The next amendment is contingent on the other being accepted.
REPORT ON THE NATIONAL MUSEUM. - RAILWAYS BILL, 1924—(THIRD STAGE RESUMED).
Am I to understand that Amendment 19 "to delete in lines 30 and 31 the words `live stock' " has to do with the same matter as the last? I was not able to understand the drift of it.
Perhaps, Senator Counihan, you had better explain to the Minister what your object was, that is to say, if you are withdrawing it.
The effect would be that if the previous amendment were inserted these words would naturally go out.
The preceding amendment is left over for the Senator's consideration, not mine.
On Sub-section 3 I would like to ask a question, I would like to know whether any corporate body might make arrangements. There are a certain number of co-operative societies in the country, and I think it is unjust that they should be precluded. Would "trader" include any corporate body? I think if it does not the section should be made to include it.
I do not think "trader" has been specifically defined. There are certain definitions relative to parts of the Act. There is a definition later on in Section 52, but I do not think it brings in "traders."
I should think trader would include a corporation or a company carrying on business.
In addition to the definition clause of Section 52 there is contained in a particular section a further definition, but I do not think it applies to this word. It defines corporations as being included in another general word. I will bear the Senator's question in mind and see whether any further definition can be brought in.
I will propose an amendment on the Report Stage.
Senator O'Rourke asked me to move the following amendment, and I therefore move it:
Section 46, sub-section (1). To delete lines 16 and 17 and to substitute therefor the following:—
"46.—(1) On and after the appointed day the amalgamated company shall collect and deliver in all towns of a population of more than 1,500 all merchandise in classes 1 to 5 which is."
It is a simple amendment, and it asks for facilities that we have been looking for for years. I believe I would be correct in saying that these facilities have been in operation on the three Northern railways for the last thirty years, but the Free State railways have not given the facilities for some reasons. They give carting and delivery facilities to English traffic, but we have not been able to get such facilities from them so far as Irish traffic is concerned. It does not mean that it will impair the revenue of the railway companies in any shape or form, nor can it cause any extra inconvenience for the reason that they have already carters employed in the principal stations in the Free State areas for English and foreign traffic. We find that station rates are particularly penalising on small traders. Traders and manufacturers have not got a carting staff, and they should be helped as much as possible. These facilities would be of great assistance to small manufacturers and producers. I do not think that the railways made any great profit out of the carting. In the olden days before the war, the cost was 2s. 6d. per ton. The Great Northern Railway have always fused the cost of carting into the rates, so that the customer got his goods delivered at once. I have supervision over the cost of carting here in Dublin, because I can do it myself or get a carter, but I have no supervision at the other end. I can only allow my customers the cartage at the end of the transit. If the railway company make a good contract with carters like Messrs. Wallis, they ought to make a profit out of the transaction, and it would be an enormous advantage, particularly to the small traders and manufacturers all over the country. I think it is a facility that the Minister may give. They do give it in this clause, but it is not definite. They say "may," but I shall be satisfied if they say "shall."
This seems to be the old contest between "may" and "shall," as to whether a section is to be permissive or mandatory. The section ought not to be taken by itself. It ought to be read in conjunction with another section which has a definite bearing on the point. The amendment is to make it compulsory on the amalgamated company to collect and deliver in all towns of a population of more than 1,500 all merchandise in classes 1 to 5. Classes 1 to 5 would include the type of traffic known as "bag stuffs," meal, grain, etc. It is almost exceptional to find a trader who wishes to have these things carted and delivered.
I did not mean that.
I have to speak on the amendment as it is before me. Supposing we leave out this type of traffic which is not desired to be carted and delivered by the ordinary trader, it means you set up a system of charges which will include these "C" and "D" additions. That will mean, in cases where the facility is not availed of, that there will have to be rebates. It is not a mere "may" in this connection. As far as Section 46 (1) is concerned, it says:—
On and after the appointed day the amalgamated company may collect and deliver by road any merchandise which is to be or has been carried by railway and may make reasonable charges therefor in addition to the charges for carriage by railway, and shall publish in the rate book kept at the station where it undertakes the services of collection and delivery the charges in force for the collection and delivery of merchandise ordinarily collected and delivered.
Section 58 again has "may" in it, but when the two are added together, I think you get almost compulsory cartage and delivery. Section 58 (1) states:—
With a view to securing and promoting the public safety, or the interests of the public, or of trade, or of any particular locality, the railway tribunal may, on the application of any body of persons representing any such interests, by order require the amalgamated company or any other railway company in respect to that portion of its undertaking situate in Saorstát Eireann to afford such reasonable railway services, facilities, and conveniences upon and in connection with its undertaking (including the provision of such minor alterations and extensions and improvements of existing works as will not involve in any one case an expenditure exceeding ten thousand pounds) as may be specified in the order.
There is room between the two sections for any body of traders interested in the matter to press the tribunal to make an order requiring the railway company to quote "C" and "D" rates, where they are desired in towns. This amendment would make it mandatory on the company to cart and deliver, even though traders in these towns might not desire it. Then you will have the further costly inconvenience of rebates.
My experience is that the traders in these towns require this. It is the railway companies do not want to do it. When goods are lost or damaged in transit it is quite common for the railway companies to try and shift the responsibility on to the carters. We want these services placed in the one hands. Supposing the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs were to send out notice that owing to trouble with the postmen he could no longer deliver letters or packets, and that people would have to call at the Post Office and collect them for themselves, what would the public think of that? The principle here is identically the same, only that you would have to apply to another body instead of the Post Office. I think that is absurd. We want to make a contract with the railway companies, and to have these services performed by them, so as not to bring three sets of people into it, one throwing the liability on to the others for damages for loss and injury to goods in transit. We never can get paid for any damages in transit except by the Great Northern Railway Company, who settle at once, because they are responsible from one door to another. I think the Minister would be well advised, in the interests of the railway themselves, to make this mandatory. We should appreciate the conditions under which small, struggling manufacturers are working, and give them the best services we can. Even if a man with a horse and cart says he will do his own carting, I do not think he ought to be allowed to do it. There are times at which you must protect men from themselves.
I wish to support the amendment. It seems absurd that a small shopkeeper in the West should have to keep a horse and cart specially to fetch goods, perhaps once a week only, from the railway station. It would be much cheaper for the railway companies to distribute the goods to a great number of people as they could employ their horses and carts for six days of the week. It would be a great help, especially to people in a small way of business in the towns.
The Minister's argument is that the "may" in this section and the "may" in Section 58 in cumulative effect almost amount to a mandate, but I notice that in sub-section (1) of Section 58, there is a very wide loop-hole, namely, that if the company can make out that there is not capital sufficient for the purpose of doing cartage business, they are absolved from that responsibility. That seems to me to be such a wide opening that it fully justifies the fears which the mover of the amendment has expressed, that the "may" may amount to nothing, and that nothing will be done.
Might I ask the mover of the amendment how many towns are there in the Free State with a population of more than 1,500?
I could not answer offhand.
In or about 80.
We are not adamant in regard to the 1,500; we are prepared to accept a reasonable limit.
The mover of the amendment has offered to leave out the cartage of bag stuffs. I do not know what the Minister has to say to that. My knowledge of towns in the Free State is confined to the town of Naas where the railway company deliver into the town. These matters ought to be cleared up, so that our minds may be clear on this. What Senator the Earl of Kerry stated is perfectly true, that Section 58 gives an opening to the railway company to refuse to do this cartage if they find it would not pay. I do not agree with the argument of the Minister that the two sections taken together would meet the views of the mover of the amendment.
Does not this seem as if the Seanad was again trying to take up the duties of the tribunal? We have no evidence before us that either of the Senators concerned in this amendment have gone into the matter so thoroughly as to know what effect it was going to have, and what the cost would be. Senator the Earl of Kerry says that under Section 58 it is doubtful whether the inhabitants of a town with a population of 1,500 could get what they wanted. That section enables a claim to have this privilege of delivery applied to a town, brought before the tribunal, who will examine both the case for the railway companies and the case put forward for the town. The Seanad ought not to take it for granted that these towns are incapable of looking after their own affairs. We are asked to make it compulsory for every town with a population of 1,500 to have these rates whether they want them or not. I believe the Seanad would be better advised to allow the inhabitants of these towns to take advantage of Section 58 and allow the applications for these special rates to come before the tribunal, which is to be established to deal with all these matters, rather than that the Seanad should deal with a matter about which they practically know nothing. We do not know the length that this amendment will carry us, or the cost that it will entail. We do not know how it will effect the railways, or whether there is any great demand from these towns for it. It would, I think, be rather premature for the Seanad to rush in and do what is the plain duty of the tribunal.
I think what Senator Jameson has said is not quite correct, because throughout this Bill we are laying down certain general propositions for the guidance of the tribunal. This is what I might call a general proposition, that carting could be done by the company more economically than by individuals. A population of 1,500 is only laid down because it would be unreasonable to ask it to be done in villages and at small stations. I do not think it can be maintained that with a town, the population of which is 1,500, it would not pay the railway to employ carters. As to the number of towns covered by the amendment, I do not see that that has much to do with the matter. If there were only three towns concerned it, would be equally necessary for the railways to do the carting. I am sure-there are at least eighty towns concerned and, therefore, it is all the more necessary.
It is true that this amendment proceeds in advance to lay down rules that properly fall to the railway tribunal. As Senator the Earl of Kerry has pointed out, Section 58 gives power to the railway company to go before the railway tribunal, and prove by a host of expert witnesses, that any facility asked for, such as carting, would be a financial loss, and consequently should not be granted. Local traders and others have as much chance of winning against the expert witnesses of the company, with all their experience, as the proverbial camel has of getting through the eye of an needle. That is one of the reasons I think which suggests the necessity for this amendment. We have heard numerous complaints from time to time about the high cost of living in Ireland. One of the reasons of that is the large number of distributors. Their turnover is small, and consequently their profit has to be unusually large in proportion, if they are to exist at all. In every town with a population of 1,500 or 2,000 there are numerous small traders, every one of whom must have his own carting arrangements. The result is that the carting arrangements are uneconomic. The extent to which they are uneconomic has to be borne by the cost of the commodity carried. That is one of the reasons the cost of living is so high. It is obvious to anyone that, if the railway companies could muster up sufficient enterprise and do the carting and the delivery, it could be done far more-economically and on a more businesslike basis. I agree that there is a difficulty with regard to the amendment where it seeks to interfere with the work of the tribunal, but it is certainly one that merits serious consideration. If the company seeks to resist it, and do not desire to go to the trouble or to run any risk, in my opinion no body of traders will be able to establish a case against expert railway witnesses. As a result, Section 58 will be absolutely useless, for practical purposes, in respect to any single proposal that the railway company seek to oppose. We have experience of the railway expert witnesses on other boards, and we know how the truth can be told in different ways. Unless you are an expert you will be misled. There will really be no one to meet these expert witnesses except, perhaps, one member of the tribunal. Of course, he has to deal with the evidence put before him. I feel compelled to vote for the amendment, but I will ask the Minister if he could not consider a compromise in regard to the populations of the towns involved. I think it would be a reasonable proposition to have it in operation in any town of sufficient size where it would have reasonable chance of being made a financial success, leaving the railway tribunal to deal with the smaller towns. In the past, railway companies have not displayed that enterprise which would lead us to hope that they are going to make any advance in this direction. It is desirable, if for no other reason, in order that the cost of living will be brought down.
I think there would be a good deal in what Senator O'Farrell has said about the difficulty of fighting a case against expert railway witnesses, were it not that the Government has taken care to provide against that, by establishing a special railway tribunal. It includes one railway expert and two others of business capacity. That is with a view to protecting the interests of the public in every direction. Accordingly, I think it is going too far to say that the traders will be fighting the railway experts when you have a special tribunal, composed of the best men the Government can find, to protect the interests of the public. I think they are going a long way to lay down directions. I would be prepared to support the suggestion made by Senator Jameson that we should not go out of our way by taking on work which would be much better discharged by the tribunal.
What strikes me is that the railway company will find it easy to prove that there is not sufficient capital to undertake this work. We all know that there will not be a great deal of capital floating about, and it is easy to say there is not sufficient for this purpose, unless the Bill is strengthened in some way in favour of the traders. As to the possibility of a compromise suggested by Senator O'Farrell, my feeling is that the Minister, if he does not like this particular amendment, might bring up one on the Report Stage that will strengthen the power of the trader to secure this generally desired concession.
It occurs to me that the views of the Seanad would be met if the proviso in Section 58 were slightly altered. At present it reads: "Without prejudicially affecting the interests of the then existing stockholders." If it could be shown that a transaction would result in one penny of loss it would prejudicially affect the interest of the shareholders. I would suggest that the Minister might consider whether the difficulty could not be got over by altering the words "prejudicially affecting" to "materially prejudicing," the interests of the shareholders. In other words, I think as the proviso stands, if the company could show that there was one penny lost on the transaction, they could defeat it, whereas if the words were "materially prejudicing," they would have to show that it would result in a substantial loss. I think that might meet the position. I am only throwing out that suggestion for consideration on the Report Stage.
I do not know what we are now discussing.
The point is this: Section 46 is under discussion, and it gives power to the amalgamated company to undertake the collection and delivery of goods. That is carting. Senator O'Dea wants to make this obligatory on the company, in all cases where a town has a population of 1,500. The Minister has pointed out that the effect of Section 58, taken in conjunction with this section, is practically to make it obligatory, as the railway tribunal on a proper application being made to them, have power to compel the amalgamated company to put Section 46 into force. He is met then by the suggestion that that is all right until you come to the proviso in Section 58, which says the company is not to be compelled to do this, if the cost would prejudicially affect their shareholders.
Can I speak to the amendment?
I am sure you can.
