Agricultural Credit Bill, 1946—Committee Stage.
Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."
Would the Parliamentary Secretary explain to us exactly the meaning of sub-section (1) (d):—
"the processing, manufacture, preparation or completion for sale of any farm produce."
For instance, would that cover the Roscrea meat factory? It seems to me that it could be taken in an extremely wide sense and to be something that was much more an industrial concern than an agricultural concern.
This is intended to cover the processes of manufacture of any farm produce.
Not by anybody, but by the parties described in the Bill. For instance, it is quite possible that, say, a group of farmers would come together for the processing of peas or other vegetables. It is to enable them to do so that this section is introduced.
The effect of the sub-section is this: that a farmer means a person who carries on agriculture, that agriculture means a person who carries on processing and that, therefore, a person who, for example, has a bacon factory in Cork Street in Dublin is a farmer.
Is not that an extraordinary definition?
In my opinion, a firm having a bacon factory in Dublin is a purely commercial concern.
But does it not process farm produce? Is not the pig produced on the farm, and does not the bacon factory process it? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will undertake to look into the point between this and Report Stage.
I doubt if that is necessary. There is, as the Senator is aware, provision in the Bill whereby the corporation can make advances for this purpose, but it is limited in the case of an individual or an individual company or society to the £10,000 specified in the Bill.
Could that be applied to a private company?
It could be applied to Roscrea, for example.
And to a co-operative bacon factory?
I understood, of course, that a loan could be given to a co-operative society. The question is: can you make a loan to a group of people who register themselves as a limited company? Are we to understand that a group of farmers can do that?
Personally, I could not see any objection if a group of farmers did undertake some form of processing. I cannot see why there should be any objection to such a group doing so, any more than there would be to a co-operative society doing it.
I can see a great objection to the Agricultural Credit Corporation and the Industrial Credit Company both dealing in the same line of business. That is my principal objection.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 4 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In sub-section (1) to delete lines 24 to 26 (inclusive) and to substitute the words:—
the expression "appropriate sum" means, in relation to a registered holder, a sum of money calculated by dividing the result found by the subtraction from the value of the assets of the corporation on the 31st January, 1947, of the amount of the liabilities due by the corporation on the said date, by the number of shares of the corporation already issued and in this respect value of the assets means the market value of investments or the amount due by creditors (less such provision as may be necessary to meet bad or doubtful debts) as the case may be.
I raised this question on the Second Reading. I have put down an amendment, in a rather involved form, for the purpose of crystallising the issue. Before I proceed to discuss the amendment, perhaps I might refer the Parliamentary Secretary to that part of his reply which will be found near the end of column 1096 of the Official Debates on the Second Reading. He said:—
"Incidentally, Senator Sweetman pointed out that the £1 shares, carrying 5 per cent. guaranteed interest, were at the time worth only 10/-, and were now of considerable value. I was amazed at his making such a statement."
Let me amaze the Parliamentary Secretary still further by repeating the statement, and repeating it so often that perhaps the House may tire of it. My statement is true, accurate and correct. If the Parliamentary Secretary will explain to me why he was so surprised, then perhaps I can visualise what was passing in his mind and answer the point. The fact is that the statement is correct. We can leave it at that until the Parliamentary Secretary again comments on it. What happened was that the Agricultural Credit Corporation was set up by the Government and the public were asked to subscribe and become ordinary shareholders in it in accordance with the terms of the prospectus then issued and filed. The Parliamentary Secretary stated on the last occasion that there was nothing in the prospectus which said when the shares were to be redeemed or at what price they would be redeemed. Of course there was not. According to ordinary commercial practice, everybody knows that when ordinary shares are issued in a concern the issue carries with it the ordinary commercial guarantee and implication that the shares will not be confiscated in any way: that they will remain a divisible partner, so to speak, in the enterprise, and will be only paid out of the enterprise when the enterprise is wound up. It would be perfectly easy for the Parliamentary Secretary to evolve some system of valuation such as that which I suggested. I do not suggest that the wording of my amendment is perfect.
The point is that either the last balance sheet of the company which I have before me—that is, for the 31st October, 1946—is a fake or the shares are worth considerably more than their par value. I am not suggesting for a moment that it is a fake. The plain truth of the matter, however, is that the shares to-day are worth more than their par value. Notwithstanding the fact that there was no provision in the original prospectus when they were issued saying that the shares were redeemable, the Parliamentary Secretary now comes along and says that he is going to redeem them at par. Quite clearly, therefore, the question, so far as the shareholders are concerned, is "heads, I lose; tails, you win". The Government is now taking this money because it suits it to do so. It would have been quite easy for the Government, according to the terms of the issue, to have made the shares redeemable. It did not do so. It now takes the money when it suits it, and disregards the terms of its own contract—again because it suits it—by repaying the shareholders. I suggest that is not ordinary equity.
I did not question the accuracy of the Senator's statement. What surprised me was that the Senator should have made such statements about these shares, having regard to the fact that they were issued at the time under what might be described as the aegis of his Government. The Government at that time guaranteed a 5 per cent. dividend. The Senator said that at times the shares were less than par value——
What I think the Parliamentary Secretary does not appreciate is that the £1 shares were issued, but that only 10/- was called in. He apparently does not understand the Bill.
I understand it quite well. The Senator's statement was to the effect that at one period, away back in 1927 or 1928, the shares were not at par value.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary quote what exactly I did say?
The point is not of importance. Unfortunately I had not the Official Report before me at the time to look the matter up. With regard to the Senator's statement that the Government is not standing by its contract, I do not agree with that. The shareholders are being paid the full par value of their investments. They have not done unreasonably well in the interval, but they have been paid the 5 per cent. guaranteed under the Act.
The Senator forgets that if we were to act in the way that he suggests and have the company wound up, the Minister for Finance would have first claim to be paid in full in respect of all the shares held by him. He also would have the further claim to be refunded the moneys which he had to advance for the payment of the guaranteed dividend of 5 per cent., as well as an additional claim in respect of the 5 per cent. on the B shares which he also holds. Therefore in the event of the company being wound up, the shareholders would not fare any better than they are under the Bill. I am sure everyone will agree that we are meeting them in a reasonable way.
If Senator Sweetman will refer to page 1041 of the Official Report, he will find that he said:—
"The Minister for Finance of the day, in 1927, was very glad to get shares taken up at par value when they were not worth par."
That, although they were guaranteed both as to dividend and principal.
The Senator asked me to quote him. I have now the Official Report and, at column 1041, he stated:—
"In 1927, the £1 share, bearing a 3 per cent. guarantee, was not worth 20/-, or the 10/- share, such as is the case here, was not worth 10/-."
That is quite true. Did the Parliamentary Secretary look at the stock exchange quotation?
I do not think that I misquoted the Senator, as alleged.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me why he is amazed that I should state what is true?
I have already explained that I did not question the truth of the Senator's statement. I have further explained the reasons why I was surprised at his making the statement.
As regards the amendment, the Parliamentary Secretary has informed us that the value of the Minister's holding of the B shares has to be taken into consideration. If he had looked at the balance sheet of the company of October last, he would have seen that they are already taken into consideration. I have the balance sheet in front of me and it shows substantial reserves. The reserves shown should, I think, amount to more than the amounts paid under the guarantee. If the Parliamentary Secretary could show me that the figure of the reserves, secret and open, is less than the amount which has been paid under the guarantee, then there would be a case. Until he shows us those figures, there is no case.
I refer the Senator to Section 8 (3) of the 1929 Act. If he looks at that section, he will see for himself that, if the company were to be wound up as he suggests, the shareholders would not benefit as he seems to think they would. I have already pointed out that the Minister has a right to be paid off at par in respect of his own shares, that he would have to be refunded the moneys which he has advanced to the corporation for payment of the guaranteed dividend of 5 per cent. and that he would be entitled to 5 per cent. dividend on the B shares which he holds.
Sub-section (3) of Section 7 of the 1929 Act sets out exactly what I have said—that the Minister is entitled to the deficiency he guaranteed and nothing further or otherwise. Is that deficiency greater or less than the reserves? That is the whole problem.
When the other shareholders have been repaid, the Minister comes in and is entitled to be refunded the amount of his share capital. He is also entitled to a refund of the 5 per cent. interest which he has advanced.
I think he is entitled to be refunded that before he is refunded the capital.
He is also entitled to 5 per cent. dividend on the B shares.
All after the reserves are valued.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 8 and 9 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 10 stand part of the Bill."
The amendment which I have down to Section 12 would also apply to Section 10. I merely want to draw attention to the hypocrisy of suggesting that this is an ordinary company which is going to operate in the normal way under the Companies Acts. It is not. It would be much better to deal with the situation by way of charter than pretend that this is "an association of persons who have come together for the purpose of promoting a common interest". There is no such association in this case. This will, when this Bill is passed, be nothing more than a State-owned, State-operated and State-controlled organisation. To suggest, as in Section 10 and the last paragraph of sub-section (2) of Section 12, that it is in any way analogous to a private company is completely untrue.
Section agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.
I do not propose to move the amendment in my name to this section, as I have already made the observations I desired to make, on Section 10.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.
On the section, this will be, perhaps, the most important section in the Bill, because on the directors will depend the manner in which the Bill will be operated. It would be very desirable that the Parliamentary Secretary should indicate the principles which will guide him in the selection of the directorate, which will control the whole agricultural credit of the country.
The directors, as is the custom, will be chosen from amongst men of considerable business and practical experience—men who have long experience of public affairs and who can be depended upon to do their best in the interests of the company. I do not think that one could lay down particular rules in advance which would be of any value.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary really mean "public affairs" or does he mean "business affairs"?
I thought that he meant "public affairs", which would mean that the persons concerned would have a Fianna Fáil outlook. That would be in accordance with the facts.
Obviously that is not the intention. We want to get the best possible business board.
The Parliamentary Secretary's board is, obviously, not a business board. It is a board of men who have given political service and are being rewarded therefor.
Section agreed to.
Section 13 gives control of borrowing powers, but there is nothing in it about the rate of interest the corporation is going to charge. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that it would be desirable to have, in some shape or form, statutory provision by virtue of which the rate of interest charged by the corporation would be determined, not merely by the board of the corporation but in an outside manner. In the other House, a discussion took place relating to the rate of interest on local loans, but the Parliamentary Secretary rejected that idea here. So far as we possibly can we shall endeavour to avoid repeating what was dealt with in the other House. I am thinking that the rate of interest should be one fixed by the Minister for Finance by Order from time to time, and that the Order should be tabled, so that the Oireachtas would have more direct control regarding the rate of interest charged borrowers by this corporation.
Obviously, we could not possibly fix a rate of interest by saying in the Bill: "The rate shall be X per cent.," as money conditions in the market change from time to time. There would have to be a certain flexibility, and along with that, there should be provision to bring it directly under Parliamentary control. Suppose the directors of the corporation decided that they wanted to charge 6 per cent., the Minister concerned is not in any way responsible for that decision to either House, and it would be within that scope that the Minister would have to say that it was a decision of the corporation in which he could not interfere. I think the interest to be charged should be fixable by the Minister, and that he should have to lay notice on the Tables of both Houses from time to time.
Like Senator Sweetman I feel disposed to enter into a discussion on this problem, although I confess, after hearing the Parliamentary Secretary's approach on the Second Reading, I am not very hopeful of serving my purpose. I think the Parliamentary Secretary's approach to the whole problem of financing agriculture was, in essence, fundamentally wrong and unsound. I do not wish to go back on the point of view I expressed then, but he conveyed that if finance was somehow made cheaper for farmers it would have to be subsidised. That is completely at variance with facts.
The Parliamentary Secretary made no effort to address himself to the point I made regarding the position farmers will find themselves in. I stated that under the present method of financing local bodies they will be able to borrow and to erect cottages for agricultural labourers at 2½ per cent. but if the farmer who owns the land on which the cottages are to be built, borrows money for a home for himself and his family, he will pay 5 per cent. on an overdraft in the banks. If he goes to the Agricultural Credit Corporation, on my reckoning, he will pay 4 per cent. According to the Parliamentary Secretary, money is going to be made available to the corporation at 2½ per cent. I suggest that a borrower cannot get that money less than 4 per cent. That will be the position where two houses are built under the same Bill. To have money in one case available at 2½ per cent., and in the other case at 4½ per cent. is crazy. There is no equity about that.
The fact is that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government of which he is spokesman, are not facing the problem of financing expenditure on agriculture. It is grotesque for the Parliamentary Secretary to suggest that if we are going to find cheap money for agriculture, somebody else is going to subsidise it. The one way that that could be done would be for the banks to have power to issue credit. The banks have that power. The obstacle to the cheapening of money for agriculture is this, that the Central Bank has not the power to make available to a body like the Agricultural Credit Corporation, money at such a rate as will enable them to lend it to farmers who are prepared to borrow. I realise that that question may be somewhat complicated for the Parliamentary Secretary. The position we are going to have as a result of this Bill is that, no doubt, the scope of the Agricultural Credit Act will be broadened, but its attraction for farmers, as far as money is concerned, will be very little more than at present.
