In concluding this debate on the Second Reading of this Transport Bill I must say, Sir, that it has been the most remarkable debate that I have had to listen to since I first entered Leinster House almost 28 years ago—one side of the House discussing the Bill and the other side of the House, with a few honourable exceptions, and those mainly since the resumption after the tea interval this afternoon, discussing anything but the Bill. It was rather unfortunate that Senator Ó Buachalla should open the debate. It is still more unfortunate for me that he is not here this afternoon. I do not know why Fianna Fáil Senators, almost without exception, thought it necessary or desirable to bring in Mr. Reynolds's name and drag it out through this House for the last three days. I do not know why they thought it necessary to go to such extremes to put up such a defence for Mr. Reynolds and for the company.
I was accused by the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party in this House of bringing in a Bill which rested on two props—one prop my "personal and undoubted dislike" of Mr. Percy Reynolds and the other what he described as the wobbly prop of the Milne Report. Well, it may be wobbly but it was his main support for the three hours he occupied the time of the House. My "personal and undoubted dislike of Mr. Reynolds"—that statement is thrown out here by a person who is supposed to be a responsible member of the Oireachtas and is supposed to be fitted to accupy a seat in this House. He went on to say, referring to the reasons which I should give for the Bill:—
"These reasons should be given and not alone should they be given and given fully and given truthfully, because not alone is the economic well-being of the State in question, but the characters of men who have tried to serve this country have been assailed because of the manner in which this Bill has been introduced and the type of speech with which it has been introduced..."
Further on in the speech, the same gentleman said:
"The Minister, no doubt, disliked and dislikes the chairman of the board of Córas Iompair Éireann. Perhaps he has good reason for disliking the chairman, but I venture to say his dislike of the chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann is not just because the chairman and the board have failed in their duty ..."
However, in the next step, having slipped in the stiletto, and made sure that the hilt of it was well poisoned, the gentleman who denies that he is anything but straight, upright and honourable and who resents any suggestion that he is a slippery eel tries to slip away. I said: "Would the Senator say what is the reason for the alleged dislike?" Senator Ó Buachalla: "The Minister, I think, has not too bad a memory," and then he goes on: "I will indicate one, the famous Great Southern Railways Shares Court of Inquiry. There may be others."
That statement has been described by other Senators as being low, mean and contemptible. It merited each one of those descriptions. I would like to add others: it was a very base, cowardly untruth without a scintilla of evidence or foundation. I never owned at any time in my life, nor do I now own, even one single share in Córas Iompair Éireann, and if Senator Ó Buachalla is interested in the Great Southern Railways shares scandal he will not have to come to my side of the House to find those who profited by it. He will not have to move very far, if at all, out of the circle in which he struts generally. That statement was made by a man who knew it was an untruth and having made it he ran away. He accused me of having sacrificed for personal prejudice, for personal dislike, the ex-chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann. I was accused of a gross injustice in connection with Mr. Reynolds.
I want to assure this House that there is not one word of truth in any of the allegations that have been made regarding the unfair or unjust treatment of Mr. Reynolds. I want to assure this House that I had no personal dislike or prejudice, good, bad or indifferent against Mr. Reynolds. I want to assure this House and I want to assure the second last speaker that in any action ever taken in connection with Córas Iompair Éireann from the first day I became a Minister I was not in any way influenced by dislike or prejudice or even by politics.
Let me say further—and I think I am entitled to say this in my own defence and to clear myself from the allegations that have been made against me—that I met Mr. Reynolds for the first time about a year before I became Minister at his father's funeral and for the second time when he came to see me when I was Minister for Industry and Commerce. Mr. Reynolds's father was a native of my own town. His late father and his nearest relatives were close friends of mine and have always been my best supporters. I have no reason whatever to have either dislike of or prejudice against Mr. Reynolds and there is no reason in the world why I should in any way try to injure Mr. Reynolds. When a member of the Oireachtas, a member of Dáil Éireann, is honoured by being made a Minister of this State he undertakes certain responsibility and he has certain duties to carry out. In the carrying out of those duties to the best of his knowledge and ability he has no right to let either prejudice or dislike influence him; on the other hand he has no right to let friendship or liking for a particular person influence him in the wrong direction or to take a wrong decision.
