The Minister is not here. Is it in order for him to hold up the procedure of the House?
Financial Resolutions. - Transport Bill, 1944—Second Stage (Resumed).
A Minister is surely not expected to sit in all day.
There is a Minister in the House.
He is not the Minister we want.
He will do.
This question of transport is of great national importance. It would be a pity if the House rejected a measure which was intended to improve transport conditions, but it would be far more regrettable if the House encouraged monopolies or stood for the lowering of Christian principles. The Minister for Industry and Commerce spoke in Portarlington some time ago and used these words: "We shall defend the rights of every citizen...Vested interests and monopolies will be kept in their place under our administration." How does that statement, made before the general election, agree with the Minister's statement in introducing this Bill? I do not at all agree with the introduction of this Bill at the present time, pending the report of the tribunal at present sitting. The Minister knows that a lot of dirty linen is going to be washed.
A judicial tribunal has been appointed by this House to investigate that matter. It would be wise and proper, and in accordance with precedent, to leave the matter to that tribunal, which will hear the evidence.
It is a most inopportune time for the Minister to introduce such legislation. I am convinced that the reason the Minister and the Government are anxious to rush this Bill through the Dáil is that they believe the time is opportune for a general election. They want to be beaten on this and they know that we in opposition are not going to stand for trampling on Christian principles by any Government. If the Minister reads that great EncyclicalRerum Novarum, he will find that the law should favour ownership and that the policy should be to induce as many as possible to become owners. How is that Christian document being followed by the Minister? If he reads the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, issued by the late Holy Father in May, 1931, he will see that the laws enacted for joint stock companies have been the occasion of abominable abuses. Boards of directors, unmindful of their trust, betrayed the rights of those whose savings they administered. What is the Minister doing in this Bill to see that the directors, if and when appointed, will act in the best interests of those whose savings they administer?
We have not any guarantee that, every year, Deputies will be able to have a stocktaking or review of the conduct of this company. I would vote for this Bill if I thought the Minister would give the House an assurance that the House would have some say in this every year. If there were an Estimate to provide a certain amount of money each year, this matter could be discussed here and, if we have complaints to make, we would be able to make them.
There is a certain company—I do not wish to refer to it—formed by the present Minister under an Act of this House. I requested certain information last October about certain appointments which that transport company was making. I think I sent to the Minister a copy of a communication I addressed to the company on that occasion. They replied by return of post saying: "We have your letter of the 27th, but regret we cannot see our way to let you have the information requested." I was convinced there were certain corrupt practices being carried on by that company in making certain appointments. Where was I to air my grievance, to disclose the information I had or get the grievance remedied? I could not raise it here, as it was an independent company.
The Deputy is raising it now, on a Bill which has nothing to do with it.
With all due respect, I think Irish Air Lines is a means of transport.
But is not dealt with in this Bill.
I am only pointing out, with respect to your ruling, that the moment this Bill is passed, Deputies will have as much right to get information from this new company as I have to get it from Irish Air Lines. We will be told that we should not interfere, that it is none of our business and, if we have a grievance, we can keep it. That is the first step towards dictatorship. The Government is rushing this, as they know they will be beaten. If my vote beats them on it, beaten they will be. Of course, it is a most opportune time for the Government to go before the people. It will be nothing new for the Minister for Industry and Commerce to go around the country, in his usual election style, and say: "We were trying to get you good and cheap transport and now, with the Opposition in the House, we cannot carry on. All your transport is at a standstill. Only for us you would be in the war." The usual election promises were put up, but where are they to-day?
They are not in this Bill.
I only wish some of the election promises the Minister made were in this Bill, and then we would be very near the point. This Bill is not the product of the Minister or the Department. I look upon this Bill as a Reynolds Bill, because I am convinced that the directors of the Great Southern Railways Company drafted it for the Minister's Department. From information on which I believe I can rely, I am satisfied that the man who consulted the Minister on this Bill is the present chairman of the Great Southern Railways Company, and he had the assistance of a non-national, a Scotsman, who knows nothing about transport, and who was appointed to his present position since the Minister appointed the chairman. The Minister would not allow an Irishman to compete for the position. I cannot see why everybody was not given an opportunity to apply for this position.
The Deputy might now deal with the Bill, not with what happened on the Great Southern Railways a year ago.
I quite see your point. I am dealing with this Bill as best I can. I am anxious to bring out some of the defects that exist under the present administration. I would not be surprised if conditions were twice as bad under the future administration. Who called for this Bill or for the establishment of this monopoly? Did the licensed carriers or the general public? They did not. We have 2,075 licensed carriers as against 333 lorries attached to the Great Southern Railways Company. I cannot see why the Minister should give compensation to any directors who may lose their employment. The Government are sympathetic to the directors, but there is no consideration for the working man, as Deputy Corry said last night.
Deputy Corry raised a few points. Among other things, he dealt with the question of compensation for the workers, the ordinary rank and file who may lose their employment. I hold that the workers are a very important section of the community, more important than the directors, and the Minister would be well advised to make provision for the workers so that they will get fair compensation should they lose their means of livelihood as a result of the operation of this legislation. Another thing I do not like about this Bill is that the directors are under no obligation to give an account of their stewardship. There is nothing in the Bill to compel them to do so. They will be given a free hand, with the assistance of the Minister, to make a very good job of it. I will oppose this Bill in its present form.
What guarantee have we, beyond the Minister's word—and that would not go across the street so far as I am concerned? We have no guarantee that the hackney owners and taxi owners will not follow along the same lines as the railway workers. So far as the Minister's guarantee is concerned, it is not worth the air that carries it across the House. I would like to see some clause in the Bill along the lines I have referred to. Deputy Corry dealt with the provision of compensation for those likely to lose their livelihood as a result of the company carrying out the functions outlined here. Deputy Corry is a member of the Fianna Fáil Party. I wonder did he put all his points before the Minister at the Party meeting? If the Minister did not give him a satisfactory hearing, and if he is not prepared to amend the Bill to meet the wishes of Deputy Corry and others in the Fianna Fáil Party, will those Deputies have the pluck to vote against the Bill? It is all very well to criticise the Minister, but the Deputy, like many of his colleagues, is so much steeped in hypocrisy that he will not vote against the Bill. He will criticise it all right, but he will make sure to support the Minister in getting it through the House.
The question of the reorganisation of transport is one to which very sympathetic consideration should be given, and one which the House should take very seriously. I should like to see legislation introduced to improve the position, but I am not satisfied that this legislation will do so. It will cause a great deal of trouble, inconvenience, corruption, redundance and annoyance. With regard to fares, we have no indication of what the fares will be, or whether the general public will be scorched or relieved.
The railway transport in my constituency was reorganised recently. In order to bring bacon or agricultural seeds on the railway from Mountmellick to Dublin six weeks ago it would cost 33/9, but under the new system it will cost 36/4. In order that milled stuffs in six-ton lots might come by rail from Mountmellick to Dublin the cost before they reorganised the transport was 16/5, and at present it is 19/7. A bag of potatoes weighing 1 cwt. would cost, on the journey from Mountmellick to the city, 2/2 some weeks ago, but under the reorganised system it will cost 3/1. I suppose as soon as the new company is working the cost will be 5/- or 7/6. Will the Minister do something to see that the company will not charge what they like when they have full control? I have read this Bill and, as far as my common sense, wisdom and understanding will allow me to interpret it, I cannot see anything included in the Bill that gives the Minister such powers. He would be very wise to examine those points.
The principal matter is the compensation for the directors. That is the only thing in which I am interested. Why should they be the privileged class? Why should the Minister worry himself over those people, while nothing is done for the poor labouring man who may have a wife and family depending on his earnings? It is the usual procedure, to the best of my knowledge, that such directors have seven, eight and, perhaps, ten jobs. These directors, with whom the Minister's sympathies lie, are not in receipt of 35/- or £2 per week, but £20 or £30 in many cases. I am very much surprised that the Minister, when he was in my constituency during the elections, did not say: "When we get back we will walk you down to the ground altogether." He introduces legislation that will cater for the directors and for the big noises. There is nothing about the poor ordinary working man who, if his livelihood is taken away after a period of six months, may have to go and join his brother-Irishmen by taking the boat from Dún Laoghaire or Rosslare to the land beyond the Irish Sea in order to eke out an existence there because he will be denied the right of existence in his native land as a result of this Bill when it becomes law. You will find that this company will only wait for an excuse and, after a period of six months, you will see that hundreds of employees will be turned out of employment and that they will not get one penny. But the directors are catered for. Provision is made in the Bill to cater for them, but there is nothing for the poor working man who, in my estimation, is far more important. All men should be treated equally. Why should the Minister make an exception of one group of individuals and cater for them by giving them compensation and leave out the most important section—the workers?
I wonder is it the Minister's intention that any of the present directors who are in charge of the railway should be directors of the new company? We know well who will be the chairman. The chairman will be the man who drafted this Bill for the Minister. The Minister knows well the gentleman to whom I am referring. There is another gentleman, a director at the present time, and, according to rumour, he will be a director of this new company. That gentleman is also a director, I understand, of the gas company, and the reason he was interested in transport was to have gas used at the railway stations around the city.
If the Deputy would deal with facts instead of rumours, it would make for progress.
If the Minister wants my facts they are at his disposal any time.
There is no nomination in this Bill of either directors or chairman.
I never made any accusation that I did not stand over. I would be the last man to accuse any individual of anything that I could not prove. Any statement that I make, whether good or bad, intelligent or unintelligent, I am prepared to stand over it. Another point I should like to raise is the question of these directors being influenced. So far as the present directors are concerned, the Minister has proof, Deputy Davin has proof, I have proof, and several others have proof that the present directors when approached by certain individuals can do as they so desire. We had a glaring case of that no later than three days ago when a certain individual made representations to the chairman of the Great Southern Railways to have a certain railway line opened and the railway line was opened immediately for him. The line I am referring to is by no means a line of any importance. It is a line that is merely connected with a sub-branch line and comes in at a junction. It leads into a town with a population of 1,122.
It is not linked up with this Bill.
I am just pointing out the manner in which these directors can be influenced and in which they will be influenced. The Minister or his Department was asked to make representations to have a certain railway line in my constituency opened and the Minister and his Department were absolutely powerless in the matter. Yet, when one of the directors was approached by a gentleman, a member of this House, because the director was afraid of certain charges which the same gentleman could make against them, if he so desired, in this House, through fear he opened the railway line. That director could have a say in the transport, whether it was good or bad for this particular area, and yet the Minister was absolutely powerless to get anything done.
There is no purpose in discussing present administration.
I think I am in no way unreasonable and I would like to welcome any measure that the Government would introduce with a view to improving the present transport situation. I will vote for this Bill provided the Minister amends it in such a way, first, that the members of this House will get an opportunity of having a stocktaking or review of the activities of this company every year— at present we are buying a pig in a bag and we do not know what way it will turn out—and, secondly, if the Minister provides in this Bill that every individual who will suffer any loss through lack of employment or otherwise will be duly compensated, just as he is providing for compensation for the directors. I think we are asking for what is quite fair and what the Minister should be inclined to give us.
And provided he will open the Mountmellick branch.
