Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Aer Lingus Subsidiary Losses.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

43 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport if, in relation to the reported irregularities in the Aer Lingus accounts concerning Aer Lingus Holidays Limited, he will make a statement setting out the up to date position on the investigations into the matter.

Bernard Allen

Question:

51 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport if he will initiate a full departmental investigation into the affairs of Aer Lingus Holidays in view of reports (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Dick Spring

Question:

56 Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport if he will make a statement concerning the current situation in Aer Lingus Holidays Company.

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

69 Mr. Byrne asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport if the action programme introduced by Aer Lingus, as a result of the Aer Lingus Holidays affair, to strengthen financial control within the Aer Lingus Group has yet been completed; if Aer Lingus Holidays have yet been sold; if he has had any response from Aer Lingus to his request that continued employment prospects for the staff should be treated effectively and sensitively; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I had proposed taking Questions Nos. 43, 51, 56 and 69 together. That, in the light of your comments, is still my intention.

There is nothing unusual about that. It is in order.

I would refer the Deputies to my replies of 16 May and 27 June 1990, in which I pointed out, inter alia, that an accounting investigation into the reported discrepancies at Aer Lingus Holidays Limited had been carried out by a major chartered accountancy firm, Craig Gardner, who furnished their report both to me and to the Board of Aer Lingus. I also pointed out that the report had been referred by me to the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána for investigation.

All the appropriate measures to ensure that this matter is thoroughly investigated have already been taken by me. Craig Gardner have fully investigated the matter; their report has been referred to the Garda Commissioner and I have instructed the Board of Aer Lingus to take disciplinary and legal action where necessary. As I have already made clear in my reply of 27 June, it would be unnecessary duplication to have departmental officials carry out a further investigation.

For legal reasons, I do not wish to comment on the report to which Deputy Allen has referred.

The Chairman of Aer Lingus has confirmed to me that a comprehensive action programme has been implemented to strengthen financial controls within the Aer Lingus group. The finance function at head office and in the subsidiaries has been re-organised in a manner appropriate to a multinational, diversified group. Seven new senior finance appointments have been made, a number of which involve people externally recruited. There have also been changes in the information systems, including appropriate redesign of the content and timing of management information. In parallel, steps have been taken to strengthen substantially the group's corporate legal function.

Negotiations are at an advanced stage for the sale of a number of different businesses in which Aer Lingus Holidays were engaged. Until all contractual matters relating to these sales are completed, it is not possible to be definitive as to what numbers of existing Aer Lingus Holidays employees will be re-employed by the new owners of those businesses. There are, however, indications that some of the new owners will offer employment to a number of the existing staff. In other cases I understand that redundancy terms have been negotiated and accepted by the staff concerned.

May I ask the Minister three questions? First, what is the position of the former auditors of Aer Lingus Holidays Limited and are they being sued by the parent company? Second, are criminal charges pending against any persons arising from this fiasco? Third, have any further management changes come about resulting from these disclosures? Last, will the Minister arrange to ensure, in the interests of parliamentary accountability, that either the Committee of Public Accounts or the Joint Committee on Commercial State-Sponsored Bodies or the chairmen of both those committees are briefed on the precise situation pertaining here? This question will not go away until Parliament has been given the answers to the relevant questions.

I remind the Deputy that the Garda Síochána are still conducting their investigations into the affair and that the Board of Aer Lingus are still considering and taking advice on what civil legal action is open to them. Until I have firm news from either of those sources — and I am watching it carefully on a daily basis — I am not in a position to say any more.

Would It be fair to say——

I am sorry, time is exhausted for dealing with priority questions. The Chair has given some latitude in the matter.