Before the Committee proceeds to consider the Money Resolution perhaps it would be advisable to state that I have informed Deputy Mulcahy of my decision to rule out certain amendments—Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 14, 19 to 24, 27, 28, 31 to 35, and 39—on the ground that they seek to extend the compensation terms of the Bill and would thus impose a statutory charge on the Exchequer. In respect to three or four border-line amendments I shall give Deputies the benefit of the doubt. Three of the amendments tabled by Labour Deputies would be more appropriate to a Landlord and Tenant Bill. Owing to the special circumstances and to the fact that there is no prospective legislation to that effect I intend to permit those amendments to be moved.
Committee on Finance. - Neutrality (War Damage to Property) Bill, 1941—Money Resolution.
That it is expedient to authorise any payments out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas which may be required to give effect to any Act of the present Session to make provision for the payment of compensation out of public moneys to persons who on or after the 26th day of August, 1940, suffer injury to their property in the State or the territorial waters thereof as a consequence of an act of the Armed Forces of an external Government or Authority engaged in a war in respect of which the State is neutral or as a consequence of an accidental occurrence arising from something done outside the State by any such armed force, and to make provision for matters connected with such injuries to property or the payment of compensation therefor.
In view of the fact that the Minister's new amendments have only been circulated, I wonder would the Minister take advantage of the Money Resolution to mention the principal ways in which he has met us, as it might help to shorten the discussion.
There is a new official amendment to Section 1 which I think has only been circulated a short time ago:—
In page 2, to insert at the end of line 41 the words "and includes a part of any such structure."
I do not want the Minister to go into minor details, only the principal matters.
In regard to consequential damage, I propose to move an amendment which would have the effect of enabling payment of a sum not exceeding £30 for consequential losses arising out of the necessity to move out of a house and the cost that would be incurred by doing so. Before Section 20, it is proposed to insert a new section to meet points raised by Deputy Benson in regard to town planning of sites where bombing had taken place. These are the main amendments. There are some minor amendments which will be explained as we go along.
I should like to take this opportunity to discuss the point the Minister makes in regard to consequential damage. I am glad, at any rate, that the Minister accepts the principle of consequential loss in respect of the provision of alternative housing, the removal and storage of articles of furniture, and alternative accommodation for business. Is the Minister not aware, however, that in the Donore Avenue area, where damage took place in January, there are houses to which families are not yet able to return? We are now coming on to August. If anybody was carrying on business in the way mentioned by Deputy Byrne the other day, it is fantastic to think that £30 is anything like adequate to cover the out-of-pocket expense of a person so affected. Again, I think the Minister cannot ask the House to accept the principle that because people get £30 they must be satisfied to be saddled with an increased load of debt by reason of the fact that this affliction has fallen upon them. I gave the Minister some cases that were only up to date, say last week or so. In one case I pointed out that the alternative housing accommodation for three months had cost the person £27, plus £7 10s. rates; that the removal and storage of the furniture had cost £24. Now £30 in relation to that expenditure is not the kind of thing that we would be expected to agree upon.
The second case I mentioned was where a flat had to be taken at £1 5s. a week over a period of six months. The greater part of the furniture had to be stored and the cost was something like £37. I think the Minister will have to raise the limit of £30 in such cases, because each one of these cases will be examined by very careful and exact machinery and all the expenditure will not only require to be vouched for, but I am sure it will have to be substantiated that it was necessary. I think it is a frightful blemish on the Bill when you take ordinary residents who are not the owners of the property and perhaps are just trying to hang on in present circumstances and maintain their families. These are the more numerous cases. These are the people who are affected by consequential losses running along the lines I speak of. By far the greater number of people require this consequential damage provision in order to cover them for the monetary losses which will be a substantial part of their losses. I am sure the Minister will be persuaded to leave out that £30 and examine all those cases on their merits. Apart from the fact that this damage was done by other people, to whom we are looking to make good that damage, if there never was any chance of any of that money being recovered, I think we would show a lack of understanding of those people and their conditions and problems of life if we did not see that this consequential loss was covered to the full extent to which it reasonably should be covered.