If Deputy. Dillon was living in Mountmellick he would have it opened. He was able to use influence where the Minister could not. This Bill, in my estimation, is the first step towards complete dictatorship in its present form and unless it is drastically amended, if my vote puts the Government out, I will vote against it, because I am satisfied that, if we went to the people on such an issue, the people would not stand over a monopoly or a dictatorship and see directors catered for when the ordinary working man is turned down. I think it would be a golden opportunity for every Party, Fine Gael, Labour and Farmers to show the Irish people that we are absolutely determined in our fight to implement the teachings I have quoted from the Pope's Encyclical in which monopolies, vested interests, etc., are condemned and, secondly, that we want to know what these directors are doing for the people that money should be voted to pay them. I am quite satisfied that every member of this House, who has respect for his constituency and who wishes to place the ordinary working man before the directors of these big companies and firms, will oppose this Bill in its present form and, if the Government whistle their election tune, I can say without fear of contradiction that those on this side of the House will dance hearty steps to the Minister's election tune.
I want to join my protest with that of others who have already spoken against the unseemly haste with which the Minister is trying to push this Bill through. It is a very long measure, a measure which takes considerable time to read, let alone to grasp thoroughly. Yet, we were given a very short time in which to do that, and then the Minister selects the day before the Budget for the Second Reading, when all of us ought more properly to be turning our minds to the financial situation of the country. The Minister, in his introductory remarks, made no case for the Bill being produced in this way. He gave no indication as to anything which could be done immediately, even if the Bill is pushed through in time for the new company to be set up by 1st July. He did mention something about its being desirable that the new board should be in operation in order to prepare their plans for the post-war period, but, so far as one can understand, the new board, or, at all events, the effective portion of the new board, is already operating, and there does not seem to me to be any great strength in that argument for this rushing process.
Everybody must agree that it is obvious that some form of reorganisation of the railway company is necessary. It has got into a bad way. There is no sense in discussing here and now the reasons for that; the fact is that it is in a bad way, and reorganisation is necessary. The Minister presents us with a Bill which does to an extent, propose to reorganise the railway company. He does not indicate exactly on what he has based this particular system of reorganisation—whether it is entirely the product of his own brain, or whether he has taken expert advice in the matter or not. He has given us no explanation as to how the large amount of money which is to be placed at the disposal of the new company is to be spent. It is perfectly obvious that that is not one of the matters for which it is necessary to rush the Bill, because the possibilities of being able to spend any money in the near future on rolling-stock, permanent way or anything else are very remote. I imagine that it will probably be somewhere in the region of from three to five years before there is much possibility of this country being able to buy products of this nature in the market.
One of the biggest difficulties which I think the House must find in dealing with this Bill is the fact that they are being asked to guarantee a large sum of money to the company, and yet, having passed this Bill, if they do pass it, they will have no further say as to how that money is to be used, or as to whether they consider it is being rightly used, economically used, properly or improperly used. That, I think, is one of the biggest objections which this House must have to the system which the Bill proposes. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney yesterday considered it was most immoral to pay the shareholders the amount which it is proposed in the Bill to pay them. I do not intend to deal with that aspect, but I suggest that it is far more immoral for the House, as trustees for the country, to hand over a sum of £16,000,000 to the control of one man, with no supervision by this House as to the manner in which it is spent.
The Minister, in his opening remarks, said that he objected to the idea of a subsidy to transport. I do not propose to argue whether transport should or should not be subsidised, but I should like the Minister to explain the difference between a subsidy to a transport company and the guaranteeing by this House, that if necessary they will pay up to £500,000 per year in order that the company may meet their liabilities. It seems to me that if there is a distinction between the two, it is a distinction without a difference.
There are various points in the Bill which will be more properly dealt with in Committee, and one of these points which struck me in the course of the somewhat cursory examination I have so far been able to give the Bill, is the fact that the Minister sets up an advisory council which may consider certain matters. So far as I can see, the Minister may deal with all these matters—such important matters as charges, and so forth—entirely on his own. He need never call this advisory council together, unless he feels so disposed, and that does seem to me to be one portion of the Bill which should be changed, so that it would be obligatory on the Minister to consult this advisory council.
One of the other big bugbears is the composition of the board of directors and, except for the present condition, which exists by reason of Emergency Powers Orders I should say that it is surely a unique constitution. One man can be the board; the board cannot be a board without that one man. It seems to me that, on the whole, the other directors are simply wasting their time in having anything to do with it. I think, too, that there should be some means by which, if there is a considerable disagreement on policy between the other directors and the chairman, the Minister can be advised of such disagreement, because, presumably, although the chairman is, to all normal intents and purposes, all-powerful, the Minister is above him, because he is removable by the Minister. All these other directors should have some means by which they could communicate any grave difference between them and the chairman to the Minister, so that the Minister might consider whether the chairman was about to do the right thing or not. As I say, these are matters which can be more properly dealt with on the Committee Stage of the Bill.
I would suggest that this Bill should be left over until after the war. Even when the war is over, I submit that, though it may involve a subsidy on the part of the State, the employees of the railway company should be guaranteed against losses, resulting from the stoppage of transport, due to the scarcity of fuel or to other causes. We all know that quite a large number of people are employed in railway services, and I think it would be very unfair that these men should be disemployed as a result of conditions arising out of the present emergency. Therefore, I suggest that the consideration of this Bill or any similar Bill, should be postponed until after the war, so that employment would be assured for these people.
My main reason for making this suggestion is that, after the war, as has happened after other wars in the past, many new ideas may be introduced. Always, during a war, many new ideas or new inventions are developed, or old inventions are improved. We have seen that in the case of the last war; and it is more than probable that after this war we may have very much more up-to-date methods of transport than we have at the present time. If it were only for that reason alone, I should be anxious to wait for a period after the war when, perhaps, we would be in a better position to expend the money that is proposed here to more advantage than we can spend it to-day. When we bear in mind that, according to the Minister's own statement, a lot of the rolling stock of the company is obsolete, I think it is obvious that we should not pay this money without a further examination of the question, particularly in view of the fact that, when we go back to a few years ago, it will be found that the railway company bought up the stocks of various small companies in the country. I know, from my own experience, that a large amount of the interests of stockholders in the smaller concerns was bought up in that way, and I suggest that we are now merely proposing to gamble with the taxpayers' money in a similar way.
As I have already suggested, the railway company got, to a great extent, a monopoly of the whole transport service of the country, and yet the Minister now says that that company is still complaining. Well, if that is so, all I can say is that it is their own fault. From observation of the working of a line in my own county, which was second to none, in my own opinion and in the opinion of others, I would say that the company have not been working the service economically. For instance, even during the beet campaign, a lorry would have to be sent something like 35 miles if there was a question of a break-down and if repairs had to be undertaken, although we had plenty of motor mechanics and repair men in garages in the vicinity who could do the necessary repair work. Now, it appears to me that if this Bill is passed as it stands at present, those men will be done out of their jobs, and, if that should prove to be so, then I say that it will be very unfair to workers. It is quite unlikely that the new company will have its own repairing department within a convenient radius, but even so the men of whom I am speaking will get no work, and I suggest that, as a result of bad management, the railway company has not been able to pay their workers.
Then, again, taking this huge amount of £20,000,000 which it seems will be necessary to put the company on its feet, I would not object so much to giving that money after the emergency if we could be satisfied that a substantial and efficient transport service would be given to the people of this country. In such circumstances, I think it would be a good bargain, but as things are at the moment I am afraid that it will turn out to be a damn bad bargain because, in the opinion of the railway employees themselves and of others, the rolling-stock of the company is obsolete and useless. There is also this question of providing money for the company in order that guarantees may be given to the owners of stock in the company. We are asked to guarantee a dividend to the subscribers to the company, but we are not told whether, if the company should prove to earn money in the future, that money will be refunded to the public purse. That is not right. If there should prove to be a loss on the working of the company, the taxpayers, evidently, are expected to bear that loss, but if there should be a gain, there does not seem to be any provision whereby the taxpayers will be recompensed.
There is another matter about which I as well as other members of the House are deeply concerned, and that is in connection with cases where branch lines are closed down and the traffic diverted to the roads. As I have already said, when the war is over, conditions may be entirely different, and it might be possible that it would be better, in the circumstances which may then exist, that the bulk of these lines should be closed and that the traffic should be diverted to the roads, but there is no provision in the Bill, so far as I can see, to guarantee the local authorities or the ordinary ratepayer against the loss which may be involved as a result of the increased burden on local taxation, due to the heavy road traffic that may ensue.
We all know what happens at the present time in connection with rural areas. Anybody who is a member of a county council is quite well aware that the ratepayers are already overburdened with taxation, and we must all know that, in the present condition of our roads, these roads are not able to carry heavy traffic. How, therefore, is it that there seems to be no provision in this Bill to compensate the local authorities or the ratepayers for any loss or abuse that may be due to an increase of heavy traffic on the roads, which, in my opinion, is likely to occur in the next few years? The local authorities are bound to maintain these roads, and therefore there should be some provision to compensate them for any increased burden. That is what I am interested in, and I should like the Minister to bear in mind that before this Bill goes through—and I hope it will not go through until the emergency is over—the interests of the local authorities and the ordinary tax-papers should be considered in this matter of the possible increased burden on road traffic. In conclusion, I should like to say that if this Bill becomes law the matter of the maintenance of main roads, carrying heavy traffic, should be the concern of the nation and not of the local authorities which, as I have said, are already overburdened by heavy taxation.
There is nothing new in connection with the transport problem that confronts us at the moment. Some of us can remember that many years ago, when an inquiry into the railways then existing was set up, a railway expert from England gave evidence that he could manage the affairs of the Irish railways in a couple of days in the week and go fishing for another three days in the week. That, of course, was before the days of the motor car, which has increased the problems which have arisen in connection with transport.
To my mind, however, one of the most extraordinary things about this Bill is that it has really settled nothing as to the manner in which, or along what lines, this money ought to be spent. Now, I suppose the Minister would say, and quite rightly, that some of us are not traffic experts. That is quite correct, but it is a new thing for us to draw a blank cheque for £20,000,000 and leave it to somebody else to spend the money. That is actually what is being proposed here. A bargain was made—in fact, I think that the Minister has practically agreed—that the goodwill of the existing companies will be passed over for something approaching £13,500,000. It looks as if somebody had suggested: "There is £13,500,000, which, with the percentage provided for capital expenditure, makes £20,000,000; so, get on with the job."
The Dáil has, up to the present, maintained some control over the way and the direction in which money is spent. Let us take a parallel instance. If we handed over a substantial sum of money to the Arterial Drainage Board, and they said that they had decided it would be better to spend the money on intensive farming, what would we say? That is the position with which we are faced. Let us consider how the transport problem has grown up here. Many years before the motor car came on the scene, we had a number of small railways operating in their own areas. Some of them were, possibly, run efficiently and some were run inefficiently. They were kings in their own domain, and I can remember industrialists who complained that their business had been crushed out of existence by an unsympathetic railway company which would not give them the rates necessary to enable them to carry on. The motor car came along and that changed the position very materially. The Minister said that there was no standardisation in the case of the railway. I think that he is perfectly right in that, because the growth of the railways prevented standardisation. But there is nothing in the present Bill compelling standard equipment to be adopted. Perhaps the Minister thinks that that is not necessary. Another point on which I should like to have information is: Are the people who are to be in control of this company to be at liberty to electrify the railways? I should not like to receive a sum of £6,500,000 and to be told to go off and electrify the Irish railways. I may be a pessimist but I should not like to take on that job. That brings me to the question of the part that railways are to play in the future of the country. There are certain things that are really laws as regards the railways and railway traffic. In America, they discovered that a freight did not begin to pay on a railway until it had gone beyond the 100-mile mark. I forget whether or not that was the distance, but there was a distance within which the railway company lost money and over which they made money. If that figure of 100 miles be correct, very little traffic will travel 100 miles here.
