I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, line 19, to substitute "quantity" for "quality".
This is a very simple amendment to correct a misprint.
Vol. 178 No. 6
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, line 19, to substitute "quantity" for "quality".
This is a very simple amendment to correct a misprint.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 6, to insert at the end of the section the following new definition:—
‘"working facilities (State land) permit" has the meaning assigned to it by section * of this Act.'
Amendment No. 2 is consequential on amendment No. 22 and whether we should wait until we reach amendment No. 22 or discuss it now is a matter for the House. Deputy Dillon might suggest the best course.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 6, to insert, as subsection (2), the following:—
"( ) In this Part, references to the licensee under a licence granted under this Part shall, where the context so permits, be construed as including references to the executors, administrators and assigns of the licensee."
This amendment is also consequential on amendment No. 16 and I suggest we might adopt the same course in respect of this.
May I ask the Minister to define the words "petroleum well"? It does not seem to be indicated anywhere in the Bill what exactly these words mean.
I am afraid I cannot expand on the definition of "petroleum well". Everybody knows what petroleum is and everyone knows what a well is. The words mean what will appear on a drilling for a petroleum deposit. I cannot define the word "well" in regard to diameter and depth.
It does raise a point. I presume that exploration may be by boring down for oil or an open cast. When dealing with a problem as intricate as this, in which we enter on people's land for the purpose of boring for oil, it seems to me that some definition of the words "petroleum well" should be made quite definitely to this House. I see the Minister's difficulty. He is no more a technical expert than I am. I notice that the words "petroleum well" appear very frequently throughout the Bill and if the Minister wishes to seek advice on the definition we can clarify the matter later.
The Minister says that everybody knows what a petroleum well is but if I saw a petroleum well I would not recognise it.
The Deputy would not be able to see it.
I have heard of wells that spread oil over the whole countryside and I have heard of some others that required a great deal of activity to get anything out of them. Does "petroleum well" mean a bore, a bore to a certain depth or a bore through which oil is coming? There are bores put down which give nothing but gas which is now very valuable although at one time it was regarded as useless. I take it that a well that gave nothing but gas would not be regarded as a petroleum well. In the old days a gas well was let go to waste but now the gas is piped for miles all over the countryside. Is that a petroleum well?
Yes. The definition petroleum covers gas.
A petroleum well is not a gas well.
The word "petroleum" covers gas.
The definition goes on to say "ordinarily produced from oil and gas wells." That implies that an oil well is not a gas well.
I do not know to what extent a definition of "petroleum well" is necessary. As Deputy Dillon has said it obviously means something for which there is a bore. However, between now and the Report Stage I shall inquire whether a definition would be necessary or not.
Is this a copy of the British Act?
It is our own phrasing?
It is. It is ours and that of the Ambassador Oil people.
Is this vernacular used in other places?
Yes, in the United States.
It does seem to me that this matter is particularly germane to the whole Bill. If you are introducing a Bill here giving people a licence to prospect for petroleum, obviously there will be a well but the matter should be put so that it can be fully understood and we should have a clear definition of what a petroleum well is. I appreciate that the Minister has said he will inquire into the matter before the Report Stage but I was wondering if he could obtain a clear definition as soon as possible as there will obviously be a great deal of discussion on this Bill. There are many amendments and the discussion will go on for some time. Some expert in the Department must have some knowledge of what a petroleum well is. I suggest that it is necessary and usual that these matters should be clearly defined as this is the most important part of the whole Bill.
What Deputy Esmonde seems to suggest is that we should have this definition before we proceed further. I should like to say that after the Second Reading in the House, the Bill was gone through practically with a fine comb, not only by the officers of the Department but also by the representatives of Ambassador Oil. Almost every word and comma was examined and it did not seem to strike anybody that a definition of the words "petroleum well" was necessary but now that the matter has been raised I shall inquire whether a legal definition is necessary. In the meantime, I do not think that should hinder our discussion on the main points on the Committee Stage.
A definition of petroleum as is given in Section 2 at the bottom of page 5, where it is said that you are giving a licence to bring to the surface oil or anything relating to oil. It does not seem to me to be necessary to define the words "petroleum well" at all.
If the words "petroleum well" are not necessary why are they included in the Bill at all?
I expect it is the vernacular used in connection with the industry. Some of this is American vernacular and this is probably one of the terms used down through the ages. A petroleum well is what would probably be called in other places a petroleum chamber.
We are not debating American vernacular. It is possible that this company have some representatives in Ireland at the moment and would it not be possible for the Minister's advisers to meet and talk with the company representatives? They could then let us know whether a legal definition is necessary or not.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 6, to delete paragraph (c) and substitute the following paragraph:—
"(c) a right to do any of the following things—
(i) to construct, operate and maintain roads and railways for the purpose of ingress and egress to or from any land specified in a petroleum lease,
(ii) to build, maintain and operate on any such land such roads and railways as may be needed for the purpose of carrying on the exploration, prospecting, working, drilling and development of petroleum under such land, and for the purpose of access to any petroleum well, and the conveyance of petroleum from any petroleum well,
(iii) for all or any of the purposes aforesaid to use and occupy land and to exercise any rights in or over land or water;".
This amendment arises on the section which defines ancillary rights as they affect or extend the scope of the rights referred to in section 3, paragraph (c) of the Bill. These rights relate to the construction and operation of roads and railways for the transportation of petroleum and to the occupation of land and the exercise of rights over it. Ambassador Irish Oil, Limited, have represented that the ancillary rights under the Minerals Development Act, 1940 are inadequate, particularly in regard to the construction and operation of roads and railways, and they indicated that wider powers would be necessary for this development should any petrol deposits be found.
Assuming a person occupies or uses land or exercises any rights over land and causes damage, is the Minister satisfied that adequate provision is made for compensation to the person whose land is affected?
I am. There is adequate provision later on in other sections.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 7, to delete paragraph (f) (lines 8 and 9) and substitute the following new paragraph:—
"(f) a right to a supply of water or other substances in connection with the working of petroleum, including a right to dig or drill wells;".
This substitutes a new paragraph. The object is to make clear that the right to a supply of water, which is an ancillary right under the Bill, includes also the rights to drill wells for water.
It seems possible that in some instances there may be pollution of water from the agricultural point of view. For instance, there may be waste oil getting into the water. Is there any provision for compensation in such cases?
There is. It is specifically provided for in the Bill.
Could the Minister say what is "State petroleum"?
I stated on the Second Reading that about 50 per cent of the mineral rights in the State were vested in private ownership and the balance in the Minister. Petroleum will be included in the rights vested in the Minister. Therefore, "State petroleum" is petroleum already vested in the Minister or in other State agencies.
That would be the Land Commission?
If the Minister is including the Land Commission surely there would be more than 50 per cent? Surely more than 50 per cent of the land of Ireland has passed through the Land Commission and minerals were always excepted?
I think the Deputy will find that in many cases the mineral rights are reserved to persons other than the Land Commission.
Under this section all petroleum not State petroleum will now vest in the Minister. Does that mean that the Minister is acquiring rights over petroleum, should it exist, in private hands?
This raises a very serious issue. Take a small farmer who owns 30 acres of land. Do we purport, by an Act of this Dáil, to proclaim suddenly that if there is petroleum under his land, we now expropriate it? I do not think we have any power to do so. I suggest that this Oireachtas has no power under the Constitution to expropriate any man's property. The question then arises: are minerals or oil underlying my land my property or not? I do not think we have any power by Statute of this Parliament simply to say: "They are not your property; they belong to the State." Surely this will create big difficulties for the Minister if a section of that kind purports to expropriate minerals rights vested in individuals?
This point was in fact raised outside the House within the Department and I took the advice of the Government's law adviser. The advice was that the section was not unconstitutional. I need hardly remind the Deputy that there are adequate provisions for compensation in respect of oil found on a person's land. It is obvious, too, that unless some exploration of this kind is permitted, even if a person has minerals or oil under his land, the possibility of his ever benefiting from them are extremely remote— in fact, absolutely remote. Therefore, unless some provision is made whereby the Minister can entrust these rights, either to an agency he will operate through himself or through some other organisation with which he will enter into a contract to explore and exploit the possibility of petroleum, it is reasonably certain nobody will ever benefit. I believe this is the only way it can be done. I am informed this provision is not unconstitutional as a result of a point taken by myself with the law adviser to the Government. As I say, there are very full and adequate provisions for compensation.
What the Minister says is true—that nobody but a company with very considerable resources could exploit oil should it exist—but there may be a danger of a precedent of this sort. As I understand the effects of Sections 4 and 5, they are, in respect of Section 4, that all State petroleum whether it is under the control of other Ministers or not, now vests in the Minister. In addition, the Minister, by virtue of Section 5 takes to himself, and as a result of it for the future, all petroleum whether it is State petroleum or not. Does that mean that merely by this provision the Minister acquires these rights without payment of any compensation? Is the second paragraph of Section 5 adequate to cover compensation to the person on whose land petroleum is found?
We have to look at the background here. This is an effort to induce a company which has financial and technical resources to explore for oil in this country. Nobody knows if, in fact, there is any oil here. Those with technical qualifications express considerable doubt as to there being oil here at all. We are endeavouring to establish whether that point of view is right or wrong.
Let us suppose that, in the course of prospecting or exploring, the Oil Company discovers oil in different places throughout the country. If we are to get these oil deposits exploited to the full, in the national interest, it is desirable that the State should have the petroleum rights. Having the petroleum rights means that if these rights are used, if in fact, the land is entered upon, the owner of the land can get compensation under Part VI. If the State does not take over the petroleum rights and if the State does not facilitate access to the petroleum deposits, there will be no development of any petroleum resources that we may have. It would be of no value to the nation if some small farmer were to say: "I have oil underneath my land and have such affection for the oil that I shall not allow anybody to go near it." If we know that there is oil on certain land, the sensible thing to do is to exploit it commercially in the national interest and to say to the man on whose land the oil is and who cannot exploit it: "We shall pay you compensation, to be determined in a fair way." Any oil that we may have cannot be exploited unless power is taken to get access to the petroleum underneath the ground, on the understanding that compensation is paid to the man who is fortunate enough to have got the land on that particular spot from the Land Commission or otherwise.
