Road Traffic Bill, 1931—Committee Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed—"That Section 50 stand part of the Bill."
We were discussing yesterday, when the debate was adjourned, the proposal for compulsory third party insurance which is contained in this Bill, and certain difficulties which the Bill did not meet were referred to. The principal difficulty that arises in consequence of the scheme of insurance embodied in the Bill is the possibility of being denied insurance by insurance companies and consequently being deprived of his right to drive a car. The Minister and. I think, Deputy Myles stated that in their opinion anybody who was denied insurance by an insurance company should not be allowed to drive a car. In the majority of cases that is probably correct, but we have got to face up to the fact, if we are going to allow that position to be created we are, as Mr. Duff said in his addendum to the inter-departmental committee's report delegating to the insurance companies the power at present exercised through the court to suspend driving licences on statutory grounds, with this difference, that whereas a licence would be suspended by the court after a judicial examination and a public submission of the reasons a licence may, in fact, be suspended by an insurance company which would be under no obligation to state these reasons at all.
Cases have been known, one has been referred to by Deputy Sir James Craig, of drivers being denied insurance because they became involved in accidents for which they were not to blame. As I explained, insurance companies have a system by which they obviate the possibility of wasting their funds in cases in the court by paying the costs of their own clients and not arguing between themselves the question of negligence. That does mean that a person whose blamelessness might be established if the case went into court has not the opportunity given him of clearing his reputation as a driver. He finds, when he comes to renew his insurance because of the heavy outlay an insurance company had to meet as a result of the accident, that he is refused his policy.
That applies particularly in the case of buses. We have been discussing the case of private cars up to the present, but there are very special circumstances existing in relation to cmnibuses. I think I could fairly correctly say that the present position is that no insurance company wants to take a risk of covering any omnibus company. I am sure that there are Deputies in the House who know the difficulty that the owners of omnibuses have had to contend with in trying to get insurance cover. I got the other day a letter from the proprietor of an omnibus service in the city from which I would like to read an extract:—
"Here again is my own case—for the year 1930/1931 I had policies (3rd party) for my 4 vehicles, and the total premiums paid to the Insurance Company totalled £200— in all cases and for every single claim. I myself was liable under the policies for the first £25 no matter what the amount of any single claim was. In the year given I paid out £200, but did not cost the Insurance Co. one single penny. I had a few trifling claims falling under the £25 clause which I had to meet out of my own pocket and these did not exceed £15! Do you think that I got any sort of reasonable treatment by the Insurance Co. when the renewals fell due? They simply indicated that the premiums were increased by the equivalent of 100 per cent., so that what I paid £200 for last year would now cost me £400 and that if I didn't like it I could go where I liked with my bus insurances."
I know that the experience of that individual bus owner is not uncommon and that other bus owners have had similar experiences. The insurance companies do not want omnibus insurance now and the difficulty will therefore arise that it is quite possible that some company or bus owner may either be denied insurance or offered insurance at rates which would be altogether excessive. If we are going to insist that everybody driving a car is to be insured by private insurance companies then we must provide for the regulation of these private insurance companies. We must either insist that they give insurance cover to everybody who applies for it or else provide some court of appeal to which a person, who is denied insurance, could apply and which if satisfied that the denial was not justifiable could direct the insurance company to issue a policy. In addition there should be some check on the premiums charged as otherwise it is quite possible, in relation to particular individuals or the whole class of motorists or the particular class of bus owners, that excessive premiums will be charged. If we pass this Bill in its present form such excessive premiums cannot be prohibited in any way. There is no power in the Minister or in anybody to interfere. We are all in favour of compulsory third party insurance. It is the view of Deputies on this side of the House that if the State desires to make insurance compulsory it should itself provide the facilities but we cannot argue that out now. What we can insist on is that if the issuing of policies is left to private companies the whole system will be subject to strict regulation to prevent abuse. If the Bill goes through in its present form there is a danger, even if there is no likelihood, of abuse, and some safeguard would have to be inserted.
I would like to support what Deputy Lemass has said. A case came to my knowledge in the last couple of years in which the owner of a private car had the misfortune to meet with two accidents. Both of these accidents were settled by the insurance company, but when the reinsurance of the car came up the insurance company said to the owner, "We will not continue the insurance on that car unless the driver is changed." I happen to know in that particular case that the owner was quite satisfied that in neither accident was the driver in any way to blame and the insurance companies, if we are to allow that practice to continue, would have the right of depriving men of their livelihood. That to my mind is unfair and I agree with what Deputy Lemass has suggested that there should be some tribunal and that that power should not be placed in the hands of an insurance company. The dealings I have had with insurance companies have been very fair and equitable but placing such power in their hands is unwise. We have no guarantee at all that those powers will be wisely used. Therefore I think there will have to be some tribunal.
On the question the Deputy raised with regard to buses I have had several communications from bus owners. In one of these the bus owner stated that the insurance companies had refused, I suppose for some similar reason, to renew the policy of insurance. The question put to me was: "What am I to do?" I could not make any sugestion to the bus owner as to what he should do, but it seems an extraordinary power to put into the hands of an insurance company and say that not alone could they put a number of men out of employment, but that they could put certain bus companies out of business. One need not stress the point in detail. I think it is sufficient to say that there is a case which the Minister ought to consider and devise ways and means to meet.
On this side of the House we certainly agree that a third party insurance is necessary as far as buses are concerned. We must take into consideration that a big percentage of the buses plying for hire on the streets of Dublin and throughout the various counties in the Saorstát have been bought by their owners on the hire purchase system, with the result that, if an accident takes place, in many cases they are not able to pay compensation to injured persons or to relatives of people who have been killed. I think Deputies will recollect that in Dublin a year or two ago there was a lamentable accident in which one life was lost and another person was maimed for life. I understand that, owing to the fact that that particular company had no third party insurance, no compensation was paid out.
There is another question to which I would like to refer in regard to insurance. It is the question of buses going from the Free State into the Six Counties. I understand that these buses have been held up in the Six Counties and asked for their third party insurance policies. Further, I understand that they will not recognise the insurance unless it is taken out with a British insurance company. I understand that they will not recognise third party insurance policies that are issued by Irish companies. If that is so in the Six Counties, when we are making insurance compulsory here we should consider whether these policies should be taken out with Irish companies so that the premiums and profits accruing will be kept within the Saorstát.
The question raised by Deputies I realise is important, but the question for us is can we, at this particular stage, complete our insurance provisions so that we shall force insurance companies to take people whom they know to be bad risks. If we do, then we are adding to the dangers that people run as a result of traffic on the roads and we are adding to the price that the ordinary motoring public will have to pay for the insurance policies they take out. I have pointed out already that although this Bill has been before the public for a considerable length of time the problems that arise for bus owners in regard to speed and other things have not been put before me, although it would appear that some of the problems have been put before individual Deputies. If bus owners put these matters before the Department they would have to be thoroughly gone into and we would get at the realities of the position. We are dealing with a very complicated and widespread thing and except we have the initiative as well as the co-operation of all persons interested in it we are not going to hammer out a scheme in the most satisfactory and fullest possible way. Naturally insurance companies are businesses that look after in the first place their own material interests. We are dealing here with a special problem. We expect that we are going to have the full co-operation of insurance companies if the companies are going to be regular institutions here, existing on the business that is provided here. I have no evidence at all—because during all the time that this matter was being inquired into before the Traffic Committee the insurance companies held back—that they are not going to meet us in the fullest possible spirit of co-operation. If we are going to force a particular insurance company to take a bad risk I would like to know what the effect of that is likely to be. It might be possible where an insurance was refused by any insurance company that it would be required to state a case on which the refusal was made and that there might be an appeal to a District Justice as to whether it was reasonable or not, but I would not like to say offhand that we can produce a scheme like that. There might be a scheme by which a statement of the reasons for refusing might be argued before a District Justice, but the question arises as to whether that District Justice could order the insurance company to take that particular case.
You can exempt such cases from the Act.
If you exempt them from the Act then the position will be that all the bad risks can run around without being insured.
A man would not be exempted unless he was denied insurance without justification.
I do not know in what position a District Justice would be to give a judgment on the matter. I do not know whether any Deputy at this particular stage can add any further suggestion as to what might be done.
I would suggest that insurance companies should be required to test out in the courts the question of negligence in relation to accidents. If an accident takes place the insurance company should not merely pay damage, but the case should have to be investigated in court as to whether or not their client was negligent, or whether a claim should be directed against the other party. If you do that, although it would be the fairest thing, it is going to ensure that the cost of insurance will be increased and also the profits of the lawyers.
I would not support that. I think it would be a bad remedy. We are in a difficulty at the moment, but we would be in a hopeless difficulty if we were to ask insurance companies to do what the Deputy suggests. I do not think that it is beyond the bounds of possibility to devise some means of dealing with this problem. It is a very wide power to put into the hands of insurance companies that they have the right to put men out of employment or to put bus companies out of business. It is a power that I think this House ought to be slow to give to any insurance company. I think if the Minister will give consideration to it he will find that there will be some tribunal to which such a question could be referred for decision.
I wonder if there are buses running at the present moment that are uninsured in respect of third party risks.
I would not be surprised.
Does the Minister remember an accident in the Coombe in which a bus went on fire? There was no insurance cover in that case.
We want to face the situation then that there are buses running at the present moment that are uninsured, that there are insurance companies that will not insure these people, or insurance companies who desire if they can to get rid of the insurances they hold in respect of some bus companies. Then we are asked to force insurance companies to take these risks.
You are forcing companies to insure.
We are forcing companies to insure. The proposal is that in forcing these companies the insurance companies should not be allowed to have regard to previous transactions.
You should make it possible for these companies to do what you are forcing them to do.
If there are people who have shown that they are not proper persons to have driving omnibuses, are you to force companies to accept them?
That is the situation that faces some of the largest bus companies in the country. They cannot get insurance cover.
If what Deputy Lemass says is correct, that some of the largest bus companies in Dublin are unable to get insurance, is it not astounding that they should let a measure of this sort go through a week or two of the Committee Stage without addressing the Department as to their position?
I think the Minister is pinning the discussion down to the class of bad risk and the attempt to force the insurance companies to take the bad risk. I think the issue really arises as to whether we should put the onus on the insurance company of appearing before a certain tribunal to prove that the risk which it has refused is definitely a bad risk because the vehicle is unsafe or the driver is careless or reckless. Nobody in this House or outside wants to see a person, who has either a faulty vehicle, or is a careless driver, or employs a careless driver, running a motor vehicle. If the tribunal is satisfied that he is that sort of person nobody is going to attempt to compel an insurance company to insure him and put him on the road. But there is the case of a man who may have been in an unfortunate accident in the real sense of the word, or who may have had some trouble with an insurance company in regard to the settlement of a claim for an accident in which he was possibly the injured party. For one reason or another, that man may have been turned down by an insurance company. He may have got a bad reputation or an undeserved reputation, and there should be some tribunal to which he could appeal. If the tribunal decides that definitely he is not a bad risk there should be some means whereby that man can get insurance and be put on the road. The Minister says there is a difficulty. I think a way out might be that the insurance companies who are doing this business might form a re-insurance pool, and whatever company carries that man's insurance could re-insure in the pool formed by the insurance companies. That would get over the difficulty of the risk and make everybody doing insurance carry the risk of this person which the companies as a body consider an undesirable risk, but which the tribunal to which he has appealed has decided is a risk which should be undertaken. At any rate, the person should definitely not be put off the road.
The matter has been argued merely from the point of view of those who are running buses for profit or of business concerns employing drivers. But it also affects professional men and commercial travellers. Motor cars are essential to their business. If these people were not insured and could not drive a car they could not follow their daily occupations. In addition to that, the fact that insurance companies have definitely turned them down is a reflection on their personal character and reputation which would not assist them either with their clients, if they are professional men, or with their employers, if they happen to be commercial travellers. The matter ought to be examined carefully and certainly some machinery should be devised to meet the position which has been dealt with in the House. There is another point which I might mention and that is, since we are compelling drivers to insure, we ought also have some machinery to secure that the premiums charged will be reasonable.
The Deputy referred to a tribunal to decide this knotty point, but he does not say what tribunal he has in mind.
A legal man assisted by two technical assessors, or a District Justice, if you like.
I think he said that if a man is turned down by several insurance companies it will reflect on his character and do injury to him in business. Surely if he goes before a tribunal and the tribunal finds for the insurance company, will not that do him more injury?
He has the option of going before the tribunal. If he is satisfied that his case is so bad that it will not bear public investigation. we take it that the companies are justified in refusing the risk. But if he believes he has been unjustifiably turned down, he should have the right of a public investigation.
Without prejudicing the suggestion made as to this tribunal, I suggest that the Minister should take power under the Bill, at least in regard to public service vehicles, requiring the insurance companies to furnish quarterly returns to him of the number of applications for insuring public service vehicles that have been refused during that period. That would be a moral warning at least to insurance companies that they could not refuse applications without very good reason. I am sure the insurance companies would regard it as such a warning and would be careful that they would not refuse any case where they could not give substantial reasons. As well as the returns, there should be given the reasons for refusing the applications. I think that would be useful with regard to public service vehicles. I think that the private car case is much less important. It is a purely personal opinion. I think that with the competition that there is between companies, the number of good applications that will be turned down from private motorists for insurance policies will be very few, without at least very considerable justification.
I see very little difficulty in the case of privately-owned vehicles. If there is an appeal to the District Justice against the decision of the insurance company, the District Justice can decide whether the insurance company is to continue to insure the motorist or not. If the District Justice has that power over all the insurance companies when each of them, I suppose, will be carrying a portion of the risk, there will be few appeals to the District Justice. I think there is no great difficulty in that. I do not see why the Dáil should have any doubts about giving leave to appeal to the District Justice and leaving the power in his hands to decide whether the man should be insured or not. Everyone knows that there is a great difference between the risk covering buses and the risk covering an ordinary vehicle. I am sure that the insurance companies who refuse to take buses do so on the ground that if they took buses generally, and if they are not going to put the bus insurance at an extravagant rate, they will have to raise the premiums on the ordinary vehicles.
It struck me that as there is a big difference between the insurance of ordinary cars and the insurance of buses we should segregate them. If you had a mutual insurance company compulsorily established, all the buses having to come into it, when an accident occurs whatever damage is assessed should be distributed evenly over every seat in every bus throughout the country. If a man has a 20-seater bus he would have to pay a twenty-secondth thousandth part, or whatever is the number of seats in the country. If you had that you could have a mutual insurance company established compulsorily. In that case if this mutual insurance company objected to some particular driver or bus there could be an appeal to the District Justice. I think it would be to the interest of the bus companies to see that no rickety vehicle or bad driver was allowed to be on the road. The problem of the insurance of buses is going to be a difficult one, and at the moment I do not see any way out except for them to come together and insure themselves.
I think if this proposed tribunal is established as Deputy MacEntee suggests and if pressure is going to be put upon the insurance company to take a risk that the Company thinks undesirable that company should be indemnified by the State if they have to pay for an accident incurred by the bad driving of the insured.
I think we must be careful, particularly in respect of buses, that we shall not be putting a burden upon the well-organised road transport services of this country, because, for one reason or another, we allow others to run buses which in the eyes of responsible and well established and critical insurance companies working here are thought to be bad risks. I think, however, considering all the disabilities and burdens under which road transport at the moment rests, it would be quite unreasonable that we, for the sake of a bad bus business, should put an additional burden on the State. We naturally have to think how we can get around that.
Arising out of the discussion here, what I see I can get consideration for is this: That where a person is unable, after application to all the insurance companies which are operating here, to get any one to insure him at the premium that he considers reasonable, then he might apply to the District Justice to have a case stated—I do not know whether by one or all the insurance companies working here—as to the ground on which he was refused the licence. If part of the grounds on which they refuse the licence are that the vehicles are in a bad condition, or that the drivers are unfit and incompetent, then under this Act, whether it was the case of private persons or public service vehicles, the machinery of the Act could be applied in the testing of the vehicle on the ground arranged for, or for the testing of the fitness or competency of the people objected to as drivers. The District Justice, with that before him, could then give a decision. But is the District Justice then to say that this person is fit to be insured at a normal premium, or is he to fix the premium at which, taking all the circumstances into consideration, this particular person or firm should pay for the carrying of the insurance risk? There might then be an appeal from the District Justice to the Circuit Court either on behalf of the insurance company or on behalf of the applicant. The question whether we could, by formal provision, make such companies as are operating here combine to accept risks of a particular class is another matter. These are the lines upon which, so far as I can see after this discussion, that investigation might be pursued.
Would the Minister contemplate the possibility of introducing an amendment on these lines? If so, we could leave the matter stand at present.
Yes, I shall investigate the matter along these particular lines. After Committee Stage we will have a fortnight or so before we come to Report Stage. I shall have to report the result of my investigation then, and if the house is not satisfied with what is being done the matter can then be taken up on the Report Stage.
I agree with the Minister on this question that insurance companies should not be compelled to insure vehicles plying for public hire if defective either from a structural or a mechanical standpoint. However, power is being given under the Bill to have a proper system of inspection of vehicles and to have a proper system of testing as to the capabilities of the various drivers. What I suggest is when these vehicles are inspected and found to be quite all right from the structural and mechanical standpoint and that the driver is found to be competent is as much as a licence is issued to him then it should be made compulsory for the insurance companies to insure drivers whether they be private drivers or drivers of public conveyances.
I should like to say, in the first place, we are here passing an Act to make it compulsory on every user of a motor vehicle to have his driver insured. We are coming to the point where insurance companies established for the transaction of business are to be compulsorily compelled to insure drivers. We are asked to embody a compulsory clause in this Bill compelling companies to accept business which they do not want. I hold that if we are to pass an Act here compelling insurance companies to accept business which they did not want, then, obviously, they would immediately close down their business in respect of that particular type of insurance, and accept no insurance for motor vehicles at all. That is the difficulty I see in the matter. In all probability legislation to that effect would mean some of those companies going out of business on the motor side altogether. On the other hand I believe if State insurance could be established and if, at the time of the taking out of the registration of motor vehicles, it was possible for the county councils to issue insurance policies it would go a long way to facilitate the owners of buses and motor people in general. But I think the greatest possible difficulty will be experienced in trying to get companies to accept motor insurance irrespective of the risks.
It is also very hard to say that you should have to pay for a good risk the premiums that would be demanded by insurance companies in special circumstances. Certainly some way must be found to cover the risk and there is no way to cover a bad risk except by distributing it over the good risks and making good drivers pay for the bad and careless drivers, so that to secure this you would have to inflict hardship upon the people who are most careful and who seldom or never have an accident and make them pay for the careless. In my opinion if it is found that insurance companies are not prepared to continue insuring then the Dáil should consider the advisability of having State insurance for motorists in general.
Again the question of State insurance has been raised. I said last night that we are not prepared to put before the House, State insurance for this particular class of vehicle. I feel that if I did bring forward an amendment now I should be told by you, sir, that it is entirely outside the scope of the Bill. As a matter of fact, if we come to consider the feasibility of forcing insurance companies to take insurances we shall have to be very careful in our handling of the situation, so that we shall be able to run the gauntlet of the Chair and not be told that it is outside the scope of the Bill.
On this section again there was a point mentioned by Deputy Cassidy a few minutes ago that I should like to bring again to the attention of the Minister, and that is with regard to the possibility of putting something in this Bill that would make it necessary that any insurance to be done should be done with a company registered in the Free State area. Recently a case was brought to my notice of somebody who was prosecuted in the Six Counties for not having his car insured— there is a compulsory third party insurance law at present in operation in the Six Counties—and though the person charged proved that he had taken out insurance with a Free State company, that was declared not to be sufficient because he should have taken out an insurance with a British company. That case was reported in the newspapers about a fortnight ago.
Irrespective of that and irrespective of what they may do in Britain or in the Six Counties area, I think that as we have insurance companies in the Free State area whose moneys are invested in Irish securities and by whom employment is given practically altogether in the Free State area, whose headquarters are here and who are registered here, I think that, as we have such companies in existence, preference ought to be given to them by the State in matters of this kind. We should be glad if the Minister would consider the advisability of giving a preference to what, though it cannot be called an Irish industry, may be called an Irish Free State commercial undertaking which gives employment to our own people and pays taxes here. We, on this side, would have preferred that the State should take up this risk altogether in the form of State insurance. But the Minister has already turned down that proposition. We think, however, that he should give serious consideration to this and the other suggestions we have made.
I do not know what may be implied by actually registering. But the company carrying on insurance business will have to deposit £15,000, and that sum will only be accepted by the court on a warrant given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Is it the intention of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to confine business under this Act to Irish companies?
Deputy O'Kelly was speaking as between Irish companies registered here and companies not registered here.
Certain companies with their headquarters here do a considerable amount of business in the six counties and in Great Britain; and in the passage of the British Act they found themselves faced with the alternative of losing that business or of registering a subsidiary companies in Britain. Most of them took the step of registering subsidiary companies in Britain. If the British authorities and the Six Counties authorities are going to legislate against companies which have their headquarters in this country, we should at least give these companies some advantage, load the dice, as it were in their favour, and ensure that whatever additional business may arise under this Act shall be given to them in the first instance.
Section 50 agreed to.
(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under the next preceding section of this Act and it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court by whom such person is so convicted that injury was caused to person or property by the negligent driving on the occasion on which such offence was committed of the vehicle in relation to which such offence was committed and such Court is of opinion that some person (other than the excluded persons as defined in this section) then present in or represented before such Court would be entitled to recover in a civil action against the person so convicted damages in respect of such injury, such Court may, if it thinks fit so to do and the person so present or represented so consents, inflict on the person so convicted, in addition to any other punishment authorised by this section, a fine not exceeding the damages which in the opinion of such Court the person so present or represented would be entitled so to recover against the person so convicted.
(2) Where a fine is imposed under the foregoing sub-section of this section on a convicted person, the amount of such fine shall be paid to the person on account of whose right to recover damages such fine was imposed and, if there is more than one such person, in such proportions as the Court shall direct, and the payment of such fine by such convicted person shall be a good defence to any civil action brought by any person to whom such fine or any part thereof was so paid in respect of the injury on account of which such fine was so inflicted.
(3) Where damages are recovered in a civil action against a person who was convicted of an offence under the next preceding section of this Act in respect of injury to person or property caused by the negligent driving on the occasion on which such offence was committed of the mechanically propelled vehicle in relation to which such offence was committed of the mechanically propelled vehicle in relation to which such offence was committed, the court before whom such damages are so recovered may (unless the person by whom such damages were so recovered is one of the excluded persons as defined in this section) order that the person against whom such damages were so recovered be forthwith taken into custody and be imprisoned for whichever of the following periods shall be the shorter, that is to say, until the expiration of six months from such taking into custody or until such person pays the amount of such damages to the person by whom they were so recovered and lodges in Court by way of security for the payment of the costs recovered by such last-mentioned person in such action such sum (if any) as the Court shall fix.
(4) In this section the expression "excluded persons" means the following persons, that is to say:—
(a) the person who was convicted of the relevant offence, and (b) any other person who on the occasion of the commission of such offence was the driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle in relation to which such offence was committed, and
(c) if such vehicle was not a public service vehicle any person who on the said occasion was being carried in or upon or was entering or getting on to or alighting from such vehicle, and
(d) If such vehicle was a public service and in relation only to injury to property, any person who on the said occasion was being carried in or upon or was entering or getting on to or alighting from such vehicle.
I move: Before Section 51 to insert a new section as follows:—
"A person hiring a public service vehicle, a street service vehicle or a private hire vehicle shall not become liable to pay any sums by way of damages, costs or otherwise on account of injury to person or property occasioned by the negligent driving of such vehicle."
We were discussing on the last section two important points, one of which was the question of compulsory third party insurance for all vehicles. Sub-section (2) of that section deals with the penalties that are incurred by drivers of vehicles and owners of vehicles which are not insured and which ply for public hire. As regards vehicles plying for hire there is a doubt as to whether under the existing law a person who hires one of these vehicles—take, for instance, a taxi— does not become personally liable for any damage that may be done or for any accident that may arise in the driving of that vehicle. At the moment that is a difficult point, and is not, I am advised, defined by settled law. I think the House will be agreed that no liability should attach to the unfortunate hirer of any such vehicle who has no knowledge that the vehicle which he gets into is not insured. It would be very unfortunate and very unfair that, in a civil action, such a hirer should be liable; and it is to meet such a contingency that this new section is proposed.
The principle of this is accepted, and I will bring up a re-draft on Report Stage and insert it in a suitable place.
Is it at present the law that such a person is liable for damages in the event of an accident?
If a person, as the result of his incitement or any other compulsion on the driver, induces him to be negligent and thereby brings about an accident, he is in part responsible.
I am in agreement with the amendment of Deputy Good, if it were necessary. So far as I understand the law at present all the amendment does is to declare by statute what the law states. It goes one little step further. I do not think that that is Deputy Good's intention, but I think the Minister might bear it in mind. Deputy Good has stated that the unfortunate hirer should not be mulcted. I quite agree. I do not think the law at present makes him guilty; but there may be cases in which an unfortunate hirer is himself responsible for the accident. For instance, if Deputy Good hires a taxi, tells the driver that he will give him an extra half-crown if he gets him to the Kingsbridge within 2½ minutes, and the driver in his effort to do so meets with an accident, the negligence is Deputy Good's just as much as it is the negligence of the driver. It is the negligence of both of them. In that event Deputy Good says that the hirer should not be held responsible. In my opinion if there is negligence on the part of the hirer, the liability should remain.
I take it Deputy Good intends that the liability will remain, whether the hirer is definitely culpable.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment 52:
To delete sub-section (1).
The section deals with a person convicted of an offence against the regulations as regards insurance and yet there is brought into the same Section the power of combining penalties for that offence with what are ordinary civil court proceedings for damages due to negligence of the driver. Personally I think it is a very great mistake to confound in any way those two entirely different things. On general grounds I do not think civil court proceedings should be mixed up in any way with what are proceedings on charges for breaking the law. The proposals I have put down are directed to remove completely sub sections (1) and (2). I am now dealing only with sub-section (1). It gives the court for the purpose of trying an offence against the regulations under this Act, so far as the insurance sections go, the power of inflicting damages in what ought to be civil court proceedings for damages. It is a great mistake to confound these two things.
