One would have imagined that at this stage in the development of road transport we would have had from the Minister for Industry and Commerce a comprehensive Bill to regulate the development of that business. But notwithstanding the fact that it is quite evident on all sides that road motor services are in need of careful regulation, the Minister brings in a new Bill which will have no other effect than to put on the roads an additional number of motor buses for the purpose of taking part in that unregulated competition. I should have thought that the Minister, in the interests of the public generally, would have found time to draft and introduce a Bill providing for the regulation of motor services. But the Minister thinks that the public interest is best served by bringing in a Bill to add considerably to the bus services without even indicating that his Department proposes to do anything to regulate the existing bus services. The Minister's whole attitude towards road motor services was rather extraordinary. He made the case that there are no restrictions whatever at present on private bus companies.
ORDERS OF THE DAY. - RAILWAYS (ROAD MOTOR SERVICES) BILL, 1927—SECOND STAGE (RESUMED).
Certain very general restrictions.
And very limited, the Minister might have added. He makes the case for the Bill that in the case of railway buses there will be a certain amount of restriction. He takes the standpoint—as if no intervention was necessary in connection with motor buses—that the present motor transport problem, as we know it, is going along all right, regulating itself satisfactorily, and that no intervention or control by his Department is necessary. That is a rather extraordinary attitude for the Minister to take up at this stage of transport development. I feel sure that public opinion would welcome a Bill designed to regulate motor transport more than it would welcome a Bill to put more buses on the roads to enter into this unregulated competition. Under the Bill as drafted local authorities will apparently get just as scant consideration as they get at present in connection with private buses. At present any private bus can go just where it likes and do what damage it likes to the roads, and the local authorities are absolutely powerless to do anything in the matter.
The local authorities are not powerless—roads can be closed.
Will the Minister quote the section of any Act which empowers the local authorities to compel buses to go a particular route or not to go on any route?
I think if the counties Wicklow and Wexford were consulted they would point out that they have already made application to have certain roads closed.
There are two roads closed already.
If a motor bus is put on in the area of any local authority, will the Minister tell me what section of any Act enables the local authority to exclude that bus from the roads?
I cannot tell the Deputy the section, but it can be done.
Will the Minister tell me the Act?
Deputy Corish will tell the Deputy.
It is the Minister's business.
I have nothing to do with road transport.
This is road transport. The Minister ought to come here prepared to tell us what the position of local authorities is in this matter. Why has not the Minister who knows the position introduced this Bill?
Because it is a railway Bill.
It is not.
The Minister said he knew nothing about road transport, yet he introduces a transport Bill. The point I want to make is that local authorities are absolutely powerless to prevent motor buses running on the roads in their own areas. A bus can run where it likes, when it likes, as often as it likes, and do any damage it likes to the roads, and the local authorities are powerless in the matter. Now the Minister introduces a new Bill keeping local authorities in the position that they will apparently have no say as to what routes the buses ought to go. The section says that the Minister may do certain things after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, and, as Deputy Davin pointed out, he need not necessarily agree with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health is not the local authority, and there is nothing in the Bill compelling him to consult with the local authorities. I think the Bill is very loosely and unsatisfactorily drafted in that respect. Local authorities are responsible for the maintenance of roads for which the ratepayers have to pay, and I think the ratepayers should be consulted before buses are allowed to run on the roads which they are responsible for maintaining. The public generally will take the view, and there has been a good deal of comment on it already, that nothing is being done to regulate the increase in motor transport. One has heard from time to time statements from police authorities that there is a considerable increase in motor transport, and that is fairly obvious in a city such as this. Notwithstanding that motor transport is growing considerably and that the need for regulating it is obvious, the Minister proposes apparently to do nothing which will serve a necessary public purpose in that connection. The real need at the moment is to have some co-ordinating authority for road transport. This Bill does nothing to provide that.
It is not meant to.
If the public interest were to be served, I think a Bill should have been introduced to do that.
That will come.
It is very much more necessary than this Bill. At all events, a co-ordinating authority should be appointed. Under this Bill the Minister can be absolutely autocratic. He can consult the Rates Advisory Committee, he can modify their regulations or refuse to accept them, and generally can do what he likes. That is a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs. It indicates that the transport problem is being dealt with in piecemeal fashion. The Minister would have been well advised to have introduced before now a Bill to regulate motor transport, and I think that our time would have been much better spent on such a Bill, from the public point of view, than on this Bill. As this Bill has been introduced, the Minister should at the earliest possible date bring in a Bill to provide for the regulation of motor transport, to eliminate all unnecessary, undesirable and dangerous competition, and to make bus services in this country not rivals of each other, but supplementary to each other. If that was done it would serve a useful public purpose and in my opinion such a Bill is as urgent as this one is.
The Minister, when he said in an interjection that he had nothing to do with road transport, confirmed the idea which I had formed that this Bill should not have been introduced until we had first a Bill not alone for co-ordinating road transport, but for co-ordinating all forms of transport. I attended a conference called by the Irish Motorists Union in 1925, when this whole question of road transport was discussed by representatives of all interests who had a thorough knowledge of the details of the subject. A recommendation went from that conference to the President, I think, that a commission should be appointed to examine into and make recommendations on the whole question of transport services in this country. We have had a Railway Commission, a Ports and Harbours Commission and a Canal Commission. Now we will have some kind of a tribunal to deal with this particular form of road transport.
What is that tribunal?
There is a tribunal under this Bill to deal with rates —not a controlling tribunal. We have four authorities dealing with four different forms of transport, whereas there ought to be one to deal with the whole matter. To the people whom I represent this is a vital question. We are told that work simply means the conveying of matter from one place to another. For the agricultural community transport is life, and it is of the utmost importance that the whole question should be dealt with in a comprehensive fashion. Instead of that, it is being dealt with in a piecemeal manner. The details are being dealt with rather than the general principle of transport. It is hardly necessary to repeat statements which have been made over and over again in this Dáil and outside, that the agricultural industry has been, and is being greatly hampered by excessive freight charges. What the high freights are due to is rather difficult, if not impossible to say. Doubtless, they are due to a number of things. Undoubtedly one of the things is the unrelated form of transport which exists at present and the redundant, unnecessary and useless competition.
With regard to the principle of this Bill, it is one which ought to receive very deep thought from the Dáil before they sanction it. As far as I am concerned, I am waiting to hear a definite statement from the Minister as to whether he stands on the principle that railway companies will be allowed to put transport on roads, apart from the question of feeding the railways—whether they are to be allowed to enter into direct competition with all other forms of motor transport. Personally, I am inclined to think that that is not sound. I am rather of the opinion that railway companies have enough to do to attend to the business of running the railways, and that the most we should do is to give them power to use road transport as feeders to their lines. I took the line formerly in regard to this matter that there was redundancy and unnecessary competition; that we had road motor transport running side by side with railway transport; and that that was due to the fact that road transport was being provided with a permanent way almost free of charge. That point has been washed out, so to speak, since I made that statement by the increase in the motor tax. If that increase has been sufficient to make the owners of motor transport pay their full proportion of the cost of the maintenance of the roads—and I cannot say at the moment if it has been—we may take it that the competition is free and open, that one class of transport has no advantage over the other, and that the competition is a healthy competition.
Would the Deputy state what he considers to be the full proportion?
If they are paying it, I said.
Well, they are paying 29 per cent. of the total at the moment.
The question arises as to whether 29 per cent. represents the damage they are doing to the roads. I am not in a position to say that. But they are certainly paying a larger proportion.
They are doing about 80 per cent. of the damage to the roads.
If they are not paying their full proportion the remedy is to increase the motor taxes until they are, not a system of this kind which will allow the railways to go into competition with them.
What is wrong with this?
There is the danger of a monopoly, and a monopoly by a private company in regard to transport is a very dangerous thing. I know that the Bill contains provisions to restrict and restrain the possibilities of a monopoly, but the question is whether these provisions will or will not be effective. The Minister can forbid them to make use of a route; he can also prevent them from discontinuing the use of a particular route, but I am not sure, and I hardly believe that even the Minister's powers in that regard will have the effect of providing against a monopoly and that the railways will not, by other means, be able to use the powers they are getting to wipe out the other companies, and although they may be forced to continue a service which they have established, they might make that service so unsatisfactory in many ways that it would be unsuitable for public use.
