Committee on Finance. - Vote 42—Industry and Commerce.

I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £990,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1964, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, including certain Services administered by that Office, and for payment of sundry Grants-in-Aid.

This Supplementary Estimate is necessary to provide for financial assistance for Verolme Cork Dockyard Limited to enable the company to continue the building of ships at Rushbrooke, County Cork.

The announcement of the establishment of this major industry here in 1958-59 by Verolme United Shipyards, Holland, was welcomed at the time and was considered a major gesture of confidence in the industrial future of Ireland. Perhaps, it would not be out of place for me to give a short background to the setting up of this industry here and to the organisation responsible for its establishment. The principal Verolme company is Verolme United Shipyard and Engineering Company Limited, Rotterdam, which owns nine Dutch companies, including shipyards at Alblasserdam and Heusten, an engineering company at Ijsselmonde, an electrical works at Maasluis and a finance corporation at the Hague. Its associated companies are more than ten in number and include dockyards in Brazil, Norway and Mexico as well as a number of shipping concerns.

Negotiations which had commenced in mid-1957 culminated in January, 1959, when Verolme United Shipyards (VUS) acquired the shares of Cork Dockyard Limited with a view to embarking on a major development of the yard for shipbuilding and ship-repairing. A new company, Verolme Cork Dockyard Limited, was formed and since 1959 has proceeded with a programme of capital works. The position now is that 17 acres of land have been reclaimed, and buildings of modern design covering almost 150,000 square feet, and fitted with the most up-to-date equipment for shipbuilding and repairing, have been completed. An existing dry dock has been improved and two slipways for shipbuilding, with ancillary equipment, have been constructed. One slipway can accommodate ships of 35,000 tons dead weight and the other can take ships of up to 65,000 tons.

This is a substantial industry at present employing directly 850 workers, whose skill in applying modern methods of shipbuilding has shown a steady improvement. Unfortunately, the teething troubles normally associated with the development of any new industry have in this case been seriously aggravated by the world-wide depression which has developed in the international shipbuilding industry.

This depression has been so severe that even in countries with long established and fully developed shipyards Governments have found it necessary to come to the rescue of their shipbuilding industries. Substantial subsidies of the order of 20-30 per cent of contract prices for shipbuilding have been provided in France and Italy; and a number of other countries, including Spain, West Germany, Sweden and Japan have found it necessary to provide financial assistance in one form or another for their shipbuilding industries. Britain, too, has decided to provide very substantial financial inducements to encourage British shipowners to place orders for new ships with British yards.

The shipbuilding industry is in a different position from that of other industries in that it must secure its business in competition with shipbuilding industries in other countries and cannot be sheltered from this competition by protection in the ordinary way. Apart from this it is obvious that there is not a sufficient Irish home market for new ships to maintain a shipyard of the size of the Cork yard.

In these circumstances, Verolme Cork Dockyard Ltd. have had to accept orders at unremunerative prices in order to provide work for their yard and to maintain the employment there. As a result they have sustained heavy losses on the ships already built and it is anticipated that further losses on shipbuilding will be incurred though it is hoped that this will be at a diminishing rate as the skill and productivity of the workers improves with experience.

In this situation, Verolme Cork Dockyard Co. Ltd. represented to me that, unless financial assistance by way of shipbuilding subsidy could be provided, they would be unable to carry on and would be forced to close down their shipyard. The main grounds on which the representations were based were that: (a) the market for shipbuilding is at present in a most depressed state and other countries, with a long tradition of shipbuilding, have found it necessary to provide Government subsidies or financial assistance of some kind; (b) shipbuilding costs are of necessity higher here than in other countries principally because of the fact that this was a new venture and because of the lack of experienced labour and the absence of specialised sub-contractors for the shipbuilding industry; (c) the Cork company had not had the benefit of prosperous years in which to build up reserves and could not, therefore, withstand current operational losses; and (d) the parent company in Holland had not escaped the depression and were, accordingly, unable to provide additional finance for the Cork company.

A detailed examination of the company's representations and of their financial situation has been carried out by a group consisting of representatives of the Industrial Credit Co. Ltd., the Industrial Development Authority and An Foras Tionscal and, as a result, the Government are satisfied that financial assistance by way of subsidy is necessary in order to avoid the danger of the Verolme Cork Dockyard Co. Ltd. being forced to close down.

As Deputies are aware, it is not the practice to disclose particulars of loans advanced by the Industrial Credit Co. Ltd. to individual firms or in advance of publication in their Annual Reports of grants approved by An Foras Tionscal. In order that the House should have a full picture of the situation in this case, however, I feel that I am justified in making a departure from the normal practice on this occasion. I can tell the House that the arrangements with Verolme United Shipyards arose from negotiations carried on between the Industrial Development Authority and Verolme United Shipyards, which ultimately resulted in Government approval of proposals under which the Industrial Credit Company would make available £4,760,000 by way of debenture loan and Verolme United Shipyards would provide £725,000 for a development programme extending over a period from five to six years.

