Public Business. - Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1944—Second Stage.

I move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill which I am now introducing, although it is not likely to be controversial in respect of its main principles, could, nevertheless, be described as a measure of major importance. It is designed to facilitate post-war projects which will involve capital expenditures which may amount to, or exceed, £40,000,000. The main purposes of the Bill are, firstly, to authorise the Electricity Supply Board to undertake the construction of new hydro generating stations; secondly, to authorise the advance to the board of the capital required for that and other development purposes; thirdly, to make certain provisions that are required in order to facilitate the rural electrification scheme; and, fourthly, to authorise the Electricity Supply Board in certain circumstances to undertake or to arrange for the manufacture here of equipment and apparatus for the distribution or use of electricity.

The existing generating capacity of the stations operated by the Electricity Supply Board is inadequate to meet the present demand for electricity, if that demand could be made effective by the supply of transmission and consumption equipment. The installed generating capacity of the board's stations in 1930 averaged 94 megawatts. There has been a considerable growth in the capacity of the board's generating stations since the board was established, the generating capacity increasing from an average of 94 megawatts in 1930 to 184 in 1944. Sales of electricity increased from 85,500,000 units in 1930 at an average rate of increase of 18,000,000 units per year until 1935, and from 1935 to 1942 at a rate of about 30,000,000 units per year. In 1942 the total sales of electricity were 357,000,000 units. The number of units generated in that year were 450,000,000, equivalent to about 162 units per head of the population. Sales of electricity fell off since 1942, due to production difficulties. Despite that increase in the usage of electricity in the years prior to the development of emergency difficulties, we are still a long way behind other countries in the domestic or industrial usage of electric current. For the purpose of getting a comparison, it is necessary to go back to 1938, because figures, subsequent to that year, are not available in respect of other countries. In that year the units generated by the Electricity Supply Board were 114 per head of population of this State. In the same year the units generated per head of the population in Denmark were 316; in Holland, 333; in Belgium, 620; and in Finland, 779. I am taking these countries because they are smaller countries which are somewhat akin to our own in so far as agriculture represents the primary source of wealth and employment.

Would the Minister repeat, what year?

The year was 1938. There are, of course, other countries in Europe which could be described as smaller countries, and with economies similar to our own, but where special circumstances operate, such as Sweden, Switzerland and Norway. In Sweden, as against our 114 units per head, the generation of electricity was 1,294 units per head in 1938. In Switzerland, the generation of electricity per head was 1,679; and in Norway the generation of electricity per head of the population reached the astonishing total of 3,417 units.

The fact that we are still a long way behind other countries indicates the extent to which we have to plan new development, both in respect to the generation of electricity and to the facilities available to our people for its use. It is expected that the demand for electricity in this country will grow rapidly after the war. It was growing at an increasing rate before the war; the average growth of 18,000,000 units per year up to 1935 jumped to an average of 30,000,000 units after 1935. The Electricity Supply Board have advised me that it is reasonable to expect an increased demand for electricity, averaging between 35,000,000 and 40,000,000 units per year for the next ten years. It may be that the demand for electricity will grow at an even higher rate, but if we assume that the rate of growth in the demand for electricity will be as estimated by the Electricity Supply Board, it is obvious that within that period we shall have at least to double our present generating capacity. It is, therefore, regarded as the duty of the Government and of the Electricity Supply Board to take all possible measures now to secure the expansion of generating capacity so that the economic development of the country will not be handicapped. That urgency is all the more pronounced when one considers the fact that it takes from three to four years to construct a main generating station, even under normal circumstances.

It is, of course, impossible now to estimate at what stage, after the conclusion of hostilities in Europe, this new generating equipment may become available for purchase by us, but we have decided to take all the possible preliminary steps, including the enactment of the enabling legislation, the preparation of plans, and the commencement of certain constructional works, so as to ensure that whatever delays may be forced upon us will be kept at a minimum. In this country, in our opinion, the best means of providing for the generation of electricity is to balance fuel-using stations with hydro stations. It is not possible to meet our electricity requirements by water-power stations alone, because the output of these stations depends largely upon climatic conditions, and regularity of supply cannot be guaranteed. It is necessary, therefore, to supplement these stations by steam stations. Plans are being considered for the provision of additional steam stations, using turf as fuel.

Exclusively.

Exclusively, yes—these stations to be situated on suitable bogs. Plans have already been prepared and, in fact, orders have been placed for plant for the first of these stations, which will be constructed adjacent to the Clonsast Bog, near Portarlington. The board has got full legal authority, under existing legislation, to proceed with the erection of these stations. It is not necessary, in that respect, to provide additional powers under this Bill, or to do more than authorise the advance to the board of the necessary capital. The provisions of this Bill, which are designed to provide the capital requirements of the board for five years ahead, cover the capital for the Clonsast turf-burning station. It is proposed to provide for further stations of the same kind on other bogs, and the Turf Development Board, in conjunction with the Electricity Supply Board, are now investigating the suitability of a number of other bogs which might be developed for that purpose. In that way it is intended that, ultimately, all the electrical energy consumed here will be derived from native resources, either peat or water, thereby eliminating the need for fuel imports for the production of electricity. I stated that the board has power under existing legislation to construct new steam generating stations. It has not got power to develop water-power stations other than on the Shannon and the Liffey. In the past, new hydro stations were authorised by special legislation, but it is considered that there is no reason why that situation should be maintained. The construction of new generating stations is now a normal function of the Electricity Supply Board. It has the obligation to make ample provision to meet the growth in the demand for electricity, and the staff of the board are competent to plan and undertake the construction of these stations. This Bill, therefore, has for one of its main objects, the provision of a simple and expeditious means by which the board may prepare and submit to the Minister for Industry and Commerce schemes for the development of any suitable river, and it is proposed that the Minister shall confirm such schemes by Order if they are acceptable to him.

A scheme has been prepared for the development of the River Erne. It is hoped that the work will be begun on certain of the construction works in that scheme this year after the enactment of this measure, subject, of course, to the availability of the equipment and materials that will be needed. The construction of a power station upon the Erne occupies a very early place in the board's post-war development programme. The Erne is, next to the Shannon, the largest river in the country, and has a much greater potential power output than any of the remaining rivers. As it can be made capable of developing a large block power available from a non-wasting asset, that is the water flow in the river, it was felt that the project should be designed to make use of the flow in the river to practically its full potential output. The project, therefore, which is planned by the Electricity Supply Board contemplates the utilisation of the River Erne for the purpose of generating electrical power by means of hydro-electrical plant to be installed on the portion of the river between Belleek and Ballyshannon. The plant to be installed in the immediate future will, it is anticipated, have a capacity of 60,000 k.w. That represents an increase of about two-thirds on the existing generating capacity of the installed plant.

What is the total for the installed plant of the country?

At present it is 184,000 m.w.

That is about one-third increase.

The Minister said two-thirds.

Yes, one-third. The power stations on the Erne will be so arranged as to permit of future extension to give a total capacity of 80,000 k.w. During the first stage of the development it is estimated that the annual output, in an average flow year, will be 200,000,000 units, and that when the second stage is reached the corresponding output will be 250,000,000 units in an average flow year. Records of the flow conditions in the river have been available from the year 1900 up to date. These records are in the form of sluice-gate openings and river levels at Belleek and lake levels on the Upper and Lower Erne. Investigation of the available data and calibration of the continuous flow in the river extending over the past five years enables the average daily flow to be estimated for the period from the beginning of the century up to date. The average annual flow for that period is estimated at 100 cubic metres per second, corresponding to an annual average output of 200,000,000 units in the first stage of the development, and 250,000,000 units in the final stage. The maximum average annual flow recorded was 138 cubic metres per second and the minimum 65 cubic metres, each of which occurred once only in 44 years.

The total available fall of the river is approximately 140 feet. About 15 feet of that fall are concentrated in the falls of Assaroe where the river enters the sea at Ballyshannon. The remainder is distributed in a series of rapids along the river between Ballyshannon and Belleek. It is proposed to develop this fall of about 140 feet in two steps by the construction of two dams across the existing river valley, and to construct on each dam a power station. The lower, or first step, which would utilise about 72 per cent of the fall, will be located at Cathaleen falls, that is to say, at a distance of approximately three-quarters of a mile up stream from the road bridge across the Erne in the town of Ballyshannon. The upper, or second step, would utilise about 28 per cent. of the fall and would be located a distance of approximately three miles up stream of the lower step.

The carrying out of the project will give employment to about 1,500 or 2,000 men for a period of three years. It is estimated that it will be possible to complete the construction works in three years. Deputies will appreciate that any such estimate, made under present circumstances, is necessarily very tentative as the equipment and materials which will be required are not at present available. There will be considerable indirect employment for many other persons engaged in the supply and transport of the various materials which will be required for the construction of the works. When the stations are completed, a permanent staff will be required on the site for the operation and maintenance of the plant and the contingent works. It is not possible to give a reliable estimate of the total cost, because it is based on pre-war prices, but the estimate is £3,500,000. The House will understand that the actual cost is likely to be substantially higher than that figure on the assumption that the general level of prices after the war will be higher than the pre-war level. It is estimated that the cost per unit generated will be .258 of a penny at the 200,000,000 unit stage, and .242 of a penny at the 250,000,000 unit stage: that is to say that the estimated cost of current, which must be related, of course, to the estimated capital cost of the works is, roughly, equivalent to the actual cost of producing current from the Shannon at the present stage of the Shannon development.

In arriving at that estimate, what figure does the Minister take?

The pre-war capital cost of construction.

If the capital cost be higher, the cost per unit will be higher?

What percentage of the cost per unit is represented by capital cost, as distinct from working costs?

I cannot give the Deputy that figure but, as he will understand, in the case of a water-power station, the capital cost represents a very high proportion of the cost of production. The board has advised the Northern Ireland authorities of its proposals for the hydroelectric development of the Erne and indicated certain directions in which the co-operation of the Northern Ireland authorities would be mutually advantageous. The board has not yet been advised of the views of the Northern Ireland authorities on the matter. It is, therefore, necessary to say that the development of the Erne will be undertaken in any event, although the co-operation of the Northern Ireland authorities would facilitate the operation.

Have you sought their co-operation?

I have said so. The board has advised the Northern Ireland authorities of these proposals. The investigation and collection of the necessary data in respect of other rivers are also proceeding but there is no other hydro project, except a rather small-scale development on the Liffey, in contemplation in the immediate post-war programme.

What other rivers have been examined?

Practically all the other rivers capable of development for power purposes.

Can the Minister mention any of them?

The Boyne, the Lee and the Suir, which offer possibilities. One result of the development of a river for power purposes is that fisheries in the river may suffer damage. Consequently, provision is made in the Bill, on lines generally similar to those that appear in the Shannon Fisheries Acts, for the payment by the Electricity Supply Board of compensation to the owners of fisheries which may be affected and also to others who may, as a result of such damage done to fisheries, have suffered loss. Provision is also being made to allow the board to acquire fisheries where such a course might appear to it to be preferable to paying compensation. Under the Bill, the board and its contractors will be required to consult the Minister for Agriculture as regards the taking of due precautions to prevent damage to fisheries, so far as possible. Where the Bill deals with fisheries, the provisions largely correspond with those in the Fisheries Acts.

The House is aware that the Electricity Supply Board, at my request, prepared a comprehensive report on the subject of rural electrification. That report has been circulated to Deputies as a White Paper. While Deputies are, no doubt, familiar with the contents of the report, a brief reference to the outstanding features of the scheme will, I think, be in order. The need for a rural electrification scheme is, I think, demonstrated by the fact that, out of a total population of 2,968,000 at the time of the 1936 Census, 1,742,000 are without a supply of electricity. Of that number without a supply of electricity, 1,682,000 reside outside villages and towns. The supply of electricity to rural dwellings offers no technical difficulty. It is a simple matter of extending the existing 10,000 volt lines. Transformers to provide the normal 220 volt supply would be suitably situated at various points upon the 10,000 volt network and would supply dwellings within half a mile radius of each transformer station. The existing 10,000 volt network covers only a small fraction of the rural areas. The growth of the network into rural areas must necessarily be gradual and its extension must be planned on an area basis. The Electricity Supply Board investigated certain areas and came to conclusions as a result of these investigations. The areas selected are indicated in the report and the reasons why those areas were selected are also given. On the basis of the board's investigations of these trial areas, it was estimated, at pre-war price levels, that the capital cost of extending the network in rural areas would work out at about £45 per dwelling in areas with a density of 15.2 dwellings to the square mile of farm area. The estimated cost per dwelling for the country as a whole was calculated at £42.3, varying from £49 in Wicklow, with the lowest number of dwellings per square mile of farm area, to £34.5 in Louth, with the highest number of dwellings per square mile of farm area.

