I would like to have a ruling as to how we stand with regard to procedure on this amendment. Will I, as the mover of the amendment, be allowed to reply, or is the Minister to conclude the debate?
DÁIL IN COMMITTEE. - SHANNON ELECTRICITY BILL, 1925.—SECOND STAGE.
The Minister's speech will only conclude the debate on the amendment. The main motion will then be before the House. As this is a rather important matter, Deputy Heffernan might be allowed to make a short explanatory statement. It is not, of course, usual to allow a second speech from the proposer of an amendment.
Before the Minister proceeds, I would like to make a brief personal statement, because the Minister last Tuesday, by what is a well-known forensic method —attacking the opposing counsel— brought forward one matter that took me very much by surprise. I was not familiar with the details of it, and that night I spent some time looking for the original document to which the Minister had referred. It took me several hours to find it. I had intended to refer to the matter when the Dáil met on the following day, but you, sir, advised me that the better occasion would probably be when the same matter came on for review again to-day. I found the document, and I wish to make one or two comments in regard to it. In the first place, this document was, as the Minister said, given to us on the 19th December, and a mis-statement occurred—a statement not in conformity with the statement made here in the document to which he also referred—for which I was responsible. I admitted that from the facts. Such was obviously the case, and I now want to deal with it, in view of certain pencilled comments of mine on this document, which I think puts rather a different aspect on the case, from my own point of view, to show at least that the matter had been given very careful consideration by me, and that I had made a statement that I believed to be a fairer statement than the misunderstanding I believed to have been contained in this document. Before going into that, let me briefly remind the Dáil that the 19th of December was a Friday. The Minister rose about four o'clock to make a statement. He made a very long statement, and the debate went on until half-past ten that night. The Dáil rose and adjourned then for the Christmas recess, all the following week being taken up in various ways with certain matters. That is to say that this document was not put into our hands until after the Minister rose. I do not know how other Deputies were situated, but I found no opportunity of reading that document or referring to it until the following morning, because all the time was spent in listening to the Minister. When I did read it the following day, with regard to that very phrase that the Minister referred to, certain questions occurred to me, and it was then too late to put them to the Minister or to find any answer that would have elucidated the questions that arose. I noticed, for example, in the first case, that the expression was used "a 15 per cent. addition to the cost that is included in the above-mentioned capital of £5,200,000 and £7,870,000 respectively." I find here a query as to which of these two sums the 15 per cent. was included in, and—if the Minister has the actual typescript before him—I could not understand, reading it, how it could be included in both. If the Minister refers to the typescript before him he will find that there is a gap between the two sums, and there is also a query mark. Moreover, I find at the foot of that page a calculation made on the basis of 5½ per cent. on the assumption that the loan is raised at the outset, and that the ordinary private flotation methods of proceeding by way of mortgage and debentures is not available as in the case of States which have undertaken these matters before. They had to incur loans at the outset. I find that the 15 per cent. calculation here shows that the 15 per cent. allowance does account satisfactorily for 5½ per cent. for three years, but not for longer.
I am not arguing the matter. I am saying that the matter was given very careful attention at the time, and, consequently, I find that a query is entered on this page as against the subsequent four working years over and above the three years during which construction is undertaken. Finally, I find a reference to the fact that it is specifically legislated against, that any attempt to allow interest to be paid out of capital, beyond the actual years of construction, is a matter of specific legislation, and is forbidden by legislation. For these reasons, and because of the gap that occurs here, I came to the conclusion that there had been some error, and that the 15 per cent. was an allowance over and above the £5,200,000. I thought it fairer to state it in that form. Otherwise it might appear, if there was an error here, that one was suggesting that a thing was being done that was never in finance before, and that would be prejudicial to any loan, that is, suppose that while the scheme was in actual working, moneys were being paid back to lenders which they had originally lent in the form of a loan.
Where I really do blame myself most in this matter, and I confess my sin at once, is that in view of these queries that I had raised and raised specifically, I failed to get that checked with the printed document when the printed document was available. I did not go into the matter again, though I had intended to have done so. I admit that, but I do say that there was this much of an excuse, that the printed document was not available for nearly four months afterwards, by which time, owing to the fact that one's records and papers are not now being kept with the care that used to be given to them, this typescript had been forgotten in my mind, and it had been buried under a considerable avalanche of papers from which it was rescued in the small hours of last Wednesday morning. That is the statement that I make. Now I only wish to say this— seeing that this error had occurred— that had the Minister drawn my attention to it earlier, I should have corrected it earlier. I was not aware of it until he mentioned it last Tuesday. Now that he has brought it to my attention, I will, of course, I need hardly say, take steps to see that the statement is put correctly as it appears here and as he stated it last Tuesday.
This is a most illuminating interlude. Deputy Figgis had in his hands on the 19th December last a document which stated that "15 per cent. addition to the cost is included." And two capital sums were thereafter mentioned, and on the page before it he had an explanation of how these two capital sums occurred. One was for the first partial development and the other for the second stage. The phrase goes on, "to cover the interest during the period of construction, and also the insufficiency of interest in the first four working years." Deputy Figgis excuses himself on these two grounds— that it was not until the 20th that he read this instead of on the 19th, and that in or about the 20th December, Christmas festivities began and continued, probably, until after the day that this article in the "Sunday Times" appeared, and that he knew legislation had prohibited certain payments and that he had made queries, queries as to things he was in doubt about, and things about which he intended to ask me questions. Having indicated to the Dáil now that on or about the 20th December he had noticed this phrase—not mere negligence now; he had noticed the phrase —he thought fit to make pencilled queries so that questions could afterwards be asked, and being in that querying state of mind he made the following not at all tentatious statement in the newspaper—"A 15 per cent. addition to the cost must be made." I do not think that is the habit of an ordinary journalist.
If the Minister will look to the phrase that he quotes from he will see that there is a fair explanation for that in the actual sentence based in the typewritten document. The Minister had said that this was a translation. I ask him to remember that. The actual words are "15 per cent., addition to the cost, is included." I used the word "addition" in respect of the estimate for the first four working years. I have admitted the error. The Minister need not elaborate the fact that I am protesting that no error occurred. What I say is that the error was made at least bona fide.
Well, the possibility of error was present to the Deputy's mind according to his pencilled queries, and he does not put in a hedging clause about what he writes in the paper. He says: "An addition of 15 per cent. must be made." That is not a phrase that should emanate from a journalist who writes about a matter on which he has doubts. If Deputy Figgis is going to correct that, in some other issue of the paper, would he correct some other matter also? In the same typescript matter in the first paragraph there is the following:—"The fundamentals of the problems of electrification are discussed in the introduction, and in chapters I and II of this report." Then there follows the enumeration of the chapters and what the chapters are about. Chapter I contains the results of the experiments of the energy requirements. Chapter V contains detailed particulars on this point. Chapter II deals with the hydraulic and geological conditions of the River Shannon. Chapter III, entitled "Water Economy Plan," deals with certain things whereby the size of storage is settled. Chapters IV and VI deal with the projected constructional works.
In the same article of the 28th December, he says:—"It would appear that the experts have not been asked to report on the engineering merits of the scheme itself, but only on the suitability of a Shannon scheme, the engineering proposals to be assumed as sound for the needs of the Free State." Does that follow, I wonder, from the typescript?
It is a fair deduction from the typescript.
A typescript, which states that a report is to be presented. In certain chapters detailed statements are made as to what those chapters contain. One finds that a full chapter is given to the hydraulic and geological conditions of the Shannon river. Another deals with certain things whereby storage is settled, and two chapters deal with the projected constructional works. Despite all that, the Deputy says it is a fair assumption that the engineering works were not considered, that they were assumed. I would like to see a correction of that, and when the Deputy is finished correcting that I will give him some other instances from the same newspaper on matters that he might apply himself to for some weeks to come with further corrections. Deputy Heffernan stated that this report—I take his correction of the last evening—might not be thoroughly reliable, and that we should have certain further delay until, presumably, we get a report which is made thoroughly reliable. When I envisage over the last few weeks Deputy Heffernan's reaction towards problems which have something of the future about them, I do not know what amount of time is going to be required to get something which will be judged by Deputy Heffernan to be thoroughly reliable. He refers to time, and says that Deputy Figgis stated that the experts had not been allowed sufficient time. On that I make the same reply as I made to the other Deputy. The experts scheduled the time for themselves. If I am to go into further detail, I should say that it was the two Swiss experts who scheduled the time. It was they who mapped out the programme, and who scheduled the time to a calendar to which they afterwards worked. My attention has been called to page 102, where they say, "In the limited time at our disposal." I would like that to be considered, as it is relevant in a way. "From the impressions gained during the time at the disposal of the experts"—that is all that was read. The phrase continues——
I read the whole passage.
I apologise to the Deputy. The phrase, as read, was "From the impressions gained during the time at the disposal of the experts, it appears evident that it will be possible to effect reductions in price in comparison with the present prices ruling in the Free State, and that an extension of the supply of electricity in the Free State can be carried out with economic success." What does that phrase relate to? It relates to the question of distribution to individual consumers in the supply of electricity, and it has nothing whatever to do with the engineering details or with the constructional part. It simply states that the experts did not consider that, and at this moment I do not think that I could claim that either myself or those advising me have had time to think out a scheme of distribution or the question of supply. That is the solitary occasion on which any reference is made to time, and it is a very reasonable reference to time. They could not sit down in this country during the early period—undoubtedly it would take a year—to organise and get into touch with all the small towns and the rural districts and find out how supply could be organised and whether the prices they state should rule.
It is interesting to note the hope that is expressed in that. "From the impressions gained during the time at the disposal of the experts, it appears evident that it will be possible to effect reductions in price in comparison with the present prices ruling in the Free State." If they had had more time, if they even had time to read some of the comments from those who are supposed to be directing the electrical future of this country so far as Dublin is concerned, they would see very obvious reasons as to why prices should be reduced in the Free State. Deputy Heffernan alluded to this much-quoted phrase with regard to sand. He said that is a thing that one ought to be satisfied on. How, I ask, is Deputy Heffernan's committee going to be satisfied with regard to that? He says with regard to clay, sand and gravel that great care will need to be taken to have these suitably mixed, or to have any two of them suitably mixed. How is Deputy Heffernan's committee going to do that? Is it going to draw up an engineering specification as to what is the proper mixture of sand and clay. Is that the object of the committee? I should imagine that that is work to be left to the engineers engaged in the carrying out of the detailed plans put before them by Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert.
I well remember one of my earliest attendances in this House. There was some debate going on which gave rise to hostilities between those on the Labour benches and those on the Farmers' benches. As well as I remember, the question under discussion had something to do with the creameries in Tipperary. I then heard a phrase hurled at Deputy Morrissey by, I think, Deputy Heffernan with regard to red flag methods, and I wondered whether the phrase was properly applicable in the circumstances which the discussion revealed. I sat in the House for some months listening to the debates, I gradually became aware that the real red flagger in the House was Deputy Heffernan. Of course it is a red flag with a difference, I might explain. It is not the symbol of what Deputy Heffernan wished to see in Deputy Morrissey's hands, but it is a sort of relic of the old red flag which used to be carried by a man in front of the steam-roller.
The Minister has quoted me as having hurled a phrase at Deputy Morrissey with regard to carrying a red flag. I have no recollection of ever hurling any phrase of that kind at Deputy Morrissey. The Minister, of course, is not misquoting me, for the reason that he is not quoting me at all. If he wants to quote me, I would ask him to do so from the official reports because, in this instance, as I say, I never said anything of the kind.
As long as the phrase gives me an introduction to what I wanted to say, I can withdraw the imputation.
But that is not fair debate.
Deputy Heffernan thinks that these experts were merely experts on electrical matters, and that there was no man amongst them who knew anything about drainage schemes or about the construction of embankments or fortifications of that kind. The first man chosen—I think Deputy Heffernan actually saw me setting off on the journey on which he was to be chosen—was Professor Rohn, and he is a professor of structural engineering. When I talked over the matter with him in Zurich, he mentioned to me certain details. The question of drainage immediately arose, and on that point he asked that he should be allowed to associate his colleague, Professor Meyer-Peter, an admitted expert, with him. So far as the question of drainage having come as a surprise on him, the surprise was this, that when Deputy Professor O'Sullivan and myself visited Professor Rohn we were surprised to find that his first re-action was on this very question of drainage, and that he immediately asked that there should be associated with him his colleague in the University who had special qualifications and special knowledge and experience with regard to drainage problems. So that between those two, a professor whose lecturing subject is constructional engineering and another professor brought in whose whole previous experience has been connected with matters of embankments and drainage, I think that we have definitely satisfied all that was required in these two respects.
Deputy Heffernan thinks that he should have more information with regard to these drains and syphons. How is anyone to persuade Deputy Heffernan that syphons can be a success? They work on a well-recognised principle of hydraulics which is not affected by the Irish climate. It holds good throughout the world, and I do not see how this committee can give to Deputy Heffernan any further information than I can give him now, and that is that these syphons do, in fact, work. I believe even if that committee came to Deputy Heffernan he would express further surprise and say, "Take me to some part of the world where there is a construction of this sort and where this principle is in operation." I believe he would be very much like the Scotchman leaving the Zoo who pointed his finger back at the giraffes and said "I do not believe there is any such animal."
Deputy Baxter pleads for delay for further consideration. I had protested that I would not be adverse to a little delay when bringing forward my first rush motion in this House on the 3rd April. I said I did that with deliberate intent so that it would excite a certain amount of thought and make people read a little in reference to this whole scheme. Deputy Baxter now wants some further weeks. This is a matter rather well-known to me, putting it on a slightly different footing. I remember, when a student at the National University, we used to be very much amused by a particular type of student who became chronic either as a medical, or an artsman, or an engineer. His habit was to go to the National Library, where we used to work, and believe he was doing sound work if he did anything in the atmosphere of work. If he was an engineering student he took down a lot of engineering books and propped these up on both sides of his reading stand; then he got the "Illustrated London News" and read it. He thought that by reading the "Illustrated London News" in an atmosphere of work he was really working. I do not say that that is Deputy Baxter's position. Deputy Baxter puts this rather on a new footing, and he says, "Give us time to consider and people will believe eventually that we have considered."
The Minister knows well I did not say, "Give us time to consider." I said: "Give a Committee time to consider."
I was coming to that in another way. He says, "Give us time to consider, and afterwards we will be able to say, we pleaded for time, we got the time, we considered, or else we say, pack six or seven Deputies into a room. Make them read the reports that we have not time or patience —or because of other reasons—to read. Let them read these things, and then come back and we will accept their advice."
That would be absolutely abrogating all the functions of the House to that of the Committee.
That is misrepresenting what I put before the House. I did not mean anything of the kind, nor did I say anything of the kind, or that it would serve any purpose. I intended that the committee should be in the nature of a Private Bill committee, such as the Dublin Electricity Committee or any other Private Bill committee; that evidence should be submitted to them, that they should examine witnesses, and so on.
I hold all that has been done. This Bill stood a more searching examination than any private Bill, and it now comes before this House as a private Bill would come before the House.
There is no cross-examination of witnesses.