I repeat that I consider this Bill has been prematurely introduced, that we ought to face this problem in a different manner, that we ought to face up to the whole question of the co-ordination of all transport services in the State, that that can only be done by a close examination into the whole question of transport, preferably by means of a commission of experts, and that we should not attempt to deal in detail or piecemeal with the present form of road transport. I suggest that it would be much better that this Bill should be withdrawn for further consideration. I do not believe it is possible for any Deputy to foresee the possibilities if this Bill is passed, but my impression is that, even with the very autocratic powers which the Minister is giving himself in it, there is a possibility that the effect of its passing will be, in the course of time, to give the railway companies a monopoly of both rail and road transport, whereas, I believe that the railways have quite enough to do to run their own services as they ought to run them, and that a certain amount of competition from independent companies would be useful rather than disadvantageous. I realise that there is competition, but I still think that the companies, which are extremely strong financially, would, in the course of time, be able to wipe out a great many of the existing private companies.
I think that the natural growth of road transport should be by means of independent companies, and that many of the companies which are now redundant will, in the natural course of events, amalgamate with larger, stronger and better financed companies. We would then have road transport controlled by companies much stronger financially, and if they were co-related with the other forms of transport, as a result of the recommendations of a commission, I think we might develop a form of transport which would be of advantage to the State. But I think that a Bill of this kind is a dangerous experiment, and the Dáil should be very slow to give it support. I am awaiting the Minister's statement as to where he stands on the section which allows the railway companies to enter into competition with other means of transport, apart from acting as feeders, which they might find necessary to bring merchandise and passengers directly to their line.
In so far as this Bill affords an opportunity for the contributions to be made that we have had on the transport problem, I think it is valuable. Deputy Norton stressed the point that a much larger measure of general control of traffic was due, and said that this was piecemeal legislation. I am inclined to agree. As far as the roads are concerned, the traffic problem is undoubtedly arriving at a point when a form of co-ordination by means of a board, or some other body—I see that boards are now in fashion, in connection with electricity—should be arranged. Coming to criticism of the Bill, it seems to me that its provisions are harsh, so far as the railway companies are concerned. If they are carried out as laid down they will be not only harsh but unworkable. The Bill seeks to lay a preventing hand on the railway companies as regards the development of road traffic by what are, in my opinion, impossible conditions. For instance, the companies can only start a service with the permission of the Minister, which is quite all right, but the Minister concerned has not himself got the control of the roads. Therefore, you will have two Departments acting in connection with the one matter.
Three. There is also the Minister for Justice.
How does he come in?
He has stated that an inter-Departmental Committee was sitting at the moment considering the whole traffic problem.
But obviously as a permanent measure the Bill is not very workable. Deputy Heffernan has mentioned the possibility of the railway companies starting out on a monopolistic campaign to control all the road services. If that were possible, I think it would be very undesirable, and as far as the Bill gives powers to the railway companies for bus traffic, I think a simple interpretation of the measure of authority that might be given would be to say that they should be able to carry on traffic in passengers or goods that originates from or is destined for carriage on the railways. In that connection the railway companies could perform valuable services by opening up many parts of the country for tourists and for other purposes. If the railway companies are likely to do what Deputy Heffernan visualises, then of course a very dangerous situation would be created. When the amalgamation of the railways Bill was before the House I opposed it, and I have not changed my views on the subject very much since. The reason I opposed it was because I considered it would mean what is developing in other directions, a nationalising tendency and the elimination of competition amongst the railways themselves. In the course of time I think that this House has been marching in various directions rather different from those on which they started. One must follow the trend of the House, and I think that that trend is in the direction of a more sane view of the road problem than that held not so very long ago.
The Minister made the point that the railways complained of having to pay rates, which were used for the upkeep of the roads, while the roads were used in competition with the railways. I do not think that is quite right, because the railways might shut down immediately if it were not for the services of the roads. Therefore, the roads and the railways ought to be co-ordinated as far as possible, and I think it would be quite unreasonable to say that because a railway is a railway it should have no power to use the roads in connection with the railway. In so far as this Bill proposes to give them power and authority to use the roads in developing the railways, I think it is perfectly sound, but I would hesitate to give any powers of a destructive and competitive character to bodies as strong as the railway companies. We must, of course, recognise that in the past—not so much in this country as on the other side of the water—the railways in their prosperous days spent many millions in the direction of eliminating competition. There was undoubtedly excessive competition to get control. But I say that any persons or body that think they will get a monopoly of transport in any country are making the greatest mistake in the world. Transport consists of road, rail, sea, and, possibly, in the comparatively near future, air. Any movement which would create, say, among the commercial community a feeling that they were being badly used or oppressed in connection with any form of transport would immediately have its reactions, as I say it has had reactions in connection with the development of road transport in this and other countries. Therefore, you cannot arrive at a point where anyone will get a monopoly of transport. Then the sane thing to do in connection with the whole situation is to organise the traffic. Where I disagreed with the amalgamation of the railway companies, so far as the railway companies were concerned, was that it eliminated all competition between railway and railway.
Which never existed.
I differ very strongly from the Minister.
Are we on the Railways Bill now?
I am afraid we are.
I do not think I need develop that now. It will probably arise later. But in so far as this measure provides for the railways to develop remote districts, I think the Bill is a sound one, and the only comment I would make on it is that I think the restrictions are unworkable.
I want to support the point of view that has been expressed, that it would have been better if we had before us a Bill dealing with the whole problem of transport. There is general agreement, and I do not think that the Minister himself will dispute the fact, that to-day we have a good many transport services that are uneconomic.
We have men and materials engaged in the transport services. Fewer men could do the same work and economically the State, under the present conditions, is suffering. Legislation in piecemeal fashion is not satisfactory. It would be better for the future of transport in this State that a more comprehensive Bill should be before us, dealing with the transport problem. At the same time, perhaps, one cannot dispute the fact that railways are entitled to develop remote parts of the country by the employment of bus services, and in doing this it will be all to the good. If, under the present conditions, they were not at liberty to do that the loosening of these restrictions, I suppose, had to be faced up to. While accepting that, my consideration with regard to this Bill, and my attitude towards it, is going to be entirely determined by what reply the Minister gives on this point: What is to be the position with regard to the existing bus services when the railway company proposes, under Section 3, a new route and the Minister is going to determine whether or not they shall have liberty to go on that route? What is to be the nature of the inquiry? How is it to be determined whether that liberty shall be given to a railway company or not? Is it likely that the railway companies will be put into competition with existing bus services? Will the inquiry be anything in the nature of a public inquiry? Will the point of view of the local people in an area where a bus service presently exists be taken into account?
For five or six months past, we have a bus service from Cavan to the city. That service started in the first week in September. It is interesting to see the effect of competition when you have real competition. When the service started the first-class railway fare from Cavan to Dublin was 40/- and the third class was 27/8. A week after the bus service started the first-class fare was reduced from 40/- to 15/- and the third-class fare from 27/8 to 10/-. One man had the enterprise to put a considerable amount of capital into that service, to explore that territory, and the results have been very satisfactory indeed to hundreds of people living in the area served both by rail and by this bus service. What are the possibilities of the railway company, because of the intense competition, being given the right to run on that same route? Will consideration be given to whether it is economic, from the point of view of the number of passengers to be carried, and the area to be served, whether there is liberty, so to speak, for a greater number of buses to go on that route than serve it at the present time or not. I admit that it would seem a hardship that the railway company would not be at liberty to protect its interest, if its interests are being prejudiced. But we all know the great disadvantages that this country has suffered and is suffering, because of the want of enterprise on the part of the railway companies. I think it has been a mighty good thing for this State that some men have had the enterprise to put money into these bus services and to show the country what enterprise can do, and to show the railway companies what they could do if they were as enterprising.
