The Committee will now resume consideration of Amendment 15 (a) to Section 29.
DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - RAILWAYS BILL, 1924—THIRD STAGE (RESUMED).
AN CHEANN COMHAIRLE
With reference to this amendment, before the discussion proceeds any further, I would like to make the Government position clear, in so far as that position is affected by Section 29. and a section which must be read with it—Section 58. The original intention was that Section 29 should deal merely with the protection of ports, and that it should have relation only to statutory enactments or any agreements coming within the limits of and depending upon statutory enactments. Section 58 was, then, to deal with agreements. As a result of the debate last night, it has become clear that Section 29 may be construed. as drafted, in rather wide fashion, and it has been determined that such words as "agreement in force and binding" had better be left out, and that the clause should have relation only to "all the terms, conditions and provisions of any statutory enactment which at the date of this Act..." I do not pretend here to be defining exactly the clause as it will afterwards appear. It is to have relation only to statutory enactments and such agreements as depend upon and are within the limits of such statutory enactments. Section 58 will have relation to agreements. If that proposal be acceptable to the Dáil, and putting that as the Government's proposition with regard to these two clauses, I want to deal briefly with certain agreements or certain enactments referred to in the discussion on amendment 15 (a).
Will the Minister be a little more precise? Does he mean to say that unless an agreement is in defiance of a statutory enactment it shall be deemed to be enforcible and held to be enforcible and not be excluded on any account—that is, provided it is not directly contrary to statutory enactment? The Minister said "If it is within the terms of a statutory enactment it will be protected by this Bill." Am I to infer that unless it directly contravenes a statutory enactment it will be protected by the terms of this Bill?
I would like to ask if the meaning of what the Minister now stated is that instead of saying: "All the terms, conditions, and provisions of any agreement or statutory enactment," he proposes to leave out "any agreement."
I propose to leave out these words where they occur there and to put in some words after "statutory enactment," so that the section would read something like this: "All the terms, conditions and provisions of any statutory enactment or of any agreement under"—or subsidiary to, if you like the phrase better—"and within the limits of such statutory enactment."
Thank you for nothing.
I want to meet the Deputy, and if the Deputy is not content with that, I am willing to take any phrase which will exclude agreements that are not subsidiary to a statutory enactment.
An agreement which has been entered into in pursuance of and in fulfilment of an enactment is one thing. But if an agreement is entered into such as that read out last night——
The agreement of 1905.
Yes, an agreement which is not necessarily contrary to the enactment but which is not prevented by enactment. Are we to assume that that is to be protected?
I think the Minister has made the position about as clear as mud. The controversy that has exercised the attention of the Dáil in connection with clause 29 is very clear. As far as the Great Western and Great Southern Railways operations are provided for in statute, I think equally an arrangement as between the L.M.S. and the Dublin South Eastern Railway Company is statutory.
That is where we come to the difference. That is exactly the point we want to arrive at. I maintain, as representing the Dublin Port and Docks Board, that the agreement, if carried out, whether it is embodied in the statute or otherwise, is nationally and locally and every other way wrong. If this House is going to take up the position that they have no power in a case of the kind or have no authority to consider a question of that kind, then I think they are taking up a position representing inferiority in this House. In my judgment, we are here as elected representatives with power to legislate. In the legislature for all time one Act of Parliament cancels provisions in another Act of Parliament. In this particular case, the President says he is not going to stand for the scrapping of agreements. Parliament has always stood for the scrapping of agreements, and Parliament is the only body which ever had the power to do that as between individuals. The law says that two particular individuals or two particular companies are bound by the agreements entered into. That is exactly where Parliament comes in. Parliament over and over again says that it is against the public interest that that agreement should continue and Parliament abrogates it in certain terms. That is the position I take up to-day as regards this particular agreement between the railways operating from Rosslare. The President says a bargain is a bargain. Of course, a bargain is a bargain. But the amalgamated company, when it is operating an agreement of the sort that is now in force, must inevitably influence one port and one district as compared with another. When the Minister brings this Bill before us he has got to face all those questions, and the Bill has got to settle these things before it can become a satisfactory Act of Parliament. Does the Minister propose to continue this agreement, whereby traffic can be taken by Dublin via Rosslare?
Then how is he going to get over it?
Perhaps I might be allowed to continue. Let me leave this question of the wording of Section 29 until I have explained my position in regard to the several Acts and agreements mentioned yesterday. The first in date of these agreeemnts is really not a matter for this Bill at all. It was raised by Deputy Redmond, who referred to Section 70 of the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbour Act of 1898.
Section 70 provides for the continuance of a daily service by steamer with Waterford. As far as that Act is concerned, this Bill does not touch it. It has been taken over with the general legislation. It is law in this country, and it is operative. If there is any breach of it, there is a remedy. This Bill has nothing whatever to do with it.
May I ask the Minister does he judge that the Government and the Parliament here have authority over the Great Western Railway who own those steamboats?
I have not said anything of the sort. I said that the Act still remains, and that there is a remedy if anybody is aggrieved. The next Act mentioned is the 1899 Act, Section 19 of the 7th Schedule, and it is the particular point relied upon to argue against this section. Deputy Redmond, in reading out the terms of that, did what any of us would do in the circumstances. He stressed the points material to his argument, and rather glossed over matters favourable to, say, my particular side of the case. I want to give the section as it stands: "The two companies agree to forward via the Rosslare route traffic of all descriptions that they can control between such portions of these districts served by their respective systems in the South and West of Ireland and the South and West of England, including London, as may be hereafter agreed between them, and that can inthe interest of the public be most conveniently forwarded by the Rosslare route.” Now, that is the main agreement. The important points in it are— such traffic as they can control and as can in the interests of the public be most conveniently forwarded by the Rosslare route. Now, it is proposed to continue that and to keep that, and have it in full and binding force under the terms of this Bill. It agrees with the principle at the back of the Bill, that the public interest is to be the paramount consideration.
Does the Minister then contend that privately-owned railway companies are anxious to serve the public interest before they will serve their own and suit their own convenience?
I am not concerned with their anxiety. I am only concerned with what we can compel them to do. "That can in the interest of the public be most conveniently forwarded"—that is the quotation from the Act. That traffic is restricted to such traffic as they can control—that is the unconsigned traffic. That is the whole gist of the agreement and that is the whole enactment we propose to take over. The public interest is the big consideration at the back of it, and if there is any question of any undue diversion of traffic, that is attended to. As far as this enactment is concerned, and in so far as it is taken over, the ruling consideration before the tribunal will be—"Is it in the interest of the public the most convenient route?" That comes in after you have decided that it is traffic they can control, a traffic amounting to 10 per cent. of the Great Southern and Western Railway traffic. Now, that is the main Act. It is an honest proposition to take that over. It is in full agreement with the ideas at the back of the Railway Bill, and besides that, it is an agreement founded on very good considerations.
Might I refer you to the other two clauses in the Act which rather contradict Clause 29—I refer to Clauses 34 and 35.
Clauses 34 and 35 deal with the ordinary type of exceptional rate. This rate was well known for particular types of traffic. It has nothing to do with exceptional rates granted in order to prejudice one port as against another. Section 29 is the Protection of Ports section, and it has to deal with that only.
