Vote 42: Transport and Power.

I move:

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 31st December, 1975, for the salaries and expenses of the Minister for Transport and Power, including certain services administered by that Office and for payment of sundry grants-in-aid.

This Estimate, for the calendar year 1975, compares with a total of £20,629,000 shown for this vote in the Book of Estimates for the nine-month period 1st April, 1974 to 31st December, 1974 plus a supplementary estimate of £5,000,000, that is a total of £25,629,000 for the nine-month period.

The subject of energy has taken on greatly increased importance in the Department during the past two years. Prior to the recent crisis western society enjoyed a period of abundant and relatively cheap supplies of oil. The striking economic expansion and the associated rise in standards of living of the last couple of decades were to a great extent fuelled by the availability of such cheap and plentiful energy. Ireland shared in this development and, in the process, we came to rely to an undue extent on a single primary energy source.

The vulnerability of such a position was brought home to us all by the restrictions on oil supplies from the Middle East in 1973 and by the fourfold increase in crude oil prices which followed. The total increase in the cost of our annual oil imports is of the order of £130 million. This has caused an unprecedented rise in the adverse balance of payments, a problem which will persist for some years. It has also meant a considerable reduction in the purchasing power of the community, a development which has contributed to current business difficulties and to the rise in the level of unemployment.

These problems pose a very serious challenge for all consumer countries. The difficulties for Ireland are particularly acute because of the extent of our dependence on oil, because of the absence of large-scale alternative energy sources and because a rapid cutback in oil consumption could seriously impede our economic development. It is clearly essential that our future energy policy, now under review, should offer constructive and realistic alternatives to the uncertainty and vulnerability of our present position. We must reduce our critical dependence on imported oil through the further development of our turf resources, through the development of other alternative energy sources and through the rational and efficient use of presently available supplies.

Our problems in the energy sphere are, of course, a reflection of much wider international problems. As a small country whose growth is closely linked with the development of external trade, we must obviously work closely with other countries experiencing similar problems and pursuing similar objectives. The main international organs for such co-operation are the European Economic Community and the International Energy Agency, which was established in November last under OECD auspices.

When the oil crisis first developed in 1973, European countries found it difficult to make common cause and this led to some diversity in approach. Since then, considerable effort has been directed towards the formulation of a common energy policy for Europe. At a council meeting of energy Ministers on 17th December, the EEC adopted policy objectives to be achieved during the next ten years. These objectives envisage a curtailment of the growth of energy demand so as to reduce demand by 1985 to a level 15 per cent below earlier estimates. They envisage also a reduction of the Community's dependence on imported oil from the present level of approximately 63 per cent to 50 per cent or lower by 1985. It is planned to achieve these objectives by a more rational use of energy, by the development of indigenous resources and by the promotion of nuclear energy. The specific measures by which these objectives are to be pursued are continuing to receive the attention of the appropriate committees and working parties of the EEC under the chairmanship of my Department.

As a first step a meeting of energy Ministers under my chairmanship on 13th February, 1975, approved guidelines for energy policy to be put in hand, at both national and Community level, for the various energy sources. These guidelines relate to investment and pricing policies and they envisage the possibility of Community financial support in some areas. With regard to specific energy sources, the Council proposed the maintenance of Community coal production at its present level, the development of brown coal and peat production and the basing of large-capacity electricity generation stations on nuclear power, provided that safety and ecology problems are solved to the satisfaction of member states. With regard to oil, Council urged the optimum development of oil resources within the Community under satisfactory economic conditions and the seeking out of diversified and secure external sources. Other measures aimed at achieving Community energy objectives are at present under examination by energy groups under Irish chairmanship. They deal with such matters as the possibility of financial assistance for off-shore exploration, common rules for import and export of oil, measures to be taken in the event of oil supply difficulties and loan facilities for the financing of nuclear power stations. There will be a further meeting of the energy council before the end of May and I am hopeful that council will reach a decision on these and other energy proposals, which would represent a significant advance in the development of Community energy policy.

The Dáil already has before it a separate motion on the question of Ireland's participation in the work of the International Energy Agency and I do not consider it necessary to go into the matter on this occasion.

Apart from the commitments arising from our membership of the EEC and the IEA, it is essential in our own interests to conserve energy and my Department, in consultation with other interests concerned, is pursuing an active programme of energy conservation. Since the late 1950s my Department has administered a technical assistance scheme to promote greater fuel efficiency in industry. Currently the scheme provides grants of up to 50 per cent to industrialists and hoteliers towards the cost of engaging consultants to carry out fuel efficiency surveys. The scheme extends to boiler instrumentation and efficiency tests on boilers.

The Institute for Industrial Research and Standards and a number of other State bodies are deeply involved in the energy conservation programme. The fuel efficiency services of the institute have been expanded and their advisory, information and technical consultancy services considerably developed. Seminars have been organised on energy conservation for industry as well as courses for boiler-men and power-house operatives.

As an example of what can be achieved, I may mention that in the period November, 1973, to December, 1974, the institute undertook 71 major fuel saving projects and energy audits and 250 boiler efficiency tests. The savings achieved were estimated at 11 per cent of fuel consumption in the plants concerned, amounting to approximately £160,000. The institute estimates that the application of modern boiler house practice on a national level would achieve a saving of 125,000 tonnes of oil per annum. I cannot speak too highly of the work of the institute in this field.

The IDA provides grants of up to 25 per cent of the cost of machinery, equipment and building modifications aimed at fuel economies, and grants of up to 50 per cent of the cost of suitable research and development projects. The IDA, in examining grant applications for new industry, attaches significance to the rational use of energy in plant, and grants may be conditional on modifications being undertaken to achieve greater fuel efficiency.

Bord Fáilte gives grants to existing hotels and guest houses for machinery, equipment and building modifications to achieve energy conservation. The grants are available at up to 50 per cent of the cost involved, according to the tourism importance and potential of the premises.

The Minister for Local Government commissioned An Foras Forbartha and the IIRS to report on thermal insulation in houses and other buildings. An interim report makes recommendations in regard to reduction of heat losses through walls, roofs, doors and windows. This report was published for comment by interested parties and the Minister for Local Government will be considering, in the light of these comments, what measures to adopt to improve thermal insulation in the construction of grant-aided and local authority housing.

The total cost of energy consumed in the home has been estimated at £60 million for 1974. The reduction of this figure would be of direct benefit to householders but would also be a valuable contribution to the reduction of our balance of payments problem. With this in mind, I, therefore, launched, in January, 1975 a campaign to persuade people to save money for themselves and for the country through the adoption of wiser and more economical ways of using energy. The campaign aimed at drawing attention to the need for elimination of waste and conveying practical information on what the average householder can do in his own home. It involved the use of all appropriate media including television, radio, Press and print. The campaign extended to the end of March and its effects are at present being assessed.

Apart from the industrial and domestic areas, there are, of course, other energy-using activities in which there may be potential scope for savings. The increase in petrol duties introduced by the Minister for Finance towards the end of 1974 was designed to curtail petrol consumption. In co-operation with the other Departments and agencies involved, we are reviewing the position in the transport sector generally, in the commercial and services sector, in agriculture and horticulture. These efforts are being co-ordinated by an advisory committee of the Government Departments and State bodies concerned.

The need now is for a continuing programme to bring about a climate of public opinion which will frown on energy waste in any form. Avoidance of waste and increasing efficiency must be accorded high priority in this age of high costs. I know that most people are already very conscious of the high cost of heating, cooking and lighting. However, in the inflationary atmosphere in which we live, there is the danger that our determination to economise may be blunted or weakened with time. I intend, therefore, that we should pursue a broad and continuing conservation programme which will be aimed at the cultivation of a public attitude in which waste will be socially unacceptable.

One of the obligations of our membership of the EEC has been the maintenance of a 65 day oil reserve. This requirement has increased to 90 days since 1st January, 1975. There are similar requirements arising from our participation in the work of the International Energy Agency. Since the crisis of winter 1973-74 and the consequent depletion of stocks, we have again built up our reserves and we are in full compliance with the 65 days reserve requirement. A number of the major users and importers, including the ESB and CIE, have built up stockpiles considerably in excess of that level. Our present national reserves are of the order of 80 days and we are consulting with the various interests concerned about the arrangements necessary to bring our reserves up to the 90 day level. There is provision in the EEC directive for co-operation between States in compliance with this requirement.

Stocks held in one country to the credit of another may be regarded as constituting part of the 90 day reserve provided there is an inter-governmental bilateral agreement with appropriate provisions to that effect, including arrangements for inspection and verification of stocks. We have agreed in principle on bilateral arrangements with two of our fellow members of the EEC and we will, in due course, conclude formal agreements in the matter.

One of the results of the oil and energy crisis has been a revival of interest in new sources of energy. Many possibilities which were investigated in the past and ruled out on economic grounds may now appear less unattractive in the light of the changes that have taken place in the price of traditional forms of energy. There is a great realisation of the need to examine seriously any alternatives which may offer a reduction in the level of dependence on oil imports.

This renewal of interest is reflected in activity at both national and international level. I arranged with the ESB to update previous studies on such possibilities as small hydroschemes, refuse incineration, wind power, tidal power, district heating, etc. In addition, the various State agencies concerned with science and technology, including the National Science Council and the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards, are involved in the investigation of a number of these and other matters. At the international level, both the European Communities and the International Energy Agency are engaged in comprehensive research programmes into the development of new energy sources. We are contributing in a number of areas of particular interest to us and will, of course, have the full benefit of all the studies undertaken.

Consumption of electricity in 1972-73 increased by 8.2 per cent and in 1973-74 by 7.8 per cent. However, future growth is now uncertain. Following some recovery in the spring and summer of 1974 a downturn in demand has set in, and overall growth during 1974-75 over 1973 has been zero. Factors which have contributed to the down-turn in the growth rate are the higher cost of electricity, the campaign for energy conservation and, sadly, the present business recession.

In the circumstances of virtually static demand and great uncertainty about the pattern of future growth, and taking account of the need to avoid over-production and wasteful use, the ESB must keep options open in regard to their plant generation programme. The board's current programme has been designed to lessen their dependence on imported oil, and to maximise the contribution of native energy sources. The programme provides for the phasing in of additional turf-fired generators to take account of Bord na Móna's third bog development programme and new generating units to take account of the natural gas from the Kinsale Head gasfield. In addition, the ESB are undertaking a feasibility study for a major coal-fired station in the 1980s. The total installed capacity of the ESB in March of this year was 2,089.5 megawatts.

The four-year planned post development programme of rural electrification for the years 1971-75 is now drawing to a close. Under this programme, 47,000 consumers will have been connected to the electricity supply compared with the 1971 target of 28,000. Since the commencement of the rural electrification scheme in 1946, over 408,000 premises, which represents 98 per cent of all dwellings, have been connected at a cost of over £65 million, including over £27 million in State subsidy. I have under consideration at present the situation which will apply following completion of the scheme. I should say, however, that I do not envisage that the scheme now concluding will be continued in its present form.

Possibly what is most present in Deputies' minds just now are the increases in electricity charges which were authorised last year and the further increase in charges at present under consideration. The main point I have to make in this regard is that the ESB is an organisation which is under a statutory obligation to pay its way and, indeed, has no resources from which to meet losses. The board has been very successful in raising capital at home and abroad to finance its generating programme and a substantial or continuing deficit in the accounts which undermine the board's prospects of raising the massive capital required for further development.

Imported oil accounts for approximately two-thirds of the ESB's generating capacity. The measures to reduce that level of dependence include, as already mentioned, the provision of an additional 160 megawatts from milled peat to be produced under a new Bord na Móna development programme and an additional 600 megawatts based on Kinsale natural gas. The House will be aware that the Government have also given approval in principle for a nuclear project to be developed by the ESB, subject to reassessment before final contractual commitment. That proposal if approved by Government will provide additional generation capacity of the order of 650 megawatts.

The ESB have investigated various possible sites and have identified Carnsore Point as their preferred location. They have made application to Wexford County Council for outline planning permission in respect of that site.

The proposals of the ESB are being examined by the Nuclear Energy Board who will in due course furnish their advice to me to enable the matter to be considered by the Government, with whom the final decision rests.

The board was established in December, 1973, under the terms of the Nuclear Energy (An Bord Fuinnimh Nuicléigh) Act, 1971, and has the general function of advising the Government, the Minister for Transport and Power and any other Minister of State on nuclear energy. It has the responsibility of keeping itself informed of developments in nuclear energy and matters connected there-with, with particular reference to the implications for the State of such developments. It will have the specific functions of advising on all aspects of the construction and supervision of nuclear power stations and the preparation of safety codes and regulations. The board has appointed a chief executive to take up duty on 1st May. and recruitment of the necessary technical staff will then be undertaken.

