Public Business. - Military Service Pensions Bill, 1929—Second Stage (Resumed).

Mr. Hogan

I have very little to add to the remarks I made on the last occasion when this Bill was before the Dáil. Deputies should seriously ask themselves in connection with this matter what exact functions has the Comptroller and Auditor-General's Office in this regard. That is the whole question. It is not a question of what the law is or is not at the present moment. Whether we are lawyers or not, we are not supposed to give legal opinions in the House. That is a matter for another body. As far as the Government are concerned, the proper authority to advise the Government as to what is the legal position, is well known. In this case, the other issues are far and away more important than the legal issues. The real question is what is to be the function of the Comptroller and Auditor-General in a matter of this sort. In order to arrive at any sort of a reasonable conclusion on that question it would be well in the first instance to find out, in so far as we can, what exactly the Comptroller and Auditor-General thinks his functions ought to be. We can find out that and we must assume that he has thought out his position. Deputies need only read the reports of the Committee of Public Accounts to find out that. I have here the report of the 22nd November, 1928, and on page 179 I, read:—

Mr. McGrath: We get a printed document upon which is stated the man's rank and service.

I may say that it is on those two factors that the pension is computed.

You can make out a pension on these two factors, but why a man is given a rank or why it was decided that he had a certain number of years' service, the Audit Office has no means of checking that.

That makes a certain position clear. The Comptroller and Auditor-General thinks he ought to decide in this regard what the rank is and what the years of service are, the years of service given by the particular person holding the particular rank. He must know; he must examine and find out for himself and satisfy himself that a particular applicant was of such a rank and had so many years' service. I will quote Deputy MacEntee because Mr. McGrath answers him: —

Deputy MacEntee: I take the position to be this: that the Comptroller and Auditor-General would like, in cases where a rank is ascribed to a certain individual, to get certain facts to satisfy him that that rank has been rightfully ascribed to the individual by the Board of Assessors?

Mr. McGrath: That is the position.

I could go on quoting statements in the same sense from the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but Deputies can examine those statements for themselves. I can only say that I have read the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee with some care and there are no statements that in any way contradict the ones I have read. They are a fair summary of the claims made in this regard. It comes to this, that in the opinion of the Committee of Public Accounts and the Comptroller and Auditor-General these files should be returned to the Comptroller and Auditor-General in order to satisfy him on two factors.

The Minister has stated that that is the opinion of the Public Accounts Committee. Has the Minister read the reports of the Public Accounts Committees previous to the Public Accounts Committee of November, 1928?

Mr. Hogan

There a different opinion is expressed, I agree. An opposite opinion was expressed by the Public Accounts Committee on another occasion.

Is the Minister aware that the members of the Public Accounts Committee who held one view on this matter one year reversed their opinion the following year? That is on the records.

Like the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.

Mr. Hogan

I am aware of this. There is a document here purporting to be a report of the Public Accounts Committee in which they agree with the attitude of the Minister for Finance. That was the attitude of one Committee of Public Accounts.

The Committee appointed the following year thought differently, so I do not see the relevancy of Deputy Davin's point.

Deputy Esmonde's point.

Mr. Hogan

No, Deputy Davin's point. At any rate we are not going into that. That is irrelevant. The Comptroller and Auditor-General's claims are here clearly expressed — that he should examine the files in order to ascertain two facts; to ascertain for himself after examination the rank and years' service of the particular applicant for a pension. Now there can be no doubt whatever that these are the claims made. That is exactly the function that the Board of Assessors was supposed to carry out. In deciding whether the applicant was entitled to a pension only two facts had to be found, first, the years' service, and second the rank of the applicant.

And the nature and duration?

Mr. Hogan

Surely if Deputy Davin has to interrupt he ought to make an intelligent interruption. These two facts have to be found and "the nature and duration" adds nothing to them. The two things to be found are the years' service and the rank. That was the duty of the Board of Assessors that was set up for the purpose of assessing the pension. That is the particular function which the Comptroller and Auditor-General specifically claims. Now there can be no doubt whatever about that. How were decisions come to in regard to those two facts? On evidence. What sort of evidence? First of all there was the written application from the applicant for a pension. This was accompanied by a reference to a certain individual who also filled up on demand, if he wished, a certain form answering certain questions. That was the written evidence. That evidence, of course, was in favour of the applicant except in very rare cases. Was the Board of Assessors satisfied with that evidence? They were not. The major portion of the evidence and the rebutting evidence was oral evidence. What was all that evidence directed to prove or to disprove? Two things. The rank and the years' of service so that in coming to their conclusions this Board of Assessors had to take into account and give full weight not only to the written evidence which was the least important part of the evidence but to the oral evidence that came before them. That was far and away the most important part of the evidence. It contained all the rebutting evidence, the evidence against granting the pension. The Board of Assessors came to a decision. I am not dealing at all with the question of secrecy, the question that the witnesses got an undertaking that their evidence would be treated secretly. There is obviously very good reason why certain evidence in these cases should be secret. I am not relying on that. Not at all. I am merely pointing out that to come to their conclusions this Board of Assessors obtained a certain limited amount and only a certain limited amount of affirmative written evidence, but that the main evidence on which their decisions, either to give or to refuse the pension, was based, was oral evidence. And what was all that evidence collected to prove? What was all that evidence taken for? For what purpose? To decide two things and two things only, the rank and the years' service.

What, then, does the claim of the Comptroller and Auditor-General amount to? What exactly does he want? He wants to decide and to see the evidence on these two points. He wants to see the evidence on the whole case and to decide for himself. Either he wants that, or these proceedings are a complete farce. Does the Dáil suggest that it was ever the intention to set up a body, whether you call it judicial or not, with powers to make inquiries and to take evidence on oath, and that its findings afterwards should be questioned in that way by the Comptroller and Auditor-General; that it was anticipated by any member of any party that after that inquiry had concluded its labours, after the members of it had heard all the oral and written evidence, pro and con, and after they had come to decisions, that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should go over exactly the same procedure again? Because that was the claim that was made, if it means anything. I say it was not contemplated and that it would be quite impossible. It would amount to this, that in this country for some reason or another, arising some say out of the Constitution, it is outside the power of the Dáil, or of the Government authorised by the Dáil, to establish a judicial body, or alternatively, a body to take evidence on oath and to come to certain decisions involving compensation without having a rehearing of the case by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

The Constitution has been attacked from a great many points, but it has never been suggested that any such implications are within the Constitution. I would like if Deputies would address themselves to the net point here and say what exactly they want, what powers they want to give to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and to what purpose? If you are to take his own statement and his own claims I have said what they mean. What other powers can he have? Are we to be asked to produce for him the applications, and for what purpose? Is it in order to decide that certain people should not get pensions?

Mr. Hogan

Of course. Why not? But is it in order to decide that on the application if he cannot have the oral evidence?

All the evidence submitted.

Mr. Hogan

Is the Comptroller and Auditor-General to get the written evidence? Is he to get the written applications, the references and the forms filled in and is he to decide on that alone? The real function of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is to see that money is not spent illegally—in other words that money is not spent. Is he to decide that money shall not be spent on the evidence of the written applications and on the queries filled in in writing? Is he to decide on that without hearing all the evidence, the oral evidence as well as the written evidence — the evidence in point towards showing that money should not be paid? If he is to get all that evidence all the witnesses must be called up before him.

Might I ask this question? Can the Minister give the House a positive assurance that all the members of the Board on all occasions were present when the oral evidence was tendered?

Mr. Hogan

How do I know? What has that got to do with it? Let us see what we are deciding here. We are not deciding the question here as to who was on the Board or who was not on the Board. We are deciding what the functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be in relation to a Board of that sort, and Deputy Davin knows perfectly well that the question which he has put is quite irrelevant. We can all be irrelevant in this matter. I know, and I stated this before, that the attitude of the Party opposite is that these people should not get pensions because they prevented them from doing the things that they liked to do.

That is not true of the Labour Party.

Mr. Hogan

I am not speaking of the Labour Party. I am speaking of the Party opposite.

Since the Minister is speaking of the Party opposite perhaps he would answer me this question. Did this Board of Assessors at its hearing take notes of the oral evidence?

Mr. Hogan

I could not say.

Very well, that is all right.

I can answer that. In every case where oral evidence was given it was transcribed in longhand and presented to the Board of Assessors.

And, therefore, I suggest, is available for examination by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

No, and the Deputy knows that it is not.

Perhaps the President will answer my question. Were all the members of the Board, who were supposed to be judges sitting in court, present on all occasions when applicants appeared before the Board, and when oral evidence was tendered?

All the oral evidence was taken down in long hand, and was available for all the members of the Board of Assessors. They saw it.

Mr. Hogan

Suppose that there is a Board set up consisting of three members, and that the sittings of the Board extend over a period of eight or nine months, it is almost inevitable that one member of the Board would occasionally be absent, but what difference does that make? None whatever. That is inevitable in the case of every judicial body. The Deputy is not so innocent as to suggest that the Supreme Court is always filled. In the nature of the case, if a body like that is sitting for a long time it is inevitable that occasionally, for one reason or another, a member might be absent during one sitting of the Board, or for more than one sitting or for a period. That is the reason why there are three members, apart from the fact that there ought to be a majority. But that is absolutely irrelevant.

