IRISH RAILWAYS. - IRISH RAILWAYS (DEBATE RESUMED).

I beg to move the adjournment of the debate indicated in the Order Paper, and in doing so I want to say a word or two on this statement made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. With quite a good deal of the statement, I am in agreement. We all realise the difficulty that the Government has been placed in, and feel that they are entitled to some sympathy from the Dáil in regard to their method of dealing with the problem. It seems to me that what they are doing now is simply putting off the evil day, as they might seem to call it, or the good day, as they may seem to call it. They are putting off the decision. The Minister has told us that the Government is not prepared to accept either the majority report or the minority report of the Commission, but the Commission is not going to make any complaint about that. The Commission was asked to do a certain thing, and it did that thing to the best of its ability. But the Government has decided that the recommendations of the majority of that Commission are not worthy of much consideration, and that the recommendations of the minority, of one, of that Commission are no more worthy of consideration, which practically implies that the recommendations of the Scotter Commission, which was undoubtedly composed of influential people with knowledge of the situation and the railway position in Ireland, were equally unworthy of credence, or that their judgment was not sound or satisfactory. The Scotter Commission also recommended nationalisation by a majority, and we had to take that into account, and we did take it into account when we made our recommendations; and we took into account the very material effect of all the arguments, and the very many statistics produced by that Commission, and which apply equally well to-day, and therefore did not require very much comment or repetition. But, as I said, the majority of the Commission is not going to be very much perturbed by the refusal of the Government to accept its recommendations. I want to say that the Minister, in referring to the position of the Labour party on nationalisation is under some little misapprehension. He says the policy decided on is not likely to be acceptable to the Labour party, which insists upon nationalisation. The Labour Party does not insist upon nationalisation. The Labour party puts forward nationalisation as a reasonable and sensible proposition for dealing with the railway problem in Ireland, because it believes that it is not a kind of system of industry that can be satisfactorily worked by private enterprise. If the Ministry can find a more satisfactory method of working the railways, while serving the public interest, than nationalisation, then by all means let them do so. We shall not grumble. We do not look upon nationalisation as something inherently good, and everything else as inherently bad. We believe that the facts of the situation will compel you to adopt this solution unless you are prepared to hand over to private profit the interests of a public service. If the Government can find a better method of serving the public interest than nationalisation, then by all means let them produce their plan, but the plan outlined by the Minister, I suggest, is going to lead to nationalisation whether he likes it or not, not because it is going to be the plan he prefers, but because there is no other end to the proposal he puts forward unless he is prepared to hand over to a few people, whose only interest in the railway service is to draw dividends, the right to exploit the public demand for transport services. I am sorry that the notes I made on these matters have been lost, but it would be well for the Dáil to understand what the history of the railway service in Ireland has been financially. It would be well to understand what the power of extraction from the public pockets has been with the railway companies, and how generously the public have served the greed of the railway shareholders. I find from a report published, that from the year 1871 — that is about half way between the time the railways began, from 1871 to 1913—that is leaving out the question of war-conditions entirely — there has been paid into the railway companies' coffers for public services — in other words for transport services, passenger services and goods services—a total of 145 millions odd. Now, of that sum, no less than 62 millions found its way into the pockets of the shareholders. The position is roughly this: About 40 per cent. of all the receipts go to the shareholders and 60 per cent. go to running the railways, including management, renewals and upkeep; and that obtained more or less regularly — a little more and a little less — up to the end of 1913 and the beginning of 1914. In other words, out of every hundred pounds paid for railway traffic by the public — I think the actual figures are about £29 per cent. has been spent in renewals and upkeep, which means that that sum is spent in keeping in good order the property of the railway shareholders, in keeping up and improving the property of the shareholders. The remainder is divided into two equal parts. One of these parts has gone in paying the running charges from the General Manager's salary down to the trimming of the lamps. The other half has gone to pay interest and dividends upon the capital invested. I have no doubt most people will say it is not unreasonable that the money on which the railway companies have been built should obtain 4 or 4½ per cent., and that that is not an unreasonable charge upon the public, and that the shareholders ought to be recompensed to that extent for the services given by the railway; these services being, of course, the allowing of money to be spent and utilised as capital for railways. But we must bear in mind that that capital investment has not only been maintained, has not only been improved, but that it can never wear out, and that once £100 has been spent upon railway material the public maintain the capital of £100 of material in perfect order for ever and ever, and that the shareholders will be guaranteed their percentage on that £100 in addition to maintaining the property that that £100 represents. Then we have to ask ourselves whether we are prepared as a community to continue that process. I suppose most industrial proprietors and most commercial men will say it is perfectly normal and satisfactory. I suppose the Government will defend that position and say that it is a position that ought to be maintained because their every act seems to show that they do intend to maintain such a position that capital invested in railways or any other public undertaking must be allowed to draw from the public a sufficient sum to maintain the material which represents the capital, as well as to draw what is called a reasonable rate of interest or profit upon that capital. Well, if it is intended that that system shall be perpetuated in Ireland the consequences must be faced. It means, as a matter of fact, that one-third, and more than one-third, of the total productivity of this country, the total produce of this country, is going to be paid over to people for doing nothing, and you are not going to have any real prosperity under that system. I think the Minister is to be commended upon his statement that if the railway Companies are not able to run their business satisfactorily, if they prefer to keep 40 odd companies in existence, if they prefer to go on as they have been going on, the Government has no right and ought not to be asked to guarantee dividends to shareholders. But when we are told that nationalisation must not be thought of, and that the railway Companies must be allowed to carry on their business as private enterprise, you have got to bear in mind that the railway Companies are responsible for the present condition of the railways. These people upon whom you are throwing responsibility of running the railways in the public interest have been responsible for running them all these years and, quite apart from the present abnormal situation, it is these particular people and these particular Companies that you have to blame for any mal-administration or any failure to meet the public needs of which the public is so frequently complaining. The mercantile community, in so far as it has expressed itself, the farming community, in so far as it has expressed itself, the Government as it has now expressed itself, are all in favour of private ownership of railways, and they all agree implicitly that the method of private ownership is the best way to stimulate and ensure efficient management, and, as one of the General Managers has said more than once, the whip to stimulate efficient management, is the desire for dividends. Well, if the commercial public, the travelling public, is determined, with the assistance of the Government, that that idea shall prevail, I take it that they are prepared to pay for it, and if they are prepared to pay for it, we are not going to complain. But we are not going to agree with private management of the railways meaning private dividends around about 3, 4 or 5 per cent., unless the commercial public is prepared to pay higher charges or unless private management can introduce tremendous economies. We are not prepared to agree that the cost of private enterprise without any additional extraction from the public is going to be borne by the railway servants. This particular problem really epitomises the position of the workers in Ireland in relation to the community, and in relation to capitalism and in relation to the political situation in which we find ourselves. We have gone through a political revolution, and the workers generally assisted in the accomplishment of that revolution. They did not enter into that struggle, they did not assist in that struggle simply for the purpose of making a political change — to have a Parliament here to do the same kind of thing as the Parliament in London. It was intended, it was in the mind of the people generally, and the workers generally, that so far as they were concerned, they intended that the political change should mean an improvement in their lives, an improvement in their relative conditions as well as their absolute conditions, an improvement in the position of the worker relative to the position of the wealthier class in the community. And when we are told by the public — those who call themselves the public, meaning the newspaper public, newspaper editors, newspaper proprietors, manufacturers, Chambers of Commerce, Farmers' Unions — when we are told that wages must be reduced to meet the new economic conditions, the stress of economic circumstance, we want to have some assurance that these things are necessary. We admit they are necessary if you are going to continue your present system, but whether they are absolutely necessary as affecting the workers in relation to the whole potential productivity as well as actual productivity of the country is another matter. When you speak for the railways and say that the claims of the railway shareholders must be brought to a position something equivalent to the pre-war position, that they must be assured of something like a reasonable return on the capital invested, we say you must have that out with your customers. If it is insisted that these railways must be run as private institutions, then you must have that problem out with your customers, but you are not going to have it out with us. We believe the public is prepared to pay a sum for the railway services, for work done in running the railways, a sum which will give the men working on these railways reasonable conditions of living and reasonable conditions of livelihood. But we are told by the railway management and the railway directors, backed up as they are in fact by all commercial interests, that their claim for a reasonable rate of interest on the capital invested is a proper claim and shall have first consideration. There you have in fact what was often talked about, the problem of what is called the class struggle. Now a good many people talk very ignorantly of that phrase and they speak as though when we speak of a class struggle we are advocating a class struggle, when as a matter of fact we are only pointing to existing conditions. I have a note here confirming what I said a few moments ago with regard to the whole of the railways. I am sorry I mislaid my notes, but this is an answer to a question by Senator Bagwell, then Mr. John Bagwell, of the Great Northern Railway. He showed that in 1913 out of £1 of gross receipts there was paid in salaries and wages 6s.; there was paid for loco coal 1s. 7d.; other expenses 5s.; a total of 12s. 7d.; covering all charges. The other 7s. 5d. was the balance for interest and dividends. That is, the cost as he states it of earning £1 of gross receipts was 12s. 7d., and the balance left for interest and dividends was 7s. 5d. When you pay one shilling over to the pay box for a railway fare you pay 7½d. for running the railway, and 4½d. to shareholders. But a later return from the same Company for the first four months of 1922 shows that there has been a difference in proportionate charges. The cost of earning £1 of gross receipts on the Great Northern Railway for that particular period was 18s. 1d., the 6s. for salary and wages had gone up to 9s. 10d., loco coal remained the same, and other expenses had gone up from 5s. to 6s. 8d. That is to say, the total cost of running the railway, maintaining the line, renewing and improving the line was 18s. 1d., and the balance for interest and dividends was only 1s. 11d. Now that is a very grievous decline in the minds of railway shareholders and railway directors, and perhaps also in the minds of the majority of the members of this Dáil. But what we speak of as the class struggle lies there. It is a conflict between these two elements, the people who do the work of the country and the people who do not do the work, but who want their interest, profit or rent, as to the proportion each side shall take out of the public purse. When wages were sweated on the railways—admittedly sweated—admitted by Railway Managers, then the rent, interest, and dividend receivers were able to take 7s 5d. out of every £ paid by the public. But now, at least in the first four months of 1922, on that particular railway the people who did the work of the railways and provided the material got a greater proportion of the sum paid by the public for this service, and the struggle between these two elements has been as to whether that proportion shall fall or whether that proportion shall rise, and we stand for this, that the people who do the work, provide the material, whether management or lower grades of the service, should be the people who shall be paid, and not the people who are simply drawing rents, or interest or profit. Now the Minister has told us that before they can do anything of a definite kind, that is to say, of a permanent kind, it was necessary to find out how far existing railways are adapted to the needs of the country, how far they serve the public interest, and how far they are comparatively useless. Well, that is all very commendable; that has been the desire of both Railway Commissions, but if the Government is going to treat the railway system as it would treat, and as it seems to outline here, a private business of its own, then the public interest is not going to be served. For one reason or another railways have been spread into parts of the country where they cannot pay. There are many miles of line that cannot of themselves pay. In this respect railways are very like the postal service which we discussed a little while ago. If you are going to try to make this a business concern, and if you are going to lop off those parts of the railway system which cannot pay for the service, then you are not going to serve the particular public interest in that part of the country. Many miles of lines will be closed down. I think it is very well to find the Government thinking of the possibility of putting into operation rival modes of conveyance. I am wondering whether they have in mind when they have put into operation, if they do so, systems of motor traction, and that the privately-owned companies decide to close down certain parts of the lines which are not paying; whether they contemplate that these lines in general shall suffer the fate of certain other lines which have vanished almost completely, where the rails and the sleepers and everything connected with the railway have been taken away, and where the capital that had been invested had somehow vanished, and where the owners of the capital, the shareholders who claim dividends on their capital invested, had not moved one finger to keep that capital in being. The Government's policy is to see that the present owners bring the system to the highest attainable degree of efficiency and economy. Now, that sounds very well, it is really a splendid aspiration, not only to aspire to it but to insist upon the present owners bringing the system to the highest attainable degree of economy and efficiency. Well, they have been sixty or seventy years on the job, and they have been serving the interests of the shareholders quite efficiently all that time. They have done it so efficiently up to four years ago that the shareholders now are naturally grumbling because that efficiency cannot be kept up to the mark. But we have had more than one commission on Irish railways; there have been quite a number of inquiries into the Irish railway system, and the newspapers, of the last 30 years at any rate, to my knowledge have been constantly complaining of the inefficiency of the Irish railway system. The same people are in charge, the same whip has been playing on the backs of the railway controllers, but the Government says the present owners who have failed in the past to bring the system to a degree of efficiency and economy, must now bring it to that position. I hope they will succeed. I hope they will be able to reorganise their system and really give an efficient service to the public. But when the Government suggest, as they do, that they are going to give that efficient service, that they are going to satisfy the shareholders with a reasonable dividend on the capital invested; that they are going at the same time, either to reduce charges or not increase them, and at the same time are going to pay something like a reasonable wage to the employees, then I say we are going to see failure; that is inherent in the condition of things. Every witness that knew anything about the subject gave evidence of such a kind that the only deduction therefrom could be that the companies could not give reduced rates, that they could not at the same time pay reasonable dividends and pay reasonable wages; they could not do those three things with the present railway system. Neither the agricultural situation of the country nor the physical configuration of the country would allow of such a three-fold satisfactory solution. You cannot pay with this railway system a three or four or five per cent. dividend on capital invested at the same time as you can pay a reasonable wage for the workers and at the same time either maintain or reduce the present charges. If you find that the coal resources of Ireland are to be made available at an early date and that we are going to substitute Irish coal resources for British coal resources, then you might, but until that, or something equivalent to that, is accomplished or until the population of this country is multiplied by three, you are not going to do the things with the railway system which you set out to do. The whole economy of the railway system has been built upon the basis of sweated wages. They induced the people fifty, sixty, seventy years ago to invest capital because labour was cheap — human life was cheap and wages were low. Everything that has been built upon that basis must be maintained if you are going to pay those dividends to the shareholders and at the same time maintain the rates of charges for transport, such as you have now, to merchants, manufacturers and farmers or have a reduction in those charges. I tell them they cannot get it if the Government's hope and expectation is to be fulfilled. If these desires of the public for maintaining the present rates or for reducing them are to have any fulfilment, if the present charges, the present wages, or anything like a reasonable standard of wages, is to be provided for the workers on the systems and if there is to be a guaranteed interest to shareholders, then it is inevitable that there will have to be a State subsidy.

