Wednesday, 13 February 1952
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Hickey: I was speaking when the Debate was adjourned about the need there is for the Electricity Supply  Board being answerable to this House, because on previous occasions when I put down a question asking what were the charges per unit to some of our industrial concerns I was informed by the Minister that he could not tell me, as that was a function of the board. I would be anxious to know, even if I could be told now, what the big industrial concerns are paying per unit for electricity, because I know that working men have to pay sixpence per unit for electricity used in their houses. Looking at the accounts of the Electricity Supply Board, I suggest that the average charge for the whole country works out at something over a penny per unit, and I should not be surprised, if we were told the truth, that some of the big industrial concerns are getting electricity for power and other purposes at as low a charge as a halfpenny per unit. Is it fair that people who are worth something to the country are to be sacrificed so that others who have a monopoly of manufactures in this country can get electricity at a halfpenny per unit? A Deputy from Donegal has been talking about the difficulty of getting electricity to remote parts of the country because it is not an economic proposition. I think until such time as we, who have to provide money for the Electricity Supply Board, make the board answerable to the Dáil, we shall never have anything effectively done in this way.
The Minister indicated in his statement that he was more or less inclined to allow private enterprise to take charge of these hydro-electric units. Am I right in believing that the Minister is prepared to allow private enterprise to operate some of these units?
Mr. Lemass: No. I think Deputy Cosgrave misunderstood me when I was speaking about getting engineering work and the preparation of the contracts done by private engineering consultants, but the stations will be built and operated by the Electricity Supply Board.
Mr. Hickey: I am glad of that, because we had a long experience in Cork of a private enterprise supplying electricity and, until the plant was  taken over by the Electricity Supply Board, we had everything but satisfaction. I should like to refer again to the financial position of the Electricity Supply Board. Am I to understand that the present system of financing the board is to continue for the next ten or 20 years? Is there to be no change in the system of financing the development of electricity in the country? The Minister has indicated that the board can spend, when this Bill becomes law, anything up to £53,000,000. Is the same interest going to be charged on that money as has been charged for the last 21 years?
Mr. Hickey: I gave the interest here for the 20 years up to March, 1951. For the 12 months ended March, 1951, we paid £960,000 interest on the money advanced to the Electricity Supply Board. Yet, like our friend in Donegal and people whom I know in different parts of County Cork, and even in Cork City, a person cannot be supplied with electricity if the wires are not near his house, because it would not be an economic proposition. In spite of that, we can pay up to £13,000,000 in interest over these years. Why should we pay interest on money lent to people like the Electricity Supply Board? Why should they draw interest, which is paid by the people of this country, when so many of our people will not be given electricity because it is alleged that it would not be an economic proposition?
Mr. Hickey: Where are the bankers and lots of other people getting it? Pen and ink is creating it. Are we  to continue to pay that interest and to continue that system for the next 20 or 30 years? When I look back at some of the speeches made by the Minister nearly 20 or 30 years ago I am disappointed to find him so conservative now in his attitude to the present out-moded financial position. I see what has happened. It is sad to think that our country wants electricity and that we have to hand out money and pay people millions in interest for the electrification of our country. Who are paying that money? That money is paid by men who work from morning until night by the sweat of their brow. If that amount of interest had not to be paid then farmers and people living in remote districts would be able to get the supply of electricity which they need. The present system has got to be changed. We are not prepared to be fettered and bound any longer by a financial system or group of people who will not allow us to develop electricity except at the price which they demand. More electricity would be generated were it not that we are strangled by the people who control our money and credit. I shall insert an amendment on the Committee Stage of this Bill to the effect that the board shall be answerable to this House—as they have not been up to the present. Before the change of Government last June, I asked a question in this House as to the charge for power in respect of the important industrial concerns of our country. I was informed that the information could not be given to me as it was a matter for the board. Some of the biggest concerns in this country—concerns which have a monopoly for their product in this country—are getting their power for practically ½d. per unit —while men such as farm workers and others have to pay something like 6d. per unit for electricity to light their homes. I trust that before this Bill is passed the amendments will be agreed to by every member of the House.
Another matter to which I should like to refer is the rule whereby an employee of the Electricity Supply Board may not be a candidate for election to the Dáil, Seanad or a public body. That is very unfair and I hope  that that, too, will be rectified under this Bill. At present, if an employee of the board wishes to be a candidate for election as a public representative he must resign his position with the board. I have often asked myself what qualifications the men on that board have as against those held by some of the people I should like to see on the board. Of course, the people who could do a good deal of direction as far as labour is concerned get no representation on the board. Is it not time that they got some representation on a board as important as this board?
I am glad we are making strides in the matter of electricity. My criticism is that the Electricity Supply Board have not done their job as expeditiously and as boldly as I would wish. On the other hand, I must admit that I am quite satisfied that since 1927 much more would have been done were it not for the financial system that operated in this country. I do not blame one Government more than another Government for that state of affairs. I hope that, now that we have an opportunity of doing something practical, we will not have to pay interest on money for the electrification of our own country. It is the duty of whatever Government is in power to take over and cease paying interest on money to people who do not give one ounce of energy to provide electricity in our country.
Mr. McGrath: I am anxious to know the position in regard to amendments to the pension scheme. I have a particular case in mind of a man in Cork who worked in Ford's and who was taken over by the Electricity Supply Board. He was rather a skilled man, and when he came to the age of retirement he was kept on for a further number of years. He retired on a pension of about 30/- per week, although his salary before retiring was something like £10 or £12 per week. It is hardly necessary to say that that man finds it difficult to manage on such a small retiring allowance. Can anything be done to cover a case of that kind?
I want to refer to the recruitment of labour for the Electricity Supply Board. I think preference should be  given to Irish ex-Servicemen over British ex-Servicemen. I am aware that, in some cases, that has not happened, and I think it is entirely wrong. There may be reasons for it, but surely some special consideration should be given to men who served this country as against men who preferred to serve another country.
