Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1931—Second Stage (Resumed).

I have listened to the debate on this Bill with great interest, and to the shafts that have been thrown at the Minister from every side. So far I do not think there has been anything said on his behalf. I hold no brief for him, but this is a national undertaking, and everybody on this subject has got to think straightly and clearly. Senator Johnson again, by suggesting that the inference of the Minister probably had a bad effect, seemed to think that the interference was unjustified. He ended up by saying that the body forming the Board were representatives of the Minister appointed by him, and that therefore he was responsible. Senator Sir John Keane suggested—in fact he almost passionately regretted—that the Minister had not found money which the Minister did not possess, or which his conscience told him he could not devote to that purpose. There were various other suggestions, like Senator Connolly's that an impartial Committee should be appointed now to do the work, or rather to superintend the work that the auditors are doing at present. There is no other work for them to do.

This whole Shannon scheme is of the utmost importance to this country. I do not know whether Senators here realise that it is a scheme which is being watched with the greatest attention by the big public utility corporations all over the world, because all over the world there is a fight between nationally-owned things and ones that are privately-owned—that is, public corporations. I do not say that this scheme is bigger than some municipally and State-owned undertakings in other countries, but from its initiation it is the biggest effort I know of by a nation to exploit national resources within the country. It is being watched very closely by what I might call the opposition corporations of the world, and any failure on its part is going to be quoted very freely in the campaigns that undoubtedly go on in these communities that are served by public corporations. So it is of importance not alone to this country. Personally, I have been connected most of my time with what you might call opposing corporations. I am entirely in favour of this effort. I am all for it. Within, certainly, the next year, or as soon as finances get a little settled down, there is going to be a very big fight in other parts of the world on this question of municipal or State ownership. That is a side issue, but a great deal of this is going to arise out of the question of holding companies, and so on. However, I want to point out that this is a very important thing. It is not a small thing for the credit of this country. It is not a small thing from the point of view of the taxpayer, and it cannot be looked at in a small way.

I am going to take the history of the thing as it is without making any suggestions as to what I personally think should have been done or should not have been done. This is not the time for it. I take this question starting when the Board was put into operation, and I take only the facts that concern it. It is no good talking about what might happen if somebody were able to say something. We have got to consider the facts before us. The facts are that a Board was set up with the goodwill of this whole country to do a certain thing. Without question, the initiation of the Shannon scheme has been a success. Difficulties have been overcome. As far as the construction of that scheme went it had been entirely successful, and I will go further and say at a reasonable cost. This country then, with the goodwill of all parties—after all, this is our scheme; it is not a Party scheme; it is a national scheme —wanted to see it go successfully. As the Minister said, it was thought best that this Board should be as far removed from political or day-to-day interference as was possible.

I am not saying anything about that. I am simply stating the fact that the Act did give this power of dismissal to the Minister. Putting the splitting of hairs aside, if a man has the power of dismissal he has the power of inquiry, because he cannot dismiss unless he is satisfied in his own mind that there is ground for dismissal. I think that was a wise provision. I am not saying anything about the formation of the Board. The Minister says that very early he began to consider his position as regards the Board, and I do not blame him. As a matter of fact, possibly he might not have got to that pitch of being really anxious if it had not been for a fortuitous incident in connection with his side of the work. He was employed by the Shannon Board to complete some work which naturally brought him into much closer touch with the organisation than he otherwise might have had the temerity to insist upon.

Looking at the whole history of this thing, I might say here and now that I think the Minister has behaved with the most extraordinary self-restraint and level-headedness throughout these proceedings. It is frightfully easy, when there is a thing that you fear greatly, to lose your head. Senator Comyn has said that in 1929, when this agreement was made, the Minister should have come to the Dáil. If at that immature stage he had come to the representatives of this country and suggested anything, he would have been met with derision and with the cry of panic legislation. He represented the Government, who wanted this thing to be independent as far as it was humanly possible. He went to the greatest length in securing their independence. As regards that agreement, the only thing I want to say about it is that there was a difference between the Minister and the Shannon Board as to the reading of an Act, and the Minister quite frankly said to them: "If you do not agree with my reading of it I will bring in an amending Bill." They said: "We will agree with you." That is the fact. They agreed to his reading of the Act, and by that agreement they were bound to his reading of it. I am not going to say now whether I think it is the right reading of it or not, but I am perfectly certain that if he came in 1929 to either of the Houses and said that beyond the sum of £2,500,000 there was an unknown quantity which they were going to be liable for, he would not get a blank cheque. The thing is impossible. Time went on and the Minister demanded what he was entitled to demand. Not only was he entitled to demand it, but if he acted up to the letter of the law he would have said in what form those accounts were to come. Section 7 clearly lays it down. The intention clearly was that the accounts of this concern were to be absolutely at the disposal of the representatives of the Government. I think it would have been crazy legislation if anything else had been suggested. A Board was set up. There is a lot to be said about the constitution of that Board, but that is not the question here. The country had to keep control of the accounts, and I think, so far from the Minister having unduly interfered, he showed the greatest patience.

I will say that these resignations should not have been accepted until these men who were responsible for the governing of this Board had furnished, as they were bound under the Act to do, a report showing exactly how they dealt with public money which had been entrusted to them. You have got the position now that the men responsible have got no onus on them to produce that report that you and the Dáil and the people of this country might consider. Why did they not produce it? You have only got to look at the history of these two years. They could not possibly produce it! The Minister is going to produce it somewhere about next Easter. It is all nonsense to say, as they have said, that they could not have produced the report in time.

There has been a publication in the Press by one of the gentlemen concerned. Let me tell you my experience of this sort of scheme: there is not a construction work that ever succeeded in the world, there is not a public utility that exists in the world that could exist unless it were backed by State money under conditions under which this Shannon scheme existed for two years. I have some knowledge of public utilities, because I am engaged in a number of them. There is not a public utility in the world, whether nationally or municipally owned, whether publicly owned or privately owned, that could not say to its board of directors at the end of every month —say, on the first Monday of every month—what the expenses and outgoings for the month before were. It would be inconceivable otherwise. Every such public utility would insist on its management producing these figures at the end of the month. Otherwise it could not carry on.

Here we are in the position that we have no accounts for a period of two years. There are seventeen auditors working at the present moment reconstructing those accounts. We have the admission of the man who was at the head of this thing in which he says: "The accounts for the year ending March, 1930, were completed about June last and are at present under audit; that is, they were produced fifteen months after the close of the year, and any man who has experience of the initiation of such a huge concern as the Electricity Supply Board cannot agree that this fact is anything very alarming. I agree that if the accountancy department had been under the guidance of an accountant with wide experience in the electrical industry matters might have gone better and quicker; but, rightly or wrongly, it was decided that a well-qualified Irish accountant of ordinary business experience would meet our needs, and the salary offered did not in fact attract any applicant with a previous specialised knowledge of the industry." When a man at the head of a ten million corporation writes a thing like that, there is no comment necessary. If you are dealing with money in large or small sums there is one picture that you and everybody concerned must have before you. That is, the picture of the accounts of that particular concern must be seen month by month. Anybody who is accustomed to dealing with public utilities of this magnitude knows that. No such public utility could carry on unless they had this data before them.

It is idle for a man to say that he was overwhelmed on the production side, overwhelmed with the fine frenzy of production. That is not what he is there for. It is idle for a man to say that he has not got an amount of money sufficient to get the brains necessary. That is a perfectly nonsensical statement in a scheme like this, a big national scheme. The accountant on that scheme should be a big man. What is more, there is no engineer in the world who should be in charge of a scheme like that. It is a man on the financial side that is always put at the head of such a scheme—the man who has got control of the experts. The expert has always got to be controlled, because he has to cut his cloth according to his measure. A very curious thing is that they agreed to cut their cloth according to the £2,500,000. I am not saying that £2,500,000 was sufficient for the proper development of the Shannon scheme to its ultimate end. It was sufficient for the time being. It is a large sum in any country to be given for development. If I have got the facts right they agreed that they would cut their cloth; in April they were written to, and they wrote back to say that they were well within the sum. In June they wrote to say that they could not do with the sum, and in July they wrote to say that they had over-stepped it. I do not think that there is any comment necessary on that.