There are approximately 400,000 rural dwellings and the supply of these rural dwellings with electricity will require 75,000 miles of 10,000 volt line and 100,000 transformers. The magnitude of the task which we are giving to the Electricity Supply Board will be evident from the fact that, against the 75,000 miles of 10,000 volt line which the board will have to construct, there are at present in the State only 3,840 miles of transmission lines of all kinds and only 2,000 miles of 10,000 volt line. As against the 100,000 transformers which will be required under this scheme, there are at present only 1,232 transformers. The maximum rate of construction of transmission lines by the contractors for the Shannon scheme was 650 miles per annum. The maximum rate achieved by the Electricity Supply Board was 380 miles per annum. It will be obvious, therefore, that a scheme involving the construction of 75,000 miles of line and 100,000 transformers will take some time to complete. We have proposed to the Electricity Supply Board that it should make its plans for the purpose of completing this scheme within ten years from the time at which supplies of material become freely available. Many persons whose judgment is entitled to be given full consideration consider that it will not be possible for the Electricity Supply Board to complete this task in ten years. Its completion in ten years, assuming that all rural dwellings are linked into the network, will involve the construction of lines at the rate of 7,500 miles per year, against a maximum rate of 680 achieved by the Shannon scheme contractors and will involve the employment of a large number of workers. It is estimated that the construction of the line at the rate of 1,000 miles per year will involve the employment of 500 workers. Construction, therefore, at the rate of 7,500 miles per year, will mean the employment, over the period of ten years, of between 3,000 and 4,000 workers on that task alone.

In comparison with the magnitude of the work involved in the extension of the rural network and the cost of the network, the quantity of electricity required for rural electrification is comparatively small. As I mentioned, there are roughly 400,000 rural dwellings, and an estimated average consumption of 500 units per annum per dwelling would mean that 200,000,000 units would supply the whole of the requirements of the rural areas. That 200,000,000 units represents about half the present production of the Electricity Supply Board stations and is equivalent to the total output of the new Erne station at its first stage of development.

The proposals embodied in the report and adopted by the Government envisage the construction and management of the networks by the Electricity Supply Board and sales of electricity direct by the board to consumers. There are alternative methods of operation, which are referred to in the report, but I am sure Deputies who have read the report will agree that the considerations put forward by the board in favour of direct management of the network by itself and sale direct to the consumers are sound and justify the adoption of that method in preference to other methods. It is proposed to apply a policy of uniform charges for all areas. The actual cost of supply of electricity will not be the same in all areas, but I feel sure the House will agree that the policy of uniform charges is the one that would be most acceptable to the country as a whole and avoid possible causes of contention later. The intention is that the electricity will be supplied to consumers in rural areas on the basis of the existing rural tariff of the Electricity Supply Board. The existing rural tariff of the Electricity Supply Board involves a two-part charge upon the basis of a fixed annual charge, plus a charge per unit of electricity consumed. The fixed annual charge is calculated on the basis of the floor area of the consumer's dwelling and outhouses; the unit charge for current under the existing Electricity Supply Board rural tariff is 2d. per unit for the first 600 units and ¾d. per unit over 600. It is necessary to have a tariff devised on that basis because, of course, the cost of supplying current arises under two headings also: one a fixed charge which represents the capital invested in providing the network and the other a varying charge which is dependent on the quantity of current consumed.

It is necessary that the fixed charges should yield 12 per cent. on the capital cost of the extension of the network. That 12 per cent. is determined on the basis of an estimated rate of interest of 5 per cent. If the rate of interest payable by the board should rise or fall, then, of course, the necessary adjustment in the 12 per cent. figure would be made.

Will the State provide the capital or will the board get the capital itself?

The existing practice, under which the board is financed by advances from the Exchequer, will continue. The board's calculation in relation to the trial area would indicate that the fixed charges arising under the present tariff would, in fact, only yield 10 per cent. upon the capital cost of the network and that calculation assumes that all the dwellings in each of these trial areas would be supplied with electricity. In order to secure a return of 12 per cent. on the capital cost of the network in the trial areas——

Might I ask the Minister the rate of charge on the floor space at present?

It would take a long time to explain that and I think it would be better to refer the Deputy to the tables at the back of the White Paper, which indicate, in respect of each type of dwelling, what the rate of charge is.

Has the question of installing slot meters been considered, or is it considered practicable to instal them?

I think it would be quite practicable, but I do not want to discuss that. It is a matter of board policy.

The Minister will appreciate that it is a very important aspect of it.

The Deputy may be sure that whatever method of paying for electricity is most likely to induce people in rural areas to take supplies will be the one adopted.

That would not be confined to rural areas.

I am dealing with this question of charge in order to lead up to the question of subsidy, to show that a subsidy from public funds is necessary in the case of a rural electrification scheme. I stated that, in order to recover the capital cost of providing the network over which the supply is carried to the rural dwelling, it is necessary that the fixed annual charges payable by the consumers should be equivalent, in the aggregate, to 12 per cent. on that capital cost. In the trial areas where the board carried out their investigations, 12 per cent. on the capital cost could be secured on the basis of connecting only dwellings where the capital cost of the network required was not greater than ten times the total of the fixed charges, assuming that all such dwellings agreed to take the supply. On that criterion, only 55 per cent. of the dwellings in the trial areas could be connected. On a criterion ratio of 14 —that is to say, the capital cost of the network being not more than 14 times the total of the fixed charges—86 per cent. of the dwellings in the trial areas could be connected.

It must, however, be assumed that some proportion of the rural dwellers will not wish to take electricity supply and, of course, there is no suggestion of compelling them to do so. While they will be induced, if possible, to agree to take a supply, it is, nevertheless, necessary to base a calculation upon the reasonable assumption that some proportion of them will not want to do so. On the assumption that 20 per cent. of the rural dwellers will not desire connection, the percentage actually connected on a criterion ratio of 14 will be 69 per cent. in the trial areas; and the criterion ratio has, therefore, to be raised to 15.6—that is to say, the fixed charges will be only 9.7 of the capital cost, instead of the required 12 per cent.

The Government decided that the Electricity Supply Board should offer a supply to all rural dwellers where the capital cost involved is not more than 16 times the total of the fixed charges. It is considered undesirable to increase the incidence of the fixed charges under the existing Electricity Supply Board rural tariff. That led to the decision of the Government to make good, by subsidy out of public funds, the difference between the actual revenue secured upon a 16 criterion ratio and the 12 per cent. on capital cost required by the board. In practice, that subsidy has been tentatively fixed at one-half the capital cost of constructing the network, but the subsidy will have to be subject to review as experience may warrant.

On the basis of pre-war prices, it is estimated that the total capital cost of providing this rural network will be £17,000,000. The House will have noted that we are not providing a corresponding sum in the Bill, the reason being that it is considered desirable to make provision in this measure for the capital which will enable the board to get the work of construction started and ensure that there will be a re-examination of the basis of the subsidy when experience of the actual costs of providing the network and the percentage of rural dwellers likely to take a supply permits of a more accurate calculation of the amount which the board will require.

Does the Minister state that current will not be offered where it costs more than 16 times?

It will not be offered. The Deputy will understand that there are in every district houses which are so isolated that the cost of providing current to them would be prohibitive. On the basis of providing current only where the capital cost will be 16 times the fixed charge, then it would be possible to link up 92 per cent. of the total number of dwellings in the rural areas. On the assumption that 20 per cent. will not take a supply, it is assumed, roughly, that about 70 per cent. of the dwellings will, in fact, be supplied.

It is understood that if any of the dwellers are prepared to meet the difference they will get a supply?

Certainly. I am only dealing with the basis proposed. It is the intention of the Government to make good to the board the amount by which the actual revenue from the fixed charges falls below 12 per cent. of the capital.

It is a variation of the existing rates?

Those applying to towns in present circumstances are on a somewhat different principle. It is a different problem. The task of determining the charges to cover the cost of extension in rural areas is an entirely different one from that of providing an economic supply to small towns and villages; which is work on which the board is engaged at present. On the basis of a criterion ratio of 16 and on the conditions which were found to exist in the trial areas, 92 per cent. of the total rural dwellers can be supplied on the basis of a uniform charge, if all agree to take a supply. The extent to which people may be willing to take a supply will react on the proportion that may be supplied within that criterion ratio.

A special staff has been provided by the board to plan in advance the organisation and other matters necessary to enable the work to proceed with all possible speed. The Government has asked the board to make its arrangements at once so as to enable it to commence construction from the maximum number of centres and certainly from at least one centre in every county. The House will appreciate that the extension of the network must start somewhere and proceed gradually into areas not at present supplied. Those areas which are most convenient to the existing network will be the first to be supplied. Those which are most remote must of necessity be the last to be supplied. The intention is not to make a start in one spot and develop from that spot all over the country, but to make a simultaneous start from a number of centres, including at least one centre in every county. The rate at which the work of extending the network can be undertaken will, of course, depend very largely on the rate at which materials for the network can be made available.

In addition to the employment that will be given in the construction of the network, it is estimated that the wiring of rural dwellings that are connected with the network will cost about £4,000,000 on a pre-war basis, and that work, together with the manufacture in this country of the necessary cable, lamps and other fittings, will provide substantial indirect employment. It is not necessary to give the board any additional legal powers to enable them to proceed with the erection of the network, subject to their having the necessary materials, as their existing powers are ample for that purpose.

A further sum of £7,500,000 has been included in the Bill to meet advances to the board for general purposes, including the development of hydro schemes, and including particularly the Erne scheme to which I have referred. The board have furnished an estimate of £10,000,000, representing the capital expenditure to be undertaken, apart from rural electrification, within five years after the end of the emergency. The main items are: £3,500,000 for the Erne scheme, £1,500,000 for the new fuel-generating station and £2,340,000 for capital expenditure upon distribution, representing the normal development of the board's activities. In the case of the Erne, it is to be understood that the price estimates include sums for the plant to be purchased, for the land to be acquired, for the fisheries to be acquired, the owners of which will be compensated, as well as civil construction works. Probably the programme, if carried out within the period intended, will require substantially more under each of the headings mentioned, because, as I have stated, it is not at present possible to forecast the effect of the post-war price levels on the cost of work of this character. The sum of £7,500,000 which is in the Bill will be obviously insufficient to meet the outlay of the board over the period. But, since a reliable figure cannot be arrived at, the sum of £7,500,000 proposed in the Bill is to be regarded as being in the nature of a token provision well within the probable requirements of the board. At a later stage, when the trend of prices becomes more evident and before the £7,500,000 has been exhausted, recourse will be had to the House for such further sums as may then be needed by the board to complete the programme.

Another provision in the Bill to which I should like to refer is that which removes the need for a certificate to be given by me, as Minister for Industry and Commerce, to the Minister for Finance that the sums advanced to the board out of the Central Fund are resonably and properly required by the board for any purpose arising in the performances of its functions under the Electricity Supply Acts. The provision requiring that certificate was first made in the Electricity Supply (Amendment) Act, 1931, at a time when the affairs of the board were not regarded as being entirely satisfactory and it was designed as being in the nature of a safeguard or a precaution at a time when the future of the board and the development of electricity supply were by no means clear. Conditions, I am glad to say, have very much altered in recent years and the need for that certificate no longer exists. It is considered sufficient that the advances applied for by the board should be made by the Minister for Finance on the recommendation of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. That simple procedure will enable the Minister for Industry and Commerce to ensure that the board's capital outlay is kept within the statutory limit, and that is the only safeguard that is considered necessary.

It is intended in connection with this programme for new generating capacity and rural electrification, as well as in connection with the normal growth in electricity consumption here, that to the maximum extent that may be possible electrical apparatus, electrical machinery and equipment should be manufactured in this country and should be manufactured by private firms, particularly where consumers' apparatus is concerned. Where apparatus for generation or transmission is involved, it will be appreciated that the Electricity Supply Board will be practically the only consumer and it is considered improbable that manufacture will be undertaken of apparatus and equipment of that kind unless the Electricity Supply Board itself so arranges. It is proposed, therefore, to give the board power to manufacture or to arrange for the manufacture of apparatus, under the authority of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The provisions which are included in the Bill are designed to ensure that the authority of the Minister will not be given where existing firms or private enterprise are in a position to do the work satisfactorily.

Discussions have begun with the Electricity Supply Board with a view to the preparation of a programme of manufacture and it is intended that these discussions will be continued with private firms which may be concerned. It is understood that a substantial amount of apparatus and equipment will be required, and, on the basis of estimated quantities, it is hoped to make arrangement for manufacture in time to enable the supply to meet the demand when the demand develops. That hope may, of course, be dashed by experience, but it is desirable that the effort should be made and certainly that the plans to facilitate that effort should be prepared.

These, I think, are the main purposes of the Bill. While Deputies, no doubt, will have observations to make upon its detailed provisions, I think the main purposes will find general approval, namely, construction of the new generation stations to meet the increased demand for electricity; the provision of electricity in rural areas under a comprehensive scheme involving the supply of that current at a reasonable price, even though its provision at that price involves subsidies from general funds; the manufacture of electrical apparatus in this country by the Electricity Supply Board, if nobody else is in a position to undertake it satisfactorily, and the provision of the capital that will be required by the board in the immediate post-war years to enable its normal development to proceed. These are the main purposes of the Bill and, assuming that these purposes will find approval in the House, I confidently recommend the Bill to the Dáil.

