DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - SHANNON ELECTRICITY BILL, 1925—COMMITTEE STAGE.
In this Act—
the expression "the Minister" means the Minister for Industry and Commerce;
the word "contractor" means a person doing work for the Minister under a contract or agreement made under this Act by him with the Minister;
the expression "local authority" means a body whose accounts are audited by an auditor of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.
I beg to move:—
To delete lines 23, 24 and 25 and substitute the following words:—"the expression ‘local authority' means and includes a county council, a county or other borough council, an urban district council, and the commissioners of a town."
The definition clause in the section as it stands is that the expression "local authority" means a body whose accounts are audited by an auditor of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I consider that the new definition clause that is now proposed is a more satisfactory one.
I would like to know how this is going to affect the County Dublin, where rural district councils and boards of guardians are not affected by any recent legislation. Is there any reason why this amendment should be proposed, in view of the fact that boards of guardians and rural district councils do continue in some parts of the country?
There is a further point. How would this amendment affect a case where the local authority has been suspended and commissioners are appointed?
Could these commissioners act?
Yes. They would have all the powers and would enter into all the liabilities of the local authority. The local authority itself is unaffected by the change in the persons administrating, but they enter into all the rights and privileges and have to sustain all the liabilities of the local authorities.
With regard to what Deputy Johnson has said, the Bill, of course, as framed, is framed in a very general way, so as to preclude it from coming within Standing Orders applicable to Private Bills. There are really one or two local authorities that could possibly enter within the provisions of the Bill, and Dublin local authorities are not so included.
Would that suggest that there is no need for this amendment? The amendment, as drafted, says that the expression "local authority" means and includes a county council, a county or other borough council, an urban district council, and the commissioners of a town. I take it the implication is that the words "rural district council and boards of guardians" are unnecessary, because of the passing of the recent Local Government Act, and perhaps it is foreshadowed that rural district councils and boards of guardians will be abolished in County Dublin as well. They are not yet abolished, however, and it may be that in the wisdom of the Oireachtas they will not be abolished. I suggest that the Minister should not press this amendment in view of the continued existence of these local governing bodies.
"The expression ‘local authority' means and includes a county council, a county or other borough council, an urban district council, and the commissioners of a town." That will include every local authority in the ordinary sense in County Dublin and the City of Dublin, but the original definition would include all these bodies which are not in the ordinary sense local authorities at all. For instance, the Alexandra College is an institution subject to audit by our Local Government auditor, and it would be a local authority under this Bill. There are numerous other institutions of the same kind which should be excluded from the scope of this Bill.
That may apply to the latter part. The proposal is to delete lines 23, 24 and 25 and to substitute new words. The effect of the amendment, as far as I can see, will not alter the draft except by the exclusion of these two authorities—the rural district councils and the boards of guardians.
Take the Alexandra College. It excludes it.
Is that a rural district council?
Is it a board of guardians?
No, but it is a body whose accounts are audited by an auditor of the Local Government Department.
It would come within the definition of clause 1 as it stands.
What I am asking is that you should retain these words "boards of guardians and rural district councils" while such bodies exist.
I notice that the Alexandra College is excluded. Is there any reason for excluding that institution? Would they not be able to give an intelligent view of the whole position?
I am quite ready to keep them under the Bill, but the Bill is not intended to be applicable to such institutions. These institutions would never be touched by the Bill; therefore I do not see why we should extend the scope of it. Deputy Johnson may take it that this is not intended to be a definition of local authorities for any purpose other than the purposes of this Bill.
I quite understand, but will Deputy Duggan read this Bill and the section as it would appear if this amendment is carried? We shall then see if the Alexandra College is affected.
I have listened to three Ministers and one Parliamentary Secretary saying that the original Bill was badly drafted. I hope they will bear that in mind when the consideration of other amendments comes on.
Nobody has said that? It is explained that the expression "Local Authority" in the original Bill would include the Alexandra College. Is that good drafting?
It is not necessarily bad.
Not necessarily bad! I venture to say that any Bill is not well drafted which comes up on the Committee Stage with amendments, half of which are Government ones. Any Bill that requires ten Government amendments on the Committee Stage, not even on the Report Stage, is badly drafted. At least it is not a well-drafted Bill. Let us not be told the Bill is perfect.
Might I point out that in line 23 which is sought to be deleted it reads "ties." That is not line 23; it is line 20.
The Deputy has the wrong Bill.
The amendment is to delete lines 23, 24 and 25. They read: "The expression ‘Local Authority' means a body whose accounts are audited by an auditor of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health."
I beg your pardon; I have the wrong Bill.
We put forward this amendment for the reason that the definition of "Local Authority" would otherwise include such bodies as the Alexandra College that could not possibly come under this Bill.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
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."
I beg to move:—
To add at end of sub-section as follows:—
"(2) Always provided that the Minister shall not supply or distribute electricity in any area in which a local authority or public company has obtained statutory powers to enable it to supply and distribute electricity, and in which such local authority or public company is actually supplying and distributing electricity at the time of the passing of this Act, without the consent of the said local authority or public company, which consent shall be notified to the Oireachtas."
This is one of a series of amendments and I will set the mind of the Dáil at rest at once by saying that I do not propose in any of these amendments to talk about amperes or kilowatts, reinforced cores, or any of the technicalities with which this subject is surrounded. I learned all these things at school, but like most things we learned at school I have forgotten them since. My only regret is in connection with the disappearance of another word, the ohm. I do not know what has happened in the case of the ohm. It seems to have taken refuge in the region of some cross-word puzzle.
We are told nothing about ohms. This amendment is intended to draw attention to the position of the existing companies who are supplying electricity, mainly for light, in the Saorstát. There are two types of suppliers of electricity for light; one is a company operating under a licence from the county council, I believe. That may be a company in a small town or village. As a rule, it is not a company; it is a case where a mill-owner, the owner of a factory, or something of that kind, has put in electric light on his own, and is persuaded to extend it to the village on agreed terms. The licence under which that light is supplied can be revoked by the county council at will, and, therefore, such concerns have no grievance if they are superseded by the competition of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. But there is another form of electricity undertaking which requires consideration, and which has not had adequate consideration up to the present. I think all through this Bill there is a general acquiescence in the idea that the Minister will be able to supply existing electric light companies and electricity companies with power so cheaply that they will gladly sack their employees, cancel any contracts that they have for the supply of coal, and so on, and take the Shannon units instead of their own. I do not know; that may be well founded; I have no intimate or expert knowledge of the business. But I do know that we should have heard a very different story if the Dublin Corporation were still in existence, and had a vested interest in the supply of electricity. Deputy Alfred Byrne would be sounding the war whoop, Deputy Myles Keogh would be taking down the scalping knife, and I am not sure that the President would not have rendered a distant ear to the well-remembered throbbing of the tom-tom. As it is, there are Commissioners, and consequently there is silence. The same is the case with the city of Cork. Yet there is a case for these municipal or private undertakings that have obtained statutory powers to supply electricity. They got these powers and at great cost. They promoted Private Bills in the British Parliament, and in one case in the Oireachtas. They briefed counsel, they faced opposition, and they obtained a statutory monopoly for the supply of electrical power in the area in which they operated. Now by a stroke of the pen, by the word of the Minister, that monopoly has been taken from them. A State-aided scheme is being set up in competition with them. They must either take power from the Shannon on the Minister's terms, or they must face competition that may be ruinous, because it will be supported by the revenues of the State. I suggest that this is raising a very serious issue, and an issue that has not been fully foreseen.
We are making the rights conferred by Private Bills null and void. What effect will that have on the promoters of Private Bills in the future? It has hitherto been the case that although a Private Bill might be repealed or revoked it never was repealed or revoked, that any rights given by a Private Bill were rights that could be asserted and maintained practically for ever. Now this is suddenly raised. We say to the people who have obtained these Private Bills: "Your rights are valueless; the State superseded them; the State is all; it can swallow you up." It may be necessary to do it; the Minister may be able to make the case, but at least the case should be made, and the case has not been made, as far as I have read the discussions. I was not present at all the discussions but I have read them. I have not seen any detailed reference in this Bill to the position of municipal or private concerns supplying electricity. It has always been assumed: "You will get cheaper units from the Shannon, and you will be only too glad to take them." It will affect municipalities; it will affect labour; it will cause, as I said on Second Reading, a displacement of labour. People who are unloading coal from ships at the Pigeon House, and carting coal to the Pigeon House, and so on, will no longer be employed; at least, I assume that they will no longer be employed at that particular job. We ought to have some justification of it before, by an Act of the Dáil, we set at naught the rights obtained by Private Bill legislation.
I wonder will the Deputy give us a little assistance to understand the position from which he is arguing? I gather that his contention is that the company that has obtained statutory powers to supply electricity has obtained the right to a monopoly, that no person in the community concerned will be entitled to supply electricity which he himself generates; that he must obtain it either from the company or the local authority. If that is the case——
Oh no, he could supply it to himself but a competing company could not enter the area.
Is it possible for A.B. to generate electricity by any means he can, without interfering with public rights of any kind and to supply to his neighbour next door? I assume that nothing in these statutory powers that have been given to local authorities or public companies indicates a monopoly; that a private citizen is not prevented from generating electricity and supplying it to his neighbour unless he interferes with some public rights, and only then in exceptional cases. I imagine that the Deputy is arguing from an assumption that because a company, or a local authority has got powers to supply electricity, to take up roads, erect poles, etc., that thereby there is power to prevent anybody else supplying electricity. I am astonished if that is the case. I would like to have some information.