This is a public concern, and very full power was given to these men. The publicity about the accounting was for the purpose of counteracting the lack of control. There is no question about that. Yet they have gone out of office without giving that report. That is the only stick I throw at the Minister—that he did accept the resignations of these men before they had given him a report on the data that they themselves had at the moment. If they were not able to give a report on those data to satisfy the Oireachtas and the country, then people would form their own opinion. I do not think the Minister could have done anything other than he has done. As regards the retention on the Board of what one might call the business men, I must say that I am glad that the Minister has retained them. I do not know that these men realised while on the Board the possibilities that were before them, or the responsibilities that were upon them. I have been on public utility concerns and I have the greatest respect for the ordinary straight, honest business men that run those Boards. They are always an asset, especially in restraining the exuberance of the experts. I am very glad that beyond question these men are of that character. And I am very glad that the Minister has retained them, because they are the only liaison he has with the Board. The whole thing will have to be reconstituted and gone into thoroughly, if this scheme is going to be made a success. I do not want to strike anything but a note of optimism in connection with the Shannon scheme. I think it is a wonderful experiment and I am for it in every way.

At the present moment I do not think we can do otherwise than give power to the Government to carry on until we know exactly where we are. I do not think that the sum they ask for is excessive. Their position must be made safe until the Easter of next year. At the moment they have not the facts before them. We must have the facts placed before us, too; we must investigate them closely, and the Board must be reconstituted on a totally different basis. This little storm does not affect the Shannon scheme. That is a sound proposition as I see it. It is a great experiment, and I hope it will be successful. If it is, it will have repercussions all over the world. We must consider seriously the best method of reconstituting the Board. I am not sure that this country, in spite of its pride in its own people, will not have to go outside for one or two of the most important executive officers.

In this country at the present time nobody has had an opportunity of being trained in the business of a big utility company such as this. If you go through the lanes and by-ways of Ireland you will see any amount of men who are potential managers of huge companies. It is clearly proved on the other side of the water that Irishmen can hold prominent positions in connection with the biggest undertakings. Most of the executive officers of the big utility companies across the water are from this country, but of course they had to be trained. We must regard the Shannon scheme not alone as a great national undertaking, but as a method of training quite a lot of our young people to be efficient in certain directions.

I say that we must give the Minister the money he requires. Right from the start he has had an appreciation of the difficulties of this situation. He has a clarity of vision that I regard as marvellous. It is absolutely necessary that he should be granted the money he requires. At the same time we want, as soon as it can be given us, a very clear statement as to what has been done, what is being done, and what is going to be done.

I listened with great interest to the speech delivered by the Minister yesterday in connection with this scheme. I could not help comparing that speech with another speech delivered by him in this House in July, 1929. On that occasion, following the Minister's speech, several members of the Seanad met and we all agreed that the statement was one which gave great hope for the success of the Shannon scheme. Yesterday the sum total of the Minister's remarks was that he could not be optimistic, would not be pessimistic, but would rather, to use a hackneyed expression, wait and see. Yesterday his remarks were confined to indicting the Board that was placed in charge of the electricity supply. His indictment commenced practically with the first transaction that the Board had with the Executive Council. He alleged that they requisitioned their first moneys under a wrong sub-section of the original Act. The insinuation was that they had not sufficient brains to do that simple transaction correctly. He went through the whole period from the selection of the Board and their institution until the time when he accepted their resignations and it was one continued indictment.

I admit that the Minister agreed he could not shirk responsibility to a certain extent in connection with the Board's affairs. It would be very unwise for us to assume the right to whitewash the Minister for the responsibility which he must share for the delinquencies of the Board. If the allegations made by the Minister are correct, he himself stands indicted by his own remarks. I do not accept that indictment. In connection with that I would like to correct what I believe to be a misinterpretation of what Senator Connolly suggested yesterday in connection with a joint committee of the Dáil and Seanad. I believe that Senator Connolly suggested the establishment of such a committee, which would exercise judicial functions, merely to ascertain the facts of the situation in so far as they could be ascertained from those members of the Board who have been indicted by the Minister and to give them an opportunity of replying to the Minister's charges.

I believe that Senator Johnson accepted that suggestion. Two speakers followed Senator Connolly. One was Senator Sir John Keane. To-day we had Senator Vincent, and both Senators suggested that Senator Connolly desired to set up a joint committee to manage the Electricity Supply Board. Senator Vincent took up somewhat the same attitude to-day. He was very anxious to ascertain the facts of the situation. In my opinion, the facts of the situation cannot be ascertained in any way other than by the way suggested by Senator Connolly—the setting up of a joint committee to act in a judicial capacity as between the Board on the one hand and the Minister on the other. When Senator Vincent proceeded to demonstrate his anxiety for facts he more or less assumed that the indictment was just. I do not think there is any justification for that attitude whatsoever.

It is alleged that there were no accounts presented. In my opinion, the non-submission of accounts in connection with a scheme on which such huge sums of money were expended was a matter that should have been reported to the highest authority in the land, namely, the Oireachtas. Not only were we not notified that such accounts were not in being, but now we are informed that the invoices from which they could be formulated have at this stage been lost. From the statement made by the Minister, the position is a very serious one. If the allegation made is correct, it is questionable if a true valuation of the accounts can now be arrived at. This is a question not merely of the justification of the Board or of the Minister, or a question even of the prestige or consolidation of the credit of the country as far as the Electricity Supply Board goes. Those questions are undoubtedly involved by the manner in which it is proposed to meet the situation—that is by the provisions embodied in the Bill the Minister has brought before the House. I believe the principle adopted was a bad one— that was to set up an independent Board to be, to use the Minister's expression, flung as far as possible from governmental control and from the day-to-day criticism of the Oireachtas. I believe the present state of the Electricity Supply Board proves that to be a bad principle. I am going to suggest that we need to be very wary about other babies of the present Executive for the same reasons. I refer now to the Agricultural Credit Corporation and to the Fisheries Board.

Cathaoirleach

I think that these matters are outside the scope of this Bill.

I submit that my suggestion is pertinent to the Second Reading of this Bill in so far as I want to establish that it is the duty of this House to set up an inquiry into the methods employed by the present Executive in furthering national concerns.

Cathaoirleach

I do not think that applies to the Electricity Supply Board.

At any rate, I will pass from that. I am convinced that when national undertakings of this magnitude are set up that the Executive, in view of the experience they have had of the Shannon Board, should keep the closest possible control on the expenditure of public moneys until such time as they are satisfied that that control can be handed over to an independent body. I am of opinion that the Minister should get certain moneys to take the Electricity Supply Board out of the present hole. I think the Minister should give the House more details than he has given as to what it is proposed to do with the £2,000,000 asked for. As well as I recollect, he has already accounted for £850,000. As it was wrong to give a blank cheque in the first instance, I think, in view of the circumstances that have arisen, it would be a very serious thing indeed to give a blank cheque now. I certainly would like to get an explanation as to what it is proposed to do with the balance of the money. I would like to know what constructional work will be undertaken, and to have details in regard to it. I think we should have all that information before we are asked to come to a decision on this.

The Minister has certain information in his possession. He states that for national reasons that information will not be divulged at present, but I hold strongly to the view that all that information should be placed at the disposal of the Select Committee, which Senator Connolly has suggested should be set up, at the earliest possible moment. The Oireachtas should not be asked to take a decision until all that information has been placed at its disposal, as well as any submission of evidence which the outgoing Board may desire to offer. We all want to see the Shannon scheme a success, the success that in the initial stages was prophesied for it.

