SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - SHANNON ELECTRICITY BILL, 1925.—THIRD STAGE.
With your permission, a Chathaoirligh, before we take up the Committee Stage, there is just one word, by way of explanation, that I should like to give to the Seanad. After the debate on the Second Reading Stage had come to a conclusion, I was approached by a Senator from the body of the House, who asked me to develop, or to give evidence, for a certain phrase that I used in the course of the debate. I was even unable to recollect having used the phrase, and I promised to look into the matter. I turned up the Official Report when it became available, and I found it arose out of a matter to which Senator Sir John Keane had referred in his closing remarks. I turned up the report, and I found at column 318 that I said:
"I would like the Senator to find out even where the consulting engineer is called in as to the specifications, and puts up the specifications, how often is there collusion between the consulting engineer and the contractor."
I have no evidence whatever as to collusion between contractors and civil engineers, and no evidence whatever on which to base any such remark. The remark should not have been made. It was a slip on my part for the word "collaboration," which was actually the word which Senator Guinness believes I intended to use. I have no evidence whatever for any such charge as this, and I never meant to make it. However, I think it is better I should repudiate, definitely and clearly, any such imputation upon the engineering profession as would appear if the phrase was allowed to stand.
Title of the Bill postponed.
Section 1 agreed to.
The Minister may undertake the production and generation of electricity by means of hydraulic power derived from the waters of the River Shannon and the distribution and supply of the electricity so produced and such undertaking is in this Act referred to as "the undertaking."
I beg to move:—
After the word "Shannon" in line 28 to insert the words "or other natural resources of the Irish Free State."
I am rather sorry to see my name so frequently on the Agenda, but although there are fifteen amendments in my name, they resolve themselves practically to five, because eleven of them turn entirely on the question whether the House will see my point of view that this shall be a general Bill. The object of eleven of these amendments is to carry out the spirit of my intention of trying to persuade the Government that this should be a general national Bill. I have already endeavoured to explain to the Seanad the reasons why I have supported the Second Reading of this Bill, although I disapprove of the Siemens-Schuckert proposals which have been adopted by the Government. My reason for supporting the Bill is that I believe in the urgent need of developing the hydro-electrical resources of the Irish Free State to the greatest extent and in the most efficient and economic manner, and because I believe that the water-power resources of this country are of such vital importance that the State should obtain supreme control of them. The present Bill seeks to confer on the Government certain powers in relation to the River Shannon which, I think, should be extended to every river or source of water-power in the Free State. In a lecture which I delivered before the Royal Dublin Society in January, 1922, I used these words:
"I plead that this great Irish economic problem shall be dealt with on scientific lines. Each separate river should be examined so that the maximum power may be developed from its source to its mouth or out-fall. Each development throughout the country should be carried out on standard lines, so that when the need arises, the various systems or sources of electric energy may be linked up into a united whole, increasing reliability, neutralising local shortage and ensuring a more regular supply and load factor throughout the country."
While disappointed in regard to the policy adopted by the Government, I have felt bound to support the Government in the Second Reading of this Bill. The amendments which I propose to the Bill are intended to convert it into a national Bill from one restricted to the Shannon. This will bring legislation in this case into line with the spirit of the Constitution which claims these sources of power as belonging to the State. It is only right in discussing this that I should state briefly, and explain, the general reason for which I am opposed to the Shannon scheme, apart from engineering reasons. I do not think it would be desirable that I should enter into engineering reasons, because we are not here as a body suitable to discuss them. The Minister has satisfied himself that everything is right by referring to the four experts. Nevertheless I should like to reiterate the statements I made that I totally disapprove of the scheme. My principal objection to the Siemens-Schuckert Shannon Power Scheme is that it makes the supply of electrical energy for the whole of the Free State dependent on one source of power, namely, the single power station on the Shannon near Limerick. The lighting, power and heating dependent on this station may be shut down and paralysed by the failure of the station from accident or malicious injury. The adoption of a single power scheme is founded on an entirely false conception of the problem of providing an economic supply of electricity to the country at large from the available water-power resources of the country. The four experts are not responsible for this. They were asked, to use their own words, to examine and report on the scheme prepared by the Siemens-Schuckert Company of Siemens Stadt, Berlin, for the hydro-electric exploitation of the river Shannon and the electrification of the Irish Free State. The experts were not asked what would be the most efficient and economical method of developing the electrical energy throughout the Irish Free State from the available water-power resources of the country. The experts must, therefore, be exonerated from any blame for the adoption of the single power station on the Shannon. We have no definite information as to who is really responsible for the proposal, but it is almost inconceivable that such a proposition should be listened to by any responsible authority, for it is impossible to shut one's eyes to the risks involved. Among the most important customers which, it is contemplated, will be supplied by the Shannon, are Dublin, Waterford, Cork, and Galway, together with the Dublin United Tramway Company. Is it possible that these authorities will place dependence for their supply on the one string to their bow? Unless compelled by the State to use the Shannon monopoly, will they not continue to maintain their steam power stations on the grounds of safety, and, consequently, will only use the Shannon as an auxiliary source of supply? It is proposed to deliver electrical energy from the Shannon to Donegal, to the north-western portion of the Irish Free State, and to Connemara, within the natural ambit of the Donegal Lakes, and Lower Erne and Corrib. It is not possible that the Shannon power transmitted over such a long distance could compete economically with current generated from these local sources.
The reasons why I advocated the Liffey for the first development of hydro-electric power in Ireland were: because it was one of the most attractive sources of water power which the Water Power Resources of Ireland Sub-Committee investigated; because the source of power was close to the city of Dublin, where the market was at hand, where the need was great, and as an economical proposition it could not be challenged; and because, unlike the Shannon, the development of the Liffey water power would not conflict with drainage or navigation interests, while as regards fisheries there would be interference only to a limited extent with salmon fishing, and there would be a great development of trout fishing. It was estimated by the Water Power Resources of Ireland Sub-Committee that there is just about 500,000 water horse-power available continuously in Ireland which could be economically developed. The catchment area of the Shannon represents only one-eighth of the area of Ireland. It is, therefore, obvious that there are other sources of power besides the Shannon, which should be conserved and developed.
The great bulk of this water-power is in the Irish Free State. The lower Shannon, the lower Erne, the Liffey, the Boyne, the Lee, the Boyle, the Corrib, the Blackwater, and the high level lakes of Donegal, Connemara, Kerry and Wicklow are all important water-power resources which should be used economically in the interests of the country at large. Each of these sources has its economic area of supply. From each of these centres power would radiate and gradually extend to the economic limit where contact would be made with other economic areas of supply. These sources of energy would gradually be linked up into a united whole, increasing reliability, neutralising local shortage, and insuring a more regular supply and load factor throughout the country. It is to obtain this desired end that I am proposing the amendments to this Bill which stand in my name. I may say that I feel very strongly on this important point, for I am under the impression that we can hope for very little progress in this direction from private enterprise. The experiences of myself and others in connection with Private Bill legislation in this country are such as to lead me to the opinion that it would practically kill every work of this kind in the country. It is for that reason that I am anxious that the Government should seek powers to deal with all resources of power scattered broadcast through the country. I do not know exactly how I shall deal with these eleven amendments which are down in my name, as they really come under one category, and turn on the opinion of the Seanad in regard to the views I have put forward. I think these amendments, with your permission, ought to be dealt with together, but I do not know if I am in order in suggesting this.
Before we proceed with the discussion of these amendments I should like to have your ruling as to whether these amendments are in order, because it would seem to me that if they were passed they would enormously increase the radius of the Bill. The Bill is based on the development of one particular river in connection with which reports of experts have been brought forward, and in connection with which a regular scheme has been evolved. The amendments, if carried, would enlarge this proposal to cover the whole of the natural resources of Ireland, and would give to the Minister power, which certainly was not intended when the Bill was introduced, and which, I think, has not been intended at any subsequent stage. Moreover, the Money Resolution would not cover the extended radius of the Bill.
I have been looking into this for the last couple of minutes because I did see a difficulty in connection with it. Of course, the Senator has an amendment down to alter the title of the Bill so as to enable it to cover this extension. It is for that reason in Parliamentary practice that when you are in Committee you leave the title to the last, because it may turn out that amendments have been introduced which enlarge the scope of the Bill and, therefore, require the enlargement of the title. It is another matter to what extent amendments which would so materially enlarge the scope of the Bill, as these would, are really in order at this stage.
Our Standing Orders do not seem to provide for it. There is a provision with regard to the Report Stage and, apparently, in the Standing Orders the fact that an amendment, if adopted on Report Stage, would enlarge the scope of a Bill is no objection because that is contemplated. Curiously enough we have no such order dealing with the Committee Stage. I will read the Standing Order:—"When a Bill has been returned from a Select Committee or from the Seanad sitting in Committee, notice shall be given of a motion 'That the Bill be considered on Report.' In the Fourth Stage debate amendments may be moved, including amendments by the proposers of the Bill. If the Seanad desires, it may refer the Bill back to the Committee, or to the Seanad sitting in Committee, with an instruction that specified sections be re-considered." That seems to contemplate something of the kind, but I am not prepared to rule these amendments of the Senator out of order in view of the procedure which seems to regulate committees. That is, if the House gives it to them, they have power to enlarge the subject matter of a Bill so long as the amendments are relevant to the subject matter. Of course, an amendment to extend this Bill to something outside the supply of electricity would have to be ruled out of order as not being relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. I think, however, that an amendment can be moved in Committee, even though it enlarge the scope of the Bill, so long as it is relevant to the subject matter, the subject matter here being the electrification of the Shannon. I am not very strong on it, and I will let the matter be further discussed to hear the views of Senators upon it. I think it is akin to the subject matter. This being a comprehensive amendment, including all the water powers in the Free State, I am bound to hear a discussion on it, although I admit that it is a big order in the Committee Stage, on a Bill dealing with one river, to enlarge its scope by extending it to deal with the whole water-power resources of the Free State.