Read the first six words of sub-section (2).
"Subject to the provisions of the Act."
"Subject to the agreements that have been entered into."
"Subject to the statutory agreements," and that is a very definite point. Sub-section (2) is subject to the 1899 agreement. What is in the 1899 agreement that can be criticised here, as I have read it, taking all these points and giving them their due consideration? Is that an honest Act, and is it an Act such as we would pass ourselves with regard to Rosslare? Is there anything in the public interest that can be said against the 1899 Act? If there is not, why criticise its being taken over and included under the terms of this Bill? Why criticise sub-section (2) as being limited by that 1899 Act, and the section of that Act, which, in my opinion, is a very honest section? There is the other point raised that we have this subsidiary agreement of 1905, and we are told that traffic has been, and must be diverted from Dublin even to Rosslare. Now, this agreement is subsidiary to the 1899 Act. The preamble states so much, and it really relates back to that section of the Seventh Schedule which I read.
May I emphasise one point about the Seventh Schedule? "The companies agree to forward via Rosslare. traffic of all descriptions they can control between such portions of the districts served by their respective systems in the south and west of Ireland and the south and west of England, including London, as may be hereafter agreed.” To implement that section, the 1905 agreement is brought forward. Now, the 1905 agreement was known. Deputy Johnson, I think, raised the question whether this agreement had been adverted to. It was known. It is definitely subsidiary to Section 19 of the Seventh Schedule of the 1899 Act and is governed by it.
Is it still operating?
I have heard Deputy Hewat say it is. It is operating in a way that is not necessary, if what Deputy Hewat says is an actual description of the facts. "Such districts in the south and west of Ireland"—that applies to Dublin, according to Deputy Hewat.
Section 3 of the Supplementary Act will give you the information that it does.
Section 3 purports to have it. Section 3 is governed by Section 19 of the Seventh Schedule to the 1899 Act, and is overridden by it. Now, it is arguable if Dublin can be construed as being in the south and west of Ireland. But, leaving that point alone, this Act is still governed by the other phrase in the 1899 Act. That is to say, is it in the interest of the public and can it be most conveniently forwarded? If traffic from Dublin can in the interest of the public be most conveniently forwarded via Rosslare, then it is going to go by Rosslare.
That is a matter for the tribunal to decide afterwards; it is not for the Dáil to decide. If traffic cannot conveniently be forwarded by Rosslare, then that agreement is worth nothing. That agreement depends on the other Act, and the other Act safeguards the public interest, and it has to have decided that it is the most convenient route before that route can be availed of. I wonder is there going to be anything further said about the 1905 agreement, because, if there is, I would like to answer it immediately.
Personally I agree with the Minister, and I am going to oppose the amendment and vote against it if a division on Deputy Redmond's amendment is taken. I think the clause protects the ports, leaving them free to do the same amount of business as they did before. I believe that the smaller ports in An Saorstát should get equal treatment with the larger ports. Anybody who has any experience in the years gone by, of the working of the port of Dublin, will agree that those responsible for it have brought upon themselves a lot of the trouble that at present exists. Traders were badly treated, to my own knowledge, for a number of years by the port of Dublin, the Port and Docks Board, who are opposing a good many clauses of this Bill. They took no action to cater for the traffic that is coming here to the port of Dublin.
I am afraid that would carry us very far.
There is one point that I would like to ask the Minister, and it is this: will the unified companies have power to run their own boats to cross-Channel ports, and will any of the agreements under this Bill prevent them doing so? You have two railway systems in England at present through which the traffic goes, and they have their own boats. And if in the course of time we here wanted to start our own boats in connection with this unified system, will we have the power, or is there any clause in the agreement arrived at in 1905 which, would prevent that being done? Is there anything in that agreement which will prevent the unified system from starting boats of their own? That is the point I would like to have cleared up, because the question might arise, and some of the companies on the other side might refuse through boats. Then it would be up to the unified system here to take whatever measures they could adopt to protect Irish interests and Irish trade. I know that so far as the port of Waterford is concerned, they have not in the past lost much traffic. Waterford was nearly the second port in Ireland, and it was oftentimes to my own knowledge as difficult to get live stock through it as it was to get a camel through the eye of a needle. I do not think it will interfere much by having those agreements remain. Because, after all, it is a very small percentage, the unconsigned traffic that is within the power of the company to divert. The greater part of the traffic is consigned.
The Minister has rightly stated that any dispute arising out of a complaint in relation to the question of the diversion of traffic is a matter for the tribunal to decide. I admit that, because it is provided for in Sub-section 4 of Section 29. But when the tribunal is called upon to deal with any complaint arising out of the diversion of traffic, they must pay due regard to any existing agreements that have been carried over in the Bill. That is the Bill that is now before the Dáil. When you come to consider the question on the merits of any complaint dealing with the unfair diversion of traffic, you have got to recognise that this Bill does not seek any control over the internal administration of the amalgamated company, so that the amalgamated company will always have the power to regulate its own train service and to carry out its other administrative functions. Now, if the amalgamated company is anxious to put up a case for the diversion of traffic from the Dublin port, where the Dublin Port will be the natural route, they can so regulate their train service that the train service would be better in the direction of Rosslare, than through Dublin, though Dublin would be the shorter distance from the point where the traffic is consigned.
Read the section.
I have read it. I see nothing in it that gives power.
The words "the facilities provided" are included in Sub-section (2) in this way—the amalgamated company shall not by the rates or fares charged, whether through or local, the facilities provided... place any one port in Saorstát Eireann at an undue disadvantage.
I quite agree, but you have "subject to the provisions of the Act," which means carrying on the existing agreements, such as have been referred to by the Minister. I am sorry the President is not here, because he made a statement yesterday evening which I think it would be advisable to deal with before we pass away from the section. However, before we get away from this particular contentious section, we may have an opportunity of dealing with this. I quoted a clause from the agreement of 1905 to prove that if that agreement is re-enacted in this Bill it will give all the powers which the amalgamating companies are anxious to secure in order to divert traffic out of its natural route. I do not know if the Minister is aware that following the agreement of 1905 between the Great Southern and Western Railway and the Great Western Railway of England, the Great Southern and Western deliberately refused to agree to through facilities via the port of Dublin. Is the Minister aware of that? If he is not, he should look at the proceedings of the Railway and Canals Commission of May, 1907, where a complaint was made and brought before the Commission dealing with that very question. I am making that point now to show that if the agreement of 1905 is carried over and powers are given to the amalgamated company to make use of this agreement, it can be used to the disadvantage of the Port of Dublin.
The 1905 Act is carried over with that overriding Act of 1899. The 1905 Act will be operative only in so far as it is within the terms of the 1899 Act.
That will depend on another judgment and another court which may issue a judgment quite contrary to the judgment of the last Canal Commission. You are leaving the matter in dispute and doubt.
In what respect is it in dispute?
Following the coming into operation of the 1905 Act, the Great Southern and Western Railway Company refused to agree to through rate facilities from any point mentioned in the Act of 1899, or the Supplementary Agreement of 1905. via the Port of Dublin. That was in keeping with their previous agreement with the Great Western Co., to use all the powers at their disposal to divert traffic via Rosslare and Waterford. That complaint was brought before the Railway and Canal Commission in 1907 by the Cork Harbour Commissioners. the Waterford Harbour Commissioners. the London and North Western Railway Co., and the findings of the court are something which the Minister should take very serious notice of in order that it may be proved to him how this agreement, if used by the amalgamated company, can be used in the direction I indicated.