My proposal is as follows:—
To delete sub-section (1) and substitute therefor the following sub-section:—
"(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under the next preceding section of this Act and it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court by whom such person is so convicted that injury was caused to a person (other than an excluded person as defined in this section) or property by the vehicle in relation to which such offence was committed, the Court may if it thinks fit so to do and the person who has been injured or his representative so consents inflict on the person so convicted in addition to any other punishment authorised by this section, a fine not exceeding the damages which in the opinion of the Court the person so injured or his representative would be entitled to recover in an action where negligent driving had been proved."
The proposal amounts to this, that where a person has been convicted of using a car not insured, that does not carry third party insurance, the court in using the power that is provided for it at present in Section 51 of the Bill should presume negligent driving. That will enable this sort of case to be compensated. If a person deliberately uses—and remember, he has already been convicted of an offence under the proceeding section— a car which does not carry third party insurance and he causes damage to life or property while he is so using that car, irrespective of whether the damage was caused by negligent driving or not, the judge of the court should be empowered to assess damages in respect of such injury. I do not see why any serious objection could be held to that amendment.
I think it is notorious that in numbers of cases where action for damages for negligence take place, the judgment is often decided on very narrow grounds. I have heard it said that you would have as much chance of getting justice by agreeing to the tossing of a penny as by appearing before a court and hoping for a correct judgment in many of the cases where swearing as to negligent driving and cross-swearing to the contrary has to be gone through. My proposal is simply that all that should be cut out and where a car is used illegally and causes damage to life and property when so used the Justice should be entitled to assume that negligent driving has occurred and he should proceed to assess damages on the grounds the negligent driving had occurred. If I had my way I would so amend the Bill that all cases of damage to life and property, irrespective of whether they were caused by negligent driving, would be insured against, but as that is not practicable, we should at least make every provision with regard to the class of case dealt with in Section 51.
This sub-section is sailing very close to the wind. It is very much in danger of coming into conflict with the Constitution. It is far more revolutionary than any of the sub-sections of the Bill known as the Constitution (Amendment) Bill which I think was passed by this House a week or a fortnight ago. It gives the right to send a pauper to jail for non-payment of a civil debt. It provides that a civil claim shall be met by an award from which there will be no appeal. I am sure that was not present to the mind of the Minister. I can almost imagine myself present when he was considering it in relation to the Constitution, and I can almost hear him pronouncing the words of a famous judge: "I will chance it." I rather like that, because there is a great deal of good behind this amendment. I would be inclined to swallow the little difference between it and the Constitution and that it should remain subject to one point only, and that is the point that I have suggested in amendment 54:
In sub-section (1), line 30, after the word "convicted" to insert the words "and not exceeding in any case the sum of £25."
Whatever I may think about amending the Constitution I certainly do think that you should not give to the District Justice a jurisdiction larger than he has at the present time. That matter has been very carefully considered by the Courts of Justice Committee and there was a unanimous recommendation, after hearing witnesses from all over Ireland, that the justices should be kept limited to a jurisdiction of £25. At the present moment you are in this position that if a man is injured and is paid compensation under this measure, and if he has not a match to pay it, he has to go to jail for non-payment of a civil debt. If he is insured that will do no great harm. There might be something in the Constitution against it, but let us leave it and say what the Minister says: "I will chance it." If you limit the jurisdiction to £25 that will be perfectly fair. I would ask you not to increase by a side-wind the jurisdiction of the District Justice in a civil action beyond what it is at present. It might be as well to have all the amendments considered together, and therefore I will move amendment 54.
I do not quite appreciate the Constitutional point that Deputy Wolfe raised except the point is that we are breaking the Constitution by taking power to send an innocent pauper to jail for debt. We are doing no such thing because this is not an innocent pauper. He is a pauper who, under Section 50 (2) can be fined for the first offence £50 and/or get three months and for the second offence £100 and/or get six months.
But this is an extension by way of fine to meet particular circumstances. If Deputy Wolfe goes down Grafton Street and throws bricks into a window there and is hauled before a District Justice, the Justice says "I will fine you so-and-so, but if you undertake to pay for the window I will let you off." Deputy Wolfe will say "I will pay for the cost of replacing that window." It may be £25 or £50 but he pays for it and is let off. The Constitutional point goes by the board. This is no case of an innocent pauper. As to the question of mixing up civil and criminal business, there may be something in that, but I do not even appreciate that point. I was not driven even to the extent of saying "I will chance this." The thing appealed to me from the very start and I think it has met the approbation of most of the people who have read it.
I do not quite understand Deputy Thrift's position with regard to it. I will come back to Deputy Thrift's position after I deal with Deputy Moore. Deputy Moore says we are providing here in so far as we can that if a person on the road, as a result of the negligence of other persons, is injured by a motor car, compensation will be available. Deputy Moore wants to have the position that a person meeting with an accident due to his own negligence shall be entitled to compensation. We do not intend to go as far as that and I have no sympathy with Deputy Moore's amendment. In reply to Deputy Thrift, the general position is that there may be circumstances in which a person who is not insured will go out on the road and, due to his own negligence, will meet with an accident. Being the type of person who drives a motor car without the statutory provision of insurance there is fairly good reason to assume that he may be clearly a bad mark for insurance. If so, a poor person injured by such person is put into the position that he has to go before the civil court against this man and incur a certain amount of legal and other expenses and his chances of getting anything by way of compensation are lessened.
To meet that case we make provision that when it goes before the District Justice the person who has been injured asks the District Justice who has determined the cause of the negligence, to fix by way of additional fine, damages. The District Justice may do so. The question of limit arises. The District Justice in a case of smuggling may award a fine entirely unlimited except by some relation to the amount of goods. In certain betting cases he may impose a fine of £500. He is not forced here to deal with any case. Having considered all the circumstances he is not forced into consideration of amounts outside his capacity or general competence. I might consider putting in a limit of, say £500, but I think it would almost destroy this section if we put in £25 because a poor person's leg might be broken by a person who was a bad mark. That person might have a chance of getting £100, but if he had to go to court and fight it out the amount might be reduced to £40 or £50 by the time the legal expenses were covered. The means might not be there. I think it is implied in the section that a person who had been found guilty of negligence, and, who in fact had been fined, would have the power to appeal to the Circuit Court. The person who had consented to the fine being fixed by the District Justice would not have any power to appeal because he had asked to have the thing done and it was finished. I commend the powers contained in this section to the House.
I do not think that under Deputy Moore's amendment the person who met with an accident, because of his own negligence, by reason of the fact that the vehicle was uninsured, should become entitled to compensation. We would prejudice the effectiveness of the whole section by putting in a limit of £25 when it is considered than an accident might reasonably run to £100 in damages, and that the District Justice has power on consideration of all the circumstances to say that the case should not be dealt with in that court. He has full power to do that and has capacity and competence to deal with larger sums.
Will the Minister fix a limit or leave unlimited jurisdiction to the District Justice? Does he suggest that he should have power to award £10,000?
No. I would be prepared to put in a limit of say £500. The District Justice need not deal with the case if he does not want to do so, but if there was a case that he thought should be dealt with he could do so on these lines and there could be power to appeal to the Circuit Court. It is simply a question that there is a chance of getting the job finished in that court.
I do not think the Minister is right. I am a strong believer in the maxim that if you try to do two things at the same time you do them both badly. I think that is likely to occur in this case. This case is brought primarily to settle the question whether the person has obeyed the insurance laws or not. If he is convicted, for instance, other questions will come up as side-issues and must be treated as such. I ask the Minister to consider what he has been saying from the other angle. Supposing that a person is a mark and supposing it has been found that he has been negligent the District Justice may say: "I will fine you £50 in addition to the insurance penalty." The person may be very glad to consent to that order to save £500 in a civil court.
He can only do that at the request of the injured person.
Yes. A person being a mark might think he would get off more lightly in the District Court than by having an action in the civil court.
The only person who has power to ask the District Justice to deal with a case in this way is the person who has suffered injury. The person who has been negligent has no power to make any request to the District Justice.
That does not touch the question of amount.
To the District Court £50 would seem a much bigger sum than £500 damages in the civil court. I stick to my contention that it is likely the two things will be badly done if done at the same time.
I would be prepared to put in a limit of £500 or something like that, but it is the aggrieved party who can start the machine moving in the District Court. Surely he can have his own advisers in the matter.
Does not the Minister consider that the sub-section as it stands imposes a considerable hardship on the person who may be convicted? In the ordinary way a person comes before a court to meet a criminal charge—whether or not in this case he is guilty of a particular offence under Section 50. This sub-section as it stands empowers a court to proceed on a completely different enquiry, that is as to the amount of the damage that the person convicted of the offence should pay to the person who has been injured.
As I see the section it is open to the court, once the person convicted is present, immediately to proceed to the assessment of damages.
At the request of the person injured.
Yes. One of the first ingredients in enabling a court to determine what quantum of damages should be awarded to a person is medical evidence as to the nature of the injuries received by that person. If the section is to be carried into full effect, every person who is prosecuted under Clause 50 must go to court prepared with medical evidence. He must have the person who was injured examined by some medical expert if he wants to defend the case as to the question of damages. I think there is an undue hardship on the person who has been convicted under this section. The question of damages raises a completely different issue from the issue before the court, in the first instance, namely, whether the person has been convicted of an offence under a previous section or not. Another matter that would appear to me to be a grievance, not to the person convicted of an offence but to the person injured, who invokes the aid of the court, is that the proceedings here will be proceedings at the suit of the Gárda Síochána or the Attorney-General prosecuting through a member of the Gárda Síochána for an offence under Section 50. I am assuming that the person invokes the aid of the court. There is no reason why a person who invokes the aid of the court to have damages assessed, and feels aggrieved by the decision of the court as to the quantum of damages should not have a right of appeal as any ordinary person has from the decision of the District Court. Under this section, as I see it, the person aggrieved who invoked the aid of the court has no right of appeal. He is not a party to the proceedings. The proceedings are a prosecution at the instance of the Gárda Síochána against an alleged offender, and the person who invokes the aid of the court would have no right of appeal to the Circuit Court. I think this sub-section is trying to short-circuit proceedings which should not be short-circuited. If a person has suffered personal injury I think the better course for both parties concerned is to let them pursue the ordinary remedy and sue for damages against the person who is alleged to have committed the offence.
The section is primarily intended to short-circuit cases that should be short-circuited. Those are cases in which somebody has been injured by a car which is not covered by insurance. The offender may be in the eyes of a District Justice a bad mark for damages. Where the District Justice has found negligence and where there may not be any reasonable expectations of funds being available to pay compensation, the sooner that case is short-circuited, in the interests of the injured party, the better. If the injured party asks the District Court to finish the question, then he has to take whatever comes to him. If the person found guilty of the offence is dissatisfied with the judgment of the District Court, he has the Circuit Court to appeal to. It is intended to short-circuit cases that in the interests of the injured party ought to be short-circuited by reason of the fact that money in any liberal measure is not available to pay compensation, and that if law costs were to be taken out of whatever money was available the injured person would benefit to a lesser extent.
With respect to the Minister, I cannot see how there could be an appeal to the Circuit Court under this section. Under the sub-section as it is framed, there is no proceeding whatever, no originating process, in the District Court between the person aggrieved and the person alleged to have committed an offence under the section. In other words, there is no proceeding whatever in the District Court with regard to that. The only proceedings before the District Court are the proceedings at the suit of the Gárda Síochána or at the suit of the Attorney-General against the defendant, and, ancillary to the powers of the District Justice in that matter, he may award compensation to a third party. But that does not constitute proceedings between that third party and the party convicted of the offence so as to enable an appeal to be brought to the Circuit Court. If it is desired to provide for an appeal to the Circuit Court, there should be a specific provision inserted in the section to that effect. If that difficulty be got over, I still doubt, on the whole, whether the advantage of having a summary method of dealing with a person alleged to have no means out weighs the disadvantages I have indicated. If a person has no means, it is quite immaterial what court proceedings are brought in or whether they are brought in any Court. If a person has no means, I think it would be just as well that the person aggrieved should have time to consider whether he would institute any proceedings or not.
I quite agree with what was in the Minister's mind and the good he is seeking to attain. But, after all, it will not do the injured person any good to know that the guilty person has been sent to jail for three months because he could not pay £50 awarded against him. That is not likely to help or cure him. I agree entirely with what Deputy Finlay has just said. Some advantage may be secured by this section, but the injurious effects likely to arise will entirely outweigh the advantage.
Under this section, while the injured person has a right to be compensated for injury, we must not forget that the defendant also has rights. He is being convicted of an offence under Section 50. That is to say, he is uninsured against third party risks. But before he can be mulcted in damages, he must be convicted of negligent driving and he has a right to have a jury to decide whether, in fact, it was negligence that led to the accident. The accident was not caused by his being uninsured.
I am not surprised that the Minister had such contempt for my amendment. The only thing he saw in it was the possibility of people who are anxious to commit suicide getting damages against motorists. I suggest that there is a great deal more in the amendment than the Minister says there is. I think nobody can be satisfied with the Bill, since it does not cover cases of persons injured through a mishap to a car. Take a case such as happened in Dublin during the past few weeks. A man was knocked down in Dame Street and killed. There was no negligent driving on the part of the motorist, so that no action lay. If a man meeting with such an accident has big family responsibilities, I do not think that any of us can be satisfied, when we are making a big change like this, compelling insurance and providing against accidents due to that very doubtful and vague thing called "negligent driving," that provision is not made for that type of case. So long as we are leaving out that big class of case I do not think any of us who take the Bill seriously can be satisfied with its provisions.
If a man who has no right whatever to take a car on the streets, a man who has already been found guilty of defying the law, does harm to life or property, either accidentally or through negligence, he should be accountable for it. The difficulty of proving negligent driving is extreme, and I venture to say that in nine cases out of ten none of those concerned is satisfied that justice has been done when the proceedings are over. My idea was to cut out all that in the case of a man who has no right to be on the street in charge of a motor car. Whatever damage he does, he should be responsible for, irrespective of whether it arises through negligent driving or not. The Minister says I am trying to deal with people who, through their own negligence, meet with motor accidents. Very few people stand in front of a motor car in the hope that it will hit them and enable them to get damages. The Minister should have seen that that is the case least likely to happen. I am very sorry that the Minister has adopted so contemptuous an attitude towards the amendment, because I am sure it is one which would be more likely to be useful than to cause grievances of any kind.
The Deputy has a perfect right to choose his own words, such as "contempt" and "contemptuous." I did not say that this amendment was intended to provide for a person who stood in front of a motor car deliberately. I said the Deputy wanted to provide for a person injured by a motor car as a result of his own negligence. Any kind of accident that may be brought about by a car of that type could be brought about where you have negligent third parties. The suggestion is that we are to saddle the owners of motor cars with the cost of that insurance.
Does the Minister imply that cases of that kind would come under my amendment, cases in which there was negligence on the part of the person claiming damages?
In all cases in which persons are injured in circumstances in which the driver of the vehicle was not negligent, the burden of their insurance is to be put upon the driver of the car. I do not think that is reasonable. People have to run all kinds of risks every day. There is the normal kind of personal insurance that prudent people enter into. We cannot put all that down on a few picked classes, with the owners of motor cars in one set and some other classes in another set.
The Minister is very kind to certain criminals.
This discussion has been very interesting to those who have been privileged to listen to it. It is a pity that there has not been a full attendance of the members of the Dáil to listen to the powerful case which the Minister has repeatedly made in support of the section as it stands and of his own point of view. The debate, so far as I have heard it, has amounted to this: that there has been a powerful defence on behalf of insurance companies and of those who are or may be the owners of cars but who will not look after them, or take reasonable precautions to see that they are not used in the wrong direction. Deputy Moore made a powerful plea on behalf of people who own cars but who will not see that they are not allowed to get into the hands of people who may cause personal injury with them. The point of view that we, as Deputies, have to stand for is that of the pedestrian and of the innocent person who may be injured owing to the carelessness of the owner of a car. I do not think we are expected to sit here carrying on an unduly prolonged discussion in the interests of insurance companies and people who will not look after their cars.
I would like to know it the Minister has anything to say in reply to the point raised by Deputy Good, namely that a person charged with negligent driving has the right to have that charge investigated by a jury. Under this section he may, in fact, be convicted and fined on that charge by a District Justice.
Deputy Moore apparently is under the impression that under the sub-section as it stands it would not be open to the court to consider whether the aggrieved person had been guilty of contributory negligence in bringing the injury on himself. It is perfectly obvious under the section that that is one of the things the court will have to address itself to. What the court will have to determine is whether the injuries were caused by the negligent driving of the person alleged to have committed the offence. If the injuries were caused through contributory negligence on the part of the aggrieved person, then they could not possibly have been caused by the negligence of the person accused.
My case was that all that should be cut out, and that negligent driving should be assumed in every case where damage to life or property was caused by the use of an uninsured car or by a car driven by an uninsured person.
I have not anything to say on that point, but I will have it investigated. Dangerous driving is a thing that the District Justices can deal with. In certain cases where a person has been driving and has not been insured, we propose that the District Justice shall be enabled to assess negligence and impose a fine. The charged party will have the right of appeal to the Circuit Court. Deputy Finlay thinks that the section as it stands does not secure an appeal to the Circuit Court. I will have that examined. I do not know whether that appeal to the Circuit Court would involve a jury. I will see whether it will not be possible to include a jury when there is an appeal to the Circuit Court. I can see whether or not we can round off the matter in that particular way, but I would ask the House to have this particular class of case dealt with by the District Justice on the ground of negligence and with a fine on the application of the injured person when the circumstances dictated that it was a fit case for the District Justice to deal with.
Are we to take it that the Minister is also going to consider the point raised by Deputy Moore?
No. Deputy Moore raised a point on this section of a person being injured by another who was not insured. To ask that people should be insured not only in respect of cases arising out of their own negligence, but to insure in respect of cases arising out of, say, an act of God or the negligence of some other party, would be too great a burden to place upon them. The Deputy is asking too much.
What I said was that if I had my way I would endeavour to amend the Bill to deal with such cases, but I was not proposing to do that.
I do not see any reason for discriminating in the case of an injured party as to whether he would get compensation because of the fact that he was injured by an uninsured person or by an insured person.
I see a big case for it. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendments 52 and 53 withdrawn.
I move amendment 56:—
In sub-section (3), line 46, to insert after the word "may" the words "if the damages are not paid within fourteen days or such longer period as the Court may determine."
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment 57:—
In sub-section (4), page 26, to delete paragraph (d).
I do not see why the people exempted in this paragraph should be exempted. I think that a lot of the good that is undoubtedly in Section 51 will be eliminated if the wide class referred to in this paragraph are taken from the purview of the section. I would like to hear what the Minister has to say in favour of taking out such a wide class of persons.
In the case of a public service vehicle, we require compulsory insurance in respect to third parties who may be injured on the road, the property outside the vehicle that may suffer damage, and the person of passengers inside the vehicle, but we do not require that the property of passengers inside the vehicle should come under compulsory insurance. Ordinarily it would not mean very much but it might mean a lot. A person might be carrying a case of jewels or might have a valuable diamond necklace and we do not think that property of that kind should come under a compulsory insurance scheme. The section does want some re-drafting, because I realise that as it stands at present if a farmer came from Naas to town and was returning to Nass by bus and the bus ran into some of his own cattle, he should not be compensated for it.
I would like if the Minister would tell us what is the liability of an omnibus company in respect of passengers' luggage. Are they liable for damages whether insured or not?
I take it they are. If a passenger on the bus is injured and his clothing is destroyed as a result of the negligence of the company, he would be entitled to claim not only for personal injuries, but for his clothing also. I do not know that the same would apply in regard to a diamond necklace, but at any rate it appears to be such a small matter and to involve such complications that we are excluding it.
Amendment 57 by leave withdrawn.
Section 51, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Section 52, 53, 54, 55 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 56.—SUB-SECTION (1).
(1) A policy of insurance shall be an approved policy of insurance within the meaning of this Act if, but only if, it complies with all the following conditions, that is to say—
(a) it is issued by a vehicle insurer to a person (in this Act referred to as the insured) named therein; and
(b) it is in a form approved of by the Minister for Industry and Commerce; and
(c) the vehicle insurer by whom it is issued binds himself by it to insure the insured against all sums without limit which the insured or his personal representative shall become liable to pay to any person (other than the excepted persons as defined in this Act) whether by way of damages, costs, or otherwise on account of injury to person or property occasioned by the negligent driving during the period (in this Act referred to as the period of cover) specified in that behalf in such policy of a mechanically propelled vehicle to which such policy relates by the insured or by any of such other persons (if any) as are mentioned in that behalf in such policy; and
(d) the liability of the insurer under the policy is not subject to any conditions, restriction, or limitation, and in particular is not subject to the doing or not doing of anything by the insured after the occurrence of an event giving rise to a claim under the policy; and
(e) is not liable to be avoided by the insurer on account of any fraud, misrepresentation, or false statement committed or made by the insured or any other person, whether knowingly or innocently, before or at the time of the issue of the policy for the purpose or in the course of obtaining the policy; and
(f) the period of cover is not capable of being terminated before its expiration by effluxion of time by the insurer save either with the consent of the insured or after seven days' notice in writing to the insured.
I move amendment 58 on behalf of Deputy Haslett:—
In sub-section (1) (d), lines 10 and 11, to delete the words "any condition, restriction or limitation and in particular is not subject to' ".
[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]
This is rather an important matter and I find it difficult to say what we might do. All kinds of questions are asked of persons who come along for insurance. Take a bus company. It is asked whether its garages are made in a certain way, the gradients of the road and the particular roads that the buses travel, and a lot of other queries running into fifty or sixty questions in some cases. I have not got the supplementary question form here, but the answers to the questions are made the basis of the contract. Cases have happened in which certain insurance companies have relieved themselves of the contract by reason of petty conditions not having been attended to by the insured parties. I agree that it may be necessary to amend this section somewhat like this—that the liability of the insurer under the policy is not subject to any condition, restriction or limitation other than such as may be approved by the Minister. It may be necessary to give the Minister power to prescribe the conditions, that if not properly attended to, will void the policy. On the other hand, there are conditions which it would be reasonable for the insurance company to insist should be fulfilled. If a private car were being insured and that it was stated by the owner that the car would not be used for racing, it would be reasonable that that condition should be properly adhered to.
On the other hand, condition such as that the person had not a licence at the time or a condition that the machine had to be in good order, or that the driver had to be sober, I do not think are conditions that we ought to allow to void a policy entered into for the protection of third parties. I do not know if any Deputies have found themselves up against the wideness of these conditions but there are certainly conditions which some insurance companies have been relying on to void their policy and that we should not allow. I have been giving consideration to this and I will introduce an amendment on report. I do not know whether any Deputies have anything to say on the matter in the meanwhile.
I shall withdraw the amendment for the present.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
I move amendment 59.
In sub-section 1 to delete paragraph (e), lines 14 to 19.
It seeks to legalise a contract obtained through fraud or misrepresentation. I would like to point out that there is a certain group of contracts which are voidable by the party misled, who enters into them, unless each Party has disclosed to the other every material fact within his own knowledge or that of his agent at the time the contract is made. These contracts are known as contracts uberrimae fidei. These contracts include contracts of insurance. In these contracts the rule is strictly enforced, as the facts are generally within the knowledge of the insurers alone. This section strikes at the root of all insurance business and it is doubtful whether the insurance companies will undertake third party risks under the conditions set out here. I am entirely in sympathy with the object of the section, which is the safeguarding of the injured person, but I do not think this safeguarding should be obtained by the introduction of an immoral principle amounting to the condonation of fraud.
This amendment is much in the same position as the previous amendment. That is that a false statement may be made in answer to some of the numerous questions I have spoken about which are contained in the application for a policy or in the subsidiary statement. Section 59 makes it an offence punishable by two years' imprisonment to make knowingly a false statement, and after giving some consideration to this matter I shall be prepared to amend this section in this particular way—that a policy shall not be liable to be voided by the insurer on account of any fraud, misrepresentation, or false statement, unless it shall have been proved before the Circuit Court in some way that will be arranged on the initiative of the insurance companies that the person involved in the contract has been guilty knowingly of a series of false statements and misrepresentations such as would void the policy.
That will safeguard this idea of contract, but I think no contract ought to be voided except a decision were given in the Circuit Court that a false statement or misrepresentation was knowingly made and was sufficiently serious to warrant the voiding of the policy.
I am not at all happy about the suggested amendment. We have to remember the person concerned, that is the person who may be killed or injured as a result of the accident. There should be some obligation on the part of the insurance company to satisfy itself as to the statements made by the insured before it issues the certificate of insurance. As soon as the person gets the certificate of insurance he is entitled to drive a car within the law. He may kill or injure a person and the relatives of the killed or injured come forward seeking compensation. It is referred to the insurance company. The insurance company may proceed to investigate the statements made and if they find that some of them are false, try to get out of the contract. I think it is much better that the insurance company should have a definite obligation placed on them at the beginning to take whatever precautions are required to satisfy themselves that the statements are proved, and they should not issue certificates of insurance until they are so satisfied.
My mind is very open in the matter. I realise that the insurance companies are in a better position to do that than the other people who bring the charge, but on the other hand it is argued that we should force insurance companies to take on insurance.
The Minister is looking at it from the wrong point of view. We are forcing people to insure with insurance companies.
Insurance Companies will point out to us "you are asking us to insure people who may be guilty of false statements; yet we have still to stand over their insurance." I think that may be asking too much. However my mind is open on the matter. I have a lot of sympathy with the type of person the Deputy speaks about and on the Report Stage we can see what we will do about the matter. If the House agrees we can take one way of dealing with the matter. I do not know if Deputy Fahy has anything to say.
