This Bill is a major milestone in the evolution of Córas Iompair Éireann and the public transport services operated by the board. Irish transport legislation generally has been and is undergoing an exciting period of change and development. There are at present, including this Bill, four transport Bills before the Oireachtas — the others being the Dublin Transport Authority, Road Transport and B&I Bills. A further three Bills in relation to harbours, sea pollution and Shannon pre-clearance are in the pipeline and will be introduced shortly. The Canals, Free Ports and Air Transport Acts — all important measures — have been enacted since 1986 began. All ten of these measures are geared to meet the needs of modern transport activities.
What I am proposing now in relation to CIE is an historical step equal in importance to the step taken in 1944 when legislation founding CIE was enacted. There are striking differences between the two events. The calendar alone demonstrates that the planning for the establishment of CIE was undertaken in a war time situation where all judgments were uncertain. Prophecies of what might happen in the years following the end of the war were completely speculative. The fact that CIE succeeded at all is a tribute to the planners of those far off days.
In their thinking, it is fair to say, financial considerations took great precedence. The conventional wisdom of the Twenties and Thirties in the failing public transport industry was that the strong could help the weak. Our planners believed then, and for the best part of 20 years thereafter, that an industry which through no fault of its own could no longer survive, mainly due to increasing costs and a threatened market, would be sustained and maintained by the cash contributions of strong members such as Dublin buses, and by a multiplicity of secondary elements such as line cross-subsidisation. There were further expected benefits based on concepts like economies of scale, or integration which, in the transport area, are not as relevant as many believe them to be and probably played only a limited part.
The money end worked reasonably well for nearly 20 years. It was in the early sixties that it was finally acknowledged by the then Minister, the late Erskine Childers, that CIE had to go the way of national transport systems in almost all countries and depend on a permanent rail subvention.
The management and market assumptions were less sound than the financial ones. It suffices to distinguish between those planning days 40 years ago, when there was virtually no private transport at all, and the market of today where private transport occupies an overwhelming position. It is extremely difficult to see how a unified management structure such as that which grew up between 1944 and more recent times coped at all with the increasing complexities of economic and social life and the pressures and changes internal to itself. The complaints so often heard about CIE have originated as much in the management and market sectors, including the work of serving the market, as in any other.
I see my role in relation to CIE in three aspects: (i) I have to get the subsidy right — it must never again revert to the excesses of growth that characterised the seventies. The correction process is well in hand but more has to be done; (ii) the overall direction of the undertaking has to be got right; (iii) service of the market has to be got right. The Bill deals with points (ii) and (iii).
The financial arguments based on cross-supports for holding CIE together were exposed to chill reality 20 years ago. In all respects every major activity started to head for losses. The management of CIE became increasingly pre-occupied with the financial struggle and their reputation in the market had to suffer.
With the ending of the financial argument for an amalgamated system there were questions that might be asked about the system itself but they seemed to escape notice. It did not really emerge that running a railway company was not the same task as running a provincial bus service and that the demands and needs of these two were different from the demands of a major urban transport system which in the case of Ireland and Dublin had always been a self-contained and distinctive activity until the creation of CIE. It amazes me that a relatively small central management team kept the whole unwieldy structure going at all or managed to deal on any rational basis with all the problems of infrastructure, rolling stock, supplies, staffing, industrial relations and services. The thought applies not alone to distinctive major activities on rail and road but out to the fringes of tour management, hotel operation, running Rosslare, keeping the canals passable and running ships to the Aran Islands.
The board and management of CIE were not invariably helped by Government. I do not wish to recite faults in Government of any party. I can say, however, that this vast, unwieldy and struggling agglomeration could have often been helped by clear delineation of what Government expected from it, by some better financial judgments and by less interference with the revenue earning plans of the undertaking.
I have no hesitation in complimenting CIE for the benefits it did produce during what I think should now be identified as years of struggle. And I am happy to put this positive aspect against the criticism which I have often found it necessary to make. I also give the highest praise to the whole hearted effort by CIE at all levels to implement and bring to fruition the changes I have already introduced. I know I can rely on a continuation of this effort to bring about this more or less final set of necessary improvements.
