Committee on Finance. - Electricity Supply (Amendment) Bill, 1944—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I do not propose to travel over the ground already covered by other speakers on this particular Bill, but on Part III I wish to ask the Minister if he is satisfied with the situation that has arisen all over the country in regard to fisheries and if he is aware that this Bill extends to a very great extent the existing powers and that if passed as it stands it will inflict very grave hardships upon the poorest and hardest worked elements of the community, namely, the fishermen. I do not know how far the Minister personally is aware of the hardships that have been imposed already in certain cases. Under this Bill greater hardships can be imposed. The power that is being given in this Bill is so extensive that nobody will have any rights whatever in the matter. Fishing rights can be swept away from those in whose custody they had been for generations. I do not mean now the vested rights of the big landowner or landlord of the past, but I mean the rights that poor fishermen had along the various rivers and estuaries. Not only does it take the power to sweep away those fishery rights, but it also assumes the right to acquire the rights-of-way, the rights of entrance and egress to and from the various fisheries from a man's land. After having taken away the source of his livelihood, the Bill leaves him stranded. There is no organisation set up under this Bill by which compensation could be paid at an early stage to him and he is left there without his livelihood.

I know cases in which the fishermen had made agreements with the Electricity Supply Board authorities-verbally, perhaps—in which their rights were not to be taken away. But suddenly, without any notice, a number of employees and other officials of the State fall upon those fishermen, particularly now in Lough Ree, seize their boats, throw grappling hooks into them, damage their boats, pull up lines and confiscate lines, hooks and everything else like that, leaving these fishermen without the means of livelihood. Fourteen or 15 families had the right to put out as many as 1,500 hooks on a line and the amount of time taken on a river to do that was just the evening and night. Without any notice, that line is reduced arbitrarily by the Electricity Supply Board to 500 hooks, thereby reducing the productive capacity of the fishermen by one-third and the same amount of time is taken to put out the 500 hooks as the 1,500. The equipment was seized at the point of the revolver and, thank God, there was no serious resistance on the part of the fishermen, but it is a situation which should not be allowed to develop.

The point I want to get the Minister to take is that, if and when it is necessary to take over these fisheries, in the interest of the advancement of rural and city electrification, there will be no delay and the fishermen will not be left stranded and without a living. Secondly if there is to be a reduction in the productivity of their work, compensation should be paid immediately in that case, as it would be much more decent to take it away altogether than to leave them able to do only one-third of their work.

The Minister and the Department, which I hope will be doing very great good in producing electricity for the country people, must not do that to the disadvantage of another section of the community, and that the weaker section. When you look at Section 15, 16, 17 and 18 in Part III of the Bill, you find there is a complete monopoly given to the Electricity Supply Board of the fishing rights of the whole country and that they can, without let or hindrance, sweep away everything without any commiseration. I put it to the Minister that that is something he should not give to anybody. It is bad enough for the Minister to have that power himself or for the Department of Fisheries to have it, but it is a very serious matter to give it to an outside body which has no interest whatever in them and does not care who these particular people are, and which, in the most high-handed autocratic fashion, sweeps away the livelihood of the people of a district. I appeal to the Minister on this particular point to see that these dangers are avoided and that, where hardships are imposed, compensation is paid immediately and not left in abeyance.

The same things applies where land is acquired. Where arbitration is necessary, the fixing of compensation for the property acquired should not be left hanging in the air for an indefinite period. There should be some stated time in which the compensation must be paid to these people, when you take them up root and branch out of their homes where their fathers have been for generations. I think the sum mentioned, 3 per cent. upon the capital value of their property, is a totally inadequate figure, since the property is a going concern. While 3 per cent. would be reasonable upon capital that was not earning a livelihood for anybody, when property that is earning a livelihood for a farmer is to be assessed at 3 per cent. I think it is very unfair and that the section should be amended.

It is true that we are very backward in the production of electricity and in the electrification of the country. That has already been dealt with and I suppose will be dealt with further by other speakers. I welcome the Bill. I am glad the Government Party have adopted the policy of Fine Gael in that matter, because a few years ago, when this proposal was put up by us as necessary and desirable, the argument of Fianna Fáil spokesmen all over the country against it was—where is all the money to come from; it could not be done. I am glad they have now adopted the policy of rural electrification. As a person resident in the country and knowing how essential and necessary a supply of electricity is, I welcome the scheme because I feel that one of the things which militate against the rural population increasing is the lack of the amenities that electrification can give. At present it is depressing to see farmers' houses with hardly any light. What lighting they have is very restricted. I do not want to go into that point because I presume the Minister intends as early as possible to remedy that. But, as to the rights of the people, including fishermen and farmers whose land is taken over, the Government should see to it that no grave hardships are imposed on these people, even though an advantage is to be conferred on another section. They should see that the compensation is paid quickly, because a thing done quickly and well is worth twice as much as something done in a niggardly way at a later date.

There is no doubt that the Bill has received general acceptance in the House. But there are a few things in connection with which I wish to raise my voice. The Minister, when piloting the transport legislation through this House, referred to the set up of the Electricity Supply Board. He did say that the set up of the board was not in his opinion a most desirable one. In fact, I think he suggested that the type of control proposed for the new transport system was a more suitable one. I rise to ask him if he will not take advantage of the opportunity he has now in this Bill at least to make provision for increasing the personnel of the board. I think it is unfair to the board itself and to the country that executive authorities such as the members of the board are should also be the policy framers. The board should be increased by bringing in other people who are conversant with the various interests in the community. We now have an institution which is reaching, you might say, the greatest height of all so far as its cost to the State is concerned. The operations of the scheme are becoming vastly increased in every way and are affecting the lives of everyone in the country and there should be some means adopted of having a board there that will give more consideration to the requirements of the people. Deputy MacEoin referred to two particular interests. Every interest is affected.

The next thing I want to point out is that the control of the board by this House is non-existent. We have now a scheme under which, by the time it is finished, the board will have had from the State by way of advances and grants something in the neighbourhood of £40,000,000 and there is absolutely no control by this House, except in so far as the board is responsible to the Minister. We have all had the experience of raising certain questions in this House affecting our constituents in connection with the electricity supply and the reply we always get from the Minister is that he cannot interfere, that according to the Act it is a matter entirely for the board. The result is that there is no control.

Another thing I should like to bring to the attention of the Minister is the form of presentation of the accounts. It is true that this House has the right, after the accounts are presented to them, to have a day set aside for the discussion of these accounts. But that in itself is no control or does not give us any power. I think the Minister ought seriously to consider, now that the resources of the State are being further engaged for very large amounts, making some arrangement whereby a Committee of this House would be able to examine and report to the House as to the management by the board. We get a report from the board's auditors; that is circulated and it ends there. If anybody reads in detail the debates that took place when the original scheme was being put through, he will find that at that time those opposing it were quite alive to the prospect of the situation arising which has now developed. Yesterday we were treated by Deputy McGilligan to his history of the scheme from its inception and his version of the opposition to it. We also had a reference to it to-day by Deputy MacEoin. As a matter of fact, there was great opposition, not to the scheme itself, but to what would arise from it. At one particular time a discussion arose as to how the organisation was to be created and set up, but the views of those opposed to it did not prevail.

Deputy McGilligan talked yesterday, I think, with his tongue in his cheek about the Pigeon House. He seemed to forget that were it not for the very live opposition to the closing down of the Pigeon House we would have had no electricity from the Pigeon House during the emergency and would have had only about six months' supply of electricity every year. The figures of the units of electricity generated clearly show that about half of the units—perhaps 52 or 53 per cent.—are generated in Ardnacrusha and the balance at the Pigeon House. I do not want to develop a debate in connection with what happened in opposition to the scheme when it was first introduced in 1925 and afterwards up to 1932. I should like people however not to lose sight of the fact that, when the original scheme was introduced, it was mainly for the purpose of giving cheap electricity to the consumers. A comparison was made, on the basis of the experts' estimates, showing that electricity could be developed under this scheme in Ardnacrusha at 1/4d. per unit, while the cheapest cost at which coal-generated electricity could be produced was 3/4d. per unit. But units generated are one thing as compared with units sold to the consumer. Have as good a scheme as you can. Serve the country as best you can, but do not start misleading the people so that when they come to consume the electricity they will find that while it may cost 1/4d. to produce it is costing them 3d., 4d. and 5d. a unit to use.

Deputy McGilligan forgets, apparently, that this Government is pursuing the policy which he initiated. He now questions the wisdom of the Government in doing certain things that he initiated. He criticises developments which his scheme made imperative because, if the scheme is not improved from time to time, and if these additions are not made, the whole thing might as well be scrapped. Deputy McGilligan talked about the advisability, even now, of cutting down or closing down the Pigeon House and generating more electricity in Ardnacrusha or having other similar types of schemes. I do not know that the Ardnacrusha scheme has been such a great success from the point of view of producing electricity. Apart from the cost of generation in relation to the selling price per units, a great deal of electricity is lost in transmission. I have calculated these losses. I have asked questions in the House and I think I have proved conclusively that almost 20 per cent. of the electricity generated in Ardnacrusha is lost in transmission.

Deputy McGilligan produced the report of the Electricity Supply Board. He expects us to believe that he believes that the board produces its report in self-criticism. Anyone with common sense knows that the board is making the best case it can for itself and that it is not going to reveal all the criticisms which it knows can be levelled at it. To produce this document as the final authority on everything that concerns electricity in this country is absolutely nonsensical.

The original scheme was to cost a certain amount, that is, the erection of the stations, laying of transmission lines, etc. Then there was a certain amount of money to be put at the disposal of the board for general development. I have been asking for years, and I wonder is the Minister in a position to say now, what were the original proposals in respect of charges to the consumers, what are the present rates of charge and what will be, in the Minister's view, the future charges to the consumer of electricity.

I know that the Pigeon House contributes five months' supply of electricity at the present time. It was agreed yesterday between the Minister and Deputy McGilligan that the Liffey scheme would produce about one month's supply. I take it then that Ardnacrusha produces the balance, that is, six months' supply. We keep on talking about generating costs. Deputy McGilligan introduced a new problem yesterday. He did not go to the extent of saying that the time had come when the scheme should be put on a different footing altogether. Let the Government advance it all the money it wants. Let the Government give it everything it requires for its full development, but put it on the basis of, say, the Sugar Company. Let there be investment by the public in the shape of debenture shares and then you will find that the scheme will be run as a business concern. There will be a balance sheet produced every year and there will be an explanation as to why certain charges are at certain rates. I do not know what the final figure of the scheme will be. I do not know whether or not the Minister could venture to suggest that he is able to say what the final investment of the State will be in respect of capital expenditure for the scheme as a whole, but if it is going to cost £40,000,000, the interest rate per unit sold will be approximately one penny. Argument has been going on for years as to whether it is wiser to produce at 1/4d. per unit in a big scheme or at 3/4d. per unit in a scheme involving no great capital expenditure and consequently involving no 1d. per unit charge by way of interest. I think we might consider development along the lines of turf fuel or small hydro-electric schemes throughout the country in respect of which capital investment will not demand a charge on the consumer per unit of electricity, by way of repayment of capital and interest.

I do not know when we can reach the stage where we will be able to have a profit on our electricity undertaking so that we can start repaying capital at a quick rate and reduce the interest charge. I remember asking the Minister did he think it was fair that the consumers should be treated as they had been treated during the emergency. Their electricity was reduced to an absolute minimum, perhaps one unit or two units per month, but they still had fixed charges and all kinds of other charges which meant that their electricity was costing them as much as 3/- per unit. I suggested that there should be some relief by way of assistance from the Exchequer for those consumers who were put in this position through no fault of their own. The Minister then said that he could not possibly consider charging the taxpayer for the relief of the electricity consumer. Now we have a Bill under which the taxpayer is going to be charged a substantial sum of money in order that we can have rural electrification. I am not objecting to that. I am just saying that what is principle one day is abandoned and another principle is accepted.

This is a national scheme. This scheme cannot be said to concern the consumer only. We want rural electrification. We want the whole community to have the benefits of cheaper electricity. We want the rural population and rural industries to have the benefits of cheaper electricity. What I am in doubt about is as to whether we are ever going to reach the stage when we will have cheap electricity in this country.