To me it seems that this Dáil should be very careful about the steps they are taking, whether we are going to prejudice the position of men who have had enterprise to put hundreds of thousands of pounds into a few bus services here and there in different parts of the country. I know myself that the Electricity Bill has given quite a number of enterprising people all over the country a bit of a shaking up. This is disturbing the minds of a good many other enterprising citizens. You can march too quickly along that road, and while we are admonished time and again from the Government Benches as to what it is necessary to do to build up the State, and as to the duty of the citizen in putting his money into his own country and the necessities for new industries, we have to consider what effect the policies put forth here in green papers are going to have on enterprise in the country. I think we must be very careful indeed that we are not marching too fast. It seems to me that where existing bus services are giving good service, where there is no legitimate complaint, where the fares are reasonable, where a certain territory is to be exploited, and where only a certain limited business can be done, that it is certainly going to be an uneconomic proposition to allow further services on these same routes. It would be an uneconomic proposition to go on them and stay on them. It can only be done for one definite purpose, and that is to knock out the existing service and to hand the business over to a monopoly if you like. That is the kind of thing that stifles enterprise, and I think we have to take precautions to see that this Bill will not make it possible for the railway companies to get rights which would be exercised in such a manner as to wipe out their competitors. When they have taught enterprising men a lesson, and when they will succeed in warning off others, they will have the field to themselves. That should not be done. We do not want to be up against such a proposition. We have to-day very high charges by the railway companies for passenger services and goods services, and when we have legitimate grounds for complaint we have to be careful as to whether we are going to give these companies powers to be used to the disadvantage of the citizens. Unless the Minister is able to clear my mind as to what is to happen with regard to the services on the existing route, I feel that I must vote against this Bill.
I am not going to traverse the ground that has been already traversed as to the necessity for co-ordination of the traffic systems of the country. There is one thing, I think, that cannot be overstressed, and that is that the Bill is drafted without any reference whatever to local authorities, without taking their advice on any matter concerning transport within their administrative areas. The Minister may very well be said to have indicated in the definitions that he was not going to consult the local authorities. "The word ‘rates,'" the definitions state, "means rates and other charges in connection with the carriage of merchandise." The word "rates" may also mean the amount of money that the ratepayers have to pay for local services within that administrative area. I suggest to the Minister that a county council ought very well be called into consultation before bus services are approved of by the Minister, in conjunction with the Minister for Local Government. Of course, he made the point to Deputy Norton, a moment ago, that a route can be closed for heavy motor traffic. Does it not seem to be anomalous when the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in the first place, conferred with the Minister for Local Government and the route is approved and when the local authorities consider that the route should not be used for heavy motor services that they have to appeal to the Minister who has previously granted the use of that route. After all, there is a great deal to be said in favour of that. One cannot imagine that two Ministers here in consultation, no matter how well intentioned they may be, would be in a position to understand the suitability of certain routes for heavy motor traffic. You have got to consider that this is an attempt to perpetuate what to me seems something of an injustice —the making of a national service more or less a local charge. If you perpetuate that there is nothing in the Bill, as far as I can see, to tell the local authorities what they are going to get out of the national fund for the maintenance of the routes that these heavy motor buses are going to injure. The Minister, as far as I know, has not said anything in the matter, and I cannot find anything in the Bill that would make a person clear as to what they are going to get for the use of these routes, as to what they are going to get out of the National Exchequer for the maintenance of these routes that are going to be injured by the motor services.
The two points I want to make are: In the first instance, why is not the local authority called into consultation? Does he not think that they may probably give some very useful advice to the two Ministers concerned? And, would he also make clear what will be the position in regard to the maintenance of the routes if this Bill is put into operation.
I should have imagined that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, before he introduces a Bill of this kind which will, to the mind of the ordinary person, be the means of causing more accidents in the coming year than what have taken place in the past, would have considered a Bill for the control of traffic. It would be time enough when a Bill was introduced to make it safe for the ordinary people who use the roads to introduce a Bill of this description. Let us for a moment consider the number of accidents that occurred in the Saorstát last year. In reply to a question of mine on the 8th February, 1927, as to the number of fatal accidents caused by motor cars from 1922 to 1926, it was shown that there had been a startling increase. The number of fatal motor car accidents in 1922 was 44; in 1926 the number was 112. The number of motor accidents affecting males in 1922 was 327 and in 1926, 653. The corresponding numbers for females were 81 and 134. The passing of this Bill will mean that accidents will become more frequent. The Minister did not introduce a Bill to protect the lives of the people against the dangerous driving of motor cars or to regulate the running of buses on narrow roads on which there is no room to pass other vehicles. According to this Bill, a railway company having any part of its line in the Saorstát will be in a position to provide road motor services. Since the Railway Amalgamation Act was passed hundreds of railway employees have been dismissed. If this Bill goes through, the effect will be the same. It seems to me to be the thin edge of the wedge in order to make way for many more dismissals.
Take a railway service on which there are two or three trains per day. The line may extend for 40 or 50 miles. Twelve or fourteen men will be engaged on that line. If the railway company can handle the traffic sufficiently, they will deal with it by bus which will only call for the employment of two men. The engine-driver, the guard, the firemen, the porters and the signal men will not be further required. The Government may say that this is not another employers' Bill, but it is a Bill that is going to do harm to the workers. The railway companies will run their buses for the purpose of doing away with the train service and the result will be that railway workers will be thrown out of employment and will be told that when they reach seventy years, they can get the old age pension. That is the only gratuity they will get. Having regard to the number of fatal accidents recently, I do not think it is right to introduce a measure of this kind. No legislation has provided protection for life or has provided for the widening of roads and yet this additional traffic is to be carried by the roads. The trunk road from Athlone to Dublin is not more than twelve feet wide in parts. That is a dangerous road on which to have these buses running. Take for example, the railway line that runs from Enfield to Edenderry, in Deputy Davin's constituency. Two trains per day run on that line. There are engaged on it twelve men, including the men at Edenderry. If the railway company get this Bill through, it will not be necessary to continue that line. The buses will provide the necessary facilities and ten men will be dismissed off that line, which extends for about ten miles. In addition, milesmen will be disemployed. This is an attempt by the railway companies to reduce their staffs and to increase their earnings with a view to investment in foreign countries. While many men are idle. these railway companies import 400 turned wheels, the making of which would have provided wages for the mechanics in Dublin. Deputy Baxter has stated the position with regard to his constituency and his remarks apply to Athlone and Mullingar. The fare from Moate by rail is 19/10 third-class. The fare by bus is 11/- return. I speak subject to correction and contradiction but I think the railway company are running some buses under assumed names, without the sanction of legislation. If they get this Bill through, they will run these buses until they wipe out the private owners and when they are wiped out they will increase their rates. It is deplorable and lamentable that the Government have not introduced legislation in view of the number of accidents that have occurred. It is a well-known fact that farmers and farmers' wives and workers and workers' wives are not able to drive their donkey-carts on the roads owing to the buses.
Let them go by rail.
That would be better from the point of view of employment, but these people cannot afford to pay the train fares. If this legislation is passed, the number of accidents will be doubled. I will vote against this Bill, not that I disagree with the principle of giving everybody a chance of investing capital in whatever industry they please, but because the Bill will have the effect of depriving a large number of men of employment, and because the Government have introduced no legislation to provide for the safety of the people on the roads.
Deputy Lyons gives one the impression that he lives his life in a constant nightmare, dreading from every measure introduced into this House a greater increase in unemployment. Unemployment is a very popular topic at the present hour, but I would suggest to the Deputy that he will not help the cause of the unemployed by making a fantastic case. He agrees—if one looks into the matter radically—not in a way to be wondered at with Deputy Heffernan in regard to this Bill. He foresees, like him, the provision of a monopoly. This wrong approach in the attack on measures is greatly to be deprecated, because it conveys the impression that the best case that can be made against a measure lies in these futilities. So far as the Bill is described in the title, it is a Bill with which everybody ought to agree—"an Act to enable railway companies to provide, own, maintain and run road motor services." Is there any reasonable ground upon which a man might argue that that extension of powers should not be given to the railway companies, in view of the growing development in transport with which the Saorstát is at present being enriched? It seems to me that the Bill is, as the Minister in the course of conversation across the House, described it just now, a Railway Bill. It is a Bill for the relief of the railway companies in regard to certain competition.
Deputy Hewat expressed my view on the matter when he lauded the possibilities provided in this measure for extending a feeder system through bus transport to the railways. Deputy Lyons, in treating the question of employment through the operation of such a Bill, overlooked that important fact, that the decadent railways might be restored to healthy vitality if they were able, through a properly-organised feeder system of bus transport, to bring in not merely passengers, but every type of traffic.
