I should like to ask the Minister if he has anything further to state as a result of the discussion on amendment No. 2.
Reports by Private Bill Examiner. - Road Transport Bill, 1933—Committee (Resumed).
No. The insertion of amendment No. 1 in the Bill has met in part the purpose which the Deputy was aiming at in amendment No. 2, in so far as the Deputy proposes that the section should not apply to a person delivering merchandise. I am not prepared to accept the other proposal in the amendment. It would completely defeat the Bill.
In that connection can the Minister say whether a lorry bought on the hire purchase system is the owner's property? It seems to me that it is not.
If licensed as the property of the person who also owns the goods, then there is no merchandise licence required. I do not see how the point the Deputy is making arises.
I think in law an article bought on the hire purchase system is not the owner's property until all the instalments have been paid.
If they are his own goods he does not require any licence.
Under the Bill I think it might be found otherwise.
Can I hire another man's lorry now, and hire a man and send him out with my goods?
If one buys a lorry on the instalment plan, the lorry does not become one's property in law until the last instalment is paid. The man is, in fact, the hirer of the lorry until the purchase is completed by the payment of the last instalment. When a person uses a lorry to deliver his own goods, Deputy Thrift says that under this Bill he will be acting in contravention of the law unless he gets a licence also as contractor. Has the Minister adverted to that?
The person who is paying the instalment is the registered owner, else he cannot operate it at all. If he is the registered owner of the lorry, he is free to operate. Somebody must be regarded as the owner of the lorry.
With deep respect, the Minister is simply using long words in order to reassure himself. What does he mean by the "registered owner" of a lorry?
Registered upon the licence book.
I submit that to be talking of a licensed owner has no meaning at all. The point made by Deputy Thrift is that under the law at present it appears that the person who purchases a lorry on the hire-purchase system is not the owner of the lorry. He is a bailee until he has paid the last instalment. In these circumstances is the bailee of a lorry free to operate and carry his own merchandise? I do not think the Minister knows. He ought to try and find out.
I am not responsible for what the Deputy thinks. I am trying to explain. If he has not the intelligence to understand, I cannot help it. The fact is that if a person is driving a lorry, if he is entitled to do it, he must be the registered owner; his name must appear on the registration book. If it appears on the registration book he does not require a licence.
I ask the Minister to look into this. Legally it is doubtful if the person holding a lorry under these terms, the virtual owner if you like, can subscribe himself as the owner of the lorry. To introduce the term "registered owner" is simply bringing in a new word which is not in the Bill. I ask the Minister to inquire into the matter, because I do not believe he wants such a person to have a licence any more than I do.
A person is entitled to subscribe himself as the owner of a lorry if registered as such. If I purchase a car on the hire purchase system, and I have some experience of it as I have done it, my name appears on the registration book as the owner of the car.
I am afraid we are laying down bad law. I should not like to be taken as approving of what has been enunciated. The moment a man takes possession of a lorry or any other chattel and pays an instalment he immediately gets an interest in it—he is more than a mere bailee.
Does any Deputy move on behalf of Deputy McGilligan?
Except the Minister is prepared to accept it.
I move amendment 5:—
In sub-section (1), page 4, in lines 9 and 10, to delete the words "or a shipping company."
I do not know whether it is your desire, sir, that we should discuss upon this amendment the proposal which is responsible for a whole series of amendments—Nos. 5, 29, 31, 34, 36, 43, 69, 70, 71, 73, 74, 75, 85, 94, 97, 98. They are all designed to effect the same purpose. If it is convenient I am prepared to discuss it now on this one, or else, if this one is temporarily agreed to and inserted, we can discuss the matter on the one that appears more appropriate. However, it might be as well to discuss it on this as on any other.
As the Minister has stated, this amendment raises, on a definition section, a principle which is attacked by many subsequent amendments. It is not usual on a definition section to have a debate on an amendment of that nature. The question is whether a shipping company complying with certain conditions is an existing carrier or not. There are two key amendments to that, Nos. 31 and 36. If the advancement made by the Minister is considered satisfactory as meeting the points raised in the other amendments, it might be taken now. If not, the decision might be postponed until, say, the House comes to consider No. 31.
I do not mind, provided if we postpone it now that we can deal with it on the Committee Stage— that we can go back on the Committee Stage and deal with this amendment, which is really consequential on the other.
Amendment 5 will have to be discussed with amendment 31 later.
That is not my point. If I do not move amendment 5 now, can I move it after amendment 31 has been disposed of, or must I wait for the Report Stage to do so?
The Report Stage would be better.
I think the Dáil might agree to insert the amendment now to avoid the necessity of having to put it down again on the Report Stage and postpone the discussion on the question involved until we reach amendment 31.
As far as the amendments on this point in my name are concerned, I am satisfied with the Minister's suggestion. I am prepared to accept this and not to move mine in view of the ones he has tabled. If you like to take them now it would suit me.
What I suggested was that if the Minister's advancement meets the point raised, the whole question could be dealt with now, as presumably the discussion will be brief.
In that case I shall briefly explain what the purpose is and we can dispose of it. The Bill, as originally drafted, conferred upon shipping companies the same right in respect to the operation of roads services as upon railway companies and tram companies. On reconsideration, and as a result of representations made, we came to the conclusion that it was not essential to our purpose that they should have precisely that right. Consequently, it is proposed to amend the Bill in a manner which will enable us to give a licence to shipping companies to operate road services where it is desirable that they should be allowed to do so. It will be quite obvious that there may be, and probably will be, circumstances under which it will be desirable that shipping companies should operate road services. They will not, however, have that statutory secured right to operate road services that railway companies and tramway companies will have. If, however, they are existing carriers, as quite a number of them are, they will be statutorily entitled to a licence as an existing carrier, the same as any other existing carrier, but that licence cannot be compulsorily acquired by a railway company or tramway company, as the licence of another existing carrier might be. Similarly, if after the appointed day a licence for a new service is issued to a shipping company, that service cannot be compulsorily acquired under the Act. The position will be, therefore, that instead of shipping companies having precisely the same right to run road services as railway and tram companies, they will be merely entitled to apply and get a licence in respect of a new service, although secured in their right to maintain an existing service, and whether they get a licence in respect of an existing service or a new service their service cannot be compulsorily acquired. I do not think that an elaborate explanation is necessary. The difference, so far as shipping companies are concerned, is not likely to be considerable. I mean, in so far as existing shipping companies operating road services at the moment are concerned, there will be no change. But, if we were to maintain the Bill as originally drafted, circumstances might arise in the future which might be regarded as undesirable. In the new form, the Bill is, I think, eminently satisfactory. It secures the rights of the shipping companies and also permits of the situation being brought subject to control if, at any time, it is considered necessary.
Will the Minister say if, in connection with a shipping company applying for a permit for a new service, it is intended that they be in any way restricted in regard to tonnage in the same way as existing carriers who have not any statutory rights at the present moment are intended to be restricted?
No. The position will be that if it is considered desirable that a shipping company be allowed to operate a road service, then there will be no limitation upon the liberty which is given to it, except such limitation as is considered generally desirable in the public interest. For example, a shipping company running a road service to a small port in the West might not be allowed to run a road service all over Ireland, but where it is desirable that it should have a road service it will be allowed.
Amendment No. 6 is the same as amendment No. 7. As No. 7 is being moved I will not move No. 6.
I move amendment No. 7:—
In sub-section (1) to delete all words after the word "on," page 4, line 10, to and including the figures "1933," line 11, and substitute the words "continuously during the whole of the twelve months immediately prior to the 8th day of February, 1933."
The effect of this amendment would be that an existing carrier shall, within the meaning of the Bill, be a person who has engaged in the road transport business continuously for a period of twelve months preceding the introduction of this measure. This would tend to bring the Bill into line with Section 11 of the Transport Act, 1932. It is surely an eminently reasonable proposition, and will be justified by subsequent sections where we find that an employee is asked to have five years' continuous service before he is entitled to compensation for the loss of his job; yet it is proposed here that the carrying company or individual who has been in business for even one day between the periods set out is entitled to qualify for a licence, and such compensation will be given as his business plus the licence will warrant.
I think the Minister is particularly tender-hearted in regard to these people. They must have known that there was a certain element of risk in engaging in this business, as transport legislation had been long overdue, and they must have been conscious of the risk they were running. The Minister himself speaking on this matter on one occasion said:
"I think there is very little comparison between the two. The railways have fixed assets. They have the lines, the stations, etc., whereas the omnibus companies own only omnibuses. These have a limited life, and I believe very little hardship would be imposed on anybody if it were enacted that after a particular date, let it be one year or eighteen months ahead, the sole rights of running public services on the roads would be vested in that transport board, the establishment of which we suggest."
Yet, in this Bill he proposes to recognise as a vested interest, entitled to a licence and to all the rights of an old-established firm, a concern that may have had only two or three days' existence. It does not take a very wide stretch of the imagination to see that these people ought to have given attention to this matter. I suggest that in all fairness it would be only reasonable to accept this amendment.
I do not think that amendments Nos. 6 and 7 have really the same aim in view. After having heard the speech of Deputy Keyes I am satisfied that they have an entirely opposite aim. The effect of No. 6 would be, as it were, to increase the number of persons who might apply for licences as existing carriers. The purpose of No. 7 is definitely to decrease the number of persons who can apply for such licences. The proposal reached me from another quarter that the period stated in the Bill should be increased to the full one year suggested in the amendment in the name of Deputy McGilligan, and I was curious to know the reason behind it. I am not yet satisfied that there is any sound reason behind it at all. On the face of it, it would appear to suggest that it is desired to give a right to a licence as an existing carrier, including the right to be compulsorily acquired, to some person who operated a service between the 8th February and the 1st July, and did not operate it since the 1st July or at any time between that date and the 8th February. If that is the intention then definitely No. 6 must be refused.
There is a suggestion, however, that people might have engaged in a seasonal carrying trade—in other words, engaged as carriers in a certain period of the year when some commodity had to be carried—and who would not engage in the carrying trade again until that period came around at the end of another 12 months. There is as a perfect analogy in the beet trade. At a certain period of the year people engage in the carrying of beet who do not ordinarily do carrying business at all. Those people are covered by the proposal in the Bill. In any case no amendment is necessary to cover them, because the period of the year is well within the period specified. If there were some seasonal trade carried on between the 9th February and the 1st July, and at no other time of the year, then there would be a case for amendment No. 6, but that has to be shown first. It has not yet been shown to my satisfaction.
As regards amendment No. 7, I think Deputy Keyes' suggestion is based somewhat on a misunderstanding. A person who merely on one or two occasions carried goods for reward could not, in my opinion, claim to have carried on a road transport business. The carrying on of a road transport business would involve, in my opinion, the holding themselves out as being available to conduct that business at any time when required. On the other hand, it is quite clear that there are people who would undoubtedly be victims of injustice if the term "continuously" is put in the Bill. Again, I adduce the example of those who engage in the beet carrying business in certain periods of the year. Those are people who will have some other occupation during the rest of the year and do not carry goods for reward. Those people cannot be described as having carried on business continuously from the 8th February, 1932 to the 8th February, 1933. Consequently they would be excluded from the Bill and ineligible to engage in this business and would have their livelihood—in so far as that forms part of their livelihood —taken from them without compensation. That, I think, would be unjust. Our view was that in so far as road transport is to be made subject to control and handed over to other transport organisations that should be done by a process of acquisition and purchase, and not by a process of elimination either by competition or legislation.