No cross-examination! There has been cross-examination. I was present at portion of the cross-examination. I was not being cross-examined, but it was a cross-examination by judges, and the judges were the experts. The cross-examined persons were the representatives of Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert, and they were put through their paces. The whole thing was examined, and the engineers had to stand examination and to accept modifications where the experts thought them desirable.
Were other parties affected allowed to attend?
What other parties?
The riparian owners.
There was the State on the one hand, the contractor on the other, and the judges. The riparian owners and others are going to have their chance to make their claim for compensation for anything that may be destroyed upon them— easements, land itself, fishery rights, and everything else. They will have their chance to appeal to a particular tribunal set up under the ægis of a judicial authority. What representation has not yet been given can be given under the Bill. Deputy Cooper holds that the Bill should deal with organisation.
I do not think I did.
May I put it this way: Deputy Cooper holds that this Bill gives me power to organise and arrange for supply and distribution. There is a clause in the Bill which, if I was going to run riot with the powers given me, I could apply for that purpose. That clause is meant to be very restrictive. It enables me to enter into provisional contract before an organisation Bill is brought in, through a sales manager going through the country at the building-out period, so that we might be able to estimate the amount before we proceed to build any of the twenty-five or thirty kilo-volt lines. I do not intend to use that clause as covering what is described as general organisation plan, and if Deputies think that I should be fettered and restricted, an amendment can be moved and we will consider it. The Bill is not intended to include organisation; it is merely to set the scheme on foot, the contract, the building out work. If I am asked, as I am in the newspapers, to bring forward an organisation Bill, I must protest that the Press and the country are trying to rush me. The organisation will require at least a year's study, and visits by certain people from other countries. I may definitely require to bring in assistance of expert people in other countries to advise, and they may possibly have to stay here for twelve or eighteen months giving advice on the matter, and it would be impossible, and futile, to attempt anything like an organisation Bill at this period.
A Deputy spoke of the extern Ministers, and said, taking this on a par with Private Bill legislation, which is a completely wrong footing to put it on, we should have some report from those extern Ministers. He used the phrase that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs made a good bargain, the Minister for Local Government none, and the Minister for Fisheries a very bad one. The Minister for Local Government had very little to make a bargain about, and, so far as there was anything, he was quite agreeable to the provisions of this measure and similarly with the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. The Minister for Fisheries was bound by the fact that the Dáil that appointed him had assented on the 3rd and 4th April to the resolution. The resolution referred to the White Paper, and that looked forward in case of conflict, to the subserviency of fisheries to electricity, and we are told that injury should be limited. Is not that almost a quotation from the fishery clauses of the Bill, that adequate precautions should be taken to see that the least injury is done to the fisheries? But there is an over-riding clause that in the event of conflict the fisheries interest should give way to electricity.
Deputy Cooper holds I have not yet made out any case for urgency. I have not made any very detailed case for urgency because I think the conditions of the country make it for me. I think that a measure of this sort, in the atmosphere of unemployment and commercial inertia that prevails at the moment, is called for, and called for as speedily as possible; and when the argument is used that it is going to take three years to do and therefore that another delay of six months will not matter, I say the very fact that it is going to take three years ought to make us approach it with greater speed and ought to give us greater resolution to get it through quickly. When I see the date of the 28th July as the date upon which this suggested committee is to report back I place that in opposition to my forecast in this matter. If this Bill passes both Houses by the date on which the Dáil rises, on the 26th June, the first German boat-load of material for the Shannon will put into Limerick Harbour about July, and the President ought to be handling the ceremonial trowel cutting the first sod of land in this scheme about the 28th July, or the beginning of September at any rate. That is a programme and a schedule of time that I would like to work to instead of postponing for further consideration a matter which, as Deputy Johnson says, has been presented in more detail than any matter of the sort has ever been presented to this Dáil.
Now, Deputy Thrift did not impress me as speaking so much for either amendment as simply pleading that the Second Reading should not be gone on with at this moment. I gather that he referred to certain difficulties which he raised on the 3rd April, and to which I promised to give consideration. Those are the type of points I said that, if raised, I would reply to when speaking on the Second Reading proper. In so far as Deputy Thrift's remarks referred to them, I leave them over until I am replying on the Second Reading of the Bill. I will make this general statement, however, to Deputy Thrift. He holds that engineering details have not been fully considered and that certain criticisms have not been met. I want to find out yet—let me omit the criticisms passed in this House, the type of criticisms Deputy Thrift himself passed—what criticisms have there appeared in the Press that could not be put in either of two categories, either gross misstatements of fact, some of them ante-dating the scheme, or else vague apprehensions that this thing was so big that it was naturally a thing to be shied at. Vague apprehensions are things I cannot deal with. If vague apprehensions seem to be based on anything, and if arguments are put forward justifying them, we can attack the arguments. Some of the arguments that have been used, I intend to face up to immediately.
May I mention just one thing? Is the Minister aware of any embankment—anything approaching the size that is projected— that is constructed in the way indicated in the Report? No embankment is constructed without a central strengthening core.
That is not the way the one——
There is a certain disadvantage, in that we do not know all the details connected with the plans. So far as I can see in the Report, there is no indication of any central strengthening core in the embankment. I may tell the Minister that I know of no embankment of a magnitude approaching this which is constructed without such a central strengthening core.
That begs the whole question. "Without a central strengthening core." If Deputy Thrift read pages 47 and 48 of the Siemens-Schuckert Report, he would see that they employ what is known as the method of hydraulic fill, and that method gives definitely, completely and assuredly a strengthening core. When the Deputy asks me if I know of any place where an embankment of this height has been constructed without a central strengthening core, I say that I have never had my attention drawn to such, because I presume that the banks would not last very long. But this is not a bank without a strengthening core. Definitely it will be an embankment with the central core strengthened by the latest and most up-to-date methods. If it is a matter of the height of the embankment that is being talked about, and the Deputy still puts his question, I would like to answer him in this way: the highest point to which this embankment reaches is 37 feet. In the Miami Conservancy there are banks of 37 feet that they would not dignify with the name of embankments. Any banks that they would take note of—that is in order to secure consideration in that conservancy—must be banks of at least 75 feet high. They take no account of banks under 75 feet high. We are raising all this pother about a bank which is to be 37 feet high, and it will be 37 feet high only at places. The method of hydraulic fill, or the question of the inner strengthening core, will be one of the things I will refer to in my later remarks. I did take note of some of the criticisms that emanated from different people. There were certain Press or pamphlet criticisms.
I may say I hold that to a certain extent I am responsible for all the trouble that has occurred about this document. After the experts had made up their minds and notified me that they had sufficient material on which to prepare their Report, they asked me to meet them so that they could discuss with me the form of the Report. I found, to my horror, that their intentions were to produce a rather small document, a thing which, on being put into the hands of an engineer, could be readily understood, and which in itself would be a detailed criticism and an explanation of what the Siemens-Schuckert proposals were. I remember having five hours' talk with them one afternoon, at the end of which I had convinced them that a simpler report, one going into more detail and one referring to matters which engineers would scorn to mention in an ordinary report, would be necessary. I fear that I also convinced them that they were writing for a set of children electrically. I did several times allude to things that would have to be given in more detail. There were certain things that I wanted them to explain to me, and I indicated that it would be necessary that the explanations should be put in the report. Once or twice the remark was made to me: "That is in the electrical primers in any country." I said: "Yes, but there are no electrical primers here." I added that this report would be the foundation, the beginning, for the people of an electrical education. To that extent I am responsible for this document, and to that extent I am sorry that I am responsible for it. Here and there they do make remarks such as: "Care must be taken to see that an intimate mixture must be made of sand and clay." They might as well say that cement must be made up to a certain specification and it must be properly mixed. It is really absurd to put a document of that sort to engineers, because engineers would know when the thing was properly mixed and when an embankment was being properly made up. The document was so detailed that apparently it has confused some people, who think attention is drawn to serious difficulties where, really, they are simply noting things which any engineer would have noted without having had his attention called to the matter. To that extent I am responsible for the document.
When I see some of the criticisms that have emanated, I feel sorry for the criticisms. I did take one pamphlet that appeared to one of the civil engineers who was here at the time. During that five hours' controversy that I had with them, there was nothing more marked than their good humour and their patience with me. I think I must have appeared as typifying to them the childishness of the Irish race with regard to electricity. When I put before this expert the question of the criticism that had been passed in one pamphlet, his patience and good humour broke down. He asked me did I really consider that he should seriously sit down and write an answer to what was contained in that pamphlet. He went through one or two points with me, and, untechnical as I am, I was able to understand, in regard to some things at all events, how absurd it was to ask him to pass any comments on the criticism. No criticism that appeared in the Press has been sent on to the experts, because no criticism has appeared sufficiently good by the engineers, whom I have been able to acquire for the purpose of this scheme, to be passed on to those experts.
I may mention one other case. An engineer, a Mr. Stephens, wrote a pamphlet entitled, "The Shannon Scheme In True Perspective." That was before the scheme appeared, so that it was prophetic to get into true perspective a scheme which had not yet appeared. He sent me what he stated to be an irrefutable proof that the scheme was unworkable, and I replied to him that if he took my advice he would withhold his irrefutable proof until he saw the scheme, or that otherwise the proof might need amendment. I asked him to get the scheme, read it, understand what it was, and then to send me further irrefutable proofs, but I have not heard from him since. He had these irrefutable proofs before the scheme appeared, but he has no answer since it came out. That was the engineer who published this pamphlet, creating a certain amount of anxiety about the scheme. That same engineer put forward certain criticisms before the Private Bill Committee, and on being examined as to his achievements in hydro-electric matters, had to admit that he had not any achievements to his credit. It struck me as a rather evil omen, and he has now another non-achievement to his credit, as the particular Bill in which he was interested was turned down.
With regard, generally, to this question of engineering details, I have not been able to advance very far in the securing of a staff necessary to carry out the work. I think my efforts in that matter must be in some way bounded by the progress of the legislation through this House, but I have been able to secure a certain staff. Professor Rushworth, of University College, Galway, has agreed to act as chief engineer, and Mr. P. H. McCarthy, a very well-known engineer in Dublin, is to act as adviser. Both of these gentlemen have assured me, having read the scheme through that there is nothing to make anyone concerned, nothing to cause fear, nothing which ordinary engineering care and experience cannot bring to a head. Having engineers of that kind to whom to refer this type of criticism, I do not see why I should be bound to send every scrap of criticism and newspaper cutting, or even to make a selection and send over what seemed to be the best, to the experts and ask them to write me another report referring to these criticisms. The criticisms, so far as they appear difficult to the engineers, may in time be furnished to the experts. No criticism of that kind has yet appeared. I am leaving out certain criticisms passed in this House, certain details which were raised here, and which I think should be answered here. I am going to deal with these later. We are facing here simply the question of delay. All the criticism in regard to delay is, as I say, vague, and in so far as it is vague, it is not possible for me to meet it.
At the risk of offending Deputy Baxter I return to what I have said already. I think the motion here simply means that we in this House have not time to go into the details of this thing as we might be expected to. It amounts to this: "Let us call together a Committee from somewhere, either from this House or outside. Let us put that matter into their hands, and let us receive their report. We will be able to tell our constituents afterwards that we did our duty nobly." Our duty has to be done, and has to be done here. This scheme is being presented, as Deputy Johnson remarked, in greater detail than ever had been expected. It is difficult to have a technical matter of that kind discussed in this House. It is the first time, and, as far as I am concerned, I hope it will be the last that any such engineering technical matter will have to be discussed. Outside of that, if that is the summing-up of the situation, then I condemn it. I think the House can do its duty on what is before it. The apprehension propaganda is caused by people rushing into things that they do not properly understand. Where that avoids facts, it is vague, and I cannot meet it. Where facts are produced the facts are either so badly put or else founded on things not in the report, that it is certainly not worth while to meet them, and the only case that can be made for delay is what Deputy Cooper contended—what is the cause for urgency? Now, I hold that the conditions of this country, the conditions of unemployment and the whole conditions of business and commerce, require that we should make an immediate start with this scheme. The whole apprehension propaganda is so vague and so misleading that I think it would not be worth the while of this House to pay it the compliment of even one week's delay to have the consideration that is talked of.
I understand that I am not allowed to make another speech, but I am allowed to deal with statements made by the Minister. The Minister in his opening remark, with regard to my statement, deals with what apparently is my lack of prompt comprehension and the difficulty of instilling into my brain a knowledge of this or any other scheme. I do not profess to be a judge of my mental capacity, but I would say this to the Minister, that even though I be dense, I am probably no denser than the average man in the country. What I am trying to get the Government to do, is to place the average man in the country in a position of being able to say that he believes this scheme is sound. I do not expect that he can be placed in the position of judging this scheme from an engineering point of view, or a financial point of view, but I maintain that a sufficient amount of controversy has not taken place to allow the average man of the country, or the average Deputy in the Dáil, to form a definite opinion on the feasibility or otherwise of this scheme. The Dáil has simply to take the assurance of the Minister that the experts' report can be absolutely relied upon.
The Deputy is wrong in that. The experts' report makes the judgment of the Minister reliable.
Experts have already reported on many things and they have been found afterwards to be wrong. We know from an engineering point of view that nothing is impossible. It is quite possible, from an engineering point of view, to remove the Dublin mountains and that it would bé quite possible to put them back again. An estimate might be put up for doing that, but the estimate might be very easily and would be very probably wrong from the point of view of cost. I say it might take the whole resources of the world to do it but, from an engineering point of view, it is possible. I believe from the engineering point of view the Shannon scheme is possible. I will not say that I am doubtful, but I am not satisfied, from a financial point of view, that the estimates can be relied upon. That is one of my contentions with regard to this scheme, that possibly the estimates may not work out quite sound. It was with reference to that I brought in the question of sand. I do not mean to tell the Minister or the Dáil that I believe the sand may not be used as material for making the embankments, properly mixed with other materials. What I would try to convey to the Dáil is that the geological conditions have not been examined sufficiently to allow the experts to know what quantity of sand can be dredged up or made available for the purpose of making the embankments. It is possible when the engineering work is being done that more sand may be found than is expected, that, it may be out of proportion to the quantity of clay, and clay would have to be got from other sources.
From the same river.
The clay may not be there and it may have to be got at great expense. If the sand is out of proportion to the amount of clay, the sand will have to be taken up and you will have to get clay to mix with it and that mixing with the sand may cost more. I am not in a position to state that such a thing may occur, but I say it is possible, and, apparently, there are engineers in this country who believe that such things are possible. It is hardly right of the Minister to deprecate a great number of statements made by Irish engineers. He has told us that he has selected two Irish engineers, so far as I can gather, to supervise the work, and he relies on their capacity and capability. If they are sound and if their capacity can be relied on, why may not the criticisms of other Irish engineers be fairly sound also? There may be something in their criticism.
There might be, but there is not.
