I propose to deal with this Bill section by section. The first section is self-explanatory, it simply defines that the expression "the Principal Act" means the Electricity Supply Act 1927 and, according to the Act of 1929, the meaning that is given to it here. The second section includes the expansion of the term "local authority." The usual definition of local authority will be extended to include such bodies as the Commissioners of Merrion Square. They will be given power to levy a rate on the Electricity Supply Board in regard to premises within the jurisdiction of those Commissioners. There is nothing more in it than that.
The third section gives me power and gives me power retrospectively, to execute certain works instead of paying compensation. It is necessary to have this retrospective in order to clear up certain doubts which arise under Section 3 (1) subhead M. of the Act of 1925. There is some doubt in that section as to whether or not the execution of the works that are referred to in this paragraph would be within my power. In order to clear up that doubt we are making this retrospective. The purpose of the section is to enable me instead of paying compensation to certain people to execute works for them to the amount of such compensation, it being presumed that having certain contractors under my control I will be in a position to get the work done more cheaply than if outsiders were brought in. Sub-section (5) ordains that with the consent of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health the exemption from rates which was given under Section 96 of the 1927 Act shall also be applicable to such minor works—and they will be very minor —as I may take in hands under this section. It is simply to meet the position that if in carrying out the main works it is found that certain incidental works like embankments, the provision of water supplies, and the raising of certain docks in Lough Derg, can better be done under my authority with my contractors than outsiders could possibly hope to do these, in order to save them the cost of carrying out these works I ask to be entitled under this Bill to carry out these works within the terms of the compensation which would afterwards have to be paid.
Section 4 is aimed at a particular bargain which has been made by the Electricity Supply Board in relation to the Cork Electricity Company. That is the only thing which we see coming within the scope of this paragraph at the moment. It is to be noted that the new section does not increase the total advances to be made to the Board but the amount which may be advanced in any half year is enlarged, all the while within the control of the Minister for Finance. Deputies will realise that under the old Act a sum of £400,000 in any half year was the limit that might be advanced by the Minister for Finance. If the purchase of an undertaking involves a sum of more than £400,000, and if the bargain made necessitates the payment of more than £400,000 in one sum the Board would find it impossible to carry out the bargain. Such a situation has arisen and it is therefore necessary to enable the Minister for Finance to advance more than £400,000 in a particular half year. The overriding limit of two and a half millions still remains.
Sections 5 and 6 deal with the same point. Up to date when an advance is being made by the Minister for Finance to the Board the rate of interest for purposes of repayment has under the Act to be calculated at the time of the advance. The particular difficulty in which the Minister for Finance finds himself might have been met by so adjusting the interest on the repayments to later advances, as to equalise over charges that might have been made on early advances. In that way the Minister for Finance could adjust the rate at which interest is payable, but the Minister could only adjust it at the time of the last advance. It is only fair that the Board should be allowed to borrow from the State at the rate at which the State can borrow from the community, plus the charges of securing the accommodation that has been given. The Minister for Finance is again the judge of the rate. This is only to enable him to vary the rate, and to secure that it is not necessary for him to establish the rate at the time of the advance.
Section 7 deals with this same point, but having effect more to time relation than to interest charge. Up to date the obligation was that repayments should be made within a period of six months after the Board becomes liable for a repayment. This gives the Minister for Finance—it is still within the Minister for Finance's control—a discretion as to the time subsequent to the transfer of the Shannon works to the Board. It will be realised by Deputies, as there are certain claims outstanding and likely to be outstanding for a long time in relation to land that is being taken for the canal and for the poles, that it may not be possible within a period of six months after the works are handed over to the Board to determine what is the exact liability that falls upon the Board. Hence we want to get rid of this six months' period. It gives a discretion to the Minister for Finance to determine the liability after six months or such longer period as he shall in the particular case direct.
Section 8 carries practically the same definition as is given to a local authority under sub-section (2) of Section 96 of the Act of 1927.
Sections 9, 10 and 11 must be taken together. The net result of Sections 9, 10 and 11 is that while confirming the old exemption from ratesgranted by Section 96 of the Act of 1927, it puts clearly upon the Board liability to pay rates on everything else, but it stereotypes the valuation on which rates are to be paid, as that valuation was at particular dates. Section 9 is similar to the terms of the Financial Resolution moved yesterday in relation to income tax. It declares and enacts that the two reasons which might have operated to exempt the Board from payment of rates do not hold in relation to the Board's property. So far as Section 9 by itself goes it means that the Board is to be liable for rates and has been liable for rates as if there never was any question of the Board's occupation being occupation by the State or a department of State, or occupation of a public nature or for a public purpose, these being the two reasons which would have been relied on to secure the Board against liability to rates.