While money remains at such a price it will be difficult to get farmers to take the risk of overhead and interest charges in which they would be involved if they were to undertake reconstructive work. I may differ from Senator Sweetman on that point. I am not too sure that we should have to take cognisance of the ups and downs of the money market. The variability of the price of money is something that has to be seriously considered but the rate should not be written down in the Act. I am not impressed by the right of those responsible to raise and lower the value of money, depending on whether gold is available or not, whether there is going to be war, or whether it would be better to invest in destructive machines rather than in those needed for agriculture.
Farmers know what their land annuities will amount to each half year, and if money is given them for productive purposes they are entitled to know what their outgoings will be. There are other factors besides money over which farmers have no control, and which may have a much more variable effect on production. Illness in the family or trouble with live stock are factors outside human control. The price of money is within human control, and the sooner we agree that it must be subordinate so that agriculture will be a tolerable occupation for human beings the better. The products of agriculture will then be available at prices which will enable people with low incomes to purchase them. We will then be getting into the realm of understanding. I cannot see that outlined in this Bill. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary's approach is going to find a way out, but somebody in the Government should be seeking a way out.
With regard to the point raised by Senator Baxter, that the Central Bank ought to have power to provide money for agriculture, I might mention that there is no power the Central Bank might be given which is not possessed by it. The question arises whether the Central Bank should take certain action in certain circumstances. That is the only question at issue. But as to its powers in law to take any action it thinks fit in regard to finance matters—that power is already there. As I understand Senator Sweetman, he would rather that the Credit Corporation itself did not have the power to fix the rate, and that this power should reside in the Minister for Finance. It seems to me that to argue in that way would cut right across the whole principle of the Bill, because we have accepted the principle that there should be a corporation to manage this matter of agricultural credit. One of the most important functions of the corporation will be the fixing of the rate and if you take that power away from the corporation, then the only thing to do is to wind up the corporation entirely and establish some kind of a Department under the Minister for Finance which will endeavour as far as it can to provide the credit normally provided for under the corporation. We have accepted the principle that the corporation should continue to function and should be given certain powers. The rate it will charge, only itself can decide. It is familiar with, and it will know what are the costs of money, because it will have to seek money itself. It must get its costs. Only the corporation can say what the costs of the service of providing credit will be, and only the corporation can say whether any particular application for an advance is in the nature of a productive project which it ought to finance.
It is clear that if you are going to have a corporation and a body of directors specially qualified to look after this particular business then there is no point in arguing that they should not have power to fix the rate and that it should reside in the Minister for Finance only. To summarise the position, as I see it, the views of Senator Sweetman are completely unworkable if we are to have an Agricultural Credit Corporation at all. The proper attitude for Senator Sweetman to have taken up from the beginning would be that there should not be a corporation.
Would the Senator tell us how the Central Bank could make advances to the corporation?
I would suggest to Senator Baxter that he would get a Central Bank account and examine that account, and——
——the powers conferred on the Central Bank, and when we come to the next stage point out to us in what way the Central Bank has not got power to do anything it thinks fit in the way of providing finance or credit.
I put it to the Senator to explain how it can be done. I do not know how.
I suggest the only question that we might argue on is the advisability of the Central Bank taking certain action in certain circumstances.
Senator Sweetman suggests that the Minister for Finance should by Order fix the rate of interest which the corporation would charge. I could hardly imagine any board of directors that would accept office under such conditions as that, because they would know that it would be absolutely and physically impossible for them to work under such conditions. The rate of interest will depend, first of all, on the rate at which they themselves obtain money; and, secondly, on the volume of business. The larger the volume of business the less will be the overhead cost of running the business, and if the business increases, as I have stated already, it is to be hoped that as a result of that increase there will be a consequential reduction of overhead costs and that the rate of interest will be reduced. I do not believe personally that there is such a difference between 3 per cent., 3½ per cent. or 4 per cent. as will intimidate farmers from borrowing. I doubt very much if that is a fact.
It is easy to see we have passed Section 8 when the Minister says that.
It might be no harm to take Senator Sweetman back to the original purpose for which this legislation was introduced. It was to cater for the special class of customers not being catered for by the existing credit institutions in the country.
A certain type of the farming community not being accommodated by existing institutions in the country. It was for that purpose that the original Act was introduced. I do not want to go into a lengthy argument as to the relative merits of financing farmers and labourers' cottages, but surely it will not be contended that labourers' cottages are not publicly financed. In my opinion, the labourers' cottages are subsidised to the extent of at least two-thirds-66 per cent. That is by grants from the Central Fund and from the local authorities.
Section 13 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In sub-section (1), paragraph (a) (vii) to delete in line 35, page 9, the word "establishing".
I move that the word "establishing" in line 35 be deleted. I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say on the Second Reading that it was not proposed that the corporation would provide money for the purpose of enabling a man to buy a farm. I want to draw attention to the fact that in this subclause we are permitting the corporation to advance money to any person, being a farmer, for the purpose of establishing such person's business. In the ordinary way it might be that the words in parenthesis —"being a farmer"—would cover the situation but if we go back to the definition in Section 3 of "farmer" we find that it means an "individual who carries on or intends to carry on, some form of agriculture". Therefore it appears that what we have in Section 14 is a power to the corporation to lend to any person who intends to establish himself in business. Surely having that there must mean, if it means anything, establishing himself in business in relation to agriculture—going in and buying land. I am quite sure it is not what the Parliamentary Secretary intended but if it does not mean that I am at a loss to see what it means in that particular clause. I can fully appreciate in regard to land that the word "extend" is very desirable because if a man had a farm there might be a tongue of land belonging to someone else jutting into it and making the farm uneconomic to work and it would be desirable that the corporation would have power to deal with that but when you have a definition saying it means a person intending to carry on some form of agriculture following that——
There is not, definitely, any intention of advancing money to people to purchase land. The word "establishing" is used there for the purpose of enabling a farmer to start a lime-kiln for instance, or a small grinding mill or, as I said previously, the establishment of a packing industry for the packing of peas or other vegetables. If you delete this word then you are preventing him from entering on these enterprises.
Is there nothing anywhere else that expressly prohibits the corporation from lending money for the purchase of new land?
I do not think there is any express prohibition.
There is none in the Act, I know, but is it not in the articles of association?
I see the Parliamentary Secretary's point of view in regard to the establishment of lime-kilns and so on but he will agree with me, I think, that it is improper that there should be power to finance speculative purchases. Would not the easiest method be to introduce an overriding prohibition at the end of the section to the effect that the powers shall not be used for financing the purchase of land as distinct from the extension of a farm? I am quite prepared to withdraw the amendment if the Minister will consider that point.
I am equally anxious that we should not start competition for land. We will have this point examined. At the same time we do not want to prevent any farmer from starting lime-kilns or other industries of that kind.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In sub-section (1), page 10, to delete paragraph (c).
This amendment is really tied up with an amendment lower down. I think that this particular clause is much too wide. After all, we started out by saying in sub-paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) what business we visualise, and we have here in these two lines a further extension of these powers. If the Parliamentary Secretary is not prepared to delete clause (c) I would ask him to consider agreeing to the insertion of the word "directly" before "related to agriculture". I think, perhaps, that would be a "half-way house" between my amendment and the Parliamentary Secretary's draft.
This particular sub-section is really the implementation of a recommendation of the Banking Commission when it said that it would suffice for this purpose to prescribe that loans might be made to any farmer for any purpose which, in the opinion of the directors, related to agriculture.
That being so, I will withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In sub-section (2), to delete paragraph (b) and to substitute instead the following paragraph:—
(b) an Order made by the Minister or by the Minister for Agriculture under paragraph (a) of this sub-section shall not come into operation unless or until it has been approved by resolution of each House of the Oireachtas.
There is a provision in sub-section (2) which enables the Minister by Order to amend the memorandum and articles of association. Actually, the Minister and the Minister for Agriculture have both to join for the purposes of such amendments and the Minister has to provide a resolution for tabling. I think it should go further. This is an important matter. We have in this section an extraordinarily long list of provisions and, in addition, we have the provision covering "anything the directors consider to be in relation to agriculture". In respect of any alteration of the memorandum or articles of association over and above these it should be a matter that should be brought to the attention of the Oireachtas. I think the Parliamentary Secretary could agree that it should be a matter for positive action rather than negative action.
There is really no fundamental difference between the two points of view. In one case when the amendment is accepted you would have positive action by both Houses of the Oireachtas. As the Bill stands it is left to the Oireachtas or to the members of the Oireachtas to take whatever action is thought necessary and we feel this is the wiser course.
The Parliamentary Secretary will note that the wording of paragraph (b) of sub-section (2) is not the ordinary tabling wording. I have not compared it with other provisions for tabling but I am pretty certain that this is not the ordinary form. Is this a new form? Certainly I would like to know if there is any significance in that departure before going on to deal with the amendment.
I do not think there is anything new in it. It is merely a re-enactment of a provision in the 1927 Act. There is a similar provision in the 1927 Act.
But it is not the usual form.
I think it is a better form.
Definitely. But I just wanted to know why it is being used here.
Why then substitute another one?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 6:—
In sub-section (6), to delete the words "quoted on the stock exchange in Dublin" in line 52, page 11, and to substitute the words "which are trustee securities"; and to delete paragraph (b).
This, to my mind, is a vital amendment. The primary purpose of this corporation is to lend money to agriculture. Sub-section (6) of Section 14 provides that the corporation may invest any of its moneys in any securities quoted on the stock exchange or any securities intended to be quoted, or in any securities that the Minister for Finance likes. If the Minister is willing I am quite prepared to deal with amendments Nos. 6 and 7 together and save the time of the House. They are both on the same principle. The corporation's powers to invest are for the purposes of enabling it to obtain some return from the funds it is holding until they are needed for the primary purpose of financing agriculture. Otherwise they would be just lying idle, pending recourse to them by farmers. In view of this it must be clear to the Parliamentary Secretary that the primary essential of the power to invest is that of protecting the capital, that the corporation in this respect in regard to its investments should not primarily be concerned with the income arising from those investments but rather with the protection of the capital and the certainty that it would be available whenever the corporation required it to lend it to agriculture.
The way that is known to all of us over the years for the protection of capital is to invest, not in ordinary securities but in gilt-edged securities, commonly called trustee securities. The idea of trustee securities is that it is the duty of a trustee to safeguard the capital rather than the interest and that should be the first duty of this corporation. The powers given in sub-section (6) are altogether too wide. They permit the corporation to invest in any ordinary, speculative stock that is quoted on the stock exchange. I do not mind in the slightest whether that power was there in an earlier Act. Time and time again, precedents are quoted in this House, merely because they are precedents. The first essential in regard to a precedent is to consider whether it is a good one or a bad one: if it is good, by all means adopt it; if it is bad, the sooner we stop adopting it the better. To consider that a thing is good merely because it happens to be a precedent is very unwise.
In an earlier Bill to-day we had some discussion as to the manner in which a Government company could operate unfairly in commercial life in regard to investments in ordinary shares. The Agricultural Credit Corporation can do exactly the same thing. It could endeavour to control other concerns and might succeed in doing so during the time that credit is invested in an ordinary commercial concern. It will have substantial sums for investment, and it would be undesirable that it should have control and spread out its tentacles in that way. The corporation should provide that its surplus funds would be invested in some way that would protect the capital rather than produce an attractive yield of interest.
Of course, the whole question of what is or what is not a trustee security should be tackled and Senator O'Dea will agree with me that the definition of trustee security is very antiquated. One of the things I have in mind, if I succeed in persuading the Parliamentary Secretary to restrict this corporation to trustee securities, is that then I will have an additional body of opinion hammering at the appropriate Minister to bring in a more modern definition of trustee securities. From the point of view of the corporation, and also because of the necessity for a new definition, I want the Parliamentary Secretary to agree with me.
The second amendment really covers the same point. If the corporation had power to deal in trustee securities, and if the Minister had power to declare openly certain other funds in which the corporation could invest, and if the Order making that declaration were tabled here, there would be sufficient latitude for the corporation and there would also be the protection of the public good that is essential.
I agree with Senator Sweetman that we should not be tied down by precedents, but I do not agree that we should be tied down to trustee securities, as the list of them is antiquated. Ever since the Hatry crash, trustee securities have become too dear—the prices are too high on the stock exchange, considering the yield. I think 4½ per cent. Land Bonds are 126 or 127. It would not pay the corporation to pay that price, when they may get securities quite as safe with greater prospects of bigger returns on capital. I do not see why they should not have the advantages the ordinary businessman has. If anyone reads the list of directors of this company, he will agree with me that they are excellent businessmen. They may have good political records too, but that does not take away from the fact that they are excellent businessmen also. I ask that the section be left as it is.
