Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (269)

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan


269. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will outline the circumstances in which Ballyhoura Estates Limited, consisting of a substantial house, outbuildings and more than 130 acres of land, which was vested in and held in trust by the Minister for Finance under the 1954 State Property Act on 1 September 1972 for the statutory 20 years, was conveyed to a person (details supplied) on 5 April 1979, and then on 6 April 1979, was conveyed to the person's daughter in part house, outbuildings and 17 acres of land, of which the person, sold 6.315 acres on 11 January 1984; if he will explain the way, almost two years later, on 6 October 1986, the Minister for Finance sold in fee simple sale absolute to the person who had acquired the property seven years earlier, while the property was vested in the Minister for Finance; if this transaction was ever examined as to its propriety, the steps that were taken by his Department to safeguard the property interests of the State in such transactions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12759/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Section 28 (2) of the State Property Act 1954 provides that the Minister for Finance assumes responsibility for all personal property and land vested in or held in trust for a body corporate (other than personal property or land held by such body in trust for another person) immediately prior to its dissolution. Upon the dissolution of the body corporate, such property becomes State property. This function transferred in July 2011 to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 2011 and S.I. No. 418/2011 — Finance (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order, 2011. The effect of Section 28 is that the Minister does not hold the assets of dissolved companies as beneficial owner. He holds them in trust. The title which the Minister acquires under this Section has been described as a defeasible title since, if the dissolved company is restored to the Register of Companies within twenty years of the date of its dissolution, its property is automatically restored to it. The State Property Act also includes, in Section 31, a power for the Minister to waive the interest acquired under Section 28 of the Act.

It is understood that the property which is the subject of the current question was held within a company which was struck off the Register of Companies in September, 1972 for failure to file annual returns with the Companies Office. The beneficial owner of the property applied to the Department of Finance for a waiver of the interest acquired by the Minister for Finance under the provisions of the State Property Act and that waiver, in respect of which the consideration was £160, was completed in October, 1986. The effect of the waiver, which was not a sale by the State, would have been to allow the beneficial owner to complete the process of assembling a satisfactory title. The waiver itself would have formed only a limited element in the establishment of that title and the transaction was a normal exercise of Departmental functions. The price which the beneficial owner may have secured in a subsequent sale was not a matter for consideration in the context of the waiver and, accordingly, would not merit enquiry by me at this juncture.

I am advised that all applications for waiver of property falling within the scope of Section 28 of the State Property Act are referred to the Office of the Chief State Solicitor for legal advice and that any policy issues that may arise in particular cases are given full consideration on their merits.