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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 3 Feb 1925

Vol. 10 No. 1


I desire to move that the Dáil agree with the amendments to the Dublin Ports and Docks Bill, 1924, sent up from the Seanad. They are merely altering the dates that were originally in the Bill to conform with the unexpected delay that has arisen in getting power to hold our elections, that we anticipated would have been given last Session. I think there is nothing contentious about that; it is merely an alteration of dates, and I would ask the Dáil to accept the amendments at this stage in globo, if I am in order in doing so.

The Deputy is asking for leave to move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in all the amendments, as they all deal with the one matter?

Yes, if you please. I beg to move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in the following amendments:—

In Section 3, page 2, line 39, the words and figures "the 31st day of December, 1924," deleted and the words and figures "the 16th day of March, 1925," inserted in lieu thereof.

In Section 4 (2), page 2, lines 51 and 52, the words and figures "8th day of January, 1925," deleted and the words and figures "19th day of March, 1925," inserted in lieu thereof.

In Section 5, page 3, lines 4 and 5, the words and figures "12th day of January, 1925," deleted and the words and figures "31st day of March, 1925," inserted in lieu thereof.

In Section 6, sub-section (1) deleted.

In Section 6 (2), page 3, all words up to and including the word "shall," in line 20, deleted and the following words inserted in lieu thereof:—"The places of the members of the Board who went out of office on the second Thursday in the month of January, 1925, shall on and after the fourth Thursday in the month of April, 1925."

In Section 6 (2), page 3, line 26, the word "February" deleted and the word "April" inserted in lieu thereof, and in the same line the word "second" deleted and the word "fourth" inserted in lieu thereof.

Section 7, page 3, deleted.

In Section 8, page 3, line 37, the figures "1924" deleted and the figures "1925" inserted in lieu thereof.

In the Title, page 2, line 9, the word "in" deleted and the word "for" inserted in lieu thereof.

In the Title, page 2, line 10, before the word "for" the words "to make special provisions" inserted.

In the Title, page 2, lines 13, 14 and 15, the words "for a limited period the retirement of certain members of the said Board and" deleted and the words "to a date in the year 1925" inserted in lieu thereof, and in line 16 the words "to supply their places" deleted.

Before we allow this Bill to pass with all these amendments inserted, I would like to ask the Deputy in charge of the Bill whether he has been able to consult those who act with him on the Port and Docks Board in regard to questions raised by the introduction of this Bill—the question of the franchise, the qualification for the franchise, the representation on the Board—and whether he proposes to make any suggestion to the Dáil on behalf of the Board in regard to the necessity for electing on that Board representatives of the citizens as distinct from representatives of the interests involved. I understand that there have been at least informal discussions, and I think it would be helpful to the Dáil, reassure the public, and remove some of the, shall I say, prejudices that have developed round the Ports and Docks Board, if we could learn from the Deputy that what he suggested—a change of heart—has in fact taken place, and whether the Board are preparing to take some steps in regard to the constitution of the Board and the franchise. I hope that he will be able to help us in this matter. The subject has had a certain amount of discussion, and the matter has been brought to the notice of the Dáil, the Seanad, and the public. I hope that the Port and Docks Board, this private corporation, has given consideration to the matter, in relation to the public concerned, in the proper administration of the Board and its work.

I do not know whether the Deputy and his colleagues in that Board are still of opinion that it was a loss to the Board not to have representatives of the Corporation—representatives of the citizens in their civic capacity, rather than in their trading capacity. The Deputy professed certain regret, personally, on that matter on the occasion of the original discussion of this Bill. I think we should have some information from him as to whether the influence of the Board, whether through a private Bill or upon the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in regard to a public Bill, would be exerted towards removing this blot upon the administration—that a very big undertaking, affecting the citizens of Dublin city and county, be allowed now, through the action of the Minister for Local Government, to remain entirely in the hands of a non-representative body, because I do not consider that the present body elected in the way it is elected, can be reasonably called representative. I hope the Deputy in charge of the Bill will be able to tell us whether the Board has taken any steps towards the end I have indicated.