Who is to judge? Greatly as I recognise the ability which the Minister has shown and greatly as I appreciate the way he has steeped himself in the facts, I say that he is not in a position to judge what engineering opinion is sound and what engineering opinion is not sound. Many Irish engineers who are not interested in the matter have expressed contrary opinions. Alternative schemes have been suggested. This is not the only possible scheme. The hydro-electrical development scheme of the Shannon has been turned down by some Irish experts, but doubtless other experts will be found to support it. In my references in regard to drainage, I may not have been as clear as I intended. I did not know that Professor Meyer-Peter had particular knowledge of drainage engineering. I want to say that these engineers came from a country where the drainage conditions are essentially different to the drainage conditions in Ireland. In their country the flooding is caused by the periodic melting of the snow and the overflowing of rivers, while here it is caused by the water on the land which has to find its way to the rivers. The problems are not similar, and, great experts as they are, the different conditions here do not fit them to be experts here.
I submit, before the scheme is passed by the Dáil, we ought to have the opinion of men thoroughly conversant with Irish drainage conditions. I emphasise that particularly, because it affects the agriculturist more than anybody else. The Minister referred to me as the holder of the red flag, that is, a man who tries to slow up everything going on in this country. Perhaps that may be the case. I think it is the natural tendency of farmers' representatives to be conservative. Their whole life and training lead them towards conservatism. There is one point, however, about the red flag and it is this: The red flag is an indication of danger, and perhaps it may be a good thing to hold it up in certain cases in which there may be danger of involving the country in financial obligations which may seriously embarrass it. The Minister must be well aware that many engineering works have been carried out in the world, and in the majority of cases the estimates in regard to them have been exceeded. I will be extraordinarily surprised when this scheme is finished if the estimates will not have been exceeded. I cannot follow exactly the contract, if there is a contract, between the Government and Siemens-Schuckert. Can the Minister absolutely say that the £5,200,000 will not be exceeded? If he can say that the firm will bind themselves to complete these works at £5,200,000, or less, my objection to the scheme would not be so strong as it is at present. What exactly is meant by the estimates I do not know. I assume they are estimates for machinery, electric fittings, and, perhaps, for carrying out the engineering work at so much per yard. If difficulties are met with that are not anticipated, the estimates will be increased, even though the actual cost for carrying out the particular items may not increase, so that to all intents and purposes the Dáil in passing the Bill will be giving a blank cheque.
No. The Bill states £5,200,000.
Yes, but if when the scheme is three-quarters completed you have spent £5,200,000, you are not going to leave it there unfinished, and you would have to come back to the Dáil and get, perhaps, a couple of millions more. The Minister must be aware that that great engineering work, the Panama Canal, cost two or three times the original estimate. No doubt that scheme was examined by experts, but still it was found that the cost was greatly in excess of what they calculated it would be. With regard to the urgency, my motion is not a delaying one. I may tell the Minister, and he probably knows it, that I was not instigated by any interested source outside my own Party. We have not had conversations on the subject with anybody. We are interested in no company, and we are acting only as we think right in the matter. We are not delaying the scheme unnecessarily. If we believed the scheme feasible and right, we would support it. We are in favour of hydro-electric development in Ireland through the Shannon scheme, which we believe is the one, if any, that will be most likely to be successful. We have waited many years for the purpose of bringing this scheme into being. If you can satisfy the people of the country and the Dáil that the scheme is essentially sound, in the short time between this and the 28th July, I think you will have performed very good work. I see no other means by which you can satisfy the people and the Dáil than by appointing a committee who will examine the scheme from every possible point of view. I am sure that if that committee can be satisfied that the scheme is essentially sound in all its details, that the Dáil and country will be satisfied.
- Pádraig Baxter.
- John Conlan.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Sir James Craig.
- Darrell Figgis.
- John Good.
- William Hewat.
- Connor Hogan.
- Risteárd Mac Liam.
- Patrick J. Mulvany.
- James Sproule Myles.
- Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
- Seán O Duinnín.
- Donnchadh O Guaire.
- Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
- Liam Thrift.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Séamus Breathnach.
- Seán Buitléir.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Louis J. D'Alton.
- John Daly.
- Máighréad Ní Choileain Bean
- Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Séamus Eabhróid.
- Patrick J. Egan.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- Thomas Hennessy.
- John Hennigan.
- Liam Mac Cosgair.
- Séamus Mac Cosgair.
- Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
- Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
- Martin M. Nally.
- Michael K. Noonan.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Mícheál O hAonghusa.
- Ailfrid O Broin.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Risteárd O Conaill.
- Parthalán O Conchubhair.
- Aodh O Cúlacháin.
- Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
- Séamus O Dóláin.
- Eamon O Dubhghaill.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Aindriú O Láimhín.
- Séamus O Leadáin.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
- Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.
- Patrick W. Shaw.
Before the Bill is read a second time, I want to make some comments on certain points which are the only ones that concern us at the moment. We want an assurance that this contract of £5,200,000 is a firm, binding contract, and that it will not be exceeded for the partial development scheme. We also hold that the contract ought to be given by open tender. To use the words of an American, whom I introduced to the President, we see no reason why there should not be open bidding in this matter. There may be reasons against that, and the Minister may be able to explain them, but in the absence of any such explanation, we think there ought to be open bidding, and that the contract ought to be open to any firm that chooses to tender.
On the question of compensation, the Minister has more or less satisfied us. Arbitration is to be provided for in the assessment of compensation between the State and the individual. We think that arbitration is the only way in which compensation can be dealt with, and we are satisfied that the machinery to be set up will give fair play to all concerned.
Drainage is an important matter in connection with this scheme, especially in the Portumna district. The Minister has stated that any improvements made will be charged for. That is a very vague phrase. Who is to be the judge as to whether any improvement has been effected? Where there is permanent flooding I can understand what is meant by improvement, but in regard to temporary flooding by seasonable visitations, I do not understand the term. Is protection from flooding, due to extraordinary rainfall, to be charged to the individuals whom this scheme may benefit? Where it will prevent chronic flooding, I agree that the improvement should be charged for, but where abnormal flooding, arising from overflowing of the banks, is concerned, there should be no such thing as a charge. It is the duty of the State to relieve the people of these calamities.
Do you say that about the Barrow?
I say it about the Barrow.
That no contribution should be paid by the owners of land benefited?
If I am asked about the Barrow I want to deal with it in this way.
It is an unfair interruption.
I think it is a fair interruption. Perhaps it had better be dealt with now. If the Minister is dealing with the condition of the Barrow area forty or fifty years ago, when valuations were made for local government purposes, and the condition now, I could follow him. If he can assure us that the present condition of the Barrow area is no worse than it was forty or fifty years ago, when valuations were made, then I say that any improvements made could very well be charged for, and would be justified. But we must remember the condition now and the condition then—the condition when valuations were made and rent charges fixed in the Land Courts. Will the Minister say that the condition of the Barrow area is as good to-day as it was forty or fifty years ago, when these things were under consideration?
We are discussing the Shannon now.
When I am asked a question by a Minister, I think it is my duty to reply, with all respect to you, sir.
The Deputy has replied at sufficient length. I have given him sufficient time to reply.
Perhaps I had better not say anything at all, if I cannot answer a question while you are in the chair. I am prepared to sit down.
I withdraw the question.
I have given the Deputy sufficient time to answer the interjection of the Minister.
In connection with the Shannon scheme I say that where the Government are carrying out a scheme for State purposes, except they make some extraordinary improvement by drainage, they are not entitled to charge for it. It is said that drainage is going to be effected, but the scheme will only provide the main way and will not carry out the detailed drainage. The detailed drainage has to be carried out by the individual. If the Government carries out all the details of the drainage then they would be entitled to charge, but they are not entitled to charge for merely making a main way and canals along the side of the embankments. I think I have heard it stated that the periodical flooding we have been subject to for the last ten years is not a national calamity. It may not be a national calamity in that it only affects certain districts, but it is a great calamity to the people whom it affects. People living in the areas subject to this periodical flooding during the last ten years should not be charged for any relief given to them by this scheme. It is very easy to ascertain from the rents fixed by the Land Courts or from Griffith's Valuation— which is the great test of valuation in this country—whether any charges should be made for improvements under this scheme. If land is valued at a marsh valuation it follows that that valuation was made when it was marsh and of little value. If that land is made more valuable then I say you are certainly entitled to put additional valuation on it. If the valuation of the land bears a fair relation to the value that class of land ordinarily bears, I say that you are not entitled to put on any extra charge.
With regard to the area that will be required for the scheme, the Minister said in one case as much as 300 acres will be taken, and in other cases smaller areas. Arbitration will deal with that. Because 300 acres and some smaller areas will be required we are not going to oppose the scheme. The individual must give way in the interests of the State. The only thing that we are concerned with there is to see that the individual is adequately compensated, or that alternative property is found for him if his own property is taken over.
No party is more anxious than the Farmers' Party that this scheme should be laid on a solid foundation. To my mind the scheme is going to mean the salvation of this country. After reading the monthly trade balance, which shows an adverse balance for two months of £2,000,000, the country should welcome this scheme. What we are concerned about is to see that this scheme will be laid on sure foundations. Otherwise it will not remedy our financial position—which is the great consideration—and the money that is going to be invested in it will have done no good. I believe the scheme will remedy that position or lay the foundation for doing so. If it does, the Farmers' Party will not begrudge, and never have begrudged, such national expenditure. Comment has been made about the opposition of the Farmers' Party. In my opinion our action has done a lot of good to the scheme, and has helped to put the Government in a better position. It has brought forth the Minister's reply to the salient points that were raised, and if the newspapers publish that reply, the objects of the scheme will be clearer to the public. In addition, our attitude will have done a lot to put the Government right with the country on this question, and will have gone further than anything I know to make the man of average intelligence make up his mind as to whether the scheme is right or wrong. If the amendment did nothing but bring out the Minister's exposition of the scheme, it will have done a lot of good. I admit, like other Deputies, that I am not in a position to judge the merits of the scheme itself. Because of the Minister's belief in the scheme we are asked to be convinced, and, of course, the Minister is convinced because of the experts' views. If there are any sins then the Minister is responsible for the experts' sins, and he asks us to be responsible for his.
Reference has been made to the question of drainage in this and in other countries. I see no difficulty about drainage that any engineer with any experience cannot deal with, no matter where he gained his experience. The two things to be considered in drainage are levels and sub-soil. If these are dealt with the whole drainage question is dealt with.
On the question of contract and on the question of price, I hope we will have as clear an exposition from the Minister as he gave on the merits of the scheme, and that on the question of charges for improvements Deputies will clearly understand the position. I think I have raised all the points that I wished to raise, and I look forward to the Minister's reply to remove any doubts that remain.
I think the Government are to be congratulated on having amongst their ranks a man of outstanding ability in presenting a case to the Dáil and to the country. We must recognise that the Minister in charge of the Bill has shown great ability in dealing with it, and in no way has he shown more ability than as a debater to scorn opponents and critics. His exposition was an able exposition to wipe away all opposition. The Bill, as it is now before the Dáil, is a very general measure. The important parts of it are covered in three sections. The first is where
"The Minister may undertake the production and generation of electricity by means of hydraulic power derived from the waters of the River Shannon and the distribution and supply of the electricity so produced, and such undertaking is in this Act referred to as ‘the undertaking.'"
That is not a very long section, but it is an extremely comprehensive one. In other words, the country is placing in the hands of the Minister and of the Executive Council power to generate electricity or nationalise the production of electricity, in the Free State. That may be very good, but I can hardly be expected to enthuse over any such prospect. While recognising that the purpose of the present administration is towards getting the country into a state of settlement and betterment, the perpetuation of a system of nationalisation is, in my opinion, a danger which ought, if it can, to be avoided. On the other hand, I fully recognise that in the circumstances of the time there is no other means of carrying out a big undertaking such as is embodied in this Bill. I also recognise that a great deal will depend on the view of the Ministry, when they come to the details of the carrying out of the measure, whether the public as a whole will get the safeguards that in nationalisation of a project of this kind they are entitled to. Perhaps the Minister when it comes to the proper time will furnish those safeguards, in which case a great deal of my objections will disappear. In the crude form in which we have the Bill before us to-day it simply means the giving of power into the hands of the Executive for the time being in control of our destinies.
The second clause that appears to me to be of far-reaching importance is a clause in connection with contracting.
The Minister may contract with any person to do all or any of the things which the Minister is authorised by sub-section (1) of this section to do. For that purpose the Minister may with the sanction of the Minister for Finance enter into contracts and agreements.
There would be very little use for me to elaborate what has already been put before the House, as the view of some of us, that the operation of the White Paper has been in a direction which, to say the least of it, was undesirable. Any big scheme of this sort putting the power that the Government have put into the hands of contractors, no matter how world-wide their reputation may be, and how reliable the contractors may be, is, I think, unusual, to say the least of it, and I think it has merited a good deal of the criticism with which it has been met. The Government will, of course, say that Siemens-Schuckert took the initiative. Going back to the White Paper, we find that the Siemens-Schuckert people became represented in the Free State by means of a very distinguished Irishman.
If I venture to say so, Siemens-Schuckert did not come here and employ a distinguished Irishman for the good of their health. They came with a distinct object. We find in connection with this that the first approach of Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert was in connection with participating in a proposal which only concerned Dublin and district. It aimed at the generation of electricity through the Liffey proposals which were then before the country in the form of a Private Bill. I presume it was after that Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert discovered the Shannon. They went out on a voyage of discovery and found the Shannon. The Shannon was there before. It had been exploited as far as its capacity to produce electricity was concerned before. A lot of information had been gathered on the subject, which I take it was at the disposal of Siemens-Schuckert. They proceeded to enthuse the Government on the subject of the harnessing of the Shannon for the purpose of a national scheme which would supply electricity to the Free State. We must remember that at that point the White Paper was issued. If I may say so, again, a more extraordinary document never, perhaps, emanated from a Government than that White Paper. The White Paper committed the Government of the country to certain proposals, and it ultimately has led to the projection of the Siemens-Schuckert scheme followed by the criticism of those who were appointed to examine into the scheme. Arising out of all that has been done in this direction does it justify this country in placing the Siemens-Schuckert Company, eminent as they may be, in the position we find them to-day in connection with this scheme? I venture to say not. That the country will suffer in any way I do not say, but, at all events, the whole system that has been adopted is, in my judgment, open to a great amount of criticism.
The Minister, with his usual debating ability, dealt with the criticism. Whether the criticism is good or bad, the attitude of the Minister is not to invite criticism, but to throw odium on everybody who has ventured to submit their opinion on this matter. Let us be clear on that. The Minister may be right. The criticism may be all foolish, inept, and coming from people who are all the same as one man, an engineer, on whom the Minister took the responsibility of throwing considerable odium. Whether the criticism was right or wrong, let us hope, at all events, that it was really genuine. Men of considerable eminence in the Free State have criticised this scheme, men with long experience in their profession. The Minister brushes them aside as if they were only children, and knew nothing about the matter. That is not very encouraging to a man like myself who knows nothing. Where are we laymen going to get the knowledge to decide on those matters if any one of the professional men who come along to criticise the scheme is going to be treated in this way? That phase has gone beyond redemption, whether it was right or wrong. I venture to criticise it, and I hope the Minister, if he thinks it worth while replying to me, will not give a biff in the eye. I give my criticism for all it is worth. The carrying out of the scheme has been placed in the hands of people without inviting any competition. If the man in the street says something not pleasant to hear in connection with this, I think the procedure adopted is to blame.
Now we come to what is in my opinion one of the big factors to be considered in this matter, that is Clause 11.