Deputy MacEntee has made a great point, namely, that there was a note of the evidence taken in long hand. Does the Deputy's point come to this, that the Comptroller and Auditor-General is to get a note of the evidence taken in long hand, and on that to reverse the decision of the Board? If that is his suggestion, it is the sort of silly suggestion that I would expect from Deputy MacEntee, but anybody who has had any experience knows perfectly well that in cases where certain decisions have to be come to, where there is evidence pro and con, that you are at a great disadvantage in coming to a decision unless you have the witnesses before you, and are able to come to your own conclusions as to their character and reliability.

Is not the same true of the tribunal, the personality of the witnesses, and so on?

Mr. Hogan

If the suggestion is that not only the applications and references, but the notes of the evidence should be given to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, then it must mean this: that he is to read the applications and references as well as the notes of the evidence, and is to come to his own decisions on that. That is what it amounts to. As I was pointing out, anybody who has had any experience of tribunals knows perfectly well that any judicial person coming to a judicial decision on merely written evidence and without any opportunity of seeing his witnesses and judging as to their character and reliability, is at a great disadvantage compared with a tribunal that has all these advantages. If that suggestion was seriously meant, the point, apparently, is that the Comptroller and Auditor-General who cannot see the witnesses and who cannot form any estimate from their conduct as to their character and reliability is to examine the notes, he is to examine the reference, and he is, if he is to carry out his functions where he thinks proper, to disagree with and to over-rule the decisions of the court that had all those advantages.

Does not that also apply to the members of the court who were absent at the hearing?

Does not that also apply in the case of appeals heard in the courts in this country?

Mr. Hogan

It applies to appeals under certain conditions, and whether it does or not the Deputy will now have to keep to the point. There is no doubt whatever that a judicial body, which has had the advantage of having the witnesses before them, and in that way being able to come to their own conclusions as to the character and reliability of the witnesses, is in a very much better position to come to sound decisions on the evidence which they put forward than any other body which at a later date has only the advantage of the written note of what they said. There can be no question about that.

Hear, hear.

Mr. Hogan

Yet in this particular case it is suggested that a person with all these disadvantages if he has any functions is to overrule the decisions of a body, a semi-judicial body, entitled to take evidence on oath, and that has had the evidence to enable them to come to a proper decision, and which the Comptroller and Auditor-General has not. It goes deeper. If it applies in this case, it applies to every tribunal set up. There is no reason why an exception should be made in this case. Deputies have pretended that we are making an exception. We are not; we are making no exception. None whatever. Wherever the facts are similar, wherever it is necessary to set up a judicial tribunal to arrive at conclusions on oral evidence which ends in a decree being given for money, the Comptroller and Auditor-General could have no function in the way of re-trying the case. In no country outside of Bolivia would it be suggested that such a proceeding would be anything but extremely foolish.

Who has suggested that?

What is the reason for the Bill?

Mr. Hogan

What is the point of the Deputy's remark? It is easy to answer that question. We are advised by the Attorney-General that the Comptroller and Auditor-General has no right to see the files. He thinks he has. We wish to clarify the position. I do not profess to be a better legal adviser than the Attorney-General, but supposing there had been a mistake in the drafting, and that the Comptroller and Auditor-General had the right to hear these cases, to hear evidence, nobody knows better than Deputy Davin that when the original Bill was going through the Dáil it was not contemplated that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should have power to call up witnesses and re-try the cases.

Why did not the Minister say that from these benches?

Mr. Hogan

I ask the Deputy to make a definite statement, that when this Bill was before the Dáil he contemplated that each case would be re-tried by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and that other witnesses would be summoned before the Comptroller and Auditor-General from every part of the country; that he would have the right to examine every witness and every document; and not only the right to examine, but the right to cross-examine, for that is the case that has been made, if any case has been made.

Mr. Hogan

The Comptroller and Auditor-General and by every Deputy who has spoken up to this.

A Deputy

No.

Mr. Hogan

Very well. If not, it is Deputy MacEntee's case.

No, I have made no case yet.

Mr. Hogan

If it is not the case, is it the case that documents should be brought before the Comptroller and Auditor-General?

If the Comptroller and Auditor-General on examining the records found that a particular applicant for a pension had no service in Easter Week and that he was awarded the pension, he should have the right to report that to the Committee of Public Accounts, for obviously something wrong had happened.

Mr. Hogan

Before I answer that question may I point out to Deputy MacEntee that he knows already that that question from him is an admission of my contention?

It was Deputy Lemass who put that question and not Deputy MacEntee.

Mr. Hogan

That question from Deputy Lemass is an admission of my contention that the real case here is that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be empowered to re-try all the cases. If the Comptroller and Auditor-General from an examination of the records found that a certain applicant had not been out in Easter Week, and that he was given an Easter Week pension what would his functions be? His functions would be to call all the evidence, all the oral evidence that went towards showing whether he was or was not out in Easter Week. Does the Deputy suggest that the Comptroller and Auditor-General would be entitled to come to a definite decision on the question of whether A.B. was in arms in Easter Week without hearing any oral evidence that the man would like to bring forward because the records did not show he was? That is the contention. As a matter of fact the question has no relation to realities. Deputy Lemass knows that as well as I do and so does Deputy MacEntee, if he knows anything——

Apparently the Minister does not know the difference between Deputy MacEntee and Deputy Lemass.

Mr. Hogan

—that so far as the applications were concerned they were water tight. Nobody is likely to understate his case in his application. Applications, so far as they are evidence at all, in a great many cases are evidence that the particular applicants are entitled to much bigger pensions. Deputies must know perfectly well that is so, that an applicant in an application does not understate his case. The real problem of the tribunal was to get rebutting evidence as against the applications, so that the Deputy's question has no relation to the realities of the case. Even if it was found that on the application form there was no reference to Easter Week service, and that a pension had been given in respect of Easter Week, it would be the duty of any judicial person who knew that other evidence has been admitted and received in that case to look for the other evidence. There is no other way of trying the case. If Deputies have definitely abandoned the position that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should re-try all the cases and hear all the evidence again, then they are driven back on this, that he should have the opportunity of going through the written evidence of two kinds — one, the applications and references sent in by the applicants themselves, and the references; and, secondly, the notes of the oral evidence. Is that the position? I dealt with that. Is it the position that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be entitled to overrule a body who has had the advantage of seeing the witnesses and the opportunity of judging of their reliability? If that is the position, if we accept that in regard to this case, we should accept it in regard to any analogous cases.

I think it was Deputy O'Connell, who is not present to-day, who made the point, which is quite relevant enough, on the last occasion that the Comptroller and Auditor-General has certain functions in regard to the pensions of civil servants. Of course he has, but it is not necessary to set up a tribunal to decide what a Civil Service pension shall be. All the evidence for computing a Civil Service pension is there on the records, and it is a simple calculation. It is on the records when a civil servant entered the service, was established and when he left. The Comptroller and Auditor-General can find out that more easily than he can find out most things. No oral evidence is necessary, and no witnesses are sworn on one side or another. There is no analogy between the two cases. There is far more difficulty owing to the nature of the case in assessing liability for pensions in cases of this sort that we have been discussing, than in assessing the pensions of civil servants whose service is on the files and is known. There is much more difficulty in the one case than in the other. It was necessary to set up a judicial tribunal to hear all the evidence in these cases.

Is the Minister for Finance obliged under the Military Service Pensions Act to accept every decision by the Board of Assessors and pay accordingly?

Mr. Hogan

No. The Minister, as he pointed out, has power to re-open a case and send it back to them.

On what grounds?

Mr. Hogan

He has powers under the Act to do that. The Minister for Finance has power to send back cases to the tribunal to reconsider them. That is clear.

Will the Minister cite the authority?

Mr. Hogan

What is the relevancy of all that to this? I am not now on the question of the Minister's power; I am on the question of the power of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

Is it not a fact that the officer of this House, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, is superior, so far as this House is concerned, on financial matters to the Minister for Finance?

Mr. Hogan

That is absurd.

It is not absurd.

Mr. Hogan

It is perfectly absurd. The word "superior" is completely out of place. The main function of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is to audit. He is an auditor. That is his main function. This House——

The main function of the Comptroller and Auditor-General does not arise on this Bill.

Mr. Hogan

No, but I have been asked a question.

The Minister should not answer irrelevant questions.

Mr. Hogan

If the Leas-Cheann Comhairle would tell me when a question is irrelevant it would help me. I do not know whether the question asked by Deputy Davin is irrelevant, but the question was: "What are the powers of the Minister in the matter?" Sub-section (6) of Section 4 says: "The findings of the Board of Assessors set out in their report shall in all cases be final and conclusive and binding upon the applicant, provided, however, that the Board may at any time re-open any or all of their findings at the request of the Minister on the ground that evidence not available prior to the making of their report had since become available, and upon hearing such additional evidence the Board of Assessors may amend their report, and alter or discharge any findings therein as may seem to them just having regard to such further evidence." That is the answer.

The Minister has access to the files, then?

He has not.

