DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - SHANNON ELECTRICITY BILL, 1925—THIRD STAGE (RESUMED).
Question—"That Section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
In sub-section (1) (b), page 3, line 60, after the word "water-right" to insert the words "fishing right," and in line 62 to delete the words "fishing right."
The amendment means that the words "fishing right" will be taken out of line 62 and put into line 60. It is merely a correction of a printer's error.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Question proposed—"That Section 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
I would like to have some assurance from the Minister that the position of persons who have tenancy rights in fisheries will be properly conserved by this section. Certain representations have been made to me in this matter and, while I think I can say that their rights are preserved, I would like to have some assurance from the Minister that he has had these considerations in mind and is satisfied that the rights of fishermen have been conserved.
The point had been raised with regard to fishery rights where the people concerned at the moment are not actually owners but are merely tenants holding from the owner. Just as there might have to be an allocation of sums given by way of compensation as between an owner, say, of landed property, and the tenant who holds a particular portion of it, under this section there is room for and there will be an allocation of compensation money as between the owner of the fishery right and the tenant. I am assured that the section does cover the type of fishery rights of which Deputy Johnson speaks.
Question put and agreed to.
(1) The amount of the price or compensation to be paid by the Minister for lands and premises compulsorily acquired (whether permanently or temporarily) by him under this Act to the several persons entitled thereto or having estates or interests therein, or for or in respect of easements, way-leaves, water-rights, and other rights compulsorily acquired (whether permanently or temporarily) by him to the owner thereof or the several persons entitled to or having estates or interests in the lands and premises over or in respect of which such rights are so acquired shall, in default of agreement, be fixed under and in accordance with the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919.
(2) The amount of the compensation to be paid by the Minister on account of the compulsory termination, restriction, or other interference (whether permanent or temporary) under this Act of or with any easement, water-right, fishing-right, or other right existing over or in respect of any lands, premises, or water, or the compulsory diversion, closing, removal, or other interference (whether permanent or temporary) under this Act of or with any private road, way, or bridge or any canal or other artificial water-way or any artificial water-course shall, in default of agreement, be fixed under and in accordance with the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, in like manner as if such compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired.
(3) When any price or compensation is being assessed in pursuance of this section in respect of any property, corporeal or incorporeal, which is occupied, used or enjoyed with or forms part of any other property, regard shall be had to any benefit in the nature of drainage or improvement of water supply which may reasonably be expected to accrue to such property by reason of any works executed or in course of execution or about to be executed by the Minister under this Act.
(4) All claims for price or compensation in respect of any land, premises, or right compulsorily acquired or any right, way, or other property compulsorily interfered with under this Act shall be made within one year after such land, premises, right, way, or property is first entered on, exercised, or interfered with by the Minister or a contractor under this Act, save that in the case of compensation for the permanent interference with a fishery right the claim may be made at any time within ten years after the completion of the works by which the fishery right is so interfered with.
(5) Section 69 to 83 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, shall apply to any price or compensation payable by the Minister under this section and to the conveyance to the Minister of property, corporeal or incorporeal, compulsorily acquired by him under this Act, and for the purpose of such application the Minister shall be deemed to be the promoter of the undertaking.
(6) No action shall lie at law or in equity against the Minister or any contractor or any officer or servant of the Minister or any contractor for or on account of any act, matter, or thing in respect of which compensation is payable by virtue of this section.
In sub-section (1), page 8, line 33, after the word "water-rights" to insert the words "fishing rights."
The amendment will make the wording of Section 5 consistent with the wording of Section 4.
Question put and agreed to.
In sub-section (4), page 4, line 65, to delete the words "one year" and substitute the words "five years."
The amendments which I have put down fall into two classes. One class is intended to harness the Minister as tightly as he is harnessing the Shannon. The Minister and the river have something in common. They are both capable of producing energy, light, and occasionally, heat, and if their channels are allowed to flow in wrong directions they may do a vast amount of damage. This, however, is not a harnessing amendment. It is designed to make the Bill more workable and, possibly, fairer to all parties concerned. I include among these parties, the State.
The section is one that deals with the price or compensation that is to be paid, not only for the acquisition of land, but also for damage to land in consequence of the scheme. It is not very difficult for an arbitrator to fix the price for the actual acquisition of land. He will not fix a price which will satisfy both parties, but he will fix a price which will satisfy himself. To fix a price, however, in the case of consequential damage is very difficult. If this amendment is not well drafted I am prepared to withdraw it, if the Minister can concede the point of giving a longer period of appeal to the arbitrator in the case of consequential damage. At present the situation is that everyone whose land is damaged, except in the case of a fishery right, must put in his appeal within one year after the land is entered on. That puts the arbitrator in a very awkward position. The scheme, owing to its nature, may not be carried to such a point that material damage is done. Yet the owner may feel compelled, as there may be some damage done in certain circumstances, to appeal for a grant for compensation for damage that may never happen. If the period is extended to five years in cases of consequential damage, the arbitrator may say: "Go away and do not come back until some damage has been done, and then I can estimate the amount of damage." I am putting this as an amendment that may save the State some money. It would place the arbitrator in a stronger position than if he had to say: "It is possible there may be a little additional flooding, or that your land may be deprived of water for your stock and, therefore, I must give you something." This will place the arbitrator in the position of saying: "Show me the exact damage that has been done, but do not ask me to act on hypothesis." If the Minister would consider this amendment it would possibly be a sort of protection against the men of Portumna, as it would make them confront him with facts instead of with theories.
I support the amendment. I think the period of five years in the amendment is too long, but the Deputy is willing to have it reduced. I think the period in the Bill is too short, as I can foresee that certain consequential damage may arise which may not be known at the actual time when the original entry takes place into the land. I am quite sure that the Minister would be willing to give the people affected every opportunity of putting their claims, if such claims are proper and just. I would suggest a period of, at least, two years being given for appeal, as one year is too short in view of the complicated works which will take place and the difficulty of estimating the consequential damage that may result upon the entry on the land.
Deputy Cooper now seeks to amend what he called a badly drafted Bill by a badly drafted amendment.
I have no official draftsman.
It would leave people a period of five years to make up their minds as to whether they have sustained any damage by reason of the compulsory interference with lands, premises, right, way, or property. It is put up that this would be a safeguard for me against Portumna. It would, as a matter of fact, completely demoralise Portumna. It would mean that the inhabitants of Portumna would have to become parasites upon this scheme for five years, and they would have to exercise their wits, having got compensation for consequential damage, to try and prove that there was further damage, and to see, therefore, that further compensation would have to be paid. It is a matter of opinion as between the one year and five years, suggested by Deputy Cooper, and two years suggested by Deputy Heffernan. I do not see why any person should not be able to judge, within twelve months after the property has been interfered with, as to what is the actual extent of the damage. I should say, of course, that the period will ordinarily run beyond the twelve months' period, because applications for compensation on that basis would be made not earlier than the twelfth month after the land was entered on, and when the whole question was tried on the facts that will be laid before the arbitrator, I think that that additional safeguard is one which will protract the period almost to, at least, a further six months and probably to the two years as desired by Deputy Heffernan. As to the fishery rights, they are in a different position and are protected by later clauses.
From what period do the two years date? Is it from the passing of the Bill, or from the completion of the work?
"Within one year after such land, premises, right, way, or property is first entered on, exercised or interfered with by the Minister or a contractor under this Act." Except in the case of fisheries, it means a yearly period from the date of interference for which the claim for compensation flows.
Does the Minister think that satisfactory? Lands may be entered on for the purpose of making a test boring, but no work may be done for another six months. Yet the time for appeal dates not from the completion of the work, but from the first entry.
"Shall be made within one year after such land, premises, right, way or property is first entered on, exercised or interfered with." That would cover the period of borings.
A claim arising for damage consequent upon borings would have to be made within twelve months, but if other works were done, the twelve-month period would run from their commencement. In the case of the item on which the compensation claim is founded, the period will run from twelve months from the damage done as regards that particular item.
Very well. I am satisfied to withdraw the amendment.
Question—"That Section 5, as amended, stand part of the Bill"— put and agreed to.
Section 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1) The Minister, in lieu of constructing and maintaining, or constructing or maintaining any railway or tramway which he is authorised by this Act to construct or maintain, may arrange with any local authority or other public body or any company, either that such authority, body or company will at their own expense construct and maintain, or construct or maintain such railway or tramway, or that the Minister will construct and maintain or construct or maintain such railway or tramway for and at the expense of such authority, body, or company.
(2) Whenever the Minister enters into any such arrangement as aforesaid, the Minister may by order delegate to and confer on the authority, body or company with which the arrangement is made such of the powers conferred on the Minister by this Act as shall in the opinion of the Minister be reasonably necessary for the due carrying out of such arrangement by such authority, body, or company.
(3) Any local authority or other body or company may, notwithstanding any statutory or other limitation of their powers, enter into any such arrangement as aforesaid with the Minister, and, without prejudice to any existing powers of borrowing and notwithstanding any existing restrictions on borrowing, may for the purpose of carrying out the arrangement borrow money in such manner and upon such terms, conditions, and security as, in the case of a local authority whose accounts are audited by an auditor of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, shall be prescribed by that Minister, or, in any other case, shall be approved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
(4) When any railway constructed under an arrangement made under this section has been completed and the statutory requirements for the time being in force in relation to the opening of a railway for public traffic have been complied with, the Minister may require the railway to be worked by any then existing railway company nominated by him, upon such terms and conditions in all respects (including the charges to be made on such railway, by such company) as may be determined by agreement made between such railway company and the authority, body, or company by or for whom the railway was constructed and approved of by the Minister.
To delete sub-section (1) and substitute the following sub-section:—
"(1) The Minister may arrange with any local authority or other public body or any company either—
(a) that such authority, body or company will at their own expense construct, maintain, and work or construct or maintain or work any railway or tramway which the Minister is by this Act authorised to construct, maintain, and work, or
(b) that the Minister will construct, maintain, and work or construct or maintain or work any such railway or tramway for and at the expense of such authority, body, or company."
This is merely a re-wording, and it does not in any way alter the sense of the sub-section as it stood, except that it adds the power to work the railway or tramway following the lines of amendment 4, which has already been accepted.
Amendment put and agreed to.
In sub-section (3), page 6, line 3, after the word "others" to insert the word "public."
Amendment agreed to.
To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"When a railway constructed by the Minister under this Act or constructed under an arrangement made under this section is opened for public traffic and is worked by the Minister or by the local authority, public body, or company, by or for whom it was constructed, the charges to be made on the railway shall be fixed by the Railway Tribunal and such charges or any of them may at any time be revised by the Railway Tribunal on the application of the person working the railway or any representative body of users of the railway or any trader using the railway."
Amendment agreed to.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
I would like to know, with reference to Section 8, if any estimate has been formed of the effect of the proposal of deepening the Shannon on the city of Limerick. The river, I gather, is being completely diverted from its bed and being put through two subsidiary channels in the centre of the town. This work has to be carried out with the greatest possible speed. I would like to know what the effect of the drainage would be on Limerick, and whether the drainage is to be conducted clear of the town. It seems to me to remove the river from the town, and to leave the bed dry, may have awkward consequences.
I am not quite clear that the bed of the river would ever be left dry. When the river runs through Limerick the work is to be done in sections, I understand. I do not see that there is going to be any possible effect on the drainage of Limerick, and as to any other effect it will have on Limerick, the Deputy may see if he reads such resolutions as have been passed by bodies in Limerick like the Harbour Board, and others. I will have the matter looked into, but I am certain that there would be no difficulty in the carrying out of this provision in the scheme.
If the Minister looks at page 4 of Siemens-Schuckert report he will see that it stated:—
"This section is to be excavated in a dry state. During this operation the river, below the steel bridge, is to be turned into the Abbey River, and the large quantity of water even in the city itself is to be carried off by the Ship Canal and so lead into the Shannon. We have, therefore, decided to dam in the section over its whole width."
That does not look like its being done in sections.
There will always be an outlet into the sea for matter coming down. It may not be via the tail race, but it may be via the canal or the Abbey River.
Section 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 agreed to.
Subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance given either generally or for any particular case, the Minister may contract to supply on such terms and conditions as he thinks proper to any person, whether for his own use or for resale, any quantity of electricity produced by the undertaking.
In line 19 to delete the words "either generally or."
We have now arrived at what to my mind is the most controversial section of the Bill. The section reads: "Subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance given either generally or for any particular case, the Minister may contract to supply" electricity. In other words, the section as it stands may make it possible for the Minister for Industry and Commerce to ask the Minister for Finance to give him a blank cheque without any further information. I venture to think that that is an unsound principle constitutionally. The finances of this country are centred in the Minister for Finance. He is the responsible authority, and it is he who will have to provide a sum of at least one quarter million annually to pay the interest on the loan necessary for the carrying out of this work. Therefore I suggest that the Minister for Finance ought not to have the power to sign away his control over the contract made under this scheme. Deputies know as well as I do that in practically every Bill that comes in here the words occur, "The Minister shall with the sanction of the Minister for Finance." Under this large and extensive scheme one Minister for Finance may give his sanction to arrangements without knowing the details, or asking for information, or exercising control, and, so far as I can see, that binds every subsequent Minister for Finance, and no provision is made in this Bill for a revocation of that consent. I suggest that is not a principle you ought to adopt in legislation of that kind, or of any other kind. A consent of that kind is not good business, and is not good finance. The Minister for Finance must be the responsible authority in dealing with the Dáil in matters of finance. It may happen under another Government that the Minister for Industry and Commerce may become an External Minister. In that case he would be given this enormous asset of making and supplying electricity without any control on the part of the Executive Council at all. I am curious to see how that can be defended, and I have no doubt it will be defended.
