Committee on Finance. - Road Traffic Bill, 1960—Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 48a:—
To delete subsection (3) and substitute the following:—
"(3) The operation of a consequential, ancillary or special disqualification order shall be suspended or postponed by reason of an appeal being brought against the order or where the order is related to a conviction against the conviction, unless the Court making the order is satisfied and declares that by continuing to drive the person in respect of whom the order was made would or might be a cause of danger to himself or to others."

If there had been a case made for this amendment I would certainly not be stubborn about it but I do not feel that any case has been made for it.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Sections 30 and 31 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 32 stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Ryan

I wonder what kind of physical or mental disability the Minister has in mind in this section. It is rather a wide power to give.

I think the Deputy will find a full explanation in the Explanatory Memorandum and in my Second Reading speech. However, to refresh the Deputy's memory, the disabilities I have in mind are epilepsy and serious heart conditions.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 49:

In subsection (3), page 29, line 5, to delete "is accompanied by the appropriate fee" and substitute "the appropriate fee is paid".

This was discussed with amendment 25.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 50:

In subsection (3), page 29, line 11, to delete "of competency to drive" and substitute "so far as it is a test of competency to drive."

This is a drafting amendment and is designed to clarify the position in regard to the test of competence to drive together with the test of knowledge of rules of the road. They are, in fact, the one test.

Mr. Ryan

Are we to understand that the person will be asked to give a practical demonstration in the car of his understanding of the rules of the road and will that amount to the test of competency? Will it be, on the other hand, just a theoretical test?

It envisages the carrying out of a test which would take into consideration the test of competency to drive—the mechanical operation of driving—together with an oral test of knowledge of rules of the road. The two can be taken as meaning one test.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 33, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51:

In subsection (4), page 30, line 23, to delete "application is accompanied by the appropriate fee and" and substitute "appropriate fee is paid and the application is accompanied by".—An tAire Rialtais Áitiúil.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 34, as amended, put and agreed to.
Section 35 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 52:

Before Section 36 to insert the following new section:

"The Minister may make regulations following consultation with representatives of the workers and employers concerned providing for the payment of compensation to any driver of a specified class whose employment is terminated as a result of his failure to pass a test for driving specified classes of vehicles, provided that the compensation referred to does not impose a charge on public funds."

The House is more or less agreed on the desirability of driving tests and of physical fitness tests for drivers. The Minister indicated very briefly a moment ago what these tests will entail. We all agree that drivers should be fit and competent to drive public vehicles especially large trucks, lorries and other such vehicles. However, I wonder does the Minister and the House appreciate what might happen in respect of a driver of a public service vehicle or any of these other vehicles who fails to pass this test. It would be very serious for a man who has been driving for a considerable part of his life to be deemed to be unfit to drive a vehicle, say, belonging to C.I.E. or to another company.

Take the case of a man who is 55 or 60 years of age and who has been driving a bus in the city of Dublin from the age of 20. He had been trained as a bus driver and he does not know how to engage in any other occupation such as carpentry, plastering or plumbing and at his age he is not physically capable of taking up a job as a builder's labourer. By what seems to be a simple section in a road traffic Bill we may deprive that man of his livelihood.

This amendment seeks to ensure that in circumstances such as I have described this man would be compensated. I do not think it is sufficient to say that he can draw either sickness benefit or unemployment benefit or that he can take up another job. The form of the compensation may be another matter but the onus to a large extent should be on the employer to compensate him in either of two ways. The man could be offered employment which would be deemed to be appropriate to him. If he is a bus or lorry driver there is no use in offering him, at 60 years of age, a job in the heavy labouring class because having been driving for 35 or 40 years his physical condition would not enable him to engage in such an occupation. If it is not possible to find suitable alternative employment I suggest, as proposed in the amendment, that compensation should be provided for him.

The Minister or somebody else might say that the provision of such compensation would be very difficult in the case of private employers. Take the example of C.I.E. Over the past couple of years C.I.E. found they had to dispense with the services of some of their staff, engine drivers, footplate men, foremen and others. They were given compensation either by way of lump sum or pension. Again it may be said that it is possible to do that because there is a pension scheme or because C.I.E. is a semi-State concern. I appreciate how difficult it may be to implement any sort of scheme that would provide compensation for these men but we should not be so much concerned with the difficulties of framing such a scheme as with the position of the men who may suddenly be deprived of what has been their livelihood for the greater part of their lives.

It may not be a perfect analogy but there is provision for the compensation of men who are rendered incapable of carrying out their ordinary work due to an accident. They are provided for through workmen's compensation which means that the worker who is insured—and the majority of workers in the country are insured—and who becomes incapable of carrying out his work is compensated to the extent of £4 10s. a week or by a lump sum.

