Committee on Finance. - Transport (No. 2) Bill, 1959—Committee and Final Stages.

SECTION 1.

I move amendment No. 1:

In subsection (3), line 25, to delete "seven" and substitute "thirty".

This matter has been fully discussed on the Second Reading of the Bill and because of the general feeling of the House, both on the Minister's side and on this side, I think the Minister should accept this amendment. As I pointed out yesterday, anybody who had an ordinary lorry with a merchandise licence, up to this, came within the weight of the merchandise licence. Since the Financial Resolution moved by the Minister for Local Government, he has now to take in additions such as creels, horse boxes, or any other contrivance, as part of the weight. These people were within the law. The Financial Resolution puts them outside the law and the Minister for Local Government promised that the Minister for Transport and Power would come in here and rectify the matter by this Bill. I think the Minister and the officials of his Department will agree that seven cwt. is a very small weight for one of these containers. As a matter of fact, they would want to be built on a frame or have cardboard sides to come within the weight. I do not think the Minister or anybody else would like to see these flimsy contraptions on lorries. If a lorry were going around a bend, the weight of the animals in the back might press out and burst the sides. It would be better to have the opportunity of putting up substantial creels, or horse boxes as the case may be, on the lorry. From people I have been speaking to, and from my own experience, I know that 30 cwt. would be much nearer the required increase than seven cwt.

Yesterday the Minister assured us that cases of hardship would be treated individually. I do not think it is right that the Minister should put this burden on himself. There are going to be 200 or 300 cases in the year and they will have to be dealt with separately. He would be much better off if he gave a global increase, an increase not for the ordinary lorry weight but to allow the ordinary containers which are used in the course of carrying various types of goods, to be covered. I do not think it is fair that all these cases should be dealt with separately.

We are bringing in a Bill and the proper thing would be to make provision for what is actually necessary for these people. As I said, they have been within the law all the time and have been certified by the inspecting Guard at Ballsbridge and other places. They have been regarded as being within the law and now the Financial Resolution has put them outside it.

As the Minister knows most people are anxious to keep within the law. It may have been different before, but now people are law-abiding and want to obey the law and they want to be put in a position where they can obey it. I therefore ask the Minister, as he was asked yesterday on all sides of the House, to extend the weight to 30 cwt. rather than seven.

I ask the Minister to agree to this amendment. If he did so he would be doing a good day's work for himself and for the officers of his Department by not cluttering up the Department with claims over the next month. The time is very short before the next licensing period. If the Minister changes this from seven to 30 cwt. these people could go in and license their lorries in the normal way. They can go in with a clear conscience and know that they will be within the law all the time.

I should say first of all, in connection with the amendment that I am not acting on the basis that these people have been within the law if they did not weigh their attachments. The position is that licensed hauliers have been very strongly represented in an association for many years. There have been substantial increases in weight allotted to them over two or three important periods. I should say that when they met the Minister for Industry and Commerce, it was made clear beyond all doubt that when they were granted weight increases, these were based on the definition of the weight of the then existing lorries, and excluding the attachments. These people have been in a special position in that, whatever else other private carriers may have thought, it has been impressed upon them beyond all doubt that they had to weigh their lorries with the attachments on them. There is no question that they could have been innocent in the matter. They knew the position and they were organised, as I said, in an association with a competent secretary.

They have been given very considerable increases of weight since 1933. For example if you take the one ton, 15 cwt. lorry as it was in 1933, the allowance has now gone up to two tons 15 cwt., an increase of 20 cwts. If the lorry has a diesel engine which a great many have, there is an addition of five cwts. An allowance for carrying cattle of seven cwts. is granted to carriers who are licensed to carry cattle, so that the total increase since 1933 in such cases was 32 cwts. or almost 100 per cent. Again take the case of the vehicle weighing 2 tons 10 cwt. in 1933. The weight now permitted is 3 tons 15 cwts., an increase of 25 cwt. If you add the five cwt. diesel allowance and the seven cwt. addition in the Bill, the total weight increase since 1933 is over 70 per cent. If the owner installed tipping gear, the total has doubled. If you take the larger lorry, 3 tons 3 cwts. to 4 tons 16 cwt., they are now increased to 4 tons basic, meaning five tons. I have already mentioned the 33 per cent. increase and assuming only the diesel engines plus the seven cwts. proposed in this Bill, the increase is 27 per cent. That is a very substantial increase.