Consequently, as between the three suggestions—the one contained in amendment No. 6, the one contained in amendment No. 7, and the one in the Bill—I am still in favour of the one in the Bill, as it is the fairest to my mind. It provides a reasonable period in respect of which the road transport business must have been in existence. When we say there "at some time during that period" we had in mind the necessity of fixing a date for the purpose of determining the magnitude of the business. A man might have had three or four lorries or tractors operating at one period of the year and not at another, and I think in fairness to him he should be allowed to select the period which would be to his best advantage. That is the reason that term appears there. It is quite clear that it is not our intention that anybody who carried goods for reward once or twice during the period should be allowed to get a licence. I do not think such person could be described as carrying on a road transport business, consequently the introduction of the term "continuously" is not necessary to achieve what I gather is Deputy Keyes' purpose. The extension of the period as suggested by Deputy Keyes is not necessary either. I do not think there are many people who would be brought under the Bill, or made entitled to procure a licence as an existing carrier in consequence of that extension of time, if the term "road transport business" is interpreted as I indicate here.
The Minister has not yet assured me that he has made provision to prevent an individual who has succeeded in purchasing some old scrap lorries from less fortunate persons receiving compensation say, for three lorries when in reality he was entitled to compensation in respect of one. I have some case in mind.
First of all, the applicant for a licence must definitely have carried on road transport business during that period. Secondly, he can only get the licence in respect of the same lorry capacity as he had lorries licensed for during that period. The fact that he had an unlicensed lorry in his garage or shed does not entitle him to bring that in.
The whole object of the Minister's legislation and of his policy—that is if he still stands for the same policy—is unification of public road transport services. The introduction of this amendment, in my opinion, increases, for compensation purposes, the value to people who have during the period stated in the amendment engaged in this business. I heard the Minister refer to the people who engage in the business of carrying beet to the Carlow factory, and I understand he describes that as a seasonal trade. I do not know everybody who has been carrying beet from my constituency into the Carlow factory.
All these people have their beet season and in addition to that they are able to fit in other contracts for other people and other business concerns. What we object to is the number of individuals who have broken-down lorries, who may not have paid the full licence duty for the full period as laid down in the section, and for compensation purposes they will have a false value put upon their property if Deputy Keyes's amendment is not accepted. The Minister may take it and perhaps he knows it that there are people in the business living from hand to mouth and who have described this Bill, or certain sections of the Bill, as a godsend to drive them out of the business while at the same time helping them to realise something more than a scrap value of their property. Who is going to pay for the increase as a result of the definition put into this section? The people who will pay are those who want to remain in the industry and who want to carry on the transport services. But if this definition was not in here in this loose language they would have very little value placed upon their assets.
Now I do not think this amendment is unfair, in view of the Minister's repeated declarations from 1929 down to a couple of months ago, when he stated that it was the intention of the Fianna Fáil Party when they came into office to unify the transport industry in the country under public ownership. This is not unification either under private management or under public ownership, but at any rate, if it is to be unification on anything on the lines visualised by the Minister in his speech and declarations which he made on behalf of his Party, it should not be unification at the expense of people who have been properly engaged in the business.
The Deputy misunderstands me on two points. The first is the getting of a licence does not entitle anybody to be compulsorily acquired. He has got to make a case for it and unless there is a good case for it no Ministerial order would be issued for the compulsory acquisition of the business. If a person was merely speculating or merely applying for a licence and making the case that he carried on a particular business of a particular magnitude in order to get compensation, he would likely find himself involved in loss because of the absence of the order. If he does get the order then in default of agreement the arbitrator will fix the amount having regard to the financial loss he had suffered as a result of the order. I was as anxious as the Deputy to facilitate railway companies in acquiring control of road transport services, but we must not lose sight of essential elements of justice in the matter and people who are conducting these road services which are capable of being acquired have rights which must be secured to them.
I would remind the Deputy that there is another consideration in connection with the exclusion of a person who is conducting a road service of some kind. It would not merely prevent him from carrying on that business and not merely prevent him from getting compensation for it, but would also exclude any person employed by him from compensation. So that there are other factors which must come into account also. It seems to me that if we can get a definition which will include all those who are genuinely in the merchandise road carrying business and erring on the generous rather than on the ungenerous side, then we have achieved our purpose.
I would appeal to Deputies Davin and Keyes to have a little more pity for the unfortunate labouring man. It is an extraordinary thing that opposition towards any recognition of people whose sole property in the world amounts to an old vehicle worth £60 or £70 comes from the Labour Benches. It is an extraordinary thing that the chief opposition to these people being recognised or to the prospect of their getting any little compensation for loss of their business comes from the Labour Benches. It is not what one would expect really from Deputies who profess that their chief interest is in the welfare of the labouring classes. I understand the chief allegation against these men is that they work too hard, that their hours are too long. I think that is one of the reasons why this Bill had to be brought forward. They were capturing too much of the transport business of the country on that account. It was not their fault if they had to do that. I appeal to the Minister and to the Labour Deputies not to shut out any of them at all if it is possible to include them. With regard to the amendments before us at the moment, I would suggest to the Minister that he ought to accept Deputy McGilligan's amendment.
That amendment is not before the House.
As a matter of fact, the Minister dealt with the amendment in his speech.
It could be accepted on Report Stage.
Deputy Moore's suggestion has come from another source.
Deputy Moore has no personal interest in the matter.
It is from the Road Transport Federation.
I have not the slightest interest in that body, and I am not helping any interest whatever. It is quite conceivable that people owning vehicles would have contracts during the spring months of the year, when you bear in mind that there is a great deal of carrying of such things as seeds and manures during the spring season. You can imagine one of these carriers having a contract for that period. Or he might take a contract for the carrying of sand and gravel. It would be a very great penalty if, having had no prospect of business during the period from July to February he had not registered these lorries, and was thus deprived of the right of using these lorries and was not to get compensation for the loss of his business. I submit the Minister should in fairness, in order that there may be no injustice inflicted on such men, accept the date in Deputy McGilligan's amendment and allow the qualifying clause to operate from 8th February, 1932.
I trust that the sympathy which Deputy Moore has shown with the owners of these lorries will take practical shape at a later stage in the measure, in trying to influence the Minister to show the same sympathy for workers who have to give five years' service before they are entitled to any compensation. He thinks it is right and equitable that a man who has been carrying goods for five months should get compensation. I am sure we shall get his wholehearted support when we come to ask the Minister to give compensation to workers who have been in employment for five years.
May I point out that the Deputy who is trying to get compensation for these people is not going to make it easier for authorised undertakers to acquire road transport services?
Does the Deputy know that the great bulk of the people who are concerned in this matter are not employees at all but owner drivers?
At what juncture is the Minister going to reveal to us where the money is going to come from to provide compensation for all those people? I think it would be very interesting to know, when we are considering this question of compensation for labourers and lorries which are displaced, where the railway company is going to get the money.
I think that is a matter for the railway company. I suggest the Deputy should ask the railway company.
That is the most interesting reply. We are dealing now with the question of eligibility for compensation. Under certain circumstances some of the licensed undertakers can compel the authorised undertakers to acquire them. Therefore we have a situation in which we are legislating to give the licensed undertakers who are here defined in this section, the right to compel the authorised undertakers to acquire them, without adverting at all to the question of where the authorised undertaker is going to get the money, not only to acquire them but to compensate their employees. I think the Labour Party, before they waxed so solicitous, as it appears they are going to wax, for the compensation of those workers employed by licensed undertakings, ought to consider the question of where the money is going to come from, and I think Deputy Moore ought to consider that question also.
The Deputy will at least assume that the railway companies have considered it.
I think, having considered it with heavy hearts and with grave alarm, they have asked themselves in the course of their consideration has the Minister for Industry and Commerce considered it. I am not surprised that some people conclude that the railway company has considered it but the Minister has not considered it.
It is rather surprising the railway company did not consider the deletion of this section.
This particular amendment deals with it. I think the Minister might at this juncture, in order to explain to Deputy Moore the reasons for any restrictions he has in the Bill and to explain to the Labour Deputies the reason for the restrictions in a later part of the Bill, explain where the railway company will get funds to meet the liability which the Legislature is putting upon them.
I am glad the Minister by his last remark or interjection has made it clear that the railway company did not ask for the deletion of the words we are now moving to delete.
The Deputy must not misrepresent me so early in the debate. The railway company did not ask that the power of compulsory acquisition should be taken from them on the ground that they would not be able to finance it.
There is an impression that some of us speak for the railway company and I am glad that the Minister has further explained, by the remark which he addressed across the House to Deputy Dillon, that we are not concerned with the railway company as such, but we are concerned, and I think the Minister should be equally concerned, that the business of transport should be run on a proper basis and that those who have been endeavouring to carry on the business on that basis should be protected from having to pay compensation for other people who have not been continuously engaged in the business inflicted on them. I suggest to Deputy Moore that the short period mentioned in this definition clause makes it possible for people who have broken-down lorries, not in continuous use even for the period stated here, to come in and get a value placed on their property for compensation purposes which could not be placed upon it were it not for this loose definition in this section of the Bill. The Deputy ridicules and criticises—he is quite entitled to do it—the attitude of the Labour Party in turning a certain type of people out of business. We object to people operating these services who do not carry on their business on Christian lines. The Deputy apparently is prepared to support the policy of the carrier employed during the summer time, either working himself or employing other people, and who works from dawn to dark. He is prepared to support that in the public interest. He is prepared to support these conditions of employment observed by pirating employers of this kind. That is what the Labour Party is objecting to.
The great bulk of these people are not employers at all; they are owner drivers.
They are owner drivers but not in the public interest. In the summer time they work their unfortunate employees from daylight until dark for 70 or 80 hours a week. The Deputy should be supporting a policy for the imposition of reasonable conditions in the public interest, in the interest of public safety. Is it right in the public interests that even an owner driver should be allowed to drive any hours he likes?
The owner driver has as much right to fix his hours of labour as Deputy Davin has. Deputy Davin may be working hard 15 hours a day. I do not think he is, judging from his knowledge of the Bill, but if he is, who is going to interfere with him? Why should we attempt to interfere with the man who is driving his own lorry?
On that line of argument there is no necessity for this institution at all. Let somebody the Deputy likes be appointed as dictator and so long as he carries out the Deputy's ideas as regards transport, with unlimited hours, low rates of wages, so long as he pleases Deputy Moore——
Have you not occasionally voted that we should sit until 3 o'clock in the morning here?
I am not going to allow the Deputy who has just walked in to draw a redherring across the trail. He was not here some time ago to move or explain his own amendments.
The Deputy inflicted a 3 o'clock sitting on us on one notable occasion.
We sat here until 3 o'clock in the morning to prevent you passing the Flogging Bill.
The Deputy has got into the habit of voting for unlimited hours.
I am sure the Minister for Industry and Commerce knows perfectly well—he cannot forget it, even though he may like to—that in 1929 he announced as the policy of his Party the amalgamation or unification under public ownership of all transport services. Can he give any reason why people should come in even within the year? What would be their object, seeing that they would be fully aware of the fact that the transport market was already overcrowded? I gather that it is the meaning of the word more than the actual period that the Minister objects to. In my opinion the period set out in the amendment is not unreasonable, and I hope the Minister will go some way towards meeting Deputy Keyes.
Deputy McGilligan's amendment has an entirely opposite purpose in view.
If a man is engaged continuously for the period we have indicated he surely should become entitled to some compensation.
What is the Minister's argument against the full year?
I have been listening carefully to this discussion in order to try to follow the object of the amendment. I am not quite clear as to what is meant by it. Is the object of the amendment to compensate every employee who has 12 months' service?
Not at all. Will the Deputy just read plain English?
