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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 2 May 1934

Vol. 18 No. 17

Road Transport Bill, 1934—Committee.

Sections 1 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:—

New section. Before Section 10 to insert a new section as follows:—

10.—(1) Sub-section (2) (a) of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the deletion of the words "only with a lorry or lorries" now contained therein and by the substitution therefor of the words "either with a lorry or lorries or a tractor or tractors or with a lorry or lorries and a tractor or tractors," and the said sub-section shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

(2) Sub-section (2) of Section 14 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the deletion of the words "only with a tractor or tractors" now contained therein and by the substitution therefor of the words "either with a tractor or tractors or a lorry or lorries or with a tractor or tractors and a lorry or lorries," and the said sub-section shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

(3) Sub-section (2) (c) of Section 14 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the deletion of all now contained therein after the word "licence" and by the substitution therefor of the words "either with a lorry or lorries or a tractor or tractors or with a lorry or lorries and a tractor or tractors the unladen weight or total unladen weight of which does not exceed the sum of such standard lorry weight and such standard tractor weight, or with such lorry or lorries and such tractor or tractors or with such lorry or lorries and such tractor or tractors," and the said sub-section shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

Briefly, the object of this amendment is that a person licensed under the Principal Act be permitted, where his business warrants him in doing so, to change a lorry into a tractor of the same unladen weight, or to change a tractor into a lorry. As Senators know, it is proposed to grow about 50,000 acres of beet this year. It is estimated that this will involve 500,000 tons of transport. There is also a development in the turf industry, in the building industry and there are likely to be developments in connection with factories in various places. The purpose of the amendment is to give the road haulier the opportunity of being economical in his transport so that he may be able to give good service at the cheapest possible rates: in other words, to enable him to become more efficient and, therefore, more beneficial to the country as a whole.

The object of the amendment, as I gather from Senator Wilson, is to give the licensed carrier freedom to use a lorry or a tractor according to the necessities of his business. What I would like to know is: whether tractors are more severe on the roads than lorries. If they are, the section would seem to give to the licensed trader a reasonable freedom of choice in his own business. Of course, the public have to be considered and I am anxious to know what the Minister has to say about this amendment.

The principle of the original Act was that persons engaged in the business of carrying merchandise on the roads should be confined, in the future, to carrying on their businesses of the same carrying capacity as they had under their control during the qualifying period mentioned in that Act. Senators are aware of all the provisions of that Act and, therefore. I need not recount them. Each person engaged in the business of carrying merchandise on the roads was made entitled under that Act to continue in that business and to get a licence to continue in it although he was liable to compulsory acquisition by a railway company or a shipping company, but he was very definitely confined to the same equipment as he had during the qualifying period. The manner in which that was done was to limit the total unladen weight of the lorries or tractors at his disposal for the carrying on of his business.

The effect of this amendment, in so far as it permitted the substitution of tractors for lorries of the same unladen weight, would be to permit of a very great increase in carrying capacity. A tractor with, say, 30 cwt. unladen weight would have a much greater carrying capacity than a lorry of the same unladen weight, and would pay a substantially lower tax. Under these circumstances the adoption of the amendment would involve a departure from one of the essential principles of the main Act. It has been urged on behalf of certain motor hauliers that their business sometimes changes so as to justify the substitution of lorries for tractors. In so far as they desire to secure power to substitute lorries for tractors, even though that will admittedly reduce their carrying capacity, there is not the same objection to it as there would be to permit of the substitution of tractors for lorries. That is something which, I think, could not be accepted, as it would have the effect of permitting a person who is confined under the Principal Act to the carrying on of a business of certain dimensions to increase the dimensions of that business very considerably.

I hope the House will not accept this amendment. It will be stated, I presume, that a tractor as a rule only draws one trailer. I have met tractors drawing two trailers, and on one particular occasion I remember seeing a tractor drawing three trailers. With developments in mechanical transport one can quite conceive tractors being constructed that will be capable of drawing several trailers, so that, due to the low taxation on tractors, you will have trains running along the public highways. I cannot conceive anything more objectionable or more dangerous than these trains made up of trailers following a tractor along the public highway. They are a distinct menace to the public safety because of the way they blind a whole stretch of road to the other users of it. Going around corners they are particularly dangerous. Apart from that, they are more damaging, I think, to the public highways than almost any other form of transport.

One of the main purposes of the Act passed last year was to stabilise existing road transport as far as private vendors are concerned—at least, small and other companies catering for public transport—but while they were to be safeguarded they were not to be permitted to extend for reasons which were obvious to everybody. Under this amendment it would be possible to double, at least, the carrying capacity by those who seek to take advantage of it. That would be a distinct departure from what was intended to be the policy underlying the Act. The developments we now see with regard to beet and peat were fairly obvious for some years, and anyone who desired to make application, certainly made it, knowing that industrial development was likely and should have so stated in their application. This proposal would throw the field open to such an extent that most of what were intended to be the good effects of the Principal Act would be neutralised, and we would be giving another push back towards the chaos from which that Act was intended to rescue us. The House, having committed itself to the principle of the Act of last year, I hope it will not accept a drastic amendment on the lines indicated here.

I am rather puzzled to understand the outlook of Senator O'Farrell. He has certainly expressed a decided objection to the development of progressive transport. He raised as an objection to the amendment the possibility that people engaged in road transport might increase the carrying capacity of their business. Is that a fundamental objection? Is it one that should be seriously accepted? In my opinion, it can only be put forward for the purpose of safeguarding some interest rival to those engaged in road transport. I do not think the Senator will deny that that is at the back of his mind, and I think behind the Minister's rather qualified statement there is the idea that road transport in its development must have in view as its ultimate objective a monopoly by the railways. If that is so, I would like to call the attention of the House, and especially of the Minister, to words that he used on the Second Reading of the Bill when he said:

"I do not think that any of us would like to see the transport position regularised and the position of the railways made stronger at the expense of what would be an obvious injustice to a number of people."

