asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if his attention has been drawn to the fact that C.I.E.as stated in their second annual report incurred an additional charge of £26,000 due to the failure of a British firm of contractors to supply them with rails, as a result of which they found it necessary to purchase these rails from a German firm at an extra charge of £13 per ton; and, if so, if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - C.I.E. Purchase of Rails.
I have seen the statement in the second annual report of C.I.E. regarding the purchase of steel rails from a German firm. The responsibility for decisions as to the purchase of materials for C.I.E. rests exclusively with the board and my function as Minister for Industry and Commerce is to assist in securing the release of supplies of scarce materials. All possible steps have been taken to secure the release of steel and steel goods from Great Britain for consumers in this country, including C.I.E.
Is Britain not bound by the reciprocal trade agreement with this country to supply us with certain materials? We export our produce to Britain and, in return, surely we are entitled to receive these heavy engineering products.
The report to which the Deputy refers relates to the year 1951. The situation has changed since. All the indications are that there will be a surplus supply of steel in the world in the present year.
Was there not a trade agreement in 1951 which the British Government should honour?
There was no obligation in the trade agreement on the British to supply us with materials which were then in scarce supply in Great Britain.
Is it not a fact that under the 1949 Trade Agreement the British bound themselves to supply a given quantity of coal in each year and that, in fact, they failed in their undertaking in that respect? May I ask the Minister whether any claim has been put forward to the BritishGovernment for the consequential loss——
The question relates to steel.
Too much coal is coming in. What about getting a market for our own turf?
We do not want to pay the British two prices for it.
Is it not a fact that Britain supplies coal to Denmark—coal for which she never contracted?
This question relates to steel rails.
I meant to ask about steel. Can the Minister say that an English agent had nothing to do with the steel rails which we got from Germany? A case in point happened one time in Cork after tenders were invited for steel bars. The bars came from Germany but, strange to say, an English agent was responsible for the transaction.
I know nothing about that.