The Bill provides for retention of CIE as the parent of three new operating subsidiary companies registered under the Companies Acts. The new companies will have full responsibility under the board of CIE for the operations of the railways, Dublin city bus services and provincial bus services.
I think it would be useful to describe in a little more detail how CIE has developed over the years. The Transport Act, 1944, brought about the incorporation of Córas Iompair Éireann as a State-sponsored transport company and the country's principal transport operator with the transfer to CIE of the undertakings of the Great Southern Railways Company and the Dublin United Transport Company Limited. The Transport Act of 1950 established Córas Iompair Éireann as a statutory board to replace the State-sponsored company and the Grand Canal Company. In the Great Northern Railways Act, 1958, the Great Northern Railways undertaking within the State was amalgamated with CIE. At that time the board had responsibility for the railways (passenger and freight), bus services in Dublin and the provinces, road freight, coach and tour services and canals. Its mandate embraced Rosslare Harbour, a number of hotels and the Galway/Aran ferry service.
Later legislation made some small adjustments to the CIE role and its mandate but the statutory structure of the organisation remained intact.
Over the years, CIE has adapted its services to meet the needs of the times. The early fifties brought a major dieselisation programme. Since then rolling stock has been periodically updated and upgraded and extends to the current mainline carriage programme involving the construction of a fleet of air conditioned carriages at a total estimated cost of £53 million in 1984 prices in progress at the CIE Inchicore works and, as a native of Inchicore, I was delighted to be able to give the final go-ahead for that programme. These new carriages and the upgrading of track and signalling systems have reduced journey times and improved very considerably standards of passenger comfort. The Howth-Bray railway has been electrified at a cost of £113 million and this development has brought the railways right up to date in technological terms—the DART service is technically among the most advanced of its kind in the world.
There has been periodic updating and replacement of CIE's urban and rural bus fleets. Since 1980 CIE has undertaken a major programme of bus replacement and since then about 800 new buses have been purchased by the board at a cost of about £100 million. Fifty new tour coaches have just been acquired by the board for this year's tourist season and for the CIE cross-Channel Supabus services.
These are major capital investments but they had to be matched with stations and garage renewals and the acquisition of ancillary equipment to ensure that maintenance and support services were upgraded in line with needs. So it will be seen that CIE has had a lot of renewal in recent years.
Against its financial background it is not surprising that down through the years CIE has been the subject of a number of in-depth studies, the most recent being the McKinsey study "The Transport Challenge" published in February 1981.
When I was appointed Minister with responsibility for transport matters in late 1982 the serious situation in regard to the CIE finances and indeed in relation to the overall image and effectiveness of CIE was one of my immediate priorities. The deficit had spiralled and in the period between 1969-70 and 1982, during which the Consumer Price Index had increased by a factor of only 5.4, the deficit had increased from £3.234 million to £109.373 million, a factor of 33.8 — over six times more than inflation. I think that is a very relevant fact. I wonder if there should be an inquiry about it.
When I came to office I set to work immediately on the financial problems and simultaneously began to look at the CIE organisation in the context of the McKinsey recommendations. As a first step in tackling the financial problems, the Government approved in June 1983 a package of measures, which I proposed, aimed at not only reducing CIE's cost to the Exchequer over a five-year period but also paving the way for a new operating environment in CIE. These measures included a new basis for determining the CIE subvention which now limits it to the lesser of either one-half of the board's revenue or one-third of their expenditure. This was in CIE's interest as well as the Exchequer's.
The package also provided for the payment of the subvention "above the line" in recognition of CIE's social role in providing commercially unprofitable but socially desirable services. Expenditure restrictions were imposed on CIE as a means of introducing cash limits to contain costs. An obligation was placed on CIE to reduce the level of their expenditure in real terms by 2½ per cent per annum up to 1988 and the purpose of the formula was to obtain a reducing subvention in line with a reducing expenditure.
