I mentioned yesterday that I wished to ask the Minister a question on this matter. The President, on the Second Reading of this Bill, made a statement in regard to which I would like the Minister, if possible, to give an explanation. The statement refers to land purchase annuities and local loans. The President said:—"This money was due to and collectable by the British Government here (that is in Ireland). The Free State Government did not like that position, and they undertook, for the credit of the country, to collect the money and to be responsible for the whole of it, not merely for the sums collected. They might not be able to collect as much as was due, but they were guarantors in respect of it." I would like to ask the Minister when that agreement was made, and whether it has been laid before the Oireachtas. This is a very serious matter, as it deals with large sums of money. The last part of the statement, in regard to guaranteeing the whole sum, may lead to very serious results.
APPROPRIATION BILL, 1926—FIFTH STAGE.
I do not know whether there was any written agreement. A great number of arrangements had to be made when separation occurred. Some were formally written and appeared under the head of "working arrangements," while others were of a much more informal character. We could not have a position whereby the duty of collecting the debts rested with the British Government. We had to undertake the collection of the sums and the payment to the British Government. We undertook to make certain payments, irrespective of whether we had or had not collected as much as we had to pay in that particular year or half year. I could not, at short notice, tell Senator Moore what arrangements were come to. There were a great many arrangements and mutual concessions between the British Government and ourselves. Sometimes they agreed to facilitate us in a particular way, and sometimes we agreed to facilitate them. There have, as a matter of fact, recently been discussions, and an arrangement has been come to with regard to local loans, which I mentioned in the Dáil and which, certainly, is a very favourable arrangement for us. It will mean ultimately that a considerable capital sum will accrue to the benefit of our Local Loans Fund.
We shall only pay £600,000 yearly for the next 20 years. All payments in respect of local loans collected thereafter will accrue to the benefit of our Exechequer. For a considerable period the amount collected by us will, perhaps, exceed £600,000 but, for the remaining 10 years, it will fall something below £600,000. The payments will continue, I think, for 60 or 70 years before all the local loans are paid off but, ultimately, we shall have a very substantial sum in our local loans fund.
I read the statement that the Minister made in the Dáil and it covered a part of the matter to which I am referring. I cannot deny that. That statement dealt with the larger loans, but as far as the land purchase annuities are concerned, I think there has been a great deal of mystery and a refusal to give explanations. It seems to me a serious thing that Ministers should make private arrangements, as seems to have been done, and to keep them going for years without informing the Dáil or the Seanad. They did that on their own authority and without telling anyone.
As far as land purchase annuities are concerned, other than those that fall under the heading of local loans, the whole matter is dealt with by our legislation in the Act of 1923. That legislation provides for the disposal of land purchase annuities, and it covers everything that has been done under it.
It is stated that they were handed over to the appropriate authority under the control of the Minister for Finance. It does not say one word about handing them over to the British Government. Anyone must presume that in an arrangement of that sort, unless it is definitely stated to the contrary, it must be the Irish Government is meant.
I think a strong case was made on the Committee Stage of the Appropriation Bill for the issue of a White Paper explaining this particular matter. As Senators are aware, Senator Colonel Moore sent out an elaborate circular in which various statements were made and aprima facie case made out. I do not think we have had any adequate answer to the arguments set forth, and I would urge the Minister to consider the advisability of issuing a White Paper explaining what has occurred. Very grave statements were made in that circular, suggesting that rights that we had were abrogated without adequate consultation with the Oireachtas. That is a state of affairs that is not desirable, but which, I daresay, could be easily explained. Certainly very strong statements were made by Senator Colonel Moore, and they have not been met in the short space that was at the disposal of Ministers in this House.
I do not know if the Senator is referring to a case that Senator Moore made with regard to the Act of 1920? If that is so, I do not think it is worthy of any elaborate answer.
The London Pact.
The Pact is more particular. It was urged by Senator Linehan, and, I think, Senator Douglas said that a certain amount of vagueness existed in the minds of the people about the matter. I think it would be wise to issue a White Paper.
I have not read the debates that took place recently in the Dáil, but I am aware of certain arguments of Senator Moore, and I really think that they do not call for any elaborate answer. They were palpably absurd.