The question of the establishment of a nuclear station and the timing of such a station are closely related to the growth rate of demand for electricity. As I have already indicated, however, the pattern of demand for the next few years cannot at this stage be predicted with any degree of confidence. The ESB are keeping the position under close review, taking account of all the possibilities for diversifying energy sources. These matters will be considered within the context of the board's future generating plant programme which will be under consideration between my Department and the board.

Turning now to Bord na Móna, weather conditions for peat production and harvesting were satisfactory during the earlier part of 1973 but deteriorated later during the vital months for the production of milled peat. This was reflected in the substantial decrease in milled peat production, which fell from 3.0 million tons in 1972-73 to 2.1 million tons in 1973-74. Production of machine turf, however, rose marginally from 865,000 tons to 920,000 tons.

Conditions over the year 1973-74 as a whole were favourable to the sale of turf fuel. Demand was moderate in the first half of the year but it accelerated sharply as a result of the oil crisis and the supply position came under extremely heavy pressure for most of the winter. Sales of machine turf on the open market rose by 13 per cent on the previous year to a record level of 480,000 tons. The scarcity and high cost of other fuels were reflected very strongly in sales of machine turf to the domestic sector which increased by 20 per cent compared to the previous year. Sales of briquettes dropped marginally from 325,000 tons to 319,000 tons but this was due to a shortfall in production rather than in demand. A large proportion of the total supply was made available for domestic use and sales in this sector rose by nearly 5 per cent, though this fell short of market requirements. Power stations, which are the main outlet for milled peat, received 2.7 million tons in 1973-74 as against 2.4 million tons in 1972-73.

There was a satisfactory 10 per cent increase in moss peat sales which reached a total of over one million bales. Exports of moss peat also increased in volume by 10 per cent to a total of 0.9 million bales. The board's overall sales amounted to £14.3 million as against £12.2 million in the previous year. On the year's operation the board had a surplus of £137,000 after meeting all their liabilities including £1.1 million for interest on their capital.

Bog development continued at various locations and progress was made in the use of cutaway bogs for grazing and silage production. The commercial scale trials of vegetable growing were continued as was also the development of the shrub nursery project at Lullymore where ornamental shrubs are grown for export.

In 1974 the weather conditions were broadly similar to those in 1973 but the tonnages of milled and sod peat harvested were marginally greater. Production of briquettes up to the end of March, 1975, is expected to be slightly above last year's figure but production of moss peat for the same period will be about 10 per cent below last year due to a fire in the Kilberry factory.

Following the fuel crisis at the end of 1973, Bord na Móna carried out a review of bog areas which had previously been considered incapable of economic development in the face of low cost imported fuel. As a result a third turf development programme has been formulated. This programme is at present under examination in my Department.

Under this programme 40,000 acres of bog will be developed in addition to the 130,000 acres which are already in production. It is envisaged that the following additional quantities will be produced annually.

Milled Peat

1,770,000 tons

Sod Peat

44,000 tons

Moss Peat

600,000 bales


80,000 tons

The additional milled peat supplies will be used for electricity production and for briquetting. It is expected that production will be sufficient to sustain new generating plant in the range of 160 megawatts, capable of producing 700 million units of electricity annually. No decision as to the siting of this new additional plant has yet been taken. However, the existing stations at Lanesboro and Shannonbridge will be extended. Also, the lives of the Ferbane and Rhode stations will be extended. A fourth briquette factory with an annual capacity of 6.4 million bales will also be erected to satisfy the increasing demand for briquettes.

The development involved in this programme will extend over counties Tipperary, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, Kilkenny, Meath, Westmeath, Galway, Roscommon and Longford and will take about five years to complete. It should provide continuous all year round employment for an additional 1,500 men rising to about 1,800 men during the peak production season. The estimated cost of the development is £28.5 million at current prices.

Deputies will be already aware that the Government have agreed to assist the Dublin Gas Company by means of a guarantee under the State Guarantees Act in respect of a loan of £1.2 million over the period in mid-1976. This measure was necessary because of the financial problems created by increased costs experienced by the company. In view of the financial liability thus assumed by the Exchequer, four new members including the chairman have been appointed to the board on the basis of nominations made by me with the agreement of the Minister for Finance. To enable these appointments to be made four of the non-executive directors volunteered to resign their seats.

The company provides a vital service in the Dublin area and I am sure that the House will appreciate the importance of ensuring the continued supply of gas service for the 160,000 users involved. A separate motion will be moved in the House in the near future to provide the necessary statutory authority for the guarantee and this will provide an opportunity for Deputies to discuss the position. In the circumstances, I do not propose to go into detail on the subject on this occasion.

Following the announcement by Marathon Petroleum Ireland Ltd. that natural gas had been discovered 29 miles south-east of Kinsale, consideration was given to the uses to which the gas might be put. The estimate of the quantity of the gas involved was 1.14 million million cubic feet, capable of supporting a daily flow rate of 125 million cubic feet for 20 years. While the find is relatively small by reference to commercial finds in the North Sea, it is, nevertheless, of significance from the point of view of our existing overdependence on high priced oil imports. The projected rate of production represents about 12 per cent of the nation's overall energy consumption in a recent year.

Following a study of the possible utilisation of the gas, the Government decided that the most practical uses to which this find could be put were (1) feedstock for the production of ammonia and urea for a nitrogenous fertiliser industry and (2) generation of electricity. Allocations of the natural gas were therefore granted to Nítrigin Éireann Teo, and the ESB. It is expected that the gas will commence to come ashore in early 1978.

I am well aware that the use of gas for electricity generation is not ideal in normal circumstances. There were, however, a number of other important considerations to be taken into account. There was firstly the great need to diversify our sources of electricity generation in the light of the oil crisis. There was also the need to develop a market capable of absorbing and utilising the flow of gas from the time it would begin to come on stream in 1978. Demand from existing industry and utilities in the Cork area could not absorb more than a small fraction of the amount of gas involved. On the other hand, we have in the case of the ESB and NET, projects which are vital to the economy, which are capable of using the gas and which require the greatest possible security of supply. In the particular circumstances, I am satisfied that the allocation of the Kinsale Head deposit to NET and ESB represents the best allocation of this particular find.

While the final contract terms for the supply of the Kinsale gas have yet to be settled, I have had under consideration the arrangements which should be made in regard to the delivery and distribution of gas from the Kinsale field and from any further commercial finds which may be made. To this end I have arranged for a study to be undertaken of the uses to which further finds of gas could be put. I will be looking at all possibilities, including the provision of a national grid and the question of use as town gas.

In this connection the Government have decided that a national gas board should be set up. This new board will be responsible for the internal distribution and marketing of natural gas and for that purpose will construct and operate the necessary pipelines and associated installations. It will be responsible also for advising me generally on matters arising in regard to natural gas. The establishment of the proposed board will require new legislation at a very early date.

In the meantime, a steering group comprising representatives of the Government Departments concerned as well as the Electricity Supply Board and Nítrigin Éireann Teo., have been dealing with the principal matters in connection with the Kinsale find, which have required attention. These include the negotiations with Marathon on a contract for the supply of gas, and consideration of the arrangements for financing of the onshore pipeline. A stage had been reached at which it was necessary to have a more formal legal and financial framework than could be provided by the steering group. I accordingly decided that a company, Bord Gáis Éireann Teo., should be formed to function on an interim basis pending the enactment of the legislation for the establishment of a national gas board. This company have recently been incorporated and are now handling the matters involved.

The energy resources on which we have been replying are not inexhaustible and sooner or later the problems which we are now concerned with would have had to be faced. It may be that the low price of oil had encouraged an unjustified complacency. It may be too that the availability of cheap energy removed the incentive for the investigation of alternative sources. If so, there is no doubt that the events of 1973 and 1974 have brought a realisation of society's earlier improvidence. Recent events have increased very significantly the importance of the energy function in my Department. I am very conscious of the vital importance of the new and extended responsibilities now arising in this area and I assure the House that they will continue to have my close attention during the coming year.

The position of CIE was discussed in detail in the House as recently as December last in the course of the debate on the Transport (No. 2) Bill, 1974. I do not consider it necessary to deal further with the board's affairs at this stage. If, however, any Deputy wishes to raise any additional points in relation to CIE, I will endeavour to deal with them in my reply.

International road transport is an area which has developed significantly in recent years, particularly since our accession to the EEC. The importance of a well organised international haulage sector within the Irish road haulage industry cannot be overstressed and I am pleased to report that there is a growing awareness of the opportunities available to Irish operators in this field.

Ireland's participation in multilateral licensing arrangements, which are operated under the aegis of the EEC and ECMT, that is, the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, has been of considerable assistance in that it has afforded the holders of these licences full freedom to operate not only between Ireland and the Continent but also in tramping business between other member states. Ireland's allocation of multilateral licences for 1975 totals 63, of which 50 are issued under the EEC Community quota scheme and 13 by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport.

The increase in vehicle capacity and of area of operation of merchandise licences introduced by the Road Transport Act, 1971 was the first major step towards the liberalisation of road freight transport for reward.

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.

In relation to tourism, Deputies will note that the allocation to Bord Fáilte for the nine months 1st April, 1974 to 31st December 1974 was £6,232,000 and this is increased to £9,725,000 for 1975. The provision for the nine-month period under subhead F.1.1. from which the board's promotional activities are funded, was £4 million against £7,100,000 now being provided. This increase indicates the priority which attaches to the board's marketing efforts at present. It is the most that can be provided in present financial circumstances.

Other State-sponsored bodies which are my concern and which are themselves indeed part of the tourist industry, will be incurring expenditure of about £5 million in the present year on encouraging tourists to come to Ireland. Aer Lingus, for example, have permanent staff and offices at over 40 locations abroad devoted to selling traffic to Ireland and the airline undertake joint promotion campaigns with other tourist agencies, with other carriers serving Ireland and with the travel trade. B & I maintain a substantial team of sales representatives in the market and the company are mounting a national advertising campaign in the British Press and trade publications in the first half of this year at an approximate cost of £150,000. CIE maintain a number of offices in the US and UK and are represented in other markets by general sales agents, all engaged in selling coach tours, conference and incentive travel facilities and Great Southern Hotels. Much valuable tourist promotion work is also carried out by SFADCO and Aer Rianta.

Deputies will also be aware that other Government Departments, notably the Department of Lands and the Office of Public Works, are committed extensively to works with a high tourism content.

I have no hesitation, therefore, in affirming the confidence of the Government in the tourist industry and in saying that Government confidence is accompanied by Government backing.

The success of our efforts for tourism are exemplified by the results for 1974. Despite the troubles in the North and the impact of other outside economic forces, Bord Fáilte have announced that a preliminary estimate of earnings from tourism in 1974 shows an increase of 19 per cent at current prices or a revenue increase in real terms of about £2 million.

In 1975, Bord Fáilte have estimated that tourism revenue will increase by about £7 million in real terms, despite the difficulties I have mentioned. While these difficulties are very real, we must not blind ourselves to our own shortcomings in the tourism field. In some quarters, the complacency which existed during the "golden days" has been replaced by a sense of fatalism, by the belief that outside factors alone were the cause of the downturn in tourism revenue in recent years. This is but part of the story. As a nation we need to pay more than lip service to the protection of the environment, the cornerstone of Irish tourism. We need better trained and more efficient management, a greater commitment to giving value for money, a basic appreciation of the importance of hygiene and a recognition that competition is going to become keener. Unless these home truths are acted upon—and I know Bord Fáilte are doing all they can to bring about the necessary improvements—much of the expenditure on tourism promotion will go for naught.

In present circumstances the major effort by Bord Fáilte is, and must be, in promotional work abroad and it is for this reason that the largest increase in funds is being provided in the current year under subhead F.1.1., from which promotional expenses are met. Promotion is essential but it is difficult to measure results. For that reason I have been anxious to assess the situation at first hand as far as I could. Since last autumn, therefore, I have undertaken promotional and fact-finding tours of the British, American and continental markets with the chairman and senior staff of Bord Fáilte. I have seen the operations of Bord Fáilte on the ground and I have met and discussed the problems of tourist development with a wide range of people concerned.

On the basis of this first hand experience, I must say that I have been greatly impressed by Bord Fáilte's promotional activities and I am satisfied that maximum promotional effort is achieved with the funds allocated to the board.

In Britain the main impression made on me was that our chief hope for increasing traffic lies at present with Irish people or people of Irish descent living in Britain. The major difficulty in the way of developing this traffic appeared to be the high cost of travel, particularly air travel and especially for families. This was a constant note in the representations made to me.