(1) The Minister for Finance may, subject to the limitation hereinafter imposed, advance out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof such sums as may be required by the Minister for Industry and Commerce for the purpose of the undertaking or the doing of anything which he is by this Act authorised to do or for the payment of any price, compensation, or other moneys which shall by virtue of this Act become payable by him.
There again we are dealing with a very comprehensive clause. We are committing the country to an expenditure of at least five million odd pounds. It is quite true that if the scheme provides a general electric supply over the country at £5,000,000 we, as Deputies, are justified in mortgaging the future to obtain the results that are going to be obtained, if all the benefits outlined in the experts' report are going to accrue. On the other hand, one cannot, and must not, talk lightly at the present time of five millions of money. It is a huge sum, taking into consideration the resources of the country, as we find them at present. We, during the War and after the War, in our association with Great Britain, which has large resources, came to think in millions as if they were insignificant items. Let me assure Deputies that the raising of £5,000,000 is not an easy matter, having regard to the resources of the Free State. I presume the Minister for Finance, following out his policy, will desire to get the money from the people at home. May I assure him that money is not very plentiful in the Free State. May I assure him, also, that money is not going to be available in the Free State unless you have got the confidence of the people regarding the way in which it is going to be spent. No trouble that the Minister or the Ministry can go to—even though it may exhaust their patience to have to deal with fools—in explaining and making the people satisfied that the expenditure of the £5,000,000 is going to be justified by the results, can be too much. It will pay them to do that when dealing with fools. Now, what is the position as regards results? I am a member of an association of which practically all the men who are in control of electrical industries within the Free State are members. I tell the Minister and I tell Deputies that there is not one man in that association but will tell you that the development of the generation of electricity within the Free State from a comparatively small amount to 110,000,000 units—which is the basis of the argument that it will be a paying proposition—is unlikely. They look with incredulity on any such development within the time specified by the experts' report.
What association is that?
It is an association with which the Minister is very conversant. I cannot recall the name of it at the moment.
Deputy Hewat is a member of a number of associations. I was wondering which of them he was referring to.
The Minister knows what association I am referring to.
The figure is not "three times."
I did not mention anything about "three times."
I was not referring to what Deputy Hewat said. I was referring to an observation made by another Deputy.
I did not mention "three times." What I mentioned to Deputy Hewat was that he had used the expression "increase in generation." What I thought was that he had used the word "generation" when he had meant to use the word "consumption." I was merely seeking to correct him in that.
I do not think it is very material. Electricity is not going to be generated if it is not going to be consumed. Consumption and generation are very much on a par. I was referring to a particular association when I was interrupted. I quite agree that this association is formed of men who do not know their business, although they have been in it all their lives! They do not know what they are talking about! Still, they do say what I have mentioned. But their criticism is brushed aside as perfectly useless. What is the scheme based on?
We have to deal with the criticism of professors who have gone through a long training in the subject, and it places us poor laymen at a disadvantage.
Not a bit.
The whole scheme is based on the supply of electricity to the biggest consumer, which is Dublin. I do not put forward any claim that Dublin should have special consideration in connection with the supply of electricity or anything else. Dublin is part of the whole, and if it is good for the country at large Dublin must conform to any rules or regulations which the House, in its wisdom, thinks fit to impose upon customers or others. But what is the position of the principal consumer? It is sought that Dublin shall rely entirely on its supply of electricity from a source far distant, and from one source alone, in substitution of the several stations by which it is at present served. Even on the experts' report, there is no material saving in the cost of generation of electricity, so far as Dublin is concerned. I do not think it is going to make any material difference to the consumer in Dublin. But that may be an arguable point, and, at the present stage, I do not want to get into an argument with the Minister on the subject. Generally speaking, however, I think he will agree with me, that Dublin, taking its supply of electricity from Limerick, is going to be at the end of a long line and that the security of the supply to the consumers in Dublin will, as a result, be materially affected.
This Bill has been received with enthusiasm by the Dáil. I do not wish, as an individual Deputy, to say that the rest of the House is wrong, or that I am right in any criticism that I advance. I felt the obligation on me to make the criticisms that I have made to-day, but there is nobody in the Dáil who will be more whole-heartedly in favour of the project if it will do what this Bill claims that the Shannon scheme will do for the country. I do not think, as I mentioned an association before, that there is any member of that association who would take any other view of the position or would in any way wish to hamper the development of a scheme that would be for the interest of the country.
Deputy Hewat has made a useful contribution to this debate. He began very happily. He paid a well-deserved, just and measured compliment to the Minister in charge of the measure. He tempted me, sir, to read, with your permission and the permission of the Dáil, a similar tribute which appeared in an Edinburgh paper. This is from a representative of theirs who viewed the debates on the Shannon scheme some weeks ago:—
During the week I was speaking to some strangers who were present at the debates on this scheme in Dáil Eireann. All of them expressed their astonishment at the marvellous ability displayed by Mr. P. McGilligan, the Minister for Industry and Commerce in piloting the motion through An Dáil, and of his almost uncanny knowledge of the most minute points in connection with the scheme. One of those people said to me: "Why, one would have thought that he never did anything else in his lifetime but study this scheme of Siemens. He seems to have everything in connection with the matter card-indexed on his mind." The fault of most clever men is that they suffer fools badly. In this respect again, Mr. McGilligan is unique. The good humour and patience with which he took every interruption, and the skill with which he answered every objection, even when these happened to be silly and frivolous, mark him out as unique in this land of rude speech and irascible tempers. Indeed, it would be hard to blame anyone for showing some irritation at the amendment proposed by the Farmers' Party. This, in effect, was nothing less than that they should set up a committee of their members as a Court of Appeal to review the findings of the four experts who had reported on the Shannon scheme. These are hydro-electrical experts of European reputation. One of them was lent by the Government of Norway, and another lent by the Government of Sweden. The others are two Swiss engineers who are foremost in the matter of electrification of water power.
It was rather unfortunate for the value of Deputy Hewat's tribute to the Minister that he should proceed to profess to give a history of the development and progress of the Shannon scheme from its initiation to its adoption by the Government. I know that in the world of business in the city, Deputy Hewat is a species of Pooh Bah; there is hardly any type of enterprise in which he is not active and foremost—one of our chief men in business circles. When he follows the example of his colleague on the Independent benches and tries his hand at fiction, he is not quite so successful as Deputy Figgis, who has a reputation as a writer of romances. Deputy Hewat made a statement which appeared in several of the newspapers, that the first interest that the Siemens firm had in electricity in Ireland was in connection with the making and selling of lamps when the Liffey scheme had been developed and was in full work. There was not a shadow of excuse for such a statement. It was made in this House, and after it was made Dr. McLoughlin, who is better qualified to speak upon the matter than any other man alive, spoke to me about it and he gave his authority for the repudiation of it. He had a conversation in a friendly sort of way with a Deputy in which the subject turned upon the production of lamps, and he pointed out that Siemens were great makers of lamps and electrical equipment. The Shannon scheme did not come into being after that: Deputy Hewat is utterly misinformed when he declares that the Siemens people then discovered the Shannon. Nothing of the kind. I have already, at perhaps undue length, dealt with this on a previous occasion. Through Dr. McLoughlin, our Irish scientist, they were made fully aware of the Shannon and its possibilities, and all that had been done in the exploration of its possibilities by engineers under the British regime.
I might deal with the point made by Deputy Gorey in the same connection; they both bear on the same matter. It looks and is made to appear as if, by some sort of hocus pocus, by some sort of iniquitous trick, the Government are giving the contract to a German firm—that they are shutting the thing out from free tendering, that in some way it is a trick, the origin and explanation of which is a mystery to be probed by historians when they get at the secret records of this Government one hundred and fifty or two hundred centuries hence. Now suppose that Christopher Columbus had brought before the Spanish authorities his calculations and deductions to the effect that if he were to sail westward for a certain period he was bound to reach land and that the land would be a continent, probably rich. Suppose that after he had made his case the Spanish King had said: "Very well; we will advertise and we will ask for explorers to provide ships and men to go to look for this land, and we will give it to whoever undertakes the enterprise at the lowest figure." Obviously, to do justice to the invited tenderers, the calculations, the surmises, the theories, and the entire knowledge that Columbus had made his own, and the fruits of his genius and experiences in these matters should be put freely and without charge before those who were asked to tender for this enterprise. Is that equity? Is that fair? Deputy Gorey, if he will permit me to say this, has shown frequently in this House, that he has an extreme sense of fairness. If I were asked to name any Deputy who has impressed me more with a desire for doing justice in so far as he conceives it to be justice, I should name Deputy Gorey amongst the first five.
I may not agree with him; I daresay he and I disagree as much as any other two Deputies, but I am bound to say that. Deputy Gorey knows that in all ordinary business this system of free tenders is right, and sound, and wise. But this is not an ordinary thing; it is very extraordinary. If you will just recall for a minute the history of the Shannon in connection with this idea of producing electricity, you will remember that one of the greatest Irish engineers reported against it during the years when we were under paternal British rule, looking for means of making this a rich and rare land, and all Irishmen happy, contented, and rich citizens, thanking their God for having been born British children. It was always declared that we had plenty of water, but that we had no water-power. None of our rivers was exploited in that way, and I daresay never would be exploited if we had continued under the same flag.
Here, at the instance of Irish ability, a firm that had done this class of work is brought to be interested and to bring its experts to bear upon the problem of the utilisation of the Shannon, and the Siemens scheme is the result. Surely the Siemens scheme belongs to Siemens, and if this country decides that the Shannon is to be developed as the agency for the development of all sorts of industries and for the brightening of civilisation and of life in remote country districts, surely the Government are perfectly entitled to say that Siemens should have the carrying out of the work. They have given proof that they can do this work. I mentioned before what they have done.
Deputy Hewat is afraid, amongst other things, of the distance that the supply will have to be brought to Dublin. He spoke rather in a deprecatory way—I hope he did not intend to be deprecatory—of getting our supply from Limerick. All the electricity is to come to Dublin from Limerick, just as all the legislation goes to Limerick from Dublin, and, after all, there should be some reciprocity.
There is not a 33 per cent. waste in that case.
I will deal with that. There is much more than 33 per cent. of waste as regards administration, because the writ does not always run. This question of distance was utilised by Deputy Figgis to make our flesh creep—it would be so easy to cut the wires, it would be so easy to destroy the embankments, and so on. I remember, many years ago, when a new English monthly magazine was brought out, one of the striking articles in it was a humorous article by an Irish-American author of great prominence in those days, belonging to the great clan of O'Sullivan, all members of which are distinguished in some way or another all over the world. O'Sullivan invented two spirits—not two liquors, but two spiritual beings—two preternatural thinkers, one of them of an inventive disposition, and the other critical, like Deputy Gorey, Deputy Hewat, and Deputy Baxter. The inventive spirit in the good of his heart evolved a scheme for making what the reader recognised to be the world that we inhabit; he dealt, by anticipation, with all the difficulties he had seen, and with the way to meet them. The critical spirit asked him: "How are these people to maintain themselves and grow?" The answer was: "By food.""But where will they get it?""I have thought of that. They will grow it on the earth.""Then they will use up the very stuff on which they are standing; after a while there will be nowhere for them, and they go into ether." After a while these dreadful anticipations of what might happen had their effect, and the discouraged inventive spirit retired defeated; he would make nothing, and he would attempt nothing. It is the history of civilisation everywhere that progress is made, not by listening to the timid and the fearful—"Perhaps this might happen, or perhaps this other thing might happen." Caution is a virtue, no doubt, within limits, but it can become a vice. Has the Government not taken all the precautions that a reasonable degree of caution would demand?
"No" says one of the Farmers' Party. No, because it has not been submitted to a committee with Deputy Heffernan and Deputy Baxter to pronounce judgment upon it.
And maybe Deputy Magennis.
No, not Deputy Magennis. Deputy Magennis does not meddle with things of which he has not some little elementary knowledge.
I hope not, but I am afraid he does.
Deputy Baxter, of course, wants to sit in judgment upon men who are great European experts in a very special line of work, in which there are very few great specialists. Deputy Hewat put a question on a previous occasion, and Deputy Heffernan raised it also, a very obvious question: Who is to decide that such a scheme is sound? The Minister and Deputy O'Sullivan answered: "It has been subjected to the most vigorous and dispassionate examination that any scheme could be subjected to by the men who, of all the world, are best qualified to inquire into it." Then they say: "Yes, but who is to guarantee these four experts?" I ask them to follow that line a little further. They say: "Set up a committee and let one expert examine another." Deputy Heffernan is to have a summer course in this matter, to end on July 28th, according to his own proposal, and then who is to assure me that Deputy Heffernan and his colleagues have formed a right judgment on the evidence submitted to them? You should set up another committee to investigate that committee's findings, and so on ad infinitum. If I had proposed anything of that kind I would very properly be met with the answer: “Metaphysics and logic.” This is logic run mad.
Deputy Hewat, as a business man, will tell you that you cannot go on probing everything. When I board a tram car I assume that the indications on it are not lies. It professes to be going to Donnybrook; I do not stop the car while I investigate that in order to be convinced that it is really going to Donnybrook. I do not assume that it is a pirate tram that is really going in on the line for some illegitimate purpose, and that by and by I shall find myself in trouble because I travel on it.
It was a car that went to Donnybrook before.
That is the very point. It is because it is a car that went to Donnybrook before that I am on it. I have been on the tram before. That is right. And Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert have been there before too. Switzerland, Sweden and Norway have been there before, the United States has been there before, and it is because they have been there before that they have their water power. Electricity is brought to Berlin over a far longer distance from the source of supply than Limerick is from Dublin. In one of the States of America you have it carried over a distance of 200 miles. As regards the question of alleged leakage, it is pretended that the difference between the 110 million units that is counted on as being used and taken up and paid for and the total production in the partial scheme represents a leakage. That is one of the arguments that I have invariably heard under the old regime when we talked about the utilisation of water power and the development of the Liffey and the Erne which could only give a local supply—look at the tremendous wastage there is in carrying high voltage electricity over a long distance. I made it my business to inquire, and I found from Canadian experts with whom I was able to get in touch that the percentage of wastage in carrying electricity over 160 miles was negligible, that at the highest, and under the most adverse circumstances, it never amounted to above 16 per cent. I made the objection, if I may quote it again, to the leading men in the firm of Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert that we had all this history of Irish water schemes against the Siemens-Schuckert proposal, to wit, that though we had plenty of water we had not water power because the water was on a comparative level. They said, "yes, but engineering in this matter has developed more than you know since the year 1920." It is part of the modern progress that where there is water the engineers can convert it into power. That is not beyond the resources of their skill.
Deputy Hewat said many wise things to-day. I do not mean that at all offensively. That gloss might be put on it, and that is why I hasten to disclaim any such intention. The captain of a sailing vessel used to enter very unpleasant comments on the mate in the log book, but the captain was ill for a day and the mate had charge of the log book. The mate only made one entry in it: "Captain sober to-day." Deputy Hewat, as I say, made several wise observations to-day. One was that the raising of £5,000,000 of money is not an easy matter when money is not plentiful. Money is comparatively plentiful, but if you cannot get the money it is as good as if it were non-existent, he might have added: Therefore the confidence on which he laid great stress is all important. What are Deputies in this House doing to inspire public confidence in this scheme so that the money bags shall be unloosed—the money on deposit—and that hundreds of millions of money shall be turned into the helpfulness that might lead to the development of this scheme? They joined in the chorus which it is so easy to sing, in the old chanson of danger, and the possibilities of non-success. That will not inspire confidence, and that will make the ordinary investor, who is a timid bird at the best, fly away.