I am well aware that the licensed hauliers naturally have striven to improve their position but there is no question that although the 1933 Act and the 1944 Act were clearly intended to limit the extent of licensed carrier operations in order to preserve the position of C.I.E., the net receipts from licensed carrier operations increased, for example, by 32 per cent. in the period 1953 to 1956, according to the Statistical Abstract. I imagine we can presume that the net receipts were not overstated by the licensed hauliers concerned when they made their returns and they have admitted a genuine increase in net receipts of 32 per cent. since 1953 thus revealing that they have been able to progress fairly well.

If we were to accept Deputy Crotty's amendment, the total increase of carrying space for the whole of the licensed hauliers would be enormous and would represent a tremendous addition to the present carrying capacity. As I have already indicated, I do not know what position will be revealed when applications are made under the hardship section, Section 115 of the 1944 Act. I am very much in the dark about it. All I can say is that the applications will be considered, and deserving cases of hardship will be sympathetically examined. It would be wrong for me to say I am going to protect the interests of people who did deliberately evade the law because in relation to licensed hauliers, it certainly was made evident beyond yea or may that they were intended to add to the weight of their lorries the weight of any attachments. There can be no doubt about that. Of all the groups in the carrying trade they were told most often. Indeed they have been coming to defend their interests, year after year, claiming that if they did not get increased weight allowances, they would be thrown off the road.

There was a general all-round increase for lorries of over four tons of 22½ per cent., and of 45 per cent. for lorries under four tons, excluding the additions I have mentioned such as the five cwts. for the diesel engine and the ten cwts. for the permanent fixed tipping gear and the allowance of seven cwts. for creels given to 190 persons who had not already been covered by the 1935 Act.

The Minister overlooks the fact, when he speaks of the increased takings of licensed hauliers between 1953 and 1956, that that is the very object for which the cattle marts were begun to be built and the licensed hauliers were fulfilling an essential function transporting cattle to and from these marts which did not exist until the marts were established.

Deputy Crotty's amendment is infinitely preferable to the situation we had presented to the House yesterday. I deliberately choose the moderate word "disingenuous" and I charge the Minister with disingenuousness. He is either deceiving Deputy O'Malley or deceiving the House because I understood Deputy O'Malley, when he intervened in the debate yesterday, to say he understood that little regard needed to be paid to the figure of seven cwt. in this Bill, because the Minister had discretion under a section of the 1944 Act which he proposed to use in such a way as to leave the licensed haulier at present operating substantially in possession of the same amenities as he now enjoys. Is that not so?

That is what I hope.

That is what he hoped. Deputy O'Malley expressed that pretty clearly. As I understood the Minister when he was replying on Second Stage, he seemed to adopt Deputy O'Malley's interpretation and said that really nobody had anything to fear under this Bill.

Now, Deputy Crotty puts down a somewhat more restrictive amendment than the result of what the Minister appeared to undertake to do would be, and the Minister says he is quite unable to accept it because the licensed hauliers have got all they are entitled to and that, of course, power still remains to deal with cases of exceptional hardship. In the Minister's judgment, they have had a very liberal expansion of their carrying capacity provided heretofore, and he does not see, over and above the seven cwt. provided in this Bill, there should be any general further expansion because if there were, he said, their carrying capacity would be expanded out of all knowledge.

