I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 77 and 80 together.
At the outset I would like to state that Forbairt is continuing in its efforts to try to secure the future of the remaining sections in Sunbeam Industries. This business operates in a very competitive marketplace. Nonetheless, every possible avenue is being explored in the hope that a solution can be found.
On the specific issues raised in the questions I would like to state the following. A sum of £2.75 million has been invested by Forbairt in Sunbeam Industries, including Robert Andrews Textiles, mainly in the form of redeemable preference shares. In addition, a sum of £150,000 has also been made available to the company through feasibility, training, research and development grants. There are standard conditions attached to such funding. They are contained in confidential legal agreements between the company and Forbairt. They are a day-to-day responsibility of Forbairt and not something for which I am responsible. Forbairt is satisfied that the money was used for the purposes for which it was approved. However, the company has incurred on-going losses. Forbairt has been monitoring the situation very closely and it has also engaged outside consultants to carry out detailed examinations of its affairs. I have no information to indicate that an investigation under the companies Acts is needed. The level of equity invested by the directors and shareholders is a matter for agreement between promoters and Forbairt and is not a matter for which I have responsibility. The status of preference shares in the company is that usually attached to this form of share under the appropriate legal agreements, i.e. there is a coupon rate setting out the dividend payable out of its profits and, in the case of redeemable preference shares, a redemption date. In the event of a liquidation this form of share ranks after the unsecured creditors but before the equity shareholders.
I have previously informed the House that the problems at Packard related to an industrial dispute. It was not a resource issue and should not be directly compared with the serious financial problems at Sunbeam. I am satisfied that every possible effort was made to save the knitwear division of Sunbeam.
I have spoken to the company and also the chief executive of Forbairt about the overall situation at Sunbeam Industries. Efforts are still being made to try to secure the future of the company. While this is by no means an easy task I am anxious that any discussions and negotiations associated with these endeavours are afforded every opportunity to be brought to a conclusion.