I would ask the House and the Minister in particular to consider, if not this amendment in its specific terms, what might be done in order to ensure that men who would lose their employment as a result of a provision in this Bill would be compensated either financially or by being given some other sort of employment by their employer.

Mr. Ryan

I am in considerable sympathy with Deputy Corish on this point. We are introducing a new restriction or prohibition in regard to employment which will arise in very few cases. Deputy Corish, who has been extremely fair, has indicated he understands there may be some administrative difficulties in bringing about the necessary arrangements, but it might be appropriate to bring such men within the ambit of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The remuneration paid under the Acts would not be sufficient to compensate adequately such men, but there is a commission sitting at the moment which is considering the matter of workmen's compensation. If this problem has not already been put before this commission for consideration it would appear to be a proper one for them to think about.

Many of the illnesses and diseases which would cause a man to be deprived of a fitness certificate would not in many cases be such as would arise out of or in the course of his employment, but if a man between the ages of 55 and 60 has a bad heart it is arguable that the strain of driving a double-decker bus might have contributed something to it. If it be necessary to amend the workmen's compensation code to bring such people within the benefit of such compensation it ought to be done. It might be arguable from a drafting or legal point of view that it is a consideration which should not enter into this Bill, but I think it is something worthy of consideration and Deputy Corish and his colleague are to be congratulated on raising it. We should avail of the opportunity of this Commission to consider the matter if the Minister will not include it in the Bill.

Though an excellent case might be made for this amendment, I feel it introduces into the Bill an inappropriate element. It brings into the negotiations between the unions and employers the Minister for Local Government, and candidly I do not think that is an appropriate place for the Minister for Local Government. I do not think the introduction of the Minister would tend to bring about a settlement in the case of aggrieved employees.

Take the case of the transport company. If a driver feels unwell, presents himself to the company's doctor and his condition is found to be such that for him to drive would constitute a danger not only to himself and his passengers but to other road users, surely the present position is that, without any change in the law, he would cease to be allowed to drive a public service vehicle? Now, merely because these tests will be put on a more formal basis, it is held that such a driver would be entitled to compensation and that the Minister for Local Government should be brought into the negotiations on such compensation. It does not make sense to me that we should introduce into this Bill a matter dealing with negotiations for compensation to drivers of lorries or buses who, because of some physical incapacity, are no longer able to carry on their normal occupation.

The idea of the test is to try to ensure that the public will not be endangered because of the unfitness of licensed drivers. If a driver is found to be unfit, it is only right that he should cease to drive. I cannot see how the Minister for Local Government could help to solve the difficulty which could undoubtedly arise in regard to the fitness of drivers. Indeed, I cannot see that it is appropriate that the Minister should be brought in as a third party to these negotiations. I have no doubt the difficulties will be solved by negotiation between the unions and the employers. But the Minister for Local Government will not help. In fact, I would go as far as saying that he would only complicate the issue between the union and the employers. It is not appropriate that the Minister should be brought into this matter.

I know the Minister pretty well from his behaviour in the House. I know he can see further than his nose. But it seems to me he does not want to see any further than his nose in this case. Is the Minister serious in saying he cannot go any further in this, that he can wash his hands of it? In this Bill the Minister proposes to introduce a test for drivers that may deem them unfit to drive a lorry or bus. He says his job is finished there. We should appreciate what we are doing. We are introducing a test which may deprive a man of his livelihood. We are doing this only in respect of drivers of buses and lorries, men who get £8 or £9 per week. The Minister for Health has never suggested that we have a similar test for surgeons, doctors and chemists. Is it not possible that there is a surgeon with a shaky hand or surgeons who are not fit to carry out operations? Do we know how many crazy chemists we have here who may give out the wrong prescription? We do not propose to test these people. We do not propose to test doctors to find out whether they are physically or mentally fit to engage in the practice of medicine. But here we are legislating to ensure that drivers will be tested.

The Minister says that his duty as Minister for Local Government is done so long as he says the fitness test must be carried out. I think Deputy Ryan made an admirable suggestion when he said this matter could be referred to the Commission on Workmen's Compensation which has been sitting for the last five years. Might I again quote the case of the man of 55 or 60 years who has been driving a lorry or bus all his life? If he does not pass this test, he has no job. The Minister says the matter is not one for him, that it is one for the Minister for Industry and Commerce or some other Minister. That is not good enough. The Minister has taken a lot of power in this Bill in specific proposals and he proposes to take a lot more in the dozens of the regulations he may, make. This amendment merely asks him to make regulations which he may consider appropriate after consultation with employers and employees to ensure that the man who is driving all his life may get some compensation. I do not think that is an unreasonable request.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.