I would like to know whether, in granting a licence, terms will be laid down under which a carrier can refuse to carry goods—whether they would require to be packed or not.
Road Transport Bill, 1933—Committee Stage (Resumed).
Has the Minister adverted to this point that under a section of the Railway Bill the railway company can suspend a service on a branch line with the Minister's approval? The Minister said very bluntly that his policy was to get rid of these uneconomic branch lines; that it would not take much to convince him to do so. If you relieve the railway company of its obligations to carry all goods tendered to it at the moment you suspend a branch line, you put in its place an adequate road service under the Road Transport Bill which carries no such obligation.
That is a consideration that will have to be taken into account.
Yes, but you are providing in the Railway Bill for the closing down of these branch lines if the railway company provide an adequate road service. The adequate road service that is defined in this Bill is not a road service carrying with it the obligation imposed on the railway companies in their capacity as common carriers. To avoid confusion let it go on record that the obligation of a common carrier is of a dual character: (1) to accept all classes of merchandise; and (2) to carry all merchandise on certain terms. Now the first part of a common carrier's liability applies to a railway company which must take anything that is offered and carry it to its destination. So long as you have a branch railway line going into a town the people there have a knowledge of the terms on which they can get everything they want carried. You close down that branch line under the Railways Act and put in its place an adequate road service under this Bill, whereupon the people in the towns concerned will discover that for certain classes of merchandise there is no transport service.
That is a consideration that will have to be taken into account when the Order for the closing down of the branch line is applied for. Consideration would have to be given to the classes of merchandise carried on that branch line over a period, as well as to the adequacy of the road service to be substituted for the railway service to carry these classes of merchandise in the volume in which they had been carried heretofore. That is a consideration that will have to be taken into account, whether the road service substituted for the railway service is adequate.
Ten minutes before the House reported Progress on this Bill this evening the Minister stoutly denied that the obligation rested on the railway companies, even over their own railways, to carry every class of merchandise. He denied that they were ever compelled to carry every class of merchandise.
The obligation of a common carrier is not to refuse unreasonably to carry those classes of goods that he professes to carry.
Let us get this clear. I desire to mention at this juncture so as to have it placed clearly on record that the obligation of a railway company over a railway system at the present time is to accept from a consignor any merchandise or goods that the consignor brings and tenders to it, provided the consignor complies with the regulations stipulated by the railway company. That is the present obligation on a railway company. It can refuse no class of merchandise or live stock. If you close down a branch railway line then, so far as the people served by that branch line are concerned, there is going to be, according to the Minister's attitude this afternoon, no similar service substituted.
If there is no adequate service substituted the Order to close down the branch line will not be made.
I want the Minister to say now, before he consents to an Order for the closing down of a branch line, that he will provide that an obligation of that character will be placed on whatever road service is submitted to him as an adequate road service in place of the branch line which he is asked to close. I emphasise that, because an hour ago the Minister stoutly denied that the obligation which I have just described rested on the railway companies at all. Now the Minister has discovered from informed sources that he was in error.
Quite the contrary. I have been confirmed in everything I have said.
There is one point outstanding on which I would like to get a statement from the Minister giving, in a categorical way, his view of what the obligation of a common carrier is. That obligation can be stated in general terms. I ask the Minister to define it. If the Minister is going to stick to what he said in answer to Deputy Dillon then I say he is wrong.
The obligation of a common carrier is not to refuse unreasonably to carry those classes of goods which he professes to carry.
I want to bring the Minister back to the three questions that I asked. He was unfortunate in the one that he selected to answer. I asked him to define a common carrier's obligations in respect of three classes of goods: (1) goods that the common carrier was bound to carry under certain laid down conditions—conditions which were onerous to the company; (2) goods which the common carrier was not bound to accept under the conditions; and (3) was there any class of goods which the railway company could refuse—and the Minister said "Yes."
There is not.
The Minister did say "Yes" to that.
And I repeat it.
The Minister ought to think twice before saying that. It is quite right to say that if someone were to ask the railway company to carry the Eiffel Tower from Paris they could not refuse to carry it but they could impose certain conditions, which would make it impossible for them to carry it.
They cannot impose conditions which are unreasonable.
I asked the Minister could they refuse to carry under any conditions, and he said "Yes." I say they could not. With regard to the Eiffel Tower, if it were lying on its side it would tear every railway post along the line.
They can refuse to carry it.
They cannot refuse. The Minister is mistaken and he will find that he has misstated it. He cannot say categorically what he did say previously—that there are certain things which the railway can refuse to carry absolutely. I think that this whole matter of a common carrier should be clearly defined for the edification of the House. A classification according to the company's risk and the owner's risk would be the easiest; then there could be a classification as to animals and the different classes and categories of goods. You will never get to the point where the railway company will say: "We will not carry that."
However, the main point which I wanted to urge was this: I should like to agree with the Minister that it is quite a fair proposition that an applicant for a licence, in the main, should be requested to say what he proposes to carry. I think that the applicant has got to be enlightened as to what his obligations are going to be. Supposing he can be so enlightened, and having obtained full knowledge of all the circumstances and after the excogitation of the whole circumstances which he can make for himself, he may then apply for a licence for the carriage of certain classes of goods and finds afterwards that it has put obligations on him to carry certain goods which he never counted on having to carry, is there any way in which that man can amend his licence?
Not under the Bill.
Not under the Bill. Well, I think that there should be some means of doing so. Say that this man is prepared to enter into business for a certain named number of articles or classes or categories of articles, still we must allow for the unforeseen event. I think that it is only right that there should be some allowance made where it should be easy for such a man, subject to a very definite control, to enlarge his licence. If the control he is under is going to limit his obligation to certain classes or categories of goods he never intended to carry, and which he has inadvertently included, there ought to be some means to meet that. I think that it is not in the Bill as it stands. I am still inclined to think that in this amendment of mine, allowing the man to carry either the merchandise he would specify or be able to carry, it would be covered. I think that there is no harm in having that allowance there and it may turn out more convenient to have it there. I admit that I have not definite cases before me to make my points stronger but I suggest that it does not lessen or weaken the Minister's control. It allows for a little more elasticity.
I suggest that there is much more likelihood of the carrier being obliged to carry goods which he cannot conveniently carry if this amendment is allowed.
I think that the possibility of amendment is more called for under my own amendment than in the Bill as it stands, but I think there is cause for amendment nevertheless.
If there is a proposal that the carrier should be allowed to modify his licence it would amount to a renewal.
I admit that it is a renewal and that a cutting down modification should be looked upon almost as a new licence and therefore subject to certain conditions, but I do not think it would destroy the line of succession of existing carriers. However, I shall withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment 39:—
In sub-section (2), line 35, after the word "licence" to insert the words following:—
"granted in any case where the public interest imperatively requires that the weight of merchandise to be carried on the main roads of any area covered by such licence should be so restricted or where the licensee himself requests that such licence may be so restricted."
This is a different matter altogether. A request was made to me about it and I said I would put it before the House, but I am not entirely enthusiastic about it.
The amendment is to insert after the word "licence," in line 35 of Section 11, the phrase which follows, so that sub-section (2) should read with this included. Sub-section (2) is a section which limits the licence by the unladen weight condition. It ties up the licence which is applied for to whatever is the unladen weight of the vehicles which the person has specified, at a critical moment indicated by him, as his fleet. I want to say that this is to operate if the public interest imperatively requires "that the weight of merchandise to be carried on the main roads of any area covered by such licence should be so restricted or where the licensee himself requests that such licence may be so restricted." In other words, instead of having it that every licence is subject to this condition about the laden weight, it limits him to the extent that that limitation should only apply in either of two contingencies—when the licensee so requests, or when the public interest demands that the weight carried on the main roads of the area should be restricted. It is a limitation of one of the main conditions of the licence. The argument is that if the licensee requests it, it should be done; but the main point is in the first phrase, and that is, that the limitation to such a fleet would only be made where it seemed that the roads could not stand up to it. In other words, that the overriding condition would be where the roads are fit to bear the traffic. I admit, and I have urged it on those people who suggested this, that the only limitation which it would have on traffic for the future would be on the number of owners or licensees, but would enable the licensee, once he got his licence, to extend his fleet only subject to this limitation—that the roads would not stand up to the traffic, not alone in the case of his own vehicles but in that of other vehicles operating there. It makes the standard rather the condition of the road than the amount of traffic to be carried by particular vehicles. I admit that that is not dealing with the transport problem at all. The answer came to me that that would commend itself in so far as competing vehicles are there concerned.
So far as the problem of the weight of merchandise carried over the roads is concerned there are provisions in the Road Traffic Bill, which was before the Dáil, which give certain wide powers to local authorities and to the Minister for Local Government in that regard. It is mainly a traffic problem and not a transport problem. In so far as the Deputy's amendment seeks to modify the proposals in the Bill it is cutting right across them. There might be a case for doing that. This is what would happen. The effect of allowing each licensee to increase a fleet would be to permit road transport services, other than the railway owned transport services, without limit, and to intensify competition which would make more difficult the general aim of the Bill. Definitely the intention in this Bill is that on the "Appointed Day" the road transport position will be fixed. In so far as road transport services are operated by private individuals they will remain at that point; they cannot go beyond it. They may be bought out or they may get out themselves. The size of their services may be reduced; they cannot be increased. The only increase in road transport after that date will be such increases as are effected by the railway companies. That is the main scheme of the Bill. The amendment would cut right across it. Consequently I must oppose the amendment.
Is not the object to restrict the weight that might be imposed on the roads?
The scheme is to restrict the fleet that the licensee will get a licence for.
The purpose of amendment 39.
The purpose of the amendment is not to have the licensee restricted to the unladen vehicles but to have him limited by what the roads will carry. To that extent, it cuts across the principle of the Bill. I am not arguing this with any enthusiasm. The point was raised as to whether the roads would not stand up to the traffic, as it grew, or whether it was a limitation, a cutting down of the weight of the lorries in the owner's possession.
The latter is obviously the position, because in Section 31 they are given full power to cut up the roads any way they like and the county councils have no remedy against them.
The Minister very properly said there is provision in Section 16 of the Traffic Bill under which regulations are made prescribing the maximum weight of unladen locomotives and mechanically propelled vehicles. There are other matters that do not appear to me to be included. A case occurs to me where wooden framework of considerable size which was too wide to go on the railways was delivered by motor transport. Owing to its size it would be almost the width of many of the narrow roads that we know in this country. In addition to the weight restriction, surely it is necessary to prescribe the size of commodities that can be carried.
That is obviously a traffic problem and not a transport problem.
That is my difficulty. When the Traffic Bill was under consideration the Minister told me with a bland smile that it was a transport problem, and when I bring it up on the Transport Bill the Minister, with an equally bland smile, tells me that it is a traffic problem.
I gather the problem was that this particular commodity was so big that it blocked the roads. That is obviously a traffic problem.
The responsibility is either on the Minister for Industry and Commerce or on the Minister for Local Government. There is no use in either of them throwing it on to the Dáil. Restrictions should be prescribed, the Minister will agree, by either Department. Surely it would be most unfair to allow commodities to be sent that would block the roads.
