DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - SHANNON ELECTRICITY BILL, 1925.—REPORT STAGE.

I beg to move:—

In page 2, Section 3 (1), line 32, before paragraph (a) to insert a new paragraph as follows:—

(a) acquire, construct, or otherwise provide and maintain houses or other dwelling accommodation and canteens, clubs, and other places of refreshment or recreation for persons employed (whether by the Minister or a contractor) in the construction of works, the management, working, or conduct of the undertaking, or the doing of any other act or thing which the Minister is authorised by this Act to do.

This amendment is intended to give effect to an amendment moved by Deputy Cooper in Committee. It was accepted in principle. I understand there is a precedent and previous legislation for the clause now proposed to be inserted.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I beg to move the following amendment:

In page 8, to delete Section 13 and substitute a new section as follows:—

"13.—(1) Subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance given either generally or for any particular case, the Minister may supply, during the construction under this Act of works for the purpose of the undertaking, on such terms and conditions as he thinks proper to any person, whether for his own use or for re-sale, any quantity of electricity produced by the undertaking during such construction of works.

(2) The Minister may before or as a condition for the construction of transmission lines, transformer stations, or other works for the delivery of a supply of electricity to any particular person or group of persons, require such person or persons to enter into an agreement or agreements with the Minister to take, for his or their own use or for re-sale, a supply of electricity when available in such minimum quantity as the Minister, having regard to the cost of the works required for the delivery of such supply, shall consider reasonable and shall specify and at such price or prices as the Minister may be authorised by statute or otherwise to charge therefor.

(3) Any local authority or other public body or any company may, notwithstanding any statutory or other limitation of their powers, enter into and carry out any contract or agreement with the Minister under this section."

The object of this amendment is to give effect to an undertaking that was given by the Minister in Committee; that is, that the powers given by the clause, as originally drafted, should be restricted to meet two classes of cases for which it was agreed it would be desirable to make provision.

I would like to say that I believe the Minister has fully carried out his promise. For my part, I am quite satisfied with the amendment.

Question—"That Section 13 be deleted"—put and agreed to.
New section read a second time.

I beg to move:—

In sub-section (2) to delete the words "or otherwise" before the words "to charge therefor" at the end of the sub-section and substitute the words "order under statute or by resolution of the Oireachtas."

This is an amendment to the amendment we have just adopted. It is intended to substitute for the words "or otherwise" the words "or under statute or by resolution of the Oireachtas." It is to make the formal "or otherwise" more detailed and more specific. I am not quite sure what the legal construction of such an expression "or otherwise" might be. It might leave it open to the Minister to go to the Minister for Finance and get him to sanction his proposed scale of charges. I agree with Deputy Thrift that the new amendment does meet the points that were raised in Committee. I would like to have this one point made more specific, that we should definitely see, so far as the general contract for the supply of electricity is concerned, not the contract for the supply of electricity during the constructional period —there will not be much electricity and it will be used for the purposes of construction or giving additional light to Limerick, and so on—the Minister should be regulated by rulings of the Oireachtas.

If this amendment is adopted, the effect will be that the Minister may fix prices within such limits as may be prescribed by statute—that is the second Bill which we have been promised— by rules made under that statute, so that the Minister will not have to go to the Dáil and so that he may exercise any powers the Dáil may give him in that respect, or by a resolution of the Oireachtas. I put in the last stipulation because some emergency might arise in which the Minister, before passing his statute, might wish to have power to fix a scale of charges. In that case I suggest he could come to both Houses and obtain a resolution authorising him to do so. I do not want to be unreasonable, but it might not be possible to force through a Bill in the necessary time. A resolution would be a resonable and constitutional way by which we could keep control. I hold as strongly as on the Second Reading, and as strongly as Deputy Johnson did on the State Lands Act, that we should have some control.

The effect of the amendment is to replace the words "or otherwise" by another phrase. The two phrases have exactly the same meaning. I must be authorised; authority must proceed from the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas can only authorise me in two ways. They can authorise either by regulations under statute or by resolution. The effect of the words moved by Deputy Cooper would in no way change the paragraph as it stands now. It simply puts in another way what is already there. If the Deputy thinks it desirable, I would suggest yet another way. I would suggest in front of the word "statute" to insert the words "or under." The paragraph would then read: "Such price or prices as the Minister may be authorised by or under statute or otherwise to charge therefor."

I quite accept that. Perhaps the Minister will have it moved in the Seanad, or perhaps it could be moved here.

It can be moved now.

Will that limit the possibility of a resolution by the House?

It will be a more restrictive clause than what is here or in Deputy Cooper's amendment. It will cut out the possibility of authorisation by resolution.

Will it not permit you to have a clause in the Distribution Bill enabling you to get authorisation by resolution?

