Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 28 Apr 1937

Vol. 66 No. 13

In Committee on Finance. - Vote 58—Transport and Meteorological Services

I move:

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £49,542 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1938, chun Seirbhísí Iompair agus Meteoraíochta.

That a sum not exceeding £49,542 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for Transport and Meteorological Services.

Most of the sub-heads of this Estimate are similar to those of other years, and I do not think it is necessary to say anything in relation to them. There is, however, as Deputies will have noted, a substantial increase in the total of the Estimate, due to two causes, firstly, increased expenditure under sub-head C upon civil airports, and, secondly, the institution of a new service, that is, meteorological services, for which provision is made in the sub-heads in D. So far as these two items are concerned, I should like to give the Dáil the following information. The provision made for civil airports includes the cost of the acquisition of land, both in connection with the Dublin airport and that which is being constructed upon the Shannon. Certain provision is made for salaries, wages and allowances. The operation of services at Collinstown and experimental flights from the Shannon, pending arrangements of a permanent nature for the management of the aerodromes may require the provision of aerodrome staff, and it is necessary, therefore, to make some provision for such expenditure. The Vote for the Office of Public Works and Buildings contains provision for the construction and equipment of the Shannon airport. There may, however, be items of equipment arising in connection with experimental transatlantic flights which cannot be regarded as related to a permanent airport, and provision is being made for that purpose also.

I do not know if Deputies would like me to give a more detailed statement concerning the meteorological services. These services are being provided for in the Estimate for the first time and it may be desirable that I should give some indication of what is involved, particularly as the cost of them is not inconsiderable. The Executive Council decided last year to establish a Saorstát meteorological service and, in consequence of that, an Order in Council was made, transferring to the Minister for Industry and Commerce from the Minister for Education functions in relation to meteorological services which were allocated to the Minister for Education by the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. The functions of the meteorological service may be summarised as follows: (1) the collection, study and publication of meteorological data and the investigation of meteorological and geophysical problems; (2) the supply of forecasts, statistical information and technical advice on the application of meteorological science in various fields, to industrial and public utility undertakings, to the Press, to the broadcasting authorities and to individual members of the public, and the supply of similar information to Government Departments and to the Defence Forces; (3) the provision of meteorological facilities for civil air lines operating to and from airports in the Saorstát or flying over Saorstát territory, and the supply of advice on the meteorological aspect of civil aviation problems generally; and (4) co-operation with other State meteorological services and meteorological organisations in other countries. A Director of Meteorological Services was appointed last December and, subsequently, negotiations were entered into with the British authorities with a view to the transfer to Saorstát control of the existing meteorological organisation within the Saorstát. That meteorological organisation was heretofore maintained by the Meteorological Office of the British Air Ministry. A substantial measure of agreement has been reached as to the basis for transfer and that transfer took effect as from 1st April this year. Provision is being made in this Estimate for the full cost of the existing service and for anticipated developments during the course of the year. The existing organisation consists of the Valentia Observatory and a network of five telegraphic reporting and 190 climatological and rainfall stations throughout the Saorstát.

Will all this bring fine weather?

I hope so. Provision has been made for the technical training of Saorstát personnel, but until this personnel is available, the operation of certain services will be undertaken by the Meterological Office of the British Air Ministry on an agency basis, provision for which is included. Until more experience is gained in the operation of the service, the amount of the Estimate must be largely conjectural. It may exceed, or it may be substantially less than, the amount provided for herein.

Sub-head (1) (b) makes provision for the renovation and extension of the equipment at Valentia Observatory, and in view both of the scientific value of a more extensive programme of work at Valentia and the international obligation which the Saorstát Meteorological Service has to maintain at least one first-class observatory in the area for which it is responsible, it is proposed to institute considerable development of the work of the Valentia Observatory. Provision is also made for the installation of the latest type of meteorological equipment at the meteorological offices to be established at the Shannon and Dublin airports. The other sub-heads of the Estimate, I think, call for no comment.

in connection with sub-head C, I notice that there is a sum of £56,800 down for acquisition of land for the civil airports. Could the Minister give the House some idea of where the land is being acquired in Limerick and Dublin, the number of acres involved, an idea of the quality, if possible, and what he had exactly to purchase—whether it was freehold land or land subject to Land Commission annuities or other charges which had to be redeemed? Even for two airports, £56,800 seems an enormous sum to spend on the necessary land.

