By the courtesy of the Dáil, I am in a position to continue the remarks I was expressing on the Bill on the last occasion that the Bill was before the Dáil. I then put forward, as a business man representing business men, that the proposition contained in this Bill for nationalisation of the railways was not acceptable to them, and as this is the foundation of the Bill, I was speaking against its acceptance by the Dáil. If we turn to the financial Sections of the Bill, they are, of course, of a confiscatory nature, and I rather gather from Deputy Johnson that they have been embodied owing to the example set by the Minister for Agriculture in his Land Bill.
PRIVATE BUSINESS. - TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS BILL, 1923—Second Stage (resumed).
took the chair at this stage.
This Dáil has the right, subject to public opinion, of confiscation, but in cases of this sort, where there is a very definite value placed on securities of a commercial nature, I do not think this Dáil would agree that the people holding these securities, in the event of their being required for national purposes, should get less, but rather more, than their market value. I will not dwell on this, because I think the Leader of the Opposition would be the first to admit that principle, and, therefore, I do not think it is necessary, at this stage, to go beyond saying that the Bill proposes to acquire certain things from individuals at less than their value. I think that is a bad principle on which to start the question of the nationalisation of the railways or the nationalisation of anything else. When we turn to the administration that is proposed to be set up in connection with the Bill, we find that it is proposed to put the railways under the management of a Board of Control. At the head of that Board is to be a Director, and his qualifications are to be qualifications in administering railways, and generally of being in the position to be able to manage them. I rather think that if this Bill was passed, this Dáil would be on the look out for a super-man, and as well as being a super-man in connection with railway administration, he would also have to be a man of a very philosophic temperament, because he is supposed to manage the railways, and after all, the management of the railways would not be, if left in his own hands, a task beyond his powers. But, coupled with that, he is to have a Board. Now, this Board is set up, and I take no exception to it, nor do I cavil at it, but it is set up from a political standpoint. It is a purely political Board. In the first place, pride of place, if I may say so, is given to business men. You have a business man representing manufacturers, and another business man representing commerce as a whole.
No doubt, in the selection of these men by the Ministry and the Executive Council, due regard will be paid to their qualifications as good citizens and as worthy representatives of trade and commerce. But, they would be sitting on this Board with a very definite interest in securing for trade and commerce certain facilities and certain rates. After that, the Bill provides for labour representation. It will not trouble any member of the Dáil to come to the conclusion that labour would be sitting on this Board with a very definite object, too. Then there are two representatives of agriculture. In connection with that, we have heard the Farmers' Party say that they had arrived at a point at which they cannot pay rents, rates or taxes. It would not be a far stretching of the imagination to say that their position on this Board of Control would lead them to say that they could not pay transport charges either, and possibly they might claim, in addition to free transport by the railways that they should also be provided with steamships to transport their goods to other countries, and make the case that owing to the rate of exchange, or some other cause, they were unable to compete with these countries. In addition to these representatives of trade and commerce and labour, you have got a representative of the Ministry of Finance, whose business, I suppose, it would be to see that there was no money spent on anything.
This Board that is to be set up may be good from a political standpoint, but from a commercial standpoint I fancy that no one will accept it as a Board that any body of business men would put over any concern to be managed in the interests of shareholders. After all, you in this case would be the shareholders, so that the hope of any dividend accruing from such an organisation and arrangement would be very slight indeed.
This Bill is very ambitious. It is not satisfied with the arrangement of, or the control of, the railways, but it also provides for the management of telegraphs, roads and transport. One thing it does not provide anything for, and that is the unfortunate travelling public. It seems to me that the man in the street, or the ordinary travelling member of the community, or the man that uses the railways in a small way, would be in the position of having to pay the piper without being able to call the tune, or even without any effect on the tune, and for fear that this unfortunate man might escape the nets set out to trap him in his ordinary daily life, there is a provision in the Bill giving control of the roads, posts and everything else. It would seem to me to be setting up a kind of State nationalisation which would very effectively interfere with the liberty of the subject. For instance, if this national school teacher that we heard of, with his motor car, thought that he would make use of it in preference to the railway, I suppose we might conceive the possibility of his being told that he had no right to use his motor car, that he must use the railway because it is State owned, and incidentally he might be refused the right to use the roads. Speaking as a business man, I say that we want as little interference as possible by the State in connection with the carrying on of our business.
We do not approve of State interference more than is necessary. This Bill is the essence of State interference. If the Dáil were disposed to accept this Bill as it stands, or to pass the Second Reading of it, I feel sure that it would do an immense amount of harm in connection with enterprises as a whole. In other words, business can be better carried on in an atmosphere of confidence and initiative and enterprise by business men, who will not be affected by undue interference by the State. In the particular case of the railways, I said on the last occasion I saw no reason why that they should be put in any preferential position to other businesses that are carried on in the ordinary way. It may be that they are larger than the ordinary businesses and that their ramifications are greater, but there is nothing wrong with the railways, and this Dáil cannot put right what has to be put right under private ownership. I venture to think that under private ownership a certain amount of control always exists in connection with the railways of the country. I see Deputy Johnson smiles, but from their start there was that control, because when they were built, in exchange for the facilities given to them, they were required to do certain things. Under the conditions they work, and under the control which this Dáil has the power of putting into operation, the development of the railways will satisfy, in my opinion, all the reasonable demands of trade and of the public to be supplied with the best service that can be supplied and the best facilities that can be afforded.
Deputy Johnson in introducing this Bill told the Dáil that we are not going to get anything out of State control. That was very honest considering he is bringing in this Bill, but that is the fact. Under no conceivable circumstances can either the public, or anybody else, except perhaps the people who are going to get salaries out of it, acquire any benefits that private enterprise will not give them, if private enterprise is surrounded with security so as to carry on its business and develop itself in a peaceful and favourable atmosphere. The fostering of that spirit in connection with industry will do far more for the country than interference by the State in matters which, I submit, it is not capable of handling in a way that private enterprise will handle any business concern.