There is no necessity for anybody in the Fianna Fáil Party to defend Mr. Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds is quite competent to defend himself with far greater ability and skill than any of the gentlemen here who have tried to do it. Mr. Reynolds has not been sacrificed or martyred, not has he suffered any loss and I challenge any Senator in this House or any Deputy in the other House to give me one quotation from anything I have said either inside or outside Dáil Éireann which can be construed as an attack on Mr. Reynolds. I did not mention Mr. Reynolds's name or refer to him during the many occasions on which Córas Iompair Éireann was discussed in Dáil Éireann nor did I make any reference to his position, his emoluments or his compensation until the Deputy Leader or Leader, whichever he is, of the Fianna Fáil Party in Dáil Éireann thought fit to bring his name before the Dáil.
I propose to deal now with my reasons, or rather the Government's reasons on my advice, for making the changes both in the chairmanship and in the company that it was decided to make and that are being made. But before I do that let me say that we did not inflict any penalties on Mr. Reynolds. We did not deprive Mr. Reynolds of anything to which he was justly and legally entitled. We paid him to the last penny and Mr. Reynolds, I am sure, has no complaint to make unless he is making it through the mouths of certain Senators here as well as certain Deputies in Dáil Éireann.
Mr. Reynolds had nine years of actual service between the Great Southern Railways and Córas Iompair Éireann from 1936 to January, 1945. Under various agreements which Mr. Reynolds had and under the terms of the 1944 Transport Act those nine years of actual service were grossed up to no fewer than 32 years for pension purposes. I am not questioning, nor have I at any time questioned, Mr. Reynolds's capacity, but I do say that whatever work or service Mr. Reynolds gave either to the Dublin United Tramways Company, Córas Iompair Éireann or the Great Southern Railways he was well paid for it and handsomely paid for it.
Mr. Reynolds's own company was trotted out here. Let us get this clear. I hoped that when I had finished this in the Dáil I would never have to refer to it again. Mr. Reynolds was chairman and, I think, chief owner of the General Omnibus Company for six years. He sold that to the Dublin United Tramways Company for somewhere in the neighbourhood of £120,000 of which no less than £80,000 was for goodwill. He then became at a later stage managing director and chairman of the Dublin United Tramways Company at a salary of £2,500 a year, free of income-tax, which was at a later stage valued at £4,000 per year for certain purposes.
For a period of two years, he was also chairman of the Great Southern Railways at £2,500 a year. At the end of 1944, the Railways Act was passed and the Dublin United Tramways Company was absorbed into Córas Iompair Éireann. Mr. Reynolds was appointed by the then Government as chairman of the new board of Córas Iompair Éireann, but, before he left the Dublin United Tramways Company, his pension under his agreement with the Dublin United Tramways Company was assessed at a certain figure and for the purpose of commuting it and paying him in a lump sum it was assessed at a figure of £16,388. At a later stage, it was decided, notwithstanding that arrangement with the company, that it should be assessed under the terms of the 1944 Act and that assessment brought the compensation for the nine years' actual service to a sum of no less than £33,976.
The 32 years' service were got in this way. I have told the House what happened that General Omnibus Company. I have told the House the price paid for it. When they started to assess and to build up the number of years for pension purposes, the six years' service he had with his own company was added to the nine years' actual service. There was then a further seven years which had been provided for in the 1944 Act, under which a person who was supposed to have special transport knowledge who entered into the service of the company after the normal age of entry was entitled to certain added years, which, in this particular case, were assessed at seven. That made the number of years 22. There was then a further provision that anybody who had 20 years' service or over was entitled to an additional ten years, so that we get 32 years' service for pension purposes for an actual nine years' service.