But what Deputy Hewat, strange to say, overlooked, and what Deputy Lyons overlooked, is the parallel we had in this matter quite recently in the history of this city. When electricity was in its infancy in regard to production and supply, the Gas Company was terrified, foreseeing its possibilities, and the Gas Company shareholders and others interested in the provision of gas supplies took a very strong line in attempting either to suppress the new development or to get control of it. Those who saw the advantages that lay in electricity, the convenience of it, the healthiness of it, the extraordinary flexibility of its adaptations, felt that the gas-producing industry was a lost cause; whereas we, who have lived through all this and who see it in its later days, are well aware that though electricity supply and electricity distribution have developed at an enormous rate—so as almost to be incredible—yet the gas companies are a better paying proposition at this hour than ever they were in their history. So there is no incompatibility whatsoever, at least under proper organisation and under proper business control, and there need not be any alarm as regards future development and progress between the railway system and the road transport system.
The Minister said, very properly, that the railways have spent nearly three quarters of a million on the upkeep of a permanent way. They have a certain amount of monopoly, it may be said, in that regard, but it is not a monopoly that anyone is going to contest with them. Unless they get this feeder provision which they are looking for, the monopoly would be very much in the nature of a white elephant. It is not good for this State, and no one interested in its future would pretend even that it is good, that the railway system in which so much capital is sunk and which could do so much, if rightly organised, for the progress of the State should be thrown on the scrap heap through failure to take an enlightened view with regard to modern progressive methods.
The Bill provides, I am satisfied at least, against a monopoly. The provisions taken to provide against competitive devices being used by the railways running buses to crush out competitors are provisions that almost reach to harshness. "A railway company which has commenced to run a road motor service under this Act shall not, so long as the running of such service either with or without modification is lawful under this Act, withdraw or discontinue such service without the permission of the Minister." That closes the door very effectually against the old trick of a big organisation with large capital crushing the smaller competitor by cutting prices or affording other advantages and, when the competitor is crushed out, withdrawing the services or, having secured the advantage of no competition, charging whatever rate it arbitrarily pleases.
I do not think it is fair, therefore, to allege against the Bill that it does not contain provisions against monopoly. Deputy Heffernan thinks that it is defective in that regard. Now Deputy Heffernan, in the course of that criticism, enunciated a very extraordinary definition of work. I was so much struck by it that I took it down; I thought it was well worth committing to memory. "Work." he said, "is conveying matter from one place to another." That being so, his speech was a piece of work, for he merely conveyed the matter contained in the memorandum prepared by the Irish Motorists' Union and Transport Development Federation upon the Railways Bill of 1927 from the place in which it was to the official reports of this House. In doing so he forgot to study the Bill with the same care, and consequently he fell inadvertently into the error of attributing to the measure a defect it does not possess.
There is to my mind, one cardinal defect in the Bill. Deputy Heffernan did refer to that without, I think, being aware that, to use a vulgar phrase, he had got hold of a good thing. When the Provisional Government was set up here there was then in existence, as part of the going concern which was taken over, a Transport Department. What has been one of my continual subjects of denunciation is the fact that in the Ministers and Secretaries Act transport, instead of being kept as a unit State concern, has been divided throughout various departments. Now there is an attempt in this Bill at undoing the division and bringing about, not indeed unification, but some approximation to it, because the Minister—which means, of course, not a Minister for Transport, as it ought to mean, but the Minister for Industry and Commerce—is to consult with his colleague, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. That perpetuates to some extent the unfortunate division whereby transport facilities of one type are under the control of one Department and other transport facilities are under the control of another Department. In the discussion this evening the Minister in charge of this Bill said very frankly, "I have nothing to do with road transport." That is perfectly true, but he does consider railways and harbours.
Yes, canals —in fact, railways and waterways. But qua Minister for Railways he becomes indirectly through a measure such as this—it is really forced upon him, to some extent at least—concerned as Minister for Roads. That is unfortunate. I think there is agreement in this House—it has been expressed several times—that the main arteries of traffic should be a national concern. Now the railroads are arteries of traffic, but the ordinary highways are what I refer to. There is in connection with these ordinary highways, under the Department of Local Government, an Advisory Board, and I take it that in the working of Section 3 when a railway company has applied to the Minister for Industry and Commerce for permission to run a road motor service on a particular specified route and when he consults with his colleague the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, that the Minister in his turn would consider the views of the Roads Advisory Committee. But when one considers the composition of the Roads Advisory Committee a flaw is revealed. That Minister has refused to give representation on the Roads Advisory Committee to the very important interests of lorry or truck owners and motor bus owners.
There are other people interested, too.
There are others, but I am speaking for the moment only of one aspect of it, namely, the aspect of competition between two providers of the same service to the public. Deputy Gorey, of course, is quite right; there are others interested. It is because there are others interested I do not think that the whole requirements of the new situation would be met unless the tribunal in question were under, in its constitution, some sort of arrangement like, say, the Tariff Commission of Canada, that is, with an independent chairman and then other members representative of the various interests concerned, the railways, bus providers, ratepayers, and the various industries whose products such as agriculture and manufactures would be carried by these carrying companies.
It is unfortunate that we are so near the dissolution of the Parliament that it would be useless to ask for what now strikes everyone as so necessary, the setting up at least of a sub-Ministry of Transport to which all these questions would be referred, and within whose authority would lie the administration of all the matters that arise in connection with this Bill. But in the present Bill some safeguard might be provided through arranging that the decisions of the Minister should be reached after consultation with, or after having the advice of, some such body as I describe, or he might transfer the responsibility for the decision to such a body, calling it a tribunal. It is really hopeful to hear the Minister say in the course of the interchange of views across the House, that it will come.
Though uttered casually, I believe it was not a chance utterance, but expressed the considered minds of the Minister's Department. They must realise that this is purely a temporary measure and meant to meet an emergency that has arisen. As the Department concerned with the amalgamated railway in the Free State, it cannot stand idly by and allow to continue the limitations on its working which would involve ultimate disaster to it, with corresponding injury, as I pointed out, to the State. At the same time, they cannot, I suppose, in the few months that remain undertake the reconstruction of Ministries; consequently I am not making the accusation that, instead of this Bill, there should have been an amending Bill to make a Transport Ministry. I merely suggest that, while this measure is defensible and obviously intended for reasonable purposes, it could be made very much better. The arrangement whereby the Minister for Industry and Commerce— that means his Department—should have the decision is autocratic. It will be autocratic irrespective of consultation with the Minister for Local Government inasmuch as, so far as I understand the Bill, he merely is consulted as to whether he thinks a concession to the railway in particular instances is proper. As Deputy Heffernan sees the danger of monopoly I, perhaps, suffer from a tendency to suspicion in regard to bureaucracy. I fear the various Bills and Acts that increase the power of the Ministry to be the sole arbitrator in matters of public interest. The vulnerable point, therefore, in my conception of the measure, is Section 3. Very little reasonable quarrel can be raised against the rest of the Bill. If the Minister will see his way to re-consider the objectionable element in sub-section 2 of Section 3, I should certainly feel it necessary to vote for the Bill.
Deputy Magennis stated on a recent occasion that he had the rare pleasure of being in agreement with me on a certain subject. I am in a position now to return the compliment because I am in complete agreement with what he has said on the subject. I cannot see any reason why the railway companies should not get at least the same facilities as private enterprise, especially in connection with a matter in which they are vitally affected. They are at present, I believe, the largest ratepayers in the Free State. They pay something like £700,000 a year.
To the Local Government Department, I think.
They pay £178,000 a year.
It is much more important, anyhow, that the railway companies should live than that the bus companies should prosper. Deputy Lyons expressed the view that to put railway motor buses on the road would cause unemployment. My view is quite the opposite. The railway companies at present have the greatest difficulty in maintaining even normal services, owing to the depreciation in traffic of every kind, and if they could develop their traffic by running motor buses I cannot see any reason why there should be objection to it. If they are able to provide further competition and to reduce rates further I believe that the public will benefit in the end. I do not know if I would be in order at this stage in speaking about the roads, but it is very important that something should be done soon in connection with the road traffic because the county councils will not be in a position in the future, owing to the development of bus services and motor traffic, to keep the roads in repair. At present they are getting huge sums from the Government in connection with the national road scheme. Between here and Mullingar, although the roads have been made in the very best fashion, they are depreciating to an extent that I do not think is fully realised owing to the huge traffic of buses and lorries. Whether there is to be an increase in the tax that is charged or whether the Government will provide a subsidy to local councils in order that they may be able to maintain the roads in a proper way, the county councils, especially the one which I represent, have stated that they will discontinue the sum of £30,000 per annum which they are spending on the roads at present because, no sooner have they repaired or renewed a road than it becomes in as bad a condition as ever after three months' time.
