It is regrettable to find the Minister of a responsible Government, after over three years of office, saying in effect that he has not the machinery by which he could determine a minimum wage, or what is a living wage for the workers of this country. If one could not give the Minister credit for paying close attention to the business of his Department one could understand that, but one must acknowledge that the Minister at least has given evidence of close attention to the matters pertaining peculiarly to his Department. Therefore, such an admission from him is all the more regrettable. If he has not any machinery for determining a minimum wage, on what did he base the wage for the Shannon scheme? What factors did he take into consideration? Was it purely the law of supply and demand that influenced him? If it were not, then we ought to know what factors he took into account. He ought to defend the basis upon which he calculated that wage, and having defended that basis in that connection it should be easy for him to defend its general application. Having failed to defend that we must come to the conclusion that he had some foundation upon which he bases the wage that he fixed. Were food, clothing, firing, rent, and education considered? How much of these does the Minister think a worker entitled to? How much of these did he think he could get for 29/- or 32/- per week? An answer to those questions is due to us by the Minister. Did he calculate it as a wage for a single man or as a wage for a married man with a wife and family of three children? If he has not based it on an examination of those items, surely he has eliminated the human factor altogether, and we ought to know whether that is the case or not. This case has been very well made before, but the Minister has not defended the attitude he took up in connection with it. We are told that certain slaves thousands of years ago built a certain monument that exists up to the present day. Does the Minister want it to be said that certain monumental enterprises are going to be built up on the slavery of the workers of this country? He said: "if they cannot live on it, they cannot." That is the new slogan.
ORDUITHE AN LAE. - ELECTRICITY (SUPPLY) BILL, 1927—REPORT STAGE (RESUMED).
Why not quote the first part of that statement?
I will quote the whole statement, if the Minister wishes. Deputy Morrissey put the query "But if they cannot live on it?" and the Minister replied "If they cannot live on it, they cannot."
Does the Deputy not find anything in my statement to this effect: "If an industry cannot afford a certain wage, then that wage cannot be got out of it"?
Does the Minister contend that there is a certain margin beyond which capital cannot be employed successfully, and is there not a margin of wages below which you must not force a man to work? Is that the position on the Shannon scheme as he thought of it? The Minister wants to know what courts would be established to ascertain the minimum wage under this Bill. What has he set up to fix it? On what basis of calculation, on what degree of ordinary comfort, leaving out the amenities of life altogether, has he fixed it? He has made no statement whatever on this matter. The Minister's philosophy seems to be that a certain set of the people of this country are to be singled out for special treatment. Probably someone may correct me and say that it is special ill-treatment, and not special treatment I should have said. He has singled them out without giving any reason for it. He has not told us on what he bases his wage. The only thing he can say is that he is endeavouring to make dividends, endeavouring to force the workers to make dividends out of their starvation. That is the position to put it bluntly. Further, the Minister seems to forget that this is a national service, and that as a national service there is a special reason why a living wage should be afforded to the people within it. In the absence of a statement from the Minister as to the principle upon which he bases this, I do not think that any Deputy can make any further statement beyond challenging the Minister to bring forward the reasons on which he bases his wage and to defend them.
I have spoken on this amendment already and do not intend to speak at any length on it now. Deputy Hogan does not seem to have paid any attention to what was said previously when I spoke to this amendment, but directed attention to the fact that there was put down seriously for consideration an amendment which left to anybody's discretion what was going to be a wage sufficient to keep people in certain ways. I asked, if Deputy Johnson was going to take extracts from Australian legislation, that he might have taken the whole thing and establish minimum wage courts and all the rest here.
Under this Bill?
I argued that would be one way to do it. I said the other way would be to take the whole of the Australian legislation and apply it to all industry in this country.
Would the Minister accept that?
Would the Minister take the general lines of the Australian labour code and back it here?
No. I am not going to have two clauses pilfered from an Act, put in here and applied to a particular undertaking and not applied to every other undertaking. If the Deputy wants to run the gauntlet on that particular type of legislation let him run it in connection with all trade and industry in the country. Then we can have a decent discussion on that. I am not concerned with what Deputy Hogan says about standards. When I spoke it was in answer to a statement made by Deputy Morrissey that there should be a certain fixed minimum wage, and I said there were conditions in which that could not be paid. The Labour Party never seems to advert to the other side of the question, and that is what wages an industry can afford to pay and apply that generally. I applied it to the general statement made by Labour that there must be a particular fixed minimum paid.
Mr. P. HOGAN
There is a fixed minimum for capital.
I have not said anything about a fixed minimum for capital. When I say that you cannot get more out of industry than what it can afford to pay, Deputies simply say "Oh, pay something." Deputy Johnson's famous slogan long ago was, "skip finance." It is very easy to talk that way when one has no responsibility for getting the finance. I simply made the statement, backed afterwards by certain other Deputies, that you have to pay attention to the particular state of the country at any time in which these wage calculations are made. When I made that statement I did not make it specially with regard to the Shannon scheme. I made it in answer to the general clamour that we hear with regard to fixing a minimum wage. That may be a very desirable thing, but there is the other side to it ever and always: what the industry can afford, a particular industry dealing with a particular thing. If this type of legislation is considered desirable and if Labour Deputies think they can make their case clear on it, then let them bring in their amendment and apply it to all industry in the country, but on this Bill I am not going to have an amendment of this sort, and I intend to resist it. This amendment is brought in without any advertence to the circumstances in Australia. You have two clauses lifted. out of a piece of Australian legislation with a particular court not specified, and then we get this tirade from Deputy Hogan as to standards. I am not going to speak at any greater length on this, but if the Deputy has any belief in this being a just thing and a thing that must be accepted, then let us get the whole of the Australian legislation, and let us have it applied to all trade and industry in the country.
We now understand from the Minister that, following a general rule of his, he is going to allow the wages to be fixed by the Board in respect to any or all of its employees to be determined by what the industry can afford. What the industry can afford is to be determined by the Board, which means, of course, that there is nothing whatever to check the Board as to the rate of wages it will pay to its employees. That is to say, the Board which is established has a perfect monopoly, if it decides so, in the electrical industry. The control of production, distribution and the manufacture of appliances in connection with electricity can be monopolised by the Board. The only obligation on the Board is to make income meet expenditure, and what the industry can afford is to determine the rate of pay. The Minister says it is wrong, unwise and foolish to propose a motion of this kind unless one proposes the whole new code of labour legislation. Part of this amendment is taken out of the Minister's own Bill, which did not impose the whole of the Australian legislation or any other code of legislation. The other part is to fill a gap which became obvious in the Minister's administration of the fair wages clause. We have had assurances from Minister after Minister that the fair wages clause, as it had been practised in respect to public contracts for years, was inserted in every contract made by the Ministry. The fair wages clause in the Siemens-Schuckert contract was interpreted by the Minister's Department as enabling them to pay a rate of wages based upon the rate current in agricultural labour, and there is no court beyond the Minister.
Now there is obviously a gap and obviously a flaw and the attempt to fill that gap and remedy that flaw is in the second part of this amendment which provides that the minimum wage shall be sufficient to enable a well conducted employee of average health, strength arid competence with a wife and family of three children to provide a fair standard of comfort. I say that is a perfectly fair and reasonable proposition to put into a Bill of this kind, especially in the circumstances that I have indicated—where the industry can afford it if the Board decides that the industry shall afford it. The Minister talks about industry not being able to afford it. This Board is going to determine whether the industry can afford it or not. The Board is the industry. It is a monopoly. There is no other check or standard beyond that which the Board fixes, and if there is no such provision as this in the Act governing the Board then it is going to be a question of "devil pull baker"; a question of intensive organisation, an endeavour to secure a minimum by bargaining, if possible, and if bargaining fails, then strikes, with no legal standard minimum. It simply means that the Minister is challenging the working class movement to fight this Board for standards of life which are to be merely the result of conflict, of bargaining, and if the bargaining is not going to result in agreement, then a struggle as to who is the strongest and who is the most effective fighter.
I say there is no alternative position to take up except this one to the provisions in the Bill. You have got either to make a legal standard or a standard by agreement, and in this case agreements are not practicable without much more widespread organisation than exists at present in view of the ramifications of this proposed Board. It may be a very good thing, from a certain point of view, to force workmen of all classes into a close compact organisation in the electrical industry. That will undoubtedly be the reaction from the Minister's attitude towards this amendment. As I say from some points of view that may be the most desirable thing that could happen, but frankly I prefer that there should be a minimum living human standard of life fixed in the Bill. It is an entirely new undertaking, a new proposal that is going to have very great results one way and another. The Minister resists the very idea, apart from any matter of detail, of fixing a living wage by law, thus forcing the matter to be fixed by a struggle, a conflict and a fight whenever the opportunity serves. I think it might be useful to quote for the Minister's information and guidance what has been done in respect to the setting up of tribunals, or reference to tribunals, as to what is a fair standard, what is a living wage.
I have a quotation here from a country which the Minister himself has some knowledge of. It was the case of an appeal to Judge Frank Murphy in a recorder's court and the decision is very creditable to the country from which Judge Murphy or his ancestors came. In giving his judgment Judge Murphy said:
"A wage is not a living wage unless through frugality a wage-earner may earn sufficient to develop within reasonable limits his physical, spiritual, moral and intellectual faculties, and in addition be able to set aside a reserve to provide for accident, old age, illness and misfortune. Under the present social order," he continues, "the father is the natural provider for all members of the family. It follows that whenever the wage-earner lacks the means to provide for the becoming maintenance of his wife and children, marriage and home life are discouraged, women and children are obliged to labour and there is brought about a steady deterioration and lowering of standards in the families affected. Therefore, a living wage means a family living wage."
It is in harmony with that idea I put down this amendment that the living wage should be sufficient to maintain a man, his wife and family. I think the case made for the amendment is one which cannot be resisted. It has not been resisted, except for the suggestion from the Minister, that this matter should be left in abeyance until he has brought forward a whole scheme based on Australian courts' arbitration, wage decisions, and, presumably, the precedents that the Australian courts and wage fixing tribunals have established. I say that we need not wait until that has been discussed and argued either in this House or in the country. Here is a concrete proposition—that the rate of remuneration to be paid by the Board shall be such as may be fixed between the Board and the organised workers—representatives of the trade unions and the like—and that in no case shall such minimum wage be less than the ordinary, reasonable, family living-wage, based upon the condition of life of that particular class of employee. That is a proposition which nobody except Deputy Gorey has attempted to controvert. Deputy Gorey seems to think that the agricultural labourer's wage of 10s. per week should be the basic wage on which all other standards should be fixed.
I said nothing of the sort.
Deputy Gorey said the equivalent of that, and he was merely repeating what the Minister said when we were discussing the larger question of the Shannon scale of wages —that the wages that the most poverty-stricken industry in the country could afford to pay was to be the basis upon which all other wages were to be counted. I dissent from that entirely. I say there is no need whatever—and less need in this particular industry than in any other—why we should assume that the basic wage should be that of the poorest agricultural labourer. Deputy Gorey, probably, will not state here that he desires that the wages paid in the electrical industry should be based upon the figure he mentioned for the agricultural labourer, 10s. per week, plus food.
I think I raised the figure to 12/-.
The Deputy is not answering the question.
I will answer it later if the Deputy desires it answered.
I ask the Dáil not to agree to the proposition that the agricultural labour wage shall be the basis upon which the wage of electricians shall be fixed.
Who made that proposition?
On the contrary, I ask that the people employed by this Electrical Board shall pay wages fixed upon the needs of family life. That is the proposition at issue, and I propose to ask the House to divide upon it.
Deputy Johnson wants controversy. Let him, by all means, have it. I do not think he has succeeded in establishing a case for this amendment. To begin with, what proportion of labour in this country tan be placed in the position he wishes them placed in—the position of having a wife and three children? We have not got the Census figures yet. We do not know what the figures are, but we do happen to possess the figures of the last British Census. I agree that the parallel is not an entirely true one. But it is an indication. I read the figures in a Labour paper. In the last British Census—1921—it was shown that 40 per cent. of the married population had no child under 21 years of age. Further, 20 per cent. had only one child under 21 years of age. The proportion would undoubtedly be lower here. Still, assuming that even 50 per cent. of the population have a wife and three children, Deputy Johnson says nothing about their being infant children. They might be children able to earn for themselves. Assuming that even 50 per cent. of the population have a wife and three children, why should we endow the other 50 per cent. —unmarried men or married men with no children or married men with only one child or two children—with the advantages of a married man with a wife and three children? Australia has been mentioned. I had not time when I was in Australia to go into this subject in detail. I know there was a considerable volume of labour opinion in favour of the basic wage, but I also-came in contact with a considerable volume of opinion which held that the basic wage and the State limitation of hours, combined, acted as a hindrance to the establishment of new industries. From the States where basic wages were highest and working hours shortest, industries migrated into other States where conditions were more favourable. I am afraid that Deputy Johnson, if he were to pass this amendment, would place a brake on industrial development, because this amendment is not confined to electricians. A skilled electrician will always be able to make terms with his employer. He has an asset in his skill that will entitle him—and rightly entitle him—to demand good wages. But, according to the amendment, anybody employed by the Board—the man who sweeps out the office, if he is an adult, or the messenger—must get this basic wage.