In regard to the Money Resolution, if this amendment were carried—I do not say that there is very much chance of it being carried—would it not mean a separate Money Resolution to cover the proposed extended radius of the Bill?
I do not know, I have not the terms of the Money Resolution before me.
I think they were confined exclusively to the river Shannon.
I think we should see the resolution. I think there might be a good deal in what Senator O'Farrell says. I do not know whether the Minister has it.
There is another point. If you read the title of the Bill, as amended, it would appear to enable the Minister to generate power by coal and other natural resources. It is not merely confined to hydraulic power.
It might refer to peat and coal.
We had better wait until we see the actual text of the Money Resolution because that might dispose of it without going into these other matters.
I would like to say a word in favour of the amendment.
Are you speaking on the point of order?
I do not know anything about the point of order.
On a point of order, are you satisfied that this amendment would be in order on the Fourth Stage?
If you were there would be no doubt that it would be in order on this stage.
This is the Money Resolution:—"That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to authorise and to provide for the production by the State of electricity generated by means of hydraulic power derived from the waters of the river Shannon, for the distribution and supply by the State of the electricity so generated, and for other matters incidental thereto or arising in the course thereof, or in connection therewith it is expedient to authorise—." We come back to this: whether the proposal to extend this electrification scheme over the entire waters of the Free State could reasonably be said to be incidental to, or arise in connection with the scheme to utilise the waters of the Shannon.
Or other natural resources.
I am afraid, Senator, I have to rule the amendment out.
I would like to know how hydraulic power can be derived from peat or coal.
I am not an engineer; perhaps the Senator who suggested that might deal with it. Have you formed any opinion, Senator Douglas, about the point of procedure that has been raised?
I rather hesitate about giving an opinion. My view is that the amendments of Senator Sir John Griffith would be in order with the exception of the vital amendments to Section 11, in which he seeks to extend the expenditure of money by some sums which would be quite out of order having regard to the Money Resolution. It seems to me that it is not out of order to extend the powers of the Bill, but to extend the amount of money that has been provided means in effect that the proposal, when put forward here, is out of order.
If this motion of Senator Sir John Griffith were adopted by the Committee, and was not then rejected by the Dáil, it would of course, be open to the Minister to get a supplementary grant, would it not? It would be open to him to obtain by resolution an additional grant to cover the extended purposes of the Bill. It is not open, however, to this House to insert that. Clearly it is not open to the House to extend the nature of the expenditure in the Money Resolution.
I am inclined to think that as far as the amendment to Section 11 is concerned, it could not be inserted without having first of all a Money Resolution so recommending it.
The question is how far it affects the power of the Committee to extend the scope of the Bill so long as they do not touch the financial provision part of it. That would have to be carried out in the usual way. I think it is safer for me to allow the Senator to move the amendments. I do not want to create a precedent one way or another in view of the importance of the question that has been rather sprung upon me. I think I should have anticipated it, but I did not.
Is it in the power of the Seanad to initiate expenditure?
That is the very thing I am pointing out. I do not think if we extended the scope and the purpose of the measure we could make any financial provision for that. That is dealt with by a different form of procedure. Assuming that the Seanad accepted Senator Sir John Griffith's amendment, and that it was accepted in the Dáil and became incorporated in the Bill, I do not see anything to prevent the Government supplementing the Money Resolution by a new resolution. However, it cannot be done here; I am convinced of that.
There is one point that I think might be a difficulty. The Money Resolution must be moved in the Dáil prior to the Committee Stage. Therefore, the introduction of another Money Resolution would seem to mean the re-casting of the Bill and putting it back to Second Stage again and making it a new Bill.
That is according to Standing Orders of the Dáil. There is nothing in the Constitution about that.
Supposing the Dáil accepted this amendment, I do not think there is anything to prevent the Executive Council from getting the measure extended and the resolution extended so as to cover the new expenditure. I do not think there is anything whatever to prevent them doing that. However, I think it is wiser for me to let this amendment be moved, at any rate, in Committee, and reserve for myself the right to reconsider it on the Report Stage, should the question be raised here. It may, of course, never be necessary to consider it, but I think it is safer for me to allow the Senator to proceed with his amendment.
I would like to say a word in favour of the amendment, but I doubt if it will be possible to carry it out. As Senators may remember, I proposed a motion in the early days of the Seanad in terms somewhat similar to the amendment of Senator Sir John Griffith providing for the development of all the waters of Ireland. I think it would have been better if that had been done as I see great difficulty and great trouble in carrying out this Bill.
I hope the Seanad will reject this amendment. I hardly think the House will very seriously consider it. The effect of it will be to give the Minister a roving commission all over the country, for the purpose of the development of electricity, without any proper control by the Oireachtas, or without knowing to what extent such transactions were likely to be successful. We have in the report of the experts, confined to the Shannon scheme, in the investigations of Siemens-Schuckert, with the annotated report of the experts, sufficient grounds to give the Minister the authority requested in the Bill. To expand that to all sources of natural power would be to expand this Bill far and away beyond the bounds that the Oireachtas or the promoters ever intended. I do not think the Seanad is in a position to go into such a matter. In moving the amendment Senator Sir John Griffith took the advantage of discussing the measure as a whole. I do not propose to follow him in the discussion because I think his speech was largely a Second Reading one. It opened up the whole question as to whether it was desirable to develop the Shannon, or to extend the development piecemeal to all other sources of power from which electricity could be produced.
The question of order may be settled but I think the whole intentions of the Bill will have been very largely violated, its scope extended, that it will mean a new Money Resolution if accepted, and that the certain effect will be to delay the Bill I do not think that anyone is desirous that there should be any delay to the progress of the Bill unless those who are opposed to it on principle. Of course they have their remedy, but I do not think the Seanad should seriously consider passing an amendment of this kind, as if it is carried all the subsequent amendments of a like nature will be automatically carried if the House is consistent, and that will alter the face of the Bill, delay progress, and create a certain amount of chaos.
It would be a pity if the Seanad were under the impression that by rejecting Senator Sir John Griffith's amendment the country would be thereby deprived of any future resources of water-power. As far as I remember, in the Shannon Electricity Bill provision is made under the greater scheme to link up any other sources of power in the country. Therefore, in supporting the Shannon Bill we will also be including in it what is embodied in the amendment in order to embrace fuller development, and we will be including in it and not losing any possible future sources of power as well as avoiding delay that the amendment, if adopted, would cause. At the moment surely delay is undesirable, if for nothing else but the proposed beet sugar industry, one of the difficulties of which will be the source of power. By the time we find out whether we were competent to discuss the money aspect of the case or not, the delay might be much greater than we imagine. Inasmuch as the country loses nothing by rejecting the amendment and gains a great deal, I think the Seanad might see its way to reject it.
I am one of those members of the Seanad who, in the language of Senator O'Farrell, opposed the Bill on principle. Nevertheless I am opposed to the amendment and I find myself compelled to vote against it. Apart from the reasons which Senator O'Farrell very ably put, and which I heartily endorse, the effect and objects sought by the amendment are so very wide that they are quite big enough for another Bill. Apart from that, this is really an extension of the principle of the intrusion of Government in commercial affairs to which I am entirely opposed. From my knowledge of the subject I believe that the Government had much better leave commercial enterprise alone. For that reason I oppose the amendment, as it very much increases the scope of the original Bill.
I must ask the Seanad to disagree with the amendment. Acting on my advice in connection with the whole matter of hydroelectric development the country incurred the expense of feeing four experts. These four experts decisively and exclusively reported in favour of the Shannon Scheme. This is not the time to add other developments to it. I have explained already, as Senator Bagwell has stated, that this amendment contains sufficient matter for an entirely new Bill. I prefer this Bill without any such development, and I believe it will come earlier than a lot of people now listening expect. That Bill can be examined in the light of the new experience we will have gained in the development of the Shannon. I do not want to follow the Senator into each of his statements with regard to the Liffey, as I despair of getting people to examine the experts' report. The Senator said they had not been asked to report on other sources of power, but it will be found by reference to page 16 of that report that they have gone into all sources of power in the country and given their judgment. They have definitely come down and decided in favour of one concentrated station to be fed from the Shannon.
Amendment put and declared lost.
With regard to the question that was raised, it is a very important one, and may be raised again in the case of other Bills. That is to say, as to the powers of the Committee with regard to extending the scope and purpose of a Bill. Although it has become unnecessary to consider this matter, it is of such importance that with the permission of the House I shall, after looking into it, make a brief statement about it some other day. It is one of great importance affecting our deliberations. I know that there have been a great variety of different opinions on the subject, and very conflicting rulings by Speakers of the British House of Commons on this very point. They are quoted in that very interesting volume of Sir Erskine May. I had not had an opportunity of referring to it lately, but I think that the Seanad may wish to have the benefit of my views on this matter.