Deputy Norton's argument is fallacious to this extent, that if there is petroleum under any area of land it is capable of being exploited, not merely under one particular 100 or 200 acres, but anywhere within a very wide circumference, which may give a choice of 20, 30, 40 or 50 farmers. It is not a question of being tied to one place, as might be the case, for example, in copper mining, where the vein would run through. The oil would be below the ground and it would be a question of tapping the reservoir.
It is not merely that point that I want to raise with the Minister. I want to raise another point on the same question. A great deal of the land here was sold under the earlier Land Acts prior to 1909, as the Minister is personally, apart from being officially, aware, with the mineral and sporting rights reserved to the owner prior to the sale of the land under the Land Acts. Those mineral rights were never used over the years. Candidly, I have never considered the point in connection with mineral rights but it has been considered by others in connection with sporting rights and the view now held is that, since the passing of the Statutes of Limitation Act, 1957, which came into operation on 1st January, 1959, if sporting rights reserved in that way have not been utilised for a period of 12 years, they are now statute barred. Prior to then, it was believed that they were not affected by the Statutes of Limitation and were not statute barred. Now, the situation is that it is believed that they are. If they are, then it would appear likely that the mineral rights would be similarly statute barred. It is of great importance, therefore, that that aspect should be considered so that we would know in whom the mineral rights were now vested in any cases which have been bought through the Acts prior to 1909.
Under the 1923 Land Act the mineral rights were always acquired by the Land Commission and reserved to the Land Commission when the lands were being vested in the tenants. Speaking from recollection, I do not think the Statutes of Limitation Act, 1957, applied to State bodies such as the Land Commission and, therefore, it is not a problem in relation to the 1923 Act cases. If, however, the position is as I have indicated—though I have not been advised formally by any counsel in connection with sporting rights, I have received what the Minister knows well to be a travelling opinion, that the effect of the 1957 Act has meant that sporting rights, reserved and not used for 12 years, become automatically barred in those circumstances—would it not be so for mineral rights excepted from the sale?
If it is so, it means that it is not the estate of the former owner who sold under the Land Acts but the actual farmer who is now entitled to the mineral rights and I should like the Minister to tell us, first, whether he has had that aspect considered up to this and, if so, what was the view expressed and, if he has not had it considered up to now, whether he would get it considered between now and Report Stage so as to be in a position to advise us on the Report Stage, because it seems to me quite fundamental to the consideration of this Bill in relation to the whole field of land that was bought through the 1903 and the 1909 Land Acts and, perhaps, the earlier ones, not the later ones.
First, in reply to Deputy Cosgrave, this provision is not absolutely without precedent, as he seems to have suggested. Under the 1940 Mineral Development Act, there is provision whereby the Minister may, by order, acquire mineral rights and, in fact, the Avoca workings are being done pursuant to an order made under the 1940 Act.
In reply to Deputy Sweetman, the point he mentions has not, in fact, been adverted to in my Department but I think it illustrates the desirability of Section 5, in vesting in the Minister the property in all petroleum within the State.
Whether the 1957 Statutes of Limitation Act applies to mineral rights, as the Deputy seems to suggest, as well as sporting rights, is something that can be examined in relation to the payment of compensation by the Mining Board and, as the Deputy is aware, under the Bill, the Mining Board has the power to refer to the High Court any case by way of case stated, to solve a legal problem that may occur in the examination of the compensation aspects of the acquisition of land. Similarly, any claimant to compensation has also a right to require the Mining Board so to refer the case to the High Court and, in the event of the Mining Board refusing, that person has the right to go in any case to the High Court to require the Mining Board to do so. Therefore, the point the Deputy is making is one that can be taken care of adequately under the later compensation provisions in the Bill, including the rights of anybody to go to the High Court by way of case stated or to cause the Board itself to go there.
While that may be so in relation to the title to compensation, it is right that the House should know from whom the rights are being acquired because the House might easily want to put in additional provisions for the tenant farmer, if the rights were still vested in the landlord. I would ask the Minister to have the matter clarified before the next Stage so far as his advisers are concerned.
That is all I could do, of course.
I think Deputy Norton over-simplifies this matter. There are two considerations in relation to the provisions of Section 5. One is the fact that we have a written Constitution and that, if we purport to enact legislation which conflicts with the provisions of the Constitution, the only result is that we involve everybody in a very undesirable tangle and it is necessary when dealing with property rights to keep our eye pretty closely on the terms of the Constitution so as to avoid the possibility of the whole Statute being found to be unconstitutional and ineffective. There is a detailed aspect to this to which I think Deputy Sweetman referred incidentally. If you open a copper mine you open it on a certain coast. You may follow the line of the minerals but must get permission to enter the next man's property in order to follow the line of minerals.
As I understand it, the compensation rights are to take the form of royalties paid on oil brought to the surface. Let us suppose that Deputy Norton has a farm adjoining my farm and that the oil under both farms vests in the Minister. The Minister elects to bore on my farm. Deputy Norton comes along the following morning and says: "Now, come along and bore on my farm." The oil is lying under Deputy Dillon's and Deputy Norton's land. If one bores on Deputy Dillon's land and not on Deputy Norton's land the oil will come up on Deputy Dillon's land. He will get these royalties. In fact, Deputy Norton sucks the oil from under my land.
In the Texas oil fields and the great oil fields of the Southern States of America derricks have gone up like forests in close proximity one to the other very frequently for the reason that nobody was going to allow somebody else to drain all the oil away from the field into one particular bore hole. It may be that technical and economic reasons make it preferable that there should be only one hole and that there should be only one pool —I sympathise with Deputy Norton's scepticism about these pools of oil upon which we are speculating—and that it might be more economic to have one derrick tapping one particular pool of oil. If the section operated all the royalties would go to one man and his neighbour would get nothing although his neighbour knew that but for the operation of Section 5 he could have got Standard Oil and bored away on his own land. If there are two rival companies, each tapping the same pool of oil, each of the two proprietors will get his fair share of compensation provided under Section 6.
If we look at the matter without careful reflection we could create a situation in which Deputy Norton's land could be left dry while Deputy Dillon's land is made to gush oil. In those circumstances, Deputy Norton may find that he has a right to go to the Supreme Court and say that his property rights are violated by the provisions of Section 5. If Deputy Sweetman's contention is correct—and I have no doubt it is—and the mineral rights are vested in Deputy Norton who has purchased his land under a Land Act, I think the tenant farmer, whom I describe as Deputy Norton in this case, may have a very good case to go to the Supreme Court and say it is unconstitutional because it operates to deprive him not only of the physical oil which it conveys to the Minister but deprive him of his right to compensation because the Minister will not permit him to bore on his holding and bring the oil to the surface which is the only means by which compensation becomes payable to him.
It is better that these things should be mentioned at this stage. If there is a flaw in the plan envisaged in the Bill it can be corrected. If there is nothing in it, it can be examined and disposed of.
The point Deputy Dillon has just raised is taken care of in Section 30. When oil is found, operations are started at what is described as the well-head. The best information available shows that the oil will come from beneath the surface within a radius of a quarter of a mile of that well-head and persons owning land within that area will be compensated in accordance with the defined formula. I think the experience excludes the possibility of anybody who owns land outside the circumference of that field having any possible rights in the oil that will be brought to the surface. It is mentioned in the Bill that there will be compensation available to everybody who owns land within that circle. That, perhaps, may be another way to reply to the point raised by Deputy Sweetman, that there might be a huge area and very many landowners within an area in which oil is being drilled for. That is not the case. According to technical experience, that possibility is excluded.
Arising out of what the Minister said, is that not the very point which Deputy Dillon is making? The Minister refers us to another section in relation to this. Deputy Dillon's case was that you might be taking oil out of one person's land and actually going into another person's land. By restricting the area to a quarter of a mile, you are creating that difficulty. You might be producing oil at the well-head and bringing out oil but just beyond the quarter of a mile you might be taking the oil from the land of somebody else. They will get no compensation for that at all.
While speaking on this section, I want to ask the Minister a question. I will make it as simple as I can because this is a very complicated matter as far as I can see. If a person has a freehold farm, surely he is entitled to proportionate compensation? If a person is a tenant farmer and is paying an annuity and oil is discovered on his farm, any rights which he might have if he were the complete owner of that land would not go to him. If he is an annuitant those rights will go to the Land Commission. In other words, he will get no benefit whatever as a result of oil being found on his farm.
In regard to the point mentioned by the Deputy in relation to the quarter of a mile, the possibility is extremely remote. The Deputy suggested that a wider area might be taken into account but if you did that, one could not say where one should stop. Therefore everybody who owns land perhaps within a 50mile radius might be entitled to claim compensation. Those who know their job say that you exclude all owners of land outside this circle—half a mile in diameter or a quarter of a mile in radius. That is the only information we have on the subject. I think it is advice we might reasonably accept.
So far as the tenant who is subject to payment of land annuities is concerned, if oil is found on his land he has the right to compensation, subject to repayment of annuities to the Land Commission. If he owns the land and owns the mineral rights——
"and owns the mineral rights". Under a 1923 Act case, he cannot and therefore he gets nothing.
At present, if I exclude the opinion the speaker has expressed——
The 1923 Act case cannot be affected by the type of case I have mentioned.
In the 1923 Act case, he does not in any event own the mineral rights. Therefore, he has no property in them. If he does own the mineral rights, and if he is still subject to the payment of land annuities, he is entitled to compensation in respect of the oil found on his land subject only to repayment of the annuities.
Is it not possible for the Minister to embody in the Bill that if the annuitant so wishes, if oil is discovered on his property, which would make it valuable, it would be possible for him to redeem the annuity? If he does, the State will surely recoup him what he is entitled to get. Under this Section, the Minister is adequately safeguarded. I suggest the Minister should consider something on those lines.
If he already has the mineral rights and redeems the annuity then he has full right to compensation under the Act for any petroleum found on his land. The redemption of the annuity alone does not give him mineral rights over his property if they are vested in the Land Commission. He cannot acquire a right he never had in any case by redeeming the annuity.
A slightly wider point arises on this. Exploration and searching for petroleum, if there is petroleum here, cannot and will not be carried on, no matter what legal agreements there may be between the Minister and any company, without reasonable goodwill on the part of the people over whose land that exploration will be carried out. I agree that in the national interest the people of the country as a whole will endeavour to give that co-operation. However, I think that co-operation would far more readily be forthcoming if the position were that the person who owned the land was not entirely expropriated from any benefit that might arise in the majority of cases. The 1923 Land Act cases all will mean that any person who has bought under the 1923 Land Act will not get a penny piece for all the petroleum that is found in his land. He will get compensation, I gather, for disturbance and damage but the compensation under the terms of this Bill appears to be very different indeed from the terms visualised elsewhere.
