I would like the Minister to comment on this as it was this section 3 that attracted most attention from the people who were in the employ of the company and who are being transferred to the care of the OPW. I know that when the Bill was initiated in the Seanad there was considerable worry on the part of the workers as to whether their rights and privileges would be preserved, and section 3 (2) (a) and (b) were brought in to meet the objections raised at that stage. I would like the Minister to indicate to the House whether the unions representing the workers are satisfied that their transfer is covered adequately by the terms of section 3.
Canals Bill, 1985 [Seanad]: Committee Stage.
This section provides a guarantee in relation to the conditions of service of the canals staff after their transfer and ensures that the prior pensionable service of that staff will be reckonable for Civil Service superannuation purposes, and makes provisions as the Deputy says, that were inserted following discussion in the Seanad. Arising out of that and the worry expressed on behalf of members of the staff and to ensure that no-one would be any worse off after this transfer, section 3 (2) was inserted on Report Stage in the Seanad. This provides for a reckoning of all the pluses and minuses of conditions of service of the canals staff in CIE compared with the OPW and for the giving of appropriate compensation where warranted, that is, separate from and in addition to any adjustment of pay or superannuation agreements between the two employments. If a dispute arises as to whether such compensation is warranted in any particular case or as to the amount of compensation which should be given in a particular case, the Labour Court then will have power to settle the dispute by binding both sides to its decision as to the amount of compensation to be given.
The Deputy asked if all the people concerned were satisfied with this. I am pleased to be able to report there is overall satisfaction. The then Minister of State responsible for the OPW said he was delighted that at the recent discussions between representatives of his office, CIE and the unions involved, the union representatives welcomed the proposal. We understand now that there is satisfaction with this situation. The detailed negotiations on individuals as such will be starting very shortly, but there is satisfaction all round and the arrangement appears to have met all the grievances that were expressed very vigorously by various people in the Seanad. I am delighted that satisfaction has been reached on this. Between 70 and 80 employees are involved and naturally we are all anxious that the transition will be as smooth as possible and without any difficulties.
I am pleased that the Minister of State has reached that happy kind of situation. As he said, rightly, particularly with regard to certain substantive privileges they had, the employees were considerably alarmed. I know there was a difficulty after the transfer in providing the exact type of privileged payments in some cases and payments in kind in other cases and transferring them exactly.
I find one thing the Minister said very interesting. He said the Labour Court would settle the amount and that it would be binding on both parties. As a matter of legal nicety, I would like to know if this is the first time a recommendation of the Labour Court was made binding. I remember at the establishment of the Labour Court many years ago hearing a lecturer say he was disappointed that there was not written into the law a power to bind both sides. I would be interested to know whether this is the first instance of something in a statute which will compel both sides to accept the finding. Are we making history?
I would like to be able to tell the Deputy that we are, but I am afraid our research into this does not enable me to make that unqualified statement. I hope we are to a certain extent making history. Unfortunately, I have not the material here.
I find it interesting.
I made a point on Second Stage about the transfer of documents. One of the horrific things about our documentation and archival work is that there is a certain amount of carelessness at times, as I had evidence of when trying to do a little work in the Public Records Office on one occasion. Naturally section 4 is to make provision that all documents, records, books etc. should be transferred. I would like to emphasise how important it is that the Minister who has obligations in this field generally would see to it that proper provision is made for the keeping of these documents, maps and so on, and that they are preserved for researchers and so forth. I am saying something here that really I should not have to say were it not for the fact that I know that historians and archivists generally are worried about our treatment of documentation. For that reason I would like the Minister to pay special attention to section 4 to see to it not merely for the ordinary business purposes of the Office of Public Works but also for the researchers and archivists, that these documents should be properly looked after.
Because of my interest generally in that area and of my work on the National Archives Bill, I have a particular interest in this, apart from the ordinary interest that I would have as the Minister of State concerned. Since Second Stage of the Canals Bill in the Dáil, archival experts from the Public Records Office have undertaken a comprehensive survey of the canals records in CIE care. Those experts have confirmed what has just been said by Deputy Wilson — the enormous value of those records for a better appreciation of the social and economic conditions prevailing at that time. I can confirm that from a recent experience of mine. A friend picked up a simple payments book for the Sligo and North Counties Railways around the turn of the century. There was very interesting material there, giving an insight in a simple way into the conditions at the time. It is clear from the fact that some of these records pre-date the canals and deal with the setting up of them that they are over 200 years old.
I do not think that one should quantify the value of documents in their cubic footage, but just to give the House an idea of what material is there, there are now some 300 cubic feet of canals records, just talking in volume.
In shipping terms, that is three gross registered tonnes.
I am indebted to the Deputy for that information which I would not have been able to provide for the benefit of the House. This means that considerable attention will have to be given to safe storage and access in the future, whether under the direct aegis of the proposed National Archives or otherwise. Also, some of the records will continue to be needed by the Commissioners of Public Works for administrative purposes, so the commissioners must have care of these particular records for some time to come. As I indicated previously, I propose to discuss with CIE and the commissioners in due course how best to deal with the preservation and so forth of the canals records for the nation. There is a storage question and there is the question of the movement of these records. That is something to which we are giving particular attention.
I cannot tell the Minister how pleased I am to hear what I have just heard. I feel confident that he has a special interest in this and that the records will be looked after. I know that the Old Dublin Society have been doing some research in that area at times. I am intrigued by articles on the canals by members of that society, articles which were published in the proceedings of the Old Dublin Society, about fares, boiled mutton for meals and the hotel which was built for £10,000 at Portobello at the beginning of the last century. It is important to preserve all that material. I cannot tell the Minister how pleased I am with his reply and his assurance that this matter will be carefully looked after.
Amendment No. 1 has been ruled out of order. Amendment No. 1a is in the name of the Minister. Amendment No. a2b is cognate with it. Amendments Nos. 1a and a2b to be taken together, by agreement.