I appeal to the Minister to get the Electricity Supply Board to speed up the change over from D.C. to A.C. mains in Cork. This is causing much hardship to some manufacturers who have not fully changed over. I know that the board are working on it, but at the rate they are going it will take years to finish the job. Manufacturers are advised not to purchase new machinery, because of the eventual change, and I suppose the Electricity Supply Board do not want to have to replace what would be practically new D.C. motors and machinery. At the same time, I think it should be speeded up.
Dr. Esmonde: I welcome the extension of rural electricfication. I think we all do; in fact, the majority of us feel rather dissatisfied that it is not going ahead faster. There is one area which is being attended to by the Electricity Supply Board in the south of my constituency at present which is causing a certain amount of apprehension to farmers in the district. A new line is being laid between Waterford and Wexford which entails the erection of poles. This line is passing through an extremely fertile area, where there is a great deal of tillage, and the farmers in that area are naturally perturbed. I asked the Minister a question last week as to whether it would be possible to suspend operations there, and the Minister replied that he felt it was not feasible to do so. That duly appeared in the local Press, and I have again had representations made to me that the people down there feel, from what they know has happened heretofore, that the laying of this line, which will continue after the 1st April and on during the harvest season, will cause a good deal of hardship to the farmers in the district and a good deal of damage generally to crops.
 I do not know what the powers of the Electricity Supply Board exactly are, but I gather that they are entitled to enter on anybody's land for the purpose of carrying on the work of electrification, be it rural or otherwise. I should like to know from the Minister if it is usual or if it is necessary for the board to inform land owners when they propose to cross their land, or when they propose to erect poles or when they are going to cut down trees. I know of several instances—it actually happened on my own land, but I am not worrying very much about that personally—where the Electricity Supply Board cut down trees although the owners of the land had no idea that they were even entering on their holdings. Naturally, they must have power to go anywhere they want to extend electrification, but surely it is only reasonable that those who own the land should be informed of it. There is an old feeling in this country that anything is good enough for the farmers. If, for instance, the Electricity Supply Board went into anybody's back garden in Dublin and tore up a couple of raspberry bushes or rose trees or knocked down a bit of a wall, there would be a lot said about it. But it seems that they can go in on a farmer's land and do pretty well as they wish to do.
We all know that increased production in agriculture is necessary for us at present. We hear every day that there is an increasing world population and that increased food production is of prime importance everywhere. It seems all wrong, therefore, that the Electricity Supply Board should have power to go into an arable district such as I have mentioned between Wexford and Waterford, crossing a barley-growing, beet-growing, wheat-growing, oats-growing and potato-growing area—one of our best tillage centres—and continue to do so throughout the harvest season. So far as the Electricity Supply Board higher officials are concerned, they have always shown me the greatest courtesy since I became a Deputy and before I was a Deputy. But there are men working for these firms who know nothing about the land and care  nothing about it. A lot of these are young chaps reared in the city. Are they to be trusted, when the crops are growing or during the harvest season, to do work such as this? I think not. It was a surprise to me when Deputy Hickey mentioned that the board should be subject to the jurisdiction of the Minister.
Dr. Esmonde: Are they subject to the Minister? It seems to be rather a serious state of affairs, with rural electrification extending throughout the country, that you should have a body like the Electricity Supply Board voted a large sum of money by this House and that we should have no say one way or the other in regard to their operations and that the Minister cannot have a controlling one.
Dr. Esmonde: We have no control over them. They can walk in on our land and do what they like. That is wrong and I ask the Minister to give consideration to that. I would go so far as to suggest that they should be subject to control by this House as they are receiving a fairly large sum of money from us. I think Deputy Hickey mentioned that they had received £22,000,000.
Mr. Allen: I only intervene because it might go abroad that County Wexford did not want electrical development. That is all wrong. As  far as I know, the farmers are clamouring all over the country to have electricity brought to their doors and installed in their homes. The work of the Electricity Supply Board is welcomed all over the country. Deputy Esmonde is misrepresenting the farmers of Wexford when he says that they are objecting to having electricity brought to their doors and installed in their homes. That is not so.
Mr. Allen: When the Electricity Supply Board are operating through a certain line of country where crops are growing there may be a certain amount of damage done but it will not be very great. It is not easy to put up lines in a beet or corn field without doing slight damage. I think the Electricity Supply Board are bound in law—they have been doing so to my knowledge—to point out to farmers on a map the course which their poles and lines will take. I think that is usual. I am personally aware of its having been done. I know a number of farmers over whose land lines have gone and they have been shown a map of the course the lines will take. I suppose the Minister will deal with Deputy Esmonde's suggestion that the Electricity Supply Board paid nothing back. I think there is as little truth in that suggestion as in the suggestion that the farmers object. Common sense will show that if the board were to try to reconcile all differences when bringing their lines over the land of every farmer in the country they would make far less progress than they are making. None of us want to see any damage done.
I have advocated before that they should keep their lines as near as possible to fences. I am aware that they must keep on a straight line all the way. We all understand that, of course. The provision in this Bill to increase the amount available for the further development of electricity will, I think, be welcomed generally in the country. All we say to the Minister is this: if he could in any way speed up rural electrification and  have more areas connected up with the current each year, that is what the country is asking for. That, I think, more than anything else is what the country needs. Any dissatisfaction that we hear in the rural areas is to the effect that applications are being put on the long finger, and that people have to wait too long before the current is provided for them. Generally speaking, that is how people in the country feel.
We know, of course, that at the present time there are great difficulties in the matter of supplies. Still, supplies are available, and if anything could be done by the Minister to indicate to the Electricity Supply Board that the work of providing current in the different areas should be speeded up, it would be welcomed. The Electricity Supply Board was set up under legislation passed through this House. That legislation was introduced originally by a colleague of the Deputy who is now sitting on the front bench opposite. When his colleague introduced that legislation he did not give power to this House to govern the Electricity Supply Board, and very wisely in my opinion. If he had done so, I think it would mean that we would have to sit here during the 52 weeks of the year trying to determine all the problems that would arise under the board's administration, such as whether an individual should get a week's or a month's employment. All that could be discussed in the House.