If you are going to have a State subsidy are you still going to have the present owners and the present railway directors to run the show as they think well? If you are going to have a State subsidy, do you propose to have any control over the policy? If you propose to have some control over the policy, then it means you are going to have private ownership with State management. I am perfectly ready to subscribe to that if you are prepared to take out of the hands of the private owners their right to run the business as they wish. Well, you have done that part of the nationalisation proposal which I, for one, would deem essential, that is to say, to interfere with the right of the private owners of the railways to run the railway service in the interest of the shareholders. The railway owners in Ireland have extracted from the public a greater profit for the last twenty, thirty or fifty years, a larger sum per pound invested than either the English or Scotch railways. If that excess had been treated as a sinking fund — as it might well have been, and even might yet be considered to have been in the nature of a sinking fund — then I suggest that the railways are already nationalised. They are already public property, at any rate, without being controlled by the State. There are defects, of course, about nationalisation. Nobody from these Benches has put forward nationalisation as the one and only ultimate solution of all evils. We have put it forward as a reasonable suggestion to meet the present need. It has been criticised by all the people that represent what might be called commercial and trading interests, that they cannot agree to nationalisation because it means inefficient management by politicians. It means bureaucracy and political pull from one side or another. The majority of the Commission was prepared to meet that criticism by saying that the railway services can be efficiently managed by a Managing Director nominated and appointed by the State and owners of the railways, assisted by a Directorate appointed by the various elements which go to constitute the public. The Ministry threw some kind of a slur or sneer upon the suggestion that none but the public, as represented politically, should manage the railways — or be responsible for the railways — the same Government, the same people, that suggested the establishment of vocational councils for running industries. I ask them to try and reconcile those two propositions. The vocational council proposition in the Constitution submitted by the Government, is embodied in the proposal of the majority of the Commission. The Government now say the vocational idea is not to be thought of for a moment. We must have political management, political representation, political control. I do not know where we shall be if ever it is suggested that the vocational idea is to be put into practical effect. I come back to where I began by saying that if the Government insists that the railways must be efficiently run, and that the present owners of the railways must be compelled to run them efficiently, and that they are going to enter upon a system of control in the present emergency, that the end of all that road is inevitably nationalisation. The railway managers and the railway directors are not going to be any more efficient simply because the Government tells them that they must. They have been trying to be more efficient in the interests of their shareholders for forty, fifty or sixty years. They have been trying to obtain higher dividends for all that period. Members on the Government benches—and, I take it, the majority of the members of the Dáil — will argue that the one thing needed to ensure efficiency is a desire for higher dividends, so that we are not going to get more efficient management simply because the Government tells us we must have it. When the period of the emergency control which the Government feels forced to undertake is at an end, it is expected that the railway managers will have propounded a scheme of unification, or of grouping, and the Government is going to decide — that is to say, the Government that condemns this inefficiently managed system — is going to decide whether the scheme proposed of unification or grouping is going to provide more efficient management, and is going to give better public service. I think when members have time to cogitate and consider the implications of the proposals of the Minister, they will see the inconsistencies, and they will see it is a stop-gap proposal, and that it is going to end in that state of things which the Government decries, and which I am inclined to think the majority of the members of the Dáil would not approve of — nationalisation in one form or another.

