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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 16 May 1928

Vol. 23 No. 13


The Dáil went into Committee.
Sections 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
(1) Any meter which is required by law to be stamped shall not be deemed to be duly stamped unless it is stamped with a stamp of a form, material, and design prescribed by the Minister by regulations made by him under this section with such variations of numbers of marks thereon as may be directed by the Minister by or under such regulations.
(2) The Minister, if he so thinks fit, may by order postpone the coming into operation of this section in relation to meters which are at the passing of this Act installed on the premises of consumers of gas, but such postponement shall not exceed in respect of any meter whichever of the following periods is the lesser, that is to say, the period of twelve months from the passing of this Act or the period during which such meter remains continuously so installed after the passing of this Act.

I move the following amendment:—

Before sub-section (2) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

"(2) No meter shall continue to be deemed to be duly stamped according to law after the expiration of ten years from the last occasion on which it was duly stamped according to law"

There was a suggestion made the last day that there should be a period stated after which meters properly passed in one instance should be re-verified. I am proposing a period of ten years.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Deputy Cassidy agreed to move amendment No. 2, which is in the name of Deputy Anthony.

Deputy Anthony can move that on Report.

That will be all right.

Amendment 2 not moved.

Amendments 3 and 4 are linked up.

I move:—

In sub-section (2), line 10, to delete all words from and including the words "in respect" to the end of the sub-section and substitute the following:—

"(a) in the case of a meter which was before the passing of this Act stamped in verification of accuracy with a stamp of a form, material or design not prescribed under this section, whichever of the following periods is the lesser, that is to say, the period of five years from the passing of this Act or the period during which such meter remains continuously so installed after the passing of this Act, and

(b) in the case of any other meter whichever of the following periods is the lesser, that is to say, the period of two years from the passing of this Act or the period during which such meter remains continuously so installed after the passing of this Act."

The second part of Amendment 3 meets what Deputy Anthony asks for in Amendment No. 4. I think we have agreement on the point that the twelve months should be struck out and the period of two years substituted therefor. I am moving this, because it was pointed out at the beginning that it would not be easy to have the work completed inside the twelve months' period. We are consequently putting in a two years' period. It is different as regards (a) of Amendment 3. This sets up a certain period, fitting in with the period now adopted, of ten years, with regard to re-verification. In effect it means that where the meters are properly stamped before this Bill becomes law they will have the full ten-year period within which to be re-verified. Those not stamped properly have a two years' period in which the stamp must be affixed. With regard to those marked with the Board of Trade's stamp, which is some definite step as to the proper measuring of the instruments, those will be brought in in a period which will alternate according to the period now fixed. After ten years, every meter will have to be re-verified. They will be certified if found to be correct. Within the first ten years' period, there is a decreasing period of years according to the date at which the meter was put in and according to whether the meter was stamped at all or not. If stamped with the Board of Trade's stamp, then it must be a period in that relation to the five years' period after the passing of the Act. If stamped with the Saorstát Eireann stamp, then it must be brought in within the five years' period of the stamping.

I would like to call the Minister's attention to the re-verification of these meters. I do not think that it was at all necessary that meters should be re-verified after ten years. It is well known that meters are inclined to go slow when they get old, and that is in favour of the consumer. With regard to the Gas Company, they are able to take care of themselves. I would, therefore, ask the Minister to extend the period to fifteen years.

The Deputy is speaking on the last amendment, Amendment No. 1 to Section 5. That was agreed to.

I would suggest also to the Minister, with regard to the companies who will adopt the Gas Act, that he should use his influence with the Commissioners in Cork and Dublin to have those meters re-verified in situ so as to save the Gas Company the cost of bringing them to the depot to do so. I think the meters could be tested where they are.

The amendment which the Minister is moving makes provision that where the meter has been already stamped by the Board of Trade stamp, it will not require to be re-tested within a period of five years. In my opinion that is too long a period. I believe there are in Cork, Dublin and other cities any number of meters that are at present out of order. I refer particularly to the penny-in-the-slot meters. I would say that the Minister should make the period two or three years. The reason for that is to give those employed in the testing of the meter sufficient time in order to safeguard the consumers. I believe the period which the Minister has stated is too long. I am sorry I was outside the House when the Minister moved Amendment No. 1. I believe that these meters should be re-tested at least after a period of five or six years. I believe the ten years' period is much too long. I have reason to believe that the average period in which a meter remains in proper working condition in Dublin and Cork is five or six years, and after that period the meters are taken back to the depots and replaced. In the Saorstát there are, outside Dublin and Cork, about forty companies engaged in the making and distribution of gas, and some of those companies keep those meters out longer than they do in the big cities like Dublin and Cork. I believe that they should be re-tested every six years at least. With regard to the amendment which the Minister has moved, I would ask him if possible to agree to a two or three years' period.