To what extent, if any, will this Bill, when it becomes operative, affect the smaller undertakings in the country?

It does not affect them at all.

The Minister is aware that a number of small villages have already established their own little schemes.

I should point out that the Electricity Supply Board has, under existing legislation, full powers of compulsory acquisition in these cases.

I am referring to very small installations in remote villages.

The powers of the board in that respect are not being changed in this Bill.

Would the Minister say why he has decided on the use of turf, exclusively, as a fuel for steam generating stations?

I think it is desirable, from a number of points of view, that we should, if possible, be independent of imported fuel supplies for the production of electricity. There is no technical problem in producing electricity from turf. The only problem is the production of the turf with reasonable regularity and at a reasonable price. The operations of the Turf Development Board have shown the practicability of producing turf in regular quantities under various conditions of weather and the construction of stations to use that turf for the generation of electricity will be the normal development of the future. There are, of course, certain problems which arise in that regard which I do not want to go into, because the nature of the load which the Electricity Supply Board has to meet here is such that a substantial part of its installed generating capacity must be stand-by capacity and normally a turf fired steam station must be a base load station. There are, perhaps, some problems to be solved in that regard but the intention is to confine all extensions to the steam plant to turf-burning stations.

Has the board considered the question of using Irish coal in these stations?

Certainly. There is no problem in using Irish coal at all. I think the only difficulty there would be the effect of the withdrawal from the normal consumers of the substantial quantity of that coal which the board would require. I do not think we could consider favourably the confining of the coal produced from Irish mines to electricity purposes. That would merely involve the importation of a corresponding quantity of coal from abroad. Nor would it be possible to increase the output of coal to the extent that would be required to meet the steam plant capacity to be installed and to maintain output on that increased basis over the period of years which would be necessary.

We welcome this measure. The Minister has stated that it is a non-contentious Bill. That is so. With the exception of one or two of the bigger aspects of the Bill, we are in agreement with it. Of course, we regret the fact that some attempt at rural electrification was not made long before this, when material was cheap, when it was possible to carry out this very big undertaking without any difficulty either from the financial point of view or the point of view of securing equipment. The Minister has indicated the enormous quantity of material that will be required: 75,000 miles of lines; the number of generating stations, transformer stations, etc. He indicated also, to some extent, the benefit that will be conferred on the agricultural community and, of course, he has compared our position with the position of other countries. I suppose that this country, particularly in regard to the agricultural industry, is far behind well-known competitors in the outside market. The Minister mentioned Denmark. New Zealand, of course, is in the same position. The Minister also referred to other European countries.

We have often wondered why the agricultural industry here is in a stagnant condition. If one compares our agricultural output 30 or 40 years ago with our output at the present time one finds that we have not secured any expansion of production. The first reason for that probably is that we have not attempted to apply modern scientific technique to agriculture and that we lack suitable, modern equipment. One of the things that the average homestead in rural Ireland lacks is electrical equipment, cheap power and light on the farm. In these circumstances the cost of the preparation of winter feeding is excessive compared with the cost in other countries. In view of our climatic conditions and the necessity of keeping our animals properly fed throughout the year, if we are to maintain our live stock in a proper condition, the provision of electrical equipment on the farm is absolutely vital.

We want that equipment for cheap preparation of the food that is necessary during the winter period. Every Deputy here realises the amount of labour involved in the pulping of turnips, the preparation of grain, the carting of grain to the local mill and back again. Then there is the question of milking. If you go into any of our dairying districts at the present time, the average farmer will tell you that the biggest problem he has to face to-day is that of milking. While other countries have provided a mechanical method of milking and of dealing with milk generally, we are still in the same old rut in that respect. We can envisage, therefore, the enormous benefits that this scheme will bring to the rural community. No matter how we may argue about stimulating production here, it is not merely a price problem. We must have some regard to what prices are operating outside, and we certainly cannot hope to push prices above the level in the export market. The Minister, addressing a meeting recently in the City of Dublin, referred to our foreign exchange problem generally, and the necessity for stepping up our exports. One essential in that regard is that the agricultural community should be properly and efficiently equipped. This is one definite method by which we can give substantial help to the agricultural community in the stepping up of production. That is an aspect of our agricultural problem which we have been pressing for some time—that we believe money spent on the provision of rural electricity would be money well spent. I think no Deputy will attempt to criticise the Minister's proposal to subsidise rural electrification by 50 per cent. Of the £5,000,000 which the Dáil is asked to vote, only 50 per cent. has to be repaid.

The Minister did not give us very much information about the turf-burning stations. It is true, as the Minister pointed out, that we must have a stand-by station in the way of a fuel-burning station. In the dry period of the year, when there is a low volume of water in the rivers, it is necessary to have an alternative means of generating power, and we must have some sort of fuel-burning station. I took a note of what the Minister said:—

"In our opinion, we should balance the water power stations with the fuel-burning stations."

I wonder is that the technical opinion of the Electricity Supply Board or is it the opinion of the Government? What advice has the Government got in this matter of fuel burning, particularly turf-burning, stations? Is it economical? We had a proposal before in this matter, and, speaking from recollection, I think we were told that while turf could be produced at 10/6 a ton in Clonsast—I think it was one-third of the cost of coal in the Pigeon House —a turf-burning station was economical. We have heard a lot of complaints about the cost of turf as a fuel, and it does not appear to me to be likely that we are ever going to get turf produced again at anything like that figure.

Or coal at pre-war cost either.

I do not know what the position with regard to coal is likely to be. The Minister may say that we have a foreign exchange problem, and may not be able to buy coal in quantity for generating purposes, but Deputy Coogan has asked a question as to what examination was given to the use of anthracite here. I do not know what information the Minister has with regard to our supplies of anthracite, or how far anthracite can be used for cooking and heating in the average home in the post-war period, or how much of it may be available for the generation of electricity. However, the Minister has been very scant in his information with regard to this turf-burning station, how it is going to affect the price of current, or how the price of current generated there will compare with the price of hydro-generated current. I suppose it is hardly fair to ask the Minister how it is likely to compare with the current generated from coal post-war, because the Minister has no information as to what coal is going to cost post-war. At the moment it is difficult to express an opinion about what the post-war period is likely to hold, except to say that from our experience it would appear that a turf-burning station will inevitably give a very costly current.

There are a few aspects of this Bill to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. One is that I feel—and I think this Party feels— that the Minister is asking for an omnibus power for the board to deal with any development scheme in the future. I should like to say that to my mind the whole trend in legislation here in recent years is to hand over complete and absolute power to civil servants, to a particular Department, in this case the Electricity Supply Board. If that power is given here we will never hear anything about any future development; it is supposed to go on automatically, no matter what sum of money is involved in the development of any particular river. I do not think the House should agree to hand over the power of examining and vetoing substantial financial proposals. In the case of the Erne, there is a sum of £3,500,000 involved. There may be other big developments in other parts of the country. I think in the case of very big undertakings at all events there should be a special Bill brought before the House. I think the proposals should be brought here and examined, even if no fault could be found with them. The mere fact that the proposals have to be brought here and examined in this House would be a safeguard in itself. In any case, I think that we should not hand over to any outside group the power of spending money on behalf of the people—giving themcarte blanche to spend what they like. It is true that the Minister, who gives the approval order, can answer any question which may be put to him here in the House, but that is not quite the same thing. I would also draw the Minister's attention to the report of the Vocational Commission. That commission strongly and severely criticised that aspect of our legislation, and pointed out that it was very unwise to pursue that line, but evidently we have ignored their advice here. The Minister has not indicated what particular type of development the board is inclined to go in for now. I suppose they will develop anywhere and everywhere, whether the undertaking is big or small. In the case of the smaller developments, it might be suggested that it would not be necessary to come in here with a special measure, but in the case of any development which would involve a sum over £1,000,000 I suggest that it should be carried out by the introduction of a special piece of legislation here.

There are many aspects of the problem of rural development. There is the aspect of the possible creation of a reservoir and the flooding of a substantial area of land. It might be very valuable land. Very often you have land along the bank of a river which is very useful, some of it perhaps very fertile land. Alarm has been expressed in Great Britain as to the amount of valuable and useful agricultural land that was taken up in the ten years before the war. Something like 1,000,000 acres of useful productive land have been taken out of production there. The Minister may say we have not the same problem here. That is true but, nevertheless, we should be very careful in considering whether or not, taking the long view, it would be wise to flood a large area of useful fertile land. Again I submit this is the proper place to review that and to decide whether a scheme, viewed from every angle, is in the best interests of the country.

Personally I feel that while the House should agree to smaller developments not involving a big sum being left in the hands of the board, certainly the bigger developments should be submitted to this House and should be carried through as a piece of separate legislation. I think Deputies should be particularly jealous of their powers in that respect. I think it is our responsibility to see that the powers of the House are retained in the House. Under the Bill itself the power of acquisition is very drastic and very wide and the power of amending the scheme is almost equally as wide. I cannot see why these powers could not be more closely defined. For instance, in Section 6, sub-section (2) we have the following provision:—

"For the purpose of carrying out an approved scheme it shall be lawful for the board to do, in accordance with such scheme (with such additions, omissions, variations, and deviations as shall be found necessary in the course of the work)..."

That means that if a scheme is prepared power is given to deviate from it to any extent desired. Paragraph (i) of the same sub-section gives the board power to "do any act or thing which may be necessary for or incidental to the doing of anything which the board is by this sub-section authorised to do." That gives them power to do almost anything they like. I think it should be possible more closely to define what can be done without giving that very wide power. That very wide power can be very easily abused, and I think, in fact, has been abused in the past.

In the matter of compensation, the board can enter on land immediately. It is proposed to give the occupant of the land one month's notice of the intention to take over part or the whole of his farm. Surely, that is unreasonable? That is the only intimation an individual will get, that the Electricity Supply Board is going to take over his whole place in a month and you do not give him any opportunity of making alternative arrangements. In the same way, no provision whatever is made as to the length of time for which compensation can be withheld. This may be more a matter for the Committee Stage, but I put it to the Minister that there should be some responsibility on the board in cases where there is no agreement as to compensation to see that the question is brought to arbitration within a period of, say, 12 months. Take the case of an individual who has no capital resources but who is living fairly well out of whatever business undertaking he is operating. If he is knocked out of that for a period of two or three years, it may be a very serious matter for him. The board are compelled to pay interest at the rate of 3 per cent. for the period the sum is outstanding, but surely, on a going concern, 3 per cent. would not be sufficient to compensate an individual for the loss of his business perhaps for a period of two or three years. I think that is a very important matter so far as the individual is concerned. We must have some safeguarding clause there to ensure that a case is brought to arbitration within a definite period.

As the Minister has indicated, we have in the Bill a provision to empower the board, if necessary in conjunction with other people, to manufacture certain equipment here. I suppose the Minister has had some advice from the technical experts of the Electricity Supply Board as to whether it is possible to manufacture electrical equipment of the heavier type, generators and other apparatus, and whether it is economic to do so. So far as apparatus for consumers is concerned, it is true, of course, that most of the type of machinery that we have on the average farm is unsuitable for a power drive. Some of it is too heavy and would be uneconomic. It would be possible to design machines of a lighter type, machines for grinding purposes and work of that kind, more suitable for an electrical power drive. A good deal of research is necessary into that problem, and the object should be to provide us with the right sort of equipment, always provided that we get that equipment at the right price, because our difficulties as an agricultural community—and the Minister is in some part responsible for them—are that our raw material is costing us more than the price at which our competitors can get similar material. That has had disastrous consequences, so far as our exports are concerned. The Minister himself has expressed some concern on another occasion about our export position, and rightly so. So far as we are concerned, we shall not oppose any attempt to manufacture equipment here provided the cost to the consumer and the cost of equipment for the Electricity Supply Board is economic.

The Minister dealt in detail with the proposed charges for current to the rural community, and I think that the proposal in the Bill, so far as the ratio of 16 to the capital cost is concerned, is fair and reasonable. I think you could not possibly expect the Government to go beyond that. If the capital cost is more than 16 times the tariff, then the State will not subsidise the supply beyond that. I submit that basing the tariff on the floor space is hardly equitable. The Minister will realise that there are some farmers who have bought old country residences and occupy only a quarter of them. There is usually a very big number of out-offices, and a lot of them are not utilised at all; indeed, a lot of them are in a derelict condition. On the basis of the floor space, it would not be fair to charge that type of individual whose neighbour might be living in a very compact residence, which might have very compact and very modern out-offices. Very often you find the more progressive farmer living in a compact residence, and it might be argued that in this matter you are encouraging the progressive farmer. At any rate, there is no use in throwing more burdens on the poor devil who finds it hard enough to keep his head above water.