I think the Dáil owes more or less a debt of gratitude to Deputy Johnson for bringing forward this matter for consideration, because, as everybody knows, this question of the regulation of the railways has been before the public for a very long time. As far back as I can remember, there has been talk of this, but the circumstances were different. About 30 or 40 years ago it was discussed, but it was then discussed from a different standpoint. It was discussed from what you might call the top downwards. The reasons were quite different for proposing nationalisation then as compared with to-day. At that time there was more or less dissatisfaction with the management—with the top parts of the railways. There was complaint that some of the Chairmen and others were too old and past their work; that they were not enterprising enough, and did not push things forward sufficiently. Some people had the idea that if there was nationalisation all these things could be set right, and that a new state of affairs could be brought about. It was more or less an academic sort of discussion; there was no reality in it. From that day to this is quite a long time. We are up against it in reality now. During the war we had experience of what nationalisation might be under Government control. The Government took over the railways in Ireland as solvent concerns working well. There were people then who grumbled about the railways, more or less, but there were no extraordinary complaints about inefficiency. What is the result? When the war was at an end the Government handed back the railways in an utterly insolvent condition, so that it would be impossible for the management of any of the railways to carry on, unless the high wages they were compelled to pay were lowered, and this does not seem hitherto to have been possible. Therefore, the railways were in an insolvent state. Deputy Johnson proposes as a remedy that these insolvent railways should be presented to the nation in order to guarantee the high wages which the railways under normal conditions cannot possibly pay—that the nation should, for the honour and glory of maintaining the railways, pay these exorbitant and uneconomic wages. I do not think that is a proposition that the nation as a whole would agree to.
There are three great classes concerned in this: the workers, the owners and those who use the railways. The workers at present are in a very good position. They are taking a large proportion of the receipts. So much so that if it were not for the money that was given by the English Government when the railways were handed back there would be no attempt to pay a dividend at all. That has been the result of nationalisation so far. Have the railways here done so badly for us that we should wish the State to take them over? It is due to the Boards of Directors to say that throughout their systems they have established in many places the only decent hotels in these places. If it were not for these hotels in large districts of the country probably there would be no tourist traffic at all. In a great many wild districts particularly there is nothing approaching a hotel where anything of the commonest order can be decently cooked. The railways have done that much for us. Moreover, if you travel through the world—as for my sins, perhaps, I have done—and travel on State Railways in Central Europe, India and other places, you will come to the conclusion that our poor railways here at home are not so bad after all—that they are not badly laid and that the comfort of the travelling public is not disregarded to such an extent as people would have you think. Many years ago, when at school in a town in Germany, I used to amuse myself watching the trains passing on a certain line and seeing all the travellers with their heads out of the windows. It occurred to me to ask what the reason for that was and I was informed that on this line there was a fourth class in which there were no seats, so that you had to sit on boxes or anything that was available, and if you wanted to be extremely comfortable you had to keep your head out of the window. That is a state of affairs we would not stand here very long. I suppose when people go abroad they are so glad at the change that they are content with anything and think everything is perfect. A great many people think that everything is good but what they have themselves. So it may be with people who go abroad and come back and report that something was delightful when as a matter of fact it would not bear looking at. In India I travelled for five or six days on the State Railways and the degree of comfort which they afford is of the smallest. There their idea of managing certain things which we consider essential in this country is very primitive. As regards the income from State Railways I cannot say anything as I have not the latest returns.
I think we would be well advised to consider, not once or twice, but a great many times before we alter the system we know. As Deputy Hewat stated the other day. "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know." There is a good deal of truth in that. This is a leap in the dark that you cannot see the end of. The question of State railways would need very careful examination. I do not think, in view of the circumstances that are likely to come upon us, the growing competition with railways owing to increased motor traffic, and the development of air traffic, which the railways have got to meet, that the public would have much to get by taking over the railways in the insolvent state they are. There is also the prospect of having the traffic diverted in other ways. I am aware that in these days small concerns cannot stand by themselves. There is need for amalgamation. We see that by the banks, how even private banks have joined together for self-protection and development. That move has been a great success. Something of that kind could be done with the railways. I am not propounding a Bill. I leave that to the higher authorities who understand it. I think this country would be downright mad to accept any of the responsibility that is likely, if the State took over the management of the railways, without exhausting every other avenue by which the prosperity of the railways and the country could be promoted.
The last Deputy stated that the Government would be downright mad if they took over the railways. I think it would be an act of courage and wisdom on the part of the Government to take over complete control of transport. After all, the Bill is really an act of faith in what we hear so much about, Irish democracy. I believe that if we take a wrong turning now in this matter of national transport, we will slow down the pace of the future development of the country. We have nationalisation already in essential services, such as law, education, the civil service, and so forth, which has worked very well. Now that we have real Irish State control, I have no doubt these services will work much better. I do not see why the Government should hesitate to apply the same principle to national transport. As I say, if it worked well in the other services, I believe the same principle should be applied to national transport, which is the roadway to commerce and industry. We know that capitalists have made that a very slow, a very costly, and a very difficult road. If we are to have merely a system of dual control, if we are to retain the capitalists, and still actively interfere with them, then we will find them putting all the blame for their own shortcomings on the State. We, on these Benches, offer the Government and the country what we think is a solution of the problem and what is fair to every interest. I am sure it will not be contended that those who control the State are inferior in ability to the people who presently control the transport system. One might ask why, then, delegate to others what the State should do itself? I am quite sure if the Government would take over the Bill and put their trust in the State, the country will respond and will justify that trust. I appeal to the Dáil to accept this Bill, which is a constructive effort on the part of the Labour Party and the workers to try and help the nation.
Deputy Morrissey describes this Bill as an act of faith in Irish democracy. I am not quite sure about the act of faith, but it is certainly an act of courage on the part of the Labour Party, and I am sure that the urgency of the problem with which it deals, is their justification for the bringing forward of such an unusual measure of responsibility by private members. I think that Deputy Morrissey has possibly erred in declaring that democracy was exactly the same thing as nationalisation, because the United States is a democracy—at least they very frequently tell you so—but there is no country in the world more hostile to nationalisation and more favourable to private enterprise than the United States.