A substantial part of the programme has been carried out at a cost of £2,288,750 of which the Industrial Credit Company has provided £1,825,000 by way of debenture loan. The VUS contribution to development up to this stage would have been £463,750, under its contractual agreement, but in fact VUS has provided £687,000, the excess being accounted for by contributions to working capital. The difference between the total capital expenditure to date and the original estimate is £3,196,250 and is largely accounted for by items which remain in abeyance pending an improvement in the world shipbuilding position. In addition, An Foras Tionscal, with the approval of the Government, have approved a grant of £550,000 for the company under the Industrial Grants Acts.

The major portion, £400,000, of this grant will be used by the company to reduce their indebtedness to the Industrial Credit Company Limited. The grant will be merely a replacement of a previous loan commitment from the Industrial Credit Company to Verolme Cork Dockyard. The loan from the Industrial Credit Company Ltd. and the Foras Tionscal grant are of course, separate from and in a different category from the shipbuilding subsidy now proposed. For their part, Verolme United Shipyards have invested in Verolme Cork Dockyard to the extent of £687,000 by way of share capital and loan and, in addition, are owed £698,000 by the Cork company for goods and services.

The Government are satisfied that apart from the normal difficulties which can confront any new industry, especially one such as this which cannot be protected from outside competition in its early stages, the situation which confronts the Verolme Cork Dockyard Ltd. is brought about by the international depression in shipbuilding which has forced other countries to subsidise their shipbuilding industries. In the Government's view the new Rushbrooke yard could not have been expected to secure business at remunerative prices in competition with shipyards in the countries which are being subsidised by their Governments. In the circumstances, the Government consider that in order to maintain the shipyard in operation and the substantial employment which it affords a shipbuilding subsidy must be provided.

The Government propose, therefore, to provide subsidy for Verolme Cork Dockyard Ltd. in respect of the first five ships built or to be built at the Rushbrooke Shipyard. Of these, two have already been built, a third is being built at present and it is expected that an order for a fourth ship will be placed with the yard shortly. The subsidy will be related in each case to the losses sustained, taking no acount of depreciation in the case of the first and second ships.

In the case of these two ships, the amount of the losses to be made good by subsidy is £650,000, which represents 25 per cent of the contract price of these two ships. In the cases of the third, fourth and fifth ships the subsidy will also be less than the actual losses since in calculating losses for the purpose of subsidy depreciation will be included at not more than 40 per cent of normal rates and the subsidy will be subject to a maximum sum in each case. The maximum commitment, which represents percentages reducing from 15 per cent to 10 per cent of the contract prices amounts in all to £570,000 for these three ships.

The reason for the relatively high percentage for the first two ships is that a substantial part of the losses sustained on these ships was attributable to the inexperience of the labour force. As the workers gain in experience, skill and productivity, it is expected that the Rushbrooke yard will become progressively more competitive. In addition to the subsidy, further assistance will be provided until the end of 1964 through the waiving by the Industrial Credit Co. Ltd., of interest on its loan to Verolme Cork Dockyard, Ltd.

The total subsidy is estimated at £1,220,000, of which it is expected, that £990,000 may become payable in the present financial year, as subsidy on the first three ships and part of the fourth.

Verolme United Shipyards for their part will be required to convert into share capital of Verolme Cork Dockyard Ltd., £362,492 of money owing to them by the Cork Company and until the end of 1964 to waive interest due to them from the Cork Company.

The financial asistance now proposed is admittedly very substantial. It is clear, on the other hand, that the closing down of the Dockyard would cause the disemployment of workers, at present numbering 850, and the loss to the area of wages and salaries, which last year were in the region of £750,000 per annum. The House will understand that there could also be a loss of much of the State financial assistance already afforded to the company through the Industrial Credit Co. Ltd. Another consideration is that the benefits of purchases from Irish suppliers, which amounted to roughly £350,000 in 1962, would be lost. The imponderable repercussions would possibly be more serious.

The House is, no doubt, aware that the shipbuilding depression is occasioned partly by low freight rates arising from excessive tonnage in relation to demand and partly by a growing excess of world shipbuilding capacity in relation to the output of new ships. This situation has been aggravated by the practice in certain countries of providing direct or indirect subsidies for shipbuilding. So far as can be judged, the outlook for the immediate future is not promising and it is probable that world shipbuilding capacity will be reduced by the closure of a number of yards. The older and smaller yards are, it is considered, likely to suffer most, particularly in view of the trend towards larger ships and their construction in modern yards of substantial capacity.

