Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 6 Dec 1962

Vol. 198 No. 6

Committee on Finance. - Vote 6—Office of the Minister for Finance.

I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £10 be granted to defray the charge which will came in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Finance, including the Paymaster-General's Office.

The purpose of this token Supplementary Estimate is to afford the Dáil an opportunity of debating the group of Estimates normally moved by the Minister for Finance. That group of Estimates was among those allowed through in the Dáil without discussion last Session on the Taoiseach's undertaking that opportunities of debate would be afforded this session. The group comprises the Estimates for the President's Establishment, Houses of the Oireachtas, Central Statistics Office, Comptroller and Auditor General, Office of the Minister for Finance, Office of the Revenue Commissioners, State Laboratory, Civil Service Commission, Superannuation and Retired Allowances, Secret Service, Expenses under the Electoral Act and the Juries Act, Agricultural Grants, Law Charges, Miscellaneous Expenses, Stationery Office, Valuation and Ordnance Survey and Rates on Government Property.

The total original net estimate for 1961-62 was £294,300. A further sum of £2,500, mainly to meet the balance of the cost of the eighth round salary increases, was obtained from Vote No. 56. The total net provision of this year's main Estimate, £351,460, shows a net increase of £57,160 over the original net figure provided last year. The total gross increase was £59,260 but we deduct from that a sum for decreases of £2,100 which gives us the net figure of £57,160.

I would remind the House that we are discussing Vote No. 18 in conjunction with this Vote.

In other words all the Minister's Estimates are being discussed with Vote No. 6, by Order of the House?

I move:

"That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration."

I noted that the Minister has not obliged us with the usual courtesy of a copy of his speech, but having regard to its excessive length, we can cope with that situation.

It will certainly take some wading through.

Before coming on to the main matters which I wish to discuss on this group of Estimates we can perhaps use the time available this evening to deal with one or two of the smaller ones. The Minister is responsible for, among other things, the Stationery Office. In connection with the Stationery Office, I want to say that while I have always received the greatest possible courtesy from those in the Government Publications Sales Office in the GPO Arcade, at the same time I do not think they are always allowed to keep sufficient stocks there to meet immediate needs.

It may be I have been looking for Ordnance Survey maps which were either in keen demand or were out of print, but some effort should be made if possible to increase the stock available in the Arcade so that maps can be obtained without going up to the Ordnance Survey Office in the Park in an emergency. Let me say that, without question, if a certain map is not available in the Arcade, it is always made available by going up to the Park, if it is in print, but that is not a journey that is either convenient or always possible. It may be that the difficulty is one of space. I do not know what storage space is available but it is certainly something that should be borne in mind in future.

Apart from that, it is the Stationery Office itself, I understand, which allots the printing contracts for the registers and for the documentation of this House. In relation to the registers, I have heard complaints in counties other than Kildare that the electors lists were not furnished on the due date, that is to say, 22nd November, because they had not come from the printers. The Stationery Office are responsible for ensuring that the printing contracts are such that if a delivery date is imposed on the printers, that date should be adhered to. The Minister and every Deputy is aware that for reasons which the Committee on Electoral Law Reform examined and found were necessary, the period of time between publication of the electors lists and the latest date for claims, and even more so for objections to those lists, is all too short, and it is as much as people can do in their various constituencies to get the check of the electors list through in that period, if they desire to do so. If the electors lists, in consequence, are delivered late, it means that that period is cut down even more and the task becomes a virtual impossibility. The Minister, therefore, should make certain that the Stationery Office will so arrange their contracts that they will get proper delivery from the printers.

The Stationery Office, too, I imagine, are responsible for the binding of the volumes of debates of this House and of Seanad Éireann. I do not understand why there has to be the quite unnecessary time lag in the issue of bound volumes of debates there is at the present time. Apart from the difficulty of keeping individual numbers of the volume in order for oneself, if one wants to refer to them regularly, there is the question of indexes. We are running now in the eighth volume of unbound debates. To find one's way through those—to find Questions, replies, references—without the advantage of any index, such as there is in the bound volume, is a totally unnecessary difficulty which is being created for the members of this House. It may be difficult to get that work done —I do not deny it—but it can be done.

Private people can get their binding done. If they are able to get it done, I do not see why the Government should not be able to ensure, through the proper authority, that such a delay does not occur. I would ask the Minister, between now and when we resume this Estimate on Tuesday next, to examine this position and to be able to give us not merely some information but some positive assurance on Tuesday that that work will be brought up to date so that we shall not start off the Dáil next January with the same backlog as there is at present.

I mentioned earlier the question of maps from the Ordnance Survey. One would like also to know what progress is being made towards the remapping of the country, particularly the remapping of those areas where there has been some considerable alteration in the geographical features. The remapping particularly of areas bordering towns is a matter requiring urgent attention continuously and not merely that it would be done one year and then left aside. It seems to me a matter that would require to be brought along the whole time.

The Minister is responsible for the Revenue Commissioners' Department, even though, under the law, the Revenue Commissioners have a certain amount of autonomy, as indeed is proper so as to be quite certain that no use can ever be made of the Revenue Department for the purpose of the individual wishes of a Minister in regard to political matters. At the same time, he has control of it and it is necessary therefore that he maintain that control. In 99.9 per cent of the cases with which in recent years I have had contact with the Revenue Commissioners, the courtesy I received, without people realising that I might be a Deputy, is quite phenomenal. The kind of trouble to which they go to ensure that the appropriate facilities are given to the person concerned to understand his rights as well as his liabilities needs no commendation.

There are, however, one or two cases unfortunately where that is not the case. The best way of ensuring that such cases do not become too frequent is for public criticism to be made of that unfortunate minority on an occasion like this. I have come across individuals in the Revenue Department who seem to think they are only one degree removed from the Lord Almighty. If that idea were allowed to spread—I am glad to say it has not been allowed to spread—the position of the ordinary taxpayer would be quite intolerable.

I think it proper, too—speaking today on the day the Final Report of the Income Tax Commission has been published—that I should take advantage of the opportunity to express publicly my personal thanks—because I set up the Commission—and thanks on behalf of our Party, our thanks, for the work those individuals have done in preparing their several reports. Whether one may agree or disagree with all they have reported, nobody can deny that they have taken an immense amount of trouble to try to sift the evidence backwards and forwards and to endeavour to arrive at conclusions suited to the national economy rather than the tax regulations anywhere else.

I see in the report that apparently there were some 142 meetings of the Commission. Attendance at a meeting of the Commission is by far the least of the jobs the members had to do. I was aware, when I was Minister, of the vast amount of submissions being put before them, even at that time, and of the immense amount of work that had to be done in order properly to understand those submissions. That has gone on, I imagine, ever since. I want therefore to say that the thanks of everyone in the country is particularly due to the members who performed that task gratuitously and for no reason other than that they felt it to be a public duty to serve their country in that way.

I think it would be wrong if I did not say that a word of thanks is also due by us, not merely to the members of the Commission but to the Revenue Department on the members of which the sittings of the Commission imposed a very big additional strain, as well as to the members of the professional bodies who gave such information and assistance and help as they could to the Commission in its labours.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 11th December, 1962.