I wonder if a great deal of the mistrust and the misgivings expressed in newspaper comments and letters to the editors is not part of our national vice: that because this is in Ireland and that an Irish Government is going to do this thing for Ireland, there must be something wrong with it; that, in fact, it is inferior. Curiously enough, as has often been remarked by foreign critics of our people, while they are boastful and arrogant as regards the country and the race, they are very prone to disparage the individual Irishman. "Can nothing good come out of Nazareth?" is to be modified into "Can nothing good come out of the Free State?" Deputy Gorey said what, after all, is a truism, that if this scheme does not make good it will fail. Well, of course, we are all prepared to face that. No man knows when he leaves his home in the morning that a slate may not fall off a roof and kill him, and if he is not killed he will survive. That is to say, if he is not killed he will be alive.
I said a little bit more than that.
That is so. Deputy Gorey said a thing with which I heartily agree. He said on the drainage question, and of course we know that the draining of land is a subject on which Deputy Gorey is proficient, and I would take his utterances on that as authoritative, that the Irish engineers can judge it. Of course they can. This is the particular field of engineering in which the Irish engineer has long experience, and in like manner the present Swiss engineers, the Norwegian and the Swedish engineers, have in regard to the utilization of water for electrical energy, the same type of experience. When Deputy Gorey says that the Irish engineers can judge the drainage question easily, the implication is there that the principle on which the Government is proceeding here with regard to the Siemens-Schuckert scheme is sound.
On that question of drainage, as I have mentioned it, I might perhaps turn aside for a moment. Deputy Gorey was very persuasive as regards one element of it, and he illustrated the rightness of the claim I make. He said that if the work of drainage, which is incidental to the harnessing of the Shannon, were to turn marshy land into good land, into good profitable ground for grazing or meadowing, that undoubtedly it would be right to charge the farmer something for the improvement. Deputy Gorey has risen far superior to the ordinary limitation of the farmers' representatives in this House as we have known them hitherto. He holds another tenet with regard to which, if he will permit me to say so, he is guilty of a slight confusion of thought. Supposing that something that has to be done in the interests of the exploitation of the Shannon will militate against the interests or the advantage of certain tenants of land, they ought to be compensated.
What I said was that in cases where, say, 300 acres of land were taken away, the people thrown out of it ought to be compensated for removal.
I agree with that. Suppose, on the other hand, that it re-acts advantageously, but that it was not done expressly qua drainage, but qua electricity scheme, should the farmer be asked to pay for it? I think if Deputy Gorey made that case we would agree that the farmer should not, because in that way he is sharing in the common benefit that is distributed by the fact that the Shannon is being utilised for this purpose. You have, therefore, to remember that the Shannon scheme serves a dual purpose. It is primarily an electrification scheme, but secondarily it is a drainage scheme, and in dealing with the question of compensation and the kindred question of charge for advantage, a distinction could easily be drawn. I think I am with Deputy Gorey on that point.
Deputy Hewat attempted to make this a proposal for the nationalisation of electricity, and to divert our attention from the Bill to this bigger and much more controversial question. Deputy Johnson reminded the House recently by reading from the official publications what the article of the Constitution prescribed in regard to natural resources. Deputy Hewat, and those who think with him, would scarcely maintain that that article in the Constitution is a contribution to the doctrinaires who uphold nationalisation. If he holds that, then, of course, he is defining terms differently from the way in which I have been accustomed to see them defined. Deputy Hewat's criticism would become pertinent and effective if, at a later stage, the State proposed to work this thing itself, and I understand there is to be a Bill later dealing with the finance and those financial details, and, therefore, they are not in question at the present moment.
After all, what is the Bill before us but the first stage in giving legislative effect to the resolution that was passed on a previous occasion without a single dissentient? I suggest to Deputies opposing this measure that the battle was lost upon that occasion. There is a great deal being repeated in letters to the editors of newspapers, and represented in this House, which go to show that the official reports of the debates in this House are not read. I think I may use these facts in the debates later on on the Estimates, as regards the price that prevents the public from becoming aware of the explanations that they might have. Deputy Hewat, for example, is grateful to receive an explanation to-day which he received a fortnight ago had he but known it.
In this question of experience, the experts point out a thing which is commonly overlooked. Deputy Figgis, for example, said the other day, what is really in the experts' report, that the amount of water available for power in this country is limited, but he stopped his quotation at that point, and the publicists who have been dealing with the specialists' report, refrained from going on to the very interesting and valuable comment, that whereas in Switzerland and other countries where the waters are derived from the melting of the snows, the water power is available only at one season of the year, to wit, in summer, and water is not available in winter, when the supply is required most, whereas in Ireland it is in the winter that the profuse—all too profuse—supply of water is provided. That is a very important consideration. That and another should always be borne in mind in viewing this Siemens. Schuckert scheme and the Government proposals in regard to it. Anyone who will look at the geologist map of Switzerland or Norway and compare that with a similar type of map of Ireland, will see the very essential difference in the contour in the surface of these countries.
A and B may be two towns in Switzerland which, as the crow flies, or rather, in this case, as the eagle flies, as the crow would not be in the competition, are but a very short distance apart. For the tourist and the voyager on business or pleasure bent it may mean a whole day's journey because of the mountains in between, and the mountain passes that have to be climbed, and the ravines that have to be crossed, and the detours that have to be made, and the result is that the water power in these mountainous countries is developed at local centres and distributed in the immediate neighbourhood. We are not at that disadvantage in having a great unitary scheme in Ireland, because of the fact that the country is comparatively a plain so far as regards the centre and those portions in which the chief cities, the main consumers of electricity, are concerned.
So these are two important respects in which because of the physical configuration and the climatic condition of Ireland, though we seem to be at a disadvantage in this matter, we are very favourably placed.
As the Minister is about to speak on the matter I need not deal with the smaller items.
You leave the smaller matters to him.
Yes. Matters of detail as I read in a eulogy, so happily put in a Scotch paper, are quite easy to the Minister. Deputy Hewat, who is accustomed to deal with business things, does not realise that it is much easier to deal with big questions, generalisations, and principles, than it is to deal with the minutiæ of technical matters, and, therefore, in leaving these to the Minister, so far from aspersing his ability and acquaintance with the case I am bowing to his superior ability and superior knowledge.
When I last addressed the House I said that when I came to reply on this occasion I would deal with certain objections which Deputy Thrift and others have raised. I have been looking through the copies of the official reports on the two occasions on which this matter has been before the House and I have summarised, as far as I can, any objections that had been raised. They seem to me to fall under three heads: (1) The question of embankments—the question of material for embankments, and the question of boring; (2) the question of consumption about which I think the clamour has pretty well died down, and to which I propose to reply very briefly, and (3) the matter of the contract, the question of tenders, the question of open bidding, as Deputy Gorey put it. Outside these, few points have been raised here to-day on the Bill, very few, and they are points which may really be cleared up by simple examination of the Bill.
If I may deal with these in their order, one statement is made that no borings appear to have been taken at Lough Derg and around that phrase you can group all the other phrases with regard to strength of embankments, percolation through or under banks and on the peculiar new point that Deputy Thrift raised to-day that the banks are going simply to be so much dumped earth without any engineering skill to see that they are properly constructed.
With regard to whether borings were taken or whether borings were not taken, it is quite obvious that if along the line of either side of embankment, or the course of a canal, borings had to be taken at every spot, the cost of doing that would simply rule out any big scheme. Decisions have to be taken as to the number of embankments and borings and the suitable spots where these may be taken, and a decision as to what is the best spot will depend largely on geological conditions. Geological conditions are not just as Deputy Heffernan seems to imagine— that somebody would go down and work the matter out for himself and possibly occupy six months in doing it. If there be some part around Lough Derg in regard to which somebody can say there was no particular bore driven, the answer is that no bore there was necessary because some borings, taken in a place where geological conditions of the same type ruled, are sufficient. The question of borings at Lough Derg is magnified considerably. Consider what borings would be required at Lough Derg. What banks are there to be put up around Lough Derg? They are five foot banks at the utmost. I wonder does every farmer take borings every time he is going to put up a five foot bank?
To hold water?
Yes, to hold back two feet of water. Is it considered reasonable that there should be all this pother about not boring around Lough Derg, where the banks are to be put up for the prevention of flooding? Remember that as far as the power scheme is concerned, the level of Lough Derg is not being raised, and so far as the production of power is concerned, no embankments there would be needed. It is really as a precautionary measure that these banks are proposed; it is in order to prevent flooding by reason of holding the level of the lake at its maximum for a longer period of the year than would normally occur. Where the embankments are to be built to any great height, borings have been taken, and I will make that statement without fear of contradiction. Where the embankments are to be of any considerable height, and where there is to be any pressure on them, borings have been taken in order to prove the soil.
We are told that there is a great danger arising from percolation in the area around the Little Brosna. That statement has been quoted. Without admitting the fact, that has been put up regarding the area around the Little Brosna, that water constantly rises there, and it is found at a particular height. I put that fact before an engineer of some reputation, and his reply was that even as the Little Brosna is at the moment, there will be percolation through the banks on to the land, and, when the river sinks, there will be percolation back again. Then, with the backward and forward flow, whatever interstices there are are kept clean and clear, and it allows for that percolation backwards and forwards. Under the new conditions that will not happen. Under the new conditions there can be percolation, if at all, only one way, and that is from the river out. That seems to be a dangerous thing. What is the result of it? If, at the beginning, there is a portion of the banks of the Little Brosna which admits of slight percolation, as long as the material along the bank is of sufficient resistance not to allow itself to be swept away, the muddy water pouring through that brings down a fresh quantity of mud each time, sufficient to clog up the interstices, and eventually to make them watertight, provided there be no backward flow. There will be no backward flow under the new conditions. There will be side drains along the river. If there is any flow at all, it will be one way, and it is a flow that is going to be beneficial to the hardening and the strengthening of the banks, and there will be no flow the other way.
We have heard a lot of apprehension about increased costs owing to some flaw that may be discovered in the material with which the banks are to be built, or that there may be some very permeable material in the riverbed and that the cost of blocking up that and making it impermeable would be enormous. Let me attend to the point of danger first. If there is at any point a permeable stratum in the riverbed or the bank, that will show itself in the water which percolates through into the drains. It cannot come hurriedly, it can be easily observed, and steps can be taken to see that it is rendered impermeable. After all engineering care will be expended on the work in the building up period. Even after that a permeable stratum may be discovered through the medium of the drains. There is some part where there will be a permeable stratum, and the drain in that case acts as a signal and gives the warning, and it is the easiest matter in the world to dump down clay of a particular type so as to stop the percolation.
With regard to the embankments that are to be built, they are a new construction. The method of hydraulic fill, as described in the Siemens-Schuckert report, will be used, and it is the most modern and up-to-date method of constructing embankments. The banks are a new construction, and no engineer with any reputation to keep or lose would pass a bank of the type so frequently spoken of in this House. That is the type of bank that would be a sort of sieve and would let the water through. What does engineering science mean if it does not mean that a type of bank can be constructed that will not let the water through? With regard to material, Deputy Heffernan says in regard to the mixture of sand and clay that you may find at a particular part the sand is not too good a preparation and you will have to get sand and clay from another district. From the way he talks one would imagine that a boat would set out from a part of Germany with clay and there would be a lot of costs incurred. Where better can you get clay than from the river itself? If you have to go from one spot of the river in order to get clay for another spot, where is the enormous cost involved in doing that? The material is ready and available in the river itself. It is available round about the river, and it is a matter of ordinary engineering practice to see the mixture is made so as to withstand water.
Some comment has been made on the fact that further borings seem to have been considered necessary by the experts, as if the Siemens-Schuckert scheme had not been built up on a sufficiency of trial borings. That unfairness to the firm demands an explanation. As the Siemens-Schuckert Report was at first presented, it had not gone in for the safeguarding of land by preventing flooding, such as the experts thought advisable. I alluded on the 3rd April to the correction of the river as between Meelick and Banagher and to the embankments on the river along a certain portion. It was considered they were really not bound up with the power development scheme. The experts thought that further embankments should be constructed at a point where Siemens-Schuckert have not tendered for the construction of embankments. The experts found a new stretch as far as embankments are concerned, directed new borings, and the borings have been made and they are satisfactory. No change is indicated by anything that has happened since the experts' report was written.
With regard to the banks, these are now the embankments from Portumna to Banagher. You may put it roughly that way. There is a tremendous amount of apprehension over these embankments, because they depend on borings which had not previously been taken and that were ordered later by the experts. Therefore, there is an apprehension cast over the whole scheme. If that is going to be the way the scheme is to be dealt with, there is a ready answer to it. These embankments from Portumna to Banagher are not really necessary for the purpose of the scheme, nor are they in equity bound up with the scheme.
If there is going to be so much apprehension about these slight embankments to prevent slight flooding—as Deputy Gorey has said he is not so sure that this casual flooding is a matter to be regarded as a great calamity, even for the people concerned—then we may leave these banks and not build them up. Better leave them alone. If there is to be apprehension about a small two foot bank to prevent a slight overflow of water, then we will wipe it off on the spot, because it is not necessary to the scheme. It is an ameliorative thing, an adjunct to the scheme, an addition to the cost, and not in any way bound up with the scheme.
Deputy Thrift raised one or two other points in regard to the embankment, with which I will deal when he is present. A further point has been made that no charge appears to be included in the schedule of costs for the maintenance of the banks. I think I referred to that in previously speaking, and if the Deputy who was agitated about that matter turns to page 154 of the Siemens-Schuckert Report, par. 4, he will find that there is a definite provision for it. It is quite clear to me at all events that there is a most adequate provision made for the maintenance of these embankments.
The argument as to sabotage has been used, and I think effectively answered by Deputy O'Sullivan.
Is the Minister correct in his reference to page 154?
On page 154 there is an item given in paragraph 4 as to repairs underground and buildings. In a further column there is a reference to the power station. The power station, when the costs here are considered, means not merely the erection of the power station itself, but the works down to the power station. That is the way the costings are divided.