The Cork yard is modern in its lay-out and equipment and its capacity is substantial. The future prospects of the company appear to depend on a substantial and progressive increase in labour productivity and the achievement and maintenance of a high level of activity in shipbuilding and ship repairs. I am informed that a marked increase in productivity has taken place recently in the yard and I feel that the financial assistance now proposed to be provided and the progressively increasing labour productivity should enable the company to overcome the shortcomings experienced hitherto. The company's association with the modern organisation of Verolme United Shipyards should make readily available considerable technological expertise and the services of a selling association with wide experience in world markets. This association should be of assistance in obtaining orders for new ships. I, therefore, recommend that the House should approve of this Supplementary Estimate.

Might I point out that Motion No. 7 on the Order Paper, in the name of Deputy Cosgrave, together with the amendment in the names of Deputies of the Labour Party, may not be moved at this stage but will be discussed with the Supplementary Estimate?

When is it proposed to take the motion and the amendment?

The motion and the amendment will be discussed with the Supplementary Estimate.

I think I should say that I have not yet received a copy of the Labour Party's amendment.

It was circulated in the House today.

I did not get it. I saw the document being circulated but I did not know what was in it.

Would it be possible to get a few extra copies of the Minister's speech? In a matter like this, more copies should have been provided.

I know that the motion and the amendment are being discussed together but will we have an opportunity of voting on our amendment?

Yes. The motion and the amendment will be put together at the end of the debate.

Has the Minister more than four copies of his speech available?

I have given a copy of the speech to the Deputy's Party.

In a matter like this, where the House is being asked to spend almost £1 million, surely the Minister should have brought in more than four copies of his opening statement?

I think I have gone far enough in extending that courtesy.

Usually there are about 20 copies or more. Are there any extra copies available?

Ask Deputy Norton.

I move:

"That the Supplementary Estimate be referred back for reconsideration."

The House will have learned with the very greatest concern of the position that exists in the Verolme Dockyard. In fact, having listened to the Minister's speech, it is, I believe, an accurate description of the position to say that the undertaking there is virtually bankrupt and that the State has now to step in and undertake a substantial rescue operation. A great number of questions require to be considered and dealt with when dealing with this Supplementary Estimate. It is for that reason that we tabled a motion suggesting that a Select Committee be established and that the affairs of the Verolme Cork Dockyard be considered by that Committee which would consist of the usual number of persons and have the powers normally accorded to a Committee to send for persons, papers and records.

We feel that not merely are the difficulties in which the Verolme Dockyard now find themselves worthy of the most exhaustive examination and review but that the initial decision to establish this company there must be questioned. It is not necessary in considering this to say that it is easy to consider it with hindsight. It required no hindsight four or five years ago to know that the world shipping situation was in the doldrums; that there was a world wide depression in shipping and in shipbuilding generally; that freight rates had fallen and that a great tonnage, not confined to any single country, was tied up and that in fact many of the biggest shipping companies, as well as countries with a long shipping tradition, found themselves facing an extremely difficult situation with workers laid off in yards and shipbuilding undertakings in all these countries.

It was in that situation that the decision to establish the Verolme Dockyard was taken. It was taken in the circumstances in which this country already had at least two fairly substantial shipbuilding yards. Undoubtedly, the principal one was in Belfast but there was also in existence the Liffey Dockyard in Dublin, without referring to the fact that the Cork Dockyard also existed and there were some smaller yards elsewhere. But in the light of the facts and information available—that both at Belfast and Dublin, the two existing shipbuilding yards were facing very great difficulties and in fact, meeting difficulties which they were unable, in common with shipyards elsewhere, to surmount—the decision was taken to establish the Verolme Cork Dockyard.

One of the problems in dealing with this matter initially was the reluctance of the Government to give the information which the Minister has now given in the House. It is generally accepted procedure that in cases where the Industrial Credit Company provides financial assistance for industrial concerns, the normal practice is, and it is a practice that can be defended, not to publish the details and certainly not to publish them at the time. Sometimes information is subsequently conveyed in the annual reports but they normally consider the commercial interests involved and the ordinary trading obligation to confine the information applicable to a particular company to that company itself and not allow competitors to gain possession of the information.

That practice can be defended and is appropriate particularly where the investment is of the average level which the Industrial Credit Company have dealt with and are dealing with. In this case, however, the circumstances were entirely different. A Government decision was taken to establish the Verolme Cork Dockyard and to invite in an outsider from Holland, Mr. Verolme, who had a reputation of being a successful shipbuilder. It was not stated at the time what investment Mr. Verolme was making and what investment was being made by the State. Subsequently, as a result of figures given at the annual meeting of the Industrial Credit Company, it became obvious that the State investment through the Industrial Credit Company was very considerable.

In 1959—so far as I can trace, the first occasion on which this matter was made the subject of detailed information—the Taoiseach, then Minister for Industry and Commerce, gave the House some particulars. It is in the light of information then given, and the results that have since accrued, that the House and the country are entitled to consider this fully, and, I believe, censure the Government for what has happened. The Taoiseach, when Minister for Industry and Commerce, having referred to the fact that it was not usual to give detailed information in relation to such matters, went on, on 3rd June, 1959, as reported at Column 949 of Volume 175 of the Official Reports:

Nevertheless, in relation to the Verolme undertaking, I can make a general statement leaving out these specific details because, indeed, that has already been done by Mr. Verolme in a Press interview which he gave after the announcement of his intention to develop this shipyard at Cork.