I desire to say a few words in connection with this Bill. I do not propose to detain the House very long. From the beginning I have been a consistent supporter of the Shannon scheme. I have been an equally consistent critic of the methods by which it was proposed to carry out the work. Those methods departed from the well-defined lines which experience had suggested were the best. I think that our criticisms have been justified by what has since occurred, and that in all probability, if those well-defined lines had not been departed from, the introduction of the present Bill might have been avoided. Be that as it may, we were not listened to. The fire and energy of youth carried the scheme through. The State has got, within a record time, an electrical installation of which any nation might be proud. I know it intimately. I come from that district. I have seen the scheme through its various periods of construction, and it is as I have just described it—a project of which any nation might be proud. At the same time, the prosperity of this State and its reputation are inextricably involved in the success of the scheme, and I believe that the future prosperity of the country largely depends upon it.

I, therefore, deprecate in the strongest manner the proposal made that a Parliamentary Committee should be set up to inquire into this question. If it is to deal with it, it will naturally be composed of members of different parties, and possibly political considerations might interfere with a correct decision. In any case the Minister, who has been responsible from the beginning, shows no desire to shirk his responsibilities, and I think the only way out of the difficulty is to give him the money he asks for to enable the work to be carried on. At the same time I would like to make a suggestion. During the Minister's speech the other day I think I took him down correctly as saying that he intended and instructed the Electricity Supply Board to provide a sinking fund which would repay the entire money involved in the Shannon scheme—I suppose we might take it that it amounts to ten or eleven millions—in forty years. I would suggest to the Seanad, and to the Minister, that that is placing a wholly unnecessary burden upon the consumers of electricity. In forty years time we will be all dead, buried, and forgotten and it would simply mean that this ten or eleven million would be placed at the disposal of some future Minister for Finance, who might dispose of it, perhaps, unwisely for the benefit of our grandchildren.

It is idle to suppose that any machinery will last for forty years. We all know that machinery will not last for anything like that time, but will have to be renewed. I suggest to the Minister that it would be much wiser to provide sufficient money to maintain the machinery at its full efficiency—if possible to better it—and at the end of the forty years the country will be possessed not of an installation which is worth ten or eleven millions, but one which if properly worked, would be worth perhaps three or four times that amount. The only amount with which the scheme ought to be saddled would be the amount necessary to maintain it at the highest degree of efficiency. The idea which underlay this whole proposition was that industries might be established, and these industries, no doubt, during their infant years, would require assistance in the shape of cheap power. If such a heavy charge is imposed upon them, in order to repay the entire capital involved, as well as to maintain the efficiency of the undertaking, I think the House would be putting a charge upon such industries that would be too great for them to bear.

The Bill before the House asks it to make provision for two million pounds to be placed to the credit of the Electricity Supply Board under certain conditions. In the Principal Act money was placed in the hands of the Minister for Finance to be paid on demand to the Electricity Supply Board. I think I am right in saying that there are already over eight million pounds belonging to the people of this State sunk in the electricity undertaking. There is a new departure in this Bill with regard to the two million pounds. The Minister is coming into the Bill as a safeguard, so that the money to be voted by the Oireachtas can only be paid to the Board by the Minister for Finance, on the certificate of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. When we realise the departure that has been made we must consider the causes that have led up to it. I do not intend to go into all the matters that have been mentioned, but my mind goes back to 1925 when the Principal Act was before the House. I think I can claim that I was one of the supporters of the scheme. I supported it because I believed that such an essential service as electricity should be owned and controlled by the State. During the progress of the Bill through the House we had all kinds of warnings and complaints from what I might term the business interests. I was getting tired listening to all I heard about Government interference in business, and warnings that the less Government interference the better for business. Apparently, the Minister and the Executive Council were carried away with these shibboleths that came from the business and the financial interests. Consequently the Minister put into the Bill certain ideas that constituted this Board almost entirely free of Government interference. The result has not been a very happy one for the handling of this wonderful national undertaking, of which we are all proud. Anything that we may say or do ought to be done in order to make this great undertaking the success that it can be made.

As far as my information goes, it has been a wonderful success from the engineering point of view. The scheme has produced a great quantity of electrical current in a very short space of time, so that from the engineering standpoint it has accomplished everything that was claimed for it, and even more than that. But the point of view of the man in the street is that while the engineering side of the undertaking has been a huge success it has been hopelessly bungled on the commercial side. The man in the street is satisfied that there has been bungling on the commercial side, although there was no Government interference. The undertaking was left in the hands of the expert business people, and the result is that the Minister has to come before Parliament to ask for an additional grant of two millions to save it from the bungling, I might say, of the business people. I have no doubt that the scheme can be made a success, but if it is necessary that this money should be voted we have no alternative but to vote it.

I had a slight experience of a similar undertaking that was run, not by the State, but by a municipality. I heard all kinds of discreditable and ugly things said about the old Dublin Corporation. I heard certain members of this House say awful things about the people who composed the Dublin Corporation. I was associated with the Dublin Corporation for a number of years. More than twenty-five years ago the Corporation had the foresight to see that it was essential that the municipality should set up a municipal enterprise for the purpose of providing a supply of electric current, and a considerable sum belonging to the ratepayers of the city was put into that undertaking.

I am proud to say that it was made a great success. It did not cost the ratepayers of Dublin a single penny. The electricity undertaking in Dublin has been admitted by everybody to have been a great success. It was not handed over to the business community with all the great brains. What was done was this: One man who was an expert was put in charge of the engineering side of it, and another man, a good accountant, was put in charge of the commercial end of it, with the result that it was made a success. The extraordinary thing about this national undertaking has been that from the commencement the people in control had not the foresight to appoint a competent accountant to take charge of the accountancy end of the business. If they did that, I am satisfied that we would not have the story that has been told to us about the accounts being so much in arrear. As far as the story goes, the people in control could not afford to pay a decent accountant to take charge of the accountancy end of it. I heard another story in connection with the matter. It is just as well to have it all out. When the Dublin electricity undertaking was taken over by the Electricity Supply Board they took over a staff in charge of the commercial end of it that had twenty-five years' experience; a staff that did its work well, and that knew how to do its work. You could imagine what business people would do if they took over that staffen bloc. They would use it as the nucleus for spreading out the commercial end of it. But this competent staff, which was in charge of the commercial end of the Dublin undertaking was split up and scattered in different Departments. I would not expect that from good business people. I do not claim to have business experience, but I think it is commonsense to say that if you took over a staff with twenty-five years' experience of the commercial end of a certain line of business that it would be good policy to use it as a nucleus for spreading out.

I hope anything I say will not be taken as meaning that I am opposed to the undertaking. I am sincerely anxious that the undertaking shall be made a success. I am prepared to vote this two million pounds, although with other people I must say that I think we ought to have an explanation as to what the second million is required for. The Minister has made a case for one million pounds. He says that there is nearly one million pounds required to pay off the liabilities that have been incurred. But I think we ought to get some information as to what the second million is required for.

In conclusion, I want to say this: Some people will not be sorry that a change has taken place. I read in the newspapers this morning that at long last an arrangement has been made between the trade union that caters for the electricians and the Electricity Supply Board. For the past few years, these people could not get the ordinary trade union standard rate and conditions from the Board. I am perfectly satisfied that with the departure of the people who stood in the way the electricians' trade union will be satisfied that some good has been accomplished in that respect. We have heard a good deal in the discussion that has taken place on this matter. It has occurred to me that as a result of the activities of the past few months anyhow, there has been more heat than light generated. We have had plenty of heat over the difficulties of the Electricity Supply Board. Let us hope that in the very near future light will be thrown on what has transpired, and that the people who are responsible will be made responsible for it.