At this stage I would like to circulate with the Official Report a chart showing the reduction in the CIE net operating deficit since 1982 and projections for the future based on the subvention formula.
CIE NET DEFICIT/SUBVENTION [1982-1989]
CONSTANT (1985) PRICES
For 1983, 1984 and 1985 I am glad to say the targets have been met or bettered and this is a cause for congratulation to all in CIE and in my Department.
In addition to setting the financial targets for CIE, the Government also decided that it was necessary to supplement the board's mandate to ensure that the national economic situation and Government objectives were fully reflected in the formulation and development of board policies. A number of specific objectives were identified for CIE and included:
(i) to review in depth all aspects of CIE's operations in the interests of reducing the board's dependence on State subvention;
(ii) to review the effectiveness and organisation of CIE management and to undertake any restructuring found necessary;
(iii) to regard the improvement of staff morale and motivation throughout CIE as a major aim;
(iv) to extend and strengthen the role of the financial control function so as to improve the cost effectiveness of expenditure;
(v) to review board policy in relation to capital works and proposals for new developments;
(vi) to arrange at maximum advantage to the board's financial position the disposal of surplus assets or the development of those assets by third parties.
When the package of measures was in place it was then necessary to turn to fundamental issues. The consultants, McKinsey & Co. Inc., who were appointed in 1979 to undertake a study of CIE, came to a number of conclusions based on the decline in the Board's market share and projections.
—complete disestablishment of CIE into three separate organisations;
—the introduction of OPO in the Dublin city bus services; the closing of CIE road freight operations, and the elimination of the sundries rail service;
—centralising freight management to Dublin with operations limited to bulk traffic and the carriage of dangerous goods; and
—dismantling of the company's area management structure.
Having considered the future of CIE in the context of the McKinsey report, other related documents, observations furnished in response to the report and the views of the chairman of CIE, the Government were convinced that a major reform of the CIE organisation was essential. While many of the consultants' conclusions were found to be valid, the McKinsey recommendation for the disestablishment of CIE was rejected because of the value perceived in a single board continuing to have overall control of the organisation's operations. Another option considered was the re-organisation of CIE's responsibilities as an internal CIE matter without new legislation. It was rejected also because such a response was not considered sufficiently far reaching to give the results desired. The route chosen by the Government had a number of main objectives, first, to keep the deficit under control without major disruption of services or employment; second, to improve morale and the working environment generally in CIE; third, to improve the reliability and attractiveness of services at the lowest possible fares and fourth, to obtain greater transparency of the allocation of costs between the various CIE activities.
In the light of this the Government decided that the reform of CIE must be such as to transform CIE into smaller, more compact operating organisations, with clearly defined functions and hence the provisions of this Bill.
Re-organisation is not the whole story. For clarity it was also necessary to set financial objectives for such an enterprise. As a result the Government announced its intentions inBuilding on Reality in October 1984. Members of the House will recall some of the main elements of the Government decision, which covered such matters as:
1. The requirement to reduce expenditure in real terms on the railways was extended to include 1989 and the objective was revised to the reduction in real terms of railway costs by close to 20 per cent over a five year period, an average of 3.7 per cent per annum.
2. The halving of the 1983 deficit by 31 December 1989 in real terms was set as the objective for Dublin city bus services, which by the end of 1984, already had in real terms almost halved the all-time high 1982 deficit;
3. The formula for reducing costs by 2.5 per cent per annum was extended to 1989 for the provincial bus services and the services should become profitable by that time; and
4. CIE rail sundries and road freight services to be discontinued by 1 January 1986 unless they proved profitable in 1984 and 1985.
It is emphasised that the railway objective needs to be achieved without endangering rail safety.