On the question of my amendment, I am not challenging the Chair's ruling but would the Chair indicate why it was ruled out of order?
I am sure that Deputy Wilson was given the reasons but, briefly, his amendment was ruled out of order because it involves a potential charge on the revenue and is irrelevant to the subject matter of the Bill as read a Second Time. The Deputy might have something to say about the subject of the second ground, but the first ground on which the amendment was ruled out of order is that it involves a potential charge on the revenue.
Is that based on some statute or on the Constitution?
It is based on a Standing Order that such an amendment can be moved only by the Minister.
That has only the validity of a Standing Order, so there is no statute or constitutional issue involved?
It is in Standing Orders.
In obedience to your ruling, Sir, I am not going to discuss my amendment; but the fact of the matter is that we can make all the nice arrangements in the world about the canals but if a separate fund is not established——
When we come to the section the Deputy might have an opportunity to make reference to it.
On a point of order, you mentioned that it would incur a potential charge.
I cannot discuss that on amendment No. 1a. I am sorry, Deputy.
The Ballyconnell-Ballinamore Canal is the subject of extensive discussions as a cross-Border project and we——
The Deputy is now challenging the Chair's ruling.
We had hoped that EC funding would be made available, but there is no reference to the Exchequer.
Deputy Leonard is now challenging the Chair's ruling, in effect.
I am not challenging the Chair's ruling at all.
When we come to the section, if the Deputy wishes to make a reference to it, he may do so.
I move amendment No. 1a:
In page 6, subsection (2), lines 33 and 34, to delete "Minister for Fisheries and Forestry" and substitute "Minister for Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry".
This is a technical amendment consequential on the change in the functions and titles of the Ministers recently made by the Government. It is the same as happened on the more recent Free Ports Bill.
He who rises in the morning may not be the same as he who goes to bed at night.
I have hopes for the canals under the new regime. The whole original purpose of the canals died, so to speak, and consequently they have been under the aegis of CIE. That arrangement was not suitable and has not been suitable for some time. The Office of Public Works now have an opportunity in various fields which were mentioned by the Minister, myself and others on Second Stage. I then made the point that, although the Royal and Grand Canals were the only two involved in this Bill, there were others which also were awaiting development. It was because of that that I put down the amendment which, I accept, has been ruled out of order for the reasons given — whether they are adequate or not is beside the point. I am afraid that this potential which we see in the canals under the new regime may, from the very beginning, be killed unless there is something specific in the Bill to point the way to a development fund. I know that the EC accept what is called a zero-rating as distinct from non-VAT. No VAT at all is distinguished in European law from zero-rating and even something as a zero rate put in — say, £10 token or zero-rating — would be a reminder each year as the Estimates come up that this is an area which should attract funding for development. That is really the basis for my amendment. If one had a zero subhead it would allow what Deputy Leonard mentioned as far as the Ballyconnell-Ballinamore Canal was concerned — funding from Europe to be placed under that subhead in the future. I urge the wisdom of that procedure on the House.
I support that proposal. We had hoped that on Second Stage consideration would be given to the Ballyconnell-Ballinamore Canal. That has been the subject of long discussions during the years by the Erne Catchment Study Committee. There has been liaison between North and South in this regard for the past ten years in an effort to get a linkage between the two finest waterways in Europe, the Shannon and the Erne. A survey was initiated by Fianna Fáil in the seventies and a viability and cost benefit study of the linkage was proceeded with.
There is serious disappointment at the present attitude towards those studies which were heavily funded by the EC. Indeed I am surprised there has not been EC pressure to have something done about the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal earlier because the Social and Economic Committee of the EC visited the region and expressed concern at the severe economic handicaps in the area.
Under the Hillsborough Agreement the local regional development organisation approached the Minister for Finance following a meeting of Dáil and Seanad Members here who endeavoured to formulate a plan to follow up strategy studies earlier on this subject. We had a meeting with the Minister for Finance to discuss general development strategy for the northern region, including Cavan, Monaghan and Louth, on 10 February and in a letter we were told:
The Minister for Finance, Mr Alan M. Dukes T.D. has noted the documents which your Organisation has produced on foot of a Development Strategy for the north eastern region and the priority requirements which you have identified in your Action Programme. He is very sympathetic to the objectives which your Organisation has set out but considers that, if progress is to be made on these objectives, they must be advanced in a way which recognises the severe limitations on public funds. In particular, he is concerned that, having allowed for the fact that the proposed Action Programme incorporates substantial infrastructural works which have already been approved, it nevertheless calls for significant additional public expenditure in the area. Moreover little evidence is provided that there would be an adequate net return to economy as a whole and to the Exchequer on many of the expenditures proposed.
The Deputy is moving far away from the Bill.
We never believed that linkage with this canal would be profit-making in the short term. Our purpose was to improve tourist facilities in the area. Now we have the Minister for Finance saying that because he cannot see money on the table immediately from development of this project the proposed linkage is not on. As I have said, much work, including many surveys, has been done and we believe this would lead to marvellous tourist development, including water sport, in the general area. I am disappointed at the rejection of the amendment which would allow the OPW to become involved in that canal.
We are all very interested in the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. Among the other amenities it offers is the important linkage it affords between the constituencies of Deputy Wilson, the Ceann Comhairle, Deputy Leonard and my own. However, this Bill deals only with the transfer of canals in the property of CIE to the OPW, and the canal being referred to does not fall under that heading. Indeed there is some difficulty about the ownership of that canal. It was constructed in the mid-1800s and was in the control of a board of trustees. That board lapsed in the forties of this century, and legislation or legal proceedings would be necessary to establish the present owners. It is under the overall aegis of the OPW.