It is dangerous of course to upset the nature of contracts in this matter of fraud but I might suggest to the Minister that it would be possible to differentiate between a certain type of accident where you get a car broken up and cases where a person is injured. I would not be inclined to insist so much on the insured person making a full disclosure in such cases. My anxiety would be to protect the people injured in motor accidents. In the other cases of damage to car or damage to property I think the Minister should leave it that the amount of disclosure in an insurance policy could still stand, making some differentiation in cases of accidents to the person.
My anxiety is caused by what is known to be the practice of companies in relation to industrial work. They will issue a policy and collect the premiums and will not question any statements in the policy until claims are made. They then go through with the statements to discover any flaw which will get them out of their obligation to pay. The same thing might arise if you interfere with this paragraph in any way.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce does not quite follow what I mean. What I mean is that misrepresentation should void a contract for injury to a car or property, but that it should not void a contract in cases where there is personal injury or where there is a person killed.
I would like to ask the Deputies to go further and to give us their point of view as from the angle of an insurance company. Up-to-date the law has been as Deputy Good described. There were certain contracts relying on the good faith of the parties, the basis is that there are certain particulars within the knowledge of the parties and not within the knowledge of the insurer. You are now going to upset that. Up-to-date the premium bears a certain relation to the risk. The Deputy is now going to change the whole basis of the contract previously entered into with regard to the damage to persons and is going to make the insurance companies, for the future, take the risk that the person insured has not made a full disclosure. Is there likely to be any change with regard to the premiums asked by the insurance companies taking that risk?
The proposition is not mine, but is that of the Minister for Local Government. I am not suggesting that he should change this section with regard to damage to property. I am interested in getting the person injured compensation and seeing that the driver will not get out of it so easily in that case as in the case of damage to property. I quite see what the Minister is arguing. It is a case of uberimma fides and that should certainly hold with regard to damage to property, but I would not be quite so strict with regard to damage to the person.
I think the principle is quite sound. I am only pointing to the possible repercussions to that.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
On the section I think this is the best way to raise the matter. I want to have some reference to it. A case has arisen in England where an insurance company was fined for having renewed a certificate of insurance but allowed the person a month's grace to pay the premium. The usual practice at present is that a period of grace is allowed on the expiration of one policy. After the expiration of one policy the payment of the premium on the second policy, or on the new policy, is dated as from the expiration of the old policy. A case arose in England where a company gave a month's grace to an insured person and issued the certificate as from the date of the expiration of the old policy. That was held to be illegal, and the insurance company was subjected to a substantial fine. The result has been that insurance companies have tightened up the regulation and have refused to issue new policies until the premiums in respect of them have been paid.
I can see, however, that some difficulties may arise in that connection, due to the fact that the owner of the car may forget the fact that his policy is expiring, and allows it to run two or three days before securing a new policy. If he drives his car during those two or three days he leaves himself liable to a substantial fine or imprisonment. I would like to know is there any possibility of inserting a provision in the Bill to enable an insurance company to give some period of grace in respect of the payment of the premium while at the same time issuing a certificate of insurance as from the date of the expiration of the old one.
I cannot understand why there should be any difficulty at all, but we can have the matter in this section investigated. That is the insurance company was prosecuted and fined because it had not received the premium.
I will have the position investigated.
In fact it meant that a certificate of insurance was issued in respect of which a policy did not exist.
If the Minister considers the issue of the certificate in such circumstances would he not also consider a provision that an insurance company would be bound notwithstanding that the policy had expired?
If the certificate is issued and the premium was never paid, and if an accident takes place during the period of alleged grace the insurance company ought to be held responsible for the insurance during that period.
Section 56 put and agreed to.
Section 57 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 58 stand."
On the section, I would like if the Minister would tell us why it is necessary to provide for approved combined policies and guarantees.
Most of the policies that motorists enter into are of a kind that makes them responsible, say, for the first five, ten, fifteen or twenty-five pounds damage. It is these small amounts, apparently, that insurance companies are most afraid of. They will give you a policy to cover any damage above £10 or £25. We want to ensure that that gap there will not be left uninsured and that whatever gap is left there in the policy will be covered by a guarantee. When we are forcing a company to be insured they will have to get a certificate from a bank or they will have to lodge a certain amount of surety with the company if the company so desires, and then for a nominal fee the company will cover them with the guarantee for one part and all extra costs by their insurance. A difficulty may arise inasmuch as certain people may want to cover themselves by guarantees with one company, say, with their bankers, and an insurance company will say to them: "We will not do your insurance policy except we do your guarantees for you as well." I understand that bus owners are in difficulties as to how they may be treated in the matter of guarantees by insurance companies. Some of them cover fairly substantial sums before they actually insure. The insurance company enters into a policy for damage above the first £500. The possibilities in that particular section will have to be examined particularly to see that bus companies will not be charged exorbitant rates of guarantee, and that if they do their guarantee in one particular way they will not be in a position of being unable to insure because they have not done their guarantee with the company they ask to insure them. A combined policy and guarantee, the guarantee to cover the small thing which insurance companies very often require in order to give reasonable premiums, that the first small expenses will be borne by the insured person.
If it is intended that banks are to act as guarantors under this Bill it is necessary that these institutions should be required to make a deposit of £15,000?
Did I understand the Minister to state that in the event of a car owner taking out a policy in which he himself is willing to bear, say, the first £5 of damage that occurs that he must take out a guarantee to the extent of that £5?
For such small items as that?
It would be only nominal. The person will give a banker's certificate to the insurance company in respect of that amount. I do not know whether the insurance companies will charge an extra sixpence or a shilling in respect of what they are doing in connection with the guarantees.
No. It is a fact that insurance companies will raise the premium if you ask them to do a small amount. The Deputy probably has himself a small margin that is not covered by his insurance policy.
As a matter of fact, that applies only in the case of omnibuses.
And in the case of private cars also. Many a man has gone to insure his car—say, a man who has got into the playful habit of rubbing mud-guards—and been told that it would be made a condition that he should pay on the first £20 or £25.
The point I want to make is that the insurance policy under the Bill must be one that covers the insured person against all sums.
If he does not get an insurance policy to cover the whole thing it will have to be an insurance and guarantee.
The policy must be one to cover the whole thing.
If the policy is to cover everything the premium will be very high. If a person can cover the lower sums with a guarantee then he gets the benefit of the old premium.
My point is that it would be illegal under the Act.
Section 56, paragraph (c) states: "To insure the insured against all sums without limit."
That is that he may have a combined policy and guarantee.
A policy and approved guarantee, a combined policy and guarantee, or the person may be exempted.
It is not possible for a person to hold a policy with one company and a guarantee with another. It is not possible for a person to get a guarantee from his bank.
That may be a defect in the clause that may have to be changed. That is to say, his insurance may be covered by a guarantee and an insurance instead of a combined guarantee and insurance.
The definition of the insurance policy itself will have to be altered.
No. If an insurance policy is complete that is all right but if an insurance policy leaves a gap in the lower end compensations there have to be covered by a guarantee.
If it does leave a gap it is not a right policy under this Act.
Look at clause 50. A man may have one of three things.
It is defined in sub-section (c).
Is the Minister satisfied that sub-section (2) is really required? I suggest that it is merely an incumbrance and that it may possibly cause trouble. It only provides that the insurance policy shall not be prevented from being an approved combined policy and guarantee merely by reason of its containing provisions additional to and not inconsistent with the provisions required by these conditions. If the document contains things that are unreasonable but are not additional, and are inconsistent with the provisions required under those conditions would it still be an approved policy?
There are certain limited things that we require in an approved policy. If there are additional things in the policy they do not invalidate it as long as they are not inconsistent with our requirements. It is a drafting precaution if you like, a drafting refinement.
Some of the additional provisions might not be inconsistent here and yet might leave the policy a very objectionable one. There may be very objectionable conditions inserted.
I do not know whether the Deputy has in mind any of the difficulties which we spoke about under Section 56 (d), about conditions, restrictions and limitations. On revision of that clause we will see what we can do, while leaving the insurance companies free to put in conditions that would be reasonable, to see that they will not be able to put in conditions that are unreasonable. We will endeavour to be as explicit as possible in that respect. If that is so, then as long as conditions are put into a policy which are not inconsistent with the regulations that we require and with the limitations that we think should not be on a policy, I do not think there could be anything to which the Deputy could object. There are bound to be refinements and additions in these policies that will be outside the limits of the requirements that, for the purposes of compulsory insurance under this Bill, we would require. This is a drafting precaution.
My point is to provide against unreasonable conditions being added which were not provided against in the sub-section. I suggest to the Minister that he should consider whether the sub-section is really required or not. In my opinion, it is not needed.
I can see some conditions which would be quite reasonable from the point of view of insurance companies and which would not be in any way in conflict either with Section 56 for an approved policy or Section 58 for a combined policy and guarantee. At present if an insured person does not give all the necessary assistance which he can to insurance companies in defending an action and in procuring witnesses, the insurance company is entitled to repudiate liability. Under the Act, and under a policy approved of by the Minister, it would not be open to them to take that course. But I can see a condition added by which the insurer, in the event of his not taking all steps necessary, or by neglect in any way to assist the insurance company to defend a claim on the policy, would render himself liable to the insurance company for any amount that they would have to pay under the policy.
That is the type of condition that I have in mind.
We have to consider what we are going to do in a possibility like that under Section 56 (1) (d). If we deal with it in that, then anything that would be inconsistent with it could not appear either in an insurance policy or guarantee or a combined guarantee and insurance policy.
The clause I speak of would not be inconsistent with it. It would be simply determining the rights between the insurer and the insurance company, relieving the insurance company of liability on their policy for third party risk.
Section put and agreed to.
Amendment 61 is inconsistent with what follows.
I think what Deputy Haslett had in mind in Amendment 61, which I am not moving, is uncertainty as to whether the word "fraud" covers something done unintentionally. I do not know whether in law it does or not. Supposing a man makes some statement quite unintentionally and in ignorance which turns out afterwards to be wrong and inaccurate, would he be liable to imprisonment for two years under this section?
Line 41 says "which is to his knowledge false or misleading."
That is preceded by the words "commits any fraud or makes any representation or statement."
The section says "commits any fraud or makes any representation or statement (whether in writing or verbally or by conduct) which is to his knowledge false or misleading."
The point is, can the words "commits any fraud or makes any representation" come into application even though something had been done unintentionally?
That is not the intention.
Will the Minister see that something unintentional may not land him in prison for two years?
In connection with Section 56 (1) (e) we were considering some amendments to Section 59 here. It must be knowingly and deliberately.
That is what I want to get.
Amendment 61 not moved.
Section put and agreed to.
Amendments 62 and 63 not moved.
Sections 60 and 61 agreed to.
(1) Any member of the Gárda Síochána may demand of any person driving a mechanically propelled vehicle the production of either a certificate of insurance or a certificate of guarantee in respect of the driving of that vehicle by that person on that occasion and if such person refuses or fails to produce any such certificate then and there he shall, unless within three days after the date on which such production was demanded he produces such certificate in person to a member of the Gárda Síochána at a Gárda Síochána station named by such person at the time at which such production was so demanded, be guilty of an offence under this section.
Amendment 64 not moved.
The following amendment was agreed to:
65. In sub-section (1), line 12, to delete the word "three" and substitute therefor the word "five". —(Deputy Thrift).
I move Amendment 66:
In sub-section (1), line 14, to insert after the word "person" the words "or by a duly authorised representative."
The case I have in mind is that if a person went away from home leaving his insurance policy behind him, and he finds that it may be necessary to produce that policy somewhere near his home, by writing a letter authorising some person to secure that policy, his signature to the letter should be sufficient to identify him as the owner of the policy. I suggest that there is nothing lost by allowing him to authorise a duly appointed representative to submit his insurance policy on his behalf.
There is not perhaps the same necessity here as would exist under Section 35, where the production of a licence was asked for. I should like to consider the question further in relation to the licence, and perhaps the Deputy would allow his amendment to stand over for report.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed:—"That Section 63 stand part of the Bill."
On that question I would like to know how an approved policy of insurance could be terminated except by the effluxion of time. This section puts the obligation upon the insured person to surrender the certificate of insurance if the policy has expired for any other reason except the time has lapsed. How can it expire for any other reason?
We are providing in section 56 (f) that "the period of cover is not capable of being terminated before its expiration by the effluxion of time by the insurer save either with the consent of the insured or after seven days' notice in writing to the insured."
Circumstances may arise in which the insured company will on seven days' notice serve notice of the breaking of the contract with the insured but the insured may for some reason or other terminate this contract. If that happened then after the passage of seven days the person would be an non-insured person.
Section agreed to and added to the Bill.
(1) Whenever an event occurs in relation to a mechanically propelled vehicle in consequence of which the vehicle insurer who issued an approved policy of insurance or an approved combined policy and guarantee or the principal debtor under an approved guarantee then in force in respect of such vehicle may become liable to pay money to any person the owner of such vehicle shall, within forty-eight hours after the occurrence of such event or where such event did not occur in his presence within forty-eight hours after the occurrence of such event first came to his knowledge, give to the vehicle insurer by whom such policy or policy and guarantee was issued or to the vehicle insurer or vehicle guarantor by whom such guarnatee was issued (as the case may require) notice in writing of the occurrence of such event together with such particulars of such event as are in his knowledge or procurement and are reasonably required by such insurer or guarantor.
I move amendment 67:—
In sub-section (1), page 31, line 2, to delete the words "within forty-eight hours" and substitute therefor the words "as soon as practicable."
In this section the owner and driver of a vehicle is to give notice of an accident occurring to that vehicle within forty-eight hours. My amendment is to delete the forty-eight hours and to substitute therefor "as soon as possible."
Amendment agreed to.
Section 64 as amended agreed to.
Sections 65, 66, 67, 68 and 69 agreed to.
Question proposed:—"That Section 70 stand part of the Bill."
On this question I would like if the Minister would give us some indication of the nature of the test of competency likely to be applied and also that these tests will be uniform throughout the country. There is the possibility that the Superintendent of the Gárda responsible for the enforcement of these tests in a particular area may apply a standard altogether different from that in another area and that a person might be refused a certificate in one area who could obtain it in another. I should like to know if any attempt will be made to insist on uniformity in the tests and also I would like to know what the nature of the tests will be.
I take it that the test will be taking a person out to drive and going through different evolutions with the car that the ordinary driver in normal circumstances might be expected to go through in handling the car. I take it that the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána will see that he is technically and properly advised as to the best means and as to the essential things that must be done in order to test the competency of the driver. As far as standardisation throughout the country and uniformity in the test go I think I can assure the Deputy that the importance of that will be realised by ourselves and by the Commissioner and that all our efforts will be brought to bear to bring about circumstances in which there will be uniform tests. It is a question of working it out in practice and I think there will be no dissatisfaction at its working. Any dissatisfaction that may from time to time arise will be readily remedied and settled.
There is another point that arises. Personally I am not at all satisfied that these provisions of certificates of competency are going to be of any use whatever. I think there may be a danger in connection with them. There may be a danger that the driver of a public service vehicle charged with negligent driving may be able to produce a certificate and say: "That is my proof that I am a good driver," when in fact it may prove nothing of the kind. That aspect of the matter was adverted to by some persons who gave evidence before the Departmental Committee, and who were opposed to imposition of tests of competency. It seems to me that either these tests are really tests of the competency of the driver in securing them or else they have to be a mere formal business with no satisfactory result at all. The tests are likely to be mere formal tests. The actual circumstances under which the driver of a public vehicle is likely to have his skill properly tested cannot be reproduced in any scheme. They arise under a peculiar combination of circumstances in traffic. If a man was not fit mentally to estimate distances and speed at sight, and things of that kind, and could have his competency established and his defence on a charge of negligent driving sustained by the mere production of his licence, then it would be much better if we did not have this certificate at all, particularly as I believe that this is a case where people who seek to get a licence and who will not be fit to get a licence will be remarkably few. Then with regard to the fee to be charged, there is no indication given of the size of the fee. I do not know at what limit it is intended to fix it. There are a number of people driving buses now who have been driving buses for years, and who probably are as competent now as they ever will be. Is it intended that these people should pay a fee, whether small or large, to get a certificate? I think persons driving buses for a period to be fixed—say, three or six months— should at least be released from the obligation of making this payment. It might in the case of some of them be a great hardship.
I certainly will give consideration to the suggestion that people at present driving or who have been driving for some time should get the certificate of competency without test. I believe with the Deputy that bus drivers are practically born and not made, and a lot depends upon the temperament of the person, and on the person himself, what he is, as distinct from what he has learned to do with the car. Nevertheless, I think there is a safeguard here in requiring a certificate of competency. It may be shown in time that that is not very satisfactory, and that the person ought to have a probationary period, but there are provisions by which a driver's licence could be taken from him.
No doubt we shall have a review of the general conduct of public service vehicles by the Gárda in a pretty systematic way. So that I do not know that we should operate our imaginations too much as to what is likely to happen under this section. But I think that it is desirable to have it so that there may be some kind of selective process, so that people obviously unfitted by temperament or otherwise will not be placed in charge of public service vehicles.
Has the Minister arrived at any definite decision as to what he is prepared to do in the matter of issuing licences to people who are learning to drive either private motor cars or any others? I think that it is a very important question to consider, and as I said before, a very difficult question to decide. But I think we should know what the attitude of the Minister in regard to it is, because there is no doubt that people will be seeking for drivers' licences in order to learn driving. The people referred to here, people with large vehicles, must learn to drive as well. If they are caught driving without a driver's licence, they will be in a rather tight corner. I should like to know whether the Minister has arrived at any decision with regard to that.
There is the driving licence which ordinary persons may get and the driver's licence which is the licence intended for drivers of public service vehicles. I do not think that any person is likely to come up and apply for a driver's licence who has not been for some time before in possession of a driving licence. The drivers of buses are generally recruited from rather experienced drivers of other types of vehicle; and I do not think that anyone would issue a driver's licence to a person who is at the same time applying for a driving licence.
Does the Minister make one conditional on the other?
I do not know whether the Bill in fact does; but I do not see how anyone could pass the competency test required for a driver's licence if he had not been operating with a driving licence for a long time before.
It means that a bus driver can never apply for a driver's licence of competency unless he has already a driving licence?
Yes, he must be able to drive.
It means that the first time a man can sit in the driver's seat of a bus is the time when he is undergoing the test?
That brings us back to the original point in regard to the driving licence; the same question though it arises on a different plane in regard to a driver's licence.
In addition to the test of competency, what regulations would the Minister recommend for an eyesight test? It is quite possible for persons of abnormal sight to see two cars where there is only one.
And for some persons of normal sight as well!
Could the Minister give us any indication of what the amount of the fee would be?
I will see whether on the next stage we may not do something about that.
Section 70 agreed to.
At the end of the section to insert a new sub-section as follows—
"(4) Any person who is refused a licence by reason of his failure to pass any test of competency of fitness carried out in accordance with the provisions of this part of this Act, shall be entitled to appeal to the District Justice Court against such refusal, after giving previous notice to the Commissioner."
As the Bill stands at present the decision of the Gárda officer is final as to whether or not a licence is given in these cases. His decision may be wrong. Certain things are possible. His decision may be formed on a misjudgment; and I simply suggest that there should be the right of appeal to the District Court. I do not think that right will be exercised very often, but I suggest it should be there, and that a person who thinks he has been misjudged as to his driving powers should have the right to appeal to the District Court.
Section 94 deals with the question of appeal and provides that a person who has been refused a driver's licence or a conductor's licence can appeal to the District Court.
Then it is in the Bill already?
This amendment is as regards the certificate of fitness.
It refers particularly to the failure to pass some test of competency. I do not know whether it raises a different point. One refers to the Commissioner's decision, the other refers to the refusal because of the failure to pass a test.
On the grounds of physical fitness.
However I will withdraw it for the present. Perhaps the Minister will consider whether there is any fresh point in it.
The point is the refusal of a certificate of fitness, not of competency.
He requires a driving licence as well as a driver's licence, and the question of his certificate of fitness will arise on his driving licence. If a driver's licence is refused he has an appeal to the District Justice. It may arise on fitness or competency. So that the appeal is not because a certificate of fitness is not granted; the appeal is because the driver's licence is not granted.
I take it that Section 71 does not relate to public service vehicles only, that it relates to all cars?
Yes, that is right. Section 71 hangs on the driving licence.
The other is definitely a driver's licence?
Yes, you cannot get a driver's licence without a driving licence.
Then I think there is substance in my amendment, because you put the closure on him in an early stage when there is no appeal, and where is the use of an appeal at a later stage when you cannot put it into practice?
The Deputy's point is that someone applies for a driving licence. He is not able to make a declaration with regard to fitness. He goes to Section 71 and, on examination, the Commissioner says that he is not fit to have a driving licence. The Deputy wants an appeal from that. Yes, I will have that examined.
Amendment 68, by leave, withdrawn.
I would like to labour the point raised by Deputy Dr. Hennessy on the question of a sight test. Deputy Dr. Hennessy knows that in the case of railway engine drivers a very severe sight test has to be passed before the engine driver will be allowed to have charge of an engine. The same sight test applies in the case of a guard or signal man. To a certain extent, not to the same extent, sight tests are imposed and have to be passed in the case of tram drivers. It is as important in the case of a man who wants a licence to drive a motor bus that he should be obliged to pass a sight test and should be obliged by the Superintendent of the Gárda Síochána to produce a certificate of fitness, so far as eyesight is concerned, before he would be given a licence. I do know that no such test has been applied up to the present. I do not see why one set of people charged with responsibility for the safe conduct of the travelling public should be obliged to pass a severe sight test and another section is not required to pass any such test. I should like to know the Minister's view on the matter. If we are going to have the law fairly applied in the interest of the travelling public it should apply to those who seek licences to drive on the roads just the same as to those in charge of engines on the railways.
It is very necessary for the Minister to look into this matter carefully because colour-blindness is a much more prevalent affection than many people think. I have had, in the case of a society, experience of thirty people being tested and it was extraordinary the proportion of them who were actually colour blind. Some were defective only in a small way but there were others defective in a very large way. It would not be a difficult thing when people are getting certificates to have them tested for colour-blindness, and give them an opportunity of recognising any colours shown to them. I do not think it matters quite so much about short-sightedness as about colour-blindness.
The question of a test of fitness for all drivers was considered and it was dropped and we made provision by which a person applying for a driving licence must make a declaration that to the best of his knowledge he is not suffering from any disease or physical or mental disability which would be likely to cause his driving to be a danger to the public. That applies then to all persons looking for a driving licence.
What is the Minister reading from?
It is very unlikely that he will be challenged on that, because he would look quite normal.
As I have said, the question of a test of fitness for all drivers was dropped, and it was only where a person was not prepared to make that declaration that we provide under Section 71 that he can go to a doctor and get a report. In the light of that report the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána will have him tested as regards competency to handle a car. The practical test in connection with the doctor's report will decide as to whether he will be given a certificate of fitness. The discussion now brings us to whether we are going to require, in respect of all drivers of public vehicles who apply for drivers' licences after the passing of this measure, that they shall all have to submit to a physical test, including eyesight and everything else like that. If we had a system like that of requiring a medical report we could not bring them all to Dublin to have them examined in a particular place or by a particular person. They would have to be examined on the spot by some doctor of their own selection.
Why of their own selection?
Well, by some doctor selected by the Commissioner or some doctor selected or nominated by the Gárda Síochána.
By the Gárda doctor, if you like. There is one in every area.
I understand there is not a Gárda doctor in every area.
The point I am making is very simple. I think it is quite possible to rectify short-sightedness by the use of glasses. It is not possible to rectify colour-blindness by such means. The great point about it is that the person who is colour-blind as a rule does not know it. A brown or a red thing may look green to him, but he does not know that he is colour-blind. He thinks his sight is quite good as regards colour. Deputy Davin refers to the fact that engine-drivers and people like that have to be tested, not for their short-sightedness, which can be rectified but for their colour-blindness.
Deputy Sir James Craig brings us back to colour-blindness as distinct from other sight tests. I do not know that colour-blindness from the motorist's point of view is as important as from the engine-driver's point of view.
I agree it is not quite as important.
It is very necessary in the case of the engine driver to distinguish between a red, a green or a white light at night.
In other cities there is a system of traffic signalling by means of colours, red, yellow and other lights.
On the question of short-sightedness, it would be quite possible to make a man fit to drive a motor car by giving him suitable glasses.
Perhaps the Minister will take into consideration the regulations in force in England for obtaining licences. They stipulate that a man must be able to read the number of a car at a certain number of yards. That would be quite a simple test.
That brings us back to the question, are we going to require a medical test of any kind, limited to the eyes if you like, in the case of people seeking a licence to drive cars? We say no.
I am dealing particularly with the cars that ply for public hire.
We come back then to the people driving public service vehicles. Do we require a medical test as well as a test for competency on the part of those people before they are given drivers' licences?
It occurs to me that surely this will affect the question of insurance and will affect the premiums the insurance companies will very likely demand if they have to take the risks of drivers suffering some physical defect.
I do not know that the insurance companies require any certificate with regard to drivers, whether their eyesight is good or bad.
I will be content if the Minister will consider the two points referred to—deafness and colour-blindness.
What about short-sightedness?
That can be corrected easily if the person uses glasses. There is no great difficulty about that.
I would like to ask Deputy Sir James Craig whether, in carrying out a test of competency under a skilled and competent member of the Guards, definitely trained for that particular class of work, a man like that could not apply simple tests in respect of deafness and colour-blindness and in respect of long or short sight?
I suggest that the Minister is indicating what might be considered a great offence in the eyes of the General Medical Council.
I will not ask Deputy Sir James Craig to answer. If we can narrow the thing down to this, that a competent member of the Gárda will carry out a test of competency in the driving of a vehicle—he ought to be capable of doing it—I will examine and discuss the matter from that point of view.
Will the Minister permit people who suffer from defective eyesight which can be efficiently treated by wearing glasses and who subsequently get glasses, to qualify then for a certificate? Personally, I think he should.
I feel he should. If a person is turned down on the question of eyesight and, after being provided with suitable glasses, reapplies, there ought to be no objection.
The general form of the Minister's statement raises an important question, a very serious question. We can contemplate a man being put in charge of a public service vehicle who is suffering from a very dangerous form of heart disease. That is a serious thing to contemplate.