Deputies will understand that what is contemplated there is a major development which will take some years to complete, involving, in all an investment of something between £5 million and £6 million. Mr. Verolme's attitude was that he was prepared to undertake that investment provided the regulations of his own Government concerning the export of capital and other factors permitted him to do it and, indeed, he is, I gather, still under the impression that he will be able to do it although it is not yet certain. What he required before he started upon the undertaking was an assurance that, if any difficulty emerged in proceeding with it because of restrictions upon the finance available, he would have access to resources here. He asked the Industrial Credit Company for what he described as an umbrella and that is, in fact, what he got. It may be that it will not rain, that he will not require the umbrella.

It now transpires from the Minister's statement that the investment of Mr. Verolme was a minor consideration in the capital which was provided for the company. As far as I can gather, the State, both through the Industrial Credit Company and An Foras Tionscal—the Industrial Credit Company, £4,760,000 and An Foras Tionscal, £550,000—will provide——

The Industrial Credit Company have provided £1,800,000.

They are going to make available £4,760,000. They have already provided £1,800,000, and the rest is promised.

Subject to certain developments taking place.

Unless the place shuts down. The position is that the total subsidy provided is £1,220,000, of which £990,000 is to become payable in the present financial year. This decision was taken on the basis that the total State commitment, assuming all this money is eventually invested by the State, would be over £5 million while the total investment by Mr. Verolme's company, Verolme United, would be £725,000 for a development programme which, as the Minister remarked, covers a period of five or six years.

Consequently, this position requires a full investigation. Indeed, we are familiar with the pattern here of enterprises being started by the State or under State auspices, where the greater part of the investment is by the State —public money subscribed in one form or another and made available through various agencies to particular undertakings—and when the undertaking gets into hot water, as this one has, a rescue operation is begun. Over the past few weeks, particularly during the past few days, we have here been discussing the whole financial position of the country and amongst the matters referred to and commented on not merely by Ministers and Deputies but by writers and other commentators, are the irresistible forces that are driving up public expenditure.

Some of these forces are influenced by price increases, by factors outside our control; some of them are an accumulation of events which no Government, which the Dáil itself, in fact, is not capable of controlling. But this matter was the subject of a specific Government decision taken in the light of the existing shipping situation which, according to one statement made during the past six months by Mr. Verolme, was that we had had seven good years and now there were seven bad years to follow. Mr. Verolme said he hoped good times would come along again.

It happened that the decision to establish this undertaking was taken in the bad seven years, shortly after the situation had deteriorated, so in the past four or five years, it has not improved greatly. However, I do not believe it is sufficient to say that because other countries are doing it, we should also. Capital is scarce enough here. The difficulty of deciding on sound projects is one for which a Government must take responsibility. If we compare, for instance, the investment in this case with the investment during the previous Government in projects like the briquette factories or the oil refinery——

It did not cost the Government a penny. There is no analogy there.

Of course, there is an analogy. They were prepared to put money into the oil refinery. Three companies were satisfied with the economic prospects and they invested in it. In the case of the briquette factories, not only did the Government, through Bord na Móna, invest but a firm of unqualified shrewdness, Messrs. Guinness, invested substantial sums also. Therefore, I think it is correct and appropriate that we compare the inherent soundness of any of these projects with the situation which has developed here.

I would probably be out of order if I made comparisons over the whole field but we have been discussing here recently what has happened elsewhere. This was a major capital investment, the decision in respect of which was taken in the teeth of knowledge available to everyone, taken in circumstances in which the information had to be forced out of the then Minister before it became available through reports in the Press and at the annual meeting of the Industrial Credit Company. Now when the situation has deteriorated, we get the full facts.

The motion put down to appoint a Select Committee is, to my mind, justified by events. We are entitled to know not merely how much is being invested by the State and by Mr. Verolme but what were the terms of the original agreement. Are the terms of this agreement available? On an occasion of this sort, there is a very strong case for making the full facts available. It differs entirely from the other cases with which the Industrial Credit Company deal.

One of the difficulties in this situation is that because of the circumstances as they have developed a flood of rumours surround the whole operation. One of the normal attendants of a rumour is that it begets another. In fact, so serious was the position that both Mr. Verolme and another official of the company had to hold at least one press conference or to give one statement to the press reporting on the situation. One of the comments made in the course of the report was that the difficulties at Cork were similar to these which had been experienced in other places, particularly in Brazil.