Deputy Johnson throughout the passage of this Bill has persistently and consistently thrown it up to me that the Port and Docks Board requires reform. I have avoided entering into a matter which does not come within the scope of this Bill in any shape or form, because in dealing with this matter I am subject to the goodwill of the Government to give me time to get the Bill through. The Bill has been going through on Government time, and I have hesitated to trespass on that time.

You have plenty of time now.

I desire to have the Board put in a position to carry on its work properly and efficiently. As regards the constitution of the Board, at the right time and place I am prepared to maintain that the constitution of the Board is a fair constitution, considering the trust it has to administer.

Minus the Corporation members.

That does not enter into the question, because that is a matter which the members of the Port and Docks Board had nothing to say to. At an earlier stage I expressed both my own regret and that of every member of the Board that the Corporation members had of their own free will ceased to attend the meetings of the Board. That may be getting into a contentious matter, but as far as the Port and Docks Board are concerned there is no contention about their desire that the members of the Corporation should continue to act on the Port and Docks Board.

I maintain that a discussion on the franchise in relation to this Bill is stretching the point rather far, because this Bill could not, even if the Port and Docks Board were willing to admit that a reform was desirable, deal with the matter in the way it has been going through this House. I take it that the revision of our powers or of the constitution as laid down in our Act would, of necessity, have to be accomplished by means of a Government measure or a Private Bill promoted by the Port and Docks Board or some outside interest. At all events, by no stretch of the imagination could the constitution of the Port and Docks Board be dealt with under the scope of the Bill before the House. If my saying so would help in any way, it is the intention of the Port and Docks Board to submit evidence before the Greater Dublin Commission. In this way—Deputy Johnson will agree with me, as he has great experience of those Commissions—the question of the administration of the port can be discussed very fully, and it may be that in their wisdom the Commission will recommend some changes. At all events, it would enable the matter to be discussed more fully than it could be discussed under the scope of the Bill. Perhaps that statement will, to some extent, satisfy Deputy Johnson in connection with his opposition to the measure. I would say, too, as Deputy Johnson has opposed this Bill consistently, that while the franchise of port authorities very to some extent, they are all fairly consistent in having certain trading and shipping representatives. As far as the work of the Port and Docks Board is concerned in Dublin, I say the administration of the port in the hands of the present Port and Docks Board was not unsatisfactory in the past. We must remember that the Port and Docks Board does not derive its revenues by levying rates on the people as a whole. It is the nearest approach to a business run on the limited liability system or company system. It has got to pay its way, and as far as it can, provide a surplus for the carrying on of the work. It has got to raise its own capital without assistance from anyone else. It has to run the show as a business proposition, on business lines. That carries with it a privilege that the people that pay the bulk of the revenue derived in connection with the carrying on of the Board get representation on it. By means of the Corporation representatives, universal franchise operates to that extent, but our own electorate is a very wide one, with over 4,000 voters who get their qualifications on account of the work they are carrying on in the city, either as payers of shipping dues or owners of shipping or other ways. No one except the Corporation members sits on that Board who is not directly elected on a franchise which is in conformity with that of other ports carrying on business in a similar fashion. Consequently, there is nothing strange about the qualifications for voters in connection with the Port and Docks Board. All boards are subject to criticism. All boards are human and liable to err, but I make the broad statement that as far as a workable, businesslike board is concerned, and subject to certain limitations, Deputy Johnson's condemnation of the whole Board would not meet with general approval.

I have been a member of the Board for 20 years. As far as I know the opinion of my colleagues on that Board, they are quite willing to place their case before any unbiassed commission, to have it examined and inquired into, and to have decided whether what Deputy Johnson says is right in regard to the Constitution. I maintain that, though the Constitution, like every other Constitution, might be improved, it is not so unsatisfactory in the basic principle which underlies it, as the Deputy would have us believe.

Question—"That the Committee agree with the Seanad in the amendments submitted"—put and agreed to.