That was the position up to 1944. I am very sorry that some of the gentlemen who have been talking about the ill-treatment meted out to the ex-chairman of the company are not here now. At the end of 1944, he was appointed chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann as from 1st January, 1945, at a salary of £2,500, but, as they said, in order to secure that he did not give his services to anybody else and would be exclusive to Córas Iompair Éireann, the benevolent shareholders' directors who are weeping about the shareholders decided to give him an additional personal allowance of £4,000, making it £6,500 a year. Part of the understanding, however, was that Mr. Reynolds, having drawn £16,388, would not draw the balance, £17,588, of the £33,976 in one lump sum, but there was an arrangement that, if he retired or left Córas Iompair Éireann in the first year he was there, the £17,588 would be paid but that for every year he continued as Chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann at £6,500 a year, the £17,588 would be reduced by one-tenth, so that at the end of ten years it would be wiped out. One Deputy thought that was a very handsome gesture on his part. Senators can make their own calculation but, personally, I would swop £17,500 any time for that.
The fact of the matter is that £16,388 was paid and he had four years as chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann at £6,500 a year, and the balance of the £17,588 which was to diminish by one-tenth for each year of his service with Córas Iompair Éireann was, at the date of Mr. Reynolds's retirement from the chairmanship, £10,500. This Government, in accordance with the contracts which Mr. Reynolds had entered into with the company, paid that £10,500. Is there any ill-treatment there? Is there anything unjust or unfair in that? If there is an injustice there, I leave it to the House to decide where it is.
I am attacked because I did not allow Mr. Reynolds to carry on, because I did not allow the company to carry on. I want Senators to try to put themselves for a moment in my place and to try to see the picture as I had to see it. Mr. Reynolds came to me in the Department of Industry and Commerce within ten or 14 days of my going into that Department. He told me the company had lost £811,000 in 1947, and he told me that he estimated they would lose £1,250,000 in 1948. That, as I have already stated, was an underestimate because the actual loss was £1,400,000. I asked him what were his proposals and he told me. I had a meeting a few days later with the shareholders' directors and I discussed the matter with them. I asked them what were their proposals, what was the remedy, and I have given to the House in my speech in the Second Reading the remedies proposed. They were very drastic remedies, but, apart from the fact that they were drastic, apart from the fact that certain of the measures to be taken would lead to the disemployment of 3,500 men, the real reason I did not accept them was that I was not satisfied that, if I accepted the whole lot, they would provide a solution, and the more I have seen of the position since then, the more convinced I am that I was right.
What was the position at that time? Let us look at this company and this chairman. A railway carriage had not been built since 1937—not even one. They had calmly and colly sat down —a board of businessmen who were supposed to be competent to run the biggest and most complicated industry in this country, an industry giving employment to between 21,000 and 22,000 persons, with an annual wage and salary bill that is, to-day, almost £7,000,000. Instead of trying to provide carriages, and wagons, and other revenue-earning equipment, they spent their time planning to build a hotel in Glengarriff that was estimated to cost £1,000,000. Now, I dare say, most of us here know Glengarriff. Just imagine a hotel—Córas Iompair Éireann—a hotel costing £1,000,000. The thing is so fantastic, it is so absurd, that one could hardly credit it, if it were not for the fact that, although there never was a brick put up there, we have to pay £35,000 for that particular project. A £1,000,000 expenditure on a hotel! It would have to earn, the whole year round, a net profit of £1,000 a week to pay the interest alone on the £1,000,000. The fact that they abandoned that in 1947 is not very much to their credit. They only abandoned it when they were running up to their necks in debt. The same board, at a time when they were coming to me saying they could get no money, that the banks would not advance on debentures, at a time when I was going to the Government to allow them to raise debentures on Government guarantee, and to use these debentures for what they were never intended; namely, to meet the running costs of the railway, because it is unnecessary for me to tell experienced business men here, who know far more about this than I do, that debentures are rarely if ever to meet running expenses, that they are used, generally, for capital purposes.
