I wonder would Deputy Dillon mind repeating the point he was making before Question Time because I did not quite hear him?
Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Bill, 1959—Committee Stage (resumed).
I was referring to paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 43. I think it is a hardship that the Land Commission are entitled to sequester the whole of the compensation money given if the amount of compensation did not exceed the redemption price of the annuity and the arrears. I think the Minister himself will remember that prior to the passage of the Land Act of 1949, or that period, when the Land Commission were purchasing land under the old code, we had a number of cases in which, when the purchase price was fixed for land resumed by the Land Commission, it transpired that when the outstanding annuity had been redeemed, and the arrears of annuity redeemed, out of the purchase price, the owner was sometimes given a £5 note and put out on the road. I think it was with the general consent of this House that we substituted market value for the old code and that evil has now very largely disappeared.
Here I apprehend that the Land Commission have approached the Department of Industry and Commerce and said: "We want our customary protection in this petroleum and other minerals development legislation," and they have sought the insertion of Section 43. What I apprehend is that we shall come smack up again against the situation in which some individual will find himself, or herself, effectively displaced from his or her holding—perhaps a small holding—and when compensation has been assessed, the Land Commission will step in and virtually scoop the pool.
I do not think that is what this House wants. I think we want to ensure that if a land holder has to be displaced from his home, he will be left in the position that he can get another holding to go to. It would be wholly wrong if the impact of this Bill on one individual should be that owing to the accumulation of arrears, or the redemption value of his annuity, he would be put out on the road without another holding to go to. I do not attribute any dark or sinister motives to the Minister for Industry and Commerce or to the Land Commission. I imagine that this is a kind of formal section they are always looking for.
I apprehend that it may have, in certain cases, unreasonably severe results and I should be glad if the Minister would look at the question to ensure that the Land Commission would be required, if they wished to exercise their powers under this section, to provide the person against whom they wish to invoke these powers with an alternative farm, or something of that kind. Some precaution should be taken to ensure that this subsection will not operate to take a man's holding from him and leave him with virtually nothing except a receipt from the Land Commission for annuities and arrears.
I think the case made by the Deputy in regard to the resumption of land is not quite parallel. It is not envisaged that the person's entire land will be affected by the necessity for an award of compensation. Take, for instance, the case of petrol. If he is obliged to pay the arrears and to redeem State annuities, the compensation will be only in respect of a small part of his holding. He will have the right to continue on in occupation and he might even be a freer man in so far as the annuity will be redeemed. It was a point that occurred to me when I was considering the Bill before Committee. Having inquired, I was told that it was ordinary practice in such cases and that there was a similar provision in the 1940 Act. However, I shall look into it further. As the Deputy will appreciate, I shall have to take into account not only the Department of Lands but also the Department of Finance in this connection. I shall have something to say about it on Report Stage.
The Minister will bear in mind that in dealing with the Land Commission he is dealing with a body which has certain statutory conditions to observe and a certain antipathy of interest might easily arise between the Minister and the Revenue Commissioners. While we respect these distinct, autonomous bodies, such as the Land Commission and the Revenue Commissioners, it is legitimate to remark that Parliament often takes a different view from the wholly detached view which these Commissioners are obliged habitually to adopt.
Would the Minister justify this?
This is not inconsistent with ordinary practice. Apart altogether from cases where the State is involved, as the Deputy is aware, there is a mode of legal procedure called garnishee. If John O'Brien is indebted to John Murphy to the extent of £500 and if John Murphy, having taken the necessary proceedings against John O'Brien for the £500 fails to get it, and if subsequently, and within a certain period, John O'Brien comes into £450 by way of damages in an accident, John Murphy can by way of garnishee——
In a motion before the civil court.
Yes, he must go before the civil court.
Do I find any reference to the civil court in Section 45?
No, there is no reference to it. This section only applies where compensation is payable by the Minister. As the Minister is part of the institution of the State, and as the person to whom compensation is payable is indebted to the State, he is therefore, in a sense, indebted to the Minister. I think it is not indefensible that the Minister should be empowered to require that person to pay his indebtedness to the State, to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, out of the compensation the Minister for Industry and Commerce is paying to that individual.
Surely I am not unreasonable in suggesting to the Minister that if the compensation has been determined by an arbitrator, the onus is clearly on the Minister to pay to the person entitled that compensation, but the determination of whether a debt is due and owing by that person to a Minister of State appears, by this section, to be at the absolute discretion of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I would have no objection if the section said that where the Minister held a judgment for an amount against an individual, he could proceed to collect it from the proceeds of compensation which he is responsible for paying.
It does seem from this section, if the Minister believed, or if any of his colleagues believed that the grantee of compensation, was in debt to any one of them, the Minister could withhold the money and pay it over to any of his colleagues, or the Revenue Commissioners, on foot of an alleged debt and pass over to the grantee of compensation the obligation of trying to recover that money by civil process from the Government. That seems rather hard to me. Having got his award before an arbitration board, it seems hard to tell him that he can sue the Government, when he knows perfectly well that if he does, the Government will carry it to the Supreme Court because the Government will not admit their claim is unfair. They will be trying, not that individual's specific claim against them, but some elaborate matter of principle on which they propose to act for all future time. Therefore, they go to the highest court in the land in order to establish a principle on which they wish to stand.
Does the Minister know of any other Bill in which this section is put down so nakedly? I know there has been a practice that where you owe the State anything, the long arm of the State's law stretches out and you discover that instead of getting something the Minister for Defence owes you, a fair slice of it is being paid to the Revenue Commissioners in satisfaction of income tax. That has been the practice, but I thought a lot of people were so ashamed of it because of its Shylock characteristics that nobody would be brazen enough to set it down in a Bill. I must say it is the first time I have seen it in a Bill, although it may have escaped my notice in other Bills.
It is in the 1940 Act.
Oh, the danger of letting these things slip through once!
See what is possible under it. You may find a man who is living a peaceful life down in some place in Cork, Tipperary or Kildare, and then the Ambassador Oil Company come along and move in and by the time they finish with his land a fair portion of it is unusable. Some of his timber is destroyed; his outoffices are undermined; and generally the whole place is a bit of a shambles as compared with its former condition.