If the Eiffel Tower had to be transported it would be a traffic problem.
We have no Eiffel Tower here, and from what I know of the one elsewhere it is likely to remain there. We need not bother about that here. The framework I mentioned was too wide to be transported on the railways, and it was taken over the roads. Is that to continue in future?
In so far as this Bill is concerned, the railway companies will carry on the roads anything they profess to carry, and anything that the traffic laws allow them to carry.
This framework was too wide for the railways and was carried on the roads. Surely there should be some restrictions there.
Is not timber the most difficult traffic to carry on the roads? Is not most of the timber traffic in areas where there are no railways? The roads are the only means of transport for trees and unsawn timber.
I do not think trees present any difficulty at all to the railways or to those engaged on road transport. One particular body that I notice using timber rather widely is the Electricity Supply Board. I notice that they carry poles in vehicles travelling at 25 and 30 miles an hour, some of these poles being 50 feet long. How they do not go off the roadways I do not know. As Deputy McGilligan can tell, that body is not liable to anyone, and, as far as I can see, is not subject to any laws. The E.S.B. has privileges which none of the rest of us enjoy. Deputy McGilligan gave those privileges and he seemed anxious to get them at the time. I am not so sure that he is not anxious now to withdraw some of them. I want to know from the Minister who is going to deal with the question of the restrictions on the size of goods to be carried on the roads.
I am not.
I move amendments 40 and 41:—
In sub-section (2) (a), line 41, after the word "exceed" to insert the words "by more than one hundred per centum."
In sub-section (2) (b), line 47, after the word "exceed" to insert the words "by more than one hundred per centum."
The amendments are to give an allowance, over the total unladen weight fixed, by 100 per cent. In other words, to allow the weight to be doubled. The aim is to give a little more freedom to existing carriers.
This, of course, is again clearly contrary to the purpose we have in mind. There might be a case made for the main idea in amendment 42.
That is a different thing. I will urge that later.
On the other points I would not be prepared to agree.
I move amendment 42:—
In sub-section (2) (c), lines 52, 53 and 54, to delete the words "the unladen weight or total unladen weight of which does not exceed such standard lorry weight" and in line 56 after the word "exceed" to delete the words "such standard tractor weight or with such lorry or lorries or such tractor or tractors" and substitute the words "by more than one hundred per centum the combined total unladen weight composed of such standard lorry weight and such standard tractor weight together, or with such lorry or lorries or with such tractor or tractors."
Omitting the increase by 100 per cent. contained in the amendment, there is another idea, where a person has fixed at a particular date the total unladen weight of a lorry and tractor, that he should be allowed to pool them.
I think there is a case for that.
It will be considered?
In line 5, to delete the word "area" and substitute the word "route."
My attendance at a meeting yesterday evening prevented my moving a similar amendment to another section of the Bill. I am proposing this amendment largely for the purpose of getting a definition of what "area" really means.
On a point of order, can the Deputy move the amendment now considering that the previous amendment was not moved? The insertion of the amendment at this stage would make the Bill meaningless having regard to the fact that the previous amendment was not moved.
Surely we can discuss it on the section?
The section does not raise the question of area.
I shall allow the Deputy to move the amendment for the purposes of discussion. It is in order.
The section requires that a person shall indicate the area in which he proposes to carry on business as a common carrier. "Area" seems to be such a wide term that there is need for some kind of definition as to what the word actually means. The Minister, this evening, when asked as to the significance of "area" in another connection, said it might mean the province of Munster or the province of Connaught. That seems to suggest that a carrier could make application for a licence and indicate that he proposed to carry on business in the province of Munster. Suppose 20 or 30 people did likewise, it might be found, if they did not indicate the routes, that they might all confine themselves to the north, south or west of the province. They might all concentrate on one area, thus, perhaps, leaving some areas under-served and others over-served. It might be that in the beginning they might distribute their services so that all areas in the province would be served, but it might be found after a while that the best kind of traffic was to be found in the eastern area. They would then all concentrate on the east, so that there would be inadequate services in other places. I suggest that something more than the name of a wide geographical area might be inserted so that a carrying company would be required to be more precise. They should not have the right to perambulate into any portion of the province that suited them without carrying on a regular service in any portion. I think the Minister will see that under this section, if "area" has the wide definition that I fancy it has, it is possible for a carrier to give any service he likes. It is possible for him to say: "The lorry is not going in that direction," or it is possible for him to refuse to convey goods in a particular direction if it is not worth while doing so.
The first point is that when a licensee defines the area he undertakes, he faces the liability that he will not unreasonably refuse to carry merchandise to any part of that area, If he does unreasonably refuse to do so, there is an action against him. When he selects an area, he undertakes in that area a common carrier's liability in respect of the classes of goods he professes to carry. He must carry them and he cannot unreasonably refuse to carry merchandise to any part of the area. The main consideration, however, is that it is impossible to regulate the carriage of merchandise in relation to routes in the same way as the carriage of passengers can be regulated. When somebody applies for a licence for a passenger service he is required to state exactly the routes along which he proposes to run from one end to the other, but a merchandise service cannot be operated in that way. The carrier must be allowed to deviate from routes in order to carry merchandise from one point to another. That is why we are obliged to have areas instead of routes in relation to merchandise services. The position is that when a carrier applies for a licence he will be asked in what area he is willing to take a common carrier's responsibility. The wider the area the greater the liability he is undertaking. Consequently the greater the chance, if his equipment is inadequate, of his being involved in a breach of the obligation imposed on him by Section 12. The tendency therefore will be on the part of the carrier to restrict his area to the size in which he can undertake to act as common carrier, that is to carry the goods he professes to carry to any part on demand if it does not impose unreasonable conditions on him,
I agree that there would be considerable difficulty in imposing a route obligation on a carrier of merchandise as distinct from a carrier of passengers but I think it would be desirable if at all possible to impose that obligation. However, it does not seem possible. I do not think the fact that one can take an action against a carrier, if he fails unreasonably to carry goods within the area, is any kind of remedy if one is dealing with a small company or if one is a humble citizen. It is no satisfaction to say that one has got certain rights against him because these rights may be so troublesome to assert that a person simply is content to put up with an inadequate service.
I want to give the Deputy an idea of the safeguards. Say there are two flour merchants in a town, the town of Kanturk for instance, and that the person who is carrying out a road merchandise service in that area delivered flour to one merchant and refused to deliver it to the other. Then the other merchant can take an action against the carrier to recover damages for having refused to deliver particular consignments either for him or to him. The carrier himself puts himself in the position that he has departed from the obligation imposed on him by the Act. There is a very definite protection for the public by imposing that obligation on anyone who has a licence to carry merchandise by road.
Suppose instead of a flour merchant, John Murphy, a humble citizen with very little means, wants to send a commodity from Kanturk to Castletownbere over a sparsely populated area, is John Murphy in the same position as the flour merchant to ensure that his rights are respected?
The carrier is faced with the destruction of his whole business if he does not carry out his obligations.
The only question is: is John Murphy in a position to get his remedy against the carrier? I want to establish that so far as possible, where the carrier is in a position to do so, that he will indicate the routes he intends to serve in an area rather than that he should be given a permit to operate over the whole Province of Munster, accepting goods for a portion of the province and refusing them for another, and generally carrying on such an unsatisfactory service that, in fact, although he is licensed for the whole province, he is operating only over a portion of it and neglecting the other portions.
If he refuses to comply with the provisions of the Act, his licence may be withdrawn.
The difficulties as regards this point are very considerable. The Minister has argued that it comes in as breach of condition of the licence. Suppose he says it is not in breach of it? Suppose that a man at an out of the way point in a big area covered by an existing carrier's licence wants, on one or two occasions, to send goods to an equally inaccessible point further on. The road carrier may say that it is unreasonable to require him to make this call for one or two small consignments.
Does the Minister say quite openly that if an existing carrier gets a licence in an existing area he is bound to go to every part of that area on request?
Including a farmer's house?
If that is so, we have a new situation.
That would cover the going to a bog for a load of turf.
There was another point to which I thought Deputy Norton might have been directing attention. I recognise the tremendous difficulties in all this. Whereas, with regard to passengers, you can say that a bus must ply between certain points, you cannot say that with regard to a goods lorry, because the particular virtue of a goods lorry is its mobility— that it can go anywhere. Goods cannot walk part of the distance, as passengers can to meet a bus at a certain point. I should like to have this matter inquired into; it is not by any means completely clear but I think it is fairly clear that the obligations of common carriers are, in the Common Carriers Acts, attached to routes and not to areas. If you bring in this clause it will simply mean that in relation to an area a man shall be a common carrier. I think you will have to embody the whole provisions of the Common Carriers Act and specify the routes eventually. A general declaration may mean every possible road connection as between any one point and another. It seems to me that this is putting a very big obligation on the carrier.
A query has been raised as to whether or not the common carrier's liability attaches to routes and I am having that examined. I should not like to have to express an opinion on that point, because some amendment of the section may be necessary if this very involved legal point is found to be as the Deputy states. It has not been found to be as he states yet, but the point will be looked into.
The Minister is to look into the matter?
I am to look into the point as to whether a common carrier's liability does not attach to routes.
A number of people are concerned about the effects of this section. People who live off the main road fear that they will not be in a position to command the service of a lorry to bring their live stock or other produce to market. I take it that the section is being passed on the assumption that they will be in such a position —that anybody getting a licence will be compelled, on order from the farmer, to go to the farmer's house, irrespective of what sort of roadway or laneway leads to it.
No. The carrier cannot unreasonably refuse to carry, but he might contend that a particular order given to him could be reasonably declined because of the nature of the laneway, or for some other reason.
Or by reason of the infrequency of the consignments referred to.
I should not say so.
The Minister has studiously avoided up to the present the task of defining clearly to the House what a common carrier is. I do not think that at this moment the House is aware of the liability which the description of the licensee as a common carrier by statute involves. So far as I am aware—I speak subject to correction—the liability of a common carrier is to accept such merchandise as he holds himself out to carry and, secondly, safely to deliver that merchandise except prevented from doing so by acts of the King's enemies, by an act of God, or by an inherent defect in the goods. While the railway companies are common carriers at rates prescribed by the Railway Tribunal, with all the liabilities I have mentioned, by accepting a lower rate they can contract out and carry at owner's risk. Here you have a statute which says "Every licensee under a merchandise licence shall in relation to all the merchandise specified in such licence and in the area stated in such licence be a common carrier." To my mind, that absolutely precludes the possibility of these licensees contracting out. They cannot contract out. In any event, there are no rates provided to enable them to contract out by the acceptance of a lower rate. You have on every licensed carrier the obligation safely to deliver these goods unless he can prove there was an outbreak of some sort, that the King's enemies, foreign or domestic, waylaid him, or that there was an inherent defect in the goods. Whether we could find any King's enemies in this country is open to question. Is it the intention of the Government to place that very exhaustive liability on these people? I am entitled to assume that it is, from the form of the Bill. I looked for information to the Attorney-General, but he is not here, nor is Deputy Costello on the benches opposite. I would, however, remind the Minister that the whole trend of the law is against the definition of "common carrier" as laid down in the Blackburn decision. It is generally held that the obligations that that decision has laid upon common carriers are altogether too unreasonable. I think the Minister will find that it is altogether an unreasonable standard to prescribe for road transport. I ask the Minister to bear in mind that the railway company is going to acquire all this road transport in the end. They will not be able to do that judging by what the Minister said to-day. Their road licence operations are not going to come under the Railway Tribunal at all. They are only going to be common carriers for what they undertake to carry under this statute. They will have that liability laid upon them on the roads, although it will not lie upon them on the rails. I suggest to the Minister that he ought to consider the question of limiting the section. I was going to put down an amendment, but I thought it was better to leave it to the Minister, who has the assistance of experts. I was going to suggest that they should be common carriers, but not so as to impose the liability of insurer upon them. I think the statutory term for that liability is "insurer." An amendment along those lines would be desirable.