But remember that when this decision was originally taken the Taoiseach, then Minister for Industry and Commerce, said that Mr. Verolme was not interested in profit, that he had been fantastically successful in his own business and that profit can be of no further interest to him. We do not dispute that. Nobody queries that statement of the position. However, what the then Minister for Industry and Commerce did not say was what investment they were putting into that undertaking.

It does not seem to matter, so long as we pay.

We have now discovered that the investment by Verolme United Shipyards is a comparatively small portion of the total capital. I believe that because of forces, which have been described as irresistible, not merely does it behove this House but the primary responsibility should devolve on the Government of the day to scrutinise with the greatest care and examine in the most exhaustive fashion the proposals involved in this case in this particular undertaking but in any case in any undertaking with a comparable State investment to this.

If it is taken as a matter of course that the House can provide readily and freely and easily large-scale capital investment and, subsequently, if a firm or an undertaking gets into difficulties, then, because of the employment content—and here the difficulties arise once a decision is taken to establish an undertaking of this sort —the company, the Government, the Dáil, become involved in the employment situation and irrespective of the merits of the undertaking itself, irrespective of the prospects, irrespective of the other considerations which should apply to a matter of this sort, the primary consideration will naturally become the problem of maintaining employment.

Vast sums of money have been expended not merely here but elsewhere in order to undertake what can be described as a rescue operation. That is an entirely different thing in the case of an established concern such as CIE which has been acquired by the State and which may get into difficulties. We have transport undertakings that have been here for generations. The whole transport of the country depends on them. It is natural that the State should not merely provide the capital but accept responsibility—and we all know what has been involved in that both financially and otherwise.

But, in this particular case, the numbers employed in the existing Cork dockyard were comparatively few compared with what has been developed. It was decided to establish this undertaking at a time when world-wide shipping was in a very serious condition. I strongly hold the view that this case brings before the Dáil in a very realistic way the need for some practical machinery for investigating the circumstances and operations of State and semi-State companies. I have referred to this matter previously and on many occasions the matter has been the subject of consideration by Governments and by Ministers.

The normal practice, is that the accounts of a State company are laid on the Table of the Dáil and an opportunity is afforded to Deputies to discuss the matter or, in the case of a Minister being responsible for an Estimate for it, an opportunity is afforded for debate or in certain other circumstances where additional capital is provided the amending legislation affords the opportunity for discussion. Over the years, so few discussions have been initiated on the annual accounts of State companies that sometimes it has obscured the fact that any discussion is necessary or has created the impression that a full examination has never, except on a very few occasions, been undertaken by the Dáil of these operations. However, in general, in respect of transport, the ESB or Bord na Móna, periodically there is either an Estimate in some cases or, with most of these well-established companies, amending legislation providing additional capital and a full scale discussion takes place. But, in the case of this company or certain other companies, the same is not the case.

So far as public expenditure by Government Departments is concerned, there are two checks which operate to ensure that the money in the first place, is approved by the Dáil when the annual Estimates are presented and the second check takes place subsequently by the Public Accounts Committee to see if the money which was voted has been spent precisely in the way authorised by the Dáil when the Estimate was passed. With State companies, that type of control is probably not suited in the sense that the Dáil cannot review the day-to-day activities of the company. On the other hand, some modus vivendi or some system of operation should be devised which would enable the House and the country to examine periodically the operation of an undertaking of this character.

I do not want to elaborate on the rumours or to give further credence to the stories that have been circulating concerning this undertaking. Suffice it to say that, generally, if a company or an undertaking is proceeding satisfactorily rumours do not arise in respect of it. It is only in circumstances in which difficulties occur or problems have to be surmounted that rumours start and, as I have said, one rumour leads to another.

The reason I suggest the establishment of a Select Committee is that whatever information would be brought before it would be confidential. There would be no publication of the facts and information and other relevant data brought before that Committee. The whole discussion could be conducted in the appropriate atmosphere which would prevent either competitors or others from getting a particular slant or a wrong view of, say, certain information that might be made available. It is obvious that the circumstances which have now arisen justify a full investigation into the situation that has developed.

So far as one can gather from the Minister's statement, there are some prospects of continuing work at the dockyard. Two ships have been built, a third ship is being built and an order is expected for a fourth ship. I understand the information has only come in the way in which information of this sort does come. You have to depend on certain reports. In order to be certain of any degree of continuity, the yard requires orders for two ships. As far as one can gather, one is being built and an order for another may be placed.

All these factors require to be sifted by a Committee representing all sides of the House. I think it is correct to say that all sides are anxious that the capital investment by the State in a major undertaking of this sort should be successful. Any criticism I have made is that it was decided to establish this in the face of the world-wide depression and in the light of the knowledge available to everyone that that was the general situation so far as shipping and shipbuilding were concerned. We are as concerned as anyone else that this proposal or any other investment comparable with it—indeed, any industrial undertaking—should and would be successful. But the position has now been reached in which a Supplementary Estimate for almost £1 million is before us and, according to the Minister's statement, the total subsidy is estimated at £1,200,000, of which £990,000 is payable in the present financial year.