The Distribution Bill, when it comes along, will entirely wipe out the paragraph. The paragraph will then be entirely repealed. It is just a question of whether the House wants to leave me the possibility of being authorised by a resolution or whether they would prefer to have the more restrictive phrase, "by or under Statute." Personally it does not matter to me. The Supply Bill will be introduced in the Dáil before any contracts for electricity are given out in any way, and before any arrangements are being made in regard to them. It is quite a matter of indifference to me.

If the Dáil will agree to the moving of the Minister's amendment without notice, I will withdraw my amendment. I think perhaps the provision as to a resolution is a desirable one. I think, however, I will withdraw the amendment; if the Dáil agrees to the Minister moving without notice I have no objection.

We can have a resolution formally moved. If the Dáil desires to keep in the possibility of authority by resolution, then the words, "statute or otherwise," are the ordinary words used. They have exactly the same meaning as Deputy Cooper's amendment, but they would make this more explicit, by stating "order under statute or by resolution of the Oireachtas." As between the three things that may come before us, I have no great preference between numbers one and two, but as between the second and third I have a distinct preference for the words "or otherwise." They are both limited by the phrase "authority"—by the word "authorised."

I would prefer the Minister's second thought to his first. I would prefer the words "by or under Statute" to "otherwise."

I would ask Deputy Cooper if he has recognised that the phraseology of the Minister's new proposal is practically unintelligible, inasmuch as this would be the Statute under which he has the authority to do all these things. This is the Statute. It is under this Statute he will have the authority

Deputy Cooper's amendment altered by leave to read:—

To insert before the word "Statute" the words "or under," and to delete the words "or otherwise" in the second last line of sub-section (2).

Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
Question—"That the new section, as amended, be there inserted"—put and agreed to.

I beg to move:—

In page 8, section 14 (2), line 47, after the word "appointed" to insert the words "after consultation with the Minister for Lands and Agriculture."

This amendment is introduced to meet a point made by Deputy Gorey in Committee. It is moved for the special purpose of determining the value of improvements on lands or premises under Section 14. It was desired to secure that the arbitrator appointed by the Reference Committee should have a knowledge of land values. As a matter of fact, the Minister will employ officers under the Department of the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture, so that I am not clear that it improves the section very much. However, if Deputy Gorey prefers the amendment, I will move it.

It does not seem to improve it, but it will improve the method that will be adopted. At any rate, it does the section no harm, though it serves little purpose.

I put it to the Deputy that it does harm. At least I suggest to him that it may contain the possibility of harm. The position will be this: that instead of leaving, as is suggested by the Bill, a Reference Committee consisting of two judicial persons and the Chairman of the Surveyors' Institute to appoint an arbitrator, these three, after consultation with the Minister for Lands and Agriculture, will appoint an arbitrator. Then the Minister for Lands and Agriculture will in fact be giving me his best advice on the question of land values, but the amendment will be giving me people whose advice I may take, and, after taking their advice, I may put forward offers for lands that may be seized for the purpose of the excavation of the canal. You are putting the Minister for Lands and Agriculture in this invidious position, that he is advising me and giving me an opportunity of having the prices beaten down. Then you make him consult with the two judicial persons and the Chairman of the Surveyors' Institute to appoint an arbitrator to fix a reasonable price. I do not know if the Deputy takes the view of the Minister for Lands and Agriculture that is very often taken of Ministers here—that they are completely and entirely liable to error. He is putting the Minister in a very unenviable position. He is advising me on the one hand and advising the arbitrator on the other.

My only reason for requiring this is to ensure that this committee, when making a selection, will have a proper class of man appointed. You have here three persons who know very little about what an expert arbitrator should be in this matter. We are only taking steps to ensure that somebody should be consulted so that the proper class of man will be appointed, because we recognise that the arbitration will be final. It is the last appeal and we want to be sure that the proper class of man will be appointed.

I suggest to the Deputy that this judicial body is not likely to appoint a person without making some investigation, without finding out whether he has some expert knowledge of land values. I also suggest another difficulty. Land is not the only thing falling for valuation and compensation. The question of fishery interests to be destroyed will also come before the arbitrator appointed by the Reference Committee, and in that case the Minister for Lands and Agriculture would not be a suitable person to advise. In that case the suitable person would be the Minister for Fisheries. May I, then, take it that the proper Minister in each case would be brought in to advise the Reference Committee? I think the Reference Committee had better be left on its own. They are not likely to appoint a person who will have no knowledge of the matter to be discussed.

I do not think the man who will be appointed to arbitrate in the case of land will be the same man appointed to arbitrate in the case of fisheries at all.

Not at all, but if I put in this amendment, any arbitrator, no matter for what purpose he has been appointed by the Reference Committee, will have to consult with the Minister for Lands and Agriculture.

The Minister is arguing on wrong premises. This section has reference, not to the taking of land, but to an added charge for the improvement of land by drainage. The arbitrator comes in where the tenant is asked to pay a subsidy to the Government for improvement.

