Dáil Éireann - Volume 280 - 15 May, 1975
Vote 42: Transport and Power (Resumed)
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That a sum not exceeding £34,849,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1975, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Transport and Power, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of sundry grants-in-aid.
—(Minister for Transport and Power.)
Mr. Dowling Mr. Dowling
Mr. Dowling: When the debate was adjourned I was dealing with the increases in ESB and CIE charges. There are a couple of important points that I wish to put on record in order to emphasise the seriousness of these price rises. I shall give an example of a situation that could arise in my constituency and show what these increases would mean to a family in the Ballyfermot or Tallaght areas.
The fare from both these areas to  the city centre is being increased from 15p to 20p. Let us say that the head of the household commutes from his home to the city centre in the morning and returns in the evening. In his case the increase will be 50p per week and if, say, there are two other members of the family working in town the total increase will be £1.50 for the three of them. Assuming that the housewife shops either in town or at a shopping centre on two occasions each week the increase in fares for her would be 20p while a schoolgoing child would pay a minimum increase of 20p also. If we assume that visits to a dispensary or a hospital would involve 20p extra, we find that the total increase for the average family would be £2.10 per week.
Taking a centrally heated house where they use electricity for cooking and for heating this increase will add an additional burden to the extent of £1.30p. The increase in fares and the increase in ESB charges will cost the normal family £3.40 a week. This is a fairly substantial increase.
Families will also have to face an additional burden because prices will increase due to the increase in freight charges. The substantial increase in the cost of transport and energy will have a considerable impact. The example I have given is fairly typical of the situation in a Dublin constituency and in some rural constituencies the impact will be even greater. Price increases must follow increases in freight rates.
There is cause for concern about these substantial increases. Efforts will have to be made to relieve the situation in some way. Yesterday I mentioned some of the areas in which the Minister might consider making concessions available to the travelling public. The substantial increase in fares is a cause of concern not only to Members of this House but also to the trade unions, the housewives and the workers. We believed that the Government had made a long term projection when they came to the House and sought an additional £14 million for CIE. We believed that they were looking further ahead than  a month or two. Now we find that the projection was much shorter than we anticipated. One would have thought that the subsidy required at that time would have been sufficient to enable CIE to ensure the continuity of employment and services and to ensure a greater degree of efficiency if that could be achieved. Now we wonder if the Minister will be back to the House in two or three weeks, or two or three months, looking for an additional subsidy or additional price increase of one type or another.
CIE will be affected by the ESB increases and the ESB will be affected by the CIE increases. Considerable damage has been done and will be done. We must be concerned about the damage that will be done to the economy as a result of the substantial increases. This must be of major concern to the Government as, indeed, it is to the Opposition and to the people. We hope that the Minister and the Government will ensure that, when demands are made to the House to make subsidies available, or when price increases are sought, the House will be given long term projections so that when we examine the situation it is in its entirety.
There are references in this book to personnel and to corrective measures in relation to the ESB. We do not desire to see redundancies or unemployment, but I believe they will follow these substantial increases because some firms will become less competitive. In the export market we will become less competitive when we use the national transport system for the transportation of goods. Industrialists, retailers and wholesalers who will be availing of the CIE services will have to increase their charges if they are to maintain their profit margin if, indeed, some of them have a profit margin. With an increase of 25 per cent it will be almost uneconomic to use CIE to transport goods.
As I asked yesterday, is this a device to divert from CIE the business of industrialists, retailers, wholesalers and farmers? Every transport increase is a case for concern but particularly an increase in the section which hauls  heavy transportable goods. Any weakening of our position in the export market has a serious effect on our balance of payments. When we become less competitive more unemployment must follow. We had hoped that by now there would have been an easing of the unemployment problem and that we would be returning to normal. Such is not the case. The facts are that there is still an upward spiral. These increases will force the spiral upwards rather than downwards.
In the Dublin constituencies we are first to feel the effects of CIE increases. When I meet some of my constituents one would think I was personally responsible for increasing the fares. That shows the discontent there is amongst the workers who feel that the recent pay increase has been eroded to a substantial degree. Some workers have to pay 50p to commute to and from work. Some have to take a second bus and some have to go home from the factory for their meals. It means that the increased charges will be substantial. Workers' concessions in relation to travel by CIE should be re-examined. Such concessions apply in some sectors. I accept that monthly tickets are available in some areas but it should be remembered that a number of workers do not commute to the same part of the city daily. Such people should be catered for by the company.
Special concessions should also be given to those who must travel frequently to hospitals and dispensaries for medical treatment. A lot of those people are in receipt of social welfare benefits. The increased charges imposed by CIE affect the weaker section of the community who must also meet the increased ESB charges. In my view those people should be given special concessions on buses and commuter trains. It should also be remembered that it will now cost those entitled to social welfare benefits a lot more to travel to employment exchanges to collect their weekly allowances.
Because of the drastic increase in CIE and ESB charges the tourist industry will be affected. People are being encouraged to spend their holidays  in their own country to stimulate an industry that has been badly hit by the world recession, but the increase in these charges will mean that a holiday here will cost a lot more than it did last year. Those increases must be passed on by the hotels to the customers. Hotel proprietors have to pay more for the transport of food to their premises and for cooking, heating and light. We must face this problem with responsibility and foresight.
When applications for increase are submitted consideration must be had for the weaker sections of the community. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare has informed us that there are 25,000 people living below the poverty line, but the Government by sanctioning the savage increases in ESB and CIE charges had little thought for those people. They have done nothing to curtail the unemployment figures. I was pleased to learn that a watchdog committee is to be established by the Minister to oversee developments of semi-State bodies. While this goes some of the way towards meeting our wishes a lot remains to be done by the Minister. I hope the Minister will accede to my request to give relief to the weaker sections of the community.
Mr. Toal Mr. Toal
Mr. Toal: I congratulate the Minister on his comprehensive statement on the activities of his Department. It is fair to say that if CIE and the ESB are going well then the whole country is going well. It is fashionable to give out about the companies I have mentioned and we all have complaints about them, but we should also have regard for the fact that these two bodies have a major impact on our social life. Every individual is involved daily in the activities of these two companies. I should like to see the employees of these companies realising the social responsibility they have to the public, especially when it comes to submitting claims for higher wages.
In relation to both companies there have been charges of gross inefficiency and we have been told that the ESB  is over-manned to the extent of 2,000. We can all see the logic of having one man buses in Dublin city—every major city in the world operates this system—but if we are to go for high efficiency it could mean a lot of people being put out of work. In this regard I accept that the Minister has a great problem. He must go for efficiency but he must do all in his power to avoid redundancies. That does not mean that the Minister must leave the problem alone. When CIE is being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £17 million decisions will have to be made and action taken, however harsh the consequences may be.
I welcome the decision to establish a Parliamentary Committee to look into the affairs of semi-State bodies and I hope the terms of reference of that committee will be wide-ranging. In my view, such a committee will have the effect of bringing home to the public the importance of CIE and the ESB socially and economically.
In relation to CIE, I was surprised the Minister made no reference to bus lanes in this city. Visitors from the country are made aware in a very short time of the extent of the traffic congestion here. I remember boarding a bus at Earlsfort Terrace and it took me 30 minutes to reach Rathmines. It is absolutely ridiculous that a busload of 40 or 50 people going or coming from work in a bus can be held up for long periods by long lines of cars, most of which contain only one person. Something will have to be done quickly. I thought that the increase in the price of petrol would mean that more people would use public transport but I do not think this has happened to any great extent. We must be realistic and accept that people will not use CIE unless they can provide fast and efficient services. This will not be obtained in the city until lanes for buses only are provided.
With regard to bus services throughout the country, shortly after I became a Deputy I made representations to the Minister to see if transport services could be arranged to accommodate people visiting the county hospital in my area. The Minister replied  that it was an internal matter for CIE. The new committee should have power to consider all such matters because they are important for the people concerned. It was rather highhanded of CIE to reply that the arrangement I suggested would not suit them. They are providing a social service and I should like to think they have in mind always the social responsibility they must discharge.
The school transport system is a major item. When the system was introduced everyone thought it was a good idea and all were in favour of it, but as it is costing the country £8 million per annum we must begin to question the wisdom of the service. Many children using the school buses could walk or ride bicycles to school. That may not be a very popular thing to say but I do not think CIE or anybody else realised what was involved. School transport is a matter that affects every rural constituency and it demands considerable attention by Deputies. I am sure most Members think the system is grossly inefficient. Parents feel very strongly about this matter and they make many demands on the service but, unfortunately, finance is not available to accommodate everyone. It would be a good idea if the Minister gave a direction to CIE to put flashing lights on school buses. If the flashing lights operated while the bus was stopped it should have the effect of stopping traffic in both directions until the children were safely across the road. This would be a good idea and would contribute to road safety.
