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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 27 Jan 1971

Vol. 251 No. 1

Road Transport Bill, 1970: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this Bill is the long delay which has taken place before its introduction. This Bill is long overdue, so much so, that we have had the anomalous and dangerous situation in that, on the admission of the Minister, the law, which it is being sought to amend in this Bill with regard to the transport of livestock, has been broken for some time. This was due to the fact that the law was archaic and totally out of line with the needs of the present time. Those who broke the law were doing what was only sensible in the economic interests of the country. However, it is to my mind a very bad situation that it should be necessary to break the law in order to do what is best in the economic interests of the country and, in this case, the economic interests of those engaged in agriculture. This situation was engendered because of the great delay on the part of the Government in introducing this amending legislation designed to liberalise the transport of cattle. The Minister himself admitted at column 749 of volume 249 of the Official Report that the law had been broken for some time and that a blind eye had been turned to this fact. I quote from the Minister:

It is apparent indeed apart from these studies that illegal haulage by interests associated with the livestock trade has become firmly established on a widespread basis and that reversal of this situation is impracticable.

This illegal haulage took place on a widespread basis because of the grave delay on the part of the Government in introducing this legislation. It is very unfortunate that people should be driven to what is technically illegal activity because of delay on the part of the Government in introducing necessary and long overdue amending legislation. It is a bad background against which to introduce such legislation.

It is clear that in the recent past the Government have had further pointers to the introduction of this legislation but neverthless it was delayed. In April, 1968, the Store Cattle Study Group recommended and produced a well-documented case for the liberalisation which is, in fact, being introduced in this Bill. Instead of acting on the recommendation of this Store Cattle Study Group and taking a decision there and then, when the facts were put before them, and in order to shelve the taking of a decision and saving themselves the embarrassment of having to admit immediately that they were wrong and should have introduced this long ago, the Government set up yet another inter-departmental study group to make exactly the same recommendations on exactly the same facts with exactly the same data some time later. Meanwhile nothing was done and it is only now that this legislation is being introduced. Why was it necessary, I should like to ask, to have two bodies making exactly the same recommendations on the same data before the Government were prepared to act? Why was it necessary for people to flout the law over a long period before the Government were prepared to amend it?

This culpable delay on the part of the Government should be strongly condemned in this House, because it brings this House into contempt. I believe the liberalisation proposed in this Bill in relation to the haulage of agricultural products is unduly restricted. The only categories of livestock covered are cattle, sheep and pigs. The Minister, in his speech, gives an explanation for the exclusion of horses in this context and I am prepared to accept it but has any consideration been given to the exclusion of other types of livestock, such as poultry and greyhounds? Why, when making liberalisation in this case, have other categories of livestock not been excluded as well?

It is clear to me that the standards of licensing in relation to the road haulage of agricultural products should be different from the standards of licensing in relation to the haulage of non-agricultural products because of the dispersed nature of farmers. They are spread all over the country and in order to get their goods to market they have to rely on a wider variety of different types of transport. As the produce of an individual farmer is in small quantities there are a larger number of individual occasions on which farmers in general require transport for their goods whereas a factory can transport in bulk relatively easily. Licensing arrangements can be easily enforced and accepted in regard to industry but in the case of farmers I think a more liberal approach is necessary.

Another point is that many agricultural products are highly perishable and transport in such cases is required very quickly. Again, goods are produced in rather uncertain quantities from day to day and produce may ripen very quickly. Reliance on licensed transport may be very impractical whereas, in industry, it is easy to predict when goods will be produced since the production line is not affected by uncertain factors, such as weather, and the quantity is also more easily transported and, therefore, transport arrangements with licensed hauliers can be made easily in advance. In the case of agriculture, however, with uncertainty as to quantity, and even as to time, it is not so easy to make transport arrangements in advance with the limited number of licensed hauliers available. There is also the fact that farmers are more dispersed and therefore tend to need transport to a greater extent than does industry. Because of that I suggest that a different standard should be applied to agricultural goods as a whole.

