There is another matter I raised on the Second Stage. The Minister made some reference to it, but I should like to raise it again. I understand from the Minister that this money we are guaranteeing will operate to complete substantially the dieselisation of CIE. We think that is a wise policy. We think that on balance, the dieselisation of the rail transport of the country is wise. But I want to direct the attention of the House again to a matter that, sooner or later, we will have to consider. When we passed the first Transport Act in this country, nationalising the transport services and giving that body a complete monopoly, that step was justified on the ground that we wanted to give the country a transport service which accepted the technical liability of common carrier. That is to say they bound themselves to accept any traffic tendered and to deliver it to the destination indicated by the consignor; secondly, on the ground that we wanted to maintain in the country a traffic authority which expressly undertook not to provide differential freight rates; that is to say that, if they quoted a special freight rate to any individual in the community, they thereupon undertook to make that special freight rate available to everybody; thirdly, on the ground that we wanted to maintain in the country a transport undertaking which would maintain rail transport in all essential areas of a character acceptable to the people in those areas. In consideration of their undertaking to do these three things they were to have a complete monopoly of all traffic.
That situation continued to obtain up to the time of the 1958 Transport Act. Under that Act we relieved Córas Iompair Éireann of the obligation of common carrier. We relieved Córas Iompair Éireann of the obligation to refrain from quoting differential rates and now they can quote a special rate to any individual in the country, and they are doing it under the package deal on a pretty large scale. Thirdly, when we come to the question of maintaining rail services in all parts of the country, we understood the present Taoiseach, who was then Minister for Industry and Commerce, to say that that obligation remained in so far as Córas Iompair Éireann would not close down a railway line without full prior consultation with the local interests involved.
Between 1958 and the very recent public statement by the Chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann, that undertaking was completely ignored and a great many railway lines were closed down without any prior consultation with local interests. Now the Chairman of the Company has announced that, under the general authority conferred upon the company by the 1958 Act, he will close down virtually all the branch lines in the country, though he has added that that will not be done until everybody involved has been given ample opportunity of coming to discuss it with him and his Board, which is, I concede at once, an implementation of the original undertaking given by the present Taoiseach, which had not been implemented heretofore.
I want to pose this question. In the new situation, what is the case for continuing the monopoly of transport? I am moved to ask that question by this fact: there are individual entrepreneur outside carriers who have got limited, or general, licences to engage in the transport business. I know of one case where a man was operating three lorries. I think he had a general transport licence for the three lorries. Recently he retired from business. I understand that he was able to sell his plate, covering three lorries, for £12,000. That meant that there was some hardheaded business man who had seen his books and was satisfied that the opportunity to operate three lorries in general transport was worth a capital sum of £12,000. I think all of us know individual plates with restricted areas of licence changing hands for sums of up to £1,000. There is nothing wrong in that, but it is evidence of the profitability of the transport business to those who have access to it.
I want to ask the House has not the time come, now that we have completed by this guarantee the modernisation and equipment of Córas Iompair Éireann, now that we have acknowledged the right not to be a common carrier, now that we have acknowledged the right to suspend the prohibition on differential rates, now that we have acknowledged the right to close down branch lines, for a cessation of the monopoly of transport? What case can anybody make, once they have been fully modernised and equipped, and put on an absolutely equal footing with any private entrepreneur, for saying that there should not be free competition? Why should there not be free competition? Why should not anybody be allowed to engage in transport subject to the general regulations governing safety, fares, labour conditions and so forth? That is a matter we ought to consider.
The Money Resolution to this Bill provides the money for, as I understand it, the completion of the modernisation of the major transport undertaking in the country, and this is the stage at which we should ask ourselves this question afresh and take a completely new look at the situation because, and this is a thing people are liable to forget, everything everybody uses in this country is at some stage of its existence moved from one part of the country to another and thereby makes it contribution to paying the transport charges. What it is vitally important to remember is that virtually every export we have, including our entire livestock exports, carries some element of cost deriving from the transport it has undergone at some stage of its sale and export. If, by restoring free competition under the new dispensation, a material reduction in these costs can be made, how can we refrain from giving the most careful consideration to such a reform if we are serious about preparing ourselves for the new atmosphere of the Common Market into which we are moving?
I hear the Taoiseach, I hear the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and I hear them with approval, saying to the manufacturers and business men in this country: "We are moving into a new climate. You ought to get business consultants in and review your whole set-up to see how it will measure up to the impact of the Common Market." I am putting this to the Minister for Transport and Power. He is responsible for a very material element in the whole costs structure of all our exports. Is it not time that he asked himself as Minister for Transport and Power the same question the Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce are urging the businessmen all over the country to ask themselves? Have the members of Dáil Éireann not an obligation to ask themselves: can there be any reform of administration or organisation which would give us better transport at lower costs than the set-up that at present exists. Unless we do that I do not see how we can with clear conscience expect, as we do expect, and rightly expect, businessmen to make that examination of conscience in respect of their own individual businesses.
I invite the Minister for Transport and Power to give us his view of these important matters and to tell us how is it that it is necessary for every individual businessman in the country to streamline and revise the whole methods of procedure to meet the threats of the Common Market if we are content to drift along with what I suggest is a wholly out-dated transport concept in the light of the 1958 Act and in the light of the guarantee under this Bill which, according to the Minister's statement, completes the modernisation of CIE.