Mr. Hogan

What has that got to do with this question, in any event? The question here is what functions the Comptroller and Auditor-General should have in this regard? I have heard a great many silly proposals made in this House from the benches opposite. They all come from there. But the proposal that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should spend his time examining all the proceedings of a semi-judicial tribunal, examining witnesses and giving decisions in regard to matters that have already been judicially decided, after evidence has been heard on both sides, is about the silliest of all. Deputies in all parts of the House, except on the Cumann na nGaedheal Benches have been drifting from point to point. Their first point, as far as they meant anything except just talk, was that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should examine all the files and, presumably, examine all the witnesses.

Mr. Hogan

That has been definitely dropped.

It was never suggested.

Mr. Hogan

They next came to the point that he should examine all the records, and for what purpose? Just for want of something better to do. Is he to come to decisions on them? If he is, is he to come to decisions on partial evidence? Is that suggested? The next point is that he should examine not only all the records but the notes of evidence. For what purpose? To come to decisions on them. Deputies may be quite clear on our position in the matter. Whenever it is necessary, whenever there are similar circumstances, whenever a question of this sort involving the payment of money has to be decided and it can only be decided after the hearing of evidence pro and con, we will, if we are responsible, set up a judicial body, and the work of that judicial body will not be duplicated by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. We are not going to put ourselves in that futile position, and neither, I think I may prophesy, will any future Government of this country. We need have no qualms of conscience in this matter. There is no necessity to prove our financial integrity. We are a fairly young State and as a Government we are not very long in office, but we have established this thing definitely, and nobody in this country at this stage, anyway, no matter how malevolent or ill-conditioned he or she may be, can suggest for one moment that the financial procedure adopted by this Government is not above suspicion — nobody — or that the administration of any Minister in his office is not above suspicion. That suggestion can never be made by anyone here.

I do not think that that arises on this Bill.

Mr. Hogan

Only to this extent, I suggest: I cannot see any logical, any sensible reason, any sense in the case put up by the Opposition in this regard. I do believe that they are not serious when they suggest that it was ever intended, either when the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General was established or at a later date when this Bill was passed, that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be a functionary whose business it was to retry cases already judicially decided. I do not believe that any Deputy, no matter how foolish, no matter how lacking in experience of public affairs he might be, was serious in putting forward that contention, and that is the contention being put forward.

Is the Minister satisfied that the Board of Assessors heard evidence in relation to all applications?

Mr. Hogan

Certainly.

How does he know?

Mr. Hogan

Does the Deputy ask me if I was present at every case? I was not.

What is the foundation of your knowledge?

Mr. Hogan

That interruption was made in order to put me off the point I was making. I will come to that. I cannot believe, as I say, that Deputies opposite, foolish and all as they may be, futile and all as they may be, or that Deputies on the Labour Benches, really seriously believe the contention they put forward, and so far as there is any honesty at all in this contention, I think it is due to the ignorance of ordinary financial procedure in countries that have grown up. We are grown up financially. We have established in this country a system of financial control that is above reproach.

Belfast or here?

Mr. Hogan

Here it is above reproach.

You will not make that boast after this Bill goes through.

Mr. Hogan

Try to be quiet for a moment, like a good child. I want to tell Deputies who have any qualms of that sort, who want to prove to the world our financial rectitude, that they are wasting their time. We are so sure of ourselves that we need not do it, and we refuse to do it. In this case these files are not going to the Comptroller and Auditor-General absolutely, and in any similar cases where it is necessary that judicial tribunals shall be set up for the purpose of taking evidence pro and con, or to prove accounts to be paid or a liability to the State, we will adopt exactly the same procedure without passing any compliment to anyone in the matter.

Will you answer my question?

Mr. Hogan

What was the question?

How do you know that the Board heard evidence on each application?

That does not arise.

Mr. Hogan

Of course it does not, but I would like an opportunity to answer.

No, the Minister cannot do so.

The Minister has treated the House to an exhibition which might be worthy of the Petty Sessions Court, but which is not worthy of a legislative assembly that is called upon to uproot the prerogative of perhaps the most important officer in the State, the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The Minister has made a number of statements without a shred of evidence, without a shred of precedent, without a shred of citation from any Act of Parliament, from the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee or any other committee, or from any Government regulation to support him in a single statement. The only important statement that he made had the kybosh put upon it by the President; that was the statement that since oral evidence was given before this Board of Assessors the Comptroller and Auditor-General could not, in the nature of things, audit that evidence, and the President pointed out that the evidence was duly transcribed, a record of it has been taken, and it is in the archives of the Board of Assessors, and therefore that evidence is available, and it ought to be available, for the Comptroller and Auditor-General if only the Government would stick to the Act under which that officer was appointed. We have often been told here from the Ministerial Bench that civil servants ought not to be attacked, that it was unfair to attack an official who could not defend himself. But here is the Minister for Agriculture making an attack upon the prestige, upon the dignity, and upon the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, who is not here to defend himself.

Mr. Hogan

On a point of order. I will not allow that to pass. I suggest that I never made any such attack on the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and I ask the Chair to protect me in that matter.

On that I think the Deputy is quite wrong, because even if the Minister had attempted to make an attack on the Comptroller and Auditor-General he would not be allowed to do so by the Chair.

The attack might not be——

Mr. Hogan

I am entitled to make my position clear. I despise anyone who attacks civil servants, or attacks people who are not able to answer.

I think the Deputy is wrong.

I shall read for the Dáil some of the statements made by the Minister during his speech, and if they are not an attack on the person of the Comptroller and Auditor-General they are certainly an attack on his position.

On a point of order——

The President will allow me. I understood Deputy Derrig's statement was to the effect that the Minister for Agriculture had attacked the person of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

I withdraw that.

The Minister did not say that. Neither the Minister nor anybody else would be allowed to do so by the Chair.

I withdraw the statement that the person of the Comptroller and Auditor-General was attacked, but the following statements were made in regard to him, and if they are not attacks on the position I do not know what they are. "We are asked to go through a farce."

On a point of order. The Ceann Comhairle and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle lay down what is order and what is not order. I submit it is not in order for a Deputy, having been told by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle that a matter is not in order, to get up and read out something and say "if that is not an attack I do not know what is."

We make you a present of the difference.

I think the Deputy is entitled to his opinion and as soon as Deputy Derrig becomes disorderly the Chair will take action.

We are asked to go through a farce, he said. This is the farce the Minister for Agriculture speaks of that the House has been treated to. What else is it but a farce — this green Bill? It is a farce because the orders, the duties and the functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General are being usurped by the Minister for Finance, and by the Executive Council, and because they refuse to accord to him the facilities that under the law of this land he is entitled to exercise. What does the claim of the Comptroller and Auditor-General amount to? The claim of the Comptroller and Auditor-General amounts to this, that he demands to have access to all documents, to all information, to all vouchers upon which these awards are based. There is no use drawing the red herring into the discussion that the method in which the tribunal carried on its proceedings has nothing whatever to do with the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The function of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is what is his own opinion, and no refutation of it has come here. Statements have been made that the Attorney-General has advised the State that the Comptroller and Auditor-General is outside his rights in demanding this, but no statement has been produced from the Attorney-General. Unfortunately the Attorney-General is not a member of this House. He is not here to state the legal position, and the Minister for Agriculture knows so little about the legal position that he has taken up the time of the House with a long rigmarole of strictness and abuse of everybody leading to nothing in particular. Are we asked to go through a farce? What are we deciding? What are the functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General to be in this matter? Whoever suggested that the Comptroller and Auditor-General was to see and examine witnesses? Did the Comptroller and Auditor-General suggest that? Did anyone on this side of the House suggest it? Did the Labour Party suggest it? I never heard of such a preposterous suggestion. To think that that kind of thing will go down with the House at this hour of the day is really treating even the back benchers of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party with too much contempt. The Comptroller and Auditor-General should see withnesses and examine them. The Comptroller and Auditor-General is to see witness and examine them! The Comptroller and Auditor-General is to overrule the decisions of a court! The Comptroller and Auditor-General is to do no such thing. His functions are laid down in Article 62 of the Constitution. Repeal that Article of the Constitution, repeal the Exchequer and Audit Acts of 1866 and of 1921, and the Comptroller and Auditor-General Act of 1923. If you repeal these Acts you can talk about passing this Bill into law. What you are doing at present is simply putting theipse dixit of some Minister like the Minister for Agriculture, who knows nothing whatever about this question, who has never taken the time nor the trouble to study it, over and above the Comptroller and Auditor-General, who has been placed in his position by this Dáil, who is the servant of this Dáil, and not of the Government, whose function it is to see that moneys are spent, that due accounts shall be rendered to him for all such moneys, to see how moneys are spent and spent in accordance with the wishes of the Dáil.

Article 62 of the Constitution says: —

Dáil Eireann shall appoint a Comptroller and Auditor-General to Act on behalf of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann). He shall control all disbursements and shall audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas, and shall report to Dáil Eireann at stated periods to be determined by law.