I think the explanation is very simple. The section enables the Minister for Finance to give sanction to a scale of charges, or to some tariffs which the Minister for Industry and Commerce may propose to give in a particular case. The position will be the same as in the case of the telephones. We sanction a scale of charges under which the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs allows people to have telephones in their homes, or more telephones than one. In the case of the Post Office, the whole thing is worked out on a scale of tariffs to suit different cases. The proposal in this Bill is the same, except that specific power is taken to give sanction in particular cases. You might have people taking large quantities of electricity, and it might be desirable in special circumstances to give them more favourable terms than they would get under a general tariff. I think the section does not bear the interpretation that Deputy Cooper has given to it.
Can the Minister give us any guarantee that a subsequent Minister for Finance would not take that interpretation, or that he would have power to make a revocation of the consent of the first Minister for Finance? Would he consider the advisability, considering the word "generally" has such a wide expression, and might give general powers to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, of moving in the Report Stage to put into this Bill words similar to those in the Telephone Act? I do not want to limit the Minister for Finance, or the Minister for Industry and Commerce at all, but I think this power is too great to be given without check on the part of the responsible financial Minister of the State.
If it were to appear that it was impossible to revise any arrangement that had been come to, in so far as it had been made use of, I certainly think that the Bill would have to be amended; but I have no doubt at all that it would be quite possible at some stage for the Minister for Finance to say: "We gave you sanction on such a date to make contracts on such a basis. In view of the facts that have come to light since then, that sanction is withdrawn, and you can make no other contracts except on some other basis that we may lay down." It is quite general to revise arrangements that have been made, and revise final sanction, and we have not the slightest reason to think that it would be impossible in this case. I will look into the matter, as Deputy Cooper suggests, in the meantime.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In line 20 to delete the word "contract," and substitute the words "make a provisional contract."
The Minister, on Second Reading, informed us that the contracts referred to in this section were to be provisional contracts. If that is so I see no objection to saying so. The Minister is aware that many rumours are circulated, and it is just as well to quell them. I am not associated with them; I do not agree with them, but while you are dealing with a matter in an atmosphere such as has been created, it is necessary to deal with it carefully, just as if you go into a coal mine after an explosion you have to take a safety lamp. I suggest, therefore, that this amendment, which only conveys the sense of the Minister's own words on Second Reading, is one that he might reasonably accept.
Would the Deputy go a little further into the question of rumours? I do not intend to deal with rumours until I know what they are.
The President dealt with certain rumours, and the Minister dealt with them. I do not agree with them, but I must recognise them.
If the basis of this amendment, therefore, is only to do away with the type of rumour that the President dealt with the last day, that this amendment is rendered necessary by the fact of these rumours being there and that only to quell them we must accept this, then I will not argue the point. I do not think I said that I would accept an amendment to limit this to provisional contracts. I said it was intended to enter into agreements for contracts during the period of the building, so that we would be in a position to know firmly and fixedly what the demand for electricity in certain areas was, and I said I would be prepared to accept an amendment that would limit me, if the Dáil thought it necessary to limit me, because the tariff Bill, the Electricity Supply Bill, would be before the Dáil in the intervening period.
This amendment does not limit me in any way that I can accept. It says: "make a provisional contract." To some extent the word "provisional" meets the situation, but of course it may be interpreted in another and a completely different way. It might mean that I could not make any binding contract within margins, which was rather what I was aiming at doing— that is to say, within the limits of leave to be given afterwards, within the terms of whatever measure the Oireachtas may think fit to decide on later, and within a whole number of other restrictive clauses. I feel I should have liberty to enter into binding contracts, say, with local authorities, as to supplying them with electricity when they have stated to me what their needs are, when they have examined those needs and are in a position to state definitely and clearly what they are. To accept this amendment would, I think, completely bar any binding contract, even a binding contract within a margin, and that, I think, is necessary for the carrying out of the sales policy during the three years.
But "provisional" was the Minister's own words. He defined on Second Reading the contract he proposed to make as a provisional contract. It now appears that he does not mean what he said on Second Reading, that the phrase was not sufficiently comprehensive. No doubt his desire to save the time of the Dáil misled me. I do not see how he can make a binding contract, because the essence of such a contract is time, a contract for the supply of power or light, or whatever you intend to supply, from such and such a date to such and such a date. Until this work has progressed a considerable distance you will not be able to make any progress of that character, and by that time you ought to have the tariff Bill. Does the Minister still see an objection to inserting "provisional"?
Decidedly. The word "provisional," subject to what Deputy Cooper has said, is not what would appear in the Bill; it would be merely the word "provisional," and that would debar me from making the type of contract, with the assurance behind it of a tariff period, of being subject to revision by the Dáil and of having the sanction of the Oireachtas, which it is necessary I should have in this period. It will not be fixed with regard to the price nor will it be fixed with regard to the time; it ought to be binding within certain limits, certain margins, and if that idea can be expressed in some phrase I would accept it for that particular purpose.
I think the Minister would have to invent a phrase, because I never heard of such a contract in my life. This is such a new type of contract that I think the only phrase we could use to describe it would be "The McGilligan Contract." However, I will withdraw the amendment.
I was simply arguing on one point, the sales policy during the period. There is a second point to be considered. It may be necessary to supply right of way power during the course of the undertaking, for purposes of the undertaking itself. That may necessitate going into places like Killaloe, or even into Limerick, and making a certain contract for a limited period, for the three years' period of the scheme, so that electricity can be supplied, so that we can make use of the distribution at Limerick for the purposes of the scheme, and also that electricity may be installed in Killaloe. That is a different thing from the first thing which I dealt with, and there the word "provisional" would be, of course, much more inappropriate, because it would have to be a very definite binding contract which would probably terminate at the end of the three years' period.
I think it is quite clear that the Minister has in his mind contracts of a certain special class, which are proper, no doubt, in a way, and I do not want to suggest that there is any possibility of the Minister committing himself to something which will turn out foolish. But he must be aware that it has been commonly said—I do not associate myself with the rumour in the slightest degree—that this particular clause gives him power to do what was originally said was going to be done, that is, to bind himself to sell to the Siemens Company a large quantity of this power at a specially low rate, and that that was the reason why they were prepared to undertake this contract in this way. I do not think that the Minister has that in his mind in this clause, but I think this is an opportunity for him definitely to dissociate himself from that sort of thing. It would be, to my mind, obviously a foolish thing for the Minister to make a contract to sell, say, 80,000,000 units to the Siemens Company at a very low price, particularly if this 80,000,000 were to be spread out over the whole period, because if it were given in that way it would seriously damage the whole proposition, which is based on the fact that for a certain demand there would be only a certain supply. I do not suggest for a moment that the Minister has that in his mind, but I think it comes under the wording of this clause. I have put down no amendment, because I do not see how it could meet it. Probably he would say himself he only secures in this clause the powers which he wishes to secure.
I would like to understand more clearly what the limitations of this section are. It does not seem to me that if the section passes in its present form it is going to limit the Minister's power in any way. If it were only intended to do what Deputy Thrift suggests I am not yet able to see any objection to that, if that sale of power during the course of construction, for the purpose of construction, is going to cheapen construction and facilitate its speed, but there is no limitation in the section or the Bill. According to the period for which the Minister will have those powers, as the section stands, it would be quite possible, in ten or fifteen years' time, for the Minister to make such contracts in such terms as he wishes without any limitation at all, except such as may be imposed by a new Act. That, surely, is not intended? Nevertheless, I think the section will allow of that. I do not think the term "provisional" meets the wishes of the Deputy, because a provisional contract seems to me to be one which is subject to final sanction, and until it is finally sanctioned it is really not effective. There is not only that, but I cannot understand why the Minister is reluctant to put a limit to time if the powers sought here are merely for the purpose of construction during the period of construction. I should think the limit of time would meet the case, and be a more strict definition of the intentions of the Minister in this section. Supposing by some extraordinary accident there was no second Bill passed, the powers to distribute the energy and the powers the Minister has of utilising electricity, and supplying it on such terms as he thinks fit would remain, and it would require a new Act to annul this section. I think the Minister will require to particularise in some way what his intentions are under this section. It is not clear to me.
Deputy Johnson has put in another way the very same point I wished to put forward— namely, that the Minister might under the powers conferred by this clause make contracts. I do not think he wishes to, but he might make contracts which would very seriously hamper him when the scheme came into operation, and when it was found in a few years how it was working out.
It seems to me hard that I should have to disown all the things which malevolent people have invented in order to damage the scheme. The rumour has been put about—Deputy Thrift is not associated with it at all, and has only raised it here for the purpose, I assume, of having it contradicted—that there is a secret consideration to the German firm for coming here and taking up the scheme at a cost which most Irish contractors seem to think an impossibility and understated. That secret consideration is said to be that they are to get a contract to have supplied to them certain units of power at a very small rate, and that afterwards the stranglehold on Irish industries, which has been put forward so vehemently by some people, will follow. There is no intention whatever of any sale to the German firm of power after the contract period. I make that limitation because——
Or in respect of anything outside the construction?
Or in respect of anything outside the construction. That is from the German point. There will be a small power plant erected, I believe, on the Shannon for the purpose of generating power for use in the constructional period. That power plant, erected by the contractor, will be to a certain extent for supplying the contractor's electricity. He will be working under and in contact with the engineer sent by my Department, and the contracting firm will be completely under control. There may be electricity supplied through my Department, say to places in the neighbourhood which require electricity, or to Limerick. Limerick will require an extension of its electricity supply for the purpose of providing light, say, in workmen's canteens and in the additional buildings that are, without doubt, going to become necessary during the three years' period. I must have power to enter into a complete, fixed and binding contract for the supply of that power to Limerick for certain purposes. That is one side of this amendment. Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert will have no —let me put it, say, after 1929—contract whatever with this scheme. There will be no contract made with them which will give them any right to have anything whatever to do with the purchase or sale of electricity after that period. There have been many rumours—I think the matter was raised in this House by Deputy Heffernan— about a secret agreement with Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert. There is no agreement with the firm of Siemens-Schuckert outside the White Paper. The White Paper is the sum total of our obligation towards that firm so far. What I am now speaking of is our intentions, say, from this to 1929.
There is another aspect of this section and of this amendment. Once the work is started somebody dealing with the sale of electricity has to get busy in the country to see where transmission lines are to be laid, and what money is to be expended on the erection of transforming stations either of a house or of a pole type. It must be that those should be put up with due regard to the future. It is necessary that that sales manager should have power to enter into contracts limited in this way, and that there will be contracts limited from the supply point as to units, limited from the purchasers' point as to margin of price, contracts, say, on the part of the Department that it would supply not less than so many units of power, and from the purchasers' point of view at not more than so much per unit. Only on some basis of that sort can a real contract afterwards be entered into, or can we proceed to lay down lines which will make it easy and possible to have a definite contract afterwards entered into.
It would be provisional in that way. Let me take a Town Clerk in some of the areas in the country. No Town Clerk, contracting on behalf of the local authority, would enter into a contract with me if he thought that at my own sweet will I could tear up the document. There will have to be some binding force about it. It will be binding within those limits if the object of the amendment be what was aimed at in Deputy Thrift's amendment which we discussed the last day or a later amendment of Deputy Cooper's. If individual contracts are to be supervised by Deputies and Senators, then I am going to fight against that.
That is not a matter for Deputies or Senators; to revise or supervise the placing of single contracts. There will be a general tariff policy that will come before the Dáil for review. As Deputy Johnson said, it is quite possible that, even with the limitations of the £5,000,000, the sum of money set out in the finance section in this Bill, I could proceed to make contracts which would bind some successor of mine with regard to supply. I do not believe that within that limit of £5,000,000 I could make a contract, and could thereafter, without any further addition to the sum in this Bill, fulfil the contract. There would be certain monetary obligations which would not be backed by a return until after that contract had been some time in operation. So that I am not concerned to give myself such freedom that I could afterwards operate this Bill as if it were a supply Bill. If there is an amendment that will give me the necessary powers to make a pending contract for the supply of electricity to such places as Limerick for the purposes I have mentioned over the period of construction, and, secondly, to have the sales policy properly developed, so that when the Sales Bill comes before the House Deputies will have a clearer indication of what the actual demand—no longer an estimated demand—is within certain margins, then I think it is necessary and right that there should be this power to make what will not be provisional contracts in the sense that a court would look upon that word, but contracts limited, inasmuch as they are within the margins I have stated: the margin of quantity from the suppliers' point of view, and the margin of prices from the purchasers' point of view.
I do not think that this amendment does what Deputy Cooper has stated to be his intention. I think it goes further than what he stated, and I think also that he will admit that it binds me in relation to prices. As to whether he thinks that I should be bound in that way is, of course, a matter for his own judgment. If there is any other alternative phrase which can be got and which will give me the powers that I speak of, and at the same time would render it necessary to have the Organisation Supply Bill brought forward, then I will consider that with a view to its acceptance.
I am glad that the Minister has had the opportunity of making the clear statement that he has just made. Would the Minister consider the insertion of some such words as these: "which shall be valid during the constructional period," or "during the constructional period alone?" Would not an insertion of that kind meet the case?
