When I reported progress, I was dealing with the question put to me by Deputy Dillon as to whether it was time to revise the monopolistic character of CIE.
Committee on Finance. - State Guarantees (Transport) Bill, 1962 —Money Resolution (Resumed).
Sir, we cannot hear what the Minister is saying.
I do not want to repeat what I have said already, but there are a few more words I should say on this subject. CIE have an essential function of being able to provide a nation-wide transport service and being able to give information on their through-rate from one part of the country to another in regard to the transport of every conceivable kind of commodity. They also have the function of being able to arrange transport for every single person, someone with a very small amount of goods to convey and big companies, from this country to any other country. Equally, they have the very important task of being able to provide a national transport service for tourists.
I can quite see, when Deputy Dillon raises the question of the monopolistic position of CIE, that it no longer is as simple as it used to be. When the railways started the whole of the legislation was passed to protect the community against a service of transport with which there was no other competitor but the horse. The situation is now very much changed and we have the picture of a national transport company which can make reasonable profits to pay its depreciation and interest on capital in respect of some of its services in a particular sector of transport and, at the same time, is losing money on other services. Generally speaking, the idea is that it should balance on the whole of the operation. Now that the horse is no longer the sole competitor, it can be said that the monopoly which CIE previously had is, shall I say, so severely delimited that it can no longer be said to be in the nature of a problem for the economy or for the State.
I was speaking also of the reorganisation programme that has taken place in CIE. In so far as the services are concerned, where there is a low profit —when I use the word "profit", I merely mean being able to pay their way—they have shown their ability to carry out modernisation, and the best sample of that is the package deals that have been effected, to the value of about £1,000,000, in which a great number of private institutions and firms have found that it pays to make use of CIE for their transport commitments.
When the 1958 Bill requires revision the whole of this matter will be examined again and we will look into the future of transport, in regard to every aspect of it, to make quite certain, if we are to have an arterial railway line carrying passengers and goods at relatively high speeds, and over relatively long distances and stopping at reasonably infrequent intervals, that kind of service which is so valuable for the carriage of large quantities of bulk goods, large numbers of passengers at peak periods, that that kind of service can be carried on; and it can only be carried on if CIE are given the opportunity and privilege of having such monopolistic powers at least as still rest with them and being able to co-ordinate that rail service with the bus and road freight service and being, in turn, able to arrange for cross-channel goods and for maintaining its connections with all the services abroad.
It seems to me that, looking at the matter in a balanced kind of way, I can say to Deputy Dillon that the time has certainly not arrived when it can be said that CIE are exercising an undesirable form of monopolistic practice. The Deputy was perfectly right to raise this question because there have been very big changes in the character of transport all over the world but we are, at least, in good company with the established dynamic democracies, all of whom feel that at the present time, and for many years to come, as far as we can see ahead, it is essential to encourage some form of national transport service that has certain privileges and certain monopolies while facing inevitably, as the years go by, ever-increasing competition.
Would the Minister not define the dynamic democracies to which he referred?
The Scandinavian countries in which, taken in general, a State transport company has certain privileges.
There is somewhat of a difference in size.