At that time, I learned that they were about to start work on another £1,000,000 project. Let me be a little more accurate, £925,000 at the Broad-stone, at a time when they were put to the pin of their collar to meet the wage bill—a couple of weeks later they were not able to meet the wage bill— they were embarking on that. When I had a request conveyed, that they might defer embarking on this other £1,000,000 project, until such time as I got Sir James Milne's Report, which was due in another month or two, this board of directors calmly intimated that they could not see their way to accede to my request. Seventeen and a half million pounds was the Estimate that was prepared for capital expenditure for road and rail and, remember this, I have never yet been able to find out, and I do not know, on whose advice they were proceeding to embark on that expenditure of £17,500,000. I know that they decided, and actually we will have to suffer a big loss on it, to purchase five Diesel locomotives at a cost of £80,000 each. Then we had one of the learned Senators telling us that they had been found suitable in America, and that they were, therefore, suitable in Ireland. You might as well say that because one of Senator Summerfield's luxurious cars is suitable for the road from here to Naas, that you can also career around Dalkey Island with it, and that it would be economic to use it entirely on Dalkey Island. Remember, this huge expenditure was entered into at a time when they had no money, and was entered into by a company that never had, from the days of its foundation, a chief mechanical engineer, that was deprived for 12 months through illness of the services of the chief engineer, that had no deputy engineer, and that the assistant deputy chief engineer was only trying to perform these duties for a few months before we took over.
I am accused of being unjust and unfair to the board of directors. Were they a board of directors in anything except name? They were not. Here is a board of directors to whom an agenda even was never sent. Here is a board of directors that could not meet or discuss or arrive at a decision upon any single item affecting the whole of Córas Iompair Éireann in the absence of the chairman. Here is a board, according to a member of the board who was styled or styled himself deputy chairman, who take full ressponsibility for it, for all these major works costing £500,000 and £1,000,000 all over the place. They sanctioned and approved of these, on the mere verbal say-so of the chairman, and the general manager across the board table. They were never put to them, submitted in the ordinary way in writing. So far as many of the projects were concerned, the technical, skilled and expert advisers that were available to the company, their services were not availed of. Most members of the Seanad here are more conversant with business, and how business should be conducted, than I am. Is there any Senator could conceive himself a director of a board in those circumstances? Is there any Senator who would remain on that board, and feel that he was fulfilling his responsibilities to the shareholders who sent him there, if he was a mere cypher? They themselves are now saying that they never had any power, that they could not do anything. It is not merely I who am saying that. They say it themselves. I think, if I may say so, with respect, that Senators should not in that loose way throw out accusations, even against Ministers, in the way in which they have been bandied around here. I suppose, if it were possible to know them, I should know them by now. I confess I will never be able to understand Fianna Fáil. I have been looking at them across the House and listening to them for 25 years. There is one thing in which they are quite consistent. They are as tough as the devil when they are attacking, but they are as tender as chicken when they are being attacked.
When I heard such a mild man as Senator Loughman working himself into a high state of indignation, to-day, because of what Senator Hayes and Senator John T. O'Farrell had said, when he referred, I think, to Senator Hayes' lack of education and good taste, and to Senator O'Farrell's poisonous tongue and when he, at the same time, and in the same speech, almost in the same breath, said he agreed with every word which Senator Ó Buachalla had uttered, that he endorsed every word Senator Ó Buachalla had uttered, and that he was glad to know every word Senator Ó Buachalla had uttered was going down on record. Senator Quirke went even one better. He did not believe that Senator Ó Buachalla had attacked the Minister or would even think of attacking the Minister. Senator Quirke never heard Senator Ó Buachalla attacking anybody inside this House or outside it. Senator Quirke worked himself into a fine state of indignation and talked about the low personalities indulged in by Senators on this side of the House. It is no function of mine to defend Senators on this side. As a matter of fact, in so far as some of them are concerned, and particularly those picked out for special mention, Senator Hayes and Senator J.T. O'Farrell, as I know from very long and old association, they can give at least as good as they get and the fact that it would be more finely and subtly phrased than that of their opponents would only make it all the more deadly.
