When Deputy Mahony finished speaking yesterday evening I could not escape hearing Deputy Gorey murmur: "Divide, divide." I felt that was the first indication we had in this Dáil from Deputy Gorey that there was introduced a measure as to voting for or against which Deputy Gorey could not give any reason. I felt if the Labour Party had done nothing more than bring in a Bill upon which Deputy Gorey could not express his views it had justified its existence as a party.
PRIVATE BUSINESS. - TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS BILL—SECOND STAGE (RESUMED).
Do not be too sure.
It may be that the views of the Farmers' Party were expressed in this matter in the Commission when Mr. Young of Stradbally gave evidence. I come from Mr. Young's area. In the recent election, as a member of the Labour Party that had put forward this policy of nationalisation of railways as one of the main planks of its platform, I headed the poll at that election. If Deputy Gorey assumes that he is putting forward the views of the farmers of Leix and Offaly he has no right to say he is doing it on their behalf. The Labour Party polled 9,040 votes. Deputy Gorey's three nominees polled 5,400. None of them was elected, and one of them lost £100. Perhaps it is for that reason that Deputy Gorey is silent in the debate. I am sorry Deputy Figgis intervened yesterday in the debate, and prevented a member of the Government Party from giving expression to his views. I regret it, because I remember that particular member, as well as a number of other members to-day sitting on the Government benches around him, being on the hustings as advocates of a policy of railway nationalisation. I was eager for some of them to give reasons why they changed their minds in this matter. I also regret that since the introduction of this Bill, the Minister responsible for railway matters has not been present in the Dáil. May I express the hope that this is not an indication of his lack of attention to a matter as important as that contained in this Bill? Deputy Hewat said: "As a novice in political matters, it strikes me as strange that a Bill of this public importance should be introduced as a Private Bill. Whereas the Bill is brought forward by a leader of the Opposition, the attitude of the Government seems open to question. They have given us very little guidance in the matter, and it seems to me the Government are in the happy position of looking on while the Opposition exploit the proposition of how far it will go down in the country."
May I assure Deputy Hewat that so far as the Labour Party are concerned they had decided previous to the dissolution of the third Dáil to introduce a measure which it is now my pleasure to support. Therefore, so far as that is concerned, they are not the instruments of any other parties or persons in this Dáil. The measure Deputy Johnson introduced was drafted after very long and careful consideration by people who have had a long experience of railway administration in Great Britain and Ireland. I am not supporting this Bill in the interests of railway servants. Railway servants, like every other section of the trades union movement, are only too well informed of what they might expect since the Free State Government functioned in this country. They are under no delusion as to the treatment they might expect as servants of the Free State Government. That aspect does not weigh with us. I hope that unlike what has happened in the previous division that the members of this Dáil who have thought over this matter will not be running out to the lobby when a division is called, but that they will be here to give expression by their votes to their feelings on this measure. It is too common for members to take up the time of this Dáil speaking to amendments to Bills, and when the division bell is rung, they go outside in the lobby and have not the courage to give expression to their views by voting on the matter. Nationalisation of the Irish railways is looked upon by Deputies of this Dáil as an impossible proposal. It is looked upon as a bigger question than it really is. What do we find? It may be of interest to have on record the capital of the Irish railways as returned on the 31st December, 1921.
The Irish railways had a capital upon which interest or dividend was paid amounting to £47,875,824. The number of the staff employed on the whole of the Irish railways, and I am quoting from the last record issued, was 30,511. So far as we can gather, and there is nothing on record to prove it, as no statistics have been published since the Free State Government began to function, there are only 20,000 railway employees in the Free State. What is the position with regard to the great English combines? Take the London, Midland, and Scottish Company with a capital of £398,929,175, a mileage of 6,962 miles, and a staff of 268,835. Somebody—I cannot recollect who—suggested in the debate yesterday that it would require a superman to control the Irish railways under a system of State ownership or control. May I ask the individual who made the statement where the man was found to control a staff of 268,000 as compared with 20,000 on the Free State railways? Would he not describe him as a superman?
May I explain that I am the culprit in this case. I did not say that it required a superman to manage the Irish railways, but that it would require a superman to manage the Board under which the railways are to be run.