I think this Bill has been properly described as a railways Bill, and I do not take it in any sense to be an attempt to deal with the transport problem as a whole. That, in fact, is one of the minor objections which I have to the Bill. I would have preferred a larger and more comprehensive measure, a more considered proposal, to deal with the whole system of transport but, taking the Bill as it is, and understanding it, as I do, to be practically an emergency Bill, I cannot discover anything by way of principle to which I could object. The Bill proposes to enable railway companies to run motor services and my principal complaint is that the Bill was not introduced, at least, two years ago for this purpose because, in the meantime, since the amalgamation of the railways, there have grown up certain vested interests which may be injuriously affected by the Bill, but most of which were not even in existence at the time of the amalgamation. Dealing with the situation as it is at present, I think there is no reason why the railway company should not have equal facilities for running services by motor cars or buses, especially for passengers and especially in view of the fact that the railway company is composed of a large number of shareholders—the total amount of which I am not able to give the House but it must run into many thousands—and most of these shareholders have very small capital. They have been particularly badly hit within the last few years.
I am not going into the reasons for that, but the fact remains that these people—many of them have very little other means of livelihood—are persons who invested their small means in order to provide something for their old age in the shares of the railway companies, and they have been receiving practically nothing. I, for one, have been almost inundated with communications from railway shareholders throughout the country wanting to know what, if anything, is going to be done to enable them to obtain some return for the money which, when they invested it, they thought they were placing in a sound investment. Therefore, I think it is due to these people, who in many cases are not at all a prosperous portion of the community, that the railway companies should be placed, at least, on an equal footing with other companies or individuals in the direction of providing motor services. It has, of course, been suggested that this Bill will bring about a monopoly. I am not concerned with the methods which are proposed in the Bill to prevent that taking place and, while I agree with Deputy Magennis that the Bill seems to go a long way to prevent monopoly, I think that it might be amended in some respect to make that position more secure. Let us take section 2, for example. In that section, which is very wide, it is provided that the railway companies may apply their funds for the purpose of maintaining these services. That may seem a simple statement but it is quite possible that the railway company might be able to afford to lose a considerable sum of money, even tens of thousands of pounds, by providing these motor services, whereas at the same time an individual or a company already in existence would not be able to compete with them.
In other words, I think it might be desirable that the railway companies should be asked to make their particular motor services pay for the particular routes upon which they are engaged. Those already engaged on those services to-day have to pay their way, and if the railway companies are to be permitted to draw upon their general funds to provide for a special service in one district or another, I think in that respect it might be unfair to the existing company. At the same time, viewing this Bill as a proposal to enable the railway companies to do something to make a return to their shareholders, and further, to feed the populations in the outlying districts of the country, and probably even to develop the tourist traffic, I welcome this Bill as far as it goes. My only complaint is that it would have been better and easier to have introduced it at least two years ago. Then we would not have been up against the problem of vested interests which we find ourselves up against to-day. But as regards the principle involved in it, I am certainly in favour of it.
I rise to oppose, in the strongest terms, the second reading of this Bill. Anyone with a knowledge of this country, and looking back at what happened in it during the last quarter of a century, must come to the conclusion that a measure like this is going to do very serious injustice to the people of this country, especially the class that Deputies on these Benches represent. During a period of nearly thirty years I have had good experience of railway and shipping interests. At one period we had some competition on the railways. You had opposition at certain centres where the railways met, but in time the railway companies eliminated that competition by pooling arrangements at these various centres. That was Number 1 injury against the traders. As a result of the Railways (Amalgamation) Act, which was passed here, competition has been further eliminated. We all had hopes that, when private enterprise put those buses on the roads we were going to have competition revived, but the reverse has been the case. When the canals were working the railway people got a hold of them. Anyone who looks up the records can see what the result of that was. They can see what the volume of traffic was on our canals and water-ways up to the time the railways got a hold of them. I had great hope that those buses were going to be a big benefit to this country and to motor transport in general. I was in England recently, and witnessed the wonderful volume of live stock traffic that is dealt with by motor transport. I have here in my hand a report of the evidence given recently before the Railway Rates Tribunal in Great Britain on behalf of three most important bodies in England: the National Farmers' Union, the Live Stock Traders' Association of Great Britain, and the National Federation of Meat Traders' Association. I propose to call the attention of the House to some questions that were put to the witness examined on behalf of these bodies on the question of motor transport. The questions and answers are as follows:—
Now I want to ask you a few questions on the subject of motor transport. Is motor transport a feasible alternative to high railway rates?— Yes, there is no doubt about that.
In regard to what distance would you say that it is a feasible alternative?—My own opinion of it is, and I have studied it rather carefully, that if the railways cannot keep the rates reasonable, when you get above 20 miles, not always up to 20 or 30 miles—we have evidence of it from the markets all over England—the motor traffic, especially with regard to sheep and pigs, is increasing rapidly.
Are any calves carried?—A tremendous lot.
Is there a tendency for this traffic to increase or decrease?—I am quite certain it is increasing rapidly.
I think there is another alternative, competition by road?—Yes. The present railway rates are driving people, especially where the distance is nine or ten miles, to walk their cattle instead of sending them by railway.
That is the point that I want to deal with. The people in this country who are engaged in the production of live stock or in farming are not able to compete with continental countries owing to the high railway rates that are charged. The position is that traders here have every obstacle that is possible put in their way by the railway companies in the matter of giving through rates from stations in Ireland to stations in Great Britain. The companies do not refuse to do that, but what happens is that they want their own local rate to the port of Dublin. That is one of the big obstacles that traders here have to contend against. The position is that the railway companies want their pound of flesh.
Some time ago a man down at Straffan wanted to get a through rate to a station in some part of England. The company would not give it, so what has happened is that the company have lost the traffic which that man could give them and he is now walking his cattle to the port of Dublin. I had evidence myself the other day of the benefits of motor transport. I was in Dublin and met a friend of mine who was interested in this motor transport development. I introduced him to a gentleman who was with me, a man who lives in Ballymahon, which is ten miles from the nearest railway station. The railway stations nearest to it are at Athlone, Castletowngeoghegan, Streamstown and Longford. This gentleman interested in motor transport development asked us when was the next fair in Ballymahon. We told him. He then asked us when was the freight from the nearest railway station to the port of Dublin. We told him it was in or about £3 16s., and from Longford about £4 2s. 8d. He asked us how many cattle we usually put in a waggon. We told him eight or nine. He then said that he would send down a road train to the next fair. He did so, and he carried the cattle at 7/9 per head, whereas by rail it worked out at about 10/-. In the following week he got into communication with the traders in Ballymahon. They held a meeting and discussed the question of getting their goods down from Dublin on his lorry. He said that if he got a load in that way, that he could do the cattle cheaper. At the next fair, the railway company had one of their inspectors present, and at a subsequent fair they had two buses on the road, one from Castletowngeoghegan and the other from Ballymahon. There you have evidence of what competition is capable of accomplishing. I say that if the Government were wise they would allow this motor competition to develop, because the livestock industry of the country is being seriously injured by the existing railway and shipping companies. I see no hope for the country if these companies are allowed to pursue their present policy. Deputies on these Benches supported the Railways (Amalgamation) Act in the hope that some good might come out of it. What we find is that the last stage is worse than the first. When we examine the markets in Great Britain, what do we find but that 80 per cent. of the stuff offered is continental, and we are asked here to compete against these people who are practically subsidised by their own Governments. This is a very important and serious question for the Government and the country. In my opinion it is unwise for the Government to give such a monopoly to the railway company.
I cannot help speaking on this Bill as Deputy Shaw, Deputy Redmond and Deputy Magennis have attempted to express my views on it. In the circumstances, I had better express my own views. When speaking about this Bill we ought, I think to confine ourselves to it. The principle involved in the Bill, as far as I can make it out, is: should one company get facilities that another company has? I will admit that one company is bigger than another—that is the only difference that I can see— in its resources and in the number of its shareholders, but apart from that I can see no other difference between them. This is a question of allowing railway companies to run buses where private companies are allowed to run them. Logically, it would be just as reasonable to prevent bus companies from competing with the railways as to prevent the railway companies from competing with the bus companies. And if you go a step further it would be just as logical to prevent one bus company competing with another bus company. There is no use in going into side issues. Let us decide whether that is right or wrong.
