Wednesday, 12 December 1962
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Reynolds: A lady living in Carrick-on-Shannon applied some time ago to the Department of Local Government for a grant to build new rooms on to her premises. Her normal business was to keep fishermen who came from England for five or six months of the year, and, in order to keep a few more, she decided to add three or four rooms on to her public-house and small business premises. She made the application and an inspector called and said: “We do not give grants for such jobs.” I think that is a desperate pity. That lady and her husband are trying to rear a family and they now find themselves in the position that they do not qualify for a grant. It is their only means of livelihood and the Minister should try to get Bord Fáilte to consider this application with a view to giving them a grant. It would be better for Bord Fáilte to spend money on this type of development rather than to spend £50,000, £60,000 or £100,000 on big hotels.
Recently the Minister was asked in the House if a further generating station could be built in the Arigna district, for the burning of Arigna coal in the generation of electricity. The Minister has stated in the House that he doubts if there is sufficient coal in the mines to justify the erection of another generating station. In my opinion, and in the opinion of people who have been in the coal business in that area for many years back, there are ample supplies of coal there. I would ask the Minister to consider the erection of another generating station there.
Mr. Reynolds: I would again ask the Minister to consider the erection of another generating station. I also asked questions on the possibility of the ESB putting current into the Dromod-Mohill area. He told me that a decision would be made shortly on the matter. I have not heard of such a decision and I hope that he will deal with the matter in his reply and that the decision will be favourable.
Mr. McLaughlin: I should like to say a few words about the conditions that exist in my constituency as a result of the Minister's action in closing down the railway lines there. One of these lines ran from Collooney to Enniskillen and the other from Drumshambo to Belturbet. The first was about 25 miles and the injury done to that stretch of country as a result of its closing is plain to be seen by anybody travelling that road. Take the towns of Dromahair, Manorhamilton and even Collooney itself. These towns have lost from £200 to £500 weekly and today they are like ghost towns. Up to the time the employees of the railroads found themselves out of work, things were not too bad but now many of these people have emigrated.
The same applies to the Drumshambo-Belturbet railway which was about 40 miles long. The towns on that line, such as Drumshambo and Ballinamore, are almost bereft of employment now. We were told that a subsidy could be paid to these undertakings no longer as they were too costly but it is now taking far more money to maintain the roads in the area. You meet trucks on these roads today carrying up to 30 tons. In a constituency such as Sligo-Leitrim, where we have so much bog country, it is almost impossible to keep the  roads built up against the desperate traffic. That is the result of bad management, to my mind, and anybody who goes to any of the towns I have mentioned will agree that is the feeling of the people.
As those lines closed, many young people thought the opportunity would arise to put a lorry on the road and make a living carrying some of the extra freight and livestock formerly carried by rail. In order to ensure that could not happen, an Act was passed as a result of which they dare not come out on the road to earn any money. Some of them found themselves prosecuted and heavily fined and, from the North Leitrim area, some even found themselves in jail in Dublin. It is sad, in a country like this where men fought and many died to gain us freedom to do what we like, to think that a young man with enough courage to pay out £3,000 for a lorry and trailer outfit will find himself held up by the Garda, put off the road and left to take the consequences. That is what is happening. People were sadly disappointed about that. Those boys are gone and the result is that the rural areas are being stripped of their population and it is one of the saddest things to be seen when we go into these areas, as we must do as public representatives to find so many homes closed and scarcely a young boy or girl left in the area.
I appeal to the Minister to deal with those groups of people in my constituency who still require electricity and not to ask them to pay this extra charge to have light in their homes. The small farmer in those areas could not possibly accept the ESB supply if he had to pay this extra charge. Whatever it may cost I appeal to the Minister to see that those people, who are to be congratulated on still living in such remote places, will have at least the light laid on. I appeal on that ground very sincerely, because I am approached very often by groups in Sligo and Leitrim who are off the line. I hope the Minister will note that because we have quite a number of those groups now and also a number of individual  cases where the line might require to be brought to one person.
A number of drivers, three or four, or perhaps five, who were in permanent employment with CIE have been transferred to other centres while other drivers have been brought in there. Where a young married man lives in a town or district with his wife and family and has a home there, it is very unreasonable for CIE, who are not paying him such a great wage, to ask him to move down to Cavan or some other county, pay for lodgings, continue working as a driver and get home only occasionally. That position should be carefully examined and, where possible, married men should not be sent away from home. I have been speaking to some of these people and they are seriously considering whether they should give up their jobs and go to England, because of the great hardship involved in maintaining themselves in one town while their families live in another.
Mr. T. Lynch: Before the Minister begins, perhaps he would bear with me while I mention a small matter. I was not in the House the other night when the Vote for the Department of Transport and Power was being discussed and my absence was noticed by Deputy Noel Lemass in most unparliamentary terms——
Mr. T. Lynch: Have I your permission, Sir, to ask Deputy Noel Lemass to withdraw his remarks? I am here tonight without the advantage he had of being primed with Dutch courage to call names to myself and my colleague Deputy Flanagan——
Mr. Childers: During the first part of the debate on the Estimate, I felt a little disheartened because it was quite obvious that the majority of those who spoke in Opposition, had not bothered to read anything I had said either on the Transport Bill or in connection with this Estimate and were simply making points without taking the trouble to read the facts. But as the debate continued I felt heartened at the general trend of what I heard.
My first statement tonight is that, at least, we have a policy on this side of the House. I have listened for hours and hours to the most wonderful set of contradictory policies put forward by Deputies of Fine Gael and of other Parties, none of which have any consistency and most of which, if adopted, would mean complete nonsense. They indicate that there is no real policy on the Opposition benches in regard to transport and power.