Mr. Allen: I think it would be a bad thing if this House were to control such bodies as the Electricity Supply Board. If that were the position, the board would have not made the progress it has made since it was established. I do not think this House should be a controlling body for any organisation or undertaking such as the Electricity Supply Board, and I hope it never will be.
Mr. Allen: We provide the moneys and the board is nominated, to a great extent, by the Government of the day. I think that should be a sufficient safeguard for the Oireachtas. I think that the Electricity Supply Board has given satisfaction. The cost of their current, like the cost of everything else, has been increasing.
Mr. Allen: Why should there be any objection to industrialists getting current at a cheaper rate than private individuals who require it for household purposes? The fact that industrialists have the current available at a cheaper rate helps in the development of industry and helps thousands of workers to get decent employment. If Deputy Hickey suggests that the current is given at too cheap a rate to the industrialists of this country, well, I hope he will repeat that outside.
Mr. Hickey: On a point of order. I made no such statement. I do not want to be misrepresented by Deputy Allen. I did not object to the cheapness of the current, but I did object to industrialists getting current at a halfpenny per unit while workers have to pay sixpence a unit.
Mr. Allen: The ordinary workers are getting the advantage of that in the factories and industries of the country. They are getting the advantage of cheap current being available for those industries. Were it not for the fact that the current is available for them, we would not have made the progress in industry that we have made in the last 15 or 20 years.
Mr. Desmond: It is admitted that everyone in the House is in favour of this Bill. There are a few points, however, which I should like to put before the Minister. We are now placing extra moneys at the disposal of the Electricity Supply Board, and I am sorry that Deputy Allen should have taken up the view to which he has already given expression. The amount of money to be made available to the Electricity Supply Board is now to be brought up to over £45,000,000. The amount for rural electrification is to be brought up to £8,000,000. Some members spoke about speeding up rural electrification. I know that the Minister, from what he has said here from time to time when Deputies have put down questions asking what the rate of progress was in regard to rural electrification in certain areas, is anxious about that, too. More Deputies would have put down questions of the kind but for the fact that they realised, as explained by Deputy Hickey, that the Minister could only make representations to the board and has no control over it.
We know that people in many areas are anxious and worried as to when rural electrification will be available  to them. Even though we know that we recognise that it would be futile to be putting down questions as to when the scheme is likely to reach some of those areas. I know areas of the kind in my own constituency. There is one at Whitechurch, one at Carrignavar and one at Donaghmore. It is because we know that the Minister himself could do very little about it that we realise it would be futile to be putting down questions. The Minister did say that there are roughly about 800 areas to be covered under the rural electrification scheme at the present time. He has admitted that progress up to the present has been slow.
We know that the Electricity Supply Board has its own difficulties to meet. What we wish is that, if necessary, these difficulties would be put before us in this House so that we would then be in a position to explain to our constituents the cause of these difficulties and delays, which are very upsetting to a great many people. People in one area feel very upset when they see people in other areas getting a supply of current long before them. The position is that we cannot explain to them why some areas have got preference over others.
I am not suggesting that the Electricity Supply Board selects any particular area either through pressure or suggestion from anybody. Even if the Minister were anxious to give us the information, the fact is that we cannot get it. Since we are now handing over an enormous sum of State moneys to the Electricity Supply Board, moneys which, in the long run, will, I believe, be well spent, I agree with Deputy Hickey that, to a certain degree, this body should be made accountable to this House through the Minister, so that Deputies would then be in a position to ask for information from him. The Minister would then be able to give us, without any hesitation, any information that we required.
Mr. Desmond: The Minister did state that these extra sums of money which are now being made available for the Electricity Supply Board may  mean that the production of electricity will go up to 2,200,000,000 units, and that even that may not be enough.
When we consider the large increase in the number of consumers and the extraordinarily large increase in the consumption of electricity, there is one point to which I should like to draw special attention. The Minister spoke of inducements to people to use current, and if rural electrification is to be made the success which everyone hopes it will be, it can only be done by everybody in the different areas taking advantage of it and having electricity in their homes and, where farmers are concerned, in their out-offices; but there is one section of people who have suffered gravely through the actions of the Electricity Supply Board. There are places which were catered for by the Electricity Supply Board from the very outset and in that respect I can mention the village I come from, Crosshaven. Crosshaven, in the early 1930's, was connected with the Electricity Supply Board supply, but when we consider the charges made by the Electricity Supply Board at that time to the consumers and the large increases since that time, of which we can get no account in this House, we find that there is no inducement to people to take the supply.
Furthermore, the system can be very severe on ordinary people in that they have to pay a head charge based on the valuation of their houses, and in summer, when practically no electric current is used, this severe head charge is a heavy burden on them. In Cork City and other areas, there is a charge by the Electricity Supply Board for the use of a meter, but surely in the case of people whose premises were connected with the electricity supply in the early 1930's, the meter should have been paid for long before now. Whatever about the financial viewpoint behind all this, it is fantastic to believe or even to expect that the people should have to pay back all the cost of this huge development in a short period.
The people in years to come will have the advantage of the electric current now being provided and why  should the consumers of the present day be saddled with every possible increase the Electricity Supply Board can get away with—simply and solely, as I believe, because we here have no say with regard to it? We have to take it for granted that when they want an increase they will go ahead with it, instead of proceeding on the basis of a long-term policy. The charges to people who have used electricity for the past 18 or 20 years have gone up enormously, but yet a person getting current in at present will not have to pay anything more than these consumers are paying. I know many people who had signed for the purpose of getting electricity in, but who, when they considered the heavy charges—they were anxious to pay as much as they could—decided that they would be so severe on them that they put it on the long finger. We must realise that the surest way of making rural electrification pay is by providing it at as low a cost as possible, thereby giving everyone an incentive to take the current and to use to the utmost the advantages offered by it.
