Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 4 May 1932

Vol. 41 No. 10

Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway (Abandonment) Bill, 1932—Second Stage.

I move the Second Reading of this Bill. This Bill was introduced in the last Dáil, but owing to the Dissolution of the Dáil it has to be introduced again. The Bill was prepared by the late Government, and its purpose is to provide for the abandonment of the Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway and to make provision for matters consequential.

I will just briefly outline the circumstances under which the Bill comes to be introduced. The Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway was constructed under the terms of the Public Companies (Ireland) Act, 1883, with a capital of £97,070. Of this capital an amount of £40,000, bearing interest at 5 per cent. per annum, is guaranteed in perpetuity by certain baronies in County Dublin and County Wicklow under the provisions of the Act, the balance ranking as ordinary shares upon which no dividend has been paid since the construction of the line. These unguaranteed shares are valueless. The baronies, in addition to the liability for the guaranteed dividend, are also required to make good any losses in working. The guaranteeing baronies are recouped by the Government a sum amounting to one-half of the sums paid by them in respect of the guaranteed dividend up to a maximum of 2 per cent. per annum on the guaranteed capital. The maximum liability of the Government amounts to £800 per annum, and has been required to be paid in full for many years. This liability continues only so long as the Tramway is maintained in working order and carries traffic.

The guaranteeing areas are also entitled under Section 58 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, to a repayment from the Local Taxation Account of one-half of the amount by which the rate struck in respect of the guarantee (for dividend and losses in working) exceeds 6d. in the £ in any year. The loss on the working and the guaranteed dividend for the past three years has amounted approximately to £7,000 per annum.

Under Section 40 of the Order in Council the line was taken over by the Country Councils of Dublin and Wicklow in the year 1916, and was first managed by the County Surveyor of County Dublin and latterly by a Committee of Management. The line has long since outlived its usefulness. Some time ago the Committee of Management were interviewed, when it was pointed out that the question of the closing down of the tramway was a matter for urgent consideration. The Committee of Management expressed the opinion that the service and facilities which the line affords are not sufficient to justify the charge which their continuance now imposes on the ratepayers and on the State.

As a result of negotiations conducted between the Committee of Management and the directors of the Tramway Company, an offer was made to redeem the £10 guaranteed shares for a payment of £5 10s. per share. As already stated, there are 4,000 guaranteed shares of £10 each. The directors circularised the shareholders, with the following result: There were proxies and acceptances received agreeing to the offer of £5 10s. per share in the case of 3,417 shares; the directors were unable to trace the owners in the case of 17 shares; in the case of seven shares the owners were dead and the estates were not yet administered. In the case of 353 shares the four owners dissented from the arrangement, and in the case of 206 shares the owners did not reply.

I am advised that in the special circumstances of this case the Government are justified in promoting legislation implementing the redemption of the guaranteed shares at the price of £5 10s. and enforcing this settlement on the few dissenting shareholders.

It is proposed that a loan of £22,000 shall be made by the Commissioners of Public Works for a period of 20 years bearing interest at the rate of 5¾ per cent. per annum for the redemption of the guaranteed shares. As the Local Taxation Account has contributed in the past an average of £1,900 per annum, and as this amount is likely to be increased if the line is kept open, it has been further agreed that that account shall contribute yearly this sum as maxima and that the remainder shall be borne by the guaranteeing areas. The Government contribution of £800 per annum towards the guaranteed dividend will cease on the closing of the line.

The repayment of the loan, minus the contribution from the Local Taxation Account, works out that, so far as County Wicklow is concerned the contribution from the latter will meet the instalments of principal and interest due by the guaranteeing areas in that County and they will therefore have to pay nothing.

In the case of Dublin, up to the eighth year from the closing of the line they will bear an amount decreasing from £465 in the first year to £72 5s. 0d. in the eighth year. Thereafter the payment from the Local Taxation Account will decrease until in the twentieth year the total amount paid by that account will be £1,163 5s. 0d. after which no further payment will be made.

The Committee of Management have agreed to compensate the officers and servants of the Company who shall lose their position on similar terms to those granted to redundant employees of the railway companies amalgamated under the Railways Act, 1924, and this liability is to be met by a rate on the counties-at-large, excluding the urban areas.

The payments to the guaranteed shareholders will be made by the Committee of Management, who will also be empowered to realise the assets of the undertaking and distribute it in the ratio of two-thirds to County Dublin and one-third to County Wicklow.