I think that quotation is apposite to the considerations which should govern, this amendment. As I understand it, the object is to enable certain people engaged in this business in a legitimate way to adapt the mechanism of their business to the requirements of the situation. The business which the transport system caters for has undoubtedly undergone a very widespread change, an almost fundamental change, during the last few years, and those engaged in it could not foresee the class of business they would have to deal with a few years hence. The vision of Senator O'Farrell of long trains of trailers going along a road is something which would be appalling, if it was at all probable. I think that is unlikely. If there was the slightest danger of that regulations could be introduced to restrict it. As far as I understand it, the object of the amendment is to put into the Bill means by which men engaged in this business will not be subjected to unfair disability when dealing with the necessities of their business. It is a fair and reasonable amendment, which would improve the Bill. I notice that in the other House, and in the only statement made by him in this House, the Minister harped repeatedly on the necessity of acting in a spirit of fair play and justice in administering this Bill. As a matter of fact, he put that forward as a reason why the Bill was introduced, in order that injustice would not be done to a certain section of the business community. If he would bear that in mind now the Minister would see the reason for accepting the amendment.

I hope the Minister will not accept this amendment. To do so would be against the spirit of the Bill. I am sorry Senator Milroy does not pay an occasional visit to the rural districts, where he could witness the picture that Senator O'Farrell put before the House and realise that it was not an exaggerated one. These trailers if allowed on the roads will be not only a danger to the people but be a public nuisance. They are a source of trouble and danger in country districts, especially along roads on which there are horses and carts. A trailer comes along swinging from one side of the road to the other, and unless the other users of the road are very careful they will be put off it. To my mind, this is a very serious matter. Everyone intended under the original Act that the railway companies should get a fair chance and that there should be fair competition. The railways have not got that up to the present. The Act was an effort to give them a fair chance. If people are allowed to come in and to put old machines on the road or to convert lorries into tractors it will be a source of great trouble. Public bodies realise the injurious effects of tractors on the roads. That question is discussed at nearly every meeting of county councils because the trailers cut up roads towards the upkeep of which they pay very little. We must take into consideration the fact that railway companies maintain their own roads and give a great deal of employment. I know that the question is under serious consideration by the railway companies whether they will not close down some of the branch lines. What will happen then? Hundreds of people will be put out of employment. When an honest effort is made to put road traffic on a sound footing, side issues like this should not be allowed, and for that reason I hope the Minister will not accept the amendment.

I am not going to reply to Senator O'Farrell's ghost train, because these trailers and trains that he spoke of do not exist, except in his imagination. Trailers are used in the City of Dublin by Messrs. Jacob and can be seen going through the traffic in Dame Street and, as far as I know, there is no danger to the public. I think that bogey should not be raised at all. Another consideration has not been taken into account. The railway companies have the right to have road transport, and they will have the same facilities to transform a lorry into a tractor as public carriers. The railway companies will be competitors with these public carriers. There is no reason why sugar should not be, in the interests of the community, produced at the cheapest possible price. The price fixed by the factories gives a very poor return to the producers, so that the cheaper the haulage of the beet is made the more it will redound to the betterment of the community as a whole. There will be no subsidy. The poor man will have the benefit of cheap transport. There is also the question of efficiency. A man in business is entitled to develop it the best way he can. It is a false notion to have a bar or a barrier placed on the development of transport. All competitors should be placed on the same footing. I ask the House to support the amendment. It does not mean a great deal, but it is intended to better the position of those who require transport.

I am sorry to oppose the amendment. I can speak as a supplier to the Carlow beet factory. Of course, this year we have three more white elephants in the way of beet factories. I know that only a fraction of the beet grown up to the present is conveyed to the Carlow factory by lorries. Most of the beet grown in Wexford goes there by rail. As Wexford is the largest supplier of the Carlow factory, the railway company gave the beet growers a substantial reduction in their charges. The charge is 6/- a ton for a distance of about 80 miles. It is much cheaper to send by rail than by lorry. In fact, it would be impracticable to send beet that distance by lorries. The lorries are used, and only to a small extent, to bring beet to local stations. It would be a terrible thing if tractors were allowed on the roads. If a couple of trailers were attached to tractors they would be a danger to the public. I live near a road leading to a railway station to which beet is drawn by tractors. That road is infinitely more cut up by tractors than by lorries.

The supporters of the amendment talk a lot about sugar. It is, in fact, a sugar coating to what is a very nasty pill, and Senator Wilson thinks it is unfair that there should be any bar or barrier in regard to matters of this kind. Senator Milroy works somewhat to the same end. Why was it necessary to introduce the Act of 1933? Surely it was because it was considered necessary to have a bar or barrier that the House almost unanimously—I think unanimously—endorsed the principal of the Principal Act. That Act was not introduced by any means exclusively in the interest of the railways. It safeguarded all the existing vendors of public transport. These people were competing on the roads at that time with a certain number of lorries. The chances are that if the Principal Act were not passed, in the course of a few years they would be driven off the roads by ruinous competition. They are protected from that competition by the Principal Act. In order to benefit them still further, it is sought to get outside the Act by increasing the carrying capacity which they then had by 100, 200 or 300 per cent.

It is suggested that my picture was equivalent to a ghost train. Well, then, I must have been seeing ghosts because I have seen along the Naas road tractors with as many as three trailers of coal. Senator Wilson had better take a drive down these roads, too, and he will see the same pictures. He can then see whether they are ghosts or not. The position is this: a man had, say, four lorries that comprised a certain carrying capacity. He now feels under the Act, which gave him a good deal of protection and a vested interest which is more valuable than it was before the Act was passed, or more valuable than it could ever possibly be unless the Act was passed, that he wants double or treble that carrying capacity. He sells a lorry which was able to bring one load and he buys a tractor which can draw two trailers, each of them with a greater carrying capacity, perhaps, than the lorry which he sold. If this amendment is passed and is availed of to any large extent, then the original Act becomes a perfect fraud and a farce. It was because transport had become a drug on the market that the Act was ever introduced. There was far more offering than was required and it was sold, because of the competition, at a price which was uneconomic. It meant that thousands of men were thrown out of employment in one place and that a few hundred sweated workers were put into employment in another. The hours that were worked and the wages that were paid were of a disgraceful character in order that this excessive carrying capacity should be placed at the disposal of the community.