In the light of the magnitude of this subsidy and of the substantial State investment that has already taken place, in the light of the information available about shipping generally and the fact that until the debate in the Dáil in June, 1959, no information of the capital structure of this undertaking was made available—indeed, the figures now before us present to the Dáil for the first time a full picture of the financial circumstances—I am satisfied it is appropriate that a Select Committee should be established to investigate in full the affairs of the Verolme Dockyard Company Limited and that they should have the usual powers to investigate this matter fully.

On the other hand, if it is accepted that State expenditure is irresistible, it behoves us all to scrutinise most carefully every item of expenditure on every occasion on which public moneys require to be expended. The normal Dáil procedure for examining public expenditure is the discussion of the annual Estimates for State Departments and the subsequent examination by the Committee on Public Accounts. That is the old procedure for State expenditure and administration. So far as State companies, semi-State companies and a company of this sort is concerned, that procedure does not seem satisfactory and certainly would require to be modified. I am not wedded to any type of committee, but I think the House and the country are entitled to get some full and impartial investigation into the whole affairs of this company and into the past expenditure as well as the future prospects.

As I said, if we accept in a facile way that forces which have been described as irresistible push up public expenditure, we abandon, or certainly relinquish to a certain extent, the effective control over public expenditure which the Dáil must have and exercise. If, on the other hand, we decide as a matter of principle and policy that no public expenditure will be undertaken unless there is adequate justification for it, unless the facts are sufficiently compelling and unless we have information and knowledge of the prospects—I know nobody can guarantee success, but at least a proposal can be sifted and examined fully and carefully by the Department of Industry and Commerce or whatever Government agency is responsible for it—then, at any rate, we have discharged our obligations and fulfilled what we are expected to do in examining carefully and exhaustively the lines upon which expenditure is proposed. In this case, that was not possible. The decision was taken, and only subsequently did the information become available. As I have said, the Government and the country knew when this decision was taken—and other countries had the same experience—that shipbuilding was going through a most difficult time.

It is natural that the House should approach with caution any proposal which would affect the livelihood and employment of so many persons as are involved in this case, but we have to decide on some basis of priority, whether public expenditure should be in this field or that, whether one industry or one undertaking affords a better prospect than another and, having sifted the various facts and information available, take a decision on the basis that the facts and financial prospects of A justify expenditure rather than B. If that is done, the public and the House may be satisfied that every effort is being made to examine exhaustively, impartially and in a constructive manner, the proposed public expenditure on whatever project is in hand. Undoubtedly, in this case, the House and the country must view with concern, if not with suspicion, what has happened. I want to urge the Dáil to refer back this Estimate for reconsideration and to approve of the motion to establish a Select Committee to investigate the affairs of the Verolme Dockyard Company Limited.

We will all share the regret that it has been necessary to discuss the affairs of the Verolme Dockyard Company just now. I do not think a detailed public discussion of the affairs of the company is calculated either to improve its status as a shipbuilding undertaking or to increase public confidence in the efficiency and progressive character of the firm. Whilst we may approach this matter from different angles, it seems to me our overriding consideration ought to be not to do anything which would harm the reputation of the firm or in any way impair the possibility that with some additional aid from the State, it may be possible to overcome the difficulties which have fallen so thickly upon the Verolme Dockyard Company.

I do not imagine anybody could have thought with the shipping experience of 1959 that they were launching at Cork a shipping enterprise which was going to yield substantial dividends. The shipbuilding industry in the world has been depressed for many years past. Shipping shares have fallen all over the world. Many countries, however, have substantial numbers of ships tied up, including our own, ships they cannot even charter, even at less than an economic rate. Many ships are at sea today on which the charter payment is not paying for the crew but the companies find it necessary to operate like that in order to cut losses as far as possible. It is generally known in shipping circles these are bad days for shipping. There are no bright prospects for the small shipping company today.

The whole pattern of shipping may be re-oriented in a way that may compel a complete change in the shipping picture as we knew it in the past. Small countries and emergent countries that never built ships before are now trying to get into the industry because they believe they should have their own ships to carry their own goods. Others believe that, being maritime countries, they should develop shipping in order to do what is characteristic of such countries, send ships to sail the seas. Others build ships for balance of payment purposes or to ensure that the seafaring characteristics of their people have an outlet through the shipyards.

In such circumstances our own shipyard was launched at Cork. I can hardly imagine less auspicious circumstances. The fact is that it was launched and I do not believe in crying over spilt milk which cannot be put back into the bottle. We must see what can be done now by way of a lifeboat operation to rescue Verolme shipyards from their unhappy position. When one looks at reports of shipping statistics throughout the world, the extent to which countries previously in the vanguard in sending their ships through the Seven Seas have been compelled to tie up their ships for want of cargo, certainly for want of economic cargo, one can see what difficulties have to be faced here.

