Committee on Finance. - Transport Bill, 1944—Second Stage (Resumed).

Tuesday, 2 May 1944

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 93 No. 12

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Mr. Larkin (Junior): Information on James Larkin Jnr.  Zoom on James Larkin Jnr.  On this Bill it seems to me that we have three points for consideration, one of which has been already dealt with in respect of the propriety of continuing the Second Reading under certain circumstances; secondly, the action of the Government with regard to the legislation; and thirdly, what could be an acceptable policy for the transport industry. I observe that Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney who was in possession when the debate was adjourned, is now in the House and, if it is the wish of the House, I shall give way to the Deputy.

Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Information on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  Zoom on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  I am afraid like the Great Southern Railways I was running a little late. Before the adjournment, I pointed out that I considered there was no justification for making a free gift of a large sum of the money of the people to the owners of railway stock. I expressed my sympathy with those persons whose moneys were invested in an undertaking which has turned out to be insolvent, but I have no sympathy at all with the persons who have been speculating and gambling in these shares, and who have become owners of shares that are going to be bought up by the State at a [1967] price far in excess of their true value. In so far as that goes, I have dealt with a considerable portion of this sum of £16,000,000, which is to be handed over to this new body. What is going to be done with the balance, a very large number of millions or a comparatively small number of millions? I am not quite sure of the amount, but it is certainly a sum running into many millions. What is going to be done with that sum? The Minister has not given us the slightest indication how that sum was arrived at or how it is to be spent. It would seem to me that if an ordinary company were going to float debentures and issued a prospectus, they would tell every prospective buyer how it was proposed that the money would be spent. They would tell the value of their property, and how it would be enhanced by the new amount of money which was going to be put into the coffers of the company by reason of the floating of these debentures. If a company sent out a prospectus saying that they wished to raise £4,000,000, £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, but were going to keep a dead secret how the money was going to be spent, I think they would have a very poor chance of raising it in the market.

But the Minister comes to this House and asks us to vote away the moneys of the people of this State without telling us how these moneys are to be expended, and without giving us the slightest indication of how this sum of £16,000,000 was arrived at. Has somebody worked out a scheme and handed it to the Minister? Does the Minister approve of that scheme? If he does, why does he not let the House have it? What is the reason for the secrecy? Has the Minister consulted a single expert? We do not know. As far as we can gather not a single railway expert has been consulted about this scheme. Yet we are asked to guarantee the interest. That is the same as giving the amount we are asked to put at the disposal of the new company— an immense sum—without knowing how the company are going to spend it. Has anybody calculated what amount will really be needed? It seems to me to be a very curious method of [1968] doing business. It certainly does not commend itself to me. I do not think it will commend itself to any member of the House who as a trustee of public funds recognises his responsibility for the welfare of the people.

We have no idea if any scheme has been worked out, and the Minister will not tell us. Surely, before bringing a Bill of this kind before the House he ought to be in a position to say: “I have got experts to examine this matter and to tell me what ought to be done; they have told me what it will cost to have the things which ought to be done carried into effect.” The Minister, however, has done nothing of the kind. We are simply taking a leap in the dark, giving to an unknown body a guarantee of what is, considering the resources of the State, an immense sum of money. We have not been told how a single penny of that money is going to be spent. We have a certain amount of indication that lines may be doubled and that new carriages may be required. One of the lines, I think, mentioned by the Minister was the line from Dublin to Cork.

Mr. Larkin:  Galway.

Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Information on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  Zoom on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  Is it proposed to double that line? Surely, that is a matter that ought to have been taken into consideration before any sum was arrived at. Can we be told how much money it is proposed to spend on the railways, on the buses and on other means of road transport? We are not told. We are left entirely in the dark. What we are being asked to do is to put an enormous sum of money at the disposal of somebody who, for practical purposes, is uncontrolled. We do not even know who that somebody is—an absolute dictator. I frankly confess that Deputy Donnellan took my breath away. Does Deputy Donnellan think that the person, whom the ordinary individual considers will be a dictator, will not be a dictator at all, but will be the mere puppet of whatever Minister is in power? I see nothing in the Bill to justify that. I would very much prefer if there was a great deal more Parliamentary [1969] control. In fact, I wish to see a great deal more Parliamentary control than there is over this body.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Is there any?

Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Information on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  Zoom on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  As far as I see, for practical purposes there is none. I do not think I need follow Deputy Donnellan any further. His argument did not appeal to me, nor do I suppose it appealed to many other people. The Minister says that there is no alternative except nationalisation or some such scheme as this. I am willing to accept that. I am as strong a believer in individual effort as any person could be. I understand there are occasions when one discovers that private enterprise has broken down, when the State must come in. I believe in private enterprise in preference to State control whenever there is a choice to be made between them. But when there is no real private enterprise that can be successful—and this Bill is not private enterprise—then I think that State control is necessary.

I would like to point out to the Minister, if he is not already aware of it, that State control of Irish railways is not by any means a new idea. Like other members of the House, I have not had the opportunity of thinking over this Bill and refreshing my memory upon certain matters which I should like to bring before the House. Therefore, in what I have to say I must trust to recollection. Owing to the insane rushing of this Bill, I have not, as I have said, had an opportunity of refreshing my memory. I do, however, remember that in or about the year 1836 a Railway Commission was set up by the British House of Commons. The recommendation made by that commission was, that the Irish railways, owing to the condition of Ireland—distinct and different from the conditions in Great Britain—should be State constructed and State controlled. The House of Commons did not carry out that recommendation. That was at the time when the doctrine of laissez faire was growing in England. At the time when the doctrine of laissez faire was at its height, when it was a sort of [1970] gospel in Great Britain that nobody could challenge, and when the Marquis of Hartington, afterwards Duke of Devonshire, was Chief Secretary in this country—about 1872 or 1873—he made certain recommendations to Mr. Gladstone, then Prime Minister, for the betterment of the affairs of this country. His chief recommendation was that the Irish railways were giving bad service, and that they should be nationalised. Therefore, in the very height of the doctrine of laissez faire a Liberal Chief Secretary considered that laissez faire must be departed from, that private enterprise had failed and that the nationalisation of the railways must come in. Therefore, I say that the nationalisation of railways in this country cannot be regarded as a step towards socialism or anything of that kind. It is one of those exceptions to private enterprise that the nature of the thing demands, because private enterprise has not been successful, and probably from the nature of things can never be successful in giving a cheap and adequate railway service here.

The Minister started off with the assumption that everything was perfect, that the railway system in this country was a magnificent system until road transport came in. That seems to be his fundamental proposition. It was the other way about. The railways never at any time gave the people of this country an adequate cheap service. If the Minister is interested in railway history and goes back through numbers of an old magazine called the New Ireland Review, which was edited by the Rev. T.A. Finlay, S.J., he will find a series of articles upon what was called “The Vampire System of Irish Railways”, written by Mr. Moran, who afterwards founded The Leader. I read the articles as they came out, and at that time Mr. Moran seemed to me to make out the case that the Irish railway system was strangling agriculture and industry in this country. In consequence it follows that the Minister's fundamental assumption against nationalisation—that private enterprise was a success until road transport injured it—is a completely unjustifiable assumption.