One cannot reconcile the undertaking the Minister appeared to give to Deputy O'Malley yesterday that the 1944 Act was to be used liberally to meet the carriers with his statement to-day that he would not give a general increase of 30 cwts. in lieu of the seven cwts. increase in the carrying capacity of the licensed haulier fleet. That would defeat the original idea of this legislation which was to give C.I.E. a quasi-monopoly in merchandise road haulage. The House is at least entitled to expect from the Minister an honest frank statement of what the likely consequences of the Bill, without the amendment, are likely to be. How many cases of hardship does he expect to deal with in the immediate future?

It is very hard to say. The licensed hauliers have been with the Department and they mentioned the furniture carriers and certain beet hauliers and certain people with very large cattle trucks. They did not refer to any categories beyond these three groups. If I could give the Deputy the information, I should gladly do so.

Is it not very difficult to legislate if we have not the faintest notion what we are legislating about? If I am given to understand the Minister proposes to use his discretionary powers under the 1944 Act to allow all persons carrying livestock to use their customary cribs and creels; all persons carrying furniture to use their customary equipment; all persons carrying beet to use their customary equipment without reference to it—if you have livestock, furniture and beet, will the Minister kindly tell me what category of merchandise will not qualify for the exemption in the 1944 Act?

I did not say that all carriers who are making use of their lorries to carry cattle would require hardship extensions. I did not say that they would all get a liberal increase because I do not know the position. There are a great many cattle lorries in the country which have creels which weigh about seven cwts. Some of these people will already have got an increase under the 1935 Act because they carry cattle and they are getting another seven cwts. on top of that. Others who did not adopt this course will get seven cwts.

There may be a number of other licensed carriers who have a heavier type of creel. Of those licensed carriers, there may be a very high proportion who kept within the law and who may have sold four lorries and purchased three lorries instead. Their total weight then comes within their basic limit. They may have adopted some other course to keep within the law. We are simply unaware of the position.

One characteristic of the law is the fact that if a man has, say, three lorries and he gets three times seven cwts., he may apply, if possible, the whole of the 21 cwts. to one lorry. He may be a licensed carrier with two lorries that carry cattle and one which does not. He may be able to satisfy his own position if he has, in fact, not understood the law as it is. There are so many complications that it would be very hard to frame a standardised pattern of legislation to cover all the possible variations that may arise.

I said to Deputy Dillon last night that if, as the pattern unfolds, there appear to be so many anomalies that my discretionary power would be likely to cause a feeling of disquiet in the public mind, I might have to come back to the Dáil, after consulting the Government, to propose some legislation as a remedy. The Deputy can be assured that we want to preserve the fine tradition established in the Department. The discretionary power used in the past was fair and equitable and caused amazingly little comment or controversy in the Dáil.

The Minister says that but the Minister will not forget that it was in the past three weeks we were told in this House that eight additional merchandise licences were issued in the Island of Achill consequent on a meeting summoned by Deputy Doherty and Deputy Calleary, the Fianna Fáil T.D.s for North Mayo. That may seem to him to be a very satisfactory exercise of his discretionary powers but to us it seems to be quite an amazing exercise of his discretionary powers, the details of which were not revealed until Deputy Doherty sprang to his feet to claim credit for the remarkable achievement that he and Deputy Calleary had managed to pull this off.

On a point of order, I can tell Deputy Dillon that I never attended any meeting in Achill at which those representations were made.

I accept that at once but I suggest that the Deputy should address himself to his colleague, Deputy Doherty, because Deputy Doherty stated in my presence that he and Deputy Calleary attended a meeting in Achill and that, as a result of this general meeting, representations were made to the Minister as a result of which eight licences were issued. Deputy Lindsay said he was not at any such meeting and Deputy Doherty said he was not asked because there was nobody on Achill who was not a Fianna Fáil man.

I think the Deputy is making a mistake. What Deputy Doherty said was that there was a public meeting at Achill but neither Deputy Doherty nor I ever attended at a public meeting. I am certain of that. I am pledging my word here now that I never attended a public meeting in Achill at which this matter arose.