I can read it possibly just as well as the Deputy can read Irish. Am I to understand that these companies which are acquired by the railway company are to be compensated on the basis of compensating any employee with over 12 months' service? Let us be quite fair on this matter. Is that not the object of it? In my experience in this House I find there is a great deal in numbers of these amendments that does not appear on the surface. What is behind this amendment?
I think Deputy Good must have been right when he said that he can read English as well as Deputy Davin can read Irish.
He might have added "or the Minister."
The object of the amendment is quite clear, in my opinion. It aims to make it more difficult for a person who runs only a small transport service to get compensation for the compulsory transfer of his licence. Deputy Davin is also under a misunderstanding. If he has been working 16 hours a day, he has been over-working because he has not fully grasped what the Bill provides. There is no question of putting an exalted value on old crocks of vehicles that may be subject to acquisition and compensation. The actual equipment need not necessarily be transferred to the railway company acquiring the licence. If the railway company wishes to terminate a service it applies for a transfer of the licence to itself. If it gets an order for the compulsory transfer, then the compensation clauses come into operation. They provide that the former holder of the licence shall be compensated for any pecuniary loss resulting from the transfer; but he may be left with lorries and other vehicles because the acquiring company may not require them. The fact that he may be left with the lorries will be taken into account by the arbitrator when he is fixing compensation. In certain circumstances that may increase or decrease the compensation.
The fact is that there cannot be manipulation of the kind that the Deputy suggests for the purpose of making a railway company pay more for a monopoly than it otherwise would. The Deputy asks what is the argument against the amendment. I submit that before I should be asked to make an argument against the amendment I should first hear an argument in its favour. The presumption is in favour of the Bill, unless a case for the amendment is made. The case for the amendment is divided into two parts. One is, should we insist that before a person can be regarded as an existing carrier he should be continuously in the business for a definite period? In view of the nature of this business, the interpretation of "continuously" would be a difficult thing. Apart from that there are people who, because of the locality in which they live or for other reasons, engage in a carrying trade of a seasonal nature and they may be debarred from compensation by reason of the word "continuously."
The term "road transport business" involves a business of a particular kind, even though it may be a business for a particular period of the year. We specify 1st July to 8th February. We say that anyone who has been operating a road transport service between these two dates is entitled to be regarded as an existing carrier. If there is a case for increasing that period we would like to hear it. The only effect would be to bring within the definition and make entitled to a licence some person operating a road transport business between February and July, but which ceased before July and did not operate any further. It is undesirable to do that and I do not think it is the intention of either Deputy Davin or Deputy Keyes to do it. On the whole, I still prefer the Bill as it stands. It requires that a road transport business must have been carried on during a period of eight months in order to qualify for an application for a licence.
During a period of eight months, not for eight months.
I gave an example of a person who may be engaged continuously for three months carrying beet during the beet season and not carrying other goods. That person is entitled to be regarded as a carrier for beet. He can get a licence next year for carrying beet if he so desires.
What percentage of people who would come under this definition would be regarded as engaged in seasonal business?
I have no idea.
The Minister will find it hard to make a case.
It is not altogether a question of compensation, but of having the right to a licence.
But it is almost certain.
I thought this amendment would have been tied up by a corresponding amendment to Section 8. If there were any force in whatever arguments have been advanced for this amendment, they would apply equally to an analogous amendment to Section 8. The dovetailing of this measure brings this existing carrier definition into importance in two respects, one is that if you define the dates, if you define existing carrier by the dates in the measure itself, you have to get the dates in Section 8 (2) (b). There is a correspondence at any rate between them. I think that it is tied up in certain circumstances with this measure. This is clearly a restrictive amendment, it is an amendment which shows itself to be restrictive and indifferent to the right of the road vehicle owner, ruthlessly having regard only to the railways, irrespective of and indifferent to what is happening to the road vehicle owner. If there is a case to be made that you are only to consider an existing carrier who has been consistently in the road carrying business for one year immediately prior to February, 1933, then you allow that person to send in a list of the vehicles that he has continuously employed on the road for the year mentioned and thereby you saddle him with the unladen weight of that number of vehicles.
Once you hit the owner you, indirectly, hit the employee. I do not know if that has as yet emerged to the attention of the Deputy, to say that the fewer owners you have who can qualify as existing carriers, then the fewer employees are there under the existing circumstances who could be compensated. The Minister has asked what argument can be made for February, 1932. I asked what were the reasons for putting down the 1st of July, 1932, or if it was to get in certain seasonal road carrying occupations. I do not see why the Minister should not go further and take a normal period of a commercial year. It may be that there are people who carry on important seasonal occupations outside the dates in the Bill, and who carry them on in a corresponding season each year. There is no logical reason, I think, why they should be deprived of getting a road carrier's licence and everything that flows from it. There is no reason why they should be discriminated against here. I quite admit that if the period is put back to that point that a great number of people may qualify.
Including the beet men.
Yes. If there is any reason for getting these qualified, then you can give to them what they have in Section 8. Let us have a statement that the vehicles on the road are to be related to seasons of abnormal carrying and, therefore, the number of vehicles will relate to the vehicles ordinarily in use and not the vehicles in use at peak points. I suggest that is the proper way to meet it. But allow everybody who has run a vehicle at any time during the year to qualify for the existing licence. If there is a period which can be pointed to as an abnormal period then very well. Of course, if this were a measure that gave any great hope of help to the railway companies, I would not merely refrain from moving such an amendment as I have to the 9th February in order to get a great deal of good done, but I would be quite willing to see a certain amount of harm done as, undoubtedly, it has been done to the road vehicle owner and the employees under this Bill. We are getting wise to two propositions in this. We do a considerable amount of harm to the road vehicle owners and their employees and no immediate good to the railway companies. We are falling between two stools. The reason I put down the amendment was to find out why that date in February, 1933, was chosen. The amendment standing in Deputy Keyes' name is going to be a restrictive amendment. It is going to limit the number of owners who can get a claim established immediately for their property. The repercussions of that will also fall on a number of employees.
Notwithstanding the innuendos and the various objections from parts of the House, I want to say that this is trying to take out of the Bill the vague paragraph as to the period set down by the Minister. It is seeking to prevent a set of pirates coming along, people who have not been legitimately engaged in the industry. These people would be entitled to get compensation—people who are astute enough to see in advance what is going to happen and who will buy as scrap the lorries of his competitors.
That is not a basis of compensation.
The Minister said it was a maximum.
The basis of compensation is the pecuniary loss which the licensee has suffered.
Compensation for the lorries.
The lorries are not necessarily transferred with the licence at all. He may be left with the lorries.
This amendment is purely with the intention of preventing people coming along and taking advantage of the Bill, people who have no claim whatever, people who had used a lorry for five minutes only in one day. I suggest that the abnormal traffic caused by the Eucharistic Congress last year brought into operation a number of people who never before were engaged in carrying.
Not goods traffic.
I have no sympathy at all with putting the date back. In my amendment I am only asking that a definite time should be put in, in which a man could be traced as a legitimate carrier. I want to make the section watertight so as to prevent people coming in who have no claim.
There is a definite time between the 1st of July and the 8th of February. That is a definite time which covers everything that need be covered. Before Deputy McGilligan arrived I said that if it were shown that there is some seasonal trade carried on between February and July in respect of which it is likely that lorries are used for the cartage of goods for hire, lorries that will not be used at any other period of the year, but only for some trade relating to that period as the beet carrying trade refers to another period, then I am prepared to accept the amendment, and put back the date for a year.
To be covered by a continuous period of one year?
Might I suggest that there is such a thing?
I would be glad to hear it.
It is about that time that there is a large trade by lorry owners in the carriage of calves to markets. That is the height of the period. Any year you will see these lorries taking calves to the markets.
Are the people who use lorries to engage in the business of carrying calves to a market town engaged in no other business? If they are engaged in the carrying business, the carriage of merchandise of any kind for reward, they are entitled to a licence, if they did such business between July and February. But, in the case of beet, there are people who carry beet and nothing else and who, when the beet season is over, put the lorry in the shed for the next season and do not do carrying business except for that time of the year. If there is such a trade which comes in between February and July we will put back the date, but if not, it is undesirable to have it put back, because it might bring in somebody who was in the carrying business and went out of it before July, who has not carried on that business between July and February at all. The further back you put the date, the greater chance there is of bringing in people of that kind who were at one time in the business but have gone out of it.
How would they be brought in? How would a person who had gone out of business entirely before 1st July, 1932, come under the Bill?
If we put back the date to February.
Even suppose it is put back.
It is easy to imagine a person who was in the carrying business from 1925 up to June last year and who has gone out of it.
He has suffered no pecuniary loss. He does not count at all.
He is entitled to a licence under the section if the date is put back to February.
He is not entitled to compensation.
The Deputy is talking about a different thing altogether.
It is not a different thing. Supposing there is such a person. The Minister is compelled to give him a licence. The minute he gives the licence, cannot the railway company apply to have the licence transferred to them, and then does not Deputy McMenamin's point arise? Can that person show that he suffers any loss by getting transferred from him to the railway company a licence for vehicles which he has not got?
That he did not use.
I shall explain. I am giving an imaginary case. He had vehicles up to 15th June and was running services up to that date. He becomes entitled to a licence. If we amend the definition section, a consequential amendment would have to be made later. He will get a licence with a stated lorry capacity. It would then be open to him to acquire lorries up to that capacity and to resume services in the hope that he would be subsequently acquired by the railway company. The less we have of that the better. I do not imagine that in such circumstances any Minister would in fact give an order for compulsory acquisition. Certainly not on the application of the licensee. He might on the application of the railway company. Unless there is a case for extending the period, a definite case which can be shown and argued, why should we extend it? Deputy McGilligan says there must be some seasonal trade. If anybody knows of a seasonal trade of a character which would justify the increasing of the period, I am prepared to increase it, but I am not prepared to do it until a case is shown. No case has been shown yet.
What harm will it do?
It might possibly increase the number of persons entitled to an existing carrier's licence, people who are, however, not entitled to such a licence on any fair definition.
Has the Minister not admitted that the reason for the phrase in the clause we are discussing "at some time" is because of his fear that there might be people who carried on merely a seasonal trade between the dates mentioned in the Bill. If he has that fear with regard to six months of the year, is it not irrational to think that there would not be similar reasons for believing that there were people engaged in a seasonal trade during the other six months from February to July? Why assume, in drafting the Bill, that there may be people in that period between July and February who engage in a seasonal trade, but with regard to the months preceding that, from February to July, there is no ground for thinking that anybody carried on a seasonal business? Deputies should bear in mind that it is not merely the owner we are to think of in these cases but each vehicle.
The Minister says there is no ground for thinking that any person used a vehicle during the period between February, 1932, and July, 1932, and did not licence that vehicle afterwards. I think it is inevitable. If it were possible to take a census I am sure there would be quite a number of cases. It is almost certain that there would be people with contracts for the conveyance of sand and gravel, for instance, who would have a contract during that period and who, not seeing such a business in front of them for the remainder of the year, did not licence their vehicle after June of last year. I think the Minister should not ask for such fine proof with regard to that particular period of the year when he is basing his own Bill on the assumption that there is seasonal traffic in the other period of the year and that there are people who would be very seriously affected if he did not provide for their getting a licence and getting the full value that a licence brings with it.
There is a Bill before the Dáil and there is a proposal to amend that Bill. I submit that it is for those making and supporting the proposal to amend the Bill to make the case for it and not merely ask me what is the case against it.