Does the Minister contemplate leaving it to the discretion of the local Gárda officer to decide what is a suitable sight test, or will he lay down a general rule?
The Commissioner will have to lay down general rules as to what shall be done in the carrying out of a competency test.
Might I suggest to the Minister that the ability to read the rear number-plate of a motorcar is not a sufficient test?
I have been driving a car for years, and I have never had a serious accident, but I doubt if I would be able to fulfil the test of reading the number-plate of a car ahead at the distance specified in the English regulations, and I hold that I am a competent driver.
If the Minister and Deputies want to be fair, as I am sure they do, to all those who want to make a livelihood out of the transport industry, I think they should put all engaged in competition in that industry on the same basis, as far as the conditions under which they carry on go. Let us take the case of the Irish Omnibus Company, which is part and parcel, as Deputy Murphy may not admit, of the Great Southern Railways Company. Those engaged as engine drivers, guards, signal men in the service of the railway company are obliged in the interest of those who travel by rail to pass a severe eye-sight test, and to be called periodically when the officials of the Company desire before the medical officer in order to ascertain if their eye-sight is perfect.
Because the Minister has certain officials in his Department who are paid to see that that is done.
In the interests of the travelling public.
Does not the Deputy know that the working of the railways depends on the capacity to distinguish between a red light and a green light?
The red and green lights have some bearing on the safety of those travelling by rail.
Yes, but not on the roads.
Does the Minister suggest that a superintendent of the Guards without any medical experience is competent to say that any man coming before him for a driver's licence has perfect eyesight, or that he could read a number plate of a motor car a certain distance in front of him on the public road? Could he tell, if asked, the number of a car that was coming towards him or the width of the road? I think it is a very necessary condition in the interests of those travelling by bus to see that some test is applied by somebody who has a knowledge of what good or bad eye-sight is. The debate on this Bill has been remarkable for the number of Deputies who spoke about the safety of innocent people. As far as I can see, there are far more innocent people engaged in the motor industry than any other industry. The plea raised by Deputy Thrift and other innocent Deputies has been for mitigation of the fines and to see that these people do not get imprisonment.
What has that to do with the section?
It has got to do with the Minister's reference to Section 12.
Section 71 is the section before the House.
The Minister was allowed to refer to Section 12.
There is nothing about innocent people in Section 12.
The Minister is so innocent that he is prepared to take a declaration from innocent people who look for drivers' licences, who make application to say if they want a job that they are physically and mentally fit to secure a driver's licence. That should not be allowed in the case of those who apply for positions in public carrying companies. I put it to the Minister that in the interests of those who will travel from time to time on omnibuses in particular, some test of fitness should be applied by some person who knows the difference between good eyesight and bad eye-sight.
I think if the Minister is going to go into the question of eyesight he should also consider the question of dealing with drivers of private cars. It is just as important that their sight should be corrected by proper glasses as the sight of the drivers of public vehicles. No person should get a licence who has not good eyesight.
As drivers of private cars are referred to I think there should be particular reference to members of the Executive Council, who can only see red at present.
They can distinguish it from green.
Is the Minister prepared to go into this question before the next stage?
Yes. As I see it if you are not going to subject the drivers of public service vehicles to a general all-round medical examination, then, whoever carries out the competency test ought to have instructions that will enable him to detect obvious defects of eyes and ears.
Sections 71 and 72 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 73 stand part of the Bill."
I take it that this is a new tax that is being brought into force. Up to the present no fees have been chargeable for public service licences. Seeing that the Minister is getting very big taxes from these vehicles already is he prepared to defend the idea of a further tax, a tax that is to be indefinite so far as the Dáil is concerned? Section 76 provides that fees are to be fixed by regulation made by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance. If the fees are only to be nominal surely he could fit them into the Bill without leaving the matter uncertain and to be made use of by the Minister for Finance for any purpose he may have in mind. It seems strange that in the case of vehicles already subject to two big and growing taxes—a seating tax in addition to a petrol tax—advantage should be taken on a Traffic Bill to increase the taxation upon them. I would like to hear from the Minister what is his idea for introducing further taxation on these vehicles.
The idea primarily is to meet expenses necessarily incurred in connection with the licensing in the same manner as in regard to competency certificates. Since 1921, there has been no such fee paid, but prior to 1921 there was a fee of four guineas paid. Deputies have referred to the British practice in other matters. The position under the British regulations is that for the licensing of a public service vehicle the owner pays three guineas. A certificate of fitness also costs three guineas. It lasts for a period of five years, unless revoked. Here the general proposal is simply to fix a fee that will cover the expenses incurred in dealing with the matter.
That fee will be paid into the Road Fund?
All fees in connection with this Bill will go into the Road Fund, except fees for parking attendants.
Seeing that the road tax is already paid into the Road Fund and that the Road Fund is as high as it could well be—substantially higher than it is in Great Britain— the case for a further tax to cover expenses arising under this Bill is not a very strong one. Would the Minister give us an idea of the amount he proposes to fix in respect of these vehicles?
The fee would be between £3 and £4, but it will all depend on what the running of this section will cost.
I suggest that in the third line of sub-section (2) the words should be "the amount of the annual licence fee," instead of "the amount of the licence fee." Further down, this fee is referred to as "the annual licence fee."
Thanks for drawing attention to that.
Insertion agreed to.
(1) The Commissioner shall not grant a public service vehicle licence in respect of any public service vehicle which does not appear to him—
(a) to be constructed and equipped in accordance with the regulations for the construction and equipment of mechanically propelled vehicles so far as such regulations are applicable to such vehicle, and
(b) to be in such a state of repair as to be serviceable, safe and otherwise fit for the accommodation of passengers.
(2) The Commissioner may refuse to grant a public service vehicle licence to a person who in his opinion is, by reason of his character or previous conduct or for any other reason, not a fit and proper person to hold a public service vehicle licence.
I move amendment 69.
Before sub-section (2) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"A public service vehicle licence shall not be granted to any person in respect to any large public service vehicle unless such vehicle is constructed so as to isolate the driver from the passengers."
This amendment is intended to ensure the greater safety of the travelling public. It refers only to the large public service vehicle and proposes that the driver of such a vehicle should be isolated from the passengers. I think that the House will agree that the driver of such a vehicle should have his whole attention concentrated on the management of his vehicle and on looking out for other traffic, and that it should not be possible for his passengers to distract him. Cases have been reported where there has been overcrowding and where sometimes two or three persons crushed themselves in beside the driver, thus preventing him from properly managing his vehicle. Some provision such as this should be inserted in the Bill to ensure that distraction shall not take place.
Would Deputy O'Connell consider the leaving out of the word "large" and altering the amendment so as to provide that no driver of a public bus carrying passengers should have anybody beside him? I agree that a person sitting beside the driver does distract him.
The position is that under the Motor Car and Public Service Vehicle Order, 1928, in the case of a vehicle fitted with a permanent roof—what would be a public service vehicle now—the driver's seat shall be so enclosed as to isolate the driver from the passengers.
It ought to be enforced. It is intended that some provision of that kind shall be enforced under the regulations under this Bill. If we put the provision which Deputy O'Connell suggests into the Bill now, it would apply to char-a-bancs, and you could not have a position in regard to char-a-bancs whereby the driver would be isolated. You have also the case of the one-man bus, carrying less than fourteen passengers, where a conductor is not required. It would be unreasonable to provide that the driver in that case should be isolated from the passengers, because he has to collect the fares. In the case of bigger vehicles, in the case of vehicles fitted with permanent roofs, the intention is that the drivers should be isolated. Some of these char-a-bancs are not covered by permanent roofs. They are driven quite openly and there is no necessity to have the driver isolated from the passengers. The intention the Deputy has in mind will be adequately provided for under the regulations.
The danger in the case of the char-a-banc is just as great as in the case of other vehicles. I was in an accident in a char-a-banc and the accident was due simply to a passenger—a very attractive young passenger—conversing with a rather susceptible driver.
The Minister states that under the existing law it is compulsory for the driver to be isolated from the passengers. In the Minister's own constituency—North Dublin— there are hundreds of buses plying for hire, in which the driver is not isolated from the passengers. I should like to call the Minister's attention to the lamentable accident, referred to by Deputy Lemass, which took place in the Coombe district some time ago. If the provision that Deputy O'Connell is now seeking to have incorporated in the Bill had been in operation then, that accident, I suggest, would not have occurred. The Minister is further aware that in his constituency fourteen-seater buses regularly carry fifteen, sixteen or twenty passengers and that passengers frequently converse with the drivers. In view of the long hours that these men work and in view of the danger to passengers, the Minister should accept Deputy O'Connell's amendment.
I assure the Deputy that my constituents are not allowed greater liberties that the constituents of other Deputies.
That was not what I suggested. There are more buses plying for hire in the Minister's constituency than in any other constituency. Consequently, the danger is greater.
There is a danger as regards this matter. Sometimes you see passengers draped about the driver and occasionally the driver draped about a passenger. Where a passenger happens to be sitting beside the driver at a critical time, if that passenger, whether man or a woman, happens to be hysterical, they may make a grab at the wheel. I have seen that occur while I was driving myself. Only I saw, in time, the hand coming, there would have been a crash. It is undesirable in a vehicle of this description to have passengers beside the driver. This matter should be considered and passengers should not be allowed to sit beside the drivers of vehicles carrying six passengers or more.
It cannot be denied that this practice exists to a great extent in the southern portion of County Dublin, where you have a number of these fourteen-seater buses plying. I do not want to see these people driven out of business right away, but I suggest that regulations might be made or that the section should be amended in such a way as to make it impossible for a new bus of this type to come into existence after the passing of the Act unless the conditions laid down in Deputy O'Connell's amendment are complied with. The amendment, if put into operation right away, would apply to a number of these fourteen-seater buses that probably have another year or year-and-a-half to live in the transport world. An alteration could be made in some cases. I am not so bigoted against buses operating in this country as to refuse to travel on them, particularly when I cannot get any other means of taking me from one point to another. Some time ago I got into a bus at Burgh Quay late at night. It was a fourteen-seater, going out on its last journey. There were twenty-five passengers in it. On that bus the driver had to act as conductor.
And the Deputy got out again?
I kicked up a bit of a row all right. I do not want to interfere with people who have existing rights—rights in property if you like— but I would suggest that after the passing of this Bill no licence should be given to any bus-owner who does not comply with the conditions laid down in Deputy O'Connell's amendment. I think that is fair.
I think the Deputy can be assured that there is no new public service vehicle carrying over fourteen passengers being allowed in here now that does not conform to the regulations, with regard to construction, that I have spoken about.
There are twenty-seater buses operating at the present time.
I do not know how recently they were put on, but I would be surprised to learn that new buses are being put on here that do not conform to the regulations.
The regulations are not in operation.
That we have given consideration to the matter is shown by the fact that already we have made regulations.
But you have not put them into operation.
They may not be put into operation. It may be that the difficulties the Deputy spoke about are being taken into consideration by the Gárda. These buses may have been on the road before the Order I speak about was made. At any rate the matter has had consideration, and regulations have been made. In the case of public service vehicles which provide for the carrying of fourteen passengers, you have only one man on board who acts as driver and collector of the fares. In these cases you cannot require that he shall be a good way from the passengers. But you may require that the construction and fitting of the bus shall be such that no one will be sitting alongside him.
Is the Minister aware that in the case of most of these fourteen seater buses passengers have to enter where the driver is seated?
I am, but there is no objection to that. In the case of these one-man buses, as they may be called, it is much more satisfactory that the passengers would enter in that particular way if the driver has also to collect the fares. Otherwise, he would have to be going to the end of the bus to collect the fares. You have that class of bus and you have to cater for it. We can take into consideration the laying down of regulations with regard to the construction and fitting of buses of that particular kind. We do not want to put the driver into the position that Deputy Gorey speaks about. Then you have the charabanc. That has to be considered, too. Our attitude is shown in the regulations which we have made with regard to the more than fourteen-seater buses. I suggest that there the House has sufficient earnest of our outlook on the matter, and I submit that what Deputy O'Connell seeks to put in here now is more satisfactorily dealt with by regulations.
Does the Minister intend to enforce the regulations?
We intend not only to enforce the regulations but to enforce the Act.
I can quite see the advantages that may be gained from making regulations. I would, however, like to have the Minister's assurance that these regulations will be progressively enforced towards securing that measure of safety which I have sought to provide for in my amendment. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 70:
"In sub-section (2), line 50, to delete the words "or for any other reason."
I am accepting the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 74, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
I want to call attention to the phrase "otherwise fit" in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) of the section. I think it is a pity to leave to the Commissioner who, as far as I can understand from the Minister, is not to be responsible to this House either through the Minister or in any other way, with such a loose general phrase as that for his guidance. Apparently the interpretation of the words "otherwise fit" is left to the Commissioner himself. I understand that in recent months the Garda authorities refused a licence for a vehicle on the grounds that it was not properly painted though the owner of it would seem to me to be a man who would be a competent judge of what suitable painting was.
It is not for any petty reason that I am raising this question. There is a very big issue involved in it. Before the vehicle is passed as suitable in the Commissioner's office the tax has to be paid on it. In the case that I have mentioned, although the tax was paid, a delay of a fortnight took place before the vehicle could be used. That was a very serious matter for the owner. Is there no way by which the owners of public service vehicles could be protected against having to suffer loss of that kind? The owner of the vehicle may not be in any way to blame, and yet on his own individual opinion the Commissioner may refuse to licence the vehicle. In my opinion this phrase "otherwise fit" should either be struck out, or the owner of the vehicle should be relieved from the payment of the road tax during the period that the alterations to the vehicle, required by the Commissioner, are being executed. I submit that for the Minister's consideration.
With regard to the phrase "otherwise fit" I do not know what other words you could put in. The regulations dealing with the construction, equipment and general condition of buses will be such as to indicate what is expected, and the Garda authorities, in turning down a vehicle as being unserviceable, will have to do so knowing that there is an appeal to the District Court against their decision. Did I understand the Deputy to suggest that there shall be a deduction from the road tax payable in respect of it during the period that the vehicle is off the road because the Garda authorities have decided that it is unfit for use?
Quite. I pointed out the fact that the fault that the Gárda may find with the vehicle may be a matter of opinion or judgment. It may be, as happened in recent months, that the Gárda do not approve of the painting of the vehicle and that it will have to be painted in a different way. It is a matter on which any two persons will differ, and practically to fine a man for not painting the vehicle, according to what the Gárda would require, would be wrong, and it may not be what the Minister would intend. Yet that would happen under the Bill as it stands at present. You may have a vehicle rejected because the Gárda do not approve of the painting. The repainting may take two or three weeks or a month. Meantime, a very heavy tax has to be paid on the vehicle. I suggest that such an owner would have a very good grievance.
I will have the matter examined to see in what way the Deputy's point can be met.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 75, 76 and 77 agreed to.
Question proposed—"That Section 78 stand part of the Bill."
Would the Minister consider adding to the final line of the first sub-section after the words Gárda Síochána, "specially chosen for competency in such work." There is a good deal of alarm amongst the owners of public service vehicles at the moment at the prospect of a member of the Gárda being chosen for this work. It is felt that the most competent member possible should be chosen for it, and that the Dáil should suggest to the Commissioner that the person or persons chosen for such work should be competent.
I will consider whether it would be reasonable to put in words like those. Of course, it is intended that the person entrusted with this particular work shall be specially chosen and, no doubt, specially trained.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 79, 80 and 81 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed: "That Section 82 stand part of the Bill."
With regard to the amount of the fine mentioned in the last line of Section 82—a fine not exceeding £10—is the figure not too low? Will the fine of £10 not be too low in the case of a defective vehicle which might mean grave risk to a lot of passengers?
Exception has been taken to some of these fines, and I have said that I will look into the matter. I wonder could we get any suggestion as to what should be the fine?
Personally I would be inclined to double that figure as the minimum.
We are getting the matter considered in any case, and if Deputies have any opinions on the particular fines proposed they can put down amendments for the next stage.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 83 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed: "That Section 84 stand part of the Bill."
In sub-section (2) of this section would the Minister explain what is the object of making the driver responsible for the vehicle-plate being missing. After all, questions of that kind may easily cause friction between an employer and his employees. I can see no reason why two persons must be held responsible, particularly as the driver is not the owner of the vehicle. He has not any control over it, and he must raise the question with his employer. It may then lead to unpleasantness. We know that it is very hard to get employment at present. Very many drivers are so glad to have it that they do not want to be raising questions of that kind with their employers. I suggest that there is no need for that provision, and that it is quite sufficient to make the owner responsible.
I think it would be rather ineffective to make the owner responsible. After all the driver is the person close up against the vehicle, and the person that you must hold responsible for seeing that from day to day, or from place to place, the vehicle in the matter of lights, and in the matter of any other statutory requirements, complies with the law. I do not see that you could possibly exonerate the driver for driving a motor without a vehicle plate. On the other hand, in order to strengthen the control over these matters, we include the owner. We put the owner into the position also of being chargeable in respect of this offence, but if anyone is going to be charged in the first place in connection with the matter I think it should be the driver, because he is the person who has immediate control.
Surely the Minister will admit that a case like this may arise. A plate gets lost, and a new plate may not be obtained. The driver cannot replace that, he has to go on driving. The owner may take the risk of the vehicle being kept in use without a plate. He may say to the driver "You will manage to escape the Gárda." We all know that very many simple things like that are not observed until they have been missing for a long time. The owner may give the driver instructions that he is to go ahead and leave the question of the plate to him. It may be that the owner has the plate locked up in some office. It may be that he wants a new plate. Anything may occur in connection with it. Why does the Minister set out to provoke unpleasantness between the driver and the owner in regard to a matter like that? The driver has got to say to his employer "You must produce the plate or I will not take out the vehicle." This is a new provision and I do not think there could be a more unsuitable time for introducing it than the present, because of the difficulty of getting employment.
As far as relieving the driver of responsibility in the matter is concerned, I am quite sure that any court would relieve the driver of responsibility if he had duly reported the absence of the vehicle plate to his employer, and passed on the responsibility in that particular way. I think it is necessary to force the driver into the position that he will pass on that responsibility to the owner, if the owner is the person to supply the vehicle plate.
It can be dealt with by way of amendment to delete the word "driver."
Question put and agreed to.
(1) The Commissioner may, at any time and as often as he thinks fit, cause any licensed public service vehicle to be inspected and examined by a member of the Gárda Síochána and the Commissioner shall cause every such vehicle to be so inspected and examined at least once in every year.
(2) Whenever the Commissioner proposes to have a licensed public service vehicle inspected and examined under this section he shall, by notice in writing served by post or otherwise on the owner of such vehicle, appoint a time (not less than three days after the service of such notice) and place for such inspection and examination and require such owner to produce such vehicle to a member of the Gárda Síochána at such time and place.
(3) If any owner of a licensed public service vehicle on whom a notice under the foregoing sub-section of this section has been served in respect of such vehicle fails to produce such vehicle to a member of the Gárda Síochána at the time and place appointed by such notice or, having so produced such vehicle, obstructs or prevents the inspection or the examination of such vehicle at such place by a member of the Gárda Síochána, such person shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
I move amendment (71).
In sub-section 1, line 22, to delete the words "a member of the Gárda Síochána" and substitute therefore the words "a person qualified by experience in the construction of vehicles (in this section hereafter called a vehicle inspector)".
The members of this group regard this amendment as a very important one. For that reason I hope the Minister will reconsider the section as it now stands and agree that a member of the Gárda Síochána is not in the ordinary way a fit and competent person to say whether a 'bus is from the mechanical point of view fit to ply for public hire. I am told by a skilled workman engaged in the trade of vehicle-building that if a skilled man had been previously appointed to go into the question of applications for licences, bearing in mind only the question of the construction of the vehicle and its condition, that many of the taxis and buses now plying for hire in the public streets and thoroughfares of the country would certainly not be on the roads. This Bill, and I give full credit to those who were responsible for framing it, has been largely drawn up on the lines of the British Road Traffic Act. Many sections have been copied word for word into this Bill.
Could you quote a section?
I would like to hear from the Minister why, when reading the British Road Traffic Act, he did not follow the lines laid down by the British Government with regard to inspection. Provision is made in the British Act for inspection to be done by skilled men, who know more about the construction and condition of a vehicle than unskilled men naturally do. The latest information I have in relation to the operation of the British Road Traffic Act, is that in four controlled areas skilled inspectors have been already appointed. Three further appointments were under consideration at the time I received this information. I understand, also, that the Six County Government has already appointed a skilled man as inspector within their area. The safety of the travelling public depends upon the competency, fitness, and qualifications of the driver, upon the construction and condition of the vehicle in which the passenger travels, and I think in a matter of this kind the cost is not going to be very great. Bearing in mind that the police force that we have in this country is very young compared with what it is in Great Britain and other places, where skilled men are doing this class of work, I think the Minister should accept this amendment.
In the case of railway engines and trams, the driver is practically a mechanic himself. Although the engine driver, before he is allowed to take charge of an engine, would on the average have 15 or 20 years' service as an engine cleaner and a fireman, still the engineer and the railway works must inspect the engine before it leaves the shed for service on the rails. The same thing applies to the tram, and I do not see why an unskilled man should be allowed to take over the work which a skilled man only is competent to do, and I hope the Minister will accept this amendment. We regard it as a very important question, and I will, if the Minister cannot see his way to reconsider the matter, be forced to ask the House to divide on the issue involved.
Perhaps the Deputy would leave the amendment stand as it is until the next stage. I agree to the principle of it but I cannot quite subscribe to the idea of calling the Gárda involved by a particular title. I agree that the annual inspection of these vehicles is a matter of great importance and should be done by very competent persons. I will consider what amendment to sub-section I will be necessary to emphasise that point. Perhaps the Deputy might repeat his amendment on the next stage.
Do I understand from the Minister that he is prepared to accept the view contained in the amendment that this kind of work should be left only to a skilled person?
That the person carrying on the special annual inspection of these should be a qualified person.
Does the Minister mean annual inspection only?
The type of inspection that is contemplated in the annual inspection whether an inspection of that particular kind takes place periodically or not. I would not subscribe to it in the case of Section 86.
In the case of a first application for a licence for a taxi to ply in the streets of Dublin the Minister agrees in that case that a skilled man should be asked to undertake the work.
Yes, that a skilled man should be asked to undertake the work. I will have to consider in what way I will have to redraft the section to emphasise that.
There is a phrase in Section 85: "the Commissioner may at any time and as often as he thinks fit." Does the Minister not think that that is too wide and that there ought to be some limitation? In some areas it might lead to victimisation, or petty tyranny of some kind or another. An official might get his back up against a person for some purely private wrong. God knows what grievance they might have against one another, and the position might happen that a bus-owner might be driven out of business before any complaint could be investigated at headquarters as to the tyrannical actions of the subordinate officer. I think the wording as it stands at present would leave it open to an individual who might be inclined to act in that way to do so and to put a car-owner to very great difficulty and even to the extent of driving him out of business unless the Minister could see some way of tightening it up. "He may at any time and as often as he thinks fit"—several times a day a car might be operated on. His business might be interfered with in the most unforeseen and unjust way. I think there ought to be some limit.
I think there is some point in Deputy O'Kelly's remarks. It occurs to me that a man may be running three or four buses on a particular road and may be required to produce all his buses at the same time for inspection which may leave it that he would be unable to provide his usual services on the road. There should be some attempt to use the blessed word "reasonable." I suggest the words "at any reasonable time," so that some safeguard would be assured for the owner of the buses that would permit him to make representations that the time selected by the Commissioner of the Guards was not convenient for his business.
Do not the words "fit and reasonable" mean the same thing?
"May at any time and as often as he thinks fit."
It looks to me that 86 is wider still.
It is, of course, but we are dealing with this section at the moment.
It is no harm to say at the moment that the grievance one hears is that inspection is wholly inadequate and that vehicles are allowed on the streets that would not be allowed if there were proper and adequate inspection.
To carry the point from theory to practice, perhaps the Minister would be interested to hear that the bus owners in Dublin are at present jealous of each other on the grounds that the Gárda are supposed to favour particular bus services. Nothing is more common than accusations of favouritism by the Guards towards bus owners. I do not say for a moment there is any foundation for it, but it is everyday gossip that certain people are getting away with it in the matter of freedom from prosecutions, and so on. As this section stands, similar accusations will be made, and it is desirable from every point of view that no grounds should be left for such abuse.
We put on the Guards the responsibility of seeing that public service vehicles are in a fit and proper condition, and we must have power by which the Commissioner, if he thinks that it is reasonable, that any particular bus should be systematically inspected should have power to do that. I do not think that we can contemplate that the Commissioner will act in a discriminating way as between different classes of buses or between the buses of different owners. Once it is agreed that the Commissioner must have power to have a bus inspected at any time he thinks it reasonable because of anything he knows about it, or because of the way in which it is behaving he should have that power. Once we agree on that and see whether there is nothing likely to be objectionable in these words we can arrange it.
It is not suggested that the Commissioner would be guilty of that but subordinate officials, perhaps close to headquarters or otherwise. At any rate subordinate officials, might be guilty.
Is it clear that this section only relates to inspections of which three days' notice must be given?
Yes, regular overhauling.
Section agreed to.
(1) Any member of the Gárda Síochána may, at any time and in any place, inspect and examine any public service vehicle and for that purpose may do all or any of the following things, that is to say:—
(a) enter into any place in which such vehicle is;
(b) if such vehicle is in motion, require such vehicle to stop;
(c) require the driver of such vehicle to drive such vehicle forthwith to a convenient place indicated by such member for such inspection and examination;
(d) require persons in such vehicle to leave it.
(2) A member of the Gárda Síochána who has inspected and examined a public service vehicle under this section may do all or any of the following things, that is to say:—
(a) prohibit the use of such vehicle for carrying passengers for reward until repairs indicated by him have been executed;
(b) prohibit such vehicle from being moved under its own power until repairs indicated by him have been executed;
(c) require the owner or the driver of such vehicle to submit such vehicle to a further and more detailed inspection and examination at a time and place indicated by such member and for that purpose require such owner or such driver to cause such vehicle to be brought to the place at the time so indicated.
