continuing his reply said there was a suggestion that his department was responsible for the courts falling through in places. No doubt under ordinary circumstances he would be responsible, but several organisers he had sent out were arrested and he saw no good in sending out others in places where the courts were established but allowed to fall through by the local people.
The Rent Decree Act was brought in on a motion of his to meet urgent cases arising out of the operations of the English Government. In his draft Bill he provided for an increase of 10% plus increase in rates. The Bill was referred to committee who fixed amount of increase at 15% plus increase in the rates and 6% on certain improvements. That was a definite fixed sum and could not be altered at all unless by agreement amongst the parties concerned. If anyone came to court for an increase of rent, the court should give them that amount. The Deputy for Limerick City (M.P. Collivet) spoke of an increase of 50%. That was an exaggeration, as the increase was seldom, if ever, over 30%.
With regard to the rent dispute mentioned by the member for St. James' area (Deputy Joseph McGrath), the matter was out of his hands as the parties had refused to come into the Republican Courts and had gone into the enemy ones. But with regard to the question of protection for those tenants who were being abused, he assured the member for St. James they would receive all the protection his police force could afford them. All he was sorry for was that the landlords did not bring in a test case in the Republican Courts which, he was sure, would have disposed of the matter satisfactorily long since.
Regarding the Truce and the working of the courts, he was strongly of opinion they must carry on even without the sanction of Dublin Castle. They were no more bound to cease functioning than the British were, and it was the intention of his department to carry on with the courts and improve them as much as possible with the approval of the Dáil. Of course, he said, if the Dáil thought otherwise it would not be done. He did not think there would be many Decrees to be enforced, but he would prefer to hold over any case that would be likely to be tough. At the same time he did not want the hands of the police to be tied in any way. So with the understanding that they were not going to bring about complications if they could help it, he asked the Dáil for a free hand to carry on the courts as usual.
He had considered the question of payment of registrars over and over again— and he was afraid it would cost too much money at present, but any court that functioned properly could from its revenue easily pay its own registrar. It would cost £30,000 to pay the registrars from Dublin and he could not recommend that.
The registrars were the people on whom he had to depend for reports. Many of them neglected to supply him with proper reports and he took it as evidence the court was not working when he got no reports. One registrar came to him the other day and told him his court was working all the time though it sent up no reports.
In reply to the Lord Mayor of Cork (Deputy O'Callaghan), he stated that the police officers were elected by the army and handed over to his department.
He admitted there was a grave scandal in some places regarding solicitors' fees. If cases were reported to him he would try and take some action against those solicitors who were charging exorbitant fees. Locally he would suggest that they should be prevented from entering their courts at all. If solicitors formed a ring and attempted to keep up an exorbitant scale amongst themselves, he would suggest and give instructions to the courts to hear pleaders who did not belong to the legal profession.
Referring to the Relief Bureau, he said that was a matter put into his hands by the Ministry. He did not desire to make any attack on the Irish Republican Prisoners' Dependents' Fund Committee. The Relief Bureau was included in his department by order of the Ministry and with the approval of the Dáil. He intended to carry it on and keep the people in touch with the White Cross, Prisoners' Dependents' Fund, and any other existing bodies dealing with relief funds.
There was the question of emigration permits. If the Regulation that application for a permit must be made a month before date of sailing was adhered to, there would be no fear that the permit would not reach an applicant in time. He saw no reason for establishing any other headquarters for issue of permits. The suggestion with regard to the enforcement of the Decree against emigration and shipping agents was one that had been anticipated. The new police had those matters in hands and it was through them future enquiries would have to be made.
That finished all the questions and he would like to add that at any time any member had a complaint to make he might communicate with him and he would be only too glad to deal with it and any fair criticism he was only too glad to hear it.