Another point which has a very profound effect on the railways has not been touched upon at all. I refer to the decentralisation policy of the Government in connection with the promotion of new industries. They were, probably, quite right in not having one industrial area from which the other areas would be served. But that is the precise position which would suit a railway company. All the raw material would be brought to one point for manufacture and would then be distributed from that point. Now, we have a position in which raw material is brought to one point in one case and to another point in another case. Some evidence was given before the Railway Tribunal—I do not know whether or not it is in the report; it is, probably, not—of what the company can not do and what the company will not do. In speaking of what the company can not do and will not do, I do not suggest that they have a double dose of malice. They are tied by their own equipment and by their own rules. It is perfectly certain that there is a lot of traffic—traffic which has grown up under modern conditions—with which a railway company cannot cope as efficiently as a specialised motor vehicle. I shall give an instance of which I, myself, know something. Take a very large sheet of plate glass which is required in a country town. What is the position? It is so big that you cannot put it into an ordinary truck. The railway company have what they call a boiler truck. There is only one truck on the system and that has to be brought to the port at which the large plate-glass case comes in. It has then to be brought to a station where there is a siding and where there is a crane capable of taking that large case off the boiler truck. Then, somebody has to look around for a vehicle that can bring that case out to the site. The glass has to be removed and the case sent back. There is danger to life and limb. In fact people have been killed in trying to deal with these cases of glass where there were not proper cranes. I merely give that as one instance.
There are other specialised cases with which the railway company cannot deal. They cannot hope to get equipment for dealing with them everywhere as against the specialised motor vehicle which can bring the article to the precise site. I shall give another instance of a case with which the railway company cannot deal economically; the instance I have given is one in which they cannot deal with the article physically. There is the instance in which a very large amount of expensive packing is required to protect the article in transit by the railway company.
I know that some wag once said that if you gave a railway company a battleship for transmission by rail, they would ask you to crate it so that it could not be broken. I do not know how true that is, but certainly very expensive packing is required in certain cases which could be dispensed with by a door-to-door delivery. There is the third case in which the railway company has not the equipment, or in which the equipment with which they are provided is not sufficiently developed for the needs of the district. They may have a siding at the station, but the wagons are out on the line and cannot be brought in when a person requires them. These are some of the things that the railway company cannot do.
What is it the railway company will not do? The Minister said that the fiercest competition which the railway company had to face arose from the motor vehicle owned by the ordinary private trader. If you approach the ordinary private trader and ask him why he is competing with the railway company, he will tell you: "I do not want to be called a carrying company; I do not want to be delivering my goods." If you ask him then: "What then are you delivering them for?" he will reply: "Because the railway company will not give me the service I want, or the service that my customer wants from me." Then if you ask him: "What do you want, or what does your customer want?" the reply will be: "Well, we want the stuff collected at one end by the railway company and delivered at the other end by the company, the company being responsible for any breakages. You will find that the railway company will not do that."
That brings me to this point: The Minister says that the railway company under this Bill are not going to interfere with the right of the private trader to deliver his own goods, but I think I am right in saying that this is the third Bill which this Government has introduced dealing with the railway situation. I hope that it is not the forerunner of a fourth which might contain many provisions of an unsatisfactory character, and practically abolish the right of the private trader to deliver his own goods. Looking at what is happening in other places, I understand that in England there are firms who carry out deliveries over a very large area. Those firms found that they had to run their own motor cars, as they had depots which were practically a day's run from the main warehouse. From these warehouses they carried out a further distribution of goods. Are we going to find that things like that are going to be stopped here?
Some previous speakers have referred to the haste with which this Bill has been introduced. It would seem that this Bill of 117 sections and 10 Schedules is really only an enabling Bill. It is putting through a certain transaction, but the Bill is strangely silent about the £20,000,000, how it is going to be distributed, and in what form. We are apparently not going to have any say on that matter. It seems there are three classes of traffic with which we shall have to contend when the emergency is over.
It is not, I think, desirable that the railway company should use motor cars merely to collect stuff to bring it to a station, send it on the railway from there, and then deliver by motor car from the station nearest to its destination. I have spoken about the laws that prevail in regard to traffic, and I should like to mention something that is almost a law, namely, that every transhipment or handling that takes place means money, increases the risk to the goods and probably increases the chance of errors or disputes. Around a city such as Dublin there are railway stations at frequent intervals to deal with the passenger traffic. If one tries to deliver goods along these lines one finds that this system prevails. One gets a delivery of the goods to the railway by motor car and then a delivery of goods from the station at the other end. I should like to suggest that one would have to be sending goods about 20 miles at the very least, probably a good deal further-probably you would have to go to Wicklow on the one side and Drogheda on the other—before it would pay to take stuff out of the motor vehicle that was going to the railway station, put it into the railway wagons and then take it out at the other end.
At the expiration of the last war the railway companies were appalled at the disappearance of traffic. One enterprising railway sent an agent around to try to discover where that traffic had gone. He went into a trader in Dublin and said: "My company is appalled at the loss of traffic around Dublin. Can you tell me what you could pay for the delivery of your goods in an area served by our railway company?" They decided to take Balbriggan as an instance. The trader said that he would have to pay about 4/- a ton to deliver the goods to the railway company—I am mentioning figures merely as an illustration; I do not suggest they are the correct ones; that it would cost 3/- to take the goods to Balbriggan and about another 2/6 at the other end. That would be a total cost of 9/6 a ton. Any owner of a motor car who was plying for hire was prepared at that time to do the job from door to door for about 5/6. That means that there is a great deal of traffic for which the railway company would not be able to compete. I suppose the Minister will tell us that he has left that to the expert, but the trouble is that the expert has now a further problem. I do not know whether I have a Heath Robinson imagination, but one can envisage in the post-war period a ship coming into Dublin and on its arrival being met by amphibious motor cars. These cars could take goods off the ship and could come up to a ramp somewhere at Tara Street and bring them to Bray or Greystones. It is possible that in certain specialised types of traffic the railway will have to compete with that sort of thing.
Deputy McGilligan in a very able speech this morning pointed out that we were going to pay the railway company about £9,000,000 for assets for which there was nothing tangible to show. The position really is that the company would be buying the goodwill. No conditions are imposed by the House as to whether they are to go on the lines that the railways are to be maintained and that the country will have to foot the cost no matter what happens or whether the railway companies are to be allowed to die and that we are to have motor traffic. I am not at all sure that a case has been made that the railway companies are absolutely necessary for the economic salvation of this country. The Minister is perfectly aware that we had a transport problem in Dublin in connection with the delivery of turf. What happened in many instances? I know that every day one could see four and five-ton lorries bearing names that showed they came from the West of Ireland bringing turf into the city. If four- or five-ton lorries can be used for the transport of turf at a time when there is an acute shortage of petrol, what is the case for the survival of the railway companies?
The Minister has not attempted to forecast—I do not know whether he has even considered it—what is going to be the motive fuel in this country after the present crisis has past. Will we get down to an intensive drive in the production of anthracite, which is native to this country, and run our motor cars on producer gas, or will we make charcoal from our native timber and run vehicles on that? All these problems seem to have been left. In fact we are left in the position that we have to trust the expert, and if the expert has gone wrong we may find that we have drawn a cheque for £20,000,000 without knowing what it is intended to buy.
I should like to apply myself to the Bill proper and to the reasons why this amendment was moved. In my opinion, the amendment was moved in no antagonistic mood and for no antagonistic purpose. It was plain from the speech of the mover of the amendment that he approached the matter of the reorganisation of the railways in a sympathetic way. He only questioned the propriety of bringing these matters before the House because a certain atmosphere had been created in this country during the past few months. I am limited somewhat by the ruling of the Chair in referring to that particular reason, but the reason was given in very emphatic terms, that there was a tribunal set up by the goodwill of this House on the direction of the Leader of Fianna Fáil, the spokesman of the nation. As a result of certain matters that arose in a discussion in the House, he felt that offence had been given to the susceptibilities of certain people and that there was a feeling of uncertainty about specific matters. He was good enough to agree that there was something to be inquired into. In a publication written only a few days ago he gave this expression to his thought, that he would not have given way to any particular criticism from an individual or small group but that the Opposition—that is the official Opposition —had convinced him that there was something to be considered. He went out of his way deliberately to appoint three very important members of the judiciary to investigate certain charges, suspicions, or implications.
Surely it would be the duty of any Government charged with responsibility, when they had the feeling that something had been aroused in the minds of the people to say: "We must ventilate this grievance; we must have an open court at which people can give sworn testimony and express any opinions they have got or any suspicions they may have." After such charges, statements, suspicions or feelings of disquiet had been submitted to this non-party tribunal they could come to a certain conclusion. Is it proper that the Government, having taken the responsibility of setting up such a tribunal, and after certain features in connection with it had been exposed, should suddenly come to this House and submit a Bill which is affected by the position created by charges that are now the subject of judicial inquiry? If I was a member of the Bar and was selected to sit on that tribunal, as soon as this Bill was introduced I would have resigned from it. I had occasion to resign from another commission set up some time ago because of interference by the Government.
The Deputy will observe that there is no reference in this Bill to any commission.
I am pointing out as a matter of argument that there was much the same inquiry in the other case.
And in respect of this Bill there is a motion before the House that the Second Reading should not be proceeded with until the tribunal reports.
I am leading up to this, that no accommodation should be given to the Minister for the Second Reading of this Bill, in case anybody suggests that something would have to be done with transport. I agree that something has to be done about it. It would be only fair to suggest that the Minister appears to be anticipating a judgment, that he is prejudicing the tribunal and its findings. I shall be glad if the tribunal comes to the conclusion that nothing occurred that would interfere with the activities of any Government or with its power to have legislation of this kind. I hope that will be the findings of the tribunal. This Bill contains 117 sections, ten schedules and four pages of explanatory matter, and is introduced in a manner that suggested that it must be disposed of as quickly as possible and was to be in operation not later than January, 1945. At the same time we were told by the Minister that the purpose of the merging and setting up of this company was really a post-war matter. There is no indication that something is going to happen now, but it was stated that some change will take place in the post-war period. That being so, what is the hurry? Why antagonise men of goodwill, all of whom agree that there is a problem to be solved? What is that problem? It is to make the best use of this country for its people. It is admitted that a rigid form of transport could be considered the main life blood of a nation. I do not agree with the views expressed by the last speaker. The Deputy is a man of integrity and spoke with authority, but I do not agree that the Bill will make a total change in relations in certain quarters, whether amongst trades or individuals.
I agree that there will be changes in transport. Any man of vision will agree that there are going to be changes in the methods of transportation of goods and of people. That view is accepted everywhere. The world is in chaos, but out of that chaos we are going to have reorganisation. That cannot be argued against by any reasonable person. The Minister is very apt, very able, and nobody can challenge his ability. He is very ready in giving expression to his views, but yesterday he did so haltingly. He does not often offend in that way. His statement was a halting one, one sentence contradicting the other. I hope he will read his opening address and the reasons he gave for submitting this Bill to the House. If he does he will find that he offended against the intelligence and the ability he possesses.
