Liffey Reservoir Bill, 1936—Money Resolution. - In Committee on Finance.

I move:—

That it is expedient to authorise such charges on the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof, and such payments out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas as are necessary to give effect to any Act of the present Session to empower the Electricity Supply Board to impound the waters of the River Liffey and generate electricity by hydraulic power derived from the waters so impounded, and to transmit, distribute, sell, and supply the electricity so generated, and to empower the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of Dublin to take for their water supply portion of the waters so impounded, and to provide for divers matters ancillary to or connected with the matters aforesaid, and also to increase the total amount of the sums which may be advanced to the Electricity Supply Board out of the Central Fund.

I want to ask a question, Sir, on the Money Resolution. I am not in a position to debate the finances of this measure, and the reports upon which this whole measure really is founded have not been given very wide publicity. There has not been circulated to Deputies, as was done at the time the Shannon Bill was going through, a copy of the report of the experts who considered this matter and who brought the Corporation and the Electricity Supply Board together. It is rather a difficult matter for anybody to consider whether the finances of the scheme are sound or unsound until the views of the experts are before the House. The House is supposed to pass some very considered view on that point but there is no information available. This was to a certain extent dealt with by the Minister on his Second Reading speech. But the reports have not been issued to the Deputies. I do not know whether they are available in the Library. How discuss this Bill without them?

The circumstances are very different from those of 1925 when the Government proceeded to get reports from experts and, as a Government, proceeded to carry out the Shannon works. This Bill provides for what may be regarded as a normal operation in the Electricity Supply Board's activities. The Electricity Supply Board got whatever advice was considered necessary. I think the Dublin Corporation also consulted certain experts. What report was made by those experts to the Dublin Corporation I do not know. I have not seen the report. But on that report the Dublin Corporation decided to enter into an agreement with the Electricity Supply Board. That agreement is a Schedule to the Bill. The Government, by this measure, is confirming the agreement that was entered into by both bodies; they are conferring upon the Corporation and the Electricity Supply Board the necessary statutory powers. The Government has, of course, to be satisfied as to the soundness of any plans which involve capital expenditure to be undertaken by the Electricity Supply Board. They are satisfied that the Electricity Supply Board should be given powers to enter into an agreement with the Dublin Corporation to carry out these works, to have a reservoir constructed forthwith and to proceed with the development of the Liffey for power purposes when they think fit before 1950. The situation is different from what existed when the Shannon scheme was first put into operation. Then there was no Electricity Supply Board in existence. At that time an experts' report was furnished to the Government; it was paid for out of the moneys supplied by the Oireachtas and presented to the Dáil before the legislation was introduced. I do not think that we should require from the Electricity Supply Board a report in the form which would be necessary if it were to be presented to the Dáil in respect of each stage of its development.

There is provided in this Bill the necessary capital to enable the Electricity Supply Board to instal additional steam plant which will have a total generating capacity in excess of the Liffey works. In fact, for some time ahead, at least once every two years, new plant will have to be installed capable of producing as much electricity as the Liffey works at their fullest development. That is now part of the normal work of the Electricity Supply Board. The Electricity Supply Board in planning out that work gets from its own officers or from outside experts whatever advice is considered necessary. So far as the Government is concerned its task is to ensure that the plans are financially sound and that the whole progress of the Electricity Supply Board is in accordance with Government policy.

The sum involved is £2,750,000 and of this we are told that £635,000 is allocated to the Liffey scheme. We are told that the Electricity Supply Board in 1934 thought it necessary to call in consulting engineers, Professor Meyer Peter and Dr. Buchi. These two experts reported to the Board and presumably the Minister for Industry and Commerce got from the Board these reports or a summary of them. This House is supposed to sanction the expenditure of a large sum in relation to electricity on the Liffey works. Why? The Electricity Supply Board thought fit not to accept what the Corporation people had from their advisers. They retained these two people I have mentioned. The Electricity Supply Board holds its authority from this House. They report every year to this House. The Minister asks for a credit of £2,750,000 for the Electricity Supply Board as far as the Liffey works are concerned. What would it cost to send a copy of these reports to each Deputy or to put one in the Library so that Deputies might read it before they are asked to discuss whether this large sum will be spent in this way or not.