They pay for it.
They may be converted in time, but presently they are not. Therefore, I think democracy cannot be said to be synonymous with nationalisation. I wish that we had the question of nationalisation and the desirability of nationalisation discussed at greater length. Deputy Johnson, I think, swept it away with a wave of the hand when he said that nationalisation of railways was not Bolshevist. It certainly is not. I agree. Prussia, before the war, nationalised the railways, and before the war she was not Bolshevist. Really, Deputy Johnson is letting his natural conservatism carry him too far when he suggests that because a thing is not Bolshevist therefore it must be good. This is a subject of which I have not made a close study, and I apologise to the Dáil. Any remarks that I have to make on nationalisation are based mainly on my own experience. There is a function for State railways, but I think where State railways are needed are in Eastern countries where the work, in the main, is done by coloured labour. The Egyptian State railways are good and efficient, and I believe the Indian State railways are good. As far as Western Europe is concerned, all my experience has gone to show that the State railways are not as good and are not as efficient, or as comfortable, and do not treat the traveller as well as the private owned railways. In France there is one State owned railway, the Western Railway, which is not only more unpunctual than the others, but is more difficult to deal with, and the traveller is treated as a unit and not as a person whose custom is desired. On that railway there is a very much higher percentage of accidents than any other railway in France.
The Italian State railways have improved enormously since the advent to power of Signor Mussolini, but I take it the Labour Party does not intend permanently installing a Signor Mussolini on the Irish railways; and before Signor Mussolini took charge they were grossly over-staffed, with a railway official travelling in every compartment. There was extraordinary unpunctuality —it was nothing unusual to arrive at Rome four hours late on a twenty-four hours' journey—and they were exceedingly dirty. Things are better now. But even now you can travel more comfortably and more quickly in a second-class on other lines than you do in a first-class carriage on the Italian State railways. I cannot say that this is exhaustive, as I do not know the railways of Eastern Europe well. Deputies may very well be able to bring forward arguments that will confute me, but my personal experience goes to show me that nationalisation does not mean greater efficiency, and certainly does not mean greater contentment among the employés of the railways. Nor do we observe in the State-owned services of this country, to which Deputy Morrissey referred, that officials, such as postal servants, are contented. Did they never strike? I have heard of a good deal of discontent amongst them. Are the teachers, who are employed by the State, in a condition of contentment with their lot? I think not. State ownership does not remove the ordinary grievances that are felt by people working for their living from day to day, but turns them against the State as an employer instead of against the private employer. Where the State itself is concerned in a matter of this kind you get a situation which at once becomes difficult and not infrequently dangerous.
I want to turn to one or two points in the Bill. I do not intend criticising the proposed method of working. Deputy Hewat did that, and I have no intimate knowledge of it. I only say that, judging by my general experience, these Committees and Panels that are to be set up will probably cause a good deal of criticism, or else they will become entirely defective. To go from that to one or two specific points in the Bill—it might be submitted that specific points should be left over to the Committee Stage—but I submit that there is some justification for anticipating the Committee Stage of this Bill. The first is the question of finance. Deputy Johnson said he had adopted the precedent of the Minister for Agriculture in dealing with land, and that that was generally accepted by all parties as fair and right. I assure Deputy Johnson that if I had been in the last Dáil the Minister for Agriculture would have heard a good deal on the subject of fifteen years' purchase.
So he did.
Would you have suggested twelve?
I would not; and I think the Minister for Agriculture would have met with very much more determined opposition within and outside the Dáil than he did had it not been for the position in which the Government were placed at the time. They were faced with enormous difficulties, and the landlords were very reluctant to increase and augment their difficulties by pressing for their inherent rights. They did not consider that fifteen years' purchase was right, and I do not think that Deputy Gorey considers that fifteen years' purchase of railway shares is right, whatever he might apply to the land. In this case I prefer to speak on the principle that two wrongs do not make a right, that if the landlord sold at fifteen years' purchase and put the proceeds into railway stock, sacrificing a considerable portion of his income, he should then be again paid under this Bill at fifteen years' purchase. That he should be placed in that position, does not seem to me fair or reasonable.
There are one or two points of finance in the Bill that puzzle me. Deputy Johnson said, with regard to the Terminable Annuities, that after seventy-two years the debt would be discharged. He did not quite say the debt to whom, to the owner of the shares or to the State. It would be discharged by paying 4¾ per cent. for seventy-two years, and then there is nothing. Is that a form of investment that is likely to commend itself to an investor—a terminable investment? Is a man who wishes to make provision for his children likely to buy stock of that kind, that will steadily fall year after year?
He has an option.
He has an option, exactly; and as every sane man will exercise his option, why the proposal was put into the Bill beats me. I can only suppose that originally the Bill was drafted with this drastic proviso and some more reasonable spirit in the Labour Party suggested that some option was necessary.
It is the other way about.
Because nobody in his senses will accept these Terminable Annuities, redeemable stock for seventy-two years to be paid off at par. Is that a reasonable form of investment? If it is going to be paid off at par it would mean a Sinking Fund. I am a child in matters of finance, but I do not think that if you have such a Sinking Fund you could possibly pay off any investment at par in less than four hundred years, or some time like that, if you were to combine interest and Sinking Fund.
It is fifteen years' purchase in the Bill.
In other words, it will not be paid off at what is commonly called par.
But, even so, it is contemplating something very much more drastic, and unlike the reassuring statements made by Deputy Johnson when he moved the Second Reading. If a quarter per cent. for seventy-two years will be sufficient to pay off all these things, it means that some of them will be paid off very much lower than is indicated.
Perhaps the Deputy would excuse me if I explained that the railway stock would be redeemable in seventy-two years.
But will it be redeemed out of the Sinking Fund or by the monies to be provided by the State?
Out of the Sinking Fund.
