Does the £2.160 million now indicated as no longer being a statutory obligation on Fóir Teoranta to repay to the Minister include the £1.142 million already discharged by section 4 of the 1973 Act, or is it in addition to it?
Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1983. - Fóir Teoranta (Amendment) Bill, 1983: Committee and Final Stages.
That is discharging the company from liability that existed, so that the £2.160 million is in addition to the amount discharged by the previous Act.
This also applies to subsection (2) — I have been referring to subsection (1). Is the Minister happy that subsection (1) as drafted achieves that? Section 4 of the 1973 Act, as I understand it, does not wipe out the debt — it just provides that the company shall be liable to repay advances made by the Minister. Does the provision still remain as an advance by the Minister, even though the company are not liable to repay it? Between 1973 and the present time, how has the £1.142 million which the company had the duty to repay been taken into account? Is it now noted as a non-repayable advance from the Minister or is it written off? How is it dealt with in the accounts of Fóir Teoranta?
Both amounts in the previous Act and in the present Bill are written off in the company's accounts so that there is no subsisting liability, either theoretical or real, for those amounts. Subsections (1) and (2) together discharge the company from the liability to repay advances that were made before, and taken completely out of the company's accounts.
I understand now. I have no difficulty with the actual drafting of the subsection. If the £1,142 million has disappeared from the accounts, obviously the £2,160 million will be an additional £2,160 million, but it appears to me that that is not what the subsection says or, indeed, what section 4 in the 1973 Act said. It did not say that. It did not say they shall be written off. It merely said that the company shall be liable to repay. That does not mean that it should disappear. The company could have got from the Minister money which they had no responsibility to repay, but would still have to be shown in their accounts. In other words, there is no indication that the money should be written off. I am concerned, in respect of both of these amounts, that if they are taken out of the accounts of the company that that is not strictly in accordance with what the decision of the Oireachtas was, which appeared merely that they would not have to be repaid to the Minister, not that they should be written off. I am making no suggestion of an amendment to the legislation but bringing it to the attention of the Minister for his consideration.
I thank the Senator for his concern about this matter. The fact is that these are advances that were made by the Minister originally to Taiscí Stáit in one case and, secondly, to Fóir Teoranta under the provisions of the legislation as it then existed. Under the provisions of that legislation those advances were repayable. The effect of this section is to say that those advances which have been made under the provisions of the legislation do not any longer fall to be repaid so they do not any longer exist as liabilities of the company to the Minister.
It appears to me that they go into a kind of limbo of reserve. I bring it to the attention of the Minister and he can do what he wishes about it.
I want to ask a question about this business of the servants of the company, and this could include the banks. In giving a specific case to the Minister I thought I finished up asking a very general question that if Fóir Teoranta investigate a company as they actually are, can banks afterwards change their minds about the way they stand in the treatment of that company? I do not want the Minister to answer it specifically because I understand the case of one company. As I mentioned, I was giving a specific case in order to give the general outline of what could happen. Can Fóir Teoranta actually be fooled because circumstances change internally in the company's accounts?
That depends on the circumstances of each case. What Fóir Teoranta actually do is look at the situation of the company taking account of the company's liability to creditors of all kinds, whether they would rank as preferential creditors or unsecured creditors, and try to cover the whole problem in conjunction with the efforts made by the company and by other creditors. Of course, Fóir Teoranta have no control over what the subsequent conduct of other creditors will be.