Is Article 62 of the Constitution to hold, or is the speech of the Minister for Agriculture to hold? The Exchequer and Audit Department Act of 1921, Section 1, says: —

Every Appropriation Account shall be examined by the Comptroller and Auditor-General on behalf of the House of Commons, and in the examination of such accounts the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall satisfy himself that the money expended has been applied to the purpose or purposes for which the Grants made by Parliament were intended to provide, and that the expenditure conforms with the authority which governs it.

Mention of the House of Commons does not matter there because that Act and all Acts defining the powers and duties of the Comptroller and Auditor-General in Great Britain were made to apply to this country under the Act of 1923, and under the Adaptation of Enactments Act. Section 28 of the Exchequer and Audit Department Act of 1866 says:

In order that such examination may as far as possible proceedpari passu with the transactions of the several accountancy departments the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall have free access, at all convenient times, to the books and accounts and other documents relating to the accounts of such departments and may require the several departments concerned to furnish him, from time to time, or at regular periods, with accounts of the transactions of such departments.

Was the Comptroller and Auditor-General exercising his powers or was he not? Was he over-stepping his powers? Was he trying to set himself up, as the Minister for Agriculture would have us believe, as a supreme court, as a tribunal of appeal over this Board of Assessors? He was doing no such thing. He was looking for some information that he had a right to get, that he has got in the case of old age pensioners, pensioned national teachers, Civil Service pensioners, and in the case of the ex-R.I.C.

What one?

The Bill passed last week.

Some more side tracking.

According to the Comptroller and Auditor-General in any case he has a right to audit these accounts, and what he says as an auditor is not that a list shall be presented to him of payments to certain persons who held certain ranks, or showed certain service in the Army, but that the evidence on which the awards were made shall be made available to him, that he shall have free and full access to all documents and papers in connection therewith. It was in connection with the exercise of that right which he has in the case of all other pensioners that he tried to exercise it in this case. Accordingly on the 7th January, 1926, the Comptroller and Auditor-General wrote to the Army Finance Officer stating:

It is requested that the original applications for service pensions paid during the financial year ended 31st March, 1925, may be forwarded to this Department

He simply asked for the original application. The reply received from the Army Finance Office, dated 16th February, 1926, stated: —

In accordance with the request I duly applied to the Secretary, Board of Assessors, for the original application, and received the following reply, dated 1st inst., from the Chairman: "The Board cannot agree to forward the documents mentioned."

Just in the same way as no arguments have come forward in support of the proposal that the duties and powers of the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be curtailed in this arbitrary fashion by the Executive Council, so on that occasion that officer, who was placed in a position by the Constitution of the State and by three different Acts upon the Statute Book to carry out these duties, was refused all information. He was simply told: "You cannot have these documents." No reason was given, because this Board of Assessors was such a high and mighty Board that it thought itself not alone superior to the ordinary courts, to the ordinary procedure, to the ordinary departmental routine, even to the Ministers, but it thought, and I hope now it will find out its mistake, that it was also superior to the Dáil—that the Dáil could not interfere and put that Board in its place.

Mr. Gorman, the Army Finance Officer at the time, made a very feeble argument in favour of the Board of Assessors. And why not? The Board of Assessors has produced no argument; the Ministers have produced no argument; the Minister for Finance, in any of his dealings with the Committee of Public Accounts, has produced no argument; and, therefore, it was only natural that this unfortunate official who was before that Committee of Public Accounts, and who had to answer to them for the transgressions of the Board of Assessors, should say: "Under Section 3 (6) of the Act the findings of the Board of Assessors set out in their report shall in all cases be final and conclusive and binding upon the applicant." As the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee pointed out, "upon the applicant" and upon nobody else. If they are final and conclusive and binding upon everybody, what is the necessity for this Bill? The fact that this Bill is brought in now, and that we have to sanction the illegality of this Board of Assessors, or whoever represented it——

The Deputy I think is going altogether off the track, when he talks of the illegality of the Board. The question of criticising the Board's proceedings does not arise under this Bill.

Surely I am entitled to show the Dáil the trend of the discussion at the Public Accounts Committee which led up to the present situation, and how the lawful request of the Comptroller and Auditor-General were met? It does not matter to me whether it is the Board of Assessors or the Army Finance Officer acting on their behalf. What I do say is that they at that time set themselves out as superior to the Comptroller and Auditor-General and they produced no shred of evidence or argument or reason which supported that claim.

The question before the House is the Bill.

On this Bill, we are in exactly the same position. No evidence whatever in support of the claim that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should not have access to these papers has been brought forward. The Act of Parliament has been quoted, but in a very minor particular. It has been quoted in reference to Section 6 by the Minister for Agriculture in regard to the Minister for Finance, and even in that small matter, the Minister for Agriculture showed that he had never read the Act, because it was not the Minister for Finance, but the Minister for Defence, who was referred to in that particular section. We are asked in this Bill to sanction the proceedings of that board of which we have no knowledge; of which the Minister for Agriculture, in spite of his enthusiasm, has no knowledge; of which he know so little that he does not even know whether the evidence taken and sworn, I presume, there — I do not know whether it was or not — was ever written down upon paper. It is akin with his knowledge of the rest of the subject and with his idea of this Dáil, that he should come forward and treat us to such a miserable and preposterous setting forth of his ideas.

Deputy Cooper, who I am sorry is not present, when speaking on this matter pointed out that he had been a member of the Public Accounts Committee and that if there was anything he looked forward to, in case he left public life, it would be the feeling that while on that Committee he had done good work for the country. It is an extraordinary thing that Deputy Cooper himself recognised, while a member of the Public Accounts Committee, with his colleagues there, that this position, if not illegal, was anomalous, and that, at any rate, an effort was being made to curtail the rights and powers of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. He was a member of the Public Accounts Committee which submitted the report signed by Deputy Davin on 24th February, 1928, which Deputy Davin has already read to the House, and which they may be in danger of forgetting; because when people who know nothing whatever about the Public Accounts Committee, and about the procedure, and do not even go to the trouble of ascertaining the simple facts in connection with it, get up here and treat us to the kind of stuff that the Minister for Agriculture has treated us to, we are apt to forget the simple facts of the case. The Public Accounts Committee reported: —

It is undesirable to deal with a charge which recurs annually in a manner which appears to limit the powers conferred on the Comptroller and Auditor-General who is required by the terms of the Statute defining the duties and powers of his office to examine on behalf of the Dáil every Appropriation Account other than those in which a specific indication to the contrary appears on the face of the Estimate.

When Deputy Cooper was speaking here the last evening he took very great care indeed, though not anxious to prejudice the weak position which the Government hold upon the question, knowing something about this matter, and having been a member of the Public Accounts Committee, that another side of the question should be brought out in the Dáil. He said here quite definitely two things, and these are the only two important points in his speech: that there were abnormal circumstances in connection with this matter and that, perhaps, the Labour Party were somewhat to blame because, when this Bill was originally passing through the Dáil, they did not say that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should have the right that they now say he has. The same argument was made, as a matter of fact, by the Minister for Finance — why did not the Labour Party say so-and-so when the Bill was being passed? The answer is there — there was no need to. That Bill was the same as every other Pensions Bill, in connection with which the awards and the evidence upon which the awards were based, and all other matters connected therewith should have been available to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It speaks well for the Labour Party — and I give them credit for it — that they took the chief part in showing up this thing. A decision was arrived at the year before Deputy Davin was in the Chair and the amount in the Estimate that year of £2,000 was passed by the Public Accounts Committee.

It speaks well for Deputy Davin and the Labour Party that the following year they got Deputy Cooper himself to bring in this amendment or minute that I have read, because although it is in Deputy Davin's name it was Deputy Cooper brought it in. Deputy Cooper brought in this amendment, saying that an attempt was being made to limit the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Therefore, it comes badly from Deputy Cooper at this stage to say that the Labour Party is to blame, and that the Dáil did not know its own mind — that the thing was not foreseen, that it was not clear in the Act. That is all rubbish, all hogwash. The Act was the same as every Act. The Labour Party took the view that there was one Vote different to all other Votes where the Auditor-General is not allowed this right, and that is the Secret Service Vote. We all know that; it is stated on the face of it. But there is nothing in the Bill to show that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should not have the right. Nobody has brought it forward here or would be able to show that the Comptroller and Auditor-General has not these rights. These were denied him for the past two years. Speaking the last night, Deputy Cooper thought perhaps that the position and dignity of the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General might require considerable strengthening even from him, as a member of the Government Party, when he said that at no time did the Comptroller and Auditor-General exceed his functions or power.

Now we are told by the Minister for Agriculture that he is trying to do so, that he is trying to set himself up as a tribunal over this Board of Assessors; that he is going to hear witnesses from all over the country. Did anybody ever hear a grosser misrepresentation of the whole business than that? Are we to believe Deputy Cooper that the rights and prerogatives of the Comptroller and Auditor-General are being prejudiced, or are we to believe the Minister for Agriculture, who was never on the Public Accounts Committee and never took the trouble to study any of its proceedings. It has been said that this is a court. Apart from the ground that the Comptroller and Auditor-General has these rights, that as he is an officer of the Dáil and endowed under Statutes of the Dáil with the power, it is our duty as Deputies of the Dáil to support him in asserting these powers against any Minister or against the Executive or against any officials who attempt to interfere with him. What does the Comptroller and Auditor-General himself say. One might have thought from the speech of the Minister for Agriculture that the Comptroller and Auditor-General had no feeling in this matter. He has feelings. It is no joke for an official of the Dáil who is in a special position and has special rights attached to his office, and whose position is preserved by the Constitution, to find himself moving contrary to the wishes of the Executive in power, and having to pit himself and his office year after year against the combined attacks, against the combined efforts, massed forces of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Defence, and the whole Executive Council in this particular matter. Therefore, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, who, the Minister for Agriculture would give us the impression, was either a nonentity or a Frankenstein, is in danger of doing enormous damage unless we take steps to retard him.