I do not intend to deal with this question of sabotage. I do not believe there is any Deputy outside one in the House who grounds any argument on that. If men are going to break out and ruin a thing provided for the benefit of the country, if they are capable of doing it, they will attempt it, but that we should hold our hands and refuse to go on with any developments because we render ourselves to some extent more vulnerable, if we are to hold our hands on these grounds, then we paralyse all developments in the future. Comment has been made with regard to consumption by the same Deputy, and he said that the actual units consumed in the country at the moment did not exceed forty million; there are not forty million units sold. In a speech on the Second Reading or on the amendment, that was even reduced somewhat further—to about one-third of the 110 million units which are to be sold. I take it it is roughly the same thing. My information is that in Dublin, Cork, and Limerick there were actually sold last year 41½ million units. If you take the rest of the country, and I take this as a rough figure, we find that there were about 3½ million units sold. If you take a town like Dundalk, and understand what is the consumption there, you will see how very low that figure is for the country. Say 45 million units were sold. We are now told that if this 110 million units consumption is to be reached, our present consumption must be trebled. We want to put it in this form. Suppose 45 million units were sold last year, of which very little was used for heating purposes, because the cost of heating units is prohibitive at the moment, we have to sell 110 million units before the scheme is economically sound, of which 20 million units are to be sold for heating at .35 of 1d. If we sell none for heating, and if we drop the revenue for that out of the estimate, we are short about £30,000 of our complete return. Let us be short of that £30,000 of the complete return and then we have to sell 90 million units. The sale at present is 45 millions, so that far from the required consumption being treble the amount of the present consumption it is merely double it. That is, in fact, all I propose to say on the point of consumption. We have to aim at the double consumption. I have already given figures quoting from other countries, and I do not wish to go into them again.
Let us take another attitude. Instead of doubling your units, supposing you have the units sold as at the moment and do not advance a single unit and we charge a double price. Under the scheme in that way you would get a return and we can double the price under the scheme in Dublin, Cork and Limerick and other places and still be underselling on the price at which people are getting it at the moment. Without a single addition, without a solitary unit extra being sold, we would be still selling at a price under what electricity is being sold for at the moment. The scheme would at this moment be successful minus the £30,000 for heating.
Is the Minister quite sure that without the doubling of the present consumption he will be able to undersell on the present price of electricity?
Decidedly; I am ready to have that question examined in full detail. There may be one exemption. I believe in some place in the South of Ireland, where the quantity of electricity sold is small, it may be somewhat lower. The number of units sold is inconsiderable in connection with the amount estimated under this scheme.
Is the Minister taking into consideration the large amount of electricity sold at a very small figure of a penny at the moment?
I am taking all the estimates and all the statements I can get backed by figures, not merely based on figures raised in the House, but estimates I got from published accounts and everything of that nature, and I believe that statement can bear examination and stand the test of any examination, that under the scheme we can double prices and we can undersell on existing supplies.
I would not like that statement to pass without question, and I just mark a note of interrogation here on that.
In some other remarks I am going to make I want to found myself very definitely on one thing that Deputy Johnson said here on 3rd April. He made a comparison, when talk was about, of the lack of specification and detailed plans, with the case of the State starting a new telegraph service and he indicated what he thought would be the Deputies' duty in that matter. He said they would examine generally the cost and the kind of service estimated to be given and general points like that and the rest would be left to expert management. I just want to take that point of the telegraph service. Supposing we were extending the present telegraph system in a rather big way I wonder would Deputies want to bring under the notice of the House all these questions about insulators and poles and would Deputy Heffernan raise the argument that the poles were of larch whereas the climate really necessitated pine poles? Would we have people in this House questioning matters such as voltage and all the rest? If the House had been sitting at the time the contract for the Mallow Bridge was entered into, I wonder would it refuse to pass the contract until it had seen the tenders and known all the details of the plans and had all the specifications in regard to it?
And all the objections to it.
We are going to discuss the establishment of a beet sugar factory one of these days and will Deputies then raise questions regarding the type of machinery to be used?
And where the factory is to be.
That will be about the biggest matter for discussion. If there had been a possibility of having the power-house elsewhere than at Limerick I am sure we would have rival cities. Will details of the whole internal apparatus to be erected in the factory be called for by the House and will the House refuse to pass them?
Is there any analogy between the establishment of a sugar beet factory and a national scheme of electrification?
That is a sweet debating point.
There is an absence of analogy if you like, but it tells on the side of the Shannon scheme, as a beet factory is a small proposition which does not require the same technical knowledge as this scheme requires.
You ought to have two.
No, sugar factories.
I am making an analogy. I base myself on Deputy Johnson's analogy that these are comparable as being public services requiring technical skill and knowledge to discuss, and we cannot pretend to that here. We must found ourselves on the best information procurable, and it has been got. In so far as that expert opinion had to be confirmed by Irish opinion, the expert Irish engineers whom I have got about me are confirming and have confirmed it. Deputy Johnson raised the point that even he himself was quite sure that these embankments were as safe as could be required, and if they were not they could be made so. People have taken excerpts from this report, and the damaging excerpts, or those which have been made to appear as damaging, have been given prominence. I want to give this perspective. I am going to quote from pages 19, 20 and 21 of the experts' report, and I am leaving out certain phrases which I hold are safeguarding phrases. On page 19, the last paragraph states "the embankments necessary for storage on the three lakes, and on the shores of the Shannon between Lough Ree and Lough Derg can, it is anticipated, be carried out without any great technical difficulties." It later refers to the extra cost referred to for the Siemens-Schuckert partial developments, which are solely a result of the experts' endeavours to give greater protection to the shores. That is to say, to prevent flooding and to carry out the one end of the drainage problem to which I previously referred. On page 20, paragraph 1, it is stated: "The materials referred to are capable of resisting the pressure of the embankments." I am leaving out the phrase that follows, as I want to get the general view. Paragraph 2 deals with the weir and canal inlet at O'Brien's Bridge, and it says: "It follows that the weir as well as canal inlet construction can be constructed on rock."
Paragraph 3 deals with the head race and says: "Thus it is inevitable that the head race must be cut in part through rock. At the same time it is later pointed out by what means the experts have reduced as far as possible the quantity of rock to be removed. The material available does not appear unsuitable for embankment, as it is water-tight." Paragraph 4 deals with the water surge-tower and turbine-house, and says: "This fact makes it possible to build the supporting walls of the surge-house, as also to lay the foundations of the turbine-house on sound rock." Paragraph 5, tail water canal: "There results the necessity of blasting the whole tail race out of rock." Paragraph 6: "The stretch of the Shannon from the mouth of the tail water canal to Sarsfield Bridge: a lowering of the sole of the river must here be carried out in so far as it comes in question mainly through blasting rock." Get that general picture. It is anticipated that the embankments can be carried out without any great technical difficulty. All the materials are capable of resisting the pressure. The tail race must be cut through rock, the surge-tower founded on rock, and the further stretch of the Shannon must be blasted through rock. I do not know that one can get a better picture or better view of a completely sound construction than these phrases give. Other phrases have been used in conjunction with them. The sand seems to be somewhat too fine, "care must be taken that an intimate mixture of sand and clay is used for the embankment, so that no whole portion of the embankment will consist of fine sand." And later: "The material available does not appear unsuitable for embankment, as it is water-tight. On the other hand, it is not resisting enough to withstand the attack of flowing water; therefore, special protection is judged necessary for the bottom of the canal." On that point Deputy Thrift has founded a considerable amount of his argument. I am going to refer to it later in greater detail. That is the general picture I put up in confirmation of Deputy Johnson's remarks that the embankments are either perfectly sound or can be made as perfectly sound as any requirements need them to be. Deputy Johnson raised another point about which I found a certain conflict already announced. He said that he, personally, would prefer that there should be a flat rate price struck all over the country. This will be a matter for the Organisation Bill later. I had no particular view on this matter when I started. If anything, I thought that as Dublin will be the largest customer, and as the cost of bringing power over the 100 k.w. to Dublin could be set against it, Dublin could get the advantage of the cheap price. I have been impressed by the fact that business men in Dublin and business men here say that it does not matter whether you get power here at a halfpenny, a penny, or three-halfpence. On that I think there is a tremendous case made out immediately to charge Dublin the flat rate, and give it all over the country, and let it be .8. If Dublin business men and captains of industry do not appreciate the value of cheap power, we will make it cheap where it can be appreciated.
That is only a debating retort.
It has been used here for debating purposes, that a penny or a halfpenny does not make a difference.
I do not think that that point has been made.
The Deputy says that that point was not made in the House. I cannot quote the exact phrase, but certainly the atmosphere of that phrase has been about all the discussions—that it does not matter. Let me take it from a member of the association of which Deputy Hewat has announced he is a member. The Chief Engineer in Dublin writes:—"The suggestion that cheap power will create industries is absolutely wrong. The cost of power in nearly all industries is quite a minor item; a penny a unit on the cost of electricity will never start or stop any industry, and anyone with an elementary knowledge of the subject knows that that is so." That, apparently, is not merely written but is acted upon, and that, I suppose, would be a justification for the prohibitive charges made in Dublin for electricity and the peculiar tariff policy which must flow from the man who says that cheap power does not matter in industry. That is the mentality of the person who runs electricity in Dublin. If that is going to be the view of the Dublin business men and of Dublin industrialists—that it does not matter —very well; but the difference will matter in the country, and immediately the case has been made for a flat rate.
We accept that.
Of course I do not accept that.
Deputy Gorey raised the point also about the gravel, clay and sand, and said that these embankments should be built either on sound land or on sound rock. They will be built upon what competent engineers pass as a sound foundation.
That was in the previous debate.
Yes; on the 3rd April. The Deputy made that remark, quite a sound remark, that no embankment should be built on sand or gravel.
Nor did I expect that it would.
The Deputy agrees with my answer that competent engineers will decide on what foundations the embankments will be raised. Deputy Gorey was clear on another point which should be stressed here. I am quoting from memory, but I think it will be found that my quotation is accurate. Referring to the Shannon scheme, he said: "There is no chance for electricity for the country districts except through the Shannon scheme. If you start with the Liffey, or with any local schemes, the country districts may bid good-bye for a couple of generations to the possibility of getting an electricity supply." The Shannon scheme is the only scheme that will give them a chance, and whether that chance will be availed of lies with themselves. The question of the White Paper and contracts has been raised again to-day by Deputy Hewat. I was looking over certain remarks made by Deputy Good, and I find that I had not sufficiently realised that he was making an argument, which he probably was. I would not have thought that the argument could have been made, only that recently I heard the same argument put by a deputation which came to me. As there may be others who have gathered the same impression, very possibly from lax words of mine, it is better to disabuse them of the wrong idea. Deputy Good referred to the White Paper as a contract. On one side, he said, you have that proposal put forward, and on the other side there is the acceptance, and that forms in itself a definite contract. I am not going to argue whether or not that is a contract binding the State. I stick to the description that it is an agreement for a contract, but I found myself astonished that the interpretation had been put on my words that there would be no further contract beneath and within the White Paper. In other words, we would proceed on the lines of the White Paper to deal with the five millions of money. That is not so. Engineers and lawyers will be engaged on the question of the contract. It will be drawn up and signed in the ordinary way, and it will be done outside the precincts of this House. It is well to affirm that the foundation of it will lay within the White Paper.
It is the basis of the contract.
Yes. I thought it possible, as the point had been put to me by a deputation, that I might have misinterpreted Deputy Good the last day, and that is why I did not advert to that point then. I hope it is clear now that any contract made will be made in the ordinary legal binding form within the White Paper, and the White Paper is the only thing within which we will work. It contains all the safeguards, but it is not the only thing on which we are going to work. The question of market prices has been raised. The form of this White Paper, if examined by Deputies, will be found to be the proposals put by the Department of Industry and Commerce in the mouth of the Siemens-Schuckert people as their proposals, and the Government proposals follow underneath in nearly every case, and then a letter from the Siemens-Schuckert firm. Instead of the first three pages forming the contract, what it really is is this: There was first an offer for a contract, then there was a counter offer by the Government, and an acceptance of that by Siemens-Schuckert. That counter offer is not so much Siemens' offer, as modifications in every case beneath their proposals. The letter from Siemens states:—
"We accept the complete contents of this letter, including all its interpretations and modifications of our proposals as the basis of our proceeding with the scheme."
That is really the White Paper. If the details of that are to be examined as to how far a competitive tender is essential, I make again here the statement I have previously made, that if an examination is made into contracts for civil engineering works since the war, a million pounds and upwards, in every case—certainly in the majority of cases—will those be found entered into without competitive tenders. The general facing up to that situation generally is that appeal has to be made to a financial house. Before that appeal is made the financial house must know that a contractor of repute is dealing with the work. In every case you have contractors as general contractors, established before the funds are given. These contractors generally are limited by restrictive clauses such as we have with regard to cheques. That is the normal form for a contract by a technical engineering company.
If you said it was sometimes adopted it would be more accurate.
Deputy Good is coming nearer to me. I thought he argued that competitive tender is the only way.
If you want to ensure getting the lowest price it is the only way.
Of sometimes getting the biggest stick.
I want to get this question of open tenders away from the Shannon scheme, the White Paper, German monopoly, and all the hysteria. I want to judge of business moralities and business ethics from this proposition. Is it considered sound that you should get a contractor to enter into a work which everybody else has derided and looked upon as impossible? You get that firm to bring the matter along almost to achievement, and in order to get the thing as binding as possible you say, "You must present binding estimates, and a binding schedule of prices," and when that firm has expended all its experience and brains in bringing this thing along you say then to that firm, "We must get other tenders." Is it business morality to make a contractor give you binding estimates, and then throw over his plans, specifications and prices, so that other people might be able to undercut? Would that be accepted as a general principle in business in this country?
I say, subsequent to entering into this contract you can get competitive tenders.
We believe that equivalent tenders to what could be got by competition, or the position that could be achieved by open competition, could be achieved under these proposals.
No; once the order is given to one contractor it would be unfair and impracticable to ask for competitive tenders subsequently.
I agree that it would be quite futile, to say to an outside firm: "We have contracted with a firm to do this job, and so that we might see whether we could get it done at a lower price, will you tender?" That would be absurd. That could not be done. I make the further statement with regard to engineering matters and prices, that if you go to an individual in any firm concerned with costing and prices, without leaving his room that individual could tell you the ruling prices in the country concerned for any item you might put up to him. Remember I do not say that under this system we can get, nor would I think it wise to beat Siemens-Schuckert down to the price at which another firm might do a particular portion of the work simply to undercut them. I do not think it would be fair. I do not say we will achieve that. What we will achieve is that we will get work done in our own phrase: "at prices not higher than those at which similar material of first-rate quality could at the time be obtained from any reputable firm in any part of the world." If that is the condition I think State interests have been definitely looked after.
As I pointed out, that is not a price for work at all; it is only a price for material.
Yes, but there are other clauses which deal with that. I am only quoting from one clause. There is a similar phrase with regard to clause 12.
in the Chair.
(resuming): I have really now only to deal with certain criticisms or difficulties which Deputy Thrift forecasted on the last occasion and to which I should like to give some answering comment. I do not think there is much between the Deputy and myself on one point which he made in considerable detail, in which he worked out that on the fullest development there was not, as there seemed to be stated in the experts' report, a constant energy supplied of 400,000,000 units but only, as the Deputy worked it out, 260,000,000 units. I pointed out that the experts really had come to much the same conclusion. Although the difference may be big, relative to the whole scheme, in the way the figures are worked out, there is really nothing in it. The experts said 275,000,000 instead of 400,000,000, where the Deputy worked out 260,000,000. I am leaving that.