Would it not be better in future where there is a Money Resolution passed in the Dáil in connection with any Bill, that a copy of the Resolution should be circulated with copies of the Bill to Senators, and printed on the Orders of the Day for the Second Stage? That would make it possible for Senators to see the actual wording and to draft such amendments as they may wish.
I think it would be very desirable to circulate it on the Committee Stage at any rate.
I suggest the Second Stage, so that they may draft amendments.
I think that ought to be done.
Question—"That Section 2 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Section 3 agreed to.
Sub-section (2): At any time after the passing of this Act and before conveyance or ascertainment of price or compensation, but subject to giving one month's previous notice in writing to the occupier of the lands or premises or the owner of the right way or other property affected, the Minister may enter on and take possession of any lands or premises or exercise any right which the Minister is authorised by this section to acquire compulsorily, or may terminate, restrict, or otherwise interfere with any right which the Minister is authorised by this section compulsorily to terminate, restrict, or interfere with or may divert, close, remove, or otherwise interfere with any road, way, bridge, water-way, or water-course which the Minister is authorised by this section compulsorily to divert, close, remove, or interfere with.
Section 4, sub-section (2), to delete the words "one month's" in line 8 and to substitute therefor the words "three months'."
Under Section 4 the Minister is taking power to enter on land or premises on giving one month's notice. That may operate with great hardship on individuals. Power is asked, for instance, to go into dwelling-houses, and on giving one month's notice turn out the occupants, without finding alternative accommodation elsewhere. The Government does take upon itself to assist such persons. Under the Rents Restriction Act a person cannot be turned out of a house unless alternative accommodation is provided. This is a harsh power, and surely there is no great need for haste. An opportunity might be given for an agreement to be arrived at, and where an agreement fails it does seem reasonable to give a person three months to find alternative accommodation.
I have listened to a most peculiar argument, that because it is impossible to find alternative accommodation, it should be impossible to turn a person out without finding alternative accommodation, and that you should, in order to decrease the hardship, extend the notice from one month to three months. Does the Senator think it would be easier to find alternative accommodation at the end of three months?
It would be easier at the end of three months than in one month.
Yes, just in that proportion. If it is possible we would give longer notice, but if we have a clause, stating we must give three months' notice, it will lead to considerable delay. After the civil constructional order, the excavation of the canal will be the first item. That will not start in a variety of places. It will open up at some one place. At that point the three months' provision might cause a delay once that start is made. Where is there going to be any serious inconvenience? Maps and plans will be published, and people will have information as to what is likely to happen to them. They will get formal information there after a month before anything will happen. The difference between one and three months at the commencement of the work might cause considerable difficulty. It would certainly be causing great delay in the carrying out of the scheme. Hardship will be avoided as far as possible. With a scheme of the sort it is inevitable that a certain amount of inconvenience will be caused to people, but the extending of the notice from one to three months will not very much lessen the inconvenience, while it will make a great difference in the delay it will cause. I hold that the enlargement of the notice to three months would hinder the opening of the works in connection with the scheme.
In the case of a dwelling-house it might be three months' notice. I quite agree with the Minister's view that a month's notice is sufficient in ordinary cases, but it is not sufficient in the case of a dwelling-house.
I think in the Bill as framed officials who may be administering will confine themselves to the stereotyped one month's notice. Perhaps it would meet the view of Senator Sir John Keane if something were inserted providing at least one month's notice. It gives a certain amount of latitude in the wording as regards the notice.
Or you could accept Senator Sir John Keane's amendment, adding: "in the case of occupied houses."
I was going to suggest a compromise, arising out of the remarks of Senator Brown and Senator Dowdall, that "at least" one month's notice should be given. I will consider the introduction of a clause on the Report Stage providing that dwelling-houses should not be interfered with until three months' notice has been given.
Perhaps the Government would give some assurance that they would aid in finding accommodation for people dispossessed of their houses in that way. I know that officials are very peremptory when they deal with business of that sort once they have got orders.
The appeal made by the Senator is one I should like to respond to, but I cannot see what aid I can promise. There is compensation provided for, but I do not think we can go the length of building houses to replace the houses which will have to be destroyed during the course of the work.
That would be cheaper than paying compensation.
It may be, but the other broad general method will have to be adopted. If it would be acceptable to the Senator that the words "at least" be inserted after "giving" in line 8, I would be agreeable.
Is not that what the section means at present?
I do not think there is much difference.
I do not think "at least" would help at all.
I agree, but I feel that there is a possibility in the administration of this measure that some official may get it into his head that he is bound to give but one month's notice. By introducing the words "at least" he would know that a month's notice is the minimum that can be given.
Would you have the words "not less than"?
Will the Minister say would compensation be paid to the man at once?
That does not arise on this amendment. We will take the first part of the amendment: "To insert in line 8, after the word giving' the words 'not less than.'"
I would much rather accept the offer of the Minister.
That is coupled with another part.
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Sub-section 3. When any price or compensation is being assessed in pursuance of this section in respect of any property, corporeal or incorporeal, which is occupied, used or enjoyed with or forms part of any other property, regard shall be had to any benefit in the nature of drainage or improvement of water supply which may reasonably be expected to accrue to such property by reason of any works executed or in course of execution or about to be executed by the Minister under this Act.
Section 5, sub-section (3). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "Provided always that the price originally fixed may be revised within ten years from the date of the award on the ground that the benefit expected from the works at the time the price was fixed has not accrued."
This is a sub-section dealing with the anticipated improvements, or the anticipated enhancement value of property. It is purely speculative really as to what the value of the actual enhancement will be. With the best intention the arbitrators, or commissioners, who are fixing the prices may consider that to the best of their judgment that land is going to be so much improved, but the value of the improvement may turn out to be totally different. When the time arrives, and the works have been going on, and it can be proved to the satisfaction of any fair-minded man that that enhancement has not materialised, then, I think, it should be open to the party affected to have the case re-considered and have the compensation re-adjusted.
It seems to me that this is altogether an impracticable and unbusinesslike amendment. There must be some finality about cases of this kind. Compensation has to be awarded according to assessment under the Acquisition of Land Assessment of Compensation Act of 1919. The people assessing the compensation will be experts in matters of that kind. It is quite practicable, I assume, to assess the improvements that may take place in land in regard to drainage. That very principle has been adopted by the House to-day in respect of the Arterial Drainage Bill. Commissioners will value the extent to which people's lands will be improved as a result of drainage, and will assess the annuity accordingly. If that is practicable in the case of arterial drainage, it should be equally practicable in this particular case, where the improvements will be presumably arising out of the drainage, and the limitation of the flooding which now takes place. The amendment does not state at what time within the ten years the re-valuation or revision shall take place. Shall it be at the option of the State, or at the option of the claimant when the re-valuation shall take place? It might turn out when a very dry year will come along—say, in the fifth year— that a tenant might reasonably show that he would be a little better off by little flooding of the land, while the next year might be an extremely wet year and he would get the full benefit of the drainage.
We know what farmers are. They are no better than any other section of the community when it comes to looking for something for nothing. If this amendment is carried, and the farmers take their lead from the opponents of the scheme, they could form an intolerable thorn in the side of the scheme for the next ten years. They could, by their own deliberate efforts, I think, help to prove that there was no improvement as a result of any improvements executed in or near the land.
I know that many decades ago tenant farmers were taxed, and had their rents increased for any improvement effected by themselves on their own land. If they drained their land, and thereby improved it, the landlords had power to raise their rents. If they put in an extra window, or an extra chimney in the house, they were taxed because of that. The result of that was that the great majority of the Irish farmers absolutely refrained from making any improvements to their lands or dwellings. The rent would be increased if they did. Now, is the same incentive going to be held out to farmers in this Bill? They can now, by sins of omission, take full advantage of the improvements that can be derived from this drainage for ten years in order to be able to get more out of this than they would at the beginning of the ten years. It would be an intolerable hindrance to the scheme, and would help to hamper it in its early years, in the years of trial, and I hope the House will not impose a restriction of that kind on the Bill by accepting this amendment.
I beg to speak in support of the amendment. It seems to me that the powers of the Bill are immensely drastic. After all, interference with the liberty of the individual is pretty hard lines on the people affected under this section. If the estimated amount of benefit to be derived is not realised, I think it is only reasonable that the thing should be capable of being reopened.
Senator Sir John Keane, as a legislator, has not really performed his functions quite well in this matter. Why should this amendment be so heavily loaded in favour of the owners and against the Government? Would the Senator accept an extension of the amendment and continue it to read: "that the benefit expected from the works at the time the price was fixed has not accrued, or has been greater"?
Is the Minister offering that amendment without prejudice?
Quite without prejudice to my accepting it. The point that I am making is that the amendment is not balanced. It leans against the Government.
Is the Minister offering to accept the amendment with that addition?