My contention is that the Sinking Fund would be inadequate. I will leave the point. Perhaps when Deputy Johnson, or Deputy O'Connell, or Deputy Davin replies, he will enlighten me more. It obviously cannot be dealt with by interruptions. How can Deputy Johnson bind a tribunal that is not yet in existence?
It is not intended to.
They cannot bind a tribunal. The tribunal may take a very different point of view, and this point of view ought to be recognised by the Dáil before they give this Bill a Second Reading. As a matter of fact, Deputy Johnson, or whoever drafted the Bill, has taken pains to see that the tribunal cannot do more than a certain amount of justice, because he has fixed the maximum price at which stock is to be redeemed, and he has not fixed the minimum price. He said the maximum price would probably turn out to be the minimum. Deputy Johnson very often reminds me of the late Mr. Gladstone. This reminds me of an assurance —I was not born at the time—that was given by Mr. Gladstone, on the introduction of the Land Bill of 1881. He then promised the Irish landlords that only in very exceptional cases would rents be reduced, and that in most cases they would be increased. I take Deputy Johnson's assurance, that the maximum in this case will probably also be the minimum, as having about as much value as that other assurance.
If he wanted a minimum, why did he not put in a minimum? It was open to him to put in a minimum as well as a maximum if he wanted to reassure the shareholders, but he did not do so. Deputy Johnson is thoroughly consistent. He will have no minimum penalty for poachers or railway shareholders, whom he probably regards as offenders on a somewhat larger scale, but while there is no minimum whatever to protect the shareholder the tribunal can under this Bill deprive him of his rights. There is plenty of protection in the Second Schedule for every existing railway servant, who shall not be transferred without his own consent, or placed in any worse position whatever. I now come to another Section, which, I think, has not been noticed, and has not been referred to by Deputy Johnson or anyone else; that is, Section 41: "It shall be lawful for any person employed under the Minister to become a member of Dáil Eireann or Seanad Eireann"—well, they can become so now—"or to participate in any civil or political action in like manner as if such person were not employed under the Minister." That is, he has full civil rights, and can become an election agent, or sub-agent, or personation agent, and he can take an active part in politics. Up to the present the railways have very carefully kept their employees out of politics. They have been so careful that they have even refused to display political bills on the hoardings at the stations, but this gives every servant employed on the Irish railways the right to full political action. When you take your ticket at the booking office you may have a political leaflet shoved out to you with it, and every railway station would probably become a committee room in the service of one party. What is more, by a later Section, Deputy Johnson proposes to extend this power and this immunity to all postal servants as well. You will find yourself being canvassed by the postman when he delivers your letters in the morning. I venture to think that it is not desirable we should have a vast army of servants employed by the State, and at the same time endowed with absolutely full political and civil rights, which civil servants are not allowed. At present postal servants are not allowed it. I think the political right that is sought to be conferred by the Bill is, on the whole, a dangerous one, and should not be given. I turn to my last point, and that is the position under this Bill of those railways which are not in the Saorstát at all. I was astonished when I read the Schedule and saw there the Belfast and County Down Railway, the Northern Counties Committee of the Midland Railway, the Giant's Causeway and Bush Valley Tramway, and one or two others which are not under our control. No one dislikes partition more than I do, and no one is more anxious to see partition put to an end than I am, but you do not put an end to partition by pretending it does not exist, and most certainly you do not make it easier to bring about union by assuming powers to legislate for those over whom you have no control. How can you compel a man in Belfast to give up his shares in the Belfast and County Down Railway? We have no power to do that, and that power shall be conferred on the Executive Council who can fix any appointed day they think fit for railways which are not entirely in the Saorstát. If you wish to exercise that power you will have to go to war, and I hardly think that can be seriously contemplated even by the Labour Party. If there was nothing else in the Bill that I objected to but the inclusion of those railways over which we have no control, and making it possible for them to be taken over on the appointed day fixed by the Executive Council, that alone, I think, would be sufficient to condemn the Bill. Also you leave out the railways that are partly in the Saorstát and partly out of it, such as the Great Northern Railway. It shows the unreality of the Bill, and it proves that it is only window-dressing. You might as well have said that for this second class of railways the appointed day should be Tibb's Eve.
Deputy Johnson prefaced his remarks in moving the Second Reading by stating that the Bill was not presented in the expectation of its passing, making any revolutionary change or adding to any great extent to the well-being of the masses of the people. To my mind there is a very grave necessity for some decided change in the present system of administration or management of the railways with a view to developing the country in the interests of the masses.
I regret having to raise this point—it occurred once or twice before—is it in order for a Deputy to read his speech?
I think it is not in order, but he can refer to notes.
I desire to support the Second Reading. In the first instance, I think it will be generally admitted, in spite of some remarks passed by Deputy Hewat and Deputy Cooper, that the railways of Ireland are not satisfactory. As a matter of fact most of the Commissions that have considered the question of railways during recent years have stated definitely that they are unsatisfactory and that they have not been worked efficiently. All these Commissions reported that in their opinion some system of unification was needed, and the only thing on which the members of the Commission differed was as to whether it should be unification under private ownership and control, or unification under State ownership. Personally, I think that unification under private ownership would be giving too great a monopoly to private interests, which they could use for their benefit at the expense of the people generally. Deputy Hewat, after having mentioned some of the interests that would be catered for by the Bill, wanted to know would it cater for the travelling public, and he suggested that it would not. I ask Deputy Hewat, and people who think like him, does the present system of railway ownership in Ireland cater for the travelling public? I know in a good many cases it does not. Anyone who has travelled from South Wexford to Waterford on the Dublin South Eastern Railway knows that when you get into Waterford from, say Ballycullane, on the Great Southern you will find that the train going North by way of New Ross has left about 10 minutes before your arrival at Waterford, and the result is if you are in a hurry it is necessary to get a motor car, and if you are not in a hurry you can wait 7 or 8 hours for the next train. I do not know whether it is the fault of the Great Southern and Western Railway or of the Dublin and South Eastern, but I certainly think that if these railway companies were studying the comfort of the travelling public they would at least arrange their time table so that one train would arrive 15 minutes earlier or the other leave 15 minutes later, so as to allow five minutes for the passengers to change. That is an instance which anyone who has been in that part of the country will call to mind. It happened to myself on a number of occasions, and according to the time tables, which I have consulted, the discrepancy still exists. The farming section, I think, should also give a good deal of attention to the Bill. Recently when we were discussing the cost of living and the necessity for a better method of marketing goods, the Minister for Agriculture complimented the Secretary of the Cork Farmers' Association on having got his members to market foodstuffs, and the like, cattle, sheep and pigs from Co. Cork, during the time of the dock strike, directly to England instead of waiting on the shipping merchants. On that occasion Bantry was used for the purpose of shipping the various kinds of agricultural goods to England. I would like to mention that from the Macroom area during the time railways were controlled by the British Government it was quite possible to put goods on the railway at Macroom and send them direct to Bantry.
