Property Values (Arbitrations and Appeals) Bill, 1960—Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

This Bill deals with arbitration principally on land valuation that comes up from time to time. We are co-ordinating, as it were, the arbitration procedure under three different Acts which had different procedures up to now.

First, you have the Finance Act 1909 and 1910, which deals with estate duties. When that Act was passed, a provision was made for the appointment of arbitrators. There was a dispute between the parties. Then you have the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919. Again, there was a committee set up to deal with the question of arbitration. At that time, we had the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls and the Surveyors Institute. Now you have on that committee, the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court and the President of the Surveyors Institute, Irish Branch. They are the committee. They have land valuers and they appoint one of the land valuers, if there are more than one on the list, in case any question should arise.

The third Act was the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945. A provision was made there for arbitration in case of dispute. It was found from experience that there were very much fewer cases coming up for arbitration than was anticipated. Between the three of them, there is certainly no more work than is necessary for one arbitrator. This Bill, therefore, provides that we carry on. The committee is there. We make no changes so far as that is concerned but we give the committee power to appoint one or more valuers and they may appoint these full-time or part-time, as they think fit.

The same committee will deal with cases arising under all three Acts. The procedure will be the same in each case and as it is generally a question of land valuation that comes up, it will be convenient for the committee to have the same valuer or valuers dealing with all three Acts.

The number of appeals under the Arterial Drainage Act have been rather small. The bigger number would come under the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919. I think the average is 45 per year under that. There might be half a dozen or so under the Estate Duty Act and, perhaps, another half dozen or fewer under the Drainage Act. Therefore, any Senator can see that, taking them all together, there is certainly not any more work than would be necessary for one person.

In certain cases, where a person is working full time, it may be considered he would have an interest or be influenced in some way and then the committee would appoint another person to do the valuation. We are not making any changes, so far as that is concerned. It is the committee who decide who the arbitrators should be. It is not the parties to the action who select the arbitrator. That also would continue.

I do not think very much more arises on this, except that in regard to arbitration, there was some doubt with regard to the 1919 Act because the Act mentioned "arbitrators". It is understandable, of course, because it was an Act passed by the British Parliament which applied to Great Britain and Ireland. Arbitrators would be necessary in England and one man could not do the work there. The Act applied to Ireland. The fact that arbitrators were mentioned in the Act left some doubt whether it would be legal for us to carry on here with one arbitrator. As a result of that doubt a certain person was put on the panel, although he is, of course, a public servant. He had to act only once in the whole time he was there, so it was, if you like, as a mere formality to fulfil the provision of the Act that he was put there. I think we should not consider it necessary to carry that on in the future. In this Bill, therefore, we say to the committee: "Appoint one or more, if you wish; a full-time man, if you wish, or a part-time man—whatever you think most suitable in all the circumstances."

There is one clause which refers to the present man who has a full-time appointment. He was appointed for life and he would, therefore, expect that his position would not be interfered with by any legislation we might bring in. There is a provision that he must not be treated less favourably than he is treated at the moment. We may take it, therefore, that he will be appointed as a full-time arbitrator when this Bill goes through but, in addition, the Committee may appoint a temporary arbitrator.

The Committee consists of the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court and the President of the Institute of Chartered Surveyors. The only function of the Minister for Finance is to lay down what the remuneration and the other conditions of appointment should be. There was a certain standard in the past from which I do not think we need depart.

There is also provision in the Bill in case a question arises as to whether any decisions given in the past are valid. As I mentioned, there was a legal doubt about past decisions when there was only one arbitrator on the panel, as it is called. We are taking this opportunity of making past decisions legal, notwithstanding the fact that there was only one man on the panel at the time. The Act deals only with the question of arbitration, the appointment of arbitrators and the procedure under which they will act in future.

This is a technical Bill for the purpose of tying up legislation, bringing it up to date and making the procedure under it more expeditious. There is not much anyone can say on the measure, but as the opportunity is afforded to me, I should like to ask the Minister one or two questions with regard to arbitration in general.

It appears that the Committee have no other function than to recommend a person for appointment as an arbitrator. I assume once he is appointed, his award is final, and he makes no report whatsoever to the Committee. That procedure is probably time-honoured and I have no experience to show that it has not worked well. The Minister and the Department would be much more aware of the facts than anyone else. Undoubtedly, if an arbitration award were made, and the parties for whom or against whom the award is made felt that it was not fair or equitable, complaints would have been sent to the Minister. I know that if the Minister provided any machinery for giving that power it would mean that after the arbitrator had made his award, if anyone felt he should have got more money, he would have to appeal to the Committee or other body which supervised the arbitrator. It might, therefore, be desirable that the arbitrator should send a report to the Committee and that the Committee should be satisfied, without the citizen having direct or indirect access to the Committee. The Committee would then see that the arbitrator they had appointed was doing his job to their satisfaction. There may not be much in the point I am making, but it might be a means of assessing the ability of the men appointed.

I should also like to know if the arbitrator can be removed from office, if it is felt that it is in the public interest to do so because he is not giving satisfaction. The Minister was quite right to clarify this legislation dealing with three systems of appointment of arbitrators, and bringing the law on that important function up-to-date. Many of us feel—and perhaps the Minister feels the same way—that there is a great deal to be said for allowing the courts to perform as many of these functions as possible.

The arbitrator is appointed in each particular case. Every case where an arbitrator is required goes before the Committee and they appoint an arbitrator. They do not appoint him and tell him to carry on; they must appoint an arbitrator in each case. He makes his report to each of the parties and, unless one of the parties raises some question of law, the award is final. In other words, there is no appeal against the amount of the award. If a party thinks he has a question of law to raise, he can bring it before the High Court for decision, and the High Court will give a decision as to whether or not the law has been compiled with.

Can the Committee remove a man? That depends on the appointment. If they give a person a life appointment, they cannot remove him, so I think the Committee are in the same position as any other person who gives a man a life appointment. He cannot be got rid of, except for a very good cause. It might be that this Bill makes a change in the situation and that is why we have put in the clause to safeguard the present man by saying that the Committee must treat him not less generously than he has been treated in the past.

That is, in regard to a permanent official?

Yes. When I say a life appointment, I mean up to 70 years of age. That is the limit.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill considered in Committee.
Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill".

On this section, there is the point that the Minister says a party can appeal to the High Court, not on a question of fact, but on a question of law.

That is right.

On the question of land acquisition or anything of that nature which has the same procedure, I have often thought that a person may feel seriously aggrieved as a result of the amount of the arbitration award. I often feel that there should be a way out of it. I know that I am raising a very large issue but I feel that, in passing, I ought to mention it. The Minister for Finance has a much more considered view on this matter than I have, but I have often felt this way about it—and I have had some experience—that it is hard that there is no way whatever, no matter what case may be made for it or whatever rebutting valuations can be brought into court, to upset the decision of the arbitrator other than on a question of law.

Of course, there must be some finality. As the Senator knows, under the various Acts, certain people like the local authorities can take land compulsorily. The Land Commission is not included in this. If the local authority would like to acquire a bit of land, they try to negotiate a price, but if the owner is not satisfied, he can go to arbitration. There is, therefore, not much point in giving him further arbitrators.

Maybe not.

In any case, where there is an arbitrator doing the work for a number of years, he is likely to give uniform decisions, anyway. He may be too strict or he may be too generous, but at least he will be uniform.

Is it wrong to ask the Minister if he receives many complaints?

Very seldom. In fact, I have heard none.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration, and passed.