When the Army Finance Officer came forward with the legal arguments, such as they were, the Auditor-General made a statement. I shall give his exact words. I do not give them because they establish a special point in my favour, but to show that as an official the Comptroller and Auditor-General has to go before the Public Accounts Committee. The Committee naturally have to regard things from his standpoint since we represent the Dáil and he represents the Dáil and since he only brings before us irregularities, things he thinks are not right. We naturally have, to a certain extent, to take his standpoint. When the Committee of Public Accounts were examining the 1924-25 Accounts through some extraordinary weakness which they made up for the following year when they signed Deputy Davin's report, they professed to see reason in the statement of the Department of Defence that these things should not be made public to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Mr. McGrath said: "I do not want to be regarded as coming here to get the authority of the committee to go any further than the intention of the Dáil, but it is my duty to point out that this committee is agreeing that moneys voted by the Dáail shall be expended without examination of the basis of the award." There precisely the Comptroller and Auditor-General had to state his position. He was defeated upon that position for the time being. The following year, with Deputy Davin in control, a definite minute was inserted in the report which originated with Deputy Cooper himself and that minute specifically reversed the decision of the previous year and came to the conclusion that the abnormal circumstances——

On a point of order, the Deputy has announced that a minute of the Public Accounts Committee has definitely reversed the decision of the previous Public Accounts Committee. I think it is only fair to the Dáil that this committee which represents the whole Dáil should be exonerated from the charge that one committee definitely repudiated the decision of the previous committee.

My reply to Deputy Esmonde is that expenditure was passed by the Public Accounts Committee sitting on the 1925-26 accounts by a majority for certain reasons that were set out which I shall deal with in a moment. The following year the statement was inserted in the report that I have read out — I think it is not necessary to read it again. It was inserted by Deputy Cooper and unanimously adopted, as Deputy Davin pointed out, whereas the previous year it was only passed by a majority.

On a point of order, the statement is that in the first year sums were passed, and it is now suggested by the Deputy that in the second year similar sums connected with the Vote were not passed.

Is this a point of order or a statement of fact.

The Deputy read a certain section of the report of the second Public Accounts Committee.

What is the point of order?

The point of order is that the Deputy has suggested that the second Public Accounts Committee reversed the decision of the first committee in passing these pensions.

That is not a point of order.

I hope Deputy Esmonde will be given an opportunity of speaking after. I only wish to emphasise that strong as is the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General under the Constitution and in law, and sympathetic as is the understanding with which he is treated and has to be treated by the Committee of Public Accounts, the Committee have to interpret the law as they find it. The Comptroller and Auditor-General has to answer questions there to account for his decisions like any other officer. He has to meet officials of the various departments, and the Committee of Public Accounts have in the long run to make up their mind whether he in his criticisms is right or wrong. Therefore, if we weaken the position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General in this matter, if we say that he was wrong, if we give sanction to the proceeding of withholding these data from him, we weaken his position for the whole future. We destroy his prestige. We take this pillar of the State, this chief officer whom we have to look after our finances and whose duty it is to see that we are controlled, and at the behest of the Ministry we are simply throwing him into the dust. The other argument in favour of this Bill is that this precious Board of Assessors was a court, and as a court there can be no appeal from it. Apart from the rights and functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General we, on this side of the House, take the opportunity to state, have stated and will continue to state, that we have no confidence in the Board and that we are not satisfied with it. Deputy Boland, Deputy Lemass, Deputy Aiken and others have given individual instances. No opportunity is given to anybody, to the Comptroller and Auditor-General or anyone else if this Bill becomes law, to review the evidence upon which we believe these wrongful awards were made. It would be a terrible thing, we are told, if there was any appeal from the Board of Assessors. There is an appeal from every court to the Supreme Court. There was an appeal from the Supreme Court to the British Privy Council, and we know the effect of that. We know that legislation was passed in this House as a result of it or legislation that was in some way connected with it. There must always be an appeal from a court to a higher court.

The very fact that this court sat in such abnormal circumstances — circumstances which induced Deputy Cooper, whom I am glad to see here now, to give it his benediction at the time — shows clearly that that Board was not in its nature a court. It could not be a court. It had not the judicial detachment, the independence of party, which must belong to a court. Neither had its proceedings publicity. It was constituted of three persons, two being members of the Government Party and the third being a barrister. It sat in private, took all its evidence in private, and no part of its proceedings, so far as I know, was made public. Does any member of the Party who hold control in the Free State at present contend that a body is a court which hears only partial evidence, which has two members of a political party of three as judges, that party always holding a majority in all cases and in all awards? This semi-political tribunal heard only part of the evidence, and heard that part in secret under abnormal circumstances, when we had just ceased a civil war, and when one part of the old I.R.A. was on one side and another part on the other side. The part which happened to be on my side, at any rate, was never heard. It is not that they expect reward, but, as Deputy Boland and Deputy Lemass pointed out, their information, as has since been the case, might have been sought, might have been looked for, and might have saved the State some of this £150,000, which we believe is being mischievously squandered. Officers of the so-called Irregular Forces were called in in at least one case I know to uphold the State and save it from the extravagance into which the Minister, in their political enthusiasm, precipitated it after their great victory.

We have no information. We are told that this court sat in secret, hearing only part of the evidence, and belonging exclusively — I think I may say without saying anything unduly harsh about the tribunal—to one political party. To say that that court is above review, and that no other court or person should ever have power to review its proceedings is an extraordinary contradiction, because if any mistakes are made, and if new facts are brought to light the Board themselves may re-open the case, but, we are told, no other body is to have that power. What will happen if anything happens any members of the Board? Someone will have to take their place. Apparently, they are to continue in sæcula sæculorum, and as long as the Minister for Finance allows them, provided they see fit to accord to his wishes. There was a case in connection with a soldier killed in a street brawl which came before the Public Accounts Committee. In this case, on account of the attitude of the Public Accounts Committee, the Minister for Finance submitted a case to the Attorney-General, who reported back on the 26th April, 1926, Appendix 13, in the 1926-27 Report. The Attorney-General's Report on this particular case shows that this court is not by any means infallible. It can make mistakes like anyone else. Although he himself was not anxious to be set up as a Court of Appeal——

The particular case mentioned by the Deputy is not concerned with this Bill.

I think it is under a different tribunal; it is a wounds pension tribunal.

At all events, it is the same Board.

In any case, the opinion of the Attorney-General has been quoted here. I do not propose to quote it if I am wrong. I can afford to do without it. The statement of the Attorney-General, who is not here to answer, has not been produced to the Dáil to show that the Comptroller and Auditor-General is wrong, and that the officials of the Ministry are right.

For the benefit of the Deputy may I say that he attacked the Minister for Agriculture for not having studied his case? The Deputy will find the opinion of the Attorney-General in the Report of the Public Accounts Committee if he cares to look for it. If he wishes, I can give him the page.

What is the page?

I presume that the Deputy has not read it.

I have not seen it, but if I had, I think I have enough honesty not to try to misrepresent it.

That is what we would expect from you, and that is precisely the attitude in which you administer the affairs of your Department. It was in that attitude that you went over to Uncle Sam to preach companionship with John Bull there. The servant girls of America were not good enough for you. You would like to be with the big fellows. The Department of Defence produced reasons to show why this impartial Court should not have the papers in connection with it produced to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. These are the reasons given by the Department of Defence. The Department of Defence, you will notice, in these reasons which they allege to be sound and substantial, have not accorded this officer his rights. They do not quote a single Act of Parliament or authority to uphold them in this struggle which they now propose to carry out victoriously. The first argument was: "The information contained in the documents in question was of a character that rendered it undesirable, in the public interest, that it should be made available, either now or for many years to come, to any person whatsoever. The matters which the Board investigated were of a type bearing a strong analogy to those ordinarily the subject of secret service, the Vote for which is specifically exempt from audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General." The point is that as the Secret Service were specifically exempt, and as the Military Service pensions were not specifically exempt from audit, they were open to audit. There could be no doubt about that.