We have had suggestions that CIE should no longer have a monopoly— the effect of that would be to drive the company further into deficit—and at the same time, when the Transport Bill was voted on, the voting was 63 to 12 against the proposition that CIE be not required to pay for itself. We had Deputies on the Fine Gael Benches, who could move any amendment to that Bill if they so wished, and having clearly indicated they did not wish CIE to pay, they failed to vote in the division on the Transport Bill.
We have had suggestions by Deputies that a number of the State companies are faking their accounts. We had other Deputies quoting from the accounts and asking questions on them in a manner which indicated quite clearly that they regard the accounts as validly presented and audited. We had Deputies praising a number of the State companies and we had others condemning them all round for policies of aggrandisement, of appointing people with gold braid and excessive numbers of executives and so forth. We had Deputies speaking in regard to Irish Shipping and asking that they should run coastal services when it is perfectly clear that coastal services are declining all over the world and the only result of selling  the large ships of Irish Shipping would be that its overall deficit would become even greater and that it would be utterly impossible for us to secure supplies in time of war.
We have had suggestions by some Deputies that the ESB is the only paying State company we have, these Deputies having failed to realise that it has a monopolist position, in which no other State company finds itself. We have had suggestions that the charges imposed on the public by the ESB are too great, and in contradistinction, we have had suggestions that the ESB should spend more and more money to provide current to people in remote areas for quite unremunerative receipts.
The debate as a whole emphasises the fact that it is a good thing that we on this side are conducting transport and power policy, because, as I have said, the inconsistencies of the Opposition have been fantastic. I do not know how to deal with the Opposition, half of whom say that CIE should no longer be a monopoly and the other half that they should be supported by the State ad lib. It is impossible for me to answer such questions because there is nothing but gross inconsistency shown.
Mr. Childers: It is only reasonable that I should say a few words first about the accounts and the financial position of the State companies. I will deal with them as briefly as I can. First of all, their accounts and balance sheets are properly presented and audited and I am satisfied that they are correct in the way they are presented to the House and to the public. Secondly, I wish to make it clear that CIE are the only State company in respect of which a subsidy is paid to cover normal operating expenses and receipts. There are various kinds of subsidies, as the House well knows. There are the capital subsidies we give for industries, and for rural electrification; there are interest-free grants we give for various types of productive development; but there is a tremendous  difference between that kind of capital grant subsidy and the subsidy where you say to a company at the end of the year: “We will make up the difference between your receipts and expenditure.” CIE have a limited subsidy of that kind confined to £1,175,000 and it is the only one of the companies under my control which are not promotion companies, such as Bord Fáilte and the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, receiving that kind of subsidy which fills a deficit in regard to ordinary receipts and expenditure.
Irish Shipping is not subsidised, nor is it going to be, nor is it insolvent or anything like it. During the present severe freight rate depression, Irish Shipping continues to meet its losses out of profits made in the past.
Mr. Corish: Many Deputies have spoken in the debate and it is unfair of the Minister to describe everybody as having spoken nonsense and to describe the Opposition as being confused as to what has been termed the monopoly of CIE.
Mr. Childers: I was speaking about Irish Shipping and saying that it met losses out of profits made in the past. On the most recent balance sheet, the present value of the company's assets is shown as £11.3 million compared with £9.3 million capital subscribed by the State. We need a good shipping service for emergency purposes, if ever we should be forced to carry goods under exceptional or wartime conditions. Irish Shipping carries as great a volume of goods from this country to other distant countries as can be carried at profitable rates and imports in the same way. About 20 per cent. of its business is between this country and other countries and it is not neglecting the interests of this country. Irish Shipping is earning foreign currency for us, giving good employment, and setting a splendid example of punctuality and good service throughout the world wherever it goes.
I am not going to close down Irish Shipping or to force them to sell all the most profit-making of their vessels in order to establish a coastal shipping service when I know that all over the world coastal shipping is gradually declining. I do not intend to do it.
Bord na Móna is not in receipt of any subsidy. The Bord is paying interest on the capital advanced to it and repaying capital in instalments in accordance with the provisions of the Turf Development Acts. There have recently been some losses due to bad weather, but, for example, if you take the past three years, there was a clear profit of £1,900,000 after charging all expenses, including depreciation, and its shareholders, who consist of the people of this country who have advanced the money and include a private company, have received £1,700,000 in interest and in sinking fund repayment. That left a surplus of £200,000 to be set off in reduction  of the very big deficit that was caused in the very disastrous year 1958 that put the company at a disadvantage. I am certain that Board na Móna is conducting itself in a thoroughly efficient manner, that there is no gold braid as suggested by one Deputy in relation to its operations, or extravagance of any description.
The air companies are in receipt of no operating subsidy, nor are they making operating losses. I made it quite clear in my speech that they had not been able to remunerate State capital but they had met all charges proper to revenue and have preserved the value of their assets representing the share capital amounting to about £12,000,000. The company has no accumulated revenue losses. The performance of these airlines compares very well with those of other countries, many of which have been making consistent operating losses, and many of which have not been able to repay their capital or to pay a dividend on it.
I have discussed the whole question of the functions of the air companies quite recently with the Chairman, and I hope that the time will arrive for them to make some remuneration on their capital. The airline has been deliberately asked by the Government, and by successive Governments, to develop very rapidly without waiting for profits to accumulate from the running of profitable routes. They have been asked to develop new services to various places in Great Britain, leaving aside altogether the transatlantic service, and to do it at a rate which has made it very difficult for them to remunerate capital, but, as I have said, I hope that the position will improve in the future.
All the air charges, the rates arranged by the international air transport organisation, are based on a number of factors over which neither I nor the Irish airline have control. In many countries air companies operate under hidden subsidies. The Government choose to pay for air traffic control or for meteorological services, so charges at airports and air fare structures can be attuned to the fact that  the Government are paying for services for which in other countries it is considered that the air companies should pay at least a contribution. Many other factors make it very difficult for a considerable number of air companies to remunerate their capital.