I appreciate that the Minister, in drafting this Bill, had no Irish experience on which to go. I should like to know what mineral exploitation legislation of other countries he considered before determining on the basis here. We have no experience in relation to this type of exploration. I wonder, for example, if the Minister looked into what is universally accepted amongst oil men to be the most modern code of oil legislation, the British Columbia code in Canada? Did the Minister and his advisers consider that code which is universally, amongst oil men, considered to be the most modern code? There are a great many things in that code of which no cognisance is taken in this Bill. Some of them I hope the Minister will deal with by regulation. I do not think regulation is the right way of dealing with them. I had hoped to have an opportunity of raising this matter in a more general way on the Second Stage but unfortunately I had influenza at the time.
The modern code in other countries, dealing with petroleum exploration, winning and searching for it, is quite different. There is a statutory objection, for example, in British Columbia to carrying out this work within 250 feet of anybody's house. There is a statutory prohibition on carrying it out within 250 feet of a main road.
There is nothing in this Bill to prevent an oil company from coming in and sitting in my back garden and, if they wish, digging it all up, when they could quite easily do it on the other side of the wall.
I accept the quarter mile radius which the Minister mentions. I am sure his technical information is adequate on it. However, it means that you can take it within that radius and get what is required without trampling on other people's rights. People do not mind putting up with inconvenience, with damage even, if, at the end of the story, if anything is found, they will get something out of it. But all the 1923 Act cases, and perhaps some of the other earlier Land Act cases, will get nothing out of it. That seems to be much too arbitrary a way of dealing with the problem. Quite apart from being too arbitrary a way of dealing with the problem, it seems it is not a way that is likely to get the co-operation, help and assistance without which these teams cannot possibly satisfactorily work in relation to their searching.
All modern codes were in fact examined.
Including British Columbia?
I am not certain about British Columbia but all modern codes in use. I was about to qualify what I was saying but the Deputy intervened. All modern codes in the U.S.A. and in the Middle East were examined and were suitably adapted to what we thought Irish conditions would be.
With respect to the Minister, if he examined the British Columbia code he did not adapt it. He rejected it.
I am not suggesting it was.
I shall send the Minister a copy of the British Columbia code. I have one.
The Deputy said he did not like to see these operations carried out by regulation. There is provision in the 1949 and 1956 legislation for these technical matters.
I move amendment No. 6:
In subsection (1) (a), page 7, line 44, to substitute "the licensee under" for "the holder of".
This is a drafting amendment to substitute "the licensee under" for "the holder of".
I move amendment No. 7:
In subsection (2), page 8, line 5, to substitute "lessee under" for "holder of".
This is a consequential amendment.
It is a similar amendment.
I move amendment No. 8:
To delete subsection (4), page 8, and substitute the following new subsection:—
"(4) In a prosecution for an offence under this section, a certificate purporting to be signed by an officer of the Minister and to certify any one or more of the following matters—
(a) that the person charged was not on a specified day the holder of an exploration licence which was then in force and included a specified area,
(b) that the person charged was not on a specified day the holder of a petroleum prospecting licence which was then in force and included a specified area,
(c) that the person charged was not on a specified day the holder of a reserved area licence which was then in force and included a specified area,
(d) that the person charged was not on a specified day the lessee under a petroleum lease which had not then expired and included a specified area,
shall, without proof of the signature of the person purporting to sign such certificate or that he was an officer of the Minister, be evidence until the contrary is proved of such of those matters as are purported to be certified in and by such certificate."
Subsection (4) of Section 7 as it stands imposes on a defendant in proceedings for a contravention of this section the onus of proving he is the holder of a licence or lease authorising him to search or develop for petroleum deposits. The object of the amendment is to shift the onus of proof to the State. This is more in accord with accepted principle and, in any event, the granting of a licence or a lease will always be a matter within the knowledge of the State.
I move amendment No. 9.
Before Section 8 to insert the following new section:—
"(1) The Minister may enter into an undertaking with any person to grant to him an exploration licence or a petroleum prospecting licence or both those licences.
(2) Where the Minister enters into an undertaking under this section it shall be lawful for him to carry out the undertaking."
The purpose of this amendment is to empower the Minister to enter into undertakings to grant exploration or prospecting licences in relation to petroleum. These powers will be useful because our experience has been that groups which negotiate for facilities for the exploration of petroleum are anxious to secure undertakings from the Minister for Industry and Commerce that he will grant them the necessary licences on the fulfilment of whatever conditions are prescribed. This is an amendment which was inserted mainly at the request of the Ambassador Oil Company, and to require the Minister to give undertakings, but it does not, in my opinion, carry the effectiveness of the Bill much further. On the other hand, it does not do it any harm either.
Will the Minister say whether this power he is now seeking is being taken or will be exercised on behalf of the Ambassador Oil Company and is not intended to give an exploration licence or a prospecting licence to any other company?
It is a general power and not limited to the Ambassador Company in any way but so long as the agreement with the Ambassador Oil Company is in existence, no licence will be issued to any other company.
The Minister will have power under this section to say that in fact so long as the original agreement with the Ambassador Oil Company stands, nobody will get a licence.
They have exclusive rights while the agreement lasts?
I move amendment No. 10:
To delete subsection (5) and substitute the following new sub-section:—
"(5) (a) An exploration licence shall not confer on the licensee any right to enter on land.
(b) Paragraph (a) of this sub-section shall not be construed as preventing the licensee under an exploration licence from entering on land with the consent of the owner of the surface of that land."
This amendment is a clarification of subsection (5) which it is proposed to delete. It indicates that while the exploration licence does not confer on the licensee any right to enter on land, the holder may nevertheless enter on land, provided he has the consent of the surface owner. Without the sub-section as amended, he would not have the right even with the owner's consent to enter on the land. It gives the right to enter so long as he has an exploration licence with the consent of the land owner.
I move amendment No. 11:
In subsection (8) (a), page 9, lines 34 and 35, to substitute "land specified in the licence" for "land to which the licence relates".
This is simply a drafting amendment to substitute "land specified in the licence" for "land to which the licence relates".
Subsection (2) says:—
The Minister shall not grant a petroleum prospecting licence in respect of petroleum under any land unless, at least fourteen days before doing so, he has——
I suggest that 14 days is rather a limited period and that a reasonable extension would be a month, or 30 days. Further, the section says:
(a) published, in one or more newspapers circulating in the locality, notice of his intention to do so, and
(b) deposited in the office of the Geological Survey, Dublin and in one or more places in the locality, a map showing the boundaries of such land.
Can the Minister clarify in paragraph (b), subsection (2) the phrase "in one or more places in the locality a map showing the boundaries of such land"? Does "one or more" mean the local post office and the Garda barracks?
The local places envisaged are, in fact, the Garda barracks and the post office. The publication in the newspaper is to overcome the practical difficulty that would arise in the event of a large tract of land being specified as an area in which a prospecting licence could be granted. Under the 1940 Act, the Minister was required to serve notice on each land owner by registered post. In that Act, it was envisaged that only relatively small areas would be considered for the granting of prospecting licences. Under the Bill, the area would be much wider and would involve very many land holders. The issue of licences must not damage any land holder and, in any case, the intention is to make him aware that such prospecting is about to be carried out in his area. I think the provisions of the section are adequate to put the land owner on notice as to what he might expect.
Does the Minister consider 14 days sufficient, because I am afraid I do not?
The intention was to save time. At the preliminary stage, any extension might serve to delay the exploration unduly. I am not wedded to the 14 days but I think it is adequate in the circumstances.
Would the Minister consider 21 days?
I shall consider it between now and Report Stage.
A point arises on this section which might be considered more conveniently here than anywhere else. The operation, as I understand it, of the Minister's scheme is that, first of all, if an exploration licence proves worthwhile, one goes to the prospecting stage, and then if that proves worthwhile, one goes to the mining stage. This section deals with the middle stage, the prospecting stage, and it must be considered against the background of the agreement made by the Minister with the Ambassador Oil Company.
Again, the tenor of this section, and the tenor of the agreement with Ambassador Oil, is entirely contrary to the established provisions in other countries. As I understand, from the Minister's explanatory memorandum, Ambassador Oil have been given exploration rights over the whole country. I am not quarrelling with that at all, but as I understand the agreement further, Ambassador Oil have equally been given the right, if they so desire, to take out prospecting licences over the whole country.
The actual phraseology is that the company will be entitled to prospecting licences and mining leases in any area over which they have exploration rights. If that phrase in the memorandum means what is says, the position is that not merely exploration rights but all prospecting rights, and ultimately all mining leases for petroleum in the country, have already been committed to one company. That is what the Minister's memorandum sets out. Perhaps that is not so. If it is not so, I need not develop the point further.
In other countries there has been quite a different scheme. These may be exploration rights, these may be prospecting rights, but in relation to the actual mining at a later stage, it is dealt with on a grid system. The particular country is divided into specified areas and a company cannot take a whole area because by so doing it, and not the Government concerned, has the right of deciding what petrol will be extracted and what petrol will be left there. The amount of petrol, for example, that was mined in Eakring in England was a very considerable addition to their wartime supplies but it is common knowledge that it was so mined that the reservoir of the well was very much over worked. It was over worked, naturally enough, because of the emergency of the war conditions.
In other countries it is the Government who have the right to determine what exact working there is going to be. Under statute in other countries it is the Government who have the right to determine whether it is desirable in the national interest to extract as much as possible from a petroleum reservoir or whether it is better to build it up for an emergency period. In this case there is no such provision in the legislation proposed here.
Apparently we are relying entirely on such provisions as there may be in the lease. That is not a satisfactory arrangement; it is particularly not satisfactory in view of the fact there is no provision, no possibility whatever, of having any exploitation on the grid system that is, for example, operating in British Columbia. The whole purpose of the grid system is to ensure that there will be that competition. The person who finds the oil will get the cream; the person who finds the oil will reap the benefit. By adopting a system of dividing the country into a series of areas, squared, or whatever you like to call them, it will ensure that while the person who has done the donkey work will get the cream of the benefit, he will be kept up to his job.