The next question is where is the analogy to the Secret Service? We could develop a political argument on this side to show that there is a political analogy if we wanted to in that case. But in the case of the Secret Service, where the Government may be carrying on espionage against another Government, which may be important for it in future, to say that the details of that should be placed on the same basis as evidence in connection with services for which pensions are granted to a large number of persons whose names, activities, and addresses are known, is absurd. How is it claimed that these matters are secret, that it would not be in the public interest to give details of them to the Comptroller and Auditor-General? It has been emphasised by Deputy Lemass and other Deputies that the Comptroller and Auditor-General does not want to publish these facts at all. All the Comptroller and Auditor-General wants is to assure himself that these payments are right, that these people are entitled to the money and that the vouchers and documents in connection with them are available. If there is nothing irregular about it what is the objection to examination by the Comptroller and Auditor-General? Nothing is reported by him except something which he thinks is contrary to the wishes of the Dáil and the law of the land. Therefore, I think there are no documents that cannot be given to the Comptroller and Auditor-General or to members of the Committee, if necessary, about the records and activities of these men.

A great many of these pensioners have left the country and Deputy Cooper stated that perhaps they might be made amenable in other States for their activities. If the British Government can still prosecute men for activities that were carried out before the Truce, I am astonished, if we are in a friendly state with England and if all the delightful things which the Minister for Defence has been saying about the English in America is only slightly true.

The next point is "that stringent assurances that their statements and evidence would be regarded as confidential were given by the Board to applicants and witnesses in order to enable the Board to secure the evidence to arrive at its reports."

Can the Deputy give us the date of that statement?

This document is in the report. As a matter of fact it came from the Department of Defence.

Can the Deputy give us the approximate date upon which it came before the Public Accounts Committee?

On the 30/3/'27.

On a point of order may I suggest that the Deputy is possibly unconsciously misleading the House, that he has been reading from the report of the Public Accounts Committee and that the reasons which he has been giving are reasons which I myself submitted to the Public Accounts Committee and were not accepted.

That is not a point of order. I cannot hear Deputy Esmonde any further.

This statement is admitted.

The legal opinion which the Deputy wants was given about a month or six weeks before that. He must have skipped something in his brief.

Where is the legal opinion?

It has just come in.

It is on page 255 of the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, and the date is the 16th February, 1927.

Is that in the report?

Yes, every word. That is the gap the Deputy jumped.

I have not seen it.

The Deputy would not like to see it.

I want it.

Is the Deputy dealing with the question of Military Service pensions? Is he quoting from a document about that?

Was not the Attorney-General's opinion about something else? About wound pensions?

The Deputy complained that he could not see the opinion of the Attorney-General, but it appears in the report of the Public Accounts Committee which the Deputy skipped.

I think the President is making a slight mistake. The Attorney-General may have given some opinion on some aspects of the Board's work, but the Attorney-General has not given an opinion on this matter of the Comptroller and Auditor-General versus the Board of Assessors.

I would like to correct that.

Where is it?

I have it here. I will tell you the page.

You want to upset me in speaking.

This is all useless.

Oh, no. I know the Deputy is anxious for truth, but he is omitting portion of the report. I am endeavouring to supply it.

I am quoting from the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, dated the 30/3/27. Deputy Cooper was Chairman. If the Attorney-General supplied the opinion that you now speak of, why did Deputy Cooper and the Committee issue this report at all?

That is another question.

Let Deputy Derrig continue his argument.

The second point is "that stringent assurances that their statements and evidence would be regarded as confidential were given by the Board to applicants and witnesses in order to enable the Board to secure the evidence necessary to arrive at its reports." Assurances were necessary! In the words of Deputy Cooper when he was speaking here the last night they exceeded their powers as the Auditor-General at no time exceeded his powers. The Board of Assessors at the very commencement of their operations did something which they had no power to do, particularly if they were, as is now argued, a court whose decisions must go down as irrevocable, and cannot be ever challenged. They gave stringent assurances that the evidence would be confidential. That apparently is only natural, in view of the great number of pensioners from Meath, for example, in proportion to the small amount of work which was done in Co. Meath. It is only natural that the Government would not like that the evidence upon which these pensions were given would be published or made available, even to the Auditor-General.

The next point is "that from the nature of the investigation which the Board of Assessors was called upon to make, difficult questions of fact would have arisen in the interpretation of pre-Truce military service; that only a Board of very specially qualified persons could ascertain these facts; and that accordingly its findings on such facts should not be open to review by any other authority."

The Board examined and came to a decision about questions which had happened many years before. They came to these decisions without having the evidence at their disposal of certain people like Deputy Boland or Deputy Lemass who could have given them evidence. There can be no question or doubt that they had not complete evidence in these cases. There can be no question or doubt that they exceeded their duty and power in making their court secret, and further there can be no question or doubt that they were actuated by political motives, because they belonged to one party which had just been at strife with the other party, and it is only human nature that they should have a certain attitude towards the people on the other side, and that they should determine that these people or anybody associated with them could never get a pension or should never in fact be called upon in this matter particularly if it were a case of giving evidence to prove that some staunch and tried supporter of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party in Co. Meath had a rather weak military record. It is only natural that evidence coming from people on this side of the House in a matter like that should not be accepted.

Would they have given evidence?

That is not for me to say. The Minister for Agriculture has said that they are not ashamed of the people who have pensions; they have a right to be.

Mr. Hogan

I do not think I said we were not ashamed of them. I would not put it that way. We are proud of them; that is our position.

You are proud of them; in any case the Minister is not going to apologise to anybody for giving those pensions. This is beside the point. As Deputy Boland said, the Government have a perfect right to divide the spoils to suit themselves. What we ask and what we are going to see as far as in us lies is that they carry out the regulations which they themselves have laid down in the Constitution, in the Acts of Parliament, and in the procedure of the Public Accounts Committee for carrying out the rules of the game. The Government Party no doubt have a certain amount of diffidence in this matter. We on this side of the House, if the Minister for Agriculture will credit us with such a thing as diffidence, have as a matter of fact diffidence.

We feel it a rather strange anomaly that a matter of this kind, involving pensions to a large number of people, should be decided in a House — the pensions being granted by a court the majority of which consisted of members of that party— by a Party which at present includes seven pensioners. It would be an extraordinary thing if we could expect argument, reason, logic or law from a Government that is placed in the extraordinary position the Government are in, that when a by-election happens the only man they can get is a man with a pension. In a short time pensioners will be set apart as a definite privileged class in this country, like the priests in ancient Egypt, and they will carry on the governmentin saecula saeculorum.

That is not the opinion of the country. The country has quite a different point of view about it, and the country, at least, imagines that we will not sanction the acts of the Board of Assessors, that we will not repeal, because that is what it amounts to, the Acts and the clause of the Constitution which conferred those powers on the Comptroller and Auditor-General who has endeavoured to exercise them, and which the Government or their henchmen have refused to allow him to exercise. At least, let the Government carry out the rules if they have nothing to be afraid of or nothing to be ashamed of. If, as I suspect, a good many of the Ministers would be quite glad to get rid of the pensioners if they could only get the opportunity, now is the time to do it.

May I make a personal explanation? Deputy Derrig attacked me, knowing I cannot reply, having already spoken. I only want to correct him on one point. The report of the Public Accounts Committee in 1927 was drawn up by the chairman, who was then leader of the Labour Party in the Dáil. Before it was issued he was taken ill, and I was appointed by the Committee as acting chairman to sign that report. I think there are Deputies here who remember it. It is the report of the Committee as a whole. As an individual, I am prepared to stand over my signature. I do not repudiate it. It was not my personal report, but that of the Committee as a whole, and it was not drafted by me in the terms in which it was made public. I am entitled to say that.

A Deputy

Are you running away from it?

I listened to this debate with a certain amount of disappointment. I am interested to a certain extent in Government accountancy, and I thought the Opposition in this debate would bring out weighty arguments as to why certain classes of expenditure should be scrutinised by the Department of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The arguments produced by the Opposition showed no sound reasons why any document should be shown to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Wild insinuations, vague charges, calling of names to the personnel of the Board, were the chief weapons of attack. True it is that the Labour Party expressed and showed a sincere anxiety lest a precedent be established in this case. Well, respect for precedent is not peculiar to any particular part of this House, and I submit to the Labour Party that in following the path laid down by this particular Bill we are more correctly following the established path laid down by precedent than by opposing this particular Bill. Two classes of expenditure have generally and uniformly been exempt from serutiny and re-investigation by the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General — (1) awards or expenditure made as a result of the verdict of a judicial tribunal having heard written and oral evidence, and (2) expenditure that can generally be regarded as of a highly confidential nature. Now the expenditure under the Military Service Pensions Act comes very genuinely under both heads. Everyone in this House knows that it would not be in the public interest to rake up the details and specific activities of individuals in the period to which this particular Act applies. No matter what their attitude is with regard to this Bill, deep down in their hearts they know that is a fact. When the main Bill was going through this House all parties in the House at the time, being nearer then to the events I referred to, knew and felt that it would be undesirable to make public the detailed activities of individuals. That is shown by the very formation of the Military Service Pensions Bill. That Bill was not the only Pensions Bill passed by the Dáil. Two other Pensions Bills were passed, but in neither of the other Bills was a statutory board brought into being.

In both other Bills the Committee working under the Minister was left to assess the pensions so that the arrangements were open to investigation by the Finance Department and the Comptroller and Auditor-General. In this particular Bill, unlike the other two, a statutory board was established by Dáil Eireann. Are we now to believe that the Labour Party who at that time were the main opposition party here and who were an alert and hard working party, so suddenly lost their alertness that they were asleep when that particular statutory board was established? It never occurred to them to ask the reason why. They will not say now that it was not understood at the time that these documents should not come before the Comptroller and Auditor-General. That question, every time it was put, was met by another question. Not one of the Labour Party has so far stood up and said that it was the intention of the House at the time the Military Service Pensions Bill was passing that the documents should be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

It need not be so stated.