I think that the amendment is valuable in so far as it will enable the Minister to give us some little information as to his intentions under the Bill, which he will probably develop more when he comes to deal with the details of the scheme. At this stage I think that an explanation of the mentality of the Minister on the subject of the rights of other undertakings in connection with this national scheme would help us to see a little further ahead into the scheme than we do at present. In asking for that I am possibly not the best person in the House to do so, but I ask the Minister to let us know what his views on this amendment are, and what his attitude is in connection with Bills promoted in this regard.
Deputy Cooper says that no case has been made. No case has been made for what? No case has been made for allowing people to get cheaper electricity than they at present get it from local bodies, acting under statutory authorities. I wonder does any case require to be made for that, that we should allow people to get benefit from the Shannon scheme. It is the opposition to that case that the Deputy has made, if he has made any case. It has been said that I have not revealed my mind on the question of supply. I did not intend this Bill to have anything to do with the question of supply, except in a limited way, but to wait until I came to an amendment by Deputy Cooper later with regard to a provisional contract. But I have already indicated my position and the whole policy of the Department has been indicated in the same way, in an Order which I quoted in the debate on the 3rd April, when Deputy Cooper was not here.
I read the debate very carefully.
And although he read it he has apparently missed this. I said:—
Certain Electricity Orders have been passed since the Shannon scheme made its appearance, even as a White Paper, and a clause in these has always been insisted upon by my Department. That clause has received the sanction of the Oireachtas in at least four Orders, and in the Seanad on one occasion when a Senator believed that the clause was left out he made an attempt to have it inserted. This was the clause:—
In the event of a central power station being established and that the supply of electricity in bulk is thereby made available to the undertakers at a rate of charge equal to or less than the cost of generation in the generating station of the undertakers, the undertakers shall take such supply from the central power station.
That seems to be entirely reasonable, and it has received the approval of the Oireachtas in several cases already. If we can supply to an existing undertaking current at the same, or at a less price than, they can themselves generate and to which they can themselves add their own overhead charges they are not prejudiced in any respect."
I wonder where is the harm done to the statutory undertaking? I do not regard anything that has been said about the defeating of peoples' rights acquired under Private Bill legislation. Private Bill promoters with regard to electricity undertakings did not really obtain a monopoly in their own district. Deputy Johnson is quite correct in that. Even if they had, is Deputy Cooper going to argue now that something that had been done has been definitely stereotyped for all time, and that people should be precluded from having the benefit of cheap power if power were delivered to them cheaply? In this I am going further than this Bill intends to go. I bring in Clause 13 later with regard to the contract and supply of electricity. I intended to explain that when it came along, but I may explain it now. It is intended to cover such things as the making of contracts not provisional contracts within margins, so that our salespeople within the next couple of years may be able to have good ground on which to base their ideas as to what lines should be built immediately. Further, there is the intention of the Siemens-Schuckert people that they will develop by means of a station on the Shannon, right at the start, power for their own building purposes, and that they will supply, possibly from that, Limerick immediately with electricity. That electricity will probably be necessitated by the extra number of workmen and the extra business that Limerick will have to accommodate itself to from the start. It is said that this is not a supply Bill. The supply and organisation Bill will follow later. It will take certainly nine to twelve months to think it out and get it drafted. This has nothing whatever to do with it. The amendment, as framed here, would mean that no matter how inefficiently or extravagantly local statutory undertakings at present supply we would have no right to go in under them or to take power to supply at a less cost than that at which they themselves can generate. If Deputies read the experts' report carefully they will see certain comments. I think there has been deliberate refraining from comment, but certain tables show that certain existing statutory undertakings are providing electricity either inefficiently or extravagantly. This clause, as I said before, is a clause that even if it were meant to cover the supply system is entirely reasonable. The whole principle of the supply is contained in the Order. If we can give electricity to undertakings generally at a less cost than they themselves can generate, they will remain very largely for distribution purposes presumably.
As to the displacement of labour, I do not think the Deputy was serious in what he said. He used the phrase: "What about people employed at present carting coal to the Pigeon House?" Would the Deputy proceed with his argument to its logical conclusion, that if the Shannon scheme was able to do away with the entire import of coal we would nevertheless be bound to have some import of coal, because some labour had, at some time, been employed in that way? The argument would operate also that if we had got to the stage of a well-behaved community so that we could do away with prisons and police officials we should not do away with them because there are people employed as warders and as Civic Guards. That argument, if followed to its logical conclusion, would be absurd. It is a little more absurd than the main amendment the Deputy put down. The amendment really means that existing undertakings would have to be allowed to supply extravagantly, and that the country would be precluded where there was a statutory undertaking from having any advantage from the Shannon scheme.
The Minister's answer is not altogether satisfactory. The purport of the amendment, as I read it, is to ascertain if the Government were precluded from or opposed to entering into the retail business of distribution of electricity. The Minister's reply to that is that where the statutory undertaking is operating the Government is presumed to offer them current at a lower price than they are generating at. If they do not take it I think the reply is that they would be forced to take it. Of course, we recognise that the trend of the Dáil in this and other directions is towards nationalisation. I think it would be well for the country to understand that, that in this Bill and from the reply of the Minister the attitude of the Government is that whether you are inclined to take the current or not the purport of the Bill and the intention of the Ministry is that you shall take it.
It does not appear in the Bill. It is plain in the clause, and it is more plain by what the Minister said. The Minister qualified that and stated that the scheme will be able to supply current at a lower price than the local station is able to generate at themselves. Of course it will. In the first instance it has got the backing of the Government behind it. They can make it any price they like. They can come in and put it at any price they like. Whether they are making 20/- in the pound or not is nothing to them. That is the main objection to anything that savours of nationalisation. Of course I am not fond of Government interference. The more it can be restricted the better. I have recognised in this Dáil for the short time I have been in it that the tendency is increasing of a strong Government and a strong Government Party being in the position of Pooh Bah. I think that this Bill in connection with the harnessing of the Shannon is likely to be made very political in its operations and very political in itself. I think the Minister might have been quite clear in response to this amendment of Deputy Cooper in saying: "We are going to do what we like in relation to the Bill. We are not going to be restricted as far as we can help it, even on the question of overriding local authorities. That is our intention."
Deputy Cooper and Deputy Hewat are concerned only with the companies.
On this particular amendment.
Yes, on this amendment. What would be the position if this amendment were carried? It would mean that in towns, which have to pay from one shilling to one and sixpence for electricity, local companies could not be interfered with under this Bill, no matter how extravagant or inefficient their management might be.
Does Deputy Morrissey want a restriction of local government?
I want the people in the country to get the full advantage of the Shannon Electricity Bill. Would the Deputy consider the position of a town where there is an existing electricity company and where from one shilling to one and sixpence per unit is charged for the electricity? That is quite a common figure in the country. In the next town to that, where the people were, perhaps, wiser, and are still using candles or oil or gas, they can start a company under the Shannon scheme and obtain electricity at from perhaps 3d. to 5d. per unit. I think the Deputy should consider the people and not confine his interest to the companies. The companies are not going to be penalised, so far as I know. Current will be supplied to them at a certain figure and they will be allowed to charge for distribution a reasonable figure, which will cover their overhead and general expenses and allow them a fair margin of profit. But we certainly require some safeguard for the consumer. We must not be all the time concerned for the person who is going to draw the dividends.
Would Deputy Morrissey show me what safeguards there are for the consumer in this Bill? I see none. I always have a feeling of mistrust when anybody in the Dáil gets up and talks about "the people." I have a feeling that he is probably going to talk nonsense, because we generally drag in the people when we have no other argument. Under this section, it is in the power of the Minister to go into an area where electricity is being produced. If the company do not agree to take his electricity, on his own terms, he can undersell that company until he forces it out of business. Then he can raise the price of electricity to the consumer. That is perfectly within his power under the Bill.
I assure the Minister that I dislike stereotyping any condition just as much as he does but when a change is being made I want it to be made with due consideration for all the interests involved. The Minister referred me to the Experts' report. I assume he referred me to the tables given in pages 61 to 65 of the Experts' report. If not, I hope he will correct me.
That is very interesting, because I had noted before that those tables do not give a fair comparison. Table 1, I leave to the Minister. It is not my concern to defend the Dublin Corporation. I admit they produce their electricity very expensively. In Table 2 you have Pembroke and Rathmines compared with a number of English and Scottish and Welsh towns—all of them larger than Pembroke or Rathmines, except one industrial town in South Wales, which is smaller. They are very unfavourably compared, but the conditions are entirely different in a suburban area where electricity is only used for light and to a limited extent for heating, and in an industrial area like Aberdare or Accrington or Burton. They may be somewhat similar in the case of Gloucester, but that is also an industrial town. Blackpool is, of course, different, because it is a tourist centre. Rathmines is not yet a tourist centre, so that that is not really a fair comparison. When we come to Table 3 we find one Irish town mentioned— Dundalk. Dundalk compares very favourably with these other towns in regard to efficiency. It is actually a halfpenny per unit below the average of these particular towns. And yet the Dáil is asked to give the Minister power to go into Dundalk and to turn out this efficient undertaking which, though it has to import its coal, is, nevertheless, selling at a lower rate than a great many of these towns in Great Britain, such as Oban, Fareham, Elland, Bangor, and other centres. We are asked to give the Minister power to go in and undersell this undertaking, to put them out of business, and then to fix what price he likes for his power and his light.
It is always assumed that the Minister is going to be able to sell current cheaply. But what will happen if there is any miscalculation? Deputy Gorey put a question on Second Reading which was not satisfactorily answered. He asked: "Is this a final estimate?" It is not a final estimate. Nobody could make a final and binding estimate at this stage.
It is as final as it could be.
That is the only answer. It is as final as it could be. But look at the Siemens-Schuckert report. It is definitely stated there that the calculations have been made on the basis that Irish labour will work the same hours and give the same results as German labour. If that is not the case, they point out that more labour will be required. On page 65 of their report Siemens-Schuckert state:—
The number of workmen has been calculated on the basis of the normal output of our workers. Should this output, contrary to our expectations, not be attained, the number of workmen would have to be increased, and this, of course, would affect our estimates of cost. We would, naturally, try to increase the output by offering prizes for rapid work.
