I move: "That the Bill do now pass."
PUBLIC BUSINESS. - STATE HARBOURS BILL, 1924—FIFTH STAGE.
I notice that the President, when this Bill was last discussed in the Dáil, stated that the upkeep of Dún Laoghaire Harbour was about £24,000 per year. That statement is somewhat misleading, because I believe that sum represents the charge for the upkeep of the East and the West Piers, as well as Carlisle Pier. I assume that the powers which the State have secured under this Bill, in addition to the powers already possessed, will enable the authorities to put the Pier in proper condition, so as to make it suitable for passenger traffic. I speak on this matter purely from the point of view of the disastrous effect which the unsuitable condition of the Pier has upon the development of tourist traffic. Owing to the work of voluntary organisations, passengers at the rate of one thousand to fifteen hundred per day come to this country via Dún Laoghaire during the tourist season. The present condition of the Pier and the confusion that is caused owing to lack of accommodation will have a very disastrous effect upon the development of tourist traffic.
In pre-war days a sum of five or six million pounds yearly was spent in this country by tourists, and Deputies can realise what the loss of that traffic would mean to the people of the Free State. Hotel keepers and others who had direct association with the tourists have suffered to a considerable extent during the four or five years of trouble in this country. As the State controls this Harbour and is responsible for its upkeep the State should see that it uses its powers in the development of that tourist traffic. The President I think will agree that it is very desirable that that should be done.
As to the question of dues, in exercising the powers which they rightly obtain under Section 7, the Government should take into consideration the likely effect that any dues imposed will have upon the increase of passenger fares. I merely mention that in passing. But anybody who has had any experience of the conditions at this Pier and the effect which these conditions have had upon the development of tourist traffic will realise that it is the duty of the Government to exercise their powers to make some improvements at the Pier. The President, I believe unintentionally did allow people to infer from his statement on the last occasion that the £24,000 mentioned was solely for the upkeep of Carlisle Pier. That is not the case, as that amount represents the charge for the upkeep of the three piers.
Owing to the hasty manner in which legislation is being passed at the present time, some matters do not get full consideration. Section 7 of this Bill provides that the Government shall have power to charge whatever dues they wish at Kingstown Harbour. In no part of the Bill is any reference made to the relative positions occupied by the commercial port of Dublin and the State-owned Harbour of Kingstown. When this Bill was before the Committee, counsel for the Government recognised in words the obligation on the part of a State-owned harbour not to do anything that would injure or prejudice the port of Dublin, but the Committee did not agree to an amendment to that effect being inserted in the Bill. I would have liked to have had an opportunity of inserting an amendment which would embody in the Bill some recognition of the principle that a State harbour is not to be used to the detriment of the commercial harbour of Dublin, which has to do all its own maintenance out of funds secured from the trade entering the port. I would refer the Dáil to the fact that in previous Acts of Parliament which gave the necessary powers to the Dublin Port and Docks Board to levy dues, etc., there was a clause of this sort. In the 1902 Bill there was such a clause. That was sought to be extended in other Bills subsequently promoted in the British Parliament, but in no case has the right of Dublin Port to some protective clause been disputed. In this Bill which is now brought forward there is no reference whatever to the relationship that should and must exist as between Kingstown harbour and the port of Dublin.
Dun Laoghaire harbour.
There is no use worrying about that now.
I did not know that this Bill was coming on at this stage, and I think nobody else did. I would like to suggest that it is not an equitable thing for this Dáil to pass a Bill of this sort without some recognition of the relationship between the two harbours. It is quite true that there is less likelihood now of the unfair competition which the Dublin Port and Docks Board feared in the past, but there must always be a tendency for passenger boats, and sometimes cargo boats, to run into a comparatively free harbour in preference to a harbour that is charging dues for its upkeep and maintenance. I submit it is not fair that this Bill should go through without some reasonable section being inserted safeguarding the interests of the port of Dublin. I do not know whether the President will accept that, but, without having any official knowledge of it, I think that if a milder section had been suggested than that put forward by counsel on behalf of the Dublin Port and Docks Board before the Committee, it would have been accepted on behalf of the Government. I do not know whether that is so or not.