There are commodities which are excluded under this measure. There is milk, for example. Many farmers have to get their milk to creameries. At the moment individual farmers bring their own milk to the creameries. I think it would be a wise step for one farmer to undertake to do a round and bring all the milk of the neighbouring farmers to the creamery, thereby leaving them free to get on with their work; but, if the farmer carrying the milk were to accept any monetary reward for doing so, no matter how small it might be, he would have to have a merchandise haulage licence. It is entirely wrong that, under the present law, this man would be breaking the law for carrying this milk without a merchandise haulage licence. It is very difficult to get such a licence and to expect such a farmer to procure such a licence is quite absurd.

Again, if a farmer has two farms and he hires a contractor to cut silage on one farm and that silage has to be taken by road to the second farm, the contractor would be deemed to be carrying that silage for that farmer for hire and technically he would be breaking the law unless he had a merchandise haulage licence. Sliage and hay should both be excluded, as well as milk. If a contractor were to cut grain for a farmer and if he were to bring that grain along the road to some storage point he would be breaking the law unless he had a merchandise haulage licence. Clearly there is need to revise this legislation so that these circumstances can be taken into account.

In certain cases CIE cannot meet the requirements of agriculture and private lorries are plated by CIE to do the work. This is done in the case of both sugar beet and ground limestone. CIE take 10 per cent of the earnings of these private lorries. They are unable to do the work themselves and it seems to be utterly iniquitous that they should profit out of their own inadequacies. There seems to be no economic justification for giving this extra 10 per cent to CIE. They are doing nothing to earn this money. In fact, plating private hauliers would not be necessary were it not for the inadequacies of CIE.

In the last analysis, it is the farmer who pays the ten per cent to CIE. It is the primary producer who pays because he hires the private haulier to carry his sugar beet or his ground limestone so this 10 per cent surcharge is a 10 per cent surcharge on the farmer. There is no justification for this and it should be removed. Temporary arrangements of this nature tend to destroy the pattern of production. If there is land near a big factory which is unsuitable for the production of beet, the man who owns that land will produce beet because his transport costs will be minimal. On the other hand, a farmer who is far away from the factory, with land which is ideal for the production of beet, will not produce beet because transport costs will make the production of beet uneconomic for him. He would have to engage a private plated haulier and pay a 10 per cent surcharge. The result is there is a disincentive to produce beet on good land whereas the farmer near the factory who can transport his beet in his own tractor and trailer has an economic incentive to produce beet on unsuitable land. This distortion is most unhealthy and very unfortunate.

What will be the effect of this legislation on co-operatives and group farming? I touched earlier on this when dealing with the transport of milk to creameries. If the concept of group farming develops one farmer will do all sorts of haulage of all sorts of goods for other farmers. It seems to me that under present legislation that farmer would have to have a haulage merchandise licence unless he was carrying only cattle, sheep or pigs, which are exempted. The scope of subsection (5) would need to be extended.

There is the question of transporting soft fruits. These can be ripe one day and, if they are not transported very quickly, they can be rotten the next day. Under the present arrangement unless one were to get a licensed haulier, which would be rather difficult particularly as many of the farmers producing soft fruit are producing very small quantities, the carriage of which would not be worthwhile for a licensed haulier, with a big vehicle, one would have to rely perhaps on a neighbour to carry the goods to the jam factory or whatever it is. Unless the neighbour is a licensed haulier he is breaking the law. The list of agricultural products which under the present regulations unless carried by a licensed haulier are carried in breach of the law, is endless and I think the exemption contained here is quite inadequate in the circumstances.

The Minister referred to the fact that the Bill provides for the removal of weight limitations on licensed vehicles. Would the Minister consider imposing a condition for the issue of a licence of this nature that the vehicle be fitted with anti-pollution devices? Perhaps that could not be incorporated at this stage in this Bill as there has not been sufficient preparation but the possibility should be included of imposing such a condition. I gave a long list in the House recently on another Bill of the types of chemical air pollution arising from motor vehicle exhausts and so on. These can be particularly dangerous in confined places and many of the heavy trucks covered by this Bill may pass through narrow streets and there the half-burnt fuel being churned out through exhausts can be a very dangerous source of air pollution. There should be regulations requiring these vehicles to have anti-pollution devices fitted. I do not know much about the details of such devices but I know they are being introduced in the US at present and it would be highly appropriate for the Minister to require, before giving a merchandise haulage licence, that the vehicle should be fitted with an anti-pollution device of a standard approved by him. The introduction of such a condition in this Bill would not allow sufficient notice to those concerned but I hope the Minister will consider doing it some time in the reasonably near future.

