Petroleum and other Minerals Development Bill, 1959—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

Broadly, the purpose of this Bill is to facilitate the carrying out of a comprehensive scheme of exploration for oil and natural gas in Ireland. There can be no certainty that petroleum deposits exist in this country in quantities that could be worked economically. At the same time, the benefits that would accrue to the national economy from the discovery of petroleum in worthwhile quantities would be so valuable that it is desirable that a scheme of exploration should be undertaken which would establish whether oil or natural gas occurs in quantities which would be capable of being developed economically. Exploration for oil is very costly and highly technical, and it is desirable that it be carried out by concerns which have the necessary up-to-date equipment and adequate experience of similar work in other parts of the world.

Oil and natural gas, which are covered by the term petroleum as used in this Bill, are found in association with sedimentary rock formations. Such formations are fairly extensive and of moderate thickness in Ireland and, although there is no direct evidence, it is possible that oil could occur in these formations unless it has been released by disturbances during their long geological history. The main oil producing areas of the world are in the Middle East and the American Continent, but oil has also been found in Western European countries in quantities somewhat greater than might have been expected, having regard to their geological structure and history. Holland, France, Western Germany, Austria and Italy have all undertaken oil exploration and development with varying degrees of success. Great Britain has also carried out extensive oil exploration at considerable cost, but only limited quantities have been discovered up to the present. A report published in December, 1957, by O.E.E.C. in regard to the development of the oil resources of Western Europe is discouraging in its assessment of the prospects of finding oil in Ireland, but the fact that applications have been made to me for the grant of oil prospecting facilities indicates that in some quarters, at least, the prospects are not regarded as too discouraging.

The existing legislation relating to petroleum exploration is contained in the Petroleum (Production) Act, 1918, and the Minerals Development Act, 1940. These Acts were passed at a time when there was little prospect that exploring for petroleum would be undertaken in this country, and they do not provide adequate means for facilitating large-scale exploration programmes. I am satisfied that new legislation must be enacted to facilitate comprehensive exploration under the most up-to-date conditions.

This Bill provides for the vesting in the Minister for Industry and Commerce of all petroleum in the State and empowers him, by the grant of licences and leases, to secure that any petroleum deposits that may be discovered will be developed efficiently. There is provision in the Bill for the grant of compensation to the persons who formerly owned the petroleum rights if petroleum is subsequently found and worked, and also to persons whose land may be damaged by operations carried out in searching for and working petroleum deposits. A number of the provisions of the Bill are already contained in our general legislation relating to minerals, but it is desirable to repeat them in this Bill in order that all the legislation relating to petroleum may be contained in one measure.

Mineral ownership in Ireland presents a mosaic of holdings varying from 100 to 1,000 acres in extent. About one half is already in State ownership. The balance is in private ownership but it is frequently difficult to determine who are the legal owners. It is obvious that oil companies could not be expected to enter into commitments to spend money on oil exploration in Ireland if they were faced with the endless difficulties associated with negotiations for the acquisition of oil rights with a large number of private owners. It is necessary, therefore, that, subject to the payment of compensation, the State should acquire title to such petroleum rights as are not already vested in it. If, at any time in the future, petroleum is found and worked, the owners of the petroleum rights which are now being vested in the Minister under this Bill will be entitled to a royalty related to the royalty rent reserved by the lease.

In oil producing countries, the general practice is that profits earned by oil operators are shared with the Government. The most common arrangement has been one which provides for profit-sharing roughly on a 50-50 basis, though some of the major oil producing countries are now demanding a higher percentage. Generally speaking, the more favourable the prospects of discovering oil, the higher the percentage of the profits demanded by the State. The Bill provides for the sharing with the State by way of royalties or similar payments of the profits earned from the sale of any petroleum that may be found here. Having regard to the relatively poor prospects of discovering oil in economic quantities in Ireland, I am satisfied that it would not be reasonable in present circumstances at any rate, to insist upon a 50-50 profit-sharing arrangement.

As Deputies are aware, I have entered into an agreement with American oil interests for the carrying out of a comprehensive scheme of exploration for petroleum in this country and for the working of any deposits that may be found. The Agreement, copies of which were laid on the Table of the House, will not come into operation until this Bill is enacted. I ought, perhaps, to say that I have not had from any Irish interests a satisfactory scheme for the carrying out of a full scale exploration programme for oil.

