Committee On Finance. - Johnstown Castle Agricultural College Bill, 1945—Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 to 3 agreed to.

I move:—

Before Section 4 to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) The Minister shall constitute a board of governors consisting of three persons to direct, manage and control the affairs of Johnstown Castle Agricultural College and the estate attached thereto.

(2) the members of the board shall be selected by the Minister as follows—

(a) one member representing the Minister for Agriculture and selected from the staff of his Department;

(b) one member who is not an employee of the Minister, and who holds a university degree in agricultural science; and

(c) one member representing the interests of practical agriculture who is a practical farmer whose livelihood is derived solely from farming.

There is very little in this Bill beyond the fact that the Minister and the House accepts the generous gift of the Lakin family. Under Section 3, the Minister constitutes a college, according to the request of the donors, and that section covers the whole constitution and control of the college. Beyond that, the only information we have is that the Minister proposes, as he stated on the Second Reading, to proceed in the way such colleges have been constituted and controlled in the past, by appointing a director responsible to himself and his Department for the administration of the college. I think that is not satisfactory and that the House should not rely on one man to direct and control the affairs of this college at Johnstown. There will be a research department attached and I feel the college ought to be controlled by a board of governors. The amendment provides for that.

If he is prepared to accept the idea, I am not tying the Minister to what is laid down in the amendment. I hope he will be convinced by the argument that the college should be controlled by a board and not by an individual and that the board should be representative of the different interests. Under this amendment, one member of the board would represent the Minister for Agriculture and be selected from the staff of the Department. Another member would have a degree in agricultural science and not be employed by the Minister; he would be a man who is in contact with other people interested in the welfare of agriculture; he would discuss modern ideas and new developments in agricultural science and bring his knowledge back to the board meetings, so that the new ideas may be implemented. Finally, there would be a member representing the practical side of agriculture, a practical farmer in contact with his fellow-farmers, a man who appreciates the difficulties of the practical farmer and the problems he has to face, and who would draw the attention of the research section of the college to problems that ought to be examined with a view to their solution, taking into consideration possibly the solutions that have been discovered in other countries relating to practical difficulties in agriculture and seeing how far they can be applied to this country.

I feel it is essential, if we are to ensure that this will be a useful institution, an effective institution, that it should be controlled by a board that fully realises its responsibilities. I think it is not wise to throw the full responsibility on one individual. The Minister may be lucky enough to select an exceptionally good man, who will be capable of carrying out the duties of this office. He may make a success of it but, on the other hand, he may not be successful and sometimes it is not so easy to get rid of a man who is not up to the 100 per cent. mark. It is unlikely that you will find a situation where three men are unsatisfactory, so that putting the responsibility on more than one is an advantage and drawing them from the different interests involved would be very advantageous. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment, or at least the principle behind it.

I would like to urge the Minister to accept the principle behind Deputy Hughes' amendment. I think it is excellent. I think it would not be fair to advocate here that Johnstown Agricultural College should be run by a committee, that the headmaster or principal of that college must run the college from day to day as the headmaster of any public school in England runs his school. I think most people will agree that where the heavy responsibility of running a school devolves on one man, what he most frequently stands in need of are dependable persons with whom he can take counsel, where doubts may trouble him from time to time, as to how best he can resolve problems of day-to-day administration and general policy which he may ultimately have to decide.

We all know that most schools in this country are run directly or indirectly for the Catholic community by Catholic priests, either members of regular orders who will have the directing counsel of their abbey or priory, whose function it is to counsel and advise them if they require it, or, in the event of a secular priest running a diocesan college, he always has the Bishop or some other prudent members of the Chapter with whom he can take counsel if and when the necessity arises. I think it is true to say that, in most public schools run by denominations other than ours, by laymen, you find a headmaster with a governing body, a board of governors, behind him. That body assembles at regular intervals in the year to hear the headmaster's report and to give him any advice he may stand in need of.