At the risk of repeating what other Senators have said, it seems to me that this is essentially one of the matters that should be calmly deliberated by the body it is proposed to set up—the railway tribunal. I suggest that it is a more fitting body to discuss this matter than the Seanad. I know enough about railway rates to know how little I know. I suggest to the Seanad that it would be a great mistake to take upon itself to discharge functions that really concern the railway tribunal. It is impossible to consider here all the various issues that depend on an amendment of this kind. It might involve the amalgamated company in an expenditure which is not only serious from their point of view, but possibly not in the public interest. That is a matter which it would be impossible to bring out before the Seanad, but which could be brought out before the railway tribunal. It seems to me that the Seanad is making a great mistake in taking upon itself to settle very important points like this when the Bill sets up a properly-qualified body to deal with such questions.
If it is merely a question of expense I suggest that the figure 1,500 might be changed to 5,000. Then you would know where you are. There are 20 or 25 towns of that size covered in the area that the amalgamated company will serve. The amount of capital that would be required for this purpose would not be very large. I am not expressing any opinion on the general question.
Following on what Senator O'Farrell has stated, I hardly like to assert that truth has been urged under various guises during the course of this discussion. Certainly inaccuracy has been put forward with varying degrees of completeness. May I put this point to the Senator. There has been no authoritative statement made here as to the number of towns with a population of 1,500 or 5,000 where on examination being made it has been ascertained that they desire this. It is a matter for the tribunal to go into all the facts and get all the figures and decide. I suggest that we have no amendment before us. We had an amendment previously dealing with classes from one to five in towns with a population over 1,500. We had classes one to five withdrawn immediately, and we were told that the mover was not adamant on the question of the population of towns. The amendment has really disappeared. We are discussing generally a vague idea, whether we should make it compulsory on the amalgamated company to provide cartage and delivery rates. I have a little experience of trade.
In my native town in the North of Ireland, where I had business connections, there was a cartage agency with the railway companies there. That cartage agent was generally unemployed. So far as my business was concerned, we did not employ him. We had a contract with certain other carriers, and they conveyed our goods, and we had no trouble, and our stuff was always safe in the hands of these cartage people. If this amendment is carried every trader in these towns, whatever the population may turn out to be, will have to have his goods carted by the railway company, whether he desires it or not. The majority in a town may desire it, but the minority may not. But you are going to insist that they must all be ruled in the same rigid way. From the railway company's point of view such a service may not prove remunerative; it is bound not to be remunerative if not availed of. Here we go blindly and say to the traders that a town with a population must have its goods carted by the agency of the railway company. Having done that, we insist that it shall be done without consideration. The service may turn out to be unremunerative. How is the deficiency to be made up? The only way is by extra charges on the rates. The taxpayer will have to pay for that concession which has not been pressed for, and about which no real examination is made, and no real case put up. With regard to Section 58 (1), I would not go so far as to say that the word "may" there added to "may" in another section equals "shall." But I say you have permission in a further clause for further coercion, if I may put it that way, on the railway tribunal to impose an order upon the amalgamated company. That "may" in 58 (1) will of course be open to the backing of public opinion and to the newspapers, and everything possible is being done to insist that when a case is made out, and the traders in a particular town wish for this concession, that it shall be granted to them. What I described previously as an inaccuracy in regard to this amendment is this: It is argued as if the Bill prevented the concession which Senator O'Dea said is desired, and no doubt will be desired in many places. But it does not prevent this being done if a case is made out. The tendency of the Bill is the other way. It tends towards the setting up of C. and D. rates. The only thing is that we hesitate to say simply on a basis of population that there shall be compulsion to have C. and D. rates. Let it not be thought that there is anything in Part I. which precludes or hampers these rates being established. The tendency of the Bill is the other way completely. It tends towards them, and allows them after pressure by the railway tribunal, which in itself will be affected by public opinion, and which will be subject to pressure by traders coming before it and making their case.
There is one point urged against Section 58 (1), namely, that there is a proviso which seems to take away the value of the section itself. I think if 58 (1) and the first proviso be read together it is quite clear that the proviso has reference mainly—I am not going so far as to say reference only—but mainly to the portion in brackets in Section 58: "(including the provision of such minor alterations and extensions and improvements of existing works as will not involve in any one case an expenditure exceeding £10,000)." And it was because it had been put on behalf of the railway companies that that limit of £10,000 was rather much for minor alterations, extensions, etc., that the proviso was inserted to guard against the necessity of the existing stockholders being prejudiced. Now, if in order to effect the particular point in regard to this amendment we are now considering, we changed the proviso, it may throw out of gear Section 58, which has been constructed mainly from the point of view of the portion in brackets, with regard to undertakings limiting the expenditure to £10,000. I think the section and the proviso should be read together, and if they are, it becomes quite clear that the limitation with regard to prejudicially affecting the interests of the existing stockholders has reference mainly to the "extension and improvements, etc.," involving expenditure not exceeding £10,000.
Would it be possible to alter the proviso so as to confine it to that?
I do not care to confine it to that.
As it stands at present the railway tribunal would hold it referred to every service in the previous section.
They are at liberty to urge that, but we think the decision would lie with the tribunal. I think the main point in 58 (1) is bound up to a certain extent with the amendment we are now discussing, and the only warning I give is, that we should not for the sake of effecting a small improvement in an earlier section tamper with a section which has been very carefully drafted with the main points of Section 58 before us. I do urge it is a matter for the tribunal. The amendment now has practically disappeared. We are discussing the general principle; that principle is not defeated by this Bill, and the tendency of the Bill is to help to carry out that principle.
As regards cost, I do not think there will be any costs at all, because the railway company can employ outside carters without any capital, so that so far as cost is concerned there is really no case. With regard to the loss, I cannot see how possibly any loss can arise when the tribunal has power to measure the cost of the carting to the parties themselves. Surely a great railway corporation can get cartage service performed cheaper than a small, struggling trader. My difficulty is this, and I am speaking now for my class: We feel it as a grievance that goods are not delivered from door to door no matter how many towns there may be requiring these facilities. It is very simple to find out how many towns there are in Ireland with a population of over 1,500. We could find that out in ten minutes. But I am not insisting that you give this service to every town of 1,500 of a population. If you agree to the principle then you say the rest ought to be left to the tribunal, and in a way I agree. But what in the name of goodness have we being doing here for the last three days if the tribunal is to deal with every subject? If that be so we have no business proposing amendments, and trying to improve the Bill. The whole thing in that case is merely an adaptation of a Bill passed in England in 1921. I have great respect for English institutions, and great respect for the whole of the railway system in Great Britain, and I think that if we could apply that system to Ireland it would be an enormous advantage to our country. But I cannot understand the arguments of Senator Jameson and of Senator Bagwell saying that all these things should be thrown on to the tribunal, and that we should have no say in the matter whatever. I said yesterday, and I repeat it to-day, that the up-keep of the railways and the revenue they get is borne by the agriculturist and traders in this country, and I say that they should get every facility that does not in any way injure the revenue of the railway company. I do not want the railway companies to lose one penny in giving these facilities. No man in this assembly knows half as much about this subject as Senator Bagwell, and no man could speak with more authority upon it than he could. His predecessor also was an authority upon this subject, and I could repeat declarations made by him upon it, but I do not want to.
Senator Sir Hutcheson Poë is in a peculiar position in this matter. He was a very distinguished member of the Railway Commission—a Royal Commission, I think—of 1910, which recommended these facilities. I cannot understand his attitude on the subject now. He was in favour of it as a member of that Commission, but now he comes in here and says he does not want it. I do not want to put the railway companies to one penny extra of expense. They will possibly get a profit out of it, and I believe if we could get Senator Bagwell's real opinion he would admit to us that his company make a profit out of this system. His predecessor, Colonel Plews, admitted they did not get much profit out of it but at that time only 2/6 was charged. Now it is something like 7/6, and any man can tell that a small, struggling manufacturer could not possibly get his cartage done as cheaply as the railway companies could get it done for him. Business with the traders is in a bad way. The railways themselves, we are told, are in a bad way, and this is a real effort to try and make railway transit more popular than it is. No one wants to see it worse. Even the Post Office, which is maligned by everybody, is more popular than the railways to-day, and my object in this matter is really to help them.
A new point has been raised in this discussion, that no expense would be involved if this amendment was carried. That is completely illusory. This amendment lays down that cartage facilities shall be provided in case of every town of 1,500 inhabitants, which involves many small places. It may be that in some places people do not receive goods by rail at all and do not require cartage and delivery rates. There may be others who prefer to take delivery themselves. It costs less to have the goods consigned at station to station rates. The railway companies would be forced to set up machinery for delivery if this amendment were accepted, and few people might avail themselves of it, and consequently the thing would be worked at a loss, and the fact that the railway company can contract with somebody else to do it on their behalf does not make it any better, because in such a case as I describe the contract figures would have to be paid. If this were embodied in legislation, whether there are any goods to go by this special delivery service or not, it has got to be provided, which I submit, would be unreasonable.
I have three amendments on the paper, and they really all hang together, though some of them deal with clause 54. The first is amendment number 20, Section 53, sub-section (1), page 25, line 4. To delete the words "thirty-three and one-third" and to substitute therefor the word "fifty." Amendment 22, in Section 54, sub-section (3), page 25, line 65, to delete the word "eighty" and to substitute therefor the words "sixty-six and two-thirds," and amendment 24, Section 54, sub-section (5), line 23, to delete the word "twenty" and to substitute therefor the words "thirty-three and one-third."
There are certain proportions laid down in the Bill as to what amount of the savings and economies effected are to be left in the hands of the company, and what amounts are to be used in the reduction of rates and giving protection for the public benefit. Sub-section (1) of Clause 53 of the Bill states that such amount shall not exceed thirty-three and one-third per cent. of such economies, and my amendment is that that figure of thirty-three and one-third should be raised to fifty. In Section 54 the same point is raised in sub-section (3), and only 20 per cent. of the saving is left to the company, and 80 per cent is taken for the general cheapening of charges. I propose that there ought to be thirty-three and one-third per cent. left to the company instead of twenty per cent. Again, in sub-section (5) of clause 54, I propose that the twenty per cent. there should be altered to thirty-three and one-third. With the permission of An Cathaoirleach, I am going ahead, as will be seen, with this amendment to Section 54, because the alteration is for one and the same purpose.
That would apply also to amendment 26.
All these amendments have the same object. When we look at this Bill there are various interests to be considered. We hear a great deal about the interests of the trader, and the necessity for the reduction of charges. We heard that exceedingly well put by many Senators. But we have also to consider that which is of vital importance to the State, namely, that these railways should not be in an impoverished condition, and that they should not be short of capital to carry out the various alterations and improvements which are necessary from time to time to meet the demands of the public. The companies do not make these extensions entirely for themselves. If they make any extensions not demanded by the public they are pretty sure to be failures. But for demands made upon them by the public they need capital. We hear a good deal here about the iniquities of the various capitalists, but I think we will admit that in a huge railway system, such as we are now dealing with, and which covers the whole of the State, if we are to close the whole of the capital account we close every avenue of improvement, every demand made upon the railway companies which requires expenditure of new capital, and we veto at once the steady advance and improvement of the railways to meet the demands of the public. Now, my view is that this Bill, as I read it, does not leave the railway companies sufficient means to receive fresh capital through their earning revenue to put before the ordinary investor to induce him to put money into the railway companies which will enable them to make these improvements. I think if Senators will look through the Bill they will see a fixed revenue is allowed upon the existing capital, and as far as I can read it there is no other source of revenue open to the amalgamated company than is dealt with in these two clauses—the amount to be gained by savings which had been effected and which are to be effected. According to the Bill, in one case, taking the first, page 25, sub-section (1) they are only to get thirty-three and one-third per cent. of such economies. When we come to think how capital is to be raised, nowadays to raise capital needs a far better effort of the capitalist than formerly, just as to get a labourer to work for you now you must give him a far higher wage to-day than before the war. Nowadays to get anybody to put money in investments you have to offer him far better terms now than pre-war. If you look at the railway companies that are dealt with in this way you ask yourself what are they earning at the present. As far as I can see, it is about four per cent. I think that is the total rate on all the money invested in these railways, taking debenture, preference and ordinary stock. It is a condition of the issue of capital by railway companies that they have to issue stock in certain proportions, and if they cannot issue their ordinary stock they cannot issue debentures and preference, and there is a limit put upon them.
Therefore, if you are going to limit the amount of the savings which the railway companies can put on one side to offer to future investors of fresh capital in their undertakings at four per cent. they will get no more money at all. As far as we can judge, the best of the English railway companies at present pay seven or eight per cent. If this Bill, with the amount it enables the companies to hold back out of the savings effected, does not allow the companies sufficient further revenue to offer to future investors and to people who would supply fresh capital, then I say we are putting an end to the prosperity of our railways in this country, or, at least, to the advancement of these railways. Those of us who have been living in this country for a long time know the one thing we have seen is the steady advance of the railways to meet the demands of the public, every one of which has needed fresh capital. If this Bill is passed in its present form, and if I am right that these proposals in these two clauses allow too small a sum to the companies, then we are undoubtedly doing a thing that we ought not to do. How can the railways meet the demands put forward by Senator O'Dea and meet the wants of the ports for further extension if we stop the chances which the railways have of doing these things? This Bill also proposes that the amalgamated company is to carry on, and take over by absorption a lot of the little baronially guaranteed railways which we know are in a very bad state. It is one of the best things in this Bill that these railways, which we know, if the Bill is not passed will have to stop, are being taken over. It is essential they should be kept on, but, as far as we can judge, they will not be a paying proposition at all for the amalgamated company. Of course, what we do hope for is that with better management, more centralised management, and more modern ideas, savings will be effected on a huge system instead of having a number of small one-horsed things. The savings may not be as great as one might have thought at one time, still, they will, at the same time, be very considerable. I do seriously hope that the Seanad will consider the amendments I have put down and that the amounts that the Bill allows the railway companies to get out of the savings effected will be sufficient to enable them to bring in fresh capital and make the necessary improvements which, if this country is to go ahead, are necessary to be made in the railways. If there have been feelings expressed against the railway companies as to their popularity, still, that they are a vital part in the progress of this country there can be no doubt. We are now going to give them probably as good a set of men as can be got in the Free State to manage them. The management will be the pick of all our railway boards, and I think even Senator O'Dea will admit that there are some brains amongst our railway managers. I think that we may certainly expect to get excellent management in this amalgamated company.