I am glad to say that Aer Lingus have introduced, with my approval, new cross channel promotional fares which include an attractively priced family fare available in both directions and an air-surface combined facility from the UK to Ireland based on CIE main line rail or coach services. Aer Lingus have also introduced on an experimental basis an air-coach facility between Dublin and London using air transportation on the Dublin-Liverpool sector. As regards North America, I am very hopeful that this market will develop considerably in the years to come. Bord Fáilte's effort there is extremely vigorous. On the Continent there is a growing interest in Irish holidays which augurs well for the future of our promotional efforts in these markets.

The affairs of Ostlanna Iompair Éireann also come up for discussion in the context of tourism. Like most other sectors of the industry OIE were affected by the recession in tourism in recent years. In 1972-73 the group operations of OIE showed a net loss of £424,000 and the results for 1973-74 show a further deterioration in the group's financial position, with a decrease in retained earnings of £715,000, which was partly accounted for by a writing off of acquisition costs relating to the company's Northern Ireland subsidiary. Ways and means of bringing OIE back to profitability are currently under examination.

I also have responsibility for the activities of SFADCO, in so far as they relate to tourist promotion and the development of traffic in Shannon Airport. The numbers availing of the medieval banquets continue to increase. However, the numbers taking the one-day medieval tours show a decline and the company are now placing more emphasis on inclusive tours and special interest holidays, in particular in the North Atlantic market.

I now turn to the field of civil aviation. For most of the world's airlines, the past few years have been fraught with severe stresses and major economic difficulties. The main causes have been the scaling down of economic activity in many of the world's major markets, intense inflationary pressures and the uneconomic level of North Atlantic fares. In addition, airlines were particularly affected by the energy crisis and the greatly increased cost of fuel.

For us here in Ireland these problems have been accentuated by the continuous widespread publicity accorded to the Northern Ireland situation. In spite of these difficulties, passengers carried by Aer Lingus and Aerlínte rose by 7.5 per cent to 1,803,000 in 1973-74 and cargo carried increased by 12 per cent to 66,200 tonnes. In all the circumstances this was a very creditable performance by the air companies.

Financially, the companies also performed well in 1973-74 turning in a combined operating profit of £3.7 million as compared with an operating loss of £327,000 in 1972-73. After allowing for interest on capital, the companies turned a net loss of £2.3 million in 1972-73 into a net profit of £1.1 million in 1973-74. However, this upsurge was short lived. The likely outcome for 1974-75 and prospects for the current year are not good. All the adverse factors which I have listed are still with us and, indeed, many of them are much worse now than they were a year ago.

We are all only too well aware of the current world-wide inflation and of soaring costs. The airline industry is particularly vulnerable in times of economic recession. Foreign holiday travel is one of the first things to be retrenched in periods of stringency. Until such time as inflation is brought under control and the world's economies recover, there is little prospect of profitable airline operation world-wide.

In this very trying situation, it is likely that the air companies will return their worst ever operating results although the impact of the operating loss will be substantially cushioned by the damages recently awarded by the US courts in the litigation against American Airlines. Deputies are aware of the recent successful outcome of the litigation initiated by Aerlínte in the US courts against American Airlines. The background to this award is that in 1968, Aerlínte signed contracts with Trans Caribbean Airways involving the leasing of two Boeing 747 aircraft from Aerlínte during five winter seasons beginning in 1970-71.

American Airlines, a US international carrier, subsequently acquired Trans Caribbean and claimed that the lease agreements were invalid because, under a long standing law, the Federal Aviation Administration would not permit foreign-owned aircraft to be flown in domestic US service. Following a decision of an arbitration panel in favour of Aerlínte and consequent protracted court action, Aerlínte were recently awarded $9 million in damages. This award is unlikely to be sufficient to wipe out their net loss for 1974-75. However, the air companies are resolved to achieve a significant reduction in the net loss figure during the current year by seeking every opportunity to earn extra revenue and by exercising stringent controls on routes.

During the financial year ended 31st March, 1975, the associated activities of the companies continued to make a significant contribution to the overall position of the air companies. As Deputies are aware this is a programme of investment in associated activities, financed by external borrowing. The main aim of the programme is to act as a stabilising force in the cyclical swings which are characteristic of airline business and thus reduce the effects on airline profitability and employment of downward swings. These activities fall into the following groups: services to other airlines, financial and computer services, hotels and catering, travel services, leisure centres.

In their annual report and accounts published for the year ended 31st March, 1974, the air companies give such information concerning these activities as is possible consistent with normal commercial prudence. This practice will be continued in the present and future years. In the year ended March, 1974, the combined ancillary activities then in operation contributed a profit of £2.9 million before charging interest and certain other central services on a capital investment of £14 million. This was a very valuable contribution to the financial position of the airlines.

Some of the ancilliary projects are as yet at the development stage and some by their nature must be regarded as longer term investments. Like all enterprises, these activities will be affected by fluctuating economic conditions. The air companies continue to apply rigorous criteria in the selection of projects and the board assure me that the programme will fulfil its main aim and help significantly in stabilising airline operations and the level of highly paid employment provided in the difficult years ahead.

It is of course an intrinsic part of the strategy that the ancilliary investments should not deflect the companies from their main function of providing air services.

The boards and management of the companies remain as committed as ever to the objective of serving the needs of the travelling public and, notwithstanding the enormous difficulties at present besetting the industry, I am confident that with the full co-operation of all, our airline will ride out the present storm.

On the question of airport management the House will be aware that in 1969, as a preliminary to the setting up of a statutory airports authority, it was arranged that Aer Rianta would assume responsibility for the management of Shannon and Cork airports on the same agency basis as the company already managed Dublin airport. This arrangement continues to operate.

My Department had almost completed preparation of the necessary draft legislation to establish Aer Rianta as a fully fledged airport authority when airport finances came under pressure because of increasing costs and lack of growth in traffic. The resulting deterioration in the financial position of Aer Rianta has necessitated the deferment of the legislation.

Aer Rianta's operations are, of course, closely related to the fortunes of the air companies so that a temporary disimprovement in the company's position had to be expected.

Aer Rianta had an operating surplus of £944,000 in 1973-74 compared with a surplus of about £1.5 million in the previous year. These surpluses do not take into account depreciation or interest on capital. This downward trend can be attributed mainly to the fact that, while operating costs continued to rise steeply in step with increases in wages, salaries and materials generally, airport charges could not be increased pending the outcome of litigation in the Supreme Court about my powers to levy charges.

As a result of the Supreme Court judgment on 6th March, 1974, my powers were confirmed, and increases approved by me were introduced on 1st July last.

The increases themselves were quite substantial but because of the continuing increase in costs and lack of growth in air traffic the increases are not likely to be sufficient to restore the financial position of the company. I am at present examining proposals for further increases by the company.

Details of the passenger traffic at the three airports are given in the notes circulated.

Total passenger traffic at the three State airports after a fall of 4 per cent in 1972, increased by 2 per cent in 1973 from 3,148,000 to 3,213,000. The figure for the year 1974—3,269,000 passengers—shows an increase of 1.75 per cent over 1973. Having regard to all the difficulties I have referred to earlier, and traffic experience elsewhere, these figures cannot be regarded as discouraging.

Deputies will recall that the reduction in traffic at Shannon Airport in 1973 and the decision of Pan American Airways to cease the operation of scheduled services to Shannon gave rise to some apprehension. Traffic trends at Shannon should allay this.

Terminal traffic declined by 5 per cent in 1973 as compared with 1972 but the rate of decline was reduced to 3.6 per cent for the year 1974 as compared with 1973.

Total traffic, that is, terminal and transit, at the airport showed an increase of 11 per cent in the year 1974 as compared with 1973.

On 1st May last, following the settlement of the Dublin landing rights issue, TWA commenced scheduled operations through Shannon to Dublin.

In the year ended 31st March, 1975, TWA carried 15,607 scheduled passengers to Shannon as compared with 12,827 in the year 31st March, 1974, an increase of 21 per cent. Additionally they carried 8,551 passengers to Dublin in 1974-75.

It is not possible at this stage to say to what extent the increased TWA carryings arise out of diversion from Aerlínte scheduled services, the transfer from former Pan American services or the generation of new traffic.

Shannon continues to provide excellent facilities for crew training.

With the withdrawal of British Airways the volume of training at the airport has dropped but Aer Rianta continues to promote the airport vigorously as a training centre and some major airlines including KLM and Swissair carry out training programmes there.

The problem of hijacking and other threats to aircraft and airport installations has created a need for greatly increased security measures, including the screening of passengers and their baggage.

My Department co-ordinate matters relating to security of international air transport and co-operate fully in the exchange and dissemination of security information with other member states of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

We have had local airport security committees established at each of the three state airports and the measures recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation are being followed at our airports by Aer Rianta and by Aer Lingus.

I have also established a national Civil Aviation Security Committee which co-ordinates the activities of the airport security committees and the various agencies concerned.

On the legislative front it is my responsibility as Minister for Transport and Power to ensure that the offence of hijacking of aircraft is amenable to Irish law.

The Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1973, gave effect in Irish law to the Tokyo Convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft and to the Hague Convention for the suppression of unlawful seizure of aircraft.

A third convention dealing with acts of violence and sabotage was drawn up in Montreal in 1971 but has not yet entered into force.

The text of a Bill to give effect to this convention will be circulated shortly.

The principal commercial harbours are managed and operated by harbour authorities set up under the Harbours Act, 1946. Members of the authorities are elected every year in which there are local elections and the various boards were reconstituted last year. These boards are representative of users of the harbours, local authorities, commercial and labour interests. Some members are appointed by me. My powers in relation to harbour authorities are somewhat similar to, but not quite as far-reaching as, the powers exercised over local authorities by the Minister for Local Government.

State policy in regard to harbours envisages that they be operated as commercial undertakings and be self-supporting. However, in exceptional circumstances it is necessary to assist harbour authorities by way of State grants. In 1973-74, £450,000 was provided for grants towards various harbour works, mainly to meet new requirements at Drogheda, Cork, Arklow, Waterford and Fenit. The total amount provided, however, was not all taken up, primarily due to work on the Arklow scheme, which commenced late, progressing more slowly than expected due to unforeseen technical difficulties. For the nine months April to December, 1974, I provided £280,000, the major portion of which was spent principally in respect of the Arklow scheme and also to finance the ports study being undertaken on my behalf by An Foras Forbartha. For 1975, I am providing £285,000, mainly to assist improvement work ar Arklow, Waterford and Cork.

Harbour improvements completed in the last three years or on hands include the building of container and roll-on/roll-off terminals at Dublin and back-up facilities for the increase in traffic these improvements have generated. With the construction of the roll-on/roll-off facility at the new South Quays, which is almost completed, the port will have three roll-on/roll-off terminals in operation. The Tivoli industrial estate at Cork has been completed. The Cork harbour development plan envisages the provision of a port-based industrial estate at Ringaskiddy in the lower harbour complete with the essential harbour infrastructure. I am concerned that adequate harbour facilities be available there for the requirements of any industries that may be established in the area and I hope to be in a position at an early date to authorise the Harbour Commissioners to proceed with preliminary drainage works. The extent and phasing of the harbour work necessary to meet the actual needs of foreseeable industry will be determined later.

Waterford Harbour Commissioners are extending their cross-channel and continental container facilities. Both Galway Harbour Commissioners and Tralee and Fenit Pier Harbour Commissioners have improved their container facilities by the installation of new container cranes. A major improvement and dredging scheme at Dundalk has been completed. Work on the Arklow harbour development scheme, which will revitalise the harbour, is well advanced. Work by Drogheda Harbour Commissioners on re-building the port's quay walls and roads is almost completed. A working group is examining the harbour commissioner's plans for the port's future. At Limerick, the harbour commissioners have implemented a decasualisation scheme which has much increased the port's efficiency. The three scheduled harbour authorities in the Shannon estuary have presented proposals for their amalgamation under one authority and the necessary amending legislation is in course of preparation.

A working group was set up in 1972 under the aegis of my Department to carry out a study into port facilities. In late 1973 I requested An Foras Forbartha to carry out a study under terms of reference suggested by the group with the object of assessing the adequacy or otherwise of existing portal facilities in the light of projected trade for the next 15 years. The study commenced last July. The consultant's report has been submitted and is now under examination in my Department.

Following on the major oil spillage at the Gulf oil terminal in October, 1974, I announced on 29th October, 1974, that the Government had decided to set up a controlling authority for Bantry Bay. There are a number of options open to me in relation to the establishment of such an authority and legislation is necessary for any option. I have consulted all interested parties about their views on the nature and membership of the authority to be established. My Department are preparing proposals for amending legislation and it is my intention to introduce such legislation at the earliest possible date.