I want to take the Minister up on that point of presumption. There is a Bill before the Dáil which contains the date "1st July, 1932." If there is a presumption that that is the correct date, that can be backed by argument and we should hear that argument. Against that I say there is a presumption in favour of a commercial year as being the period inside which both abnormal and normal traffic will be included. That presumption should carry and should only be overridden when the Minister shows that inside the earlier period of the year there is abnormal traffic— traffic which he does not want to exclude. We have no argument as to that. In fact, we have had the point put by Deputy Moore in opposition to the Minister. He takes the particular date—1st July. One of the reasons he takes July rather than, say, September, is because between July and September there is a certain traffic which he wants to include for the purpose of counting for the acquisition of an existing licence. Can he say, having more knowledge of this than anybody else, being more in touch with the people concerned, that there is not similar traffic in the earlier portion of the year?
None that I know of.
Have there been definite inquiries on that point?
Has there been consultation with the people interested in the road vehicles, and have they agreed that that particular period, 1st July to 1st February, is a satisfactory period? There is a point which Deputy Moore has urged with considerable weight—that you can get registration for different periods of the year. It may be that people have registered in the earlier period and not taken out registration afterwards, but who are in the business to all intents and purposes. I should like to point out that if Deputy Keyes carries this amendment of his he does not achieve what he stated was his object when speaking, because he founded his argument entirely on the number of vehicles in use at a particular time. He instanced the case of a man who might buy up four or five lorries at scrap value. If he is continually in the business with one lorry, the Deputy's amendment is then satisfied.
Then we come to the later section. If he has bought those scrap lorries and used them in the period 1st July, 1932, to 8th February, 1933, he gets his own weight established in the scrap lorries. The Deputy's amendment does not achieve its purpose. If his amendment were "continuously during the whole of the twelve months immediately prior to the 8th day of February, 1933, carried on business with a certified or established number of lorries he shall be an existing carrier in respect of these lorries", then it might serve a purpose. If Deputy Keyes' amendment is carried it does not cut out the gentleman who could establish himself as a continuous carrier over the year, but has more lorries, bought as scrap, in the period from 1st July to 8th February.
I go back again to my own amendment and to the general principle of the whole thing. Will the Minister not consider between this and Report Stage making inquiries of a precise nature from, say, the federation interested in the road vehicle business, as to whether they can bring before him concrete examples of traffic of a legitimate type which will be cut out if this measure stands? If the Minister could assure us that, having made those inquiries, he has satisfied himself or secured agreement from the people interested, that the measure does not work any harm, then the House would pass it unanimously.
I have already asked the organisations interested in this matter to indicate who would and should be included in the definition, by the extension of the period, who are not included in the existing definition. As I said before, if they show me that there is, in fact, somebody excluded who should be included, I am prepared to consider the matter.
Might I just make a retort to the Minister? Does not the Minister agree that this section is tied up with No. 8?
Has the Minister not heard arguments—and voluble arguments—that tying down the number of lorries to those in use between the dates he has mentioned is not fair?
I have not been convinced on that point.
I did not say the Minister was convinced; I said I am sure he has heard arguments. I again suggest that there are quite a number of people who might have lorries laid up for repairs or other reasons, and who had not the ordinary fleet in use between the dates he has mentioned, but, nevertheless, they should be entitled to get licences covering the unladen weight of those vehicles.
The putting into this section of the commercial year or the licensing year would make it much more acceptable than does the wording of the Bill as it now stands. The Minister bases his whole argument—if he has used any convincing argument against this amendment—upon the idea that the acceptance of the amendment will put out somebody who has been engaged in a seasonal carrying business. He referred to the carrying of beet as a case in point. Public carriers have been engaged in that seasonal business since 1925 or 1926. The Minister knows perfectly well that, a year ago, when he made his announcements in regard to the proposed transport policy of the Fianna Fáil Party, there were enough lorries licensed in the carrying trade to meet the needs of the trading community. Does the Minister deny that under the terms of this definition section, as now worded, it will be possible for a person who has not paid his lorry licence for a full year to come in and get a licence as an existing carrier, and in that way alone place some value upon his broken-down lorry, which could not happen if the amendment is accepted? What seasonal business has been carried on up to a year ago that would affect anybody who has come into the carrying trade inside the past six or twelve months? The amendment covers a full year, and therefore it covers every person engaged even in seasonal carrying business. Is not that so?
I am afraid I cannot follow the Deputy at all.
The commercial year, or the licensing year or the year defined in Deputy Keyes' amendment, will cover everybody engaged in the carrying business for a year. Surely no persons with their eyes open should have come into the business inside the past 12 months. If they did, they came into it in anticipation of the Minister's carrying out his own declared policy and for the purpose of getting compensation which otherwise they would not be entitled to.
If the declaration of my policy is restricted to the speech which Deputy Keyes quoted, I rather fancy it would have driven people out of the business rather than enticed them into it.
How many people would be detrimentally affected by acceptance of Deputy Keyes' amendment?
What does "continuously carrying on road transport business" mean?
The carrying on of any transport industry is for the public service. It should be regarded as a public service industry, and no person should have a right—even within the past 12 months—to come into the business without making his lorries available for anybody who wants to make use of them.
But nobody did. Supposing a man dropped out of business for a fortnight in the year mentioned, would he, under the Deputy's amendment, be regarded as continuously carrying on the business for a year?
I asked the Minister a question. Does the Minister realise that it will be possible for people to get licences as existing carriers who have not paid their licence for the full licensing year? Is the Minister aware that there are many licensed owners in the country who pay a licence for only portion of the year?
It will be possible for people to get licences as existing carriers who have not had lorries licensed for 12 months, but they must have had lorries licensed within the 12 months, even if only for three months of the period. I imagine that with certain carriers it is the practice to licence lorries for particular times of the year when traffic is likely to be in greater volume than at other times, and they should not be debarred from having those lorries brought into the calculation of their standard lorry weight when applying for their licence.
If a lorry owner does not pay a licence duty for the full licensing year, what use is he to the public who may want the use of his lorry?
But he only licenses it when the public does want it.
When he thinks the public wants it.
According to his calculation.
When it pleases him he will serve them.
I move amendment No. 8:—
In sub-section (1), page 4, line 13, after the words "in such business" to insert the words following:—
and any liquidator, receiver, official assignee, trustee for creditors, trustee, or committee in lunacy for the time being carrying on such business for or in the place of such person.
This amendment deals with a legal point. I just want to find out if those peculiar considerations which may arise in connection with people going into liquidation are met by the Bill as it stands.
I am definitely advised that they are met by the Bill as it stands.
Successor in title would include successor in an interim period?
Is it suggested that a guardian or a trustee or a person who is a committee in lunacy is successor in title to the person for whom he is a committee?
The trustee or committee in lunacy still carries on the business and application for the licence is made.
But it is a question of whether they are entitled to force a licence out of the Minister.
Yes, if they had been carrying on the business on 8th February, 1933.
There is a particular company covered by one of these phrases, and their fear is that although they had been in the business those who now in fact succeed them— although technically included in the term "successor in title"—may not be able to get a licence.
They are quite entitled to it. They have been carrying on the business.
They have not been carrying on the business.
On 8th February they were.
Supposing for instance a receivership has been instituted since 8th February what is the situation?
The Receiver is successor in title.
Supposing the business has been carried on between the dates, and after the date, 8th February, lunacy supervenes, what happens then? Can they claim, and are they entitled to get the licence?
Yes. The trustee can only get a licence in the name of the lunatic.
In what capacity? Not as successor?
No, the licence would be issued in the name of the lunatic.
It is intended to cover that?
I move amendments 9 and 10:—
In sub-section (1), page 4, to insert between lines 26 and 27 the words—
the expression "passenger road service" has the same meaning as in the Act of 1932, as amended by this Act.
In sub-section (1), page 4, line 27, to delete the words "passenger road service."
I move amendment 11:
To delete sub-section (2).
The amendment covers amendments Nos. 12 and 16.
May I ask the Minister whether it would be possible to have a clear-cut decision as to the justification for exempting any area under the terms of a Bill of this kind? The Minister is moving these here, and re-introducing the principle later on.
If the Deputy supports me successfully in its introduction he has achieved his purpose.
Would the Minister explain the purpose of No. 19? 19 (b) brings in the exempted area.
No. 19, sub-section (b) makes it clear that the business must be carried on entirely in an exempted area. In other words, if it should happen that two exempted areas overlap, then the business could not be carried on from one to the other. However, if a difficulty does arise in consequence of the fact, we are prepared to make provision in the Bill in that connection.
Why? There would still be an extra area.
Yes, but no overlapping.
I would like to get the Minister's answer on this point. Is it intended that the licence will only apply to a vehicle which operates exclusively in covered areas?
Then will a vehicle licensed because it moves outside an exempted area become free from the conditions once it enters into the exempted area? If not, why not?
That question does not arise in the amendment in my name to Section 6 but we can discuss that when we come to it. It has nothing to do with the particular question arising under amendment 11 which has relation only to the point of exempted areas. Assuming the principle of exempted areas is accepted, and in the event of the exempted area clauses remaining in the Bill, then there is a question arising on the amendment in the Deputy's name in relation to Section 6. In other words, the question of the size of these exempted areas will, of course, entirely depend on what it is intended to operate inside the exempted areas. If, for instance, a service is licensed which does not operate exclusively in an exempted area, it is not put on a footing with an unlicensed lorry. Once it goes inside the exempted area it is a matter of indifference as to whether the area is large or small. The lorry which is unlicensed does not become a common carrier. It does not have the conditions about registration attached to it. Let me assume I am the possessor of a lorry which moves between Dublin and Galway. I clearly must get a licence for that. Therefore, I am bound to establish myself as a common carrier for certain classes of goods. Once I go inside the exempted area with that lorry am I going to be free to compete with the unlicensed lorries? Can I then pick and choose my traffic? Can I take traffic because I like it inside that area where I have not established myself as a common carrier? If so, the question of the exempted area is a matter of importance. My answer to the Deputy's query is that a person who operates outside an exempted area must be licensed in respect of the service he runs both inside and outside the exempted area.
Of course, we can argue the merits of the case. In the first place, is it necessary to make a case for exempted areas at all? We could conceivably delete it from the Bill, and so everybody who carried merchandise by road would have to be licensed and subject to all the conditions which apply to a licensee under this Bill as it stands. But we definitely considered that it was desirable there should be in relation to certain port towns an exempted area, that is, an area convenient to the towns in respect of which no restrictions would apply; where anybody might carry or deliver goods without being subject to restrictions or under the necessity of getting a licence. The main purpose behind the Bill is to bring the cartage of merchandise by roads under such a degree of control, that it is possible for the railway company by acquisition to achieve effective monopoly in their areas.
That the railways will get a monopoly.
Yes. It can be said about these exempted areas that the traffic that is likely to arise and terminate in them is traffic which is of no interest to the railways; they do not want it.
Is that statement made with the authority of the railway company?
When I say they do not want it, I mean that nobody expects that traffic of that nature will be sent by rail. The proposals which are contained in the various amendments in my name are agreed to by the railway companies.
Including amendment 16?
Including amendment 16 in particular. It is obvious there are several considerations which apply in relation to certain areas. In the first instance, take Dublin and Cork. There is the fact that certain classes of goods carried by road which could not be carried otherwise and to attempt to bring it under the regulation and control which we attempt in other areas would be fraught with considerable administrative difficulties and would not be necessary in any case.