The reports were not made to the Government.

They were not. They were made to a creature of the State—they were made to the Electricity Supply Board, a body set up by this House who got two experts, Professor Meyer Peter and Dr. Buchi. The layman in this House does not know much about these matters. We are told that the Liffey is going to be developed in two stages. Why? Is there £150,000 or £250,000 to be saved by any development that way? Is there more power to be got by having, as was done on the Shannon scheme, whatever amount of water was to be collected dropped in one place? I know there is something technical at the back of this. What it is we do not know. We should be given an opportunity to find out if the reports were published. I do not think it would be asking too much to say that the members of the House should have copies of those reports. If there is any reluctance to have copies circulated to Deputies, the Board might be asked to submit a few copies and leave them in the Library. Are we not entitled to that information before this measure is put through? A sum of £635,000 is being spent. Why is it that sum, and not a larger or lesser sum, and why is the development being done under two forms? We had better get that information from the people who reported on it instead of having it second-hand from the Minister.

I do not think so. I think the situation is different from what it was when the Shannon Scheme was put through. The Dáil has by legislative enactment given to that body control over matters relating to the generation and distribution of electricity. That body has prepared these plans. All we are doing now is authorising the advance of money to carry out certain works in the circumstances that now exist. We are merely approving of the proposals of that body.

What proposals?

The proposals set out in the agreement with the Dublin Corporation.

And you do not care whether they are good or bad.

Indeed we do. I was explaining to the Dáil that the Electricity Supply Board if it were merely concerned with its own business would not proceed with this development at the moment. It is proceeding with this development because it has made an agreement with the Dublin Corporation to do so. That agreement arose out of the special needs of the Dublin Corporation. And in consideration of the fact that the Board is proceeding forthwith with the partial construction of the works, at least with works which on its own behalf, it would not construct for some time to come, certain payments are being made and certain arrangements entered into, and all we ask the Dáil is to confirm that agreement to provide the Electricity Supply Board with the capital sum required to finance its normal development for the next two years. Approximately £600,000 out of £2,500,000 is all that is necessary to finance the works on the Liffey. In the circumstances now existing, responsibility for the construction of the works, and the engineering plans associated with them, rests upon the Electricity Supply Board. It is not now the position that existed in 1925, that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is seeking to utilise State moneys for the purpose of constructing certain works and geting authority from the Dáil for these works. In circumstances in which the Electricity Supply Board is in active existence, it is unnecessary to adopt the same procedure as was adopted in connection with the Shannon works.

I have not mentioned the same procedure but a rational procedure. The Minister said the Electricity Supply Board can make this agreement without coming near the House. The only thing is that it could not carry out the scheme without getting State money.

And certain powers.

Why does it ask for State money? Are we not, when called upon to give State money, entitled to ask what is the basis of the belief that it will be good development? Are we not entitled to be told something more than that two engineers advised? Leaving out of consideration what happened in 1925 and 1927, are we not entitled to get from the Electricity Supply Board the reports of the experts who advised them in this matter?

Why on that matter only?

Possibly they have experts' reports on other matters. I do not think they have.

I put that point to the Deputy.

If there are other matters on which they have got expert advice I think we should get the reports. I do not think it is good enough on an expenditure of £2,750,000, with something over £500,000 for the Liffey to be told that the Electricity Supply Board got experts and that they reported. What have they reported? Are there any reservations? Was any other plan put to them? Have they agreed that the development of these two falls is ideally the best in the circumstances, to deal partly with electricity and partly with generation? Is there any division of opinion? Would they have preferred another plan if matters went in the ordinary way? Would there be cheaper development, if this was delayed? What are the Board's powers because the Corporation have a certain need in regard to a water supply for the city? I think it is necessary that these questions should be answered, if there is to be any sort of an attempt to get an intelligent debate on the whole matter, and any attempt at all to get information for the country as to what is happening. I believe the analogy of 1925, even though circumstances have changed, is suitable. The Minister told us that two experts, Dr. Buchi and Professor Meyer-Peter, were called in——

I suggest that this does not arise on a Money Resolution.