There are significant advantages in retaining the board of CIE as the parent to the three subsidiary companies. These would be more manageable units having chief executives with clear objectives and targets to achieve. The board will vet the plans of the companies, monitor their performance and assess their competing demands for investments and funds. The board will also be an instrument for promoting an efficient, coherent overall approach to CIE transport services generally. At the same time the setting up of the companies will introduce greater flexibility into the CIE organisation with each of them having its own board of directors whose objectives will be influenced mainly by the more limited mandates of the individual companies and with management closer to its staff and operations.
That, in summary, is the background to the Bill before the House today. Already two aspects of re-organisation have been put in place, namely, the transfer of the hotels owned by CIE to CERT and the transfer of responsibility for the Grand and Royal Canals from CIE to the Commissioners of Public Works which will be completed in the coming weeks. These changes were designed to allow CIE to concentrate more completely on its transport activities and facilitated the re-organisation.
Now we must build on the financial improvements of the past few years and turn to the more fundamental re-organisation as soon as possible. This is reflected in the Bill which is not so complex as to delay its enactment but comprehensive enough to achieve the desired results. Under the Bill, CIE, I must emphasise, will not relinquish any of its statutory powers and duties or privileges but rather it will use the new subsidiaries as instruments for implementing CIE policy and as the board's agents in carrying out more effectively the functions entrusted to it by the Oireachtas.
The Bill requires the Board of CIE to establish three new operating subsidiaries responsible for railways, provincial bus services and Dublin city bus services and to register them under the Companies Acts. It deals with the delegation of functions and responsibilities to the subsidiary companies in respect of operational matters and for the provision of rights, duties and liabilities for the subsidiaries to allow them to carry out their functions. It sets out the principal objects of the companies and provides for the assignment of CIE staff to the new companies and the protection of conditions of employment of staff transferred.
The Bill also contains provisions dealing with certain financial matters arising from the proposed re-organisation. While I circulated an Explanatory Memorandum with the Bill, I would nonetheless like to outline the Bill in some detail to the House and to highlight some of the more important provisions, particularly those which involve fundamental changes for CIE.
Part I of the Bill, comprising sections 1 to 5, contains standard-type provisions of a general kind and for the repeal of certain sections of existing legislation. Section 14 of the Transport Act, 1950, which empowers the Minister to grant, by order, additional powers to the board, is being replaced by section 23 of the Bill which extends the scope of the existing provision to include specifically functions relating to the development of the assets of the board. This is in keeping with the revised mandate given to the board by the Government in 1983.
The repeal of section 35 (2) of the 1950 Act dispenses with the requirement on CIE to hold open public examinations for the recruitment of clerical staff and thus will allow greater flexibility to the board and its subsidiaries to determine recruitment policy and procedures in keeping with modern practice in major commercial and semi-State organisations. This change is something which both management and unions have been seeking for some time.
Part II of the Bill provides for the formation of the three operating subsidiary companies. It also contains provisions relating to certain financial matters, staff transfers and protection of conditions of service and other general provisions, which are features of Acts dealing with State-sponsored bodies.
Section 6 obliges the board to form and register the new limited liability companies conforming to the conditions laid down in the Bill and for the appointment, by order made by the Minister, of a vesting day, that is the day on which the reorganised CIE will commence operations. This order will be irrevocable except by an amending Act of the Oireachtas.
The proposed names of the new subsidiares are listed in section 7 although I must say I am not totally happy with them and I may give them further consideration. The section also specifies that the share capital of each of the subsidiaries shall be wholly owned by the parent Board and prohibits the transfer or disposal of any share in the companies. This clarifies beyond doubt that the purpose of the Bill is to reorganise and revitalise a State company which will continue to remain in State hands unless the Oireachtas decides otherwise on some future occasion.
The Government's intentions for continuing on a long term basis the national transport undertaking is also reflected by section 17 which enables the board to transfer assets to the subsidiary companies for the purposes of their operations but excludes from those assets land and buildings which will remain in the ownership of the parent board.