The ESB enjoy practically complete internal monopoly in respect of a great number of their powers. The ESB pays interest and principal on loan capital. The ESB is not in the vulnerable position as some of the other State companies.
I hope I have dealt to some extent with the charges levied against me of being inconsistent and trying to hide the true facts regarding State companies. As I said, it is very important, in discussing the whole question in the House, for people to realise the psychological difference and the financial difference between the kind of subsidy which enables the company to say year after year: “It does not matter what happens to us, the Government will pay”; and a delay in remuneration of capital or a temporary subsidy granted just for a period as in the case of CIE. There is a very great difference between the two types of aid.
I omitted to say that, in the case of Irish Shipping, the law passed in this House provides that there should be no dividend on capital. That was agreed to. If dividends did accumulate, all the money must be invested in new shipping. Irish Shipping will have 153,000 tons out of the 200,000 tons and there will be no necessity to replace any vessels in the immediate future. Naturally, regard will have to be had to current operating conditions in making any further decision for the growth of the company, but I must say that it is unreasonable for us to make the presumption that freight rates are never going to rise again. We can presume that there will be some day some order in the world regarding freight rate structures and that freight rate structures will rise to the point where Irish Shipping, if it is efficiently run, will be able to earn full depreciation.
I am very glad to be able to tell the House that so efficiently run is  Irish Shipping that last year, when freight rates were far below the economic level, a number of the newer vessels of Irish Shipping were able to pay depreciation and could be able to pay hypothetically three per cent. interest on their capital. The fleet consists of a number of vessels of different kinds, some of which under prevailing conditions do better than others, but taking the whole picture, we can say that it is a company of which we can be proud and which I hope will have a great future.
It would be impossible to operate any policy in this country on wholly pessimistic presumptions. The whole of the work of the present Government— and to that extent nobody in the Opposition has questioned it—is based on generally optimistic forecasts of the future. We would stop all development if we presumed disaster. We would stop all industrial development and everything else. We in the Government are going ahead on the presumption that the world will remain sane, that there will be no disastrous war, that the financiers of the world and the Governments of the world will be able to prevent a disastrous slump and, where there are cases of unduly low prices for services or goods, that in some way or another, through the gradual intelligent appreciation of these things by modern economists, there will be changes for the better. That is all I can say regarding the future of Irish Shipping.
I have already said in connection with CIE that, as far as this debate is concerned, I can recommend to my colleagues in the Government that the present policy can remain because in the debate on the Transport Bill it is quite clear from the vote cast that very few Deputies are prepared to suggest that CIE should not be asked to cover its expenses by the end of the period allotted to it in the 1958 Act. That makes a great deal of the observations on the closing of stations and on the efforts made by CIE to reduce their deficit quite inconsistent. This is the general expression of opinion clearly recorded in the House when the Transport Bill was voted on.
As I indicated before, the Beddy  Committee Report gave the background to the 1958 Act and clearly indicated the position of rail transport in this country. It clearly indicated that redundancy is inevitable and the redundancy provisions in the 1958 Act could have been passed by the Oireachtas, as a whole, only in the knowledge that they would be used. It is quite obvious that if only three or four people were going to be found redundant in CIE as a result of the operation of the Act, there would have been no need for special redundancy provisions. The special redundancy provisions made it perfectly clear that there was to be drastic reorganisation of services. No one could have voted in favour of these provisions without realising their implications.
I was asked by a number of Deputies what I thought the prospects were of CIE paying for itself by the end of the period allotted in the 1958 Act. It is very difficult for me to say. Much depends on the growth of the productivity of the system. A good deal depends on having a system of wage negotiations which have been, in general, approved by both employers and workers which will ensure that productivity can grow in all our services and in all our companies both public and private. I am not unhopeful that CIE will be able to improve its position as a result of changes which are now taking place.
If Deputies look at the accounts of CIE, they will see that a change of from five to seven per cent. in receipts and expenditure on one side or the other of the balance sheet, would bring about balance and that is not an impossible figure at which to aim. All I can say is that the Chairman and Board of CIE are not unhopeful that they will be able to achieve a balancing position round or about the time the 1958 Act expires. Meanwhile my duty will be to examine the whole position of transport in order to bring fresh legislation before the Dáil when the 1958 Act expires.
The next question with which I want to deal is the suggestion that CIE was falsifying the figures for receipts and expenditure in relation to lines the  closing of which was announced previously. I want also to deal with the question put by Deputy Corry and some others: why did not CIE give a full picture of all the revenue received at various stations if public bodies were to be convinced that CIE generally was losing money on these lines? I wish, first of all, to say what I have said before on the Transport Bill, that the Board of CIE is a board of responsible people, that a very high level of integrity has been evident for many years in the conduct of State company boards.
There have been some Deputies tonight who have been making lurid remarks about these boards but, on the whole, the more responsible Deputies have recognised the splendid record we have had in that regard. It is inconceivable that the Board of CIE, whose activities can be examined by any Government, either our own or any other, and which can be subjected to any commission of inquiry that any Government institutes, would deliberately falsify receipts and expenditure for the sake of closing a line, particularly when it is the object of CIE to keep as much of the railway service open as they can, and when they are genuinely desirous of giving an accurate picture of the financial position.
The reason why it is useless to ask stationmasters, in stations along routes which are to be closed, for figures for traffic, is that the procedure followed by CIE, and by the industrial consultants in relation to each of these branch lines, was of an entirely different kind. They worked out the expenditure along a particular sector of line and they could only identify with certainty about 70 per cent of the expenditure. The rest they said they could not identify and, therefore, they did not place it to the debit of the line. That surely is fair enough. They were able to identify about 94 cent. of the revenue attributable to the particular sector of the line.
As members of the House are interested in this matter, I shall give them some information which really is entirely a matter of day-to-day administration, on the part of CIE. I want to make it clear that, in giving the information,  I am not implying that the members of the Board are not absolutely responsible in what they are doing. I am doing it simply in order to show how foolish it is to suggest that what stationmasters can give in the way of information is relative to the question of revenue and expenditure attributable to a particular sector.