I am sure Deputy Hughes will agree with me that neither he nor I would dream of suggesting that, before the headmaster did anything, he would have to consult the board of governors. Both Deputy Hughes and I would agree, I feel sure, that the headmaster or principal of this college would be the executive; that this board will be there to furnish him with advice when he wanted it, to make suggestions on general policy and, in the wholly unexpected contingency of something serious amiss developing, of advising the Minister that a situation had arisen into which he should personally inquire. We all realise that, with the immense responsibility any Minister for Agriculture has to shoulder, he cannot undertake to keep a regular eye on the internal workings of one of the several colleges for which he is responsible, in addition to the other detailed administrative jobs he has to do.

Without labouring the matter further, I subscribe to Deputy Hughes' amendment without reserve, and I venture this additional recommendation. One of the proudest boasts, I suppose, of any alumni of Eton, Portora or Winchester is that he has graduated with such a degree of confidence amongst the other alumni of his schools as to be chosen among the members of the board of governors. It is one of those rare positions left in the world which calls for disinterested service and with no prospect of reward other than the honour of one's friends and the satisfaction of serving something which one leaves. I could conceive, if Johnstown Castle is to be the first of the diocesan agricultural colleges, that the graduates therein might have an honourable ambition ultimately to be considered worthy of appointment as a member of the board of governors of their own college.

Such a consideration will naturally not weigh unduly with the House, but I venture to suggest it is something which should not be overlooked. It would be a desirable thing if we could promote that spirit amongst the alumni of this school and I believe by doing it we would help the pupils, the alumni and the institution itself, not to speak of the substantial relief it would be to the Minister when he would have a body of this kind keeping constant watch where he himself cannot hope to exercise that vigilance which he would wish to do, had he not so many other matters to attend to.

I think any fair-minded person—and I am not sure if I can include members opposite at the moment—will admit that the officers of the Department of Agriculture are eminently suited to manage a farm of this kind. They have been trained in this direction from the beginning of their technical training, from the time they entered whatever college it may be after their secondary education. They entered some department, some school of agriculture, and went on from that either to the College of Science in the old days, or to the National University as it is now, and all their training was directed towards practical and theoretical agriculture. If these men are qualified to do anything they are qualified to manage a farm of this kind—that is, the inspectors of the Department. If we succeed in getting technical men appointed to that college, say a principal, two or three housemasters, a director of research, with one or two, perhaps, under him working on research—soil science and so on—and a director of horticulture, surely these men will be capable of managing a college of this kind?

I have never, in the 13 years I have been Minister for Agriculture, met a person in this country—including even Deputy Hughes and Deputy Dillon— who was prepared to criticise the management of the colleges under the Department of Agriculture. This place is now being started as an agricultural college, just like Athenry, Ballyhaise, or Clonakilty, and we hope to make it a bigger institution and get more work done there. If there is an argument for having a board of governors in Johnstown Castle, there must be as good an argument to have a board of governors for all the colleges. Why Johnstown should be singled out, I do not know. Appointing a board of governors, as Deputy Hughes has suggested in his amendment, to manage and control the affairs of Johnstown Castle, appears to me to be quite unnecessary——

I am not tying the Minister to the words of the amendment.

The Deputy says he is not tying me to the wording of the amendment. If he is not, I wonder is he prepared to leave out the word control and substitute for it "advise"? That, in my opinion, would mean that the Deputy has in mind either to control it entirely or go a certain distance towards controlling it and divide the control between the board and the Minister for Agriculture. If they are to control it entirely, it is fairly plain that we should have some more elaborate legislation to provide for that purpose. If they are to control it partially, we would certainly want more elaborate legislation to set out what the functions of the board will be and what the functions of the Minister will be.

What about the Minister beingex officio chairman of every board?

