Committee on Finance. - Vote 14—Irish Tourist Board.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £5,500 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1944, chun Deontas-i-gCabhair alos Bord Cuartaíochta na hEireann (Uimh. 24 de 1939).

That a sum, not exceeding £5,500, be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1944, for a Grant-in-Aid of the Irish Tourist Board (No. 24 of 1939).

Does the Minister propose to give us any information as to what the Tourist Board is doing?

This is a Grant-in-Aid and the Tourist Board is responsible for its own decisions as to what it will do.

Surely, it is an undesirable precedent to establish that a Minister should come before the House for a Grant-in-Aid and that the House should know nothing as to what the body or person to whom it is proposed to make the Grant-in-Aid is doing.

A report is submitted to the House.

Surely, we should be told what the board hopes to achieve. I understand that, in addition to its ordinary tourist activities, the board is responsible for recommending very large schemes such as the scheme at Tramore where a very considerable sum is to be spent in improving the amenities available to visitors. I want to make a suggestion in that connection. I think that people are inclined to lose sight of the fact that this body might very well concern itself, not only with tourists from abroad, but with our tourists at home.

I think that they are doing that.

I am willing to hear the good news. I am merely trying to provide somebody with an opportunity to tell me the good news. I see scope for work from Bray Head to beyond Portmarnock but it seems to be nobody's business to undertake that work. Am I exaggerating if I say that I see in the slum child who gets his holiday at Portmarnock or Seapoint a tourist of a kind? Is his claim to amenities for the enjoyment of his holiday any less important than the claim of the very welcome foreign visitor?

The Deputy should try to find out something about the board before he commences to make a speech of that kind. Why not inquire?

What on earth am I doing now but that?

The Deputy is making allegations concerning the activities of the board which are completely groundless. I am sure that the board would be willing to give the Deputy all the information he desires if he asked them for it.

I deem it my duty to ask for that information from the Minister.

The Minister is not the board.

He is defending the Vote to the board before Dáil Eireann and the old custom was for a Minister in that position to give reasons for recommending the vote of the money and, then, at the close, to reply to any criticisms.

The Dáil passed an Act which established a board and it gave that board certain functions and powers. The Minister is not responsible for the manner in which the board discharges these functions or uses these powers. On occasion, there may be special Votes to enable the board to carry out the financing of particular schemes. If and when such grants are sought, then the content of these schemes will be open to discussion here but the general policy of the board is a matter for the board to determine in accordance with the guiding principles laid down in the Act.

If my recollection serves, when that Bill was being passed and when autonomy was being conferred on this board, it was emphasised that, annually, there would be an Estimate for the board in connection with which we should have a review of the activities of the board so as to enable us to determine whether their activities during the preceding 12 months were such as would justify us in giving a grant-in-aid for the next 12 months. I suggest that one thing the board might do, in addition to their routine work, would be to make some provision for those of our tourists who come from home. I do not want to criticise adversely the efforts of the board to make our resorts more attractive to the foreign visitor. The board is perfectly right to try to improve hotel facilities and to provide additional attractions at our resorts so as to induce persons from abroad to spend their holidays here. But, in addition to that work, the board might very well consider the claims of the slum children in this city, Cork and other cities. I am particularly thinking of the slum children in the City of Dublin. The limit of their tourism will not bring them far beyond Bray to the south, or Portmarnock to the north. They cannot afford to go much further. There we have one of the finest coastlines in the world. If those were in any other country——

A scheme for the development of Portmarnock has already been approved by the board.

It took a long time to dig that out of you.

It was published in the newspapers.