[1971] What are the Minister's arguments against the nationalisation of the railways? The Minister is a very well trained debater. He is an expert rhetorician. There are few more expert in the House. When the Minister sets word against word and sets up one argument against nationalisation and a second argument to destroy his first, then, competent rhetorician that he is, he must be conscious that he has an extremely bad case. Take his two main arguments against nationalisation of the railways—that there will be demands from this, that and the other place for increased services and reduced rates, and that no Minister or Deputy will be able to hold his seat unless he accedes to those demands, no matter how outrageous they may be. Let us assume that there will be these outrageous demands and that there will be these unconscientious Deputies and weak-kneed Ministers, for all time in this country. Then let us take the other side put by the Minister—the Minister for Finance, he tells us, finding it very hard to balance his Budget, will go in, to use his own phrase, for a system of rapacious profit-making. How does the Minister square the two? On the one side, we have a Government that will accede to every request, reasonable or unreasonable, and on the other side, there is a rapacious Minister making most unreasonable charges. Is not one argument swallowing up the other? On which of them does the Minister rely? Does he believe the future will show the weak-kneed Minister or the rapacious Minister? A man cannot be weak-kneed and rapacious at the same time, nor can he carry out a weak-kneed policy and a rapacious policy at the same time.

There are many points in this Bill which are more suited to discussion on the Committee Stage than at the present moment. I have kept very strictly to the main principles which are embodied in this Bill. I submit to the House that, in every way, a new departure is being made and that no justification for that new departure has been given to the House by the Minister. We do not know what it is [1972] proposed to do. Is it proposed to set up a new body, on which all except one will be figureheads? We do not know whether, if so, that one will be a wise man or an unwise man, whether he will be above suspicion or subject to suspicion, whether he will be trained or not in railway services. We know nothing about him, and we know nothing about the policy which is to be put into effect.

We are giving away to owners of a bankrupt concern a free gift of millions of pounds of the people's money, and we are turning aside and rendering impossible the true cure for Irish transport—which, in my belief, is nationalisation. This is not a step towards nationalisation, as some Deputies seem to think. It is a step retarding nationalisation and putting it further off.

There is one last consideration I wish to put before the House. Is this just the time in which it is wise to tie ourselves down to enormous expenditure in transport? Transport will change enormously within the next few years, but how far it will change no man living can tell. We do know there has been an enormous improvement in road transport where large lorries are concerned. We do know— what is more important still—that there has been an enormous development in flying. Surely, if one were to prophesy regarding the next five or six years, one might say that nobody who now is called a first-class passenger, will go from Dublin to Cork, Dublin to Galway or Dublin to Belfast otherwise than by air? As far as one can possibly judge in these progressive times, air transport in large countries is a certainty and, even in a small country like this, it seems highly probable that there will be a tremendous amount of air transport.

I read an account in a paper the other day—though I cannot say how far it was accurate—of a small modern aeroplane which can rise out of a field approximately the size of this chamber and descend into the same space and which will cost only a few hundred pounds. We are told that these machines are not a dream, but are [1973] actually flying in the United States at the present moment, being used there for war purposes. If that is correct, there will be an immense amount of flying after the war, not merely for long distances but over short distances like Dublin to Cork and Dublin to Galway.

There will be a good deal of through carriage by air from various places to different markets and, in that way, the air may revolutionise a great deal of our farming system. There could be, for instance, on the west and southwest coasts, where our climate is good, places where there are early vegetables and flowers, articles which are in terrific demand in England, and if they could be carried straight away at a cheap rate by air, say, from Glengariff to Covent Garden, there would be a very considerable divergence in traffic from our railways. How far air transport will be the method of the future, I do not know, but I do know this much, that a Minister who laughs at it and who thinks that it cannot develop to that stage, is a Minister who is not capable of grasping the real problem of transport after the war.

Mr. Larkin (Junior): Information on James Larkin Jnr.  Zoom on James Larkin Jnr.  It seems to me that before we enter into the discussion of this legislation, those of us who are concerned with public probity are compelled to express our point of view and to join in the protest that is embodied in the amendment introduced to-day. I notice that the Minister, in the course of his speech, was very definite in stating that the legislation before the House is not only not of a temporary character, but embodies almost all that the Government have in mind with regard to transport legislation for the immediate future and the post-war period. If that is so, regardless of what may be the approaches that the different Parties in the House may make to any proposals, surely there is everything to be said for these proposals being discussed in an atmosphere that is removed from all forms of contention, from anything that may distract Deputies or debar the legislation from being considered and judged on its merits.

Those who move among the public [1974] must of necessity agree that to try to get such calm and collected discussion in the present circumstances is almost impossible. I say it is unfair to expect it from Deputies, and while we may agree that this House is not bound by public opinion and is free to decide its own course, there is another factor that we should bear in mind. Right over different portions of the world in the past few years legislative chambers have fallen into disrepute and the ordinary parliamentary system of government has in many cases been overthrown. One of the reasons why that change took place was because between the parliamentary bodies, the legislative chambers, and the mass of the citizens of these countries, a gap was allowed to broaden until finally it could not be bridged. One of the causes that bring about such a gulf between the citizens and the legislative bodies is a feeling on the part of the citizens that at critical times their ideas and thoughts of what is a proper and suitable way to deal with legislation are being ignored.

I submit that outside the House the activities of a body set up by this House are the subject of keen concern and interest to every public-minded citizen. It is not a question of what is transpiring in the proceedings of that body or what may come before it or come out of it. Undoubtedly the ordinary citizen concerned with the problem of transport in this country is of the opinion that the time is not now opportune to deal with these legislative proposals and that it would be much better to delay consideration of this measure for a little while. I think it is not only unfortunate from the point of view of the standing and the probity of the House and its good influence over the citizens of this country, but it is a mistake of the highest order that we should be asked to proceed with the Second Reading of this Bill.

A number of points have been dealt with already by those who have spoken. One point occurs to me, and it seems a vital one. The railway service is supposed to be owned by those who hold the various stocks and shares. We are continually being told that any company established under [1975] the present system of stocks and shares has a widespread ownership and that a great number of the smaller investors are the real owners of those concerns. Anyone who has gone to the trouble of inquiring into that position knows that it is not correct; that for all practical purposes these companies are owned by a very small group, controlled by a very small group, whose actual holdings of stocks and shares may not in any way represent the bulk of the total issue. I think that position applies particularly to the railway system and it is not impossible that those who are, in fact, the owners of the railway company, may be among those who will have to answer questions in another place.