I beg to second the motion for the postponement of the debate on the address.

I daresay that the hesitation on the part of the various members including some members of the Government to take part in this debate is largely due to the quick way in which the speech was read by the Minister. The Minister traced the history of the Irish Railways from the time when they were under the control of the British Government. I think that anybody who has had anything to do with the Irish Railways or the administration of Irish Railways during the period of the British control will candidly confess that that period was taken advantage of by the Managers at the time to try to endeavour to prove to the people that the system of control under which they worked the railways during the period of the British control was what might be expected under a nationalisation scheme Personally, so far as I am concerned, I would never anticipate that any Irish Government, no matter how inefficient, would in the interests of the people in this country, control the railways in the way in which they had been controlled during that particular time. Now the Minister has invited both parties — the parties amongst whom there is a difference on the question of wages and other conditions of service at the present time to endeavour to co-operate and get over the difficulty in the interests of the country. I do not know whether or not it is generally known to the Dáil that some of the leading autocrats, one particular one at any rate in control of the Irish railways, or in control of a very big railway at any rate, has invited the Government to stand aside at this particular time and let them fight this matter out with the workers. That is at any rate the contribution of one of the principal men in this country controlling one of the largest railways to the support of the Government in the endeavour to get them over the difficulty which confronts them. There is a widespread belief and a very wrong impression created partly by the press, probably under a misapprehension, that the railway workers in the country are the only and very fortunate section of the workers in this country who have not suffered any reduction in wages for some time past. I think it is only right that the people who have endeavoured to create that impression, should, when the matter is properly explained to them, try and correct what they have wrongly put into the minds of the people. So far as the railway workers are concerned they have suffered deductions in wages already varying from 17/6 to 25/- per week upon a wage that was the lowest of any worker with the exception of the agricultural worker in this country. I do not like to worry the members of the Dáil by quoting figures. I would only give one or two cases in order to prove what I say. The average platform porter, who is the lowest paid worker on the railways at the present time, has a wage of 49/- a week——

And his chances.

I invite the Minister for Industry and Commerce to say that if he were in that unfortunate position himself, whether or not he would like to go home to his wife and tell her that the wage of 49s. a week was going to be reduced to 46s. That is the proposition which he himself invited the representatives of the railway men in this country to agree to when they met him in conference. I am sure the Minister's wife would be very much disturbed if he had to go home to her and tell her that sad tale. I do not like to compare the wages of railway workers and the wages of workers in any other industry or occupation. But I think it is right that I should point out the relative position of the railway men whom members of the Government have agreed have very hard and difficult tasks, and responsible work to carry out from time to time. I would take the case of the position of a railway foreman, the highest paid foreman in any railway in the country. He is paid a wage of £3 2s. at the present time. I have a case in mind in a Dublin municipal area, where a foreman on that wage has to supervise a staff of not less than 20 men in a station where 52 trains run each way every day. The wage he receives is 62s. a week, whereas the man sweeping the streets outside the station is paid £3 15s. a week, and the postman delivering letters to the company is paid £3 7s. a week. I invite the Government to judge as between relative responsibilities of the individuals and the difference between the wages of the foreman on the railway and the two cases I have mentioned. I invite the Minister to say whether or not he considers that man on that particular wage with the responsibilities that he has, can be invited to suffer the reduction which has been proposed by the managers? The position in regard to wages and the conditions of service has been under consideration for some time, in the first instance as between the managers of the railways and the leaders of the Unions. May I say this in regard to the whole position so far as that is concerned that the leaders of the Irish railway men, and the rank and file as well, have no desire whatsoever to embarrass the Free State Government in the endeavour to deal with the situation they find within their area at the present time, and in the endeavour to restore order to the country. I think the Government will agree that no case, and no good case, at any rate, has been made by the Managers for the reduction which was originally proposed. The Minister, however, assures us tonight that the agreements that have been in operation up to the 31st of December of last year will be continued. He does not say for how long. It may be information for him to know that a Conference was held between the Railway Companies operating inside the North-East Government area—between the managers of these Companies and the Leaders of the Unions under the auspices of the Minister of Labour in the North-Eastern Parliament, or Sir James Craig's Parliament, at which an agreement was arrived at for the extension of the present agreements for a period of two months, or until machinery to be agreed upon has been set up to determine what alterations will be made in the present conditions of service. The acceptance of that offer is subject to its acceptance by the Railway Companies operating in the Free State area, that is the Railway Companies that are now about to be controlled by the Free State Government. The Minister in dealing with the general policy of the Government arising out of the recommendations of the Commission seemed to think that the Labour Party are the only party who have always been hanging on to this label of nationalisation. If I remember rightly the old Sinn Fein party which is the party that has put most of the members into the Dáil is the party that had that very matter in the forefront of its programme. If any blame is to be attached to it the Minister himself who was a member of the Sinn Fein party advocating that programme can share whatever blame there is in standing for nationalisation. The Minister read his speech so quickly that it was impossible for any person except someone able to take shorthand notes at the rate of 400 words a minute to try to grasp what he was getting at. The Commission which was set up by the Government, in consultation originally with the Northeast Government, came down eventually to being a commission for what was then known as the Southern Government, and is now known as the Free State Government area. The reason for the breakaway, as I understood it at the time, was a political one. I would like to know from the Minister whether the same reason still exists as to why the Ministers who heretofore co-operated in dealing with the railway situation, cannot now agree to do the same from this henceforth. I want to know if there is anything in the way of co-operation between the Minister for the Free State Government and the Minister for the North-east Government of Ulster. Stress has been laid upon the fact that the present position of the southern railways, or of the Great Southern and Western Railway and some of the other smaller railways, is due to the military operations. I think that to a certain extent is the responsibility of the Government, and it is regrettable that the Government had not the necessary support to try and deal with that particular aspect of the case; but, at any rate, that is a Government responsibility. Personally, I hope that the misguided section of young Irishmen who are harping after labels, and those others who have taken advantage of the present unfortunate state of the country will retrace their steps, and in the future we may hope as a result of re-consideration on the part of those responsible for the destruction of railways in the south, that the position will not be as bad as it has been for the past three months. I understand that the Great Southern and other railways, when they came to estimate the deficit, based that deficit on the working of the railways during the last three months. I am sure we all hope that any deficit which the Government will have to undertake as a result of controlling the Great Southern and Western Railway and other Railway Companies will not be upon that average when we come to sum up the situation. I would like also to ask under what particular law, British or otherwise, the Government is going to take over the control of the Great Southern and Western Railway, or the other railways which it may be necessary to control in the future. I would like to know what liabilities are involved in the taking over of any or all of these railways. The Minister referred to the immense liability in the purchase of the Irish railways, and one would imagine from the way this subject is being harped upon that the Government, or somebody acting for them, would have to go round the country, hats in hand, and collect something like forty-seven millions of money. I do not think any such thing is involved even if the majority report were accepted. The Minister also said that if the Government must maintain control, it will also have control over administration. I, at any rate, would like to have some explanation of the words used in that case, and what the Minister means by control over administration. Is it intended to set up a Committee of the Government and the Board of Directors of the Company? If it is intended to set up such a Committee, is it the intention of the Government to give representation to the Labour side on that Committee? The Minister said it was the intention of the Government that the railways should be adapted to the needs of the country. I am very sceptical as to whether or not grouping will bring about the idea desired in that particular case. I believe grouping is being encouraged as an experiment simply because the British Companies have decided on a grouping system. The Minister will have to remember that in doing what the British have done in matters of this kind, he will have to take into consideration that the British railways are a network of railways constructed to suit the requirements, industrially and otherwise, of a fully-developed country. In the case of Ireland the railways at present could not be considered suitable for what we may look forward to be a better developed country. If the railways of Ireland are going to be developed or extended in the future, I can foresee the time when the management under private ownership, will be coming to the future Government of the country and asking them for a huge sum of money for the purposes of development. I would like to know what would be the attitude of the present Government if that were the case. The Minister has already stated to a deputation of the Trade Unions that the Government have given the Managers of the railways three months in which to prepare a scheme of grouping, which the Government may not necessarily be committed to. That, in my opinion, is nothing more or less than putting off the evil day, and is delaying for a further period the position which must be faced arising out of the recommendation of the Commission, or the speech read by the Minister here. He says that pending legislation or an agreed scheme of grouping, the Trade Unions are urged to settle their differences, and that the Government have no intention or do not wish to intervene with regard to the question of wages. Seeing that the Government, from next week, are taking control of the Great Southern, and probably all the other Companies in the Free State later on, I think the Government are directly concerned in the question of any wages settlements that may crop up from time to time. The Railway Managers, as well as Trade Union leaders have always looked forward to a settlement for a long period, but it seems as times go by, that the period of settlement is getting shorter. Therefore, and in that way, there is a lack of stability as far as the control of Companies is concerned, and there is injury to the trade and commerce of the country. Can the Minister give us information as to how long in the present circumstances it is intended to control the Great Southern and other Companies? The Minister also said that repairs to the permanent way and rolling stock will have to be deferred. Do I understand from the use of these words that he means that the workers in the Inchicore Works, who have got notice to terminate their services with the Company next week-end, are to be left out as the result of a statement of that kind? There seems to be a disposition on the part of the Government side of the Dáil — and on the part of a good many people who are opposed to nationalisation of the railways, or even the unification of railways in this country — to take nothing more or less into consideration than the shareholders' point of view, but it is my personal opinion that the man who invests money in railway shares just risks it the same as the man who puts his money into Dunlop rubbers, but certainly not the same as the man who backs a loser, and I do not think that he is entitled to any more consideration in matters of that kind. We are giving three months to the railway companies to prepare a scheme of grouping which, in my opinion, the railway Managers or the railway Directors will never agree to. I would like, in the intervening period, that the Government would give very serious consideration to their future policy — that is their policy at the end of that period — assuming that the Managers will not agree to any scheme of grouping that will meet the requirements of the present Government. I would take it that the Government, in framing their policy for the future, would be concerned with nothing more or less than the development of the country agriculturally and in every other respect. I would also ask the Minister to remember the position created by the conference in Belfast, which I have referred to, and to say whether or not, from what he knows from the Managers at the present time, if the Managers of the Southern Companies operating in the Free State and he, acting for the companies that he is now going to control, are prepared to fall into line with what has been agreed to in that particular area.

