Wednesday, 22 February 1950
Dáil Éireann Debate
Captain Cowan: In moving to report progress last night, I said I would give the Minister an opportunity of thinking over the matter during the night. I am quite sure he has had an opportunity of considering it, but it may be that he has not had an opportunity of making up his mind on it. In those circumstances it may be that Deputy Lemass will withdraw the amendment in order to enable the Minister to consider the matter between this and the Report Stage.
Mr. Lemass: I wonder if the Minister would indicate what classes of Córas  Iompair Éireann employees are not covered by existing superannuation schemes. I assume that the insertion here of a section which is designed to provide for the preparation of new schemes is necessary because there are some classes of employees not yet covered. If that is so, I should like to know what classes they are. I understand that the Grand Canal Company has not got a superannuation scheme for its manual workers and I presume it is intended that they will either be incorporated in the existing scheme of Córas Iompair Éireann, or a new scheme prepared for them.
Mr. Morrissey: I understand there are two main classes that may require a special scheme, one of which is the railway clerks who entered in recent years; and, of course, the canal workers and so on will be brought in.
In sub-section (4), line 13, after the word “board” to add the following words “unless and until legislation is enacted by the Oireachtas imposing on the board and employees of the board the obligation to pay contributions under a compulsory State social security scheme.”
The purpose of this amendment is to get some clarification of the Minister's intention and, if he can give it, of the Government's intention in regard to superannuation schemes administered by Córas Iompair Éireann, as they are by other industrial concerns, on a voluntary basis. The White Paper on Social Security has been circulated and it provides for the granting to contributors under an insurance scheme to be established of pensions at 65 at certain prescribed rates. The sub-section of the Bill makes it a legal obligation  on the company to maintain existing superannuation schemes. Some of these existing schemes were, of course, not the consequence of legal enactments here but were introduced voluntarily by the old company and could have been modified or withdrawn by them if they thought fit, or if a State scheme was substituted which provided corresponding benefits. In the future, however, in consequence of this sub-section, as I understand it, it will be a legal obligation on the new board to maintain existing schemes in operation. On the other hand, we know that the Government has in contemplation the implementation of the proposals in the White Paper on Social Security. If the White Paper proposals are implemented, is it intended that they will run parallel with the existing superannuation schemes of Córas Iompair Éireann, or will the Minister then modify this particular proposal so as to permit of some change in the position so far as Córas Iompair Éireann is concerned; or is it intended that at that stage Córas Iompair Éireann will drop their existing superannuation scheme and allow the workers concerned to rely entirely upon the State scheme?
The position, as I understand it at the moment, is that the regular wages staff of Córas Iompair Éireann become entitled to pensions at 65 in consequence of a contribution of 1/- per week. There are various classes of pensions. They can take a pension of 20/- per week for life; they can take a pension of 30/- per week between the ages of 65 and 70, dropping to 12/- per week at 70; or they can take a pension of 37/6 per week between 65 and 70, dropping to 6/- per week at 70. These alternative proposals are, of course, a consequence of the means test under the present old age pensions scheme and are designed to enable the workers to get the benefit of a higher pension between 65 and 70, and then take advantage of the old age pension from 70 onwards.
Under the scheme as proposed in the White Paper, which will be an insurance scheme, the pensions payable will not be subject to a means test and  would not, therefore, be reduced by reason of the fact that a worker was also in receipt of a pension under the Córas Iompair Éireann scheme. But against the contribution of 1/- per week, which the worker is now paying, he will, under the White Paper proposals, pay 3/6, and it is clearly necessary to define what the position will be at that stage. Will the worker be obliged to pay the contribution under the White Paper scheme and will he then be entitled to get the benefits under it? Will he, at the same time, be obliged to make the 1/- per week contribution under the Córas Iompair Éireann scheme and will he be entitled to get the benefits under it also? If it were intended that the worker should pay the two contributions and get the two pensions, some modification of the Córas Iompair Éireann scheme might be necessary because its present arrangement does take cognisance of the fact that old age pensions are payable at 70 subject to a means test.
On the other hand, the effect on the company's funds is also considerable because they are paying something in the region of £150,000 a year towards the cost of pensions at the present time; and, as I have calculated it, they will be obliged to pay in increased contributions under the social insurance scheme something akin to another £150,000. I have not given any consideration to the determination of which is the best arrangement from the point of view of the workers. Nor have I attempted to ascertain in any detailed way what they themselves would prefer, but it is clearly a question upon which the Government will have to make up its mind either in relation to transport legislation or in relation to the contemplated social welfare legislation. Of course, the problem that arises for Córas Iompair Éireann arises for every industrial concern which at present operates a pensions scheme for its workers. When the social welfare proposals are implemented they will then have to decide whether or not they will abandon or modify their existing pensions arrangements, either because of the higher contributions which the employees will have to pay, or because of the cost to themselves of operating two schemes.
 It is, therefore, a matter of some importance to get from the Minister an indication of the significance of this sub-section, because clearly it will be taken by other firms as an indication of what the Government intends. If they intend that existing insurance schemes should continue and are to be supplemented by the State scheme then the workers concerned will have to reckon with the possibility of this higher contribution payable and the firms concerned on the possibility of higher costs. If, on the other hand, it is intended that all these existing voluntary schemes should be absorbed into the State scheme then the position will be clarified but will obviously necessitate, at that stage, Córas Iompair Éireann getting released from the obligations proposed to be put on them under this sub-section. I should be glad if the Minister would find it possible to explain what is intended in that memorandum.
Mr. Morrissey: As the Deputy is aware, this sub-section merely confirms the existing position. My line under it is that if and when, shall I say, the Social Security Bill is introduced into the House, if there is a necessity to make any amendment of this sub-section which may be necessary or which may be required, it can be, I think, more appropriately contained in the Social Security Bill itself rather than here now. I do not think we can so provide now or that it would be proper for us to anticipate the legislation which is going to be introduced. The point made by the Deputy can and I assume will be covered by whatever amendment of this sub-section may be found to be necessary. I think the Deputy will agree that that is sufficient.
