Committee on Finance. - Vote No. 56—Transport and Meteorological Services.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £100,074 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1944, chun Seirbhísí Iompair agus Meteoraíochta.

That a sum, not exceeding £100,074, be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1944, for Transport and Meteorological Services.

Are we to take it that the Transport Tribunal's Report is filed for an indefinite period by this Department?

No, on the contrary, what I stated in the course of my concluding remarks on the main Estimate was that, in my opinion, the completion of proposals for transport reorganisation should not be postponed until after the war, but that it should be undertaken now.

Am I to take it from that, that the Transport Tribunal's Report is put on the long finger?

The Deputy is to take the very reverse out of what I said.

Is Mr. Reynolds then authorised by the Minister to prepare his scheme of transport reorganisation on the basis of the majority or minority Report?

That is a leading question which I could not answer by a "yes" or "no". In the preparation of proposals for legislation relating to transport the Government will naturally take into full account the representations made by persons who are familiar with the operation of transport services. Mr. Reynolds, as the Government nominee upon the Board of the Great Southern Railways Company, will, of course, have special influence in the determination of policy. The directors of the Great Northern Railway Company are also formulating their views and, similarly, the directors of other transport concerns will have an opportunity of submitting any ideas that they wish to have considered. All transport interests in the country will in fact be given full opportunity of having their representations taken into account before final decisions upon details of legislation are made. When the legislation comes to the Dáil, the Government bringing it will take full responsibility for it and will not try to pass that responsibility on to any individual whatsoever.

May I take it then that the railway chairman appointed by the Minister is authorised to prepare a scheme of reorganisation based on a private ownership system?

The Deputy need not take that at all.

If it is to be based upon a system of public ownership and control, it is the job of the transport department, of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, to prepare the proposals.

The proposals that will be submitted to the Dáil will be prepared by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, approved of by the Government, and they and they only will have responsibility for them.

But instead of handing the job to the officials who are paid under this Estimate, the job is being handed over to the chairman-dictator of the Great Southern Railway Company.

I have been trying to make it clear to the Deputy that the very opposite is the case.

You have succeeded in evading the main question that I put to you.

I made it quite clear to the Deputy that the Government and only the Government will be responsible for whatever proposals are brought to the House. The Government that is preparing these proposals will naturally consult and give very full consideration to any suggestions or propositions or representations that come to it from people intimately associated with transport undertakings.

Have the Minister and the Government taken a decision to instruct the chairman-dictator of the Great Southern Railways Company to prepare a scheme of reorganisation based on public ownership?

A scheme for the handling of our transport problems is being prepared by the Government.

Based on a policy of private ownership and control?

I did not say that and the Deputy knows quite well I did not say that.

Will you say something on the matter?

I do not want to waltz with the Deputy at all. The position is that proposals are being prepared. These proposals, when prepared, will be submitted to the Government. Until they have been approved of by the Government, they will not come to the Dáil. Does the Deputy understand? They are in course of preparation at the moment, but final decisions upon all details have not been taken.

But before a scheme of reorganisation based on public or private ownership and control is framed, surely a policy decision has to be taken.

I did not say any such scheme was being approved. The Deputy is trying to get some political advantage by misrepresenting the Government.

I am trying to get out of the Minister, when he is asking for a sum of £100,000, what scheme of reorganisation he is working upon. I am entitled to get that answer.

You are not entitled to get that answer.

Then the Minister is not entitled to get the money he is asking for.

It has nothing whatever to do with it.

The Minister does not know his own mind.

The Vote before the House is No. 56 which, as far as I know, has nothing to do with the question raised by Deputy Davin. The Chair allowed him to put three or four supplementary questions relating to the main Vote.

This money is for building canal barges and similar purposes.

Canals are run under private ownership and by the railways.

These canal barges are owned by the State.

I have not the Book of Estimates before me but I think I remember that this Vote includes a pretty big subsidy for Aer Lingus Teoranta. In connection with that, I would ask the Minister to make inquiries as to the general rates of wages paid.

They are not my concern at all. There are companies established to operate the air services and air ports and they are independent companies.

Mr. Byrne

I must protest against any subsidy being paid to a company that does not pay decent wages.

Would the Minister say exactly what contribution are we making to Aer Lingus Teoranta?

The amount is set out in the Book of Estimates.

What is the aggregate sum?

£33,000 during the coming year.

Traffic has undoubtedly increased.

And services are running better; they are fully booked. How is it that that is not reflected in the moneys we have to provide? No new planes have been purchased and, as far as I can see, no new equipment has been provided, yet, the amount of the subsidy is as high or perhaps higher than it was last year and the previous year.

That is true.

I understand the earnings of the company are higher than they were last year.

But the amount of business being done has increased also. The company is not operating on a profit, as I explained when introducing the main Estimate. There is in fact no civil air service anywhere being run on a profit-making basis at the present time. In so far as there is a loss being sustained, clearly the added traffic being carried involves reconsideration of the subsidy. The fact that the subsidy has not gone up with the increase in the traffic is due to the greater earning power of the company.

The services are not increased.

No, but the traffic being carried is substantial.

The earnings are increased. Is not that so?

And yet it is not reflected in the subsidy.

No. The operation costs are also increased, for obvious reasons.

Does the Minister accept any responsibility for the activities of the staff or has his Department any supervision over their activities?

For the staff of the Department of Industry and Commerce, I accept full responsibility.

And for the staff of Aer Lingus Teoranta?

No. I have no responsibility for the staff of Aer Lingus Teoranta.

Vote put and agreed to.