Deputy McGilligan's suggestion that there should be an opportunity given to the farming community to invest some of their savings in this scheme would be all right if it were open to all sections of the community. I do not quite understand what he means by the suggestion that farmers have substantial sums of money to invest. The cry I always hear from the Farmers' Benches is that all the farmers in the country are broken, that they have no money. The Deputy went on to say something quite new— if the Minister agrees to such an investment being made available to the farming community it will have to be on the assurance of security and secrecy. We have not been given any explanation of what is meant by that. I believe that if this undertaking as a whole were put on a proper business basis, instead of the Government putting large sums of money at its disposal, at what is agreed is a high rate of interest—5 per cent.—it might be wise to give the investing public an opportunity of participating in it by putting up a certain amount of capital at a moderate rate of interest, but then of course that will be opposed, because once that happens everything that happens in the Electricity Supply Board will be open to examination.

I do not want to delay the House any further. I only want to ask the Minister whether he will consider something in the nature of what I suggested at the outset: first, certainly an increased personnel to take charge of the board's affairs. Nobody can expect that a small number of men charged with the responsibility of running that undertaking can possibly have time to understand what they are doing outside of their own business when they affect adversely the interests of farmers, fishermen and the general public, including the consumers. There have to be people there who will be in touch with the outside world other than the Electricity Supply Board itself. Secondly, I should like to know if the Minister will amend in this Bill the original Act so that the general financial situation of the Electricity Supply Board as a whole can be examined, and so that other opinions can be gathered with a view to seeing whether certain improvements can be made. There is no consumer of electricity in this country since the advent of the Electricity Supply Board who can say that his position has been improved. There has been a steady increase in the cost of electricity, and, mind you, that increase was there before the emergency arose; we could all understand an increase during the emergency. We had the Minister on one occasion saying that the increased cost of electricity was due to the fact that the price of coal had gone up so much. Then we had the statement made that the reason why we had no electricity was because we had no rain. Then when we had rain, more rain than we needed, there was no effort made by the Electricity Supply Board to say: "Now that we have the rain, which costs nothing, we will reduce the price of current." The people who have to pay the piper certainly cannot understand that kind of management. I think, therefore, if the Minister will take more power unto himself, and will give an opportunity to this House from time to time to ask him to intervene in certain things or to represent the House in instituting certain changes, he will be doing a great service not only to the scheme itself but to the consumers, who are the people who support the scheme.

The Minister, on the Second Reading, took particular pride in the fact that this Bill is not of a contentious nature. I think we can all agree with him that it is not contentious, except in so far as limitations are concerned, but if we approach the Bill from the point of view of what is actually required in the country at the moment, then there are many contentious matters, some of which have already been mentioned in the course of the debate. What strikes me as most peculiar about this Bill is the fact that here we have the Minister for Industry and Commerce calmly coming before the House and presenting what is in many ways a scheme that was characterised by his fellow Minister as a white elephant some 18 months ago. In 1943 the Minister for Local Government and Public Health poured scorn and ridicule on the idea of rural electrical development being of any value as part of the post-war planning.

The Deputy will have difficulty in finding a quotation to justify that.

I can read the whole front page of the Irish Press.

The Deputy must have read it backwards.

No, but I think the Minister for Local Government must have read the Minister's scheme backwards. I agree with the Minister's scheme as far as it goes. What happened on that occasion was that there had to be political capital made out of the thing, so it was held up to ridicule. I do not think it would be fair for anybody, no matter how much he might disagree with the Bill before the House, to approach it with that carping attitude, or to try to ridicule what is intended to be achieved. My purpose is not to be a carping critic of the Bill, but rather to express the viewpoint that the beginning which has been made, good in itself, should be wider in its scope—that a wider view should have been taken of the problem facing us. First of all, I think we should compliment the Minister and the Electricity Supply Board on the White Paper which was produced dealing with rural electrification. I think it is a very fine document, because not only is it a document with a technical approach to the problem, but, more important still, it does attempt to give what we very seldom get in this country, a social approach, an understanding of the people who are going to be involved in the scheme, their background, their basis of life, and how they can best be fitted into the national scheme. I think it would be of tremendous value if the Minister had at the same time sought from the Electricity Supply Board a similar White Paper dealing with the generation and distribution of electric current on a long-term plan, and taking that problem of the production of electric power not in isolation, not as merely a single technical problem, but as part of a national plan which we require very much here. Hydro electrification and the production of electricity is not something that should be developed in isolation. It could and does have its contacts with one Bill which is now likely to become law, the Arterial Drainage Bill. It is also linked up with afforestation. I think it could even to a certain extent-although I am not an expert in this particular matter—be linked up with the question of soil preservation and soil improvement.

Surely, if we are trying to raise the general standard of life in this country, give to, particularly to our people in the rural areas, a better and higher standard of life, we should have approached this question on that basis. Surely we should have examined all the factors which affect their lives, and tried to discover by what method we could improve those factors in order to help our people. We have here a Bill which, as I say, is good in itself, with the exception of one or two parts, but in many ways it touches only upon the fringe of the problem. At the end of his speech—I did not hear the whole of it—Deputy Briscoe referred to the personnel of the Electricity Supply Board. I have had some contact with them, and I am not one of those who object to that type of management. I do not agree that, because there are certain defects in the board as such, this whole type of management or State enterprise has been condemned. Those who are charged with the direction of the Electricity Supply Board are, within their own particular field, competent men. But there is an addition required to that board, and that is not merely men or women with a knowledge of the business life or the farming life of the community but men and women with a social outlook on the community. In our country, electrification is more than merely producing light or power. It is bringing light into darkness. The great value of this proposed scheme of rural electrification is not that we are going to have farming by electricity instead of by hand but that we are going to put into the homes of our people in rural areas a light which will light up their minds as well as their homes. If we do that we will have brought a new atmosphere and a new outlook to many of those people. It often appals me to think that we have just under 2,000,000 men and women, the majority of whom are, in many physical ways, debarred from mental development, the application of their mental faculties, just because they have not got the elementary physical help of a decent light with which to read. If we can give that light, and nothing else, then I think we have brought about a great change. Therefore the Electricity Supply Board should consist, not merely of technicians on the scientific side, not merely of able administrators most of whom have been taken from Civil Service personnel—and who have taken with them not only the good points of their Civil Service training, but many of the retarding influences that are necessarily inculcated in the Civil Service—but in addition, as I believe, of men and women who will look upon our people as a unit, not only in the town but in the town and country together, all of whom have need of a higher standard of life. The board, so constituted, should try to discover in what way technical development under the Electricity Supply Board can be utilised from a social point of view to enable our people to reach a higher standard of life.

I was particularly struck by one line of thought along which Deputy Briscoe allowed his mind to run. That was when he was dealing with the finances of the Bill. He wanted to know if we could find out some day what exactly our commitments are and why the Electricity Supply Board should not be able to make a profit. Of course, the facts in that connection are that due to the system of financing and the heavy commitments imposed on the board, they have been largely engaged up to the present in paying off the money advanced to them by the Government. When Deputy Briscoe approaches the other problem of finding the additional £40,000,000 for rural electrification, he starts a hare that I think is going to get a fairly long run in this country. The suggestion is that instead of having the Electricity Supply Board a State-owned institution, it should be thrown open to the investing public and that we should give them certain rights and property in the concern. I do not think that Deputy Briscoe is speaking altogether for himself in this matter and I believe that we shall shortly see a change in the constitution of the board along the lines suggested by the Deputy and in consonance with the new outlook of the Minister on theories of management of large concerns in this country which he developed in the course of the debate on the Transport Bill. I hope that before he reaches that stage he will revert to some of his old outlook on these problems. The fact that the Electricity Supply Board may have made mistakes or that we are paying —and I am not to be taken as in any way admitting it—a high price for our electricity, that the board have been limited in their outlook on the problem of electrification in this country, is not in any way a justification for transforming this concern into another source of profit for the investing gentlemen in this country.

The Electricity Supply Board, whatever its defects may be, is good in principle. Whatever defects it suffers from can be removed without making it another milch cow for those whose only interest in the country is to draw dividends on their invested capital. I hope that the development envisaged by Deputy Briscoe will not come to pass and that we shall retain the Electricity Supply Board in its present form, remembering the great work that it has done even though it has not been as great as many people looking forward to the possibilities of electrical development expected. Our aim should be to try to remove any defects which it may have and to make it a still more willing and capable servant of the public. In the approach to this problem I think that even now the Minister might attempt, in the course of his reply to the debate, to give a broader picture of what are the prospects facing us in this country for a term of 15 or 20 years in regard to electrification. I was not quite clear as to how the Minister says his technical advisers envisage the period immediately ahead of us. We have first of all the statement that he has been advised by the Electricity Supply Board that the normal increase in consumption to be expected in the post-war years is in the neighbourhood of 35,000,000 units. It was not clear whether that included the requirements for rural electrification. I take it it does, but in the report of the board they estimate that there may be a current consumption of 200,000,000 units on the basis of carrying out this rural scheme. He tells us that at the moment we are using 114 units per head of the population which, the Minister said, is a very low average compared with other countries in a somewhat similar position to ours. But the estimate made by the board of the current required to meet the rural electrification scheme is only based on 500 units per family in the rural areas. Yet we have a total population of 1,800,000.

If there is going to be any value in this scheme, and if it is going to develop along the lines we hope, I think that that estimate made by the board will be found to be too low and that we shall have to provide current far in excess of 200,000,000 units, though perhaps not immediately. Here we are dealing, not with periods of five or ten years, but with periods of 20 or even 50 years, because, remember that even this year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the setting up of the Electricity Supply Board. Within that period, we have had, time after time, to revise our plans. The Minister did indicate that, in so far as the Erne project is concerned, he has certain plans to meet the increased consumption. That will give us about 150,000,000 units per year. We have also the Clonsast scheme, the Liffey scheme and some other smaller schemes in contemplation. If there is any increase related to the normal increase pre-war which reached nearly 30,000,000 units a year, it is quite clear that within a short period we shall again be up against the problem of not having sufficient resources to meet the demand. If, as we hope, and the Government assures us time after time, industrial development is going to continue and we are going to see an increased industrial demand for current power, I think that the schemes outlined at the moment will fall far short of what is actually required. The Minister says, however, that the board is engaged in carrying out the necessary collection of data on many rivers throughout the country so that other schemes can be formulated.

It is now 20 years since the Shannon scheme was completed and the Electricity Supply Board was set up. It has been quite clear for at least more than ten years there would have to be an improvement in our power resources here. During that time surely there was sufficient opportunity to collect the data of which the Minister now speaks. If there had been a social and national approach to the problem, instead of the Minister coming in and presenting us with this scheme, which is within its limitations a good scheme and is to be welcomed, he could have presented us with an all-round picture of what our requirements are likely to be at certain fixed intervals of five or ten years—based on estimates, of course— and what resources we now have in the way of electrical power, under various headings including even tidal energy. He could give us that picture to show where we stood, an estimate of the finances that would be required to meet that development and a general view of how we would stand at certain intervals during the carrying out of this plan. Instead, we are left in the position of having this very fine scheme of rural electrification presented to us, with many of us having a doubt at the backs of our minds that, if it does develop rapidly, at the rate of progress set down in the Minister's speech, and if at the same time we have a normal development in urban areas and in industry, we will soon reach the point where there will be a clash between production and consumption.

That is a problem which has faced other countries. Recently there has been on sale in the bookshops in Dublin a small pamphlet dealing with a scheme something along the lines that we require here. It was carried out in the United States. I refer to the Tennessee Valley project, in which they had not only to deal with flood control, hydro-electrification and soil surveys, but they had also a problem which had to be approached as an all-round problem. It was one which gave fruitful results. Along these lines I think we could get far more benefit. It is desirable that we should have some kind of social approach in which the various arms of our national body would not be divorced one from the other. I feel the Electricity Supply Board is operating in a vacuum. It is dealing with technical and administrative problems. The Minister is dealing with his problems, and we do not get them all related.