Deputy Leonard put down a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs about the canal and the reply was that the feasibility study on the restoration of the canal would be ready in the next few months and it would then become possible to examine the possibility of restoring the canal. There are serious complications in this matter. It is not a clear-cut thing because the canal serves as drainage, but as an amenity it never worked very well — when it is right for an amenity such as boating it would be wrong for drainage. It would be difficult to get the right combination, and that is what the feasibility study is about. The OPW have engaged consultants to draw up a plan for the development of the canal and an allocation of money for the development of the Royal and Grand Canals will be considered after the transfer of the canals from CIE and a development programme has been drawn up.
Would the Minister consider a zero subhead which would be a technical way of providing a lead of which people would take cognisance year after year? It is a device that could have fruitful effects. The Chair has indicated that the amendment is out of order but I suggest that the wisdom of the substance of my amendment will become apparent over the years. I will write into the record of the House what I am looking for:
A sum of money for the development of the canals shall be allocated annually and shown under a subhead in the Annual Estimate for the Department of Finance/OPW, such money to be allocated for the development of the Royal and Grand Canals, the Ballyconnell-Ballinamore Canal and such other canals and waterways as the Commissioners may from time to time determine.
I welcome the Minister's statement about the survey and about the provision of money for development, but I urge him, if possible, to accept the idea of a zero subhead which could be filled in in better times by aids that are available from the EC. In regard to the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal, seeing that a sweep of the Erne affected by a link-up between the Erne and the Shannon has tremendous tourist potential, people in County Fermanagh have told me they see it as we do. There is an airport near Enniskillen which adds to the amenity value.
This marks the beginning of a new era for the canals. I believe nothing but good will come from this and that the money will be provided. As a person who loves these waters, I will be delighted to pass on the Deputy's suggestion.
Section 5 confers on the commissioners new powers — a greater level of protection over canal property, the question of public amenity and fishing. The River Barrow, which runs through my constituency, is part of the canal system. Under section 5, perhaps even sections 6 and 7, new powers are being conferred on the commissioners that could take away rights which the people have enjoyed over a very long period of time, particularly fishing rights. The Barrow-Nore Tourism Association are particularly concerned that a certain association could now apply to the Fisheries Board for a licence to control a certain section of the River Barrow which, up to now, they could not have controlled. If that is so, this is very serious and I would like the Minister to clarify it. If I am not happy with his clarification, I will ask that an amendment be introduced to prevent this happening.
It will be for the Commissioners of Public Works to decide how the Barrow Navigation is to be used for fishing, boating or other recreational use at particular times. While this Bill spells this out in more detail, it must be remembered that CIE also had these powers. Any interested body who are concerned about this can contact the commissioners, put their case to them and seek whatever facilities they desire. The Minister for Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry will have the overall power to determine the types and times of fishing under the general regulations. We have been very careful in this Bill to ensure that there will be consultation with the Minister responsible for fisheries. That has been written into the Bill so that the rights of the people interested in that sport are catered for. There must be control if there is to be an orderly use of the amenity. As far as the Barrow is concerned, I believe this legislation will greatly ease the situation without taking away any rights.
I am still concerned that the power to make the final decision should be retained by the Minister. Nobody objects to the regulation of fishing on the river. The various organisations concerned would be in total agreement with the approach to protect certain species, but they are worried about the wording of this section because we are conferring new powers on the commissioners. If an association I form want control over a certain section of that river, the commissioners can grant me that power. If that is so, that is going against the practice which has been in existence for many years and could have serious adverse effects on tourism. Many people visit this area because it is one of the most attractive inland tourist areas in the country. One of the main attractions is fishing and we would not want anything to happen which would interfere with that. We want the same level of freedom which has existed up to now to continue. The organisations concerned will cooperate and ensure that species are protected, but they do not want a powerful association to step in and interfere with a practice which has been in existence for the past 200 years.
Arising out of the fears expressed by fishing interests we introduced on Report Stage in the Seanad an amendment to section 5 as follows:
(2) The Commissioners shall consult with the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry in relation to any matters which affect or could affect fish, fish life, fish stocks or fishing in the canals.
There has been liaison between the Department of Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry and the Office of Public Works to ensure that no difficulties will arise in that area. This amendment was introduced to allay fears similar to those expressed by Deputy Dowling and it was regarded at that time as being satisfactory. Someone has to have overall control and it is appropriate that in this case the Commissioners of Public Works should have this control to ensure the smooth running of that amenity. I believe this will be to the advantage of all concerned.
Can the Minister assure the House that the commissioners will not be in a position to give control of a certain section of the river to one particular body over another?
The commissioners have power in this area but under this legislation they have to consult with the Minister for Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry on all these matters, and fishing in the canals is specifically mentioned. The Barrow Navigation is classified as a canal and consultation will have to take place with the Minister before any control is given——
I am very concerned about this. If a power is given to an outside body under this legislation they can make the final decision. I hope the Minister is not giving away this final power. I would like the Minister to reassure the House that that will not happen. I will be happy with the section if I can get that reassurance.
It is quite clear that if the Commissioners of Public Works have it in mind to give exclusive rights to a particular group or angling association to which there might be an objection, there would have to be consultation with the person directly responsible for fisheries, that is, the Minister for Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry, and that is specified in the Bill.
Section 5 (1) states:
Subject to subsection (2), on and after the vesting day, it shall be the duty of the Commissioners to undertake the care, management and maintenance of the canals and other canal property as a public amenity for use by the public for navigation in such parts of the canals as are open to navigation from time to time...
I take it that there is nothing in that which would preclude the commissioners from extending the mileage of the canal which is open to navigation at the moment. That does not just mean here that they have certain obligations with regard to what is navigable at the moment but it would also cover development.
I was going to put down an amendment and then I thought I was right in that interpretation.
There is an amendment later on to facilitate the difficulty the Deputy is talking about.