The Company with which the Agreement has been made is Ambassador Irish Oil Ltd., an Irish registered company which will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Ambassador Oil Corporation, Fort Worth, Texas. Ambassador Oil Corporation are an organisation with extensive practical experience of oil exploration and the working of oil fields and they have the resources necessary for the carrying out of a comprehensive exploration for petroleum in Ireland. Under the terms of the Agreement, their subsidiary company, Ambassador Irish Oil Ltd., will be given exclusive exploration rights over the whole country for an initial term of five years, and, if they meet their obligations under the Agreement, over 75 per cent. of the country for a further five years, 50 per cent. for a third term of five years and 25 per cent. for a fourth term of five years. They will be entitled to prospecting licences and mining leases in any area over which they have exploration rights.

During the first three years of the first five year period, Ambassador Irish Oil will be obliged to spend at least 300,000 dollars on exploration and to drill at least one well to a depth of 5,000 feet. If they do not meet both these obligations, the unexpended balance of the 300,000 dollars will be forfeited to the Minister, and they will have no right to any further prospecting rights or to any mining leases which may have been granted to them in the period.

If the Company, having met these obligations, do not elect to proceed with further exploration, they may retain any leases acquired by them up to that time but will have no further right to leases or to explore further for petroleum. If they elect to continue exploration after the first three years, they must spend a further 200,000 dollars during the remaining two years of the first five year term. If they do not spend all that amount of money in the two years, the unexpended balance will be forfeited to the Minister and they will have no further right to exploration licences or mining leases but they will be entitled to retain any leases acquired in the first three years.

If Ambassador Irish Oil meet all the obligations which I have mentioned, they will retain the right to any leases granted to them during the first five years. If, however, they spend 1,000,000 dollars in the first five years, they will have, in addition, the right to renewal of their exploration licence for a further period of five years but must surrender to the Minister for Industry and Commerce 25% of the territory.

During the second period of five years, Ambassador Irish Oil will be obliged to spend at least 750,000 dollars but, if they actually spend 2,500,000 dollars, they will be entitled to renewal of the exploration licence for a third period of five years over 50% of our territory.

During the third five year term, Ambassador Irish Oil will be obliged to spend not less than 750,000 dollars but if they actually spend 4,000,000 dollars, they will be entitled to renewal of the exploration licence for a fourth term of five years over 25% of our territory.

During the fourth term, Ambassador Irish Oil will be obliged to spend not less than 750,000 dollars but, if they actually spend 5,000,000 dollars, they will have a preferential right over other applicants (other things being equal) for renewal of their concessions. If, in any specified period, Ambassador Irish Oil fail to spend the appropriate minimum amount, then the difference between what they spend and the specified minimum sum is forfeited to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. If, during any five year term Ambassador Irish Oil have spent more than the minimum amount but not the amount which entitles them to automatic renewal, they may "purchase" such automatic renewal by paying the difference to the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

As I have already indicated the Bill provides, in accordance with normal practice, for the sharing with the State of profits earned on the sale of oil and gas. The effect of the provisions relating to this matter which are contained in the Agreement is that the contribution payable to the State will never be less than a 7½% royalty computed on the selling price of the oil or gas or more than 40% of the company's net income as defined in the agreement. Having regard to the very speculative nature of any project for seeking and working petroleum deposits in this country, I consider that this arrangement is a reasonable one.

In addition to the provisions relating to petroleum, the Bill provides for certain amendments to the Minerals Development Act, 1940. These amendments have been found to be necessary as a result of experience gained in the administration of the Act, and it is useful to include them in the present Bill. At present, for example, the Minister for Industry and Commerce is required, before granting a prospecting licence, to serve one month's notice by registered post on each surface occupier of land in the area covered by the licence. When this provision was made in the law it was not anticipated that prospecting licences would cover large tracts of land. The present practice, however, is to give prospecting licences for relatively large areas, and this means that formal notice has to be served on hundreds of surface occupiers. In the circumstances I feel that, in the interests of administrative convenience, the publication in a local newspaper of notice of intention to grant a prospecting licence should replace the existing arrangement. A map giving details of the area affected will be made available for inspection in the Geological Survey Office, and, in this way, the interests of surface occupiers will be adequately safeguarded.

The Act of 1940 provides for compulsory acquisition by the Minister of ancillary rights—e.g. the right to construct roads, the right to a supply of water, the right to cross lands adjoining a leasehold—but I am advised that the Act is defective because,inter alia, it does not empower him to assign such rights to the holder of a State mining lease. It is desirable that this defect should be remedied in relation to oil and other minerals and this is being done in the present Bill.