The finding of the Commission is as follows:—
"Now, therefore, this Court, having heard counsel and witnesses for the London and North Western Railway Company, the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, the Cork Harbour Commissioners and the Waterford Harbour Commissioners, doth declare that the Great Southern Company have not fulfilled their obligations under sub-sections 1 and 2 of section 34 of the Great Southern and Western and Waterford and Limerick and Western Railway Companies Amalgamation Act, 1900, and by means of their rates and fares have placed the Port of Dublin at an undue disadvantage as compared with the ports of Rosslare and Waterford, and failed to give all reasonable facilities to induce traffic to pass to, from and via Dublin.”
And this court doth adjudge: "That the Great Southern Company forthwith take all reasonable and necessary steps for the purpose of fulfilling their obligations under the said section of the said Act of 1900 and put into operation a reasonable system of through booking with through rates and fares via Dublin to and from all ports in England, Scotland and Wales as from time to time they have regular direct steamship communication with Dublin. between stations on the railway of the Great Southern Company on the one hand and stations on the English, Scottish and Welsh railways on the other hand, and so far as they can control or influence the same such through bookings to stations beyond their system."
I hope the Minister will secure, if it is not at his disposal already, a copy of that complaint made before the Railway and Canal Commission and get the decision arrived at as a result of that complaint. I take it that any findings of the Railway and Canal Commission in regard to a complaint of that kind, do not stand good under the terms of this Bill. Any complaint that may. now arise as a result of the extension of these powers under the 1905 agreement to the new amalgamated company will have to be a new subject of complaint to the tribunal, and the matter will take a long time to decide. The Minister said if there was anything in the 1899 Act or that agreement that was against the public interest or likely to unduly prejudice any port inside of the Free State area that the tribunal will have to take that into consideration. Now, if the existing agreements are carried over, as statutory enactments particularly, I think the tribunal will not be free to decide these questions on their merits so long as these things are re-enacted in the Bill now before the House. I would like the Minister to give the opinion of the Government as to how the tribunal can deal with cases such as I have referred to, or whether or not it is understood that even in spite of existing agreements they will still have the power to cancel any such arrangement as that made under the 1905 Act if it is prejudicial to any particular port inside the Free State or to the trading community as a whole.
Before the Minister replies I would like to say a few words on the points raised in regard to my own statement concerning this agreement. The Minister says this Bill has got nothing whatever to say to the Fish guard and Rosslare Harbours Act of 1898. Section 70 provides that there shall be a daily service of steamers from Waterford, and this section goes on to say that the Railway and Canal Commissioners shall have the same powers for enforcing this provision as they have for enforcing other provisions of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1854. I would like the Minister to inform the House what effect this Bill will have upon the Railway and Canal Commission, and if it has any effect upon it, it surely therefore must have some effect upon this-section of this Act. What I really want to know is what tribunal the aggrieved parties—say, the Waterford Harbour Commissioners—have a right of appeal to as they had under this Act of 1898. For this Bill affects not only the specific agreement between the various companies, but it must affect all previous enactments in regard to the management of Irish ports, especially this Section 29. It deals, as the Minister has said, exclusively with ports, and the reason why I quoted this enactment dealing with the daily services from Waterford was in answer to the President's arguments that a bargain was a bargain, and that contracts should not be broken, and my attitude was, and is, that such enactments should all stand together and be enforced together, or that they should all be repealed. The Minister has proposed certain alterations in this section, the gist of which, and consequences of which, I must confess, I am at a loss to understand; but as far as I can gather the effect of this proposed amendment would be to confine the whole of Section 29 to the statutory agreements. Now, when referring to the agreement between the London and North Western Railway and the Dublin and South Eastern Railway in regard to the appointment of a director upon the latter company last evening I was asked a question by the President and I was not then in a position to reply to it. The President asked me whether that agreement was a statutory one or not. I said as far as I understood it was not, but I could not positively say. Since then I have gone to the trouble of looking up the debates in this House, and I find that on the 9th May, 1924, Deputy Alfred Byrne, in moving amendment 24, made a very concise statement in regard to this particular agreement, in which he said—and it was not denied— that it was an enactment, and that it was subsequently confirmed by Acts of the British Parliament. I have also got with me the Acts he referred to.
The Act of 1870, the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway Act, specifically states, Section 29, that the London, North Western Railway shall have power to appoint one of the directors to the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Company, provided that certain conditions were fulfilled, and that enactment was subsequently embodied in the Schedule to the London, North Western Railway Act of 1905; so, therefore, that agreement is a statutory agreement, and I am glad to be in a position to inform the Dáil of that fact again. But the Minister, in reply to Deputy Byrne on that occasion, used these words: "It is a fact that the London, Midland and Scottish representative as, by Act of Parliament, to be a director on the Dublin and South Eastern Railway Company. Under the amalgamation scheme the Dublin and South Eastern Company disappears as a separate unit, and there is no justification, therefore, for the statutory provision regarding the Dublin and South Eastern Railway to continue to apply to the new amalgamated company." I agree with the President, but I also say that under the amalgamation scheme the Great Southern and Western Railway disappears as a unit, and if the statutory enactment is not to apply to the Dublin and South Eastern Railway because it disappears as a unit under this Bill, then, on the same ground, another statutory enactment should not apply to the Great Southern and Western Railway, which also disappears as a unit under the same proposal.
My whole contention amounts to this: that these agreements were not made in the public interests. Everyone knows that these agreements were the outcome of a fierce struggle, a competitive struggle it is true, between the great railway systems across the water. After fierce Parliamentary struggles at Westminster they succeeded in passing these various Acts, and all these agreements are mostly the result of compromise, and to say, as the Minister does, because he finds the words, as a kind of afterthought to-day, in the provisions of the 7th Schedule to the Act of 1899, "in the public interests" that, in the first place, they have ever acted in the public interest, or, in the second place, that it is only in the public interest that they shall be allowed to act, I think, shows that the Minister has very little knowledge, indeed, of what is going on. Who is to determine what is in the public interest? Who has to determine up to this what has been in the public interest? The Minister says that in future it shall be the tribunal that shall determine that fact, but is it suggested that these companies came together, and after serious financial expenditure as well as prolonged Parliamentary discussion, arrived at decisions that they shall simply be allowed to consign articles by certain routes provided it is in the public interest? There was no reason whatever, I submit, for such agreement. If it was in the public interest they could have done it all along. Surely there was something else at the back of the minds of the directors of the Great Western Railway Company of England and also the directors of the Great Southern and Western Company of Ireland when they came to this agreement and had it recognised by statute, other than that they should act merely in the public interest. I know that up to this these agreements have not been carried out in the public interest. I am personally acquainted with districts in the south of Ireland where there have been two means of transit from fairs, and where the public interest has not been consulted, but rather where cattle trucks and means of conveyance have been placed in such a locality, and such a position, as to compel the consignors to send their goods by the way that suited the companies and not the way that suited their own convenience. If this agreement only means that it is to be done in the public interest, what is the object of perpetuating the agreement? Is not the whole Bill in the public interest? Is it not supposed to work for the public benefit? And if so, is in necessary to continue this agreement that it shall be worked for the benefit of the public?
