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

Sections 1, 2 and 3 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:—

Before Section 4, and in Part II of the Bill, to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) In preparing a scheme for the approval of the Minister and in the construction operation and maintenance of any works authorised by an approved scheme the board shall have regard to the desirability of preserving the beauty of the scenery and any building or object of historical or architectural interest and of avoiding as far as possible injury to fisheries and to the stock of fish in any waters.

(2) For the purpose of giving advice to the Minister and the board, the Minister shall appoint an amenity committee and a fisheries committee, each consisting of such number of persons as he may think proper, and the board shall furnish to those committees any maps, plans, drawings or information which the committees may reasonably require and shall afford to those committees reasonable facilities for inspection.

(3) The board shall in preparing a scheme, and may at any other time, consult the amenity committee and the fisheries committee, and those committees may, upon being so consulted, or at any other time, make recommendations to the board, who shall transmit copies of every such recommendation to the Minister, together with an intimation whether or not they are prepared to accept it.

(4) If the board are not prepared to accept any recommendation made to them under the last foregoing subsection the Minister after considering any representations made to him thereon may, if the recommendation relates to a scheme which has been submitted to him for approval but has not yet been approved refuse to approve the scheme and may, in the case of any other recommendation (not being a recommendation involving the execution by the board of any works authorised by an approved scheme otherwise than in the manner set forth in such scheme), require the board to give effect to it and the board shall thereupon be bound to carry out the requirement.

(5) The board shall not, without giving prior notice to the amenity committee of their intention so to do, use or permit to be used for the exhibition of advertisements any part of any land or building owned or leased by them.

I think this amendment is self-explanatory. The main idea is to set up two committees, one which will watch the interests of the fisheries of this country, and the other which will watch the interests of what I might call the scenic beauties and the architectural and historical associations of the countryside. Now, this is a rather important matter for this country. We have a tourist trade which is of very great importance to us and which we hope in the future will be of even greater importance. The fisheries, the natural beauties and the historical buildings of our countryside are of vital importance from the point of view of the tourist trade. I do not need to stress that. In order to protect these assets, it would be of considerable help to the Minister and the Electricity Supply Board to have these two committees, which would act in an advisory capacity.

I put this forward in no contentious sense. The committees are not asking for any powers other than powers of recommendation; they are not asking for any powers of veto. I think the Minister will agree that there might arise occasions on which the advice of experts in regard to fishery matters would be useful. Such advice, tendered and acted upon at the right moment, might go a long way towards preserving the interests of the fisheries people, while at the same time not hindering in any way any electric scheme that might be proposed.

This is not in any way an attempt to tie the board's hands or the hands of the Minister. Boards similar to these are in operation in other countries and they have proved highly successful. As regards the constitution of these committees, there are fishery associations in this country and I think those people will gladly tender any information or advice they can in connection with any schemes that may be proposed and also in connection with what I might call the scenic and general amenity side of the question. Then there are people in the Board of Works who have various monuments under their control. Somebody from the Board of Works might act on that committee, together with people interested in regional planning. I would like the Minister seriously to consider this matter.

We are aware of the very great importance of electricity to this country, but we are also aware of the importance of our fisheries and our scenic attractions. The committees, I suggest, would go a very long way towards preserving these priceless assets of ours which we would like to hand on unimpaired to future generations. I shall be very glad to hear that the Minister will accept this amendment.

Ba mhaith liom cuidiú leis an Teachta Dockrell sa mhéid aduairt sé. Níl amhras ar bith nach mbeidh coistí comhairleacha mar sin a dhíobháil i gcás na hEirne. Tá iascaireacht bhradán ar an Eirne ar an iascaireacht is mó den chineál sa tír—iascaireacht a bhí ar bun ar feadh na gcéata bliain. Is ceart go nglacfaí comhairle leis na hiascairí tríd choiste éigin sa chruth nach millfí an iascaireacht luachmhar seo fá scéim na haibhléise. Tá go leor iascairí ag brath ar an iascaireacht seo ní amháin i mbéal na hEirne ach ar fud bháighe Dhún na nGall agus ní ceart a ngléas beatha a bhaint díobh gan cúiteamh oiriúnach a thabhairt dóibh. Níl amhras nach ndéanfaidh an scéím seo dochar do phór na mbradán ar an Eirne.

I do not know whether the Minister will accept this amendment or not, but I believe there is some merit in it. There are important interests to be considered. The Minister will probably tell us that so far as fisheries are concerned the Minister for Agriculture will have to be consulted in all matters relating thereto, and that if we are to harness particular rivers, we may expect to have to make some sacrifices. It may possibly be necessary to make sacrifices from the scenic, architectural and historical points of view, and it may be to the advantage of the country to make such sacrifices, but nevertheless it might be well to have a committee of this sort to look after these interests. There is one interest which has not been mentioned at all, the agricultural interest. The number of rivers which can be harnessed is very limited, and if we had a wide choice it might be possible to avoid the serious damage to any particular interest, but a situation may develop in which a very considerable area of good arable land may be flooded out, arising out of the harnessing of a river, and, in such a case, it might be a question of the national value of that land or of the development of the river. We are told that Britain is very concerned about the area of arable land lost in recent years by reason of housing development and it is estimated that approximately 1,000,000 acres of good arable land have been lost in this way.

I am afraid that Deputy Dockrell does not refer to the loss of agricultural land in his amendment.

That is so, and I do not want to develop the point. I merely mention it in support of the setting up of some such committee to look after interests of this sort. I think it a pity that Deputy Dockrell did not include this particular interest.

For the benefit of Deputy Hughes and the Minister, I might say that this amenities committee would consider matters affecting agricultural land.

This section, which Deputy Dockrell proposes to insert, has been taken word for word from the Hydro-electric Development Bill for Scotland, introduced in the House of Commons a couple of years ago. The proposal to insert it here is made without any reference whatever to the other provisions of the Bill. I do not know whether it was necessary to have statutory provision of this kind in the case of Scotland—I presume it was, or the section would not have appeared in the Bill—but it is clearly not necessary here. We do not need the apparatus of an amenities committee to enable persons to bring to the attention of either the Electricity Supply Board or the Minister for Industry and Commerce matters with which that committee might deal. I think the House can be reasonably satisfied that both the board and the Minister will be as interested as any members who might be appointed on such a committee in the preservation of amenities where that is possible by administrative action.

The reference to fisheries appears to me to be completely irrelevant. It certainly takes no account of the provisions of the Bill and particularly of Section 19, which puts on the board, or any contractors appointed by the board, the obligation to carry out works in accordance with the requirements of the Minister for Agriculture and to adopt such precautions and provisions as may, in the opinion of the Minister for Agriculture, be adequate for the protection of, or avoidance of injury to, fisheries. The Scottish Bill from which this proposed section is taken contained no such provision and did not even provide for the payment of compensation for damage to fisheries such as is provided for in this Bill.