I should have supported this amendment if Deputy Johnson had been consistent. But when it was a question, on an earlier amendment, as to the political rights of employees of the Board, Deputy Johnson said that was a matter for contract between employer and employees. I do not suggest that on the question of political rights the State should have no say, but I do say that the question of wages is a matter for contract between the employer and employees or between the employer and trade unions of the employees, and that by limiting that contract in the manner proposed in this amendment we should be weighting one side of the scales of justice. We should be imposing a handicap on industry, and we would probably be benefiting neither the worker nor the prosperity of the country. I did not intend to speak, but as I intend to vote against the amendment, I just wanted to make clear the grounds upon which I propose to do so.
Deputy Johnson's amendment raises a very big question for discussion. I do not suppose that Deputy Johnson expects that question to be settled on an amendment to this particular Bill. There have been in the past exchanges of views between employer and employed personally and through the medium of organisations. In some cases, these controversies have gone to the length of strikes and trade disputes, but I have never heard yet of any settlement based on the provisions of Deputy Johnson's amendment. It is very hard to understand why there should be such great differences in the wages paid in different trades and in connection with different employments. If Deputy Johnson could bring forward any proposal that would get rid of these differences, he would be achieving a simplification of the relations between employer and employed that would be very valuable indeed. The controversy is not even limited to countries. It is carried to the International Labour Conference at Geneva, and is continued there as between nations. At the conference which Deputy Johnson and I attended in Geneva some years ago, it was apparent that the labour leaders were endeavouring to bring up the standard in the countries that are lowest paid to something corresponding with the standard in the highly-paid countries. It was obvious to me then, and I presume to Deputy Johnson, that the wages and standards which applied in Great Britain were the wages and standards that other countries were trying to arrive at. In so far as Deputy Johnson's amendment would direct one's thoughts to the whole position in this country as it applies to Labour, I think the amendment would be helpful. It has been mentioned that the rates of agricultural labourers are between 10s. and 12s. per week. If a man with a wife and three children can exist as agricultural labourer on 10s. or 12s. per week, the wages paid a man with the same responsibility in other industries, and particularly in the sheltered industries, would seem to be luxurious. Nevertheless, nobody examining that higher wage scale—even where it is relatively very high—would claim that the conditions would be covered by the provisions that Deputy Johnson wants inserted in the Bill. The amendment is open to an extraordinary amount of argument and the question could not be settled on the basis of anything that we know to be in existence in the State to-day.
In so far as that is so, I think we must say that the amendment is inapplicable and unworkable. In connection with this Bill, in so far as the arguments used by Deputy Johnson are in the direction of saying that in a nationalised undertaking, such as is covered by this Bill, the standard of wages that will apply, while they cannot be out of proportion to other good employments in the country, ought to be a standard which would give a reasonable condition of living to the people employed in it, if there is any industry in the country or any undertaking that could be called upon to pay a good and a fair wage, an undertaking such as this, being a national undertaking, should provide as reasonably as possible, for the wages and, at all events, be protected from a condition of affairs which we hear is prevalent in the country where the farm labourer is employed at 10/- to 12/- a week. An amendment of the sort that I have tried to indicate is a controversial amendment. I could not argue for a moment that there could be any possible solution of the position on the basis of the terms of the amendment. If we had a dispute between an employer and employed to-morrow in Dublin and tried to settle it on this basis you could not get anywhere. It would be impossible. At a comparatively recent time I sat on a wages board in which the employees' side put forward a very elaborate table showing the wages prevalent in all the different trades they liked to select by way of comparison. One had only to look at it to see that there was no comparison whatsoever. There could be no comparison drawn from it. The ultimate result of the consideration of that by the board was that a cut in the wages was put into operation although the draft showed the relative wages that were being paid in that particular industry were practically lower on the scale than the various other forms of employment that were tabulated. One cannot dissociate from an industry what is the ability of that industry to pay in the way of wages. On the other hand, we have got in conflict with this amendment a position where the rate of wages is higher, and if the lower rate of wages is going to provide for the conditions that are laid down in the amendment then the higher wages are luxurious. Yet you have the same arguments brought forward for the higher wages. They want more wages.
This is a point that we could discuss here for a very long time without coming to any conclusion. The only value of the amendment is in so far as it draws attention to a claim on behalf of a portion of the community that they are to get better conditions for what you might call the lower strata. The answer to that is: Can that be done, and, if so, how? It is for the Labour members to answer it. I would not attempt to answer it except in so far as the conditions of wages must be a matter for organisation on the one side or the other. Until some basic solution is found it must be a matter between the particular set of employers, whether it is the State or otherwise, and the people who want the employment. I would be sorry to oppose this amendment except on the ground that it is impracticable. On the grounds of the placing of the whole of this industry under one organisation under Government control, I say that the people that are employed in it are reasonably entitled to expect better conditions than they would get in the competitive market. I think they always do as far as undertakings of this sort are concerned.
Deputy Cooper quoted some figures here from the British census, which I have not had any opportunity of verifying, to prove that only a certain portion of the population with which the census dealt was married.
Were married and had children. Deputy Cooper proceeded to develop that argument until he came to a point which left the Dáil under the impression that a very small proportion of the population were married and had three children. While it may be the case that a man may not be in the position of being married and having three children, it can be the case that the man's circumstances, brought about by the fact that he has to maintain dependents, will put him in a position of responsibility equal to the man who has a wife and three children. I wonder what proportion of the population are under that category. Deputy Cooper did not tell us.
Obviously I could not tell. Deputy Norton wants my reference. If he goes to the library and looks up this week's issue of the "New Statesman," which is a Labour organ, or, at any rate, sympathises with Labour, he will find my authority.
Deputy Cooper got a certain class of information that suited his argument here and, on the basis of it, proceeded to tell the House that wages was a matter of contract between employers and employees. Apparently Deputy Cooper does not wish that any other agency should enter into the relations between those two bodies. In other words, the wages to be paid is to be dependent upon the superior forces of one of the contestants in a wages dispute. If an employer succeeds then the employer is entitled to force a certain standard and, because he has better resisting powers the standard which the employer is capable of enforcing is to be the standard which is to obtain in industry, and that standard is to be one which, according to Deputy Cooper's reasoning, is to have no regard whatever for the needs of the individual or his citizen and domestic responsibilities. That goes very near saying, in other words: Let us abolish the Factory Acts; let us abolish the Wage Boards; let us come to the position that wages in all industries are to be determined by the bargaining powers of the employer on the one hand and the employee on the other hand.
And his union.
"And his union," Deputy Cooper suggests. But if his union is dealing with an employer very heavily capitalised, with considerable resources, it cannot stand up against the standard of living which the employer proposes to enforce. Then the standard of living in that case is going to be the minimum: is going to be the employer's standard of living, and Deputy Cooper sees nothing wrong with that. On the top of the employer's strength, and on the top of his financial resources we may have thrown into the scale against the organised workers the fact that the labour world is glutted with unemployed. Deputy Cooper still suggests that that condition of things is the ideal condition of things to be aimed at, and that there should be no intervention and no standard laid down for the two bodies, the employer and the employee. Deputy Cooper asks: "Is this standard suggested in the amendment going to apply to the office sweeper?" And he spoke in a way that indicated that he was astonished that the office sweeper should have a wage based upon a fair and average standard of comfort. Has not the office sweeper, even although he is the office sweeper—somebody must sweep the office—got citizen and domestic responsibilities? Is not he always faced with the problem of feeding himself and his dependents, and why should he not be given a wage based on a reasonable and average standard of comfort? It is a rather strange thing for Deputy Cooper to be suggesting that he should not be paid a wage having regard to these facts. I should have thought Deputy Cooper would have left that for Deputy Gorey to say.
Deputy Hewat said disputes cannot be settled on the basis laid down in the amendment. I am going to ask Deputy Hewat and Deputy Good if they will give us any cases where employers have endeavoured to settle wages disputes on the basis of a fair and average standard of comfort for a man with a wife and three children. So far as this city is concerned—and I have got some experience of it and some experience of trade union negotiations in it—there is no instance that I know of where employers have come forward and said: "We are prepared to settle any dispute on the basis enumerated."
You could not do it.
I venture to say if employers are prepared to offer this as a basis of determining wages in an industry, there is no reason in the world why it cannot be done, and the only explanation of the fact that it is not done is because employers are not prepared to enter into negotiations on this basis. Nineteen thirteen is not such a distance off, and as a goodly number of us can remember——
It was a good deal before the beginning of the Shannon Works.
I agree, but the mentality has not changed very much. If an attempt had been made to settle a wage dispute in 1913 on this basis, would we have the catastrophe that we had in 1913?
Since I came into the Chair there has not been one single word about this Board, not even an inference or an implication about the Board.
At all events, let me contradict the statement made by Deputy Norton. The 1913 strike had nothing whatever to do with wages.
That is the end of the 1913 strike.
This amendment, as Deputy Johnson and other speakers from these benches have indicated, is an attempt to establish a reasonable and fair standard of living in connection with the operations of this Board. This Board has a virtual monopoly; this Board will have considerable resources. It will be put in the position of being able to offer strenuous resistance to any trade union attempt to bring into operation a decent wage and a decent standard of living. And a board armed with all these powers ought not to be allowed to use these powers for the purpose of depressing the standard of living and paying the lowest possible wages that they can get workmen for. I think the amendment is an eminently reasonable one. It is an attempt to establish a fair wage, a wage which will provide for an average standard of comfort, and I think it would be a regrettable thing if the majority of this Dáil went into the Division Lobbies declaring they were not prepared to support an amendment which aimed at establishing a fair wage and one which would provide for an average standard of comfort.
- Séamus Eabhróid.
- David Hall.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- William Norton.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Liam O Daimhín.
- Peadar O Dubhghaill.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
- Pádraig Baxter.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Thomas Bolger.
- Séamus Breathnach.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Séamus de Búrca.
- John J. Cole.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean Uí Dhrisceóil.
- James Dwyer.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- John Good.
- Thomas Hennessy.
- John Hennigan.
- William Hewat.
- Connor Hogan.
- Seosamh Mac a' Bhrighde.
- Donnchadh Mac Con Uladh.
- Liam Mac Cosgair.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Eoin Mac Néill.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
- James Sproule Myles.
- Martin M. Nally.
- John T. Nolan.
- Michael K. Noonan.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Parthalán O Conchubhair.
- Máirtín O Conalláin.
- Eoghan O Dochartaigh. Séamus O Dóláin.
- Tadhg O Donnabháin.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Seán O Duinnín.
- Donnchadh O Guaire.
- Aindriú O Láimhín.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Séamus O Murchadha.
- Seán O Raghallaigh.
- Máirtín O Rodaigh.
- Seán O Súilleabháin.
- Andrew O'Shaughnessy.
- Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.
- Liam Thrift.
- Nicholas Wall.
In page 9, Section 10, line 19, to insert before sub-section (4) a new sub-section as follows:—
A member of the Board who is concerned in any bargain or contract entered into with the Board or participates in the profit of any such bargain or contract or any work done under the authority of the Board shall be disqualified for and be deemed to have vacated his office as such member.
This amendment is an extension of the principle of the section itself, and, I think, it will probably be acceptable. The section provides that a person appointed to be a member of the Board shall sell or dispose of shares he may hold in any electrical undertaking which he may have at the time of appointment, and he shall not afterwards become a purchaser or holder of shares. That is, in regard to electrical undertakings, a member of the Board is debarred from having an interest. The amendment, which extends that principle a little further, is practically taken from the Act dealing with the London Port and Docks authority. I think it is fairly common in such organisations and I do not imagine that there is any real opposition to it.