The directors would need to be super-businessmen to get the powers allowed under this Bill. I agree with Senator Sweetman's amendment entirely. I do not believe in giving any body of people the right to gamble or speculate with other people's money. Senator O'Dea put his finger on the point when he mentioned the Hatry crash, which had considerable repercussions in this country. I could mention another one, of much lesser importance. It did a considerable amount of injury to investments here. I do not want to mention names, but I know the bank had to be taken over by another body of people. There should be limits on people who are responsible for other people's money.
As the Bill stands, it would be within the power of the directors to speculate and gamble on the stock exchange. Some people are lucky and others are not, but if people want to gamble, they should do so with their own money—and would have a perfect right to do so. When they are in the responsible position of directors of this corporation, they should be limited, and I entirely agree with Senator Sweetman, though I am not usually in agreement with him.
He could be right, occasionally. I believe the amendment is a perfectly sound one and I would like to hear the argument against it by the Parliamentary Secretary or anyone else.
As Senator Sweetman and Senator O'Dea have said, the whole question of trustee securities is somewhat antiquated. It will be the subject of legislation in the near future, as promised by the Minister for Finance in answer to a question in the Dáil some time ago. I am afraid I cannot accept the amendment as at the present price of trustee securities on the stock market it would be restricting the directors over much and it would be unfair if they were tied to them at the present time for investment purposes.
I am not tying them to trustee securities. I am giving the Minister power to extend the list.
Until the necessary legislation is enacted, I do not think that would be possible.
The Minister can give a direction about it at once.
The securities in which the corporation may make investments are subject to approval by the Minister for Finance. If the corporation cannot get a reasonable return for the surplus money it has on hands, and wants to invest it, it will obviously prevent it from being in a position to give money to potential borrowers at as low a rate of interest as we all seem to desire. I do not think it is the intention of the House to restrict the corporation in that respect. We want, if possible, to facilitate it so that it in turn will be able to facilitate the farming community. We hope that it will be able to make money available at such an attractive price as to induce farmers to make greater use of the facilities provided by the corporation. For these reasons, I am afraid I cannot accept amendment No. 6.
With regard to amendment No. 7, which is also in Senator Sweetman's name, there is really no fundamental objection to it. The only point is that if the Minister were to proceed by statutory Order rather than by minute it would be more involved, expensive and cumbersome. What is proposed would not, I think, serve any useful purpose. The Orders would have to be printed and published, and that also would lead to expense.
I did not suggest that the corporation should be solely restricted to trustee securities because I accept the proposition that, at the present time, a modern definition of trustee securities is required. My intention was to give the corporation a safety valve, so that the Minister would be able to declare, at once by Order, a list of further securities, in addition to trustee securities, all of which would be proper securities for the corporation to invest in. The Parliamentary Secretary's argument that to give the corporation wider powers means that they are going to get a bigger rate of interest and will, therefore, be able to lend to farmers at a cheaper rate, might very easily produce a serious boomerang effect. It was because people were attracted by the rate of interest offered and the promises they received that so many became involved in the Hatry scandal to which Senator O'Dea referred. The same thing occurred in the case of a certain person to whom Senator Foran referred. He was so attracted by the rate of interest offered, apart from the security of the investment that he selected, that he got a particular institution into difficulty.
What this section does is, it gives a complete and unbridled limit to the corporation to invest in any stock or share quoted on the Dublin Stock Exchange. I do not know whether there is any point in the fact that the Cork Stock Exchange is not mentioned in the section. Presumably anything that is quoted on the Dublin Stock Exchange is also quoted on the Cork Exchange. One can say that there are plenty of shares and stocks quoted on the Dublin Stock Exchange in which it would be highly undesirable for this corporation to invest. They are of the speculative nature referred to by Senator O'Dea and Senator Foran. There is another point I would like to have some enlightenment on. One very often reads in the evening newspapers or hears over the wireless in the evening a list giving quotations of certain stocks on the Dublin Stock Exchange. Having heard the quotations with regard to Irish stocks and shares, a list is then given of English shares dealt with on the same exchange. Some of these are of a highly speculative character—oil and mining shares. I do not know how that arises here, since I am not a stockbroker, but surely if such shares are sold on the Dublin Stock Exchange it means that they are quoted in respect of this section. That means that the corporation may invest in them. Well, I do not think any of us would like to see the corporation investing in mining, gold, or rubber shares.
In view of all that, I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary should stand out for as wide a power as he is seeking here for the corporation. After all, this is State money the corporation is handling and there should be State restriction in regard to the use of it. Investments should be restricted to trustee securities. If that is thought too narrow and too rigid, then let the Minister, by Order, extend the list of securities in the manner I have mentioned. It could be said that certain debentures and certain preference stocks were suitable and proper to make investments in. I do not think there would be any difficulty in regard to doing what I suggest. The Order would be tabled and there would be all the safeguards to ensure that people would not be encouraged, as Senator Foran has said, to speculate with other people's money.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary give me a rough estimate of the amount of money which at any time this corporation would have available for investment?
According to its last balance sheet it had £328,412 13s. 9d. invested in Irish and British trustee securities. It is pointed out that they were at or under market value.
In reply to Senator Foran's question, the figure would be, approximately, £250,000.
At the present time there is plenty of money for investment. Any investments that can give reasonable security are very highly valued. That applies to all Government securities. The yield on them is comparatively small. That is so in the case of all well-established business undertakings. People who want high yields must go into the speculative side of this business. I do not think that the directors of this corporation should get power to do that. It may be that if they did so they would back a winner, but then if they backed a loser it is the people who would have to pay up. I think that, in this matter, Senator Sweetman has a real, genuine case. The Parliamentary Secretary has not convinced me by any of his arguments that there is any justification for this paragraph in the Bill.
I do not want—any more than Senator Foran does—this corporation to indulge in any class of speculative business. That being so, I propose to look into the points made by Senator Sweetman.
Were the powers of the corporation under the original Act confined to trustee investments?
I do not think that they were.
The balance sheet would suggest that they were.
Section 12 (7) of the original Act deals with this matter and states:—
"References in this section to the lending or advancing of money shall not be construed as including the investment of moneys in the purchase of stocks...quoted on the stock exchange in Dublin or the stock exchange in London or the subscription for stocks...intended to be so quoted."
That is merely a restrictive section. The Parliamentary Secretary has stated that he is prepared to look into the matter and I shall, therefore, withdraw my amendments and put them down again for Report Stage. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to have authoritative stock exchange information, not stock exchange tips, for us on Report Stage as to whether, since you can buy on the Dublin Stock Exchange any security quoted in Australia or in London, Glasgow or anywhere else, that means that they are officially quoted within the meaning of this section. Regardless of the argument the Parliamentary Secretary might put up in respect of restricting investments to securities quoted primarily in Dublin, he will agree with me that there is no argument in support of the case for a security which is quoted also in London.
I shall look into that matter.
I should like to refer to paragraphs 4 and 5 of sub-section (1) of this section. There is there a reference to the power of the corporation to advance money for the purchasing of agricultural machinery or implements or for purchasing materials, manure, feeding stuffs, seeds and so forth. I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary should consider the introduction of some term which would cover production—the production of manures, for instance. The answer given to Senator Sweetman on sub-section (3) rather surprised me. The Parliamentary Secretary indicated that a group of farmers could form themselves into a limited liability company, go in for some form of agricultural effort and that that would be regarded within the definition of "agriculture". I should like to see the whole preference, so far as the lending of money by the corporation is concerned, go towards co-operative effort. If processing is to be done, I should rather see farmers form a co-operative association for the purpose than form a limited liability company. A limited liability company could go in for the processing of bacon rather than a co-operative concern, but I should prefer the co-operative concern.
If a limited liability company is to go into these things, it should make application to the Industrial Credit Company for accommodation. I should like to visualise conditions in which a co-operative society would not alone sell agricultural machinery but go into the manufacture of it. One of the great faults of our manufacturers of agricultural machinery is that they have no real contact with the farmers who use their machines. There is no proper plan and we get implements which are not suited to our conditions. The manufacturers do not bother whether they are suitable or not. They have advantages and, behind those advantages, they are giving us implements which are not as suitable as those which could be procured outside. The only way farmers can be properly equipped for their work is by a co-operative association, in close contact with the people who will be working on the land, producing the implements required. I should like to see power given to the Agricultural Credit Corporation to finance that sort of work. I wish they would come out with a definite plan and see if they could get a few of the bigger co-operative societies to do this job. It will never be done efficiently or effectively until approached in this way. If one of the bigger co-operative societies wants to buy machinery, they can go to the corporation for an advance but, if they want to put up a plant to produce machines, they have, I take it, to go to the Industrial Credit Company.
Not necessarily. Paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) refers to "any person (being a farmer) for any purpose which, in the opinion of the directors, is related to agriculture". Would that not cover what the Senator has in mind?
I do not know. I think that it should be put more specifically. I have had conversations with people in the co-operative movement who are interested not alone in this matter but in the production of artificial manures —an even more pressing problem. Something should be done about it because it is part of the mechanism necessary for successful agriculture. So long as we have so many private interests concerned about their private profits in the production of the essentials for agriculture, farmers cannot make progress. This provision should be put in such a way as would make it possible to have something really effective done. The production of agricultural machines and artificial manures is more essential than power to advance money for the purchase or distribution of them.
I agree with the suggestion put forward by Senator Baxter. Everybody would be glad if a co-operative society would undertake the manufacture of farm machinery. But does not the Senator think that that is covered by paragraph (d):—
"to any person engaged in or proposing to engage in an enterprise primarily designed for the service of farmers, for the purpose of establishing, carrying on or extending such enterprise."
I have some experience of the way a cautious, well-informed board of directors of the Credit Corporation approaches these problems. I do not know what the present board would do. With all respect to Senator O'Dea, I should not like to ask some of them how I should invest money or their opinion of the relative values of various stocks in which I was proposing to invest. There is this about it, that no board is going to take any risk with regard to its powers. If it thinks that it has not got power, it is not going to embark on an enterprise about which it is in doubt. It does not want to go to the courts for a definition. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would look into the matter before the Report Stage, as I am anxious to know if the power was there beyond question.
As far as I am concerned the Senator is pushing an open door. I will have the matter cleared up.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 14 to 23, inclusive, put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 24 stand part of the Bill".
Under this section, is it only the county registrar can look at the certificate as a right?
If a recognised lender wants to find out whether a particular person owes money on a chattel mortgage, all he has to do is request the county registrar to certify that "Patrick Murphy" does or does not owe money. In the resulting search got from the county registrar there can be no reference to anybody else's private affairs.
Section put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 8:—
After sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(4) Prior to the advance of any loan on a specific chattel mortgage the corporation shall deliver to the mortgagor a copy of this section.
I do not know if it is the practice of the corporation at present, but it should be a statutory obligation. The framework of this section is that sub-section (1) sets out the things a borrower may not do in regard to the article in respect of which he is to the corporation in the position of a specific chattel mortgage. The effect of sub-section (3) is that if he does any of these things set out there "he is guilty of a misdemeanour and shall be liable on conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding £100 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years".
I want to have it made quite clear to the borrower what his liabilities are under the section; what he may not do, and what the penalty is going to be if he does it. It is probable that the corporation carry out this obligation at present, but it is essential that it should be a statutory one, so that before they advance any money on a specific chattel mortgage they would give the borrower a copy of the section. It would be desirable, as a matter of practice, though not necessarily under the Bill, that they would receive from the borrower an acknowledgment that he has read the section in question.
As the Parliamentary Secretary is aware, banks have a practice, arising out of various law cases, by virtue of which before persons sign a guarantee they require them to sign a note that they have read the guarantee. Something on the same lines would be desirable in the interests of borrowers. We must remember that a criminal offence is being committed if the sub-section is broken. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that people should have the opportunity of knowing the provisions of the section.
I agree with Senator Sweetman's suggestion that borrowers ought to get a copy of the section. There is another difficulty that I should like to have cleared up. A chattel mortgage prevents the sale of chattels unless seven days' notice is given. Supposing there is a sale without giving notice, what is the effect? The mortgagor is not guilty of an offence merely by selling only?
If he sells and gives notice within seven days, he is not liable to imprisonment?
If he sells, although prohibited from doing so, is there any danger that he would not give good title? I think the purchaser should be protected as he would not know anything about the mortgage. The intention in the Bill is that he would get title but that is not clearly stated.
If it were possible to have a section so formidable there would be difficulty in interpreting it. My experience is that it is very difficult to deal with title in the case of such mortgages. If you have a chattel mortgage in cattle and the amount is due to be paid, a man might find his way with them in the interval to a fair. It should be possible to paraphrase that section in some form that would make it more specific as far as the borrower is concerned.
With regard to the point raised by Senator Sweetman, that has actually been the practice of the corporation. They issue a large warning notice to the parties concerned. Ordinary prudence of necessity obliges them to take such steps, in addition, as it is intended to take here. It is the intention of the corporation to have Section 25 endorsed on the deed.