Why was he hesitating, speaking in a halting way and searching for words? I do not deny that he acquainted himself with the transport problem, but he did not seem to be able to deal with it as one would expect him to. Whether it is that he was uncertain about his case or that his conscience was in conflict with his mind, I do not know the reason. He wanted to claim that this monopoly would not interfere with private enterprise. People cannot ride two horses at the same time. We cannot have monopoly and at the same time permit private interference with that monopoly. The word "monopoly" is defined as control over certain activities. The Greek root is something different. It comes down to a "sell", and I think this is the greatest sell-out the people of this country have ever been faced with. There is nothing to compare with this corrupt bargain. I put that term to the Minister, a corrupt, vicious, unsound, financial bargain, or, to use the words of our intellectual friend, Deputy Corry, this racket.
Is the Deputy charging the Minister with bringing in a corrupt measure? Are you speaking objectively or are you referring to the Minister?
Certainly I am speaking objectively. I am going to prove it in the Bill or withdraw the words. I say you are going to give £13,500,000, in the words of the Minister, to a number of individuals who, within the last few months, have taken power to control this company which, on the Minister's own statement, is obsolete, and its machinery and plant are not worth, in round figures, £4,500,000.
An Leas Cheann-Comhairle
The Deputy must remember that it is being done with the authority of this House. The Deputy cannot be permitted to charge the Minister with corruption.
The Bill is only before the House. It is proposed to take £20,000,000 of the ratepayers' money and to acquire a company which, according to the Minister's own very eloquent and colourful statement, is not worthy of consideration. I am not misquoting the Minister. I am quoting one of the members of his Party who said in this House that it was a racket, and who went further and said that the acquiring of this company was racketeering. I think it will be found in the records of the House when it is printed. I submit to the Minister that he should reconsider this matter and should not take it on himself to ignore the submission made by all Parties in the House and by members of his own Party that the matter should be reconsidered and the Bill redrafted in line with certain circumstances which may eventuate. I know the Minister did not intend to make any promise to the private traders, but because there had been an organised political campaign in certain quarters, we have now got this sop thrown to the private traders.
If I were in the Minister's position I would say—I am going to have a State monopoly. That is the only way to give service to the community. We allowed a new form of transport to come into existence. We tried to deal with it in 1924, in 1926, 1933, 1934, 1936, and again in 1938. We found it was hopeless. We, that is the Government of the country, went to these people and we empowered the railway under the Amalgamation Act of 1924 to buy out these commercial bodies. They were managed by energetic men who had got their own private form of transport and were competing unjustly and unfairly with the railway, which had particular rights under particular statutory Acts. This railway company is not one company. It is a combination of absorbed companies, 26 in number, which in the amalgamated concern got special powers which, in my opinion, were bordering on being outside the Constitution, that is to say, they were interfering with what is recognised by our constitutional law, the right of private enterprise or private exploitation. But it is true that the men with trucks, lorries and motor vehicles which were taken over byforce majeure got compensation in a certain form. One of the gentlemen who did so sell his interest to this particular merging company is in the foreground of its management to-day. He sold a lot of junk and got a fair price for it, and it is admitted by those who now control the company that a month after they bought that particular lot of running stock, only one vehicle of all they got was in running order. One Deputy who has spoken said they bought a pig in a poke. I do not think there was any pig in the poke, or if there was I think it was a swine, and a pretty scraggy swine at that. I think it must have the measles. They bought these vehicles, and then found they had no value, but they used some of them to repair other vehicles. A short time afterwards we find there is still unfair competition going on. Then we license certain people. We give power to private firms to carry goods and then find out that these private firms were not private firms, but were actually carriers, although not public carriers. They were just black market carriers. They used the vehicle for their own purposes, and if they carried a few packages for their friends they charged their friends a very reasonable price for carriage. They were prosecuted in some cases, but it was found that the law did not operate. All they had to do was to go into court, and when they were asked: “Did you carry your own goods?” they would reply: “That is my business.” That was the answer. It was held in law that they were not offenders.
That went on, and the profits that should have accrued from what I may call the short haulage trade went to them, and with all deference to Deputy Dockrell I say the short haulage trade is the best paying form of haulage. In the short haulage trade you get a reasonable return, at any rate. Fifty per cent. of the firms carrying goods on the road were private traders, and were carrying traffic that should have been carried by the legitimate amalgamated railways. That is true, and it is happening to-day. There is no way of preventing it except by granting a monopoly under public ownership to the people of this country which will give good service and cheap transport. But let us go a little further to investigate this problem. Last night I thought Deputy Corry was going to break down and shed tears. It was harassing to see the way he spoke to the Minister who would never harm anyone. Deputy Corry made him take on the character of a Torquemada, or some kind of individual who is trying to destroy life. The last thing the Minister would do would be to offend or deprive any workman of a full chance of life.
Deputy Corry is a loyal member of the Party. On other occasions he has made some peculiar statements in this House. We all remember the solution he had for the Six-County problem. His antidote for the intolerance of people up there was to pour prussic acid on them. Now he suggests that the Minister is trying to deprive poor working men of something. Some people, when they want to shed a tear in this country, talk about the poor working man. Deputy Corry is worried about him. The Minister is worried, too, but in a very minor way. He is only interested in the redundant workman, to the extent that he gives him six months to get ready for starvation or, possibly, to become an inmate of a workhouse, or it may be to allow him to find a place to carry on his starvation outside of this territory, and so divorce him from his wife and children. For that six months' limit he may get compensation. The Minister, however, is very careful to see that the officials and the gentlemen who are allowed to run the railways will be amply compensated if they lose their jobs. I have some history to convey to the Minister. Possibly he is not short of it.
Deputy McGilligan sat on the stool of repentance to-day when he admitted that he introduced the Bill of 1924. He was young and exuberant then. His mind was of such a character that it may have been confused by the peculiar times in which we were then living. At any rate, he thought that he had drafted an amalgamation scheme that was almost humanly perfect. He had all the draftsmen from the old British régime to advise him. He drafted the Bill, and then brought two Scotsmen and a gentleman from London over. The three were set up as an economy committee. They proceeded to cut out all wastage on the Great Southern Railways system and they did it with a vengeance. According to the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, they singled the line from Dublin to Galway. The Minister, in his opening statement on this Bill, deplored that fact, and suggested that it may have to be corrected. Those gentlemen did that on the grounds of economy. Nobody will deny that Deputy McGilligan is a considerate man, that he is a humanist. He proved it to-day when, like the salvationist, he went down on his knees and regretted certain things that he was committed to because of his association with the 1924 Act. The Deputy himself went to court and pleaded for a man who made a claim for compensation under that Act. He admitted that, according to that Act which he introduced himself, in his view the man was entitled to legitimate compensation because of his loss of employment, but the man's claim was estopped by the wording of the Act.
I had some small acquaintance with that Act myself. I had occasion to appear for 400 men before an arbitration court. The court was somewhat sympathetic. The great bulk of the men for whom I appeared got compensation. In one case I was considerably gratified that the man concerned got compensated twice over. The court made an error and I did not correct it. The man got two compensations, and is living and enjoying them now outside in Drimnagh. The court made other mistakes. When the court found that certain features were presenting themselves and that men were getting compensation, they corrected that position by bringing in an amending Act. There is a clause in it which says that if the company on the advice of the three experts—the gentleman from London and the two Scotsmen—will make the statement on oath in court that any individual was dismissed on the grounds of economy there is no case made: ergo, there is no compensation. Four men who had given over 20 years' service to the company died within a week of that judgment being given. One committed suicide. Another who had 35 years' service in the Great Southern Railways died on the street outside of Trinity College. Men who have been in regular employment for so many years cannot take a rest. The only rest they have is in the grave. The fact is that men who go out on pension after 35 or 40 years' service will not live if they have not something to occupy their minds and bodies. Those four men died within a week of that particular ruling being given by the court. Some of them had been waiting for months to have their cases heard. One man had been waiting two years. Deputy McGilligan mentioned the case of a man who had been waiting seven years. The Deputy appeared for him in court. I do not think anybody will challenge my opinion that Deputy McGilligan is one of the ablest men at the Bar. But he admitted to-day that, despite all his ability, he failed to get recognition for that man's claim, and all because of the drafting of that particular Act. After the decision in that case 3,000 men were found to be redundant not, I should point out, over the whole system but in what is called the Dublin area: that is, from Bray to Liffey Junction and to Inchicore. They were thrown out in shoals, so to speak.
The economy committee singled the main line from Dublin to Galway and closed down seven branch lines. They sold the equipment to a certain individual. If he keeps going only long enough, and if the opportunity serves, he will soon own the whole country. He is buying up all the mansions in the country. He bought up nearly all the plant that was found by this economy committee to be useless, and put the railways into the position in which the Minister says the Great Southern is in to-day—obsolete and ill-equipped for the task it has to do. These, I think, were the words used by the Minister. These three experts, as I have said, found that the plant was useless. They sold it to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Several tons of railway metal were shipped out of the country to Japan, Italy and other countries at a pound a ton free on board. I called the Minister's attention to that. The best of steel was shipped out at that price; in fact, they could not get rid of it quickly enough. What happened then? A short time afterwards, after the three gentlemen who formed the economy committee had taken their departure to places unknown—they have never been heard of since—the railway company found that they had to buy the steel back. I need not mention any names, but the gentleman who bought the metal at a throw-away price did not sell it back to the railway company at the same price. If Deputies want to know the price at which this metal is selling to-day they can find it in the advertisements in the newspapers. The price is 13/6 a lineal foot for rails that were bought at about £1 a ton.
I could talk for a long time about the incapacity of this particular company—that is the governing portion of it. On the mechanical, the running and the accountancy side of the organisation, I want to say that they have some of the ablest men that any country has been blest with. I want to tell the House a story. I appeared one time on behalf of some railwaymen before Judge Cahir Davitt. I kept the court for a whole day in session. I was in very good form that day. I saw to it that all the officials were brought there on subpoena. There were 21 of them, including the general manager, the mechanical engineer and others. The last question that I asked each of them as they left the box was this: "Is it possible that the railways are running to-day?" All those innocent victims answered "Yes," and said that the trains were running. When the 21 officials had passed through the box I said to the judge: "You have heard all those gentlemen, who allege that they run the railways, tell the court on oath that all the trains are running and that all the services are continuing. Here they are all planted, the gentlemen who say they run the railways. I suggest that the men running the railways are those who do the work and that these gentlemen here may give service, but do not give value. It is the man who takes the engine out of the boiler-house and puts it into service and guides it down the line who is running the railways." It is not this bunch of humbugs the Minister sets out in the Bill who are going to run the railways. The manager objectively knows nothing about railways, he knows as much about them as the expert who answered my Question to-day as to whether the use of fuel had anything to do with the question of speed mileage. Later on, during the course of the debate on this Bill, I may give the Minister a lesson on fuel values, and the gentleman who gave him that information will be sorry, from the point of view of technics. However, there is not time to deal with that now. I need not tell the House I intend to continue talking until 9 o'clock, if I am in order.
Is there any reason for this Bill? Of course, there is. There cannot be any confusion in our minds about our problem. The Minister has stated it for us —absolute chaos on the managerial side, obsolete plant, the state of emergency, trains not running to normal time schedules, services cut down. Something has to be done now, but the Minister does not say anything will be done under this Bill now. No, that is a matter for the present management, during the emergency. The Minister does not consult with those who are responsible, he does not consult the workers. He was asked to intervene, to try to create a spirit of goodwill and harmony in adjusting certain difficulties which now present themselves. The Minister spoke of the conditions we may be confronted with after the war—next year or in later years. No wise man, not even I, would suggest that the war will finish this year. The Minister speaks of the post-war period and how does he approach it?
