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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Jul 1942

Vol. 26 No. 20

Electricity Supply Board (Superannuation) Bill, 1942—Report and Fifth Stages.

Government amendment:—

In page 6, Section 7, sub-section (1), paragraph (f), line 11, to delete the word "provide" and insert instead thereof the word "prescribe".

The sole purpose of the amendment is to correct a printer's error in the original draft.

Question put and agreed to.
Question:—"That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the Fifth Stage now.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I should like to repeat on the Final Stage of the Bill very briefly what I said on the Second Stage that the principle of the Bill is a good one, in so far as it is a principle of arranging a long-deferred superannuation scheme for the employees of the Electricity Supply Board and in so far as it embraces the manual workers in that scheme. In other respects, the Bill is not so good. It departs from the principle of the 1927 Act, the aim of which was to keep the Electricity Supply Board and its operations at arm's length from the Government and the two Houses of the Oireachtas. Whether the Minister desires it or not he has in this Bill power not only to approve of a scheme of superannuation submitted by the board, but power which is tantamount to allowing himself to frame a new scheme and put it into operation. It may very well be that he does not intend to do that. People never intend to do the wrong thing, but nevertheless they sometimes do it. That is the power now assumed by the Minister. It is, I think, an extraordinary thing considering the immense power the board enjoys in other directions. This is an addition to the powers of the Executive, whose powers are being constantly added to. In other respects the Bill has certain provisions with regard to the right of the manual workers to strike and the penalties imposed on them if they do strike. I think the problem which is there to be dealt with should be faced and dealt with as a whole, taking into consideration its repercussions in other directions. The Minister chose, as he told us himself, to deal with them piecemeal in this Bill. That, I think, is not a sound scheme and to that extent the Bill is defective.

I do not think it is necessary to repeat what I said in the course of the discussions on the earlier Stages of the Bill on the points referred to now by Senator Hayes. It is true that the Bill as framed brings in the Government to the extent of requiring Government approval of the scheme prepared by the board for the purpose of establishing superannuation funds for the benefit of their employees. I explained before why, for reasons of public policy, it was considered desirable to do so. It is not considered necessary or desirable to interfere with the board in the carrying out of its functions relating to the generation, transmission or sale of electricity, but where action taken by the board might have repercussions in other directions it is considered desirable that the Government should have powers of supervision over what they do.

With regard to the second point raised by Senator Hayes, I explained at length on another Stage the reasons why the Government thought it was desirable to propose in this Bill to provide inducements to workers employed by the Electricity Supply Board not to take strike action for the purpose of securing redress of any grievances they have, or any they may feel they have. It was felt, too, that in the case of an organisation such as this, performing essential functions for the country as a whole, such inducements should exist, particularly if other, and more effective, methods of securing redress of these grievances are provided as this Bill proposes to provide. While it may be that there are often good arguments in favour of doing nothing until one can do everything, I think it would be unwise to delay taking action in the case of the employees of the Electricity Supply Board until we had a general scheme for dealing with labour disputes in all the public services, and I cannot agree that it is inopportunte to take action in the case of the Electricity Supply Board on this occasion.

Question put and agreed to.
Ordered: That the Bill, as amended, be returned to the Dáil.