I am making an argument, and the Senator can take it either as an offer or not. Now the matter as it stands is very heavily loaded against the Government because the onus is on the Government to show that benefit is likely to accrue, and that has to be done before an arbitrator appointed by this Committee. Are the arbitrators likely to assess unless there is very definite proof, almost conclusive proof, as to the benefit? I hold that the clause as it stands is very definitely in favour of the owner. It will be very seldom that any deduction will be made for compensation otherwise than on the ground that there is going to be great benefit by reason of the drainage or improvement of the water supply. That clause already weighted against the Government is going to be further weighted by the fact, if this amendment is accepted, that there is going to be revision in only one way.
I do not see how the cleverest arbitrator could possibly forecast the effects of the engineers' estimate. I can see this not materialising. I can foresee, without being an engineer, percolation through the banks and consequent injury to the land. I do not know what remedy in law the affected party has as against the Government. I suppose there is some roundabout way by which you could proceed against the Government, but it is entirely ex gratia, and there is a risk that a person's land may prove to be deteriorated, and that he would be debarred from having it remedied by law. If the Seanad is prepared to enact a measure of that kind it is entirely their own responsibility.
Reference has been made to the farmers in the vicinity of the scheme taking action in some way to injure the works. I cannot really imagine what the farmers can do in the matter unless they may block the pumps that may be erected over the embankments adjoining their farms. But I do not imagine any sensible person would think the farmers would do that. This amendment of Senator Keane's if it allowed the other party— that is, the Government—to have the option of calling for revision at the end of ten years—a revision of valuation— I think would be fair to all parties, and I think it is one that should be adopted, because no arbitrators or land valuers can be certain beforehand that their valuation as to improvement or depreciation of land will be a correct one. The amendment which is suggested by the Minister and which was afterwards withdrawn is an amendment that might meet with the approval of the Seanad.
The Minister complains that this amendment is heavily loaded against the Government and that the Bill is already heavily loaded against the Government. Every Bill with compensation in it is heavily loaded in favour of the Government. Everybody who knows anything about compensation, or has anything to do with it, knows that the unfortunate occupier has always to suffer. There are men who argue that they are let in for high expense and trouble and that very often the expense is greater than the money they get. That is the reason why we are anxious to protect the owner in every possible way we can, and this is, of course, very inefficient compared with what the Government can do.
We are getting into further depths. Senator Moore objected to the Government sending down men to arbitrate about compensation and to bargain and defeat the owners of the land in the first instance. The proposition now is that instead of doing that once they should do it several times in ten years. Are you going to subject those unfortunate occupiers several times, twice certainly, in ten years, to the barbs of Government assessors? There is to be a revision. You are at least going to have not only the first encounter, but the last one. It is going to be something additional. The Senator backing up this amendment says he does not see how any assessor would be likely to assess benefits likely to accrue to the land by reason of these works. That is my own fear, because the assessors will say: "This is incalculable. We do not see how we can make any calculation of any deduction that is to be made for the benefits that will accrue." No deduction will be made. The clause is equitable in that if it were clearly proven that there was some benefit accruing to the land by way of drainage or improved water supply there should be some account taken as to how the compensation should be lessened on that account.
Amendment declared lost.
Motion—"That Sections 5 and 6 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) The Minister may arrange with any local authority or other public body or any company either—
(a) that such authority, body, or company will, at their own expense, construct, maintain, and work or construct or maintain or work any railway or tramway which the Minister is by this Act authorised to construct, maintain, and work, or
(b) that the Minister will construct, maintain, and work or construct or maintain or work any such railway or tramway for and at the expense of such authority, body, or company.
(2) Whenever the Minister enters into any such arrangement as aforesaid, the Minister may, by order, delegate to and confer on the authority, body or company with which the arrangement is made such of the powers conferred on the Minister by this Act as shall in the opinion of the Minister be reasonably necessary for the due carrying out of such arrangement by such authority, body, or company. (3) Any local authority or public body or company may, notwithstanding any statutory or other limitation of their powers, enter into any such arrangement as aforesaid with the Minister, and, without prejudice to any existing powers of borrowing and notwithstanding any existing restrictions on borrowing, may for the purpose of carrying out the arrangement, borrow money in such manner and upon such terms, conditions, and security as, in the case of a local authority whose accounts are audited by an auditor of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, shall be prescribed by that Minister, or, in any other case, shall be approved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
(4) When any railway constructed under an arrangement made under this section has been completed, and the statutory requirements for the time being in force in relation to the opening of a railway for public traffic have been complied with, the Minister may require the railway to be worked by any then existing railway company nominated by him, upon such terms and conditions in all respects (including the charges to be made on such railway by such company) as may be determined by agreement made between such railway company and the authority, body, or company by or for whom the railway was constructed and approved of by the Minister.
(5) When a railway constructed by the Minister under this Act or constructed under an arrangement made under this section is opened for public traffic and is worked by the Minister or by the local authority, public body, or company by or for whom it was constructed, the charges to be made on the railway shall be fixed by the Railway Tribunal and such charges or any of them may at any time be revised by the Railway Tribunal on the application of the person working the railway or any representative body of users of the railway or any trader using the railway.
I move my amendment, which is to delete the section. I only put down this amendment to find out what this section means. On reading the section, it appears the Minister has power to arrange with the local authority to build a railway and to maintain a railway. Those of us who pay rates are rather staggered at the idea that a local authority is going into railway work. I would be glad if the Minister would explain what this section really means.
I think the Senator has quite correctly explained the purpose of Section 7. I cannot explain that section any more fully than by saying that the local authorities are not given power under this Bill to build any railways. It is only such railways as would be authorised for the purpose of the scheme. If I might say so, it has reference to one railway, one permanent line, one permanent construction.
The permanent construction would be the line connecting the railway station at Limerick with the docks. It is a line which Limerick has been crying out for for a long time, and it is now added in as incidental to the scheme. There will be the ordinary type of light railway constructed for the purpose of drawing contractor's material along the line of the canal. That will not be a permanent construction. It will disappear afterwards. The only permanent one is the short line connecting a railway station to the docks at Limerick, and to delete the section, as Senator Sir John Keane would have it, would mean that that line of railway asked for so long by Limerick would not be built, and arrangements would have to be made to get the contractors' material in either through Foynes or, possibly, through Cork.
So far as the railway in Limerick is concerned, I am satisfied with the Minister's explanation. I pass now to the constructional railway. I thought this was going to be made by the contractor. It comes as news to be told that this constructional railway can possibly be made by the local authority. I am making these remarks with a view to clearing up the situation. In the event of agreement for the working of this railway as provided by sub-section 4 with the existing company, what is going to happen?
"the Minister may require the railway to be worked by any then existing railway company nominated by him, upon such terms and conditions in all respects (including the charges to be made on such railway by such company) as may be determined by agreement."
Now, in the event of failure to agree, what is going to be the procedure?
A few items have been referred to. First of all, I have not said that the constructional railway will be operated by a local authority. I made mention of a line to be constructed under this scheme— a certain line which will be built by me nominally, but will in fact be built by the contractors, and at the contractors' expense. No local authority comes in there. The local authority has really only contact with any railway under the scheme in the case of Limerick. As to the other matter, in default of agreement the railway will not be worked.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Question—"That Section 7 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
The Minister may construct and maintain all such embankments, piers, wharves, locks, sluices, and other works and do such dredging, straightening, deepening, widening, and other things for the improvement of the navigation of the River Shannon or any river or stream tributary thereto, or any lake thereon or connected therewith as may be incidental or ancillary to the undertaking or can in the opinion of the Minister be conveniently constructed or done in the course of the doing of any other thing which the Minister is authorised by this Act to do.
In Section 8. To add at the end of the section the words "Provided always that none of the facilities now existing for navigation are curtailed."
I hope this amendment will have the effect at least of getting the Minister to give a clear statement as to what is intended with regard to navigation. I have searched through all those various publications. We are entirely in the dark as to what the Government are to do. The experts put down a figure of £15,000 for extending quays, deepening landing places and widening out landing places. We know nothing of what they have in mind at all. I can see that objections will be raised to this amendment on the score that it would be quite impossible to maintain your existing facilities for navigation below Killaloe. I agree where the river is going to be dried up in the summer, and portions of the old canal will be closed, it would be unreasonable to expect the existing facilities south of Killaloe to be maintained in their entirety. I would be quite prepared to alter the amendment to read, "Provided that none of the existing facilities north of Killaloe are curtailed." It seems unreasonable to give the Minister power without any knowledge of what his intentions are to curtail any of the existing rights of navigation in Lough Derg or north of O'Brien's Bridge. They will not be affected north of O'Brien's Bridge, because navigation will be improved owing to the canalisation of the river. The Grand Canal Company is a corporation with certain rights. They have enjoyed for many years past certain powers on Lough Derg and other waters. It seems to me we should know where we are going and we should not give carte blanche to the Government with regard to those powers which they have enjoyed. This amendment will ensure that the Government cannot curtail any of the existing powers.
In this connection it seems to me that a rather curious position will arise under Sections 8 and 9, because as far as I read 8 and 9, "the Minister may construct" is not mandatory, but permissive. If the word "may" is permissive in connection with "construct," it must be permissive with the word "maintain." The result would be the Minister may construct under 8 and 9 any one of those works, and then let them go derelict. I think that is a serious matter, and should be looked into. I am sure that was not the intention. As these two clauses stand it is quite permissive. He is not bound to do any of those things. If he is not bound to do the construction he is not bound to do the maintenance. I think the section should run: "The Minister may construct and if he constructs shall maintain." Otherwise I think it would be a great embarrassment.