Before the Minister gives a reply I would like to direct the particular attention of the Minister and of the Government to a couple of matters. I am not going to discuss the nationalisation of railways, or unification of railways, or the report of the Railway Commission, because it seems to me the time has scarcely come for any of those at present. At the present moment I think we must admit —we all know it in our hearts at any rate — that the country is in a state of war, and the Government — whatever their reason might be — are taking over the railway companies — if they do take them over — because it is essential for the life of the country that the railway services should continue to run, so far as they are permitted to run at all, or else disaster overtakes the whole country. They are necessary to convey the National forces from one part of the country to another and to convey supplies to the National forces, and to the people of this country in every corner of it that can be served by a railway. I think there can be very little doubt that the taking over of the railways, if they are taken over, must at the present moment be, in substance, a war measure. Now, the railways here and in the neighbouring Island and in other countries were taken over by the Governments of those countries in time of war, as a war measure, and the Governments of those countries recognised it to be a duty to pay to the mortgagees, debenture holders of these companies, and the shareholders indeed, also, the dividends that these companies had been earning, and would have continued to earn but for Government control, during the period of Government control. The reason that the railway companies at the present time—as I understand it—are unable to carry on, are unable to pay even the working expenses of the day, is not due to the mismanagement of the governing bodies of those companies at all, but to the inability of the Government of this country to afford protection to the railway companies in working their own lines. I do not blame the Government for that inability. It is an inability that they have confessed themselves. I do not suggest that it is due to any fault or any incompetency on their part at all, but it is an inability that must be recognised by everybody. In those circumstances the railway companies say they must cease to run, because they cannot keep their lines in repair, and they cannot call upon their servants to work for them in places where those servants may lose their lives in consequence of performing their duties. I have no doubt they are perfectly willing to perform them, but they cannot be called upon to go into places where they are actually exposed to the risks of war. Then, if the Government say to the companies:—"Your trains must run, and your people must go and work through the risks which are in substance war risks," it is the duty of the Government to stand over the proprietors of the companies during the period that they are controlling the concerns for the benefit and in the interest of the State. The Minister in his statement to-day used certain words — I had not the good fortune to see the statement, but I took it down as he read it out — and I understood him to say that the Government must, if they take over the railway companies or any of them, maintain them and find the money to do so, but that they will not provide dividends on the Preference or Ordinary Stock, nor on the Debentures. I suggest, unless the Government are able to offer some modification of that statement, the result of it, not to the railway companies alone, but to the country as a whole, must be disastrous. Deputy Johnson referred to the possibility in the future of Irish coal supplying the place of English coal. To develop a coal mine you want money, and you want money lying idle for several years until the coal mine becomes a paying proposition. Who is going to provide money to develop coal mines in this country within a year or so of the time when people who sank their money in debentures for the purpose of constructing railways — are not now to have their interest paid by the Government? And large sums of money have been sunk in building railways in this country, not only within the last 50 years, but within seven or eight years immediately before the war. I do not suppose anyone was putting money into those things during the war, but shortly preceding the war considerable sums of money were subscribed for railway construction, and for railway capital purposes for providing those improvements which are not always provided out of annual receipts, but which are provided out of capital. You will find it very hard to get money in this country for the development of our own industries and our own resources that we all hope to see developed now that we have got control of our own affairs if the first thing an Irish Government does is to confiscate the property of the people who have put their capital into railway Debentures which have always been regarded as the safest form of security for investors, small and large, practically as safe as the Government stocks of the country themselves. Now these Debenture holders are not great capitalists, as a rule. Some few years ago it happened to be my duty, as a member of a small committee that was trying to raise a loan from the Board of Works for capital expenditure on one of those small railways which is now shut down, to approach the Board of Works. They would not lend the money unless they could get it as a first charge on the earnings of the railway company, had to go round, as a member of the committee, trying to get the consent of the Debenture holders to permit this Government loan to go over their heads. It astounded me at the time to find the kind of people that had £100 or £200 invested in the Debenture Stock of that small Railway Company, and the enormous percentage of the people who had small sums of under £500 in that Company. Those are a considerable proportion, at any rate, of the people whose property and whose means of livelihood, in many cases, will be taken away if the Government do not see their way to continue to pay the interest upon Debentures. Ordinary Shareholders one has some sympathy with, but the Ordinary Shareholder who has put his money into a railway company is in a different case to the Debenture holders. As Deputy Davin said, he might as well have put his money into Dunlop Rubbers. At any rate the Government do not confiscate the property of the Dunlop Company, and they do not take over control. The Shareholders continue to keep control of their own property when they do go into an ordinary company of that kind. It is really in the interests of the country, I suggest to the Government, that they should continue to discharge the interest upon the Debenture Stock in any railway company that they do take over, for the mere sake of upholding the credit of the country if for nothing else, and for preventing the property of the railway company from going out of the category of trustees' securities, because if a railway company defaults upon its Debentures they cease to be securities in which trustees may invest, and we will have vast sums of money going out of this country which once they go will never come back. It is in the interest of the country as a whole, not only of great capitalists, but also of labour, that we should do nothing that might prevent people from providing money in the near future for the development of the resources of the country itself. Nothing could strike a greater blow at the credit of this country than that its largest industrial concerns should proceed to default upon the chiefest of their securities. I remember in 1895, when the guarantees that the Government of Canada had given to provide interest on the Ordinary Stock of the Canadian Pacific Railway had run out, a wave of industrial depression came over the whole of Northern America, both Canada and the United States. Everybody was expecting that a Receiver was to be put in at any moment. They succeeded, however, in staving off the appointment of a Receiver by borrowing money somehow or other. I happened to be over there making inquiries on behalf of people who had a considerable amount of money invested in the Debentures of that railway company. A very prominent politician there told me that he thought that the Debentures were perfectly safe, because in the interests of the Dominion itself the Government could not allow its first railway company to default upon its Debenture interest, as, if it did, it was good-bye to any prospect of Canada, with all its resources, obtaining capital for the development of its resources in the future. Now, we are unfortunately in a less favourable position than Canada was then in 1895, when, I think, its population was about five or six millions. We are an old country taking over a young Government. To do such a thing as to allow the greatest railway company in this country, and the smaller ones as well, to default upon their Debenture interest it seems to me would be disastrous to the credit of the country, and I do appeal to the Government to turn this matter over in their minds again. I do not charge them with having come to a hasty conclusion, but I do suggest that they should turn this matter over in their minds again, and see whether they cannot, if they take over any of these railway companies, meet the Debenture interest. They are not going to take the companies over for ever, at any rate next week. They are going to take them over for the period of the war, whatever that may be. We hope that it will not be long, but I venture to suggest that when this war comes to an end, and the railway companies are able to manage their own concerns for themselves, that you will find that they are able to carry on, not at a loss, and to meet their obligations themselves when the concerns are handed back to them by the Government, if the Government do decide against nationalisation and do decide to hand them back to the management of the Companies. At any rate this control is only going to be a temporary matter. So the Government contemplate. They say themselves that the railway companies are to have three months to see whether they cannot arrive at some system of unification, and at the end of that three months, if a satisfactory system has been devised, I understand it is the intention of the Government, if the state of the country permits, to allow the railway companies to resume control of their own concerns. It is not a very long period and the amount of money falling due, at least upon the Debenture Interest, within that period cannot be very great. It is not as if they were accepting permanent liability. I do appeal to the Government, not in the interest of the railway companies, or the Shareholders, or the Debenture holders, or anything of that sort, but in the interest of the credit of the country itself, to see whether they cannot state that they will, until the period of control ends, discharge the interest at least upon the Debentures of the Companies, such interest as may fall due during that period of control. I do not know the periods at which Debenture Interests fall due. They vary considerably in different Companies and on different classes of Debentures in the same Company. There may be some falling due within the next three months or six months, but I do not know. I fancy it can only be a half year's interest upon certain classes of Debentures, because some of them were paid in October, and some on the 1st of this month, but at any rate it will only be a half year's interest on the Debenture stocks of whatever Companies they do take over. The amount cannot be very large, and at the end of the period the three months will have elapsed during which the Companies will have an opportunity, as the Minister said, to put their house in order and submit a scheme for unification. I do appeal to the Government to stand over the Debenture obligations of the Companies at least during that period. If I might I would add to the Debentures the Guaranteed Stocks in any of the Companies that they do take over. There is a precedent for this. Within the last twelve months I think the Canadian Government has taken over the Grand Trunk Railway, which was in an insolvent condition for, I think, the same reason, apart from war, that the Irish Railway Companies have been reduced to a similar condition. The Canadian Government has, I believe, assumed responsibility for the Debenture Interest of the Grand Trunk Railway Company. It has repudiated liability for the Preference and Ordinary Shares, as the Minister suggested this Government intended to do. As I say I have less grounds for complaining of that. That is a different matter. But in the case of the Grand Trunk Railway Company the Debenture Interest, and also the Guaranteed Interest, have been taken over by the Canadian Government.