With regard to the final paragraph concerning the exhibition of advertisements, I can only refer the Deputy to the provisions of the Tourist Development Act which give the Tourist Board power to prohibit the display of advertisements on any land in an area designated by them to be a tourist area, whether the land is owned by the Electricity Supply Board or anybody else. The anxiety of Deputy Hughes concerning our supplies of agricultural land is somewhat forced. So far as the Erne development is concerned, only 750 acres are involved, and I think the resources of the country will stand that contribution to our electrical development.

Could the Minister say what sort of land it is?

I could not. The comparatively small area of land required for the development of the Erne will be appreciated when I mention that the Liffey power scheme, which, from the measurement of generation capacity, was a smaller scheme, involved 5,000 acres. There is therefore no particular reason to be unduly concerned about the employment of agricultural land for that purpose.

We may have other schemes.

We may, but the Erne will be the largest of the schemes we are likely to engage in in the future. However, I think we do not require this procedure of a committee to enable representations to be made with regard to amenities. The House can be reasonably satisfied that due care for amenities and historical buildings will be exercised by the board or by the Minister for Industry and Commerce when approving the board's scheme. The provisions of the Bill relating to fisheries are ample—far more ample than were contemplated in the Scottish Bill from which this section is taken. The provision relating to the display of advertisements is unnecessary, having regard to the powers of the Tourist Board in that regard.

The Minister would not accept the idea in principle, from the angle of forming such a committee of people interested in fisheries?

Local bodies or other organisations interested in any area in which there is likely to be a power scheme will be quite free to make their representations to the board or to the Minister.

Might I remind the Minister that the term "amenities" is rather an omnibus term? Would the Minister agree to accept, not exactly the advice, but the opinions of experts, of men with long experience of fishing for both trout and salmon? If an amenities committee were established, we can quite understand that among the first people called to act on it would be persons with some interest in, or some experience of fishing.

A large part of the Bill deals with fishing and the Deputy apparently has not referred to it.

I am speaking of the word "amenities". To a very large extent, I support the amendment, but I feel that paragraph 5 might be left out, because the Minister has explained why it is unnecessary. I feel, however, that contact with outsiders, people outside his Department who know something about the amenities of sporting life in this country, would be well worth while. They are people who, because of their experience, can give good and sound advice and when one has regard to the fact that something like £2,000,000 comes into the country every year from visiting anglers, foreign anglers, if you like— and that is a very modest computation — I feel that the Minister might give a little further consideration to the amendment with a view to seeing how far the idea behind it can be met.

I suggest that the Deputy should give a little more consideration to the provisions of Section 11.

I do not wish to press the amendment, but I should like the Minister to give the House some assurance that he will consult outside interests before approving of any scheme.

In connection with fisheries?

Yes. As Deputy Anthony has said, it is very important to get outside minds on such a matter as this.

So far as the fisheries are concerned, we go much further than merely requiring the Minister for Industry and Commerce to consult outside interests. We require the board, and not merely the board, but any contractors employed by it in carrying out approved works, to adopt whatever precautions and provisions are required by the Minister for Agriculture, who is being given an independent status.

Say the Minister for Agriculture in consultation with some recognised association.

I would remind the Deputy that the Minister for Agriculture is also the Minister for Fisheries with a fully competent staff to advise him on these matters.

On occasion the Minister for Justice has consulted such bodies as the Munster Game Protection Society, and, may I say, with some advantage to the Minister's Department. The same thing could happen with regard to the fisheries.

The Minister knows that under Section 15 the board is only required to consult the Minister in the case of acquisition.

That is in the case of acquisition as against compensation. After all, in so far as there is a question of the avoidance of damage to fisheries, it arises when the works are being built. It is in the construction of the works that the Minister for Agriculture comes in with power to require a modification of the plans, within limits, so as to avoid damage to the fisheries. If, when the works have been completed, it is found that some fisheries have suffered damage or that persons have lost their livelihood because of the effect of the works upon the fisheries, then the board is required to pay them compensation, with the alternative right of acquiring their interests entirely instead of compensation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:—

Before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(4) No approval order shall be made by the Minister for a scheme where the estimate exceeds £1,000,000 and a scheme in excess of this amount shall be implemented by direct legislation.

The object of the amendment is to limit the estimate which the Minister can approve of for any particular scheme. The reason why I put in the limit of £1,000,000 is that I do not think we ought to hamper the board so far as any small scheme is concerned. Under the Bill, we are already giving power to spend up to £7,000,000. So far as the power and authority of this House are concerned, we ought to be jealous in guarding and preserving our responsibilities so far as the provision of money is concerned. So far as the bigger schemes are concerned, those costing a sum in excess of £1,000,000, I think they should be presented to the House and legislated for in the ordinary way. That procedure would provide an effective check for this House. I do not anticipate that the House would at any time turn down a scheme which was presented for its approval. This procedure has been referred to in the report of the Vocational Education Commission. That commission expressed very strong views on voting big sums of money, especially when there was no effective check afterwards. I do not think that, in this amendment, I am trying down the board too much. I think that any scheme costing more than £1,000,000 should be submitted to the House for its approval by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

I think the Deputy is proceeding on the assumption that the Report of the Vocational Education Committee is such a lengthy one that nobody has read it. I have read it, and the commission certainly did not refer to this, or else if they did it was in some edition of the report that I did not see.

The report did not refer to this particular thing.

Or to the provision of money for electrical development. No doubt, the commission gave an outline of the constitution and powers of the Electricity Supply Board, but they made no comment which would justify the Deputy basing a case for his amendment on their report. If this amendment were carried, one of the main purposes of the Bill would be negatived. The Electricity Supply Board has, at the present time, the power to construct fuel burning generating stations, subject only to the provision of money by the Exchequer, which money cannot be provided from the Exchequer unless authorised by the Dáil. By reason of the fact that the first scheme which the board undertook was a hydro-electric scheme, a certain procedure was adopted in connection with it. The position has developed that while the board has power to construct steam generating stations without specific legislative authority, it has not the power to construct hydro-electric stations. We are proposing to give them that power. There is no reason why there should be distinction made between steam stations and hydro-electric stations, and in no case is the Dáil committed to approving of advances of one penny towards the cost of either hydro-electric stations or steam stations. The limit on the advances which can be made to the board is fixed by legislation, and can only be altered by legislation. We are providing that the board must submit its hydro-electric development plans to the Minister because, in the case of a hydro-electric scheme, there is the possibility of disturbing private interests which does not exist, in a similar degree, in the case of steam stations. Therefore, the Minister, as representing the public interest, is required to approve of the scheme. In any event, it is necessary that the Minister should approve of any proposal by the board to incur additional capital expenditure because the authority for that additional capital expenditure must ultimately be secured by legislation introduced by the Minister.