Irish Shipping Ltd. was set up during the second world war to meet the urgent need for national shipping facilities. The company's mandate since then has been to provide and maintain a minimum fleet capable of meeting the nation's strategic needs in times of emergency. At present the minimum strategic fleet requirement stands at 150,000 tons deadweight. Having achieved a fleet of this size, the company now acquire additional tonnage purely on commercial criteria. The company's fleet at present comprises ten ships totalling 233,711 tons deadweight. The average age of these vessels is approximately four and a half years.

The Rosslare-Le Havre car ferry service, operated by Irish Shipping Ltd. with Scandanavian partners, after two seasons has been exceeding its targets to such an extent that cargo roll-on/roll-off vessels have had to be chartered to supplement freight capacity and a further increase in schedules has been announced for next summer.

In view of the promising outlook for oil and gas exploration in Irish waters, Irish Shipping, together with Fitzwilton and P & O have formed a new company, Seahorse Ltd. which will become engaged in the servicing of the offshore exploration industry. Initially most of the work of the new company will be of a planning nature and methods applied in the North Sea and other offshore areas will be studied to determine the most suitable system for Irish waters.

In 1973-74, the last year for which audited accounts are available, the company's net profits amounted to £1,285,878 after tax. This very creditable result compares with £411,304 profit the previous year.

The company have forecast a profit of not less than £1 million for 1974-75.

The B & I Company was acquired by the State in 1965 to ensure effective Irish participation in the cross-Channel trade, while at the same time operating on an entirely commercial basis without State subsidy. At the time of acquisition, it was found necessary to embark on a process of modernisation involving radical changes to cater for the new concepts in shipping which were rapidly gaining momentum. Inevitably, the company's modernisation programme involved heavy financial commitments and considerable weakening of the company's position, financially, to the extent that the company incurred considerable losses. Civil strife, devaluation of the £, strikes at Liverpool, low freight rates, all have added to the company's troubles.

The most recent audited accounts which are available are those for 1973, which show a loss of £1,180,000 compared with a loss of £614,000 in 1972. The company have shown a profit of approximately £280,000 for 1974 and it is hoped that when measures to improve the company's financial position have been fully implemented, the B & I Company will be able to maintain their renewed viability.

My Department have as one of their main aims the encouragement and promotion of a soundly based Irish merchant fleet which will contribute to the national economy and trade balance by earnings abroad and the saving of foreign currency, as well as stable and well paid employment for Irish seamen and officers. Attractive tax concessions are available in respect of new capital investment from Irish shipowners apart from the favourable credit terms and interest rates which are made available through the Ministers for Finance and Industry and Commerce to persons ordering ships from Irish yards.

My Department are responsible for the control of oil pollution of the sea by ships. Ireland has taken an active part in the preparation of a number of international conventions on the prevention of such pollution and on provisions to establish liability for oil pollution damage and to ensure adequate compensation. The Oil Pollution of the Sea Acts, 1956 and 1965, which give effect to an international convention of 1954, enable prosecutions for oil pollution to be brought by me or by harbour authorities. The main international convention on oil pollution—the 1954 convention—has been tightened up in recent years and legislation to give effect to the changes is in an advanced stage of preparation.

Meanwhile, a comprehensive new international convention entitled the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, has been drawn up and will, it is anticipated, in due course, replace the earlier convention. This new convention covers not only oil but other noxious cargoes, as well as sewage and garbage emanating from ships. In addition, separate conventions have been prepared in order to deal with the specific problem of deliberate dumping or disposal at sea of noxious chemicals and industrial residues, and legislation to implement the latter conventions is well advanced. Conventions have also been drafted making special provision for the payment of compensation for oil pollution damage, and it is hoped to secure approval in the near future for the preparation of legislation to give effect to the provisions of these conventions.

A considerable body of legislation relating to merchant shipping and fishing boats is administered by my Department, and various aspects of the legislation are constantly under review. The legislation governs such matters as standards of ship construction, the marking of load lines on vessels to prevent overloading, the certifying of the adequacy of life-saving, fire-fighting, radio and signalling equipment carried by vessels and the examination and certification of the competence of sea-going officers, seamen and fishermen. At the principal ports mercantile marine offices are maintained to supervise the engagement and discharge of seamen and to deal with matters affecting discipline aboard ship and the health and accommodation of seamen.

My Department have overall responsibility for the national sea rescue network. Involved in this are the Coast Life-Saving Service, the Naval Service, the Air Corps, the Garda Síochána, the Royal National Life-boat Institution and the Commissioners of Irish Lights. On the occurrence of an emergency at sea the co-ordination of all or any of these bodies is effected by the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre based at Shannon Airport. In certain circumstances the centre can call upon private helicopters, if necessary, to supplement the existing helicopter coverage of the west and south-west coasts, provided by the Air Corps for marine rescue purposes.

The RNLI are an independent body financed by voluntary subscriptions. Last year they celebrated the 150th anniversary of their foundation. They have operated in this country since their foundation. A grant of £20,000 is paid annually by my Department towards the costs of their operations in this country, which are normally only partially covered by the subscriptions raised here.

My Department also provide pensions and allowances to seamen disabled in Irish ships due to warfare during the 1939-46 period, and to widows and other dependants of seamen who lost their lives during that period. These pensions and allowances in pursuance of an undertaking given at the commencement of the war, are maintained at the same level as the corresponding British pensions.

This completes my review of the principal areas covered by my Department. If there are any aspects of these matters on which Deputies would like further information, I shall endeavour to deal with them when replying to the debate. I have given the House a review of the various sectors coming within the purview of my Department. There is, however, one further area which I should like to mention before I close.

Deputies may not realise that out of a total staff of about 1,200 in my Department almost 1,000 of these are employed in the technical services provided by my Department. These services are the meteorological service, air traffic control service, the aviation and marine radio service and the marine survey service. The staff of these services provide a 24-hour round-the-clock service on 365 days a year. Their work is very often unnoticed by the general public. Very few air travellers are aware of the contribution which these services make to their safety and I should like to take this opportunity of paying a special tribute to these staff for the services they so faithfully provide.

I welcome this opportunity to discuss the Minister's Estimate. It is the first such Estimate to come before the House since I became spokesman on the Department of Transport and Power for my party. Many Estimates have been passed without discussion. I am not saying that is the Minister's fault. The Estimate is before us now and it provides Members on both sides of the House with an opportunity to discuss the many aspects of the daily lives of people who are affected by the Department or who work for the different State bodies. It also gives us an opportunity to discuss the question of energy for which the Minister is responsible. We should all appreciate that the energy crisis has added greatly to the Minister's volume of work since he took office. I notice that he dealt with it as a first priority. We have all talked a great deal about energy and oil during the past year-and-a-half and I suppose we will have to continue to do so because of their effect on the economy and on all our lives.

During the past year there has been a continuing series of skirmishes between the Government and the Opposition on the problems created by the energy crisis. Since October, 1973, the country has faced many difficulties of a magnitude hitherto unknown. It was a new situation and we had to deal with it, and we must continue to deal with it. I do not accept that the Government's policies have been of the slightest assistance in containing this problem. Government spokesmen created a certain amount of confusion initially with regard to the supply question. Since the early part of 1974 the Government did nothing to deal with a series of profit ramps which we exposed and which were brought about by the price control mechanism which can best be described as a licence for the oil companies to print money.

We became a member of the outer UK zone and the oil companies do not have to justify their price increases. Since December, 1973, they need only serve seven days' notice on the Minister for Industry and Commerce that they are raising their prices by X per cent, or by Xp, or whatever it might be, and after seven days they go ahead and raise their prices. Early in 1974 they finished up, by any conservative calculation, with a profit of over £7 million on their stocks. We maintain that this could have been avoided by not permitting the rise in question for four or five weeks until the existing stocks which were brought in at lower prices were used up. That is what happened. That is what the outer UK zone system has done for us. It is just one of the many bad features of the outer UK zone in which we now find ourselves.

I hoped the Minister might take this opportunity of putting before us a more realistic appraisal of the lessons we learned during that time, even if that appraisal had to be presented in a way that showed the Government did not have available to them the knowledge or experience necessary fully to understand what happened but were prepared, even at this late date, to institute a sensible and far-reaching energy policy which would secure the supply of necessary oil imports and, at the same time, ease the burden on our balance of payments—we all know the burden is very severe—and thereby improve our economic well-being. What we should have been doing over the last 18 months was tackling our energy problem on a national level. It is, of course, also important to tackle it at an international level but the national level must come first and that was the time to decide what should be done. The Minister is the man in the hot seat where energy is concerned and his presentation this morning entitles us to believe that, as far as the Government are concerned, there is nothing to be said with regard to an energy policy. This is a national disgrace. By this time we should have a realistic energy policy.

In December, 1973, the Government were informed that the support of the Opposition would be whole-heartedly forthcoming in regard to any steps to ease the burden. We did not set out then to be in any way contentious. We did not wish to engage in a series of skirmishes in order to achieve party political advantage. We were concerned to bring home to the Government our opinion as to what was required. Now 18 months have passed and there is still apparently nothing to be said about and worse still, nothing to be seen in, the field of an energy policy. It is certainly not evident, apart from the Minister's brief reference to discussions at EEC level and so forth. That is as far as we have got.

Last December the Minister for Finance indulged in what we then described, and still describe, as barefaced deceit in increasing the tax on petrol by 15p per gallon. His reasoning and his actions were exposed for what they were then and still are. Blind ignorance motivated the two parties in Government to vote these measures into effect, without any real consideration for equity or for the effects on that very sector of the economy most seriously affected. I refer to the rural workers. These are the people who are dependent on providing their own transport. It is very difficult to see how public transport could be made available to them because the majority of them have to travel down by-roads to get to their work and they are glad to provide their own transport in order to have work. The Minister showed no regard for them when he imposed this 15 pence per gallon tax on petrol. We must emphasise the scant regard he had for the lower paid in our community. He added this additional burden in circumstances in which this additional liability was not caused by the Arabs or the multi-national oil companies, or anybody else, but simply by the Minister himself. This same Minister showed clearly in his pronouncements last summer that his advisers were capable of quantifying the effect of the increase at nearly £200 million and they saw that that meant thousands more unemployed and thousands fewer houses being built. We are witnessing now the stupid destruction of the economic resources of the nation for the sake of political expediency. It seems the Government just do not care who eventually will have to foot the bill and they are apparently proposing to go on avoiding the real consequences of what is happening.

The Minister has not indicated what he intends to do or what has actually been done in the provision of additional storage. He did say storage has been increased. Have more storage tanks been erected by the oil companies and, if so, who has footed the Bill? We were very concerned on another occasion as to what the total cost of additional storage would be. We should not include, of course, either the ESB or CIE because they have their own storage facilities. I am dealing only with storage maintained by the oil companies.

Very little has been said as to what is being done about providing additional refining capacity. The Minister cannot have forgotten so soon his admission here that the nation's energy needs were in the hands of the multi-national oil companies. Is there no policy in regard to the situation in which we found ourselves in October, 1973? We still seem to be in the same position notwithstanding the lessons that should have been learned over the last 18 months.

Nothing has been done seemingly to cure the weaknesses we have exposed on numerous occasions since the oil crisis. Self-sufficiency in refining capacity is absolutely vital if we are to solve our energy problem. At the moment we are capable of refining 50 per cent of our needs at Whitegate. We have to import the remainder, and we are totally in the hands of the big multi-national oil companies in this respect. Undoubtedly they manipulated the energy crisis for their own advantage. They have admitted this in the figures they have published. They made and are making huge profits. If we are to get out from under their control, and that is what most people desire, we must make ourselves self-sufficient in refining capacity. If, with State aid and participation at board level, we are self-sufficient, we can exercise control over our stocks and prices.

There is no evidence whatever that we have made any progress with regard to becoming self-sufficient in relation to oil supplies. We should be half way towards that if we had started building an oil refinery a year-and-a-half ago. A new oil refinery, from the time work commences until it becomes operational, takes three years. We have already lost a year-and-a-half of that. This is a very glaring mistake on the part of the Government. I fail to see why they have not commenced work on one of the proposed oil refineries put before them a year-and-a-half ago. We are in an emergency situation, but the Government do not seem to be doing anything about it.

We all hope we will get large quantities of oil off our coast but we have no capacity to refine it. We will have to send any crude oil which is found to Milford Haven or somewhere else and reship it back here for our use. It is as essential to have a refinery as to find oil if you are to do the job properly. Oil is not scarce. Anybody who thinks it is does not know what he is talking about. It is not necessarily as dear as the multi-national oil distributors and suppliers would have us believe. We could buy crude oil at $2 a barrel less than the price charged to us by the multi-nationals. We could charter tankers, which are quite plentiful at the moment, and we could have the crude oil refined on the Continent, where they are working at less than full capacity. We could distribute the heavier oils without any great effort.

