First, I want to deal with the individual amounts as outlined in the Supplementary Estimates. I got two versions of this, the first being for £2 million and the second for £2.5 million. I presume that the sum of £500,000 that appears in the second version here is the money allocated to the Cork-Swansea ferry service. The title says that it is a Supplementary Estimate of the amount required for year ending 31 December 1986 for the salaries and expenses of the offices of the Minister for Communications and certain other services administered by that office, for a cost alleviation payment and for payment of certain grants and grants-in-aid. I do not know what the cost alleviation payment is if it is not that same £500,000. There does not seem to be a cost alleviation payment in the sense that we had in this Estimate, £5 million to Aer Lingus for the transatlantic service. I am a little puzzled about that.
There is a CIE grant here — this refers to subhead D.1. It is only a few short hours since we were dealing with CIE on the broad basis of their reorganisation into four companies, or into Córas Iompair Éireann itself and three subsidiary companies, so that I shall not delay very much on this. However, it is significant that this subhead relates to the bus building operation at Shannon. I, as well as other contributors to the debate on CIE reorganisation, indicated the foolishness of having a facility at Shannon such as we have there and not using it.
The House has been led to understand that the building of buses for CIE is being phased out. They are finishing off 25 buses at present. I pointed out to the House that the total capital investment is still there and still belongs to CIE, that all the machinery, tooling and so on necessary for the building of buses of whatever size are still in place and belong to CIE. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister of State to talk to his Minister and impress on him the desirability of using these resources, particularly as there are also skills available in the area to make use of these resources.
The next item I see here in which I am interested is Aer Rianta. Deputy Leyden will deal with some of the An Post and Telecom Éireann items. I should like to make the point — and I am dealing with subhead H.3 — that a tendency has started and is well under way now of not giving that company their proper name. I believe Aer Rianta themselves are responsible for this "Irish Airports" we are reading about. Aer Rianta is a well recognised name and I want to put on the record my objection to what is happening with regard to that name.
I am a little puzzled about a provision for Aer Rianta, that is, for the new Dublin runway. In the original Revised Book of Estimates, 1986, in the breakdown of subhead H we read that Dublin Airport was allocated an estimated £2,139,000, Shannon Airport £1,271,000 and Cork Airport £501,000. Subhead H.2 seems to be wiped out and a new subhead H.3 inserted. Why is this necessary? If the money is being allocated for Dublin Airport, why is it not under subhead H.2 (1) as on page 180 of the Book of Estimates? What is the purpose of changing the actual subhead? There must be some reason for it because it is not done without reason.
The Minister this evening reiterated what the Minister, Deputy Mitchell said last June when we were taking the general Estimate. He said that the method of financing Aer Rianta has changed. The Minister said today:
However, in view of the heavy demands on the Exchequer, the scale of expenditure involved, the expected commercial rate of return on the project and the strong financial performance of Aer Rianta in recent years, it has been decided that the project should be financed primarily from non-Exchequer sources. Under these arrangements, Aer Rianta will finance about 75 per cent of the cost of the project from their own resources and from borrowings. The remaining 25 per cent of the cost will be financed by Exchequer capital grants.
According to the general Book of Estimates, Dublin Airport was supposed to get £2,139,000 and now, under a different subhead another £900,000 is being added. I am puzzled about that. Why do we not have subhead H.2 — Dublin Airport — £3,039,000? Is there any reason for this? I am sorry the Minister did not avail of this opportunity to let us know how much has been spent on the runway this year. We know what provision the Minister is making but we do not know what borrowings Aer Rianta have made, and we do not know what capital from their profits Aer Rianta have provided for this project.
The Minister went on to say:
Preliminary expenditure of around £900,000 is being incurred on the project in 1986....
That seems to indicate that the only money spent on the runway in 1986 is the money provided under subhead H.3. I do not know if that is true but I would like the Minister to tell me. A question arises immediately from that: what money has been returned to the Exchequer from Aer Rianta in 1986? As the House knows, Aer Rianta send their profits to the Exchequer each year. Has that happened in 1986? A preliminary expenditure of £900,000 for this runway has been mentioned, but it seems to be the money provided by the Minister.
I have a number of notes to hand about various points connected with this matter, but I am puzzled about why we have a new subhead. It may mean that the new subhead caters exclusively for the Dublin Airport runway and that other expenditure for Dublin Airport will be shown separately. I suppose I should welcome that seeing that transparency is the in word for all accounts in public companies. If that is a move towards greater transparency, I welcome it.
At column 1489 of the Official Report on 27 June last the Minister said that some months earlier the Government had approved the provision of a new 8,650 ft. runway at an estimated cost of £31 million and he mentioned the change in funding. The only point which is opaque, rather than transparent, is how much Aer Rianta will be able to fund out of profits and how much they will have to borrow. We will be able to see how much is involved because the Dáil will have to vote the money for this project.