I am afraid that the Deputy's imagination goes very far. Let us see the position in which we are. Section 9 states that a member of the Board who has any interest in any company or concern with which the Board proposes to make any contract shall disclose to the Board the fact of such interest and the nature thereof, and such member shall take no part in any deliberation or decision of the Board relating to such contract, and such disclosure shall be recorded in the minutes of the Board. Now, we have an amendment which says that if a member of the Board is concerned in any bargain or contract entered into with the Board he shall be disqualified from membership. The two things are contradictory. Let us imagine a member of the Board who has electricity in his own house and who is in an area for which the Board is an authorised undertaker. If the Board makes a bargain with that member for supplying electricity to his house such member will have to retire from the Board. The amendment, if adopted, would mean that we would have to disqualify from membership of the Board any man who uses electricity in his own house.
There are a whole lot of other points that could be raised on it. A man who may be a member of the Board, holding shares in any company, which company is supplied in bulk with electricity, is then concerned in any bargain or contract entered into with the Board, and would have to retire. It is obviously too widely drafted as it stands. I do not know if the Deputy could suggest any modification.
I quite recognise from the Minister's statement that the proposed sub-section is too widely drafted. I take it practically holus bolus from the Port of London Authority Act. What I want to safeguard is that a member of the Board shall not be a member of a concern, or a participant in the profits of a concern, which is making contracts with the Board. I do not think Section 9 covers it. "A member of the Board who has any interest in any company or concern with which the Board proposes to make any contract shall disclose to the Board the fact of such interest and the nature thereof ..." The Board will make the contracts presumably with many concerns in the country and outside the country, and members of the Board, as individuals, will probably not know very much about the details of the contracts, or even the firms entering into them. A contract will be entered into by the officers of the Board, and this proposition really implies that the member of the Board should not be connected with firms dealing with the Board—a shareholder or a participant in the profits.
I see my amendment does not fit sufficiently neatly into the section. I think the section itself is not tight enough to debar a member of the Board from participating in the profits of a contracting firm. I have drawn attention to the matter, and, in view of my laxity in the drafting of this amendment, I will not press it, but I hope that the subject-matter will be brought forward on another occasion.
I stand by Section 9, but I would like to enlarge the section, and I propose, either here now or later, to amend the section in some such way as this: In line 65, after the word "contract," to insert the phrase "for the sale of electricity or the sale of any electric lines, fittings, apparatus or appliances." The section would then read in this way: "A member of the Board who has any interest in any company or concern with which the Board proposes to make any contract for the sale of electricity or the sale of any electric lines, fittings, apparatus or appliances, shall disclose to the Board the fact of such interest and the nature thereof ..." I am keeping to the point that as long as it is a contract with regard to the sale of electricity, electric lines, fittings and appliances, then the lines shall be disclosed, and the member shall take no part in any deliberation or decision.
There might be added a new sub-section: "A member of the Board who is concerned in any contract entered into with the Board other than a contract for the sale of electricity or any lines, fittings, apparatus or appliances, and who is a participant in any such contract, shall be disqualified for and shall be deemed to have vacated his office as such member." The net result will be when it is a contract for the sale of electricity, and electrical appliances and fittings, then there is the matter of disclosure. If the member of the Board is concerned in any contract entered into with the Board for any other purpose than those things I have mentioned, then disqualification follows. That goes some way to meet the Deputy. I cannot, of course, stand on that wording. I am not suggesting that is the final wording. I will get that attended to elsewhere, but I think it goes some way to meet the Deputy.
The Minister has gone a considerable way to meet my point, but I am not quite clear why a mere disclosure is satisfactory when one is dealing with articles which might be thought to be the class of articles above all others that the member of the Board should be debarred from having an interest in. As has been suggested by the Minister, the view seems to be that a member of the Board might, in fact, be an interested party in an electrical contractor's business and the only requirement that will be put to him will be that he discloses the fact. Well, the disclosure to a Board of four or five people, each of whom might be interested in the sale of electrical appliances, would not be a barrier against preferential treatment of that particular firm. I take it that is the real purpose of these provisions.
The Deputy is apparently thinking of the Board buying and is not thinking of the case of selling.
I am thinking of buying for distribution.
I will agree with the Deputy in so far as I have got him on that. My amendment, in fact, looks the other way. It insists on disclosure in the case only of where the Board is selling and where there is a member on the Board interested in the sale of electricity or in lines, fittings, et cetera, but not where there is a member of the Board who is also a member of an electrical concern selling to the Board.
That is more important. There has been a demand, for instance, for experts on the Board. The Minister has taken the view, and I support him, that he should not be limited in his choice of nominations for the Board to those who might be deemed to be experts. It is quite possible, and one may say likely, that amongst the persons to be appointed on the Board will be people who have had or may have a monetary interest in the sale of electrical appliances, whether as agents or as members of a company. It is important that such a connection should no longer be possible after the person becomes a member of the Board, and a mere disclosure of the fact that a person has an interest in the company supplying appliances is not sufficient. We should provide some means of preventing a circumstance of that kind arising.
I take it the Deputy is accepting my suggestion of having an amendment such as I indicated inserted elsewhere. In fact, I have met the Deputy with regard to what he is on now by the terms contained in Section 10. There a member of the Board must sell or dispose of his interest in any concern which might be selling to the Board. The Deputy will see the result of our deliberations later.
Amendment 13 is not in order.
I beg to move amendment 14:—
In page 14, Section 20, lines 50, 55 and 58, to delete the figures "1932" and substitute in each case therefor the figures "1939."
The amendment you have ruled out of order and this amendment are-nearly allied but they do not cover quite the same ground. The previous amendment was put forward for the purpose of raising a rather wide question. I can make the case on the amendment now before the House. The section provides that the charges made by the Board up to 31st December, 1932, may be insufficient to cover the expenditure, but after that date all charges—that is, the revenue to be derived from the sale of electric power —shall be sufficient to cover all expenses, including capital charges. The matter was touched on in an earlier amendment. Deputy Hewat's amendment would have allowed the idea to be discussed, but unfortunately it was not discussed. The point I wish to make is that the period as from the date when power will be available from the Shannon to 1932 is, or may be, too short in which to ensure that the consumption will be great enough to enable the Board to cover expenditure by revenue.
I want to make it possible for the Board to pay deficits out of capital. I think I would prefer to have it as a possibility that the deficit over this preliminary period might be borne as a subsidy. I know that last idea will not be looked upon with favour by many people. I, nevertheless, think it would be cheap and good economy once one has accepted the main lines of the scheme, to ensure, by fixing the rates at which electrical power can be sold at as low a figure as possible, the consumption being rapidly extended. I think the figure 1932 does not conform to the recommendations of the experts in their report. They spoke of the fifth year after the coming into operation of the scheme. The experts expect that payment out of revenue of interest on capital to the full extent of 5½ per cent. after paying all working expenses and sinking fund, will not be practicable until the fifth year after the coming into operation of the system. Now, 1932 is not five years after the contemplated opening of this system; rather is it three years.
It seems to me that one of the factors that will influence business and industrial concerns in rising to the offers that may be made by the Board for the utilisation of electrical power is that it will be ensured for a period of, say, ten years, at a price that will be as low as a certain rate.
It is necessary, I think, that the Board should be in a position to say: "We will give you power at such a rate over a period of ten years," before the purchaser will respond to the offer, that is, to instal electrical power instead of steam. I think, therefore, that the date in this section should be extended, and that the Board should be in a position to sell power at a price which does not include interest charges. Right at the beginning of this discussion on the Shannon scheme I urged that a cheap electricity policy should be encouraged from the start, and I went on to suggest the possibility, even the desirability, of treating capital charges as part of a national scheme for the promotion of the use of electricity and the provision of cheap power. That is the idea behind this amendment, to enable the Board to make provision for giving power cheaply in the early years and to offer it from the beginning of its activities.
I have looked into the figures that have been provided by well-intentioned propagandists, and it is quite clear from an examination of them that cheapness is not to be got by dealing with the power production and the distribution from the Shannon station. You might have .5 of 1d. or round about that, by a very big demand, but the great advantage that will come will come from an extension of consumption and the cheapening of the costs of distribution. Consequently it is our duty, I think, to give facilities to the Board in every possible way to extend the consumption from. the earliest possible date, even that they may be in a position, as soon as they are able to distribute power, to sell all that they can generate, and I think that we ought to devise our plans to that end and that the Minister ought to make sure that the Board will not be handicapped in that matter by a provision of this kind. With this section they will not be able to offer power at any price beyond 1932. They will not be able to give assurances that power will be at such a price, say, in the city of Dublin, or even—what I would like to have a very clear regard for—in the smaller urban areas. They will not be able to budget beyond 1932, and therefore will be handicapped in contracting for the sale of power when dealing with large consumers. It would be very much better, I think, to be able to say to a firm which contemplated changing over from steam to electricity: "You will have power not exceeding a given rate for ten years," rather than to say that the whole thing will have to be revised in three years. The Minister and the Board should have the utmost confidence in their ability to continue to sell power at a certain price, but they will also have to convince a prospective purchaser, and unless they are able to give that prospective purchaser an assurance that power will be provided at a low price over a period of years they will deter that prospective purchaser.
I have said that the question of cheap power depends much more upon the reduction of local charges, and that brings me at once to the question of the Dublin, Rathmines and Pembroke supplies. These places are keenly interested in this matter, and, as I think, have not divulged their whole case to their own public. I find, for instance, from the latest figures issued by the Dublin supply, that whereas the unit cost on the average to the consumers for the last year was 3.64d. If one could eliminate capital charges, income tax on profits, and the profits, it would just divide by two the cost to the consumer. The capital charges in this matter are the capital charges on the remainder of the stock, and perhaps the opportunity will turn up for me to urge that that is a charge that might well be borne freely out of the general funds of the Board, or out of taxation. But as we are dealing with the funds of the Board I say that that local interest charge might well be borne by the Board and not charged to the Dublin supply. If we could eliminate for, let us say, the first ten years that charge, which is .9 odd of 1d., and the surplus of that year, which is .7 of 1d., and income tax, which would not have to be paid if there had been no surplus, we would have half the total cost charged to the consumer which might be saved without any breach of the scheme, without taking into account a very small possible reduction in the cost of the bulk supply, and still allowing the full total for reserves, renewals and the present cost of distribution and management, and we would be reducing the cost to the consumer by 50 per cent. That is a sample, and a sample taken from the most favourable example. If you take Rathmines or Pembroke you find the position very much worse from the point of view of the present consumers, and a prospect, if my proposition were acceded to, of current being supplied to Rathmines and Pembroke at about one-third of the price they are at present paying.
I do not believe at all in the divine right of Rathmines or Pembroke to charge 2d. or 3d. a unit more than they need for the sake of retaining a kind of parental control of these supplies. I do not think, for instance, that one would be justified in welcoming the appointment by one Minister of a Commissioner to control the Dublin electricity supply, and then resenting with emphasis the change of the name of that commissioner. It seems to me to be emphasising quite the wrong thing in this matter. But I want to come back to the point, that the essence of this proposal is to enable the Board rapidly to extend the consumption and demand, and to ensure by that means the cheapening of power. Some references have been made to the rather rapid reduction in the costs of electrical power in Dublin, and it is true that there has been a rapid diminution in the costs of generation and distribution during the last few years. That, I think, has been brought about by lower charges. I find, for instance, that there has been a decline in four years of, say, 32 per cent. in the costs of generation and distribution per unit sold, and 31 per cent. in the costs, including capital charges. But the point is that that is concurrent with an increase in the consumption, and it is the increase in the consumption that has made it possible for these reductions to take place. There is no need for me to elaborate that, because it is common knowledge, I suppose, to anybody who knows anything about this or has read the Official Reports.
But it is necessary to emphasise the fact that the cheapening of current will depend upon the rapid extension of the demand in the local areas, and not so much on the costs of generating and distributing the bulk supply. Therefore, I want to give the Board such power as will enable it, over a period of, say, ten years—I have suggested 1939 instead of 1932—to make contracts ahead. I think, too, that that would enable them to look for the rapid development of the distribution system into the smaller towns, and I want to lay emphasis upon the desirability of extending the supply to the smaller towns at the earliest possible date, and to give these smaller towns the cheapest supply compatible with economy. I think that is only possible when the Board has powers over a period longer than that contemplated by the Bill to borrow for the purpose of meeting the earlier capital charges, or to give an opportunity at a later stage for a new State policy in regard to the financing of this scheme. Frankly I want to see electricity treated very much as water is treated, and to have it ultimately dealt with for the ordinary household supplies by way of a rate, with an added charge for power used for industrial purposes. To do that we want to get it into the commonest possible use, and to develop the electrical power habit. The habit of electricity is one that I think has to be formed, and I think it ought to be possible for the Board to begin developing that right from the beginning. To do that it must be in a position to make contracts ahead of 1932. It is on these grounds that I move the extension of this period from 1932 to 1939.