It is stated in section 8 subsection (1) (a) that the Minister may grant a licence subject—and this is the important part—"to any conditions which the Minister may see fit to impose and specifies in the licence." The Minister may impose any condition. Under subsection (2) (b) the Minister may, by order, amend or revoke an order under this section. He can impose any conditions he likes without reference to anybody and then he can change these conditions by order without consulting anybody or without any standard being observed.

The conditions envisaged in subsection (1) (a) should be spelled out to the House. What are they? It should be incorporated in the Bill that the Minister would be required to set out objective standards for the conditions he intends to apply in the issue of such licences. There is the danger that one man could get very easy conditions if he were somehow favourably looked on by the Minister while another, with an equally good case, could conceivably get much severer conditions. To give the Minister carte blanche to impose any conditions without any requirement that they should be consistent from one place to the next is giving him too much power. The introduction of legislation like this giving the Minister such wide power is probably the greatest reason why there is such widespread talk of corruption in public life. The Minister's powers are not clearly delineated and there is room for him to exercise discretion in favour of particular supporters of his. I do not suggest the present Minister will do this but it is bad legislation to give such power without reference to the House or to objective standards that can be seen by any member of the public.

This deals with external companies.

One external company could give the Minister a backhander and another might not and the company giving the backhander might get more liberal treatment than the one that did not. The Minister is being given power that I think he should not be given. It is bad to give unlimited power of this kind to any Minister generally, whether international or national companies are concerned.

I should also like to have the Minister's comments on subsection (b). The Minister might make an order in a particular case and the applicant having got the licence would go to work on the basis of it. Then under subsection (b) if for some reason this licence-holder came into disfavour the Minister might, by order, revoke or change the licence. This gives the Minister power to deprive a man of his livelihood. It it the sort of provision that should not be in legislation coming before this House.

Section 8 (5) is again the sort of thing to which I seriously object. This provides that the Minister may at his discretion prescribe whatever fee he likes in respect of a restricted road freight licence. He can then double the fee without reference to anybody. Fees for legal documents which are in a somewhat similar category can be changed as easily as in this case and they have gone up by 87 per cent in the past few years so far as I know. This is far ahead of the rate of inflation and beyond any justification there might be.

This section also gives the Minister power to increase the fees without justifying them to anybody. To my mind the power given to the Minister under subsection (5) of section 8 should be subject to appeal to somebody to ensure that the Minister was not exercising his power in an autocratic way, increasing fees far out of line with the necessity for an increase.

There is another point here. We are dealing with the issuing of licences. At present if a man comes from abroad to live in Ireland his driving licence from another country will not be recognised but a tourist who is going to leave the country again, will be able to drive for six months without a test. It is a great discouragement to business people who may be coming to live here either permanently or temporarily for two or three years, that they should have to go through this procedure of passing a driving test again. Why should a person who is coming to live here have to pass a driving test?

Under subsection (2), cattle, sheep and pigs are far too limited a number of commodities and there are other commodities which should be included. In relation to the issue of merchandise licences there should be a requirement for the fitting of anti-pollution devices to such vehicles. Also, section 8 gives the Minister far too wide a discretion, a discretion which should never be given by this House to any Minister.

The emphasis in the Minister's opening speech was on the advantages of rationalisation which would accrue to the transport industry as a whole. I would refer the House to the Minister's remarks where he stated that the possible effect on CIE's finances must be a secondary consideration in his view. We believe that the adverse consequences of such rationalisation on the good employment already provided in the industry may not have been inquired into too closely by the Minister's advisers when they were drafting this Bill. We wish to express dissatisfaction in regard to the changes which must mean increasing competition for CIE and therefore must have an adverse effect on the trade union employment in the country at present. While there is a reference to the necessity for providing an up-to-date service the Minister did not refer to the question with which employees are very concerned, namely, any specification in relation to the manning of lorries. We all know that the trend now is to have larger trucks and the absence of any up-to-date legislation in regard to a satisfactory complement of helpers for these larger lorries is a cause of uneasiness among trade unionists. There is also the important safety factor which apparently is not being looked at here. I accept that possibly this is a matter for the Minister for Local Government but there was no reference in the Minister's speech to the matter. I would ask him to clarify his mind on these matters in any further statements he has to make on this Bill.