I quoted figures to show how small a proposition it is to deal with a situation which from that point of view has been touched upon by Deputy Hewat. Since this Bill was introduced many inspired articles have been written in the daily Press with the usual statements against nationalisation. In one article it has been said that Deputy Johnson, in introducing this Bill, made no attempt to relieve the minds of traders and travellers of the scepticism which State management during the war had sown in their minds. Deputy Hewat lent himself to the same kind of arguments when he stated: "In connection with railways we have had some experience of Government control. During the war it was considered necessary that the Government should take control of the railways, and, speaking as a commercial man, I do not think that the result of that experience has convinced many traders that they are going to benefit by the change." One could understand articles in the Press, although inspired, written by people who do not understand the situation, but I am surprised at Deputy Hewat, who has some knowledge of railway work, associating himself with statements of that kind. It is the usual argument put forward to try and mislead people, that the system of British Government control was anything like what might be expected under a proper system of State management. What was the system of State control in the European War? A Board was appointed of five or six of the principal Irish railway managers, with the Under-Secretary as the nominal head. I challenge the Government, if they are prepared to answer this aspect of the case, to produce the minutes of the Railway Executive meetings to show how many times the nominee of the British Government attended. That will show, to some extent, the interest and supervision exercised by the British Government in the control of Irish railways during that period. The railways were placed in the hands of five or six managers with the directors lurking in the background to see if any manager appointed by themselves would do anything against the interests of the railway company with which they were associated.
You can imagine the position of railway managers, many of whom, and perhaps all of whom, are experienced men, taking up a certain attitude in the interests of the British Government which would be opposed to the policy of the Board with which they were associated. I can imagine such men at the termination of control period finding themselves in the ranks of the unemployed. The railways were taken over by the British Government under the very wide contract that they were guaranteed the nett receipts for the year 1913. Referring to that aspect of the case, it has been stated that perhaps that is not a fair test, for the State was not really in control during the war but was under the dictatorship of the trades unions.
I can assure the Dáil that if the trade unions or the representatives of the railway workers had any share in the Management Committee that was set up under the system of British Governmental control many of the abuses which went on during that period would not have been allowed without being exposed. It is fairly well known that the agreement, so far as it existed, between the Government and the railway companies was interpreted in a manner that made the taxpayers of this country suffer to an extent that they should not have suffered if those who were in control exercised that control on behalf of the taxpayers. I will give you a case in point. Assuming that two hundred railway waggons and six engines were built in a certain railway works during the year 1913, that agreement could be interpreted, and perhaps was interpreted so, that although these waggons and engines were not built during the years of control, that railway company, under the very wide terms of the contract, was paid for the building of these waggons and engines, not alone the amount paid in the year 1913 but the additional cost of labour and material for the building of waggons and engines which were really never put into stock. Does Deputy Hewat or any other Deputy contend that if the railway workers, or the Trades Unions, had a share in the Committee of Management such a system as that and the robbing of the taxpayers in that way, would have been tolerated?
In England the Workers' War Emergency Committee, which was an advisory body of the Labour Party, associated with the conduct of the war, suggested to the British railway companies that for the purpose of saving money and keeping prices down railway waggons should be pooled. They made that suggestion to the Government and the Government referred them to the Railway Companies' Managers and the suggestion, which was a very useful one and would have saved especially a rise on coal prices at the time, was ignored and turned down. It is well known, and it is known to Deputies here, that when traders in Dublin and elsewhere were looking for waggons to convey foodstuffs and other goods during the period of control they were told that no railway waggons were to be had, while at the same time railway waggons were lying empty in every depot.
I rely upon the statements I am making in regard to this matter, that during the whole time British Governmental control during the war both in this country and in England, was used by railway managers, with the backing of their directors, to prejudice nationalisation and State ownership in the minds of the trading and travelling public. In connection with the question of waggons, I would like to know if there is any return in the hands of the Transport Department of the Ministry of Commerce to show the number of miles which empty waggon were carried over during the period of State control. I am sure if all the records that should be available, that were at the disposal of the British Ministry during that period, were handed over, as I believe they were, to the Irish Government, they would disclose many things which even Deputy Hewat would be surprised at.