Then he negotiates with the Minister or perhaps the Minister may find it unnecessary to negotiate and he says compensation is payable to the man. This compensation is not a gift or a donation, in which case you might say: "Instead of giving you this gift, we shall make you an honest man and shall pay some money that you owe." But this is a case where a person has suffered some hardship. He may succeed in persuading the Minister to give him some compensation and the Minister may say: "I am prepared to give compensation but, really, you owe some other State Department money"—perhaps the Revenue Commissioners—"and we shall pay to the Revenue Commissioners the compensation otherwise payable to you for whatever hardship you suffered." As a result of all this, the man is left in the position that he has damaged land and no compensation, but the Minister has enabled him, perhaps, to face with greater courage the next Revenue Commissioner he sees. It is a rather melancholy form of compensation.
I think this measure could operate pretty brutally. I can understand the Minister making a deal with a man and saying: "Look; you owe so much money and this is an opportunity of paying it off", but to put it down in a measure so that it is always before the Minister and so that his vigilant officials will always be sure to say to him: "You are bound to have regard to section so-and-so because you have a responsibility there, is wrong. I think this could operate very harshly.
Under this section, the Minister could pay all the compensation in respect of a debt which the claimant of compensation disputes. It does not mean that the State has to get a Court award against the man in order to make the deduction: all they have to do is make up their minds that he owes the money and, if he is disputing it, it does not matter. They assume the liability which they think is there to be there in fact and they use the compensation money to discharge it. I think this could be very unfair when you have a powerful State dealing with a weak man.
Is the 1940 Act the only one with a comparable provision?
I do not know that. I know it is in the 1940 Act. I do not think it is reasonable that the State should be required to establish that they have some legal rights to a debt whether by way of judgement or execution order, but at least, perhaps, they should have established the existence of the debt and the legal indebtedness of the person who owes the debt by way of a court of some sort. I do not know what implications there would be if I insert such a provision that the appropriate Minister would have to show a legal record of the existence of the debt but I think it is a point that should be examined and I shall do so between now and the Report Stage.
We are very much obliged to the Minister.
There has to be a provision for consent, that a debt could be set off by consent without legal proceedings; otherwise, it might mean unnecessary cost.
To save money?
Why are all these decisions unappealable?
I can only say it is the ordinary practice at the moment and it is only questions of law that are appealable in certain ways. To a great extent, it is like an arbitrator's award.
Only questions of law would be appealable?
Would it be appealable if the arbitrator had gone to the facts in the wrong way?
I think there would be a question of law there.
I would submit to the Minister's more senior judgement there. Will the Minister describe for us the privies that are in this section—"...such decisions shall be binding on all parties to such proceedings and their privies as if it were a judgmentin personam.”
What is the exact significance of that, or does anybody know?
I have not got a definition now; I shall have it for the next Stage.
I am much obliged.
Is this an Americanism or a native expression?
The expression, being privy to proceedings, is a well-known one in our courts.
I merely raised the question on the broad general principle that it is not desirable for Dáil Éireann to legislate that which it does not understand. It will be quite convenient if the Minister gives us some illumination on the next Stage.
This section is rather complicated for a layman. So far as I can understand, there is an appeal to the High Court but there does not appear to be an appeal to the Supreme Court. Is that so, and if it is, would the Minister justify not having a further appeal to the Supreme Court?
It is not a question of merely appearing to be the case because here is a section which expressly says that there shall be no appeal from a decision of the High Court to the Supreme Court. I cannot understand why that should be so. Provision is made in this section for what is the ordinary remedy whereby the superior courts of justice can review the proceedings of boards and inferior courts. That is by way of case stated. This procedure is applicable in relation to District Courts and other courts at the moment and from a decision of the High Court on a case stated, there is a procedure at the moment whereby there is an appeal to the Supreme Court.
I should like to know why, in this Bill where rights of property may be interfered with and where a person's constitutional rights are to some extent set aside, it should be provided that there shall be no appeal from the High Court to the Supreme Court?
I bet you it is in the 1940 Act.
I just want to say to the Minister that I am not critical of him personally, but he has a particular responsibility because he is in charge of a Department that notoriously is opposed to any review by the courts of its legislation.
As the result of its tutoring by the present Taoiseach.
And they should be careful in the Department of Industry and Commerce, in bringing a Bill to this House, to agree to a section in which some grudging right is given to the courts to intervene in one respect, in case stated, but providing that no appeal shall lie further. I do not see why the ordinary constitutional provision does not stand, that from any decision of the High Court, where a matter starts in the High Court, there should be appeal to the Supreme Court.
It is true it occurs in the 1940 Act.
And we are right. It was the Taoiseach who was in charge of the 1940 Act.
The point has been raised in the meantime, between Second Stage and this Stage, and I have already given an undertaking to look into it. I shall give that undertaking again now.
Who was the Minister in 1940?
It might have been the Minister for Health.
I have a suspicion it was the Minister for Health.
I move amendment No. 29:
In subsection (1), page 22, to delete line 5.
This amendment refers to the power originally contained in the Bill to disallow costs. As a result of representations received from the Incorporated Law Society, I have decided to delete line 5; in other words, to delete the power of the Board to disallow costs. In any case, costs are at the discretion of the courts. As it stands, the Bill provides that the Board may direct in what manner costs may be taxed but this, with amendment No. 30, provides that in default of consent as to costs, they shall be submitted to a taxing master for taxation. I think that is reasonable.
That is what a taxing master is paid for, to be able to do this job. It is right that he should.
And line 5 goes?
This is consequential.
I hope the Minister will ensure that such a line will never appear in any Bill again.
Does amendment No. 29 make any significant difference? The Minister deletes the last line.
But amendment No. 30 comes in instead of the last line.
Subsection (2) is deleted.
We are discussing amendments Nos. 29 and 30 together.
That is only a matter of taxing the costs but the Board——
May, with the consent of the parties concerned, fix costs. I think that is reasonable. They should not be faced with the obligation of going to a taxing master in that event.
But the Board still have discretion as to whom they will award costs. They may still exclude counsel.
