I should like to thank the Seanad for a very constructive debate on this measure.
Senator Russell welcomed the Bill and spoke about the question of regulating the size of vehicles. Senator Jack Fitzgerald, at a later stage, referred to this matter, too, and the pressure of the heavier type vehicle on roads. This of course, is a matter for the Minister for Local Government. However, I am not just side-stepping the matter and I will deal with it here. I know that the road traffic code enables the Minister to make whatever regulations he may wish in regard to safety and size and all aspects relating to road vehicles, and I am aware that this matter is under very active consideration by him.
Senator Russell made another proposal which I do not think is practicable, that is the question of giving grants to private enterprise road hauliers. The whole spirit of this measure is designed to ensure greater competition; the development of a more professional approach to road haulage and transport in this country; to generate competitiveness and thereby reduce costs so as to ensure that our internal transport system will be efficient, and to ensure that our exports will be thereby more competitive also in regard to the transport element in them.
Furthermore, if we see the development of a professional road haulage industry here, where you have proper safety precautions, proper vehicles, properly paid employees, this is all to the good: this is what we want to see. I do not think there is any need in this type of situation to budget for the payment of grants.
Senator Crinion made the very valid point that this measure is, in fact, legitimising a position that has existed in practice in regard to the haulage of cattle, sheep and pigs. As the law stands, as Senator Crinion says, we have been making law-breakers out of people who are, in my view, legitimately engaged, although contrary to existing statute, in the haulage of cattle, sheep and pigs, from fair to fair and from mart to mart. This practice developed to the extent that it was, to use the phrase, making an ass of the law, and it is only right that this should be legitimised and put into perspective. This is what the Bill proposes to do in regard to cattle, sheep and pigs.
Senator Crinion and other Senators mentioned the question of extending this concession to horses. This is all right up to a point, but how do you differentiate between horses? I have had to strike a balance here between the interests of the various people involved—the interest of the public first of all, of the economy, of the farming community, of trade union employees, of CIE and the interest of existing licensed hauliers. This is why the Bill is a middle course reform measure but at the same time not designed to prejudice any of the legitimate interests that are already involved in transport.
This is where the bloodstock situation comes in—in regard to horses— that, first of all, one cannot differentiate between types of horse and, secondly, there is a very substantial section of CIE devoted to the specialised carriage of bloodstock, at present, where they give an excellent service to the industry; where there are people employed who are specialised in this particular type of transportation, and where there would be disemployment if we extended this particular exemption in regard to livestock to horses or bloodstock. I have therefore decided against that. I might say that CIE have offered to the bloodstock breeders the concession of plating, as the phrase is, allowing unlicensed owners who have transport to carry bloodstock on local hauls of a limited nature.
Senator Jack Fitzgerald raised the question about the road situation in regard to heavier trucks and this is a matter that has been taken up by the Minister for Local Government. The Senator also—and I was very glad to hear him say this because it refers back to what I have just been talking about —referred to the fact that in practice this measure will not affect CIE employment. I was very concerned about this all through. I met the trade union interest concerned and the fact is that the trade union interest accept the fact that as far as the livestock specified are concerned there will be no disemployment, but any extension beyond that would mean disemployment.
This brings me on to the point made by Senator McGowan and it is relevant to what I have been saying. He, and indeed other speakers here as well as in the Dáil, suggested that this concession should be extended to the transportation of lime and, as Senator McGowan suggested, potatoes, beet, vegetables, greyhounds, poultry, fish, oats and barley. All of these have been suggested at various stages during the debates in the Dáil and here. My answer to that is: where do you end when you start this?
In regard to the point made by Senator Gallanagh about milk being brought to a creamery, this is free of the road transport legislation. The same applies to wheat agents.
In regard to the other matters mentioned, we are in this measure extending the whole haulage system to a number of operators who will now have freedom of operation in the Twenty-six Counties without restriction to commodity or weight. In effect, this means that, along with the 860 vehicles owned by CIE, there will be 840 other vehicles owned by private enterprise, who will be roughly in a 50:50 position of competition against them and who will have unrestricted and unlimited freedom of action throughout the Twenty-six Counties.
Senator Reynolds asked for complete decontrol in this field. I indicated in my introductory speech on the Second Stage that this, in my view, will be the ultimate result of legislation. This legislation is a preparatory measure designed to see how this freeing-out process will work. In the future, if it is necessary to go further in the way of decontrol I would be all in favour of it. I am all for liberalisation and competition in this field but, at the same time, one must move with reason and ensure that the existing legitimate interests I have already mentioned are not torpedoed overnight, as it were. The very fact that one is extending the licensing system within the private enterprise sector to this extent —instead of having 100 or so 26 County licensees, one is now going to have 840 26 County licensees—is a substantial leap forward to ensure competition and to ensure that there will be hauliers available, both State and private enterprise, in every part of the country who will be entitled to haul in any part of the country and that there will be free mobility with regard to the sale and purchase of these licences. It will also ensure that they will not be centred in any particular areas, as happened heretofore, or limited in any degree, so that from Donegal to Cork one will be able to purchase a licence and establish oneself in any part of the country where the business opportunity occurs.