From time to time, it occurred to me that it would be advisable to take the term "common carrier" out of the Bill and to put in in specific terms the obligations we are imposing on licensees. Having heard the Deputy, I think I shall proceed with that intention, firstly, because of the trouble it has given the Deputy and, secondly, because, if we state clearly what we intend, the Deputy will get a definition of the conditions, regulations and restrictions to be imposed upon licensees. I shall endeavour to have an amendment prepared for the Report Stage.
I take it that the Minister is now blithely confessing that he did not know what a common carrier is.
I am convinced of the advisability of putting in a definition which will enable other people to know what a common carrier is.
Does Section 12 extend to a common carrier?
I think we had better wait until Report Stage and I will delete the term altogether.
Does the word "areas" extend to the points between which a common carrier carries? For instance, is there imposed on him by the word "area" an obligation to go up a laneway half a mile long and having three or four tons in his lorry and leave a half ton or a quarter ton at the top of the laneway? I submit that there is no such imposition on him. Is he, then, to dump the goods at the foot of the lane in the wet and will the farmer have to take them to his house by horse and cart?
I would suggest to the Minister to think very carefully before he attempts to set out the obligations in this matter. This term may have become too narrow, but there is a considerable amount of case law in the whole thing and the obligations are understood, I think, by those who are engaged in the business of carrying.
There is a certain doubt as to the applicability of the term to road merchandise transportation.
I want to point out this and I thought that Deputy Dillon was coming to the point. I have asked, two or three times, what the reason is for having these maximum charges and the classification of merchandise clauses in. I did not get an answer and I thought it was intended to hide the real answer. I thought it was because the Minister had been apprised of what is really in process of being established as the law now— it has not really emerged yet, but it is in process of coming out—that, if you have a maximum charge established and you charge anything less than that, you can contract out of all liability and, I gather, even to the point of contracting against liability for the misconduct of your servant. The maximum charge under this Bill is imposed only on the railway company in relation to their road vehicles and, therefore, they would be the only people who could contract out. I thought that was the intention, that this, in other words, was another hardship on the ordinary owner who was going to have all the disadvantages, because there was no statutory charge for him and, therefore, he cannot contract out, and that he was going to be subject to all the disabilities of the old rigid rule with regard to the carrier, whereas the railway company had a very easy way out. They get a maximum charge established, which, of course, they could not possibly think of charging at the moment, and, therefore, by offering to carry at less than that, they could easily, by reference to some condition contained somewhere, get out of that obligation. I think that if the Minister intends to meet it, instead of proceeding to set out any other thing which would be subject to the new set of cases built on it and, therefore, subject, possibly, to a changed interpretation every half year, he should rather think of Deputy Dillon's suggestion of keeping the term "common carrier," but limited in a particular way. The common carrier phrase is good as an envelope.
At any rate, we will have it all again on Report Stage.
I raised a point yesterday and I should like an answer to it. The section is the section which, I suppose, is intended to take the place of all the old regulations governing port preferences. Does it meet the actual situation in relation to the ports of Cork or Waterford? I am not sure that it can be very clearly stated where the preference lies but I think that, at the moment, some of these ports are actually in a preferred position——
Quite; but only in relation to rail-borne traffic and not in relation to road-borne traffic.
Then I think if we are going to think of railroad traffic as being somewhat divided out in future as between road and rail wagons, the fears of some of these ports that, if road traffic grows, they are going to be deprived of the preferential position they now have in relation to traffic which ordinarily was carried by rail, are going to be justified.
The situation might arise at some stage when they would have to be considered but it has not arisen yet. These ports enjoy certain preferential treatment in respect of through traffic carried by rail at the present time. That preferential treatment is not being taken from them under this Bill. It is being preserved for them. There is no preferential treatment in respect of road-borne traffic and I do not contemplate that a situation will arise for a considerable time in which they will find that the volume of traffic transferred from rail to road is going to be so considerable as to wipe out the preference. It might arise some time but, when it does, we will have an entirely new transport problem to deal with.
I move amendment 45 and 46.
45. Before Section 14, to insert a new section as follows:—
"(1) The maximum hours of duty worked by persons employed by the holder of any merchandise licence shall not be in excess of forty-four in any one week.
(2) Any holder of a merchandise licence who causes or permits any person employed by him or subject to his orders in the operation of his business of merchandise road transport to work in excess of the time specified in the next preceding sub-section shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding five pounds."
46. Before Section 14 to insert a new section as follows:—
"(1) The wages paid by the holder of any merchandise licence to persons employed by him in the operation of his business of merchandise road transport and the conditions of their employment shall not be less favourable to them than the wages and conditions generally recognised by trade unions and employers as the wages and conditions applicable to employees in the business of merchandise road transport.
(2) Any trade union representative of persons engaged in merchandise road transport may make representations to the Minister to the effect that the wages paid to, or the conditions of employment of, any persons employed by the holder of any merchandise licence are not in accordance with the requirements of the preceding sub-section, and the Minister shall, after a review of the facts, take such action thereon as he may deem appropriate, including the revocation of such merchandise licence."
These amendments seek to establish a maximum working week of 44 hours for persons employed by the holder of a merchandise licence. I think it will be agreed by everybody that the initiation and development of road transport has, in a very large measure, ousted the older method of horse transport and we have got a position, therefore, in which this new mechanisation of transport is causing unemployment amongst people who formerly followed the old method of transport. If there is any justification, any social justification, whatever for the mechanisation of road transport or any other industry, the only justification, surely, is that the community as a whole are given the benefits of mechanisation. In this case, it is sought to give a section of the community, the workers engaged in the industry, some of the benefits of mechanisation by fixing a maximum working week of 44 hours. It is not infrequently urged—and I think Deputy Good is the pioneer of this particular form of argument in this House—that you must work long hours here because somebody else in some other part of the world also works long hours. I suggest to Deputy Good that that argument of his, which I am rather suspicious he will use if I do not point out the weakness of it beforehand, does not apply in this case. Irish road transport, even of a mechanised character, is not in competition with British or German or Japanese transport and, consequently, it cannot be urged that it is necessary for the Irish worker employed by a merchandise licence holder to work more than 44 hours in order to enable him to compete with a rival in some other part of the world. Road transport is an internal industry. Irish road transport will not be in competition with external industry and, consequently, that point so often urged by Deputy Good is completely invalid on an occasion like this.
Is it not in competition with the railways?
It is, to some extent, and if the Deputy is going to develop that point, I would point out the obvious difference between the two classes of employment. The fact that the railway companies employ their staff for 48 hours per week does not mean that that gives any more religious or social righteousness to 48 hours as a working week. There is a difference, of course, between the employee of the merchandise licence holder, driving a big heavy lorry which is controlled by hand and working at high pressure for 48 hours as compared with the railway employee who might, for instance, be working at a station in Connemara. There is an obvious difference there which everybody realises.
Except the Minister.
And the Railwaymen's Union.
There is an obvious difference in this case and the difference, I suggest, is well in favour of the employee of the merchandise holder. The employee under this section, if it is carried, will be working on a 44-hour week basis. That means an eight hours net day with a weekly half-holiday, and I suggest to Deputy Good that that is not a leisurely working week. There is another consideration, that, in many cases of outside industry, ordinary private industry, the employees work not more than 44 hours per week. The Dublin Corporation works its employees for not more than 44 hours per week. The Electricity Supply Board works its employees for not more than 44 hours per week and some of Deputy Good's own employees work for not more than 44 hours per week.
I suggest to Deputy Good and to the House that if, in undertakings of the kind I have quoted, craftsmen of the type I have referred to work not more than 44 hours a week on a class of work which does not tend seriously to imperil the lives of people, then there is a very strong reason why a person in charge of a heavy motor lorry should not be asked to work more than a 44 hours week. These people are engaged in road transport. Their physical condition and their skill determine in a large measure the safety of many people using the roads. I maintain that it is not good for the physical or the moral well-being of an employee if he is worked long hours. It is highly dangerous to the users of roads if the drivers of these vehicles are asked to work beyond their physical powers of endurance. I think a 44 hours week is very desirable both in the interests of the employees and from the point of view of public safety. The employees should not be driving motor lorries when they ought to be resting.
I would like to speak in opposition to this amendment. To get the thing in proper perspective, it should be remembered that the amendment seeks to insert a new section in front of Section 14. Section 14 gives the Minister power, when granting a licence, to prescribe conditions. He has to have regard to the wages and conditions of employment of the employees engaged in the operation of these vehicles. The Minister is to have the power to impose reasonable conditions, and he is to limit the hours of employment. The Deputy suggests that outside of all that there is to be a maximum of 44 hours in any one week, with no distinction or definition as to periods of rest—no division of the 44 hours into so many hours per day. He does not specify a maximum of so many hours a day with a definite rest period.
What about the Road Traffic Act?
If the Deputy wants to have the impact on the lorry owner of this Act, this new clause and Section 167 of the Road Traffic Act, then there is a peculiar situation. Under this proposal the Minister may impose reasonable conditions. The Deputy says that the Minister shall not, however, consider anything reasonable if it is beyond 44 hours; in fact, he cannot allow anything beyond 44 hours. The section in the Road Traffic Act says that the Minister cannot allow any continuous period of driving exceeding 5½ hours or any series of continuous periods which would extend beyond 11 hours in the 24. Add to that the Minister's power to make an order varying that period up or down and where are we?
We did not vote for that. Do not forget your own vote on it.
I even expressed myself in relation to the 44 hour week when that matter was under consideration. Deputy Norton said two things, with one of which I would like vehemently to disagree. I would like to agree with the other to some degree. I do not know how far I should express my agreement, whether I should do so enthusiastically or tepidly. Deputy Norton said that road transport is an internal industry. Surely the transport of the country affects everything that is exported from the country, and to that extent road transport, as a contributing item, cannot be regarded as purely internal. It is taking a very limited view of transport to say that it is an internal matter. I do agree with the Deputy to the extent that if this age is going to become progressively mechanised and if mechanisation is going to mean the production of more wealth at the expense of less human toil, then the result should be shown in more leisure for the worker.