The passenger traffic was calculated by taking a mileage for passenger trains on each branch line and by multiplying that by the fare per passenger mile. It is quite obvious that stationmasters could not give that information. It has to be done in head office. The ordinary parcel revenue was computed by carrying out a study over a certain period; the number of parcels were recorded and then the total revenue attributable was allocated to each line. The freight revenue was allocated to each sector, in proportion to the length of each sector. As I said, they left out all the main overheads that would be attributable to particular branches. They did not attempt to allocate the whole of the expenditure at the terminal stations and headquarters, because they could not fully estimate the amount, and so they did not allocate any of these expenditures to the particular line in question.
Therefore the statement of losses which has been published was an absolutely minimum statement and it was not totted up, or added up, in such a way that it would deceive the public. May I make it absolutely clear that if I should find any of the State companies, CIE, ESB, or Bord na Móna, permitting their local managers, at the level of a stationmaster, to give information on receipts and expenditure in regard to their particular sector of business, I should regard that as grossly irresponsible. It would simply result in the chaotic working of these companies and it would mean every stationmaster and every superintendent——
Mr. McQuillan: On a point of order, has the Minister any function with regard to the employment of staff such as stationmasters? I understood he had no function whatever and therefore  it is wrong for him to issue threats against stationmasters——
Mr. Childers: I am not issuing threats. I am saying that the operation of these companies would become completely chaotic and they could not maintain discipline if members of the public were able to go to some minor superintendent in a branch office of the ESB and ask for figures for receipts and expenditure and other financial information with regard to his particular little office. It would be entirely wrong for members of the public to be able to go to bog managers on a bog operated by Bord na Móna and everybody knows that is true. Everybody knows it does not apply in any of the rail systems in any well administered community.
Mr. Childers: Deputies are deliberately misinterpreting me. I said that I would hope that the boards of State companies would not permit questions of a detailed character to be asked by the ordinary public of those of their executives operating in remote areas and that that sort of information should come through this House and as a result of the presentation of the annual accounts with which I will deal later.
Mr. Childers: In relation to the question of CIE, I am very glad to be able to quote a new study of inland transport in Ireland which has been published under the auspices of the Economic Research Institute. It is paper No. 10 which was published in November, 1962, by Mr. D. J. Reynolds. I will not read the names of the Directors of the Institute because they are the names of people who are so eminent in the life of this country that the document can be regarded as having some relevance and validity.
I am interested to see that, from studies made in 1960 and 1961, there has been no change in the general position of inland transport in Ireland in its main facets from that which had been analysed by the Beddy Committee and in which they used figures for years varying from 1954 to 1957. I do not think I am going to have time to quote in full from this document and I shall just read the summary. It may be taken for granted that the writer of this study wrote independently of the Beddy Committee report and formed his own independent conclusions. The Irish transport system was associated with these factors:
Then he refers to the rapid increase in road vehicles over the past 10 years which has been at a rate of 7 per cent. to 8 per cent. per annum. He then refers to the comparatively small number of road vehicles per head of the population as compared with other Western European countries, vehicles per head of the population being highest in the counties to the east and south and least in the western half of the country. Here the rates of increase in vehicle ownership, particularly cars, have been highest. That shows that in the areas  of the country where vehicle density is lowest at present, there is the greatest increase. He says——
The difficulties of the railways and their response to these difficulties in the concentration of the railway system, the modernisation of its equipment, and its better utilisation, with specialisation on longer-distance transport and the haulage of bulkier freights.
That is another factor. He then says that it is estimated that in 1960 road supplied 93 per cent. of the State's requirements for inland passenger transport and rail 7 per cent., while road supplied 80 per cent. of the State's requirements for inland freight transport and rail the remaining 20 per cent.
All those are facts which I have frequently given to the House. They indicate the difficult position in which CIE find themselves and they indicate the comparative amplitude of private transport. Dealing with the whole basis of CIE policy, of providing an economic transport service, we should bear in mind that the private sector of transport is enormous, and that the idea of permanently subsidising a public transport service in relation to the amplitude of private transport is one which should not be entertained, unless we are absolutely driven to it.
The CIE subsidy is very different, for example, from the subsidy on butter. We must export our surplus butter and the present arrangements in Great Britain make it difficult for us to sell it save with a subsidy. That is an entirely different position from the position of CIE who have to provide an efficient and economic transport service within the vast mass of private transport. Suggestions have been made that we should remove CIE's monopoly.
Mr. Childers: As I have already indicated if we did that the only result would be that we would put further difficulties in their way. Mr.  Reynolds has done a calculation of the proportion of private transport as opposed to public, and he has based it on a ton mileage analysis.
Private transport as opposed to public, i.e., transport operated for reward, seems to account for some 37 per cent, of total ton-mileage. Although the railways are of much greater relative importance in freight than in passenger transport, it is clear that in quantitative terms the railways are of minor importance in inland transport. Depending on the relative weights given to a passenger mile and a ton-mile, they could be said to account for some 10 to 20 per cent. of the nation's inland transport only.
That suggests that the idea that CIE possess a very great monopoly seems to be very far wide of the facts. It seems to me to be only reasonable to allow them to preserve whatever monopoly they have at least until we can review the position in the light of what we believe transport conditions will be in the ensuing years.
A number of Deputies raised the matter of my replies to Questions relating to CIE. I find that out of 120 Questions put down to me in the past 12 months, 40 were ruled out by the Ceann Comhairle and 80 were answered. That does not suggest that I am not prepared to answer Questions in regard to CIE, but I shall deal later with the matter of answering Questions and giving sectionalised information about State companies.