As far as I understand, the chief argument of the President yesterday evening, in opposition to this amendment of mine was this: In the first place he said this was more or less of an international agreement and could not be scrapped for that reason; and in the second place he said it was a statutory agreement. Well, the contention that it is an international agreement cannot I think hold water. We were not in a position at the time these agreements were made of bringing about an international agreement between any individual or company in this country and in Great Britain. The question may be very rightly asked, and I think it is well for us to face it: Has this Dáil and this Government got the power to rescind this agreement? I would like to know the Government's reply to that question. If I may be permitted to do so I would give my interpretation of their position in the matter, I would say they have power and complete power to alter, vary, amend or rescind any of these agreements in so far as they affect the Saorstát. It is perfectly true we could have no power over the Great Western Railway Company of England, but we can and should and must have by our Constitution power over agreements as far as the Great Southern and Western Railway is concerned, and therefore if we were to amend or modify or repeal this agreement, the amendment, repeal or modification would take effect as far as the Great Southern and Western Railway is concerned, and that being so I fail to see, at any rate, how the Great Western Railway of England could succeed in enforcing it. Therefore, I think that the President's contention of this agreement being an international one falls to the ground. It really comes to this, that what we are proposing to do now by this section is to retain all existing statutory enactments, and according to Section 58, I think, prohibit all future statutory enactments without the sanction of the Minister, and there is no reason given for the retention of these statutory enactments except the one now put forward by the Minister that the real effect of this particular agreement and statutory enactment is that the work must be done and the goods carried in the interest of the public.
My conclusion is this, that there is no reason why this Bill should single out one port more than another for favourable treatment. There is no doubt that favourable treatment has been meted out under this agreement to certain ports. There is no question of doubt about that, and I fail to see what provision is made by this Bill, if these agreements are carried, to prevent such preferential treatment being meted out in the future.
The Great Southern and Western Railway agreements are statutory agreements. The Dublin South Eastern Railway agreement is a statutory agreement. Repeal the lot, or retain the lot. But how can the Government in one breath say: "We will scrap the Dublin and South Eastern agreement and we will retain the Great Southern and Western agreement"? That is the position that they are adopting to-day, and I say that that position is a disingenuous one. I say it is an inconsistent one, and that it is an impossible one for any Government which is endeavouring, as they purport by this Bill, to bring about a new railway system dealing on equal terms with all railways, and, indeed, by this section with all ports in the Saorstát. Therefore, I cannot see my way to withdraw my amendment.
The points raised by Deputy Hewat are very much in line with those raised by Deputy Redmond, and I propose to answer them together. Before going on to them, however, I wish to refer to two points raised by Deputy McKenna. He asked whether there is power in this Bill for a certain amount of shipping work to be carried on. The Bill is a Railway Bill; it is not a shipping Bill. It makes no provision for shipping ventures, but there is this to be said, that the powers or rights with regard to shipping any of the separate undertakings had prior to amalgamation will be retained by the amalgamated company after amalgamation.
If they bound themselves by agreement not to run ships in competition with the British railways they will still be bound by that agreement.
I do not think the Minister properly grasped my point. Will the unified companies have power to run through boats—cross-Channel boats, both passenger and traffic? Will any of the agreements which this clause purports to sanction prevent their doing so if they wish?
The same as the cattle-dealers ran a ship and had to give it up.
It was gobbled up the same as all our ships by English institutions. I think if we cannot build up a navy we ought at least be able to build up a mercantile fleet.
There is nothing in any agreement taken over under this Bill to prevent any shipping undertaking being started. This is a Railway Bill, and we are not interfering with shipping at the moment.
We may have to interfere later on.
If further powers are required with regard to shipping they will be got through a separate Bill, and when that separate Bill comes to be introduced it will be found there is nothing to repeal in this Bill. There is no clause in this Bill which prevents anything that Deputy McKenna may have in view as a project of his own later on. Deputy Davin referred to a decision of the Railway and Canal Commission on a case taken before it. I put it to Deputy Davin that the fact of bringing that case and the decision given is a proof of what I have been saying, that if the terms of that agreement had been enforced by complainants appearing before the Railway and Canal Commission, we would have very much less trouble to-day, and very much less talk with regard to undue diversion of traffic and the placing of one port at a disadvantage as compared with another. Power was given under the 1899 Act and under the 1905 Act, which was subsidiary to it. They could have made a case before the Railway and Canal Commission. If they did not make a case because the cost was prohibitive or because of any other reason, they are going to have an Irish tribunal now sitting in Dublin, and the costs of appearing before it will not be prohibitive. They can quote the terms of the 1899 Act; they can quote the phrases "in the interests of the public," and "most convenient route," and they may be sure they will get justice. I want to have the satisfaction of the House on this. I want people to get it clear that that 1899 Act does not do anything irregular; it does not do anything contrary to the public interest. If it was not there it is the sort of Act that we should ourselves bring forward as far as that particular clause is concerned. The public interest is protected, and as far as the 1905 Act runs counter to that, the 1905 Act being a subsidiary Act, is not operative. In answer to Deputy Johnson's question we are not, therefore, going to cancel the 1905 Act. It may occur afterwards that the Railway Tribunal, by decision, will do away with some of the things that the 1905 Act purports to do. The 1905 Act has to be construed strictly in the terms of the overriding Act of 1899.
As regards the decisions of the Railway and Canal Commission, I think Deputy Redmond raised the same point. Section 22 is, I think, as wide and as clear as a section could possibly be—
"Every function, jurisdiction, power and duty which was on the 6th day of December, 1921, exercised by or imposed on the Railway and Canal Commission by statute or otherwise, shall (with the exceptions hereinafter mentioned) from and after the passing of this Act, be exercised and performed in Saorstát Eireann by the Railway Tribunal."
Is there any doubt whatsoever as to whether the transfer from the Railway and Canal Commission to the Railway Tribunal——
What I am interested in is this, that the Port of Waterford got protection by the Act passed in the year 1899 (Section 70) whereby they could appeal to a tribunal which was known as the Railway and Canal Commission. Now that Commission is gone.
Gone from Ireland?
Gone from Ireland. In its stead we are to have a Railway Tribunal. What I am anxious to know is what power this Railway Tribunal will have similar to the powers the Railway and Canal Commission had to enforce this Act.
They will have every power that the Railway and Canal Commission had in so far as these powers are to be exercised and performed in Saorstát Eireann. To those outside Saorstát Eireann the Railway and Canal Commission of England is still open. We cannot, and we do not, pretend to exercise any control through our Railway Tribunal over the Great Western Railway of England. We may afterwards enter into agreements or seek to have corresponding agreements with the Great Western Railway or with the British Parliament to have a clause similar to our Clause 29, but we do not pretend to have any power.
Is not this the opportunity now to tell the Great Western Railway Company of England that they must enforce the agreement entered into at that time, instead of binding ourselves to ensure that all other agreements they entered into will remain operative?
"All other agreements" is mere rhetoric. One other agreement—the Act of 1899—is the one in question.