Sub-section (b) of the amendment covers Amendment No. 4? Does that make Amendment 4 necessary?

If the Minister would extend that to all meters, that is to the meters that are already in use bearing the Board of Trade stamp and also to the new meters—if the Minister would agree to extend that to two or three years, I, on behalf of Deputy Anthony, would be agreeable to withdraw the amendment. We would desire it to cover all meters. We say that the meters should be covered by the Saorstát stamp within a two or three years' period.

I would like when the Minister is replying to Deputy Murphy's remark if he would indicate if it is his intention that the meters should be tested in the testing factories and not in the actual houses where they are situated. If that is his intention, I would like him to state it, or is there actually any difficulty preventing the testing of the meters in the houses?

For the information of the Committee, I would like to ask the Minister is it not the case that there are certain meters in operation which are owned by the consumers, and, if so, does this Bill apply to them, and in what way?

On the question of re-verification within a certain period for the limited purposes of the particular amendment we are at, not for the general re-verification which the House has decided to be a period of ten years, subject to whatever Deputy Cassidy and Deputy Anthony may have to say on the Report, we have come to the conclusion that this five-years' period is a definite one. It will definitely hinge upon the first amendment. If the House were to decide that a six-years' period was the period in which re-verification should take place, then obviously the five-years' period should be reduced in the other case. But I think the two cases hinge together, and it would be better to have re-verification on the particular class of meter referred to in Amendment 3 (a) discussed when we come to the discussion on shortening the period of ten years. As a counter to the arguments that may be put forward then I have made an investigation, and I should like to state that the result of that is that we find that there is a practice, and a very wide practice, in Cork and Dublin to have the meters re-tested about every eight years.

When we go outside this country and look at meters elsewhere—the Board of Trade stamped meters are under discussion in this sub-section of the amendment—the period is very much enlarged. I heard it stated, and I think there is evidence for the statement, that the period would be much nearer twenty than ten years. A period of twenty-five years has, in fact, been put to us as a proper insertion here for the ten years' period. That would have reactions on this sub-section of the amendment. I do not admit that there is anything like a large number of meters in the country which are not measuring properly. I think it is true, as Deputy Murphy has stated, that the older the meter is the greater is the likelihood that it is telling against the supplier and in favour of the consumer. That is very definitely the situation. That is, with regard to meters generally. I would not like to have this period cut down from the five-years period I have asked to be inserted, but if the House agrees that the ten year period for re-verification is too long and should be cut down to six years then there is a case for cutting down in the case of the Board of Trade stamped meters to five or three years period. I would hold that over until the House has decided within what period re-verification must take place. If there is a shortening of the ten year period undoubtedly we would have to shorten the other period. With regard to the testing of meters on the site, an amendment has been considered, and the Department is favourably disposed to having meters tested on the site rather than having them taken to the testing station. There are difficulties in regard to that. First, as to the drafting and fitting in of such proposals in relation to the present code. I think we will be able to bring forward an amendment to deal with that matter on Report. That again has a reaction on the period because, if one is going to ease the period of re-verification by testing on the site, less weighty argument can be used against shortening the period in which re-verification must take place. Therefore these two matters hinge together. Consumers sometimes own meters, but generally they are the property of the Gas Company. Where the meter is owned by the consumer the Company is still entitled to correct it.

Will the Act apply equally?

Amendment put and agreed to.

Amendment 4 may be taken with Amendment 2 on the Report Stage.

Question—"That Section 5, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 6 to 10 inclusive, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.

Amendment 5 appears to be outside the scope of the Bill. It concerns the auditing of the accounts of the Gas Company which seems to be a different subject from the matter dealt with in the Bill.

Even though the Act of 1874 is referred to in Section 11 of the Bill as introduced?

Yes. Reference in the title to the Alliance and Dublin Gas Act, 1874, does not make any material difference. An amendment in Committee must be relevant to something in a Bill which has been read a Second time. The insertion of the title of an Act does not entitle a Committee of the Dáil to go over the whole of the Principal Act. The amendment is concerned with the auditing of accounts and not with gas matters.

Even if the House is agreed, could you not accept it?

No. It is an important question of principle on which I would not like to give way. It would mean that anyone bringing in an amending Bill to a Principal Act would have to face discussion in Committee on the whole Principal Act.

In view of the Minister's statement in regard to the verification of meters on the site, would he consider the question of the restamping of meters on the site? It would save expense.

The whole question is under consideration.

Question—"That Section 11 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 12 and the Title stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Bill reported with amendments.
Report Stage ordered for Thursday, 24th May, 1928.