——and I have quoted so frequently — has indicated that there would be advantages to be gained and economies through the establishment of a headquarters such as is visualised in the Store Street project. Sir James Milne put in a plea against Store Street, not on the grounds that it would not be an economic proposition, but on the grounds that in the present financial circumstances of Córas Iompair Eireann it would not be desirable to go ahead with the scheme. The only point that remains then for decision is whether the financial circumstances of the company were such that it should not have gone ahead with that project. Before I pass on to the question of cost, let me advert to the advisability of having this terminus. For years the public has been demanding such a service as would have been provided in the proposed Store Street terminus. The public is entitled to that. It may be that the public has not been paying up to this for such an amenity. It may be that if we went ahead with the project that we would then come to the conclusion that, having provided such an amenity, the public ought to contribute something towards it. Be that as it may, the point is that the public has been demanding facilities such as were generally envisaged in the Store Street proposition. We have efficiency of administration as an argument in favour of it. We have economy in administration as an argument in favour of it, and we have the public demand for such an amenity and the public right to it as another argument in favour of it.
Sir James Milne—he is not specific— said it was doubtful whether in the existing state of the company's finances that it should have gone on with this scheme. It is worth while remembering that he did not declare definitely against it. In fact, the relevant paragraph in the report would indicate that if the financial side of the matter were all right he would approve of it. The cost has been mentioned by the Minister as £1,000,000. We ought to get clear on this question of the £1,000,000. When the company decided to go ahead with the project the cost then estimated was somewhere about £500,000, somewhat under £500,000. Time went on, changes occurred, prices apparently altered, wages altered, and we may say, generally, that all costs altered. As I understand it, in contracts in these days, nobody will tender a firm figure. He will tender a certain amount, with the right to adjust if prices alter unfavourably for him as contractor, so that one might say that £1,000,000 at the time the contract was entered into would be somewhat unreasonable. But in the circumstances, in the way that things changed, it can hardly be said, even if it were to cost £1,000,000 that the company should be blamed or that the proposed cost was unreasonable, but from the financial point of view and the effect of this building on the company, would it have made a very great difference one way or another to the financial position of the company if this project had not been mooted and started?
Assume that the building was to cost £1,000,000. Assume that the company had not, from resources of its own, the money required, that it had to go outside and get them, and the House will remember that Sir James Milne has not indicated that this was a bankrupt concern. I think, as well as I can remember, looking over the figures, he indicated that the company was in a position to provide something about £3,000,000 to £3,500,000 off its own bat for capital projects, but if it had to raise £1,000,000 the question was: at what rate would it get the money? I think if circumstances had been normal it would have been able to raise the money at pretty much the same rates as those at which it had been raising money up to the start of this whole financial trouble — at or about 3 per cent. Assuming that it had to go to 4 per cent. for the £1,000,000, that would cost the company £40,000 per year. The £40,000 would have to be provided by the company on account of this project. Would the company be able to raise that £40,000? What economies might accrue? Obviously I am not in a position to indicate what precise economies would accrue, but of one thing I am certain, that if one were to examine it objectively, one would have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the company would have little difficulty in servicing that £1,000,000.
In the first place, even if the company had to impose something in the nature of a fine or a tax on passengers using the terminus, the public would hardly complain if they were to get the amenities they had been demanding for so long and to which we are all agreed they are entitled. What the company might have got from that I cannot say. I might attempt a calculation on the basis of the Milne Report which indicates the number of passengers arriving in Dublin on the long-distance bus service. I could calculate from those figures what even a penny per head would be likely to bring in, but there is no point in my doing it. I want to indicate that the idea of this project should not have been rejected on the grounds suggested by Sir James Milne, or on the grounds that have been argued to the extent that they have been by the Minister a few minutes ago. There would have been a saving of rates. The Minister has declared, I think, in the Dáil, that from information given to him the amount of rates that would be saved would be somewhere about £4,500, or something like that. I do not know whether that is a firm figure. I do not know whether the Minister has got all the relevant information or whether he has considered the alterations that are accruing from time to time in rates. The tendency, taking things by and large, is upwards. However, that has to be taken into account. The project envisaged the provision of restaurants. Senator Tunney remarked — perhaps I should not try to quote him—but he indicated that the company did not make a good job of its present catering services. I think the truth is — I have just looked at the figures for Córas Iompair Eireann in the balance sheets for 1946 to 1949 and in each year the catering services of Córas Iompair Eireann did pay. In any case, the intention was to provide catering services. I have no doubt that having regard to the number of passengers arriving and the conditions under which they would arrive, and the conditions under which they would assemble to take buses going out, the restaurant would have proved to be a very successful venture.