The main heat of the debate was in relation to CIE and I am afraid the reason is one which applies in virtually every other country, that is, an almost obsessional belief by some Deputies, and some members of the  public, in the value of a railway service, regardless of how many passengers or how much goods it carries. I have said before that this is an almost universal feeling which exists practically everywhere, and although in modern Europe, in the Northern democracies with a very high national income per head, huge mileages of railways have been closed down, one can find no reports in the history of all those countries that the closing down of the railways had an adverse effect on the economy or had been in any way a disaster. It is true, nevertheless, that in those countries when the railways were being closed down there were violent protests, but once a substitute service was provided the protests were largely forgotten and became simply a part of history.
I am afraid there is one fundamental difference between me and the Government and a number of Deputies in this House in relation to the 1958 Act. I do not feel there is anything sacrosanct about railways in the modern world. I do not have any feeling of wanting to preserve a branch line railway in an area when it is, in fact, nothing but a bus or a lorry forced to travel along railway lines and stop at infrequent intervals. We are simply going to have this difference in the House, which, as I say, exists in other countries. It may be a very human feeling, but there is nothing I can do about it. It is a feeling that exists. The Government have made it absolutely clear that they completely agree with the policy that the public transport service should be whatever is the most efficient and the least costly.
Mr. Childers: In relation to the substitute services not all individual sectors are making money. Some are losing. The idea that CIE find it easy to supply a completely profitable substitute service is not correct. The whole basis of a public transport is that there is bound to be cross-subsidisation. I think something like 35 per cent. of the bus services in the city of Dublin do not pay their way. That is an illustration of cross-subsidisation within Dublin city. That is a picture in relation to transport which, again, is universal.
Mr. Childers: I have studied the trend of railway transport all over Europe, and more and more I have come to the view that it will only be successful if it operates as a vast conveyor belt, with a high rate of traffic per hour, fast trains, long haulage trains and carriage of freight which can bear double handling. Whatever else I may be proved wrong about in future by those who come after me, I believe that general statement will hold good.
 I think that the attacks on CIE have been very unfair in many ways. Another State company might have been in the same unenviable position in which the present Chairman of CIE found himself. We may have a position 15, 20, 30 or 40 years from now when somebody discovers how to use radiant power from the atmosphere for electric power in individual domestic houses and there will have to be a drastic and radical reorganisation of the ESB—a complete organisation of the system with widespread redundancy, transfers of employment, changes in the whole system, areas losing prestige because of an alteration in the whole method of producing electricity. I am not saying that will come about but such a thing is not inconceivable. Nobody has invented a cheap form of radiant energy but simply because CIE are involved in something which is part of the modern changes and development taking place everywhere, the Chairman comes in for a vast amount of undesirable abuse.
Mr. Childers: Somebody made some comparison in relation to the fact that the taxpayer has to find some hundreds of thousands of pounds a year because the air companies are not remunerating their capital. They ask why, if the air companies are not remunerating their capital, does the Minister want CIE to pay their way? The answer to that is very simple. There is no alternative at the moment to the aeroplane. It is still in the initial stage of development and is so regarded by the Governments of many countries. It is a new instrument. If one compares the money raised by the taxpayer to pay for capital that is not remunerated by the air companies with CIE, the result is rather a dismal one. CIE have lost about £27,000,000 since the war and they lose £3,000,000 a year. There is really not any comparison because the whole of the CIE structure was built when the only competitor was the horse.
I want to thank Deputy Dillon for his comments on the work of Dr.  Andrews and for his very statesmanlike observations in that regard which have had the effect of cancelling out some deplorable comments by other Deputies.
Mr. T. Lynch: Nobody said anything about Dr. Andrews during this debate. We would not be allowed to do so and the Minister knows that. The Minister said he accepted responsibility himself and we let him have it.
Mr. Childers: The complexity of the organisation of CIE and the difficulties of reorganising it must be known to every intelligent Deputy on both sides of the House. Dr. Andrews had a very great record in creating Bord na Móna where the industrial relations have always been first-class and where the whole staff work as a united team. They must all know that the character of the man has not changed. He is trying to apply the same principles so that CIE will be a successful organisation with good industrial relations.
Mr. McQuillan: On a point of order, I understood that the Chair ruled generally that the Chairman of this particular Board could not be mentioned in this House by way of criticism. If you cannot criticise the Chairman—I am not disputing that— is it in order for the Minister to eulogise him? Surely the question of the Chairman should be left out in this debate, seeing that the Minister is taking responsibility?
Mr. Childers: I asked that the Chairman should not be further discussed and that I myself should be attacked instead of Dr. Andrews. With these very brief remarks, I am trying to establish a balance on the other side.
Mr. T. Lynch: On a point of order, it was I who first mentioned the name of Dr. Andrews in the debate. I was reading from a pamphlet by Dr. Andrews which I have here. The very minute I did that the Minister exploded. He said he would not allow me to mention Dr. Andrews.  I was not going to attack him. I was quoting from his pamphlet on CIE.
Mr. Childers: I think I have said enough about Dr. Andrews. Every effort is being made to ensure that industrial relations are happy and that the whole of CIE works as a team. That is one of the fundamental beliefs of Dr. Andrews as it is of myself.
Mr. Childers: I have already dealt with the Ballaghaderreen branch line in answer to a question. The suggestion was made that CIE show no interest in the requirements of their customers. As there has been a very considerable increase in the volume of road freight traffic, coach traffic and some increase in the volume of rail freight traffic, that is an answer in relation to whether they are interested in what kind of service they provide for the public. Members of the Dáil will have noted that, having done some fundamental work of reorganisation, they are now beginning the work of market research. They are getting into personal touch by way of questionnaire with their passengers by rail or by road to see how they can improve the various services. I understand that this motivation research will be conducted on the same lines in regard to the  various sectors of traffic where CIE have buses or railways.