They may decide the costs to be awarded and I think it is reasonable, in the event of a frivolous claim coming before them, that they should be entitled to say the party who brought such a claim should not get any costs. I think it is not unreasonable they should decide such a party shall be liable to costs, and not the taxing master.
Assuming they award costs, they might not cover counsel.
As the section still stands, can they say: "We do not propose to pay counsel in this case. We do not think there was need for counsel to be brought here." There is still power given to the Board to refuse to pay counsel.
I think the section as it stands gives power to the Mining Board to say: "You are not entitled to counsel." Under the amendment, if they say you are and you have employed solicitor and counsel, if you do not agree with the person who is obliged to pay compensation, as to the amount of costs, the Board must submit the taxation of costs to a taxing master and he will have regard to the need for the employment of counsel, as he does in almost every case at present, and the awarding of costs, subject to the rules, is at the discretion of the taxing master, that is, costs of counsel. It is inevitable that costs to a solicitor must be given.
Under Section 48, as amended, the Board can say they will award costs to so-and-so of such-andsuch an amount.
No, only by consent.
Does sub-section (3) continue?
Subsection (1) says "shall be at the discretion of the Board" and the Board may by its award direct to and by whom costs shall be paid. The Board is still empowered to say: "We will pay the solicitors but we do not think there was a necessity for bringing in such a heavy battery of counsel."
Under the Minister's amendment, it is referred to the taxing master.
I think the Board have only the right to decide, in principle, whether costs are to be awarded or not. Having decided in principle, the Board can say all the costs are to be awarded or can say half the costs, 50 per cent. of the costs, can be awarded. Once the Board have decided in principle to pay all, or a percentage, the amount of the costs, in the absence of agreement, cannot be determined by the Board but can be determined only by the taxing master.
If you are satisfied you will get your fees from this taxing master, I do not see why I should plead more for the legal profession.
I move amendment No. 30:
To delete subsection (2) and substitute the following new subsection:—
"(2) The Board may, with the consent of the parties concerned, fix the amount of costs ordered to be paid or in default of such consent, may refer the costs to a Taxing-Master for taxation."
What is the difference between fees and charges in sub-section (4)—fees, charges and expenses? Are fees counsel, charges solicitors, and expenses an architect or an engineer.
It is an omnibus phrase.
I have never been able to discover exactly what it meant. I thought the Minister was going to enlighten me.
I move amendment No. 31:
Before Section 49, in Chapter IX of Part II, to insert the following new section:—
(1) (a) Regulations may provide for all or any of the following matters—
(i) the siting and spacing of petroleum wells,
(ii) the reduction of fire hazards at petroleum wells,
(iii) restrictions on the production of petroleum from boreholes commenced or completed nearer the boundaries of land to the petroleum under which a petroleum lease applies than the distance specified in the regulations,
(iv) the conservation of petroleum,
(v) restrictions on the disposal of water and waste products,
(vi) the blocking of abandoned boreholes,
(vii) the measurement of petroleum.
(b) If any person (being the licensee under a licence granted under this Part or the lessee under a petroleum lease) contravenes (by act or omission) any regulation made under this sub-section, such person shall be guilty of an offence under this subsection.
(2) (a) If it appears to the Minister 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, then, he may serve by registered post on the person conducting the operation a notice requiring him to take, within a specified time, such remedial action as will prevent such loss, contamination, deterioration or misuse occurring.
(b) If it appears to the Minister that a petroleum operation is being conducted in such a manner (whether by act or omission) as to cause or to be likely to cause unnecessary damage, then, he may serve by registered post on the person conducting the operation, a notice requiring him to take, within a specified time, such remedial action as will prevent such damage occuring.
(c) Where a notice is served under paragraph (a) or (b) of this subsection and the person on whom the notice is served (in this paragraph referred to as the defaulter) does not comply with the notice, the following provisions shall have effect—
(i) the defaulter shall be guilty of an offence under this subsection,
(ii) the Minister may (whether proceedings have or have not been taken against the defaulter under sub-paragraph (i) of this paragraph) take such remedial action as was required by the notice to be taken by the defaulter, and may recover any expenses incurred by him in doing so from the defaulter as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.
(d) Where the Minister is entitled under subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (c) of this subsection to recover any expenses, a certificate sealed with the official seal of the Minister and certifying the amount thereof shall beprima facie evidence of the amount of such expenses.
(3) Every person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) or (2) of this section shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, together with, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding one hundred pounds for every day on which the offence is continued.
(4) Where the same set of facts constitutes an offence under both subsection (1) and subsection (2) of this section and the offender is charged with both offences, the offender shall be liable to be punished for one of the offences only.
Is this a native amendment or an American one?
The purpose of this amendment is to consolidate Sections 49 and 56. These two sections overlap to an extent and it could so happen that one offence would involve separate penalties under the two sections, which, of course, would be inequitable. The two sections are being consolidated to remove these defects and to improve drafting. There is no special nomenclature involved in the amendment; it is only our own parliamentary draftsman cleaning up overlapping and removing the possibility of a person being liable to two penalties under both sections.
In fact, I think this amendment covers some of the objections to this Bill which I mentioned earlier.
Perhaps it was when the Deputy left the House that I referred Deputy Dillon to this amendment.
The point I want to raise on it is this: I know in the agreement there is provision for dealing with the case of the lessee who, having got a right to explore for oil all over the State, drags his feet and shows no disposition to fulfil the obligations imposed in the agreement.
Is the Minister relying entirely on the agreement or is any portion of this new Section 49 relied upon in order to enforce compliance with the obligation to work the deposits found in a workmanlike way in accordance with good husbandry in oil economics? Section 49 represents an attempt to control the manner in which operations proceed for the winning of oil. Does the Minister rely on any portion of this section or is he relying entirely on the agreement?
If the Deputy will read subsection (2)——
That is the one about which I am concerned.
——subparagraph (b), he will see that the Minister may serve a notice requiring the person conducting the operation to take, within a specified time, such remedial action as will prevent damage occurring. Regulations may also be made and those regulations may provide for the remedies, or safeguards, as set out in subsections (1) and (2).