That is a point that can be considered by the draftsman. We had so intended. I would like to look at it a little more in detail.
There is a phrase which covers everything in Section 8. We can do all these things for the improvement of the navigation of the River Shannon. If we curtail any of the existing facilities and do not better them, obviously we are not improving. The Senator's amendment is, I suggest, a repetition of what is already in that section. As to the question the Senator asked, there are six alternative suggestions with regard to the navigation. A considerable number of people must have a say as to which of these alternatives is to be adopted, but not a single one of them will fail to improve the navigation. Consequently, whatever alternative be adopted, there is going to be a definite improvement of the navigation of the Shannon. Again, a great deal will depend on what part Limerick plays in all this. If the Limerick Harbour development is such as to allow of a big development up the river, then that big development up the river will become much more economical than if it had to depend on Limerick as at present. A great deal will depend on a variety of people, plus the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. In any event the navigation must be improved. We are bound by that, I think, under the terms of the phrase used in Section 8. As to the point raised by you, A Chathaoir ligh, I can have that phrase examined I should say generally that the emendation would be acceptable. I should like, however, to have an opportunity of getting the matter examined more closely as to the details.
In view of the Minister's explanation, I ask for leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 8 stand part of the Bill"—put, and agreed to.
Section 9, put and agreed to.
(1) As soon as may be after the passing of this Act and not later than one month before commencing any particular civil constructional works under this Act or, for that purpose, entering on any lands or premises or exercising any right or interfering with any property, corporeal or incorporeal, under this Act, the Minister shall cause maps, plans, and books of reference in relation to those works to be deposited as hereinafter mentioned.
(2) The maps and plans to be deposited under this section shall be sufficient in quantity and character to show on adequate scales the extent of the civil constructional works to which they relate with all contemplated deviations and variations, and also all property, corporeal and (where appropriate) incorporeal, proposed to be acquired compulsorily for the purpose of such works and also every interference (so far as the same can be shown on a drawing) proposed to be made compulsorily for the said purpose, with any property, corporeal or incorporeal, or any road or bridge.
(3) The books of reference to be deposited under this section shall contain the names of the owners or reputed owners, lessees or reputed lessees, and occupiers of all lands and premises proposed to be acquired or otherwise affected compulsorily under this Act for the purpose of the civil constructional works in relation to which they are deposited, and of all property, corporeal or incorporeal (including roads and bridges), proposed to be in any way interfered with compulsorily under this Act for the purpose of such works.
(4) The maps, plans, and books of reference to be deposited under this section shall be deposited at some office of the Minister in the City of Dublin, and also, in the case of maps, plans, and books of reference relating to works or property south of the bridge crossing the River Shannon at the northern end of Lough Derg, and known as Portumna Bridge, at a convenient place in the City of Limerick, and, in the case of maps, plans, and books of reference relating to works or property north of the said bridge, at a convenient place in the town of Portumna, and all such maps, plans, and books of reference shall remain so deposited until the completion of the works to which they relate, and while so deposited shall be open to inspection by any person free of charge at the place of deposit between the hours of ten o'clock in the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon of every day except Sundays and Bank holidays.
(5) As soon as may be after the deposit of any maps, plans, or books of reference in any city or town in pursuance of this section, the Minister shall give public notice of such deposit by advertisement published twice in each of two or more newspapers circulating in such city or town, and shall in every such notice state that such maps, plans, and books of reference are open to public inspection in accordance with this section.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
In Section 10, sub-section (1). To delete the words "one month" in line 58, and to substitute therefor the words "three months."
It seems to me that, as the Seanad has already accepted the idea of a month being sufficient for the purpose of depriving people of their property, that it should also be sufficient time in which to give them notice as to the lodgment of plans, etc., and certain other things that are proposed to be done.
Under Private Bill legislation it is usual to give people certainly more than three months' notice of the matters here referred to, and it is difficult to understand why the same thing should not be done under this Bill.
I notice that the Senator circulated to members of the Seanad a statement more or less on these lines, but I have been unable to find in any Standing Orders relative to Private Bill procedure, any limit of time to three months. Of course, I have my further argument in reserve, that there is no comparison between this and Private Bill procedure, but as I say, I have been unable to find in any Standing Orders which deal with Private Bill procedure, a three months' regulation as to matters of this kind.
It is in the Land Clauses Act, but not in the Standing Orders.
They are incorporated by the Standing Orders, but not repeated. Perhaps there might be room for a compromise on this.
If the Minister would undertake to look into the matter between now and the Report Stage, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
I will do that if the Senator takes it that I am not looking into it with very much enthusiasm.
We do not gather anything else from what you stated.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment 13, which reads:—
In Section 10, sub-section (2). To delete all after the word "be" in line 1 to the end of the sub-section and to substitute therefor the words "in accordance with Standing Orders for Private Business Nos. 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31 and 40."
This amendment is very much on the same lines as the last one. It asks the Minister to endeavour to adopt, if possible, the ordinary Standing Orders for Private Bills in respect of this scheme. The words in the section are, I suggest, very vague, and I do not think anyone could make head or tail of them.
This again is founded on an analogy between this Bill and Private Bill procedure. I must again protest. There is a difference. Let us take the stage we are at now with regard to this Bill. We have gone long beyond the point at which these Standing Orders would have any effect with regard to a Private Bill. The Standing Orders referred to in the amendment have all to do with the giving of notice so as to enable people to appear and raise objections to a scheme before a Private Bill Committee. We have gone much beyond that point with regard to the Shannon scheme. The Shannon scheme has already been definitely approved of, and what has now got to be done is to give notice to people of what is going to happen to property belonging to them, not that they can raise objections, but simply to notify them and to try to lessen the hardship and inconvenience that may have to be put on them. Again, I say there is no analogy whatever between this Bill and Private Bill procedure. The analogy that was attempted to be drawn is an entirely false one.
Amendment put and declared lost.
I beg to move:—
In Section 10, sub-section (4), to delete the words "the said bridge" in lines 26-27 and substitute therefor the word "Killaloe."
I would ask the Minister to accept this amendment. Its acceptance would enable the occupiers of property around Lough Derg to examine the plans at Portumna instead of having to go to Limerick or Dublin.
It does not seem revolutionary.
It is not revolutionary, and if I could get an assurance from the Senator that he speaks for the people of the locality upon the matter, I would be much more favourably inclined to it. I have already got applications from the people, and I have advertised as to the laying of plans at Limerick and Portumna, and I have heard no complaint, and my views were founded upon these calculations. The total of the embankments as between Banagher and Lough Derg is thirty-one and a half miles, and of the rivers flowing into the Shannon between Banagher and Lough Derg, five and a quarter miles. Those between Portumna and Lough Derg and tributaries about thirty-seven miles. The lakes are seven and a half miles, and of the rivers flowing in seven and three-quarter miles. That is fifteen miles, and the section Killaloe to O'Brien's Bridge six and a half miles. So it seems to us, on the calculations, that taking the mileage of embankments, it would be much more suitable to have the maps lodged at Portumna than at Killaloe.
It is not the plans at Killaloe. The amendment would make the sub-section read, "maps, plans, and books of reference relating to work or property north of Killaloe at a convenient place in the town of Portumna."
I misunderstood the Senator. I read it as referring to division of plans. It is to substitute for the words "the said bridge" in a particular line the word "Killaloe," but that would involve consequential amendments in earlier sections. If I am to insert the word "Killaloe" instead of "the said bridge" in the lines 26 and 27, surely it would also be necessary to do so in an earlier section which would mean a double change.
It only affects that sentence, "maps, plans and books of reference relating to works or property north of Killaloe at a convenient place in the town of Portumna."
It would also have to be done in other parts of the Bill.
Does Senator Sir John Griffith want the people who live on the borders of Lough Derg to come to Portumna if they happen to live on the borders of Killaloe? The majority of people round Lough Derg, except those quite close to Portumna, would prefer to come to Limerick. I confess I do not understand the amendment.
The Senator has arrived at exactly our conclusion, and I think the same conclusion was arrived at by the people of the locality.
If Senator MacLysaght says that, I will withdraw the amendment.
If the Senator can assure me that, in the opinion of the people, the plans should be laid in the place he mentioned, I am prepared to accept that. If he can ascertain that that is the view of the people——
I do not think we should have time to do that. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move Amendment 15:—
"Section 10, sub-section (5). After the word 'section' in line 36 to insert the words 'and not less than three months before commencing any civil constructional work under this Act.'"
I presume that stands for consideration with the other amendment relating to the three months' notice.
Amendment 16 not moved.
Section 10 put, and agreed to.
Section 11.—(2) Advances under this section from the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof, shall be made to a separate fund to be established for the purpose, and all payments to be made out of the sums advanced under this section shall, subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance, be met from such separate fund.
"Section 11, sub-section (2). To delete all after the word 'shall' in line 52 to the end of the sub-section and to substitute therefor the words 'be met from such separate fund and shall be subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance.'"