The principal objects of the companies and the general statutory basis for carrying out their functions subject to the directions of the parent board are set out in section 8. These provisions lead naturally into treating of the roles envisaged for the parent board and its subsidiary companies. Overall general objectives for the CIE organisation as a whole will continue to be set by the Government. The Board of CIE will settle, within overall sums provided by the Government and, well in advance, the financial targets and allocations for the subsidiaries and in setting these allocations the board will consult with the Minister where necessary.
It will be the responsibility of the board to agree with the boards of directors of the subsidiary companies their annual budgets, including capital investments, to monitor the activities of the subsidiaries, to ensure that the subsidiaries achieve any financial targets set for them and to provide an assessment of the performances of the operating companies in the board's annual report to the Minister. More generally the board will be expected to foster the development of a more commercial approach across the spectrum of the activities within the overall CIE remit. In addition to the responsibilities in relation to the subsidiaries, the board will be responsible for actively pursuing the development of CIE property and other assets, the operation of the board's International Tours Company and providing common services such as pension schemes and computer services, etc, for the subsidiaries. I want CIE to exploit its many human skills and property assets in other directions. I see potential for expansion here and this is something I have been encouraging the Chairman and Board of CIE to pursue. This could well be a vital contribution to the financial success of the organisation in the future and to providing the outlets for these relatively untapped, but rich, resources.
The boards of directors of the subsidiary companies will be responsible under the board for the operations and activities of their companies. This will include responsibility for finances, staff and industrial relations, marketing and customer and other services, business development, operating procedures, etc. They will be accountable to the board in regard to their performances.
Specific requirements as to the articles of association are contained in section 11 which sets out particulars of the size and structure of the boards of the operating subsidiaries. The directors will be appointed by the Chairman of CIE with the consent of the Minister, and it allows for the possibility of the chairman being appointed chairman or director of a subsidiary company or companies.
You will notice that I propose to limit the membership of each of the new boards to five members. I see these boards as executive in nature in the interest of efficiency and effectiveness and this arrangement introduces into the State sector here the two-tier type board system, which has been so successful in Germany. The members of the parent board elected by the CIE workforce will continue to make their contribution to the whole CIE organisation through the activities of the parent Board, which will continue to control overall policy and the operating companies generally. The value of worker directors in the State boards is now clearly established. In order, however, to avoid a situation which would cut across the electoral arrangements in CIE, I see a need to introduce an amendment to the Bill at Committee Stage to ensure that the new structures maintain intact the CIE constituency for electing worker directors to the board.
I might mention at this stage a further amendment which I will be introducing on Committee Stage. This relates to the provisions of section 13 which deals with membership of either House of the Oireachtas or Assembly of the European Community. This amendment will be designed to meet the wishes of Senators who have in recent times requested a provision whereby directors and staff of semi-State organisations will not be required to give up their directorship or stand seconded from their employment until actually entitled to take their seats in either House of the Oireachtas or the Assembly of the European Community.
I know that there has been some concern among certain staff in CIE about their future in the new organisation. Section 14 of the Bill provides for the transfer of staff of the board to the companies and for the protection of their existing pay and conditions. It empowers the board to designate existing employees for employment by a company and it obliges staff so designated to transfer to that company. It also allows flexibility for the transfer and promotion of staff between the companies within the group. This provision highlights yet again the continued coherence of CIE. This is highlighted by section 15, a very important provision, which enables the board of CIE to continue to organise and operate existing pension schemes for both the staff of the board and those of the companies. It provides for service with any of the companies to be treated as employment with the board for pension purposes. This should further facilitate intercompany transfers of staff in the future. Other important provisions in relation to staff are contained in section 11 (f) which requires the companies to set up negotiating machinery for the purpose of negotiations concerned with pay and conditions of service.
The escalation of CIE's losses between 1969 and 1982 was all the more disastrous when it is considered that overall employment in the board fell by nearly 4,000 in that period and, and regrettably, reorganisation or not, a further reduction of 500 is envisaged. I am glad to be able to tell the House that I have been assured by the chairman of CIE that the bulk of these unavoidable reductions will be achieved through natural wastage or, where necessary, by using the existing arrangements agreed with CIE trade unions concerning redundancies. The reductions in staff contemplated have already been discussed with the unions.