I would not favour a tariff on the floor area. I suppose it is not possible to fix a current charge only, without having some definite income secured from the people you are going to service. I think there will have to be some method other than the floor space; even the valuation basis would not be a fair criterion. I admit it is a very difficult matter. I do not know what examination has been given to it. In the report, there is no indication that the board are definitely committed to a tariff on the floor area. I feel that some further examination is necessary in order to find a more equitable means of charging for the electricity that will be consumed.

The Minister said he felt the House would agree to uniform charges. We as a Party agree to uniform charges over the country and, so far as the policy of charging generally is concerned, that is the only aspect that I question—charging on the floor space. There should be some minimum charge. I suppose it is not possible to fix a minimum amount, because, if you take an agricultural worker as against a farmer, in that case you could not fix a minimum amount. I admit it is not by any means a simple matter, but the proposal embodied in the White Paper from the Electricity Supply Board does not meet with my approval, anyway. I would like the Minister to have this matter further examined.

I should like to know how the board is constituted. The Minister's predecessor, Deputy McGilligan, when he introduced the parent Act, indicated that it was his intention to have on the board, as part-time directors, people representing consumers' interests. What particular qualifications will the permanent directors of the board have? What duties have they to perform? What will their salaries be? It would be interesting to know whether industrial interests are to be directly represented on the board and whether the Minister proposes to have agricultural interests represented by a part-time member or more than one member. I feel, as regards the engineer who is to be in charge of rural electrification, that he ought to be sympathetic to the agricultural community—a man who appreciates agricultural problems and who knows exactly what are the farmers' requirements. I believe a city-bred man would not be the right man for that job. We ought to pick an engineer who was born and reared in the country, of the country, who knows the agricultural side, apart from his professional qualifications, and whose family associations are such that he will be in a position to appreciate the needs of the rural community; that is, from the point of view of electrification.

Why is it necessary to give power to the board to construct a railway? What is envisaged there? We are asked to give power to enable the board to acquire and operate fisheries. We are also asked to give power to the board, with the consent of the Minister, to vary the close season. Perhaps the Minister will give us some further information on that matter.

As regards the financial aspects of the Bill, there is no room for criticism —certainly so far as the State grant for the rural community is concerned. We could not possibly expect more than 50 per cent. by way of State grant to help to erect the necessary network in the rural areas, It is a very big undertaking. The report has given us a good deal of detail. It is estimated there will be 75,000 miles of network. If the Minister contemplates putting up that network at the rate of over 7,000 miles a year, surely no one can criticise the speed, if that speed can be maintained. It is estimated that the network for the whole country will be completed within ten years.

I think the Electricity Supply Board are to be complimented on their report. It is a very interesting and useful report and it deals with every aspect of rural electrification and the type of machinery that will be necessary. With the exception of the few points that I have criticised, I may say that we give our wholehearted support to the scheme.

I welcome the provisions of this Bill in so far as it makes electricity available for rural areas. I think everyone will be in agreement that this is a step in the right direction and that the State, in providing this extra electricity for use by the rural community, will be wisely investing money. I think that goes without saying.

There are a few matters in this Bill, and arising out of the report on rural electrification that, from the agricultural point of view, I should like to question. In preparing the report on rural electrification, the Electricity Supply Board set out to consider the whole question, including the cost, without reference to certain sections of our population. I suggest that electrification, whether rural or urban, should be on one basis, and there is no reason in the world why urban dwellers should have electricity made available to them at a lower rate than rural dwellers. When the Shannon scheme was initiated, the rural taxpayers contributed as substantially as the urban taxpayers towards its construction.

I forget the total amount of money given free by the Government to the Electricity Supply Board—I know, at any rate, that it was a matter of some millions—mainly for urban electrification. The Government are providing 50 per cent. or some other percentage of the cost of this scheme, and why should it not be on one basis? Why differentiate between rural and urban dwellers in the matter of the cost of current? All the current will be provided from the same source and will cost the same. While the cost of distribution in rural areas will be much higher than in urban areas, there is no reason why there should not be a central pool and the cost spread equally over all sections. That would be only fair, and this differentiation as between urban and rural dwellers, in a matter in which State funds are involved, is most unfair. The rural dweller has to pay the same taxation as the urban dweller. It may cost more to distribute current to him, but the current distributed to the rural dweller will cost the same as that distributed to the urban dweller.

The Minister admitted in his opening remarks that we are not at the moment producing sufficient current to supply the needs of those connected with the Electricity Supply Board system in urban areas. The Bill enables the Electricity Supply Board to provide additional current, portion of which, I assume, will, in future, be distributed to the rural population. Why then have a differential rate? In this report on rural electrification, it is stated that this current which it is proposed to distribute to the rural community will cost more than that distributed to the urban population. I fail to understand that. An 80 per cent. increase in the cost to the rural dweller seems most unfair. There is no justification for it. Why not distribute the cost equally over all sections? It is to the advantage of the State that people should be kept in the rural areas, but the tendency will be for them to go into the towns because of the cheaper social services available there. That is what it amounts to.

Deputy Hughes raised the matter of the basis of charge, which is to be not the valuation, as in the urban areas, but the cubic capacity of the dwelling houses. I know one of the test areas fairly well. The Ferns area probably contains a sparser population than any other typical area in County Wex-ford and contains, at the same time, a larger number of extensive farms and big dwelling houses than any other area of the same size in the county. In the case of a number of ordinary hardworking farmers, the rental, apart from the cost of the current used, will amount to £16 or £20 a year by reason of the size of the holdings. These are intensive tillage farmers who feed large numbers of cattle during the winter months. They need the buildings they have to work their farms, and it is unfair that the tariff should be based on the cubic capacity of all the buildings and outhouses. It is an absolutely unfair means of collecting this rent. I understand it is to be based on half the cubic capacity, but a farmer may have many extensive cow-sheds and hay-barns, and the tariff based on half the cubic capacity of these buildings will work out much higher than a similar tariff in respect of big industrial undertakings in urban areas.

Do not encourage the Minister to base it on the valuation.

The valuation of the buildings would be a much more equitable basis. All the valuations in the country were made at one time and the valuation of rural buildings is no more obsolete than that of urban buildings. The valuations were all fixed on their letting values at the time of Griffith's valuation. This report by the Electricity Supply Board states that the valuations in rural areas are not true valuations at all, but they were fixed at the same time as urban valuations, on their letting values. Improvements have been made on farm buildings in the last 20 or 30 years and holdings have been considerably extended, and, on the basis of the extent of the buildings, it will be found that the charge will be so high that many years will elapse before farmers will fully avail of this scheme. Three-fourths of the rural population are farmers under £25 valuation and farm labourers. Such farms cannot be considered extensive, and to set out to charge them 80 per cent. more for their electricity for lighting purposes—and, in the main, by 80 per cent. of the rural population, the current will be used for lighting—than their brothers living in adjacent towns is unjust.

There are one or two other matters which I do not think are covered by the Bill. One is the matter of the distribution system in rural areas and the methods adopted in the past by the Electricity Supply Board in relation to the erection of poles and wires all over the country. Compare the Electricity Supply Board's method of erecting their wires with that of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. The Posts and Telegraphs Department take rural amenities into consideration, but the Electricity Supply Board give them no consideration whatever. They put up poles across fields and in the middle of fields without reference to their size, and they put them up within four yards of a ditch.

One thing the Minister should insist on in this scheme of rural electrification is that consideration should be given to the immense amount of damage which can be done, especially to agricultural land, on which machinery has to be used, and that care will be taken to see that lines are put up by the fences where the least damage will be done. I have seen fields in the centre of which poles and wires were erected without any regard whatever for the safguarding of the rights of farmers. They do considerable damage to agricultural land and the damage will be all the greater in future if the same principle is adopted. We shall have the whole country studded with poles and wires, and it is absolutely essential that the Electricity Supply Board, in putting up its network in the rural areas, will put it up in such a way as will not damage fields, that is, by erecting it along the roadside and the fences, where possible. It will not always be possible, I admit, but, where it is possible, even though it may involve a little extra expenditure, it should be done.

All the fields in this country are small—they are, in fact, all too small— and agricultural machinery cannot be worked around them if the fields are broken up to any greater extent than at present. That factor was never taken into account in the past, although the Posts and Telegraphs Department always had regard to it in putting up telephone poles and wires. The Electricity Supply Board never considered it—they put their poles anywhere the map indicated that they would be 50 or 100 yards apart, without regard for the damage done to agricultural land. In addition to that, I want to ask the Minister to draw this to the attention of the Electricity Supply Board: that their network of wires should be sufficiently high to enable certain types of agricultural machinery, such as hay-lifters, to pass under them without sustaining damage. The tendency is to have these wires very low, especially in connection with private houses, and in many cases such agricultural machinery as hay-lifters cannot pass under the wires without suffering damage.

All this is most important, and I think the Minister should have some consultative body, whether the Minister for Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture, or some other body; that they should be brought into the Bill and that nothing should be done without consultation with the Minister or the Department of Agriculture, who should be closely consulted in the matter of the distribution of the network of wires, because, otherwise, a lot of damage will be done to agricultural interests. I notice that in the Bill it would appear that almost everybody's interest is considered except that of the farmers, and that it is left to the good will of the Electricity Supply Board to deal with the matter of the farmers' interests. For instance, the interests of the people concerned with fisheries are dealt with, and there is provision for big compensation for such people. The same applies to other bodies in the community, but it is most important that the agricultural interest would be safeguarded in connection with the extension of the network of wires, and that land should not be broken up or interfered with by the erection of these wires.

Again, I want to protest against this business of compelling the rural community to pay a much higher rate for this service in the future than the urban community are asked to pay. I want to protest against that, because all taxpayers in the country are equal, so far as the State is concerned. It is a bad and vicious principle for this State to allow any body, whether the Electricity Supply Board, or otherwise, to adopt. When the people are contributing by equal taxation towards the production of this current, then it should be given at the same price to all sections of the community.

In so far as this Bill seeks to extend electricity to rural Ireland, I think it will meet with universal support. Everybody has deplored the fact that the amenities available to the people living in rural areas are far inferior to those supplied to the urban districts, and anything that can be done to lessen that disparity between the people living in the cities and towns and those in rural areas should be done as soon as possible.

There is no doubt that the extension of electric current, generally, to people living in rural dwellings will very largely improve the living conditions of our people in the country. It will contribute very largely to alleviating the drudgery which is associated with the work of the rural dweller's wife in the home and around the homestead. The household duties of the womenfolk in the country will be made lighter if electric current is provided. It will also contribute to higher efficiency in the work on the farm, and particularly in the farmyard, in the preparation of foodstuffs for live stock, in the grinding of corn and all types of dairy work, the churning and separating of milk, and all the various activities carried out on the farm. It will be helpful also in regard to the fuel situation in rural areas, particularly where turf is not extensively available, because farmers may be enabled, first of all, to use electric current directly, if it is not too expensive, or at least they can use electric current for the preparation of wood fuel.

All these amenities are so desirable that, at a first glance, I think, the rural community will be inclined to be enthusiastic in support of this Bill. There is, however, always the consideration of cost. Any amenity or any utility service can be made useless if the cost of these services is prohibitive. I do not think that any farmer, however, would expect to get electric current at a lesser price than that at which it is provided in our urban areas. I think that that is a fair principle to be adopted. I was under the impression that this Bill set out to provide electric current to our rural areas at the same price at which it is provided in the urban areas, and that that was the purpose of the subsidy provided for in this Bill. I am quite sure that the Minister will fall in with the suggestion of Deputy Allen, who is a member of his own Party, that there should be no disparity in cost as between dwellers in the rural areas and dwellers in the urban areas. In that connection, it must be remembered that even though the cost for rural areas may be the same as the cost in the urban areas, the service may still be too expensive; if rural conditions should be as bad as some people anticipate they will be after the war. That, however, I think, is not a consideration at the moment for the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and it is not a consideration that we can deal with when discussing this Bill. We must assume that agricultural conditions will be at least sufficiently good, after the war, to enable the rural community to pay the same price for electrification as the urban population are able to pay, and there is no reason to expect that the standard of living should be less in the rural areas than in the urban areas.

This Bill, in addition to providing for rural electrification, sets out to extend the work of generating electric current—the work of harnessing our rivers—and it sets out also to provide the necessary capital for those works. There is, however, one point that strikes me in regard to this Bill, and that is, as to why development should be confined exclusively to rivers and the harnessing of water-power from rivers. Of course, that is in addition to the extension of steam-generating stations. I am convinced that there is great scope for the development of tidal water-power in this connection; that there is great scope for the development of electric current from every natural source in the country; and I believe that it should be one of the functions of the board to investigate all the possibilities in those directions.