Simply because the Cork and Macroom Railway is under different management from the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway, when control was removed in 1921, the points connecting the two lines were lifted at the orders of the management of the Macroom line. The result was that during the recent dockers' strike, farmers who tried to get their goods away were compelled to send them by road to Bantry, instead of direct by train from Macroom. I also remember about six weeks ago a deputation came from Macroom to wait on the Minister for Industry and Commerce and to ask him to use his power to compel the Cork and Macroom Company to connect their line with that of the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Company. They pointed out that to bring coal to Macroom, by way of Cork, it was necessary to cart it from the quay-side, a distance of about half a mile, to Capwell station. Although there was a connection from the quay-side with the Cork and Macroom Railway the management would not allow it to be used. In some discussions which we had on the matter, the manager of the Cork and Macroom Railway asked, in the event of this connection being made again as it was during the war, what would become of Capwell station? We find this peculiar state of affairs under the present system—that instead of the Cork and Macroom Railway, about twenty-three miles in length, existing for the benefit of the people, it exists solely for the benefit of Capwell station. That is a thing that would not exist if there was unified control or State control of the railways. They would be used in the interests of the people. In Berlin I believe there is a railway museum housed in a station that became derelict after the nationalisation of the railways in Germany. There they did not hesitate to scrap a station or any other part of a system that was of use no longer.
Deputy Hewat pointed out that the railways were mostly a failure when promoted or subsidised by the Government. I would like to point out that subsidising a railway and leaving it under the control of private interests is different from State ownership and State control. During the war, and for a number of years prior to it, I believe the railways of Ireland were subsidised to the extent of over ten millions, which was paid by the taxpayers of this country into the pockets of the private owners of the railways without the people of the country having one pennyworth of control in the running of those railways. We merely want to get away from that. All the Commissions which dealt with the railway problem realised that the railways are inefficient when run and controlled privately, and that they will never prove paying concerns for the present owners. We claim, if there is to be any subsidy, we should go the whole hog, and if we have to pay the difference between the amount necessary to run the railways and the amount the railways can make, we should get full control, and if there are any profits, we should get the profits that are made. I should like to point out, for Deputy Hewat's benefit, that in Prussia the State railways earned sufficient money to pay the interest on capital and yielded a surplus which increased from one million in 1882 to twenty-three millions in 1907. In 1907-8 the amount yielded by the railways in profit to the State was three times as much as the amount of money got from income tax, and more than double that got from the income and property taxes combined. The total surplus from 1882 to 1907 was two hundred and sixty millions. I would like to read from a book called "The Nationalisation of Railways." It is a bit out of date, but the arguments apply at any time. Here is a quotation contained in it from the "Sunday Times." I see that Deputy Gorey laughs, but I do not mind that. I am rather pleased that he is in such good health as to enjoy a laugh. I would like to point out that writers in a paper like the "Sunday Times" cannot be accused of being favourable to State ownership or nationalisation. On the contrary, the people who control the "Sunday Times" and papers of that class-always shout the loudest for hands off on the part of the State from interference with private interests. In spite of that, the writers in the "Sunday Times" can recognise facts when they see them, and state them in a way that can be understood by common people. I mention that to show that there is some justification for treating you to this quotation. There was a discussion in the different papers at this time on the question of the nationalisation of railways, and this is what the "Sunday Times" said:—
"Under these circumstances, it is of interest to see how Prussia, the cradle of nationalisation, has fared by its policy. If we summarise the budget of that kingdom we find that its administration costs six hundred and eighty-seven million marks, of which three hundred and fifty-nine millions are covered by taxes. There is thus a shortage of three hundred and twenty-eight millions balanced by the surplus from the working of State properties. Forests and demesnes supply 68 millions, mines 18 millions, lotteries 9 millions, the State bank four and a half millions, and the mint half a million, while no less than two hundred and twenty-eight millions come from the railways—the latter after providing two hundred and ninety-three millions for interest on debt created for purchasing the property. In other words, one-third of the State's expenditure is provided by the surplus profits of the railways, whose total receipts amounted to 2,052½ million marks. The financial position of Prussia has, of late, been subjected to criticism, but, as a matter of fact, it remains sound, thanks mainly to the revenue derived from Bismarck's acquisitions. Indeed, if we capitalise the goodwill of Prussia's industrial surplus of 328 millions on a 4 per cent. basis, we arrive at a capital of 8,250 million marks. Deducting therefrom the net Government debt, not represented by assets, 500 millions, there remains an asset of 7,750 millions, or £387,500,000 as national wealth. Not an unfavourable balance, and mainly due to the timely nationalisation of the railways. No doubt, the railway problem presents itself in different forms in the various countries. But a study of the results of State railway administration in its classic home is not without teaching some useful lessons."