I have little hesitation in saying that if Coras Iompair Eireann were to farm out that particular aspect of the project, it would have little difficulty in getting a very considerable offer. How much I cannot say. But I have indicated that £40,000 would have serviced this project. I am trying to indicate that the company would have very little difficulty, taking things by and large, in collecting the requisite funds to service the project. There would be an economy of buses, an economy in the handling of buses, in fuel, in loading and in regulating the flow of buses in and out. How much that would be worth I am not attempting to say, but it must be obvious to anybody who has any little understanding at all of business administration that that must lead to very considerable economy. There would be, apart from the economy in buses, an economy in staff—the staff not merely of the buses themselves like drivers, conductors and other personnel but the economies that would accrue from the better organisation of the staff itself in single central headquarters. How much that would be worth I have no means of calculating, but in a vast organisation like Córas Iompair Eireann, an organisation which is spread, I understand, over six different buildings in the city, the staff organisation as envisaged in the Store Street project must have led to very considerable economy.
The Minister has argued that the project was properly rejected on the grounds of the financial difficulties of the company. I have tried to indicate more than once in this House that we should be very careful in our approach to this aspect of the problem. We do know that Córas Iompair Eireann got into difficulties, very considerable difficulties. What I hope Senators will realise is that Córas Iompair Eireann's getting into these difficulties was not the fault of its management. Why? The loss in 1947, which is the key year, was, to the best of my recollection, £912,000, but in that year the company had to face a coal crisis which every one of us remembers and remembers well. In consequence of that crisis, railway transport came almost to a standstill for a considerable period. I remember reading the financial report for that year and the company estimated that it lost in or about £450,000 because of that crisis. The second difficulty that the company had to contend with was that there was a protracted bus strike. Notwithstanding the existence of the Labour Court, this strike developed, and I remember that the company estimated that it lost about £500,000 because of that strike. Put these losses together and you find that the £950,000 loss was due to causes over which the company had no control and for which it was very unfair to blame the company. In other words, if the company had not run into these unfortunate difficulties instead of a loss it most likely would have made a profit. Yet we are basing all our attacks on Córas Iompair Eireann, all our assessments of its success or otherwise, on that very exceptional year.
The difficulties of the company were bad enough because of these factors over which it had no control, but the company was not a free agent to do as it wished in order to overtake these difficulties. It could not alter fares or charges without the consent of the Minister. Here is the point. If Córas Iompair Eireann could not have gone on with these particular projects, which have been criticised to the extent they have, and with this particular project of a central bus station on the lines indicated in the Store Street project, the fault is not the fault of the company but the fault of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. My saying that will evoke the reply from the Minister that I am a Fianna Fáil propagandist. No doubt the Minister will protest that all the ballyhoo we have heard from the other side is not Coalition Party propaganda. I have here a document which I understand was posted to every member of the Seanad. There is an address to it, a Dublin address, and it bears the signatures of two very well-known people. One of them was for a very long time a member of this House—ex-Senator Joseph Johnston. He was a very useful member of the House and a grand colleague, but he will not be remembered for his sympathy with Fianna Fáil or the Fianna Fáil Government. The other signatory to this document is a Mr. Heffernan who, I understand, was formerly a member of Dáil Eireann. I may be wrong in that, and if so perhaps Senators who have a longer connection with the Oireachtas than I, will correct me. I understand that Mr. Heffernan was a member of the Dáil for a long time, a Parliamentary Secretary, and a member of the old Fine Gael party. These men have circulated to each Senator their views on certain matters in connection with Córas Iompair Eireann. I want to quote a few lines from this communication. On page 2 of the memorandum, which is issued from 4 Clare Street, Dublin, there is this remark:—
"Further, the application made by the directors early in 1948 for authority to increase charges has been shown by the report to have been fully justified."