In addition to abusing the system of control in the manner in which I have stated, the railway companies were given £3,000,000 to represent what was called deferred maintenance. That was supposed to be set aside on the termination of the period of control for renewal of stores, repairs, and other matters of that kind. And, by the way, it is pretty well known, too, that the railway companies interpreted the agreement which I have referred to in a way that enabled them to renew their stores under the terms of the contract and practically to do everything for the improvement of the railways except painting the tracks. They received this £3,000,000, representing deferred maintenance. Was it set aside and used for the purpose for which it was voted? No. If you examine the reports of the shareholders' meetings last year, as reported in the Press, you will find that the £3,000,000 was used for the purpose of paying dividends to shareholders.
I hope I have given such an explanation as will remove from the mind of Deputy Hewat, and any other Deputy, that State control, as we knew it during the period of the European war, was anything like what might be expected from any proper business system of State management. I would go so far as to say that if the Government were unable, and if they are prepared to say that they are unable, to give to each member of the travelling public a better return for the money that was spent during that period, then the case for the State ownership of railways falls to the ground. Deputy Hewat, and, I think, in this matter Deputy Cooper was largely associated with him, asked the Dáil to believe that the railwaymen of this country find themselves in a peculiarly advantageous position as a result of the political forces which they were in a position to manipulate. It is information for me to know that the Irish railwayman, during the period of the European war or since 1916, had any very great political influence with the British Government when they controlled the railways. Deputy Cooper rather assumed that as a constant traveller he would be molested by railwaymen in connection with an aspect of this Bill dealing with their civil rights.
Dealing with the question of their political influence, let us assume—and I think we will not be wrong in assuming—that the number of shareholders in the Irish railways is as large as the number of railway employees—and I think it is larger. If we are to take the arguments that were used by Ministers when they were inviting the Irish public to subscribe to the recent Loan, the men who have the money are the men who really control the machine. Therefore, if the number of railway shareholders in Ireland is greater than the number of railway employees, I take it that the political influence of the men with the money is greater than that of the railway worker, who has nothing but his life invested in the industry.
A shareholder, speaking at the Great Western Railway Company's shareholders' meeting on a recent occasion, stated:—"If we bring to bear our political influence—700,000 votes at least in this case, excluding a great many other votes of people indirectly interested—I think we can bring pressure to bear on the Government which is very desirable and which the Shareholders' Protection Association will concentrate upon. Organise: unity is certainly strength." That is the view of a railway shareholder regarding the political influence of those who have their money invested in the railways.
Did he succeed in using it?
I put it to Deputy Hewat and Deputy Cooper that we can take the case of the Postal Servants in the Free State as a fair example, and I would be surprised to hear from any Deputy, or from anybody outside, that when members of the public go to the Post Office counter to buy stamps they are delayed to any great extent by the interference of postal servants in discussing political affairs. That may be taken as a fair example of the arguments that Deputy Cooper and Deputy Hewat are trying to persuade us with, in regard to the question of political influence.
The postal servants do not possess the rights which you are proposing to give under this Bill.
I can tell Deputy Hewat and Deputy Cooper that the political and civil rights of railway men are not going to be surrendered at any price. I had an experience at the last election, and perhaps it is not wrong for me to relate it here. Down in my own constituency I had the experience of meeting some Civil Servants from Government Building working on behalf of the Cumann na nGaedheal, and in opposition to the nominees of the Labour Party, and of Deputy Gorey's Union. Was not that a political interference by Civil Servants, and one would like to know in a case of that kind whether the Civil Servants working for Cumann na nGaedheal were paid by the State at the time they were working against us. I think there is no use in labouring the point here, or asking the Dáil to agree that the present system of railway organisation is a failure. Commission after Commission has been set up by both British and Irish Governments to inquire into and report in regard to the question of railway organisation. President Cosgrave on a previous occasion stated that the Government were unable to adopt the reports of many of the Commissions appointed by himself, simply because the Commissions did not make sensible recommendations. The Commissions, as far as I know, made recommendations in accordance with the terms of reference.
