I want to direct the Minister's attention to an interesting fact. At his instance, the Chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann was kind enough to send us a copy of "The Future of CIE", being an address delivered under the auspices of Public Administration, Custom House, Dublin. That incorporated a map. This section is the definition section of this Bill. It strikes me as interesting that, in the map prepared by CIE of its own railway system, they should succeed in putting Ballaghaderreen west of Kilfree when, in fact, God put it east of Kilfree, and they have succeeded in substituting the name of "Boyle" for the junction of Collooney. Perhaps the Minister would direct his attention to the cartographers of CIE and suggest to them that, if their knowledge of the features of their railway system is no more accurate than that suggested by their maps, there may be danger of a very serious miscarriage in our transport system in the early future.
Committee on Finance. - State Guarantees (Transport) Bill, 1962—Committee Stage.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, line 7, after "guarantees", to insert "given under subsection (1) or (2) of this section and"
This is a drafting amendment.
I did not get any sheet.
The amendments are at the top of page 729 of the Order Paper.
Today's Order Paper?
Today's Order Paper never reached me at all. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is so inefficient he cannot deliver from Leinster House around to Baggot Street. Not for the first time, might I add, has the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs failed me.
It is a drafting amendment only.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 3, lines 9 and 10, to delete "guarantees given under this section" and to insert "such guarantees".
The second amendment is really consequential on the first amendment.
Will the Minister give us some details of the exact period of time and the amount of the instalments? As far as I can see from the section itself the information is restricted purely to the total amount and to the rate of interest.
I understand that the agreement with the General Motors Corporation is for the payment of an instalment of 20 per cent. of the total cost and for the repayment of the remainder over a period of five years, the rate of interest being 5½ per cent. on the unpaid portion.
Why is the Minister adopting this system?
It is the best arrangement that could be made with CIE. We thought it was rather good in the circumstances.
It was a pity you did not think that five years ago.
This is a proposal for the purchase of a considerable number of locomotives and I should like to know why the Minister has chosen the particular locomotive he has named here, the General Motors diesel electric locomotive. Would he tell us something about the behaviour of this electric locomotive in use in CIE, why he has ordered this particular one as opposed to the other type which has been in use in CIE? Could he tell us also why he has decided to turn down the Vickers, the Vickers Armstrong or the German types or the possibility of getting a French locomotive? I should like to know more about the contract. Were tenders sought for these locomotives? What companies were asked to tender? What were the conditions put forward by the various firms?
In relation to the locomotive the Minister has decided to purchase I should like to have a number of things clarified. The first locomotive delivered to this country was one with an observation cab at one end rather than a cab at both ends. I understand from Parliamentary Questions that the alteration has been made now to have an observation cab at both ends. Why was it decided to have this cab at both ends? Was it for the purpose of increasing the safety margins of these engines? If that is so why was the original engine purchased with a cab at only one end? In relation to the loan terms, were these proposed by CIE to the company or did General Motors propose them to CIE? When these proposals were made were they offered or were they asked for from any of the other potential competitors of General Motors?
As the State has been asked to guarantee such a huge contract, the Minister should give some further clarification of the contract. Perhaps he would let the House know if the contract was entered into as a result of open competition? Perhaps he would say if other firms were asked to quote? If he does not wish to give the names of the firms he might give the country where these firms are located.
Whilst appreciating that these may be attractive terms that have been offered to CIE by the General Motors Corporation, I would ask the Minister to say whether or not it was the lowest tender received and what was the difference between the accepted tender and the next lowest. I qualify that by saying I feel fairly sure that whilst the lowest tender may not have been accepted the terms made for CIE and for the State have been reasonably attractive.
Would the Minister also tell us what firm here are the agents for this locomotive?
Could the Minister say if this is the same type of engine as we have at the moment or is it a different type?
If I were to take Deputy Dr. Browne's question literally we could spend almost the entire time in this House debating all the major contracts entered into between State companies and their suppliers. There is a tradition in this House that State companies can be trusted in very large measure in regard to the purchase of materials and supplies. There has been a very good tradition over a great many years and there have been very few questions asked in the time of any Government in regard to any circumstances in which large supplies were secured by State companies.
There is no need to follow a bad precedent.
Deputy Corish asked questions on a more reasonable basis. CIE in the usual way sought tenders from some eight firms in a number of countries. In their wisdom they chose the diesel engines which best suited and in respect of which the financial terms were most attractive. I have no reason to suppose their choice was not a wise one. There is nothing exceptional in the way the contracts were examined. Diesel engines vary a great deal in their technical quality and diesel engines for use on our type of railways naturally have to conform to certain technical particulars. I am satisfied that I can have confidence in the Board of CIE in the choice they have made.