The blanket system which the Minister has adopted does not do that at all and it is not satisfactory. It is not satisfactory that the rights in relation to this should be defined solely by reference to the lease. As far as I can see, there is nothing whatever in this legislation to provide that the Government, as a Government, would have the right to determine how the most vital raw material there could be would be utilised if, in fact, it is to be found in Ireland. I do not think it right that that matter should be left purely to a covenant in the lease. As I say, in other countries the provisions in that regard are incorporated in the legislation itself. The fire provisions are incorporated in the legislation itself; the prohibition against doing damage to buildings, roads, etc., is incorporated in the legislation itself. The Minister should tell us why he adopted a different line from that adopted by other countries who have infinitely more experience than we in relation to this matter. In case the Minister has not seen these I shall send them across to him.
The first point raised by the Deputy referred to the fact that Ambassador Oil have rights over the whole country. I might say, as the Deputy knows, the territory is being scaled down according as each five year period terminates. It is reduced to 75 per cent. after the first five years, then to 50 per cent. after the next five years, and then to 25 per cent.
But I think I am right in saying that it is all in blocks.
I could not say exactly how the reduction process will take place. As far as the suggestion that any company under this Bill might be empowered to exploit oil to the detriment of the country is concerned, it certainly would not be in the interests of the country. I suggest that Section 49, as amended by the new section, adequately takes care of that possibility.
The Minister is entitled to make regulations to provide for, amongst many other matters, in subparagraph (IV), the conservation of petroleum and then, in subsection 2, subparagraph (a) it states: "If it appears to the Minister that a petroleum operation is being conducted in such a manner (whether by act or omission) to cause loss, contamination, deterioration or misuse of petroleum products or other minerals which would not normally occur if the operation were conducted in accordance with good oilfield practice then he may serve, by registered post..." etc. That at least reserves the right to the Minister to ensure that proper oilfield practice is being maintained in the operation.
I have not made myself clear to the Minister. I am not referring to a case in which proper oilfield practice is not being carried out. Even with proper oilfield practice there is a higher principle involved. We are not likely to have oil here to the extent, say, of Texas. We are far more likely to have a small amount of oil like that which was found in the Eakring oilfield. I am not making any suggestions that the Minister should have made any choice other than that of Ambassador Oil. They are an excellent little company. They are not one of the giants but they are a good concern. I am assuming they are going to work in relation to proper oilfield practice but there is a higher principle involved. That is whether it is better in the national interest having a supply of the size comparable to the Eakring field in England, that it should be taken out in years, one, two or three, or whether, knowing that it is there, it should be kept as a reservoir to cover a national emergency. Eakring, as I say, was pumped out and it is only just beginning to recover now after seepage.
It was pumped out during the war to meet a national emergency. What the Minister is taking power to do is to ensure that proper oil field practice is carried out. That is not a matter of oil field practice. It is a matter of national policy which a Government and only a Government should decide.
I did read another sub-paragraph in respect of which regulations may be made for conservation of petroleum.
You cannot have a thing like that in regulations. In any event the Minister is covered by his agreement. The only thing the agreement is to be subject to is this.
Subject to this, yes, and regulations are part and parcel——
The Minister surely is not going to suggest that a matter of national interest of that sort is to be dealt with by mere regulations? That suggestion is not worthy of the Minister.
Could I get a little clarification on this section. The procedure is that the only interested party, the Ambassador Oil Company, will apply for an exploration licence for the entire State, which they can be granted according to the terms of the agreement with the Ambassador Oil Company. They must then take out prospecting licences. Am I correct in saying that nobody else can take out a prospecting licence except the Ambassador Oil Company?
Do they take out these prospecting licences piecemeal over various areas in the State or do they take out one prospecting licence for the whole State?
The exploration licence initially is in respect of the whole State. Prospecting licences, as the section indicates, will be in respect of an area to be selected by them and that area will have to be sufficiently indicated to the people who may have rights such as ownership of land, etc. by way of notice in the public Press and by way of map deposited in the locality. Therefore that envisages immediately that the exploration licence will be in respect of a known area within the State, but it does not give them prospecting licences over the whole State.
That would follow logically from the work done under the exploration licence. As regards the point made by Deputy Sweetman, under the terms of the agreement with the Ambassador Oil Company, I think I am correct in saying, they agree to surrender after every period of five years 25 per cent. of the area of the State.
Yes, they must surrender 25 per cent.
I think it is also correct to say that a very substantial part of the State will, in any event, not be oil bearing, so that that condition in the oil agreement is really not of very much value. In other words, they could surrender back part of the State in which they knew there was no possibility of getting oil, still keep the agreement in force and tie up the part where the oil was.
That is the position. Known techniques today would establish after the initial period which 25 per cent. of the State they are prepared to relinquish. It may be, however, that techniques of mining will develop as the years go on, that somebody else might come along and by reason of these techniques undertake exploration and perhaps establish where oil would be in the portion of the land of the State that has been abandoned for the purpose of oil drilling by the Ambassador people.
I am not an expert but I do know it can be established that there are certain types of country where there is no oil and where it is quite impossible to find oil. Under the terms of this agreement, they could release back to the State the 25 per cent. in the area in which they knew there was no oil.
Which they can establish to their satisfaction with the resources available to them.
I take it the prospecting licence is granted for a period specified on its face and during that period it is valid and binding between the parties. If that is so, the Minister and the licensee might come across difficulties they did not foresee by virtue of the fact that subsection (3) reads:
Every petroleum prospecting licence shall be granted upon such terms and conditions as the Minister thinks fit and specifies therein.
I take it, therefore, the conditions specified in the prospecting licence would be valid during the entire period in which the prospecting licence was in operation and there might arise a situation, say, half way through the period specified in the prospecting licence, in which both the Minister and the licensee might like to introduce new terms into the licence. Unfortunately the Minister and the licensee would not be in the position of two parties binding themselves by mutual agreement and they may not be able to change the conditions specified in the licence. The Minister might find it wise to put in some kind of saver in that section to allow the Minister and the licensee at some stage to change the conditions in the licence if the need arose.
I am advised, that, according to practice, these prospecting licences are renewable every year. Even if we had no practice there is nothing to prevent the Minister cancelling the existing licence and issuing a new one to take account of any changed circumstances that might arise.
That is very important.
They would have to show cause.
Nobody else could get a prospecting licence. Once these people have an exploration right to the entire State it does not matter if you do not issue a prospecting licence to them. Nobody else can get one. Is that correct?
Yes, that is correct.
Deputy Russell has followed up the point I made and it is quite clear that if the Minister's interpretation is correct in regard to the relinquishment of the 25 per cent under the lease, the provision is utterly worthless because if oil is to be found here we have a fair idea of the areas in which it will be found but in relation to certain areas where there is no prospect whatever of oil being found, they can throw these back at the Minister. That is why, particularly to meet a case like that, in British Columbia and in other places the grid system has been adopted. If the Minister will look at the copy of the Petroleum and Natural Gases Act of British Columbia, which I have sent across to him, he will find that in Section 49 of that Act there is specific provision that a permitee—which is the same as what we call a licensee—may not get more than five grids in one area so that as he gives up 25 per cent, if that is to be the basis of the lease, it does not shut out any other possibilities. That is specifically provided for in their legislation. I do not purport to be an expert on their legislation as I only read their Act but that is the system on which it is done.
The whole area is divided up. There is a group and out of that group, which may consist of about 30 grid areas, a licensee may take only five. He explores over a wide area and, as his reward, he takes the best areas but he is bound to take them in such a way that he cannot blanket out everybody else and so the oil resources will be developed. It is a pity that the Minister did not adopt that procedure here. The Minister may reasonably ask me why did I not put down amendments to that effect but this is not the type of Bill that could be amended in the ordinary course. It would mean an entirely new Bill and I am not in a position to follow that line. No member of an Opposition would be in a position to do that.
Would the Minister give an undertaking that he will take note of these observations when dealing with the matter?
I am afraid he cannot do that. He has already committed himself in the agreement.
I agree with the principle of the Bill but the position is that in other countries there are representatives of the Government who go around to ensure that the deposits are developed in the interests of the country. We have no such officer here. The development of our oil resources could be held upin saecula saeculorum by an interested party.
As Deputy Sweetman has said, the agreement came before the legislation. It provides for the gradual reduction by 25 per cent. after five years and by 25 per cent. more after the next five years. Paragraph 6 says that the areas surrendered and returned must be in blocks of compact shape and, to that extent, it ensures that there will not be any random surrender of land. I should like to suggest to Deputy Sweetman, as he has examined the position in British Columbia, that this country is a very small area by standards of oil exploration and oil mining and that it may not be practicable under the circumstances to divide the country into grids as he suggests. I would suggest to him that the prospects of finding oil in this country may not be as bright as they were in British Columbia. These are the two possibilities that I suggest to him—firstly, that the prospects are not very bright and secondly, that our national territory is a very small area by the standards of oil exploration and mining.
I cannot help the Minister because what I saw was divided into a series of geophysical divisions which meant nothing to me.
I move amendment No. 12:
To delete subsection (1) and substitute the following new subsection:
"(1) The Minister may enter into an undertaking to grant a petroleum lease to take effect from such date, as may be specified in the petroleum lease."
Under Section 10 the Minister is empowered to enter into an undertaking with the holder of a licence to the effect that if he is successful the Minister will grant him a licence in due course. The alteration is that there is no condition concerning the outcome of the exploration work. There is no difference in substance between the provision in Section 10 as it stands and in the new provision advocated by the oil exploration interests but in view of the case expressed by them it is proposed to amend Section 10.
Where is the real difference between sub-section (3) and this amendment?
In sub-section (1), is it not? The amendment is to delete sub-section (1).
What is the meaning of sub-section (3) in the light of the new amendment? The amendment suggests that the Minister may enter into an undertaking to grant a petroleum licence to take effect from such a date as may be specified. Is that the meaning of sub-section (1)? If it is, what is the meaning of sub-section (3) then?
I am advised that sub-section (3) is a routine provision.
This is the section that deals with the question of water supplies. Is a person, in this section, a local authority as well as an ordinary person? Are they both covered? I think they are both covered but I should like an assurance on the matter.
They must be.