As put up, this amendment only suggests a term three years shorter than the term which Deputy Hewat had sought to set out for the Board when speaking on the Committee Stage. But it has been put up in a different fashion and I have to give a different reaction to it. I will always hold out against any amendment of the time which is based upon the idea of men who never believed that the Shannon scheme could pay and now believe still more firmly that it can never pay, Deputy Johnson has not thrown any atmosphere of suspicion of that type about this amendment, as there has been about the previous amendment. Consequently, it is much easier to meet this point. I would, however, say to him what I did say on a previous amendment, that it is bettor to have this period enlarged later on when the absolutely final costs of the Shannon scheme are known. That would be, say, in about a year from now. It will be in a very short period from now as far as the civil engineering side is concerned, but it will be a little bit longer with regard to the electrical side, because the orders are still in process of being placed. I will, as my first reaction, put that point. The experts gave a certain calculation and I will deal with that five years in a moment. When I was speaking in the Dáil with regard to the Shannon scheme, my whole estimates were based upon the consumption in 1932—the interest charges and the losses during a period of years were all based on the year 1932 at the utmost. Having put the scheme to this House on figures based upon that particular year, and having seen no change for the worse— if anything a change for the better— in the demand for electricity that is likely to accrue by itself in 1929, I had the feeling that it was much better still to stand by that particular year of 1932 than to make any change. I think Deputy Johnson will agree with me that if I had myself come forward with an amendment to change the year of 1932 to 1939 we would have two large headlines in the morning newspapers about the cat being out of the bag—at least, about the definite admission from the Minister that the scheme cannot pay, and so forth. There is no such admission. The situation has eased in favour of the scheme to the extent of the additional 15,000,000 units of consumption which was seen to be likely in 1929. I have spoken of 1932 as the year upon which I based all my claims when speaking of the scheme. That was the year, despite what Deputy Johnson has correctly quoted from the experts' report—that in or about five years from the beginning of the scheme it should make a return.
In another page of the report the experts state that in the first load stage the interest return would only be about 4.6 per cent., but that in the second load stage this should rise to 6.8. I am not pretending to quote accurately, as I have not got the exact page before me, but that was the effect of the statement. As was usual in the whole of the experts' report, they took a very conservative figure; everything was biased against the scheme. When they were going into the economics of it, they took the worst possible view. They placed it in this way: that if you get a return which gave you no interest on your money up to the year 1934, that then you could look for a return of about 5 per cent., and that some time after that the natural ordinary addition by way of consumption would land the scheme with a certain amount of extra interest. Scaling that back and dividing out interest charges, there will be a biggish loss in the first year, a decreasing loss in the second year, and a very much decreased loss in other years. It seemed on the calculation of the moneys which the experts set aside to meet interest charges and losses during the early years, that 1932. rather than 1934, was the proper year On that I would make no great point as between 1932 and 1934 at this moment. That was the reason that 1932 was chosen, although the experts said "five years after the opening of the scheme," which should be February, 1929. While I would be disposed to meet Deputy Johnson on the amendment that he has put up now on account of the manner in which he has dealt with it, I want to point out to him that in the absence of approval of amendment 13, which has been ruled out of order, it does not seem to me that to enlarge the date is going to be very much use, for this reason: there has been given, between myself and the Board, a sum of about £600,000 to meet interest charges and loss on working during the unremunerative years. This has been based on our best calculations up to 1932. Merely to state that the scheme is not to be made pay its way up to 1939, and not to give the Board any additional moneys with which to meet the interest charges in the further unremunerative years up to 1939, does not leave them in a much better position. In other words, it will need further additions to the finances at the disposal of the Board. If Deputy Johnson had succeeded in carrying his amendment 13, which would render it unnecessary for the Board to pay interest on the moneys received by it under this Bill, then of course there would be a financial easing to the Board and they might have carried on into these other years. While I have a very much more favourable reaction to this amendment than to the one moved by Deputy Hewat, simply on account of the ideals behind it. I do not think That by itself it is going to be very much use. It simply is going to put to the Board as a headline that there is no necessity to make the scheme pay until this later date of 1939, but there is going to be another necessity on the Board in addition to the Act of Parliament—there is going to be this fact, that unless they get extra moneys they must get revenue to equal their outgoings in or about 1932, so that, without a further vote, the headline which Deputy Johnson would set by this amendment would be of very little good to the Board, as the Board will have to set out to cut its cloth according to its capacity.
It has, however, been impressed upon me from a variety of sources that it is unwise to set the members of the Board this very difficult task of getting both ends to meet by 1932. Remember, this was put to me by people who have no doubt about the 110,000,000 units still being achieved and who have very little doubt, following upon conversations I have had with them, that the actual moneys to be expended on the Shannon scheme will not be any larger than the vote given in the first Shannon Act. They say, simply: Is it good policy to set out merely to secure a sale of 110,000,000 units and to charge, say, .8 all over the country, when by reducing that .8 by a further decimal point you can get, possibly, a consumption of 150,000,000 units and have the bigger load factor operating for the benefit of the consumers? That has been put very definitely on the grounds of better electricity business. It has been insisted upon by people who have the fullest confidence that the 110,000,000 units sale can be achieved by 1932, and that the costs are not going to be increased. Nevertheless, they say it would be bad electricity business to make charges on such a scale that revenue must meet outgoings in that year, and as that seems to be a business point of view that is getting considerable weight, and as it has been put to me in that reasonable form, I would be rather disposed to make some change. But the change cannot be made under Deputy Johnson's amendment. There will have to be an addition and it will fall for consideration whether there is any way of meeting that addition without necessarily enlarging the money voted here and now. It is possible to leave them to carry on and say: "Very well, if there is further money required, this is more or less a headline from the Dáil and, if passed by the Seanad, from the Oireachtas that more money will have to be provided." I think that is the logical implication of passing the amendment in the circumstances.
Nevertheless, I come back to the other point: Is it wise to change the date now? I refuse, as I have already refused, to give the House guarantees, but I will give them statements more or less of fact with regard to certain prices, with regard to how the cost is working out, and I will say to them that there is no reason now to ask for further money for the Shannon works. That being so, if there is any doubt on the other side as to the 75 or 78 or 80 million units of 1929 being increased by some sort of ordinary effort on the part of the Board up to 110 million unitil in 1932, are we right in deciding now that the Board should not make revenue meet outgoings in 1932? Would not it be better to leave that until 1929 when the last figure has been determined, and when one is no longer dealing in estimates, although I say these estimates are approaching the region of actual fact? Would it not be better to wait until 1929 when the final figure will have been determined and when one can see, after the Board has been in operation a couple of years, what is likely to be the consumption even on the date of the opening of the whole Shannon works, set the two things in relation and decide what is the best business proposition for the Board to follow?
As will be apparent, I have no great antagonism to the amendment but I would like it to get a little more consideration. Really, I do not suppose it matters much as between 1937 or 1939 or 1940. We are only discussing the matter of sticking to the particular date that I mentioned when urging the first Shannon Bill here, or whether we should enlarge it. It is not of very much importance whether we enlarge it by three or five years, but I would ask Deputy Johnson simply to take into consideration what I have said— that it might be better to leave it as it is and deal with the matter when we have the factors more clearly before us upon which a precise judgment can be formed—that is to say, round about 1929.
The Minister says the amendment is brought forward in a very different atmosphere from that in which the corresponding amendment standing in my name was brought forward in Committee. I think that is quite true. The amendment in my name, I confess openly to the House, although the Minister did receive it with a certain amount of indignation, was frankly an amendment asking the Minister to verify the figures on which the scheme was based in the light of his knowledge and information as to the progress of the work and the possible prospects as they appear to him at that date.
The Minister on that occasion was perfectly frank. The answer to my amendment was that he had no doubt at all that in 1929 the output at the generating station would have reached 75,000,000 units. Further, he said that he had no doubt that in the year 1932 the number of units sold would reach 110,000,000. As the 110,000,000 is the figure on which the experts had calculated certain returns and certain results, then, according to the Minister, in the year 1932 the scheme should be in a position to pay the charges, including interest and sinking fund, as laid down in the previous section of this Bill. Deputy Johnson, in supporting his amendment, gave very different reasons from those which I gave on a previous amendment for changing the date. I think the arguments, as coming from Deputy Johnson, are very logical indeed. But the amendment alters very much the character of the scheme and the objects to be achieved, because Deputy Johnson's proposal is to extend the period under which interest and sinking fund would operate until 1939. That proposal was with a view to putting a more or less fictitious price on the sale of current so as to introduce more general use of electricity. In other words, the scheme would be subsidised by writing off that amount in its initial stages or it would be burdened at a later stage with the accumulated arrears of interest and sinking fund. I should not like to put forward a definite objection to either proposal. I think it is a question for every member of the Dáil and for every part of the country to decide— that is to say, whether or not, having decided on a nationalised scheme, that scheme should be subsidised in order to provide light cheaply to consumers throughout the country. I think the objection would be raised that the non-consumers of electricity were being called upon to make up a deficit in favour of the users of electricity, just as it was stated in regard to Dublin that it was not the ratepayers who paid the money but the consumers.
The Minister, in his reply, says that it would be better to leave the year 1932 in the Bill until such times as the facts and figures in connection with the Shannon works have been ascertained. I think the Minister's suggestion, that the year 1932 should remain, as far as this Bill is concerned, is the better one, because there is a very considerable interval between the present time and the time when these conditions will operate, in which the Dáil can make provision, if they care to do so, for converting the scheme into a subsidised State scheme from being a self-supporting scheme. At the present time, I think it is undesirable to go into that very big question. All things considered, I think it would be much better to leave the Bill as it stands, with the expression by the Minister— which expression I do not take any exception to—that, with the information obtained within the next twelve or eighteen months, the Dáil will be in a better position to comment upon and criticise any action proposed to be taken for altering the basis of the scheme.
I admit quite frankly that the form of this amendment is not at all complete—that is to say, that the mere acceptance by the Dáil of the amendment would not achieve all that I desire. Certain consequential amendments would be required, in any event. I am, unfortunately, coming in rather late in the hunt, and I have to try to recover lost ground. I take this means of ventilating certain views which I have on the general scheme. Equally frankly, I want to make it possible for the Board to do what I think would be good business and—much more important—good social service—that is to say, to supply Dublin City, Rathmines, Pembroke and the urban districts at hand, who are paying, notwithstanding all the boasts about the efficiency of the existing schemes, double, and perhaps treble, what they need pay for consumption of electricity, provided we look upon this scheme as a social service rather than a mere moneymaking proposition. After all, if we are thinking of this electric power proposition as something that is going to affect the greater part of the country, particularly the crowded areas, and not as an extension of or an improvement upon the Dublin Gas Company— a sort of subordinate profit-making scheme—then we should approach it from the point of view of giving a supply of electricity at the lowest possible price to the greatest possible number of people for lighting, heating and cleaning houses. We should try to get the electric habit inculcated in the city, because it will have a very big social effect. I am convinced of that from certain observations I made in other cities. It is worth paying a good deal of money for.
In regard to the supply of electric power to Dublin, it surprises me, coming with some freshness, to read in the debates expressions of surprise and astonishment that the Minister should be suggesting now that Dublin must come to the aid of the scheme. My memory is sufficiently acute to make me confident in saying that the conception from the beginning was that the supply to Dublin, Pembroke and Rathmines should be taken from the Shannon, with the possibility that steam plant might be brought in to assist. There is nothing new about the idea that Dublin must take Shannon power. I want to see them take that power and get the advantage—the immediate advantage—which I think can be got. If we can supply to the householder power at 2d. or 3d., instead of 6d., as they are paying to-day, if we can ensure that that is going to be supplied for a period of years and if, in addition, there is going to be an early scheme for cheap wiring and the supply of apparatus and appliances, long before 1932 I think we will be considering the question of the extension of the "later development" of the scheme. I think it ought to be contemplated from the beginning that power is going to be supplied to the consumers in Dublin at a price which will eliminate the capital charges that are at present included in the price for the Dublin distribution scheme and the Rathmines and Pembroke distribution schemes; the 2d. income tax, the .7d. surplus, these things, which total nearly 2d. per unit, can be saved and consumers will get the benefit. I think that, by rapid increase, right in the early stages, of the demand for electric power for lighting and heating and ordinary domestic activities, we would be in a better position to extend to the smaller towns and villages. I think we ought to have that as a clear objective—the rapid extension of electric power to and its consumption in the smaller towns and villages. We ought not to close our thoughts to the proposition that it is worth the State's while to bear a considerable proportion, if not the whole, of the capital charges on the distribution side, which are heavier in proportion than the capital charges on the power-production side, with a view to subsidising, if you like to use the word, the consumption of electric power. I think if that were contemplated by a future Dáil, from the point of view of making the whole scheme a success, we should need to give the Board the right to expect that they could make contracts for ten years ahead, so that those who are likely to be users of power will have definite encouragement to change their plant.