Until 1971 the entire development of road haulage was geared towards the protection of CIE. After that time some restrictions were lifted but it is still impossible for an applicant to obtain a road haulage licence unless he can prove the transport facilities in his area are inadequate and this is almost impossible to prove. I saw in the paper recently where a road haulier was offering his licence for sale for £65,000. I am afraid there is a black market operating——
Minister for Transport and Power (Mr. P. Barry) Peter Barry
Minister for Transport and Power (Mr. P. Barry): Did the Deputy say £65,000 for one licence?
Mr. Toal Mr. Toal
 Mr. Toal: Yes. It appeared in a Sunday paper a few weeks ago. It appears there is a closed shop in this section and I would ask the Minister to put forward definite proposals to open up the road haulage system. An enormous number of trucks and juggernauts pass through my constituency, all of them bearing Northern Ireland registration plates. They are at a tremendous advantage in relation to the road hauliers here. First, they do not have to pay the same amount of road tax; secondly, the cost of the vehicles is much less; thirdly, they are getting a better deal because they can take a load from Belfast to Dublin and return to Belfast with another load. Because of the situation in Northern Ireland the hauliers in the South are reluctant to go into that area. Northern Ireland hauliers are supposed to confine their activities on a point-to-point system and they are not allowed to transport goods from one part of the Republic to another part of the Republic. I think this is happening but I have no definite proof. I would ask the Minister to prosecute any cases that come to light because there are definite regulations which are being abused. Road haulage should be opened up; any person with-proper financial backing and proper equipment should get a licence without much trouble but unfortunately, there are considerable restrictions imposed. I should like the Minister to comment on this matter.
In Private Members' Business yesterday we heard the reasons for the huge increases in the ESB charges. I am not going to enter into that debate now but I am concerned about the subsidised rural electrification scheme. That scheme concluded in my constituency a long time ago and we have now reached the stage that a man may have to pay to the ESB a capital outlay which is in excess of the actual cost of the site for his house. This is scandalous. One has no idea of the hardship imposed on young married people endeavouring to build houses when they are asked to pay such vast sums merely to have electricity supply laid on. I hope the Minister will further examine the  scheme and come up with new proposals, which I hope will come quickly.
There are just another couple of points I should like to make. In the sunny days of the 1960s when Bord Fáilte got off the ground, and were doing very good work here and throughout the world, we were still full of praise for that body. Unfortunately, due to the situation in Northern Ireland and to economic depression not alone in this country but throughout the world, holidays are not as much in demand nowadays as heretofore. Nevertheless, we are told that tourism earned us £129 million in 1974 and that that was an increase of £1 million over the previous year. If we take inflation into account and that consumer prices rose by as much as 19 per cent in that year, there has been really no definite increase. Nevertheless, we should be proud of that, as I have said, taking into account the situation in Northern Ireland and the tarnished name our country has abroad because of the violence taking place.
I should like the Minister to direct Bord Fáilte to pay more attention to their activities within the four corners of this country. Bord Fáilte is an organisation completely devoid of political overtones. It would be an ideal body to appeal to the people in Northern Ireland to come down here and visit us. I have in mind Bord Fáilte undertaking approaches to chambers of commerce in, say, Portadown, Lurgan, Newry and so on —asking them to come down and spend a weekend with their counterparts in the south. I think they could be doing very good work here. They may open up new offices in Amsterdam, in various other countries on the continent and in America, but if they paid more attention to our neighbours across the Border and helped in the fostering of better relations, in the end they would be providing a better service for our people.
I was glad to note that the Minister gave priority to the energy question in his speech. I think this will occupy most of the Minister's time in the  coming years because he must guarantee a sufficient energy supply for our developing needs. Years ago it used to be said that the Departments of Transport and Power and Posts and Telegraphs should be amalgamated. If ever there was a case for that, certainly it has gone by the board now with the fourfold increase in the price of oil. I congratulate the Minister on the way he handled the oil crisis and the petrol scarcity during the oil crisis when scare rumours circulated. You had people shouting from the rooftops that coupons should be issued and petrol rationed. The Minister reacted to everything in a very balanced way for which I commend him.
I should like to commend the Minister also on the way he answers questions in the House. He is honest and open with every Deputy who puts a question to him. I wish him success in the years ahead.
Mr. Leonard Mr. Leonard
Mr. Leonard: Other Deputies have dealt with the recent massive increases very ably. In itself, that would add significance to the debate on this Estimate but the increases which have taken place during the year because of the energy crisis mean also that this is a Department requiring a lot of examination. It was rather a pity that during the year this Ministry was used by the Department of Finance in the implementation of the increased tax on petrol some months ago when £27 million were raked in. It was a pity such a Department was used, as undoubtedly it was, while it was struggling and had so many problems with regard to the ESB, CIE and Bord na Móna.
While Bord na Móna have no working activities in my area, their briquettes are very widely used. I was disappointed in relation to the Minister's report on Bord na Móna showing that to date it failed to cash in on the more favourable conditions resulting from the higher price of imported fuel, especially also at a time when many brands of imported coal were not of a satisfactory standard from the point of view of cleanliness. The fault lies with the Minister  and his Department for not having given a clear directive to Bord na Móna and in not clearing their proposals more quickly. Look at what has happened since the fuel crisis of late 1973. Bord an Móna have drafted new proposals which we are told are being examined. For a Department charged with the conservation of energy, that performance is not sufficient. Were we here embarking on turf production perhaps there might be some excuse for that delay but Bord na Móna are experts in that field. Therefore, it should have been possible for them to have gone into action more quickly on this matter. There is still little sign of any effort to avail of the present ideal marketing conditions.
The position as stated by the Minister, is that milled peat in 1974 showed a marginal increase only on the year 1973 which, in turn, was 30 per cent below the 1972 figure. Machine-produced turf at 31st March, 1975 showed, again, a marginal increase only on the year 1973. Similarly, briquettes at 31st March, 1975 showed a marginal increase only on the year 1973. I am glad that there are proposals to increase output. I would appeal to the Minister to expedite their clearance so that this production season will show a worthwhile increase in output. In particular, the briquette plant should be cleared because it is an ideal fuel for industrial and domestic use. Provision should have been made long ago for this additional briquette factory.
Using this fuel in large industrial plants would require fairly substantial expenditure from the point of view of handling facilities. It is understandable then why industrial concerns do not rush into the use of turf. There are, however, many small buildings and institutions, such as schools, old folks' homes, small hospitals and so on, in which turf could be economically and efficiently used. I have been told there have been worthwhile advances in the development of automatic stokers in the firing and heating of boilers with turf. I believe the operation need only be exercised once a day. This type of installation would be ideal in the kind of premises to which I refer.
 A greater effort should be made to popularise turf as a fuel. A greater effort should also be made to ensure continuity of supply. Because of lack of continuity of supply in the past people turned over to other types of fuel. We now have an opportunity to develop our bogs. There are bogs where only drainage and access roadways are required and if this work were done many people would harvest their own winter supply of fuel. In some bogs the turf is almost exhausted but there are still bogs in which turf could be harvested. The building of access roads and proper drainage would provide useful employment. The bogland would be cleared for afforestation and, to me, this would be a very worthwhile project.
Where rural electrification is concerned subsidisation, according to the Minister, is coming to a close. There are still pockets in which the cost of installing electric current would be prohibitive from the point of view of those willing to take that current. I understand the cost could be as much as £800 or even more. I appeal to the Minister to make some aid available to people who are building homes in rural areas in which there is no rural electrification. He said 98 per cent of rural Ireland now has electrification.
There were advertisements in newspapers and elsewhere bringing the subsidised scheme to the notice of the people but there are cases in which people did not apply in time; there are also cases in which the people were unaware that this scheme was available. Surveys had been carried out and nothing could be done. Public representatives get many complaints from farmers who have not got sufficient power. This is particularly inconvenient in the case of farmers going into milk production. The supply is not satisfactory for the refrigerated tanks. I would ask that the ESB should now divert their attention to providing an adequate supply in these cases by installing bigger transformers.
The Minister dealt with CIE in a few short sentences. We are told the deficit is over £11 million. That may not be a pleasant subject but it should  not have been passed over so casually by the Minister. The Minister said:
...I have already announced that I am anxious to introduce this year further measures of liberalisation in road transport legislation with due regard to the existing rights of licensed hauliers. I hope in this way to create eventually the conditions under which the haulage industry will become more free and flexible and better adapted to the needs of the economy.
I hope the Minister will tell us exactly what he has in mind here. I rather wondered if he were giving advance notice of proposed legislation which he would deal with in more detail in his reply.