I think, therefore, that this amendment should not be pressed. We must have confidence in the capacity of the organisation controlling the Electricity Supply Board to undertake the planning and construction of hydro-electric schemes. At the beginning, that confidence may not have been there. The organisation was a new one, and the work upon which it was going to engage was novel in this country, but, since then, the organisation has not merely developed in numbers, it has developed also in experience. I think we can conclude now that the staff of the Electricity Supply Board is quite competent to plan hydro-electric development without this formality of a public inquiry because, in effect, that is what is contemplated by the Deputy's amendment which says that the approval of the Minister may be given where a scheme costs less than £1,000,000, but if the cost is more than £1,000,000 then, presumably, there has to be specific legislation authorising an individual project and everything in connection with that project. I think that is neither desirable nor necessary. Again, I would remind the House that the provisions of this Bill do not in any sense provide for the removal of the restrictions at present operating upon the expenditure of the board. These restrictions remain. By this Bill we are proposing that the limit fixed by previous legislation is to be raised, and that new advances up to £7,000,000 may be made to the board. That £7,000,000 has been allocated to the board for the purposes which I mentioned, and these purposes include the Erne development and no other hydro-electric development. If there is to be, subsequently, another hydro-electric scheme, then there will have to be legislation authorising the amendment of the limit fixed to the advances, but that legislation need not be of such a character as to involve the submission of the details of the scheme for examination and approval here by the Dáil. I think we can leave that work to the staff of the Electricity Supply Board.

The Minister has not said anything, I think, that would help to remove the uneasiness that prevails, and that has been brought forward by the introduction of this Bill. There is, unquestionably, uneasiness felt due to this, that the Dáil has no effective control over this board. What the Minister has just said I think confirms that. We are asked to vote £7,000,000, £10,000,000 or £30,000,000, and that is the end of it, so far as this House or the people generally are concerned. It is not a question of having confidence in the board or even of trust in the professional capacity of the members of it. The Minister, I am sure, will appreciate that much more than that is required. While the amendment, in its present form, may have the effect of pinning the Minister down to a particular scheme or part of a scheme, it merely indicates, as I have said, the uneasiness felt that too much freedom is being given into the hands of this board. There is no effective check at all, so far as this House is concerned. Once the Minister of the day comes in and asks for £7,000,000 or £10,000,000, that is the end of it. We know that, in practice, the Electricity Supply Board can tie up any citizen with a lot of obligations. If you want merely to get the current brought into your own home, there is a long contract to be signed, every clause of which puts an obligation on you, without a single obligation on the board itself to carry out its contract. The Minister should give this matter further consideration. I do not think it is an answer for the Minister to say the board already has liberty to set up all the steam stations it wishes, without coming to this House. If they were given too much liberty before, that is surely not a good case for giving them still more liberty in this new Bill.

I want to assure the Minister that, in any discussions I have had since this Bill was introduced a few weeks ago, the people who are interested and anxious to see the fullest possible development of electricity are uneasy that such tremendous powers should be given to any board. They say — and we know it is true — that the board is taken away completely from any check by this House. We cannot even ask a question here about any single activity of the board. I do not wish to be unreasonable in this matter. I appreciate that it is necessary to give them freedom from irksome criticism, either here or outside. I do not want the Minister or the House to tie the board up in such a fashion that their work would be retarded or restricted in any way; but, on the other hand, the people's representatives should have some function other than that of providing the money every time the Electricity Supply Board say a certain amount of money is required.

I think the Minister's whole argument was against his contention, instead of in support of it. He rightly pointed out that there is no analogy between steam development and hydro development, since there are very few interests involved in steam development, where you simply acquire a site and go on with the work, while there are many interests involved in hydro development. That is all the more reason why this House should be asked for its approval and why it should get all the facts. So far as the Erne development is concerned, we have got only a few general facts and no details. It is only now it appears that 750 acres of land are to be acquired. I think we should know the estimated number of people concerned in that acquisition and the number who must leave their homes. This House should insist on having the full details and should satisfy itself that it is in the national interest for us to go ahead with any particular development.

The Minister states that the £7,500,000 which we have already voted in the Money Resolution would complete the development of the Erne and that, in respect of any further development which may take place, he will simply come into the House and ask for the money without giving particulars as to the river to be developed.

I have said nothing of the sort.

The Minister stated that there will be no obligation at all to give the House any details and he felt it was unnecessary to give any details.

That is a complete reversal of what I said.

I understood the Minister to say that he would not discuss the scheme at all, that there would be no necessity to discuss it. I think this House should insist on schemes being submitted. I want to meet the Minister on this point, and not to hamper him, but while we are prepared to give power to the board to harness small streams, we think that, in the case of any big development, say, a development exceeding £1,000,000, the board ought to have the direct sanction of this House by direct legislation. That is not an unreasonable request and I feel the House is only carrying out its duty, its trust and its responsibility to the people in insisting on that procedure.

I think Deputy Hughes is misunderstanding the position of the House as the custodian of national finance in this regard. There is no question of the taxpayer providing this money. The Minister for Finance in relation to the Electricity Supply Board acts merely as a banker. The amounts advanced by him are repayable by the board and until they are repaid interest is chargeable upon the amount outstanding. It is quite true to say that the Minister for Finance has at various periods through the fluctuation in the rate of interest made a profit out of the advances.

That is one of the things we object to.

Deputy Morrissey said he objects to the fact that the House has no effective control over the board. The House has this control over the board: that any addition to the capital advances to be made to the board must be approved by the House. Deputy McGilligan, his colleague who sits beside him on the front bench, wants even that control to be removed and urged that the board should be given free access to the capital market and should not be compelled to seek it through the Minister.

That is a different thing entirely.

I do not think that is a representation of what Deputy McGilligan said.

It is not merely a fair representation of what he said, but it is about the only thing said from the benches opposite that I agree with. I think we will eventually get to that stage. This position, in which the board is set up as an independent authority, began with the Act of 1927. The board was deliberately set up as an independent authority by an Act of this House and charged with the responsibility of generating and selling electricity. It was recognised then that, if it was to discharge that commercial function properly, it would have to be independent not merely of day-to-day questioning in the Dáil but independent even of day-to-day supervision by members of the Government.