(3) Every person who—
(a) obstructs or interferes with a member of the Gárda Síochána in the exercise of any power conferred by this section, or
(b) being the driver of a public service vehicle in motion, fails to stop such vehicle when required by a member of the Gárda Síochána in under this section so to do, or
(c) being the owner or the driver of a public service vehicle fails to comply with any direction given or requirement made by a member of the Gárda Síochána under this section in relation to such vehicle, or
(d) does any act in contravention to a prohibition issued by a member of the Gárda Síochána under this section,
shall be guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
I move amendment 73:
In sub-section (1), line 42, to insert after the word "Síochána" the words "specially appointed by the Commissioner because of his qualifications for the duties hereinafter mentioned and wearing a badge or other sign to indicate his authority under this section".
This is the same idea that Deputy Davin had in mind on the previous section that the Gárda appointed for this work should be one with qualifications. It is also suggested that he should have some means of special identification showing that he was appointed for the specific purpose of work under this section.
The purpose of this inspection is entirely different from the purpose of the inspection under Section 85. The intention is that any member of the Gárda Síochána at all, if he thinks it is called for, may enter on any bus and inspect it superficially. If he has any doubts on seeing how the bus acts in a particular place and fears there is something wrong with the brakes he may ask the driver to operate the machine with a view to verifying that the brakes are really in good condition. It is a superficial inspection of a kind that the ordinary Guard on traffic duty or otherwise ought to have power to do if there is anything obviously wrong.
Does the Minister ask us to believe that every member of the Gárda will be capable of such duty? What proportion of the Guards are taught to drive a car? If a member does not himself drive how could he be capable of carrying out duties under this section? Even if he did drive there are some hundreds I am sure in that service who like myself and many others could not understand the mechanism of a car no matter what training they got. The Minister ought to know that there are people who are incapable of understanding the mechanism of a motor car. There are as many people as there are people suffering from colour-blindness which we spent a lot of time discussing to-day. It is not merely a superficial inspection. It is going to be a very thorough inspection. It gives an officious Guard a tremendous opportunity for causing trouble. This would be equivalent to passing a vote of confidence in every Guard in the country, that he will act with scrupulous care and avoid giving unnecessary trouble, that he will have no such thing as a grudge against a bus driver, a conductor, or anything like that, that he will be a judge of the mechanism of a car and can tell whether the engine is in order or not. I think it is the most outlandish proposal that was ever made in the Dáil.
I would like to give the Minister a case in point. Only recently when an owner of a bus was summoned for having defective brakes he satisfied the court that the brakes had been only overhauled a week before. The summons was dismissed. In the course of the examination of the sergeant who brought the charge, he was asked if he had a practical experience of driving a car or acting as a mechanic. He replied that he had not. Yet that sergeant was specially detailed for work of bus inspection.
I think the issue, which is a very serious one from the trade union point of view, that was raised in Section 85 cannot be separated from the one now raised by Deputy O'Kelly on Section 86. I do not see why an ordinary Guard for instance should be given the right asked for by the Minister in sub-section (a) of Section 2—"prohibit the use of such vehicle for carrying passengers for reward until repairs indicated by him have been executed." The Minister will, I think, in his serious moments candidly admit that an ordinary member of the Guard is not competent to indicate the nature of repairs required to be done to a vehicle.
He is competent to say that the thing has no lights, and to see that it does not carry on without lights.
There is nothing mechanical in that particular class of work, but a Guard may "require the driver of such vehicle to drive such vehicle forthwith to a convenient place indicated by such member for such inspection and examination." The Minister has admitted, in a qualified way, that there is something to be said for the amendment which I moved depriving the Guard of that right so far as it applied to Section 85. I think the inspection work should be done by a skilled man. The members of this Party feel very keenly on it, and will press that point of view very strongly when the matter comes up again. I appeal to the Minister that between this and the next stage of the Bill he will reconsider the drafting of the section so as to leave to the Guards any work of the kind he has referred to dealing with the question of lights, but we will not admit that an ordinary Guard who has no experience of vehicle-building, and who is not a skilled man, should be given rights under this Bill, which in our opinion should be held by skilled vehicle builders.
May I point out that I think the object of this section is misunderstood. The inspection that we were talking about under the previous section is inspection that has to take place at regular intervals to see that the vehicle is in proper running order. Let me illustrate what I understand by this clause. Supposing I am motoring along a roadway. I have to pull up suddenly by reason of some obstruction. I am followed by a bus and that bus runs into the back of my car. I get out and ask what he means. He pleads that his brakes are defective. Is that a vehicle that should be allowed to continue on the roadway? I can call any Guard who is in the particular area and draw his attention to the fact that this vehicle is not safe for other road users and should not be on the roadway. He can inspect it and if he is satisfied with the statement he can order it off the road. That is the protection that ordinary road users are entitled to. It is not a point turning on whether it is mechanically perfect with which the other clause deals. It is dealing with the rights of ordinary users. I hold, as an ordinary road user, that I am entitled to call upon a Guard if I see a vehicle on the road that is a danger to other road users.
May I ask the Deputy to explain what is meant in putting in the words in sub-section (2) (a) "until repairs indicated by him have been executed".
Indicated by an unskilled man.
Deputy Good put it perfectly as far as brakes are concerned. It may be that the Deputy sees a driver going around a corner in a way that suggests his brakes are not working. Naturally he gets terribly vexed and calls a Guard and says this is one of these terrible buses.
That Guard surely is entitled to stop that bus and say it cannot carry on until repairs to the brakes are carried out. Buses are required to have all kinds of little things in order. They are supposed to have their fuel tanks properly corked and not stopped with a rag. They are supposed to have a fire extinguisher and other little details like that. It should be within the function of any Guard to board a bus to see whether the minor regulations were being carried out. I do not accept at all that there is any relationship between the type of inspection contemplated in Section 86 and the inspection provided for in Section 85. Under such provision as we make in Section 86 we want to give a Guard power to do the type of thing suggested.
Does the Minister hold that a Guard who has not any training in motor mechanics, and who has not any experience of driving a car, would be capable of carrying out the particular duty he mentioned of looking after the petrol tank to see that it is properly plugged?
He will be capable of seeing whether the petrol tank is operating in such a way that petrol is dropping around the car.
Does the Minister expect a man who has never looked into the inside of a motor car to undertake that duty? That is rather remarkable. I think the Minister is assuming too much.
There may be a competent person who has had experience of motor cars in the bus and he may notice that particular defect, and, realising the seriousness of it, he may complain to a Guard at the next stopping place.
Any Guard ought to be able to do it.
The Guard may without any reason to suspect the vehicle at all stop it and examine it. Surely the temptation to a Guard who would not be a very responsible person, and who would be ignorant of mechanics, to order the bus away for inspection and to order the people in it to get out and go where they like while that inspection is being carried on, might be very great. The temptation might be very great to a Guard who would not know much about his job, and who might for selfish reasons behave like that.
We cannot assume that the Gárda as a class are unintelligent and that their temptations run along abnormal lines.
It is not the matter of the Guards as a class but of an individual Guard. Although there is ground for giving Guards power to inspect or stop buses if a complaint is made, that is not the provision here. If the Minister would amend the section to give power to any Guard on the receipt of a complaint to cause such stoppage and inspection to take place, or to a Guard specially detailed and qualified to do it without any such complaint having been made, it would meet the point we are trying to safeguard.
A Guard may be quite as competent himself to realise that something is wrong with a bus as if he got a complaint.
If the Minister is travelling from Ballina to Dublin some night and half way on the journey a Guard stops the bus, tells him to get out and the driver to drive away to some place to have the bus inspected, and he finds himself left on the road with no possibility of getting in anywhere for the night, he will realise that there is something to be said against this.
It is very hypothetical. The longest way round might be the shortest way home if I were travelling on a bus without brakes and were put out on the side of the road.
Brakes are not mentioned here.
I am prepared to give the Guards who have ordinary intelligence some of the limited powers indicated by the Minister, but I am not prepared to give them the powers asked for in sub-sections (a) and (b). These are the only words I object to, "repairs indicated by him." If the Minister will say "necessary repairs," leaving it to somebody with skilled knowledge to say what is required, I would not have the same objection to this section. But I say that an unskilled man is not the proper person to indicate the nature and extent of the repairs to be carried out to a bus when it breaks down. I do not think it is safe to give him the power to do it. I am sure the Minister would not hand over a doctor's job to an ordinary Guard. If he did, I think Deputy Dr. Hennessy would be talking more than he has been on this Bill.
I do not think it requires any particular competency to detect, in connection with a public service vehicle, the things which are an immediate and obvious danger to the public. I think that Guards noticing these things ought to have the power to put a bus out of commission until steps are taken to have the defects remedied.
Defective brakes would be the most serious defect. Does the Minister still hold that a Guard, who has never learned to drive a car and has no experience of it, would be competent to judge whether the brakes were in order or not?
If in his opinion it was dangerous to allow the vehicle to continue in the condition in which the brakes were, then I think he should have power to prevent that vehicle continuing.
Of course the Guard, in order to be on the right side, would, in all such cases where he had any reason to suspect it at all, order it away for further inspection. Are you not inviting the Guard, who has no confidence in himself with regard to repairs to a motor car, to send the car either at the request of a passenger or on his own initiative, for further inspection?
I agree with the Minister that it is necessary that a Gárda should have power in case he suspects that anything is wrong with a car to hold it up and order the people off, if he believed that it was unsafe for the people, and prohibit the driver from going any further, but there should be something in the section to say that the Gárda should suspect something to be wrong, that he should have some reason for believing the car was unsafe. It might not be that the car was unsafe, but that he suspected the driver to be drunk, because he was driving in a negligent or unsafe way.
I think the Minister will admit that under the existing regulations the Gárda have a certain amount of power. Has that power been exercised in all cases to the safety of the travelling public? I quoted a few cases here last week in which I pointed out that buses were plying for hire here in the Saorstát that had been condemned in Northern Ireland. As Deputy Davin pointed out, under the British Road Traffic Act it is necessary for vehicle Inspectors to be appointed who are competent and skilled men. No such regulation at present applies to the Saorstát, with the result that there are buses plying for hire here which are a danger to the travelling public.
I think the Minister should agree to some modification of the section, so that skilled men should act in lieu of Guards. I think it will be admitted that a Guard who has no mechanical or other knowledge of a car is not in the position to say whether a vehicle is safe or unsafe. If it were an ordinary driver of a car he would be in a much better position, as he would have the same knowledge as the driver. I think the Minister should take into consideration what is embodied in the British Road Traffic Act, and see that competent men should act as Inspectors and decide whether a public vehicle is properly constructed, and is kept in a proper mechanical state of repair.
Does not the Minister admit that a competent bus driver is himself, because of his qualifications and experience, more competent to indicate the nature of the repairs to be carried out than an ordinary Gárda?
There is only one addition I think that might be made to the section and that is that any member of the Gárda on examination of the vehicle may for any reason that is reasonable require it to proceed either to some particular place or continue its journey at the speed he shall indicate.
Will the Minister not say any member of the Gárda who has reason to believe that the car is unsafe?
That certainly is implied. I shall have the section examined with a view to seeing if it is necessary to emphasise that.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95 agreed to, and added to the Bill.
Question proposed: "That Section 96 stand part of the Bill."
On that would the Minister consider the question of amending the maximum fee for these licences or would he give some indication of what the fee is likely to be?
That is on the question of licences generally.
Section agreed to.
Sections 97 and 98 agreed to.
(1) A large public service vehicle having seating accommodation for more than fourteen passengers shall not be used as an omnibus unless there is carried thereon a licensed conductor who acts as the conductor of such vehicle.
I move amendment 74:
In sub-section (1), line 54, and in sub-section (2), line 58, to delete the word "fourteen" where it occurs in each line and substitute therefor the word "eight."
This amendment is designed to make it compulsory that all buses plying for hire shall carry a conductor. Under the terms of the section it is not necessary for a bus to have a conductor if it has capacity for not more than 14 passengers. I think that every argument that could be advanced for a bus having seating capacity for more than 14 passengers to have a conductor could be advanced to a greater extent in connection with buses having seating capacity for 14 or under. In many cases it will be found that buses having seats for only 14 passengers carry 18 or 20, and sometimes a 12-seater bus carries 15 passengers. Under the terms of this section a 16-seater bus would be required to carry a conductor, but if the owner of a 16-seater bus wanted to come within the terms of this section he could quite easily remove a double seat and make it a 14-seater bus, so that he would not be required to carry a conductor. There is one important point to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention in connection with the safety of the travelling public. The Minister is aware that so far as the 14-seater bus is concerned, the person in charge must not only be his own driver but he must also collect the fares. He has also to open the folding doors. It is well known that when passengers are travelling in a 14-seater bus, and when they rise from their seats to get out they do so before the bus becomes stationary, and the driver holds out his hand to get the money while the bus is still in motion. I submit that this is a positive danger to the travelling public. As I said, every argument that could be put forward requiring a bus having seating capacity for more than 14 to have a conductor could be put forward to a greater extent in the case of a 14-seater bus. There are hundreds of 14-seater buses that have no conductors. The drivers of these buses have to work from an early hour in the morning until late at night. Some of them have to work 14 hours a day. I put it to any person in this House competent to drive a motor car to say what is the physical condition of a driver who is driving for 14 hours, and who, in addition, has to collect the fares and who has to open and close the folding doors for passengers. I submit that in the interests of the travelling public the Minister should accept this amendment. In addition to ensuring the safety of the travelling public, the acceptance of this amendment is going to mean the absorption of quite a large number of unemployed drivers. There are a great many such drivers in the country, and I think the Minister should agree to accept this amendment in their interests as well as in any other.
[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]
The amendment is not acceptable. In the first place, if a 16 seater bus should take away two seats that is not going to have the effect mentioned by the Deputy, because under Section 16 we have power to make regulations for calculating the seating capacity of any vehicle. As a matter of fact, that is going to be changed in order to make it the calculation of the passenger accommodation. So that it need not necessarily depend upon the seats whether a bus is regarded as a 14-seater or not.
Sub-section (2) refers to the seating accommodation.
Section 16 is framed in terms of seating accommodation, but we want to make that passenger accommodation, and there will be a consequential amendment, so that the 14 seats mentioned here will be 14-seater accommodation as measured under the regulations that will be prepared. I do not know any bus carrying eight passengers. But in certain places a 14-seater will be the economic bus. If you insist that a 14-seater bus must carry a conductor as well as a driver you will put such buses off the road. You tend, at any rate, to increase fares. In the case of a 14-seater or a 12-seater bus you have a particular number of passengers whom the driver can serve both as driver and conductor. We consider that the 14-seater bus is of that particular type. Under section 109 regulations will be made governing the number of extra passengers that, in special circumstances, such as rush hours, a bus may carry. I will bear in mind when framing these regulations that the one-man bus cannot be expected to deal as satisfactorily with a rush hour as the bus in which you have a conductor. Precautions may be taken in that direction that may save the particular type of abuse in respect of the one-man bus that the Deputy refers to, but I think it would be wrong to require a 14-seater bus to have a conductor as well as a driver.
The Minister has endeavoured to point out that it would be a hardship on the owner of a 14-seater bus to have a driver and conductor. I may mention that in Dublin the Tramways Co., which have larger buses, have both drivers and conductors. In addition to that the Tramways Co., whose buses are running on the permanent way have to pay a certain amount for the upkeep of that permanent way over and above road taxation or insurance. Consequently it will not be such a hardship on the owners of 14-seater buses to have to employ a conductor. I submit that it is advisable to have both driver and conductor, first, for the sake of the travelling public, and in the second place, in order to absorb some of the unemployed drivers and conductors. The Minister has not given any definite reason why a 14-seater bus should be exempt from the regulations which he wants the owners of buses of larger seating capacity to adopt.
If Deputy Cassidy's amendment were carried into effect instead of benefiting unemployed drivers and conductors he might be increasing unemployment generally amongst them because it would ultimately put off the road a number of small buses that are now barely paying their way.
I support this amendment for the purpose of putting these small owner-driver buses out of business quicker than they will put themselves out. These people buy the buses on the hire-purchase system and they go out of business when the buses themselves go out of existence. The average individuals who own these small buses go into the business with out any realisation of the fact that they will have to go out of it within a very short time. Experience during the last four or five years has shown quite clearly, and I am sure the returns that ought to be available will prove that, that these people come into the business under certain conditions and they go out with the life of the bus. I think we should encourage those other people who can put buses on the roads that will properly accommodate the traffic that is waiting for them. There is ample traffic available if only proper provision is made for the carrying of passengers. I am referring now to the transport business in so far as it applies to the roads. Perhaps some Deputies have been sufficiently interested to observe the conditions which apply in the case of Dublin with regard to the requirements of passengers who want to be carried to and from certain parts of the city and suburbs.
This applies outside Dublin.
I disagree with the Deputy that it applies to any great extent outside because I believe that in the case of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford, where buses run any distance away from those cities, they generally are of a thirty-two or thirty-six-seater type.
Very few, and the few that are there are only waiting for their own funeral.
The Deputy wants to finish them off quickly.
The 8-seater bus, which is driven by its owner, has a very short life in the transport of this country.
Probably a merry one. If he is fond of anything in the nature of amusement he will find out when the life of the bus ends that he has not enough to pay the last instalment to the person from whom he bought it, either first-hand or second-hand.
Or even enough to meet the wages of the conductor.
Very often the wages of a conductor might mean the profits of the driver. Deputy Lemass need not be unduly worried about the number of people who will be adversely affected if these small buses go out of existence. There is ample trade for the people who make proper provision for carrying passengers to and from different parts of the country. In the interests of the transport industry, and in the interests of the people who think there is a lot of money to be made out of 14-seater buses or other small buses of that type, the stricter the regulations that will be applied to them the better in the end. Deputy Lemass will not have to attend the funerals of many of these people if he supports Deputy Cassidy's amendment.
Deputies who have been studying the British Act will realise that this is not a section that we have taken out of that Act. That Act refers to buses accommodating twenty passengers, and in certain circumstances twenty-six.
The Minister stated that under existing regulations the authorities have power to compel the driver to be isolated from the passengers. In many cases, if not in all, that is necessary for the safety of the travelling public. If those regulations are enforced, and if the driver of the 14-seater bus is isolated, how will it be possible for that bus to operate, having only a driver and no conductor?
In objecting in its full sense to the amendment of Deputy O'Connell I pointed out that it is undesirable in a case like that, that the driver would be completely isolated.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The Minister will probably learn more about the matter between this and the next Stage if he calls for certain returns from the Department of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Or if he goes for a drive in a bus.
Sections 99 to 105, inclusive, agreed to.
(1) The Commissioner may, with the consent of the Minister, make in respect of any specified area by-laws for all or any of the following purposes, that is to say:—
(a) appointing the places in such area which may be used as stands or starting places (in this section referred to as appointed stands) for large public service vehicles;
(b) appointing the time during which such vehicles may remain at such appointed stands;
(c) appointing the number of such vehicles which may stand at each such appointed stand;
(d) enforcing order at appointed stands and at the starting points and on the routes of any such vehicles;
(e) reserving particular appointed stands for the use of all large public service vehicles plying upon particular routes;
(f) excluding from appointed stands all persons and vehicles except the persons and vehicles for whose use such stands are reserved;
(g) prohibiting large public service vehicles from using any places in such area as stands or starting places except in accordance with such regulations;
(h) preventing such vehicles from standing or stopping at specified places in such area either generally or during particular hours;
(i) preventing such vehicles from carrying passengers from any depot or stand in any specified place in such area either generally or during particular hours;
(j) appointing the points within such area (other than appointed stands) at which such vehicles may stop and the time during which they may stop for the purpose of taking up or setting down passengers, and for preventing such vehicles from stopping for such purposes elsewhere than at such points or longer than the time so appointed.
(4) Every person who does any act (whether of commission or omission) which is a contravention of a bye-law made under this section and is not an offence under the foregoing sub-section of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section and shall on summary conviction thereof be liable to a fine not exceeding five pounds..
I beg to move amendment 75:—
To add at the end of sub-section (1) a new paragraph as follows:—
"(k) approving the places in such area which may be purchased by approved omnibus companies for the purpose of erecting terminal stations for approved long distance routes."
The section sets out a number of purposes for which the Commissioner may make by-laws. My amendment proposes to make an addition to that. The proposal is not in any sense man datory. It only gives the Commissioner power to make recommendations, and the underlying feature in connection with it is that it is considered by many that there should be terminal stations, somewhat similar to railway stations, for buses running long distances, where there can be waiting-rooms and other conveniences for the public. At present we have nothing at all of that kind. These long distance buses park in the streets. A large number of people are waiting for them to start. The people have to wait in the streets, and in many cases there is inconvenience caused. This merely gives the Commissioner power, with the consent of the Minister, to approve of suitable sites for such stations for long distance buses.
The Deputy seeks to make provision in this amendment for a thing that, as far as the Bill is concerned, we do not contemplate taking any power for. This Bill deals with traffic on the roads, and sub-section (1) (a) gives power to the Commissioner to make by-laws appointing the places which may be used as a stand and starting-place for large public service vehicles. It has not been argued that the proper regulation of the traffic demands the putting off the streets of all vehicles using the streets as starting-places. This amendment suggests that the Commissioner ought not to allow buses to use the streets as terminals in their journeys: and it speaks of approved omnibus companies. We have been particularly careful in this Bill that the Minister and the Commissioner will not be placed in the position of discriminating between one bus company and another at all. Any discrimination of that kind would eat in on the Industry and Commerce side of the transport problem. We have to deal with traffic alone in this Bill; and if there are any problems involving discrimination between different omnibus companies they must arise in connection with the framing of a Transport Bill. I do not know that the Transport Bill would contemplate stating that omnibus companies approved under the Bill should have proper private terminal stations. I do not know whether that would not be imposing a great burden upon some of these omnibus companies. But as far as my responsibility goes, and as far as the responsibility of the Commissioner goes, I do not know how he can deal with approved omnibus companies in any way under this Bill; and I have not heard it argued at all that the Commissioner should be given any power to order the buses that are at present using the public roads as their terminal stations off the roads, and order them to find terminal stations of their own. I think that would be a far-reaching power to give the Commissioner.
I sympathise with the suggestion contained in this amendment put forward by Deputy Good. I am rather surprised to hear from the Minister for Local Government and Public Health that the Minister for Industry and Commerce has anything to do with the regulation of the road traffic beyond the powers conferred upon him by the Railway and Road Motor Services Act of 1927.
I am talking of the new Bill.
I cannot talk about the new Bill because I do not know what is to be in it; but I know from the remarks that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health allowed to drop that he does not know very much about it either.
Yes; it is well overdue, at any rate. This Bill, apart from the very limited power of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, deals with the regulation and licensing of the road traffic services, and fixes very definitely under its sections, and the regulations that may be made under it, the conditions under which licences shall be given, and the conditions under which these companies shall operate on the roads. If companies are to be allowed to operate on the roads under an Act passed by this House, for which the Minister for Local Government and Public Health is responsible, I think it is not wrong that the Minister should be asked to take power or be given power to say that these people will provide proper stopping places and terminal stations for those who will have to wait for a long time, so that they may not have to wait under the very unfair conditions which prevail at present, and that he will be given power to secure that provision will be made for waiting rooms, and for the conveniences required by the travelling public. Deputy Corish suggests that that would kill the railways. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has been given by this House power which has, I think, nearly killed the railways. These powers, put into operation by the Minister who is responsible for them——
Will the Deputy stick to the amendment?
If the Minister for Local Government and Public Health is going to be given very drastic powers to make regulations which will fix the conditions under which licences shall be given, and under which public service companies will be allowed to operate, I think we should be very clear as to these conditions. I sympathise with the suggestion contained in the amendment. It is not the first time that that suggestion has been placed before some of the Minister's colleagues.
When I was putting down this amendment I was in some doubt as to whether it really came within the jurisdiction of this Bill, but when I came to consider the matter under this Bill I observed that the Commissioner of Police decided starting and stopping places; and really if the Minister thinks that this question of starting and stopping places would more properly come under a Transport Bill, it seems to me that there is a certain amount of overlapping. I think the question of stopping and starting places comes within the jurisdiction of this Bill; and if that is so, the starting stations and the waiting rooms and the other conveniences of such a station should certainly be settled by one and the same person, that is the person who settles the starting and the stopping places. I think that is clear. And as I pointed out to the Minister, there is nothing mandatory in this. If he thinks that it is not desirable to authorise these companies to erect such conveniences and shelters for the public, so that they might wait in some comfort for the departure of the buses, well, then, my amendment is not mandatory and need not be put into effect. But it seems to me that a certain amount of development of that kind is desirable in conjunction with the development of the bus traffic; and as I visualise the ambit of these two Bills, it appears to me that the regulation of such a development comes within the Road Traffic Bill rather than within the Transport Bill.
Amendment declared lost.
I move amendment 76:
Before sub-section (4) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
Before making a by-law under this section the Commissioner shall give notice to the appropriate local authority and the representatives of the traffic operators and of the employees of the operators of his intention to make such by-laws and shall have regard to any representations made by such local authority or persons before making such by-law.
Under the section the Commissioner is given certain powers, some of which up to this were in the hands of local authorities. For instance, obstructions in the streets of urban areas were attended to by the local authorities, and in view of that I think the Minister should accept the amendment. If the Minister wants the Bill to be carried out the co-operation of the local people will be required. I do not see anything unreasonable in the amendment necessitating that the Commissioner of the Gárda should consult the local authorities. I believe that it will be found more satisfactory if that is done.
The Deputy will remember that on another stage he spoke about the cost of inquiries. The position is that under Section 8 whenever I have to approve of by-laws, as in this particular instance, the proposal to do so may require to be published and an enquiry may be held. I stated then that I would go into the matter and see that the cost of enquiries was reduced to the cheapest possible rate. It seems to me that putting in this amendment might easily involve more expense and more confusion than by having the matter dealt with under Section 8 and going through the usual process of publication and enquiry if necessary.