If President Cosgrave in appointing these Commissions will so limit the terms of reference as to rule out questions of this kind, then he will find whether he will be able to get men to sit on these Commissions, and devise recommendations which would suit himself or the Ministry. However, Commissions which have dealt with this question of reorganisation have reported in favour of State ownership. I contend that there is no necessity in a small country like Ireland, much less in the Free State, to have 46 different registered companies with 28 separate managements, and with 170 railway directors drawing, on an average, fees of from £19,000 to £20,000. If that is the contention that was put up by Deputy O'Mahony, and the representative of the Farmers' Union who gave evidence before the Railway Commission, then I think that there are very few in the Dáil who will agree with it. We are faced with the proposal that the present system is rotten, and must be got rid of; and what is the alternative? We heard it stated by Deputy O'Mahony yesterday that the Ministry had no policy with regard to this very urgent question. He made a statement on a previous occasion, but it was qualified——
On a point of personal explanation, what I said was that the Government had not revealed their policy.
Well, if the Ministry had not revealed their policy, even to their supporters, I hope, if a division is taken on the Bill, that those who have not heard the policy of the Government will vote in favour of the Bill. To give an example—I do not know whether it is necessary for me to do so or not— of the present wasteful system of administration, one has only to look at the town of Collooney, with three different railway companies there and three different staffs, stationmasters, signalmen, and all the other paraphernalia operating three different systems of railway administration in that town, with a population of 371. I think I need not go any further than quoting that case in support of the contention that the present system is rotten, and must be got rid of. In most countries where State ownership is in operation, and working with a considerable amount of success, the railways have been originally constructed under certain concessions and limitations laid down by different Acts of Parliament. The first railways, for instance, constructed in Prussia were built by private companies under certain concessions laid down under an Act of 1838. That Act conferred on the then Government power to acquire the railway lines at the expiration of 30 years, at a price fixed at 25 times the annual dividends for the preceding five years. It might be quite rightly said that these are more favourable terms than we are providing in the Bill introduced here. I think Deputy Johnson has made it quite clear that so far as we are concerned as a party, we are not staking our political future on that particular clause. If the Dáil is prepared to take over the Bill and give better terms to the shareholders than the Minister for Agriculture gave the landlords who confiscated the land, then it is the responsibility of the majority of the members of the Dáil if they amend the Bill in that particular form.
With regard to the Prussian railways, a remarkable coincidence, and quite the opposite of our experience here, is that although the Prussian Parliament had powers under the terms of the Act of 1838, yet when eventually in 1873 they decided to acquire the railways for the State, they did not rely on the compulsory Act of 1838, but an agreement between the then owners and the Government was arrived at by friendly negotiation. That example, I think, might be followed by those now in control of the Irish railways; and if it was followed it would make the position of the Government in dealing with this Bill, or any other Bill of the same kind, a very easy matter. Deputy Hewat stated, strange to say, that the Bill was of a confiscatory nature. Deputy Woulfe, speaking yesterday evening, pleaded for the railway companies under the present system of organisation, and laboured to explain—which I think he should not in dealing with that aspect of the case—the insolvency of the present railway systems. If the railways are so insolvent as the Deputy would have the Dáil believe, I do not think he would object if he were a shareholder, to the Government taking them over under the terms described by Deputy Hewat as confiscation. It is, of course, well known to those who have travelled around the country; they can see it from their experience in looking out through railway carriage windows, as Deputy Woulfe said, that the thought of ultimate unification, amalgamation or nationalisation never seemed to have dawned on the people who originally constructed the various kinds of railway lines in this country. We have every system of known railway in the country to-day, from the electric narrow gauge railway to the Mono rail, known as the Lartigue Railway, running between Listowel and Ballybunion.
