I move that the Transport (No. 2) Bill, 1944, be now read a Second Time. This Bill was so fully discussed prior to, and during the course of, the general election that no long statement regarding its provisions is now required. I assume that all those who spoke about the Bill during the course of the election had studied its provisions and, therefore, require no elaborate review of them. The Bill now before the House is the same as it was when originally introduced except that the dates have been changed so as to provide for its coming into operation on January 1, 1945, instead of July 1, 1944, as originally proposed. I contemplate that the House will deal with the Bill on Second Reading before the summer recess and I aim at having the Committee Stage of the Bill, which will be the longest stage, dealt with before the end of September, leaving the month of October for the final stages in the Dáil and the Second Reading in the Seanad, with the concluding Stages in the Seanad and, if necessary, in the Dáil in November. When circulating the Bill after the election, I circulated again the explanatory memorandum which was made available in the first instance and which describes in non-technical language the main provisions of the Bill. Associated with that memorandum and available to Deputies are the reports of the discussions that took place here in May on the Second Reading of the Bill. There was a long debate upon the Bill and any member of the Dáil who was not then present and who wishes to be familiar with the points of view expressed for and against the Bill will find them in the Dáil Debates. On that occasion, a number of Deputies referred to matters of detail. In the discussion on Second Reading of the Bill, we are, of course, entirely concerned with the principles of the measure. Matters of detail are discussed in Committee. I propose now to confine myself to a review of the principles of the measure, leaving for the more intimate type of discussion which is possible in Committee matters were referred to during the course of the previous Second Reading debate.
The principle of this Bill is that national economic development in the future and, particularly, our effectiveness in international trade requires that we should have a public transport system as adequate, as efficient and as cheap as can be provided—certainly, a public transport system as efficient and as cheap as any other country has. Whether it will be possible for us to realise that aim or not, it is the view of the Government that we should strive towards it. It is common ground amongst us, judging by the speeches made on the previous occasion on which the Bill was before the House, that we had not such a system in the past. If we are to have it after the war, then, in the view of the Government, we should now make the necessary arrangements to bring it about. It is our view that it would be unwise to wait until circumstances had developed in which the operation of such a system would be practicable before attempting to provide the legislative basis for it. We think it wiser to enact the necessary legislation now, to establish an organisation that will be responsible for the provision of that public transport service and to give it the authority of the Dáil to proceed as best it can in present circumstances to prepare for its creation when times are more favourable. In the view of the Government, the best possible method of providing the country with such a public transport system is to establish a new statutory transport organisation on the lines proposed in this Bill—a statutory transport organisation which will control all the public transport services in the country except those that operate across the Border. As Deputies are aware, special considerations affect those cross-Border services which make it undesirable that they should be interfered with at present.
I stated previously, and I would like to repeat it now, that if the present situation in respect of the cross-Border services should be altered fundamentally by legislation elsewhere, then we would have to reconsider our decision not to interfere with the operation of these services within our jurisdiction. For a number of reasons which will be known to Deputies, it is desirable that they should not be interfered with on our part, nor is it necessary to do so in order to create the organisation which will provide, for the greater part of the territory under our jurisdiction, the type of transport service which we believe to be possible.
We are proposing to create a new statutory organisation by amalgamating the Great Southern Railways Company and the Dublin United Transport Company. The new transport organisation resulting from that amalgamation will, we propose, be given maximum freedom in commercial operations. We are proposing to relieve it from the restrictions which in the past it was considered necessary in the public interest to impose upon railway undertakings, and other public transport services in latter years. When the provisions of this Bill were under discussion in the Press and amongst the public there were many references to monopoly by people who had obviously failed to realise that the essence of our transport problem is not the creation of a monopoly but the passing of a monopoly. In the years before the first World War, when the motor vehicle was in its infancy, railway undertakings provided the only public transport service and had in their areas a complete monopoly. Because of the monopolistic conditions which they enjoyed, they developed in a rather haphazard fashion and were not compelled by force of competition to adopt new methods of operation, as they became possible, to renovate their equipment or maintain their organisations at maximum efficiency.
With the advent of the private motor-car for the conveyance of passengers and the private lorry for the conveyance of goods, it is no longer possible to contemplate a public transport service with the same monopolistic privileges. Any public transport organisation has now to face a competitor far more deadly than existed previously, the private lorry and the private car, and unless it can provide services which are efficient and cheap, those who might otherwise avail of its services can and will provide their own transport with their own lorries or their own private motor vehicles. Because of the change of conditions, it is no longer necessary to preserve the many cumbersome restrictions upon railway undertakings which legislators of previous years considered desirable. We are proposing, therefore, to give this new organisation as complete freedom as is possible in the public interest of commercial operation and to remove entirely all the archaic forms of control which are no longer practicable.
It appears to us there are certain safeguards which are necessary in the public interest and these safeguards are provided in the Bill. The other restrictions upon railway operators and public transport providers are completely removed. The safeguards which the Government consider essential in the public interest are, first, that the general policy of the public transport operators should be directed towards serving national economic aims; second, that there should be a public authority with control over the rates charged for transportation; third, that there should be given to the public authority power to require the provision of adequate transport facilities and, fourth, that there should be adequate protection against the discriminatory treatment by the transport operators of members of the public. All these safeguards are provided in the Bill. It is considered that these are the only safeguards which the public interest requires.
We propose to provide against the discriminatory treatment of individuals by making it illegal and giving the citizen who alleges discriminatory treatment to his detriment the right of appeal to the courts. We propose to give to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, subject to whatever consultation is necessary with the advisory committee, the power to require the new organisation to provide new services sufficient to meet the requirements of all localities and trades and are proposing to give him power to prescribe maximum rates of charge and, in the principal matter of ensuring that the policy of the organisation will be directed in accordance with the national economic interest, we aim to achieve that result by the device contemplated in the Bill of having the direction of the organisation entrusted to a board consisting of shareholder-directors with the chairman nominated by the Government, the Government-nominated chairman having certain powers which will enable him to ensure, whenever the interests of the shareholders clash with the public interests, that it is the public interests and not the interests of the shareholders which will predominate.
To effect the transport reorganisation which we have in contemplation, including the overhaul, renovation and modernisation of the transport equipment available, it is necessary to place the new company to be established in a stronger financial position than it would ever be possible for the Great Southern Railways Company to attain. It is proposed to give this new organisation that stronger financial position by means of a capital reconstruction scheme which, by affording a State guarantee of the principal and interest of the debenture stock of the new company, has secured agreement from the existing debenture holders and other stockholders to a reduction in the rates of interest or dividend rights which they at present have. By the provision of the Government guarantee, the obligations of the new company in respect of the Great Southern Railways system for interest charges and dividends will be reduced by approximately £110,000 per year. By means of the State guarantee of capital and interest, we put the new company in a position to raise new capital as required at lower rates of interest than it would be possible for any private undertaker to secure.
There is also the possibility of a saving in taxation. Under the provisions of the 1933 Finance Act public utility concerns which had previously been exempt from corporation profits tax were made subject to that tax, but an exemption was granted for a period of years to railway undertakings. That exemption has been continued up to the present and there is a proposal in the Finance Bill of this year to continue that exemption for another period. The Dublin United Transport Company is, however, liable to corporation profits tax. Arising out of this amalgamation, there will result a saving in corporation profits tax which will redound to the company in the form of increased net revenue. I am not committing the Government and it is not intended that the Government should be committed to maintain the present exemption of railway undertakings beyond the period contemplated in the Finance Bill of this year.