The board of Córas Iompair Eireann asked for permission to do certain things in order that it might retrieve the position. Sir James Milne has declared in very definite terms that the board ought to be allowed to increase its charges in order to cover increased wages and increased costs. If the board did not overtake those difficulties, with whom does the blame lie? Clearly, the blame lies with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who dug his heels in the ground and rejected the arguments of the ex-chairman and of the board for authority to do what they had a perfect right to do in the circumstances, namely, to get in by extra charges, by extra fares, the amount necessary to cover the increased costs that the company had to contend with.
The Minister said with regard to the new project: "The company did not need it." I said before that one of the things which I think most unfortunate about this whole matter is that when investigation was being made into the position of Córas Iompair Eireann those charged with the duty of making the investigation did not meet the ex-chairman and the directors of the company and get their views on these matters. In this we have a one-sided view. The Minister says it was not wanted — I would like something more than the Minister's statement that this project is not required. The company could not afford it — I do not think I need say any more on that.
The Minister got a certain satisfaction out of pin-pricking Senator Hawkins because the Senator quoted the views of a London journal on this matter of a central bus station. He indicated that it was unworthy of Senator Hawkins to rely on the views of outside people. But the peculiar thing about it all is that the Minister himself has relied on the views of outside people who could hardly have been familiar with the peculiar economic circumstances of this country, people whose views and whose approach were coloured, were influenced, by their association with a totally different set of circumstances. The Minister argued that Senator Hawkins wanted to have it both ways. If anybody wanted to have it both ways, or if anybody wants to have it both ways, clearly it is the Minister.
If it is agreed that we should have a bus station — and I think the arguments are all there that we should have it — then the only question is, where should it be located? I am not in a position to say. The Minister has again waved the big stick and told us that he has a lot of information that, if he cared to give it, would not be very nice. For my part, I have appealed to Ministers in the House more than once that they ought to put an end to this. They are over two years in office, they have the files at their disposal in their Departments, they have a very able Attorney-General, they have an excellent Civil Service, and it is about time they put their cards on the table, and told us specifically what those charges are that can be laid against worthy citizens of this State. So far as I am concerned, I am sick of such statements as "I have information which I will give if I am driven to give it". Perhaps the Minister will influence his colleagues to have some kind of tribunal or commission set up in order to settle this thing one way or the other.
On a recent occasion it suited me to use the public transport service. I met railway workers, railway officials. I assure the Minister I did not canvass their views on this question of Córas Iompair Éireann or Store Street. They themselves introduced the subject and the thing that intrigued me was that these men, both railmen and busmen, were of the same opinion, that Store Street was an ideal situation for the terminus. They may not be experts, but at any rate they were men who had long service with the transport company, men whose views, after all, might not be despised. I, for one, would not be anxious to despise them.
Senator Miss Butler had some information for the House with regard to what happened at the Dublin Corporation Planning Committee. All I can say is that I am very disappointed that a person of the high qualifications and distinction of the town planner in question did not think it worth his while, if he felt strongly on this project, to state in writing his objections. I think, in view of what has been said, this must have been a matter of very great importance. He must have realised the extent of its importance. I am sorry that all we have so far about his views on the matter is that he says: "Well, if you must have it, then let it be." I think that when men are appointed to responsible offices of this kind, they ought to realise the heavy duty that devolves upon them. If they have serious objections to any particular matter they ought to put them on record and lodge their protest with the Lord Mayor, stating in definite and specific terms what their objection is. Perhaps the eminent authority in question has done that, but, in the absence of information that he has, then, for my part, I am not prepared to pay much attention to what happened at the Committee's meeting on that particular matter.
Again, the question of the type of building has been mentioned as a reason why the Store Street project should be rejected. I am not an architect. I would not know, from looking at the plan of a building, how beautiful it might appear, or otherwise, when finished. All I know is that the gentleman who prepared the plans is a gentleman of eminence in his profession, and I would be sorry to think that one of his eminence and experience would be a party to the erection of a building of this kind that would ruin the city to the extent indicated by Senator Butler. If the building were to be the eyesore which the Senator has indicated, and if it would injure the city in the way she says, then there is a lot to be said for rejecting the project. However, I am not inclined to agree with Senator Tunney that those responsible for the project ought to be shot.