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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 26 Jul 1962

Vol. 196 No. 19

State Guarantees (Transport) Bill, 1962—Report and Final Stages.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 2, to delete lines 27 to 47 and in page 3 to delete lines 1 to 3.

This amendment has the effect of eliminating the section of the Bill which specifies a particular contract. It arises from the discussion on the section on Committee Stage when Deputy Sweetman made a suggestion, which I accepted, that would get us out of the difficulty of setting a precedent of specifying a contract in a Bill where public guarantees are involved without setting out the terms precisely.

The Minister must not misinterpret what I said or try to put words into my mouth. What I said was that the contract should be scheduled or at least tabled, that if subsection (2) of the relevant section had not been included, then I could not have made the point.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

Having said that, I want to say this: the subsection was put in by the Minister, I presume, for some purpose. I do not know what the purpose was but I do know it is an extraordinary situation that the Minister, having brought a subsection here that names the contract, we are not entitled to the ordinary straight-forward procedure of being allowed to see the contract. What he does is to take out the subsection in order that he may hide the contract.

The Minister must realise, despite all the sermons he gave us during the passage of the Bill, that his act in relation to this has thrown an enormous question mark around this contract. Let me say quite categorically that this is not the first question mark that has gone around this contract. Last October, a notice appeared in the Press that General Motors had been given the contract for the supply of these diesel locomotives. At that time, there had been no public tenders sought, there had been no public advertisement, there had been no request anywhere, but CIE, after that notice in the newspapers, denied it was so.

Subsequently, in December, I think, there was a public advertisement. The contract is now dated 4th May last, as we see from the subsection which is being deleted. We have been told the first of the locomotives is to be delivered by General Motors in October. Now I am not a locomotive engineer or a locomotive industrialist —in fact, I know nothing whatever about the business—but I am told by those who are in a position to know and understand the manner in which locomotives of this sort are put on the assembly line and turned out that it would be utterly impossible for a locomotive to a new specification to be put on the assembly line following a contract in May and delivered in October.

I know that General Motors made no locomotives with double cabs before this contract, and therefore I am forced to the conclusion that an arrangement was made with them before the contract was signed to get these double-cab locomotives put on the assembly line. I believe it was possibly because of that arrangement that the contract was not produced to this House in the ordinary normal way it would otherwise be.

During the course of the debate, the Minister said he had not seen the contract and he was not making any inquiries about it. If he takes that point of view in relation to a contract which has already been the subject of one misunderstanding, to say the least of it, in the Press, having heard what he has now said, I submit he ought to resign as Minister for Transport and Power, because assuredly he is not carrying out the duties imposed on him as Minister. He was asked during the debate another categorical question: was the tender accepted the lowest tender— a simple question capable of a very simple answer. That answer should be given now and if the Minister does not give it now, he will have to give it when his Estimate comes up in the autumn.

Deputy Sweetman has got his facts wrong. I did not say I was not going to examine the contract or any circumstances in connection with it. In order to protect the reputation of the Board of CIE and to be able to say I have confidence in regard to this matter, I did make inquiries of the Board in respect to this contract and I am assured it was carried out in the most proper manner. Full documents were submitted to the Board in the usual way and the arrangements for tendering began as far back as February of this year. Whatever was stated in the newspapers had no basis in fact.

Would the Minister give the date for the tenders?

I said it was in February. We received information from CIE that they intended to buy these locomotives and there was plenty of time to deliver them by October.

Nobody would put a new model of a locomotive on an assembly line until they had first got an order.

The Board of CIE have recorded their decisions on the tender documents for their own records in a proper manner——

On what date did they give the order?

As far as the price is concerned, they were looking for locomotives that would be most suitable for Irish purposes at the lowest possible price.

Did they accept the lowest tender?

They were not obliged to accept the lowest tender.

Do I understand the Minister to say that they did not accept the lowest price?

There is no obligation on me to reveal to the House whether they were the lowest price or not. I want to assure the Deputy that this matter was transacted in an entirely correct fashion and that the Board's records are kept in such a way that they are open to inspection by the auditor.

Will the Minister tell me the date on which the tender was accepted?

The 4th May, 1962.

That was the date of the contract. The Minister has just said the documents took a long time after the tender was accepted. What was the date on which the tender was accepted?

I do not know the exact date.

Could the Minister ascertain it?

I might be able to do so but I do not see how it serves the purposes of this debate.

It does, because it means there would be some understanding of the locomotives going on the assembly line after the tender was accepted——

Assuming your information about the assembly line is correct.

I know it is correct.

One can always say that one was told by somebody who knows.

Is the Minister going to give that information?

To come to the actual facts of the situation in regard to this matter, it is my word that has to be taken. Either the Deputy accepts my word——

No, it is not.

——and my integrity in regard to this or he does not.

The Minister has said he did not examine the contract at all.

I said I had been told by the Chairman of the Board that this contract was entered into in an entirely proper manner and it is a tradition in regard to State companies that statements of that kind are accepted——

——and State companies have a very fine reputation in that respect.

No, that is not the case. If the Minister will not tell me, we still have the Estimate to come.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 3, line 5, to delete "the preceding subsections" and to insert "subsection (1)".

This is consequential on amendment No. 1.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 3, line 8, to delete "subsection (1) or (2) of".

That is consequential also?

Amendment agreed to.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.

This is a Money Bill for the purposes of Article 22 of the Constitution.