Deputy Cosgrave mentioned one point in which we are all interested to a certain degree—the unfortunate position of people in certain areas, in little pockets, as he called them, who are not lucky enough to be able to get rural electrification. That is a problem with which every member of the House is confronted—the problem of having to explain the difficulties to people in his constituency and pointing out to them that it is impossible for him as a Deputy to get it for them. Deputy Cosgrave offered a solution— he did not say it was an ideal solution but he mentioned it as a possibility—in the shape of a contribution by the local authority and that is a point I want to deal with. I want to draw attention to another side of the picture.
In Cork at present, as in all other places, if we, as members of a local authority, put down a motion asking for the provision of public lighting in any particular village or area, the assistant county surveyor, as the next  step, gets into contact with the Electricity Supply Board. Deputy McGrath will bear me out when I say that we find to our amazement that the charges proposed by the Electricity Supply Board for the provision of public lights in these places are very often prohibitive, and to our grave disappointment we sometimes have to consider the possibility of not going on with a scheme of public lighting in these villages, because the burden is so heavy and because we are afraid that its reflection on the rates eventually will be such as to make it impossible for us to go on with it. On one occasion, the Electricity Supply Board were asked to provide public lighting in a certain area in the suburbs of Cork City.
They asked for a very large sum, roughly £200, and I pointed out as a member of the local authority that as everyone in the locality was a potential consumer, it was difficult to understand why the charge should be so high. The board refused the local authority any information as to why the charge was so high, but about a year and a half later provided the public lighting in that area—Togher, in the neighbourhood of the Lough in Cork City—at roughly £40 to £50, instead of £200, and up to the present hour the board have not told the members of the local authority why they reduced the charge.
I am not blaming the Minister. This is a long standing grievance but I suppose that it is by mistakes we learn and the sooner we realise that one of the biggest mistakes, so far as the Electricity Supply Board is concerned, is the fact that they undoubtedly have a certain amount of autocratic powers and can act in an autocratic fashion, the better for us. I am not suggesting that they always do so and I know officials engaged on rural electrification who have gone out of their way to help, and they have powers which they can use to the advantage of the community and the members of this House. We here are agreeing to the provision of extra money for this laudable project but, in the long run, it is the people who are the masters and who are providing the money.
 I want again to emphasise that, where local authorities are concerned, the Electricity Supply Board charges for the provision of public lighting are prohibitive in the extreme. I want to lay stress again on this matter of the charge on valuation and meter rents. The fact that people have to pay a certain fixed charge on the valuation of their houses all through the years is no incentive to people to connect up with Electricity Supply Board current, and, in the case of meter rents in the cities, when a charge is made for a number of years, the meter should then be free of all charge to the consumer. I know full well that Deputy Hickey did not for a moment suggest that electric current should be made dearer to industrialists. It is one of the keynotes of success in our industrial policy to provide such cheap current.
I honestly believe that the price charged to the ordinary consumer at present is such that no matter what policy the Electricity Supply Board may formulate or carry out they will never make a success of it unless or until they take the ordinary people, the consumers, into their confidence and make a fairly reasonable economic charge for the current provided, no matter how many years that may take to pay back. If we are gaining certain advantages now, what about the untold advantages to the people in the future? Surely we are not wrong in asking the people in the future to pay a little towards this?
The Minister may mention—and would be justified in doing so—the grant of up to 50 per cent. given by the State, while it will take so many years to pay back, plus the interest that Deputy Hickey mentioned; but not being versed in high finance I will have to leave that out. No matter how many years it may take, it is most important to realise that above all we are not entitled or justified in saddling the ordinary consumer with the high burden of the present charges.
Mr. Davern: I am afraid I am not in agreement with Deputy Hickey or Deputy Desmond that this House should have direct control over the Electricity Supply Board. Personally,  I am satisfied that the very good job of work that the Electricity Supply Board has done for this country is due to the fact that they are not under the direct control of this House. If any Deputy desires to get information on any matter I do not think he is prevented from doing so. As far as I know, the Electricity Supply Board is not hiding anything from this House or the general public. They are doing a good job and they deserve our very best praise. I do not know who is on the board, I have not the foggiest information as to who they are, nor do I want to know, as my experience since I came into the House has been that they have been inclined to give fair play to the various areas they deal with. They base their ideas on certain principles, and I think they carry them out to the best of their ability.
Deputy Hickey may not have intended to convey that he had a grievance against the board for giving electricity at ½d. per unit. I do not think he meant that—he was making a comparison—but I think that if industry could get power for even a ¼d. per unit it would be very helpful in fostering industry, especially in remote areas. I sincerely hope that, whatever grievance anyone has against charges, the Electricity Supply Board will continue to give cheap electricity to industry.
Again, it has been urged that instead of the present generation being asked to pay on the “pay as you go” basis, we should hand on this to posterity. We will be handing enough to posterity without handing them a bill of this kind. It has been good policy up to now that the consumer should pay for the current he is getting, and should not expect future generations to pay for the development.
Very few people would have thought many years ago that we would have made such vast and rapid development in rural electrification, with all the impediments that have come in the way —wars and threats of wars, difficulties of all kinds. Nevertheless, rural electrification has certainly gone much faster than I ever had an idea it would go. Those who have taken the trouble to visit the generating stations will  realise that they are a credit to the Electricity Supply Board and to the Minister then in charge, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce.
There is one thing I would urge. If we are looking for cheap supplies of electricity for any particular thing, I would urge it for water supplies. There are parts of the country where regional water supplies could be obtained if we had cheap power. Unfortunately, those who have tried water supplies with electricity find it somewhat dear. That is rather a pity. Perhaps it is something the board in its wisdom would consider, that where a local authority desired to have a regional water supply pumped by the aid of electricity they would be given a special rate for it.