The Minister has not given us any figure for this Money Resolution. There must be some estimate of the amount that has to be met.
We have no idea.
Not even to the nearest £10,000?
We have not made an estimate of what it is likely to cost.
So that it is not possible to state what percentage, so to speak, of an increase would be necessitated by the acceptance of some of the consequential damage matters referred to?
No; I have not got any idea.
Does the Minister know to the nearest half million pounds what the Bill will cost?
I understand that 2,000 claims have been sent into the Dublin Corporation. We have consulted them with regard to getting an idea of the total amount, but the claims are put in in such a rough and ready way that they have not made any estimate.
Then Deputies are being asked to discuss this Bill without knowing whether it is going to be a serious blow or a relatively light blow to the Exchequer to meet the claims.
I am giving all the information I have.
This makes the situation even worse. We are now faced, under the ruling of the Chair, with this situation, that a Bill has been brought in and there will be no estimate whatever of the cost to the Exchequer of even its limited provisions. It is, therefore, not possible to come to any conclusion as to what would be the increase thrown on the State by the acceptance of more liberal conditions.
That is true.
We have a Bill, the outstanding characteristic of which to anybody reading it is that it represents a meagre way of dealing with a catastrophe, and that meagre way of dealing with a particular catastrophe is enshrined in a Bill which would definitely limit the burden upon the State, because the whole suggestion of the Bill is that it is to be limited to such damage as may accrue to property, while the State is not at war. One could imagine the State finding it a difficult matter to make any sort of liberal provision ahead for the damage that might be caused by a bombing attack on this city, if it were subjected to air attack while at war, but in the limited circumstances of the type of accidental damage to property that may happen while the State is not at war, while it is still neutral, the Government puts it in the way that consequential damage, with the exception of this £30, is ruled out, and, under the ruling of the Chair, we cannot move to exclude that £30 as the higher limit, because that would be regarded as imposing a burden on the State. We cannot even seek to impose the costs of court applications, under the ruling we have got from the Chair.
The really ghoulish feature of the whole thing—and one can at once see the Civil Service hand in it—is that if the Minister, when doling out compensation on a limited scale to people who have suffered the misfortune of having their houses destroyed, finds a debt owing to some State Department, he is going to whack out of the compensation that debt, although, if the property remained, the Minister would have no resort against it. He is taking advantage of a catastrophe in which people have their property destroyed to liquidate State debts by these people before they are put back even into what is a near approach—and it is not much of a near approach—to the position in which they stood previously. It is all done in an atmosphere in which we do not know how much it is going to cost, but it is definitely limited to such damage as may accrue while we are still neutral. I could have understood the Minister if he had said: "This is an appalling sum", but, in the conditions this year, in which we have so far outrun our resources that the Minister is forced to come in here with the situation with regard to borrowing which he described in his Budget statement, although he has discovered a certain amount of profiteering in the State, he throws back £500,000 to the people whose books, on examination, had shown that they were making substantial profits out of the war situation, and would not cash in on that, even for the purpose of doing justice to the poor people whose property and homes were destroyed by reason of these accidental bombings. The thing reflects no credit on the State.
I want to put this feature to the Minister. In this House we are incurably addicted to approaching matters of this kindin globo, which I think is an unhealthy thing to do. There is a kind of a saw that you cannot legislate for the exceptional case, and that is used for the purpose of persuading this House to turn its eyes away from the practical aspect of the question, and to take the Civil Service viewpoint which looks at everything from the point of view of the Exchequer. I want to ask what would any individual Deputy do if a bomb fell on his house in the morning, and he was obliged to take a flat or rent a house for himself, his wife and his children and pay rent he had not got, until such time as his resources and his ability to borrow were exhausted, and if he were then offered £30 wherewith to pay the debts he had contracted in order to keep a roof over his head, never mind to make provision for the future.
And remember that if he owed £5 to the income-tax people, that £5 would be deducted before he got the compensation.