One of the chief factors in connection with the Electricity Supply Board is that, in considering the working out of these plans, there seems to be a tendency to deal with them solely within the confines of the board. I feel that the board has a problem to solve which should be thrown open for public discussion, not merely by ordinary men and women, but by experts outside the immediate scope of the Electricity Supply Board— experts in the field of production, power distribution and so on—not on the basis of the submission of expert testimony in response to a formal request, but in the nature of a free exchange of opinion and criticism. You would then have an interchange of ideas out of which you could get a general conception. I do not think that has been done.

In the case of the Liffey project we had an example of that. For quite a while I think the Electricity Supply Board was not too anxious to participate in the scheme; it was only after some time that they decided to do so. Yet we all recognise that it is a good scheme. Possibly it could have been much better and bigger if it had been approached from a wider viewpoint.

When we come to consider the financial provisions, one very peculiar thing happened in the House yesterday and that was Deputy Allen's call on the Government to repeat their generous gesture to the Electricity Supply Board in earlier years. He told us of all the free money that was given. Does Deputy Allen ever read the Electricity Supply Board reports? There was very little free money given to the board in the past, and if we are going to put such burdens on the board in the future the outlook will be very black indeed.

As regards the point raised by Deputy Briscoe—the total amount required—the amount of interest, which will be in or about 5 per cent., means placing on the back of somebody a sum of £2,000,000 or £2,250,000. I believe it would be a good thing if we approached the problem of raising this money not from the point of view of ordinary orthodox finance, but that we should rather regard it as a contribution to the improvement of public health, the improvement of agriculture —just the same as in the provision of any of our social services. The provision of electric current to rural communities is a social service and we all should be prepared to bear a share of the cost. I believe it would be preferable if we arranged a loan, with a definite period for repayment, in order to obtain any money that may be required, or the money could be raised by the Government out of ordinary revenue and let us all carry our share. Some of the money that is required will be given by way of a gift as a result of this Bill.

It is true, as Deputy Allen says, that those of us who live in cities have been given this light and this source of power in many ways at the expense of the population as a whole, and those who dwell in the rural areas are entitled to every consideration because they have as great, or greater a claim. They should also be assisted by the population as a whole. I do not think those living in an urban area would have a great objection to that when they realise that the benefits which the urban areas have had for years will now be given to another section of the community who can with advantage use light and power.

As regards the point mentioned by Deputy Allen about fixing charges, I can appreciate the difficulties that face the board in trying to find a system of charges which would be simple and which would meet the situation. I have no objection in principle to the system of fixed charges except this, that possibly, because of the necessity of having to have a fixed charge, it would militate against the acceptance of the scheme by large numbers of the rural population. Even in the cities the one thing a consumer does not quite understand is the fixed charge and how it is arrived at. As a matter of fact, I once asked an official about it and he could only refer me to the head office; he did not know much about it himself. One of the difficulties about the fixed charge is that the average person has a difficulty in understanding why he must pay a fixed charge regardless of whether the consumption goes up or down.

I am merely trying to convey the approach of the average person to the use of electricity when it is subject to a fixed charge. If there is any alternative which will meet the situation so as to avoid a fixed charge, it should be explored. I think you will find that many possible consumers in rural areas, because of their habits of thought, because of their approach to money problems, will be very reluctant to commit themselves to this system of charging.

It has to be considered that payment must be made monthly, quarterly or over some definite period and it has to be a cash payment. While I am not an expert on rural life, I appreciate that for many thousands of people one of the biggest problems, apart from life itself, is the simple one of obtaining cash to meet ordinary debts. Here there will be an additional requirement to find cash every two months, or whatever the period may be. Some Deputy asked whether it would be possible to have slot meters installed. I can see many difficulties there. The Electricity Supply Board is trying, in the city, to do away with slot meters and to get everybody on the flat rate. I do not think they would be willing to change their ideas in order to meet the peculiarities of persons in the rural areas. If we had some system of slot meter, and if we could do away with the fixed charge, I think it would make for the more successful carrying out of this scheme and for a more ready acceptance by the people in the rural areas. I believe that it would be easier to operate the scheme in that way than under the present arrangement.

The Minister is like many reformed drunkards—he becomes a rabid T.T. once he changes over. At one time he had a wholesome belief in the idea of control by the people of the important factors in their lives. He believed in the nationalisation of railways and many other undertakings, but now he has gone over to the other extreme. Here in this Bill we are dealing with an enterprise which will be carried out by the people. We put up the money; we generate the power; we distribute it along our transmission lines; we wire the houses; and we even sell the apparatus. But one thing we will not be allowed to do: we will not be allowed to make the apparatus. I should be interested to know why the sudden break is introduced. The Minister will recall that, in the early days of the Electricity Supply Board, a very valiant battle was put up by those commercial people with whom he is now concerned, that is private enterprise, in an effort to prevent the Electricity Supply Board from engaging in the sale of apparatus. The board succeeded in securing that right and I think it was a very good thing. There has also been continuous objection to the board's engaging in the wiring of houses. So far they still do so, and whether the Minister will curtail their powers in that respect or not I do not know, but it is a fundamental feature of both gas and electricity production that an increase in consumption is all-important, that every possible concession and every possible inducement should be given to consumers to increase their consumption, because increased consumption means cheaper power and light.

One of the important factors in bringing about increased consumption is the use of various appliances and the cheap and efficient installation of whatever system of wiring is required for the particular purpose. Here we are dealing with one of these important factors, appliances. A very large number of different forms of appliances—even leaving out altogether any normal development in urban areas—will be required as this rural electrification scheme gets under way, in addition to the technical equipment the board itself will be called on to obtain for the erection of transformers, transmission lines, and so on. Yet we say that this important thing can be manufactured only by the board in one way or another—either in its own operated factories or by arrangement with a private company, after the Minister has fully examined the position to see whether any Tom, Dick or Harry in the country is in a position to carry out its manufacture. Why should we always be so much concerned with the private manufacturers? If we can make them ourselves as well and with greater benefit to the country and to consumers, why should we not go ahead with it?

One thing is important. The Electricity Supply Board sells a great many of its appliances on the basis of hire purchase. That means that, if we are dealing with privately-manu-factured apparatus, the apparatus is bought from the manufacturer by the Electricity Supply Board and their money or our money is sunk in it. It is sold on the hire purchase system, and it is our money which lies out, but the private manufacturer has got his money. Secondly, in the supply of apparatus, it has been accepted as worth while by companies supplying light and power to dispose of apparatus below cost in order to boost consumption. If we have these appliances manufactured by private manufacturers and if we believe it is good social policy that the Electricity Supply Board should sell appliances, especially to the rural community, at low cost in order to boost consumption and drive our scheme to its completion at a rapid rate, we are subsidising the private manufacturer. We pay his cost of manufacture and we sell below that cost. We may never reach that point, but if we do decide on that we commit ourselves to a system of subsidy, and a system of subsidies seems to be something to which the Minister had always a strong objection, except when it benefits some section of the private investment class.

I do not want to close on a carping note, and I do wish not merely to compliment the Minister, who is responsible, but the board so far as their ideas go in regard to the rural electrification portion of the scheme. They are bringing light into many dark places, and I think it is something which will bring about a tremendous change in this country in the next 20 or 25 years, if the scheme does progress on the lines the Minister outlined and at the rate he indicated. Possibly some of the light which will be supplied in rural areas may shine into some of the darkened minds in this House. We may learn something of the little problems facing us and discover that it is better to deal with them on a broad basis, with a proper appreciation of the fact that we are dealing with our people as a whole, rather than to deal with them in water-tight compartments, and then find that we have not dealt with them but have only intensified them and produced results in conflict with those which we sought to bring about.

I should like to join in the universal congratulation of the Minister on bringing forward this Bill. Very wide powers are being handed over to the Electricity Supply Board by this Bill with regard to fisheries and fishing rights in our rivers. Fishing rights in this country have been neglected from the commercial point of view and from the point of view of tourism for many years, and I should like to suggest to the Minister that some person or some body should be appointed to look very closely into our fisheries, our salmon fisheries, from the point of view of tourism, and that these powers should not be handed over altogether to the Electricity Supply Board.

Deputy Larkin put forward a point with regard to bringing men and women in to help from the social service point of view of this new project, but I think there is one weakness in many of our big projects, such as the Electricity Supply Board. It is that we do not pay proper salaries to the people put in charge of them. Someone in the Electricity Supply Board will be given the job of spending millions of pounds in the next ten years, and it is very doubtful if his salary will be more than £2,000 per year. One cannot hope to get in industry men fit to carry out jobs such as this on such salaries, and I ask the Minister to consider the point very seriously, because in all our State or semi-State schemes we cannot hope to get the best men for the job so long as we peg salaries down to the level at which they are pegged to-day.

There is one other point that Deputy Larkin raised, and that was the question of manufacturing equipment and apparatus in this country. I am all for manufacturing everything that we can manufacture in this country, but there is a danger that when one starts to manufacture equipment or apparatus, such as would be required for houses, farms, and so on, we may embark upon it at a most uneconomic price, and I would suggest that no encouragement, no tariff, or no quota should be imposed unless the Minister is convinced of the fact that the labour content will amount to more than the tariff or quota which will be imposed. My reason for saying that is that it has happened, in recent years, that tariffs have been imposed in order to create—well, perhaps, I should not say in order to create, but which, in fact, have created—a class of fifth-rate opportunists, who draw more in profits and wages while the general community have to pay more for the commodities which they buy. In my opinion, that has been due to the increases in the tariffs. I think there is no doubt that this country can bear the cost of this new scheme and, again, I should like to congratulate the Government on bringing in such a comprehensive scheme, and all I can say is that I wish them God speed in their work.

I should like also to welcome this Bill, but I should like to ask the Minister whether, in regard to the Erne, he has already approached the Six County Government with a view to co-operation, and, if so, what has been the result of his approach. I am very glad to know that he is seeking for that co-operation, because I am sure that such co-operation will ensure for this scheme the success which we all hope. I think that this scheme will be of great benefit to the country, provided that it does not impose a too heavy financial burden on the people as a whole, and particularly on the people in whose interests this scheme is being introduced, which is the farming community. In that connection, I might say that I could not see the justice or equity of the Electricity Supply Board making a fixed charge in regard to the supply of electric light in connection with the farming community. There is a difficulty in making out the bills that the Electricity Supply Board send out under different headings. I know of cases of bills being sent out, amounting to £2 or £2 10s. a month, out of which 13/- or so was payable under fixed charges, whereas the amount of light used during that two months amounted to only about 6/- or 7/-. Deputy Larkin has adverted to that fact already, and I think that if that could be changed, it would mean an increase in the use of electricity by the agricultural community, generally, because I am sure that they would take more advantage of it if they are convinced that they will be getting value for their money.

I do not know whether other speakers have referred to the question of benefits to the agricultural industry in connection with this rural electrification scheme. I think that the two schemes must go hand-in-hand, and that you must have agricultural prosperity if this scheme is to be made successful. For that reason, I think that the Minister and his Department should see to it that no unnecessary expenses should be incurred in the carrying out of this scheme. In other words, we want value for the money expended, and anyone who has taken cognisance of what has taken place in this country during the last few years must realise that we have to get a little more value for the money that is being expended by the Government. Some people seem to think that, so long as the money is being expended, it is all right, especially if it is being taken off a broad back, so to speak; but I think it is important for the Minister to keep that fact in the front of his mind, because nobody knows what conditions our people, and particularly our agriculturists will have to meet in the post-war years, and it will be absolutely essential that the over-head charges of the agricultural community, whether electricity supply or other charges ancillary to their farms, will not be increased, and that they will be enabled to meet the keen competition that we all know is bound to come when this war is over. I hope that the Minister will see his way, if it is at all possible, and especially from the economic point of view,—because he has to look at all these things from that point of view—to harness some rivers other than the two rivers referred to here. Of course, that will be a matter for his experts, but I think the Minister should not allow himself to be put into the position of having all his eggs in one basket. In view of what has been happening all over the world in the last few years, I think that that is very important.

In conclusion, I should like to say that I think that this scheme is a most courageous one, and I am sure it will have the co-operation of all Parties in the State. It is one that, in my opinion, will command the good wishes of all the people in this country for its success, and I am sure that we all hope for that.