Why should we have to clear up the mess Reynolds made on an earlier purchase of diesel engines?
I understand this later engine costs us more money than the earlier one. Why is the Minister asking us to spend this additional money? What are the grounds put forward by CIE from changing from the engine they have here to the one they have now chosen. Surely there must be good reasons?
CIE had very good reasons for choosing this kind of engine. But it is quite impossible to make comparisons of the prices paid for diesel engines bought in 1953 with those for diesel engines being bought now. Moreover, a great part of the value of a diesel engine consists in the extent to which it can be run continuously and in the amount of time that has to be spent in maintaining it and checking it. You must take all the circumstances into account with all the other qualities of one diesel engine as against another.
Would it be correct for me to assume that whilst the General Motors Corporation tender was not necessarily the lowest net tender, the attraction was in the terms of repayment?
It was one of the many factors that entered into it.
Was it necessarily the most important one?
I would not like to say that. Many factors enter into this question. There is the general behaviour of the group of diesel engines having the same sort of engine as was ordered beforehand.
Was it the lowest tender?
I cannot tell the Deputy that. There are too many complicating factors.
Can the Minister say who the agents in this country are?
I do not know. I did not authorise this purchase in that detailed way.
But the Minister is asking the House to authorise the money. It would be a different situation if it were a general scheme.
The Minister is making himself absurd. We are talking about trains, engines, rolling stock. It is very simple. This is not a debate on our atomic energy establishment or some Secret Service Vote. It is a debate about the public transport service—and it is, remember, a public transport service.
It is the public who are being asked to pay this money. We are the representatives of the public. We are merely asking questions which the average man in the street is asking. He wants to know, before he puts up perfectly good money, why he should pay out this money. He is perfectly prepared to pay it out if he gets a good reason why he should do so.
The Minister says there are good reasons why we should pay out this money. All we want to know is what are the good reasons advanced by the management of CIE to him. If the Minister can be trusted with these reasons, surely Deputies and the public can also be trusted? The Minister should not adopt this superior, arrogant, aristocratic attitude to the members of the public. They, after all, are the people who have to foot the bill. The Minister owes it to the public to tell them these simple facts. He should tell the good reasons given by the management of CIE. He should not be slow to tell us what these reasons are and then, no doubt, he will not have difficulty in getting the money.
The taxpayer is not being asked directly to pay for the cost of these vehicles, in any event.
The Minister is quibbling.
That is the most dishonest answer——
They are being asked to guarantee——
For goodness sake——
Have we not to sit on Tuesday next to guarantee it? That is the most dishonest answer I have ever heard from any Minister.
CIE tried to get this money from many other sources— commercial banks, commercial undertakings of one kind or another—and, because of their bad financial standing, they could not raise it. So the Minister was driven to come to this House to get this money. Surely the Minister has a responsibility to explain the reasons for making these very considerable demands on the public?
CIE have the money already with which to pay for these diesel engines.
What are we doing here, then?
It was considered feasible to pay by instalment and to make use of whatever capital they have available under the Acts in an intelligent way.
The Minister is asking for the right to spend certain public moneys in a particular way under this Bill. We want an explanation as to why the money should be spent in this particular way.
And, if they have the money, why come to the House for it?
Here is a further question. Would the Minister say if, when these other firms to which he has referred were asked to tender, they were also asked to tender their credit terms or were the credit terms in respect of General Motors negotiated when their tender was accepted?
They were all asked to give their credit terms in connection with this transaction.
Every one of them?
Did any refuse to give long-term credit?
I could not say that. The question of the choice of engine enters into this.
Is there a guarantee for these vehicles over a period?
There is the usual guarantee. Deputy Corish's questions are reasonable. I reject the attitude of Deputy Dr. Browne towards this whole transaction. Enormous purchases have been undertaken by State companies, the ultimate responsibility being left on the State company for the choice of material or equipment. If one were to have this kind of discussion in regard to one hundred million pounds' worth of equipment purchased by a great board such as the ESB since they started, we could have an interminable debate. The actual result of it could be something which Deputy Dr. Browne might like, namely, that all these State companies would eventually be merged in the State Civil Service. Directors could not be found to undertake the job of conducting a commercial concern under State auspices if they were liable to be asked for the same kinds of detailed particulars as Deputy Dr. Browne requires.
We have a very fine tradition of State Boards in this country. The directors and the chairmen have proved the trust of this House over the years. I do not propose to alter the tradition or the circumstances under which we debate this matter. Neither do I propose that we shall get into the position in which we shall have no State companies and when the whole matter would be a vast bureaucracy because competent men would not serve as directors or high executives of these companies.