Mr. Davern: There must be something wrong with me when Deputy Dillon is agreeing with me. There is nothing that causes greater dissatisfaction in a parish than when the people on one side of a road get the supply and the people on the other side, who live in another townland, are refused, even though that particular parish is being given rural electrification. That is a pity and it is something that is inexcusable. It is something that we here by anything we can do or say should not condone, as it gives great dissatisfaction. I can see the point of the board, but I do not think that economy would justify it. It causes disagreement amongst neighbours and it is something that is very difficult, if not almost impossible, to explain away. I hope it is going to end. In the parish of Mullinahone— Kickham's own parish—there is grave dissatisfaction because of the fact that about a quarter of the parish has been left without rural electrification. I say that is a pity. I hope it is going to stop, and I sincerely hope that is the end of the division of parishes. We  have enough of partition in the country without bringing it into the Electricity Supply Board.
We hope that, as time goes on, the charges will be lowered. Everyone would like to see them lowered, and it would be a good thing, on the whole; but until such time as it becomes an economic unit I suppose we cannot hope for very much reduction. One thing we can all hope for is more speed, if at all possible, in rural electrification. War appears to be looming on the horizon, and now is the time to try to get in materials.
Mr. Davern: If we are able to get in sufficient poles and other things that we cannot produce in this country, it would be wise to bring them in. If we live for another 20 years we will find that we will probably at last have sufficient timber in this country for replacements. The Shannon scheme came into operation over 20 years ago. People were then inclined to get their houses wired at the least possible cost. In those days the people of this country were not as prosperous as they are to-day. That was during the period of the old Cumann na nGaedheal Government, of which Deputy Dillon was at first a member. More or less for patriotic reasons, the people of that time got electric light into their houses. Unfortunately, the houses were wired, especially in many towns, in an unskilled way, not nearly as skilled as the job is done to-day, so that, unfortunately, fires often occur. I urge on the Electricity Supply Board that they should have an inspection carried out all over the country, and where defective installations are found, that they should not only replace them, but should force replacements with a view to avoiding any risk of fire in the future.
Mr. Davern: I am not suggesting anybody in particular. However, if I decided to have my house rewired, it would hardly be fair to ask my nextdoor neighbour to finance the job. I  will now point out that the people with defective installations should not alone pay for having these rectified, but should be very thankful that such defects were pointed out to them, thus preventing the danger of fire. I conclude by wishing the Electricity Supply Board continued success. A little more speed on their part is all we require. Let them finish the job as soon as possible, thus giving us a proper and necessary lighting system in this country.
Mr. Dillon: You will forgive me if I am touched by the over-generous tributes of Deputy Davern to the expedition with which rural electification is being carried out. He will remember that the present Minister for Industry and Commerce was largely responsible for the preliminary work. When we came into office we had to undertake the executive task and it is a source of gratification to me to learn that Deputy Davern, standing in exterior darkness as he then was, found himself dazzled by the radiance of our performance and aspires to reach our standard of performance in the short period during which he may reasonably expect to sit on that side of the House, nor would I be polite were I not to express appreciation of Deputy Davern's reference to the parish plan. I am glad that he subscribes to the view which I ventured to propose, namely, that the appropriate rural social unit in this country was the parish. I committed it to his care and to the care of his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, whose first act on coming ino office was to scrap the parish plan.
I cannot endorse Deputy Davern's far-seeing proposal that the Electricity Supply Board should recruit an army of inspectors to go out and examine the installations in every house in Ireland with a view to condemning them and arranging to cut off the supply if the installations are defective, then furnishing the householder with an estimate for rewiring and, unless the householder pays on the nail, cutting off the supply and allowing him to sit in the dark. Deputy Davern does not believe in postponing till to-morrow  the costs of to-day, but the picture of leaving 15 per cent. of the population of this country drinking their tea by the light of a dip candle because they cannot afford to get their houses rewired fills me with gloom and dismay. I think he would be better advised to proceed on the assumption that the average householder in this country has now reached a degree of sophistication which would enable him adequately to safeguard his family against the prospect of a conflagration without the assistance of a perennial inspection by Electricity Supply Board inspectors armed with a pliers and an estimate form, and the name and address of the nearest grocer who sells dip candles.
It is a stimulating experience to listen to the Minister for Industry and Commerce announcing his intention of seeking the endorsement of Oireachtas Éireann for a capital investment programme of £20,000,000. Deputies will have noted that while it was in full cry the Minister for Finance came into the House with bowed shoulders and sat uncomfortably on the seat beside the Minister for Industry and Commerce for about three and a half minutes and then fled. I understood that the Minister for Finance's investigations into the financial services of this country revealed a situation in which there would be considerable difficulty in paying Civil Servants' salaries. I understood from what the Minister for Finance had to tell us that he could not afford to buy a galvanised bucket, that we would have to go to the loom and start weaving the hair shirt and that the bald ones amongst us would have to go naked. It is a far cry from that picture to the cheerful vision which the Minister for Industry and Commerce spreads before our eyes, and it is stimulating to hear the chastening word spoken by Deputy Davern who said he believed in the old-fashioned doctrine of pay as you go and that he could not at all subscribe to the heretical doctrines of Deputies Hickey and Desmond about extending the amortisation period of the capital outlay of the Electricity Supply Board. I am a long time in politics but my ears have not yet been trained to the absorption and elucidation of two  diametrically opposed stories told to one at the same time.
Mr. Dillon: When Deputy Davern starts to rumble I cannot understand him. He will have to return to Timahoe and the secretary of the cumann there will interpret him for me. £20,000,000 will finance the programme of development which the Minister for Industry and Commerce outlined to-day.