I did not hear the address of the Minister, and so I am at a loss to follow the discussion. I have only heard part of Deputy Johnson's speech, and I am under a bit of a handicap. I did hear Deputy Johnson make statements to my mind alarming from the point of view of the common citizen of this country. He seemed to me, judging from what I heard, to be attacking the shareholders. He said they had no rights, and why should their interest be considered? I take that as a most alarming suggestion. Does Deputy Johnson or anyone else not know that the shareholders are the people who built the railways of this country? Would we have any railway were it not for the private enterprise of the shareholders? His argument was a funny one for future development. Where are we going to get money for future development? Is it going to come down like manna from heaven? I think Deputy Johnson has done more than anyone else in this Dáil since it assembled to kill enterprise if his voice is heard. I do not know how far his voice goes, but if it has any power behind it is most alarming. In one breath we are told the shareholders have no right, and the Companies have no rights, and in another breath we are told, and it is most alarming, that the Company advise the closing down of the works of the railways. What is the reason of this unemployment? It is because the money cannot be found. Some Deputies want the money to be found by private people, and in another breath the same Deputies say those very people have no rights at all. I know nothing about administration, but I believe the Irish railways do not need so many Directors at all. I think the whole system in Southern Ireland could be managed by one Board. I do not know how many Boards we have, but I do know that there is only one Board in England. I do not know anything about inefficient service, but I do know that before the war we had a fairly efficient service. There is one little matter I would like to ask the general public and the Deputies of this Dáil to consider. We were told here about wages. We were told that under the eight hours system the lowest paid man there had 49s. a week.

Excuse me, I said in the Dublin municipal area 49s., and 45s. 6d. in the country.

With the addition of tips and tanners.

That is a regrettable statement.

It would be more regrettable if the tanners were not forthcoming. What is the position with respect to the average wage-earner in the country who is in receipt of an income? Why should those privileged classes — these aristocrats — be entitled to more than their fellows in the country? Who are those people? Are they better than the agricultural workers, some of whom are working for 30s. a week? What right has a worker to the profits made in his industry? Why not share it with the agricultural worker? What is the meaning of the discrepancy between the 75s. paid to the street-sweepers of Dublin and the wages paid out to the millions of workers in the country? I think the Government would be going about it right if the average wages were put up £2, and give the balance to the agricultural community. It is not because a man is in employment that he should have a share in the profits. I think the real reason why the railways are not paying for themselves is because they are over-staffed and over-paid. The workers are for most part of the day doing nothing, and they have nothing to do because there are no trains passing. Deputy Fitzgibbon alluded to one particular class of shareholder — I believe some friend of his own. I think he called him a Debenture holder. Why should not every class be the same as a Debenture holder? If you make a case for one you make a case for the lot. All this is an old question resolving itself into the question of State ownership. Now, I want the public to know what the State is. The State is the people of Ireland; the State is the average man in this country, and when we ask the State to subsidise we are asking the people of the country to put their hands into their pockets. Then you have the Great Southern proposition, and the question of subsidising. Leave it to the people, and the people of Ireland will not subsidise them, and if you put that question to the people of Ireland you would be sure to get your answer. We hear that the present railway charges must be maintained, and you calmly ask people who pay those charges to subsidise the industry again. You will not give them a reduction on the exorbitant charges they are paying, and in addition to that you are putting a million on the railways. The State is a horse that you can load too much. You can put too many straws on a camel, and the last straw will break his back. One man has as much right as another, but is that practised by the Deputies of this Dáil? Do the Deputies who have seven or eight hundred pounds a year divide that money amongst other people? We hear a lot about philanthropy in this Dáil, but do we hear anything like this: "I met a fellow the other day — a poor devil who was out of work. I am earning £700 a year, and so I gave him £10 out of that"? We do not. If the industry is not paying for itself, let the industry go down, and let the people concerned go down too. We hear a lot about vocational control. That is all right by men who work in the interests of the community, and not in the interests of a class. Vocational Councils do not mean Councils set up to run a particular class. It does not mean putting men on a Council in order that they may put money into the pockets of their own class. The idea of Vocational Councils is of people who know something about business and who will work it in the public interest and not the interest of a particular class. We are told that under British control the railways were run to give us an idea of what Government control would mean. Well, judging by the strikes that took place, I suppose we can take what occurred as a sample of what would happen under nationalisation and what that would mean.