I can see a real problem in relation to fishing. We have to think of the importance of fisheries in the canals especially where fish stocks can be regulated so well between the different locks. If fairly high pressure groups could get control I could see problems and it could be detrimental to the fishing in that particular region and to tourism generally.
This is an area in which the Office of Public Works have extraordinary experience, particularly in regard to shooting and also to fishing areas, as I know very well, particularly along the Shannon area, so they are already very good at this. They have come up against this many times before. I know of no more experienced body in the country for dealing with this particular kind of thing. There are also the provisions, notwithstanding that, written in and amended in the Seanad giving a very strong input by the Minister in charge of fisheries as well.
I move amendment No. 2.
In page 6, between lines 45 and 46, to insert the following paragraph:
"(a) draw any water necessary for the purposes of the canals from any sources whatsoever from which the Board was entitled to draw such water before the vesting day, whether by virtue of any enactment or otherwise;".
The purpose of this amendment is to make it absolutely clear the Commissioners of Public Works will have power to draw water from the River Liffey and certain other sources for the canals. CIE have such specific power already under Acts going back to 1771 and 1772. Those Acts are being repealed by section 16 of the Bill because many of their provisions have been superseded by other canals legislation and the necessary new provisions for the canals are included in the Canals Bill. This amendment is actually introduced in response to a doubt in the matter expressed by the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland and it is really to copperfasten the situation which we felt was there. The Office of Public Works were quite happy with this particular amendment in order to copperfasten what existed and to eliminate any doubt which did arise.
Did the Minister say from the Liffey?
Yes, from the Liffey and other sources.
The Liffey is the main one concerned in this. I knew the Inland Waterways Association were concerned with this.
The Grand Canal.
I know we have not come to amendment No. 2a but I would like if the Minister would say if the amendment in my name is related to his amendment. What is his interpretation of it?
According to my brief, amendment No. 2b is an alternative to amendment No. 2a in the Deputy's name and it is proposed to take both amendments together.
That is fine.
Amendment No. 2a in the name of Deputy Wilson. Amendment No. 2b is an alternative and amendments Nos. 2a and 2b will be discussed together by agreement. Amendment No. 2a is an amendment to section 6. Amendment No. 2b in the name of the Minister is an amendment to section 10.
I am still confused. The Ceann Comhairle is saying that amendment No. 2b which I have as a2b——
Will the Deputy scrap that and go to amendment No. 2b, the next one. It is an amendment to section 10.
Amendment No. 2b to section 10 is an alternative to my amendment.
That is right.
I move amendment No. 2a:
In page 7, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following subsection:
"(2) The Commissioners may close to navigation any part of the canal or alter the water level of the canal, without prejudice to the right of the Board or any other person to receive water from the canals to enable a local authority or other statutory undertaker to carry out necessary works in the course of their duties and responsibilities.".
I would like the Minister to comment on the amendment.
We agree with the principle of Deputy Wilson's amendment but we think a more expansive amendment is necessary to meet all the safeguards required and an alternative comprehensive amendment is being proposed, that is the new section 10, for insertion in the Bill. In the circumstances we would be grateful if the Deputy did not press his amendment.
Would the Minister like to point out the particular virtue of his amendment over mine?
The proposed new section 10 to be inserted in the Bill recognises the need to assist in the provision of public services by enabling the Commissioners of Public Works to facilitate the carrying out of the necessary works by local authorities and other persons, including public utilities such as the ESB, Bord Gáis Éireann, Bord Telecom Éireann and so on which involves work on or near the canals or other canal property of the commissioners. Examples of the works to be facilitated include the laying by local authorities of sewerage or water pipes, or the laying by Bord Gáis Éireann of gas pipelines along or under the bed of the canals, the maintenance, repair or development of private property adjoining the canals or canal property. Such facilitation can only involve the temporary closure of any part of the canals to navigation or the temporary alteration of the water level of any part of the canals as specifically provided for in the text. It is envisaged that the facilitation of local authorities and so on would involve only a short period of disruption to either navigation or other uses of the canals where such disruption could not be avoided altogether. Obviously, the Commissioners of Public Works will see to it that any disruption is kept to the minimum.
I do not want to indulge in any kind of semantics but I cannot see what other things the Minister's amendment covers. My amendment covered closing to navigation, the water level, the receiving of water from the canals, the enabling of a local authority or other statutory undertaker to carry out necessary works and so on. I will not quibble about which is the better amendment. I do know how necessary it is and that local authorities were concerned about it. I am sure they made representations to the Minister, as they did to me.
I commented on Second Stage about difficulties in that regard which the late Tod Andrews had when he was head of Bord na Móna and his revolutionary suggestion to the board as to how to solve it. He was going to blow the whole thing up. He was frustrated and held up. However, the purpose of the Minister's amendment being the same as mine, I withdraw mine in favour of the Minister's.
I should like clarification of subsection (f) which reads:
(f) lease or let to any person canal property and license the use of the canals and canal water by any person.
I assume that it is not an exclusive right that would be licensed?
Subsection (f) gives the commissioners power to lease canal property for boating or fishing and to permit persons to use the canal for particular purposes, or to take surplus water therefrom. It is a matter for the commissioners as the landlord — if you like — in regulating these leases.
I understand that no body under the provisions of that subsection could assume an exclusive right to a section of the canal? Would I be correct in that interpretation?
Yes, that is right.
Amendment No. a2b was discussed with amendment No. 1a.
I move amendment No. a2b:
In page 7, subsection (1) (f), line 26, to delete "Minister for Fisheries and Forestry" and substitute "Minister for Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry".
