Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 29 Apr 1925

Vol. 11 No. 5


I beg to move:—

37.--Go ndeontar suim na raghaidh thar £9,571 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch a 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1926, chun íoctha Tuarastailagus Costaisí Roinn ArdChláradóra na mBeireataisí, etc. (7 & 8 Vict., c. 81, s. 54; 26 Vict., c. 11, s. 9; 26 & 27 Vict., c. 52, s. 11, agus c. 90, s. 20; 42 & 43 Vict., c. 70; agus 43 & 44 Vict., c. 13).

37.—That a sum not exceeding £9,571 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, to pay theSalaries and Expenses of the Department of the Registrar-General of Births (7 & 8 Vict., c. 81, s. 54; 26 Vict., c. 11, s. 9; 26 & 27 Vict., c. 52, s. 11, and c. 90, s. 20; 42 and 43 Vict., c. 70; and 43 and 44 Vict., c. 13).

I do not think it is necessary for me to say very much on this Estimate. As Deputies will observe, there is no very great change under any of the sub-heads. There is a decrease of £4,440, but that does not arise because of any decrease in the Estimate itself, but because of an increase in the Appropriations-in-Aid. That increase has arisen as a result of exceptional circumstances, namely, the fact that the American Consular authorities are insisting on intending emigrants being provided with two certificates of birth in the case of single persons, and certificates of birth and certificates of marriage in the case of married people. Heretofore, these certificates were granted by the Superintendent Registrars. In former times the Superintendent Registrar was generally the Clerk of the Union, but since the passing of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, these duties, as a general rule, are now carried out by the Secretary to the County Board of Health. Generally there is only one such officer in each county, and as a result of that change the emoluments that would be derived from this particular source would be exceptionally high. In a great many cases intending emigrants apply directly to the General Registrar's Office. It was accordingly decided that it would be much better to have all those applications made direct, because there was no justification for the salaries of those officials being increased. The increase would amount to something like £290. It was considered that that sum should, in the ordinary course of events, more equitably be paid to the Central Fund, which stood all the expenses of carrying out the registration and granting these certificates. Accordingly, we anticipate, as a result of the granting of these certificates for which a charge of 7s. 8d. will be made, that the Appropriations-in-Aid this year will be considerably increased. That is about the only change in the Estimate, and accordingly I do not think it is necessary for me to make any further comment.

What was the previous charge for these certificates?

The previous charge was 6/2. There is an increase of ? as a correspondence fee.

One is rather disappointed with the explanation given by the Minister in connection with the General Registrar's Office, because looking through the accounts generally, there seems to be a uniform increase in cost under the head of "salaries, etc." Turning to the Vote, I thought we had a bright and a shining example of a Department that was out strenuously for economy, and that it expected to save a considerable amount. It appears, however, that there is no saving in this case. It is merely that the receipts, through an exceptional cause, have been increased, and that tends to reduce the total amount of the Estimate. That rather takes away from what one was inclined to regard as a tremendous effort at economy in this Department.

We are dealing with salaries here. Will the Minister tell us what is a task worker? He seems to be a peculiar animal. He gets one pound a week. There is an allowance made for the registration of marriages all over the country. There are 109, and twenty of these get £20 each. I want to know from the Minister if the business of these 109 registration officers deserves that outlay, and whether there is sufficient marrying going on to necessitate the payment of £2,180.

I am not quite clear as to the Minister's statement on this question of superintendent and district registrar. Do I understand the Minister to say that because of alterations made, whereby a secretary of a county board of health becomes now a registrar for the county, the funds that come into him are transferred to the headquarters here; that all the 7s. 8d. 's or whatever may be the payment for a certificate, are all brought up to headquarters? If that is so, what allowance is made to him, or is any allowance made to him? Where a man was formerly a registrar of a district, does he still do all the work? He was formerly paid a certain sum accruing to him as a sort of income because of keeping the register. Is all that taken away from him, and have all the fees he collects to be sent up to the head office here? If so, then, on what basis is payment made to him for the work he does?

I am not satisfied at all with the explanation given by the Minister in this connection, because from the very wording of the circular issued from the Registrar-General's Office, it appears that praccally the same labour will come upon the superintendent registrar of the district as heretofore. It says: "You will therefore please note that all applications for certificates received by you on and after the date above from intending emigrants should be forwarded to this department." That simply means, as I understand it, that not only is he acting still as superintendent registrar, but that he will have to forward to the Registrar-General's Office these applications. That arrangement, to my mind, does not seem to take into account that in some cases it makes a great deal of difference to the people applying for certificates as to what they pay. I know in some cases where the superintendent registrar has found is necessary to issue certificates free to people because they could not pay for them. That does not seem to be taken into account. The Minister says the emoluments derived by those particular officers in that direction are very high, but the department, it seems, are anxious to make them higher by putting on a correspondence fee of ?, which was not in existence before. I think this demands greater explanation than the Minister has given, not alone from the point of view of the officers concerned, but from the point of view of people looking for these certificates.