Recently we had occasion, on behalf of the trade union of which we are members, to express our uneasiness and dissatisfaction with safety measures as they affect oil trucks and so on. I would ask the Minister if he, in consultation with his colleague the Minister for Local Government, could suggest a method by which we can have an annual check—because that is the minimum necessity—of all licensed merchandise vehicles in the State because we do hear stories—perhaps unsubstantiated in some cases, but the reports are there—which suggest that the safety standards of many people in the industry are deplorable and certainly not satisfactory. In many cases the manning procedure is inadequate for the increasing size of these trucks.

The Minister referred to the increase in the number of foreigners operating trucks here. We have received a report that the number of personnel attached to these larger foreign trucks appears to be far in excess of the number common among home operators. Whether this means that there are superior manning conditions to be complied with in these other countries than obtain here it certainly appears that there is a higher safety standard adopted in these other countries than here. If the whole tenor of the Minister's speech and of the speeches of supporting Deputies is to suggest that we must be as efficient as our competitors and if that argument holds it means that in manning and in safety precautions we must be on a level basis of comparison.

Our point is that we are not satisfied that employment in CIE will not be affected adversely. It is true that there is good trade union employment given outside CIE—many members of the Licensed Hauliers' Association have been doing so for years—but the Minister appears to take a rather lighthearted attitude in regard to the possible effect on CIE's road freight service arising from these proposals. It is a section of CIE which is operated at a profit and therefore we should not lightly allow any diminution of this trade. The Minister said he was satisfied that there was no real threat to CIE's business and I hope he will address himself to more weighty reasons for this confidence.

If it reduces own-account haulage, which is 83 per cent, both CIE and the professional hauliers will profit.

It is a bit more complicated than that.

Yes, it is.

That is one viewpoint. Perhaps the Minister would state at greater length what plans are on hands in CIE's portion of this trade to deal with the consequences arising from the Bill. We will be very interested to hear them. As I said, there are 40-foot vehicles coming in and our impression is that these foreign firms apparently have more personnel attached to them. Whatever the Minister may say about reducing the number of own-account firms there will be, as a result of this Bill, an expansion in the size of firms operating in the industry and whilst on one side you may say that rationalisation is to the advantage of the industry it may not be to the advantage of the employment content of CIE. These are very real fears.

Reference was also made to the hackers and to the fact that the law was coming into disrepute as a result of the number of these around the country. We have had reports that some such unlicensed operators— whether this is true or not I should like the Minister to inquire into it—have had connections with certain CIE business. As I say, it is merely a report but it would be a regrettable state of affairs if such people had been acquiring any business from CIE. If the Minister has any evidence at departmental level to suggest whether this is right or wrong we should like to know. We feel that there has been too little emphasis in the Minister's speech about the possible consequences on employment in CIE and we should like more assurance on this point, arising from these proposals.

We are extremely unhappy about the lack of proper safety precautions in this industry and are also concerned at the total absence of a statutory minimum number of personnel to be attached to these trucks. Perhaps the manning question is more a matter for the Minister for Local Government— who is specialising in prohibitions elsewhere—but we should like if the Minister for Transport and Power would give an assurance to this House in the course of the passage of this Bill that he will take up this matter with the Minister for Local Government at the first opportunity. I can assure him that the transport section of the Irish Transport Union and other unions are extremely concerned about the apparent lack of safety precautions and the strong legal obligations on operators to provide minimum personnel in the manning of these trucks.

It is all right if we are going to have rationalisation of the industry and the Minister may plead the advantages of that situation. However, where there is rationalisation and expansion of firms as a result of legislation passed by this House, and the units in the industry are to become larger, equally the obligation devolves on them to provide greater safety precautions and to observe a higher standard. This should mean that we will have legislation very shortly whereby each year trucks in this area will be examined for all the specifications we say are necessary. There have been reports from trade unionists regarding the lack of standards and we would like the Minister to give the House an early indication that action will be taken on this matter.

From what Deputy Foley has said —and he claims sole authorship of the proposals in this Bill—it appears he is suggesting strongly that there should be some compensation paid to existing licence holders. I would ask the Minister if there is to be such consideration shown to operators already in the industry that similar consideration be given to the affairs of the employees also who worked faithfully and hard in this industry during the years, especially when things were not so good. I should like that some consideration be given to granting compensation to any trade union employee who, as a result of the passage of this Bill, may find himself without a job, who may find that his job has disappeared in the interests of greater rationalisation in the industry. Perhaps Deputy Foley and those who claim sole authorship of this Bill would address themselves to that twin obligation arising from rationalisation in the industry.