The corporation keeps the deed, not the mortgagor. I wanted something that the mortgagor would retain. A copy of the deed would meet the point.
The section appears on the back of the deed.
Could you not have warning given?
It should be in a form that would be easily understood.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into the matter?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In the case of a sale a mortgagor gives good title.
Section 25 agreed to.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.
On the section: this section provides that the corporation is given the power to deal with specific chattel mortgages analogous to the power that is already given to a Department of State, namely, the Land Commission, in respect of outstanding Land Commission annuities. The section might be operated—I have no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will say it will be operated—in a humane manner and I do not want in any way to suggest in objecting to the power given in the section that the people in the Agricultural Credit Corporation who will be operating this section are going to be actuated by anything except humane motives, but it is entirely wrong that there should be powers given to that corporation that are not normal nor reasonable.
The situation was stated here, and at some length in the other House. Any ordinary person who owes a debt gets a chance of going before the judge and saying, because of circumstances over which he had no control, he is not in a position immediately to pay that debt and that he will pay it by reasonable instalments and so forth. The purpose of having a judge to operate a provision like that is that there should be some independent person who would stand and hold the scales so that there could not be any harshness on the one hand and so that there could not be any evasion on the other hand. The effect of this section is to abolish that provision and to abolish that interpretation that we have seen always throughout the years, of the courts of justice being typified as a person holding weighing-scales evenly on both sides. Take, for example, the man in Kilkenny at present, the man who may have been swept away by floods. Is he not entitled to go into court and say that circumstances far beyond his control have meant that he is not able to meet his dues and that he requires time? Under this section the corporation is empowered and not only empowered but must take away from him that right to go to the court.
The Parliamentary Secretary will no doubt say that the corporation would look at the man in the same way as the judge would look at him and that there would be nothing unreasonable or harsh, but that is not the principle. The principle is that there must be some independent person to hold the scales between harshness on the one hand or laxity or evasion on the other hand. The courts are there for that principle and are established to carry out that principle and we should not here do anything no matter how humanely or softly it is going to be interpreted or worked to cut across it. We should not do anything to cut across that principle because if we start to cut across it in a small way it will be gradually encroached on and we will find we shall be faced with a situation in which the powers that are given will have gone further than we ever intended at the beginning.
It has been suggested that one of the reasons for this section is that it is going to save expense. Quite clearly it is not going to save any expense to the person who is genuinely anxious to carry out his obligations and who needs time for the performance of these obligations because of extraneous circumstances. Would it not be a most unreasonable thing to save the really bad case expense by putting more difficulties in the way of the man who has good intentions but is prevented by extraneous circumstances from doing what he wants to do? I suggest that is "putting the cart before the horse". If we are going to do anything we should ensure that the honest man who is making every endeavour to meet his obligations should be considered in relation to the principle of having some independent person between him on the one hand and the might of a State corporation on the other hand. The proper person to fulfil this role is a judge of the courts. In this case it would be the judge of the Circuit Court. That is what he is there for, and it would be a bad principle, in my mind, to undermine that by anything we propose to do in this section.
I do not want to repeat anything I said on the last occasion. I agree with what has been stated by Senator Sweetman. When the Parliamentary Secretary was replying, on the last occasion, to what I had stated he said he had satisfied the deputation which came from the Incorporated Law Society. I was to have been a member of that deputation but I was in the country and could not attend. About 15 minutes before I spoke, however, I was talking to the Secretary of the Incorporated Law Society and he told me he had no knowledge of the fact. He gave me to understand that unless I could succeed in doing something the cause was lost. That is the reason why I spoke as I did on that occasion. I tried to see him again next day and I could not but later I saw a letter written to him and he was perfectly entitled to take from that letter the view that he did, in fact, take. I then spoke to Deputy O'Connor. He and Senator Quirke were on the deputation and Deputy O'Connor did tell me that he was satisfied with the assurance. He told me that he was informed by the Parliamentary Secretary that the power would be used only in exceptional cases, that is, where the corporation would have information that the mortgagor intended to do away with the stock and that the only method of collecting the debt would be by the use of this power. They were perfectly well satisfied with this. I hope I am quoting correctly what the Parliamentary Secretary did say.
Personally, I am not satisfied with this undertaking unless it is expressly stated in the Bill. The power will have to be exercised by officials, and in years to come officials may forget that this was the intention of the Parliamentary Secretary when he introduced the section in the Bill giving those powers. Something would need to be put into the Bill to confine the power to such a case as that visualised. I do not think there would be great danger from doing this, because there is now power, after a decree is obtained and after there is a return of no goods from the sheriff, to bring a defendant before the District Court and have him examined as to his means. If the district justice, in the course of the case, discovers that the defendant has sold his cattle or the goods that were the subject of the chattel mortgage, he has power to order that the debt be paid by one instalment. If it is not paid by one instalment, the defendant can be brought up again and imprisoned. This gives a great deal of power to the mortgagee or the creditor. For this reason, I think the Parliamentary Secretary need not have taken this tremendous precaution. There is an inclination to play for very great safety in this case. I think a greater risk should be taken. The corporation should get no greater powers than an ordinary creditor would get. I would ask the Minister to consider this between now and the Report Stage. On account of what I heard from Deputy O'Connor, I did not put in an amendment.
I would like to support the last two speakers. The problem of defaulters is one that business people realise presents considerable difficulties. In many cases it becomes reasonably obvious that the person cannot pay, as it is beyond his control. He may have mismanaged his affairs and not be able to pay. A wise businessman deals with that sympathetically and tries to make a satisfactory arrangement. It is true that, from time to time, you think a person is a crook, but your information is based on hearsay from either honest or dishonest sources and you are not really in a position to judge. If Senator O'Dea's interpretation of the undertaking given is correct, it is an undertaking that could not be carried out, as the corporation could not know, though they might guess or think. In ordinary good-class business practice, you go to the court only when you have a suspicion that the man is being dishonest or could pay more than he is willing to pay. The Agricultural Credit Corporation should be in exactly the same position. I know it is not a Department, but the very fact that it has a connection with the State, even indirectly, is an additional reason why they should go to the court.
I do not want to appear to be raising a scare, but it seems to me that the fundamental difference between democracy and totalitarianism is that in one the individual is protected against the State in his legal rights and has the court to intervene while in the other he has not. We should be very scrupulous where the State is interested and see that we are not removing the power of the court to decide whether a person is likely to behave dishonestly or not. I know the answer may be that it is too late. The number of cases in which the corporation could act under the Parliamentary Secretary's undertaking would be comparatively small and the gain for that comparatively small number of cases is not worth the price you are paying in giving up the principle.
I am not quite so sure that this would be ordinary good business practice. If that were so, the various firms could themselves decide that so-and-so was a crook and they would seize this property. If a businessman is going to take drastic action, he has to go to court and satisfy the court. That is a certain amount of protection to the debtor. I know there are people who incur debts, to a body like this or elsewhere, without a thought, but I also know from my experience that perfectly honest people incur debts and through unforeseen circumstances they find themselves in difficulties. I do not believe in imprisonment for debt or in drastic action. I would rather see the Agricultural Credit Corporation lose its property in a dozen cases than act hastily and seize in some cases where it could have been otherwise.
If this power is given, it will be brought more and more into use in a gradual way. There may be very little use of it at first, but later, when there is a sufficient number of rumours that a man is about to sell, action will be taken and it will not always be just. Therefore, I suggest the power should not be put into the Bill, as I do not believe it is worth it.
Senator Sweetman, in introducing the amendment, drew the attention of the House to the fact that the Land Commission had the same powers. As one who was connected with the Land Commission in the collection branch, I must say that, if the Agricultural Credit Corporation carries out its duties in connection with this section as sympathetically and with the consideration that the Land Commission does, the borrowers need have nothing to fear from this power. I take it from the words "the corporation may serve on the county registrar" that there is nothing to prevent the ordinary channels of the court being availed of. It is in particular cases that this action may be necessary, and it would be essential for the power to remain. The corporation is set up to cater for a certain type of people. If some of them get loans from a State organisation and feel that, before any action can be taken to recover debts due, the cases will have to be taken to the District Court and the necessary expense involved by the corporation, many of those people might be inclined to defer their payments until compelled to do so in that way. The House need have no fear that there will be any hardship, particularly when they bear in mind how the similar section has been worked by the Land Commission.
With regard to this section, I would like to direct the attention of members of the House to sub-section (4):—
"The Minister for Justice may make regulations in relation to any matter referred to in this section as prescribed and the word ‘prescribed' in this section means prescribed by such regulations."
It would appear, from the remarks of some Senators, as if some subordinate official could take the drastic action outlined in the section. Every such Order to a sheriff will have to be issued under seal and it is only in extreme cases—as I assured a deputation from the Law Society, which waited upon me—that this power will be used. It is not intended to be widely operated. The best proof Senators can have is to ask themselves if they have heard of any cases of drastic action being taken by the corporation up to the present.
With regard to the parallel powers given under the 1938 Land Act for the collection of annuities, I and other Deputies with wide experience of the operation of the commission, before the Act was passed and since, can bear testimony to the fact that, since that power was given, there has been far less trouble for Deputies. If that is so, the people have no grievance or cause to complain. We should also realise that, if this power is not given to the corporation, we put an end to the provision regarding chattel mortgages, as no credit corporation would advance money on chattel mortgages when there is the danger of their being deprived overnight of the chattel concerned. For instance, all that could be done without actually spiriting away the chattels. Let us suppose that £400 has been advanced to purchase a Fordson tractor, the present price of which is £395.
That is a rather modest price. I think that is the controlled price.
Suppose you have a borrower who buys one of these tractors, and that later the Credit Corporation cannot obtain payment of the instalments due on the £400 advanced to him to buy it. If they wish to seize the tractor, and if they have to go into court before they can do so and put up with all the law's delays, the tractor could, during all that period, be so abused or ill-used that is would be absolutely worthless before the corporation could recover it by the ordinary process of law. With all respect to the opinions held by the deputation that waited on me in connection with this matter, I think I can say that the members of it accepted the assurance that I gave them: that it is only in extreme cases that such a power as this would be used. On the other hand if these powers are not given to the Credit Corporation, then I think it would be far better that the powers in the Act relating to chattel mortgages had never been introduced because they will be rendered inoperative forthwith.
It is only a few months since the House was discussing a Hire Purchase Bill on which the Minister in charge advanced arguments diametrically opposite to the arguments which we have just heard from the Parliamentary Secretary. One can say that in 12 months we have had legislation passed here which prevents private enterprise from doing what the Parliamentary Secretary considers perfectly reasonable. In the case of a private firm, the position is that, after a certain number of instalments have been paid, it cannot seize the goods; it must go to court. I cannot see why the Agricultural Credit Corporation should be put in a different position in the case taken by the Parliamentary Secretary—that of a tractor—from that of the hire purchase company in relation to a motor car, or in relation to anything else on which it may advance money under a hire purchase agreement. I suggest that both cases are virtually the same. Here you have the Government adopting the principle that they want to check abuses. The way they set about doing it is to seize the article on which a fair sum has been repaid. They are taking power in this section to seize the article without going to court, and without having to satisfy the court on the merits of their claim. The Parliamentary Secretary has made a case the exact opposite of which was made on the Hire Purchase Bill. I cannot see that there is any fundamental difference between the two cases taken, so that in my opinion the law as it applies under the Hire Purchase Act should also apply in the case of the tractor and the Credit Corporation.
There is this difference, that when the Hire Purchase Bill was under discussion it was obvious to everybody—I do not think this was denied—that there were flagrant abuses, and that there was a necessity to take steps to check them. You had, for example, cases where people bought furniture under a hire-purchase agreement. They had, perhaps, paid 29 out of the 30 instalments due, but because the last instalment was not paid the furniture was seized and taken back by the firm that had supplied it. I wonder if any member of the House, or anybody else, can supply us with a specific instance in which the Agricultural Credit Corporation has acted harshly towards any of its borrowers. If evidence can be produced to support anything of that sort, then I imagine there would be many in favour of supporting Senator Douglas's view. So far as I am concerned, I am not aware that there is any such evidence in existence.
After all, the Agricultural Credit Corporation is controlled by a reasonable body of men. If they want to operate successfully they must, first of all, cultivate public opinion. They are not likely to win the goodwill of the people if they go out seizing the goods of people to whom they have made advances of money, and in that way impose hardships on their borrowers. In such a situation they are not going to retain public opinion and, therefore, are going to be a failure. On the other hand, if you do not give the Credit Corporation the powers they are asking in the section you are going to leave them in this position that there will be perhaps 1 per cent. of dishonest persons who may succeed in deceiving them. It is to deal with that 1 per cent. that we are seeking these powers. This power, as I have already said, will not be operated on a widespread scale.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary give the number of cases in which the Agricultural Corporation has had to make seizures on foot of a specific chattel mortgage?