I disagree with the view that in a country like this we should try to stop the progress of mechanisation. I think the better idea by far is to agree to and further by every means an increase in mechanisation and the use of the machine instead of using man's labour and to allow that to be worked out in better terms of human leisure for the man whose labour is replaced by the machine. I am not so sure that in the matter of transport this country is in the position where we can say that mechanisation has definitely brought about any very big increase, any apparent increase, in wealth. I think at the moment people are getting goods transported at very cheap rates and that is because they are being transported uneconomically. When the situation rights itself, I think we will find that the road vehicle has no great advantage so far as cheapness of transport is concerned. I think road transport is of considerable advantage from another angle. It is an advantage from the point of view of convenience—door to door carriers. There is, however, a certain handling of traffic which, if it does include labour, involves the introduction of a rather useless type. I do not use the word "useless" in a degrading sense. I mean by it a use that we would be better without. It involves really an interference in the carriage of traffic more than anything else.
I would like to see a limitation put on the hours of work, a better limitation than is contained in Section 167 of the Road Traffic Act. I am forced to recognise this since the last occasion on which Section 167 was discussed here. We may not have even the data upon which to form a very clear view as to what the maximum period ought to be, but I see that in England at this moment, where they have a section corresponding to our Section 167, there is an application at hearing for the increase of the period of continuous driving. It seems to me that in England, where they have a larger experience of the conveyance of goods by road than we have, they are still at the point where they cannot set an overriding maximum with regard to the hours of continuous work.
Did the Deputy read the evidence against?
There was not a whole lot of evidence either way. The fact is, however, that there they have not reached the point where they can impose an overriding maximum. I have no doubt there was evidence tendered against the application and there are people who would like to see the application turned down, but the fact is that that application has been pushed and it shows that they have not been able to determine the overriding maximum in England.
I am not sure what is the best thing to do with this. I do not think we can say that a 44-hour week is what we should establish as a maximum. We are not at that point. If we did so I would look upon it as a rather subtle railway move, because it would mean that road transport would not be used to the same extent as heretofore. The road transporters would have to submit to this maximum week, and the railway people would not; they would have some other conditions. I think this will operate harshly on the road users if it is adopted. If you are to impose definite conditions in regard to road transport such, for instance, as a maximum 44-hour week, it will have a certain reaction on the employees in the road transport service; it will mean that many of them will be put out of work. Merely to introduce a propagandist phrase largely urged against by Deputy Good by way of innuendo does not carry the argument very much further. I do not want to tie myself at this stage to a 44-hour week. There might be some section like Section 167, starting off at a lower level than the possibility of there being an 11-hour day, but still keeping within the regulation which would permit an excessive period to be modified.
Did you not vote for an eight-hour day?
I did, but is this considered an eight-hour day-44 hours? I told the Deputy that if it were increased to 56 hours I would have pleasure in supporting the amendment. I do not want to tie myself to a 44-hour week at this moment. I do not think it is right to impose that on them.
The Deputy still believes in a 48-hour week?
I do not think I ever expressed myself as believing in a 48-hour week.
Did not the Deputy vote for it on the Committee Stage of this Bill?
I voted for it against another amendment.
The Deputy was driven to vote for it by his own tactics.
My vote is there against me and Deputy Davin can use it as much as he likes. My vote can be alluded to but I do not think it is in the interests of road transport to put that limitation as to the number of hours in the week. I do not think it is right even to limit it to 48 hours, but I would accept 48 as against 77 hours, if 77 were declared to be rigid. How are we dealing with this section? Does the Deputy want this read to the exclusion of the other section? Is the Deputy saying give us a 44-hour week and we do not care whether you make it two periods of 22 consecutive hours"? I do not think he has tied these amendments together and I am asking for information as to what he wants. I am against a 44-hour week.
What does the Deputy want?
A 56-hour week.
Is the Deputy going away from what he voted for last week?
Even if I am proved by the Deputy to be inconsistent, I will vote against a 48-hour week, and certainly against a 44-hour week. I suggest the Deputy should put down some other amendment which would be more in relation to Section 167 of the Road Traffic Bill, lowering the period that is there as a maximum. He still has in that section the power to limit the periods of continuous driving.
By Departmental legislation.
Yes, by Departmental legislation. This is urged as a sort of railway move. It is to meet that angle, but it is a narrow way of taking it, because it is going to impose hardships on people now employed in road transport. This is the first time that I have found myself able to agree on a philosophy of labour with Deputy Norton. That philosophy is this: That if this mechanisation is going to improve the conditions of labour it should be passed on. I thoroughly agree with that view, but I do not go too far.
I would like to point out to Deputy Norton that in proposing this amendment there are, I think, a couple of points on which he has rather failed to touch. Here in the City of Dublin much shorter hours are worked than in other parts of the country. I do not see how it would be possible to standardise the very short working week in Dublin with parts of the country where they work very much longer hours. There is another, and to my mind, a still greater defect in his amendment. He has allowed nothing for co-ordination. He has described the driver of a heavy lorry working 44 hours per week and I do not suppose he has forgotten that his amendment covers all employees. I do not suppose it would be an exaggeration to say that in the delivery of goods by a heavy motor lorry, during the week, at least 25 per cent. of the time is occupied in loading and unloading. That would leave about 33 hours in the week for the driver at the wheel. When you come back to the garage a still greater anomaly exists. You have the case of a mechanic, or the person who is engaged in washing, or the person who is engaged in loading a vehicle. There could be no such thing as asking the driver on account, say, of his trucks being out of order, to work an hour or two overtime, or of asking a mechanic, whichever of them does it, to repair the machine so that it may be in order to go out next day at the appointed hour that has been set out.
I do not suppose that under this Bill when it has been in force for some time you will find that there would be any surplus of transport in the carrier's business. He will have to keep as many of his vehicles as possible going on the road to get the greatest possible efficiency out of them. Is it to be contended that when a motor car that has been out for 7½ or 8 hours a day, comes into the garage there cannot be somebody told off to spend an hour in adjusting the truck or in loading it to have it ready for the next day. I do not see how Deputy Norton could contend that a person who was engaged in loading motor vehicles in a garage or some other place like that, is a menace to the community, if asked to work an hour or two overtime, one day or possibly two days in the week. There is nobody better aware than Deputy Norton that in most of the transport companies it is either a feast or a famine. At times they have a difficulty in carrying out their orders and at other times, there is leisure. What I really want to point out in his amendment is that there is really no flexibility to provide for keeping the car loaded and in efficient condition.
I want at this stage to say that I think a very brief examination of this amendment will convince the Dáil that it could not possibly be passed in the form in which it is now on the Order Paper. I am in full sympathy with the idea of imposing upon owners of merchandise road services, the obligation of giving satisfactory conditions of work and satisfactory wages to their employees. I think most Deputies will agree that when a person gets a licence of that kind that obligation should be imposed upon him. That obligation was imposed upon those who got licences under the Road Transport Act, 1932. It was imposed by a section similar in effect to Section 14 in this Bill, a section which has worked, or is being worked, in a manner to the satisfaction of all concerned.
My information is to that effect.
Read the Minister's own trade journal for this month.
I am not saying that people who got licences under that Act were not paying rates of wages that were too low, or imposing conditions of employment which were unsatisfactory. I am saying that the powers given to the Minister by that Act are being used satisfactorily for the purpose of remedying that position and being used in a manner which has earned the approbation of those whose main concern is to see that conditions and wages are what they should be.
On the general question raised by Deputy McGilligan, there are some points I should like to deal with before coming to the particular amendment on the Order Paper. Undoubtedly an increase in mechanisation should be accompanied by increased leisure for the worker, and is being accompanied by increased leisure for the worker, but at the present time it is unpaid leisure. This is a point I want Deputy Davin to bear in mind, that we can give effect to that policy in relation to road transport in the same way, that is, we can take full advantage of mechanisation, by reducing the employment given. That will mean increased leisure, but unpaid leisure. My view, which I have expressed strongly elsewhere, is that we should at least take steps to ensure that technological development is not going to outrun social development. If we do not do that, if we allow mechanisation to go ahead unchecked while our social services are lagging far behind, we are going to have very heavy social problems to deal with. I expressed the view that nine-tenths of the social problems that the world is facing to-day arise from the fact that technological development has been much more rapid than the development of social organisation. The International Labour Office summoned a special Convention at the beginning of this year to consider a proposal for the imposition of a 40-hour week in all industry. That is a proposal well worthy of consideration, although it is obvious that it is a type of proposal that could be only put into operation by international action. As the world is organised to-day one nation on its own can do very little to give effect to a proposal of that kind; nor can one trade or industry on its own do much to give effect to a proposal of that kind. If we are going to start reducing hours of work for the purpose of taking advantage of mechanisation and giving increased leisure to workers, we have to do it generally, not in relation to one trade only. If we have to start somewhere, I say the transport trade is the one we shall probably have to leave to the last, because of the peculiar nature of it.
What are the peculiarities?
I am going to deal with the amendment now. Does Deputy Davin think that under no circumstances overtime should be worked on the railways?
I have not said so.
Overtime is worked at present although there is a 44-hour week.
Not in Inchicore.
Overtime is worked by railway workers. They have to work overtime because railway organisation would be impossible if workers were not permitted to work overtime when required. If this amendment is carried, however, they cannot do it. If this amendment is carried, no railway worker, and no road transport worker, will be able to work in excess of 44 hours. The amendment asks that the maximum hours of duty worked by persons employed by the holder of any merchandise licence shall not be in excess of 44 in any one week. A merchandise licence is going to be held by each railway company and by persons who are also engaged in other forms of trade and industry. The amendment asks, in respect of all persons employed by the holder of a merchandise licence in any occupation, in any trade, that they are not to be allowed to work in excess of 44 hours per week. Does Deputy Davin think that efficient railway organisation would be possible on that basis? If he does not, why does he think efficient road transport organisation is possible on that basis? Are there to be no conditions whatever under which an employee of a road transport organisation is to be allowed to work overtime? Must he stop work when he has completed 44 hours, no matter what rush of business, no matter what may be the perishable nature of the produce carried, no matter what the season of the year? I think when you examine the matter it becomes obviously impossible to impose a rigid condition of that type.
I am in favour of limiting the hours of work reasonably. I think, on an average, over the 52 weeks of the year, that 44 hours per week is not unduly low. There are, however, times of the year when persons engaged on road transport must work more than that. There must be some elasticity. There must be some means of providing that where public services are urgently demanded longer hours of duty can be permitted. That is why the Bill has been drafted as it is. I do not know whether everybody will say that on the average 44 hours per week is unreasonable in relation to the road transport business. The trade unions are satisfied to impose 48 hours per week in respect of the omnibus business.
Yes. What I am saying is that they have entered into agreements, with which they have expressed themselves satisfied, with the operators of omnibuses.
I wonder if the Minister, who frequently talks about another Treaty being made under duress, appreciates that that kind of treaty is made under duress?
I am not quite sure on what side the duress was.
The same thing applies to 1921.
If we are going to get back to 1921, we are wandering very far from our base.
Duress has a bad reputation with treaties.
There is duress in every treaty.