There are just a couple of points that I should like to raise. I think that the Minister told us that he was going to increase the potential electrical output of this country by, roughly, one-third. Now, I do not know how much of that is hydro and how much of it is steam. Perhaps, the Minister, when he is replying, will make that point clear. I think that most people are aware that experts have told us that the Erne is the most promising river for hydro-electrical development. In my opinion, all we can say is that we hope the Electricity Supply Board have got the very best possible advice with a view to tackling that job, keeping an eye on all the potential energy that can be got out of that river, because I think that the Minister mentioned increasing production by one-third. Now, that could quite easily, in the post-war period, be exceeded by the demand. Some of us do not know why this scheme could not have been produced at the beginning of the present emergency, or why, possibly, some of the work could not have been gone on with during the period of the emergency. That, however, has now passed, and perhaps it is better to hasten slowly, and, if the plans have been very carefully considered, we shall possibly profit by the delay.

I understood the Minister to say that where there is an electrical problem, such as there is in this country, and we have not got hydro-electric power going to waste in enormous quantities, a balance must be maintained by means of steam plants. At present, the Pigeon House accommodates the steam plant. Nobody would quarrel with the idea of using our native fuel for generating steam, so far as we cannot get water power, if that idea be feasible from an economic point of view. The Minister has been very careful as regards the giving of the costs on which these schemes are based. At least, he should give us the cost on which the scheme has been made out.

Coming back to the question of generating steam for the production of electrical energy, there is one very important point: apparently, the Minister is thinking of the neighbourhood of the Clonsast bog as the place where the steam plant is to be erected. Presumably, the Minister has been advised by experts that that is the best site, but I fancy I remember times when we were told that the Pigeon House could be got to burn turf. As between turf burning and coal burning, it is only a question, I understand, of the boilers. A coal boiler will not burn turf and a turf boiler will not be economical on coal but, if we put up a plant at Clonsast and then discover that firing with turf is not an economical proposition, it will, certainly, not be an economical proposition to transfer the steam plant as an auxiliary to the Pigeon House. One would imagine that, long ere now, the bog that was to supply this station with turf would be in full production and that that turf would be in use to supply the community during the emergency. I do not know what the Minister suggests is the cost of turf. Taking a ton of turf as equal to half a ton of coal—many experts think that the figure should be 2¼ tons or a shade more of turf to a ton of coal—we find that turf is supplied to the public at about £3 5s. per ton and that there are losses under two other headings to be considered.

On a previous occasion I asked the Minister to state the amount of those losses. I understand that the combined loss to the county councils in respect of development schemes and to the fuel company amounts to about £2 10s. per ton. That would bring the price of half a ton of coal to £5 15s. or thereabouts. It is easy to see that that will not be an economical proposition in the post-war period. Of course, the Minister can round on me and say that if he could get coal during the present emergency he would not be using turf, but it is about time we got down to some figure and made up our minds whether or not we can provide our population with dry, cheap turf. When I speak of cheap turf, I mean turf supplied at a reasonable figure. The figure of £5 15s. which I have suggested as the cost to the community or the country is not reasonable and cannot be allowed to continue. I should like the Minister, when replying, to tell us to what figure he hopes to get the cost of turf down. I should like to reach that figure before the steam plant is erected in the neighbourhood of Clonsast. There is a cheap and easy method of ascertaining whether turf can be got out at a reasonable figure or not. That is, to supply it to the country as a whole while the present emergency continues at that figure. There is no doubt that there is a demand for electricity. There was before the emergency, there is during the emergency, and, so far as anybody can see, there will be a much greater demand for electrical current after the emergency. The Minister may say that he cannot tell what the cost will be. I think that the most important thing is to get a proper design and I am sure the Minister and the Electricity Supply Board have done their best to decide what is the best and most economical schemes for the country. I also welcome the introduction of this measure.

Like many other Deputies, I should like to associate myself with the hearty welcome which has been extended to this Bill and to congratulate the Minister and his staff on introducing it. There are a few points to which I should like to allude. One is the point raised by Deputy Allen last night as to the erection of the poles which will carry the wires to the rural areas. His suggestion was a very wise one. He was perfectly justified in pointing out the little interest which the Electricity Supply Board takes in the placing of their poles. In ten or 20 years, when this rural electrification scheme is completed, we can well imagine the number of poles which will be dotted throughout the country. Even with the limited number at present, many fields have been spoiled. One finds in a field one pole within five or six yards of the fence, another in the centre and others in V shape. The placing of poles in that fashion spoils a field for ploughing or for the use of agricultural machinery. I would ask the Minister to see that the responsible authorities will be as careful as possible in selecting the sites for the poles which are to carry the wires.

The Minister pointed out that this scheme would give a large amount of employment. That, of course, is very necessary. I think it will give even more employment than the Minister indicated. As regards the development of our bogs, it is necessary to take four or five feet off the surface of a bog in order to reclaim it for land. You can have a number of men making shores to drain the bog that is being cut away and turn it into land. To develop it for afforestation purposes, it will be necessary to get within one or two feet of the surface or of the gravel or soil. If you do not desire to turn it into arable land you can utilise it for afforestation purposes. A large number of men could be engaged on that work. This rural electrification scheme will have many effects upon the lives of the people, apart altogether from providing them with light and power. By providing a large amount of employment, it will do something which we all desire, and that is help to keep our young men at home and not have them emigrating. I am proud of the fact that the Government are going to develop turf, one of our mineral resources. We have plenty of bog and from the little knowledge I have the turf available will, with the use of the proper apparatus, be capable of producing the power and light that we need. When that development has taken place I cannot imagine any Government importing coal, especially when we have the necessary mineral resources within our own territory. Everybody will be in agreement with that.

Even if this effort did fail, it is well worth trying. I do not think that it will fail. Similar schemes in Germany and Russia have been a success, and if we succeed in getting the proper equipment and machinery there is no reason why the scheme should fail here. As one living in the very heart of the country, I can well imagine the benefits which it will bestow on the people by providing them with electricity. It may be necessary, however, to make some alteration with reference to the proposed flat rate. Last summer, when the consumption of electricity had to be reduced to a very low point, the Minister appealed to the people over the radio to be as careful as possible in the use of electricity from the national and the patriotic point of view. The one complaint that came from the people was this: that while it was all very well for him to appeal to them to be economical in the use of electricity he seemed to forget, they argued, that they would have to pay a flat rate irrespective of the quantity of current they consumed. If the rate for an individual was 6/- a week, and that he only consumed 1/- worth, he still had to pay the 6/-. Some business people in our small towns whose premises are lighted by electricity made that complaint: that, while they were being appealed to on patriotic grounds to be economical in the use of electricity, they still had to pay for something they were not getting.

We have a very large number of bogs in the West of Ireland and in the county that I come from. We have a large population there, too. For a century and a half our young men have been emigrating from that county. Many of them have not only been very good citizens in other countries, but, in fact, have become prominent in the Governments of those countries, and, in fact, in all walks of life. I hope the Minister will see that the county I come from will not be neglected when a start is being made to put the scheme into operation. We have, as I have said, a number of large bogs. We have, too, the River Moy, which, if properly harnessed, would help to light a large part of that area in the West. We have large bogs at Erris, near. Belmullet. We have thousands and thousands of acres of bog there that could be developed. If this scheme is a success, then we may confidently look forward in the future to a different Ireland. The people will have greater comfort and happiness. I, like so many others in my part of the country, have had the experience of living outside of this country. It is only when such people return home that they realise the discomforts they have to put up with. Oil lamps, for one thing, affect the eyes. On a winter's night they are not comfortable for reading. With the homes of our people lighted by electricity the womenfolk will be enabled to do many things on a winter's night such as knitting, ironing and sewing. Oil lamps are not suitable for that sort of employment. Therefore, a scheme such as this is bound to make the lives of the people better and happier.

There are some provisions in the Bill that may need to be amended on the Committee Stage, but on the whole the Bill is to be welcomed as a step in the right direction. I think every Deputy can join in that welcome. This is something which should have been started many years ago and completed, say, within the last five or six years. I do not blame this Government for that. Admittedly, the Cumann na nGaedheal Government made a start, but did not go far enough, and this Government was slow to follow up their effort. All that, however, is past and there is not much use in talking about it now. Our aim to-day should be to look to the future and see if we cannot do better. I agree with the Deputies who said that the provision, with regard to the flat rate, will be resented in the country. There are many people living on small farms of 15 or 17 acres who will be reluctant to have their homes connected up with the scheme if they find that the charge will be outside their reach. Perhaps the Minister would consider having some other sort of rate, something on the lines of slot machines so that people would be charged only for what they consumed. These are the only points I have to make. I felt that I should stand up and welcome the Bill and point out some of the advantages which the people in my constituency, and other constituencies, will enjoy when the scheme is put into operation.

It is one thing to welcome this Bill in the way it has been welcomed from so many sides of the House, but it is another thing—and I think it would be well—to interpret our reactions and to realise our responsibility in passing this Bill and our responsibility in relation to the work that will be done under it. As the Minister has pointed out, the consumption of electricity per head of the population in this country is very substantially below that in other countries, even in the North of Ireland. During the last few years those who were without electricity, both in the country and in the town, have had very good reason for wishing that they had it. The normal demand for electricity, which was increasing, has been given a very great impetus during the last few years, and we may take it that if electricity were available to-day the consumption per head of the population would jump very close to that in some of the other countries which the Minister mentioned. The desire for electricity in the country has been growing for a very long period, and the report issued by the Electricity Supply Board on the proposals and on the possibility of providing electricity in the country has commended itself, I might say, to every section of the people. It has raised the prestige of the Electricity Supply Board, and increased the confidence that we all have in it. If there is one thing which is strengthening the welcome to this Bill from various parts of the House it is that particular report. But that particular report, while it is a magnificent piece of documentation, is a piece of documentation dealing with the cost of the extension of the distribution net throughout the country. That is only a very small part of this Bill. The really revolutionary part of this Bill is that it proposes to hand over £40,000,000 to the Electricity Supply Board, to be spent according to plans which, once they are outlined by them and submitted to the Minister, can be passed by the Minister by the signing of a statutory Order, without any details of those plans coming before this House in any way or being reviewed in any kind of systematic or general way by the public at large, whether the ordinary public or the technically qualified public. That is the real, revolutionary proposal which is before the House.

While we are given a wealth of interesting and very easily understood information on the details of the plan for distributing electricity throughout the rural areas, when we come to the generation side what are we told? We are told that there is a scheme to be developed at the Erne. It is not clear to what extent the £3,500,000 which the Minister mentioned for that scheme will be entirely absorbed in the development of that area for purely generation purposes. At any rate, we are given £3,500,000 at one end of the Erne scheme, and what are we given at the other? We are brought down to the thousandth part of a penny, and we are told that the cost of generating a unit of electricity there will be .258 of a penny, but, in between the £3,500,000 on the one hand and the .258 of a penny on the other, we are given no information. We are simply told that 72 per cent., I think, of the production will be brought about by a unit established three-quarters of a mile from Ballyshannon, and 28 per cent. by another unit established about three miles from Ballyshannon. All the important detail, both on the financial side on the one hand and on the engineering side on the other, that comes between the £3,500,000 and the .258 of a penny, we are not allowed to know.

Then we are taken to Clonsast, and we are told the plant has already been ordered; that there are plans for developing electricity by the use of turf at Clonsast, and that other bogs have been reviewed. We are told that all the electric energy consumed here in the future will be derived from native sources, from peat and water, eliminating imports of fuel for the production of electricity. We are told that in future we are going to depend on water and peat. But, in respect of peat at Clonsast, there is not the slightest attempt to give us any kind of idea as to the amount of capital that is going to be spent there which will be analogous to the £3,500,000 that is going to be spent on the Erne. We are given no idea at all as to the cost of production of a unit of electricity there, but we are told that, outside of water, it is to be peat. The desire for electricity, the confidence that we have in the Electricity Supply Board, the capacity and the understanding of the situation shown by their report, and the necessity that everybody in the country feels for a constructive and vigorous and courageous approach to developing our country and to putting better machinery into the hands of our people so that they can use their resources and develop their economic life here —those are the things which are behind the welcoming of this Bill here. But unless the work that is done under this Bill is effectively and well done, we are only going deeper into the mire.

