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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 21 Jun 1939

Vol. 76 No. 11

Public Hospitals (Amendment) Bill, 1939—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill makes provision for the discharge, in the case of an emergency which could not reasonably be foreseen, of the expenses incurred in holding a sweepstake under the Public Hospitals Act, 1933, in excess of the total amount lawfully applicable under that Act. Section 12 of that Act—that is, the Act of 1933— provides that a specified proportion of the amount derived from the sale of tickets can be applied to expenses incurred in the holding of a sweepstake, and while the proportion so applicable has so far been found to be ample, it has been represented to the Government by the promoters of sweepstakes that a sudden change of circumstances might render the provision in Section 12 totally inadequate. To meet such a contingency it is proposed in the Bill to establish a reserve fund. It is quite common in large undertakings to set aside a reserve for specific purposes. The Sweepstake Committee and the promoters whom they engage to conduct a sweepstake on their behalf must in the ordinary course incur heavy expenses long before money is received from the sale of tickets in the sweepstake. It is, therefore, considered desirable to establish a reserve to meet expenses that would not be fully covered by the percentage of receipts from sale of tickets fixed by the Act of 1933.

The reserve fund will be allowed to accumulate until it reaches a limit of £250,000, and when that limit is reached there will be no further accumulation. Any interests or dividends that accrue will be transferred to the Hospitals Trust Fund. The reserve fund will be in the hands of the Hospitals Trust Board, and no payment will be made out of it unless the Minister is satisfied that the expenses cannot be met owing to an emergency that could not have been reasonably foreseen by the committee. It will take some time before the reserve fund reaches the limit fixed. If it happens that the reserve fund is insufficient payment of the expenses to such extent as may be necessary can be made out of the Hospitals Trust Fund on the direction of the Minister.

Mr. Brennan

The Bill appears to be the result of an agreement arrived at between the Government and the Hospitals Trust Board. It simply makes a working arrangement for matters that might arise, and that were unforeseen in the ordinary way. We have no objection.

Would the Minister state whether there is any protection in regard to the conditions of employment existing in the sweepstake offices? Rumours have been circulated throughout the country that a prominent member of any Party can be the means of selection of certain people for employment, and, while huge salaries are paid in certain directions, the temporary staff are often employed for 16 or 17 hours a day at 30/- or £2 a week.

The Deputy is aware that this Bill is of very limited scope. In any case, the matters which the Deputy has raised are not within the jurisdiction of the Minister.

The State is being asked to guarantee a certain amount in this particular case, so that the Sweepstake Committee will be at no loss whatever. While the State are guaranteeing the funds in case of emergency, I suggest to the Minister that some protection should be provided for the employees engaged in the sweepstake offices.

In such an emergency?

In any emergency. I say that at the present time the conditions which I have quoted are in existence, while huge salaries are paid in other directions. We are aware of the fact that certain members of each Party get preferential treatment in securing employment for certain people. It is not confined to any particular political Party.

That is not a matter within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Local Government.

What I want to suggest is that, as protection is being given, the Minister should have that control.

The Minister to conclude.

Only one point has been raised. What Deputy Brennan said is correct. It is only in case of emergency that those powers will be used, and it has been represented to me that such provision was essential in view of circumstances which might arise. They may, perhaps, never arise, but it is well to have the power there. It is true, of course, as you, Sir—if I may say so with respect—very properly said, that I, as Minister for Local Government have nothing in the world to do with the staff employed by the private corporation which runs the sweepstake. We do not give any authority to the body that runs the sweepstake. We are giving power to our own trustees of the Hospital Board. They employ certain people to run the sweepstake for them. Therefore, there is no official relation, good, bad, or indifferent, between the Minister and those who run the sweepstake, or the staff of the sweepstake. I am not aware that there are any people who have a special privilege in getting people employed on the staff. I can assure the Deputy that I have not. I have tried dozens and dozens of times; I suppose there is not a week in the year that I am not asked to write to the sweepstake people to get somebody appointed, but in reply I get the printed circular letter that every Deputy gets. I get that, the same as everybody else. Since the sweepstake started, I have perhaps secured employment for about three clerks.

I am not suggesting that the Minister is privileged. I want the Minister to have power of control. Does not the Minister believe that there should be some protection, and that the Government should have some say in the matter? It is alleged that there are people receiving £10 a week merely as pin-money—officers' wives, and so on.

I do not think those statements are well founded.

They are not denied.

Very many people from the City of Dublin are employed in the Sweepstake offices, and if there were many complaints I, as a Deputy, would be one of the first people to be informed. I have not heard of any such complaints. Nobody has brought them to my attention. I believe the conditions of employment there are as good as those given by the best employers in the City of Dublin or anywhere else in Ireland.

Those are for the lucky ones.

The Chair is not prepared to hear any more about the matter.

As the sweepstakes are authorised by an Act of this Oireachtas, perhaps the Minister would tell us why the Deputy is not entitled to ask a question?

That fact does not authorise the putting of questions in the Dáil in reference to their administration.

Would the Chair indicate how this matter can be raised?

That is not the duty of the Chair.

Perhaps the Chair would tell us how to get somebody into the sweepstake?

The Chair does not know, either officially or unofficially.

Question put and agreed to.

When will the Committee Stage be taken?

I have no objection to finishing it now, but there might be somebody in the House who would like an opportunity of looking through the Bill.

I object, because I may try to get in an amendment to meet the point I raised.

I think even an ingenious Deputy like the one who has just made the suggestion will find it is not possible.

We will try.

Ordered that the Committee Stage be taken on Tuesday next, 27th June.

I should like to get all stages on Tuesday next.