We would have to say that. If control is going to be complete or partial we will have to have some sort of legislation. I could understand all that, and Deputy Hughes and Deputy Dillon being honest in their opinions, if I had not the misfortune to listen to these two Deputies for the last three weeks criticising me for handing control of the national stud over to a board. One would imagine, after listening to these gentlemen for the last three weeks, that that was the most retrograde step taken by any Minister. As a matter of fact, some of their colleagues made out that I was anti-Catholic, that I was acting against the bishops, against vocational education and so on. We had to listen to tripe of that kind for the last three weeks, because I wanted to appoint a board to manage the national stud. Many of these Deputies know that I know nothing about horse breeding and, therefore, I wanted to appoint a board that would know something about it. That did not have any weight whatever with the Opposition. Now we come to a case about the management of a farm, that we do know something about, and of which my staff knows something, and I proposed that we should manage and direct it, but the Deputies, forgetting their speeches about the national stud, and forgetting the hours of weary debate that we had to listen to, come along and want a bigger board for a business that we do know something about. But they would not let me have a board for the national stud, where we knew nothing about the business. I cannot understand this method of reasoning—if it can be called reasoning.

Taking these votes generally, when this State was set up in 1922 there was a board in charge of agriculture, there was a board in charge of education, there was a board in charge of local government, all sorts of boards, and the predecessors of Deputy Dillon and Deputy Hughes, when they took over the Government abolished all these boards, because they said they were unworkable, and altogether out of line with modern systems of government. They did away with these boards and established Ministeries and Departments, and laid it down as a principle at that time that there should be a department for each division of Government with a Minister in charge. Whatever way we look at the question, what Deputy Hughes and Deputy Dillon are advocating now appears to be most illogical. Even leaving the illogical issue aside, and forgetting all about the national stud, about, the Ministers and Secretaries Act, doing away with all these boards, and forgetting all these inconsistencies if you like, if there is one thing that the Department of Agriculture can do with the trained men there it is to manage an agricultural college, and to manage it to the best advantage. Therefore, I do not see any necessity whatever for a board of control or direction.

I presume there is no use arguing with the Minister to-day, because he is cross. However, antagonism gets us nowhere. The objection taken to the Stud Bill was that it was proposed to set up an autonomous authority for which the Minister for Agriculture would not be responsible to this Dáil, and in respect to the manipulation of which no Deputy could seek or extract information by Parliamentary Question or debate here. To that proposal I emphatically demurred. The proposal now made is a genuine effort to help in making Johnstown a success. It was specially drafted for that purpose. The drafting commended itself to me because, as I read it, it expressed full confidence in the staff of the Minister's Department to run the school well. The object, as stated in Deputy Hughes' introductory remarks, was that we should give the directors the benefit of advice from time to time and, if the necessity arose, draw the Minister's attention to the fact that circumstances had arisen calling for personal intervention, with the desire to relieve the Minister of the obligation of constant vigilance, which would be an excessive burden for one in the Minister's position to carry, as well as controlling all the activities of the Department. The Minister got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning and he is cross and, in that situation, I advise Deputy Hughes not to waste breath arguing with the Minister now. I trust between now and the time the Bill gets to the Seanad he will have grown milder, more reasonable and more rational, when he will probably listen to argument.

On the Second Reading I expressed amazement when the Minister informed the House that no further legislation was needed, that Section 3 covered all the legislation necessary to constitute the machinery for the control and administration of this college. Now we are told by the Minister that, if we want to do anything more so far as setting out what the House thinks necessary, and the type of machinery to control the administration of the college, further elaborate legislation would be necessary. I regret that we had not a special piece of legislation dealing with the constitution of this college. I felt that that was necessary. As Deputy Dillon pointed out, there is no analogy between the advisory board I suggest in the amendment, and the proposals of the Minister under the National Stud Bill, to set up a nominal company, a semi-autonomous body, not responsible for financial or any control to the House. We suggested for the control of the national stud an advisory board similar to this but the Minister would not accept it. He wanted to add one more to the list of nominal companies set up by this Administration to deal with State property. The Minister twitted us on not having heard any criticism of the management of any college controlled by his Department. I did not attempt to criticise the administration of the colleges, but I think we could have much more effective control than we have at present. I do not want to reflect on any individual, any civil servant or officer of the Minister's Department, but when he mentioned the matter I think they are far too slow about adopting modern technique, in tackling problems or examining them to see how far modern ideas adopted in other countries are applicable to our conditions. I feel that tied as civil servants are to a policy within the four walls of a Department they are not as free as a board of this sort would be to tackle problems that are urgent, to see how far new technique is applicable here.

