We will not vote against it, but I would like to make some remarks before it is passed.
Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1930—Report and Final Stages.
The Deputy can speak on the Fifth Stage.
I simply want to say that we, on this side of the House, regard this Bill as a very unsatisfactory one on account of the fact that here there was an opportunity for the Minister to deal with certain outstanding matters and that he failed to do so. I, as representing the constituency of Clare, want to protest against the attitude of the Minister both with respect to depriving Clare of all possibility of benefiting by its natural resources, and there were natural resources— from which Clare could naturally expect in time to benefit if the State had not stepped in. Clare might expect in time to get some considerable sum in relief of rates in respect of these natural resources. But the State has stepped in and removed the possibility for all time. There is no suggestion of any compensation being given to the county council. That is the first point. In the second place, there is even a more definite grievance that the Clare County Council is being deprived of a sum which, as shown yesterday, amounted to about £611 annually, that is, between land and fisheries. The Minister indicated quite clearly yesterday that he was not prepared to accept an amendment dealing with that matter. The Minister said something about the lands of Clare, that the lands had benefited by the flooding.
By the prevention of flooding.
In certain cases, I gathered, or at least that was my understanding, that the Minister said the overflow and the flooding improved the land. I thought that was what the Minister said—that in certain cases the overflow improved the land just as land is improved by irrigation.
No. Flooding does improve certain lands. I am not sure that I said that applies to Clare.
That was the impression left in my mind yesterday by the Minister's statement. The fact is that it is necessary there should be some control over it. There are several farmers there who are losing as much as two and a half acres of meadow land. There has been no attempt on the part of those responsible to get in touch locally and to see that proper provision is made for that and that proper compensation is allowed. Then we are told that the pumps and so on that had to be erected are also liable for rates. Some people indicated to the Clare County Council that they had a claim, and that that claim is likely to be admitted in that particular matter. With respect to the hospitals, the Minister said yesterday that the contractors were bound to pay. He indicated, as far as I remember, that the cost should have been borne by the contractors. However, the bill of costs that we had here was £487 10s.; that was a direct loss to the Council. With respect to this Bill, first of all, inasmuch as the principle underlying it is concerned —the principle of recouping the existing local authority for the rates they are losing, it has not been adhered to. Then I object to the fact that County Clare has been asked to give a contribution to this national scheme altogether out of proportion to what has been asked for in other places. This scheme and the Shannon itself was one of the natural resources of Clare, and Clare has been asked to give this subsidy to this national enterprise. There has been no attempt to even it up, and I want to enter my protest here on behalf of my constituents in connection with this aspect of the matter. We are not going to vote against the Bill because of the fact that the things we want to put into it are not in it. We are letting things go as they are.
We had a ruling from the Chair some time ago that on the Fifth Stage of a Bill we could only discuss what was in the Bill and not what was not in it. Deputy de Valera has discussed six things which are not in the Bill, and I propose to discuss them also. He mentioned the County Clare natural resources. This is the first time I have heard the Shannon called that.
It is the natural resources of the County Clare, which resources, as a matter of fact, have been developed.
It has been, as a matter of fact, developed at a particular spot. From the way the Deputy talked of it, it would seem that it was a gold-mine somewhere in Co. Clare, and that it could have been developed nowhere else.
It is the natural place at which to develop it.
The Deputy said yesterday that the Shannon scheme was not a thing that came suddenly into the minds of the present Ministry; it had been proposed before. Every time that it was proposed, the natural point at which it was to be developed was not in Co. Clare.
Then where was it?
It was to be developed at three stations, and certainly none of them was in Co. Clare.
I would like to make certain of that.
If the Deputy would only make certain of his information on various points before he makes definite statements about them, it would be ever so much better. Before the Deputy talked of Co. Clare's natural resources it would have been much better if he had verified his information. The present Shannon scheme could have been developed in a different manner altogether; there could have been a different method of dealing with the concept of carrying the river from the height at which it issues from Lough Derg until it would reach the point at which the required drop would be attained. The power station could have been taken down further, and, in fact, on account of the rock foundation required for the power-house, it was very nearly being carried down the river. If it had been, Co. Clare would have lost what the Deputy describes as a natural resource. At any rate, this is a national scheme, and now we have a plea put up against that national scheme by a Deputy standing nakedly for his own constituency.