Is not this a very generous way to approach it? In 1943, the following prices were paid on the Stock Exchange in Dublin for these properties: Common Stock, 26th March, £9; 25th June, £10; 29th September, £19; in October, £29. Somebody got a little Christmas box by the end of the year, but on 28th January, 1944, the price was £49; on the 29th February it was £56. I wonder if agriculturists in this House could get a return from their land based on those figures—from £9 to £56 in less than a year.
Who got that money? I am not allowed by the rules of the House—the Ceann Comhairle is watching carefully —to name the people who got that money. I have a list of them here and, later on, I will see that somebody does know who got it. However, the widow and the orphan, the thrifty man, the farmer who has saved a little money, had money invested in this company. The value of that railway was not £26,000,000 on the 1st January, 1943. Nobody knows what the value was but, basing it on the market price of the stock, we know that it was within certain measured figures. We did not buy and we did not bring in a merger on the 1st January, 1943. No; we waited while the "boyos" had used the position of the Great Southern Railways, either by checking down the stock, by rising it, by publicity, false statements, and so on, until people would rush in to buy it and eventually land themselves with stock worth £56. This took a slight drop and then went back again to £56. When the House closes the session this week, I would like to tell Deputies who speculate on the Stock Exchange to get rid of the Great Southern Railways stock, as in a very few weeks I think it will go back to £9.
We suggest that, by giving the people who own these debentures this guaranteed preference stock, we are going to give them £13,500,000. If you came in here and asked for a loan of £1,000 to put shoes on barefooted children in Dublin, you would be told there was no money for that purpose. In regard to giving a meal to a hungry child at school, you would be told that the Government could give no money and that the ratepayers of Dublin would have to pay for that. Yet, here are some gentlemen, well-clothed, well-established, some of them with seven, eight or 12 directorships, some of them carrying as much as £1,000 or £2,000 a year for the so-called direction of companies; and these gentlemen are given £13,500,000 of the taxpayers' money to play with. That is paid for a railway that is junk—obsolete, as the Minister calls it—not in a position to do the work necessary and which will have to be almost re-created and renewed as from scrap. Was there ever a more outrageous suggestion made in any public assembly?
Al Capone—and I knew him very well-used to muscle in on other people's territory. I wonder who is muscling in on the railway territory now? Al Capone did things in a very friendly way—he tried moral suasion at first and only later had recourse to the gun. If a man here takes up a gun to another man and robs him, he is rightly brought before the courts. I wonder what kind of gun Fianna Fáil is using here? I am telling this House, whether it likes it or not, that there are members—automatons—who, in their own souls, know they are doing wrong to give £13,500,000 in this way.
The total Budget of this country, according to the statement to-day, is about £50,000,000. That has to meet all the household expenses—the poverty and unemployment problems and all the other problems. Here, however, are men who are admittedly exploiting their knowledge and who bought shares at £9 which are now worth £56, and we are about to give them £13,500,000. That is not watered capital—of course not. My opinion is that, if any men should be brought to the Criminal Court, it is the men who hold this stock at present; and I think there are men in this country who could prove the indictment, if that were done.
I do not believe I have heard a more audacious thing ever suggested by anyone. If I sold a lb. of butter for 1/2d. extra, in some little shop in Dublin, or gave four cigarettes instead of five, for a certain number of coppers, I would be prosecuted. Here, however, gentlemen come along and say they own the Great Southern Railways Company, including the property of the citizens of Dublin, the Dublin United Transport Company, and we are going to give them £13,500,000. Then, out of the balance of about £6,000,000, will we recreate the transport system of the Twenty-Six Counties? Oh, no, there is one step which we dare not take. We are not interfering with the best-paying proposition in the country. That is outside this Parliament. It is just the Great Southern Railways—the junk pile.
One of the best-paying concerns in this or any other country is the animal-packing organisation called the Dublin Transport Company. Let us turn to the Dublin Transport Company and see what has been going on there. In 1927 there were certain gentlemen appointed to a position under the law, and in this connection Deputy McGilligan and his friends will have to take a certain responsibility. There were three commissioners appointed in the City of Dublin. They were selected to run this little burg. Of course, they were very able men. They had with them a town clerk, but they had no lord mayor, aldermen or common councillors like myself. They made a deal with certain people who at that time got some control. The same individuals have got control of the Great Southern Railways. No names, no pack drill, but all of you will know before this little business is through who they are. A document in the form of an agreement was drawn up and that document did not see the light until a couple of weeks ago, when, more or less by accident, I asked a question and got an answer from a certain official in the corporation.
I insisted on getting a copy of that document. It is a legal instrument. I am not an authority upon legal matters, though I suppose I have contributed more money to the profession than many other men. Any man who ever prosecuted or defended me has always "gone up", as they say. On February 3rd, 1927, an agreement was drawn up between "the Honourable Lord Mayor, the aldermen and burgesses of Dublin," and other people. That is a lie, because there was no lord mayor and there were no aldermen or burgesses. They were "acting by the Commissioners of the County Borough of Dublin, hereinafter called the Corporation, of the one part and the Dublin United Tramways Company..." May I remind the Minister that in his introductory statement he referred to the right of the Dublin Corporation to the tramways? He was very emphatic about that; he paused and repeated "the tramways." The agreement went on to say "... and the Dublin United Tramways Company, 1896, hereinafter called the company, of the other part. Whereas by Section 51 of the Dublin United Tramways (Electrical Power) Act, 1897, it is enacted as follows..." I do not know whether the Ceann Comhairle will allow me to quote this documentin extenso, but perhaps it would be better if I gave the gist of it.
If it is a lengthy document, it would be better to give the gist of it.
It is a lengthy document, but it is very important. With your permission, I will refer to certain relevant passages. To put it in my own language, this is an agreement between the Dublin Tramways Company and three gentlemen acting on behalf of the citizens of Dublin to give the Dublin Tramways Company an extension of their lease to the year 1966 for a consideration, the consideration being that they would re-open the Lucan tramways, supply power to those citizens of Dublin who live within a certain area of the Lucan electrical power station, and do certain things in connection with the roadways, not only keeping them in proper condition, but proposing under certain provisions of the agreement to put silent pavements in certain streets to the extent of 11 miles in length and to the full space between the trams and 18 inches on each side of the tram lines.
They bought out the shareholders, who were few in number. They paid £805 in that connection and they got power to bring in an Act, which was a private Act, a copy of which I have got. The title of that Act, which is no doubt known to some of the men who read it in the Library, is the Dublin United Tramways (Lucan Electric Railways) Act, 1927 (No. 2). You can buy it for 9d., although it is a private Act. The reason why it is a private Act is because the group carrying on this little negotiation did not want the public to know. We did know there was an extension of the lease, and we did eventually get the Act and the agreement. The agreement covers seven pages. It is the usual document, drafted by legal lights—a lot of unnecessary words, every other paragraph contradicting the preceding one, and it takes two or three lawyers to interpret it. It is very clear to me what it conveyed. The Dublin United Tramways Company was the originating company. It is now known as the Dublin Transport Company, and that company must take all the rights and liabilities over. They cannot evade their responsibilities; they must take the bad with the good, and they took over this document known as the agreement.
How did they carry that agreement out? They did re-open the Lucan tramways with a sort of shadow service and behind the shadow they commenced to operate. Once they got the owners bought out, they worked the station for a while and then closed it down. They never did one day's work or spent a penny in respect of the other portions of the agreement, although much of it was laid down as mandatory. One clause set out that if they failed to do certain things the Minister for Industry and Commerce would be called in to decide whether they had properly carried out the terms of the agreement. I do not suppose the Minister ever heard of that agreement. They certainly did not carry out its terms. I suggest, if all that is true, that any negotiations the Minister has been carrying on with the Dublin Transport Company are null and void. You have no right to sell out the interests of the Dublin citizens to the Dublin Transport Company and they have no right to the tram lines in Dublin. I could go further and say that they have no right to use the streets of Dublin; even though they pay £14,000 a year for wayleaves, that gives them no right to run buses on the streets. They cannot do so except with the permission of the Lord Mayor, the aldermen and burgesses. There has been no emergency law passed taking the right out of our hands to control the streets. It is admitted even by the Minister that we have rights of ownership with regard to the tramways.
Being in a generous mood, he will be good enough to treat with us and possibly come to an accommodation with us. I suggest that before he does that he should first tell the Dublin Transport Company: "Get out of the picture; you have no rights in this thing and we will not discuss the matter with you. We will discuss it with the citizens of Dublin, who comprise more than one-third of the 26 counties, the part of the nation we control." Surely that is the honest, businesslike way of doing it. It may be we could come to an accommodation with the Minister and say: "Take control of the transport arrangements of the 26 counties, leaving out the Great Northern for the time being, until we get the hardheaded fellows of the Six Counties to come to a business arrangement. We are going to meet you and get accommodation with you and never mind the speculators, the stock exchange sharks or the industrial Al Capones. Leave them on one side, deal with the people and the people, we are quite sure, will be reasonable enough." After all, it is only through the Government that this thing can be done.
This merger is merely a stock exchange merger. It is not a merger of organised services into a company which will give service for a price. It is merely giving this gang of speculators, who have got this property under their control by a mischievous campaign of lying, misleading poor adventurous souls who had money to burn, an opportunity to deny the right of the common people to the ownership of that land, rolling-stock, engines and established workshops which should belong to them. I have been advocating that the service should be in the public ownership. I believe that out of this particular little controversy that we are having with the Minister something may arise in the way of a business arrangement. Why does the Minister hesitate about having public ownership of a public utility? Is there any logical reason for it? I remember talking to him, in the days when we used to talk pleasantly about these things, just after his getting the office that he holds, about nationalisation. I did not use the word, but we did use the word in the course of conversation. He agreed that he believed in it. He said:
"The only difficulty is the Seanad. We do not think we can get a nationalisation scheme through the Seanad".
Then they just blew that body out of existence. After they had purged their souls, they began to feel the prickings of conscience and to wonder what they were to do with these poor, unfortunate political hangers-on who could not get elected as dog-catchers. Then they decided to have a new Seanad and started to elect and appoint them. There are men sitting there who could not get one vote, yet they are getting £360 a year.
Not under this Bill.
This is going before the Seanad.
Criticism of the Seanad or its members is not seemly.
I do not want to criticise any personalities. But in reference to this type of people who will never be great personalities, I do not think it is unfair.
The Deputy may consider that clever, but it is disorderly.
You will pardon me, Sir, for that aside. I would not offend you for any reason under the sun. I want to try to be orderly. I submit that if an approach had been made on the ground that a public utility should be owned by the people, both sides of the House, irrespective of whether or not they believe in public ownership, have come to realise that it is a public necessity that this service would be better under public control than under this bastard form of private enterprise, because that is all it is. There is no use in humbugging and masquerading and pretending that it is an approach to public ownership. It is not. It is building up an impregnable wall against public ownership of a public utility over a period of years until the personnel of this House is changed and men come in here later who will take over the material things of this nation and utilise them for the benefit of the Irish people and not for the benefit of the few. That day may be a little distant or, in the old Parliamentary phrase, may be in the not far distant future. But I do not think it is so far distant as some people think.