We do not know what will be the outcome of that inquiry, but it is not unreasonable to believe or to fear that, as part of the proposals that the Minister asks us to endorse here, it may be that we will be required to hand over public money to persons who have been, if you like, the subject of censure elsewhere. If such a position were to come about, I do not think any member of the House could excuse himself for having failed to foresee that possibility, that we would have taken from the citizens a large capital sum which we may have to meet in certain eventualities, a recurring annual charge, and handed it over to persons found not to be following the strict course of conduct that is required. I do not want to go further along that line, but that alone should be sufficient to convince any member of the House who is exercising ordinary free, independent judgment, that we should pause here for a period and allow ourselves to approach these proposals, not only in a calm atmosphere, but from the angle that we should know whatever conclusion we will reach will not be prejudiced by later developments arising out of what may transpire outside the House. From that point of view I think it is good policy, apart from the standpoint of the political Parties to the proposals, to agree that we should postpone the Second Reading of this Bill.

So far as the Government's proposals [1976] are concerned, I listened very attentively to the Minister's statement, and, as Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney says— and he is experienced in debate—I do not think the Minister was ever in a more difficult position than he was to-day. I have listened to many speeches here that have been illogical, ill-considered and ill-thought-out, but I do not think I ever listened to a speech that was so illogical as the Minister's to-day. Practically every point he made he contradicted later; every case he built up he later knocked down. He did not know what he believed in, what he wanted, or what he would like the House to adopt. He proceeded on a certain number of assumptions.

He set forth what he believed should be the aims of the transport system. I do not think anybody will quarrel with him on the aims he set out, but when it comes to prescribing and setting up the machinery by which we are to realise those aims, then his difficulties begin.

First of all, he has the major difficulty that he has had completely to change his own policy; that what he stood for some years ago he has to repudiate now. It is quite possible that wisdom has grown with years and experience and the responsibility of office. Nobody will deny that the Minister has a right to change his mind; but it is not sufficient merely to change your mind; you have also to justify that change. So far there has been no justification put forward by the Minister as to why, in 1931, he could stand over a system of public ownership of the transport system of this country, and, in 1944, he is not only prepared, but is the main party to handing over this transport system to a group who are determined not only to obtain control of what they have got, but to secure and so entrench themselves in control that they will own and dictate the course of the lifestream of the people of this country, because that is what transport is.

We have not to look at this matter solely as a question of legislation from the ordinary point of view of who owns and controls, and who is to reap the benefit of this legislation, not only for to-day, but for years to come, but, in [1977] effect, when this legislation becomes law, who are to be the prime owners. Is it to be the citizens of the country as a whole? Is it the very large industrial groups, the agricultural population, the mass of citizens who rely on transport for their own personal needs, or some small group who have already secured a monopoly of one vital system in the City of Dublin and openly bled it at an almost unheard of rate for the last four years, and now want to add another national system to their monopoly? Is it to be a group that, through their financial and interlocking directorates in different companies, control not only the financial life, but, not satisfied with that, now want to control the basic transport of the country, and to control it, not on the basis of what they themselves put into it, but on the basis of what the citizens are to give them out of their pockets?

These are the things which we have to consider and which the Minister has side-stepped. He says that the railways are the kernel of the transport system. I do not know how far we can accept that statement from him when we realise that during an emergency period when everybody recognises— some of us may have been a little late in doing so—that railways were so essential to the community and when they fall into such a crisis that immediate action has to be taken, the man who is put in charge of them is not a railwayman but a roadman, a man who, as far as I know, has never expressed any great sympathy with or appreciation of the railway system. I am not going to be put off by the suggestion that within this legislation there is no indication of who is to be the chairman. We all know who is to be the chairman and that he is to be the same individual who has neither railway experience nor sympathy with or appreciation of what railways mean in the life of the country.

The Minister tells us that one of the reasons for the difficulties experienced by the railways during the last year or two is that the legislation provided by the Government in past years to enable them to overcome the various new forms of competition, was not availed [1978] of by those who were running the railways and so he proposes to give them new legislation. I wonder what guarantee he has that, even now, they will avail of these opportunities, because we are not installing in the railways a new management. All we are doing is covering up the old dead hand which has controlled the railways for the past 20 or 30 years, and it is quite possible that, just as they failed in the past to avail of the opportunities, so also will they continue to fail in the future. Those who have proved to be repeated failures year after year, in the Minister's own words, are hardly the people who are now justified in coming along and telling us: “If you will only pass new legislation and give us a new chairman and a guarantee of £16,000,000 of public money and £500,000 a year to pay interest, we can put the railways on their feet.”

The Minister also told us that one of the reasons why he is not in favour of nationalisation is that, under his proposed system, those in charge of the railways will be left on their own to run their own business as they think best; that there will be no interference by the State. These two part-time directors who represent the private owners of the company will have that peculiar ability to apply themselves to increasing and enforcing the efficiency of the system, to see that there is no mal-administration and, like all good private business people, will bring about efficiency by the ordinary business methods which a State official is incapable of. I wonder why they have not done it before. Nobody interfered with them. The result, however, is that the running stock is obsolete, the equipment useless, and the whole thing is bankrupt. Yet we expect that because we pass another Bill to give them a little blood transfusion with our money, they will change their character overnight and become capable administrators. Possibly a miracle is to be worked by the chairman. All the faults and the bad features of the old directors are to be miraculously changed because a certain individual becomes chairman for the future. Peculiarly enough, in the other monopoly that was given by virtue of this Government's legislation nothing has happened to [1979] make that efficient except one thing, that we have an emergency and, because of that emergency, we have peculiar conditions owing to which this local monopoly has been able to earn profits that it was not capable of earning in the years before. Probably, when we have peace again and are back to normal times, those who think there will be a great surplus to take over from the Dublin Transport Company in order to give a further blood transfusion to the railway system, will be disappointed, because I doubt if Dublin citizens will continue to put up with the present transport system and continue to pay the outrageous fares they are called upon to pay at present, so that there will be very little, if any, contribution to come when the shareholders of the Dublin Transport Company receive their ordinary 3 or 4 per cent.

Another point with which the Minister makes great play is that he does not like nationalisation because it involves subsidies. It may be that my understanding of the English language is different from the Minister's, but I take it that a subsidy is any form of money given by the State to any particular undertaking to enable it to meet its particular difficulties. We say that we are guaranteeing to this company that if, in certain eventualities, they are not able to meet interest at the rate of £500,000 a year they can call upon the Minister for Finance and he will be obliged to pay up what is required.

Maybe that is not a subsidy. But I am quite sure that those who are going to receive the 3 per cent. will not be very much concerned with whether we call it a subsidy or not, so long as the money is forthcoming. In addition, we are also prepared, in the event of disaster coming upon the company, to provide another £16,000,000 if those who may invest their money in the company are disappointed and find that the company cannot carry on.