That is not so. On a point of personal explanation, I want it to be made quite clear that I am not speaking on behalf of one constituency as against the rest. I do not believe that is the duty of a representative of a constituency. I do not want to be misrepresented and put into that position. I do believe that there should be some evening up of matters and Clare ought not to be deprived of the rates, nor should it be asked to pay a subsidy to the scheme far beyond what other places are asked to contribute.
A subsidy? The Deputy is speaking on behalf of his constituency against the scheme. He has made his point and I have made mine. The Deputy talks of a subsidy and he mentions £600 or £400. I do not accept the figure of £400 in regard to fishing. That is altogether a fantastic claim.
That is not a subsidy. Those people should be compensated.
I have dealt with the point of the Shannon scheme as a whole being exempt from rates. That is what the Deputy calls a subsidy. We are told Clare should get de-rating to the extent of 33 ? per cent. and that is what the Deputy thinks is the subsidy that should be given to Clare. The country as a whole decided that electrical development was required and they are not going to see that hampered by paying to Co. Clare an amount which will de-rate it to the extent of 33 ? or 42 per cent.
If the Minister thinks 33 ? per cent is too high, will he put a valuation on it?
Let me put it this way: let the whole scheme be rated in the ordinary way and let the moneys to be derived from the valuations put down when the rates are struck be divided according to the areas from which receipts come into the Electricity Supply Board; in other words, take it as a concern which makes money, not profits. Then divide the amount which will be taken from rates, apportioning it to transformer station areas according to receipts coming from each area. That can be done, but as far as I am concerned it is not going to be done in a Bill which starts off by stereotyping the payment of £60,000 on the Board by reason of property which shall be continued to be rated in certain areas, and then proceeds to put on this extra amount for the benefit of Clare—on the Deputy's way of having it.
However, all that can be dealt with later. At the moment what Clare is suffering is the loss of £400 on lands taken for the purposes of the scheme. It would suffer that if the Shannon scheme was merely some ordinary factory that was put up. It would suffer that way.
For how long?
For a certain period. The Deputy said I was not prepared to accept any amendment. I indicated that there will come a time in 1931 or 1932 when all this matter can be dealt with. I have always said that a time will come when the burdens which will be borne by the Shannon development will have to be looked into more closely; they will have to be better adjusted. There will have to be adjustments between the undertaking, the taxpayers, and the ratepayers.
The Minister may not be here in 1931. Why cannot those things be dealt with now?
Certainly not. If I were to deal with them now I would be up against the Local Government Department. There will have to be consideration of a new Shannon scheme next year very definitely, and there will be opportunities innumerable to deal with various matters. In the course of the next four or five years there will be payments corresponding to the payments on the telephone capital account made to the Shannon scheme. It is clearly recognised that what we are doing at the moment is stereotyping certain payments that have been made, doing it for the reason that certain localities have got into the way of looking for rates to a certain amount and depending on them. It is not fair that that should be taken away. As to the people who are losing 2½ acres of meadowland, I would like to hear some definite case put up.
I have a fairly long list.
Has the Deputy a list of people who have approached my valuers, or have those people made any application to go to the courts for arbitration? Is not that the best test of it? When we get those cases we can deal with them. The scheme is quite exact upon that point as regards people whose lands have suffered. If any easement, watercourse, right-of-way or anything else is interfered with, the 1925 Act says that compensation must be paid. But the arrangements as to rate of compensation must be between my valuers and the people concerned, or a board of arbitrators appointed by the Chief Justice. The Deputy says that no attempt has been made to get in touch with matters locally. Am I to go around with trumpets blowing and in that way find out who has to make complaints? Surely the scheme is well known all over the three counties concerned. Any complaints that have to be made should come to my Department. Already the valuer has dealt with a considerable number of cases. The fact is that we cannot get the people to face up finally to the point of whether or not they want arbitration. Sometimes they do and when the valuer puts it to the point whether it is a case that should go to court, then we get a demur.
Are we to take it then that the delay is due to the fact that the people will not face arbitration? We have been getting very many complaints.
