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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 15 Oct 1942

Vol. 88 No. 10

Emergency Powers Order, 1942—Motion to Revoke.

I move:—

That Dáil Eireann is of opinion that Emergency Powers (Mechanically-Propelled Vehicles) (Scheduled Areas), Order, 1942, made by the Minister for Supplies on the 27th day of August, 1942, should be revoked.

I move the motion for the purpose of giving the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Minister for Supplies —whichever is the appropriate Minister—an opportunity of telling the House what the proposals with regard to the use of private lorries and the reorganisation of transport arising out of the petrol shortage are, and to enable a matter which appears to be one of very great importance to be discussed by the House before decisions are made and actions taken which may not only have a very important effect on individual persons or particular classes of persons, but may have a very important economic bearing on some of the areas upon which the original experiments are likely to be carried out.

We do not know very much of what the Minister proposes, for the reason that apparently it was proposed to put this scheme into operation without consulting the House or discussing it with the House. All I know is that the Minister for Supplies

"is seriously concerned about the necessity, due to present conditions, for reducing the number of commercial vehicles which may be operated. To mitigate the consequences of such reduction, it is proposed to reorganise and extend public goods transport services and to reduce the number of private lorries. The reorganisation will take a considerable time to complete and it is important that some experience of the problems which will arise should be acquired at as early a date as possible."

That is all we know in any official way about the matter and that information was conveyed in a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary to us on 22nd September.

If the position is that the Minister has a proposal to reorganise and extend public goods transport services, on the one hand, and to reduce the number of private lorries, on the other, as conveyed in that official information, and if there is anything in the suggestion published in the Press on 28th August that, in the move he first contemplated in this matter, in relation to Mayo, virtually all the road goods vehicles in North Mayo would be taken and handed over to the railway company or to some licensed road haulier, I think the matter is of such great importance that it is very unfortunate that the Minister should have set out to put such a scheme into operation without consulting the House or the organised bodies concerned in the matter.

So far as we know anything about this scheme and can see what the effect of it is likely to be, it seems to me that in selecting the area of Belmullet, which is the area indicated in the newspapers—an area of something like 50 miles by 25 or 30 miles, or 1,500 or 1,600 square miles—the Minister is selecting the worst area in the whole country for wiping out private lorries and getting the transport business of the area done by the Railway Company's services. It is intended, so far as we know, to put private lorries off the road in a large area in Mayo as an experiment from which the Minister hopes to learn something that will enable him to make further progress in the taking of private lorries off the road and in the enlarging and reorganising of public goods transport services.

There is a body, the National Private Lorry Owners' Protective Association, which has been in existence on a county basis from about 1936. It spread throughout the country in 1938. It was considering the whole situation as it developed and as early as 4th April, 1941, it made representations to the Department of Supplies as to the importance of the petrol situation and as to the importance of grading the type of private lorries which were being used and assigning a particular importance to the work they were doing. It suggested the setting up of a body which would be representative of the Lorry Owners' Association, which would co-operate with the Department in the work of conserving petrol and providing adequate transport services and it urged the necessity for co-operation between that body and the Department. That was on 4th April, 1941, but nothing transpired in the way of the development of any co-operation between the Department and that body. I do not know of any co-operation between the Department and that body. I do not know that anything was heard of it until 20th May, 1942.

On the 24th April, 1942, Emergency Powers Order No. 147 was issued, which set out that commercial vehicles would require a permit, which permit would only be given when the necessary information was provided by the person applying for it as to what he wanted it for, so that the Minister had full opportunity for finding out the class of work required to be done, the amount of that work, and every possible scrap of information that might be necessary. The Guards were entitled to investigate on suspicion, and to seize, and generally the Order provided the Minister with full and adequate machinery for seeing what kind of work was done on the permit, and for judging whether there was any kind of leakage, objectionable practice, or wastage of any kind.

On 19th May, 1942, it was indicated in the Press that lorries might be further controlled, and that in fact they might be centralised and brought under more direct public control. On 20th May, 1942, the day after, the representatives of the Private Lorry Owners' Protective Association communicated with the Department of Supplies regarding their previous representations. They drew attention to the fact that they had offered the Minister co-operation and assistance before, and stated that they were ready to do so now. They pointed out that they had suggested a particular kind of arrangement before, and that they would be only too pleased to give any co-operation necessary.

It took the Department three weeks to reply to that letter. The nature of that reply was that the offer of the association to co-operate with the Department would be borne in mind in the event of its being decided to introduce a scheme for the pooling of the carrying capacity of lorries. On 19th June the association communicated with the Department of Supplies pointing out the position of transport in general and suggesting that it was desirable that the pooling scheme already suggested should be brought into operation and that the association, which was a national body, representative of the private merchant-owned transport of the State, expected a representative on the advisory board to be set up by the Minister. They also said that they considered they should be consulted and advised, and that they were ready to give advice on all the relevant matters.

It took the Department two weeks to acknowledge that. The reply stated that the matter was having attention. Then there were some 'phone calls and letters, and on the 4th August—six weeks after the letter of the 19th June —the association got a reply from the Department of Supplies stating that they had got the letter of the 19th June regarding the establishment of a transport pooling scheme and that the observations of the association had been duly noted. Things went on in that way, and it was only after representations had been made that Parliament should be given an opportunity of discussing this matter, so that the various interests would not get at loggerheads with one another, that the country generally might be informed of what was being intended so that it could judge whether it was suitable or not, and so that the Minister might get the fullest possible support for his scheme, if suitable, that—on the 8th of this month—arrangements were made whereby the Minister would meet the representatives of the association. If one thing is more important than another at the present time, it is the realisation that the only people who can carry this country through the emergency and its many problems are the people in the several counties, the people who stand over their jobs and co-operate with one another and with the Government. It is the ordinary people who are going to carry the country through any difficulties likely to arise. If there is not a general understanding of what is being done, general consideration of what is best to be done and a conviction that what is attempted is the most sensible thing that could be suggested, then a very considerable amount of friction will be brought into the situation and our work will be badly done, if done at all.

In this instance, it seems to me that we have simply a dark-room plan emerging from the Department of Supplies. The Minister was so prepared to put it into operation that he only agreed to have it discussed on the reassembly of the Dáil when it was indicated that the Leader of the Opposition considered the matter so important that he would have to ask to have the Dáil specially summoned to consider it rather than that a matter of such importance should be launched upon the country in an atmosphere that was not conducive to success. The Minister has approached this matter in a very wrong way in his treatment of Parliament, on the one hand, and of the organised body, on the other hand. He has since met representatives of the association concerned and he will, no doubt, be able to tell the House what he proposes to do in the light of these discussions. As regards the area to which this plan is to be applied—a plan by which all private lorries and vans run by merchants are to be taken off the road— it covers about 1,500 square miles with only about ten miles of railway. The public transport service is to be asked to organise itself over that area. I think that the area is the most unsuitable one that could be selected for this purpose. Everybody who knows the West of Ireland knows that the economy of the various districts has grown up in very difficult circumstances and has been hammered out over a long time by people living under difficult conditions. Many aspects of that economy are very delicately balanced. It has been injured in recent years as a result of certain economic experiments here. The transport system of such an area is fitted closely to that area. You have individual merchants with their lorry system closely knit into the area and serving people in a very detailed way. If you are going to take that sensitive machinery away and hand it over to a body which has had no experience of dealing with an area like that, the economy of the area will suffer, production will be choked and the area will probably be deprived of a considerable amount of consumable goods which it would otherwise get. By this system, you will injure production and consumption and hurt the local economy which has been pieced together as the result of generations of experience and as a result of people, living in difficult circumstances, pitting their wits against the problems around them. These are the points I wish to put to the Minister in moving the motion.

As one of those whose names are appended to the motion asking that this Order be revoked, I should like to say on behalf of every private lorry owner in my district, and in the association generally, that we have been at all times, and are now, prepared to assist the Government in facilitating the railway company to carry out the necessary deliveries under the present haulage system of the country. If the necessity arises, we shall have no objection to handing over our lorries but we feel that the emergency has not reached such a point as to justify the making of this Order in relation to North Mayo—an area which covers one of the most remote parts of Ireland, from Ballycroy via Lahardane to Dromore West. It has no railway and it is possible never will have a railway. The system of transport up to 1918 was by means of horses. The goods were carted over 50 or 60 miles by horses. They left in the morning and returned the following night with a ton of goods. In 1918 or 1919, the lorry system was introduced in a small way. It gradually took the place of the horse traffic and the horse and cart practically disappeared off the roads. In that area, they have a system of their own. The majority of the bigger business people replaced their horses and carts by lorries. They collected their goods in the main depôt, which is Ballina—the nearest station to the area.

The Ballina mills and the Ballina wholesale places are the nearest places for collecting goods. All these goods are collected in these two depôts. They are taken out by the business people to their own places and delivered in two ways. One way is that there are a number of business people whose customers come in and buy and collect the goods. There are other people living in these areas who collect the goods in the depôts and take them out and distribute them through the country. They have what we term travelling shops. The travelling shop, as Deputies know, delivers goods to the farmer and collects eggs. These are the two sorts of business which have been carried on. In North Mayo the people put money into these lorries as part of their business. They went to the expense of building housing accommodation for lorries, putting up petrol pumps, cabins, etc., in order to make this a success. We feel that it is not fair now to take over all those private lorries.

The first we heard about this was on the 28th August when it was announced that all transport in the area was to be taken over and put under a nominee of the railway company to discharge the work of the area. Later on we found that haulage lorries and certain other lorries were to be exempted. The latest is that the only lorry to be interfered with is the private owner's lorry. If the private owner's lorry is taken away and the railway company are to carry out the services of the area, I cannot see how any company or anybody else can improve on the present system which is carried out by the business people of the area. The business people have their depôt for collecting goods, as I said in the beginning, in Ballina between the railway and the mills and the wholesale places. They have their own business places as depôts in the different districts all over the area and they have depôts in the various small towns and villages. These depôts are spread over the whole area and the people from the different districts are served from them. In some of these areas the people have not the accommodation which would enable them to take home a large quantity of goods. Take the Erris area. In that area some of the people have to take home their goods on an ass's cart. They require a service near home and, as I said, the shops in these areas give them a local delivery.

If we take the import of petrol into the country prior to the war, we find that we imported 44,000,000 gallons per year. That has been reduced to one-third. Three years ago, when we were importing 44,000,000 gallons of petrol, the basic allowance for a 35-ton carrying capacity lorry was 100 gallons per month. Now each of these lorries has been reduced to 20 gallons per month or one-fifth of the former allowance, while the import of petrol has only gone down by two-thirds, and is at present one-third of the former quantity. The reduction of the allowance for such lorries to one-fifth of the former allowance means that every lorry owner in that area has to be careful about every half-pint of petrol. He has to see that his lorry is fully loaded when sent to the depôt in Ballina or when he is collecting stuff. When the lorry goes to the railway he has to see that everything possible in the line of eggs or any other goods, including empties, are collected, so that the lorry will be fully loaded. For that reason, I feel that the lorry owners are making full use on their journeys of the small amount of petrol they are getting.