Now, subsequent to the establishment of the board, a situation developed in relation to the board's finances which seemed to my predecessor to justify him in coming back to the Dáil in 1931 to amend his original Act to the extent of giving him power to limit the capital expenditure of the board, even within the limits fixed by legislation. He introduced and secured the passage of an Act which required that, even within those limits, no capital advances could be made to the board unless he was prepared to certify that they were reasonably and properly required by the board. That gave him certain rights of day-to-day control. I think that the time has long passed in which that power is needed and it is proposed in this Bill to repeal that provision of the 1931 Act. I think it is no longer necessary to have that type of intimate control over the activities of the board.

However, in so far as the direction of hydro-electric schemes is concerned, it seems to me that the utmost the Dáil can do effectively is to retain for itself the power of deciding whether or not it will approve of such a project in general. I do not think this House is competent to discuss these projects in detail. We can decide in general whether we are prepared to approve of a particular project or not and that power to approve in general is being retained for the House, since no such project — even with the approval of the Minister for Industry and Commerce — can in fact be proceeded with unless the House is prepared to pass the necessary legislation authorising the capital advance. I should say that any attempt to operate commercial undertakings or Government owned concerns would prove to be impracticable if the House decided to keep in its own hand a greater measure of control over the details of management. If we are to preserve and develop this system of State enterprise in undertakings such as the provision of electricity, we must be prepared to establish independent organisations, subject only to certain statutory limitations of their powers and, having established them, we must be prepared to allow them to go ahead upon their own responsibility. Eventually the power of removing the directors of such undertaking gives a means of ensuring efficiency in management and, subject to the use of that power to ensure efficiency in management, the undertakings must be given the same freedom in commercial enterprise that privately-owned concerns would have.

I think the Minister has only gone still further to accentuate the uneasiness which is there. The Minister has given us his mind on the matter. He wants to have this board free and fully independent; that they will only come to this House in so far as this House must record its decision in the future in giving them millions to carry on. Having given the money, the House can forget about the board; they have no further say in the matter, good, bad or indifferent. That money must be voted by this House merely on the word of the board through the mouth of the Minister, without giving any details, without giving an opportunity for any effective criticism, or any possibility, to put it quite bluntly, of any suggestion from anybody in this House, no matter how competent or qualified that person may be to give an opinion. I should like to know what is the particular type of organisation the Minister has in mind when he talks about a monopoly that is to handle, as a fully independent body, to use the Minister's own words, one of the essentials for the carrying on of business in this country, not to put it any higher than that. The board is to get complete power to enforce charges. Am I misinterpreting the Minister when I say that that is what he has in mind?

This board has complete power at the moment.

Exactly. Not only that, but, having that power, whatever restrictions may be on them at the moment, the Minister wants to remove them.

I am not removing any restriction.

Of course you are. The Minister said that he was removing certain restrictions; perhaps that may not be the exact word, but the Minister knows well what I mean. He is removing whatever control or restriction was imposed under the 1931 Act and, as I say, this body is already a fully independent body. They are only beholden to this House if and when they require capital for their schemes. I put it to the Minister that there is another side to the picture; that there certainly will be in the future hundreds and thousands of consumers under the control of this board, and I doubt very much the wisdom of making any board or organisation fully and freely independent that has a complete monopoly of such an essential service as electricity in this country. It has more than merely a complete monopoly over an essential service. It is an organisation which is given power to acquire compulsorily not only the land, but the actual homes of people, if necessary, for the carrying out of its schemes. I know there are sections in the Bill dealing with compensation in cases like that, but it is a very drastic power to give any board; to set up a board fully and freely independent without any right, good, bad or indifferent, remaining in this House even to question the Minister as to why certain things were being done. A development running into £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 could be embarked upon. That is something that calls for far more explanation or a more satisfactory explanation than the Minister has given.

The Minister is attempting to give the House the impression that we are voting money for a specific scheme and that when the Erne is to be developed he will come to the House for further sums of money. My interpretation of the Bill is that, once the sum is voted and the Bill is passed, the board can spend that sum of money on any scheme; that the Erne is not mentioned at all in the Bill and that they can spend the money on any development in any way they like. My proposal is that the board and the Minister must get the approval of this House. Apart altogether from the financial aspect of it that the Minister stresses so much, there is the aspect of the big amount of disturbance that is likely to take place. Surely Deputies are competent to express an opinion on that. There is no technical matter involved there. If there is a big development, we should have an effective check; we should have all the details so far as that development is concerned, such as the number of people that will have to get out. As Deputy Morrissey said, the provisions of the Bill in that regard are very drastic. The notice that the Minister proposes to give is very short. People will have to get out of their homes where they have been for generations and they may not be satisfied with an alternative residence. There may be milling, business, and fishing interests, a whole variety of interests involved. Surely it is not unreasonable for the House to insist in connection with any particular scheme along miles and miles of a river basin, that the Minister and the board should have the express authority of the House to go ahead with such a scheme. I do not see that it will hold up or hamper the board in any way. The board will have to prepare the scheme fully and in detail and, so far as enacting the necessary legislation to implement the scheme is concerned, it will not take so very long to put through this House. I think it is the democratic way of doing it anyway. This is a development of the tendency which has been growing here and which has been condemned by the Vocational Commission of voting large sums of money and letting an outside body spend them without any regard to how they are spent. The House will never get an opportunity of concerning itself afterwards with the spending of the money. On the question of principle alone, I think the House ought to be jealous of its powers and responsibilities.

On the Second Reading, I suggested that there should be some means by which this House should retain its power over the working of the Electricity Supply Board. I am not quite sure whether Deputy Hughes's amendment is the best possible way of retaining that control, but at least it is the best that has been suggested. There is, of course, another amendment which would give the power to this House of annulling Orders. There should be some definite power retained by this House over a scheme of this kind. There is no doubt that a big development scheme does interfere with the interests of a large number of people; farmers deprived of their farms, roads closed, and bridges removed, thus affecting local authorities. Even in the development of the hydro-electric scheme in Wicklow, it was necessary to remove the dead from the cemetery in which they had been lying for hundreds of years. That shows the enormous power which the Minister is vesting in the board. For that reason it is essential that this House, in some way and by some means, should retain its control and not leave it to an independent body, with such far-reaching powers to go ahead and do whatever they think best.

If Deputy Hughes's amendment is accepted, or if the Minister can suggest, something better which will achieve the same purpose, I think we will at least be able to consider from time to time how far the rights of citizens, of county councils, and of various interests have been affected. In County Wicklow, for example, a large portion of the rateable valuation of the county was wiped out owing to the compulsory acquisition of over 5,000 acres of land with consequent injury to the finances of the county. These are considerations which the House should keep in mind and, for that reason, should seek to preserve its power to restrict or to inquire into the work which is being carried on by the Electricity Supply Board.