I hardly think so. Let me take the case of the town clerk again. He has agreed, say, with the sales operative after making certain investigations around his own area. He came to the conclusion that there would be so many units required for power and light. He then found himself, when he came to make the contract with somebody acting on my behalf, that the contract was only valid during the three years' period. He was looking forward not to the three years' period, but beyond the three years' period, when adopting the contract to which I referred, the contract entered into for the three years' period, but which is not intended to become operative, and cannot become operative, until the power is actually generated and ready for sale.
Would you say a five years' period then?
There again the local authority would ask whether they were justified in going to certain expense with regard to investigations and even the further expense in the matter of preparations if it is thought that a contract may be wiped out two years after. Does the Deputy mean five years after the date of completion, or five years after the date at which the contract was entered into?
Five years from the date of the completion of the works, but I suggest that is a matter for further consideration.
Let me take it then from the longer point of view— that is to say, five years after the supply started. Would any local authority, having to make investigations and inquiries, let itself in for a certain burden of expense in a case where a contract might be abolished, wiped out and declared invalid five years afterwards? Or take it from our point of view. Could I, with any conscience, incur expense to lay a distributing line to a certain town and incur all the other costs of putting up a transforming house station if I thought that the local authority could slip out of its contract five years after I had begun to give the supply and five years after the whole expense had been incurred? I think it is going to be very difficult to get any phrase which will put the limitation that the Dáil may seem to think necessary on the Department in this matter, and at the same time that will give the powers which I think, and which the Dáil has already recognised are necessary for the proper implementing of the whole scheme.
In the matter of the implementing of the scheme, I suggest that the Minister should consider whether a plan that is not explainable might not have the effect of prejudicing the decision of the Dáil in respect of his No. 2 Bill. If it is possible to make these contracts, which will be binding for a period of five years, and to compel the local authority to make contracts that will be binding on the Ministry, that, in effect, is going to ensure that whatever Bill is produced with respect to supply must contain provisions which at least will satisfy all these contracts. The proposal of the Minister is, I am inclined to think, apt to prejudice the decision of the Dáil in twelve months' time. If the contractor, or the prospective contractor, be not prepared to make a provisional agreement which will be subject to ratification by the Dáil or be subject to the passage of the later Bill, then I submit that the powers which the Minister is looking for are altogether too great, because they are all limited within the rates or periods that he has mentioned. There is no limitation at all suggested here, and therefore the Minister may make contracts with the city of Cork, or with Limerick or Dublin to the prejudice of other cities. These powers are implicit in the section, and they may be for twenty years. That is too great a power, I suggest, to give to the Minister without any question, and it is certainly going to prejudice the decision of the Dáil when the later Bill comes forward. There would really be no necessity at all for the later Bill if this section were passed in its present form.
The Minister referred to a statement I made—I think, on the introduction of the original motion giving the Minister power to make the preliminary arrangements necessary for the carrying out of this work —in regard to secret agreements. My statement had no reference to any secret agreement as to the supplying of electricity. If the Minister put it that way, I may tell him that is not the way I meant it at all. It was with regard to contracts for the carrying out of the scheme. If further explanation is necessary, I may say that I was in no sense reflecting on the honour of Ministers, or of the Cabinet. I was simply dealing with it from a political point of view. I did not intend to insinuate that there was any monetary consideration possible or that such might be considered by anybody.
With regard to this particular question of contracts, I confess I am not very clear on the matter. It is possible that the matter is one that I am not in a position to understand fully. But I am rather inclined to think that any contracts entered into by the Minister should eventually be subject to some form of supervision by the Dáil and that the prices arranged should, in some way or other, come before the Dáil for supervision. A question may arise, any day, that certain firms were being granted supplies of electricity under cost. I believe that such a thing may be even financially a feasible proposition in certain cases. There may be a surplus supply which it would be better to sell under cost than not allow to be produced at all. I do not think that the further Bills which are to be introduced as regards organisation and supply will give the Dáil any real information. What I want to find out is whether any contracts of that kind, entered into with some corporation or company that intended afterwards to re-sell or redistribute the electricity will be available for scrutiny by the Dáil, and that the actual prices stated in the contract will be the actual prices charged. The Minister may have made it clear, but I do not fully understand it yet.
One point I would like the Minister to make clear in connection with this clause. The clause gives him power to sell on such terms and conditions as he may think proper to any person, whether for his own use or resale. I would like the Minister to make clear that it is not his intention to enter into a contract under this section with an individual who will then become a sort of middleman and sell to somebody else, adopting the system unfortunately in vogue to-day in Turkey and other places. If the Minister has in mind selling direct to local authorities they will then become the distributing local authorities, and in that case this section will have to be amended, because at present it only gives him power to sell to an individual. He pointed out that that individual might be the Town Clerk, but, as the Minister knows, that is not the way to contract with local authorities.
I only quoted that as an example.
Quite so, but reading the section in a casual way, you would get the impression that it is possible to sell to an individual and to give that individual the right to sell it to somebody else, and in that way to provide a system not desirable.
I think this is a valuable point about the terms of the contract, because the Minister rejects five years as too short a term. No doubt, it is if you expect to convert your factories from what they have been to be worked by hydraulic power. It must be borne in mind that the State in the past has given terminable contracts. In an earlier amendment the Minister for Finance quoted the tariffs that will be charged for telephones. Telephone contracts are quarterly. I give a quarter's notice to the P.M.G., or he gives me a quarterly notice, to terminate the contract. There is no precedent up to the present for the State granting long contracts. I think we have gained a great deal from the statement of the Minister. I hope we will hear more from him as to two difficulties of granting away any State assets for a prolonged period on the one hand, and the insecurity resulting from short time contracts on the other, and how these can be reconciled, which is one of the big problems in the Bill.
I rather agree with the Minister as to the difficulty of getting a proper form of words. I do not think he has gone quite far enough in his reasoning on the point of view of the local authority, on the one side, and the Government on the other. I think there may be as great reluctance on the part of the local authority to make a very long contract, as Deputy Cooper pointed out, but I do think there will be the same reluctance in making short term contracts, because they know that as favourable rates as can possibly be provided will be given. They know the power will be there and is to be sold, and that it is in the interest of the State to sell it. They will not have any reason to anticipate any great change in the terms of the contract which will be renewable, whereas they may very well be reluctant to bind themselves to take electricity at the rates specified over a long term of years. I do not think the Minister went sufficiently far in his argument on that point. Possibly the whole thing might be secured in the way the Minister indicated. His objection was to put in words which would limit these contracts and make them stop immediately after the constructional periods ceased. Why not secure that by embodying it in the powers the Minister is to get? If he wishes to enter into the contracts that will start during the constructional period, why not say so? Apparently all that was necessary was to secure the power by which he can sell current as soon as the construction begins, whereas the clause gives him power to set the whole thing in operation as soon as it is complete. Then he would not require to come for further power to contract and to sell. The clause as drafted gives the Minister a great deal more power than he seeks to get from the Dáil. The Minister is quite clever enough to put to us some form of words that will give him the power he wants without going further.
The Deputy is correct in saying that this, if worked to the full by some Minister who set out to work it to the fullest extent, would give him more than I have asked for, or that would be necessary for my purpose. He asks me to put up some formula that would reconcile these two points of view. Deputy Cooper made the same remark. I am asked to reconcile the granting away of State assets for long periods with the insecurity that will be brought about by short term contracts. That was found so impossible to reconcile that we had to draft the clause here in a general way. I do not think we are going to get much further by Deputy Professor Thrift's suggestion. It seems to me to be limiting this clause to contracts within the three years period.
It limits the contracts for the start of the supply during the constructional period. That would only meet one of my difficulties. It might meet the supply for Limerick during the three years period, but that does not meet every town. How am I to enter upon the construction of the transmission systems to small towns? Let me leave the 100 kilo volt lines out of consideration and let me take the ten kilo volt lines to the villages. How am I to enter on the provision of a transmission system to a town of ten kilo volt lines if I do not know that the people at the other end will take the supply?
I will not have any absolute security until I have some sort of a contract entered into. Deputy Thrift's suggestion was that I should have unlimited power, during the first period, with regard to contracts. That apparently was intended to meet my first point. It does not, however, meet the other point, and I am not quite clear that what Deputy Johnson says is perfectly accurate—that I am going to prejudice the decision of the Dáil in regard to the second Bill by something which must necessarily be done under this clause. Again I come to what is intended, and what power is given under the clause. I think it would be quite possible, if we are going to neglect all thoughts of a second Bill, to make such contracts under this as would leave the Dáil in a hopeless position in connection with the second Bill. I might, for instance, arrange with Kenmare for a supply at .8 of a penny, and I might arrange with some place else at another figure, say .3 of a penny. I might have the whole thing so definitely tied up, and actually in operation, that the Dáil would really have nothing to consider.
What I want power for is to make certain arrangements within certain margins that would not prejudice the Dáil's decision. One of the points that will come up on the second Bill will have relation to the two tables given on pages 103 and 104. They are two of thousands of alternative methods of charging, and they are methods which are based on certain calculations. Possibly arguments may be brought forward to justify them. If you take the town connected with the 35 kilo volt transformer station, there would be one instance where current can be delivered at .74 of a penny; that would be one case. Then, in the second case, current could be delivered at 1.2 of a penny. If I were able to enter into a contract with a local authority in some town included in the 35 kilo volt system, that I would supply not less than x units at prices ranging between twopence and a penny, or between twopence and a halfpenny, I surely would not prejudice the Dáil in its decision as to what is going to be decided upon in regard to the flat rate for the whole country, the small rate for Dublin, Cork, and Limerick, the slightly higher rate elsewhere for the 35 kilo volt towns, and then the other rates. As long as I keep within the margins set out in pages 103 and 104, I do not prejudice the Dáil. I admit to Deputy Johnson that, under that clause, I could arrange a system to deliver at Kenmare at .8 of a penny.
If I had binding agreements for that rate, with a sufficient number of towns on the 10 kilo volt line, it might amount to a decision that the flat rate policy was going to be the one in the country. That is not what I am looking for, and, seeing the Dáil does not give any trust to my successor, the whole difficulty is that there has to be some limitation put on this, and there has to be some definite security that somebody is not going to go out through the country and operate so as to preclude the Dáil from a further decision on that point. Deputy Thrift has suggested that if we divided the clause into two, and arrange it that during the constructional period the contracts should be unlimited, it would be an advantage. The suggestion was that contracts for supply, not beyond the construction period, could be unlimited, and as binding and fixed as any contracts might be. Then afterwards, leaving out the constructional period, and that type of contract, I could stipulate for a guarantee of consumption before proceeding to the expenditure connected with the erection of a transmission system. If that would seem to Deputies to get out of the difficulty that we apparently have got into, I could have it considered and brought up on Report. I would like to have the suggestion discussed that there would be unlimited power to make binding contracts for power to supply within the building-up period. I cannot get a proper formula for it at the moment. The general idea would be that I would have power given to me by the section to stipulate with local authorities for a certain guarantee of consumption before proceeding to erect the transmission system to a particular place. We could get that matter discussed in a moment.
As regards the point raised by Deputy Good, I think we could better deal with it on the next amendment, in the name of Deputy Cooper. Deputy Good has made for me the answer that I had intended to make to Deputy Cooper. If you cut out the phrase "for his own use or," you bind yourself to a middleman. I would like to refer to what Deputy Heffernan said about these contracts, in order to correct a thing I previously said. Deputy Heffernan said on the 2nd April: "We have no ties or obligations with this firm, so far as I know, or so far as the Oireachtas knows, and I do not see why we should be bound to them or why any secret agreements or arrangements should exist, if there are such arrangements with this firm." There are none now except the White Paper, and there is one letter from the firm, in which they state that no fees will be payable under Clause 13 of the White Paper. To that extent the White Paper has not been modified or has not been amplified. That is the only agreement there is with the firm of Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert. If the Dáil would be agreeable to let this come up on Report Stage on the lines I have suggested—making the clause divisible more or less on a time basis, giving unlimited powers within the three years' period, and that I could be in some way empowered to stipulate for a certain guarantee in the way of consumption before the transmission system would be entered upon—it might be found more suitable.
I may say that that arrangement would satisfy me. I think it is a very decided improvement, and I congratulate the Minister on the attitude that he has taken.
If I may say so, I think that the discussion has produced a good deal of light. I hope we have made it clear to the Minister that we are not actually hostile to the Bill, but that we are anxious to improve it where we think safeguards are necessary. In the circumstances, I desire to withdraw the amendment.
Before the amendment is withdrawn, I would like to intervene. The Minister has mentioned that there exists one further letter from Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert along with the White Paper. These are the only agreements that have been entered into. He apparently accepts this letter as part of the agreement that is contained in the White Paper. For the information of the House and the public, would the Minister be agreeable to let us have that letter that forms part of the agreement, the same as he let us have the White Paper?
I wonder how far is that going to go? I could let the Deputies, the House and the Press have the letter from Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert, in which they disclaim all fees under Clause 13, but it is the last letter of one or two. It is a clear-cut statement from them, and, if it is any further security to Deputies, I will certainly publish it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment 16 is standing in my name. It reads: "In line 21 to delete the words ‘whether for his own use or.'" The necessity for this amendment was partly removed by the Minister's statement, and, if I move it, it is only to extract from the Minister a certain statement. And I am to congratulate Deputy Johnson on his convert. I never expected to see Deputy Good turn Socialist and to see him arguing in favour of State supply of electricity rather than ordinary commercial methods. I do not want to hamper the Minister in supplying direct to a large user of power. I conceive it would be well for the Minister to make contracts direct with say, the Dublin Tramway Co. or the Railway Co., or with any large factory, but I wanted to find out whether it is his intention to enter into every house in the country as a contractor, contracting for the supply of electricity for lighting and heating. Is he going to enter into emulation with the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, who enters wherever he is invited to make contracts for the supply of telephones? If so, that means an enormous government department. That opens up the prospect of long debates in the Dáil and bitter complaints that a higher price is being charged in one place than in another; also, perhaps, a cry from Tirconail that their county is neglected, and all those other inconveniences that come from governmental control of industry.
