Transport (Re-organisation of Córas Iompair Éireann) Bill, 1986 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages.

Amendment No. 1, Deputy Wilson.

Will you take the amendment now or do we work through Report Stage and take it under the section?

We deal with sections only after amendments are dealt with.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 10, lines 11 and 12, to delete "such period after the end of each accounting year as the Minister may direct" and substitute "four months after the end of each accounting year".

The House will remember that on Committee Stage, I put an amendment down in the exact same place and in almost the same terms. The amendment I put down was for the words "such period after the end of each accounting year as the Minister may direct" to be substituted by the words "three months after the end of each accounting year". During the course of discussion on that amendment, the arguments advanced were mainly geared towards the admitted desirability for a transparency of accounts and a desire that the Department of Communications should have, as soon as possible, after the end of the accounting year, a full transparent statement about the accounts for the preceding year.

The general acceptance of the principle of transparency seemed to indicate a willingness on the part of everybody in the House to have a fixed period for the auditors to come up with reports. I gather from the Minister's reply that if, instead of three months, we substituted four months, there might be a possibility that he might accept the amendment. It was that which prompted me to put down this amendment which I hope the Minister will accept. During the arguments in the House on this matter, it was pointed out that in the case of many semi-State bodies, the accounts came out too late for decision makers to come to conclusions about policy.

The new CIE operation like the old operation is fairly complicated. In the past it involved a very heavy load of auditing work. The load will not be lightened because we now have the parent company of CIE and three subsidiaries, despite our efforts to make it two. It was argued that perhaps we are making too much of a demand on the auditors in asking them to have these accounts ready three months after the end of the audit year. To give them another month we substituted four for three. Deputy Ahern made the point strongly, and he knows what he is talking about because he is a qualified accountant, that it should be possible to have the audited accounts within three months. If it is possible within three months, it is possible within four months. Nowadays, with the availability of computer technology which speeds up this process for auditors, this should be possible and that is why we are putting down this amendment. I strongly urge the Minister to accept this amendment which will satisfy the desire of the House for information on the activities of this very important company as quickly as possible.

Is it possible to speak generally on the Report Stage of this Bill?

No, Deputies can speak only to the amendment.

Is it not possible, in speaking in favour of the amendment, to discuss the general structure of the company planned by the Minister? Surely there is a connection between the financial provisions and the structure of CIE.

This is a very specific issue. The amendment seeks to delete "such period after the end of each accounting year as the Minister may direct" and to substitute "four months ..." It is taking discretion from the Minister and making it mandatory on the company to produce an audited account. That is all that is at issue.

From my experience in the Department of Communications, I know there is a lack of control and accountability in CIE in relation to the Department of Communications. As a result of this amendment, I hope there will be more accountability from CIE within the Department. There was a total breakdown of accountability for the activities of CIE by the management under Liam St. John Devlin and the Department of Communications as they were in 1982. We tried to rectify that. In the bus company at Shannon, for instance, in relation to engines that were provided there, I have a long file on the lack of communication between the Department and CIE. Decisions were made and reversed by CIE, without any consultation with the Department, who were in charge of CIE at the time.

The amendment put forward by Deputy Wilson should be accepted by the Minister. The amendment confirms my fears about the lack of accountability. I have always found the Minister more than agreeable in relation to amendments. In the debate on the Postal and Telecommunications Bill, the Minister agreed to put in amendments at my request and later deleted them because of union pressure at the time. Deputy Wilson has vast experience in this ministry and in other ministries and the Minister should accept his amendment and put in the four months provision.

The Bill as it is, is very loose, and a four-month provision here will be of great assistance to us, when Fianna Fáil return to office. There will be a very busy legislative programme and we may not have the opportunity to put forward amendments to Bills. Therefore, amendments to this Bill should be inserted now instead of waiting until 1987 when we will have a difficult time in Government. We may not have the opportunity to go back over legislation in relation to certain Bills and that is why the Minister should facilitate our spokesperson on Communications. Accountability is very important and I have grave reservations in relation to the management of CIE over the years. The Department did not exercise enough control and this legislation may give them a far more positive involvement in the control of CIE. The most important amendment to the Bill is the proposal by our party to ——

The Deputy must confine himself to the amendment before the House at present.

The amendment was in relation to two companies ——

I rule that out of order.

