Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1944—Second Stage.

As the House is aware the Electricity Supply Board is financed by advances from the Exchequer authorised from time to time by legislation. One of the principal purposes of this Bill is to raise by £7,500,000 the limit of advances which may, under existing legislation, be made to the board. That £7,500,000 is a token vote intended to cover certain expenditure of a capital nature which the board proposes to undertake as soon as may be. I do not think that the sum will cover the whole of the capital expenditure to which the board will be committed by reason of these developments. The developments contemplated are—firstly, the construction of works on the River Erne for the generation of electricity; secondly, the construction of a steam station at Clonsast in Laoighis, at which turf will be the fuel burned, and certain other purposes which are properly described as normal developments of the board's activities. Of the total amount contemplated to be expended in the near future—roughly £3,500,000 would be required for the River Erne, and £1,500,000 for the Clonsast station. Some £2,500,000 would be required for the development of the board's distribution service and about £800,000 for various contingencies, including manufacturing operations by the board. There are minor items to which I need not refer in any detail, and a subsequent small additional development of the River Liffey, certain things which the board requires for its work, expenditure on the protection of fisheries and the projection of future developments.

The total capital cost of the programme which the board has prepared, and for which it asks these advances is estimated at £10,000,000 at pre-war values. It is impossible to give any precise estimate of what the cost will be until orders for the plant and equipment have been placed. It is not yet possible to place these orders, and consequently no very precise estimate of the actual cost of the works can be given. The Bill proposes to permit the board to undertake development of rivers for power purposes without the obligation of securing specific legislative sanction for each such development. The position of the board at present is that it has under existing Acts full powers to undertake development of steam stations, subject only to the capital being made available by the Exchequer, but it has no such power in relation to water power stations. The only water power stations constructed, that at the Shannon and those on the Liffey, were each authorised by specific Acts. In view of the intention to proceed with the Erne development and with a number of other smaller developments on various rivers it is considered that a time has been reached at which the power of the board to undertake water power development can be established by legislation. The proposal in the Bill is that the board, having prepared plans, will submit them to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and subject to his approval the works may be proceeded with.

Whatever reason there may have been in the past for retaining to the Oireachtas the power to authorise each specific and separate water-power development, in my opinion, no longer exists. The Electricity Supply Board has now been established for a number of years. It has built up a competent staff able to undertake the planning of this development and we can, I think, with confidence, entrust them with the task of preparing these plans and carrying them through without any of the safeguards which were considered necessary in the early stage of the board's existence. I presume the House will agree as to the necessity for making ample and speedy provision for the installation of new capacity by the board. It may be that the works now contemplated—the water-power works and the steam generating stations—will not be possible of completion until some time after the conclusion of hostilities, when the necessary plant and equipment can be procured abroad. However, it was decided that all the necessary preliminary steps should be taken, that the legislation should be enacted, plans prepared, sites acquired and whatever construction is possible under present circumstances completed as soon as possible, so that, when the equipment becomes available, there will be no avoidable delay in getting it into use.

We shall have after the war a situation in which, for a number of years, the demand for electricity will be substantially in excess of the board's capacity to supply. Before the war, the demand for electricity was increasing at the rate of, approximately, 30,000,000 units per year. It will help the House to understand what precisely is involved in an increase at that rate when I mention that the capacity of the Liffey power station is 30,000,000 units. At the rate at which the demand was growing before the war, we should have required a new station of that capacity every year. The installation of new capacity during the war was not possible and there has been, therefore, a damming up of demand which will become effective immediately normal conditions are restored in trade and industry. If we assume that the demand would have grown during those five war years at the same rate as before the war and that the whole of that new demand will be effective after the war, then the contemplated station on the Erne will be merely sufficient to make good the arrears which have been occasioned by the war, and the continuing growth in the demand after the war, which is estimated by the board at about 40,000,000 units per year, will involve the planning of further stations sufficient to enable that demand to be met. It is my opinion that we should, at least, plan upon the basis of being able to meet any increase in the demand which may arise—that, in other words, we should plan for surplus capacity rather than for a continuing deficiency. The possible growth in the demand for electricity here is difficult to estimate.

We are at present consuming electricity per head of population to a much lesser extent than practically any other European country—certainly any other European country with conditions comparable with ours. I gave certain statistics in that regard in the Dáil which, I think, amply illustrate the scope there is for electricity development here. In 1938—that year was taken because it is the last for which figures are available for a number of, European countries—the number of units per head of population generated by the Electricity Supply Board was 114. In the same year, the figure for Denmark was 316; Holland, 333; Italy, 345; France, 452; Belgium, 620; and Finland, 779. These countries are all somewhat like our own, inasmuch as agriculture constitutes a very large part of their industry, and is a primary source of wealth and of employment. Owing to exceptional circumstances in the case of Norway, Switzerland and Sweden, a comparison may not be very useful. Against our 114 units per head of population in 1938, Sweden had a production of 1,294 units, Switzerland, 1,679, and Norway, 3,417. These figures show that we can contemplate a very considerable increase in the consumption of electricity for industrial and domestic purposes, and that we must plan our future generation programme on a basis which will enable us, at least, to reach the position which was attained before the war by such countries as Denmark, Holland and Belgium, which had no conditions dissimilar from our own other than a more intensive industrial development.

The plan for the development of the Erne contemplates the utilisation of the falls of Assaroe where the river enters the sea at Ballyshannon. It is proposed to develop these falls in two steps by the construction of two dams across the existing river valley and the erection at each dam of a power station. The lower or first step will utilise about 72 per cent. of the fall, and the station will be located at a distance of, approximately, three-quarters of a mile up-stream from the road bridge across the Erne in the town of Ballyshannon. The upper or second step will utilise about 28 per cent. of the fall, and the station will be located approximately three miles up-stream from the lower step. The stations on the Erne will, it is estimated, produce about 200,000,000 units per year at the first stage of development. There will, possibly, be further development which will increase the output to 250,000,000 units per year.

These are, of course, no more than estimates at the present time because, as the works proceed, some variation of the plans may become necessary. It is expected that from 1,500 to 2,000 men will be employed upon the works for a period of three years. The commencement of the constructional activities is intended for the spring of the present year. How far it will be possible to continue them will depend on the availability of certain equipment which will be required when the construction will have proceeded to a certain stage.

As Senators who have read the reports by the Electricity Supply Board will have noted, the board is carrying out investigations of the water-flow in certain other rivers with a view to the preparation of plans for their development at a later stage. The Erne is, however, the second largest river in the country and has a much greater potential power output than any of the remaining rivers. Any further water-power stations will, therefore, be of substantially smaller capacity than those of the Erne, but it is considered not undesirable that there should be a number of smaller stations throughout the country.

As I informed the Dáil, the intention is that the electricity required in the future should be produced entirely from native resources, either by the use of water-power or turf as fuel. There are no technical difficulties in the utilisation of turf for steam-raising purposes, and the only problem that remains to be solved in that connection is the measures that may have to be adopted to permit of turf production, by mechanised methods on an adequate scale, being made adaptable to the requirements of a stand-by station. The new stations to which I have referred—those on the Erne and at Clonsast—will be base-load stations, and the estimates of production from the Erne are, of course, based upon the flow of water in an average year. As everybody knows, the flow of water in any river varies from year to year, and on that account water-power stations have to be supplemented by stand-by stations utilising power of another kind so that, in a particularly dry year, the output of electricity can be maintained. The Pigeon House station—a stand-by station in the Electricity Supply Board scheme—has, for a number of years past, been carrying a substantial part of the base load. In fact, in recent years, it would be true to say that the output from the Pigeon House station has exceeded the output from the Shannon works, but I think it is desirable to get back, as quickly as possible, to the stage in which the Pigeon House would only have a stand-by part, and that the whole of the output should be taken by the turf-burning stations or water-power stations.

The problem of utilising turf for the purposes of stand-by stations is not a technical problem associated with the generation of electricity; but a technical problem in connection with the production and marketing of turf, and the Turf Development Board which is associated with the Electricity Supply Board, in regard to these matters, is giving its attention to that problem.