I agree with the last speaker in speaking on section 8 regarding the expression of any statutory powers the Minister may wish to have and I agree these should be spelled out in the Bill. These powers should not be vaguely hinted at but they should be clearly delineated in the Bill we are asked to pass. I hope that the Minister will give us some assurance on the points we have raised, especially those that bear on the existing employment of trade unionists.

I welcome this Bill mainly because it brings into effect a measure about which there has been a considerable amount of agitation during many years both inside and outside the House, namely, the liberalisation of the haulage of livestock. It is difficult to understand why it should have taken so long to bring this before the House but the Minister must be given credit for having at last seen the light and having brought this Bill before us. However, previous Ministers—it is not confined to one Minister—have resisted during the years the fact that farmers particularly had to put up with a hopeless situation in regard to the haulage of livestock.

The Minister's own statistics prove that the entire haulage business in relation to livestock was, by and large, done by illegal hauliers. The statistics given here of the findings in 1964—I have considerable doubt about them— say that 83 per cent was "own" haulage. However the bulk was illegal haulage, if one could describe it as such, and it was illegal because CIE could not be got to do the job. Deputy O'Leary has made reference here to the fact that he hoped that CIE had no truck with these people. In fact they had and this was one of the more serious aspects.

CIE were practically legislating. They could ring up at any time and say they were unable to undertake a dirty job, where there were laneways involved and corners around which their larger trucks could not go. They could license any one to pull out his truck and do the job for them. This is well known and it is not denied by the Minister; I certainly drew attention to it more than once in the House. CIE were, in fact, a licensing authority and this was a deplorable situation. We brought this Bill in when CIE were carrying only 3 per cent so that, in fact, they are throwing away nothing. However, no Minister in the country had the courage to bring it in before because all were afraid they would lose a few votes. That is the only reason it has not been introduced before now.

We had a most inefficient haulage system for livestock. All Members in the House may not remember when CIE first got the monopoly but having regard to the amount of trucks in the country at the time we had a relatively efficient system of livestock haulage prior to the days when CIE got this monopoly. The situation then was that you had a man in the country with his own lorry and one helper. He knew all the farmers in his area who might have a few pigs to send to Dublin or cattle to the market. All that was necessary was to leave a message at the local; he went to Dublin with the livestock, he washed down his truck and he brought home a load of merchandise for the shopkeepers along the way. He organised his business efficiently. The same degree of efficiency was not displayed by CIE. In that organisation the trucks were not privately owned and the people there did not worry themselves about getting a load back from Dublin and, in my view, this created a most inefficient transport system. CIE sent a driver a considerable distance; he had to inquire at ten different houses before he arrived at the farm and was not even sure whether he could go down many of the laneways and arrive at his destination. The local man knew all about this and had no difficulty. He knew all the farmers and gave an efficient transport service.

In addition, markets and fairs started at very early hours in the morning so that early and late travel was essential. This did not suit CIE; they never provided an efficient transport organisation and that is why they lost it. One of the worst features was that CIE had no competition. I heard the view privately expressed by the manager of the Road Freight Department of CIE many years ago that he was in favour of competition. However, this competition was eliminated and, consequently, CIE sat down and did not have to try. That was wrong. This Bill completely liberalises the haulage of cattle, sheep and pigs.

Horses are excluded from this and I have some doubt as to whether even this restriction should have been imposed. It is quite right to say that this is one job CIE do very efficiently. Most of the horses they handle are bloodstock to sales or to race meetings. CIE are well equipped and safely equipped for this and they do an excellent job. However, having regard to the way they are equipped and the fact that payment is made in respect of horses going to race meetings, I doubt very much if they would suffer if this transport was opened up completely. It is quite undesirable that a man bringing horses, for instance, to a gymkhana should either have to have his own transport or look for CIE. These conditions should not be imposed.

The same thing applies to working horses. If working horses have to be transferred from one place to another over a distance that they cannot be walked in the normal way, it should not be necessary to ensure that CIE or a man with his own lorry will transport them. There is so mething all wrong about it. The amount of business CIE would lose as a result of the complete freeing of livestock transport would be negligible. In fact, they will lose nothing at all from this except a headache that they never wanted and that they were never able to carry.