We could do something about the ESB. We could perhaps cut down by up to 20 per cent on our total oil bill of £200 million. This would be far more effective that the 15p taxation we had imposed last December. Other countries are trying to be independent of the multi-national oil companies and we should try to do the same. If we find large quantities of oil off our coast and we have a refinery ready for operation we would be able to refine the oil ourselves instead of sending it to the Continent. It would be a great step forward if we had our own refinery and were able to buy crude oil at less than is being charged to us at the moment. We would not be the only country doing this. There is a country very far away from us, which did this before anybody else and is still doing it very successfully. I refer to Thailand, which is far away from us and is not considered to be as far advanced as we are.

I should like to repeat our earlier assurance that we will support the Government in the implementation of an energy policy which aims at securing supplies and establishing a price structure. We hope we will receive large quantities of oil from our off-shore locations. Until we are self-sufficient from those resources we have the responsibility to deal with the existing situation. This will not get any better unless we ensure by our actions that we are trying to get the best for ourselves.

The Minister should recognise some fundamental factors as far as oil supplies are concerned. The producing countries, as members of OPEC, have changed the cost of oil and have broken the multi-national oil companies over the total production of oil. I believe those companies accept that they no longer control the Middle Eastern resources as they did up to a few years ago. It must follow from that that the control these companies exercise over refining, storage and the distribution of oil products will be increased to generate the same level of profits previously derived from production. They will not allow their profits to drop without making an effort to keep them at the same level they were in previous years. If they are to do this, they will have to obtain their profits at the distribution level. Refining, storage and distribution will now have to return a level of profits which will finance the massive overheads these companies maintain. These returns will also have to finance the more costly areas of exploration and production.

I do not see why the price structure here should be pitched at such a level as to ensure profits of such magnitude as these companies have enjoyed in recent years. We have all read of these massive profits. It follows, therefore, that the State must participate in these sectors to ensure that the level of profitability is related to Irish needs and not the international needs of these multi-national companies. I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a fundamental change which has occurred and one which is of major importance to every consumer where there is a distribution of town gas. In the sixties when there was a surplus of oil supplies oil was used for the manufacture of town gas, particularly in Dublin, but this will not be repeated. The utilisation of this product for the production of gas and as feed stock for petro-chemical products renders its availability as a raw material for town gas at an economic price level completely impossible compared with previous years.

If the gas consumers of Dublin are not to be ruined it is essential to put in train a detailed preparation for the utilisation of natural gas into the network of the Dublin Gas Company. This should be given priority consideration because many people are dependent on gas. A cost/benefit analysis should be prepared by the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards. If it is not intended to burn natural gas wastefully as is proposed with the gas found off Kinsale in the generation of electricity the Dublin consumers should obtain supplies as early as possible. This is an appropriate time to review the plans for the supplying of natural gas to the ESB. With the possible loss of 75 per cent of its value we should consider this matter seriously and ascertain if it is economic to allow the ESB access to the natural gas. We have acquainted the Minister of the facts in this regard on many occasions. I understand that the ESB would obtain approximately a 25 per cent return from the burning of gas to generate electricity and this does not seem to be a viable economic proposition. The Dublin Gas Company should be given priority consideration and the gas should be made available to that company to supply consumers in the city. At the same time the competition that exists between this company and the ESB should be phased out. They are regarded as two semi-State bodies.

The entry of the State into refining, storage and distribution should not be put off because of the capital requirements or the argument that there are other priorities. In my view this is the greatest area of national economic need. The availability of oil supplies at the lowest price is important. A limited involvement by the State will give the knowledge and establish the yardstick by which all will have to measure. Some may not accept this but in my view they will have to be made accept the consequences. This is an area of such importance as to require radical action. We will continue to say this in the hope that something will be done.

The Minister should note that petrol accounts for 20 per cent of our oil consumption. The taxation increases did not reduce consumption to any material extent and we informed the Minister for Finance that they would not because we are aware of how dependent rural and city dwellers are on private transport. I urge the Minister to plead with his colleague, the Minister for Finance, to remove the levy imposed last December and concentrate his efforts on saving oil in the other areas of consumption. We do not have a public transport system which can answer the needs of the rural workers and we know from the surveys conducted by the CII and the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards that there is a vast area of potential saving in industry and commerce.

In order that we be self-sufficient in a few years the Government should establish another oil refinery. With regard to the siting of such a refinery the environmentalists are often unnecessarily worried about the establishment of such a refinery. They think a refinery is the worst thing that could be erected in an area. Often they are misinformed about such industries. The refinery in Whitegate was established in 1958 and the people in nearby Cobh informed me that it has not proved a hazard to them. Those people pointed out that Irish Steel causes more pollution of the air than the refinery. When there is mention of a refinery being established there is an outcry by the people who, in most cases, are misinformed. They are in possession of information that does not have a proper base. In my view the question of oil spillages is over-rated. I am aware that Gulf Oil had trouble with spillages but some of them arose because of negligence. However, no spillages of any consequence occurred around the Whitegate refinery. At Foynes where tankers have been unloading for many years no spillages have occurred. People should not be carried away by the talk they hear in this regard. The establishment of another refinery is essential for our economic survival. Work on it should have started some time ago.

There are many other interests in the Department of Transport and Power. The 12 semi-State bodies involved have a great effect on our economy. However, one of the important ones is Aer Lingus. A lot of the criticism we hear about Aer Lingus is not justified. Undoubtedly, Aer Lingus provide an excellent public service.

As a company they are deserving of the full support of the community. Their record of achievements in Irish tourism and international travel and the high reputation they have earned for themselves throughout the world undoubtedly are fully justified and worthy of the confidence we have in them. We should all appreciate the great work this company have done for the country in the past. We should remember also that they are not the only company suffering from the present economic crisis. We, in the Fianna Fáil Party, have a particular regard for the airlines because it was the late Seán Lemass who brought them into being as far back as 1934 and who introduced them to the Atlantic service, I believe, in 1948, only one of the very many achievements of that great man.

The airlines always publish very full reports and accounts and have done so over the years. Also their chief executive gives detailed outlines of their plans for the years ahead on which it is necessary for us to remark from time to time. When we were in Government we encouraged and backed the airlines in their major developments, such as the acquisition of new and larger aircraft and the move into ancillary activities. We respected the research, skill and judgement which had gone into the making of the various decisions on these matters. We knew such moves were dependent for success on an optimistic view being taken of the growth of the market and its fulfilment. As we now know, things did not transpire in that way. A combination of economic recession, decline in air travel and huge increases in fuel and other costs has resulted in the worst financial crisis ever experienced in the business and a record operating loss for the company.

Those are the circumstances with which the company are now faced. I would not recommend any panic action being taken by the airlines or that they should go back on actions or decisions taken already, or back-track on firm commitments into which they have entered already. Until the recession eases the airlines, in addition to cutting back on unnecessary capital expenditure, should not concentrate on any new developments of a non-aviation character; in other words, they should not concentrate on ancillary activities in which they have been engaging. The company should concentrate their money, great management skills and energy on their main business, which is that of flying and for which they were set up originally. I know the company could justify their getting involved in ancillary activities in the sense that their profitability would help alleviate their other high costs involved in the flying part of their business. But the economic recession, the drop in tourism worldwide and other factors have led to a different set of circumstances at present.

It would be bad business were anyone to advise them not to honour the commitments into which they have entered. But the company should not attempt any expansion of their ancillary activities at present but concentrate as much as possible on their flying activities. They have been very successful in the past and, when they get over their immediate problems, we hope that success will continue.

At a local level the company's activities have had a major effect on my own area. Their tourist promotion activities, particularly in America, have been immensely successful. They must be surely our leading tourism promoters on the American continent, which has resulted in a lot more activity in my county, at Shannon Airport, and in the west generally. That has had a major effect also on the economy of the region which we hope will continue.

There are times when they are much criticised unnecessarily; very often they seem to be made the scape-goat. With regard to other international airlines flying into Dublin— particularly TWA which is the one which has been so nominated—we are glad that the arrangement has not led to a drop in the numbers of passengers disembarking at Shannon and spreading out from there to the west. From inquiries we have made it would appear that it has not had that effect. Of course, it is very important that the Minister and his Department continue to insist on the provisions of the landing rights agreements of 12 months ago being adhered to, and that aircraft will continue to land at Shannon. There was some criticism last week about this matter and the fact that the present fuel strike was used as an excuse for overflying Shannon. That was the reason given. That particular happening upset quite a number of people because they felt that such airlines were prepared to do so under any pretext.

Of course, there is another factor involved in that, which is the safety of the passengers. As I understand it, they had to fly to Prestwick to re-fuel sufficiently to fly back across the Atlantic. That meant, in turn, they had to carry sufficient fuel from America to land at Shannon, Dublin and Prestwick. I understand the safety of passengers was the main consideration of the company even though that factor did not seem to emerge very clearly. There are people who might say that if that was the case with other airlines why did it not apply to Aer Lingus. It appears that the Aer Lingus planes were capable of carrying a larger fuel load than the particular aircraft being used by TWA on that route. I mention that because I feel it should be said, in fairness, that the passenger safety element was the main consideration involved. I know the Minister and all of us would hate to see any abuses of that landing rights agreement. We hope the Minister and his Department will continue to insist that the conditions of that agreement are observed properly and planes will continue to land at Shannon, as was provided in the agreement.

With regard to tourism, the general concensus of opinion is that Bord Fáilte are doing a reasonably good job. They appear to see their main function as marketing. While the technique they use in this field may be somewhat simplistic they are bearing some results, although perhaps not realising the full potential which a more sophisticated marketing programme might produce. Our marketing people do not appear to be fully briefed on what they are promoting. This is particularly true in regard to the activities in which tourists should be involved when they land here. To arrest the decline in the tourist numbers from Britain, Northern Ireland or the United States, Bord Fáilte have set up a new business department. While this concept may be acceptable in theory, in practice they are looking for tourists to come from places like Australia, Japan and New Zealand. In view of the capital required to promote tourism in these markets and the results which could reasonably be expected, it is hard to see how this venture can be justified, particularly when it is considered that in Western Europe there is greater potential. I believe the people who would travel the long and expensive journey from Australia would be mainly Irish people or people of Irish extraction. If they could afford it many of them would come, but to attract tourists other than these must surely be what Bord Fáilte are hoping to do. I fail to see the sense of such a large investment when they could be attracting many more tourists from Western Europe.

The designation of Spain as "new business" is a rather strange decision. Bord Fáilte have done no promotion in that country nor have they had an office there, as far as I know, since the early sixties. Thousands of young Spaniards have been coming to Ireland each year to study English. It would seem logical that there would be a reservoir of good will to be built up, since the youth traveller of the sixties is now the mature family man of the seventies and someone who already has experience of and affection for Ireland. It should also be noted that over 50 per cent of the tourists from France to Ireland last year were under the age of 26. A professionally co-ordinated promotion for the youth market of Europe would yield not only short-term but long-term tourist benefits. Bord Fáilte will say they are already doing such work, but it is not being done with a knowledgeable, professional staff. To the best of my knowledge, there are two grossly overworked people in Bord Fáilte doing this work at the moment for the whole world.

Bord Fáilte were deeply involved in setting up the regional tourist boards together with local trade interests, local councils and so forth. However, to date they have not devolved sufficient powers to the regional boards to ensure that when a decision has to be made the local tourist interests will not have to go to Baggot Street for it, thereby cutting the ground from under the local area managers and undermining their authority and ability to develop programmes for the areas for which they are responsible. There appears to be no section in Bord Fáilte totally given over to the devising of new programmes of entertainment for tourists. They seem to see their function as encouraging people to set up already successful activities in different areas. What is urgently required is that the board be able to go to the tourist industry with suggestions for recreational and entertainment activities, how they could be financed, promoted and generally made to work efficiently for the benefit of the tourist industry.

The hotel industry seem pleased with Bord Fáilte's activities, but there is a danger that the very large investment made by Bord Fáilte in assisting the building of hotels during the tourist boom in the sixties will be lost due to a decline of business and the change of use of hotels which is now occurring in many places. This will mean that when the present recession in the tourist industry ends, as we all hope it will in the near future, the board will be faced with having to finance, at greatly inflated construction costs, more new hotels to replace those closed during the recession.

There are very mixed feelings about the convention bureau in Bord Fáilte, and certain organisations have had extremely bad experiences in dealing with them. Apparently they tend to support conferences or functions which are already coming in rather than assessing the possibilities of obtaining other conferences for the country and supporting the organisers fully. This is a very successful aspect of tourism and should be pursued fully by Bord Fáilte.