I should like each Deputy to ask himself what would he do in those circumstances. Would he go to the matron of the South Dublin Union and say: "You take the wife and kids, and I will go into the men's section"? I am not suggesting that the Minister for Finance is a heartless and cruel man who wants to see all these people go into the South Dublin Union. What I am putting to him is that he is allowing his influence to be unduly swayed by the classical Exchequer approach to problems of this kind. I do not think this is a problem that we, as a community, can afford to approach from the Exchequer point of view. I think we have to ask ourselves what would each of us do if a bomb fell on our particular house. I know that I should feel that I was betrayed by my neighbours if I met that catastrophe and was involved in very substantial expenditure, far beyond the capacity of my means to meet, and was then told: "They are going to give you £30," whether that approximated to my outlay or not.
Surely we ought to ask ourselves why we are introducing this Bill at all. The reason we are introducing the Bill is that, in the ordinary organisation of the State, the individual citizen has the right to demand of the Government that it will protect him from casual lawbreakers within the community, and that it will vindicate the right of the citizen of Éire against any external aggressor. If the casual wrong-doer assails you, the Guards arrest him and he is brought to court and punished in accordance with the law, or his goods or property are made liable for the damage done. You are compensated in that way, and the State sees that you get your compensation. Circumstances may arise in which damage is done by an external evil-doer or an external negligent person, and the State says: "We recognise that you have a claim against that person, but it is not a claim which, in all the circumstances, we deem it expedient to enforce at present. That does not mean that we are going to renege on our duty to you. We will take over that external misfeasor's liability, and, rather than go to the trouble of enforcing your rights against him, we will make ourselves liable for any damage you have suffered, and pay you whatever is due to you." Then it seems to me that the measure of what we ought to pay the injured party is the measure of the claim that we would bebona fide prepared to stand over, if he lodged it with an external aggressor or misfeasor.
In that connection, we have to bear in mind that if we are making claims against the British or German Governments, we would be very willing to send forward a claim which was on the generous side on behalf of a citizen of the State, believing that, in the course of negotiations, it would be whittled down. I do not think it would be reasonable to ask our Government to pay these suffering people on the basis of the limit that we would allow them to claim against a foreign Government.
I think you have to make up your mind what figure you would have a falling-out about with a foreign Government, and should say: "That is what we will pay our own people. We would like to be generous, if we could afford it, but the future is so uncertain that we cannot afford to be more than just." The Minister for Finance says he does not know what this is going to cost, and I have a certain sympathy with him, because we have no guarantee that accidents or injuries of this kind will not occur in future. While, God knows, the North Strand was bad enough, we might wake up any morning to discover that two or three streets have been destroyed and, instead of 30 or 35 people being killed, we might have 50 or more dead, and we would then be faced with the problem of making provision to meet the losses sustained.
We ought to consider carefully what compensation would be adequate to meet the losses sustained by the people in this particular instance. We are purchasing immunity at the expense of their claim to full compensation against the person who injured them, whoever that may have been. That being so, surely we ought at least to be just? I do not think the Minister will argue that £30 is a just figure. He may say: "It is the most that I think it is right to offer in all the circumstances," but I do not think he would say that it is a just figure. We ought, so long as we are able—and we are still able—to offer a just figure.
It could happen that we would be confronted with such a bill of damages hereafter that we would be barely able to keep these people afloat, but if we are now able to offer them a just figure, we ought to give it to them. If the Minister has to come in here following a subsequent disaster—which, God forbid—we may have to reconsider the whole position, but while we still have what will give these people justice, how will anyone argue against giving it to them? I shall be glad if the Minister will address himself to this question.
I admit that this business of consequential damage is an extremely difficult and dangerous one and, if the Minister accepts Deputy Mulcahy's amendments in principle, I expect there will have to be some midnight oil burnt in order to arrive at a suitable statutory definition of consequential damage which will be applicable to these cases, and we shall have to have an agreed formula for that which the courts will use. But do not go to the people who suffered in this horrible disaster and in their distress and misery and perplexity say to them: "Although you are in debt and have lost your home, although your prospects are hopelessly jeopardised as a result of this catastrophe, here is £30 and be glad to get it." I do not believe anyone of us would want to do that and I think the Minister would be well advised to face the problem of defining consequential damage explicitly in the Bill, leaving it to the judges to determine what would be bare justice.