Is it not a fact that this Bill takes away from the port of Waterford the tribunal it had to appeal to?
It does not. It splits the tribunal into two, and in so far as there was an appeal in Saorstát Eireann there is an appeal to the Railway Tribunal. In so far as there was an appeal to the Railway and Canal Commission in England, that Commission is there still.
It splits them in two and leaves them no power.
It splits them in two and leaves powers to both. It divides the full complement of power by two amongst them. So far as the decisions of the Railway and Canal Commission are concerned, this Bill does not upset them. These decisions stand in so far as they would have any application whatsoever to the new circumstances. They stand as decisions, but there may be differences in them by reason of the fact that the Saorstát is now separate from the United Kingdom.
Does that mean that the Great Southern and Western Railway Company will be compelled to afford reasonable through rates through the Port of Dublin?
That is a different question altogether. If there is a decision passed on anything that arises out of this Bill, if the provisions of this Bill do not run counter to it, that decision, holds good.
There is a finding of the Railway and Canal Commission to compel the Great Southern Railway to agree to reasonable through rates through the Port of Dublin. Is it understood that the tribunal has power to insist on the original decision?
Apparently I must add two and two together and say they are four every time. I have said there was a decision. The effect of that decision was to instruct the Great Southern and Western Railway Company to apply the through rates operating via Rosslare, with a particular proviso, to Dublin port. I have also said that the decisions of the Railway and Canal Commission are not upset. I presume the addition in this case is correct.
I come to Deputy Redmond. The first question raised is the question of port management. The Bill has no more to do with port management than it has to do with shipping. It has nothing whatever to do with the management of ports. It does not pretend to deal with port management. We definitely deal with the protection of ports, but not with their management. I am making a distinction between the two. It was a question of port management Deputy Redmond raised. He referred to the agreement between the London North Western and the Dublin South Eastern Railway Companies, and he again stresses certain things to his own advantage. He says that that agreement is now an enactment. I do not agree with that. It is partly an enactment. That agreement has been partly confirmed by statute. From Clause 12 of the agreement on, was confirmed by statute. Clauses 1 to 11 were not. Later in the agreement than Clause 11 comes the provision with regard to the director of the London North Western and Dublin South Eastern Companies. That is statutory. I agree that it is. I want to make it quite clear that the previous sections—1 to 11—which include the agreement between the London North Western and the Dublin South Eastern Company for forwarding cross-Channel traffic via Dublin, are not confirmed by statute. That does not come under the head of what I referred to at the beginning of this discussion as “an agreement confirmed by statute,” and it would not be taken over by Section 29. It will come in under “agreement” in Section 58.
Let me get back to the director. In so far as Section 12 provides for the appointment of a director, that is statutory, and it is taken over. There was an amendment proposed here under which certain sums of money were paid, and the Board of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company were entitled to nominate one director of the amalgamated company. That amendment was not rejected. That amendment is to be considered.
Will the Minister consider my amendment in the same way?
Not at all. I am only answering Deputy Redmond's argument as to why we should carry over one statutory enactment and not carry over all. I say we have not yet refused any statute. We do not accept this amendment because it goes further than Section 12. Section 12, as far as I remember, does provide for the appointment of a director, but that is in consideration of a certain sum of money which was advanced. This amendment of Deputy Byrne included not merely that sum of money, but two other sums. The amounts were £100,000, £87,000 and £26,000 odd. The amendment has not been accepted as it stands, for the reason that it goes further than the agreement between the Dublin SouthEastern and the London North Western Companies. It is being considered, and the question of the director is still in abeyance. It certainly has not been rejected, and no statutory enactment so far brought forward, has been rejected. I make that point in answer to Deputy Redmond, who spoke so vehemently about rejecting one enactment while taking in another.
Deputy Redmond referred to the 1898 Act, and pointed out a fact that must be patent to everybody, that none of these agreements were made in the public interest. I never asserted that any of the agreements were made in the public interest. But I take my stand on this, that any agreement, no matter how arrived at, or whether due to the most selfish or the most philanthropic motives, which includes in its terms "convenient route" and "in the interest of the public" must have regard to these main considerations before permitting the routing of traffic in a certain way. Deputy Redmond further asked: "Have these agreements been carried out in the public interest"? I do not know, or rather I am not concerned to know, whether they were or were not carried out in the public interest. But I can assure the House that there is going to be a tribunal to insist that for the future the terms of that '99 Act be rigidly adhered to. If the routing of traffic is going to depend on the terms laid down there—"the public interest" and "convenient route"—these are all matters for decision by the tribunal. It does not matter what were the motives prompting this agreement or whether the agreement was previously carried out. We are dealing with the future under the terms of this Bill, and we take over that enactment because we believe it is exactly the type of enactment that fits in with the principle underlying this Bill. The public interest is paramount.
Deputy Redmond then ended with this: "What is the object of perpetuating this agreement," and he got to that from a discussion on whether or not the Dáil has power to vary and rescind all agreements. He has answered his own question, and I agree with his answer. The Dáil is supreme and sovereign; the Dáil can vary and rescind and adjust in so far as it deals with matters inside its own territory, and affecting its own nationals. But other things have to be attended to to meet my argument that the 1899 Act is not one contrary to the public interest. I put it further, that you have to survey all the equities of the situation before deciding whether or not to accept or reject that. Look at the consideration that was given, and take it that the consideration on the Irish side is such a small thing as ten per cent.; it gets a very definite consideration in return from this company.
After surveying the equity of the situation, keep in mind that if the Dáil so likes, it can exert its supreme power and wipe out this Act. But take, as I say, the equity of the situation, and take it that the 1899 Act has nothing contrary to the principles of this Bill, evaluate the consideration previously given for that agreement, and see if there is anything abhorrent to any Deputy, either about that agreement or the 1905 Act, remembering that the 1905 Act is subsidiary to the main Act. I think I have dealt sufficiently with the 1899 and the 1905 Acts. Is there anything further to be said about these?
If the Minister wants anything more to be said on that point, let me tell him that there is plenty more to be said.
Is there anything more to be said counter to the proposition that I outlined at the opening of to-day's discussion—that Clause 29 should be altered to read as follows:—"That all the terms, conditions and provisions of any statutory enactment, or of any agreement which has received express statutory confirmation... shall continue in full force and effect." I make that proposition as a general counter to all the amendments put up from No. 15 (a) to the end of the amendments on this section.
"Save in so far as any statutory enactment or agreement under such a statutory enactment affects the control of ports or the direction of traffic." There might be agreement if that were acceptable.
I will accept that.
If you make this exception and provide that amendment 18 is accepted, then there will be nothing more to be said. But the Minister has fallen into a very bad habit rather too soon. He has followed the example of older Ministers, which we have tried to call attention to here fifty or one hundred times, and that is the habit of assuming that because he desires to do a certain thing, and because it is the intention of the Ministry that such and such a thing should happen under the Bill, there is no need to put it in the Bill. That is the position taken up by the Minister's colleagues, and I am sorry to say it seems to be the position he himself has taken up If one wanted to be very nasty, one would say that he has rather taken the view that has so often been alleged against lawyers in legislatures, that they hoped and trusted they would leave so many loopholes in an enactment as to give plenty of opportunity for lawyers to plead before tribunals.