I shall give an illustration first of all of a distribution service. I do not know to what extent a distribution service, operated as such, is being carried on at the present time but such a service could conceivably be operated. A number of shopkeepers wish to distribute the goods sold in their establishments and have an organisation for that purpose, carrying on that distribution inside a residential area. Such an organisation could conceivably come into existence and there is no reason why we should stop it. No useful purpose would be served by stopping it. Secondly, there is the business of carting milk or poultry or garden produce into towns from the area immediately round about them by people who are occasionally carriers for reward or by people who occasionally carry their own or their neighbours' goods in that way. Again there is no reason why that business should be interfered with. If it is shown that the introduction of exempted areas does definite damage to the scheme of the Bill or takes from the railways traffic which the railways should have, or in any other way produces something undesirable, then we are prepared to reconsider our decision to have these exempted areas but that has not been shown.
Secondly, the towns mentioned in the Bill have regular steamship services. It seems to me that there is no objection to allowing any person to operate in these towns, in the distribution or collection of traffic for these steamship services within the limited area suggested here without being subject to the limitations imposed by the Bill on licensed carriers. We are proposing to change the limit of the exempted areas. In the Bill as it was introduced, any areas included in a radius of 15 miles from the principal post office in the towns enumerated, was an exempted area. It was pointed out that in that provision certain exempted areas overlapped and that, because of the wording of the Bill, it would be possible for a person to carry on a service without a licence in more than one exempted area if the areas did in fact overlap. We are proposing to change that by reducing the areas in respect of the towns, except the major towns Dublin and Cork. In these towns we are of opinion that the 15 miles originally proposed is a reasonable distance but in respect of the other towns we are proposing a ten-mile area.
As I have said, in so far as these proposals affect the railway companies, the railway companies have agreed to them. On the other hand representations have been made by various harbour authorities throughout the country, that the effect of these limitations will be to prejudice the future prospects of their harbours. They say that under these Bills the railway companies, having secured a monopoly might and probably would be able to use that monopoly to the detriment of various harbours.
Consequently it was urged that much larger areas than any that have appeared in the Bill up to the present should be provided for. In some cases 30 and 35 miles, and in others 40 miles were suggested. These suggestions are, in my opinion, based entirely on misunderstandings and fears for which there is no real justification. In the first place, it is clear that the persons most interested in bringing traffic to the ports are naturally the steamship companies using the ports. If the steamship companies feel that their prospects of trade are prejudiced by actions of the railway company then they can apply for, and under certain circumstances must get, a licence to operate a road service themselves. In fact some of the steamship companies operating through our ports have road services working at the moment. Any existing carrier who is at the present time serving these port towns with road vehicles is entitled to a licence under the Bill and that licence will not be compulsorily acquired by a railway company unless a Ministerial Order is made to that effect. Such order will not be made unless it is clear that the public interest is going to be served by the transfer of the licence. It is quite clear that the public interest will not be served by the transfer of the licence if the trade of that particular port is going to be prejudiced and if the railway company do not propose to institute in relation to that port the service required for it, whether a road service or a rail service, on a scale which the previous traffic would justify. In the event of the railway company undertaking to provide such a service and failing to do it, then it is possible for the Minister to give a licence to some other operator, a licence which cannot be acquired by the railway company. He can therefore by Ministerial Order restore the status quo. Therefore it is quite clear that the representations made by the harbour authorities are based on misapprehensions as to the effect the Bill would have.
Even in Tralee, where the Port and Harbours Tribunal upheld that opinion of the harbour authorities?
Even in the case of Tralee. Take the case of Tralee port. If there are persons operating a road transport service from Fenit Harbour, these persons are entitled to a licence under the Bill to continue the service unless and until a Ministerial Order for the compulsory transfer of the licence to the railway company is made. The Order would not be made at all unless the railway company undertook to provide whatever road services would be required to maintain the port or unless it were clearly shown that the public interest was not going to be prejudiced by the making of the Order. If the railway company undertake to provide a similar service, to the extent which the traffic justifies and fail to do so, then there is power in the Bill to issue a new licence, a new licence which cannot be acquired by the railway company under any part of the Bill. The shipping companies operating at a port are entitled to obtain a licence, and this licence when obtained cannot be acquired under the compulsory clause of the Bill. I would remind the Deputy that there is a railway to Tralee Port, the existence of which is gravely jeopardised by the existence of road competition. Tralee Harbour Commissioners and other harbour commissioners who have been writing in regard to similar areas should ask themselves what would be the position of the ports if the railways ceased to operate. They are apprehensive now that ill effects may result to their ports and harbours by a reduction of road services, but they should ask themselves what would happen to their ports and harbours if the rail services ceased. We have got to face up to the fact that we have too much transport facilities in the country at the present time.
Both systems cannot be maintained at their present level; either we must reconcile ourselves to reduce considerably the rail services available or the road services available. We cannot have both. Both services are working at a loss. There is not enough traffic to maintain both services at the present time. In so far as there is traffic, both services can be provided; but if the traffic is not there, our point of view is that in the majority of cases it is preferable to maintain the railway service rather than the road service. Undoubtedly there will be exception taken to that view-point in quite a number of cases but, particularly in relation to a port, I would say that the maintenance of the railway service is of vital importance. If the existence of a road service on too great a scale is prejudicing the possibility of maintaining railway services, then the road service should be reduced or controlled. That is the idea behind the limitation of the exempted areas, the narrow limits set out here.
I am anxious that this matter will be very fully discussed. There are three important points to be borne in mind:—
(1) Should we have exempted areas at all.
(2) Should these exempted areas be of the magnitude suggested in amendment 16, and
(3) Should we have exempted areas of much greater magnitude.
If we decide to have exempted areas in respect of all ports of the size suggested for Tralee port, Waterford Harbour or Limerick Harbour, or of the size suggested elsewhere by Deputies, we may as well tear up the Bill altogether, because the various exempted areas would more or less cover the entire country with the exception of a small piece around Athlone, and it would not be worth our while passing a Bill for the sake of a small area around Athlone.
These are the three points I would like Deputies to consider and, if they have regard to the difficulty of administration and the necessity of limiting transport services in some way so as to have an efficient transport service organised on a proper basis, with various safeguards in the public interest inserted, they will, I think, come to the conclusion that the provisions in this Bill, as they will be amended by the amendments I am suggesting, are the best possible that can be devised.
What are we discussing at the present moment?
A series of amendments dealing with the areas to be exempted—amendments 11, 12, 16, 17, 18 and 22.
We are discussing the whole subject of exempted areas?
For the purpose of having a clear-cut decision as to whether or not there should be exempted areas, would it not be advisable to have the discussion confined to one amendment?
If the House wishes we can have decisions separately.
There are amendments dealing with rather wide areas. There are peculiar circumstances surrounding the case of Cork, and I want to make reference to that later on.
The Minister has made a useful suggestion that the House should give an indication as to whether or not there should be exempted areas. If we are to have a useful discussion and a clear-cut decision on that matter it might well be confined to amendment 16.
Amendment 16 is by way of a compromise and a decision might be taken on that amendment.
If the Minister could see his way to increase 15 miles to 25 miles or 30 miles he might find common agreement.
The Deputy had better consult Deputy Davin on that point.
Deputy McGilligan is in possession. It is suggested that amendment 16 might be taken as a compromise from the point of view of radial distance.
I do not see how anybody could properly discuss this merely from the point of distance unless there is brought into the discussion such points as are introduced in amendments 19 and 21, which are in direct contrariety. I suggest the Minister should add another to his three points. His three points were: Should we have exempted areas; are they to be of the size suggested or are they to be of a greater size? My point is, what conditions are to operate inside these areas? It is only when you consider such conditions that you begin to inquire if it is of any importance what the size of the area is. I want to argue on the conditions that are to operate inside the exempted areas. When I find out the various viewpoints on that subject I will be in a position to make up my mind as to what the size of the area or what the radial distance should be.
The Minister says he wants an exempted area under any circumstances. He said that it was not necessary to have these exempted areas wiped out, that the railway companies did not want the traffic inside them. A moment later he put a gloss on that. He said no one would think of sending a parcel five miles in future by railway. Probably not, but would they think of sending it by a railway-owned vehicle, and, if so, how is that railway-owned vehicle going to get possession of that traffic? Surely the whole point is whether they are going to carry that traffic on railway waggons or on road vehicles. Surely the whole scheme is to license everybody, and thereafter allow the railway company to make application for the transfer to them of the licences and so buy out their rivals on compensation terms. If that is the basis of the whole measure we have to consider the traffic within these exempted areas. There is a specified area of 15 miles around Dublin. Even under the amendment it seems to me that a lorry can run from the Border to Bray, keeping entirely inside exempted areas.
Not under the amendment.
I think so. I think the 15 miles limit from Dublin has contact with the ten miles area around Drogheda.
There are 660 yards separating them.
In which event one would have to get to the coast, avail of a ferry service, and then enter the exempted area again. If that is so, then that does away with one argument. The Minister says that traders are distributing inside these small areas. Surely the question of the distribution of traders' goods was covered by the amendment passed last week. The Minister said that there might be a business of the distribution type established inside the area and there was no reason to object to its being established. Should we throw that into the hands of the railway company, who have road vehicles to spare for this purpose, or else into the hands of the people who will get licences as existing carriers, who will have to become licensed inside these areas? Why not give it to them? The only way is to place everybody operating in the exempted area on an equal footing. What is the situation in the future under the exempted area system? Take three types of vehicles. First, we have the vehicles owned by the railway company and licensed because they are going to operate outside a 15 miles area from Dublin, and we will call these common carriers for certain types of stuff. We have to group the lorries belonging to professional load haulers who get a licence and operate in an existing area and who will, therefore, have to be subject to conditions. Then we have new entrants into the business. They are to be allowed to go into the 15 mile radius from Dublin subject to no restrictions. That is the good end of the business which the existing carrier might look to do himself. Why not allow the carrier one of two things —that if he comes into a field free from all conditions he should become free himself, that is to license everybody inside the exempted area? From the angle of the existing road carriers I can see no argument that could be used for allowing new people to come into these areas and not subject them to any control whatsoever. Why do it? I have not heard any arguments, certainly, on the point.
If the Minister envisages a situation in this way, that in these areas that concern certain named portions of the country there are not sufficient road services in existence at the moment, and if he sees the necessity for new services arising, surely he should make his line of progress thus: that first of all he should give to the railway companies, as existing carriers, the option of carrying under licence in these areas, and if they refuse then give it to some existing carriers not being railway companies or shipping companies. But why allow new people into these areas? The scheme of the Bill is to do away with unreasonable competition. There is no reason why it should be allowed inside these areas. These are the areas in which most traffic is going to originate. It is very fertile ground so far as existing traffic is concerned. Why cut that away from the two classes that we are setting out to favour—the railway companies and the existing road carriers? There is a case to be made for these, but there is no case to be made for a new company or for an existing man to allow him carry on without competition in a town traffic area free from competition when his rivals are to be subjected to the common carrier conditions. What is the alternative? That the man who wants to compete inside these areas has to establish himself for any class of goods that his unrestricted rivals are carrying. Then and then only has he the right to compete against them. Therefore it is not a fair condition.