Let us make up our minds that, for the present, in any case, we cannot contemplate offering anything more than bare justice. If we come safely through all this business and do not suffer heavier losses, it might be possible to do something more for those people when the clouds roll by but, in the meantime, we should endeavour to do them bare justice as long as we are able.
I am almost nervous when I stand up here after reading this Bill and the motion that has been submitted. Deputy Dillon has asked for bare justice for these people. May I say that at the present moment the victims are not getting bare justice, and I appeal to the Minister to enlarge the measure that he has presented to us? The people in that area have suffered very great hardships. To-day there are numbers of them unemployed. They have been shifted into cottages by the corporation, but they are unable to pay the rents of those cottages. Some of them have been only five or six weeks in the cottages and already they have been informed that they are five or six weeks in arrears with their rent. That is largely due to the fact that they are in receipt of a State allowance of only 24/- a week, and out of such a small allowance men with four and five in a family cannot afford to pay 11/6 or 12/- for a cottage and pay for the electric light and other things over and above that. They have many payments to meet out of the miserable pittance of 24/- a week that they get from the State by way of unemployment assistance.
When one reads this measure one sees the narrowness of the outlook of those who prepared it. There is nothing in it to give consolation to any of the victims, the unfortunate people who experienced such terrible hardships. I should like the Minister and those who prepared the Bill to look at the problem in a bigger way. They should try to do a little more than bare justice for those people. The people who suffered so much deserve the sympathy of the whole country. For a week or two they got that sympathy, but some of them did not get very much bread and butter. I think it is a shame the way they have been treated. Some of them have lost their means of living. I know of some people who lost their tools, and they could not get the price of new tools from any source. In that way they were deprived of an opportunity of earning their livelihood.
I am terribly disappointed with this measure. On the question of personal injuries, we do not know yet what the Minister is going to do for those who have suffered or are in hospital. Many people were maimed and they are in hospital to-day and they do not know what their prospects are when they come out of hospital. I will make special reference to one case, that of a girl who is in hospital. The Minister should try to see her before she leaves hospital and perhaps it will induce him to enlarge the terms of this Bill in order adequately to compensate her and other people for the damage done to them.
It is easy for some people to be generous at somebody else's expense.
At the nation's expense.
It is easy to be generous when you take the money out of somebody else's pocket.
At the nation's expense.
I say yes, as a prayer of thanksgiving for saving them what others suffered.
The Minister should be permitted to make his statement.
We all know Deputy Byrne's method of propaganda.
I object to that. The Minister is always making suggestions in that direction. It is not propaganda.
The House knows Deputy Byrne and his methods well, and so does Dublin. I need say no more.
It is a shame to accuse me of being engaged in propaganda on such an occasion. The Minister should go and see some of the victims and then he would not talk about propaganda.
It is purely personal propaganda.
It is nothing of the sort.
I know more than Deputy Byrne ever dreamed of about the City of Dublin.
I should like to make a protest against the Minister dragging us along that particular line. I think the Minister is entirely wrong.
I am not a bit wrong. We are not dealing with personal injury here, and I think Deputy Byrne knows that.
I think the Minister is. I do not know how we are going to get through with this Bill if a note like that is introduced at the very start.
I know that Deputy Byrne mentioned this.
So did I.
Deputy Byrne, Senior, has been very mild in his language here to-day.
Some of those people are hungry. Will the Minister read those letters if I hand them over?
We are not dealing with that matter now. I take the Deputy's remarks to be a gross reflection on the Red Cross and the St. John Ambulance people. Both organisations did excellent work in that district, and they left nobody hungry.
They are still doing it but the Government are not.
As Deputy Mulcahy has said, this is a very difficult subject, and it ought not to be made use of in the way that Deputy Byrne is, I think, making use of it.
I think the Minister is wrong.
I believe that I am not a bit wrong.
The Minister should have been in our house during the last few months to hear the stories that we were told by these people.