I am glad that this Bill provides—I am not sure whether it is under this Bill or previous legislation—the Electricity Supply Board with power to investigate and survey the possibilities of all our rivers, and that its scope of operations is not confined to the larger rivers upon which work is at present being undertaken, or in regard to which schemes are being prepared. I think that, in addition to having the power to survey the possibilities of our larger rivers, there should also be a provision in this Bill for the utilisation, if necessary, of some of the £7,500,000, which is provided in the Bill, for the development of our smaller rivers. As the Minister pointed out, there is a possibility that generating equipment may not be available for some time after the war. It is proposed to go ahead with the scheme in regard to the River Erne. The work on that river may be held up by the lack of some particular type of plant. I do not think that the entire development work should be thereby suspended. Instead, the Electricity Supply Board should proceed, as far as possible, with some other scheme. A considerable amount of preliminary development work can always be carried out, even though it may not be possible, for lack of plant, to complete a scheme. If the power is not provided in this Bill—and I think it is not—I should like to see the Minister given power to undertake work in connection with the smaller rivers in some of our more mountainous counties, such as South Kerry and Wicklow, where you have a high fall and where there is considerable potential power—perhaps a greater amount in proportion to the cost than would be available in the case of some of our larger rivers.

In this connection, both Kerry and Wicklow are outstanding, in as much as, though the rivers may be small, the fall is very considerable. Therefore, it is possible that power could be more cheaply generated on these rivers than on some of the larger rivers. Again, I am not a technical expert and I do not know how far this consideration may carry in the development of electrical current, but I think it is desirable to have the generating station as near as possible to the point of large consumption. In Wicklow, mining of various kinds and development of minerals are being undertaken and, for that reason, it would be desirable to have electrical current generated as closely as possible to where that development is taking place. I believe that the smelting and working of minerals by electrical current is possible and it is, certainly, desirable, having regard to our lack of fuel resources.

I said at the outset that all sections of the community, particularly the rural community, would be enthusiastic about this Bill if they were not deterred, to a considerable extent, by the question of cost. I do not mean only the cost to the consumer; I have also the cost to the general taxpayer in mind. It is desirable that the cost both to the consumer and to the general taxpayer should be kept as low as possible. I understand from the Minister's statement that a very large proportion of the cost of supplying electrical current to our community in both urban and rural areas will be capital cost—that is to say, repayment of the principal and interest. So far as the repayment of the principal is concerned, no question can be raised. But many questions can be asked regarding the cost of the money raised for a purpose such as this. Here, we are undertaking to raise £40,000,000 for rural electrical development in the course of ten years. That is a very large amount of money and, even though the interest rate may not at the moment appear to be high, a question arises as to whether that money should not be raised at a still lower rate of interest. There is over £120,000,000 on deposit in the banks earning only 1 per cent. Why should it not be possible for the State to raise money for a work of national development such as this at a rate not exceeding that which a deposit earns in the bank? It should be possible to raise money for a purpose such as this at considerably less than 3 per cent. A very large saving could be effected in that way and it might, perhaps, reduce the amount of subsidy which would be required and reduce the cost to the consumer.

While that may not actually come into the Bill, it is implied in the general principles of the Bill and it is a most important consideration. The State is borrowing more and more money from the community and that has the effect of putting more and more money into circulation. It is a question as to whether the State, by paying a high rate of interest upon money so created, is not simply paying pensions which have not been earned to considerable sections of the community—pensions which, it is desirable, should not be paid. We all know how desirable it is to encourage saving and investment, but here you have assets actually created by the State through national development for which the State has to pay money to private individuals both inside and outside the country. I do not think that is justifiable. That is a consideration which, I think, would very largely reduce the cost of this scheme.

There are many details of this Bill which will need careful examination and perhaps amendment by Deputies. There is, first of all, the provision with regard to exemption from rates. That applies to all development schemes and all property owned by the Electricity Supply Board. It creates a position that, I think, is not fair to rural authorities. If you have an extensive area of land in a particular county taken over for, perhaps, the purpose of flooding, or the provision of reservoirs, a very substantial burden is thrown on the ratepaying community if the rates on that land are wiped out. That system, I think, is inequitable, and I do not see how it can be justified. On the question of the acquisition of land there have been many complaints of injustice and, indeed, of grave injustice relating to the acquisition of land carried out in the past by the Electricity Supply Board. Where the board acquired an entire farm holding for the purpose of submerging it, the compensation paid in the past was, in most cases, more or less reasonable.

I, however, have known cases in my own constituency where portions of holdings were acquired, and while the amount of compensation paid per acre may have appeared reasonable enough, it was later found that, by depriving a farmer of the best portion of his land, he was placed under a great disability. Since the more fertile portions of the holding had been separated, it meant that the holding was rendered uneconomic. While a farmer might have received £400, £500 or £600 compensation for the acquisition of portion of his holding, he found, in the course of a few years, that the compensation paid was dribbling away from him in his effort to try and carry on on an uneconomic holding, one from which the best land had been separated. It is difficult for any tribunal to appreciate and fully understand the problems which arise in matters of this kind. I am sure that the tribunal, in awarding compensation in many of these cases, considered that they were acting justly, but I think that if they were to review these cases after the lapse of six or seven years they would find that individual farmers were badly treated.

Another matter which, I think, will need to be amended is the system proposed in the Bill of levying fixed charges on the basis of floor space in a farmer's house and outbuildings. My main objection to that system is that it discourages the provision of the best type of farm outoffices and equipment. In a climate, such as ours, it is highly desirable and, in fact, necessary that a farmer should have as extensive cover as possible not only for his live stock, but for his hay and cereal crops. Every encouragement should be given to him to provide the largest amount of cover in his haggard. We all know that the amount of floor space that would be employed in hay barns and that would be needed by a farmer growing cereal crops would be very great. Substantial losses have been sustained by farmers due to the damage done to crops in the haggard before threshing. When materials become readily available in the future, it is desirable that every farmer should have sufficient accommodation to safeguard his cereal crops from this type of damage. That means that very extensive outbuildings will need to be provided in our rural areas. Farmers should be encouraged by every possible means to extend their range of outbuildings. If one were to compare the range of outbuildings on farms in Denmark and other Continental countries with what we have in this country, one would find that we are very far behind in that respect as we are in so many other respects. Much leeway has to be made up in that direction. I do not think that we should have a provision in this Bill which would deter and discourage farmers from providing additional buildings on their holdings. At the moment, I am not sure what alternative to this direct charge should be provided, but some alternative will have to be found before the Bill is passed.

With regard to the development of steam-power generating stations, I am entirely in agreement with the utilisation of peat for this purpose. I think that the conversion of peat into electric current is the most economical method of using this fuel and of making it available to the general public. There is very wide scope for development there. There are very great possibilities in it for this country, having regard to the lack of other kinds of fuel. There is no doubt whatever that, as conditions are at present, hydro-electric power developed from rivers is not sufficient by itself. No matter how far we proceed in the harnessing of the water-power on our rivers, there will always be variations between summer and winter months, and for that reason hydro-electric power must be supplemented by steam-power. The erection of generating stations in our larger bog areas is the most desirable solution of the problem. I think the Minister will find that this House will be prepared to cooperate with him in the enacting of this Bill and will be prepared to assist him with constructive amendments on the Committee Stage.

There is one aspect of this whole question of electrical development which requires consideration and which has been referred to by some other Deputies: that is, the continuance of the authority of this House over the work of the Electricity Supply Board. There should be some definite provision for an annual review of the work of the Electricity Supply Board by this House, just as there is, on the occasion of the Estimates, an annual review of the work of the Post Office and other Government Departments. While this board is not a Government Department, it is, at the same time, engaged in operations which are very similar to the work of a Government Department. It is also engaged in the expenditure of public money far in excess of what is available to many Government Departments. Further, I think this House, as the National Parliament, should have a direct voice in the control and supervision of the work of the Electricity Supply Board, similar to that which is provided, through the Estimates, for the various Government Departments.

Like the other Deputies who have spoken, I would like to say that this is a very welcome measure. It is a measure which will confer very great benefits on the community here and, in particular, on the rural community. It will provide for them amenities which are, to say the least of it, badly needed. It will also provide that very necessary power to give our farmers an opportunity of competing with people who have been serviced for many years by power such as we propose to provide under this Bill. It is a measure proposing works of very great magnitude; it is a measure, the full extent of which has not been appreciated by the House, nor, if one were to judge merely by his speech, even by the Minister.

The cost projected by this Bill will run eventually to about £40,000,000. For work that will confer such great benefit and be of such use to the nation, I do not think that £40,000,000, or even £60,000,000 spent upon constructive and reproductive work of this sort, will frighten any member of any Party. I venture to say that from the implementation of this Bill will flow a great many things that perhaps we do not see at the moment. The provision of electric current throughout rural Ireland and to every dwelling and outhouse in the country will bring in its wake a demand for a great many other things. I would like to have an assurance from the Minister that his Department and other Departments concerned have given consideration, not merely to the production of electrical appliances and electrical equipment but also to the production of machinery suitable to be driven by electrical power on the farm and machinery suitable to be worked by electrical power. If and when this power is made available and our farmers take full advantage of it, it will mean the casting away of a great many of the machines and types of machinery which are now used on the farm. The provision of new types of farm machinery of all classes, to be worked by electric power, will be in itself, if produced at home, of immense benefit.

Deputies Allen and Cogan were, I think, unnecessarily uneasy about the cost of the current to the rural community. If I might say so, with respect to Deputy Allen, he misunderstood the position to a large extent. I do not claim—and never have claimed, either inside or outside this House—to know very much about high finance; but I know that, under the original Electricity Supply Bill, current was generated and was given to people who are using current up to the present in the urban districts and in cities and towns, and that the charges for that electricity were based on figures which would enable the full amount expended by the Electricity Supply Board, plus 5 per cent. interest, to be paid back. In this case, in order to give electric current to the rural community at a reasonable figure, 50 per cent. of the capital amount required for this scheme is being given by way of free grant from the State. I do not quarrel with that. I think it was essential, and that, in so far as this scheme may not be used by certain farmers or farm labourers, in so far as 15, 20 or 30 per cent. of them may refuse for one reason or another to take a supply into their homes or out-houses, to that extent we will have failed. We should make it as attractive as possible, and I doubt if any reasonable person can quarrel with the terms put before the House by the Minister. We have, of course, to face up to the fact that basing it on a floor area may react unfavourably on certain people. But I do not believe that there is any system, either a floor area valuation or any other system which could be conceived either by the Electricity Supply Board or the Department of Industry and Commerce, that would not be open to objection on the ground that certain individuals would be more heavily hit than others. From the experience which we have had of the charges based on valuation, I do not know that we would be inclined to jump into that system in this case. I do not think that the farming community would be well advised to entice the Minister to switch into a valuation charge rather than a floor area charge. I do not think Deputy Allen realised that he was on rather dangerous ground when talking about the valuation of buildings in rural areas and in urban and city areas.

The real difficulty, of course, is that a great deal of this is conjecture; it has to be. I should like to say that the Electricity Supply Board and the Department of Industry and Commerce are to be congratulated on producing a measure of this type in such detail as they have produced it in present circumstances. The whole thing, of course, is based, so far as they have been able to go, on pre-war costs. Neither the Minister nor anybody else knows at the moment whether, when we come to put this into operation, the increase on that will be 50, 100 or 200 per cent. That is one thing which the country has to keep in mind. The sum of £3,500,000 given for one part of the scheme may turn into £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 by the time that particular part of the scheme can be put into operation.

I would not like Deputy Cogan or Deputy Allen or anyone else to think that, when we ask the Minister certain questions about the production of electricity from peat, we are against it. But I think it would be foolish for this House or the country to go into the production of electricity from peat on the assumption that current can be produced at a certain figure and subsequently find that it will cost four times that. During the time the present Minister for Local Government was Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Clonsast scheme was mentioned here. At that time the costings and so on were, I understand, based on the production of turf at 10/6 per ton. I do not know what it costs at present, but I venture to say that I am not very far out if I suggest that it is costing four times that amount. I do not object to that. We have the bogs, the turf is there, and I think it is agreed even by those of us who have no knowledge of the technical side of it that probably the least wasteful and the most economic and effective and cleanest method of turning that national turf into power or heat or light is by way of electricity. When the original scheme was introduced about 20 years ago, the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr. McGilligan, like the Minister, gave a whole lot of figures and a lot of us went away with the impression that we would get electricity over all the country at 1d. per unit for the remainder of our lives. People went away with that impression and when some people subsequently found that they had to pay 6d. per unit for it, or perhaps 1d. per unit plus a valuation charge that might amount to anything, a great many were disappointed.