There are times when lorries may not have a full load, owing to the reduction in the supply of different commodities, due to the emergency. In that area you have different classes of business people. You have the flour shop, the grocery shop, the licensed trader, the registered egg buyer, the bread vans, the mineral water merchants and the bottling merchants. If you take the mineral water merchants and the bottling merchants, they have to make a delivery once every fortnight.

It is possible that, owing to the amount of petrol at present allowed them, they are not able to make fortnightly runs. They have to make the best use they can of the monthly ration. When they send out a load of bottled stuff they have to send a man with the lorry driver and they have to send out a collector from the office to get paid for the goods. In addition to that, they have to collect empties and to give credit notes. All that takes some time. There is no other system which could improve on that. These lorries have to leave about 8 o'clock in the morning, and it may be midnight or 1 o'clock the following morning before they return. They have to go to the different shops, deliver the goods, get paid for them, and give credit notes. That is a 14- or 15-hour day for three men and a lorry. If a lorry had to be employed by the day and you put the charges for that lorry against the cost of the goods, I do not see how anybody could do it at the same rate as the private owner can do it or give the same service; give the service at the time when the people require it, for instance, before fair days or after fair days. I see that there is a new regulation now, and I believe that the regulation they have for October, so far as the petrol situation is concerned, or so far as the basic allowance is concerned, is that the basic allowance is to be given more on a log-sheet system. I believe that the log-sheet system is a good one, that under it no lorry owner will get petrol in excess of what he requires, and that it would work out equally reasonably for those who want to operate on the other system. I think that the log-sheet system is one that would really cover the emergency, for the present at any rate, and that if there is anything in the way of waste of petrol, that system would meet it.

If the Minister thinks that he is not able to get over the difficulty in that way, there is another suggestion here by the Private Lorry Owners' Protective Association. They seem to have a scheme and, as far as I know, their association had an interview with the Minister last week. I do not know exactly what transpired between the association and the Minister, but I think that any arrangement that can be made between the association and the Minister and the other parties concerned would be all to the good, and some such discussion and arrangement will be necessary if this thing is to be worked in a proper way, so as to help the railway company, the area concerned, and also the people who are private owners of lorries. As Deputy Mulcahy has pointed out, it is the people of the country and the owners of these lorries, in conjunction with the railway company and with the Government, who are going to carry us through this emergency. For that reason, I feel that the Minister should take a broad view of the whole situation, go into the matter carefully, and not rush it on the people without any notice. Let him give the whole thing a fair chance for a month or six weeks, or until the end of the year, at any rate, and let the experiment of the log-sheet system and the suggestion of the lorry owners be all taken into account, and if a scheme can be put into operation that will be an improvement on what is already in existence, then time should be given to think it over, and no definite action should be taken, at least, before Christmas. Time should be given between this and the 1st January to consider a scheme, whatever the scheme may be, and then that scheme could be made ready to be put into operation on the 1st January, but it should not be rushed on the people without any notice. It was the rushing of this scheme on us, in North Mayo, that really frightened us so that we did not know where we were.

I have nothing more to say, because I think Deputy Mulcahy put the whole matter very plainly, but I would ask the Minister to consider the whole thing and not rush it. Let the three parties concerned—the railway company, the Government, and the association—take the matter up together, and let them have a scheme to suit all parties ready to be put into operation, but not before the 1st January, at any rate.

I think that before the debate goes any further it would be well to tell the House precisely what is contemplated. When any problem arises, due to a scarcity of supplies, in any sphere of commercial activity, there are two courses which the Government can take. One course is to wait until the problem has become obvious, until the existence of the problem has been recognised by everybody, and then step in to regulate it and minimise it, if possible. If the Government takes that course, its critics, in this House and outside, will say, as usual: "The Government has acted too late. They should have foreseen the development of this situation and should have taken steps to prevent it long in advance." The other course is that the Government can take steps in advance, foreseeing the development of a situation likely to cause difficulty, and endeavour to do something so as to minimise that difficulty, in which case the critics of the Government say: "There is unnecessary interference with private enterprise; there is no problem in existence which calls for these drastic measures or this interruption of existing practices."

It must be remembered that we are facing now a problem in relation to transport which may easily prove to be the greatest of all the problems that the war will cause for this country. This proposal of the Government to undertake a reorganisation of transport services has been discussed by Deputy Browne, by the North Mayo Lorry Owners' Association, by the National Private Lorry Owners' Protective Association, and by everybody else, as if the alternative were to leave things as they are. Surely, Deputies opposite realise that that is not the alternative. If we could be satisfied that things would stay as they are, this Order would never have been made and no proposals for the reorganisation of the road transport services would have been necessary. It is precisely because we know that things will not stay as they are that the situation has got to be examined, with a view to ascertaining the steps that must be taken if the essential requirements of the country are to be met. I want to get Deputies opposite to try to face this question in a realistic frame of mind. If they can guarantee to me, in a manner which would appear convincing, that there is going to be no diminution in our petrol supplies, and that it will be possible to keep up this basic allowance of 20 gallons a month to lorries and a supplementary allowance in connection with special services, then I am prepared to accept this motion, but can they give us this guarantee?

In 1941 the lorry owners told you that such a guarantee could not be given, and they asked you to go into the matter then.

Deputy Mulcahy was very careful, in his remarks, to avoid saying anything definite. He left me completely in the dark as to whether or not he favoured this motion, but he certainly did not give a single argument in favour of it.

Which motion?

This one that we are discussing. Now, the National Private Lorry Owners' Protective Association is an estimable body, no doubt, but the scheme they propose as an alternative may not be a very practicable one, and they themselves do not claim to represent more than 10 per cent. of the private lorry owners in the country. Nothing, however, is gained, when they say that while this is a problem that has got to be faced but any solution of that problem must be such as would protect their interests. I am prepared to protect the interests of private traders, so long as it is possible to do so, but the primary responsibility of the Government is to see that the public needs are met, even if those needs involve interfering with private interests. The National Private Lorry Owners' Association talk about their right to operate their lorries, and the North Mayo association say that it is a most undemocratic action to interfere with the operation of their lorries.

On a 15 hours a day basis.

The National Private Lorry Owners' Protective Association can have their right to run their lorries if they can devise a method of doing so without petrol, and the North Mayo Lorry Owners' Association cannot sustain the argument that it is undemocratic not to give them something that does not exist.

Can you give the railway companies something that does not exist?

If the Deputy will wait for one moment I will develop exactly the arguments in favour of the course of action that the Government is proposing to take, and I am prepared to leave it to the Deputies opposite. They will run away from their responsibility when the crisis comes. There has already been in North Mayo transport difficulty created by the curtailment of the activity of private lorries.

Last year in this very House there were Deputies from North Mayo who demanded that the Government should take action to keep up the supply of goods into isolated districts in North Mayo, alleging that there was a scarcity of necessary commodities in those areas because of transport difficulties. Is not that so?

The records of the House show it.

The allegation was that there was a shortage of flour in the area and that was because people could not get the flour.

An investigation of the allegation showed that there was no shortage of flour, but that there was a shortage of transport.

There was a shortage of flour at the time——

I would ask to be allowed to speak for half an hour without interruption, and I will try to make the best case I can. Deputies can then speak as much as they like.

The allegation is made against me and it is only fair that I should get an opportunity of stating the position.

Later on. If Deputies were permitted to answer everything they did not like, and during a Minister's speech, interruptions might be endless. The reverse also holds.

From the day the war started, our supplies of petrol were curtailed. It became necessary in consequence to ration its distribution amongst vehicle owners and to limit the supplies available for various purposes. Quite rightly, at the beginning, restrictions were imposed more drastically on private car owners than on persons engaged in the operation of commercial vehicles. At a later stage the supply of petrol became more seriously curtailed and, in order to ensure that the maximum quantity would be available for the operation of commercial vehicles, the use of private motor cars was eliminated altogether except in respect of a very limited number owned by persons engaged in professional work which was regarded as of primary importance to the community as a whole. The diminution in our supply of petrol did not stop when we put the private cars off the road. It has continued since, and, as I informed this House earlier this year, the quantity of petrol which we are going to receive during these 12 months is so contracted that it must involve a very substantial reduction in the number of commercial vehicles. There is no alternative to that. The fact is that we have not yet succeeded in any month of this year in bringing the consumption of petrol below the quantity available for that month. Even in the month of September the actual quantity of petrol issued was many thousands of gallons in excess of the allocation for that month, and these excess issues of the past months must be recovered by a further reduction in the quantity used, apart altogether from the possibility that the total allocation will be reduced in the future.

We eliminated the private motor car because there were available for the transportation of members of the public passenger transport services. We considered that, so long as there were available public passenger transport services, we were not entitled to give petrol for the exclusive use of private individuals who required it only for their own personal transportation. We are reaching a stage now where we have to consider whether or not it is possible to continue to give petrol to private lorry owners or whether it is not better policy and the duty of the Government to ensure that the supplies that are available are utilised for the maintenance of public transport services, services that are available to every member of the public, rather than that we should give it for the exclusive use of private individuals. We can, of course, if Deputies think it good policy, reduce the allocations to lorry owners or, when petrol supplies are further contracted, merely decide that certain classes of vehicles or certain classes of vehicle owners will not qualify for an allocation and hope that whatever vehicles are left on the road, with whatever petrol can be given, will be operated in such a manner as to provide for the essential transport needs. But I think there is on the Government an obligation to do more than that. I do not think that we will have discharged our duty to the public if we merely give out to certain lorry owners whatever petrol is available and let them use it as they think best in their own private interests for the conduct of their own particular commercial activities. I think there is on us an obligation to go down into each area and see that there exists in that area organised transport services that would ensure the delivery into each part of it of the goods that are essential to the maintenance of the life of the people.

If our petrol supplies are going to be so contracted that there must be, say, a 50 per cent. reduction in the number of lorries on the road, or else a reduction of 50 per cent. in the operation of existing lorries—in any event, a reduction by one-half of the transport that will be available on the roads—is it not clear that there is upon us an obligation to ensure, not merely that certain private individuals will be able to keep in business, but that there will be an organisation of transport services sufficient to ensure that the goods that must be moved, if hardship and famine are to be avoided in isolated districts, can be moved by the services available? That is what we propose to do, but it must be also obvious to Deputies that that cannot be done overnight. The organisation to do it does not exist. It has got to be brought into existence. It cannot be brought into existence by Government Order. It has got to be built up over a period of time and with great care, and clearly the creation and operation of it is going to bring to light problems which anyone studying the position from an office in Dublin cannot be immediately aware of. Therefore, we think it is desirable that this reorganisation of transport should be begun piecemeal, should be begun now, before the crisis is on us, so that an organisation that will permit of expansion into other areas will exist, and so that the experiences which are necessary in order to ensure its efficiency will have been secured. Deputy Mulcahy says that the North Mayo area is an unsuitable area in which to try it.