I do not say that the Minister might not in a very isolated place enter into a direct contract where there was no other means of getting the thing done, or getting other agencies to do it, but I think it would be wiser to work through existing agencies in Dublin, say through the Corporation, and in Pembroke and Rathmines through the municipal authorities. I do not know if there is an urban council in Dundalk.
Well, in a place like Dundalk, it would be better to work through the existing authorities, so far as it is possible. I believe that would be much cheaper and more satisfactory.
I will not definitely object to the amendment for the reasons mentioned by Deputy Good. If you cut out the words "whether for his own use or," the result of it must be that in every case there must be employed a middleman to redistribute the profits that may accrue to him.
With regard to my intentions, I have very few intentions under this Bill. I have the main intention to bring in a Sales Bill—a Supply or an Organisation Bill—which will regulate all these matters. Where we would get a town supplied on the 10 k.v. system, round about it there may be an area of rather far-flung, widely-scattered farm houses, and the sales manager might then, if he came into these particular houses, see what was the possibility of power being taken in that area. That has been so much commented on by reason of the fact that Siemens-Schuckert worked out the prices for the area around Mallow rural district. It may be necessary, therefore, simply as an experimental test, to try out whether anything more than 1,300 out of the 3,000 habitations take in electricity if the lines were brought to them. Another thing, they might go into the ordinary houses and see what guarantee can be given, or what approaching to a guarantee might be made, by the owner of the household. Generally speaking, that question as to whether the Department is going to construct the lines and extend them into the country, following on the lines of the Post Office, or whether it is going to be done through a local distributing agency, or whether there is to be a State organisation is a matter for the second Bill. I cannot state the intentions or plans at the moment. There are really no intentions and very few plans.
I think the Minister has brought upon himself some misunderstandings. In the course of the discussion we have all been interested, and some of us enthused, from the consumer's point of view, with the whole idea of the wide distribution and use of electrical power. A large number of people have assumed that this Bill is the only Bill. Now the Minister has had in mind all the time a second Bill which is going to deal with problems of distribution. Nevertheless, this is the Shannon Bill that is under consideration, and in the Shannon Bill there are sections, like Section 13, which would, within the limits of finance, give all the powers that we imagine as necessary, not only for the production but for the distribution and sale. That, I think, is the cause of this amendment.
It seems to me that until the revised section that the Minister has now suggested is brought in, on Report, and is before us, we cannot consider with any profit this amendment by Deputy Cooper, because the amendment is based upon the assumption that this section is going to make contracts or possibly might make contracts with the actual consumer in any part of the country. It is clear that that is not the intention of the Bill, although powers to do that are in the Bill. If I may suggest it, it seems to me that the amendments to this section would be better discussed when the revised section has been brought to our notice, but we are not going to be very profitably engaged in discussing these amendments which were drafted on the assumption that within this section the powers of sale and distribution were contained.
The Minister tells us that the question of the policy that is to be adopted in connection with this Bill has not been settled and not thought out really. I put it to the Minister that it is very necessary, at this stage, that these things should be considered and settled as far as they possibly can. The Bill before us, and the clause in it that is referred to in the amendment, give very wide powers, indeed extraordinarily wide powers, in connection with the generation and distribution of electricity. The question that arises in one's mind straight away is what is the Government going to do with these powers? It is clear, as far as electricity is concerned, that there are two phases, generation and distribution. If the Government are going to combine both, and to do both, I think that is a very large and important question for undertakings that are at present operating. If we are giving these large powers in this Bill to the Government, we are practically anticipating the Bill that is to come before us as far as distribution is concerned, because the Bill that the Minister will bring forward in due course must be either adopted or rejected. The provisions of this Bill do give him power for distribution.
Now, I think a matter that will concern a great many people is the attitude of the Government in connection with the working of municipal, or private, or other companies that are at present in existence. The Minister says that he may go into a district and explore and exploit the possibilities of the supply of current to individual consumers. Where that is new ground, where electricity is not at present being generated and supplied, there does not seem to be very great objection to their doing that, either for information purposes or for other purposes of guarantee before extending distribution stations in that district. It certainly would be objectionable, unless the policy be adopted that the existing generating stations and the existing suppliers are to be superseded when the Shannon scheme is in operation, that the Government should go into an area already supplied by an authority or company and go round to individual customers. We cannot get very far unless we have some idea as to what the intentions of the Government are. The Minister will say that this Bill is founded upon giving him powers which he cannot define at the present time, but I do think that the time has been reached when the Government are bound to say that they have a distinct policy in this matter, one way or other. That policy should be open to criticism at this stage.
May I point out that the matter is not quite so simple as the Minister would appear to think. As I understand the position at the moment, with regard to the sale and distribution of electricity, such sale is vested under a particular Act—I do not know at the moment what Act it is—in the local authority and nobody else has any right in that particular area except through the local authority. That would appear to cut across this proposal. In view of what Deputy Johnson has said, I do not think, until we know exactly the form in which the Minister proposes to put what is contained in Clause 13, that we would get much further by discussing the matter. That clause, as it stands, opens up quite sufficient difficulties, and until we see the new clause which it is proposed to introduce I do not think there is much use in discussing the matter.
It would be well to get one matter clear. Deputy Johnson made reference to discussing an amendment under this section again when the revised section comes up. We have already defeated an amendment to take out the words "either generally or" and I do not know that anybody has yet argued for this—I am afraid I will have to call it again "very badly drafted"—amendment, to delete the words "whether for his own use or." I have not heard anybody argue for that proposal. There were speeches made on the section but not on the amendment. I think we ought to dispose of that amendment—I do not know if it is to be persisted in—and, if we are going to have any further discussion on the section, let it arise on the section in its new form. I must say this in advance, however, that I cannot agree that now is the time, or that even when the new section comes up that will be the time, to discuss the Government policy with regard to its attitude towards present distributors or matters of that kind. Those are matters that are going to wait for the Shannon No. 2 Supply Bill, if I may put it that way. I am afraid they may be discussed, but I would rather hope that they will not fail to be discussed even on the revised section.
With the leave of the House, I will withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 17, which is as follows:—
At the end of the section to add new sub-sections as follows:—
"(2) Where the Minister proposes to make a contract for the supply of electricity under this Act he shall lay before each House of the Oireachtas a statement showing the person with whom such contract is proposed to be made, the amount of electricity proposed to be included in such contract, the payments proposed to be charged for the supply of such electricity, and any covenants, conditions, and agreements proposed to be inserted in such contract.
(3) No contract shall be made under this Act until either—
(a) each House of the Oireachtas has by resolution authorised the making of such contract either with or without modification of any of the proposed provisions of such contract, or
(b) the expiration of whichever of the following periods shall be the longer, that is to say:—
(i) twenty-one days after the first day on which either House of the Oireachtas shall sit next after the statement in accordance with this section shall have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, or
(ii) twelve days on which either House of the Oireachtas shall have sat after the said statement shall have been so laid before the Houses.
(4) Where a resolution of either House of the Oireachtas authorises the making of a contract under this Act subject to any modification of the proposed provisions of such contract, such contract shall not be made save with and subject to such modification of its provisions."
We now come to two things we have not had this afternoon—a well-drafted amendment and a question of principle. I am vain enough to call it a "well-drafted amendment," because I did not draft it. I only adapted it. The amendment is taken, word for word, with the alteration of "electricity" for "lands," from the State Lands Act, that we passed ten months ago. The Minister was good enough to make his case against this amendment in advance. He said the supervision of individual contracts is not a matter for Senators or Deputies. I think those were his words. Yet, as a member of the Executive Council, ten months ago he was responsible for an Act which laid down that we are to supervise every individual contract for the letting of State lands, that every contract for the letting of State lands down even to the letting of a coastguard's cottage at 4/6 per week, should be laid on the Table of the Dáil, and be open to discussion, if anyone wishes to raise a question with regard to it. That is all right for coastguard cottages or small things like that; the Dáil can exercise supervision over them, but when it comes to contracts for an electric undertaking, which runs into tens of thousands, it is not in the province of Deputies and Senators to supervise them. This is not State socialism; it is State despotism. The Minister puts it to the Dáil that we should, once and for all, dispose of this power to him and should, thereafter, except within the limits laid down in a succeeding Bill, which we have not yet seen and may not see for some time— apparently the principles on which it is to be based have not been agreed upon yet—not have any control whatever, or knowledge whatever, of the contracts the Minister has made. I must say that I shall be curious to see if the Labour Party will stand for that as a proposition. State socialism I can understand. That is based on the supervision of some body representing the State. Here the whole thing is to be thrown into the hands of the Minister, except an amendment similar to this is accepted. This is a moderate amendment. It is an amendment which last year, when proposed in the State Lands Act by the President, did not satisfy Deputy Johnson. It is the most moderate amendment I could frame. It follows the Government's draughtsman's draughtsmanship to meet one of the Minister's usual objections and, finally, it does assert the definite principle of the control of this House over any financial transaction of any kind whatever. That control is not a vague or illusory thing. It ought to be a real and active check on any contract of any kind whatever. Therefore, I earnestly ask the Committee to agree with me in this amendment.
I would like to support the idea contained in this amendment, but I am not quite sure that the amendment, as drafted, is quite workable. I also would like to see supervision of the charges and of the contracts. So far as I understand the intentions of the Minister, the Dáil and the Seanad will have no real supervision over the prices to be charged. There will be certain difficulties if the Minister decides to make contracts with individuals and not to confine himself exclusively to contracts with large distributors. It may not be out of place at this stage to say that, in connection with distribution of electricity in the rural areas, it would be advisable to try and get the people to form cooperative societies for the purchase of the current. That does not arise under this Bill, because, so far as I can see, the intention is, under this measure, to supply only towns of 500.
Does this partial development scheme cover supplies to rural areas, as well as these towns of 500?
Yes; anybody can get a supply.
The man on top of a mountain can be supplied.
I think it would be very difficult for the Minister to carry out a system of individual contracts with people throughout the rural areas. I do not suppose it is his intention to make a contract with each individual. It would be impossible to have such contracts laid on the Table of the Dáil and subject to alteration. But if the Minister makes contracts with corporations and large distributors, and people of that kind, they should be controlled, to some extent, by the Dáil. We should have some control over the prices.
The objection I see to the amendment is this, that under clause (a) the Dáil would have the power of varying the contract. It seems to me that that is not a thing that could be done by the Dáil. There must be two parties to the contract, and if we vary the contract in so far as we are concerned, it invalidates the contract so far as the other party is concerned. I would suggest that that clause is not workable, and that the alternative clause be adopted. That would mean that the contract would be laid on the Table of the Dáil, and if after a certain period had expired no objection had been raised, the contract would be taken as having received the sanction of the Dáil.
Have you read the amendment? It says that.
Yes, but only as an alternative. I approve of the alternative, and I do not approve of the original proposition. I support the amendment as far as the alternative is concerned, but I maintain that the original proposition is not workable, because the other party would naturally repudiate the contract if we made any change in the contract to that person's disadvantage. I certainly maintain that the Dáil should have some control over the prices to be charged, and I think if the second portion of the amendment is accepted in principle it would provide for that important supervision.
Deputy Cooper has drawn an analogy between the proposals in this Bill and the State Lands Act. He has gone to the extent of quoting certain statements of mine when the Bill was before the House last year. I propose to follow his example in that respect and to quote certain statements of his in the same debate. On that Bill Major Cooper is reported as having stated:—
"I think it can scarcely be said that this Bill violates the Constitution, because these lands are vested in the Oireachtas. It is impossible for the Oireachtas to control them; we cannot have a joint sitting of the Dáil and the Seanad to discuss the terms of the lease. That would be reducing Parliamentary Government to an absurdity, and surely the normal and constitutional manner for the Oireachtas to act and the constitutional method of dealing with the matter is through a Minister appointed by the Oireachtas,"
and so on.
How far would the Deputy like me to read?
Down to the end of the next sentence.
"I think that is so and therefore I think in this Bill we are conferring a power which is a constitutional power, and which constitutionally we have a right to devolve on the Minister, but I agree with Deputy Johnson that we should be very careful in dealing with public lands and public property." Is that the whole gist of it?
I agree with Deputy Cooper that we should be very careful in dealing with public lands and public property, but I do not see that there is a fair analogy between the two classes of property. In the one case we were dealing with the property of the State, lands which it was proposed to hand over to the Minister to sell and to dispose of in any way he thought fit. I will not argue the merits of that case. Once the land is handed over nothing can be said in regard to that except in a case that would be considered a revolutionary act of confiscation. What is proposed here, I take it, is that the power which is produced periodically, year by year, month by month, or day by day, will be sold at a certain price, and a contract will be entered into. As I said on the last amendment, if this section were likely to be embodied in the Bill in its present form with the powers it gives to the Minister, some such proposition as this of Deputy Cooper's would be necessary, though I do not think quite in the same form in which it is set out here. But if the section is going to be limited in the manner in which the Minister has described, I think that the form of the amendment or the demand that the terms of the contract, such as they are to be, should be laid on the Table of the Dáil, is not necessary.
