I desire to register my personal protest on the Final Stage of this reactionary and confiscatory measure. In the most emphatic manner I protest against this Bill being passed. Those who voted for the Second Reading voted on the understanding that the Bill would not be applied retrospectively. At a later stage the Minister, unfortunately, secured the votes of the majority of Deputies for a qualified undertaking on the assurance that he gave on Second Reading. Various amendments were put forward on this side which, had they been accepted, might improve what appeared to us from the very beginning to be a very bad Bill, a Bill which aimed at confiscating rights given to railway servants who might become redundant under the 1924 Act, and who would be entitled to certain compensation terms. One amendment was calculated to make possible the payment of pensions at periods similar to periods at which the railway servants, previous to their retirement, were being paid their wages or salaries. The Minister turned down that amendment on the ground that it would not be convenient for the company. Apparently, the only reason for turning it down was to enable the company to retain, for one year, the sum that would be due to a redundant official in order that they might make use of the money for whatever purpose they considered most convenient and suitable.
One Deputy on the Farmers' Benches referred to the fact that the railwaymen had secured, through the original Act, terms which were not justified, and indicated that the only grounds for the retention of terms not justified were that these men had given service during the pre-Truce period and they should not be treated in the manner proposed under the amending Bill. So far as the railwaymen are concerned they have not claimed, and are not claiming—I state this emphatically—anything over and above what they are entitled to; they claim nothing beyond what other servants of the State have claimed as a result of other similar measures. We passed here a Local Government Act which gave certain compensation terms to redundant poor law officials, provided that no suitable positions could be found for them following their dismissal as a result of Union amalgamation. No Bill was brought forward to repeal the provisions of the Act giving certain terms to those people. In the same way terms were given to pre-Truce civil servants who refused to act under this Government, and these terms have not, so far, been repealed. The only case in which power is sought to repeal the compensation terms given to any servants, public or private, as a result of measures passed here, is this case affecting railway servants.
I recognise that it is useless, at this stage, to say anything that might tend to alter the mind of the Minister in regard to this measure. It must be quite obvious to the Minister, if he reads in the Official Report the speeches made on the Second and Third Stages of the Bill, that even he was not quite conversant with the actual meaning of the Bill that he now asks the Dáil to pass. That will be dealt with in another place in a more effective way. So far as I am concerned, I look forward to the time when the Seanad, treating the whole matter on its merits, will prevent the Minister from securing through this Bill things apparently which he did not himself recognise when he first brought the Bill before this House. I oppose, in the most emphatic way, the passage of the Bill through its final stage, and I leave it to Deputies who vote for the final stage of this Bill to justify before their constituency what they have done, especially in giving a vote in favour of retrospective legislation.
The Minister stated he had no responsibility for the appointment of an arbitrator, following on the resignation of the arbitrator who dealt with the cases that came before him, on the basis of the original Act. It is very significant, whoever is responsible, that no arbitrator has been appointed to decide in such cases as would come before him pending the passage of this measure. I take it that the failure to appoint an arbitrator is due to the fact that the Government were not anxious to prejudice the position, or allow decisions to be come to under the existing law in the cases listed for hearing.