Are all the remedies against the non-use of the potential oil contained in Section 49 or is the Minister relying also on the agreement?
I am relying on both, but this is directed only to the non-use of oil and to the proper use of oil. I am relying on both the agreement and the section.
This is the section which enables the Minister to make the regulations. The matters for which regulations can be made are set out in subsection (1) (a). Does this enabling power permit the Minister to make a regulation, for example, to cover uncontrolled flow? Does it permit the Minister to make a regulation under which an order can be made to shut in a well that is not being properly used? Does it permit the Minister to make regulations to provide allowable rates of production in the national interest about which we were talking earlier on? The seven are there that are required in relation to regulations. Is it in this connection only that the Minister is taking the power to make regulations dealing with the operation of petroleum winning? I never can get myself used to the phrase "petroleum mining". Candidly, it does not seem to me that "mining" is a suitable word in relation to a viscous fluid. Is there adequate provision in this enabling section to ensure that the regulations can provide what is required for blowout prevention?
If I am right in thinking that this is only an enabling section, it seems to me that we have not got anything like enough power there, and there should be some general power as well, subject, of course, to the proper safeguard of tabling. What exactly is covered by (vii)—the measurement of petroleum? Is that intended to cover measurement both from the point of view of royalty and from the point of view of the Revenue Commissioners? I imagine the Revenue Commissioners will have to have some control over crude oil because, otherwise, there could be wholesale evasion of excise duty. If there is petroleum here, the regulations that have to be made are of a far more detailed and difficult nature than are dismissed so lightly in these first seven headings. There is not much point in our providing this statute except on the basis that, if petroleum is found, it will be workable. If the Minister looks up other legislation, he will find that there is not sufficient here to enable petroleum to be operated properly. Perhaps he has the power elsewhere. I should like to know.
I think there is power with regard to the covering over of a well that is no longer in use to ensure that it is adequately covered.
In relation to an abandoned well, I agree. The case I am interested in is where the Minister thinks it is not working properly and the only safe thing to do is to cover it. The well is not abandoned. If it is abandoned, the power is there. If it is not abandoned, it is just a wrong job and dangerous.
Under subsection (2), if portion of the well is conducted in such a manner as to cause loss, contamination, deterioration or misuse, then the Minister has power to serve a notice and to require within the prescribed time that steps are taken to prevent such misuse or loss. I am advised that clause (iv) dealing with the conservation of petroleum is sufficient to cover uncontrolled flow and the using of a limited supply in the national interest. I do not know whether there are other points that might arise but, if there are, they can be looked into in the interval between now and the Report Stage to ensure that we have covered every possibility.
We must produce these regulations on the basis that they will be workable if petroleum is found.
Is it anticipated that boring will take place in different areas? Will the Ambassdor people prospect in one locality?
They will prospect in different localities as long as they are covered by the agreement.
I am not clear whether the Minister means "explore" or "prospect". Am I correct in thinking that "explore" is the first preliminary, "prospecting" the second stage, and "mining" the completed operation?
That is the order.
Is there any possibility that they may prospect on the islands off the cost?
The agreement covers the national territory.
It starts on the mainland.
Does it cover the sea under the new regulation of the straight baseline for fishing or does it covers the three-mile limit only?
I should require notice of that question, but I should imagine that the straight baseline applies only to fishing.
Will the Minister examine into it?
I shall, certainly.
Is the Minister satisfied the penalties are adequate, having regard to the various forms of depredations that can be committed in relation to oil well operations?
As the Deputy will see, there is a penalty initially of £100 and a continuing penalty of £100 per day for each day that the misuse or abuse continues. I think that is adequate; £100 a day is a fairly substantial penalty.
It may be in normal circumstances, but not in relation to an oil company.
There is, then, the common law right to damages for anybody who is damnified by either misuse or abuse.
I move amendment No. 32:
Before Section 49, in Chapter IX of Part II, to insert the following new section:—
(a) a royalty rent has been fixed, by an award made under the Mines and Minerals Act, 1931 or by an agreement made under that Act, as compensation for petroleum acquired under that Act, or
(b) a royalty rent has been fixed, by an award made under the Minerals Development Act, 1940 or by an agreement made under that Act, as compensation for petroleum acquired under that Act,
the said royalty rent, in respect of so much if any of that petroleum as is brought to the surface at a petroleum well within the appointed area in relation to that petroleum well (as defined by subsection (1) of section 30 of this Act), shall, in lieu of being at the rate fixed by the relevant award or agreement, be at a rate which bears to the rate fixed by the relevant award or agreement the same proportion as that part of the area to which the relevant award or agreement relates and which is inside the said appointed area bears to the said appointed area.
This is an amendment to cover an omission in the original Bill. There are in existence a number of awards and agreements under the Mines and Minerals Acts of 1931 and the Minerals Development Act, 1940, which provide for the payment not only of a royalty in respect of the principal minerals involved, for example, gypsum, copper, coal, etc., but also of a further royalty covering all other minerals which may be brought to the surface. These agreements or awards arise from the compulsory acquisition by the Minister of the mineral rights in certain localities and while the incidental royalties relating to subsidiary minerals generally were not designed to include petroleum, nevertheless petroleum must be regarded as coming within the ambit of these awards or agreements, as the case may be.
The terms of these awards and agreementss must be honoured and this renders it necessary to make provision in the Bill for the payment of compensation in respect of petroleum which is brought to the surface in any of the areas in respect of which awards or agreements of the kind I have referred to are in existence.
The amendment achieves this object and provides that compensation shall be payable at a rate which bears to the rate fixed by the relevant award or agreement the same proportion which the portion of the area concerned which lies within the appointed area bears to the appointed area.
This is an entirely new principle—is that not so?
It is more generous than any provisions, say, given to hoteliers who modernise their premises.
If the poor devil cuts turf in his bog, he gets an added valuation slapped down on him but the rich oil company is not to make any contribution to the local authority. Is that not what it means?
Does the Minister think that is fair?
Under the Bill he is already obliged to pay what are considered in the circumstances—I refer to the remote possibility of finding oil —fairly generous royalties to the State.