I do not know how far that is consistent with trade union regulations. But this, it is admitted, is not a final estimate. It cannot be. As the Minister says, it is as final as, in the nature of things, it can be. It cannot be absolutely final. Suppose it is considerably exceeded; suppose the costs are more than it is believed they will be at the moment. The Minister will not be able to sell his electricity at a cheap rate. He may even be compelled to sell it at a higher rate than, say, the Dundalk Company are supplying it. But he will go into Dundalk and there will be cut-throat competition between the local company—I do not know whether Dundalk is a municipal supply or not— and the State undertaking. The Minister will naturally want to have as big an area of supply as possible. He will try to get into Dundalk. When I say the Minister will do these things, I do not mean the present Minister. But whoever is Minister for Industry and Commerce, and whoever is conducting this concern will try and conduct it on a business basis. The normal procedure in business is to try first to capture the market. In order to capture the market you fix cut-throat prices. When you have captured the market and you have a monopoly, you put up your prices. I think Deputy Hewat will admit that that is the normal business procedure. Deputy Johnson will not agree with that procedure and I do not know that I am strongly in favour of the system myself, but that is the procedure in business and that is likely what is going to happen in this case. Therefore I submit that the reasons the Minister has given are not absolutely convincing or satisfactory, and that we want a little more consideration for this amendment.
Whatever this Bill does or does not do, this amendment does one thing very definitely. It gives the owners of any electricity supply a close preserve that nobody can invade. Companies already established in these various towns would, according to this amendment, have no competition in the matter of supplying electricity. The amendment hands over to the owners of these undertakings the community in a particular district, and it says that nobody can interfere with these companies. Nobody can come in and give the public the benefit of competition. That is what this amendment says very definitely.
Will you have competition afterwards?
We have not got it now, and that is what I am concerned with.
Deputy Gorey is in favour of eviction.
Let it be "eviction" if you choose. Call it any name you like—call it "throttling" if you like. I am not quarrelling about names at all. These people did not go into business because of any love for the community. They went into it as a business proposition. If they meet competition now, it is the nature of things. It is one of the risks that they took.
Does the Deputy refer to the Dublin Corporation?
I am not referring to the Dublin Corporation or to anyone in particular. I am referring to the position of any town in this country where an electric supply company has been set up. I am not concerned with any particular town, but I know that the principle of the amendment is bad. The public in those places will, like the rest of the community, have to bear their share of the cost of the Shannon scheme. They will take as much responsibility for that as anyone else. Under the terms of the amendment they can get no benefit from it. If anybody is prepared to dispute these facts, let them dispute them and not talk to me about eviction or anything like that. I object to the creation of this preserve. I object to the principle of the amendment, and I am going to vote against it. If there is any benefit at all to come from this Bill, I insist that it shall come to the whole people and not to any section of the people.
I think it is perfectly clear to the Dáil that Deputy Cooper did not expect us to take this amendment seriously. It is rather a severe tax on our intelligence to suggest that the country should be wedded indefinitely to any inefficient concerns that may be in existence, or to any concerns that are now supplying electricity at high prices, when we have a State scheme that is going to give us electricity at a much lower price. Deputy Cooper really has allowed his imagination to run away with him in this matter. He referred to the town of Dundalk as supplying electricity at a very cheap rate, and he appears to assume that, under this Bill, the Government are going into the town of Dundalk to erect distribution wires and so forth, and supply electricity. The first thing that strikes me about that suggestion is that the present sum of money which is mentioned in connection with the Siemens-Schuckert scheme provides simply for a central station and for the main distribution. It does not propose at all to cover the distribution of electricity in local towns, or to meet the expense of the wiring of houses, or any of these things. These further elaborations of the enterprise, if undertaken later by the Government, will obviously have to be the subject of a separate Bill. It appears to me that Deputy Cooper is giving credit to our Government for rather a minus quantity of intelligence by suggesting that they are going to enter into such wholesale competition as that, and that they are going to insist that all towns that are now supplying electricity at reasonable prices scrap their distribution plant to permit of the Government itself coming along and providing a new distribution scheme. That, of course, is quite absurd. The Government, I take it, have sufficient confidence in the enterprise of local people not to do any such thing. I myself happen to be associated with an electricity scheme, and I am not in the least nervous about this scheme. I think the Government have sufficient confidence in the enterprise of our people to know that when they can get electricity cheaper than they are making it now, that, obviously, it will be to their advantage to take it and to utilise the existing distribution wires. That is to say, they will buy the electricity from the Government at a cheaper rate than they can make it, and sell it at a cheaper rate than they are already charging for it to the public. I suggest that is what will happen. I take it that in a future Bill the Government will probably make some arrangement with the local distributors of electricity as to the price that they are to charge for it to the consumer. That is one of the matters that I would be very interested to see dealt with later on.
Did Deputy Egan hear the Minister's speech? The Deputy argues that he is not going to supply this power at the present moment. The Minister said that he is going to supply the town of Limerick at once, or as soon as he has any power available.
I said Limerick was a special case.
He said Limerick was a special case but he is going to do it and it can be done under this Bill. The Minister cannot bind his successor. This Bill gives the power; it can be done under the Bill and it is going to be done in the case of Limerick at once.
It cannot be done under this Bill generally throughout the country, because the £5,200,000 would not allow it.
That £5,200,000 can be increased by coming to the Dáil and by convincing them.
The Dáil will have to be satisfied as to what the extra money is for.
We must get this thrashed out now because a one-section Bill could be brought in increasing the amount and an amendment would not be in order. I assure the Minister that I do not want to waste the time of the Dáil, but I do say this is a real danger. We are putting it in the power not of the Minister specially but in the power of any Minister for Industry and Commerce to enter into competition with the existing undertakings.
But the money is not provided to enable that to be done.
Any Minister could get a one-clause Bill through and it would not be possible to put in any amendment. If Deputy Davin or Deputy Morrissey at any time becomes Minister for Industry and Commerce their party could force through a Bill to provide the additional money and give no safeguard whatever. I ask Deputy Egan to consider that. I am not simply chasing chimeras. It does seem to me that that section will require more consideration. As a result of the discussion I am a little more satisfied than I was, and if the Minister would consider any means of avoiding the danger that I foresee, and if on Report Stage he would be prepared to reconsider the matter, I would be prepared to withdraw the amendment.
What is the danger that Deputy Cooper is pointing out? The danger is apparently that a State electricity supply scheme will enter into competition with the local undertakings, undercutting the prices of the local suppliers, driving the local suppliers out of existence and then charging what it likes. He thinks that a State electricity undertaking will be actuated by the same motives entirely as big monopolistic private enterprises or trusts. I could understand that if we were establishing a private profit-making trust here, giving it powers to enter into competition and to make its own prices, driving out of business any other undertaking, and then to charge whatever price it likes, there would be a case. But we are dealing with powers given to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce—a Ministry responsible to the Dáil and indirectly to the country for the general conduct of this public service—and I maintain that that is an entirely different proposition. If we are going to legislate on the assumption that the Minister is going to run this undertaking as a profit-making service, to drive out competition and then to pile up charges against the public, so as to save the payers of income tax some of their taxes, I can understand the point of view. But I cannot imagine that that is the position at all, and I think you have got to consider this matter on entirely different lines. You are not dealing with a monopolistic undertaking or with a private company.
Surely the Deputy does not think for a moment that any Government setting out to work this scheme will not have as one of their primary objects the making of the scheme a commercial success. I think the Minister has already said that that would be the outlook of the Government. I believe there is no doubt about it. The Government have no doubt that they will make this scheme a success. I am in this matter solely concerned with the interests of the community. Therefore I want to get one important point clear. To my mind it is clear, but I want to make perfectly certain that it is clear. I take it that the Minister is so convinced of the success of this undertaking from the practical, commercial point of view that he is relying solely upon what he regards as the certainty of being able to sell electricity where it is already produced at a certain price, at a lower price.
I take it the Minister accepts the proposition? The Minister's nod, I take it, indicates assent. I think that is very important, and I hope we are perfectly clear about that. The Minister has got nothing else in his mind except the conviction that the scheme is going to be a commercial success which will enable him, without putting pressure on anyone, to provide electricity in cities and towns at a cheaper price than it is provided at present. But here is where the remark of Deputy Cooper strikes me: Supposing that things do not turn out in quite the way that the Minister anticipates and that the scheme is not a commercial success, will there be a necessity put on big suppliers to come within the purview of this scheme? Without wishing to undercut or undersell anyone, will it not be necessary that electricity shall be provided for large enterprises at a lower figure than at present? That may mean that places that have large stations at present and that are fairly successful will stand to lose until this is as completely successful as the Minister hopes it will be. That is the danger that strikes me.
In view of what Deputy Professor Thrift said and the Minister's assent to his point, I would like to have some understanding as to what the term "commercial success" involves.
That is a different thing altogether.
Paying its way I definitely took it to mean. There were three phrases used by Deputy Cooper. In the first place, he said that this amendment of his was a safeguard, and he alludes to danger. Deputy Professor Thrift said that he has the interests of the community at heart. We are discussing an amendment to a section in the Bill. I want to take the table on page 62 of the experts' report. The seventh column in that is the column for comparative purposes. Thirteen towns are there taken for comparative purposes, and for these thirteen towns the average cost per kilowatt delivered is under 2d. Pembroke is 3.60d., and Rathmines 4.15d.
