I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 4, Section 3, before sub-section (8), to insert the following new sub-section:—
(8) Nothing in this section shall apply to prejudice or affect any proceedings instituted in the High Court or in the Circuit Court by a transferred employee before the 17th day of July, 1942, so far as such proceedings were grounded on the want of the consent of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to an act to which this section applies.
One of the purposes of this Bill is to prevent legal action being taken by any former employee of the Electricity Supply Board. Section 3 (7) provides that, while other persons are prevented from taking any action against the Electricity Supply Board for compensation in respect of loss of earnings, the Bill, and the section, of course,
"shall not operate to invalidate any judgment of the High Court pronounced before the 17th day of July, 1942, declaring the dismissal of a transferred employee by the board to have been invalid for want of the consent of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, nor shall this section apply to, prejudice or affect any proceedings in the High Court to recover from the board arrears of salary which were instituted before the 17th day of July, 1942, by a transferred employee in respect of whom such judgment and declaration was so pronounced and made by the High Court."
It is quite clear that the Minister intends in this Bill to prevent any other persons coming along and making a claim against the Electricity Supply Board. He is providing for the recognition of such legal rights as Mr. Cox had sustained for himself in the course of his proceedings against the Electricity Supply Board. While one could understand that the Minister does not desire to leave a door open on technical grounds through which a very large number of persons might ultimately pass, unless there was some control over the door and some filtering of the folk who are likely to get through, I think the Minister is unconsciously doing an injustice to other persons.
Before the judgment of the High Court was pronounced on the 17th July last, three other persons claimed that they were aggrieved by decisions of the Electricity Supply Board terminating their services for various reasons. They claimed to be entitled to compensation from the Electricity Supply Board, the compensation representing the difference between the amount of pension they got on their premature superannuation and the amount which they would have got if they had continued to be employees of the Electricity Supply Board. These three persons consulted a solicitor on the matter, and the solicitor in question communicated with the solicitor of the Electricity Supply Board. In fact, in these three cases originating summonses were issued before 17th July, 1942. In one case the originating summons was issued on 3rd December, 1941, the statement of claim was delivered on the 28th January, 1942, and a reply made by the solicitor to the Electricity Supply Board on the 11th May, 1942. In that particular case the action was ripe for trial, but the Electricity Supply Board's solicitor, I understand, advised the plaintiffs' solicitor not to proceed with the matter until such time as it was ascertained what was likely to happen arising out of what is known as the Cox judgment. The solicitor for the plaintiffs, believing the matter would be discussed in relation to any judgment delivered in the Cox case, held his hand. Nevertheless, in order to keep the door open for his clients, he issued an originating summons in another case on the 3rd January, 1942, and in a third case on the 21st January, 1942.
I understand that these cases were the subject of correspondence and discussions between the solicitor for the Electricity Supply Board and the plaintiffs' solicitor. There are only three cases concerned. Were it not for the fact that the solicitor for the plaintiffs had been led to believe that their cases would be dealt with arising out of the Cox judgment or, in any case, that they would not be statute barred either by existing or prospective legislation, the solicitor for the plaintiffs held his hand and did not definitely institute the action in the courts which, in ordinary circumstances, he would have instituted.
I understand that there are only three persons so affected. Even if the entire claim were conceded it would not involve the Electricity Supply Board in an expenditure of more than £2,500. As a matter of fact, the courts might well hold that these people were not entitled to any compensation, but in view of the fact that the originating summonses were issued before the critical date mentioned in Section 3 (7), that in fact the statement of claim had been submitted in one case and a reply filed by the Electricity Supply Board's solicitor, I think the Minister is unconsciously acting unfairly by not permitting these cases to be decided by the courts. Nobody wants to go to court to get recognition of his rights if it is possible to get recognition of his rights without going to court. If the Minister is not prepared to agree to allow these persons to go to court in order to establish such rights as they feel they have, I think the least he should do is to ensure that the Electricity Supply Board, either on its own, or by the appointment of a civilian arbitrator, will allow the merits of the cases to be adjudicated upon and the persons concerned allowed to ventilate their grievances and to recover, either by arbitration or in law, such compensation as they feel they are entitled to, having regard to the extent of the loss which they have suffered.