Am I to understand that the debate is to be purely on the Second Reading of the measure and that there are no amendments delaying the motion itself?
FIREARMS BILL, 1925.—REPORT STAGE. - SHANNON ELECTRICITY BILL, 1925.—SECOND STAGE.
There is a motion of which notice has been given, although notice is not required, to postpone the consideration of the Bill for six months. That can be moved at any stage of the discussion. I understand it is your desire to make an opening statement on the motion that the Bill be read a second time. If you prefer to postpone it until the discussion on the postponement motion I am in your hands. I understood you intended to speak.
It is not for me to make any suggestion to the Seanad as to how its business should be conducted, but if I were to make a suggestion, my suggestion would be that any motion with regard to the Bill or otherwise should be dealt with first, and that when the actual debates on the scheme on the Second Reading of the Bill come along I should be allowed to make a preliminary statement.
If the motion postponing the Bill were carried we would not come to your preliminary statement at all then.
I am content to abide by that contingency.
I think really the debate that would be conducted is in essence the same kind of a debate as on the Second Reading, and I suggest to the Minister that if the two would run concurrently it would be better.
That is my own view. Any motion for postponing the Bill will necessarily involve a discussion at large on its merits. We do not get rid of the discussion by postponing it until afterwards. Upon the motion the merits of the Bill will be discussed. It will in reality be a Second Reading debate. I am entirely in the hands of the Minister himself.
Is the notice of motion that is to be moved by Senator Sir John Keane down on the Orders of the Day?
It did not come in time. The particular motion in question does not require notice.
Is it not correct to say that a motion postponing the consideration of the Bill is really a rejection? I say that because the Seanad can only defer the Bill for nine months, and therefore a postponement of the Bill for six months is really a rejection of the Bill.
The Standing Order says that the period for which the Seanad postpones is not to exceed the limit laid down as the time at the end of which the Bill comes into official operation. Therefore, it would be open to a Senator to move that it be postponed for a month or six months. It is really a motion for the rejection of the Second Reading.
Is it open to a Senator to oppose the rejection motion on the Bill?
The question before the House is that the Shannon Electricity Bill, 1925, be read a Second Time. Any Senator can move that this Bill be postponed for a certain period not exceeding the number of days allowed for a Bill to come automatically into operation. A Senator can do that; he can move it be postponed to any date within the period at which the Bill would automatically become law. He can do that at any stage. He can do it on the Final Stage of the Bill. The Minister can speak again later on, even though he speaks to-day. I will give him every latitude in the matter. If he prefers to open the discussion now on the Second Reading, I think, perhaps, that the Seanad would prefer that course.
I have to speak for about the seventh time now publicly on the details of the Siemens-Schuckert scheme, on the foot of which the Shannon Electricity Bill is before you, and having spoken so often, and at such length on the details of the scheme and on the proposal in the Bill, it is not my intention now to do more than refer, at the outset, to one or two of what seem to me to be some of the main kinds of criticism directed against the scheme or against the Bill, and then leave the other points to be dealt with as they are made. I find, running through the criticism of this scheme, a peculiar misconception of the White Paper. I think it will help somewhat to limit the debate on this point to deal with that now. I would like to make clear what are the provisions of the White Paper to which I allude. A lot of people have said to me crudely thus:—"Why not pay Siemens-Schuckert £5,000 or the £10,000 which you may have to pay them, and get rid of them?" Joined with this is the cry for open competitive tenders for the Shannon Hydro-Electrical scheme. These two things must be taken together in the answer to this question: For what am I to invite open tenders? Not for the Siemens-Schuckert scheme, because the Siemens-Schuckert scheme is not at this moment the property of the Government. It cannot become the property of the Government simply on the payment of £5,000 or £10,000. The details of the White Paper must be adverted to in this connection. There were certain contingencies, and if matters had come about in a certain way a sum of money could have been paid to Siemens-Schuckert, the plans taken over and held for future working. What were the contingencies? First, the scheme had to be approved by the experts appointed by the Government; second, the Government had to decide not to promote the scheme as a State enterprise: third, the firm had then a period of twelve months in which to decide whether or not they could finance the scheme, and if after the expiry of that period of twelve months, the firm decided that they could not finance the scheme, then we could have taken their plans on a payment of £5,000. These are the only conditions on which the Government could get possession of the Siemens-Schuckert plans for the development of the Shannon on a payment of this sum of money.
Now take these four in order again. The scheme has been approved by the experts, but when we come to the second of these conditions the idea of obtaining the Siemens-Schuckert plans on payment of a certain sum of money disappears because the Government decided to promote this scheme as a State enterprise, so that we do not go further in the list of possible contingencies which would have made possible the buying of the plans for a certain sum of money. In this case we are in this position, that a series of plans have been put forward. These plans have passed the test of the experts set up to judge them and the Government is promoting the scheme as a State enterprise. Consequently there is no possibility that simply by the payment of a certain sum of money these plans are to fall into the hands of the Government, and that the Government could then proceed with tenders for the carrying out of the works.
There is considerable misconception on that point. People have over and over again said to me: "Why not discharge your liabilities, pay the £5,000, take the plans and call for competitive open tenders for the carrying out of the works." That is absolutely impossible. It is impossible on the basis of good faith, but it is possible on condition that we break faith with Siemens and on that possibility only. Supposing, however, it were possible that tenders could be called for for the carrying out of these plans, that is what is described by critics as calling for open tenders. I do not apply that word to it. I consider that what might arise in that impossible emergency would be, not open tendering but privileged tendering, and for this reason: that the Siemens-Schuckert prices, not the detailed prices, but the bulk prices are revealed and that certain divisions of these prices are also revealed. You are simply in that event going to expose the firm which has brought forward the scheme—a scheme considered by all the engineering opinion in this country, prior to their plans becoming known to the extent they are known, as impossible. You are going to reveal their prices to other interested contractors, and you are going to say to them: "These are the binding estimates of Siemens-Schuckert. Can you tender less?" That is what is described as open tendering. I describe it as privileged tendering, and I say that for a State to behave in that manner towards a firm which has brought forward this scheme, and which has brought it almost to the point of achievement, would be completely and entirely an immoral proceeding.
I have been asked, and was asked no later than yesterday, why was no other estimate for the development of the river Shannon received. The only answer I could give yesterday on that point was, that the very putting of the question was a criticism of engineers both in this country and in England; that no engineering firm had thought possible what Siemens have revealed to be not only possible, but possible at a very economic rate. In reply to that question, I could make the answer which a Deputy in the Dáil made when an analogous question was put there. He said one might as easily ask, why were not other people as well as Christopher Columbus given facilities to discover America. America was there for the discovery of it, but no one prior to the time of Columbus had vision or pluck enough to set out on the discovery. The Siemens scheme was there for development if any firm had the courage or the vision to undertake research into the matter, to draw up plans and submit them to the test of experts.
Even if competitive tenders of this privileged type could be called for, I want to ask what is to be gained by that highly immoral proceeding? The only answer that could be given would be the possibility of obtaining lower prices. Now these prices have been checked. They have been subjected to a check that no other scheme of the sort has ever been subjected to. They have been subjected to experts from Europe. These experts have decided and have based their reputation on the statement that the prices are entirely reasonable. Since their report has been received, the prices have been subjected to a further test and examination—an examination by engineers whom I have lately appointed to carry out the scheme. These Irish experts have announced to me that the prices are not merely, in the phrase of the European experts, "entirely reasonable," but that they are exceptionally favourable. Now if I seem to be venturing on dangerous ground in making that assertion, inasmuch as some of my critics may say that exceptionally favourable means that the prices are placed so low that the scheme will never be carried out for the sum estimated, to them I again reply that the prices are binding. The estimates put in are binding with the limitation put upon the whole scheme by the phrase used in page 80 of the Experts' Report in which they state that a certain portion of the civil constructional work only "permits of a judgment of the probable cost within a margin of about 10 per cent."
When I say that, I make no announcement that is out of the ordinary with regard to civil constructional work, because you cannot possibly have a completely binding estimate until the last item, either of rock or earth, has been excavated in the canal. Borings have been made, and on the test of these borings, as well as on the geological survey generally, the experts have estimated that the tenders for the excavation work are also reasonable, but they say, as they must say having regard to the civil engineering work, that it only admits of a judgment to within this 10 per cent. margin. Now there is no prospect of any lower price being got by any other tender. There is no prospect whatever of that. The figures have been checked by four experts, and checked later by two Irish engineers. The report of the one is entirely reasonable, and the report of the other two is exceptionally favourable. I do admit this possibility and simply rule out the chance of making a gain in this way. I admit this possibility: that if we were going to have cut-throat competition by this way of privileged tender and by exposing Siemens-Schuckert prices to other interested contractors and asking them to tender under Siemens' prices, it is possible that in small details, say, in the construction of a bridge or for some other item in connection with which some engineering firm had material in stock which it was anxious to get rid of at lower than cost price, we might get one or two items of the contract done at a less cost than at what the Siemens-Schuckert firm have estimated. That is the sort of cut-throat competition that I am determined to save them from, and I think it is only just that they should be preserved from that sort of competition, seeing that they have made at this date almost an achievement of what was previously regarded as being impossible to carry out.
I would like to deal with the Shannon scheme in the broadest way and from the point of view of taking it at the stage at which it has now arrived, and to compare that with all the opposition that there has been to it. I could state its credentials very briefly this way. A scheme has been put forward by a firm which has a world-wide reputation for this type of work. Their estimates have been subjected to a test by four experts of international reputation. The scheme has since then been, in all its details with the exception of price, revealed to the Irish public, and has stood the test of criticism at previous meetings of the Seanad and the Dáil for a considerable period. You have the Shannon Electricity Bill now coming before you. That Bill has passed through five stages in the Dáil without a division being called for on any single stage of it. There is not recorded in the proceedings of the Dáil a single name in opposition to any one of the five stages of that Bill. So that the Bill which carries this scheme on its back comes before you in this state: It is put up by a firm with the reputation of Siemens-Schuckert, it has been criticised by four experts with the reputation of which you have read, it has passed the test of the Dáil, which had the Bill before it for a very long time, and it has passed all the criticism that appeared in connection with it both at meetings and in the Press, and it passed the Dáil without a division.
Now there is opposition to it. Pamphlets have been published against it. Rumours are disseminated in various ways. Secret meetings have been held by interested bodies and communications have been sent to the Press. Again, Senators have received, and some of them may even have read, pamphlets published in opposition. The author of one of those pamphlets, apparently, judging by the fact that he regards his own temperament as not peculiarly susceptible to the blandishments of contractors, believes that Ministers of the Government may be susceptible, and he goes on to state that although he considers himself impervious and proof against these blandishments he fears that the members of the Executive Council may not be equally strong against them. A second engineer wrote and published a pamphlet against this scheme. He produced it before the scheme was known, and he called it "The Shannon Scheme in its True Perspective." It was obviously a flight of imagination to set anything in its true perspective before the details of it were before us. I had a letter from this gentleman forwarding this pamphlet to me, in which he said he could give to me now irrefutable proof that the scheme could not be proceeded with.
I asked him to wait until the scheme was before him and then to reconsider his irrefutable proof. As a testimony to his reputation, he has apparently reconsidered the matter, because I have not since heard from him. A third engineer has recently come along with a pamphlet, but he has no known qualification in hydro-electric matters whatever, except that he once sat at a board which discussed hydro-electric matters and, apparently, from hearing people talking about them, he believes now he is in the position to set himself up as a judge on his own account. I have had that pamphlet analysed, and I would welcome the opportunity of having certain excerpts from that pamphlet put before a competent body of engineers and ask them to pass judgment upon the sincerity and upon the expert nature of the man who made certain statements such as are included in this. There is a statement, for instance, with regard to the necessary loss in long-distance transmission, a thing which absolutely and definitely dates his pamphlet as being fifteen or twenty years behind the times.
Yesterday, again, I heard a familiar word in connection with the scheme. I heard the term "suspicion" used, and I had the temerity to challenge the gentleman who used it to detail the suspicion and not to hide behind a vague word like that. I asked him to definitely point out where the suspicion was; at what point was there suspicion lurking and where was the ground for suspicion, and, of course, the matter was passed over. One of these suspicions was put before me in the Dáil, and I am very glad it was, because it gave me an opportunity of dealing with it. That was the rumour in regard to the firm of Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert being bribed to put forward a scheme otherwise uneconomic and as not a paying proposition to them, on the basis of receiving a very large bulk of power at a small rate. That I dealt with, and am prepared to deal with it again. I do ask if there be any Senator here who has listened to or heard of these suspicions, not that he himself believes personally in these suspicions, but who thinks if there is anyone who believes there might be something in them which, if not contradicted, would weaken and help to defeat the scheme, then I ask that somebody to bring forward in detail what these suspicions are so that I may get a chance of dealing with them openly here. If these points be not brought forward I would ask that this amount of confidence be reposed in the members of the Government: that if they are not calculated as being able to deal with anything with superhuman wisdom, that at least they will get credit for wishing to deal with these things with ordinary decency and honesty.
There was an announcement made as to a secret meeting. There was one body which met and put forward what they, I am sure, thought was a very weighty pronouncement against the scheme: that having met and considered the details they were of opinion that the scheme was unsound, and that was all that was published with regard to the meeting—"the details were considered and the scheme was considered unsound." We have no reasons given that could be subjected to examination, reasons which would have to be answered or arguments that would have to be rebutted. There was nothing but the bald statement that a number of gentlemen interested in the distribution of electricity from existing undertakings had met and decided, for reasons not made known or published, they considered the scheme was unsound. With that kind of thing I cannot deal. I put it forward as an instance of the weakness of the argument used against the scheme by people who pontificate about it. They say we do not believe in it. It is unsound. But no argument is given on which anyone in favour of the scheme can seize and put up a reply.
There have been Press communications. The basis of almost all the Press communications has been timidity where it has not been absolute ignorance. I was asked seriously in the Dáil had I considered the advisability of submitting letters that appeared in the Press to experts. I did submit most of them to the engineers recently appointed. I did not submit them in detail or ask them to look through all the letters that appeared. But I have from time to time discussed various of these letters with the engineers, and there has never been one single item brought forward that has been considered worthy of being submitted to the experts for their judgment. One of the experts happened to be in Dublin at the time when one of the many letters that appeared on the question of the embankments was published, and he happened to be in my room that day. I put this letter before him and asked him what he thought about it. He referred me to a passage in the experts' report in which they said that if you take the present state of Ireland in its relation to other countries it would be found to be about 20 years out of date, and he simply stated that this letter was a corroboration of the statement, and that the letter showed a type of engineering that was certainly 20 years behind the times. If there are any of these letters that impress any Senator, I ask that they be brought forward so that they can be dealt with.
There is, at any rate, a point revealed which seems to require examination. As I said previously in this House on another occasion, if these points are raised I believe, as a layman, speaking to laymen, that I can convince the Seanad that there has not been any point raised which is worthy of serious consideration, certainly not worthy of submission to the experts for their experienced judgment. Another point which was put to me yesterday, with which I dealt at some length, is the question that documents are being withheld. That may mean one or other of two things. It may mean that I am doing something deliberately to deceive the public, or it may be a very simple statement of fact, that all the documents presented to me are not before the public. If it is the first— namely, that I am deceiving the public —I class that statement as being in the region of suspicion, and I ask it to be put with more detail. I have withheld a certain document. I described that document in detail previously. It is a booklet running from 150 to 200 pages, and it contains nothing but a series of articles, a list of machinery with the prices opposite. That booklet I am going to continue to withhold from the public for the reasons previously stated. These are the contractors' binding estimates with regard to machinery of the whole scheme, and I am not going to expose the firm of Siemens-Schuckert to privileged competition at this period. Supposing these prices were put up, not before the public, but before members of the Oireachtas, is it suggested to me, after the prices had been tested by experts of international fame, and by Irish engineers who have since examined them, that these prices can be so definitely criticised by members of the Oireachtas as to change the whole basis of the scheme, and to turn what is on paper an economic proposition into an uneconomic one?