The question of road transport is another one altogether. That is a question on which I hold very definite views, which I have expressed more than once in this House during the last four years or so. The question that is before us now is a vital one. If we refuse the railway companies reasonable facilities it may be a question of closing down the whole railway system altogether. The question that arises is which of the two is the greater national asset. We have to make a choice and decide which would be the greater national loss. For reasons already stated, the railway companies may find themselves in the position of not being able to continue. I should say that the country would be very badly off indeed, especially with regard to cattle traffic, if the railway companies had to close down. Viewing the question from that standpoint, I say that no matter what a company's resources may be, you cannot make a difference between one company and another. It would not be justice or equity to do so. I think that this Dáil would be doing a wrong thing if it were to sanction that.
I wish to say a few words on this Bill. The point that I want to refer to is the question of passenger service, which was not touched upon by Deputy McKenna. I am conversant with the services on the branch of the Great Southern Railways running through the County Meath. I have travelled on it on various occasions, and I have seen trains run empty for the last four or five years. The company would not, or could not, see their way to reduce fares to accommodate the public until the bus services started on the roads.
Deputy Davin gave an illustration last night as to the fare charged from Cavan to Dublin by the railway company before the bus service was started and the fare after the bus service was established. My idea is that this is a Bill introduced by the Minister to cut out the bus services that have been a benefit to the public and that have cut down the railway rates and given cheap facilities to people to travel. If this Bill goes through what is going to happen? The railway companies, with the assistance of the Government, will run buses on every road that they wish, the Minister being agreeable. They will reduce the fares and cut out the existing buses, and when they succeed in that, then up go the fares again and supremacy for the railways.
That is not in the Bill.
Outside the ordinary formal objections there has been very little said in objection to this measure. When I speak of formal objection I mean of the type raised by Deputy Davin, that this is not a Bill for other purposes than the purpose which it sets out to accomplish. The same Deputy made a similar objection to the Intoxicating Liquor Bill recently, when he said that it did not deal with something about milk carriers. He complains now that this is not a Bill dealing with the whole transport problem. It is not intended to be. In opposition to that, the one clear thought I got from Deputy Redmond on this was, that it should have been introduced two years ago. I wonder does Deputy Davin agree with that, that it should have been introduced two years ago, or is he in favour of holding back anything that can be usefully done in one section until you are ready to deal with everything that relates to the particular problem?
The Minister has the policy of my Party laid down in the Bill which we introduced—the Transport and Communications Bill.
The Deputy talked of amending Bills in connection with railways. There have been four Bills, including this, dealing with railway matters since I became a member of this House. The first one had not the Deputy's serious objection. The second had his complete approval; so complete that he split from the rest of his Party on it—I think the solitary occasion on which the well-regimented Labour Party allowed one member of the group to vote in opposition to the rest. The third had his vehement opposition. The fourth now, I gather, has his approval.
Deputy Davin never gives anything but qualified approval, the qualification always being that it proceeds from somebody else than himself. Had Deputy Davin anything serious to say about this Bill? He had two points. One was to Section 3, as to which he asked why it could not be more plainly expressed. He said that it contained a certain amount of verbiage—that the Minister for Industry and Commerce shall consult with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. He said quite rightly, and that is what must be read into it, that that consultation may lead to nothing—that a headstrong Minister for Industry and Commerce may go his own way, quite irrespective of the consultations with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I do not know what the Deputy wants. I did not gather from him that he wanted the Minister for Local Government and Public Health made the authority on Section 3. If he does, that is a point we can argue about—as to just which Department ought to have control of this type of measure. Outside that Deputy Davin made only one point, which was also referred to by Deputy Lyons—something to do with extra unemployment likely to be caused by this measure. Deputy Davin made something of a better case—at least he tried to make a case, which Deputy Lyons did not. Deputy Lyons simply stated things. Deputy Davin said: "You may get branch lines closed down as a result of motor competition; you may get men put out of employment," and he asked under these circumstances where was the provision in this Bill for the unemployment going to be caused by its operation. I cannot understand the Deputy's argument in connection with that. If it is not possible to close a branch line under the Railways Act there is no further power given with regard to the closing of a line now. If it was possible to close a line under the Railways Act, then there would be compensation presumally. I cannot understand the circumstances of which the Deputy speaks, but I am trying to envisage them. Presumably there would be compensation if the closing down was the result of amalgamation. Supposing the closing down was not the result of amalgamation but was by reason of bus services put on by some enterprising owner, is there any case for compensation? If there is not any case for compensation there, is the railway employee any worse under the operation of this Bill than he is with existing conditions that hold with regard to traffic? I do not see any case that can possibly be made for the adverse operation on the railway employee of this measure. If it can be pointed out and the circumstances clearly detailed, we can endeavour to meet them.
On a point of explanation, I recognise that if a railway company under existing powers closes down a branch line which is a nonpaying section they are committed to certain compensation payments as a result of their action in so doing, but if subsequent to the passage of this Bill, a railway company closes down a branch line and substitutes a bus service along the same route, I do not think a railway employee who would be thrown out of employment would have the same rights to compensation as in the other case.
Neither would he have any rights owing to a branch line being closed down by being made unremunerative through competition with road services not under the railway companies. This Bill, which merely substitutes a railway company as a possible runner of a bus service in an area now served by a private bus owner, does not affect the employees in any way.
I suggest that the point the Minister is now deciding by his statement is a matter that might be decided by the arbitrator to whom claims would be referred.
I am merely putting up the argument of Deputy Davin. As long as the House is not going to take it that Deputy Davin's statement is what an arbitrator would have to act on, I am satisfied. The Deputy asked where was the provision for men thrown out of employment by reason of this Bill. I answered him by asking him to show me how this Bill can throw people out of employment. I have not got the answer. The Deputy, and also Deputy Redmond, asked as to the reason for delay. There is the usual dilemma that one is put in in this House. On the one hand, Deputy Heffernan, who is the most artful dodger of Parliamentary work that the House has, objects to the measure being brought forward. He says this is a big question, and should be left over until the really big measure came along. If people look back to Deputy Heffernan's record on big measures, they will find that when they did come along he was always in the gap to plead that they should be put off to a Special Committee or postponed for further consideration, or anything done except deal with them at the particular time they came forward. We have Deputy Heffernan asking that this should not be brought forward until a larger measure is brought in, and thus give a further opportunity to postpone the whole thing, and Deputies Redmond and Davin complaining that it was not brought forward two years ago.
I can justify myself to anybody who can go into the details of this matter on this question of undue delay. It is nearly two years since it was first put to the railway companies that this was a matter they should consider—this question as to whether or not they would want to run services on the roads. If the railway companies have taken so long to make up their minds, that does not lead immediately to the cry against them of undue delay and neglect. They had to consider over what roads they would like to run road services, see whether it would be economic, see whether they were likely to be in a position to cope with the demands that would be made upon them in the way of these regulations in this Bill.
When they are doing that it must be remembered that there has not been a solitary example of a service of buses on the road properly run in such a way that one could get proper accounts— costings and everything done accurately, depreciation and everything allowed for—so that an undertaking like a railway company could really make up its mind whether or not it wanted to engage in this sort of undertaking. In addition to that, it should be said for the railway companies that the work of early absorption, the work of amalgamation, and the things consequential upon these, have taken up all their energies since the amalgamation period. So far as I am concerned, it was pointed out to the railway companies long ago—I cannot even say that I took the initiative in pointing it out—but at a conference which I happened to have with railway people on other matters about two years ago, this thing was first brought forward, and it has been incubating since. My Department had nothing to do with it. This is a matter on which, of course, the railway companies were fettered. If they wanted to have the fetters released, obviously the demand or the plea should have come from them first. We assisted them in every way we could.
