I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The purpose of the Bill is to embody in permanent legislation certain matters relating to transport which were provided for by Orders made under the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946. The measure is introduced in pursuance of the policy of providing in permanent legislation where necessary for matters which have been dealt with under the Supplies and Services Act.
The first question dealt with by the Bill is the carriage of milk to creameries and cream separating stations and the carriage of empty containers and separated milk back to the milk producers. The collection of milk for delivery to creameries and the return of empty containers to the farmers present special difficulties and the public transport concerns have not found that the work is an economic proposition for them. The bulk of the milk has to be collected in small quantities, often from farms in isolated areas served by bad roads. Generally, collection areas are far removed from central transport depots and the collection of the milk and return of the empty cans by the public transport companies would require the traversing of very extensive areas with unladen or partially laden vehicles. Milk collection furnishes only spasmodic part-time employment for vehicles and is not of a nature suitable for integration with other local public transport, particularly as collection may have to be arranged outside normal working hours.
Up to recent years the horse and cart was principally used by farmers or others for the transport of their own and their neighbours' milk to the creameries and no difficulty arose under the Road Transport Acts. With the growing use of tractors and trailers and the reduction in the number of horses it became necessary to exempt this work from the provisions of the Road Transport Acts. An Order to this effect has been made annually since 1949 under the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946. It is proposed to continue this exemption and to embody it in permanent legislation.
The carriage of wheat by licensed agents for licensed mills presents a special problem. Prior to 1942 wheat was purchased on their own account by licensed wheat dealers who transported it in their own lorries and then sold it to the millers. The dealers did not require licences under the Road Transport Acts for the transport of the wheat as it was their own property. New arrangements for the purchase of wheat were introduced in 1942 and under these arrangements the wheat dealers purchased the wheat in the capacity of agents for the millers. The wheat did not become their property and the transport of the wheat by them constituted carriage for reward. Since 1942 an Emergency Powers Order was made annually to allow the wheat dealers to continue to carry the wheat in their own lorries without a licence under the Road Transport Acts. It is proposed to provide power to exempt the carriage of wheat by licensed agents in the same way as has been done over a number of years by Emergency Powers Order.
When the Road Transport Acts were enacted in the early thirties the need for a safety valve in the legislation was not foreseen. Experience during the war and succeeding years has shown that circumstances may arise when it would be necessary in the public interest to relax the control of carriage for reward embodied in the Road Transport Acts so as to avoid a serious crisis in the supply or transport of some important commodity. At present the only means of doing so would be an Order made under the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946. Provision is accordingly made in this Bill to enable the Government to make an Order exempting for a specified period the carriage of any particular commodity should this appear to them to be necessary in the interests of public safety or the preservation of the State or for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.
The final provision of the Bill relates to some branch line train services which have been discontinued. Under the authority of an Emergency Powers Order made in December, 1944, C.I.E. reduced or discontinued services on 20 branch lines. Section 55 of the Transport Act, 1950, provides that the services temporarily reduced or discontinued under this Emergency Powers Order shall not be permanently discontinued save in accordance with an Order made by the Transport Tribunal. The legal position is, therefore, that unless an Order has been made by the Transport Tribunal authorising the permanent discontinuance or reduction of a service, the relaxation of the obligation to provide transport services which existed prior to the 1944 Emergency Powers Order is dependent on the provision in the Supplies and Services Act. Applications in respect of ten of the 20 branch lines concerned have already been dealt with by the tribunal. C.I.E. have now decided, however, to defer any further applications to the tribunal for the time being. They propose to carry out experiments in the working of branch lines with light weight diesel trains, aimed at the more economic operation of branch line services.
Their future policy regarding the operation of branch lines will be determined in the light of the outcome of these experiments which will take some years to complete. In the meantime it is proposed by means of this Bill that C.I.E. should not be obliged to restore services reduced or discontinued under the authority of the Emergency Powers Order on branch lines in respect of which applications have not been dealt with by the tribunal. The obligation would revive three years after the coming into operation of the Bill except in the case of any line in respect of which C.I.E. had in the meantime made application to the Transport Tribunal. The obligation of C.I.E. would then be determined by the findings of the tribunal. There is also provision to allow by special Order an additional period not exceeding two years in case the period of three years should prove too short.
In recommending this Bill to the House I have every confidence that no Deputy will object to the continuance of provisions which although originally embodied in emergency regulations are still of value to the public. This Bill, in short, is necessitated by the fact that it is desired to embody in permanent legislation powers which now reside in the Supplies and Services Act as part of the general policy of substituting that Act by permanent legislation dealing with the same subjects.