The Liffey scheme was, of course, as to the extent of two-thirds, a water scheme for the City of Dublin, and not a hydro-electric scheme at all. If the Liffey had been developed for power purposes only, a much smaller area of land would have been acquired and there would have been much less interference with local amenities. I think we want this board in the position of a commercial undertaking subject only to control which is reasonable, having regard to its position in relation to the State and the fact that it is a State enterprise. I do not see why we should impose upon this commercial undertaking which we have set up restrictions which we do not consider necessary in the case of private commercial undertakings. Why should we not pass a law here requiring the Dublin Gas Company to get the authority of a Bill every time it sets up a new gasometer?

It is not a State enterprise — that is one reason.

Is that the sole reason?

Mr. Corish

You do not vote money to them.

We do not vote money to this undertaking. I think that is the mistake Deputies are making: they are assuming that this legislation involves the voting of money to the board, the same as we vote money for other services. The board is restricted by the legislation which established it to obtain all its capital by means of repayable advances from the Exchequer. That is a restriction upon the board designed to ensure that the amount of capital expenditure which it will engage upon will be subject to supervision by the Dáil. I said that we could at some stage contemplate the possibility of putting the board free of that restriction. I am not proposing to do it now. I think it would probably have to be some substantial period after the conclusion of the war, when commercial conditions are nearer to normal than they are likely to be for a long time, before we could contemplate that change, but it is a change which could be contemplated and, no doubt, at some stage we will regard the establishment of new power stations, the development of the generating capacity of the board, as a perfectly normal and regular procedure, just as before the war, we passed automatically here, almost without discussion, the Bills which were introduced from time to time to increase the limit of advances that could be made under the Telephone Acts for the development of the telephone service. These are only one-clause Bills, merely altering the figure which represents the limit of advances that can be made and it is rarely that there is any discussion on them in the House. I hope at some stage we will reach a similar position in relation to electricity developments where the growth of the demand for current and the capacity of the Electricity Supply Board to meet that demand would be regarded as automatic, merely requiring this periodic sanction of the Dáil for the advance of capital for the purpose.

It is true that the economic interests which are concerned with the electricity supply are probably larger and more important than those that are concerned with the telephone service and, on that account, the activities of the Electricity Supply Board will always arouse more public interest than those of the telephone section of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. Nevertheless, I should think that we will find that public confidence will grow in the capacity of this organisation to do its work just as a commercial organisation should, solely concerned to get the best result. I think that it is a reasonable assumption that the board in any of its schemes will not interfere with any business interests or any agricultural interests unnecessarily because any time they do interfere with any interest they have to pay adequate compensation which, of course, they will be anxious to avoid.

I regard this change in the position of the board in the matter of the promotion of hydro-electric development as a perfectly normal development of their powers and I could not, therefore, agree to accept the limitation proposed by Deputy Hughes in the amendment.

Every time the Minister speaks he makes me still more uneasy. It is quite clear now that the Minister's intention is to make this State organisation — as he at one period called it — a commercial company.

No, I have no such intention, but it is a commercial undertaking.

A Deputy said that the Dáil did not vote money to the gas company. The Minister said the Dáil does not vote money to this undertaking. What are we doing?

We authorise the Minister for Finance to advance capital.

Where does he get it?

He borrows it.

From whom, and on whose credit?

On the State's credit.

Exactly. The Minister asked why should not we go to the Dublin Gas Company. Where is the analogy? I submit that we cannot, either now or in the future, set up the Electricity Supply Board as a fully independent commercial company.

No; there is no suggestion of setting it up as a company at all.

What does the Minister mean? He called it a commercial something.

A commercial undertaking — but it is that by nature.

I accept that. The Minister probably sees a distinction there that is not clear to me, having very little knowledge of commercial law or commercial usage. The Minister forgets the history of this board. When this board was set up by the State, it was given amazing powers by the State, powers amounting to confiscation of existing industries, existing electrical undertakings in this country that were commercial undertakings. The Minister knows what happened to the Dublin Corporation electricity undertaking.

Deputies are inclined to make Second Reading speeches on an amendment on Committee Stage.

May I submit, with all possible respect, that this amendment is aimed deliberately at restricting the activities of this particular board? I am dealing, subject to your ruling, with reasons why the activities of this board should be restricted and why, as far as possible consistent with enabling them to carry on their work, they should be subject to review before this House. If I have given the Ceann Comhairle the impression that I am making a Second Reading speech, I did not intend it that way, but I submit, Sir, I am replying to the Minister. The Minister mentioned the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. I am sorry he did not develop that more. That is a State organisation. It is run by the State. It is subject to review by this House in a most detailed way, in every part of its activities. It is a national service. It sells to the people of this country, to the community, in the same way as the Electricity Supply Board sells or provides a service. It is subject to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It is subject in every phase of its activity to question by any member of this House. Its activities are even more widespread and more varied than those of the Electricity Supply Board and it seems to be making a fairly good job of it.

Do not ask me for an opinion.

The Minister does not agree?

I do not agree and no sensible man could agree.

I suppose, following on that, there will be an attempt to set up the Post and Telegraphs Department of this country as a commercial undertaking at a later stage.

I am not suggesting that there is anything defective in the operation of that service. I do say that, as it has developed, it has been very much slower than in other countries where a more commercial type of organisation was adopted.

I agree, but what I do not agree with is that that was due to any lack in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs itself. The Minister, I think, would have some little difficulty in convincing the House upon that particular point. I think it is hardly fair even to suggest it. The Minister knows quite well that the Department of Finance very often has a big say in the rate of progress of any particular Department, and many a Minister would go more rapidly, and perhaps we would have much more progress in many Departments, if we had not that crippling hand of the Department of Finance used as often as it is. However, I will not develop that point, but I think the Minister will agree.

There is just one point that I almost overlooked. The Minister has been emphasising that they were not looking for any money from the State. Had he in mind the rural electrification scheme? Is it not the intention that, so far as the rural electrification scheme is concerned, the State will contribute 50 per cent. of the cost?

Some percentage.

My recollection is that in the course of the Minister's Second Reading speech he said it was proposed to provide something like 50 per cent. of the cost of rural electrification. That is a fairly substantial advance by the State.