I can only leave the matter there. As I say, the Minister has met the point in a friendly fashion, and as I know that other amendments will be required and that it is rather late in this House to try to make all the amendments necessary, it would be useless perhaps for me to divide the House on the matter. I can only leave it with the Minister, and see what can be done in the Seanad if the Bill ever reaches there.
There is just one sentence that I used on the Committee Stage of the Bill that, I think, is worth while repeating on this very point. I said then: "So long as the point is recognised that it may prove to be good business to run the scheme, even at a loss, for a certain number of years in order to make it pay in the end, I think the Minister is quite right in saying that the proper time to put that motion to the Dáil is much later than now."
I take it the proper time would be when the Board has been at work for some time, perhaps in the year 1929 or 1930. They would see then what the future was likely to be with reference to running the scheme successfully, and they would be in a position, through the Minister, to come to the Dáil and say that in order to make this scheme a success it may be necessary to have it temporarily or permanently subsidised for a certain number of years. It would be for the Board to say, through the Minister, to what extent they would require further financial assistance. Therefore, there is not much use in delay at this stage, or in putting this back until we know what the amount of that financial assistance is likely to be. I think that point of view is supported by Section I in the Bill, where, clearly, there is power given to the Board for a certain period to fix rates and charges in such a way that they should be conducive to that end. Indeed I am not sure that I would not rather quarrel with the looseness of the words making it possible to give the current away for three years in order to get a better sale for the current later on. I agree with Deputy Johnson that one of the most vital things to secure the success of this scheme is a rapid increase in the demand for the current in its early stages. It may be necessary for the Board to seek, through the Minister, further help from the Dáil in order to secure that in the early years of the scheme. I think the Minister was right in saying that the proper time to do that is when the Board is at work and has formed its plan of campaign for the future.
There is just a point that occurs to me by the reference that has been made to the amount of money already voted. I think it might be opportune to put this question to the Minister. A certain sum of money has been voted for the original scheme. The Minister believes, and is quite confident, as far as any evidence is shown, that the work will be done within that sum. I gather that there have been certain rather considerable modifications at Limerick in regard to the deepening of the river and so on. Perhaps the Minister would take this opportunity of explaining how that enters into the question of cost and what bearing it has on the original sum advanced.
Deputy Johnson's question reminds me of something that I had intended to refer to when speaking a moment ago. Can the Minister tell us to what extent the calculations of the experts with reference to the time in which the scheme would be paying—calculations which, I think. were based merely on the capital expenditure of £5,200,000—have been affected by the further sum of two-and-a-half millions voted? The whole of that, I take it, will not go directly as an addition to the standard charges. I think part of it will. I have no doubt the Minister has gone into the question as to what extent that further charge will modify the conclusions arrived at by the experts.
First of all I want to make a point of objection to what Deputy Thrift said in his first intervention when he spoke of a subsidy. There is no question of a subsidy as regards the sum of £5,200,000. because it has all to be paid back. Similarly in regard to Deputy Johnson's amendment, if it were accepted, there would be nothing in the way of a subsidy. It would simply be a matter of an advance for a period, but the electricity consumers will eventually have to pay all the money back. With regard to the question raised by Deputy Johnson, there have been considerable modifications here and there with regard to excavations, embankments. and things of that nature. The two biggest have been, first, that the weir has had to be shifted up stream in order to get a solid rock foundation, and the second item is that the deepening of the Shannon at Limerick has been cut out. Any change that has been made in the scheme of any importance has been referred to the experts and their sanction has been obtained before any change has been made and accepted here. The cutting out of the work of deepening the Shannon at Limerick has left a certain amount of money free, but the change in the barrage, the shifting of that up stream has made a change against the scheme.
There is one point on which I would like to correct Deputy Johnson. I do not think I have said yet that I am confident the cost will not be exceeded. I have said that there is nothing yet to show me that the costs will be exceeded, which is a different thing. I am riot pretending to prophesy, but am going on the facts that I have before me. With regard to the estimates, I stated that on the electricity side certain orders had not yet been placed, and that consequently certain matters had not yet fallen for consideration. The main thing is that within the powers given to me under the Shannon Electricity Act I was given a certain. sum of money to proceed along the lines of the Siemens-Schuckert plan as modified by the experts. Any modifications made in that plan have been done always in consultation with the experts, and eventually we will see that a certain power supply is obtainable for the expenditure of a certain amount of money. These really were the essentials and to these essentials I am keeping. As I have already indicated, there may be certain changes here and there. The deepening of the Shannon would have been a very intricate undertaking. It would also have proved to be a very expensive job, but it has been found to be unnecessary from the point of view of the provision of power.
Deputy Thrift raised a point about the experts' figures. He asked if they were based on the expenditure of the £5,200,000, and as fresh money was now being voted he wants to know how far the experts' figures will be modified by that. Their figures only refer to the generation cost and simply go against generation, and these figures have not been modified at all. In other words, the sums of money spent on the ordinary things on which the unit cost of generation would be based have nut been changed, but these additional things are moneys which will come as a charge not on the generation side but on the distribution side.
Might I put the matter in this way: Supposing the Board—this, I venture to say, will be quite an unlikely contingency—decided that it would not acquire any existing undertaking; that it would not build any new net work, that it would not give any facilities for wiring, and would not sell any electrical appliances, then the Board will not take one penny out of this sum of two and a half million pounds provided under this Bill. If the Board does any of these things then that will be a charge against the particular service for which the money is taken. If the Board decided to sell ex-transformer in every case, then the Board will be handed over the Shannon plant, plus the advance of £600,000, to meet losses during the unremunerative period.
Do I take it that charges arising in connection with this sum of two and a half millions will be allotted to the distribution costs from transformer?
There will be a plus item to the generation cost. The extra moneys have nothing to do with the cost per unit generated.
Does the Minister mean that the atmosphere created by the recent discussion has cleared the air so much that he withdraws what he said previously, and that it will be a direction to the Board not to take over all the existing institutions within five years?
Apparently, the Deputy did not hear what I said—that that would be a very unlikely contingency.
Then we are not much clearer about the matter than we were before.
That is not my responsibility.
I move amendment 15:—
In page 15, line 30, Section 23 (1), to delete the word "them" and substitute therefor the word "witnesses," and in line 31 to delete the word "such" and insert after the word "witnesses" in that line the words "attending such investigation."
This amendment is introduced at the instance of Deputy Hewat or Deputy Cooper, and its purpose is to allow witnesses to attend the investigations held on behalf of parties.
I move amendment 16:—
In page 15, Section 23, before sub-section (2), to insert the following new sub-section:—
"(2) Whenever an-investigation is held under this section into the administration and financial position of the undertaking of an authorised undertaker such authorised undertaker shall be entitled to be heard and adduce evidence and, if he so desires, to be represented professionally at such investigation."
I move amendment 16a:—
In page 15, line 48, Section 24, after the word "apparatus" to insert in brackets the words "(not including the nature or purpose of any experimental work for which such apparatus is used)."
I move amendment 16b:—
In page 17, line 9, Section 31 (3) to insert after the word "made" the words "and of the capital account, the revenue account, the profit and loss account and balance-sheet," and in the same line after the word "such" to insert the word "other."
This amendment may be said to be unnecessary. It proposes to insert in Section 31, sub-section (3) that certain specific accounts are to be rendered not merely to the Minister but to the Dáil. I do not know whether the Minister will say that under Section 6 these accounts will already come within the scope of that section, but as I read it sub-section (3) of Section 31 is governed by the understanding that "such statistics and returns furnished to him under this section (together with a copy of such of the accounts of the Board furnished to him under this Act) as in his opinion are necessary for the proper understanding of any such report." I do not want the Minister's opinion to be the final guide. I want the statute to be the final guide, and I want to make certain that the Dáil will receive the balance sheet, the profit and loss account, the revenue account, and the capital account. I do not think that the present Minister has any intention of communicating those accounts to the Dáil, but Ministers come and Ministers go. I do not know where they go, but I would like to have some permanent indication, not merely the state of mind of some prospective Minister, but some permanent indication that the Dáil, and through the Dáil the taxpayer, will receive information in this matter. I do not think that at the worst this amendment can be considered more than unnecessary verbiage, and I would not worry about printing two lines of unnecessary verbiage if I could allay some of the suspicions aroused by this Bill. I think the cost of printing the two lines of verbiage would satisfy the public that this is a fair and above board transaction and would be a very good bargain. I therefore urge the amendment on the Minister and on the Dáil.
Would the Deputy say if two lines would allay some of the suspicions how many lines would be required to relieve the whole?
I am afraid I must ask for notice of that question.
I must say I consider the words more or less verbiage. I put it to the Deputy this way. Under Section 6 there have, at least, to be published all the accounts to which the Deputy refers in this amendment, and then, under Section 31, certain things must be laid before the Oireachtas. Members of the Oireachtas will, probably, be able to get anything which is published, and, supposing a debate were to be staged on this report laid before the Oireachtas, I wonder is there any authority which could prevent Deputies referring to accounts published by the Board, when they come to deal with the statement laid before the House. Even though it may be unnecessary, and I think it is, I am quite prepared to accept this amendment. If I may change the argument, if I thought the same Dáil was always to continue, I would consider this quite unnecessary, because I would consider the members of it quite intelligent enough to be able to deal with accounts published outside. But viewing a prospective Dáil, I suppose we had better make allowance for deficiencies.
I did not read Section 6 in quite the same way as the Minister. The accounts to be published are only to be published in accordance with such regulations as may be made by the Minister. But if he will accept the amendment, that difficulty is overridden, and I am glad he will accept it.
I move amendment 18:—
In page 17, line 33, section 32, before paragraph (f), to insert the following new paragraph:—
"(f) the advancing of moneys to undertakers and the repayment of such moneys."
The amendment covers a point which had been omitted in previous discussions, and to which attention has been called. It is to make regulations in regard to the advancing of money to undertakers and the repayment of such money.
I move amendment 18a:—
In page 18, line 20, Section 33 (3) after the word "shall" to insert the words "in so far as not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act."
The amendment is necessary in order to avoid a conflict which appeared to be between a certain section which carried over certain regulations and a certain actual direction. It now states what was always the intention: where a specific proposal is made in the Bill that never over-rides anything that is carried forward.
I move amendment 19:—
In page 18, line 33, Section 33, sub-section 5, before the word "railway" to insert the words "gas undertaking."
The effect of it is clearly seen. It simply means where regulations are to be made affecting not merely any railway, canals, inland navigation, docks or harbour, but also any gas undertaking, that then there has to be consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce. If there is any authority with regard to gas undertakings he is.
I move amendment 20:—
In page 18, Section 33, before sub-section (6), to insert the following new sub-section:—
"(6) Whenever any regulation proposed to be made by the Board under this section contains any provision relating to or affecting any lands, premises, works, or materials or other property of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs such regulation shall not be made until after consultation with the said Minister."
I spoke previously on this—I think it was on Section 104. We are more or less stabilising the position as between the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in relation to the matters mentioned and the Department of Industry and Commerce in relation to electricity. This is considered an extra strengthening to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. If the regulations affect any lands, premises, works or materials, or other property of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, then there is to be consultation with that Minister.
I move amendment 21:—
In page 18, Section 33, to delete sub-section (7) and substitute therefor the following sub-section:—
"(7) Every regulation made by the Board under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution is passed by either such House within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat annulling such regulation, such regulation shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such regulation."
The amendment is a result of a further consideration of the particulars of the sub-section that was down. It was discovered that a resolution of either House would be sufficient to annul and consequently this is in line with the previous agreement on the matter.
I move amendment 22:—
In page 19, Section 34, before sub-section (4), to add the following new sub-section:—
"(4) The Board shall serve on every person who to the knowledge of the Board sells electricity or supplies electricity for sale in contravention of this section a notice in writing requiring such person to cease within fourteen days from the date of the service of such notice to sell electricity or supply electricity for sale as aforesaid."
The amendment is to meet a point raised, I think, by Deputy Myles. The Deputy raised the point on sub-section (4), which made certain matters an offence, that it was rather unjust to undertakers or those who would become undertakers under this Bill without notice having been served on them. I think this meets the point.
I am obliged to the Minister for meeting me on this point, but it was hardly worth his while to give what he did—fourteen days, almost without the option. I would suggest to the Minister, seriously, that six months is the very least he should give. You can easily imagine, in some out-of-the-way place, the effect of a notice on the supplier of electricity to terminate his business in fourteen days. I think it is absolutely ridiculous and I would ask the Minister to change it to at least six months.