On the question of what happens after vesting day, subsection (1) says that the commissioners may make by-laws for the care, management, maintenance and control and the regulation of the use of the canals and other canal property and, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing in relation to any one or more of the following matters, which are then listed. I am sure that Deputy Dowling will be concerned with this area also. There are also penalties. Is there any review procedure for the by-laws or are the commissioners to be the legislators, the judges and the jury? I have read through the section carefully. Is there an obligation to lay any proposed by-law before the Houses of the Oireachtas? Is there anything, apart from the general law, to keep the commissioners in check, so to speak? Is there any review procedure, any sanction needed from the House?
The provisions of this section give the commissioners power to make by-laws. There are a number of by-laws already established under CIE; there is a string of by-laws pertaining to the canals. There is what is known as by-law No. 51 which has been used by CIE and which has caused a lot of difficulty for Kildare County Council. I do not know by-law No. 51 off by heart but it relates to roads alongside the canal. Kildare County Council have experienced difficulty in certain areas where there are a number of houses alongside the Grand Canal with roads leading to and from those houses, particularly in the Robertstown area of County Kildare. When Kildare County Council wanted to provide money to improve the roadways along the canal in order to render it possible for people to gain access to their houses, CIE presented the excuse that they could not do so under by-law No. 51, that that by-law prevented a local authority doing anything with the road because it was the property of CIE. CIE have used the provisions of by-law No. 51 to prevent the carrying out of much improvement works and so on. I note that the provisions of this section give the commissioners power to make by-laws. What will happen to the existing by-laws under CIE pertaining to the canals? Will they all be scrapped? Will there be agreement reached with local authorities and so on?
My interest in the canals is well known. My family have been at the fourteenth lock of the Grand Canal since the canal was opened in 1760. My family have lived there in continuous succession. Apparently, there is one other family only on the Grand Canal in continuous line as lock-keepers. Will the CIE by-laws be continued under the provisions of this Bill or will the commissioners introduce a whole new series of by-laws?
I, too, am exceedingly interested in the power being conferred on the commissioners giving them the right to make by-laws. Subsection (h) reads:
the removal from the canals or other canal property of any boat or thing which is or may become a danger to life, navigation or fish stocks or would otherwise interfere with the proper use of the canals or other canal property;
Then there is subsection (f), which reads:
the regulation of fishing in the canals...
What does "the regulation of fishing" mean? Here again would the power being given to the commissioners be an exclusive power? Will the Minister play a consultative role only in this matter? Furthermore will the by-law which the commissioners are empowered to make under this section conflict in any way with the provisions of sections 5 or 6, which would appear to afford a measure of protection which people have already? I am thinking in particular of my own area. If the commissioners could introduce a by-law that would give exclusive rights to fishing—to certain sections over others—that would have serious repercussions in my area and I am certain also in others.
Therefore the provisions of these sections with regard to the power of the commissioners to make by-laws warrant considerable clarification. The House needs to be assured that the existing privileges enjoyed by people on our canals and canals' road network will not be interfered with.
The CIE canals by-laws, as they exist, derive from nineteenth century legislation. They were devised to cater for the canals when they served as major arteries for commercial traffic as such. On vesting day—here I refer to the point raised by Deputy McCreevy—they will cease to exist and the Commissioners of Public Works will introduce their own by-laws. Consultations are already in progress.
On the points raised by Deputy Dowling and others, I want to reassure the House that the whole idea is to make better use of the canals and to improve their amenities; and the provisions of the Bill will ensure sympathetic consideration by the Commissioners of Public Works. They must have control, as such, in order to ensure that the whole system is operated in an orderly fashion, that best use is made of the amenity now being transferred to them. I believe that no difficulty such as Deputy Dowling fears will arise, or indeed others mentioned by Deputy Wilson. There is no provision for the laying of orders before the House, about which Deputy Wilson asked. It was felt that it would not be wise to be unduly restrictive as far as the authority of the commissioners is concerned. The commissioners have great experience in handling these kinds of things without any grave difficulties arising. They are very benevolent so far as the control of shooting and fishing is concerned. They are doing a very good job.
On Second Stage of the Bill I drew to the Minister's attention the fact that the Office of Public Works had control of the Ulster Canal, formerly the property of the Lagan Navigation Company. This has caused very serious problems for Monaghan County Council over the past number of years.
That is not in the Bill.
I made reference to this on Second Stage and I want to refer to it now. I asked the Minister at that time if the property of the Office of Public Works——
That does not arise now.
I want to refer to their previous activity in regard to the canal which, as far as I was concerned, they did not handle very well. A young man who erected a house on property owned by the canal company has been endeavouring over the past 11 years to obtain the title to it. He has squatters title to it. He has been paying a bridging loan for 11 years. I hope when the Commissioners take this over they will be more efficient as far as the property is concerned. In years to come if those canals went out of operation, as happened with the Ulster Canal, it would cause serious problems as far as pollution, drainage and bridges are concerned. Monaghan County Council had serious problems in maintaining bridges and in the removal of bridges at a very high cost. I am not satisfied that the Office of Public Works have lived up to their responsibilities over the past number of years.
I am very disappointed with the Minister's reply to my question about control. The House will recall that on the Free Ports Bill I was very worried about the powers which the Minister was given with regard to the management and control of the new free port. Cork was the first one. I was also worried that there was no appeal to the High Court arising from the Minister's decision on whether or not to grant a licence. I am now concerned that the commissioners are being given extensive powers here. Apart from the natural justice plea mentioned when the Free Ports Bill was going through the House, there do not seem to be proper safeguards of citizens-groups' rights here. In section 7 (3) (a) we read that a person shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,000 and £100 a day after that. Section 7 (3) (b) states:
on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding £5,000 (together with, in the case of a continuing contravention, a fine not exceeding £500 for every day on which the contravention is continued) or to imprisonment for any term not exceeding two years...
These are very extensive judicial and legislative powers being put into the hands of the Commissioners without any restraint, without any brake. This House should not let that pass without notice. If there were provision for a review by the Houses of the Oireachtas there would be a safeguard for citizens. In fact, there is no such provision. I cannot understand how that was left out of the Bill. I would like some assurance from the Minister that an attempt will be made on Report Stage to put in such a provision for a review by the Houses of the Oireachtas or a provision for an appeal to the High Court.