It seems to me, if we are to enter into commitments like that, it would [1980] be better if we were quite honest about the thing and said openly that we are subsidising this company and making very sure that the subsidies are to be utilised for supplying the transport needs of the country and are to be under the most strict control of the State and the particular bodies over which it has power. But, because the Minister says that nationalisation means subsidies, therefore nationalisation stands condemned. Yet, the whole basis of his Bill, the whole new feature it introduces, outside of certain changes in regard to the board of directors, is the subsidising of this company in the most wholesale fashion and in a form that not only calls upon the State to provide the public money but, when the public money is provided, those who represent the State, the legislative Chambers, have no further say in the control of the company. That is a subsidy, not in the form of nationalisation, but in the form of loot for those who are not prepared to put their own money into the undertaking without a State guarantee.

Neither does the Minister like nationalisation because it implies politics. I wonder what kind of politics and what kind of political pressure brought about this Bill? The Minister tells us that if we had nationalisation, it would mean that we would have workers on the railways forming a group to bring pressure to further their own particular interests, and sections of traders forming another group to further their interests and to bring pressure to bear on the Minister and the legislative Chamber. All of these groups would be working against the public interest and creating difficulties for the efficient running of the railway system. It seems to me that we have a fairly good example of what pressure by a group does at present. That group is not a large group such as might be made up of the mass of railway workers, of traders, or the industrial or agricultural sections of the community, but a small, very confined and very exclusive group whose numbers are not in any way excessive, but whose power, [1981] not only financial but political, seems to be quite unlimited at present.

The Minister thinks we should make sure that, in whatever system of transport we propose in the future, the profit motive should be subordinated to the needs of the public. That is quite a good point—that we should subordinate the profit motive to the needs of the public, so long as we guarantee at least 3 per cent. to those who are not prepared to put their money into the undertaking unless the Government assures them that they will not lose any money on the deal. That is the only profit motive we propose to introduce. It is a very interesting new side-light on the reason why private investors should invest their money in any form of undertaking. So long as they have a cast-iron, 100 per cent. guarantee, the money will go in, and they are quite satisfied to be limited to 3 per cent., but, at the same time, we are to ensure that the profit motive will not interfere with public needs. Yet, on top of that, we have to find up to 6 per cent. for the ordinary shareholders and also some unknown sum to redeem these stocks which are to be given to the other section of the stockholders. Where the line is to be drawn between the public needs and the search for profit, I do not know, and the Minister has been very careful to leave us in the dark up to the present.

He tells us that nationalised railways in other countries have not been a great success, and that there have been particular reasons in each case for their being nationalised, or built by the State directly. One reason which he indicated was in order to keep foreign control from being extended over the transport system, and another was that private bodies were not prepared to provide the transport services which the State felt were needed. Did he overlook the fact that here in our own country we have had a private body which, for the past 30 years, has failed to provide us with our transport needs, and which, year after year, has shown itself incapable of making a success of its job, not only on the basis of private enterprise but on the basis of almost complete and wholesale support from [1982] one Government after another, and of restrictions on competitive forms of transport? Yet we are not only to continue that inefficient system of private enterprise in our railway services, to allow the same people to continue to run our transport into the ground, but we are to provide them with an additional sum from the public purse to play around with.

It is not correct, as the Minister said, that all nationalised systems of railways are unprofitable, and it is not correct, either, to leave it in that bald fashion. The people of this country would not be so much concerned with the ability of the railways to earn profits, if they got a system of transport which could, within reason, provide for the transport needs of the various walks of life, and which did not entail an undue financial strain upon the State's resources. The question of profit is a secondary consideration. We agree, and I think the Minister agrees, that a transport company is not an ordinary profit-making concern, that it is a service in the same form as the Post Office, water supply, public health and sanitation services, and surely, if the people are satisfied that the system of transport which they have is efficient from their point of view, is a system which meets the needs of industry, agriculture and personal transport and which does not lay an undue burden on the State in the form of extra taxation, the question of profit is not very important.

He seems to think, however, that because certain nationalised railways in other countries cannot show 3 per cent., 4 per cent., 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. they, therefore, stand self-condemned. The question is not one to be judged in that light. It is a question to be solved by the citizens of these countries as to whether they are satisfied with their systems under nationalised control. If they are satisfied, and most of them seem to be, there might be a very good headline there for us to follow, instead of looking at it from the other point of view, that because we have not got the ordinary commercial balance sheet with its declaration of dividends in relation to these [1983] systems, the system of nationalised transport stands self-condemned.

If that argument were correct, it was equally correct in 1931. At that time the Minister was quite eager to see a nationalised system here, but something has happened in the meantime, and what, in 1931, he was prepared to set aside as not of any great consequence becomes of overwhelming importance in 1944. Therefore, the system which, in 1931, would meet our needs is no longer to be applicable to-day, and we have to go back to the old, out-moded, exposed and inefficient system of private enterprise, which, even in the present emergency, has been incapable of meeting the responsibility placed upon it and which has had again to be taken in hands by the State and shown, to some small degree, how it should meet its responsibilities.

One peculiar thing strikes me about this Bill, and particularly the Minister's statement. Curiously enough, many people seem to think that we have in this Bill a system of nationalisation of railways because it is fairly well dressed up, and there is a good deal of scenery gathered around it to give that impression, but it is quite clear from the Minister's statement that he has no such foolish idea. He is quite certain that he has not brought in a system of nationalised transport. I wonder exactly to what extent he believes that himself. We have, first, proposals to provide public moneys; we have secondly, a chairman appointed by the Minister, a chairman who has almost complete overriding powers, who, in himself, will form a quorum of the board of directors, and without whose concurrence no decision can be taken, and who is appointed for a fixed period, but who may be removed by the Minister, and, therefore, must inevitably be subject to the influence and pressure of the Minister. This chairman is the directing force in this proposed company.

In addition, powers are given to the Minister to require this company to provide services here, there and everywhere, as may be decided, on the [1984] advice given to him by the advisory transport board. We have everything which goes to make it nationalisation, except one thing, that is, that the fruits, if there are any, of this transport system are not to go back to the State which is prepared to provide the capital and interest, but are to be passed over to this group of private investors whose property to-day, apart from this frenzied and feverish speculation, would be worth almost nothing and whose ability to run the concern has proved to be completely bankrupt.

I wonder why the Minister does not take his courage in his hands and say: “If we are to do all these things; if we are to provide public money, guarantee interest, take over almost complete control, through the chairman, of the management of this company, then let us be quite honest and aboveboard and say that we are nationalising the company, and to the extent to which the public has to provide the moneys for this company, any return from that company should go to the relief of the public purse.” That would be a far more honest, a far better and a far simpler way of dealing with the problem than this involved system which is set up purely for the purpose of cloaking and covering up the fact that we are now creating a further monopoly and handing it over to the same group which at present handles the local monopoly we have created in the City of Dublin.