The Title of this Bill is:—

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

The Minister gave the House the impression that we would be asked to vote sums for further development and that the House would get some information as regards that development. I submit that the board can spend the £7,500,000 that we are voting on any particular development and Deputies have no guarantee that under the terms of the Bill £3,500,000 out of the £7,500,000 will be spent on the Erne. The whole position is so vague that it is difficult to understand what can be done. We are not even given information as to what the money will be devoted to, beyond hydro-electric development. Can the Minister point to any section of the Bill that gives specific information as to what the extent of the development is likely to be, or what type of development will take place?

The legislation does not authorise specific advances for specific items. There is a limit to the total of the advances authorised. We are raising that limit. I informed the House of the main items included in the programme submitted by the board.

And beyond the information given by the Minister the House cannot glean any information from the Bill as to what particular development will take place out of the £7,500,000.

I am quite prepared to give the House all the information required.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 30; Níl, 52.

  • Anthony, Richard S.
  • Beirne, John.
  • Bennett, George C.
  • Blowick, Joseph.
  • Broderick, William J.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Cafferky, Dominick.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Coogan, Eamonn.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Dwyer, William.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Keating, John.
  • Larkin, James (Junior).
  • McAuliffe, Patrick.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Driscoll, Patrick F.
  • O'Sullivan, Martin.
  • Rogers, Patrick J.


  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick (Co. Dublin).
  • Butler, Bernard.
  • Carter, Thomas.
  • Colbert, Michael.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Daly, Francis J.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Furlong, Walter.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Healy, John B.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, James.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Loughman, Frank.
  • Lydon, Michael F.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McCann, John.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Connor, John S.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Mary B.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
  • Walsh, Laurence.
  • Ward, Conn.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Doyle and Bennett: Níl: Deputies Kissane and Allen.
Amendment declared negatived.

I move amendment No. 3, standing in the name of Deputy McGilligan:—

Before sub—section (3), to insert a new sub—section as follows:—

(3) Every approval Order made by the Minister (together with the scheme approved by such Order) shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and if a resolution is passed by either such House within the next subsequent 21 days on which that House has sat annulling such Order such Order shall be annulled accordingly.

This has more or less the same purpose as my amendment, that is, to preserve control by the House so that when an approval Order is made the scheme will be laid on the Table, and, in accordance with the ordinary procedure in relation to emergency Orders at present, a Deputy will have the right to move to annul the scheme within a certain period. It has much the same effect as my amendment, except that it gives the House an opportunity to move an amendment to any scheme approved, and the Minister has then to come into the House and defend the scheme, giving particulars and details and the reasons why the scheme should be proceeded with.

Everything I said on the previous amendment applies equally to this. In fact, there is only this difference, that, whereas Deputy Hughes proposed to allow the board the discretion contemplated by the Bill in respect of schemes costing less than £1,000,000, that discretion is removed by this amendment and every such scheme would require to be submitted in detail to the Oireachtas. I think the arguments I advanced for giving the board the powers contemplated by this Bill during the discussion on amendment No. 2 apply equally to this.

Might I point out that the powers sought in this amendment are similar to those provided in other statutes and in Emergency Powers Orders? I do not think the House, in my experience, has ever abused the power given to it in connection with these Orders. No motion to annul an Order has been put down without careful consideration or without some valid reasons. The number of occasions on which the House has sought to exercise that power is not very great, and I do not think it would seriously interfere with the working of the Electricity Supply Board if the House were given the power sought in the amendment so that if any Deputy put down a motion to annul a scheme the matter could be discussed by the Dáil. The House ought to have at least as great a sense of responsibility and justice as the Minister and the Minister ought to accept that and ought not to begrudge the Dáil the power which he possesses of annulling an Order if he thinks it is not feasible.

My opposition to the amendment is not due to any anticipation of an unreasonable attitude on the part of the Dáil. It is merely that I think it is a bad type of procedure in relation to this matter. I see no reason why we should give to the House the power to annul the proposals of the Electricity Supply Board for hydroelectric development, unless we give it the same power in relation to all proposals of the Electricity Supply Board for capital expenditure. It seems to me that if the House has power to sanction the advances of the capital to the board, it is ample power for it, but, if it wants to go further, it should extend its right of supervision and annulment to any proposal for capital expenditure which the board may make.

The effect of this amendment would be that if the House wanted any detailed information about a particular scheme, the Minister would have to come into the Dáil and defend the scheme, and, in doing so, give all particulars relating to it.

That is the procedure now.

In what way?

If this were merely a Bill relating to the capital advances of the board, there would be only one clause in it, the clause which provides for the additional £7,500,000. In introducing the Bill, and in defending these advances to the board, I told the House what the board was proposing to do—the new capital development that it was proposing to undertake. I gave all the relevant information concerning these capital schemes, and asked the Dáil to approve of the advances for these purposes. That will be the normal practice.

The Minister gave very little details about the Erne development.

I think I gave as much detail as the House would normally require about any such scheme: the location of the proposed works, the nature of the proposed works, the cost of the proposed works so far as it is possible to estimate it now, the capacity of the works and a general picture of the technical details of the scheme. It is only people who are electrical or civil engineers who could really assess the importance of any more detailed information, and if we are going to insist upon such information in relation to schemes such as the Erne scheme, why should we not insist on it in relation to the steam stations, or to the extension of the network proposals which the board may from time to time submit and which will involve substantial capital expenditure.

Of the £7,500,000 which is being authorised to the board by this Bill, £3,500,000 is estimated as being the cost of the Erne development, £1,500,000 as the cost of the Clonsast steam station, and £2,000,000 as the normal development of the board's net works and other services provided by the board. Some of these services are purely financial services for which the board may require advances. Now any proposal of the board may involve considerations which the Dáil would wish to discuss. We have either, in deciding to set up this board as an authority acting under statutory powers to generate and provide electricity, to rely upon them to do that job thoroughly, subject to the review which must inevitably take place when the reappointment of the members of the board is due, or else we are going to keep control entirely in our own hands, and require the board to submit in detail every proposal for capital expenditure before we authorise it. I think that the latter method would be impracticable. If we are to go in the other direction, we should not pick out one particular class of item on which capital expenditure may be involved and say in respect of it that we will not give it to the board, but will give it in respect of all other items.

As regards the giving of technical information, we ought to remember that we are not giving it merely to the House but, possibly, to technical experts outside. There ought to be publicity of all the details necessary for a big hydro—electric scheme so that the scheme will be subject to criticism by the public. That criticism might be of advantage to the scheme, to the board and to the Minister. A man outside the House, not associated with the board at all, might see some flaw in a scheme if all the details were published. If he did that would be an advantage. No matter how experienced a man may be, he still has something to learn. I am sure that even the Minister himself learns something new every day. I have nothing but the greatest respect for electrical experts. While that is so, I think that the more examination and publicity a scheme gets the better it will be for all concerned.