This is the only occasion on which we are able to debate CIE with any possibility of getting an answer. I asked the Minister a question a few moments ago. Can I get an answer? Are the engines he proposes to buy the same as those he has at present in CIE?
There are half a dozen types of engines in CIE, including a General Motors type which is slightly different from the one now being ordered. A number of types of diesel engines are employed by CIE at present. This is a General Motors diesel engine.
Have we this type of engine in service already?
In a slightly different pattern. It is more or less the same engine with a different cab and a number of different minor technical features.
Is the Minister satisfied that this is a good type of engine? I may be unlucky but practically every time I travel by train, the engine on the Wexford line has broken down on its way to Dublin. The last time I came up here by train, the engine broke down. Not only that, but the engine on the train travelling in the other direction broke down as well. We had to wait an hour until an engine came from Bray to enable us to proceed. I want to be sure the Minister is satisfied that the type of engine is reliable. I also want to be sure there is a good guarantee with it that it will give good service to the State.
I have already inquired in particular about these engines because of the difficulties CIE have had with the older type of engine. I am satisfied they are particularly reliable. I very much regret that Deputy Esmonde has had this dismal experience of travelling on trains that have broken down. All I can tell him is that according to the last count made by CIE, 85 per cent. of the trains arrive on time as compared with between 70 and 80 per cent. in the case of trains run by the British Transport Commission taken as a whole. I would not claim that the fact that there is a slightly greater punctuality here than in their case has any great significance.
I have impressed upon the Chairman of CIE, ever since I became Minister, the necessity to make sure that there will be fewer breakdowns of trains than when these older engines were used. A very large maintenance programme was undertaken last year at a cost of £300,000 more than usual to restore the engines which had reached a certain dated period in their life when major restoration had to be done. I hope the results will be good.
I am told by the Chairman of CIE that the number of engines breaking down, as compared with two or three years ago, is now greatly reduced. I regret that the Deputy should have been the victim of a double breakdown.
The Minister should realise that the only way anybody can assess the reliability of the statistics he may produce at the behest of CIE or that they themselves may produce is by one's own experience. My experience in relation to the statistics produced by CIE is abyssmal in the extreme. About two years ago, I noticed regularly that CIE trailers never had splashers on the back and were always splashing up mud on the rest of the traffic. I took the matter up with CIE. The General Manager said it was utterly impossible, that there were no trailers whatsoever out on service by CIE without splashers. It took me 22 further letters—noting on each occasion the number of the trailer in question, the time at which it was involved and the place in which it was involved— to get an admission from CIE that their statistics were wrong and that the assurance they had given me was incorrect.
The Minister talks about an efficient road transport service producing speedy deliveries. This is Thursday. Last Tuesday week, a well-known Dublin shop directed, and confirmed to me that they directed, CIE to deliver tc Kells, 16 miles away, an item of not very great size and it has not yet arrived. Still the Minister expects us to believe the assurances he is giving. It seems to me the only way we can expect the truth of the assurance is by our own experience and our experience in most cases has not been very happy. I am going to go on looking for information to satisfy myself and if I cannot get it, I will put down an amendment on Report Stage.
Statistical evidence based on single occurrences, is, as the Deputy knows, very dangerous evidence.
Twenty-two different instances on different roads.
In our Department, we reply to the complaints and we do our best to deal with them. Complaints that seem to be of an unusual or non-recurring kind are sent to CIE. If they are trivial, as they often are, we do not ask to see the reply. If they are not trivial, we ask to see the reply. If the complaints mount up and are of a particular kind, we take up these repetitive complaints with the chairman. I can assure the House the officers of my Department do their best to aid me in this general check on the operation of all State companies, not only CIE but the ESB and every other company. I quite agree that for a particular individual like Deputy Sweetman to have this experience is most regrettable but I have to go on the average of what I see in the way of correspondence in judging CIE and I would say there has been a very great improvement in the service offered both for goods and passengers and that the improvement continues generally over the whole system.
I have not got my bed.
The fact that CIE have had the transport of packaged goods to the value of nearly £1,000,000 must indicate a very high degree of efficiency and good service and I have no reason to suspect the general validity given to me by the company and if they tell me that 85 per cent. of their orders are delivered within 24 hours——
It does not mean that there are no exceptions to that, that there are not still flaws——
I seem to be more the exception than the rule but I would still like to know the agents for these goods in this case in order to satisfy myself. Either there is a proper servicing——
The Deputy can be satisfied that the servicing arrangement is second to none.