If that be the case, and I suggest that it is not, that prices could be so examined by the Oireachtas, why should an exception be made in this case with regard to prices and estimates that has not been made with regard to any other expenditure of public money? The Board of Works and the Post Office spend large sums annually. I am leaving out the Trade Department of Local Government and the Stationery Office, and I am leaving out any other spending departments there may be. I take the Post Office and the Board of Works, which, between them, spend annually from one and a-quarter to one and a-half millions. No estimate as to prices has ever been put before the Dáil, and none has ever been called for by the Dáil. What happens in these cases is that on the estimate of the Post Office or Board of Works, a certain lump sum is voted, and the expenditure of that is left to the Departments concerned. That is exactly what is being asked for here. An estimate has been made of the money required to carry out this scheme, amounting in bulk to about £5,000,000, and more details have been presented to the public and to the Oireachtas concerning it than in the case of any other scheme which involves the expenditure of money, and I ask, having considered these details, that the Oireachtas should vote the money. There are certain points around which doubts seem to centre— the question of consumption, the question of the safety of the embankments, and, finally, the finances of the scheme. These are, I think, outside the type of criticism to which I have referred in the newspapers and elsewhere, the only points on which there was at any time any doubt.
When I spoke in the Dáil in the early days of April, I believed that by bringing forward that motion I would clear out of my way certain smaller items —that I would have done away for ever with such questions as navigation and drainage, and that I would have to deal later in a more convincing way with such a question as consumption. To my amazement, however, the result has been contrary to what I expected. The question of drainage is not mentioned, nobody touched on the question of navigation, and, on the whole, people's minds are satisfied about the question of consumption. I do not intend to deal with the question of consumption at this moment. If there is anybody not convinced about the figures, and not convinced that we are likely to get the demand on which the economy of the scheme is based, I will deal with that by a series of figures later, but I am going to wait for criticism on the point of consumption before dealing with it. The question of the embankments has possibly become the greatest bogey in the whole consideration of the scheme. There are two points with which I would like to deal. I have certain figures which I propose to give almost immediately, but before coming to this I want to allude to portion of the experts' report for which I believe I am most responsible myself, and which has possibly caused me more trouble than any other part.
After the experts had proceeded with their deliberations for some time on this scheme they sent me an intimation that they had their minds made up with regard to the scheme and their report, and they asked me to visit them so that they might have a discussion as to the method of presenting their conclusions. I saw them one day and they told me generally what their conclusions were. As I was quite inexpert in the matter and did not grasp what the conclusions amounted to, briefly as they presented them, I asked for a more detailed explanation. They gave it and it occupied more than five hours to give. When we finished I asked them in what form they proposed to issue their conclusions to the public? Was it in the form in which they presented them to me or in the more detailed form which they were forced to give me owing to my inexperience of electrical matters? They said that they proposed to issue a pamphlet of twenty pages, and their estimate of how things would go was this: That pamphlet would be handed to engineers who would get in it sufficient information to work the scheme properly. I pointed out to them that before the scheme and the experts' report came to the engineers these would have to go before the Oireachtas, and I asked them to take me, with my inexperience of electrical matters, as typifying the Members of the Oireachtas, and I also asked them to draw up a report in the more detailed form in which they had given it to me. They outlined to me at that point a certain danger that if they dealt with certain details which happened to crop up in conversation and which would enable engineers to carry out the scheme, they might omit one or two details and, having called attention to certain details, it might be regarded not as an omission but as a definite over-looking on their part of certain important matters.
They said that to put it to people like engineers it would be all right, but that if they went into detail and happened to leave out one or two matters their reputation might suffer. I prevailed on them to draw up the pamphlet as it is now in the more extended form. In their explanations they say, for instance, the type of thing which occurs at one place where there is a question of making concrete. They say that care has to be taken that the mixture will be of a proper kind. Obviously they would not put that statement before engineers. That is one of the results of my expostulations with them—that these documents had to be considered by people who were not experienced. Further, on the question of embankments and borings, they put down much more detail than they had decided to give. These details which would never have to be put before engineers, are the points segregated for criticism and on which the main criticism is founded. They say that the borings show that there is a mixture of clay, gravel, and sand and that care will have to be taken to get a proper foundation made of these three elements. Taking that phrase, one gentleman has written, and continues to write, to the newspapers about embankments built of sand and gravel. Clay is left out to make the case against the scheme stronger. One enthusiastic gentleman wrote to the newspapers recently advocating that in the large embankments around Lough Derg, there should be an elevated motor track so that people could run down, make a circuit of the Lough and return to town that day. A later suggestion made was the desirability of having a footpath erected round the lake. That shows the opinion that is being engineered amongst people as to the amount of embankments to be put down around Lough Derg. I take Lough Derg as an example. The circuit of the lake there cannot be less than 100 miles. The embankments, the separate parts to be added together, total seven and a half miles. These are the embankments that have come to be such a bogey in the eyes of the public. We have an embankment of seven and a half miles in a circuit of not less than 100, seven and a half miles where the maximum height, not the average height, is 7 feet and that is holding up two feet of water. On that, simply arising out of this talk of embankments built upon sand and gravel, which is an entirely wrong interpretation of the experts' report, you have this tremendous bogey in regard to embankments. It may be thought that in singling out Lough Derg I have taken the portion which is suitable to my argument and that I am leaving out other portions which would not be so favourable.
I will take the embankments from Banagher to the entrance to the canal, and the total length on both sides of the river amounts to about 58 miles. Of that 58 miles, 51, with three short exceptions of stretches, have again a maximum height of seven feet, and the average amount of water held up is two feet. From the stretch from O'Brien's Bridge to Killaloe, a river stretch of about 3¼ miles and an embankment stretch of about 7½ miles, because you have embankments on both sides, the average is higher than 7 feet. It is much higher. It comes to something in the region of 21 feet, and at one point in that area it is raised to a height of 42 feet. Therefore, for 51 out of 58 miles, the maximum height, with three short stretches exceptional, is seven feet, and the average amount of water held up is two. On the lower stretch from O'Brien's Bridge to Killaloe it would be over 20 feet, and in one place, a stretch of about 100 yards, it would run to 40 feet. I leave the canal out of account in that calculation. The embankments are the point on which criticism has most taken place. If any inquiry is raised with regard to the canal, I can give the lengths and heights there also. This bogey is one of the matters I did mention to Professor Meyer-Pieter.
Would the Minister mind my asking him to give us again the length from O'Brien's Bridge to Killaloe?
I said about seven and a half miles, to be quite accurate, of embankments.
The distance, then, would be about three and a quarter miles?
Might I suggest to the Minister that the experts say that the distance from O'Brien's Bridge to Killaloe is about 10 kilometres?
We will get that point examined when the Senator raises it. I am speaking of embankments on that stretch, not of the stretch itself. I did raise the bogey with Professor Meyer-Pieter on the day he visited me, and his answer was this: "Have any of your engineers ever taken account of the method of the hydraulic fill for the construction of embankments?" He said the statements that were current in letters in the newspapers with regard to strengthening cores, stating that there would be permeable embankments and that they would not be impervious, showed that there was no conception amongst the people of the country who were writing to the papers of the method of hydraulic fill. He had not the figures with him, but I have done since what he suggested, and I have been told that it is an ordinary matter of engineering knowledge that embankments at a height of 200 feet have been built by this method of hydraulic fill without the slightest possibility of danger resulting from that method. The method is now regarded as the safest one. It is regarded as the most up-to-date method for this type of construction. As was stated by my engineers to one deputation, in a certain conservancy in America, no account is taken of embankments until they rise to a height of 75 feet and upwards. The foundations, we are told, are to depend entirely upon borings, and the criticism is made that sufficient borings have not been carried out.
These criticisms are being made by people who do not know exactly what borings have been taken. They may have knowledge of the borings taken for the purposes of the Siemens-Schuckert plan, but there were other borings made at the request of the experts and there have been borings made since. It is not necessary to have borings made along the entire stretch of the river bank in order to form an estimate as to whether the embankments can or cannot be built. It becomes quite uneconomic to have a whole area subject to borings to see whether safety could be secured. Borings have been taken in the places where the engineers realised that borings were necessary in order to discover what type of foundations they were likely to meet. The borings have proved entirely satisfactory.
The last point I might deal with at this moment is the question of finance. I was queried on this point yesterday also. A difficulty was raised in this way: can the country bear the extra burden of taxation necessary for this scheme? My only reply to that was what burden of taxation is necessitated by this scheme? Apparently that matter had not been thought out. It was simply thought that the £5,200,000 was going to be spent, that no power would be bought, that the annual sum of £486,000 required to pay the interest on the loan, to secure amortisation in 40 years and to pay for the maintenance of the embankments, for the renewal and repairs to plants, for organisation and management expenses— that that would go onin perpetuo and that there would be no return. I pointed out that the experts' conclusions on that were quite reassuring. This, of course, leads back again to the question of consumption, but we have got an estimate from the experts and we have got a comparison with other countries. We have got figures here from the Chief Engineer of the City of Dublin with regard to his estimate of increase of consumption in the city, leaving out the tramways. We have got, in fact, a number of conclusions on this point, and all the conclusions come to this, that the estimate put forward by the experts as to consumption is extremely conservative.
Supposing that no extra units of power are bought, even take a worse side, supposing the whole plant is built up, the whole transmission system set up, and we appoint people to organise and manage it, and set aside a certain amount of money for maintenance, renewals and repairs, the cost of all that to the State in order to pay off interest and clear off the debt in forty years is £486,000, even if we do not get any of the present consumers to take current from us at the tremendously cheap rates of decimal 53, say, in Dublin. Suppose we were to get the present consumers of electricity to take power at the very cheap rate we have set out, the consumption has to be about double in order to get the full return. If we do not get anyone in addition, and supposing the use of electricity stopped short where it is at the moment, and that no single extra consumer was got for the scheme, it would mean a loss of about £240,000. I want to point out that that depends on selling to the present number of consumers current at the very cheap rates set out in the scheme. There are two or three alternative prices given in the scheme. There is no fixture. It cannot be fixed until the supply, the organisation, and the whole tariff system is worked out later.
Supposing you take one figure given in page 103, that there is going to be current sold at decimal 8 of a penny all over the country, in that case you would have to double the present consumption. Let me put it in another way. Supposing you do not double your consumption, and stopped with the present limited number of consumers, I make this statement, and I made it twice already, and I ask that the figure be checked—that it is possible to sell only to those who consume electricity at the moment at a cheaper rate, though not decimal 8, all over the country, to make your £486,000. So that by giving electricity, not so cheaply as is estimated in the scheme, but cheaper than people are at present getting it, and retaining only the present consumers, the scheme will pay its way. That is criticised as being a scheme that is going to heap an intolerable burden of taxation on the people. No taxation, in fact, is required. The scheme is not going to cost £5,200,000. It is only estimated to cost £4,600,000, the addition being to cover deficiency and interest during the building out and three years after construction. Despite all that, and these figures, the airy suggestion is put forward that this is going to put an intolerable burden of taxation on the people.
I want to have this looked at from one other angle. The scheme is to provide 90,000 horse-power. One horse-power is equivalent to 9 tons of coal per year. That gives an equivalent of 810,000 tons of coal. If you take the average price as 30s. a ton, that represents an annual expenditure of £1,200,000. If that sum was capitalised it represents £25,000,000. We are going to spend £5,200,000, but not in one year. We are going to spend about £5,000,000 spread over a period of three years. The last average year that we have figures for shows that the import of coal and illuminating oil and candles amounted to about £4,800,000. The country spent £4,800,000 on coal, illuminating oil and candles in one year, and if that rate was kept up for a period of years the country would spend in five years in the region of £19,000,000. We are going to spend in a period of four years a sum of £5,000,000 and where the country at the present rate would spend £19,000,000, and at the end have nothing for these perishable commodities, we would have a permanent revenue, and a power-producing economic plant, brought up to date with all charges met, with renewals and repairs provided for, and the whole expense of organisation put on the scheme. That is described as being a financial venture of tremendous importance. It seems to me to be such a venture that if this State refuses to take it at this point, people in after times will be able to look back on it, and they will class it with the type of failure that met us in connection with pneumatic tyres which were first offered to this city, only that it will be a failure and a blunder of greater magnitude with much more disastrous results to the country.
I am sorry the form in which my motion appears on the Orders of the Day may have caused some embarrassment to the Seanad. I adopted it as the usual constitutional procedure by which I would be enabled to raise on broad lines all the issues involved in this Bill, and to ask the Seanad in due course to have certain aspects in the Bill further examined before it passes into law. I am not committed to the form of words as long as that object is secured. At the outset I must say that I am afraid I will be rather long and perhaps tedious, but I will try not to be. I would ask that if the Seanad feel any annoyance in that respect not to pour down the vials of their wrath on me but on the Minister. The Minister has deliberately on more than one occasion stated that the Oireachtas is the proper body to examine this scheme in all its bearings. He has refused to allow the financial, the distribution, and the consumption provisions of this scheme to be further examined by experts. He has even gone so far, I believe, as to say that Parliamentary institutions will be discredited if this House or Parliament was not in a position to pronounce judgment on it. I claim to have a lot of new matter in connection with this which I shall have to develop in some detail. The issues involved in this Bill are totally different to those broad questions of political policy or abstractions which are usually before us for legislation. Here is a scheme which claims to be a commercial proposition. I need hardly say such examination must involve examination of matters in considerable detail.
The Minister referred to suspicions with regard to the honesty of motives that underlie much of the criticisms. Well, I hope that will be disposed of very quickly. I have no suspicions either overt or covert, and I hope I will get a similar credit for acting from disinterested motives in spite of certain statements that have been publicly made from certain benches in this House. I admit that I should like to see this scheme, other things being equal, given to a British contractor. I am not ashamed of it. I think it is a sound policy to keep your business in the family, and as trade is simply a matter of exchange, I submit that it is sound policy to carry on these matters of exchange between one customer and another. After all, it is common knowledge that the chief customer for our exports is Great Britain, but other things being equal, had this scheme been approached in a different manner, had it been a question of competition, and had Siemens-Schuckert, or any other continental firm, quoted a better price than a British firm, then I should have no objection to the contract passing away from Great Britain. However, substantial benefits may accrue from the carrying out of this work by the German firm. We all know the thoroughness and efficiency of the German nation, and if we can win to ourselves these qualities, and the Germans in exchange can win some of the kindly qualities of our race I think we shall both benefit by the exchange. Moreover, we shall gain if our workers are brought equal with German workers in their output of work, and if we win that for all time it will be worth not only £5,000,000 but a very much larger figure.
The first thing I want to ask is, has there been a proper preliminary examination of the conditions of electrical development in this country? The White Paper definitely asks for alternatives to be considered. I can see that no alternatives have been considered, except that of the Liffey scheme, which was a matter of considerable controversy and, you might say, a competing scheme at a certain period. There was no examination of the relative cost of producing power by water, steam, or even oil. I should like, in this connection, to set before you figures with respect to the cost of steam generation. These are taken from the "Electric Times," and they are cost on units sold:—Hackney, decimal 80; Bolton, decimal 54; Coventry, decimal 63; Leeds, decimal 57; St. Helen's, decimal 49 (there are special reasons for that low rate). Our flat rate, according to Siemens' proposal is decimal 87. In Dublin the price is not decimal 53, as quoted by the Minister, but decimal 6 at the Corporation power-house. Further, there has been no examination as to the comparative cost of the transmission of current versus the transportation of coal. After all, the prices of coal are not relatively very high in this country. The prices of coal in Dublin are certainly less than the prices in London. According to the British prices, I venture to say, over 100 miles, it is cheaper to transport the coal and generate on the spot than to transmit current. That is a matter put forward and capable of examination by experts, and is a matter that should have been examined by the experts. Instead of that, I submit that the only substantial document before the experts was Siemens' report, and that, as a matter of actual fact, there was a bias in the minds of the experts for the Siemens' report, for it is what they were asked to report on. It is true alternative sources of power were mentioned in the White Paper, but were mentioned only incidentally, and had not received examination on a par, had not been as comprehensively examined, as the Siemens' report. I further submit that the matter was not handled correctly, and that the experts should have been given the clearly drawn terms of reference in which the whole problem of electrification had to be examined, and that a much broader and wider report would have resulted.
