Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 29 May 1930

Vol. 35 No. 2

In Committee on Finance. - Vote No. 9.—Commissions and Special Inquiries.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £7,297 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1931, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí eile Coimisiún Coistí agus Fiosrúchán Speisialta.

That a sum not exceeding £7,297 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931, for the Salaries and other Expenses of Commissions, Committees, and Special Inquiries.

There is very little change in this Vote as compared with last year. The two principal items are the expenses in connection with the Central Savings Committee and the Irish Manuscripts Commission.

I move that this Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. The Minister for Finance, in moving the Vote, said there had been very little change in the Estimate as compared with last year. There has been very little change, I think, in the purpose of the Estimate, very little change in the intentions of the Government when putting down the Estimate, very little change in their attitude towards these commissions since they first became responsible for this Vote in the year 1923. The total amount to be expended under this Vote is £10,947, but that by no means represents the total cost of these particular activities to the people of the country. I see that under other Votes, Nos. 11, 17, 22 and 24, there is to be expended an additional sum of approximately £5,000, bringing the total cost of these services up to £15,947. What is the purpose of this Vote and of all these Commissions of Inquiry? Take the Commission of Inquiry into de-rating. I feel, and I think most of the farmers of the country by this time have become convinced, that the purpose of that inquiry is to stave off the agitation, if the Government possibly can, for de-rating until such time as the farmers have given it up in despair.

The Grain Inquiry Tribunal was appointed last year. The manner of its appointment seemed to indicate that the Ministry considered this question of some urgency, but up to the present, notwithstanding the urgency of the question, there has been no report. The Inter-Departmental Committee on coast erosion is to be provided for under this Vote. I do not know whether that committee has sat yet, but I do know that part of the coast of Wicklow and of Wexford—indeed, I might say part of the whole east coast of Ireland, has been melting away during the last three or four years at a rate which is making the problem one of grave public concern. What is the outcome of these commissions likely to be in the year that is now current? If we are to make up our minds on that question by the experience of past years, then I think we can abandon hope that these committees and commissions are going to produce any tangible result, and that as a result of all this expenditure no material benefit will accrue to the country as a whole.

I find, for instance, that in the year 1922-23, £846 was spent on what was described as the Canals and Inland Waterways Commission. That commission published a report, but the report was carefully pigeonholed, and I am sure that by now the spiders have built their cobwebs over that pigeon-hole, so that it would remind one of the castle in which the sleeping beauty was supposed to have been discovered in the fairy tale. In the year 1924-25 a commission was appointed to inquire into the question of the relief of the destitute sick and poor, including the insane poor. I would like to ask any member of the House, as well as the Minister who was responsible for putting that Estimate before the House, what tangible benefit the sick and destitute poor of this country have reaped as a result of the work of that commission. We had a committee appointed in 1926-27 to consider the question of food prices.

Would the Deputy deal with the commissions for which the money is being asked?

I am asking the House to determine whether, in view of the results that have accrued from former expenditures on commissions of the sort indicated in this Vote, they would be well advised to vote the money now asked. I am entitled to refer to the number of instances in which similar expenditures of public money have been made without any useful result or material advantage to the State. It is not with a view to criticising the desirability of having appointed particular commissions that I am now referring to this matter, but rather to point out that though those commissions were appointed to deal with matters which at the time were considered of extreme urgency and great public importance, and though money has been spent on them, nothing has been done. I am asking the House, in view of the fact that on former occasions money was spent on these commissions with no material advantage to the State, to refuse to be fooled any longer, and to refuse to authorise the expenditure of money again for a similar purpose with, I am sure, the same results. The food prices committee was appointed in 1926-27. The printing of the report cost £904, and in addition there was the cost of the salaries of the staff temporarily lent which amounted to £1,060. On that commission there was spent altogether a sum of almost £2,000. It reported in 1926-27, but nothing was done since. Here we are in 1930 asked to sanction the same sort of fruitless, useless expenditure. The Town Tenants Commission was appointed in the same year. The report cost £163 to produce, and the cost of the salary of the staff amounted to £350. What advantage have the town tenants reaped as a result?

[An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.]