Perhaps those who constructed the railways at the time were doing it, with the advice of the British Government, to make it impossible at any time in the future to arrive at a system of organisation of the railways that would be suitable to the needs of the trading community. It has been stated in the Press and elsewhere that nationalisation has been ruled out. We have had statements made in the Dáil by responsible Ministers in connection with the Government's policy regarding the future of the railways. I am not aware of any discussion in the Dáil in which it was decided that nationalisation was ruled out by the Government. If the Government is to be taken as the Ministry, then perhaps that has been the case. If the Government is to be taken as the Cumann na nGaedheal, or governing party in the Dáil, then that is not so, according to Deputy O'Mahony's statement. But, if the Government is the majority of the Dáil, which is the only place where matters of this kind should and can be decided, then railway nationalisation has neither been discussed nor ruled out according to my knowledge. On the 3rd January last we had from the Ministry the only statement which could be taken as a statement of policy. If one is to look at the Governor-General's address and observe the language used by the Governor-General, representing as he does the views of the Executive, I think it must be agreed that we are getting further back from the position which the Ministry took up on January 3rd last. The Minister read a very carefully prepared document, in which it was stated: "The Companies were definitely informed that the policy favoured by the Government was the unification of the whole railway systems under one management and the securing of the maximum economies in organisation and administration that unification rendered possible."
It goes on to say: "The larger companies on their part"—it should be made quite clear who these were—"represented that the object desired by the Government would be better secured by a system of grouping than by complete unification. To this the Government has replied that it will keep an open mind on grouping as compared with unification, and if all the companies can agree on a grouping scheme that will secure the same degree of economy and efficiency as is to be expected through unification, without prejudicing in any way the interests of trade and industry in the Saorstát and its ports, it will give any such scheme its most serious consideration." The statement goes on to say: "From a date, early in January, the railway companies had informed the Government that they could agree upon a scheme of grouping, that the Government informed them that that scheme should be brought forward by the end of March, and failing an agreement upon a scheme which the Government could support, the Government would proceed to put their own policy into operation." We have learned very little as to what happened since that. If rumours are to be taken as correct, there has been no agreement among the Companies. I hope, however, replies will make it quite clear what Companies made that statement to the Government, and whether or not all the Companies were consulted. I previously argued in the Dáil, and I am still more convinced now that nationalisation of the railways is the only solution of the difficulty in the area particularly over which this Parliament has jurisdiction.
I have argued, and I still contend, that the solution of the railway question, in the interests of the general body of the community, is bound up very largely with the question of the settlement of the Boundary difficulty. It has been rumoured, and it is quite right that this Dáil should be informed of these rumours, in railway circles that the Northern Parliament, or whatever else you call Sir James Craig's Parliament, has favoured unification of the railway system within the Six County area as we know it and as it exists to-day. The Government will be faced with a very serious problem if that is the position. In my opinion, if the railways of the Six Counties were unified, and all the railway property in that area were unified under one management, it would add further difficulty to the solution of the Boundary problem. We do know at any rate that no matter how long it may be, or what the powers of the Belfast Parliament may be in the future, whether it operates or functions for a Parliament of Six Counties or Four Counties, even with limited powers, it will always create rivalry between the Saorstát ports and the ports of the Belfast area. Picture the position of any great Northern combine, subsidised, as we are told it may be, by a huge British corporation, and imagine the position of a Southern competing combine. That is the difficulty which I believe the Government is confronted with, and that is the position which will force the Government in the near future to take complete control of the railways operating wholly in the Free State. If the policy of the Government is unification of the railways operating wholly in the Free State, I ask the President or the Ministers what control can they exercise over railways operating on the border-line or on railways operating inside the Six County border, to prevent them diverting traffic out of its natural route? What control in any case can they claim the right to exercise in these cases? Can they override any combine of railways operating wholly in the Free State area?
The question of railway rates, both passenger and goods, is a question which should be dealt with, perhaps, more by Deputy Gorey and his party than by anybody associated with the Labour party. In dealing with this matter we realise that high railway rates not alone affect the producer, but are in all cases passed on to the consumer, who has eventually to pay. Now, it is a coincidence that in giving evidence before the Provisional Government Commission that was set up to inquire into the railways, two railway companies operating inside and on the border of the Six Counties gave evidence, to the effect, that their revenue would not meet their working expenses. It is a strange thing, that since that evidence was given these two companies have reduced their rates to a considerable extent. How, therefore, could railway companies who have given evidence before the Railway Commission stating that the revenue would not enable them to meet working expenses, have since agreed to reduce their rates and yet prevent their systems from being closed down? There must be a subsidy in these cases coming from somewhere, and it is up to the Ministry to find out where it is coming from. The question of railway rates, so far as it affects the railways solely in the Free State area, has been dealt with on a few occasions. It is an extraordinary thing that although the railway companies operating in the Six Counties and on the border have reduced their rates there has been practically no reduction whatever in their rates by the companies operating in the Southern area, although the railwaymen's wages have been reduced by £1,500,000 as the result of an agreement that was arrived at between the railwaymen's representatives and the railway companies.