A prospecting licence issued under the Act of 1940 may not be expressed to apply to named minerals but is deemed to apply to all minerals and, in effect, therefore, it confers on the licensee an exclusive authority to search for all minerals in a given area. I propose to amend the Act of 1940 so that, in future, the authority conferred by a prospecting licence may, if necessary, be confined to one or more specified minerals so that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be in a position to authorise different persons to prospect for different minerals in one area.

It is my hope that the Bill will commend itself to all Deputies, and that there will be general acceptance of the principles of the measure. On its enactment by the Oireachtas, the first major scheme of petroleum exploration in Ireland will commence. Ambassador Irish Oil Ltd. will apply to me for an exploration licence within three months of the enactment of the Bill, and they will be required within a further three months to make substantial deposits in an Irish Bank of moneys to cover expenditures during the first part of the exploration programme.

It will, I am sure, be appreciated that the Bill has been prepared on general lines which will make it possible to facilitate a number of exploration projects for petroleum. As I explained, the first project will be carried out by Ambassador Irish Oil Ltd., but it is possible that, after the completion of this project, or of such part of it as the Company may decide to undertake, other groups may formulate proposals for exploration programmes. The wide basis on which the Bill rests will make it possible to grant any reasonable facilities which may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out a number of successive exploration projects.

I think that the Bill deals adequately and fairly with the complex considerations which are associated with petroleum exploration and development, and I commend it to the House.

The Minister comments on the fact that the work foreshadowed in the introduction of this measure is work of a rather speculative kind and that, for that reason, while in other countries where there is oil the State makes a greater and increasing claim on the production of the industry, more modest demands will be made by the Government here. The fact is that, as recently as three or four years ago, the latest information from the Director of the Geological Survey was that the factors that would indicate that there was petroleum available in the country were rather discouraging to exploration and he considered that all the factors that discouraged exploration up to that time were still present. However, the Minister indicates that there are greater hopes now.

While accepting the point of view that the State should ask less than might normally be asked from successful licensees who had speculated in these projects, there is another aspect of the matter about which we ought to be more careful. I refer to the compensation for those persons whose property, amenities or rights will be affected by the operations of a body carrying on in a very speculative way. I suggest to the Minister that, just as there might be emphasis on the necessity for the State giving reasonable terms to the exploiters, the most adequate precautions should be taken to see that people who may suffer in their property, their amenities or their rights by reason of work of a speculative kind being carried out are properly and fully covered.

I was interested to hear the Minister suggest that, over 50 per cent. of the land of the country, mineral rights are held by private persons, that is, that in spite of all the land that has passed through the Land Commission and the terms on which that land was transferred to private owners, only 50 per cent. is land in which the mineral rights are secured to the State. If that is positively confirmed, it emphasises the point I make with regard to security in relation to compensation.

The Minister suggests that over a large part of the land already in private hands there may be very considerable doubt as regards ownership. Many of these things, then, might operate with the effect that the House would not give as careful attention to the compensation aspect of these proposals as is necessary and I would be glad if the Minister, even at this stage, would indicate to us the machinery likely to operate in relation to compensation. Whatever there may be in the agreement, I do not think there is anything very specific or adequate in the terms of the Bill before us to cover either the machinery dealing with compensation or the terms upon which compensation will be paid.

There is the question of compensation for surface disturbance in the case of land or in the case of property, and compensation contemplated in relation to amenities but, when one considers the co-operation that must be secured between the owners of property throughout the country and the State and the corporation carrying out exploration or exploitation, another type of compensation ought to be borne in mind and ought to be provided for. It is of very little assistance to a person who has land, who is getting his livelihood from the land, who requires the land and the property as security for that livelihood, to be told that there is oil on his land but that that oil will be used for the general national purpose and that he will be seriously discommoded, if he does not suffer serious loss.

In addition to the question of immediate compensation, the question will inevitably arise for consideration that, where there are petroleum deposits under any land, part of the compensation should be in the nature of a royalty that would continue, perhaps, over a period, a royalty related to production, so that, as well as compensation for the immediate disturbance, the possibility of a continuing compensation of one kind or another would be held out, even though, in the peculiar circumstances of the transfer of some land from the Land Commission to the present owners, mineral rights were, in a casual and haphazard way, held for the State.