Is petroleum not a mineral deposit within the wider sense of that term and have we defined mineral deposits in such a way that petroleum is not excluded? Do we not mean mineral deposits rather than petroleum? You must do some damage to the petroleum to get it out, as I understand the method of mining, but of course I am not an expert. I did have some cursory discussion with the experts but I should like the Minister to consider that point.
Surely it means solid minerals?
That is what it is intended to mean but I want to be clear that it legally means that. In relation to the surface of land, should there not be something to provide that the person prospecting would not do his work in a way that would be unnecessarily annoying to the owner of the land? The question of damage is not of very great consequence because obviously the licensee will be responsible for paying for the damage. Under a prospecting licence, the licensee pays. Therefore, he will select the place where there is the least damage. But if the prospecting work can be done at place A quite satisfactorily and the lessee insists on doing it at place B, surely there should be some provision which would override that?
I am not thinking in terms of damage so much as loss of amenity. Is it clear, for example, that there would be any compensation for loss of amenity? Does the Minister know how one prospects for petroleum? Is it not necessary to drill into the ground? In my opinion, the noise of a drill just outside the kitchen door can be pretty unpleasant for the woman of the house. The man may be out but it would be pretty unpleasant for her. That is a loss of amenity. There does not seem to be compensation in this section for that type of loss of amenity, annoyance or whatever you like to call it. I think there should be some means of paying such compensation.
I do not know whether the Minister has ever had the misfortune, as I had, to live adjacent to where a well was being bored by one of these drilling machines. It went on for some days and, although I was a considerable distance away from it and was not, therefore, as badly affected as others, it was a most maddening performance. Some of those near it became ill and were almost driven off their heads. As far as I can see, there is nothing here to provide any form of compensation for that loss of amenity, annoyance or nuisance, if you like to use the word in the technical and legal sense. If there were such provision, clearly the people causing the annoyance would clamp down on it as much as they could; but without such provision there is nothing to make them do so.
This section says:
Whenever damage to the surface of land or to mineral deposits or to water supplies is caused whether directly or indirectly, either—
(a) by the exercise by the licensee under a petroleum prospecting licence of his rights under the licence, or
(b) by exercise by the Minister of the powers conferred on him by paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 11 of this Act,
the licensee or the Minister (as the case may be) shall be liable to pay compensation for such damage, and the provisions of Chapter VII of this Part shall apply in respect of such compensation.
Would the Minister say whether damage to the surface of the land is intended to include, for example, damage to timber on the land or damage to a building caused by subsidence as a result of drilling under the land? Would these items be covered in a compensation claim? If not, the term "damage to the surface of land' is hardly wide enough.
If the Deputy refers to the definition section, he will see that the definition of "surface" when used in relation to land, includes any buildings, works or thing erected, constructed or growing on such land. I think that covers the Deputy's point.
I move amendment No. 13.
In subsection (1), page 10, line 33, to substitute "specified land" for "a specified area".
This is a drafting amendment.
Am I in order in referring to the terms of the agreement with the Ambassador Oil Company on this section? I think it is specifically provided for in this section that certain terms be agreed between the Minister in regard to rents or royalties. I want to ask the Minister why, in connection with the agreement with the Ambassador Oil Company, this split of the profits was not the normal one in the oil business, that is fifty-fifty. According to the agreement, in the first five years, the Government cannot get more than 30 per cent. of the profits and thereafter not more than 40 per cent., and in fact they may get less. Why did we not manage to do as well in this country as elsewhere?
As the Deputy is aware, the fifty-fifty split relates to countries, for example, in the Middle East, where prospects of finding oil are very bright. As I explained on the Second Reading, the prospects of finding oil here are not so bright. Therefore, we think that the terms as to the distribution of profits are favourable in the circumstances.
The Minister will recall that in these countries where the prospects are favourable, they are not now disposed to take the fifty-fifty split; they are looking for considerably more.
They are looking for more.
And getting it.
They probably are.
I move amendment No. 14:
In subsection (1), page 11, line 27, to substitute "specified" for "comprised".
This is a drafting amendment.
It is not in connection with this amendment that the Minister is making any effort to meet the point I raised about compensation because it is not in connection with this section that the circumstances arise in which a person may acquire the right under a lease issued by the Minister to enter on my lands and there to do depredation?
It is a later amendment—Section 57, amendment No. 36.
A reserved area is an area surrounding an area in respect of which a prospecting licence has been given?
Does that operate to give the licensee an option?
The reserved area is an area around a leasehold.
Does that give the leaseholder an option on the reserved area?
Does the option run to the same term as the lease?
The option is to extend the lease, presumably under the same terms as the lease.
I move amendment No. 15:
Before Section 20 to insert the following new section:—
"The lessee under a petroleum lease may, with the consent of the Minister, assign the lessee's interest under that petroleum lease to another person."
This amendment will make it possible for a person or company holding a petroleum lease to assign it to another party, with the Minister's consent. The agreement executed with the Minister for Industry and Commerce and Ambassador Irish Oil provides for the assignment of petroleum leases and, consequently, provision must be made in the law for the assignment of such leases. It is to keep the Bill consistent with the terms of the agreement.
I take it, then, that this amendment is not just an afterthought of the Minister's but has probably been suggested by the company with which he has entered into the agreement?
That is all right in the ordinary course of events. If a person has a lease, he is quite entitled, under certain circumstances, to assign it, but I should like to get from the Minister an assurance that before this Bill is enacted by the Oireachtas or soon after it has been enacted, we shall not wake up some fine day to find that Ambassador Irish Oil have sold out their interests to somebody else. Is this section motivated by a desire on the part of the company with which the Minister made the agreement to unload their interest on to somebody else? I gather it is giving them the right to do so but oil people are oil people the world over.
There has been no mind sufficiently quick to negotiate with oil people and I should not like this Bill and everything associated with it and the efforts of the House to enact reasonable legislation to be nothing more than a scheme by which one company negotiates a lease and then, having got certain facilities under legislation to operate for oil, does nothing but sell out its own interest in the matter. I should like to have from the Minister an assurance that this section is not put in to enable the company with which he made the agreement to sell their interest, either before they have started or shortly after this Bill has become law and after doing very little exploration work.
The Deputy will see that the new section provides that the assignment must have the consent of the Minister.
I know, but the Minister is handcuffed. The Minister now has one oil company willing to take the exploration rights of the whole country. There is no queue of people looking for these rights. Therefore, the Minister has negotiated with one company. It is between the Minister and the company that this Bill has been drafted and is to be approved by the Oireachtas. Supposing the company say:
"We have got some other interest elsewhere. We cannot go on with the undertaking we had in mind for Ireland but we know some very good friends of ours in the business and they have consented to take over the matter and they will operate in future."
Is there any danger of being confronted with a situation like that? Frankly, if it does arise, I do not know what the Minister can do. He can say: "No, you cannot do that at all", in which case nothing, or virtually nothing, happens. He has power, in fact, if he wants to see oil exploration work going on, only to consent to the sale of the interest of the existing company to some new company.
Hold your horses. If the Minister refuses his consent to the assignment of the lease, will not the obligations of the agreement continue to impinge upon the original company?
Even assuming they do, but do they?
They do. I put it to Deputy Norton that the sanction which the Minister wields here is that, if it is proposed by the company with which he has this agreement to assign this lease to an unsuitable person, he can withhold his consent, whereupon all the penalty clauses of the original agreement come into operation. Is that not so?
And the original company must proceed with their undertaking or pay the penalty.
I am putting the case as I read it. If I did not read it this way, I should agree with Deputy Norton, but, as I read it, unless the company with whom the Minister is making the agreement can present to him another lessor who is prepared to put up the same guarantees and give the same undertakings as the original company were prepared to do and has as good a backing, the Minister can refuse his consent.
Would the Minister say whether it would be a condition of the transfer of the lease that the new company would fulfil all the conditions of the existing company and would not have the lease transferred on a modification of the existing agreement?
They must fulfil all the obligations of the original company.
And the Minister will not consent to the transfer otherwise?
No, not otherwise, certainly.
That is reassuring.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 might be discussed together. Amendment No. 17 is consequential on Amendment No. 16.
I move amendment No. 16:
Before Section 20 to insert the following new section:—
"(1) In this section ‘licence' means a licence being—
(a) an exploration licence,
(b) a petroleum prospecting licence, or,
(c) a reserved area licence.
(2) The licensee under a licence may, with the consent of the Minister, transfer the licence to another person.
(3) Where the licensee under a licence, being an individual, dies, the following provisions shall nothwithstanding anything contained in section 7 of this Act, have effect—
(a) the rights conferred by the licence may be exercised until the happening of whichever of the following events first happens, namely—
(i) the grant of probate of the will or letters of administration of the personal estate of the licensee,
(ii) the expiration of the licence,
(iii) the expiration of six months from the death of the licensee.
(b) if the personal representative of the licensee applies to the Minister, not later than twelve months from the death of the licensee for leave to transfer the licence and the licence is then in force—
(i) the Minister may grant or refuse the application,
(ii) if the Minister refuses the application, the licence shall on such refusal terminate."
Power is being taken under the terms of this amendment to provide for the transfer from one person to another of a licence for the exploration of petroleum deposits. This amendment is in harmony with the amendment authorising the transfer of petroleum leases. The amendment provides also for the continuance of licences granted to an individual, notwithstanding the death of the individual. There are instances in which petroleum exploration and development operations are carried out by private individuals rather than by companies and this applies to a number of groups in the United States of America. Licences granted to a company would continue in force indefinitely, subject to their terms, but, in the case of individuals, the licences would terminate on death, unless provision was made for their continuance. The effect of the amendment will be that, on the death of the holder of the licence, the personal representative will be empowered to operate under it for a maximum period of six months. Within a period of 12 months from the death of the holder, the personal representative may apply to the Minister for leave to transfer the licence and the Minister may grant or refuse the application, as he thinks fit.
Amendment No. 17 is to delete the words "death or," the purpose being that it is desirable to provide that exploration, prospecting, and other licences granted to an individual shall not terminate on his death but shall pass to his personal representative. In some instances, the interests which are concerned with oil companies are not bodies corporate but are individuals, as I have already explained in connection with amendment No. 16, and the purpose is that the licence shall not terminate on the death of an individual where the licence holder is, in fact, an individual.
And the licence will become part of his estate?
Part of his estate, yes. The personal representative must continue for six months but then, within 12 months, he may dispose to another person.
I think this amendment relates to people other than the company which is to do the exploration work?
