom we have had a business falling out."

I think the Minister should quote the exact words said to him by the representative of the trade. I think he ought to be quite frank with me, and to quote the exact words that were used to him. I am not using this motion for propaganda reasons of that kind.

I am not suggesting that you are.

Then to be fair to the individual concerned, I think you should tell the House what he did say, actually.

I regard the Deputy as a babe in the wood in this whole matter. I am telling him a fact, that a professional representative of the trade informed me that the real object of the Inquiry, which they were seeking, was to enable them to ventilate a grievance against an individual member of the contracting firm, and to enable them to substantiate a charge of, let us say, lack of candour on his part in dealing with certain of his business associates. That is no concern of mine. It was a matter anterior to the contract, and a matter extraneous to the contract, and I submit that the Dáil ought to have a better sense of its own dignity than to set seven of its members to work to enable them to clear up what is, after all, a private dispute between members of the cinema trade.

I have very little to say on this motion. I am not concerned with the charges, whether they are high or low, but from the information placed at my disposal I support the motion with a view purely and simply to getting at the bottom of what I might call a scandal. When I say a scandal, I do not for a moment suggest that it has anything to do with the Minister or the Ministry that he is concerned with. I do say this, that the Ministry were very gravely at fault in not making proper inquiries, but again I say at the time at which this occurred there was every reason why they should be excused, and fully excused. It is with the definite object of helping the Ministry and helping the Dáil that I am speaking on this, so that when the contract ends sometime this year they will be in a position to know exactly what they should do in the future regarding the exercise of a proper censorship control of its staff, and the fixing of proper charges. They should see that the censorship is definitely controlled and also its staff. If my information is correct, it seems very strange that what you might call three foreigners could get the entree into two separate and distinct departments of this State. It is not only the Ministry of Home Affairs, but also the Ministry of Finance, that is concerned in this matter. It is alleged, in spite of the statement that I heard read, that these people were fully consulted. They hold, in spite of that statement, that they were not, and their real grievance is that they were told on several occasions that they would be kept in touch. That is their real grievance: that they were not kept in touch, but at the end of the time they were just faced with an accomplished fact. This store and the censorship have been granted to this firm or whatever it is. I believe it is called the Irish Bonded Film Store.

With which I have nothing to do.

I have made it quite clear I think that I said there were two departments of the State concerned in this. That is their real grievance. The information I have is that this store was approved of, in the first instance, or rather that this company when they got the contract in the first instance, had not this store. The point is that this store was apparently inspected and a certificate was given to it as a bonded film store while it was not the property of the person who was getting the concession. That is my real reason for bringing this on.

If I might intervene for a moment I should say as a matter of accuracy that the premises were approved of as a bonded store before the censoring transaction was entered into and not subsequently.

That makes you all the more clear in the matter. We will take it that that was the course that was followed. The bonded store was approved of, apparently, and again I say if my information is correct, a certificate was given for a store which was not the property of the party getting the concession. My real, reason for supporting this motion is to get at what should be put down once and for all, and that is a sharper getting into a new State—a foreigner coming across here and by sharp practice wiping out those who had been here before him or who were Irish people, and doing a trick, because really it cannot be described as anything but a swindle. Again, I qualify that by saying, if my information is correct. I am also concerned with a real censorship. I think the Censor, who is responsible for the pictures shown, when he has passed them should be in a position to say and to know definitely that every picture he puts his signature to is a proper picture and that it has been shown fully beforehand. He cannot be in a position to say that unless he has definite control over the party showing the picture. That is the real point. That is an aspect of the question that the Minister will have to consider carefully in the future, even if he does not accept this motion. It is quite possible, more particularly when dealing with this type of people, to slip in a number of feet of film. The Censor has no power in the world over the operator. He simply sees what is put before him; he does not know whether he has seen all the picture or not, and consequently something very objectionable may get into a picture. If my information is correct, there has been a good deal of sharp practice going on here. I am not alleging anything against the department concerned, but I think a grave error was made by the Finance Department in granting a certificate for a bonded film store. The Finance Department did not make proper inquiries regarding the premises before granting the licence.

