The first business is a Bill that has been sent up —the "Statutory Undertakings (Continuance of Charges) Bill," and the Minister for Local Government has kindly attended. I will ask him briefly to explain what exactly is the nature of the Bill.
STATUTORY UNDERTAKINGS (CONTINUANCE OF CHARGES) BILL—FROM THE DÁIL.
This Bill deals with a matter which was overlooked when the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill was put through the Oireachtas before Christmas. This is simply for the purpose of enabling temporary increases in charges which were permitted during the war to be continued. It will only remain in force for 3½ months— until May the 31st. The powers that continue these increased charges expire on the 15th, that is to-morrow. When the Bill was introduced into the Dáil last week the Government asked the Dáil to suspend the Standing Orders, and to put the Bill through all its stages at one sitting. I know it is not desirable that any type of measure should be rushed through the Oireachtas, and I would not agree in the ordinary way to urge upon the Oireachtas to pass a measure without getting the usual amount of time in the various stages, but this is one which does not raise any principle. It cannot be disputed that the charges which this Act authorises are necessary. Some of the undertakings would have to close down if they were obliged to go back to the ordinary statutory charges, and the whole matter of the necessity for the powers of increasing the charges given by this Bill can be reviewed at the end of three months, when the Act will expire. The undertakings dealt with are given in the schedules. I do not know whether members of the Seanad had time to read through the Bill or not, but I might say that there is power under existing legislation to have the charges reduced, following a report to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce by an Advisory Committee on rates. So the passing of this Bill will not mean that the charges at present in force on the part of those undertakings shall continue undiminished during the whole of the three months, but it gives power to have them continued, and these powers are necessary, and because of the fact that the present powers expire to-morrow I would urge the Seanad to follow the example of the Dáil in this matter, and by a suspension of Standing Orders to allow the Bill to go through at one sitting.
In view of what the Minister has said is it the wish of the Seanad that the Standing Orders be suspended to allow the Bill through all its stages to-day?
I have read this Bill and also the schedule. I think it is quite innocuous from my point of view and from that of every other member of the Seanad. If I understand it, it means that certain powers and undertakings expire to-day or to-morrow, and this Bill is to enable those charges to continue until such time as it is seen fit to alter them. It may be altered the day after to-morrow or in three months' time, and, therefore, I think the Seanad would be justified in passing this Bill.
I may say I have no objection to the measures in this Bill, but I would like to call attention to Clause 4, which seems unnecessary. In this Act "the Minister" means the Minister for Industry and Commerce. On reading through the Bill I do not see the word "Minister" at all.
I think the section is required by reason of the use of the expressions in the original Bill of 1919.
I think if you will look at it you will find that is not so. It uses the words "Minister of Transport," but that is only in the beginning, and not in the Bill itself, and in no place does the word "Minister" arise.
It certainly does not make any harm to make clear who "the Minister" is.
Perhaps the Minister would look into it. I do not wish to block anything.
The object of the clause certainly is to give the powers that were in the Minister of Transport to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. All these powers have been transferred to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce by the Dáil, and the intention is to make clear by the Bill that the powers the Ministry of Transport had will now reside in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.