And it is providing for a situation in which there will be areas to be explored after the company have surrendered some of the portion over which they are going to explore?
That is so. Would the Deputy repeat the question?
If the Ambassador Oil Company got the whole exploration rights, then this amendment has no meaning. You are going to continue it. I take it that the amendment is providing for a situation in which Ambassador Oil, having got the rights to explore over the whole of the State, sheds 25 per cent. of it after 25 years. It is only then you can get down to the individual or anybody else operating a prospecting licence.
It is in those circumstances it is proposed to use this?
Is it a Departmental amendment or one from the Americans?
Ambassador Oil suggested it.
I do not see how they come into a case like this.
In the case of an assignment from Ambassador Oil to an individual.
So that it would then operate not merely after that but in the first year?
I wanted to find out what the origin was.
I do not understand the procedure. Is it not intended that for every 25 years 25 per cent. of the area of the exploration would be surrendered? Is it intended that after that has been surrendered this arrangement can follow?
It can also happen during lifetime.
In the event of an assignment by the company to an individual.
Once the surrendering is finished, it is a matter for the Minister to decide what he does after that? After the first 25 years, you still retain 25 per cent. of the area. Is that correct?
They can then, with the agreement of the Minister, make a sub-lease?
I suggest they can do it in the first year.
In respect of the 100 per cent., they can do it. There is a consequential amendment—amendment No. 3—which we dealt with earlier —consequential on amendment No. 16.
What was that tied up with?
Amendment No. 3. It is tied up with amendment No. 16.
We passed amendment No. 3 but the Minister undertook to explain it in the context of these amendments.
The amendment is one of definition and is consequential on amendment No. 16 relating to the terms of exploration, prospecting and other licences. It will be open to the personal representative to apply to the Minister to transfer the lease to another party. The granting of such a licence will be at the discretion of the Minister.
What would happen in certain contingencies? We all know what would happen if the licensee dies. The lease becomes the property of his personal representative. Suppose he dies intestate and has 17 heirs, does the licence become their joint property or does it become their several property or what becomes of it?
It vests in the legal personal representative. He is not bound to administer the estate until after the end of 12 months. Within that period, he may assign it to another party if he feels it is in the interests of the estate and those entitled to a beneficial interest in the estate.
Suppose the beneficiaries said they would prefer to take their chance and they are now 17. Where do we go from there?
Surely the position is that it is the duty of the administrator to administer the estate? If he is to administer the estate, strictly speaking, his duty is to sell whatever the assets are and to distribute the proceeds of the assets amongst those entitled to distributive shares? I imagine what would happen in this type of case is that the administrator would be doing his duty by realising the assets which consist of the licence and giving the next of kin, people entitled to the distributive shares, the money value?
I do not think he is discharging his duty if he retains a particular assetin specie.
The situation Deputy Dillon envisages might arise even in the case of the owner of a huckster's shop. You might have ten, 12 or 15 beneficiaries interested in his estate. The position here is no different. Surely it is a matter, first of all, of the administrator doing his legal duty.
That is all very well from the point of view of the administrator but what is the position of the Minister when he finds that there are 17 joint tenants? This amendment has been put up by the oil company for their own purpose. It has now established a new line of devolution which I imagine can create great difficulty for the Minister, unless the Minister says that one of the powers he has under his power of consent is to say to the administrator of an estate: "I do not consent to your transferring this lease to 17 people." What is the position then?
In any case——
Have you any power to compel an administrator to sell?
Yes. If you withhold assent to assignment, there is only one alternative left to an administrator, that is, to sell.
He mightmandamus you.
You can hardly expect me to provide against amandamus.
Can you prevent a situation arising in which an administrator would hand over to the 17 joint tenants?
I shall inquire into the matter.
This poor fellow who dies is almost certain to be an American millionaire.
He will have all the more affectionate relatives.
I move amendment No. 17:
In subsection (3), page 13, line 8, to delete "death or".
I move amendment No. 18:
In subsection (1), page 13, line 21, to substitute "Whenever" for "Wherever".
This is a drafting amendment.
Is that, in fact, a drafting amendment or a misprint?
It is probably a misprint. It could be a drafting amendment.
It could be either.
I move amendment No. 19:
In subsection (1) (a) to delete "one" in line 5 and substitute "six" and to delete "three" in line 6 and substitute "twelve".
Amendment No. 20 may be taken in conjunction with amendment No. 19, if the Deputy agrees.
Yes. The Bill as it stands says that the Minister shall give notice of one month when he proposes to acquire any land by acquisition order. In the event of there being a dwelling-house on the land, he shall give notice of three months. I want to put this to the Minister. Normally speaking, a crop is sown in the Spring and harvested some six months afterwards. If a farmer is put in the position where he will be suddenly given a month's notice that his lands are to be entered on with all the facilities that these licensees will enjoy, he will lose the value of the crop. His whole standard and method of living will be seriously disturbed. I do not think one month is reasonable notice. It is quite obvious that if a crop is sown in Spring, be it wheat, barley or whatever else, and if these facilities exist for a company to go in and explore the land, the farmer will be at the loss of the crop and the whole husbandry of the State will be upset.
I think a reasonable time would be six months. If the Minister does not like to accept "he shall give six months' notice," perhaps he might consider "he may give six months' notice."
Amendment 20 deals with the case where there is a residence on the land. I believe we are dealing with American firms and they are mostly hustlers. They believe in getting things done and to give such a firm a right to enter on anybody's land and demolish holdings, if necessary, within three months does not seem to me to be reasonable. I consider that anybody who has to move and set up another home, if he can acquire one, in that limited period would need more notice. The 12-month period I am looking for applies not only to land-owners but to property-owners because there is no knowing where oil may be found. Oil may be discovered in a street; it may be necessary to start exploring and it could mean that all the people in the whole street would get three months' notice to clear out of their homes. I think it is only reasonable that the Minister should consider these amendments: in the first case, to extend the date from one month; and in the second case, where there is a residence, possibly in a built-up area, to extend the notice to twelve months.
It may be that the Minister does not wish to bind himself entirely to these dates. If he does not, I would ask him to substitute "may" for "shall" and accept the periods in my amendments.
I should like to remind the Deputy that in fact there are ample provisions for compensation in connection with the occupation of a house or ownership of land on which crops are growing. Therefore, the period of notice would not seem to matter much in the long run. Also, when you take into account that even if notice has expired, some considerable time may reasonably be expected to elapse before the actual acquisition occurs, the periods of notice provided are reasonably adequate, but, since the Deputy has raised it, I might go a little way towards him if he will come back a little distance towards me. In respect of the one month's notice in regard to land on which there is not a house, I would be prepared to suggest two months and, perhaps, in the case of land on which there is a house to extend the period of three months' notice to four months.
I think that would be reasonable when one takes into account the compensation provisions that exist and when in practice, the length of time needed for the actual acquisition to take place will give ample breathing space to every landowner to acquire housing accommodation and also to permit his crops to come to fruition or, if not, he will get adequate compensation.
Would the Minister deal with Deputy Esmonde's amendment on ancillary rights? I cannot see why less time is provided for ancillary rights than for acquisition, having regard to the fact that one of the ancillary rights is the right to demolish buildings. Surely, if a right of that sort is being acquired which is going to involve possible demolition of a habitable house on the land, it is only reasonable that at least the same notice as is required in respect of a dwelling-house should be required for the acquisition of an ancillary right.
I think it would be inherent in the acquisition of an ancillary right that if four months' notice is required, nobody may proceed to knock that house, being a dwelling house, before the four months expire.
If the Minister will look at the definition of ancillary rights, Section 3 (m), it says, "... a right to demolish building..." The ancillary right is the right to demolish, but the place being affected is the building.
Yes, but I suggest that if a certain notice is required, be it two, three or four months, for the acquisition of a building, being a dwelling house, nobody may demolish that building until at least that period of notice has expired.
Perhaps the Minister would forget about a dwelling house for the moment and take it that it is a very valuable store of some sort?
I should be prepared to go to the same extent. If I extend the notice period from one month to two months in the case of the land itself, I would also be prepared to extend the notice period to two months in the case of ancillary rights, if that would meet the Deputy's point.
I must say the Minister has tried to meet me but I still feel that he might go a little further. Extending the period from one month to two months is an improvement but I do not think that would be sufficient to save a crop. I would ask the Minister if he will go to three months in the one case and six months in the other. Then, I think everybody would be satisfied.
The amount of land involved, as a rule, will be very small, as the Deputy can appreciate. I am referring to the amount of land around the well-head required for drilling purposes. I am advised that practice would show the periods the Deputy suggests for notice periods would be rather too long. Again, I would remind him that once the notice period has been expended, there will be quite a substantial period before actual acquisition will take place in the normal way. Therefore, I suggest to him that the extent I have gone to meet him ought to be sufficient, by the substitution of two months where "one month" appears, and four months where "three months" appears.
The Minister does not quite see the point. It is not just a question of going in on a farm and sinking a well in one small place. If you are going to enter on land to prospect for oil—I know nothing about it—I assume that for that purpose heavy equipment will have to be taken on to the land, and there will be considerable disruption. It is not just a question of going into one corner of a field and sinking a shaft. The entire crop will be destroyed. Everybody has to make alternative arrangements and four months does not seem to me to be a reasonable time to allow a family to remove all their equipment and find alternative accommodation. Having said that, I am very grateful to the Minister for meeting me in some small respect.
I am a bad bargainer. If I had stood out on the section as it stands, the Deputy would be more pleased when I ultimately met him. I probably made my offer too soon, but I should like to remind him that the occasions when a house will be pulled down will be very rare. The situation will probably never arise, and probably the ancillary rights required may be in respect of only a small strip of land, over which a railway track will be required to run, and probably some little corner of land when ingress and egress might be affected. In general, I do not expect that bulldozers will be running riot through a person's land.
I do not envisage the operations going to that extent. I think I have gone a reasonable distance to meet the Deputy. I shall go so far to meet him at least. If the amendment is withdrawn, I shall bring in the other amendment on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 20:
In subsection (1) (b), line 14, to delete "one" and substitute "three".
We discussed the two together.
Is the Minister prepared to agree to two there?
Yes, I am, I thought I said that.
I move amendment No. 21:
In subsection (2), page 14—
(a) in line 43, to substitute "six months" for "two months"
(b) in line 44, to substitute "twelve months" for "four months".