I think that it is not right that this Bill should so cripple the Board in their chances of putting up enough money out of the savings which they could effect to enable the appeal to the public to get the capital which they must get if they are to go on extending their railways in the way which will be absolutely necessary if the Free State is to go ahead at all. Therefore, I would ask the Seanad to make that thirty-three and one-third per cent. fifty per cent. Probably it would be better not to go beyond the paragraph in the amendment now——
Yes, it is better to confine yourself to it.
Very well. What I am asking the Seanad to do now is to make that fifty per cent. instead of thirty-three and a third per cent, and that is the amount the tribunal will allow the railways to hold out of the savings which are effected. I think that this is a matter with which the Seanad is peculiarly well qualified to deal. Because we are balancing now the demands of the different parts of the community; that is, the demands made on the amalgamated company. On the one hand there is one matter that all of us traders are intimately concerned in, that is to say, the reduction of freights on goods and passengers. Everyone of us here in the Seanad who has anything to do with trade knows how vital that is. We have also to consider the demands that will be made on the railway company for facilities. There are others that come in, and if we give the savings, or the main portion of the savings merely to bring down freight charges and passenger fares, and things of that sort, we may absolutely neglect the demands of different parts or different districts, and we may be starving the services in a way that we do not know. I believe we will be far safer if we adopt the fifty per cent. to be left to the railway company for the improvement and advancement of the country. I think we are, many of us, inclined to look upon a railway board as if they were a set of avaricious people requiring huge amounts of money for themselves and for their company. Now, in this amalgamated company every penny, after a few years, and every matter will be examined by the tribunal, and the whole public will know every single thing about it. Therefore, there is no question of the directors damaging the public interests for their own gain or for the gain of the amalgamated company. If we have done anything good at all in this Bill it is that nothing of that sort, let us hope, can take place in the future; that the tribunal watching the whole of the savings of the company and everything of that sort, nothing can be done, as far as I can see, that will militate against the interests of the public. But it will militate against the interests of the whole State if by this Bill we render it impossible for the railway company from time to time to get investors to put fresh capital into the company to meet the increasing demands of the public for facilities and advantages. Therefore I would ask the Seanad to raise the thirty-three and a third to fifty per cent.
I have a number of amendments running parallel to this amendment in the name of Senator Jameson which deal with this very important question—that is this question of the inducement of private enterprise to supply the capital necessary for railway development. I do not think I need press the point that development of the railway service will entail fresh capital, at any rate nominal capital. I feel bound to say that if capital were available experts might recommend the electrification of the suburban lines. That certainly cannot be done at present, I imagine, owing to the shortage of capital. Now in this question we are up against economic verity. You cannot get capital to come from motives of patriotism or through anything of that kind. You will get capital only because there is an inducement to capital. I would, therefore, very much like to know what is really in the recesses of the Government's mind. Are they genuinely anxious that the railways should continue under private enterprise, or have they any lurking desire for nationalisation? If there is any ulterior desire for nationalisation they will certainly get it, if this Bill is allowed to remain as at present, because I venture to say that fresh capital will not come in, and the alternative is clear. I know that there is a very responsible and prominent section of the community who want nationalisation. Others of us say that way disaster lies, and there we are at the parting of the ways.
Now I charge the Government with a lack of imagination in this matter, and with not having really looked at the financial question from the standpoint of our newly-gained political status. I do not want to say anything that is going to embarrass the Government from the point of view of their public finance. But it is common knowledge that they cannot borrow. The Government cannot borrow. Capital is not attracted as readily at the present moment to the Free State as it is to Britain, and there is no use blinking facts. The facts are there. Any Stock Exchange list will demonstrate that. Yet the Government, when free and unfettered in their financial arrangements, have gone with scissors and paste and taken theipsissima verba practically of the English Act. That seems to be an inconsistency, if the fundamentals, as indicated by me, are true, that we cannot borrow as easily or our private enterprises cannot attract capital in the Free State as easily as it is attracted in England. I do not like to say it; but we are here as responsible men, and we have got to face facts. The time may come when we can do better.
Well, then, the question arises whether we are offering sufficient inducement in this Bill to fresh capital, and I boldly say we are not. In some matters we are only allowing the company twenty per cent., in some thirty-three and a third. I state it in general terms that we are allowing them an inadequate percentage of the economies they will effect; and moreover, the power of effecting any economies at all and any savings is largely in the hands of the railway tribunal. The railway tribunal by the fixation of rates may prevent any excess in savings, and even assuming that the rates are such that the amalgamated companies do effect savings, which is a big assumption, even then the percentage allowed to stockholders as an increase of the standard revenue is inadequate. I do hope that the Seanad realises the great importance of this question, because it really is an issue between private enterprise and nationalisation; and believing as I do that nationalisation is disastrous, and is stagnation, as has been proved in every country in the world that has tried it, that it is lacking in resourcefulness, in imagination, in fertility of invention and in every one of those qualities——
Is this a Second Reading Debate or are we sitting now in Committee? Is the Senator speaking to the amendment?
I think the Senator is quite in order.
I am nearly finished.
I understand that the Senator has stated that this question now debated raises an issue whether the railways are to be conducted as private enterprise or whether they are to be State managed.
Yes, but he is discussing the merits of nationalisation, and we have a right to traverse the same ground with him, and if we do start arguing that question we will never get finished.
I will simply finish by saying that if this section is allowed to stand as drafted, and if the amendment is rejected—it will involve other amendments that come on later on—then nationalisation seems clear.
In supporting the amendment that has been moved by Senator Jameson, I should just like to mention one small matter for the information of the Seanad. It is this: the whole of this clause has been taken, I will not say word for word, but very largely, from the English Act. That being the case, in reference to this particular point that we have been discussing, or rather the point in the amendment, if the railways in Ireland were put in the same position as the railways in England, then it has been worked out that the percentage which the railways would be entitled to get back from their economies, the revenue derived from these consequent economies, would be fifty per cent. So that in asking that fifty per cent. should now be granted, we are really not going beyond the model on which the clause was framed. So much for that connection. If you would allow me a moment, I would just like to mention one small matter, and it is this: I do not know whether it is considered by the members of the Seanad, but I know that outside it is very widely thought that the return to the investor guarantees a profit of four per cent. That is to say, this Bill guarantees four per cent. to the investor. That is not so. He may get four per cent. if the revenue will allow it. But there is no clause in this Bill which states that the investors or holders of railway stock in the amalgamated company will get four per cent. That is entirely dependent on the words in line 30 of page 24. That reads: "the revenue will.... as far as practicable yield." That is a matter, if I am correct, which puts the case very differently from what is generally believed to be the fact. I would like the Minister to refer to it.
I would like something to be said by people who have a somewhat different view from the Senators who have spoken on this amendment. I look forward to the time when all the railways in Ireland will be electrified. That is, as far as I understand, the general tendency throughout the world. It has become so in America to a very great extent, and it has shown there that very great economies can be effected by it. If the time does come when the railways will be electrified, large quantities of capital will be necessary. The railway company cannot raise capital unless there is money behind it to do it. Therefore, though I am in general tendency somewhat of a socialist and nationaliser, as far as these things are practicable—but I do not think they are practicable in railways—as long as things are as they are, I advocate what Senators Jameson and Sir John Keane say, giving more liberty to the railways to retain fifty per cent. of the savings so as to have the money when these improvements become necessary.
The main point raised by the mover of the amendment is one that I can deal with very briefly. Senator Jameson has a fear that the provision of additional capital will not be easy unless an addition is made to the sum which the amalgamated company can retain out of any excess profits over the standard revenue for a particular year. That fear is groundless. Section 54 (4) has a proviso which deals very definitely with this point. It deals with revenue and says "if on any such review the railway tribunal finds that the net revenue or the average annual net revenue obtained by the company during the period on the experience of which the review is based is less than the standard revenue of the company, with such allowance (if any) as appears to the railway tribunal necessary to remunerate adequately any additional capital which may have been raised or provided in respect of expenditure on capital account incurred since the date upon which the standard charges were fixed in the first instance"—I think that meets Senator Jameson's point. I see that he dissents. There is to be an allowance made, such allowance as will remunerate adequately additional capital which may have been raised or provided.
Might I say a word in a conversational way. I have underlined the words "have been." I am dealing with the future. The company will not be able to be in that position if it has not had money enough, and has not got money enough to go to the public and ask them for further capital. This clause deals with the guaranteed capital that has been raised. I am not dealing with that at all. My objection is to the words "have been." I am dealing with the future.
It is dealing with the immediate past. It does mean that there can be no provision made ahead for the raising of capital in any year. There is to be an allowance made to remunerate any additional capital. Remember, this does not mean capital raised or provided in respect of expenditure prior to the amalgamation, because that is already dealt with in Sections 53 (I), (a), (b), and (c).
I am dealing entirely with the future.
There is the past, prior to amalgamation, and it is even brought forward a little into the period of post amalgamation, because Section 53 (1), (a), (b) and (c) has reference to that point. We come to this phrase: "may have been raised." It is quite right to say that the Bill makes no allowance for the remuneration of capital ahead, that the expenditure must have been incurred, and then afterwards, a year afterwards, on review you allow it.
It may be allowed.
It may be allowed. It is put in in a very definite way, that "such allowance (if any) as appears to the railway tribunal necessary." Of course the railway tribunal is to be the judge of the necessity. If they say that there is no necessity for this remuneration there is no allowance required. Senator Jameson's point boils down to this, that there will have to be an expenditure of capital, and no allowance will be made by fixation of rates until a year afterwards. That is what it comes down to. Let us look at the danger from the other point of view. It is sought to increase the amount of excess which would go to the amalgamated company from 20 per cent to 33? per cent. There is no obligation; that is to say, year after year, if there is a surplus, the railway company shall collect 33? per cent. of the excess, instead of 20 per cent., and that is necessary, we are told, in case they may have to incur fresh capital expenditure for certain purposes. But there is no obligation on them to expend or to modify in any way. There is a certain obligation in Section 58, to which I have already referred. They may have to provide minor alterations, extensions and improvements, but there is a limitation that it will not involve in any one case an expenditure exceeding £10,000. And there is a further proviso which has already been discussed here, that if it cannot be provided or expended without prejudicially affecting the interests of the stockholders the order shall not be made, and we have Senator O'Farrell's fears that a body of railway experts might roll up to the tribunal and be able to prove anything to it, certainly that this expenditure ought not be incurred. There are all these limitations, and in a case where the modification is necessary under Section 54 an allowance can be made under sub-section (4). Where the expenditure is voluntarily incurred an allowance may be made under sub-section (4). The danger, on the other hand, is that you allow the railway company to increase their takings of the excess from 20 to 33? per cent. in the hope that they will voluntarily expend. We know that sum of money was paid over to the companies at the end of the war control, sum amounting to £3,000,000. That money was supposed to be a payment to make up for arrears of maintenance. It was not expended in that way. It was expended mainly in dividends, and there is no obligation, and there is no power in the railway tribunal to compel extensions except under Section 58, and under Section 54 the remuneration of the capital drawn upon for the purpose of Section 58 is allowed. Now, I simply make this as a statement that is not made at all as a threat, or anything of that sort.
We are asked if the Government had any lurking idea with regard to nationalisation. The Government, as far as the Dáil is concerned, has already rejected a Bill brought forward for nationalisation, but it has rejected it while saying very definitely that this is the last trial before nationalisation, and if this amendment is carried this Bill certainly will not go through, because seeing the struggle I have had in the Dáil to get this section carried as it stands, allowing the railway company to retain 20 per cent. of any surplus in a year, I have no hope whatever of getting through the section as it is proposed to be amended by Senator Jameson. It would mean that the Bill would be held up; the Bill would not become law before the Recess, and it would mean that the Government would have to approach the matter from the point of view of the Labour Party Bill, which is nationalisation.
Does the Minister refute the statement regarding the English railways, that the proportion should be 50 per cent. instead of 33? per cent.?
I simply have the Senator's statement. I know that this clause is taken pretty well from the English Railways Act, and I would like to hear, at least, what the Senator's calculations are.
I will supply them.
I would like the Seanad not to take any vote on the 50 per cent. without having such information before them. My advice is that it is not so; it is exactly the percentage that is allowed here. There may be a more abstruse calculation, and I would like to refute it in detail, but I cannot go into it when it is made in such a vague way.
In view of the Minister's statement I am half-inclined to vote for the amendment. I originally intended to vote against it, but in view of his statement that this is the last trial before nationalisation, I would be inclined to support it. Senator Sir John Keane stated that the Bill was largely scissors and paste, and that this portion was exactly similar to the English Act of 1921. He gave us a reason why we should not follow that Act in this particular respect, because of the fact that this country could not get capital as easily as it could be got in England. I want to say that we never could get money in this country as easily as they could in England. The banks, in accommodating either a trader or a private individual, always charge at least one per cent. more for money than they would have to pay in England. Therefore it is no new phase in the situation to say that we cannot get money as easily in this country as it can be got in England.
Senator Sir John Keane has an awful terror of what nationalisation would mean—that it would bring about disaster. I want to say that in other countries where nationalisation of the railways has been tried it has not brought about disaster. On the contrary, one of the greatest railways in the world, the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, under private management got into a very deplorable state, and they had to ask the Government to take it over, with the result that a great deal of the big deficit that had accumulated under private management is now being wiped out under a nationalisation system. Further, in Queensland, Australia, where the railways are nationalised, the percentage of increase over pre-war charges for freight and passenger traffic is only 12½ per cent. and I do not think that in any privately owned railway in any part of the world you could show the same result as is shown there.
I wish to point out with regard to Senator Jameson's statement that the Bill in respect of these savings as it stands now is exactly the same as the British Railways Act. The same percentage is allowed.
Yes, that is quite so.