We, on these benches, are supporters of and believers in nationalisation. I do not think that there is any great argument to be made in support of the proposal put forward by the Minister. The very fact that he has gone to such lengths to argue against nationalisation in regard to such an enterprise as this shows that he himself is not completely satisfied. The very fact that Deputies on various sides of this House, such as Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, who certainly could not be accused of being in favour of the policy of the Labour Party, now realises that private enterprise, in connection with such an essential factor in the nation's life as transport, is obsolete and unworkable, should be a convincing argument to the [1985] ordinary man or woman that nationalisation is the only remedy for the present chaotic conditions in connection with these essential services. All the arguments that have been put forward by the Minister against nationalisation only go to show that he himself is in favour of it. The arguments of the Minister and of some other Deputies who have spoken here were evidently designed, however, to cover up the fact that although the Minister is endeavouring to preserve or put into the Bill the essence of nationalisation, he is concealing the one essential thing, and that is that he is leaving the control of transport in this country in the hands of a group of people who have already proved themselves to be incompetent and unable to carry on without the help of the State, instead of putting our transport position into the only right position in which it should be, which is under State control.

Finally, I should like to refer to the price that we are to pay for this. I suppose that everybody in the House has thought over the problem and asked himself why we should be asked to pay such a large sum as £13,000,000 for a system of transport which everybody realises has been unprofitable for quite a number of years, has been bankrupt in ideas, unable to meet its commitments, and which has nothing but out-of-date and obsolete materials. Everybody must realise that if we, or anybody else, had undertaken to buy out that company some years ago, we could probably have bought it out for £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, and that the company themselves would have considered it to be a great bargain at the time. In that connection, it must be remembered that just a few years ago the interests of certain stockholders were wiped out at the stroke of a pen. It is hard, therefore, to understand why the Government should be so generous in connection with the interests of the stockholders at the present time, when we remember what was done a few years ago. Some two or three years ago the State wiped out about 90 per cent. of the private property of stockholders. Now, it seems that we are [1986] going to the other extreme. It appears that now we are going to give something like £13,000,000 for property that, according to the Minister's own statement, is useless and obsolete. During the short period since last year, when this matter was first foreshadowed, the price of railway shares has gone up by almost sixfold, and we are now to buy at the top figure.

If we used ordinary common sense, such as people buying or selling shares on the market would use, surely we ought to try to get a fair price, and surely that price should be the price at which these people would value their own concern during normal years, let us say, before the war. It is not a question of this House or any other body placing a value on the stocks and shares of any concern. The value of stocks and shares is placed on them by ordinary commerce in the ordinary markets. At one time, just a few years ago, the value of the shares concerned was as low as £3 10s., and now it has reached £52. I think, therefore, that the purchase price should be based on the normal price of stocks bought before the war. In that way we would be able to save ourselves a few million pounds and would also be able to save the State, possibly, a very considerable amount in connection with the guaranteeing of dividends.

It seems to me that, not alone from the point of view of our responsibilities here as representatives of the people who elected us, but also as citizens of this country, who are pledged to guarantee the ordinary citizen in this rights and properties as a citizen of this State, we are under an obligation to reject this Bill, not only because, on the face of it, it is an outrageous piece of legislation, which is obviously designed to give the control of an essential service to a small group of people in this country at the expense of the State and of the ordinary citizens of the country as a whole, but also because the proposals contained in the Bill are self-condemned on their own face because they propose to deprive the citizens of this country of their ordinary rights to transport services, and put the transport [1987] service completely under the control of a company which, certainly for the past five years, has proved itself to be obsolete in its ideas, useless, and absolutely unable to continue working without help from the State. As Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney said, we are reaching a stage now when we shall probably see grave and far-reaching changes in methods of transport. Transport services may take an entirely new form. There is one thing, however, to which the ordinary citizen of this country is entitled, and that is that whatever system of transport is to prevail in the future, it should be a public system, exercised in the light of day under the sanction of the duly elected representatives of the people, and not under the archaic method of private control which has been proved to be a failure in connection with such essential services as transport, not alone here but in every other country.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  Not being an expert on transport matters, I face this debate with an open mind. I think, however, that it would be churlish on my part if I did not admit that the Minister made a strong case for the Bill. That fact, however, does not prove that it is a good Bill. It may only prove, perhaps, that the Minister is a very good debater. However, with much of what the Minister said, I am in agreement. I agree that in the post-war period the needs of this country will have to be served by the most up-to-date and efficient system of transport that can be devised, but I would ask the Minister: are we wise at this moment to commit ourselves to an expenditure of over £16,000,000 of public money to bolster up public transport? We must remember that there are two systems by which goods and passengers can be transported. There is the public transport company or privately-owned companies, and there is also the mode of conveyance provided by the individual himself. Now, are we certain that the mode of conveyance of goods, or the mode of travelling by individuals through their own means of conveyance, will not prove to be, in the post-war period, the most efficient [1988] means of transport? If it should prove to be so, then this expenditure of over £16,000,000 of public money on a public transport company will be absolutely unjustifiable. Not only that, but we shall have to face the fact that in establishing such a company with such wide powers, and in entering into those financial commitments, we may be tying this nation down to a system of transport which may prove to be inefficient. As a result of the passing of this Bill, we may be tying our people down to utilising a public transport company—which will now be the only transport company available —which may prove to be utterly inefficient. That, I think, is a serious objection to the Bill, because it must be remembered that we are now living in a transition period, a period when science and invention are making the most rapid progress. As I say, it may easily become possible that the private individual, whether he be a farmer, a shop-keeper or a manufacturer, may find it more economic to convey his goods from his own factory or shop to the consumer in his own vehicles instead of using the services of a public transport company. In the same way, the private individual may find it cheaper and more efficient to travel in his own vehicle. If that is so, and if the privately-owned lorry or privately-owned car or plane should turn out to be the cheapest modes of transport in the future, is it not unwise to tie us down to a public transport system to the extent that is envisaged in this Bill?

There is another aspect of the matter to which I should like to refer. The Minister has given very definite assurances that he will not interfere with the privately-owned lorry or car, but is it not almost an absolute certainty that any Government in the future, particularly when there is so much money guaranteed behind this proposed public transport company, will utilise all its powers to restrict any opposition or competition from private enterprises? As the Minister himself pointed out, the privately owned lorry or car is the most serious competitor of the public transport companies. There will be often in the [1989] future ways and means by which the privately-owned lorry and car might be put off or restricted in the use of the public road. The Minister may repeat, again and again, that he does not intend to introduce legislation restricting the use of the public highways or means of conveyance, but the Minister is not the only member of the Government. There are quite a number of ways by which the private lorry and private car can be restricted in their operations. They can be restricted by various activities on the part of the Minister for Finance in the matter of taxation. Here, again, the Minister for Industry and Commerce can wield his influence with the Minister for Finance to put a dangerous rival of his own company off the road. Frequently, Ministers for Finance, when introducing their Budgets, have acknowledged that they were introducing proposals for taxation at the request of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Here, an opportunity will arise for the present Minister for Industry and Commerce or his successor to advise the Minister for Finance to restrict competition with this State-guaranteed company. Therefore, I think it is unwise to commit the State to such enormous expenditure on this public transport company at present. I think that it is also unwise to eliminate an independent transport company which has been successfully operating in this city and merge it in the new company, thereby making the new body much more cumbersome and also increasing the commitments of the State in the matter. My own personal opinion is that we should confine our commitment, at this particular juncture, in respect of public transport, to the minimum.