I think I can recall a speech that was made by Senator Baxter—a colleague of yours—in which he dealt with that point. The Senator knows that Senator Baxter was a director of the Credit Corporation. His statement, as well as I recollect it, was that on one occasion the corporation was unable to recover either the principal or the interest.
That does not answer my question.
I would imagine, from my experience of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, that it need not act harshly, because in most cases its loans are advanced to men of substance. Senator Douglas referred to the Hire Purchase Act. We all know that there is the greatest difference in the world between that Act and the Bill we are discussing. I agree that this section is a rather sweeping one. It does not speak of a debt, but it says that where any moneys are due a seizure can be made. I am sure that that very wide power will not be exercised to any great extent. At the same time, there is a danger in putting such a sweeping section in any Bill, because while we know that those who are to administer it now will not be likely to act harshly, we have no guarantee that people who might come along later would act in the same way.
There is one point which I think the Parliamentary Secretary missed, and that is the difference between the payment of a Land Commission annuity and the repayment of an advance to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. In the case of the former, a person who is working on an overdraft may be inclined to put back the payment of the annuity as far as possible, one reason for that being that there is no interest penalty involved. That, however, does not apply in the case of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. If a Land Commission instalment is due on the 1st November, and is not paid until the 1st January, there is, as I have said, no interest penalty. The annuitant has only to pay the exact amount of the instalment that was due on the previous 1st November. In the case of an instalment due to the Agricultural Credit Corporation the borrower has to pay not only the amount that was due on the 1st November, but an additional sum by way of interest from the 1st November to the 1st January.
There is, therefore, a greater inducement in the case of the Agricultural Credit Corporation to pay the instalments promptly than there is in the case of a Land Commission annuity. That would partly account, perhaps, for what the Parliamentary Secretary stated in respect of the practice that was embodied in the 1933 Land Act or in some later Land Act. I do seriously suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that in respect of this provision the element of danger in undermining the principle that is involved—in the courts holding the scales equally between the two parties —is so great as to make the game not worth the candle. What the Parliamentary Secretary will save to the Agricultural Credit Corporation will be so minute and the danger will be so substantial that I think it is not worth his while to take the step he proposes.
I am glad that Senator Sweetman mentioned that question about interest. I wonder if there is any legal justification for that charge of interest. It seems to be a charge of interest upon interest. An instalment representing portion of the sinking fund and interest is due. If it is not paid on the gale day, 5/- or 6/- is added to the next payment to make up for the interest on the money. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to investigate that and see if the corporation is not exceeding its powers in demanding such interest. In the old days, to charge interest upon interest was supposed to be immoral. I doubt that the corporation have any power to do so. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to put a stop to it, if he can.
I am afraid we are getting into very deep water now. As regards the question put by Senator Sweetman, I cannot give exact figures but I know that large sums have been written off as bad debts.
On specific chattel mortgages?
No. Large amounts due to the corporation have been written off as bad debts and there has been no seizure. I think that should allay any fear that the corporation is likely to be unduly harsh. I think that that position will hold, no matter what changes come about in the country. No body of responsible men, placed in a position such as that will, in the face of public opinion, impose grave hardships on any section of the community. If they did that, they would forfeit the goodwill of the people upon whom they are dependent for their existence. I think that it is wise to grant these powers if the section with regard to chattel mortgages is to have any value. If you did not give those powers, then you might as well wipe out the provision for chattel mortgages.
This affects only specific chattel mortgages.
If the Seanad does not give these powers, it can rid itself of any idea of specific chattel mortgages. No lending authority would make loans under such circumstances.
The Committee divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 11.
- Campbell, Seán P.
- Clarkin, Andrew S.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Corkery, Daniel.
- Crowley, Tadhg.
- Foran, Thomas.
- Hawkins, Frederick.
- Hearne, Michael.
- Hogan, Daniel.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Longford, Earl of.
- Lynch, Peter T.
- McEllin. John E.
- O Buachalla, Liam.
- Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
- Quirke, William.
- Ruane, Thomas.
- Stafford, Matthew.
- Baxter, Patrick F.
- Counihan, John J.
- Douglas, James G.
- Hayes, Michael.
- Kyle, Sam.
- Meighan, John J.
- O'Dea, Louis E.
- O Siochfhradha, Pádraig.
- Ruane, Seán T.
- Sweetman, Gerard.
- Tunney, James.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators Hawkins and Hearne; Níl: Senators Douglas and Sweetman.
Question declared carried.
Section 27 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 28 stand part of the Bill."
Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that the words "in the ordinary course of business" are sufficiently wide to cover what is desired?
The intention clearly is that there will be ample scope to change in and out of stock, as long as it is a proper change. Supposing a farmer got an opportunity of getting some cattle, and instead of making it a farming transaction made it a dealing transaction, would the words "in the ordinary course of business" cover him sufficiently well? I take it that the words are sufficiently wide to cover any normal operation, farming or dealing.
I think they are sufficiently wide. If a man sells his cattle in the ordinary way nobody wants to prevent him or to create hardship.
Question put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 9:—
In sub-section (1) to insert a new paragraph as follows:—
(e) such notice shall include a copy of Section 25 of this Act.
This amendment is on the same lines as the amendment to Section 25. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would consider it at the same time.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 29 and 30 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 31 stand part of the Bill."
Does not the first clause make it look as if it was in the 1933 Act power was given?
Question put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 10:
In sub-section (2), in lines 61-62, to delete the words "made before the passing of the Principal Act".
This amendment is consequential on my suggestion to delete Section 35. I should like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary as to why it is desirable to prohibit any future bills of sale of stock.
Because a bill of sale is no longer regarded as a credit instrument. Even in business, bills of sale are of rare occurrence. Once a man agrees to a bill of sale it is an indication, practically, of bankruptcy.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 32, 33, 34 agreed to.
Amendment No. 11 not moved.
Sections 35, 36, 37, 38 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 12:—
To add a new sub-section as follows:—
(3) Notwithstanding anything in sub-section (1) of this section, unless the person makes a statutory declaration that there are to the best of his knowledge, information and belief no equitable claims affecting such land, the relative priorities of such charge and such equitable claim shall be determined as if the said sub-section (1) had not been enacted.
The point of this section is that in certain circumstances the charges in favour of the corporation should have priority over the equities that may exist in respect of registered holdings. Later in Section 42 there is a similar provision in respect of unregistered land. I only put down the amendment to one section, of course, although a similar provision could very properly be made in respect of the two.
Quite frankly I do not like this power but I was accepting it as inevitable that the Parliamentary Secretary would insist on its being retained, and I do suggest it is desirable that there should be a specific obligation put on the mortgagor that he would have to declare an oath that he knew of no such claim. I do not know whether the Agricultural Credit Corporation has made a practice already of getting something like this but I think there should be an obligation on them to make the party concerned declare on oath that he knows of no claim of anybody else which would lose its priority and which would be beaten so to speak by an execution in favour of the corporation.
As the Senator is aware there are lots of cases up and down the country where the ordinary farmer is in law only the occupier and, if asked to prove his title, might not be prepared to do it. There might be perhaps the case of a farm in which there would be three or four members in the family all of whom with one exception had emigrated, but the one who had stayed at home would have become the owner of the farm in the eyes of everybody around but he could not make an affidavit if asked to do so because there might be an uncle or an aunt in America who might be entitled to the land. That I am afraid would be putting a barrier in the way of really conscientious persons who would not want to make a declaration on oath and would be putting them in an awkward position and perhaps depriving them of the benefits of the corporation in consequence. You would really be injuring honest, potential borrowers if you were to include a clause of that kind.
I am not very happy about it.
After all we do not want to be as harsh as the Senator.
But surely the Parliamentary Secretary agrees that if there is in existence a priority claim of which the borrower has notice he should not be enabled to beat that priority claim? I am accepting the Parliamentary Secretary's view that he should not be put in the position of having to prove his title. If my amendment was to that extent, then I would be inclined to agree with the case he has made but I do not want to go as far as that. I do think that there should be some obligation on the borrower to showbona fides. Whether it is in the exact wording I have suggested or in some other wording I am not going to quibble but I do think, for the bona fide case, I am quite satisfied to accept the position though I do not like it. There should be some method of ensuring that it is a bona fide case. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary could find some other wording of the declaration that would get over the difficulty between now and the Report.
I doubt very much if that is the position, because we want to facilitate borrowers and not hamper them, and I am afraid the introducing of such an amendment would hamper them.
But we do not want to enable borrowers to do injury either.
I will try and see if I can arrange something to meet the Parliamentary Secretary more easily for Report.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 13:—
In sub-section (4), line 30, page 33, to delete the word "may" and substitute the word "shall".
The purpose of this amendment is quite obvious. I want to put it in such a way that it is the duty of the court to fix the reserve price and therefore to protect the borrower.
On the other hand, I am advised that it is more advisable to leave "may" there and not to attempt to interfere with the jurisdiction of the court, but rather that the phrasing of this section should be left as it is— that the court "may" rather than "shall". "Shall" is a very definite instruction, as it were, and if we are to attempt to include an instruction of that kind to the court the court may resent it. I think it would be advisable to leave the matter as it is.
It depends entirely on the attitude that will be taken by individual judges and there may be different practices in different circuits, which is undesirable. It would be much better to have the flat practice everywhere.
It would be better, in the interests of the borrower, to leave it flexible.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 49, 50, 51 and 52 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 14:—
To insert in line 22 after the word "be" and before the word "evidence" the words "prima facie”, and to delete the words “until the contrary is proved” in lines 22-23.
This is a new form of drafting. I really only put down the amendment to see whether there was something further behind the words "until the contrary is proved" than I thought there was, because in the Acts I have seen it is alwaysprima facie.
There is really no legal difference and consequently I am accepting the amendment.
Amendment No. 14 agreed to.
Section 53, as amended, agreed to.
Section 54 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 15:—
To delete Section 55 and substitute instead the following section:—
No person shall be appointed to any situation in the service of the corporation save in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Service Regulation Acts, 1924 and 1926.
Section 55 is an after-thought. It was not in the Bill when the Bill came to the Dáil but it was inserted in the Bill by the Government during the Bill's passage through the other House. I do not quite understand what the purpose of it is because it seems to me that the directors of the Agricultural Credit Corporation already have the power to determine the conditions under which they will employ their staff without this section.
If they have power to employ a staff they have power to determine whether the staff should have a knowledge of the Irish language. Apparently the Parliamentary Secretary thinks there is some particular advantage in having Section 55 there. I do not see that there is. It appears to me there should be a uniform system of recruitment. I know that the number involved here is small, but as far as I can see the directors of the Agricultural Credit Corporation themselves need not know any Irish nor need any single person amongst them know any Irish or be even remotely connected with the Irish language. That being so, they are being left as an island of patronage. They should be normally compelled to get their personnel from the Appointments Commission who normally conduct examinations for the Civil Service, and they should be compelled to accept the standards which obtain for similar posts in the Civil Service, standards which are laid down between the Minister for Finance, the Civil Service Commissioners and, indeed, the Department of Education for examinations of a general routine character. It seems to me it would be much more reasonable, much better from the point of view of the candidates and from the point of view of fair play generally that this should be done. The Civil Service Commissioners conduct examinations of various kinds, examinations for boy messengers in the Post Office, for writing assistants, for clerical officers up to administrative grades from which the highest class of civil servants are selected including heads of Departments. So that the machinery of the Civil Service Commission is certainly wide enough and elastic enough to provide candidates with the qualifications necessary for the Agricultural Credit Corporation, in fact any kind of staff, but more particularly clerical staffs. The Civil Service Acts are so framed as to allow the Civil Service Commissioners to conduct these particular types of examinations. As a matter of fact, this is a State corporation.
This Bill is really to give all the power to the State. The corporation becomes more than ever a State corporation. For that reason alone it is desirable that the methods by which State employees are recruited should be applied here and that the staff of the corporation should be recruited in the same manner as other State employees and get the same conditions. That, however, does not arise here now. There is every reason for recruitment by this method, which is agreed to be a very fair method and which imposes the same obligations on everybody. I quoted an example on the Second Reading and I would like to repeat it. The Civil Service Commission get extremely good material for the routine clerical posts. I mean those words precisely as I use them. And the people who are not successful are also very good. I suppose Senators know that it is the practice to offer, say, 30 vacancies and then call 40 or 50 or even 60. The candidates between 60 and 100 would be very good indeed and there is no reason why the Agricultural Credit Corporation, also a State body, should not take their staffs from those lists of people who have been tested by this method which has been so well tried. It may conceivably happen that one standard is imposed for the Civil Service and a different standard, higher or lower, for these posts. It may well be that a person who gets a low place in the Civil Service clerical examination will get a post in the Agricultural Credit Corporation because he knows one of the directors, while a person who got a higher place in the same examination does not get a post at all. All the arguments are in favour of having a general recruitment basis. I will probably be told by the Parliamentary Secretary that this is not the place or the time to insert this principle, but my answer is: why was this section put into this Bill? I do not want to be sarcastic about it but I do not know why it has been put into the Bill. No one has told us why. It prescribes that in making appointments of staffs to the corporation regard should be had for a knowledge of Irish.