The fact is that it is obviously more satisfactory to take power, as we propose to take power, to impose satisfactory conditions than to impose a rigid condition of this kind incapable of modification in any circumstance. If the amendment were passed it would be broken from time to time. It would have to be broken. The public service would require that it must be broken and then you would have the whole section rendered inoperative by frequent abuse. I put it to the Deputy that the powers conferred by the Road Transport Act of 1932 have been used and are being used to improve the conditions of employment in omnibus services.
When pressure was brought to bear on the Minister to deal with them.
When objection was taken to the renewal of any licence on the ground that the first condition of the licence, that reasonable wages and reasonable conditions of employment should be observed, was being broken. This Bill, when passed, will be operated in precisely the same manner. I am certain that the unions responsible for safeguarding the interest of the transport workers will be in continuous touch with my Department when they have an objection to make against any licensee upon the ground of the wages paid by him or the hours which his employees have to work, and that in conjunction with them it will be possible to secure a general improvement, where improvement is required. I am not denying that improvement is required. The main argument in favour of control of this kind is that certain persons operating road transport services are paying such very low wages and working their employees such long hours that they are able to quote rates for the transportation of merchandise with which the railway companies and properly-run transport services could not possibly compete.
That is the position.
It is undoubtedly necessary that, in respect of a number of services for which licences will be issued, there should be a considerable improvement, if the aim behind the Bill is to be achieved. I repeat that the most effective machinery for achieving what the Deputies desire to achieve is that proposed in the Bill, and not that proposed in the amendment. The amendment would operate harshly; it would operate to make it impossible for various road transport businesses to be carried on, and, as worded, would operate to make it much more difficult for the railways to be carried on. I want Deputies to consider also its effect upon employment. If we are to have a new condition imposed upon road transport operators, involving increased working costs, then undoubtedly there is going to be a diminution in the number of those services, and people are going to be unemployed in consequence. We are going to get a diminution in a number of those services in any case, and people are going to be unemployed in consequence of this diminution, but we hope that they will—in some part at any rate —be compensated for the loss of their employment, and, as far as the rest of them are concerned, gradually transferred out of this particular branch of trade where they are not required——
Where there is no work for them.
——into some other. There will not be any sudden expulsion. There are too many people trying to get employment out of transport at the present time. I think that is obvious, and that the reorganisation of transport must mean a reduction in the number of people trying to get a livelihood out of it.
What section of the industry does that apply to?
All sections. I am grouping all sections in one—road, rail, canal, and everything else. I submit to the Dáil that it is desirable that machinery should exist to ensure that satisfactory working conditions and satisfactory rates of wages will operate in licensed road services. I submit that the machinery contemplated in the Bill is the most satisfactory to that end, and that the machinery contemplated in the amendment instead of achieving that end might well work in the opposite direction, and would certainly impose difficulties in the way of efficient transport organisation which would in many cases make it impossible for services to be carried on. I refer particularly to services likely to be engaged in the carriage of seasonal traffic, where at particular times of the year overtime would certainly have to be worked if the traffic was to be carried at all. We might contemplate an average number of working hours per week, but we cannot say that in every week, no matter what the circumstances or conditions, only a certain number of hours must be worked. I can assure the Deputy that in the carrying out of the powers proposed to be conferred upon the Minister under this Bill I will work, as I did in relation to the Road Transport Bill of 1922, in close co-operation with the transport unions concerned, and there is more than one union concerned, as Deputies know.
On the question of the number of hours the Minister has been rather vague. He has been repeating himself without coming to the point. Can he indicate to the House what, in his opinion, should be the number of hours worked and paid for at the standard rate of wages, ignoring the question of overtime payments?
The only information I have on that point is that at the present time the standard number of hours per week insisted on by the trade unions in their agreement with omnibus operators is 48.
Would you be able to tell this House at some early date the number of passenger carrying services which are working in accordance with that figure, and the number which are not?
Speaking entirely from recollection, there is only one service in respect of which there is an objection pending. That is in the City of Dublin. It is under examination at the present time.
But they have a licence? They are operating still?
There is one licensed service to which an objection has been made on the ground that that condition of the licence is not being observed, and where a satisfactory arrangement has not been concluded. As far as that service is concerned, I may say that a satisfactory arrangement will be concluded in the very near future.
I am supporting Deputy Norton's amendment, but I want to say that the fears expressed by Deputy Dockrell, and to some extent apparently shared by the Minister, might very easily be removed. Most trade unions, as far as I know, provide for the exigencies of their particular trade.
And in nearly all of these unions, even in the railwaymen's union, they provide for the working of overtime.
They will not be able to do it in the future if the amendment is carried.
I would like to develop my argument. I feel that there are no grounds for the fears of Deputy Dockrell, which, as I have suggested, are apparently shared by the Minister. I have just said that the trade unions make arrangements—by rules, negotiation and so on—for the working of overtime, and, as I said, even the railwaymen's union arranges for the working of overtime. The Minister apparently agrees to the principle of the amendment, though not to the number of hours suggested in it.
Quite the reverse. I want to say that I am much more in sympathy with the number of hours suggested than with the principle of the amendment.
Leave the word "sympathy" out of it. What do you support?
I want to be helpful if I can. The amendment suggests "the maximum hours of duty worked by persons employed." How would the Minister receive this amendment, slightly altered by the insertion of a few words such as "the maximum hours of duty, exclusive of necessary overtime, worked by persons"? That, I think, would get rid of the fear, which Deputy Dockrell has and the Minister appears to have, that the driver on arriving back at his home station would be precluded from spending an extra hour or two looking after his lorry. If the Minister and Deputy Norton would be prepared to accept the suggestion I make now to insert the words "exclusive of necessary overtime" it would very largely get rid of the main objections, as far as I can gather, raised by the Minister and also by Deputy Dockrell. I would like to hear what Deputy Norton has to say in that regard.
I think the House will agree that when we are dealing with the question of working hours it is essential that we should have uniformity. I do not think there is any doubt on that point. We were discussing in this House within the last week a Bill—closely allied to the Transport Bill—known as the Traffic Bill. It is hardly necessary to remind the Labour Deputies of Clause 167 in the Traffic Bill. Clause 167 provides that:—
(1) Each of the following periods or series of periods of driving shall be deemed to be an excessive period for the purposes of this section, that is to say:—
(a) any continuous period of driving exceeding five and one-half hours;
(b) any series of continuous periods of driving amounting in the aggregate to more than 11 hours in any period of 24 hours beginning two hours after midnight;
(c) any period or series of periods of driving so arranged that the driver has not at least ten consecutive hours for rest in every period of 24 hours beginning at the commencement of any period of driving.
That is a provision in the Road Traffic Bill. I may say that in most transport companies the driver is called upon to discharge two services: bus and lorry driving. On the day that he is bus driving, is he to be subject to different hours and different conditions to the day on which he is lorry driving? On the face of it the thing is absurd. I hope there is sanity enough left in this House to recognise that uniformity is essential in industry. In connection with the regulations that apply to buses, may I say at this stage that even these are not entirely acceptable to the trades concerned. I have been asked to bring before the House the complaint that they impose hardships on employees. Men have pointed out to me that when they leave for certain areas in the morning, if they are compelled to comply with the regulations, it means they cannot get back to their homes that night. They ask that the regulations might be relaxed so that they could get home. I ask the representatives of labour to bear these facts in mind. They often legislate here without regard for the comfort or convenience of those for whom they legislate. I suggest that, in many cases, it would be advisable for those representing labour to discuss with the departments of labour concerned the problems they have under consideration. In that connection I would urge on the labour representatives to get into touch with the individuals who will be concerned with these regulations. I suggest to them, if they do that, they will find that the number of supporters of the views I am stating is not by any means small.
When we get talking in this country of wages and hours I am afraid we often forget the circumstances of the country. It is not by any means a rich country. On all sides one hears it called a poor country, but that is by the way. Agriculture is our basic industry. Seventy-five per cent. of what is carried on our railways and roads is agricultural produce. Taking the workers of the country as a whole 75 per cent. of them derive their livelihood from agriculture. What are the circumstances surrounding that industry at the moment, particularly our surplus agricultural produce which has to be transported and sold in the most competitive market in the world? It has to compete in that market against agricultural produce from all over the world. If we are to hold our own there, then our costs of agricultural production—transport is an important factor—cannot be higher than those of our competitors. We seldom hear these circumstances mentioned when we discuss here hours of work and the wages of labour which constitute about 75 per cent. of the cost of transport.
Can agriculture at the moment afford what may be called high prices for transport? Those who are urging higher prices and shorter hours of labour and so on here ought to be able to put before us what are the hours worked and the wages paid to those engaged in transport services in the countries in competition with us in the British market. That is an important factor. All of us would like to see labour well paid and enjoying shorter hours, provided the country could afford it. I would like to hear from those engaged in our basic industry whether it can afford to carry additional burdens in the way of higher costs of transport. If I can get an assurance on that point I am quite willing to support a system of shorter hours and higher wages provided the industry can afford it, but I must be satisfied on that before I agree to such a proposition.
The Minister rightly stated in his speech that there were too many people engaged in the transport industry. He has, of course, made that quite clear in the Bill before us by making provision in one section for the payment of compensation to those who, he believes, will become redundant as a result of the operation of this measure. His predecessor, Deputy McGilligan, also rightly said that there were many people engaged in the road service plying for profit-making purposes and carrying on on uneconomic rates. That undoubtedly has been the whole cause of the trouble which has led up to the necessity for the introduction of this measure.
The Minister proposes to licence some of those already engaged in the business, to licence all existing carriers, to control some of those who will, under the terms of this Bill, carry on industry in the future, and to leave others in certain exempted areas without any form of control of any kind. If the Legislature, by a measure of this kind, seeks to impose certain conditions upon those who will in the future be engaged in this industry, and as the result of the operation of a measure of this kind throw people out of employment, I think that steps should also be taken to see that those who will get licences and who will carry on the industry in the future will be subject also to some form of control in so far as concerns the controlling of the conditions of service of the people employed in the industry. If the people who came into the road transport service during the past five years were subject to the same conditions and were obliged by law, as the railway companies are obliged, to carry on their business on business-like lines and subject to parliamentary restrictions, there would not be the number of people in the carrying business operating on the roads of this country to-day that we have to face and recognise at the present time. People have been carrying on in that industry for years past without any regard whatever to business-like methods. They can refuse to take traffic, or they can take what traffic they like, and they can carry at whatever rates it pleases them to carry.
Deputy McGilligan admitted that they have been carrying on at uneconomic rates. If they were obliged to employ labour under proper conditions and to pay rates of wages something similar to what the railways were obliged to pay, you would not have these people quoting the uneconomic rates to which Deputy McGilligan referred and which have led to the semi-bankrupt conditions of the railway industry. I was surprised to hear the Minister suggest that the road transport section of the industry should be the last industry which should be obliged to standardise the conditions of the people engaged in it. That is what he suggested.