When we see an intelligent man coming to the conclusion expressed by the mover of the amendment, because he is forced by necessity to agree that this utility is essentially one that might be called a national concern, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, an able and intellectual man, agreeing that there is no way out but public ownership, and Deputy McGilligan, who, being a Six-County man, is bound to be an intelligent man, also agreeing that there is only one solution, namely, public ownership, why does the Minister hesitate? He believes in nationalisation; I call it public ownership. He said the Seanad would be the only obstacle, but there is a new Seanad now. If we in this House could agree on submitting a plan of public ownership, I believe that they would not only approve of what we submitted to them but would give 100 per cent. support to such a plan.
That brings me to an opinion expressed by a Dublin trader. He said: "Have you considered the change not only in the minds of men, but in the means of communication between man and man? Have we ignored this feature of our so-called civilisation?" There is no use talking about civilisation these days when millions of men are hurled against each other. But, whatever kind of social association we have got, we have to live together in this country. How big is this country? That man was speaking about long haulage and short haulage and how railway companies in America considered that there is no paying haulage traffic under 100 miles. We have not 100 miles of straight haulage in any direction. Suppose we call it 165 miles to Cork. That may be a little too much, but if you take it the other way it balances up. If we take Athlone as the centre, it would be about 80 miles each way. We have a peculiarly situated country, and from the transport point of view everything can be done here much more cheaply than in any other country I know. It is not elongated like what is called the heel of Italy. Here we have a little country from the centre of which to the sea is about 80 miles in every direction. You could walk across it in a day. From North to South, I suppose, it would take three days. We have this little problem and we cannot even discuss it as reasonable men. We bring in our own partisan point of view and do not consider the needs of the people.
For a fortnight here we discussed the basic industry of this country—agriculture. We all know that it is the basic industry. How do we meet the needs of that industry? The important thing in connection with agriculture is transportation. If we had a system of transportation under which we would not charge anything, either per mile or per ton, for services in connection with agriculture we would be carrying out a good sound economic policy. Deputy Healy has complained about the way he has been treated by a foreign combine and by this particular railway. It is an axiom in economics that the furthest point has as much right to service as the nearest; in other words, there should be equalisation of service. The man who gets a service from Drimnagh to Dublin should have the same rights as the man who comes from Merrion Square to Dublin, if we ran a proper service, but under private enterprise we charge as we like.
We have railway tribunals and all kinds of boards where we waste our time arguing against each other, but if we had a publicly-owned service, would we not realise that the people who have to live in Kerry should get a larger share of sympathy and assistance than those who are happily situated in the economic zone of Dublin, and similarly with regard to people in Mayo and Donegal? Would we not equalise matters, so far as mileage difficulties are concerned, so as to give service to people in the outer fringe of the nation, and make it pay, charging a little more to the person who has more generous facilities than others? Deputy Healy had a load of fish on which working men were depending. These men go out on the seas, face all kinds of hazards not the least of which is death, and bring in a large, medium or small catch. These men, all our own citizens, are then subject to the idiosyncrasies of some individual who has no concern with this country, but who sits in an office in Dublin and says: "The boat has gone; the stuff was not at Kingsbridge in time and therefore it can rot."
This surely does not arise out of this measure.
I am pointing out the need for public service and showing that, by a system of public ownership, we could give service to everybody at the same price. What do we propose to do under this document of 117 clauses, ten schedules and four supplementary pages? We propose to give some gentleman in Dublin, who never contributed one useful hour's service to this nation, the right to exploit the people of this nation, and to give him, for property rights which, on January 1st, 1943, were valued at something like £4,500,000, a sum of £13,500,000. Was there ever a case in history of such foolish generosity being extended to people unworthy of sympathy, unworthy even of sustenance, in my opinion, and unworthy of citizenship in a nation such as this—men who will go out and buy stock from the hard-pressed widow or the thrifty workman who has some £100 invested and whose shares, under pressure of certain public statements to the effect that the railways were in a bad condition and that there was a possibility of no dividends being paid, were suddenly thrown on the market, to save whatever could be saved, at a value of £9, and seized by the greedy commercial sharks. These are now worth £56.
The Deputy should not repeat himself. He has already dwelt on that matter at length.
I am only leading up to my point. If ever I repeat myself, always correct me.
The Deputy has done so now.
I have sufficient intelligence and sufficient matter to bring forward to make repetition unnecessary, but sometimes a good thing cannot be repeated too often. I have been intimidated by the bad manners of the Minister who repeated himself half a dozen times, and if I follow him, I think you, Sir, will forgive me. In this case, however, I do not propose to offend. I want to talk now about the workers and, if necessary, to shed a tear to move your hearts. What will be the position of these workers under this merger? It has been stated that certain people in official positions will be compensated, if found to be redundant. I would use the word "useless", and I could prove that they are useless, but let us see how this compensation provision operated in 1926.
There was a gentleman who had nine years' service as chief mechanical engineer with the company who, having been found to be unnecessary, was entitled to compensation under the Act. He was not brought before the arbitrator; a private deal was made with him by which he got £9 a week for life. He commuted the pension and shook the dust of this country from his shoes and departed for places unknown. When he reached another place, I believe he immediately got a very responsible position at £1,500 a year, but, so long as he lives, he will get £9 a week from this country.
He was only one. Another gentleman who was buying agent in England for 15 years got £500 a year for life. He never did one useful day's service. Everybody knows he was appointed for political reasons. It used to be said that the personnel of the managerial staff of this railway were all gentlemen born. They used to advertise for gentlemen born who were able to ride to hounds. One gentleman, the manager of the Midland Great Western Railway, stated on oath that he could manage all the Irish railways and have three days' fishing and hunting.
That was some years ago, surely?
Yes, but I want to show that the outlook of people has not changed. In 1924, it is true that every official got a private settlement of his claim, but the workers had to go before an arbitrator. The Minister in this measure is not unmindful of the workers. He visualises that men who become redundant will be disemployed, and he allows a period of six months after the measure becomes an Act during which these men can claim compensation. In the light of what happened in 1924 and 1926, and of what happened for seven or eight years afterwards when men failed to get compensation, how can we ask anyone to accept this Bill, unless there are amongst its clauses provisions stating emphatically that any worker in the employment of the company on the first day of 1943 will get compensation when found to be redundant? There would be some right, some equity about that. But no—these men have to submit their cases, and if they go one day outside the six months, they are not entitled to any compensation. Is that fair or proper? I ask the House on that ground alone to urge the Minister to withdraw this measure and have it redrafted.
We are told that under the Bill this advisory board, the chairman and the Minister have powers over any portions of our public transport services. The rigid form of transport is the railway, which is a fixed quantity, and, of course, there is always an advantage in a non-rigid form of transportation, which is the reason that road services can always compete successfully with railways. A man who gets on an engine at Kingsbridge to go to Cork, Ballybrophy or any other centre must keep on two lines, but the man driving a motor vehicle can move around the roads and supply the needs of different areas with his fluid form of transport. What about the canals? Why were the canals ignored in this matter? My friend, Deputy Davin, in his humorous way, suggested that it was because Jim Larkin speaks for canal workers. I speak for many of the canal workers and I have tried to get the Minister to listen to my voice in connection with a body of men working the canals. But no; he will not listen to anyone who can speak of the needs of the working classes as I can—blaming them when they are wrong, cherishing them when they are right, and encouraging them at all times.
But in this the Minister takes power to deal with that matter. So far as the Grand Canal Company is concerned, there is a peculiar feature about that matter here. Certain sections of this Bill will interfere to some extent with the Grand Canal Company, but since you are going so far, why not take the bulk of the control of the Grand Canal Company? Surely that company performs a very useful service so far as the transport of goods in bulk is concerned? It cannot be denied that the canals are able to carry bulk cargo cheaper than any other transport service, and even though I disagree sometimes with their charges, still I must admit that they have the right, under the law as it exists at present, to make those charges. In general, however, as I have said, I think it will not be denied that they can carry bulk cargoes cheaper than other transport services can carry them. In connection with the management of the Grand Canal Company, however, there was one gentleman whom I mentioned here—a personal friend of mine, or at least he says so, but "no names, no pack drill", and I should like to point out that the men working for that canal company have practically no protection from the industrial point of view. I admit that they are a pretty hard lot of boys, but they work hard for the small pay that they get. The one great thing about them is that their outlook on the work they do is not so much from the point of view of their wages as from what one might call the spiritual side of their work, and when they get into a certain mood, they just stop the boat, get a couple of greyhounds, or go and work on their potato plots or turf banks, somewhat like the manager of the company to whom I have referred, and then resume their work on the boat. Accordingly, I say that these are men with a proper spiritual idea and that to that extent they are people with proper ideals of human liberty.
Why was it that the Grand Canal Company was left out—the two canal companies, actually, since the only one mentioned is the Grand Canal, and the Royal Canal seems to have been forgotten? As regards the Royal Canal there is practically no traffic. Of course, under some ancient King's statute one barge per year must go through. On every side of that canal, in the country through which it passes, cargo is waiting to be picked up, cargo which is of particular importance now in order to supply the needs of the Dublin citizens. The canal goes right through some of the biggest bog areas in the country, but yet the canal is not being utilised as it should be. Go down to the Grand Canal, and what do we find there? We find a condition that cannot be equalled anywhere. That company exploits this country without any consideration for the public as to the services they can render or the prices they charge, and yet they are allowed to escape this proposed merger. Why not link them all up? Why not link up all the various types of transport, such as waterways, canals and so on, that can be usefully employed in the transport of merchandise? For certain types of traffic you may have to rely on the railways or road services, but so far as bulk cargoes are concerned, such as wheat, beet or turf, why not use our inland waterways? You have big cargoes coming from Waterford by canal, even such valuable commodities at the present time as tea and tobacco. I suppose the freight on these cargoes is very high, and I suppose there is the possibility that some of the men take their share. Outside of such cargoes, however, you have turf, wheat and coal, all of which are very important. I say that the canals ought to be teeming with active units working for the transport of such cargoes, and it should cost very little to work such a system. All that is required is a little oil in some cases, but in the majority of cases it is a horse-drawn traffic. In that connection, these canals should be properly dredged. As was pointed out to-day by a former speaker, in some cases there is a draft of only a couple of inches because no dredging has been done, which makes it practically impossible for the unfortunate horses to drag the barges. Dredging should be going on all the time all over our canal systems, but I suppose that that could not be done because of the influence of the stockholder to whom I have referred.
I think that the Deputy should not refer in this House to an individual who cannot defend himself.
Whom was I referring to, Sir? I did not mention his name. I dare say that most Deputies know the man to whom I am referring, but I am not putting a label on him.
The Deputy is going very near it. He is referring to a particular organisation and I think that the man who controls that organisation is being clearly indicated by the Deputy's remarks.
Well, Sir, I always say that the nearer the bone the sweeter the meat. However, my contention is that we have no right in this House to submit public utilities to the control of any private concern. The present proposal amounts to a kind of a stock exchange merger. We are offering stock. We are buying junk at a price of about £20,000,000 and giving £6,500,000 to these people to play with, although anybody who knows anything about that concern, or who buys or sells common stock, knows that there is nothing there and that there is no collateral behind it. In speaking of the canal company, I am speaking of something that I know all about. I know every line of it and the properties upon it. Let me show the unwisdom of this. When a question was asked as to what coal we had in stock, we could not be told. The House is still waiting for information on that point. Some of us, however, knew what the tonnage was and where it was lying. We know what stocks of coal there were, from the day the crisis arose until to-day. We know that the country is seriously and badly handicapped in that respect, but when we put up serious proposals to help the Government and try to remedy that position we are treated with discourtesy, and more than discourtesy.