Will the Deputy get from any man who defines himself as the owner of damaged property, or from his solicitor, a letter indicating that he wants arbitration on the matter and send that letter to me? If he does so, I will promise arbitration. That is not a gratuitous promise, because I am bound to give him arbitration. I said yesterday that if any water-supply or anything of that sort was damaged, there was a claim. It seems to me that immediately under the Act there is a claim, but the facts will have to be investigated before any final decision can be arrived at.
As to the hospitals, again I did not say that the contractors were bound to pay. It was one of the things which the contractors, during the course of the work, took on themselves. The case arose primarily in connection with Limerick hospital, where a definite sum per head was paid. They were not strictly bound to pay but they did so.
Then I think there is a presumption, when we get a return from the Clare Board of Health of the workers treated in their hospital, and a bill amounting to £487, as Deputy Hogan told us yesterday ——
Will the Deputy tell me if my guess is a correct one, that that does not represent a statement of the amount expended on the maintenance of the men who went in for hospital treatment, but is the net sum after deducting payments made by the contractors?
There is no reference to payments by the contractors in the return.
I would like the Deputy to find that out, because I cannot understand how the Clare people, knowing what was happening in Limerick, would have taken in workmen without payment when the Limerick hospital was getting payment. I imagine that what the Deputy referred to is an estimate of what it cost over and above the payments that were being made. But the payments that were made were payments that have been scaled down after a medical inspector of the Local Government Department had gone into them. The payments were on the basis of what it ordinarily cost to keep patients in these hospitals over certain periods, and then we struck a rate per head. The contractors paid that, which was a rate to cover everything. I do not want it to be understood that the contractors were bound to pay. They were not, but they, in fact, paid in Limerick. That is all I am certain of.
The Minister will agree that if we take his second interpretation it still means that there is something over and above what they paid that should be paid.
One of the things I have never done in connection with the Shannon scheme is to pay on people's estimates. If I did that I would be quite wrong. I have to check estimates. The basis originally was the definite arrangement made by the inspector of the Local Government Department on the average cost per head per day. Then we took an average, and the payment was made by the contractor.
Is the Minister prepared to deal with this matter if it is brought before him?
I never heard of this matter before. I understood that we had settled the hospital matter about a year and a half ago to the satisfaction of the people concerned. I imagine that what has happened is that both boards say that it cost more than was covered by the payments, but I do not accept that.
Having dealt with that point, perhaps the Minister will deal with the other point—the cot fishermen on the Shannon. Does he still hold that these men, having been directly deprived of their livelihood by the operations of the scheme, there is no duty on the State to see that compensation is paid to them?
These people were exercising a right which any other persons could have exercised. If I were to start to pay compensation in a case like that there would be no bounds to what I would have to pay.
It is all very well to talk about general principles, but leaving aside the general question as to whom compensation ought to be paid, we say it is a fact—and the Minister can verify this for himself —that twenty or twenty five people who got the main part of their livelihood from fishing in a certain portion of the Shannon are now deprived of that livelihood. Apart from general principles, here are men who are deprived of their living—
The Deputy is making a second speech.
Where am I to stop? Certain people use a right that everyone in the country could have used of putting on the river boats and fishing. I used the analogy of the coal carters who will be deprived of employment by reason of the fact that the same quantity of coal will not now come in. Let us take a village on the Shannon which depended on fishing and where the fishing is destroyed. Am I to compensate the village? Supposing that a gas company loses business by the operations of what is described as "the subsidised Shannon scheme," and certain employees are discharged, am I to compensate them? Where are we to establish the principle with regard to the cot fishermen and where will it lead us?
This is a case of people who were definitely deprived of part of their livelihood, not a question of general principles, and it is easy to ascertain what they have lost. Twenty or twenty-five people have been deprived of their livelihood. I do not suggest that they should be compensated without examination, but some tribunal could be set up to examine into their claim and settle it. But it should not be said that we must not do justice to certain people simply because other people might put claims forward.
Might have equally good claims.
This has all been argued before.
If the Minister brought forward equally good claims where people have ascertainably lost their employment as a result of this national scheme, I think they should be compensated. I do not think that we ought to subsidise a national scheme at the expense of individuals.
I do not think it has been done.
I would remind the Minister of the fact that he himself voted for a Bill promoted by the Limerick Corporation to give pensions to employees who were displaced by reason of the installation of a new machine for gas production.
Because the Limerick people wanted to do it. It was not a case of State funds.
It was public funds.