Mr. Lemass: For these manual workers Córas Iompair Éireann operates at present a superannuation scheme and a welfare scheme. The sub-section refers only to the superannuation scheme. The welfare scheme is voluntary and is not contributory.  It is not intended that this section should cover the welfare scheme as well as the superannuation scheme?
I have just been talking about the welfare schemes — maternity and medical benefit, and so forth. As Deputy Lemass has just pointed out, they do not form part of the superannuation scheme. The schemes are not statutory and include in their rules provision that they are subject to amendment. While the statute for pension schemes can be amended by an amending Order under Section 41 of the Bill, the welfare part of these schemes would be made binding on the board by Section 42 (4) of this Bill. There is a doubt as to whether this may deprive the board of the power to amend them in the future. This amendment is to provide that the power, if any, to amend such schemes will not be affected by the passing of this Bill. I think it will be appreciated that that is necessary.
Mr. Lemass: We had some discussion during the earlier stages of this Bill concerning the obligations of the company under existing superannuation schemes and the extent to which they have met or failed to meet  these obligations. I am really setting out now to correct a false impression that was left on the public mind by reason of certain references in the speech made by the Minister for Finance on the Money Resolution of the Bill. The House will remember that each year of its existence the company has appropriated certain sums for pensions purposes. In the earlier years—1945, 1946 and I think 1947—the amounts so appropriated were paid but in the subsequent years, in which the company suffered a loss, the appropriations became part of the loss and, in fact, money was not transferred from the company to the pensions fund trustees. The references which were made to that situation were, to some extent, misleading and unfair to the directors of the company. The normal method by which the company would find funds to cover live obligations of that kind in a year when the revenue was insufficient for the purpose would be to borrow by the issue of debentures. As I understand the situation, the company sought authority to issue debentures for the purpose but were refused by the Minister for Finance and the matter came before the board of the company in the middle of 1949. The position arose at that stage where, according to information given to me by the directors of the company, they expressed their concern at the non-fulfilment of the obligation to transfer these funds to the pensions fund trustees. The chairman of the company explained that the money was not available and authority to borrow the money by the issue of debentures was not forthcoming. May I explain for the benefit of certain Deputies who, I think, were left under a misapprehension by the speeches already made, that the chairman to whom I am referring is the present chairman, Mr. Courtney, and that this matter did not develop during the period of office of the former chairman?
“They (that is, the pensions fund trustees) approached Córas Iompair  Éireann, and then something took place which it is laughable to recite here. If it had to be recited in a court of law it might have a much worse complexion. Transport Subsidiary said to Córas Iompair Éireann: ‘You owe us £142,000 that you should have paid us for the benefit of these trustee funds.’ Córas Iompair Éireann said: ‘We will assume the figure is correct, but we have not the money.’ Transport Subsidiary said: ‘We will lend you the money,’ but they also said: ‘We have not the money either.’ Then an arrangement was made that Córas Iompair Éireann would notionally send Transport Subsidiary a cheque for £142,000, and that Transport Subsidiary would notionally send Córas Iompair Éireann a cheque for £142,000, but not 1/-passed. That is the situation.”
Apart from any impression that may have been left that this device of exchanging cheques with the pensions fund trustees—which had the effect of transferring the obligation of the company from an undischarged financial commitment to a permanent debt to the pensions fund trustees—was done on the responsibility of the former chairman, Mr. Reynolds, certainly the impression was left that it was a device of the existing stockholders' directors. I was approached, after that statement was made, by one of the stockholders' directors, who explained to me that, in fact, it was a device suggested by the present chairman, Mr. Courtney, and adopted by the board on his recommendation and that the minute authorising the transfer of funds was signed by him.
He explained to me that they had not suggested to Mr. Courtney that there was any obligation on him to publish a statement to correct any false impression that had been created, because they thought it might be embarrassing for him in present circumstances, but I think it is only fair that the records of the Dáil should state the facts. The device to exchange cheques could be made to look ludicrous but, in fact, it does not represent anything other than a borrowing  by the company from the pension fund trustees of the amount of money required by them to meet a specific obligation. It was always contemplated that the pension fund trustees should preferably invest their funds in Córas Iompair Éireann stock. It is by no means an unusual situation that pension fund trustees should lend money of which they are the trustees to the company for whose employees these moneys are held. That is the situation as far as the Electricity Supply Board is concerned. The moneys of the Electricity Supply Board Pension Fund are invested in the Electricity Supply Board.
Mr. Lemass: However, I should not like it to be thought that there was anything discreditable to the company in the procedure which was followed. It probably would have been better if they got authority from the Minister for Finance to issue debenture stock in order to raise the money and to pay cash to the pension fund trustees. My main concern is to remove any idea from the minds of the members of the Dáil that the method adopted was devised by the former chairman, or was a special device discovered by the stockholders' directors. In fact, the minute authorising the issue of this cheque was signed by the present chairman.
Mr. Lemass: In reply to the question asked by Deputy Davin, in the balance sheet for 1947 it was shown that there  had been accumulated in the insurance reserve fund a sum of £150,000. In 1947 a loss was made and although the company had shown in their profit and loss account the amount due in respect of their obligations to the superannuation schemes, in fact they had not got the money to pay. That position continued in 1948 and 1949. As I understand the position, some time early in 1949 the present chairman approached the Minister for Finance for authority to issue debenture stock to raise money to discharge that liability in cash and to rectify the position. He was refused that permission by the Minister for Finance and he reported that position to the board at the meeting of the board at which the matter was considered. This arrangement for the borrowing of the money from the pensions fund was approved by the board and the authority to execute that agreement was issued by Mr. Courtney. I think in all fairness, that the false impression that this device was either contemplated by Mr. Reynolds or suggested by the stockholders' directors, should be removed. It was a device suggested and implemented by the present chairman.
Mr. Lemass: The 1947 balance sheet was presented to the common stockholders in March, 1948. It revealed a loss. There was, consequently, no difficulty so far as the shareholders were concerned, as to what they were going to do with that loss but, in determining how much the loss was, the  company put into the table the amount due in respect of superannuation.