Deputy Hewat asked as to why we should specify railways, and he wanted to know what was the difference between railways and other concerns. In my opinion, all other private businesses in the country depend to a large extent on railways and the other transport facilities. He also pointed out that, through the operation of political forces, a preferential and peculiar position for rail servants was established, a position which, he said, would never have applied in this country under ordinary conditions. He suggested by that, that the railway workers in this country used their political power, such as it was, to obtain conditions that were not warranted, and that would never have been obtained in the ordinary way if the railways had remained under private control. He implied by that that the wages of railway men were something extraordinary; his exact words are: "preferential and peculiar." I would like to point out that if they got increases in their wages during the days when the railways were controlled by the British Government, the wages they got then certainly did not bring them to a great state of prosperity, and that the wages they had in pre-war days, prior to Government control, were not such that either Deputy Hewat, or any railway shareholder or business man, or employer of labour, might cry about them. Mr. Keogh, representing the railway companies at the late Railway Commission which sat here, said that the average wages of all grades—many of them including skilled men—in 1913 was 20s. 8d., while the average paid to Scottish workers was 27s. 4d. On that showing, the average wage here was 6s. 8d. less than in Scotland and in England in pre-war days. If that is the case, I certainly think the railway workers here were entitled to some increased remuneration, in view of the fact that they had been so badly paid, comparatively, in pre-war days, and also in view of the fact that the cost of living had been considerably increased. I would like to point out to Deputy Hewat—he admitted it towards the end of his remarks—that this is not altogether a Rail Bill, but that it is a Transport and Communications Bill, and that it proposes to control the waterways as well as the road transport of the country.
As things are at present, there is no connection between road transport and rail transport, but if the whole transport work of the country were put under one Ministry, with power of improvement in the general interest, it is very likely that arrangements would be made between the different railway companies and the boats to Cork which Deputy Hewat mentioned, as well as with those who control the roads at the present time. He also pointed out that the law of increasing wages will not apply in this country in the future.
Deputy Bryan Cooper mentioned an incident in his experience to show that privately-owned railways were worked more efficiently and gave a better service to the travelling public than publicly-owned railways. He said that he saw some passengers in a German railway train looking out through the windows while passing through a station——
On a point of explanation, it was Deputy Woulfe said that.
I am sorry. Deputy Woulfe explained that, on inquiry, he found that the reason the passengers were looking through the window was that there were no seats. He instanced that to prove that State-owned railways gave worse facilities than privately-owned railways, either in Great Britain or Ireland. I would like to go a little bit further and to point out that these passengers were in fourth class carriages, and that there never have been any fourth class carriages in these countries on railways under private management. I would also like to point out that the fare that was paid for travelling fourth class on German railways was a fare that has never been touched in these countries. As a matter of fact, you could travel a little more than five miles for twopence in pre-war days, when the charge here was a penny a mile. I think that altogether negatives the claim of the Deputy regarding the people who had to stand up. In this country you would not be allowed to stand, even in a cattle truck, for any distance, for the fare charged there. I am not cognisant of the conditions that exist at the present time, but I believe that the rates on the Continental State-owned railways are much lower than the rates charged on the privately-owned railways in these countries, either for passenger or goods traffic. In some cases you can go as far on the Belgian railways as three thousand miles for the same amount that you would pay for a journey of fifty-one miles, between two points, in England or Ireland. In some cases the Austrian State Railways gave a journey of six miles for 2d., pre-war, twelve miles for 4d., and four hundred miles for 16/3. These prices have never been approached in these countries. If the matter were seriously considered, it would be found that there was a better case made for nationalisation of the railways than ever has been made for the continuance of the present system. Before I finish, I would like to mention the views of a couple of people who are very interested in this problem, and in other problems——
It is not in order to read the views of anybody in that way. You can mention them.
It is only a quotation. The first is Sir Eric Geddes, who, in moving the second reading of the——
You cannot read another person's speech here.
I am only giving you a quotation from it. It is less than a paragraph in length. I am not reading another man's speech.
We do not know how far it may go.
In any case, he said that there was a great necessity for a go-ahead and vitalising system of transportation, and that the House—that was the British House of Commons— as a whole was committed to that system. I would like to point out that, if Sir Eric Geddes considered, and the British House of Commons was convinced, there was a great necessity for a change in the system of railway control in England, the necessity exists to a greater extent in this country, because the railways in this country, it will be admitted by every Farmer Deputy in this Dáil and every farmer in the country who talks about the rates for transportation, are even worse than the railways of England. If it is necessary to make a change on the railways of England, in the interests of economy, the interests of better administration, and in the interests of the people of the country as a whole, it seems more necessary to do so in this country. Therefore, I desire to support the Second Reading of this Transport and Communications Bill.
Deputy Johnson, in the remarks he made on the Second Reading of this Bill, stated that it was not going to make any revolutionary changes, and he did not presume that it was going to result in any substantial saving to the community. Thereby he gave away his whole case. If no material change for the benefit of the community could be anticipated, why does he embark upon a dangerous experiment of this kind? State and corporate control of undertakings do not encourage us to embark upon a sea in which there have been so many wrecks. If—and it has not been suggested so far; it was not suggested by Deputy Johnson—the position of Irish railways, taking all the associated circumstances into account, was in any degree much worse than the conditions where railways are under control of private ownership in other countries, why should we here embark upon a policy of what I look upon as a capital levy in a disguised form?
The writing is on the wall.
The writing may be on the wall but is it going to materialise? I am not at all in agreement with the optimistic view expressed by Deputy Johnson, when he stated "when this Bill is passed" for, though I am ignorant of the Government proposals with respect to railway control in this country, I think I can confidently commit myself to this, that with the Government the policy of commonsense is going to prevail and we are not going to pass this Bill. The doctrine has been laid down by Deputy Johnson that pre-war conditions are impossible conditions for the workers. Is the stockholder in a Railway Company in a different position with regard to increased expenditure to the worker? Has the stockholder of the Railway Company ever received out of the company in which he invested his money anything more than a reasonable return, and, in very, very many cases, much less than the return he might reasonably expect, taking into account the capital invested and the risks that he undertook?