Senator Wilson thinks that the more you have of these vehicles the more prosperous the country will be. If plenty of transport is an indication of prosperity, certainly this country and Northern Ireland should be the most prosperous in the world, because, having regard to the amount of traffic available and the density of the population, we have probably more transport than any other country in the world. That is quite evident by the empty trains, the empty buses and the half-filled lorries that are operating on the roads and the scandalously low rates of wages that are paid. I would not be in favour of any railway company developing on the roads through the medium of the tractors. I think it is a monstrous proposition when they have steel roads there, constructed at great expense, perfectly safe, offering no obstruction and with no other traffic on these roads. Why should these steel roads be allowed to become rusty in order that the company can go out on the public highways and use the roads that were meant for pedestrians and all sorts of traffic? I should strongly object to any railway company developing in that direction.

We have in the Free State very nearly 2,500 miles of excellent railways. To let them go waste, to scrap them, and to develop this trailer business on the crooked roads of this country, in order to carry beet or peat or for any other purpose, would be the very worst form of economy and I do not think the House should encourage that. The Oireachtas as a whole laid down these definite restrictions because of sheer necessity in the Act of last year. It is sought now, by a side wind, before the Act has actually come into operation, to neutralise a great part of the effect of that enactment. We impose restrictions under the licensing laws on publichouses and so on. Nobody is considered to be under any particular hardship if a man who had one publichouse previously was not allowed in recent years to take out a licence for another. Transport has become just as big a nuisance as publichouses were at one time, and in order that those who are in it shall survive it is necessary that nobody shall be allowed to take undue advantage of the laws that have been passed for the protection of existing carriers.

I think that Senator O'Farrell has misunderstood the meaning of this amendment. As I take it, the amendment means that if a man has a lorry of a certain unladen weight, he shall be allowed to get a tractor and a trailer of the same or a less unladen weight.

A tractor only.

Of course the Minister will explain——

A tractor.

If it is a tractor only, then I think the case made by Senator O'Farrell is correct, that it would enable these carriers who have got a licence to increase their carrying power. I am not against that, but what I am against is any further injury to the roads. Except for what Senator Miss Browne has said, we have heard nothing in all the other speeches about that. Is the tractor with its trailer much more severe on the roads than a lorry? Nobody has said anything about that except Senator Miss Browne in relation to one mile of road in the County Wexford.

I am against this amendment. I believe all restrictions of this sort should be maintained. At the present time in my locality we are faced with the prospect of the closing down of a branch line. We never thought of the great advantage of having trains running in each direction until we found that the line was going to be closed. Then we all saw the importance of keeping the railways going. Amendments such as we have now before us only tend to increase the competition with the railways. The purpose of the previous Act and of this Act is to enable the railways to do a better trade. The traffic carried by the Great Northern railway at present is about one-third of the volume it was formerly. Unless something is done to help the railways by restricting road competition, all the branch lines will be closed down. Of course, the branch lines are feeders for the main lines, and if the branch lines go, in time the main lines will go also. It will be no consolation to tell us then that we have cheap locomotion on the road. I should like to point out to the Minister the damage done by tractors and trailers which travel long distances to the roads. I have seen them on the Naas road, to which Senator O'Farrell referred—two or three trailers drawn by a tractor and carrying about 20 or 25 tons. I could see by the addresses of the people who owned the tractors that their destination was 60 or 70 miles away. I think that that class of competition should be legislated out of existence. It is no benefit to anybody and it is a danger to the legitimate traffic on the road. There is no necessity for it, because there is a steel road constructed to the place where that 20 tons is being carried, and it could be hauled by the railway company just as well, though perhaps not as economically. It would, however, be better to have such goods hauled by the railway company even if it were to cost 2/- or 3/- per ton extra. I am strongly opposed to the amendment before the House.

I should like to support the amendment. I say that, although at the same time I want to support the railways. As far as I could when the original Act was going through, I supported the railways. I feel that the country cannot do without railways, but, on the other hand, I think there has been a great deal of exaggeration here to-day in connection with this amendment. Tractors drawing three trailers are a very uncommon sight in this country. I do not think that three trailers should be allowed, but we can settle that matter in some other way. When we were passing the Act of last year, I wondered whether we were wise in putting all our eggs in one basket and since that Act was passed I have been looking at the matter from this angle. It was generally understood at that time that the railways would do certain things and that they would act decently towards the staffs they were taking over. We were giving them practically a monopoly of the traffic of this country. What have they done since? I do not know what they have done, but I know the staffs are not satisfied. I understand that one branch of the staff has handed in this week notice to strike. Where will we stand if the whole traffic of the country is paralysed simply because it is in the hands of one company? That is what the railway companies have to think of, or what any other company which has got a monopoly has to think of. They have to answer to the nation for it. It is the people of the country who matter and not the firm trading. Senator Miss Browne talked about the beet grown in County Wexford and said that the larger part of it was sent by rail.

Take a district like Mountbellew. There are many towns from Athlone to Tuam which the railway does not touch at all. The railway is built through a bog. The railway company bought up all the cheap land when they were making the railway. It touches a few towns but there are many towns which are not served by it at all.

You want the tractors to go over the bogs.

I am talking of the main roads. The railway goes through the bog. How are the people around these towns to get their beet into Tuam except by lorry or by tractor?