We live in a world of competition, and it is now generally accepted on all sides of the House what a valuable asset our export trade is. Bear in mind that if we are to compete against the efficient methods of other countries, and produce against them, we will have to be efficient, and we can only get that efficiency from a college like Johnstown, that is properly run and in which modern technique is adopted. I feel that that can be got from a board constituted as suggested in the amendment. I am not impressed by the Minister's remarks. The Minister talked glibly about soil survey. It was only by great pressure in this House and outside it by people interested in having a survey made of our most precious asset that we are to have a soil survey. The idea of a soil survey did not emanate from the Minister's Department. The Minister knows that, so that the less said across the House about the efficiency of Departments the better. I did not want to reflect on the Minister's Department, and I do not think the Minister should provoke us into a discussion of that sort. The Minister referred to fair-minded people, but I think that any fair-minded man, taking all the circumstances and the history of this whole thing into account, and wishing to express an impartial view and give an impartial decision on the matter, will certainly be forced to agree with our point of view, and I would ask the Minister, again, to reconsider his decision.

I understood that Deputy Dillon said that he approved of the wording of this amendment because it did not interfere with the management of the college.

Well, I do not know what effect the wording would have. That is a matter for the draftsman. But that was, more or less, what I had in mind. So long as the Minister accepts the principle, I am satisfied.

Very good. Then I withdraw that.

I asked the Minister to accept the principle of the amendment.

I do not want to argue the question of the legality of the matter, but I do object to the words "manage and control".

Well, then, we can leave these words out.

Yes, but there is a very big principle involved here, and that is where there may be an advisory committee on the management of Departmental farms, or on the question of the policy to be pursued in regard to these farms. Deputy Hughes raised the question of soil surveys. That matter has nothing to do with this Bill, dealing with Johnstown Castle. I may tell the Deputy that I am not against the principle of having advisory or consultative committies of that kind. I have been very anxious to have such committees, and if the Deputy has the urge for research, I think he will find that I have appointed many committees of research in connection with agriculture, and that I am very much in favour of such committees being appointed. In 1932 I appointed a Consultative Committee of Agriculture to help us, and I am very much in favour of that kind of thing. In other words, I am in favour of having the ordinary county committees of agriculture co-operating with the Department of Agriculture and other bodies in such matters, but I would strenuously oppose the bringing in of a committee of any kind to deal with this matter of Johnstown Castle, because I think that they would interfere unduly with the principle involved in management and control there. I am quite prepared to consider any suggestion for another advisory committee that might be considered advisable in my Department, if it is thought to be necessary, but I will not agree to allowing any committee to interfere with the management or control of this particular estate.

I am sure that Deputies are very well aware that there are quite a lot of lands, growing cereals, growing tobacco, growing beet, growing wheat, and so on, at the present time; and there is an agricultural consultative council dealing with these things—at least, in peace times, it was known as the Agricultural Production Consultative Council. That council, however, deals with general matters. I am not opposed to this amendment in principle, but I certainly am opposed to any committee being set up to interfere unduly with the management and control of a particular institution such as the Johnstown Castle estate.

I must admit that the Minister's argument is quite reasonable, and I can quite see his point of view. I can well imagine that he could envisage a day-to-day interference with the control and management of this particular estate. I should like to point out to the Minister, however, that that is not my point of view or, I think, Deputy Hughes' point of view. I quite realise that it would be a bad thing if there were to be a day-to-day interference with the management or control of this particular estate, but I think that there must be some officer in the Minister's Department, in charge of the matter of education in agriculture. It would be quite natural, I imagine, that he could appoint anex-officio officer in his Department, to act as chairman, and take the chair on certain occasions, such as centenaries and so forth, and that he could officiate, say, once a month, at Ballyhaise, Clonakilty, Johnstown Castle, and so on. I think there is a lot to be said for both points of view, but I would be grateful if the Minister would consider Deputy Hughes' proposal in the light of the facilities that, I think, he indicated it was his intention to introduce on the Second Stage of this Bill.