I am glad the Minister is so confident about the tourist season. Those experienced in the hotel and catering trade do not reflect the Minister's confidence. Those responsible would have been well advised to spend the money spent on conducted tours abroad on tours in this country for the purpose of discussing with those concerned the future of the industry. Half the money spent on that advertising could have been spent to better purpose. If better value for money holidays were provided then there would be no difficulty about tourists. There should be stricter control over places which are not giving good value for money. There should be stricter control of hygiene. More indoor entertainment when the weather is inclement should be provided.
I believe many of the things which offend tourists could be rectified with very little extra expenditure. Many of the public conveniences in our towns are not maintained. They are neglected by local bodies. If we want to attract tourists those public conveniences should be properly maintained. We also have wrecked cars lying along roadways, which is a national disgrace. More effort should be made to deal with this. Any place where those old vehicles are discarded the chassis numbers and engine numbers can easily be seen. This would help to trace the owners.
Stricter control should be kept over  refuse dumps from a tourist point of view and a health point of view. The money spent in advertising tourism in magazines would be better spent on providing adequate toilet facilities, catering facilities, clearing litter, refuse dumps and derelict buildings and the provision of children's amusements. Bord Fáilte advertise in England. I heard complaints earlier this year that some of the tourist agents in Irish areas feel they are not getting sufficient help from them.
The Minister assured us that the 65 day oil reserve is being fully met by the oil companies and that an effort is being made to meet the new regulations requiring the 90 day reserve. The Minister did not make it clear if the 80 day reserve is held in the country in its entirety or what percentage is held here. He pointed out that there is provision for stocks of oil in one country for the credit of another to be regarded as the 90 day reserve. Would he tell us how the present 80 day reserve is made up, whether it is located in the country or outside it?
Mr. O'Connor Mr. O'Connor
Mr. O'Connor: I must start off with CIE, the colossal increases that have been imposed and the effect this is likely to have on the nation, particularly in the production costs of factories which is so vital to our survival. One cannot accept the statement that CIE have to be maintained as a social entity. They have a very large number of people employed but if the total amount of goods and passengers they carry over their transport system were transferred to lorries and buses a total of less than 4,000 people would operate the system, allowing a further 2,000 people for repairs, construction and executive jobs, making a total of 6,000 people doing a job which 21,000 are doing at the moment. CIE cannot be permitted to carry on as they are at present. It is most likely that the £17 million will reach £25 million this year.
That is not the entire cost to the taxpayer. Most people in business are taxpayers and have to put a charge of at least 5 per cent on the price of any goods carried by CIE for breakage,  damage and loss. This is an extra overhead we have to carry. In my firm, which is small by any standards, we reckon we have to provide over £1,000 a year for this. This is a ridiculous imposition.
I stated in the Dáil earlier this year that CIE have a very large number of managers who are mismanaging. This body is completely mismanaged by any economic standards. There are two transport systems within CIE competing for the negligible amount of transport that is left. The result of the recent increases will bring a diminishing amount of business in their direction. The higher the costs go the more small industrialists and producers will have to provide their own transport.
There are great delays involved in transporting goods by CIE. It takes at least a week to bring goods from Dublin to any part of the country. If you sent a lorry you would have the goods in your business premises the same evening and you could sell them the following morning. The operating system of CIE is archaic. It is 100 years old. The type of goods wagons used is not conducive to economic delivery today. My firm were faced with the position recently that our workers refused to load cement off the CIE trucks in Castleisland. Most young men today like to be reasonably dressed when working, and in handling cement from trucks you have to wear the old coarse bag in front of you which none of the young men today will use. When unloading cement they have to carry it in their arms and when it is raining their clothes are ruined. This is the type of system we have wrapped round our necks and we are asked to put up with it today.
A change must take place. I know CIE have big plans for getting the open type trucks. Which they have on the Continent, where you have off-loading equipment to load on to lorries. Because of the colossal cost involved and taking into consideration the diminishing volume of traffic, it is unlikely that this change will be made.
I have repeatedly raised with the  Minister the question of getting cement supplies from the Limerick factory ex-works. If we could do that we could supply our customers at £2 a ton less than it is costing us at the moment. The present charge represents a phenomenal imposition on a basic raw material that is needed every day. It is driving up the cost of houses.
CIE have come back to the Minister with the statement that we can get it ex-works but in that case CIE will collect 25s a ton, without putting a hand to it. How long will this go on? Merchants in the Killorglin and Caherciveen area have to pay 75p a ton more than merchants in Killarney and Tralee with whom we have to compete. We were guaranteed at the time the railway was closed that a road system would be established. We could get the material much cheaper if it were delivered at the export price, as it should be.
All these things represent annoyances to business people. There are some firms who have bought cement direct from Limerick and have paid the charge imposed in order to get their workmen to handle the material. It can be off-loaded with forklift trucks into the firm's premises. I hope the Minister will do something to eliminate the anomaly which exists and which affects business interests.
If CIE must be maintained, at least the necessary saving should be made. The idea is that CIE is a social service. If it were reduced in size and allowed to carry the goods that it can carry by rail, a great saving could be made. The minimum number of stations could be maintained. Superfluous staff could be reduced. The money saved could be devoted to industrial development which would provide employment. Whether it takes five years or ten years CIE must come to the end of the road if it continues to increase charges every time it runs short of money and it will be short of money when it has to maintain such a huge staff. This message must be clear to the Minister and the Government. Now is the time to save CIE if it has to be saved. The position should not be allowed to continue  where a limited number of people were able to hold up the whole system for a day, as happened a short time ago. This cannot make for good business. We have a problem of survival and we have to plough our way through the set-up in the EEC. We have to be competitive. The necessary restructuring must be carried out in CIE. The volume of traffic it handles will diminish as long as its prices continue to increase.
Now I come to the ESB. It is an organisation that must pay its way but they are doing so by way of enormous increases in charges. This has a very bad effect on industry. This is a body that must be restructured to the needs of the nation and the purpose it is designed to serve. The ESB compete with business people for the sale of goods and materials. They sell these goods at full cost. They are obtainable at a lower cost from merchants. There is a vast number of employees. One wonders if we are not paying a high cost to maintain this structure. The organisation should be restructured to produce electricity. That is their main job. They should give a service to the nation. I understand that electricity is produced in other countries at a much lower cost than it is here. We must get rid of the burden on industrialists and business people. State bodies should not be cushioned by being allowed to increase charges in order to maintain a huge staff at top salary rates. The ESB should provide a service at a cost that will enable industrialists to sell their products competitively in export markets.
Within the last two years a system has developed that the ESB will not pass installations in new houses unless they are carried out by ESB technicians or people recognised by them. This is another imposition. The installation can be carried out at less cost by contractors. The work has to be passed by the ESB. The Minister should examine this matter.
The enormous increase in the charges for rural electrification are worrying people, particularly those who are building new houses. A demand is made for £300 or £400 for the erection of a pole and the necessary  connection. This is an enormous charge at present. Several years ago there was no charge involved. I do not know what the explanation is. I suppose it has to do with costs but the opportunity should be availed of to hive in some money to keep down the internal costs of the ESB which perhaps are higher than they should be because of the vast number of people they are carrying and who, perhaps, are not as productive as they should be. This type of thing must be gone into carefully by the Minister and his Department to make sure that the public are getting a fair deal. A person must now pay £400, £500, £600 or even £700 for ESB connection whereas ten or 15 years ago there was no charge. It is very difficult for a man who has had to purchase land on which to build his house and bear the high cost of building the house to face this additional charge. This imposition should be removed.
The time has come when the ESB, particularly in scenic areas should lay their cables underground. Overhead wires do not look well in scenic areas. In built-up areas also there should be an effort to have cables underground. I suppose the cost would be very high but this is something we should aim at.
In the last 12 months and particularly in the last six months I have been raising the question of the development of turf and its value to the nation. I was glad to hear the Minister state that the Government have recognised the value of this and intend to put the maximum into development but I was rather sorry that attention was not directed at a type of development that could be effected along the west coast in particular. There are a number of portable turf machines operating throughout the west at present. They are very useful and are doing a great job. If the Government supported that type of development much more speedy results would be achieved than from the development of milled peat which, of course, is a good idea in its own way. On the western seaboard we could produce next year, if we were geared for it, 10  million tons of turf which would have a value of £80 million. One portable turf machine can produce up to 4,000 tons a year. The turf is of a high standard and would be saleable anywhere.