How many strikes had you during British control of the railways?

Several. It gave us an idea of what would happen under nationalisation, and I warn people to be very cautious of putting their fingers in that particular pie again. Now, I think the Government has behaved very shabbily in this matter. The great reason the railways are not able to run is because the Government or the State is not able to give them sufficient protection, because their property has been destroyed, and I do not see why the railway property should not come into the same category as other property that has to be compensated for when destroyed. When you talk about the shareholders you do not talk about capital in bulk. You must come down to the people who hold the shares. Deputy Fitzgibbon talked about people having £100 shares. There are such people, who have to eke out an existence in such manner; there are people, hundreds and thousands of them, who hold shares from £50 up to £500, and whose subsistence depends upon what these shares pay them. If you look up the registers you will see how many people there are of that kind, and what a large number of small shareholders there are in the country. You ask these people to have confidence in you, and to put their hands into their pockets and subscribe towards the development of the country. They are not going to do it. Anybody who has money in his pocket is going to hold on to it, and if you want to develop upon any lines such as State lines we will have to talk to you about it.

Deputy Gorey is quite accurate, I think, when he says that there were some strikes on the railways during the period of British control. Yes, there were. The railwaymen struck against conscription, and they struck to bring about the release of the Mountjoy prisoners, but there were not a number of strikes for increased wages or improved conditions or anything else like that during the period of British control. It was the removal of the conditions prevailing under control that was the cause of the more recent strikes and part of the trouble on the railways at the moment. Now, as to the whole question of the British control of the railways, as Deputy Fitgibbon pointed out, the British and other States controlled the railways partly for war purposes and for the more efficient working and running of the railways at that period in the country. They decided, in order to carry out their war aims and in order to reach their war objective, from their military and political point of view, to make the fullest use of the railways. That is why they did it. No doubt, if control comes now, it will be to some extent in order to do the same, or something of the same kind, but that, of course, is no criterion at all of the better working or the worse working of the railways under nationalisation or grouping or unification or anything else. And you cannot argue against nationalisation or unification from the experience of the British control, or even from the experience the Government will get from control, such as it will be, if it comes about now. Deputy Fitzgibbon has put forward a big plea on behalf of certain shareholders or Debenture holders rather, and Deputy Gorey says why should not the other classes of shareholders be treated much the same. We may be inclined to agree with Deputy Gorey that they ought to be treated much the same as the Debenture holders about whom Deputy Fitzgibbon is so anxious. I understand the Debenture holders represent something like 11 or 12 millions out of the 39 millions of capital in the railways. He wants them to get exceptional treatment. If the Government were to control our railways and are to guarantee the dividends, what would be the position? The State, that is the ordinary common people of the country, would be landed for at least half a million a year for the Debenture holders. Perhaps that would be for the whole of Ireland—the 32 counties—but in reality it would only mean very little less for the Free State. Now, as to the holders themselves, I find here in the evidence given before the Railway Commission that a certain Association called the Irish Railway Stockholders' Protection Association gave evidence that in May last the membership of their Association alone was about 6,000, and it was believed that this 6,000 might be taken as representing 22,000 separate shareholders. In other words, on the average each of these 6,000 people must be holding four separate shares, or the four holdings may be in four different Companies. Deputy Fitzgibbon, and perhaps to a little extent Deputy Gorey also, raised the plea of what we might call the poor widow who has shares in the railways. Deputy Gorey says these people try to live upon the dividends they get from their holdings on the railways, and he tells us some of them hold £100, some £150, some £200, and some as low as £50. Now, how much of a living are they going to get out of these holdings at the rate of 3 or 4 per cent.? A lightning calculator near me says 9d. a week. It is really all humbug. Most of these people are not dependent upon dividends upon the shares they get from the railways, and that is where all the difference comes in between the workers and the shareholders. The worker is completely and absolutely dependent upon the wages he gets for his work on the railway. These shareholders, for the greater part, are not absolutely or partly dependent on these dividends. Many of them are people drawing their living out of something else. Very often it happens that they are people who have inherited these shares in one way or another, and these are really little additions to what goes to make up their livelihood. If under the stress of war conditions dividends are to be guaranteed by the Government because certain activities, many of them stupid, most of them criminal, have been carried out against the railways, why should not the Government guarantee the dividends of other concerns who may have similarly suffered as well as the railways? Why should the Government not guarantee the dividends of ordinary commercial concerns which, owing to the stress of war, are suffering, and are likely to suffer, just as much as the railways have suffered? We have asked here that the workers who run the railways should get some consideration when they have lost their jobs from the closing down of lines or certain sections of the lines; but we hear no talk about guaranteeing the workers who have lost their jobs Government compensation or anything in the nature of dividends. No, it is always the case of the poor widow who has got to keep herself on her dividend. Now, there are Deputies in this Dáil and there are Senators in the Seanad who are railway shareholders, but you will not produce any of them in evidence to say that, like the engine driver, the platform porter and the permanent way man, they would not know where next week's breakfasts and dinners were to come from if they did not get their dividends. That is not the case with the railway workers. I am not altogether in favour of the Government subsidising the railways. I think that the present plans of the Government are not the best plans. I think they will find they will have to modify them, and I think that the failure of the railways to meet the present situation is due not only to the war conditions, but to the mal-administration of the railways. It is an old cry in Ireland that the railways were not built for the commercial, industrial or any other development of Ireland. Many of them were built for certain other purposes. Now, when the Railway Companies, the directors and the shareholders had an opportunity after or during the period of British control, when they had their dividends guaranteed to them, and they had got little more to do, at least many of the directors and shareholders, with the responsibility of the railways, than to sit down and think out plans to meet the situation that would arise when that control would be removed, they did not do that. They might then have grouped or unified the railways, and have improved them so that the state of affairs, apart from the war conditions, would have been very different. If they had done that it would have been very different. But they did not do it. Now, when they think that the State is going to interfere and nationalise them, they think they will escape their just deserts in offering to group. I hope the Government does not seriously contemplate adopting whatever group system the Companies propose, because the Companies will adopt whatever grouping system is going to help the financial interests concerned in the Railway Companies. They are not going to group them in such a way that even the general body of the people will benefit. They are going to look after their own selfish interests. Deputy Gorey speaks about giving exceptional treatment to a class. He says that the railway workers should be paid only £2 a week. I think it is a disgraceful thing that at this time of the day, in this first Assembly with full powers of the State, that any Deputy should stand up and say that, in his deliberate opinion, the producer of things and the manipulator of the instrument and machinery which are as vital to the national life as the very food that comes out of the ground should get no more than 40s. a week. It is physically and humanly speaking impossible to raise a staple and decent State on a population at only £2 per head a week.

On a point of personal explanation, I said the average wage, and I repeat it that the average worker is not in receipt of it. Let the Deputy contradict that if he likes.

I do contradict it.

I repeat it.

I say that the average gettings of the wage-earners of Ireland are more than £2 a week, and if they were only two pounds a week all the more shame to Ireland. There are very many people in Ireland who are getting not £10 a week, which the Deputy talks about, nor £15 nor £20, and it is these people, who gave got much more than they or all their progeny can consume, who squeal out when the ordinary railway worker seeks the protection necessary to give him a decent livelihood. It is these money-bags who squeal out, because they think they are going to lose something which would be much better spent in some useful way in the development of the Company. Deputy Gorey says that Deputy Johnson—at least I understood him to say— has ruined the country. I am not so much surprised at that, because he did not hear the Minister's statement, and only heard part of Deputy Johnson's reply. I was surprised to find Deputy Fitzgibbon using the word "confiscation," and giving the impression not to members of the Dáil, because I think they are too intelligent to be misled, but, consciously or unconsciously, giving the impression to the general body of people outside that the Government in its present plans—not the plans of the Majority Report of the Railway Commission, and not the plans that we on these benches might put forward, but the milk and water, quarterway-house sort of plans which the Minister has put forward — that these plans are going to mean confiscation. Deputy Fitzgibbon knows very well that that is ten thousand miles away from confiscation, and in the morning newspapers and everywhere where the advocates and supporters of these alleged poor widows gather you will have the cry raised of confiscation. I am sorry that Deputy Fitzgibbon said that one of the first acts of the Dáil was to be something in the nature of confiscation.