I would ask the Minister is he comparing the other towns that come into this with Pembroke and Rathmines. These other towns are self-contained, with shops and cinemas, etc. Pembroke and Rathmines are suburban districts. There are shops in Rathmines and also a couple of cinemas, but Pembroke has none. I suggest that we should not make a comparison on the basis merely of looking up figures in a table. Anyone who has knowledge of the local conditions will see that you cannot make a comparison between districts that are largely suburban, and self-contained towns such as are given in that table.
In order to make the comparison as favourable as possible for Rathmines, let me take Gloucester, to which the Deputy himself referred. The price in Gloucester is 1.63d., while in Rathmines it is 4d. Remember that this amendment is spoken of as a safeguard, and yet, unless Rathmines agrees, we could not supply from the Shannon at .53. We are told that we cannot supply at anything under 4d. unless Rathmines agrees, and that is put forward in the name of a safeguard. I call it a danger. That is the danger that Deputy Professor Thrift is endeavouring to prevent the Dáil assenting to. If Deputy Professor Thrift had the interests of the community at heart—and Rathmines is a part of the whole area of supply—he surely would not hold that that amendment is going to safeguard anybody except the people who are profiteering in the sale of electric light, or else who are mismanaging the undertaking to such an extent that they have to charge an exorbitant rate.
I did not put it from the point of view that the Minister has stated.
Would the Minister deal with Dundalk?
If Dundalk can supply from its own generating station at a cheaper price than we can from the central supply, then obviously the section in the Order would protect Dundalk, and Dundalk will be left as it is. Remember that in anything I have said so far I have not dealt, nor does this Bill propose or allow me to deal, with the retailing of electricity. This Bill only deals with the question of supply.
But it does not prevent it?
It does, because I am limited to the £5,200,000. Deputy Cooper now wants to have something made clear which was made clear to everyone in the Dáil before this Bill was brought in. If the Deputy had been here when the other debates took place he would not, I suggest, be taking up the time of the House discussing an amendment which is not a safeguard.
I suggest to the Minister that he should hide his scorn a little more diplomatically, but in spite of the vinegar that he has poured on my head I ask for leave to withdraw the amendment to save the time of the Dáil.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed—"That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."
I desire to say a few words on this section. I see a great deal of danger in connection with it, and I want to get an assurance from the Minister as to the policy of the Government on the matters with which it deals. The Dáil may not realise that in passing this section they are giving the Government the widest possible powers. There is no use mixing up Section 13, which deals with the question of money, with Section 2. The Dáil must realise that under this section it is giving to the Government the exclusive right and the exclusive power to supply electricity in the Free State.
Would the Deputy point out where the exclusive right is given to the Government to supply electricity except the electricity that is produced by the Shannon scheme?
Perhaps I should have mentioned the Shannon. When we find the Government negotiating with the Corporation in connection with the Liffey Bill, of course we understand and I think Deputy Johnson perfectly well understands it too, that the Government are not going to let anyone supply electricity either from the Liffey or anywhere else.
Would the Deputy say where he got his information that the Government was in negotiation with the Corporation about the Liffey Bill?
I read it in the newspapers. Perhaps it would be helpful if the Minister were drawn on the subject.
As my name was mentioned in connection with the matter, I desire to say that what appeared in the newspapers was the first intimation I had of that particular conference or negotiation. If it be said that I had a letter from the Town Clerk I say: "Yes, certainly," but there were no negotiations or anything of that sort.
I apologise for making the statement, which I only received from the newspapers.
Deputy Hewat says that under this section, and leaving out the money section, I have certain powers. Let me admit that. This is a particular Bill that we are dealing with, and this is an amendment to one section in that Bill. As long as that Bill has a certain sum of money mentioned in it, and as long as there is no amendment down to increase that amount of money, my hands are tied by the Money Resolution with regard to entering on the retailing of electricity. The retailing of electricity is a matter of organisation and a matter which we do not touch in this Bill.
I was only hoping that the Minister would proclaim the correct attitude on the part of the Government: that they do not intend to go further than the generating of electricity.
Question put and agreed to.
(1) The Minister may for the purpose of the undertaking do all or any of the following things, that is to say:—
(a) impound, hold up, divert, take, and use the waters of the River Shannon and any river or stream tributary thereto and any lake, pond, or canal thereon or connected thereto;
(b) embank, dam, dredge, deepen, widen, straighten, divert, and otherwise alter the River Shannon or any river or stream tributary thereto;
(c) embank, dam, dredge, alter the level of, and otherwise affect any lake, pond, or other water on or connected directly or indirectly with the River Shannon;
(d) remove, or alter, repair, construct and maintain such sluices, weirs, dams, embankments, and other works as may be necessary for or incidental to the doing of any of the things mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs;
(e) construct and maintain generating stations, power-houses, transformer stations, and other stations and places for generating, transforming, storing, or otherwise dealing with electricity;
(f) purchase, hire, or otherwise provide, and maintain machinery, plant, and equipment for all generating stations, power-houses, transformer stations, and other stations and places constructed under the foregoing paragraph, but so that, until the Oireachtas otherwise determines, the capacity of the machinery, plant and equipment so provided for generating electricity shall not exceed one hundred thousand horse-power;
(g) construct and maintain railways and tramways (whether worked by steam, internal combustion, or electric power), docks, and piers;
(h) construct and maintain lines for the transmission of electricity at any voltage above, on, or under any public or private land or water, or any road, street, way, railway, tramway, or dock, or any natural or artificial waterway or harbour;
(i) break-up the surface of and lay and maintain mains in, and erect and maintain poles and other supports (with or without electricity transformers) on any place above, on, or under which the Minister is by this Act authorised to construct lines for the transmission of electricity;
(j) close, divert, or remove any public or private street, road, way, or bridge;
(k) enter on any lands or premises for the purpose of doing thereon or on any other lands or premises all or any of the things which he is by this sub-section authorised to do or making thereon or on any other lands or premises any inquiry, investigation, or examination preliminary or incidental to the doing of any such thing;
(l) do any act or thing which may be necessary for or incidental to the doing of anything which he is by this sub-section authorised to do.
(2) 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, and for that purpose the Minister may with the sanction of the Minister for Finance enter into contracts and agreements.
(3) Whenever the Minister enters under this section into any contract or agreement for the doing of anything which the Minister is authorised by sub-section (1) of this section to do, the Minister may by order confer on the contractor the right to do such of the things which the Minister is authorised by the said sub-section (1) to do as the Minister shall think proper and shall specify in the order, and thereupon such contractor shall have the right (concurrently with the Minister) to do all or any of the things so specified in the order as fully as if such right were conferred on him by this Act, but so far as and no further than is necessary for the due execution of the contract or agreement.
I beg to move:—
In sub-section (1) (c), page 2, line 48, after the words "and maintain" to insert the words "dwellinghouses and canteens."
If Deputies will look at page 65 of the report of Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert they will see that an essential part of the scheme is that the workmen working on the dams and power-houses shall be accommodated in barracks, or that at least a considerable number of them, I think two-thirds, shall be so accommodated. The Minister is not taking power under the Bill to provide these barracks, and I am seeking to assist him. I am returning good for evil. My desire is to assist the Minister and to give him statutory powers to build these houses and these canteens. The provision of them is an essential part of the scheme, and I think it should not have been left out of the Bill. If such a provision is now introduced it may prevent the necessity of bringing in an amending Bill later.
I am quite ready to accept the amendment. I am not sure if this is the proper place for it to come in. I am informed that it is covered by the section, but I am prepared to make it specific. As I say, I am not clear that this is the proper place to put it in, but if the Deputy will give me permission to move it about later on until I find a proper place for it to fit, I will accept it.
I think the Minister would be well advised to accept the amendment. If he does not have such an amendment he will find himself in trouble with the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and with the Public Accounts Committee by relying on the rather wide power that he is given under the Bill. However, on the promise given, I will ask leave to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move:—
In sub-section 1 (g), page 3, line 9, after the word "construct" to delete the word "and" and insert a comma, and after the word "maintain" to insert the words "and work."
The effect of this amendment is to give the Minister power not only to construct and maintain railways and tramways, but to work them. It is obviously necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move:—
Amendment 5.—In sub-section (1) (1) page 3, lines 32 and 33, to delete the words "or incidental to."
I put down this amendment in order to call attention to the extremely wide powers conferred by the sub-section. The Minister, or contractor, may "do any act or thing which may be necessary for or incidental to the doing of anything which he is by this sub-section authorised to do." But there is nothing in the world that might not be incidental to or in regard to some of the things mentioned in this sub-section, such as the construction and maintaining of railways and tramways, the laying of mains, the closing, diverting or removing of any public or private street, roadway or bridge, entering upon lands and premises, and so on. Anything is incidental to any of these matters. The contractor commissions a man to go and examine certain premises and enter upon certain lands to make a survey. The eating of a man's dinner may be incidental to such a work as that. He cannot go without nourishment. The Minister is a lawyer —I am not—and he would be in a position to say whether this power to do anything incidental in these matters would enable him to commandeer a meal if he wanted it. To smoke a pipe is incidental. This section would empower a man to light his pipe and throw away the match into a farmer's haystack. I know, of course, that would not be done, but we should be careful only to give such powers as are necessary, but not to do everything incidental to them. The Bill is framed on the widest possible line, and I venture to think that a little compression and constriction on these points would be desirable. It might be held—I am not a lawyer enough to know whether it could or not—that the commission of a crime could be legalised under this proviso, possibly not a crime under the criminal law, but one under the civil law. Is it absolutely necessary that not only the Minister, but also the contractor and presumably the agents of any contractor that the Minister might appoint should have these powers? If so, I am standing up here for old-fashioned things like security in vested interests and for the rights of individuals and things like that, and I say, in the name of these old-fashioned things, it is very desirable that we should have a full explanation on this question.