In considering the scheme for the hydro-electrical development as proposed by Siemens, I admit the partial is the first stage, but looking at it broadly, you cannot separate one from the other. Although complete development cannot be expected at present, they are bound up together in the report. They ought to be considered on broad lines together, and I would like to deal with the suggestion that the Minister has made, that organisation, distribution, and matters of that kind, while of course not ruled out now, are mainly matters for further consideration, and that there would be an organisation Bill later, and that these detailed problems of cost and selling prices, and so on, should wait until this later Bill. I submit you must at this stage consider not only what the current costs you to make, but what chances you have of selling it, and what price the consumer will have to pay.
I only wish to make one or two other general remarks on the White Paper. I would stress that the White Paper called for the scheme to be a sound commercial proposition. It almost seemed to me that the Minister was riding for a fall when he suggested that a loss of anything from £250,000 to £400,000 would be a negligible fraction of our debt. If the Government have in their minds the abandonment of the scheme as a sound commercial proposition, I could spare the Seanad a considerable portion of the remarks I propose to make. Siemens were called on to prepare plans and specifications to be examined by experts. It is an unsual procedure, to call upon contractors to do work that is ordinarily done by consulting engineers. It gives the contractor an undue advantage, and it is a dangerous practice to allow the contractor to prepare his own specification. It in no way mitigates the danger to say that no charge is made for this extra work. I daresay there is not a contractor up and down the land who would not welcome the opportunity of preparing his own specification free of all charge.
Now we come to the contractual relations with Siemens. The White Paper, the Minister has told us, is not a contract, but presumably it is the basis of a contract. The Minister on another occasion said—I will quote for him if he wishes the references—that it is a contract based on scheduled prices. Anyway we are now told that it is going to be embodied in a formal contract. I submit that any document which is the basis of a contract is in all essentials part and parcel of the proposal of the contract, and must be covered by the terms of the supporting document. I would like to know precisely, although I can understand the position of the Government in refusing to answer, whether the White Paper was ever submitted to the Attorney-General for legal opinion before it was issued. I am glad to see the Minister is so satisfied that if he had the opportunity to revise it he would not alter it in any essential respect. I would ask the House to examine the grounds on which the Government can reduce the estimates given by Siemens. The prices are the maximum prices so far as Siemens-Schuckert themselves are concerned. If any part of the work can be done cheaper the Government have power to take that part of the work out of Siemens-Schuckert's hands and get it done in that cheaper manner. Presumably Siemens-Schuckert will have an opportunity, if they like, to revise their estimate themselves. What actually is this estimate? We have got nothing at all to help us except the summary of costs which appears on page 145 of Siemens-Schuckert's scheme. That is no guide really as to the full estimate. One item of these costs is a lump sum of two and a half millions. Here I must venture on guess work. The estimate is either the total price built up of various components such as the embankment of Lough Derg, the embankment from Killaloe to O'Brien's Bridge, excavating the head race, constructing the power-house, excavating and making the tail race and so on, or it is merely a bill of quantities, so much embankment, so much excavating of rock at such and such a price, so much excavating of clay at such and such a price and so many yards; concreting such and such a place at such a price. It must be either one of these things. The Minister is in a position to correct me. In the case of the first, where it is a lump sum of components, how will the revision be effected. Supposing there is reason to believe that the prices for constructing the dam at the power-house are too high? How is the revision to be effected? That is more or less a self-contained item. I am reading from column 1238 of the Report of the Dáil of the 8th May, in which the Minister says:—"Will you tender? That would be absurd. That could not be done. I make the further statement with regard to engineering matters and prices that if you go to an individual in any firm concerned with costing and prices, without leaving his room, that individual could tell you the ruling prices in the country concerned for any item you might put up to him." That is the method put forward. If the Minister has any doubt he could go to any person concerned with costing and without leaving his room he will be advised as to whether Siemens-Schuckert's prices are reasonable or otherwise. What will happen? He will go to some contractor, let us say AB, and he will say to him: "I am advised that for this item Siemens-Schuckert is high. Will you do the work at a lower price?" And suppose the man will say "yes." What will be the position? Siemens-Schuckert are the main contractors. Siemens-Schuckert has all the heavy constructional plant on the ground. Siemens-Schuckert own the constructional railway. Is this person going to be dove-tailed in that arrangement and going to work the new Siemens-Schuckert railway, and to do his own construction work by means of that railway? I submit that the arrangement would be a totally unworkable arrangement, and the only rational plan would be from the outset to have complete plans and specifications, and to have calls for competitive tenders.
Now, in the event of revising the schedules what will happen? I said the alternative method is the price schedules. The Minister may consider that the price for excavating a rock is too high and he will go to somebody who will advise him it is too high, and then he will go to the contractors and say: "What will you do this at?" He may say at one shiling or one-and-sixpence less than Siemens-Schuckert. Are we to take this competitive contractor and have him doing the rock when Siemens-Schuckert are excavating the clay and other parts of the work alongside of him? Surely it is inconceivable that you can carry out any contract along those lines. It would be nothing but confusion and chaos. Then, in the case of material, the Government stressed the point that they are the judge of the quality of the material. Well, is not that always the case? Every employer always reserves to himself to be the judge of the material supplied on certain specifications. This is an axiom in the average contract. Much building material will be of a proprietary character, and all that will be specifically designed by the German engineers and made in Germany, and the question of competition will not arise at all. In the case of the transmission lines it might be possible, if the items are separated, that one firm would supply, say, the poles cheaper than Siemens-Schuckert, and another could supply the copper, and another the insulators. But then these prices cannot be considered apart from the question as a whole, and the question of profits, and, if you are going to get in with separate people into items of that kind, you will not get satisfactory results and you will not have any satisfaction with the technical results and no responsibility for the ultimate cost.
There is only one alternative method, either to let somebody else do the whole thing or let Siemens-Schuckert do it. From Siemens-Schuckert's point of view divided responsibility would be most unsatisfactory. The conclusion I would ask the Seanad to come to is this: that this power of revising the Siemens-Schuckert's order will prove illusory and impossible, and the only way of getting it is by open competition under a condition of uniformity.
I now pass to the grounds for revision by Siemens-Schuckert themselves. I submit that Siemens-Schuckert in certain conditions have the power to revise their estimates. It is called a binding estimate. It is a binding estimate with a liability to variations on the score of changed quantities. The Minister in dealing with the matter in the Seanad referred to quantities as the only thing that would cause a change, as being a big thing. I might say I have ten thousand pounds to-day, but it is invested in highly speculative securities, that is to say, I may have it to-day but I may not have it to-morrow. That will be the main cause of variation.
But there are other grounds. There is a miscalculation of output. The Minister made this point, and as he is present at the moment I would like if he would resolve any doubts I have on this matter. In Siemens-Schuckert's Report, on page 65, there is this passage:—"The number of workmen has been calculated on the basis of the normal output of our workers. Should this output, contrary to our expectations, not be attained, the number of our workmen would have to be increased, and this, of course, would affect our estimate of costs." I would like to know now definitely if that change in costs is Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert's funeral and not the funeral of the Irish Free State. Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert can also claim to revise their estimate on a miscalculation as to the place for dredging material for embankments. That is substantiated by the Experts' report. On page 17 the experts say:—"The choice of the spot for dredging is one for particular care and will require further borings." When the estimate was made Messrs. Siemens cannot have been sure of the place for excavation. If it turns out that excavation has to be elsewhere it may mean a revision in the estimates by Messrs. Siemens. Then there is a miscalculation as to the material for embankments on page 29. The experts referred to further borings with reference to the embankments. If the result of the borings is not as anticipated that is a ground for revision.
Then I shall be surprised to hear that Messrs. Siemens are not to have some provision whereby the estimate is to be varied according to the market price in copper and according to any abrupt changes in the cost of living. It is possible that they will take the risk of that, but those are matters on which we should be enlightened. If the cost of living increased are Messrs. Siemens going to shoulder that over the five years this work may take to carry out? I submit that while this is not a binding estimate, it is bound by the most slender ties, many of which may be broken.
I now pass to the inadequacy or otherwise of the data presented to the Oireachtas. Speaking in this House the Minister used those words with regard to the competence of the Oireachtas:
This is one of the two Houses representing the Oireachtas of the country. If you are not competent, having got the technical details fully explained to you by a layman to laymen, simply to decide and form a judgment as to whether the consumption is likely to grow or the scheme is to be a financial loss, then parliamentary institutions have been, by your vote to-night, judged to be useless.
I ask you to examine the data on which we are to determine this important matter. We have nothing with regard to the cost but a summary of costs on page 145 of the Report. One item is two and a-half millions. The mechanical part is all bulked together, and amounts to £131,000. The electrical part is bulked together. Management and construction is a very important point on which we should all draw our conclusions. Similarly, transmission network is shown separately, but there is no detail. The Minister has been repeatedly pressed to publish the prices, but I wish to see the plans and specifications on which the estimate is based. The House cannot be able to form judgment without those plans and specifications. The Minister's plea is that it would not be fair to Messrs. Siemens to let the prices be known to their competitors. I am not asking for prices. I would allow him to keep the prices, provided he will let us have the plans and specifications. We can draw very valuable conclusions from the plans and specifications. There is no breach of contract with Messrs. Siemens to let the House see the plans and specifications. If there is to be an alternative tender with the other party, that other party must see the specifications before he gives his price. There seems no justification in retaining the plans and specifications, and retaining the prices. I feel in this matter that the Government have really adopted an antagonistic attitude. When Deputy Good raised this point in the Dáil the following occurred:
Mr. GOOD: Why can we not see those prices, why have they not been disclosed?
Mr. McGILLIGAN: Because Deputy Good has not been appointed by this House to examine the costs.
This House is asked to form a final judgment, and it does not seem reasonable to adopt that attitude with respect to an elected Deputy. He refused somewhat abruptly to give him information to which he is entitled. Are the State and private enterprise provided in this safeguarded by the present procedure? When any question has arisen as to the criticism of the experts' report, we are invariably met by this smoke-screen. It is said these continental experts who published their report are quite qualified to deal with the matter, and what claim in reason can you make to call in other expert advice? I suggest that experts are not always right in this or any other matter. There are many instances where experts have not always been right. In this connection, I might say that I am sorry Senator Bagwell is not here to-day, because, I suppose, there is no member of this House who has more knowledge of dealing with, and of coordinating, experts' reports. I am sorry he is not here to deal with that point, because any man in the position of manager, to which are attached large responsibilities has, in dealing with experts' reports, to temper them with his own knowledge and experience. I notice that two of the experts who have been referred to are professors in the same university. I have no knowledge of them except what the Minister has told us; that they are gentlemen of well-known repute. I suggest that a university, an academic institution, is not necessarily the best place to get information on matters dealing with contractors' work, costs, and engineering practice. I agree that on questions of pure research, you possibly get the best opinion in the universities, but on matters dealing with civil engineering, I submit that consulting engineers are, speaking in the abstract better qualified than gentlemen of academic distinction, to give an opinion.
Deputy O'Sullivan stated in the Dáil that a much more searching examination had been given to this scheme than would be given to it under Private Bill procedure. Can that, I ask, be justified? Under Private Bill procedure, all the interests affected have the right to be heard by counsel. The expert witnesses, of course, have the right to state their case there, but they are subject to cross-examination. What opportunity have the riparian owners to state their claims in this case, and what opportunity has been given to deal with navigation interests? In passing, I might remark that the Minister said little had been heard of late on this question of navigation. I propose to deal later at some length with that question. What opportunity has been given to gas companies to appear and make their case? If this scheme is not a commercial success and has to be subsidised in any way out of the rates, it will be competing directly with gas companies who, I submit, have a right to be heard. The Minister says that the experts were the real judges, and that they cross-examined Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert. It would be interesting, and not unreasonable. I think, to ask, that we should see the record of that examination. It should, I think, be published in a Parliamentary paper. If we are to judge the scheme surely that will be a relevant document, in helping us to form a judgment.
I now come to the question of navigation, and I ask the indulgence of the House to deal with it at some length. The points that I propose to bring forward may, I think, be claimed to be entirely new matter in these discussions. Lough Derg, as per the experts' report at page 14, is to be lowered two feet. The object of that, of course, is to increase the reservoir supply. In this connection it is interesting to refer to the evidence given by Government officials on this matter before the Canal and Waterways Commission. This evidence was never published, although it was evidence heard at open meetings, and, therefore, I claim that I am entitled to use it. Mr. Challoner Smith gives the following evidence at page 8 of the evidence taken on the 19th February, 1923. He said:
"In my opinion the reduction of the level by two feet all over the Shannon would simply destroy the present navigation."
He then goes on to deal with the remedial measures involved by lowering the lake two feet, and he says further:
"Any lowering of the existing navigation level by even six inches would affect the traffic through the Limerick canal."
On page 14 of the same day's evidence he says:
"If two feet were taken off Lough Derg, the works involved would be lowering the Killaloe guard lock, underpinning the lock bridge, lowering and deepening one and a-quarter miles of the canal head level, lowering the upper sills of Moy's lock concrete retaining walls, etc., in the canal above. In the lake itself and the upper end of the lock you have to deepen the chamber of Victoria lock, and the same would have to be done with Hamilton lock. Heavy dredging would have to be done at White's Ford. Heavy dredging on pile shoal at head of Lough Derg. Deeping Scariff navigation, underpinning quays and dock walls. Extend Williamstown Pier, etc."
I have no doubt that many Senators know these places well.
Mr. Smith then goes on to give a formidable list of the works to be done.
Mr. Dudley Fletcher, also an engineer of the Board of Works, in his evidence on page 37 of the same date, says:
"Lowering the lake two feet would close up the whole of the traffic to Portumna, and you could not get into Scariff or Dromineer.
I hope that that point will be dealt with by Senator MacLysaght, who lives on the actual spot. Mr. Dudley Fletcher emphasises that point later by saying:
"It would close up all these places, every one of them. The lowering of the lake would be fatal, absolutely fatal to navigation."
That is the evidence of a Government engineer. On the same subject, Sir Philip Hanson gives the following evidence. The Chairman of the Commission asked Sir Philip the following question:
"You have been rather guarded about expressing an opinion as to the desirability of lowering Lough Derg by two feet. Are we to understand from that, that you would not object to it as managers of the navigation?"
Sir Philip answered as follows:—
"Oh, yes, we must object to it, and treat it as a danger to navigation. It would certainly damage the navigation."
Now with regard to the cost, I do not for a moment suggest that if you did spend enough money on remedial measures that you may not restore the navigation. With regard to the cost, Sir Philip Hanson says as follows:—
"In connection with the Allport Commission's proposal it was stated at the inquiry that 68 piers would require to be extended. The cost at that time was estimated to be £12,000. I would multiply that by four or five now."
That means to say, that he would bring it up to anything between forty-eight and sixty thousand pounds. For this work, the experts, on page 81 of the summary of costs, allow the sum of £13,000. I admit that where you are dealing with millions, a sum of thirty or forty thousand pounds, one way or the other, is not a very important matter, but I put that forward as showing the need for further examination and of throwing very grave doubts on the thoroughness of the investigation up to the present stage.
Does the Senator suggest that it is the same type of work? Does he suggest that the work done at a cost of £13,000 is the same type of work that he calculates will cost £48,000?
I am stating my case and the Minister will have an opportunity of replying. My point is that Sir Philip Hanson has given £48,000 as the figure necessary to make the navigation possible on Lough Derg.
For certain work.
The Minister, no doubt, will be able to deal fully with all this. The Minister says the 150-ton barges under the new scheme would be able to proceed from Limerick to Athlone. I am putting up aprima facie case for further inquiry, and I am trying to press upon the Seanad the danger of embarking on a scheme without further investigation, and I am given to understand that if Lough Derg is lowered two feet the 150-ton barges will not be able to proceed from Limerick to Athlone.