It is time it was published to Dáil Eireann. May I proceed now to dig more information out of the Minister? I am glad to hear that Portmarnock is to be attended to. All we have to Portmarnock is a railway but, from Dublin to Dalkey, we have also the tram and there is a long seacoast from Merrion, by Seapoint and Blackrock, to Killiney, ready for development for the accommodation of the poor children of this city. I make no apology for repeating for the third or fourth time in this House that, in New York, you have the great beach scheme of Mr. Moses, the Park Commissioner of the city. In Sydney, the beaches, which have been developed by the municipality, are the talk of the whole world. I have been on both and I say quite deliberately that we have resources here, along the coast between here and Bray, which, if developed, would provide amenities which would compare favourably with anything achieved by Commissioner Moses or the municipality of the City of Sydney. The development of these amenities is a work the preliminaries of which could conveniently be put in hand at the present time because they would involve a large amount of manual labour without the necessity for the importation of foreign raw material. On various Votes, I have directed the attention of various Ministers, including the Minister for Finance when he was Minister for Local Government, to the desirability of getting ahead with this work. Why cannot we get ahead with it? Why will not the Minister urge on the Irish Tourist Board to get ahead with it? It is extremely difficult to foresee, with any degree of certainty, the type of tourist traffic we may expect from abroad post-war. It would be more profitable to be making preparations now for the class of tourists we know are available at the moment and will be available for a considerable time in the future—the residents of our own city—than for the tourist from abroad. Post-war travel may be extremely restricted for a considerable time. I do not know whether people will come to this country for many a long day after the war is over.

When the time comes for the resumption of free travel and the desire to travel for amusement returns to the world, we may find ourselves with a class of tourist quite different from those we have in view and for whom such plans as are at present in contemplation by the Irish Tourist Board are designed. I would plead for a development scheme now which would provide not only great amenities, but would confer great benefits from the point of view of public health, schemes the essential requirements of which can be exactly forecast, schemes which can be undertaken forthwith because the necessary raw materials are available within our own territory.

Why does the Minister seem to resent that? Will he say, in justifying this allocation of money for the Irish Tourist Board, that he will direct their attention to the desirability of pressing forward with such schemes in the immediate vicinity of our cities, designed not for remote tourists, but for those whose circumstances constrain them to seek facilities not far from home? If he does that we can vote this money with a clear conscience. I am hoping that the Minister will indicate to the Tourist Board that it is the wish of the Oireachtas that such schemes should be pressed ahead. Why cannot the Minister do that?

The Minister in refusing to give any information, while asking the House for this Estimate, is not treating either himself or the House fairly, and he is certainly not treating the Tourist Board in the way it deserves to be treated. It is known to me, at any rate, that a number of schemes have been presented to the Minister by the Irish Tourist Board for his approval, and that fact should be indicated by the Minister here without there being any necessity to drag the information out of him. I understand that the details of schemes such as the Tramore scheme and the Portmarnock Strand development scheme had to be submitted by the Tourist Board to the Minister for his approval. If that is a fact, I think the House is entitled to hear from the Minister a little more about the schemes and the conditions on which they are to be carried out, the conditions under which the land has been acquired, and the price paid for it. The House and the country are entitled to have that information first-hand from the Minister, who is responsible for sanctioning these schemes.

I know, for instance, and I raised the matter in another place, that the members of the Construction Corps have been employed in carrying out work of this kind in Tramore, and, presumably, it is intended to employ them also on the work at Portmarnock Strand. When the Construction Corps was first formed, it was agreed generally by all Parties, across the floor of the House, I think—certainly it was mentioned at the Defence Conference—that members of the Construction Corps would not be employed on any work for which civilian labour was available, or on any State schemes or other schemes for which money was provided by the Minister for Finance. Will the Minister say, in the case of the Portmarnock Strand development scheme, whether all the work will be carried out by members of the Construction Corps, and if so, the conditions under which members of the Corps will be employed on the work; whether there will be an appropriation-in-aid provided for the Department of Defence, the Department of Industry and Commerce, or under this particular Vote? I would be concerned to know what is the intention in regard to the employment of members of the Construction Corps on the Portmarnock development scheme, because it is quite obvious that civilian labour is available within reasonable distance of that area. I believe that such was not the case on the Tramore scheme, which was carried out by the Tourist Board.