You must give them facilities. You cannot make these people travel to Ballyglunin station to put their beet on rail there. That is, I think, the next station to Tuam. The railway company got a certain chance and I think the railway company did not take it. They increased their rates but they did not increase the wages of their staffs. I would ask the House to support Senator Wilson's amendment.

I should like to make one suggestion to the Minister. We have heard a lot about the necessity for maintaining the existing railways but down in my country there are two districts where there are no railways at all. It is only right that these districts, where the railways have ceased to ply, should get every facility for the haulage of traffic. I would suggest that the facilities that are asked for in this amendment should at least be granted to that particular quarter of which I speak, that is, the southern district of Cork. That cannot possibly injure the railways.

There is one point to which Senator Crosbie has just called attention. The argument is that the railways cannot supply all the necessary transport.

That has nothing to do with this amendment at all.

This amendment is that a man can have his lorries and tractors interchangeable, but the fact that some men may wish to change from tractors to lorries is overlooked. As Senator Crosbie pointed out, there are certain districts where the railways give no facilities for transport, and there should be means whereby those requiring extra transport facilities should have them. If the railways refuse to act on the lines of this amendment, they deprive districts of the efficient motor transport facilities that are necessary for their business.

With regard to the emphasis I laid on the favourable rates that the railway companies give to the beet growers, I made a miscalculation owing to taking the direct instead of the round-about way that the beet is carried. Six shillings a ton, I think, in the circumstances was favourable to the beet growers.

I am afraid very few Senators who supported this amendment are clear as to what the amendment is about, or have anything more than a vague idea of what the Principal Act is about. The question whether a tractor with trailers interferes with traffic, or whether a person wanting to send goods by road should be compelled to send them by rail, has nothing to do with this amendment or with the Act. Senator Milroy said that I seemed to have the idea of a transport monopoly at the back of my mind. The idea is not at the back of my mind at all; it is in the very forefront. It had the approval of the Dáil, when the Act of 1933 was passed. The purpose of the original Act was to enable a monopoly to be brought into being but the monopoly is under obligation to provide in every part of the country the form of transport required. I do not think, as Senator O'Rourke seemed to suggest, that when there is an obligation on the part of the railway company to provide facilities for people wishing to send their goods by road, such people should be made to send their goods by rail. We say to the railway companies, where a monopoly is given them in all parts of the country, we expect them to provide such transport facilities, whether of rail or road, as are required in each district and which are most economical. I think that disposes of Senator Crosbie's point. If there are districts round about Cork. where there are no railways there is an obligation on the part of the railway company to provide road transport. If the railway company declines to provide those facilities there is power, in the Minister, to give independent persons power to operate in those districts, and to license them, and these licences cannot be compulsorily acquired by the railway companies as other licences can.

When the Act of 1933 was passed we said to those operating road transport: "It is necessary that your business should be brought subject to regulations. No new entrants are to be allowed in; those engaged in the business are not to be allowed to extend beyond the point that they have reached in the qualifying period; you can be compulsorily acquired, or you may apply to be compulsorily acquired by the railway company." The position that was contemplated when the Act came into operation was that those engaged in motor road transport business, could remain in operation but only to the same extent as in the qualifying period, but unable to increase beyond that point and be liable, at any time, to be acquired compulsorily by the railway companies or enabled, themselves, to make application to be compulsorily acquired. The proposal here is that these persons, limited by a particular device, are to be permitted by another device to extend their operations. The reason that we suggested that the unladen weight of lorries and tractors should be taken was merely because that seemed to us the most convenient way of doing it. We could take the cubic capacity of the body of the lorry, or the trailer of the tractor, or some other method of measuring what was the carrying capacity, but the method that seemed most suitable to us to take was the unladen weight of the lorry on the one hand and of the tractor on the other. The same principle is adopted under the British Transport Act. It is clear, therefore, that if we were to adopt the suggestion of the same unladen weights for tractors and lorries that would lead to a great difference. If there is any substantial demand from those operating road transport to change from tractors to lorries there is no objection on our part so far as it will reduce the carrying capacity——

Have you power to do that?

There is no power to do that but if there was an amendment suggested I would consider it. It is much more likely that there is a substantial demand from people with lorries to be allowed to substitute tractors, because tractors would, of course, carry much more and, consequently, create an asset which would have to be purchased at a much higher price when compulsory acquisition arose. The main consideration behind the proposal in the amendment is to permit individual increases in carrying capacity so that the acquisition value of these undertakings will be increased having regard to compulsory clauses of the Act. That would be something directly contrary to the original purpose of the Act, approved by the Oireachtas, and that is the reason why I ask that this amendment should be rejected.

Amendment put and negatived.

I move amendment No. 2:—

New section. Before Section 13 to insert a new section as follows:—

13. Sub-section (1) of Section 51 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion therein of the words and brackets "at any time (other than during the period commencing at the expiration of one year after the date of the passing of this Act, namely, the twelfth day of June, 1933, and ending at the expiration of five years after the said date)" after the word "may" now contained therein, and the said sub-section shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

This amendment deals with the same subject as amendment No. 7 on the Order Paper. The only difference is the period of time in which the acquisition by the railway company must take place. My amendment deals with the period of five years from June, 1934, to June, 1939, and provides that the railway company not having, up to that time, acquired a particular transport undertaking, after that period the undertaking will be allowed to carry on without any further molestation. The result would be that after that time this question of acquisition hanging over the heads of the people would disappear. During the five years' period they will carry on with their old lorries and tractors and so on. When the period has expired, after which the railway cannot interfere with them, they will purchase new machinery. Twenty-five per cent. is a reasonable allowance for the wear and tear of the instruments of transport. I ask for ordinary wear and tear, the allowance made by auditors in connection with these matters, and that time should be given to these transport undertakings to recoup themselves for the investment of their capital. There are five years during which the railway companies could take them over but after that the sword of Damocles should be no longer kept over their heads.