I should like to know the names of the agents; then I would not have to depend on other people's statistics.
I must deprecate the Minister's contemptuous approach to this whole question. He comes in looking for a lot of money and produces a Bill in order to justify it. There are certain clauses in the Bill and we can go through them item by item and we are, by the rules of procedure, permitted to discuss each of these items and in fact consider them word by word or comma by comma if we desire. It is the Minister's responsibility to satisfy us. There are plenty of other things we could be doing instead of asking the Minister questions but we feel it is our duty to ask questions and get replies.
The Minister is living in an insulated cocoon in which most indifferent or bad Ministers rapidly find themselves when they are put in control of a Department which they do not control. They become apologists for the Department, for the concern whose policy they are meant to direct and dictate. Their function is to act as a sort of public relations officer, not as a person with control over that particular Department.
The Minister wants to make us accept his particular approach, that is, to wash his hands of the Department and make us wash our hands of the Department also. If the Minister does not wish us to discuss these proposals, why put them before us or why bother to come before the House at all? The Minister must understand that he appears to be isolated from ordinary current thought amongst the public that the state of CIE, particularly since Dr. Andrews took over, is not at all high in the public mind. On the contrary, the fact that fares have gone up—an irrefutable fact—the fact that services have been cut down, the fact that branch lines have been closed, the fact that there are very bad relations between the management and the workers do not add up to create a feeling of confidence, on the part of the public, in the management of CIE.
In regard to these locomotives, we have the Minister's own admission that CIE have bought a whole lot of "duds" in the past, locomotives which were inefficient. Having bought them and tried them out, CIE found they did not work very well and they have changed their decision. Apparently they have changed their decision on a number of occasions because we have many different kinds of locomotives in CIE, so that the management of CIE are not infallible. They have made mistakes and we know in relation to this particular type of locomotive, although the Minister will not reply honestly to Deputy Esmonde, that an important adaptation was made in relation to them.
From the horsepower point of view, this locomotive is virtually the same as the engine at present in use but it has the important addition of an observation cab at both ends instead of at one end. In the first instance, CIE made a very serious blunder when they bought a number of engines which were perfectly satisfactory on the American railways but for particular reasons were not suitable for operations in Ireland and in certain circumstances were not only unsafe but added greatly to the amount of trouble required in their operation because of the fact that they had only one observation cab. For safety purposes, and in order to facilitate their operation, we have got this additional, and I have no doubt costly, second cab put on.
The Minister should understand that we are all over 21. We have all come to the use of reason and we have a modicum of commonsense. You do not go to the expense of adding quite an important structure to these locomotives just for the fun of the thing or because you have money to spare. This was done for a good purpose—to facilitate usage and to increase the safety margin. The Minister should have given us credit for having that modicum of commonsense and said: "Yes, a mistake was made; they did not get the right one in the first instance and they are now getting it."
Looking back over the record of CIE, whether in their administration of their affairs in relation to their employees or in relation to the public, we find that their reputation is at a very low ebb indeed. The Minister comes in here and says: "Give us this money and do not ask any questions. There are very good answers which have convinced me and the management of CIE, but you cannot be trusted with them." That type of approach to the House is not worthy of the Minister. We are only talking about locomotives, about trains. For that reason, I think we could be perfectly frank about the many considerations involved.
If the Minister were dealing with an ordinary private company, with a company with share capital and shares issued, he would have to stand up before the shareholders, and if they wanted to ask questions, he would have to provide the answers, particularly if they decided that they wanted an account of an amount of money such as is proposed here. He could not say: "Let me spend it. We are running at a loss; closing branch lines; increasing fares; we have appalling staff relations; we have made a number of mistakes in the past; we made a mistake about the diesel locomotives; but trust us—we are right this time. We made mistakes on half a dozen other occasions, but we know we are right this time. Do not ask any questions. Accept our word for it."
Why should we accept the Minister's word or the word of CIE? So far as I can gather, the public are very impatient with CIE, and do not want to accept the diktat of Dr. Andrews about these things. The general supercilious attitude adopted by the Minister is a mirror of his whole contempt for the conception of discussion. As a tory, a conservative, he hates discussion and does not want it. We believe we should be permitted to discuss these things. We and the adult public have a right to know as much as possible about these affairs.
The Deputy has said that at least three times.
We have on a number of occasions tried by means of Parliamentary Questions to get more information. We can conceive that it would be difficult for a large concern to give information on day-to-day problems by means of Parliamentary Questions, but this is not Parliamentary Question Time. I have been unable to get information at Question Time from the Minister, as I said before. I have written to the head of CIE, Dr. Andrews, and he has told me he will not give me the information either. I have his letter here saying it would not be good for me, the same nostrum as is served up by the Minister.