The plea has been made that the finance of this Bill is fashioned on the finance of the Land Bill. But the two parties whom you propose to buy out will never be put upon the same plane as regards the moral right they have— the one to the land and the other as a stockholder in a railway company. It has never been admitted here that the landlords of Ireland had a moral right to the land. Their ownership was the result of confiscation. The stockholder in the railway company created the property; the landlord of Ireland did not. In dealing with these two people we were dealing on the one side with one who acquired his property as a result of a policy that sought to make the Celt as rare on the banks of the Shannon as the Red Indian on the shores of the Manhattan, and on the other side with the Irish investor who had the courage, when the Government would not do it, to put his money into railway development and make modern transit possible in Ireland. Under those conditions you cannot deal with these two people, it is not an equitable proposition to deal with these two people on the same basis of settlement. What would be the net result to the stockholder in the railway companies if effect were given to the proposals of Deputy Johnson? Take the case of the company in which the average earnings for the five years ending 1913 would be 4 per cent. The Deputy proposes that the maximum capital of stock payment in that case would be 15 years' purchase, or £60. He does not guarantee the figure at 15 years' purchase. There is not the same fixity as in the case of the Bill promoted by the Minister for Agriculture, but it is clearly stated that the maximum cannot be more than fifteen years' purchase. Now, £60 would be three-fifths of the par value of that stock, and three-fifths of the four per cent. stock will give the stockholder an income over a limited number of years, as was pointed out by Deputy Cooper, of something like £2 14s. or £2 15s. per cent. per annum, so that the stockholder not alone is not to have the income that he had before the war, but he has to face the world and all the increased cost of living, entailed as a result of the war, with a considerably reduced income.
The Deputy does not recognise such a suggestion as being in any way possible when he deals with labour. What is the stock held by the stockholders in this country? It is the fund provided as the result of labour and activities in some form or another, and provided in many cases by people who, through penuriousness and through denying themselves the ordinary little luxuries and enjoyments that they may have in this life, were enabled to make some provision for the future, and I look upon the proposal to conscript, and to conscript substantially, the miserable income that they enjoyed previous to the war, as an absolutely immoral thing. No case has been made or presented so far for an alteration such as is suggested in the Deputy's Bill. It may come in time.
At any rate, we have not yet reached that time. When it does come, and when conditions would warrant such a substantial change as the Bill suggests, then the good sense of the Dáil would, in the altered conditions, make the change. Why is it desirable to make this change? Why is this change in any degree necessary? It is a change which, if at all necessary or at all desirable, is a change following upon State management, or rather State mismanagement, of railways during the period of the war. Associated with the railways of Ireland was expenditure in labour and expenditure in other details that the circumstances of the time, to a certain extent, possibly may be an excuse for, but that the conditions of the Irish railways and Irish traffic by no means warranted.
The Deputy further on in his speech absolutely gives away any pretence of making a case in favour of his proposal when he says: "I am very doubtful whether an efficient railway system can, in this country, be provided without some form of public assistance," so that even under the new conditions that he proposes, the conditions that are supposed to end all difficulty with respect to an effective, an efficient and an economic railway service in Ireland, he admits that this Bill is not going to provide for all that efficiency and particularly for that economy. He still anticipated that a State subsidy will be necessary to enable the railways to continue to function.
Deputy Nagle quoted some Scotch case. I will quote particulars from a Scottish railway as compared with Irish railways, and they will show that where there is not a material difference in the capital, the Irish railways, for a much smaller revenue and a much smaller transit of merchandise, have to travel considerably longer distances with, I need hardly say, less satisfactory results for the shareholders. If, as the Deputy surmised, and as we all hope and believe, things in the near future are going materially to improve in this country, do we not think that the people who built the railways and who put their monies into railway concerns, and who had the courage to do that which the Government of the time had failed to do, should receive some consideration? If that improvement is going to result, do we not think that before it takes place it would be absolutely unfair that their ownership in the railways should be conscripted, and that if we are going to purchase, that they should at least get the benefit they are legitimately entitled to from the improvement that would result in the State in which we are all common citizens?
I will take the case of all Irish railways. The capital expenditure on all Irish railways up to the end of 1913 was £43,364,255. The Caledonian Railway in Scotland had a capital expenditure of a little over £56,000,000. For their smaller capital the Irish railway system ran 3,410 miles, and the Scottish railways ran only one-third of that, or 1,111 miles. The revenue receipts were Ireland were £4,782,000, and in Scotland the revenue receipts were £5,467,000. The receipts per mile in Ireland amounted to £1,402, and in Scotland £4,920. The revenue expenditure in Ireland was a little over £3,000,000, and on the Caledonian railway about £3,250,000.
The tonnage carried, merchandise, coal and minerals, in Ireland was six and two-thirds millions, and twenty-eight and a-quarter millions in Scotland. Passengers in Ireland were thirty-one millions, as against fortyseven millions in Scotland. Now that goes to show that when we are dealing with the railway system in Ireland we must remember the circumscribed opportunities that it has as compared with other countries. We must also remember that hitherto the shareholders in Ireland have had a very inadequate all round return on the capital invested in the companies. Some Deputies will remember that some seven weeks ago the Great Southern and Western Railway published a schedule showing the rates of wages paid to their employees, as compared with the cross-Channel rates of wages, and while, in the instances I have quoted, the earning power of the cross-Channel railways was considerably more than the earning power per mile of the Irish railways, the wages paid to the Irish employees were considerably more than the wages paid across the water.
On what date?
About six or seven weeks ago. That, I think, is near enough.
Can the Deputy give the figures?
I will give one of the figures, and the Deputy may not be so pleased when he gets the information. In this particular case the Great Southern Railway pointed out that the cost of producing a carriage at their Inchicore works under the favourable conditions existing at the time when they made the statements, that is, after a reduction of six shillings a week had taken place in the wages of their employees, the cost of producing the carriage even under the new conditions would be £300 more than it would cost them to import it from across the water. And they stated that prior to the reduction which had taken place—this statement did not appear in the papers, but I got it myself—the difference in the cost of the production of the carriage for the same specification, landed at North Wall, and produced at Inchicore works was £527. Is it to bolster up a condition like that that this Bill is introduced? If that is the policy we are adopting, whether Deputy Johnson denies it or no, the principle of Nationalisation is associated with it.