I propose to support this motion. I certainly do not intend to traverse all the ground of the matters at issue. All I have to say will be contained in a very few sentences. I have discussed this matter with both sides, and both sides have expressed to me in conversation a desire to have this Inquiry or this Committee set up. If that is so, I for my part cannot see any ground for refusing such a Committee of Inquiry.

What does the Deputy mean by "both sides"?

It is obvious there are two sides. As a matter of fact, the Minister for Justice indicated in the course of his own remarks that it was simply a dispute between certain parties. I do not know how far he is accurate in that or not. Certainly the information supplied to me led me to think that there are grounds for inquiry, and very considerable grounds, and that certain persons had been given a monopoly in regard to this matter which gives them a most unfair advantage in the trade. According to the information I have received, it places them in a position to dominate the trade, to control the whole trade, and eventually to become a small ring regulating the whole trade throughout the Saorstát. That does seem to me to be sufficient ground to warrant some sort of an investigation, but when I find those who are alleged to have secured that advantage, and those contesting the equity of that arrangement, and when both sides have personally informed me that they are anxious for an inquiry, then for the life of me I cannot see why the Minister should refuse it to those parties. The various pros and cons of the matter are matters to be argued out, not so much in this House as before a committee of inquiry. For the reasons I have stated, and in order that there may be removed any suspicion that there was anything in the nature of sharp practice, or of unfair concession, or of anything in the nature of placing a few individuals in a position from which to dominate this particular trade, and treat unfairly the other parties interested in the trade, I think there is quite sufficient ground for setting up a committee of inquiry, and therefore I support this motion.

At the inception of what I might call this cinema dispute I was asked to put down a question to the Minister for Justice. I did so and I got a reply which was not only, as the Minister to-day described it, very complete, but was elaborate, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Minister for the very complete and full answer he gave me then. After that question had been answered I found there was still agitation going on and what you might call dissatisfaction. I have been approached by both sides and the attitude I took up was that as far as I was concerned, and with the information that the Minister had given me, I certainly could not see any justification for the wire-pulling that was going on, in connection with the whole business. To-day the Minister for Justice has again amplified what he said, and really I do not think that this House should be called upon to enter into a petty squabble between different members of a trade. I think it is beneath our dignity and the amount of wire-pulling and agitation that has been going on in this matter is far and away in excess of the merits of the case, even if the case made out by any one section was entirely correct. I oppose this motion as being beneath the dignity of this House to ask seven Deputies to enquire into a matter which has already been thrashed out ad nauseam among the members of the trade themselves.

Does the Deputy suggest it is beneath the dignity of the House to inquire into what I might call allegations of lax administration as between two departments of State? Is it beneath the dignity of the House to clear up matters of that kind?

I have a certain amount of pleasure in speaking on this occasion because I find myself in agreement with Deputy Hewat, which is not often the case. It is not enough to come here and say there is no case made out for a Parliamentary inquiry commensurate with the dignity of this Dáil. A very strong case would have to be made out for such inquiry, not merely a case involving a dispute between two rival sections of traders, but rather seriously involving Departments of State. I do not think from the beginning a very strong case or a moderate case, or any case at all, has been made out so far as I heard it.

I am in a peculiar position. I am in the position of a juror, with an absolutely virgin mind in regard to this dispute. I was not approached by either side, and I did not read anything about it in the papers. I give it as my candid opinion that there has been no case made out for the inquiry. Whether there is a case or not, certainly no case has been made for an inquiry of this kind, and the idea of setting up a committee of the sovereign assembly of the nation to decide whether one set of traders in the State was guilty of sharp practice against another set of traders should not be entertained, and I hope Deputy Davin will not press his motion. I think the Minister said he did not like to oppose the motion, but apart altogether from the wishes of the Minister, and from the point of view of the House alone, I think the Deputy should not press his motion.

I, too, have a certain amount of sympathy with what Deputy Hewat expressed as to the inadvisability of, shall I say, cheapening the procedure of Dáil inquiries into matters of this kind, that is to say the matters of dispute between members of the trade. But I think the case that might have been made for this motion has not been made, because it was probably thought to be an accepted motion.