There are four or five machines in the Cahirciveen area and they are working very well. The cost of such a machine is about £8,000. If we had 2,500 of them in the western areas where the bogs are, we could turn out 10 million tons of turf. Those machines in the summer months would give part-time employment to middle-aged men who live on their own holdings. There could be a total employment of 150,000 men if this scheme were brought into operation. To get it going money would have to be provided to get bog roads restructured and to get bog drains opened up. We had them in a very good state in the forties and fifties but they have been allowed to deteriorate. The bogs are choked with water and the roads are impassable. A sum of £500,000 this year would have started us off and done a very good job in that direction and if that were kept up we could have this production which would be of such great value to the nation. Many people in the western areas are giving up the use of oil and are installing boilers which burn turf. There is an ordinary open fire unit which produces hot water and services six to eight radiators. I have seen those boilers operate in Killorglin and they are working well. They would reduce our imports of oil. There is still time this year to put a limited amount of money into bog roads but the Minister should face up to the position next year and provide money for the development of bog roads and drains and encourage the use of portable turf machines. In Cahirciveen up to 20 smallholders get together and hire one of those machines. They take a wide strip of bog, divide it into plots and each man handles his own turf. This is a very useful development which would have served the nation well in the forties. Today we can turn it into a powerful asset. The machine takes all the turf from top to bottom in the one cutting.
 It mixes it all up and turns out a unified product which can stand up to any weather conditions and sell in any part of the country. The Government would be doing a good day's work by giving it the recognition it deserves and by realising its importance. Ten million tons of turf would be worth £80 million to the nation and would give employment for part of the year to 150,000 people. These would include smallholders who are badly in need of extra income. This development would constitute a saving both in regard to the reduction of oil imports and to the non-payment of the dole to those who would not have employment otherwise. It would restore self-respect to those people who, once again, could find employment.
One could not contribute to this debate without referring to the vast possibilities of oil and gas finds off our coasts. This development will be of tremendous importance to the nation. Apparently, there is much oil and gas on the Continental Shelf which extends from an area of about 50 miles south of Cork to about 30 miles north of Donegal. Vast development will be involved in this sphere and this will require very careful planning. As a member of the South Western Region Development Association, I am very concerned with devoting attention to Cork Harbour. This port will be of immense importance in the future because it is in the surrounding area where the development associated with oil and gas finds will be centred. We have the labour force that will be required for this development, and the energetic people who will be prepared to work hard in order to improve their standards of living. It is Cork Harbour that will be involved in the output for the area as a whole. That is why the port should be developed now rather than have it cluttered up with the facilities that are needed for the oil rigs and so on. In this context the Shannon area must be developed. Because of its central position and the water depth available there, it can be of tremendous importance in the future. If we are to follow on the lines of the Norweigan development, we shall need between 50,000 and 80,000 energetic  persons to handle the production that will be undertaken in the area.
Vast concrete pylons must be sunk in water that is about 600 feet deep. These must be assembled in order to cater for the platform rigs. That depth of water is available in the Shannon. Much of the materials necessary for all this development are available in the surrounding areas. In the interim, perhaps, Cork Harbour can cater for the needs of the Kinsale development but we must plan for the future development. In Scotland a point for development had to be found, labour recruited, houses built and so on. Many of these facilities are already available so far as we are concerned. A vast labour pool will be necessary for this development and by that I do not mean merely numbers of people but people who can tackle the heavy work involved.
One must refer during this debate also to the hotel industry because that industry is now in a very difficult situation. I do not know where the fault lies. Possibly the development of massive hotels has not helped. A matter that is causing much concern to hoteliers is the Wealth Tax Bill. They reckon that this will add considerably to the many problems they are experiencing already, some of which are associated with the increased ESB and CIE charges. I expect that the Minister is aware of the difficulties. The industry must get some assistance if they are to be enabled to continue in operation, otherwise they will be faced with the possibility of selling their businesses at losses. That is why I ask the Minister to do everything possible to make matters easier for them.
They are in frightful difficulty. They are important to the nation. They are doing a job of work. They are attracting tourists. They are attracting people who spend money here and help to consume the produce for which we would otherwise have to find markets outside. Above all, they give valuable employment. That, in itself, is very important. I would ask the Minister to make every effort to get the easement and help for them which are so vital for them.
I have made my contribution honestly.  I have tried to get across the importance of this type of development which would help us. I should like to refer again to the advantage to be gained from the development of turf production in the small areas by the purchase of small machines. I would ask him to go carefully into the vast possibilities which are there. As I said, 2,250 small machines would produce 10,000,000 tons of turf worth £80 million. The product is uniform and easily saleable and would provide part-time employment during part of the year for 150,000 men in rural areas where employment is most necessary.
I know turf. I know what I am talking about. The opportunities are there. We need money for the development of our bog roads and our drains. This would get us off the mark. About £500,000 given to the western areas would solve the problem. Money can be got for these small machines. They will not cost the Government anything. We can provide employment of that nature and put people to work who are on the dole at the moment and who would be very glad to be out in God's clean air producing this native material which can save us the colossal cost on foreign exchanges of imports of energy. We could change the entire western area. We have the opportunity. I would be very happy at any time to give the Minister more figures if he needs them.
Mr. Daly Mr. Daly
Mr. Daly: The Estimate for the Department of Transport and Power affords us a great opportunity for debate because it affects a vast area of State activities and involves the lives and livelihoods of thousands and thousands of people. It affects us all in a variety of ways because it covers such areas as transport, tourism, shipping, harbour development, electricity supply, airlines, and so on. It gives us an opportunity to make valid points and to express the views which have been expressed to us by our constituents.
I should like to deal with the electricity supply situation and to refer to the enormous increase in prices. In  a way I absolve the ESB because, as we all know, they are providing an excellent service. We need only experience the disruption caused by a blackout to realise the desirability of having an efficient and well-organised electricity supply service. Perhaps the ESB are being unnecessarily blamed for price increases which, to my mind, are caused by the mismanagement of the Government. There seems to be no co-ordination or consultation between Ministers. Apparently they are allowing inflation to run riot with the inevitable result that the ESB, CIE and other bodies are forced to increase prices to keep themselves in business.
I should like to deal with the vast increase in the quotations given in rural areas for the supply of electricity. In my constituency people have been quoted £200, £300 or £400. I know a labourer who was quoted £1,053 a few weeks ago for the installation of electricity supply in his house. This is scandalous. I do not know what the Minister can do about it. I suggest that this fee should be accepted by the ESB in instalments from people who wish to have a supply of electricity and who are prepared to pay for it, but have not got £500 or £600 to put down for it. Unless the consumer is prepared to pay the full amount the ESB will not connect him.
If some arrangement could be worked out with the ESB that connection would be made on payment of a deposit and the remainder of the amount quoted would be accepted in instalments, this would get over many of the problems. I understand that some arrangements have been made with semi-State bodies under which the supply will be given and the amount collected in instalments over a certain period. This is not the case for the ordinary consumer. If the ordinary consumer wants a supply he has to pay the figure quoted before being connected. I do not think there is anything wrong in making the connection and accepting instalments in a planned way. If the person fails to meet his commitments the ESB can disconnect him. I would ask the Minister  to pay particular attention to this especially when people are anxious to get a supply but have not got £500 to put down.
The ESB's future plans appear to be confused. This was brought home to me a few weeks ago when there was a proposal in my constituency for a high tension line from the Tarbert station in Kerry across to County Clare. This proposal has now been delayed because of the general economic recession. The ESB do not seem to be able to decide where they are going in the future. This is particularly true in regard to nuclear energy.
I thought it strange for the Minister to say that the pattern of demand for the next few years cannot at this stage be predicted with any degree of confidence. He was speaking about nuclear energy. If you cannot have confidence in the future how can you expect to make any plans, even if we get over the economic recession in the not too distant future—and if we had a return to a Fianna Fáil Government we would surely get over it. I should like to take issue with the Minister when he says confidence is lacking. He has a duty to instil confidence in the ESB and to press ahead with nuclear development. I understood that by 1990 we would have eight nuclear stations in operation but now we do not know where we are going in this regard. The Minister has a duty to outline future policy in regard to nuclear energy and to give the necessary directions to the ESB and the Nuclear Energy Board.
I am glad the Minister has asked the ESB to update previous surveys made in relation to the possibility of development of small hydro-electric schemes and the possible use of wind and tidal power. There is a vast potential in these areas and electricity could be generated at relatively low cost. In my constituency Poulnasherry Bay is ideal for the establishment of such a hydro-electric scheme. That scheme could then be connected up to the power stations at Miltown Malbay and Tarbert. There are hundreds of places where such schemes could be put into operation.
On the conservation of energy the  Minister has indicated that the Minister for Local Government has asked An Foras Forbartha and the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards to report on this matter. The Minister for Transport and Power should encourage his colleague in Local Government, when he is considering the possibility of increasing new house grants, to give a grant to those who provide insulation methods such as double glazing of windows.