Captain Cowan: I want to draw the Minister's attention to sub-section (7) which may have to be considered in reference to the Minister's own amendment and in reference to what Deputy Lemass has said in regard to the new social welfare scheme. I do nothing further than simply draw the Minister's attention to it for consideration before the Bill is finally passed.
Mr. Larkin: I take it that the main purpose of the section is to continue certain statutory obligations imposed upon the new company in so far as they take over the undertakings of both the railway company and the canal company. In respect of the canal, presumably one of these statutory obligations will be to maintain the canal waterways until such time as they are released from such obligations. There is a matter I would take advantage of this to raise. In connection with the canals, we have a somewhat different position from that of the railways, in so far as the canal waterways are used not only by the canal company for its own traffic, but also by privately owned boats, some directly by their own owners and others under contract for the canal company. If it did happen that the canal were closed, that would affect their position. There is the curious position that, while we have made arrangements in respect of direct employees of the canal company, we  have taken no responsibility for the employees on these privately owned boats now working under contract. I wonder if the Minister would look into the matter between now and the Report Stage. I know there are difficulties, but it is a problem which is going to affect their livelihood.
Mr. Morrissey: I move amendment No. 77:—
Before Section 50 (between lines 24 and 25), and before Part VIII to insert a new section as follows:—
Transport Charges and Cesser of Train Services.
In this Part—
the word “charges” includes any fares, rates or tolls;
the expression “the existing statutory maximum charge” means, in relation to any service provided by the board, the maximum charge which either dissolved undertaker was, immediately before the establishment date, entitled by law to make for the provision of a similar service;
the expression “exemption Order” means an Order under Section — being either—
(a) an Order exempting the board from the obligation to operate a service of trains for (as may be specified in the Order) passengers and merchandise or either of them over any specified railway line, or
(b) an Order exempting the board from the obligation to restore any service of trains over a specified  railway line, being a service which was temporarily discontinued under the Emergency Powers (Córas Iompair Éireann) (Reduction of Railway Services) Order, 1944 (S. R. & O., No. 354 of 1944);
the expression “interested party” means any body of persons;
the word “obligation” means any obligation whether statutory, contractual or otherwise imposed;
the expression “railway line” includes a section of railway line;
the word “service” means any of the following:—
(a) the conveyance of passengers and their luggage,
(b) the receiving, forwarding, carrying and delivering of merchandise,
(c) any other transport service or facility;
the expression “the tribunal” means the transport tribunal established by Section —.
This is a new section. There is a number of amendments linked together here. The section I am now putting before the House in this amendment defines the various terms used in the new sections relating to the establishment of the transport tribunal and the performance by the tribunal of functions relating to charges and branch railway lines. Deputies will notice that the series of amendments there running from No. 77 up to and including No. 84 deals with the tribunal and the application of charges. They are to a large extent in lieu of Sections 17 and 18 of the Bill as originally introduced, sections which I did not move.
Mr. Lemass: I take it that this is the amendment on which we can discuss the whole series of proposals which the Minister has to make in subsequent amendments relating to this transport tribunal and its functions.
Mr. Morrissey: I was going to suggest that, if the House would agree, it would save a lot of overlapping and unnecessary discussion if we take the  whole lot and discuss them together. That would give the House more freedom to discuss them, as they are very closely connected and interlocked.
Mr. Lemass: I think that is the more convenient arrangement. There may, of course, be minor drafting amendments.
Mr. Morrissey: I am thinking of the general discussion.
Agreed: That amendments Nos. 77 to 84, inclusive, be discussed together.
Mr. Morrissey: In that connection, I would ask Deputies to take particular note of the amendment which was circulated in typescript to-day, No. 81a, which is in substitution for amendment No. 81. That goes as far as I can go to meet some of the points that were raised here earlier in the debate on the question of classification, publication, and so on. I want to remind Deputies who may not have got a copy of the typescript to-day, that No. 81a is to be substituted for No. 81.
Mr. Lemass: I read this since I came to the Dáil to-day, but I have not been able to relate it to the scheme of the Bill. Am I right in saying that in No. 81a there is no reference to the tribunal, that the obligation is on the company?
Mr. Morrissey: Yes. It is an attempt on my part to meet the point made by Deputy Lemass and other Deputies earlier on.
Mr. Lemass: The proposition before us here is one that I think should not be accepted by the Dáil. When the Minister produced this Bill here in its original form and spoke in favour of giving the company unrestricted power to alter its rates of charges or the frequency of its services without reference to any other authority, I criticised it and suggested that there was a danger to the public interest in the granting of unrestricted power as proposed. That point of view was supported, I think, by Deputies on both sides of the House, although it is true to say that in the subsequent discussion  more was said about the possibility of the board using its new freedom to close branch lines and railway stations than about the varying of fares and charges unduly to the public detriment.
So far as I am concerned, I have not anything like the same objection to the establishment of this tribunal with functions in relation to the withdrawal of services, the closing of branch lines or stations, that I have to this tribunal with functions in relation to fares and charges. I think it is desirable that we should have some authority whose approval the board must get before they close branch lines, close the canal, or seriously diminish by any means the transport facilities available to the public. I would have preferred that the supervising and controlling authority should be the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I have explained the reasons for that already. The Minister is responsible to the House if he has got functions in relation to these matters and Deputies are entitled then to question him concerning the use of his functions. They are entitled to submit motions calling upon him to exercise those functions in accordance with their view as to what the proper transport policy should be. The Minister, however, has adhered to his original decision to keep himself out of this machinery so far as it is possible for him to do so. Therefore, while conceding the necessity for some restriction upon the freedom of action given to the transport company, he has now proposed that the restriction should be exercisable through the transport tribunal, a transport tribunal the character of which is indicated in amendment No. 101. It shall consist of a number of members, not less than three or more than five, appointed by the Government and holding office for such period as may be determined by the Government at the time of appointment and remunerated out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas on such terms as the Government shall decide.