The Minister for Justice incidentally hit upon the issue as far as I can see it, and that is that it is not as to whether the charges are too high alone. But when he said that Deputy Davin was the babe in this matter and that his leg was being stretched, the allegation in reality is that it is the Minister who is the babe in this matter, and that it is his leg that is being stretched, that those who advised him have up consciously, and perhaps ignorantly, allowed themselves to be drawn into a trap which has given certain people in the trade an advantageous position; that sharp practice has been used with the Minister or his advisers which has led to the prejudicing of the great majority of the trade; that there is incidentally or—shall I say—directly involved in this dispute an allegation that the Ministry have been more or less careless and faulty in having entered into a contract of this kind without due inquiry, and that such inquiry as was made was made of those people who were interested in the contract that eventually was entered into which placed them in a particularly strong position in respect of their competitors. That is the issue. It is not whether it is a little extra here or a little extra there, or that there is an overcharge here which will be remitted at the end of the period of contract, but that there is quite apparently at the back of all this an allegation that a department of State has been grievously at fault, and—shall I say— the real justification for any inquiry of this kind is that that department of State—I do not think there is any truth whatever in it, but nevertheless it is part of the general issue—may have been advised by its experts wrongly, and possibly corruptly. That is the kind of question that has to be inquired into and that on the part of certain people concerned corrupt influences have been used, or if not corrupt, too clever methods adopted with those who are new to such matters. My only interest in this matter arises from the fact that I have been approached by the people working in the trade, who feel that they have serious grounds for apprehension; that the members of the trade have been handicapped sufficiently to make them contemplate the closing down of their premises and their businesses; that the trade is feeling a very distinct grievance and feeling it so acutely that it may lead to the closing down of premises and the consequent disemployment of a large number of people. I do not say that the Minister would be wrong in describing that simply as part of the bluff; I do not know. But the workmen in the trade feel quite seriously that there is solid ground for apprehension, and it is only on that account that my interest has been aroused in this matter. But I think it well to state, as well as I can, that the issue is not the simple one between one section of the trade and another. If it were, then the Dáil has no right to intervene at all; that is a matter for the Minister, in so far as it affects him. But if there come any such suggestion of undue influence, possibly corruption, or any suggestion that people have been given concessions as a result of undue influence—say sharp practice—then I think it is competent for the Dáil to enter into an inquiry as to the truth of any such allegation.

If such a charge is well substantiated the Dáil is competent, I admit, but unless the charge is well substantiated the Dáil should not do so.

That is quite a good point, and it is a point that occurred to me, but there is this consideration. These charges may be framed; they may be detailed; there may be a full discussion in the Dáil, and you will get no further. The point is, I think, that Deputies, having some sense of responsibility, believe that there is substance for such a complaint, and it is because of that that I think the Dáil has reason for considering this question.

You would not suggest that the Dáil would devolve its responsibilities on to these Deputies? That follows from what you have just said now.

I would like to say that that surely is not a deduction to be drawn from what I have said. Unless the Deputy desires that the pros and cons of the case, the names, shall be discussed and everything entered into here as it would be before a Committee, he must admit that if Deputies are willing to say that they believe that there are substantial grounds for such an inquiry it is far better that such an inquiry should be held before a Committee than before the whole Dáil.

Deputy O'Sullivan has practically made my point. I would point out to Deputy Johnson that we Deputies, who have not got the information he has, cannot act on mere suspicion. I would take Deputy Johnson's assurances very often, but in a matter of this kind I cannot; I want some proof. Any person can get up here and make allegations that a Department was guilty of misconduct and corrupt practices, but before we would take the very serious step of appointing a commission we must have more tangable evidence, at least a probability, and I have not heard a bit of evidence so far. If Deputy Davin can give me a piece of tangible evidence, real tangible evidence, that there are corrupt practices, I will vote for the motion.

As one who does not know anything about this dispute, I do not think from what I have heard here to-day that we should ask the Committee of Selection to take the trouble to select a Committee to inquire into this business. As far as I can see, from all the evidence and the case that has been made to-day, this is a matter between either one or several firms in the city of Dublin that are interested in this business. That being so, I do not see that the Dáil should interfere in this or in every trivial case that is brought up, and that it should be asked to set up a Committee of Inquiry.

Will the Deputy read the Motion?

Surely we are not going to have a Broadcasting Inquiry every day in the week, and have the Dáil inquiring into everybody's business, whether in the city of Dublin or in the country. I think we have quite enough to do without interesting ourselves in business between private firms.