Well, that is what I understood, and perhaps in a later speech he will explain what he did mean actually. The Minister is well aware that in legislation passed by this House during the lifetime of the last Dáil, sections were inserted in the Housing Act making the provision for the payment of trades union rates of wages and trades union working hours for the skilled and unskilled workers in the building industry. When the Minister voted for and accepted the amendment moved by Deputy Norton to the Housing Act he knew that the workers in the building industry were well organised and that it was in the power of the workers and those who represented them through their unions to see that the conditions then existing were maintained. He is also aware that a similar amendment was inserted in another Act which made similar provision. In that also the Minister knew that the workers then engaged were well organised and that the trade unions who had a right to speak for these workers were in a position to maintain the rates of wages and working hours then operating. He knows that the workers in this case employed by the traffic companies, operating for years past without any control, licence or restriction of any kind, are not so well organised as the workers in the industries to which I have referred. I think it is necessary, therefore, that the Minister should indicate quite clearly to the House before this discussion concludes what should be the maximum number of hours necessarily and normally worked at the standard rate of wages fixed for the workers in the industry. In other words, will the Minister say that 44 hours a week should be regarded as the number of hours to be worked other than what might be necessary to be worked at overtime rates? Deputy Anthony has suggested a form of words that would make it clearer, I think, than it is in the amendment. The amendment is put down for a deliberate purpose, and that is to get this House to say whether 44 hours a week is a reasonable number other than the hours necessary for overtime. I admit that it would be necessary to have overtime worked so far as the carrying companies are concerned here. I know quite well that circumstances could arise in connection with the operation of a lorry or a bus, say, as the result of an accident, which might mean the detention of that bus or lorry in case of an emergency. I would not suggest, nor is Deputy Norton suggesting in this amendment, nor would anybody else suggest, that a man should leave his bus or lorry on the roadside in a case like that where an accident occurred. That is a necessary case. We know of similar cases with engine drivers. Does the Minister know that there are men working in connection with the Drumm Battery at Inchicore, who, I am told, work up to 100 hours per week while many other men have been thrown out of work while that kind of thing is tolerated, if not with the Minister's knowledge and consent, at least by his own Department? If the Minister is not aware of this, will he call for a return of the number of hours worked since work was started on the Drumm Battery at Inchicore and find out how many workers there are working in excess of the stipulated number of hours and earning overtime which they should not be earning if men were taken in and compelled to work the normal number of hours?
It is only a white elephant.
I am not prepared to agree with that. I realise that in a development of that kind you are displacing man-power by machinery. That kind of development is reducing the number of those who work and costing more to those who pay for it. If I had my way, I would take men like Mr. Drumm and build a hotel at the Curragh and put them into it, and feed them at the cost of the State, because it would be less costly to do that, than it is at present.
Would you abolish the railways?
I am sure that the Minister knows perfectly well that the development of the Drumm Battery will mean at least the displacement of one man on every train.
Would you abolish the steam engine?
I hardly think that this is relevant.
I was trapped into that by an interjection and I will not pursue it further. There is a certain guiding principle behind this amendment—the same as there is behind other amendments put forward by other members of this Party. If people are going to come in and, by legislation, be licensed to engage in the work of transport, I think they should be compelled to carry on that business under the same licensing and other conditions as other people engaged in the industry are subject to.
Deputy Good believes in fair competition within a particular industry. Does he believe in fair competition between those engaged in the building trade? Of course, he does. He joined the Master Builders' Association in order to endeavour to standardise conditions for the employers, and to use the Association to impose the same conditions on employees engaged in the industry. If he believes in that let him apply the same principle to those engaged in the carrying trade.
How does this apply to agriculture?
Deputy Good does not know much about agriculture except what is whispered into his ears by a Deputy who is supposed to represent agriculture in this House. It is a pity the Deputy has left. I refer to the leader of the Centre Party who is not listening, as he should be listening, to Deputy Good's speech, regarding those engaged in the agricultural industry. I give Deputy Good credit for any remarks he may make about the master builders rather than about agriculture. Let the Deputy apply the same principle and the same policy to those engaged in the transport industry that he is endeavouring, with that powerful influence of his, to impose on those engaged in the building industry.
I could not be in this House for ten years without knowing a good deal about agriculture.
If we are to believe everything we hear about agriculture some of the people engaged in the industry would be in bigger institutions than this. Will the Minister tell the House if his objection to Deputy Norton's amendment is sound; that the number of hours worked at the standard rate of wages should not exceed 44? If the Minister will indicate his view with regard to that aspect of the amendment, and it is the kernel of the question, we would then be in a better position to see if suitable words could be found to get over the difficulty to which he referred in his last speech.
My position is that we have in operation in relation to omnibus services a 48-hour week which was forced by trade union action. There is not, as the Deputy stated, the same degree of organisation in the road merchandise carrying business. The first step must be to get the element of organisation introduced, and when that element is introduced, a gradual improvement in conditions can be achieved. It is being achieved in the passenger carrying business at present. By the same methods it can be achieved in the road merchandise carrying business. It is because I think it is the most effective method to achieve that degree of organisation and gradual improvement, as suggested in the Bill, and not as suggested in the amendment that I am opposing the amendment. Is the Deputy standing for the amendment as worded?
Will the Minister answer the question I put to him?
I am answering it. Is the Deputy standing for the amendment as worded?
I have the right to make another speech, if I like.
The amendment, as worded, will not do. It has got to be changed. You cannot impose an over-all 44-hour week as the total amount that can be worked by any person. Imagine a 44-hour week on ships, on canal boats, and on railways, or in any business in respect of which any merchandise licensed holder has people employed. It could not be done.
That is only a quibble.
The Deputy admits that it cannot be done. I am trying to get the Deputy to admit that the amendment will not do in its present form. It has to be amended to provide for every type, as Deputy Anthony suggested. It has to be amended to provide for the possibility of an omnibus breaking down.
Will the Minister accept an amendment if it provides for pay for overtime?
By the time it is amended to provide for everything the Deputy will have got back to the section in the Bill. He will have got back to the position where he will say that the Minister should have power to see whether reasonable rates to pay are provided for persons in road transport, and be given discretion as to how that power is to be used in the circumstances existing, having regard to the conditions of pay operating in that business. I repeat that the powers given in relation to carrying services are being operated to improve the conditions of the people engaged in them, have proved adequate, and that similar powers when given in the passenger services will prove equally satisfactory.
I was wondering why the Minister got up to make a second speech. He started his second speech by trying to mend his hand. The amendment suggested by Deputy Anthony, to the amendment now before the House, has put the Minister in the cart because the Minister's main objection to the amendment in his original speech was that there was no elasticity about it.
And that applies to the road transport business.
I am not dealing with the road transport now.
The amendment does.
I am dealing with the amendment before the House. It would be much better from the point of view of clarity if the Minister would confine himself to the amendment. Naturally enough not feeling too easy about the position he tried in his second speech to wrap the whole thing up in a maze of words. The Minister's objection to Deputy Norton's amendment in the original speech was that it was too rigid, that there was no flexibility in it, that overtime could not be worked, that at particular seasons of the year, no matter how perishable the nature of the goods, the 44-hour week should operate and hang the consequences.
Is the Deputy going to vote for the amendment?
When the vote is taken the Minister will see how I will vote. In that connection, may I say that the Minister for Industry and Commerce bears no relation whatever to Deputy Lemass when on the Front Bench in Opposition for five years. The speech of the Minister for Industry and Commerce this afternoon was the very type of speech he was denouncing for five years when he was in Opposition. Every word he uttered against the amendment was the same as that with which he denounced, not only in this House but throughout the country for five years, this measure and practically every other measure that came on here. When he changed from one side of the House to the other the Minister changed his mind and changed himself inside out. Is the Minister prepared to accept the amendment, as amended on Deputy Anthony's suggestion?
Is the Deputy prepared to do so?
I am. I will vote for it. Will the Minister do so?
As the Deputy would.
I am glad that Deputy Norton has come to distinguish between Deputy Lemass and the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
And the Deputy as a member of Cumann na nGaedheal. Deputy McGilligan will have something to say about that.
There is one thing to be said. I never wish to be tied as tightly even to the Cumann na nGaedheal Party as the Deputies on those benches are tied to the Fianna Fáil Party.
Not on this amendment.
Not on this, or any other, amendment.
The Deputy is ready to jump again.
As a matter of fact, the only difference between Deputy Davin and any ordinary Fianna Fáil member is that Deputy Davin is more closely allied and tied to the Front Bench of Fianna Fáil than any back bencher of Fianna Fáil.
There is a compliment!
Deputy Good treated us to one of his usual speeches, the type of speech to which we have been listening for over ten years. He said he would have voted for shorter hours and higher wages if anybody could prove to him that at present the agricultural industry could afford it. Deputy Good knows as well as anybody in the House that at the present moment agriculture can afford nothing at all. Therefore, he was quite safe in saying that he would vote for shorter hours and higher wages if the agricultural industry could afford it. Deputy Good told us that a man employed in the transport industry came to him and objected very strongly to Section 167 of the Road Traffic Act, and said that it was not a question of the hours being too short, but of the distances fixed by the employers being too long. I would suggest to Deputy Good if he is so keenly interested in getting drivers and others engaged on buses and lorries back to their homes at night that he should suggest to the employers that they should send their drivers on shorter journeys, that instead of sending them 50 or 60 miles they should only be sent 30 or 40.
In other words, that they should move these towns.
That is a brain-wave!
I want to get back to the real point of the Minister's objection, as disclosed in his original speech on this amendment. Deputy Anthony has made a suggestion. Will the Minister say if he is prepared to accept Deputy Norton's amendment, as amended by Deputy Anthony's suggestion?
I said quite definitely I would not.
Now we know where we are. Is Deputy Norton prepared to accept Deputy Anthony's suggestion?
What I was going to suggest was that if the Minister's only objection to fixing maximum hours was that it would apply to overtime, we are willing to add a clause to the effect that "nothing in this provision shall prevent a person working overtime for which he shall be paid."
That is Deputy Anthony's idea, in other words. I can assure the Minister, and I am very glad to be able to assure him, that I am quite free to vote for the amendment, as amended by Deputy Norton's suggestion.
For the last week we have had the most amazing agreement with the Fianna Fáil outlook on wages and hours disclosed by Deputy Good. Last week, even against the advice of Deputy McGilligan, Deputy Good went into the Lobby to vote with the Fianna Fáil Party for one section of the Road Traffic Bill which would make it possible for a person to be employed for 77 hours a week. The Deputy is going to be in the same Lobby with the Fianna Fáil Deputies again to-night. I do not know whether I should congratulate Deputy Good on winning over the Fianna Fáil Party to his side, or whether I should congratulate the Minister for having made a convert of Deputy Good.
It is not the first convert he made.
In any case it seems to me that if Deputy Good maintains progress in political matters at the rate which he has manifested for the past week, it will not be long until we hear Deputy Good shouting "Up the Republic." He seems so close to the Fianna Fáil Party now on this question of long hours and low wages that, I shall not be surprised if in a short time we shall hear Deputy Good singing all the martial songs of the country, usually in Fianna Fáil company. If the Minister's sympathy could solve any economic or social problem, there would not be an economic or social problem left in the country. The Minister can pour out sympathy in the way that the Niagara Falls shoot out water. He is always in sympathy with this and that, but thinks that there is some other way of doing it, some other way of showing his particular brand of sympathy, the sympathy shown by the Minister yesterday evening on the question of exempted areas and this evening on the question of hours. This sympathy, so far as I can judge, never takes any concrete form. The Minister is prepared to say he is in sympathy with this amendment and he talked quite enthusiastically about the idea of regulating hours of work generally. Of course everybody will agree with that. Even I think Deputy Good's teacher in Italy suggested recently an international conference for the purpose of fixing the maximum working week at 40 hours.