It is, I think, an unduly elaborate type of organisation to set up for the purpose of supervising the use by the company of its power to alter transport  services. First of all, it should be clear that the tribunal, if it is to be the supervising authority, should function only if there is in the mind of the Minister or the members of the tribunal bona fide objection to the proposed withdrawal of transport services. Branch lines have been closed here without serious objection from anyone. In some cases there was serious objection which, however, disappeared when facts were made known to those expressing them. In other cases serious differences of opinion emerged and were never really resolved, although ultimately a decision had to be taken. There is no point in having a tribunal to consider the desirability of closing a station or branch line or some part of a canal when everybody thinks it should be done and there is no local objection to it because of the adequacy of the alternative transport systems provided. Similarly, it should be understood that normally these matters would be considered informally.
I remember many years ago the case arose of terminating a service of passenger trains on a small branch line in County Cork and, having intimated that I was going to concede the application of the company in the matter, I was asked to meet a deputation of the traders of the town. The traders of the town came to object to the withdrawal of passenger services on this line. The statistics of the company showed that one passenger per week travelled. It was the same person who travelled every week. Over a number of years past, although the company had regularly attached the passenger coaches to their trains in accordance with their statutory obligations, only one person per week travelled. As soon as the members of the deputation learned that fact, they, of course, quite reasonably, withdrew their objection, and for a long time that branch line was operated solely for freight service. I understand it was closed since that time.
Mr. C. Lehane: Presumably, the Deputy could tell us whether there was a bus line running in competition?
Mr. Lemass: Certainly, and the bus  service was obviously much more popular with the travelling public.
Mr. Davin: Starting at the same time?
Mr. C. Lehane: Starting at the same time? The Deputy is referring to the Macroom line?
Mr. Lemass: No; a smaller line. If Deputies are trying to make the point that we should compel the public to travel by passenger train when they much prefer to travel by bus, I would not agree with it. I certainly agree that we should not prejudice the maintenance of railway services, but to restrict what the public would regard as a more suitable service in order to compel them to use passenger trains would, I think, be unjustifiable. However, that is not the point I am trying to make. The point I am trying to make is that, if there is to be an inquiry into the curtailment of a service, it should be only where there is an arguable case on each side. If, in fact, there is no objection to the withdrawal of the service or if the objection is withdrawn following informal discussion and communication of relevant facts, then there is no point in calling into action this transport tribunal of paid members and there is less point in keeping them in cold storage until that situation arises.
However, if the Minister will not take on himself the function of determining when transport services should be curtailed or what constitutes adequate transport facilities and, if we have to have a tribunal, it is better than nothing. It is better than leaving the company power to do it on their own without explanation to anyone.
My objection to the tribunal is mainly because it is also proposed to give it functions in relation to transport charges. We have had experience of a transport tribunal of this character functioning in relation to transport charges. It was a complete failure. It aroused widespread irritation amongst business people who had to go before it to make their reasonable objections to the company's proposals because of the legal costs in which they were involved and, ultimately, it functioned  without hearing the views of the business community, who let their decisions go by default rather than undertake the protracted process of appearing before them and the cost of briefing counsel to represent them.
It is true that at the time the original transport tribunal was functioning its main concern was to prevent the railway company from cutting fares rather than from increasing them unduly. It was charged with the statutory obligation of ensuring that the company earned a particular revenue and it had to devise a system of fares and charges which would enable it to earn that revenue. It never did, in fact, earn the revenue and, as I have mentioned, ultimately, the tribunal formally reported that there was no system of fares or charges that they could devise which would enable the company to earn the standard revenue.
That situation may appear to some Deputies to be different from the present situation but, when we analyse the present situation, it is not so very different. It is true that during the war years and the period immediately after the war, when there was a scarcity of transport facilities, the maximum charges became operative. The company charged the rates they were permitted to charge under the legislation or under Ministerial Orders amending the legislation and were always able to make these maximum charges effective. It is extremely doubtful whether they will be able to make these maximum charges effective in future. In fact, the justification for giving them freedom from control in the matter of fixing charges and fares is to enable them to meet competition where it is developing on the roads by cutting charges and holding the traffic by quoting lower rates. Is there any real danger, in present circumstances, that the company will, so far as freight traffic is concerned at any rate, be able to charge at an unduly high level? Is it not obvious that their problem is to get traffic at the present charges and that any increase in these charges will lose traffic for them? Our main concern must be to devise means by which they  can reduce their charges and increase the volume of traffic offering to them. On the other hand, we here as members of the Dáil representing the taxpayers have a new concern, to ensure that they do not unduly cut their charges, because now their losses will be met by subsidy and there must be an obligation upon somebody to ensure that they do not unduly increase these losses, and consequently the need for subsidy, by reducing the charges unnecessarily. The whole problem of transport management is to balance charges with traffic potentialities, but, with the new factors in this situation, that balance could be upset and is far more likely to be upset to the detriment of the taxpayer than to the detriment of the transport users.
This tribunal which the Minister proposes to set up functions only in relation to proposals to alter maximum charges. It will not have any functions like the old railway tribunal of preventing the company from cutting charges below standard, but if we are to have any investigation of how it frames its policy in that regard, our interest is much more likely to be in inducing them to keep up their charges, where it is practical to do it, rather than in preventing them from increasing charges unnecessarily to the detriment of those who have to use the railways for traffic purposes.
I have mentioned here already that this problem of transport is one which has been examined on more than one occasion, that is, the basis upon which charges are determined. The old transport rule was to fix the charges which the traffic could bear, and, as I told the Dáil, I, on a number of occasions, considered and discussed with transport executives whether some other basis of charging was not practicable and ultimately came to the conclusion that no other basis was practicable. The idea of quoting for specific traffic like the beet traffic on the basis of actual cost, plus a percentage of profit, was considered. The idea of utilising the movement of traffic charges to influence economic development of a desirable kind was also considered, but it became clearer in the course of time  that any other basis of charging meant a loss of revenue, and loss of revenue was what our transport undertakings have never been able to afford. One could contemplate the State coming in and insisting upon a particularly low freight charge for, say, turf, in order to reduce the price of turf in districts to which it has to be conveyed by rail, but if it does so, it must either make good the loss in revenue by subsidy or recognise that some other form of traffic will be meeting unnecessarily high charges in order to compensate the company.