The Minister talks about bureaucracy. We are trying to prevent the establishment of a bureaucracy. Dr. Andrews is trying to make CIE his personal private concern, where his word is law. He wants to be a petty dictator in CIE and to dictate to everybody. He already dictates to the workers, the public and in regard to the branch lines, and he now wants to dictate to Deputies through his puppet, the Minister. The Minister must not object if we object and refuse to be dictated to by Dr. Andrews. He can talk down to whoever he likes but be damned if he talks down to Parliament.
In view of the fact that CIE have buses running in competition with the railways and in view of the fact that I notice in this letter about the future of CIE that there is a proposal to remove portion of the main line from Mallow to Waterford and on to Rosslare, will they need the money at all for these diesel engines? I should like an answer from the Minister on that matter.
I gave the answer in my Second Reading speech when I said that these engines are required by CIE for the maintenance of the main arterial rail renewals. In reply to the second part of the Deputy's question, I and my predecessor have dealt with the question of buses which apparently run parallel to the railway lines. If an examination is made of the use of those buses, it will be found that in many cases the buses do not run the whole way with the trains. They depart by many miles, and passengers get in and out at intermediate points along the line. The bus lines refute the suggestion that a parallel bus service is in any way competing undesirably with the railway service.
It is a well-known fact, and has been for years, that the buses are competing with the railways instead of CIE integrating the services and using the buses to help the railways. They are simply trying to destroy the railways as they did the canals.
The Deputy is wrong, and if he looks up a railway timetable, he will find the great collection of buses which are integrated with the railways. He will find he is exaggerating. I have personal experience of this because in my political life at one time, I had to travel by bus along a railway line.
It was an interesting experience because it proved to me long before I was ever made Minister for Transport and Power, that the buses, both in relation to the number of the services and the number of persons travelling on them, do not compete with the railway line. They follow the most approximate route. The times are different and they take passengers from one different place to another.
If the Minister in drafting Section 2 had followed the normal practice, perhaps some of this trouble would not have arisen. I have not gone back over all the Acts, but we had a pretty similar discussion not very long ago which reinforced my own recollection. The universal practice has always been that where a contract is mentioned in a Bill, that contract is appended in the Schedule. That has always been done. One of the most complicated of such contracts that I can remember was in relation to the acquisition of Johnstown Castle.
Be that as it may, something similar arose in relation to the Rent Restrictions Bill of 1959. During the course of that Bill the Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company negotiated a special agreement with representatives of their tenants, and the section of the Bill referred to that particular contract by reference to date and parties as is done in this Bill. After considerable objection being taken on that occasion to the method used, and after the case had been made at length that it was the universal practice that the contract itself was appended in the Schedule, the Minister for Justice of the day—as far as my recollection goes it was Deputy Traynor or perhaps it was the present Minister for Justice, acting as Parliamentary Secretary—agreed after investigation that it was the universal practice to schedule the contract.
If the Minister had scheduled this contract, in respect of which he is asking for a guarantee of no less than 6,000,000 dollars, perhaps many of the questions which have been asked might not have arisen, and the appropriate information would have been given to the House by that contract in the Schedule. As it is, the Minister comes to the House with this section, by virtue of which he asks us to pledge public moneys to the extent of 6,000,000 dollars, and at the same time, he tells us that he will give no information whatsoever about the contract. That is not a proper approach.
Deputy Dr. Browne and I have pretty different views on many subjects. I do not necessarily agree with all the remarks he has just made, but I am entirely in agreement with him in regard to this request to pledge 6,000,000 dollars of public money. I submit to the House that when there is a request to pledge 6,000,000 dollars of public money, it is not we who are being abnormal in asking for information. It is the Minister who is being abnormal in neglecting to follow the normal routine procedure, the procedure which has always been adopted —and which was accepted after investigation by his colleague, the Minister for Justice, as being proper procedure—and scheduling in the Bill the contract that was executed between CIE and General Motors.
If that contract were here, we might not have found it necessary to ask many of the questions that have been asked today but even at this late stage he Minister should undertake to introduce, between now and Report Stage, an amendment setting out as a Schedule in this Bill the contract in question and so follow the very desirable precedent set up over the years.
Could I ask the Minister does he in fact know the name of the agents for these engines and if he does why he refuses to name them, because he is giving the impression that he has something to hide?
I do not know the name of the agents and I would rather not know.
We would rather know it.
In reply to Deputy Sweetman, I am perfectly willing to examine this question between now and the Report Stage if he so wishes. As far as I can gather, this is a question of a slightly different form of State guarantee. Where the State is guaranteeing money to companies outside they have not required schedules of contracts, so far as I am aware.