The Minister has the experience of a former Minister to guide him and, as I was Minister of State in his Department during that time, I have no doubt as to this bona fides ——

I never knew I was so good a man.

It is better to praise people in their lifetime instead of afterwards.

I intend to live well into the next century.

This is a very reasoned request. I should like to praise the workforce of CIE who contributed so much to the country and we must ensure continued support from the Oireachtas for their future.

The Deputy should stick to the amendment.

Deputy Wilson's amendment will further enhance the future viability of CIE and will help the management and workforce. In regard to labour relations ——

Deputy Leyden is defying the Chair and is continually and deliberately out of order. He will have to bring himself back to the amendment.

I want to praise one of the union leaders, Michael Cox, who has worked with CIE ——

That is in bad taste to say the very least as well as being out of order.

The Minister stated that he was in favour of tightening up the reporting date and suggested a period of four months. Auditors and accountants would be capable of doing the work within the time limit but to place it before the board and so on within three months might be hard to achieve. I am sure the Minister will accept this amendment as he is aware of the necessity for information, such as that contained in the accounts, being made available as quickly as possible to the Minister. In many cases semi-State companies and others will not complete accounts on time unless there is a specific deadline set for them. That is why there is a necessity to have a deadline set in the Bill. I strongly urge the Minister to accept Deputy Wilson's amendment because it would ensure that information is available on a certain date. There is nothing like the hangman's noose for concentrating the mind although I am not suggesting that anything in the Bill will be a hangman's noose in relation to auditors.

We discussed this matter on Committee Stage and I have some sympathy with the intent of the amendment. Regrettably, for reasons I will now explain, I am unable to accept it. On Committee Stage an amendment put forward by Deputy Wilson specifying a three months limit on the submission of accounts was rejected. As I explained on that occasion, I am in full sympathy with the idea of having the accounts of State bodies published as soon as possible after the end of the financial year and I have pushed State companies in that direction. My reasons for resisting that amendment were threefold. In the first instance, there is a need to take account of the results achieved by persuasion, secondly, a deadline in an Act of the Oireachtas can only be changed by new legislation and, thirdly, where the deadline could not be respected, for example, in a strike at the printers or if the auditors could not complete their work by the deadline, there would be an infringement of the law.

The subsection of the Bill, as drafted, allows for the imposition of a specific time limit on a flexible basis. I included that provision because I intend to revoke it if the need arises. Following the debate in the House last week, I looked at the issue again and, as a result, I wish to mention a few additional points. Under section 148 of the Companies Act, 1963, every company is obliged to lay before the annual general meeting of the company the accounts and balance sheet within nine months of the end of the financial year. As the accounts must be ready at least 21 days before the annual general meeting takes place, for sending to members with notice of the AGM this effectively reduces the period for producing the accounts to close to eight months.

There is also a requirement for the directors' report and the accounts to be prepared for transmission with the accounts. This effectively further shortens the period available for the finalisation of the accounts. The Companies (Amendment) Act, 1986, which was enacted to implement the Fourth EC Directive on company law contains far reaching requirements relating to the format of accounts, the information to be included in directors' reports and information on associated companies. In the case of good accounts, neither the Act nor the four directives envisage as strict a deadline as that proposed in the amendment. In the circumstances, the insertion of a deadline in the Bill would amend the Companies Act as it applies to CIE. This could amount to a form of discrimination against CIE who would have to conform to a requirement not generally applicable. The insertion of too tight a deadline could increase the cost of auditing as the auditors would probably require additional staff to meet the deadline.

For all the reasons I have given, I am convinced that the balance of advantage lies in achieving progress on a more flexible basis than that envisaged in the amendment. The specifying of a deadline on the basis of a direction, as provided for in the Bill, is a much more suitable approach to the issue. This facilitates the setting of deadlines on an experimental basis initially. Even though I sympathise with the motivation behind Deputy Wilson's amendment, I regret that I am unable to accept it.

My first reaction to the Minister's remarks is one of disappointment. I interpreted the fact that the Minister did not get in touch with me as meaning he wanted to give the House a pleasant surprise by accepting the amendment.

The Minister mentioned flexibility. The weakness I see in the present system is that it is too flexible. Nine months of a gestation period for auditing accounts seems to be an extraordinary long time. It seems to frustrate and nullify the value of producing accounts as aids to decision making. Remember that I am talking in the context of £115 million being provided by the taxpayer last year through the agency of this House for this company. For that reason we should have this type of information as soon as possible in the year following the end of the financial year of that company.