Now we come to a very important matter: that is, the distribution and the market for power. I have already stated, and the Minister has stated it many a time, that the scheme is to be a commercial proposition and on that it is to be judged. As a commercial proposition the sale of the product is an important item. Nobody is going to challenge that. The White Paper asks for a report on the economic details of the proposal, and the Minister said, as recorded in the Dáil reports of 19th December, 1924:—
"The White Paper sets out in some detail certain considerations present to the mind of the Government on entering into this matter, and it led simply to this: that the firm had to work out a detailed scheme for the development of electrical power for the Shannon and its distribution over the Irish Free State, to sub-distribution points, in various cities and towns, and that there was to be with that a binding estimate as to the cost, and to report on all economic details of the proposal, including the price at which power could be delivered to the towns and cities where it is to be utilised."
I do not want to take an unfair advantage of the Minister, and I presume he included the country also. Further, there was to be an examination, not merely of the existing market for power, but a report on the future possibilities, industrially and otherwise, that cheap power would promote. Yet, in both the Siemens-Schuckert report and in the experts' examination, supply and distribution beyond high pressure in the work of the substations is treated in a very perfunctory and unsatisfactory manner.
This is what the experts say—and mark Deputy O'Sullivan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Department in charge of this Bill, says that "there were among them experts on the economy of electrical distribution,"—at page 102 of their report:—
"It would carry us too far to consider the figures of the cost of distribution to the individual consumers in the towns and in the country. At the same time, in considering the future supply of electricity this question is a very important one."
That is the data on which we are asked to pronounce judgment.
"From the impressions gained during the time at the disposal of the experts"—
I understand they spent only three months in investigation, during which time they returned once to their own country.
"it appears evident that it will be possible to effect reductions in the price in comparison with the present prices ruling in the Free State, and that an extension of the supply of electricity in the Free State can be carried out with economic success. It is clear, however, that the question of the supply of electricity cannot be solved on a basis of general reasoning, but that it must be worked out in each case separately."
I propose to work it out separately in one case in approaching this question of general distribution, but mark, we have to consider to what extent existing plants can be closed down. I make bold to state that none of the existing plants can safely be closed down. Perhaps that may be said to be overstating it, but my opinion is that the important ones—Cork, the tramways, Dublin Corporation, and others, if they take current, cannot close down. Cork undoubtedly cannot afford to close down, because it is dependent on one single transmission line, and it is the universal experience of electrical engineers that breakdowns occur and cannot be avoided, so much so that in the case of the supply of electricity to the Cornish coal mines, where the continuity of supply is essential, the line is duplicated, and I should be very glad to have the opinion of the city engineer or any other expert in Ireland or elsewhere as to whether it would be prudent to close down any of the existing stations. I contend they will not be closed down. Moreover, there seems to be no generating reserve against the peak load. When the peak load is on the turbines there is no reserve. It is unlikely, I grant, but it is possible nevertheless that the turbines may break down, and that would necessitate stopping possibly for a prolonged period. You cannot submit tramways and important industrial undertakings to stoppages of that kind. A considerable amount has been budgeted for in respect of heating. I make bold to say that electricity is the most extravagant form of heating. It does reasonably well in an oven, but for boiling it is out of the question as an economical proposition. No prudent housewife would boil from electricity. Where you have already hot water it may be justifiable, but to use electricity to boil water from the cold is unjustifiable. Siemens-Schuckert seem to budget for 40 million units used in heating. The experts strike a note of caution, and say it is too much, but I do not see that any correction on the amount of the experts' modification has been made in the financial aspect of the scheme. Perhaps the Minister will deal with that point when he comes to it.
A market is claimed for electricity in mills and creameries. In the case of mills, Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert say that their figure for consumption in the mills is based on the supposition that most of the wheat will be milled locally, which gives a particularly good headline to those who favour a protectionist policy. We may expect to see, in due course, in order to stimulate the market for the product of Irish mills, a duty placed on imported flour. There is no justification again whatever for that assumption. It is a pure gamble to assume that the mills will scrap their present plant, most of which are driven by water power, and, having a direct drive, are very economical. Moreover, in connection with the use of Siemens-Schuckert power, we must not forget that the cost of connection with the low tension network is placed at the very conservative figure of £200 a mile. That means that if you reside within a mile from the low tension network and want a connection, it will cost £200. Of course the State may bear the cost. That is to the benefit of the consumer, but it will be a charge on the undertaking. As regards creameries, a very considerable consumption is estimated from that source. Creameries must have steam. There is no justification for the assumption that creameries are going to take, I think the figure is, from twenty to forty per cent. of their power in the form of electricity. I am making these points to suggest that the estimates are unduly and dangerously optimistic in regard to the question of consumption. I asked the House to give very close attention to these figures.
The only time that Siemens-Schuckert come down on firm ground in respect to the cost of distribution is in the case of Mallow. It is the only peep which we get behind the veil. At page 161 it is stated the revenue required is made up as follows:—313,500 units at 6.8d. That amounts to £8,920. The creameries are to get 192,000 units at 2d. That represents £1,600. The farmers are assumed to be going to take half of the consumption in power and half in light. Half of the total is 60,700, and I assume that 3d. as the price for power, although I do not believe that any farmer will take power at that price, and I am speaking from personal experience. That would amount to £758, leaving a balance for light of £6,562, which works out at 25.9d. per unit. That is the only insight which we get into the finance of distribution. On that we are justified in building, and I propose to build on it to arrive at certain other conclusions. Before I do so, I would like briefly to refer to the Minister's remarks in connection with the benefits which Mallow is going to receive. He said on the question of Mallow that 6.8d. per unit had been spoken of as if it meant sixpence to the town. He said that it meant that to the district around, and if it was said that farmers would not be glad to get light at sixpence where they were paying one and sixpence, he would admit that the scheme was of no benefit. That 6.8d. was not for Mallow but for Mallow rural district, where at present the figure was certainly not less than 1s. 6d. That statement is not justified, as I hope to show when Siemens' figures are subjected to close examination. All the charges are not included. They omit charges for collecting accounts, for bad debts, for meter reading, meter repairs, management, legal expenses, rent of poles, rates, and, I suppose, taxes. They further omit the cost of equipment of a meter, and I suppose there would be at least one meter per connection, and if you are going to differentiate between power and light, it implies two meters. Say there are 1,350 meters to be installed at £5 per meter, that would mean £6,750. On the capital of £8,000 ten per cent. should be taken. That is £800. That with the other charges would mean an addition of £1,500, bringing the price per unit to 7.8d. I base my conclusions, however, on the 6.8d. and not on the 7.8d.
Now I come to the cost in Dublin. A great point has been made of the advantage to the scheme by the big consumption which Dublin will take. The Minister for Agriculture in the Dáil stated, but I was unable to follow his argument, that the new price would be 2d. as against the present price of 7d. In reply to that I would put up the following for your consideration as to how Dublin will be affected. The present price per unit sold in Dublin, according to the latest issue of the "Electrical Times," is 2.1d., made up as follows:—Coal, .69; oil, .03; wages, .29; repairs, .59; rates, .11, and management, .39. These charges are not all attributable to the power-house. Some of the charges on management involve work outside such as the collection of accounts, the supervision and direction of mains and the reading of meters, and I am informed that no reduction will be made on the score of management if the power house should close. These figures are attributable, according to the best opinion, to the power house:—The whole of the coal, .69; the whole of the oil, .03; half of the wages, .14; half of the repairs, .29; half of the rates, .06, and none of the management, leaving the figure to be allocated to the power-house of 1.17. I am assuming, and I ask that the experts' opinion be taken on this point, that the power house cannot be closed but that its work may be reduced. It cannot be closed for technical reasons let alone on account of the vested interests involved. The most I calculate will be saved on the power house is .6. On the face of it it is very hard to see, except as an act of patriotism, how Dublin would gain an advantage by taking its current from the Shannon. Mention is made of the cost of the generated unit as 2.0d. About half of that is the charge in front of the power house and it will not be affected by the Shannon scheme. It would be reduced now if it were possible to do so.
There is one further point which I wish to make. It is not a big point but it has significance. If you examine the organisation of the maintenance of the power house at Ardnacrusha, you will find that there is a curious grouping in threes. I am advised that that represents a three-shift organisation, and a three-shift organisation, by a simple process of arithmetic, will be found to represent a fifty-six hour week. I would like to know whether the Electricians Unions have agreed to that. I know the Germans work these hours, and I submit that that estimate is based on the German hours. If they are not going to be adopted in this country, it will mean a substantial increase in the cost.
I wish to deal with another point the Minister made, and which was also made by Dr. McLaughlin, and that is, as to the saving of coal. It seems to me that the economics of that argument are strangely peculiar. Admitting that so much coal will be saved, you will not be saving the capital value of the coal. It is asserted that 26 millions of capital will be saved. The assumption is that 26 millions are being employed to bring this coal in. The amount of capital that is actually employed is merely the working capital from cargo to cargo. It is not sound economics to say that you are spending £5,000,000 on the Shannon to save—I think the word is "save"— 26 millions on the capital value of coal, because you are not using 26 millions at present on the importation of coal.
I now pass to the finances of the distribution, and I work these figures out on the basis of population. There is a general idea that having got the power house up, you are finished with regard to finances. Perhaps it would interest this House to know that the opinion of electrical engineers—and I do not know if even the experts themselves will deny this—is that, broadly speaking, the cost of distribution is something equivalent to the cost of generation. That is a rough figure. Where the population is sparse in rural districts, as it generally is, should you get your current for nothing, the cost of distribution makes it almost uneconomic. Let us work it out on the Mallow basis, where we have certain figures, unfortunately the only ones on which we can build. The territory around Mallow, according to Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert, is held to have a population of 15,000, of which there may be current feeders to 1,350 houses, each containing five people. The total number of people using electricity then would be 6,750, which represents 45 per cent. of the total population. The rural population, as shown by the scheme, is taken as 2,000,000. Forty-five per cent. of that two million would be 900,000. The actual cost at Mallow is, on the aggregate figures I mentioned, 58,000. The Mallow distribution at per head comes to £8.6, and multiplying the population by £8.6 you will get a sum of £7,630,000, as the estimated figure for the cost of distribution in the country districts. I am not tied to a million or two, or even three million, but I do submit that five or six million is a biggish figure. It is important that we should visualise that in addition to what the country spends on the power house. The country or the local authorities who will be responsible for the distribution will have to find that additional sum of seven million pounds for the cost of distribution, and on the organisation finance of the scheme that figure is relevant.
Now we come to the question of the cost of installation. It is, of course, a charge on the consumer, but it is a figure we should attempt to visualise because we can then form our own conclusions as to whether the rural population are likely to be able to afford the expenditure of the amount suggested. For a house near the network I put down a figure of £5 per house as the consumer's cost of the connection. I am sure that it is not unduly high, but still I may be challenged.
If it is a question of challenging the amount, connections are being made at Dun Laoghaire at the moment for £2 10s., so that the Senator is just 100 per cent. too high.
The Minister will see that I am making a deduction from my table to meet such contingencies. If the consumer is any distance from the network—I speak again subject to correction—up to £200 per mile will be the cost of the connection. This figure I know personally would go a long way to provide an individual engine and dynamo. The small farm or the average farm that is likely to take current would require 20 lamps. I put down 20 lamps at £1 per lamp. That, of course, would include the wiring. The 20 lamps themselves, at 3s. per lamp, would cost about £3. The farmer, if he is going to get the full benefits of the scheme, would also require some sort of motor, and for that I put down £17. For putting down a connection, I allow £5. The Minister has said that a connection is made at £2 10s., and I am quite prepared to alter it to that figure. If there was such a thing at the farmhouse as a threshing machine, which the farmer would work by electricity, the cost of this would be about £10, making a total of £55. For the sake of facility in calculation I have taken the total at £50. I put down the figure to be challenged in any way that the Government or anybody likes—a flat rate figure for connection to the consumer of £50 per house. If you proceed to work out the number of houses, taking it that there will be 900,000 consumers in the rural areas, that is 45 per cent. of the total population, and divide that by 5, you get the number of houses using current at 180,000. At £50 per house, the total cost to these houses would be £9,000,000. I have worked it out to the best of my ability. It is a figure that for the first time in all this mass of literature gives us some indication of what the cost of installation is going to be for rural areas.
I wish now to make a further examination of the flat rate prices. Siemens' flat rate is .87. If everybody gets an even division, and if the town of Limerick, say, gets the same rate as a distant part of Galway, for a bulk supply, they will pay .87. I ask the Minister to follow up these calculations. The capital involved is £5,200,000. The output, as amended by the expert, is 66,000 kilowats. The cost per kilowat is £78, and the revenue charges at 10 per cent. show a figure of £7.8 per kilowatt. The consumption—here is the joker of the piece, but I am putting it at the outside figure—is 1,000 units per kilowatt. I know Messrs. Siemens have taken two, but it is a matter on which the expert, as far as I can see, speaking with the same disinterested purpose, has never been subject to cross-examination, and that essential point has been missed that would be brought out if this scheme were subject to the ordinary Private Bill legislation. I take a figure which is outside the price. However, I take it at 1,000 k.w. as the outside figure. I am prepared to justify this outside figure. That will bring the flat rate to 2.06 of a penny per unit against .87. Why I justify 1,000 as the outside figure is this: the Borough of Islington per kilowatt available sold 1,100 units per kilowatt. Islington is, I imagine, a densely populated area. Cheltenham sold 800. The city of Dublin sold 1,100 units per kilowatt. I put it that that is gross. I got these figures out of the "Electrical Times." In the Isle of Wight there are four towns where the figures are 800 units per kilowatt. That is why I venture to make the case that 1,000 units per kilowatt is a prudent figure to take for this country. It would be undue optimism to work on Siemens' figure of 2,000 per k.w. I have to examine as briefly as I can the case made by the experts for consumption. We have heard a lot with regard to the electrification of railways, but I think it is generally known that it is out of the question to electrify railways except in densely populated areas. That is only done in countries where the cost of coal is very high in price, such as Switzerland and Italy. I never heard of electric silage. I heard of it for the first time to-day from a friend. I ask my farming friends if they ever heard of electric silage in any accepted textbooks on farming. I would like to know will farmers make any substantial demand for electric silage power in view of the capital cost involved. We meet with a common form of argument that we have always been used to in this country, where a man has put up a case that he cannot justify with figures, points out what Denmark has done and what Switzerland has done. We hear about all the wonderful things that they have in these countries. We do not hear about Russia. That, I suggest, is an argument of weakness, to compare these countries where conditions are different with ours, where the people have only a perfunctory knowledge of these things. Canada has a telephone in every farmhouse. Why have we not telephones in every farmhouse? Only yesterday I saw where the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs pointed out that the cost would be prohibitive. Canada has telephones, so that there must be something different in the conditions between the two countries. I cannot explain the difference, but I can call attention to the statement of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when he said that a similar provision here would be uneconomic. Denmark has innumerable co-operative bacon factories. We have only one and we are trying to start a second one. Why have we not more? I cannot answer. Wertenburg is covered with a net-work of co-operative credit societies. They are most useful societies and are found in all parts of Germany. With difficulty we established a few of them in Ireland but they never developed. I cannot say why. It is not because of want of trying or want of knowledge. There is a very good reason. Denmark has a wonderful system of high-school education. Why have we not that system? I say that because Denmark has this wonderful system of education, therefore she has these wonderful things we have not got. We should argue from the positive and not from misleading analogies. The German workman works fifty-six hours a week at twenty-five per cent. less wages than our workmen.
Tell us what the cost of living is in Germany.
I would require notice of that question.
It would not suit.