Deputy Doherty said so.

I do not mind what he said.

I accept the fact that Deputy Calleary was not present but I would urge him to get in touch with his colleague, Deputy Doherty, and find out what happened. Perhaps it was the ghosts of the two Deputies that were there and that they were mistaken, or maybe it was that they were so much there in spirit that they were there as manifestations while physically elsewhere, though I understand that is a saintly attribute which I would not associate with Deputy Calleary or Deputy Doherty whom I regard as extremely pragmatic politicians.

Let the Deputy not quarrel with me. I know nothing of what transpired in Achill. I was merely accepting Deputy Doherty as the authority who pledged his word, as Deputy O'Malley did to me in another context yesterday. Deputy Doherty pledged his word of honour that he was present in Achill and that his colleague was with him. I accepted the word of Deputy O'Malley at once that he had no prior consultation with the Minister for Health. I always accept the word of honour of any Deputy in this House. Some people will quarrel with my discretion in doing so. I would advise Deputy Calleary to take up the matter with Deputy Doherty. I depend only on the words spoken by him in this House.

Could the Minister tell us—he may have had an opportunity of looking into it—how many times per year has this discretionary power been used since the Minister got it in 1944 for the increase of the authorised weight?

It is very hard to say that.

Approximately? Would it have been 10, 20 or 200 times a year?

It would be very few times for lorries.

We have got our own experience. We know perfectly well in our own constituencies that to get a new merchandise licence or a variation of the existing one has been for many years virtually impossible. To listen to Deputy O'Malley talking, one would imagine that this power under the 1944 Act resolved everybody's difficulty and would be freely used. Surely the only way you can test that is to find out what happened during the past 15 years since power was conferred on the Minister? The Minister says it was used very infrequently—only a few times per year. Has the Minister or Deputy O'Malley any reason to believe that the power that has been used most infrequently in the past will be used frequently in the future? If it is, ought we not accept Deputy Crotty's amendment?

The Minister referred to people who had licences for three or four lorries. Could the Minister give the number of licensees with only one lorry, two lorries, three lorries, four lorries and so on? The Minister must have that figure.

I do not think we have the figures in detail but the great majority of them have only one lorry.

Exactly. The Minister's argument made a few minutes ago has no basis in fact.

It applied only to certain cases.

Is that not the admission?

I should like to answer Deputy Dillon on the question of Achill. It is very important, for the sake of the traditionally fair application of the Transport Act legislation, that the Deputy should know how the matter arose in Achill.

As I have already indicated, Achill was an area where the Transport Acts did not operate because C.I.E. were not interested. There were literally no licensed carriers. One person applied and was granted a licence. The rest of the people in the island realised that here was an area to which the Transport Acts would apply, under the section of the Act which enabled the Minister to grant licences where the public transport was inadequate.

A public meeting was held at which this matter was discussed. In between 4th February, after the public meeting, and 10th September, 1959, there were 17 applications for new merchandise licences. The then Minister, through his Parliamentary Secretary, made what I think was the only decision he could make in the circumstances. He decided to grant a licence to all those persons who had applied before 20th April, 1959. There were the months of February and March and up to 20th April during which time everything was known about this in the island. The meeting was absolutely public. It would not have mattered whether only Fianna Fáil Deputies were present and no other Deputy; it would not have mattered if only an Opposition Deputy was present and no Fianna Fáil Deputy. The applications were received in a stream. The Parliamentary Secretary asked himself what he should do in the unusual case where a number of people in an area applied for a merchandise licence. He then decided to grant licences to all those persons whose applications were received before the date on which he decided to grant the licences. It was completely above-board.

No doubt the Minister has heard what Deputy Doherty had to say?

I think Deputy Dillon misinterpreted what Deputy Doherty said.

I am quite happy about the position.