While the House proposes to give to the Minister power under this Bill to go ahead with this work and with this expenditure, it is utterly unfair both to the House and to the country to allow the generation side of things to be left in the complete obscurity in which it is left. We have from time to time complained very much of the complete and utter lack of documentation by the Government in regard to a number of important aspects of our economic and social life, and part of the attitude of the Government is to refuse documentation of any kind. I interpret it in this way, that the Government have not confidence in themselves and have not confidence in their plans; that they are just living from hand to mouth, from one day to another. It is symptomatic of that attitude on the part of the Government that, whereas they can give us the documented information which they have given us with regard to rural electrification, they have completely shut down on any information with regard to generation costs, particularly in respect of turf. It is particularly lamentable when they lay so much emphasis on the use of turf for the future generation of electricity.

The Minister did indicate, shortly after he first came into office, that the production of turf was to be made the second largest industry in the country. For about six years after that we had an expenditure of something over £500,000 on turf schemes of one kind or another. Turf was to be used in Government offices. Its production was to be assisted in every possible way by cheap railway freights. There was a flat rate of 6/- per ton placed on turf coming to Dublin or anywhere else. Turf was to be brought from Mayo for 6/- per ton. Then, a couple of years after, when permission was being sought before the Railway Tribunal to continue these rates, it was explained on behalf of the railway company that it was proposed to reduce the rate from 6/- to 4/- inside certain regions in the country. Every possible assistance was given in that way. But, as years went on, less and less turf was used in Government offices and the scheme, from the point of view of the use of turf by Government offices, was being gradually dropped. When the emergency came we had practically nothing left for constructive development purposes out of the experimental expenditure of £500,000.

Then, a couple of years ago, the present Minister for Local Government, speaking as Minister for Industry and Commerce, discussed certain aspects of the proposed Clonsast scheme and indicated certain conditions under which turf would be used to generate electricity at a reasonable cost. In actual working out, he never went near getting one-third as good results in the cutting and development of the turf there as he stated in the House it was intended they would get and that would be required if we were to get any satisfactory development of electricity from turf. We have not yet gone beyond the information that was obtained in the House at that time. Nevertheless, the Minister tells us that plant has been put on order for the Clonsast scheme and that, in a general way, we are going to depend on turf and water for the generation of our electricity. He has indicated that the general idea of the extension and development of electric power in the country is that the economic development of the country will not be handicapped.

Where are we to look in the most hopeful way for the economic development of the country, except, in the first place, to our agriculture, and particularly to the additional industries that can be developed around agriculture by the developing and processing of agricultural products. If we are systematically to develop agricultural production so as to make agricultural produce more plentiful and cheaper for our own people, we have, as the Minister indicated recently, to secure that our export markets for agriculture will be very wide and freely arranged.

The whole world is to-day revealing its outlook on how each country can make its people prosperous; how it can increase the standard of living of its people; how it can best utilise its resources. They have all come to the conclusion that they can only do it in trading co-operation with other people. They have all come to the conclusion that they have to export and import in order to make the best use of their own resources and to increase the standard of living of their people. If we are to be satisfactorily and economically developed here, we will have greatly to extend our agricultural process; we will have to organise additional industrial development in the processing of our agricultural produce, not only for our own people but for export. We will have to import certain things. If we look around us to see what are the things that we can import that we will want, or if we ask farmers or industrialists or townspepople to name the three things they want most, there is not one of them would not put coal into their list of the three things. If there is one thing that we can reasonably feel sure will be available to industry and to import from the market where we particularly realise that we can extend our agricultural exports, that thing is coal.

I submit to the House that there is no engineer or technical expert with any knowledge of the generation of electricity who will not say that, after water, coal would be the next best thing from which we can hope cheaply to generate electricity here. Now, the Minister puts ordinary people like ourselves in the position that we cannot produce figures to show that. But it is certainly up to him, when he puts a plan before the House and deliberately says we are not going to use coal, that we are going to exclude coal as far as possible from the generation of our electricity, to show in some way or another what are the comparative costs of producing electricity from coal, on the one hand, and from turf on the other, so that we may have some chance of accepting the case put before us by him.

On our experience up to the present, there is no chance of anybody being satisfied in his mind that we are proceeding to develop electric power in this country in the most satisfactory way by depending on peat. We ought to have some information of the capital that is being sunk in the Clonsast generating station and as to the cost of generating electric units there. I consider that it is treating the House in an absurd way to give the House the figures that the Minister has given and only those figures with regard to the Erne scheme. We, at least, ought to get figures that would be analogous to these figures for the Clonsast scheme. The Minister also said that they are now investigating the suitability of a number of other bogs. We ought to be told where they are. If the Minister has any information as to the number of units that would be generated in a generating station placed in any of these bogs we ought to have some idea of the approximate cost. But the scheme as outlined by the Minister simply suggests to me that he is not only asking the House for an absolutely blank cheque on the generating side, but that there is a political worm in the woodwork of his new electricity plan.

I said that this is a revolutionary measure in that it enables the Electricity Supply Board, simply by the Minister agreeing to a particular plan or plans, to spend in the next ten years £40,000,000, starting off without any information on our part and without our having any effective machinery for getting information as we go along. That is the position. On top of that position, there is now raised this question of the Minister's intention with regard to the type of the board. I ask the Minister, in dealing with this measure, and at this stage, to assure the House that he does not intend to allow, and that he will not allow, the interests of private capital to intrude into this Electricity Supply Board business or in any way, or in any fraction of a way, to knuckle in on the assets of the country as held at present in charge of the Electricity Supply Board.

The users of electricity, up to the present, have paid tithes enough to capital holders since the beginning of the scheme, if capital holders think they are entitled to get anything out of it. If the holders of capital to-day want to live out of this country, they should use their capital in developing additional economic or productive enterprises in the country out of which the people of the country may live as well as they.

There are many ways in which development can be started in the country without private capital knuckling in on the assets here which are being developed satisfactorily and which can be developed satisfactorily under the control of the Government and through the Electricity Supply Board, without assisting private capital to take money direct from electricity consumers by getting a grip on the board. When the electricity supply scheme was first established, it was not the intention that profits would be made. The intention was to give the people electricity at the cheapest possible rate, in the interest of developing the amenities of the country and of developing industry here. The finances of the arrangement were very conservative, so that—I think it was at the end of 50 years— all the capital that had been used in the building up of the enterprise would be paid back, the whole of the assets of the company written off and yet leave enough capital there to replace in entirely the works that had been established. There was no intention to create profits for the State. I do not think that there should be profits made, and I understand that in the policy that is at present suggested the making of profits for the State in any way through the sale of electricity is not intended. If the Minister is going to allow private capital to get a grip on the Electricity Supply Board, he will have to show us that the introduction of private capital would achieve a better development of electricity and a better carrying on of the business than we are getting at present. I take it that the Minister is not going to attempt to persuade the House that that is the case, but I do think that, in asking the House, seduced to a considerable amount of enthusiasm for this Bill by the factors that I mentioned, to accept the Bill, he ought to make it perfectly clear that he is not going to allow private capital to come in on the system and to draw dividends out of the use of electricity here.

It is true that the Minister, when dealing with the Transport Bill here, did say that he intended to make changes of that particular kind. I ask the Minister to say that he has postponed any idea of doing that in any way in relation to this measure and that we can approach consideration of the terms of this Bill with the definite understanding that, while additional directors might be added to the Electricity Supply Board, particularly to represent the interests and the mind of consumers of electricity, he is not going to change the relationship between the Electricity Supply Board and the Government and Parliament.

There has been some question of the cost of money in relation to this scheme and the Minister has indicated that the money that is to be provided for further electrical development, both generation and distribution, will be provided by the Government. I think we can leave the question of the rate of interest that will be charged to the Electricity Supply Board for consideration at some other time but I think the Minister ought to make it clear that he is not going to charge the Electricity Supply Board in future 5 per cent. for the moneys he will provide for them. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health, answering a Parliamentary Question yesterday, indicated that the Corporation of Waterford and the Corporation of Limerick were able recently to refund, in the case of the Corporation of Limerick a sum of money equal to £755,000, and in the case of Waterford a sum equal to £358,000; that they were able to refund certain loans which they held for these amounts and replace them by stock, at 99, for 29 years, at the rate of 3½ per cent. If the Corporation of Limerick and the Corporation of Waterford are able to get their moneys at the present time at 3½ per cent., it is fantastic for us to be discussing the question of charging the Electricity Supply Board at the rate of 5 per cent. for the money that they will get during the next few years. It is particularly so in view of what we see being done in other places and the examination that is being made of the trend of interest rates in the last 40 or 50 years, especially with reference to what can be done now as compared with what was done during and after the last war and arising out of the experiences immediately after the last war.

It is fairly authoritatively estimated that money should be available at 2½ per cent. At any rate, we have it that Waterford and Limerick were able to get money at 3½ per cent. comparatively recently, and that municipalities in Great Britain are able to get it at lower rates. We can leave for consideration at some other time the question of the 5 per cent. mentioned in the report and in the Minister's memorandum, but it is a matter that we cannot avoid considering and it is something about which we must come to a common understanding. There is money available in the country and we cannot allow the holders of that money to declare that they must be supported in an exceptionally privileged way, either by the users of electricity or by the residents in workmen's houses or any other class of people who, in their own personal lives, require to be catered for by society in very many ways in present circumstances.

My approval of this Bill is entirely due to the fact that it shows evidence of systematically organised and constructive work being necessary as bearing upon the economic life of the country. People in various countries to-day who are surmounting their difficulties are surmounting them, not only because of their courage and energy, but because of their precision and their training to be precise and to be efficient in both the organisation of their work and the carrying out of it even down to mechanical details. That shows us that we will not get through our troubles simply by courage and by broadly thought-out and broadly-drafted measures. We want precision in organisation and in action, we want mutual understanding and mutual confidence in one another in the supervision of that work and particularly in the people who are carrying it out. The Minister is not helping us to do that by persistently failing to document us in matters in which we would expect a reasonable attempt on his part to document us. I do not want the cost of electricity generation in Clonsast to be brought down to the one-tenth of a penny, even in an estimated way, in relation to pre-war prices of money, but I do want the Minister to make a broad attempt to show us the lines upon which the technicians' minds are travelling, if it is technicians' minds that are working, and the lines upon which political minds are travelling, if it is political minds that are working.

In the matter of generation from turf here to the exclusion of coal, I sense the minds of technicians in rebellion against it and I detect a muggy kind of political intention in relation to some of our national problems that cannot lead us anywhere. That should cease and the points should be made clear, so that we may endeavour to understand one another. It will be necessary for us to do that. I particularly ask the Minister to declare that the Electricity Supply Board will not be made either the plaything of speculators or of men brought in to direct it because they have money and can afford to invest that money in it. If the board needs strengthening in any way, it can be strengthened by the Government adding additional technicians on the one hand or additional businessmen or additional representatives of the consumers of electricity on the other hand; but it is imperative that we would understand that point definitely if the House is to give the Minister an absolutely blank cheque, with any kind of clear conscience.

I am very delighted to congratulate the Minister on bringing in this Bill, which has been long needed, It has been made clear to us during the emergency that there is great need for electricity throughout the country. I have listened closely to all the arguments put up by some of the Opposition members and I am very disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition should make the point that we should use coal instead of our own native fuel. If any country in the world has learned a lesson, or has tried as far as possible to live on its own economic resources in regard to fuel and other things, we in this country have learned that lesson. There are many bogs in this country and for our national economy generally I do not see why they should not be used fully to generate electricity. No matter what particular bog you take, it will give work to our own people and put money in circulation and help in the general development of the country.

I have heard other Deputies ask why this scheme was not brought in five or six years ago. My experience in County Dublin, before I was elected a Deputy, has been that the Electricity Supply Board canvassers going through the country were trying to get people to use electricity. I had personal experience some years ago of people refusing to use electricity. Then, when paraffin oil and other such things became short, they found that electricity was the proper thing and they tried to get it. The trouble was, however, that the Electricity Supply Board had to withdraw their canvassers, who became redundant, as they could not supply all the people who had refused it previously. I must say that this emergency has done one thing for the country: it has speeded up the electricity outlook of the people generally and there is no doubt that they will definitely appreciate it in future.