What does your teacher in Russia say?
Another brain wave!
I can assure Deputy Good that I have no teacher in Russia. I am quite prepared to take an Irish teacher. Deputy Good finds his teachers in every part of the world except here. The Minister talks about the general introduction of a short working week. He said that we must do this and that, that mechanisation will render this and that inevitable. The Minister has been Minister for over 12 months. I could understand that speech if he were on the opposite benches or even on these benches, but he is Minister for Industry and Commerce. The Minister should be able to tell us what his own proposals are in the matter of reducing working hours instead of coming along and saying in a most vague and general way: "We must do this and we will have to do that. We will be inevitably compelled to consider so-and-so." I wonder the Minister was not a bit more precise and that he did not say exactly what he had in mind.
I shall make an offer to the Minister. I shall withdraw the amendment if he is prepared to tell the House that he has any legislative proposals for introducing a general 44-hour week. But the Minister has no such intention. He created a whole forest of words about what was desirable in the matter of hours, but when we came to find where the Minister really stood in the matter of hours, we found the maximum distance he was prepared to go is indicated in the Bill, which means that any Minister, the present Minister or any other Minister, can come along in future and say: "In my opinion so-and-so are fair and reasonable conditions."
We had an example not many years ago of a fair wages clause in a certain Act passed by the Dail. Deputy McGilligan will no doubt remember the Shannon Scheme. We had Deputy McGilligan as the Minister for Industry and Commerce taking the view that the rate of wages then paid on the Shannon Scheme complied with the fair wages clause. We shall have the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, perhaps, taking a similar view. One can have no guarantee whatever that the speeches of a Deputy in Opposition are necessarily a guide to his conduct as Minister. We have too many examples to the contrary in the past 12 months to make me believe that the speeches of a Deputy made when in Opposition are necessarily a guide to his Ministerial conduct as a member of a Government. It is only control in the matter of hours that the Minister is seeking, but certainly I am not prepared, no matter what kind of individual the Minister may be personally, to leave it to the Minister to say: "It depends on my sweet will what kind of conditions are going to be imposed or what kind of wages are going to be paid in this or that industry as a condition of a Government licence." The Minister played for quite a long time with the idea that an amendment in this particular form was impracticable. Of course when the amendment was submitted everybody knew that an objection in the matter of overtime could be raised. It was raised. It did not need any particular foresight to see that it could be raised. Of course we knew that, and if the Minister was prepared to say that he accepted the principle of a 44-hour week, we were willing to meet the Minister to the extent of saying that if it is necessary to work overtime in emergencies or in case of special exigencies, outside the 44 hours, we were prepared to agree to a clause being inserted in that form that, if necessary, overtime might be worked, provided that overtime were paid for. We make that offer now to the Minister. The Minister tried to demolish the case for the amendment by saying it made no provision for overtime. Overtime will cover any contingency referred to by the Minister in his speech. If we are prepared to agree to the necessary overtime being worked and paid for, there is no case for the amendment except that the Minister does not like to have a 44-hour week enshrined in legislation. The Minister says that the Transport Act of 1932 had a section which enabled the Minister to supervise the wages and conditions of bus companies which would receive licences under that Act. The Minister is, apparently, quite satisfied with what has been done in that connection. Let me tell the Minister that I am far from being satisfied. Let me tell the Minister that the transport unions are far from being satisfied. If the Minister has any doubts as to the adequacy of the rates of wages paid, I suggest that he should look up this month's issue of the "Irish Trade Journal" published by his own Department. Let him examine the table published there. Let him see the average or individual rates of wages paid to the employees of these bus companies. If the Minister finds satisfaction in the rates of wages paid to these employees, I suggest that he is not very difficult to satisfy.
I suggest that the rates of wages paid in the City of Dublin to employees of omnibus services, with one exception, are all paid under agreements entered into between trade unions and employers.
The Minister imagines that that is necessarily the ideal way.
I did not say anything of the kind.
Why make a point of it, then? Everybody knows perfectly well that a trade union agreement very rarely represents all that a trade union thinks it is reasonably entitled to. There is, inevitably, an element of duress in the settlement. The Minister ought to know that. Can he say that the rates of wages are necessarily good because they are agreed to under duress by trade unions in partially-organised industries? That is hardly a fair method of argument for the Minister to adopt.
Might I express it this way—the wages are good but they might be better?
If Deputy Good gets any satisfaction from that formula, I do not covet it. If Deputy Good looks at the "Irish Trade Journal," he will find that the rates are far from satisfactory.
Are there not two duresses?
Yes, and there is the fact that if you raise the rates of wages sufficiently high nobody will travel in the buses and there will be no employment at all in the buses.
The danger of high wages on buses seems to be a good way off at the moment. There is no transport problem so far as high wages are concerned.
Surely the Deputy will admit that there must be some other consideration in fixing wages than what the worker would like to receive.
If they had any sense, they would like to receive at least £20 per week.
That is more of the extravagant language used by the Minister to defeat this amendment.
It is not intended to do that at all.
The case against the amendment was that it did not provide for the working of overtime. The Minister spent a considerable amount of time arguing that point. If that is the only objection that can be made, his case is completely demolished.
From the point of view of the workers and the securing of better conditions on road services, the proposal in the Bill is infinitely better than that in the amendment.
I suggest that the proposal in the Bill simply depends on the will of the Minister.
The Minister personally may be the most ideal person to do that, but the Minister has no passport to a long life. The Minister may not be Minister for very long, and the conditions in the transport industry are to be determined by the particular outlook of a particular Minister at a particular time. I am thoroughly dissatisfied with that. I brought to the notice of the Minister on several occasions the fact that notwithstanding the provisions of the Transport Act of 1932, and the very explicit assurance given me in this House, licences were, in fact, issued to people who were paying rates of wages which were an absolute disgrace. When I pursued the matter further, I was told that certain licences had been issued to those people, but I could find nobody to justify the rates of wages paid, or the hours of work.
I, publicly, through the Press, invited objections to every one of them.
The Minister knows perfectly well the incident to which I refer. It is possible for similar incidents to arise under the Minister's proposal in the Bill. It is to prevent their arising and to prevent the interpretation the conditions then got that I am putting forward this amendment. I hope that Deputies who stand for reasonable hours of work, whether they are in the Cumann na nGaedheal Party or in the Fianna Fáil Party, will insist on an amendment of this kind being included in the Bill. It was suggested that if you shorten the hours of work, it may mean unemployment for the operatives. That kind of argument has been used for years and years. That is not what is causing unemployment or want of work. Everybody who takes any interest whatever in the problem of unemployment or other social problems knows perfectly well that it is not the present hours of work that are causing unemployment. Issues far greater and far deeper than that are causing unemployment. One of the biggest contributory causes is the mechanisation of industry generally. Here, you have the mechanisation of road transport and we suggest that the operatives in that industry should get some benefit from that mechanisation. If the Minister is prepared to give them that benefit, we shall withdraw this amendment, but the Minister wants this amendment defeated and conditions in the transport industry left to his own sweet will, no proposals being placed before the House, or indicated as to what he proposes to do generally in regard to the problem which has arisen as a result of the general mechanisation of industry. When the hours of work were 84 per week, it was urged that if they were reduced to 60, it would mean the end of industry. When the Shaftesbury Acts were passed, Deputy Good's industrial ancestors said: "This is the end of British industry." Some of Deputy Good's former friends——
Let them rest in peace.
Some of Deputy Good's former friends said: "60 hours a week mean the end of industry." When the hours came down to 56 they said: "This is Socialism; this means the end; after this, nationalisation." When the hours came down to 48, they said that was absolutely the last straw.
Would the Deputy give the quotations from Deputy Good's ancestors?
There is nothing about them in the family Bible.
The whole trend of development in the matter of hours has served completely to contradict the case made by Deputy Good and supported by Deputy Dockrell—another convert to the Minister's view. It also contradicts the case made by the Minister himself. The Minister did not attempt to show in what way the reduction of hours would mean unemployment. The real position is that the Minister does not want a 44-hour week enshrined in legislation. That is the kernel of this Bill. Everybody who votes against this amendment is voting against enshrining a reasonable working week of 44 hours in legislation, being content to allow working hours to be determined by the sweet will of a single Minister. I suggest to Deputies who believe in reasonable hours of work that it is not unreasonable to require in the transport industry a maximum working week of 44 hours in the interests of the operatives and in the interests of the general public. I hope the House will endorse the principle of the 44-hour week, which can be altered, if need be, by the insertion of a section which will not make it impossible for persons to be required to perform necessary overtime at extra pay.
I want to urge Deputy Norton not to test the House on this amendment in its present form because he does not give the principle for which he is appealing a fair chance on it. I think the Minister dealt unfairly with this amendment by spending so much of the time he did take to answer on two points more or less against the form in which the Bill is cast. It is quite true to say that if the amendment is carried in its present form it will forbid overtime except under a fine of £5 on each occasion. It is not fair to say, as the Minister did say, that the amendment has another flaw in it in that it applies to everybody employed by the holder of a merchandise licence whether employed for the purpose of the merchandise licence or not. That is not in the amendment because, although it might appear to be in the first clause of it, the second clause, which is the penalising clause, says:
..............any person employed by him or subject to his orders in the operation of his business of merchandise road transport...
and the meaning of that is clear. The Minister might have given a little more time to explaining what is his scheme as an alternative to Deputy Norton's. He did not give it, but there is a scheme. I agree with the remark passed by Deputy Good that it is somewhat unreal to be discussing an amendment about limiting hours in what I have got to call a sheltered business like the transport business.
Distinctly sheltered under this Bill. It is going to be sheltered and very comfortably sheltered.
In the exempted areas?
We are going to get rid of the exempted areas.
Clearly not sheltered in those areas, of course, but sheltered very comfortably, if this amendment is carried. Deputy Good drew our attention to the agricultural industry and everybody knows the depression that is in that industry at the moment. The only thing that makes me speak on this at all with any feeling of reality is that I do not consider the present depression on agriculture is going to last, or that the present folly which has brought on that depression is going to continue, even with the help of the Labour Party.
It is not world folly that is hitting us so hard. I was amazed by the calculations I made from answers given in the House last week —I am not alluding to this for the purposes of stirring up any Party strife—but we have the comments of the Labour Party made so vehemently as to rates of wages on particular schemes and we are told that they bear a close relation to agricultural wages as paid. I have seen answers given here which stated that a six-hour day week at 21/- was being paid. In certain other counties, the rate increased to 24/- and the hours went down from 60 to something lower—I do not think they ever went as low as 48—but supposing it was a 24/- wage, which is supposed to be analogous to the agricultural wage, for a 48-hour week, and I do not think you would get a 48-hour week specially limited anywhere, but, supposing you had, it represents 6d. an hour, and supposing you are thinking in terms of a 21/- wage and a six-hour day, you are more closely approaching the 4d. an hour rate and with that prevailing to the extent that the wages on schemes passed by this House are at that standard, it is considered right to talk about closing down the hours of transport to 44 hours per week and the overriding maximum being 44 hours. Of course, the thing is ridiculous, if we think of it in those circumstances.