At a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Expenditure, of which I am a member, the problems regarding the delay in auditing came up. I made inquiries regarding local government audits and some of them are years behind. I do not know whether the Minister's reference to a nine month period refers only to companies but right across the public sector we should tighten up the period of delay. I have no doubt at all about that and it was for that reason I put down this amendment. Flexibility is what the Minister mentioned, my thesis is that we have too much flexibility. We were waiting for a report from another semi-State the B & I, until we were practically blue in the face. I have an idea that they may have contravened the particular Act the Minister mentioned.

Deputy Ahern made the point that talking about the Companies Act, 1963 is like talking about the weapons used by Brian Boru at the battle of Clontarf as a way of conducting warfare. The fact of the matter is that since then there have been so many developments in aids for the accounting and auditing profession that the argument does not hold water. The Minister said it was dangerous to set a deadline, my contention is that it is dangerous not to set a deadline. As Deputy Ahern said, nothing concentrates the mind like hanging. If a firm of auditors know they have to have the accounts ready by a specific time, that deadline will be met. At one of the meetings of the committee on public expenditure I put that question to somebody who is familiar with the auditing system in the United States where a huge pile of work hits the auditors each year at the same time. I asked him if this did not mean that there was a very serious logjam at that time and his answer was "no", they simply worked their ears off for that period. This means of course that there will be a slacking off at other times of the year but simply if it means working 24 hours a day to present the accounts that is the system that obtains.

As I said at the outset, the thrust of this amendment is to provide information for policy makers. Take, for example, something that Deputy Leyden mentioned. Apart from mentioning other very important things, he mentioned the bus company at Shannon. If the Government want to make a decision based on the audited facts they should not have to wait nine months for information from a manufacturer who is living from week to week not knowing what the future is. The only point I can make about it is that it is Stone Age administration.

In normal circumstances the Government Estimates are put together at the end of the preceding year. We do not know what is going on at present. We are living in Tir na nÓg so far as that is concerned. The Minister for Finance told us we were going to have them in September. He was like Savonarola, a great reformer of a few years ago. At present we are waiting for the 1987 Estimates.

Deputy Wilson on his amendment.

Deputy Wilson is dead on with his amendment because it fits in with the argument I am making, namely, that the Government put their Book of Estimates together hopefully——

Hopefully not.

——in time for people to have a look at what is going to happen in 1987. Each prays to his own particular God at this stage. We in this House are going to provide a substantial sum of money. What we are talking of here is a substantial sum of money in any man's language. One can bandy figures about in regard to real and apparent money until the cows come home but £115 million had to be provided by this House for this company in 1985. The Government are putting their Book of Estimates together. In a sense it is unfortunate that CIE's financial year corresponds with the financial year of the Government. In other words, it ends on 31 December. Even at the best of times and with audited accounts available at three months, as I suggested originally or four months as I am suggesting now, mainly because of a hint I picked up from what the Minister said on Committee Stage, there is still a certain amount of blind man's buff about the Book of Estimates. In other words, there is a good bit of guesswork about the Book of Estimates.

What is to be the position if the auditors are to be allowed to meander on through the spring and the summer and until the leaves begin to fall before we have audited accounts for the previous year? In those circumstances the case that we on this side of the House are putting is eminently reasonable. I cannot but record my disappointment that the Minister did not accept this which seemed to me in my foolishness to be totally in keeping with the Minister's own view. I am convinced that that is the Minister's own view. I am convinced also that what Deputy Leyden said is correct, that the Minister does not have a closed mind. He went back to the Department. Wise men had a look at the proposal.

He checked with CIE and with Heuston Station.

Heuston Station was phoned. The Deputy took my line. They began to say: "We do not know. They are putting a straitjacket on us. We would like to be able to meander on through the spring and summer and wait for the fall of the leaf. You are going to make it difficult for us if you do not allow that." As a former Minister, I know that this kind of gentle pressure can be applied. The Minister succumbed to it. I regret that because his heart is in the right place but he did not allow either his heart or his head to speak for him on this amendment. All I can do from this side of the House is once again to make a strong appeal to the Minister to make history for himself by rejecting the suggestion from Heuston Station, by rejecting the suggestion from Kildare Street and in one strong decision indicating to this side of the House that he is accepting this stricture with regard to time for auditing accounts.