The Minister has said, with regard to the protection of the public, that the public interest is preserved in this Act and in this agreement, and if anybody has a complaint to make, all he has to do is to go before the tribunal and run the risk of the tribunal turning him down. You spend all the money necessary in costs, but still you have always the right to go to the tribunal. That is true; but if we can prevent the necessity of going to a tribunal by putting it into the Bill, so much public money will be saved, and so many lawyers will not have to be paid, and so many lawyers will have to turn to more useful work.
The Minister has not met the case at all for insuring that the new company shall have the privileges or rights of the old companies, or the privileges which one part of the new company will have over another part of the new company. I would suggest it would be more sensible to say that we have a new company being established to embrace most of the companies serving the Saorstát, and any agreement which the new company considered it desirable to enter into, let it be a new agreement, subject to the approval of the tribunal or the Minister. If any of these agreements are obviously necessary—if the agreement between the G. S. and W. Railway and the G. W. Railway of England. was so obviously serving the public interest—then one day, or a few days, would suffice to make a new agreement between the amalgamated company and the G. W. R. of England, or a similar agreement might be entered into between the amalgamated company and the L. M. S.
If they are going to serve the public interest there will be no objection from the tribunal or the Ministry. A case has not yet been made why we should enact that all statutory agreements that have been hitherto enforced should be carried over. Presumably these agreements were entered into as a result of the conflict of interests between railway companies in Ireland and railway companies in Ireland against railway companies in England and railway companies in England. There were two or three interests competing, and rival agreements were entered into, and the new company is to take over all the rival agreements because they are statutory. Surely it would be simpler and more in accord with commonsense to say that a new company being established, these agreements vanish. If any of them are in the interests of the Irish people, we can make a new agreement between the new company and either of the British companies. The amendment we are dealing with does not go as far as I am advocating, but, if adopted, it will obviate difficulties which may arise through the carrying over of these rival agreements, or any of these agreements, and by adopting it we may save the necessity of many traders and farmers having to go before the tribunal to plead their case that these agreements, in their carrying out, have worked against the public interest.
Now, I have tried, to say several times in the course of this discussion on this Bill, and the other Bill that was defeated that the railway company is as an army against the civilian in pleading a case before the Railway Tribunal, especially when we provide that on that Railway Tribunal there shall be one person who is an expert on railway matters. From that condition there is a fair chance that you get one man on your tribunal ready charged in favour of the railway company, and you have got all the powers, all the knowledge and all the money which the company has at its disposal to plead complete its case and defend itself against the individual trader, or group of traders who only know their side of the railway controversy. The railway company has all the expert knowledge, and can bring to bear upon the tribunal facts and figures which are not at the disposal of the pleading trader. I say that it would be far better to protect the trader in the Bill rather than to trust what the Minister desires—that the tribunal will protect them—rather than trust to that tribunal, bearing in mind that before that tribunal you are to have all the powers—legal, professional and expert—of the railway company opposing the merchant, trader or manufacturer or group of traders, merchants or manufacturers who were trying to put their side of the case in the public interest. It is far better not to trust to the tribunal to do that, but to have the protection provided for in the Bill.
We have listened to the very able exposition of the case by the Minister, who has not succeeded in convincing Deputy Johnson that the need for the amendment proposed by Deputy Redmond was done away with. He lays very particular emphasis on the personnel and operations of the tribunal. Deputy Johnson, I think, challenges the perfect one-sidedness of that tribunal. But, at all events, the whole Bill is based on that operation, and the Minister emphasises that this tribunal is going to settle all the ills that are attached to the traffic of this country. Now, I would like to say at this stage, that as far as the ports are concerned here—at least the Port of Dublin—as far as my own convictions are concerned, I would rather depend for the development of our traffic and trade and have much more satisfaction in dealing with the companies separately, as they are at present, or at all events, with the companies as they would be re-grouped, rather than deal with this almighty Pooh-Bah that is going to do everything at the instance of the tribunal. The three little schoolmasters are going to whip them in to doing things right. I do not accept it at all. I think what you are aiming at in this Bill, and what I would like to emphasise is, that you are going to get into a groove or rut and that will deteriorate in efficiency in the future. The people who are now in control of the railways will have very little control in the future. The whole thing will lie with the tribunal. You are going to eliminate your competition entirely. I maintain that you cannot. In my judgment the state of affairs that will exist in the near future will be no better than in the past. That is more or less by the way. We are dealing with the protection of the ports. The Minister smiles, but the facts of the case are that Clause 29 is supposed to protect the ports. I would like the Minister to take the whole thing into consideration and defer this Clause 29 until he has fully considered the question, and see if he could bring in an alternative to the clause so as to avoid any question arising, whether before the tribunal or otherwise, that under this agreement with the Great Western Railway, traffic can be diverted that ought not be diverted. If he says he is going to stand by the enactment and rely on the tribunal, which will be overshadowed by an expert member from the railway company—if he does that, then so far as I am concerned, I will support any of these amendments which will put the matter on a more satisfactory footing.
The Minister has refused, or has failed at any rate to answer two very important points. I think they are points that should be answered, if he can answer them, and answer before the debate closes; that is, whether the tribunal, acting on their powers under sub-Section 2 of clause 29, are understood to have power to compel the amalgamated company to quote through rates by alternative routes and provide for other facilities which will not prejudice in any way any particular port inside the Free State area. These are two important points which, I think, the Minister should run over in his mind and study definitely his position in the matter, in order that the tribunal when it comes to any question of dispute may know what is in the minds of the Government to guide them I suggest that a suitable form of words as an amendment should be put into Sub-section 2, so that it should be quite clear and should be understood I will be glad to know if he will be prepared to accept that suggestion. At any rate, I think he should answer that question. The function of a railway company, whether faced with competition from other railway companies or not, is to provide reasonable facilities for the carrying out of its contract in the most expeditious way—that is, that the trader who gets goods through a railway company should have the goods forwarded and delivered in the shortest possible time at the cheapest rate, and under the best conditions. I suggest that object, if it is the object in the minds of the Government, is nullified by the operations of the 1899 Act. which is prejudicial to the public interest. I can produce without going into the actual details, if the Minister is anxious to see it, documentary evidence, that acting under the decision of the Railway and Canal Tribunal, 1907, the Great Southern and Western Company was compelled to provide through rates and fares through the port of Dublin
It was compelled to do that. Having charged to the passenger or trader a certain figure which it was compelled to quote for the carrying of passengers or the carrying of a quantity of goods, it failed, and has failed in many cases, to provide the facilities necessary for the carrying out of that contract. I have in mind at the present time an instance of where through fares have been charged to passengers from a point on the Great Southern and Western Railway to a point in England via Dublin, and from a point in England to a point on the Great Southern and Western system, say Cork or somewhere else, in which the company got a division out of the through route fare, but did not provide the facilities for carring the public in the way it should have done. I can give a case in point. Take the case of a passenger charged a through fare from any point in England via Dublin and travelling on the day boat. When he arrives at Dun Laoghaire he finds that there is no connection from Dun Laoghaire to the Kingsbridge to enable him to catch the train for Cork. I would ask you to remember that he is charged the through fare rate for carrying him from Dun Laoghaire to the Kingsbridge, but the company, instead of providing a service to carry the passenger from Amiens Street Station to the Great Southern terminus at Kingsbridge, fails to do so, and they accordingly have failed to carry out the contract they entered into when they accepted their portion of the through fare. If necessary, I can produce documentary evidence in support of that statement. Take another case of a passenger travelling from any point on the Great Southern system on a Sunday to any point in England. They charge that passenger the through fare rate, but when the passenger arrives at the Kingsbridge he finds that there is no through connection between that station and the steamer at Dun Laoghaire, although he has paid a through route fare at the station from which he started. The company provides no connection between the Kingsbridge and Dun Laoghaire, and the result is that the passenger has to make his own arrangements to travel from the Kingsbridge to Amiens Street or Westland Row to reach the boat at Dun Laoghaire. I maintain that the Great Southern and Western Railway in charging a through fare rate, and in not carrying out their portion of the contract in the cases I have indicated, are not providing the facilities which they should provide according to their agreement and their acceptance of their portion of the through fare rate.