None of us lives very far away from where the damage occurred. I am as much a Deputy for Dublin as Deputy Byrne is, and I know as much about it as he does. I have my mail bag, too.
We all have.
There is no question of Party in the matter. I was struck by one word that Deputy McGilligan used when he talked of the ghoulish aspect of this. The practice of looking up precedents is not confined to this Government. When a precedent was being looked for for this Bill it was found in the 1923 Act. The ghoulish section that Deputy McGilligan refers to is in that Act. When it was going through the Dáil in 1923 it was defended on every stage by Deputy Cosgrave.
The Minister knows that that Act was twice amended.
What has been referred to as a ghoulish section was introduced into the 1923 Act which I regard as the foundation Act. As I have said the 1923 Act was introduced by Deputy Cosgrave, and that particular section was defended by him. That is no reflection on Deputy Cosgrave and my reference to the matter is not to be taken in that sense at all. I think that Deputy McGilligan's reference was somewhat misplaced. With regard to what has been said from the other side I, too, would like to be generous. But, as Minister for Finance, I believe that all this money will have to be paid by Irish citizens, and I do not know where we are going to get it. Perhaps some day we may get compensation, but I am going on the basis that the money will have to come out of the citizens' pockets. As I said the other day, my early training in public life made it necessary for me to be scrupulously careful about every penny of public money. I had often to deal with finance. If it were a question of my own money, I could do what I liked with it, but in my position as Minister for Finance, where I am dealing with public money, I must fight for the interests of the ratepayer or the taxpayer with all the strength that is in me. I try to do that. I do not want to be unjust or unfair. I cannot, as Minister for Finance, afford to be generous. That is my position. I would like to be just as Deputy Dillon asked me to be.
On the Second Reading of the Bill the other day Deputy Cosgrave admitted that there are bound to be extravagant claims made. You will have claims made that will be out of all reason. I do not know what the position would be if we were to make ourselves responsible for consequential damage. It is a very wide term, and I do not know how we would define or restrict it. The lawyers might be able to do it. I could not attempt to do it.
Is there not a pretty limited definition in the Bill?
There is a £30 maximum limited to certain specified matters.
Yes, but the arguments advanced here were to the effect that we should widen the definition, and that consequential damage should apply to a variety of things.
You have attempted to put on a limit: (a) a maximum of £30 and (b) this to apply to certain objectives. That is very narrow.
The £30 would cover most of the cases that, I think, Deputy Byrne had in mind—people's tools and things like that.
Plus the cost of housing a family for six months in alternative accommodation.
I believe it would cover a number of these cases.
The Minister should see some of the bills.
What I suggest is that you pay consequential damage, but put the onus on the applicant of proving it in court.
Without a limit?
It will, in fact, be limited if you put the onus on the applicant that he must establish his case affirmatively in court.
I think that would leave it too wide.
With the onus on the applicant and a court to decide?
The Deputy knows how the courts decided in similar cases under the 1923 Act. The courts under the 1923 and 1933 Acts gave reports that were not regarded by the Government of the day as fair decisions, and the amounts reported for were not paid.
Does the Minister not know that the result was that the 1923 Act was twice amended? The Government first of all added a 10 per cent. all round increase as a gift, as they were convinced that the original amount was too low. The second amendment was a wise provision. It provided for a remission of rates for a seven-year period.
But the last Government never gave way on the provision dealing with consequential damages. I believe there is a case for doing something, but my difficulty is how to keep it within measurable limits. I have told Deputy McGilligan what the cost of this is likely to be, even at the present stage. We do not know what this Bill is going to involve us in, because, as Deputy Dillon said, if the same thing were to happen again, the figure might be a very big one. At any rate, whatever the sum is going to be, the bill that we will have to bear may be a very big one. As Minister for Finance, what I am doing in this measure is to try to meet the cases that have occurred of war damage to property. With regard to consequential damage, in the beginning I was afraid to face it. I took courage when I found out that it was ruled out under the 1923 Act. Arguments similar to those made here to-day by Deputy Mulcahy, Deputy McGilligan, and Deputy Dillon were advanced when the 1923 Bill was going through, but the Government of the day resisted them. I have read over the debates and know what was said. I am prepared to go somewhat further on the matter, but I honestly fear for the Exchequer if we were to say that we would accept the principle of consequential damage and let the courts decide.