The wording of the paragraph is the wording that is invariably adopted in connection with all similar works. The wording, as the result of experience, seems to be necessary in the carrying out of big works of this kind. I think the weakness of the examples taken by the Deputy is the best answer to his amendment. He stated, for instance, that throwing a match on a farmer's haystack might do something incidental. I can only imagine myself that if he was a particularly obstructive farmer that it would be something in the nature of making the punishment fit the crime—of course I am not suggesting anything of the kind—to burn his haystack, particularly if he was reclining on it, so as to get rid of him and his hay. It may be incidental to the conferring of some of these powers that a man should be paid for his dinner. Surely the men will get wages for the work they do. The phrase in the section is the one invariably used, and has been confirmed by experience. What interest would be protected by leaving the words out as proposed by the amendment? You give me all the powers that I require, but you balk at giving me powers that are "incidental" to doing them. There is one error in what the Deputy stated. Any contractor, according to the Deputy, may get all the powers of the Minister for himself and his agents. The contractor cannot get these powers until the requirements of Section 3 are complied with. The Minister may confer on the contractor the right to do certain things under sub-section (1) as the Minister may think proper and as specified in the order. The contractor is not substituted for the Minister. It is the Minister who authorises him in his opera tions. There is no reason to cut these words out. If they were cut out it would only subject the engineers to unnecessary delay upon any pretext by any person who had an interest in delaying the scheme.
It is because of the existence of sub-section (3) of this Section 3 that I move this amendment. the Minister, I readily admit, would not do anything unfair that would be incidental to the scheme. But when the Minister empowers the contractor to do things incidental to the scheme he has to trust to the contractor's interpretation of what is incidental and what is not. If the Minister will say that sub-section (3) is to be so used that the contractor will be definitely limited in what he can do and not allowed to do other things simply because he believes they are incidental to, I will withdraw my amendment.
Will the Deputy read the sub-section? It reads "whenever the Minister enters under this section into any contract or agreement for the doing of anything which the Minister is authorised by sub-section (1) of this section to do, the Minister may by order confer on the contractor the right to do such of the things which the Minister is authorised by the said sub-section (1) to do as the Minister shall think proper and shall specify in the order."
Then it is not the Minister's intention to confer on the contractor the power to do incidental things and to be the judge of what the incidental things are?
Read the last two lines of sub-section (3)—"but so far as and no further than is necessary for the due execution of the contract or agreement."
I have read them. If the Minister is interpreting sub-section (3) as definitely limiting the contractor as to what he can do, and nothing else, then I agree my amendment is unnecessary, but if the contractor is to be allowed incidentally to do certain things and may not be amenable to the law, and, say, he did these things because the Minister authorised him and that they were incidental, that would be conferring a greater power than you say you are conferring on the contractor. If the Minister will satisfy me upon what the contractor may do simply, then my objection would be gone.
I do think in any action that might arise afterwards that the contractor could really be held liable as long as the Minister had given the order required by Section 3. Whether or not incidental matters are to be included in that order, if that question of being incidental were raised I think the responsibility in all cases would fall back upon the Minister. The contractor would be protected by his order. I ask the Deputy what does he suggest instead of the words "or incidental to"? Is it that we must set out everything in this Bill that may at any time crop up as a matter to be dealt with under the terms of the contract? If that is the case, I would like the Deputy to draft the schedule instead of leaving it to me to draft, because that would take many days. If you take out that phrase you take out a phrase consecrated by usage. It has been proved by experience on big works such as these that you must have that general phrase in. You must trust certain people, and if you do not trust them to carry out certain things, you will have to have a Bill of several hundred volumes.
The Minister has appealed to experience and usage, but the firm of contractors to which he is giving the contract are not familiar with the usages of our law or British law, so far as I know. My fears would be much less but for the fact that we are dealing with the German mind which is essentially logical and which will carry conclusions of this kind very far. I do not share the cry about German influence as I do not believe in that, but I believe that the German mind is a logical mind and not a meek mind. Believing that it possesses these powers, it will carry them to an extreme not contemplated by experience and not in accordance with the practice of the past, because that usage and experience are not known to them as they are to the Minister. I agree that you cannot put every detail into the Bill, but I suggest that the Minister, when delegating powers under this section, should give detailed instructions and powers to the contractors to enter such lands in such a townland for the purpose of building a power station and to enter such and such a field for the purpose of making trial borings. Definite powers should be delegated and not general powers to build a power station and carry out trial borings, say, in counties Clare and Limerick. That delegation should be specific and not general. It would mean more work for the Minister but I think, inasmuch as this is a great experiment, the Minister should reserve a close supervision of it. If he is to interpret the words "incidental to" and not the contractors my objection would be removed. If he is going to give general powers, and powers that may be incidental, to the contractors I think we shall have a great deal of trouble.
Let me take the point which the Deputy raises about trial borings. If I wish to make trial borings in a field belonging to so-and-so in such a county that would be all right, but if I am to, say, make trial borings in a county that is all wrong. Supposing I said: "Make trial borings in the land belonging to John so-and-so," would I not have to specify and for that purpose say: "The parties shall have leave to enter on the said lands to erect this triangular construction which shall hold the boring apparatus," and detail that down to the smallest provision in the contract. It could not be done. When I wish to make a trial boring incidental to that trial boring, so delimited as to meet the Deputy's wishes, it would beimpossible to detail all these. I can conceive circumstances in which I should say to the contractors: "We want trial borings along certain stretches." After that was done, after consultation with the chief engineer he would make up his mind after considering the geological position where these borings should be made, but to say that that order should specify everything incidental to such a simple thing as trial borings puts, I think, the Deputy's amendment out of court. We could not specify everything. When he talks of the German mind being logical and not submissive he should remember that it is not the German mind which is to be the last decider as to what is or is not incidental. We give general power as to what is incidental to anything authorised by the sub-section. It is the courts, and the courts of this country will have the decision in the matter. No German will have a say in that. The German may interpret it but he can always be brought to book before our courts here.
I did not suggest that he would be brought before the German courts. That is not the line of argument that I was adopting. But I think the Minister has made my case, that any farmer who would be aggrieved in this matter has got to prove that the thing is not incidental. Almost everything you do in your daily life is incidental to something. You will have to take a man into court to try and prove that the thing is not incidental, and you will have great difficulty in doing so, whereas, if you have to prove that the thing was necessary to the carrying out of the scheme to make power houses and borings, it is a difficult matter to prove. If I had to do that, I should probably secure the Minister as my counsel.
The Deputy should, I think, read the words "incidental to" in relation to the word "necessary.""Necessary" may be subject to interpretation. It may mean that nothing but what is proved to be essential to a particular job can be done. There you have the question of expert decision, whether three ropes, for instance, instead of two, were necessary. With the term "incidental" in relation to "necessary," it will always be possible to have a difference of opinion as to what is necessary. I think that my memory is sufficiently good to know that this is a phrase which can be found in many Acts and orders dealing with works of this kind. You give powers to do certain things and you give power to take such steps as are necessary and incidental to the carrying out of that sort of thing.
"Or necessary and incidental." Deputy Thrift may decide that a certain machine is necessary for properly carrying out a certain work. Some other Deputy may say that it is not necessary and that something else additional to that is desirable. If you leave the word "necessary" in, then you have a difference of opinion as to the necessity of a particular thing, but the word "incidental" gives a little latitude in doing that particular thing. That is how I read it, and I think that that is the practice.
Deputy Johnson's remarks have suggested to me a way out. Would the Minister accept the word "and" for "or"?
No, that would leave one to override the other.
I think that this is probably a legal point. The Minister gives a different interpretation of the word "incidental" to the popular interpretation of the word.
Is not this storm on the assumption that the Minister and his legal or engineering advisers will be absent from the area, and that the people in charge of the contract will be let run amok? Who will be the people who are to decide whether work is incidental or necessary? One would imagine from what some of the Deputies have said that neither the Minister nor his legal or technical advisers would be in existence while this scheme was being carried out. I think this is a storm in a tea-cup.
Amendment put and negatived.
At the end of sub-section (2), page 3, line 39, to add the words:—
"Provided that the terms of every such contract or agreement proposed to be made by the Minister shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas at least one month before it shall come into force, and if both such Houses shall, within the next twenty-one days on which either House has sat after these terms have been laid before both Houses, pass resolutions annulling such contract or agreement it shall be annulled, but such annulment shall not prejudice or invalidate any matter or thing previously done in connection with such contract or agreement."
I am not, and I am sure the Minister knows it, trying to crab this scheme, or trying to waste the time of the Dáil. I am not tied to the words of the amendment I put forward, but I am anxious that the principle at any rate contained in the amendment should receive acceptance. I think we should have as much publicity as possible in the first place for all the details of the contract. I am not suggesting anything behind the scenes, but I think we want to secure public confidence to make the scheme a success. I am taking these words from clauses which have been brought forward by the Government in other Bills, and I have adapted them. I think it is the only safeguard the Dáil is entitled to ask for, namely, that the Dáil shall be aware of the terms of the contract entered into, and that the Dáil shall have the opportunity, if necessary, of discussing them, and if any Deputies think fit and are able to do so to suggest alterations. I do not think that the Dáil ought to hand over to the Government, or the Government's engineers, complete and absolute control of the contract without being aware of the kind of contract entered into. I know it is difficult in connection with this Bill to refer particularly to any particular contract. I am not quite sure whether it is in order, but it appears to me that this particular clause is the only chance that we are going to get in this Bill to refer to the particular terms of the contract which we hope to be able to discuss in Committee. If you, sir, think that I am out of order, I may refer later on specifically to certain points which we understand are going to be covered by this particular sub-section. I am going to postpone that because I am anxious to hear whether the Minister is disposed to take into consideration acceptance of the principle involved in the amendment.