I should like to say a few words on this point. I was very much struck by what the Minister said—that it did not follow that these savings, which Senator Jameson's amendment would increase from 33? per cent. to fifty per cent, will be used for improving and ameliorating the position of passengers, etc. Senator Jameson said that he was not a shareholder. I am a shareholder in two big railways in this country, not of Ordinary shares, but of what are called Trustee shares, but after the Minister's statement I shall vote against the amendment, because if they are going to spend that money in dividends they are not going to improve the railways. That is perfectly certain. We had an example of it when the money that was paid by the English Government for the use of the railways during the war was spent on dividends.
I would like to say a word in reference to what Senator Farren has said. In connection with the Grand Trunk Railway the way they paid off all the expenses and all the capital was to confiscate it, not only the ordinary but the preference shares.
I know it because I have had experience of it. The shareholders were wiped out, and they got nothing for their money. The railway was taken over practically free of all charges.
Perhaps I might be allowed one more word in order to bind more closely to my side Senator the Earl of Mayo, who is beginning to show signs of coming towards me. On Senator Jameson's hypothesis the money would be almost necessarily spent on dividends, because it is by giving bigger dividends that Senator Jameson would hope to get further capital more easily.
As regards the point the Minister has mentioned, they seem to be going on the principle in this Bill that a 4 per cent. dividend is quite sufficient to attract capital. Capital is a very shy bird, and I think it was Henry George who said that if there was anything more timorous than one million dollars it was two million dollars. If capital is going to get a better return elsewhere it is not going to come to the railway companies. Senator the Earl of Mayo seems to think that it is a bad thing to increase dividends.
I never said anything of the sort.
I regret if I have misrepresented his lordship. If the railway companies want to get capital they will have to pay considerably more than 4 per cent., and unless dividends are increased they will not get people to come forward and stump up their money. A great deal has been said about the virtues of nationalisation. I think that an ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory. Perhaps I may give an instance which has come within my own experience during the last few months. The railways in Italy have been nationalised, and one morning I went to catch a train due at seven minutes to ten o'clock. About ten minutes to ten a train came in, and as the trains are usually hours late I said to a porter: "How are you so early?" and he replied: "Oh, this is yesterday's train."
It was not on the West Clare line?
No, it was the Italian State Railway. That is an instance of some of the disadvantages that arise from nationalisation. They could be recited ad lib.
I may say that the same experience occurred to me on the Canadian Pacific Railway, which happens to be a private concern.
In the course of this discussion the Minister has only done what is perfectly right. He has placed before the Seanad what state of affairs would be created if we pass this amendment. The Minister seems to think that it is easy for the amalgamated company to go away and get money during a year for which they have no revenue to show that they can pay interest on it. I suppose he thinks it will be easy for the company to go to their bankers and borrow on the prospect that they may possibly get permission from the tribunal to pay back the bank. What chance have they got of getting it from the public? They can only get it from such a source as a bank. If the railway company came before a bank and could only offer a problematical security I do not think that they would get the money. The Minister said that the money would be spent on dividends. Of course it would be spent, but it would be on dividends on fresh capital which had been spent on extensions for the good of the country. The tribunal has a right to fix what they consider would be a proper proportion. All I am dealing with is that the railway companies should have the right to put before the tribunal their case for fifty per cent. instead of thirty-three per cent. The Minister seems to take it for granted that because I am asking for fifty per cent. that the tribunal must necessarily give fifty per cent. I hold that if the railway company cannot show that it is absolutely necessary for them to get this further portion and they cannot raise the capital to carry out extensions demanded by the public, and which are necessary, the tribunal will not give it to them. All I am asking is that the railway company should have the right to appear before the tribunal and ask for fifty per cent. instead of thirty-three per cent. The Minister says that if the amendment passes we will be wrecking the Bill, because it will be impossible to get the Dáil to agree to the amendment, and the Bill will be hung up.
I said I did not intend my remarks as a threat. I simply pointed to this fact, that I was not dealing so much with Clause 53, but with all the amendments together. There is an enlargement from twenty per cent. in another section to thirty-three and one-third per cent. This is a different matter.
At my request the Minister confined his case entirely to this first matter, the question of thirty-three one-third per cent. and fifty per cent.
Yes. My remarks about the difficulty with the Dáil would apply rather to coming amendments and not so much to this. With regard to coming amendments, it will not be possible to get the Bill through on them. I do not want members to think that they have to give in to the other House, but if they think it wise to have the Bill through so that the small lines will be saved to the community this year there is a necessity for speed in the matter.
I am very glad that the Minister has given us this information, as it is extremely valuable and must weigh with us in coming to a decision on this matter. I am also glad to hear the information that if the Government would be unable to get clause 54 through we will have to look at that matter from that point of view. We are told that this case is not governed by that consideration, and, therefore, it is quite open for the Seanad to express its opinion as to whether they will not give the railway company the right to appear before the tribunal for a maximum of fifty per cent. instead of thirty-three and one-third per cent. It is quite clear that the Bill deals only with capital which has been raised. I am trying in all I have said to make a case for capital which must be raised in the future, and I hoped that the railway company should be given a chance of making a case that they need further capital, and that they must get fifty instead of thirty-three and one-third per cent. and leave it to the tribunal to decide what they ought to get.
Amendment put and declared carried on a show of hands.
As this is a very important question, and probably involves the fate of the Bill, I would ask for a division.
- John Bagwell.
- William Barrington.
- John C. Counihan.
- Dowager Countess of Desart.
- Sir Nugent Everard.
- James Perry Goodbody.
- Mrs. Stopford Green.
- Sir J. Purser Griffith.
- H. Seymour Guinness.
- Andrew Jameson.
- Sir John Keane.
- Earl of Kerry.
- Colonel Moore.
- George Nesbitt.
- Col. Sir Hutcheson Poë.
- Earl of Wicklow.
- T. Westropp Bennett.
- R. A. Butler.
- Mrs. Costello.
- Thomas Farren.
- Martin Fitzgerald.
- Thomas Linehan.
- J. Clayton Love.
- Edward McEvoy.
- John MacLoughlin.
- Edward MacLysaght.
- Earl of Mayo.
- Michael O'Dea.
- J. T. O'Farrell.
- Dr. W. O'Sullivan.
- J. J. Parkinson.
- Mrs. Wyse Power.
I am sorry to see that the Seanad is equally divided in this matter, and in view of the fact that the amendment only authorises the amalgamated company to apply to the railway tribunal, and only seeks to enlarge the maximum the railway tribunal may fix, I think this amendment ought to be carried, and I vote in favour of it.
Section 53. Immediately before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section (3) as follows:—
"(3) When fixing charges for the carriage by railway of merchandise, the railway tribunal shall, so far as is practicable, make such charges proportionate to the distance carried."
Now I would just like to say that this is quite a general statement of policy. It does not tie the tribunal down too much, but it is a general statement of policy which affects the people of Ireland very much now. It has hitherto been the very natural policy of the railways for their own benefit to force traffic as far as possible along their own line, and to make the goods travel the whole of the line, if possible, instead of a short distance. For instance, some time ago I investigated the rates between Dublin and Ballyhaunis. The rates were the same from Dublin to Ballyhaunis as from Westport to Ballyhaunis. The distance in the one case is 130 miles, and in the other about 30 miles. When the distance to be travelled was, say, the whole length to Westport, then the railway cut down their prices to meet the competition of the seaborne trade. In every town outside the radius they piled up the rates as high as they could. To meet the ocean carriage, when they came to the western ports then they cut down their rates. The result of a policy of that kind is to penalise very heavily all the western ports. It gives to Dublin as a port, a hinterland of 130 or 140 miles. The railway only gave the western ports a hinterland of some 10, 12 or 15 miles. That was more important certainly in former times than it is at present since motor transport has come in. The western ports cannot compete fairly with Dublin and other eastern ports in this matter, and the result is that the port districts in the West are the poorest districts in Ireland. The land is not so good.
There are various other reasons. They are handicapped to a greater extent by the crushing dues. They are not given the advantage of their position on the sea to compete with the eastern ports. In Section 30 there is a statement that the rates must be fixed without placing any one port in Saorstát Eireann at an undue advantage as compared with any other port in Saorstát Eireann. It may be remembered that I had an amendment to change the word "undue," but the Chairman said that "undue" is the ordinary word in railway legislation, so I withdrew my amendment in that case. I think it is very necessary for the population of Ireland generally that we should be quite sure that the rating is, as far as possible according to mileage. I am not laying it down as a hard and fast rule that it is to be so much a mile. It is quite clear that railways cannot carry goods for one mile at the same rate as they can carry goods for one hundred miles. It would be for the railways to have the rates say 10 miles for one charge, twenty miles for the next, and so on, just as is found reasonable by the people.
I think we are entitled to a little more information as to what exactly is meant. There is the fixing of charges, what is known as a tapering principle, whereby the rate decreases as the mileage increases. If the Senator approves of that principle and his amendment establishes that principle, it is a good amendment. It is peculiarly worded. I interpreted the Senator's desire to be, when I read the amendment first, that the charge for one hundred miles should be one hundred times the carriage for one mile.
I say "as far as possible." The Minister laughs at the word "as far as possible."
The Minister's comment was that now it appears that you wish that "as far as possible" the system he suggested should be carried out.
I ask the Senator whether he meant A or B, and he said "as far as possible." I cannot understand his answer.
What I want is that the western and other ports would be given the same advantage as is given to Dublin and the eastern ports. If you transport material one hundred miles from Dublin you should be able to transport it from any western port for the same price. At present you can only transport say from Westport for fifteen miles at the same price.
I do not know if it will have any bearing if I refer to the Fifth Schedule in which certain divisions are made. The blanks in the forms are to be filled in, after consultation with the parties interested, by the railway tribunal. The filling in of the blanks is left to the railway tribunal.
If the Minister means that my system is to be carried out by mileage I am in agreement.
It means that the railway tribunal in filling up those blanks will naturally follow the principles you have laid down.
If so, I am quite satisfied, but up to now it has been quite different.
Some of the Senators are in the same position as I am. This may mean the abolition or the retaining of the tapering system. If the amendment seeks to maintain that system it ought to be differently worded.
I have no desire to abolish it. If the Minister wishes I will withdraw it and bring in a better form of words later.
I have a public engagement which will prevent my being back before 3.30. I suggest that the House should meet at 2.30. I have asked Senator Bennett to take my place.
Senators will remember what the Minister told us when we were debating Section 53. What we were debating then was only mandatory in so far as the maximum was concerned. On Section 54 it is mandatory so far as the allowances to be given to the company are concerned. We can see, therefore, that there is a very distinct difference between the two sections. The Seanád, I believe, and especially the Chairman, when he gave his casting vote, was influenced by the fact that in Section 53 all we did was to give the company liberty to fight for 50 per cent. before the tribunal instead of 33? per cent. The amendments which I have down to Section 54, if passed by the Seanád and the Dáil, will be mandatory on the tribunal. Therefore there is a distinct difference between the two classes. The Minister has warned us quite rightly that the Government had found in bringing these sections before the Dáil that the most they could get was this 20 per cent., and that if the Seanád put in 33? per cent. the Dáil would not agree to that amendment. Therefore we will be face to face with the situation that our amendment will be rejected and that the Bill will be held up. In this matter I am only expressing my own views, as I have not consulted anybody. Even if I could carry this amendment, and everyone was agreed upon it, with that statement of the Minister before us I am very doubtful whether I should advise the Seanad to adopt the amendment, knowing it would hold up the Bill for a very considerable time. The Minister has told us it would have a great deal to do with the existence of many of these lines that are to be absorbed, and it might really cause a great deal of trouble. I doubt, therefore, if it would be worth while to run that risk, however strongly I may feel that the Bill in these sections does not give the railway companies a fair proportion of the savings which they will effect to enable them to raise the fresh capital which must be required. In the circumstances, the wisest thing for me to do is to withdraw this and the other amendments to the section in my name.
After what the Senator has said, I am rather in a dilemma. I am sorry he has done what he has done, but he has acted on his own judgment. Most unfortunately, I think, the position now faces us clearly that we will have either stagnation or nationalisation. I do not know which is the worst. To all intents and purposes they are the same, except that you can get a sort of spurious progress under nationalisation at the expense of the taxpayer, and under stagnation you will get what the word implies. I feel it is one's duty to say these things, even if they may not lead to much practical result. Under private enterprise, to secure which some amendments of the kind indicated are necessary, you get admittedly speculative development. The capitalist system is largely speculative. People take risks with the prospect of getting profit. You do not invest money unless you think you are going to make a profit. You may lose all, but you take the risk for the purpose of a speculation for profit. To refer to the Grand Trunk system, as Senator O'Farrell did, as an argument against private enterprise, is looking at the wrong end of the matter. You have got to recognise that if it were not for private enterprise there would not have been the enormous development that there was under the Grand Trunk system. It is true it was not remunerative and that in the end the State had to come in and take it over. But look at what the public got. They had all that railway development out of private capital instead of out of the pockets of the taxpayer. I consider it is an enormous advantage to get railways built even at the loss of private capital. However, as the opinion of the Seanad, in the circumstances, seems to be against us, I must fall into line and withdraw this and the other amendments to this section.
I beg to move:
Section 54, sub-section (6). Immediately after the word "instance," in line 37, to insert the words "Provided always that such modifications shall have regard to providing any extra capital for any extensions of or improvements in the railway system which the tribunal may consider necessary or desirable for the development of the trade or industries of the Saorstát."
On the occasion on which this Bill received what the President described as conditional baptism, Senator the Earl of Kerry pointed out what is, in the opinion of many of us, a very serious blot on the face of the Bill. It contains no provisions whatsoever and no machinery by which extensions, which it is obvious must be made one time or another, can be carried out. This section, which I propose to amend, provides that where a surplus exists, and only where a surplus exists, the tribunal can take power to dispose of that surplus, and that they may make modifying charges. This amendment proposes that before making these modifications they shall have regard to any extensions or developments which it is proved to them are necessary or desirable; that instead of giving away entirely any surplus in the shape of reduction of rates and fares they shall have power, if they so think fit, to reserve a certain portion of it for the raising of capital that may be necessary for further extensions. That further extensions are absolutely necessary in many cases is, I think, undeniable. In Limerick, for instance, the railway stops about one and a half miles from the docks. That penalises the port to a very great extent. Without railway communication to the docks I do not see how the port of Limerick is ever going to develop. I do not see where the money is going to come from for such work except in the way I propose. If it were proved to the satisfaction of the railway tribunal that it was necessary and desirable to link up the docks and the railway, in the event of this amendment passing and a surplus at any time arising, then a certain proportion of that surplus could be earmarked for the raising of capital for such a purpose. I cannot see any objection to such a proposal, and I hope the Minister will see his way to accept it.