The Minister has relied, to a large extent, on the 1923 Act. I have certain scruples with regard to it in retrospect. As I have already indicated, that Act was amended twice because there was a recognition that an injustice had been done under the original Act. The 1923 Act was passed in a time of widespread damage. If this was a measure to deal with damage to property done during a period when the State was at war, and if claims for widespread damage had to be met, you would have the position of people taking money into one pocket and paying it out of the other —a sort of scuffle in which people were receiving and paying out at the same time. The situation with which we are faced now is that of a limited class. I suggest that the feeling throughout the country with regard to that limited class is that those who have escaped are so glad to have escaped that they would not regard any financial sacrifice, in income-tax or otherwise, as being too great, in order to put this limited number of people back in the position in which they were. I think the populace have a liberal mind far outstripping that of the Government. I think they would put those people back in the position in which they were, even though it would mean that a roof which would have lasted for only 30 years will be replaced by a new roof which will last for 100 years. People are not going to be so meticulous about compensating somebody who has had an unfortunate accident. I can guarantee for this Party, and I think I can guarantee for the House, that if the Minister made this a liberal measure, putting those people back into the position in which they were, so far as the courts can discover it, and flanking this measure with an addition to the Finance Bill imposing new financial burdens on the country, they would accept it, for the reason that there was an unfortunate group of people who got hit in two or three bombing accidents, and there may be others, and those who escaped from that do really feel that they owe it to the people who have been unfortunate enough to be hit that they should be put back in the position in which they were.
The Minister referred to consequential damage, with those limited objectives that he has in his amendment, and the £30 limit. That really will not go any distance to meet those cases. The Minister refuses to add compensation in regard to chattels. I take it the phrase here really means chattels of any description. It is put down as jewellery, coin and articles of personal ornament. I suppose that is intended to cover clothing. It is going to be very hard to get a strict definition of consequential damage. But suppose he does not advert to consequential damage at all except by that phrase, throwing the burden on the applicant to show what were his losses, and providing that unless he established it to the satisfaction of the court then the court will give him no compensation. There is also the principle with regard to the remoteness of damage. I think the impression of the average citizen who has been through the mill with regard to ordinary running-down accidents is that the courts have a rather narrow and restricted view as to what are the consequential damages that have to be added to the special damage which a person suffers. The Minister need have no great fear that the courts are going to ladle out public money in that way. If anything, I think it will be found—I do not speak from a professional point of view—that the people who have been through the mill have not got the impression that the courts are liberal.
I now come to what I regard as a ghoulish suggestion; I do not care who started it. In effect, you are going to say to those people in the North Strand or Donore Avenue that they are in this position: that if any of them had owed a debt to the Revenue Commissioners they have to invite the Revenue Commissioners to come down and take a bit of the roof. You are doing that in another way. The roof is worth a certain amount in cash. They will not get the amount of cash required to put it back; you are going to take a little bit off because somebody owes a debt to the Revenue Commissioners. Let the Minister say he is more liberal than the Government he has so often criticised ever thought of being, and let him take that to himself for virtue, and we will applaud.