In regard to the tourist industry there is an immense untapped potential there. I was pleased to learn that Bord Fáilte expect an increase in revenue from tourism of £7 million over last year in spite of all the difficulties being experienced. However, while tourism is developing in neighbouring countries it always appears to be on the decline here. Because of this I wonder if we have the proper approach. I wonder if we have made the necessary inroads into the English market. I was pleased to read about the new air-coach service, Dublin-Liverpool-London, introduced by Aer Lingus and I should like to see a similar service introduced involving Shannon. Shannon has always been regarded as the gateway to the west.
The Aer Lingus family scheme under which the children can travel free when accompanied by their parents should also prove an attraction to Irish people living in England. In regard to all schemes to attract tourists, particularly Irish people living abroad, enough publicity is not channelled through the local newspapers such as the Clare Champion, the Limerick Leader and The Kerryman. Those schemes have not been publicised in the local papers and, consequently, the local people are not in a position to make the emigrants aware of them. The Minister should draw the attention of Bord Fáilte to the advantages to be gained by making use of the provincial newspapers. Some years ago a relative of mine returned here after spending 40 years in the United States. It amazed me that that relative had never been to Limerick city even though it is only 50 miles from where he was born. On the occasion of that visit he toured the entire country. It  was then that I was made aware of the fact that many of our people have not seen such picturesque areas as Donegal and Kerry.
I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a suggestion put forward by the chairman of the Shannon Regional Development Organisation, Mr. Michael Vaughan. He suggested that school examinations should be held in April so that parents could take their children on holidays in the off-season, in June.
The Minister stated that the number of people availing of medieval banquets continued to increase but the number taking the one-day medieval tours declined. He stated that SFADCo are placing more emphasis on inclusive tours and special interest holidays, particularly for the North Atlantic market. I would ask the Minister to direct the attention of the company more to the European and the UK market, not to concentrate all efforts on the North Atlantic market. The home tourist who travels around the country, perhaps by caravan, should also be considered. I do not think the medieval banquets and tours have been given sufficient publicity in the local papers.
We are proud that Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta are doing so well in spite of the difficulties they are experiencing. However, we must not be complacent and we must continue to ensure that the companies develop their services to the maximum. Many of us who travel to Dublin regularly are concerned about the connections from here to Shannon Airport. Trade with the west could be developed to a greater extent if there were good connecting services between the airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork. I understand the flight from Dublin to Shannon leaves at approximately 3 p.m. and this means that businessmen cannot complete their work that day but are obliged to remain overnight. We should have a more extensive service.
I am glad that the difficulty between Aer Rianta and the American airlines has been resolved and that Aer Rianta benefited enormously from the settlement. I should like to pay  tribute to those involved and to compliment them on their very good work. I am glad that Aer Rianta are following a progressive policy with regard to the services they are providing for other airlines in the financial and computer services, in the travel services and the leisure centres they are developing. I should like to see them link up the leisure centres they are developing in other countries with the Irish resorts. Hotels are in difficulty and need some help. The largest hotel in Kilkee has been closed for the past two years and this is an indication of the dire straits of the hotel industry. Something must be done to boost the tourist industry in the western towns. Shannon must remain the gateway to the west of Ireland and every effort should be made to concentrate on that area and the mid-west region.
The training facilities at Shannon could be used to a greater extent. Will the Minister tell us what is being done to attract back British Airways to Shannon Airport as a training centre? They were involved in training at Shannon for a considerable time and when they decided to withdraw it was an enormous blow to the area. I am convinced British Airways would return to the area if the proper approaches were made.
The Minister has stated that £8,250 was spent for report studies on harbours. I should like the Minister to give more details of what is involved, to tell us when he expects to have the final report and what action he will take. We have had so many studies about ports that it is difficult to know what is being done. Recently there was an outline study of the Shannon estuary and it consisted of a compilation of reports and studies over the last 50 or 60 years. No action was taken on any of the reports. If the report now being compiled is the same as the outline plans about which we have read so much, there is not much point in the Minister spending £8,000 on it.
Deputy O'Connor has referred to the importance of the Shannon estuary and I should like the Minister to tell us whether any of the studies  to which he referred relates to the Shannon estuary. I agree with the observations made by Deputy O'Connor with regard to the development of the estuary as a deep-sea port. It is an area in which oil and gas explorations will be taking place and the oil rigs will be constructed there. The Shannon estuary is the finest deep-sea port in western Europe but it has not been developed. This is an area to which the Minister must direct more of his attention and direct the attention of the people engaging in such study to the possibilities of establishing oil and gas exploration outfits on the Shannon estuary. This would help also to alleviate the unemployment situation—which I raised on the Adjournment last evening— so critical in Clare. Were there a proper planned development of the Shannon estuary it would solve not only the problem in relation to the production of oil, petrol and so on in that area but also that of unemployment.
I would urge the Minister to consult more with his colleagues in Government. There seems to be no consultation whatever between individual Ministers. No Minister seems to know what the other is doing. That can lead to mistakes being made in an area where a lot of cost could be saved if such regular consultation took place.
Mr. White Mr. White
Mr. White: I welcome the opportunity of speaking on this Estimate for the Department of Transport and Power. It is only fair to compliment the Minister and to admit the terrific responsibility he has, being in charge of all these semi-State bodies. Certainly, he must have a lot of work on his plate and, if anything, must be rather overworked at present.
I should like also to compliment the Minister for Industry and Commerce on his deal with regard to our oil and gas resources, particularly off the west and south-west coasts. Our present oil bill takes us all aback when we consider that we are spending over £200 million and that the increase for 1974 alone was £130 million. Any thinking person must realise that the quicker we can establish gas and oil  finds off our coasts the better it will be for everybody concerned. It would be tremendous if we could save even half that. As our industries grow, we will become more dependent on oil. There is no doubt that if we can establish oil finds off our coasts, as the old saying goes, we could be sitting on a real goldmine. We must admit also that part of our present troubles emanate from a 20 per cent inflation rate. Of course, a lot of that inflation has been attributable to sources outside our control.
I should like to compliment the Minister on his policy of conserving as much energy as possible. We read now in the national weekly and daily papers advertisements asking people to turn off lights, gas and any other source of power they need not use. In that way, indirectly, each one of us is saving money. Our second native resource is the peatlands, particularly in the midlands and along the western seaboard. The previous Deputy mentioned that a lot of people at present unemployed could be put to productive work in improving bog roads and the bogs themselves in those areas. I agree with that suggestion but let not the Opposition forget that it was they who, when in power, removed the bog road scheme grant that existed then. I should be delighted to see that or a similar scheme brought back into operation because a lot of our peatlands could be developed. With the cost of fuel so high at present, it is amazing how many people are really determined to cut the peat in our bogs. Of course, the problem is that in many of those areas there are no roads into those peat banks. This is something which should be done. Certainly, I would give full backing to putting people at present on unemployment assistance into some productive work.
I should like to mention also the ESB and, in particular, the four-year planned development scheme they have just completed. Certainly, it is very encouraging to note that over 47,000 new consumers have been connected to supply in the last four years. While 98 per cent of the people in this country have now been connected to electricity supply I estimate that,  for instance, in Donegal alone at least 10 per cent still have not been connected. As good as was that planned development scheme, the problem still exists that the people who are neglected are the weaker sections of the community, the people who can afford to pay less. What has happened is that the towns and all the areas around towns have been connected. It is the people in outlying areas who still find themselves without ESB supply. It is not uncommon to find a quotation for, say, £1,000, and I heard of a quotation for £1,550 a few weeks ago for two old age pensioners. The Minister should ensure that some new scheme be devised in the next couple of months to alleviate that hardship.
We must also ask ourselves why it is that the ESB can quote a consumer a price, as I heard recently, of £1,000. When I queried that figure as a Dáil Deputy, it was reduced to £625. Now, either the figure is £625 or £1,000. Certainly, people in out-of-the-way places should not be quoted these terrible figures and then, when public representatives bring it to the notice of the ESB, all of a sudden £400 is taken off the charge. Mind you, even at £625 the price is out of the question. I would ask the Minister to seriously investigate that question because those who most need help are being hit hardest.
I was glad to hear the Minister say in the past few days that he intends setting up a new Oireachtas subcommittee to deal with semi-State bodies and particularly to look into the workings of the ESB and CIE. Anybody with a business background must admit there are many deficiencies in the running of some of our semi-State bodies. I say particularly some of our semi-State bodies because at least two of them are run just as efficiently as private enterprise. But there seems to be a lot of waste here and there in some of them. When the sub-committee is established, I hope it will consist of people who believe genuinely they can do something to alleviate the terrible problems being experienced in those bodies at present.
