Committee on Finance. - Vote No. 58—Marine Service.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £19,111 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1944, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí na Muir-Sheirbhíse (Achtanna Loingis Cheannaíochta, 1894 go 1939, agus an tAcht Imeall Trágha, 1933 (Uimh. 12 de 1933)); chun íocaíochtaí áirithe Cúitimh, ar a n-áirmhitear págh breise do mhairnéalaigh agus costas cóireála leighis; agus chun íocaiochtaí i dtaobh Fearas Cosanta áirithe do Longa agus Fóirne do chur ar fáil.

That a sum, not exceeding £19,111, be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1944, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Marine Service (Merchant Shipping Acts, 1894 to 1939, and the Foreshore Act, 1933 (No. 12 of 1933)); for certain payments in respect of compensation, including extra wages of seamen and the cost of medical treatment; and for payments in respect of the provision of certain Protective Equipment for Ships and Crews.

Does sub-head I (2)— Contributions towards wages payable after ships have been lost or wrecked— include a figure to cover the losses incurred in connection with Irish shipping?

I am not sure of the point the Deputy wants to raise.

I am aware, for instance, that claims have been made against the Department by the relatives of people who have lost their lives at sea. Up to quite recently, some of these claims had not been disposed of. Can the Minister say if there are any, and, if so, how many, claims of that kind are still outstanding and awaiting settlement? I was led to believe by a solicitor who was interested in dealing with some of these cases that legislation would have to be passed before final payments for compensation, or pension claims, could be disposed of.

The sub-head relates to an agreement under which seamen who are unemployed by reason of the loss of their ship will be paid a minimum amount equal to a month's wages while unemployed. Half of that is paid by the State.

Are there any outstanding claims?

There are some outstanding claims under that head—that is the case where a man lost his employment by the loss of his ship. As compensation for the loss of his employment while awaiting employment on another ship, there is a month's wages paid, of which the State pays half.

What is the position where a seaman loses his life?

That does not arise under this sub-head.

Is it a fact that the cases to which I refer cannot be finally disposed of until legislation has been introduced and passed here?

No. There is full legal authority to pay them under an Emergency Powers Order, and they are being paid at the moment.

Are there many, or any, claims still outstanding?

I could not answer that question without notice. There may be some cases which are still not finally determined. The practice has been to make a payment pending inquiry into the circumstances. There may be some cases where these pending inquiry payments are still being continued, and the final award not yet fixed.

I do not want to go into details, but I have come across a case where a claim was made on behalf of the widow and dependents of a seaman who lost his life. This case was held up because there was a dispute between the solicitor acting on behalf of the claimants and the Department of Industry and Commerce about an alleged excessive charge being made on the Department's side for legal costs.

I think I recollect the case to which the Deputy refers. I do not say I recollect the circumstances of it. I do not think the applicant was well advised in the course taken, but, in so far as the Department is concerned, the payment to which she was entitled would have been made at any time, and it amounted to quite a substantial sum if my recollection is correct.

I agree with the Minister that, finally, in this particular case, after some correspondence between the solicitor and the Department, the Department reduced the amount of the legal charge. The first charge made would appear to me to be excessive and prohibitive. Some reasonable figure should be fixed for legal charges in the case of those acting for the Minister.

There is a fixed maximum legal charge.

Vote put and agreed to.