The only way to approach this with any reality is to consider that these are temporary circumstances which we hope will soon pass, but they are there at the moment and we are going, apparently, to build this very sheltered business on that depressed industry, which is the main industry of the country still, notwithstanding all the efforts made to dislodge it. While that depression lasts, or even if it were over, I believe, and I state this distinctly, that if I had to make a choice between this amendment, even with an enlargement to permit of overtime, and the scheme in the Bill, I would prefer the scheme in the measure as it stands, plus Section 167 of the Traffic Bill, although I object to Section 167 of the Traffic Bill, and would like to see the maximum in it brought down.
If Deputy Davin understands Section 167, I do not think he will worry much about whether it is 48 or 54, because, so long as subsection 8 is in Section 167 of the other measure, these periods of work which are deemed to be excessive can be enlarged by Departmental order or Departmental legislation. It does not matter a whole lot except that I think it is a sort of guiding line to the people who are concerned in the fixing of these hours afterwards. Let the Labour Party consider the situation as it is under the Bill. The Minister takes power in Section 14 to establish conditions and these conditions are applied to the wages and conditions of the employment. That is the first drive and that is the first security, if you like to call it so. The second thing is the overriding Section 167 of the Traffic Act, which says that hours in excess of a certain number are to be deemed to be excessive.
The Traffic Bill has nothing whatever to do with it.
Of course, it has. The Minister is trying to avail of the loophole of a technicality. There is quite a connection between the two things. If there is not, then Section 167 has no reality whatever and should not be there.
It has nothing to do with the hours of work.
Of course, it has, distinctly. It is the only thing in the end which prevents the Minister from imposing completely unreasonable conditions on a licence. The Minister is absolutely free, so far as the reasonable terms and conditions he can impose on a bus or lorry type of licence are concerned, if it was not for Section 167. It is there, however, and I think the best way to meet this whole position would be to make another attempt on Section 167 on the Report Stage of the Road Traffic Bill and leave Section 14 as it is here. I wonder does Deputy Norton soberly suggest to this House that that allowance for overtime in the transport business as it is at the moment— nobody having very much in the way of accurate data on which to found any good opinion as to what is the optimum point in respect of hours or wages in the business—should be abandoned and that we should take the position that normally nothing more than a 44-hour week should be worked? I think it would be very injudicious to take that position here and now.
I think that Deputy Norton has got a very good expression of opinion from the House. If he was definitely convinced that this was a reasonable suggestion, he should go ahead with it and should go fully out for it, but, at the moment, I think that he has got a pretty good expression of opinion from every side of the House with regard to what they would like to see done in the way of reasonable conditions of employment, hours of work and so on, and I suggest that, in this transitional period, it is best to leave the thing as it is with the Minister being empowered to impose conditions about the hours which people will work. He knows very well that there is considerable force in the trade unions, who are very definitely organised in the transport business, to put pressure on the Minister if they think he is not putting what they consider to be reasonable conditions on the licence, and he has this House in which to ventilate his grievance if he thinks that these conditions are being attacked.
Is the Deputy aware there are people in the business who would, at the moment, dismiss any man who would join a trade union?
I think the trade unions have faced that type of situation before and have not been defeated, and I do not think they are unorganised so far as transport is concerned. If we had to consider transport more or less as a type of industry to which the Trade Board Acts would be applied, because the workers were unorganised, there would be room for that contention; but I cannot conceive the unions so weak in the transport business—why, they have almost ruined the transport business by their strength.
On the roads?
Not on the roads, but otherwise. I cannot conceive of them being so weak as to allow the position to be as the Deputy has put it in an intervention. I suggest that the scheme in the Bill, even though I think there are defects in Section 167, is much better than asking the House to vote for a 44 hours week, even with the overtime allowed, in respect of transport. I hope the Deputy will not press this proposal, because it will be thoroughly beaten, and the mere fact of it being defeated in the decisive fashion in which it will be defeated will not give a proper expression abroad of the views of Deputies on wages and conditions in the transport industry. There will be many expressions of opinion here to-night that will not be at all revealed by the mere vote cast on this proposal. The proposal for a 44 hours week will be decisively beaten and it will set back the views the Deputy has.
Deputy McGilligan has been at very considerable pains to try to draw an analogy between Section 167 of the Road Traffic Act and this amendment. I think there is very little analogy between them because in Section 167 there is specified the absolute limit that will be permitted under any circumstances, and this is regarded more or less as a safeguard to protect people from being run down by drivers who are worn out through being continuously behind the wheel. In our opinion a 44 hours week ought to be established as the normal working week in the industry which is sought to be regulated by this measure. As has been mentioned by Deputy Davin, this is an industry which has been carrying on in contrast with an old-established industry such as the railway where definite hours have been worked for a considerable time. The establishment of a 44 hours week in relation to road services as against a 48 hours week on the railways could not be regarded as an undue handicap, even from the economic standpoint. There are different considerations involved. From the point of view of the safety of the public the railways have safeguards in the way of signalmen and so on, and it is essential in the case of the road services to introduce as many safeguards as possible in the interests of the travelling public. Unfortunately, there has been a great toll of life on the highways. An attempt is now being made to get rid of the existing chaos, and I think we should see to it that the drivers of these heavy lorries and buses should be facilitated from the point of view of not working them for unduly long hours.
Deputy McGilligan has been floundering between a 44 hours week and a 66 hours week, or possibly a 77 hours week, as in Section 167. The Deputy ought to stand for some definite period. We would like to know if the Minister has made up his mind as to what should be the normal working week of a man in control of a bus or lorry. The question of overtime is another consideration. Deputy Dockrell has envisaged certain circumstances in that respect, such as the overhauling of a bus in a garage. There ought to be a definite standard set down as regards the working hours of operatives engaged in this industry. Only too well do we know that the people who have been carrying on this service have had no regard whatever to working hours. We are told, on the one hand, that there are certain people who are owner drivers but, on the other hand, we know that there are men who are not owner drivers who have been working under almost impossible conditions.
It ought not to be very difficult to meet this proposal of a 44 hours week. I think the Minister on another occasion was more or less inclined to accept the principle enunciated here. I believe a 44 hours working week is reasonable, with facilities for additional hours when the occasion demands it at rates to be agreed upon between the employers and the union. I hope this matter will be satisfactorily arranged irrespective of Party interests.
I want to make my point of view quite clear. I do not think the demand for a 44 hours week is unreasonable—quite the contrary. The question I am putting forward is whether the most effective means of reaching that position is as suggested by Deputy Norton or as is suggested in the Bill. I prefer the proposal contained in the Bill. We do not know what the general conditions are. I propose that the procedure that we followed in relation to road passenger transport should be followed in this instance. First of all, we found out the position and we got ultimately on paper the names of everybody in the trade, together with information as to the conditions which prevailed in the services operated by them. We were able to draw a line which represented what was the average practice and we wiped out all beneath that line. We then got to the position that operates more or less now where, in respect of other services, there is an agreement between the unions and the employers. That is a satisfactory position to have got to, having regard to the circumstances that operated previously.
The circumstances in this trade at the moment are in many instances very unsatisfactory. I think the best machinery is the machinery we have operated with considerable success in relation to the passenger service. We can then get to the point to which the Deputy wants to get, in a manner which is not going to involve any serious reactions. I think we will have, in relation to all forms of transport, a 44 hours week generally recognised before long. We may get the number of hours per week down below that point at a later stage, but at the moment we cannot say it is possible for us to impose a 44 hours week on this particular branch of this industry. If there is a genuine desire to get to that point in a manner which will do the least amount of damage and which is likely to be most effective, I submit the proposal in the Bill is preferable to that contained in the amendment.
The Minister said that in administering the 1932 Act they made inquiries as to the conditions operating, presumably before they issued the licences.
I was invited by a certain gentleman associated with the business to come into the open and repeat a statement that I made in this House. I made a statement outside this House that a certain firm that got a licence in 1932 had been paying the miserable rate of 17/6 a week to their conductors. At that time I was threatened by this firm with a libel action, a libel action which never came off. I made inquiries as to why that firm got a licence and I was in a position to tell the Minister that no inquiry was sent to the owner of these buses previous to his granting the licence.
The form in which the applicant applied for the licence required him to set out the information to which the Deputy refers.
To prove that I am right, I have only to say that an assurance was given to Deputy Norton by the President, and the House was also informed of it. The President had to admit, at a later stage, that the undertaking was not carried out.
The procedure adopted is well known. As from the 25th July last year we gave licences, these licences to be operative for only three months. At that time we publicly invited, through the Press, anybody who objected to these licences being granted on the ground that conditions of pay or hours of work did not comply with the regulations. We got numbers of objections. The principal objections came from trade unions for the most part. In several cases a satisfactory agreement was concluded between the union and the employers, and these agreements still operate, with the exception of one case where negotiations for agreement are on at the moment.
I can prove that provisional licences were granted before any inquiry was made by the Department of Industry and Commerce.
And I repeat that the form upon which the application for a licence was made required the applicant to set out the conditions—hours of work and rates of pay. If the applicant did not fill in these columns in the forms he did not get the licence.
As a result of the trade union action, conditions were improved. They were improved not through the action of the Department but because of the objections made afterwards by the trade unions.
Could Deputy Norton tell us what is the average working week in the case of road vehicles owned by railway companies. Is it a 44-hour, a 48-hour or a 50-hour week?
The hours of work, in the case of these industries, neither of which are, I think, properly organised, are in excess of 44 hours.
Very much in excess of 44 hours?
Take the railway-owned vehicles. Do they operate in excess of a 50-hour week?
What does the Deputy mean by railway-owned vehicles?
Vehicles owned by the railway companies.
Is the Deputy still sticking to the description "railway vehicles"?
Would Deputy Norton say what the average hours are?
I understand that the hours of work in the firm of John Wallis and the I.O.C. are in excess of 44 hours.
What hours do they work in these firms?
They are approximately 48 hours.
Would the Deputy say whether 48 hours per week would be the number of hours worked in the case of road vehicles owned by good employers?
In the case of a very good employer the 48-hour week would be probably the total number of hours worked. That would be in the case of the best of them but there are a considerable number of employers who work their men for a longer period per week.
In reply to that question, I think I could clear the air if I said—and Deputy Norton can correct me if I am wrong—that the standard working hours agreed with the master carriers in Dublin is 48 hours a week.
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- Byrne, Alfred.
- Corish, Richard.
- Davin, William.
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- Everett, James.
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- Keyes, Michael.
- McGuire, James Ivan.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Norton, William.
- Pattison, James P.
- Reidy, James.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Alton, Ernest Henry.
- Bartley, Gerald.
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- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
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- Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
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