This is an amendment which, I think is inserted as a result of representations made to me by the Incorporated Law Society.
It simply extends the period in which applications for compensation may be made in respect of ancillary rights acquired under a Working Facilities Acquisition Order Under the section as it stands, the time limit is only two months after the date of the Order, but the Minister may extend it to four months. Under the amendment, the time will be extended to six months and the Minister will be empowered to extend it to 12 months, if the circumstances justify it in particular cases.
This only arises after a notice of acquisition has been served. Is that not right?
Is it possible to ensure, if not as a matter of statute, as a matter of administrative practice, that with the notice of acquisition, there will always be served a notice stating that compensation must be applied for on or before such-and-such a date?
That will be arranged.
I move amendment No. 22:
Before Section 25 to insert the following new section:—
"(1) In this section ‘State land' has the same meaning as in the State Property Act, 1954 (No. 25 of 1954).
(2) Whenever the Minister is of opinion that it is necessary, for the efficient or convenient exploitation of petroleum to which a petroleum lease applies, that the lessee should be granted the right to use any State land, the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance may grant to the lessee a permit (in this Act referred to as a working facilities (State land) permit), to use such land.
(3) Whenever the Minister is of opinion that it is necessary, for the efficient or convenient exploitation of petroleum to which a petroleum lease applies, that the lessee should be granted any ancillary right in relation to State land, the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, grant to the lessee a permit (in this Act also referred to as a working facilities (State land) permit) to exercise that ancillary right.
(4) Every working facilities (State land) permit shall be granted on such terms and conditions as the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may determine.
(5) A person to whom a working facilities (State land) permit is granted shall as consideration therefor pay to the Minister such sum as the Minister with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, may determine."
This amendment is designed to empower the Minister to grant the right to use State land and ancillary rights in relation to State land, to any person who may need them for the proper exploitation of petroleum deposits. Sections 21 and 24 of the Bill which deal with the use of land, state that ancillary rights may be granted only in respect of land, and facility rights secured, by means of Ancillary Rights Acquisition Orders. Lands in the ownership of the State did not come within the scope of these sections, and the amendment simply deals with this technical difficulty.
Amendment No. 2 is consequential on this.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 15, line 6, to insert "or a working facilities (State land) permit" after "permit".
This is consequential on amendment No. 22.
I move amendment No. 24:
To insert in the section, as subsection (2), the following:—
"(2) Compensation payable under subsection (1) of this section by the holder of a working facilities (State land) permit, shall be paid to the Minister."
This is also consequential on amendment No. 22 and provides that compensation payable for damage done by the holder of a permit, which relates to State land, shall be paid to the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
I may be misreading the section but would the Minister explain why houses are not included in it, having regard to ancillary rights that could be acquired with working facilities?
If the Deputy looks at the definition section, he will see that houses and things growing are included in the word "surface."
Section 25 is the end of a chapter and this has taken very much longer than the Minister anticipated. Will the Minister be in difficulty if we do not leave it for a while?
I have no Questions today and I shall have time for a cup of coffee then.
If the Minister wants to adjourn the House to enable him to get some food before going on with it, we shall be agreeable.
I should prefer to carry on. I want to get time off before the end of the evening, if I can.
The Minister is not punch-drunk yet.
Will these regulations be tabled?
I understand they are not required to be tabled. There are regulations in existence under the 1940 Act and they are not tabled, either. It is not required because anybody who has occasion to go before the Mining Board will be in a position to get a copy of the regulations.
That is what I am raising. Some of these regulations which are not tabled are often very difficult to get. Candidly, I do not think it is necessary except for the power of annulment, but, once regulations have to be tabled, then it is a matter of ministerial practice and it is easier to get them.
I shall do it in this case.
This section gives a member of the Board, or people authorised by the Board, authority to enter on any land for the purpose of making investigations. I do not see any provision for compensation, if damage is done in the course of investigation. Is it the position that the aggrieved person is left to his civil rights against the Board?
Yes. The object of the representative of the Board going in is to investigate a claim for compensation.
But the position I have mentioned could arise.
The person concerned would have his ordinary common law rights against anybody.
I merely raise the matter to make sure there has not been an oversight.
As I understand the effect of the section, it is that the officers of the Board who are considering compensation, and so forth, can go in and examine on the spot, so to speak.
If they are examining an application for compensation by landowner Lynch, clearly landowner Lynch knows all about the matter and it is not necessary, therefore, to provide for notice by the Board to landowner Lynch that they are going to inspect. It could happen, however, that in investigating the claim by landowner Lynch, it would be necessary for them to go on to the land of landowner Sweetman, who knows nothing about the application before the Board; in those circumstances, there should be provision that the Board must give due and adequate notice to the owner of such land, if he is not a party to the actual proceedings. As far as I understand, this is merely to permit people to walk across and have a look-see.
If you are going to walk across somebody else's land, somebody who is not in the proceedings and who does not know anything about the matter, it is only fair to let him know beforehand.
I think I can arrange for a suitable amendment.
I do not think it would be necessary to put it into the Bill itself. If the Minister states categorically that it is to be an administrative direction to the Board to do so, that will be sufficient.
I can do that. In any case, as the Deputy will appreciate, the officer can go across a third party's land only with the third party's permission.
Under the section, I think he can go on to anybody else's land. If the situation is that he could go on to a third party's land only with the permission of the third party, then my point falls, but I think the section gives the right to go across regardless. Even if it is only a question of walking across, there should be due and adequate notice, either in practice or in the statute.
The Mining Board regulations can provide for this.
The section says that compensation shall not be payable for petroleum, unless and until it is brought to the surface and used or sold. I understand that the method of compensation is by means of royalty. I have been unable to discover anywhere in the Bill any other form of compensation for any damage or destruction that may be done to anybody else's property other than the royalty system. There may be some other method of compensation but, if I am correct in my supposition, it means that if a man's land is entered on and a certain amount of damage done, there will be no compensation whatsoever, provided oil is not produced. Am I right or wrong in that?
I think the Deputy has something there.
There is provision elsewhere for compensation for damage, acquisition and kindred matters. This is compensation only in the case of petroleum. A person whose petroleum rights have been acquired will be entitled, on the bringing of the oil to the surface or the use of it, to certain royalties.
In the case of the people set out in the next section.
I do not think the Minister has quite got my point. I cannot find anywhere in the Bill any method of compensation except by royalties on petroleum brought to the surface. Is there any other section in the Bill which provides for any other kind of compensation? I have been unable to find any.
Section 12 provides compensation for damage done to the surface of land; Section 16 likewise deals with compensation.
As I read the section, the form of compensation is one-third royalty to the person and two-thirds royalties to the State. Is that one-third subject to the ordinary rates of taxation payable on property, such as income tax, death duties and so forth?
It is subject to taxation, yes.
Does it not strike the Minister that the State is doing reasonably well? This might be an occasion on which to mitigate the imposition of taxation?
The Deputy will appreciate that one-third royalty in respect of petroleum represents a very valuable asset. It would be very difficult to expect the Revenue Commissioners to forego their rights in that regard.
Two-thirds to the State represents a very valuable asset as well.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 17, in subsection (1), to delete paragraph (d) and substitute the following new paragraph:—
"(d) as soon as may be after the expiration of the period specified in paragraph (c) of this sub-section, the Minister shall refer every claim for such compensation to the Board."
Under the Bill as it stands, the Minister can determine the compensation payable in respect of petroleum, provided that there is only one claim. As an alternative, he can refer the claim to the Mining Board. On further consideration, it is felt that the Minister should, in practice, refer all applications for compensation to the Mining Board, irrespective of whether there is only one claim, or more than one claim for compensation. In effect, it is entrusting to the Mining Board rather than the Minister the investigation of claims for compensation.
May I direct the Minister's attention to what appears to be an anomalous provision in the section to which this amendment applies? It provides that where petroleum—and that includes by definition in the definition section, gas and all other things appertaining to petroleum—
is for the first time brought to the surface at a petroleum well and used or sold by the lessee...
Does that mean that a lessee can come on my property, bore a hole, discover gas and simply say that it is not worth his while to pipe it, and let it blow away. It is to be remembered that in the early stages of oil exploration, millions and millions of cubic feet of gas were allowed to blow away, as if it were of no importance. It is only in relatively recent times that people have proceeded to control and pipe it. I can well imagine a situation arising in which a company who are primarily concerned in oil would discover supplies of gas in a remote area, say, in the west of Ireland, and say to themselves: "The only centre in which we could reasonably anticipate this gas being profitably consumed would be a centre like Dublin, and the piping of this from here to Dublin is not worth while and we shall not do anything with it." In those circumstances, has the lessor no remedy at all? Has the Minister no power to require them to control the gas, if he thinks it is proper that that should be done?
Under Section 49, there is power in the Minister to ensure that any exploration or any working of petroleum will be done in accordance with good oilfield practice and there will be corresponding sanctions on those who neglect to carry out their functions in accordance with such practice.
And that practice would ordinarily require gas to be controlled and used?
Yes, very much so, particularly in the case of gas.
The Minister knows we have no desire to set traps. I simply direct his attention to this and I do not ask him to answer me now. There is a definition which reads:
...that a petroleum operation is being conducted in such a manner (whether by act or omission) as to cause loss, contamination, deterioration or misuse of petroleum products or other minerals which would not normally occur if the operation were conducted in accordance with good oilfield practice...
I do not believe that definition is precise enough to give the Minister the power he believes he has. It could be shown to the Minister that in many oilfields in the world at the present time in parts of Persia and in certain of the more remote places where the facilities for the ready transport of gas as distinct from oil do not exist, it is considered to be a sound oilfield operation to allow the gas to be dissipated or to set fire to it.
I am not setting up to be a petroleum expert. I am merely directing the attention of the Minister to something I apprehend may be true. I cannot conceive of any deposit, either of gas or oil, occurring in this country which from a national point of view could not with advantage be turned to use, but an oil company, claiming to have this section interpreted in the context of world practice of oilfields, could make a very strong case that the Minister had no right to require them to control gas and use it if they could demonstrate to him that they were not going to make an adequate profit on the capital invested in the operation.
I shall look into that between now and the Report Stage.
Good oilfield practice directs attention more to the actual working of the well, and what one wants to direct attention to also is not merely the working and the raising of the oil as such in accordance with good oilfield practice, but that in so doing, having regard to our condition here, there is not some nuisance created. That is not covered by the definition at all.