The Bill suggests that the company that is now being given the complete monopoly of exploration will be guaranteed, in the light of its work and in the light of its expenditure over four periods of five years, a continuation of their rights to proceed but I do not know, and I should like the Minister to indicate, where in the Bill he takes power to intervene if exploration or the actual carrying out of work leading to production is proceeding too slowly. If there is a dog-in-the-manger attitude with regard to a large part of the land or if for a number of years work is concentrated on Sligo and the Minister feels there are reasonable grounds for giving Clare a certain amount of attention, will the Minister have some statutory authority to enable him to intervene and to say that if this company are not prepared to go ahead in a reasonable way with exploration in Clare, he will transfer the exploration rights to some other persons or authority that would be prepared to go ahead with it?

I should like the Minister to indicate what country has been looked to for its regulations and procedure upon which to base the proposals and the outlook that he suggests we ought to have here. It is important that with such an element of speculation in the proposal, we should have an opportunity, by reference to the procedures and techniques in other countries, of measuring the satisfactory nature or otherwise of the work being done here.

When the Minister says that the maximum amount of money taken by the State after commercial production had been reached would be not more than 40 per cent. of the net profits of the company, I should like to ask him whether that includes rates to be paid to local authorities, royalties to be paid to the State or private persons, or taxation such as income tax or any other form of tax that might fall on the company.

There is another aspect and I do not know if the legislation provides adequately for it. It may be one of those things which, because of the faraway nature of the project, we may not be careful about examining. It is the question of surface work being carried on in connection with exploration or exploitation. There are many cases in which it would be undesirable that substantial surface work should be carried out, for instance, if there were a development on the Clare side involving the whole of the strand at Kilkee or some of our important main road junctions. Are there regulations under any aspect of the Bill that would prevent an unreasonable development in regard to surface amenities?

I welcome this Bill as, I think, will Deputies in all parts of the House, but I think it should be approached in a sober and very reasoned way. Nobody from a hurried reading of to-morrow morning's paper should get the impression that we will have gushers in stream next month or that the danger is that petrol will be flowing over all the main roads in the country within the next 12 months. However, if we recognise at the outset that this is really a shot in the dark, that this is a highly speculative project, that it represents an effort to discover oil where our own State geologist says that, in his opinion, there is no oil, then we get a more sober and realistic approach to the possibilities in this respect.

This Bill is an enabling Bill, enabling the Government to make a lease to this American oil exploration group who are apparently prepared to spend money endeavouring to ascertain whether there is any oil or natural gas deposits here. It is well known, of course, that the oil companies spend fantastic sums of money—some of them almost the equivalent of our annual Budget—in oil exploration work in different parts of the world. They feel that if they do discover oil in substantial quantities, that investment will pay off in due course. This company is apparently prepared to make an investment here. I gather from the terms of the agreement that it is of a kind which will enable the company to carry on over a period of 20 years or to rule off at any particular point within that period and say: "There is no oil; we will pay whatever we are due to pay" and pack up.

I should like to ask the Minister— I think I know the reason but I should like to know the Minister's reason— why it was decided to give the exclusive rights over the whole State to this one company. There may very well be a reason for it, but it is against the pattern adopted by countries which let out their territories for oil exploration work. The usual pattern is to give different companies different exploration rights in different parts of the country. Here it has been decided to give the entire exploration work to one company.

Am I right in thinking that that was done largely because of the fact that nobody else was interested in oil exploration work here in a manner which would indicate they had the ability and financial resources necessary to carry out the exploration? Or is it because the company felt they were dealing with what is on the whole a small country and they wanted to have the right to explore over the entire territory available to us as a condition of undertaking the exploration work? We should have some explanation from the Minister as to why one company got the entire exploration rights over the whole country. I am not necessarily disagreeing with that idea, but I want to find out what exactly operated so that we may have an explanation of what is a departure from the general method by which oil exploration rights are given to exploration companies.

When I was in the Department of Industry and Commerce, I was presented one day with a report from a very eminent geologist in Canada. This geologist had made an intensive examination of the oil potential here. He had visited various parts of the country. I think he had discussions with our Geological Survey office and with others who he thought were well informed concerning the possibility that oil might be found here. Reading that report, the impression left to me was this: that you get oil only if you get certain classes of rock formation, but that you may have this rock foundation and yet have no oil in the chambers in that rock formation. In other words, you may have the rock formation and you may have what at some time or other may have been an oil chamber but from which due to physical upheavals in the earth, the oil has leaked away and never got into it in any substantial quantity.

