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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 28 Jun 1932

Vol. 15 No. 18

Public Business. - Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway (Abandonment) Bill, 1932.—Second Stage.

I regret that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who is in charge of this Bill, is at present engaged in the other House and will not be able to attend. The Bill, which I am sure all Senators have read, deals with the Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway. The position with regard to that company is: there was £97,070 capital subscribed. Of this, £40,000, having interest at 5 per cent., was guaranteed by certain baronies in County Dublin and County Wicklow. The remainder of the shares were not guaranteed and they are valueless. Certain baronies in County Dublin and County Wicklow which put up this money were recouped by the State half the sums paid by them in respect of guaranteed dividend to a sum not exceeding 2 per cent., which meant a State charge of £800. Owing to the uneconomic nature of the tramway undertaking, the charge to the State amounted to £800 a year and that has had to be paid for many years.

The State liability only continues so long as the tramway company is maintained in working order and the loss for the past three years has worked out at £7,000 per annum. Most people will agree, I think, that the tramway service there is no longer the necessity that it was. Owing to the development of bus traffic and other transport facilities in that area, there is not the need for the tramway service that was present when the undertaking was established.

The proposal now is that the four thousand shares which were issued at £10 each should be taken over at an agreed price. Following certain negotiations, the price for the guaranteed shares was fixed at £5 10s. This will mean the raising of a loan of £22,000. The amount will be raised from the Commissioners of Public Works for a period of 20 years, 5¾ per cent. interest for redemption. The contribution from the Local Taxation Account, which amounts to £1,900 per annum, and which is a charge on this account, would undoubtedly be increased considerably if the line were continued. The proposal is that this amount will be continued as a contribution to the sum necessary for the wiping out of the liability in connection with the guaranteed shares, and other consequential liabilities of the concern. The Government contribution of £800 will cease on the closing of the line. County Wicklow will continue to make its present contribution, but the contribution will meet the instalments due by the guaranteeing areas in that county, so that they will have to pay nothing in excess of what they are at present paying. The position with regard to Dublin will be that from the closing of the line the contributions, starting at £465 in the first year, will gradually diminish until in the eighth year £72 5s. Od. will have to be paid. The contribution from the Local Taxation Account will decrease until in the twentieth year the amount paid will be £1,163 5s. Od., after which no further payment will be made. A committee of management is being set up which will continue to administer the affairs of the concern until all the liability is liquidated. Under one of the sections of the Bill, it is proposed to compensate the servants of the company under the provisions of the Railways Act of 1924, and the liability in this respect will be met by rate. The assets will be put on the market and disposed of, I suppose, as scrap. The amount realised from sale of the assets will go in the proportion of two-thirds to Dublin and one-third to County Wicklow. I think it will be generally agreed that it is desirable that this steam tramway undertaking should be wound up. The State is taking the best means available to liquidate the assets, but it must take responsibility to deal with the employees as equitably as possible under the Railways Act, and generally to get the whole position cleared and the line removed. If there are any questions to be put I shall bring them before the Minister.

This is an extraordinarily complicated Bill. I had, what I was going to describe as the misfortune, to advise the two counties when it became necessary for them to take over this concern and work it themselves—to their own loss, as it was bound to be. I know, therefore, how very complicated the accounts and the circumstances of this concern were. This is necessarily a most complicated Bill. I wish the Minister responsible were here, because it is hardly fair to ask the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, who is acting for him, some of the questions which I would like to put to the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Might I explain that I raised the question with the Minister as regards the taking of the remaining stages of this Bill to-day. You, a Chathaoirligh, and other members of the House know how little disposed I am to the taking of the remaining stages of any Bill in this way. I saw the Minister just before I came in and he is quite agreeable to have this motion to take the remaining stages to-day withdrawn so that Senator Brown, if he wishes, can bring forward any amendments he thinks desirable.

I am very glad to hear that statement from the Minister. I do not know whether it will be necessary to insert any amendments, but there are sections which I am unable to understand—particularly Section 12 and part of Section 11, which deal with a new difficulty which has arisen by reason of the fact that portion of the guaranteeing area of the County of Dublin has now become part of the City of Dublin under the Greater Dublin Act. Under those circumstances, the contribution which would quite easily have been made by County Dublin, if part of County Dublin had not become part of the City, has now to be worked out on some equitable basis under which the contribution from the city in respect of the areas it has got from the county will be properly dealt with. The provisions of Sections 11 and 13 are not quite consistent. Under Section 11, which deals with the compensation to be paid to employees who lose their positions, the contribution of the City of Dublin in respect of the area they have taken in from the county is to be a charge on the whole city area, whereas under Section 12 the contribution—which will be much the larger one, because it is out of this sum the money will have to come to pay off shareholders and to pay remaining debts—is to come off the area which has been taken into the city from the county, but it is to be raised by municipal rate. The difficulty that occurred to me—it may not be a real difficulty, but I should like to look into it carefully—is whether you can have a municipal rate, which is a general rate over the whole city, applotted in such a way that an extra portion of it, reserved to this particular use, can be put on the added area.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage to be taken on Wednesday, 6th July.