I am sure the Deputy is. He is meant to be.

I am quite happy about the position in Achill, if it has any relevance to this matter. If C.I.E. were interested, no licences would be given. Whatever was done was done by way of open meeting. If Deputy Dillon or any one of his colleagues were Minister, I am sure I should be just as happy about the position in this case. All those who applied for licences did not get them but far too many licences were probably issued. I think the same thing would have been done by any Government and the decision is fair and reasonable under the circumstances.

It is undesirable that the scope of discretionary power should be too wide. I asked the Minister on the Second Stage to indicate how the figure of seven cwts. was regarded as the correct extra unladen weight to allow in this instance. Unfortunately, I was not able to remain in the House when the Minister was replying and I do not know what he said.

He said it was the usual weight of the creel.

Even allowing for adjustments permitted as a result of legislation under this heading in recent years, everybody knows that the general pattern of commercial trucks has changed gradually in recent years. Those of us who deal with that business know the finer points. We have to get acquainted with them in an effort to conduct our business on a competitive basis. The general tendency is to have a heavier type of truck. Transport nowadays is subject to keen competition, whether operated by road, rail or sea. Apart altogether from diesel engines, and minor desirable improvements, there are changes in the chassis and attachments of vehicles.

I have gone to quite a lot of trouble to assess a reasonable weight and it is very much in excess of seven cwts. Deputy Crotty's amendment which seeks to increase the weight to 30 cwts., is on the high side. The Minister might consider increasing the limit of seven cwts. to 14 cwts., which is a more realistic figure. In cases of special vehicles of container traffic type particularly, it might be rather difficult to legislate at this stage on the basis of a standard pattern of unladen weight. Section 116 might be left open to deal with those cases. A number of these will be isolated but they should not be very many.

The majority of licensed hauliers use only one truck. The Minister may say that if a haulier operates two or three trucks, the aggregate could be passed on to one but that would be of no avail because nobody with two or three trucks would consider that a reasonable proposition. At one stage of our transport history, I think there was an allowance of five cwts. unladen weight. If that figure at that time was deemed to be realistic I submit that changes in the intervening period, since the time the original weight was increased, should be taken into consideration.

Anybody with an elementary knowledge of transport development knows that the suggested figure of seven cwts. is little better than nothing. It will involve Parliament and the law in a considerable amount of difficulty. I do not blame ordinary private operators with merchandise licences for seeking to preserve the facilities which those licences gave them. When licences were originally given to the principal transport companies, they were on a fixed pattern of unladen weight. Since then, as far as I know, these companies have been able to increase the unladen weight of their lorries without reference to the regulations. Take the case of a private operator who, under the 1933 Act, had a two-ton unladen weight. He got a merchandise licence and possibly he has had that increased, if he has been lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the intervening legislation, to two tons five cwts., or two tons 10 cwts.

At the original date, a number of licences were given on a fixed pattern of unladen weight to the public transport companies. It is quite possible that most, if not all, of these licences are today being operated in respect of an unladen weight of three times the figure originally attached to them. Undoubtedly, there is preference, and I think almost an undue preference, being given to public transport companies. We must admit that they are common carriers and have been such up to recently. I think that description has been amended last year in so far as public transport obligations were concerned. Up to then, as far as road freight is concerned, they were common carriers and more or less still are. It is reasonable to expect they should get some concession beyond that given to the ordinary operator. The concessions accorded to them have been very much above what I think are reasonable or equitable.

The private operator has had his nose to the grindstone all along so far as difficulty in relation to the unladen weight of his vehicle is concerned. Every time he has to weigh it in, he is scared to death. Whenever there is a new truck and whenever they are called upon to weigh it in, they merely avoid a very unpleasant situation of finding their vehicle is in excess of allowed weight by a number of lbs., quarter weights, and so on. In trying to bring this matter into line with modern conditions we must do so at a figure that is reasonable. At the same time we must prevail on the people to operate strictly within the law. The number of cases the Minister should deal with under Section 116 of the 1944 Act should be very few. I would much prefer if I needed an extension of the unladen weight to be entitled to act according to the law rather than to have to apply under Section 116 to this Minister or to any Minister for Transport and Power.