Does not the Minister think that this comes into conflict with some section of the Public Health Act under which the local authorities have power to remove cars or motor buses from the streets at certain times when they are an obstruction? What I want to secure is that any powers local authorities have will be retained. I think it is not unreasonable that local authorities should be consulted by the Gárda before a station of this kind is established. After all the local authorities have certain responsibilities in the matter.
In practice it would not happen that they would not be consulted. In so far as the by-laws will refer to any specified area it will arise out of the conditions there and out of the consideration given the matter by the Gárda in conjunction with the local authorities or whomsoever else may be involved. Naturally the most efficient way of having them brought together would be for the local people to be consulted by the local Guards before the material for the by-laws was submitted to the Commissioner, so that the sending of them down for any enquiry under Section 8 will be purely formal, as the ground would have been completely sounded beforehand and the by-laws would have grown out of local experience and consultation.
Do I understand that that will be done?
Hitherto when the Guards considered that certain places should be parking places they had to consult the local authorities. They worked amicably.
That is the normal process.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On the section, I would like if the Minister would tell the House what is the exact purpose behind clauses (h) and (i). The purpose of paragraph (j) is clear, but I do not understand why it is desired to prohibit public service vehicles standing or stopping at specified places in a particular area either generally or during particular hours. Will the Minister tell the House what is the purpose in giving power to the Commissioner to make by-laws in relation to that?
I can only contemplate that traffic in, say, densely populated urban areas may be of such a kind that vehicles would not be allowed to stop there during certain hours. To some extent I take it that that might apply to Grafton Street and places like that at the present moment.
Buses do not go down Grafton Street.
I emphasise it as the kind of area in which different traffic regulations apply at certain hours.
If it is intended in (j) to fix definite places at which buses will stop to discharge passengers and to prevent them picking up or discharging passengers, is it intended to insist on that regulation with regard to tram cars?
As far as I know it is done by tram cars at the moment. They have regular stopping places. I admit that some of them are at the wrong places.
Section agreed to.
I move amendment 77:—
Before Section 107 to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Subject to the provisions of this section the Minister may grant to any person applying therefor a licence (in this Act referred to as a "road service licence") to provide such a road service as may be specified therein and a vehicle shall not be used as an omnibus except under such a licence.
(2) For the purposes of this section a vehicle used as an omnibus shall not be deemed to be so used under a road service licence unless it is so used by the holder of the licence and in accordance with the provisions thereof.
(3) The Minister shall not grant a road service licence in respect of any route if it appears to him from the particulars furnished in pursuance of sub-section (5) of this section that the provisions of Part IV of this Act relating to the speed of mechanically propelled vehicles are likely to be contravened, and in exercising his discretion to grant or to refuse a road service licence in respect to any routes and his discretion to attach conditions to any such licence shall have regard to the following matters:—
(a) the suitability of the routes on which a service may be provided under the licence;
(b) the extent, if any, to which the needs of the proposed routes or any of them are adequately served;
(c) the extent to which the proposed service is necessary or desirable in the public interest.
(4) Subject to the provisions of this section the Minister may attach to a road service licence such conditions as he may think fit with respect to the matters to which they are required to have regard under the preceding sub-section and in particular for securing that:—
(a) the fares shall not be unreasonable;
(b) where desirable in the public interest the fares shall be so fixed as to prevent wasteful competition with alternative forms of transport, if any, along the route or any part thereof or in proximity thereto;
and generally for securing the safety and convenience of the public; and the Minister may from time to time vary in such manner as he thinks fit the conditions attaching to a road service licence.
(5) Every person applying for a road service licence shall submit to the Minister:—
(a) particulars of the type or types of vehicle to be used; and
(b) in the case of regular services the time-tables and fare-tables of the services which it is proposed to provide under the licence; and
(c) in any other case such particulars as to the frequency of the services and the times to be taken on the journeys included in those services as the Minister may require.
(6) If where an application has been made for a road service licence it is represented to the Minister by any person interested in or affected by the application that it is necessary or desirable in the public interest that the Minister should fix the minimum and maximum fares which the applicant proposes to provide under the licence, the Minister may fix such fares and make it a condition of the licence that fares shall not be charged under or in excess of the minimum or maximum.
This amendment is, more or less, an extension of the section which has been passed. It indicates in a more definite way the conditions which we think should be laid down by the Minister for the control and regulation of traffic. The purpose is that if a public service is initiated it should have regard to the public needs, so as to prevent the kind of thing we see, especially in the suburbs of the city, where small bus owners come along and ply only at times which suit themselves, taking as it were the cream of the traffic, and having no regard for the public convenience. I understand that one of the biggest bus companies in the country is subject to regulations laid down in the Railway and Road Motor Services Act, and that the tramway buses are similarly controlled. We should like to see some regulation which would govern private bus companies and private owners, so that they would have some regard for the convenience of the public. That is the object I had in putting down this amendment, and I would, like to hear what the Minister has to say about it.
This amendment is hardly in order on this particular Bill. It deals with matters which would, in our opinion, properly arise on the Transport Bill, which we expect. It would be undesirable for us to proceed to frame regulations such as are suggested in this section until we have seen the Transport Bill and know what the transport plan is.
Can the Deputy say, in anticipation of the introduction of the Bill, that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is seeking power to control public road services in this way?
If we are going to have the question of transport control under consideration in the near future, as we have been told, then the suggestion of Deputy O'Connell, as contained in this amendment, would be better held over.
It is transport control, not traffic regulation.
Are we going to have such a thing as a Transport Bill?
I told you. You must not have been listening.
The Minister attaches certain conditions under section 107 to bus owners with regard to approved routes and that sort of thing. This is only an extension of the other section.
Does the Deputy ask the House to believe that it is appropriate in a Traffic Bill to put in such a clause as this: "The Minister may attach to a road service licence such conditions as ... (a) the fares shall not be unreasonable"? Is that traffic?
I do not want to create any jealousy between the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the transport question. I am glad if the day is coming when, instead of having three Ministers partly responsible for but in reality nobody really in control of transport, we are going to have one Minister really responsible for transport and the conditions under which it will be carried on.
I am prepared to wait for the Bill to be introduced by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, but I would like to get intimation from the Minister that the principle of the amendment moved by Deputy O'Connell will be given effect to in that long-promised Bill. The real intention of the amendment moved by Deputy O'Connell was to put pirate buses under proper public control. We have certain bus services tied down very strictly by regulations which this House gave power to the Minister for Industry and Commerce to enforce. There are other bus services not subject to the same control. Every Deputy interested in securing proper transport services—whether by road, rail, or canal—will admit that the same conditions should apply to those who apply for licences in any class of transport. Why should we allow, by refusing to bring in proper legislation, pirate buses to come along and pay their employees, who work 16 hours a day, 10s. a week, and undercut the fares of bus services which employ men on a fair and reasonable basis? That is what Deputy O'Connell wants to get at. The sooner the Minister for Industry and Commerce brings in a Bill and gets it through this House the better it will be for those who want proper transport services and those who want to get fair, reasonable, and proper employment on road or rail services. He should stop making promises, and let us have the measure and let us have one Minister in control instead of three.
As I said by way of interjection, this is a matter for a Transport Bill. I do not want it to be taken from that that in any Transport Bill I bring in I will reduce the number of Ministers who are looking after transport and traffic and kindred things. I do not want it to be taken that the clauses in this amendment are going to be included in any Transport Bill which I may introduce.
What about your International Labour Convention?
Where is that referred to in this amendment?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 107 agreed to.
Question proposed. That "Section 108 stand part of the Bill."
I want to know the exact significance of the words "as far as practicable."
They must have been put there for some reason. Is it anticipated that there are any words for which Irish equivalents do not exist, or why is the section qualified in that way?
Question agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 109 stand part of the Bill."
This section gives the Minister authority to allow the carrying of additional passengers during specified hours or on specified occasions. I take it that that will include the occasion of football matches or other occasions upon which large crowds will have congregated and the normal traffic facilities will not be sufficient. In that connection, considerable complaint has been voiced by representatives of the bus owners that the regulations concerning the maximum number of passengers are very difficult to enforce, and that frequently they are subjected to substantial fines for allowing a number of passengers on their vehicles in excess of the maximum permitted when it is practically impossible for them to keep them off. The regulations are not apparently enforced in some instances with any degree of common sense. That applies, particularly, to the number of passengers permitted on buses on Sunday evenings returning from seaside resorts such as Howth. It is the practice of people going to these resorts to defer their return to the last minute.
There are only a limited number of buses available and they all try to mount the few buses there are. Bus owners have been fined for permitting them to do so. They themselves are prepared to take any risk rather than be under the obligation of walking home or staying for the night. I do not think there is a single case of an accident happening to a bus because of the additional number of passengers permitted to board it. Some easing of the regulations might be permitted wherever special circumstances exist or, generally speaking, all round. In England and Northern Ireland the regulations in that respect are not nearly so strictly enforced as they are here. An accident due to this cause has not, I think, yet happened in this country.
I think the bus owners have a legitimate grievance because either they have got, by force in some cases, to expel the additional passengers from the vehicles or leave themselves liable to a substantial fine.
Every consideration that is involved in the rush hour or in the heavy rain question will have to be taken into account. There are two points that will have to be considered. The maximum weight that a vehicle may carry without injuring its structure in the first place will have to be considered. In the rush hour regulations we will have to see whether we can regulate the speed of vehicles carrying more than their normal number of passengers.
Section put and agreed to.
(1) Every person employed as driver or as conductor of a large public service vehicle shall have a weekly period of rest of not less than twenty-four consecutive hours in every period of seven days, and the right of such person to such weekly period of rest shall be deemed to be a term of his employment as such driver or conductor (as the case may be).
(2) Every employer who does not allow to every person employed by him as driver or as conductor of a large public service vehicle the weekly period of rest to which such person is entitled under this section and every person employed as driver or as conductor of a large public service vehicle who does not take the weekly period of rest to which he is entitled under this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
I move amendment 78.
"To delete the word ‘large' where it occurs in lines 46, 52 and 55."
I know that it would be more appropriate for Deputy Davin to refer to Geneva in connection with this amendment. This amendment is proposed in order to keep in line with the International Labour Convention, which prescribes a weekly rest. I cannot see why drivers of taxis employed by a company or by private owners should be exempt, as they seem to be specially exempted by putting in the word "large," and applying this weekly rest only to drivers of public service vehicles. I cannot understand why a taxi driver or two or three taxi drivers employed by a man who may have taxis on the streets, should not come under the regulations. I am therefore moving this amendment to delete the word "large."
Would it be possible to have Amendment 91, which stands in the name of Deputy Davin, discussed on this section? Deputy Davin's amendment applies to this section more than to the other one.
This is a very different thing. It is perfectly obvious that the conditions of work of a driver or conductor of a large public service vehicle are very different from the conditions of service of a taxi driver or the driver of a private hiring vehicle. It is because of the long and continuous strain on the bus driver and the regular continuous hours that we have applied these provisions, but the conditions under which the taxi driver or the driver of a private vehicle works are entirely different, and the regulations would not be warranted in our opinion in these cases. The difficulty is that it is too much rest these people will have.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section put and agreed to.
(1) The Minister may make regulations for regulating and controlling the conduct of passengers in public service vehicles and of drivers, conductors and other persons employed in or about such vehicles, and different such regulations may be so made in respect of different classes of such vehicles.
(2) Every person who does any act (whether of commission or omission) which is a contravention of a regulation made under this section and applicable to him shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section and shall on summary conviction thereof be liable to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
(3) The conductor or (where there is no conductor) the driver of a public service vehicle or any member of the Gárda Síochána on the request of such conductor or such driver may remove (using such force as may be necessary) from such public service vehicle any person who has done in such vehicle an act (whether of commission or omission) which is a contravention of a regulation made under this section and for the time being in force.
(4) Where the conductor or (if there is no conductor) the driver of a public service vehicle or a member of the Gárda Síochána alleges that such passenger has done in such vehicle an act (whether of commission or omission) which is a contravention of a regulation made under this section and demands of such passenger his name and address, it shall be the duty of such passenger to give to such conductor, driver, or member his name and address, and if such passenger fails or neglects so to do or gives a name and address which is false or misleading he shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
(5) Every regulation made under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution annulling such regulation is passed by either such House within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat after such regulation is laid before it, such regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such regulation.
I move amendment 79:
Before Section 111 to insert a new section as follows:—
The wages paid to any person employed in connection with the operation of the public service vehicle and the conditions of his employment shall not be less favourable to such person than the wages which would be payable and the conditions which would have to be observed under a contract made by a Department of State which contained a clause providing that "the contractor shall pay rates of wages and observe hours of labour not less favourable than those commonly recognised by employers and trade societies (or in the absence of such recognised hours and wages those which in practice prevail among good employers) in the trade in the district where the work is carried out.
This amendment, which we regard as a very important one, is put forward for the purpose of endeavouring to get the Minister to make it a condition for the getting of a licence that public service conditions, generally, should be imposed upon the people who look for or mean to secure a licence. The amendment embodies in reality the operative part of the fair wages clause, which is supposed to be inserted in Government contracts. I have been supplied with a long list of the conditions of service of the various bus companies in the Free State, including some of the principal ones as well as some of the very small ones. I have been given the conditions which apply in the case of the Great Northern Company Omnibus Service, the Irish Omnibus Service, the General Omnibus Service, and also a large number of cases showing the conditions which operate in what are properly called the pirate bus companies, because they are taking from those bus companies, who can afford reasonable conditions for their employees, the fares which they should not be allowed to take. I have a case here of one small bus company operating on the Dublin-Dalkey line where a young man is supposed to be engaged for 16 hours a day at 10s. a week.
Deputy Lemass and other high-wall tariff supporters protest against certain goods being allowed to come into this country from countries where these articles are manufactured under slave conditions. What I am really trying to secure, through the medium of the amendment, is that small or large bus companies or the owners of small or large buses, will not be allowed to secure licences through the agency of this Bill unless they undertake to give fair and reasonable conditions to those who secure employment in their service. The same issue is involved in this case as is involved in the case of this Government or this House allowing articles to come in from Russia or other countries where it is known that the articles are manufactured under unfair conditions. That is the case that has been put to the House by Deputy Lemass on many occasions, and we are in agreement with him on that question. I hope Deputy Lemass will look at the amendment from that point of view. I know the Minister will endeavour to look at it from that point of view.
I think it is outside the scope of the Bill.
Are you ruling that it is?
I am going to suggest to an Leas-Cheann Comhairle that it is, but I did not want to spoil the Deputy's speech.
I am quite clear that it is in order.
I was certainly convinced that it was in order myself, and I am pretty well satisfied that I would not be allowed to go so far if you, Sir, had not held the same view. The issue is clear to any person who reads the amendment. The amendment is down in plain English. It is an issue which the Minister and the House will have to answer in the division lobby if the Minister refuses to accept the amendment as a fair condition for the granting of a licence under the terms of the Bill.
I would like to support Deputy Davin's amendment. I think it is common knowledge that the wages paid to their employees by some of the bus companies operating in this country are scandalously low and the insertion of a clause of this kind would have, I think, a very beneficial effect. Some such clause was inserted in the British Act and there seems no reason why we should not follow their example in that connection. If we are going to provide facilities for the operation of omnibus services we should at least see that the conditions of employment are such as not to be, as they are in some cases, a scandal to the country. We know that it is only the bad economic conditions that prevail that make it possible for the proprietors of the buses in question to get people to work at such wages and under such conditions.
I would like to support this amendment. I have practical proof of nearly everything Deputy Davin has stated, corroborated by Deputy Lemass. In Cork City very bad working conditions exist on the services. The tramway service as you are aware was replaced by a bus system. The wages and the hours and conditions are abominable. I would appeal to the Minister, if he cannot see his way to adopt the whole of the amendment, at least to adopt the idea underlying it. I think it is admitted by most Deputies that people in charge of such vehicles as buses and other mechanically propelled cars should enjoy good working conditions. When I say good working conditions I mean that they should not be compelled to work abnormally long hours. The system that had obtained for a considerable period in Cork was that these men were compelled to work seven days, roughly between 60 and 80 hours a week. To my mind these conditions were a menace to pedestrians and other vehicular traffic. It cannot be argued that a man working for twelve or fourteen hours a day is fit to look after the valuable lives that he may be transporting over a long distance of country. When I say proper conditions, I mean ordinary working hours prevalent in that particular area and a six-day week. That is a kind of guarantee that the lives of those people who are travelling in these vehicles will at least get some measure of protection.
We are told that one of the reasons why this amendment should be accepted is because it is in corresponding legislation passed in England. First of all, the legislation that was passed in England was passed by what was described as a Socialist Government, and secondly, in so far as the other matter is concerned, it was not a traffic measure only. It was traffic and transport, providing for regulation by the normal licensing of certain people. We make a distinction here. This is traffic. Transport is to come. If this amendment is to be discussed here, I want to raise an objection to it in advance of its making its appearance on a Transport Bill. There is no precedent that can be quoted to me for regulating wages by statute in this way. It may be answered that it is done under the Trade Board Acts. It is done when certain specified conditions have been fulfilled, or rather when certain conditions are recognised as not being fulfilled.
It must be within the Minister's knowledge that certain agreements exist between the British Board of Trade and certain bodies of workpeople, notably the railway men.
Agreements exist with regard to the fair wages clause.
And outside wages altogether—in regard to hours.
These fair conditions of employment include wages and hours. They have to do with Government contracts. This is nothing of the sort. This is a free and independent agency that we are going to operate.
Yes, a free and independent agency.
Are they free in this respect?
They are free to this extent, that whatever restrictions are applied they are applied to everybody, but it is not a Government controlled agency. It is not Government work. There is only one example that can be quoted as a precedent, the Trade Board Acts, which regulate wages compulsorily by legislation. For that there must be present two conditions, (a) that there are notoriously sweated conditions operating in a particular industry, and (b) that there is no trade union organisation strong enough to protect the workers. It is only when these two conditions are present that a trade can be specified under the Trade Board Acts, and the conditions which are to be applied to a sweated industry come into force.
There is no example comparable to what is being done here. The amendment provides: "The wages paid to any person employed in connection with the operation of the public service vehicle and the conditions of his employment shall not be less favourable to such person than the wages which would be payable and the conditions which would have to be observed under a contract made by a department of State"—that clearly indicates that what is being brought in here is the machinery that regulates Government contracts—"which contains a clause providing that ‘the contractor shall pay rates of wages and observe hours of labour not less favourable than those commonly recognised by employers in trade societies (or in the absence of such recognised hours and wages those which in practice prevail among good employers) in the trade in the district where the work is carried out.'"
The amendment states "in the trade," but Deputy Davin, by implication in his speech, confines it to the small bus companies: that the small bus companies must do what the big bus companies should do. I do not think that it is a fair test to apply. I do not think it is fair to try and equalise the conditions. What is the definition of trade in this amendment? Is it transport that is to be the thing? Is it an equalisation say, as between bus wages and bus hours and railway wages and railway hours? Might I advert to the distinction that has to be made in the conditions here as opposed to the conditions in England? People can say in England that there will be a number of transport agencies in any area, in any district in which work is carried out. What is the situation here? Leaving Dublin out of consideration for the moment, in most of the areas in this country there would be at the most two or three transport agencies of any substance where people could be called the folk from whom a standard is to be taken. This amendment means that you are going to stereotype in a particular area the conditions which are the best that have been achieved by the ordinary play as between employers and employees. I suggest that that is not fair in the conditions in this country. It is going to be much more unfair in the conditions that are likely to exist hereafter. To my mind, what the amendment does, whether it is intended or not, is to bring about this condition, that you are going to stereotype railway wages and railway hours on road services.
That is not suggested, and is not set forth in the amendment.
On an analysis of the amendment I think it is within it. Even if it is not, and even if it only goes to carry out the limited idea that the Deputy gave expression to, it will have the effect of stereotyping the wages, hours and conditions of the big bus owned companies upon the smaller companies. That is unfair. Further, it is without precedent by legislation to establish these things, excepting only where two conditions are present: (1) that there are notoriously sweated conditions in the business, and (2) that there is no organisation of employees able to stand up to the conditions.
The Minister, in arguing against the acceptance of this amendment, brings in the question of trade boards. As far as they are concerned, he said that before a trade could come under the Trade Boards Acts there must first of all exist bad conditions in that trade. On that I would like to say to the Minister that if he knew anything as to how the 14-seater buses operate on the north side of the city and in the county of Dublin he would be aware of the scandalous conditions that exist, both as to the hours the employees have to work and the wages they get. If the Minister is not prepared to extend to those in the smaller bus companies the conditions that obtain in the case of the larger bus companies, it may be information for him to know that many of the bus drivers in this city are called upon to work fourteen, fifteen and sometimes sixteen hours a day. Some of the drivers of these one-man buses are in receipt of the scandalous rate of pay of 25s. a week. Does the Minister mean to suggest that these are not bad conditions?
The second stipulation that he brings in is that there is to be proof given that there is no trade union existing as far as the employees are concerned. It is true as far as the City of Dublin is concerned that the trade unions have forced the larger bus companies to give at least a living rate of wages, but owing to the fact in many cases that these small buses are only what are known as one-man buses, they pay a scandalous rate of wages. It is impossible from a trade union standpoint to get the men organised.
I would point out to the Minister that while these are independent agencies and he does not want to compel them to come under the conditions of the amendment, at the same time Government interference has taken place and rightly so. I refer to another industry. Under the Shop Hours Act a shopkeeper, through legislation, is compelled to give an employee a half holiday. I do not think that this amendment of Deputy Davin is asking too much. After all the licence is issued through Government authority, and it is most important that these men should observe proper conditions as far as labour is concerned. In the interests of the travelling public it is not fair that these employees should be called upon to work long hours, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, instead of defeating Deputy Davin's argument has made out a good case for it, and I hope seeing that this Bill is not being looked on as a Party Bill, as far as the House is concerned, that the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Local Government and Public Health will be prepared to leave it to an open vote of the House and then we will see who stands for proper wages and proper conditions and who does not.
I was rather amused by the Minister's attempt to frighten off the Deputies who normally sit on his left by asserting that the provisions in the British Act were passed by a Socialist Government. It was passed in the British House of Commons where the Socialists were not in the majority and it was also passed by the House of Lords, a body which, no matter what may be said about it, cannot be described as an organ of any Bolshevik institution.
Members of the House of Lords thought it advisable to insert in the Road Traffic Act a clause prescribing that certain minimum wages should operate on public road services authorised under that Act. It has got to be quite clear that it is wrong and misleading to compare conditions in this trade with conditions in any other trade. This is a trade which can only exist subject to the licence and the rigid control of the Government. Nobody can operate a road service here unless they are licensed to do it, and unless their drivers have undergone tests of skill in relation to their driving licences, and unless their drivers are licensed and have paid a licence fee and that all the regulations we have discussed are observed. In that trade, which we permit to operate, subject to all these restrictions, it is common knowledge that the wages paid to the workers are scandalously low. Surely it is an obligation on us to take some steps to see that an improvement is effected.
I am not defending the particular form of Deputy Davin's amendment. Neither Deputy Davin nor the Minister is an expert Parliamentary draftsman, but there is a clear idea that we want to have expressed in this Bill, and that is that these appalling conditions which we know exist in relation to some omnibus services should not be permitted. These conditions would not exist at all were it not for the pressure of unemployment which compels people to take any work they can get at any wage they can get. In this particular case, that pressure of unemployment had produced conditions worse than in any other trade because of the fact that it only started recently and started in a hurry. The usual methods by which organised labour can defend itself could not operate there. There is not, as far as I know, a highly organised financially strong trade union for omnibus workers, whether drivers or conductors. In time it may be possible to put pressure on employers to improve conditions, but at present the employers know, and the officials of whatever trade unions that exist know, that there is outside the union a huge number of persons with the necessary skill to operate in this trade, on the verge of starvation who would be prepared to step in and take any position offered if the existing trade unions refused to work under the prevailing conditions.
In these circumstances it appears to some of us that there is a duty especially on those who profess to be so much concerned with obviating the danger of social trouble in this country to see that these conditions are removed by Acts of Parliament, and that those who are permitted by the State to operate services under this Act shall at least treat their workers in accordance with the principles laid down in the Pope's Encyclical.
It is very interesting to hear the Minister for Industry and Commerce lay down as his main argument for opposition to this amendment the fact that it was put through the British House of Commons by a Labour Government. Deputy Lemass has answered that argument very effectively. The Minister says that there is no precedent for an amendment of this kind in any other Act except the British Act. The British Act does not exactly legislate in the way in which the amendment if it is accepted by the House would operate. There is a clause in the British Act which makes provision for the setting up of an industrial court to which disputes arising out of the contents of that clause are to be referred for arbitration and decision. If I am to take the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Local Government as being opposed to this amendment either in the spirit or the letter, I certainly must assume that they are standing for the intolerable conditions which at present apply in the case of the small bus companies of this State. In other words they are standing for sixteen hours a day at 10/- per week. If you are not, what is your alternative to this amendment? The Minister says it is not fair to equalise the conditions between small bus companies and the larger ones. Is it not a fact that the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the Railways Amalgamation Act of 1925 brought in under the Act all the large and small railways then operating in the Saorstát and equalised the conditions so far as conditions applied to them and to those who work for the amalgamated company?
I am pretty certain you did. You also made it obligatory for the amalgamated company to enter into trade union rates for these companies so that there was agreement.