My recollection of this oil report was that there were certain parts of the country in which this rock formation was not present and that therefore you might nearly rule these out as being areas in which oil could be found. Nevertheless, the expert came down on the side of saying there were certain parts of the country where this silurian rock was found and in these areas a geophysical examination might be worth while in order to ascertain whether the rock was oilbearing. This examination was just a geological examination and not a geophysical examination of the oil deposits, but it certainly would suggest that there may well be possibilities of discovering oil deposits in certain areas throughout the country. On a line drawn from somewhere like Meath to Sligo and stemming at Longford down to Clare was the area indicated as the area in which this rock is found. Again, it was simply a geological survey and no geophysical examination took place to constitute a basis for the report.

We have, however, to remember the O.E.E.C. assessment of the oil possibilities of Western Europe; and the O.E.E.C. assessment has not been a very enthusiastic one. They have come down on the side of saying that it is not likely that there are any extensive oil deposits in Western Europe. That, of course, is based only on acquired knowledge by O.E.E.C. and is not born of any experiments made by them. But I take it that the report of such a responsible body is based upon a wide experience garnered from those who have sought oil, and failed to find it, in a number of countries in Western Europe.

The general view so far as our own Geological Survey people and O.E.E.C. are concerned is that the idea that oil may be found here in merchantable quantities is a proposition which must be treated with considerable reserve. So long as we do that, a Bill of this kind is not only welcome but justified. So far as our people are concerned, it represents an investment by an outside group in the belief that oil can be got here. It represents a belief, a belief that they are backing financially, that it is worth exploring for oil here. To that extent, this Bill does not commit the Government or the people to any wildcat expenditure in oil exploration. Everybody will hope that this group will be successful and find oil because, if they do, well and good; it will make a substantial contribution to strengthening our whole economic fabric. If, on the other hand, they fail to find oil, the Government cannot be blamed for that, and the company cannot be blamed, because nobody has yet been able to find oil where no oil exists.

I look upon this Bill as in the nature of an enabling Bill, a highly speculative Bill. It may be that results will be disappointing. Nevertheless, I think we are justified in prospecting in this field because, unless you prospect and actually physically X-ray the soil to ascertain whether or not there is oil, there will always, in this and every succeeding generation, be a substantial number of persons found who will tell you some old prophecy that underneath the soil of this motherland of ours is the richest sea of petroleum in the world. If for no other purpose than to lay the ghost for the sake of posterity, an investment of this kind is well worth while.

I, too, am wondering why we have this Bill. I am wondering on what code of laws in relation to oil this Bill is based. I am inclined to think that what is operating in the mind of the Minister and the Government is the fact that Austria unexpectedly found oil. I think I am right in saying that they had not enacted legislation to deal with the position when they discovered oil. Two things come to mind therefore. First of all, have the Government found oil? Has some prospecting company found oil? I am not a geologist, any more than the Minister, but I have from time to time been approached by people in my constituency, and outside it; it has been suggested to me that the particular terrain in an area might be conducive to the finding of oil. I do not know whether or not it has anything to do with this Bill, but my attention has been drawn to the fact that recently there has been an aeroplane prospecting for oil over the east coast.

That was an ordinary mineral survey.

I accept the Minister's explanation. The only parallel I want to draw is that, in every approach made to me on the subject of oil, the reference was to that particular area in Wexford, Wicklow and Kilkenny. I take it, from the Minister's intervention, that they have not found oil.

They were not looking for it.

If they have not found oil, why are we having this Bill? As a responsible Minister, I take it the Minister must act on the direction of the Government. Why go to all the expense of introducing a Bill like this when the experts, the geologists, have always indicated that there is no oil here?

Deputy Norton mentioned that the O.E.E.C. report indicates the possibility of discovering oil in this part of Europe as practically nil. Why, then, have we got this Bill? Does it not seem as if the Government may, perhaps, be under pressure from a particular oil group surveying areas in Western Europe, a group which may think it economic for them to carry out a survey here. They may have suggested to the Government that they should be covered in law so that they would be safeguarded in every way should they want to prospect for oil here. Be that as it may, the average Deputy will not quibble at the fact that there must be a certain amount of Government control over any oil production that might take place. I am primarily concerned, as a Deputy, in protecting the rights of the ordinary individual. It is for that reason that I intervene in this debate.