I put it to the Minister that it is the agreement which we are dealing with the company has in its mind when it refuses to provide the facilities I have referred to. Their idea, apparently, is that the travelling public would become so disgusted with the arrangements made for reaching the port of Dublin that they would prefer to travel by other routes which are more favourable to the Great Southern Company. If such a condition of things is to be continued by the carrying on of this agreement of 1899, then I say that the Minister is not doing his duty in the interests of the travelling public if he enables the company to do these things. I wonder if it is contended that the tribunal will have power under sub-section (2) of Section 29 to remedy the state of affairs that I am dealing with. In my opinion, the powers in the section as worded now should be more clearly defined if the tribunal is to remedy the state of affairs that I complain of. I would be glad to have an answer from the Minister to the two points that I make. The first is with regard to the question of through fares via the port of Dublin, and the second with regard to the provision of facilities for the travelling public. I contend that the success or the failure of this Bill will depend to a very large extent on how these two points are dealt with by the tribunal. I hope that very clear and definite instructions will be given to the tribunal so that they may put in force the powers given them to deal with these two questions. If, for instance, the Bill fails as a result of lack of powers in the tribunal to deal in a proper way with an unfair diversion of traffic, what, I ask, is the alternative? Nationalisation, I suppose. I am going to welcome its failure if it is to mean nationalisation. We on these benches have put it up to the Minister that we are prepared to see that the Bill should get a fair chance. If the Bill is to get a fair chance I think that these two matters that I have been dealing with must be taken into serious consideration, and if the Minister is not prepared to give way on these points I think every Deputy in the House must be called upon to shoulder his responsibility in regard to the reading of this section, and particularly in regard to the effect it will have upon his own constituents and upon the general community. If it fails because these things are not made clear and definite, I think a division will have to be called, so that the people who vote for the section as it stands will have to explain later to their constituents why they did so.
I wish to deal with some of the points raised by Deputy Davin. The last point he made is, I think, of very great importance. He was speaking of the power which the tribunal should be invested with. I would strongly urge on the Minister to consider that point, because to my mind the real success of this Bill, so far as it is a success, will depend on the powers of the tribunal. The objections raised by Deputy Hewat and by Deputy Johnson with regard to the tribunal appear to be very much at variance. Deputy Johnson appears to think that the position of the railways is so entrenched and that their knowledge is so great—the natural position they occupy, the knowledge of railway work they possess, and the legal advice they will have—that all these things will place them in a very strong position against the public, and that the public will not avail themselves of the opportunity of going before the tribunal to see that in every case where their interests are menaced they will be looked into and carefully considered. We are all aware that when the Railway and Canal Commission was appointed, the public did not avail themselves of it at the time, though the Commission was set up so that the public might avail themselves of it. At that time some of the smaller railways were purchased by the larger ones. When the larger railway companies were empowered to absorb the smaller companies, certain powers remained with the public under the Railway and Canal Commission which the public could have availed of, but they unfortunately did not do so. As to the tribunal which it is proposed to establish under this Bill, I trust that the people of this country, farmers, merchants and others sending traffic over the railways, as well of course as the travelling public, will avail of the powers invested in it, and that they will take steps to see, where their interests are adversely affected, that the matter is placed before the tribunal. If the tribunal fails, it will not be because of any lack of powers inherent in itself, but rather because these powers are not availed of by the public as happened under the Railway and Canal Commission.
Deputy Redmond referred to the question of competition. I personally would oppose this Bill if competition remained in Ireland. Deputy Hewat said there is competition in Ireland. I wish that we could find where the competition is. There was competition in the south at the time the Waterford and Limerick Railway Company was in existence, and before the Great Southern bought it over. We had competition between the ports of Limerick and Waterford as well as a through rate system. That competition passed away under the amalgamation scheme. I might say that under this amalgamation scheme the Dublin and South Eastern Railway Company were given running powers over the Great Southern system as far as Limerick. These were a mighty advantage to the farmers and traders of a very big area in the south. We know what the result was. The canvassers found that there was only limited traffic for the Dublin and South Eastern Company, and that limited traffic did not mean for them enhanced profits, with the result that the companies made an arrangement between themselves to pool the traffic, and finally the Dublin and South Eastern Company no longer availed themselves of the running powers which were theirs. What we want in Ireland is competition. We want to get as near to that competition as we can, but we feel that, as far as the railways are concerned, that competition is a thing of the past. This Bill is a step in advance. There may be other sources of competition later on. I think the point raised in this amendment does not possibly give us very much at present, but if the port at Rosslare is put in competition with Waterford it will be a very good thing. That would certainly be to the advantage of those sending traffic from all parts of this country to England. I am firmly convinced that this Bill, if availed of, will be one of the few remaining steps to retain the existing competition that we have, and if not availed of it will be for the Dáil to take steps later on, and for the people of this country to see that their goods and produce are placed on the markets in England as well as of other countries on the most advantageous terms, and in the quickest possible time.
Deputy Johnson refers to the bad Ministerial habit which, he says, I have also fallen into. I would like to ask him in return what desire of mine is there expressed by me to-day that is not given effect to in this section of the Bill. I say that behind the Bill is the principle of no undue preference for ports; that the question in getting rail traffic through any particular port should be the interest of the public, and generally the most convenient route. We take over statutory enactments which contain as one of their provisions these two identical things.
Which have never been acted upon.
Whether they have been acted on or not is a thing that does not concern us immediately. The point is, are they going to be acted upon, and can they be enforced under the tribunal that is to be set up. It is going to be a judicial body, and it will not be overwhelmed by experts, and this is a matter for interpretation. The plain phrase in the schedule is: unconsigned traffic by the most convenient route, and in the public interest. It will not require any great expert to put these three things together and to base a decision upon them. This section, as I explained, proposes only to deal with statutes and agreements confirmed by statutes. We take these as we find them in the 1899 Act.
The 1899 Act was brought forward as the worst possible example of preferential port treatment. It is, perhaps, the best example that could be taken from the point of view of Deputy Redmond, especially having regard to the fact that it was a consideration affecting his constituency. It is given as a specimen of an Act that purports to give certain preferential treatment to ports. We take it as the worst possible one, and it undoubtedly is from that point of view. I have analysed it and gone through it, and repeated and reiterated that there is this consideration determining the whole thing, namely—the most convenient route and the interests of the public. If there is any desire I have given expression to regarding the principle at the back of the Bill, that is not given effect to in Clause 29, I would be glad to have it made clear to me, and I would make it clearer still in Clause 29. There is one point so far not touched on, and that is with regard to the agreement in the schedule in the 1899 Act. That is a valuable agreement from the Irish point of view.
