On Friday, when the Standing Orders interrupted me, I was endeavouring to persuade the Dáil that they would not be justified, in view of the past protestations and professions of the majority of Deputies, in passing this Bill. In the main Railway Bill which was passed some months ago, on the proposition of the Minister the Dáil decided that the Directorate of the Amalgamated Company should be elected by shareholders, and that the qualification of a director should be the holding, in his own right, of such amount of share capital as might be specified. The Bill proposes to alter that provision with respect to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and to confer upon them the right to appoint a director to the Irish railways without holding any shares in the company, and without any other qualifications except the continuance of an agreement, which is not laid before us, making certain concessions, allowances and advantages to the new company. It has been estimated by the Minister that these concessions may be worth £20,000, and from £15,000 to £20,000 in the estimate of the G.S.W.R. In virtue of that estimate we are asked to confer a right upon the L.M.S. Co.
It must be borne in mind by representatives of the various Parties in the Dáil that this concession to the L.M.S. to appoint a director without qualifying does not apply to any other company, association or body of men of any kind whatever. It does not confer the right, let us say, upon the Great Northern Railway of Ireland. It does not confer any right upon, say, the Cattle Traders' Association, by virtue of the traffic that they provide for the Irish railways, to have a director. They may increase their traffic by any sum, but traffic will not give a right to a directorship. Other shipping companies that provide traffic for the Irish railways will not have any right. No public authority—not even the State itself—is provided with any right to have representation on the directorate of the new Irish railway company, notwithstanding that we are proposing to give a right of that kind to the L.M.S. Co. by virtue of certain concessions. Those concessions the Minister described as being so valuable as to make it good business on the part of the Government to confer this right upon the English company. I think a report in yesterday's papers of a speech made by an eminent official of this State shows how easy it is for any concession which is alleged to be contained in this agreement to be counterbalanced by a very slight charge upon any kind of traffic which may travel over the English railways from the Irish railways.
One wonders what is the purpose of selecting a director for the Irish railways. Is it to serve and benefit Irish railways? More particularly—and this is very much more important—is it going to serve and benefit the Irish public, the Irish national well-being? I can conceive and, possibly, go so far as to say that I can admit, that as a purely railway affair between two railway companies a proposition of this kind might be defensible; quite possibly, even, may be advantageous, if one is thinking purely in terms of commerce and business arrangements between private companies. I want to ask the Dáil to bear in mind that the railway service here is a public service, and to think of it as a public service entrusted to a private company by statute to administer, bearing in mind all the time that it is intended to benefit and develop industry and commerce and national growth everywhere. If we bear that in mind we can see that when we introduce as part of the management of an Irish public service a person whose main interest it is to look after the interests of a non-Irish public service, where the interests may likely clash, and have clashed, and do clash, then I say we are doing an unpatriotic thing in passing this Bill to confer that right.
It is said, of course, that because the L.M.S. Company controls all the ports except one on the west coast of England, therefore that railway company can help or retard as it wishes Irish economic development, and that we have to try and buy favours of that company by allowing them to nominate a director on this Irish public service. I am afraid one has to suggest, and almost, shall I say, one is forced to believe, that the object of the company in its rather protracted antagonism to the wishes of the Government and of the Irish railways in respect to this railway scheme as a whole shows that they were very anxious by any means to force themselves upon the Irish railway service. They stood out at the beginning against the proposed unification of the Irish railways. They suggested various counter proposals. They have used influences of various kinds to impede the programme that the Government set out before us here.
Now they find that they have succeeded in obtaining their ends by slightly different means from those which they first announced, and we are now asked to accept this as a matter of good business for the Irish railways on the one hand, and, on another hand, to throw up our hats with joy because of the opportunity this proposal gives for co-operation between the Irish and the British railways. It seems to me that we are asked practically to go on our knees to the L.M.S. Company and to admit that, notwithstanding any measure of political autonomy which may have been won, at any rate so far as Ireland is concerned in its traffic with England, they are the predominant partner. We are not asked, for instance, to say that collaboration between the Irish railways and the Great Western Railway of England requires that that railway should have a nominee on the Irish directorate. One would imagine from some of the arguments adduced that there is no need to collaborate, to act co-operatively, to think of reciprocity of any kind, between the Great Western Railway and the Irish railways, but only with the L.M.S. Company, because, of course, they control the western seaboard of England.