The Minister has said that he does not approve of the subsidisation of transport. I think that, if he meant by that that he does not approve of utilising the ordinary revenue to bolster up public transport, the House will agree with him. But it is possible to subsidise any company, particularly a monopoly company, without actually paying out public money to that company. A company enjoying a monopoly [1990] and supported by the State can extract from its customers whatever subsidy is required. I agree with the Minister when he says that public transport ought not to be subsidised out of the public purse. I am one of those who hold that a case can be made for subsidising production in many cases because, then, you are adding to the volume of goods produced within the State. But it is always unwise to subsidise transport because, in that case, you are adding nothing to the volume of goods produced. You are simply encouraging the movement of goods or of passengers as the case may be.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  You can provide cheap rates for agriculture by subsidy.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  I have said that there are other methods by which agriculture can be helped which would be more beneficial than the subsidising of transport. I do not propose to go into that question very deeply at the moment, but I think it would be better to subsidise agriculture directly than to subsidise it indirectly by way of subsidising transport. This new company, by reason of its enormous size and power, will tend to interfere in various ways with the rights of firms and individuals and with the rights and interests of districts. Is there any provision in this Bill to safeguard the interests of people who are interfered with? Is there any provision in this Bill for an appeal tribunal of any kind to which people who are aggrieved can apply for redress? I have failed to find any such provision. Servants of the company may suffer loss of employment or reduction of wages or some other disadvantage. Firms may suffer disadvantage by reason of the inadequacy of the services provided by this company. Districts may suffer disadvantage owing to the closing down of branch railways and failure to provide an adequate substitute. There is no provision in this Bill for a tribunal to which these aggrieved people can appeal, and without such a tribunal grave injustice can be inflicted.

Deputy Byrne who has the advantage, perhaps, that he brings to bear on [1991] most matters, not appeals to theory but actual facts relating to human beings, has brought to the notice of the House the inconvenience which travellers suffer from the fact that no bus shelters are provided in the city for people travelling long distances. Here is a type of grievance from which the ordinary public may suffer and for which they have no redress. He also drew attention to a grievance which the local authority might suffer by reason of the fact that they are required to provide up-to-date road services for this new transport company. He was referring to the City of Dublin but the same situation might exist, and probably will exist, in the various counties in which we shall have this public transport company availing of public roads provided by the ratepayers of the various counties. Justice demands that this transport company must make an adequate contribution to the construction and maintenance of these roads. If we have a system by which this public company pays an adequate contribution to the local councils by way of road tax, petrol duty or otherwise, and if it is sufficient to cover the cost of the construction and maintenance of the roads required, there will be no injustice inflicted but here, again, there is a case in which local ratepayers could possibly be wronged.

While the Minister has stated that this new company will not interfere with the conveyance of goods or merchandise by private individuals, there is in one section of the Bill a provision that a restriction will be imposed where a group of individuals own a lorry for the conveyance of their collective goods. That restriction, I think, is unjustified. I think that if a group of farmers join together to purchase a lorry to have their farm produce conveyed to market or town, they are entitled to utilise that means of conveyance. They will not be carrying for hire; they will be merely carrying their own goods. The provision in this section means that they can carry only goods which were originally co-operatively owned, such as the property of co-operative societies. I do not think [1992] that restriction should be imposed. I do not think that the State should step in to prevent individual citizens from joining together to own and utilise up-to-date means of conveying their goods.

The Minister, I think, has strongly condemned nationalisation, but he stated that this new company would have all the advantages of nationalisation with none of its disadvantages. I think the contrary is true, that this new company will have all the disadvantages of nationalisation without any of its advantages. It certainly has not the advantage that would accrue in the case of nationalisation from the fact that the public through this House would be able to express and assert their rights in the management of this company. There is no effective control, no effective means by which this House can exercise control over this company, as far as I can see, except by sacking the Minister, and I do not think that that would be the most suitable means of exercising control. It would be a pity to dispense with a good Minister in order to get rid of a bad manager in this company.

Deputy Donnellan referred to the fact that the Minister has fairly wide powers in the appointment and removal of the manager of the company. That is true, but unfortunately those powers are to a great extent restricted to the Minister. As far as I can find in reading the Bill, there is very little opportunity for this House to exercise control over the operations of the company. The Minister has wide powers certainly but the House, as far as I can see, has practically no power whatever and I think that is definitely a disadvantage. It establishes a position in which the State has got to put up the money by guaranteeing money subscribed by the shareholders but the people have not the right to exercise control. I think the Minister would be well advised, having regard to all the circumstances, to withdraw this Bill. The establishment of what is described as a dictator, over rail, road, sea and air transport at this particular moment, is inopportune particularly when we have a certain atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty regarding the manner in which the existing company has been [1993] managed and the entire future is in a state of complete uncertainty and doubt. It would be, I think, in the public interest that the Minister should withdraw this Bill or set about amending it in such a way as to give the people who are directly concerned, the public, some voice in the management of this public company and, further, to restrict as far as possible, State expenditure in a venture so uncertain as this at this particular time.