Deputy Norton has raised the objection that this should have been delayed; that we should have got a more comprehensive Bill. I think other people have either here or elsewhere committed themselves to much the same argument—that we want a very big measure of control dealing with the whole question of traffic—road traffic some people limit it to, others simply say traffic. Undoubtedly there will have to be an approach to that, but I often wonder what the people who so glibly talk about co-ordination mean. I hardly ever get a definition. I know myself what I would mean. As far as I can see co-ordination ahead, it does not promise the spectacular results that co-ordination as argued down the country seems to promise to the whole community. The question of transport will undoubtedly have to be dealt with further. I ask any Deputy, particularly Deputy Norton, is he going to postpone this, which can be taken in a section by itself, and which is a useful piece of legislation, simply because something, the full effect of which he has not yet been able to consider, has not been thought out and brought forward by way of legislation?
I do not think that is quite fair. Will the Minister in his spare time look up the Transport and Communications Bill and the memo. attached thereto, and he will see the views that Deputy Norton and the Labour Party hold in regard to the matter.
Will the Minister also look up my speech in the Official Report and see if I suggested the postponement of this Bill? I did not suggest it.
Not the postponement, but the Deputy made the text of this Bill the occasion on which to deliver a general complaint that the whole system of transport had not been dealt with in a comprehensive way.
Incidentally, being so keen on transport and having, apparently, studied the matter, Deputy Norton is still unaware that local authorities have certain powers in regard to the closing of roads, and he says his ignorance in that matter is not to be used against him, because I cannot quote sections of an Act. He has a colleague who can tell him, and there is a member of the Farmers' Party who can tell him, because both are representatives of the council to which I have referred——
The Minister has got the information since. Would he let us have the authority?
I do not know what the authority is. I do not want to know. The Roads Acts have nothing to do with me. But I do say that the Minister for Local Government, on the application of a council, has power to close roads.
Does the Minister seriously suggest that the Roads Acts have nothing to do with him in regard to the administration of this particular matter?
Nothing except that the Minister for Local Government is called into consultation——
Would it surprise the Minister to know that the Department of Local Government told a local authority, when they complained of a private bus running over their roads, that it had no authority to put that bus off the roads?
No, neither had it.
It has no power to put a particular bus off a road?
It has power to close a road to all classes of traffic of a particular type.
While the road is under repair.
No. I have got the measure of Deputy Norton's expert information about road matters. He, apparently, does not yet believe that it is possible, on the application of any county council, for the Minister for Local Government to make an order prohibiting bus traffic of certain types along roads.
The Westmeath County Council applied in 1926 to the Minister for Local Government asking for authority to prevent heavy motors travelling over certain roads, and the reply was that it rested with the council. The council have nothing to do with that.
The Minister is not responsible for that.
I am sorry, but I cannot follow what the Westmeath County Council did——
We in County Wicklow objected to buses travelling over certain roads, and we asked the Minister for Local Government for an inquiry. The inquiry was held, we produced evidence, and the roads have been closed.
I hope Deputy Everett will for the future discipline his colleague, Deputy Norton, before he begins to talk about roads again. Deputy Davin has interrupted, and has shown again that he does not understand what the Minister for Local Government has to do with it.
He has nothing to do.
"He has nothing to do"—that is the Deputy's sweeping way of passing off what is put into a statute. Why is the Minister for Local Government to be consulted? For the reason that the Minister for Local Government is the authority to whom local authorities have to make application if they think that roads are being destroyed by particular types of heavy motor vehicles, and the Minister for Local Government has, and will continue to have, rights with regard to the vehicles running over roads. It is not proposed to take these from him. But there are two distinct things: there is the matter of the approval of routes where the approval raises the question: Is there any necessity for a bus being run there at all? Can a railway bus be run at a remunerative rate? If it is put on a particular road and must continue on that road, will it have any effect on railway finances? That question having been decided by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for Local Government is taken into consultation on the question of the upkeep of the roads, the safety of people using the roads, the wear and tear of roads, and the question of difficult routes by reason of bad corners. There are specific functions that the Minister for Local Government has, and he will be expected to exercise them in consultation. Deputy Norton and Deputy Hogan raised points as to consultation with the local authorities. I do not know what they meant. Was that comment specially applicable to this Bill, or was it meant to apply to road transport generally? If it was only meant to apply to this Bill I do not see that railway companies when running buses should have to apply to the local authorities for permission when their competitors and rivals can do so without making such application in the general conditions that now operate in regard to road traffic.
I suggested that there was a weakness already, but that the weakness should not be perpetuated in this Bill.
So that Deputy Norton thinks there is a weakness, and having passed judgment on that he says: "Take out the weakness in connection with one type of bus, and one type only."
Take it out generally.
It cannot be taken out generally in this Bill. This is a Bill dealing with services on roads to be run by the railway companies. We are not going to put an extra handicap on the railway companies. I think they are tightly enough bound without putting on them, and on them only, the necessity of having to apply to the local authorities to get permission to run on certain routes. We have, then, generally running through the comments a criticism with regard to the enterprise that is being shown by people who put money into buses, that one should favourably consider that and should not do anything that would react unfavourably on anybody who showed that enterprise. On that I think Deputy Gorey made the correct comment. If you are going to consider this logically you must go back to the beginning, not as in the matter of now permitting the railways to go into competition with those who are using the roads, but a little further.
Who first showed enterprise with regard to transport, the people who put money into railways long ago, or those who put money into buses recently? If there is going to be consideration for those who recently developed a particular line of transport, then the same consideration at least must be given to those who previously put money into railways.
What were the roads put there for?
I cannot answer general conundrums. It might be to let the hen cross to the other side. Deputy Redmond, although besieged by railway shareholders with letters asking when anything was going to be done, if anything was going to be done, for them, does not seem yet to realise just what the position of the railway companies is, because he went on afterwards, in referring to Section 2, to say that the railway companies might be in a position to lose thousands of pounds by running unremunerative bus services. If the Deputy has read the Bill he must know that the losses in that case would not stop at thousands of pounds, because once a bus service is started on or within the maximum rate it cannot be withdrawn or discontinued or, as we hope to accept the point that Deputy Thrift raised, even any reductions made in the service without approval. Neither can the rate, once established, be raised without approval.
Is that quite fair?
I am in a dilemma again as between those who hold that the restrictions put in in this Bill do not prevent a monopoly and those who would like fewer restrictions on the grounds that I have tied the railways too tightly. We have tried to strike the best balance. We think that the railways should not be allowed to beat competitors already there and then themselves withdraw, and we think that if the railway put on bus services at particular rates, they take a risk, having considered everything, of that route turning out to be unremunerative, and only for very serious considerations would a change be allowed. Deputy Hewat has stated that he thinks the restrictions are unworkable. That may prove to be the case, but we can discuss that on the Committee Stage. But the aim of the Bill is to allow the railway people, who are at present prohibited from using the roads, to go into competition with those who are at present killing them.
Are they prohibited?
It would be better if the Deputy would allow the Minister to finish.
I am putting a question to the Minister.
The Deputy can ask any question he wishes at a later stage.
Our aim in bringing in the Bill was that the railway companies should be allowed to use the roads, but that they should be prevented from setting up thereby a monopoly, a monopoly which would be detrimental to the public. Personally if I thought that by throwing the whole of the transport into the hands of the company and giving them a monopoly one could get sufficient safeguards that would not be detrimental to the public, I would have very little hesitation in going for that monopoly. But a monopoly that would be detrimental to the public is what we have tried to guard against in this Bill. I am not sure what the objectionable part to which Deputy Magennis referred in Section 3 is. If it is that there is no provision for consultation with the Roads Advisory Committee, that is a point we can debate on the Committee Stage. It rather goes to the root of this general question of a Ministry of Transport and that services are distributed, as they are said to be distributed, amongst several Ministries. One must remember that as long as the expenditure on roads is financed out of the rates there must be some liaison between the Ministers who are in touch with local authorities and with road transport. The idea in Section 3 is that where this is really a transport matter, where it is really a question of whether a route should be opened, and should the railways be allowed to run on that road, the consideration against that being that there was a bus already running there, and that, in fact, the railway revenue would be diminished, if it went on—that, and like matters, are for the Minister for Industry and Commerce to determine. But the matter of the upkeep of the roads or the matter of the wear and tear of the roads, dangerous corners on routes unsuitable for bus traffic, and a number of such matters, are naturally questions for the Minister for Local Government. If, keeping these distinctions as they have to be kept for the moment, as long as local authorities contribute from the rates to road upkeep, there is any point that can be met by a Roads Advisory Committee, we could have that dealt with on the Committee Stage.