I think, from the amendment on the Paper, the Minister would be inclined to give a period of two years. Senator Wilson wants a period which accrues between 12th June, 1934, and 12th June, 1939—that is for merchandise carriers. I was looking through the Principal Act this morning and I find there is a provision in regard to passenger carriers of three years or is it two years?

It is two years.

Well, now, Senator Wilson wants a period of five years while the Minister is, as I gather, prepared to concede two. That being so, I am sure it will not be found beyond the wisdom of the Seanad to come to some arrangement.

I do not think Senator Wilson realises the full effect of his amendment. It would mean, in brief, that one of the principal sections of the Act would be out of commission for six years, after the passing of the Act. No compulsory purchase can take place until the appointed day is fixed. The appointed day was fixed, but has been postponed, so, for practical purposes, the appointed day has yet to be fixed, and no compulsory purchase, so far as freight transport is concerned, has taken place. The Senator proposes that from 12th June next, a month before the Act is in operation, or before the appointed day can be fixed, that a five years' limit shall operate before any purchase can take place. That would mean that an Act passed in June, 1933, could not come into practical operation until June, 1939, except to the extent that it might operate between its passage and the twelfth of next month. I am sure the Senator does not want that to happen, but that would be the effect because of the delay in bringing the Act into operation. This Act sets aside the appointed day, which was only fixed recently. The appointed day has now to be fixed and the time for this particular section of the particular Act to operate would have to be between the fixing of the day and the 12th June—may be a week or two. The Minister seeks to put freight transport on the same basis for practical purposes as passengers. There shall be given one year in which railways and shipping companies may seek to acquire road transport and then there shall be a two years' period during which they cannot interfere with them at all. I think that that proposal is reasonable enough. Seeing that it is on the same basis as road passenger transport, I hope that Senator Wilson will see the advisability of falling in with that arrangement. There can be no good argument for giving any particular preference to merchandise road transport as against passenger transport. If anything, passenger transport has the better claim, because it was the better established and certainly that department of road transport which was best organised. Yet, many of these services have been acquired compulsorily already, while road transport freight services have remained immune from the operations of the Act.

There are five amendments on the Order Paper, all of which deal with much the same matter. I allude to amendments Nos. 2 and 3 by Senator Wilson and amendments Nos. 4 and 5 by Senator Milroy. The only difference between those in the name of Senator Wilson and those in the name of Senator Milroy, I take it, is that, in one case, a period of five years is sought to be established and, in the other, a period of three years. There is also an amendment on the same point in the name of Senator Séamus Robinson—amendment No. 7. The purpose of Senator Wilson's amendment, No. 2, is to ensure that it shall be open to authorised merchandise carrying companies which, for the purpose of these sections of the original Act, mean, in fact, the railway companies to acquire compulsorily road merchandise transport licences for a period of only about a month from the date of the passing of the Act. It would be probably less, because the appointed day has to be fixed again under another section of this Bill and licences will only become operative on that date. The effect of the amendment would be that the railway companies would only have the period between the date appointed and the 12th June in which to make compulsory acquisitions and they would then be debarred from doing so for five years.

Give them up to January.

The purpose of the proposal which appears in the amendment by Senator Robinson is, as Senator O'Farrell has pointed out, to make the same legislative provision in relation to merchandise transport as has been made in relation to the road passenger business. There is not as strong a case for road merchandise transport as there was for road passenger transport. The omnibus companies concerned had, in many cases, the sole right to run services on a particular route. It was urged that if they were not acquired by the railway or tramway companies immediately, they would be reluctant to maintain their services properly—to put on new omnibuses when the old ones got out of repair and soforth. You would, therefore, have a position in which, for a number of years, very unsuitable services would be maintained, with dilapidated yehicles of all kinds in operation. It was urged, on behalf of the omnibus operators, that there should be a period during which they could be acquired and a close period of two years during which they could, with immunity, develop and extend their services, knowing that they would have at least two years in which to recoup themselves before the question of compulsory acquisition could arise again. In the case of the road merchandise services, the conditions are dissimilar because there is no monopoly of a particular route made available to the merchandise transport operator. He has to secure his business in competition with other carriers and in competition with the railway companies who are themselves, on a very large scale, road transport operators. It is true that, if he feels that the railway companies are not operating fairly, that they are cutting prices unduly or something of that kind, he can apply for an order requiring the railway company to acquire him. The argument does, to some extent, apply that these operators will be reluctant to maintain the value of the equipment for use in connection with their services when they are always liable to compulsory acquisition and that there should be for them, as for omnibus operators, a close season during which they can carry on. The commencement of that close season should not be less than 12 months from the appointed day. The railway company, having regard to the whole policy in respect of road transport, should be given a period of 12 months in which to review the position, note the people who have got licences, learn the type of services and the extent of the services they are engaged in, and calculate the extent that they are likely to interfere with the successful operation of the railway system. They would then be in a position to determine whether they want immediately to acquire these services, having regard to their own transport problems and their financial resources. Before the end of the 12 months, the railway company will, presumably, be in a position to determine what they want to do and they can make application for compulsory transfer of the licences wherever they feel that should be done, having failed to make a private, voluntary arrangement for acquisition. Presumably, there will be no objection on the part of the railway companies or other companies concerned to the commencement of a close season at the end of that period because they will have, by then, acquired those services that are of immediate interest to them and they will know that those remaining in operation cannot increase the dimensions of their business during that period although they may increase the value of their equipment.

I do not think that those engaged in the business need hesitate about improving the value of the equipment because it is on that value that the acquisition price will finally be determined. If they have engaged in capital expenditure—bought new lorries or replaced old ones—that will have to be taken into account when the acquisition price is being fixed by agreement or by the arbitrator. They need not worry about that matter. Although the case for omnibus operators was stronger than the case for merchandise transport operators, nevertheless, I felt that there was a case for introducing the same provisions in both instances. That is why amendment No. 7 appears on the Order Paper. It is obvious that a period of five years would be too long and that the period before the commencement of the close season should not be less than one year.