Further, it would be desirable, I think, that the whole system of transport should be again reconsidered. Expert opinion should be sought and the interests directly concerned throughout the country consulted. The railway system as operated in the past was never entirely satisfactory. The Minister referred to various Acts which were introduced to bolster it up, and there is a grave danger that in the future the new company may prove as unsatisfactory and as dangerous to the best interests of the nation as the railway companies were in the past. There is also a danger to which the Minister indirectly referred when he gave an assurance to the City of Dublin that this Transport Company would make for the prosperity and wealth of the city, inasmuch as transport was mainly the business of conveying goods to and from the City of Dublin. I am not so sure that that should be the main function of transport in this country. I think the main function of transport in this country should be to convey goods in whatever directions they need to be conveyed. There should not be imposed upon this nation a particular line of economic development which tends to draw everything in the country towards one particular centre, namely, the City of Dublin. I do not think that the City of Dublin should be the hub of our entire transport system. That is one of the reasons why I strongly urge reconsideration of the whole matter.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  One thing I admire in regard to this matter is the complete change of attitude on the part of all Deputies. For the past 12 months, ever since rumours of this Bill first started in the country, there were [1994] various wild statements as to what the Bill would do. Every Deputy, no matter to what Party he belongs, particularly Government Deputies, I think, had roads made to their houses by every fellow in the country owning a lorry and every merchant, saying that their lorries were going to be driven off the road, that every poor fellow working for hire would get no further opportunity of working for hire, that the Minister was going to bring in a Bill to sweep them off the road and to confine the traffic to the railway company. This Bill has been introduced, and none of these wild things that we were told about is going to happen. Deputy Cogan says that we want an efficient transport service in the country. We do. If there was anything that bore out the fact that we want an efficient transport service, it was the present emergency. Deputies who cast their minds back a very few years will remember what happened in the various country towns when everything that had to be sent to and from the towns was sent by lorry. Then the railway company began to consider closing down branch lines and Deputies were immediately summoned by the very merchants who took their transport from the railway company and asked to get the branch line maintained even though nobody in the town was using it. If there was anything that brought out the absolute necessity for the railway system in this country it was the present emergency. Consider the condition of affairs prevailing in the districts where branch lines were closed down. If Deputy Cogan wants an efficient transport service, this is the only means of getting it.

Deputy Cogan, admitting in the first place that the rights of individual carriers are protected in the Bill, says that the Minister may do this, that and the other. The Minister may do that at any time, even without this Bill. Transport rights have been restricted from time to time and the rights of private carriers have been restricted, as Deputy Cogan well knows, without this Bill at all.

There are a few matters in the Bill that I am anxious about. Firstly, in [1995] regard to the financial provisions of the Bill, I think the first care of this House should be for the ordinary worker. If we are going to give compensation to directors and if we are going to guarantee dividends to shareholders, we should first of all be prepared to guarantee that the position of the ordinary worker in the railway company will not be worsened. I think it would be very unfair to see a group of directors who, by mismanagement or misfortune, are now in the position that the State has to take over from them, getting compensation while the sufferer of that mismanagement, the ordinary worker, is put out without any compensation. I, at any rate, am far more concerned with the ordinary worker than I am with the racketeer in shares.

I would also suggest that all stock that was transferred since July, 1943, should be taken over at the July, 1943, price by the Minister for Finance. I think that would end one set of racketeers in this country. It would give us a nice share-holding in this company. I certainly would suggest that as a fair means.

There are a few small matters that can be dealt with on Committee Stage. There is, for instance, the question of the abolition by this Bill of the Railway Tribunal. I have very happy memories of the Railway Tribunal. On the only occasion when I troubled them I got complete justice and I would require to be very well satisfied in regard to what is going to replace them. At one time, about June, 1943, the railway company introduced new rates. In one district in my county they increased the freightage rates to the farmers by 150 to 200 per cent., and as I had to prove afterwards before the Railway Tribunal, they cost this nation between 250 and 300 tons of wheat at a period when we could very ill afford to lose any wheat by the exorbitant freightage on sea sand that was required for manuring the soil for the cultivation of wheat. I must say that the judge on the Railway Tribunal met us very fairly and we got a reduction on that item alone of £2,800 a year as compared [1996] with the new freightage rate imposed by the company in June, 1943. Some steps should be taken to prevent exorbitant charges by any company that is going to have a monopoly of transport. The action of the railway company in that matter cost this country between 250 and 300 tons of wheat at a period when we could ill afford to lose even one cwt. of wheat. I am anxious about the abolition of the Railway Tribunal. Part IV states that the Minister may make an Order altering the classification of maximum rates, but before doing so may require publication of such proposals, so that any objections or representations may be considered. Any proposal to alter a rate should be published in the Press so that everybody concerned would know that an alteration was about to be made.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  That is being done.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Another section states that the owner of a vehicle will have to prove that it is his property. I am concerned about the conveyance of beet. The sugar company owns beet from the time it is sown. If the beet cannot be delivered to the factory it remains the property of the farmer but he will not be paid for it. The present arrangement is that he will be committing an offence if he conveys it.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  He will not and the Deputy knows that.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  As the legislation now stands he will.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  That is not so.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The Minister may be quite satisfied that he will be offending.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Is this a Party meeting?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I am objecting to what the Deputy states.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The Deputy is entitled to his opinion. When I see something in this Bill that I think is wrong I am going to speak about it so that the Minister may have it rectified. That is part of his duty. Is it not provided that onus of proof of ownership of a vehicle in which goods are carried [1997] rests on the owner of the goods? The beet sown by farmers belongs to the sugar company, and the Civic Guard would have to be satisfied about ownership of a vehicle carrying it. I am also concerned about the position of agents who buy wheat for millers and generally convey it to the mills. The wheat does not belong to the agents. It belongs either to the millers or the farmers. Advantage should be taken in this Bill to rectify certain anomalies that exist. It is all right to say that nobody will bother about these things, but farmers want to know their position. They do not want favours. They want justice. This is the time to draw attention to matters that Deputies consider require explanation. This Bill, in my opinion, is necessary, but there are points raised by it that I am anxious the Minister would take the opportunity to deal with.

Colonel Ryan: Information on Col. Jeremiah Ryan  Zoom on Col. Jeremiah Ryan  After Deputy Corry's speech I should like to know if he is supporting this Bill?

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Certainly. If the Deputy has anything to say about the Bill I will be very glad to hear him. I want to know if the position of workers is going to be worsened by the passing of this Bill. In my view, the ordinary workers should be the first care of any legislation and the 3 per cent. should go as compensation to the workers rather than to the shareholders. It is the duty of the State to protect the workers and that is provided for in the Constitution.

Colonel Ryan: Information on Col. Jeremiah Ryan  Zoom on Col. Jeremiah Ryan  According to the Deputy no directors are to be paid. The Deputy cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  As usual Deputy Corry tried to make the best case with the greatest number of words, so that he can go around the country later and tell the boys how he stood up to the Minister when dealing with this Bill. He talked about the Constitution and the workers. That was not a bad line. He is also going to do away with racketeers and he wants the Department of Finance to take over the railway shares at the price at which they stood some years ago. The Deputy can deal with matters very simply when he wants to do so.