The worst area in the country to take as a basis.

If Deputy Mulcahy means by that that it is the area in which this reorganisation could most easily be accomplished and, therefore, that the experience gained in that area will not be valuable when we try to do the same thing elsewhere, then he may be right. But, clearly, it is the one area in this country where a reorganisation of road transport services is not only necessary, and necessary now, but can most easily be done. In the North Mayo area, by reason of the contraction of the operation of motor vehicles following upon the curtailment of petrol allocations, transport difficulties have already emerged and, in fact, shortages in particular districts have been recorded.

Is the main object to save petrol?

The main object of this reorganisation is to ensure that whatever petrol is available is utilised in the manner most likely to serve the essential requirements of the public.

Is it true that 70,000 gallons of petrol were used in the recent manoeuvres?

I do not know. I do not see what that has to do with this question.

You should know.

Deputies may argue about the difficulties of the country, but that is a matter we will not discuss now. I am prepared to discuss that at another time. We have to consider now the problem of transport. Deputies can stick their heads in the sand and refuse to face the future if they like. They can go now to the various motor owners, traders, and private lorry owners through the country and say: "The Government is interfering unnecessarily with your work. They can give you petrol on the basis that you have been getting it, at any rate for the present. There is no reason why they will not be able to continue doing so in the future." I suggest that if they do that they are not merely doing a bad service to the country, but a bad service to themselves, because inevitably the future is going to prove them wrong. I do not know what Deputies expect in relation to the future. I think the emergency is going to continue and that its continuance is going to mean, inevitably, a rapid increase in our difficulty in maintaining supplies of such commodities as motor spirit. Every day one reads in the newspapers of the destruction of oil wells in all parts of the world, of the sinking of the tankers which transport oil. That process of destruction, which has been going on for years now, is having a cumulative effect on our ability to keep up supplies here. Every month and every year that passes means that we are getting less and less motor spirit. Is there any reason to believe that that contraction of supplies has stopped and that for the future it will remain precisely as it is? If that is so and if there is no danger of any further contraction of petrol supplies, we will not have to put any more restrictions in force, and with the number of motor vehicles now on the road our transport situation is comparatively easy—certainly easier than it was going to be.

If there was no problem about the maintenance of petrol supplies, we still have to look at the situation in relation to the keeping of a supply of tyres. There will not be a new tyre in this country after the middle of next year, and from that until the end of the war. Next July the last tyre manufactured from rubber will be fitted to a vehicle, and from that on there will be no more new tyres and not the slightest possibility of any supply of new rubber to permit the manufacture of additional tyres. That inability to replace tyres in use now will not have an immediate effect on transport services, certainly not the same kind of immediate effect as the announcement that no more petrol was coming would have. Nevertheless, it is going to make transport a problem for us, a problem of first magnitude, before the war ends. Are we entitled to ignore the fact that the future holds such a problem for us and to shut or eyes to coming events by going blindly ahead and saying to ourselves: "We are still all right to-day; to-morrow can look after itself?" I am sure that no Deputy in opposition will make that contention. The Government have to discharge their duty to the people properly and to plan now against that situation.

Have they not planned long ago?

Because we are going to do it now, we are told by Deputies in opposition and by all the associations of private interests that we are interfering unnecessarily and injuring the carrying on of business.

For two and a half years.

Who told the Minister that?

Deputies propose now to plan ahead. If I could devise a system by which a reorganised transport service could be brought into operation simultaneously in all parts of the country, and create offhand the organisation to do it, then I would say that it would be better to do it in that way than to apply now a form of control piecemeal in one part of the country after another. We cannot do that. We have not the organisation. Therefore we made an order which gives power to schedule certain parts of the country and to operate in these parts the reorganised plans which we have contemplated.

What are these plans? We propose to base our main reliance on the public transport services operating according to schedule. The plan involves the setting up of central depôts in all the important towns, with receiving depôts in every centre of population, and carrying out a regular schedule of services between all these centres. The services will be organised on the basis of the traffic expected, running from one centre to another on a named day or two days or every day in the week, and will be available for every member of the public who has goods to be transported. Perhaps, at a later stage, when the services themselves have to be reduced or terminated because of further curtailment of petrol supplies, or the difficulty of replacing tyres, we will have to limit these services to essential classes of goods. For the moment, it is contemplated that they will carry all goods offered.

It is proposed to supplement these organised services running to schedule, by permitting other operators to carry on as long as possible, and to cater for the classes of traffic that do not lend themselves to the organised schedule services. The transportation of perishable goods like milk, eggs, or fish from fishing districts in North Mayo, or other parts of the country, cannot easily be carried on on the basis of scheduled services. If there is only one lorry a week from a particular district to the railhead fish cannot be kept waiting for that lorry, and consequently organised services must be supplemented by allowing a certain number of individual private lorries to be maintained to meet the requirements of this special traffic. We contemplate doing that so long as it is possible that a supply of petrol for these services can be maintained. If we get such a system working we can then face with less difficulty the situation which will arise as petrol supplies diminish, because we can contract the principal services of the country gradually by limiting them to essential traffic, and keep essential services going so long as there is anything to keep them going with. It seems to me that that is the intelligent and the sensible way to proceed. The alternative, if I understand it, is to give out the petrol and hope that it will be able to meet requirements. I do not think the Government would have faced up to their responsibilities if they acted by that slipshod method. So far as petrol is concerned I cannot give any guarantee that there will be petrol a month ahead. There was a time when we received a notification from the petrol companies supplying this country that we were getting no more, and it became necessary, without delay, to impose immediate and drastic restrictions on the use of motor vehicles. Fortunately, the intimation received proved incorrect, and it was found possible to make arrangements which ensured a continuance of supplies, even though it meant at a reduced rate. But, at any moment, it is possible that we may find ourselves without petrol at all. Certainly, we must not ignore the probability that at some future time we may find ourselves with much less than we have, and we must get ready now for such a contingency.

That is the whole basis of the Government's proposals. That is what this Order is intended to do: to give us power to get into existence an organisation which will enable the transport services to be maintained when these circumstances arise. If we are ever to have that organisation we must start now. Deputy Browne says "postpone it until after Christmas." Somebody else may say "postpone it until January." I am quite prepared to take the risk of doing that if the House will share the risk with me, but it may be that it is in January the crisis will come. I do not know whether it will or not. It may be at the beginning of next year, just as it was at the beginning of 1941, that we will learn that the crisis that will probably arise is upon us. It will be too late then to start trying to build up an organisation that will enable these minimum transport services to be maintained into every part of the country. I think we should start now. I think that the Deputies opposite, if they were alive to their responsibilities to the public, as distinct from their special interest in those who own lorries, would be criticising the Government because we have not started already. I think that neither the Lorry Owners' Associations nor individual lorry owners down the country can say that they did not get due warning that this situation was going to arise. For months past we have been telling them that it was becoming increasingly necessary for us to restrict petrol allocations for lorries. For months past we have been reducing drastically the number of lorries receiving petrol at all, and certain classes of persons engaged in what we regard as non-essential services from the community point of view—they may be very essential to the individuals conducting them—have been denied petrol allocations. In this month of October there is going to be a further drastic reduction in the number of commercial lorries operating on the road. We are not doing that merely for the pleasure of doing it, but because circumstances are compelling us to do it, and if we go further than that it will be solely because there has been a further worsening of the position.

I do not think the Government can be said to have discharged its responsibility if it merely takes the available supply of petrol and dishes it around at so many gallons per head among lorry owners. I think the Government's responsibility requires it to do much more than that. It has the responsibility of seeing that whatever petrol is there is used for the most essential purposes, and is used to ensure that the transport requirements in every part of the country are met in equal measure. Objection has been taken to the fact that we are proposing that the public transport services throughout the country be provided by a development of the road transport organisation of the Great Southern Railways Company. The reason why we chose the road transport organisation of the Great Southern Railways Company is because it is the only organisation there is. It may be that that organisation has at times, in the past, not proved itself as efficient as we would like to see it, but there is no other organisation that we can use. The company is now operating under Government direction. It is controlled by an officer appointed by the Government to see that its activities are carried on in the public interest. That organisation, which operates throughout the whole country, is capable of being expanded so as to meet the minimum transport requirements in every district.

There may be some apprehension in the minds of lorry owners that behind this emergency plan there is some idea bearing on the development of a post-war policy. There is no such idea. I recognise, as everybody must recognise, that in the post-war period there must be a new development in transport organisation: that we cannot go back merely to the pre-war situation, and that whatever Government is then in office must take major decisions upon matters of transport policy. This particular plan that we are now proposing to operate is devised to deal with the circumstances of the emergency.

What about the Minister's public ownership policy of ten years ago?

That may be one of the questions that may have to be faced immediately after the end of the war.

Will it ever come as long as you are there?

The particular point that I want the Deputy to understand now is that the decision to utilise the mechanism of the road transport organisation of the Great Southern Railways to provide the services which we regard as essential, so long as they can be provided, is because it is the only machinery there for us. The plans for the operation of this system in the North Mayo area have been made, and were ready to be brought into operation on the 1st October, and will be brought into operation on the 1st November. That is what we are contemplating. I know that many lorry owners in North Mayo have been frightened by what was, in truth, a misconception of the Government's proposals. They thought that there was some idea that their lorries would be confiscated and handed over to the railway company. That is not contemplated. What is contemplated is that the railway company, to the extent that they must increase the number of vehicles available for the area, will either purchase or hire these vehicles from existing lorry owners. The other licensed hauliers operating in the area will continue to operate. The persons who are engaged as hauliers in the exempt area round Ballina—hauliers entitled to operate without a licence—will continue to operate. Any person with commonsense will see that it is the obvious step to take. The railway company, in organising the service in the area, will endeavour to secure a working arrangement with those other licensed hauliers and the operators in the exempt area in order to ensure that there will be no over-lapping between their respective public activities, and that the combined efforts of all will be directed towards serving the essential transport requirements of every district.

There is no intention of confiscating anybody's property. It may be that a lorry for which there is no petrol will be of very little value to the owner of it, just as the private motor car, if there is no petrol available for it, is of very little value to its owner.

Will the owner of the lorry be compelled to sell?

Can he refuse to sell?

Yes, but that is not going to be the problem. The problem will be the reverse, namely, that there will be more owners anxious to sell than the railway company will be anxious to deal with.

According to the paper, every lorry is to be taken over.

If the expression "taken over" was used in the paper, what was intended was to purchase or hire the lorry. There is no proposal to requisition or confiscate any person's property.

What about the 15-hour day?

I do not know what the Deputy is talking about.

Deputy Browne will tell you.

I think I have covered all the points that it is necessary to cover. I merely want to reiterate that the Government would not contemplate any interference with the existing transport arrangements if we thought it was possible to have them maintained. If we do contemplate a partial reorganisation of transport services now it is because we know that it will not be possible to keep the transport services going upon the present scale. We know that because the indications are that there will be a further contraction of petrol supplies and, certainly, an inability to replace rubber tyres for the vehicles now in use.

