andMr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Transport and Power if it is proposed to appoint a British firm (name supplied) as prime consultants for the design and engineering of the An Bord Gais pipeline from the Marathon shore terminal to the NET factory and ESB power station near Cork.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - An Bord Gais Pipeline.
The Deputies will be aware from my announcement of 18th April, 1975, and my Estimates speech of 24th April, 1975, that Bord Gais Éireann Teo. have been established by me as an interim company pending the enactment of legislation to give effect to the Government's decision to set up a National Gas Board. These developments reflect the need for a national authority with responsibility for distribution of natural gas, including the provision of the necessary onshore pipeline facilities for the Kinsale Head gas.
I am informed by BGE that, as the provision of the Kinsale Head gas transmission system will involve technologies new to this country, the company consider it necessary to employ consultants experienced in natural gas transmission systems in an advisory capacity in connection with the project. To that end BGE have been having discussions with a number of consultancy firms including the organisation referred to by the Deputies. There is, however, no question of that organisation being engaged to undertake all the engineering work involved or being utilised as main contractor for the project.
BGE have assured me that their policy will be to utilise Irish engineering firms and Irish personnel, equipment and materials to the maximum possible extent.
Will the Minister agree that the ESB are fully competent and capable to undertake consultancy work or prior surveying work for this project? Since there has been an allegation that the ESB are overstaffed and in view of the fact that they are doing similar work abroad on a consultancy level, should not the Minister ensure that the ESB get this contract as consultants since they have the capability, staff and experience?
I do not think the ESB would agree with what the Deputy has said. If they were awarded the contract they would have to engage outside consultants to advise them because they do not have that technology. I am concerned to see that as many people in this country as we will need for the future development of natural gas will have the necessary training and expertise in this area. Deputies may have seen advertisements last weekend by BGE to recruit engineers——
Six months ago I asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce about that.
It would not fall within the province of the Department of Industry and Commerce. It would be within the province of the Department of Transport and Power. BGE are recruiting their own staff. I appreciate what Deputy Barrett has said about the ESB and the vast amount of very fine technology in the engineering field which they have built up during the years. However, the ESB are customers of BGE and, in the long-term, I should prefer to see that expertise in gas pipeline and gas transmission being with BGE rather than with somebody who may be a customer of the board in the future as well as at present. As I have stated, I am concerned that the maximum amount of work possible is done by Irish personnel.
Is it not a fact that the ESB laid ten miles of 16-inch high gas pressure pipeline across Dublin Bay from Poolbeg to Carrickmines and that they were fully capable of doing the work? Is there any difference between the two pipelines other than the fact that the Cork pipeline will be slightly larger?
There is a difference. Natural gas is a different matter.
I will allow Deputy Barrett to put a final supplementary question.
Will the Minister state if he has discussed their capability and whether they are confident that they could do this work with the engineering staff of the ESB or any of their representatives?
The ESB have submitted a file to BGE setting out the work which they consider themselves capable of doing, and more or less they have put in a contract to do that work.
Will the Minister agree that if this consultancy contract goes outside the country it is probable the firm concerned will employ foreign contractors?
Is the Minister aware that the ESB believe this would happen?
That would not be the position. They are being engaged as consultants and it will not be their job to employ anyone. BGE will do that. The consultants may make recommendations but the board are not obliged to accept them.
I am calling Question No. 18. I have allowed the Deputy very considerable latitude on this matter.
This is a very important matter. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has said that Irish people would get as much work as they were capable of doing——
I am giving the same commitment here.
Will the Minister state if the ESB have been ruled out completely on this project?
The Deputy is confusing two matters. If BGE said to the ESB tomorrow morning that they wanted the natural gas brought from point A to point B and that the job was being given to the ESB, the latter would have to engage outside consultants to advise them. I do not want this expertise to be available only to one firm. I want it to be under direct State control through BGE. The board have the job of engaging consultants—there are a number of firms concerned other than the one mentioned by the Deputy—and they will then award the contract.
Will the Minister state——
The Chair has allowed the Deputy a series of supplementary questions. I have called the next question——
It is a very important matter.
I appreciate that but I would remind the Deputy that all questions are important.
Order. I have called the next question.
Is the Minister aware of the fact that the outside firm have been employed by Marathon on a consultative basis on the survey work?
They may have been employed by Marathon but I am not sure about that. They have been advising the ESB and Nítrigin Éireann in their dealings with Marathon.
Will the Minister tell the House——
I have called Question No. 18 on a number of occasions. The Chair must be obeyed at some stage.
Perhaps I may ask a final supplementary question? If foreign consultants are employed, is it not a fact that they will tend to employ outside contractors or subcontractors because they will not know of the capacity of subcontractors in this country? Employment will be endangered.
I have already told the Deputy they will not employ anyone.
We are having repetition from both sides.
One of the directors of BGE is the Chairman of the ESB.
There may be a recommendation to employ foreign concerns.
I have already said that a recommendation need not be accepted.
On the interim board he is a director but when the legislation goes through and the Houses of the Oireachtas set up Bord Gais Éireann as a legislative company then there will be a different set of directors, but at the moment——
Next question. Can we have the next question?