 I welcome also the Minister's intention to liberalise road transport legislation. I am a great believer in free enterprise. Nothing can succeed like it. It is ridiculous that for years people could have a county licence for road haulage and, at the same time could not bring say, potatoes or fish from parts of Donegal to Dublin. Those county licences should be abolished altogether. People who have county licences should be given Twenty-six County licences as soon as possible. There seems to be no problem with regard to what I would call those monster lorries coming across from other EEC countries and travelling all over Ireland while, at the same time, our own nationals are not allowed to haul goods from one point to another. I understand the Minister is looking into this. Legislation is long overdue.
I want now to talk about what I call the crunch industry. It is an industry that has taken a tremendous hammering over the last ten years. I refer to the tourist industry. It is true that events in Northern Ireland have to some extent been responsible for some of the decline. It is all very well to look at figures and find that Bord Fáilte maintain our tourist revenue increased last year by 2 per cent. I maintain that our tourist industry has been nothing but a fiasco for the last ten years. We need new drive and we need new promotions to build up the best potential industry we have. I appreciate that the Minister must be overworked and, like some Opposition speakers, I would like to see a Parliamentary Secretary in charge of tourism, our third largest industry. It needs someone with drive and determination to develop the industry.
This year we are giving something like £80 million to the IDA to bring in new industries. That is splendid but we should not forget that every tourist is a potential export from the point of view of the money he spends in the same way as the industrialist's £ is an export. I am disappointed with the grants Bord Fáilte are getting. I maintain that a great deal of the money Bord Fáilte are getting is being wasted. In my own area administration alone increased by £15,000 from  1974 to 1975. In 1974 administration cost £44,000 and promotion cost £25,000. The corresponding figures for 1975 are £59,000 for administration and promotion fell by £1,000, despite the increase of £15,000 in the grant.
We will have to take a serious look at administration costs. Bord Fáilte is not there for the purpose of incurring colossal administration costs. It is there to bring as many tourists as possible into the country. It worries me, as it worries many other people, that over 100,000 have booked foreign holidays. It is practically impossible now to get a booking to any country, to Malta, Spain, Majorca or elsewhere. It may be argued that our people are going in search of sun, but it must be remembered that these people will holiday abroad at half the cost the same holiday would cost them here. We must be realistic. Price is one of the most important factors in any trade and it is an important factor in the tourist industry.
It is interesting to see from the report that Bord Fáilte are once more spending quite a sizeable sum in an effort to attract tourists from Japan, Australia and Argentina. What will we get in return. Nothing. It is unrealistic to think that we will have tourists in any numbers from these countries. Our tourist market potential lies in countries like Sweden, Germany and France and, in normal times, Britain. With the £ in the state it is we can offer the French, the Swedes and the Germans reasonably cheap holidays. But we must offer them what they would like to have. We cannot offer them sun but we can offer them peace and beautiful scenery, fishing, horse caravans, diving and horse riding. These are the things the Continentals want. They get enough sun in their own countries in July and August and their anxiety is to get away from the heat. This is a market it would be worth while developing. We have received two awards in Germany for the promotional work done by Bord Fáilte and it is not easy to get these awards in Germany.
We are not doing enough to encourage those who should be coming  here. We are not doing enough to encourage package tours. Bord Fáilte will say they are encouraging package tours. That may be so, but there is a certain lack of professionalism. Our package tours in comparison with those offered by the countries I mentioned are like poor relations. Promoting tourism is a profession and the quicker we get down to professionalism the better it will be.
I agree that tourists need some incentive and I add my voice to that of other speakers who hold that the cheapest incentive we can give is through the medium of a petrol voucher scheme. Tourists could be given 100 vouchers costing 20 pence each at the port of entry. That would bring in quite a sizeable bit of revenue. It could be done quite cheaply by having an appropriate officer at the port of entry handing out the petrol vouchers. Tourism is a business and in business one invests something in order to get something in return. A family car coming from the Continent usually has four people. If they stay here for two weeks, you can estimate they will spend £400. Two Germans last year told me they spent £1,000 in two weeks. They are making a lot of money and they do not mind spending it. If you estimate that each car load spend £400, it means we have this type of promotion for something in the region of 5 per cent. It is worth while spending this money. I realise it may be a bit too late for this year but over the next 12 months a lot must be done for the tourist industry.
In Austria, Germany and other countries on the Continent we notice how clean every place is but as soon as we disembark from the ferries here we see papers, old cans and old abandoned motor cars along the roads. During the last few months I was shocked when I came off the Rosslare ferry at the state of the place. In Austria a very substantial fine is imposed on people who are found throwing litter about. I know it will not be easy to get the Irish people to tidy up but we must do something about the parts of the country which are very dirty.
We must also look into standards  and hygiene in our hotels. All tourists want value for money. Some of the hotels have introduced small sporting rooms with billiard tables, pin tables and table tennis. When there is wet weather and people cannot go out, there is something for them to do. We must encourage more hotels to provide indoor sporting facilities.
It is interesting to note that of the complaints received last year through Bord Fáilte prices accounted for 22 per cent, food 16 per cent and accommodation 15 per cent. I have one complaint to make in relation to prices. Some hotels quote prices in their brochures but when people pay their bills prices are different from those quoted. As far as food is concerned we can offer tourists a very good menu. There are some fine cooks in the country and we can give any tourist from abroad a meal he will never forget.
I believe that many of our hotels are not run in a professional manner. Many of them have become very despondent over the last five years. In a seaside resort very near my home it is sad to see the rate hotels are changing hands and to listen to their complaints about the lack of tourists. The hotels must organise but Bord Fáilte must help them as much as possible.
I should like to congratulate the Minister on the financial assistance he gave to the small hotels last year. People who apply to instal central heating in their hotels find they will not get a grant for it unless they do more renovation. A family hotel, which intends spending up to £3,000 on central heating, cannot afford to do the extra extension work Bord Fáilte require them to do. If a small hotel does carry out renovation it should be treated in the same way as the reconstruction grants from the Department of Local Government. They should get a percentage grant for the improvements they carry out.
As far as Bord Fáilte are concerned each of the regional boards should have at least one representative on the parent board. Certain areas feel they are completely neglected by Bord Fáilte and they become more frustrated  when they have not got a voice on the parent board. The regional manager from each region should be an automatic choice to the board of Bord Fáilte.
I regret being so critical of the tourist trade and I am not blaming the Minister for it. The complaints I have have arisen over the last ten years. Tourism offers us probably the best potential, apart from oil, of any industry but we need to improve. I ask the Minister over the next 12 months to see that something new is done for the tourist trade.
Mr. Power Mr. Power
Mr. Power: I am sure the Minister wonders how so many people are interested in his Department. He is fortunate to be in a Department that has an interest for every Deputy no matter what part of the country he comes from. He has had an opportunity since he took office to bring good news to many counties. I am afraid my contribution will be rather carping.
I am glad of this opportunity to outline again in some cases and for the first time in others some of the grudges I feel against the Department of Transport and Power. Before I saw the Minister's brief, I felt it would not be long before he mentioned the energy crisis. He did this at the first opportunity which proves to me that he feels he has to make excuses from the word “go”.
We are constantly bombarded with propaganda that most of our present ills not alone in regard to the Minister's Department but in regard to the general economy spring from the increased price of oil and its effect on our economy generally. The Minister and his colleagues are as guilty as any Arabs because last year they helped to increase the price of oil by 15p a gallon. We were told at the time that this was a measure to conserve our fuel. I believe this measure was introduced solely for the purpose of raising taxation. It emanated from a Government who are bankrupt not alone of money but of ideas as well. Any statements issued by the Government recently have proved to me that they are as bereft of ideas as they are of finance at present.  I wonder if this measure will have the effect of reducing the demand for fuel. I do not believe that the demand has fallen. Owners of petrol pumps have told me that more people are buying petrol now, that the only difference is that they are paying £5 where they used to pay £1 or £2. The money charged to motorists goes directly to Government coffers. This Government were launched as having all the brains of the country. They have not a monopoly of the brains of the country. What has the Minister done in regard to the suggestion made by Deputy Barrett that if he could buy or charter tankers and buy oil on the market he could buy it at a cheaper rate than he can get it now? If the capacity of our oil refinery is not sufficient, the capacity should be doubled. We could provide an extra refinery. Deputy Barrett has proved conclusively that we could save £20 million per year in this way. It would appear that the Government will not listen to any suggestions from this side of the House. There is no indication that this suggestion by Deputy Barrett is being adopted. The Minister should not close his mind to this suggestion.