Another part of this measure relates to the rural electrification scheme, details of which were published in a report prepared by the board at my request and made available to the public some months ago. I am sure that members of the House have studied that report and that it is not necessary at this stage to give, in any great detail, particulars of the scheme adopted by the board. The intention, however, is that electricity should be supplied in the rural areas at a charge which will not exceed the present rural tariff of the Electricity Supply Board. It is not possible to provide electricity at that price in the rural areas without subsidising the capital cost of the network required to bring the supply to those areas. While the estimates of the cost prepared by the Board have had to be based upon various assumptions that may or may not be correct, it is nevertheless clear that if the intention of the Government to provide current in the rural areas at the present rural tariff rates is to be carried out, the board must receive some proportion of the total capital cost involved, by way of free grant. The calculations made indicate that, roughly, one-half of the capital cost of the network must be met by way of grant, but that is by no means clear. The assumptions arrived at by the board may not prove to be correct and, in fact, it is hoped that experience will show that a somewhat smaller proportion of the total capital cost, by way of grant, will permit of the sale of current at the rates contemplated. The total capital cost involved is estimated at £17,500,000 on a pre-war basis, but what the eventual cost will be, after the war, will have to be ascertained as the work proceeds.

The Bill provides for making available to the board a sum of £5,000,000 which will permit of the board commencing operations. That device of authorising under this Bill only a proportion of the total capital cost contemplated was adopted because we considered it desirable that at an early stage the experience of the board in the operation of the scheme, as well as in the purchase of materials, should be reviewed and a decision made as to whether it is necessary to provide 50 per cent., or a somewhat lesser percentage of the total capital cost by way of grant. The limitation of the amount which may be made available to the board, as contemplated in this Bill, ensures that this review, to which I have referred, takes place at a comparatively early stage. It will be understood, of course, that the constructional work in providing the necessary network in rural areas will be a long-term operation. As Senators will have seen from the report, some 75,000 miles of 10,000-volt lines must be constructed, and the total length of the lines constructed up to date is 3,840 miles. A comparison of those two figures will give an indication of the magnitude of the task which has been given to the Electricity Supply Board. A further indication is given by the fact that the scheme will involve the erection of 100,000 transformers, as against 1,232 transformers at present in use. If that network is to be completed within ten years after supplies become available for that purpose, it will involve the construction of network at the rate of 7,500 miles per year. Now, the maximum rate of construction achieved by the Shannon scheme contractors was 650 miles per year, and the maximum achieved by the Electricity Supply Board was 330 miles per year. It will be obvious, therefore, that a very great amount of organisation will be required on the part of the Electricity Supply Board in order to ensure that it will have the personnel and the machinery to enable it to carry through the whole of the rural electrification scheme within a period of ten years. There are, in fact, some experts of the board who think that it is not practicable to complete the construction of the network in ten years, but it is obviously desirable that it should be done as quickly as possible, and the board is being pressed to prepare its plans upon the basis of completing it in that period.

There are some other provisions in the Bill to which perhaps it is desirable to refer. One of these removes the need for a certificate to be given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the Minister for Finance that the sums to be advanced to the board out of the Central Fund are reasonably and properly required by the board for any purpose arising out of the performance of its functions under the Electricity Acts. Some members of the House will remember that when the Electricity Supply Board was established circumstances arose which made it desirable, in the opinion of my predecessor as Minister for Industry and Commerce, to amend the legislation so as to secure for the Minister for Industry and Commerce certain powers over the financial activities of the Board. These powers were obtained by the Electricity Supply (Amendment) Act of 1931. Conditions have, however, very much altered in recent years and the need for the certificate contemplated by the 1931 Act no longer exists. It is considered sufficient that the advances applied for by the board should be made by the Minister for Finance on the recommendation of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. That simple procedure gives ample power to ensure that the capital outlay is kept within the statutory limit and that is, I think, the sole function which the Minister for Industry and Commerce needs now to exercise in that regard.

It is intended that, to the maximum extent that may be possible, electrical apparatus, equipment and machinery which will be required either by the board as distributors, or by the people of the country as consumers, should be manufactured here. There are various classes of electrical apparatus manufactured here at the present time. A large number of firms have shown an interest in the possibility of establishing new industries for the production of electrical equipment of one class or another in the post-war period. It is, however, contemplated that there may be circumstances in which it would be desirable that the board itself should have power to undertake the manufacture of equipment or power to promote the establishment of subsidiary companies for that purpose. There will be many classes of equipment produced by private enterprise in other countries for which in this country the board will be the only possible customer, and private enterprise might not be interested in undertaking manufacture here in such circumstances without some liaison with the board or some association on the part of the board with the work. It is, therefore, proposed to give the board power to manufacture or to arrange for the manufacture of apparatus on authority from the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Provisions are inserted in the appropriate section which are designed to ensure that the authority of the Minister will not be given where private enterprise is in a position to do the work satisfactorily. I would ordinarily regard it as desirable that industrial development of that kind should be sponsored by private enterprise. It is because of the special circumstances relating to the type of apparatus and machinery involved here that it is considered necessary to have for the board power to do the work if it is obvious that the work would not be done otherwise. Discussions have begun with the Electricity Supply Board and with a number of private firms interested in developments of that nature with a view to the preparation of a programme of manufacture. It is hoped that a very high proportion of the equipment required by the board for these development purposes and of the various classes of electrical apparatus which private citizens will require after the war will in fact be manufactured here at quite an early stage.

I do not know if there is any other aspect of the Bill to which I need refer in detail at this stage. The main purposes of the Bill are, as I have mentioned, to authorise an increase in the limit of advances to the board, for the purpose of enabling the new generating stations which I have mentioned to be constructed; to authorise the board to undertake the construction of hydro-generating stations without the necessity for new legislation on the occasion of each such development, but solely on the certificate of approval of the Minister for Industry and Commerce; to make certain provisions which are required to facilitate the rural electrification scheme and to authorise the board, as I mentioned towards the close of my remarks, in certain circumstances to undertake and arrange for the manufacture of equipment and apparatus. If there are any matters of detail to which Senators wish to refer, they can perhaps be more conveniently discussed in Committee.

Four or five minutes will suffice to say all I desire to say on this Bill. It is a Bill, as the Minister has indicated, the provisions of which can be more suitably discussed in Committee rather than in a general discussion now. Every member of the House will support the Government in its effort to secure the objects of the Bill. As I was listening to the Minister I could not help running my mind back to the occasion 20 years ago when his predecessor in office was introducing the Shannon Scheme Bill. Remembering the scepticism which he had then to meet both inside and outside the House, I could not help reflecting how very lucky the present Minister is that everyone now accepts the need for speed in the preparation of schemes for the production of more electricity. If anybody had made such a statement 20 years ago he would have been almost laughed at. That shows that, at any rate, we have made progress.

I entirely agree that every possible effort should be made to speed up this scheme and if I have any quarrel at all with the Minister's plans, it is that the scheme may not be carried through quickly enough. I take it that the Minister intends to leave the initiative to the board, that they will obtain estimates and accept them. I think that speed may easily be a very important factor, even more than the question of cost, because I am convinced that if anything his estimate of the figures of demand are on the low rather than on the high side. There is just the danger —it sometimes happens particularly when you have the Minister for Finance concerned—that a cheaper and a slower scheme may take the place of a possibly more expensive scheme whereas in the long run the costlier scheme might be the more advantageous.

I have personally great confidence in the Electricity Supply Board as an organisation, and I think it enjoys the confidence of the public also. It is one of the best organisations we have ever had in the country, and it has on its staff quite a number of very able and energetic young men. I think we may very well have confidence that as time goes on the board will attract to its service a number of other young men of ideas. As far as I am concerned I am entirely behind the principles of the Bill and I welcome it. I am not sure as to the wisdom of the provisions of the Bill regarding the manufacture of apparatus, but that is a matter which can be dealt with more suitably on Committee Stage.

I move the adjournment.