I say there are good economic reasons for the difference. There is no easy remedy to be found by waving the magician's wand or calling in Siemens-Schuckert or anyone else. Norway and Sweden have very high mountain falls, and the harnessing of power is very cheap, as they can use very small turbines to develop electric power very cheaply. I suggest that a big electric chemical load has a good deal to do with the cheap supply in Norway. In Switzerland it has been found that cooking by electricity was very wasteful. If there was an independent examination, I could bring evidence to show that if they could get coal they would use it instead of electricity. In Switzerland the plant is very small and self contained. It is close to the market, and they educated their market as they went along. Break-downs in Switzerland of the electric overhead wire systems, and also in the south of France, are not uncommon occurrences. I would suggest further that in Sweden the cost of coal is prohibitive. In short, I suggest that conditions are very much different and that it is not fair argument to make bald vital deductions onprima facie grounds.
Another matter that we must take into consideration is the effect of the Shannon scheme on what is claimed to be the urgent demand for electrical extensions. It appears to be almost certain that during the period of incubation of the Shannon scheme—four years—there will be no private development——
It is not four years.
Three years. In three years' time, when the Minister and I meet again, we may have a word about that. For three years you are committed practically to a period of stagnation. Perhaps Dublin may develop a little, as it has an existing plant, but no new capital will be expended. That appears to be a grave mistake. Only lately a plant was started at Enniskerry which was built up and financed by the local people. I am told that it is working admirably. That is the way, I suggest, Switzerland grew up. It began in a small way. I suggest that during the next three years there is not going to be anything in the nature of small individual spontaneous development. Coming to the question of State ownership and control, this is to be a national project, and I am bound to say, under certain of the proposals, it is the only form in which it could materialise, because no private firms would undertake the financing of this scheme. The Minister told us that Siemens-Schuckert are prepared to finance it. If they are, my advice is, let them do so under licence. I would go further—I do not like it, —but I would say to them: "If you finance this scheme under licence instead of .87 of a flat rate, we will let the flat rate be 1½d." I will be interested to see if they take it, even at that price. If Siemens-Schuckert are prepared to finance this scheme, I suggest that a prudent Minister would let them do it.
The dangers of nationalisation are well known, and under it you lose the ordinary checks of private enterprise and private control. No one bothers what it costs. There is always the docile, hard-working taxpayer to pay the bill. Under nationalisation you remove the incentive to progress. After all, unchristian as it may be, gain is and will remain the great incentive to economic progress, and I do not think any of us will live to see a better substitute for the incentive to gain. The fear of bankruptcy is also an unceasing stimulus to efficiency. Governments do not go bankrupt, or if they do it is a slow progress, and the Government of the day is not much concerned. Then we have the extraordinary instability of official mentality. We have big, wild, extravagant ideas, the idea of megalomania which I venture to say we see in this scheme, and that doctrinaire attitude towards development which we see when the Minister says, for instance, that the Liffey scheme would be wasteful expenditure. How can any official say that when private people are willing to come along and risk their savings in it for profit, and say that it is wasteful because it does not correspond to some theoretical conception? On the other hand, you have the extraordinarily slow, sticky procedure that characterises official methods. We all know that a business man may meet his friend and after some few minutes' talk with him decide some important matter. The same question handled by an official gets into files, and goes round and round, and is not settled for months. I would not be accused of making any charge against these people. It is necessary in the essence of things that they have to be slow. Then there is that promotion by seniority which is fatal to any industrial efficiency. I remember that during the war a prominent business man was brought in to undertake a very responsible engineering position. He said: "This is an extraordinary place, the Army. In civil life we meet a brother engineer and we decide a case on its merits; but here a man counts the number of pips on my arm, and I count the number on his, and if he has more on his arm than I have on mine he has won." That is the way with seniority. You cannot get away from that, and that is why in the essence of things all down the time Governments cannot and will never manage business efficiently. Industrial development and politics are bad bedfellows. You cannot get away from the attempt at political influence. Even I, who have never asked anything from persons possessing patronage, still get letters asking me to say a good word for so-and-so. That does not go on without sometimes being found successful. Then you will have all those petty grievances that may arise. Some aggrieved employee of the Government will go to his Deputy and ask to have a question put in the Dáil about his case, and that will react against efficient management. You have here, and I call it to my aid, the report of the experts. You have, as we all know so well, the difficulty of ever dismissing a Government official. This is what the experts say about it: "The organisation must extend in an organic way. No man should be appointed until his duties have been clearly defined by the Board of Directors, and until it has been shown he had sufficient experience and training in regard to the work to be undertaken." That is not peculiar to the Shannon scheme. I imagine it applies to all appointments in the Government service. It is a somewhat obvious platitude. They further say:—
"Particularly in a State service it is difficult to dismiss an employee who has once been installed, and the appointment of an unsuitable man prevents a better man being appointed to the position afterwards."
We have also in visualising this to take into account the possibility of a change in Government, and in view of portending events it is interesting to know that Deputy Johnson says: "What does it matter; it only means £300,000 is put on the taxpayer. It would be only 2/- per head." I think it would be better if he said it would be only 4d. on the income tax, for that is what it would be. Senator O'Farrell said that it would be a wise policy for the State to carry all the overhead charges. Why would it be wiser to subsidise electricity than to give free meals, free railway facilities, free milk supply, or anything like that? Once you get into subsidies there is no end. Look also at the effect on fiscal policy. Supposing the scheme does not prove an economic success, and the Government want to ginger up the finances, they will say: "Now you have your heat and light, what do you want coal for. We will put a duty on coal. You have no complaint, for you have got this all-giving juice from the great river Shannon." Governments may be powerless in this matter. National control and capitalistic enterprises are mutually destructive. The Government are dependent on capital for carrying on the Government of the country. If they say they can do without capital, and can deal with all these future developments by subsidies, grants, and guarantees, well and good, but they do not take up that attitude. The effect of that policy is shown in the Liffey scheme. I am not concerned with the legal subtleties as to whether sufficient notice was given to the Liffey promoters to cry off, but in the first instance they were encouraged, and they had gone a considerable distance. People who were prepared to spend money in this country have lost considerable sums. Whether they might, by greater perspicacity, have saved themselves, does not concern me. The damage is done, and a serious blow has been struck by the Government at the introduction of capital into this country.
Before closing I would wish to summarise the defects that I claim the scheme possesses. There has been no proper consideration of alternatives; no proper terms of reference to experts; no power to revise Siemens-Schuckert's prices, which are to a large extent illusory; that the estimates are not binding; that the plans and specifications, not the prices, are withheld for insufficient reasons; that the examination has been insufficient; that the navigation is prejudiced; that the distribution and marketing of power has been to a great extent ignored; that the prices to the consumer, as admitted in one case, will not stand analysis; that the consumption is much over-estimated; that the flat rate of price is at least half its probable cost; that the ultimate financial demands on the distribution, amounting to from four to seven million units, have not been seriously regarded; and that the cost of installation to the consumer, suggested at £9,000,000, has not been appreciated.
I would appeal to the Government seriously not to be stampeded in this matter. I know it requires great courage, having gone so far, to cry halt. It requires the greatest courage of all, moral courage, to say, "On consideration, we are not quite satisfied. We feel we have made a mistake, and would like to retrace our steps and review our position." I would seriously ask the Government to take that point of view into consideration, and to check what at present seems to be a rather headlong career. If the Government refuses, I would ask the House in this matter to cut party ties, to adopt an attitude of logical and critical detachment, to think only of what is best in the interests of the State and not to be satisfied until they have exercised their full power, if they think that a further consideration is desirable. In the Dáil there is a strong and pressing desire that the names of opponents of this scheme should be put on record. I do not know whether it is to test their patriotism or to test their sanity, but I personally court such a record. In fact, I ask that the records of this House should show that I personally have no part or lot in such a profligate proceeding.
I second this amendment. The remarks I am going to make must not be taken as in any hostile spirit to the Government. The Minister deserves the utmost credit for bringing forward such a scheme. One or two points have been made as a reason for the scheme being put into operation. Both are considerable items. One was the value of coal imported, which we would all be glad to see substituted by water-power. I have had personal experience of harnessing water power without Government assistance or subsidy. A great many of the points raised did not affect the scheme. I think the import of coal represented about a million and a quarter. The bulk of that is concerned with fuel for heating purposes in households all over the twenty-six counties, except where turf is used. My own experience is that electric power will not be substituted for that. I cannot conceive of the electric power being substituted for fires all over the Saorstát. It may be used in an office or a church for a few hours. It is most expensive and, therefore, that, to my mind, takes a great deal away from this Bill. Another point was the suggestion that the railways would be electrified. In places where you have not a dense population it is not economic and I cannot foresee the railways of the twenty-six counties being driven by electrical energy. The matter comes back to the question of power and light, both of which are very important. This matter will have to be considered in connection with them. I am sure we will all be glad to see industries started, especially in districts which depend entirely on agriculture. We hope this proposed scheme will bring about those industries.
The only objection I have to seconding this resolution is that I would be sorry, after all the labour and pains the Minister has taken, that it might not be the success he hopes it to be or which we hope it to be. A delay would enable him to get better, closer, and fuller information, and it would satisfy him that those who are criticising the scheme are not doing it in a hostile spirit. I am sure that what I say will not have much weight, as the country seems committed to the scheme, and I hope, in spite of what I am saying, that it may prove a permanent success. I do not wish to be troublesome. I am glad that the Minister for Finance stated that our credit is better than some of us thought. I can only say in connection with this, that it would be better if a quarter of it had been used in the last twelve months to assist our decaying industries. It is a pity to see woollen mills closed and hands paid off, where a little subsidy might have kept them going. A quarter of the amount used in this particular direction would be sufficient to keep them going.
I rise to oppose the amendment, because I believe the amendment is put down with the intention of killing the scheme. In his opening remarks the mover of the amendment did not make any attempt to disguise the fact that he had a bias against the eminent firm of German contractors.
I said, other things being equal, I should prefer not to give the work to Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert.
It is much the same thing. The Government consulted the German firm because they were the greatest firm in the world that could undertake such a scheme as this. Through the long course of his remarks. Senator Sir John Keane dealt practically with every aspect, and in the latter portion of his remarks he explained why he was opposing this scheme. He is opposing this scheme because it is a national project, and is being run in the interests of the people and of the nation, and not in the interests of financiers. That is the basis of the whole opposition to this scheme from the very beginning, and that is why it is opposed by Senator Sir John Keane and those with him. I have no intention of following Senator Sir John Keane through all he said, but it is necessary that I should deal with a few points. He referred to the question of the German workers' output. He never loses an opportunity to suggest that the workers of this country do not give a fair output. He did not state the conditions under which the workers in Germany live as contrasted with the conditions under which the workers here are living. A member of this House was in Germany some time ago, and he told me he was surprised, if not astonished, at the conditions under which the German workers lived. He said it was no wonder the German worker loved his Fatherland, because his Fatherland looked well after him. He contrasted the housing conditions of the German and the Irish worker. How can you expect output from a worker who is living with his wife and six children in a back room in a polluted atmosphere? If you go through Germany you do not find German workers housed like that.
Senator Sir John Keane is very anxious that this whole question should be held up so that the whole matter can be gone into in every detail. He talked about the question of estimates and everything else. One would imagine that this was the first time in the history of any undertaking when there was such a thing as a revision of estimates. Everyone knows that there is always provision in all contracts—not to speak of a contract of this magnitude—for estimates being revised. The estimates are subject to the Clerk of Works or the Engineer in charge of the undertaking, and the firm would not be paid except on a certificate signed by the architect. Senator Sir John Keane dealt with the question of the contract without competition. That is not unusual. It is not unusual for a person working any big undertaking like this, when plans would be prepared by people who would be prepared to carry out the contract, that they would submit an order for carrying out the contract according to their own specification and plan. That thing has often occurred before. The State itself, through its Board of Works, has contracts every day for carrying out works under the auspices of the Board of Works. The contractors never submit an estimate. There are contractors engaged at the moment on reconstruction works at the Four Courts, the Custom House and the Post Office.
There is no contract asked for, and they are paid on time and material, plus a percentage. So that it is not a new thing to give out a contract like that to a firm without having got estimates from that firm to carry out the work.
Now, Senator Sir John Keane said that no opportunity was given to examine the report of the experts that were appointed by the Government to examine this scheme as prepared by Siemens-Schuckert. He said that no opportunity was given to examine the report as in a Private Bill that would be promoted by anybody else who would be promoting such a scheme. I am sorry that time does not permit that this scheme should go through the form of a Private Bill, if for no other reason than that an opportunity should be given to cross-examine the opponents of this Bill. As the Minister has said, on every occasion they made vague statements in connection with the reports of the experts, but when challenged for details they were not forthcoming. If it was only for that, I regret that time does not permit of these gentlemen having an opportunity of going into the witness-box and being examined by people who know something about these things, and probably know more than they do themselves. Senator Sir John Keane has been well briefed in this matter, but in certain aspects he has been very badly briefed. He spoke about the three-shift system as being worked in Germany. Whoever advised Senator Sir John Keane ought to have warned him and told him that in every country in the world there is such a thing as a three-shift system. The Dublin Corporation, and other firms in this city who have machinery going continuously, must have the three-shift system. The Dublin Tramway Company and other large undertakings who have machinery continually working, must have the three-shift system. Therefore no difficulty arises so far as this country is concerned as regards that point that the Senator has urged.
Would the Senator explain if one has got three operatives and only three, one of whom must be on duty all the time, how many hours a week will they work the three-shift system.
The Senator will not have far to go for that information, because Senator Goodbody, who is sitting quite convenient to him, can tell him how that is done. Senator Sir John Keane referred to the question of the Liffey scheme, and he lamented that a tremendous amount of capital had been lost in consequence of the promotion of Private Bills for the Liffey. I want to say to him that that capital has been lost not because the Government propose to go forward with the Shannon scheme, but because of the fact that the Local Authority in Dublin propounded and put forward a better scheme than the private financiers put forward. Now, that is a statement of fact. That cannot be contradicted. A Local Authority promoted a scheme, and two private syndicates promoted schemes, all of which went before the Private Bill Committee. And the Private Bill Committee approved of the preamble of the scheme put forward by the Dublin Corporation, which was passed. So that it is not because of the Shannon scheme that the money of the private syndicates promoting schemes for the Liffey has been lost. These schemes got fairly favourable consideration in this House. That is the least I can say about them, and the money of the syndicates has been lost not because of the Shannon scheme but because the Local Authority propounded a better scheme. I must say, in conclusion, that I must congratulate the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the manly way he has handled this measure, and his determination to speed it. I can promise him that when he goes on with it he will have the bulk of the people of this country behind him.
I am very proud and glad that this scheme has come forward. I am glad of the criticism that has been levelled against it, because it is a healthy sign to see that the people are devoting their minds to works of construction that will be of benefit to the country as a whole. I am glad that people are taking up that attitude. If people would give up indulging in petty personalities there is, I believe, a great future in store for this country.
I would like to know if I may propose now, as an amendment to the resolution moved by Senator Sir John Keane, the motion that appears on the Order Paper in my name. Every Senator has, I think, got a copy of it in his hand, so there is no need for me to read it. I should like to say that in moving this motion I am impelled by two reasons. In the first place, I am in favour of the Shannon being developed. I want to see it developed in every way possible.
The motion that stands on the Order Paper in your name is not an amendment to Senator Sir John Keane's resolution, but, by an alteration, it could be made an amendment. It could be made an amendment by altering it to read that "the further consideration of the Bill be postponed until the Government have supplied and deposited full information" regarding the matters mentioned in your motion.
I am quite prepared to amend it in that form.
I told you, Senator, about this two hours ago, but you have not made the alteration yet. I am sure the Seanad will listen to what you have to say. In what form do you wish to move your amendment now?
I beg to move the amendment in the following form:
"That having regard to the very important public interests involved in fisheries, navigation, drainage, finance and transport which may be interfered with by the Shannon Electricity Bill, 1925, the Seanad is of opinion that the Government should be required to supply and deposit as full information as under the Standing Orders of the Oireachtas any persons promoting a Private Bill are required to furnish, and that the further consideration of the Bill be postponed until this is done."
One of my reasons for proposing this is that I am in favour of the Shannon being developed, but I am absolutely at issue with the Minister when he says that all the possible details that could be given with any Bill have been given in connection with this Bill. That is not so. I hold in my hand a resolution which I propose to read, and which I was asked to bring before the Seanad by the fishery people in Limerick.