I suggest that the closest analogy that can be drawn would be a suggestion that there should be a British representative on, say, an Irish Board of Customs to ensure that there shall be some kind of co-operation between the two services. The Irish railways can, if they will, assist the development of Irish industries, assist economic development in Ireland, in a way which railway companies in the past have declined. If there was a desire within any section of the directorate of Irish railways to move in the direction of developing Irish industries, by preference on the internal traffic for instance, here at least is one director who is going to try his best to thwart that—the director that we are asked to appoint —because that is the effect of the Bill. If we take the analogy and said we shall appoint upon a Board of Customs in Ireland a nominee of the British Treasury, we can make our proposals, make our suggestions, to assist and develop Irish industry, but, at any rate, this nominee of the British Board would, first, be kept in touch with the proposals, and, secondly, would do his best to thwart, if by any chance—as in all probability they would—they ran across British interests. In this case, if Irish railway policy runs in any way across British railway policy, we are conferring a power upon the British railway company to use considerable influence to thwart Irish railway policy in favour of British railway policy.
We have read a good deal lately about the British financial adviser and legal adviser to the Egyptian Government. The Egyptian Government is autonomous—independent within limits. These limits are set by the appointment of financial and legal advisers. This is not far off a similar position. We are asked to appoint on the directorate of the Irish railways a British adviser, nay, more than an adviser, a director, one of the Cabinet of the Government of the Irish railways. I would like, had there been still in the Dáil a number of those Deputies who had been insisting upon the utilisation of the powers given by the Treaty to develop Irish industry and help Irish development, in order to support my opposition to this Bill. I hope that Deputy Casabianca, who still remains on deck, will at least voice the views of that group or party. There is, I believe, a very important consideration that I wish to put before Deputies in this matter.
I have said that it is not really a railway matter. It is a question affecting the general national position economically. Through economics, it affects the political development of the country. We have seen a good deal, during the past couple of weeks, of the apparent resurgence of what was aptly called, up to recently, the "West-British policy"—a sort of pro-Imperial policy. The attitude that I would adopt to this Bill has been quoted as being antagonistic to the rise and development of a sane view in regard to the relations between England and Ireland, that "sane view" being one which would maintain the economic relationships and the business associations as they have always been in the past, while recognising that political changes have taken place. I speak as one who has always remembered that all political developments can be thwarted, provided they are not used to impede economic forces. If we are going to take the view that political change is satisfactory in itself and that we ought not to use it to alter the relationship between commercial companies— that the ordinary processes of trade and commerce which have prevailed for seventy or eighty years, and that railway policy in the country which has helped those ordinary processes of trade and commerce—should continue, then, I say, that within a very few years it will be proved to the country, as a whole, that no real change has been accomplished.
I think that any person who has examined fairly the railway policy of this country since the beginning of railways here will admit that the purpose of the railways has been to encourage the export of raw material, largely in the form of live stock, and to import manufactured articles and distribute them through the country. Railway policy, directed to that end, has undoubtedly played a great part in the economic development in the wrong way that we have experienced. I had hoped that even with the form of railway control which the Dáil has agreed to we might have an opportunity of forcing the development of a railway policy which would help to protect and nurture Irish industry, even if this was done at the cost of imported traffic in manufactured goods; even if it meant some cessation in the export of raw material and cattle. Apparently, that view does not prevail with the Ministry. Apparently the Ministry continues to think of railway interests as purely an industrial and commercial affair, having no particular relation to national economics, and to be treated purely as a matter of business.