Suppose we look on this question without the resignations. If the Minister could answer a question I think the problem would resolve itself into this. As far as my memory goes without figures, I think that three or four years ago when the Shannon scheme was discussed the available consumption in the country was about 45 million units. They looked as a desideratum to 70 million units to make it pay. The question I should like to ask is this: Is not the extra vote required to fulfil an undertaking that the Board may possibly have made? In other words, has the Board promised or undertaken to supply 130,000,000 units or 140,000,000 units? As far as I remember, the maximum output of the first Shannon scheme, that is the lesser of the two schemes, was round about 140,000,000 units. That possibly would resolve itself into this: A public utility board, having gone to the maximum of its capacity, is asking for a vote of money and no utility board with an earning capacity such as the Shannon Board has can be expected to get on without being voted that money. That is the experience of one of the most accomplished electricians in America who was lately in this country. He is a man who is over a Board with a capital of 250,000,000 dollars. His story is that it must be kept supplied with funds if it is to earn, and it must be separated as far as possible from politics. I think it would be an optimistic thing if the Minister could reassure us that the first proposal of the Shannon output has been reached, and that some of the moneys are required to plan developments and put them in a position to carry them out, and also for maintenance. One can see how possibly the publicity clause as to publishing the figures may have been mooted, because the contractors who had finished the Shannon works were actually employed on electricity supply, which is a separate thing. In that way publicity may not have appertained to that as much as it would if it were merely a question of figures. If it resolves itself into this, that the first scheme has fructified in two years, I think we may look upon this as merely a vote in aid of a scheme that within two years has come to a most creditable success.

The Bill we are considering is a very short one. It is practically a Bill of one clause to make an additional advance of £2,000,000 to the Electricity Supply Board. When the Minister opened the debate he took great pains to tell us that when the Board was originally constituted he had Estimates framed for the amount of money that would be required. These Estimates amounted to two-and-a-half million pounds. He told us that he had experts in to traverse these figures, to correct them and to criticise them in so far as they could. As a result of his investigations he satisfied himself that the amount of two-and-a-half millions would be amply sufficient to cover the capital expenditure of the Electricity Supply Board. Two years, I think, have now elapsed, and he now tells us that the two-and-a-half millions have been spent, and that, in addition to that, there is a sum of £750,000, roughly speaking, three-quarters of a million, of debts now due, which will have to be paid. Further, he goes on to say, that in his opinion, to complete the activities of the work of the Board, another million and a quarter will be required. In all, then the sum of four-and-a-half millions will be necessary for the completion of the work that was originally contemplated and undertaken by the Electricity Supply Board. That is a very large increase on the Estimate, and so far we have had no indication from the Minister as to how it came about that the original Estimate which he satisfied himself was apparently right and proper, has been so much exceeded.

There are only two ways as a rule in which it comes about that Estimates are exceeded. One is that the Estimate is very much under what it should be. The Minister has more or less answered that question by saying that he has taken very great care in the first instance to satisfy himself as to the adequacy of the amount, so one is rather precluded from putting that down as the cause. The only other is that the money was wasted. As the greater portion of this money was used for the purchase and taking over of undertakings of that description, I would feel inclined to think that it may have been that bad bargains were really the cause of this large overspending of the money. That is a point that it is possible the Minister may not yet be able to answer, but if he can answer it I think the House will be glad to know his own views as to the reason why this large sum of money is now required.

There is another matter. The Board, I believe, are in receipt of revenue of about £800,000 a year. The first year I think it was something like £700,000, and he told us, I think, that for the current year he anticipated about £900,000. Take it as £800,000 a year. Where is that money gone to? Has it been used in the same way as the two-and-a-half millions? Has it been used for the general purposes of the Electricity Supply Board? If so, that should be added to the four-and-a-quarter millions apparently now required. There are two other questions in connection with the financial aspect about which I would also like to obtain information.

The loan that was obtained for the Shannon Works was in the region of ten millions. I do not say that all this was spent. It has not been all spent but I suppose some five or six millions have been spent and the interest on that ought to have been paid. I should like to know from the Minister whether that has been paid. I take it that the issuing of it would be by the Government and that the Government are responsible for it. I want to know has the interest on the capital sum expended been paid. Secondly, has the sinking fund which, under the Act, is required to be kept up, also been met, and is that in a flourishing condition? I attempted to put all I had to say more or less in the form of questions. I am not going to criticise speeches but I would like to have these points answered if the Minister can possibly reply to them.

The last speaker has put to me the type of questions that go right to the root of the whole matter. If I could give answers to these questions I would be in a much better position than I find myself in at present. If I had the information upon which to answer Senator Guinness's three or four questions accurately instead of provisionally——

Provisionally would suit me.

Answering them provisionally, unfortunately, has this defect, that my words are taken down, often turned without the provisions, and always used against me. I can answer the Senator in a very provisional way. I may just stress the limited answer I am making for this reason, that it exactly shows the position in which the Board have left me. I should be in the position of coming to the House and saying, "There is a definite stage of the Shannon development, in terms of unit consumption, power generated, amount sold, and such-and-such returns upon it," so that people could see everything: interest being paid, sinking fund of a particular type being paid, renewals, obsolescence and everything provided. I cannot give any indication of that because the Board have not put me in a position to do so. They ran on, and I am now trying to catch them in mid-course, trying to stop the calculations short at a particular point and make out an answer for myself. The Senator put two or three things to me. He asked if the capital sums we have to consider are the sum of two and a half million pounds now increased by two millions. First of all, it depends upon your point of view as to whether or not the two and a half million pounds is being increased by two million pounds. Even from my point of view, to a certain extent it is, and to a certain extent it is not. If you take the two and a half million pounds as being two and a half million pounds that was to be expended clear of the undischarged liabilities of the municipal undertakings, then we are not now in the position of saying that that two and a half million pounds has been spent; that in addition there are the outstanding liabilities, and we are now asking for another two millions. There has been a mix-up there. Stressing this again as a provisional statement, and therefore subject to change, the position with regard to finance on the Board's side is this:

The Board have got advanced to them £1,900,000. They took over capital liabilities which at the date of their vesting in the Board amounted to about £800,000. They paid off £200,000 of that. So that you may say that there is outstanding £600,000. They have therefore capital liabilities to the State of £1,900,000 and to lenders to local authorities of £600,000. We are now asking to add two millions to that. This is a mixed statement but it is the best I can get. The Senator next remarked that whether it is a question of two million pounds, or one million one hundred thousand pounds, or whatever it is, it is at any rate something surplus to the two and a half million pounds I talked of, and the Senator asked me a question that should be asked in these circumstances: What happened the original estimate? What has happened the Board's works? Where has the money gone? To that I reply in this way. First that I hope I have not been taken as saying that the two and a half million pounds was an exact estimate. I think I said it was a rough and ready calculation. It did seem to me on the information then given to me to be a sum amply sufficient for what the Board had to do, but I never put it up to the Board or to anybody that it was the last sum of money I would have to ask for on the distribution side of the electricity business. I never suggested that. It was really the managing director who put these estimates to me. He did put estimates to me that may have to be carefully dissected hereafter, but I think that the only judgment to be passed upon those estimates of his is that a less sum than two and a half million pounds would have been sufficient counting in the capitalised value of the undischarged liabilities of the municipal undertakings. I said I had another test, a test by thirds—it applies this way: you should put into distribution one-third of the total sum that you put into everything, generation, transmission and distribution. But that calculation relates to a particular generating capacity. If your generating capacity is added to and your transmission expenditure is added to, you will require more money for distribution. In fact, what is now happening is that the two million pounds I am asking for, envisages not merely the generation of, say, 150,000,000 units, which is about Ardnacrushna's maximum production in a dry season, but it envisages the development of nearly 200,000,000 units. In other words, we are allowing for an increase on the generating side. I thought I expressed all that in a remote way by saying that if this two million pounds had to be added on to the distribution side of the present stage of development of the partial Shannon scheme it could not possibly be remunerated. What we have to see will we see this extra money remunerated if we get extra units generated for a third time then you will have a bigger distribution system and can put more money into it.