This is often a humbug if it means that in the filling of technical posts preferences will be given for a knowledge of Irish. Appointments should be through the machinery of the Civil Service Commission where known rules operate rather than by rules which the directors of the corporation will make for themselves. Personally, I think there should be no such thing as preference for Irish for technical posts unless it is a real knowledge of Irish. No one should be able to get himself into a technical post by some halfhearted knowledge of Irish. This system means that the directors of the Agricultural Credit Corporation have powers not possessed by An tUachtaran, who does not appoint his clerical staff, not possessed by the Taoiseach or any Minister and not possessed by the judges any longer. There was a time when judges had great patronage in the courts but that is gone. There is no reason why this board should remain an island of patronage. We should ensure that people will get posts on their merits on the grounds of general efficiency and from the point of view of satisfying the public. All the arguments are in favour of having these positions filled by the Civil Service Commission machinery and I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary there is no difficulty in having this done, no single difficulty, whatsoever.
May I say that to me it is a matter for great regret that there is any necessity for introducing Section 55? It follows from this that I also regret that there has been a necessity to introduce an amendment on the lines of the one introduced by Senator Hayes. We have to face the circumstances and realise what these circumstances are. In the first place, I would like to say that I approve of the introduction of the section and I approve of its wording, principally because similar provisions have been made in legislation with which we have dealt already. I think we agreed to insert a similar provision in the case of Córas Iompair Eireann and in the Central Bank Act, providing for examinations and the necessity for entrants having a competent knowledge of Irish
One has to realise that there are a great many people in the country who are very anxious to use the Irish language on every possible occasion. It would be very unfair, for instance, if when I ring up the Agricultural Credit Corporation or any other public institution, I must use the English language. I think whatever we can do to ensure that officials in these institutions shall have Irish should be done. I see no other way of doing it in the present circumstances except by insisting in whatever legislation comes before us that candidates for posts must have Irish. I would agree largely with Senator Hayes as to the desirability of some central body holding examinations. I would agree with him, largely, that there should be some kind of standardisation. It can be said that we are pleading for more centralisation. That is true, but I hope that not only in examinations for public bodies but that in the case of matriculation there should be standardisation and that there should be a national matriculation instead of the system we have at present. I am in agreement with Senator Hayes that there is need for some routine machinery but at the same time it is well worth while remembering that we will need to have a different examination for different organisations. The examination for clerical officers in the Civil Service might not provide suitable staffs for an institution like a banking institution. Mere proficiency in examination might not be the ideal thing; other matters may have to be taken into consideration. In a bank or industrial credit corporation such as this a great volume of money would be handled in the form of cheques, orders, and so on. In regard to sub-section (2) about which, I think, Senator Hayes feels most strongly I can only say that it may be necessary to send out engineers, valuers or investigators of one kind or another to make inquiries on behalf of the corporation. There again is it unreasonable to ask the corporation to see to it that they have competent people? They may have to go to the Gaeltacht or even to meet people who have a knowledge of the Irish language.
They ought to be competent to deal with their business through the medium of that language. I am in thorough agreement with Senator Hayes if he insists on the point that no man should get his position merely because of a knowledge of Irish.
Because of some knowledge.
Or even because of some knowledge. Unless the man is fully qualified, this question of language should be given no very great weight. With that we are in general agreement. But on the general principle, that the corporation should insist that officials of this kind in the categories I mention should have Irish, I think there should be no question whatever.
I did not raise that question. I did not pass any doubt on that.
I am glad if Senator Hayes is in agreement with me on that point. A great deal has been achieved.
The achievement would be mine.
The Senator is welcome to all the credit attaching to it. It seems, from the reading of the section, that it would be expected that the directors themselves would carry out this inquiry as to the knowledge of Irish possessed by candidates for the various positions. I agree that the directors ought to have a knowledge of Irish and I make no bones in making that assertion. I regret, however, that circumstances are as they are and it has not been found possible so far to get people to fill these directorates with a knowledge of Irish. It is a common thing in business and in the Civil Service that power to carry out investigations as to the qualifications of people is delegated.
I expect that the directors will realise their responsibility and will delegate their powers to competent people, to ensure that only those with the proper knowledge will get these appointments. There should be no difficulty in these days in finding people qualified in every way for these positions, whether clerical or technical, and who at the same time have a competent knowledge of Irish. I would appeal to Senator Hayes to leave the section as it is. If he avails of the section to make known his view as to the advisability of some kind of coordinating machine, for the purpose or holding examinations for public bodies as well as for the Civil Service, I am in full agreement with him on that and it is something to which we might devote our attention on some other occasion.
Tá suim faoi leith agam féin ins an alt seo den Bhille. Chuir sé beagáin beag áthais orm deimhniú a bheith ann go rabhthas ag cuimhneamh ar Ghaeilge a dhéanamh riachtanach do na daoine sa tseirbhís sin. Ach tá an-díomá orm ag léamh dom: "any situation in the clerical grades of the service". Nuair atá an teora beag caol seo ins an rud, baineann sé cuid den tairbhe as, mar ba mhaith an rud é dá mbaineadh an coinníoll seo le hoifigigh i bpostanna níos aoirde sa tseirbhís sin. Ní heol dom-sa aon chúis cóir ná beadh an rud céanna in éifeacht i gcóir oifigigh riaracháin, dá mbeadh a leithéidí san áit. Ní thuigim, agus is díomá liom é, cén fáth ná fuil an coinníoll céanna ann do oifigigh eile. Dar liom-sa, níl sé aon chuid níos deacra oifigeach riaracháin le Gaeilge d'fháil ná oifigeach cléireachais.
Is truagh liom-sa go bhfuil an teora ann agus sin é an locht amháin atá agam ar an scéal. Is maith an rud é seo agus is iomholta é go bhfuil an coinníoll sin sa Bhille. Molaim é agus deirim gur cóir é bheith ann. Is truagh gan é in a lán Billí eile i leith a lan seirbhísí eile laistigh de Sheirbhísí an Rialtais nó lasmuigh díobh.
I dtaobh an pointe a bhí ag an Seanadóir Ó hAodha, táim ar fad ar aon aigne leis gur cóir dream éigin a sholáthar, go mbeadh údarás éigin acu chun scrúdúcháin i gcóir seirbhísí an Stáit nó seirbhísí a bhíonn ag Corporáidí nó Institiúidí faoin Stáit a sholáthar. Mar adeir sé, níl aon deachracht anois ann i dtaobh oifigigh Stáit, mar tá an gléas ann chun scrudúcháin a dhéanamh agus oifigigh a sholáthar do na Boird agus na Corporáidí. Molann sé go láidir don Chorporáid seo go bhfaighdís seirbhísigh tríd an meaisín agus an chabhair sin. B'fhiú sin a dhéanamh agus bheadh sé áisiúil chuige sin agus ní bheadh amhras ná droch-thairbhe ag bhaint leis agus ní bheadh scéalta á gcur ar bun maidir le ceapadh fóirne agus lucht oibre sa tseirbhís sin.
Ba mhaith liom a mholadh go ndéanfaí an fhuireann a sholáthar sa tsli atá molta ag an Seanadóir Ó hAodha, ó thárla an gléas ann faoi láthair. Níl mé sásta im' aigne go mbeadh sé sásúil ar fad. Cuir i gcás, dá mbeadh scrúdú mór ann chun seirbhísigh cléireachais a thoghadh don Stát, béidir go dtógfaí, abair, an dá chéad tosaigh astu sin-agus gur as an tríú céad agus an ceathrú céad a bainfí na seirbhísígh do na Boird agus na FoInstitiúidí eile a bheadh ag lorg cléirigh. B'éidir gur ghá scrúdú faoi leith, nó scrúdú níos minicí a chur ar siúl, chun go mbeadh seans le fáil ag na daoine a ghnóthódh na príomháiteanna, dul i dtosach go dtí na Corporáidí. Is ceist bheag í sin, ach ba cheart machtnamh a dhéanamh uirthi agus í réiteach. Is trua liom ná fuil an coinníoll céanna ann d'oifigígh níos aoirde agus do lucht an Bhoird féin. Tá an cheist sin chomh coitianta anois againn go ngabhann sé de dánacht a shamhlú an Ghaeilge a bheith ag aon duine ach seirbhísígh bheaga, lucht dorais agus mar sin. Táim tuirseach den teora sin a bheith ann i gcúrsaí Gaeilge agus molaim go mbeadh sé níos leithne.
My view is—and I say this speaking from some experience— that the section as it stands is a piece of humbug. May I add that, in my view, the speech of Senator O Buachalla added to the humbug? I have listened to the Senator speak here on this question on a number of occasions. I am always puzzled to know why he adopts the role of champion of the language to the exclusion of everybody else in the House and in the country. I want to assure him that I believe he is one of the people who are interested in the progress of the language. Because of that attitude he appears to set himself up as a champion against people like Senator Hayes who was working in the language movement at an earlier date than he was.
Surely I am entitled to express my views?
Yes, but I am challenging the view that you have expressed. I differ with you, but I, too, have some interest in the language. Senator Ó Buachalla made a case apparently in reply to Senator Hayes—answering a case which Senator Hayes never made. The whole purpose of this Bill is to put the board of the corporation in a position in which it will be more efficient than it is, and so that money can be made available at a cheaper rate to the poor farmer. It is very important that the board should have an efficient staff, people able to do their work, so that the expenses of the board will be at the lowest possible figure. What ought the board look for when they want work done? Are they to look for somebody who will be waiting for, and able to answer, Senator Liam Ó Buachalla in Irish when he rings up on the telephone? How is that individual to spend the balance of the day? What the corporation should be really concerned about is to get people who will do a whole day's work in an efficient manner.
Let us look at the section for which Senator Ó Buachalla stands: "Unless in the opinion of the directors of the corporation he possesses a competent knowledge of Irish." That puts this board in a different position from that of any other board set up under legislation. There will have to be radical changes, even on the present board of the corporation, if the members of it are going to be competent to decide that question. I am sure that both the Parliamentary Secretary and Senator Ó Buachalla are well aware of that. I do not know whether Senator Ó Buachalla's main interest in the reconstitution of this board is to get a group of people together who will be competent to do the work in Irish. If that is his point of view, then, of course, he is aiming at making this corporation a closed borough altogether. A board recruited, under such a system, might be composed of members competent to talk Irish although some of it might be Irish that Irish scholars would not agree with. While that may be so, I wonder how efficient they will be when they come to discuss other and very much more important aspects of their affairs from the point of view of the success of the corporation? One of these would be the reinvestment of the funds provided by the State to enable the board to finance agriculture, that reinvestment to be either in the land of the country or in the stocks and shares quoted on the Dublin Stock Exchange. One of the factors militating against the language is that so many people insist, say, that the language must come first, even to the detriment of the particular activity which people have to enter in the life of the nation. If the staff is to be recruited in the way that the Parliamentary Secretary aims at, the only way to do that is in accordance with the method suggested by Senator Hayes.
I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that it is not going to be any consolation to him, or to his successor, if the work of the corporation is not done efficiently, especially if he has to come to this House later and, in answering for his work, has to say that the reason for that is that certain people were put there because of their competency to select people to do the work through Irish. If they were not competent otherwise that excuse is not going to afford much consolation to borrowers or to the people who had to make decisions without having a full and complete knowledge of the practical affairs necessary to enable them to do so.
Senator Ó Buachalla must know quite well that we have very good students of the Irish language in the country. Yet, if they were set a problem relating to farming and had to do a practical piece of work—say, to put a value on the assets of a farm, on the cows, pigs and poultry and on the land—I wonder how they would do it. Would it be tackled in a businesslike way, and would their valuation be in accordance with the valuation that the corporation, in its ordinary business transactions, puts on these things?
The Parliamentary Secretary, I think, should give the House more information as to the policy of the Government with regard to the appointment of directors before he can expect the House to accept this proposition. How many of the directors are going to have a competent knowledge of Irish? A man would need to have a more competent knowledge than I have to be able to assess my knowledge of it. How many of them are going to have this very competent knowledge of Irish? If only one has it, how is he going to evaluate the respective merits of particular candidates? That man might have the appointment of every officer that comes up for examination in his hands. I am convinced that this particular section is not workable as it is. When this board was set up originally the staff was appointed in this way—that applicants who had the honours leaving certificate applied for vacancies. A selection was made from those who made application. I do not know what method is adopted now.
Were you satisfied with that system?
That system worked. I suggest that, if this section is to be operated as it stands, the present board is not competent to do what is set out in it.