The Committee on Milk Supply was appointed in 1926-27 and its reports cost £352 to produce. Again the report was published and circulated to the members of the Dáil, but nothing was done. In 1927-28 there was appointed a Road Traffic Committee. That Committee cost £81 11s. 10d. That sum is again thrown away so far as the members of the Dáil are concerned, for there has been no legislation introduced in this House based on that report. In 1927-28 a Committee on the claims of ex-servicemen was set up. It cost £212 7s. 3d. It made recommendations which, I am sure, were praiseworthy and could be accepted by the Dáil, but as far as we know the ex-servicemen have reaped no benefit from the setting up of that tribunal. In the same year a special committee composed of the most capable persons, of persons most suitable for its purpose which the astute mind of the Minister for Industry and Commerce could select, was set up to deal with the urgent question of unemployment. The committee was described as a committee to consider measures for the relief of unemployment. It met and considered certain aspects of that problem, and published a report which cost £146 3s. 1d., but the committee did nothing, and the Government did nothing as a result of that report.

A committee—this is the gem— was set up, a Party committee, I think, under the Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to consider economy in Government expenditure. It cost £85, and we were told in the Budget statement for the year 1929 that as a result of the efforts of this committee there had been a reduction in the estimates of something like £500,000. Undoubtedly if this Committee, as a result of the expenditure of £85, secured a real economy in Government administration to the extent of £500,000, none of us will gainsay that the £85 was well spent. But here is the rub, the fly in the ointment—that when the Minister came this year to introduce his Budget in the Dáil we found that the £500,000 which was saved last year was added this year, with increased interest for the fresh expenditure, and now amounts to something like £613,000, so that it would have been better so far as the general taxpayer was concerned if this particular committee on economy had never sat, because the Government services on which expenditure had been pruned down to the extent of £500,000 have swollen themselves again in the year 1930 to the extent of £613,000, with a net loss to the taxpayer of £113,000 as a result of the efforts of this committee. As I said on one occasion, it is a clear proof that so far as economy is concerned the Farmers' Party, which were mainly responsible for the committee——

That is not in the Estimate, and even the Economy Committee is not in the Estimate. The Deputy must bring himself away from the Farmers' Party now.

Yes, I will leave them there, knowing that in a very short time we will not have any Farmers' Party to talk about. What is the conclusion we must come to as a result of this history of this particular Vote and the activities under it? That the Government have discovered there are more ways of killing a dog than choking him with butter. Every time a question arises that threatens to become troublesome, the Government at once sets up commissions and inquiries. At once that urgent and pressing problem receives a hypodermic injection which sets it to sleep for the rest of the Government's life. Therefore, we find that in their first period of office, from 1923 to 1927, whenever a thing became particularly troublesome, the Government set up a commission, so that the people of the country would think the matter was receiving urgent attention. They forgot all about it then, and nothing was done during the period 1923 to 1927. That is the course they are pursuing in their second term, which began in the year 1927. We think it is time to have done with this foolery in the particularly stringent financial circumstances in which we live, and, as I said at the outset, judging by past experience, it will be folly on the part of the Dáil to pass this Estimate now, which will involve an expenditure, I believe, of not less than £10,947—an expenditure which, as I said with regard to similar expenditure before, will be fruitless of result, and will produce no material advantage to the people of the country. It is for that reason I moved the motion that stands in my name.

I should like to get some information in connection with the committee on coast erosion as to whether they have held any meetings, either in private or in public, if they have received any evidence and when they are likely to issue their report. Evidence has been submitted from my constituency, but we have not been given any opportunity of giving the evidence in public. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister stated that there was no provision made by the Government to assist any local authority in connection with coast erosion, and I think a definite statement should be made by the Minister so as to give public bodies an opportunity of dealing with the matter themselves if they are not going to receive any grant from the Government.

Deputy MacEntee spoke as if the commissions provided for in this Vote were all commissions of inquiry and that the £10,900 was being spent on carrying out inquiries. Something like four-fifths of that sum is being spent on commissions which are really not commissions of inquiry and only something like one-fifth on the type of commission about which the Deputy spoke. The Central Savings Committee, for instance, is not a committee of inquiry but a committee to organise a financial and social movement.