The Deputy has spoken of what was meant by the average year and, inasmuch as there may be a confusion there with regard to the partial development scheme, I would like to deal with it. The Deputy's comment was that you could depend upon getting a certain number of units of energy. He was dealing mainly with complete development. I want to get off that plane altogether. I want to get to the partial development stage. His statement was that the average year in this respect does not mean at all the year that you may expect, that the average year means what you would get year in and year out. For partial development purposes and the question of the 153,000,000 units it does not mean year in and year out. It means if every year were 1905, you would have that 153,000,000 constantly, and 1905 was the driest year over a thirty-year period. Although I have not examined it closely, I think the Deputy may be right in speaking of the average year as what you can get year in and year out, and you might be baulked of your expectations when you came to a very dry year—I think he is right in that when he speaks of fullest development. But, as far as partial development is concerned, production does not depend upon the average year, that is, a normal year taken out over a period of, say twelve. It sets out to meet 1905 conditions.
On re-reading the debate, I find that Deputy Thrift—if he will pardon the expression—was somewhat unfair to the scheme. He says on column 1951:
I say that you have only to read this report with some comparatively small technical knowledge and you will see—over and over again you will come across a place—where the experts in their report say they want further information.
He went on to elevate certain concrete cases, certain places in which they did ask for it. These I will refer to in detail. But, if the Deputy meant the Dáil to infer that these are only a few examples taken from a multitude he could produce, I think that is not fair, because he did really exhaust, or very nearly exhausted, the occasions on which the experts had said that certain other information would be required.
I do not think I meant to convey that there were very much more than I referred to. If my language was misleading I am sorry.
I think that explanation suffices. I was afraid it might be interpreted as a multitude of instances, of which he gave two or three. Let me take some of these. In the same column (1951) Deputy Thrift is indicated as reading certain passages as follows:—
At all other places, when peat was at all present, it was in very small quantities. From this it follows that the construction of embankments on the Shannon River between Lough Derg and Lough Rea, in all probability, should cause no difficulty.
Therefore I do not see that there is very much said derogatory to the scheme, because the preamble to that was that a particular boring did reveal peat, but that was a boring somewhere in Lough Rea, with which we are not concerned at present. Then it continued:
At all other places, where peat was at all present, it was in very small quantities.
My point was that the borings had not been as yet sufficiently numerous to enable the experts to see more than that. We want a little certainty in this matter.
If the Deputy examines exactly that paragraph on page 16, from which he quoted, he will see that leaving out one boring—Bore-Hole No. 6, between Athlone and the river Suck, which being above Banagher is beyond the region of our embankment and is not in our consideration at the moment—anything else with regard to these borings where peat was said to have been found, even in small quantities—remember again what that refers to; it refers to this four or five foot embankment to prevent flooding; it is not a question of the stretch between Killaloe and O'Brien's-Bridge where a leakage or defect may cause considerable damage and flooding; the only question is that the flooding would not be completely stopped. There would be some little flooding. Even there it says:—
From this it follows that the construction of embankments on the Shannon river between Lough Derg and Lough Rea in all probability should cause no difficulties.
Any borings that the engineers appointed under the scheme have been able to supervise have shown difinitely that anything that has to be done is a matter that ordinary engineering experience and skill can meet and overcome.
I said previously that another reaction of this may be that if we find this apprehension about embankments, which are ameliorative and not necessarily bound up with this scheme, is going to cause such a flood of suspicion to be thrown on the scheme, we will take the radical method of not building these so-called weak embankments. We will let conditions remain as they are, and pay. I think no engineer getting that phrase and considering it in its circumstances could fancy that there was any danger or anything to be apprehended that could not be met in the ordinary engineering way.
In column 1952, Deputy Thrift read a quotation which started:—
Thus the material for the embankment can be got by dredging, but the experts would nevertheless point out that the choice of the spot for dredging is one for particular care and will require further borings.
I would like to advert to that. It is a small point, but I think I can lay emphasis on it for this reason, that it rules other criticisms of the same sort. What does that mean if you analyse it? It means that the natural conditions revealed by the borings were not sufficient in themselves and that something of man's skill would have to be added to nature. But it is nothing that is beyond man's skill to do. It is only a matter that the natural conditions do not mean that you can there and then simply proceed and that there was no artifice to be brought in. If we are to take the arguments founded on that phrase and work them out to a logical conclusion it would mean that you must bore and deviate the course of your river or canal along the route where borings show that the natural conditions without an artifice are perfect. It simply means that nature itself has not done all that is required and that something must be added. That something can be and will be added. It is exactly the same thing as if they had said: "Here some particular type of concrete slab is necessary; you must see that the cement is up to the proper specification and properly mixed." It really comes to no more than that. As I explained, in Deputy Thrift's absence, I really believe it was due to the fact that I impressed these people with the fact that this had to be presented in much greater detail, not for the engineers but for the public who had to judge it. The result has been other than I anticipated. The mass of detail given has rather led to this sort of phrase being emphasised and made out to be a weakness of the scheme. On page 14 of the experts' report, attention is called to such matters as I spoke of: cement, etc. It says:—
Attention must be paid to ensure, however, the use only of the very best quality of cement.
No one would argue from that that the best quality cannot be got or will not be employed. Neither should you argue from that that the choice of the spot for dredging will not be looked to with particular care. It is but a simple warning. It has been magnified into a danger signal, but it is a matter of which the engineers can take care. Deputy Professor Thrift got to a more dangerous point at the bottom of that column, continuing on to the next. He referred to page 20 of the experts' report, where they stated:—
The material available does not appear unsuitable for embankments, as it is water-tight. On the other hand it is not resisting enough to withstand the attack of flowing water; therefore, special protection is judged necessary for the bottom of the canal, as also for the slopes where they do not lie in rock.
Deputy Thrift made the comment:—
I do not think, however, it is completely dealt with in the constructional section; there is certainly nothing definite in that connection. I am only giving my opinion.
I want Deputy Thrift to turn to page 37 of the experts' report. In the third complete paragraph of that page he may read:—
In the plan there is no provision for any particular coating of the bed of the canal and its slopes. In consideration of the waves which will be created in the canal by barges and the swell which will arise if there is a sudden interruption of the turbines in consequence of a short circuit, the experts consider that it is essential to coat the upper part of the slopes on which water surface variations will occur with concrete plates. Likewise, provision should be made for some protection for the deep-lying slopes and bed of the canal where they do not lie in rock, on account of the poor resisting nature of the soil through which the canal passes. This would be possible by introducing a layer of broken stones, about 40 centimetres deep, which could be procured from the excavated material of the head and tail race.
If he turns further to page 82, section 4, he will see under the heading of "Additional Costs," 1,808,000 shillings, with the statement: "The canal banks and bed are to be protected by concrete plates or gravel." So that not merely have the experts alluded to that and pointed out what should be done but they have changed the costs so as to allow it to be done. It must be obvious to Deputies that experts would not put in that figure as an estimate. It has to be based on something. It is based on this: what the Siemens-Schuckert firm propose to do in order to meet that warning of the experts:—
The bottom (of the canal) and the embankments are provided up to ordinate plus 30.90m with a 40 cm. thick layer of ballast as far as the cross section is not situated in the rock. Above the lowest level of the water up to the crown of the embankment a slope of 1:2 is planned which, from the ordinate plus 30.90 up to plus 36.30 or from 60 cm. below the deepest up to 60 cm. above the highest service water level is covered with a concrete layer of 12 cm. thickness as a protection against the waves.
That is the protection they say they are going to put in, which is estimated to cost an additional amount of 1,808,000 shillings, in answer to that indication of the experts. I go into some detail in that to show that where the experts have given warnings the warnings have been met and provision made and costs changed to meet them.
Is it not right to think that concrete defence will be a defence against erosion and not against pressure?
It is a defence against what the experts indicated here. I do not want to tire the House by reading all that led up to that. They will find there is a perambulatory series of phrases to the statement that such protection is rendered necessary. That protection is further alluded to on page 37 and it is estimated for on page 82. The estimate is based on that very detailed indication by Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert of what is going to be done. Professor Thrift in column 1953 spoke of this phrase so often quoted: "mixture of clay, sand and gravel," and said:
I thought the Deputy (Deputy Johnson) was objecting as I am to the very vague way in which approval is given to these embankments. The sand appears to be somewhat too fine.
He comments on that:
That is a very vague statement indeed.
Again I base that remark upon my explanation of what was required for the purpose of judgment in the country. It seems to me unnecessary and I believe that if the experts were producing that document, understanding that it had to be handed over to engineers to carry out the work, they would not have used the phrase they did. They would have assumed that the engineers would see that the mixture was made properly. I think that statement was a result of my repeated emphasis to them that the scheme had to be much more detailed than if handed over to engineers for carrying out. Deputy Thrift went on:—
I do not want to go into technical matters but going through the report makes me come to the conclusion over and over again that the experts really wanted more time to consider this scheme and is not that quite natural.
Further, in column 1954, he said:—
Can one wonder if one comes across in their report instances from which it is perfectly obvious that they have been pressed for time?
That I must deny. Professor Rohn and Professor E. Meyer had worked out the schedule of time. If there were pressure of time it was due to their other professional engagements. I refrained from saying to them that the report must be presented in a certain time. If they had asked for time to let the report hang over until certain examination work of theirs was completed it would be granted, and they knew that quite well. I do not think it is right to say that in the report there are instances from which it is obvious that they had been pressed for time or wanted more time. One phrase quoted, "in the time at our disposal," I have explained. That applies to supply and consumption. I hold that is a matter for twelve months' consideration. No one could have expected them, unless they had come from their universities and lived here over the period to give consideration to that point. As far as engineering details are concerned I do not think there is an indication anywhere that they were pressed for time, and no complaint was made to me that further time was required.
I am glad indeed to accept the Minister's explanation and to be told my conclusion was wrong. I think it is important that he should be able to make that statement, that there was no pressure of time on the experts.
Deputy Thrift went on to deal with the question of drainage in columns 1955 and 1956. I am not quite clear that I got the Deputy's full admission on the night of the 4th April that I completely answered him, but I would like to emphasise that drainage point, because it has a bearing outside what Deputy Thrift said. Deputy Thrift made this point, that the nature of the land and of the soil around depended in the past upon the fact that the soil was able to drain into the river, and that there was going to be a completely new set of conditions established by this scheme; that your embankments would prevent the lands around draining into the river, and that in consequence the land might become very boggy and useless.
I gave an explanation already in respect of that, which I want to repeat and I want to emphasise one point of it, which is essential to having the drainage aspect thoroughly understood. Under the old conditions, you had a river and land beside it. That river sometimes flowed over into the land and sometimes the land drained back into the river. It all depended upon the river and the river was uncontrolled. Perhaps Deputies would now imagine that river narrowed to the size of a drain but not a drain of such a size as not to be able to hold whatever water would come back from the land to it. If they can imagine the river narrowed to that point, surely the conditions are the same as before. Instead of the river narrowed to a drain, you have in the future a river plus a drain, the land draining into a side-drain and river the liaison between side-drain and river being effected by means of a pump. You have, at least, no worse condition set up and you have improved the position in this way, that whereas previously you had an uncontrolled river, on the height of which depended whether the land would drain into the river or the river drain into the land, under the new conditions you have a drain, the level of which is always under control, because the level of it is kept at a certain height by the operation of this automatic pump, so that your conditions instead of being worse are really better. Instead of having a river alone, plus land, you have the land draining into this side-drain, with the side-drain being pumped into the river and the level of the river being under control.
Deputy Gorey made a point to-day: it is what the experts call the "fundamental point" of a complete drainage system. It does not apply to thorough drainage—what the farmer is expected to do himself. But at all events the foundation of a drainage system is laid there. You have your river and your side-drain, the side-drain being discharged by pumping into the river. It is for the landowners to see that they take advantage of the facilities thus provided for them. The State will not enter into the question of a thorough drainage system. That is for the farmer to do himself. But the State, in this scheme, has certainly laid the foundation for the solution of the drainage problem.
I have gone into Deputy Thrift's arguments in some detail and I want to summarise them. I think he will admit that, in so far as drainage was concerned, he had not appreciated the fundamental point to which I have alluded; that he had neglected or overlooked that back-drain and that whatever point he made about drainage is fully and completely met.
I had not overlooked it.
I would like to have the Deputy's assurance that that explanation and that emphasis of the point relieve his fears as to the changed nature of the land in the neighbourhood. If he has any other argument to put forward I will see if I can meet it. When the Deputy said, talking about the special protection judged necessary for the bottom of the canal, "I do not think it is completely dealt with in the constructional section," I do not think he had before him the two pages I referred to—page 37 of the experts' report, and page 82— where the changed costings are given, showing that not only had the point been dealt with in the constructional section but that it had also been dealt with in the costings.
I had that to a certain extent before me, but I regarded those provisions merely as service provisions to prevent erosion of the bank by the waves set up, and that they would not really add much to the strength of the embankment. I may have misinterpreted the report in that respect.
That point as to erosion might have been the point before the experts when they gave that warning, but in so far as that was the basis of their warning it has been adverted to and precautions have been taken. If now we are getting back to the old question. "Can the canal be so built as to be impervious?" I have my other response to that. This is a new construction. It is the easiest matter in the world to get impermeable stratum. The material is present in the excavation for it; there is no great addition in cost or energy, and there is nothing insuperable so far as skill is concerned.
A point was raised on Tuesday night regarding the losses on transmission. Deputy Figgis founded a rather long argument upon that. I am quoting Deputy Figgis on the night of the 5th May:—
The reason for that is that transmission losses are part of the heaviest wastage of any water-power, hydroelectric scheme, whether it be the Shannon or anywhere else.
Later he said:—
It is evident that waste will occur, because the documents that have already been given are quite sufficient on their face to show that the wastage in transmission amounts to one-third of the whole.
Later on he said:—
I am putting before the Dáil... not to start with the large central scheme which compels you to go in for long transmission lines, heavy wastage and, at a later stage, to find it will be necessary to develop the local powers.
That means, I take it, that heavy wastage is incidental to and bound up with long-distance transmission, and that the way to avoid it is to have local stations and no lengthy transmission. First of all, it is wrong to say that 30 per cent. is the wastage on transmission—that is to say, on the transmission between Limerick and Dublin on the 100 k.w. lines. The loss there is estimated by Professor Borgquist as being between five per cent. and seven per cent.— 153,000,000 units at one end and 145,000,000 units at the other end. From that 145,000,000 units you arrive at a sales amount of 110,000,000. That is to say, there is a loss—a big loss— in local transformation and in distribution, but to say that there is any great loss on long-distance transmission is absurd, and is shown to be absurd by the figures I have given. You have 153,000,000 units at Limerick, and you have 145,000,000 units at Dublin. That works out round about five per cent. I am not emphasising the five per cent. figure. It may be between five and seven per cent., but either figure will serve my purpose. It certainly is not 30 per cent. There is, then, the added loss on local transformation and distribution which operates at the moment. The official returns for last year show that for lighting and power supplied Dublin, Rathmines, Pembroke, Cork and Limerick, the units generated were 30,000,000, and the units sold were about 25,000,000, a loss on local undertakings of 20 per cent. That is present at the moment, and that will remain under the Shannon scheme, but to say that long-distance transmission is responsible for it is altogether absurd.