Debate adjourned.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

I think we can all feel grateful to the Minister for the very exhaustive review which he gave to the House on the Second Reading of this Bill. He went into great detail, and explained the position in a very satisfactory manner. He made it possible for us all to understand the Bill— whether or not some of us understood it before his speech. In that connection too, I think we ought to express appreciation of the manner in which the Electricity Supply Board prepared what I suppose would be described as a White Paper on this subject. It is fashionable nowadays to have White Papers about all kinds of subjects. Not all of them are very informative. Some of them are based more on wishful thinking than on reality. Certainly, that cannot be said of the report published by the Electricity Supply Board some time ago on rural electrification. I understand that it was prepared on the instructions or at the request of the Minister. I am sure members of the House have read that report in relation to this Bill, and the scope of the Bill must be clear to those who have done so. Roughly speaking, what we are endeavouring to do here, as I understand it, is to provide machinery mainly to give a supply of current to the rural areas. In the towns and cities, of course, a supply is available for 95 or 96 per cent. of the people who live there, but about 60 per cent of the total population live in the rural areas, and not one in every 100 of those people has a supply of electricity available to him. That means, of course, that the scheme which will be based on this Bill will be a relatively costly one.

It is going to be much more expensive to carry electricity to the isolated farmhouse and to the outhouse on the farm than it is to provide electricity for town dwellers who live in closely inhabited communities. I take it that the network, particularly, will be an expensive undertaking. The Minister fixed a figure of £17,000,000, based I think, on 1939 costs, but nobody can hope that when this scheme is carried into effect, costs will have remained where they were in 1939. The Minister mentioned elsewhere the likelihood of an increase of probably two-thirds on the 1939 figure, so that one may regard the scheme visualised here as an enterprise which will cost £27,000,000 to £30,000,000.

Everybody welcomes the Bill, everybody is urging that the work provided for in the Bill will be carried through expeditiously, but I have heard very little reference made to what this involves in costings to the community, costings in relation to domestic current, and costings in relation to the use of current in so far as current will be used for domestic purposes in the rural areas. In the report on rural electrification prepared by the Electricity Supply Board, a good deal of information is given concerning the use of electricity elsewhere in various farm operations. If, as I hope, we are to use electricity in this country on a large scale on the farm, in the byre, and in the dairy, we have to consider what is likely to be the cost to the consumer, and that will depend, very largely, in fact almost entirely, on the manner in which this scheme is financed.

I notice that the Electricity Supply Board, in their report, estimate the capital cost per dwelling at £34 10s. for Louth—the lowest figure they have given—and at £49 for Wicklow, which, I think, is the highest figure. This is based on an analysis given in the report which represents a charge of 12 per cent. on the capital provided by the Bill—that is to say, the Electricity Supply Board in their report make an allowance of 5 per cent. for interest on capital, 2.5 per cent. for depreciation, 1/2 of 1 per cent. for sinking fund, and 4 per cent. for costs. But the output of the scheme is calculated at 200,000,000 units per annum, and if my calculation is right, the interest charges on capital, the sinking fund, the depreciation, and the other costs represent 2.448d. per unit, to which will have to be added running costs and other charges, so that if money is to be borrowed by the State and advanced to the Electricity Supply Board at 5 per cent., as the report contemplates, either we must charge a very high price to the rural consumer for his electric current, or we must find a large sum for subsidisation.

It does not matter very much which course is adopted, the person who pays the bill will eventually be the Irish taxpayer. If he pays as a consumer, he probably will not pay as a taxpayer. If he does not pay as a consumer, he will be paying as a taxpayer. I do not know whether it is necessary that we should always be getting banks and the stock exchange to lend the nation's credit to national institutions in order that we should go on indefinitely providing interest for money lenders whenever there is a scheme of this kind in contemplation.

If ever there was an instance in which the State should utilise its power, its authority as a Government, to provide credit for an undertaking of such magnitude, it is in a case of this kind, where we are providing a public utility, a national asset for the people of the community, an asset that will show a dividend, and an asset that will assuredly return to the State any money advanced for the purpose of its promotion. So far, of course, we have heard nothing in these discussions as to the manner in which the scheme's to be financed. The board, however, seems to visualise that the money should be advanced to them at 5 per cent.

I do not know what is sacrosanct about 5 per cent. Money is not costing the Government 5 per cent. Irish money is invested in Britain to-day at less than 1 per cent. Irish money is invested in England by the Irish banks at as low as 17/6 per cent. I do not say that these are long-term advances, but the British Government is borrowing on long-term at 2½ to 3 per cent., and we have here at our disposal large sums of money, the savings of the people, invested in savings banks, in savings certificates and in the Post Office Savings Bank at less than 3 per cent., and I do not think the Department of Finance is entitled, in advancing these sums under its control, for the purpose of a scheme like this, to make a profit at a cost to the community.

A certain small margin is required for operating costs. It was calculated in Birmingham years ago when a municipal bank was established there that the cost of handling the funds of the bank was 1/2 per cent. The bank which was established in 1919 under a special Act in Britain, accepted deposits from the citizens of Birmingham. They lent these deposits almost exclusively to the corporation at 1/2 per cent. more than they paid the depositors, and they calculated that that was ample as an operating cost. Why the Department of Finance should borrow money in the form of Post Office sales at, say, 2½ per cent. and charge the Electricity Supply Board for a project of this kind 5 per cent. completely baffles me. I do not know where the Minister stands in relation to this. I do not know whether he has any authority to challenge the practices of the Department of Finance, but I think that this House should assure him of our fullest support in whatever efforts he thinks fit to make to ensure that a scheme of this kind will not be throttled by the exactions of the Department of Finance.

Assuming, for instance, that the money were provided at 2 per cent., it would make a tremendous difference in the cost of electric current. Assuming again that the figure required is £17,000,000, at 5 per cent. the interest would amount to £850,000, at 2 per cent. the interest would amount to £340,000, so that if we take the estimate of 200,000,000 units, 5 per cent. means that the interest alone represents 1.02 pence per unit. At 2 per cent. it is .408 pence per unit, a difference of .612 pence per unit, that is to say, the difference between 2 per cent. and 5 per cent. accounts for more than a halfpenny on every unit of electricity generated under this scheme.

But I do not think that the cost is going to be £17,000,000. I think it is going to be far more. It can easily amount to £27,000,000, £28,000,000 or £30,000,000. Assuming that it is, let us say, £27,000,000, there can be a saving of almost a penny, seven-eighths of a penny, per unit if interest charges imposed by the Department of Finance can be reduced from 5 per cent. to 2 per cent. My own view is that it is not necessary to have either 5 per cent. or 2 per cent. and I recommend the Minister to look at what is done elsewhere. The example of New Zealand has been frequently mentioned in this House and elsewhere as an example of what can be done in the matter of finance to promote employment and enterprise and to keep down interest charges. In no case can the example of New Zealand be quoted more effectively than in relation to a scheme of this kind, because it is one of the things in relation to which the New Zealand Government set aside a volume of State credit. They set aside £5,000,000 for electrification, as one of three items for which £15,000,000 was originally provided. The money was provided by the State without borrowing from the bank or moneylenders; flowing from the reserve bank at rates in some cases as low as 1 per cent., and in no case higher than 1¼ per cent.

Was that for electrification?

It was provided from the reserve bank in no case higher than 1¼ per cent.

Was that for long term electrification capital?

The Government rate charged for money provided on long-term for State electrification was 1 per cent. There is no reason why 1 per cent. should be charged except the State thought that they should cover the operating costs and make a small provision for depreciation. I am not suggesting a particular figure. I am merely drawing attention to the fact that in operating the finances of this scheme the Minister can decide whether the people of rural Ireland are to be encouraged to use current and are to have it at a low price or whether they are to be discouraged. Throughout this report of the Electricity Supply Board it is made perfectly clear that the matter is one very largely of finance. The economic aspect of it is stressed rather than the technical aspect. There is no technical difficulty about bringing electricity to every rural home in Ireland, and there is no reason why, if we can get rid of this burden of interest and money charges, everybody in Ireland should not have electricity cheaper than they can buy candles. My interest in this matter is first and foremost to support the Minister wholeheartedly with regard to his scheme and to urge him to go forward as rapidly as he can with it, but at the same time to urge him that if this scheme is to mean anything to the homes of the people of rural Ireland, it will depend entirely on how he attacks the problem of finance. If it is going to be based upon 5 per cent. interest then the answer is that the people of rural Ireland will do without electricity, unless it is subsidised. If it is subsidised they will pay for it without knowing they are paying for it in indirect taxation. That is the problem we are confronted with. That is a problem all must face in relation to every project of this kind, whether it is electrification, drainage, houses or roads.