On the point raised by Deputy Leonard he can approach the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works. It does not come under the scope of this Bill. With regard to section 10 which deals with local authorities and the section dealing with bridges on the Royal and Grand Canals, it will greatly facilitate matters. Offaly County Council were the main people concerned with this and they were very satisfied with it.
On the point raised by Deputy Wilson, some of the penalties introduced follow along the lines of the previously existing legislation regarding water pollution. He has made a strong case to which I am very sympathetic as regards placing the by-laws before the House in the ordinary way. I would be willing to introduce an amendment on the following lines:
Every by-law made by the Commissioners under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution is passed by either House of the Oireachtas within the next twenty-one days on which such House has sat after the by-law is laid before it annulling such by-law, such by-law shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such by-law.
I am very grateful to the Minister for accepting this. If the National University of Ireland makes a statute it has to come under review and can be rejected by the Oireachtas. It is a safeguard for the rights of the citizens.
Might I draw the attention of the House and the Minister to the order made this morning which provides for the completion of all Stages of this Bill by 1.30 p.m.?
We have the amendment ready and we will move it on Report Stage.
The Minister should circulate the amendment now.
I, too, am glad that the Minister is introducing such an amendment. Section 7 is the most important section in the Bill. It gives powers to the Commissioners to make by-laws which will regulate the operation of the canals. When any changes in the by-laws are made they will be put before the House. If we pass this section without the amendment then the Office of Public Works can do anything they like, just as CIE have done anything they liked over the years with regard to making by-laws.
Subsection (1) (i) refers inter alia to the charging and fixing of fees, tolls and charges in respect of the use by boats of the canals (including the use of locks on the canals and mooring on the canals) and the taking of water from the canals. There are a certain number of people, although not many, who have agreements with CIE regarding taking water from the canals at present. Many times because people forced the situation CIE have more or less had to agree to this. Will those arrangements still stand with CIE?
That is provided for in section 2.
Section 7 states that after the vesting day the commissioners may make by-laws for the care and management of canals and canal property. What is the position regarding the tributaries that feed the canal? The Grand Canal is fed by a number of waterways. The Morrell is a river that feeds the canal around the Sallins area. The Milltown Feeder also feeds it. At present there are different kinds of water courses which are the property of CIE whose job it is to maintain them. There are very few people employed in doing that kind of work. Some years ago it used to be a generator of social employment before the canals were closed down but they are still the property of CIE. Notwithstanding the power of the commissioners to make by-laws, will that power extend to those rivers also? I am not sure if this comes under this section but perhaps the Minister may answer it. A number of people for donkeys years, including my own family, have had rights to rent along the banks of the Grand Canal on one side or the other. Will their rental agreements continue under the Commissioners of Public Works or will they be done away with?
The Office of Public Works will take on all of the obligations and rights that now exist with CIE and whatever agreements exist in the Deputy's case will naturally be taken on in as smooth a transition as possible. It is very proper that all of these difficulties should be voiced. I would like to re-emphasise that this is an area in which there will be progress and a better handling and management of the canals.
Everyone will be delighted with it. As regards the water rights that may exist, they will continue. The section covers the obligations and rights that CIE have at this moment in time.
The power of the commissioners to make by-laws is a cause for concern. In conceding the amendment which has been circulated the Minister overcomes that and it does give adequate protection under this section to all citizens' rights.
Amendment No. 2b in the name of the Minister was discussed with amendment No. 2a.
I move amendment No. 2b:
In page 9, before section 10, to insert the following new section:
10.— The Commissioners may temporarily——
(a) close to navigation any part of the canals, and
(b) alter the water level of any part of the canals
to enable a local authority or other person to carry out, with the consent of the Commissioners, any works which may be necessary on or near the canal property:
Provided that nothing in this section shall affect——
(i) the rights of the Board under section 9 (2) or *11 (1) or (ii) any agreement existing on the vesting day making provision for the supply of water from the canals.".
* The reference to section 11 (1) is to the existing section 11 (1) of the Bill as passed by Seanad Éireann.
This is a thorny subject in certain parts of the country. I understand that the rights of way and rights of entry that presently exist in regard to canal property under CIE will continue on into this legislation. This has caused a lot of trouble in certain areas in County Kildare. I take it that the existing rights of way and rights of entry which have been there for generations will continue when the Office of Public Works take over. I am delighted that the OPW are taking over the canals from CIE. It is a very positive step because since they closed the canals in 1959 CIE have ignored them and done nothing with them. It could not be any worse. It is a step in the right direction to preserve the waterways as they are.
The existing rights of various people will continue. There are various controls in the section but it is a better regularising of it.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 12, before section 14, to insert the following new section:—
14. —The Local Government Act, 1946, is hereby amended with effect from the vesting day—
(a) by the substitution of the following paragraphs for paragraph (c) of subsection (2) of section 47:
"(c) in case the bridge order relates to a bridge or viaduct over or a tunnel under a railway, the Minister for Communications, and
(d) in case the bridge order relates to a bridge or viaduct over or a tunnel under the Grand Canal or the Royal Canal, the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland and the Minister for Communications, and
(e) in case the bridge order relates to a bridge or viaduct over or a tunnel under navigable water (including a canal other than a canal referred to in paragraph (d) of this subsection), the Minister for Communications.",
(b) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (4) of section 48:
"(4) The Minister shall not make a bridge order relating to a bridge or viaduct over or a tunnel under—
(a) a railway, save with the consent of the Minister for Communications;
(b) the Grand Canal or the Royal Canal, save with the consent of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland and the Minister for Communications;
(c) navigable water (including a canal other than a canal referred to in paragraph (b) of this subsection), save with the consent of the Minister for Communications.",
(c) by the substitution of the following subsections for subsection (2) of section 57 (inserted by the Local Government Act, 1955):
"(2) Where by virtue of this section the bridge order applies to Córas Iompair Éireann, the Minister shall not by virtue of this section do either of the following things save with the consent of the Minister for Communications, that is to say:
(a) amend under subsection (3) of section 53 of this Act a provision of the bridge order requiring a contribution to be made to or by Córas Iompair Éireann;
(b) make an order under subsection (1A) or subsection (2) of section 55 of this Act transferring to Córas Iompair Éireann any powers or duties of a road authority.