I think it was Deputy Davin who referred to the Comptroller and Auditor-General as the official of the whole House. This board was just as much the instrument of this House as the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It was the instrument of the whole House, appointed to carry out a particular mission on behalf of the House. It differed from the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General in the fact that it was better qualified and more accomplished to carry out this peculiar investigation.

May I ask the Deputy if it is his contention that the House actually nominated and approved of the individuals appointed on that board, the same as we did in the case of the Auditor-General?

The Deputy is not referring to individuals. He is referring to a board appointed by the House to carry out a particular duty. and that is correct.

Appointed by the President.

The Labour Party are now — and well the Labour Party know it—in the position of attempting to strangle their own legitimate child. We can count on the other members who were present at the time that Bill was passed to see that the promises which were either made or implied at the time are honoured now. It has been stated that the object of the people opposing this Bill is merely that the documents, etc., should be brought before the Comptroller and Auditor-General, that it is not the intention that those documents should be made public. Deputies on all sides of this House know that the Comptroller and Auditor-General has got to report to the Public Accounts Committee, and the Public Accounts Committee, in turn, have got to report back to this House, and that year after year that particular report is made the subject of rather large headings in the daily papers. Do they want us to believe that there is going to be a departure from that if the Public Accounts Committee deal with this particular subject? If it is referred to the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee it will naturally appear in the Press. That will not be in the public interest. It will reawaken bitterness, re-open old wounds, and open again the sores and anguish of people who lost dear friends and relatives. Deputies may smile, but that is serious from a public point of view. No national good would be done by such a development, no good whatsoever.

It is implied that the Comptroller and Auditor-General at the present moment has not any documents in relation to this particular expenditure. He has all the documents that are necessary for an ordinary financial audit. The board made its assessments in terms of service and rank. These are passed to him and he sees that the expenditure under this Act corresponds with the documents. He has everything necessary for a full financial audit.

I think it was Deputy Aiken suggested that the Government was using this particular Bill in order to buy political support for the Cumann na nGaedheal Party. That particular speech, from beginning to end, was thoroughly unworthy. It was a speech that certainly will neither enhance the reputation of the speaker nor the prestige of his party. From that suggestion he drifted to calling certain members of the Board toadies and political hacks. As long as Parliamentary procedure is adhered to in any country, members of the Parliament will be asked to serve on boards appointed by that Parliament, and individuals asked to serve on such boards should not only be respected by the Parliament as a whole, but protected by the whole of that House from attack of an unfair kind. Suggestions were made that the Government utilised public funds to buy political support. There is not a man, woman or child in Ireland that will believe that. There is not one on these benches, not even Deputy Corry in his innocence, who believes that statement. You have a Government there of poor men who, if they continue in office, will die poor men. Members who occupied these benches and who have died, have died poor, and very poor men, and when the history of the first Government of the Irish Free State is written by impartial pens, all men will pay homage to the first Government of the Irish Free State, a Government of poor men financially and incorruptible.

Deputy Aiken, in order to drive home a rather blunt-nosed argument, referred to this House as the Parliament elected by the people. At the time the main Act was passed this House was none the less the Parliament elected by the people, although at the time the Deputy called it by other names. I would submit that terms such as "toadies" and "political hacks" refer more aptly to those who changed their minds on major questions with such ease and facility.

Deputy Boland, in the course of his remarks, told us that this question was really a question of the division of the spoils of war, that the spoils of war, after all, go to the victors, and that he did not complain. In the particular war the Deputy referred to all the spoils did not go to the victors. A substantial portion of the spoils went to the vanquished, and when there is a general demand from the Fianna Fáil Party that all public funds should be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, then we may possibly change our mind with regard to the sincerity of their attitude on this particular Bill.

I want to treat this Bill from one or two aspects which I think have not been touched upon before. If they have been touched upon they have not been emphasised sufficiently. I am not going to dwell very long on the question raised as to the jurisdiction of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. As far as I understand the constitutional position of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, he does not judge the case, neither does he come to a decision. He leaves it to the Dáil and to the Committee of Public Accounts to proceed as they may deem fit. The real position, so far as we are concerned, is, I submit, that we must maintain the authority of the Dáil over all classes of expenditure.

I submit, also, that the granting of pensions is expenditure; and to the logically-minded Minister for Agriculture I hope that that will at least make some appeal. The Act, certainly, does impose certain conditions attaching to the granting of pensions. The Dáil must be perfectly satisfied that these conditions are fulfilled. I listened with very great attention, as I always do, to the Minister for Agriculture. I recognise that he is a most able opponent and a clever and industrious Minister. I am going to throw that bouquet at him, because I have a very great regard for him in many ways outside the Dáil altogether.

I do not mind that. I am prepared to take my share of brick-bats just as well as bouquets. In this case where the Minister for Agriculture has used the term of auditing and, so closely and so well, defined the functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, I want to submit to him in return that the functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General are not altogether concerned with adding up long tots. In commercial life the auditor is entitled to call for papers and documents relating to any expenditure; and I regret, for reasons that I need not state now, that the Minister was rather unhappy in his definition of the Comptroller and Auditor-General's duties. Now, I come to the Board of Assessors. This Board of Assessors was attached to the Ministry, and was appointed by the Minister. It is a fact, at least that is my information, that one Minister was a member of that Board of Assessors. I think it was Deputy Derrig who spoke of the lack of political detachment. There was no political detachment there, where two members of the Board of Assessors were members of a certain political party in the Dáil. They could not be regarded in any circumstances as a legal tribunal. They certainly could not be regarded as an impartial or legal tribunal.

Now I come to the statement made by Deputy O'Higgins as to the attitude of the Labour Party. Deputy O'Higgins spoke of the action of the Labour Party in support of the original Military Service Pensions Bill when passing through the Dáil. When supporting the old Act the Labour Party never contemplated that the functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General as representing this House should be restricted in any way. I have access to the report of 1927 and 1928 of the Public Accounts Committee, and I find quoted even there that never did the Dáil contemplate voting money for the payment of pensions under the Act, which payments would not be subject to audit.

The Department of Finance exercises supervision over expenditure, but that Department is not the final interpreter of the law in this case. That is a peculiar anomaly, and I suggest that there is no analogous case in other countries to justify its continuance here. I do not now suggest that we should not do something new here and that we should always follow precedents. Precedent was suggested by Deputy O'Higgins as if we were religiously to follow precedents all the time untilsaecula saeculorum. But I want to suggest that if a precedent is bad, then we should scrap precedent.

I began by saying that I wanted to deal with this whole matter or to approach this whole question in a manner in which I do not believe it has been approached during the present session. In saying that I do not want to be misinterpreted or misunderstood by anybody in this House. I take off my hat and I salute every man who died for Ireland. I take off my hat and salute every man who came to the rescue of this State when it was in peril, when the State was threatened by Irregulars or any other force which was operating against the establishment of the State at that time. I want to say that, because I do not want to be misunderstood. I say that because no matter how honest a man may be his words may be distorted and his meanings misinterpreted.

I want to repeat that I have every regard and respect for the men who joined up in 1922 and after to save this country. Were it not for these men I believe we would not be sitting or speaking in this House to-day. Having said that I want to say I do believe at the same time and I know it that there are thousands of men and women in this country to-day, people who have the greatest respect for the establishment of law and order and people who have the greatest respect for the present Government, but who believe in their hearts and souls that we are paying too much away in the form of pensions and gratuities even to those who have served the country in one capacity or another. I want to submit with all due respect to certain Deputies of this House that no argument, no logical or sound arguments, can be adduced to give you any reason why this State should pension young and competent young men who can and who should be at work to-day producing something in this country. Why the State should continue to pay pensions which are altogether out of proportion to the services rendered and altogether out of proportion to the capacity of this country to pay are matters that these people cannot understand.

That is not the question before the House now.

The question before us is the Military Service Pensions Bill——

That is so, but that is not the question you are dealing with.

— and also the regularisation of payments made under the principal Act. I want to raise some objections to payments made under that Act with a view to preventing a recurrence of this class of expenditure.

The Deputy must not go into the merits of the principal Act. I want to give the Deputy every opportunity, but under this Bill he cannot discuss the advisability of paying pensions at all, and that is what he is doing now.

I submit, sir, to your ruling, and I bow to it, as I always do. But you will drive me into the position of mentioning names and becoming personal, and then I will be quite in order, and everything I say will be appropriate to this Bill.

I merely want to take the Deputy from the general question of paying pensions at all. That question has already been decided by the Act which this Bill does not challenge.

I want to say that where pensions have been granted under the Act I think I have agreed that it was a right and proper thing to do that, but I want to say again that the amounts were out of all proportion to the services rendered and to the capacity of the country to pay. I mention no names. We have even in this House, sir, men whom I respect very much for the services that they have rendered, but is there any country in the world, even Great Britain, which, during the war or after, did so reward her soldiers who had to face dangers far and away greater than our soldiers had to face? Is there any country in the world that has rewarded her soldiers more generously than this little country has rewarded hers?