This board, so far as its railway undertaking is concerned, and to a large extent so far as its rail freight services are concerned, will always be in the position of seeking to charge what the traffic will bear, recognising that if they go beyond that, they will lose the traffic, and also that if they go below that, they are going to lose revenue unnecessarily, and it seems to me therefore that we do not have to be as concerned as these proposals of the Minister would suggest with the power of the company to vary its transport charges without supervision. The original Bill proposed to give them power to vary their charges without supervision and as between it and the proposals now before us, I think the original Bill was preferable.
I do not know to what extent I may have influenced the views expressed in the Dáil on the Second Reading. I feel that I was fully entitled as a member of a political Party to remind opponents of that Party that they had promised to reduce transport charges and to increase services and that if they failed to implement these promises they cannot expect to have them forgotten.
Mr. Davin: What did you promise in 1944?
Mr. Lemass: I promised that after the war there would be a reorganisation of transport services. Deputy Davin's recollection of the circumstances of 1944 is probably no vaguer than my own. It was a question every week then whether there would be any service at all the following  week, and anybody who would have made promises about charges or services at that period would have been an ass.
Mr. Davin: Read your speech on the Final Stage.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy would be well advised to read it. If we are to accept it now that it is not possible to implement these rather foolish promises in relation to transport charges and services and if we are to deal with this matter in a serious practical way, we have to face up to the fact that it is unnecessary to establish elaborate safeguards around this organisation in relation to charges. We can give it, with fairly easy consciences, freedom of action there, knowing that they cannot do much damage in the circumstances that exist and are likely to exist in the future either to economic development or to the general level of costs by their charging policy. We do think that a tribunal or some other instrument of that kind should be there to deal with proposed curtailments of transport facilities. Ordinarily, I think it would be preferable merely to give the Minister power to stop the company from doing something they proposed to do when serious objection to the proposal was voiced in the Dáil, with the approval of a majority on the initiative of the Deputies for the area concerned. That negative power of stopping the company from doing something which, without objection, they could do would, I think, be sufficient protection, without putting upon them this proposed obligation to go on every occasion to this tribunal for sanction.
I do not profess to be thoroughly familiar with the practice of transport companies in the matter of charges, but I certainly understand that the maximum charges which are now in force and which are likely to be prescribed by this tribunal will be charges for merchandise related to the classifications of merchandise in operation at the time. If, for example, mill stuffs are in category 3 and the charge per ton per mile for the haulage of goods in category 3 is fixed at a certain rate, can the company escape the  obligation to carry mill stuffs at that charge by transferring them to category 2 or category 4? It seems to me from the wording of the amendments proposed by the Minister that the tribunal will have no function in relation to the classification of merchandise. The company will declare and determine its own classification and, with regard to that classification, the tribunal will agree to increase the maximum charges if the company applies to it and they agree that the application is sound; but, if having gone to the tribunal and having applied for an increase in the charge for classification 3, which is in force at any time, and being refused, can they, nevertheless, get the increased charge by transferring categories of goods from that classification to a higher one? It seems to me that if the tribunal are to function effectively in relation to the control of the maximum charges of the company they must also be given power to concur in any alteration of the classification of merchandise which the company propose to bring into effect. This new amendment, which has been circulated to-day, is certainly very complete in placing upon the company the obligation to make available to the public and put on display information concerning the classification of merchandise for rail and canal purposes, the charges in force and so forth. But it does not appear to bring the tribunal into the alteration of charges at all.
The other question which I want to raise relates to the operation of agreed charges. Agreed charges result from arrangements made by the company with an individual trader to carry his goods to all parts of the country at a flat rate. There are agreed charges in force, as far as I know, in relation to Guinness' stout and certain other commodities of that kind at present. In the past there was always a certain amount of reluctance to sanction the extension of the system of agreed charges because it was felt that they could be used to give some traders special advantages over others and, consequently, any proposals under the 1944 Act for agreed charges had to be  submitted to and approved of by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. That situation will not continue now. The company will be free to make agreed charges and if they are unobjectionable it is probably desirable that they should do so but it will not be in the Minister's or the tribunal's power to supervise such charges and to ensure that they are not being operated in a manner which is detrimental either to individual traders or to national policy in relation to the decentralisation of industry. It is obviously desirable that the transport tribunal should not function in any way which would leave it open to a charge of prejudicing individual firms or the economic development of particular towns, especially of particular harbours.
I understand that as the Bill stands individual traders alleging discrimination will still have the right of recourse to the courts for justice in that regard, but if we are going to have supervision over the company's charging policy by a tribunal then I think we should give that tribunal general power also to look after these matters and satisfy itself that the general policy of the company is sound and that there is no proper ground for any allegations that its charges are framed to confer undue benefit upon individuals or districts. Probably the Minister has that in mind in empowering himself to go to the tribunal at any time and ask them for a report on specific aspects of transport policy. But if the tribunal is to function in relation to charges it is desirable that it should have a more general policy than is given to it here. I think, however, that we should not have a tribunal in relation to charges at all. Any such extension of the tribunal's functions would only be a second-best course. As far as I am concerned the best course would be to keep in the hands of the Minister for Industry and Commerce general power of approval. The second-best would be again to keep the Minister in the picture but to give him, not the positive obligation of approval of changes in charges, but the power to veto subsequently any course adopted by the company of which he disapproves or to which the Dáil has expressed objection. If we cannot have  the one course or the other the third course in my view would be to go back to the Bill as originally introduced and leave the company free of all restraint whatever.