On a point of explanation, I think that Deputy O'Shannon misunderstands what I said. My view is that to take property without paying for it, even temporarily, is temporary confiscation, and it was in that sense, and in that alone, I used the words. I did not intend to charge the Government, and I do not think anyone understood me to do so, with intending to deprive the shareholders of their property altogether.

I am glad to hear the Deputy say that, but it does not go so far as I would like, because he knows that the Government does not propose to take over control even of the Great Southern and Western Railway until that railway is closed down. Then, what happens the dividends, and what is going to happen the workers who are going to be thrown out? To take their livelihood from them is not confiscation. No, it is only throwing them on the labour market. But to take two or three hundred thousand in dividends temporarily is to take the property of shareholders of whom there are from twenty to thirty thousand in Ireland. These shareholders, who ought to be running the railways in Ireland and going out of their way to do their best to keep them going, are throwing up the sponge and getting out like whipped dogs. It is not confiscation, as I say, to take the wages out of the pockets of the railwaymen, who, when everything else has been said and done, are standing up pretty manfully and fighting their way through the difficulties of the time, and doing it in many cases, although there are black sheep amongst them — there are black sheep everywhere — and in many cases running the actual risk of their lives when working the railways, but there is no risk of the shareholder's life by having holdings even in the Great Southern and Western Railway. I should like the Minister, when replying, to say whether, when this control is taken over, the Government mean by essential services merely essential war services; whether in the Government's opinion there is any likelihood of temporary closing down of sections of the railways, what is going to become of the Southern Railway if taken over, and their workshops in Inchicore; and whether the Government has gone into the question of contracts — a sore question with some people — which the Great Southern has had in the past with firms in England, and whether anything can be done, if the Government take over control, to increase rather than decrease employment.

Deputy Cathal O'Shannon has made light of the small shareholders and of the sufferings of many of them. I do not intend to deal at length with that, but I have to remark, despite what he said, that there will be many cases in which what previous Deputies said will be quite true. It will mean great loss and suffering. What I do want to refer to is to get the Dáil to see that there are two lines along which this discussion might run. The one most profitable to take is that the present situation is due to the state of the country. Now, a great deal has been said about the Great Southern Railway. I take it as an example. I suppose ten years ago the Great Southern and Western Railway would rank second among successful undertakings in Ireland. Perhaps it was not even second to any other. Why has it been brought to the state in which it finds itself to-day? Simply because of the state of anarchy which has existed throughout the whole country; simply because it has had to close down section after section of the line, and because of that much of its capital is lying unproductive, and therefore the Company is not able to pay its way. It is because of the state of the country and because of the effects of this war of destruction in the country that it and other railways find themselves in the position they are in to-day. Deputy O'Shannon referred very properly to the way in which the question of contingent losses is raised by the question of compensation for loss of this kind, but I think there is an important difference, and the difference lies in this, that the operations of the railways are required for the working of the Government and for the economic life of the country, and therefore there is a special claim for a railway to be dealt with on a special basis. Now, I only rose to speak at all on this question for two reasons. One because I think the Government ought to consider this matter to-day as one to be dealt with merely as an emergency matter because of the war, and that the emergency requires special measures to deal with it; and the second reason is because it seems to me that the Government's statement on this matter, and certain speeches we heard from the Labour benches were fraught with the gravest danger to the development of the whole country. As Deputy Fitzgibbon said, we really do find here the Government proposing to take advantage of the property of the shareholders of these railways and make use of them for Government purposes, merely providing the working expenses — because that is what it means — without paying anything for the use of the property. We find Deputy Johnson saying that because so much money has been paid back to the shareholders of these Railway Companies for a period of 42 years that their claim for further interest on the use of their money has been largely met by that long payment of interest. Deputy Johnson gave us many figures. One of the figures was the amount the shareholders of Railway Companies had received, something like sixty-two millions, in interest on their money for a period of 42 years. He gave other figures, but he did not give what was probably the most important figure — the only important figure, and one I would like to know, i.e., what was the average percentage paid for that 42 years in the way of interest to shareholders for their money. On the face of his figures it does not seem to be very high. It appears to be one and a quarter millions a year for the whole capital of the railways. It is all very well to talk of shareholders getting very large interest on their money and say that it is exorbitant, but exorbitant interest is one thing and legitimate interest for the use of money is another. When we see that put forward, and see the Government even in a temporary way making use of property without paying for it at all, I think we must ask ourselves the question: What is going to be the answer of those who hold money when the appeal comes from the country for the raising of money in the shape of loans, and, much more important, for raising money for the development of the country in the various ways in which such development might be hoped for? Perhaps there is very little to be hoped for in the way of developing the coal industry. Probably; but I hope there is a good deal to be hoped for in the development of the peat industry and in the development of water power. What hope shall we have of getting those who hold money to put that money into some scheme for the development of these resources if they are likely to be faced with the statement, and told after a few years, that because they have been receiving interest for a few years, their claim to be repaid their original money in full is therefore largely forfeited? That is practically what Deputy Johnson's statement comes to. Surely economy is necessary. I entirely support the Government when they say that they will take every measure they can in order to ensure that the railways are worked economically. I am entirely with them when they say that they will see they take steps to make an economical grouping, but I would point out that it is sometimes false economy to refuse to spend money, and that a greater loss to the country will really be involved in the refusal to recognise responsibility than in the outlay even of large sums of money to meet those responsibilities. I sympathise strongly with the workers in their desire to have their conditions of life improved, but I submit that the improvement which they seek is not likely to come from the taking of measures which will tend to keep capital out of the country. We want to draw capital to the country; we want to have it at work in the country in order to provide employment for the workers. We can only hope for the improvement of the country when we succeed in getting two points of view recognised — that Capital has rights, and that Labour has rights. It is from a proper union of those two points of view only that we can hope for the proper solution of the social problem. We shall not improve matters by disregarding the fact that there are rights of Capital; that a person holding money can only be led to invest that money in a country where the rights of Capital are recognised. I think it was Deputy Johnson who made one exceedingly good point when he said there was a great distinction between control by a Government and political control. I did feel that the proposals of the Government practically meant nationalisation. I agree with Deputy Johnson in his view that that is the outcome of their proposition. Whether or not the time has come for that — I do not think it has — is perhaps open to discussion, but I think their proposals lead that way. If that nationalisation is going to mean political control I think it is bound to be a failure, but if it means, what I think Deputy Johnson hoped it would mean, control apart from political control, control by, say, a Vocational Council, a Council qualified to deal with it, I do not think that it will at all follow that nationalisation would be likely to be a fatal step for the country to take, but I want to insist on the point that the present is not the time to go into that general question. We have got to deal with the emergency first and see how far we can meet that emergency, with due regard to economy, and I venture to suggest also, with due regard to justice.

I would like to inform the Deputy, in answer to his question, that it is almost four per cent. For the period from which I quoted, 1871 onwards, the average was very nearly four per cent. on all kinds of stock.

It is not very exorbitant.