What the Minister did in the Railway Amalgamation Act of 1925 is quite good enough to be carried out and applied to the public services which ply for public hire on the roads of this country. He says that the conditions which led up to the establishment of the Trade Board Acts were notoriously sweated conditions which could not be allowed by any trade union organisation in existence. Does he agree with this intolerable state of affairs that young or old bus conductors should be allowed to be engaged in this country by people who are getting the benefit of this Act and forced to work for 16 hours a day at 10/- per week. Was there anything worse at the time the Trade Boards were established by his Department or his predecessors, the British Government? I happen to be fairly well acquainted with the conditions which apply to men engaged as drivers and conductors on the different companies that ply for hire on the Dublin-Dalkey line. Is it fair to have the Blue Line Bus Company conceding fair and reasonable conditions to its employees and to have the small companies come along and force a sixteen-hour day at 10/- a week on their employees? Who is getting the benefit of that? Sometimes it goes by way of reduced fares due to the conditions I explained and at other times it goes in increased profits to the people who are allowed to get a licence under these conditions. The conditions which have made these intolerable conditions of employment possible must be attributed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Minister for Local Government and to the Ministry as a whole who have allowed citizens of this State to purchase buses and run them on any route they like under any conditions they like. I say it is the duty of this House to make it a condition for the getting of any licences to see that fair and reasonable and human conditions of employment are applied to those who get the benefit of this Bill from this House. If you vote against the letter or spirit of this amendment—I do not say it is the last word in drafting—you are voting for the continuation of these conditions which I do not think apply to any other public service in this country.
Deputy Davin in order to emphasise the point said that my main argument against this amendment was that it was a Socialist measure. It was not my main argument.
I said it was not my main argument. I said it in one sentence and left it there. I say it again.
It was not passed by any Government. It was passed by the Parliament.
It was introduced by a Socialist Government and passed by the House, which allowed it to pass not because they liked the Bill, but because as everyone knows through Parliamentary manæuvring there was a particular Party in power who would not vote for the Conservatives if they did not allow it to pass. It passed the House of Lords under the same conditions. I say it again and leave it there.
I have not said it is an answer to it, but there are answers to it. The Deputy again took one part of my answer and tried to make an argument on that. Deputy Cassidy acted in the same way. I do not see what they alluded to in regard to sweated trades. I said there is no precedent of regulating by law, wages, except in Government contracts, and outside that, in cases of trades to which the Trade Board Acts apply. I said that trades to which the Trade Board Acts applied can only have application made when two conditions are present at the same time.
They are present in this case too.
One, with regard to what I said are notoriously sweated conditions either by way of wages or hours, and secondly, when there is no organised body among the employees to fight the case.
Both apply in this case so far as small buses are concerned.
I have been up against the Trade Union in relation to bus people. I would not like to have Deputy Davin go before them and to impute that they did not represent the small bus owners or that they had no hope of getting them in and fighting their case.
What is the name of the Union?
We had the N.U.R. and various other unions as well.
Let the Minister make his speech.
I say there is not notoriously the state of things that is alleged and that there is not present the other conditions, namely, that there is no one organisation or body to speak on behalf of the employees. The two conditions are absent.
Is ten bob a week a living wage?
Let the Minister make his speech.
The fact is that the Deputy is either illiterate, in which case he cannot understand it, or incapable to the extent that he will not make his own speech in his own time.
You are standing for a 10/- a week wage.
Simply taking the case of some line that may be paying 10/- a week and doing certain other things does not make the case for this amendment. Deputy Davin spoke of those who were going to get what he called the benefits of this Bill. I do not know who is going to be benefited under this Bill. I understand it was a regulating and restricting Bill.
It lays down conditions for a public service.
It lays down conditions and leaves it open to anybody who complies with these conditions to run on the roads. There is no question of benefiting. Benefiting means singling out people and giving them something over anybody else. This is laying down conditions that people must comply with. Merely to say that it benefits people does not bring it within the ordinary conditions to which the fair wages clause have been applied. The fair wages clause has its application to work that is done under Government contract. It has been insisted on in the case of Government work because the Government ought, at any rate, to be in the position of the best employers. If we are going to have it applied in the future to any trade or business that is regulated by legislation I want to warn people as to the extent of this. If there is a regulation made with regard to speed or any matter—there are regulations made with regard to building of houses—does that mean that the building trades' wages are going to be fixed hereafter or that every trade on which there is an impact in any piece of legislation is going to be regulated?
Is that a good comparison?
The Deputy does not like it. It is not a parallel case at the moment, but it is going to extend to that. The Deputy is content for the moment to single this out. If we were nationalising transport certainly there is a case then for doing it, but I think it is completely inappropriate to this Bill, however pertinent it might be to the other.
Because it is called a public service vehicle you are going to insist on regulating all these men's wages.
Why insist on inspection?
For the safety of the public.
This is in the interests of the public too.
I think not. That argument might be used on a later amendment in regard to broken hours, but it certainly cannot be used here. This is not a Bill produced on behalf of people who are not getting sufficient wages. We were told by Deputy Lemass that because certain people could not get employment otherwise they had gone into this business. He wants to regulate the wages. What is going to be the end of it? There will be more unemployment. The Deputy urged here in connection with another amendment that it would lead to the unemployment of drivers and conductors. This is definitely going to have the same effect. Deputy Davin made no pretence of his railway interests predominating.
It is a trade union interest in this case.
For anybody who has a railway interest it would be a valuable thing.
It is a trade union issue.
It is also a railway interest, because for anybody who has a railway point of view this is a glorious amendment. It will certainly result in putting a number of buses off the roads. If that is what is aimed at let it be argued on that basis. It is not going to get men wages where these wages cannot at present be paid. To anybody who quotes an Encyclical to me I say it must be remembered that there is always an overriding thing in it, that the industry can afford it. That is fundamental to anything that is said in any Encyclical.
The Minister made great play with the fact that there is no precedent for this. On both occasions on which he spoke he stressed that there was no precedent for including in a measure of this kind such a thing as this. We can make a precedent. The fact that a thing has never been done is not an argument that a thing which is right in itself should never be done. Therefore, the question of a precedent might very well be ruled out. The Minister has properly described the Bill as one that lays down conditions and says that any one who complies with these conditions can run a service on the roads. That is his own description of this measure. All we are asking is that one of the conditions should be that a fair wage is paid and fair conditions of service observed. That is one of the conditions we think ought to be laid down. Are we to take it that the Minister says in effect that he is not concerned with this particular condition that fair wages should be paid and fair conditions observed? The Minister has control of the service inasmuch as without his permission it cannot operate. It has to fulfil certain conditions which are laid down before it is allowed to operate. All that we ask is that that condition, which we believe, and which everybody should agree, is essential, that fair working conditions should be observed by a company which gets the right and the privilege, if you like, to ply for hire on the road, should be insisted upon. The Minister attempted to draw an analogy between this and buildings because there were regulations about pulling down buildings and things like that. As was pointed out at the time, there is no analogy unless you licence builders and more or less give a monopoly to those who register. If we formed a builders' register we might then lay down the conditions for getting on the register.
Some trade unions are doing that at present.
What about the Builders Federation?
The less the State has to do with either of them the better.
What about the cost of building? Who fixes that?
I suggest that it is not only reasonable, but that it is proper and right that before giving privileges, and they are privileges, to companies to inaugurate services one of the conditions that should be laid down is that fair wages and conditions of work should operate. Surely there is nothing wrong in that principle.
Surely the Minister is not going to say that he is not concerned in any way with the conditions that apply in a licensed service of this kind; that he is entirely giving it over to free competition and that he is going to allow free competition to rule and nothing else. If that is the principle that he means to apply in this case I would advise him strongly to read the Papal Encyclical again.
The Committee divided: Tá, 53; Níl, 70.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Allen, Denis.
- Anthony, Richard.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Boland, Patrick.
- Bourke, Daniel.
- Brady, Seán.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Broderick, Henry.
- Buckley, Daniel.
- Carty, Frank.
- Cassidy, Archie J.
- Clancy, Patrick.
- Goulding, John.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
- Houlihan, Patrick.
- Jordan, Stephen.
- Kent, William R.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little, Patrick John.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Clery, Michael.
- Cooney, Eamon.
- Corkery, Dan.
- Corish, Richard.
- Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
- Crowley, Tadhg.
- Davin, William.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Doyle, Edward.
- Everett, James.
- Fahy, Frank.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Gorry, Patrick J.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
- O'Connell, Thomas J.
- O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.
- O'Kelly, Seán T.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- Ryan, James.
- Sexton, Martin.
- Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
- Smith, Patrick.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Francis C.
- Alton, Ernest Henry.
- Beckett, James Walter.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Blythe, Ernest.
- Bourke, Séamus A.
- Brennan, Michael.
- Brodrick, Seán.
- Carey, Edmund.
- Cole, John James.
- Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
- Conlon, Martin.
- Connolly, Michael P.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Craig, Sir James.
- Crowley, James.
- Daly, John.
- Davis, Michael.
- Doherty, Eugene.
- Dolan, James N.
- Doyle, Peadar Seán.
- Duggan, Edmund John.
- Dwyer, James.
- Egan, Barry M.
- Finlay, Thomas A.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Good, John.
- Gorey, Denis J.
- Haslett, Alexander.
- Hassett, John J.
- Heffernan, Michael R.
- Hennessy, Michael Joseph.
- Hennessy, Thomas.
- Hennigan, John.
- Henry Mark.
- Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
- Holohan, Richard.
- Law, Hugh Alexander.
- Leonard, Patrick.
- Lynch, Finian.
- Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
- McDonogh, Martin.
- MacEoin, Seán.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- Mongan, Joseph W.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Murphy, James E.
- Murphy, Joseph Xavier.
- Myles, James Sproule.
- Nally, Martin Michael.
- Nolan, John Thomas.
- O'Connell, Richard.
- O'Connor, Bartholomew.
- O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
- O'Higgins, Thomas.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Mahony, The.
- O'Reilly, John J.
- O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Reynolds, Patrick.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
- Thrift, William Edward.
- Tierney, Michael.
- Vaughan, Daniel.
- White, Vincent Joseph.
- Wolfe, George.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Davin and Cassidy; Níl: Deputies Duggan and P. S. Doyle.
Amendment declared lost.
I formally move amendment No. 80:
In sub-section (1), line 63, after the word "vehicles" to insert the words "and for prohibiting or regulating the carrying of live animals in or on such vehicles.
It is a matter about which something will probably have to be done, and I shall consider it between this and the next stage.
In the circumstances I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 111 to 123 inclusive agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 124 stand part of the Bill."
There was a point raised on Section 106 and it arises on other sections, including this, about consultation with the local authorities when the by-laws are being made. The Minister says that under Section 8 the local authority would be given an opportunity, but there is nothing in Section 8 that lays it down specifically that the local authority would be given any opportunity of intervening or of giving its opinion or that it would be asked for its opinion on any rule or body of rules that might be made by the Commissioner with the consent of the Minister. If there is any authority in the area that ought to know something about the regulations—the appointment of spaces where vehicles might stand for hire and such other matters as are set out in the section—it ought to be the officers of the local authority. They ought to have some say in the matter. I think the Minister ought to give the local authorities a locus standi and every consideration before the by-laws are approved.
I urge that view-point on the Minister. I think the Minister ought to agree to amend the section by the addition of some such words as "after consultation with the local authority." A few words of that kind would make it all right. The local authorities ought to have some jurisdiction inside their own area.
Take Section 7. That section makes it clear that whenever power is conferred on the Minister by this Act "To make, approve of, confirm or consent to any order, regulation or by-law, to consent to any matter," the Minister may, before exercising such power, hold a public inquiry into the matter. My intention would be, where it impinged on the local authority in any way, that, before confirming any by-law with regard to any particular area, an inquiry, such as is contemplated, should be carried out in as inexpensive a way as possible. I will have the general run of sections dealing with the framing of by-laws examined, so as to see whether we could not, without unduly restricting ourselves in the matter, put in a reference to the local authority. We could have the regulations sent on to the local authority so that the local authority may discuss them and send them back with any recommendations they may consider desirable. Then the Minister, after examining these regulations, would have power to confirm the order. That might be one simple way of dealing with the matter and airing the thing locally without the necessity of having an actual inquiry. I will consider whether we could not put down something explicitly without tying ourselves up unnecessarily.
I think that would be quite sufficient. I do not see the necessity at all for a public inquiry. A public inquiry involves the public body in an expense which it is not prepared to incur; and I do not think there would be any difficulty in having friendly conversations or consultations carried out in a friendly way between the Gárda authorities and the local authorities. By acting in that manner the matter would adjust itself. But I do think the Minister will agree that the local authorities ought to be consulted before regulations of that kind are made.
Section 124 agreed to.
On Section 125 I should like to ask a question—it might perhaps be more properly asked on Section 132—as to whether the Minister can say if the taximeter is a monopoly in this country, whether the patent rights are enjoyed by only one person in the country. It would seem that if it be a monopoly, we are imposing a tax that may be unlimited on taxis plying for hire on the streets.
That particular question is under inquiry by the Minister for Industry and Commerce at present. I could not say whether it is a monopoly.
Sections 125 to 132, inclusive, agreed to.
Before Section 133, but in Part VIII of the Bill, to insert a new section as follows:—
"For the purposes of this Act a person hiring a street service vehicle shall not be deemed to be the employer of the driver thereof and such person hiring the vehicle shall not become liable to pay any sums by way of damages, costs or otherwise on account of injury to person or property occasioned by the negligent driving of such vehicle."
We discussed the principle underlying this proposed new clause when we were discussing amendment 51 to Section 51; and I do not know whether the Minister will adopt the same conclusion that he came to in that particular case.
Yes. That whole question will be considered and an amendment will be produced on Report.
When will it be considered?
Between this and Report. The question is whether a person who hires a street service vehicle shall be deemed to be an employer and shall be liable for damages. We do not want to relieve the hirer of a vehicle from the penalties that ordinarily would fall on him if he was conspiring or inciting the driver to commit an offence.
It is the next amendment I was interested in, I beg your pardon.
I want to be clear with regard to Deputy Good's amendment. The Minister has promised that he will meet Deputy Good in some way or another. Will it come before the House in any form?
I am now dealing with amendment 81—"a person hiring a street service vehicle shall not be deemed to be the employer of the vehicle." That is open to two constructions. The first is that an ordinary man hiring a taxi or any other street vehicle shall not be deemed to be the employer of the driver and shall not be liable for damages in case he injures a person. But at the same time it might be an inducement to some persons, for the purpose of carrying merchandise or for other purposes, instead of having a permanent driver of their own car, to hire a taxi off the street and thus escape a good deal of responsibility in case of accident. I should like to be clear on that point. If this amendment were passed it would be quite possible for any individual who up to then might be deemed responsible as being the employer of the driver of a commercial vehicle to escape that responsibility by engaging day by day any vehicle off the street. I see the danger inherent in this amendment.
No one is compelled to have his own motor car nor is any shopkeeper going to be compelled to have his own private vehicle for delivering his goods. He is entitled to employ some contractor or any other person to do his service for him. Certainly, as is the intention in Deputy Good's amendment, to relieve the hirer of a taxi from responsibility for the driver's misdeed, is not the kind of thing that is going to hold out any inducement.
I quite see the point that Deputy Good is aiming at. His amendment sets out "a person hiring a street service vehicle." A whole lot will depend on the definition of a street service vehicle. As far as I can see, it is not defined in the Bill.
A street service vehicle might be deemed to be a vehicle which I, as a merchant or employer, might engage from time to time for the delivery of merchandise. I might have a contract with a person for three hundred days of the year and it is quite possible that I might scrap that contract if I found I could evade my responsibility under this amendment, if it is accepted.
The Deputy will find a definition of street service vehicle as a "small public service vehicle, the driver of which offers in a public place himself and the said vehicle for hire, and for that purpose stands or drives such vehicle in a public place ..." Section 119 contains further definitions with regard to street service vehicles.
Amendment 81, by leave, withdrawn.
The next amendment is the amendment on the Order Paper in the name of Deputy J.X. Murphy.
In sub-section (1), page 56, before paragraph (c) to insert a new paragraph as follows:—
"(c) requiring all traffic, other than traffic running on permanent rails, in the taking up or setting down of passengers to do so only when pulled in to the side of the road."
I am accepting the principle of this amendment.
On behalf of Deputy Murphy I beg to move the amendment. I am only sorry that it does not say must instead of may.
I am not accepting the amendment, but I am accepting the principle of it. I will introduce the matter again on the Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment 81 (a) on the amendment paper:—
Before sub-section (2) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"The Commissioner may with the consent of the Minister, after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, by regulation, provide for the licensing of drovers of cattle, sheep or swine, in any particular area or areas. Where by-laws have been made under this sub-section for any area it shall not be lawful for any person to bring, or cause to be brought, cattle, sheep or swine on to a road or street in such area, unless in charge of a licensed drover."
It would possibly save the time of the House in discussing this matter if I had an expression of opinion from the Minister as to whether he will accept the principle of the amendment.
The intention of this amendment is to give power to the Commissioner, with the consent of the Minister, to make a new by-law in the terms set out in the amendment. The largest industry in the State is the cattle industry and it has been the surprise of many visitors to our State to notice the small amount of care that is devoted to such an important industry. We here in the State are more or less accustomed to seeing drovers treating cattle—I do not say in all cases, but in many cases —in a way that such an important asset to the State should not be treated. I am sure the attention of all Deputies in the House has been drawn to this fact at different times. The extraordinary thing about it is that no action appears to have been taken.
It is the intention of this amendment to give power to the Commissioner to take action, if he so desires, with the consent of the Minister. It is in no sense mandatory. The need for this particular clause should not require any stressing in this House. All of us have seen drovers from time to time treating animals in a way they should not be treated. These men have been summoned from time to time and I have before me a list of recent cases and the reply in all cases that I happen to have is: "The name and address of the drover proved to be false, so the case had to be abandoned." That is the reply in six recent cases. It seems to be common knowledge amongst the drovers that immediately they get summoned for ill-treating animals, or driving any animal that is lame, or that should not be driven, they give a wrong name and address. I think it will be obvious to everybody who gives any attention to the problem that it is in the interest of the State that practices of this kind in connection with our most important industry, should not be allowed to continue.
I do not think we should debate on a Traffic Bill something that has reference to the ill-treatment of cattle. I thought the purpose of this amendment was quite different. We must deal with this thing from the point of view of traffic rather than from the point of view of the ill-treatment of cattle.
Quite so. Let us take the case of animals being driven through the streets. It has been pointed out by members of the Gárda Síochána, those of them who direct street traffic, that they see these animals being unfairly dealt with by the drovers. They are in the difficult position that owing to these men not being licensed and consequently not having numbers displayed on their arms, it is impossible to get information in regard to them. The members of the Gárda Síochána would have to leave their posts in order to follow those men and get their names and addresses. That would take a considerable amount of time and the police, because of their special duty, have not that time available. If these drovers had numbers on their arms the Gárda would be able to take a note of the numbers while the men were passing. It is absolutely essential, in connection with the protection of these animals, and in the interests of the State, that steps should be taken to prevent the injury that is being done them by drovers.
If that is all that is to be said in its favour, the amendment is absolutely out of order.
Surely the amendment has a very definite bearing on the traffic problem. Not alone does the question of cruelty to animals arise, but there is also the question of the control of animals on the roads.
The question of cruelty to animals does not arise.
It may not arise in connection with this Bill, but the question of how animals are to be controlled, while on the roads, so as not to interfere with ordinary traffic, certainly does arise.
But that point has not been made.
I suggest it is very definitely there and, I submit, for that reason the amendment is in order. If Deputy Good cares to press the point I will surrender to him, but if he does not care to press it I would like to do so.
When I read the amendment it seemed to me that that was the bearing it had on the Bill —that as the Bill made provision with regard to the drivers of omnibuses it could make some provision also with regard to the drovers of cattle. But I am not prepared to hear a discussion with regard to the ill-treatment of cattle on a Road Traffic Bill. I heard that subject discussed here before, but I would not be prepared to hear it on this Bill.
Would you be prepared to hear a discussion on a proposal that the Commissioner, with the consent of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, may define areas in which farmers and their sons will not be allowed to drive their own cattle on the roads?
We strongly protest against any such discussion. We think this amendment is a futile and unnecessary one, and it is making a laughing-stock of the Bill. It could not possibly be carried into effect. Take the case of a farmer going to a fair. It may happen that he will go to the fair in his trap. He decides to buy a cow and, if the area is a specified area, if it is an area to be subject to licence, he cannot employ a man in that town to drive home the cow for him. The thing would be quite impossible.
Just because there is a little scorn thrown upon this amendment is no reason why it should be let drop. I think it is worthy of serious consideration. It is quite reasonable to say that general regulations ought to be subject to special examples. Of course the farmer ought to be allowed to make special regulations for the transport of his own stock. But the trouble is there, that the traffic on the road, due to this kind of uncontrolled cattle crowding on the road and blocking out and frequently interfering with traffic is very serious. Not alone does that trouble exist, but it is a great wonder that it very often has not caused more serious accidents. It is quite a common thing on country roads to come round a corner and find a herd of sheep blocking the roadway. There is no avenue of the slightest kind and unless the greatest care is taken when turning round a corner an accident is the inevitable result. It is a great wonder to me that such accidents do not occur much more frequently.
What is sought to be secured in the Bill is that the driving of cattle over roads ought to be properly controlled by those who know how to do it. Further than that, a great nuisance arises constantly by cattle passing from the public roads into private grounds and trespassing in these places. I can speak from experience and say that that happens almost every week.
Trespassing. The cattle are allowed to go from the public roads into private places. In my own experience it happened a dozen times within the past two months. It should be the business of the driver to prevent that. I submit that if traffic is to be controlled the matter is worthy of the Minister's consideration.
Does Deputy Thrift propose that where a farmer lives on the side of a trunk road when putting out his cows in the morning or bringing them in in the evening, he must be subject to State control?
Surely that is the logic of the situation. As far as motorists are concerned, what is the difference between driving cattle from, say, Naas fair, a distance ten miles along a trunk road, and the case of a man living on the edge of a main road who has to drive his cattle two or three miles to the pasture?
The difference is that if a farmer is in charge of his own stock it is his interest to look after them properly. If the cows are not looked after properly there will be someone to come down upon for damages.
The farmer is rarely the person who drives the cattle to the pasture.
That was the point made by yourself at the beginning.
While we all have sympathy with Deputy Good in regard to the prevention of cruelty to animals——
We admire the loyalty of Deputy Thrift in coming to the rescue of the Deputy to get him out of the traffic block.
It would be interesting to know by what right Deputy Thrift is entitled to keep the approaches to his avenue open so that cattle can go in there and trespass. The idea of licensing drovers is ridiculous. I have some experience in this matter and I would be inclined to make certain things done by drovers offences, but this amendment goes nowhere to meet the situation. I have seen drovers who are very careful with young cattle and with sheep, but not so careful with big cattle. Some drovers often take very little trouble to get cattle off the road in order that traffic might pass. That is the only complaint I have to make. That conduct, of course, is not common.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
To insert before sub-section (2) the following new sub-section:—
"The Commissioner may with the consent of the Minister make, in relation to mechanically propelled vehicles and vehicles drawn by mechanically propelled vehicles, by-laws preventing excessive noises being made by horns or other instruments for the purpose of signalling. In making such by-laws, the Commissioner shall have regard, inter alia, to the tone of such horns or other instruments as well as the hours and the localities in which the use of the said horns or instruments may be permitted.”
This amendment is directed at abuses referred to by two other Deputies on the Second Reading of the Bill. They are abuses with which city Deputies are very familiar. It is a long-established principle of common law that freedom from noise is essential to the enjoyment of a house, and that any acts that affect such enjoyment are actionable at law. Modern municipal development tends to accept that principle. In a large number of cities, particularly on the Continent, a good deal of attention has been directed to the prevention of unnecessary street noise which makes for discomfort and loss of amenity, due especially to the new motor traffic. It has been found possible in some of the biggest Continental cities to abolish these noises completely. I was in a famous Continental city a few years ago, with which many Deputies are better acquainted than I am, and I was surprised to notice the remarkable change and the great improvement that had taken place in that respect. The use of motor horns is forbidden in the evening in some cities in Germany. There was great laugh some three years ago when municipal legislation to that effect was introduced, and it was suggested that the police should go to the local musical academy in order to take lessons in musical tone. The ridicule died down and the citizens now appreciate the change for the better that has been effected.
In Dublin at some hours of the day and at some seasons of the year in certain quarters this abuse is a scandal. There is a cacophony of horrible sounds—a great variety of ear-piercing squeaks, grunts and sounds— that I can only characterise as indecent. Some drivers think it is essential to make these noises in order to propel the car. I can only account for it that way. As was pointed out by another Deputy those who offend have a preference for quiet residential quarters and for late hours when there is no traffic about the streets. It is on these streets that these people qualify as drivers and work the horns the whole time. I think the Commissioner should have power to regulate the hours and to check the excessive use of horns in certain districts. Two very distinguished scholars complained to me that their life during certain hours of the day was made almost impossible with buses thundering past and the howling horror of noise and squealing and heavy vehicles shaking the streets. A good deal could be done to reduce this nuisance and to make the city more pleasant for people who are not in these cars. I have noticed that the better drivers rarely use the horns and rarely rush through the traffic making these horrible noises. The offenders are few and should be strictly dealt with. I do not allude to one source of complaint because the Minister I think has power to deal with it under Section 15. A number of motor cyclists tear through the streets without silencers. That practice is particularly horrible and I hope that the Minister when making regulations will take cognisance of that.
I accept entirely the intention of the Deputy as shown in the amendment. The whole question of noises will require to be considered to see if we do not want some provision like this to give us special powers. I refer not only to noises caused by horns and other instruments, but to noises caused by bad loading and the nature of the machine itself. In dealing with this matter, I may as well touch on Deputy Hennessy's amendment, 84 (a), which asks that audible signals be used on public service vehicles which shall have a distinctive note. According to that amendment, the Blue Line buses would have B flat and the Red Line buses C sharp. In the hope of abating noises, I do not think we ought to give special musical notes to special classes of vehicles. I think it would be found that a particular bus driver would be sounding his particular note all the time if there was a bus belonging to another line on the road.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 83 on behalf of Deputy Haslett:—
To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"Before making any regulations in pursuance of this section, the Commissioner shall consult the representative traffic organisations."
Owing to the rapid development of traffic regulation and the great number of cars on the roads, I think it would be very advisable for the Commissioner to take into consultation the people who are associated with this kind of traffic—the Automobile Association and similar bodies—before regulations would be formulated. He could send his regulations to them and ask for their comments.