I think the general attitude of the Minister's Department would be that except a case was made beyond yea or nay it would not be allowed. The unfortunate applicant is in the position of having to place himself at the mercy of the Department and the Minister. Furthermore it takes a considerable time and very often does not come through without very objectionable inquiries being made. I suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider this limit of unladen weight and bring it up to the figure I suggest. That would be better in the long run and it would not in any way affect the public transport companies who operate merchandise licences.

I do not agree with Deputy Crotty's amendment which is completely unrealistic. If the Minister were to agree to give a global increase of 30 cwts. to every licensed haulier without sufficient knowledge of the increased tonnage involved, which I believe would be fantastic, it would hit C.I.E., and I for one like other Deputies on every side of the House am concerned about the prospects of C.I.E. and their future.

However, if C.I.E. were not there at all, I must say that Deputy Crotty and Deputy Dillon, with all due respect, have not grasped that as things stand there must be a very large percentage of hauliers who do not merit any increase in weight whatever. Much of the trouble has been brought on the Minister's head by himself in mentioning seven cwts., in mentioning any figure. His argument, if I have followed it correctly, is this: "We shall give seven cwts. because seven cwts. would be about the weight of a creel." The corollary from that line of argument is that there must have been people breaking the law who did not include the creel when it was weighed. The Minister could not answer that point. If he did not have to give them this sop of seven cwts. — and I am only using the Minister's own words—then he could assume that the creel was weighed with the unladen weight of the lorry for taxation purposes in the past.

I also disagree with Deputy Moloney's suggestion in mentioning 14 cwts. Neither that suggestion nor Deputy Crotty's amendment is realistic. If the Minister insists and continues to rely on Section 114 of the 1944 Act and to use his discretionary powers as to whether hardship exists or not, if I were he, I would not put in the seven cwts. at all. I would let each applicant prove his case. If you accept Deputy Moloney's suggestion of 14 cwts. you are back to where you started. You are definitely giving an increased tonnage on the merchandise licence which may not be required at all. I would prefer to allow each person to make application under Section 114 of the 1944 Act and let his case be decided on its merits. The Minister said he would come back to this House if he came across any anomalies. Let him be sure he will be coming back to the House and before very long with improved legislation.

I should also like to draw attention to Section 114 of the Transport Act of 1944 which, to the best of my knowledge, states that the Minister may increase the unladen weight to a minor extent. If the Minister is relying on Section 114 he will have to tell us what in his opinion is meant by "a minor extent". He may increase the unladen weight to a minor extent if he thinks hardship exists. Why were the words "minor extent" put in? They were not put in for pleasure I presume. I do not want to advocate legislation because I would be out of order, but I think that the best and the happiest course would be for each applicant to go to the district court or the circuit court and prove his case. The worst thing possible would be for Fianna Fáil T.D.s to be making representations. It is not necessary, because I believe applications will be dealt with on their merits. I do not think anyone in the House has ever had any criticism of the Department of Industry and Commerce or the officials of the Minister in this regard. Everyone has been satisfied that the latter has been dealt with fairly. However, in the Minister's own interest I would suggest getting rid of this discretionary power where hardship exists and let the courts decide that. That is what they are there for.

Will the person make application personally to the Minister or through his solicitor and will he give evidence himself? There is another point on which I should like a clear and explicit statement. This is a point that will satisfy everyone, would satisfy Deputy Crotty as regards his amendment and Deputy Moloney in respect of his suggestion. Will the Minister tell the House and tell these carriers who are worried to death about the position that if he is reasonably satisfied that they carried a certain weight in the past 12 months or two years, he will amend their licence accordingly?