You are giving a monopoly to one company.

The idea is that we should start now to create an organisation that will become necessary when these difficulties develop. We think that it would be unwise, from the point of view of the country and an indication of a lack of desire to discharge its responsibility to the public in full, if the Government delayed taking the necessary steps to that end.

The Minister for Supplies has made us a very long and in parts quite an eloquent speech, but the House is not very much interested in what are merely truisms, no matter how eloquently those truisms may be expressed. We all know that there is a war on. It does not require the Minister to tell us that. We all know there is a petrol shortage. It does not require the Minister to tell us that. We know that transports have been sunk; we know that rubber plantations have been destroyed; we know that there is a world shortage of rubber and a world shortage of petrol. We know all that, and it did not require half-an-hour or more of the Minister's eloquence to convey those very simple, obvious and thoroughly well-known facts to the House. What we are interested in is a scheme to keep down the expenditure of petrol; to see that the same service given now will be given to North Mayo under the new scheme at an expenditure of less petrol than is being used in North Mayo at the present moment. That is the point at issue. That is the only point at issue, and that is the one point which the Minister entirely evaded through his whole speech. What is the good of saying "Oh, we must spare petrol," unless the Minister shows that one single gallon of petrol will be spared under his new scheme? Certainly, as far as I could see from his speech, he has not endeavoured to show that that could be in any way effected. The Minister did not show that there is any overlapping now in North Mayo transport. The Minister did not attempt to show or suggest to the House that there are privately-owned lorries running empty in North Mayo. The Minister did not suggest that there is anything except essentials coming into North Mayo, and certainly it seems to me that, from the public point of view, the Minister has not shown that there will be any saving under this new Order, or that there will be efficiency equal to the present efficiency when this new Order is in force.

This is a part of the country which has already suffered, and suffered very badly, under the Minister. How does it come about that North Mayo is in this position now, worse than any other part of this country, according to the Minister? It is due to the Minister's own policy; it is due to the fact that he closed the Westport-Achill line. If that railway line had not been closed by the Minister, there would not be the same problem in the Ballycroy area of North Mayo and the Achill area of North Mayo that there is at the present moment. We are told that this new scheme will effect a saving. Here is the area in Ireland which, according to the Minister himself, is most dependent upon motor traffic; yet it is in the area most dependent upon motor traffic that economy is suddenly started. It is the area which is dependent on motor traffic for a great deal of its food supply that is now going to be cut down to a lorry a week. There was a shortage of food in parts of North Mayo—a considerable shortage of food. There was a shortage of flour and a shortage of potatoes. That was not for want of transport but because the stuff was not there. If the Minister had set to work and organised the potato market in Mayo and other parts of the country, the surplus potatoes in one part of the country could have been brought down to the areas in which there were no potatoes. There was a shortage in Ballycroy because there was no organisation of the potato supply in the country; it was not due to want of transport.

It was due to want of transport and only to want of transport. Everybody in the area knows it was due only to want of transport.

The people in the area told me the very opposite. I was given the impression that it was not due to the want of transport. But what was your magnificent railway company doing then? Were there not railway lorries running from Westport to Ballycroy? If there was want of transport over that very line which the Minister closed down, is it not the railway company that is to blame? What is the Minister's answer to that? The Minister sits dumb.

He authorised them to close it down.

I know he did. He authorised them to close it down, and then, because railway transport breaks down, according to himself, in bringing food from Westport to Ballycroy, he now says: "I am going to put the whole of North Mayo under the charge of the railway company which is so magnificently efficient. It has proved itself inefficient; it has proved itself unable to supply transport for food in a particular area, but now I am going to give it a very much larger area in order that it will break down very much more. Then we will have an example of broken-down transport for the whole area." That is the Minister's own argument. As a matter of fact, the Minister is unfair to the railway company, because I do not believe it was the failure of the railway company to provide transport that caused the food shortage in Ballycroy last year. If we assume with him that it was, then he has damned his own scheme by his own arguments. He was very voluble a minute ago. He has ceased to be quite so voluble now.

It is not my turn to speak. The Deputy is in possession.

What control will there be over the charges? We know perfectly well at the present moment that the charges for those railway lorries are very high, but, if there is no competition, who is going to regulate the charges? What are the people in those areas going to pay? At the present moment, there is competition between the various lorry owners and the various merchants, everybody endeavouring to supply his customers as cheaply as he can. How will the charges be regulated now? Has the Minister thought that out? Has he thought what it might cost a private lorry owner to bring flour to Ballycroy or to Belmullet? What does that cost now? What will it cost when a complete monopoly is given to the railway company, monopolists who, as far as I can see, have most certainly not shown magnificent ability in the management of their affairs, and who are not very generous in the matter of their charges. I do not want to go into this, Sir, because I would be wandering away from the point at issue, but in my judgment one of the things which must be gone into and ought to have been gone into before this is the terrible load which Irish agriculture has hanging around its neck in the form of the excessive charges which are made for the transport of agricultural produce, especially live stock, from the West of Ireland and from other remote districts in Ireland to Dublin.

Now, the Minister proposes to put forward a complete monopoly, and he does not attempt to show us that there will be any saving of petrol. We are all agreed on one major question. We are all agreed that there is a shortage of petrol in the country. We are all agreed that there is a grave danger of a still greater shortage. We are all agreed that the last yard should be got out of the last drop of petrol that there is in the country, and that the last ounce that could be carried by a lorry should be carried. But the Minister has not attempted to show us that this scheme will make for any economy at all. I would put it to the sense of justice of the House that if there are areas which are fed by the railway lines, or areas which are fed by canal traffic, those are the areas which should be deprived of petrol before areas which, owing to the action of the Minister or for any other cause, are now dependent solely on horse haulage and petrol. Those areas where petrol is most used are the areas into which an allowance of petrol should be most freely sent. The Minister, I submit to the House, has not made a case for his new departure. The Minister has not suggested that his new departure is going to be in any way effective in supplying the essentials of life to the people of North Mayo at a lesser cost in petrol than they are being supplied to-day.

It must be obvious to every Deputy who has given any consideration to the present position of transport that the only way to get the bost use of the limited transport services available is to have transport, whether by road, rail or canal, under a system of national control. I take it that the experiment upon which the Minister is now engaged is designed to meet the serious situation which he said exists in regard to the reduction in the existing supply of petrol. If that be so, I think he has not made a very wise decision in selecting the scattered area of Mayo as the area upon which to carry out successfully an experiment of this kind. I travel through Dublin every day in the week, as other Deputies do, and I see lorries owned by big concerns in this city using large quantities of petrol in bringing goods over short distances, goods that might well be carried by horse transport and for which horse transport is available. We read in the papers every day that Guinness's shareholders are receiving higher profits because of the way in which they are carrying on their business. Why should Guinness's, instead of using large quantities of petrol for carrying commodities over very short distances inside the city boundary and for carrying their workers over the short distance from the quays to the brewery, not have all that transport carried on with horses? In that way you could save much more petrol in the City of Dublin than will be saved in the North Mayo area by this particular experiment. One sees quite a number of private cars going around the city with Dublin registration numbers carrying people who appear to me not to be engaged on any essential work. I admit that I have no means of checking up to prove my statement, but, if you are going to save petrol and to use horse drawn transport as an alternative. I say that you can save a considerable quantity by cutting out petrol driven lorries in the cities and using horse transport.

The Minister's admission here this evening was a most amazing confession of the failure of his own Department and the Government as a whole in connection with the handling of the transport situation. I remember listening to the Minister when he sat on this side of the House 11 years ago telling the people, about the January election of 1932, that it was the intention of his Party when they got into office to bring into operation a system of public ownership of our transport services. He has been sitting on the Government Benches for 10½ years, and he has admitted to-night that he has no organisation capable of facing up to that situation. Is that not a frightful confession of failure?

He had a plan then.

Of course, he told us that he had a plan for putting into operation a system of public ownership of transport just as he said he had a plan for other problems, but on his own admission to-night he has no organisation capable of dealing with the situation that he knows to exist in North Mayo. If he has not a plan after ten and a half years for putting his policy of that time into operation, he is not likely to have it even if he is left there for another ten and a half years. We must get some other Minister capable of putting the policy of public ownership of transport into operation. I admit the Minister is confronted with a very serious difficulty in this matter. The maintenance of road transport in the country depends on the supply of petrol. Nobody, not even the Minister, can say more than a few weeks in advance what the supply will be, and when I heard him make that confession here this evening it brought back to my mind the famous statement by Deputy Aiken, Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures, when he said that if every damn ship were at the bottom of the sea we would get on far better if we only used our brains. We know where we are now without the tankers and the Minister must know better than anybody else.

I urge the Minister, instead of going ahead with this experimental scheme for a small area like North Mayo, to face boldly up to the situation that he knows to exist regarding the shortage of transport as a whole. There is no way to deal with it except by facing boldly up to it and taking complete control of every commercial lorry, every canal system and every rail system and getting an organisation that will deal with the problem as a whole and make the best use of the limited transport and the limited petrol supply that will be available in future. If the North Mayo experiment is a success in that particular area with its own peculiarities, what does the Minister propose to do next? Does he propose to go into South Mayo to experiment for another month and wait for the final results of this experiment perhaps for a couple of years, when there will probably be no tyres, less petrol and a still further reduction in transport by rail?

Deputy Mulcahy's Government made a mess of the railways when they practically closed them down altogether. The Minister for Industry and Commerce said on one occasion that he was not alone the chosen spokesman of workers, but that he was also the chosen spokesman of a railwayman's party and that he was going to keep the railways going. Instead of doing so, he has allowed the railways to collapse. Now he comes along, impelled by force of circumstances brought about by his own weakness, and he is going to paralyse the road services of the country. He is starting in North Mayo to do that. Does the Minister suggest, when he states that he has no organisation, that he cannot get an Irishman of brains to tackle the problem that he sees better than anybody else in front of him? I believe the person put in charge of the Great Southern Railway Company would not say so. I believe he would know whether he has an organisation ready, or whether he could get it ready within a reasonable time, to take national control of the whole transport services of the country. I believe the present chairman of the Great Southern Railways, nominated by the Government, would not shirk that responsibility if he were asked to face it. There are many here in this country who are as well able to do a job of that kind as can be found in any other country. We always have the idea— and it has been applied in the insurance line—that you must get some brainy fellow from outside to revolutionise the transport system, the insurance system and other systems. There are better men in this country than in any other country to deal with our particular problems, as the very fact that they belong to this country makes them able to know the particular problems here better than anybody outside. Besides that, they are dealing with the interests of their own country.

If I am faced with a vote on this particular annulment motion moved by Deputy Mulcahy, I must say that no case has been made for the annulment of the Order and, although feeling aggrieved at the failure of the Government, and of the Minister in particular, to face a solution of this problem on national lines, I would be compelled to go into the Division Lobby and back the Minister on his method of going easy to find a final solution of this matter, rather than move for the annulment of the Order for the reasons given by Deputies Mulcahy and Browne.

