asked the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he will make a statement regarding the closure of the Transport Employees Tontine and Benefit Society and the steps that will be taken to secure the savings of the many depositors therein.
Private Notice Question. - Closure of Tontine and Benefit Society.
I am aware of newspaper reports that the Transport Employees Tontine and Benefit Society closed their doors about a week ago but I have no first hand information about the state of the society's affairs or the position of their members. The society is registered under the Friendly Societies Act, 1896. On 12 December the Registrar of Friendly Societies received an application pursuant to section 76 of that Act to appoint an inspector to examine and report on the affairs of the society. This application is being considered as a matter of urgency. Assuming the requirements of the Act are complied with, I will consent to the appointment of an inspector. Apart from consenting to the appointment of an inspector, I have neither powers nor functions in relation to these societies.
Is the Minister aware of increasing public concern regarding provident and friendly societies taking deposits from the public? Are there any controls or plans which can secure the public from substantial losses, in many cases of life savings? Can the Minister exercise power in a case like this to ensure that such funds as may be in that society will be secured at this point from dissipation to the detriment of people who have put their life savings into it over perhaps 20, 30 or 40 years?
The Minister has no function in this regard. Under the Friendly Societies Act, 1896, where registration is completed, responsibility rests with the members concerned. Yesterday, 200 members of the society made application to have an investigator appointed to examine the affairs of the society. This is being considered as a matter of urgency and, if everything is in order, I will consent to the appointment of an investigator without delay. I cannot say any more at present.
May I draw your attention, Sir, to the fact that our spokesman for Communications, Deputy John Wilson, sought to raise this matter yesterday and was ruled out of order by your good self? Do you accept that this is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the principal Opposition party? Do you not see it, Sir, as a somewhat cynical exercise when the Chief Whip of the Labour Party purports to ask a question of a junior Labour Minister in the House about a matter of this sort when he had ready access to his own Minister? I should be grateful if you would give some explanation as to why this Private Notice Question was allowed today when our spokesman was not allowed to raise it yesterday.
Usually I do not enter into any discussions about rulings in the House. I have no recollection of Deputy Wilson seeking to raise this question by way of Private Notice or indeed at all. My office has no information either.
I did not say that.
When a Deputy of one party raises a matter on a Dáil sitting day which is not allowed by the Chair to be taken that day, and if it is taken on the following day at the request of another Deputy, is the Deputy who raised it originally informed that the matter will be taken on the succeeding day so that he may be present and informed that what had been ruled out of order one day is sanctioned the next? It is important that you should clarify this so that we can be satisfied that matters raised here are not refused by you because we are sitting on this side of the House.
That is unworthy of the Deputy.
You should show respect to the Chair and allow me to speak. Deputy John Wilson did not seek to raise this matter yesterday by way of Private Notice Question or on the Adjournment. Many things are fired at the Chair from all sides of the House and he may have been seeking to raise something but it was not in order and he was so informed. If that had come before me today by way of Private Notice Question, in accordance with the ruling I made yesterday, it would have been allowed.
May I ask a supplementary question?
I understood that the supplementary questions were over.
I expressed my indignation.
I will allow a supplementary question from Deputy Tunney.
The Minister of State indicated that he had no function in this matter. Could he indicate whether, by direction of the Minister, there is an upper ceiling on the amount of money which can be recieved under the Friendly Societies Act and whether he has applied himself to examining if a ceiling has been cast aside in respect of this society?
This will be the function of the investigator when he reports on the affairs of the society.
I am asking the Minister whether it has been decreed by his Department that there is a maximum amount which can be lodged under the regulations in respect of these societies and whether that maximum has been exceeded in respect of that society.
There is a maximum of £200. The return from this society has been regularly furnished to the Registrar and there was nothing to indicate that there was any irregularity.
I should like the Chair to indicate whether Deputy Wilson sought to raise this matter in the House yesterday.
I said that I had no recollection of Deputy Wilson trying to raise it. I said positively that he did not try to raise it by way of Private Notice Question or on the Adjournment.
I heard my name mentioned as I walked along the corridors. I raised the matter and I asked if the Taoiseach would ensure that the Minister for Communications would come into the House and tell us what he was going to do to preserve the funds of the people who had put them into the Tontine and Benefit Society.
I told the Deputy it could not be raised in this manner.
It is very unsatisfactory.
The Deputy should use the right procedures.
When we see the Chief Whip of the Labour Party going through the pretence of putting down a question——