When did I deny it?
I think the Deputy in his speech said it was not Nationalisation or Bolshevism.
Are they interchangeable terms?
Here are the exact words: "It is not put forward here in deference to any preconception in regard to nationalisation or State ownership."
Is that all?
There is the remark later on: "It is neither revolutionary, radical Bolshevism, nor anything of an abnormal nature." Therefore Deputy Johnson recognises Nationalisation is of an abnormal nature.
You are a logician.
At any rate the principle does apply to this, and I think the Deputy in the last twelve months made a statement in this Dáil that shareholders in railway companies, having had the shares in their possession for a certain number of years and having got a return equivalent to their capital under private ownership have no moral ownership any longer as their money was returned to them. That is a most dangerous doctrine to enunciate because it could be applied to the farmers in a few years time. If a man having purchased his land in a couple of years received in produce from that a return equal to his capital it might be argued that then his ownership was at an end. It would apply to the ordinary trader. Any business having had a certain amount of capital put into it, and having had a return equivalent to that capital it might be argued that the owner was no longer entitled to the ownership of the business. If that is the doctrine the Deputy stands behind, and if that doctrine was pressed successfully Ireland would be a very unhealthy place for the ordinary citizen to live in.
Everyone admits that the pre-war wages of the railway workers were too low, but we have to consider if the present wages are warranted by the earning powers of the railways in Ireland, because it is not a good enough policy to suggest that if the State takes over the railways the taxpayers can again be approached to make good any deficit on their earnings; that is not a good enough national policy. We have to consider whether the existing conditions in Ireland warrant the payment of the present rates of wages. If they do we must continue to pay them, and if they do not, wages must be fitted in as one unit in the economic machine, because if the factors are against us it is only by increasing the rates that the wages can be continued at their present level.
I agree with the Labour members that the existing railway charges are, in a sense, prohibitive. Railway fares and railway rates are too high to make progress in the country. If we are going to have substantial industrial or agricultural progress, railway rates must come down. It is a question that ought to be considered in conference. The conference should be representative of the Government, of the railway employees and of Labour generally, and of the industrial and farming elements of the community, and an effort should be made to see to what extent conditions might be altered so as to enable more favourable terms to prevail in the country as regards the transit of goods. There is no doubt but that the present rates are a stranglehold upon development, but at the same time we realise that the railway returns go to show that any material interferences with these charges will result, if not in actual loss, at least in a miserable return to those whose capital is invested in the different companies. Deputy Johnson quoted the capital figures involved in the case of seven railways. In the case of the seven principal railways in the country there is a sum of something like £40,400,000 invested. In the five years included by the Deputy in his Bill, the net distributive earnings of these Companies was £1,558,570.
Is that the average?
Is that figure official?
Yes. I am dealing with the seven principal railway companies in the country. The amount of money invested in these represents 85 per cent. of the railway capital in Ireland. The loss in revenue, if effect were given to this Bill, would be £506,535. In addition, since the year 1913, a sum of £466,000 of additional capital has been put into the Irish railway companies. The Deputy makes no provision as regards the discharge of liability on this, except that I assume he intends that it should water down the return on the others. He is only going to pay apparently from his Bill on the figures as we find them at the end of 1913, and, therefore, the additional capital of nearly £500,000 will be a further watering down of the return to the shareholders.
Can the Deputy say in what year the additional capital was sunk?
I cannot give the year, but it was since the year 1913.
Was it prior to the year 1917?
I cannot say that, but it was certainly since the year 1913. At any rate, it is outside the ambit of your Bill, or the period which you provide for. I think a strong case was made for unification by Deputy Nagle. He addressed himself particularly to the policy of unification, and, to my mind, at any rate, I do not know whether it commends itself to other Deputies or to the Government, but I believe that unification is the immediate solution of the question. Let us, I say, proceed by easy stages. If unification is a success——
On a point of order, I desire to ask if this question of unification is before us?
It was discussed at some length already by previous speakers.
I submit it is in order, because it is one of the principles involved in this Bill; that is to say, unification with national ownership.
I desire to ask if it is open to me to discuss unification on this Bill?
The Deputy cannot discuss the question now as he has spoken already.
Deputy Hewat suggested that State control or nationalisation is the big point of unification. Unification, as we look upon it in this country, will represent two controlling bodies, the two big companies, and bring them into one. At any rate I am going to be very short on that point with which Deputy Nagle dealt with at some length. I think it would be a safe step to adopt in railway policy, and that it would mean more effective and more efficient control. You could, I believe, embody with the principle of unification representation of different interests on the new controlling bodies, if the Government so desires, and I think it would be desirable. You have an instance of that in the control of the Port of London, a very big project in which various interests, labour and other, are incorporated in the controlling body, with most effective results as regards the working of that body and as regards a satisfactory revenue and a satisfactory profit. We all have community of interest, whether we be employers or employees. We have a common country, and in the success of that common country we ought to take a common interest and take occasion to sink all prejudices and all the differences that are sometimes unwisely associated with us as individuals. I am sure that if the voice of labour gives expression through men of moderate views and of individual capacity, such as the Deputy at the head of the Labour Party and of others associated with him, that not alone should we agree to sink our differences, but that in the sinking of them we would undoubtedly put the country, as regard labour disputes and the settlement of undertakings of this kind, on the high road to progress.
There is just one matter in connection with unity of control which I did not refer to. In Ireland, at the end of 1921, we had 170 railway directors. On the Caledonian Railway in Scotland, with its larger capital and its bigger operations, they had 11. Let us all join forces to get rid of a condition of things such as that, and I believe we can then, without resorting to this Bill —which I think is premature—evolve a new and more effective system of railway control, administration and operation, which will result in much greater benefits from every point of view to the country.
I beg to move the adjournment of the Debate, as there is a matter coming up on the adjournment.