The Minister pretended he did not hear Deputy Browne talk about the 15 hours per day which workers were forced to work under the system now in North Mayo. I ask Deputy Browne what these unfortunate people are receiving in remuneration for that 15-hour day. It is an illegal method of employment, as far as I know, under existing conditions. I ask what wages per week they are paying.

These are the lorries that go out with mineral waters, and so on. They have to do a long journey and come back late, as, on their ration of petrol, they must have a load out and back.

What is the rate of wages?

I do not know.

The Minister says he does not know and Deputy Browne says he does not know. It is hard to choose between them.

Has the Deputy been around North Mayo?

I have, on a few occasions. I am rather surprised that the Minister should be unaware of this or that he would allow commercial lorry owners to compel their workers to work 15 hours per day without knowing the rate of wages.

There is a law about that.

I hope the Minister will take serious notice of the admission Deputy Browne made in this House— speaking, as he said, on behalf of the motor lorry owners associated with the organisation referred to by the Minister.

I said that, for the purpose of conserving petrol and in order to make the best use of the lorry, there must be a load out and back and that it was a very long day. I did not say anything further than that. I explained myself very clearly.

I fully appreciate what the Deputy said. He explained himself clearly—sufficiently clearly to compel the Minister to take serious notice of the Deputy's admission. I would not stand for a continuance of that system, as against the system— although I am not acquainted with the details—which the Minister proposes to operate as an experiment. Between the devil and the deep sea, I would go into the Lobby with the Minister in support of his experimental scheme rather than support the annulment of the Order.

We do not wish to minimise the difficulties the Minister has to face, or the magnitude of the problem that confronts the country. I am inclined to agree with the Minister that this is probably the greatest problem this country has to face during the emergency. We do not want any gratuitous advice from the Minister to face it in a realistic way and without putting our heads in the sand. We appreciate that the problem is there and we have experience of it around the country. The agriculturists, under very difficult conditions, have attempted to produce the essential food requirements of the nation. Transport enters largely into that, and we, as a Party here, are just as anxious as the Minister to see that some sort of skeleton service is preserved, no matter how difficult the situation may be. We realise that further economies must be effected, that services must be cut, that wastage must be eliminated, that the running of lorries light or empty must be avoided as far as possible and reduced to a minimum. The diminution in the petrol supplies is a very serious problem and it may be far more serious in the near future. Realising the gravity of that situation, and in this set of circumstances, I think we are entitled to ask if there is any justification whatever for the high-handed, dictatorial and arbitrary proposal of the Minister.

True to the form of Deputy Lemass, without any consultation, without any indication whatever, like a bolt from the blue, the people of Mayo were informed that this Order was to come into operation on a certain date. Is the Minister or the Civil Service such a great authority on transport problems that, without any consultation and without advice from anyone in this country, they can determine the best solution to this problem; and, by an abuse of the Emergency Powers Act, inform the public that they must abide by that decision? That is what we object to. Has the Parliament of this country any function in the life of the nation, or is this House a farce? Is this a totalitarian State or where are we heading for? We might as well close up this House and let the people know where they stand. The Minister must realise that people will not stand for that sort of thing. He has had experience of this matter before in another case, not very many months ago, and he had to climb down very quickly. As a responsible Minister, surely one might expect him to have learned a lesson from that and not repeat the experiment.

It was only when the Leader of the Opposition protested against that method of handing the problem that Parliament got an opportunity to discuss this matter. A solution has been put up by the people in North Mayo. I have not examined that proposal; it may or may not be a solution. Before any drastic Order of this sort was brought into operation, I claim, as a member of this House, and as a representative of the public, that we were entitled to full and frank information on whatever scheme the Minister proposed to operate. If there is any danger of this Parliament being brought into disrepute, the man who, more than any other member of the House, can be charged with the responsibility in that respect is Deputy Lemass, the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

The Minister is always referred to as the Minister for his particular Department.

I submit that I did refer to him as that. I named the person as well. I do not think the Minister can claim to have a monopoly of the brains of this country behind him in this Department with public evidence of all the blunders that have occurred there; the Department is very far from being in that position. The Minister will persist in going from one serious situation to another, and he will deal with it on his own or on the advice of civil servants cloistered in a Department in Earlsfort Terrace. Not one of them has any experience in the handling of transport. The Minister is resentful if members of the House protest against that situation. The public must knuckle down to a scheme because the Minister says so. I can assure him that the public are not prepared to do any such thing. Deputies have a right to demand that the House should first be informed of drastic proposals of this sort. My mind was eased somewhat when the Minister assured us that there was no question of confiscation. I can understand the people in Mayo misunderstanding the Order. In the Fianna Fáil paper, the Irish Press, of 28th August, this short paragraph appeared:

"In reference to this matter, private lorry owners whose vehicles are taken over will receive compensation, the basis of which will be determined later."

If that does not give the impression of compulsory acquisition, I do not know how to interpret English, I do not know the meaning of English. I say that it conveys to the minds of 99 per cent. of the people the idea of compulsory acquisition and compensation at the railway company's figure.

That was not done before.

That is what appeared in the Irish Press. Deputy Davin may defend the railway company if he likes——

I am not defending it.

——but in my opinion, and in the opinion of the vast majority of the people, it is a dud company that has given rotten transport service to this country.

I advocated the public ownership of the transport services— that is not defending the railway company, and I do not propose to defend it.

It is not because it lacked control and direction, but because it lacked the co-operation of the workers. Lorries operated by private owners beat them to it in the past. Before the war we saw that valuable property in a state of dilapidation and decay, and yet they were crying out for monopoly. There was no courtesy on the part of the railway servants, no attempt to co-operate in the taking or discharging of a load, and all over the country private ownership beat them. We got a cheaper and a more efficient service from private owners.

Pirates beat them.

We got a valuable and decent service at a fair price. We were not robbed by the private owners.

Pirates, paying men £1 a week.

Are Deputies entitled to use the privilege of the House in order to slander the railway workers?

Members of the Labour Party never slander anybody.

I am just giving the facts. In the past the railway workers were discourteous and failed to give their co-operation. They had no interest in the goods they carried, and very often they abused the goods they carried. Deputy Davin accused Deputy Mulcahy's Government of making a mess of the railways. The company and the workers made a mess of the railways; no Government made a mess of them. The Minister proposes to hand over the transport of part of the country to a dud company in the course of a great crisis. I would not put them in charge of a wheel-barrow —that is how I feel about that company. I would not trust them with anything.

You might be compelled to before the war is over.

Why should lorry owners, who have shown their efficiency, be handed over to a company of that type? Why should that type of company be given a monopoly of the transport, letting them charge what they like for their services—and we know what the charges are going to be when they have the people at their mercy? That is the only solution the Minister and his cloistered civil servants can find. They know so much about transport that they are not prepared to consult anyone. The Minister sneers and jibes at Deputies of this Party because they resent action of that sort. We want to impress on the Minister that in any situation that requires drastic action, the people concerned ought to be consulted. The Minister has repeatedly ignored the interests of the people who are most concerned. I say it is the Minister's duty to consult these people first. Instead of doing so, he has treated them with contempt—and this is not the first occasion on which he has acted in that fashion.

I am glad to hear from the Minister that it is not the intention to introduce compulsory acquisition. The public could not be blamed for interpreting the Order as meaning compulsory acquisition. I am very much inclined to suspect that the Minister mended his hand when he saw the formidable opposition to the Order. I suggest that before there is any drastic change in the present transport scheme, the people who know something about transport, who have long experience in the operation of transport and in supplying transport services, should be consulted and their advice taken. We have in this country good Irishmen, sincerely anxious for the nation's welfare, men capable of giving advice to the Minister without taking a narrow view. Evidently the Minister suspects that every other person takes the narrow point of view about everything. Apparently there is no patriot in the country but the Minister. I think he is very much mistaken there, because you will get public-spirited men prepared to give sound advice on national problems of this sort.

It is the arbitrary, high-handed, dictatorial action of the Minister that we resent. Such problems have had to be tackled in other countries. Were their methods examined? Deputy Browne suggested a solution which is worthy of the Minister's consideration. The British solution was to appoint a transport officer to an area and allocate a petrol quota for that area, and that officer gives personal supervision to the operation of transport in that area. I think it is time to decentralise the Minister's Department, so far as transport and petrol and kerosene supplies are concerned. It is impossible for a civil servant to interpret what is simply put down in a form, to segregate the returns made by the honest man anxious to give genuine and sincere information and the fellow who tries to make a good case. I admit there is a problem and that waste must be eliminated.

How would you do it?

I am not solving it, but I would not hand the transport over to the dud company that Deputy Davin knows all about. I would hand it over to men who have made a success of their jobs.

I made no such suggestion.

I would give it to men who had made a success with a particular problem. I would not ask a man who has been a failure to solve problems which confronted me. Has the Minister consulted anybody in this matter? Has he consulted anybody who might be looked upon as an authority on transport problems, or does he think that he is capable of solving all these problems? I ask the Minister if the British system has been examined with a view to seeing how it could be applied here. They appoint a transport officer for an area and the returns have to be made to him. He has these advantages, that he has all the local knowledge; he has the local superintendent of police to help him; and he is on the spot all the time.

Is the Deputy aware that most of the road transport in England is under the railway executive?

Private transport?

Commercial lorries.

We are dealing now with private lorries, and let the Deputy not try to side-track us.

I thought we were dealing with public transport?

We are dealing with the elimination of private transport.

They call themselves private.

They are semi-public, if you like, but they are operated by private owners, and you cannot beat them. The railway company could not beat them, anyway.

You have a nose on the railway company.

I have, for a good reason—they are not fit to exist. I ask the Minister before putting this Order into operation to examine my suggestion—decentralisation of this whole system and the sending down of efficient officers to control counties or half counties. He can get some voluntary help and co-operation. He can get help from the Gárda, from public men, from the people in the service and from the people who require transport services. If he does not find that a solution, in my opinion and in the opinion of this Party, he should at least consult the people who are recognised authorities on transport.

I represent a district somewhat similarly situated to North Mayo. I regret that I had not the advantage of hearing Deputy Browne's solution for his area, but I think the Minister's solution is the only one in present circumstances, provided there are one or two safeguards. I personally do not think that all the private transport in the scheduled area should be handed over to the control of the Great Southern Railways Company, but that all the available transport ought to be pooled, in the sense that the traffic to be conveyed in an area ought to be pooled, registered in central offices in one or two places and then allocated to the various lorries in the district. I think that privately-owned lorries ought to be continued in private ownership and control under the new arrangement, and I refer particularly to the lorries owned by large distributors in places like Galway City, who carry the greater part of the food supplies of an area like Connemara. It would be much better from the point of view of efficiency of distribution if these owners were allowed to continue to own and control their lorries and their traffic, provided always that return traffic should, as far as possible, be sent in these lorries when they are returning light.