On a point of order, what are we doing now; what are we discussing.
This is an amendment to Senator Sir John Keane's motion, and it is perfectly in order.
The Fishery Board in Limerick have sent me this resolution, which I now propose to read.
Perhaps the Senator would tell the House the substance of the resolution. I do not think it is necessary to have it read.
The resolution is to this effect, that while they and I are quite in favour of the carrying out of the Shannon scheme, they desire to emphasise the fact that their industry is one of very great value to the country. They say that no details have been disclosed which would enable them to say how injury to the industry might be minimised, or how injury might be done, and they want these details disclosed.
We discussed this matter with the Minister yesterday, and he admitted that it was quite possible that certain alterations might be made, but for the first time I learned where the outlet from the turbines is going to be put. We have had no plans, or at least no access to the plans, on this matter. It is of vital importance that we should know these things. Perhaps the Seanad, the Ministry and others may not be aware of the value of the Shannon fisheries. We can only get an idea of their value by comparing them with the value of other things. Let us compare their value with the scheme under discussion. The Shannon fisheries, by people who are capable of putting a value on them, are stated to be worth £150,000 a year. That is a conservative estimate. The Shannon scheme, according to the Minister, is going to cost 5 per cent. on five millions of money. That gives you a figure of £260,000, so that the fisheries, at the present moment, are worth the value of what the cost of the Shannon scheme is going to be.
It is stated that the Shannon scheme will afford employment to 3,000 men for three years. For generations the fisheries have afforded employment to 1,040 men, and they are affording that employment to-day. That figure excludes the number of outside people engaged in connection with the fisheries, such as in the sale and packing of the fish, the preparation of the boats, the nets, and so on. I think it is not an unreasonable conclusion to come to, that the fisheries are a great and valuable asset to the country. I am speaking in the interests of the country at large, and I say that the fisheries are worth at least half as much to the country as the Shannon scheme will be. It is the view of the people of Limerick, it is my own view, and the view of a great many other people who understand the subject better than I do, that if the Shannon Scheme is designed in a certain way little or no damage will be done to the fisheries, but the question of damage to the fisheries and the question of the construction of the works are so inextricably involved that you cannot separate one from the other.
A fisherman—I have known most of these fishermen for many years—was talking to me the other day. I said to him when he raised the question: "But they propose to compensate you.""Oh," he said, "we know enough about compensation. We have had enough of experience of what their compensation means. The court sits and inquires into the amount of damage that is to be done. It awards a certain sum of money, and you hear no more about it for months, and perhaps for years. At the end of that time, when a further hearing is likely to take place, a man comes down to you and offers you about half the amount that had been originally awarded. He tells you that if you do not take what he offers, that you go to the bottom of the list, and dear knows whether you will ever get a penny." There is no question but that such a thing as that has occurred. It is occurrences of that kind that have dragged the mention of the word compensation into disgrace.
The fisherman was absolutely justified in his conclusion that compensation was out of the question, but if the work can be carried out—I do not say without any damage—without serious damage to the fisheries, surely that ought to be done. The only way in which that can be done is by consultation with the people that are really interested; consultations with the fishermen, and with the people who understand it. If the outlet is to be where I learned yesterday for the first time it is proposed to be placed, I think you may say "good-by" to the Shannon fisheries for ever. The experts have dealt in a very facile way with that question. Perhaps I may be permitted to refer to their report. References to the matter are to be found on pages 46, 47, and 48 in their report. They say that undoubtedly damage will be done. This passage occurs in their report:—
"During the spawning time Lough Derg is dammed high, out of considerations of good water economy. There will be no shortage of spawning places along its banks even after the damming."
I think it is very illuminating as showing the amount of knowledge that the experts have as to the habits of salmon. Everyone who knows anything at all about this subject knows perfectly well that fish do not spawn in lakes. The experts say further in their report:—
"It is not maintained here that no injury whatever will be done to fisheries.... Moreover, in the economic calculations provision is included for compensation to fishery interests."
I have gone through every page of this book and I cannot find a single item where anything is provided for compensation for fisheries. As a matter of fact, I do not want anything added for compensation for fisheries. What I want is that the work of the Shannon scheme will be so modified that the fisheries will not be damaged. There is one item on page 88 of this book where a sum of £35,000 is provided for compensation, but it is stated that it is earmarked for the purchase of land. The experts, also, suggest that this hydraulic lift for the elevation of boats is to be used for the elevation of fish. They say that in a somewhat similar construction in Germany they have seen 100 fish pass through this elevator. They cannot have a very familiar knowledge of fisheries here in Ireland, because I have been told of one haul of 700 fish in a net. If only 100 fish get through this, I do not know what is to become of the fisheries of the Shannon. I think that this resolution asking that we should get more information, and that the scheme should be so moulded as that little damage should be done to this important industry, is absolutely essential, and I rely upon the Seanad to do everything in its power to get it done. I am out first of all to get the best possible value and to have the least possible damage done. I think that is not an unreasonable suggestion, and I think it is a suggestion that should be considered by the Minister. I have not the smallest doubt the Minister has no design upon the fisheries, but it is quite possible that he may blunder into a position such as will injure and destroy an industry of vital importance to the nation.
I beg to second the amendment moved by Senator Barrington. I think that we are asked in this House to bless this scheme without having been given enough particulars in order to form an opinion as to the real final effects of the scheme. I do not think it sufficiently detailed as regards its effect upon certain points, such as fisheries and navigation, such as Senator Sir John Keane stressed. On the question of navigation. I go thoroughly with Senator Sir John Keane in what he says. I have had experience of it, and I am satisfied that unless a very large amount of money is spent on improving the present piers and entrances, and so on, at Lough Derg, the navigation of the Lough would become dead. Senator Barrington has brought forward information about the fisheries. It does not appear to me that any effort has been made by the experts or anybody else to try to preserve the fisheries of the Shannon. I think, before the House gives its blessing to this scheme, and goodness knows I would be glad to get all we could squeezed out of the Shannon, we should be given more information on the subject. I therefore second the amendment.
I rise to oppose the last amendment as I opposed the motion of Senator Sir John Keane. The purport of both is to try to hold up the Bill for six months, in other words, to try to kill the Bill.
Not if we get the information we ask for.
To try and hang up the Bill. Salmon are caught in Ireland. So they are, but if you went into a fishmonger's shop in Dublin you would be charged 4s. a lb. for salmon and the advantage to the consumer in Ireland appears to be very slight for this marvellous catch of salmon, we have heard so much about. But apart from that, I approach the Bill from another point of view. Opposition has come in from every possible quarter and direction. It has been dissected in its main arteries and considered in its minutest tissues. We have got a crop of detail to-day that I am perfectly satisfied has been answered beforehand in various speeches in the Dáil, and various expressions of opinion by the Minister in the country. We are told, forsooth, that this is a wild-cat scheme, incapable of being worked, with its finances all wrong, and that the probability of it succeeding is an enigmatical matter. Every appeal possible has been made to the timidity and to the prejudice of the people. No appeal whatever has been made towards the essential point, the constructive ability of the people and the desire of the people to build up industry in this country, and to their capabilities of being able to build up industry. What has the Government done? What is their offence? Why is their Bill to be held up? Why is this scheme which they have particularly considered for months to be held up? Experts of the greatest European repute came to this country, examined the scheme critically, and now we are to be told that a new set of experts, the brains of whom Senator Sir John Keane has largely picked, are to be asked to put the Government scheme on one side and to beginde novo. The Government have had the inspiration to make a bold effort to build up this country, to have the resources of the country examined. They have examined the possibility of the various sources of power in the country—coal, peat, and water. Coal we have in some quantities. Peat is useless, so to speak, and the water is now available in large quantities. It is very interesting to relate that one of the cases alluded to by Senator Sir John Keane against this scheme was the Report of the Waterways Commission which dealt with the practical impossibility of doing any of the things that would be necessary to harness the Shannon. Is it any wonder that several men should have doubt of the possibility of the scheme ever coming to fruition?
What did the Government do? They picked the most expert men in Europe, the brains of Siemens-Schuckert. We are told that Siemens-Schuckert are taking in the Government. On the contrary, the Government are for practically nothing getting the experience of that firm. Not satisfied with that, however, they have carefully examined the scheme, and all the criticism that can be advanced against it is the criticism of timidity and prejudice. The experts reported in favour of the scheme. There can be no doubt that the question of distribution, to which Senator Sir John Keane alluded, is in the offing and will have to be considered. I understand that the question of distribution is not the concern of the present Bill, but it will be the concern of the Bill which must be introduced here later. Distribution is all-important, and unless it is successfully carried out the scheme will fail, but can we imagine that men like the members of the Executive Council, who have given serious and anxious thought to the development of this country, have become so obsessed with their scheme that they left out of consideration, perhaps, the most important consideration of all, and that is, how to reach the consumer? For my part I cannot imagine that. The basis of consumption assumed by the experts has been challenged. I say, as the Minister has stated in his opening statement, that the consumption has been based on a very conservative estimate, and judging by the existing standards in Europe, we will easily reach the 35 units per head of the population, which, as far as I know, will make the scheme a success. Denmark, a country such as Ireland, a country which is agriculturally prosperous—and various Bills have been passed here to put Ireland on a road to similar prosperity— uses 60 units per head. There is no standard in Europe as low as the standard here, which, if achieved, will make the scheme in Ireland a sound commercial proposition.
The Province of Pomerania, an agricultural community, half the size of the Free State, with a population of 1,800,000, compared with a population of over 3,000,000 in the Free State, consumed 93,000,000 units in the year 1920. The estimated amount to be consumed in the Saorstát in four or five years' time is 110,000,000 units. These little facts are, I think, convincing to any body assembled to judge on the consumptive capacity of Ireland, and are sufficient to show that, if given the proper incentive, the country will easily exceed the amount of consumption estimated. A question has been raised as to whether this is the most economical way of producing electricity or whether it is cheaper to produce it by small stations scattered all over the country. I think that the consensus of all expert opinion, particularly in Europe and America, is that mass production is the best way. Even England, with its vast coal reserves and tied to the methods by which it became prosperous, is thinking of mass production in a similar way. These are the considerations to which we should address ourselves. We should be satisfied that the necessary amount of consumption will be assured. The report of the experts has not been challenged by anybody and nobody has had the temerity to say that they are not capable. Senator Sir John Keane mentioned that two of them came from the same university, but that is no crime. Hundreds of men of sound knowledge and practical experience have come from the ancient university in this city.
If we are satisfied, and I believe we are, on all these points, what else is against the scheme? Are the people of the country against it? The farmers, through their organisations, have not actually given it their blessing, but at the same time they have nowhere condemned it. Farmers are conservative people who are adverse to spending money on anything but agricultural needs. On the whole, however, we may say that the scheme has the assent and approval of the people. I think in no work that the Government have done have they shown greater insight or more sound judgment than in this scheme. We have been told that the people do not want this scheme, that they are unbelieving. The Government knows that the country is ripe for an advance and that the community needs encouragement and is anxious to take advantage of every facility. The general atmosphere in Ireland hitherto has been English, and everything was viewed from an English point of view. The Government have tried to ensure that this island of ours shall be an economic unit, and I believe that this scheme will make it so. There is a further important point which we should consider.
The scheme will help to prevent the population shifting from the country to the town, and it will possibly tend to minimise the over population of the towns by establishing little industries up and down the country. That surely is a consummation devoutly to be desired. In a word, the Government by doing that would be doing all that any Irishman could wish. To my mind they have probed the problem and satisfied the people that this is a sound scheme. Yet we are asked to hold it up for further consideration. Does anybody think that that suggestion is serious? Does anyone doubt that it is anything else but an attempt to put the scheme on one side? That is why I oppose these various amendments. The Government have aimed high. Doubtless they will hit high. They have hitched their wagon to a star, and, let us hope, that the light from that star will spread over the country for the benefit of the people. The Shannon scheme will then have achieved its object.
As I have been personally mentioned I would like to intervene for a moment. It is true that I am a riparian owner and, so far as I know, I am the only member of either House who happens to live on the banks of Lough Derg. Consequently I am interested in the matter. Incidentally I may mention that an erroneous idea seems to have grown up amongst the people, which I shared until very recently in the absence of any detailed information in the report, that a greater area of the shores of Lough Derg would be banked than is to be the case. The Minister told us that only 7½ miles of the whole 100 miles of shore are to be banked. I think it is no harm to emphasise that in order that the people in the district who have land near the shore may realise that the scheme is not going to be quite what the letters in the newspapers would lead them to believe. I would not have risen to-day to say that if I had not been mentioned as being closely related to certain places that have been specified. The more I study the scheme the less I have to say by way of criticism. It is only criticism which takes up the time of the Seanad, as praise is only a matter of a few minutes and I am in favour of the scheme. In regard to places specified, I should say that Lough Derg in many places is over 100 feet deep. In the shallowest portion of it, at Scariff Bay, it is about 13 feet deep, and the holding up of two feet of water would have no effect on the Lough itself. I do not know if Senator Sir John Keane suggested that.
I was quoting from a Government official who said that the lowering of the lake by two feet would shut out navigation from Scariff. I am not in a position to testify personally one way or the other.
I was going to throw some light on the matter. I was just pointing out that the lake was so deep that the question of navigation hardly arises. There is a small portion in the Scariff river which would be affected by a two feet drop of water, but I know from personal experience, having dived into every part of it, that I cannot hit the bottom with my head, even when diving from a high place. I now come to a matter of more detail, a point in the document quoted by Senator Sir John Keane, from which it would appear that Sir Phillip Hanson said that £68,000——
From £46,000 to £60,000.
Well, even taking £68,000, that would be sufficient for the entire works required to make navigation of the whole of Lough Derg and its tributaries possible on a two feet drop. Therefore, on such a large scheme as this, I do not think that we should allow that argument to have very much weight. I want to support Senator Barrington, not in his desire to see the Bill hung up, but in what he says about the fisheries. I do believe that something more might be done to consider these interests. At any rate, I wish to wind up by urging the Minister to give these interests all the consideration that they undoubtedly deserve.
I should like to make my position perfectly clear as regards this Bill. I am bound to support the Bill, for I have all my lifetime, at least all my professional lifetime, worked for the object in view, that is, the utilisation of water-power for the benefit of the community. I differ, of course, as you all know, very materially from the scheme put forward by the Government. That, however, is merely a question of engineering detail. In support of the Bill, as it stands, I am perfectly clear in my mind that it is the right thing to do. The only wish I have is that the Minister might take into consideration the propriety of making this a general Bill. I have looked into the problem very carefully, one time or another, and I feel that by a small alteration in the verbiage, this Bill can be made of greater use to the community, and to the Government itself by making it a national Bill. I merely throw out the suggestion. I had mentioned it in passing to the Minister for his consideration. I think it well worthy of consideration, and before the Bill comes up in Committee I think the Minister should think over that, because it will allow us to utilise the powers conferred by this Bill for all the water-power resources of the country.
We are now on the Second Reading of the Bill and discussing the general principles of it. We should stand off from the narrow considerations or the various minor considerations of the scheme. I think we would be all agreed that, as far as we possibly can, our ideal should be to strive in the direction of having a self-contained country. We are absolutely dependent for power on England, and to that extent our ability as a competing nation is largely affected. We are practically dependent on our imported coal. That is a source of supply which at any time within a week might be cut off. Every country is striving to utilise its own resources, and one of our chief resources is water power. Our greatest rival, being an agricultural country, is Denmark. Denmark, as set out in some of the literature we have been provided with, has not had the same resources in the way of water power that the Free State possesses, and yet we find that to-day they are largely developing electricity from hydraulic power. According to the figures given here, their population is similar to ours and they use something about 190 million units of electricity per annum. Norway, on being approached to give an extra supply of electricity to Denmark, calculated that in the year 1933, Denmark would be using 500 million units per year. This is a similar country to ours with a water power inferior to ours.
