RAILWAYS BILL, 1924—(THIRD STAGE RESUMED.)

Question—"That Sections 31 to 41 inclusive, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
SECTION 42.
(1) On and after the date so fixed as aforesaid the terms and conditions upon and subject to which merchandise is, apart from special contract, to be carried by the amalgamated company shall be company's risk conditions, and those conditions shall apply without any special contract in writing to the carriage of merchandise at ordinary rates:
Provided that, in any case where an owner's risk rate is in operation and the company has been requested in writing to carry at that rate, the terms and conditions upon and subject to which such goods shall be carried shall be owner's risk conditions.
(2) The terms and conditions upon and subject to which damageable goods not properly protected by packing (if accepted for carriage) shall be carried by the amalgamated company, shall be the conditions settled by the railway tribunal as aforesaid, but the company shall not be under any obligation to carry damageable goods not properly protected by packing.
(3) Nothing in this Act shall preclude the company and a trader from agreeing in writing, subject to the provisions of the Railway and Canal Traffic Acts, 1854 and 1888, to any terms and conditions they think fit for the carriage of merchandise, live stock or damageable goods not properly protected by packing, or dangerous goods.

I beg to move the following amendment:—

In sub-section (1) to add at the end of the sub-section the words "provided also that no live stock shall be carried by the amalgamated company upon other than company's risk conditions."

The cattle trade are anxious to have this amendment inserted in the Bill as they believe that it will compel the railway companies to exercise greater supervision over the transit of live stock. It may be suggested that at present the companies are liable for any loss or damage occurring to live stock or produce, and I suppose to a certain extent that may be so. But if cattle, sheep and other live stock are killed in transit, the owners have to go into court, prosecute the railway company, and prove to the satisfaction of the judge that it was through the direct negligence of the company that the loss occurred. We contend that that should not be so. Cattle traders are not very anxious to bring matters to court, and no matter how plain or patent the case may be, the railway companies never compensate the owners in any way except as a last resort. There are hundreds of cases of hardship which was suffered by people engaged in the live stock trade which, if they had been accompanied by this condition, the owner would be compensated for portion of the loss at any rate. The companies may object to pay, but we are satisfied if the companies do not carry our stock, and if the Minister is not satisfied to have this amendment inserted, to pay a small amount which would, of course, be settled by the railway tribunal, and that amount, if it were made a charge, would be infinitisimal, that is if everybody had to pay. Speaking to a man, who is very largely engaged in live stock, I was informed by him—he is a man who sends thousands of cattle over the railways—that for the past twelve months he had not a beast killed in transit. These figures could be gone into, and a table could be drawn up showing what the loss would be. That is a matter that could be settled before the tribunal. If, as I say, it were a combined charge, and if all live stock were carried at the owners' risk, the amount required to compensate for the loss sustained would be a very small amount if it were put on in every case. I hope that the Minister will not raise any objection to having this amendment inserted in the Bill.

This amendment seeks to provide that no live stock shall be carried by the amalgamated company upon other than the company's risk conditions. I want to draw attention to the general wording of the amendment, because it may have a repercussion on owners' risks at sea, and it may be brought in in a way that may be undesirable, but I will refer to that later. With regard to the present situation as to the carriage of live stock I have an extract here which I will read.

It is an extract from the report on the General Revision of Railway Rates and Charges made to the British Minister of Transport on the 22nd December, 1920, by the Rates Advisory Committee set up by him, and it sets out shortly the position in regard to owner's risk rates for live stock:—

"The railway companies are not willing to quote owner's risk rates for live stock except in a few cases where the practice already exists, basing their objection on the fact (of which they gave evidence) that by reason of the impossibility of ascertaining whether damage to live stock occurring during transit is due to the inherent qualities of the animals conveyed or to negligence, the liability of the company on a C.R. note is not appreciably greater than on an O.R. note. This objection appears to be well founded, and there would seem to be no advantage in requiring that an O.R. rate should be quoted if it were not to be appreciably below the C.R. rate. As an instance of the small amount of risk to the companies in carrying live stock at C.R., we were informed that on seven of the principal railway companies in 1919, the receipts for the carriage of live stock were £531,750, and the claims paid for loss and damage only £1,505, or approximately a quarter of one per cent., i.e., less than 1d. in the £ on the freight received, although substantially the whole traffic was carried at C.R."

The railway companies referred to include those principal Irish companies which are members of the Railway Companies Association. A small number of old owner's risk rates for live stock exist, and also an owner's risk scale for horses not exceeding £10 each in value, which it would probably be a hardship on the public to discontinue. Except for these, it is considered reasonable that live stock should be made a definite exception from the obligation imposed on the amalgamated company by Section 44 (2) to quote alternative rates when required. There were also cross-Channel through rates at present in abeyance—in respect of which the owners of live stock had to take the risk on the sea journey. These are not affected by the Bill. The amendment, if carried, would also leave the amalgamated company responsible for sea risks. The sea risk is at present an owner's risk. The shipping companies would not accept any other rate than owners' risk, and the amalgamated company would be under the obligation of taking the responsibility off the shoulders of the shipping companies and of getting nothing in return by way of a higher rate. The amendment, if carried, would involve the transit by sea and the responsibility would be thrown on to the railway undertaking, and they would not have the benefit of the extra risk.

In pre-war days the shipping companies of the South of Ireland carried all their cattle at company's risk rates at a small charge per head, and there was no other rate in force. That was the case with the Cork Steamship Company and with the Waterford Steamship Company in pre-war days. As to the Minister's point that at present the companies are liable, it is our experience that while we consider they are liable, we can never get compensation unless we bring them into court. The Minister states that they have been carrying the stuff at considerable risk, and that they get no extra rate. We are satisfied to pay an extra rate which could be included as an insurance fund. A portion of that combined rate could be set aside as an insurance fund. The whole point is that no matter what loss is suffered by the cattle trade the companies will not pay except they are brought into court.

The Senator's point is not improved by this amendment. He says that they cannot get the companies to accept liability, and his attempt to get that is by putting in a clause saying that practically all live stock must be carried at company's risk conditions. He does not, however, better his point against the companies. They are not going to be made amenable by this, and the Senator will still have the same difficulty that they will have to be brought into court to enforce the condition. An extension of the conditions is not going to help the Senator in his desire.

I would ask the Minister to consider this case. If at present a trader sends a waggon of stock, say, from Maryborough to Dublin, and on arrival at Cabra or Kingsbridge, two cattle were found to be killed, the company will refuse to pay. If it were at owners' risk conditions I cannot see how they could refuse to pay or compensate the owner.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

What the Minister points out is that no matter what conditions you may impose, no matter what rate the cattle are to be carried at, the question will still arise —will the company pay? You say that under existing conditions they never pay until you bring them into court. How is your amendment going to improve that? That is the Minister's point. You will still have to bring them into court, because they will not willingly admit liability.

If the cattle are carried at company's risk conditions and two cattle are killed, surely the company cannot object to pay.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

We understood from you that they object to pay in either case.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

How are you going to cure that?

At owner's risk.

That contradicts the statement that practically all the cattle are carried at owner's risk.

If the Minister leaves this matter over he can make his mind clear whether the prevailing rate is at company's or owner's risk.

I am satisfied to leave this matter over.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.