The State does not guarantee these contracts; it guarantees its own creation, that is to this case we are not being asked to say, the State-sponsored bodies; but in guarantee CIE but to guarantee a specific act of CIE in relation to a third party, which is quite a different thing.
I am not trying to argue with the Deputy. He can surely see that the financial circumstances might have been different. We might have produced here a short Bill simply raising the borrowing capacity of CIE, for example, so that they could purchase equipment of various kinds in which would be included the diesel engines. Then the Deputy would not require a schedule of a list of the contracts they had——
CIE have that power and General Motors would not accept it.
The Deputy understands the position——
I know that.
The Minister should not pretend to be more honest than he is.
That will not wash.
I think what I said is a reasonable answer. It could have been done in a different way.
Yes, if General Motors would accept it.
It does not make this contract vitally more significant than a contract entered into, for instance, by the E.S.B.
There is no difference between that and a Dublin Artisans Dwelling Company contract in relation to the Rent Restrictions Act.
The Deputy is highlighting a particular transaction.
The transaction is highlighted in Section 2 by the Minister without the appropriate details.
Having regard to the unusual contract character of the——
It is certainly of an unusual character in that it has not the contract in the Schedule.
It might have been the case that——
Will the Minister put the contract in the Library today?
There might have been a clause in the State Guarantees Act all the time providing that the Minister, under certain circumstances, could guarantee a particular contract.
And that might not have got through Dáil Éireann.
It might have got through.
Is the Minister going to put this contract in the Library today?
I shall consider it. I am not going to create any precedent.
The precedent is to put it in the Bill. I might be prepared to drop it out of the Bill if I got an undertaking that it would be put in the Library so that I could read it.
I am not going to give any assurance of that.
Then the Minister can stay here.
Can the Minister not see that he is drawing all this on himself? I am sure there is nothing underhand at all in the proposals. I should be very surprised if there were anything like that in the carrying out of this transaction but the attitude which the Minister is adopting of coming in here and asking for money and then not answering questions is creating this aura of suspicion and doubt about the whole transaction and all sorts of propositions, proposals, suggestions and innuendoes will be made which might be completely unmerited. It would be in the interests of the already much-damaged reputation of CIE with the public and it would greatly help to restore the position of CIE in the public mind if the Minister would be more can did with the House and answer these simple questions.
I have not yet got an answer to my question concerning the type of locomotive which he is now buying. Why has he decided to buy this particular locomotive rather than the type already supplied to him by General Motors as a result of a buying commission sent over by CIE? I understand that engine was involved in very nearly killing one or two people in one incident and later on took a leg and an arm off another unfortunate man. I should like to know whether it was decided that, because of the danger of operating these engines together with the inconvenience of having to change them at termini, the great work, trouble and bother involved in turning them at termini, these new engines were opted for by CIE?
The divergence of our views in regard to the operation of State guarantees—with which I am fully in accord; I am not as conservative as the Deputy imagines—is so great that I would not attempt to bridge the gap. I should only be delaying the House.
Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,
I have no interest in CIE or in contracts, but in view of the number of questions that have been asked in relation to this contract and this sum of money and in view of the suspicion in regard to the matter that has been aroused, I am asking the Minister if he will hold an inquiry into it. I ask that in view of the questions that have been asked on both sides of the House. Would he hold the inquiry for his own sake? I do not want to see a Minister of our Government, no matter what Government are in power, taking blame for anybody, if there is blame involved. That is all I am asking.
In reply to Deputy Sweetman, first of all, I understand that under Section 13 of the Transport Act of 1950, subsection (1) paragraph (h), C.I.E. have power to "construct, manufacture, purchase, hire, let, maintain and repair anything required for the purpose of carrying passengers or merchandise, by rail, road, sea or inland waterway."
I could not hear the Minister.
Would the Minister please begin again as we could not hear him?
And it is under that clause that this Bill is being enacted. I think I have given all the information that could reasonably be sought in regard to this transaction.
As regards what Deputy Barron said, I wish to state here and now that I have absolute faith in the conduct of the present Board of CIE and I have particular faith in Dr. Andrews as Chairman of CIE. I disagree with everything Dr. Browne has said in that regard. The Chairman has undertaken an enormous task of reorganising a company which, through no fault of its own, was allowed to remain under appalling difficulties of administration and finance for over 40 years. He was asked to reorganise a company in which every single officer knew that for 40 years matters had been going from bad to worse without anything being done about them. He was bound to raise some doubt with his work study groups and other innovations. I have full faith in his capacity in this regard and I think I should defend him in this House in face of remarks made by another Deputy and which were published in the newspapers.