When the Minister was elucidating some of the issues involved in these amendments, I was beginning to wonder what was the necessity which arose for the passage of this Bill at all. The Minister came very near to saying that so far as the Road Transport Bill was concerned, although it is designed as "an Act to make further and better provision for the regulation and control of the carriage of passengers, merchandise and mails by road," in fact it really is not going to make better provision in any of these respects except in a limited area where the traffic is not so dense. So far as other areas are concerned, the Minister proposes to provide for certain exempted areas. I suggest to the Minister that the term "exempted area" is a delightful cuphemism for chaotic conditions. For now the Minister proposes, under amendment 16, to draw 10 or 15 mile circuits around certain parts of the towns and say that within these areas the present chaos, absence of control and absence of regulation can continue, with this difference, that notwithstanding the regulation and control speeches made by the Minister in the past, this kind of chaos is going to continue in the future. That is the proposition and, presumably, from the speech he has made on these amendments, what we are going to do in this Transport Bill is to exempt big areas from any control or regulation whatever. We are to have control and regulation where traffic is thinnest, but in the big areas of population, even in areas where there is a considerable volume of traffic, there is going to be the same chaos and want of control or regulation as in the past. In this Bill, which proposes to make further and better provision for the regulation and control of the carriage of passengers, merchandise and mails by road, we are apparently going to continue the same chaotic conditions. Apparently the Minister at one stage, when he agreed to the Bill or when the Bill was first drafted, believed that there was need for regulation and control. But the Minister has come along now with this amendment, which he is to put into the Bill, to have these places totally exempted from the operations of any control or regulation whatever. I suggest to the Minister that a Bill which provides for so many exempted areas in such an extensive manner as amendment 16 provides is a Bill which is not going to make better and further provision for the regulation and control of traffic or road transport.
The Minister said on the last occasion, and he repeated it to-day, that the case for these exempted areas is that they are distributing centres. Of course they are distributing centres, but transport is a distributing business, and what is more natural than that there should be more distribution in one area than in another? What is the case for allowing the present chaos to continue within ten miles from Tralee and insist on regulations within ten miles of Kilkenny and Mullingar? If it is good in Mullingar and good in the case of Kilkenny and Letterkenny, surely it is good within ten miles of Tralee or any of those other areas which the Minister wants to set up as exempted areas. There is need for regulations in the Inishowen peninsula, but there is no need for regulations in the Dingle peninsula! Why the Minister contends that there may be and ought to be regulations in one portion of the country which is less densely populated than other portions of the country where there are going to be no regulations I cannot understand.
What is going to happen is, as Deputy McGilligan said, that the whole cream of the traffic in the big areas is going to be at the mercy of persons who are not subject to any control or regulation whatever. They can do just what they like. Where the traffic is creamiest there will be no control or regulations whatever. Yet we are told that a Bill which permits this thing to continue is a Bill for the better regulation and control of road transport! I suggest to the Minister that there is no case whatever made, notwithstanding the consent of the railway companies, which in this matter is just as unwise as their consent in many other things on occasions.
Am I right in saying that I heard the Minister say, as Deputy Norton has said, that the consent of the railway companies had been obtained?
The railway companies agreed to the proposal.
Is the Minister quite accurate in that?
Deputy Good would want to correct his brief.
Deputy Good is a big shareholder.
The railway companies have agreed to this schedule, and that is apparently the only case for the amendment—that the railway companies are agreeable to it.
I did not say that, but the fact destroys the contention that the railway companies are anxious to get this particular form of traffic for themselves.
Would the Minister mind clearing up the doubt as to who accepted this amendment on behalf of the railway companies?
I do not follow what the Deputy is at.
The Minister says that the railway companies agreed to his amendment No. 16. Was that in consultation with the directors?
It was in consultation with the representatives of the railway companies at which various amendments to the Bill were proposed and discussed, just as I had consultations with other interested parties on the question of these amended areas. I thought that in any case that amendment would be necessary. I conveyed the decision I have made, which is now set out on the Order Paper, to them and they expressed approval of that.
Deputy Good, as everybody knows, speaks for a very large section of shareholders, and he apparently doubts that.
I should like to say for my part that I have very strong reason to believe the railway companies would prefer five to ten, and a fortiori to fifteen.
And probably nothing to five.
Was this amendment in existence at the period of the last interview between the Minister and the director?
The Minister told us that this amendment 16 has the approval of the railway companies. I only saw it within the last forty-eight hours, while, according to the Minister, it must have been in existence for the last fortnight.
The intention to introduce it.
Intention is one thing, but the Minister has stated that the railway companies approved of the amendment.
What I said was that the representatives of the railway companies whom I met expressed approval.
That they would rather have the amendment than the section? That is all it means?
That is a different matter altogether.
Something a little more than that. I shall explain later. We shall let Deputy Norton continue.
We would rather have it from the Minister.
I was informed that the railway companies are of opinion that if there are to be exempted areas they should be reduced considerably.
I shall explain later.
We are beginning to get light, in any case, on what was apparently the only reason for this amendment, as to which the Minister said, not without a flourish, and speaking with emphasis, that the railway companies were agreeable to it. Of course, they are agreeable to this section, just the same as any man who is owed a hundred pounds would prefer to get ten pounds rather than nothing. The railway companies have agreed to this because the Minister has convinced them that he is going to give them no more. I am quite sure that no sensible railway directors, looking after their own business, would prefer this, say, to one mile, or to nothing in the matter of exemption. In any case, the Dáil is not merely a registering machine for agreements arrived at between the Minister and the railway directors. There is another issue involved, quite apart from the interests of the railway companies. The Dáil is asked in all sanity to pass a Bill of this kind providing for the regulation of road transport, with a perfect knowledge that the Bill is not going to provide for the regulation and control of road transport. Whole areas of the country are going to be exempt. The Dáil should, in considering a Bill of this kind, make up its mind as to what appears to be the reasonable and sensible thing, quite apart from such considerations as transpired in the discussions with the railway directors. The safety of the citizens within these areas demands regulation and control. Any clear vision as to the future development of road transport and the possible complications which are going to arise because of the Minister permitting the present chaos and disorder to continue, demand that there should be regulation and control within these areas. Anybody who has any knowledge or experience of the tangled condition into which transport has been allowed to degenerate, will agree that an efficient, economic and self-supporting transport system demands that there should be control and regulation, not for the sparsely populated portions of the country, but for the whole country. The area of the Twenty-Six Counties is already small enough without having twelve exempted areas carved out. Within the small area of the Twenty-Six Counties we are not even to have regulation and control. We are only to have them in such portions of the country as are sparsely populated. In the other portions of the country the same chaos and disorder which the Deputy of other days used to condemn so eloquently, is to be continued under this Bill. I suggest that there is no case whatever, and least of all in a Bill which professes to be intended to assist the railways, for the creation of twelve separate exempted areas; twelve chaotic areas they should be called, not merely exempted areas, because chaos is going to reign supreme in these areas if the Minister's amendment is carried. As I said, a small country like this neither wants nor can it, if it is to do its business properly, consent to a provision for the establishment of twelve exempted areas. If the amendment is passed it will make an absolute farce of the Bill. It will make its title a misnomer, and only perpetuate, to the disappointment of many and to the disgrace of the Minister, the transport chaos which has been continued here for so many years past.
I wonder why the Labour Party are condemning the Minister's amendment. Deputy Good had occasion to say here earlier in the day that strange things are often concealed under apparently harmless amendments. I ask Deputies to throw their minds back to the day on which the Minister was introducing these Bills. He said: "If this scheme does not work, the next step is nationalisation."
A difficult step with this Bill.
He then said: "We are going to do our best now to regulate the railways under existing conditions and if——" and he said no more. It is manifest to me, and I think it is manifest to any sane man who studies the question of transport reform in this country, that this section turns the whole business into a farce. The effect of this section will be that the railway companies will struggle along for another couple of years, or perhaps three years and then collapse. Then the Minister will come back and say: "I told you so. Now can you resist the proposal for nationalisation?" And whooping in the van will be by Deputies Norton, Davin and Keyes. If they had any sense they would be up now declaring that this was a most equitable proposal, a most excellent proposal. So surely as they succeed in getting this incorporated in the Bill, they will be lighting bonfires to celebrate the nationalisation of the railways and the imposition of a vast added burden on the shoulders of the taxpayers in three or four years, because that provision is calculated to burst the railway companies.
Mr. Davin made an interjection.
It is very probably true. When you have paid as much heed to the Minister's flourishes as I have you will discover that as well as being an innocent man he is sometimes a devious man. Everybody knows that two things wrecked the railways here: (1) at the beginning of the War the English railway rates of pay were introduced which the Irish railway companies could never afford and cannot afford at present.
That is not correct. The statement about the beginning of the War is not correct.
Deputy Davin can wax as eloquent as he likes when I sit down. And that, combined with the fact that Ireland is a very thinly populated country, made a burden that is absolutely impossible on the railway company. The Minister knows that. He must know what an intolerable burden it was on the railway company which serves areas like the Midland of Ireland. We are to relieve of competition the areas in all the uneconomic parts of the country, but the districts where there is some chance of the railway company collecting revenue that might make the enterprise a paying one are specifically removed from the Bill. Again I say, to Deputy Good particularly, that after one has studied the Demosthenes style of the Minister for Industry and Commerce one does not attach undue importance to the railway companies having accepted this amendment. The Minister knows that that is nonsense. They have not accepted the amendment, they would not accept the amendment——
And they did accept the amendment!
Wait a minute. They would not accept it if they had any hope that sensible representations could affect the faithful legions who are sitting down in the library at present. They know perfectly well that, when the Minister whistles, up they will come, in they will march, and whatever the Minister lays down will become an Act of this Parliament.
They may have thrown a bone to the lion in order to try and calm him down a bit, but the Minister knows perfectly well and the railwaymen or any other intelligent body of men examining that section know that it has finished the Road Transport Bill as a useful measure. The Minister's defence we have heard, and there is no need to go into it again. In my opinion, as Deputy McGilligan pointed out, the amendment which he so gaily pushed through on Friday last covers, and amply covers—more amply than he at present dreams of—what he wants to cover in these particular areas. Every person is free to deliver his own goods in any part of the country. Many people will go into illicit transport undertakings all over the country, under this amendment, and the interests of those people are amply guarded. I was at first completely at a loss to understand the purpose in introducing this. I would urge on Deputy Davin, even now at the eleventh hour, to take counsel with his leader, and see if his leader does not agree with me that this is a most astute move on the part of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to ensure that this whole body of legislation will fall, and that he will get an opportunity of coming in here and nationalising the railways. The Minister is a rational man. He is a reckless and imprudent man, but he is rational. He can see an objective, and he is making towards it without any regard for the interests of the people of the country. It is not the first time he took that course. He is taking it now, and his objective is to make this legislation fall, and to come back and say: "I warned you. The thing is hopeless. We have to nationalise." If the Minister leaves that section in the Bill it means that the railway company will derive no worth while benefit from this body of legislation. They will derive no benefit to make it possible for them to carry on, and in three years he will either have to repeal most of this legislation, or nationalise the railways and dismiss all the railwaymen in the country.
I am opposing this amendment No. 16 for different reasons —and perhaps I should say for additional reasons—to those advanced by the last two speakers. I feel, with the Minister, that the railways are an important adjunct to the ports and to shipping in this country, but circumstances may arise—as they have arisen in relation to the port of Cork—which might demand special consideration from the Minister and his Department. The Minister suggested in his speech that he had received representations from various public bodies in connection with these exempted areas. He must have, I am sure, received amongst those representations one from the Cork Harbour Commissioners. I am opposing this amendment——
Are you letting the Harbour Commissioners down?
That is what you are doing.
I want the figure raised from 15 to 25 or 30.
And because you cannot get that you will have none?
As far as Cork is concerned 15 is just as bad as none.
I just wanted to make sure that the Deputy knows what he is doing.
Another reason for my opposition to this amendment is that, personally, I do not want to inflict any further hardship on the quayside workers and dockers of the City of Cork. Most of their employment has been taken from them as a result of the tariff policy of the present Government, and I do not want to increase their hardships. The port of Cork, it is admitted, serves a larger area than that represented in the Minister's amendment. Unless the figure for the restricted area be increased from 15 to 25 or 30 it will spell ruin, in a very short time, for the port of Cork.