A lot of people seem to think that this is an immense scheme when they hear the sum of £40,000,000 spoken of. My quarrel with it is that I do not think it is big enough. Without, of course, having the carefully calculated information and the skill to analyse that information that is at the disposal of the Minister and the Electricity Supply Board, I think the Minister and the Electricity Supply Board are under-estimating rather than overestimating the probable increase in the rate of consumption in electricity in this country post-war if, of course, the current and the necessary electrical appliances are available. I think it will be at a far greater rate. I do not know whether anything can be done to step that up. I had to be out of the House for a few moments during the Minister's speech, but I understand that during that time he said with regard to rural electrification that it was hoped it would proceed at something like 7,500 miles per year. If there is anything at the back of that hope, and I assume there is when the Minister put it forward, it certainly will be a great relief to many people, because when we heard all this talk about rural electrification and when some of us were hoping to see it and then found from the reports of the Electricity Supply Board that it would not be completed for about 70 or 80 years, it took away a lot of the glamour of the thing. If there is foundation for the Minister's figures, certainly that puts the whole rural electrification scheme in a different light. I fully appreciate that all this is depending very largely on circumstances which are completely outside our control and may remain so for a long time. However, the intention is there. The scheme, in so far as it is outlined in the Bill, is one which I think we ought to be thankful for. I think the board's engineers and the other staffs responsible for the production of this scheme and the people in the Department of Industry and Commerce are to be complimented upon it. If they can put the clauses of this Bill into actual operation in the way in which they hope to do, I think they will deserve well of the country.

Like others who spoke, I congratulate the Minister for Industry and Commerce on having applied himself with such diligence and energy to the production of this Bill at this time, particularly as the Minister is beset with many handicaps in the way of implementing a scheme of this character, having regard to the difficulties which abound on all sides. I particularly welcome the Bill if it speeds up rural electrification, because that is essential if we are to have efficient agriculture, on the one hand, and if we are to do something to relieve the drabness and bleakness which, unfortunately, are associated with social life in rural Ireland. I think everybody will acknowledge now, except perhaps the present Minister for Local Government, who once described the Shannon scheme as a white elephant, that the Shannon scheme has been our economic salvation during the past five years. Can anybody imagine where this country would be in the last five years if we had no Shannon scheme? Can anyone imagine what our economic and industrial situation would be, with coal cut off, turf supplies limited, and having to contend with transport difficulties, if we had no Shannon scheme available for industry? It is appalling to contemplate what our position would have been during the past five years were it not for the fact that that white fuel of the Shannon and its complementary producer, the Pigeon House, was available to maintain industry and, in fact, to maintain life in Ireland.

It is quite clear that the Minister for Industry and Commerce does not accept the view of the present Minister for Local Government that the Shannon is a white elephant. Rather he appears to think that the Shannon is a gold elephant from the point of view of providing benefits for the people and, incidentally, developing the national estate.

This Bill has already had a good reception from the Press and among the public. I think the reception it will get in this House will do a good deal to give the Government and the Electricity Supply Board the necessary encouragement and inspire the necessary enthusiasm to implement the scheme with the utmost expedition. I visualise rural electrification as something that is going to improve the efficiency of our agricultural production and dairying methods. I visualise it as an agency to lighten the work on farms and to mitigate much of the drudgery associated with farm work in rural Ireland where power is not at present available.

I was at a meeting and, unfortunately, missed the Minister's introductory speech, but I gather from the debate that the Minister indicated that the Electricity Supply Board would aim at a target of providing approximately 7,500 miles of wiring per year, when the scheme is undertaken. I wonder if the Minister, instead of giving us a calculation on a mileage basis, could give us the calculation on a population basis. The Minister knows approximately the population at present served by the Electricity Supply Board. He knows the number of prospective consumers. On the assumption that the current which will be available under this scheme is taken up by the rural community in the same proportion as it is taken up by the urban community, could the Minister give us any idea as to the stages by which the population of the country will be served, as distinct from the number of miles of wiring which will be laid?

What I said was that we are asking the Electricity Supply Board to make plans, if possible, on the basis of completing the construction of the network in ten years. I do not mean ten years from now, I mean ten years from the time at which supplies of material become freely available. There are roughly 400,000 rural dwellings. So, if we can, in fact, complete the construction of the network in ten years, then the tying of electricity to rural dwellings should proceed, roughly, at the rate of 40,000 per year.

I think that information is important in connection with this whole scheme. I have no doubt that when this Bill is passed people will look for their electricity, and I think it is important that they should know what difficulties have to be surmounted and the tempo at which the current will be made available to rural dwellers.

I think one of the wise things done in the 1927 Shannon Electricity Act was the giving of power to the Electricity Supply Board to engage in the sale and distribution of equipment. All the vested interests were violently opposed to that because they did not want an undertaking like the Electricity Supply Board to be given power to engage in the sale and distribution of equipment. I remember that provision in the Bill being assailed in this House at that time. I think the Minister who put that provision in the Bill was courageous, having regard to the strength of the vested interests at the time. I thought that steps would be taken in this Bill to extend the powers of the Electricity Supply Board in that regard.

It is true, of course, that the Minister is giving the board power to manufacture on its own or in co-operation with existing private firms certain types of goods which may be required. Timidity is apparent on an examination of the circumstances under which the board can exercise these powers. Before the powers conferred on the board by Section 31 can be utilised, the Minister must be satisfied that the needs of the State are not being and are not likely to be satisfied by businesses then lawfully established in the State. The Minister must authorise the board to arrange for the manufacture of the equipment in short supply. The Minister must publish notice of his intention to confer certain powers on the board, and must invite and consider objections to the granting of these powers to the board. When authorising the board to proceed to manufacture any particular commodity, the Minister may attach conditions and restrictions that will tie the Electricity Supply Board to some form of production, or line them up with private interests who may have no love for the board.

If we are to have a national electricity scheme carried out by a board such as the Electricity Supply Board, the natural corollary is to tell the board to go ahead and manufacture the stuff itself, in the biggest, most comprehensive way, to manufacture stuff of the most durable kind, and to produce it at the cheapest possible cost. In the long run, it is the consumer who has to pay. It does not seem to me to be essential to the implementation of a scheme of this kind that a board having the capital of the Electricity Supply Board should have to go around to a number of private traders and ask them have they any objection to raise if the Electricity Supply Board manufacture equipment for this national scheme of electrification. I think the Minister might have given the board power to manufacture equipment sufficient to meet the national requirements instead of dealing with the matter in the rather timid way proposed in Section 31 of the Bill.

There are one or two other matters on which I should like to get some information from the Minister. There was a reference in this House by the Minister's predecessor to generation of electricity on the bogs. I should like to know whether it is contemplated as part of this scheme to utilise turf for generating purposes, to what extent it is contemplated to utilise turf for that purpose and where it is contemplated that stations for that purpose should be erected. In recent years people who claim to have a profound knowledge of these things have been urging that there is a considerable loss of electrical power involved in the neglect of tidal waters. They claim that the utilisation of tidal waters is one of the cheapest and most efficient methods of generating electricity. I do not know whether or not this matter has been examined by the Minister. I do not know what the Minister's policy in the matter is. Perhaps the Minister would tell us, so that we may have some informed opinion, whether the question of utilisation of tides has been considered, what is the case for it and what are the difficulties against it.

There is one matter to which I should like to direct the Minister's attention. Power is conferred in the Bill to enable the board to sub-let certain work to contractors. As I read the Bill, there does not appear to be provision for the insertion of a fair wage clause in the sub-letting contract. It may be contemplated that the board will do that as a routine matter. On the other hand, if the board is not tied to doing it, there will be no means of compelling the board to insist on the insertion of a fair wage clause. I think the Minister, like the rest of us, roundly condemned the low wages associated with the Shannon scheme at its inception. Everybody with a sense of decency did so. It is very desirable that in the development of a scheme of this kind that unsavoury feature associated with the early Shannon development scheme should not be repeated. I hope, therefore, having drawn the Minister's attention to that matter, that he will take steps on the Committee Stage—or it could be done by a private Deputy—to ensure that, if there is sub-letting by the board to contractors, particularly contractors in rural areas, there will be insistence that those contractors will pay fair standards of wages and accept fair conditions of employment.

As I said at the outset, I welcome this Bill. I think it will improve the national estate. I think it will help to ensure the efficiency of our agriculture by the provision of heating and lighting in rural areas. I think it will help to alleviate much of the drabness of rural life, and help to keep the people from drifting to the towns for the excitement which they cannot get in the bleakness of rural areas at present. I think one of its biggest advantages will be that it will help to make us in a very large measure independent of imported fuel.

Like everybody else who has spoken, I welcome this Bill, and my Party bids it a very hearty welcome. The two countries which are most electrified are Switzerland and Van Diemen's Land, and the report from those countries certainly shows that life has been made very easy there. After 25 years' experience of residence in this city, I may say that on returning to a Tipperary farm I found the conditions there a bit of a shock. When the Shannon scheme was first introduced, I thought it was not going to do very much good, but in the past four years we would have been in a very bad way without it. This is a Bill entitled.

"An Act to amend and extend the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1927 to 1942, and in particular to authorise and provide for the preparation and execution by the Electricity Supply Board of schemes for the generation of electricity by hydraulic power derived from suitable rivers (in addition to the Shannon and the Liffey)."

They can utilise any river they like. I remember reading in a magazine a few years ago about an expert who had made a study of the matter, and who was greatly struck with the idea that you could supply electricity from the sea. That made a great impression on me at the time.

My objection to the Shannon scheme was that the first duty of the rivers of Ireland is to the people of Ireland. I come from a county which suffers more from the lack of water than, I think, any part of the world, and if you are to electrify our river Suir I do not know what is going to happen. I certainly say that we, the rural dwellers—the urban dwellers are well looked after—have the first claim on that water. I have the best-watered farm in Tipperary, and a friend of mine suggested to me: "You have no axe to grind. You have the best-watered farm in Tipperary; some of your friends think you have water on the brain," but I think what drove me into this House was my realisation of the drudgery and torture of water drawing in our particular area, and in a good many other parts of Ireland too. A resolution with regard to that matter which was sent out by the Tipperary County Council has been adopted by many counties.

I would say that there are three things which form the foundation of Irish life at the moment. I will put the water supply first, electrification second, and arterial drainage third. They are a trinity, triplets if you like, and they are as indissolubly bound as the Siamese twins. The three of them should go hand in hand. I listened to the debate on the Arterial Drainage Bill, and I heard with pain the suggestion to do away with water which we need on our farms. In this report on rural electrification prepared by the Electricity Supply Board—it is a magnificent report—they say on page 31:—

"One of the principal services generally denied to the rural dweller and available to the town dweller is that of piped running water for domestic purposes and sanitation. The supply of electricity to the rural dweller makes feasible, in a simple and economic way, the provision also of this great service of a piped supply of water under pressure. The necessary supply of water is pumped from a well by a small compact electric motor pump unit to a small tank."

Where is the water to come from? We are a clean race; we never deserved the name of the dirty Irish, but I know places in South Tipperary where they have to wash like a cat on Sunday mornings. I know of one pump which supplies four miles of the country around. Unless the three things which I have mentioned as the foundation of our Irish life are taken together and examined very closely, there will be people in this House in 50 years' time who will regret the work we are doing now. Taking my own native county, there are 5,000 people in Thurles, and the sewage of the big factory there is going into the river. In Clonmel there are 9,000 people and the sewage of the fever hospital is disposed of in the same way. For six or eight or ten miles on each side of that river there is not a drop of drinking water in 70 per cent. of the houses. There is not a proper water supply from, say, the mountains. You must have a gravitated water supply.

The House may be surprised to know that as a result of a little suggestion of mine here they discovered in the archives of the British House of Commons—I found it in Lord Beaverbrook's paper—a scheme sponsored by the Labour Party for the provision of £25,000,000, of which £17,500,000 would give a pure supply of water to every house in rural England, and £7,500,000 would provide a similar supply for Scotland. I would say that our rivers are not as fast running as the Scotch rivers, but I think that figure would be sufficient here also. While welcoming this Bill very heartily, I think the whole scheme should be re-examined. Give us water. We are like the Ancient Mariner—"water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink". We are just in that position. The electrical engineers are a very powerful body and I have been following their activities for the last ten or 20 years. I have not heard so much of hydraulic engineers but we are given an example of their work by Brinsley McNamara in "The Valley of the Squinting Windows". He tells us of the young farmer who made an improvident match. His father hated him and his mother did not like him either. Of course, this version is a bit satirical but, according to the story, his friends got him a contract to sink a well and out of that he made £300 or £400. The point is that there was anything in the well but water. That is narrated as an example of hydraulic inefficiency. As I say, our electrical engineers are a powerful body and I would ask the Minister to give special attention to their activities under this Bill. The English Government has taken certain steps in regard to schemes of this kind. It may be a case of the Skibbereen Eagle keeping its eye on the Czar but I would point out to the Minister that unless proper water supplies are provided for our people the health of the whole community will suffer. We have probably a bigger proportion of tuberculosis to our population than any other civilised country and I would say that that is due to putrid water. There is hardly any house in the country out of which a Snowy-breasted Pearl does not come at some time or other. We shall find ourselves in Queer Street if we go ahead with these schemes without giving them proper study. I heard a quack doctor speaking on Burgh Quay about 20 years ago. He was selling an electric belt and he had a testimonial written on pink paper which ran something like this:

"I had a pain in my liver, likewise in my lights;

I wore your electric belt and now I have electric light."