This is a small drafting amendment. As the section is drafted it would read as if the sanction of the Minister was necessary to charge the expenditure to a separate fund. Of course that is not the intention. Any charge may be vetoed by the Minister for Finance, but having been passed, it may be charged to a separate fund, and the suggestion in the amendment secures that object beyond any doubt.
My difficulty is to find where the doubt can occur. The section as it stands reads: "shall, subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance, be met from such separate fund." The Senator's amendment is: "shall be met from such separate fund and shall be subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance." The only fantastical loophole I can see is that I might meet the expenses from another fund without the sanction of the Minister for Finance, but I have no other fund from which to meet any expenditure. I have no funds to disburse, and if I could only discover such fund, my life would be much easier. I think the phrase of the Senator's amendment is actually in the Bill.
The way I read it is that the sanction of the Minister is to govern the fund. That is not the intention.
The sanction of the Minister is, apparently, intended to apply to meet it from a separate fund.
What is left out is the sanction of the Minister for Finance as to making payments from some other fund.
I may be unduly apprehensive, but it may be possible to meet charges for the Shannon out of another fund. That is not the intention, I know, and I want to make that clear, but if legal opinion is satisfied, I do not press the amendment.
Does it not mean that all payments are to be subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance, and they are all to be made out of the separate fund?
That is the intention, but is that the effect of the words in the Bill?
It would be much simpler if it said "all payments to be made out of the sums advanced under this section shall be met under a separate fund, and shall be subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance."
That, of course, is the real answer.
Is it not an advantage in an Act to leave no doubt and not to have it merely attendant on incidental circumstances? The Minister's argument is, that there being no other fund, it should not be necessary to make this direction.
And there is also the argument that I have no authority to spend any other money.
The curious thing is, that not having any other fund, it says that you are to meet it out of a separate fund. It would be much more grammatical to say, "shall be made out of such separate fund and shall be subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance." As it stands, it means that if you get the sanction of the Minister for Finance, you are to pay it out of a separate fund. It is not grammatical.
What you have just stated is really what is being aimed at, namely, that there should be no payment from a separate fund without the sanction of the Minister for Finance, and that is what is here.
It is very curiously expressed. However, if it satisfies the Minister I am content. I think the Senator might bring it up on Report.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move the following amendment:—
In Section 11, sub-section (3). To delete the words "in respect of every financial year," in line 55, and to substitute therefor the words "on or before the 1st day of June in respect of the last completed financial year."
I ask the House to regard this as important. It is to ensure that the accounts of this very important undertaking, which goes into the realms of commerce and business, shall be rendered punctually. We have had unfortunate experience regarding the delay in presenting accounts, and we find that even statutory provision is not sufficient, as accounts have not been rendered by the statutory date. It is very important that Parliament and all others concerned should be vigilant with regard to the progress of this scheme, but you cannot be vigilant as regards the progress of an undertaking whose accounts come out, say, six months after the end of the financial year. As we are going, as I submit, regretfully, into business, I think we should adopt business principles. I think every director or shareholder of a business concern should expect to see the accounts rendered promptly. I would ask that this date be inserted, and that it be mandatory on the Government to produce accounts, which from an accounting point of view, can quite easily be done within, at least, three months of the close of the financial year.
It says two months in the amendment.
Very well, say two months.
The Senator has an unfortunate way of throwing figures about. Recently he spoke of £5 as the price for making connections, and I said £2 10s., and he accepted the £2 10s., although the whole of his argument was based on the figure of £5. It is the same here. At the end of his argument he now says three months. I am quite ready to follow the commercial practice in this matter. The accounts in connection with this scheme are going to be very big. Are accounts always submitted to shareholders two months after the closing of the financial year? Consider the two months which this amendment means. They include the Easter vacation period. The preparation of these accounts, so far as the Government is concerned, will take some time. They have to be finally adopted, sent to the Stationery Office, again examined and sent to the Executive Council before presentation to the Oireachtas. I am quite willing, if the Seanad thinks it necessary to have anything mandatory in the clause, to put in such words as "as soon as practicable after the expiration of the financial year."
I am willing to meet the Minister as long as we have a definite date. Two months is, perhaps, unduly harsh.
Very well, I am prepared to stand on six months.
Better say, "On or before the 1st day of October."
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
I beg to move:—
In Section 11, sub-section 3, to insert after the sub-section a new sub-section (4) as follows:—
"(4) There shall be appended to any accounts rendered under the foregoing sub-section statistics of supply costs and records showing inter alia the number of units sold, the working costs per unit sold and the average price obtained.”
This amendment is to ensure that the accounts shall be supplemented by cost statistics. I can hardly conceive the Government going into an important undertaking like this without up-to-date modern costings, and, if they adopt them, I think they shall see the benefits in the results. I have left it wide, and have adopted broadly the headings in the "Electrical Times." I have not gone into the sub-headings. The Government will have ample latitude in regard to the sub-headings, but I hope that they will adopt the system in the "Electrical Times," which gives comparable costs for all electrical undertakings on a uniform basis. I will be satisfied if the Government undertake to publish statistics of output and costs, so that the efficiency of the scheme may be examined by all who are paying for it.
It seems to me that Senator Sir John Keane will kill this Bill by trying to make it too perfect. I suggest to him that this amendment would come better in the next Bill in regard to supplies. This is a Bill for construction, and is hardly a proper one in which to introduce an amendment of this kind. I think the Senator is, moreover, asking something which private electrical firms do not do. Perhaps he may know of some firm which does this, but I do not know of any. He is asking for a very high degree of accountancy, which may be desirable if it is not too big a burden to support. The principal point seems to be that this is hardly the correct Bill in which to introduce an amendment of this kind.
I am quite prepared to withdraw this amendment, if the Minister would commit himself to consider it on the Organisation Bill. My difficulty has been that there are so many matters in this Bill which should be part of the Organisation Bill, logically, that it is almost impossible to separate the two. I had to anticipate certain matters that might more logically arise on the Organisation Bill but the Minister has anticipated certain matters too. I would be prepared to withdraw this amendment if an undertaking were given that it will be considered on the Organisation Bill but otherwise I will have to press it.
Of course, the title of the Bill says that it is an Act for the distribution and the supply, as well as for the production, of electricity.
That would give me ample justification for an amendment of this kind, and I do not understand the attitude of Senator O'Farrell. I have considerable experience of Government accounting practice. Our only protection as to the success or otherwise of the scheme is a proper system of accounts, and I can hardly conceive the Government going into this scheme without a most meticulous system of accounts. Unless they do that, there is very little use in publishing the accounts. In regard to Senator O'Farrell's remarks that private undertakings do not publish their accounts, I would like to ask him how does the "Electrical Times" get hold of them? I do not think there is a single undertaking of any importance even in the Free State—in Dublin, Dundalk. Belfast, municipal undertakings as well as private undertakings—that does not keep its accounts on a uniform system and they are all published in the "Electrical Times." I do not think that that paper guesses them. They get them from someone, and I would ask, unless the Minister gives an undertaking to consider this matter sympathetically or to embody some provisions of this character in the Organisation Bill, that the House should accept this amendment.
That summarises my objection—that I am asked to commit myself or the Government to something which has not yet been considered, something which is a matter for the Organisation Bill. Senator Sir John Keane has anticipated certain matters because he said I have anticipated others. The anticipation is contained in Clause 13 of the Bill which says that I shall have power to supply electricity in any quantity produced by the undertaking during the construction of the work. That is the entire limitation placed upon me, during the construction of the work.
I am making contracts, but I have not power to supply. The clause, for which the present Section 13 is a substitute, was very much debated in the Dáil, and after we had arrived at certain conclusions. I undertook to provide a new Section 13, which met with the approval of those who had previously objected to the clause in its original form. The objection was, although they realised that an Organisation Bill was to come and that I had no intention to make this an Organisation and a Supply Bill, that, nevertheless, it was so widely drafted it was feared that it might operate as a Supply Bill, and consequently I put in two limitations. I had unlimited power for the construction period during the three years. I may enter into certain contracts within margins, and that is the long and the short of that portion of the Bill. I explained on that point that all that was required in Section 13, sub-section (1), was power to give electricity from the plant erected during the construction period. That is from the contractors' plant to help in the construction, that we might give certain supplies locally, to a place which, owing to the number of workmen, would require an additional supply. The only matter which might be said to come within the scope of the Organisation Bill is sub-section (1) of Section 13, as amended. The Senator's appeal to me that this amendment be withdrawn if the point is met on the Organisation Bill, clearly shows that he recognises it is not appropriate to this Bill. The returns under this Bill will be simply nil. There would be a nil return year by year, and nothing would be shown.
Is it not sufficient for your purpose, Senator Keane, that you have got the assurance of the Minister on the point?
With the consent of the House, I will withdraw the amendment, but if I am still alive when the Organisation Bill comes forward, I hope to bring it forward again.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 11, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
I beg to move:—
After Section 11 to insert a new section as follows:—
"12. (1) The prices to be charged for electricity supplied shall be such as to cover
(a) the cost of production, including distribution, maintenance and administration;
(b) the amounts for interest on money raised by way of loan or by way of grant from the Central Fund, and any money paid by way of Sinking Fund towards the redemption of any loan;
(c) an adequate reserve for the replacement and betterment of machinery and plant.