The Minister has delivered himself into my hands; in other words, subsection (1) of Section 50 has the effect not of taking it away from the State but of taking it away from the local authorities. Surely the Minister is not expecting the county council in Waterford, if oil were found there, to compensate the State by way of extra royalties instead of getting the normal rights they would get. That is what the section means. If the fact of excluding it from valuation meant excluding it from something that was collected from the State, then I could see the Minister's point of view, because he would say we are getting it the other way. But it is not the State that is getting the knock; it is the local authority. It is not reasonable to expect the Minister to be generous in his behalf at the expense of a local authority. I am not sure whether this is a good principle in sub-section (1) for the development of initiative, but if it is a good principle, it should not be applied only in the case of the rich oil company and rejected in the case of the small man engaged in the cutting of turf on his bog. The Minister must remember, and many Deputies will remember, the enormous number of revaluations there were when turf was cut during the emergency. This provision is to say that is not to be done in respect of an oil well.
I do not know what is the provision in relation to what I might call hard minerals. I do not know what the word for minerals other than oil is, but what is done in relation to Avoca? Does Avoca not have to pay rates? I think they do. I am quite sure Silvermines had to pay rates or were assessable to rates. Why, of all cases, should the exception be made in respect of the rich petrol company if any exception is to be made? If any hole is to be punched in the Valuation Office procedure, this is the worst possible case in which it can be done.
The non-liability for rates affects only the right to drill and to remove petroleum, but all other structures, buildings, will be liable to rates.
Furthermore, the exemption is for a period of 20 years and after 20 years, there will be a liability which the Minister will take over out of the royalties payable to him.
Will the Minister undertake that if there is oil found and if he gets royalties, he will pay back the appropriate portion to the local county council which the county council would get if this were not there?
Only after 20 years.
Before the 20 years. The Minister is talking of paying royalties instead of rates to the county council.
The whole purpose of relief from liability to rates is to encourage exploration and having regard to the fact that the possibility is remote, the possibility of the county council getting rates is also remote. It is only by reason of that remoteness of possibility that this special inducement is given, but at the end of a 20year period, the county council will be entitled to receive rates from the Minister as provided for in the agreement.
After 20 years I shall not be very interested in what the rates are in county Kildare. The Minister made the case that the reason they were being relieved from the liability to pay rates was that they were paying such generous royalties to him. That is a good reason all right for relieving Ambassador of the payment, but now I am asking the Minister to do the rest of the job, to give back to the county council out of these very generous royalties, the amount he is taking from the county council in the section. He is getting, he says himself, generous royalties. If that is so, if the reason he has put this section in is that he wants to get generous royalties, is it not right to compensate the county council out of these royalties?
The Minister will already have been involved in certain expenditure, and that expenditure will create the possibility of the county council getting rates in respect of the mining and drilling for oil after 20 years. It is not completely disregarding the rights of the county council because were it not for the Minister undertaking some expenditure, the probability of rates would never arise.
Is this a usual provision?
No, it is not.
Outside this country?
That I cannot say but it is not a usual provision in respect of other minerals in the country.
I take it the whole purpose of this Bill and the agreement is to encourage exploration for oil in this country. We should keep that in mind but I do not think we should go beyond the inducements available in other countries in the provisions we make. Are we breaking new ground?
Rates as we know them are not common to other countries. There is the question of local taxation apart from a rating system and there is separate local taxation.
Was it Ambassador Oil that suggested this?
It was. We felt that they were entitled to it, having regard to the similar degree of inducement offered elsewhere.
What I am challenging is that the Minister is being generous to Ambassador Oil at the expense of the local authority. Therefore, he should make up to the local authority what it loses.
The Minister must undertake certain expenses to promote this development. If the Minister did not do that, the possibility is that the prospect of increased rates arising out of oil would not be there at all. It is not unreasonable that having regard to these expenses, the Minister should be relieved of the obligation of paying to the county council rates for 20 years. When that period has passed, the county council will be entitled to have rates paid in respect of buildings for the whole period and also in respect of any oil that may be produced.
This is a smash and grab raid on the county councils.
Would it be possible to reduce the number of years from 20 to 15 or 12?
I take it that the Minister is committed to Ambassador Oil as regards this period of 20 years.
Therefore, it cannot be reduced from 20 years to 15 or 12?
I undertake the obligation after 20 years.
On what basis will the oil wells be valued after 20 years?
That will be a matter for the Valuation Commissioner in the same way as he values other properties. He will probably have a good idea of their worth. It is not anticipated that in the initial years there will be any great degree of income to the State because the undertaking will not be in full gear. If the Minister rendered himself liable for rates, he might be paying more than he would be getting by way of royalties.
Can the Minister tell me where is the provision that after 20 years the rates will go to the county council?
It is in the agreement.
Does that mean that after 20 years Ambassador Oil pay the rates and the Minister refunds it to them?
Subsection (2) of Section 50 states that "the right to drill for and take away petroleum shall be deemed not to be a rateable hereditament in relation to a particular oil pool until the expiration of 20 years from the date on which petroleum was first produced from that oil pool." Under the agreement the Minister undertakes to relieve Ambassador Oil of that liability and will be liable himself to pay rates after 20 years.
The Minister undertakes to recoup Ambassador Oil for what Ambassador Oil is liable for. The Minister does not pay rates. No Government Department does. They pay a bounty in lieu of rates.
The Minister undertakes that a licensee shall not be under a liability to pay rates for the right to drill and that he shall not be liable for rates until 20 years after oil is first produced?
There is no proposal about it in the agreement but it is in the Bill.
So that it can be altered from 20 years to 12?
Can the Minister refer me to the particular article of the agreement dealing with this matter?
It is on page 35.
Sub-clause 5 on page 35, Deputy Russell has pointed out, is different altogether from Section 50 of the Bill which does not implement that sub-clause. However, you have 20 years to bring in an amending Act so that I suppose it is reasonable to let you go for the 20 years.
The Minister may not be here then.
I am talking of the corporate Minister. The present Government would not last any length if the people got a chance to get a crack at them.