Under this scheme, it is anticipated, calculating on a conservative estimate, that in the year 1931 we will be consuming annually 110 million units. To-day we are consuming 50 million units against Denmark's 193 million, and we will be only consuming according to the estimate, 110 million units in 1931. There is a provision in this scheme for developing water power calculated to yield 280 million odd units per annum. I was impressed by one or two lines in the general recommendations of the experts, namely, that the promoters of the scheme would be in a position to supply power at a very small rate. The scheme will have a capacity of developing 288 million units so that there is there a very large margin for which there will be no use. The experts say that the margin will cost nothing extra. The water will either go to waste, as it would not be producing extra units for which there would be no market, or on the other hand, it would entail no extra expense to give this extra power practically for nothing to those who are prepared to use it. Viewing a scheme with fundamental possibilities like that, I think when the margin is so wide that we should not be at all timorous in giving our full support to it, even in the present general way in which it is brought before us.
There are certain factors that cannot be actually assessed to within £1, £10, or £100. If you want to arrive at a strictly accurate estimate that would necessitate increased exploration, borings, and all that sort of thing, and that would hold up the scheme for a considerable time, you would not be so much further advanced when you get all that. There might still be some factors for which you could not account and that could only be covered by the good faith of the contracting parties, one with the other. As to the statement that was made here, that there is no probability of a very great consumption of electricity, the experiences of other countries, where similar schemes have been set on foot, were just as hazy as ours, and after the schemes had been set up, and after the electricity was produced in increasing quantities, the demand grew, and the facilities increased. As the supply grew, the demand grew beyond the anticipations of the promoters. There is nothing in our country that would lead us to believe that we will not have a similar experience here.
We are now emerging from a state in which we had almost no control over the resources of the country. We have all power in our hands now. We should try to have a little confidence in ourselves, and should not hesitate in doing that which we are asked to do by the Government. If it is decided that we should get further expert opinion, I do not see where you are going to reach finality. The Government have gone out of their way to get the highest expert opinion available in hydraulic work. They have submitted this scheme to experts of international repute. These men had only one interest to serve. They had a reputation to stand by, and they approached the consideration of this problem and the investigation of it, in that spirit, and they gave an unbiased report. Where are we going to get other men to revise this report? We cannot arrogate to ourselves the task of entering upon a further investigation or a review of this report. We could not, certainly, set ourselves up as an advisory body, and I cannot see, even if all the particulars that we ask for here were given to us, that we, sitting upon all these particulars, could come to any conclusion which would override the opinion unanimously arrived at by these experts.
I do not know what the wishes of the House would be with regard to the continuation of the debate. The way it stands now is, that the first motion before the House is the Second Reading of the Bill. After that, a motion has been moved by Senator Sir John Keane, that the further consideration of the Bill be postponed for six months. An amendment has been moved to that by Senator Barrington, that the further consideration be postponed until certain information that he specifies is supplied. Of course the amendment, I think, should be put first, but what I want to direct the attention of the House to is that the negativing of this amendment would not, of course, preclude your winding up the debate on the Second Reading.
I may say that I could not vote for the amendment. The Shannon is a very long river, and from the sea to Limerick is an immense distance. The river will not be affected in the least by the scheme going on, and the tributaries will not be affected, but there will be some difficulty with the fisheries above Limerick. I am sure that no one would be more desirous of remedying that state of affairs than the Minister. The best way to remedy it, I think, would be for Senator Barrington to induce the conservators and all others concerned to come up and see the Minister and make some arrangement with him and the engineers, so that any difficulties which it is felt will be created might be minimised. The Minister has provided for fish ladders in the scheme, and in the debate that took place in the Dáil on the Fisheries Bill Deputy Cooper cited a case that has a practical bearing on this point. The Deputy stated that an ancestor of his, in 1837, turned a waterfall into a fish ladder and that it had the effect of bringing the salmon from the sea. That has continued ever since to be a very valuable asset. I think it is to the credit of the Minister that arrangements have been made to overcome similar difficulties in parts of the Shannon that will be affected. Deputy Cooper spoke with knowledge, and what he said has a great bearing on the Shannon fisheries.
Senator Sir John Keane delivered himself of a variety of utterances to-day over a lengthy period, from which I gather that he has certain objections to the whole Shannon scheme and to the Shannon Bill. His attitude of mind and his whole conduct, not merely on this but on other questions that have come up for discussion in the Seanad, seem to me to be very much that of the man bewailing the insecurity of life who committed suicide. He is very much afraid of all the evil things that may result from the fact that the Shannon scheme and the experts' report have not been submitted to the judgment of the people who told Senator Sir John Keane the various things he said to-day. May I indicate one or two of these things. We were told there was no reserve power. There is, in fact, an effective reserve of 30,000 horse-power. Yet Senator Sir John Keane makes the deliberate statement here that there is no reserve power. He talked of connections being made at £5. I say that at the moment they are being made in Dun Laoghaire for £2 10s. "Very well," the Senator said, "make it £2 10s." Later on he referred to the time the scheme would take as four years. I interrupted and said three years. "Very well," the Senator said, "make it three." Senator Sir John Keane has built his case up on £5 connections, and he admitted £2 10s. when I suggested that sum. He also says "change the four years to three years." He said there was no reserve power, but the Senator did not proceed with the point, and I am sure he would have made very much of it had I not interrupted him when he was speaking, and given him a casual answer that I did not think that entirely met the case.
When there was a question of the length of the embankments between Killaloe and O'Brien's Bridge, the Senator interrupted with a quotation from Siemens' report, which he seemed to think refuted my statement, but on investigation that quotation only bore out what I said. That, I am sure, would have been one of the points alluded to by the Senator in his speech had he not casually got his answer. His formula is the usual one. Think of a number, double it, add to it what some man has told you about something, and you have what the Senator has told us is aprima facie case. Switzerland, he says, built its power stations beside the consumers. That is another definite statement. There is transmission in Switzerland to a distance of 300 miles. At times we hear about navigation. The Senator put up one engineer who, apparently, went into this matter with great care, to show the whole thing worked out. There was a Commission, and Mr. Chaloner Smith appeared to give evidence. A report of that Commission was given afterwards. We get Mr. Chaloner Smith's ex parte statement.
Sir Philip Hanson's.
Yes. He made a statement at that Commission, and we get the case made that the experts' figures are wrong, because he estimated the cost as from £48,000 to £60,000. Because the experts passed a sum of £13,000 for other works, not necessarily the same, and obviously not for the same stretch of river, the Senator seeks to make out that the figures are not reliable.
Would the Minister say where we can get the details of the works covered by the experts?
No figures are included, and could not be included south of the lake. Were Sir Philip Hanson's estimates for anything south of the lake? The two things are not comparable. Let me take the Commission's report in this matter. The Allport Commission was quoted here, and it was not contradicted by those who sat on the Canal Commission. They considered that the lowering of a seven feet depth by two feet would not injure navigation appreciably. Afterwards, Sir Philip Hanson estimated for the works £12,523. Yet we get theex parte statement here, that the experts' figures are unreliable. A query was put, had there been proper preliminary survey of the hydro-electric supply of the Free State, and the question of coal and oil was introduced. I should expect the Senator to ask if the consideration of windmills had been taken into account. The Senator has had the experts' report before him. The only assumption that can be made from what the Senator has said, is that no survey was made by experts, and all that they did was to consider Siemens-Schuckert's scheme, and that there was no question of the general water-power.
On page 116 of the report of the experts it is stated:—
"Electrical energy can in the main be won in two ways in Ireland. either through numerous small local stations, each striving independently to deal with local conditions as well as possible, or through one or more concentrated large plants which, with a widespread transmission system, distribute electricity throughout the whole country. Such concentrated plants have to be preferred, as they permit of a much better compensating system in the requirements of electrical energy and allow current to be supplied at lower prices."
Having that as their preamble,
"The experts advise in favour of the immediate erection of one centralised station, capable of extension when necessary to the full extent of available power which is eventually to be combined with one or more additional large power stations."
And the next paragraph:—
"The experts have established, as a result of their investigations, that in the first development stage a centralised water-power station is to be preferred to a fuel-burning station."
Is that any question of fuel or oil? The report goes on:—
"As the existing available water power in Ireland permits of such cheap development as to allow of successful competition with fuel-burning stations."
Yet from the Senator, who has carefully considered the experts' report, we are told that no proper consideration was given to the survey of the water-power resources, or power to be derived from other sources than water. I can refer him to page 112, where definite comparison was made with other things before the Private Bill Committee. The terms of reference are said not to have been clear. I am not clear that the Senator knows what the terms of reference were.
I wish to say that I assumed that they were directed mainly to the Shannon scheme. If the Minister gives the terms of reference as he states, I am satisfied to withdraw and apologise if I misrepresented him.
I stated in the Dáil that the terms of reference were the White Paper, and that the White Paper made definite reference to other available sources of water power and that these things were to be examined, and the Siemens-Schuckert scheme had to be compared with any other alternative means of providing hydro-electric power in the Saorstát. And yet on a mere assumption a statement is made here that the terms of reference were loose and that they were not clear and that they did not direct the experts' minds to any points to which their attention should be directed. The Senator also said that the second stage is bound up with the first. Might I point out that if that is to be his basis for an argument against the Siemens-Schuckert scheme here, that in future every water-power scheme promoted in this country is bound up with the experts' report. They state that they have no doubt that all the other alternative efforts will come in due course to be realised.
If we take the Senator's assumption as being founded on what is contained in that pamphlet, then he must agree with Senator Sir John Griffith that it is the whole general electric scheme that is before the country at the moment. There is also a further phrase used, and it is that the Government and I are riding for a fall, because I said that there is a possibility that the full return would not be sufficient for the plant to pay for itself. That shows the danger of ever taking a hypothetical case as applied to this country. It is always a danger in this country. There has always been the danger in this country that a hypothetical case will always be seized on by the Press and elevated and spoken of as an absolute fact that somebody had confessed to.
But I had expected something more from a Senator. When I put it on a definite hypothetical basis, I expected that those opposing the scheme would not take it up in this way. I have made no such confession. I do not think such a confession would carry weight. I say that the experts have given their estimate as to the consumption, and an estimate which they considered is quite sound, and they consider that the plant will pay its way, and that it will pay 5½ per cent., rising to 7 per cent. We are told that it is an undue advantage to give a contractor the preparation of a specification. So it would be if it were the beginning and the end of the matter, if the contractor were to proceed on the basis of those specifications. What if the contractor was subject to a check both on his specifications and the carrying out of the work? Have we precluded ourselves from any possible checks in our White Paper commitments, and in the contract that will be formed under them? I thought I would hear the answer, "what about open tenders?" That, apparently, is not to be raised. I say we have all the check possible that one could get even under a system of what I call privileged tenders, except on one point that I referred to here, a small point on which we might get some advantage by cut-throat competition, and that could only be gained in this country at the expense of a breach of faith with Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert. The Senator seems to express surprise and pleasure that some things were actually going to be embodied in a formal contract. That arose from the fact that the Senator has no trust in the four or five individuals who happen to have been put in executive authority in this State.
I did not emphasise the fact that there was to be a formal contract.
I take it the Senator expressed pleasure at actually finding that there was going to be a formal contract as showing that there had been a definite feeling in the Senator's mind that there was to be no formal contract. Why express surprise if the Senator did not think it would be done in some other way? The phrase had no use if it had not that feeling. Then the Senator asked was the White Paper submitted to the Attorney-General. Why ask that question?
It ought to be legally watertight, and my suggestion is, with all due deference, that it was not watertight.
I have never asserted that that document is water-tight, nor would I ever venture upon any works simply upon that White Paper, and I suggest again that the question "was the White Paper submitted to the Attorney-General?" forlowing up what I have referred to, shows that there was little trust to be put in the business ability of the Executive Council and that it was essential to find out apart from any statement of mine, that the Seanad might have the assurance that there was definitely a water-tight document there. That springs from mistrust and as far as it springs from mistrust I am not going to deal with it. The Seanad has either to trust or to mistrust the Government. They have to meet that responsibility.
I do not wish to interrupt again but it is treating me most unfairly on the part of the Minister to attribute mistrust of the Executive Council to me. I should like to make it clear that such a thing never entered into the matter of my amendment. What I submitted was that in all business relations it is most important that the basis of a contract should be legally water-tight. It is a thing that business people do every day.
The basis of the contract will be examined. Is the White Paper going to be any part of the contract? It gives us certain limits within which the contract is to be made. To say it was to be water-tight or binding is pushing the matter too far. This point is to be noted that the White Paper passed the Executive Council and that the Attorney-General is the adviser to the Executive Council. He is almost always present at the meetings of the Executive Council. The Senator proceeded to pour scorn on my phrase that it was possible for a man expert in prices, without leaving his room, to decide whether or not a particular piece of machinery was at a reasonable rate. If it is going to ease the Senator's mind I will get that man to leave the room. My phrase had a very different meaning. It meant that, without calling for tenders, without any of these out-of-date methods with regard to taking an engineering contract, it is possible to get prices checked. Here again, I suppose for the fifth time, I make the statement that it can be said that in the case of the majority of big engineering contracts where the sum of money involved is £1,000,000 and upwards, since the war there has been no such thing as open tenders. I would like the Senator to find out, even where the consulting engineer is called in as to the specifications and puts up the specification, how often is there collusion between the consulting engineer and the contractor? The Senator argued then with regard to the different details. Supposing, he asked, we found that in some portion of the works that Siemens-Schuckert prices are too high, and that we got somebody else to tender at a lower rate, how, he asked, is that going to dovetail in with the whole scheme? Then he proceeded to enlarge on that and he shifted the scene to the canal, to some particular excavation. Is a mere outsider going to come in and do the excavation work without having the use of the machinery when that is brought in? I think that is the whole argument.
The Senator's argument is definitely conclusive on that point—for having one contractor on the job. With regard to further borings, I presume he must have been quoting the passage where further borings should be made and were required for the reason that the experts decided on further excavation of the river to Lough Derg, and decided that the river bed between Meelick and Banagher must be regulated. Siemens-Schuckert had made no borings for embankments in that region. The experts decided that work should be done. Siemens-Schuckert accepted it. The prices are ruled accordingly, and they say borings will be required there. We know that borings were previously made.
The borings required for dredging purposes.
That is general. That is the sort of phrase brought in in conversation with me which I suggested should be incorporated in the larger pamphlet which they were urged to bring out. They say at one time that cement must be of a certain type. No expert would ever think of saying that ordinarily to an engineer. It is, if anything, going too far in the nature of protection and warning, and I hold the same thing with regard to borings. It is not as if this expert report on the Siemens-Schuckert scheme was to be handed to the firm to carry out the works. There will be interposed between the Siemens-Schuckert people, engineers appointed by the Government, and they may be relied upon to see that the definite warnings given by the experts are attended to. But to interpret what the experts say, "Here is a particular mixture, and care must be taken to see that this mixture is the proper one," as meaning, "that points to a danger that cannot be obviated," is simply taking a wrong impression from the books. The concluding chapter breathes no suspicions about the soundness of the scheme. Would experts of their reputation put their names to a report if they considered the few things they called attention to were likely to endanger the scheme? I suggest they would not. A further point has been raised as to the output of labour. I do not want to cause too great a thrill of excitement in the hearts of the Labour Deputies here. I can say these German engineers already have had experience of Irish labour, and they have found Irish labour working under conditions that would not be tolerated in Germany. Their output was no way behind what they could get in Germany, and they have given me, of their free will, that testimonial.
Supposing the expectations are not realised, and the estimate is affected, who will bear the increase?