The railway companies had the further reduction of one and a half millions as a result of the reduced cost of coal and other materials. What argument or what reason has been put forward, or can be put forward, by these railways, especially in the Southern areas, for not having reduced their rates, particularly in view of the facts I have stated? The real fact is that these companies having had thrown at them this question of unification, or not knowing the position that they are going to be placed in as a result of the Government's policy, are not going to, and will not, do anything until the Government makes up its mind as to what it is going to do with regard to the railways in the future. As far as I can see, nothing can be done in connection with the question of the relief of railway rates, at least for a considerable period, unless the Government is prepared to take control of the railways in the Free State area. Whether this Bill is passed, or whether any other Bill is passed by the Government, it will take a long time for the Bill to go through. When the Bill has passed through both Houses it will be necessary to set up a railway rates tribunal.
It will then take a long time to prove to the tribunal that there should be a reduction in rates. My point is that if the Government are prepared to give any immediate relief to the people suffering as a result of the present high rates, it will have to make up its mind to face the situation with which it is confronted in a bold and courageous manner. We have seen interviews given to the Press by people who are unable or who are ashamed to allow their names to stand over what they state. We have been warned about the domination of foreign capital. As far as I can see, while the railways are called Irish railways, both North and South, there is a great domination of foreign capital at the back of them. Belgium was confronted with the same position, and in order to prevent the domination of its railway system by foreign capital it decided, in the year 1870, to refuse any further concessions to privately-owned companies for the purpose of building any further private lines. Between the years 1857 and 1906 the Belgium Government took over as many as 20 private companies to prevent what is called the domination of foreign capital. That, I submit, is another argument in support of the Bill which Deputy Johnson introduced.
In 1910, as a result of this operation, 2,697 miles out of a total mileage of 2,915 miles were either owned or controlled by the State. As is well known to those who have experience of travelling on the continent, passenger fares and goods rates on the Belgium railways are the lowest in the world. It is well known that as a result of the arrangements made, especially in pre-war days for tourists in Belgium, that the rates charged to tourists in that country were the lowest practically in the world, and as a result of these low fares, and of the other concessions given, there was a remarkable influx of tourists to Belgium which, of course, was a considerable advantage to the country. While on this question of railway rates, I think it desirable to give a quotation from the findings of the Scotter Commission. This was not a Commission of Irishmen set up by Irishmen, but was a Commission composed of Englishmen and set up by the British Government, who never take into account the Irish outlook, so far as trade and commerce are concerned.