I move amendment No. 33:
To delete subsection (1), and substitute the following new sub-section:—
"(1) Where a person proposes, for the purpose of getting petroleum, to sink a shaft or borehole intended to reach a depth of more than twenty feet below the surface, he shall before commencing such sinking, give to the Minister fourteen days' notice of his intention to do so or such shorter notice as the Minister may permit."
This is an amendment to delete subsection (1) of Section 52. As it stands persons are obliged to notify the Minister of their intention to sink shafts or boreholes regardless of whether they are for the purpose of searching for petroleum or developing a known petroleum deposit. There is no practical object in requiring persons to notify the Minister about the drilling of boreholes which are of exploratory significance only and this obligation is now being removed. The period of two weeks notice in the section as it stands is being altered to include such shorter period as the Minister may authorise.
What is the situation if a person starts to sink a small hole and then decides to go on? The wording of subsection (1) is "where a person proposes to sink a borehole intended to reach a depth of more than 20 feet." It may not be the intention to go deeper than 20 feet but what is the position if he starts at a small hole and goes on until it becomes a big one? Has he got to stop at 19 feet, sit down and write to the Minister for permission to go further?
That is the purpose of requiring him to give notice. He communicates with the Minister and the Minister tells him to go ahead.
What is the purpose of that provision?
The Minister will want to know at what stage a person is drilling and the extent at which oil might be found. The provision is to make sure that the Minister will be aware of any drilling which is likely to produce oil. The intention is to have the Minister notified that a depth of 20 feet is reached and to ensure that the Minister gets notice of what is taking place.
Drilling to 20 feet does not ensure that a person will get oil. Only one in nine oil holes produces anything.
Have they not spent something like £1,000,000 in Cuba drilling holes and they got no oil?
I move amendment No. 34:
In subsection (2), page 23, lines 21 and 22, to substitute "such period (not more than three months)" for "a period of not less than two months or such longer period".
Under the sub-section as it stands, persons drilling bore holes in search of petroleum must keep specimens of rock strata for not less than two months or such longer period as the Minister may direct. It was felt it would be more helpful to petroleum operators if the period were fixed at not less than three months and if the Department wishes that cores or rock samples should be retained for a longer period, this can be done by their being retained in the Department.
Has the Minister got the right to take these samples if he likes?
Under an informal arrangement these samples of rock strata will be given to the Minister.
This is not a Bill dealing only with the Ambassador Oil Company. It is a Bill to deal with any body who may search for petroleum. I admit they have the preemptive right at the moment. This is not intended to be an Ambassador Oil Bill?
The Bill envisages the making of an agreement for making available to the Minister samples of rock strata and that will be written into any other agreement.
Would it not be much simpler to put it into a sub-section in that Section?
I shall look into that.
Are the 30th June and the 31st December the dates under the existing Mining Acts?
Does this information to be laid before the Oireachtas include such matters as the number of holes 20 feet or over which have been drilled?
Sub-section (c) states:—
Any other matter relating to petroleum or to the development and working of petroleum which the Minister thinks proper to include in such report.
Would that not cover such information?
The Minister will already have a collection of the rock strata from the borings by reason of the previous Section. It is not intended that he should require them specifically in the report to be submitted to the Minister.
This is information to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas every six months. Is the Minister satisfied that that information includes the number of drill holes 20 feet or over carried out in the period of six months?
There might be some confidential element in their borings but, subject to that, I think substantial borings will be included.
It would be interesting information.
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 24, line 20, to insert "or as compensation under section 25 of this Act" after "this Part".
This is a drafting amendment.
What would happen if this section were not included? Why is it included in every Act? Is it to prevent the Minister putting the money in his own pocket?
I suppose so.
Surely there could be a general provision covering the Central Fund everywhere instead of having to enact it each time? I have done it too. I am not suggesting that only the Minister is at fault.
Would the Minister mind telling me what the Public Offices' Fees Act, 1879 does?
The Act provides for the collection, either in money or by stamps, of fees payable in public offices and provides for the making of regulations in relation to,inter alia, the manner in which fees paid in money are to be taken. It is not considered necessary to apply that procedure to fees payable under this Bill.
These fees will not be payable by stamps?
No. The Old Act made fees payable either in moneys or stamps. It is not proposed to take stamps for the money involved in this case.
Section 56 is deleted.
I wanted to raise a point on Section 56. Perhaps I may be allowed to raise it on the deletion of the Section? I want to know why the Minister has not provided for tabling and power of annulment.
I shall look into that.
I think it would be reasonable, particularly as so much, of necessity, is being incorporated in the regulations.
If the Deputy looks at Section 58, subsection (2), he will find that the regulations must be tabled.
That covers all the regulations to be made under other sections?
No, only under this Part. If there are regulations under other Parts for which tabling provisions are not made, that can be done for the Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 36:
In page 24, to insert between lines 52 and 53, the following two new paragraphs:—
"( ) the conditions to be complied with by applicants for those licences,
( ) the furnishing by every applicant for any of those licences of evidence as to his character, financial standing and technical qualifications and the giving by him of security for the fulfilment of his obligations under the licence."
This is to meet the point Deputy Dillon raised on the Second Stage. He asked what steps would the Minister take to ensure that a person to whom rights of prospecting or mining leases might be given will be able to pay compensation should he do damage. It provides that the Minister may make regulations requiring applicants for a prospecting or other licences to furnish evidence of their financial standing and give security for the fulfilment of their obligations under the lease. I have already directed Deputy Dillon's attention to this and unless he has commissioned Deputy Sweetman to make any point, I feel he would be satisfied.
No. It is of course necessary to have some such provision.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 25, to insert in the section, between lines 5 and 6, the following new subsection:—
"(2) Where the Minister proposes to make any regulation under this Part, he shall before doing so—
(a) cause a draft of the proposed regulation to be made,
(b) publish in one or more newspapers circulating in the State, a notice which shall state—
(i) that a draft of the proposed regulation has been prepared and may be inspected at the office of the Minister in Dublin at specified times,
(ii) the provision of this Act under which it is proposed to make the proposed regulation,
(iii) that the Minister will consider any representations in relation to the proposed regulation which are made to him not later than such date as the Minister thinks proper and specifies in the notice."