I want to know from the Parliamentary Secretary what sort of board he will get together which will be competent, because I object to any one director being in a position to determine for all of them whether or not a particular candidate has the required qualifications. Suppose I am a director supposed to be able to judge the efficiency of a group of candidates and that the son of Senator Hayes and the son of Senator Hawkins are amongst the candidates. None of my colleagues has any knowledge of Irish. Senator Hawkins's boy may be twice as proficient in the use of Irish as Senator Hayes's boy. I know Irish and none of my colleagues do. I present Senator Hayes's boy as being more efficient than the other boy. What do the other directors know about it? I want to know how this provision is going to work, because I speak with some experience. My experience is that it cannot work unless you have all your directors competent. If they are competent, according to your standard of competence, will they be competent all round or will they be competent in one respect and incompetent in another? Senator Ó Buachalla suggested that they could delegate their authority. That is, to a certain extent, what Senator Hayes wants done. But the delegation ought to be done by law and not by way of choice by the board.
I urge the Parliamentary Secretary not to make the Bill ridiculous. If it goes through in this form, what excitement there will be to learn who the great Gaels will be who will man this new corporation! The Gaelic scholars will look in the first place at their language qualifications and the business community and farmers will look at their qualifications in other respects. All that has to be taken into account. If the Parliamentary Secretary desires to obtain a group which will understand the problems to be solved by the machinery of agricultural credit, he should get men who will know agriculture from A to Z. If they know that, they will know their Ireland. That was not always the test when people were wanted for that board in the past. If their sympathies are right, they will only be delighted to call upon the Civil Service Commission to provide them with the necessary material. If the Civil Service Commission require people for banks or any particular branch of industry or commerce, they put on their boards people with a technical knowledge of that type of work.
They would therefore give the Credit Corporation the right type of people for the work and at the same time their competence in Irish would be fully and accurately provided for. I do not know how many loans were made in the Gaeltacht but, during my six or seven years, very few were made. In engineers or valuers, the knowledge required is a knowledge of their job. If you load the dice in favour of the man who claims he has a competent knowledge of Irish —a scholar might easily discover that his knowledge was not by any means competent—and make a closed borough in regard to these positions, we may as well throw our hats at agricultural progress.
What the Parliamentary Secretary requires and what the country requires is a competent and contented staff—a staff that will not regard itself as the victim of injustice and that will be prepared to do its work. To ensure that, the Parliamentary Secretary should give an assurance that he will put up to the Minister for Finance the desirability of having a superannuation scheme for those members of the staff——
That is a different question, Senator.
It is. But what I suggest would make for a contented staff. I appreciate the desirability of having Irish but I cannot see that this clause should have any place in the Bill. I should much rather support Senator Hayes's amendment and have the appointments made by a competent body than allow the service to be dominated by what might be the friends of friends of people who, quite apart from their capacity to do the particular work, would be appointed to these jobs because they had a knowledge of Gaelic. The Parliamentary Secretary should pay more attention to the desirability of having an efficient and contented staff, and I am quite certain that efficiency does not naturally follow, though it may follow, as a consequence of a knowledge of Irish, as distinguished from a knowledge of agriculture.
I agree with Senator Hayes that the wording should be amended. It does not satisfy me at all. I think that it is illogical. The only qualification required by the Bill for a director is that he be the holder of one share. To ask, therefore, the directors to be judges of the competence of candidates for the clerical staff seems to me to be illogical, since they are not themselves required to know Irish.
Therefore I think that some change should be effected and I believe that Senator Hayes has the interest of the Irish language in mind when he asks that the machinery of the Civil Service Commission be invoked to ensure that the candidates have a proper knowledge of Irish. I regret that some of the speakers seemed to suggest that a competent knowledge of Irish rules out a competent knowledge of everything else. That is not so. The candidates for these positions will be young people and, if they have availed themselves of their opportunities at school, they ought to have acquired a competent knowledge of Irish, though the definition of "competent" has still to be formulated. It should not be left to the directors, whose only qualification, so far as the Bill is concerned, is that they hold one share, to decide this question. We should have some assurance that those appointed will have a competent knowledge of Irish as well as being competent in other respects. Senator Hayes's proposal seems to me to be a very good one.
Having heard the previous speakers, I must say that I am not convinced that Senator Hayes has made a case for his amendment. In this Bill, we propose to set up a board and we must give the board authority to act. One of the principal functions affecting the success of the board is that it should be responsible for the management of the corporation. To do that, it must take the responsibility of recruiting the staff.
A question arises about having a competent knowledge of Irish. Senator Ó Buachalla pointed out that there is nothing in the section to suggest that the directors must carry out the examinations. They must be satisfied that the people appointed have a competent knowledge of Irish. There is nothing in the section to prevent the corporation asking the Appointments Commissioners to make recommendations for appointments. But there may arise occasions when it will be essential for a board of this kind to get persons with particular knowledge. If you confine them in that respect by making it obligatory on the board to request the Civil Service Commissioners to recommend employees, you will be doing the board a disservice. Another question arises: that is, one of promotion within the staff when it is established for a certain time. If the amendment was incorporated in the Bill, I fear that it would cut out promotions that would be legitimately justified.
It would not affect promotion at all. Promotion is a matter of form. Recruitment is the only matter mentioned.
The amendment states that no person shall be appointed to any situation, save in accordance with Civil Service Regulation Acts. If you take a man from one position he is being appointed to another one.
I think, legally, that is not so. We can argue that.
Several Senators referred to members of the board, assuming that they would not be competent. If the board proposes to appoint an engineer, a surveyor or a land valuer, could Senators who have spoken hold that every member of the board should have a competent knowledge of engineering or land surveying when such appointments have to be made? If that were the case, you would have to appoint a new board whenever a new appointment had to be made. When this board is appointed and organises its staff, it is natural to expect that they will decide the form in which it will be recruited. That will be done on the recommendation of those appointed to carry out whatever examinations are held. It will be on their recommendation the board will come to a decision. All the section does is ensure that people appointed will have a competent knowledge of Irish. The only people who can do that are the directors of the board. I do not think the amendment would work successfully and therefore I could not support it.
May I say that when Senator Baxter is going to speak on a matter like this, if only to relieve the tiredness we feel when he speaks, he might change the wording of his remarks somewhat. He seems to forget that there are thousands of young people in this country, year in year out, who get their education in the Irish language, people who are proving their competence in every subject in examinations, public and private, on every occasion that such examinations are held. It is futile for Senator Baxter to suggest that because a person has a good knowledge of Irish, he needs nothing else.
It is futile for the Senator to stand up here, as he does on occasions, and suggest that I am in favour of appointing people to responsible positions, simply because they know Irish and Irish only. I took pains to express the view very definitely, that I would not stand for the appointment of anybody to any position of responsibility, merely because he had a knowledge of Irish.
Let me put this question to him once and for all: If two engineers come before the Agricultural Credit Corporation for an appointment, two honours graduates, equal in every respect as far as their academic qualifications are concerned, one having a competent knowledge of Irish while the other has not—remembering that this board must cater, not for English speakers only, but for the whole country—as between these two candidates, which is the more efficient from the point of view of the board?
Senator Baxter asks how does the board know. All I can say is that the Senator seems to have no idea whatever of the duties and responsibilities of directors of corporations or of companies. If he did, he would not make such a silly, foolish interjection.
This is not the first time that a section on these lines has been introduced into legislation passed through the Oireachtas. A similar section was introduced into the Central Bank Act, into the Transport Act and into the Industrial Research and Standards Act. It is introduced to implement the general policy with regard to Irish in State-sponsored institutions of this kind. I should like to make it perfectly clear that the board of directors is not a board of examiners, as some Senators seem to think. The object of this section is to make it obligatory that all entrants to the clerical grades of the board shall have a competent knowledge of Irish. For technical appointments, a preference is to be given to those having a competent knowledge of Irish.
It is not suggested by anybody that appointments should be given to anybody merely because of a knowledge of Irish, but other things being equal regarding qualifications, is it not only fair and right that those possessing a competent knowledge of Irish should be given a preference?
Senator Hayes suggests that appointments should be made through the medium of the Civil Service Commissioners. One of the criticisms I might make of that suggestion is that, as everybody knows, when examinations are held by the Civil Service Commissioners, a list of candidates who are passed is published and, as required, these candidates are called on by the various Departments of State in which they propose to serve. It is obvious from that system that the Agricultural Credit Corporation would—it would appear at all events—be left with those who had failed to get through the examination for Civil Service appointments because the candidates who would get early positions, say, if there were 50 vacancies, the first 50 candidates, would be called, and it is only after that that the Agricultural Credit Corporation would get the culls of these examinations. At least that interpretation could be placed upon it.
But what is the system obtaining at the present time? Perhaps if we were to inquire into that, it might give us an idea of the various arguments that have been put forward in connection with this section. At the present time the system of recruitment of staff is as follows: advertisements are issued in the daily papers inviting applications from persons who have attained the leaving certificate standard.
Applications received from these are examined and those possessing the highest number of honours—or at least a limited number of them, sufficient to more than fill the requisite number of vacancies, as it is obvious that everybody called would not be successful, I think— are then called, and if there were, say, 200 responses, there might be only 30 or 40 vacancies. Then the corporation would call for interview a number in excess of that—say 50. These would be interviewed and as a result the number of vacancies would be filled. That, I take it, is somewhat similar to the system to which Senator Baxter referred in the course of his speech.
The question of making appointments through the medium of the Civil Service Commissioners opens up a wider field because we cannot apply it in the case of the Credit Corporation without having a similar scheme in operation in all the other State-sponsored bodies. I do not know now, that there is any other question that has been raised to which it is necessary to reply.
We are dealing here with public money. The people who are going to be paid by the Agricultural Credit Corporation will be paid with public money and they will do a public job. That is the first thing to remember. I am afraid that very little knowledge of the Civil Service Commission and its operation appears to have percolated to some of the people who spoke here this evening against this amendment.
I was reared in this city and I belong to a family with neither money nor influence. My father belonged to a political minority which was not even a Party and only a very insignificant minority. I am whole-heartedly in favour of giving people jobs by competition because I got something in my own life in that way. I had the good fortune to be in a place where people did not regard your politics. I got my first appointment from people who had not a suspicion of the same political views as I had.
The present board is appointed by the Government. I have not made any inquiries about its members, but they are appointed by the Government and it is true to say that, in the main, they will be supporters of the Government. They may be as pure as the driven snow but they are never going to be exculpated from the charge that when they interview applicants they appoint friends of Fianna Fáil. That may not be so; it may not be true, but that feeling will exist. I am suggesting that there should be uniformity. I think the Parliamentary Secretary is quite uninformed, quite misdirected in regard to what happens in a Civil Service Commission examination. The candidates who are unsuccessful—those who are not called, say, in the clerical officers or the junior executives—are all of a very high standard indeed. Of that there can be no doubt whatever. If the Parliamentary Secretary had any experience of these examinations as I know them, and as I have known them while acting as chairman of the Civil Service Commissioners and in other capacities, if he knew what it was to recruit people with honours leaving certificates, he would know they could not do better than take the people off the Civil Service list.
I do not know by what capacity any board can summon 20 people, for example, who have got honours leaving certificates and select ten of them successfully and properly. I do not think it can be done. I very much doubt it. Either Senator Ó Buachalla or the Parliamentary Secretary said that the board was a board of directors and not a board of examiners, and, of course, as Senator Ó Buachalla said, they must have machinery to conduct examinations. My suggestion is that they should adopt the State machinery for what is in effect State employment. That is the machinery of the Civil Service Commissioners. The Civil Service people if they were making appointments for the Board of Works, would consult the Board of Works and hear what the board wanted. They would hear the Department of Finance and would get conditions of service and the type of examination fixed in consultation with the particular people who were going to employ the successful candidates. There was no difficulty about that. Therefore, the Civil Service Commissioners would be an admirable body to do this, too, and they would do it on a fair basis.
I agree with Senator O Siochfhradha in that there should be a central body to do this because in fact the Parliamentary Secretary is leaving to the directors of the Agricultural Credit Corporation a power which he himself has not got.
I think it was Senator Hawkins who talked about this board being responsible. The most important board in the country is the Government. They do not recruit their own staff and they have to answer not only here and in the Dáil but before the country for them. There is nothing at all either impractical or difficult in this.
The Central Bank has been quoted. We want it left to the Central Bank to make appointments that the Minister for Finance cannot make, whatever his name be. With regard to Córas Iompair Éireann the position is rather different. These people were taken over and for a great many years they have been recruiting their staffs on a competitive basis, well-known and well-worked. The Dublin Corporation, a very important body, spending a very large amount of public money, has recruited its staff for a great many years by competitive examination. Why should not these boards who are spending public money do the same thing? There is no reason in the world why they should not do it. It would be fairer for everyone, fairer for the people who are paying the taxes and the parents of the boys and girls concerned. The experience of the Dublin Corporation is that they get the very best people and the Civil Service have recruited the very best. The directors of a board are in quite a different position. They have subscribed their own money and are handling the shareholders' money. This corporation is holding public money. It there any reason then why it should be left this power of patronage? The Parliamentary Secretary took the line, as I anticipated, that this is a special case and that if you do it here you should do it everywhere. Let us begin here. I think it certainly should be done everywhere. I think there is no argument in the world that can be made against it either on the question of principle or expediency. It is the best for the ordinary type of boy or girl who wants a job and who knows nobody. I am very keen on this because it was my own experience.