I think whatever is to be the intention regarding the supply of electric power there must be sanction given by the Dáil in respect to the terms, the rates, the periods, and so on. I take it from the Minister's statement that that is involved in the general scheme, which will be fulfilled when No. 2 Bill is brought forward. I say that an amendment in relation to a section which is not being pressed, a section that is to be revised and brought forward in a new form, limiting the powers of the Minister, is not appropriate. It is not appropriate to the proposal which we understand is in the Minister's mind, but which most of us are agreed is exceeded in the section as drafted. I think that the question involved in Deputy Cooper's amendment should be deferred until we see the new form which the section will take. I will support the idea in Deputy Cooper's mind and press it as far as I can, that there shall be no power given to a Minister or Ministers, now or henceforward, to do as they like with State property, whether that State property be land or electricity.
I was not present to hear the Minister's statement on Clause 13. Before we have an indication of what is the policy which the Minister will pursue in connection with the distribution of electricity, it is difficult to say whether the amendment will be found necessary. I had in mind that something in the nature of the contract by the Minister with the county council or a body in an area would be the right policy to pursue in connection with the distribution of current. That particular body would be in a position to see that the price paid for the electricity and other matters affecting the residents of that area would be safeguarded, and we would not therefore be compelled to investigate every little agreement for supplying electricity to a farmhouse. I am only throwing out the suggestion that if a particular body had the right of making a contract it would be the better means of bringing this about.
We are now getting to the constitutional point which I foresaw would arise. I would like to read Deputy Johnson's exposition on the State Lands Bill. Article 11 of the Constitution states;
"All the lands and waters, mines and minerals, within the territory of the Irish Free State, hitherto vested in the State or any Department thereof, or held for the public use or benefit, and also all the natural resources of the same territory, including the air and all forms of potential energy——
I do not think it will be disputed that this is a form of potential energy:
—"shall belong to the Irish Free State, subject to any trust, grant, leases, or concessions then existing in respect thereof, or any valid interest therein, and shall be controlled and administered by the Oireachtas in accordance with such regulations and provisions as shall be from time to time approved by legislation, but the same shall not, nor shall any part thereof, be alienated, but may in the public interest be from time to time granted by way of lease or licence to be worked or enjoyed under the authority and subject to the control of the Oireachtas."
That is the Constitutional doctrine that Deputy Johnson was expounding on the 22nd July last year. He said:
"I think that the effect of this Bill"——
which dealt with lands, as the present Bill deals with certain forms of energy
—"will be practically a renunciation of the powers of the Oireachtas over lands the property of Saorstát Eireann. It is handing over to the Minister too much authority. I think Ireland has suffered very, very much from the action of Ministers and Kings in handing over State property to private persons. We are confined to 99 years in this, but 99 years is time enough to do a great deal of damage, and very much more recent experience of other countries has shown that Ministers have been able to do certain things with State lands, at least minerals or oil, which have caused a great deal of trouble, because they are done by the Minister, and not by the legislature. I think we ought to guard very earnestly against the possibilities of any future Minister doing things that he ought not to do."
He went on later:
"We may have the utmost faith in the wisdom, not to speak of the integrity, of the Minister for Finance, but at least we are supposed to have a certain responsibility, and while the Constitution says that the Oireachtas must retain control, we are to hand over to the Minister the powers the Oireachtas is supposed to have, and to say that for six months he may do anything he likes with these lands."
Of course that is in the State Lands Act. There is no six months mentioned in this Bill, nor six years. Deputy Johnson continues:
"This is revolutionary if you like. Some times people are twitted with being revolutionary. I say this is a revolution, a retrogressive revolution. I do not know what these properties enumerated in the schedule may be. I do not know what their values are, and we do not know what the terms of the lettings may be. It may be we are handing over to certain syndicates or private individuals property valued for a million pounds at a penny a year for 99 years. Does any Deputy in the Dáil know whether that is so or not? We do not. Yet we are asked to see that the Minister for Finance is to have power to do that sort of thing for six months without any control whatever."
That is Deputy Johnson's doctrine as regards lands.
And as regards electricity.
I am very glad to have that. Then the only quarrel he has with my amendment is that it is not strong enough.
That it is irrelevant to the Bill.
That really surprises me. In what sense? Are the financial and constitutional checks that are necessary when applied to land irrelevant when applied to electricity?
I thought the Deputy was here when I was explaining how Section 13 was intended to be applied.
I was. I do say that has a certain bearing, but the Minister cannot expect us to draft amendments in the light of what he may do in the future.
I want to say one or two things that are relevant to the discussion, if not to the amendment. I want to get Deputy Johnson's attitude clear. I want to get the attitude of the Farmers' Party clear. I understood on Second Reading that the attitude of that Party was that this scheme required more examination, more consideration, more care, before we embarked on it. Well, whenever anybody puts down an amendment intended to give more examination and consideration, up gets Deputy Gorey or Deputy Heffernan, like the Queen in "Alice in Wonderland," and shouts "Off with his head—I do not agree with this amendment; at least I do not agree with it at all." Why do they not put down amendments themselves? If they have a policy, why do they not let us know it. I took this form of amendment simply and solely because it was the form already embodied in an Act, the form that had been proposed by the President, and that is actually working. There may be better forms. I tried two or three other drafts myself, but I find, on the whole, that the one tying the Government to a principle already adopted was the best. Still, I hope on the Report Stage that we shall see the fruits of further consideration on the part of the Farmers' Party, and I hope I will be able to help their amendments and not get up and damn them with faint praise.
This is, to a certain extent, irrelevant, but the principle is not, and the question is whether the Minister accepts the principle that the Oireachtas should have some knowledge of the contracts entered into in its name. That is a principle I never quarrelled with in the State Lands Act. I quarrelled with the manner in which Deputy Johnson attempted to assert it, and possibly I phrased my words somewhat unguardedly. I admit that. I never quarrelled with that principle when the President brought in the proposal embodied in the amendment—I supported it. If the principle that we are to have some knowledge is accepted, then this amendment is quite irrelevant. If not, I am afraid that the amendment, with all its sins and imperfections, will have to go to a division.
I cannot agree with Deputy Cooper in criticising the Farmer Deputies in this matter. How are the Farmer Deputies going to secure a better examination of the Siemens scheme through this amendment? This deals with contracts after the scheme is completed—contracts for the sale and supply of electricity. Then it has nothing to do with the scheme. The dams may be built so weak that all the water will flow away and there will be no electricity to supply, and yet that amendment may be accepted. So that as far as the Farmers' Party wanted the scheme to be considered in greater detail and with more caution, accepting this amendment would not advance them one inch further on that road.
I want to take Deputy Cooper as he has taken Deputy Johnson. On the 22nd July he said that we should be very careful in dealing with public lands, public property. Having that as his main principle, he also said that it was impossible for the Oireachtas to control them, that we could not have a joint sitting of the Dáil and Seanad to discuss the terms of a lease. I presume it was not the joint sitting that was criticised. A sitting of the Dáil to control the terms of the lease would be equally bad.
Not so bad, but it would not take it out of the category of bad things, at any rate. I want Deputies to note what Deputy Cooper went on to say, as Deputy Johnson already quoted: "That would be reducing Parliamentary Government to an absurdity." That is Deputy Cooper's proposal—to reduce Parliamentary Government to an absurdity. That is what Deputy Cooper wants now.
The President's reasoning converted me and the working of the Act.
In opposition to that he has given his view of the normal and constitutional method, that is through a Minister appointed by the Oireachtas. He said: "We are conferring a power which is a constitutional power, and which constitutionally we have a right to devolve on the Minister." He said previously it was not merely constitutional but normal— the normal method. Now, apparently we are going back on that. Deputy Cooper was converted by the President, and after the reading of the quotations by Deputy Johnson he never stopped to inquire whether Deputy Johnson had been converted by the President. He got his answer from Deputy Johnson.
The President was partially converted by me.
That is what this means. I do not want to go into details, as I hold this is irrelevant to the Bill.
Deputy Johnson was so far from being converted by the President that he challenged a division and got it.
This Bill is really a construction Bill. The supply one comes along later. The amendment may be entirely relevant there, but it is out of the question here, and decidedly out of the question if my explanation is taken into consideration, and the point that is to be brought forward on the Report Stage is attended to. That is to say, that the section is to be split into two, and that for power to be supplied in the three-year period I ask for unlimited powers; outside that, all I am stipulating for is some guarantee in the matter of consumption before I incur the expenditure of the transmission system. Despite all that, we are going to have this amendment prosecuted to a division, that every contract in connection with the management of the sales should come before the Oireachtas. Previously we had an amendment by Deputy Thrift to have all contracts in connection with cement and building material laid on the Table of the House to go through much the same as this. Here we have a more technical matter still, the question of the tariff system, and that is not attended to by Deputy Cooper. He thinks that every individual contract with every person who is going to get any power from the scheme will have to come before the House to be discussed before it is passed. I think that is one of the fruits of not really believing that the experts who have examined the scheme are experts, and that they are people whose guidance it is wise to trust. It simply puts it in the impossible position—I say it openly—that by a less competent body of people than the experts all these technical matters are going to be insisted upon—by Deputies—that reference should be made here. I do not think it is workable. I do not think it will be workable under a tariff Bill to have a general proposition of this kind. I think, just as in Post Office contracts, certain lines may have to be laid down by the Oireachtas. Beyond that I am not ready to assent. I do not know if Deputy Cooper had the building of the scheme of things according to his own desires, he would now insist on that for Post Office contracts—that every time the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs wants to enter into a contract for a telephone installation to any private householder it should be put on the Table, argued about, and be subject to ratification or rejection by either House of the Oireachtas. I think it is not merely irrelevant to the present Section 13 as it stands, but even still more irrelevant to Section 13, as I have indicated it is likely to be revised. I would plead with Deputy Johnson not so much to defer it to the Report Stage, but to defer it until the second Bill is brought in.
If I could model the scheme of the world according to my desires the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs would have nothing to do with telephones, as they are worked much more efficiently and cheaply by private enterprise. With regard to the irrelevancy, I think I must have infected the Minister. He now talks of experts. Is he going to consult experts with regard to contracts he may make under the scheme? I understood the experts had finished their work.
I did consult them, and they have made recommendations.
I am glad to know that. Of course it is quite irrelevant to this Bill, because another Minister may be in office and may ignore the recommendations of the experts. I want to meet the Minister as far as I can. I see the difficulty of trying to amend a section which has been virtually withdrawn for another section that the Minister has not yet drafted. If the Minister can give us his proposed amendments, say, two days before the Report Stage, in order that we may draft amendments to the amendments, or additional amendments, I would be quite prepared to withdraw this one. It would only be giving us a fair chance of considering them—at any rate this one amendment. Otherwise we shall be at a hopeless disadvantage in dealing with it.
I must say I would object to an amendment or any new form of wording to the section that would impose on the Dáil or on the Oireachtas the duty of going over every contract. I can visualise the position of the Oireachtas if that view was given expression to. The Oireachtas would be continuously in session for three, four or perhaps five years doing nothing but supervising contracts. I can see the debate that would arise over every contract or sub-contract. The Oireachtas would be engaged on business that it knew very little about. Speaking as an average man I do not claim to know much about it. I would object to a section of that description.
Why did you vote for the State Lands Bill?
It is quite a different matter altogether.
Will the Minister agree to give two days before the Report Stage for amendments?
I can guarantee to have an amended form of Section 13 circulated by Thursday. I do not propose to take the Report Stage until this day week.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 13 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
The Farmers' Party have not put down any amendment in connection with this section, but I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to a matter that is of considerable importance from their point of view. The section says that lands benefited by drainage are to be charged with a certain payment. By sub-sections (1) and (2) the benefit to the capital value will be decided by an arbitrator appointed by a Reference Committee under Section 6 of the Act. The Reference Committee consists of the Chief Justice of the Irish Free State, the President of the High Court and the Chairman of the Surveyors' Institution (Irish Branch). Our principal concern here is to see that the arbitrator so appointed shall be a man with firsthand knowledge of land value and improvements. I suggest that in the case of lands benefited by drainage, one of the members of the Reference Committee, or an additional member of it should be the Minister for Lands and Agriculture. The idea is to ensure that the man appointed will be one who understands land valuation and who will be able to give a decision that will be just to the State and to the people who occupy the land. I think that is a matter for consideration by the Minister.
The difficulty about the proposal is that this all refers back to Section 6, and the whole basis and foundation of ascertainment of damage and assessment of compensation is under the Acquisition of Land Assessment Compensation Act, 1919. In that there is a special Reference Committee established, which is pretty well the Reference Committee talked of in Section 14. There is a slight change but that change is really one getting away from the terms the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls and changing it to the Chief Justice of the Irish Free State, the President of the High Court and the Chairman of the Surveyors' Institution. To incorporate such a suggestion as the Deputy made, that the Minister for Lands and Agriculture should be brought into consultation would, in effect, change the Acquisition of Lands Act of 1919, and I would have to give further consideration to that.