I move amendment No. 26:
Before Section 36, but in Chapter VI of Part II, to insert the following new section:—
On the adjudication by the Board of claims for compensation referred to the Board under section 34 of this Act, the following persons, and no others shall be entitled to appear, be heard and adduce evidence—
(a) the Minister,
(b) every claimant.
In the Bill as it originally stood, there was no provision as to the persons who would be entitled to appear and be heard before the Mining Board in respect of claims for compensation for petroleum and this amendment makes the provision which is necessary in this regard, that is, that only the Minister and the claimant or claimants will be entitled to appear. The claimants will, of course, be permitted to be represented by solicitor or solicitor and counsel.
That is not expressed in the Bill, and the Minister's amendment would appear to cut out the possibility of a claimant being represented by a legal adviser. The explanatory memorandum says the claimants and their legal advisers may appear before the Board but the Bill then proceeds expressly to cut out legal advice by introducing the phrase "and no others." If the Minister does intend— and I am prepared to accept his assurance—that people may attend with their legal advisers, he should put it in the Bill. As it stands at the moment, the Bill is open to the interpretation that legal advisers may not attend because the Bill says the people who may attend are: "the following persons, and no others: (a) the Minister, (b) every claimant." That puts the claimant in the position that if he appears before the Board and wants to bring a solicitor or barrister with him, he may be told: "You are the claimant and you and no other may appear before this Board." I deprecate the introduction of that phrase.
I likewise deprecate the absence of the words "legal adviser". There should be some indication to the Board or the High Court, if the High Court were asked to state a case, that it was the intention of the Legislature —apart from what the Minister may say here—and the Legislature expressed its intention to enable claimants to be represented by legal advisers. I ask the Minister to accept some such amendment both in respect of his own amendment and the amendment in the names of Deputy M.J. O'Higgins and myself to Section 41. I think there could be no objection whatsoever to such an amendment.
Could we consider this discussion as governing the amendment to Section 41 as well, because it is the same net point that is involved?
I agree with the remarks of Deputy Barrett, namely, that if the phrase "and no others" were not included in the Minister's amendment before us now and again in Section 41, it could be assumed, and reasonably assumed, that a person was entitled to be represented by his agent whether he be solicitor or counsel, whoever is there to speak for him. It does seem to me that even though there may be a precedent for this phrase, its use specifically precludes anyone except the persons listed in the Bill from appearing or being heard. I think the matter can be dealt with either on the lines suggested by Deputy Barrett or else by a slight amendment to the Minister's amendment so as to make it read that the following persons and no others shall be entitled to appear, be represented, heard and adduce evidence; so that the question of representation would be introduced instead of appearance. Appearance in the legal sense connotes appearance through a representative but in the Bill as it stands it does not.
If the word "representative" were used it would be broad enough to include a person's legal adviser. As Deputy Barrett has pointed out, in the White Paper issued with the Bill the reference to Section 41 seems to me, while I am not questioning the good faith of the Minister and his advisers, to state that there is something in Section 41 which is not in it. The White Paper sets out the claimant person and his legal advisers. That phrase "and his legal advisers" does not appear in the Section. The fact that it appears in the White Paper shows a discrepancy which the Minister should cover.
Do I take it that it is agreed to discuss amendments 26 and 27 together?
If the Minister's contention is correct there is no reason why a person who is not a legal adviser at all could not appear.
I have not contended anything yet.
I am talking about the contention in the White Paper. If the Minister's contention is correct that legal advisers are permitted to attend, I cannot see why anyone else cannot walk in on another person's behalf. I do not think that is what the Minister intends. There has been a suggestion made behind me here that a local Deputy can appear for a claimant before the Board. From a reading of Section 41 and of the amendment, it would appear that anyone could attend on behalf of a claimant and I do not think that is what is in the Minister's mind. The secretary of a body such as a Landowners' Convention could appear. What the Minister wants to ensure is that if I am looking for compensation somebody else, who has nothing to do with my case, cannot come in and clutter it up with the irrelevancies. It is quite easy to simplify the two things in a few words. It is only a matter of drafting and both circumstances could be dealt with by a short sub-section.
Can there be any objection to adding three or four more words to this Bill? Some of the amendments have been very verbose and certainly there has been no shortage of words on the part of the Department or the Drafting Office. When you talk about the Minister being entitled to appear, you mean the Minister's legal advisers and when you talk about the claimant being entitled to appear you should mean the claimant's legal advisers. If a claimant who has no experience of these matters is compelled to go in on his own and if it could be held that he is not entitled to be legally represented, I do not quite like the kind of deal that such a person might get. I suggest that we should clarify this matter and make it quite clear that a claimant can be represented and send his legal representatives.
I did take advice as to whether or not the amendment as it stands would include solicitor and counsel and my advice is that it would. I am also advised that the corresponding section in the Mineral Development Act of 1940 did not mention solicitor and counsel either.
Did it say: "and no others"?
It did. The common practice is that a claimant is entitled to be represented by solicitor and counsel. I do not want to resist the amendment. I think there is sense in it but I am advised it is not necessary. The Bar Council representatives appeared to accept what I stated in that regard. It may be that the inclusion of the extra few words in these two sections might require substantial amendment to the 1940 Act but I shall look into it between now and the Report Stage, and I think I shall be able to meet the requirements of Deputies.
Section 37 says that the amount of compensation shall, in default of agreement, be determined by the Board in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter. It goes on to say: "Where compensation is payable by the Minister, the Minister shall not enter into any agreement fixing the amount thereof without the consent of the Minister for Finance." These two sections seem to conflict. If all other parties are to be bound by the decision of the board does subsection (2) appear to exempt the Minister from that liability?
This covers only cases where compensation is paid by agreement. In the event of agreement there is no necessity to go to the Mining Board.
If there is an agreement, the Minister has to get an O.K. from the Department of Finance?
Could the Minister clarify this Section for us?
This section applies to compensation payments fixed by agreement without reference to the Mining Board and which relates to land in respect of which land annuities are payable. It provides that the Land Commission shall be a party to the agreement and that compensation shall be applied in the first instance towards the discharge of any arrears of the annuities and subsequently towards the redemption of the annuities.
This seems to be machinery to enable the Land Commission to collect arrears of annuities?
I believe it is common to such compensation provisions in other Acts.
They can also redeem the annuity as well?
I do not know why there should appear in a Mining Bill machinery for the Land Commission to collect arrears of land annuities, but if the Minister assures me it appears in all analogous legislation, I accept that.
I am right in saying that.
What sort of fee has the Minister in mind here?
Half a guinea is prescribed in respect of the 1940 Act. It will be something of the same order.
An application fee?
In seeking to meet the matter raised by Deputy Barrett and Deputy O'Higgins, I do not know if the Minister wants to have regard to the position of bodies such as the Irish Landowners' Convention and certain archaic survivals of that kind. They very frequently have upon their secretariat experienced persons who have been in the habit, down the years, of dealing with matters relating to land compensation and land title. I take it the Minister would not wish to exclude from appearing before an arbitration tribunal under this Bill the secretary of such a body as that convention or individuals on that convention desiring to be represented by him?
I have arranged that they will see officials of the Department on Friday to present their point of view. If they can put up a reasonable case, I hope I shall be able to meet it.
The section describes the type of person entitled to be present. Under paragraph (c), it allows to be present any person claiming to have an estate or interest in the land, mineral deposits or water supplies in respect of which compensation is claimed. Does that mean a person must establish he has a personal interest in the mineral deposits, the water supplies or the land? Would it be possible, for example, for a county manager to turn up and say that if this affects the water supply in a particular town, he should be entitled to come along? Would the local county councillor, for example, be entitled to go along and see in what way the potential amenities of his area were being affected by this section? In other words, must a person establish a personal interest in these matters such as mineral deposits, water supplies and the land, in order to be present; or is it sufficient to entitle him to be admitted if he has a special interest in these aspects of the matters referred to?
It must be a legal interest, out of which he would be entitled to establish a claim for monetary compensation in respect of an infringement of his rights. As the section reads, a person need not necessarily establish his right before he is heard. He need only be a person claiming to have an estate or interest. It will be a matter for him, having come before the tribunal, to establish that claim.
May I put another case to the Minister, which, I think, may have been overlooked? The Minister is, perhaps, familiar with the fact that when open-cast mining was proceeded with in England, the Coal Board proceeded to open-cast mine under the drawing room window of Wentworth Boathouse which gave rise to considerable difficulty. The proprietor of that ancient residence was entited to make representations, but what fills me with anxiety is that Deputy Davern, having built himself a nice villa on the outskirts of Cashel, will find when the building is finished and his french window is open to the autumn and spring breezes, that somebody has erected a steel derrick right in front of him. As I read this, Deputy Davern has no right at all to appeal and say: "It is true they have not interfered with the structure of my house, but they have made it quite unlivable and I am entitled to compensation." I cannot find in any part of these definitions that a person whose minimum amenities are destroyed by the exploitation of oil deposits in the immediate vicinity of his buildings has a right to have his case heard. Provision ought to be made for that in the light of the common experience, both in the oil fields of America and open-cast mining in Great Britain where certain individuals in fact have had their property very seriously depreciated by the unnecessary operation of works ancillary to the exploitation of steel and coal in the immediate vicinity of their houses.
I think the Deputy's interpretation is correct and is one that ought to be looked into.
I am much obliged. See what the invocation of Deputy Davern's name can do.
I must thank the Deputy for being so mindful of my interests.
I move amendment No. 28:
In subsection (6), page 20, after paragraph (c) to insert the following new paragraph:—
"(d) the person by whom such compensation is payable,".
The effect of this will be that the name of the person liable to pay compensation will be included among the particulars covered by the certificate which the secretary of the Mining Board is empowered to give under the terms of Section 42, sub-section (6) and which is admissible asprima facie evidence in legal proceedings of the terms of the Board's award.
Is there not a kind of hardship here, if the Board is entitled under sub-section (1) (a) to require the entire amount of the compensation to be paid over to the Land Commission, if the Land Commission claim they have an annuity claim outstanding? It is a very great hardship on a person owning a holding subject to an annuity of £3 per year that that holding would be suddenly required for the purpose of mining and he is informed that as from tomorrow he has neither a place to lay his head nor a penny because the Land Commission have scooped the pool.