I want to raise four specific questions on that programme. On the first item he is perfectly right to proceed confidently with the investment of our people's savings in the development of our own power, land and natural resources, such as they are. I think Deputy Hickey rightly raised the question which many people already excogitated, including my colleague, the ex-Minister for Finance, who actually founded the Shannon scheme. I often heard him say, inside this House and outside it, that, ever since the original legislation was enacted by Oireachtas Éireann, he has often asked himself as to whether the amortisation provisions of the original legislation were not framed on too Draconian a scale and did not lay an excessive burden on the consumers of the present to the undue advantage of those who will enjoy the amenities of electrification in the future. Personally, I believe that the present Tánaiste agrees with that view, and I imagine that proposals will be made at a reasonably early date, soberly and prudently, to stow away the Minister for Finance in a clothes basket, do what has to be done, put him through the wringer and let him come back.
All the tripe that he has been talking in the last six months makes it much more difficult, soberly and prudently, to make that necessary adjustment, because any relaxation of amortisation provisions, no matter how obviously necessary they may be, are open to the furious onslaught of the hot air and tripe the Minister for Finance has been talking for the last six months. Nobody but a citizen with a  countenance of beaten brass like the Tánaiste's could sit beside him and propose the policy for which the Tánaiste is responsible and still commend the tripe of the Minister for Finance to the approval of the public. I must hand him this accolade. There is no country in the world, not excluding Bechuana, in which you could get a political party to follow two leaders at the same time who are saying the things that the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance are saying at the present time, because if any member of the Fianna Fáil Party understood either of them he would have to quit the Party.
In this particular set-up the Tánaiste is right. I think the time has come and he ought to tell his colleague this, that shrugging his shoulders and smiling blandly at Deputy Hickey does not provide the answer to a question of increasing urgency that Deputy Hickey almost invariably asks in the wrong way.
Mr. Dillon: —and I will ask the Tánaiste to note the question. I will challenge him to deny its cogency and I press him as Tánaiste to answer it on the authority of the Government over which he hopes shortly to preside —if it was justifiable to increase the fiduciary issue in Great Britain from £240,000,000 to £1,400,000,000 for the purpose of discounting Treasury deposit receipts bearing interest at 1¼ per cent. to buy arms and armaments for the prosecution of war, why is such a procedure unthinkable for the purpose of carrying light and power to our own people?
Mr. Dillon: Glory be to God, it is not true that the Tánaiste has swallowed the Tory tripe, hook, line and  sinker? When did the Tory Party ever come into power without announcing that there was a financial crisis which could only be resolved by effecting economies at the expense of the lower classes?
Mr. Dillon: Does not the whole would depend on them and does not the richest nation in the world, the United States of America, know in its heart that its own survival depends on the British people and on the survival of Great Britain? Do they not know, too, that for all their dollars and their wealth ultimately, in the last analysis, the salvation of Great Britain as she is is a first charge on the resources of the United States, not alone of Great Britain but to secure the survival of the kind of liberty under which we wish to live. That liberty is bought not by multiplying——
Mr. Dillon: Why would not my distinguished colleague, Deputy Mrs. Rice, address that question to her leader, the Tánaiste? It was he who drew down this topic. I think my colleague with whom I share the representation of County Monaghan does me an injustice when she forbids me to make a rejoinder to her own leader especially——
Mr. Dillon: In the course of the question, I described the financial method employed by the British Government to finance the war and I asked the Tánaiste to tell us the Government's explanation of why it had to adopt this method to finance a war. His reply was: “Look at the condition of the country that did it, at the present time.”
Mr. Dillon: I know. I think that is the fundamental difference between Fianna Fáil and us at the present time and I think that is really fundamental in the approach of the Minister for Finance, at least to this whole question of financing development. Then you have got this disedifying scene when the residents of Ballsbridge are actually getting along with the same quality of bread that is allowed to the residents of Marlborough Street. They yearn for the good old days when those who had money bought what they wanted and those who had not ate what they could get. Does Deputy McGrath think there is anything wrong if you have only got enough meat that the residents of Montenotte must do with 10d. worth as well as the residents of the slums, or does he think that the butchers should take what orders they can from residents in Montenotte if there is anything left?
Mr. Dillon: Yes, Sir. The Tánaiste says that if the method of financing it that I commend be accepted there awaits us the awful catastrophe of an economic experience such as that through which Great Britain is passing at the present time. Deputy McGrath says that is testified by the fact that they have only 10d. worth of meat.
Mr. Dillon: It means 10d. worth of meat for everybody, and not 2/6 for some and nothing for the rest. I think it is worth trying to educate the back benchers of Fianna Fáil. I want an answer to the question I asked and I do not think it should be indefinitely postponed. When we are talking in terms of £50,000,000 sterling, and that is the total investment in the Electricity Supply Board if I understand the Minister correctly, the difference between the rates charged to-day and those to which I referred is close upon £1,500,000 sterling per annum. If that economy were made, it would be sufficient to discharge the entire capital outstanding in something less than 30 years. Does anybody in this country know what turf costs?
Mr. Dillon: I did not expect that Deputy Davern would know. I think it is about as difficult to find what a sod of turf costs or what it is going to cost in this country as it is to find out what a unit of electricity is going to cost. When any Deputy gets his account for the two months, has he the faintest notion what the light cost and what the power used in the cooker cost? I would suggest to the Tánaiste that the method of charging for electricity is infinitely complicated. There ought to be a means of knowing if you use a cooker how much the cost will be per unit and if you turn on the lamp how much the light will cost per unit. There are very few places in Ireland where any such simple calculation can be made.
It ought to be profitable to find out  what turf costs. I do not believe that anybody knows. Lots of people know about the cost of producing turf but are studious to ignore the hundreds of thousands of pounds that have been poured into bog development under a wide variety of schemes which never has been and which nobody ever intends to charge against the cost of turf. I discussed the matter with the Comptroller and Auditor-General on one occasion and if anybody wants to find out what it is and if he looks in the Index to the Public Accounts for the year 1941 or 1942, he will find that up to then the quantity of money spent on bog development which has never been charged against the cost of turf at all was a very formidable sum. If there is added what has since been spent, plus capital employed by Bord na Móna, it would provide a very interesting study as to what the turf which it is intended to use in the generation of electricity actually cost or is likely to cost.