On the whole, I do not know, if I may put it to the Deputy, that that is worth pressing. What is it going to attain? It is not these three people who are going to determine. They are going to appoint an arbitrator, and I should imagine that if the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court, and the Chairman of the Surveyors Institution were approached in regard to, say, the appointment of an arbitrator —let me get away from land—to ascertain the damage done to fisheries, I think they would naturally look about and get into consultation with certain people interested in fishery matters, and would have certain names put up to them or have informal consultations with them. Here again I cannot say they would do it, and I do not know that it would be right to insist that they should do it. I think it is not reasonable to say that they should consult with certain people—it might be the Minister for Lands and Agriculture or it might be, say, Mr. Justice Wylie who is concerned with land administration—before selecting an expert in land arbitration and land valuation to act as arbitrator. I do not see how you are going to get much further by putting an obligation on certain judicial people to confer with the Minister before they make the appointment. I think that is bad, and I do not think we should insist on it. Let me put it to the Deputy in another way. There will be a question of land, taken, say, for the purpose of the excavation of the canal, and, in the first instance, there will, I think, be an offer to the owner of the property. Clause 6 will operate in default of agreement. Somebody will have to advise the engineers in charge of the scheme, or my Department, as to what is a proper sum to offer, and I should say that the people to whom I will turn most naturally will be the land valuers under the Land Commission. In other words, they will probably be my witnesses as against the land owner who is claiming compensation. The Deputy's amendment would mean that the arbitrator would be appointed after consultation with people who are actually my witnesses as against the land owner. If there is anything human in the Minister for Lands and Agriculture, he may come down in that case against the land owner, and the sort of arbitrator appointed after consultation with him may be an arbitrator very much after my desires, but not the sort of arbitrator whom the Deputy might think fit. If these three were to be the actual assessors of the damage, there would be great value in the point which the Deputy urges, but when they have to appoint the arbitrator, I think we might leave it to their good judgment, if they deem it desirable, to consult with certain people to see who would be the best arbitrator. If the Deputy sees no danger in it and wishes to press the amendment, I will defer the consideration of it until the Report Stage.
I think the Minister has met me very fairly. We are very much concerned with this, as the annual charge in regard to the increased value is a delicate matter which could only be decided by an expert and, even then, the expert may be at fault. I am quite satisfied that the Minister is going to treat the matter fairly.
So far as I can see, it would not be necessary to make any changes in the Acquisition of Lands Act to do what Deputy Gorey requires, as this Bill provides for the appointment of a special Reference Committee and not for the Committee that already exists.
They are actually the same men, but this is a separate Bill and, for the purposes of the Act, the Reference Committee would be separate, so that there would be no objection to Deputy Gorey or any other member of our Party putting down an amendment to include anybody they think fit in the Reference Committee. I think the Minister has met the matter fairly, but this might get over any criticism there may be in the country in regard to this Committee. I need not point out that the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court, and the Chairman of the Surveyors' Institute are not men who might be considered to be very much in touch with land values, and, unconsciously, these men might be somewhat biassed in regard to the particular type of men whom they would select. It is still open to us to have some other men appointed on this Committee of Reference. Perhaps the Minister would consider whether that is possible.
What am I to consider? Is it the definite suggestion of Deputy Gorey that the appointment should be made by the Reference Committee after consultation with the Minister for Lands and Agriculture?
I think that that may be a way out.
Deputy Heffernan now puts this point, which, I may say, I almost expected from him, as he is always full of suspicion. He exhales suspicion of everything. I think it is rather an advantage that the Chief Justice and the President of the High Court should not be what are described as technical experts in land matters, and the fact that they are not expert but judicial, will lead them to make most careful enquiries before appointing an arbitrator. Would Deputy Gorey prefer to have consultation with the Minister for Lands and Agriculture rather than the other suggestion which I threw out, that the Reference Committee should be added to by putting on say, Mr. Justice Wylie?
I see a difficulty there. The analogy which the Minister made was not quite right. He envisaged a situation where you are going to take away land for a canal. The State has an interest in the land, because there is an annuity there. The analogy is not quite apt. In this case the idea is that you are going to value an improvement and the State has no concern in that as a land owner, but, in the case which the Minister made, the State would have to see that their interests in the land taken for the purposes of a canal would be secured, and, therefore, their interest would lie alongside that of the man who owned the land or the occupier. Therefore, I think we ought to take time and see who would be the proper person. I do not think that the Judicial Commissioner would suit us either.
May I make a suggestion? Perhaps we might insert a phrase such as "A person experienced in the valuation of land."
Where would you insert that?
That refers to a Committee on all subjects, whereas this deals with improvements only from drainage.
Deputy Johnson was really moving that Section 6 should be amended by the insertion, after line 21, of words to make it read: "to be fixed by one or more arbitrators being persons expert in the valuation of land."
I will leave it to the Minister to consider the matter between this and the Report Stage.
Question—"That Section 14 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
When constructing works under this Act it shall not be obligatory on the Minister or any contractor to comply with the Fisheries (Ireland) Acts, 1842 to 1909, but the Minister shall take and make or, in the case of works executed for him by a contractor procure that the contractor shall take and make such precautions and provisions as the Minister, after consultation with the Minister for Fisheries, shall consider adequate for the protection of and avoidance of injury to fisheries during or in consequence of the construction of any works under this Act, unless the Minister after such consultation as aforesaid is satisfied that such protection cannot be afforded or such injury cannot be avoided without substantial detriment to the works or substantial hindrance to their construction.
In page 9, line 4, after the words "as aforesaid" to add the words "and with the consent of the Minister for Fisheries."
It is intended that the Minister for Industry and Commerce should have not only to consult with the Minister for Fisheries, but also to convince him that the works he proposes to do in connection with inland fisheries are necessary. At present, as far as I can see, it is open to the Minister for Industry and Commerce to go to the Minister for Fisheries and lay down a certain scheme. The Minister for Fisheries says: "I cannot agree to that." The Minister for Industry and Commerce says: "What do you want done?" The Minister for Fisheries says: "I want this, that, and the other thing done," and the Minister for Industry and Commerce says: "No. I have consulted you, but this scheme has now become law, and we are going straight ahead." I suggest that the Minister for Industry and Commerce should not only consult his fellow-Minister, but convince him. The Minister is capable of conviction. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has succeeded in convincing him that it would be inadvisable for him to open his mouth in connection with this particular Bill. I suppose that is general consent, and not consent given in any particular case. Seriously, it is not only the individual position of the Minister for Fisheries, but the position of an external Minister who may be outside the Dáil. It is not as if the Minister for Fisheries were responsible for his actions to the Executive Council. He is an independent Minister, and might belong to some other party, or be outside the Dáil altogether. Therefore, it is the duty of the Dáil to safeguard his position as far as they can. This section hands him over tied and bound to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The Minister for Fisheries has no effective means of making a case against any proposed alteration.
Broadly speaking, the objection is that where electricity interests and fisheries conflict, the fisheries have to be the loser. Before we place the powers given in this section in the hands of the Minister for Industry and Commerce we ought to have some statement of the case from the fisheries' point of view. We do not know, for instance, how far it is calculated that sufficient compensation is provided for. £10,000 is provided, I think, in the scheme as compensation for fishery interests. So far as my information goes of the value of the fisheries, £10,000 is less than the capital value. At present, without guidance of any kind, we are asked to provide that the Minister for Industry and Commerce need only consult the Minister for Fisheries, and need not be guided by his advice. I suggest that is not a sound principle.
I expect the Deputy appreciates that the alternative to the picture he has drawn would be in effect to give the Minister for Fisheries a veto on the proposals. The Deputy makes play with the point that the attitude of the Minister for Industry and Commerce is that where electricity interests conflict with the fishery interests that the fishery interests would go to the wall, and yet the suggestion is that the onus should be on the Minister for Industry and Commerce, not merely to consult but to convince the Minister for Fisheries, which, translated, means that the Minister for Fisheries ought to have a veto on the proposals put forward in connection with the electricity undertaking. It is just one of those positions that perhaps it is impossible to meet absolutely satisfactorily by the phrasing of a section or subsection, but one knows that where that expression is used, "after consultation," or "having consulted," and so on, that everything humanly possible will be done as between the two Departments and the two Ministers to reach agreement. But if the Deputy asks in the event of a conflict between the fishery interests and the interests of this scheme, which is going to prevail, then unquestionably the interests of the development of the water-power are going to prevail.
I appreciate the force of the Minister's argument. I think there is a certain difference in principle between consultation with an External Minister and a Minister of the Executive Council. In most cases of consultation between an External Minister and a Minister of the Executive Council there is bound to be a certain amount of give and take; only on a subsequent occasion if the Minister's wishes are not met in some way in the Executive Council he might make matters unpleasant later on in connection with other proposals. The position of an External Minister is different technically as to status. The working of his Department is not always so intimately associated, I should say, as is that of Lands and Agriculture with the other Departments of State. I think the fisheries are not so closely connected with the Departments of State represented in the Executive Council. I would be quite willing to agree if it were suggested that there should be some third party to whom appeal would lie. I think the Minister for Fisheries needs a better opportunity of putting up his case than is given under the section. If it were possible that an appeal might be heard by the Executive Council that might suit the case, and ease the difficulty. Consultation might work well between members of the Executive Council, and might not work equally well between a member of the Council and a non-member of it.
I think the Minister is quite right, that the amendment as worded would mean giving a veto on the whole scheme to the Minister for Fisheries.
As to preserving the fishery industry in the Shannon, I think it is pretty well admitted that the scheme involves the destruction of the salmon in that river, and nothing that could be done would be really effective in preserving the fishery. The only way of preserving the fishing industry would be to breed land-locked salmon above the dam. I do not think the amendment, as it stands, would be effective, as the Minister for Justice has already said that the fishing industries must be sacrificed. I think the amount of money involved is larger than Deputy Cooper suggested. I believe there are over 2,000 people who make their living one way or another by the fisheries on the Shannon, and that the sum involved in the Shannon fisheries is somewhat over one quarter of a million. As it has been already decided that the fisheries must be sacrificed, I do not think that the amendment would do very much good.
I would like to hear the Minister's view on that statement put forward by Deputy Esmonde. Unless the Minister confirms it, and I should be astonished if he does, I do not think it should be allowed to go out on the authority of the Deputy that it is conceded and accepted that the Shannon fisheries are liable to be destroyed, and not merely that they are liable to be, but that they will inevitably be destroyed by this scheme, and that the whole industry will have to be sacrificed. That is the statement of the Deputy, and I think it should not be allowed to pass without contradiction, if it can be contradicted, because it will cause a great deal of consternation amongst many people. I have seen nothing in the reports which would justify me in thinking that there was any good foundation for that statement.
I do not support this amendment. I wish to impress on the Minister the necessity of doing everything possible, even if it entails more expense, to see that the fisheries of the Shannon will not be injured. Deputy Esmonde has suggested that the salmon interests in the Shannon are worth one quarter of a million pounds. I do not think that is right. I do not think they are worth that sum annually.
Major Cooper said £10,000.
That is the capital compensation provided in this scheme.
I could find out exact information on this matter in a few hours. If I had known the question would be raised I could have found out the total value of our salmon exports for 20 or 30 years. I do not think the figure of a quarter of a million pounds would be reached for a year in the thirty-two counties.
I took the figures from the publication of the Department of Agriculture. Last year, I think it was, there were between £300,000 and £400,000 worth of salmon. I think the actual salmon caught in the estuary of the Shannon amounted to about £100,000. I think the figure of a quarter million pounds included the money obtained from salmon in the river, the money obtained through tourists, and that kind of thing.
The Minister has the figures and the facts before him, and I leave him to deal with this figure of a quarter million pounds. Deputy Johnson has asked for information on one point, and I ask for information on it also, with regard to Deputy Esmonde's statement that the salmon fisheries would have to be sacrificed because of this scheme. I got no impression like that at all from the discussion on the Bill or from the reading of the report. But what we did accept was that where the fishery interests came up against the interests of this scheme and where that could not be avoided the fishery interests would have to give way. I did not assume that the salmon interests were to be sacrificed. I believe that with careful consideration of the whole subject, with the assistance of some experts, a fishery authority, very little would need to be sacrificed. I can understand with regard to the raising of the depths of the lakes and the raising of the depths of the river that where you have at present currents you will be creating flats. I can understand particular portions which were good for rod fishing before not being good for rod fishing in the future perhaps, but you might have better net fishing, or equally good net fishing. Taking the fishing value of the Shannon as a whole, it might very easily be quite as good as it has been. But this is a case in which the best fishery authorities available might be consulted, and I think it would be good business from the national point of view if the best experts in America or in Scotland were consulted. I know that such experts have done wonders for the propagation of fish in America; they have thought out the questions of propagation and breeding of fish in every direction, and they have overcome difficulties in their own rivers. Scotch experts, perhaps, could also give valuable information on this question, and I suggest to the Minister that in the carrying out of this scheme the Minister for Fisheries, or perhaps he himself should take the advice of the greatest experts in the world, and that the fishery interests would thereby be preserved. I am sure that that is the intention of the Government, and it is certainly the intention of the Minister. We did not form the impression that the fishery interests were to be sacrificed when they come in contact with this scheme, but that the fishery interests would give way to the interests of the electricity scheme.
I think Deputy Gorey's speech makes it perfectly clear how absolutely in the dark we are about this matter in the absence of any statement from the Minister for Fisheries, or from his Department. It is really not fair to the Dáil. The Minister for Fisheries ought to be in the Dáil during the discussion on a section of this character which concerns his Department very vitally, and we ought to hear his views on it. We ought to have had on Second Reading some information of the general effects of the scheme. He is an extern Minister responsible to the Dáil, and he ought to explain to the Dáil in this matter what are the interests involved. Deputy Esmonde's figures were somewhat too high, but not very much too high. If the salmon are disinclined to go up these long ladders to the spawning beds Deputy Gorey knows that the fisheries will be ruined. I should like to have the Minister here to assure us that consultation with fishery experts will take place. At present we know nothing except the bald statement that the fishery interests are to be sacrificed to electrical power, and we ought to know more. Has the Minister for Industry and Commerce any statement from the fishery point of view? I do not want him to communicate it to the Dáil, but to give us the gist of it if he has.