The principal financial provisions of the Bill are contained in sections 19 and 20. Section 19 is based on the usual formula for the accounts and audits of State bodies. Section 20 outlines the borrowing powers and procedures to be followed in the case of the subsidiary companies. I envisage, as I hope is clear from the text of the Bill, a vital role for the parent board in regard to control of borrowings by the new companies. The powers to borrow for capital purposes are being retained by the parent board because of its overall responsibility for the CIE group. Subsection (3) of section 20 prohibits the giving of State guarantees for moneys borrowed directly by the companies. This will not hinder the subsidiaries in obtaining their capital needs as the board of CIE will be able to on-lend to its subsidiaries so that they will be able to carry out their capital investments in line with the capital programmes agreed by the parent board. The guaranteeing by the State of borrowing by the CIE board is not affected.
The existing statutory borrowing limits and controls will continue to apply to the new organisation as a group and all capital borrowings will continue to be subject to the approval and control of the Ministers for Communications and Finance, subject of course to the overriding statutory limits determined from time to time by the Oireachtas. The Bill empowers the companies to borrow temporarily, with the consent of the board, for day-to-day operating purposes subject to existing controls and within such statutory limits as may be determined from time to time.
Section 21 of the Bill was drafted before the decision to abolish the National Prices Commission was announced because experience had shown that the extent to which CIE could raise fares and rates was strongly influenced by what the market could bear and that was invariably less than what would be permissible under the national price control criteria. CIE fares and rates will, however, continue to be subject to approval by the Government. When the Dublin Transport Authority Bill, 1985, is enacted the new Dublin Transport Authority will have a role in the approval of CIE fare increases for Dublin bus and suburban rail.
Part III of the Bill contains a number of provisions relating to Córas Iompair Éireann and the subsidiaries. The statutory obligation imposed on the board by the 1950 Act to appoint a secretary and a general manager is being replaced by section 28 of the Bill which will allow the board greater flexibility in the appointment of officers and servants. This flexibility is desirable in the situation where the chairman holds office on a full-time basis and where the organisation is undergoing a period of major change and restructuring.
The provisions of section 29 of the Bill have been included on general policy grounds and require the board of CIE and the boards of each of the companies to have regard either to Government or nationally agreed guidelines in fixing the pay or the terms and conditions of staff and it also obliges each of them to comply with any directives in this regard which may be given by the Minister for Communications with the consent of the Minister for the Public Service. This type of provision is not new and is drafted along the lines of a relevant provision in the Gas Act of 1976 and several other Acts. Free collective bargaining between CIE and its employees will continue.
A large organisation such as CIE has need of continuous review so that it can adapt to face the various challenges as they appear. In transport, changes can arise from many influences, including changes in technology and equipment, barriers to travel and trade, the relative competitiveness of the various transport modes and the transport preferences of the customers.
The proposed reorganisation of CIE and the financial measures which I have outlined are designed to put the board's finances on a firmer footing and to secure the future of CIE, having due regard to what the Exchequer can afford, the interests of the taxpayer and the need to provide reliable services for the public. The Bill is designed to ensure and strengthen the future of the organisation. The reorganisation now proposed is, I am convinced, in the best interests of the travelling public, the CIE workforce and the Exchequer. The smaller units should be susceptible to more effective management in a manner which is not possible in the case of very large and diffuse organisations.
The implementation of the reorganisation provided for in this Bill is, of course, a matter for the board of CIE in the first instance. As I said in my opening remarks I am confident that I will have the full backing of CIE management and general workforce in carrying through the new arrangements which are so necessary for their future. The board and management are dependent on the support of all CIE employees in order to effect a smooth transition. The future success of the new CIE will rest squarely on the shoulders of the parent board, the subsidiary boards and the workforce. CIE and its employees have shown in recent years what it was possible to achieve in regard to CIE finances. This inspires confidence for achieving the objectives set for CIE by the Government in the years ahead. I say this in the knowledge that when the accounts for 1985 are published shortly they will show that CIE has had the best year for many years.
