Other Questions. - State Facilities' Relocation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

9 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Finance if he will give the latest figure available to his Department for the estimated cost of relocating State facilities and public servants based at the Abbotstown site for the proposed Campus-Stadium Ireland; if he will give a breakdown of the different elements making up this figure; if agreement has been reached with trade unions representing public servants working on the site regarding transfer; if it is intended that compensation will be paid to staff for transfer to new locations; the potential cost of such compensation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19047/01]

The relocation of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development laboratories and the State Laboratory from Abbotstown to new facilities at Backweston, Celbridge, County Kildare is estimated at £157 million, including site works, construction costs, design team fees, VAT and inflation. A comprehensive estimate of the cost of moving the Marine Institute laboratories from Abbotstown to Galway must await the acquisition of a site and the completion of a detailed brief of require ments, but the estimated construction cost of the new laboratories in Galway is £31 million, including inflation, fees and VAT. Following an agreement at departmental council, staff representatives are informed of the outcome of every meeting of the interdepartmental co-ordinating committee which is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, and which is responsible for overseeing the relocation of laboratory facilities from Abbotstown.

In line with Government policy no compensation or removal expenses will be paid to civil servants relocating to Backweston and Galway. However, non-Civil Service fixed contract staff working at the Marine Institute who do not wish to move will benefit from a severance package being negotiated. The precise costs of this package will not be known until final agreement is reached.

The response of the Minister of State follows closely the response when this question was last tabled. Can I take it that no further progress has been made in acquiring a site and completing an evaluation?

We are still trying to acquire a site in Galway which has not yet been finalised. The Deputy will appreciate that in the current market situation we are trying to get the best value. It is equally important to get the right type of site for such an important institute and laboratory facility.

When does the Minister of State expect to actively take measures to relocate the two bodies concerned?

The Deputy will be aware that we have initiated a process whereby we have received various expressions of interest from contractors regarding the Backweston site. The Government is reviewing the Sports Campus Ireland project, but we are in advance of that and proceeding with the preparation of documents. When the review is completed, it will confirm the information I have given this afternoon, and we will be able to proceed with these facilities. These laboratories are needed, and the question of whether it is Abbotstown or Backweston is immaterial in terms of cost. Every Deputy in the House is aware that the State needs state-of-the-art laboratories that are up to EU and US standards.

Is the Minister of State saying that it will be moved irrespective of the result of the evaluation?

I will not pre-empt the evaluation. We have everything prepared and will be ready to move on the outcome of the evaluation. My instinct is that the assessments done by my staff in the Office of Public Works of the construction costs, site etc. will prove to be accurate.

Do the costs given by the Minister of State include site costs, or any value for the site at Backweston?

As the Deputy is aware, we own the site at Backweston, which is one of the reasons it was deemed suitable for the location of the State laboratories. The costs I have given include site works, construction costs, design fees, VAT and inflation.

Will the Minister of State not accept that the gain forgone by the Exchequer by not being able to sell the land at Backweston means that it should be added to the figures to get a true cost of the development of the laboratories there? This is a deliberate attempt to understate the costs just as the cost of Sports Campus Ireland is being deliberately understated by not including the value of the land at Abbotstown.

I have heard this spurious argument made on numerous occasions in the House. The State holds property and landbanks throughout the country that are vital to its interests in a range of areas. A range of facilities are created on almost a weekly basis for various Departments under the auspices of the Office of Public Works. Deputies contact me on a weekly basis regarding Garda stations and other matters. We are fortunate that the State acquired this property which allows us to pursue important infrastructural developments on a scale not been seen before. Where a property is purchased for a project the price is included in the costs.

Will the Minister of State not accept that nobody in the private sector would cost a project without costing the value of the land? Will he not accept that if the land was not proposed for this purpose, it could be sold at enormous benefit to the Exchequer? If the Backweston site were to be developed for housing, it would be extremely valuable land. The Government is deliberately understating the costs of these projects in order to sell an untenable policy.

Since the Minister of State is having such difficulty finding a site in Galway, and given the inevitable costs associated with a site in that area, has he considered looking at other areas such as Mullingar or Athlone? Prime property for such a facility would be available relatively cheaply.

Will the Minister of State not agree that his Department has effectively lost control of the entire Stadium Ireland project? Will he indicate when he expects to receive a report from the external evaluators?

Regarding the supposition of Deputy Jim Mitchell, I wonder is it new Fine Gael policy that the State begin to divest itself of land important to the future development of the country, and that its infrastructure should be sold. There is no logic to the Deputy's argument and well he knows it. This property belongs to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and we are fortunate to have it in an ideal location to provide state-of-the-art State laboratories.

I assure the Deputy McGrath that I expect to be successful in the context of locating a site in Galway. It would be logical to locate the Marine Institute in an area that has strong marine associations.

In reply to Deputy McDowell, I have dealt specifically with the State laboratories and the Backweston site and not addressed in any detail the matter of Sports Campus Ireland. In terms of my Department's role we are extremely satisfied with the way it is proceeding.