I can answer Deputy Thrift concisely by saying that the amendment is entirely unacceptable. I I go further and say that the amendment introduces a principle which has not in fact been accepted by the Dáil or the Oireachtas. It is, in fact, every day negatived by the Oireachtas. All the departments under the control of the Government and the Dáil have to enter into contracts, the Board of Works, the Post Office, Local Government Department and the Trade Department, and there is no difference in principle between the contracts which are being entered into every day by the Post Office, and the Board of Works, and the contract in this case. Here is a contract entered into by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. You may say this is a bigger contract. It may be bigger spreading it over a three years' period, but the Board of Works, I understand, have contracts annually of half a million or three quarters of a million, and the Post Office have annually contracts for about three quarters of a million.
Have they to come before the Dáil?
Not with the terms of the contracts. I have never seen one. The Post Office and the Board of Works have annually contracts amounting between them to one and a quarter million pounds. No one has asked that a contract in these cases should come before the House and be laid on the Table of the House.
Is that fair comment? The Minister is now referring to the ordinary details of the expenditure of the Board of Works and the Post Office. They do not enter into a contract for new works without the authority of the Dáil.
They come before the Dáil for just the same authority as I ask for here, to spend a lump sum on a contract. That is the authority they would get from the Dáil. The Board of Works have an estimate, and there is included in that money for new buildings. I heard a Deputy on the Farmers' benches complaining that so much detail was given regarding this scheme, on the grounds that it was giving contractors too much information. Leaving out the Local Government Department, the Stationery Office, and any other supply departments, there is one and a quarter million per annum spent on contracts, and no hint whatever as to the terms of contract being laid on the Table. I want to point out further the effect of the amendment. Instead of being responsible to the Government, contractors under the authority of the chief engineer, under the authority of the Minister responsible to this House, it would mean that details of the contract would have to be settled by Deputies and Senators, but that they would be able to rule political considerations out when considering the multifarious details of the contracts that would have to be made for the carrying out of this scheme is incredible.
I cannot conceive that the amendment is seriously meant, if it is understood that the practice has been that the spending departments get from the House the same authority as I seek here. I refer to Deputy Johnson's phrase: "Much greater detail has been given regarding this scheme than he or the House expected." Again we get a reversion to this talk about public confidence and the withholding of documents, as if there was something withheld which if revealed would lead to some defect in the scheme being discovered. Nothing has been withheld that might prevent a defect in the scheme being recognised. I have withheld one book which contains only a list of articles and prices. If it is put to me that I am withholding information and destroying public confidence in this scheme, I cannot conceive that that argument is based on the one booklet dealing with prices.
In this connection I may say that engineers are absolutely unable seriously to consider the details of this proposal. They have not got such particulars before them as would enable them to form an estimate.
An estimate as to the engineering character of the whole scheme. I take one illustration. I am referring in this connection particularly to what I may call section levels right along. I take page 18 of the report on the Shannon scheme, which is a report on sections which appears to be the only one available, and the levels to the power-house. On page 40 there is a paragraph where the experts refer to the levelling of the bed to a level of plus .5 at the mouth of the tail-race, that is to say the lowering of the Shannon bed from that level. If you take the output of the tail-race, and look at the diagram, you see the levels given at the end of the tail-race. There are no figures as to depths, but there is obviously considerable depth between the ground level and the tail-race end, according to statements made in the report. That depth, I think, is given on the same page as minus 4 metres. I am simply putting this forward to show that it is impossible for us to estimate the details. So far as we can see, from putting these things together, what is proposed is that in the bed of the Shannon we are going to have a level of plus point five in metres, and at the end of the tail-race a level of minus four. In the mile between these two we are going to have an up-flow from the end of the tail-race to the Shannon bed. I do not say that that is actually what is proposed. There may be something altogether different in the actual plans, but we have never seen the actual plans, and are not in a position to say.
During the last debate I put up a point to the Minister in connection with the core of the embankment, and I said that so far as I could find in the report there was no reference to the core. He answered me—no doubt on the information that was supplied to him—in these terms: "What is known as the method of hydraulic fill, and that method gives definitely, completely and assuredly a strengthening core." I did not contradict him at the time and, as I said, I am not an engineer. I felt sure, however, that he was misinformed in that. I have made all the inquiries I could on the point since, and I find that, as I suspected, the method of hydraulic filling may or may not involve the question of strengthening the core. I have got classifications of embankments beginning with core embankments and ending with hydraulic-filled embankments. I find in no place any such security for the presence of core in a hydraulic-filled embankment that the Minister stated. Of course I am not suggesting that he stated what was wrong, but my information is that it is quite inaccurate.
Engineers ask that they shall have full information of plans and details before they commit themselves on the scheme, and I say that the Dáil ought to ask for similar information. I think it will be admitted that I have never put up an amendment which I did not intend seriously, and intend to be helpful. I intend this amendment to be helpful. I have no attachment to the words or to bringing contracts generally before the Dáil out of Government departments, but I am anxious, as we all are in this scheme, that we should do everything we can to make it a sound and successful one. That is all I am out to secure.
Two points have been raised—one with regard to the level, and the other with regard to hydraulic-filling. I quoted from page 48 with regard to hydraulic filling-in: "This method which ensures a stable impervious structure." I did not want to get into any argument as to strengthening core as opposed to giving a stable impervious structure, because if there is a stable impervious structure you do not want any strengthening core. Is that an answer to the point that the Deputy put up?
An answer on different lines.
I referred the Deputy to two pages when he spoke of the question of embankments. I said that apparently it had not been realised that the method to be adopted was the most up-to-date method, and that is the phrase which described the method of hydraulic filling-in. I want to ask if there is any engineer of repute who questions that phrase—that it does ensure a stable impervious structure? From some words which I, not being an expert, used here, the Deputy thinks we should have contracts before this Dáil: that when I talked of strengthening core that what I should have said was: "This method which ensures a stable impervious structure," and that Deputies and Senators would then proceed to debate whether what was in the contract was right, or whether that contract was going to be weakened in any way by some words of mine here. Although I gave the correct reference, and although I was speaking hurriedly I think it was quite clear that I did give my reference accurately as to the page and as to what was meant.
Think of the result of it all. We get a contract brought in here—a contract, remember, not a discussion as to methods to be adopted, but a contract. On that we are to have a discussion by Deputies and Senators on whether this is or is not the correct method to be adopted with regard to embankments; a method that has been put up in that way: that has all the weight of up-to-date engineering experience behind it, and that has passed the test of the four experts—that has to be decided here by the cumbrous method of discussion, and every detail of every contract has to be discussed in the same way. I do not know whether it is a sound proposal, but it certainly means that there is going to be no Shannon constructional work started for two years.
I believe this phrase is mainly taken from the schedule to the State Lands Act—at least it is the phrase used there. There is no comparison between the handing over of a Government asset— the use of it—and this construction portion of the Shannon scheme. We are asking people to make the project into an achievement. We are getting that contract supervised by expert engineers. We are getting somebody here who has Parliamentary responsibility to take responsibility in the final instance for it—all in accord with Parliamentary procedure. After that, when we get that project in the completed form, and when it becomes a Government asset, we will then have to deal with it as a Government asset, just as we deal with things scheduled to the State Lands Act. That is to say, that we will have the question of supply, distribution, and organisation to come afterwards. This is simply a contract for the constructional portion. The constructional portion has been already supervised and passed by experts, and put up by a firm that is hardly equalled in this matter of engineering. The details of a technical contract are to be subjected to the scrutiny of Deputies and Senators. I do not think the proposition is workable.
There are points in this amendment that are possibly not as clear to the Dáil as they might be. The Minister has pointed out that in the ordinary contracts we enter into, a scrutiny of the kind asked for here is not required. Let me reiterate what I said on a previous occasion with regard to this contract, that it is not an ordinary contract. May I make that statement a little more clear by taking the comparison the Minister has brought forward. He stated that estimates come before us from the different public departments and he enumerated the Office of Public Works. The Minister said these proposals come forward and are approved by the Dáil and that there is no such inquiry as is asked for in connection with this scheme. I admit from that point of view that he is accurate in his statement, but let me show the Dáil that that is not a proposal similar to the one before us. In that case what happens is this: When a work of any particular character is required in connection with a department the engineers of that department are instructed to prepare a plan. They are engineers appointed by the Minister, they are known to us, and we have every confidence in them. They put forward their plans and estimates and as we have confidence in them the estimates go through without question.
What is the attitude adopted in this particular case? No instructions were given to any engineers so appointed or who were in the employment of the Government. I therefore reiterate that this is a most unusual proposal. In the sense put forward by the Minister this is not an engineer's proposal at all. It is a contractors' proposal. Let me explain what I mean. It has been pointed out to us by the President how this proposal came about. A firm of German engineers were introduced to him by, I think, Deputy Magennis and they put up this proposal for obtaining electrical energy from the Shannon. The President was quite candid in telling us that he turned it down in the first instance. Subsequently he reconsidered his decision and these contractors were asked to put forward their proposals. In the case cited by the Minister we had proposals prepared by our own engineers from instructions given them. This is quite different.
I thought the Deputy was making a mistake. I thought he said proposals prepared by our engineers were put before the Dáil. I think that was a slip.
In connection with schemes put forward by the Office of Public Works with which the Parliamentary Secretary is connected. He will bear me out when I say that these estimates put forward are based on plans and specifications drawn by our own engineers.
That is not what the Deputy said first.
Now I come to the other proposals which emanate from a German firm of contractors. They put forward plans and estimates and when the Government received them they sent them to expert engineers with such details as they had. Then we have the report of the experts before us and it is that scheme the Dáil is asked to approve of. To anybody at all conversant with these matters there is a difference between the two proposals. The ordinary proposal comes before the Dáil from our own engineers and is carried out in the usual way, through getting competitive estimates. That is the usual procedure. This contract is I say quite a different proposal altogether. In that difference lies the necessity for the inquiry that has been called for. Once this particular section is passed the Minister is authorised to enter into a contract for this particular work.