On the subhead in this Estimate making provision for the bulk carrier, the original Estimate was for £400,000 and we are now voting £1,600,000. This subhead under which we are being asked to provide extra money to the tune of £1,600,000 is the saddest aspect of the whole communications and transport area. If the Minister and his Department have achievements, they will all be vitiated by the fact that Irish Shipping were liquidated and we are continuing to pay for that. I will oppose this Supplementary Estimate to show the distaste I have, that Deputies on this side of the House have, and that many Members of the Government parties have, with regard to what happened to Irish Shipping. InIrish Oifigiúil, 31 October, the most recent copy I could lay hands on, it is stated that £51,267,290 was issued under Irish Shipping Limited Acts, 1947 to 1984 and that £40,350,752 was paid out in 1985. It is a disgrace that a fine Irish public company was destroyed.
I have in front of me a record of payments of £90 million plus, and we have nothing for it. At the priceThe Irish Spruce fetched on the market, we could have 30 Irish Spruces for the money spent and recorded in Irish Oifigiúil and in this Supplementary Estimate. We do not need 30 Panama vessels at 70 million tonnes. If that money was husbanded and invested properly in the handy size ships, we could have a substantial fleet. For that reason the Government and the Minister deserve the castigation of this House. The Minister set up a committee to examine this problem and they told him that we need a fleet. He told me that in this House. Yet he has deprived us of a deep sea fleet and he has deprived long-serving loyal workers, right up to the masters rank, of their profession in which they took pride. The objectives and hopes of many young students who were training for this profession have been dashed. I have a short time to deal with this but I could spend all the time on this subhead which seeks to provide £1,600,000 and all for nothing. It is a big investment with nothing at the end of it. I invite Members of the House to examine the Iris Oifigiúil to see the scandal with regard to public funds that is implicit in the figures. I hope I never see the like of that performance again.
The figures of £51,250,000 and £14,350,000 have been mentioned. On top of that there is £25 million for the B&I but that is not under discussion at present. This House should be alerted to what is going on. If the Minister had a cooler head and the Government a steadier nerve — and I am making no excuses for the mistakes that were made in the chartering of vessels — they would have put out of business the man from Hong Kong, who was in charge of the company that was involved, and we would still have our fleet. We would than have been in a position to sell, even in a bad market, and not have a receiver doing it for us by getting rid of a fine serviceable vessel to the Yugoslavs for a mere bagatelle. That is all one could call it considering what it cost
Moneypoint will now be served totally by foreign ships. The Fianna Fáil Government, when making a decision to haveThe Irish Spruce built, specifically thought of it in the context of Money-point. Now the ESB will pay out moneys to foreign companies, not to Irish companies. I hope that when the Minister considers this he will make better plans. I am not indulging in any kind of gigantism. I would not like anybody to set forth on a policy of major investment or major purchasing at present but I would like to see a start made on the building of an Irish deep sea fleet, even if that is only a 6,000 tonne ship. I feel very strongly about that.
There are provisions under subhead W2 for the pensioners of Irish Shipping Limited. There is not enough provision for those people. They continue to dun this House and they are right. They have stated that they will not give up as long as the injustice lasts. They look around them and see people who, without ever taking their feet off dry land, have been generously rewarded by this House and by the State while wholly owned State companies were wound up or went into liquidation. It is difficult to remain dispassionate when dealing with that problem.
I want to comment on the Cork-Swansea provision. There seems to be a note of optimism in what the Minister said. I examined it carefully and I could not see that there was a positive statement that there would be a Cork-Swansea ferry next year. I do not know what the objective is; I have an idea that some people are thinking in terms of a summer service. I welcome the provision and I hope the ferry will be provided. It is difficult to tease out the economic implications of a ferry. Losses may occur in the actual running of a ferry but despite that the country may gain substantially. I do not suppose there ever was an actuary who could give a tight account of that. The people in the Cork-Kerry region are convinced that the ferry is a major economic contributor to the tourist industry in that area.
I know there was talk of an offer of £500,000 but that finally was not taken up. I understand there are business interests who want to provide this service. Naturally enough they want to embark on it if they think it will be a viable service. I do not want to be profligate in my suggestion but if nudging the £500,000 upwards would mean the provision of a service, let us not spoil the ship for a hap'orth of tar. I hope it will become a reality. Representatives from the region have indicated in this House and to me privately that they are very anxious that this service be got under way.
Under subhead K1 there is provision of £1,000 for wreck and salvage. It is particularlyad rem here. I had representations from a citizen of this city asking me to indicate to the Minister that as far as the Kowloon Bridge is concerned he, on behalf of the Government, should try to do the salvaging and perhaps make some money out of that disaster. He feels that the insurance company will pay the owners and that the large cargo of iron ore could be salvaged.
There are aspects of the Supplementary Estimate which I welcome but one thing that perhaps perturbs me is the whole sorry saga of Irish Shipping Limited. As I said in June it is enough to vitiate the good the Minister has done. He has done some good by way of legislation, apart from the fact that the legislation had been made ready in his Department before he took over. However, the one rotten apple is Irish Shipping Limited and that is enough to spoil the barrel for me.