This is not a question of officials at all; it is a case where, in any event, the occupier will have to put up opposition to the Government. He will be assessed for improvements, and whether this particular Reference Committee is set up or not it will be the duty of the occupier to make a case against the Government, because the occupier will say that no improvement has taken place, the Government will say that there has been an improvement, and it will inevitably end in opposition. I want to put the Minister clear on that.

Yes, I made a mistake. I had thought of this in connection with Section 6, instead of Section 14. Section 14 is applicable to the question of lands benefited by drainage, so that whatever argument I used with reference to officials does not apply. The other argument does apply. I leave it to the Deputy whether or not he thinks it wise. If he thinks it wise the amendment will be accepted.

I do not see what harm it will do. It would seem to be better with it than without it.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move:—

In page 10, Section 17 (b), line 14, before the word "construct" to insert the words "after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health."

This amendment is also introduced to meet the point raised by Deputy Gorey in Committee. It is to provide that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will not construct a new road or bridge in place of one that had been interfered with, and which would involve a charge on the local authorities, without consultation with the Minister for Local Government.

Might I point out that this suggestion is not altogether on all fours with the last amendment, because under this amendment the arbitrator is to be the Minister for Local Government. Now it appears that he is brought into this section in connection with the preliminary arrangements, and his opinion is to be sought as to whether it is necessary or is not necessary to make a bridge. Then, in the event of any differences subsequently between the local authority and the Government on a question of payment, that question is to be settled by the Minister for Local Government. I objected to that principle when the Bill was going through Committee. The incorporation of these words makes the Minister for Local Government a party to the arrangement in the first instance and the obtaining of his opinion, to my mind, makes the difficulty of having him the arbitrator all the more objectionable. The position is under this clause that in the event of a difference between the Government and the local authority a member of the Government, that is, the Minister for Local Government, is brought in to decide between the two parties. That, to my mind, is exceedingly unwise. Therefore, I would urge that an effort should be made to try to keep the Minister for Local Government as much apart as possible from an arrangement that may lead up to the difference, that he should not be made a party, as this amendment would make him, to the matter in the first instance.

This point was raised on an amendment which was moved by Deputy Duggan in Committee, to which Deputy Gorey took exception. After the amendment had been debated for some time I put forward a suggestion which was agreed to, and Deputy Gorey said: "I think I could accept that." It was some time after that that Deputy Good again intervened and said: "If there is a dispute, will it not be between the Government, acting on behalf of the Shannon scheme, and the local authority?" I replied: "That may be," and he went on: " 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?" That point lapsed, and the only point I was disposed to meet, the only point I gave notice to meet, was the point made by Deputy Gorey. My way out of it was this, that a bridge conferring substantial advantages would not be built until after consultation with the Minister for Local Government. When the Minister for Local Government thinks that a bridge conferring these substantial advantages should be built we will look upon him as the protector of the local authority; if he says it is sound it will proceed, and naturally the local authority will have to pay. While you will still have the Minister as arbitrator, the items on which arbitration will be necessary are reduced almost to a minimum.

It is not a question of arbitration at all; it is the point of restoring or not restoring the structure.

But it might lead to arbitration, and then paragraph (d) might come into force.

The question of arbitration is not connected with this subsection.

Deputy Good has, I think, agreed that if you take the whole section together, his objection is that the Minister for Local Government is made arbitrator, and he puts that in contrast with the arbitration in connection with lands where you appoint an arbitrator by a Reference Committee, and that arbitrator is outside the Government ranks altogether. That may be a new point, but that point was raised incidentally and was not pressed, and the only point on which I promised to make any accommodation was the point Deputy Gorey had raised. I am making accommodation here, and I think it is satisfactory.

I suggest that if this amendment is adopted, clause (d), which makes the Minister for Local Government the final arbitrator, should be altered. I would like to have the President's private view on that, as he is an old member of a local authority. Here is a question between the Government and the local authority, and in the event of the question proceeding to arbitration, a member of the Government is to be called in to arbitrate on it.

I cannot separate my private from my public views. I would say that as far as the local authority is concerned it will have two runs for its money. In the first place, if the Minister for Local Government were to state originally that the bridge or road is not required, I think the case of the Minister for Industry and Commerce for imposing the liability on the local authority goes by the board immediately. He must first convince the Minister for Local Government apparently, as far as the amendment is concerned. To my mind that is an admirable and well-worded safeguard for local authorities. Having done that the question of arbitration is a simple matter, and I am sure he has not got to present the Minister for Local Government with the problem to be solved and the apportionment to be made, but rather he must satisfy him originally that the thing is an absolute necessity as far as the local authority is concerned.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move:—

In page 10, Section 18, line 50, to delete the word "prepaid" and substitute "registered."

This amendment has been produced at the request of, I think, Deputy Heffernan. It will somewhat increase the cost of the scheme on the one hand, and it will increase the revenues of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on the other.

Could the Minister give us an estimate of the financial commitments we will be entering upon if we pass this amendment?

No binding estimate.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.