(3) Where by virtue of this section the bridge order applies to the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, the Minister shall not by virtue of this section do either of the following things save with the consent of the said Commissioners, that is to say:
(a) amend under subsection (3) of section 53 of this Act a provision of the bridge order requiring a contribution to be made to or by the said Commissioners;
(b) make an order under subsection (1A) or subsection (2) of section 55 of this Act transferring to the said Commissioners any powers or duties of a road authority.", and
(d) by the substitution of the following section for section 60:
"60. —A road authority shall not construct or reconstruct a bridge or viaduct over or a tunnel under—
(a) a railway, unless they do so under this Part of this Act or with the consent of the Minister for Communications,
(b) the Grand Canal or the Royal Canal, unless they do so under this Part of this Act or with the consent of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland and the Minister for Communications, or
(c) navigable water (including a canal other than a canal referred to in paragraph (b) of this section), unless they do so under this Part of this Act or with the consent of the Minister for Communications.".
The purpose of this amendment is to formally involve the Commissioners of Public Works in the statutory consultation and consent arrangements for any bridge works relating to the Grand Canal or the Royal Canal which a road authority might wish to undertake. Those statutory arrangements are provided for in the Local Government Act, 1946. The amendment copperfastens the assurance given by the then Minister of State, Deputy Bermingham, to the Dáil on 21 May 1985 on Second Stage of the Canals Bill, that the policy would be to ensure that no decisions are taken which would add to the obstacles already in the way of restoring the Royal Canal to navigation. The Minister for Communications, who has overall responsibility for navigation matters nationwide, will continue to be involved in those statutory consultation and consent arrangements in so far as the Royal Canal and Grand Canal and other waterways are concerned.
I welcome this amendment but I do not think the metaphor about the horse and stable door is suitable. Some damage has already been done in the case of the Royal Canal which will leave it more difficult to open up stretches of it to navigation which are now closed. In some instances, a kind of minor public vandalism was perpetrated by local authorities which will leave this whole thing difficult. I am not over optimistic about undoing certain damage that has already been done. Is the Minister aware of this?
I am aware of what the Deputy is talking about. It is the six culverted bridges across the Royal Canal in the Longford area since 1960. I agree it is one of the things that I had not been aware of until I became involved with the Canals Bill. It is sad but understandable that things of that nature should happen. Certainly, this provision is very valuable and it is of relevance straight away in the west county where a new road is being constructed.
I welcome it too.
I am glad the Minister said that he considered it as part of the brief of the new canal operators that they should keep as an ultimate objective, whatever about the exigencies of the moment, the extension of the navigable mileage of the canals particularly the one that suffered most, the Royal Canal.
We are taking the last of the amendments except for the one on Report Stage, is not that right?
Would the Minister say what kinds of fees are payable now? I had a trip on the Grand Canal as a guest of someone, but I would like to know what they would have paid for me on that day.
I understand that there are certain lock charges for passing through lock gates, and mooring charges.
The figure is roughly £50,000.
Is it a rate per mile, per lock or per mooring?
I do not have the exact details but apparently the main source of income is from the lock gates. I do not know the intention of the commissioners in this respect. I presume they hope to get more traffic passing through. The overall cost is something in excess of £1 million per year for the upkeep of the canals. What we are talking about by way of income is very small. Regrettably I do not have the exact manner in which this is quantified.
Perhaps the Minister will send it on to me. I already mentioned some research that was done by the Old Dublin Society to give the charges for the beginning of the last century. They seem substantial, taking everything into account for that time, even the cost of the meals on the barges and so on. Perhaps the Minister would send on the costs to me. It emphasises the importance of the OPW seeing themselves in a developmental role with regard to the canals.
If the upkeep of the canals cost £1 million, the objective should at least be to break even because there will be other gains for the country if tourists are using the canals. On Second Stage I mentioned that I was on the Norfolk Broads once, where the people thought they were enjoying themselves and it was so crowded that the prow of one boat was touching the stern of another. We have the potential for the development of our canals.
There is £1 million outlay and an income of £50,000 which is disgracefully low. There is great potential in the canals. While the canals might not be self-financing they should come near to it in the future. In many areas we have room for development which would bring in finance. The canals are a great amenity for fishing and boating and there is an increased interest in this area in the field of tourism. The State should not have to carry the can for the canals as time goes on. The canals should become more self-financing.
I disagree with Deputy Leonard about making the canals self-financing even though I have a small reputation for considering that every arm of the State should pay for itself. We should encourage more traffic on the canals: cruises, holidays, fishing and so on. I hope the OPW will improve stretches of the canals to make them environmentally attractive so as to encourage more people, including tourists, to use the amenities of the canals. Kildare is not a noted tourist area but there is an example there of what a small community can do for their area. In the area of Prosperous they now have the biggest percentage of tourist bed nights in the county, all stemming from the work they did in cleaning up a stretch of the Grand Canal to make it attractive for people to fish. There must be at least 30 houses in that small area which are into the bed and breakfast scene in a big way. Throughout the year five or six groups come from England to fish on the Grand Canal. These people, with the help of CIE, whom I congratulate, cleaned up an area of the canal and it is now almost the best coarse fishing area in the country.