We do not want to have a situation in which by reason of the fact that it could not be formally proved that before the making of the regulations the representatives of traffic organisations—whatever they are —had been consulted, the regulations would be invalidated. But, in fact, these consultations will take place and the Minister, under Section 6 and Section 8, can prescribe the manner in which, before they are submitted for the Minister's approval, these by-laws will have to be published.
I notice with regard to all the sections of the Bill where by-laws are to be made by the Commissioner that the text is "the Commissioner may, with the consent of the Minister." That does not mean, I take it, that the Minister has got to give his consent to the by-laws. It means only, I presume, that the Minister is to consent to the making of the by-laws by the Commissioner. In that case, we are in a very peculiar position. A multitude of things will affect traffic at every point, and we have no power whatever to discuss them in the Dáil, as the Commissioner is not responsible to the Dáil. I understood from the Minister's earlier remarks on the Bill that the Commissioner in this matter is not subject to the Minister for Justice, and that no Minister can be asked any question with regard to a by-law. Surely, it is not fair to leave the Dáil without the power to discuss a very objectionable by-law. So far as I can see, if the Bill goes through in its present form, that will be the position. No matter what complaints there may be, the Commissioner will be the absolute authority in such matters.
The Bill makes provision for the framing of regulations and by-laws. In the case of orders and regulations, the Bill provides that they shall come under the review of the Oireachtas. By-laws deal with matters of very considerable detail, applicable in many cases to very definitely localised areas. It is considered quite sufficient that these by-laws, which will be prepared by the Commissioner, cannot be given effect without going through a prescribed examination and getting the definite consent of the Minister. If there are objectionable details in them, then any Deputy or any organisation or any local authority has the period between publication and the giving of consent by the Minister to make representations. In the case of matters of detail, such as the by-laws will deal with, it is more satisfactory that individual bodies and Deputies should make representations to the Minister as regards objectionable provisions than that these matters of detail should come under the review of the Oireachtas.
Does the Minister mean that these by-laws will require the consent of the Minister for Local Government?
That is not provided for here.
I suggest that the words need not necessarily be read in that way. The words are "the Commissioner may with the consent of the Minister." That does not mean that it would be necessary for him to get the consent of the Minister to the by-laws when made. He may merely ask the consent of the Minister to the making of the by-laws. There is nothing in this section which states that the Commissioner shall submit his by-laws when drafted to the Minister.
Under Section 8, they have to be approved of by the Minister.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On the section, in consequence of local authorities being obliged to do certain things as a result of the by-laws made, I think it is apparent that local authorities should be brought into consultation when dealing with these matters. Sub-section (3) provides that the Council charged with the maintenance of a road in relation to which a by-law is in force shall erect certain signs and notices on such roadway. I think the Minister will agree that in fairness to the local authorities they should be consulted before any such by-laws imposing these obligations upon them are drafted. I would like to have an assurance, in connection with this section particularly, that there will be consultation between the local authorities and the representatives of the Commissioner in the area.
I do not see that it will do any harm at all. In view of the way that this section is drafted it makes that more necessary than ever. It will certainly make the task of the Gárda in a particular area easier. I believe it will only lead to irritation and contention if these things are done over the heads of the local authorities where they have to provide the signs and to maintain them. Provision should be made in the section that it be mandatory on the Commissioner's representatives in an area to have a consultation with the local authority. I urge that on the Minister because I think it is necessary. In this section, as it stands, the local authority is ignored altogether. I do not think that is desirable. If the Minister is desirous to have the traffic regulations carried out properly, in such a way as to ensure the safety of the public, then I submit that in giving effect to the section the local authorities are deeply concerned and ought to be consulted.
I think it is necessary that the regulations should contain a provision requiring motorists to lower blinding headlights when they are approaching other traffic, particularly in the city.
Provision is made to deal with that in Section 148.
There is another point that I would like to see attended to. It is that when one motor car is passing another it should sound its horn. I do not know whether there is any regulation dealing with that, but in my opinion it is desirable there should be one.
At the risk of incurring the ire of Deputy Alton I would like to say, in reference to paragraph (1) which requires persons in charge of traffic or of specified classes of traffic, to give audible warning of their approach in specified circumstances or at specified places, that if the places are to be specified at which persons approaching a cross must give warning of their approach, then there is a necessity I think for some by-law requiring that sign posts be erected with a notice on them to this effect: "Blow your horn here."
During the consideration of this Bill a good deal has been said about omnibuses, tractors, lorries and ordinary motor cars, but very little has been said about the most important section that is affected by traffic, namely, the pedestrian. It is nearly time I think that some one got up and, so to speak, put in a word edgeways for the pedestrian. Any one who has observed traffic conditions in this city must have become conscious of the fact that the pedestrian who has a primary right to the roadway and the footpath—
Yes, a primary right to any part of the roadway or the pathway, does not get very much consideration. I am not finding any fault with the Gárda—I suppose it is due to tradition and to their training—but Deputies and others must have observed that in carrying out their duties in the city they will signal to the on-coming omnibus or ordinary motor car and will take no notice whatever of the pedestrian or group of pedestrians, of the infirm, or the nervous, who are waiting to cross the roadway. They are left standing on an island around a telegraph pole or a tram pole waiting to get across. People who have had experience of the carrying out of traffic duties in cities in other countries will have seen a whole stream of traffic held up in order to allow 20 or 30 school children to cross the streets, as well as nervous women, aged people and other pedestrians. Is there any reason why there should not be a regulation of that kind here?
What do we find in Dublin City? That buses pull up right across the street at points where pedestrians are expected to cross. They pull up right in the centre of the roadway and pedestrians, in order to make a crossing, are expected to walk around them. It is interesting to watch, too, the manner in which the Gárda give indications to motorists to approach as well as the manner in which motorists indicate that they are going to proceed in a particular direction. In the case of ladies, when they give an indication, one is not certain whether they propose taking a turn in a particular direction or whether they are simply "ta-taing" to some friend on the footpath. One is left in the position that he does not know if he responds to the indication but that he may be running into danger. There should be a regulation prohibiting motorists and the drivers of omnibuses from pulling up at crossings. Frequently at the corner of Abbey Street you find a line of omnibuses pulled up. You find two or three of them telescoped right in the middle of the street. I think it is time that somebody said a word on behalf of pedestrians. Motorists, as well as other people, have at one time or another to use "shank's mare" when going through the city, and they must have observed the conditions I have described. Despite Deputy Good's doubts, the pedestrian has a primary right to the use of the road and the footpath, and it is time that some consideration should be given to him. I hope that somewhere in the Bill a provision will be embodied enabling the Minister to make regulations to protect the pedestrian more than he is at present.
I would like to back up what Deputy Corish said with reference to local authorities. Sub-section (3) of Section 133, which has been referred to by Deputy Corish provides that "the Council charged with the maintenance of a road in relation to which a by-law made under this section is enforced . . shall erect, place, or make and shall maintain on such roads all such notices, instructions and directions," and so on. There is similar wording in other sections making it mandatory on local authorities to put up and maintain notices of various kinds. What I would like to know is, who is to pay for these notices? Is the local authority to be called upon to pay for them? The matter was under discussion recently at a Committee of the Dublin Municipal Council. They were of opinion that the cost of putting up these notices should be borne out of the Road Fund. There is a considerable amount of money collected from motorists, and it is primarily to facilitate motorists that these notices will be put up. It is the opinion of the Municipal Council, and members have been asked to bring it forward here, that the cost of these various notices—in Dublin the number of them may be very considerable—ought to be borne out of the Road Fund.
All the money that comes into the Road Fund except in so far that some of it is used to meet the expenses of administration, goes to the local authorities in proportion to the amount they spend on maintenance.
Could that money be used for this purpose?
Yes, it could be regarded as part of the maintenance of the roads. We pay forty per cent. of the cost of the maintenance of all main roads. The cost of these would be included in that. I think that is the simplest way to deal with the matter. As to the local authorities I will see what we may say explicitly on that.
On the point of the pedestrian, as I understand it, the pedestrian has first right to the road. That is my understanding of the common law at any rate. Whether like many people, he is treated with the deference with which he should be treated, is another matter. As far as crossing roads or anything like that is concerned Section 133 (1) (i) refers to it. I have been concerning myself with the consideration of the position of pedestrians and cyclists in relation to motor traffic, whether it is reasonable that going along a country road, two pedestrians walking abreast should have to walk in single file in order that a motor car would pass them. I feel that two pedestrians walking abreast should have as much right to the road as a motor car and that the same thing should apply with regard to two cyclists. I do not know whether we might enshrine that in legislation. I do not know on the other hand to what extent the alleged grievances of pedestrians are really well founded.
As I say, we propose as far as crossing roads is concerned, to arrange for that in Section 133, but as to the advisability or otherwise of enshrining anything in this Bill, talking about the inalienable rights of pedestrians, I do not know whether it is feasible.
While the arrangements for pedestrians are not very good, I do not think it would be quite fair to the Guards to say that as far as the most congested parts are concerned, their interests are neglected. For instance, at the corner where people turn from Nassau Street into Grafton Street, one may see the Guard on duty there holding up the traffic to allow pedestrians to go through. In certain other parts very much consideration is not given to pedestrians. On the other hand, pedestrians do not give much consideration to themselves. I am driving a motor car for twenty years myself and I can say that it is an old established fact that if one is driving along Dame Street one is met with a constant procession of people crossing the streets at these points. If a regulation were made according to Deputy Hogan's suggestion that people should cross the streets at one particular point, and that the Guard should allow them to pass in bunches, as it were, it would be a very good thing. While the present condition of affairs may not be all that pedestrians could wish, in certain parts of the City the Guards do look after them. I say that as a motorist who is constantly about the streets.
In view of the obligation which local authorities are obliged to take on themselves in consequence of by-laws that will be made under the section, would the Minister not be prepared to put after the word Commissioner, "after consultation with the local authority may, with the consent of the Minister"?
If I have said it once, I have said it thirty times that the question of handling the pedes trians on the part of the Commissioner in the City is not so very easy. I think there would be a terrible outcry if the Commissioner laid it down that a person wishing to cross from the shop of Siemens Schuckert on one side of O'Connell Street, to the Gresham Hotel on the opposite side, had either to go down to the Pillar at one end of the street or up to the Parnell Monument at the other.
Much has been said on this Bill about danger signals for motorists. I would like to see some arrangement by which pedestrians would signal to motorists, but I would appeal to motorists to take some recognition of these signals. The fact that these signals are ignored very often may not be so dangerous in the vicinity of Dublin where you have steam-rolled roads, but down the country where the roads are not kept in repair, you have large potholes which in wet weather become filled with water and slush. Motorists driving along these roads at 30 or 40 miles an hour destroy the clothes of the unfortunate pedestrian. On one occasion I saw a respected parish priest who had to get inside the ditch from one of these motorists, and even then he was not safe, because his coat was covered with mud. I would like to see some arrangement by which when a pedestrian holds up his hand, a motorist would slow up. I think there should be some recognition of pedestrians signals in that way.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 134 agreed to.
I move amendment 84 (a)—
At the end of sub-section (1) to add a new paragraph as follows:—
"(o) Providing that the audible signals to be used on public service vehicles plying on specified routes shall have a distinctive note which will indicate the particular route on which such vehicle is plying."
This amendment has for its object the provision of distinctive signals that will indicate what route the bus is travelling. In fact it would be as well for me to say that from the time a bus starts until it reaches its terminus there are no stopping places such as are provided in the tram service. The traveller has to rely on his own alertness to signal for the bus to stop. It is not such a problem in the daytime but it is very difficult at night. Even in a short three-quarters of a mile a man or woman has to turn round many times to see if a bus is coming. I took this measure of it myself, that I had to turn practically 100 times from one end of Harcourt Street to the other. My suggestion to prevent that is that the buses travelling on each particular route—I do not think you would have more than five or six routes on the south side of the city—would have some kind of signal permanently attached to the bus and that would be permanently acting. I do not see that there is any need to have disagreeable sound amongst them. I remember in the old days of the horse trams each of them carried a bell and the bell was always ringing so that at any rate you knew when your tram was coming. At present you have no idea of the bus that is coming behind you. As I stated, you have all the time to keep looking back to see if your bus is coming. The fixture containing the signal could be simple and it could contain a note that would be of a more musical character than a noise.
If you were to witness the difficulties that people have in looking back for their buses, you would realise that it is a very serious matter at night. I am afraid Deputies, especially from the rural parts, might be inclined to treat the matter lightly, but if you were living here in the city you would not treat it so lightly. I would ask the Minister to give it every consideration because I believe it will be a source of facilitating the public travelling by buses. He need not worry about any unpleasant noises because I am assured there is a person already available to supply an instrument that will be both efficient and musical.
I would like to support Deputy Dr. Hennessy in this amendment.
But the Minister a moment ago suggested that this motion might be taken in conjunction with another one. I quite see the difficulty which the Minister envisaged. If we have, as the Deputy wants to have, a number of distinctive notes I think we ought to know the old major scale. It would give us eight notes to go on with. I do not know how many services there are in Dublin, but I can just imagine the horrible state of affairs we would have if each of these buses were to look for sharps and flats and run over the entire gamut. There would be such a discord that the last stage would be worse than that envisaged in Deputy Thrift's amendment. I suggest if Deputy Hennessy would improve the amenities of this country why should he not go a little bit further and have a chime on these buses. We could have Deputy Thrift with his little chime "At Trinity Church I met my doom." We could have Deputy Donovan chiming "Come to Glengariff, Come," we might have Deputy Mongan with "The Men of the West," and Deputy Bennett might have attached to his motor car the chime "Limerick, is beautiful," and so on.
I would suggest that the Minister for Industry and Commerce have attached to his motor car "Where the River Shannon flows." I wonder how Deputy Dr. Hennessy suggests, if we are all going to have distinctive chimes, where they are to be got.
I suggest the buses, nothing else.
There are, roughly, five hundred buses.
Your trouble is at night. When you are travelling you are not able to distinguish between the noise of the engine of a private car and of a bus.
That depends on where you were last. I could distinguish it at any hour of the night. I suggest that the Minister's difficulty would be quadrupled in this manner. It will be far easier to prescribe for ordinary patients where your mistakes are covered up in a few days. I suggest that if Deputy Dr. Hennessy insisted on this he would not have sufficient notes to meet the case if he wants to have the chimes I referred to. I do not suggest that they might all go off together like the patients. I suggest that he should have some distinctive harmony.
Would you suggest stopping places for the buses at short intervals?
Yes, and Section 106 proposes that, so that Deputies will not have to twist their necks so often going home. They will know that all they have to do is to go on to the next stage. Also, they must know that the one particular bus is not confined to a particular route, and they might have a few spare notes knocking around; so with them the matter is not feasible at all.
Would there be any objection to the buses having speaking advertisements, such as "Up Dev." or something like that?
I have only one thing to say before withdrawing the amendment, that it would be a very valuable thing if you had in every bus in the country and town, call it a distinctive noise if you like, a sound to indicate that there is something of a murderous character coming on.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On the section I want to repeat again what I said in regard to Sections 124 and 133 in regard to local authorities. The same applies to Sections 135, 136, 137 and 138. The local authority ought to have some say in the matter, and ought to be consulted.
Section agreed to.
(b) appointing the conditions to be observed in regard to mechanically propelled vehicles remaining stationary in parking places.
In sub-section (1) (b), line 46, after the word "conditions" to insert the words "other than any conditions prescribing fees to be payable in respect of parking."
Amendments 85 and 86 really hang together. It is a matter of objection to paying fees for the parking of cars on the streets. The streets are supported by the rates, and there is great objection on the part of motorists who live out in the country and have to motor into the city every day to have a tax compulsorily placed upon them and to have to pay fees for parking their cars on the street. I do not think there would be any objection to paying a fee if the local authorities provided a suitable car park. What a number of these motorists feel is that it is a very unfair thing to add to their motoring expenses a sum of £7 10s. a year—to pay 6d. every day for six days of the week, which adds considerably to their motoring expenses. For that reason I move the amendment.
The position is that, arising out of street conditions in the city, the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána has actually arranged a certain number of parking places and appointed parking attendants, whose duty it is to see that there is no unauthorised interference with the cars and their contents. As far as I know, and I would like to hear any Dublin motorist on the subject, it has been a convenience to the motoring public. The attendants are there voluntarily. They have no right to a fee, but, in fact, they do get a fee of about 2d. or 3d. The whole arrangement as far as I know is regarded as a convenience. This is simply a proposal that this ought to be organised by the Commissioner so that the fee can be charged for the motorist using the parking place.
What is the position with regard to these attendants? Are they paid a fee or are they simply dependent on tips?
They are dependent on the contributions they get, the twopence or threepence they get from each person.
They would not be very pleased if you offered them twopence.
Have they any responsibilities?
They are there, as it were, licensed by the Commissioner. They wear armlets. They are responsible for seeing that there is no unauthorised tampering with the cars or their contents.
I think they are a distinct boon, but suppose they do not look after their business, have you any redress?
You have the redress that the Commissioner can withdraw an attendant's licence. He can prevent him being occupied on that particular class of work.
How many cars would be on a stand? Would there be forty or fifty? How much would an attendant make in a day? I understand they demand sixpence and that nothing less would be very welcome. A man could make 25/- a day judging by the number of cars I see. I do not know the accommodation on each stand, but it occurred to me that there ought to be a reduction in their charges also.
This provision which it is sought to delete from the section is to enable the Commissioner to fix the parking fee. That fee would be fixed in such a way as to provide a reasonable income for an attendant looking after a particular place.
May I ask the Minister if he would be favourable to giving out tickets that would be available in any parking place in the city. If a person were moving from one part of the city to another he may have to pay in three or four different places which would be a rather serious matter. In Belfast I believe they have an arrangement by which a ticket is given to each person who is parking a car. That ticket may be used in any other parking place to which the car might be moved during the day. If the Minister would consider such an arrangement here I would be prepared to withdraw the amendment.
I certainly think that that can be done in the working of the scheme. If a person comes to Stephen's Green and pays twopence for a ticket that ticket can hold good for the day. I think the fees ought to be arranged in such a way as would finance the scheme. A ticket would be issued for the day and that could be used for all parking places on the street.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Section 136 put and agreed to.
Amendment 86 not moved.
Section 137 put and agreed to.
(3) A member of the Gárda Síochána may arrest without warrant any person who in his presence fails or refuses to pay in accordance with this section a fee which such person is required by this section to pay.
I move amendment 87: To delete sub-section (3).
Amendment agreed to.
Section 138 put and agreed to.
The following amendment stood in the name of Deputy Haslett:
To add at the end of the section the following new sub-section:—
"A person shall not be convicted of an offence under this section where it is proved that the obstruction was caused by a breakdown of a vehicle through a mechanical defect, or any other circumstances not due to neglect on the part of the owner or driver of the vehicle."
I am agreeing on principle to the amendment. I will introduce an amendment that will meet the matter.
Amendment not moved.
I hope it will cover such accidental things as stoppages for want of petrol.
In many towns throughout the country along the main thoroughfares it is the practice to allow cars to be parked on both sides of the street allowing only a narrow passage through. The consequence is that there is great danger to children who run behind the cars. The motorists have no chance of seeing them. I have seen a child knocked down by a car moving slowly.
That is so especially in provincial towns. In many cases where the streets are narrow there is rather indiscriminate parking of cars. There does not seem to be any control. The Civic Guards do not appear to interfere. Greater precautions are necessary in many of these towns.
There is power to deal with that in the making of the regulation.
This section states "Every person who, without lawful authority, does any act (whether of commission or omission) whereby the passage of traffic through any public place is wholly or partially obstructed or which causes or tends to cause such passage of traffic to be so obstructed shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall on summary conviction thereof be liable to a fine." I think we are approaching a general election when public meetings will be held throughout the City of Dublin. These public meetings may prevent traffic from passing through. Those who are holding the meetings in that case would become liable to a fine.
There is a more serious objection than that. The section of course is very much required in some respects, but where you have fairs being held on public streets there can be very rough abuse of the section.
The whole section is under consideration. In any attempt at redrafting we will take into consideration the position the two Deputies spoke about.
Section 139 agreed to.
Sections 140 and 141 put, and agreed to.
I do not know if this section can be used to prevent the holding of fairs in streets in towns.
I know from experience in trying to pass in a car through towns where fairs are being held that it would be practically impossible for the first sub-section to be observed or for anything to be done which would secure the free passage of cars through these fairs. Neither do I think it is desirable that any restrictions should be imposed on the holding of these fairs or that it should be made obligatory on persons sending cattle for sale to send them to places other than where the fairs have been held for generations.
There is no power in that section that will enable fairs to be stopped in places where they have hitherto been held.
Sections 142 to 145 put and agreed to.
(4) Save as is otherwise provided in the next following sub-section of this section, there shall be carried in the prescribed position and manner on every vehicle which is neither a mechanically propelled vehicle nor a vehicle drawn by a mechanically propelled vehicle, while it is in a public place during lighting-up hours—
(a) one lamp duly lit and in efficient condition showing to the front of such vehicle a white light visible from a reasonable distance, and
(b) either one other lamp duly lit and in efficient condition showing to the rear of such vehicle a red light visible from a reasonable distance or a reflector in efficient condition and so fitted that when a light is impinging on such vehicle from the rear thereof such reflector is visible to a person in the rear of such vehicle and within a reasonable distance thereof.
The following amendment stood in the names of Deputies Good and Sir James Craig:—
89. In sub-section (4) (b), line 50, before the word "reflector" to insert the word "red."
I agree to the amendment.
May I ask if a public place referred to in sub-section (3) is a parking ground, would it be covered by the sub-section—"there shall be carried on every mechanically propelled vehicle while it is in a public place during lighting-up hours, a lamp." Surely one of the advantages of a parking place is that that is not necessary.
In Section 148 (d) provision is made for exempting parking places from the operation of the section: "exempting from the operation of any particular provisions of this Part of this Act or any regulations made thereunder vehicles' which are stationary in a place which is a parking place within the meaning of this Act."
I would like to ask the Minister if he would put down for the Report Stage an amendment to this effect: "In addition to any other light that may be carried, a red reflector be also carried showing the rere of every vehicle, whether mechanically propelled or not." My reason for suggesting this is, that I once nearly met with a very serious accident when motoring at night by coming on top of a car whose rear light had gone out. The cost of a reflector would be very small, and if there were a reflector on every car everyone would know that even if the rear light had gone out, he would be safeguarded by the reflector. It would be a precaution which would save many accidents, and I ask the Minister to consider the matter.
That is that whether provided with a light or not, all vehicles on the road should be fitted with a reflector?
Under sub-section (4) apparently cars of every description and loads of every description would be obliged to carry two lights, one before and one behind, or else a reflector. How is it suggested that a load of hay should be lighted? It would be nearly impossible. I am afraid that a condition such as this would be irritating and annoying to farmers. When a farmer's car has to go a few hundred yards from one field to another, he would be supposed to have a light at the rear as well as in front. I am afraid the section will cause a lot of annoyance and irritation and will not serve its purpose.
Surely the Minister does not contemplate having a rear light when pigs are being brought to fairs and markets?
I strongly support the section which requires that horse drawn vehicles should carry a rear light or reflector, because whatever inconvenience may be caused the safety of human life is also involved.
I think it will be admitted by motorists that a reflector is as effective as a light. There is no question of a candle going out. We know that a very small reflector on a bicycle is of considerable assistance to motorists because they can see it. A large reflector attached to a car would be as effective as a lamp in my opinion and would only cost a few pence. I ask the Minister to give particular attention to the question of reflectors.
I am not in favour of making it compulsory to have a reflector or light on the back of carts. It would be almost impossible to keep it there. I do not know how a reflector could be kept on the tailboard of a cart used for putting out farmyard manure. If a man has to bring, say, two loads of manure up to a field——
This is only at nighttime.
He may be returning home after dark. Farmers often have to draw manure half a mile away and often a man has to bring two carts with a horse behind the second one and is he to have a light on them every time he is going home after dark?
I shall give consideration between this and the Report Stage to the point which Deputy The O'Mahony suggested with regard to reflectors. Might I say at this stage that there are three amendments remaining to be discussed? One deals with the question of carrying lights where animals are being driven along a road. Another is an amendment by Deputy Davin which is a transport matter rather than a traffic matter. The next is an amendment by Deputy Everett of which I accept the principle and propose to introduce an amendment to deal with the matter on Report. As we are going into Committee again on the Report Stage, in order that the business before the House to-morrow may be transacted and private Deputies' time may be given, I suggest that we should conclude the Committee Stage of this Bill by 10.30 and that these three amendments might be held over for the Report Stage. That would materially help business.
Is the Minister giving an undertaking that the principle of my amendment will be contained in the proposed Transport Bill?
As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has not ruled the amendment out of order at this Stage, I presume he will let it appear on the Paper for the Report Stage.
Is the Minister insisting on retaining the provision about having two lights on a car?
The Deputy can deal with that on the next Stage. I am taking it that the House agrees to the Minister's suggestion.
Section 147, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 148 stand part of the Bill."
I want to ask the Minister a question. Deputy Sir James Craig raised the point in regard to the use of headlights, particularly in well-lighted places. Are the headlights on stationary vehicles covered by this?
The Minister can make regulations "restricting or controlling the power, height, width, and range of the light projected by the lamps carried lit thereon in a public place or in any particular public place or class of public places and the angle of projection of the beams of such light and the temporary or partial obscuration of any such light and the extent and mode of effecting such obscuration." I suggest, as we will be going into Committee again on the Report Stage, that the discussion on the question of lights on drawing and drawn vehicles and so on, might all be postponed to the Report Stage without prejudice to any position that might be taken up.
Section agreed to.
Amendments 90, 91 and 92 not moved.
Sections 149 to 160, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
When is it proposed to take the next Stage?
Wednesday, 25th inst. I do not know whether we will be in a position to deal with the Report Stage on that day, but at any rate I would like to put it down for that day.
Will the Minister tell us when he proposes to circulate his amendments?
As early as possible. I should like to give Deputies a week to consider my amendments before the Report Stage. If I am not in a position to do that, then we will not be able to take the Report Stage on the 25th, but I should like to put it down provisionally for that date.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. to Friday, 13th November.