If that question of output and of wages came before the officials of my Department and myself—I should say in my Department we have probably the best itemised information with regard to labour in this country—we would compare the share of responsibility with regard to those two items. If the Senator suggests I would get Irish labour to work at 2/6 a week, and if it was found afterwards that that was too small a sum, and if he thinks we are not capable of giving advice to the experts on which they could form a judgment, then the whole thing is unsound. It is said it would not be fair to Messrs. Siemens-Schuckert to reveal, not their plans, but the plans and the specifications. Are not the plans and specifications the very material of the scheme? Who ever, in this country, before Siemens-Schuckert, thought of developing the River Shannon at one stage? Are there plans with regard to that? The whole details of canal construction and where the power house is to be, are to be revealed, and then the scheme might not be carried out. Someone else might come along and make slight modifications on what Siemens-Schuckert, for the first time, thought out, and yet the Senator says it would be no hardship to reveal their plans and specifications. The Senator said that one ordinarily does not take an expert's views off-hand, and that they should be tested. This again is the mistrust Senator Sir John Keane is not aware of, but which comes out in every word he says. Are we taking everything they say for granted? Are Government engineers to have nothing to say about the modifications of the scheme? I suggest to Senator Sir John Keane that all that simply springs from the idea that there are certain people controlling the affairs of Government at the moment who have not had previously the particular type of experience he thought was necessary, and that it is a matter purely of mistrust.
Again on the experts, although the Senator was careful to cover himself and say he did not hint at any lack of ability, all through the debate it was dragged in that these were academic persons. It is a pity the Senator is so insular and that if he has a knowledge of Switzerland he did not bring it into play. Those experts were engaged in the politechnicum in Zurich. Does he think that they are persons who have no practical experience? Does he think they are not actually engaged for a great portion of their time, in carrying out engineering works? If he does, he entirely misunderstands the Swiss system. They are not academic persons. He has only to look at the newspapers to see the qualifications of those men. He will get to know enough then of the two professors. I learn that they are not confined to university work, and that their work is not university work at all. He has asked that I should produce a record of the cross-examination as between the experts and the Siemens-Schuckert firm. He has asked that I should produce a document. That document cannot be produced. I have to withhold it, for the reason that it does not exist. There was no shorthand notetaker present at the time that was going on. The result is obvious in the slight modifications the experts thought it wise to suggest under the original Siemens-Schuckert report. We get the usual complaint about the destruction of the present town supply organisation, and the Senator thinks this has escaped the notice of the experts and that he has discovered it. Page 91 of the experts' report has this parenthetically:—
It should be remarked that the State supply of the Shannon scheme will by no means involve the dismantling of the organisations existing in these towns, with the exception, perhaps, of a small portion of the operating staff.
Does the Senator think that when the experts called attention to that point in their narrative that they would miss it in their estimate. Again there must be some basis of reason about this whole thing. Reasonable men were sent to examine that point, and surely we can trust them to deal with it. They are men who have experience of this sort of work. They are engaged in supervising plans daily and it is reasonable to expect that they would follow up a point like that when it came down to a question of estimates, and that they would not leave it there as a mere comment and pay no attention to it afterwards.
The question of heating arose. The Senator made the statement that a large sum was budgeted for. A large sum was the phrase used. The whole scheme costs £5,200,000, and the income to be earned under the scheme——
My remarks may have left the Minister under a misapprehension. I said that a large percentage of the total consumption, 40,000,000 units out of, I think, a total of 130 million units was budgeted for in quantity for heating purposes. I think I was justified in using the term "large" when referring to that proportion. I was not referring to the money, but to the quantity for heating purposes.
One should expect that the Senator would not stop short, but would let us have all the details that have to be considered in connection with any particular item. Why should the Senator leave out the question of money when he went on to talk about householders who did not find it economical to boil water at one penny per unit. Are they going to be asked to take heating current at one penny per unit? If he thinks that then he has not considered what the experts say. The amount of units in the final computation set aside for heating is not 40 million but 20 million units, and the price at which it is proposed to sell that is not one penny per unit, but .35d per unit. When the whole calculation is made, the heating estimate is expected to bring in £30,000 a year, and remember you have to get in £486,000 under the whole plan to make it pay its way. That is the proportion.
Surely the figure the Minister has quoted, .35d., is not the price at which the electricity will be delivered to the consumer.
No. The prices given are not the prices at which the current will be delivered to the consumer. Why draw this question across the trail? Has any price in the booklet ever been stated to be the price at which electricity is to be delivered to the consumer?
Then why introduce it, except for prejudicial reasons? These prices have never been stated to be the prices at which electricity is to be delivered to the consumer. The figure of £30,000 is looked for from heating out of a total income of £486,000. When the Senator speaks of his current at one penny per unit, let him take my figure of .35d. per unit at the station.
Would the Minister tell us what the price will be when it is delivered to the consumer?
The experts state that it would take pretty well a year's study to work out these figures. The whole supply question and the details of the tariff system will be brought up here probably within a year, but certainly they could not be brought up now or within a six-months' period. The Senator also stated that somebody told him that under the navigation conditions to be set up under the scheme, 150-ton barges could not get up from Limerick to Athlone. I do not know who somebody is, and I am not prepared to discuss unidentified people, and if the onlyprima facie case that the Senator can make out is that somebody told him so-and-so, I am not going to deal with that.
Will the Minister say whether 150-ton barges can get through? That will end the matter.
With a very slight addition at one point, barges of 150 tons can certainly get through. With regard to Mallow, let me take the figure the Senator put up. He said that nine millions would require to be expended in fitting up houses, in getting the current actually into the people's houses, and we had details given of about twenty lamps for each house. Let us take Mallow as a town. The Siemens-Schuckert people took an area of 100 square miles.
Three hundred square miles is visualised by the experts.
That is much better from my point. They extended their wires across that stretch of country so as to pass the very door of every hovel in that area; and only 1,300, and not, 3,000, took electricity. If the whole lot took it, the price would be cheaper. The Senator talks of an estimate of £200 a mile for the connection. Does he think that the circumstances suit his particular computation? Then we get from him an estimate of twenty lamps per house. Imagine the type of houses that are in that area of 300 square miles having twenty lamps in each house with connections at £5, as well as wires and fittings. I wonder has the Senator ever seen how the electric wires are brought into the houses in Switzerland?
I have not the figures, but the average rate is £50 per house. It would be much more satisfactory if the Minister would give his alternative estimate by means of a firm figure.
I can get that done later, but I am not prepared to let my imagination run riot, as I think the Senator did, and present some extraordinary figures such as he quoted as a firm figure. £5 a house for a connection? It is being done at £2 10s. in Dun Laoghaire. What would happen in making a connection in the ordinary house in the country? A plug would be driven into the wall, the wire would be brought in by the window, and the whole thing could be done for about 35/-. What are the fittings required for the ordinary farmhouse? The wire will enter through the wall and will be looped up by an ordinary pin driven in the ceiling, and from a screw or a hook the lamp will be suspended. Must we get all these fittings that would do in a castle at a cost of £9,000,000?
The Senator asked why is our condition worse than Denmark? He did not proceed to elaborate the suggestion, but simply lapsed into despair. Our conditions are worse than Denmark. For instance, we cannot get co-operative credit societies started in the country. I suppose that later on, if it comes to a question of starting co-operative credit societies in the country, the Senator will get up and make the reverse comparison. That sort of thing leads us nowhere. It is a policy of despair, as I said before. It is the policy of the man who, tired of the instability of life, commits suicide. Where the estimates are not binding, there has not been a point raised by anybody that had not been raised definitely, I think, by the experts. Yet people imagine that these men living together for a certain period of time, pointing out to one another the difficulties they had found as they went along through the scheme, actually noting down these difficulties in their narrative as they went along— it is to be imagined that when they came to their final decision as to the cost that they should proceed to forget all that they had previously written. That is not the conduct of reasonable men, nor is it the conduct that we expected from the experts we brought across
We got a statement from the experts that it was a reasonable figure and that the work could be carried out within a margin of ten per cent. on civil constructional work estimated at £2,400,000 and there is a margin which may be in our favour as well as against us of ten per cent. Take other points that may be in our favour. I know already of one part of the works where money can be saved. There is the fact that this is based on marks at nineteen to the pound. With the mark at its present rate there is a saving of almost a quarter of a million on the scheme already. We are told about unanticipated expenditure as if that was not in our original provision. Page 80, the last sentence of the first completed paragraph, contains this proviso:—"The experts do not think it necessary to add any particular item for unanticipated expenditure in their estimate." It was not that the matter was not under consideration. It had been given consideration, and there is their decision upon it.
I am very glad though somewhat surprised to find in contra distinction to the rest of Limerick, two Senators here who are opponents of the scheme. I wonder how they will be received in Limerick when they appear after their action here to-day. Senator Barrington wants the Bill held up in the fishery interest to decide where the power house is to be put. We have to make a decision here between electricity and fishery interests. The proviso in the Bill is that every precaution is to be taken to protect the fisheries from harm but that in the last resort, if fisheries conflict with electricity, electricity wins out. What is to be done if Senator Barrington's adjournment is agreed to that cannot be done if the Bill is passed? There is a proviso that I am to take precautions and see that the contractor takes precautions that no harm is done to the fisheries where it can be avoided. Would it be thought I would be carrying out my duties if I ran amok?
May I explain? The Minister is the Shannon scheme. He embodies the Shannon scheme. The Bill provides, page after page and clause after clause, where any question arises it is referred to the Minister. One of the elementary principles in law is that a man must not be judge and jury in his own court, and I object to the Minister or anybody else possessing that power.
I do not see the point.
I thought it was coming.
I do not want to say that the Bill should be held up for any length of time. I want some information as to what the Minister proposes to do and he refuses to give it.
We propose under Section 15 of this Bill that in the case of works executed the contractor shall take such precautions and make such provisions as the Minister after consultation with the Minister for Fisheries shall consider adequate for the protection of, and avoidance of injuries to fisheries during or in consequence of the construction of any works under this Act, with the over-riding proviso that in any conflict of interests between fisheries and electricity, electricity wins through. Now what is to be achieved under the postponing amendment of Senator Barrington that cannot be achieved under that section? All the fishery interests can be represented and allowed to appear if there are points to be impressed on the Minister for Fisheries, and through him to me.
The Senators for Limerick dare hardly go back there if they did not raise this question.
I would like to give them an introduction to the numerous societies in Limerick that have sent me resolution urging that the scheme should be pressed forward without delay. Let the Senators go back with the six months delaying clause in their hands, and see whether their lives will be as peaceable as they used to be. I must refer now for a moment to Senator Goodbody. He said that no effort was made by the experts to prevent injury to the fisheries. If that is to be taken as an example of the manner in which he read the experts views, I do not think his views will count for much. I do not think that there is any point what was more troublesome to them than the question of fisheries, and it is a matter that is very troublesome yet, because the Ministry of Fisheries has imposed upon me the necessity of enlarging the time period in which compensation may be paid for fisheries damaged to ten years instead of one, because they state it is impossible to say what good or what harm may result from this scheme to fishing interests, but the Senator came along with remarks that we might say good-bye to the fishing industry for ever, which really places the Senator on the same level of pessimism as Senator Sir John Keane.
We said that that would be so if the change was not made in the Bill.
I will put the amendment of Senator Barrington to Senator Sir John Keane's motion, and if that is defeated, Senator Sir John Keane will have a right to reply on his motion.
Amendment put and negatived.
Is Senator Sir John Keane entitled to reply, inasmuch as his motion is for the rejection of the Bill?
His motion is not to reject, but to hold up the consideration of the Bill for six months. That was a special motion provided for under the Standing Order, and the mover of the motion, as distinct from the mover of an amendment, has a right to reply.
I can assure the Seanad I will be very brief, and for that they have to thank the Minister, because many of the points that I specially stressed were not replied to at all. I regret I gave the Minister a misapprehension that all my case was based on mistrust. That certainly was not in my mind, and I am sorry that I should have conveyed that impression. Certainly, on the case of legal examination of the White Paper, I fail to see how that charge could be justified. It does seem desirable in a contract, and especially in an enormous contract of this size, in the interest of common prudence that the document should be examined by the law officers; and to ask that question in view of the fact that the document did not seem to be legally watertight, I do not think justified the charge of mistrust. With regard to navigation, I do not think I can take it much further, because the Minister has not given me an indication of what the experts propose to do. It is proposed to spend £13,000. I only attempted to say that there was some doubt as to how navigation would be affected. To me, at least, the Minister's reply has not removed these doubts. With regard to the examination of alternatives proposed, I was not quite clear, and did not give the experts sufficient credit for the alternatives they had examined.
There have been no figures given by the experts of the comparative costs of generation by steam and other alternative methods, and a complete survey of the whole problem should have involved these comparisons. The Minister used a word which I did not like. He referred to collusion, and he suggested that collusion between engineers and contractors was not unknown. Perhaps it is not unknown, but it is not a thing that one would like to say in general terms in justice to the engineering profession. The Minister rather built up his case in reply to me on the ground that I was apprehensive about the technical and civil engineering aspects. I do not think that that was so. I do not think that I touched at all on the soundness of the civil engineering or hydro-electric part of the scheme, but mainly on the legal basis of the contract and especially of the finances. Again, the Minister has shown no good and sufficient reason why the plans and specifications should not be published. If there is to be any competition, even by arrangement, plans and specifications will have to be furnished, and they cannot be regarded as confidential. Anyone coming in to do work on the scheme must see them. They would be of considerable value in many ways to us, although we are laymen. I was glad to hear of the system in Switzerland by which professors do outside work. I did not know that, and if it is so that professors are habitually employed in practical work outside my remarks were not justified and I should be very sorry that they should be taken as reflecting in any way on their practical knowledge and experience as distinct from their academic ability. The experts say that the existing plant will continue. I confess that although I read their report very carefully I did not notice that. In any event it strengthens my case, and it is stated that for that reason there will not be a pressing inducement to take the Shannon current. I made that point in regard to Dublin, but the Minister did not reply. I said that Dublin will not gain anything, and I assume that argument holds good.
That is a very wrong assumption.
The Minister has not dealt with it, and I am assuming it in the absence of any corrective statement. The Minister, I understand, stated that no price to the consumer was ventured on by the experts. It is mentioned, however, by Messrs. Siemen in the case of Mallow. The Minister mentioned 6.8d. in connection with the advantage which consumers in Mallow would gain. The Minister, however, did not reply to my point. The whole question of the cost to the consumer is avoided. The Minister said that it did not matter and that we will not go into it now, but in a year hence on the Organisation Bill. Yet I read in the debates of the Dáil that the Minister proposes to go to the country to get contracts with local authorities on a marginal basis. How can a local authority, in justice to the ratepayers, embark on a contract without a close knowledge of the cost of distribution and the price to be charged? I say that no local authority would be justified, and it would be a breach of trust to the ratepayers to make any contract unless they had close knowledge of the consumption, and that must naturally depend on the price to be charged.
It could also spring from a knowledge of the generating price.
That is involved.
No, but one gives line to the other.
I still argue that the generating price is relatively small. The main cost will be built up on distribution, and that cost of distribution must be examine at the same time, but the flat rate estimate has not been replied to. I put it up as a point of view with supporting illustrations, and it holds the field until it is answered. I do not say that it is incapable of being answered. The last point is as regards the 10 per cent. limit. That was only an estimate, and that was brought out clearly in the Dáil when the Minister was asked whether Siemens' agreed to a limit of 10 per cent. on a variation of contracts, and he said no, that that was what the experts estimated would be the extent of the limit. That is a very different matter. Naturally the variations may work in favour of the Government, and I am glad to hear that a windfall has come through the favourable rate of exchange. I claim that I have made a case for a further examination of the scheme on the essential point of sale. If you are going into a business proposition you have to go closely into the price of the commodity. If the House are satisfied that this is a business proposition their duty is clear, but if they are not satisfied, and if they feel that this will be a burden on the taxpayers, their duty is also clear.
There is one speech to which I would like to refer. It is a speech that was remarkable both for its brevity and spirit. I refer to the speech of Senator Sir John Griffith. I would like to say how much I appreciate it, and I am sure the House agrees with me in appreciating the attitude he has adopted towards this Bill. I have already written to him in regard to the suggestion made for enlarging the scope of the Bill, and, if he likes, we will deal with that on the Committee Stage.
Amendment put and negatived.
I do not want to go through the formality of calling for a division, but is there any way of having recorded the names of those who are opposed to the Bill?
We could take a show of hands, and record the names of those voting against the Bill.
I do not press the point, but in the Dáil a special point was made that the names should be recorded. If that point is not made here I will not press the matter.