The Senator asked another question. I have to make a qualified answer. He asked, if we, as the people who stand for the public in this, receive from the Board the interest on the money we have put into it, and if we receive anything by way of sinking fund payments. I refer him to the Act in regard to the latter. The sinking fund payments do not start until after the Appointed Day. But the charges, according to another portion of the Act, ought to be such before the Appointed Day as to conduce to certain things, including the sinking fund being met afterwards. It would seem to me to have been elementary prudence for the Board to see that even in the years in which sinking fund payments had not definitely to be handed over some provision by way of sinking fund was being made. A prudent Board would not come to the end of the year 1931 paying nothing by way of sinking fund, and then jump suddenly into a full year's payment. They might have taken two years' payments ahead and spread them over four years, but, as a matter of fact, no sinking fund payments have been made. As regards the other question, as the Board operated its finances, it did not pay us our interest.

The interest is not paid?

No, but may I restrict that answer somewhat? It is not fully paid. I am not going to be led into a discussion as to what "fully" covers. As the Board used its finances, certain things did not happen. Whether they could have happened with another use of its finances is another question to be examined at another time.

There is then the question of the revenue of the Board. Where has that £800,000 a year gone? That amount has been received as revenue. It has been paid for a variety of other things. Has that money been used?

It has been used— entirely used up.

How has it been used?

Some of it has been used as capital. I think that is what it comes to. When I said that the Board was using its money in a certain way, that is what I meant. I ask the forbearance of the House in this matter, because if it is pursued I shall be made to speak upon certain information which I have, and that information and certain statements which I have cannot be described as fully considered. They have not been fully considered by me, at all events. I do not know whether or not they have been fully and finally considered even by the people who brought them forward. There will have to be discussions upon them. I would be bound to mislead the House, one way or another, if I said anything more as regards these figures. The fact that I am in this embarrassed position with regard to these questions shows how I have been left by the Board, instead of having, as I should have, a clear-cut statement with regard to all the revenue the Board enjoyed, how it spent it, and a division between capital moneys and other moneys.

Reference has been made constantly in this debate to "attacks" and "one-sided attacks." I never set out in connection with this matter to attack anybody as the phrase is ordinarily used. If I had called for the resignation of certain people or had dismissed certain people, I would be in a totally different position before this House. I would then have to justify myself for the course I had taken, and that would probably amount to an attack upon certain people. If one enforces the dismissal of others and attempts to justify that dismissal, looking at it from another angle that constitutes an attack on certain people. What have I been doing in this and the other House? Explaining the reasons why the Government accepted certain resignations. I do not ask the House to say that they believe one word of what I say on this matter. All I say is that that is the best information they can get, and that that is all they are going to get at present. What is the House asked to do? Holding a threat over me with regard to an exposure, a tremendous exposure, if I am not speaking the truth—holding that threat over me for the future, they are asked to give me a certain amount of money which I say, with a full sense of responsibility, I want for the Board's purposes during the interim period. Nobody is asked to pass judgment on this matter at present. I do not even ask the House to decide at this moment whether I was right in receiving those resignations or not. That is not in the text of the Bill. I brought it into the discussion because people were clamouring for certain information, and I wanted to satisfy that demand as far as I could.

The phrase has also been used that there is a "conflict"—some people have descended to the use of the word "squabble"—between myself and one or two others. As far as I am concerned what has happened is this: A certain amount of anxiety on my part with regard to how the Board was going, a certain viewpoint on the part of certain members of the Board as to what the Board should do, and, in the end, certain resignations handed in, which I accepted. If anybody likes to say hereafter that some of these people should not have handed in their resignations, or that I should not have accepted them, they can make that case. They will only be able to make that case, if at all, when the facts are before them, and they will get the facts eventually. Does anybody think, taking my statement as being entirely and completelyex parte, taking it that I am picking out the titbits from this correspondence and choosing the portions that suit myself, but remembering that what I am quoting from are the Board's letters— does anybody think that the situation revealed by these quotations is to be thrust aside as a squabble between myself and two other persons? Surely a great deal more is involved than that? There is the question of policy. On policy I may have taken a very bad lesson for the future from the discussion here, because it seems that there is an unusually lenient point of view displayed in this House on this question—not the point of view that a Minister expects to be displayed in regard to himself in relation to his Department. If, hereafter, there are other boards set up, and I find myself in peculiarly mixed circumstances with regard to one of these boards—I may feel that there is a certain responsibility on me to make revelations and to give information, but thinking back what has been said here, I would feel very reluctant to come before this House until the damage had in fact been done. There has been no stimulus given to any Minister to relate to this House a dangerous state of affairs at the moment that the danger is impending. There has been almost a whitewashing—I am sorry Senator Sir John Keane is not here because he is a man who is a stalwart for accounts. He has previously revealed himself as one who would prefer a bankrupt business with well kept accounts to a good business without accounts. His attitude on this question is: “Accounts—what are they?” Senator Vincent has put the other point of view: How can a business be run properly if you have not the picture which accounts represent?

To speak of "squabbles" and "personalities clashing" or any of these things suggests a very limited view of what has happened. If that were all that was in question, is it to be imagined that two persons who had banked so much on the complete success of the Shannon scheme in its entirety would not have found some means of reconciling their views if there was only a difference of opinion? There is a great deal more at stake than that. I might have let this thing drift a great deal further, and what position would I then have been in? I would have had to come here with less information if I had not reconstructed the Board. Even a year hence, I would be coming here with less information than I have now, and it would not be a question of over-spending to the extent of £600,000 with a quarter of a million as debts, but it might well be a question of over-spending to the extent of a million with debts possibly amounting to another million. I do believe that if there is any criticism hereafter of my efforts to have certain members of the Board brought to a proper sense of their responsibility, it will be that I allowed things to go on a few months too long. When I say that against myself, I should like to add, in my defence, that it was late in February or early in March of this year that I got the first revelation from the Board that its accounts were in complete disorder and the agreement broken, that over-spending and debts had accumulated to such a point.

Senator Connolly says the Board's word stands against mine as to whether the agreement bound them or not. No member of the Board, in all the lengthy correspondence that took place, ever questioned that that agreement was binding. Nobody ever even raised the point which was raised in the other House and raised here, that the agreement was illegal orultra vires. This much is to be said for the Board—that they accepted this as an honourable undertaking, and that they raised no question or quibble of that kind to try to get out of it.

Do you call it a quibble?

I certainly would call it a quibble, viewing the circumstances. What were the circumstances? There was a disagreement as to what a certain sum of money was intended to cover. We got away from the point as to what it, in fact, covered to what it was intended to cover. I said: "I have a certain view-point. I left the two Houses of the Oireachtas under the impression that £2,500,000 was to cover certain things. I shall go back and make that clear to them." The Board said to me in those circumstances: "Do not do that. We will keep within that sum, admitting your point of view." If the Board were to turn round and tell me now that this agreement was illegal orultra vires, they would be definitely quibbling, because they did not make that case in correspondence. If they had made that case any time since autumn of 1929, they would have been at once up against what they tried to avoid in the beginning—my coming to the two Houses.

A question was asked as to what "compulsion" I put on the Board. The word "intimidation" was also introduced. The "compulsion" and "intimidation" consisted of this— that I was going to present myself before the Dáil and Seanad, and say: "This £2,500,000, I think, includes the undischarged liabilities of the acquired undertakings, and I want the Oireachtas to put that beyond doubt." That was the "intimidation" that was used. If the Board had said: "We made an agreement with you, but we are advised that it isultra vires and illegal,” I would have said: “Very well; I shall bring it within your powers and make it legal by coming to the place that can rectify and legalise the whole matter—the Oireachtas.”