I deliberately refrained from reading correspondence which I have, or from going into the case which somebody says has not been made, because I think it would be undignified to ask for the setting up of a committee to go into matters if these matters were to be fully discussed beforehand in the Dáil. I could have taken advantage of Private Members' time by spending a good deal of time in going into the whole correspondence and into the charges that are supposed to have been made against a Department, and between one person and another, but I did not do that. I told the Minister for Justice, in a private conversation, that if he regarded this Motion as a Motion of censure upon himself or his Department, it would be up to me to make the case then, and to take up the time of Deputies by going into the matter from every angle. I understood from him, and I hope I am not incorrectly stating the facts when I say so, that he did not regard it as a vote of censure. I do not think he said anything in the course of his speech which could be taken to show that he did regard it in that light, and he more or less left it to the Dáil to say, whether or not from their own knowledge and from what has been said, it was advisable to set up this committee. The Minister will not remove the injustice that these people feel they are suffering from by telling the Dáil that they have pulled my leg, or endeavoured to pull my leg.

Will the Deputy be quite explicit as to where the injustice lies; whether it is in the matter of cost or in that other matter?

It is in regard to the matters that are mentioned in the Motion, with regard to the fees charged for censorship; with regard to the circumstances leading up to the granting of the contract, and the terms of the said contract, and to the undoubtedly favourable position in which he has placed one particular firm in regard to the matter. May I say this also: it has not been put to me, and I do not know, that there is a dispute between the people claiming to represent the trade and one or two particular individuals. I have never gone into that aspect of the case, and there is nothing in the correspondence I have that would go to show that. I think if the Dáil agrees to set up such a committee, the terms of reference which have been put down here would actually preclude the committee from going into any petty squabble that is supposed to exist between one or two parties who may have grievances in this matter. There is a complaint, and even in spite of what the Minister has said, I say that the trade organisation has not been consulted in the way it should have been in this case. I would put it to the Minister to say who were the people who were consulted as representing the trade organisation.

The Renters' and Exhibitors' Association.

I am told it is only one of two or three, and that the people who were invited to the Conference were, as a matter of fact, outside the organisation, and that it was upon their estimate that the existing charges have been based. The Minister admitted that the estimate, which he acted on and on which he imposed the existing charges, has been proved to be wrong. If that is so then there is a case for the reduction of the existing charges, in accordance with the promise that was made by the Minister in his letter of the 9th February last.

Does the Deputy mean that there is a case for the alteration of the bargain?

Of the existing charge of 16s. 8d.

The contract was based on an estimate of an average weekly footage of 50,000. That estimate was formed from all the information available for me at the time; it happened to be the estimate of the exhibitors themselves. It was confirmed, or it seemed to be confirmed, or corroborated from revenue statistics. I cannot alter the contract or the bargain that was made because, on further experience, it proves to be a few thousand out. The bargain must run its course for the period for which it was made. I have given the fullest assurances that the whole matter can be looked into on its merits when the contract period expires, and that if better arrangements can be made the contract will not be renewed.

Then it means that the existing charges are based upon an incorrect estimate, that a greater amount of subsidy is being given to a private concern?

They were parties to the making of the estimate.

Could the Minister tell us how long the term of the contract is for?

The contract runs for one year, and I have assured the representatives of the trade again and again that they will have every opportunity of making representations when we are free agents. But we are at present in contractual relationship with this firm for one year.

I make the statement now, and you can take it if you like, that the charges is that the people who gave the information of 50,000 feet to the Minister and upon which he acted, are the very people who have got the contract, the Irish Bonded Film Store Company.