All these big problems will come back to one of finance. It seems to me that the only people who will gain by this scheme in the long run, if it is going to be on a 5 per cent. basis, are the moneylenders, the people who lend credit to the community. They are going to gain. There is one very unfortunate feature in this Bill with which I disagree and that is Section 41, where the Minister almost pledges that he will not permit the Electricity Supply Board to manufacture its own requirements in appliances if they can get moneylenders to come along and provide them. That is a very unfortunate aspect. Under Section 41, briefly it may be said that the Minister must be satisfied that the needs of the State are not likely to be satisfied in regard to a particular commodity before he does anything to make these appliances. In other words, if a group of people come in and establish a company out of which they feel certain they can make a profit on the manufacture of appliances they can carry on and probably get a licence to manufacture as well as an assurance that there will be no competitors.

If the Minister is satisfied in that respect, he may authorise the board to arrange for the manufacture of equipment in short supply but he must publish notice of his intention to confer those powers on the board and invite and consider objections. Before he authorises the board to proceed to manufacture any particular commodity, he must attach conditions and restrictions which will tie the Electricity Supply Board to some particular form of production or line them up with private interests which may, and probably will, throttle them eventually.

That is one feature of the Bill which is objectionable. It is a complete departure from the original conception of the scheme which established the Electricity Supply Board. There was some discussion about this matter in connection with the original scheme. Some members of the House may remember that a question was raised as to whether or not the Electricity Supply Board should be permitted to go into trade. That matter was fought out and the opinion of both Houses of the Oireachtas backed the Government of the day in their endeavour to ensure that the Electricity Supply Board would have freedom to go into trade. They have gone into trade. They have been able to go everywhere after the goods they required and buy them on the best terms. That policy is being overthrown in Section 31 of this Bill. I do not say that it reverses previous policy but it opens the door to a new line of approach which, in time, will lead to the establishment of private monopolies as against a publicly-owned concern such as the Electricity Supply Board. I do not desire at this stage to deal with any other aspects of the Bill but I do want to emphasise what I consider to be two important aspects, aspects which should engage the attention of members of this House and, particularly, of the Minister—the method of financing this scheme and the question of the manufacture of the Electricity Supply Board's requirements by private enterprise as against manufacture by the board itself.

Ordinarily, Senator Duffy and I get on very well. I have very considerable sympathy with his aims but, when he talks of the source of money being the moneylender, I rub my eyes and wonder whether I am in a world of reality. According to Senator Duffy, everybody who puts up money for any enterprise is a moneylender. The shareholders of Guinness and the people who lend money to the Government are moneylenders. Where does money come from? The Senator has talked of making money available for electricity development at 1 per cent. How is money to be got at 1 per cent.? You may get money, repayable on demand, at 1 per cent. But money for a purpose of this kind must be obtained by public loan. Is Senator Duffy prepared to lend his savings to the Government for the development of electricity at 1 per cent.?

Money has a market rate. There is no getting away from that. I should like to know more about this New Zealand finance by which long-term capital for electricity development was found at 1 per cent. It can be found at 1 per cent. if the Government is prepared to pay the difference between that and the market rate. The Central Bank could lend money to the Government at 1 per cent.——

Not without amending the law.

It could be done by amending the law, but would it be sound finance? The ordinary method of providing money for such purposes is for the State to go out and borrow money from the citizens. The rate at which the citizens are prepared to lend their money is the factor that runs through the whole scheme. This business of producing rabbits out of a hat is nonsensical. The Senator thinks that everything would be perfect if it were not for finance. On the only occasion on which I met Mr. George Bernard Shaw, he said to me: "My theory of life is that everybody should live at the rate of £10,000 a year." That is an excellent theory—except for finance. How can you get away from the money question except by magic? The Senator wants to get away from finance but he does not tell us how we are to do it. It can be done by the printing press. The House knows what the consequences of that would be.

Would the Senator address himself to the methods by which His Majesty's Government got all the money they required for the war—methods which did not exist previously?

His Majesty's Government have, for the time being only, obtained money from the banks on Treasury deposit receipts.

A method which did not exist before.

Undoubtedly, there has been inflation in England and it is being kept in hand by a very generous measure of subsidies. It is being paid for by the taxpayer. That is the answer. I should like to follow up this question because, from a different angle, I have certain views on this question of electricity finance. I think that the Minister will agree with me in those views. Electricity could be financed better than it is being financed at present. If the Electricity Supply Board were allowed to go into the market and issue its own bonds, it could, no doubt, on its reputation, raise credit at a rate in the region of 3 per cent. I understand that it is now paying 5 per cent. The difference of 2 per cent. represents a sum of from £200,000 to £250,000—I do not profess to give exact figures. That sum of £200,000 or £250,000 is a tax on the consumer of electricity.

I can see good reasons why the Minister for Finance should not wish the Electricity Supply Board to go into the money market in competition with the Government, but I do think that the Government should advance to the Electricity Supply Board money at no higher rate than that which they are themselves paying, with a small addition for administrative expenses. I can see the Minister in another capacity; I can see him as an advocate for the Electricity Supply Board as against the Minister for Finance. I have no doubt that the Minister has tried to persuade the Minister for Finance to be more accommodating in this matter. I can imagine the Minister for Finance arguing that he borrowed in the early days at 5 per cent., then at 4 per cent., with diminishing rates as money got cheaper down to 3 per cent., and asking how he is to disentangle electricity finance from any particular loan, or attach it to any particular loan. That is not the right approach. The rate should be the average of the Government's effective rates. I have taken the trouble to find out what that average effective rate would be. If Land Bonds were included—I mention Land Bonds, because they are partly guaranteed outside the State—the effective rate would be £4 2s. 3d. per cent. If Land Bonds were excluded, the effective rate would be £3 18s. 7d. per cent. Splitting the difference, let us say 4 per cent., I feel that any higher rate than 4 per cent. is in the nature of taxation on the electricity consumer.

The Minister may say that this is not germane to the present debate, but I do think that it is bound up with the finance of this Bill. The Minister would have a good case in urging that the Electricity Supply Board should pay the effective rate—the rate in respect of the total of Government borrowings. Surely, it should be quite possible to make that sort of a revision periodically, and, possibly, to say now that for the next three years the rate that is going to be effective will be the present rate, which, I understand, is 5 per cent., but that at the end of that period, the position will be revised, and that the rate of interest will be changed from 5 per cent., let us say, to 4 per cent., to 3 per cent., and so on. I think that that would be fair, because it seems to me that the present rate which, I understand, is 5 per cent., is a profiteering rate—a rate by which the Government is taxing the consumers of electricity for the benefit of the Revenue.

With regard to the Bill itself, I think it is in the interests of the country as a whole. I hope that Senator Foran is not going to remind me that in connection with this matter of electricity supply my record is very bad; but, after all, in 25 years, one should be given credit for learning at least a little, and although the scheme that we have now before us is very different from the scheme that I then criticised—I am not defending myself in that connection—I think that the Electricity Supply Board is a very different department, and that it has served the country very well. For that reason, I am all in favour of the further independence that the Government proposes to allow to that body.

When the Minister is replying, I wish he would deal with this matter of the charge for rural electrification, because I am not quite certain if that is going to be a fixed or a pivotal charge, or whether he proposes to build everything on the fixed charge, plus this three-farthings charge, on the rest. I do not think it would be fair to do so. I think that some position should be arrived at whereby, if the Electricity Supply Board makes a profit, that charge could be capable of reduction. That, of course, is all bound up also with the question of the subsidy. The Minister gave us to understand that the only estimated subsidy was to be 50 per cent. of the capital cost, but he also suggested that it might be less. I do not think he suggested that it might be more, but I do think that it should be definitely fixed at 50 per cent., and that then, if it were found that on that basis of 50 per cent. a profit was made, it should be possible to make a reduction in the rural tariff.

In connection with this new expenditure, I approached the matter from the point of view of two separate compartments. First of all, as regards the main supply, I do not see why the main supply of current should cost more than it does by reason of the fact that rural electrification must have, as its primary source, a supply of electricity from the Erne or from turf production. I may be wrong, but I think that the primary source should be a main factor in the cost of distribution. That is why this 50 per cent. is necessary, and that is why, on account of that high cost of rural electrification, the production of turf is necessary; but let us put it this way: If, having given a subsidy of 50 per cent., it is then found that current can be supplied more cheaply to the rural consumer, then the consumer should get the benefit of that, and we should not drift into the position where the present cost of the production of turf, as reported to the Minister, would become a fixed tariff governing the whole financing of this scheme. I hope that the Minister, when he is replying, will deal with those points.