A few questions were asked which I will deal with. One was by Deputy O'Shannon as to what was meant by essential services. It was purely a war service that is meant, services necessary to keep the trade and industry of the country going; and it is not proposed to leave the Inchicore Works closed. I do not know if Deputy Gorey meant exactly that we proposed subsidising the railways to the extent of a million a year. I do not know if I took him up correctly, but I cannot see how anybody could take it up that any subsidy is intended under our present control. There is no subsidy whatever. It is purely a case of paying the difference between working expenses and receipts while we control, and I would like, on this point, to say that it is not because of wages that any payment is necessary. Deputy Fitzgibbon is, I think, under a wrong impression entirely when he said that we proposed controlling, in the first instance, for a period of three months. We do not propose any such thing. What we propose doing is controlling from week to week, and the reason why we have to control in the case of the Great Southern and Western Railway is because of the fact that they have given notice that on and from the end of this week in some cases, and at the end of next week in other cases, their line will be closed, and it will be not closed from what Deputy Fitzgibbon describes as their inability, or our inability, to protect the workers in carrying out certain repairs. That is not the position. We are undoubtedly unable to protect the line generally, and as a result of that their revenue has decreased very considerably. It is not the case that men asked to repair the line have to go out and do so at the risk of their lives at the present moment. That is not the case, and has not been so for some months past. The position on the Great Southern and Western Railway — the misconception may have arisen because of the fact that I read the statement too quickly — is that they alleged and furnished us with a statement showing that they cannot carry on any longer because of the want of finance, and again I would like to impress on you that it is not a question of wages with the Great Southern and Western Railway, and our controlling at the present moment has nothing whatsoever to do with wages. A strong appeal was made with reference to the Debenture holders. Now, the position of the Debenture holders is this: If sufficient money cannot be found to pay them payment can be deferred, and, as pointed out in the statement, if and when the railway take over — it may take over in three weeks time — then there is nothing to prevent them paying the Debentures for the past six months. But if they are not in a position to pay, whether we control or not, the interest on the Debentures can be deferred and the holders can be paid later on. Deputy Davin made one or two statements which I want to take up with him, and with the Dáil generally. In the first instance, he stated that under British control the management of the Irish railways worked in such a way as to prejudice the Irish people and the public generally against nationalising in the future. Well, we hope to take steps to prevent their doing such during the period of our control. He made one statement which I regretted he should make; that was when he asked me if I would like to go home to my wife and say that my 49s. a week had been reduced by 3s., and that that was what I put to the workers. It was unfair for Mr. Davin to make any such statement from information which was given in conference with me. Apart from that, I would like to make it known to the Deputies that it is not my business at conferences to suggest this or that or to try and force them on one side or the other. If one of the railway managers who was present at the conference was a member of the Dáil perhaps he could tell them something else of the suggestion which I made to them, which would be very much to my credit from the point of view of Labour. If I had made the suggestion at a joint conference I would have no objection to such a statement being made. Deputy Davin also referred to the agreement reached in the North. Now, I read that agreement first in the Press, and I got an exact copy of it from two representatives in the North, and I must certainly say that it does not tally with the construction put upon it by Deputy Davin.

I would like to say, and I stand by what I said in regard to that, that I have the exact interpretation of it as it was understood by men who attended the conference.

That may be correct. It is a matter of indifference to me if it is correct, but I want to point out that a different construction was put upon it by two representatives who were there, and who brought me a copy of it when they came back. If it is true, all the better. The point was raised by him as to whether the time has not now arrived when we should open up negotiations again with the North, particularly in connection with railway business. Well, all I have to say on that is that we are not in a position to negotiate with the North — at least at the moment. Reparding the final statement made by Deputy Davin, I regret very much that we did not get from the railway workers or Railway Companies the help that was necessary. He pointed out that it was our responsibility. Undoubtedly it is if we were not able to give them protection, but on that particular point I will say — and I am sure it will be recognised, particularly by railway workers — that a good deal of the damage done to the railways, as is well known to representatives here, was done by the workers on the railway. We propose controlling under the Act of 1871.

Does not that guarantee dividends?

Our liabilities; the next question is simply the loss incurred as a result of control. In the case of the Great Southern and Western Railway at the moment we are controlling, and as a result of our control they will not lose any more than they have been losing. As a matter of fact, they will lose less. But if they were to carry on they would be losing from week to week. That is the allegation, and I have no doubt it is true. Deputy Davin asked a question — I do not know that the time is ripe to answer it — as to whether it is proposed to set up a Committee or Commission the same, I suppose, as the Railway Committee he referred to that was operative during the British control, and on which he asked that Labour should get representation. I do not think the time is ripe to answer that. A few days will elapse before you will be in possession of the information. Some members seem to think that we are controlling for a period of three months in order to help the Railway Companies over that period, while they are making up their minds regarding the grouping system. Deputy Davin suggested that we should be careful not to wait until three months were up, and then find, as he prophesied, that nothing would be done. We are taking precautions against that, and we are preparing our scheme for unification in the meantime. He asked if the statement regarding repairs to the permanent way and rolling stock meant that the men of the permanent way were to be allowed to finish their lock-out notices, and that the Inchicore Works would be closed. Regarding the Inchicore Works, I have already answered that, and it is not intended that the permanent way men should be allowed to finish their notices. Deputy Johnson states, and I think Deputy Thrift agrees with him, that he is satisfied that the result of our policy will mean nationalisation. Well, I am sure, if that be so, he has something to congratulate himself upon, and I am sure his party will be very pleased. But if it comes, as a result of our scheme, it will only come after that scheme has had a fair trial. Undoubtedly, if unification fails, nothing else can be left but nationalisation. I certainly cannot see anything else, but whoever is in our position will have something to say, they will be in a position to say to the country that the only possible way in which railways could be run — the only possible scheme—apart from the present forty-six companies and twenty-eight directorates, and so on — is unification, and if that failed after a fair trial only one thing would be left, and that is nationalisation, and I am sure we would be in favour of it. It is unfair to expect — and I am glad Deputy Johnson did not insist upon it — that a young Government, a young Dáil — should, without trying everything possible, commit the country to an expenditure of forty-six or forty-seven millions, and, as pointed out in the statement, perhaps when they had bought a pig in a poke in the taking over of these railways they would find out that half or a quarter of what they had bought was useless to them, and they would have to substitute something else. With regard to the figures given by Deputy Johnson, I have seen them before. One of the points made by him was that the maintenance of the original capital outlay was kept every year going on and on and on, but the same thing would occur under nationalisation — that is to say, the very same expenditure would go on, so there is not much in that point. The only difference in the two schemes is in the dividends. You cut out every thing else. His statement regarding the work done by the workers in the fight we have just come through I agree with thoroughly. Nobody recognises it more than I do, and I have no doubt they expected that, when the political change came about, there would be a big improvement in their way of living, and that they did not mean by fighting for a political change that it was simply a question of change of place of the meeting of Parliament. That is so. Neither did I, nor neither do I, nor neither do the Government. But I must say again what I said before. We are entitled to protect all the workers and not to allow any one body of workers to commit the whole country and their co-workers to any extent without seeing where we are going. That is exactly the position. The railway workers undoubtedly as one body in the past did a great deal to bring about the present situation. That is recognised. But at the same time it would be unfair that we should commit the balance of the workers in the country, and all the other people in the country, to a commitment such as this, which would cost 47 millions, and probably more, without trying every possible way to see if some other scheme, which would not commit them to this extent, would not be as good. It is hoped to bring them under unification to the highest pitch of efficiency and economy. This I might say acts both ways. It does not mean exactly what is commonly called the docking of the salaried clerks. It means also to my mind a big saving of labour in a case where there are too many men for the one job. I know what I am talking about, and I refer to one concern here in Dublin which could be run with two-thirds of the staff; the staff could have a far better wage and far better conditions; and this is a big railway establishment. I know that from many years' experience. If the members on the other side went into the matter they would find that out. The highest pitch of efficiency and economy will hit all sides, but it is ridiculous to try to get out of a concern what is not in it. I think I have dealt with all the points raised, but I would like to make sure again that nobody goes away with a wrong idea as to what is to be given by the Government on the present occasion. We have had during the last year to subsidise on two occasions. At the present time there is no subsidy. It is a case of opening up a concern which has been closed down. We do not intend to pay anything except the difference between the running expenses and the receipts.

If it would be agreeable to the Dáil I propose that we adjourn now until 3 o'clock to-morrow.

Motion: "That the debate on the Governor-General's Address be adjourned." Agreed.

Motion: "That the Dáil do adjourn until 3 o'clock to-morrow. Agreed.

The Dáil rose at 7.10 p.m. until 3 o'clock on Thursday, 4th January.