In regard to the development of the rivers, I would like the Minister to bear in mind those people who have to make their living by certain rivers, that is, the fishermen, as they definitely need protection. I hope the Minister will keep an eye on that particular aspect of the matter.

I am told that the River Severn in England is to be used to generate electricity. Is it at all possible that some of the inlets here might be used in the same way? In North County Dublin we have a few inlets and, though I am not a technical expert, I have heard some technical men say that those inlets could be used for the generation of electricity by harnessing them in a certain way.

While there are various problems which must be considered, I would strongly recommend the Minister to continue with the development of our own resources as far as the generation of electricity is concerned. As the Leader of the-Opposition pointed out if we are to develop the rural electrification of the country we should try to be independent of imported coal; otherwise I do not think the scheme will be practicable. I am not saying that we have not anthracite in our own country that might not be utilised but the fact remains that by far the greater proportion of our native fuel is to be found in the bogs and in localities where these bogs are situated, turf should be utilised to the greatest extent possible.

When I was introducing the Bill yesterday I made reference to a figure of £40,000,000 as representing the probable total cost of the projects to be initiated under the Bill. Some Deputies appear to have interpreted that remark of mine as implying that we were authorising expenditure to that degree under this Bill. That impression is incorrect. Actually, the expenditure which this Bill authorises is limited to £7,500,000 in respect of generation and similar development and £5,000,000 in respect of the rural electrification scheme. It is true that once we commence the enterprises which we are authorising, we commit ourselves to providing the full capital sums involved in the course of time. These full capital sums, on the estimate based on pre-war price levels, reach a total of £17,000,000 for the rural electrification scheme and £10,000,000 for generation and other development works contemplated by the board in the next five years. Assuming that prices post-war will settle down to a level of some 35 or 40 per cent. above pre-war, then the probable expenditure of £40,000,000 to which I referred will be reached.

A number of Deputies appeared to be under a misunderstanding as to the function of the taxpayer in the financing of electricity supply. The taxpayer heretofore has had no function at all in that matter.

It is true that the capital required by the Electricity supply Board was advanced from the Central Fund. That capital was advanced from the Central Fund at a rate of interest which at that time was sufficient to pay in full the interest paid by the Government on loans floated by it and in later years more than repaid the interest charged to the Government. The Electricity Supply Board was unable to commence payments to the Sinking Fund until the year 1938/39. In that year it made only one-fourth of the Sinking Fund payment and it was not until the following year—1939/40— that the full Sinking Fund payment was made. To that extent and to that extent only could it be said that the taxpayer was involved in Electricity Supply Board finances. It is contemplated that the whole of the amount advanced to the board will eventually be repaid out of the proceeds of sales by the board. At this stage for the first time the taxpayer is involved in electricity development. We think it reasonable that the taxpayer through the Exchequer should meet part of the capital cost of rural electrification. I gave the reasons yesterday and I do not want to refer to them again to-day. It is desirable that Deputies who spoke about the taxpayer being involved in Electricity Supply Board finances and of their desire to retain in the hands of the Dáil power over further expenditure should know precisely what the position is.

Deputy Larkin and some other Deputies referred to the possibility of the Electricity Supply Board making a profit. Deputy Briscoe was one of those who also used the word "profit" in relation to the Electricity Supply Board. The Electricity Supply Board is debarred by law from making a profit. It is required to fix its charges for electricity on such a basis as will recover the cost of providing electricity including the payment of interest and sinking fund on the capital advanced. It cannot charge for electricity more than will realise a revenue sufficient for that purpose. It would be, I think, fundamentally wrong for the Government to authorise the board, or to acquiesce in the board charging a price for electricity which would involve a profit on its sales.

Deputy Mulcahy asked me for an assurance that private capital would not be allowed to become interested in the Electricity Supply Board. The suggestion that private capital might be permitted access to the Electricity Supply Board came from Deputy McGilligan. I am not going to try to reconcile differences on the Front Bench Opposite, but it was Deputy McGilligan who urged last night that the Electricity Supply Board should be free to go to the capital market——

But not for the purpose of giving private investors control of the management board.

Certainly. I want to get the circumstances clear because other Deputies appear to be under some misunderstanding in connection with this matter. Deputy Hughes, for example, protested against the Bill on the ground that once it was passed we would be committed to a vast expenditure no matter what sum might eventually be involved. Deputy Coogan, I think, made a similar objection to the Bill. He stated the country might be committed to a vast capital expenditure on the Order of the Minister. I want to make it quite clear that that is wrong. Under the Bill we commit the Exchequer to advance to the board £7,500,000 for generation purposes and £5,000,000 for rural electrification purposes. The board cannot spend in excess of the amount which may from time to time be authorised by legislation.

May I ask the Minister a question? Will the Dáil get an opportunity of reviewing any particular development?

The Dáil must authorise the Minister for Finance to advance to the board the capital required for development.

And will Deputies get all details of such development?

I want to deal with that question separately, because the extent to which the Dáil should seek information on purely technical details from the board is a matter on which there might be a difference of opinion. The Dáil will know what the capital is required for and on the occasions when these Bills are under discussion. Deputies will have ample opportunity to criticise the administration of the board or the manner in which the previous capital sums were expended. The point I want to make clear, however, is that under the existing practice the limit to which capital may be advanced to the board from the Central Fund is fixed by legislation and can only be altered by legislation. Even though the board may prepare plans for new generating stations and get these plans approved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the capital to finance the development cannot be made available to the board except within the limits fixed by the Dáil in legislation.

Will we get any reports in regard to these matters?

Not necessarily. I do not think we should seek them. I want to get this point clear. Deputy Hughes and Deputy Cogan were wrong in their contention that once this Bill does pass, vast capital expenditure can be undertaken by the board without the assent of the Dáil.

I never made such a statement.

Then I misheard the Deputy. Deputy McGilligan asked that the board should have access to the capital market and that the system of financing the board by Exchequer advances should be substituted by another system under which the board would have the right to go to investors for the purpose of getting capital subscribed by the issue of stock or bonds of some kind. If we alter the present system I would prefer moving in that direction in preference to tightening the existing system of control by the Dáil, but I agree fully with the suggestion that we should not contemplate any alteration in the constitution of the board in consequence of permitting the subscription of capital on bonds issued by the board, which would give to the subscribers any power of interference with the management of the board or any right to the election of directors on the board. The suggestion could be made that the board, in certain circumstances, could get its capital cheaper if it had direct access to the market rather than to the Central Fund. That may not always be the case, nor do I think the board would inevitably welcome an alteration in its status which would give it access to the capital market. It is true the Exchequer must charge the board, in interest on advances made by it, something more than the Exchequer pays on loans, because there are management expenses which must be recovered.

What could they be?

They are not inconsiderable. If the Deputy will look up the Estimates for years in which Government loans were floated, he will find that substantial sums had to be voted for advertising expenses and other charges associated with the flotations, as well as the subsequent management expenses, which were not inconsiderable. I agree that the difference between the amount of interest charged and paid by the Exchequer may not be very great if the Exchequer is not to make a profit; but it is not necessary either that the Exchequer should make a loss. I would regard it as undesirable at this stage to make that alteration, though it could be contemplated as a possible future development. I think, in the immediate post-war situation, in which a number of projects involving large capital expenditures will be undertaken, even if there did not exist automatically in the Minister for Finance power to regulate capital issues, he would have to acquire that power in order to ensure that these issues will be properly regulated and that the capital required will be obtained in an orderly manner.

Deputy Mulcahy referred to one change in the present system which this Bill proposes and I think it is with this aspect of the Bill that Deputy Hughes is also finding fault, namely, the proposal to enable the board to undertake new water-power schemes without specific legislation for the projects, merely upon of the authority of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The board has that power already in relation to steam-generation projects. If the board wants to establish a new steam-generating station now it does not have to get legislative sanction for the construction of that station. It would have to get legislative sanction for the capital advances that would be involved. We are proposing to put the board in precisely the same position in relation to water-power projects as it occupies in relation to steam-power projects. It is undesirable that we should have to enact a separate measure on every occasion a new water-power project is contemplated. That may have been a desirable safeguard when the Electricity Supply Board was beginning its activities, when we had not had experience of the difficulties involved in the construction of large water-power projects, and when we had to have special consideration of the interests of the public whose lands might be acquired or whose rights might be interfered with We had two such measures, and the provisions of this Bill merely provide that in relation to future water-power projects the provisions which have already become standardised should automatically apply without the need for new legislation.

We can say that the board has reached the position in which it can undertake the planning of these schemes without special reports from international experts; that its staff are quite capable of estimating what is involved, both from a financial and an engineering point of view, and are capable of carrying out the works as satisfactorily as anybody else they might possibly employ for the purpose. It is because we have reached that stage in the development of the board in which new projects of this kind may no longer be described as experimental that we consider that the more normal procedure which this Bill proposes to establish can now be made the law.

I made special reference to the project for the development of the Erne for power purposes. I think it can be said that the only criticism offered to the proposal to develop the Erne was that voiced by Deputy McGilligan, and by some other Deputies, but particularly by Deputy McGilligan, that it should have been done earlier. It is possible to say that in respect of any project that may be proposed. I am quite sure it will be said in respect of every individual project that the Government will suggest to the Dáil in relation to the post-war period. Deputy McGilligan had, I think, in mind the idea that the Government was in some way remiss in not having developed the Erne previously on the ground that there was a demand for electricity before the war which could not be supplied. That is not correct. At no stage up to the outbreak of the war was the Electricity Supply Board in the position of not having a surplus of electrical power. At no stage was it in the position that the demand for electricity was in excess of the supply. The Electricity Supply Board had planned its development upon various assumptions as to the growth of the demand.

Exclusive of the rural areas?

I am not dealing with the rural areas now. The board had assumed that the Liffey would come into production, and that Clonsast would come into production at a much earlier stage than has proved possible, because both projects have been delayed by the war. In connection with the whole matter of water-power development, many Deputies have stressed the importance of associating the activities of the Electricity Supply Board with those of the arterial drainage authority. It is clear in the case of some rivers there will be a connection between water-power plans and arterial drainage plans. That does not arise in respect of the Erne. In so far as there is an arterial drainage problem in connection with the Erne, it is a Six-County problem, and the reason why we consider it may be possible to secure co-operation in the Erne development from the Six-County authorities is because they have that drainage problem, and they might welcome the construction of works which will permit of effective flood control, works which will be carried out at our expense, and which will mean for us the possibility of regulating the flow of water in the river which otherwise would not be possible.

If there is co-operation with the Northern authorities, then it will be possible to have a regulated flow of water to the power stations on the Erne. If it is not possible to have co-operation, there will be an unregulated flow. The power station will be constructed in any event, but from an engineering point of view it will be much better to have storage works constructed up the river which will permit regulation of the flow. In the case of other rivers, there may or may not be an arterial drainage problem, although I can assure the Dáil if there is in relation to any river such a problem, then the plans for the development of that river for power purposes will be fully discussed with the arterial drainage authority. I may say it is not contemplated that a further water-power project, other than a comparatively small development of the Shannon and a further comparatively small development of the Liffey, will be included in the immediate post-war generation programme of the Electricity Supply Board. The data which has been collected in respect of other rivers is necessary to the preparation of plans in relation to them.

Some Deputy complained that the data was only being prepared now and that the task of collecting it should have been begun long ago. How long it is desirable to have data relating to the flow of water in a river, before embarking on large capital expenditures in its development for power purposes, is a matter upon which there may be differences of opinion. Some experts will say that you should have that data for 30 years and others will say for 50 years. I do not think it would have made much difference if we started collecting data in 1935 or 1930. The fact is that, even in the case of the Shannon, experience in recent years showed that the data available at the time the Shannon scheme was prepared was unreliable. In 1933, there was a prolonged drought which reduced the flow of water in the Shannon to a point well below the lowest at which the experts estimated the flow would ever fall.

It is quite clear, therefore, that in order to get reliable data as to the water flow in any river, you must have a very long experience of accurate records kept. That data is being collected at the moment in relation to all the rivers of the country which could possibly be developed for power purposes. I referred to some of these rivers yesterday in reply to a question by Deputy Mulcahy, but I should like Deputies who want more reliable information as to the actual rivers in relation to which the Electricity Supply Board are carrying out investigations at the moment to refer to the most recently published report of the board, which names them, and not to depend entirely upon my memory.