I should also like to ask him— perhaps I am displaying my ignorance in putting this question—where does the differentiation lie between the rural consumer of electricity and the urban consumer? I understand that there are certain rural consumers at the moment, and I should like to know whether there is any method, whether in respect of population or otherwise, of calculating the differentiation between rural and urban consumers. Apart from the remarks I have made, I have great pleasure in supporting this measure.

I do not wish to intrude into what might appear to be a secret conspiracy between Senator Sir John Keane and Senator Duffy on the question of providing cheap money, but, judging from Senator Sir John Keane's remarks, it would appear to be obvious that we are heading towards the position where money will be particularly cheap in future. I was rather interested in hearing the Senator advising the Minister to issue loans as he could now get money at the rate of 3 per cent. Coming from a man such as Senator Sir John Keane, that is a very interesting proposal, and it is rather a revelation so far as the public of this country is concerned, in view of their experience in the past.

May I explain to the Senator that that is the price at which I think the Electricity Supply Board could go to the public for money, and that I believe that they could get money at that rate, but that that has nothing at all to do with the banks. It has nothing at all to do with the banks.

Senator Sir John Keane seems to be contradicting himself now.

No, I am not. This has nothing at all to do with bank loans.

I do not know that the public are any more foolish than the banks, but Senator Sir John Keane, apparently, now says that the banks are not prepared to give money at that price, but that the public should provide it at that price. That appears to me to be rather extraordinary, but, in any case, whether or not Senator Sir John Keane is nervous about the points of view he has expressed, the fact is that money has been got very cheaply.

That is right.

And there is no doubt whatever that if what he has suggested were done, it would probably materialise. In the case of the last Great War the British Government had to pay a very substantial interest on loans they got—amounting to 9 and 10 per cent.—in order to finance that war, but in the case of this country they were prepared to pay only 3 per cent., or less, on loans. Now, that shows the difference between the banks taking over control of the country's finances and the Government of the country taking over the control of the country's finances in the interests of the people as a whole. This is too serious a matter to talk upon flippantly, and it is very easy to mislead the public on this question of finance. I do not think that people should speak lightly on such a subject. In this country, over the last ten years, we have had various loans floated, which were not fully subscribed, and yet Senator Sir John Keane had the audacity to say, as a slur upon the Government of this country, that they had to pay 4 per cent.

Might I be permitted to point out, Sir, that I meant no slur whatever upon the Government in my remarks. I think that the Senator misunderstands my remarks.

That was the implication that I took from the Senator's remarks.

I never said anything of the kind.

In other words, the implication of the Senator's remarks was that we should convert all loans in the past and that Senator Sir John Keane's bank would be able to do better.

I cannot allow that statement to pass. This is going on record, and I wish to point out that I never made any such statement.

Senator McEllin must have misconceived what has been said by Senator Sir John Keane.

Evidently Senator Sir John Keane misunderstands what he himself said. I think the Senator should settle his own mind on this issue and let us know, definitely, what he has to say on this matter of finance. I do hold that when we talk in this House on such a matter we should talk about it very seriously and with a full sense of responsibility. I do not think that this matter of finance in connection with rural electrification is one that should be treated lightly.

This is a courageous scheme undertaken by the Government, a scheme which requires both financial and technical ability in order to make it a success and to give the public as a whole a satisfactory supply of electricity. Senator Duffy gave us many facts in regard to the financing of the scheme, and went into very minute details as to the cost of money and as to the different ways in which money could be obtained, but the sum total of the Senator's efforts amounted only to a saving of a halfpenny a unit for the public. To the average consumer for lighting purposes a halfpenny per unit is a negligible consideration, but, of course, where power for industry is concerned it is a very different question. As electricity is likely to be used increasingly for power purposes and possibly for transport in future, the cost of production should be reduced to the very minimum. I think it would be useful if the Government could ascertain what our competitors in the field of industry in other countries have to pay for similar power, so that we would be in a position to compete with them from the point of view of the cost of power, at any rate. The cost of power is a very important factor in the cost of production of any commodity, and anything the Government could do to ensure the provision of cheap power for industry would help substantially towards production and enable Irish manufacturers to produce goods both for the home and foreign market at competitive prices.

Now that we are reorganising our electricity supply system for the future, I hope the Government will bear in mind that it is most undesirable from a security point of view to be dependent upon one source of supply such as the Shannon. If by any chance this country suffered invasion very probably we would be deprived of power and light within a few minutes of the first attack. To have left us in that position was a most short-sighted policy, and I hope that steps will be taken in future to secure our position in that regard.

With regard to the supply of electricity for rural areas I am satisfied that a substantial number of people in rural areas may not be in a position to make any contribution whatever towards the capital cost of wiring their houses, etc. While they would be very anxious to enjoy the advantages of an electricity supply, they may be debarred from availing of it owing to this initial expenditure. I think that it would be advisable for the Minister to consider the position of farmers and other people with very low valuations who would not be in a position to make any contribution towards the initial cost. I think there should be some scheme evolved to assist people with such low valuations.

I am sure the Minister's advisers have made a deep study of the question of tidal power. For instance in Achill Sound, between the island and the mainland, having watched the tide on many occasions coming backwards and forwards, I know that there is a terrific flow of water there. A power of that particular type if harnessed would have tremendous producing capacity, and I think it would cost very little to have it utilised. I should like the Minister to give all due study to such outlying sources of power which might be adapted for many purposes. I do not think that such valuable sources of power should be wasted. In conclusion I desire to congratulate the Minister, his Department, his officials and all concerned for the very valuable proposals which they have now put forward with the object of placing the amenities of an up-to-date electricity scheme at the disposal of our farmers and the community generally. I hope they will keep in mind the desirability of finding an alternative for the overhead system of wiring and of evolving some other system which would be much more satisfactory.

I suppose it is a somewhat unusual experience for the Minister to get general applause for a measure in this House or the other House. While saying that, one must add that the method by which he proposes to implement this measure may not give general satisfaction, and he must expect some criticism if only for the purpose of getting enlightenment. This scheme must necessarily commend itself to all. I had the privilege of being a member of the other House when the original Electricity Supply Bill was introduced. I have just been looking at the official debates, and I see that on a date in March, 1927, I was discussing the measure. I think the Minister to-day was a "mitcher" from school then. He may have been with the hedge schoolmaster. Now we are getting on; he is now building on the foundations laid then. Unlike some of my colleagues on that day in March, 1927, I found myself an enthusiastic supporter of the proposition. A number of them were definitely sceptical; they were rather inclined to be doubting Thomases. But we have all learned since then, and the Minister has the great advantage of the experience of his predecessor in office, and of the magnificent machine which that predecessor created and passed on to him to enable him to do this job in 1945.

What we have to concern ourselves with in this measure, which is mainly a measure for rural electrification, is its possibilities of success. What I have to ask myself is: Will the Minister and the Electricity Supply Board be able to sell the goods when they have been manufactured? Unfortunately, I was out of the House for portion of Senator Duffy's speech. I heard the end of it, and I heard Senator Sir John Keane's reply. If I am to take the Minister's speech to-day in conjunction with the report of the Electricity Supply Board as the basis on which electricity is to be manufactured and sold to the rural community, I suggest to the Minister that this scheme cannot be a success. On his basis of costings, we will not get the rural community of this country, on their present farm incomes, to buy electricity. That is my opinion. While saying that, however, I do not want to be taken as questioning the wisdom of the policy adumbrated in the Bill. I do not want to be taken in any sense as questioning the wisdom or the necessity or the advisability of going forward, but I want to put in my note of interrogation. I want the Minister and the Seanad to examine the proposition in its widest implications, to see what we are committing the country to, before we give the scheme our complete and absolute blessing.