I wonder would the Minister make it clear what he proposes to do. I do not want to press this amendment, but I wish to know what the Minister's intentions are.

I must say that I would oppose any question of interfering in the control or management of any particular college. I am not opposed to the principle of the amendment, but I could not consider any question of interference with the control or management of a particular college. I am prepared to accept the principle of the amendment with regard to agricultural education generally.

I think that that is quite reasonable.

The Minister is prepared to accept the principle, and to do that?

Yes, I am prepared to do that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 4 put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 5 stand part of the Bill."

Section 5 says that the gate lodge on this estate shall be maintained in perpetuity as a residence to the district Jubilee nurse. Is the Minister satisfied that this is in perpetunity? The section reads:

"The gate lodge (in this section referred to as the said gate lodge) at Rathaspick on the estate shall be maintained in perpetuity as a residence for the district Jubilee nurse for the time being (in this section referred to as the said nurse)".

What does that mean? Does it mean that the gate lodge is to be maintained in perpetuity for the district Jubilee nurse there for the time being— actually there at the moment? Assuming that the Institute of Jubilee Nurses ceases to operate, will the trust come to an end or will the lodge be maintained for some other similar institution, if such be set up?

The Dáil will realise that some of these question are rather delicate. We received a gift and the donor belives that the Institute of Jubilee Nurses will continue for all time. We could not very well say that we had any doubt on that matter. I understand that the legal position is that, if the institute comes to an end, this particular arrangement will come to an end. The clause to which the Deputy referred applies to any Jubilee nurse there for the time being and not only to the nurse there at the moment.

I agree that this is a delicate matter and I do not think that we ought to discuss it.

Section 5 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 6 stand part of the Bill."

This section is rather ambiguous. It states that the ornamental timber shall not be felled or cut "save in the ordinary course of management". I take it that the ornamental trees have no commercial value.

If you take the right to cut them in the course of management, does it not mean that you can defeat the intention of the section, which is to preserve those ornamental trees?

It may be necessary to cut a tree occasionally in order to maintain the ornamental gardens at their best. If a tree were doing a great deal of damage to other trees around, it would be necessary to cut it.

You do not impose the obligation on yourself to plant another tree instead.

If you were making a garden path and a tree caused an obstruction, you would have to remove it.

The obligation is upon us to preserve the ornamental nature of the grounds. If we were to turn those grounds into agricultural land, we would be guilty of a breach of the agreement.

Section agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 7 stand part of the Bill."

Is the implication of this section that, on the death of Mr. Maurice Victor Lakin, the sporting rights will revert to the State?

No, to his heirs.

And then to the State?

I do not know what the legal implication of the section may be. The Deputy may be under the impression that the word "heirs" refers to ourselves. That is not in accord with the spirit of the agreement. According to the spirit of the agreement, Mr. Lakin and his heirs are to have the sporting rights.

Will he have power to assign them?

They are to go only to his heirs?

Section 7 to 12 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the First Schedule be the First Schedule to the Bill."

The verb is omitted in this section on page 10, line 13.

Thanks. We shall have that made right.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Second Schedule be the Second Schedule to the Bill."

As regards Part I of this schedule, would the Minister tell us the market value of this property and the total amount of the charges set out? These charges are to be undertaken by the Department in respect to the persons whose names are set out. Under certain conditions, moneys are to be payable to them. Has the total amount been calculated?

Does the Deputy want to know what our liabilities will be?

We have not been told what the value of this place is and certain extensive liabilities are set out in the Bill.

We have not valued the place. I should not like to state here what the value is. The Revenue Commissioners, evidently, placed a value upon it, because they charged a certain amount of estate duty in respect of it. From the amount of the estate duty, the Deputy might be able ot arrive at their valuation. I should not like to state what the value is but it is worth a great deal to us.

Are you satisfied of that?


Second Schedule and Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.
Agreed to take Final Stages now.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.