Section 58, as it stands, provides that the Minister may make regulations for any purpose in connection with this part of the Bill. The amendment is proposed with the object of providing a procedure for public notice of the Minister's intention to make such regulations. In this way interested parties will be aware of the proposal to make regulations and they will have an opportunity to offer any observations they may wish. The Minister will be obliged to consider representations by any persons interested in the making of the regulations.
Would the Minister consider ensuring, not as a matter of incorporating it into a Statute but as a matter of convenience for members of the House who might be interested, that whenever a draft is being made available in the Department of Industry and Commerce, the draft will also be placed in the Library so that it can be examined here?
I move amendment No. 38:
In subsection (2), page 25, line 10, to delete "to be".
This is simply an amendment to correct a verbal error.
I move amendment No. 39:
Before Section 62, but in Part II, to insert the following new section:—
The provisions of this Part of this Act shall be without prejudice to the powers and duties of the Revenue Commissioners under any enactment in force, whether passed before or after this Act, for the management, collection or protection of the revenue of customs and excise.
This part of the Bill deals with general amendments which are desirableper se, as a consequence of the new Bill, in the 1940 Act.
The Minister is explaining the wrong amendment. I think he is explaining amendment No. 40.
No. I am explaining the purpose of the amendments in this Part of the Bill in general first.
I beg your pardon.
The production processing and disposal before any duty payable has been satisfied of all petroleum and petroleum products need to be subject to strict Revenue control in like manner to, say, the growing and curing of tobacco and excise law dealing with the refining of hydrocarbon oils but these are concerned primarily with the refining of imported oils which are subject to Revenue control from the time they are brought into this country. It will be necessary to seek extended legal provisions to provide for Revenue supervision of production, bonding of stocks, etcetera, to meet the situation which will arise if the exploration work now envisaged results in the discovery of sources of petroleum in this country and the object of this amendment is to preserve the powers of the Revenue Commissioners in this respect.
That, of course, is one of the first laws of the Medes and Persians. Is not that so?
I do not know. I presume it is.
I move amendment No. 40:
In subsection (1), page 25, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following new definition—
"mining facilities (State land) permit" has the meaning assigned to it by section* of this Act.
The section referred to is the section inserted by amendment No. 41. The amendment is consequential on amendment No. 41 and I could deal with it when we reach that amendment.
Would the Minister tell us if there are any prospecting licences in force at present in relation to petroleum?
No, there are not.
Why have we the section then?
This is to make sure that any doubts that might exist will be removed.
"Sell"— that visualises an out and out sale, as apart from leasing. Does that mean that by this section we are giving the Minister power to sell whatever petroleum there is under the national territory for one lump sum? Surely that is not intended. That is contrary to the whole spirit of the Bill.
That is the intention.
Does the Minister seriously suggest that is a good thing; in other words, that by the section we are empowering the Minister to make, if he so desires, a deal in the morning by which he would sell for £100,000 the chance of there being, say, petroleum under the ground here and that, no matter whether there was petroleum here or not worth £100,000,000, it would be gone? That is contrary to the whole tenor of the Bill. The whole tenor of the Bill is that it is to be dealt with on the basis of a royalty for what petroleum is produced.
I am afraid the section means what Deputy Sweetman has said. Hitherto, under the 1940 Act, the Minister could sell minerals which he worked himself.
Ah—which he worked.
In this, the obvious inference is that he would be entitled to sell unworked minerals. The intention is that the powers given here would apply only to limited areas and I cannot envisage a situation arising, even though, strictly speaking, it could, that the Minister would sell the entire deposits of a certain mineral, although unworked, in the State. That is true. I am informed that it is on the advice of our own draftsman that this was put in in case the occasion arose at any time that the Minister might require to sell some mineral, not necessarily petroleum. As I said originally, this Part of the Act deals with amendments to the 1940 Act.
I know, but the Minister will understand that there is a great deal of difference between selling worked minerals and selling unworked minerals. This section as phrased at present empowers the selling of unworked minerals and I do not think that is a power which should be taken. I can understand, as I said, that this was put in on the advice of the draftsman because, if it were not put in, there would not be any power. Equally, I know it is the common practice of all Departments to tell their draftsmen to put in everything they can possibly think of. This is a power that should not be put in and I think, on reflection, the Minister will agree that the whole tenor of our mineral legislation is that in relation to unworked minerals they are to be dealt with by leasing and a royalty coming out of the leasing.
Between this and the next stage, I shall have a look at some of the speeches the Minister made when I was sitting over there, when he was attacking Deputy Norton and myself on the basis that we had sold the minerals. In fact, we had not; we had leased them. Then the attack was that it was altogether improper to sell them, although we had not sold them, but now the Minister is here putting in an express proviso deliberately to sell. I do not think that is wise; I think it is quite the reverse, and I would strongly urge the Minister to reconsider this section between now and Report Stage.
I shall do that. I have not any strong views about it.
This covers more than petroleum, and I do think the Minister ought to look at it again.
This is a section dealing not merely with petroleum development but with mineral development generally.
Anything—copper, lead, zinc, manganese, barytes, molybdenum.
There has been put into this Bill something omitted from previous Acts. Is that the position?
That is the position.
In other words, the parliamentary draftsman, as an afterthought, says: "We have this Bill now and get us the power to sell." I am not sure what exactly happened when Mianraí Teoranta sold the coal deposits in Tipperary to a private undertaking, the position being that they themselves had acquired them with money provided by the State. I do not know whether it was Mianraí Teoranta that sold the deposits or if the Department or the Government or the State had any interest in these deposits. Surely it had, if it provided the capital and if there was no authority to sell minerals until now, how did Mianraí Teoranta dispose of the coal deposits in Ballingarry?
Did not they get a specialad hoc Act?
That is what I want to find out.
I am not familiar with the details but I imagine Mianraí Teoranta surrendered the lease to the Minister and the Minister made a new lease with the existing lessee.
Is it a lease or a sale?
The lease was assigned by Mianraí Teoranta to the present lessee.
In this case, the Minister does not want to lease; he wants to sell outright.
I have already said that I have not very strong views about this. It is a point inserted at the suggestion of the parliamentary draftsman. I shall have another look at it.