I welcome this Bill but I think that perhaps it comes a little before its time. I think that the provision of a pure water supply should take priority to any of these schemes. If the rivers are tapped at their source for the purposes of providing electricity you may well leave the country without these very necessary water supplies. I think our tidal waves should be examined as an alternative source of power. Taking Athlone as the centre of Ireland, there are very few districts that would be more than 30 or 40 miles from our coasts and if the tidal waves were used as the source of power they might be found to be even more economic than our rivers. The waters of our rivers are to a very large extent required to provide proper water supplies for our homes.

We have heard so much about water, that it just occurs to me that it might be well to suggest to the Minister that in preparing schemes under this Bill the Electricity Supply Board should co-operate with the Drainage Commissioners so that there could be no possible overlapping or no necessity to do the job twice. The Bill commends itself to every section in the House, and I particularly welcome it, but I have a bone to pick with the Minister in regard to the exclusive use of turf for the steam generating stations. I would ask him to get the board to examine the question of utilising Irish coal for steam power. I believe that, ton for ton, coal will be found to be a more economic fuel than turf. Our coalfields will be in a very peculiar position after the war. After the last war people ceased to use Irish coal. They used it when they had no alternative fuel during the last war. I am afraid we shall be faced with a similar position after this war, that if there is any possibility at all of getting English coal, our coal consumers will immediately switch over to English coal and cease using Irish anthracite. It is because of that fear about the future of Irish coal that I suggest to the Minister that he should consider this question of utilising Irish coal as fuel in the steam generating stations.

Other conditions also will operate to reduce the quantity of Irish coal that will be consumed as soon as these schemes get going. If all our Irish farmers begin to use electricity, as we hope they will, it will certainly mean a considerable reduction in the consumption of Irish coal, even in areas in the vicinity of the coalfields. The farmers, I take it, will use their electric current not only for lighting but for power and heating. To the extent that they use electric current there will be a corresponding reduction in the demand for Irish coal. There has, of course, been some development in the use of Irish coal for Esse cookers and anthracite stoves, but I do not think that the use of coal in apparatus of that kind in any way affects the consumption of Irish coal. I believe that consumption for that purpose is negligible. I would again emphasise what a reduction in consumption in Irish coal would mean to the people who have to depend on a livelihood in the production of such coal, particularly our miners. After the last war, more than half of them were left out of employment for years, and if we do not devise some means of protecting them, either by creating a home demand for Irish coal or protecting them from the import of English coal, we may have a similar situation after this war. For that reason I stress this aspect of the matter. As I have said already, as fuel for our steam generating stations Irish coal would be as economic in the long run as turf.

As regards the Bill itself, it is proposed to expend something like £40,000,000, taking the long term policy. That is purely an estimate, and it is more than likely that the sum will be nearer double that figure. All that money, as I visualise it, will be spent in accordance with Orders made by the Minister, without any reference to this House or to the Ministry of Finance. I think that we are giving very big powers to the Minister in doing that. Under the old legislation, the certificate of the Minister for Finance was necessary before any money was advanced for any particular scheme. Under this Bill, no such certificate will be required, and it may be that we find ourselves committed to the expenditure of anything from £40,000,000 to £80,000,000 of public money without reference to this House. The whole business will be done by Order of the Minister. I think that that is a power of such an extraordinary character that we should be reluctant to give it to the Minister.

I was glad to hear from the Minister that he did not visualise any probability of engaging in the manufacture of the heavier type of apparatus, such as turbines, and the heavier type of equipment necessary in an electrical power station. I do not believe that in this country we have either the experience or the skill, or even the knowledge, to attempt anything in the way of heavy production of that kind, and I do not believe it would be economical for us to attempt it. If I understood the Minister aright, he proposes to confine the manufacture of electrical equipment to the articles used by consumers, such as bulbs, heating apparatus and things like that, more or less of a small character. To that extent I have no objection to the proposal that the board be empowered to manufacture such apparatus, or to get private firms to manufacture it to their satisfaction. It is essential that in these matters we should be, as far as possible, self-sufficing; but I do not think that we could tackle the heavier manufactures without again bringing foreign technicians into the country.

Deputy Allen raised a point which, if I understood him aright, meant that we should equate the charges as between the farmer consumer and the urban consumer. I do not think there is any analogy between the urban dweller and the rural dweller in this matter of charges for electric current. In the first place, the farmer will be getting his current not so much for lighting and heating, which the ordinary urban dweller takes current for, as for production purposes, and to the extent that he uses current for production purposes on his farm, he will be in a position to cut his loss; he will be in a position to save on labour and to do the normal work of the farm in a far more economical fashion. That is an aspect we shall have to consider if there is any talk of equating the charges as between the farmer consumer and the urban consumer.

In addition, he is getting the benefit of a subsidy of 50 per cent. under this rural electrification scheme, and I think as between the farmer and the urban dweller, the farmer is getting the best end of the bargain. Deputy Cogan and Deputy Allen seem to think that the farmers should get more, that they should be placed in the same position as the urban dweller. I do not think it is possible to do it. It is a different proposition to link up 100 consumers in one small street as compared to the linking up of 100 farmers over, perhaps, several square miles of country. The cost of the network has to be taken into consideration, and even the cost of supplying current over that area must be considered. There is really no common basis as between the two. I am not saying that in any sense to disparage the farmers or to prevent them from making the best bargain they can, but what Deputy Allen is seeking is, to my mind, something far more than this House could give.

As far as we are concerned, on this side of the House, we welcome the Bill. We take a certain amount of credit for having inspired the idea of rural electrification. We hope that the people in the country will take to this scheme, and that every farmer will have electric current brought to his home.

As to the basis of the charges, it is very difficult to arrive at a satisfactory decision. The valuation basis does not seem to work, because if you take buildings and out-offices there will be a grievance, and if you take the valuation of the land it will not be satisfactory. If you take the arable area of the land it will not be satisfactory either. As far as I can see, reading the report worked out by the experts, they have taken every possible aspect of the question into consideration, and in recommending the floor area they seem to have given the only possible solution they could to what is really a most difficult problem. I fail to see how you are going to achieve anything otherwise.

I have been looking through the charges based on floor space, and made a comparison with the fixed charges which the ordinary urban dweller has to pay, and, to my mind, they are not unreasonable. Of course, I am not an expert, and I do not attempt to give an expert opinion, but, taking my own case as a private consumer and comparing it with the case of the average farmer who will be paying on the floor space, I think he will have his electricity at least at a reasonable rate. Our experts have recommended that to us, and, until we have a very good case to the contrary, we should be slow to adopt any other basis. In Germany and Sweden they have adopted the acreage basis. These are matters on which I would not attempt to express an opinion, and I do not think anyone in the House is competent to do so without having expert evidence on the subject. I welcome the Bill.

This House should remember that it is dealing with a report which was presented to the Government somewhere in the year 1943. The Electricity Supply Board report for the year 1942-43 announced that they had presented to the Government a report with regard to rural electrification. I hope the progress with reference to the carrying out of what they have projected will not take as long as it has taken the Government merely to consider the advisability of publishing the report. The report of the Electricity Supply Board is ordinarily produced somewhere about the early summer of the particular year and it relates to the year ending in the March of that particular year. In the 16th annual report, which was for 1942-43, they said they had presented to the Government a report on rural electrification. Somewhere about August of that year it was made known that the Government had decided to publish that report; somewhere about August of this year that report was published. It took a full year for the Government to decide that a report which they had called for would be made known to the public.

I would like to know, if the Minister can tell us, what they have done during the period in which they had that report in hands—it must have been somewhere before March, 1943—with regard to any scheme of organisation which would be necessary for the carrying out of the project set out in the report; whether any preliminary contracts have been entered into; whether arrangements have been made in advance of contracts for the speedy making of contracts when the war situation has passed. The board did report, after some years of study, in 1943. The country heard the proposals in 1944 and we now have a Bill, generally of an enabling type, in the year 1945.

The remark in the Electricity Supply Board report of 1943 which should strike everybody is towards the end of the report, where they say that the "extension of electricity supply to serve the rural and farming community has been in progress for the past 25 years in those countries where agriculture is the foremost industry." The comment of a newspaper on that was that it meant that we are 25 years behind, and it must be admitted we are. That report goes on to say that the "development of electricity supply in the cities, towns and villages of the country—that is, apart from the rural areas—which was planned on a national basis some 15 years ago, brought this country into line with other countries in so far as electrical development in urban areas was concerned." They drew from that the optimistic conclusion that at least we might achieve this, that we will eventually be as far advanced as other countries are in connection with rural electrification. All that can be said is that we have made a slow start and one cannot be enthused, trying to project one's mind into the future, by what has happened in the past.

What happened in the past can be briefly stated. In 1925, electrical development in this country was more or less begun. It was begun against a storm of protest. The whole matter was regarded as complete insanity. Practically every newspaper in the country condemned what was on foot, and one paper rose to a height of rhetorical exaggeration in saying that the planning of this particular development represented the first fruits of Bolshevism in this country. We, who in those days controlled government, were assured that the entire finances of the country were going to be ruined by the lunacy of the people who had this project before them.

The papers were not alone. Businessmen in the country joined in to say that cheap electricity mattered nothing to them, and, even if the scheme turned out to be a success, they were not going to purchase electricity at the new rates, and of course they added to that that they had no belief that the electrical development planned would work out at anything like the rates stated in the Siemens-Schuckert Report and backed by the experts. They drew the worst possible conclusion from the fact that the scheme was to commit this country to a vast expenditure from which there could be no possible return, and we were prayed by businessmen, by chambers of commerce, by every newspaper in the country, to stop this thing and to cut the losses, to pay the German firm something to get out of the whole business.

However, it was gone on with, and, as a result of their examination of the scheme, certain European experts said that we could look forward, with a reasonable demand for electricity at the new rates, to a commercial exploitation of the scheme in 1931-32. That was achieved, and, from that time on, the only difficulty the Electricity Supply Board has been in is that the demand for electricity has outrun its capacity to supply it. That was something which could at least have been observed in the early years because there is no doubt that the flood of pessimism that flowed over this country might easily have stopped people from venturing further in the very early years; but once 1932, 1933 and 1934 had gone past, anybody putting the old pessimism side by side with the reality achieved by the board in the early years must have realised that the one difficulty the board would run up against very soon was being asked to supply more electricity than it was possible for it to produce.

What step was taken to meet the development which I suggest was likely, on the basis of the development brought about by the supply of electricity at cheaper rates than the country had ever enjoyed before? We know well that nothing was done with regard to new supply until the Liffey scheme was brought forward as a legislative proposal in a particular year. When was it brought forward? First, it was fairly late, and, in so far as it was brought forward at all, it is quite clear it was brought forward, not mainly because it was an electrical development scheme, but because it was going to ease the supply of water to Dublin. It was to be a reservoir, in the main, and electricity was a sort of incident connected with it. Nevertheless, it was something, in that it added a month's supply. It gave the country an answer to the demand for about one month out of the 12 in the year. It happened to be a suitable development, because on account of the water flow, its harnessing could be thrown into use for the public at seasons when the Shannon would possibly not be so useful.

That scheme was started pre-war, but it was started at a time when the war was blowing up. The Minister told us that, at a particular time in 1938, he made plans against the amazing contingency of a European war, but one of the things which he apparently did not take into his contemplation was the possibility that this country might need, in a war period when we might be deprived of coal, more electricity than we had. The situation, as we know it now, is that from the Liffey we have not got a single unit of electricity. Some difficulty has arisen with regard to part of the machinery in connection with the Liffey scheme, but the country has not enjoyed the benefit of a single unit of electricity from whatever was done arising from the Liffey scheme.

The next proposed development we had was here, when another Minister, who had succeeded the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, came into the House with a proposal, attached more or less as an incidental rider to an electricity finance matter, that we might give money for the development of a peat station at Portarlington. We were then told, of course, that that particular type of fuel might not be available, or might not be available at an economic rate, and the situation, as it developed from the debate on that proposal, was that if we could get more than three times the amount of peat which had ever been taken from Clonsast or the neighbouring bogs, and could get it at a rate which had never been achieved and has never since been achieved, we might be able to get on the bogs a development which would be equal to a coal development of a pre-war type. It must be remembered that the units generated by reason of a coal development had to be sold at a much higher rate than those generated from the hydro-electric scheme at Ardnacrusha.

We passed that Bill after a certain amount of criticism, designed to get certain information which we thought the public were entitled to have, and at a later stage I asked a question as to whether or not we had achieved what was called the harvesting which had to be got from the bogs to enable this economy proposed to be realised and what was the lowest price at which any fuel development might have been achieved from the bogs. I think the answer which came was that we had got about one-third of the amount of fuel from the bog which had been set out, and that the price was two and a half times what was supposed to be an equalisation for coal production of a 1939 type. The further figure has to be remembered, which was given in answer to another question asked here, when it was admitted that the rate of generation from Ardnacrusha ranged very definitely about the rate which the Siemens-Schuckert report had said could be achieved and which the experts had sanctioned, that is, somewhere about a farthing a unit.