As Deputy Davin, who is so fond of interrupting, asks why, I will explain; because it would divert all the traffic from the port of Cork to Rosslare and Dublin. This, of course, would suit Deputy Davin very well, because Deputy Davin resides in Dublin, but I speak for a very large number of dockers——
Look at the speech you made.
And I know that those men have met, and decided that this amendment, if passed, would very seriously injure their interests. Representations have been made to me by those men, and perhaps this will be news to Deputy Davin——
I am just reading your recent speech in Cork.
Which dealt with the gyrations and gymnastics of Deputy Davin.
And the promises you made to the railwaymen.
My speech in Cork——
Has nothing to do with this Bill.
——dealt with the railwaymen and the gymnastics of Deputy Davin. One of the results of this amendment, if passed, would be to divert most of the traffic from the port of Cork to Dublin or Rosslare. There is no getting over that fact. Any railwayman will admit it. So far as this amendment is concerned, I am opposing it, and I intend to call a division on it.
I would like to reply to some of those points, because it seems to me that a lot of people have got wrong ideas into their heads. The attitude of Deputy Anthony is really appalling. If this question is going to be determined upon such considerations as Deputy Anthony put forward the result is incapable of being foreseen. The result is absolutely incapable of being foreseen. Deputy Anthony thinks the exempted area should be larger than is suggested in the Bill. He thinks the port of Cork will be ruined if there is not a larger area, and because I am not proposing to make the area larger he is going to abolish it altogether. That is what he says he is going to do.
There are other amendments.
If he votes against 16, even the 15 miles around Cork will be wiped out. There will be no exempted area at all.
Surely the section will stand?
There is a proposal, amendment 11, to delete sub-section (2).
That is consequential upon others.
If sub-section (2) is not deleted amendment 16 cannot be moved. It is being moved in lieu of Section 2, sub-section (1). Now Deputy Anthony is getting mixed up in the matter and I think there are other Deputies mixed up.
I want to assure the Minister that I am not mixed up at all in the matter. I want to say that the other places mentioned such as Limerick and Waterford have the same objection to the amendment as we have.
And because the area will not be exempted, it has to be wiped out altogether.
The Deputy has said he will vote for the wiping out of exempted areas altogether. Deputy McGilligan wants the exempted areas wiped out altogether too, but I was hoping on this matter that we would at least have the support of Deputies Roddy, Finian Lynch, J. M. O'Sullivan, in short, all those Deputies who want, not exempted areas, but larger exempted areas. They have amendments down to increase exempted areas where they are interested. Deputy McGilligan wants to abolish them, he thinks there should be none——
I did not say so.
The Deputy may not have said so but he certainly conveyed the impression to me that he wanted to abolish exempted areas.
Change your conditions.
Deputy Dillon discovered that the whole thing was a plot. There is a vacancy I think at the moment in the Special Crimes Branch of the Gárda Síochána. Deputy Dillon should apply for the post——
I would not get on to that subject if I were you.
If Deputy Dillon can discover this devious plot in Section 11 he can discover anything. Mind you, the Deputy's detective abilities are growing every day.
They are better than some of the detectives going.
I am paying a tribute to the Deputy's abilities. We want men like him in our detective force.
A man who could discover what he has outlined in this amendment could discover anything. He could even discover a gold mine in County Donegal.
Or a plot in Portobello Barracks.
He could discover also a policy for the Centre Party. There is no limit to what he could discover.
There is one thing I could not discover and that is commonsense in the Minister.
Mind you, the Deputy might.
The age of miracles is not past.
Let us give the Deputy some lessons in the matter to start with. There is a proposal here, and the proposal is that the traffic for a certain limited area around certain towns should not be subject to the regulations and control which this Bill prescribes. It will be subject to certain control under the Traffic Bill which is going through the Dáil at the moment. It is not proposed to bring that particular form of transport under the control envisaged by this Bill. The Deputy said I proposed the inclusion of these areas deliberately in order to wreek the whole Bill and destroy the railways and ruin transport organisation of the country, so that in two or three years' time I could come and say: "I told you that the Bill would be a failure. I want to nationalise transport in the country." I am not saying this Bill will be a failure. On the contrary, I say this Bill is going to improve the transport position in the country and the position of the railway organisations, so I have destroyed the Deputy's theory with that one word. I did not make the prognosis he said I might. I am saying quite the contrary, that these Bills are being introduced to improve the position and they will improve the position, but only if they are allowed to pass through this Dáil without the modifications which occurred to the Deputy's peculiar type of commonsense.
Now what is the position? Deputy Norton says there is going to be chaos in respect of certain exempted areas. Why should there be chaos? What particular type of disorganisation are we trying to rectify at the moment? Is it the disorganisation that exists in these very limited areas? There is no disorganisation there at all. The Deputy is completely at sea when he talks about traffic in areas being particularly thin where we propose to control it, and being thick where we do not propose to control it. The only traffic that is exempted from the regulation is traffic which originates and ends with the exempted areas. I grant you the greater part of the traffic of merchandise that is to be conveyed in this country has either to be conveyed to or from one of these exempted areas. That is undoubtedly correct, but that traffic is subject to all the control of the Bill. Long-distance traffic must be licensed under the Bill, and it is only traffic which originates and terminates in the exempted areas that is exempted. In respect of that traffic it is not only of no importance to the railways, but the railway companies were agreeable and expressed their agreement to me, through their representatives, to the Bill as amended by amendment 16. I would not have said that if I thought there was any doubt on the matter. I had a meeting with people who came as representatives of the railway company, and they suggested the Bill should be amended in the same manner as Deputies Thrift, Good and Dockrell proposed it should be amended, that is, by making the exempted areas, the areas within a radius of five miles from the post office. I met those representatives and we discussed that matter quite frankly. I am open to conviction on every one of those points. We discussed every one of the points I mentioned in my previous speech, and I explained the circumstances would seem to me to justify the establishment of exempted areas of the particular size I had in mind. I indicated, as I had in fact expressed in the Dáil on the Second Reading discussion, that some reduction in some of these areas would have to take place because of the difficulty of the over-lapping of areas, and I intimated that I proposed to amend the Bill in the way amendment No. 16 effects by reducing the radius from fifteen miles to ten in respect of towns except Dublin and Cork. The representatives of the railway company who were present were quite agreeable to that arrangement, and they were quite satisfied that the matter could be left at that.
That point is questionable.
No doubt the representatives of the railway company are prepared to stand over that.
Is there any report of that interview that has been agreed to by both parties?
Not that I am aware of.
I am sorry for intervening. I have discussed the matter over and over again with the Minister, and the Minister is a little positive in the way he puts forward his arguments. I am quite satisfied he said to these people much the same as he has said on several occasions here, and which have been referred to, "Either take this Bill or you will get nationalisation." I suppose he said to the railway directors: "Either take the ten miles or you get nothing."
Neither one nor the other.
They probably remained silent.
If I said to the railway companies: "Either take the ten miles radius or you will get nothing," why did not the railway companies say nothing?
I want some evidence from the Minister that the railway companies have accepted this proposal of his. I question it. If he has any evidence to put forward I am prepared to accept it, if the evidence be reliable.
I am quite prepared to leave the matter where they left it. At the general discussion on the amendment suggested by the railway companies this particular proposal was considered. Those present representing the railway companies expressed themselves as being satisfied with the proposal that I intended to bring before the Dáil. They may, of course, have had at the backs of their heads that half a loaf is better than no bread, and that this proposal was less unsatisfactory to them than some other proposition, but they did not say so. Their proposition was that the radius of the exempted area should be reduced to five miles. I would sooner cut out the exempted areas altogether than have them with a five miles radius. Such exempted areas would be of no value to anybody, and of no assistance to the railway companies. In addition the administrative inconvenience would be very great. In fact, it would be so great that it would be much better to wipe out the exempted areas altogether than to have them with a five mile radius.
The Minister has stated that the railway companies put forward the proposal for a five mile radius. Does he think that they would put that forward if they had agreed to accept the Minister's ten mile radius?
The companies put forward the proposition that the exempted areas should have a five mile radius. I met representatives of the railway companies and discussed with them that and other propositions put forward by them. I explained to them, as I am now attempting to explain to the Deputy, why I considered that particular amendment should not be accepted. I said that I would propose the amendment which now appears on the Order Paper as No. 16. They expressed themselves as being satisfied with that proposition.
May I repeat again for the Deputy the arguments in support of it? I think there should be exempted areas. I think that from an administrative point of view they simplify the carrying out of the Bill. They do no harm to anyone and inflict no hardship. They do not deprive the railway companies of any traffic which legitimately they should have. They facilitate certain types of transport business that we have no particular desire to interfere with—for which there is no reason to interfere with. I think, therefore, that if we are going to have exempted areas there must be at least a ten mile radius. Exempted areas of any smaller size would be of no value to anyone. If, for instance, you were to have an exempted area of five mile radius starting from the G.P.O., Dublin, it would mean cutting through certain parts of the city, leaving one part of the city inside the exempted area, and another part outside of it.
It would be very much better to wipe out the exempted areas altogether than to have anything of that kind. Arguments for the abolition of the exempted areas might be considered, but I submit that arguments for their maintenance with a five miles radius are not worthy of consideration. I am putting forward this proposition, not because it was agreed to by the railway companies, but because it is the one I consider should be submitted to the Dáil, and the one that I indicated on Second Reading I was prepared to introduce. We have also to bear in mind that the local traffic, which is excluded from regulation by the institution of these exempted areas, is of no interest to the railway companies. While it would undoubtedly be feasible, although involving administrative difficulties of considerable magnitude, to subject to licensing all those engaged at the present time inside the city and town areas in the cartage of merchandise for reward, it is because of those administrative difficulties, plus the fact that no special advantage was going to be conferred on anybody by subjecting these carriers to licensing conditions, that we decided on the exempted areas.
I am still open to conviction. I have no special view point on the matter at all except the one I have mentioned. The aim of the Bill is quite clear. It is to secure that the conditions in this country will, in the future, be better for the railway companies: that they will be able to operate their services on a profitable basis over a period of time which they cannot do at the moment. The aim of the Bill is not to improve the position of road transport operators, as Deputy McGilligan appeared to think. We are not setting out to improve their position at all. The main design behind the Bill is to improve the position of the railway companies. The institution of the exempted areas does not lessen the effectiveness of that policy, and has no particular bearing on it at all. If the Dáil is of opinion that there is any advantage to be gained by the elimination of the exempted areas then it ought to be shown that the advantages that are going to be conferred on the railway companies by the elimination of the exempted areas are sufficient to outweigh the very great administrative difficulties involved. As I said earlier, I would much prefer to have the exempted areas abolished altogether than to have them with a five miles radius.
As to whether they should be maintained or not I am, as I have said, still open to conviction. Nobody has yet given me any solid reason against them which outweighs the reasons in their favour, namely, the administrative difficulty of bringing subject to control all those engaged in the cartage of merchandise in city areas, plus the fact that there are people in those areas with whose cartage business we do not want to interfere— business that never was or never will be of interest to the railway companies —and who may be allowed to carry on without being subject to licence fees or licensing provisions at all. These are the reasons that actuate us, and until they are shown to have no substance behind them I am prepared to stand by the Bill as amended by the amendments now appearing in my name on the Order Paper. If the reasons I have given are shown to be without substance, then I am prepared to move for the deletion of the exempted areas entirely.