I have had consultation with the Department of the Minister for Fisheries on this matter. At the time that I had that consultation the Minister himself was absent, as he is at present absent, owing to the illness of a relative. The experts of the Department of Fisheries never advanced to the point of saying that the fishery interests would be destroyed. That statement has been made for the first time in my hearing by Deputy Esmonde.
I said the salmon fisheries.
The salmon fisheries. No one of them said that. I did get a statement from one of the officials of the Department that if you anticipated in the future that the fish would be as contrary as possible and that they would not adapt themselves to the new conditions a certain percentage loss in the value of the fisheries might be looked for. I am speaking of the salmon fisheries the whole time. But never was it suggested anywhere that the entire salmon fisheries of the river, or even of the lower reaches of the river, roughly, from Athlone down, would be destroyed, that there would be complete destruction of the salmon fisheries. The question of value is another matter that comes into consideration. Deputy Esmonde says a quarter-million pounds yearly. Deputy Cooper introduced his statement as to our compensation figure by stating that he believed the salmon fishing was valued at at least £10,000 a year. There is a big difference between £10,000 a year and the £250,000 which Deputy Esmonde's imagination has taken him to. I am very glad to get from Deputy Cooper now—it is only on his individual responsibility and it will not bind the fishery folk afterwards—his estimate that £10,000 a year would keep the fishery interests there. There are certain ways, of course, of getting at what is the value of these interests. Might I suggest one? The income tax returns for the last three years might have a very definite bearing upon this.
We will not compensate, under the heading of destruction of salmon, the man who complains that he had so many tourists at his place the year before. No estimate based on income tax returns will get you near £250,000 a year, or anything like it.
I can give you the returns for the last twenty years of Irish fish sold in London and the places from which they came.
Take what is really the effect of the clause, that—
When constructing works it shall not be obligatory on the Minister to comply with the Fisheries (Ireland) Acts, but the Minister shall take and make, or, in the case of works executed for him by a contractor, procure that the contractor shall take and make such precautions and provisions as the Minister, after consultation with the Minister for Fisheries, shall consider adequate for the protection of and avoidance of injury to fisheries during or in consequence of the construction of any works under the Act.
That is to say, in the very forefront we set out that warning to ourselves that we are to do a minimum amount of damage. Only in the end we see—
Unless the Minister, after such consultation as aforesaid, is satisfied that such protection cannot be afforded or such injury cannot be avoided without substantial detriment to the works or substantial hindrance to their construction.
Without getting near the region of complete destruction of salmon fishery on the River Shannon, we say the Dáil has already taken a decision. I emphasise the point over and over again that if this injury cannot be avoided, in the carrying out of the work, the works cannot be impeded for that reason. To that extent the Dáil has already committed itself a couple of times that as between the Minister for Fisheries and myself in the last eventuality the electricity point of view will have to prevail. From the Fishery point of view, if I am to accept "after such consultation and with the consent of the Minister for Fisheries," that means that the final decision as to the carrying out of the Shannon scheme rests with the Minister for Fisheries. That is a position in which the Dáil does not want to put either the Minister or myself.
I do not think it will be seriously urged that we should look forward to such a conflict between the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Fisheries, that there must be an arbitrator such as the Lord Chief Justice, or the President of the Executive Council, to give a decision in the event of a conflict arising. Two members of the same Government are not going to be outrageous in their decision for the simple pleasure of being at variance with one another on a point which is going to benefit or prejudice materially the State. It is only a question of conflict as between the two, and the Dáil must come to the decision that either you have the Shannon scheme or throw overboard the Shannon scheme and have the fisheries. The effect of those words would be—I do not think Deputy Cooper disagrees with the analysis given by the Minister for Justice— that the Minister for Fisheries, as a last resort, is to be the arbitrator as to whether or not the Shannon scheme is to be proceeded with. That is not a solution to which I can look forward with any enthusiasm.
I think the Minister's statement has borne out that it is really true that the fisheries will be destroyed—his admission that this amendment would involve the final decision as to whether there was to be a Shannon electricity scheme or not and that it would depend upon the Minister for Fisheries, if we were to choose between electricity and fisheries. The Minister's statement can have no other meaning.
Supposing the Minister for Fisheries said to me that if in a certain spot a potential six salmon were to be destroyed that he would not permit that, it might upset the whole Shannon scheme. Deputy Esmonde can now proceed with his argument about the destruction of fisheries.
The Minister spoke very generally. He spoke of the destruction of the fisheries. I do not say that is a disastrous state of affairs. The Dáil and the country have accepted the scheme. If it is inevitable, I am not objecting to the Minister's decision, and I do not think that this amendment of Deputy Cooper can do any good at the present stage.
I feel it is necessary to say that notwithstanding Deputy Esmonde's conviction, that the Shannon electricity proposal inevitably means the destruction of the Shannon fisheries, it is not by any means a fair presumption from all that has been written and said about this scheme. Had it been the inevitable consequence of the acceptance of this scheme, I have no doubt there would have been more questions raised and more hesitation in approving of it. I am surprised that Deputy Esmonde, if he had this conviction, did not raise this point at an earlier stage, because he will realise, especially if he has a sum of £250,000 a year in mind, and if that sum has to be added to the annual cost to the country, that it would be a very important factor. He has failed lamentably in his duty if he believed that, on the Second Reading Stage of the Bill, and did not bring it forward. I think his statement should not go abroad without opposition and a counter statement that there is nothing in the scheme which would imply any such conclusion as he has come to. He is entitled to his opinion and to express it, but he is not entitled to have it go out from the Dáil that it is inevitable and that we all agree on it. We are not all agreed on it, and I have no reason to think that there is any foundation for the statement.
The total value of our export in salmon and trout for the year 1924 was £225,000.
The export is something short by £25,000 of Deputy Esmonde's figure for the Shannon.
I did not give that figure as export of salmon from the Shannon.
I am giving the figure as the export from the Saorstát of salmon and trout. I am prepared to admit that a considerable amount of that is made up of salmon, and trout will enter into the total in a rather small proportion. It may be £10,000, or £15,000, or perhaps more. I am prepared to admit that salmon is a big item. The total value is £225,000 for the whole of the Saorstát.
I believe, having some knowledge of rivers and fishing, that, with the aid of the best experts, it is possible that no injury at all will be done to the salmon industry of the Shannon, and unless it is proved to the contrary I am prepared to say that this scheme will do no harm unless some expert comes along and tells us it will. The matter is so important that the Minister would be well advised, from the national point of view, to have the best advice that American or Continental experts can give him on this subject. With that advice, I see no reason why fish cannot ascend to the higher waters of the Shannon as easily as they have done in the past. With proper provision I think it can be done. Until some expert tells me it cannot be done, I am prepared to continue in the same opinion. With all respect to our Department of Fisheries, I say you have not an expert with that experience in Ireland. This is a new matter. Hitherto you have left the passage of the rivers to the fish themselves without artificial assistance. That has not been the case in other countries. They have assisted the fish to reach the higher waters. We had not occasion to do it, and, therefore, we are inexpert in the matter. The experts are to be found in America and Canada. With all respect to our fishery Department, I do not think that they have that expert knowledge, and it is not putting them in a minor place to suggest that the best experts we can get should be brought into consultation. Some of our electrical engineering experts found fault with the fact that outside experts were taken in to consult with our officials. I hope the same thing will not apply to the fishery experts and that they will not be huffed to the same extent. I think too much precautions cannot be taken, and I believe, having some knowledge of fisheries and rivers, that no injury will be done to the fish if the best advice be obtained from experts and their recommendations carried out.
Deputy Gorey paints a rather alarming prospect of the experts of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce fighting with the experts of the Ministry of Fisheries. While I agree that outside experts might be very useful on that matter, I hope that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will act with the Minister for Fisheries, and that he will not start an expert business of his own.
That might have been implied. I think that as far as the damage that will be done to the salmon fisheries is concerned, we shall never come to an agreement on that. The reaches of the Shannon near Castleconnell will certainly suffer considerably. In that connection I hope the Minister for Industry and Commerce will take into consideration the large number of people who will be thrown out of employment there, and that when this scheme is carried to completion some kind of alternative employment will be provided for them. I have not been able to think of any satisfactory arbitrator who could act between the two Ministers, but I accept the statement of the Vice-President that it would be an impossibility to have the Minister for Fisheries imposing a veto on the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and I therefore withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 15 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Section 16 was agreed to and added to the Bill.
If and whenever the execution of any works under this Act involves the diversion, removal or other interference with any public road or bridge the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say:—
(a) where the execution of the works involves the closing of the road or bridge to traffic the Minister shall construct and shall maintain while such road or bridge is so closed to traffic a temporary road or bridge in the same or some other convenient situation sufficient to carry traffic of such quantity and character as normally uses such road or bridge;
(b) the Minister shall at or before the completion of the works either restore the road or bridge to its former condition or construct a new permanent road or bridge in the same or some other convenient situation sufficient to carry the like amount (in quantity and character) of traffic as the original road or bridge was able to carry and not substantially less convenient in gradient and curve than such original road or bridge;
(c) where the Minister constructs a permanent new bridge and such bridge in the opinion of the Minister confers substantially greater advantages on the public than the original bridge, by affording an improved means of communication or otherwise, the Minister shall certify the cost of such new bridge and the proportion of such cost which in his opinion (after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health) ought reasonably to be borne by the local authorities whose functional areas or any part thereof are benefited by such new bridge, and thereupon the said proportion of the said cost shall be paid to the Minister by such local authorities, in such proportions, at such times, and by means of such rate as the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, shall direct.
I beg to move amendment 19:—
In page 10 to delete paragraph (c) and to substitute a new paragraph as follows:—
"(c) where the Minister constructs a permanent new bridge and such bridge confers substantially greater advantages on the public of any county or urban district than the original bridge, by affording an improved means of communication or otherwise, the Minister shall certify the cost of such new bridge, and the Minister for Local Government and Public Health shall certify what part of such cost in his opinion ought reasonably to be borne by the council of such county or urban district, and thereupon a sum equal to the part so certified of such cost shall be raised by such council as part of the expenses of the maintenance of such county or urban roads (as the case may be) and shall be paid by such council to the Minister."
This is a rather long amendment, but it merely means that the Minister who shall certify the proportion of the cost of a new bridge to be borne by the local authority shall be the Minister for Local Government, and not the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary would translate the amendment and put it into simpler language.
I think I have just done so.
I take it that what this amendment means is, that if the county council do not want to incur this expenditure it is going to be forced on them. Apparently they are going to be made abolish old bridges and build new bridges. In ordinary circumstances they would not think of interfering with the old bridges. They would regard them as quite good enough for the ordinary requirements of the county. The Parliamentary Secretary apparently has forgotten that ratepayers in counties where this expenditure will have to be undertaken are accustomed to cutting their coats according to their cloth, and that they are quite content with things as they are. Now you are going to force the expenditure involved in building new bridges on them. I suppose they will be told that some wonderful advantages are going to be conferred on them by these new bridges, and that the advantages will be so great that they will have to pay for them.
This amendment does not alter in any way the liability, as it stands, in the original section.
I have not read the section yet.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I beg to move amendment 20:—
In page 10 to add at the end of the section a new paragraph as follows—
"If any doubt, dispute or question shall arise as to whether the Minister in the construction, maintenance or restoration of any temporary or permanent road or bridge pursuant to this section has complied with the provisions of this section, or as to whether a permanent new bridge constructed by the Minister confers substantially greater advantages on the public of any county or urban district than the original bridge, such doubt, dispute, or question shall be decided by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, whose decision shall be conclusive and final."
I suggest that the Reference Committee be asked to consider the effect of this new amendment, and that they be given power to appoint an arbitrator, if necessary. It seems to me that very autocratic power is taken under this new amendment. The meaning of it appears to me to be that a member of the Government is to be the judge of what another member of the Government shall do. For the purpose of inspiring public confidence in the matter, I suggest that the Reference Committee be asked to consider this, and to say whether it thinks that the appointment of an arbitrator is necessary.
I desire to support the point of view put forward by Deputy Gorey, because it does seem somewhat arbitrary where a bridge is quite sufficient for existing requirements, to compel a local authority to contribute a considerable amount of money for the erection of a new bridge and to meet alterations required under this Bill. In view of the proposal to alter the course of a river, it may become necessary to have a new bridge erected in the county. The bridge is not required for the ordinary needs of the people in that county, but it is required for the purpose of advancing the interests of this particular scheme. In such a case I say it is quite unreasonable to compel the ratepayers in that county to bear the cost of the erection of that new bridge which they do not need for their local requirements. Therefore, I think the Government would be well advised to accept the proposition put up by Deputy Gorey. The tribunal that the Deputy suggested would, I imagine, look at this question from a different angle to that at which the Minister for Local Government would look at it. The Minister for Local Government owes his appointment, probably, to the Executive Council.
Then we will put it on a higher plane. I say that these things are discussed by the Executive Council, and seeing that this scheme is put forward by the Executive Council through one of its Ministers, I think it is important that the person who is to settle this question should be nominnated by a body altogether outside the control of the Executive Council. I would suggest, in the general interests of the scheme, that the view put forward by Deputy Gorey should be given serious consideration by the Government.