Senator Quirke did not believe the statement made about the £500,000 worth of cheques which were in the safe and dare not be issued. He said that that is a thing that everyone knows may happen any week, that most commercial people work on overdrafts. So did Córas Iompair Éireann—they worked beyond the overdraft—and that is the reason the cheques remained in the safe. They remained there until I had to go to the Government and provide more debentures. Otherwise, the Electricity Supply Board and the oil company would be cutting off the supply line. That was the position I found there. I told the ex-chairman quite frankly that, having regard to the vital importance of transport in this country, I considered the situation so serious and so chaotic that only outstanding men who had a lifetime of practical experience in transport could unravel it. The chairman told me that those men were very few and far between and that I would not be able to get a transport expert. I did.
I secured the services of a transport expert and I am very greateful to him, and so is every member of the Government, and so should this country be. I resent the cheap little jibes of people like Senator Ó Buachalla about Sir James Milne and his capacity, and the still more cheap little gibe about the Irishman who gave his service to England. Many better Irishmen than any of us here in this room gave their services abroad and carved a name for themselves more honoured, and gained a prestige for their country greater, perhaps, than did some of the gentlemen who for the moment hold Senatorial honours in this chamber. We were fortunate.
Sir James Milne does not want any commendation from me and the cheap sneers of Senator Ó Buachalla will not affect him in the slightest. He is a man of international, almost worldwide, reputation as a transport expert, a man whose services have been availed of by many Governments in many parts of the world. The Senator made a cheap sneer, asking why he did not do something for the British railways with which he was associated if he knew anything about it. He did something about it. The railway with which he was associated, and of which he became general manager and was general manager for 15 years up to the time of nationalisation, was admitted to be one of the most efficient and best railway lines in Great Britain. It payed top grade trade union wages and salaries and it paid a dividend every year. That is no bad test of a man.
He, and those associated with him, gave us a report which is of immense value and will be of value for many years to come, not merely so far as framing Bills is concerned but as a guide to the proper organisation and running of a transport system. It is only fair that I should say that Sir James Milne and the gentlemen who were associated with him in this inquiry carried out that work at my request with remarkable speed and refused to accept one shilling of a fee for carrying out that work.
There has been a lot of talk here as well as in Dáil Éireann about Store Street. There was nothing personal in my approach to it and there is nothing political in it, good, bad or indifferent. Senators and Deputies and people outside talk about the Store Street Bus Station as if it were only a bus station. Now, leaving aside altogether for a moment the question as to the suitability of location—and I think all Senators will agree that there are very divided opinions on that—Store Street consists of more than a bus station. It consists of six storeys on top of the bus station, and the basement, where there were to be a theatre, shops and hairdressing salons and all sorts of things. A bus station, as a bus station, to be used only as a bus station, could be built and can still be built for approximately £150,000. Store Street would not be finished under £1,000,000. There were at least two good reasons why Córas Iompair Éireann decided not to go on with Store Street—I suppose, like the old story, one would be sufficient to give— they could not afford it in the first place and in the second place they did not require it. Does anybody think for one moment that Córas Iompair Éireann in its financial position could embark on a project costing £1,000,000 at a time when they had not a shilling in the till and provide six storeys of offices which they did not require and leave derelict, when they filled those six storeys of offices, all the office accommodation at Kingsbridge, Westland Row and the various other places, since, situated as they are right in the middle of railway stations, they could not be let in the ordinary way as commercial offices? That is the simple truth about Store Street. We cannot afford it and we do not need it.
There is no question in anybody's mind about the necessity for a central bus station. Some of us have thought that long before now. We have had painful experience of ten, 15, 16 or 17 years of standing with our backs to the Quay wall, with our coats up around our ears, and particularly during the war years some of us had personal experience of it.
These are the simple facts about Store Street. I shall not go into the arguments here and now about the location, its suitability as against the suitability of Smithfield. I could argue it and I think I would get the vast majority—the vast majority—of the people in Dublin to agree with me, outside those who have a particular vested interest in Store Street or those who have no vested interest but to whom it would be most convenient. But, looking on it as a central bus station for the whole of this country, in my opinion, Smithfield is infinitely more suitable.