What I did not like about the Minister's statement to-day was his suggestion that the licensed hauliers knew very well what they were doing. He said that it had been drummed into them by their association that in weighing the lorry, any attachment to that lorry must be weighed with it. The Minister himself by giving the seven cwts. as a step has admitted that there were anomalies, the admission being that people were not weighing their lorries with the creels.

The Minister knows perfectly well that district justices could not make up their minds in different counties and, if they could not do that, how can an unfortunate lorry driver be expected to interpret the law? We know that in one county a prosecution was dismissed and in the next county the defendant was fined substantially. To cut a long story short, I would ask the Minister to tell us exactly what he intends to do.

I want to find out what is the position with regard to furniture vans or containers. A number of these have attachments which weigh considerably more than seven cwts. Does it follow from this legislation that they will now be prevented from using these trucks or can the Minister give them an increase, depending on the type of truck which runs from 25 cwts. to 30 cwts.? One of the people who spoke to me on this matter said that he would estimate the average weight of these containers or vans at about 25 cwt. and a few exceptional ones exceed that weight. Will it be the position when this legislation is passed that a haulier who is operating one of these lorries will be precluded from getting the increased weight because of the limitation of seven cwt. or has the Minister power under the 1944 Act to grant an increase?

The Minister has discretionary power under Section 116 of the 1944 Act to make provision for such unusual cases deserving generous sympathy. The case of furniture removers is a complicated one, owing to the fact that the van is occasionally detached and put on to a boat or railway. The Minister for Local Government has decided that such attachments must be included for the purpose of unladen weight unless the goods are never put into the container when it is attached to the lorry. However, that is a matter that can be dealt with in the discretionary power of the Minister and it is one that will receive sympathetic consideration. Sometimes these containers are used to go from one door to another; sometimes they are carried to the railway, put on the railway and when the railway journey is finished, they are put on another furniture van.

They will be allowed to continue to use these containers for the same purpose as they have been operating them heretofore?

I hope to be able to announce that.

And the same will apply to containers used for poultry?

That is a situation that will have to be examined—as to whether they are taken off the truck and put on another form of transport. Each case will be examined on its own merits.

The Minister mentioned his discretionary powers with regard to cases of hardship but I would remind him that up to the present these discretionary powers have been used only in cases of general hardship. Where a hardship is imposed on everybody they have been used but they have not been used in any particular case. These discretionary powers were used in general cases where a good case could be put up that a hardship existed and where a case could be made that a hardship was being caused to practically every licensed haulier. If the present Minister is going to change that line of action and is going to go into every single case that is a different matter.

I would be prepared to withdraw my amendment if the Minister would agree with Deputy O'Malley's suggestion and give us an assurance that any person who has been using these containers over the last 12 or 24 months will be allowed to continue to use them. It is not a question of giving a licence to those who never used them. Will the Minister allow people who have been using these creels for the haulage of cattle for the last 12 or 24 months to continue to use them and give them a licence to keep them going? I have been speaking to some of these people and one man told me that under this new legislation he will not be able to take cattle to Kilkenny mart as he has been doing. They will be all outside the law whereas heretofore they were assured that they were within the law.

If a man brought horses to Balls-bridge, the Gardaí on duty there would tell him: "You are all right so long as you have the lorry under the particular weight." Does the Minister suggest that that officer was trying to evade the law or that he was in collusion with the lorry owner? I know of an instance in which a private haulier in my constituency was told by the Garda authorities that he was within the law but the Minister says that he was evading it. I shall withdraw my amendment if the Minister will agree with the suggestion of Deputy O'Malley that where a person has been using such equipment for 12 months or 24 months in the ordinary course of his business he will consider the matter favourably and will allow them to carry on their business.

When the Deputy spoke of the discretionary power of the Minister, he was right in saying that it was not used in the past to any great extent in connection with creels. In connection with many other factors the Minister's powers are constantly exercised for the purpose of dealing with each application as it comes and to examine the particular facts in connection with that application.