Amendment No. 7 is an admission of the justice of the claim that a close season should exist. It is a question of what is a fair period. It may be argued that five years is too long a period, but is a period of two years adequate? I think that it would be a very brief period to consider a matter of this kind. Although the Minister referred to all the amendments on the Paper bearing upon the close season, he did not indicate whether he would take into consideration the amendment in my name suggesting a period of three years. I think that we might compromise on this matter and that the Minister might, without any departure from the stand he has taken, agree to the three-year-period. It would mean a great deal to the people who are engaged in this business, who are faced with its termination and who have to readjust their lives to the new conditions. Three years is not by any means a lengthy period to give them for the consideration of these matters. I hope that the Minister will consider the acceptance of the period of three years.


We must first get rid of the period of five years.

I thought that we might come to some general agreement on the matter.


Perhaps Senator Wilson will withdraw his amendment providing for a five-year period.

I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment No. 2, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 3, by leave, withdrawn.

I formally move amendment No. 4:—

New section. Before Section 13 to insert a new section as follows:—

13. Sub-section (1) of Section 51 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion therein of the words and brackets "at any time (other than during the period commencing at the expiration of one year after the date of the passing of this Act, namely, the 12th day of June, 1933, and ending at the expiration of three years after the said date)" after the word "may" now contained therein, and the said sub-section shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

There would be strong objection to having different periods applying in the cases of omnibus operators and merchandise transport operators. If we were to accept a three-year period in the case of merchandise transport operators, whose case is substantially weaker for such concession than the case of the omnibus operators, we should certainly have a demand from the omnibus operators for an increase of their period.

On what grounds is the case substantially weaker?

I have explained that. The omnibus operator, under the provisions of the 1932 Act, had frequently a monopoly right to run a service in a particular district. If he did not maintain that service properly, if he put unsuitable vehicles on the road or did not keep existing vehicles in repair, it was the public who suffered. Nobody else could operate on that route. In the case of the merchandise transport operator, if he allows his vehicles to get out of repair, he loses his business. He cannot prevent others coming in with better vehicles and taking his business from him. He has a much greater inducement to maintain the efficiency of his service than the omnibus operator had, because the omnibus operator possessed a monopoly and he might be deterred from undertaking capital expenditure by the danger of acquisition. We have provided for two years in the case of the omnibus operators and it has been accepted by them. It appears to be an arrangement that is going to work satisfactorily, so far as one can judge. I see no reason why we should accept a longer period in respect of the merchandise operator, having regard also to this consideration—that, in the case of the omnibus operator, there was no restriction on the extent to which he could put vehicles on the road. In fact, he was obliged to increase his fleet with any increased demand upon his service such as would arise from an increase in the population of the area served by him. In respect of the merchandise transport operator, he is, of course, restricted to the vehicles he had during the qualifying period. Consequently, there is not the same position in respect of both classes and there is nothing which would make it desirable that we should be more lenient to the road merchandise transport operator than to the omnibus operator.

The road merchandise transport operator need not have any hesitation about getting new lorries or tractors as he requires them, because, obviously, the value that is to be placed upon the service when the question of acquisition arises will be determined by the value of the lorries and tractors in his possession. If he has new lorries and tractors on the road, he is going to get compensated for the price he paid for them, just as he would get a much lower price if the tractors and lorries were in such a condition as to be likely to fall into pieces at any minute... Senator Wilson's argument would mean that he should be allowed to buy a new lorry and keep running it until it had been depreciated 100%. It is not necessary to do that, having regard to the fact that when the question of taking over a licence arises, the question of taking over the equipment will also arise.

So far as I can see, the previous period was three years.

Three years from the passing of the Act, during one year of which the undertaking could be acquired.

I understand that, from the passing of the Act of last year, the railway companies could have acquired these transport undertakings.

No. They could have acquired merchandise transport undertakings voluntarily but not compulsorily, because the licences have not, in fact, come into operation yet. Obviously, they could not acquire licences which had not been received, but, at any time, they could have acquired these undertakings voluntarily.

Is it quite clear that amendment No. 7 gives exactly the same time in the case of merchandise transport as is given by the Act in the case of passenger transport?

Three years from the appointed day.

In the case of passenger services, the wording is somewhat different. A period of three years is provided for. During the first of these years acquisition can take place. In the other two years, acquisition can not take place. Here the effect of the provision is precisely the same, but the wording is different. There is a reference to two years, commencing a year after the appointed day.

Amendment No. 4, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 5 not moved.

I move amendment No. 6:

New Section. Before Section 13 to insert a new section as follows:—

13. Section 45 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the addition at the end thereof of two new subsections as follows:—

(3) A licensee under a merchandise licence for whom a schedule of charges is in force shall not make for any service rendered in respect of which charges appear in or are fixed by such schedule a charge more than ten per cent. below the charge appearing in or fixed by such schedule for such service.

(4) If a licensee under a merchandise licence for whom a schedule of charges is in force makes for any service rendered in respect of which charges appear in or are fixed by such schedule a charge more than ten per cent. below the charge appearing in or fixed by such schedule for such service, such licensee shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding ten pounds.

and the said Section 45 shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

The object of the amendment is to enable an existing transport undertaker to carry on his business and to protect him against the fierce competition of a railway company which also owns road transport. In several instances this position has been reached: that it is cheaper for a road transport haulier to send his coal, for example, over the railway rather than bring it in his own lorries to his home. It is really a case of Jay Gould, in America, all over again. Around Birr prices have been lowered repeatedly for the carriage of cattle, sheep and sugar so that the rates prevailing today are unremunerative. In view of that these merchandise road transport operators are asking that

"a licensee under a merchandise licence for whom a schedule of charges is in force shall not make for any service rendered in respect of which charges appear in or are fixed by such schedule a charge more than ten per cent. below the charge appearing in or fixed by such schedule for such service."