Mr. C. Lehane: When the matters under discussion in this particular amendment were discussed previously in this House on previous amendments I had a good deal of sympathy with the point of view of those who threw up their hands in horror at the thought of a revival of the old railways tribunal. I can sympathise with Deputies' natural feeling of aversion to the recreation of a similar body. On giving the matter more mature consideration, however, I think it right to say that there is no necessity that any new tribunal as envisaged in the new section which the Minister is inserting in the Bill should be characterised by the dilatoriness, the delays and the slowness which did to the business community in this country make the former railways tribunal a byword. I have a difficulty in approaching many sections of the Bill and the amendments to many sections because all the time there is present to my mind the feeling that the framework of the Bill, while it is an improvement on the present situation, is not in my submission an ideal one. There is a rather fundamental difference probably in point of view. There would be more in common between the point of view of the Minister and of Deputy Lemass than there would be between my point of view and that of either of them. In my view the correct way to have approached the Bill and consequently the correct way to have approached the matter sought to be dealt with by the amendment, disposing altogether of the necessity for a tribunal or anything else, would have been to treat the whole transport system of the country in the same way as the postal system of the country is treated, namely, to set up a separate Department of State for it and have direct control over it by a Minister. That to my mind was a simple way. It would perhaps be to the minds of many Deputies too radical a solution, but to my mind it requires a radical solution of that nature to achieve radical changes and we do want to achieve radical  changes in our whole transport system. I say that merely as an indication of the difficulty I have in assessing the comparative steps of merit or demerit in the various alternatives that Deputy Lemass has suggested to what is in the amendment. Were we approaching this Bill from that angle these difficulties would not arise.
Deputy Lemass, dealing with the question of the tribunal, was prepared to concede that it might have some function in so far as the closing down or diminution of branch line services was concerned. He thought that the question of charges should be removed completely from the jurisdiction of the tribunal. On the question of the closing down of branch lines, I think it is important to have imported into this measure a court of appeal, and to that extent I think the tribunal can serve a useful function. I would not at all subscribe to the view expressed by Deputy Lemass that no form of persuasion of the travelling or freight sending public is justified and that they must be left completely free to choose road or rail as they will.
The proposition which I make to the Dáil is that it is essential, in a country situated as we are, to have a transport system which can be maintained even if only on skeleton lines in emergency periods. If the wholesale closing down of branch lines had been allowed to proceed, we could be faced, in an emergency, with a complete cutting off of certain areas. I ask Deputies to bear in mind the fact that it is possible to keep some kind of an emergency railway system going while we have turf in our bogs. It is not necessary to tell me how unsatisfactory and how slow the service was or the difficulties under which it operated during the emergency. It was better than nothing, because if we had been completely dependent in some areas on road services, grievous hardship could have resulted for many members of the community and this country would have been forced into a state of economic and strategic dependence that would have ill-accorded with what was national policy at the time. I think that, for these reasons, it is not open  to us to say that the persuasion of the public with regard to the use of the railway system as opposed to the road system would be wrong, unjustifiable or indefensible.
With regard to the question of charges, Deputy Lemass seemed to concern himself completely with freight charges. While I think I made it clear to the House that the idea of the tribunal does not yet evoke any great enthusiasm from us, it probably is as well that the tribunal will have some function in supervising passenger charges, and in supervising freight charges in the case of concerns of national importance which it might be sought, as a matter of public policy, to assist. From that point of view, I would not feel fully justified in withholding support from the amendment which the Minister has introduced. The fundamental difference that there is, I think, between the viewpoint expressed by Deputy Lemass and the viewpoint held by some of us is that we regard it as essential that a railway system be maintained over as large an area as is possible, and that, if it is uneconomic so to maintain that railway system, and that it has to be subsidised, then subsidised it must be, but that the question of whether it can be made pay cannot be allowed to be the deciding factor. It is nationally essential and, therefore, if we have got to pay for it, and if it is in normal times a little bit more expensive than other forms of transport, we can still justify it by reason of the fact that in an emergency we cannot do without it.
Mr. Traynor: On the Second Stage of the Bill I spoke at some length on the question of the tribunal. In the time that has since elapsed I have seen no reasons advanced which would lead me to change the views which I then expressed. In the absence of executive authority by a Minister, a tribunal, or some such system, is, of course, necessary. It appears to me, however, that this will mean the establishment of another body of individuals who, by reason of their appointment and their services, will be entitled to reasonably large salaries. I should be glad if the Minister could  give us some idea of what the increased cost that this will entail is likely to be. There will also be, naturally, the cost of the administration of this particular office. That will be an additional cost.
Now, we were told some time ago that the expenditure in this State was excessive, and that it was vital and necessary to reduce it. I personally have seen no activity in that direction. In fact, so far as one can see, the movement is in the direction which the proposed establishment of this tribunal will tend. I certainly would much prefer to see the Minister retain his responsibility, so that when the question of the discontinuance of a branch line or the raising of fares or freight charges comes up, this House, which is the representative of the man in the street and can secure views more easily than any group of individuals who would be established as a tribunal, is the place where discussions on these subjects should be undertaken.
The suggestion made by Deputy C. Lehane is not, to my mind, unreasonable. The only point about it is that I do not see how it could be brought about until such time as full nationalisation takes place. Even then I do not think it would be necessary to establish a new Ministry, because there is a Ministry ideally suited for the handling of that particular aspect of national affairs. I refer to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs—a Department which would be particularly suited for the guidance of the transport of this nation if full nationalisation should ever be brought about. I would be glad if the Minister could give the House some idea of the costs to which I have referred — the salaries of this proposed tribunal and the cost of administration.
Mr. Davin: I candidly confess that I prefer the Bill as originally introduced to the amendment now proposed by the Minister, and I shall briefly give my reasons for expressing that view. If I am wrong, the Minister can correct me, but I understand that this is only a first attempt to implement the Milne Report and that a further measure at a later stage is bound to come.  Whether that is the decision of the Government or not, I think it is bound to come. Consequently, I would prefer that this tribunal, so far as it affects the question of rates and charges, would not be established until the whole transport industry of the country, road, rail and canal, is brought under some kind of Government control or supervision. Deputy Lemass surprised me when he stated that, generally speaking, the branch railway lines which were closed down had been closed down without serious objection. I beg most respectfully to differ with that statement.
Mr. Lemass: I was talking about those closed before the war.
Mr. Davin: I agree with him and with the Minister that a tribunal is a desirable body to stand between the rights of the citizens and the possible action of the Government in closing down railway branch lines. My constituency was butchered from one end to the other by Deputy Lemass when he closed down the Roscrea-Birr branch, the Mountmellick-Portlaoighise branch and the Clara-Banagher branch.