Owing to the extension of the City of Dublin, part of the guaranteeing area formerly entirely in the County of Dublin is now within the City boundary, and the Bill deals with the necessary allocation of the assets and liabilities between the two areas. It is proposed that for the purpose of disposing of the assets and the settlement of the compensation to the employees of the Tramway, the Committee of Management shall be increased by three additional members representative of the Dublin Corporation.

These are the main points arising out of the Bill except that it is proposed that the "appointed day" on which the guarantee shall cease and the line be closed shall be the 1st July, 1932. Consequently, it is necessary that the Bill should be law before that.

I am glad that the Minister has made provision in the Bill for compensating the employees who will lose their employment through the closing of the line. I would like to ask the Minister that when considering the basis of compensation for the employees he will see that they are treated on the basis of whole-time employment. The reason why I make that appeal is that for some time past the employees have been on short-time. That is no fault of theirs. I would ask the Minister to consider that point sympathetically and arrange that the employees' compensation would be taken as on a whole-time basis.

That is my reading of the terms of the section relating to compensation. I will have the point looked into.

Is there any change in this Bill from what was previously projected?

Yes, there is one slight change relating to the terms of compensation.

I would like to hear the Minister on that.

It is a consequence of the change of Government. One of the provisions of the Second Schedule was that if the service of an employee had been interrupted in consequence of service in any of the military forces of the First of Second Dáil or in the British Army or Navy, or in the National Army, that interruption of the service would not count against him. The Bill is designed also to include service in either of the forces engaged in the Civil War, or interned during that period. In other words, every person whose service was interrupted because of service with the British, with the military forces in the First or Second Dáil, or on both sides during the Civil War, that that interruption will not count against him when compensation is being allocated.

Is there any reason why in the phraseology the National Army should be set out as such, or why those who were serving in the forces of the State should be reduced to the same terminology as those who were opposing the State in arms?

It has been done.

It has been done simply as a matter of convenience.

This is what is termed a matter of convenience. There is a State established here, and certain people go out in arms against it in circumstances which led the President to describe it as a forlorn hope. What was called commandeering, but what would ordinarily be called looting, and matters of that sort, characterised that forlorn hope. The people who fought against the State on that occasion are now going to be put on an equality, so far as nomenclature is concerned, with the people who fought on behalf of the country, and we are told that is only a matter of convenience. How far is this principle going to extend? Is there notice going to be given through this measure that this must be taken as a precedent? If, for instance, there is a section of the community that does not like what the present Minister for Industry and Commerce is now doing in his capacity as a Minister, and that section rises against him, is he in advance guaranteeing the payment of any debts that they may incur in their fight against the State that is under his control? Where is the line to be drawn? What is to count as an opposing force? Were the people who were fighting as an opposing force, the people who opposed the National Army, under control?

Were all the forces of the National Army under control?

They were definitely.

If the Deputy wants a debate on that matter we are quite prepared to go into it.

There was, at any rate, a sense of responsibility. There were responsible people to whom complaints could be brought.

I want to question that too.

There was a sense of responsibility that was not very evident amongst the opposing forces.

If the Deputy wants to open this matter we are quite prepared to deal with it.

I want to see to what point the principle the Minister has outlined is going to extend. It was very far from frank on the part of the Minister to ask yesterday if he could get this Bill through to-day. He has now made an announcement of the greatest importance. Speaking with regard to compensation provisions, he said that the provisions outlined in this Bill were similar to those which were in the Railways Act.

They are going into the Railways Act and similar provisions will go into any Act that goes through my Department.

Hear, hear!

That may be something to be applauded, but the lack of frankness in the Minister's statement is what I am criticising at the moment. The Minister now tells us that this proposal may go into any future Act. He said, first of all, that he was putting in provisions similar to what were in the Railways Act. They are not similar. We want to know where we are going. This is the first occasion on which this principle has shown itself. We have to know where it leads. What is the discrimination in the case of forces that are just barely restrained from being in arms against the present Government and those who were actually in arms against the people who carried on the first Government of the country after the Treaty?

I was one of them.

What is the distinction? That the Minister was one of them? If there is another rebellion against the Government of which the Minister is a member——

Does the Deputy seriously expect me to accept his description of those people, amongst whom I was included, as looters and blackguards and the rest of it?

Do not put my words too far. I have said that that particular type of thing marked some of the operations, and it did.

On both sides.

If there is any wrong act to be brought against the National forces it can be brought by way of a concrete case.

That applies both ways, too.

Most of the things criticised here were taken up in a Departmental way and were brought to the test of accuracy and fact. It was a matter of were they, or were they not, true. We have to have this thing much more clearly decided than it has been to-day. There was a vast amount of money taken from banks by people who were acting under the present Minister for Industry and Commerce.