I wonder whether Deputy Good has considered his own experience in and around Dublin in this connection. During the past twenty years we have had two bridges reconstructed in the city.
Not by reason of any alteration in the course of the river.
You had Ballsbridge and Cross Guns Bridge, and at present there is under consideration the extension of Annesley Bridge, and I believe that even Butt Bridge has been the subject of a good deal of consideration and of recommendations from various sections of the commercial community. Now, should it happen that the Liffey had to be developed in the direction of these bridges, and that their reconstruction had to take place, I suppose Deputy Good, in the interests of the Dublin ratepayers, would take exactly the same side and say, "But for this great Liffey scheme and the diversion of the river the people of Dublin would be quite content and well satisfied with the old Cross Guns Bridge, with the old Ballsbridge, as it was known, and with the old Annesley Bridge, as it is at present," which everyone hopes to see extended as well as Butt Bridge, which has been the bane of the commercial men of the city. There is proposed to be a charge here for which substantially increased advantages are to be derived. Only in that case will a proportion of the cost be raised. What are the exact circumstances? They are that you get some value for the old bridges. The old bridge is taken into account in assessing the substantially increased advantages that are going to accrue to the local authority by reason of the newly-constructed bridges. These will be more graceful than the old ones, and will be much more suitable for the needs of the country. When Deputy Good goes down to the country on holidays with his family he will not get that extraordinary jolt which motorists sometimes experience when going over these donkey-back bridges, and he will say that the county councils were well advised to pay for these enormously increased advantages derived by reason of the Shannon scheme.
We have again been treated to the usual application of what the President calls soft solder. It was nice and soft and all that, but very little value to the people, to whom it is applied. The position is this: It is quite possible that if you change the line of a bridge it may be of great benefit to certain districts in a county; it might be a great benefit to one particular district, but it might be a loss to somebody else. I might say: "Here is a bridge crossing the Shannon; it gives a direct line of communication, and is easy of access to people living in the neighbourhood. If you alter it considerably it may be good for the county at large, but it may not be good for any other individual, and there, again, your arbitrator would come in." I say that the Minister for Local Government ought not to be made the final authority. You are altering your machinery. You deliberately set up machinery, and now you are altering it in this particular instance. I hope that the Minister will give us business, and not the soft solder that the President has served out to the Dáil. I want to know why the machinery set up and acted upon is departed from in this case and at the eleventh hour. A reference committee is set up here with power to appoint arbitrators. Why is not that availed of instead of the suggestion made now?
Read paragraph (c) of Section 17.
What I said before I repeat: that what may be a benefit to a body of individuals in a county may be a loss to others, and I think the only person that can deal with that is an arbitrator sent down to deal with this question specifically, with local knowledge, and who knows what things mean. I think it is placing the Minister for Local Government in a false position, and it is decidedly not good business from any point of view that he should be asked to say what he thinks is of benefit and what is a loss. Such a course of procedure is not going to inspire confidence: that the old machinery should be reversed, and that the reference committee should not be allowed to appoint men to deal with this question.
The main question raised is whether, if in the course of carrying out the scheme the local authority has benefited, it should pay anything for that benefit. I should imagine there is not likely to be very much dispute over that.
But if they never asked for it.
True, but there are many things that people never ask for, yet they get them, and have to pay for them. It is to be decided by a third person at any rate whether there is a benefit or not, and if there is it is to be paid for. Then the clause says that in determining the amount of the benefit the value of the benefit shall be the value of the benefit which the local authority has received. Deputy Gorey referred to the Bill. If there had been no amendment, I take it he would approve what the Minister for Industry and Commerce certified as the value of the improvements.
No. We would take the same exception.
It is in the Bill, and the Minister proposes to do in this matter what the recent amendment, which was withdrawn, proposed to do in regard to the value of the fisheries. It proposes to give to the Minister for Local Government a veto in regard to the amount of the value. I am inclined to think that there is more likely to be consideration given to the requirements and demands of the local authority by the Minister for Local Government than by an outside arbitrator. I suggest that Deputy Gorey should consider the position of that Minister. At the present time the Minister, of course, is an extern Minister appointed by the Dáil and responsible to the Dáil, but that may not be the permanent position. The Minister for Local Government is likely to be in all cases concerned with the affairs of local government, and to be concerned with conserving the interests of Local Government Authorities, and as such I suggest, would be very likely to be in favour of reducing the amount chargeable against the local authority rather than increasing it.
If I was sure of that I would accept it.
I argue that he is more likely to have that point of view than an outside arbitrator who will be arbitrating between local authorities and the Minister for Industry and Commerce. You are practically asking one of the parties to the dispute to make a decision and I suggest to the Deputy that he has got his point of view very well cared for in this amendment. I think the Minister for Local Government will have to be satisfied of the amount of improvement conferred on the local authority by the new bridges, and what he has to decide next is what is the amount to be charged against the local authority.
Before the President replies might I say one or two words in regard to the President's statement. The President is usually very logical, but in the argument he advanced this evening he has departed from that very wise precedent. It should be scarcely necessary to remind the President that in the case of Ballsbridge, to which he referred, and in the case of O'Connell Bridge, to which he referred——
——and Butt Bridge, to which he referred, the conditions there rendered the rebuilding of all those bridges necessary where altered circumstances, the increased amount of traffic, had to be dealt with. He quotes these as parallel cases with the Shannon. What are the circumstances in the case of the Shannon? The river is diverted, and a new bridge is constructed by reason of the diversion of the river, not by reason of circumstances of traffic, as referred to in the other case. Then he urges that we have a distinct benefit, and the benefit that is in his mind is the removal of the camel's hump which added a great deal of beauty to some of our older bridges notwithstanding all that is argued in many cases against them. The point is that where the bridge exists at present it is sufficient in the minds of everybody to meet the requirements of the Shannon. Where such a bridge exists and where, in the carrying out of this scheme, the course of the river is altered and a new bridge is necessitated, then the Minister can claim that that new bridge confers benefits on the district, and consequently makes a claim for these benefits against the local authority.
The words are "substantially greater advantages."
Quite so. I think the Minister and I will be in agreement on this, when I state that it is only natural to expect that the local authority will object to make any such payment, or will refuse to recognise that it has any advantages by reason of the altered bridge. That being so, a condition of affairs arises in which it is necessary to bring in a third party to settle the differences. Under the original proposition the Minister involved in the scheme was to consult with the Minister for Local Government, and as a result of the consultation the local authority was to pay so much. The Minister, I think, wisely came to the conclusion that it was unlikely that a proposition of that character would go through the Dáil, and so, having anticipated the objections, he now puts forward what, from their point of view, is an arbitration clause. The arbitration clause is that the Minister for Local Government will be the party who will be the arbitrator. I think that even at the back of the President's mind he is very doubtful as to the wisdom of that appointment, and certainly, from the experience I have had on local authorities, extending over seven years, I am satisfied that it would be inadvisable to bring in the Minister for Local Government to arbitrate as between the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the local authority. I think if we were to consult the Minister for Local Government on the subject, he would say at once: "It is a position that I do not like to occupy. It is a position that it would be undesirable for me to occupy. I have to deal with these local authorities every day, and I do not want to be brought into conflict with them more than is absolutely necessary."
I would urge that, from all these points of view, it is not in the interest of good government to adopt the course proposed, and it would seem to me to be a very simple solution of the difficulty to accept Deputy Gorey's suggestion. I would urge the Minister, in the interests of all concerned, to adopt that course.
It seems to me that there is a point of view involved which has not yet been thought of. I put it forward because it may be a solution of the whole matter. Deputy Johnson has put forward two points which appear to have been discussed in a mixed way. The third point is, should the old bridge be rebuilt or should a structure be put up which would confer "substantially greater advantages." If it meets Deputy Gorey, I would put in from sub-clause (b), Section 17, at the top of page 10, the words "either restore the road or bridge to its former condition or after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health construct a new permanent road or bridge," and so on, so that there would be, right at the start, consultation with the Minister for Local Government, as to whether the old structure should, in so far as it can be done, be put back to its old position, or whether a new bridge giving substantial advantages to the community should be put up. The Deputy may retort that he still objects to the Minister for Local Government being put in there, but I assume if I do get the Minister for Local Government he would have some consultation with the local authority, the people who are afterwards to be charged, and in that way we would arrive at what Deputy Gorey seems to be agitated about, that those who have to wear the coat should have some say in the way it ought to be cut. If that would meet the point, I would undertake, at a later stage, to insert something which would mean consultation with the Minister for Local Government before a new bridge conferring greater advantages would be constructed.
I think I could accept that. The way I viewed this question from the outset was: the Minister for Industry and Commerce was actually maintaining and guaranteeing to the local authorities that nothing would be interfered with, and that anything that would be interfered with would be replaced. We took this clause to mean a protection for the local authority, and not a source of revenue for the Shannon scheme. I could very easily understand, where the course of the river is changed, and where a new bridge is to be put up, that the old bridge will have to remain in the very same state, and that the new bridge will have to be put over the new canal. I cannot visualise this improvement at all. I do not know how it is to come about. At the moment I cannot visualise it. I do not like in a Bill suspicious and unnecessary sections which might mean anything. If you replace a bridge that you take down, the question would arise as to whether the bridge put up was better, and whether it was an absolute necessity. Of course, if it were an absolute necessity you would be justified in charging for making a bad thing good. But if it were good at the moment, I do not see how you can make it better. If you are going to divert the course of the Shannon, the old bridge will have to remain, and it will be of no benefit to the community. I cannot visualise where there is to be any improvement. If I could be assured that the Minister for Local Government will express the view of the local authority I would be quite satisfied. If he is the mouthpiece of the local authority, and he decides a matter with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, I am satisfied. I cannot see any instance where you will be conferring any benefit at all upon the local authority, except in a case where the present bridge is in a bad condition, and you improve it.
With regard to the Minister's amendment, if, instead of suggesting consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, we would insert "consultation with the county council," or something to that effect, the difficulty might be got over. The county council is the authority which will have to assess the rate for the extra charge, and they should be consulted. Then, if necessary, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health could be appointed as an arbitrator, if no agreement could otherwise be arrived at.
The Minister for Local Government and Public Health stands between me and the county council in this matter. It is the Minister I would have to consult in regard to whether a bridge is to be restored, or whether it is to be put back in its old position, or otherwise built in such a way as to confer advantages on the community. I do not see that I could consult with the county council and, possibly, afterwards enter into a long arbitration with the Minister. Deputy Gorey, after raising this question, now tells us that he does not see that any special benefits could be conferred.
From the point of view of the local authority.
If that is going to be the case, then there is going to be no payment entailed.
Provided you do not adopt a different attitude.
I have no attitude on the matter. The new proposal reads: "Where the Minister constructs a permanent new bridge and such bridge confers substantially greater advantages on the public of any county or urban district than the original bridge"; and later on there is another new proposal: "If any doubt, dispute, or question shall arise as to whether the Minister... has complied with the provisions of this section, or as to whether a permanent new bridge constructed by the Minister confers substantially greater advantages on the public of any county or urban district ... such doubt, dispute, or question shall be decided by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health." I can do nothing. If there is any doubt raised as to whether the new structure does confer advantages, it has to go to the Minister, and the local authority has the protection of his guidance. Further, if there are four bridges to which the section applies, that number would really be the limit.
That is the reason why we want you to leave it out altogether. The Shannon scheme ought to be able to carry the expense of a few bridges without putting the payment on to the local authority.
The Shannon scheme does not depend on the getting in of any money for new bridges. There is no income looked for in that direction.
But it is a construction.
It is a new piece of work and, if there are advantages to be derived by the county council, the payment will not mean very much over a county. Why should not an area pay for something that it gets in addition to the Shannon scheme? Let the Deputy disabuse his mind on that point. It is not necessary to have any income from the bridges. That is not necessary in connection with the scheme. I doubt if any bridges would be definitely interfered with. They may be for a time.
It is really a question of arbitration in the event of a difference between the local authorities and the Minister.
As regards the problem of how a bridge, if interfered with, should be remade, I suggest that should be done by the Minister, because he will be in touch with the local authority and will be ready to hear their representations.
If there is a dispute, will it not be between the Government, acting on behalf of the Shannon scheme, and the local authority?
Do you suggest that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health—a Government Minister —would be a reasonable arbitrator if there is a dispute?
He is a Minister of the Dáil.
There is very little in the matter, and I think we are disposed to accept the Minister's proposal, on the understanding that no benefit can be conferred on a local authority——
That no question can arise?
Yes, that no question can arise.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 17, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
As regards Section 18, there is a minor point on which I would like to make a suggestion. I think notices should be served by registered letter rather than by the ordinary prepaid letter. In connection with one or two other Bills which were passed here, I introduced a similar amendment, and it was accepted. Possibly a letter might go astray and the man might never get a notice. I would ask the Minister to accept the principle and to embody the idea in a further amendment, if necessary. If not, I would introduce an amendment on Report.
We can consider that on Report. There is no amendment.
Would it be considered favourably? The mere assurance that it will be considered will not satisfy me now, because if it is not favourably considered, I will put down an amendment.
Is the Deputy suggesting to put in the word "registered"?
Has the Deputy adverted to the fact that it is registered letters that are always stolen out of the mail bags?
I had hoped that with the system of law and order arising from the new state of affairs that will not be possible in future.
We will consider the matter with something approaching enthusiasm.
Sections 18 and 19 put and agreed to.
Title put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.