The area of land being purchased on the Shannon is 700 acres and in Dublin practically 500 acres. In the circumstances, I do not think that the provision for that purpose is excessive. In any event, the Deputy can be certain that we paid the lowest sum at which we could get the land.

It must be very valuable land when you paid £56,800 even for 1,100 acres.

I do not know whether I can properly relate what I have to say on transport to this Vote.

The title of the Vote under consideration and of the subsequent Vote misled me, and I shall allow the Deputy to raise the matter which he wishes to raise.

I merely want to say a few words regarding the operation of two Acts which we passed some time ago—the Road Transport Act and the Road Traffic Act. I should like to know how the administration of these Acts is working out. It is well we should know, not alone the benefits conferred by the Acts which we pass, but also the discomforts involved by those Acts. As a countryman, I view the operation of these Acts from the rural standpoint. Take the question of transport. It has now passed from private enterprise to restricted enterprise, and we find that increasing difficulties arise from the point of view of agriculture.

The constituency which I represent consists mainly of small farmers who cannot afford to keep a lorry on the road. The transport of their produce and cattle has now become an acute question because of the state of the roads. In the earlier days we feel we got a better service. Under private enterprise, we were not restricted so much to the middle of the day. A considerable amount of labour was conserved, owing to the fact that the vehicles could have loads both ways. Under the Transport Act, we find that transport is costing more and that we are not getting as good service as formerly. This matter has been discussed with me by a number of people and, whether it is that the terms of the Act are being too rigidly interpreted or not, some remarkable absurdities have arisen. For instance, in the case of a lorry which has got a crate for drawing milk to the creameries, exception is taken if the owner of that lorry brings a bag of meal home for his own use or, as an "obligement" for his neighbour's use. The owner of that lorry has not constant work, especially in the winter time, and he has to adopt the rôle of trader in order to keep the lorry employed.

Turning to the traffic side, great complaints are being made that the road services are not as good as they were before the present people took them over. Whether it is that they are just measuring the service by the amount of traffic they get and curtailing it to that amount, I do not know, but a number of people feel that they are not being as well served as they were before the change-over. These are small points, but I should like the Minister to give them attention. In areas remote from the large towns, it is very important that you should have a service which you can call upon at any hour of the day or night, so that if people want to attend fairs or obtain transport facilities, they can avail of that service. Some people assert that the former owners had more enterprise than the present owners. They did not go in so much for restricting the hours and they gave an unlimited service, which the people feel they are not getting now. If, in the administration of these Acts, anything could be done to meet that situation, we should be grateful.

It is, undoubtedly, true that the result of the Road Transport Act, 1933, was an increase in the cost of public transport. It would not be altogether incorrect to say that the Act was designed to make that possible. Prior to the enactment of that measure, during the period in which there was unrestricted competition and in which a great surplus of facilities was available, transport was, undoubtedly, being sold at much less than its economic cost. A very large number of the smaller firms engaged in it were, in fact, losing money on it and, as the Deputy well remembers, even the very largest concerns, such as railway companies, were brought into a very precarious position because of that situation. They have not fully recovered—if they have recovered at all —from the financial consequences of that period. There is now, of course, upon these railway companies the obligation to provide adequate transport facilities in every area, and if any evidence is adduced to me to show that they are not doing so, there is on me the obligation to take the matter up with them and have it rectified. I shall be glad to receive any genuine complaints that can be made on that score. Taking home a sack of flour in the lorry to oblige a neighbour is often a polite way of carrying merchandise for reward without a licence. That device is not infrequently resorted to by people who were, in fact, compensated—and compensated at a fairly high rate—by the railway company to get out of business. They continue to carry the sack for the neighbour in the way the Deputy described. There is no penalty for carrying merchandise other than for reward, but anybody who carries merchandise for reward without a licence commits an offence and must be prosecuted unless the Act is to be a dead letter, which is inconceivable at this stage, when there has been substantial expenditure by railway companies in compensation to acquired licensees.

Vote put and agreed to.