I heard some complaints about the inadequacy of the various bus services of CIE. Nobody mentioned the fact that, as a result of a public opinion poll conducted in the Limerick area last year, there was an alteration in the number of timetables and many of the bus connections in Limerick were altered to meet the convenience of the travelling public. It was found that a number of the trial services introduced proved eventually to be satisfactory. That is an indication that CIE are adopting the most modern techniques in trying to improve the public services.
Mr. Childers: There was one statement made in regard to redundancy by Deputy Dillon in which he pictured a redundant CIE labourer of 50 years of age being retired on a small pension. An employee of 50 years of age, with 30 years' service, would receive a compensation pension of two-thirds of his retiring wages. Railway men who are transferred and who suffer a worsening of their contractual conditions of employment are entitled to a lump sum compensation. This compensation is borne by the Exchequer along with the redundancy payment. There are opportunities for appearing to an arbitrator if they are dissatisfied with the CIE decisions in regard to any particular place. I am glad to say I have not heard any complaints in regard to that arbitrator, who is a very highly esteemed individual.
Mr. Dillon: That is not true. They have no such appeal. If they are given corresponding employment, transfer is  not a subject of appeal. If they are transferred to a lower grade in the railway service, they can appeal. I have several cases in Monaghan where people are travelling between Ballybay and Castleblayney and Dundalk every day to do their work.
Mr. Childers: Another suggestion was made that the railway fares were much too high. I do not think I need read out all the cheap return tickets, week-end tickets and day-return tickets available from CIE. I want to make it quite clear that there are reasonable offers of reduced travel costs made available to a wide section of the public who make use of this service. It is equally true to say that it so happens that, strangely enough, a high proportion of the people who travel on CIE are casual travellers and not regular travellers. That has to be taken into account in the construction of the rates of fare.
Mr. Childers: I had better deal next with the question of bus fares. The increase in the wages and salaries and the improvement in the working conditions of those employed in the Dublin city bus services cost some £413,000 on the eighth round of wages. The increased fares were estimated to yield only £363,000. When I saw this motion I wondered whether we were not in an election year because of the extravagance of its terms. These are the facts. Since 1950 bus fares in the city have increased by 63 per cent. Wage rates in Dublin have risen by 80 per cent. Employment in industry has risen from a total of 131,000 in 1950 to 156,000 in March, 1962. In the  same period the non-contributory old age pension has increased by 85 per cent. from 17/6d. to 32/6d. Many people now qualify for the contributory pension at the rate of 40/- for a single man and 70/- for a married couple. These rates have been increased to 45/- and 80/- from 1st January next. Unemployment and sickness benefit for a married man with three children will be increased from 50/- to 77/6d., giving an overall increase of 93 per cent.
Mr. Childers: I am only illustrating the fact that the increases in CIE bus fares in relation to the increases in social services in the period from 1950 to 1962 are not such as to be a very great source of disadvantage or hardship. The figures are there. I admit fully that no one thinks of it in that light, that the standard of living is always rising in people's minds much more rapidly than their increases in wages and that when people pay more for bus fares they naturally feel deeply about it because they have so many family commitments and they have to support themselves on what are still very modest social services. Naturally, as the standard of living rises there must be a feeling of hardship when bus fares go up.
Mr. Childers: The standard of living goes up in people's minds. They naturally resent increases in bus fares.  I have made it clear that I cannot find any kind of figure which would suggest that an increase of 50 per cent. in the Dublin bus fares since 1950 is something which will have a disastrous or unfortunate effect on the economy and life of the people of Dublin.
Mr. Childers: Since I am limited in time I cannot further deal with this matter. I think myself the way to get over the increase in bus fares is not by making special rates for various classes of the population. There would inevitably be pressure if you included one class and excluded another. It would only make more difficulties for CIE and would probably result in the fares going up in respect of those who did not belong to these particular classes and there would be further complaints again. It would result in the taxpayer having to pay more. The best way of dealing with this question of the rise in bus fares is to do all we can to improve the economy in general; and, on every occasion we can do it, we should raise the social service assistance and benefits available to the people of Dublin so that, as the years go by, it would be more and more easy for them to pay these charges.
Mr. Childers: There was no mention in this debate of the fact that there are very reasonable bus fares for children in Dublin. Children under three years ride free; those under 15 pay half the adult fare; school-going children under 16 between the hours of 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. pay one penny up to the 7d. stage and 2d. from the 8d. to 1/- stage. There are also school buses provided. These are concessions that can be made without pressure for extension because children are easily identifiable. There is no fear of other groups swelling the bill for CIE. This is a concession of an intelligent kind which can be easily administered.
People have been complaining about the character of the Dublin bus service. Again, I shall not go into it in detail,  but CIE keep a large staff of people whose duty it is to investigate complaints. I have been given many illustrations of improvements in service made as a result of legitimate complaints.
Mr. Childers: The conditions of bus traffic are gravely affected by the bunching of traffic in the centre of the city. CIE does turn some buses around to avoid this but it is not always possible because the conditions wherein buses can turn around and re-route themselves do not apply in many sectors of the city centre. Conditions of bus traffic are influenced by bunching, sudden changes of weather and insufficient exits from the city centre to the housing estates in the suburbs. Quite a high proportion of bus travellers go from north to south and from south to north again and this contributes to a great extent to the problem of city bus services.
In that connection, if Dublin Corporation have any plans for dealing with traffic congestion, it does seem to me that some time or other they should consider the question of the staggering of hours in offices. One realises that that is a most difficult problem to be solved but it has had to be solved in New York where the tenant of a skyscraper has to arrange for staggered hours of work for the office staffs in the bus section of the building. To me, it seems inevitable that in the next 30 years such a scheme has to be brought into force. If Dublin Corporation hopes to rearrange traffic through the city, and solve some of the congestion difficulties, something will have to be done about the staggering of office hours by common agreement so that the CIE bus services can be more effectively operated and the charges will then be at the optimum level.