I should have said there were some Irishmen on it. Now, that report contained the following remarkable statement in regard to the question of Irish railway rates: "In our view the Irish railways have not, and are not, being fully utilised for the advancement of the general interests in Ireland owing to the competitive rates on imported goods being so much lower in scale than the local rates, so that the advancement of the local manufacturers is discouraged rather than assisted, as it should have been." That is the remark made in the findings and in the recommendations of the Scotter Commission, and it is scarcely necessary to say anything further to prove that the Irish railways in the past have been controlled by men not interested in the development of the country. Now, if these people who are in control of so many small railways in Ireland are going to get control of the bigger combine, if the Government tolerates the setting up of a system of that kind, it will not be a case of dealing with men who dominated the Irish railways in the past, but it will mean that the men who own these railways will own and will run the State. I am sure there cannot be any objection to my reading an article written by the late President Arthur Griffith in regard to this aspect of the railway trouble. Writing "In the Sinn Fein Policy" published fifteen months after he published "The Resurrection of Hungary," he says: "Owing to the attitude of our railways the development of the country is materially hampered," and he goes on to say: "We cannot make up for the deficiency of the railways, but we can certainly do much to alleviate the present situation by the proper utilisation of our semi-derelict canal system. With the proper transit system in Ireland the interdependence of manufacturing and agricultural industry would become manifest, and a larger market would be created for each. By a proper transit system, as the maker of industrial Germany pointed out, not merely are the powers of labour of those who are employed in it brought into activity, not only is the agricultural population enabled to obtain from the natural resources which it possesses a greater return than before, but the wealth heretofore lying idle in the earth becomes useful and profitable. Articles such as coal, stone, salt, gypsum, marble, slate, timber, which the freight of a few miles rendered before unprofitable to work, become distributable over a whole country, and thus the formerly valueless resources of a country become, through good transit facilities, of a high importance in the total of national production. This is what transit means to our country. It is worth working hard to obtain." I can imagine that if President Cosgrave, as the worthy successor of the late President Arthur Griffith, is inclined to take his view in regard to how the transport system should be dealt with, he would, I think, take over the Bill which Deputy Johnson has introduced. He would, I am sure, be particularly gratified to take over the Bill, if he is not in a position to tell the Dáil before he turns it down what his alternative policy is. I scarcely think it is necessary, although I could do so at much greater length, to go any further into the question of the ownership and management of the railways on the Continent, and to prove by figures which I could give and which are at the disposal of every member of this Dáil, that State ownership, where it has been brought into operation, has succeeded in almost every country in Europe.
There is one aspect of the case that I cannot sit down without dealing with, and that is the question of the wages of the railwaymen. A good deal of piffle has been talked regarding the wages of railwaymen, not alone during the discussion of this Bill, but on previous occasions, by Deputy Gorey and others. I want it to be definitely understood once and for all that these statements are absolutely contrary to the facts, and that, as a matter of fact, railway workers' wages are the lowest of any section of workers in this country, with the exception of agricultural workers. Deputy Gorey, of course, could solve that problem, judging from previous statements he has made. He stated: "If the citizen must discharge his duty the State must discharge its duty, and I suggest seriously to the Government that if there are any more strikes or any more attempts to get hold of the key industries of the country, such as the ports and railways, it is their duty to set up a State organisation which could be done and manned within 24 hours." That is the statement of Deputy Gorey when speaking in the Dáil on the 22nd November. I have been asked by people outside if that went further than the terms of our Bill. I would ask Deputy Hewat if what Deputy Gorey suggests there is not confiscation to a greater extent than the proposals contained in this Bill. Deputy Gorey, of course, would settle the whole wages difficulty by providing men from the ranks of the farmers and the farmers' sons to run the railways for the State for nothing. That is what I think is contained in the statement which I have quoted. I would, however, warn the Ministry and Deputies who may be confronted at some future date with a position such as he suggests, that if Deputy Gorey is in charge of the lever of the mail train going to Cork in a fog, and if they are travelling on that train, that they would be very well advised to take out an insurance policy. We have had a little sample of the management of Deputy Gorey's people when they took over SS. Brussels and a couple of other ships. They tried to run them for about three months. They failed, and eventually handed them over to one of the great British combines which we are now told are going to dominate this country in future, proving that what Deputy Gorey has suggested with regard to the railways has been a failure when they previously attempted it.
With regard to railway wages, apart from the free labour which Deputy Gorey has suggested can be provided, traffic porters at present are only paid from 45s. 6d. to 49s. per week, according to the importance of the station at which they are employed. A few parcels' porters at Class I. stations get as high as 52s. I would like to ask Deputy Hewat if he is prepared to go to his men in the coal trade and offer them these wages. Station foremen, with large numbers of men under their control, are paid as low as 52s. 6d. per week, while the highest wage paid to a foreman who controls scores of men is only 62s. per week.
Will Deputy Davin give us the corresponding pre-war figures?