The Deputy is not treating me fairly. It was rather pointed out that it would be quite unfair that people should be considered to have committed an offence under the section and be liable to summary conviction when they may not have had notice of the particular matter rendering them liable. What this amendment does is it gives them fourteen days in which to make application. I think that is perfectly fair. The Deputy wants these people to be allowed—to use Deputy Hewat's phrase—to be "electricity shebeeners" for six months. They have fourteen days' notice to put themselves right; that is all the amendment amounts to.
This will apply mostly in the case of people who are very far removed and fourteen days' notice is not sufficient. It is cutting it too fine. The Minister should make it at least six months. A man may be away or may be sick, perhaps it would be a one-man show. A lot of things may happen to prevent him from coming in within fourteen days.
I think the Minister really is transferring the atmosphere of this House, where regulations and rules are made at electric speed, to other parts of the country. Fourteen days' notice in the case of a small concern in an out-of-the-way place is not very much to give a man. I think the Minister might reasonably allow time to enable the Board to take some further steps before they put the shebeening clause into operation. I think the Minister ought really to allow some longer period than fourteen days. I think he could do so without jeopardising the Bill.
I wonder does either Deputy Myles or Deputy Hewat realise that this is not substituting sub-section (1) of 34? The six months period after the passing of the Act still runs. It is only that there is to be notice served and once the notice is served within a fourteen days' period it must cease unless there is a permit. given.
I move amendment 24—
In page 19 to add at the end of section 34 the following sub-section:—
"Any person who on the 1st day of March, 1927, was selling electricity or supplying electricity for sale shall be entitled to continue until an order is made by the Board determining his right so to do. In the event of such an order being made the person whose right is so determined shall be entitled to compensation for any loss incurred by him by reason of the making of such order. The amount of such compensation shall be fixed by an arbitrator."
On the last occasion that the Bill was in Committee the Minister promised that he would bring in amendments to meet the case of those people who were known as unauthorised undertakers. I think it was this morning we got an amendment which will come on later, but there is not a word about compensation and I would like to hear, first of all, from the Minister why he has not fulfilled his promise, the promise that he would bring in amendments to deal with the question of compensation to non-statutory undertakers. I can see nothing, so far, in the official amendment dealing in any way with the question of compensation to non-statutory undertakers.
To deal with this point, Deputies will have to consider amendment 25a and amendment 27. If I might explain, without going into the amendment at the moment, what generally my two amendments arrive at is this, that the Board must give a permit to every unauthorised undertaker and cannot withhold such permit except in the case of the various exceptions that are stated in 25a, and no unauthorised undertaker can be wiped out of existence except by agreement. That is the net result of amendment 27. If the Board can make an agreement as to compensation with an unauthorised undertaker between this and the autumn then that agreement will hold. If the Board cannot make an agreement then the unauthorised undertaker must get a permit and he can continue to supply. I have adopted this method of dealing with the unauthorised undertaker because when I came to consider the difficulty of dealing with all these people about whom we had no information I considered the best solution was to permit the unauthorised undertaker to continue to insist on the unauthorised undertaker being given a permit. The Board would then use its compulsory powers in the first six months to get information for this House which I have not been able to put before it. Somewhere in the autumn there must be amending legislation with regard to the unauthorised undertaker. By that time we shall be able to get from the Board information that we cannot give to the House at the moment with regard to the unauthorised undertaker. When the Board comes into being it can use its compulsory powers of getting information with regard to the number of consumers, the maximum price, the capital moneys put into it and so on and we can get that information from the Board. Up to that date no unauthorised undertaker can be interfered with. The unauthorised undertaker must be given a permit and that permit cannot be withdrawn. The only case in which an unauthorised undertaker goes out of existence is where there is agreement with the Board as to the price to be paid if he decides to leave the competitive field. I want to stabilise that position, but this is simply marking time in which to exercise the Board's compulsory powers with regard to information and until the House can get information so as to form a proper judgment on the whole matter. I say that is my intention. I believe that intention is carried out by the addition of these two amendments.
Amendment 25a states:—
"The Board shall not refuse to grant to any person who was on the 31st day of March, 1927, supplying electricity to the public in any area otherwise than as an authorised undertaker a permit under this section to continue supplying electricity to the public in that area if no alternative supply of electricity is available for that area..."
There may seem to be a loop-hole there. There will be no alternative supply of electricity available; the Board want all the electricity at its disposal in the first place. So there is no gap in that particular part of the amendment. It is meant to guard against this, namely, that permitted undertakers, the terms of whose permit must be that they would give to the Board such information required, might say that they refused a permit on such conditions, that they would operate against the Board, and insist on the permit being given without such conditions. Consequently, a provision must be put in to the effect that the undertaker must be willing to comply with such conditions. I want the most suspicious mind to understand what conditions the Board would be satisfied with. The only possible way in which the Board could acquire under that section is by agreement with unauthorised undertakers.
Deputy Myles referred to the special case of Greystones which applied for powers to the House of Commons, and which were blocked by certain non-statutory undertakers who tried to avail of the offers of my Department that they should become statutory at an expense of £10 per head. All I can do for these people is to suggest to the Board that their position should be examined with a view to their being made immediately authorised undertakings, and that the Board should also look with favour on all undertakings which tried to become authorised at a cost of £10 per head. That would affect undertakings like Carrickmacross, Listowel, Buncrana, and Tuam. I could suggest to the Board that they should regard favourably their position and make them authorised undertakings. If the Board do not accept that suggestion, and they need not, those undertakings, with all their data, will come before the House later when the whole question of these undertakings are dealt with. All I am doing is that I am following the suggestion made by Deputy Baxter in Committee, but he thought that it was possible to get this information in a limited time. I have decided that the best thing to do is to get the information and stereotype such undertakings until it is got.
I am afraid that I have a suspicious mind or, perhaps, I lack legal knowledge, but I cannot agree that there is in the Bill definite information concerning the question of compensation to these private undertakings.
What would the Deputy compensate? There could be no compensation until an authorised undertaking disappears. No unauthorised undertaking is going to disappear; consequently there will be no compensation.
From the Minister's statement I take it that, eventually, unauthorised undertakings will disappear.
Only by amendment.
Only by a new Act.
I am afraid that I must still dispute that. The Minister has stated that, within a period, the State alone will be the undertaker all over the country. I assume, therefore. that every undertaking will disappear and he has stated that he hopes that that period will be short. This amendment No. 24, to my mind, is very simple. It states simply that, in the event of such order being made, that is, in the event of a private undertaking being turned out of business, it shall be entitled to compensation for any loss incurred by reason of the making of such order, and the amount of such compensation shall be fixed by an arbitrator. We are met on that point by the Minister, who says that he cannot get information out of these people. He does not want very much information, and I would make a couple of suggestions to him. One suggestion is with regard to what he might have done in the past, and the other with regard to what he could do to-morrow.
About three years ago he circularised all undertakings in the country, asking if they would become statutory. A large number said they would, but a larger number said that they would not At that time the Minister could very easily have put a small Act through the Dáil compelling that information to be given, and compelling, as he is compelling to-day, these people to become statutory undertakers or else go out of business. I believe that at the time such a Bill was in the framing, but it never got any further, and private undertakers believed at that time that the information asked for and the object of becoming statutory were for no other purpose than to levy contributions off the sale of their units. These people could not see why they should pay that levy. As ordinary men, they could not see why they should bind themselves to be compelled to take out these powers for the purpose of being levied to the tune of so much per thousand units sold per annum. I do not think that the Minister can dispute that. Whether he meant to give them any service in the years to come I do not know.
The second suggestion I would make is that a great deal of the information which he requires could be bought for a couple of shillings by means of any of the handbooks published yearly, which will be found to be up to date. In such handbooks there is a list of every station in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with the prices and, in some cases, with the amount of plant, with the voltage, and the different prices charged per unit. That information could be obtained for a couple of shillings, and it would cover the ground. If, however, the Minister was not satisfied with that, he had only to bring in the Bill which never saw the light of day three years ago. The Minister tells us that his amendment is going to leave the private undertakings all right. It will leave them all right for that period, pending the acquisition by the Board, according to the Minister's statement, of every undertaking in the country. Then the question will again arise as to compensation. If the Minister will say that these undertakings which he will allow to carry on will be made statutory automatically, the question will not arise, because they will be made available for compensation by the very fact of their being made statutory. Here, however, we have in black and white an amendment to the effect that compensation shall be paid, and that the amount of such compensation shall be fixed by an arbitrator.
I put it to the Minister that that last phrase, "shall be fixed by an arbitrator," covers the matter. What information does he want? The arbitrator is the man to get the information, and if the Minister is afraid that somebody might get a little too much, the arbitrator can only do his best. He may give one man too much, and another too little, but he will get that information when each case is brought before him, and I suggest that he will get it in a better and truer form than in any return made to the Minister, because the experience of a great many private undertakings is that they are asked for returns by various departments. They were recently asked for returns by the Statistical Department. Many of these men are workingmen, and they are either acting as managers or they borrowed money to start undertakings. They are asked to fill up forms compared with which the income tax forms are not in the same street as regards questions and complications. Whenever a plea is put forward on behalf of private undertakings, the Minister always refers to the want of information.
If a case comes up for consideration the arbitrator shall say whether compensation is to be paid, and he shall fix the amount of such compensation, if any. I do not see how any man can do more. He can lay down the basis of compensation which will resolve itself into an equitable basis. The Minister has raised the point that the plant of some of these people consists of small mills, and, because they may sell to two or three of their neighbours in the district, their profits are large in proportion. The owner of a small plant such as that might make no profit unless he received £10 or £15 a year from each of half-a-dozen neighbours. Such cases are few, and when they come be fore the arbitrator I suggest that it is his business to segregate them right away. He can go into the question, bearing in mind that a man may have put in a larger plant than he probably would have put in if he were only supplying his own mill and house.
"On the Second Reading of the Bill, and again on Committee Stage, the Minister admitted that the Bill was imperfect with regard to the unauthorised undertakings, but pointed out that it was not possible to fix any basis for compensation in the absence of the fullest information with regard to these undertakings. The fact that such information was not available was due to the refusal of the unauthorised undertakings on many occasions to supply answers to certain questions put to them. Amendments were, however, promised so as to secure adequate compensation for these undertakings, and the Dáil will, on Report Stage, have to debate how far the proposed amendments secure compensation on good terms to these concerns. This is, undoubtedly, the most difficult matter of all those dealt with in the Bill. Compensation is undoubtedly due, but if the sum were fixed in the absence of the details of each undertaking of this type, it might be put so high as to lay an intolerable burden for the future on the consumers in the area of such undertakings."
I am reading, not from the Official Reports of the Dáil. but from a circular which was issued to a number of Deputies in this House. I see the Minister agrees that it is correct.
Quite so—I wrote it.
I thought so, but you did not sign it, nor did you mark it "confidential."
I signed the covering letter.
I read this circular because it shows that the Minister circularised a certain number of Deputies for the purpose of dealing with the people down the country. In that circular the Minister says that compensation is undoubtedly due, and he mentions: "Amendments were, however, promised so as to secure adequate compensation for these undertakings, and the Dáil will, on Report Stage, have to debate how far the proposed amendments secure compensation on good terms to these concerns." I think that the question of compensation can be very simply dealt with if the Minister is really genuine in his intention that this Bill should go through the House with fair treatment to everybody concerned. The Minister admits it himself in his own circular which, I presume, was meant only for the supporters of the Government. My name must have got in by mistake. I suggest it is very easy for him to accept amendment 24. That will put the matter beyond yea or nay, and I do not think it is going to bind the Minister nor will it lay an intolerable burden on the consumers. If it does, it will be because his arbitrator has not dealt with the matter in a sensible manner. I understand the Minister is going to select the arbitrator.
It is not so stated.
Not as regards that, but in every other part the Minister is to select the arbitrator.
But not here.
I will leave him to select the arbitrator if he will agree to the amendment. I think the Minister has got away from the stage when he reproached these private undertakings with skimming the cream. In the early stages of the debate on this Bill we were told these private undertakings started off without any regulations or obligations and skimmed the cream. I think it is not right or fair to say that.