I have just one objection to the amendment, and I must refer to other sections in order to state it. The tribunal has no power to order any extensions except under Section 58. For any extensions which may be ordered under Section 58 the remuneration of the capital required is provided for under this section in sub-section (4). The tribunal has no power to compel expenditure for extensions which it may consider necessary or desirable. If it did consider an extension necessary or desirable and earmarked money for it, it has no power to compel that extension. Why should the tribunal be given power to earmark money, indicating its opinion as to the necessity or desirability of certain extensions, when it cannot order them? Anything which the Senator has spoken of can be provided under Section 58 (1). If not, that section might possibly be enlarged to include what he is speaking of. The rooted objection to the amendment as it stands is that the matter is approached from the wrong angle. It says that the modifications shall have regard to providing the extra capital for any extensions which the tribunal might consider necessary. All that is effected then is that the tribunal marks its approval of the necessity or desirability of certain extensions by setting aside a certain amount of capital for them, which capital may not be used for the said extensions.
May I explain that the Minister has omitted to point out the limiting provision in Section 58, which I will read:
"Including the provision of such minor alterations and extensions and improvements of existing works as will not involve in any one case an expenditure exceeding £10,000."
Obviously that only refers to minor matters that might be done, and which would be entirely inadequate to provide for such a case as I have mentioned. I think everybody will agree that the Bill ought to contain some elastic provision by which some machinery would be provided for meeting cases like the one mentioned. As it is, the Bill does not contain such a provision. It is only where there is consent that the thing is desirable and necessary, that portion of the money can be found in the way I indicate. I think it would be most desirable to have such a provision put into the Bill.
I am sure the Senator will not accuse me of having deliberately avoided reading that part of the sub-section.
I thought it would be present to the mind of everyone. With regard to this sub-section, there are two amendments coming on, in which Senators Jameson and Sir John Keane seek to lessen that sum from £10,000 to £5,000 in one case, and in the other from £10,000 to £3,000. It shows that the Senator's argument, if it was considered at all, has not met with the approval of the two Senators.
I spoke for myself.
Sub-section (4) allows generally for that with the limitation I have adverted to, and to which Senator Jameson has called attention. There is an allowance for such sums:—
As appear to the railway tribunal necessary to remunerate adequately any additional capital which may have been raised or provided in respect of expenditure on capital account incurred since the date,....
Surely that would cover what Senator Barrington has in view.
It would not cover them at all. A case of this sort, and there are many such cases, would involve very much larger expenditure. It will be absolutely necessary, and there will be an outcry to have such works carried out. If the Bill is passed in its present form there will be no means of carrying out such works.
I should like to ask the Minister is there any provision in the Bill for further extensions or for the construction of new railways?
There is one section that deals with the compelling of extensions. There is nothing in the Bill precluding extensions. Sub-section (4) allows for the remuneration of capital already raised to provide extensions, and there is no limit on that second point whatsoever. The £10,000 limit does not apply to sub-section (4).
Perhaps the Minister is not as familiar as I am with the difficulties that one encounters in trying to carry out such schemes. You must prepare a scheme in advance which will show the people from whom you propose to get the money that financial arrangements have been made. If it is only going to be an arrangement to meet expenditure already incurred you will never get the money.
Which is the clause that compels extension?
If I might refer the Senator to Section 58 (1).
That is only permissive.
I think Senator Barrington's argument rests on the fact that there will be no incentive whatever to carry out necessary extensions. It may not be to the obvious advantage of the amalgamated company to carry out such extensions. I fear without some incentive these extensions will not be carried out.
I consider this is an instruction to the tribunal and not a mandate. The words of the amendment are: "Provided always that such modifications shall have regard." I cannot see why the Minister should have such a strong objection to the amendment, seeing that it is only an instruction. The Minister has not argued that he objects to an instruction being given to the tribunal.
It puzzles the ordinary non-financier to know why these provisions should be so necessary in the case of this Bill, seeing that they were not necessary in the case of the British Railways Act. Amendments in various forms, but pointing in one direction, are brought forward under different specious pleas. I think we should have some sound reason to show why these amendments are necessary here. They were not found necessary in another Parliament, which certainly protects financiers to a greater extent than one might hope a Parliament such as this would. A certain long-eared animal once got leave to advise a saintly prophet, and, if I might be permitted to tender a word of advice to the financiers in this Assembly it would be, not to be too voracious. It is a dangerous thing to be too greedy like the boy who tried to get a fistful of nuts out of a jar with a narrow neck. They might have to let go all they have got by their attempt to grab too much. We have been treated to lectures and admonitions on more than one occasion to the effect that this is not as prosperous a country as Great Britain, and that we cannot expect as good conditions here as they have on the other side of the Channel. But some people who give these lectures come along and tell us in another connection "we must get something better than the British." The ordinary man in the street is unable to follow these two lines of argument. In my opinion it is trying to get more than they could possibly hope to get if this Bill had not been introduced.
The shareholders are amply protected, and in addition to getting the net revenue for the best three pre-war years they are guaranteed a sure 20 per cent. of anything above that which the rates fixed will bring in, and that then becomes the new standard revenue. To that extent they are going to be better off than they could hope to be if the Bill was not brought in. Now they want to accumulate a reserve in order to be able to float new capital. Is it really necessary to accumulate such reserves in a guaranteed and protected industry like the railways will be after this Bill is passed? I certainly think it will not tend towards getting the Bill through if these amendments are passed, and if the Bill is held up for a year those people who are now looking for more than the Bill provides will find that they will not get as much as it presently provides.
From Senator O'Farrell's remarks one would think that we were fighting for something that we were going to get for ourselves instead of for other people. What we are fighting for is a method by which capital will be raised for the extension of railways, out of which the Party that the Senator represents will get more benefit than any other section of the community. It astonishes me to hear the statement that has just been made, that shareholders of the amalgamated company are guaranteed their dividend. They are guaranteed the right to try and earn that dividend. They are not in any way guaranteed their dividend. I do not think this is the place for any of us to talk about the future of these dividends, as by doing so we may be affecting interests in a way that might be harmful. When a statement is made, that a guarantee is given to the shareholders of the railways that the dividend will be what it was during these three years, I must contradict that statement, as it is not consistent with the facts. I believe the Minister will support me in that. I want the Seanad to understand that what we want is a method to enable railways to raise money from capital to carry out extensions. It is not meant to increase the dividends, as Senator O'Farrell says, of existing shareholders in any shape or form. After what has been said, the Senator should know, that what we aim at is to see that the Bill will give the Board of the amalgamated company a chance of raising fresh capital, on which they will have to pay dividends, to carry out such extensions as the advancement of the Free State will require. That is all we want. We are not trying to make money for anyone.
I think that the Government have not got it into their heads clearly what Senator Barrington refers to—the extreme difficulty which people who have to do with money know that the amalgamated company will have in raising this capital to take advantage of the clauses of the Bill as they exist. All that Senator Barrington is asking for is that these words be altered, and that some other words be put in. One of the things which the tribunal will have to take into consideration when settling this question as to the disposal of the surplus gained by savings is whether the dividends on capital are necessarily to be spent. I believe the views of all of us would be met if you give an instruction to the tribunal to give a decision on that point. Representations would probably be made by the public just as much as by the companies that certain extensions were necessary, and dividends would have to be provided on that capital, because, however much you may take away from dividends on shares at present, you certainly are not going to be able to take away dividends from people who have not yet subscribed their capital, and you will not get capital unless you show that it will provide dividends. We are really arguing this from the point of view of those who are looking on the railways of the Free State as a most necessary industry, and without whose success it will be impossible to meet the demands upon them by the advancing needs of the community, and they will be a handicap to us instead of a help. I would ask the Minister in regard to this proposed amendment of Senator Barrington to try and get the Government to look at it from the point of view which I am putting forward, and to give us a chance of looking to the future instead of to the past. Unless you can put up a proposition in the first instance to bankers and to the owners of capital which will show them that the amount of money which the amalgamated company needs can be earned and applied in the payment of dividends from capital, you will not be able to get that money.
That is the whole point of our argument. I do not know what is the best way to do it. I cannot see how it will hurt the Government very much to accept an amendment on the lines of that of Senator Barrington. It merely gives an instruction to the tribunal that in disposing of this surplus they are to take into account the possibilities of raising capital to carry out extensions for which the company is satisfied there is a crying need by the community. I should have thought that the introduction of such an instruction to the tribunal would have been of the greatest advantage. Unless these matters are mentioned in the Bill I do not think that the tribunal are likely to take them into account. I think the Government should meet us to that extent and direct the attention of the tribunal to the necessity of providing fresh capital in the future as in the past. To that extent I strongly recommend the Seanad to approve of Senator Barrington's amendment.
The Earl of Kerry has called attention to an inaccuracy of mine when I was speaking on Section 58. I referred to it as mandatory. It is not wholly so. It is not mandatory on the railway tribunal to make such an order, but it is mandatory after the case has been made before the tribunal. It does not say that the tribunal shall consider this scheme and make up its mind in a certain way. This section has its repercussion on what we are dealing with, and when I am told, as I have been told, by the Earl of Mayo, that this is merely an instruction and should be accepted——
I said that I considered it an instruction by the wording of the amendment.
It is an instruction of course, but to my mind the Bill would be better without it. It does not say that the proposed extension or improvement shall be carried out. You may set aside money for a particular purpose, but there is no power in the Bill to compel the expenditure of that money.
We could add the words.
That would be a different amendment. I say that a certain amount of leave has been given. Senator Jameson said that it is for past expenditure, and has no reference to the future. That, however, does not, I think, fairly express sub-section (4), Section 54. It deals with the future to this extent, that it may happen any time within the next ten or fifteen years. It is not allowed for until you look at it. The expenditure is not limited to the pre-amalgamation period. If I am asked why there should be insistence on payment after, instead of before, I say that it is those who have to deal with railway matters who are to blame. A sum of three millions was handed over by the British to the railway companies for a certain purpose, but it was not used for that purpose. This sets out that the remuneration shall be provided only after the expenditure has taken place. If it is necessary to borrow money from the bank it can be met on the review. All that this does is to hold up the payment of whatever remuneration is considered right for a yearly period. You are seeking in this to take away relief from the rates which would come about, but we are told that there will be a great disadvantage from the point of view of the trading community unless rates are cut down speedily.
- John Bagwell, D.L.
- William Barrington.
- Samuel L. Brown, K.C.
- Countess of Desart.
- Sir Nugent Talbot Everard.
- James Perry Goodbody.
- Sir John Purser Griffith.
- Henry Seymour Guinness.
- Rt. Hon. Andrew Jameson.
- Sir John Keane, Bart.
- Earl of Kerry.
- Earl of Mayo.
- Colonel Maurice Moore, C.B.
- James Moran.
- Earl of Wicklow.
- Richard A. Butler.
- Mrs. Eileen Costello.
- John C. Counihan.
- J.C. Dowdall.
- Thomas Farren.
- Thomas Linehan.
- John MacLoughlin.
- Edward MacLysaght.
- Michael O'Dea.
- John Thomas O'Farrell.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- William O'Sullivan, M.D.
- James J. Parkinson.
In Section 55, sub-section (1). To delete the sub-section and to substitute the following two new sub-sections therefor:—
"(1) From and after the passing of this Act all questions relating to the rates of pay, hours of duty and other conditions of service of railway employees shall be regulated in accordance with agreements made or to be made from time to time between the representatives of the railway companies and the Irish Railway Clearing House of the one part and the trade unions representative of such employees of the other part, and in default of such agreements shall be referred to the Central Wages Board, and on appeal to the Irish Railways Wages Board which have been established by agreement between the parties named.
"(2) Any necessary modifications with respect to the Central Wages Board and the Irish Railways Wages Board and Railway Councils to meet the altered situation arising from the passing of this Act shall be made by agreement between the amalgamated company and the other parties concerned."
This amendment is an antidote to industrial anarchy on the railways. The sub-section as it stands allows any set of employees to demand separate negotiations with the railway company. In other words, it means that when the trades unions functioning for those men make an agreement or award that any disgruntled section of the employees can repudiate that award and demand separate negotiations. Under the section all sorts and conditions of persons employed in the railways can come forward separately and demand separate negotiations. The amendment confines the negotiations to the recognised trade unions, and also asks that the new Wages Boards which have been set up as a result of agreements between both sides shall be recognised. We do not very much mind if those are not recognised in the Bill, but we think that that is a gesture towards the solution and settlement by reason rather than by force, and should be embodied in the Bill. During the past year new negotiating machinery has been set up for the regulation of rates of pay and conditions of service in the railways. The two important boards in connection with that are, first, the Central Wages Board, composed of an equal number of representatives of the companies, and the three railway trade unions, and in the event of their failing to agree, there is an appeal to an Irish Wages Board which is representative of companies, railway trade unions and users of the railways, both in the Free State and Northern Ireland. It is presided over by an eminent Judge of the High Court.
As an example of the necessity for this amendment, this Board had before it recently important proposals from both sides, and after a good deal of public hearing it failed to arrive at an agreement, leaving both sides free to take what action they liked. One union decided to go forward in support of certain claims they had, and at one time it looked as if there would be no compromise of any kind in view of the fact that the companies would not advance an inch until the Minister for Industry and Commerce intervened, and very wisely, in my opinion, asked the Minister for Northern Ireland also to take part in the negotiations. I would like here to pay a tribute to the way in which the Minister acted in a dangerous crisis. I know he said hard things to us, but I hope he said equally hard things to the other side in another room. The net result was that it was decided to refer the matter to the Chairman of the Wages Board. The workers could not, in fact—they were against compulsory arbitration—do that, were it not for the fact that they knew the judge would give a reasonable show to both sides, and the result of his award, while not pleasing either side, gave a certain amount of satisfaction, and both sides pledged themselves to it. If the Bill remains as it is, a certain section could repudiate that award, and they could show that under the Bill they had a right to separate negotiations.