I have been somewhat surprised at the extraordinary terror which the expression "consequential loss" appears to inspire in the minds and hearts of departmental officials and of the Minister for Finance. One would imagine that the question of consequential loss is one that is very seldom met with or dealt with by our courts. I would say that this bogey of consequential loss exists almost exclusively and entirely in the minds of civil servants in the Department of Finance. Twelve ordinary jurors of the City of Dublin during every term in every year deal with consequential loss as a matter of routine, and find no difficulty whatever in doing it. There is no running-down case that is heard by an ordinary jury in the City of Dublin in which the jury is not called upon, as a matter of fulfilling the oath which they take, to assess compensation on the basis of consequential loss. Every person who is injured through the negligence of the driver of a motor car is entitled as of right at the hands of a jury to get compensation for the consequential lossess sustained by reason of the injury inflicted on him through the negligence of that driver. The general principle of all compensation is very clearly defined in our courts. It is a matter of routine to lawyers ordinarily practising in the courts. The general principle of compensation is that a person who is damaged by the wrong of another is entitled to be put back, so far as money can do it, in the same position in which he was before the injury was occasioned to him. That phrase which I have used is used by counsel in every running-down case where they appear for the plaintiff. The jurors are told that that is their duty in assessing damages, and that that is the principle upon which they are to act. When a plaintiff appears in court asking for damages for injuries sustained by him in consequence of the negligence of a driver, 12 ordinary jurymen of the City of Dublin assess consequential loss without the slightest difficulty. Men who have no legal experience, men who perhaps have never sat in a jury box in their lives before do what is admitted, after the experience we have had of jurors, to be substantial justice between plaintiff and defendant. In my experience, and I have had considerable experience, there has never been a case of a successful appeal from the award of a jury based on the award of too much damages for consequential loss.
One of the methods by which the damages are put to the jury is by asking: "What has the man suffered?" If a farmer is knocked out for six or 12 months, we have evidence given that he had to employ a man to do his work, that he lost so much crops, and that in consequence he lost so much profit. Those 12 jurymen—even city men, as they may be very often, dealing with loss sustained by a farmer by reason of the negligence of a driver of a motor car—have no difficulty whatever in assessing the proper compensation that has to be paid, and in doing justice between all parties. That is consequential loss—the loss which a man sustains by being deprived of the opportunity of earning his living; the wages he has lost if he is a workman; the amount of profits he would have made in his business if he is a business man; the amount of fees he would have earned in the period during which he was incapacitated, if he is a professional man. Those matters which I have mentioned are matters that come within the ordinary common experience of even junior barristers during those cases in the Circuit Courts and even in the District Courts. Consequential loss is assessed by our courts daily, and there is never a word about it. There is no fuss about it. The bogey has been raised in the minds of the departmental officials, and in the mind of the Minister for Finance—I would say successive Ministers for Finance—about the appalling amount of money that is going to be poured out as compensation for consequential loss. The principles of damage are well recognised in our law. Judges have not the slightest difficulty about them. Counsel appearing in those cases have known the principles about assessing compensation from the time they were very young students. The law has been settled for the last 100 years. It has been adopted and carried over in our Constitution here, and everybody knows it. There is no trouble whatever about it.
The door is not wide open, in the cases that are brought into our courts daily, for a flood of gold to be poured into the pockets of some person who comes in seeking to get compensation for an injury that happened to him, although daily, in our courts, consequential loss is claimed and given. I do suggest to Deputies that if twelve jurors in the City of Dublin, or twelve farmers in the country, sitting at the Circuit Court, are capable of assessing, as they do assess frequently during the year, consequential loss as between private individuals, there is no reason why our Circuit Court judges or our High Court judges should not be properly able to assess consequential loss in cases of this kind. As I said, at the start, I was surprised at this discussion, and it appeared to me to be entirely unreal because the principles of compensation are so well settled here that there is no possible danger, in a just case, of any injury being done to the taxpayers in this country.
Surely, the Minister does not expect the House to accept his general statement with regard to his conscience, in relation to the expenditure of public money, as an adequate explanation of the numerous deficiencies in the Bill in respect of payment for consequential loss and payment for property not included in the schedule to the Bill. For instance, take the case of a trader who has lost his business and who feels that he has a right to claim a certain amount of compensation for the loss of goodwill. Surely, in a case of that kind, the Minister could base the compensation payment on the compensation provisions in the Acquisition of Land Act of 1919. Furthermore, might I say that in the case of property such as jewellery and so forth, which very often may be of considerable value and which, in many cases, has been insured, the Minister has readily available to him a method of assessing the value of such articles? It seems to me altogether unjust that the Minister is not prepared to take these matters into consideration.