Why these types of schemes only? We give advances for harbour work; waterworks and constructional projects of various kinds, and yet we do not insist on the details of these schemes being submitted to the Dáil for technical discussion.

There is this difference, of course, that in the case of Departments of State to which advances are made for particular schemes the expenditure of the money so advanced to a Department is subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The only information we get with regard to the Electricity Supply Board is when new directors are being appointed, or when an increase in the advances is required by the board.

There is also the annual report of the board which must be published.

While I am inclined to agree that you cannot go into all the details of a technical development like this, still it might be worth while if, occasionally, a certain amount of consideration was given to it. It might be found, for example, that some of the technical opinions were based on insufficient or inaccurate information. I think it would be a good thing if a certain amount of publicity were given to a scheme of this kind. For one thing it might mean that the public would give it more general approval. I suppose the Minister is aware that when this scheme was first published a large number of people were under the impression that they were going to have electricity in a few weeks' time, and that if we had not the war they seemed to feel quite certain they would have the electricity in a very short time. It might be well if the scheme were tabled in the House.

The scheme will be presented to the House. I have no objection as regards the publication to the Dáil of the approval Order made by the Minister. That would be the normal practice. As the Deputy is aware, in similar matters at the present time, even though there is no statutory obligation, that procedure is followed, and will be followed in this case.

That would mean that the House, if necessary, could discuss the scheme?

On a motion, yes, but not on an annulment Order.

This has been a most interesting debate since the Party, which was in power when the Electricity Supply Board was set up, is now attacking the Minister because he wants to continue what has always been the practice. As one outside the conflict, I do not quite follow the Minister in this new development so far as the board is concerned. I think that he is trying to confuse the issue. Nobody wants to subject the board to day to day supervision, but, surely, we are entitled to consider from time to time questions of principle and policy without interfering with the technical or even the commercial control of the undertaking. We have not got that opportunity at present.

The fact that we have not is no argument why we should give further power to the board. One thing that strikes me is this: that in the Bill, apart from whether a scheme is carried out or not, the Minister has to make an approval Order. In doing that he will tell us that he will be guided by his experts. It is quite clear that if he gets the opinion of experts that he, as a layman, must form his opinion on the opinions submitted to him by the experts. Is the Minister any more capable of forming that opinion, or is he more liable to avoid the making of mistakes than the Dáil? I have a very high respect for experts and for technical men not only in their own field but in wider fields. We all know that technical experts have made mistakes. They have made them not only on their own technical ground, but when dealing with wider questions of national and social policy. If the Minister, as a layman, acting for the Government and the Dáil, is to be empowered to approve of technical schemes, I can see no reason why the Dáil, as the representative of the citizens as a whole, should not also be entitled to express their opinions, even though they may be wrong, at least to the point of eliciting further information and requiring the Minister or the experts to sustain their arguments to a greater extent. From that point of view, I think the amendment is a reasonable one. We are not going to interfere in any way with the preparation of schemes, or with the power of the Minister to make the decision, but we do seek an opportunity within a limited period to say: "Here is a scheme prepared by experts and approved of by the Minister, but we are still unsatisfied on certain major issues and we, therefore, retain to ourselves the power to insist on further information being given to us, not on the intimate technical question—on which the Minister himself is not capable of deciding, but must be guided by the experts—but of the same type as the information submitted to the Minister".

The Minister, while being a representative of a political Party, is also a servant of this House and what the servant is entitled to get surely the master is entitled to receive. It is not going to delay schemes but will mean that what we gave away before we will get back now, that is, something which was given away by men who have now learned some other lesson and are trying to rectify the mistake they made. I do not know exactly what attitude the present Minister took when the Act of 1927 was going through, but somehow I feel he would be speaking then somewhat more from the platform that we are speaking from.

The amusement Deputy Larkin is getting would be accentuated if he looked up the debates of the more recent Electricity (Amendment) Acts which were introduced here, when the effort of the Party opposite was almost entirely confined to getting greater freedom for the Electricity Supply Board from this type of restriction.

A Daniel comes to judgment sometimes.

Nevertheless, in relation to the point made by Deputy Larkin, I wish to say that the Minister has got certain executive obligations in relation to this undertaking. The Government not merely appoints the members of the board but is faced periodically with the task of reappointing them or substituting other members. Therefore, the Government has to keep in touch with the manner in which the board is discharging its responsibilities. There is no desire to withhold information from the Dáil. On the contrary, I should say that the reports submitted to the Dáil periodically by the Electricity Supply Board are extraordinarily informative and certainly are designed to ensure that members of the Dáil will have all information possible concerning the undertaking.

What it is desired to ensure is that there will not remain, in the provisions of this Bill, the implication that the Electricity Supply Board are not yet to be trusted to do this part of their job competently. Proposals for technical projects of various kinds—harbour works or other projects, as well as Electricity Supply Board projects— come periodically to the Department of Industry and Commerce. We do not attempt to assess the technical merits of those proposals. If we consider it desirable, we may engage the services of an impartial expert to give a second opinion upon the merits of the proposal, but primarily the function of the Minister for Industry and Commerce is to relate these proposals to the general scheme of national economic development.

Reference was made to the Report of the Commission on Vocational Organisation. That commission, in so far as' it is possible to get a definite indication of their views from the somewhat vague wording of the report, apparently thought that the Electricity Supply Board should be given complete freedom in the determination of technical questions relating to the generation of electricity and mentioned, as illustrative of their point, such questions as the utilisation of turf-fired generating stations. I do not think they should be given complete freedom on that question. I think that the Electricity Supply Board, like every other commercial undertaking in the country, should be made conform to the general decisions affecting national economic policy; and if there is a general decision in favour of making our supplies of fuel independent of imported supplies, then they must be required to conform, in the same way as everybody else, and the Minister should have power to ensure that conformity.

It is because questions of that kind might arise that the positive approval of the Minister to schemes of this kind should be necessary. In any event, his positive approval is necessary as, in the last resort, he can refuse to come to the Dáil with a Bill to provide the capital. However, it seems to me an entirely different matter to say to the board that every scheme they make must be examined by the Dáil and approved of by the Dáil, as we do not rely upon the board's judgment to devise the best possible scheme for a development of that kind. I think that is a wrong position. We had to adopt that position in the past, where my predecessor in 1931 had to tighten the provisions of the 1927 Act, to give him more control, as he had not got confidence in the administration of the Electricity Supply Board—nor was he entitled to have confidence, judging by certain things that happened.

That situation has changed considerably in the 15 years that have passed and during that period the Electricity Supply Board administration has reached the stage in which we can, I think, say to them: "You are regarded by us being fully competent to do your job properly and we are giving you authority to do so, subject only to the financial control which the Dáil must retain."