I know the Minister in the other House said that there was something in the nature of a constitutional question involved here, as the Board represented all Ireland. To that extent I think the railway company and their employees are to be commended because they have refused to recognise partition. They have decided that the whole country shall be represented and that the same conditions will apply throughout. I do not think it would detract from the dignity of the Oireachtas to recognise those Boards, seeing that a judge of the High Court presides over them, that a member of the Dáil is representing on the Board the users of the railways, and a great number are residents in the Saorstát. All we ask is that the trades unions shall be made the medium of negotiation. We hope that the machinery already set up shall be recognised as it is in the British Railways Act. In the British Act the Government had nothing to do at all with the machinery, but they decided they would recognise it as such. It makes no matter in the long run, except to give it a mandate. We ask that this section shall be amended to take cognisance of the machinery set up which, I think, is the first serious advance on the part of the employers and employees to arrive at some method by which reason shall apply in negotiations regarding wages and conditions of service.
resumed the Chair.
Senator O'Farrell foreshadowed this amendment in his Second Reading speech, which I read with the greatest interest. To my mind this is one of the most important amendments that have been brought before us, for this reason, that I consider he is perfectly right in saying that all people working on the railways who have any grievance whatsoever, shall refer them to these Boards. I, therefore, think that the amendment is absolutely necessary. I put down an amendment which only deals with just three words in the section.
If the Seanad is agreeable. I think it would be as well to take the two together. I wish to say to Senator O'Farrell that I consider if an employee wishes to deal with his managing directors with regard to a domestic matter that, as an individual, he should be allowed to approach them. It is a matter for the Seanad to decide whether Senator O'Farrell's amendment or mine is the better one. On the other side of the Channel there have been very serious and dangerous projects carried out by men who are called shop stewards, as well as by other men who, during the lunch hour, take an opportunity of making speeches to railway employees urging them to all sort of mischief. The railway systems over there contain many men holding all sorts of different opinions, and all with a different way of living. These men who wish to create mischief take great care that they go to those parts where they will find people ready to agree to the mischievous doctrines that they preach. We wish to avoid that as much as possible in this country. I welcome what Senator O'Farrell has said with regard to the Wages Board that has been set up and as to the way employers and employees have agreed to go before this Board. It is quite true, perhaps, that you cannot satisfy everybody, but the Wages Board has done its duty in a proper and correct manner. I support Senator O'Farrell's amendment because I know the very serious mischief that is being created in other places. It is people outside the workers who come amongst them and who have no right to be in their midst that create the mischief. That is done in England, and if they get the chance they will come to this country and do the same thing here. That is one of the principal reasons why I welcome Senator O'Farrell's amendment and why I intend to vote for it.
I hesitate to venture into the region of trade union organisation, because I am not very familiar with it. I seem to see a difficulty, however, in this, and I feel it my duty to state it. Personally I am opposed to the ruling out of all methods of private or individual negotiations be tween employers and employees, but for the moment I will leave that aside. I will argue my case on the proposition that it is desirable to have corporate bargaining, and corporate bargaining solely. I may be wrong, but I felt when listening to Senator O'Farrell's speech, and in view of the doubts in my own mind, that he was on rather delicate ground. He talked about recognised trade unions. In this amendment there is nothing at all about recognised trades unions. I should like to ask him what a recognised trades union is. I define a trades union as any body that has statutory status. There is nothing, so far as I can see, to prevent any body of railway employees, if they think fit, from starting a trades union of their own and getting it duly registered. That would then become a recognised trades union, and I think it is most undesirable to pass any amendment that would prevent action of that kind. I gather that what Senator O'Farrell requires is that this Bill should give statutory recognition to the existing trades unions so that no other railway trades unions are to come into being. If any further railway trades unions do come into being, further legislation will be necessary to give them statutory status. I may be wrong, but that is what I gather from his speech. Passing from that, I just wish to say that I think a verbal alteration is needed in the amendment. The wording is trades union `representative." I imagine it should be "representatives" and not "representative." What I desire to know from Senator O'Farrell is if he contemplates the creation of further trades unions and if he will be prepared to allow additional unions. Perhaps it may be that disgruntled members of a trades union will break away from their union and form another union separately and legally register it. Would he be prepared to admit them in under this Bill. and give them the power and the status necessary for the purpose of negotiating? If it is the intention to stereotype by legislation the existing trades unions, and these only, I think the amendment is a most undesirable one.
I do not want to stereotype by legislation any trades union. The idea that is behind this amendment is that at least there shall be trades unions which will negotiate and not sections of trades unions, revolting sections which may be called outlaws or malcontents. Senator Sir John Keane knows that the phrase "trades union representative of the employees" is that union which can claim to represent the majority, or at all events a very substantial portion of the employees. It does not follow that because one man can start a union of say 20 members and get it registered that an employer should be asked to recognise that as a trades union. That really is a matter between the workers and the employers. Trades unions generally have to force recognition from employers, and they generally have to force that recognition by industrial action. They first of all show the numerical strength of the people they represent, and if the employers insist that the numerical strength is not sufficient in order to give recognition to the union, then industrial action is resorted to. It is obvious that a union of 100 or 200 members could not do that, and I do not think that any difficulty would be experienced by the adoption of this amendment. What we want to provide against is that there shall not be 20 different negotiating committees with the amalgamated company which could be the case if the Bill is left in its present form. I know that the Minister did not intend that that should be the case at all, but taking the Bill in the way it is drafted it is left open in such a way that a party of men could come forward and say that they had formed a union and represented 20 members. Such a union could demand certain conditions of service under the national agreement. They could go before the Board of the amalgamated company or the general manager of the company and put forward their case. With regard to the Earl of Mayo's remarks in the beginning of his speech, no one who has a personal grievance or any body of men with a grievance can interfere with a national agreement. In the first instance they would have to approach the company, and until they had approached the company and endeavoured to come to a settlement no trades union would take up their case. That is the procedure that all trades unions insist on. Trades unions refuse definitely to take up any case until the men in the first instance approach their employer and endeavour to secure an adjustment of their grievance, if it is a genuine one. It is only when they fail in that that the trades unions interfere and take up the case.
I think I have followed Senator O'Farrell, but yet I do not see how his argument is going to be satisfactorily embodied in any legislative measure. The basis of my argument is that a body duly registered appears before the tribunal with all the statutory equipment of a trades union, and that then somebody, presumably the parent union or a body representing a majority of workers also comes forward and objects. It says: Although you are a registered union we do not consider that you represent a sufficiently substantial proportion of employees to find a status here. Is it, I ask, then left to the tribunal to rule that these bodies, although properly registered and so on, are not to be heard. I see a great difficulty about this amendment, and, in fact, a good deal of litigation. For instance, I should like to hear the views of a distinguished lawyer like Senator Brown on this matter, which seems to me to be largely a legal matter. As far as I can understand, you are going to give power to the tribunal to refuse recognition to a Trades Union which has been duly registered, merely because it is not large enough or sufficiently representative in the opinion of the tribunal. I do not know where that is going to land us.
Already the Wages Board is representative of the three railway unions in Ireland.
I should like to say that I intend to support Senator O'Farrell's amendment on grounds which I think are sufficient from long experience. As a young man I was deadly opposed to Trades Unions. Years passed, and I found that I changed my opinion, and that men could not do without their unions. For many years I carried out my work with very pleasant relations with the Trades Unions that we recognise in this City of Dublin. Unfortunately a time came towards the end of my professional life in which the men began to break away from their Trades Unions, and from that moment we faced some of the most difficult labour problems that I have met with. As soon as the men broke away from their Trades Unions we seem to have the foundation of all peace knocked on the head. Anything that would strengthen legitimate Trades Unions and our dealings with them shall have my most hearty support, and for that reason I intend to vote for Senator O'Farrell's amendment.
We seem to be speaking to two amendments, the main amendment proposed by Senator O'Farrell and the subsidiary one which is the proposition of Senator the Earl of Mayo. If I may leave over for the moment any remarks which I may think it necessary to make relative to the question of omitting the words "or other representative," I will proceed now to deal with the earlier matter. It is suggested here that we should not merely omit the words "or other representatives," but that we should confine the representative of the employees to a trades union. It is also suggested that there should be a reference in any additional agreement to the Central Wages Board and to the Irish Railway Wages Board. What are these two bodies? When were they called into being? Have they any statutory right, have they any security or tenure, or have they any permanency? Were they created by the Oireachtas or by any Act of the Oireachtas? Might they not disappear to-morrow, and why, therefore, legislate for bodies which have no statutory status? They have no statutory status whatever. As a matter of fact, the incident to which Senator O'Farrell so generously referred to a moment ago seemed to me to mark the scrapping of the conciliation machinery. I do not know, after the arguments that have been put forward by Senator Sir John Keane, why we should seek here solemnly, in an Act of the Oireachtas, to make a reference necessary to two bodies which may not live beyond next week. There is no permanency about them. A further point was raised in the Dáil about this matter. If you take over these two bodies, the difficulty is that you do not know what you are taking over with them. What are the conditions under which they operate? I understand there is one thing not definitely settled, but looked upon as approaching settlement, and that is that these two bodies should not report except the report be unanimous. There, again, is a further blot, but it is the present position. You may think that these bodies should not report unless there be unanimity, but you are not arriving at anything permanent in voting for a reference to these two bodies by means of this amendment.
That is with regard to the main portion of the amendment. The second portion of it has been more specifically treated by Senator the Earl of Mayo in a later amendment. His amendment proposes to leave out the words "or other representatives." On that I have an open mind, but I wish to point out one danger, and it is: Is it the intention of this House, however desirable they may think trades unions are, to penalise an employee who is not in a trades union? If this amendment is carried, what is going to be the result? That any agreement to be entered into will have to be signed by the trades union that represents the men and by every single individual employee who is not in a trades union, because you prohibit those employees not in trades unions from electing representatives to act or sign for them. That is a danger that will have to be guarded against. With regard to the main point, if it is considered desirable afterwards to have a reference in the Bill to the Central Wages Board and to the Irish Railway Wages Board, if and when these bodies are made statutory, the section does not preclude that because Section 55, as it stands, states that the rates of pay, hours of duty, etc., shall be regulated in accordance with agreements made from time to time between the employees or their trades union or other representatives of the one part and the railway companies.
There may be other agreements entered into to refer matters in dispute to these two bodies if and when they become statutory bodies. I wish to stress the point that at present these bodies are not statutory, and, as I have said, they may disappear next week. You are now making essential a reference to them, and they may not exist a week hence.
I do not know how the Minister suggests that these two bodies should be made statutory. In Great Britain what happened was that the very same procedure was adopted there that we propose to adopt here. The railway companies and the trade unions met and agreed upon the constitution of these two bodies. The Bill, when introduced in England, took cognizance of these two bodies and made reference to them in the manner suggested here. That is all we ask the Government to do here. If the Government agree to the insertion of this amendment they will have no further responsibility in the matter. Each party will be obliged to give three months notice before they can terminate their agreements. The Boards in England have done very useful work, and they have saved more than one conflict. Their findings are not compulsory, but I need hardly point out that there is a big difficulty in repudiating any findings they may bring in if a person has any regard at all for public opinion. With regard to the Minister's statement that the findings of these Boards must be unanimous, that was merely a ruling of the judge at the first meeting of the Board. He stated that he felt it would be useless to have a majority finding, and he suggested that any findings brought in should be unanimous. That suggestion was more or less reluctantly agreed to. That decision was come to in respect of only one meeting of the Board. I do not give a brass farthing whether this is carried or not, except to this extent, that I have an interest in industrial peace. The Minister says that any small section of employees, say a body composed of 10 or 20 employees, can demand the right of negotiating under the national agreement, and that another party composed of a similar number of workers can come forward and make a similar demand. He said that they could put forward the case that they were not in any trades union and that their demand was for separate agreements. My answer to that is, let them come on that assumption, because we are not going to be the sufferers. It is the amalgamated company and the community generally that will be the sufferers if such a course of action is pursued. We are well able to look after our own members. They will represent at least 90 per cent. of the lay community and we will be able to deal with the others. Of course, we may be lectured again in the Press and elsewhere regarding the desirability of having some method or some machinery to which industrial disputes should be referred. In that event we can only reluctantly and sadly point to the fate of this amendment here to-day. I leave the amendment to the Seanad to do with it what it pleases, but if the amendment is defeated the Seanad can take on itself the consequences of any industrial strife that may develop afterwards.
I do not want to use unparliamentary language, but I was rather astonished to hear the Minister throw cold water, or, rather, sneer at trades unions. He said they may not live beyond next week.
No; I was referring then to the Central Wages Board and the Railway Wages Board.
I think it is my duty, and the duty of the Seanad, to refute that statement. We have heard that the Wages Board has done very good work, and I am at one with Senator O'Farrell when he says he desires industrial peace.
I think it is only fair to the Minister to point out that what he did say was that these two boards may not exist beyond next week.
Coming from the Minister, that is a very important statement. I have great respect for what a Minister says. I do not care if he is a Minister of the Free State or a Minister on the other side, because I always listen with the greatest attention to what he says. I repeat what I have already said on the amendment, and I hope Senator O'Farrell will press it to a division, because I intend to vote for it.
I desire to answer one point raised by Senator O'Farrell in his last speech. He made a comparison between this country and England. This is really an attempt to legislate by a sort of side wind for these two bodies here. The conditions in England are altogether different from the conditions that obtain here. In England the Central Wages Board and the Railway Wages Board represent the whole country, but here we are legislating in a Twenty-Six County Assembly for the whole country. These two Boards include the representatives of people who are outside the Saorstát, and in taking up the attitude that has been taken with regard to them, you are liable to run a great risk. First of all, this might be regarded as very unconstitutional, legislating in this way for people outside the Saorstát. I am not pressing that point at the moment, but I am pointing out the danger that these two bodies are all-Ireland bodies. It is likely that they may be broken up at any time on some question arising out of the continuance of Partition. I do not think Senator O'Farrell really holds that we are going to do away with Partition simply because we legislate for two bodies which are representative of the whole country. I am not speaking now on the amendment moved by the Earl of Mayo. That amendment is being held in reserve, but I do say that if Senator O'Farrell has any great fears with regard to any weakening of trades unions which might be brought about through the phrase referred to being kept in, then the amendment can be put to the Seanad and voted on.