All I have to say about Store Street is this: from my own experience—and I do not presume to know the city as well as those who were born and reared in it, but I have been knocking around the city for nearly 30 years—I know that there is a great density of traffic in and around Store Street, a great density of very heavy traffic and, I think most Senators will agree, of some of the slowest moving traffic in the whole city of Dublin.
I was asked, in order to set people's minds at rest, in so far as they can be set at rest, to make a specific definite statement on the question of Store Street. So far as the company is concerned, Store Street is out. They do not need it and they cannot afford it.
I was subjected to a great deal of criticism for not agreeing to the request of the ex-chairman of the company, early in 1948, to allow him to increase fares. I have given my reason. May I remind Senators that, in 1947, when the then chairman saw that the going would be fairly tough, he went to my predecessor and asked for permission to increase fares and freights to an extent that would enable him to earn an additional £1,000,000 in 1947. He got that permission from the then Minister for Industry and Commerce to increase fares to an extent that would enable him to bring in an additional £1,000,000. Notwithstanding that fact, and notwithstanding that he did increase the fares, he lost £811,000. Increasing the fares, apparently, was not the solution.
The fact of the matter is that the railways have not been properly run for the past 30 years, perhaps longer, and that for a number of years—and this is well known—before ever there was Government interference either by the present Government or the previous Government, moneys which should have been put by the company into improving maintenance and rolling-stock were paid out in dividends. That is well known. It is well known that, since 1937, they did not build one single railway carriage.
I am not suggesting that all the blame for the present situation rests on the shoulders either of my predecessor, the ex-chairman or the members of the present board. Surely I have a right to object when the entire responsibility for everything that is wrong with Córas Iompair Éireann is sought to be placed on my shoulders and surely I am entitled to say that my predecessor had 16 years in which to attempt to put right the transport system of this country. He had made a couple of attempts at it but he did not succeed and I do not think I would be far wrong in saying that the state of the national transport company at the end of the 16 years was infinitely worse than it was at the beginning of the 16 years.
We have had a lot of talk about the chassis factory and I have been accused, of course, all over the country, at every cross-roads, of paralysing the only genuine attempt that was ever made to give us a heavy industry in this country. I could give many reasons for not going on with this chassis factory. It would be very interesting to Senators if I were to read out the agreement that was made between Córas Iompair Éireann and Leylands. There are some very interesting clauses in that. Senators, however, probably have more time than I have and they can read it for themselves. This factory was to be geared to a production of ten chassis a week. The requirements of Córas Iompair Éireann would be four chassis a week, two of which would be required for buses, and two for lorries. So that the output of the factory would be two bus chassis per week and eight lorry chassis and for every two lorry chassis which Córas Iompair Éireann would be building for themselves they would be building six for their competitors.
I do not want to delay the Seanad unduly. I would like to deal very briefly with a number of points that were raised and any points that I miss can be dealt with, and perhaps more fully, on Committee Stage. One of the points raised, and in connection with which quite a number of Senators spoke, was the compensation for the common stockholders. It is unnecessary for me to assure the Seanad that the Government in this matter had no desire other than to be fair and just and to do justice, so to speak, between the stockholders and the community. I consider, and I think the House will agree from the picture I have given just now, that the stockholders' chances of getting any dividends from Córas Iompair Éireann or of ever being able to redeem their stock at any time, if the Government had not stepped in and if we had not introduced this Bill, were very poor. I would not give much for their chances or the value of the stock.
