Committee on Finance. - Air Navigation and Transport (No. 2) Bill, 1959—Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
SECTION 3.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

In view of the fact that we had some discussion with the Minister for Finance this morning in regard to guarantees, would the Taoiseach tell us whether this £5,000,000 is the total amount that can be borrowed by the Company or whether there is another sum that can be borrowed by the Company without guarantee as well as the sum that can be borrowed with guarantee?

The position at present is that there is no limit in the law as to the amount the Company can borrow with the Minister's guarantee. That was, I think, an error in the drafting of the 1936 Act, and the purpose of this section is to put in a limit to provide that the borrowings cannot exceed £5,000,000 without fresh legislation. In fact, the Company's borrowings at present are about £3½ million, which they have borrowed from their bankers with the Government's guarantee.

What I meant is this. The £5,000,000 limit is a limit for all borrowings, whether guaranteed or not?

Then what is the limit of the total borrowings of the Company now?

The Deputy is asking me can the Company succeed in borrowing money without the Government's guarantee. I cannot see circumstances arise under which they might do that, except perhaps that they might enter into a hire purchase arrangement in respect of aircraft or something of that kind. What we are limiting in this Bill is the amount of their share capital and the amount they can raise on guaranteed borrowings. I would not like offhand to say they could not borrow otherwise. I think it is unlikely they would, but I could conceive that possibly they might arrive at some stage where they might wish to finance the purchase of equipment by a hire purchase arrangement, which, presumably, would be tantamount to borrowing.

My point is this. In relation to a State company, no matter what its assets may be, it is unthinkable that any borrowings by a State company would not be honoured, in the last resort, if necessary, by the Exchequer, provided it was a borrowing made within the law and the powers of the Company. As long as the Exchequer has to stand in as the last resort to make good for the sake of the honour of the State—and it would be the honour of the State—I feel very strongly that there must be some limit put by his House on that liability. The share capital has been authorised and that is out of the way. The Minister for Finance cannot guarrantee any more than £5,000,000, but there should be some other limit for the purpose of retaining the control, both of the Government and the House, over what the House might ultimately be called upon to make good.

There is a factor which I temporarily forgot and which, perhaps, has not occurred to the Deputy. We are dealing with Aer Rianta. It has no assets at all. It is the Company through which finance is channelled to the separate companies, Aer Lingus and Aerlinte. In fact, it would be inconceivable that they could borrow except on Government guarantees.

This Company is in an entirely different position from the one we discussed this morning.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

Before passing to the next business will the Taoiseach inform the Dáil before it adjourns of the appointment of any new Parliamentary Secretaries?

No. Presumably one will have to be appointed, but we have not got round to it yet.

In due course it will appear inIris Oifigiúil.

As a matter of courtesy, it is always reported to the House.

If the House is sitting.

It will not be reported then until October.

I hope it will be such a good appointment that there will not be any criticism of it.

Will the hungry sheep be asked to wait until then?

That does not bear out my experience. My experience is that the sheep show no signs of it.