Mr. Lemass: They are not closed yet.
Mr. Davin: I assert that in all cases strong objection came from the trading public, including members of the trading public who did not use the railway branch lines when they were available, but who used road services because they were getting cheaper freights by road services and because there was no effective control.
Mr. Lemass: Am I right in saying that these branch lines have not yet been closed in the full sense of the term, that they are lines upon which services were suspended during the war?
Mr. Davin: After a very violent agitation in which I took part with my colleagues from the constituency, one of the services was reopened.
Mr. Lemass: They were closed during the war.
Mr. Davin: The other was partially  reopened and the third one is still closed.
Mr. Lemass: It was only during the war that they were closed.
Mr. Davin: These are monuments in the history of Deputy Lemass as Minister. I most respectfully challenge his statement that these branch lines were closed without any serious objection. The objections are on the files of the Department of Industry and Commerce. Surely it is reasonable to suggest that the Roscrea-Birr branch line was reopened for some sound reason.
Mr. Lemass: They were all reopened in 1946.
Mr. Davin: Was the Portlaoighise-Mountmellick branch line reopened?
Mr. Lemass: They were all reopened in 1946.
Mr. Davin: I ask the Minister and Deputy Lemass to accept this point of view—that the uneconomic road freights charged by pirate services over a period of years have not conferred any advantage on the community. Will anybody tell me, so far as the traders in my constituency are concerned, that any traders of the many hundreds who used the pirate road services as against the railway because they got cheaper freights for the carriage of essential commodities, have passed on to the community the benefits of these cut-throat rates? If the cut-throat rates meant cheaper goods and services to the community, I would not be raising any opposition to the activities of these road services. The trader in my area who gives his goods to the railway to be carried has been for a long time at a disadvantage in competing with his fellow-trader who gets the benefit of the cut-throat road freight charges which are not passed on to the community. Will anybody challenge that statement? Therefore, from a community point of view, in regard to Córas Iompair Éireann road, rail and canal services and road services not controlled by this concern, we will have to face up almost immediately to the question of bringing all these transport  services under effective governmental supervision. This tribunal, so far as it affects the control of freight charges, should not be insisted upon by the Minister until such time as the further legislation will be introduced and passed to implement in its entirety the Milne Report.
This is before its time. I agree with Deputy Con Lehane that there is a case for the effective control of passenger rates, both by road and rail, because in effect Córas Iompair Éireann has a monopoly of the passenger services of the State. I would prefer the Bill as it stands. I would not urge that upon the Minister if the new rates tribunal, now proposed in his amendment, was going to mean effective control over the pirate road services that are paralysing the railways and that have brought them into a state of bankruptcy. When is that further piece of legislation going to come before the House? If this matter was dealt with in a bold manner this Bill, which is supposed to mean the nationalisation of transport services, would bring those 17,000 lorries under effective control.
Mr. Lemass: How?
Mr. Davin: They cannot be dealt with under a Bill of this kind. I do not care what rates tribunal you have under this Bill, whenever it comes into operation, it will not help to bring the railway company out of its present state of bankruptcy. You will not have stability or fair competition in transport until everybody who has a licence to operate a transport service, whether it is Córas Iompair Éireann or somebody else, is brought under the same control.
Mr. Lemass: What about the 17,000 lorries? They are not licensed to carry goods for hire.
Mr. Davin: They are carrying what they like and doing what they like.
Mr. Lemass: Illegally.
Mr. Davin: They are employing people under any conditions they like, whereas Córas Iompair Éireann, as  Deputy Lemass knows, is under very effective supervision and control so far as wages and the working conditions of the staff are concerned. If we are to have competition, let us have fair competition and the Government are the only people who can ensure that. I would change my whole attitude on this matter if the road services that are now operating any way they like, capturing the cream of the traffic without control of their rates, were passing the benefit of the reduced rates to the community. The trader who gets his freight carried by the railway, thus conferring a benefit on the railway company by giving it the carriage of that freight, is a patriotic citizen and a better type of trader than the trader who takes advantage of cut-throat rates and does not pass on the benefit to the people who purchase commodities in his shop.
Captain Cowan: What I feel in regard to this discussion is this, that under what I might call the old system, when the railways had an absolute monopoly, because of the circumstances, in the carriage of goods, the community set up what it considered to be safeguards. One of the safeguards they set up was this form of tribunal in relation to charges. That principle was all very well when you were dealing with that type of monopoly. But Córas Iompair Éireann now has no monopoly. This Bill even when it is completed will give Córas Iompair Éireann no monopoly. We as taxpayers will contribute for quite a number of years a very substantial sum towards enabling Córas Iompair Éireann to balance its budget and to pay its way. The Minister wishes, and we all wish, that the demands on the public purse by Córas Iompair Éireann will grow less from year to year until they disappear altogether. But we are bound to give some liberty, some freedom, to the new board of Córas Iompair Eireann if we expect that new board to provide a satisfactory transport service with reasonable charges. We must give the new board freedom to fix its charges. If we do not do that, if we superimpose on that board this tribunal that is mentioned here, set up by the Government with all the powers  and duties that are laid down in this Bill, then we are to some extent interfering with Córas Iompair Éireann in carrying out its functions.
There is a further point. While the community is subsidising Córas Iompair Éireann and while we as representatives of the people are called upon to vote very substantial sums to enable Córas Iompair Éireann to pay its way, to meet its obligations, then I feel that we must have some say in regard to charges. That say will and should and ought to be exercised through the responsible member of the Government, the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
There seems to be in this Bill a tendency to transfer what I might term ministerial functions to somebody else and the establishment of this tribunal, in so far as it relates to charges, is undoubtedly a transference of functions that ought to be exercised on behalf of the community by the Minister for Industry and Comerce. By setting up this tribunal to deal with charges we are creating something that is cumbersome, something that will be difficult to operate, something that will be a bit of a nuisance and cause trouble to the board of Córas Iompair Éireann, something that may in the long run be of no benefit whatever to the people who will be utilising our transport service. Deputy Davin is quite right. We are not nationalising transport by this measure. We are merely reorganising Córas Iompair Éireann. We are not doing anything to cope with the cut-throat competition to which Córas Iompair Éireann is subjected by these privately owned vehicles which are breaking the law day after day by carrying goods illegally. Not only are they carrying goods but they are carrying passengers for reward too, and that is also illegal.