We are told that we will have to accept this Bill as it stands now, with a view to passing it eventually into law. When once it becomes law this House will have no further relation with or control over the situation. You are going to pay £20,000,000 for junk, hand over £6,500,000 for working capital, etc., and yet you will have no right to say yea or nay in connection with any complaints, once this becomes law, with regard to certain individuals such as, in the first place, the manager and, in the second place, certain people who will be associated with him. Whatever they do, or whatever plans they may consult together about and devise, nobody can control them. The Minister can be brought into consultation, but he has no other right of interference, and if the Minister does not interfere, then the manager has all the more freedom to do what he likes. Did anybody ever hear of any such proposal where public moneys are being involved? You have the same kind of thing in connection with all the other semi-Government companies or organisations, and we should like to know whose was the clever mind that set them up. They are all the same, and yet they are all different, we are now told. They never account to this House for any expenditure. They never explain any of their difficulties to this House. One cannot call for an account from these shipping companies, sugar companies and companies of that type. They are so organised that they are beyond our power. In one case, the Minister for Industry and Commerce has control and, in another case, the Minister for Finance has control. That is the only link between the taxpayers and these firms.
I suggest that it is time to change that policy. Broaden out the terms of this Bill. Bring into consultation every member of the different parties as well as individual citizens outside and say: "This is your property; we want to relate you to it and to associate you with it. Throw all the energies of your mind and body into this problem of ours—transportation." None of us here would be so ungracious to each other as to suggest that the present means of transportation represent the last word in that respect. I may be a dreamer but I visualise a total change in the form of communications. I suggested to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, when his Vote was before the House, that, instead of having those lads at Collinstown and Baldonnel, he should organise an aviation service to carry mails which are being interfered with by another Government. I know that we have no right to intrude on the territory of other countries but, in our own country, we could organise hops from Dublin to Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Tralee for our own mail. It would be good exercise for the boys at Collinstown. Nearly all the leading American pilots in the war, especially those on night fighters, were engaged in carrying mail in the United States. It is a most useful training. Why should not our boys be trained similarly and why should not urgent messages and fast mail be carried by them? It would cost very little to put the unemployed in Dublin—12,000 of them—to the making of another landing place in addition to Collinstown, though we have got one of the finest fields in Western Europe. The same would apply to Kilkenny, Limerick, Cork and Galway, and right up to Letterkenny. We would then have this revolving circus carrying all sorts of urgent and precious commodities. It could carry cream or, if there were a good catch of salmon, it could be loaded up and taken to the market, at which it could be sold at a good price. There would be no wastage and there would be economy of energy and opportunity, while satisfactory returns would be forthcoming for the service rendered.
There is another matter—I think it is an important matter—to which I wish to draw the Minister's attention. I suggest that the Minister take into his confidence some expert on railways as well as experts on road transport. I do not refer to the type who have got an accountancy kind of mind but rather to actual operators. There are very good men in the Great Southern Railways Company who would be useful for this purpose. Ask them for the truth—not book statements or reports from certain interested individuals. If you cannot get all the information necessary as to forms of transportation, bring in the experts who are in the country at present, without going, as they did in 1924, outside. If you make mistakes it is better to make them out of goodwill than to make them deliberately to injure the credit of this country, as was done in 1924. I say that with a full sense of responsibility. There are men of the right type in the public service—some of them in the Civil Service. Despite what anybody may say, I have come across men in the Civil Service who are equal to any men in any Government or in any administration in any part of the English-speaking world. We need never be ashamed of them. I have met, consulted and argued with them and I know how keen they are to give a large measure of service, though they are tied down by certain regulations and restrictions. You cannot challenge their intelligence, their ordered minds or their knowledge. I say that they are equal to any men in any part of the English-speaking world—and I have travelled the greater part of the world. Yet, they move around as ordinary, first-class or second-class established officers. I have heard it said that we should not give the running of a railway to a civil servant. I could mention one or two civil servants who have proved their capacity. I would not be fearful so long as the man concerned got power to move and would not be tied up with all sorts of regulations and red tape.
There is a way out of this difficulty. Take over these utilities, with our goodwill, as public utilities under public ownership and we will support you. Appoint a manager. Nobody will say a word against that. Never mind these humbugs on advisory committees or those who represent certain interests. Put in a manager and then get the technicians. Get a chief mechanical engineer for rail transport and a chief mechanical engineer for road transport and all the interlocking men that you require. Put a man in charge of the canal. Let them all work in harmony under the direction of that manager. Let the manager report to the Minister and let the Minister report to this House. I do not think there is a man on either side of the House who would quarrel with that. We would vote £20,000,000 without hesitation if we knew that the Minister was going to use that sum of £20,000,000 for the purpose I have mentioned. But I propose to vote against the Minister getting £13,500,000 to give to a bundle of speculators and stock exchange sharks. I say that with every sense of responsibility. I do not mind if you put in a valuer. Get the best valuation you can of the industrial capital involved. Let the valuers go on for six months and value the whole plant—rails, engines and so forth. When the Minister was speaking disparagingly of the railway, I was thinking of a man here who invented a locomotive boiler which, I think, is as good a boiler, in terms of power and speed, as I know on any railway system here or elsewhere. If that man can produce that type of power machine, are there not other men in engineering circles in our country who could make engines equal to those produced in any other country if they got the opportunity? But we have neither the will nor the sense to start up a national workshop to make not only our own flying machines, but even mechanical milkers and machines of all kinds. We do not even make a churn. We could make these things, but we get no opportunity. Here is a chance for a man of the Minister's vision to see opportunities. Turn Inchicore into a national workshop, every activity in connection with power to be expressed there by men who know how and who can teach others to come along and develop. Is it not an extraordinary thing that in Sweden, with 7,000,000 of a population, 82 per cent. of their traffic is propelled by power derived from fuel of which we have got more than enough—either timber or turf? Here we have only a handful of these gas-producer plants propelling our vehicles along the roads.
We could put ourselves in a position second to no other country in the world if we had only the vision. We have got the intelligence and we have the ability if we only utilised our national resources in a proper way. We are a creditor nation and if the capital which it is proposed to provide for this undertaking were employed as it should be in providing work for our people, there is not only food for thought but food for immediate action. Why should we put this money into the banks in the name and to the credit of the individuals who have exploited the position of this country? I say it would be a crime. By all means let us put a value on the railways and the road transport —I do not care who is the man who does that—and let us not do any harm to the men and women who held stock in January, 1943. I suggest that that be the appointed date for the purposes of this valuation and that we pay the ordinary market value of the stock on the 1st January, 1943, to anybody who held stock at that time. I remember that, in 1928, 1932 or 1933, the Government could have bought the £26,000,000 worth of stock, that was alleged to constitute the property owned and controlled by the Great Southern Railway Company and the other absorbed companies, on the stock exchange market for less than £8,000,000. They could have sent their agents into the stock exchange and bought all the property for £8,000,000. The Government did not do that but took other measures which some people alleged was confiscation. They lowered the values of some of the stock by 90 per cent. and of certain other stock by 50 per cent. I think that was a courageous thing to do and I think it was well to get rid of the humbug which pretended that the railways were worth £26,000,000. I do not believe they were ever worth that. We know that there was any amount of watered capital in the concern and we know that, in less than a few months after that reorganisation, the property that was supposed to be worth £9,000,000, openly expressed, rapidly deteriorated from a market standpoint so that it could have been bought at about £7,000,000. That property is now worth, in your figures, £13,500,000.
I say that is not a fair and businesslike arrangement. By all means get valuers in to value the property or call in an arbitrator. You are bringing in an arbitrator to deal with questions in which men's lives are involved. Why not bring in an arbitrator to deal with material things? The question of whether a man is to get compensation after six months, a question that may affect his whole destiny, is to be submitted to the arbitration of an individual who is to be brought in, but when it is a question of buying dead matter, you do not bring in an arbitrator or a valuer at all. You just sit down in your own smug way and say: "We shall give you £13,500,000 for that." Is that fair or equitable? When it is a question of getting men for certain work we try to place a value on these men's services by competitive examination. A man joining the army is examined as to his physical capacity and if he is not a fit instrument for offensive or defensive purposes we do not take him in. Here we propose to buy what is the industrial heart-blood of the nation, we buy it on a book debt, merely on a statement made that it is worth a certain figure at a certain date. I think that is a kind of financial suicide and the man who is responsible for this plan should be examined by a psychiatrist. There are saner men in Grangegorman and Donabate than the man who put that plan before you.
There is no reason in this and there is no expert to state what is the value of the property. There is no expert to tell you how he could save the situation and how this organisation could be moulded into a useful adjunct to the rest of our economic resources. None of these things is visualised or set down in the document presented to you. I suggest that it is an attempt to take advantage of the House, that it is a scheme which would not be put forward in your cool and collected moments. I suggest that the Minister should again go into the silences and consider the views presented to him from all sides of the House. I know the representatives of the Government Party are not pledged to oppose the Bill but they are pledged, from what I have heard listening to them, to support Dublin's claims and to see that there is a reconsideration in this measure of the question of the ownership of Dublin's streets and traffic. There are three members of the Fianna Fáil Party sitting with us on the corporation, three men who have always given service to the citizens of Dublin, and if they are honest to themselves, they must vote against this measure. If they do not vote against the measure, I suggest to them that political oblivion awaits them because the people of Dublin are aroused about this matter. I would not suggest that the Minister should join in this protest but, knowing his interest in the city, I think that he should see that he is bound to protect the interests of the citizens. Surely he should see that our streets, our roads, and our property are being given away, openly, nakedly, and unashamedly.
What are we going to do with our housing programme? If you agree to what is set out in this measure, you are denying the thing we have been fighting for, the chief means of communication which convey people to and from their homes to the industrial plants in which they work. At the present time we have a serious position in Dublin. The men engaged in the building trade are sending in an appeal asking that arrangements might be made under the present transport system so that they could get accommodation on these vehicles to convey them to and from their work. Men cannot get to work in the morning and cannot get home in the evening. They are asking that there should be some relaxation in the regulations so that they might get a service between 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock. They have not dared to ask for cheaper fares, although I think a good case could be made for that, but at the present moment many of them cannot get accommodation on the buses and are forced to walk two or three miles, some of them even up to five miles, to get to their work and get back in the evening. We are told that the present service is the best that we can get. It is not the best we can get; it is only a makeshift. If we had men who only knew how to run the service there would be no need for mergers. It is all very well to say we have no petrol, but we know that petrol is needed only for priming purposes. Again there is any amount of rubber in the city, if an attempt were only made to gather up that rubber. Even in this House there is rubber that could be replaced by some other material. We could get this rubber back to the factories to be prepared for use in essential services. There is hardly a place in Dublin where rubber is not being used. I do not go into public houses but every time I pass the door of one I see a mat there.
Nearly everywhere you will find rubber. Even on the buses you will find rubber steps. All that spare rubber or waste rubber or neglected rubber could be made to serve. They do not do that. They simply ignore the public. The public try to co-operate. They queue at the bus-stops. What reward do they get for that? Advantage is taken of them. The bus that used to carry, say, 30 passengers is now carrying 60 to 70 passengers. An Order was suspended by the Minister. Nobody was supposed to stand in a mechanically-driven vehicle. Now, we have ten and 12 people standing, fighting each other. People have to pay more for travelling on a bus than they would have to pay on a motor car. The bus company is earning more per mile than any taxi driver in Dublin. That is not equalled in any portion of the known earth.