There is no suggestion in the amendment that we have not got faith in the Electricity Supply Board as technical experts. All we are saying is that if at any time they do devise a scheme in which there are certain issues of policy affected, there should be an avenue by which the Dáil can examine the position. It does not mean that every scheme which is planned will automatically be annulled by the Dáil, but it does mean that we retain some loophole which we had not in the past.

While a comparison with harbour works and such forms of construction may be relevant to a certain extent, we are dealing here with what Deputy Morrissey has described as a national monopoly greater than practically anything else we have in the country, which is of tremendous importance to our future industrial and social development. In our discussion on rural electrification, compliments were passed on the report submitted by the board—a very good report—but if they had taken a very different line in that report—and they could have done so, on technical grounds—members of this House might have felt that a good deal of the success of the scheme was going to be endangered, because of the nature of the charges or the basis of the charges which would be imposed. Surely we were entitled to express our viewpoint, if necessary, without hampering the technical development of the project?

There is adequate power to raise any question by way of motion and that is why the report of the Electricity Supply Board is submitted periodically, to enable the Dáil to use that power if it wishes.

The Minister seems to overlook that the main purpose of the amendment it to give the House power to approve of or annul any scheme prepared. That puts those schemes in a different category from every activity of the board. The Minister said this House could then interfere with every possible activity of the board. But every possible activity of the board is not submitted to the Minister for approval or disapproval. These hydroelectric development schemes are submitted to the Minister, as there are so many interests involved and as the Minister is regarded as the custodian of the public interest, just as the Minister for Agriculture is regarded as the custodian in regard to fisheries and so on. All that is asked by this amendment is that the House should share with the Minister that power and responsibility; not perhaps to the same extent, because it is not likely that we would have a motion to annul every scheme prepared by the board for the Minister's approval. But when a hydro—electric scheme is prepared for a district, matters might come to light in which the interests of a town, a village, country districts, or a number of farmers might be endangered and it is desirable that the Dáil should have power to take immediate action such as is provided for in this amendment. The same power would not be available to this House by raising the matter on an ordinary motion which might not be considered for perhaps 12 months.

I should like to correct the Deputy. All schemes for capital expenditure are submitted to the Minister for Industry and Commerce for approval. The position in relation to hydro schemes is that even the Minister could not approve of them in the past; they had to be approved by a special Bill.

That means that powers are being sought in this Bill?

No. In relation to all other types of capital expenditure, the practice is to have them submitted and approved, just as these schemes will be submitted and approved.

Amendment put and declared negatived.

Sections 4 and 5 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 6 stand part of the Bill."

I should like to ask the Minister is it not possible to define a scheme more closely than is provided for in sub—section (2), which states:

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

That is giving very wide powers.

It is inevitable. In connection with a big construction work of that kind, you can never be quite certain of the difficulties that may arise.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 7 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:—

In sub-section (2), line 45, to delete the word "three" and substitute therefor the word "six".

Sub-section (2) provides for a payment of 3 per cent. interest on any compensation that is due from the time entry is made on the property until the compensation is paid. It is quite possible that a man may be disturbed from a farm of land or a business and may have to wait two or three years for compensation. Three per cent. would be a very small return on his capital. As a matter of fact, he could not live on it.

He need not wait for three years. The Deputy has another amendment which requires that a matter should be brought to arbitration within 12 months. It is only brought to arbitration when it is evident that agreement cannot be reached. A matter can be brought to arbitration by either of the parties, including the party claiming compensation. He does not have to wait for any length of time, if he proceeds to arbitration. He can proceed to arbitration at any time if he is not satisfied with the offer made. Normally, matters are fixed by agreement and it is only in a limited number of cases that arbitration would arise at all. The present rate of interest would not justify paying a higher rate.

You are charging the board 5 per cent.

We are not charging the board 5 per cent. That is a question I would like to discuss later. We will not necessarily charge the board 5 per cent. in respect of future advances.

It is the charge you are making for advances.

Some of the money advanced to the board was borrowed at 5 per cent.

But for future advances?

We are not charging 5 per cent. for future advances.

I think this is a different matter altogether. In this case property is compulsorily taken over in the interest of the State. A man might have to wait for a long period, even after he gets compensation, before he gets a suitable place. In this case a man may be deprived of a business or a holding and 3 per cent. interest is scarcely fair.

What is the justification for offering more? Other Acts provided for a higher rate of interest because the prevailing market quotation showed that money was only available at a higher rate of interest in these times. The fact is that 3 per cent. is now the rate.

This is a question of what the man could have earned with the capital invested in his business.

I assume that the compensation will provide for disturbance.

I submit that you cannot measure the rate of interest by the rate at which you can borrow capital, because this is a different matter; this is a question of disturbance where a man is interfered with and cannot pursue his normal business because it is taken from him and he has to live on his capital for two or three years perhaps. It might be even more than that before he can get another suitable business or another farm. While waiting for his compensation, it is unfair to offer him interest at a rate as low as 3 per cent.

I would not agree. When that is the prevailing rate of interest, I do not think we would be justified in offering more. The amount he gets is deemed to be adequate compensation for his loss. We do not want to subsidise the amount further in the way of interest.

I understand that some of the people disturbed in connection with the Shannon development had to wait for quite a long time before they got their money.

Any delays of that kind were due to difficulties about title or something like that.

I think that occurred also in connection with the Liffey development.

I think Deputy Hughes is talking about two entirely dissimilar matters. He says that a man may be forced to go out of business because of the activities of the board. When the case comes for hearing an offer will be made to him for whatever loss he is put to. If he accepts, the compensation will be paid immediately. If he is paid immediately, he has the money in his hands and can acquire another business. Deputy Hughes says that if the money is withheld from the man he should get an annuity on it to the extent of 6 per cent. A case might arise in which a man is not put out of business at all. Portion of his land might be taken or some property of his interfered with—perhaps not the portion in which he is living, but a portion he has rented to some other person. The other person who is occupying the property may suffer the greater hardship. In a case like that, Deputy Hughes wants him to be paid interest at 6 per cent.

And the delay may be his own fault.

Yes. If he gets 6 per cent. he may have an interest in prolonging the arbitration proceedings. I think Deputy Hughes hardly justified the paying of 6 per cent. interest by the State. At present the State is able to borrow money in the market at 3½ per cent.

I am not denying that.

If a person gets 3 per cent. on the money owed by the State he is not doing badly, having regard to the position of the money market at present. If this compensation were offered by the Government next door, he would get very much less than 3 per cent. because they are paying very much less than 3 per cent. at the moment. I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.