As I see it, we are going to produce and sell electricity. What are the factors which are going to fix the price at which this commodity will be sold? First, I take it, is the price of money— the capital which will be invested in the scheme. That is one factor. Another factor is the price of the productive fuel, the turf in the bogs. Another factor is the price of the labour employed in the constructional work, and afterwards in the administrative work. Another factor is the price of equipment. Taking all those factors together, we get the sum total of the cost of the commodity which is to be manufactured and sold. I take it the Minister will not dissent from that point of view. When we examine the price at which it is to be sold, we find, both from the Minister's speech and from the costings given by the Electricity Supply Board in their report, that the figure is approximately what we are paying for electricity to-day. I suggest to the Minister that it will be necessary either to raise farm incomes very considerably above their present level, or to cut the cost of electricity very considerably, before the rural population of this country can afford to take it. Let us examine the first factor, the price of money. Senator Duffy has been doing that. I suffered the disadvantage of not being able to hear the case he made.

It is not a disadvantage.

That may be the Minister's point of view. I heard Senator Sir John Keane's criticism of it, and I further heard Senator McEllin criticising, or examining, let me say, Senator Keane's idea.

Misrepresenting it.

Well, he did that in part, but the Senator did not let him get away with it. I confess that, when I hear Senator Sir John Keane talking about money at 3 per cent. for the Electricity Supply Board, I definitely accept that money can certainly be got at 2 per cent.

I definitely expect that Senator Sir John Keane did not put the price of money at the minimum. What really is money? At this stage, I will not go into a discussion of that. If Senator Sir John Keane wants to go back to the debate we had on the Central Bank Bill, and if he wants to put forward his suggested balance sheet which the bank will produce, I am prepared to put forward my suggestion as to the balance sheet which the bank will produce, and let it be criticised. If I am asked where the money comes from, I am prepared to declare here—let it be criticised; let it be opposed—that banks create money.

And money creates banks.

And money creates banks.

And both create debates.

We are here discussing a measure of very great importance. Our discussion centres around money at 5 per cent. Apparently, that is the calculation on which our plans have been based up to the present. Then, we will be asked where we are to get money at anything less. Money is all a matter of confidence. If somebody says to me—whether it be Senator Sir John Keane or the Minister—that we cannot expect to get money here at much less, I put it to the House that civilisation has reached an amazing pass indeed when the British Government, and the British banks headed and advised by Lord Keynes, can organise and implement a plan whereby the British have every confidence in putting money at 1-7/8th per cent. into shells that are blowing Germany to pieces, while we are expected to pay 3 per cent. for money to build a further Shannon scheme. I am not surprised that that is the outlook of civilisation to-day, when we see what civilisation is doing with itself, but surely to goodness we should make another approach to this whole problem.

The Minister said in part of his speech that we are going to utilise our native materials to the full. I am all with him there. That is what we ought to do. If we could utilise our native materials to the full 100 per cent. it would simply mean that the consumers of electricity, as one section of the community, were paying a certain price for electricity, so that high rates of interest could be paid to some people, so that high wages could be paid to others, so that high dividends, perhaps, could be paid to the manufacturers of equipment. That is the situation that you can create—a very very inequitable situation no doubt. When you are selling services to your own people, no matter in what form the services are being sold, you are keeping the sum total of the value of the services within your own community, but as between different sections of your own community you can create inequities in the sale of those services.

That is something which the Minister must keep in mind. If you are going to give us a medium through which the homes of rural Ireland will be electrified, through which we will have a little more comfort in our farmhouses, and a little more case in the way we do our job of work, you must keep that fact in mind. If Senator Sir John Keane asks whether the people who have got the money, like Senator McEllin for instance, are ready to lend it unless the rate of interest is fairly high, I say that we have got to consider also whether we are going to put an impossible burden on the poor producer on the hillside so that the man who has the money will be provided with a comfortable income. If we decide that the man who lends the money has to get his fixed, stable, comfortable income, at the expense of the poor consumer of electricity, who is also a poor producer of essentials for the community, we will be doing something which, in my opinion, is so inequitable as to stultify our great effort right from the beginning.

We may have another opportunity of discussing the price of money in relation to this measure. I am a consumer of electricity myself in a small way. After years of pleading, I have managed, although my little farm was torn to pieces with all the poles and cables that have been erected, to get a little light a little while ago and I am quite satisfied that rural Ireland will not be lighted at the price I am paying for it. I know that some people have had it installed and when they can get light again from paraffin oil, they will go back to it. I am putting that to the House, and I know what I am talking about.

We are starting our scheme on the basis of a price for money which is the price of the money changer in the temple. That is what it is, 5 per cent. in this country, where the conditions are more stable than in any country in the world, and where the prospects for the future are much better than anywhere else. We shall yet see a time when people who have loose money will want to come here to invest it. When conditions are like that, enterprise and effort must not be hindered by the exactions which capital is trying to make on new development. I would like to know from the Minister what his view is on that point.

Let us go to the report of the committee on rural electrification. Senator Duffy quoted the case of New Zealand, but you will find—I am sure Senator Sir John Keane has read this—that with regard to the United States, the report gives us in detail the interest rates for rural electrification administration loans made in each of the fiscal years from 1936 to 1941. These were 3 per cent., 2.77 per cent., 2.88 per cent., 2.73 per cent., 2.69 per cent. and 2.46 per cent. The period of the loan is 25 years and the rate of interest is based on the average rate the United States pays on its obligations over ten years.

That is right.

I would like to draw Senator Sir John Keane's attention to these rates from 1936 to 1941. From 1941 onwards, the rates were 2.46 per cent.

That was the market rate.

I would like to hear from Senator Sir John Keane what he has to say to these figures. I hope that the Minister does not defend his theory but I should like to have a view from somebody as to why it is necessary that a country like this, paying its way and having exported so much of its capital outside—hundreds of millions at its own choice—has had to pump a great deal of this capital across to England, where they were getting 1? per cent. Why, then, is it necessary to take the attitude that rural electrification is possible only at an interest rate at 5 per cent. if the United States are able to do it at less than 3 per cent.? I want to know what is the answer, and I am prepared to join issue with anybody who will say in relation to our resources, that conditions are not as stable in this country as they are in the United States of America and that the prospects for the investor are not just as safe as they are in the United States of America. That is the attitude we ought to take, and if we took it we would have more stability and if we have any money that anyone will take we will have a great many other people trying to invest their assets with us.

Would the Senator subscribe to a public loan at 2½ per cent.?

The Senator is not nearly finished yet.

You do not know.

That is a fundamental question. It gets at the root of the matter. The Minister is going to develop electricity from our bogs. I am all for the development of bogs. I want them replaced by trees or land, but you cannot do much with them as they are at present. I would pay a man to take them away, and when the water is drained we would have land which we could reclaim and use for building houses. I am all for the development of our peat resources in whatever way we can develop them. It ought to be possible to have some idea of the costs, because you cannot go forward with your scheme of planning efficiently without having calculated your costings with the requisite fuel at Clonsast.

I would like to have from the Minister his calculations and estimates in regard to that scheme. What are the costs? At what price will he be able to turn out the material per ton? We are told that discussions are going on between the Turf Development Board and the Electricity Supply Board. That is a very vital factor, and when you come to it, in order to get rid of the bogs, I would be prepared, if needs be, if the fuel were somewhat expensive, to do some subsidising.

It is a matter of national importance as well. There is the question of the manufacture of equipment here in the country. We ought to be able to do something in that direction because we have a considerable amount of technical knowledge in that matter now. But, there again, if private interests go into this, and they will, rightly, be encouraged to go into it, they will be in a much more privileged position and considerable dividends may be paid on the capital invested, perhaps without ensuring that plans are laid for the necessary technical development to keep pace with progress in other countries. If that is not done the consumer will not get a fair deal, and I submit it as an aspect of the matter to which particular attention must be paid. It will be necessary to have considerable research in the laboratories to ensure that the consumers will be kept supplied with as up-to-date equipment and appliances as can be procured anywhere. All this is necessary and essential.

The other factor, the cost of labour, we are not going to quarrel about. Whatever is paid to the manufacturers the poor fellows who do the work are rarely overpaid. We can be certain that that angle will be looked after. There is one aspect of this report which I did not hear the Minister discuss and on which I am anxious to have his viewpoint. There is inherent in the report the idea that if you have a certain selective development you can get a certain return on capital. That is within the scope of what the board regard as a feasible plan or scheme, that by developing more densely populated areas and leaving those at the back of the hill, where the cost of installation would be high, you will get a better return on capital. If there is one thing that must be avoided it is the idea that the man at the back of the hill is going to be left out of the scheme. If there is going to be rural electrification do not give one more jolt to the man at the back of the hill who is thinking of clearing out, and allowing the furze and the briars to take possession of the farm. If we are going to electrify rural Ireland greater encouragement must be given to that man to stay where he is. He will not do so if he is placed at a disadvantage compared with his neighbour who is nearer a town and enjoying its amenities. I urge that that aspect should be kept in mind. It will cost more, but I hope we will agree not to subscribe to the point of view that it must not be done because it would cost more.