Deputy McGilligan's criticism of what he called the delay in developing the Erne was, I gather, due to an objection, which he did not put in so many words, to the enlargement of the capacity of the Pigeon House which took place subsequent to 1933. I want to say that the extension of the capacity of the Pigeon House was approved of by the Government because it was represented to it by the Electricity Supply Board that it was the most suitable method of increasing its generation capacity, both from the commercial and the technical point of view. It must be remembered that the growth in the demand for electricity accelerated very much in consequence of the industrial policy which the Government operated. It is, I think, unfair for Deputy McGilligan to say that the growth could have been accurately forecast. So inaccurately did he forecast it that, shortly before he ceased to be Minister for Industry and Commerce, he approved of the closing down of the Pigeon House altogether. It is true that, in a very short time, the Pigeon House had to be reopened, but it is unfair for him at this stage to say that we could have forecast, with greater accuracy than we did, the increase in the demand for electricity.

There was, as I told the Dáil, an annual increase in demand amounting to an average of 18,000,000 units per year up to 1935. In subsequent years, the growth in the demand jumped from an average of 18,000,000 units to 30,000,000 units, and, in order to enable that rapidly-growing demand to be met, it was considered desirable, on the recommendation of the board, to authorise the installation of increased capacity at the Pigeon House while the plans for the electrification of the Liffey were being worked out. The work on the Liffey began in 1938. I do not know what Deputy McGilligan had in mind in his assertion here yesterday that not a single unit has been generated by the Liffey plant. The plant for the Liffey was ordered in 1938 and has not yet been delivered. Deputy Dockrell thought we should have begun the construction of the works at the Erne after the war began and suggested that we might have had it in production by this. How he thinks we could have got the plant for the Erne, the order for which would have had to be placed after the war began, when we could not get the plant for the Liffey which was ordered in 1938, I do not know. The plant at the Golden Falls station, a smaller station lower down from the main station at Poulaphouca, was installed and has worked intermittently since 1943.

The cost of the Liffey scheme increased considerably because of the increased cost of the materials due to the war. The increase in the cost of the scheme was not due to any defect in the plans for it, or to any inaccurate estimation by the officials of the Electricity Supply Board. Of the increased cost, no less than £327,000 is to be attributed to the rise in the cost of materials after the commencement of the war. A further increase in the cost, amounting to £100,000, was due to the decision, after the plans had been originally approved, to increase the capacity of the main power station from 20 to 30 megawatts. The only other significant item representing increased cost in the case of the Liffey scheme is the figure of £85,000 which is the interest accumulated in respect of the expenditure already incurred which could not be recovered because the scheme was never brought into operation.

Can the Minister say where the plant is to come from?

The Liffey plant has, I think, been ordered from a firm in Great Britain. A further reason which made it necessary to undertake the expansion of the capacity of the Pigeon House is the fact that it has not proved possible to develop the Shannon to the extent contemplated in the experts' report. The experts' report contemplated that the Shannon, at its final stage of development, would have a capacity, in an average flow year, of 126 megawatts. In fact, the installed capacity of the Shannon has been increased to only 85 megawatts. It may be that some further expansion of the capacity of the Shannon will be possible and such an expansion is, in fact, budgeted for in the post-war programme; but it will not be an expansion to the figure contained in the experts' report.

The new generation programme of the Electricity Supply Board for the immediate post-war period is, therefore, first, the bringing in of the Liffey. As I informed the Dáil, the plant is on order. It has, I understand, even been partially manufactured and when its completion and its exportation to this country are permitted by the British authorities, the Liffey will come into production. The Liffey represents an output capacity equivalent to half the estimated capacity of the Erne in the first stage of its development.

The second step will be the bringing into production of the Clonsast station. That was also part of the pre-war plan. The orders for the plant for the Clonsast station were placed quite recently in Sweden and I understand that the manufacture of the plant is proceeding with a view to its delivery after the war. Assuming that there is no mishap in that regard, it should be possible to get the Clonsast station into production at a comparatively early stage. The capacity of the proposed station at Clonsast at its fullest development will be 24 megawatts. It will consist of two 12-megawatt units, one of which will be installed at the beginning and the other at a later stage. The necessity for bringing the plant there to full capacity in two stages arises out of the fact that the mechanical equipment to permit of the production of turf on the Clonsast bog to the extent required by the station in its fullest development is not yet available and no one can say at which stage that mechanical equipment will be available.

The third step in the post-war development will be the Erne, to which I have already referred in some detail. There are then two further extensions, of the Shannon and the Liffey, both comparatively small in respect of output, and, after that, a further turf station. Deputies have asked me where that further turf station is likely to be located. I cannot say. So far as the Electricity Supply Board is concerned, it can be any place in which there is a bog suitable for mechanised production of turf and an adequate water supply. It is for the Turf Development Board to locate a bog which fills all the requirements and to get the preliminary work on that bog undertaken before the station can be begun.

That production programme is based upon the Electricity Supply Board's estimate that the demand for electricity will increase by anything from 35,000,000 to 40,000,000 units per year, from the day upon which it can put an advertisement in the paper to say: "The more electricity you buy, the better we like it." It is generally recognised, of course, that there will be an unsatisfied demand for electricity for a long time after the war. We are endeavouring to supply all our requirements, but the development of the Erne will take over three years, and the construction of the works at Clonsast, probably, will take some time also. There is, of course, the Liffey scheme, but the bringing into production of the Liffey scheme will not, in itself, be sufficient to fill the full demand of the Electricity Supply Board.

Deputies have expressed some concern about the intentions of the Government in regard to future steam stations. They have expressed concern about the decision that all future steam stations in this country are to be fired by turf. In this connection, I must confess that I was surprised to hear Deputy Mulcahy urging the use of coal in future as a sound feature of a national economic policy. I can understand people advocating the use of coal as being better than turf, in certain circumstances, for the production of electricity, but from the national, economic point of view, I cannot see how the Deputy could argue for it under any circumstances.

Is it not a question of too big a consumption, and are there not technical difficulties involved which are too big?

There are none. As a matter of fact, in Russia, 400,000 megawatts have been produced from turf, and in Denmark, Sweden, and other countries, it has been proved that there is no difficulty in producing power from turf. I am assured by the experts here that there are no technical difficulties whatever in the production of power from turf, and that it is merely a matter of adapting the boilers. In other words, it is merely a question of the production of turf. Turf, generally, has about half the calorific value of coal. If, then, we can produce the turf and deliver it at the station at less than half the cost of coal, it will be cheaper to use turf. Deputy Dockrell went into an elaborate and painful calculation as to the present price of turf in Dublin. The present price of hand-won turf in Dublin, which has to be brought across the country, and despite present transport difficulties, is, of course, no indication of what the cost of turf, produced by mechanical means, will be after the war. If we are to go into the matter of the present price of turf in Dublin, then let us have a calculation based on the present price of coal, and I say to Deputy Dockrell that if, after the war, we have to pay the present price for coal of the present quality we could consider selling turf in South Wales in competition with it.

It is true that the economics of various methods of power production are examined by a comparison with the cost at the Pigeon House, but it must be remembered that the Pigeon House is very favourably situated for the purpose of using coal. It was built for that purpose and it is almost impossible to use our native fuel there. Native fuel could only be used there at an extraordinary cost. The Pigeon House was built for a certain purpose, and the power station there was erected without any consideration for defence. If we were a belligerent in this war, it would be almost necessary to abandon the Pigeon House straightway, and transfer the machinery there to some other station, I think we must have regard to national security in view of our experience in this war, and that we must endeavour to see that our industries can be supplied with electric power, so far as is possible, without the importation of coal. I think we must also have regard to our national defence which would suggest the dispersal of power plants throughout the country.

Deputy Coogan referred to the matter of the use of anthracite, but we produced less anthracite before the war than we used. If native anthracite is diverted to power production, it would mean merely that more would be imported for other purposes. It is difficult to see that that would be any advantage in using Irish coal for the generating of electricity. If there is not a market, after the war, for all the anthracite that we can produce, then we will have to consider that question altogether separately from our power programme. Our intention is to keep the Pigeon House as a stand-by station: a coal-using station. In fact, the installed capacity of the Pigeon House is higher than that at Ardnacrusha, but I think that eventually we should aim at a situation in which the Pigeon House would be entirely a stand-by station.

Can the Minister say if expert opinion gives any indication of the quantity of turf available, or whether or not it is inexhaustible?

Looking as far ahead as we can, the Electricity Supply Board experts say that supplies would be entirely satisfactory from their point of view. There are certain problems in connection with the production of turf, and one is the question of its provision for stand-by stations. I may say that there is no technical problem in connection with the actual production of turf; the question is how to organise production so as to make it possible to meet the occasional needs of a stand-by station, while at the same time developing a market for the turf on the basis of regularity of supply. That is a technical problem which has been referred to the Electricity Supply Board, in conjunction with the Turf Development Board, and they are at present examining it, and, I expect, will report on it in the near future.

Is not that very important? Does not the whole thing hinge upon it?

Yes, but I have already mentioned that the Pigeon House is there as a stand-by station, and long before we will have got to the stage when we will have to worry about a turf stand-by station, the Pigeon House will be carrying the whole of our stand-by requirements.

Is the first station to be built to be a stand-by station?

Clonsast will be a base-load station. The next station after that will be a base-load station but, at some stage beyond that, this problem of a turf-fired, stand-by station will arise. Later, I hope we shall be able to discuss these problems regarding turf because I expect to be able, before the end of this year, to introduce legislation which will be the foundation of our post-war turf-development programme.

I want to deal with some remarks made concerning the rural electrification scheme. Deputy Larkin said that the Minister for Local Government had roundly condemned the idea of rural electrification. Let me say that there is no foundation whatever for that statement. I shall now give certain facts which I should not have given if Deputy Larkin had not made that assertion. I requested the board to prepare a report on rural electrification as far back as 1938. In 1939, when I ceased to be Minister for Industry and Commerce and the present Minister for Local Government was taking over from me, I drew his attention to certain matters which were outstanding. One of the matters outstanding was this report from the Electricity Supply Board on rural electrification. During his period as Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr. MacEntee pressed the board very hard—almost to the point of friction —to produce that report. Instead of being an opponent of the idea of rural electrification, he was, in fact, one of its strongest advocates and did his utmost, during his period as Minister for Industry and Commerce, to get the report completed. In fact, it did not matter at that stage whether the report was completed then or later because the war would have held up development in any case. It is only now that we know the war is still on; that could not have been forecast with certainty in 1941.

Many Deputies have referred to the proposed basis of charging for electricity sold in the rural areas. I do not know if it is necessary to defend the idea of the two-part tariff. It is quite clear that the cost of supplying electricity arises under two main headings. There is a cottage there and there is a 10,000 volt line close by. The first thing the board have to do is to bring a connection from that line to the cottage. In bringing that connection, they must be assured of getting from that cottage a revenue that will be equivalent to the cost of bringing the line even if no electricity is consumed in the cottage at all. Therefore, the fixed charge represents the fixed cost of connecting each dwelling with the supply. That is a fixed cost to the board—a cost the board will have to meet whether there is consumption of electricity or not. That fixed charge is not so high as some Deputies seem to think. If they examine the figures at the back of the board's report, they will see that, in the case of the bulk of rural dwellings, the amount of the fixed charge will not exceed £2 or £2 10s. per year. When the connection has been completed, the board turn on a switch at the transformer end and the consumer turns on a switch in his house and the current commences to pass. For the current so used so much per unit is charged. Therefore, the charge for electricity is based upon a fixed annual amount, which relates to the cost of bringing the connection to the house, and a variable amount which is dependent upon the quantity of current actually consumed. That system of charging for electricity is the soundest financially. No other system would give precisely the same degree of accuracy in charging. If the charge were on usage only, then there would have to be a variation from time to time as the revenue from the sale of current failed to reach, or exceeded, the revenue which the board desired to obtain. In the case of the rural dwellings, the fixed charge will be based on the floor area of the house and outhouses, and there will be an additional charge for the actual amount of current consumed. In that way, we can say now what the charges will be. They are the charges under the existing rural tariff of the Electricity Supply Board.