I did not know anybody with any power whatsoever and I would like to see the rule applied generally. If, as Senator Ó Buachalla said, the board would have to delegate their powers, is there any other body to whom they should delegate them except the Civil Service Commissioners who are appointed by the Government and for whom a Vote comes before the Dáil every year? I am not discussing at all the question of a preference for Irish. Naturally, I agree with people who say you can get people with a knowledge of Irish for routine work who will be very competent. There is no hardship in imposing, for clerical officers, the standard that is imposed by the Civil Service Commission but it should be made a uniform test. The Parliamentary Secretary will say that the whole section hinges on the word "competent" knowledge of Irish. Who decides that? The particular directors of the Agricultural Corporation may make one decision, perhaps too high, so that a candidate who can get into the Civil Service cannot get into the Agricultural Credit Corporation. That would be foolish. It would be foolish if a person with a certain knowledge of Irish can get a job starting at £100 a year while a person with a better knowledge of Irish cannot get a job at a lower salary. It would also be foolish if it were the other way around. If that was the case this section would be a humbug and a sham and a fraud as these sections frequently are. I believe in the Irish language. I believe that people with a knowledge of the Irish language should get preference but I do not believe, as I said before, in just genuflecting to it; I do not believe that this humbugging obeisance to the Irish language here or anywhere else is going to do the slightest bit of good for the Irish language and I do not like the method by which Senator Ó Buachalla suggests that anyone who gets up here in this House and says anything about the Irish language is not as sincere about it as he is.
On a point of order, may I ask Senator Hayes to inform me what words I used that would indicate that this was my view?
I often feel that I would rather talk in Irish because I might perhaps make myself clearer to Senator Ó Buachalla. He said that he should not be asked to do his business through the medium of English but should be free to do it through Irish. I bought petrol this morning, through the medium of Irish.
I did not refer to doing my business through the medium of Irish.
The Senator spoke about wanting to do his business on the telephone through Irish.
I would like to make my position clear. Senator Hayes referred to the fact of buying petrol through the medium of Irish. I referred to the necessity of being able to do my business on the telephone through the medium of Irish, and I accept Senator Hayes's explanation.
I am only trying to bring a bit of colour into this debate. I bought petrol this morning through the medium of Irish and neither the mechanic nor the girl who took the money seemed to be less competent than the girl or mechanic who did not know Irish. I think that this whole business of putting into a Bill this kind of section so that you are able to say that by legislation you have done something for the Irish language is a great mistake. We should make these posts open, make it a free field without any favouritism for the ordinary sons or daughters of the ordinary people who have no influence and we should make the conditions the same as for the Civil Service.
If the Agricultural Credit Corporation got the next ten candidates after the ten called by the Civil Service they would get very competent people indeed. On the technical grades, the Civil Service Commission are experienced in selecting people for technical posts. I remember the case of an aeronautical engineer being asked in London what knowledge of Irish he had got and he answered that Irish was the language of his home when he was a child. But that he had been through the Great War and had been 11 years in India and "now I do not know how I stand", he said. He was the son of "Beirtfhear", the Irish author. I think Irish is completely ruined by allowing people into jobs who have a smattering of Irish. I object to it and I do not think one single argument of any kind has been advanced for not having these staffs recruited through the machinery of the Civil Service Commission. Senator Ó Siochfhradha has suggested that there might have to be another examination. If there is another examination, who is going to hold it? Remember the candidates pay the expenses. There is no expense because the candidates' fees pay the expenses and the candidates are willing to do that. It is very important that these posts should be offered honestly in a free field without any favour. For these reasons this section should be rejected. I am not wedded to the particular wording of my amendment. The board should decide the type of people it wants, what qualifications it requires these people to have and then apply to the Civil Service Commission. If I were a member of the board myself I would be delighted with that procedure.
The notion that a member of the board should know Irish in order to conduct the examination is the worst notion of all. Any people who want to do their job and do not want to give out patronage would be delighted to sit down and state what kind of people they want and then leave it to a well-known, trusted State machinery to find those people for them. For that reason, without being wedded to the words of the amendment, I think it should be accepted. If any other wording is necessary to carry out the idea, the Parliamentary Secretary has machinery to find those words.
Naturally, I am in favour of the amendment but before voting for it I would like to get some assurance. A great number of children are attending national schools. Is the standard taught there sufficient for them to go before the Civil Service Commission, or will the great bulk of those children be divorced from the opportunity to get those positions? I know there is a general tendency to preserve all those occupations for people attending secondary schools and I submit that the national school children are entitled to compete for those jobs. If the standard is beyond them, it should be altered to give them that opportunity. If the standard were so high previously, as Senator Hayes says, he might not be in the position he is in to-day—though, of course, he might.
I am altogether opposed to patronage and I want fair, open competition, as by that means I believe we would get the best people in the country to fill the positions. I thoroughly agree with everything Senator Hayes has said regarding the privilege of directors. If I were a director, I would be very glad to tell the "tappers" asking for jobs for their sons that there is a commission for the purpose of making such appointments. Naturally, any business man or any man with a genuine clean outlook would take that attitude. I do not believe that a paragraph or a section in the Bill is the right way.
I do not know whether that question is addressed to the Parliamentary Secretary or to me, but it opens a very wide field and would require a long and detailed reply. I do not believe any primary school student can get a position as a clerical officer under the circumstances, as the standard is the intermediate certificate.
As a matter of fact, the successful candidates are usually of a higher standard still. Senator Foran will realise that, if you want an engineer, you cannot take a person who has a primary school education and, if you want a person with qualifications which are not available when a boy leaves school at 14, you have to go to persons with a higher education than that.
The only remedy—and it has been operated to some extent for many years past—is to give scholarships from primary schools to secondary schools and from secondary schools to universities. We will be dealing with that to-morrow. It would not be fair to say that the competition is open to children from primary schools. Even if it were open, they would not succeed against the others, on the present standard. The only remedy is the scholarships to secondary and vocational schools. As a matter of history, the Civil Service Commissioners have failed to devise examinations for any substantial grade in the Civil Service into which people with primary education can get. I know an effort was made— and I made an effort myself—but it cannot be done. Boys have an opportunity of getting secondary education practically free, but the position in regard to girls is different.
Senator Foran has expressed his sympathy with this amendment, as I have, but he has convinced me that the suggestion I made, that this matter is worth considering on a future occasion, is the proper one and that we should not accept this amendment at the moment. It is a matter to which we should address our attention at the first opportunity.
Surely, if it is as serious a matter as Senator Ó Buachalla now appears to realise, is it not up to us to take a decision? I plead with the Parliamentary Secretary, regardless of Senator Ó Buachalla's statement, that he should take his courage in his hands and take a decision on this, as it is time someone came out through the mists with some policy on this point. Senator Hayes made his case so clearly and unanswerably that it is only someone like Senator Ó Buachalla who would persist in his line of argument. There is no argument to be put up for the section as it is. I put one question to the Parliamentary Secretary and he has not answered it. How he is going to get that type of board together on the corporation, competent to judge? If he cannot get them, how is he going to have the staff recruited in accordance with the Bill?
How does the Electricity Supply Board do it?
That has not been explained to us by the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not know what the Electricity Supply Board does. The Parliamentary Secretary has not told us how he is going to set up the machinery for this purpose, if the board is not competent itself. He has not indicated their competence. Let us get rid of the idea that, because someone is someone's particular child, he has advantages because of that which he has not got on his merits.
The underlying criticism used by certain Senators would seem to imply that I, on behalf of the Government, was anxious to insert into this Bill something which would give the Government some sort of patronage.
Not the Government— that is the trouble—but the board.
Nominees of the Government. The argument is that the board of directors will be appointed by the Government, and that, therefore, nobody can be appointed to any position in the gift of the board save someone who will be appointed at the request of the board or by someone acting by or on behalf of the Government. That is the insinuation underlying all the arguments that have been made. I resent that insinuation. It is not going to add to the prestige of this House or of Parliamentary institutions to have these insinuations bandied around in the manner in which they have been.
I have had sufficient experience of political life in this country, and I am not such a fool as to imagine that by having these positions of patronage it is going to add to the popularity of the Party or the individual in whose hands lies these gifts because, as everybody knows, for the one position that will be vacant there will be 100 candidates, so that you make 99 enemies and one doubtful friend. Is that not true? I think that Senator Hayes will not quarrel with that argument. He has had long experience and I think that that argument cannot be refuted.
I have no experience of patronage—none whatever.
Neither have I and I never want to have it. I think it would be all to the good if there was a lot less suspicion than there is. I am as anxious to see purity in public life as anybody here, or elsewhere, for that matter.
There are certain difficulties with regard to the acceptance of Senator Hayes's amendment. First of all, I would like to point out that the statutory functions of the Civil Service Commissioners are confined to appointments to the various Departments of State. In passing, I should like to remove any misconception that may have arisen from something that I said earlier. I am afraid Senator Hayes understood from my remarks that I was in some way casting a reflection on candidates who had passed through a Civil Service examination.
I think the Parliamentary Secretary said that the unsuccessful candidates were of a low grade.
If I did I am sorry for that. That was not my intention. The point that I wanted to make was that, if there were 100 candidates who passed the examination, there might be only 50 vacancies. Obviously, the various Departments of State would get those who obtained the highest marks. The others who went to the Credit Corporation might be regarded by certain people as the "culls" of that system. That would not be a very enviable position to place those people in.
I would like very much to meet the point of view that has been expressed, not merely on one side but on all sides of the House, that some scheme should be devised that would at least disabuse the minds of people that in the case of these appointments there was any desire to retain patronage or that these appointments should be made on political grounds. Therefore I propose to have the matter examined between now and the Report Stage. I want to assure the House and everybody concerned that I am as honestly sincere in that statement as anybody could be. There is no shadow of doubt about that. I am anxious, as I have stated, to preserve purity in public life and to see us rid—all sides of the House—of the various accusations that have been made. They have been bandied around perhaps for political motives and by various political Parties. The sooner we depart from all that the better it will be for the public life of the country.
Senator Hayes said that this board of directors might be incapable of judging whether a man possessed a higher knowledge of Irish than his competitors. Well, supposing there is a vacancy for an engineer or a doctor, and if the appointment lies either with the Civil Service Commissioners or the Local Appointments Commissioners, neither body will go altogether on the academic qualifications of the candidates.
There might, perhaps, be one vacancy, and four or five candidates. All might be equally suitable for the position. The commissioners will bring all the candidates before them. As a result of the interview they will recommend a person for appointment. In essence, that is the practice followed up to the present by the directors of the Credit Corporation. I do not know that there has been any departure from it. They have taken the honours leaving certificate examination as their standard. Some may think that standard too low.
For a particular class of officer.
As a result of interview, a limited number of persons who have passed that examination have been called to fill vacancies. I do not think there is anything very wrong in that. As I have said, I will have the whole matter looked into to see if some system cannot be devised that will enable the corporation to obtain staff if and when required without any undue or unnecessary delay. The chief criticism that one hears up and down the country of the Local Appointments Commissioners is the delay that takes place in their recommending persons for appointment.
We all know there have been delays of 12 months, and even longer, in the filling of various appointments. It would be a serious position for the Agricultural Credit Corporation if it wanted, say, a number of clerical officers and had to wait 12 months or longer before it could get them. I will, as I have said, have the matter examined to see whether a system cannot be devised that will meet with the views of those who are anxious to secure that appointments should be made by open competitive examination.
The Parliamentary Secretary has gone a considerable distance forward. I take it he will agree that I am as much concerned for the prestige of Parliamentary institutions as he is, and I suggest that is a rather moderate way of putting it. With regard to insinuations, I did not make any, but mind you, it is just as bad to prefer young Paddy Murphy because you knew his father as to prefer him because his father was Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. I do not want him to be preferred on any basis that is political or, on what is called in the country, the basis that he is a neighbour's child. There are two different kinds of posts in this corporation. You have, for example, the routine clerical officer post which could certainly be filled with the greatest possible ease by the machinery of the Civil Service Commissioners. I say that as a person who was chairman of the Civil Service Commissioners for quite a number of years.
The important thing is not only to give fair play but to have all the appearance of giving fair play. That is what you want in this case. There should be no delay in respect of the appointment of routine staff. The appointment of other staff may present a slightly different problem. If there is anything wrong with the machinery for giving play, the machinery should be improved. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment which I shall put down again and we shall then hear what the Parliamentary Secretary will suggest.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 55 agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with one amendment.
Report Stage fixed for first sitting day of next week.