I think that meets the point made by a number of Senators with regard to extending the scope of the Bill to allow for further exemptions other than cattle, sheep and pigs. In fact, with the sort of competition which I envisage from the figures I have mentioned, there will be ample scope for professional hauliers to do this business without a need for exemptions. There will be ample scope for competition and, in that context, I do not see much point in developing the exemptions beyond the level of livestock. I may say that in the very nature of the transportation involved in cattle, sheep and pigs, where timing is important and where various day and night hours are involved, there is an immediacy involved which does not apply in regard to the transport of lime, grain, fish, potatoes, beet, vegetables and so on which are all dead goods, as it were. The transport of these goods can be organised on a reasonably scheduled basis but livestock are in a particular category of their own and are rightly exempted here.
Senator Farrelly mentioned the point about the North of Ireland arrangement in regard to haulage. The point I have just made is relevant here, too. Once you have 840-odd licences operating, these will all be able to operate contiguous to the Border. Senator Farrelly complained that Northern Ireland operators coming south have an advantage at present. This point is valid having regard to the situation at present where we have a very limited number of licences contiguous to the Border. Now we will have 840 licences—apart from CIE— here who will have the right to operate into the Six Counties and operate throughout the country. The whole matter has been put on a more competitive basis and if the haulage operators here, with this type of concession and with this type of arrangement, are competitive enough they will be able to deal with the North of Ireland competition. It will be their business to deal with that competition. I wish them good luck and I hope they will be able to deal with that competition in a competitive manner. The criticism Senator Farrelly mentioned here is more relevant to the situation that now exists and which we hope will no longer exist once this Bill becomes law.
The point was made about local authorities in regard to the haulage by lorries of road making materials. Local authorities can hire any licensed haulier. There appears to be some misapprehension here. CIE, as a subcontracting arrangement, can arrange for the "plating" of unlicensed hauliers. This has been their practice over the years. It is just a matter of business operations and enables CIE to fill a gap, as it were, where they have been hired to do a job by a local authority and may not be able to supply the required number of vehicles to do the job in a given period of time. In that type of situation they are entitled, or empowered, to plate an unlicensed vehicle for the particular operation.
I should like to turn now to the general principles in the Bill which are, fundamentally, very straightforward. These principles are (a) to face the reality with regard to livestock, and to decontrol livestock, cattle, sheep and pigs from any form of restriction whatever; (b)—this is, in my view, the most important aspect of the Bill and is the real reason behind it, although the matter I have just mentioned has got a lot of publicity—the overcapitalisation in Ireland by people in haulage, particularly in own-account haulage. We have far too many trucks in this country which are underutilised and which cost business people and firms far too much money by reason of the underutilisation of these lorries. As far as business and industry, small and big, are concerned there is far too much money invested in haulage plant having regard to the needs and the resources of the country.
What we want to do here is to build up a really efficient private enterprise transport arm. I would envisage this Bill helping towards the development of a number of efficient private enterprise firms in the haulage industry. We would hope these would reduce costs and would be proper professional haulage firms, in the best sense of the word, giving the maximum service that can be given by such a professionally organised company and giving the maximum service to business, industry and agriculture generally. This is what we would like to achieve and this is the whole purpose of the Bill. It will be very interesting to see how it eventually turns out. If further legislation is necessary in this direction I will see that it will be brought in. This Bill should go a long way towards meeting this objective.
It is outrageous to think that we have a situation at the moment where over 81 per cent of our haulage here is own-account haulage. This figure is about 30 per cent above the British average. It is far more ahead of the Common Market and the American average. We must reduce this wasteful investment by business people and by industry in own-account haulage in trucks and lorries that are underutilised and staffed by people who are also underutilised and we must instead develop a proper professional transport arm. This is the real purpose of the Bill and that 81 per cent own-account haulage figure will go down rapidly when we are in a position in which 840 Twenty-six County licences can be amalgamated, merged into various forms of companies, firms, partnerships and organisations that would be actively competing against the other 50 per cent State-owned organisations.
This is also good for the State-owned organisations. It is a happy coincidence that the percentage is roughly 50:50, so that we will have a legitimate competitive situation between private enterprise and public enterprise in this highly competitive field. It is very necessary to be competitive in this field as we move towards the EEC because by reason of our situation on the very fringe of Europe it is all important, so far as our competitiveness is concerned, to have our transportation system organised as efficiently as possible. It is far more imperative for us to be efficient in this field than any other country in the Common Market or those seeking entry to the EEC.
I thank the Senators for the welcome given to the Bill and that, if there is any matter which occurs to Senators between now and the Committee Stage whereby the Bill can be improved, I shall be glad to hear their views and take cognisance of them on Committee Stage.