A point has been dragged in from outside, and I think I know the source from which it comes, that I am looking in this two millions for a sum of money to be handed secretly to myself, in order to meet a bill for extras which may fall due. Under the Bill as it stands, no sum of money can be paid for extras on the construction work, and the people who demand an assurance from me that it will not be so used, ought to point out a phrase in the Bill or in the original Act under which I am enabled to pay out extra moneys on the construction side. It is not possible, and it is not intended that I should pay moneys in that way. In my opening speech I referred to the £5,200,000, increased later to an effective sum of £5,700,000, and said that this Bill had nothing to do with that sum, and I now say that any addition that was to be made to that total would be a separate item. If there is any item to be met on the construction side, there will be a special Bill to provide for it, and a special Vote will be brought in for it. Extras do not come in here, and the extras are very far from being a concrete difficulty at the moment.

I was asked about interest and sinking fund. I have talked about readjustments that may have to be made in the whole financial lay-out of the scheme. There are easements that can be given, but the moment we give any of these easements, it argues that the Board set up to operate under certain conditions, has failed in its duty. As far as the first scheme was concerned, they got that, with the original Siemens-Schuckert proposition, and the expert's modification. They could see from the documents that interest was to be paid at certain rates, repayments stretching over a particular period of years. If we now have to make an easement in the period—I do not think it would be a wrong thing to do on the grounds stated to Senator Johnson on the accounts discussion last year or possibly earlier—that can be done, but I feel bound to complain that we did not get a chance to consider that when the prospects were still good and we were not under the compulsion of a bad situation. Just because the Board got into difficulties we are being driven, in order to meet these difficulties, to weaken the very strong structure of the old Shannon scheme. I used the word "weaken" in relation to the Shannon scheme, joining it to the description of "very strong structure." We must weaken it without weakening it to the point of danger and that I think it is possible to do. But the moment we start making easements, at that moment we make a confession that the original Electricity Supply Board did not carry out the duties imposed on them.

It is also alleged against me that in July, 1929, I knew there were certain difficulties and yet I made a speech there which engendered a feeling of confidence in the whole scheme. Why should I not make that speech in July, 1929? I had doubts, a little bit of suspicion and uneasiness. I knew one thing was in question. I got agreement on that thing. The two points about which I was concerned were met by a denite agreement. The money was to include the undischarged liabilities of the acquired undertakings. I got a definite statement from them that they would give me freely and frankly the information I desired. There was no doubt about the agreement at that time. It was made with me on the 1st July, 1929, but though it was not reduced to writing, I think, until August, there was no question about it. As a matter of fact for the first time, just previous to the debate, I got from the Board a number of figures which up to that time I had failed to get. I got from them an assurance that 142,000,000 units would be sold in this country by a certain time. I stated that, perfacing it with the remark that that represented the assurance of the Board. I tied myself fast to that. If I made any speech at that time, saying that the Board had told me that 142,000,000 units would be sold by a certain date, they were the people I had to rely on. The two questions about which I had trouble with the Board had been ended to my satisfaction.

Had the Minister not threatened at that period that there were going to be two amendments?

Certainly, but I say the Board had made the agreement.

You did not get the agreement until August.

I had not it in writing until August, but it was made in July.

Cathaoirleach

There must be no other questions until the Minister has finished.

I would rather have the questions asked if there is no objection. I had got a definite agreement on the 1st July. I knew then that if I did not get that in writing, in accord with what had been agreed on on 1st July, I had only to suggest coming before the Dáil to get the point established according to my view.

Did you think there was sufficient to justify you in not mentioning anything about it here?

Why should I? If I had not go that I would have mentioned it. I had, I believed, left the Oireachtas under the impression that the two-and-a-half millions was to cover everything. There was a doubt about that. That had been questioned.

There had been a doubt about it as far as the Board was concerned, and the doubt was resolved by the Board saying, "We accept that." The Board entered into that agreement in the most free and open way.

Was it not under the threat of your two amendments?

That is the point— the "intimidation" of publicity.

That is not free and open.

They did what was wrong.

Cathaoirleach

Once and for all I will not allow any further interruptions.

The mentality revealed by these interjections is very peculiar—that I was in some way intimidating the Board by saying to them "I am going to the people who created you to inquire from them what were the circumstances attending your creation, what were the moneys placed at your disposal, and what were they supposed to cover." The Board shirked that position, and shirked it by saying, "We will accept your view."

Under threat.

Under threat of my coming to the Dáil and the Seanad.

You compelled them wrongly and illegally to yield.

If it was wrong, it only meant that they felt I was going to get that wrong interpretation from the Dáil and the Seanad. I had no reason to have any lack of confidence in July, 1929. I had two points of difficulty, and the two points of difficulty had been resolved. I had got for the first time early in July a statement from the Board indicating what the likely unit consumption in the country was going to be at a particular period.

What was the expenditure to which the Board was committed at that time?

Very little indeed in July, 1929. The proof of that is that up to the end of April, 1930, they proceeded to write me letters to prove that they were still within the agreement—a year later. Even in later letters the worst charge they make against themselves is that they broke that agreement at the earliest in December, 1929. It is quite clear that their programme had not committed them to more than that at that particular date.

Senator Johnson joined by Senator O'Farrell are confident with regard to the success of this scheme; so am I within limits, but Senator O'Farrell and Senator Johnson both said they realised that it was a success on the engineering side, with which, of course, the Electricity Supply Board had nothing to do, and they believed that it would be a success from the point of view of revenue. That we all hope for, and we want to do more than merely hope for success. We want to see that that particular success is achieved, but as to how it is to be achieved I want to answer that later.

Senator Johnson, joined by Senator Comyn, later got on to the point of an independent board and the possibility of continuing such a board. I have said that I do not want to yield up that idea of an independent board yet. If I am asked to go deeper into it I am bound to say at this moment I am not convinced that it can be carried out. That is, present-day circumstances are such that I cannot see the Board operating clearly and independently for some years. It may be possible when we get to the point that some stage of the Shannon scheme has been rounded off when revenue is coming in, when all liabilities are met and when accounts stereotyped in a prescribed form are being regularly presented. It may then be possible once more to fling the Board at arm's length from the Government, but it seems to me in the particular position in which we find ourselves that we have to keep that Board somewhat under supervision and continue it under definite control for a few years.

Senator Comyn used a cogent phrase with regard to its budgetary system and finance. It does seem to me if you want to relax full control now you may have to think of some such system as that in which the Dublin City Manager operates in relation to the Corporation at the moment. There should be freedom to act in particular things, but so long as the operations of the Board can have such violent repercussions as they can have now upon the national finances then I think it would be wrong to lessen control of the Board and to get back to the old position.

Senator Johnson made a point with regard to the units that are being sold, and made a comparison between the 84,000,000 units I referred to in answer to a question, and the 134,000,000 units mentioned by me in opening. Remember, these two tots do not relate to the same thing. The 84,000,000 units refer to units sold to the consumer, and the 134,000,000 units I spoke of—even a greater sum in units, about 140,000,000 units—referred to generation, and, of course, there are losses first on the transmission system and losses again in the process of distributing locally to the consumer. The full capacity of the present development resolved in sales at consumers' premises amounts to 110,000,000 units; so that even if the full capacity is being generated and sold, it is a comparison as between 84,000,000 units and 110,000,000 units.

The standby is then working.