The Minister has brought no individual case to our notice. He was asked to mention a case; he was asked had he a case in mind. He had not. The only case he has brought to our notice is one where a man with a small mill, a flax. scutch or corn mill, puts in a dynamo in order to light the mill and his own house and then supplies a few people in the immediate neighbourhood. According to the Minister's statement about 250 or 300 would be the approximate number. Time and again he brings the number down to 90, and he even further reduces it to 62. Even if the number is 62, the Minister could not point to one undertaking that has done nothing but skim the cream. I suggest to him that these people in most cases—in practically every case— held before them the same idea that a statutory undertaker would have to work on, and that their areas were approximately, in many cases, far greater areas than those assigned by the statute of the British House of Commons to those undertakings that took out parliamentary powers. I know a good many of these cases, and I do not know any cases where the area is not extensive and where the undertakings are not attended to in all details in a similar manner as if they were working under statute.
In the case of statutory undertakings I admit that certain obligations were put upon the statutory undertaker; but, on the other hand, certain privileges were granted and certain regulations were made for the statutory undertaker. One of these regulations was that the variation in voltage should not exceed two per cent. I hope the Board will be able to keep to that two per cent. If they do, they will be doing very well.
The Minister has acquiesced, if he has not actually stated—I think it was another Deputy who stated it without sufficient knowledge of the subject— that these private undertakings are working under the permission of the county councils, revocable at a moment's notice. That may be so in some parts of the country, but I have never come across it and. as a member of a county council. I have seen many of these agreements drawn up, and in every agreement there were water-tight compartments which were as binding as a statute of the British House of Commons used to be in regard to these matters. There were penalties for inefficiency; there were terms in that agreement that bound the undertaking to do certain things and do them in an efficient manner. Failing this, the penalty then was that the agreement should be brought to an end. So long as certain conditions were carried out those agreements were as good, and were regarded as good at that time, as the sanction of Westminster.
I know of several undertakings in this country which came into being, and which have been working for almost a quarter of a century, and they were advised so to work by one of the most eminent lawyers in this country, the late Serjeant Matheson, who gave it as his opinion that there was no law in this country to prevent undertakings being carried out as these non-statutory undertakings are being carried out to-day. I fail to see why the Minister has allowed himself practically to ostracise these individuals in most cases, or groups of individuals, people who relied on the permission and authority given by their fellow-men in this country, and who relied on counsel's advice that it was sound policy, and who have been carrying on, in some cases I believe, for a full quarter of a century.
I do not know whether the Minister thinks of what the effect will be if these people are badly treated over the whole length and breadth of the Saorstát. In towns and villages you meet the people who started these undertakings, and you find that in every case they are the most enterprising, the most go-ahead, and the most industrious people as a rule. They are people who were prepared to put their money into undertakings in their own towns. They are the people who provided very great benefit for their neighbours. Remember that these consumers were not bound in any way. I would like to draw the Minister's attention to some of his remarks in regard to non-statutory undertakings. On the 16th March the Minister said:—
Non-statutory undertakers will be permitted to carry on until such time as the Board is able to make an inquiry as to their plant and their financial standing, and it will then decide if they are suitable cases for compensation. When that decision is come to it will be easy for them to become authorised and to fall under the conditions of the Bill with regard to authorised undertakers... It is recognised that they have done good work, and that there is an area of supply open to the new Board that would not otherwise be open under such easy conditions.
Later on the Minister said:—
In the matter of compensation, I do not want to give the Board powers, as they are undoubtedly given in the Bill, to proceed on a campaign of wholesale destruction of unauthorised undertakers with no compensation given. That is not the intention. The Board are given certain powers, and, of course, the suspicious mind can bring to me this consideration: "But the Board may not use these powers." I will admit they may not, and they may wipe out, and pay no compensation to, an unauthorised undertaker.
Then on the next page (column 695) the Minister says:—
There are, of course, a great many unauthorised undertakers who have done good public service. They have supplied lighting for streets and for a community. There are many of that type who would ordinarily become authorised undertakers if they had applied for an order.
They did not apply for an order in a great many cases because the Minister did not wish them to, or did not go far enough to explain the procedure.
They will have to be compelled to do something for their own good!
It is very easy to be wise after the event. I do not think the Minister should look upon the matter in the same light as he has looked upon it. I think the functions of a Minister of the State are not to laugh over the mistakes of the people of the State. I think the functions of a Minister are rather to help the people on; any other policy is not a policy the Ministry should carry out. On page 715 the Minister talked about "the difficulty of dealing with the whole problem, and the best I can offer—and Deputy Myles will not accept it, because it is not now in the Bill—to the reasonable portion of the House is that between this and the Report Stage we shall have some amendment thought out based upon the considerations I have spoken of, and we will see if it is possible to determine the basis of compensation and to give an indication to the Board." I think the Minister is really beginning to realise, especially in the light of his own words that I have read, that these people are, after all, Irishmen, working in their own country, and that they are entitled to fair and equitable treatment when their livelihood is being taken away from them by an action of the State. This is the question of water-power stations. These stations have saved the country in the matter of the adverse trade balance. They have produced an article which was formerly produced by importing coal or oil fuel, and the amount of that saving must run into a considerable figure. I think that these are arguments that should be fully considered, and after all it is the basis on which the Minister is going in connection with the whole scheme, that by the introduction of the water-power scheme perhaps the importation of millions of tons of coal and thousands of gallons of oil will not be further required and the money will be kept in the country. You will be producing from water in the country your raw material, instead of importing it, and I would point out to the Minister that a great many of these private undertakings were run by water, and practically by water alone. Therefore, they have had no adverse effect on the trade of the country, but quite the reverse. They have been a valuable asset. During the recent coal strike every one of them carried on. There was no question of a shortage of light, because these people were able to meet the demand without putting up the price and without being obliged to curtail the services. All these water-power stations carried on during that troublesome time. I think we ought to recognise in our legislation, and put into practice in our public administration and in dealing with public affairs the well-known principle that no State necessity can justify an act which in itself is unjust and that no advantage gained can be of service when there is a breach of faith.
I have never heard so much time wasted on an absurd amendment as Deputy Myles has wasted on this, and I would be rather annoyed at the waste of time were I not conscious of the reason for the Deputy's effort. The Deputy suffers from a bad conscience. The Deputy is a member of the Electricity Supply Association, and that Association was instrumental in preventing unauthorised undertakers accepting the offer of my Department that they should become authorised at a rate of £10 per head. A number of them now rue the fact that they accepted the Electricity Supply Association's recommendation, and the Deputy is now making the best case he can by an oration which has no advertence to the amendments I have down, which meet everything that I promised on Committee. I said that there was a great difficulty in dealing with the situation. I said on Second Reading that it might be necessary to postpone the whole thing for six months. Deputy Baxter put up the suggestion that we could get the information in a certain limited period. I said that was not possible, and I also put in the phrase that it might be necessary to delay until such time as the details could be obtained, so that a proper judgment could be formed on the matter of compensation. The quotation which the Deputy read stated that some amendment would be thought out, based upon the considerations I have spoken of, "and we will see if it is possible to determine the basis of compensation and to give an indication to the Board." I come here to-night with an amendment which states that we will leave every unauthorised undertaker operating. We insist that he be allowed to operate, that he must get a permit and that the permit cannot be withheld or withdrawn. The only case where he can disappear is where he makes an agreement with the Board as to the price to be paid, and Deputy Myles gives us his brief, prepared without any advertence to that amendment; the amendment might never have been put down for all the effect that it has on him. Let us see what his own suggestion is: "Any person who on the 1st day of March, 1927, was selling electricity or supplying electricity for sale shall be entitled to continue until an Order is made by the Board determining his right to do so." What is the effect of my amendment? That the Board cannot make an order determining his right to do so, and Deputy Myles comes along with his sentence with regard to compensation. As one who has been in touch with business details, may I say I am scandalised by the proposition—"in the event of such an Order being made the person whose right is so determined shall be entitled to compensation for any loss incurred by him by reason of the making of such Order." And then, casually, this sweeping sentence: "The amount of such compensation shall be fixed by an arbitrator," with nothing stated as to who is to appoint the arbitrator.
There is an Act that gives the Chief Justice of Saorstát Eireann power to appoint an arbitrator from a panel. That is always in the background.
The Deputy has referred to that before, and I was at pains to contradict him and to enlighten him on the subject, but apparently he has not yet learned. There is no appointment of an arbitrator by the method that the Deputy has stated. But what are the terms of reference to the arbitrator? "The person whose right, is so determined shall be entitled to compensation." What compensation? "Compensation for any loss incurred by him by reason of the making of such Order." Let me take the case I gave; the case of an individual who decided to run a plant for a factory or mill belonging, to himself, and having got the plant, and having found he had certain units over, he threw out a line to his own house, lit that, and also threw out lines to his neighbours' houses and lit them, all his overhead charges being borne by the factory or mill for which he had developed the power in the first instance. Every penny that comes from the sale of that electricity is profit, and the electricity consumer in an area who may not use that man's lines would have to pay for every penny that that man made by selling to himself and to a few neighbours.
I agree that the arbitrator could decide that.
The Deputy should have remembered that he was framing matter that was proposed to stand in an Act of Parliament, and as the result of its careful consideration this is what emerges—"Entitled to compensation for any loss incurred by him." What is the arbitrator to fix the amount of? Is it to be "for any loss incurred"? The arbitrator would have to take into consideration the loss through the individual not being allowed to sell to himself and a few neighbours in an area where the Board might not want lines at all.
I would point out to the Minister that in that case the losses incurred due to capital charges—and we are up against that—would be very small. I admitted that in my statement. I do not think the Minister has any case.
Has the Minister considered that statement that he makes, that a concern running out lines from say, a mill supplies electricity to adjoining houses without any cost?
Exactly, and every penny recouped to him would be sheer profit, and the man would have to be paid for any losses, because the losses would be profits if he was prevented——
The Minister, therefore, argues that you can generate three units of electricity at the same price as one?
I will leave that to the Deputy to put up afterwards.
Well. what is the meaning of the Minister's argument in that case?
I will have to try to make myself clear. I have failed on many occasions to make myself clear to Deputy Hewat, but I have not had cause to accuse myself of anything in that regard. I will leave it to the Deputy to find out which of us is at fault, if I did not make myself. clear to him. What we are asked to do is to insert in an Act of Parliament that a person who on the 1st March, 1927, was selling electricity should be entitled to continue until an order is made by the Board determining his right to do so. I have an amendment that the Board cannot make an order without further amending legislation.
After that was put up.
The only amendment I had—and it was prior to that being put up—was to the effect that the only way in which an unauthorised undertaker could be wiped out was by agreement, and then it was pointed out that there was a loop-hole in the permit section. Why did the Deputy make a speech on that item and riot advert to my amendment?
Because I thought the amendment I put up was one that was plain in black and white, that these people were not outcasts in their own country and if they were interfered with by an action of the State for the benefit of the State, as it is alleged, the State should give compensation.
"Outcasts in their own country and interfered with by the State," though there is an amendment which states that they cannot be interfered with. I do not know, though I have read my own amendment over and over again, that the Deputy finally realises what is in it. Whatever order the amendments appear in, there is definitely an amendment down in my name stating that unauthorised undertakers supplying electricity on a date in March, 1927, must be given a permit to continue to supply. The Deputy wants instead of that they must be given a permit to supply until an order is made by the Board determining their, right to do so. My amendment says that the Board cannot make that order.
Yes, with provisions to carry out certain conditions laid down by the Board. These conditions may be onerous and may be impossible for them to carry out. I believe the Minister will say in the case of one of these small undertakings: "Your area is too small. You must enlarge it and extend out where it will not pay you in order to bring electricity into the rural areas," and the undertaker might then say that that was no good.
The Deputy was a bad adviser of the unauthorised undertakers before. He is not a very good defender of them now. I could accept that amendment, and in the process of time wipe out every unauthorised undertaker in the country, and the Board need not pay a penny, because compensation only flows from the Deputy's amendment when an order is made by the Board determining the right of the unauthorised undertaker to continue to sell. In an interjection that Deputy Hewat made in the debate on the Committee Stage he said:—"We do not want compensation. Let us continue the supply with the unauthorised undertaker." Deputy Thrift made a remark upon it that it would be very expensive. Is there any doubt that if the Board went into the area of an unauthorised undertaker, with the facilities that the Board will have, it could not take away every consumer from an unauthorised undertaker, and no compensation at all would be payable on the basis of this amendment? Compensation only flows under the Deputy's amendment when an order is made by the Board determining the selling by the unauthorised undertaker. If the Board's competition throws the man out there is no compensation. That is the best the Deputy can do for the unauthorised undertaker. There is no information that he can put before. the Dáil on which it can base a sound judgment as to what is to be done with these people. I say, let us drop this course, and stereotype the present situation. Let unauthorised undertakers be under the obligation to supply information to the Board when the Board demands it. We get that information later from the Board, and we then form our judgment upon it, and put these people under certain schedules for compensation. Is that the better way to deal with the unauthorised undertaker, or would Deputies prefer what Deputy Myles has, that representatives of the Board can be empowered to go into an area, set up in competition with the unauthorised undertaker, and drive him out of existence, without a penny-piece being paid in compensation?