As far as I know, the Tourist Board is doing very valuable national work and it is only right that the Minister should take advantage of an occasion of this kind to advertise to the people of this and other countries, the activities of the Tourist Board and to indicate, if he has any information on the point, what are the post-war development schemes of the Tourist Board. I differ to some extent from Deputy Dillon as to the probability of tourists coming to this country from abroad after the war. At present we have a weekly influx of tourists, if you like to call them such, from the Six Counties, tourists who are gobbling up all the bacon and butter that they can get in the hotels of this city and leaving ordinary members of the community short of these commodities. It is well known that these tourists from the Six Counties during the past six or 12 months have got more of the butter produced in our creameries than ordinary members of the community here.

The Tourist Board has nothing to do with that.

I do not know whether we would have such an influx of tourists from the Six Counties if the times were normal, but it is reasonable to expect that many tourists will be coming into this country after the war is over or when the emergency comes to an end. In any event, perhaps the Minister in fairness to the chairman and members of the Tourist Board who have been doing a great deal of planning and carrying out a good deal of work, would give a little more information, because he gave us no information in his opening statement about their activities, and if possible give some indication of the post-war programme. It is due to the members of the House who are asked to vote this money that some information of that kind should be gven.

The Tourist Board was set up by an Act of the Dáil. It has got certain powers and functions conferred on it by that Act, and it must be quite clear that it is the board, and not the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who is responsible for the exercise of these powers and the discharge of these functions. If Deputies desire that that particular type of machinery should work efficiently and should be established in relation to other activities as well, they must be prepared to accept the position that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not responsible and cannot be questioned concerning the details of the board's activities. Deputy Dillon suggested that the Tourist Board should be asked to undertake a development policy for resorts available to the inhabitants of this country. That is what the Tourist Board was set up for. The Tourist Board was established for that precise purpose. It was given certain powers and certain funds to be utilised for the development of holiday resorts of the country. It is not necessary for me to tell the board it has power to proceed with such works. Deputy Dillon asked why I should resent his asking me to do that. I have a very unhappy recollection of the opposition offered by Deputy Dillon and his colleagues to the enactment of the Bill in 1939 and the many proposals then made that the scheme should be put into cold-storage for the duration of the war.

I had to resist these proposals. I felt that, while the activities of the board during the war period might be somewhat different from those originally contemplated, if a great deal of the preliminary work involved in the acquisition of land, the construction of roads, the clearing of sites and the removal of unsightly obstructions, were undertaken, the board could then emerge from the war period with a complete plan for holiday resort development, to exploit the amenities of the country. A great part of the Act which was passed in 1939 has been inoperative—we had to make it inoperative because of the difficulties created by the war—but this business of planning resort development has not been merely proceeded with but the board has been specially urged by the Government to proceed with the utmost rapidity with the completion of plans for the development of holiday resorts in various parts of the country, to get those plans as far forward as possible, to have all legal difficulties removed, to have the land acquired where land has to be acquired, to have the necessary preparations made as far as possible, and to have the constructional work which is practicable under present circumstances, and with available materials, completed. That has been done.

The Portmarnock development, to which reference has been made and which it is hoped will be proceeded with in the near future, is only the first stage of a much larger scheme of development which is not practicable in present circumstances. Similar projects are in contemplation for other centres which are suitable for development for holiday resorts, and the board is in full activity at the moment in the preparation of plans for that purpose. Plans prepared by the board are submitted for approval. Now, let me be quite clear that the approval does not involve, on the part of the Minister for Industry and Commerce or his Department, examination of the details of the engineering or architectural aspects of the proposals. The board, which is composed of competent persons, is in a position to employ competent technical advice, and it is assumed that the preparation of plans by the board is as efficiently done as it could be done. We have to take account of the financial aspects of those proposals. It is clear that, while the board would normally proceed upon the basis of recovering the capital expenditure incurred by it in the development of the resorts, and making each of its schemes a profit-earning one, it could not do that altogether if it proceeds on the lines I have indicated, that is, doing in advance of the time such work as land acquisition or preliminary development work, and some definite arrangements must be made to enable the board to offset the increased expenditure arising on that account, and to ensure that it will not be chargeable against the scheme as a whole. The board can embark upon certain schemes which will be financed out of State funds. It has been endowed with special capital sums to enable it to do its job, but, in the main, it is hoped that all the resort development schemes on which it embarks will prove to be profitable to the board.