I understand I did state that it was Dun Laoghaire Harbour, or, to speak according to the Statute, Kingstown Harbour, which cost £23,000 or £24,000 per year for upkeep. As soon as this Bill passes the name of that harbour will be changed to what it was previously. It was changed to Kingstown, I believe, in the year 1836 by some Statute. It will now revert to what it was before 1836, and for many years previously, that is, Dun Laoghaire.
Including the spelling of 1836.
Yes. With regard to the question raised by Deputy Hewat, the present revenue we derive in respect of an expenditure of £23,000 or £24,000 is something amounting to £1,000 or £1,500 yearly. I anticipate that the revenue derived will be increased fifteen times that sum, or twice fifteen times that sum. That is a pretty considerable increase. I do not think it would be fair to fix the price in Dublin as the figure at which the mail steamers should be charged. After all, there is a difference between mail steamers and ordinary cargo steamers.
We accept that.
I anticipate that the revenue will come to about £18,000 yearly as a result of the passing of this Bill. This is an extraordinary expense upon the State at present. While we are very anxious to develop tourist traffic, attract people to the country, see that they are treated with the greatest courtesy, and that their stay at the ports or harbours is not unnecessarily delayed, nevertheless, the expenditure on this harbour must of necessity be very economically spent. While some expenditure may be necessary within the next couple of years, I do not anticipate that the pier will be made really up-to-date for some years to come. Of the £24,000 spent on the harbour, a revenue of one-eighteenth or one-seventeenth is derived. The Bill seeks to remedy that. But for the introduction of this Bill, hasty as this legislation is, no change could be made in the revenue derived from the harbour, and no change, except for the worse, would take place so far as expenditure is concerned. However hasty this legislation is, it certainly does bring in a very considerable increase in revenue compared with that of the last few years. As it stands, the Bill is certainly an improvement on existing conditions. Even if there were more time to spend in considering the Bill, I do not know that any improvement in the section would have been made.
I am not taking exception to anything in the Bill except that it is the first Bill of the kind that has not recognised the relative positions of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire harbours. All I was asking the President to do was to see if he could insert some section putting the two harbours on some relative basis. I agree that the object of the Bill is to enable the Government to get more revenue out of Kingstown or Dun Laoghaire harbour. I wanted only to have a recognition of the Dublin position so far as future developments are concerned. There is very little risk to-day, but when you are legislating you do not know how far ahead you are legislating for. I think it is not the intention of the Government to injure Dublin at all. All I was pleading for was recognition of the old principle that competition should not set in as between the two harbours.
Is the President aware that consultations have been going on for some time between the engineers of the railway companies and the Board of Works, and that improvements of a temporary nature have been recommended at the Pier? In view of the altered situation that is created by the passing of this Bill, does the President not see the urgent necessity for going ahead with the improvements? Will the Minister for Finance authorise the Board of Works to carry out the improvements without further delay?
I should prefer to await the return of the Minister for Finance before answering that question affirmatively. In a large matter of that kind I think it would be only fair that the Minister directly responsible for a service, in which the Board of Works is concerned, should be consulted about it.
Before the Bill passes from the Dáil, might I ask the President, seeing that there is no schedule attached to the Bill, whether a schedule of the proposed charges will come up for approval or be laid on the Table of the Dáil when decided upon? If so, possibly that would give an opportunity of raising the matter.
No, I believe it will not come before the Dáil.
I think the President will agree that it would be unfortunate in the case of goods traffic if steamers were allowed to go into Dun Laoghaire harbour at a lower rate than Dublin. I agree with him so far as passengers are concerned.
It is certainly not intended to do that.