(2) It shall be a general principle that the undertaking shall, so far as practicable, be carried on neither at a profit nor at a loss, and that the charges shall be adjusted accordingly from time to time."
I do submit that this amendment is germane to the Bill, because the Minister is going to make a contract. How can he do so without some indication of cost? In fact, I think he may find himself very far out, but he has got to attempt to make some estimate of the cost on which prices will be charged, and I would ask that in making this estimate, the particulars which I have set out in the amendment should be the headline in determining the cost. Here we have a national undertaking on an enormous scale going into competition with private enterprise, certainly going into competition more or less with gas companies, which have committed themselves in accordance with the laws of the country in respect to industrial undertakings in the State. Surely this House is not going to sanction any subsidised competition with existing interests. If we are not going to be perfectly clear on that point, we will drive all private capital out of the country, and the effect will be to draw us into the meshes of inefficient socialism. If the Government go into business, they must conduct the undertaking on business methods and submit to business conditions. If a business is not conducted on business lines, it will soon go bankrupt but as the Government cannot go bankrupt, the law should see that they are on equal terms with private enterprise.
Senator Sir John Keane, like the Communists, always harps back to first principles with a splendid disregard of the circumstances in particular cases. This amendment is obviously drafted because he sees the cloven hoof of socialism in the whole scheme. He seems to depart from what are generally recognised as business methods. I think it is not always essential to the success of a scheme that it shall be profitable from its inception. Did the Senator ever hear of the promoter of a private firm losing for a period and being prepared to lose in the hope and in the certain prospect that eventually it would be a gain? He seems to insist that the scheme from its very beginning shall at least pay its way, and failing this, he will, doubtless, condemn the whole scheme, root and branch, and claim that the opposition to the scheme is justified.
I think without being a brilliant success at all, if it is to pay its way, the cost of current must to a very large degree be governed by the amount of supply and demand. If you are going to insist on collecting in the first years of restricted consumption sufficient to cover all the things set out in the amendment, unless there is some immediate and big development you would probably charge the least number of consumers practically the same amount in the aggregate as would eventually be paid by a very great number of consumers as the scheme develops. The result might be that in order to keep to the principles of the amendment you would have to charge a prohibitive price for current and by that very means prevent its development. Although it might somewhat surprise Senator Sir John Keane, I see no objection to making a profit in the transaction. He suggests that as a general principle there should be neither profit nor loss. I believe there may be periods when you may have to have a loss and there will be other periods when you would be quite justified, if you are able in making up that loss by the profits.
I am particularly in favour of a profit if that profit is devoted towards the development of isolated areas by bringing the cables into such areas where otherwise that might not be a commercial proposition, and for other purposes of commercial development. The Senator refers to this scheme particularly as a great competitor with private enterprise. Really private enterprise has left us where we are. It has left our industries undeveloped and has left our seaside places unadvertised and deserted and our main industry—agriculture—one of the most backward in Europe. We are trying by State assistance to develop that industry, where private enterprise has failed. Senator Sir John Keane is not opposed to the principle of any assistance being granted to the development of agriculture. I do not know if the electrical firms that are in existence can be very much knocked about and financially injured as a result of this scheme. There are very few of them that can claim to be a great success at all except where exorbitant prices are charged for electricity. I hope the Seanad will turn down the amendment. The amendment seeks to impose on this enterprise something that Senator Sir John Keane would not impose on private enterprise if he himself were associated with it.
I shall vote for this amendment. As far as I see, the purport of it is to ensure that the citizens of the State shall know what is being done with their money and whether it is being well spent or not. The amendment would, to some extent, regularise what is done by the Government. If you start out by selling electricity at less than the cost of production then you are starting in the way of making the country bankrupt.
The trouble about the Senator is that he has only read part of this Bill, and he leaves other Senators who have not read any of it to make remarks founded largely on his statements. Senator Sir John Keane apparently does not know what is the limitation put upon me with regard to supply in Section 13. I may supply any quantity of electricity produced by the undertaking during such constructional works. Outside that I may require persons to enter into an agreement or agreements to take a supply of electricity when available. Certain other particulars follow, "at such price and prices as the Minister may be authorised by or under statute to charge therefor." I do not know if anyone was so ever completely tied up with regard to price or prices as those operating this plant are by that clause. The Senator says it is a helpful amendment when going to make contracts. I have to go to, say, the Urban Council in Newcastle-West or somewhere else, and say, "I am to charge you such a price or prices as I may be authorised by statute afterwards to charge." I have every limitation put on me. I then come to the Senator's three points and his preamble. We both agree as a solemn principle that the undertaking should be carried on at neither a profit nor a loss. After we have come to that stage, and have a protocol on the preamble, we get down to the details of the three points. Who is going to decide as to the cost of production, maintenance and administration? Are we to go back to the experts' report or take Senator Sir John Keane's Second Reading speech, so as to have this thrashed out as to whether Siemens-Schuckert's prices are illusory or Senator Sir John Keane's prices are illusory?
I am prepared to argue that.
The difficulty is that I am not prepared to get the engineers to argue with town clerks as to the prices to be charged afterwards by statute. I am afraid if we have many more examples of how private business is run that the Government may very well be driven to State Socialism.
I still claim that this amendment is necessary. It is a headline to the Minister in going down to make contracts. He is going, as far as I can see, now to make contracts entirely at his own sweet will. He can charge as much or as little as he likes. Naturally he will charge as little as he can, as I am afraid that will be the only way he will tempt——
Has the Senator even yet read Section 13?
I have. Surely the Minister is going to make contracts before the Organisation Bill is fixed?
He will have no ordinance governing him when he is making contracts with local authorities.
That refers to an ordinance not in prospect of existence now. If he had got general directions of the kind indicated by the amendment he would at least aim at charging what we call an economic price. I may say that it is taken from an Act in a country that has a great similarity in more ways than one with this country. The wording is taken from a bilingual Act, in which there is Dutch on one side and English on the other side. It is taken from an electricity Bill in the South African Union, and is the outcome of an attempt there to secure that competition shall be on fair terms.
Is that a construction Bill?
It is to provide for the supply of electricity and for purposes incidental thereto. It is a Bill of 56 clauses, a general Bill, and an organisation Bill in one, which has many advantages, and from which you would see exactly where you are going. Moreover, it is a Bill having regard to the existing organisations operating for the supply of electricity. I admit that there are not very many large or important ones in this country run entirely under private enterprise. It may also interest the Seanad to know incidentally that the main organisation opposing the Bill was the Victoria Falls organisation, which, although it took power to generate from the Victoria Falls, never adopted it, and is still generating power from coal. I admit that conditions may be different, but it may interest Senators to know that an undertaking which took power to generate from water finally abandoned its powers and fell back on coal. Anyway, this is the Act that is in operation, and I submit that it is quite fair to assume that a similar precaution should be adopted here. If the House feels that they will not have the amendment now, I am afraid they will hear of it again in the Organisation Bill.
Amendment put, and declared lost.
Question—"That Section 12 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) Subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance, given either generally or for any particular case, the Minister may supply, during the construction under this Act of works for the purpose of the undertaking, on such terms and conditions as he thinks proper to any person, whether for his own use or for re-sale, any quantity of electricity produced by the undertaking during such construction of works.
(2) The Minister may before or as a condition for the construction of transmission lines, transformer stations, or other works for the delivery of a supply of electricity to any particular person or group of persons, require such person or persons to enter into an agreement or agreements with the Minister to take, for his or their own use or for re-sale, a supply of electricity when available in such minimum quantity as the Minister, having regard to the cost of the works required for the delivery of such supply, shall consider reasonable and shall specify and at such price or prices as the Minister may be authorised by or under statute to charge therefor.
(3) Any local authority or other public body or any company may, notwithstanding any statutory or other limitation of their powers, enter into and carry out any contract or agreement with the Minister under this section.
Section 13, sub-section (2), "To delete the sub-section."
I am afraid that the Minister may, and, perhaps, will, with some justification, reply that I am not playing the game over this. Well, Senators have a duty to perform, and must do it fearlessly. The Minister takes power to go to a local authority and make contracts, and, I have no doubt, in the exercise of his duty, he will place the most favourable light on the development of electricity in whatever area he is canvassing. I take it he will practically bargain and say: "If you are going to have this wonderful benefit you must engage to take so much current." The Minister has said himself that he has not attempted to visualise the case of a consumer. How is he going to go to a local authority and say: "We want you to take this stuff, but we cannot tell you what it will cost." I say that any local authority that makes a contract without independent advice as to what the cost to the consumer is to be, is acting in violation of its duty to the ratepayers. It is a serious position as I visualise it, and unless local authorities get full warning as to the economics of the scheme, they may be let in and we may have to finance the Shannon scheme out of the rates. Imagine the effect on the rural ratepayers of taking an article in that way that could not be sold. It would not prejudice the Minister at all to leave this over for the Organisation Bill. By that time he will have, presumably, got to close quarters with the cost of distribution, and be able to put up a figure on the basis of the Siemens-Schuckert report, and if you go on that report you will have to charge 2/1.
Siemens have not suggested 2/1 in any part of their report. That is Senator Sir John Keane's suggestion.
On the Senator's arithmetic.