There are certain practical difficulties in the case of the distributor who has a lot of empties to bring back, or who has a lot of bags, boxes and cases which are lent to his customer from one journey to another. That type of traffic cannot always be handled satisfactorily by a public company like the railway company. I suggest, however, that that safeguard should be provided, whereby all this transport would not be handed over to the Great Southern Railways Company. I am afraid I find myself in sympathy to a large extent with what Deputy Hughes has said. I do not know whether it is the fault of the Great Southern Railways Company itself. I am not against public ownership in principle if I thought it was the method by which we could solve our problems, and, even in peace-time, I think I would be in favour of it. I am not, as I say, against it on principle, but so far as I have seen it operate in my own area, at all events, I am not impressed by it.

Deputy Davin made an attack on the Minister in connection with the railways. In my own district, we had 50 miles of railway which closed down, and, as one individual Deputy, I went several times to the railway authorities in connection with the matter. I asked them if there were any considerations which would induce them to keep that line open, and I asked if they would keep it open if the Government were to come to their aid financially. I was told quite bluntly: "We do not want any Government money by way of loan or grant. If our railway were paying, we would keep it in order and continue to run it. What we want is the support of the public and not the support of the Government. We want traffic, and if we can get a guarantee in respect of traffic, we will run the railway, but the public do not want us down there any more, and we are going out." That was the sum and substance of their attitude, and, in the circumstances, I had no reply to make to them.

They were not publicly owned. We never had public ownership.

The railway was the nearest thing to public ownership we had in transport at the time.

It was the farthest thing from it.

So far as the average man in Connemara is concerned, he does not see much difference between control of the railway and public ownership. The services which they got by road were far better. The railway down there was run through a bog and all the stations were miles away from the villages, and the road services which came later were far more convenient, because people got their merchandise, their letters and their papers landed practically at their doors in the villages and got them early. We did carry on a campaign, when a big housing drive was going on, to try to get the people to use the railway for the transportation of building materials, which was a type of traffic obviously suited to the railways, and we met the same reply in every place. The man buying the materials said: "Why should I use the railway where my goods will be loaded and unloaded four or five times, when I can have my goods carried with one loading and one unloading, and at a much cheaper rate?"

All these things operated against the railway, but in any event all that traffic would not have gone from the railway to the road services, if the road services had not been there. We might ask ourselves why they were there. There was no let or hindrance whatever on anybody who wanted to go to a bank and raise the price of a lorry or a bus and put it on the road, with the result that what we had in Connemara was not road services but road races. There were five companies running on one stretch of 30 miles and travelling in those days was not safe. The majority of these companies went bankrupt.

That is one extreme, and the other is what we would probably have under Deputy Davin's solution of public ownership. I think that some compromise between the two can and ought to be found. I think that as much of the transport, in places like my constituency anyway, as can be arranged to be owned and operated by private enterprise should be operated by private enterprise. We have a number of privately-owned lorries, and I think that these ought not to be handed over to the railway company. Whatever system the Minister has, he ought to try to bring them in and let these people control and run their own lorries, employing their own men, subject to a pooling of the traffic. I cannot see why the employment exchanges of that area could not be used for the regulation of that traffic. Let the railway company be a party to the pooling arrangement same as the private owners. I do not know what the position of Mayo was last spring but, as far as my area is concerned, I do not think that the shortages that occurred last year were entirely due to transport. I must say that the Galway distributors did their work well and sent out the flour supplies as soon as they reached them. In portion of Connemara, the difficulties may have been due to transport—the roads in that area run east to west—but the arrangements of large distributors, such as we have in Galway, on whom the bulk of the food supply for Connemara depends, ought to be interfered with as little as possible.

I do not believe that the railway company or any publicly-owned company will be able to give the service that these distributors give, whether at the present time or in peace-time. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind. Subject to that, I think that the Minister's idea of pooling the traffic is an admirable one and is justified 100 per cent. by present conditions. I do not think that there is anything in what Deputy Hughes said about this matter being dealt with in high-handed fashion. The fact that we are discussing it here is ample evidence that it was not so dealt with.

I regret that, as I had business in a Department of Government, I missed most of the debate and had not an opportunity of hearing the Minister. The House is indebted to the Leader of the Opposition and to the movers of the motion for giving it an opportunity of debating this matter, thus preventing the Minister from getting "one over" on the people in another advance towards general centralisation. The tendency for the last decade has been gradually towards the centralisation, not alone of transport but of practically every branch of the public service. I deplore that tendency. The Minister has, probably, said that this is not an attempt to centralise transport but has been forced upon him by the petrol shortage. That may be so but, if a monopoly is created temporarily, it will remain. Drive the private vehicles off the road and you will have a rail monopoly working, as I believe, to the disadvantage of the general community. If the movers of the motion had not taken the action they did, the Minister would have got "one over" on us. This proposal would have been an accomplished fact. I do not know whether the debate in the House will prevent it or not, but I hope it will. Surely there is some other way of meeting the situation than by handing over all the transport to one company? I am not going to say anything at all about that company except that private enterprise is more likely to facilitate the public than any public company with headquarters in the metropolis.

The private lorry owners are much more in touch with local people, and much more likely to facilitate them than any big company, no matter how well managed, and we are not all satisfied about the management of this company. Take local conditions as we know them. I was a spectator this year when two railway lorries came to cart away a man's produce which was about a quarter of a mile in the fields from the road. The railwaymen refused to go beyond the road, and the man had to borrow horses to bring the stuff to the lorries on the road. The produce had been bought by a man who got railway lorries to remove it. Another purchaser got his transport done by the local co-operative society. The employees of that society who came with the lorries had no objection to going into the fields, taking off their coats and helping the farmer to load his produce on the lorries. That is an instance of co-operation on the part of private enterprise as against lack of co-operation by a public company. Those instances could be multiplied by other Deputies. Surely, there is some way out even if the Minister makes the case that this change is forced upon him by the petrol shortage. Deputy Hughes suggested that we might follow the example of the British and appoint transport officers for the different areas. There must be some individuals in every locality as capable as the management of the G.S.R. who could provide for the transport of their district. If there is a shortage of petrol, it should be everybody's desire that what petrol there is should be used to the best possible advantage, and that the greatest amount of goods should be carried by it. Will a greater quantity of goods be carried on the limited quantity of petrol available by a monopoly than by private owners? I believe the reverse will be the case. If you cut down the petrol supply to an infinitesimal amount, you force upon the private owners the necessity of conserving their supplies and taking the last ounce out of them in the way of carriage of goods. It is to their interest to do so. To say that there is no way out of the difficulty than the centralisation of transport is ridiculous. It suggests that the people are incapable of facing up to a difficulty in any circumstances. I believe that they are as capable of facing up to a situation as is the Minister or any public company. If this Order had gone through without the House being given an opportunity of discussing it, it would have been put into operation in Mayo. If there were no protest in Mayo, it would have been extended to the next district, and within a few months the system would be in operation in every county—as a temporary measure, we would be told. But the temporary measure would develop into a permanent measure and we would have a new monopoly of the whole transport services, as there is a monopoly of the passenger services at present.

It would have very far-reaching effects. Take the position of the co-operative societies. There are in this country a very large number of big co-operative societies—there are three or four of them in my own county— with a service of lorries for the carrying on of their business with people, and they do the public carrying of these people as well. They facilitate them in every way possible, in a way that no public monopoly like the Great Southern Railways could possibly do it. They arrange for carrying goods one way——

Is the Deputy talking about licensed carriers, people licensed to carry goods for hire? It is not proposed to interfere with these at all. I do not think the Deputy read the Order.

They are public carriers.

We are not proposing to interfere with them. The position is that we have to restrict the number of lorries and we will restrict those which are exclusively for the service of private individuals and maintain those which are for the service of the public.

Then it is not the Minister's intention to interfere with the lorries which are the property of the co-operative societies?

So far as my intention is concerned, it will be determined by the quantity of petrol available at any time. But the immediate re-organisation does not involve any interference with licensed carriers, people who are licensed to carry other persons' goods for hire.

It is not the Minister's intention to proceed further than the private carriers at present, but circumstances will force his hand, and the Minister believes that circumstances will force his hand. If he is allowed to get away with this and start with the private carriers, it will be extended to other carriers in a short time.

It may even be that there will be no motor cars at all. There may be no petrol for anybody.

The Minister knows as well as any Deputy that some of these private firms that have lorries for their own use are serving the public just as much as the public carriers are. They buy from the public and they sell to the public and are in effect carrying public goods.

Would the Deputy leave these on and put the public carriers off?

If possible, I would leave them all on.

We cannot. We have to reduce them by one half. We have to cut them down by one half. Which will you cut down?

This is confined to private carriers in these areas.

There are a number of public carriers.

And around Ballina there is an exempted area where even a licence is not required. There are a number of public carriers in that area.

If you cut out the private carriers in most areas, the number of public carriers in some districts would not be sufficient to carry the goods.

Why will not Deputies face the question: if you have to cut out a number of lorries, what lorries will be cut out?

Why not cut out some of the Great Southern Railways' lorries as well?

In order to keep the private lorries going we are to cut out the public ones?

Why attack one set as against another? I agree that if petrol is short you must cut out somebody. Why not distribute the petrol to the best advantage? If I had my way and had only 20 gallons of petrol, instead of 40 formerly, for a certain number of people, I would distribute the 20 gallons proportionately amongst that number and let them make the best use they could of it. I believe they could come to some pooling arrangement. I believe that if they were left to themselves to develop and put up a scheme they would put up a scheme which would be of more advantage to the country than this scheme of the Minister's. But the point I want to make is that the Minister wanted indirectly to get away with a scheme for the centralisation of transport in this case with a view to advancing to a general policy of centralisation everywhere. We have too much of that. I think it is time it was attacked, and I am glad that this motion was brought in to attack it.

I think the suggestion made by Deputy Hughes is a reasonable one, that a transport officer or a small committee should be appointed in each district to consider the circumstances there, and to make the best arrangement in consultation with the carriers as to how the situation should be met. I do not believe the Minister has considered this matter as carefully as he ought to have considered it. I believe that he just made a dash at the easiest possible way out, which was to wipe everybody out except this company, and give them the whole carrying business of a particular district. If it is done in this place, it will be possible to do it in the rest of the country if this Order stands.

One of the weaknesses of the Parliamentary system is that a Ministerial statement may be more concerned with a picture of problems than with a detailed explanation of the method proposed to solve them. In this case the Minister's statement had in it some inherent weaknesses. First of all, we were not given any information regarding the resources at the disposal of the public carrying company which we inferred from the Minister's statement he proposes to charge with responsibility for the transport of the country. Nor did he give any information regarding the number of privately-owned lorries or those which are the property of public hauliers. When the Minister interjects to say that some of the speakers on this side leaned towards the owners of private lorries carrying goods as distinct from the lorries of a public company carrying goods, he ignores the fact that somebody must carry the goods somewhere. The immediate ownership of the goods is not in question. However small a village may be, if goods are required to be carried there for the public, the goods that are brought there are public goods, and it matters little to the people there whether it is the lorry of a public company which brings them or a privately-owned lorry. The main consideration for them is that they get the goods and that the cost of transport is not too high.