When he started in Bord na Móna he did not know very much more about peat than he knew about railways when he started with CIE. It is time that a public tribute was paid to him particularly in view of the criticisms made about him.
I want to correct the statement made by me earlier when I said that the Dublin Artisans Company Agreement of 6th October was scheduled in the Rent Restrictions Bill. It was not. It was a very lengthy document and in lieu of being put into the Schedule, a copy was put in the Library and the contract under Section 7 subsection (2) was deposited in the Public Records Office. If the Minister agrees to adopt that procedure in the present instance, I shall be quite happy.
I do not want the Deputy to feel that I am unduly uncooperative. I will consult with the Minister for Finance and if he considers, having regard to all the evidence he has—and he is much more experienced in these matters than I am—that there is a case in the public interest for placing this contract on the Table of the House or in the Library I am sure he will do it. Ministers for Finance in general have been very reasonable about that matter. I cannot guarantee that it will be done because I am doing here something that is quite normal and it is not customary to publish these matters.
The Minister has been taking up the rôle of the Angel Gabriel and has been handing out haloes to certain people. He should have got his facts a little more straight. If there has been a reorganisation of CIE it has been done throughout the country by the closing of branch lines and at the expense of the workers who have lost their jobs. I wish the Minister would remember that most of the savings have been made at the expense of the ordinary man who is earning £6 or £7 a week. Every new experiment has been made at the expense of men who have lost their pay of £6 or £7 a week.
Surely it is not unreasonable for the House to ask this Minister to give the fullest information possible? Over the last few years the Board of CIE have been attempting to save money at the expense of the people and of the workers and now the Minister expects this House to hand over to them the sum of 6,145,530 dollars. Surely it is not unreasonable, when the sum is so large, that the House should ask that it be explained by the Minister? For my part I would not agree that a satisfactory explanation has been put up. Surely it is not suggested by the Minister that at this stage of development, when the last few branch lines are being closed down, when the number of services is becoming smaller and smaller, there now has to be this complete change over and that it is necessary to spend this fantastic sum of money for the purchase of diesel engines? If the present policy should continue to its logical conclusion we will not need any of these engines at all. The only transport we will need will be sufficient transport to take away the lines that have been torn up.
The position now is that CIE is not competing with the rail services. They have taken off the rail services and have not put on bus services to replace them. Now they are taking over the job of common informer and are asking the Gardaí to pull up cars on the road to find out if workers who have to travel 40 miles to their work are entitled so to travel to their work. Everybody in the country has not the same idea about CIE as the Minister has. That organisation has done more than its share over the last few years to drive thousands of people out of the country because their jobs were taken away from them.
(South Tipperary): I am not amazed at the attitude of the Minister in this matter because I am growing accustomed to it. His attitude here to-day is true to type; it is a repetition of what we are accustomed to from him at Question Time when questions are asked about CIE. He immediately bristles and resents questions which are simple ones. I come from a constituency where a large section of the railway is now being closed down, that section from Thurles to Clonmel. Here to-day we have had the Minister who is responsible for the closing down of that service coming into the House and asking for a very large sum of money while at the same time he is very reluctant to give answers to what are really simple questions.
When I return to my constituency, I will immediately be asked about this large sum of money and people will want to know what explanation of it was given to me, was the Minister sympathetic in his answers, was he sympathetic to the House. What reply will I have to give? The Minister has been anything but sympathetic. The Minister was aggressive. I am not exaggerating when I describe the Minister's attitude as an aggressive one. If I were in this position and was asked questions of a difficult nature I would attempt to take the House into my confidence much more than the Minister has done and explain my difficulties. I would not go into attack and try to smother Deputies who ask simple questions.
This is a democracy. It is supposed to be a democracy. Surely in a democracy when we are dealing with public money we are entitled to ask questions, subject to the ruling of the Chair? There seems to be some kind of pattern established here that a Minister has 101 different tricks by which he can avoid a question. We suffer enough in that regard in local county councils with county managers without having to suffer the same thing here in the National Assembly. What is the secret to be guarded that the Minister cannot tell us the broad outlines of a deal made by CIE? In all probability some good newspaper reporter will have the information tomorrow or the day after in, perhaps, a cross-channel journal. Not alone are we in this House not provided with the information but we are not supposed to ask the question. That is the kind of dictatorial attitude which tends to grow and which in other countries has torn down democracy.
I can assure the Minister that if he persists in that attitude he will not make things pleasant for himself. Perhaps, he enjoys the situation. The badgering he got here today he brought upon himself, and deservedly so. If he gets twice as much in the next ten minutes or in the next one, two or three hours of the next day, I am prepared to sit and enjoy it.