That is quite definite. If that is a charge, I say it is a reason why a Committee of the Dáil should be set up to inquire into that very serious statement. Another thing the Minister ignored was the Government's intention with regard to the giving of the contract to the Irish Bonded and Film Store Company. I say that in Government contracts every person who is entitled to tender for the contract should have the necessary information at his disposal. It was the qury of the Minister to have advertised the contract publicly, so as to put all parties interested, and everyone engaged in the trade, on fair and equal terms. That point has not been answered by the Minister. I did not take up the time of the Dáil by trying to make the case here when I had reasonable grounds for assuming that the Minister did not look upon this motion as a vote of censure, and that consequently he would not oppose the setting up of the Committee if the Dáil agreed to it. This would not be the time to try to make a case if the Dáil afterwards decided that a Committee of Inquiry was to deal with the question. The Minister is not going to remove the injustice that these people feel they are suffering under. Something should be done by the Minister to remove such an impression. In view of the statement that the Minister made, and the denials of the accuracy of his statement, I would have thought that the Minister would welcome the setting up of a Committee. No one assumes that it would be a Committee on the lines of the Broadcasting Committee. I hope that Deputy Hughes, or any other Deputy who was a party to the setting up of that sensational stunting Committee, will never come to the Dáil and ask for a Committee of the same kind again. Deputy Hughes is more responsible for the Broadcasting Committee than, perhaps, any other Deputy in the Dáil. The whole thing was prearranged at a meeting of the Government Party.

This has no bearing on the present question.

Deputy Davin is sometimes very accurate and sometimes very inaccurate. This is one of the times when he is very inaccurate.

Any Committee that would be set up to inquire into this matter would not take very long to make a recommendation. The result of such an inquiry would be a guide to the Minister as to what should be done in future. I hope the Dáil will not be so prejudiced as not to approve of the motion simply because the Minister has tried to convey the impression that my leg has been pulled in the whole matter.

As a matter of personal explanation, may I say that I am not regarding this motion as in any sense a motion of censure or of want of confidence in myself or in my Department.

Will you resign if it is carried?

Certainly not. I did exercise my right as a private Deputy to suggest to the Dáil that it was questionable whether it was setting a good precedent to allow the form and procedure of the Dáil to be used as a sounding board, so that one trader outside, who has a row with another, might ventilate his grievance. That is the position that I put to the Dáil. There was one suggestion made that the people I met in my department were unofficial. This is the letter that was written to Messrs. Kennedy, Crowley and Co. Theatre and Cinema Association (Ireland) of 37 Westmoreland Street, on 13th June, 1923:—

"With reference to your letter of the 4th instant, addressed to the President, I am directed by the Minister for Home Affairs to state that if the representatives of your Association will be so good as to call at this Ministry at any date which may suit their convenience, full information will be afforded them as to the expenses involved by the Censorship of Films Bill, 1923."

The following was the reply:—

"We thank you for your letter of the 13th inst. The following deputation will attend upon you on Monday next, 18th instant, at 11.30, to meet the Minister in reference to the expenses involved by the Censorship of Films Bill, 1923:—Alderman Corrigan, Messrs. Frame, Sparling and O'Grady."

That sets the official stamp upon the people whom I met.

What is the name of the Association?

Theatre and Cinema Association of Ireland. Kennedy, Growley and Co., their secretary.

The very names that are included are the people whom the trade will not admit represents the trade association.

These were the people sent to see me on behalf of the trade.

Motion, as amended, put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 27.

  • Seán Buitléir.
  • David Hall.
  • Alasdair Mac Caba.
  • Domhnall MacCarthaigh.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
  • Seán Mac Giolla 'n Ríogh.
  • Seosamh Mag Craith.
  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Criostóir O Broin.
  • Próinsias O Cathail.
  • Aodh O Cúlacháin.
  • Liam O Daimhín.
  • Eamon O Dubhghaill.
  • Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
  • Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
  • Pádraig Ó hOgáin (An Clár).

Níl

  • Earnán Altún.
  • Seoirse de Bhulbh.
  • Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean
  • Uí Dhrisceóil.
  • Patrick J. Egan.
  • Osmond Grattan Esmonde.
  • Henry J. Finlay.
  • John Hennigan.
  • William Hewat.
  • Connor Hogan.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Martin M. Nally.
  • Peadar O hAodha.
  • Mícheál O hAonghusa.
  • Seán O Bruadair.
  • Aodh O Cinnéidigh.
  • Séamus N. O Dóláin.
  • Eamon S. O Dúgáin.
  • Donchadh S. O Guaire.
  • Fionán O Loingsigh.
  • Pádraic O Máille.
  • Pádraig O hOgáin (Gaillimh).
  • Pádraig K. O hOgáin (Luimneach).
  • Seán M. O Súilleabháin.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.
  • Liam Thrift.
Motion declared lost.