The idea is to lay down a minimum scale with a view to protecting these particular people from annihilation by the railway companies, because if they can show, by a process of reducing rates, that these people have no property in their business at the end of the specified period, the companies can acquire their concerns for nothing. Therefore, this amendment is an attempt, in the interests of justice, to protect them. It is easy to understand how a big corporation like a railway company can afford to undercut a small road haulier. Hence, at the end of the period fixed in the original Act, when a railway company has the right by law to acquire a road operator's concern, it can say "well, there is no property in your concern; it is not worth anything and, therefore, we will not give you anything. We will simply acquire you." The idea of the amendment is to prevent that kind of thing happening.

I support the amendment, and I hope it will meet with the acceptance of the Minister. It was urged in connection with the last amendment that the same conditions should be laid down for the acquisition of a merchandise service as are laid down for the acquisition of a passenger service. Section 45 of the Principal Act fixes maximum charges, and penalties are laid down for exceeding these. All that is asked by this amendment is that complementary provisions dealing with minimum charges be inserted in this Bill so as to ensure that, during the period prior to the acquisition, the assets owned by road transport operators shall not be depreciated in an illegitimate or unfair fashion. What Senator Wilson is seeking is that when the property of these people is acquired fair methods will be adopted. It would not be right to allow the people who are engaged in this road transport business to be undercut by their competitors—the railway companies—to such an extent that they will be obliged to appeal to them to acquire their concerns compulsorily, and to be told, when that occurs, that the value in their business is very small indeed, though it has been brought about by the policy pursued for some time by the railway companies. I think it is only right to insert some provision in this Bill that will have the effect of obviating anything of that kind.

Senator Wilson referred to the fact that a motor haulier may sometimes find it cheaper to get his coal sent to him by rail than to bring it from the port by means of his own road transport. The Senator's argument has, I think, very little bearing on the amendment. The maximum charges mentioned in the amendment and in the section of the original Act, to which the amendment applies, are charges for the transportation of goods by road. In so far as charges for the transportation of goods by rail are concerned, there is the Railway Tribunal, which fixes the actual charges. The railway company may charge more than 40 per cent. below the actual charges, provided the Railway Tribunal sanctions that. But all these are matters which are fixed by the Railway Tribunal, before which all interested parties can appear at any time and make representations. When we were proposing to put the railway companies into the position in which they could also become monopoly operators on the roads the question of the safeguards necessary in the public interest arose. It was clear that the only safeguard required in the public interest was the fixation of maximum charges. It was not considered to be a danger to the public interest that the railway companies might not charge enough, but it was considered a danger to the public interest that, having got the monopoly, they might charge too much for the express purpose of forcing traffic on to the railways, or of making too much profits.

In the discussion on an earlier amendment, Senator Staines talked about the railway companies getting a monopoly and charging what they liked, but it is quite clear to me that the complaint appears to be that the railway companies are not charging up to the maximum fixed by the Railway Tribunal for the different classifications.

There has been price cutting on the roads, but it was not railway companies which started it. It was started by private operators who, very frequently, carried goods sometimes at much less than the cost of the petrol required to drive the car in order to try and get business. In fact, the transport situation with which the Principal Act was designed to deal was very largely created by this fact; that these independent operators had cut freights on the roads to fritters. The position, therefore, that we were faced with was one in which we had to ask ourselves the question: Is there any system which we can devise to fix minimum charges and enforce them, particularly on the private operators? The railway companies did not want to be charging uneconomic freights, but they were charging uneconomic freights because it was only by doing so that they could get traffic. Frequently they had to bargain with the consignors of goods in order to get business and to bring down their charges to a rate which they knew did not pay them. They were forced into that position by the tactics of the private operators who in turn were forced into that position by the competition that went on between themselves. The position, therefore, was that you had the whole system working down towards making road transport entirely uneconomic and of producing chaos generally in the transport organisation of the country.

We decided that it was not practicable to fix minimum charges which could be made effective. The system eventually decided upon was to provide for maximum charges operating against the railway companies only. That system provides that, so far as private operators are concerned, they can charge as high as they like, if they can get away with it, but in practice of course they cannot do it. But for the railway companies which might get into a monopoly position we devised the system of maximum charges. For the independent operator who might find himself up against uneconomic competition initiated by the railway companies and designed by them to depreciate the value of his business preliminary to acquisition, we provided in the Act that he could apply to be acquired by the railway company if such tactics were adopted against him. I indicated that the general policy of the Government in such cases would be to give him an order if we were satisfied that he was being forced out of business by uneconomic competition fostered by the railway company as a preliminary to acquisition. That is the only safeguard really which you can give the independent operator. The proposal in the amendment is that we should say to this monopoly company: we think that having got a monopoly you might be inclined to charge an unduly low rate and we are of opinion that you must not charge more than ten per cent. below the maximum prices. That, I think would be unsound. It certainly would be a wrong way of affording protection to an independent operator who might be acquired by a railway company. The system laid down in the Principal Act is the better way, I think. There we say to the independent operator that if a railway company is going into his area and trying to take away his business by charging utterly uneconomic rates: that we believe it is doing so for the purpose of destroying his business preliminary to acquiring it compulsorily at a depreciated value, he can go under the Act to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and get an order from him requiring the railway company to buy him out and, in default of agreement as to price, then at a price to be fixed by an arbitrator. I want to say again that if such a situation arose in which the railway companies resorted to tactics of that kind, then no private operator would have any difficulty in getting an order for compulsory acquisition under the relevant sections of the Principal Act. I think it is much better that the position should be left in that way than that this amendment should be adopted.