Deputy Magennis and Deputy Mulvany both objected to the killing of competition, and again I think Deputy Gorey met them. If the present situation were allowed to develop, the country might be brought to the choice as between the disappearance of railways or the disappearance of buses. Now, if that were to be the alternative presented some time or other to the public I doubt if there would be much hesitation. And those who are afraid of a monopoly on the part of the railways company and who feel that the fact that the railways company, now getting power to run buses on roads, might, despite all these safeguards, simply use the power to kill a competitor and then remove their own service, should also cast a suspicious eye on the other side of the picture. Supposing the bus services operating along the Cavan route, say, meant that in the end the railway service was closed on the Cavan section of its line, what safeguard would there be against the buses which would then have control amalgamating, and having the community at their mercy in that particular section, raising the rate far above what any railway rate had been? If there is a suspicion about the railways company in connection with the safeguards that are here, there should be much more a suspicion of a bus owner who could, by amalgamating with people who may be rivals to him, overcharge the community in a particular area from which the railways have been driven out.
They have not done so yet.
That is a question of chances. Have the chances occurred?
I think the situation that people should look to is just what happened here, before the eyes of the Dublin people, at any rate in Lucan, where there was a Lucan tramway service and where the service was defeated by the operations of certain buses, and when the tramway had been put out of use then the rates were raised by the buses, and eventually the community in any circumstances would not use the buses. We had a clamour to get the Dublin Tramways Company to extend their services to Lucan in order to give the people the services that they had themselves neglected and allowed to be beaten by rival bus owners. That was a small case. It was not very serious because it only had relation to a particular district, but that is a situation that might develop all over the country. Because we have one big company here at the moment and we have them facing a series of small unorganised bus owners one should not assume that that is always going to last. Developments are even proceeding at the moment with regard to the vehicles on the road; they are amalgamating, they are forming themselves into companies, and before very long the natural tendencies of things will be to have only two or three companies operating and these could easily overcome the individual bus owner. Having destroyed the railway companies, we might find other companies much stronger financially, having their permanent way kept to something like ten-seventeenths of the cost by the rural ratepayers and having then power to raise the rates without any regulations such as the railway companies are at present under.
Deputy Baxter has asked me what is to be the reaction to an application under Sestion 3, if it is shown that the railway company is going to run a road service in circumstances where it could not be considered feeding into the railway system. I could hardly imagine any route in the country so completely far away that it could not be considered a feeder, in some way or other, to the railway system. But I can say this, that ordinarily speaking, in considering applications one would have primarily the idea of feeding into the railway system. I do not know that people should object, on the other hand, to an application for a particular area not now served by the railway, fairly remote from any railway system at the moment—if the railway company can show that they can give a road service better than the existing road service and that they are pledged to continue that road service once started I do not see why they should be prevented. Taking it from the point of view of service to the community, if under all these restrictions the railway company is able to show that they can give a better service——
Why do they not do it at present?
Asking why the railway company do not give a better service on roads at the moment indicates a fundamental ignorance of the position. They cannot run on the roads at present.
I would like to ask the Minister what form will the inquiry take?
I was going to answer the Deputy in detail on that point. I think he said he would vote against this Bill unless he was assured that applications for the running of road services other than those which come to be considered as feeding into railway systems would be rejected. I cannot give him any such undertaking. Each application will have to stand on its own legs. While primarily one would like to see all the services running into the railway system, I cannot bind myself at this moment by saying that I would prevent other services being run, not especially feeder services. He asked would it be a public inquiry, would the people of the neighbourhood have a right to appear. I would hope not, decidedly. They might make representations if there was a particular case. I do not know what situation we are going to get to if every time a railway company decides to run a bus service it will have to take the point of view of little communities along the whole route as to whether that bus service should be allowed to run. That does not apply at the moment to the private bus owner. He has not to come before anybody; he simply holds out to carry people by a certain route and at certain rates. The railway company would have to do the same thing.
Would the question as to whether the traffic in an area would warrant an extended service or a further service be a factor?
Obviously. If the railway company made application, and an investigation showed clearly that it could not get sufficient traffic for the route or that it could not, in competition with somebody on the route, get enough traffic to make the service remunerative, then it would be refused.
The Minister understands that to have double services of buses on a road is going to put a heavy strain on the road?
A double service would not run. One or other would win.
Where is the evidence to come from in case a section of the country already undeveloped required development so as to make proper provision for tourist traffic?
Obviously these are all questions that have to be dealt with on each application. I say that the points that Deputy Baxter referred to would be taken into consideration. If it could be clearly shown that a particular service would not get any traffic, that there was not enough traffic there to warrant a service being started, or that with the competition existing it could not get such traffic as to make it remunerative, then the service would not be allowed.
While this competition would be going on, who would pay for the double damage to the road?
The motor taxation would pay for it, as it is paying for it at the moment.
About 25 per cent.
Does the Minister assert seriously that even the present taxation on a heavy motor bus is one-twentieth of the damage it does?
In answer to somebody I stated that the motor taxation for 1926 brought in 29 per cent. of the moneys necessary for roads.
That is all motors?
I referred to heavy buses.
There was a particular sum required for the upkeep of roads in 1926.
All roads. A particular sum of money was required and 29 per cent. of that came in from motor taxation. Of that 29 per cent. the proportions borne by private cars, commercial lorries and by heavy passenger vehicles, including buses, were as follows: 49 per cent. by the private car; 22 per cent. by the commercial vehicle, and 22 per cent. by the heavy passenger vehicle, including buses.
Will the Minister make any restrictions in connection with the outlying districts as to the size of the bus compared with the class of the road?
With regard to the railway bus, certainly not. Deputies seem to forget that they are discussing this Bill and that this Bill has relation only to the buses to be run by the railways. I am not going to put conditions upon the railway buses that are not already on other buses. If there is a general Bill brought in with regard to regulating the size of vehicles, the railway buses will have to conform to that.
With regard to the question raised by Deputy Baxter and also by myself, as to whether sanction will be given to routes that are not regarded as feeders for the railways, will the Minister say, if an amendment is put down guarding against the establishment of routes which are not used as feeders or for the purpose of developing existing lines whether he will allow such an amendment to be left to an open vote of the House?
I think I could.
It would make a difference in regard to my vote on the Bill.
I would not like to be accused of buying the Deputy's support for anything. I have already said that this is a matter one has simply to let commonsense play on. The Deputy thinks, apparently, that it is right to prevent the railway company giving the public a better service in an area which cannot be described as feeding into a railway system.
What is the good of commonsense arguments?
The Deputy seems to have thrown it overboard in this argument. I have said that commonsense must be brought to bear on it. If the Deputy thinks——
You are all the one now.
——that one is going to get a better display of commonsense, I will take the experiment to see what better display of commonsense we will get on this amendment that the Deputy is going to put down.
Will the Minister say, where those buses are run on trunk roads, whether the county council will have power to close the road if the money payable by way of grants is not adequate?
I think I will have to wait to see that question in writing.
In Westmeath a rate of 2s. 6d. in the pound was struck for the upkeep of these roads. The running of these buses will mean that they will have to strike a rate of 5s. in the pound.
The Deputy cannot make a second speech.
Would the Minister be prepared to consider the advisability, arising out of the passage of this measure, of setting up in consultation with the Minister for Local Government, and if necessary the Minister for Justice, an advisory body for consultation on the question?
I cannot see what the Minister for Justice would have to do with anything of that sort.
The Minister for Justice mentioned the other day that a Departmental Committee had been appointed in connection with the traffic problem as a whole.
The police regulation of traffic in Dublin city has nothing to do with this measure.
He did not confine his statement the other day to Dublin city. Is the Minister prepared, in consultation with the Minister for Local Government, to set up an advisory body, pending the introduction of a Bill at a later stage, to deal with the whole question of transport or the traffic problem in a more comprehensive way.
An advisory committee to deal with what?
I suggest that the Minister himself or the Minister for Local Government cannot, on a purely casual consideration of an application from the railway company, give that amount of careful consideration to everything that is involved, and that therefore an advisory body would be more useful in that respect pending the introduction of further legislation.
Put down an amendment to Section 3 and we will argue it.