And by people who were under the previous Government, and the only people who were charged with and convicted of bank robbery were people under the control of the last Government.

Because they came under the law. After the Treaty was signed there was a vast amount of money taken from banks. Has there been any audit in connection with that money? Is there any definite statement in relation to it going to be submitted to this House? If we are going to regard people's temporary disappearance on such service as ranking as employment for the purpose of compensation, we have to know what they were doing in that period of absence. We have to have the whole thing opened up. There has to be an audit. What has happened to the various items of property seized—the money as well as the goods seized? All that has to be brought under some sort of control.

Do not let it be sufficient to say to those people "you were away on something. What it was we do not know, but you are going to have your period of absence counted for the purposes of compensation as if you had been serving in the forces of the State." We have to know where the analogy begins and ends. Let us say that people go out in arms against the present Government. We have the precedent now established that the new Government has to pay those who were out in rebellion against it. That is what it means.

Not at all.

Mr. Boland

Are we now entitled to debate whether the Republican Government or the Provisional Government was the Government of the time? That appears to be the question the Minister is raising. If that is the case, then this Bill can hardly go through to-day. It may probably last until Christmas.

The Deputy was in order in raising the point as to the significance of including certain men in regulations under this Bill. I suggest that having raised that matter the Deputy would leave the full discussion of it to the debate on the Vote for the Minister's Department later on.

Perhaps it can be raised on the Third Stage?

I make that suggestion so that the agreement arrived at here to-day may be carried out.

Mr. Boland

What about the other point raised? There was a question as to whether the Republic which was maintained at that period was the Government instead of the Provisional Government. That matter was raised by Deputy McGilligan. Is that relevant to a debate on this Bill? If it is, we can all take part in it.

Decidedly it is not.

May I suggest that it is scarcely appropriate on this Bill to go back on all these matters to which reference has been made?

The Deputy should make that representation to his own Front Bench.

The question I have raised is why is it necessary to reduce the National Army, which the Minister has mentioned—to reduce it in terms, in a piece of legislation here, to the level of those who were opposing the State in arms?

We exalted them. We can discuss this matter on the Committee Stage if Deputies wish to discuss it. It is the policy of this Government not to discriminate against either of the parties who took part in that deplorable civil war. I would like to make it clear if we are going to have a discussion as to who was right and who was wrong in that period that we will maintain our attitude very strongly—concessions must be made on one side as well as the other. We are not going to accept the description of one of the forces on the civil war side—the description given by Deputy McGilligan. I am in agreement with Deputy Minch that it is of no value to us to be going back over the things of that period. It is the policy of this Government to prevent such discrimination arising now, and to give to one side exactly the same facilities as are given to the other; to take the line that it is not for us to judge, and to put one section in an exalted position as against the other section. We all have different views as to which section should be exalted. There is no reason why we should debate it now providing we do not allow prejudices that we may have carried over from that period to influence our legislation this year.

I do not want to enter into a discussion on the point the Minister raised, but I want to say this, that we will stand here for nothing enshrined in legislation that will suggest that the armed forces acting under the Provisional Government, or under the Dáil that followed, were not serving as the Army of the Government set up here by the majority will of the people. The Minister may discuss whether an army such as that was in the right or in the wrong from its own particular standpoint. I suggest that he ought not to enshrine anything in any legislation he is bringing in that would explicitly or implicitly suggest that the National Army was not a force organised by a Parliament set up here by the majority will of the people.

We will stand for nothing enshrined in legislation which will imply that the forces with which I served at that time were not fully justified in the action that they took. The two points of view have been clearly stated and we can settle the matter in the Division Lobby.

Would the Minister be good enough to explain exactly what is the force of sub-section 3 of Section 12. Does it mean a special rate for parts of the guaranteeing area?

I am not quite clear why the Deputy picked out that sub-section. The intention is that payments in the first instance will be made by the Dublin Co. Council, and that it will be entitled to secure from the Dublin Corporation that proportion of these payments which the Corporation is legitimately required to meet, in view of the fact that certain areas of the county against which these charges can be brought are now in the Dublin municipal area, whereas formerly they were in the county.

Does not the sub-section indicate the way the Dublin Council is to get the money to make that recoupment? Does that mean the levying of a special rate on those particular parts of the new city, which were previously in the country?

I do not think that is so. That certainly is not the intention.

That is not the intention?

I am not quite clear on that point.

Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to examine the matter. I do not want to press him for an answer now, but I would be glad to know with a view to putting in an amendment.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 11th May.