Some other areas would challenge the Deputy on that, but it is good.
I do not disagree with Deputy Leonard when he says things should pay for themselves. This is an amenity which should be cleaned up and made reasonably profitable, although as a nation we can afford to have a canal that would not have to pay for itself. The canal should be funded out of public funds as the spin off tourist element involved will pay in the long term.
My point is that we should aim for it to pay for itself as it has the potential to do so if fully developed.
CIE annual accounts show at present that the income from the canals is £50,000 a year as compared with costs of £1.3 million. I agree with Deputies that it has enormous potential. The Commissioners of Public Works, with their experience on waterways, are the people who can develop this potential. It would be a reward in itself to see this 200 year old man-made amenity used by people. However, I would never turn down income that would come from it. I am trying to encourage income and to encourage a philosophy where that income would in turn be used to further develop the amenities of the area concerned. I am sure Deputy McCreevy would agree with that use of finance.
Yes. I have a question which might not be appropriate to this section. What happens to the pensioners in CIE who were employed as lockkeepers, bank rangers, boatmen or barge-men or whatever?
We had that on an earlier section.
It might have been, but I was not here. What happens to those people? Are they still regarded as ex-CIE employees?
They will continue to be paid as CIE pensioners.
The whole matter of when this will be transferred revolves around the vesting day. When does the Minister hope to appoint a date to be the vesting day for the purposes of this Bill? There has been talk for a long time about the OPW taking over the canals and people are becoming anxious. A good many people think that the OPW have taken over the canals. Such is not the case and I would like it to be as soon as possible.
Obviously, it should be done as quickly as possible. I think everyone is agreed on that. Negotiations and discussions are proceeding at present as the Bill is going through the House, so I would say perhaps two or three months after the passing of the Bill.
I think I know why nearly all of these properties are not being transferred by this Bill, but I would like the Minister to give the House a short briefing as to why. I know why some of them are not being transferred but I am not so sure that I could identify "11 and 12 Bell Bank".
Five items are listed as not being transferred to the Commissioners of Public Works under the Schedule. I have them in great detail here. Numbers 11 and 12 Bell Bank, James's Street Harbour, are two houses at present let by CIE with agreements.
Do they remain in the possession of CIE?
There is No. 18 Rialto Bridge, South Circular Road, Dublin. This has now been sold and is no longer the property of CIE.
There is a small property at Ringsend Basin. This has always been dry land and will continue to be used in conjunction with CIE's Ringsend bus garage. A small part of Spencer Dock, Dublin, has been filled in for many years and will continue to be used for CIE's own transport business. At present it is used as a container yard.
The big one is the property at the railway side of a line to be drawn between the Royal Canal and the railway alongside for over 50 miles. This is from Dublin to Mullingar. It is not being transferred to the commissioners because it is not canal property as such. It is not required for the operation of the Royal Canal and is, of course, required by CIE for their railway line.
They are the five areas.
Is that the property between the permanent way and the canal itself?
That is it.
This Schedule refers to lands that are not to be transferred under this Bill. My concern is that there may be more property not being transferred by this Bill and I am trying to explain why. CIE closed the Grand Canal in 1959 and some years after that they adopted a policy regarding the selling of houses and lock houses to the existing tenants. The people, the grandfathers and fathers of lock keepers on the Grand Canal, had been there for many years — in my case since about 1771 — and succession was continued in that way, but the house was always the property of CIE or the old time Grand Canal Company before CIE took them over. The canals were closed in 1959, and as then there would not be normal navigation on them except for cabin cruisers etc., CIE decided to amalgamate the control of locks. For example, if three locks were close together one lock keeper was kept on in his job and looked after the three locks and the other lock keepers were let go and given a pension. For the interest of the House, I remember people who had been for 45 years canal boatmen, as they were called, and in 1959 they thought they were getting a fortune when they got a pension of £6 per week for the rest of their lives. We know what £6 is worth now and it goes to show how times have changed. As I have said, if, for example, three locks were close together, one lock keeper would continue as an employee of CIE, he was paid his normal wage etc. and his house was still property rented from CIE. In regard to the other houses where people dwelt who had been let go, CIE in some cases gave the people the option to purchase their houses. Times were much harder than they are now, bad and all as they are, and many people did not take up that offer then. However, some people did not for very small money as things turned out, and a bit of land went with the houses. We were among the lucky people who availed of the offer at the time and we got half an acre or so. Ex-lock keepers were living in houses and paying a very nominal rent to CIE and they did not take up the offer at that time. In the sixties CIE abandoned that policy. All the lock houses were within ten yards of a lock, and CIE must have decided that to sell many of these houses and a little property with them would not be very good long term strategy. If some new policy on the canals were evolved the property and houses would be privately owned and what could be done? Therefore, they stopped offering the option to people to buy their houses. As a result of that a number of people are living in lock houses right along the Grand Canal who are still paying rent to CIE, and their families have been there for perhaps 100 years in direct succession. Generally, if your father was a lock keeper you got the job. I do not know how many such houses are left now. Probably there are some in the Barrow navigation. I hope the people in those houses will be given the option of buying them out at a nominal price. I would like to see that property not transferred under this Bill but those people given the option of purchasing their own homes.
In that respect the Commissioners of Public Works would be no more difficult to deal with than would CIE. I accept that the properties mentioned in this Schedule are not being transferred. I do not know how extensive this is but any problems like that could be approached by the people involved——
It would not be all that extensive.
I am sure that the Commissioners of Public Works would be just as sympathetic a body to approach as would CIE. I do not think that the situation would be damaged in any way. I do not know the overall intention as regards the houses and perhaps the necessity of preserving them. If, as we expect and hope, greater use will be made of the canal in the future under the regulations, anyone involved in the way in which the Deputy spoke about should not suffer as a result of the transfer that is taking place now. I will pass his concern along to the OPW.