Production from coal had been along wide variations, depending on the period in which the coal was bought, but the cheapest coal development from the Pigeon House was never less than at least three times the development at Ardnacrusha. We were told we had to look forward to a period in which fuel schemes through peat were to be tried out, that if we got something which had never been achieved, we might get a price equivalent to a coal price, which was much higher than the price from hydro-electrical development at Ardnacrusha. In any event, nothing was done about Portarlington, and in the days when the Minister's successor was speaking, he said it all depended on certain machinery. We had one machine imported from abroad and hoped to be able to manufacture two locally. They never were successfully manufactured and that development has not been successfully carried out.

The Minister to-day, I understand, said that the new method of electrification of the country is to be a balance as between hydro-electric and some sort of fuel production. We are, apparently, going to depend to some extent on coal, but apparently also, at least as far as both are concerned, we are going to depend on peat. Even taking the present price of coal or the present price of peat—the present price of coal as served to the Pigeon House—I want to know what is the best prophecy the Minister can make with regard to the unit cost of electricity produced from a peat station, and how will that cost compare with hydro-electric costs in the country.

I gather from an early edition of an evening newspaper that, according to the Minister's statement to-day, it is anticipated that demand will grow rapidly, that they propose to balance production between fuel and hydro-electric stations, that, in connection with fuel-power stations, peat would be used in certain stations; that all these things will accrue as a result of the development and the erection of stations on the Erne and the Lee, and that, on the pre-war costing, electricity from these sources would be as cheap as from the Shannon, but that, as prices have advanced substantially, pre-war, the increased cost of production would appreciate in proportion. Well, if that is so, all I can say is that it is a wonder that we did not hear about it earlier.

It is quite obvious that that cannot be achieved in the post-war world. It may well be that if ever prices right themselves in the post-war world, the development of the scheme at Ardnacrusha will still be within the people's means, but, if what the Minister says is correct, it is open to the people to lament that those conditions should not have been taken advantage of. In my opinion, we are entitled to complain that that point of view did not strike the Minister before that and that he did not get the Erne and the Lee thrown into the scheme together with the Shannon scheme.

What could we do at the time? Was there ever a time before the war when the board could not supply it?

Was there not a time when the Pigeon House could do it, so far as Dublin is concerned, or was it possible that the Erne and the Lee together could do it?

The Erne only.

Capital costs, and peat included, which would give us a development of 40,000,000, 50,000,000 or 100,000,000 units at the same price as the Shannon scheme. That, clearly, would be economic, rather than to depend on the Pigeon House. That is my opinion and, if I am wrong, then the Minister can correct me. Will the Minister give me the price of the units developed at Ardnacrusha and the price of the units developed at the Pigeon House, because the comparison would be interesting?

The Deputy must allow for transmission costs also.

Very good. Allow for everything. The transmission costs, in the main, are borne by the lines already there.

The Deputy's point is that production capacity was not increased during the period in which I was Minister, whereas, as a matter of fact, production capacity was doubled.

I am talking about whether the supply was doubled or not, and not whether the capacity was doubled.

It was doubled.

It was doubled by reason of the Pigeon House being supplied with English coal at high rates. At any rate, production costs were increased beyond what was the cost at Ardnacrusha. The Minister need not try to draw a red herring across this matter in the way he has sought. It was a matter of supplying customers at a cheaper rate. There was a method open to the Minister to supply current at a cheaper rate from the Erne, and I presume that he will be in a position to show us the capital cost of the Erne development with a view to enabling us to see that that could have been developed at a generating cost equal to that of the Shannon at Ardnacrusha. At any rate, the position is that we have consumers being handed off by the Electricity Supply Board because they have not enough electricity to give them, and that even if they are in a position to supply them from Ardnacrusha, the generating costs will be higher, and that it could not be done at all except for the supply given by the Pigeon House.

Now, if it were true that, pre-war, the Erne supply could have been developed at a cost equal to that of the Shannon, then the Minister should tell us why he did not go forward with that development. Let us take the question of the future. Would it not have been better to arrange to have those supplies at the disposal of the community at the pre-war cost instead of waiting to put the scheme into operation when, undoubtedly, the costs which will come upon us in the post-war period will be much greater? In that connection, the Minister was not going into the unchartered territory as we were in connection with the Shannon scheme. He could have got from the Electricity Supply Board information as to how far they were able to meet the increased cost of the demand that was there, and how far he could deal with it. The Minister had that information at his disposal; he went into it with open eyes, and, therefore, it is only fair to ask him to tell us how, if we had got from that source supplies equal to those of the Shannon and at the same price, he did not do it. I realise, of course, that there is a number of imponderable matters to be considered in that connection, but at any rate the Minister should have told us what is the best view of his Department, and on what it is based with regard to the material put in, and all the numerous varieties of things that go towards the final cost: what is the best view of his Department in regard to charges for labour, and so on, in connection with production from the Erne. I notice, from his interruption, that he makes a difference between the Erne and the Lee, but in the report of the evening newspaper that I have read, the Erne and the Lee are put together.

There is a plan for the development of the Erne.

I am talking about the costs. Is there any plan as regards the costs of the Lee or the Erne development?

There is no plan. It is a matter of investigation.

We are still further away in regard to that. The only thing is that there is a plan, and if there is such a plan which could easily have been put into operation years before, why was it not put into operation?

What could we have done with the current?

Supply the existing consumers. The Minister, apparently, does not realise that people would sooner have a supply of current at a halfpenny than at a penny, if it were possible to supply them with current more cheaply from the Erne than from the Shannon.

We would have had dearer electricity.

Well, I hope that the Minister will demonstrate that for the satisfaction of the House and the people of the country, but, at any rate, the only thing that has happened since the Shannon Scheme was introduced was the development of the Liffey scheme, and that was mainly for the Dublin water supply, and electricity supply was only a secondary consideration. So far as electricity supply is concerned, we have had no development from the Liffey scheme so far. In that connection I put a question to the Minister on a former occasion, as to what he thought would be the final costs, so far as they could be ascertained, and I was told that they could not be given, but that about 50 per cent. increase would be added.

That was an increase of its capacity.

That was not given to me in the reply. I confined myself to the cost of the works, and the Minister, in his reply, did not deal with the matter. So that, if the scheme had increased by 50 per cent., and if what the Minister stated to the Dáil was correct, then I say it has not been worth one unit to the country in a time of need. It has eased the people in Dublin in regard to the scarcity of water in a dry season, and the Liffey scheme has been quite good in relation to an increased water supply in a dry season, but it has not given us a single extra unit of electricity so far as the country is concerned.

The Deputy has not read the report of the board.

The report of what board?

Of the Electricity Supply Board.

Will the Minister quote it here?

The statement in the report says that the Golden Falls station was brought in on the 10th September, 1943.

Will the Minister state what came in from the Golden Falls scheme in 1943? Even here, it says in the report that the development in older countries, in so far as electrical development in urban areas was concerned, was greater. Before that, we came to the first rank—equal to other countries—in that matter, so far as cities, towns and villages were concerned. So far as rural electrification is concerned, is it not true to say that that has been in progress for 25 years in those countries in which agriculture is the foremost industry and that we have not moved a step? Is there anything to be criticised in the newspaper comment that we are 25 years behind so far as electrical development in the rural areas is concerned? The Minister tells us that we are now moving towards it. Are we moving towards it? When electricity matters were previously under discussion in this House, a Deputy who was not completely enamoured of the scheme paid it this tribute—that about no scheme produced in this country had so much information been given to the country as the Shannon scheme, that they had got that information from a technical point of view, so that the technicians were able to argue about it, that the whole matter had been set out in the papers and explained in Dáil debates, that every figure about which there was a question had been given, that the matter had been explained by people going up and down the country, giving details and discussing the technique, economics and finances of the scheme and that there was no doubt that, when members of the Dáil came to vote on that original scheme, they were better informed than they had been about any scheme introduced in the country up to that time. Compare that with the present position.

Does anybody know what, after we pass this legislation, the new cost of electricity in the country will be? No. It is quite clear that objections can be raised to asking anybody to state what that price will be, that there are many factors that may increase or decrease the cost, but does anybody know, even within 40 per cent., what the likely charge for electricity hereafter is to be? I say not. Does anybody know what the order of development is to be? Has anybody any belief that, in the background of this rural electrification, there is any planned organisation? Has anybody been told whether the Minister has any idea of the finance that is to go into this scheme and the rate at which the money is to be got? Has anybody any idea of what the farmer is to be asked to pay and what the taxpayer is to be asked to pay? Other than the statement in the report of the Electricity Board, that it is to be a sort of 50-50 division, nobody knows. Despite that lack of information, we are asked to give the Minister a blank cheque, to say "Thank God, you are moving at last and we shall not do anything to delay you by a day". Nothing being worse than the stagnation which has set in, we are to be satisfied that any development will be good. But that is hardly the way to commend a scheme to the public.

The report does call attention to one thing. "In the general business of electricity supply," it states, "there are problems and difficulties peculiar to the supply of the rural areas." They have been set out in this report. So far as that report is concerned, it is a great document. It proceeds from the Electricity Supply Board, not from the Government. Nothing the Government has done has added to that report. So far as that report proceeds from a body of men set up to do a particular piece of work, it is a good report. They have done the thing, within the limits of their powers, as well as anybody could expect. But they draw attention to certain matters in regard to which a Government answer is required. The report states:

"The primary problems are of a financial nature, the high degree of capital investment called for and the relatively low monetary return which the investment can yield. This has led in other countries to the provision of State subsidies."

The farming community may be pleased if they hear that they are to have electricity and that they will be asked to pay only half the cost, the taxpayer to pay the rest. The farming community might be better pleased if they were told that their half would be less than it might be if a particular rate of interest were charged. We are told in the White Paper that there is to be, so to speak, half and half provision—that the taxpayer is to be bled to supply electricity to the rural areas. Nobody knows how much that amount will be. Having regard to their importance, a subvention in respect of those areas would, probably, be worth while, but that does not stop the argument as to what the cost will be, and whether it is possible to reduce it.

The board say that the primary problems are of a financial nature, the high degree of capital investment called for and the relatively low monetary return which the investment can yield. How much money is to be put into this investment? How is it to be found? What rate of interest is it proposed to pay on the money? Is the Minister going to charge the board in connection with this rural electricity development scheme more than, say, the board could borrow at if they went into the open market themselves? They are doing that at the moment. Is that process to be continued? Apart from that, is rural electrification, like town electrification, to be made something of a subsidising factor in relation to general Government costs? Has the Minister any idea as to how this money is to be raised? Has the Minister a changed view from that which he had, say, on the transport question? Has he any intention of trying to work back to the rural community the money farmers are disposed to lend at the moment through savings certificates at a rate of interest less than 2 per cent.? Can he tell this community how much of the cost of this new electricity scheme will represent capital charges? I understand that when we pay charges for electricity in its different forms— light, heating and power—a very large percentage of that goes to meet capital costs. When the Shannon scheme was entered upon, the ordinary rate at which money could be got was 5 per cent. That rate has been lowered, not through anything done here. Money can be got in England at something less than 1 per cent.—about 17/6 per cent.

Short-term money.

Nobody who reads the financial or economic journals published in England believes that the rate of interest will ever go back to the old-time figure—even to 3 per cent. What rate are we contemplating in this case? Is there any set-up based upon financial calculations which will enable the Minister to tell us what the new cost of electricity will be? It has to be admitted that by far the greater amount of the new charges to be imposed on the rural community for the development of electricity will depend, if the old relationship is maintained, on capital cost. Is that relationship between working costs and capital costs to be preserved in the future? If so, on what rate of interest is it to be founded? If the Minister thinks that he must stand by the old-time 5 per cent. rate of interest, is he prepared to let the board, having regard to the success they have had already, try to get money at a lower rate than that at which the Minister can get it for them?

I should like to discuss matters in relation to the financial aspect when the Minister has replied. The core of the matter is the amount of money to be borrowed, if it is to be borrowed, from other people and the rate of interest to be paid. There is the minor question as to whether the Government intend to do the money-lending business as they did previously. Are they going to make a bit out of the electricity supply, or are they going to give the benefit of cheap rates of interest to the rural community? Before going, in the ordinary way, on the money market, will the Minister consider again what I asked him to consider in relation to transport—that there is a large amount of money which the farming community are disposed to lend at a very small rate of interest? They are not, as has been discovered by a number of observers, bothering about the rate of interest. Their main requirement is security and, after that, secrecy. Is the Minister not able at this stage to find a plan by which he can bridge that gap between those people who will lend money at a low rate of interest, because they are looking for an opening to invest their money, and the open money market where he will have to pay a very high rate?

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.