[1998] Deputy Corry comes in here and makes a half-hearted speech attacking his own Minister. He will cut that bit out of the Official Report and show it to the boys down the country so that they will be able to say what a great fellow he was, standing up to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. If Deputy Corry wants to deal honestly with the position of the workers let him put down an amendment proposing to delete the provision for compensation to the directors; let him put down another amendment fixing a certain sum to go to the payment of compensation to the workers, and a third amendment calling on the Minister for Finance to take over these railway shares at their quoted price on the 1st July, 1943. If Deputy Corry is prepared to do that, then it could be said that there was some merit in his argument, but unless he is prepared to do that, how can it be said that there is any merit at all in it? He opened his speech by saying that people on this side of the House had criticised lightly the provisions in the Bill which, according to him, are going to wipe out private transport and licensed hauliers. Possibly it was a very good job for everyone in this country that at one period some members of the House did make themselves vocal about the abolition of private transport. Maybe it was well that was done before this Bill came on. One objection that I have to this Bill is that it is not going to deal with transport at all. Looking at transport in a national way, this Bill might as well never have been brought in. First of all, it does not go half far enough, and, in my opinion, it is merely another attempt to bolster up the Great Southern Railways Company. The Minister said that at one period the railway company suffered severely from what he described as unfair competition. That was one of the reasons he said why the railways got into a bad state. But I put it to the Minister that there is absolutely no provision in his Bill to prevent any type of unfair competition against the new company except perhaps the things that the Minister has already the power to do under present legislation.

[1999] The State is being asked to guarantee a very considerable sum of money for the issue of debenture stock in this new company. Roughly, a sum of £13,500,000 will go into the taking over of the stocks that are already in the hands of certain people. The balance of £6,500,000 will deal with what I would consider ought to be the most important thing for the new company, and that is the re-equipment and reorganisation of the system. I understand that, at the moment, the Great Southern Railways are in a very bad state as regards rolling stock, equipment, permanent way and other classes of material necessary for the carrying on of the business of the company. It is perfectly obvious that if that situation is going to be dealt with in a big way before the end of the war, or immediately after the end of the war, the handing over of that sum of money in the way outlined will not do at all. There are a lot of people who do not like the sound of the word “nationalisation.” They forget that we have nationalised many things in this country but under another name. If the intention of the Bill be to deal with transport matters sectionally, then for my part I would prefer to have nationalisation. I would prefer that to the guaranteeing by the State of vast sums of money for debenture stocks in what is going to continue to be, to all intents and purposes, a private company.

Deputy Corry's argument about the shareholders of the company was very cheap. At the moment there is a lot of public uneasiness and public comment about the stock market transactions in Great Southern Railways shares, and of the sudden rise in the price of them last year. It ought not to be forgotten that a big number of people in this country who are not by any means well off, a number of widows and orphans who had small amounts of money, have all their savings invested in these railway stocks. It should be remembered, too, that at one period this stock was a trustee stock. That was the case 30 and 40 years ago, but, due to mishandling by the railway company, and to legislation passed by this House, the capital of the people that [2000] I speak of, which was invested in the company, was reduced to a point where it was not worth the paper it was written on. Whatever was the cause of the operations on the stock market in these shares, at any rate the poor people who are the owners of that stock got a chance, to use Deputy Corry's phrase, of getting a bit of their own back. I wonder do Deputies realise that, 30 or 40 years ago, investors in big public concerns regarded these railway stocks as an ideal investment. They were looked upon as being most secure by the small investor in this country.

Listening to Deputy Corry, and the language he used, one would imagine that investors in Great Southern Railways stocks were millionaires. The fact is that the bulk of them were people who had saved a couple of hundred pounds which they put into these stocks at a time when they were regarded as equal to, if not better than, Government stock as a security. It should not be forgotten either that various national and political incidents that happened in this country did not help the Great Southern Railways. For a considerable time the railways were on the downward trend, due in part to competition from road transport— passenger and freight carrying. Then there was mismanagement, indeed one might say lazy management. During all this period the railways company remained asleep. All that contributed to the wiping out of the little capital belonging to the people that I speak about—the small investor. And, on top of all that, there was the legislation passed by this House, particularly as it affected the ordinary shareholders. Under that legislation they were almost completely wiped out, the nominal value of the ordinary stock being reduced from £100 to £10. Does Deputy Corry seriously suggest that this House would be justified in taking over the holdings in railway stock of those people at whatever figure they stood at on a particular date? Is that what he suggests, that their little investments in Great Southern Railways should be taken from them? Why should those poor people be wiped out now, especially if this Bill is going to re-establish the railways and make railway [2001] traffic in this country a paying proposition, and if it is going to be a solution of the country's transport difficulties? Those small shareholders have been suffering losses for the last 20 or 30 years. They have seen their capital reduced by 90 per cent. They have not seen a dividend for the last 16 or 17 years. Why should Deputy Corry seek to have them completely wiped out now?

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I have not proposed that they should be wiped out.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  If Deputy Corry had suggested that steps should be taken to check over the stock books and only give the “knock out” to the people who bought these stocks when there was the sudden rise in their price last year, there might be some sense in what he said.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  My statement was that all shares transferred since the rumours started to circulate, and since the racketeers got busy in about July, 1943, should be taken over by the Minister at the July, 1943, value.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Daniel McMenamin  Zoom on Daniel McMenamin  The Chair has already ruled that there must be no reference whatever to that matter.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  That was the statement that I made.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  If that is Deputy Corry's view, then I invite him to put down an amendment to that effect, and we can have the matter thrashed out in Committee. I put it to the House that Deputy Corry's statement on this particular subject justifies the motion to this Bill which has been tabled by this Party. If Deputy Corry is as uneasy in his mind as he pretends to be about the operations of the racketeers on the stock market, as he has described them, then I put to him that he ought to vote for this motion to postpone the Second Reading of this Bill until the tribunal that has been set up has made its report.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  There is no occasion for that.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  Deputy Corry wants it both ways. He wants to tell everybody [2002] how anxious he is about the ordinary workers on the railways, that he is the one man in Dáil Éireann who is going to nail the racketeers, that he is the one man who had the pluck to tell the Minister where he gets off and how to deal with the racketeers. But in spite of all that, Deputy Corry does not want to wait for the report of the tribunal.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I was never trained as a lawyer to tell lies for hire.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  It is obvious that you were never trained. The Deputy made a bold statement about the amendment which it is proposed to make to the Road Transport Act of 1933. This part of the Bill deals with merchandise road transport. It was no wonder that the Minister laughed at Deputy Corry's interpretation of the words “own goods” in the new section. The Deputy said that he wanted certain anomalies wiped out that exist in the Road Transport Act of 1933 and the Road Traffic Act. Under the present legislation it is impossible, as we all know, to get a conviction in the courts against the private lorry owner, because he can always make the defence that the goods he is carrying are his own. If he is found on the road with a load of stuff and a Guard questions him, and if he says the goods are his own, that is a good defence. Deputy Corry wants that sort of thing to continue. Does the Deputy seriously suggest that the licensed haulier established under the 1933 Act, and who because of that has to pay extra tax and insurance, is not entitled to be protected against the fellow who is ostensibly carrying on as a private owner, but who, in fact, is taking work from the licensed haulier as well as from the railways? These private owners have been taking business from the licensed hauliers which the latter were legally and morally entitled to. It was that kind of unfair competition that did a lot of damage to the railways and to licensed hauliers. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.

The Dáil adjourned at 9 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 3rd May, 1944.


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