That is not the question at all. What the Deputy is dealing with now is the terms of the principal Act, and the principal Act is not in question at all.

Surely what the Deputy is dealing with is the administration of the principal Act, and that should be in order.

What I am endeavouring to do is to show the absolute necessity for giving the Comptroller and Auditor-General access to all papers and every fact relating to a military pension. I think I should be allowed to develop my case.

The Deputy will certainly be allowed to do that.

I want to show that relatively and proportionately we are paying more by way of pensions than any other country in the world.

That has nothing whatever to do with the subject under discussion.

The reason I have mentioned these matters is because I believe that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should have access to all these papers and all the evidence after their consideration by the tribunal in order that he may comment upon them. I do not suggest for one moment that he should upset their decision, as was suggested by the Minister for Agriculture. I do suggest that his constitutional position should be such as to enable him to read through all the papers and make suggestions. I think the Minister for Agriculture will at least admit this, that, owing to the nature of his training and his qualifications, the Comptroller and Auditor-General knows what is right and what is wrong, and he will be able to give a definite decision on any case submitted to him, if he is supplied with a précis or a verbatim note or a long-hand note of the evidence submitted to the tribunal.

Including the oral evidence.

I told you before for Heaven's sake to stop.

Is it in order for a back-bencher to mumble in the fashion we have just listened to?

There are a few Deputies here and all they can do is mumble. You never hear them doing anything except speaking under their hands or, as the Frenchman would put it, up their sleeves — and they do it very badly at that — or else they are raising points of order that are not points of order, and the whole thing results in distorting sane and properly-delivered speeches. I heard Deputy O'Higgins speaking about the present Government and referring to them as poor men. The Deputy was allowed to wander and I am rather surprised that the Chair did not haul him up in the same way as I have been hauled up. Although I am opposed to the present Government I want to join in the tribute to them. I know they are all poor men like myself.

I want to say in relation to the whole position that the tragedy of these military pensions is that there are many young men with long pensionable lives in front of them who got pensions and there is a considerable doubt all over the country as to whether they deserve those pensions. I am not one of those people who will quote cases without being able to give authentic details in regard to them. I do not like to injure anybody, but I can submit evidence of at least one case in Cork of a man who never joined the Volunteers — and I was one of the earliest Volunteers — and had no military service until 1921. He was then found in possession of an old, disused revolver which would require the combined brains of the best gunsmiths in Woolwich Arsenal to make it fire. He was caught with this old Queen Anne, absolutely obsolete, weapon in his possession and he gloriously went to gaol and came out a martyr. Like the Minister for Agriculture, when he was in gaol he got three square meals a day.

He poses as a martyr. We have hundreds of these martyrs in the country, these wonderful people whom we know very well. I know quite well why some of them got pensions. I am not going to suggest that it was because of their affiliation to one party or another, although I am very, very suspicious. However, I will be very charitable-minded and I will say that it was a mere coincidence that in the last two elections they had to release two men serving with the armed forces of the State. It was, I should say, a remarkable coincidence. I am still a doubting Thomas that it was merely a remarkable coincidence, though it would take very, very little to disturb that doubtful feeling. It is remarkable that in the last two by-elections they had to release my friend Deputy O'Higgins, for whom I have the very greatest respect, and also a Major-General, for whom I have great respect too, from service in the Army of the State. Not alone have they released them from Army service in this poor country — I do not like to say unfortunate country, because it is not, as we could all get a living here if we tried — and brought them into the Dáil, but they have also given gratuities in both cases. I do not want to be taken as one of the people who talk about the salaries that Ministers are getting or the salaries that anybody else may be getting, but I want to say that I consider it an outrage on this poor country to liberate from Army service fine, hefty young men, give them good jobs after that, and saddle the country with a large amount of money by way of a gratuity and pension for life of £300 a year. Yerra, my God, who would not join the National Army after that?

You missed your chance.

For some reason or another there was an intervention of a week between the two occasions on which the Minister for Agriculture spoke on this Bill. I shall not go into the reasons for that delay now. However, as Deputy Anthony says, we have our suspicions. Speaking to-day, the Minister for Agriculture said that Deputies should ask themselves what are the functions of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. There is no need to do that, because everybody knows that his business is to examine every Appropriation Account. Army pensions are Appropriation Accounts. Therefore, it is his business to examine them, and it is not the duty of any Deputy in this House to prove that this official who safeguards this House has a right to investigate documents in connection with any Act passed by this House which involves the payment of money, because that right is there, unless it is expressly stated to the contrary in any Act when it is being passed. It is not stated in this measure that he has not the right. Therefore, he must have the right in connection with this Bill to investigate all documents relating to military pensions. It is quite obvious that the Minister for Agriculture had not made up his brief before he addressed the House this evening. His first case was that it would be impossible for the Comptroller and Auditor-General to judge the cases properly, as the chief evidence upon which pensions are given happens to be oral evidence, which the Comptroller and Auditor-General could not avail of until the President informed him that a long-hand note was taken of all the oral evidence given. I was aware of that, because I gave evidence myself before the Board of Assessors.

We are asked what is the particular necessity for allowing the Comptroller and Auditor-General to make investigations in connection with this Bill? There is a necessity, and the necessity is greater in connection with this Bill than in regard to any other measure that was ever passed through this House. We know the circumstances under which those pensions were given. Without passing any aspersions on the honesty of those who constituted the Board, it will be admitted that every one of them belonged to one political party and that quite unconsciously they would be biased. There is even among Cumann na nGaedheal followers in this country a suspicion that people have got pensions who were not entitled to them. It is stated in the Co. Galway and, as far as I can see it is true, that every Centre of the I.R.B. in that county, with the exception of two who happened to be Republicans, has got a pension, although they never fired a shot in their lives except from a fowling piece at wild fowl. These are facts. You have the same thing in Co. Meath. Every Centre of the I.R.B. in that county got a pension. As was revealed in certain debates that took place in this House—debates which Deputy Dr. O'Higgins might look up—there was a connection between a member of that board and the I.R.B., and I do not suppose the board would be quite impartial in allotting pensions to members of a society with which they were once, and we do not know how recently, closely connected.

There is undoubtedly much reason for questioning in connection with this Bill. The Minister for Agriculture beaten on that point went on to other points. They are afraid of publishing the facts. Who asked that they should be published? The Comptroller and Auditor-General would investigate these documents. There is a verbatim report taken of the oral evidence given before the Public Accounts Committee. The Comptroller and Auditor-General does not bring before that committee any accounts which he thinks are just and, correct, but he does bring before it such items as he thinks should not have been passed. Deputy Dr. O'Higgins said, would it not be a dreadful thing if they were published. I say would it not be a dreadful thing for this House if they were not published. Is it not our duty then to see that things that are illegally passed, or at least that are very questionable, should be put before the Public Accounts Committee and before this Dáil so that moneys may not be mis-spent or that moneys appropriated for one purpose are not given for another purpose? I think it is very essential that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should have full power to investigate the documents, and to bring before our attention cases which he thinks should not have been passed. That is not publicity. As regards other cases what publicity are they afraid of? Are those who got pensions for their service to the country ashamed of their service or the amount of pensions they got? I know that some of them are. Questions have been asked in this House by members of our Party as to what particular men got pensions in the Co. Galway? I could mention to the House the cases of three men who were so ashamed of letting their neighbours know that they had got pensions for doing nothing that they did not go outside their own doors for nearly three weeks. These are facts.

We were told by Deputy Dr. O'Higgins that there are two classes of cases exempt from inspection by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, namely, the verdicts of judicial tribunals and expenditure of a highly confidential nature. The Deputy told us that military service comes under both. I fail to see how it does.

I fail to see how the evidence can be regarded of a highly confidential nature in view of the fact that it is seen by a Board consisting of four men. Is it insinuated for a moment that the Comptroller and Auditor-General is not as well able to keep a secret as any one of these four men, or that he is going to reveal to anyone the particular reasons for which a man deservedly got a pension? If the Comptroller and Auditor-General is convinced from reading the documents that a man should not have got a pension, and that the evidence is not conclusive and did not justify the Board in awarding a pension, would it not be quite right for him to reveal that to this House and see that the facts are revealed? As to the statement that the Board of Assessors were the instruments of this House, they were, I suppose, in a manner. I ask the House for a moment to consider the circumstances in which the court was held. It was held in a military barracks, in which you were inspected about four times before you were allowed to go in and give evidence. That did not look very much like an impartial tribunal, or one that the country would have much confidence in. I had about 20 men coming to me to vouch for service which they never rendered because they said the State would pay. I refused to do that. As a matter of fact, I gave evidence before that court to the effect that, as far as I knew, they had given no such service. There are men in the Cumann na nGaedheal Party who told me they had a similar experience. Considering the times and the circumstances and the secrecy of the court, I am convinced that in many cases people were weak enough to sign such documents and allow men to get pensions, men who never deserved them, men who had not given the service which they were pretending they had rendered to the country.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.