The standby then comes in. We may get the equivalent of an extra turbine at Ardnacrusha for ordinary purposes by using the Pigeon House as a standby. Senator Johnson, and I think also Senator O'Farrell, criticised the remarks that have been made with regard to the Managing Director in this way. They said, so far as they could see, the gravamen of the whole charge of the moment is the lack of proper accounts. In my mind that is not the serious point The serious point is the policy which the Board pursued, and the serious point is the tariff system which was decided without any proper appreciation of what the capital commitments were and the revenue necessary to meet these commitments. But even taking the accounts as one item, is it suggested that you can conceive of Managing Director of a big business like the Electricity Supply Board, who has not an intimate connection with the accounts? I cannot conceive it. cannot conceive a system under which the Managing Director of a big business like that would not be supposed to have a most intimate connection with the accounts side. And, aside from that remember what I have said over and over again that it is not a question of the system of accounts that is in debate here, but that the material upon which any accounts can be based is missing.

We will have an opportunity to decide hereafter as to the different departments of the Electricity Supply Board where material is conspicuous by its absence. There is the stores end, the contracts, the wiring end and a variety of other departments. We will have to see who was in charge of the departments and who is to be held responsible because certain material that should be there is unquestionably missing. At that point I want to say that the worst feature to my mind of the discussion that has ranged round this business is this, that there has been an attempt made, I do not say here, although it has been quoted a little here, to put the blame for what has happened on to the Board's accountant. That is an outrage, unless there is complete justification for the charge. A man was allowed to pick his own staff, and if he wanted a £10,000 a year man he had the £10,000 at his disposal to get him.

Would you not say the Board, not "he"?

Very well. The Board had the money to secure a good man. When we get a statement made that the Board, in its wisdom, decided to get a native and also decided that they would only offer a certain sum for the native, a sum so low that a first-class man did not offer, then I agree with Senator Vincent that they declared themselves to that extent incompetent, for they had not a proper appreciation of what the accountancy side of a ten million corporation meant, and so limited themselves by the salary they offered that they could not get a good man. I am not agreeing that they did not get a good man, because as far as I can learn, the unfortunate accountant was asked to make finance bricks, and had not even the financial straw given to him with which to make them. The records were missing, the accounts could not be prepared; the accountant as been asked to prepare accounts though the records are not there. In extenuation we are told that the Board decided to get a native, and that they would only pay a certain sum, and that they did not get a suitable man. That is a question I want to leave in abeyance until we get the whole thing properly revealed, because it is not right that an individual's reputation should be challenged in that way. But I may glance at another side of it. If that individual were responsible, clearly responsible for the absence of the records or the non-production of the accounts and the Board knew it, why did the Board retain him? Why did the Board keep him on?

Senator Johnson asked me would I give figures to show that without adding to the consumers' cost all the money spent would be remunerative. The Senator says he is optimistic; so is Senator O'Farrell. Now, I am in this difficult position. It has been complained that my statements to date have destroyed public confidence, that they have destroyed the Board's credit. What am I to answer to this? Will I give figures to show that without adding to the consumer's cost the money will be remunerative? If I could give them here and now, there would be no happier man alive. I cannot give them. I do not know whether the figures are there to show this, but I do know that such figures are not with me. Whether it will be possible to get them, we will have to wait and judge.

You know the revenue.

One does not know the charges to be set against the revenue for a particular year. I know the revenue for some years. But we are now driven to the point that the whole scheme has to be probed into to see what rate of interest is to be demanded, what sinking fund payments are considered proper, and what rates of depreciation with regard to all the accounts we are going insist upon. That has all to be examined into in detail, and only then can a proper answer be given. So I cannot answer at the moment. Remember I am speaking without certain figures. I have figures which are not thoroughly considered by myself or the people who should have considered them, and I cannot say anything on this question. If I were to give any such answer at the moment, it would be bound to be misleading one way or another. We simply have to leave it as it is for the time being.

Senator Comyn thinks that have been too lenient with the Board in the matter of accounts and too severe otherwise. I was hoping that would have been detailed. I wonder at what point did Senator Comyn think I had got too lenient with the Board as far as the accounts are concerned? It is not a question of leniency. I did what I could to get the accounts. I pressed for them repeatedly. I was pressed myself for them in the Dáil, and I pressed the Board for them. I prescribed the forms and I assented to the Chairman's proposal that a firm of auditors be brought in to re-make the records. It was one thing to prescribe the forms and to ask for the accounts, and another thing to get them. I have not been able to get them. That is not a question of leniency. If I had seen a chance of getting even provisional accounts earlier, I would have insisted on them. There was no question of a mild attitude. There are certain things that I had to demand. We gave that Board independence as far as we could, and what we demanded in return, was publicity. We wanted the production of certain accounts at certain times. There was no question of being lenient or harsh. It was a question of asking at the proper time and of keeping up continuous pressure to get things at the proper time. The complaint, if any, that is going to be made is that I allowed them a little bit too much rope. My defence on that is that prior to late March of this year, I did not get a revelation that really warranted me in taking certain action. Certain action was taken then, and certain things followed. After that I had to wait in the hopes that I would get some decent financial statement on which I could base my claims for two millions, or whatever sum of money was wanted.

Senator Sir John Keane had various remarks to make. In his absence possibly it is not right to allude to them, but I want to say this, as people other than Senator Sir John Keane have said it. He has referred to the dead hand of Finance in all this. Credit can be apportioned hereafter for what has been done. As far as responsibility is concerned, I take the fullest responsibility for everything that Finance did. I take it for this reason: that I had my experience of what is called the dead hand of Finance on the £5,200,000 scheme, and I knew that that was a success worked under the supervision of Finance. I had members of the Ministry of Finance associated with me in all the dealings that I had in connection with that scheme. Tributes have been paid to the engineering success of the scheme, and I think tributes ought to be paid to the financial success it has been, and that success was achieved in the closest co-operation with what is called the dead hand of Finance. Certainly in his criticism of the expenditure of money on the Shannon scheme, Senator Sir John Keane never alleged conservatism against myself. So far as responsibility is concerned, it was myself who was operating throughout in this matter of the Electricity Supply Board, and there is no question of the dead hand of Finance. It has been suggested that the officials wanted to get a grip on this particular scheme. Nothing has been better recognised in the whole history of this scheme in later years than that the scheme had been taken definitely and clearly away from ordinary control. It has been appreciated that that was so, and I have seen no evidence whatever to justify the use of any phrase that officials wanted to get this into their grip, and that as the Board went along in its operations the dead hand of Finance came down upon it at any point. The hand that came down upon it at any point was my own, and I can set aside as ridiculous the suggestion that in the matter of the Shannon Electricity Scheme, I was operating in a conservative way or in a way to stop development.

Senator Vincent brought in the point of the views that would be taken of this outside. I referred in 1927 to discussions I had in the United States of America and in Canada on this whole business, and told the Dáil in the introductory speech I made that I found that this scheme was the centre of interest, as Senator Vincent said, to people who were fighting out the question of public ownership versus some type of private ownership. I said that we had been warned over and over again that if we were going to venture into anything except the clearest type of private ownership we were doomed to failure. It went so far that one of the firms who were thinking at one time of looking for the electricity concession in this country said to us, "No, we will wait a bit; in a year or two, when you have made a mess of it it will be a cheaper thing to buy." That was a very clear cut view. There will be tremendous interest taken in this, and tremendous interest in whatever scheme we eventually decide upon. There has been considerable interest already displayed in the scheme of this Board which aimed at putting the benefits of Government credit at the disposal of this Board while taking away the handicaps and impediments of complete Government control. We have got to find a new system, as Senator Vincent said, more or less under the searchlight of a great many eyes, some looking anxiously to see us making a mess of it, others hoping that we will make a complete success of it.

We have experience in other countries of operations like this and of upsets in the smooth progress of schemes like this. Senator Sir John Keane, in a debate some years ago referred to a book called "Niagra in Politics," written by a man called Mavor. I remember, in reply, saying that in addition to quoting from that book he should have given us quotations from the Report of the Commission which sat to investigate the working of the Ontario hydro-electric system. It is funny how suitable some of the conclusions of that Commission are to the circumstances of the present situation. Here are some of the faults indicated by the Gregory Commission in the operation of that hydro-electric system.