The recent tie up with the US and Britain in regard to petrol and oil is a matter that should be considered. We should ask ourselves is it wise. All the talk has centred around the bonanza that is likely to result. The straw that the Government are clutching at in their economic troubles is the existence of oil and gas off the coast. It would seem that we will be producing oil and gas in the near future. We are told that we will have fuel to sell. In that case is it wise to tie ourselves to Britain and the US who will be in the market for this oil? For many years we were tied to Britain in the sale of beef and to the US to a lesser extent. They were glad to be our customers when they could get our produce at a cheap rate. Possibly the same will apply in the case of oil.
I should like to refer to some of the semi-State bodies under the Minister's control. I would compliment him on the recent announcement in regard  to the setting up of a board to examine the workings of semi-State bodies who can ask for all the money they like but never allow the taxpayer to call the tune. The Minister's announcement is timely in view of the mounting pressures and criticisms not alone from our side of the House but from his side of the House and from Government supporters all over the country.
The semi-State body that concerns my constituency to the greatest extent is Bord na Móna. Bord na Móna have done wonderful work for County Kildare. The increase in the price of oil should have given a new lease of life to Bord na Móna. The product that was selling at 50/- a ton is now at £8 a ton. Bogs that were considered uneconomic have been put into production.
This reminds one that the Sinn Féin policy enunciated over 60 years ago was probably right. Those who had abandoned native fuel for an imported one now find that they were leaving themselves at the mercy of people in other countries. I would hope that the Government would pursue the third development programme. There is no indication that that is being done. Lack of finance is probably the principal reason. This new situation should have been met by the dynamic policy that the Government promised they had. New bogs should have been developed and new roads made.
There is one roadway in the Edenderry-Offaly-Kildare area where a private developer is producing huge quantities of turf and the road is in a frightful condition. Any attempt that I have made to have the road put in a proper state of repair to allow turf producers to use it has been met with a blank refusal from every source. The county council have referred me to Bord na Móna. Bord na Móna are willing to make a certain contribution in some of these cases but there is no special fund available to them and the Government are not prepared to invest any money in the development of this road. I am very disappointed because this is a case where every pound spent will  be spent at home on materials and in paying wages and there are many workers available. As Deputy O'Connor has pointed out, thousands of tons of turf worth £8 a ton would be made available, which would be a tremendous boost to the economy. I look forward to a development in County Kildare which would bring relief to the areas which are most depressed.
Our bog lands are in the Allen-Carbery-Timahoe area, the area most remote from industries. There were high hopes that the Government would have invested money in the development of this area. I do not see much evidence of this.
Bord na Móna is a splendid example of a semi-State body that pays its way and has consistently paid its way. The Minister should have asserted his authority, if he has any authority or influence in the Cabinet, to ensure that money is provided for this area. This would be a help to the economy and to our balance of payments position.
I have a slight quibble with Bord na Móna in regard to their attitude in the matter of land acquisition. Heretofore they have adopted a very high-handed attitude. Land was acquired at £1, £5 and £10 an acre. People who were approached and asked to sell their land were told that the land could be compulsorily acquired. They were reluctant to go into court to defend their right. In this way many acres of land passed into the hands of Bord na Móna. I accompanied a deputation from my constituency to meet some high officials in Bord na Móna. We put a very strong case to them in regard to the attitude of Bord na Móna towards compulsory acquisition and demanded that a realistic price per acre be paid.
I must say I found the officials not so very co-operative on that occasion. Of course, this was before the result of a court case that was pending. The board lost the case and the private individual who had the gumption to  go ahead and chance his luck in court won. That is proof to me that something is not entirely right with regard to the acquisition of land and that a far better approach is needed. I hope that decision will have opened the eyes of the Bord na Móna officials dealing with that to the need for change.
I am very concerned and hopeful regarding the future of our cutaway bog. I would like to compliment the people engaged in the experimental work which is now at a fairly advanced stage. The Minister seemed to give the impression yesterday that the experiments being carried out at Lullymore by the Agricultural Institute were only at a very early stage. I think many of the findings there could now be classed as conclusive enough to allow Bord na Móna to plan ahead and I think they are doing that. I am very impressed with their work on cutaway bog. I see that the production of vegetables, in particular carrots and celery, and of shrubs to a lesser extent and possibly the glass-house industry, has a wonderful future.
I have seen, too, in the vicinity of Lullymore how, with a particular type of drainage and a proper lay-out of grassland, good grass can be grown there and cattle can be kept even in bogland for many months of the year. If this were pursued, possibly with the addition of some dry upland to each boggy area, cattle could be kept on silage all the year round and fat cattle turned out. I hope this will be pursued more vigorously than it is being pursued at present.
I have seen every evidence that in the Timahoe area soon we will have large tracts of bog available, that the life of peat production there is almost over. I would again impress on the Minister that the terms of reference of Bord na Móna at one time anyhow were solely to produce fuel and if they pursued this too vigorously and went to the very last sod they could do irreparable harm because five or six feet of peat are needed so that vegetables will grow properly.
Bord na Móna have built a small town in the vicinity of Coill Dubh.
 People have come from different parts of the country to live there and their children have grown up there. It would be a pity if this area were to become depressed when turf production is over. I hope that a future will be provided there by vegetable growing and other farm operations on cutaway bog. This could possibly be accompanied by a vegetable canning industry. Now is the time to start even in a small way to build up this type of operation in this area so that there will be a tradition and expertise there to expand later on. I hope this area will not be allowed to become depressed when Bord na Móna cease to produce turf there.
The ESB have caused everybody to feel the pinch with their recent brutal price increases. At one time those increases happened possibly once a year but now they seem to happen a few times each year. It would appear that the policy being pursued by the ESB at the moment is that if they are in any financial difficulty the obvious solution is to increase the cost of the unit of electricity. I do not see in their policies any attempt to get at the root of this trouble. The Arabs cannot be used as the scapegoats all the time. It is peculiar that of all the semi-State bodies, the ESB and CIE are the two that lose most money. They are also the two bodies that appear to have least competition. The ESB have a monopoly of power supplies and CIE have had a monopoly for many years of transport. They have become selective recently and have dropped the areas that were not paying their way. People who are now in the private haulage or private passenger carrying business have taken on the areas that were least profitable so far as CIE were concerned. It is peculiar that the two semi-State bodies that have a monopoly and have the least amount of competition are the two bodies that are in the greatest financial trouble and that have to be subsidised most heavily every year.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: The ESB are not subsidised. What the Deputy says about CIE is true but it is not true of the ESB.
Mr. Power Mr. Power
 Mr. Power: If the ESB are making a profit, why are we being subjected to huge price increases?
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: They are not required to make a profit. They are required to break even.
Mr. Power Mr. Power
Mr. Power: Everybody recognises that competition is a wonderful thing. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary recognises that having competition in his constituency makes him work that little bit harder. The only person in the House who has no competition is the Ceann Comhairle. I do not know whether he has eased off or not but it is a fact of life that where there is no competition and people are assured of their position they are likely to lie on the traces a little.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: I do not disagree with that but, on the other hand, one of the most troublesome parts of the CIE operation is their rail services and there is no way of making them economic on some stretches. They have got to be maintained for social reasons or not at all. If they were given over to private enterprise, they would be closed down years ago.
Mr. Power Mr. Power
Mr. Power: I will not quibble about that but we must look at the management structure of the ESB and of CIE and we must see whether it is geared to what is really needed at all. To give the ESB their due, they at least have expanded every year and they have put power into 98 per cent of the homes of Ireland. On that account I presume they are entitled to more people to manage an expanding situation. However, I have yet to hear that CIE have cut down on their management structure even though they have often cut down on the service they are giving. I am glad the Minister has decided that all those State bodies can now be examined more thoroughly than they were before.
I should like now to refer to a matter that has maddened me more than anything else since I came into the House. I raised it on two occasions and I got no satisfaction whatever. I refer to the ESB connection charges. Everybody is aware of the  huge charges being asked for ESB connection for new or old houses. I have evidence of this on every side and I have been pursuing this with the Department and with the Minister for the last two years. I am honest when I say that in the time of our Administration I was not aware of this at all nor were those problems brought to my notice. It is only in the last two years that they have been brought to my notice. Perhaps that is coincidental but that is the actual situation.
I have a case of an Irish soldier who did a term abroad and got a few pounds together and because of that was in a position to buy himself a house in a rural area near where he was born. He is living in the house but the charge he was quoted for the installation of electricity was so prohibitive that he has not been in a position to have the house connected. I know, too, of a man who bought the labourer's cottage in which he had been born. He paid £250 for it and because it was not in good repair he spent a considerable amount reconstructing it but when he approached the ESB he was told that the cost of installation to his house would be £260 and, also, that further engineering works would have to be carried out to the house in the first place.