I am now putting Senator O'Farrell's amendment to the Seanad.
I now move my amendment to Section 55 sub-section (1). "To delete in line 55 the words "or other representatives."
Although this amendment does not go so far as Senator O'Farrell's amendment, I would like to draw the attention of the Seanad to what he said on the Second Reading of this Bill. He said that under this section it was possible for sectional movements to take place amongst railway trades unions, and that this enabled any section of employees to go out on strike on their own at any time. I may say that I consulted no Labour member on this matter. In fact I consulted no one about it, but it appears to me that this is a simple way of dealing with what are called lightning strikes. The amendment does not preclude employees from bringing the private grievances alluded to by Senator O'Farrell before their directors.
I have already stated that I have no objection whatever to this. The only thing is that it precludes individual employees who are not members of a trades union from being dealt with except by a separate agreement with each. If that is considered desirable, well and good. I agree with the points raised by Senator the Earl of Mayo and by Senator O'Farrell, that anything which would tend to weaken the trades union movement is undesirable, but this, I think, goes rather the opposite way. If any other form of words could be found to meet the point I have raised, the amendment would be very acceptable to me. I do not urge any very strong objection against it, but I simply point out that there is a danger to be faced.
I now put the amendment.
I think the amendment is lost.
I challenge a division on the amendment.
Before the division is taken I make the suggestion that perhaps the amendment ought to be withdrawn so as to give an opportunity for an agreement being reached before the Report Stage of the Bill comes to the Seanad. I submit that as a point of order.
That is not a point of order, but a point of wisdom. I do not know whether the Senator who moved the amendment would be satisfied with that. The Minister said that if a suitable form of words could be found that he would be prepared to accept the amendment. Possibly it might be desirable to let it stand over for the Report Stage.
Would I be in order in moving that the amendment be allowed to stand over for the Report Stage?
I am afraid you are late now. If the Seanad will give permission I will not stop it, but a division has been challenged.
The Minister has made a statement with regard to the amendment, to the effect that he has an open mind on it, but I would like to have something more definite from him than that. A division has been challenged on the amendment, and to put it off to the Report stage would be a very serious matter.
It will be equally serious if the amendment is lost on the division.
One must take one's chance of that. If the Minister would say that he would consider it on Report and substantially put the substance of the amendment, as perhaps it does not fall in properly with the wording of the section, I would agree, but as for committing myself entirely into his hands without some indication as to what he intends to do, I would prefer rather, with Senator O'Farrell, that it should go to a division.
I should like, at this stage, to consult the wishes of the House as to what day they will meet next week. It would be possible, of course, to meet on Tuesday. The business, apart from the concluding stages of the Committee on the Railways Bill, would be comparatively light. We have the Second Stage of the National Health Insurance Bill, the Second Stage of the Agricultural Produce Bill, the Second Stage of the Local Government (Rates on Agricultural Land) Bill, the Second Stage of the Unemployment Insurance Bill, and the Second Stage of the Finance Bill. Then we have the Committee Stage of the Pilotage Orders Confirmation Bill, a non-controversial measure, the Dublin Police Bill, which I do not think will arouse much opposition, the Dáil Eireann Courts (Winding-Up) Bill, which, I think, is more or less formal. I am entirely in the hands of the Seanad as to whether they prefer to adhere to the existing arrangement, and sit on Wednesday, or whether they would like to sit on Tuesday, and if so, at what hour.
Of course, we are not all situated alike in this Assembly. It is very difficult for some of us to be here almost continuously. Between now and Tuesday, for example, there is practically only a day and a morning.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would, I think, meet the wishes of Senators.
And sit at the usual hour on Wednesday?
But do you think, guessing, that we will be able to get through our business in these three days?
I have great hope that we will get through it easily by Thursday.
As a good many Senators are presumably already compelled to stay in Dublin to-night, if we were to sit late would it not be possible to finish to-morrow morning? I think, from the point of view of those who live in the country, that that would be preferable to being called up again.
That would be convenient enough for Senators living in the city, but I understand that a good many Senators have made arrangements for returning to their homes this evening. It would be very inconvenient for them.
It has been represented to me that in all probability there may not be a great deal of difference between the Minister and what is meant by the amendment. It might be desirable to withdraw it until the Report Stage, and I would appeal to Senator the Earl of Mayo to do so. I take it that the Minister, as a general principle, is in favour of having negotiations through the trade unions and not through sections of employees, and if that is the general principle that he has in mind I hope that it will be within the bounds of possibility to draft a suitable amendment for the Report Stage.
Of course, in fairness to the Minister, it must be borne in mind in doing that, that he has pointed out, from his point of view, that it will be necessary to make some provision not to exclude the possibility of representation by men not belonging to a union. It is quite possible that between this and the Report Stage some form of words that will meet the situation will be found, and therefore it cannot do any harm to let the amendment stand over for the Report Stage.
Consideration of the amendment postponed.
(1) Save as hereinafter in this section provided, all appointments to any office or situation in the clerical grades of the service of the amalgamated company shall be made by means of open competitive examination in accordance with regulations made by the amalgamated company.
(2) Every such open competitive examination shall be open to all persons desiring to attend the same who are ordinarily resident in Ireland and pay fees and possess the qualifications as to age, health and character prescribed by the regulations relating to the examination.
(3) The amalgamated company may by special regulation provide that such proportion as may be approved by the Minister of the vacancies in the clerical grades of its service shall be filled by means of limited competitive examinations, and where an examination is so limited only persons in the employment of the amalgamated company or the children of such persons shall be admitted thereto.
I move: To add at the end of the sub-section (1) the words "fifteen per cent. of the marks at such an examination to be for a knowledge of Irish." The time is coming, I hope, when we will be bilingual, and to lay the foundation of that the majority of the people should have a knowledge of the national language, and it will be essential, I believe, that all officials should have such a knowledge ten years from now.
Might I ask the Minister is Irish a subject in examinations for the railways? It holds good for Civil Service and other examinations. If Irish is to be a subject, I think it could be left to the examining body to fix the marks, as long as Irish is a subject.
So far as I understand, Irish has been an optional subject. It is not compulsory, and while there is a great deal to be said for Senator O'Rourke's point of view that a knowledge of Irish should now be made compulsory for entrance to the clerical grades of the railway undertaking, I would like to have this amendment worded in a more definite way: "fifteen per cent. of the marks at such an examination to be for a knowledge of Irish"—does that mean that a man gets 15 per cent. of whatever hundreds of marks is allotted to the whole examination because he knows some Irish? The thing is very vague. What the Senator is driving at is simply to make Irish a compulsory subject at the examinations.
That is so. I am not committed to 15 per cent. I think 15 per cent. would be reasonable, but if the Minister wants a different form of words it could be held over for the Report Stage.
What I mean is that as it is worded, if a candidate came forward for examination and was asked if he could say, as is said here, tá and níl, he would then get 15 per cent. It could be so interpreted. If the Seanad wishes to vote on the principle it is possible that Senator O'Rourke could make up his mind as to a more definite amendment.
Unpopular as it may seem to say so, sir, I think that this amendment is undesirable. It is quite time, I think——
We are discussing the amendment as it is on the Paper, of course.
I agree with the Minister that we should take a vote on the principle.
I cannot do that. I cannot have a vote in the air, but if you will draft anything you like I will submit it.
I will withdraw it and bring it up on report.
I was going to move an amendment that the Irish language be a subject of the examination.
I will take that.
I move that as an amendment, and that the proportion of marks for Irish be left to the examining body.
The amendment proposed is that Irish be one of the subjects at this examination, and that the question of marks to be allotted be left to the examining body.
A compulsory subject. I think that amendment is undesirable. It is quite time enough when the railways are nationalised, as they will be before long, to do that, when they will have become a purely Government concern. There are a large number of people for whom this compulsory Irish will be of no use whatsoever. There is a great deal to be done in the world, and a great deal to be learned, and you should place as small a handicap as possible on people who want to get on. You want to concentrate on what I call the "bread and butter" studies.
I am not satisfied that Senator Mrs. Costello has proposed that it must be compulsory.
Yes, I have.
That must appear on the amendment, because your amendment is that Irish should be one of the subjects set for competition at these examinations, but now I understand that you wish to propose that Irish be a compulsory subject?
I say that in a concern of this kind which is still contemplated by this Bill to be independent of the Government, and still controlled, or mainly controlled, under private enterprise, and which is a proprietary concern in the general sense of the term, that you should not place what I say is a handicap, in the bread and butter sense, on the employees. It is quite evident that if they want to learn Irish they can do so, but to compel them to learn Irish, while crowding out subjects which it is very necessary they should know in order to earn their living, is a great mistake.
I quite understand the motives of Senator Sir John Keane in opposing the amendment, but at the same time perhaps he does not take into account that the clerical grades in the railways will have to deal with Irish. Irish is being taught almost universally. I do not mean to say that the people who speak and read Irish cannot speak and read English, but people can write in Irish if they choose, and it is for these that the clerical staff ought to be able to understand Irish.
I am perfectly satisfied that this is merely to state in general terms that Irish shall become a compulsory subject, and it is not going to work in practice.
I think that Senator Sir John Keane accentuates the difficulty of this matter very much, indeed. I spent some years in South Africa, and I found Kaffirs and Hottentots, and people of that sort were able to speak three or four languages. I have had Hottentots interpreting Dutch, Kaffir, and their own language to me, one after the other, without any difficulty.
On a point of explanation. Might I ask had the Kaffirs and Hottentots to learn these languages compulsorily in schools, or had they to pass compulsory examinations in them?
Of course it was compulsory, because they learned them in their childhood, and they had to learn them because everybody spoke these languages. Irish will be compulsory in most things, and I think that people like Sir John Keane had better open their eyes to that fact, and that he himself before long should be able to make a speech in the Seanad in Irish. I think the sooner he buys an O'Growney grammar the better. I can make him a present of one. Seriously, it is of great importance that Irish should be learned, that people should recognise the necessities of the case. This matter has been preached for twenty years and we all felt twenty years ago that those who did not learn Irish would be handicapped. The time is now coming when it will be a handicap not to know it.
Senator Mrs. Costello, would it suit your purpose if the amendment were inserted at the end of the first sub-clause of Clause 56?
This amendment has come on me pretty suddenly, but as far as I am concerned I may say that is is quite acceptable. I see the point made by Senator Sir John Keane, that to state that Irish shall be a compulsory subject for examination does not effect very much, and if the Senator cares to bring up any further amendment to say that a knowledge of the spoken language, and literary grace in written composition should be included, I would also be prepared to accept it.
I should like to consult the convenience of the House further as to whether they would like to take up the Committee Stage again on Wednesday, or to allocate Thursday to it, and in that connection we would, of course, like to consult the convenience of the Minister as far as possible. I do not know if the Minister would prefer, and the House would agree, to have this taken up at once on Wednesday, or to leave it over for Thursday.
I certainly should like to have the Committee Stage resumed as early as possible. Two amendments have been carried to day, and I see no great possibility of having them accepted by the Dáil. I see a necessity for having to come back here again to try to prevail on the Seanad to change its point of view, and if the resumption of the Committee Stage be left until Thursday, and we go on for a day, and if I then have to give notice to the Dáil, allow the Dáil to make its comments, and return here, I am afraid it would mean that we would be very close to the end of the Session. So that if it would not be to the serious inconvenience of the Seanad I would press for an early resumption, the earlier the better.
Would it be possible to continue the discussion of the Committee Stage this evening?
I am in the hands of the Seanad, but a number of Senators have made arrangements to leave by train this evening on the assumption that we would rise by 5 o'clock. I do not think it is possible for us, no matter how late we sit, to finish to-day.
Would the Minister tell us when the session in the Dáil is to end, and when ours is to end?
I am afraid you will have to ask an easier one than that, or at least give the Minister some notice.
He has been threatening us so often with the end of the session that we would rather like to know when it will happen.
I think the date now contemplated is the 15th July.
The date contemplated was the 15th or the 16th, but there was, of course, an understanding that the Dáil would have to be called together later, somewhere about the end of the month, in order to receive back bills that had meanwhile been passing through the Seanad.
I move to delete sub-section (3) of Section 56. I think it is very undesirable to confine competitive examinations in any public service to any special class, and if we adopt this sub-section, in order to be consistent we should apply the same principle to the Civil Service, that no persons shall be eligible for competitive examinations except the children of persons who are already connected with the service. I think that every citizen of the Saorstát should be eligible for employment through competitive examination in any of those services, and for that reason I move the deletion of this clause so that the competition may be an entirely open one.
There is an objection to this amendment, sir, which, perhaps, would not occur to the mind of the mover of the amendment. It is a very ordinary practice on railways generally occasionally to promote from what may be described as the wages section of the staff to the salaried section. The cases which I have in mind are men who may begin, perhaps quite young as messenger boys or porters, but who show special aptitude for the work, and whom it is obviously desirable to promote to positions of greater responsibility than they could obtain if they remained in the wages grade. If these men had to enter through a competitive examination and had to compete against men from a school or college, who have, in some cases undoubtedly, crammed the whole thing up, they would be at a great disadvantage, and I think it would be very undesirable and a very unfair thing that they should be excluded from getting into the salaried grade by qualifying examination.
I have very little to say on this. The system advocated is the system, I suppose, at present in operation in most of the railways, that a certain number of posts are reserved for those who make their way up by promotion, and I understand that the system holds to a certain extent in the Post Office. It is not entirely unknown to the Civil Service. It has been regarded as quite accepted and a good thing, and I think it was moved in the Dáil by a Labour Deputy, and met with the general approval of the Dáil. The Deputy pointed out these things to us and impressed this point of view upon the Dáil, that it was a system already in existence with some of the companies.
