I move amendment No. 1:
In page 5, before section 1, to insert the following new section:
1.—(1) This Act shall come into operation on such day or dates as may be prescribed by the Minister.
(2) Prior to the commencement of any provision of this Act the Minister shall prepare a detailed statement setting out the business case for the commencement of the relevant provision and such statement shall be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas.".
This first amendment is, in essence, the most important in that it seeks to defer the implementation of the Act until such time as business plans have been prepared and submitted. This has been the core of the discussion in this House yesterday and previously in the other House. It seems to be a chicken and egg argument.
Yesterday, and on Committee Stage in the other House, the Minister made much of the fact that a number of different plans exist. He sought to have us believe these constitute a business plan for the purpose of the break-up of Aer Rianta and the setting up of three independent companies. It is important that we tease that out. We on this side of the House contend that there is no business plan for what is proposed. Nobody, be they consultants or the existing board, was asked to produce a business plan for each of three independent companies, particularly not for the two new companies at Cork and Shannon.
It is all very well to point to the overall fiduciary responsibilities of State-owned plcs to look after the corporate interests of the company or that every State company looks ahead at all times and produces a ten-year or 20-year plan or a plan for the new millennium or whatever. That is not what this is about. What this is about is whether there exists, or whether there should exist before the break-up, a plan that identifies the risks and down sides and the opportunities and challenges which will immediately impact on the new companies in the two, three or five years immediately following their establishment on the break-up of the existing company. That is the critical question.
It is acknowledged that there are specific issues relating to financial viability, which we will discuss in the context of later amendments, which affect some of the new companies. Examples are the lease of the Cork Airport from Aer Rianta or from the Dublin Airport authority, the SFADCo owned property in Shannon, and so on. Obviously it is right that they be taken into account. They are critical to the financial viability of the new companies. I am not aware, other than from the PwC report which I will come to in a moment, that these issues have been taken into account, definitively decided, and now form part of a business plan.
As I said yesterday on Second Stage, none of us doubt that it is possible to put together a business plan. It is possible, through all manner of wishful thinking, to say that various opportunities may arise and that there are possible downsides. What we are concerned about is the critical nature of that. We are concerned about what would happen if, having examined this seriously, the consultants or the boards conclude that the business end does not stack up and that there are far greater risks of non-viability than there are opportunities. To put it in more concise terms, what will happen if the consultants or the board decide that Shannon Airport will not be viable in three or five years' time and requires some measure of cross-subsidy or, alternatively, requires to remain part of the group so as to ensure its continuing financial viability? There is no mechanism in this Bill at the moment that allows for a reversal. This amendment would in effect allow for an out by postponing the taking of the essential measures until such time as the business plans have been put in place.