The Minister's statement would require to be qualified. The Minister is a very able and fierce debater and he is, if I may use the expression, ramming it down our throats. We are entirely in the dark as to the conditions that might be imposed by the Board. The Minister should give us some idea as to what the conditions will be. The Minister says the amendment I have moved would be of no use, but I am afraid the Minister's explanation has not helped. The Minister's amendment says that the Board shall not refuse to grant a permit and the Board shall not revoke a permit, but the Board can revoke a permit if the conditions are not complied with. I contend that until we know the conditions we are not in a position to say whether the Board should revoke a permit or not. The Minister says the Board cannot revoke a permit. I say they can, and that that amendment of his is practically no use to us. It is not what the Minister says that will carry weight when this matter comes up to be construed. It is what the judge who hears the case will say, and he will deal with this as an Act of Parliament, irrespective of what the Minister says or how he interprets it. He will not allow the Minister's words in the records to be used as an interpretation of the words of an Act of Parliament.
It is difficult for me to intervene in this debate, because I have not the technical knowledge either of the Minister or Deputy Myles. But I am interested in this section, and the amendment put down by the Minister, in my view, meets the situation as I see it. On the other hand, I have a great deal of sympathy with the case put up by Deputy Myles, and I appreciate the fact that the position Deputy Myles finds himself in is that of a man interested in an undertaking which, under the Minister's amendment, admittedly will get a permit to continue, but at the same time the permit will only be given on the understanding that certain conditions are complied with. The fear of such undertakers is that the difficulty of complying with the conditions will be so great that it is likely that permits may be revoked, and that if they find themselves in that position there is no authority under the Bill to give them compensation. Perhaps it would be possible to insert in the Minister's amendment the words "after consultation with the undertaker" so as to make it read "and such other condition as the Board after consultation with the undertaker may propose to specify in the permit."
Would not that mean that the undertaker really makes his own conditions?
I hope not. I take it that the intentions of the Minister with regard to the Board are that it shall not be unreasonable. If the conditions of the Board are reasonable, there can be no justification for an undertaker not being prepared to agree to them. If the undertakers are not prepared to agree to reasonable conditions, a very strong case can be made in a future Dáil for an amendment of this Bill which would take away the permits from those undertakers. If the attitude of the Board in the matter is reasonable, there must be a reasonable concession on the part of the undertakers, and when the matter is approached in that spirit a great deal of confusion and suspicion can be removed. I hope there will be no such thing as unreasonable demands on the part of the Board. If we were asked by the Minister to agree to this amendment, and if conditions were imposed afterwards which it would be difficult to fulfil, without the House being given any indication of them, that would hardly be fair to the House. But that is not my idea of what is going to be done. I hope that is not going to be the policy of the Board. It would be a most unpopular policy. If the Minister could see his way to insert the words I have suggested, then if the undertakers do not act reasonably in the matter, they will do their case the greatest possible disservice. If in future the Dáil has to consider an amendment of the Act empowering the Board to remove permits which the Minister now proposes to give, these undertakers will have worsened their position and make the atmosphere for consideration of their case less sympathetic. If the Minister is prepared to consider what I have suggested, I think it would be conceding everything that the undertakers demand, because they are to be permitted to continue just as authorised undertakers, and their permits cannot be taken away without further action on the part of the Dáil. If this point with regard to the conditions can be met by the Minister, I think the position would be satisfactory all round.
I think Deputy Myles would be well advised to accept the Minister's proposition as really meeting the case for the present, with one reservation. I agree with Deputy Baxter as to "such other conditions as the Board may propose to specify," and I wonder whether the Minister has any definite point in his mind in reference to the other conditions. The point is to get concurrence with the provisions of the Act so far as giving information is concerned, and it occurs to me that really this case would be satisfactorily met if compliance with the provisions of the Act is secured, and that it would not be necessary to insert this very indefinite term, "such other conditions as the Board may propose." I do not think I am of a very suspicious mind, but the Minister challenged us to make a case, and I could submit a whole variety of ways in which quite intolerable conditions could be imposed, with a fair amount of reason even by the Board. I cannot see from the Minister's point of view the necessity for inserting these additional words.
I want to point out to Deputy Thrift and Deputy Baxter that specifying the provisions of the Act by itself is not sufficient, because the provision of the Act which relates to the giving of information does not apply to unauthorised undertakers. Section 22 is definitely limited to requisition from authorised undertakers. If the Deputy wants to meet that by putting in "authorised or unauthorised" I have an objection to that, as it would carry certain implications in the rest of the measure that I do not want to have there. The Deputy may notice that the side note to Section 22 reads: "Authorised undertakers and permitted undertakers to give information to the Board."
Why not go for the point directly, and provide that the undertaking is to give to the Board all such information as is required?
That is why I was speaking of the provisions of the Act. The amendment reads: "To comply with such of the provisions of this Act and such other conditions as the Board may propose to specify in the permit." In other words, the Board, would have to rely upon that particular section in order to put upon a permitted undertaker the necessity of supplying information. That is regarding the provisions of the Act. That is the main thing we want, but there are certain others. I come to the other point, "such other conditions as the Board may propose to specify in the permit." The unauthorised undertaker to date is completely unregulated. He has his own area marked out for himself; no obligation with regard to consumers; no maximum price, etc. He simply supplies for sale, and he does it under the conditions most suitable for himself. What that was aiming at was really that he might be subject, as a condition of getting a permit, to the liabilities and obligations to which the authorised undertaker is to-day subject.
Could the Minister not put that in?
It might be put in. You would have to keep the words "provisions of this Act" and carry them on to "as the Board may propose to specify." The other point might be met by saying "and such other conditions ordinarily applicable to authorised undertakers."
That would be all right.
It really will tie the hands of the Board a little more tightly than I wanted, but it will possibly meet the case now put up.
I do not want to hurry the Minister's decision, and I am quite ready to give him time to consider the matter.
Then what I would propose is that it be left in its present form, and when the general motion with regard to the Fourth Stage-is being taken I will bring forward my wording for that.
The amendment, even as it stands, may to the unreasoning and suspicious-minded, give the Board power to impose a whole lot of onerous and unnecessary conditions, so as to drive the permitted undertaker out of existence, but it does not give the Board the clear power to drive an unauthorised undertaker out of existence that Deputy Myles' amendment gives. As regards these two amendments, 25a and 27, if it would meet the point, I would undertake to get some clause limiting "such other conditions" on the lines we have been thinking of before we take the motion on the Fourth Stage.
The Minister has referred to the side-note to Section 22. It seems to me that the side-note indicates more than is in the section.
It does not refer to permitted undertakers at all.
I was making the point that previously the intention was to make the section apply to all undertakers. It was found that that had reactions throughout the Bill, and it was decided to confine it to authorised undertakers, and to leave on the permitted undertaker the obligation to supply the information in so far as that permitted undertaker was concerned. It only means that the side-note has to be amended, but that is not part of the Bill.
I move amendment 25 as follows:—
In page 19, line 41, section 36 (1), after the word "person" to insert in brackets the words "(notwithstanding any enactment prohibiting such person from generating electricity for distribution and supply to the public or from distributing and supplying electricity to the public.)"
This is an amendment corresponding to one which was inserted in Section 35 (1) with regard to authorised undertakers. I now bring it forward with reference to this section.
I move amendment 25a—
In page 19, section 36, before sub-section (4) to insert the following new sub-section:—
"(4) The Board shall not refuse to grant to any person who was on the 31st day of March, 1927, supplying electricity to the public in any area otherwise than as an authorised undertaker a permit under this section to continue supplying electricity to the public in that area if no alternative supply of electricity is available for that area and the Board is satisfied that such person as aforesaid is willing to comply with such of the provisions of this Act and such other conditions as the Board may propose to specify in the permit, and the Board shall not revoke a permit granted under this section to any such person as aforesaid so long as no alternative supply of electricity is available for the area to which such permit relates and the person to whom the permit is granted continues to the satisfaction of the Board, to comply with such of the provisions of this Act and such other conditions as are specified in the permit."
I move amendment 26—
In page 20, line 3, section 36 (5), after the word "thereunder" to insert the words "and to confer on the Board the like powers in relation to such person and his undertaking as are conferred on it by this Act or the regulations made thereunder in relation to an authorised undertaker or his undertaking" and in line 7 after the word "person" to insert the words "and references to the undertaking of an authorised undertaker shall include the undertaking of a permitted undertaker."
This amendment is much on the same lines as the amendment I have already spoken of. It is to apply to permitted undertakers certain provisions which related only to authorised undertakers.
I move amendment 27:
In page 20, line 20, Section 37 (2), to delete the words "by order" and in line 21 to delete the words "acquire the undertaking (or any part thereof) of" and substitute therefor the words "by agreement with" and in line 24 after the word "Act" to insert the words "acquire the undertaking (or any part thereof) of such person."
I want to draw the Minister's attention to a matter which was referred to on an earlier stage with reference to this section. I am referring to the proposal which seems to be implicit in the Bill, and which depends upon this section, that the Board may acquire an undertaking and may sell, lease or grant to anybody at some future time that undertaking which it has bought or which it has acquired. The Minister thought that there was no possibility of that. I want to draw his attention to the sequence of the provisions, with a view to his looking into the matter and providing a barrier against the selling of these undertakings to any private organisation that might bid. This section (Section 37) says the Board may acquire the undertaking of any authorised undertaker. Section 64 says: "Any authorised undertaker may by agreement sell, lease or grant the undertaking..." The Board itself may be an authorised undertaker. It may make itself an authorised undertaker by special order. The definition of authorised undertaker is a person who, for the time being, is authorised by Act, or provisional order or by special order of the Board to develop electricity. It seems to me that it is quite possible, within that sequence, for the Board to acquire an undertaking and, at some future time, to sell that undertaking to some private company. The Minister thinks that that is not implicit in or possible under the Bill. I draw attention to those sections with a view to making the changes that are necessary. The Minister thought the road was blocked against any such proceeding but I think he will find it is not by any means blocked. Nothing has been done in the way of an amendment to remedy that obvious defect.
Surely the Deputy does not think that the Board can become an authorised undertaker? Is there not a very specific meaning given to that term? It can act as one, but it cannot actually become one.
The definition clause deals with authorised undertakers. Under that section, an authorised undertaker means "a person who is for the time being authorised by any local or personal Act of the United Kingdom Parliament or any private Act of the Oireachtas, or any provisional or other order made under statutory authority... or by special order of the Board made under this Act to generate, distribute and supply ...electricity in such area." Section 38, sub-section (2) says: "The Board shall, on the date of acquisition, by special order... constitute itself or some other person to be the authorised undertaker." Then Section 64 says that the authorised undertaker may sell the undertaking.
I suggest to the Minister that that requires alteration.
It is quite necessary that the Board should be enabled to constitute itself an authorised undertaker, so that the conditions which apply to an authorised undertaker shall apply to the Board when the Board becomes a distributor in a particular area. Otherwise, we should have to patch up the Bill with special clauses. I shall have Section 64 looked into before we come to it. Deputy O'Connell raised that matter previously. I canvassed the Deputy's opinion about it with the legal people outside. The answer they gave me was that it was quite clear, with regard to the Shannon works, that the Board cannot divest itself of whatever it receives of the Shannon property. The outstanding case was the Board getting possession of some undertaking, not part of the Shannon works, remaining in possession of it for a while and then selling it. The answer the lawyers gave me was that unless the Board is specially empowered to act in that way its powers would not ordinarily flow— in other words, that it did not require a section of the Bill to say that the Board shall be prohibited from selling any undertakings which it becomes seised of at any time. Unless the Board was specifically empowered in a section of the Act to sell, the power of sale would not necessarily arise. Deputy Johnson directs attention to Section 64, which seems to give that power of sale. I shall have that examined.
I move amendment 28:—
In page 20, Section 37, line 24, to add at the end of the section the words:—
"provided always that the power to acquire an undertaking conferred by this sub-section shall not be exercised unless and until it shall have been ascertained at a public inquiry held by a person agreed on between the Board and the undertaker and in default of agreement by a person nominated by the Chief Justice of Saorstát Eireann that the non acquisition of the undertaking will prejudicially affect the working of the Shannon scheme."
This is an amendment which raises a question as to the granting of unlimited powers. It more particularly applies to the Dublin station.
As the hour is late, I move to report progress.