I do not know whether the Minister is taking these matters into consideration. I notice he has got into a somnolent mood. Possibly, when he does awaken to the facts of the situation he may agree to the amendment which has been drafted by the Leader of the Opposition and supported by men of goodwill on every side of the House. Of course, unfortunately, the women members of this House do not speak. Some day I hope to hear one of them utter a sentence. So far I have not heard them. I am greatly interested in women speaking because they always speak with a certain amount of assurance. I am quite sure the women in the House, on both sides, will be with us in this matter, because it is a woman's question. It is a question of honesty and probity in public life and I feel sure that, having a sense of responsibility for the nation, they will see that nothing unjust is done and that there will be no denial of opportunity to the next generation.
I believe that this particular Bill and the idea to merge this particular company with other concerns means building up a rigid wall of privilege. I have fought against privilege all my days and I hope I shall continue to fight it until I die. I will not stand for privilege anywhere. This Bill conveys to my mind the suggestion that it is building up a privileged group of industrial exploiters and financial-mongers. I do not know whether that is the intention or whether the Minister is conscious of it, but I would ask him even now to halt and reconsider the whole position. He has the goodwill and support of this House. Nobody will be quicker than the Opposition, the Labour Party, the Farmers' Party and the Independents to support the Minister and to help him in dealing with this problem. Surely we are worthy of consideration. After all, we are part of the nation. The Minister cannot go on forever forcing these things on people. A breaking point will come. The Government are relying on our goodwill now because of this emergency. They are a minority Party in this House. When the other Parties agree to chasten the Government, when they unite on some common cause, the Government will be chastened. We know that the Government have taken heavy responsibilities. We all realise the internal enemy and the external enemy. We have agreed, without exception, even though we may differ on certain points, to support the Government in every particular. Why does the Government flout us then on a matter of such moment, of grave domestic concern? If anyone dared to assail the Government, every man and woman on this side of the House would rally to their support. They know that.
What do we get in return for that loyalty to a common citizenship? We are charged that we have not a due sense of our responsibility, that we are not facing up to the issues. That is totally untrue. I challenge that. I say that if every member of the Fianna Fáil Party were as sensible of his responsibilities as the individual members here, there could be an adjustment, there could be some arrangement arrived at in connection with this Bill. If there is not accommodation for the Independents and for the official Opposition, I hope there will be a meeting of the non-Fianna Fáil Parties and a determination that upon this issue there should be no collusion or no accommodation for the Government, that the Bill will be fought line by line, clause by clause, schedule by schedule. I would be the last in the world to invite any interruption of the goodwill that has been displayed since we came back to this House. When other Bills were introduced everybody realised that Ministers in charge were trying to approach the matter in a dignified spirit of understanding. On this occasion one of the principal men in the Government, a man who has more authority in the country than even the Taoiseach, who has more responsibility than any man in the Government, who has filled certain functions, let us say with all candour, as well as any man could, under all kinds of difficulties, is inviting difficulties, inviting opposition.
Why not, in the few days that will elapse before we meet again, review the criticism that has been offered in good faith and reconsider the whole Bill? We want to be associated with the Government in bringing to this problem a new point of view, a new determination that we will have no more patch-work business in connection with transport, that, as far as human endeavour can go, we will try to solve this problem. Why do we have these deliberate attempts to diverge from a common line of action? We may have differences on certain matters but you must differ if you are going to agree. It may be that the Minister has the solution of the problem. I do not see it, with all candour and honesty. I have read the Bill. I have not given it the attention it deserves because time did not permit but a Deputy of this House whom one might regard as being a man above average intelligence, who has a trained mind, said that he devoted a certain number of week-ends to the Bill and yet had not a full appreciation of what was set out. It is admitted, I think, that this Bill took nine months to draft. The Minister might be good enough to tell me if that is correct.
Would it be possible to put on the records of the House that we asked how long it took to draft this Bill? I think it is a perfectly proper question. However, for the moment I take it that it took nine months to put into this form the machinery that is to deal with this merger.
We ask to have this matter left over so that we may carry on our daily tasks and digest the contents of this Bill and come back with a clear knowledge of the transport problem. I do not claim to have more than average intelligence, but I have a grip on the sense of words. I do not think anyone ever saw me using notes except when quoting. I have a memory like an elephant and they say the elephant never forgets. There are certain things in this Bill that I want to forget. I want to forget that any Minister in any Party came to this House with such a Bill. Would any agricultural expert go into the market and buy an old dry cow for a heifer in calf? Out of a dried up cow you could get some bone and a certain amount of blood. This Bill is not only dried up but it is full of tuberculosis germs. It is even bad propaganda. Who would buy an obsolete plant, one that is not equipped for its task, but for which a good deal is going to be given? Are we going to buy junk and then try to connect the broken parts? Nobody would buy a secondhand motor car because they would not know but the cylinders were gone. They say in America that you buy a Ford car once and then dump it. Here we are going to buy an obsolete machine that has proved unsatisfactory, and that never earned its keep. We hear a good deal about the 700-gallon cow and the 450-gallon cow, but here is a cow that never gave any milk. It should be sent out to grass. The proposals in the Bill are not worthy of consideration. In the picture that I have drawn of the railway company I did not do it for unkind reasons.
I have dealt with the men on this railway since 1907. I organised them into a group that afterwards became occupants of Emmet Hall. I know these men, their difficulties and their faults. I speak for a certain body of men on the construction side. Deputy Davin and Deputy O'Sullivan speak for the more important sections, for the accountancy department, the dispatch department, the running department and for milesmen, all-important links in the chain. I can assure the House that amongst the 14,000 railway employees there are many good friends of the system and many others who are real enemies. There are individuals running about for the past few months conveying all kinds of stories, and carrying on private intrigues against 14,000 employees with whom there are agreements which are valid in law. These individuals were brought in in the dark of night to consult certain people and promises were given them that if they would do what certain individuals had done in this country in the past they would be all right. They got promises that they would be well cared for. The employees were entitled to a pension scheme. They have been waiting for it. They were constantly told that there was going to be a scheme the equal of which was never before available. These poor morons went on although the men who fought for improved conditions, and who made sacrifices convinced different Governments of their right to recognition for services rendered. Do you know that they were told they could work four days a week at a time when some of them had to work from 14 to 17 hours daily? The Government was a party to negotiations that resulted in improving working conditions.
Now the men are asked to work unnecessary overtime. Overtime is a dead loss to any industry. There are times when it may be necessary to work overtime, on ships, or when there is a breakdown on the railways, but these things are provided for and breakdown gangs are available. When there has to be overtime on an ordinary running schedule there is incapacity and bad management. While the men were being told that, if they did not take four days a week, give up their guaranteed week, and the miserable bonus of 13/6 a week which does not meet present needs, they were actually inviting others to work overtime. At a time when they were suggesting to the men in the workshops to work four days a week, they actually sent word to some of the unions catering for the skilled trades to send in more men. Would you believe in the ordinary realms of fantasy that such a thing could happen? If Walt Disney put it on his pictures you would laugh yourself to death. Let us give over the railways to the railway workers, to the men who run the railways. I do not care if you put in Deputy Corry as manager. He would make a damn good manager in my opinion. Put anybody in you like as manager but do not defy this House. Do not say that you will take £20,000,000 of this country's money and give no account of it. You will either give an account of it in this House or to the public outside. You may silence people by certain rules and regulations. You may even silence people you do not like by other methods, but there are men in this country who will not be silenced.
I had to refer to a body of men who went down to the sea in ships who were libelled and the men's statements were sent to the Press, but the Press was not allowed to publish them. They had to compromise with these men and to come to an adjustment, an adjustment which should never have been necessary and should never have arisen. It is the same in this case. You have found you have got a problem and we would entreat you to withdraw this Bill and get it redrafted. I will sit here all day and do my own work in the dark of the night, and I know there are others who will give you every co-operation if you base it on proper lines, and give to those who had property rights before the era of speculation an adjustment of their claims based upon the property value of January, 1943. As far as I am concerned the greatest enemies of this country are the spy leaders and finance-mongers. I say that coldly and calmly and dispassionately. There is no more dangerous enemy in days of stress than the gentlemen who exploit the needs of the community. The man who will carry on in the glimmer and deny another man a chance of getting his supply of gas is a criminal. I do not care who he is. The man who will racketeer in food is a criminal. Everybody is glad to help the Minister to prevent that. I have never come across a greater or more well-planned scheme than this grave racket. There have never been greater spoils won by the Vanderbilts, the Goulds or the many thugs of the railway systems in America in comparison.
It is much better that the Deputy should not continue in that tone.
But it is history. Vanderbilt said he only milked the American public.
There is a rule in this House and it must be enforced that citizens of foreign countries who occupy prominent positions should not be spoken of in a degrading or an insulting way.
Vanderbilt and Gould do not occupy positions of prominence at the moment. I believe they are now in the place of exterior darkness. Under your correction, I will refrain, but at least we ought to draw an analogy from a sound form of argument although an analogy is not always a good argument because it may be turned against you. In this case I suggest there is an analogy. I put it to the House and I hope the Press will take notice. I am quoting the Minister who said that we are buying obsolete plant and an obsolete railway, ill-fitted for its task, and that is not worthy of further use. We have got to get rid of this, not to renovate it. We have got to recreate our system of transport. I say this particular Bill stands condemned. There is no other way of meeting our needs than by withdrawing the Bill and redrafting it if you like.
There was a time when the Minister believed in nationalisation. I do not know how he can believe in nationalisation because we are limited in our national territory and in the control of portion of it. Let us use the term "public ownership" of "public utility". The Minister made some reference to other countries that had State control of the means of transport. I challenge him here either in public or in private to prove that there is any case of public ownership ever going back to private ownership. You can quote France but France is in a state of war. Still the railways there are owned by the State although they can be used under licence by private people. The railways of Belgium are publicly owned and so are the railways of Nazi Germany that so many of you are imitating and so they are in that beautiful paradise, almost clysium Portugal. I wonder how many of you thought of asking the people who live in the ports about life in Portugal. Some day you will aggravate me and I will paint a picture of Portugal that will give you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Why do you not go down to the ships and ask the men in the fo'c'sle what a kind of nice little place Portugal is? Go and ask the creatures that waste their lives in viciousness what is the most comfortable place to lead that sort of life in. Ask the people in the dependencies of Portugal, the poor slaves, what the life is like. But do not compare us to a lot of spicks.
The men in this country have got something better in life than to lower themselves to the level of that type of people. I think the time is nearly over and the referee's whistle is going to blow, but we have played a good game whether you agree with us or not. You may not have scored many goals, but the goalkeeper on the other side has begun to realise that we have got a team ready for the next match that is going to make them play to the pin of their collar. That is the only way we can get accommodation. I believe we are going to fight every stage of this Bill and I hope so. Though I speak individually, I speak the mind of my colleagues, and we will fight this Bill in every paragraph until you withdraw it. I hope that challenge will be taken up by both sides and that my comrades in the Corporation of Dublin will take up the challenge when it comes to the test. I challenge the Minister to take off the Whips on this Bill and to let us vote on it as citizens and brothers. I move the adjournment of the debate.