This section authorises the Minister to enter into a contract. Before authority is given to enter into the contract we ask that we may see the documents connected with it. That request was made previously to the Minister and his reply was that it would not be in accordance with his views of commercial morality to produce the documents before the estimate is accepted. Does the Minister want to bind the Dáil to this contract without seeing the documents? That is the position we are placed in by this proposal. If this section is passed the Dáil authorises the Minister to enter into a contract for work for which we have not seen the plans. We are told that that is done every day in our own Departments. Is it? I am quite satisfied that if any Deputy wanted to know the details of any proposal that comes in the usual way from the Office of Public Works he would not have the smallest difficulty about seeing the plans. I am sure that every facility would be given so that Deputies might see the plans and the prices if they were anxious to do so.
We ask that an opportunity should be afforded the Dáil to inspect these documents before being tied to these proposals. It is not an unreasonable request. In fact, if members of a local authority attempted to enter into a contract of this kind without having seen the details, I am quite sure they would be held up to odium by the Department of Local Government, and I am not at all sure, in view of recent events, that that would not be sufficient justification for dissolving that local authority. Local authorities have been held up to odium for committing sins of a very much smaller character. Here we are in the dark asked to accept this contract of very considerable magnitude without having seen the documents in connection with it. To my mind that is not a reasonable proposal. It is not, shall I say to the Minister, a commercial proposal. Before we are asked to accept this contract and pass this particular Bill, there ought to be an undertaking given by the Minister that an opportunity will be afforded for a thorough inspection of these documents.
May I make one other point in this connection? When we were discussing this Bill on a previous occasion it was pointed out that by reason of the small scale to which the drawings submitted to the experts were prepared they were unable to arrive at what, in their opinion, was an estimate for the work involved. They said they could only go within 10 per cent. of what was the value of the work included in the plans.
I quoted the particular part. I have not it here.
Page 80. The phraseology of the final finding is correct, but the implication in the reading of the preamble is entirely wrong.
The President discussed this matter on a previous occasion. It is quite obvious to those who are experts in the matter, that if you have a set of drawings, drawn to what is known as an eighth scale, except you have details amplifying these drawings it is impossible for any man to prepare a definite estimate. For that reason the experts said they could only go within 10 per cent. of the value of the work.
The Minister can make his point quite clear. I am prepared to stand over that statement. The point I want to make from that is that the experts themselves were not satisfied that these drawings were complete, and further details were necessary. Before we are called upon to enter into this contract, we should be satisfied, not alone with the completeness of the drawings, but we should be given a full opportunity of examining the scheme, and of seeing the details attached to these drawings, so that we will be able to judge, as far as we can judge, whether we are getting value for the money which we are called upon to pay. These are only elementary matters in commerce. If we were to do in commerce what the House is here called upon to do, I am afraid the mentality of some of us would be called in question. I do not want to take up the time of the House unnecessarily, but an amount of suspicion, as I have pointed out before, and as has been pointed out by Deputy Thrift and others to-day, surrounds this whole proposal. The very action of the Minister has engendered that suspicion. The very withholding of documents has done so. I urge that, even at this stage, some opportunity should be given to any who desire to see these drawings to express their views on them before the House is tied to this contract.
I have very little hope of getting a proper judgment from the Deputy on documents which he says are withheld, when I see what little use he can make, and how fair a judgment he can form, of documents already in his possession. I want to call attention to the complete inaccuracy of the statement to which he devoted portion of his speech. He said there were certain plans criticised by the experts as being on too small a scale, and for that reason I interrupted the Deputy at that time, but those were his words—the experts said that they could only regard this as a judgment of the probable cost within a margin of about ten per cent. I challenge him now to give me any page on which that connection is shown between the 10 per cent. margin and the scale set out in the plans.
If the Minister will look up page 80 he will see what I referred to. If I do not trespass too much on the time of the House, I will read the paragraph. "The plan handed to the experts does not show any detailed constructions. According to the rules of the Swiss Institute of Engineers and Architects, with regard to the drawing up of engineers' plans, three different kinds of prepared plans are distinguished, viz.: (1) general plan with approximate estimates; (2) building plan with estimates; (3) detailed elaboration. From the point of view of this differentiation, Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert's plan must be considered as a building plan." Now come the important words: "It permits of a judgment of the probable costs within a margin of about 10 per cent. Accordingly the data can be described as sufficient to enable one to arrive at a judgment as to workability of the scheme." I think that makes clear everything I stated.
Will the Minister say whether the experts at any time asked for a more detailed set of plans?
Their opinion was that no more detailed set of plans could be put in at that point, and they had no intention of asking further. If Deputy Good thinks that paragraph proves what he said, that certain plans drawn to certain scales and the ten per cent. were joined together, I repeat that the ten per cent. margin depends upon particulars with regard to the bringing of an impervious type of clay from a place up the river to a point lower down where it might be needed. In the main it refers to this and this only. It is a thing that Deputy Good, if any Deputy in the House should be aware of it, should know. It refers to the fact that where you are going on with an excavation process, inasmuch as the material which is to be excavated is not known, it cannot be known until the last ounce of material is excavated. Your costs of that can only be binding within certain margins, and the ten per cent. margin is mainly intended to cover that. It is impossible, until the last portion of material is extracted, to find out to the last penny what the scheme is going to cost.
With regard to the plans and the statement, I am quite satisfied with what the experts say—that the plans do not show the details of the construction and therefore they could not get nearer than a price of ten per cent. of the possible cost of construction. I cannot put any other reading on it.
That is a very different interpretation.
It is very different. The Deputy's previous statement was that there was a suspicion in the minds of the experts that they had not sufficient details to enable them to give a complete judgment, a judgment to the last penny. Of all the men in the world, any person who has a knowledge of contracting work ought to know that until the work is actually finished and every item of the material is extracted, you cannot give a binding estimate.
Until a contract is finished? That is another matter. We are called upon to give a binding estimate before the work is started. It is impossible to get a close binding contract unless you have details showing all the work that is to be included in the contract.
The details that are not here will be required to give you absolutely the last penny to be spent on the contract. Just think that in regard to the details somebody will have to say accurately, and beyond all fear of contradiction, that in the stretch of the canal 100 yards broad and about six miles long there are going to be X units of rock and Y units of earth. Somebody has to say that without any danger of contradiction before there can be a completely binding estimate. If Deputy Good believes that anybody in the world could make that statement, then I will say that the contract is not made soundly. That is not the only point. I will make a slight variation for material to be dredged from the river, but that is regarded as inconsiderable in the contract. You may take it 9½ of the 10 per cent. simply depends on whether it is rock or earth. You have to excavate the tail-race and the canal. On no other points were the experts concerned when they wrote that phrase.
There again I must differ. I hope the Minister will forgive me interrupting so often. The point is this: he instances the case of the embankment. There is a great deal of work included in this contract other than embankments. It may be a cost with regard to embankments until borings are actually made in a position, but you cannot tell whether you have to excavate rock or sand. You have a schedule with types of contracts which deal with one or the other. Possibly the excavation would be taken in sand. If the contractor is undertaking to deal with sand only he will charge extra for rock. That is an everyday occurrence. Do not let the Minister lead us away by saying that is what is referred to in this. I say that is not what is referred to in this particular clause.
That is one point of view against another. The figure of .05 will cover the whole variation in the contract as far as the embankments are concerned. The margin of 10 per cent. is confined to the dredging of the head race and the tail race. The tail race is to be blasted out of solid rock, but if it occurs where rock is not to be encountered, it is so much saved. The allowance is there, and it is almost entirely for rock. In the head race it is a question of excavating for rock or sand. The experts give it as their considered judgment that 10 per cent. covers all that, and that the 10 per cent. margin is on the cost of civil engineering, of the two and a half millions portion of the contract. Outside that there is no variation against the scheme. There is a variation, a possible variation, and a very probable variation, in favour of the scheme. Deputy Good has talked about this as an unusual contract. It is a very unusual contract. I wonder would Deputy Good like to find himself bound up in a contract in which the prices were the maximum that he could charge but under which his prices were to be compared with those at which any reputable firm in any part of the world could do the work at the time and under which his prices would have to come down if the comparison with those of another firm were unfavourable, and that his prices could not rise.
I do not like to interrupt the Minister more than is absolutely necessary, but he has called me in question again. Let me point out clearly to him that once he has entered into a contract with this particular firm, he is not going to get further competitive estimates for work that is not placed with people from whom he expects such estimates.
I have already mentioned that matter, and I do not intend to go over these competitive estimates again. I got the Deputy to advance some points since last we discussed the matter, that there are ways of getting estimates, that it is possible to get some idea of what some portion of the work can be done by a reputable firm in any other part of the world. I put it to the Deputy as a personal matter, would he like to have a contract made in which his prices were based on an upward scale but in which, as far as beating them down was concerned, they could be checked and measured by the amount at which another contractor in any other country could do the work?
Might I reply to that by stating that I have thirty odd years' experience of contracting and I never heard of such methods of contracting before.
Are we discussing this amendment or giving a Second Reading to the Bill? If we are discussing this amendment I hold it is a different matter.
I am afraid Deputy Good, in one phrase he used, when he said this was the reason why an inquiry was called, was getting back to the amendments of the 2nd April. The Deputy made one point with regard to the contract. He asked—Did I want the House to authorise the work without seeing the plans? I put to him the analogy of the Board of Works, and I said that the House does authorise work, under the Board of Works, without seeing the plans. His answer to me—I hope I have got it correctly— was that the estimate of costs comes before us on plans which are prepared by our engineers and on specifications adopted by our Engineers. That is the point. Before this contract is made it will be absolutely in that position.