There is another point that I should like to raise at this stage. The average owner of property may not be a very wealthy person, and seeing that the Bill merely provides for the payment of compensation at the market value of such property, that person may not be able to afford any extra expense of rebuilding if the local authority should step in and insist on the new building following certain specifications. In the event of property of that kind being destroyed, the local authority may step in and insist that the new building be according to certain specifications that would involve an expenditure of, perhaps, £200 or £300 in excess of the market value of the property. The owner of that property may be altogether unable to raise that amount of money to rebuild, and in the case of a person like that the provision for compensation that is laid down in the Bill is purely illusory. The Minister ought to make up his mind to make such provisions in this Bill as will ensure that claims for compensation will be dealt with on their merits. Surely, that is a reasonable request and a reasonable way to go about awarding compensation. It is no earthly use telling us about the Minister's conscience in regard to the expenditure of public money. Nobody doubts that the Minister is very careful so far as the expenditure of public money is concerned, but that is no explanation or excuse at all for such a Bill as this which is teeming with so many deficiencies.
I agree with what the Minister said, that the prohibition against compensation for consequential loss was introduced into the Damage to Property Act of 1923, but I think that the reason, or one of the reasons, why it was introduced into that Act was that there was a legal controversy before that time as to how far the court assessing compensation could go, under the old code, in making the award. I think it was in order to put an end to that controversy that there was that prohibition against consequential loss. The position at the present time, however, is entirely different. I think that the persons who have been injured in these cases, either in their property or in their lives, are entitled to the fullest possible measure of compensation, and a very large part of that measure of compensation, of necessity, must come under what is familiarly referred to as consequential loss. In my opinion, it is possible that the actual damage to bricks and mortar, in some cases, may be quite small as compared with the consequential loss sustained. There is no doubt that the inclusion of compensation for consequential loss would involve a fairly large amount in most cases, but it can be defined in various ways, as, in fact, it has been defined in the Minister's amendment where compensation is to be paid in certain cases up to a limit of £30.
There is no doubt that these people who will be seeking compensation now are entitled to the fullest possible measure of compensation, and we hope that they will be treated generously. Let us hope that there will not be any more such damage before the end of the present hostilities, but of course we have to look to the future, as we do not know what may happen, but I think that adequate compensation should be paid to these people. I think that there is a general feeling in the country, especially in the districts where these bombings and destruction have occurred, that the compensation for loss should extend beyond the actual damage to bricks and mortar. I think the Minister would be well advised to enlarge the scope of the Bill in that respect. After all, we may assume that the moneys involved will be collected, in the first instance, from the taxpayer or the ratepayer, as the case may be, but subsequently a bill is going to be presented to someone and, for that reason, apart from anything else, in connection with this opportunity of assessing the basis upon which compensation will be paid, I think the Minister should have regard to the fact and not deal with the matter entirely from the point of view that the final person from whom this money will come is the Irish taxpayer or the Irish ratepayer. For that reason, the Minister should extend the scope of the Bill to deal with consequential loss.
I rise to support the Bill, but listening to the appeals from the Opposition—mostly from lawyers —asking for a blank cheque to be given and telling us that the courts will do justice, I wonder, when they were talking about the courts and the jurors, were they talking about 12 jurors assessing damages which the nation would have to pay? I could afford to sit quietly here if I knew that that was all we had to meet, but I do not know what the future has in store for us.
I certainly would have great pity for these people if they were to be given a big cheque and then find that there was no money to meet it. I was anxious to know where the money was to come from to pay this. In the first instance, I understand, this country is to be accountable, but if we are to put up these fabulous sums and leave it to a Dublin jury of 12 men to give these blank cheques for the Twenty-Six Counties to pay, then I think that I, for one, would not be doing my duty to my constituency if I did not protest against that. I think the Minister is wise in not leaving this thing open to the exorbitant demands which we know will be made. I have every sympathy for these unforunate people, and I say that they should be given everything reasonable, but I am not in favour of giving them any sum that 12 Dublin jurors would assess. We had experience of that kind of thing before, and I think it is hardly in accordance with common justice.
There is no jury in the Bill.
Deputy Costello mentioned a jury.
He mentioned it by way of analogy, but there is no jury in the Bill.