I said at the outset my knowledge of oil and petroleum prospecting and exploiting is practically nil. It seems to me, however, that this Bill does not fully protect the private individual. In the few years in which I have been in this House I have always maintained that the rights of the private individualvis-a-vis the State are sacred. I think that principle is accepted in Dáil Éireann as a whole.

This is a very complicated Bill. The powers appear to be vested in a Board. It is hard for a simple individual, such as I am, to understand a Bill of this nature fully merely by reading it. Even when the White Paper was produced I still found myself at a disadvantage. It seems to me that the ordinary small farmer, the medium sized farmer or any landowner in Ireland, is not fully protected and safeguarded if this legislation goes through. I understood the Minister to say—and so far as my researches go into this complicated Bill, I think—that the Minister may issue a prospecting licence to anybody to go in on people's land. The struggle for the rights of the landowners of Ireland was a long one.

It is true that the Bill also contains a provision that before going in on the land, a month's notice must be given, and must be published in the local journal or in the official Government gazette—I cannot pronounce its name or, at least with so many distinguished Irish scholars present, I shall not attempt to do so. In the event of there being a premises on that land, the Bill provides that three months' notice must be given under the same conditions, but that does not strike me, as an ordinary rural Deputy, as full preservation of the rights of the landowners of Ireland.

I do not want to go extensively into the agricultural situation but it is quite obvious that if a company—I suspect, and in fact it is only reasonable to assume, that they will not be a national company—decide to get a prospecting licence from the Minister, they will walk in on the farmer's land at a month's notice, and if he has a house, they will walk in at three months' notice. They have full ancillary rights —and this does not apply only to farmers; it applies to urban dwellers and Dublin people could get quite nervous about it—to go in and interfere with any obstruction for the purpose of prospecting for oil. As I say, this Bill is complicated. I may have read it wrongly but it seems to me to be an infringement of the rights of the ordinary citizen of the State.

Furthermore, the mineral rights of Ireland are vested in the Land Commission. I think I heard Deputy Mulcahy saying that the Minister said that 50 per cent. of those rights were held by private individuals. That statement seems to indicate that 50 per cent. of the land of Ireland is free from Land Commission annuities. I doubt if that is the position and I should like the Minister to clarify that percentage. Anyway, it seems to me that if a man owns a farm, be it small or large, his fundamental rights as a citizen of this State should be preserved. The Minister may issue a prospecting licence to a company, probably a foreign company, which can walk in and have, over a quarter of a square mile, full ancillary rights to prospect for oil, independently of the individual who owns the land.

There is a great deal about compensation in this Bill on which I should like clarification from the Minister. One thing which is absolutely crystal clear in this, or any other Bill which comes before Dáil Éireann, is that the Land Commission are fully safeguarded. The Bill says that they get arrears of annuities which are due. I do not quibble with that. It also says that they get the purchasing power of the annuity but it does not clarify—and this is a point I want to make to the Minister—the case where the annuity is bought out. Does that mean that the mineral rights of the Land Commission are transferred to the tenant and will he get the benefit of any oil found on the land? If he does, I do not consider it ordinary justice for Irish citizens, particularly having regard to the long history of the land situation over past centuries.

The fixing of the compensation again is complicated. The Minister would do a service to the House if he would clarify the position and make it clear, not so much in percentages, which might be difficult to understand, but by citing the size of a farm and what the compensation would be likely to be, so that people would understand where they stand. That sum is fixed by the board. I am not certain if the board is already in existence or if it is one of the new boards which are to be set up. When things are not going well for a Government, they sometimes form a habit of creating boards.

The board has been in existence for years.

The Minister reassures me on that point so I need not elaborate further. I notice the board has the right to fix the compensation. In a democratic State such as ours, it has always been the privilege and right of the ordinary citizen to appeal to the courts, but he has no appeal in this case. If oil is found on my own farm, or any anyone else's farm, there is no right of appeal against the decision of the board. There again the Bill is contradictory. It says that the board may state a case in the High Court and it also says that the aggrieved Party may appeal to the High Court to ask the board to state a case. That is one of those legal anomalies which we ordinary individuals do not understand, so I should be glad if the Minister would clarify the point.

My reading of the Bill is that the board fixes the compensation and the compensation, having been fixed, there is no appeal. You can get a case stated but that is as far as you get because if the board does not like to accept that, they need not do so. In other words, the State can take land, if there is oil on it, and give what they like to the individual. I do not think that is fair or right to the individual.

Debate adjourned.