1. That a sinking fund sufficient to redeem the debt in 30 years should have been included in the cost of power.

2. That the Hydro should await the approval of the Government in certain matters, but that instead of the Government controlling the Hydro the Hydro controls the Government.

3. It is of prime importance that the Government of the day should be kept fully in touch with matters relating to the operations of the Hydro, but this has not been done.

4. The auditor should be appointed and his remuneration fixed by the Government.

5. Accurate estimates of costs should be insisted upon before beginning new works, and the Government should be in a position to check these costs if necessary.

We are not in a position to do that.

In answer to the people who asked: "Is this sound? Will it be sound and a success?" they say:

6. "That the organisation administered by the Commission is financially sound, there is not the slightest doubt. The Commission has to a large degree a monopoly of something everybody wants. Any organisation that has such a monopoly should have no difficulty in paying its way provided this method of administration is sound."

I think we could apply that here also. They wind up by saying—and I read this with considerable reserve, because I make no charges of the type referred to here—

7. "While there did not appear to be any evidence of misappropriation of moneys by the Hydro, the Gregory Commission reported that it handled the funds that came into its hands with incredible looseness."

Had the Minister this before him when bringing in the Act of 1927?

The Minister is not making any such charge at present?

No. I knew it was a dangerous way that I was treading, and I tried to build up the Board into a harmonious team that would avoid the difficulties. Some of the people who went on the Board knew of those difficulties. Senator Vincent has declared that there is possibly one criticism that might be applied to me, namely, that I should not have accepted certain resignations until I had secured from the people, who brought about a particular situation, a full statement as to what had happened. In other words, I should have retained them until I had obtained a clear picture of the situation that developed under their control. To a certain extent, that was allowed to happen. My leniency will be found to amount to this, that I tried to get from the people responsible an accurate statement of what happened in their time. I agree that it might have been a wise thing to retain some of the people in order to get from them, after the event, a true statement of what happened, since they were responsible; but, on the other hand, there was the difficulty that if you retained these people in power you might not have any way of stopping certain things that were happening.

Senator Vincent also commented upon the importance of the accounts. The accounts are important, and the fact that people have not the accounts argues a very bad and loose state of affairs. Let us for the moment leave the accounts out of the question. The word "accounts" may cover a multitude of matters. What is one to think of a Board that declares, three years after it is set up, that with regard to its operations for at least two and a half years it could not at points even state its capital commitments with any reasonable degree of accuracy? That is not the full measure of the information that one would expect from such an institution. One would expect returns on much beside their capital commitments—they did not even know their capital commitments. How could anyone arrange tariff systems or charges under such circumstances? And it is to be noted in this connection that the Board, in the Report it brought before the House, together with the 1928-1929 accounts, set out two fundamental principles which guided it on the lighting and domestic convenience side, and not the power side. The Report sets out: "In approaching the problem of tariffs the Board felt that it should keep in mind two fundamental principles, the first one being that the rates of charge should be such as to make it possible for the maximum number of consumers to utilise to the fullest degree the abundant supply of electricity for all purposes which the hydro-electric development of the River Shannon and the building of the national network placed at their disposal, and the second, that the rates of charge for electricity to be utilised for each particular purpose should be such as to correspond as closely as possible to the cost of supplying it for that purpose." The Board that wrote that as to the second of the two fundamental principles it had to keep in mind could tell me one or two years afterwards that they did not know what their capital commitments amounted to. How could they set out that one of the fundamental principles that had to be observed was that the rates of charge for electricity to be utilised for each particular purpose should be such as to correspond as closely as possible to the cost of supplying current for that purpose, when they did not know what their costs were?

I am asked to get in experts of different types. A committee of the two Houses has been suggested, but that was pretty decisively rejected by the majority of those who spoke. There are certain points on which the Dáil and Seanad, not as a committee, but in full House, will later have to pass judgment. My proposal is that after that certain people may have to be brought in, experts in the system of accounts of electrical undertakings, experts in particular things connected with electricity, and so on. There is no demand from outside for experts, but such a demand has been made by the late managing director. He says that the material is now present upon which experts could form their judgment. If that is so, I am left in a state of bewilderment as to what has been happening. I have been pressing the Electricity Supply Board up to late April of this year for a statement to the effect that everything was all right, for a statement showing the actual revenue for certain years, and the estimated revenue for other years, for a statement showing capital charges and other charges, but I could not get it. Now I am told that the material is there on which experts could form a judgment and that if experts are brought in they could certify that everything is all right. Why did the Board not call in experts to their aid and procure such a statement for me? That would have satisfied me, and would have satisfied this House. I could have come to the House fully armed with a statement from the Board that their experts had material upon which to form a judgment, and that their judgment was in favour of the whole undertaking.

Does the Minister declare that the statement made outside is untrue?

The statement is not an accurate statement. I do not use the word "untrue." Why did not the late managing director bring in these experts? He could thereby have justified his whole conduct and he could have justified the expenditure to date and so avoided all the embarrassing circumstances that have since arisen. The experts we are asked to bring in are of two different types. Some of the experts we are asked to call in would be quite useless. Some of them may have a part to play, but not at the moment. What the magic word "expert" conjures up before people's minds is ludicrous in the present circumstances of the Board. There used to be in the old days a series of articles in the "How to Make" series, published in some of the newspapers. I recall a parody of that series, giving instructions on how to make a bookcase. First, you ring up a firm of furniture people and ask them to turn out boards of such a type as an ordinary bookcase would be made from. You then would ask the firm where you could obtain nails. You next ask a manufacturer of nails to supply a certain quantity to you. Then you would send out your chauffeur to collect the lot. Finally you advertise for a carpenter. That is somewhat similar to what we are being asked to do at the moment in regard to the Electricity Supply Board. We gave them the people to get the boards and the nails, and now they ask us to advertise for a carpenter for them. There were people put in as experts to run this thing. They found themselves in a position of difficulty. They left, and now, from outside, they cry out that the material is there, and if experts were brought in they could give an opinion. If that is so, why didn't they bring in expert opinion in their own time?

I come now to the question of failure that has been spoken about. I read certain passages from the report of the Gregory Commission. I do not know that there can be any question of failure in this matter. The word "failure" in connection with this subject is a relative term. The distribution side of this scheme could have been a great success. Whether it can still be the great success that it was at one time tending to be, I do not know.

Why not?

All that has happened so far has shown that if we have prudence and experience in connection with the Board the scheme can be made self-supporting, and that is what I would call a success. The taxpayer ought not to be asked to pay one penny for this and consumers should get current as cheaply as possible. What we have learned is that we cannot do without prudence and experience; we must have them. What we have to find out eventually is what are the adjustments that prudence and experience will dictate to us as necessary to be made at this stage, and we cannot get judgment based either upon prudence or experience until the material for prudence and experience to work upon is ready. At the moment the material is not there. As soon as it is I will see that this House is informed and the House can pass judgment as to whether or not we ought to fee people of prudence and experience to tell us where we are going and how far we have progressed.

Will the Minister tell us exactly for what purpose he requires the £1,150,000?

That is really a Committee point. I have already given in the Dáil an indication of the purpose for which the money is required. It will be found fully reported in the Dáil Debates. At any rate, I will deal with that matter in detail on the Committee Stage, as it is a Committee point. At the moment we are considering this Bill on Second Reading, and I am asking for a sum of money, whether it be one, two, or three millions.

I have already read the Dáil Debates.

When the Bill was being considered in Committee there I gave an indication of what the money was required for. I will go into that matter again in detail when the Seanad is considering the Bill in Committee.

Question—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time"—agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 29th July.