It is true to say that there is no place I know of in Northern Europe, and I speak of Northern Europe  because most of these countries have a higher standard of income than ours, where there are not bus queues at certain hours. In practically every country in Northern Europe, the number of persons seated to work and back from work are at least on a lower level than in this city. I speak of this with certain knowledge in regard to that matter and in full confidence that I cannot be contradicted.
Mr. Childers: There was another amendment by Deputy Dunne who spoke of the high profits made by CIE in Dublin. Deputies will have seen in the Beddy Report a breakdown of the profits made. If they examine the accounts of CIE they would see that the profits on the bus services, in relation to the fact that 34 per cent. of the total revenue of CIE comes from the bus services throughout the whole country, are not excessive. They will find that the degree of cross-subsidisation of the services in general by the city bus services is not an unreasonable one.
There is another point and that is that about 50 per cent. of the total staff of CIE are employed in the city of Dublin, so that where any extra profit is made by the bus services in Dublin city, and it is not very large, it must be taken into account together with the fact that a large proportion of the staff of CIE, particularly the rail staff, are resident in the city.
Mr. Childers: It would be a bad thing for Dublin not to contribute to some extent to the rural services. The urban services of the ESB contribute to a considerable extent to rural electrification. That makes for a better standard of living in the rural areas and Dublin gets the benefit of that. If Deputies take into account the total revenue of CIE, and subtract the figure of the total revenue attributable to the bus services, they will find that there is nothing grossly excessive in it.
Mr. Childers: I shall be able to deal with only a very few points in relation to tourism. I am confined to an hour and a half to deal with the whole Estimate and I hope to have some future opportunity of replying to the questions addressed to me here.
Mr. Childers: Large numbers of the speakers referred to these hotels as if they were monstrous panjandrums which were attracting the most offensive type of rich and objectionable tourist. There was a lot of nonsensical talk of that description and I should like to say, in relation to a very great number of class A hotels, that Irish people fill from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. of the beds so that what we have heard about cigar-smoking monstrosities is nonsensical talk.
Mr. Childers: About 1,000 B class bedrooms were constructed as a result of grants given by Bord Fáilte but the  difficulty is that only about 10 per cent. of the B and C class hoteliers applied for these grants. We have taken some action in reducing the minimum amount required for a grant from £2,500 to £500 but it is essential that those who have B class hotels should consider extending their premises.
We do need a sufficient amount of this type of accommodation, so that travel agents in Britain especially and in other countries can book blocks of beds for coach tours and rail tours through the country at prices ranging from 30/- to 35/- a day with full pension including service. It just happens that this particular development is not taking place and Bord Fáilte have done nothing to discourage it. As we know, we have got nearly to the end of the need for A class accommodation in many areas and we must now use every effort to persuade more people to go into B class accommodation and ask for grants for the extension of their premises.
Bord Fáilte agrees with those members of the House who say that there lies a great future for the tourist business of this country. They never held any other point of view and the percentage of grants refused by Bord Fáilte in relation to any category of hotel is sufficiently small to enable me to say that however difficult some hoteliers may think it is to jump the fence of getting a grant, it cannot be very difficult as the percentage of refusals is quite small.
Mr. Childers: £2,500. Having said that, I have pointed out to Bord Fáilte that they must do their utmost to convince some of the people owning Class B and Class C hotels that there must be a minimum standard when they want to extend their premises. I hope Bord Fáilte will be able to provide an advisory service that will be able to help the architects employed by the hotels so that  we can gradually get standards improved and so that there will be more inducement for these classes of hoteliers to extend their premises and so that there will be equally a growth of new Class B and Class C hotels.
In relation to block booking and the encouragement of travel agents in England to send large parties here who cannot afford Class A accommodation I have asked Ostlanna Iompair Eireann, a subsidiary of CIE, and Bord Fáilte to get together and see if they can select a large number of places suitable for these people without interfering with those who provide existing accommodation. In this way we shall see if we can get further progress along these lines. In another year's time I hope to be able to report that we have made some progress but there must be initiative on the part of the Class B and C hotel owners. The Government cannot do it and Bord Fáilte cannot effect the change unless there is a demand for grants and unless the decisions are made by the people in charge of the hotel business that they want to extend their premises.
For example, I could mention County Donegal. That is one county where I know from Bord Fáilte that there is an acute shortage of Class B and C accommodation. Finally, may I also remind the House that Class A accommodation in this country varies in price. By no means does it consist only of hotels all of which charge top class prices. One has only to get the Bord Fáilte list of rates for class accommodation to see that the pension rates vary. The list covers quite a large group of hotels ranging from the extremely well-run country hostelry to the very big hotel catering for the luxury trade. That is another mistake Deputies made in the debate in which the general trend towards Class A hotels was deplored by Deputies, having seen the number of hotels related to that class that have been built since 1958, as though Class A included only luxury hotels, when, of course, it does nothing of the kind.
Mr. Childers: ——by telling him that there was an operating surplus on the Waterford-Tramore road service of £2,500 during 1961/62. I hope that will allay his fears. He talked of the petty loss on the Waterford-Tramore rail service which was £3,000. That works out at £428 per mile. If it was applied to the rest of the system, to longer lines, it would correspond to a loss of £42,800 for each 100 miles. The Deputy seems to have forgotten that the Waterford-Tramore line is seven miles long and he did not relate the £3,000 loss to the length of the line.
Again, I have to cut down answers to a great number of questions about the ESB. The only thing I can deal with in the short time at my disposal is the question of the people who have to pay very high service charges. At this moment there are 77,000 people who can get power without any extra service charge. There are 23,000 people who can get it by paying additional amounts of up to 50 per cent. There are 12,000 people who can only get it by paying 100 per cent. or so. Some of those people, as a result of recent legislation, have been asked to pay somewhat more but I am perfectly certain, from enquiries made of the ESB who have a wonderful service in regard to predicting the numbers of people in various years who want to take power—their record of predictions in this respect has been remarkably accurate—that a very large percentage of that group, whose extra service charge has been increased for technical and financial reasons that I have not time to go into but which were fully indicated in my replies to various Deputies who wrote to me on the matter, would not have taken power in any event even if there had not been a slight additional charge put on them as a result of the recent Act.