One doubts very much whether subsidisation of shipping here is likely to be an effective remedy for the situation in Cork now. There are many prepared to say that with airfreight assuming the importance it is assuming, the need for shipping on past scales will not exist in future. Many would say that the development of national economies in different countries will obviate the necessity for as much importation of goods as previously. Altogether the most enthusiastic shipping wiseacre would probably say that the future of shipping is extremely difficult.

We are in difficulties with the Cork situation and our problem is to get out of that difficulty in the most economic way. What strikes one from the Minister's statement is the heavy State investment in Verolme Dockyards vis-à-vis Verolme's own investment. It seems as if the State investment is at the rate of seven to one, £7 for every £ invested by Verolme. That means what we are endeavouring to save in the long run is not so much Verolme's capital as State capital——

It is a debenture loan. It is not State capital.

What is the value of the debenture loan if the whole thing goes down in ashes?

What is the asset value for cash?

The loan surely is on a reliable balance sheet which will pay dividends, but if the whole thing goes down, our money is gone also. That is the risk we must take. While the future may look precarious from the point of view of building a viable shipbuilding economy in Cork, there is a simple choice before us—whether we are to give this subsidy on five ships, some of which have been built at Cork, others which will be built there, or allow 850 workers to be thrown on the industrial scrapheap. If those workers who have been trained in shipbuilding practice and have acquired special skills are unable to find employment in the Verolme yards, I do not know where in Cork or in Ireland they can find it.

In the past few years, we have read the sorry bulletins issued from time to time by Belfast shipyards which at one time were the envy of the shipyards of the world. If the Verolme yards close and displace 850 workers in Cork, I see no source of employment for them in their own occupation in Ireland and, with the present position of shipbuilding in Britain, I see none there. The question is should we put up this subsidy of £1,220,000 to save the employment of these 850 workers and give the company an opportunity of pulling out of its difficulties in the future, in the knowledge that we are going to do for the Cork shipyard what other countries have found it necessary to do for their shipyards, provide a subsidy in order to enable shipbuilding companies to be competitive with countries such as Japan and Germany where they have specialised and rationalised so that they are now the keenest providers of shipping space in the world?

If I have a choice between withholding the subsidy and keeping workers, especially skilled and trained workers, employed, I am in favour of giving the subsidy and of reviewing that from time to time in the light of world circumstances. It would be inhuman at this stage to allow a firm employing 850 workers whose wives and familes depend upon the employment to be thrown out of work with no alternative work available in their own occupation. The company should be given the subsidy on these ships. That seems to be the only way in which it can be sustained. To withdraw the subsidy, I fear, would mean the company would not be able to carry on or, if so, would carry on to the end of the loan made available by the Industrial Credit Company and then its life would draw peacefully to a close.

Our view is that the shipyard company, in the circumstances and having regard to the purposes for which the subsidy will be used, should be given the subsidy now and should be told now they will get that subsidy. At the same time, in view of the amount of money already advanced or the size of the financial umbrella which has been opened over the company by the Industrial Credit Company, there should be an examination of the affairs of the company. We do not say, however, that the subsidy should be withheld pending the results of the examination but that the company should get the subsidy, that it should be encouraged to remain in business and that the examination should proceed speedily so as to give the House and the Government a report of what a reasonably constructed committee thinks of the whole project.

One thing we must be mindful of in this matter is that if the Verolme Dockyard closes, it will probably close for ever and if the Verolme Dockyard closes, the story of it will be told in Irish history for many a year and will probably act as a ghost to keep away anybody else wishing to establish a dockyard here. It may very well be that we cannot establish and maintain a dockyard here, because of world circumstances and the international character of the shipping business. However, we ought not to let it go without making every possible effort to keep it in existence. It is because we take that view that we agree that the subsidy should be paid to the company and that the investigation should proceed.

Cork Deputies will be in a better position to know what the impact would be in Cork of throwing 850 workers out of employment. I certainly would not like to have any moral responsibility for taking action which would lead to that end. I should like to ask the Minister whether the subsidy is to apply only to the Cork dockyard company or whether it is to apply to the Dublin dockyard company as well or any company here which builds boats. If it is to apply only to the Cork dockyard would the Minister tell us why it should not extend to another Irish dockyard if it happens to build ships.

The device of the subsidy is probably the only way in which we can help this firm against the competition it has experienced from abroad but it does seem a bit incongruous that the Minister for Transport and Power talks every day in the week about cutting the subsidy of CIE which provides employment for about 17,000 or 18,000 people, while his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, says: "Let us give a subsidy of £1,220,000 to Verolme Dockyard which employs 850 people." The Government appear to have two views on this matter, no subsidy for surface inland transport but a subsidy and quite a heavy one for seagoing transport. I believe that an adequate railway system cannot be run here without a subsidy.