In those circumstances and since the Government refuses to face up to the complete nationalisation of transport, then we should be fair to the chairman and to the new board and we should not encumber him or them with all the ridiculous and unnecessary restrictions contained in these amendments in so far as they relate to charges. One  amendment here proposes that the board shall keep for public inspection at the principal office copies of the rail way classification of merchandise, copies of the canal classification of merchandise, particulars of the charges for the time being made by the board in respect of the carriage of merchandise by rail and inland waterway, the schedules of the existing statutory maximum charges in respect of the carriage of merchandise by rail and inland waterway, and schedules of the maximum charges which the board is entitled to make in respect of the carriage of merchandise by rail and inland waterway.
One would imagine that if Córas Iompair Éireann was well run, as we all hope it will be, they would naturally provide both their classifications and their schedules without our having to write it in specifically in an Act of Parliament.
“The board shall keep for public inspection at each depôt owned by it at which merchandise is received for carriage by rail, a copy of each of the following—
(a) the railway classification of merchandise,
(b) particulars of the actual charges for the time being made by the board for the carriage of merchandise by rail from that depôt,
(c) the schedules of the existing statutory maximum charges for the carriage of merchandise by rail,
(d) schedules of the maximum charges which the board is entitled to make for the carriage of merchandise by rail from that depôt.”
The same restrictions apply in a further sub-section which deals with the duty of the board to keep for public inspection certain copies at each depôt owned by it at which merchandise is received for carriage by inland waterway. At every depôt these schedules and classifications are to be kept for public inspection. If that is so, then, necessarily, at least one clerk will have to be employed for nothing else but the control and supervision of these classifications and these rates of charges. I think people using the railways will have no difficulty in ascertaining  what the charges are. If all these charges have to be classified and scheduled, then Córas Iompair Éireann is deprived of freedom in relation to the competition with which it may have to contend. If that board is to be successful I can visualise circumstances in which a decision may have to be taken on the spur of the moment in relation to conveying certain goods at a certain price. The board must be in the same position to bargain as are its competitors. Here we seek to deprive them of the right to bargain by classifications, schedules, statutory requirements and statutory controls. I want to see Córas Iompair Éireann successful. I am quite prepared to give the board freedom of action because I realise that with the competition that exists they will have no traffic unless their charges are favourable to the business community generally and to users of the railway.
We are trying to combine two completely different systems here, the railway run by private ownership at a profit and subject to all these statutory restrictions and Córas Iompair Éireann which has no monopoly of transport, which is not making a profit and which is being subsidised heavily by the community. The two things cannot mix. I appeal to the Minister not to insist on this tribunal and to leave a certain freedom to Córas Iompair Eireann which is under his control as a representative of the Government and of the people.
The Minister will have to take a certain amount of trouble in constituting the board of Córas Iompair Éireann. If this tribunal is set up, he will have the same trouble in establishing it. Its principal function will be to act as a court of appeal in relation to the charges imposed by Córas Iompair Éireann, a board established by the Minister and by the Government under this Act. I do not think the board could be successful under such a system. In order to give it an opportunity of becoming a success, I appeal to the Minister to agree to the removal of these restrictive clauses in so far as they relate to the revision of charges by the proposed tribunal.
Mr. Morrissey: Listening to the debate on this proposed new section one would imagine that it was I who wished to have this tribunal. I would remind the House that on the Second Reading Deputies on both sides asked for an appeal court from the Board of Córas Iompair Éireann and it was in response to that request that I very reluctantly agreed to bring in amendments for the purpose of setting up this tribunal. If the House does not want this tribunal, neither do I want it. It is no use at this stage talking about the Minister. We have thrashed this out. I might say that this is at least the third occasion. We had all that on the Second Reading. We had all that on an amendment moved by Deputy Lemass and we had a decision of the House on the question as to whether the Minister should be in the Bill or not. The question now is whether the House does or does not want this tribunal.
Mr. Davin: On charges.
Mr. Morrissey: There you are. We want the tribunal. We do not want the tribunal and we want the tribunal for a limited function.
Mr. Davin: Yes.
Mr. Morrissey: I am trying to meet the House. I agreed on the Second Reading to meet representations from every part of the House to bring in these amendments. I am now told that the House does not want the tribunal. Some Deputies do not want it at all. Other Deputies want the tribunal but desire to restrict its functions to the question of closing down branch lines or to that of reducing services on branch lines. Will the House make up its mind? If the House is satisfied without the tribunal, so am I. If the House wants the tribunal and wants it to have functions only in relation to the closing of branch lines then, again, I am prepared to meet the House on that.
Captain Cowan: That is fair enough.
Mr. Morrissey: I do not know that I can say anything fairer.
Captain Cowan: The Minister is very accommodating.
Mr. Morrissey: That is the trouble. I am afraid that I am much too accommodating. The trouble is that Deputies are rather inclined to presume on that generosity of mine. Surely I am entitled to ask that the House will make up its own mind as to what it wants?
Mr. Coburn: Hear, hear!—if it can.
Mr. Morrissey: I must say that I find myself, in regard to the retention of the Minister in the Bill, very largely —almost entirely—in agreement with what was said by Deputy Lemass and with what has been said by many other Deputies here. Again I must remind the House that we are discussing the various amendments setting up the tribunal and setting out its functions, not because I want it there but because the House, on the Second Reading, indicated that it wanted it in the Bill.
Captain Cowan: On the closing of branch lines.
Mr. Morrissey: There were representations about charges also. However, I would prefer not to have the tribunal. If the opinion of the House is that the tribunal should be there, even with a limited function—with no function in relation to charges—again, I agree. But will you let us know what you do want?
Mr. Davin: Give us a free vote.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again later.
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