The Erne is to be the first effort. We had in this House recently a great deal of discussion on drainage. I wish to get from the Minister some information as to the effect of the drainage position in that area on this plan of electrification; whether drainage or electrification is going to take precedence in the management of the waters of the Erne and what is going to be the effect of one upon the other. It is a big problem. It is one I do not wish to discuss because I do not know what discussions were essential to the making of the plans which the Minister has somewhat vaguely put before us for development at Ballyshannon and the falls at Assaroe, and how the two schemes are to operate. The problem of drainage is one of considerable magnitude and is one in which a number of counties are concerned.

Electrification schemes demand that certain people must abandon their homes when certain areas are flooded. This is an aspect of the question upon which I should like further information. The Minister told us that the total expenditure anticipated on the scheme was £17,500,000. He indicated that it was on a ten-year plan, and indicated that miles of cable would have to be laid. That is all to the good. Perhaps one can say with a good deal of pleasure that probably this is the first time that the Minister has had a real chance of making his dream come true, because he did talk a number of years ago about bringing the exiles home. If he is going to construct these 7,000 miles of cables every year over the next ten years he is going to employ a great many people who probably are hardly available at present. The Minister has the nucleus in the Electricity Supply Board. That is a great thing, but we may be certain that he can see the possibility of employment for thousands who had to leave this country inside the last ten years. It is a big scheme and opens up rather pleasant prospects. If the Minister cannot base his plans on getting money at a cheaper rate than he has contemplated and on the figures the Electricity Supply Board has put into the report the whole matter may have to be reconsidered. There is no reason why the Minister should not be much more optimistic. There are ways and means by which the Minister can learn about the management of money, and there are people here who can tell him how it can be done just as well as it was done in an adjoining country.

I hope that everything I have to say in support of this Bill, which I do support, will in due course appear in the official records, and that if I say the least little word of criticism of any part of the Bill, the Minister will not use his influence to have that excluded from the official records. There are two aspects of this Bill. One of them is merely development of the existing scheme for supplying current, which is mainly of urban interest, and the other is a new departure which takes the form of supplying cheap electricity in rural areas. With regard to the first part of the scheme I have only to say that I welcome the proposals to proceed as soon as may be with the harnessing of the River Erne, and the evidence which that seems to afford, that there will be in fact real co-operation between the people in this area and the people excluded from this area in the production and sale of current when available. I hope that that policy will be continued and will produce most fruitful results. I am delighted to see that the Minister is taking an interest in some of the more important factors that must determine the growth of our agricultural prosperity. I often regretted that the Minister, in his official capacity, was not more directly associated with our agricultural drive or that he did not interpret his very important official, economic functions in such a way as would make everybody realise the extremely close connection there is between industrial development and agricultural development. If I might venture a word of criticism, I should say that the building of our national economy has both an agricultural and industrial aspect and that the agricultural aspect is the foundational aspect. Industry is more in the nature of a roof and, so far, the Minister has been too busy building our national household from the roof downwards to think of strengthening or improving the agricultural foundations. I take this Bill as evidence that the Minister, at length, realises that we do want him to strengthen those agricultural foundations and go ahead with an economic policy which has got both an agricultural and industrial aspect.

I welcome the Minister, then, in his now character as a recruit to agricultural development. I am reminded of a story of a Chicago pork butcher who made a fortune out of his rather gruesome trade—millions of pounds—and then said: "We, here in Chicago, have not taken up culture yet but, when we do, we will make it hum". Now that the Minister is taking up agriculture, I am sure agriculture will hum. The more it hums under his benign influence the better pleased I shall be. I hate to change the mood, so to speak, but there is a little proverb in Latin which the Minister will, probably, recollect: "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”—I fear the Greeks even when they are bearing gifts. When the Minister bears a gift to agricultural interests, I feel inclined to look for the snag. In this case, I looked for it with the hope and expectation that I would not find it but, nevertheless, I looked for it. It is, perhaps, rather ungracious on my part to look what is, apparently, a gift horse in the mouth, but one wants to be quite sure that there is no cloven hoof anywhere about. The only way of making sure of that is to look the gift horse in the mouth, if I may be guilty of an Irish bull.

This Bill is evidence of willingness on the part of the Government to contemplate spending a considerable amount of capital on a project which has as its primary purpose the development of agricultural production and the improvement of the amenities of life in rural Ireland. Both matters are extremely important—one in a social sense and the other in an economic sense. From the material point of view, perhaps, the economic aspect is paramount. In one of my numerous capacities, I happen to be a member of the Agricultural Committee who are doing their best, at the moment, to produce a general report on agricultural policy which, when it does appear, will, I hope, command a great deal of sympathy amongst all Parties in the State. In that general consideration of our agricultural position, we have not yet reached any effort to estimate the total amount of capital that would be really needed in the course of the next 20 or 30 years if we are to put our agriculture on a really modern basis. But we do know that it will require a considerable investment of fresh capital in Irish land, in the housing associated with Irish agriculture and in various other aspects of our agricultural economy. This Bill matured in a different place. All the credit for it belongs to some other bodies, including the Government, and no part of the credit can be claimed by the committee of which I happen to be a member. I do not want to "crab" the Bill on that account. I welcome the Bill as a really substantial contribution to something that ought to be done and that will have to be done sooner or later. But I should like to discuss certain aspects of the measure.

This Bill is an isolated contribution to the problem of agricultural development, which has many and complex aspects. In other words, it is not part of a comprehensive and fully-considered plan. If one were considering in what directions one could use capital and money, provided under guarantee by the State for the development of Irish agriculture, one would find that there were various directions in which such money might be usefully expended. I speak entirely on my own responsibility, and am not to be taken as giving in any way the views of the committee on post-war agriculture, which has not considered this problem, when I say that certain priorities should be observed in the application of large sums of capital to the development of Irish agriculture, and that this business of rural electrification would not, by any means, come first in those priorities, although it would, by no means, come last. If I were asked to state the priorities for the post-war period, I would say that one of the first things Irish land requires is the expenditure of capital in supplying much-needed lime and phosphate to our 10,000,000 or 11,000,000 acres. The amount of capital that that would absorb, on the 1939 price for phosphate and lime, would easily run into £10,000,000 or £15,000,000. That would be one of the highest priorities in capital expenditure on Irish land.

Where do you put technical education?

I would put it fairly high, but I mention these in the order of their urgency as well as of their relative importance. Another high priority, here and now, would be money for the provision of high-quality grass seeds for seeding down land which has been under cultivation for a number of years.

That is hardly a function of the Electricity Supply Board.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I think that the Senator is digressing from the Bill under discussion.

I merely want to refer to these matters in passing. That would account for about £10,000,000. Another high priority would be the provision of modern housing for animals in association with the tens of thousands of Irish farms. If you take it that practically every farm in the country could do with an expenditure of, at least, £100, housing for animals would absorb about £40,000,000. Having done all that, you would be in a fair way towards spending about £50,000,000, before coming to the spending of money on rural electrification. The fact that the Government is bringing in this Bill does not necessarily mean that they are proposing to do things in what I would regard as the wrong order. It is merely taking legal power to do something, which is well worth doing, in the course of the next year or two. I mention the various priorities to show that a complex problem is involved, and that in contemplating the doing of this work, the Government should bear in mind the other ways in which agriculture will need the expenditure of capital. When it comes to the actual spending of the money, a certain priority should be observed——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Perhaps the Senator would now come to the Electricity Bill.