In Siemens' report the only figure assumed in the whole of that calculation is the cost of the current to the farmer—3d. The quantity of current to be taken and the prices to be charged to the creameries are set out. Would it be fair to go to the local authorities and say, as far as we know on Siemens' one calculation, if we are to charge for power, that the price of that will be 2/1, but we have not gone closely into the question of charges to people, and the cost of distribution? If a local authority acted without proper information, I suggest that in that there will be great liability of buying a pig in a poke. The only way to handle this question circumspectly is to allow this to come up as part of the Organisation Bill. It will be three years before the high-tension network is in operation, and there is plenty of time to go into the matter deliberately, and try and arrive at costs, and give the local authorities some knowledge of their obligations before you ask them to make a contract.
I have not listened to a more egotistical statement than we have heard just now. We are asked to try and go into costs, and do things deliberately. Because we do not accept what Senator Sir J. Keane sets out as his calculations, the thing has not been gone into deliberately. I think the Senator will find himself aggravated because the local authorities do not apply for his aid in all matter of costings. He spoke about playing the game. I have been trying unsuccessfully for some days to find what game he is playing, but it is played on a bad assumption, that all his calculations are mathematically accurate. We get 2/1 for light in a certain district. It is one of a thousand alternative figures that could be put up, and it is not by any means a fair one.
Is not that the figure that Siemens put up?
I ask, have Siemens ever mentioned the figure of 2/1 for light, except on a particular calculation which is, as I say, one of thousands? Have they said that is the figure that must be charged? Have they said there is no other figure that can be charged for light in that area? Surely it could be answered definitely whether they have said that price precludes any other price being charged.
I do not think the Minister is facing the issue straight. Siemens gave an instance, and only one instance, of the cost of distribution, and that was in the Mallow area. They made no mention of alternatives. They did not say that this was one of many others we might select. Surely I am justified in my arguing in that case where the prospective contractors gave the information they gave of the revenue required in the Mallow rural district. It was assumed that the creameries would use 192,000 units, at 2d. per unit, and it was further assumed that the current would be taken by the creameries partly in power and partly in light. I have assumed the price per unit for power would be 3d. If I made the figure for power lower, the price for light would be still higher. People are able to draw their own conclusions. The making of an assumption does not invalidate the whole argument I am making. The only assumption in the case is that the farmers will get the current at 3d. In dealing with this matter it would be better if the Minister would put alternative figures before us. That would be a more straightforward way of dealing with the matter, than by attacking me because I introduced one figure as an assumption. Every Senator is able to judge whether it is a fair or an unfair assumption to put it at 3d. for power. If you put it at 6d. for power you know that the farmer will not take it at all—again an assumption, I admit. If the Minister is going to local authorities to make contracts, he ought to place them in possession of these facts, or defer it until he has alternative figures.
It will certainly be possible to put up alternative figures before we go out. I asked for the figure of 3d. quoted from Siemens' Report. It has not been quoted, and I refuse to accept the Senator as the intermediary between me and Siemens' Report, or as the intermediary between me and the consumers. A certain sum of money has been set aside to cover the cost of wiring 300 square miles of area to bring poles past the door of every hovel in the area.
On what grounds does the Minister make the statement "every hovel in the area," for it is 45 per cent. of the houses in the area according to Siemens' figures?
The Senator has not allowed me to complete. Wires are to be brought past every house, and after bringing the wires past you assume a certain number only are going to take electricity. Therefore, you have weighted the figures against yourself—we have weighted the figures in our scheme. The wires pass the house, and assume that the houses will not take power, obviously we will not do anything of the sort. If you imagine this room enlarged to a 300-square-mile area, and if people in the corner will not take electricity obviously we will not run it there. Further, the 6.8, which is the basis of the thing, is built up in this way:—On the average flat rate of .8 through the country, plus 3½d. for the Mallow district, but at a 3d. rate for the rural areas, plus 3.8 for Mallow distribution, if we decide to do it, and there is any amount of reason why we should decide to charge a flat rate through the country. Dublin industrialists say it does not matter for them whether they get power at 1½d. or 3d., that the difference is immaterial. We will give cheap power where it is appreciated.
If that be the case, we will give power cheap where cheap power will be appreciated. We will give it at the .8 through the country. You will get 4.6 instead of 6.8. Let the Senator make his new calculations on that basis. Instead of expending a sum of money to wire the whole area of that 300 square miles, we are only going to wire the half. Remember that when you are dealing with the rural areas you are dealing with a fraction, 3 per cent. of the whole demand. Three per cent. of the whole demand of electricity on the Siemens' scheme is going to the rural districts. Let us assume that all the Senator's mathematics is correct, a large assumption; let it be assumed that all the farmers will buy power; let us assume that is correct, again a large assumption. Let it be assumed that the case is as bad as he made out, and you are dealing with three per cent. of the entire estimated consumption.
We are to remove from this Bill a section which gives me power to do what the Senator believes we have not done so far. We should have some idea as to alternative charges, and we should seek to amplify our knowledge by going out into the country and saying: "Will you contract to take from us at such a price provided the Oireachtas sanctions that?" He seeks to take away that power, and he takes it away with the object of helping me so that I may be blocked at every hand's turn. I may not go to the country and get any idea from the local authority as to what power they will take. That is done with the object of helping the scheme. I repeat the first thing to be done under the construction scheme after excavation of the canal is finished will be to throw out transmission lines to Dublin, Cork and Limerick. After that there will be an investigation as to the consumers in different areas. I must have some small power to make contracts even within the very small margins in Section 13, before I will know what proportion of the transmission line will be built. We are not going to incur useless expenditure. If we find there are not going to be consumers in certain areas, the lines will not be built. There is much expenditure that can be saved, and I think I should have the powers limited sufficiently by Section 13, sub-sections (2) and (3). I could never face the responsibility of incurring the expenditure on the transmission system other than Cork, Dublin and Limerick if I had not power to find out by way of these professional contractors what consumers there are likely to be.
Would the Minister give us some indication of the cost of distribution, the cost to the consumer, and how the distribution is to be financed?
That is all set out in the scheme.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment 23 not moved.
Question—"That Section 13 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That Sections 14 to 17, inclusive, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
I move a new section:—
Before Section 18 to insert a new section as follows:—
"If and whenever the execution of any works under this Act involves the destruction or interference with any building or other monument of antiquarian interest, the Minister shall notify the Board of Public Works of the fact, and the Board of Public Works shall take such steps as may be necessary for the protection of the building or monument, whether by removal and re-erection, raising or otherwise."
There are a large number of interesting ancient monuments which will be interfered with by the Shannon scheme. The portion of it which is to be carried out at once interferes with interesting shrines below Killaloe. The section proposes to put the protection of those monuments in the hands of the Board of Works, and gives the Board of Works power to take steps for their protection either by removal, re-erection, raising or otherwise. I know the Minister is sympathetic, and I think it is only a question of the wording of the clause.
There are many monuments which we should respect and which will become of great importance to this country, not only to the education of our own people, but to the tourists who come here. Therefore, they will be of financial value. There is a famous poem called "Clonmacnoise," which will be sung by the people of other countries. A poem of the late Mr. Rolleston is so beautiful that it will in all probability bring many tourists into that district if you can protect the ruins.
"In a quiet, watered land, a land of roses,
Stands St. Kieran's city fair,
And the warriors of Erin, in their famous generations.
I think I am the first person who has quoted a poem in the Seanad. I only do so because I am sure the poem will be, to use the appropriate words, "a definite asset."
I have suggested to Senator Brown that I had an alternative to his amendment. It is rather lengthy, and it covers most of the ground which his amendment covers. It reads:—
If and whenever the execution of works under this Act involves the destruction of or interference with any ancient monument which, in the opinion of the Minister is a matter of public interest by reason of the historic traditional archaeological or artistic interest attaching thereto, he may, with the consent of the Commissioner of Public Works in Ireland, and with the consent of the owner of the land on which the monument stands, make an Order constituting the Commissioners owners or guardians of that monument; and thereupon the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Prohibition Acts, 1882 and 1892, shall apply to that monument, and the Commissioners shall take such steps as may be necessary for the protection of the monument, whether by removal and re-erection, raising, or otherwise."
I understand that meets the point which the Senator wishes to cover. I can have that submitted to the draftsman, and have it put into the general tenor of the Bill.
It is in better form than my amendment
I would suggest that it be changed in the second line and substitute for the word "involved" the words "may involve," because, if it involves the destruction how are you to protect it?
I accept that alteration.
I am not satisfied with the Minister's statement. It has to be done with the consent of the owner. I remember a few years ago when a certain person owned Tara, and certain people came over from England and they said the Ark of the Covenant was at Tara. They proceeded to dig up the whole place. There were protests from a great many people, some of them friends of mine. Arthur Griffith went there and protested, but it was no use. The farmer said he was paid to do it, and he intended to do it. There was much damage done to Tara. I would like something to be done in the case of unreasonable men of that kind, and so prevent them from destroying ancient monuments.
We stopped that man. I was on that expedition.
In most cases where interference with or destruction of monuments is likely to take place under this scheme, we will have to purchase the land, and we will have to become the owners. In the event of a monument standing in lands which we do not purchase, it would be necessary to have the permission of the owner.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 18 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 19 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That the title stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.