It is clear that, in the case, say, of the Tramore scheme, which involved the development of a large part of the waterfront at Tramore, the board could reasonably hope that all the land which is acquired in the immediate vicinity of the scheme will ultimately appreciate in value, and that when sold by the board it will provide more than sufficient to cover, not merely the initial outlay on land, but the initial cost of the works which resulted in the appreciation of the value of the land. That is the principle on which the board operates. Normally, it is thought that that principle will prove to be sound. The intervention of the circumstances of the emergency, however, has created a situation in which the period during which it could have hoped to recover this expenditure is prolonged. A certain proportion of the expenditure will be unremunerative, in the sense that it would not be undertaken at all if purely commercial standards were applied—that is expenditure on developments which are being undertaken under pressure from the Government in view of the Government's anxiety to have causes of delay affecting the post-war development of those plans removed now, if possible. The Minister for Finance is responsible for the financial provisions for the Tourist Board. That falls within the Estimate for his Department. This Grant-in-Aid to the board is made in accordance with the provisions of the Act to meet the administrative expenses of the organisation.

What is the total sum covering the cost of schemes approved by the Minister in connection with the activities of the Tourist Board?

£600,000 is the present figure.

Is the Minister satisfied that the Irish Tourist Board adverts sufficiently to the fact that, in addition to the classes of persons ordinarily covered by the word "tourist", there is that class of person in the Capel Street and North Great George's Street areas whose total tourism amounts to a trip out to Sandymount?

I am fully satisfied that, in the main, the board has in mind nothing else except the development of resorts available to such persons.

That is entirely satisfactory, and I hope the work will be rapidly proceeded with.

Is the development of Killiney Strand under consideration?

I cannot answer that question. The board has been asked to prepare schemes for every holiday resort in the country. I do not say that it will be possible to cover every one of them. There will be some of them which should get priority over others, but we have placed no limit on the capital involved in the schemes to be prepared. We may at any time decide to proceed with certain schemes instead of others, having regard to the employment situation or other Government projects, but our anxiety is to have those schemes ready in all detail, and to have all the necessary preliminary steps taken to ensure that there will be no delay in proceeding with any of them when the time comes.

Can the Minister give us any information as to the conditions under which members of the Construction Corps are employed on those schemes?

That has nothing to do with me or with the Tourist Board. It is a matter for the Minister for Defence; he is responsible for the circumstances in which the Construction Corps is employed. He agreed to the request of the Tourist Board to utilise the construction Corps for the Tramore scheme, because the arrangement made by the board contemplated the employment of all available labour in the area. The completion of the scheme, therefore, involved the bringing in of workers from other areas and the temporary housing of them there. It was decided to utilise the Construction Corps. I cannot attempt to give any forecast as to what the circumstances will be at Portmarnock at the time when the construction work is to be done, but the undertaking given by the Government that the Construction Corps would never be employed in such a manner as to deprive other workers of the opportunity of work still holds good.

It is the responsibility of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to see that proper conditions of work prevail with regard to any scheme of which he approves in connection with the activities of the Tourist Board. I understand that civilian labour was not available at Tramore, but, if civilians are available for employment on the Portmarnock scheme, will the Tourist Board give them preference over the Construction Corps?

The Tourist Board will not have anything to do with that. The Minister for Defence will decide whether or not the Construction Corps should be employed to do the work. It will depend, first of all, upon the other projects on which the Construction Corps may be employed at the time, and also upon the unemployment situation in the area, because there was an undertaking given by the Minister as to the use which would be made of the Construction Corps and that undertaking will be honoured.

Will credit be given, in the Appropriations-in-Aid in the Department of Defence Estimate, for the value of the work performed by the Construction Corps?

I presume so. There must be some accountancy arrangement to meet the point; presumably it must appear in the accounts at some stage.

I asked the question because that provision has not been made up to the present, and I think it ought to be made.

Vote put and agreed to.