It ought to devote its first attention to the Minister for Finance.

The Irish Manuscripts Commission is engaged in the editing and publication in various forms of matters of an historical character or of literary value in the Irish language. There remains, therefore, a sum of less than £2,000 for expenditure on inquiries of various sorts. The Deputy spoke as if a commission of inquiry is useless from a public point of view unless action immediately follows. As a matter of fact, commissions are only set up where there is a great obscurity in regard to the facts and in regard to the action which would be in the public interest. A commission which prevented action may have done most useful work. I think that the commission on canals and waterways did recommend action, but consideration of the report as well as other factors convinced the Government that action should not be taken. I think that action along the lines advocated very generally before the Treaty in regard to canals and waterways would have been a waste of money, and although the commission did not make recommendations along these lines, nevertheless, the attention that was brought to bear on the matter as a result of the inquiry had a very good result.

In many other cases the Commissions of Inquiry may not have presented reports which could be made the basis of legislation. But they may help very much in framing legislation. The Commission which sat in regard to the problem of the government of the City of Dublin and surrounding districts presented a report which in many respects the Government were not prepared to accept. But I would not say for a moment that the effort put into the work by that Commission was wasted, or that the money expended on that Commission was wasted, because its report and evidence were availed of, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively, in framing legislation afterwards.

There were other reports to which the Deputy referred which have not yet been acted upon but which are being used for the purpose of framing proposals which will afterwards come before the Dáil. In no case has any Commission been set up for the mere purpose of postponing a problem.

The Deputy referred in that connection to the De-rating Commission. The De-rating Commission was set up because the question was one of very great intricacy and very great difficulty. There is a demand for de-rating. If that demand were to be acceded to it would not only involve considerable financial changes, but also, in the view of the Government, it would involve most radical changes in our system of local government. We are convinced that the present system could not stand at all if de-rating were to be carried out. Whether we would have a complete abolition of local government or not, it would involve changes in the system tantamount to that. It is, consequently, a matter which requires the most careful consideration. It requires that people outside the circle of Ministers and Government officials should examine it in detail and put their opinions on paper before the framing of legislation could be begun, if it be decided to frame legislation on the subject. It seems to me, in view of all the circumstances that exist in this country, and in view of the difference that exist between the conditions here and the conditions in England, where the de-rating proposals were originated, that it would be almost criminal to frame a Bill without the type of inquiry that is at present going on.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 34; Níl, 62.

  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Clery, Michael.
  • Cooney, Eamon.
  • Corkery, Dan.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Fahy, Frank.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Kent, William R.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Buckley, Daniel.
  • Carney, Frank.
  • Kerlin, Frank.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Moore, Seámus.
  • O'Reilly, Thomas.
  • Powell, Thomas P.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Sexton, Martin.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
  • Ward, Francis C.


  • Aird, William P.
  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Blythe, Ernest.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Byrne, John Joseph.
  • Carey, Edmund.
  • Clancy, Patrick.
  • Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
  • Crowley, James.
  • Daly, John.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • De Loughrey, Peter.
  • Doherty, Eugene.
  • Dolan, James N.
  • Doyle, Peadar Seán.
  • Duggan, Edmund John.
  • Dwyer, James.
  • Egan, Barry M.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Haslett, Alexander.
  • Hassett, John J.
  • Heffernan, Michael R.
  • Hennessy, Michael Joseph.
  • Hennessy, Thomas.
  • Hennigan, John.
  • Henry, Mark.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
  • Kelly, Patrick Michael.
  • Keogh, Myles.
  • Leonard, Patrick.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James E.
  • Nally, Martin Michael.
  • Nolan, John Thomas.
  • O'Connell, Richard.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Hanlon, John F.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas.
  • O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
  • O'Reilly, John J.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick.
  • Rice, Vincent.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
  • Thrift, William Edward.
  • Tierney, Michael.
  • White, John.
  • White, Vincent Joseph.
  • Wolfe, George.
  • Wolfe, Jasper Travers.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Killilea and S. Jordan; Níl, Deputies Duggan and P. S. Doyle.
Question declared lost.
Main question put and agreed to.