General public confidence in the transport services provided must be increased. This will be achieved mainly by improving the quality and reliability of the services. In that connection there is hardly need to emphasise the importance of a stable industrial relations climate. I have spoken on a number of occasions about industrial relations in CIE particularly in the Dublin city services. My more recent references where rightly devoted to improvements in that climate. Recent experiences are quite positive and augur well for the future notwithstanding yesterday's minor upset at Summerhill. The recent introduction of one-person-operated buses and DART feeder buses in Dublin, following agreement between the board of CIE and the unions, happily brought to a satisfactory conclusion that long drawn out saga. The new structures with less remote management should also contribute to good industrial relations throughout the organisation.
While I have set tough targets for CIE in the past three years and for the next three, I have also given a very substantial commitment to the board. For 1986 the estimated subvention, based on the subvention formula, comes to £104.5 million. But in addition, since I came to office, provision has been made for the Exchequer to take on board directly the interest payments on DART which is the correct approach for infrastructural projects of this kind. Moreover, the problem of CIE's short term borrowings has been addressed and £30 million is being remitted by the Exchequer over ten years, having commenced in 1985.
The capital provision for 1986 is £34.4 million mainly for new railway carriages, signalling and communications and the acquisition of buses for CIE Supabus and tour activities. Sixty-four million pounds will have been spent in the five years up to the end of 1987 on the replacement of railway carriages. On the present signalling communications programme £15 million was spent up to the end of 1984 and a further £14 million will be spent by 1987. This represents a very big investment, without which the CIE services would inevitably run down. When you consider this, the DART investment and the bus fleets, it will be readily clear that the renewal of CIE which this Bill seeks to bring about, has been accompanied by a very large investment to give it the modern tools to do the job.
The recently published Green Paper on transport policy and the publication of the National Plan raise a number of very important issues which have a bearing on the longer term future of the new CIE group. In so far as the railways are concerned, the new organisation and management structure together with the investments made in the railways give all concerned an opportunity to prove the worth of the railways and thereby guarantee their long-term future. The closing date for the receipt of observations on the Green Paper was 31 March and the many views furnished, for which I am grateful, are being assessed. The conclusions which we will draw from the contributions on the Green Paper will be taken account of in a White Paper to be published later this year.
The problems in relation to the structure of CIE which we are tackling here have been ventilated freely in the last few years. A certain negative approach which is based on so-called privatisation has been imported into the discussion. I do not wish to say anything about privatisation in connection with this Bill for the simple reason that privatisation has nothing to do with the Bill and is simply a red herring in the debate.
There are also, I believe, arguments based on what is seen as a threat within CIE — the threat of competition between rail and road services. This seems to mean that there must be no competition irrespective of cost to the taxpayer or service to the public as between CIE's rail and provincial road services. I utterly reject that approach. There must be some competition to ensure that each new operational company will be on its toes, that each worker in each company will identify with the public entity to which he is attached, work to further its aims and take pride in its new identity.
The board of CIE will still retain its powers and responsibilities. The board will guard against reckless or ruinous competition between the subsidiaries. Indeed, the proposed structure gets close to the optimum. It maintains the overall framework of the integrated approach which many see as essential to our transport system. It allows also for specifically identifiable sharing of services and supports where sharing is necessary — another argued benefit of integration.
National transport issues such as CIE and its services provide a basis for a very broad debate covering a very extensive field. I have endeavoured to give the House a comprehensive statement on the background to the changes proposed in the Bill, the motivation and the objectives. It goes without saying that there are many issues which Senators consider relevant which I have not touched on. Omissions are inevitable in a situation like this. I will, however, endeavour to reply to any such points in the course of my reply to the debate.
In conclusion, I wish to commend the Bill to the House.