Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1933—Money Resolution. - Harbours (Regulation of Rates) Bill, 1933—Second Stage.
Wednesday, 11 October 1933
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Lemass: This Bill is entitled an Act to make provision for the regulation and control of the charges made by harbour authorities, to amend certain enactments relating to harbours, and to provide for other matters connected with the matters aforesaid.
The rates leviable at harbours controlled by bodies of commissioners or trustees are authorised by special Acts and Provisional Orders made from time to time in respect of these undertakings. The number of enactments of this character is upwards of 100, dating from the year 1820 onwards, and though they do not all deal with the levying and collection of rates, most of them include provisions relating in one way or another to this particular matter. The report of the Ports and Harbours Tribunal published in 1930 made the following recommendation:—
“We recommend that the present system of fixing rates by Special Act or Provisional Order should be departed from and that a simpler and more elastic system should be introduced. In our opinion the maximum rates on vessels and goods should be  fixed by the Department of Industry and Commerce for each port, after due enquiry into the Revenue requirements of the undertaking and after hearing and considering any representations by the Authority, or by parties concerned.”
“There remains the question of dealing with complaints by traders or shipowners who may consider themselves aggrieved by the rates actually charged in particular cases. The Department of Industry and Commerce should have power to deal with such complaints and, after due inquiry, to vary by order any rates charged by a Harbour Board which, in the opinion of the Department, operate unjustly or have been fixed as a result of prejudice or unfair partiality. We look upon this power as a necessary part of the general oversight of harbour administration which we recommend should be assigned as one of the duties of the Department.”
“We recommend further, that the Department should be empowered to move with a view to varying maximum rates and, in certain circumstances, to enforce the levying of actual rates without an application from an interested party. This power would, naturally, only be used when an Authority was found unwilling to reduce charges even though the financial position permitted of this being done, or where additional Revenue was necessary in the interests of a harbour and the Authority failed either to increase rates within the statutory limits or to apply for an increase in the maximum charges.”
This Bill gives effect to the recommendations of the Ports and Harbours Tribunal. It will be asked why a measure of this kind is introduced prior to the introduction of the general Ports and Harbours Bill which is in course of preparation since the report of the Tribunal was published. So far as I have been able to make any estimate, it is likely to be some considerable  time before the general Bill can be produced. The drafting of it is probably one of the biggest tasks undertaken, from the drafting point of view, in this State up to the present. It has occupied the entire attention of one person, with the necessary officials from my Department. Judging by the rate of progress which has been achieved in that very difficult task, it will be some considerable time before the Bill will be produced. In the meantime the complicated position with regard to harbour rates continues and various harbour authorities, anxious to secure powers and anxious to vary charges and rates, have been put to the cumbersome and expensive procedure of getting a Provisional Order, followed by a confirming Act. Under these circumstances, it was decided to take these recommendations and to give effect to them in a short Bill, which would not in any way cut across or delay the introduction of the general measure, and at the same time provide means by which changes necessary in the rates of certain harbours, either on the representation of the harbour authorities, or the representation of aggrieved traders, or on the initiative of the Department of Industry and Commerce, could be made.
The Bill embraces not only the harbours controlled by bodies of commissioners or trustees, but also harbours owned by railway companies, or by private individuals, as well as small piers administered by county councils. It is desirable that railway-owned harbours should not be excluded from the measure, in view of the proximity of these undertakings to the publicly-owned harbours, and of the possible reactions which might arise as the result of adjustments of rates at publicly-owned ports. The piers controlled by county councils are not affected by the considerations which have led to the preparation of the accompanying Bill, but since the existing powers of the Minister for Industry and Commerce in respect of the fixing of rates for such piers are obscure in certain respects, it is considered desirable that the opportunity presented by the proposed  measure should be availed of to place the matter on a proper footing. The harbours under the control of the Commissioners for Public Works have, however, been excluded from the provisions of the measure at the request of the Minister for Finance.
There are one or two other matters to which attention should be drawn, particularly an amendment of Section 2 of the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919, the effect of which is to permit of the transfer to the Department of Industry and Commerce of some or all of the powers and functions of any other Department in relation to any one or more particular harbours, docks or piers. Under the provisions of Section 2 of the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919, as they stand, it is not possible to transfer particular powers or functions, or powers or functions relative to a particular harbour, dock or pier, and the Minister for Finance has asked that this section should be amended so as to enable certain powers of his Department in relation to a particular harbour to be transferred to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, without the necessity of making a general transfer of all of his powers in relation to harbours. The Bill can be regarded as a non-controversial measure. It arises out of the recommendations of the tribunal, which have had, I think, general acceptance, and simplifies what is at the present time a very complicated legal position in respect of harbour rates and matters varying them.
Mr. Dillon: As at present situated, harbour authorities collect dues under old statutes. It is proposed to wipe out all the powers to collect dues under the old statutes and to give fresh powers in this Bill?
Mr. Lemass: No. At present harbour dues are fixed by a series of old statutes and by a number of orders,  some of which have, in fact, been made by the Dáil. Under the Bill all existing rates are maintained, but power is given harbour authorities to apply to very them, power is given to aggrieved traders to apply to the Department of Industry and Commerce to have an inquiry to vary the rates, and power is given to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, on his own initiative, to hold an inquiry where anomalies exist. These are three of the things recommended by the tribunal. The Bill provides a cheap and convenient method of effecting changes instead of the very expensive and cumbersome procedure in existence at present.
Mr. Dockrell: Will there be any attempt to codify the charges in the schedule? I do not mean to suggest that they should be unified, but that certain charges only should be allowed according to the harbour. I suggest to the Minister that that is a desirable way of dealing with the matter.
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