As to the last point the Minister dealt with it is quite easy to visualise a position such as this arising: that the average man will not have the capacity or sufficient foresight to see that the inevitable is coming. In the average case the independent operator will probably persist in the struggle against this unfair opposition. He will continue on until his position has become almost desperate. What Senator Wilson is anxious to secure is that when the business is acquired the compensation paid will be based on its value when it was running normally and not when it had reached the point almost of insolvency due to unfair competition.

The phraseology of the Act, for the purposes of fixing the procedure for the arbitrator and determining the valuation refers to

"the measure of such compensation shall be the pecuniary loss and expense (if any) which such first-mentioned person sustains or incurs or will sustain or incur by reason of such order and which is the direct consequence of such order."

That means that the valuation will be based on the position of the concern when it had reached the point of imminent bankruptcy.

It will depend on the date on which the order is made for the transfer of the licence. The loss which he will sustain or incur in consequence of the making of the order is to be the measure of the compensation awarded. There is one other difficulty to which I did not refer when speaking a short time ago and it is very important. It is this: that if we were to adopt the suggestion in the amendment, then the maximum charges fixed by the Railway Tribunal in respect of road services operated by the railway companies would become, in fact, the actual charges, there would have to be very considerable consequential amendment of the Bill to provide for a proper check up on the practice of the railway companies in effecting these charges. It would be very hard to get evidence to show that charges below those permitted by law had been accepted and paid. One can always or nearly always get proof where charges in excess of the maxima are paid, but it is very hard to get it in cases where charges below the minimum are paid.

In fact, the maximum charges contemplated under the Bill are purely nominal, at present no one is charging them. They are charging below the maxima because of the position that exists. When independent operators have ceased to exist, and when the railway companies have in fact a monopoly, the question of maximum charges will undoubtedly become much more acute, and we will have to exercise very great care indeed, when any question of fixing them comes before the Railway Tribunal. The Department of Industry and Commerce will have representatives there to require the railway companies to satisfy the tribunal that in every way the charges they propose to fix as maximum charges would be justified. At present, the charges are fixed, and it is unnecessary to exercise the same care, because everyone knows that the maximum charges will never be realised. That is why the position would be fundamentally altered, if the maximum charges were to be translated into actual charges by a requirement that actual charges should not be more than 10 per cent. below the maximum charges. Again, that is contrary to the scheme of the Bill, and would not, in fact, achieve the end which the Senator had in view when moving the amendment.

I think the Minister has satisfied the House in regard to this amendment. I can quite understand the anxiety of Senator Wilson and Senator Milroy, that a private carrier should not be driven into bankruptcy by a powerful railway company. As I understand the amendment, the object is, in some way, to give that private carrier a sort of protection in a contest against a railway company. But I am afraid the result of that would be only to encourage a private carrier to go on when prudence would direct him to adopt the course suggested by the Minister before the competition of a railway company starts, or just when it starts. He has a right to compel acquisition, and if at that stage he compels acquisition, then he will get compensation on the basis of the prosperous years which he had before the railway competition started. That is the wisest thing for him to do. The amendment proposed by Senator Milroy would hit another mark, which, I am sure, the Senator would be sorry to see hit. It is this: That there are certain classes of heavy haulage in respect of which standard rates are fixed for ordinary places. I have in mind a considerable amount of heavy haulage for which the people responsible will expect the railway company to give one-half of their maximum rates, so as to meet overseas competition and other things. Really the amendment does not help the class of persons for whom Senator Milroy has spoken. It would injure another class of trader, and very greatly injure a much more extensive description of trade. For that reason, Senators should be satisfied with the explanation which the Minister has given.

The position is that the railway company by being also merchandise road carriers are at present able to have a monopoly without acquisition. It is recorded that from a certain area in Roscommon a beast can be sent by rail to Dublin for 11/-, but if the firm of Wallis is engaged they will take the animal to Dublin for 8/-. If the Wallis firm finds that they are not able to get a full wagon they simply hand the animal over to the railway company, which brings it to Dublin for 8/-, so that a man who goes direct to the railway company in the first instance loses the difference. I contend that that is not fair to the road haulier. I do not say that this attempt is calculated to gain its end, but it is an attempt to direct the attention of the Minister to the necessity there is for care in this matter. Certainly by this competition road carriers are placed in such a position that they will not be able to make their business pay. It is poor consolation to tell a man to go and commit suicide, and that his relatives will get a couple of pounds compensation. It is hard lines on a man with a family who has invested his capital in this business if he is only to get half of it back eventually. Probably he will be told to engage in farming, but that is not paying now. Where are the prospects? The reason for the amendment is that this country does not give an opportunity to start out in a new direction. It is from that end that the Minister should visualise the position of the road haulier and try to meet him.

What the House would like to be satisfied about is this, whether under the law as it stands there is sufficient protection for existing transport business, which is interfered with by unfair competition of the railways on the roads. As I understand, from what the Minister called our attention to under the existing Act, that is a question for the arbitrator. The question the arbitrator has to decide is this: what loss has been occasioned to this transport operator by reason of the Minister's order? The Minister's order can only be made if and when the Minister is satisfied there has been unfair competition. That is the groundwork of his order. The order the arbitrator would be entitled to give would be the loss that the operator who has been knocked out of business has sustained by unfair competition. That would be calculated on fair charges or on the charges before the unfair competition came, and, in that way, I think it would only be absolutely fair compensation.

But if he continued the struggle for two or three years?

If he continued the struggle he is a foolish man. If he has any business sense he will get the order as soon as he is able to prove there is unfair competition.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 7:

New Section. Before Section 13 to insert a new section as follows:—

13. No application may be sent to the Minister under sub-section (1) of Section 51 of the Principal Act during the period of two years commencing at the expiration of one year after the day appointed by order made after the passing of this Act under sub-section (1) of Section 5 of the Principal Act to be the appointed day for the purposes of that Act.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 13 and the Title agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported, with amendments.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, May 9th.