Amendment put and negatived.
Amendment by Senator Jackson, Section 56, sub-section (3). To delete in line 22 the words "limited competitive" and to substitute therefor the word "qualifying."
With the permission of the House, I should like to move this amendment for Senator Jackson, for very much the same reasons as those which have been advanced by Senator Bagwell, that some of these men have been in the service of the railways and are suitable for promotion though they have lost the art of competitive examination, if I might so call it, and it would be foreign to them. But a qualifying examination in railway work would be eminently suitable for their promotion.
I do not know exactly what the result of this amendment would be. At present the 25 per cent. of clerical vacancies on lines where open competition is the rule are reserved for the sons or daughters of employees. That has worked pretty satisfactorily to a certain extent. There is this objection to it at times, that one man may be able to get into the service by that means three or four of his sons or daughters, simply because he may happen to have more influence than another, while another man equally deserving, may not be able to get any in. The meaning of the section as it stands would be that, say, this 25 per cent., or whatever number the Minister might approve, would be reserved for fair competition between the children of railway employees, so that no railway employee would get a preference as against another. These promotions are not confined to the promotion of operative grade employees to the clerical grade at all. I have known cases of men getting in two or three children who have simply passed a qualifying clerical examination, and others get in brothers and sisters. Perhaps there is a danger that some employees, through influence or through being connected with headquarters, may get an undue preference in a case of this kind. The subjects for examination may be reduced in their case, and the number of marks in order to qualify may be much lower than would be the case in open competition. But I think it would be only fair that all railway employees should have a fair field, and that there should be no favour in so far as this open competition is concerned.
I am in favour of the amendment, which I think is desirable for the reasons which I mentioned when I last spoke. If a man who has been working as a weekly paid servant doing practical railway work, is it to compete at a competitive examination with the children of employees fresh from school, he will be at a disadvantage. Yet he may be a very useful man, because he has had experience of a certain number of years practical work. You cannot expect him to have had that experience of practical work and, at the same time, be as apt a competitor as the others.
It is easy to have an examination which will take into account all these considerations. When the amendment was proposed in the Dáil it was pointed out that the examination might be a qualifying one afterwards and not a competitive one. The case of the banks was brought up very definitely. It was pointed out that there had been great dissatisfaction and all sorts of allegations of favouritism on account of there not being a competitive examination where the places were so limited. A competitive examination for the employees or the children of employees is very necessary. Without that limitation of competition, I do not see that the amendment will be very satisfactory.
I beg to move the following amendment standing in the name of Senator Jackson:—
Section 56, sub-section (3). Immediately after the word "in" in line 23 to insert the words "or have been in."
The object of the amendment is to include the children of old servants of the company.
The principle of the amendment is acceptable, but there has been a change made in it, and I think it will have to be considered from the point of view of drafting.
On this section I want to ask the Minister is there any provision in the Bill which will prevent the amalgamated company from ceasing to work an uneconomic section of line. I will give an instance just to make it clear. Take the Dublin and South Eastern line between Waterford, Wexford and Bray. If you eliminate the traffic which may be picked up from Waterford and Wexford, which might possibly be diverted by the G.S. and W.R. to Dublin, it is probable that the passenger trains from Waterford and Wexford would not pick up on their way sufficient traffic to make the line pay. According to Section 58 the railway tribunal is to be satisfied that the shareholders in the amalgamated company are not going to lose by what they may be called upon to do. Supposing the inhabitants of the counties of Wicklow and Wexford were to appeal to the railway tribunal to order the amalgamated company to provide a satisfactory service, it might be contended by the company that inasmuch as the shareholders would lose by the working of that section of the line they should not legally be compelled to maintain the service. I only mention the Dublin and South Eastern as an instance, because I know it perfectly myself, and not because I think what I am suggesting may happen on that line. I have no doubt that in many parts of Ireland there are many sections of line which do not pay to work and on which what I fear is more likely to happen. If we could get an assurance that it is not intended that any existing part of the lines to be amalgamated or absorbed shall cease to be worked, that is all I want.
There is a section in this Bill which has reference to the baronially guaranteed railways, and which provides for the continuance of facilities at present afforded. But with regard to railways generally, or any portion, which may not come under the heading of "baronially guaranteed." there is no definite provision except in so far as Section 58 (1) would secure it. That sub-section says that the railway tribunal may on the application of any body of persons representing any such interests, by order, require the amalgamated company of any other railway company in respect to that portion of its undertakings situate in Saorstát Eireann to afford such reasonable railway services, facilities and conveniences as may be specified in the order. There is a proviso which does seem to affect the particular point, that if the interests of the stockholders are prejudiced, then the order shall not be made. That may be a matter to be amended and the Senator who is interested may bring forward an amendment later. I do not say that this will meet his point, but it has to be borne in mind when considering any amendment that the tribunal would have to take into consideration the existing facilities afforded at the time. This had reference rather to new facilities. We did go on the basis of continuing the present arrangement. If that is not specifically guaranteed, and if it is thought necessary to have that guarantee in a special way, we can take it on the Report Stage.
Would the Minister undertake to put in something to that effect, or does he expect us to do it?
I think the Minister has gone pretty far to meet the Senator. He says that the matter can be brought up and considered on the Report Stage. If the Senator draw attention to it on the Report Stage I will give him every facility for drafting an amendment if one becomes necessary. In the meantime, the Minister says he will consider and see if it is possible to frame a provision that will meet the Senator's case.
What appears to be in the mind of the Senator is that it should be rendered unlawful for the amalgamated company to close any line or section of a line at any time in future. I think a hard and fast rule of that kind would be absolutely disastrous. Supposing that there is a section of line which is absolutely unremunerative—it is quite possible that sections of line may become unremunerative which are not now so, or not so to any excessive extent—to keep a service on a line like that is directly contrary to the public interest. It is simply a waste of money. If you have a waste of money on a big scale it falls not only on the shareholders but on the community as a whole. It means that there is so much less money remaining to do what is required to be done, and what is desirable to be done where there really is business and where the life of the country is affected in an important manner. I think it would be most disastrous to lay down a hard and fast rule that no section of line should be closed.
Would it meet the case if there was a provision that no part of any existing line should be closed without the consent of the tribunal?
That would meet it.
That would probably satisfy Senator the Earl of Wicklow.
It would if it were clear what "closed" means.
I should have thought it would have meant "discontinued to be used."
It might be said that a line was not closed if one passenger train a week was run. That would not be any comfort to the people I am speaking for.
The Senator will have to exercise his ingenuity between this and the Report Stage and bring up a provision, or suggest it to the Minister, who says he is quite willing to consider it.
I beg to move:—
Section 58, sub-section (1). To delete in line 49 the word "ten" and to substitute therefor the word "three."
The words in the sub-section that I wish to draw attention to are, that on the application of any body of persons the tribunal may by order require the amalgamated company to spend up to a sum not exceeding £10,000. £10,000 is the figure that is also mentioned in the British Act. When we consider the enormous capital of the English railways, £10,000 is quite a small amount, but when we consider the capital of the amalgamated company here, £10,000 is quite an excessive amount. To spend £10,000 here and £10,000 there, would probably place the company in an extremely difficult position and, if carried out to any extent, might bankrupt the undertaking. All through in my previous amendments I have been trying to secure that the amalgamated company shall be able to maintain a dividend which will tempt people to supply capital for the concern. This section would have the opposite effect. It gives the tribunal power, on representation being made to it, to order the spending of money to supply facilities and railway services up to an amount which the English railway companies, with their enormous capital, are only called upon to spend. The burden on the amalgamated company would be out of all proportion to the burden which is being placed on the British companies. It may be contended that the tribunal is to be the judge in this matter. But we ought to view very seriously the effect on the amalgamated company if this bait is held out to various districts in the country to get the tribunal to make orders compelling the company to spend sums up to £10,000. It is not very easy at present in the Free State for any company to raise £10,000, and many of the things we were fighting for, in order to give the amalgamated company the revenue which would enable them to provide for capital expenditure, have had to be dropped.
We have only secured one concession in the way of an amendment by which they can fight a case before the tribunal for 50 per cent. instead of 33? per cent. of the savings they are able to effect in certain classes of cases. We should not put on top of that a burden equal to that placed on the English railways. There may be extensions which the needs of the community will force on the company, and which the company will try to do themselves. To make it compulsory to make extensions, when they may not have the money to pay interest on the capital required, seems to me to be quite wrong. We should cut our cloth according to our measure. There is a certain amount of capital in the amalgamated company. It will not be as easy for the company to raise £10,000 capital here and there, as it would be for the English railways. The section, I hold, might inflict serious damage on the company. That and other restrictions in the Bill will make it extremely hard for the amalgamated company to raise the capital which they will have to spend to meet improvements.
This amendment has been argued on a simple basis. In order to be quite clear I wonder would the Senator mind informing me what proportion he would think right and desirable, as between the amount to be expended in England under a similar section, and the amount to be expended here? Is there any proportion he would consider suitable?
Is £10,000 the amount mentioned in the English Bill?
It is not. It is £100,000 for each of the four groups, £400,000, lately increased from £100,000 to £500,000. The entire sum for the whole country is £2,000,000.
Would the Minister say in what section that appears?
In Part 2 of Section 15 of the Act. I am speaking of the main Act, and there is a subsequent Act which has increased the sum from £100,000 to £500,000 for each of the four groups, or £2,000,000 altogether.
What is the capital of the railways there as compared with the capital of the Irish railways?
That is putting a question to me after refusing my definite application for an answer to one I raised previously.
I am creditably informed the proportionate amount is £3,000 in Ireland as compared with £100,000 in England.
I was faced earlier to-day with another calculation from the same Senator, who wisely declined to give any details.
If £3,000 here represents the same proportion as £100,000 in Great Britain, then would not the £10,000 in this Bill be quite a fair figure as contrasted with £400,000 in the British Act? If anything it would be somewhat short.
And in addition no attention is being paid to the proviso.
I think you ought to leave very well alone, Senator Jameson.
Leaving the Minister with all his arguments——
Not arguments but figures.
I am dealing with the point of view of the railway company in having to spend £10,000 on an order of the tribunal to supply certain railway facilities. I honestly believe that if we pass a section making such a demand on the amalgamated company —and it may be made in various cases under a section of this kind—and also provisions which give the company a very small chance of securing the necessary surplus of profits to pay interest on the capital, we are absolutely stultifying ourselves. It is a case of making bricks without straw. You are stopping the companies from making the profits which will enable them on the one hand to get in capital, and, on the other hand, giving the tribunal power to call upon them to spend money which they have no means of getting. I think it would be far better to reduce the amount, and make it a figure that the railway company would be able to meet in accordance with the requirements of the district. Sums of £10,000 are far too large to be dealt under this section of the Bill.
I put it to the Minister that this method of imposing capital expenditure, following the method in England, is really not the right method of approach. I can quite conceive a very necessary local work costing more than £10,000, that the tribunal might with equity impose. But in my opinion the railway company should be protected not with regard to the expenditure on any one service but with regard to the total amount of capital they are called on to spend in any given year. I do not imagine that would be altogether impracticable. Various demands for works of this kind would have to be sent in by a certain time. The amount involved would then be known and the railway company could contest the totals, with no limit on any one individual work. Placing this limit might lead to a lot of regional or sectional demands, some of which are not really necessary, costing individually not very much, but to the prejudice of one good work that would cost more than £10,000. I would ask the Minister to consider that matter, and not to have a slavish adherence— I do not say that in an opprobrious sense—to the British Act, not that I wish to decry British goods. We should take advantage of our independence and look at this thingde novo. If the Minister would consider it, something might be done to safeguard the company as to the total amount of capital that they shall be asked to spend on these works within a year, instead of limiting the actual amount on any individual work. I do not think it is good business to do it in the way contemplated. I think that is a line of thought worth exploring.
Up to recently there was a game known as "put and take," which became very popular for a time. It is quite evident the interests that briefed Senators Jameson and Sir John Keane are determined "to take" all and to "put" nothing. Let them take care that they do not kill the goose that might lay the golden egg. In Section 54, Senator Jameson got 33? per cent. raised to 50 per cent. Senator Barrington, with the able assistance of Senator Jameson, also got in a very valuable amendment, to enable the companies to amass reserves in anticipation of something that might happen, but without any proviso which would prevent them from paying what were supposed to be reserves as increased dividends. Now they come along and suggest that £10,000, the maximum amount of expenditure which the tribunal can ask the railway company to expend in the way of necessary facilities, shall be cut down to £3,000. They really want to have it both ways. It is a case of "heads I win" and "tails you lose" every time.
Senator Sir John Keane speaks almost with a sense of nausea of anything Irish when it does not suit him. Now he asks us to realise our independence and to assert it. Why should financiers here be given privileges which the non-progressive British Empire refuses to give to its inhabitants? I only wish he would assert that independence generally and in a more consistent manner. I hope the Seanad is not going to be led away on this matter. There is no use indulging in histrionics and mutilating this Bill. This was an exceedingly good Bill for the shareholders when first introduced. It was considerably improved during its progress through the Dáil. The Seanad should not countenance an attempt to make railway shareholders an octopus on an impoverished country— parasites trying to suck out the last drop of industrial blood from the community—in the way that has been attempted. Already they are more than protected and have amply entrenched themselves as a result of the two amendments passed to-day. This is another amendment to entrench them still further. The revolt will be in proportion to the amount of havoc played with the Bill here. Reasonable amendments will receive reasonable consideration elsewhere, but are not going to be taken seriously if we make wholesale inroads in the Bill.
Might I point out that the all-embracing proviso here is a complete answer to anything that has been said. The limit of £10,000 might very well be increased to £100,000, which is, I believe, what Senator Sir John Keane is aiming at, but as long as that proviso is there, the £10,000 does not matter. A limitation is put on it by the actual sum, but to cut that down to £3,000 or £5,000 with this very definite provision in it is to make a farce of this part of the Bill.