While the Minister is on that point I should like some information on one matter. I do not think that Deputy Figgis's figures were correct. Can the Minister say whether this would be a more correct statement as to the figures: the experts seem to think that the scheme takes 83 per cent. efficiency at the station. The actual waste normal figure that is taken is 65 per cent. at the actual busbars of the distributing station. Would it be right to say that the difference between 83 per cent. and 65 per cent. was due to two losses, loss at the station and transmission busbars and the loss from the busbars to the distributing stations?
There will be losses under both these heads, but I have not details, and I cannot give them, as to what the amount will be. Undoubtedly there will be loss. I do not suppose that Deputy Thrift is supporting Deputy Figgis's contention.
Is 30 per cent right, that is, from the generating station to the distributing stations?
To the consumer, and that is a five or seven per cent. loss on long-distance transmission, plus the loss of electricity that is already generated.
But it is increased by the increased distance it goes.
It is increased by the five per cent.
Can the Minister say from experience if there is any decreasing loss in transmission as the years go by through the adoption of new methods?
I speak subject definitely to correction, but I think it is only within very recent times that long-distance transmission has become really possible. The losses on long-distance transmission used to be enormous. I think it is quite within modern times that the loss has become so small that it is economical to transmit over long distances.
Of course if we look into the future we will get into difficulties, because ten years hence we do not know what the cost of producing will be. It may be exceedingly small.
I think the Minister would have to alter the whole system of voltage transmission to diminish the losses. I think he will find that these two figures represent the combined losses in the station itself and in transmission, that is, the difference between the 83 and the 65.
That is a point I cannot argue on at the moment. I might make this reasoning, that because you estimate that 30 per cent. loss is due to long-distance transmission, when it is not, from that you argue not from one centralised station but a series of small power plants——
The Minister is certainly right in that.
Deputy Figgis said that the experts had not been asked to consider the main economic layout, that they could not have done it in the time, and that in fact they had not been asked to do it. I want to refer Deputies to pages 112 and 116 of this report. On page 112 it is said:
In about twenty years' time the Shannon works, and also the Liffey plant will, no doubt, be completely constructed, and will be connected with one another, as also possibly with other individual steam plants; a uniform sound supply of electricity for the Irish Free State being insured by this means. Therefore, there is in reality only one question: how should the successive stages of this development take place; which river should be developed first?
On that their answer is definitely uncompromising: it is definitely in favour of the Shannon. Page 116 gives one paragraph to this whole question which Deputy Figgis says was neglected:—
Electrical energy can in the main be won in two ways in Ireland, either through numerous small local stations, each striving independently to deal with local conditions as well as possible, or through one or more concentrated large plants which, with a widespread transmission system, distribute electricity over the whole country. Such concentrated plants are to be preferred, as they permit of a much better compensating system in the requirements of electrical energy, and allow current to be supplied at lower prices. The experts advise in favour of the immediate erection of one centralised station, capable of extension when necessary to the full extent of the available power, and which is eventually to be combined with one or more additional large power stations.
I think that that is conclusive on the point that Deputy Figgis raised. Deputy Figgis also spoke of the enormous expenditure which the State was facing in this—£5,200,000, or, if you exclude the 15 per cent. for interest during the time that the plant is not revenue-producing, somewhere about four and a-half million pounds. I should like to argue, in answer, in this way: The works are to go on over a period of three years; that four and a-half million pounds will be expended over the three and a-half years' period. If you take the trade returns for 1924 you will see that the imports of coal were £4,170,000 worth, and the imports of refined oils, other than motor spirit, exceeded in value £600,000. We therefore imported in one year coal and oil for power, heating, and lighting purposes to the value of £4,800,000, and these are perishable commodities. The State is asked to shudder when it faces up to an expenditure over three years of something less than what we spend in one year on these perishable things for light and heat. Deputy Thrift referred to-day to the question of banks and the height of the banks. I have been since informed that if the Deputy takes up an engineering handbook he will find a list of embankments up to 200 feet high—embankments made on this same hydraulic process, and he raises the bogie that an embankment of 37 feet, which is, I think, the highest we touch in this scheme, is something impossible, or something not very definitely heard of—well, it is definitely a bogie.
I want to refer very briefly to a matter which I think is of public importance in this regard. We have a great scheme before us, a scheme that should be considered on its merits, a scheme on which experts judgment has been passed and on which expert judgment has proved favourable, and we have the reaction of the daily Press of this country. Take one of the daily papers, the "Independent." Its attitude has been —"proceed with caution"; caution is to be the key-note with regard to this enterprise. I was rather interested in reading in the same paper on the 15th of this month a small editorial headed "A Great Enterprise."
The 15th of this month?
Last month, I beg your pardon.
I knew that the Minister was a prophet, but I did not know he was a prophet in such detail.
The article says:
One of the most splendid examples of human struggle against the forces of nature is to-day being furnished by the people of Holland. The country is little more than one-third of Ireland's size; but its population is over 7,000,000 and the need for more breathing-space and more fertile lands becomes greater every year.
The article then refers to the inroads of the sea, and talks of the "valiant efforts of the people to hurl back the waters." It says that:—
Thirty years ago a Royal Commission recommended a scheme to drain the inner Zuider Zee and reclaim half a million acres. In 1920 the scheme was undertaken, and the "Manchester Guardian" gives a fine story of its progress. A great dyke is to be built across the mouth of the Zee from North Holland to Friesland. Along the top of this dyke will run a road and a railway line, and here and there will be placed locks for the passage of ships and for the discharge of superfluous water. Inside this dam over half a million acres will be reclaimed, and the remainder of the Zuider Zee will gradually become a fresh-water lake. The first part of the dam is now nearly finished, but Holland will not have her submerged province completely restored for 20 years to come. The cost will not be less than forty or fifty million pounds, a heavy burden for such a small nation.
If that were in Ireland you would have all sorts of imaginative stories about spade-cuts and percolation in this great dam, and as to whether the people who set out to build it really knew the local conditions. The "Independent" finishes by saying:—
The courageous enterprise commands the admiration and sympathy of the world.
There is an old phrase which, if I might parody it, would run this way: "We do believe in enterprise as far away as Holland is," but in the matter of Ireland it is to be caution and get more experts, let the inexpert have more details, anything as long as you do nothing.
Does the Minister think that all the plans in Holland were perfected within a couple of months?
I cannot argue on that point at all.
Or that we can even compare the resources of Holland with those of the Free State?
Relatively, yes. There you have an expenditure of £50,000,000 to give a return in twenty years, while the expenditure of £5,000,000 here is to give a return in three years, and they are somewhat comparable. Similarly the "Irish Times" comments upon this scheme, and says that there should be a delay, that people should be cautious, and they make the comment:—
Every item of Messrs. Siemens-Schuckerts' specification down to the last drawing-pin, ought to be submitted to careful scrutiny before a sod is turned on the Shannon.
I do not know if the last drawing-pin has been examined, but the plans have been submitted in detail to experts and examined by them. It is also said that the experts have been rather careful in the preamble to their report to confine the extent of their authority within certain limits. I have looked over that restrictive clause, or preamble to the report, and I cannot find it, unless it be on page 2, where they say:—
The fundamentals of the scheme are to be examined from two main technical and economic viewpoints.
Then two paragraphs follow which are so far from being restrictive that they are a most definite delimitation, in the sense of marking out everything that is to be done. The remark is subsequently made:—
We do know that the whole Irish engineering profession — including some men who can compare favourably with any of the experts—have been exceedingly critical of these portions of the plans which have been divulged to the public.
The trouble about a scheme of this sort, of course, is that the opposition to it is most vocal. The "Irish Times" would not venture to print a comment on the fact that a resolution condemning the scheme was brought up recently at the Council of the Institute of Engineers and had to be withdrawn because it was not going to be passed. That is negative, not in its favour, but it is something at any rate not against it, but that is the most you can say. We are told that there are men who can compare favourably with any of the experts. Now, I have been criticised here for deriding Irish engineers. I have done nothing of the sort. I was careful in the remarks I made on the 3rd and 4th of April to limit my comments to those engineers who wrote to the papers, and I said that if they represented the whole Irish engineering profession I would despair of Irish engineers. I did not think that Irish engineers had been represented by those opposing this scheme. I would like to see it put in columnar form, the qualifications and experience of the four experts who were chosen to supervise this scheme, and have put against that the qualifications and experience of the Irish engineers who could compare favourably with them, set down the names of any Irish engineers who could show as favourable degrees and qualifications and experience, particularly anything in the way of achievements in hydro-electrical matters, and if any Irish engineer could be found who would compare favourably with these four experts who have criticised the scheme, I will confess that I have completely maligned the writer of that editorial article.
I do find a comment in a paper which comes from an association which I thought Deputy Hewat referred to this morning, but, as Deputy Magennis said, Deputy Hewat is a member of so many associations that I do not know to which he referred. I have the "Journal of the Associated Chambers of Commerce" for this month, and with the permission of the House I will read an extract. It says:—
We have refrained editorially from criticism of the Shannon scheme mainly because we believe that criticism, to be useful, must be constructive, and we have been sickened by the barrage of destructive criticism from certain quarters ever since the Government announced its decision to proceed with the harnessing of the Shannon. It was clear to us that the Government had fully investigated the matter and come to a decision, and on that account we held the view that the time for constructive criticism had not yet arrived. The scheme has now been fully debated in An Dáil and carried. People totally unfitted to discuss such a scheme intelligently have had most to say.
That may be a hit at myself, because I have spoken most on the subject. The article goes on:—
A number of people who are not stupid have broadcasted statements which, to say the least, were calculated to mislead the layman.
The article proceeds to urge people to fall in line and by their support add something to the chances of success. A later article criticises me in one respect, and in one respect only, and that was, that I had placed comparatively small store on the effect of the scheme on industrial enterprise. Further comment on that by the "Journal of the Associated Chambers of Commerce" is definitely adverse to the comments we have heard from the business representatives in the Dáil. It says:—
Surely it matters to a manufacturer if his coal costs £2 or £1 a ton. If so, then surely it is an important concern to him whether he can cut down the price of his power.
The article continues in that strain and says:—
It is quite obvious and requires no argument that the benefit is going to be enormous.
Deputy Hewat apparently did not speak on behalf of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. He spoke on behalf of the Electrical Supply Association. I visited the play called "Peter Pan" some time ago. In that play the pirate captain, Captain Hook, at one time says: "I think it would be well to make my dying speech now, lest when the time for dying comes I may not have an opportunity of making it." I think that Deputy Hewat, on behalf of the Electrical Supply Association of Ireland, was making its dying speech. He fears that the Electrical Supply Association and the supplies all over the country are going to be overruled by the organisation of this scheme. Well, he may be forecasting too much, but may I say this, without offence to Deputy Hewat, that the record of the Electrical Supply Association with regard to supply has not been so advanced—I might put it that way— as to warrant people continuing to have confidence in it when the question of organisation comes to be discussed. I think that the Deputy will find himself very much handicapped by the past of his Electrical Supply Association when the Organisation Bill comes before the House.
Two or three comments were made on the Bill with which I propose to deal very briefly. Deputy Gorey made certain comments with regard to the drainage of land. He asked who is to ascertain that benefit has, in fact, accrued from drainage to the land. That is all set down in the Bill. Arbitrators will be appointed to hold inquiries and take evidence and to assess compensation. In any event, that is a section of the Bill which has still to run the gauntlet of the Dáil and Seanad, and it can be considered whether it is wise or not. In that connection I might point out that there is to be compensation, not merely for land that is acquired, but also for interference with any right, whether it be a fishing right, a right of way, wayleaves, easements, or anything of that sort. There are allowances made, and I desire to give compensation for all these things, and definitely there will be equity and justice as far as the arbitrators can determine it. Deputy Gorey wanted to know if this contract can be exceeded. I have spoken on this so often that I do not think it is worth while to go over it again. The sum is £5,200,000. There are binding tenders for material, not up to the £5,000,000, but up to the sum on which the 15 per cent. added brings the total to £5,200,000, and that can be exceeded as laid down in page 80. The civil engineering costs are stated to be within the margin of plus or minus 10 per cent. There is a sum of £2,500,000 set aside for the civil engineering works, and 10 per cent. on that would mean a big difference if it was against us. As regards that there is one point about which I have not spoken to the Dáil so far, but it becomes clear from a careful reading of the Siemens-Schuckert report.
This scheme is based on the mark at 19 to the £1, and the mark is somewhere about 20.8 to the £1. Taking the £5,200,000 contract in marks at 19 to the £1, a fall of one point would mean a difference in that amount of about £200,000. The figure for the mark at 19 to the £1 is a pre-war one. I do not know whether Deputies think that it is likely to appreciate beyond that in the next three years, but at any rate we have that still in reserve to meet the possibility of a 10 per cent. increase on the civil constructional works.
Deputy Hewat made one point to which I must advert. He said that I had thrown odium on a certain engineer. I would be sorry if Deputy Hewat should think that I was inspired by any wrong motive in speaking as I did about that gentleman. I think, however, that when an engineer of repute issues a pamphlet about a scheme which he has not seen, that he certainly has to bear a certain amount of odium for his method of approach to that problem. It is not that I am casting odium on him, but rather that his own action is calculated in that respect not to lend to his reputation.
So far, I have refrained from saying anything in a very imaginative way about this scheme. I did not want to give any imaginative forecasts. I knew what was going to be said; that the thing was built up and was of the substance of which dreams are made, and I did definitely refrain from saying anything in that connection. I wonder have Deputies read an article which appeared in the "Irish Electrician" by a Dublin engineer with regard to this scheme. He definitely takes hold of the imaginative and the psychological side of the whole scheme. He talks of the psychological effect produced by seeing the skilful and modern methods now employed in this city in the execution of street repairing work, compared to the haphazard and casual way in which it was formerly carried out. He talks of the bracing effect which that method of doing the work would be calculated to produce if it were put into operation in every town and village throughout the country. He speaks of what he calls this "engineering miracle" happening under our eyes in a thousand places, and refers eloquently to the appeal that this must make to the people of the country in seeing what he describes as this "procession of giant powers moving endlessly on" to Dublin, Limerick, Cork and other cities.
I have definitely kept away from that type of language. I wanted to deal with this on the most matter-of-fact basis, to have the thing brought down to the most reasoned level: to have no idea of emotion entering into it, and to have it criticised in that way. I do think that we might have another reaction to the scheme now. Criticism is all very well up to a point, and criticism there has been. I do not at all ask that criticism should cease or that it should be stopped. Criticism is a thing that we want to make this a sound and a good proposition, but I think that people should at this moment, at any rate, inhibit a certain amount of that criticism and give a little free play to the enthusiasm that we Irish are always supposed to have about big things or a big project. This is a very big project accurately thought out and very accurately conceived. It has been judged in a most scientific way, and judgment has been passed upon it in the most clearcut and specific manner. I do think that the time has come for Deputies, by their votes, to pass a vote of confidence in themselves, a vote of confidence that they are not going to be backward when chances are offered to them to step into the forefront in electrical matters. It may be something in the nature of an act of faith that is required now from Deputies, and an act of faith which I say is founded upon very substantial reasoning. I think that the effects of a scheme of this sort must undoubtedly be felt by every man and woman in this State, and I think it is right that when a vote comes to be taken it should be received not so much in the spirit of criticism, but that we should let loose some of the enthusiasm that we are always supposed to display for big projects.