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.