People have deprecated here in the House the fact that for so long there were in this country what were described as illegal hauliers. In fact, they were great benefactors and should have been applauded. It was a good thing that many members of the Garda Síochána realised that these people were doing a first-class job for the Irish people and closed their eyes to the illegal aspect of the haulage. It is a disgrace that the Government allowed this situation to go on for so long, a stupid situation that was increasing the cost of production on the farmers, a burden of which they should have been relieved many years before.

I am glad this Bill has been introduced. It is a very restricted Bill and, as Deputy Tom O'Donnell said in the course of his speech, it is time that an overall national transport policy were brought into this House in view of what we face in relation to the EEC and because of the enormous changes that are taking place in freight and haulage generally through the introduction of these enormous containers of one sort or another which are being hauled around the country in any case. If they have all the opportunities they want to operate almost as they like, the Irish people should have the same freedom. In relation to this whole question of freight it would be far better for the country if it was a free-for-all.

Deputy O'Leary is concerned, naturally, about employment. However, the same amount of material is to be transported and if people are not employed in one place they will be employed in another. Nobody seemed to be greatly concerned about the number of people throughout the country who lost employment at the time the monopoly was handed over to CIE.

Some of it was very bad employment, long hours, low wages.

But there was a lot of bad employment in the country at that time in any case, and people were so pleased to have a job of any sort that it did not arise. It is difficult enough to get people to accept bad employment now.

There is still a bit of it.

There are many people looking for workers who will do an immense amount for nothing, but I do not know of anybody who is getting them now. There are fairly strong pressures to ensure that this is so, and that is as it should be, provided we are not putting an unbearable load on the end product that has to be exported, a load that it has not to carry in the countries of our competitors. It is all right to talk about the manning of yokes. I am in favour of reasonable manning but you can over-man, too, and put an impost on a product that makes it uncompetitive.

This is a Bill that could probably be better discussed and be discussed in considerably more detail on Committee Stage. This whole question of safety precautions and the roadworthiness of the vehicles that will be used is more a Local Government concern, but the Minister for Transport and Power should not be unconcerned about it either.

A great deal of concern has been expressed about existing licensed hauliers. My view is that these have been the privileged people for a very long time. They have been very well looked after and I do not see why there should be all this concern about them. I have as much right to have a licence as any other person. There is no restriction on the number of shopkeepers. Why should there be a restriction on the number of people who have a licence to haul materials around the country? It does not make sense to me. It is just making a privileged class when a State-owned concern is not involved. I do not think there is any justification for this class of people in Irish society at all. It may be that these people can say: "We have spent an enormous amount of money in equipping ourselves for this business, and regard should be had to this." In any business a person has to spend money to set himself up but he cannot get a monopoly for himself. The licensed haulier should not put himself in a privileged position so that he has to be protected against competition from other people who would like to go into this business.

These are matters that require a great deal of consideration in this Bill or in any Transport Bill that comes before the House. As I say, it is a limited Bill, and the portions of it that I like are those that liberalise the whole business and make it free for people to come into the transport business and do it efficiently and effectively and with the local knowledge that is required in many departments. Certainly this is a step in the right direction. It is not by any means a comprehensive Bill but it is one to be welcomed by the people.

The debate on this matter has been very constructive and I should like to emphasise the kernel of the matter as outlined in my opening speech on Second Stage. Again, it is relevant to remarks that have been made by a number of Deputies. Practically every Deputy touched on this matter but particularly Deputy O'Donovan and Deputy O'Leary who were concerned about CIE employees in the road freight section.

The hub of the matter is that here in Ireland 83 per cent of our transport is own-account transport. This is far too high by any standard you can take from any other country in the world. I just mentioned Britain in my Second Stage speech. There the figure is of the order of 51 per cent compared to our 81 per cent. That is the pattern all over. The people who will benefit from the substantial diminution in own-account transport from 81 per cent down are the professional hauliers who will emerge from this system and the largest professional haulier in the country is CIE. They cannot but benefit along with the other hauliers who, in my view, will be able to rationalise themselves into small, maybe medium-sized, efficient transport operating companies and then we will have CIE as the major transport operating company, operating competitively with them. The total effect of that should be to diminish this figure of 81 per cent own-account haulage as compared with Britain's 51 per cent. That is a situation that is highly undesirable, a situation which obviously is leading to over-capitalisation by private people hauling on their own account, not alone by smaller business people but by substantially large firms in this country who at the moment because of these restrictions are not in a position to hire efficient professional hauliers.