The Minister must surely realise that he is pushing this thing far too far. Suppose the Minister went into any place and was asked to sign an agreement and would not be allowed to read the contents of the agreement he was signing—a sheet of blotting paper was going to be put over the agreement—he would regard that as outrageous. He would regard it as outrageous to sign such an agreement. I can visualise the Minister going to Deputy Colley or Deputy Booth years after he had signed an agreement without reading it and saying: "I do not like this very much. Get me out of the trouble. I did not read the document before I signed it." He would very probably be laughed out of the office.
That is exactly what the Minister is asking us to do. He is asking Dáil Éireann to underwrite, sign and stand over the agreement and the contract dated 4th May, 1962 between General Motors and CIE. He will not tell us what is in it. It is an outrageous performance. It is exactly on all fours with the situation of a man who was asked to sign an agreement and told he could not read it. Dáil Éireann should not be asked by any Minister to underwrite, stand over, accept and approve—indeed, the endorsement of any guarantee must imply acceptance and approval—a document which they have never seen and which the Minister will not put on the Table of the House. I could, perhaps, understand the Minister, although disagreeing violently with his approach, if he said: "I never thought about it but now that the matter has been raised in the House, the House must have it at once." That is not the answer. The answer is that he will only think about it.
He is asking us to accept, guarantee and stand over the payment by the taxpayers—in the last analysis that is what a guarantee to CIE means— of some 6,000,000 dollars without having seen anything and in respect of which we are getting no undertaking. If that is the type of blindfold legislation that we are asked to pass by the Government, then the sooner the people realise that Fianna Fáil as a Government feel that there is no use for Dáil Éireann the better it will be.
Deputy Sweetman has grossly exaggerated the situation. I am quite prepared to discuss the matter quietly. I am not trying to refuse information. The House is only being asked to endorse the solvency of CIE up to five years from now in respect of this debt. That is all it is being asked to do.
The Minister may guarantee in such form and manner the contract pursuant to the contract made on 4th May, 1962, between the Board and the Corporation, etc.
That is what it amounts to.
What it amounts to is that the taxpayers and we, as representatives of the taxpayers, are being asked to underwrite and guarantee a contract and the Minister will not tell us what is in it.
There are millions of pounds worth of contracts purchased by State companies and even by the Post Office where the terms of the contract are not available to the Deputies in the House. This is not an isolated kind of transaction.
It is isolated by the fact that you are bringing in legislation to cover it.
The guarantee in itself has no significance.
It has significance to the extent of 6,000,000 dollars.
Either the Minister, through legislation passed in this House, is prohibited from disclosing the information for which he is asked or having the power to disclose the information, he refuses to give it. Which is correct? Has the Minister the power to disclose the information? There is no answer.
I would refer the Deputy to the statement made by the Taoiseach to the Institute of Public Administration on the powers and liberties of State companies and their responsibility to Parliament and to a speech I made at the conclusion of the Estimate for the Department of Transport and Power in which I gave in great detail my interpretation of what the Taoiseach said in relation to my Department. I explained all the difficulties associated with the control of State companies by Parliament, the extent to which they should be given liberty and power to order goods and equipment for themselves. I gave a very full commentary at that time and what I said will be generally agreed that on the whole and taking as an average body the reasonably good democratic administrations in the world today, some of them might wish to have a little more direct control, others may wish for a little bit less. What I and the Taoiseach said covers the average view taken of what is a highly complex matter. It is a matter related to democratic philosophy. It is extremely difficult to define. Every Deputy knows that one can have an indefinite argument on this subject and in the end——
We are going to have it.
——one trusts that the thing to do is to have boards in charge of companies which by long tradition can be trusted by the House and who have the general conduct of affairs on a good basis. If we have that, a lot of the philosophic argument will disappear.
Does not this arise out of the Minister's cowardly approach of trying to unload responsibility and to make a hatchetman out of Dr. Andrews? If he makes Dr. Andrews the man with a hatchet, then we have got to go for him. The Minister has disowned responsibility for this Department. He has put it over on to Dr. Andrews and he has told us to deal with Dr. Andrews. When the Minister was asked questions here he said he had nothing to do with it and wanted nothing to do with it. In relation to this paean of praise of Dr. Andrews, the position is that having closed branch railways, created widespread redundancy, increased fares, having reduced services and having created great unrest in CIE, he then has to admit, in spite of all these efforts, in spite of the dieselisation and all these other so-called rationalisation procedures, that his deficits are continuing to increase.