In assessing the claimed success of Bord Fáilte, one should take into consideration the very large number of tourists who come to Ireland through the promotional activities of the tourist organisers themselves without any reference to the board. The board will always claim in their figures for the year the total number of foreigners coming in. It can be said that the small staff of the board are enthusiastic and hard-working, but they lack the practical knowledge and technical skill to promote effectively the products they are marketing. They adopt rather old-fashioned methods such as parties, receptions, advertisements in the newspapers and so forth. However, their efforts to bring tourists to Ireland are not helped by the activities of Aer Lingus. While lip service is paid to co-operation between the representatives of Aer Lingus and Bord Fáilte, there are many areas in which divergent views exist between the two organisations. This can only be resolved by a directive from the Department of Transport and Power that Aer Lingus should be prepared to aid the board and promote tourism by making greater capacity available in their aircraft, even though this may lead to a loss situation for Aer Lingus. On the other hand, it will be a profit situation for the national economy because of the greater number of tourists. This means much greater spending for the economy. We cannot expect Aer Lingus to do it at a loss and the Minister should examine the possibility of reimbursing them for such a loss in order to make greater capacity available for the tourist promoters. The more people come to Ireland the more money will be spent and our economy will benefit. A close examination of the situation between the airline and Bord Fáilte and other tourist interests should be made with a view to increasing the number of tourists.

What we require above all is a national tourist policy. We need a national tourist board comprised of all sectors of the tourist industry, under the chairmanship of at least a Parliamentary Secretary whose sole responsibility would be for tourism. It is our third largest industry and it warrants that. There are many organisations promoting tourism: there is Aer Lingus, Bord Fáilte, the various regional organisations, Shannon Development Company and CIE. There should be greater co-ordination between them all under the chairmanship of a Parliamentary Secretary.

The tourist promotion activities of the Shannon Development Company are under the control of the Minister. Their sales and catering services have been promoting the region for many years and have been most successful. I have no doubt that successful work will continue. They have generated tourism in that part of the country and their efforts under the direction and chairmanship of Brendan O'Regan deserve our congratulations. It is no harm to praise them for their work because such organisations are maligned and lambasted to a considerable degree. They have done an excellent job as far as our region is concerned and I hope they will continue their good work.

As the Minister pointed out, we discussed CIE at considerable length when we increased the amount made available for them. Our discussions then did not have any effect on the unfortunate financial position of the company and it does not appear they will have any effect in the near future. The municipal transport services of CIE in Dublin and Cork are obvious instances where an arrangement might be made with local authorities or regional transport boards similar to the arrangement made by the Minister for Education with CIE. In this way the public, through a suitably constituted national or local committee, could directly influence and control the levels and types of service for which they have to pay. A national transport board to co-ordinate the provision of a public transport service and to decide the role of road and rail transport is not uncommon in other countries. At present such a role devolves on CIE completely and it forces them to rely on a fares' policy. This can result in cross-subsidisation between road and rail users and between urban and rural communities. It does not necessarily reflect the individual characteristics of the separate services provided. If we are serious about a railway system, surely it can stand in its own right.

CIE are to be commended on their efforts to reduce costs and improve services and we hope these efforts will continue. Their past performance cannot be measured in terms of financial losses because of the varied roles CIE have to adopt. It is necessary to identify the specific social costs of otherwise uneconomic service areas before a financial measurement of their performance can be achieved. The increase in the losses of CIE helps to highlight the necessity for a national transport policy and for a clearer definition of the role of CIE.

Fortunately there is now a general acceptance of the social needs that are fulfilled by CIE but much closer direction of their activities in this area must come from sources that can establish and measure these needs and decide the nature of transport resources, either public or private, that can be most suitably used to meet such needs. CIE are organised and managed to operate a transport system on road and rail and to regulate their activities on the basis of economic demand. Circumstances place this management in situations where they are required to interpret and exercise their discretion with regard to satisfying requirements that are purely social, with repercussions on community welfare and living conditions. A transport management team should not be forced into this type of situation.

CIE management have sufficient problems in operating transport services without being burdened with social service decisions that are more appropriate to political decisions at the local or national level. This is an unnecessary burden on CIE. There already exists a guideline for this concept in CIE's relationship with the Department of Education with regard to school transport. CIE operate solely as a contractor for the educational authorities and this might be examined with a view to extending this kind of arrangement to Dublin or Cork. These places have large local authorities and they could play the role which the Minister for Education plays with regard to school transport.

I have already stated that the matter of making natural gas available to the ESB is questionable. It is important that we find out the cost and ascertain how wasteful it might be. As far as I could ascertain, it would mean a return of 25 per cent on the natural gas if the ESB were allowed to use it to generate electricity. Before we allow them to do that we should remember that oil is not scarce. It is plentiful. As I pointed out before, when we consider the availability of crude oil and its low price in comparison with what is charged by the multi-nationals, if we took the correct action we could make oil available at a far lower price to the ESB than they are paying for Russian oil. Incidentally, it is not always Russian oil. Frequently it is bought on the high seas and some of it comes from the Gulf. It does not necessarily come from behind the Iron Curtain. A percentage of it does but a hefty percentage is bought in Rotterdam and other plces.

We should examine very closely the position before allowing them access to our natural gas and we should not do it too readily because of the wastefulness involved in converting gas to electricity. It is far more important that the natural gas be made available to the Dublin Gas Company because of the number of less well-off people in the city who depend on gas. Many old people living on their own depend on gas, people unable to fend for themselves for whom gas should be made available at the lowest possible price. This should be a priority in regard to the usage of natural gas.

On the ESB, a very thorny factor is the cost of connecting current in rural areas either where a rural electrification scheme has been completed or where it is not yet ready for completion. The cost can be anything between £200 and £1,200. Many of the people who set out to build new houses are young and most of them never envisage the added burden of anything up to £1,200 on the cost of the already escalated price of new houses. The Minister assured us on a few occasions that this situation is being examined and I now ask him to treat it urgently so that such young people will get assistance.

In regard to the new proposed nuclear plant in Wexford, we should be very slow to approve it. We should remember in the first instance that it will generate only 16 per cent or 17 per cent of our total electricity requirements and at the estimated total cost of £200 million that is a very small return. Then there is the safety factor. People will say that so far there has not been an accident at any such plant. If there had been large numbers of people would have been wiped out and we should not be foolish enough to risk having such an accident on this island. It is not economically attractive from the point of view of the load it would take from our resources of energy. Even in America they are now having second thoughts about nuclear reactors. The body there responsible for safety have been separated from the promoters and builders of these things and there is considerable discussion and disagreement between the two bodies on the safety element. We should be very slow to give approval for the go-ahead here.

Bord na Móna have a very fine record. It is intended to develop our bogs further and we hope that the preparations will not take too long, that the finances required by the board will be made available in the near future in order to enable them to go ahead with the broader development of bogs in the midlands.

Unfortunately there are bogs, not operated by Bord na Móna, where there are no proper access roads for people who wish to cut their own turf. In recent years people have been going away from cutting turf but they are now very conscious of its presence. Local councils say the matter of access roads is not their responsibility and the Land Commission say it is not theirs. I should like to see the Minister involving himself in this so that proper access roads would be provided and people enabled to have ready access to bogs. This would help lessen the burden of importing fuel and would cut down on our national oil bill of £200 million a year.

The final legislation on Aer Rianta has not yet come before us. They are now responsible for our three airports, Cork, Shannon and Dublin. From the point of view of Shannon, of great concern to me are the sales and catering employees who are getting quite worried not about the money they are continuing to get but their conditions, particularly the grading system. It appears that Aer Rianta are grading senior supervisors in the duty free area in the same category—I am not belittling anybody—as people peeling potatoes in the flight kitchen. I have found that to be a fact.

The conditions offered to them suggest that there can be interchanging between all the people who work in the flight kitchen, the duty free liquor stores and the airport shops. Surely the grading system should be looked at more carefully so that people will not be worried about what may be offered to them. On the face of it, it is wrong to expect a senior supervisor to accept being graded with people in the kitchen. These people have given long and faithful service—some of them have been in sales and catering for 25 years—and it is undisputed that they have excellent records. In present conditions they feel vulnerable. Three years ago, before the change of Government, I got an assurance that on the transfer from the Department of Industry and Commerce to Aer Rianta no employee's working conditions would be disimproved. This is definitely a disimprovement. I would ask the Minister to ensure that acceptable conditions of transfer to Aer Rianta are offered to those people before trouble begins, which is something I gather, that could happen.

There are many other State bodies under this Department. Although this is the first Estimate since I became spokesman we had many opportunities for debate here because of developments in the past year. We welcome this opportunity for all Deputies to get involved in the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Transport and Power because it has such an effect on the lives of people in all parts of the country.

Both sides of the House agreed last Christmas, when we were dealing with the CIE Bill, that the House should have the opportunity to examine the accounts of semi-State bodies. At present there is no way in which this can be done. It is not that we think somebody might be doing something wrong, but a deeper involvement of elected representatives here and Senators in the affairs of those bodies could only be helpful to the bodies concerned. I will leave it to other Members to take up the other matters relating to semi-State bodies.

I should like to compliment the Minister on his performance as Minister. In his short term so far he has been through one of the most difficult periods in the history of the State so far as energy is concerned. He played it cool and brought the country through this difficult period without any loss of jobs or any panic. It is in times such as we had last year that one appreciates how dependent the country is on imported energy. Without it the country would grind to a halt. It is used in creameries, factories, on the farm, apart from the business of road travel. It is certain that the days of cheap energy are over. That is having its effect on our competitiveness on European markets. It would be more serious were it not for the fact that our competitors on the same markets have exactly the same problems as we have.

I am glad to see that an effort is being made to make full use of our own resources. It is a good thing to see bogs being put to use and the message going out that we should conserve. When everything is cheap and things are going well there is no doubt that we are a most wasteful nation. I am convinced that there are still very few people heeding the advice given with regard to the wastage of fuel in motor cars, farm tractors and bigger machines, that they are not having their vehicles checked so as to save energy.

We should do a little more about exploiting the hitherto untapped sources such as wind and tide power and indeed nuclear projects, although the previous speaker was right to mention the hazards of nuclear projects. I would like to compliment him on a very balanced speech.

The most significant development in this area is the gas find 29 miles east of Kinsale, which is quite near where I live. Already the place is alive with the prospect of a boom. Let us hope the boom will materialise in a very short time. There are unemployment problems in every area at present and this gas find means fantastic employment possibilities. I do not have to emphasise to the Minister how important that is and we should not delay one day longer than necessary in getting on with this job and bringing in the natural gas, which is definitely there in fantastic quantities. All the estimates to date have been ultra-conservative. I meet many people who have worked out on the rig and I have been out there myself. I have been told that it is a most significant find. Nobody there will dispute that. At a time when we are dependent on the whims of the Arabs, let us get on with it and do something to provide ourselves with a source of energy which will ensure that we have sufficient electricity for our needs and sufficient nitrogen for our soil. This is equally important. We must ensure that there is a feed supply for the NET factory in Cobh and for the EIR-N factory in Whitegate. I do not have to emphasise the importance to those two. This is a nation almost entirely dependent for its wealth on our agricultural exports. We have an abundant supply of nitrogen ready to be tapped and the sooner we get on with it the better.

I was rather pleased to see that the Minister has set up a preliminary gas board. I hope these people will see the necessity of moving quickly. I am sure there will be certain technicalities like wayleaves, and so on, to be dealt with. The distance over land is quite short to the nearest point. Any little bit of movement would do a lot not only for that area but for the nation. Perhaps because of our disscussions here in the House, and because of what we read in the papers, there is a certain loss of confidence. This confidence would be restored if we started doing something. The very fact of putting a digger into the soil in Whitegate and laying down a gas pipe would restore confidence. That type of confidence is very important just now.

The previous speaker referred to the refineries. I agree with what he said about being over-fussy about conservation and the dangers of pollution. It is a good thing to be on our guard and to have legislation to protect our harbours from abuses. Pollution of the atmosphere from refineries is not completely ruled out. As a farmer resident in the Whitegate area, I have had no complaints since the establishment of that refinery with regard to atmospheric pollution. There may be an unpleasant smell on an occasional dull morning, but that is a small price to pay for jobs and for industry.

In their wisdom the oil companies purchased large amounts of land adjoining the refinery. There is plently of room for development. There is no need to go any further. This is an ideal port. It is an ideal situation. Nobody is complaining about it down there, so there is nothing to stop the expansion of this refinery and the building of a new one should that be found desirable. I am sure the oil companies would welcome any type of State participation in such a project. With the advent of gas the whole thing will become much more complex. People who have a serious interest in doing a good job will be able to surmount any difficulties which may be experienced with regard to who should control what. As long as a good job is being done, I would not be too fussy as to who controls what.