The Minister made one point with regard to the printers' strike. There is a printing works in my constituency and I am making an offer to the Minister on their behalf that if he runs into trouble with the Government printers or with the printing establishment in the city of Dublin we will make facilities available to him for a consideration — in Cavan we have a reputation for having hard heads — and see that the printing is done. I am sure I can speak for many Deputies on this side of the House and on the Minister's side who know of efficient, modern, up-to-date printing establishments which will see to it that a Minister of State is not let down by being put into a position where he is breaking the law or the company is breaking the law with regard to the provision of the audited accounts.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand".
The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 61.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Birmingham, George Martin.
  • Boland, John.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Collins, Edward.
  • Conlon, John F.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Cooney, Patrick Mark.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Coveney, Hugh.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Martin Austin.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dowling, Dick.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • O'Toole, Paddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Prendergast, Frank.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Glenn, Alice.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Paddy.
  • Hussey, Gemma.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • L'Estrange, Gerry.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Frank.
  • Manning, Maurice.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Molony, David.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Naughten, Liam.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Brien, Willie.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
  • Skelly, Liam.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.

Níl

  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Byrne, Seán.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Conaghan, Hugh.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Fahey, Francis.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leonard, Tom.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Edmond.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • Ormonde, Donal.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Paddy.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies F. O'Brien and Taylor; Níl, Deputies V. Brady and Browne.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Question: "That the Bill be received for final consideration" put and agreed to.
Agreed to take Fifth Stage today.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass".

First, I should like to express my gratitude to Deputy Wilson and the other Members of the House for their contributions on this Bill. I believe we have done a very significant job in bringing this Bill to enactment. I should like to reiterate that the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the future of CIE and each of that company's component parts. A very significant improvement has been brought about in CIE in the past four years. I believe the reorganised CIE will be leaner and fitter, better shaped to serve the public whom they are there to serve. It is my hope that the new companies will provide a completely new environment for the workforce of CIE and for the travelling public. The end result. I hope, will be a lesser demand and a consistently reducing demand on the public Exchequer from CIE, in line with what has happened in the past four years. Secondly, I hope we will have even more efficient and friendly public transport services and, thirdly, that in due course we will have cheaper public transport services.

These three aims are not unambitious, but they are achievable. I am encouraged — and everybody else should be — in our confidence that those objectives will be achieved by what has already happened in the past four years. I repeat that from 1969 to 1982 the CIE deficit escalated from £3.5 million to £109.2 million — seven times the rate of inflation. If that trend had continued since 1982, where the deficit went up by a multiple of the rate of inflation, we would now be dealing with a deficit nearly twice what it now is. That is what has been achieved in the past four years and it has been achieved without massive redundancies or massive cuts in services. The new trend has been one of reducing deficits in real terms, a very substantial achievement.

I want to congratulate again the chairman, the board, the management and the workforce of CIE, who deserve to be recognised for what has been achieved. I wish them well in the future. I believe the legislation we have enacted has set the scene for a more vibrant and successful CIE in the future.

Is mian liom cúpla focal a rá mar gheall ar an mBille atá comhair do bheith ina Acht. Mar a dúirt an tAire bomaité ó shin is mian linn go mbeadh córas iompair againn a bheas éifeachtach agus níos saoire amach anseo.

Tá a fhios againn sa Teach seo go bhfuil costas fuinnimh i bhfad níos lú i mbliana ná mar a bhí sé fiú amháin bliain ó shin agus i bhfad níos saoire ná mar a bhí sé nuair a bhí mise ag gniomhú mar Aire Iompair. Is cuimhin liom gur chosnaigh i 1981 bairille ámh ola, crude oil, thart faoi $39½ an bairille. Anois an mhí seo, cosnaíonn sé $14, trian den chostas ar ámh ola anois i gcomparáid leis an gcostas i 1982.

Tugann sé sin an cúnamh don chóras agus do na comhlachtaí nua. Aontaím leis an rud a dúirt an tAire go bhfuil moladh tuillte ag CIE mar go bhfuil sé ag déanamh iarracht an comhlacht a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí agus chun seirbhisí nua fiúntacha a chur ar fáil do na cathróirí sa chathair agus faoin dtuaith.