It is a very big thing to do in two casual lines.
I have undertaken to look at it.
I want it to be quite clear that I am not going on record as accepting the section.
The Minister is going to look at this section again. In order to facilitate the Minister we are having a short discussion. I think the Minister ought to agree now to recommit Section 66 on Report Stage.
Very well, I shall do that.
Is this retrospective or only as from the date of the passage of this Bill?
It is only as from the date of the passage of this Bill.
I move amendment No. 41:
Before section 71 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 minerals to which a State mining 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 mining facilities (State land) permit) to use such land.
(3) Whenever the Minister is of opinion that it is necessary, for the efficient or convenient working of minerals to which a State mining 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 mining facilities (State land) permit) to exercise that ancillary right.
(4) Every mining 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 mining 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.
It has been found that the Minerals Development Act, 1940, is defective in as much as the existing powers to grant facilities in respect of land and ancillary rights to persons who require those facilities to develop mineral deposits are not capable of being exercised in respect of State lands. This is due to a technical defect in the wording of Section 19 of the Act of 1940. The defect is remedied by this amendment which provides that the Minister may by permit grant a right to use any State land or ancillary rights in relation to State lands to persons who require these facilities for the efficient exploitation of minerals. If that amendment is accepted there is a consequential amendment, amendment No. 40, to which we referred a few minutes ago. I do not think there is any question of difficulty in that context.
Does this now give the Minister the power of allowing a licensee to use lands belonging to somebody else?
State lands only.
State lands which are under the control of the Minister or any Minister and lands over which nobody else will have any rights?
That is right.
There might be a case where a conacre man's crop of wheat was wrecked. There would have to be some compensation there.
I understand that there is provision for that in the original Act.
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 26, line 51, to insert "or a mining facilities (State land) permit" after "permit".
This amendment is consequential on amendment No. 41. Its object is to secure that persons who are granted a permit by the Minister to use State lands or ancillary rights in relation thereto shall be liable to pay compensation for any damage which they do to the surface of the land to any mineral deposits or to water supplies.
What are State lands?
They are the property of the State.
Places such as the Curragh, Kilworth Camp, Collinstown and Baldonnel.
I move amendment No. 43:
To insert in the section, as sub-section (2), the following:—
(2) Compensation payable under subsection (1) of this section by the holder of a mining facilities (State land) permit shall be paid to the Minister.
Here is the compensation in fact.
This amendment is consequential on amendment No. 41. Amendment No. 42 is the one to which the Deputy is now referring. Amendment 43 provides that compensation payable by the holder of a permit to use State lands or ancillary rights in relation to State lands shall be paid to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The previous amendment is the one under which the obligation to pay compensation in the first instance is established.
I move amendment No. 44:
Before Section 72 to insert the following new section:
All moneys received by the Minister under Section 70,* or 71 of this Act shall, as and when received, be paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister for Finance may direct.
Here is the same one again to prevent the money going into the Minister's pocket.
It is consequential.
Is it not rather silly that in this one Bill it has to be included twice? There should be some omnibus provision.
That is a matter that could be looked into some time. It is better to leave it as it is at the moment.
Does this give a person the right to lay a pipe line? Can it be brought through my front door and out the back door by the pipe layer if he wants to?
That is under the original Act.
Exactly. It is going back to the original. It is legislation by reference.
The only note I have here does not refer to whether a person may lay it underneath a person's house. I am told that in an extreme case where the laying of a pipe would be necessary under a building full compensation would require to be paid.
I am not even thinking about compensation. I was assuming that. If it is absolutely necessary to lay a pipe line through a particular place, the pipe line has got to be laid but I do not want to see a situation in which the person laying the line is arbitrarily entitled and the only person entitled to decide where it is going to be laid. If the owner of the property and the layer of the line cannot agree, is there any provision for anybody to arbitrate between them as to whether it must go north or south?
Section 42, sub-section (1) of the original Act provides that any person, having an interest in the land and where he requires such land for supporting a building already erected or about to be erected, can apply to the Minister for an Order restraining any person proposing to lay a line.
The Minister is an arbitrator in the ultimate analysis.
I move amendment No. 45:
Before Section 76 to insert the following new section:—
Section 73 of the Principal Act is hereby amended in the following respects—
(a) by the deletion in subsection (1) of ‘and the Board may in any case disallow the costs of counsel',
(b) by the substitution for subsection (2) of the following new subsection—
‘(2) The Board may, with the consent of the parties concerned, fix the amount of costs ordered to be paid or, in default of such consent, may refer the costs to a Taxing-Master for taxation."'
That is to empower the Board to refer to a Taxing Master. That obligation is in the 1940 Act as well as in the new Bill.
People were not as wide awake in 1940 as we are now.
The Incorporated Law Society said that, too.
I was including them in "people".
Does that apply to all mining?
Section 76 reads as follows:
There shall be inserted in Section 75 of the Principal Act the following new subsection—
"(2A) Every person who keeps in pursuance of subsection (2) of this section a journal of a shaft or borehole shall, if so requested by the Minister, furnish to him a copy of the journal and a site map, which site map shall be returned by the Minister."
We are on the amendment to Section 76. Deputy Russell is on the section.
Does that mean that there is no obligation on any mining concern?
The purpose of the section now is to make the keeping of the journal obligatory.
What about the person who does not keep it?
Section 75 of the 1940 Act provides that the Minister must be given notice of the sinking of shafts and boreholes and that the person sinking shafts and/or boreholes must keep a journal. The purpose of amendment No. 45 is to make it obligatory on the person who keeps the journal to furnish a copy of the journal to the Minister. It imposes a greater obligation.
I can well imagine that.
When is it proposed to take the Report Stage?
What about Wednesday next?
The Minister will have to do a lot of work between this and then. Does he think he will be able to do it?
I want to get the Bill out of the Dáil before the Christmas Recess.
I am very anxious to co-operate.
Would Thursday next be better from the point of view of circulating the amendments?
Say Thursday next.
Will the Minister circulate the amendments early or even in instalments?
We shall treat the Minister very kindly, in that event.