Deputy O'Donnell referred to the lack of this type of international approach to road transport on the part of our hauliers, to the absence of roll-on/roll-off facilities. I agree with him that this will be the trend in the future—transport facilities that will run right through Britain on to Europe and back. Indeed, the Common Market transport policy is now being evolved and we will have to participate in whatever regulations are proposed as a result of the deliberations of the European Economic Commission.

This again is pertinent to what has been raised by Deputy O'Leary concerning the manning and the other safety regulations. We will have common European safety and manning regulations in this regard. What Deputy O'Leary is referring to in regard to manning concerns crews on these long-haul operations where there would be naturally extra personnel to deal with driving on a shift basis over a couple of thousand miles.

The important thing is that the whole purpose of the Bill is a first stage to rid ourselves of a restrictive, inward-looking road transport system that has operated here since 1933, that whatever relevance it had to the particular time when it was introduced under that statute it has obviously no relevance in the world of today where we are moving into a completely new transportation conception in containerisation involving roll-on/roll-off procedures that are linking together both road surface and sea transportation and bringing a totally new conception to the whole operation. In this new conception of transportation the emphasis in Europe and in Britain, and it must be here, is on the efficient professional hauliers. CIE can be one of those and there can be a number of other medium-sized and smaller efficient operators due to the inevitable development that will flow from the creation of 840 new licences without any weight, commodity or area restrictions. These 840 licences will undoubtedly lead to mergers and amalgamations in some areas and the growth of private enterprise, a professional transportation area, and that as it happens in our situation will act as an ideal counterfoil to the existing State professional operation of CIE in that CIE has 860 trucks in its road freight section. There will be 840 new licences created so that there will be a rough and ready 50/50 balance between State enterprise in this field and private enterprise. This is apart from the shipping licences which may be given to shipping companies. Therefore, there will be a nice balance between private and public enterprise.

As regards CIE's performance on the road freight aspect I would have no worries at all in regard to the employment situation. There will not be any diminution in employment, first of all, for the reason I have mentioned that there will be an increase in business accruing both to CIE and private hauliers arising out of the diminution that will result in road account haulage and, secondly, the CIE road freight operation is a highly successful one. In 1969 its operating profit was in the region of £227,000. In 1970 its operating profit was £195,000. Even with a deduction from that in relation to financial charges their net profit in 1969 was £122,000 and their net profit in 1970 was £83,000, so that applying the strictest private enterprise accountancy criteria to their operation it is obviously a highly profitable type of operation. I look forward to the growth on the private and public sides and on the shipping side of a highly efficient professional road haulage service that will be available to business in this country and a diminution of investment by firms and private people in over-capitalised and underworked road haulage stock which has been the pattern heretofore in this country.

I have referred to Deputy O'Donnell's interest in the EEC situation. I agree with him and we are watching that very closely. As regards the overall transportation policy that he suggested should be introduced we have had a number of reports on this matter over the years and it is such a rapidly changing business that it is better to proceed in stages. We have now taken the first step. We should see how this develops. If, arising out of the framework of this legislation, we develop a highly professional road transport organised service through various organisations, both private and public, if that does develop in the way I envisage, that will be very satisfactory as far as the road freight side is concerned.

In regard to transport generally I have, as I have already told the House, inaugurated an investigation with the aid of international consultants, McKinsey and Company, with a view to ascertaining the precise problems in regard to the CIE operation generally. There should be some interesting answers coming up in the report which I expect, a preliminary report at any rate on the rail side, inside the next two months and inside the next six months a total report on the whole operation of CIE. There should be some interesting results from this investigation which will throw up the options open to the Government and the House here in regard to where we should go concerning future transportation as it affects CIE generally. That is the rail side and the bus side of CIE, the operations other than the road freight side.