I have been amazed by the speeches of the Minister this evening in arguing against the proposal for the removal of the exempted areas. The Minister, in giving due consideration to the arguments for and against a matter of this kind, should consider where his policy, if he has a policy, is leading him. I want to know definitely from the Minister, before a vote is taken finally on this matter, whether he has finally abandoned his policy of unification under public ownership or under private control. Surely to goodness, if that is still the policy of the Minister, of the Ministry and of the Fianna Fáil Party, it presupposes the licensing, regulation and control of public carriers under the same code. If unification is the ultimate aim of the Government and the policy of the Minister, why should he place one set of public carriers in a privileged position and place another set of public carriers under strict regulation and control?
Surely there is a very big difference between a carrier who carries goods three miles and a carrier who carries them 30 miles.
The Minister's policy, if he has a policy, is the unification of the road transport services of the Free State.
With certain exempted areas.
I want to know if the Minister's policy is the policy he laid down in December, 1931, when he said: "We are in favour of public ownership of transport services, with unified control outside the boundaries of municipalities. Inside the boundaries of municipalities we are in favour of the municipal ownership of these services." Is he going to get to that position more quickly by this policy of exempted areas? If he still believes in unification and in the municipal ownership of these services within the municipal areas, does he think that this policy will enable him to achieve that aim, as he hopes, within the lifetime of this Dáil? What reasons of public interest are there for suggesting that one set of public carriers should be placed in a privileged position? Why should one set of carriers be obliged to submit a classification of merchandise to the Railway Tribunal and another set of carriers be allowed, as suggested in the amendment, to operate freely in the areas where most of the traffic is to be carried? Surely, that is an issue of policy on which the Minister should have some view. If he is still standing by his own declared policy let him put it into operation by some other means than the means suggested in this amendment.
What is the case against the exempted areas?
Why should one set of public carriers be placed in a privileged position in these areas? All public carriers should be licensed and should be obliged to operate under the same regulations and restrictions. Surely that is understood by the Minister and was understood by him when he enunciated his policy in December, 1931, and, again, at the second last general election when pleading for votes. The fact that he is Minister now does not enable him to forget what he said in February, 1932, and it justifies me in reminding him of what he said and stood for in this House. The suggested amendment is not in accord with the declared policy of the Minister's Party and will not bring us any nearer unification or public ownership. In fact, it will bring us further away from it.
Would the Deputy say if there was a by-election pending when the Minister made that statement?
If the Deputy would look up the newspapers in the library, he would see what was taking place on the 9th December, 1931. These declarations were made by the Minister at the second last election, at Inchicore and in Dundalk, in connection with the last general election. The Minister knew where he was speaking.
And here in the Dáil.
If the Minister wants a clear-cut decision from this House, he should let the House know whether he still stands for the policy he stood for as late as the last general election. Deputies know, and I know, of cases where road transport companies carry necessary commodities from Dublin to provincial towns at lesser rates than those charged by the railway company.
Would the Minister, or would Deputy Dillon, whose "Hear, hear" was so emphatic, tell me the name of any merchant who obtains his goods by road at reduced rates and who passes on the benefit to the purchaser?
What has that got to do with the exempted areas?
If one set of carriers operate without restrictions, while another set of carriers operate under restrictions, what benefit is going to accrue to the community as a result? I made inquiries from certain people in the town of Portlaoighise as to whether or not traders who were getting their goods by road at very low rates were selling those commodities to the public at prices lower than those charged by traders who obtained the same class of goods by rail. I was positively assured that none of the merchants in Portlaoighise —the same would, I suppose, apply to Tullamore—who had been getting his goods by road at cheaper rates was giving any reduction in price to the consumers.
The Deputy's logic is bad.
These are the people the Minister proposes to put in a privileged position under this amendment.
How are they privileged?
These are the people who will continue to operate in Limerick, Waterford, Ballina, Drogheda, Dundalk, Galway, Sligo, Tralee, Westport and Wexford——
What are the privileges?
What public benefit is going to be conferred on the community by enabling these carriers to operate freely and without control within those areas? Speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill, I asked the Minister upon what grounds he based his claim to exempt any areas and ascertained that it was on the ground that the 15 mile radius constituted the residential area for the towns and cities mentioned. Surely 15 miles around Ballina cannot be regarded as the residential area of Ballina or even the reduced mileage of 10, suggested by the Minister. The Minister hopes by his tariff policy to build up a new town which will bring more people to live around Ballina before the present Government go out of office. I cannot see any hope of that.
You are supporting the policy very vigorously.
The members of this Party will oppose and vote against any proposal to exempt any area from the terms of a Bill which aims at the unification of the road transport services of this State. It would pave the way towards unification, under private ownership or public control, to cut sub-section (2) out of this Bill altogether. The people who will get the privileged position, if this provision is left in the Bill, are the people, as the Minister knows, who put the railway companies in a semi-bankrupt position. It was these pirate and, in the past, unlicensed services which stole the cream of the traffic from the railway companies, and left those companies in their present semi-bankrupt position. The Minister knows perfectly well that carrying companies, unlicensed up to the present, are in a position to go out from Limerick City and carry butter from the various creameries at uneconomic road rates.
What has that to do with the exempted areas?
They can do that within the 15 miles radius.
They can do that even within ten miles. The Minister knows there is nothing in that kind of interjection.
Does the Deputy seriously suggest that the position of the railway companies is due to the fact that these road services operated in the areas which are exempted areas under this Bill?
I was making the point, which I am sure is quite understandable even to the Minister, that the uncontrolled operation of carrying companies from the City of Limerick resulted in the railway company being deprived of the cream of the traffic which they heretofore had from outlying areas into the City of Limerick.
Within ten miles radius.
There is no radius up to the present. There is no radius even now, and I hope there will be no radius when a division on this Bill has been taken. If the Minister still believes in his own declared policy— instead of basing his arguments on the so-called acceptance of this amendment by the railway company—of aiming at unification and at municipal ownership of these public services within the municipal areas, let him cut this out of the Bill and make the way clearer for the adoption of his own policy within a reasonable time from now.
Deputy Good has challenged the statement made by the Minister that the railway companies had accepted the suggestion in amendment 16. I was informed that the railway companies would be willing—although I am not going to be guided by what the railway company is willing to accept— to accept a radius of five miles operation within the municipal areas of Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick, disregarding all the other twopence-halfpenny towns that are mentioned in this particular amendment.
That does not include Portlaoighise?
Portlaoighise is not mentioned in the amendment.
That will take a lot of explanation in Limerick.
Even if it were mentioned, it would have no effect on me in regard to guiding me as to the lobby I should enter when the division is called on this amendment.
The Deputy would not give others credit for that high principle judging by his earlier remarks.
I have not had the pleasure of listening to Deputy Moore on this amendment, and I shall be guided in anything I say in regard to the Deputy by whatever view he may express on the policy outlined in this amendment. I make the case that if the Minister has any hope that, within the lifetime of his Ministry, the policy of unification or nationalisation will be adopted, the safest course for him to adopt, if he still believes in the policy so often enunciated in this House, is to cut the exempted areas clean out of the Bill and, if he is prepared to challenge a division in favour of cutting out the exempted areas, he may rest assured that I will walk into the division lobby to help him. Whether he does or not it will be necessary to divide the House on the matter.
I rather think that we will never get anywhere in a discussion of this principle unless we can make it a little more concrete than it has been made up to the present. In that connection, I should like to ask Deputy Davin or Deputy Good whether they are sure that the Great Southern Railways Company would agree to be responsible, for instance, for all that traffic in food that is necessary for the supply of Dublin's daily food? That is one of the things they will be up against. There is a great deal of that market gardening traffic in County Dublin, vegetables, potatoes and so on, carried out by private carriers at present. Under the Bill, these private carriers are to be eliminated. The hope of the Minister is that the Bill will eliminate them.
They can do that in the future.
If the Deputy will excuse me, I want to ask whether, assuming that the Minister's intention is realised, Deputy Good is certain that the Great Southern Company will be glad to have that responsibility—that they will be glad to have the responsibility of going, at any hour of the morning, to Rush or Lusk to convey the waggon loads of food that are conveyed from these places practically everyday by private carriers? Is Deputy Good satisfied also that the community there would be content to be in the hands of the Great Southern Company with regard to that? Of course, the Deputy will at once reply that the Great Southern Company would be subject to fixed rates by the Railway Tribunal.
What are we paying the Railway Tribunal for?
As I think we will see later on, the fixing of rates by the Railway Tribunal is largely an illusion. It would be of such general terms that it will have no practical effect with regard to rural traffic and, particularly, with regard to the traffic I mention. Bear in mind, I am not expressing any opinion on the matter at all. I think that there are all sorts of different kinds of traffic that require different consideration in connection with this principle. For instance, there is the conveyance of the traffic between Dublin and Bray. The outward traffic there is obviously of quite a different order from the class of traffic I am speaking of and, as a matter of fact, I could not think, if it were being considered separately, of any reason why it should not be in the hands of a public carrying company—why there should not be steps taken to give the Great Southern Company a chance of getting control of that traffic—but it is a very different matter when you come to consider the question of the market gardening traffic I have referred to. I very much doubt whether the Great Southern Company, if they looked that problem in the face, if they realised the responsibility they would have in regard to the rural traffic from County Dublin, Wicklow and so on—they would have practically the responsibility of supplying Dublin with food and the responsibility, as I say, of working at all hours of the night and in the early hours of the morning— would desire to have that responsibility on them and that they would wish, therefore, to see any amendment of the Minister's proposal.
Deputy Moore speaks as if the abolition of these areas would wipe out all independent operators there. That is not the policy of this elimination at all. It is simply to bring them under regulation and to leave it to the railway company, if they want this perishable traffic to which Deputy Moore refers, to acquire it under the provisions of the Statute, if and when the railway company can raise the money.
The Minister has said, again and again, that his hope from the Bill is that the private carrier will be eliminated in the non-exempted areas.
If the Deputy will hear me for a moment, I will develop my argument. Deputy Moore spoke of the anxiety which the market gardeners of North County Dublin might feel if they were put into the hands of the railway company. He spoke of the possible reluctance of the railway company to undertake this highly inconvenient traffic and I gather that what was in his mind was that if we were to do away with the restricted areas, by the doing away with them, we will do away with all independent contractors in those areas and hand the whole thing over to the railway company. Not at all.
I have the Minister's authority for that.
But the Minister cannot do it.
There is no power in the Bill to do it. What will happen under the Bill is that all the existing carrying companies will immediately become licensed carriers and the Great Southern Railways Company can then proceed to acquire them, if and when they want to acquire them.
That is all.
If the Great Southern Railways Company do not want to acquire them as they are not licensed why should we make them licensed carriers?
I am not saying that they do. I, first of all, wanted to answer Deputy Moore's difficulty, that if the Great Southern Railways Company were asked to carry a head of cabbage into Dublin the whole board of directors would faint. My reply is that there is no need for them to faint or to get weak at all. If they want to leave the independent haulers to carry the cabbage in, they can leave them, but, if the independent haulers want to carry the cabbage, it is, presumably, a profitable enterprise, and, if it is a profitable enterprise, presumably, the railway company will want to undertake it and they can do so, as they have power to do so.
Who says they have?
Have they not power to acquire a licensed undertaking under this Bill in certain circumstances?
Under an order made by the Minister.
I would ask Deputy Davin and Deputy Dillon and Deputy McGilligan to remember that I have undertaken here that, if one solid argument for the abolition of these areas is advanced, I will agree to abolish them.
That is just what I am going to give the Minister if he will sit down for five minutes. I move to report progress.