I have personal knowledge of a station not very far from Dublin, where 153 trains are scheduled and run each day, and the foreman controlling the staff there is paid at the rate of 62/- per week. I do not know if Deputy Gorey would argue that that is an unfair wage for the responsibility which that man has to undertake. Deputy O'Mahony yesterday evening alleged that while the Bill provided only three-fifths of the present income for shareholders, it provided 100 per cent. in the case of the staffs. If the Deputy will read the Bill again he will find that in the case of all men who may become redundant as a result of reorganisation, the maximum amount which they can get is two-thirds of their present wages, although dismissal is of far more moment to them than any reductions in dividend could be to the shareholders.
It has been customary for railway companies both in England and Ireland, when recruiting staffs, to do so at a very low wage. I am not disclosing any secret when I make the statement that I started work on a railway as a clerical worker at 8/- a week. I ask Deputy Gorey, who is so healthy and happy looking to-day, if he would like, after getting an ordinary reasonable education, to be faced with the prospect of starting work at 8/- weekly and having to pay 12/- for his lodging. I can assure Deputy Gorey that we are not going back to the stone age so far as that is concerned. Deputy O'Mahony quoted figures in connection with the Caledonian Railway as against the whole of the Irish railways, but what he professed to show by the figures it is difficult to see. He said that the receipts per mile were higher in Scotland than in Ireland, but he did not say that the cost of working per mile was infinitely greater in Scotland than in Ireland. I could detain and entertain the Dáil—if such a discussion is an entertainment—at greater length if it was necessary to prove that the Bill I have the pleasure of supporting is the only practical measure that holds for the moment. I could go into many questions connected with the administration of the railways both in pre-war days, and during the period of control. I believe, however, that anything I might say would not convince some people, who are so prejudiced against nationalisation, that even if it was a practical proposition they would not vote for it. I have put forward as briefly as was necessary the principal reasons why this Bill should be taken over by the Government. Deputy O'Mahony must be right when he told us that the Ministry have no policy. If the Ministry are not prepared to announce what, in their opinion, is the only practical alternative to this Bill, I ask the members of the Dáil to take their courage in their hands and vote for the Second Reading of this Bill.
As there is only a quarter of an hour available, with the permission of the Dáil, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
Might I intervene to explain what our proposals are with regard to the adjournment for the Christmas holidays? We intend, if we can get through certain measures by Friday, to adjourn then until the 15th January. If we do not get them through, it will mean either sitting on Saturday or Tuesday next, or coming back on the 8th January. I do not very well see how we are going to finish this discussion this evening. We certainly will not have time to deal with it on Friday, having regard to the other business. There is a motion by Deputy Morrissey for Friday, and I expect we will want two hours anyway for that. It is only fair that the Dáil should realise what the position is. Apart from pressing Bills, I do not see how we could get much further with the Ministers Bill, and I would not mind tying up that to give greater time for this discussion, that is, if Deputy Johnson wishes to have this matter decided before the adjournment. He need not answer to-night—it will do to-morrow—but I just want to put the position before Deputies, so that they will understand the situation.
We do not know what other business there may be for to-morrow, but if it is competent to take this Bill, then I think the possibilities of an adjournment on Friday, that the President speaks of, are reasonable. If there is business for the Dáil to transact to-morrow, I do not see how it is possible to get through what possibly is necessary business this week, and in that case I think we should meet next week. It is desirable, in my view, that this Bill should be discussed and a division taken before the adjournment; but I press for due time to consider the motion of Deputy Morrissey, and there is also a motion by Deputy Figgis that has precedence according to the form in which it appeared on the paper. I think the question really is, in view of what the President says about the Ministers Bill, what other business there is to transact to-morrow.
There is the Interpretation Bill, Report Stage; Local Government (Collection of Rates) Bill, First Stage; Coroners' Qualification Bill, First Stage; the Second Stage of the Dáil Eireann Loan and Funds Bill; Ministers' and Secretaries' Bill, Committee Stage; and the two motions for Friday, one by Deputy Figgis and one by Deputy Morrissey.
None but the Ministers' Bill is likely to be contentious, and I am satisfied if we can place this Bill on the Order Paper, leaving the Ministers' Bill over to follow on if there is time.
Perhaps on Friday a longer time could be given for the two motions down on the Paper.
That would depend on the other Bill, mentioned last night.
I move the adjournment of the Debate until to-morrow.