There has been some criticism of the use of gas by the ESB. We are very dependent on the ESB as a source of energy. In industry and in agriculture electricity is a must. If we need gas to run our ESB stations it should be used. That does not rule out such a thing as a national grid which is being envisaged for the supply of gas. It is the opinion of some of the experts that we will have ample natural gas to supply our towns and cities when the time comes. Therefore, we should not be too despondent.

I should like to compliment the ESB at local level and in particular on their breakdown service. In industry and agriculture we have occasional breakdowns. Whether it is a Sunday evening or whether there is blinding wind, or snow, or rain—and this is usually when we have breakdowns— they are on the spot. I should like to compliment them publicly. We hear a lot of cribbing nowadays about productivity for higher wages and we all realise the need to link production with higher wages. The ESB teams are producing the goods.

At all times they should fit transformers of adequate size so that they will not have to fit larger ones when the farmer is looking for bulk milk tanks and bigger milking machines. There was a time—and it is not so long ago—when installation charges could be put on the bill. That facility should be restored. It is not fair to expect people to pay out sums of £1,300, £1,400 or £1,500 to the ESB before they are connected. It is very difficult to find that sort of money. The ESB should act as the agent and allow them to put that charge on their bills. However, that is a small complaint.

We hear a lot about conservation, but we could probably do more to conserve electricity in our cities and towns. I suppose with all the vandalism there is, we need well-lighted streets, but I often wonder could we use a little less electricity. It seems very wasteful to see huge areas as bright as the day, and to see miles of roadway lighted up, and some of our public buildings in full blaze at night. In the country, people are given grandiose advice on television to switch off that bedroom light. That is a good thing to do, but we have to look at this problem at national level and do a bit more to conserve electricity.

I am glad to see that we are getting our quota of international transport licences but I should like to see a few more of them coming our way. I am rather appalled at the number of foreign-owned articulated vehicles I see at our meat factories and on our roads. Perhaps our own vehicles are all abroad. Judging by the number of people I hear clamouring for these licences, and the number of people who are competent to do a good job, I think we should be getting a bigger slice of that cake. Since so many of our goods are being exported, whether they are meat or frozen vegetables, it is rather a pity to see them going out in foreign vehicles.

I am glad to note that the Minister has decided to liberalise road transport. This will lead to a lot more efficiency because the man with the traditional plated lorry at the moment usually looks for longer hauls. The local type of transport is no longer of interest to him. His vehicles are too big and too unwieldy to cope with this type of transport.

You also have the man who is doing this work illegally at the moment because he is limited to a 15-mile radius and usually goes outside that limit if he wants to make a living. This man has a smaller, more compact vehicle and is providing an excellent service. He very often provides jobs for one or two people, which is very important at the moment. He has not a chance of making a good living at the moment because even if the plates became available, he could not possibly afford the fantastic sums demanded, £6,000, £8,000 or even £10,000 for those licences. I am delighted the Minister has decided to increase the 15 mile limit. If it was increased to 30 miles it would probably cover all the catchment areas of the beet factories.

Some years ago we got some liberalisation with regard to the transport of cattle. They are excluded from plated lorries. When I was chairman of the local sugar beet growers association I tried to do something about liberalisation for sugar beet. I do not think the present beet growers have succeeded in regard to this, but I believe the increase from the 15 mile limit will help. Most of the sugar beet comes from within a 20 mile radius of the beet factories. At the moment almost every county council is complaining about the dumping of sugar beet on the roadside during winter. This is a hazard on our roads. I can see no other solution this year with the increased sugar beet acreage. Most of the huge articulated vehicles could not get into a lot of the farms so there is no option but for the farmers to dump the sugar beet in places where it can be picked up. If the Minister gives sufficient latitude with regard to the transport by small lorries it will solve the problem of beet on the roadways.

I must compliment CIE on the first-class rail service they are providing. I would also like to compliment them on their meals, which may be a little bit expensive, but under the difficult circumstances in which they are prepared they are very good and in line with the best in Europe. As the previous speaker mentioned, they provide a type of social service when it comes to road freight and passenger transport. There is no way this can be trimmed down because we must provide a good service for the people. There is very little point in giving free travel to old age pensioners if the transport is not there for them. While we can talk about CIE trimming their expenditure it must be accepted that very often they are providing an uneconomic type of service by the very nature of the journeys they have to undertake. They know they may have only ten people in a bus but it must be put on. Perhaps smaller buses should be used so that costs could be cut down on certain runs.

I believe CIE could do a lot more in the hinterland of the cities and large towns by extending commuter tickets to people from large areas. I have in mind places like Midleton. If there were commuter facilities for that area a lot more people would travel by bus and more cars would be left at home in the garages. This is to be recommended. Bord Fáilte at the moment are doing a canvassing job and looking for more business. I do not believe that CIE advertise their existing services enough.

I now want to refer to road freight by CIE. We would probably get better value in relation to road freight if CIE decided to hand over vehicles to their drivers and charged them some rent for them until they were bought out. Those people would make a living with those lorries. We would then have a considerable improvement in regard to road freight. A man works much harder when he is given a lorry and told to go out and get business. This would not clash with the services provided by CIE. Those drivers would be competing with the existing transport services. My own experience with regard to sugar beet in the past was that they were not competitors. They were 15 per cent over the plated road traffic and did not from serious competition to anybody. I am sure if the people operating those vehicles got a chance they would get in extra runs and be more competitive.

Aer Lingus are part of the very vast subject of transport and power. It is only right to say they have maintained their excellent record for courtesy and service over their long period of flying. It is a good omen when you meet people at Shannon or Dublin Airports and they tell you how pleasantly surprised they were at the reception they got from the Irish hostesses, the quality of the food and the general quality of the service they received. It is consoling to hear this when we hear so much criticism about the high prices and the so-called bad hotels, which I do not accept. I believe we are giving great value and firstclass food. When you compare what you have to pay in a Brussels hotel for a night you very soon see how competitive we are and what a good service we give. A pleasant flight and a warm welcome is an excellent start to a holiday. I sincerely hope Aer Lingus will continue this good job of tourism. We are told first impressions are lasting impressions and in this instance, first impressions are very good indeed.

There is practically no country in the world that is without trouble and people all over the world are becoming more and more accustomed to trouble so we really cannot use that excuse any more. We must forge ahead. I have some figures with regard to our small airport in Cork. When it was first mooted it was regarded as a crazy idea. From small beginnings in 1961 with a total of 235 landings and 10,000 passengers on 49 tons of cargo is reached 3,434 landings, a quarter of a million passengers and 1,900 tons of cargo in 1974. This is the sort of thing that inspires confidence and those responsible should be complimented on doing an excellent job. The figures I have given justify any expenditure on any necessary expansion.

Our hotels are first class. I am not now thinking only of hotels in the capital city; I am thinking of the smaller hotels in seaport towns. They do their best and their best is well up to European standards. We should not be apologetic for the price charged because the value is excellent. When one takes into consideration some European charges the probability is that we are much cheaper than most of them. I should like to see more effort, possibly by Bord Fáilte and the Department generally, put into entertainment for tourists. By and large, our waters are usually too cold for swimming. We have, however, an attraction which is not exploited as it should be. I refer to deep sea angling. I have in mind Youghal where there is an ideal set up for this kind of sport. We have been looking for some time for a small facility in the way of a special pier; this would not cost a great deal. I do not want to be parochial; similar piers would be an advantage in other areas as well. The tourist does not come here to collect a sun tan. He likes to go angling or visiting the countryside. In Youghal a voluntary group is co-operating with the hotels and with Bord Fáilte, but groups like this are not getting the kind of co-operation they should be getting. This is a pity because this is one way of fostering tourism.

The important thing about the angler is that he comes back and, more than likely, he will come back with friends. The American tourist passes through on his way to the Continent. It you collar the angler you have him for life. That is my experience. But anglers demand facilities. I do not know exactly who could help out here but there is need for special boats with a few extra mod cons to cater for anglers. These would be 20-foot boats which could be used for salmon fishing. Help will have to be given to provide these boats.

I have left my most important point until last. I refer to the Cork harbour development plan. We are an exporting nation. Perhaps we should not be so thankful for being surrounded by water because it would be much easier if we could put our goods on the rail. Unfortunately they have to by sea. I should like to see the speedy implementation of the Cork harbour development plan which was first put forward in 1972. At that time the cost was estimated at £5 million. Now it would cost £10 million. The probability is that things will not improve. The plan is a strategy to encourage the establishment of new industries in the harbour area and adjacent regions. If the plan is implemented the harbour will provide common user port facilities. It is not necessary to emphasise the need for these facilities for both industrial and agricultural exports. Another important aspect is enabling Cork harbour to be prepared for the upsurge in activity bound to take place because of off-shore gas and oil developments. If the plan is not sanctioned promptly the cost could quite well reach £20 million. At the moment the port cannot accept more than 15,000 tons DWT bulk cargo and the carriers average size is about 30,000 to 40,000 tons. One does not have to be a maritime technician to realise how important it is to forge ahead and do the necessary deepening and dredging to allow shipping to enter the harbour. Many industries are now being constructed which will be dependent on the harbour and lack of commitment to the marine facilities at Ringaskiddy could lead to prime areas being developed for non-portal purposes.

There is little good in talking about building a new refinery and hoping we are going to have improved shipping if we do not consider in conjunction with this the deepening of Cork harbour. The average tanker using the harbour will require 12,000 tons DWT. This is possible and it is provided for in the plan. No grants are being sought for this work but efforts are being made to obtain a loan. In my view money should be spent on the development of this harbour because there will be a massive expansion in that area. There is a big frozen meat complex at Midleton, a new distillery and a new fertiliser factory. The most important factor is that Cork harbour is convenient to Europe and adjoins an excellent airport. We should be forging ahead with the plan for the development of this harbour. I understand a drainage scheme must be undertaken before any further development can be done. The harbour commissioners are ready to go ahead with this scheme but they are waiting ministerial approval. I hope that approval will be forthcoming in the near future.

I have found the Minister for Transport and Power courteous, quietly efficient and doing his job in a business-like manner. He has dealt with the many facets of this Department efficiently. Some of the semi-State bodies under his control have posed problems, such as CIE. I do not think the Minister should be disheartened by the extent of the borrowing to keep CIE in operation because nobody else has come up with a better suggestion to make CIE a viable proposition. However, a number of improvements could be made in regard to the road freight service. In my view, a better job could be done if smaller vehicles were used. A better job could be done in regard to the school transport also. In a lot of cases there is overlapping in this scheme. Because of the huge cost involved in operating this scheme it has become a mammoth headache. In my view we will have to return to two-teacher schools and get rid of a lot of this trucking around the country. In a lot of cases the roads are not suitable for these heavy vehicles. School buses prove hazardous for others who use narrow country roads. We should reopen a lot of those beautiful two-teacher schools.

I am pleased that the Minister has established a Gas Board. Such a board should contribute significantly to our economy in the future. We will now be able to produce nitrogenous fertilisers without having to depend on foreigners. City Deputies may not appreciate that the lifeline agriculture at present is nitrogen. They may not appreciate the importance of nitrogen being available at the right price to farmers. I do not disagree with the plan to permit the ESB to use this gas because that body needs such a source of energy until such time as we establish nuclear power stations. The Minister made a wise decision in this regard.

No mention has been made of the oil finds off our coasts. Oil was discovered off the coast of my constituency and I hope it will prove a big find. The fact that oil was found off the coast has created a lot of interest but we should not delay any longer in bringing ashore the natural gas found off Kinsale. This product is badly needed and there is no point in putting on the long finger plans for the bringing ashore of the gas. The gas is worth nothing in the sea. It will only be of use when we can convert it into nitrogen and energy.

Bord Fáilte in the past were concerned about the creation of multistorey hotels in our big cities. During that time Bord Fáilte did little to help those providing accommodation in farmhouses. Recently I was involved in an effort to obtain a grant for an enthusiastic hotelier from Bord Fáilte and I was completely disillusioned by the approach of that body. The meagre grant that person will receive as a result of spending thousands of pounds to improve his hotel which is situated in a coastal town is nothing short of an insult. That person was messed about by officials of Bord Fáilte.

Huge grants have been paid to big hotels which closed down after a short time, but this person will receive little assistance to help him get a return for his investment. The small hotels and the farm guesthouses are the soundest proposition because they can keep down their overheads. The owner of a small hotel, his wife and family, can all help during the busy periods. Very often they give more personal and courteous service than do the larger hotels. The larger hotels are very impersonal and they are the same all over the world. I feel the special element we have to offer here in farm guesthouses and small family-owned hotels is not fully appreciated by Bord Fáilte. The sooner they realise that the lifeline of our tourism is dependent on looking after these people and giving them worthwhile grants, the better. I hope the Minister will take note of that and instruct them accordingly because, as yet, they do not seem to have got that message. I have had personal experience of this in the very recent past when I was utterly disillusioned with them.