Mr. Dillon: Fianna Fáil Deputies sententiously declare that they believe it would probably be a good thing if the cost of electricity came down, but look anxiously at the Tánaiste to see if he should shake his head so that they may skip lightly back from any reckless affirmation.
Deputy Davern said, having given the long years he has spent shedding his radiance on County Tipperary to reflection on the economies of Ireland, that he had come to the conclusion  that it was a good thing to supply cheap power to Irish industry. When that epoch-making statement fell from his lips one felt the gyration of the globe momentarily to stop. I think that Deputy Davern was right. I think that power is an essential raw material of every industry in this country, including agriculture. I think he is right in saying that it should be a matter of supreme importance that it should be made available at the lowest possible cost. Does anyone in this House seriously suggest that to generate electricity out of turf is calculated to procure power for Irish industry or agriculture at the lowest possible cost? It is notoriously the reverse of truth.
What amenity value it may have in providing jobs for turf cutters in bog areas is an entirely separate question. What I would suggest to the Government is that if the Government determine that it is desirable to use turf as fuel for generating electricity which is to furnish power to Irish industry it is the Government's duty if Irish industry is to have a chance, to defray by Exchequer grant the difference between the cost of generating electricity from turf and what it would cost were it generated by the most economic method available. Nothing is more foolish than to allow the excess cost of turf generation to fall on the industrial consumer; he is the one person that should not be asked to carry it because if he is, you are distorting the whole price structure of the industry in which the power is used.
We hear to-day that the total consumption of electricity last year was 1,000,000,000 units. Only part of that, of course, is consumed in providing illumination, but it is a substantial part. I invite the Minister for Industry and Commerce to charge any independent body to investigate the relevant efficiency of electric lamps in this country with that of lamps of similar prices in Great Britain, the United States, France, Germany or Scandinavia, and if it be true that there is a 10 per cent. loss of current used for illumination in this country owing to the relative inefficiency of the lamps we use in Ireland.
Mr. Dillon: It would be an interesting thing to discover whether it would be more expedient and more economical to produce lamps of equal efficiency, whatever the cost, in Ireland or to go on producing power for the purpose of making relatively inefficient lamps light up. There is an easy way of finding out the truth or error of that suggestion and it is in the capacity of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to make the test to-morrow. He does not have to; he knows the facts, but if he wants to he has the Bureau of Industrial Standards, he has the Industrial Research Council, either of which bodies will provide him with a committee of experts charged with the task of making a truly objective report on that matter.
I do not know how many units are used annually in lighting. If it be 300,000,000, 10 per cent. of that would be 30,000,000, not to speak of the electricity that is spent on carrying these 30,000,000, units over the transmission system. It seems very foolish to build a new power station in order to supply the electricity which could be saved by making the lamps through which we use it more efficient than they are.
I do not think that Fianna Fáil are consternated by their own contradiction, but I beg of them to think, if power and light and heat are the indispensable raw materials of industry and agriculture, is it sane to forbear from employing the most efficient and the cheapest methods of generating that power and that light and that heat. I invite Deputies here to pause a moment and think, to go down to Portarlington and see what the supply of one relatively small station burning turf involves in turf consumption; to remember that the Tánaiste told us here to-day that it was only when the station went into operation it was found that it was capable of consuming twice as much more; to examine the size of the installation and its cost; to remember that to burn turf to generate electricity demands the universal acceptance of the proposition that the  station must be brought to the turf on account of its high water content, not the turf to the station; to recall that as the available turf recedes from where the station is built with the passage of years every furlong of transport that is put on that turf makes the power generated a little less economic than it was heretofore.
Can we get out of our minds the chronic curse which so many people carry in this country: that the available labour in Ireland instead of being something to glory in is a perennial problem to keep statesmen and politicians awake at night? When that very labour which looks to a Fianna Fáil Government to be a problem to be resolved by relief work, by building turf stations in the middle of bogs, steps on a railway train there are brass bands out to receive it at Holyhead.
It is worth its weight in gold when it gets there. High-powered salesmen are in Ireland every day clamouring for them to come, but here we speak of them in terms of another addition to the rolls of unemployed—what will we do with them; how will we employ them? Anything is justifiable, because it provides employment.
I think the greatest insult we can offer to a man in this country is to ask him to engage in work other than work which produces the maximum that his capacity and the equipment are capable of producing. I have no desire to see our people put out on the bog to work so that for us in Oireachtas Éireann it will be a case of out of sight, out of mind. I have no sympathy with the argument which says that, even if to generate electricity from the bog is uneconomic, we ought to do it for the sake of the work it provides for the men put cutting turf. Those men can be employed in producing in our own country better products cheaper than they can be produced anywhere else in the world because they are the men who are employed doing just that in Great Britain and the United States. They are not employed there because British or American industrialists love the colour of their lovely blue eyes. They are employed there because, given the  opportunity, they can deliver the goods. Why is it that, to get that opportunity, they have to go to America and they have to go to England? Why is it?
Mr. Dillon: I think all that labour is an estimable treasure which can be exploited to the advantage of our country, and I think one of the essentials for affording that labour a decent standard of living and a right opportunity is cheap power, which we will never get by generating it with second-class fuel.
Far from accepting the Fianna Fáil view, I propound to the Minister for Industry and Commerce this thesis: that the obligation and the duty of the Electricity Supply Board is to provide for our people the maximum quantity of power and light at the lowest price at which it can be efficiently produced, and whatever method is most effective to that end is the best method and none other should be employed. I repeat the question—the Tánaiste is in a position to answer it if he wants to— what does turf cost?
Mr. Dillon: Perhaps the Minister would apply his mind to that calculation. I suppose the same reply was made by every vagrant Tuareg in the  Sahara when the virtues of camel dung as fuel were aspersed, that it cost less than oil and, if it took herself a little longer to cook the hawk's egg on a fire of camel dung, far from it was she born.