My information in regard to this particular problem is that there are some 8,000 privately-owned lorries in the State; that this public company has some 2,000 lorries, and that there are haulage lorries to the number of about 1,200. Viewing it on that basis alone, it appears to me that the private lorry owners are business men, and that they expect a return for the service that is rendered by their lorries; that it is an economic proposition; that they are carrying the greater quantity of goods and that they are in essence the larger hauliers. However one may describe the private carriers, they are in essence the largest collection of carriers in the country.

In normal times.

Yes. Our problem is a shortage of petrol and tyres. Would it not be better in a case of this sort to consult those who have been carrying the largest and heaviest quantity of goods as to how best one can reduce the consumption of petrol and conserve our stock of tyres? The Minister's proposal, if I correctly interpret it, is to expand one service, and the question is whether it is a better proposition to expand one service than to contract one which is already in existence and which represents twice the number of those who are described as public carriers, if the figures I have given are correct. These people know their business. They deal with traders. They collect goods from the railroad. It may be an easier proposition for them to collect goods for other people than for their own particular concerns. It may be a more economic proposition than to have, let us say, a business man in the town in which Deputy Browne lives, having his goods delivered to his shop by his own lorry and having goods delivered to the next shop by a lorry from the railway company. That is the situation at present. It would be important to get from the Minister what actual reduction must be made in the distribution of petrol. My information is that the Minister informed these people that he could only give them one-quarter of their usual supply.

Our present supply is only one-quarter of what we formerly used.

Does the Minister anticipate being able to keep up that one-quarter? Will he venture to give any estimate as to what reduction must be made?

On the basis of this year's allocation of petrol to this country we have had to impose a number of restrictions on petrol users, but even all these restrictions have not brought down the monthly consumption of petrol below the monthly allocation of petrol. So that, even if there is no reduction in our annual allocation, we would still have to redress the balance between our monthly consumption of petrol and our monthly allocation here, but if there is a further cut in our annual allocation, there will have to be a very drastic cutting all round.

I take it that however efficiently or inefficiently the lorry-owner business is being conducted at present—and my information is that it is being conducted very efficiently—even if they were carrying to only half their estimated capacity, it would still be an economic proposition, and if they were carrying to full capacity, then, perhaps, half of the 8,000 lorries would do the business. Is it suggested that people who are in close touch with this carrying business are to be put on one side, and that somebody, who has not been engaged in that business up to now, has got to come in? It must be remembered that this district to which we are referring is probably, I imagine, the largest area in the country which depends almost entirely for its transport service on the privately-owned lorry. These people know the business. They are in touch with its requirements. They know their customers, and, as one Deputy has said, they deliver goods and get back empties. Now, that is not a business in which the public transport company can do this new work, as far as they are concerned, and it does appear to me, on the face of it, to be much more likely that, with the co-operation that would be given by the lorry owners, and the responsibility that would be put on them for dealing with the whole transport question, they might do it much more efficiently than the public transport company. My information is that it is on a plane something like that by which the British have solved their problem over there. The British have got the co-operation of all the persons engaged in the carrying business—the privately-owned lorries, and so on— and they have been able to carry on very efficiently. There have been many criticisms of the public transport company. Some of them are unreasonable, I admit, and some of them not, but if one reads very carefully the report of the Railway Tribunal, I think it will be found that the public transport company would not have been in the unfortunate financial position in which they were when the emergency arose if they had not paid dividends that they did not earn. That is the main concern, and that is a fault, I think, that the lorry owners would not have committed, taking them as a body. They would balance their budgets year after year, they would see and correct anything wrong in their undertakings, and we must assume that they have made a success of their business since they have been able to deliver goods at a lower price than the public transport company, and, after all, that is one of the principal tests that should be applied in connection with the efficiency or inefficiency of public usefulness. If we are to take it on that basis, then it is obvious that these lorry owners must not have wasted either petrol or tyres, and that they must have got value for them.

Again, following the same line of argument, if we examine the report of the Railway Tribunal, I think it will be seen that the road services that were operated by the public transport company were not brilliantly successful. As far as my recollection goes, the goods-carrying section of the public transport service was always, more or less, on the line-ball basis, but if the lorry owners in the West of Ireland were on a line-ball basis, they would not last long. Now, let us deal with that. I admit that it would be quite hopeless for us to try to deal with the 26 Counties separately, if that number were involved, on that basis, or even with 13. I agree that, theoretically, that is quite true, but I should prefer to have the co-operation of the people of these 26 Counties, so as to safeguard every man's interest and the Minister's interest, and to have every man made aware of the fact that there is a limited quantity of petrol and tyres available, and that he must get the maximum amount of usefulness out of them. Again, if one were to take just a view of what has been done by the State in connection with the supply of turf throughout the country, you have lorry-loads of turf coming up here to centres like Dublin or Cork, and so on, and then going back empty, although they are capable of carrying goods on the return journey. Surely, there must be some goods to carry back?

The quantity of goods coming in is at least double the quantity of goods going out, and some of these lorries must go back empty.

I know, but one of the difficulties in connection with the facilities that were afforded to race meetings was that an extra box had to be put on to bring a horse or two horses to the race meeting, and that extra box meant the utilization of more coal. If the transportation of turf had been arranged properly, you could have put on that extra box, and it would not have meant very much. However, all I say is that I would give a lot to have the co-operation of the people of this country with regard to this particular problem. We need not go back to the period of 10 years ago, or even prior to that, to realise how it was hammered into the people's ears that everything should not be centred in Dublin—that there should be decentralisation instead of centralisation. Here is an opportunity now for decentralisation and for putting on the shoulders of the people in their different areas a responsibility which the people themselves are willing to carry.

I would much prefer that an endeavour should be made to seek their co-operation in serving themselves and the country. I believe in giving them the fullest information as to the quantity of petrol you have and in telling them how, if it is abused, it means that somebody will run short of milk, butter, and so on. I think it would be much better to examine that side of it, and, from what I have heard, if the Minister were to take that line, he would get all the co-operation he needed from men of good will to help him in his problem. For instance, I met men last week, and I used all the arguments of the Minister in order to get the essence of what they thought, and they could not be shaken in their determination, which was to help in this matter if their help were availed of by the Minister.

I take it that every Deputy is anxious to help the Minister in this problem of transport, but I would suggest that, as the petrol supply is the crux of the whole matter, the Minister should see that his own house, the Government, is put in order first. I have had experience recently in my district, and I can visualise the situation that is happening in Mayo today being extended down to Cork tomorrow, or in a month's time. I have seen military lorries travelling empty from Ballincollig, outside Cork City, to Castlefreke, in West Cork, a distance of 40 miles, collecting timber there and hauling it to Ballincollig.

I would suggest that if there is going to be criticism of the administration of the Army it had better be directed to the Minister for Defence. As far as the Army is concerned, I have no responsibility for the utilisation of petrol and I could not answer the points raised by the Deputy.

I am not asking the Minister to answer. I am dealing with a case in point where petrol could be conserved. I am giving a case of lorries travelling empty from Ballincollig to Castlefreke, collecting timber there and bringing back to Ballincollig a small load of timber that no other lorry would be seen on the road with, while at the same time there is timber available in Ballincollig at a small price, which could be cut there. I do not know why there is such abuse and I think the Minister should direct his attention to it and see that such things will not occur. Deputy Davin mentioned the fact that within the city boundary in Dublin and Cork lorries are doing work that horses could do. In the past few days I have seen buses running normal services in the city.

If the petrol situation is the real cause for this Order, why is there not a curtailment of these services? Why start in Belmullet and compel the poor fellow in Belmullet to walk long distances? The Dublin City person will not walk a few yards if a bus is available, while the poor person in Belmullet or Cape Clear may have to walk 12 miles to get his business done. Why not make some attempt to conserve the supply of petrol and give the isolated areas some facilities—they could not get equal facilities—but some facilities that would bring them into line with the areas that are better served?

My experience is that the private lorry owner is a much more efficient worker for country services. As has been explained by other Deputies, private lorry owners are well established; they know their customers; they know where to deliver and where to collect goods. I am not satisfied that if you establish a new service it will be anything like as efficient. I believe there would be more wastage. I do not wish to intervene further, but I would suggest that where they would be suitable, horses should be substituted for lorries and buses functioning in Dublin or Cork. The petrol thus conserved could be given to isolated areas.

I would remind the House that this debate is to conclude at 20 minutes to seven and Deputy Risteard Ua Maolchatha may desire to get in soon and should be given an opportunity to conclude.

Five minutes will do me, Sir.

It seems that this whole crisis has arisen because of the sudden petrol shortage. We were told long ago by the Minister that there was an allocation this year of 12,000,000 gallons. I was called out of the House and did not hear the Minister finish his speech, but I wonder if there has been any breakdown in the supply. If there has not been a breakdown in the supply and if the Minister allocated the supply in a businesslike way, what is the reason for the present crisis? The Minister now starts an experiment in Mayo, an experiment drafted by civil servants. Everybody who knows the country understands that nobody can perform country services as efficiently as the private owner who himself is a country man and who understands country people. Deputy O'Donovan mentioned the fact that in Dublin lorries are doing work that horses could do.

Six months ago I raised the question in this House—why were lorries being used to shift timber from Dun Laoghaire station to a dump 200 yards away. They are still at it. The distance is so short that they have not to tie the timber on the lorry. A horse would bring as large a load and as many loads. That is being done by Fuel Importers, Limited—in other words, the Government. About 8,000 tons of timber have been so shifted from Dun Laoghaire station to a dump called the "Gut", 200 yards away. Why were not horses put on that work? In face of the petrol restrictions, we sent fleets of lorries from Dublin City across the Shannon for turf, and they came back with 1,004 tons of turf to Dublin, using about 26 gallons of petrol to bring 3 or 4 tons of turf. Would any big country that is engaged in this war do such a thing? I think if the Minister had any shame in him he would resign for the way he has mishandled the supplies position generally and the petrol position in particular.

It was inevitable that we would have to fall back on petrol to bring fuel to Dublin. Why was not that petrol used to bring the maximum amount of fuel? I do not want to mention a case that the Minister knows of, where five times the amount of fuel could be brought into Dublin with the same amount of petrol, and I challenge the Minister to contradict it. Forty tons of fuel could be brought to Dublin with 26 gallons of petrol. Four tons of turf were brought. Now, abruptly, everything is brought to a standstill because of a shortage of petrol which was wasted bringing turf over long distances instead of bringing in fuel that was available within short distances. Now—is it another bogey like Fuel Importers, Limited?—we want to waste petrol and "put it over" on the County Mayo. How did the private owners of lorries in Mayo and elsewhere get business? They got it because they went out and developed it. Where was your railway company then? Where were your big combines? It seems that this country is being run now for one purpose only, and that is to wipe out the small man and to give everything over to combines after the small man has done the development. We all know that the railway company or the tramway company would not put a bus on the road 20 years ago. It was small men, who had saved a few pounds, or who mortgaged everything, developed the bus traffic. Then when it was developed it was handed over to combines, and the taxpayers had to hand over thousands of pounds to compensate the pioneers of that traffic. It is terrible to hand business over to any company that cannot run its own business efficiently.