I am glad the Minister was able to find sufficient money for his Department with which to do all the things he is setting out to do. I should like to compliment him on doing some of the things we have always wanted him to do, amongst which was the claiming of our share of international transport freight licences. Possibly the Minister can dig deeper into that question. Possibly he can expand and liberalise the Road Traffic Acts to allow people to haul within a 30 mile radius rather than the present meagre 15 mile radius. I note that all of these things are about to be done.

This is a very well prepared document and illustrates that not merely the Department but the Minister also put a lot of effort into it. It gives me great pleasure to compliment him on it and wish him success in the present rather difficult times. At present we have little problems in the fuel area which I hope will be sorted out quickly in the interests of the nation. I would make a special appeal to all concerned to do their best to come to terms on this matter because, certainly, we should not have a situation——

This is something that would not be appropriate on this Estimate.

I have made my appeal and I think it is important——

But the Deputy should not elaborate on it.

——because I would not like to see milk going down the drain or anything like that. Anyhow, I agree with the Chair that it does not come within the terms of the Estimate. I hope the Minister will continue to do as he has done in the past, should he run into further difficulties, and that is to keep his cool. If any man deserves to be complimented in that respect it is the Minister for Transport and Power.

I intend going through some parts of the opening statement by the Minister on this Estimate, on which I should like to make some comments. In relation to tourism I believe the Government have failed completely adequately to handle the situation over the past few years. Strong action should be taken to encourage more people to come here each year. We must remember that tourism is our third largest industry. It should be nursed along very carefully and subsidised to a far greater extent. I believe we are pricing ourselves entirely out of the tourist market because of increasing prices— the colossal increases recently in the price of petrol, cigarettes, drink and food and increasing electricity charges which have an impact also on the charges hoteliers must impose on their clients. There is also the question of increasing rates and other overheads hoteliers have to meet. It is not correct to blame our tourist recession on a world recession at present because we must remember that other countries are doing quite well out of this industry. Other countries such as Italy, when they saw a drop in numbers and in income introduced a petrol subsidy for their tourists. That is a question which should be reconsidered by our Government. In addition, I believe the Government should seriously consider the implementation of some form of air and sea transport subsidy for tourists coming here. We must remember that we are an island nation and that the cost of travelling here is considerable. Were such transport subsidy to be made available it would bring hundreds of thousands of additional tourists here each year.

The Minister said the Government have every confidence in the tourist industry. To be quite honest I believe that the hoteliers and the tourist industry have no confidence whatsoever in the Government. The Minister admitted that in some quarters the complacency that existed during the golden days has been replaced by a sense of fatalism. To add insult to injury as far as hoteliers and the tourist business is concerned, the Government were unwise to include hotels to such an extent in section 10 of the Wealth Tax Bill. As a result of the proposals contained in that section many hoteliers—indeed, many small hoteliers—are fearful of facing bankruptcy as soon as that Bill becomes law which is a very serious situation.

The Minister stated also that hoteliers and the industry required better trained and efficient management. Many people in the tourist business would employ more efficient management and methods and indeed would train young people had they the necessary finance. However, after a few tough years in the business during which a large number of hoteliers have had a loss, they just cannot afford to employ the type of management they would desire to employ. That is borne out by the fact that Ostlanna Iompair Éireann, which are State-sponsored hotels, have been showing considerable losses for the past few years. When that occurs with hotels that are propped up by State aid, what are the chances of the small hotelier or the company with a group of small hotels throughout the country?

The Government should instruct Bord Fáilte to concentrate more and more on the West European and British markets and to move entirely from Australia and Japan. It will be some time yet before we shall see enough Japanese and Australians coming here to have any real impact on our tourist business. I am informed that there is a huge market to be tapped in Western Europe and particularly in England. Probably the biggest problem for these people is the cost of transport. That is why I advocate that the Minister should devise a scheme incorporating a sea and air transport subsidy for tourists. It would cost money but it would mean the influx of hundreds of thousands of additional tourists. By concentrating more on the Western European and British markets, we shall be helping the tourist industry in the south and west to a greater extent. The vast majority of tourists coming here travel via Dublin and the east coast, and the south and west see very little of the majority of these. There would be no cost to the State for the development of amenities in those parts of the country because the amenities are there already, and should the additional number of tourists which I envisage come, the State will be saved the cost of providing additional amenities around Dublin and the east coast.

At the end of each financial year, in January and February, the Minister should get Bord Fáilte to encourage more Irish people to take their holidays at home. A massive campaign should be launched in this direction. This would help many of the small hotels and guesthouses and keep them from bankruptcy, which many of them are facing and many more will face if section 10 of the Wealth Tax Bill becomes law in its present form.

The Minister dealt at considerable length with the energy problem and with international co-operation in relation to energy and its conservation. The Government have no real policy on energy. The Government intend to sign an agreement committing this country to getting and accepting advice from countries which are controlled by the multi-national oil companies. For numerous reasons we should not allow ourselves to become involved in a situation like this. We should buy the crude oil ourselves where it is plentiful and at the cheapest possible price, bring it to Ireland by chartered tankers, and have it refined here. We should set up another refinery in some part of the country where it would not interfere with amenities or else we should make arrangements with other countries nearer to Ireland whose refineries are not working to full capacity at present. This is a far better policy than getting tied up with states which are parctically controlled by multi-national companies, by states whose governmental policies are seriously affected by these companies.

Nothing really effective has been done by the Government with regard to petrol and oil except to increase the price of petrol by 15p per gallon. Ostensibly it was on the grounds of conservation but primarily it was to get an extra £27½ million into the Exchequer. To add insult to injury, the public were not told what became of that money or how it was used.

The Government are not doing any advance planning to make provision for what will happen when oil is obtained off our coast. When people recently did some advance planning and made arrangements there was an unprecedented development where the Government got the IDA to appeal a decision of a county council to grant planning permission to a company to construct oil rigs. This is a very serious situation. Apart from the fact that the council considered the development was in accordance with the provisions of their county development plan and was strictly in accordance with the proper planning and development of the area——

The Deputy is moving away from the matter under discussion.

I mentioned this case as an example of the complete lack of advance planning by the Government to make provision for the situation that will arise when oil is available offshore.

Planning appeals should not be discussed in this House.

The Government appear to have no regard for the employment that will be available in such operations. The Minister stated that we must reduce our critical dependence on imported oil by the further development of our turf resources but I am reliably informed Bord na Móna are short of money to carry out their development programmes. I should like the Minister to refer to this in his reply and to tell us exactly the financial position of Bord na Móna. He should tell us if they will be able to carry out their development programmes.

The Minister also stated that approved guidelines for energy policy are to be put in hand at national and community level. He told us these guidelines relate to investment and pricing policies and that they envisaged the possibility of support from the EEC. I should like the Minister to give us some details of the extent of the expected financial support from the EEC to carry out these policies. I should also like to know the number of industries and hotels which have availed of grants towards the payment of consultants' fees when carrying out fuel efficiency surveys. We should be informed of the degree of success of this scheme and a fair indication would be the extent to which the scheme has been used by industries and hoteliers.

A scheme of grants towards the provision of generators should be initiated by the Government. There are many people who cannot avail of electricity supply because of the high capital contribution and the very high service charge levied by the ESB. The real answer would be for the Government to make grants available for the provision of generators. I am convinced that it is now practically beyond the capacity of many people to pay their monthly or bi-monthly ESB bills. I know of numerous cases where people who are not entitled to free electricity under the social welfare provisions cannot pay the ESB bills and in a number of instances it was necessary for me to get some ESB bills paid by way of home assistance. It is a serious situation and a halt must be called to the ever-increasing electricity charges. I know that the ESB have problems and that they must pay their way but we must consider also the worry of many householders who are in financial difficulties. They cannot afford to pay their bills. The time has come when any further increases in ESB charges should be subsidised or the ESB should be asked to make savings.

I am extremely concerned about the number of schemes which have been shelved by the ESB. Recently I was informed that the proposal to construct a new powerline from Tarbert to Galway, which was to go ahead this year, has been shelved indefinitely. The indefinite postponement of this and similar major schemes will have a massive impact on employment within the ESB.

There is an apparent go-slow on the board's post rural development programme. I understand this programme was to have been completed by the end of 1975 but it appears now that it will not be completed even by the end of next year. This of course means that the ESB have fewer men employed on the scheme than a year or two ago. In practically every ESB gang throughout the country a few men have been laid off. The seriousness of this is that should things pick up again in the country—I am confident that some time they will—we will not have the infrastructure, the electric power, the skilled labour force from which to derive benefit in the new improved situation.

Now is the time for the ESB to go ahead with their powerlines and to proceed with their programmes as planned. This is the wrong time for the ESB to call a halt to major schemes. From every point of view the reverse should be the case, particularly at a time when there is obvious recession, when there is so much unemployment; because if this situation is allowed to continue, some day we will find that industries cannot proceed, industrialists will be turned away because we will not have the infrastructure necessary to permit these industries to commence. This is a disgrace which shows clearly that there seems to be a complete lack of confidence by the Government in the future development of the country. If the Government had the slightest confidence in the future of the country they would insist that the ESB go ahead with all their planned schemes with a view to completion according to targets.

We know that when the post rural development scheme is completed, as the law stands it will spell the end of subsidisation of electricity supplies to private homes and the Government therefore should now make a statement about whether they intend to continue the subsidy scheme. The scheme should be continued and this should be immediately made clear. It is a terrible situation when people building homes in rural areas and in districts not too far away from large towns must pay up to £1,000 in capital contributions to the ESB, a sum far in advance of the amount of the combined new house and local authority grants. This is apart altogether from the effect it is having on the building trade. It discourages people from building homes. I strongly urge the Minister to make an announcement that the Government intend to continue the subsidy scheme.

I know a number of cases of persons who missed the advertisements in local newspapers by the ESB stating that a latest date had been fixed for receipt of applications for electricity supply under the subsidised scheme. When these people went to the ESB they were informed their applications could not be accepted under the subsidised scheme and that they would have to pay the full cost, even though work had not then commenced on the subsidised scheme under the planned post rural development scheme.

I advocate special concessions for places like the Black Valley in Kerry, little pockets and valleys remote from other areas. I am sure there are not too many such areas in the country. It would not take too long to identify their boundaries and to provide a special subsidy scheme over and above the ordinary one for the provision of electricity to the homes in these valleys. There is a great social need for such a scheme and the sooner it is introduced the better. If we want to keep those districts populated, and particularly if we want to keep young people in them, we must provide them with electricity. A home cannot even have television without electricity. Failing the provision of the special subsidy scheme I have outlined, the Minister should introduce a special scheme of grants for generators in those areas. I believe the cost of such a scheme would be small in comparison with the great social benefit it would be.

Grants should be made available through the Department of Transport and Power for bog roads. There must be thousands of people throughout the country who would cut turf for fuel if bog roads were repaired. The only scheme at present in operation under which those roads can be repaired is the local improvement scheme being operated by local authorities but the amount of money allocated to county councils is so small that it would be virtually impossible for the county councils to allocate money for bog roads.

The Deputy will appreciate that new subsidy schemes require legislation. Consequently the Deputy is not in order.

The Minister said that the development programme envisaged by Bord na Móna will extend over quite a number of counties but he did not mention County Kerry. I cannot understand why Kerry was left out because there is a considerable acreage of bog there. I would ask him to request Bord na Móna to review that situation. We also have a turf generating station in Cahirciveen.

The Minister says he is anxious to introduce this year further measures of liberalisation in road transport legislation with due regard to the existing rights of licensed hauliers. The sooner the Minister can give us details of his proposals the better. I do not see why interested people should be kept waiting for details. This seems to me to be another case of indecision on the part of the Government. The sooner arrangements are made to have the accounts of semi-State bodies examined by an all-party Committee of this House the better. Deputies would like to know in detail exactly how the money is being spent and the public are very concerned about the manner in which the money is being spent. I am not saying any of it is being misused but it would allay the fears of the public if an all-party committee were set up and the accounts examined annually.

The Minister talked about traffic at airports but he did not mention Cork Airport. I cannot understand this. If Bord Fáilte concentrated more on getting tourists from Western Europe and from Britain it would help the tourist industry in the south and west of Ireland, which is now in a sorry state, and it would also increase traffic at Cork Airport. The Government should spell out a plan for the development of air fields or landing strips throughout the country. We should have more airstrips like the Kerry County Airport at Farranfore. I know one Government Department intend to set up such air fields in Gaeltacht districts. There should be a network of these landing strips and airfields throughout the country. They are in England and they are in most of the continental countries. I believe they would pay their way.

Debate adjourned.