Not as regards weight.

Not as regards weight, but the same sort of discretionary power is being used, involving the same meticulous examination, the application of a fair principle and the avoidance of an inequitable decision. We are, therefore, well experienced in the Department in dealing with such cases.

In so far as the other observation made by Deputy Crotty is concerned, I could not make a promise of that kind. I must go into this question before I could undertake to grant an exemption to every person who, 12 or 24 months ago, was carrying a particular sort of container on his lorry. I want to reiterate that the position has been made very clear to the licensed hauliers over the years. They well know the position in regard to the attitude of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, as he was then, towards the unladen weight of lorries. It would be an extremely serious thing if I were to make a decision which would have the effect of grievously imperilling the position of the C.I.E. I would like to hear some more defence of the C.I.E. They employ 23,000 people. They are costing the country £3,000,000 to £3,500,000, according to the way you calculate the interest paid. Every single person is paying an average of 3d. in the £ on income tax, 4d. per gallon on diesel oil, 4d. per gallon on petrol and 3d. per 20 cigarettes to keep the organisation going.

I must state, therefore, for the record, the policy in relation to transport legislation as clearly set out in a letter to the Irish Haulage Contractors Association from the Minister for Industry and Commerce, dated 11th October, 1938, in which he said:

While protecting the existing road transport businesses, the policy of the Legislature was to preserve to the railway companies the benefit of any expansion in the use of road transport. The Minister sees no prospect of a departure from this policy.

That policy has never been departed from, either in the case of the 1944 Act or indeed in the case of the 1934 or 1935 Acts. That policy has been maintained. Whatever decision I take, I am certainly not going to worsen the position of C.I.E. if it can possibly be avoided. As Deputies will see, the examination will be difficult. Nobody need envy me my task in dealing with this matter, which has arisen out of the necessity for clarifying the legal position in regard to unladen weight. I shall do the best I can under the circumstances. I cannot say more.

I do not think this extension of the weight can injure C.I.E. I can talk for my own constituency. These ordinary licensed hauliers are able to go up byroads for cattle which the big C.I.E. lorries could not possibly travel. Instead, the cattle had to be driven down to the main road. Now, with the Bovine T.B. Eradication Scheme, the cattle will not be allowed to be driven on the roads. The lorries will have to go into the yards, into the fields, for these cattle. Unless you have local hauliers who know the byroads, these cattle cannot be brought to the marts at all.

I thought Deputy O'Malley's suggestion was a reasonable one and I would go part of the way with Deputy Moloney, too. I do not want to force this to a division. If the Minister is prepared to be reasonable and say "I will give the person who had these creels the same rate as that which covered their creels for the past 12 or 24 months," I am prepared to withdraw. I would ask the Minister to be reasonable. He is, or ought to be, as interested in the cattle trade as I or any other Deputy. If he is reasonable and not tied by red tape, he will say "Yes, I will give these people, within reason, what they have." I do not think that would interfere with C.I.E. in the slightest. They would not lose the carriage of one beast by that. They would still get the traffic from the marts, which the local men do not get. They will not lose the carriage of one beast if the Minister agrees with the suggestion made by Deputy O'Malley and supported by Deputy Moloney and myself.

I can only say what I have said many times before. We will deal sympathetically with genuine cases of hardship which arise. I cannot go further than that. I am very sorry. I would like to satisfy Deputy Crotty and all other Deputies here, but we have to look into this position very carefully. We want to avoid deliberately assisting people who flagrantly violated the law. That is what it amounts to. I shall deal with genuine cases sympathetically.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Will the Minister exercise the same discretion in regard to horse box attachments as in the case of furniture vans?

Yes, in cases where it is understood the horse box is detachable.

Most of them are not detachable, but some of them are.

It will depend on that particular condition.

Question put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question: "That the Bill do now pass" put and declared carried.