Ar an Dara Céim chuir mise an-bhéim ar fad ar fhiúntas na foirne. Do luaigh mé an Dr. Tod Andrews a bhí i gceannas ar CIE ar feadh tamaill, go ndúirt sé gurb é an rud is tábhtachtaí ar fad i gCóras Iompair Éireann ná an gaol idir an bhainistíocht agus na gnáth oibrithe sa chóras sin agus aontaím leis. Dá bhrí sin, is é mo thuairim go bhfuil alt 14 den Bhille seo ana-thábhachtach. Nuair a bhíomar ag caint ar an gceist dúramar gur chóir béim do chur ar an alt seo. I rith na díospóir-eachta sin, luaigh mise cás na n-innealltóirí i Sraith an Iarthair i staisiún an Phiarsaigh, is é sin, de réir mar a chuala mise — ní raibh mé ag caint leis an bpríomh innealtóir é féin — bhí CIE ag iarraidh ar oibrithe ansin athrú ón áit sin go dtí an North Wall. Ní cóir iachall a chur orthu siúd é sin a dhéanamh gan an rud a bheith cíoraithe i gceart, gan díospóireacht a bheith ann idir na hoibrithe agus an bord.

Tá súil agam nach bhfuil sé ar intinn ag an mbord rudaí den tsórt sin a dhéanamh idir an dá linn an fhad is a bheidh na trí comhlachtaí nua agus an bord ag dul i mbun oibre ar dtús, mar ní dóigh liom go mbeadh tosnú den tsórt sin ar mhaithe le CIE.

Tá brón orm nar ghlac an tAire leis an tairscint a tháinig ón taobh seo den Teach, is é go mbeadh dhá chomhlacht againn in ionad trí. Tá sin thart——

Níl sé sin in ord.

Níl sé in ord ach tá mé á luadh anois. Níl mé chun leanúint ag caint air ach táim ag rá go bhfuil brón orm nar ghlac an tAire leo. Tá sé sin thart. Tá mé ag glacadh leis sin. Sin daonlathas. Aontaíonn an Ceann Comhairle liom gur daonlathas atá ansin. Tá brón orm nár ghlac an tAire leis an leasú a bhi agam inniu, agus is dóigh go bhfuil sé sin in ord. Bhí leasú agam ar an bpáipéar inniu, is é sin go mbeadh an chuntasaíocht déanta ag deireadh ceithre mí den bhliain tar éis na bliana go bhfuil cuntasaíocht á déanamh faoi.

Ní féidir leis an Teachta caint ar rud nach bhfuil sa Bhille.

Tá sé san mBille anois go mbeidh ar an chomhlacht an chuntasaíocht a bheith thart acu nuair a chuireann an tAire féin fios orthu. Deirimse go bhfuil brón orm nár ghlac se leis; tá sé sin thart, bhí vótáil air agus chaill mé an vóta sin. Cé nach n-aontaím leis an chuid is mó den Bhille tá sé rite anois. Bhí díospóireacht mhaith anseo agus sa Seanad agus tá chuile ghné den daonlathas curtha i gcrích chomh fada is a théann an Bille seo. Tá mise sásta dá reir glacadh leis sin. Tá súil agam go n-éireoidh go geal le CIE, idir CIE féin agus na trí comhlachtaí. Tá súil agam go ndéanfaidh an tAire stuidéar níos doimhne anois ar ainmneacha na gcomhlachtaí. Dúirt sé go raibh se réidh é sin a dhéanamh agus go nglacfadh sé le hainmeacha dos na comhlachtaí nua, ainmneacha a bheadh níos oiriúnaí ná na cinn atá sa Bhille agus tá cumhacht aige sa Bhille é sin a dhéanamh.

Níl a thuilleadh le rá agam anois ach aontú leis an Aire go mbeimidne ar an dtaobh seo den Teach agus san Seanad go mór i bhfábhar na gcomhlachtaí nua agus go mbeimid ag déanamh iniúchadh ar imeachtaí na gcomhlachtai nua agus b'fhéidir to mbeidh an tAire ar ais anseo nó Aire éigin eile ina áit——

Le cúnamh Dé.

Le cúnamh Dé agus an daonlathais — agus go mbeimid ag caint faoin brabús, faoin sochar atá déantá ar dtús ag córas na mbusanna i mBaile Atha Cliath agus in a dhiaidh ag an gcóras iomlán.

Question put and agreed to.