Apparently, the cost of rural electrification is rather high. That arises from the fact that country people live in isolated homesteads. In fact, you would think by the isolation of our farm houses that we were one of the most unsociable people in Europe, instead of being one of the most sociable. That is a fact from which we cannot get away. But there are certain aspects of country life which we could modify. There are people living in the country districts besides farmers. There are farm labourers to be considered. Money is being provided by the State and by the local authorities for the housing of farm labourers, and the cottages are being erected at a distance one from the other. With a view to electrifying labourers' cottages, as well as farm houses some day, there should be a policy of building those cottages in clusters near suitable cross-roads. If this were done, it would be much cheaper to electrify those houses and provide them with modern amenities, such as water supplies and sanitation.

They do not like to be so placed themselves.

It might be cheaper for the taxpayer.

Are we not going to electrify labourers' cottages as well as farm houses?

I should like to hear the Minister say that this Bill, which I regard as a very constructive and desirable one, is part of a full-employment policy for the immediate post-emergency period. The other night the Minister delivered a speech which radio listeners were able to enjoy at their own firesides. In the course of that speech, he developed a new concept of self-sufficiency, with which I found I had a remarkably high degree of sympathy. I do not know whether "self-sufficiency" was the right name or not for the new policy but, called by any other name, it smells very sweet in my nostrils, and, if the Minister means by "self-sufficiency" a policy of full employment for the men and women of Eire, devoted to making the most of our national resources, agricultural and industrial, I, for one, shall be only too delighted to co-operate in every legitimate way in furthering such a policy. Again, let me emphasise that that policy must be primarily based on agricultural development and on the realisation that industry is the inevitable result of increased agricultural production. Also, I should like to point out that an ambitious policy of development, of which this Bill is an example, is bound, in the after-war period, to stimulate a considerable volume of imports from Britain, even though we do contemplate developing a certain amount of industrial activity in connection with manufacturing electrical equipment. For one thing, we shall have to import thousands of miles of copper wire which we do not produce in this country, and, directly or indirectly, imports from Great Britain will be stimulated by this policy, and it is also bound to stimulate agricultural production and the export of agricultural produce from this country to Britain.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister is not responsible for agricultural production.

No, Sir, but I wish he was. Anyway, this Bill should be considered in all its aspects, including its effects on agricultural production and on imports from and exports to Great Britain. There is also the consideration that the policy of full employment is gaining ground over there and that something is likely to be discussed in the future in connection with the policy of full employment in Great Britain and here. I think there is ground for co-operation between that country and ours in the matter, and I hope that that will be taken into account.

I did not intend to speak much on this Bill because I had not the same opportunity as my colleagues of studying it. First of all, I should like to compliment the Minister on the amazing ability displayed in the handling of this matter. From the discussion, however, it is evident that we have been assuming that costings must determine the price at which electricity will be sold ultimately. I suggest that we should approach it from another angle, and that if the question of price were first considered it would be different. We know that overhead charges will be a very important factor and that the price of current will be largely determined by the volume and costs. I hope that the Minister will look at the matter in a very broad way and determine on flat rates over all the country. I think that that would meet the point raised by Senator Baxter about the remotely situated cottage in the country. I think that the advantages of this scheme should be enjoyed by every individual in the community; and to carry that out it would be necessary to institute flat rates for power and light, covering the whole country. In that way, in my opinion, the scheme would have a greater chance of success.

Furthermore, I do not think we should worry too much about initial losses. This scheme can so enhance the standard of comfort of our people and thus help to retain them on the land that even if we lost money on it for a year or two the money would still be well invested. At this late hour I shall not take up the argument as to whether money should be available at 3 per cent., 4 per cent., or 5 per cent., but I hope that my remarks may be of some use in this discussion. Personally, I wish the scheme an immediate and big success.

I should like to be able to follow the advice and example of Senator Douglas this evening in his speech and general attitude to the Bill now before us. We are in the happy position in approaching this Bill that we got ample opportunity to prepare our minds for what it contains. In the first place, we were given, in good time, the very excellent report compiled by the Electricity Supply Board at the invitation of the Minister, and I think we should not let the occasion pass without paying some compliment to the people who carried out that investigation and thank them for the excellent way in which the report was presented. One would wish that the report would get a very wide circulation and that, especially, the appendices to the report should be given as wide publicity as possible, so that they could receive as much study as possible throughout rural Ireland.

The Minister has lived up to his reputation in regard to the manner in which he treats the House when he comes to it. Friend and opponent alike are glad to see him come here. Whenever he comes he has something very definite and constructive to put before us, and the manner in which he has presented this Bill, and the case he has made for it, have left us with very little to say in regard to it other than to welcome it and wish it well. There are a few points, however, to which I should like to refer, and I shall be as brief as I possibly can in their regard.

In the first place I should like to refer to a remark made by Senator Douglas, I think, with regard to the confidence which we should repose in the Electricity Supply Board. I agree very largely with his remarks but I want to take this opportunity to draw attention to one defect which I find in the Electricity Supply Board, a defect which I hope will be remedied as soon as it is seriously brought to their notice. As a citizen of this State I am entitled to use the Irish language. If I should go into my grocer and he is not prepared to speak Irish to me, or if he proves discourteous, I can walk out to the other side of the street and find another grocer who will treat me as I should be treated. On more than one occasion I have tried to do business with officials of the Electricity Supply Board, at their principal showrooms here in Dublin and at one of the principal offices, if not in the Gaeltacht, at least in the Breac-Ghaeltacht, only to be told that if I did not speak English I might go. The Electricity Supply Board is in a very privileged position. It is like the Transport Company, the Post Office, and various services of that kind. I have no alternative; I must deal with them and, I think, as a citizen of this State, having the right guaranteed to me under the Constitution, that I am entitled in regard to these services to use the Irish language whenever I think fit. I hope this matter will be brought to the notice of the Electricity Supply Board in a very serious way. Indeed, I hope that at no very great distant date something may be done to overhaul the executive of the Electricity Supply Board and that something like national interests may be considered just as well as economic interests.

Having said so much in regard to that matter, I now come to matters arising out of the Bill itself. I should like to share the optimism of the Minister when he says that he hopes this scheme will be completed within a period of ten years. It is essential that it should be completed within as short a time as possible, at least within ten years, but, as has been stressed by other speakers, it is very doubtful whether that can be done. I wonder what preparations are being made by the Electricity Supply Board to provide the essential personnel to carry out this scheme at the rate suggested by the Minister? I know that the Electricity Supply Board has an excellent scheme of apprenticeship. With the exception of that operated by the motor traders, there is nothing like it in the country, but that scheme is a very limited one, and it is all the more limited when one considers the extent of the undertaking which is proposed and the urgency with which it should be carried through. In the vocational schools all over the country there are thousands of boys getting a certain training in handicrafts, in manual work, iron work, etc. I should like to have some information as to whether the board realises the necessity for making some approach to the vocational schools and of seeing to what extent they might draw on this reserve of boys to bring them into the apprenticeship course or to make use of them in this work at the earliest possible date.

That brings me to a matter to which I think the Electricity Supply Board and the Minister should pay more attention, namely, the need for some education amongst rural communities as to the use that may be made of electricity. I remember on one occasion referring at a meeting to the possible introduction of a scheme for rural electrification. I remember after the lecture, as a lecture it was, many of the farmers who were present asked me in what way I thought electricity might be of use on a farm. Here in the report there are many indications as to the way in which it may be used, but there is not much use in setting them down there unless we proceed to prepare the people for their adoption. The mere issuing of leaflets or propaganda in a general way, while it may be of some benefit, will not achieve very much. It will be necessary in my opinion to provide special courses of instruction, both by agricultural instructors and rural science instructors in the vocational schools as to the benefits of electricity, as to the way in which it may be used and as to the actual handling of the appliances that may be installed on a farm. Unless that is done, I am afraid that what we are hoping for from the scheme may be long deferred.

Again, with regard to the question of appliances, there are a few matters to which I should like to draw attention. One of them is that there will be need for a great deal of supervision as to the type and quality of such electrical equipment as may come on the market, especially for use in rural areas. When this scheme gets under way, there will be an enormous market for all kinds of electrical equipment suitable for the home and the farm. A great deal will depend on the quality of that equipment as to whether this scheme will prove costly or otherwise. I expect there is something in the nature of a standard, or some bureau of standards, covering electric appliances. I hope so; if there is, everything will be all right but, if not, I hope that the responsible authorities will see to it that the country is not flooded with all kinds of cheap stuff from abroad, with very serious results for the people who may be induced to invest in such appliances. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.