It will never be in that position—it can never be.
It will be in that position inasmuch as it will have been handled by the Government engineers, and the contract that will be made on another point with the firm of Siemens-Schuckert, will not be simply the Siemens-Schuckert scheme even with that schedule of costs that I have, but the scheme with the schedule of costs modified, on such further modification as the Government engineers think fit to put on it. On that point it assumes absolutely the character of a contract that the Board of Works might bring forward with an estimate of costs, with the exception that the Deputy will probably make—that the Board of Works contract, at any rate, can be tested out by open competitive tenders, and this cannot. That point I will admit, and I get back now to the previous argument that this is an unusual contract and put up as such. We can only approach it in the ordinary way. What is the ordinary way of approaching it? Ask an engineer to draw up plans and pay him three per cent. or £125,000 on a scheme of this magnitude? We had to come to the House to get leave to spend this money at a time when any engineers, who had any thought of hydro-electrical matters in the country, were engrossed on what would be the enormous blunder of the Liffey scheme.
In that atmosphere somebody had to go to the House and say: "We want money to look into the possibilities of the Shannon development." Where were we to get engineers? We would have to go abroad for them. Immediately we would have the cry: "What about the Irish or British engineers?" This is an unusual scheme, and it had to be tackled in an unusual way. Nobody can say that the facing up of the problem by the Government, as shown in the White Paper, was enthusiastic. Deputy Hewat used the phrase in the last debate that this firm came along and enthused the Government. I would ask Deputies to read the details in the White Paper. In that Paper the phrase occurs here and there that the Government are not convinced this, that, or the other thing might happen. If anything, it was a chilling reception that the Siemens-Schuckert firm got, and the result of working it in this unusual fashion has been that the sum of £125,000, consulting engineers' fees, has been definitely saved; that we have got contractors into this position, that they have a scheme binding on them in so far as maximum costs are concerned, and that scheme has to be handled by our engineers as to the minimum costs which we think necessary and adequate for this scheme.
I say that the contract will have definitely and absolutely assumed the same form as any contract on foot of which the Secretary of the Board of Works would come here for his estimate. I have definitely stated that I do not consider it is commercially moral to get a firm of contractors into this position and then reveal their costs so that other competing contractors may combine to cut them out of certain details. This firm has brought forward a project and put it in the position in which it can be made an achievement, and their costs should not be thrown open publicly. The costs binding on them should not be thrown open for cut-throat competition by rivals, and that is not going to be done. The Deputy has used the phrase that this is a contractor's proposal. It is a contractor's proposal that has run many gauntlets. It has passed the experts and it has to pass the engineers, the most competent engineers that I can get to carry out the scheme for me. If the House does not think fit to entrust to a Minister acting under the Government and associating with himself engineers to test out still further a scheme that has been tested to the extent that this has, then of course you need not trust the Government for anything. There has to be trust at some point in this, and this is the point on which it must necessarily come.
There is one phrase which Deputy Good let fall which indicates a point of view that is not uncommon, and I want to put in a demurrer. Deputy Good is arguing as though the Oireachtas was an executive body. He said if we were to do in commerce what the House is asked to do, certain things would go wrong. I suggest to Deputy Good definitely that he, and all men in commerce, are doing this identical thing every day in the week. If we were to draw an analogy, the analogy is that the House is the equivalent of the shareholders and the Ministry is the equivalent of the directors, and they have their experts to advise them. The shareholders do not inspect and examine all the plans of works and all the terms of contracts. That is the analogy, and I maintain that there has been in commerce every day, every week, and every month exactly a parallel operation. That is happening now.
May I point out that if, instead of making an analogy between this House and the shareholders, the Deputy made an analogy with the electors of the country it would be better. The electors should be satisfied with the proposal. I do not understand their view at the moment.
I have in my hand the Official Report of the 22nd July last, and Deputy Johnson, speaking on the Second Reading of the State Lands Bill, said:
"We cannot say we are retaining authority and control when we are simply handing over the power to a Minister to do as he likes for six months, even with reporting."
We are handing over power to the Minister now to do what he likes for more than six months, without reporting.
Will the Deputy explain what the State Lands Act was? A particular provision of it had to do with the enforcement of an Article in the Constitution dealing with the handing over of State property to private individuals, and what I urged then was to safeguard the rights of the Oireachtas over an Executive which might, if they had no check, hand over State property to private individuals, an entirely different proposition.
Does Deputy Johnson reaffirm his proposition?
I will remind him of it later.
Are we to take it that Deputy Good would like the electors to be questioned on this in the way of a General Election?
I would like the country to have an opportunity of examining all the documents before the country is tied to it.
Is the country to be provided with all the documents that have appeared during the three or four years, and, if so, when will the Election take place?
The Committee divided: Tá, 11; Níl, 35.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Sir James Craig.
- Darrell Figgis.
- John Good.
- William Hewat.
- Risteárd Mac Liam.
- Tadhg O Donnabháin.
- Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
- Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
- Domhnail O Mocháin.
- Liam Thrift.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Seán Buitléir.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Máighréad Ní Choileain Bean Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Séamus Eabhróid.
- Patrick J. Egan.
- John Hennigan.
- Liam Mac Cosgair.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Martin M. Nally.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Risteárd O Conaill.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Parthalán O Conchubhair.
- Aodh O Cúlacháin.
- Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
- Séamus O Dóláin. Eamon O Dubhghaill.
- Peadar O Dubhghaill.
- Eamon O Dúgáin.
- Aindriú O Láimhín.
- Séamus O Leadáin.
- Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
- Tadhg O Murchadha.
- Seán O Súilleabháin.
- Andrew O'Shaughnessy.
- Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.
- Caoimhghín O hUigín.
- Seán Príomhdhail.
Tellers.—Tá: Deputies Liam Thrift and John Good. Níl: Deputies Eamon O Dúgáin and Tomás O Conaill.
Amendment declared lost.
Question proposed—"That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."
Before deciding to adopt this section it would be well that the Dáil should realise the full implications of all the powers that are given to the Minister thereby, because the Minister talked about the words "incidental to" being in accordance with precedent. I do not know where he found the precedent for the extensive powers that are conferred on him. Let me take only one point. The Minister, under sub-head (g) of sub-section (1), is entitled to "construct and maintain railways and tramways (whether worked by steam, internal combustion, or electric power) docks and piers." He is not limited in any sense. He is not limited to constructing his railways on the Shannon; he can construct and maintain railways, under this section, anywhere in the Saorstát.
The over-riding clause is: "The Minister may, for the purpose of the undertaking," do these things.
Who is to say what the purpose of the undertaking is? It might, for the purpose of the undertaking, suit him to take over the late Dublin and South Eastern Railway and electrify it. He could say that that was for the purpose of the undertaking, that it was in order that it might have a market for electricity. Let us know what we are doing. In this experiment in State Socialism, and in practically uncontrolled State Socialism, let us at any rate know what we are doing. If we are going to give this precedent to Deputy Johnson and other Deputies, let us do it with our eyes open, but do not let us have Deputies who believe in private property and private enterprise who belong to the Government Party coming to us afterwards and complaining: "Oh, we never knew what we were doing." This is a very big experiment. We all hope that it will be an experiment for good, but we ought to realise that in order that the experiment may be carried out we are giving colossal powers, powers that will have to be exercised with the very greatest care, powers which are conferred not only on the present Minister—the whole Dáil, I think, has great confidence in the present Minister—but on any Minister for Industry and Commerce, so that if the Government decide to reward Deputy Beamish or Deputy O'Mara for their regularity of attendance here with the office of Minister for Industry and Commerce, they could exercise the powers; if the Government decided that another Minister from County Monaghan was needed and made him Minister for Industry and Commerce he could exercise the powers. Equally they could be exercised by a Minister for Industry and Commerce coming from the Farmers' Party or the Labour Party. It is not a matter of confidence in the Minister, or even of confidence scheme, that makes me mistrust this experiment—I did not catch the President's remark.
I said the Deputy had exhausted all parties but the Independents.
The Independents are too stereotyped and not sufficiently cohesive to take office. Besides, they also have the quality known as modesty. I would not like to suggest any Independent Deputy as a suitable Minister for Industry and Commerce. No doubt, if the few remaining individualists that we have, Deputy Hewat or Deputy Good, became Minister for Industry and Commerce the first action of either would be to repeal this Bill. Will Deputies read this section and realise exactly what the powers you are giving mean and put it to themselves whether they are justified in standing over them? It is a most gigantic experiment. Once it is launched I think Deputies will agree, Deputies who have put down amendments as well as anyone else, that it must be given a fair chance without carping criticism. But until this Bill is through the Dáil we should fail in our duty if we did not point out the vastness of the powers sought by it, and all the implications attached thereto.
I will follow my friend and colleague, Deputy Cooper, on the lines of his criticism of this clause and of the wide powers it gives to the Minister. We must all recognise that the Dáil is in its infancy, and whereas great things are expected of it in the future, at all events, at the present time our legislation is forming the foundation for growth hereafter. I wonder has a Bill giving a Minister such wide and exhaustive powers as this Bill gives to the Minister for Industry and Commerce ever been passed in toto in a Parliament before. I cannot claim to have any experience of Parliamentary proceedings in other places; I can only say that if as wide powers had been given to any Government under a Bill of the kind anywhere else I would like to have the reference. This particular clause, in its way, is not more drastic and far-reaching than the clause preceding it. But the two together, added to other clauses in the Bill, I think, give the Minister more power than this House ought to give in a matter of the kind. As Deputy Cooper said, when the Minister has got this Bill through the House and in operation he will find it difficult to know what he could not do under it.