I have here a report from the Cork Examiner of May 12th of a meeting of the Irish Cattle Trade Association, in which the President of the Association said: “I would earnestly ask the members of our association, in view of what has happened to them during the last five years, to come together wherever possible and give their best support to the alternative route of shipping cattle via Rosslare.” I wonder would the farmer community in the South of Ireland be pleased if the facilities offered at Rosslare were suddenly withdrawn? I wonder would that meet with their approval? We propose to take over an agreement which gives the agricultural community in the South of Ireland a very valuable alternative route, and the consideration by which we have obtained that route is that Act which has as part of its most operative clause the phrase I have already quoted. It gives a preference to Rosslare, where traffic can, in the interests of the public, be most conveniently sent forward. I do not think that the mere repetition of phrases can stand against these terms included under an Act which we intend to take over and pass to a judicial body for interpretation.
There is this further point to be borne in mind. Supposing this agreement or statutory enactment to be scrapped and that the Rosslare route closed down, what is going to be one very definite result of that? It is a very heavy one. The Great Southern and Western Railway Company has agreed to pay the interest on the capital expended and the loss in working, and if there is a loss in working the Rosslare route that loss falls to be borne by the amalgamated undertaking, so you are going to have the loss put upon the shoulders of the amalgamated undertaking. You are going to have a valuable alternative route taken away from the agricultural community of the south, who have a preference for Rosslare.
Does the Minister suggest that if this section does not pass, the Rosslare route has to be closed? Is that the proposition? And this is a matter of more serious moment: Does the Minister say that any agreement taken over by the new company will inevitably bind the Great Western Railway of England unless they make a new agreement?
I did not at all say the result of our refusing to pass Section 29 would be the immediate closing down of Rosslare. I pointed to it as a danger.
Will the Minister answer the second question. Does he say that by the passing of this Act, when the new company is formed, the amalgamated company, that the Great Western of England is bound by its agreement with the Great Southern and Western of Ireland?
I think it is; I believe it is. Is it denied that it would be?
I would question it very seriously. A new company is formed, of which the Great Southern and Western is one part. It enters into a compact with the Midland Great Western of Ireland and the Dublin South Eastern. The Great Western of England entered into an agreement with a component part of this company. Do you mean to suggest that the Great Western of England would be bound by an agreement with the Great Southern and Western, in so far as the new company claimed it was bound?
If the Great Southern and Western were delimited in its scope and made less than what it is, there might be some case for saying it was not. But when it is enlarged the consideration is very much greater.
If altered, it is a new body; it is not the same company that made the agreement.
And supposing it was not, we are not in any worse position than if we passed this amendment. I say the Great Southern is not in a worse position than it was in when it made this contract.
What has been phrased as my threat is, of course, again part of Deputy Johnson's rhetoric. I pointed out that the establishment of this route is very much to the advantage of Saorstát Eireann, and any hint of modification might endanger the continuance of it, and if it be not continued, there is a certain immediate loss to be met by the amalgamated undertaking.
Of course it will continue.
It has already been stated more than once that it is not a lucrative undertaking, and that the company may be very glad to get out of it.
They will not be bound after this Bill is passed.
I do not understand the talk about not being bound. As long as the consideration remains good we could have no cause to withdraw, and we had better hold on.
I suggest that you have no hold over the Great Western Company in this Bill.
This section only deals with statutes, and statutes can be, and have been, examined, and from the point of view of the opponents of this section there is no worse Act than the 1899 Act, with the addition of that of 1905. That has been analysed, and I do not propose going into it further. Agreements come under Section 58, and there is power there to rescind, vary, or modify agreements. Deputy Hewat put it that he was surprised that I was urging this tribunal as a remedy for all the ills of the railway world. I may put that later, but I am not doing so at the moment. I have emphasised the tribunal as an interpreting body over what I previously described as a very plain operation of a very plain Act, and it is only in that connection that I am dealing with it at the moment. Deputy Davin raised two questions, though I think they are really one—the question of through rates. He is dealing with through rates on a clause concerned with the protection of ports. If he is dealing with through rates on any other ground, it is outside the limit of this section. In so far as it is a question of through rates giving preference to one port as against another, there are proposals in Sub-section (2), and if they are not considered strong enough, I will be pleased to consider any stronger terms.
Delete the first six words.
It is impossible to meet the sort of bogey that frightens Deputy Johnson and Deputy Davin. I have a healthier outlook, and I am not frightened by it. "Subject to the provisions of this Act "—the provisions in the 1899 Act or lesser Acts. I wonder is Deputy Johnson serious in asking that these words be deleted. Look at the power that he has got in it. If that does not satisfy Deputy Davin I will be pleased to insert any further condition.
"Through or local"— does that mean that there must be through rates?
There is power later on for representative bodies to come forward and urge certain things on the tribunal, and they can urge against through rates, if through rates are not considered desirable.
I do not know whether I have exhausted my right to speak again.
Yes, you have already spoken three times.
Will the Deputy take any part of this?
I will take the Minister's intention as the very best in the world, but, unfortunately, he cannot be the interpreter, and he cannot make up the mind of the tribunal as the decision will rest with it and not with the Minister.
We will strengthen the tribunal for you.
Amendment put: The Dáil divided Tá, 17; Níl, 42.
Earnán Altún.Seán Buitléir.John J. Cole.John Good.David Hall.William Hewat.Séamus Mac Cosgair.Tomás Mac Eoin.Padraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
Tomás de Nógla.Aodh O Cúlacháin.Liam O Daimhín.Eamon O Dubhghaill.Tadhg P. O Murchadha.Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).William A. Redmond.Nicholas Wall.
Pádraig F. Baxter.Earnán de Blaghd.Séamus Breathnach.Seoirse de Bhulbh.Séamus de Búrca.Louis J. D'Alton.Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean UíDhrisceóil.Patrick J. Egan.Osmond Grattan Esmonde.Henry J. Finlay.Desmond Fitzgerald.Seosamh Mac 'a Bhrighde.Alasdair Mac Cába.Liam T. Mac Cosgair.Pádraig Mac Fadáin.P. Mac Giollagáin.Risteárd Mac Liam.Seoirse Mac Niocaill.Liam Mac Sioghaird.Patrick McKenna.Martin M. Nally.
John T. Nolan.Peadar O hAodha.Criostóir O Broin.Seán O Bruadair.Próinsias O Cathail.Partholán O Conchubhair.Séamus P. Cruadhlaoich.Séamus N. O Dóláin.Tadhg S. O Donnabháin.Peadar S. O Dubhghaill.Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.Eamon S. O Dúgáin.Seán O Duinnín.Donchadh S. O Guaire.Fionán O Loingsigh.Domhnall O Mocháin.Séamus O Murchadha.Seán M. O Súilleabháin.Caoimhghín O hUigín.Seán Priomhdhail.Liam Thrift.
I move to report progress.