The demand for electricity has grown very greatly and I am glad to tell the House that not only have the ESB informed me that they will have to  introduce another 60 megawatt station in the course of the next ten years over and above what they have proposed up to now as a result of increased consumption of electricity but that they have had four or five times the demand in October, 1962 for connection to the electrical network compared with what they had in 1961. That shows that, although there are these cases that are very difficult to deal with, there has been a very great increase in the number of people seeking electricity as a result of the lowering of the service charges through the increased subsidy of 75 per cent.
Mr. Childers: It would take too long to give to the House the picture, as I see it, of my duties as Minister for Transport and Power and the work that I do with the aid of the officers of my Department in supervising the working of the companies. I can only assure Deputies that the work continues consistently week after week. We maintain the closest liaison with all the State companies. Now, I want to deal with the question of day-to-day matters and the decision by the Ceann Comhairle to refuse some Questions that came before him. First, I want to say— and I hope members of the House will believe it—that it would be my personal instinct to answer every question.
Mr. Childers: I should like to do that in the case of every question asked, and in fact, a Minister for Transport and Power, keen on his job, would really like to be chairman of each of the companies. That was not the thought behind the setting-up of the State companies and the Questions that are not accepted by the Ceann  Comhairle as appropriate to be answered by me relate to day-to-day matters of administration and to sectionalised information involving details of working and of local costs and receipts. When I see a Question, I say to myself: “Ought the Ceann Comhairle to allow this question to be answered or not?” and my emotional instinct is to answer the whole lot, but I know that from the point of view of the future of State companies, not only in this but in every country in the world, it is essential that we do not allow local political pressure groups for the gaining of detailed information in regard to purely sectional activities of those companies to help to break up the unified work of the companies. I could say a great deal more about that, but I want to assure the members of the House that it is only with that object that I understand why answers to Questions have to be refused.
Within a few months, if all those Questions were allowed, human nature being what it is—and I am sure that if I were in Opposition, I would be in the same category—there would be more and more Questions, and gradually you would have conflicting pressure groups throughout the country asking State companies to increase services here, to reduce costs there. There would be a multitude of pressures all designed to produce a benefit for one particular area or in one section of the company's operation or one facet of its services at the expense of other areas.
A great deal has been written on this subject. It is true to say that conservatives, liberals and socialists in countries all over the world have generally recognised that there must be a limit to which the day-to-day administration of State companies can be interfered with by Question in Parliament, and it would be impossible to get first-class executives for such companies if every day they came into their office they found themselves looking over their shoulders to find out what Questions were being asked about particular services in Ballaghaderreen or Galway or anywhere else. It would utterly prevent efficient work.
Indeed, members of this House well  know that there can be debates such as we have had in this House today. There can be special debates on the reports of the companies when a great many questions, that in the ordinary way would not be answered from day to day, can be answered on a general basis, and I have already in the short time at my disposal given a considerable amount of detailed information to relieve the minds of Deputies who have been anxious about some particular aspect of the company's work. If allowed to, I could go on for the next hour and a half until I had answered every question. I have notes before me for that purpose, but it is my regret that owing to the order of business, I shall not be able to do that.
Mr. Childers: I have not time to answer questions about the air companies, but I would like to say in reference to Aerlínte that it is doing a tremendous job on the transatlantic service. All the questions put to me in relation to Aerlínte seem to be irrelevant in relation to this fact, that it is spreading the message of Ireland all over the United States. They have the highest load factor of any air company operating over the Atlantic. They have offices established there. They are bringing new traffic to this country and they are doing a very splendid job. I would not like this occasion to pass without particular  reference to the very great success attending the operations of those who are responsible for Aerlínte.
I am very sorry that I cannot answer more questions, but I think I have answered the main points in the time at my disposal. Deputy Dillon was out of the House when I dealt with the position of each State company but he will be able to read what I said in the Official Report. I ask for support of this Estimate.
Mr. Childers: I have already answered that on a number of questions asked in this House. I pointed out that the contributory old age pension made a very great difference to the CIE pensioners and I gave the total pension income from both sources. I also pointed out that there was no way in which the pension fund of CIE could be altered by way of sale of shares for reinvestment, and that, in fact, at the moment there is a heavy deficit in the operation of the pension fund.
Mr. Childers: I have not had time to do that but Deputies will find in my statement that the number of sailings on the cross-Channel services have very greatly increased in the last two years. I would still like to see further improvement, but there has been a very marked improvement in relation to the number of travellers and in the catering for passengers on trains. I look forward to still greater improvements.
|Barrett, Stephen D.
Browne, Noel C.
Burke, James J.
Clinton, Mark A.
Costello, Declan D.
Costello, John A.
Crotty, Patrick J.
Dillon, James M.
Dockrell, Henry P.
Dockrell, Maurice E.
Donegan, Patrick S.
Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
|Harte, Patrick D.
Hogan, Patrick (South Tipperary).
Jones, Denis F.
Kyne, Thomas A.
O'Donnell, Thomas G.
O'Higgins, Michael J.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.K.
O'Sullivan, Denis J.
Reynolds, Patrick J.
Blaney, Neil T.
Brady, Philip A.
Burke, Patrick J.
Calleary, Phelim A.
Collins, James J.
Crowley, Honor M.
Cummins, Patrick J.
de Valera, Vivion.
Egan, Kieran P.
Gibbons, James M.
Gogan, Richard P.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Lemass, Noel T.
Millar, Anthony G.
Moher, John W.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O Ceallaigh, Seán.
|Last Updated: 15/09/2010 20:51:40||Page of 81|