We have also engaged the same firm of consultants to advise us on how best to organise sea transportation between B & I and British Railways. They have already come up with a preliminary recommendation which has been adopted as to the sharing of terminal facilities between Dublin and Liverpool and the sharing of ships between the two companies and there are further recommendations coming along in this respect. In this rapidly changing business it is better to proceed on the basis of businesslike reports from consultants of this kind, to make decisions, bring in legislation, proceed stage by stage, rather than having a long-term total report that may be irrelevant by the time it comes out because it is a rapidly changing business. In the past five years we have seen a complete change-over from traditional road freight to containerisation. This all happened in the last five to ten years.

Mr. O'Donnell

I see the validity of what the Minister has said but I would not like short-term interim reports to lead to stop-gap measures that would subsequently have to be scrapped.

No. I agree with the Deputy. It is a matter which I am having examined. Of course, we will watch very carefully how the Bill operates in the future.

I want to issue one word of warning here. It is our intention that once this Bill becomes law unlicensed haulage is out because it has come to my notice —and representations have been made to me by the road haulage organisations—that since this Bill was introduced the notion has got abroad that there will be no more enforcement in regard to road haulage. Of course, there will. There will be no more enforcement of regulations in regard to areas or weights or commodities which exist at the moment, and entailed a large number of Garda personnel to see how existing hauliers were obeying or not obeying the existing regulations. That will all go. The 840 existing hauliers will have their licences for the whole country and that will be a clean, straightforward matter.

I want to emphasise that, as far as the unlicensed hauliers are concerned, the law remains the same, apart from the concessions in regard to cattle, sheep and pigs given here for everybody in the community. It is totally free and not involved in the restrictions at all. It is quite clear that the provision in regard to cattle, sheep and pigs is generally welcome. It is just taking legislative cognisance of a fact of life. CIE road freight was only about 2 per cent of the haulage of this sort of business. The provision was obviously being breached widely already. I could see the legitimacy of that—although I do not condone breaches of the law— because of the impracticality in rural areas of a large operating company like CIE being forced to bring trucks to remote rural areas. This just did not work and was not functioning properly. This type of business, depending as it does on arrivals and departures at all hours of the day and night, and involving a very personal and intimate relationship between haulier and farmer, obviously should not be included in any form of licensing or any form of restriction. I think the House generally recognises the commonsense of that.

With regard to the point made about power being given to me by way of order under some sections of the Bill, and particularly section 8, I should like to assure the House that there is nothing unusual in this at all. In a licensing Act it is obviously foolish to tie up any Minister or any Government over-much in regard to a matter that is flexible and may change from year to year or from time to time. The safeguard is that such orders must be placed before the Dáil and can be perused by Deputies and, if it is considered that there is any wrong or injustice incorporated in such orders, Deputies are free to raise the matter in public debate here in the House.

One matter was mentioned for consideration by me and representations on it were made to me by the road haulage organisations. There is one argument, although Deputy Clinton put forward the other argument. On one argument it can be regarded as inequitable in this Bill that the 100 odd Twenty-six County hauliers who paid substantial money for their licences are being put on the same basis as their 740-odd other colleagues who had a less valuable type of licence and who are now put on an equal basis. The case has been put to me that as and from 1st January, 1969, we should allow an extra lorry to each of these 100 licensed hauliers, just one extra. It was suggested that whatever licences they had for whatever number of trucks, one should be added to that from 1st January, 1969. That is the case which was made by Deputy Foley. Representations have also been made to me by other Deputies. I will consider that matter between now and Committee Stage. The other point was put by Deputy Clinton who said that these people bought a business at a particular time and asked why should they get anything in addition under this or any other legislation.

That is assuming that they have licences for all the trucks they have.

A percentage of them have been in the business since 1933. They did not all buy them. In fact, I would say very few of them did.

There has been a reasonable trade in them.

There has.

I am giving the points of view that were raised in the debate. This is the one matter which was mentioned as possibly needing an amendment of the Bill. No other amendment was suggested. In view of the fact that this specific suggestion was made, I am willing to consider it between now and Committee Stage.

I do not think anything else arises. I am very glad the Bill has been welcomed generally. As I said in my opening statement, I regard this as the first stage in the whole process of rationalisation in regard to transportation generally with a view to gearing our economy for the Common Market. It goes without saying that, because of our geographical location, transportation and the elimination of transportation costs as far as possible will be an all-important factor in our being a prosperous member of an enlarged European Economic Community.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 3rd February, 1971.