Mr. Dillon: Very well. Nothing is wonderful to the Tánaiste. The only thing which quite surpasses his capacity to imagine is that in Ireland it would ever be possible to do something that neither France, Germany, Holland nor Switzerland has ever done before and that, instead of spending his life looking yearningly at what somebody else is doing, if he looked home he might find himself in the astonishing position of having them coming here to learn from him.
Mr. Lemass: Will the Deputy get into his head that it is more economic to burn turf than to import coal for this purpose? If it is a matter of business common sense, why should we pay more for coal than the price at which we can produce turf?
Mr. Dillon: ——and this wise old bird seeks to parry it—is that we in Ireland should scorn to produce anything less than the best because, if we try, we are eminently capable of producing the best. I am happy to think that Irish agriculture has never had to boast of the relative merits of its products. They were self-evident before the world. Irish agriculture sold its products on the markets of the world  because it had nowhere else to sell them and it was able to do it because they were equal to or better than the best. I, for one, never doubted the capacity of our people to maintain that standard. It is only Fianna Fáil who accepts the aphorism first spoken by the present Tánaiste in this House that, if you wanted to face facts, you were bound to admit that there was nothing manufactured in this country which could not be manufactured better or cheaper anywhere else.
Mr. Dillon: Read my paraphrase and see how it goes. I want to put this to the Minister: The Electricity Supply Board in connection, I think, with the rural electrification scheme did set up an agricultural advisory division with a view to explaining to farmers and popularising the user of agricultural electrical appliances in areas recently wired. I would ask him to make representations to the Electricity Supply Board to the effect that there is considerable scope for the extension of that service. At present I do not think there are much more than three or four men available to instruct. Quite apart from milking machines and grinding mills and the like, I think the Minister would find if he would inquire from his colleague the Minister for Agriculture that the development of wiring floors of pigsties involves a very low kilowatt consumption of electricity with an unbelievable  economy in the consumption of feeding stuffs.
It is hard to believe that there is a well-authenticated work to demonstrate that, in the feeding of a 12-stone pig, no less than four weeks' feeding can be saved by the provision of this device in any pigsty, the installation of which costs a £5 note, and which can be done by unskilled labour under the direction of a competent adviser, for the reason that the electric equipment is a small transformer and the remainder is simply wire, bedded suitably in sand. I am sure the Minister for Industry and Commerce realises that it is a matter of very real importance both from the point of view of increasing the farmer's income and from the point of view of economising on the raw material of what can be made the most profitable branch of agriculture at the present time.
The last question I want to ask the Minister is this. He spoke of establishing in Erris, in North Mayo, a power station, fuelled by turf, and on the east side of Ballina a power station operated by water-power.
Mr. Dillon: I would ask the Minister to look at this. When the question of the drainage of the Moy was under examination, it was quite clear that that drainage area had to be taken as a unit, but it is unique in Ireland, in any case, in that it has two watersheds for a source. One watershed lies between Killala and Lough Conn, and the waters of that shed come down through the two lakes joining the Moy below. The second watershed lies west of Ballina, and is generally recognised to be the main channel of the original river.
It looks, and I think there is engineering authority for this view, as if it would be a formidable but wholly possible task, to carry the head waters which flow down through the two lakes into the sea at Killala by cutting a canal through that district. If the Minister is familiar with the coastline there, he will remember that as the coast goes west, the cliffs rise to a height of 400 feet. I cannot recall  what the cliff height is at Killala but it is substantial. If the outfall of that river were taken back, as it could be, from its normal course into the lake, it would provide a very handsome source of hydro-electric power at Killala. You would resolve at the same time 75 per cent. of the complexity of the drainage problem of the Moy catchment area and you would provide, not relief work, but a splendid imaginative engineering project on which the people of Erris, who are at present going to Scotland and the United States to work on works of that kind, would be pre-eminently suitable to work for the benefit of themselves and their neighbours. I am not saying it is a scheme which has been examined by engineers. It may not have got the potentialities which I suggest, but I do suggest to the Minister that it is eminently worthy of examination and that much of the capital costs might be later charged to what would be a very valuable drainage amenity.
Let me congratulate the Minister again that he has shaken himself free, not for the first time, of that clinging tendril, the Minister for Finance. Whilst the Minister for Finance weeps salt tears on Mr. Butler's bosom about the bankruptcy that awaits him here, about the hair-shirts and the other hardships to which he has to reconcile himself for years and years to come, it comforts me to think that the not insubstantial figure of the Minister for External Affairs will give the living lie to his protestations while the imagination of the Minister for Industry and Commerce will reassure us at home that the skies are not as dark as the clinging vine or the junior banshee would have us believe.
Mr. Cogan: I should like to join with the last speaker in congratulating the Minister upon this Bill and upon his imaginative and progressive outlook in putting a programme of electrical development before the country. It is what the country needs, what the country is seeking and it is something upon which the nation as a whole will join in congratulating the Minister. Deputy Dillon widened the scope of the debate. He has convinced himself, though perhaps he did not convince the House, that the  British people are most prosperous and the happiest people on the face of the earth, because they are willing to allow their country to be used as a base of an attack on the continent of Europe. What a prospect! Why did the Deputy not make that statement in the British House of Commons and not here?
I want to refer in the few minutes at my disposal to one outstanding fact, one which will interest the Deputy and which should interest Deputy Hickey also. There has been talk about providing electricity at the cheapest possible rate. Then in the figures put before us for expenditure and income last year we had the following facts. The gross revenue of the Electricity Supply Board for 1950-51 was £5,600,000. Working expenditure was £3,800,000 and interest and the repayment of advances was £1,238,000 and there was a surplus of £500,000. There you have a position in which 50 per cent. of the cost of producing electricity goes in interest and the repayment of advances. I am just pointing out that that is one particular aspect of the cost of electricity that does require investigation and I am hoping that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will turn his attention to that particular aspect. As a result we should be able to provide not alone an adequate supply of electricity for our people but that cheaper electricity which is absolutely essential for our economic progress. I move the adjournment of the debate.
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