There is yet another case of a man who has been approaching me for the past year in the hope that something can be done to help him. When I raised the matter here I hoped, foolishly, that something might be done for him but I was disappointed. This man, too, is a soldier who, in the normal course of events, could expect to be housed by Kildare County Council but he bought a house near Nurney, acquired the maximum loan and spent any savings he had on putting the house in a condition that would enable him to get grants in respect of it. Although there is an ESB supply close to where he lives—a transformer was erected in his garden—he is not able to have his house connected because of the high charge requested. Any money he had went on reconstructing the house.
 I have written both to the Minister and to the ESB asking that his case be considered favourably or that payment by instalments be accepted but I have met with a blank refusal in all instances. The fact that at Question Time yesterday the Minister said he would look into the case is no consolation to me. He promised to do so before but nothing was done to help. A situation like this is an indictment of the Minister and of the social conscience of the Government especially since this situation has gone on for so long. These charges are the cause of much hardship to the people concerned.
Perhaps it is the policy of this city-orientated Cabinet that people should no longer build houses in rural areas or, if not, perhaps they do not realise that people who spend their lives in rural areas have no wish to be herded into built-up areas. By their attitude, the Government and the ESB are helping towards denuding the countryside. They should accept that people should be helped towards providing homes for themselves in the country. We are told that we have good Government at work but I have yet to see evidence of this. I should like some indication from them that they are prepared to help people live in the country rather than hinder them in doing so. The solution to the problem would seem to lie in the subsidising of these charges. In the meantime, there should be arrangements whereby the charges could be paid by way of instalments. In any cases in which instalments have been offered they have been refused. In reply to a parliamentary question of about a year ago I was told that the Department and the ESB were examining the possibility of a new system of funding this operation. However, nothing has come of that since.
We must demand that the situation be remedied. It is for the Government to take action without further delay to ensure that no more hardship will be caused because of these high charges. They cannot say that it is the situation they inherited because it is something of which we have become aware only in the last two  years. It is well to recall that before the last election the people on the other side of the House promised to help transform Ireland into a progressive society based on social justice. I should like to see some evidence of this, at least in the sphere I am discussing.
Regarding the ESB generally, I assume there is no further prospect of generating electricity by means of harnessing water. I expect this system was explored fully before the ESB embarked on the Turlough Hill project. I take this opportunity of paying tribute to the company for the way in which they undertook that operation, especially in relation to conservation. The underground cabling and the restoration of the mountainside are a tribute to the ESB. They have succeeded in removing the scars of the work as far as is humanly possible. In this way they have proved that progress and conservation can go hand in hand.
I am glad to note from the Minister's brief as well as from other reports that experiments are being conducted in respect of the utilisation of our natural resources for energy production. It is in our interest and, indeed, it is very necessary, that we exploit any resources of this kind rather than spend our very scarce capital abroad.
Regarding the Minister's plans in respect of our natural gas finds. I wonder whether the conversion of this gas to electricity is a good idea. I should imagine that a national grid which would pipe the gas directly to houses would be the most economical attitude to adopt. However, perhaps the Minister's arrangement is only an interim one regarding Kinsale but we must consider what is most economical.
There are some matters which I must mention in relation to CIE. This is a company which is not in a competitive situation. Some time ago they had a slogan to the effect that they would go anywhere at anytime. They seem to have dropped that now. Perhaps it was a very dear slogan to have had to live up to. I am told that in future in order to be successful they will also have to be selective and  to choose only the areas that pay their way while culling those that do not pay. I understand that the structure of CIE is top heavy. Employees of the company to whom I have spoken have expressed the same view. Any time investigations have been conducted as to where savings might be made, there have been suggestions of further closures but this policy, in turn, results in less earning capacity. Surely more closures mean less work. However, on no occasion have there been any suggestions of fewer managers being employed. I do not understand why more managerial staff should be required to manage fewer workers. When income falls, more subsidies are required. What is needed is a cutting down at managerial level as well as a more sensible approach generally. It is amazing that private hauliers and coach owners who get the smaller jobs, those that CIE do not want for themselves, are able to make a profit, are able to make a go of this, while the cream which has been taken off for the benefit of CIE never succeeds in turning into good butter.
In announcements made possibly over a year ago by CIE with regard to their future plans for the railway stations, we in Kildare were very surprised to discover that no station in Kildare was scheduled for major development. We have stations in Athy, Droichead Nua and Kildare and we have other stations nearer to Dublin which I will deal with later. It would appear to me that, without looking at the situation from the people's point of view, somebody drew a circle on a map within a radius of 50 miles of Dublin and decided it was obvious that no development should take place within 50 miles of the capital city. That precluded any Kildare station from further development.
It might be well to remember that people do not fall into exact geometric patterns like that. It is amazing that an area including Kilcullen, Droichead Nua and Naas—a triangle which was mentioned in the Myles Wright Report as being an area of great potential development outside Dublin—did not merit any development in the eyes of CIE. In Kildare  town there is a wallpaper factory which utilises CIE. There is also a big development plan for a Black and Decker factory. I believe their choice of a site was influenced by the fact that it was near the railway and they could have a siding if necessary. It amazes me that none of those stations is scheduled for development.
At county council level, at urban council level, and at town commissioner level, it took us a long time to establish any communications with CIE, although they are in the business of communications. For a long time we found it impossible to get to them anywhere any time. It took extreme pressure before they agreed to meet us to discuss the future of the railways and the stations in Kildare. I believe new plans have been formulated with regard to the reduction of staff in CIE. I was speaking to a driver recently who told me they intend to start at the bottom and not at the top. Drivers who are out ill will be medically examined to see if they can be retired. I hope their pensions will be better than they were up to recently. The paltry few pence people got from CIE after giving a lifetime of service were disgraceful.
The new plan, if it can be called new, will be to remove people at the bottom. They will start with the drivers. Surely the driver is one man who is productive in CIE. The driver I spoke to assured me that he worked in different places, including farms, and he works harder driving a lorry for CIE than he worked in any other job. He carries freight. On his runs he can be stopped by an official in a staff car and this official—a non-productive official, I can assure the House—can get out and ask him what he is doing and where he is going. He then writes his initials on the form and lets him off again. We could well change our tune and our attitude in that regard. Perhaps the new body will be in a position to make recommendations which will be more in keeping with reality than the recommendations made up to now.
It is high time the Minister examined the situation with regard to  a commuter service between Kildare and Dublin. We have been pressing for this for some time. Anybody who drives along the western road through Chapelizod and Lucan and Maynooth and Kilcock will realise the need for this. The excuse has been that it would entail frightful capital outlay to provide new coaches, a new system of signalling, and new railway lines. This service is obviously needed. It would help to bring people quickly and safely to their work in Dublin from areas within a 30 mile radius. It should be pursued. Apparently the only reason why it is not being pursued is lack of finance. I should like to ask the Minister what he has done with regard to the provision of a commuter service. What has he done to provide this much needed service? Has he any plans for it?
When any of our semi-State bodies and other bodies are in difficulties and want to know what would cure their ills, they usually bring in some outside source to examine the situation and suggest a remedy. I doubt the wisdom of that. Nobody should be able to recognise or categorise the problems of Ireland better than an Irish person. We should be able to look at ourselves and come up with a solution instead of paying for these costly reports which never seem to cut down on expense and never seem to have the effect they promised they would have.
I should like now to refer to the canals. They were closed some time ago, and possibly that was a mistake. In Kildare they have made use of the canal as an amenity in the Robertstown area. They got quite a lot of co-operation from the Tourist Board and from CIE. I hope this will be pursued and that every effort will be made to improve the position not only in regard to the Grand Canal but also the Royal Canal. In other parts of the country moves are afoot to build up amenity areas. They coincide with areas which have the least development and the least earning capacity. It would be of advantage to the economy of these areas if this were done.
During the course of the year I had occasion to contact CIE about canal  roads. These roads are usually built along canal banks. In some cases they have been taken over by the council and in other cases the council have met with extreme difficulty in taking them over. There may be genuine reasons for this, but I would say that CIE's attitude is that of a dog in the manager.
In one case repeated efforts to have a road maintained and taken over were refused by CIE until they sent in a machine to do some drainage work. A person who lived in the area refused to admit them until permission was given to have the road taken over. This was done. It would appear that where there is a will there is a way. I would ask the Minister to take note of recent requests from Kildare County Council to CIE and to ask them what they have done about those requests to allow roads to be black topped and made reasonably road worthy instead of asking people to live in conditions to which they are subjected at the moment.
Dáil Éireann 280 Vote 42: Transport and Power (Resumed)