——and submitted a report in 1935.

The Minister has raised the point that this does not arise on a Money Resolution. The debate on the Money Resolution is very wide, as the House is entitled to discuss the purpose for which the money is required. The Deputy is in order in asking for certain documents.

The Minister went on to say that the scheme which, I presume, has been approved in the report of Dr. Buchi and Professor Meyer-Peter provides for a dam a short distance above Lucan Bridge. Certain details are given of the area to be flooded, and the volume of the water stored. Does the Minister think that it is not part of his duty to tell us why there are to be two power houses instead of one? If he has given any time to it, will he say if this proposal is approved by the two experts? I think we are entitled to get that information, because it is the rational procedure for the House to get any information there is on the whole matter.

In connection with the arrangement under which the Electricity Supply Board is proceeding now with the construction of certain works on the Liffey, rather than wait until there was a need for such works on its own behalf, it does not involve any extra expenditure. In fact, it is more economical than the construction of the whole works at one time would be, and, at the same time, meets the more urgent need of the Dublin Corporation in the matter of water supply. So far as the actual details of the works are concerned, I think we must at present place our reliance on the Electricity Supply Board, to ensure that these are sound from the engineering point of view. I do not think it would be right or proper for the Minister for Industry and Commerce, or his officials, to proceed to put their opinion upon the engineering point of view of these works above that of the Electricity Supply Board. If the Minister and the Dáil have not confidence in the personnel of the Electricity Supply Board then there is an obligation to change them. Having that confidence, a confidence which is at present justified, I think we must leave the matter in their hands. The Board prepares the schemes, and when they involve additional capital expenditure, it is necessary to get my approval. That approval is given in the ordinary course to schemes that appear to be economic and sound. In principle there is very little difference between the Board proceeding to tackle the situation on the Liffey and the Board doing precisely the same thing at the Pigeon House. It is installing additional plant at the Pigeon House, and we can assume, I think rightly, that the various plans made in that connection were sound in every way.

We are entitled to assume that the plans made in connection with the Liffey are equally sound. The plans which are being immediately proceeded with take into account the requirements of the Dublin Corporation. The Corporation have expert opinion as to how their needs will be satisfied in connection with these plans, and a large part of the total amount of work involved in the whole project will be done by the Corporation, at the expense of the Corporation. No provision is made for that in this Bill. The report which the Corporation received from the experts is its own property and has not been furnished to me. We are concerned, therefore, only to the extent to which the combined plans involve expenditure by the Electricity Supply Board and, in that connection, as I stated on the Second Reading, the Board would not be in a position to use economically the power generated from the Liffey for some years to come. But, on the face of the arrangements made, it can proceed forthwith with the partial construction of the reservoir, to be completed when it is considered sound to do so in its own best interests, and I am informing the House that that does not involve the Board in any additional expense. Rather the contrary, it involves an economy, and it was on that basis that, I think, the Board undertook the arrangement.

Money Resolution agreed to?

No, Sir. We are going to vote against this as a protest. The Minister apparently decided that the Board should report to him. He got a report from them, and he will not put it before the House. We say that we are entitled to get the information.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 59; Níl, 36.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corbett, Edmond.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Donnelly, Eamon.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Flinn, Hugo. V.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • Neilan, Martin.
  • O'Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.

Níl

  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séumas.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John Aloysius.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Desmond, William.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Dolan, James Nicholas.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lavery, Cecil.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies P.S. Doyle and Bennett.
Motion declared carried.
Resolution reported and agreed to.