Will the Minister tell us how many emigrants went out during the year, and whether it is a fact that each emigrant must have a certain amount of money, and, if so, what that sum is?

I am not in a position to answer the last question put by Deputy Good. I have not got the statistics, but I have no doubt I could get them for him later on. With regard to the general question raised, superintendent registrars are not really placed in any worse position. It was always in contemplation that if there were any exceptional circumstances, emoluments arising out of this registration work for the granting of certificates, the officials performing these duties would not benefit greatly by that, and that they should be recognised more or less as nominal, because in the ordinary course of events very few certificates are looked for, and that principle was recognised in previous legislation. For example, the Friendly Societies Act of 1875 led to a great many of these certificates being granted, and accordingly the fee asked for these certificates was only 1/-, and in the case of any other certificates being asked for it was only 6d. That was also the case when the Trades Union Amendments Act of 1876 came into operation and when the Factories and Workshops Act of 1876 came into operation. It was never intended that these officers were to benefit to such a great extent.

The Central Office is put to considerable expense as a result of the increased demand for these certificates. and the State as a whole loses greatly as the result of emigration, and accordingly it is only considered right that the Central Office should get the benefit of these fees. The ordinary certificates granted by superintendent registrars are no longer acceptable for passport purposes. The Minister for External Affairs has written insisting that sealed certificates should be granted, and accordingly all these certificates have eventually to come through the head Department, and to save unnecessary expense, and unnecessary administration charges, it was considered desirable that all the work should be done through the central office, and for that reason the change has been made in the position.

Will the Minister say is it clear that the increased charge only relates to certificates granted for intending emigrants.

That is true.

I am not quite clear yet on this matter. After all, most of the certificates granted, or many of them at least, are for intending emigrants. What I want to get at is: what percentage of the fee, or does all of it, go to the office? I am not so much concerned about the pay of the registrar or whether he gets enough. I have no doubt at all that most of these posts are sufficiently well paid. I am concerned to discover, if I can, what is the basis of payment to the registrar for the work he does. Has he got any more pay for doing the work of the county than he got for doing the work of the district, and what is the basis of his payment? Is it on the number of certificates issued? Is he permitted to take an average of what was coming into him when he had a small district, or is there a fixed salary for the position? How much of the fee collected by the registrar goes up to the head office, and how much is gained by it?

The Act of 1863 empowered the superintendent registrar to issue under his signature copies of entries in the books in his custody at a fee of 3/6 for each. That is to say, 1/- for search and 2/6 for a copy. With the exception of the expenditure incurred by the superintendent registrars all these fees are now going to the Central Fund. In addition to that, there is ? as a correspondence fee.

I believe that a great part of these fees heretofore went to the relief of the local rates. It is not fair for the Department to capture all these fees now. The portion that will not be claimed by the registrar should revert back to the local rates. The fees would now amount to a considerable sum in some counties where there is a large number of intending emigrants. It is hardly fair for the Minister to claim those fees. The administration expenses would certainly not be increased by £5,000. It is only fair that this money should go towards the relief of local rates.

resumed the Chair.

This money was never applied in relief of the local rates. It was all pocketed by the officials.

What percentage of the certificates issued were in respect of passports for emigration purposes in previous years? That would show the percentage of losses to those previously concerned.

I am not in a position to state that.

This item of £1,500 for temporary clerical assistance seems a large amount, and I should like to know what is the cause of that extra expense.

I should like to raise a question of what might be called public interest. That is as to whether any decision has been arrived at in regard to taking a census. The last census was due in 1921. It is now 1925. It may be thought desirable not to take a census until 1931. I should like to know whether any decision has been taken in the matter.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce has a Bill on the tapis dealing with statistics, and until that is finally settled we will not be in a position to decide on a date for the census. The Boundary question has also a certain bearing on the matter, because while that is hanging in the balance it might be foolish to incur expenditure in taking a census for certain districts, when much larger areas might be included later on.

I take it the meaning of that is, that no decision has been arrived at?

No decision has been arrived at. The temporary clerical assistance also arises as a result of this unexpected increase in certificates for passport purposes. The staff has been considerably increased as a result.

Has the Minister made any inquiries as to the £20 for the registrars under sub-head C—whether they justified themselves?

I assume they have justified themselves, considering that matrimony is in itself a good justification.

Vote put and agreed to.