This proposal gives them a guaranteed dividend of approximately 2½ per cent. with a definite assurance that they can redeem their stock when the end of the period comes around. I notice that at the meeting yesterday, one gentleman, an ex-member of this House who has been very vocal on behalf of the shareholders, accused the Government of sharp practice in this matter and told us what a difference it made to the stockholders that the appointed day was not the 1st January. I would like to know what a difference it would have made if the Bill was never introduced. Another gentleman said he was the victim, that the Government acted out of spite and in order to have a comeback on him for the valiant fight he had made to save the stockholders. I want to say this, that if there had never been a stockholders' meeting here for the last two years, and if there never had been a speech made at a stockholders' meeting either by the directors of Córas Iompair Éireann or by any of the leaders of the stockholders, if letters had never been written to the papers, the stockholders would have got the terms of compensation which are laid down in this Bill. Let me say this: when we were determining the basis on which they would be compensated, in order to be more than fair to them, we took the three best years from the stockholders' point of view. If I had taken 1946, 1947 and 1948 or 1947, 1948 and 1949 instead of 1945, 1946 and 1947 they would be getting much less than they are getting to-day. As I say, the Government decided deliberately, so as to be absolutely fair or more than fair to the stockholders, to base the terms of compensation on the three best years. I think I made a statement in introducing the Second Reading of this Bill that the provisions which had been made for the protection of the workers were entirely exceptional and such as had never been made before in a Bill. I think I can take it that that has been accepted by the House. Not even our friend Senator Colgan could find a word to criticise in the Bill so far as the workers were concerned.
One Senator, I think it was Senator Finan, said that if Córas Iompair Éireann gave the service, they would get the goods. I agree entirely with that and it will be the object of the new board to provide the best service that it is possible to provide for the people and to the best of their ability to run those services economically and to improve the equipment of their organisation and improve and extend the services and speed them up. I should say in that respect that there has been a very considerable improvement in the last couple of years—I am not saying the couple of years since the change in the company or the change in Minister but, simply, because materials, equipment, buses and coal became more freely available.
On the point mentioned by Senator Quirke regarding the desirability, if not the fact of its being essential, to endeavour to have designed a locomotive or boiler fire box which would enable us to use our own native fuel, that, I am glad to say, is in the hands of a gentleman who, I think, is admitted to be one of the best locomotive designers in these islands, and I am glad to say that while I do not want to be over-optimistic and say that all the snags have been got over—he has made considerable progress and I am hopeful that as a result of his labours we will succeed in producing a special type of locomotive that will enable us to use our own fuel. Everything that can be done to tighten up the organisation and to eliminate waste and to make the best possible use of the men and material in the company is being done.
I would like to say I have never at any period suggested that this is an easy task. I have never suggested it was at any time an easy task. I have never suggested at any time that this is a problem that is going to be solved in a short time and let me say to Senators who talked about this Bill not going far enough that I made it perfectly clear that this Bill did not even purport to be a final Bill or to provide a full solution for the transport problem. It is just what it sets out to be —a machinery Bill and an enabling Bill, and it is not the final piece of legislation dealing with transport in this country. I believe a railway service is essential to the national economy and the national well-being of this country. I believe that that service must be maintained at all costs. I believe we can maintain it and I am not so sure that it cannot be run on a fully economic basis provided we have in our service, and particularly at the top, really first-class men, first-class professional and technical men and we get what we are entitled to ask for— the full and loyal co-operation of every one of the 22,000 employees of the company. They are to-day enjoying a security that very few workers in any part of the world enjoy. They are enjoying good wages and working conditions which, in my opinion, are unequalled. All we ask in return—it is the least we should ask on behalf of the Oireachtas and on behalf of the people who are called upon to pay and pay heavily—that in return for providing them with secure employment, good wages and decent conditions they will give in labour a decent return. I believe that we can confidently ask that from those who are employed in the national transport concern, and I believe and hope that we will get it.
I must apologise to the Seanad for inflicting such a long speech on them and, I am afraid, for copying the bad example set to me by some Senators of not devoting as much time to the Bill itself as I should have. However, there will be another occasion and on the Committee Stage we can go into all the points.
I would ask in conclusion, if I may, for the help and co-operation of all Senators in trying to make this Bill the best Bill we can make it. The attitude I adopted towards it in the Dáil was that I wanted it to emerge from Dáil Éireann not so much a Government measure as a Dáil measure. I got very considerable help and consideration from all sides of the House and I tried to meet as far as I possibly could any reasonable suggestion or amendment put before me. I hope that on the Committee Stage in this House we will be able to approach it in the same spirit and that the spirit which unfortunately animated a good deal of the discussion on the Second Stage will be entirely absent when we are discussing it again.