Some Deputies appeared to think that an injustice is being done, under the proposals of the board, to rural dwellers. In the urban areas, the two-part tariff is based, on the one hand, on the amount of current consumed and, on the other hand, on the valuation of the dwelling. The board points out, however, that the basis of valuations of dwellings in rural areas is different from that of dwellings in urban areas and is, in any event, exceedingly variable. They devised this rural tariff so as to ensure that the occupier of a dwelling in a rural area would not, in fact, pay more than an occupier of a dwelling in an urban area. But they do propose to include in the floor space taken into account for the purpose of determining the charge half the floor area of outhouses. That is quite justifiable because electricity means more to a farmer than it means to a dweller of an ordinary, urban house. It is for him something which he can use to facilitate production, something which enables him to expand his production or increase his efficiency of production so as to augment his earnings and thereby permit of the payment of a higher charge for the current.

Does that apply irrespective of whether the current is laid on to the outhouse or not?

The fixed charge commences to operate as soon as the dwelling-house is connected.

So far as the calculation of floor space is concerned, does that apply whether the outhouses are connected or not?

Certainly. It is intended to ensure that, once a dwelling is connected to the system, the occupier will have every inducement to use electricity to the largest extent. I am now speaking of the ideal situation which will exist after the war when there will be no scarcity of fuel.

Is there to be a flat rate whether current is used for power or light?

The charge is to be 2d. per unit up to 600 units and ¾d. per unit after that. The assumption is that 600 units will represent the normal consumption for domestic purposes and that anything over 600 units will be used for power purposes. Therefore, the occupier will get his power at ¾d. per unit without the trouble of installing separate meters or having different readings.

What is the difference between that and the urban rate?

What the board state in their report is that their fixed charge, based upon floor area, is designed to ensure that a rural dweller will pay the same as an urban dweller, who pays the fixed charge on his valuation.

Why does the rural dweller pay more for current than the urban dweller?

Behind all this, there is the fact that electricity could not be supplied at that charge to the rural dweller without a subsidy. It is because the supply of current to rural dwellers at that charge will produce a loss that a subsidy is necessary. It can be contended that the supply of current at 2d. per unit up to 600 units and at ¾d. per unit after that represents a price substantially below that at which many private electricity undertakings were able to supply current even in concentrated urban areas.

What is the exact difference? Is it about 3d.?

I could not say that at the moment.

That, I take it, is based on an interest rate of 5 per cent.

The assumption that the Electricity Supply Board must recover, in the fixed charges, 12 per cent. of the capital cost of the connection, assumes a rate of interest on the capital advanced of 5 per cent. If the rate of interest should prove to be less then the board will require to get back, in the fixed charges, 12 per cent. on the capital, but any saving made will be a saving to the Exchequer, and not to the rural consumer. It is because we cannot determine accurately what amount of subsidy is required that we have put into the Bill only a token figure. It is intended to re-examine the whole basis of the subsidy at a later stage when experience is available, and the amount required can be calculated more definitely.

Will the Minister clarify one point in regard to floor space? Will he define what is meant by floor space in the case of an outhouse? I have in mind a hay shed or barn that has a very large floor space.

On the Committee Stage I will produce the existing tariff rate.

I simply want to have that point clarified.

The board has, of course, this tariff in force at the moment. There are farmers and other rural dwellers connected with the existing network who are getting electricity on the basis of that tariff. What the Government decided was that they would subsidise the board to an extent that would enable it to supply future current on the basis of the existing rural tariff.

I am not objecting to this floor space, but I want to have the point made clear.

I will have a copy of the existing tariff rate here on the Committee Stage.

I cannot understand electricity ever being needed in a hay barn.

Except that somebody might want to turn it into a ballroom.

Can the Minister say what is the objection to having the rural and the urban dweller standing in as one? Why not pool the whole lot so as to have the cost equal on the rural and urban dweller?

In other words, move up the prices on the urban dweller.

Deputy Allen is talking now only about the occupiers of ordinary dwellings in urban areas. So far as industrial users are concerned, they make their individual contracts with the board. Their contracts may limit them to take a supply during certain hours or in certain circumstances. The farmer is getting electricity as a producer as well as the occupier of a dwelling.

Has any calculation been made as to what extent that is going to help the farmer's production?

That is a matter on which individual opinions will differ. I think that once the farmer gets used to the idea of electricity he will regard it as being as essential to him as any other factor in his economy.

In growing turnips?

It cannot be used for traction.

It would be much cheaper than paraffin oil.

The total of the farmer's production will not be increased by 1 per cent.

I think the Deputy is entirely wrong. The experience of other countries proves that.

I think the Minister might be allowed to proceed without argument.

Deputy MacEoin referred to the proposal in the Bill relating to the acquisition of fisheries. The proposals in this Bill are similar to those contained in the Shannon Fisheries Acts. It is, of course, inevitable that the construction of power stations upon a river must interfere with the fisheries in that river. The construction of power stations on rivers does not, in all cases, destroy or lessen the value of those fisheries. I think that can be said in the case of the Liffey. The construction of the reservoir at Poulaphouca did, for a time at any rate, substantially improve the potentialities of that river for fishery purposes, but inevitably, in salmon rivers particularly, the construction of power stations and dams must interfere with fisheries. We are putting on the board the obligation to carry out, in the construction of the works, such provisions as may be prescribed by the Minister for Agriculture for the protection and preservation of the fisheries. We are putting on the board the obligation to pay compensation to any person who can show that he has suffered a loss of profit or a loss of earnings by reason of the construction of the works, or, in the alternative, the board can acquire his interest on the basis of paying compensation. If we have to decide between the preservation of the value of the fisheries in a river and the utilisation of the river for power purposes, I think that, in relation to certain rivers at least, we must decide always in favour of power development.

In the case of some of the smaller rivers, it might be contended that the potentialities of the fisheries in them are so great that their utilisation for power purposes should be avoided, but in regard to the Shannon, the Erne and rivers of that kind, which are the main sources of water-power, we must be prepared, if necessary, to sacrifice the interests of the fisheries.

I do not think that we will have to sacrifice the interests of the fisheries. Certain works can be constructed which will assist in their preservation, and it is only in respect of limited stretches of a river that damage would be done or acquisition deemed prudent. In the case of the Shannon, of course, experience led to the decision to acquire all the fisheries in the river in lieu of paying compensation to the people claiming it. That has put the Electricity Supply Board in the position of being one of the largest fishery managers in the country, a function which they discharge through a member of the board. The board hope ultimately to develop the value of the salmon and eel fisheries in the Shannon far beyond what they were previously. No doubt, the board will be concerned to ensure that, in the case of the Erne, they will do the minimum damage to the fisheries because they will be anxious to avoid paying compensation, but, in so far as they do acquire the fisheries, then their desire will be to develop them as a source of profit to themselves.

Many Deputies referred to the suggestion of Deputy Allen that the 10,000 volt transmission lines should be run along the public roads. I am quite sure that if we were to do that we would have many protest meetings throughout the country and many demands made in the Dáil to have them taken away. The fundamental difference between a 10,000 volt line and a telephone line is that the former will kill you if you touch it. It is a source of public danger and one of the places where it should not be put is along the public road. If a telephone line falls down it will do no damage except that it may trip you up, but if you fell over a 10,000 volt line, well, you simply would not be there to tell what happened to you.

Furthermore, the cable required to carry a 10,000 volt line is substantially heavier than a telephone line, and, therefore, the network must be constructed in straight lines. The construction of the network in straight lines reduces the strain upon poles carrying the cable. If there are bends, then there is a double strain on the pole, and the pole has to be reinforced. While you can reinforce a telephone pole by a steel stay, the use of a steel stay to reinforce a pole carrying a 10,000 volt line would be another source of public danger. Furthermore, the location of the poles in a field is determined not by the decision by the engineers of the Electricity Supply Board but by purely technical considerations. The distance between one pole and another is determined by the strength of the insulators and the weight of the wire. You cannot have the poles too far apart because otherwise the line would collapse. I appreciate that the construction of these transmission wires in straight lines throughout the country is causing inconvenience to some farmers and even disfigure some gardens, but there is practically no alternative. The board have been asked to devise their network so as to avoid annoyance or inconvenience, but, if we are to have an overhead network at all, we must inevitably contemplate that the network will be constructed in straight lines with a uniform span between the poles.

The suggestion of using tidal power was repeated here to-day. I can only say that I asked the Electricity Supply Board for a report on it and their report was that, of all the methods of generating electricity, the use of tidal power in the present stage of technical development is the most expensive. I think we must take their recommendation in the matter. It may be that some new technical development will permit of a revision of that decision but, with the knowledge at present available, there appears to be no possibility of developing that source of power economically.

Both Deputies Norton and Larkin found fault with the proposals in the Bill relating to the manufacture of equipment and apparatus. Deputy Larkin spoke as if we were in this Bill curtailing powers now possessed by the board to manufacture or arrange for the manufacture of apparatus. In fact, the board have inadequate powers to engage in manufacturing processes under existing legislation. What we are proposing here is to give them that power, subject to certain restrictions. One restriction is that they must not go into competition with firms already established in manufacturing electrical apparatus and another is that they will not be allowed to engage in the manufacture of goods which will be produced efficiently and adequately by other firms, to the satisfaction of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

There is a large field available to the board in the manufacture of apparatus and equipment for which the board will be the only customer in the country. In respect of all that type of apparatus, I would contemplate the board either manufacturing or arranging the manufacture for itself. In respect of all other types of apparatus— and that applies particularly to types used by consumers—I would regard it as undesirable that we have one monopoly manufacturer. First of all, there are technical improvements continually occurring in relation to apparatus of that kind and it is only in competition that we get the benefits of those improvements in full. Secondly, individual consumers should be entitled to exercise an individual choice as between apparatus of various design. Therefore I would normally regard it as undesirable that the board should engage in the production of consumer's equipment; and I would regard it as desirable that they should engage in the manufacture of apparatus which they themselves will need. However, I think the problem will be to enthuse the board sufficiently to get them to proceed as far as we would wish in this matter rather than, as Deputy Larkin appeared to assume, to hold the board back from manufacturing enterprises into which they may be anxious to rush.

Some references were made to the constitution of the board. I do not wish to deal with that now, except to say that I do not propose in this Bill to effect any change. It is true that, on another occasion, I indicated that I would regard the constitution of the board as not the best possible and said that, if I were devising an organisation to take charge of the electricity supply of the country de novo, I would proceed on different lines. The fact is that the board is there and there are members with warrants of appointments which will not expire for two or three years. So long as its work is reasonably satisfactory, I do not think it should be interfered with.

It would be particularly undesirable to add to the present board persons representative of various interests, as was suggested here. That type of representation would be unsuitable in an organisation which consists mainly of whole-time officials carrying out executive duties. If you had a part-time board, you could undoubtedly provide for the representation of particular interests, or select your personnel because of their familiarity with the problems of particular interests; but the board that is there now, although it is not, either on a legal or practical basis, constituted as I would like it, would only be handicapped by the addition to it of a number of part-time representatives not familiar with the day-to-day working, as are all the members of the present board.

Can the Minister say how many part-time directors are on the board?

There is only one part-time director now—Dr. Henry Kennedy, a director of the I.A.O.S.

Could the tidal waves be used in any way in the electrification of the country?

Do not ask me that, as I am not an electrician. I asked the board, and the board said it could be done, but the cost would be so much more, in that way than in any other, that we should not consider it. It did not say that there was any technical problem in doing it, but merely said it would cost more.

Deputy Hughes asked why it was necessary to empower the board to construct railways. Not merely will the board construct railways in connection with the work on the Erne, but it will be necessary also for them to have railway connections between the bogs producing the turf and the turf station. It is necessary to give them that power, as otherwise they could not do it under the existing law. However, the board is not in any way going into competition with Córas Iompair Éireann.

I did not think that specific power was necessary.

Nobody may, in fact, construct or operate a railway without special legislative sanction. There are no other matters to which I wish to refer. There are some points of detail which were mentioned by Deputies, and which I think it would be more appropriate to deal with on the Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 7th February, 1945.