There is no use in marching from inefficiency to inefficiency. This experiment that is to be made in Mayo will then be tried all over the country in order to deal with local transport services. Why did the railways company not develop local transport services to join up with their services? They had not the foresight, the intelligence or the industry to do that. Those who did it are now to be brushed aside. I hope every Deputy will support the motion, in order to tell the Minister "where to get off". People in the country know their work, and they can do it if they are allowed to do so.

The Minister should explain to the House how the quota of 1,000,000 gallons of petrol was distributed monthly. Imagine a managing director who was running a business being told that at the end of December the petrol supply would be halved and that half the commercial vehicles would be put off the road. I have not seen any statement by the Minister informing the country that the 12,000,000 gallons of petrol would not arrive this year. Why should there not be as much available in October as in September? Was the Minister not planning ahead? People who carry on business must plan ahead. They cannot wait to be told one morning that the transport they need is not available. I should like the Minister to inform anxious people in my constituency about the petrol position. If he is forced to take over control in Mayo, I suggest that a similar decision will follow in Dublin. The petrol situation in County Dublin is so serious that milk distributors are without a supply. It is time that the Minister informed the country whether the promises of supplies that were made are being honoured. I have pretty good information from petrol sources that these promises are being honoured. Has the position been mismanaged? If the new luxury flying service to Limerick is encroaching on petrol supplies, the sooner flying for the privileged few is stopped the better, so that petrol can be used to drive lorries. What would keep one aeroplane up in the air for one hour would drive a six-ton lorry for a month. I am speaking from inside knowledge. The Minister need not shake his head.

It is a different form of fuel altogether.

But it has to be brought in. Why not bring in what is useful? What do we want to run luxury planes to Limerick for? Who wants to fly to Limerick or anywhere else while essential services are not kept running?

So much has been said against the proposal, and so little in favour of it, that it is hardly worth while labouring it further. One could go on for hours on the line that Deputy Belton has properly taken.

I took it up simply on its own ground.

Simply upon the failure of the Minister to provide what a £3-a-week housekeeper would have done. There are two points for consideration. When we passed various types of legislation in this House, interfering with people who were selling certain services, we always took care to except those who were manufacturing a service to supply themselves. Certainly electricity legislation was given to an organisation which was set up to take over compulsorily the supplying of electricity by people who were selling it to the public, but it left alone those who produced electricity for their own use. In various types of transport legislation, the one thing definitely excepted from the whole purview of that legislation was the companies or the men carrying their own goods. They were definitely excepted from any transport legislation, the simple device being to say that such carriage was not carriage for reward. The only traffic interfered with was carriage for reward. Now we are going to interfere with people who carry their own goods. We are interfering in County Mayo, a county which does not offer itself as a proper area for an experiment of this kind to be tried. The second thing is this, that quite a number of cases were before a tribunal in connection with the confiscation of certain property of a transport type, and the one thing that emerged from these cases was this, that the very railway company that found itself in a peculiar situation in Ballina, Mayo, was given as one example. The railway company found that 30 people were licensed to carry. They confiscated ten, feeling that they could deal with the other 20, but they then found that they had 40 people to deal with, the reason being that some merchants who had entrusted the carrying of the ordinary transport that they required to hauliers—not of the railway type— would not trust the railway when they got a monopoly. These men found it more economical to go into the business of haulage, even to carry their own goods, as they certainly would not find it as easy as licensed hauliers to get cargoes each way. Nevertheless, they went into the carrying of their own goods and they found it paid.

Now we are taking a step by which that type of economy is to be done away with. The Minister's problem in the situation in which he has allowed us to be landed, is that he must collapse transport into a smaller number of vehicles. Very good. There are two alternatives. Let the men who carry their own goods see if they can collapse carriage with their lorries, and so save petrol, tyres and parts. The alternative is to allow these people and their economic business to be handed over to those from whom they fled in horror. The Minister adopts the worse of the two alternatives. He is handing over this to a public transport company. The Minister knows, if he read the evidence given before the tribunal set up to report on transport, and which reported before the war started, that on certain points those who sat on that inquiry refused to hear any more witnesses, to say whether a private owned concern could carry goods at a cheaper rate and provide a better service than railway vehicles. They stated that they required no more evidence, because that was admitted as a result of the evidence. That is an admitted fact, and was reported as such to the Minister. The Minister now decides, when he has to make this particular collapse of traffic in the number of vehicles, to select people who proved and admitted that they run an uneconomic and a bad service, and that service is now going to be run at the expense of the private body.

I am not going to put Deputy Davin into the awkward situation of having to go into the same Lobby as the Minister, so that he can go with all his pure political atmosphere around him to his next public meeting. This motion was put down for the purpose of getting the Minister to state to the House what he proposed to do. We had a very confused statement from him. To annul the Order before us would put us in the position that we would likely have the plans which the Minister has prepared for Belmullet and the North Mayo area generally applied to the country as a whole. We have not yet seen the Minister's Order. The most that one could learn from his statement this evening was that he is going to prevent the private lorry owners getting petrol to run their lorries after some unspecified date. That date was to have been the 1st October. The Leader of the Opposition felt that, before the radical changes proposed were put into effect, we should have a complete statement in Parliament from the Minister.

This Order affects a very large class who have been providing a transport service in the country. The general scheme of the Order is to hand over this transport service to the railway company and the licensed hauliers, the railway company to have the controlling hand. The Minister suggests that something must be done, that he is going to do it, and that everybody else is simply saying, "wait until tomorrow." The opening case that we made here was that, as long ago as the 4th April, 1941, the National Private Lorry Owners' Protective Association represented all the facts to the Minister. They asked that they should be faced and that they be allowed to give their service. Who was better entitled to offer their service—that they should be allowed into the scheme —than those who had given the service which has been so well described by Deputy Cosgrave and by Deputy McGilligan?

On the 4th April, 1941, the Minister had concocted this scheme. He issued this Order on the 27th August, 1942, without ever having bowed his crested head to meet the representatives of this association. He actually did not meet them until the 8th October, 1942. Who is the president of this organisation? The man who presided at the biggest parade of the volunteer defence organisations that I have ever attended. It was held in Limerick some months ago. He is the man who was taking time by the forelock in April, 1941. He is not a man who is looking after his own interests, or the interests of a small class outside his own particular business, but one who is in the thick of the voluntary organisation work that is going on for our defence. The Minister is simply disrupting and bursting up the whole possibilities of our people in dealing with the various problems which are going to arise in the present situation by treating organisations of this kind and men of that class in the way that he has treated them in this instance. I want to warn the Minister that in applying this experiment to Mayo he is applying it to the worst area in the country to which he could apply it. He, of course, will be backed by his majority in the Dáil in what he is going to do. If he is going to apply the scheme to different areas, and intends to go ahead with it, I would urge him to apply it in, say, the north Kerry and Limerick area. Why not apply a scheme somewhat along the lines indicated by Deputy Bartley, and particularly along the lines indicated by the National Private Lorry Owners' Protective Association—one in which the haulier people, the private lorry owners and the railway company will be brought into consultation?

Let there be an examination of the various branches of the transport system in which the railway, the hauliers and the private lorry owners are able to give the best service. Have the experiment carried out in the area where this organisation was originally started, and give the private lorry owners a share in that experimental work. The Minister says: "What are you going to do if there is no petrol at all?" But what is the Minister going to do if he breaks down any possibility of co-operation or of assistance from the men who are handling the ultimate threads of our local distribution?

I gathered from the Deputy's remarks that he is attempting to convey that the National Private Lorry Owners' Association have, in some way, been treated discourteously by me or by my Department.

So far as I am aware they have made no such suggestion themselves. If the meeting between the representatives of the association and myself took place on the 8th October it was because they asked to have it postponed until that date.

Postponed from April, 1941, to October, 1942, or postponed from what date?

The only thing I can say is that at no time have they ever suggested to me that they have been treated with any lack of courtesy by me or by my Department.

That is simply because they have their hands in the dog's mouth. On the 4th April, 1941, they first indicated to the Minister the offer of their advice, assistance and co-operation.

They did so long before that.

Exactly, but I do not want to go back to the Flood. I just want to go back to the date on which they made formal representations to the Minister. Then, on 19th May, 1942, it appeared in the public Press that the private lorry owners were to be put off the road under the Minister's scheme. On the following day they communicated again with the Minister. It took the Department two weeks to reply, when they simply acknowledged the letter. Then, when they wrote again on 19th June, it took the Department two weeks to say the matter was having attention. Then a telephone conversation took place, but a week passed before there was any further reply. That reply was to tell them that the matter had been duly noted. They never got any reasonable reply from the Minister, and I personally got on the telephone to the Minister's Department on, I think, 28th August—towards the end of August, at any rate—to get an interview with the officials of the Department for the secretary of the association.

The Deputy is mixing up two separate bodies.

The body that got the interview at the end of August was the North Mayo Carriers' Association, of which Deputy Browne is a prominent member.

The Minister should listen to me. I got on the telephone to the section of the Department dealing with the matter, at the request of the president of this association, and with the secretary in my office. Quite courteously, the officials of his Department agreed to see the secretary, but the association then had to appeal to me to try to make the contact.

Indeed they had not; I am sure it did not improve their chances either.

The facts are there, at any rate.

The facts are that they asked me to meet them. I agreed to meet them. Subsequently, they asked would I mind postponing the meeting for about three weeks, which I did. I met them on the date they themselves fixed.

In April, 1941, they offered to assist the Minister. In May, 1942, the Minister made up his mind that he was going ahead with this scheme. They got in touch with him again. The Minister had proposed his Order; he had issued his inspired statement to the Press that the lorries were to go off the road, without offering to give those people an interview. It was only following the excitement caused in North Mayo by the publication in the Press, and after the matter had been taken up by the Leader of the Opposition, that a situation was brought about in which the Minister saw those people. I do say that the Minister has a responsibility in this matter, and that he is acting in a very disruptive way. He is ignoring people in the country who are only too anxious to help him in every possible way, and he is ignoring this House. Even to-day, his presentation of his proposals to the House cannot be regarded as satisfactory; nobody could discuss them in a reasonable kind of way. Where such radical changes are taking place we would expect that the various bodies in the country which are likely to be interested would be consulted by the Minister. We would expect that this House would be informed in the most formal way, if necessary by the circulation of a draft Order and the issue of a White Paper in connection with the Minister's proposal. If the Minister realises in any degree the problems we are likely to have to face, and the co-operation and assistance which it will be necessary to get from every organisation and every class of people in the country, he will have to amend the way in which he approaches his problems and the way in which he presents them both to the country and to the House.

Question put and declared lost.