Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £10,000 chun íochta an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníochta i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh Márta, 1937, mar chúiteamh don National Greyhound Racing Company, Ltd.
That a sum not exceeding £10,000 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1937, for compensation to the National Greyhound Racing Company, Ltd.
In moving the Vote, Sir, it may be desirable that I should briefly explain to the House the circumstances in which it is necessary to ask the Dáil to grant this sum. It will be noted that, according to the face of the Estimate, the amount is required to pay compensation in pursuance of a court order, but I should explain that the sum covered by the Estimate was agreed upon as full and final settlement of an action which was taken against the Minister for Finance. The £10,000 includes the costs incurred by the plaintiffs in this action, and I may say that the judge who heard the case stated that he considered that the Minister had met the plaintiffs very fairly. The matter was a rather complicated one—complicated by the fact that, while it was felt on strictly legal grounds that the claims of the plaintiffs in this action could have been successfully resisted upon the technicalities of the case, it was felt at the same time that the company were entitled on equitable grounds to some measure of compensation.
This matter arose out of an application for a totalisator licence made to the Minister for Finance on the 25th April, 1931. After a certain amount of correspondence and a number of interviews in connection with the matter the then Minister directed that a letter should issue to the company stating that the Minister was prepared to grant a totalisator licence, subject to certain conditions. This letter was issued on the 7th December, 1931. While the conditions set out in the letter were never fully accepted by the applicants for the licence, nevertheless they entered into contracts for the supply and erection of an automatic electric totalisator on the strength of the promise contained in the letter. Later on, however, a dispute arose between certain parties and the company to whom this letter was addressed, and the then Minister had a message conveyed to the company that he would not grant a totalisator licence until the dispute to which I have referred had been satisfactorily settled.
This was the position as it stood when the present Government took office, and as there were some doubts in my mind as to whether, on broad grounds of public policy, it was desirable that such a totalisator licence should be granted, it was decided not to grant any licence for greyhound racing tracks until the whole matter had been reported on by a Committee of Inquiry. This Committee of Inquiry was appointed on the 20th April, 1932, and it had the following terms of reference:—
"To inquire into and report to the Minister for Finance as to whether, in the opinion of the Committee, it would be desirable in the public interest to grant licences to set up and maintain totalisators as defined by the Totalisator Act, 1929, in connection with greyhound racing tracks, and to advise the Minister as to the person or persons to whom such licences should be granted and the conditions, if any, which should be attached to such licence."
"To inquire as to the precise nature of the arrangement made by the Minister for Finance of the late Government with the National Greyhound Racing Company, Ltd., and the Sports Association, Ltd., and as to whether any expense and, if so, the amount thereof, has been incurred by these companies or either of them by reason of any such arrangement."
This Committee heard evidence from all the parties interested, and it presented its report on the 19th July, 1932. The Committee reported, by a majority, that they had come to the conclusion that it was not desirable in the public interest to grant licences to set up and maintain totalisators in greyhound racing tracks in the Irish Free State. Two members of the Committee, however, dissented, as I have indicated, from this proposal.
As regards the precise nature of the arrangement made by the then Minister for Finance with the company, the Committee were satisfied that the promise was made to grant a totalisator licence to the company on certain conditions. They considered it clear, however, that at no stage was there a complete acceptance by the company of all the conditions which the Minister sought to attach to the grant of the licence. The Committee felt it proper to state, however, that in their opinion the company acted throughout in perfect good faith and in the belief that they would obtain the licence they were seeking. The Committee also reported that, in their view, the company, acting on the strength of the promise made by the then Minister for Finance to grant a totalisator licence, had incurred a certain amount of expenditure, and, therefore, that their case merited special consideration.
They further reported that the National Greyhound Racing Company, by reason of the arrangement which they understood the then Minister for Finance would be prepared to enter into, had incurred, up to the 26th March, 1932, a total expenditure of £10,169 19s. odd. They further pointed out that the expenditure was still being incurred owing to the payment of interest charges and to the employment of some people to look after and take care of the totalisator machine.
The position with which the Government was faced was, naturally, one of great difficulty. On the one hand, they had a virtual undertaking on the part of my predecessor to grant a totalisator licence. The fact remained, however, that owing to developments which took place immediately before he relinquished office, the totalisator licence was not signed, and the responsibility then fell upon me of approving the policy of my predecessor in regard to this whole question of issuing totalisator licences for greyhound racing tracks.
Those who are familiar with the various aspects of this rather complicated problem will know that that was not an easy matter of public policy to decide, and, to assist me in that connection, I appointed a commission of inquiry, which, by a majority, recommended that it was not in the public interest that such totalisator licences should be granted. I felt it was not possible for me to ignore the report of the commission which had been appointed in the circumstances I have related, and that, accordingly, it would not be right for me to grant a totalisator licence, particularly to a proprietary concern. On the other hand, it was clear that the applicants for this licence, the undertakers in this matter, had entered into certain commitments in good faith, and it was difficult for me to assess in my own mind how much of the total expenditure of £10,169/19/5 which they had undertaken was in all the circumstances fully justifiable. The matter then lay at issue between us until it was resolved by the applicants deciding to go to the court, and there an amicable settlement was made which, I think, has done substantial justice to the applicants, while, at the same time, honouring in full the report of the commission of inquiry. It is in these circumstances I am moving this Vote and I hope the Dáil will accept it.