The Deputy is getting away from the terms of the Supplementary Estimate before the House.

I have not spent one second getting away from it.

Acting Chairman

There is only one subsidy mentioned here.

I have been here since the debate started and I know that. I have read the Minister's speech on it and there is nobody saying there are two subsidies here.

Acting Chairman

The Chair is pointing out that the Deputy may not discuss a subsidy to CIE on this Supplementary Estimate.

May he not suggest a better way of spending this money? May he not compare different types of subsidies?

The Chair was misled.

If the Chair waited to hear my remarks, he would have understood I did not intend to discuss the matter.

The Chair is not at fault. He was ill advised.

Acting Chairman

The Chair was not ill advised.

Let me assure you I will cause you no anxiety or anguish during your occupation of the Chair. I was saying I believe in the utilisation of the subsidy method. For that reason, we are supporting this proposal to subsidise the Verolme Dockyard and I commend the subsidy method in this case to the Government as something which ought also to be continued in its application to surface inland transport under CIE. That is all I want to say on the matter.

As I said earlier, the choice left to us is one of giving this company a chance to start in new circumstances. Maybe we are giving hostages to fortune. Maybe we are hoping for things which will not be realised but we have a moral obligation to do everything possible to keep the shipyard going and to provide continued employment for the Irish workers who are employed there at present and perhaps also we shall have a chance of manifesting our humanity in a generous approach to the problems of the company. At the same time, it is not unreasonable that there should be some inquiry into its operations, not in any carping way but with a view to seeing what are the precise conditions or whether there is any other action the State can take to help the firm to surmount its existing difficulties.

It is an extraordinary thing that practically this month 35 years ago, this House discussed the closing down or the giving of a subsidy to another Rushbrooke dockyard. At that time Deputies representing the Government Party of the day in that constituency put up a proposal of a 25 per cent subsidy and that was turned down by the then Government. That dockyard then closed down, leaving this country in a position that from 1939 to 1945, there was no means whatever of repairing any ship damaged or wrecked on the seas and which came into Cobh harbour for repairs. The Government had to step in then, take over the derelict dockyard, where everything that was worth a fiver had been sold, and endeavour to repair ships there. That was the history of what happened that dockyard in 1928 under the rule of the Cumann na nGaedheal Government.

Acting Chairman

I must draw the Deputy's attention to the terms of this Supplementary Estimate which is for the Verolme Dockyard. We cannot go back to 1928 on it.

I am going back to point out what happened to the previous dockyard.

Acting Chairman

The Chair is ruling that out of order.

I am not surprised by the attitude of what is left of that Party.

We have not expressed any view on it from this side of the House to justify those remarks. We are as worried about this matter as the Deputy is, so do not start this discussion with your coat off looking for fight. Our concern is not a phoney concern.

I am dealing with the position as I see it. There is a motion to refer back the Estimate, to have it talked about, considered and twisted for the next couple of years and then the dockyard will not be there and we will not be bothered with it. This dockyard was started under tough circumstances and it has not got the support and trade of our Irish ships. I am alluding to Irish Shipping Limited. That company got a ship built within the past 12 months and the order was sent outside this country. It would have been better to give a ten per cent subsidy to have that ship kept here than to have it built in another country which is subsidising its shipbuilding.

The overhauls necessary to our own Irish ships would give considerable employment in the Verolme Dockyard if they went there and if this Government insisted on their going there. At the same time, you have the B & I running services three times a week into Cork and taking out all the trade that is there. Why does the State not insist that the boats of that company be overhauled in Cobh? Those are the suggestions I make to keep employment going at the Verolme Dockyard and it is not the first occasion on which I have had to put up that argument here in regard to the previous dockyard. The bulk of this money has been paid already in wages to Irish workers, to young men who have been sent abroad to be trained as shipbuilders. There are 850 of those at present employed in this dockyard and this Government have already had to carry out rescue operations practically on a line with this, as in the case of Irish Steel.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy may not discuss that matter on this Supplementary Estimate.

May the Lord help us! I am alluding to the rescue operations that had to be carried out previously, rescue operations in which a pretty considerable sum of money had to be spent.

Acting Chairman

That is not in order on this Estimate.

Surely it is in order to recall these rescue operations?

Acting Chairman

If it is a case in which other money was spent, it is not in order. It is in order to discuss this Estimate but not how any other money was spent.

Thank God for small mercies. Those are the main points we have to face up to. If we are not allowed to discuss instances in which Government money was used to save industries as an example of what might happen in this case, we do not know how far we can go. I am not as much concerned in this as the Cork city people because only about 20 per cent of the workers there are from my constituency. The remaining 80 per cent are from elsewhere since due to the good offices of the Fine Gael personnel manager there, these other people are employed there. I do not think I will elaborate on that.

They are Irishmen. We hear here week after week and month after month people complaining about emigration and about the lack of employment for young men in this country. The Government were courageous enough to provide employment here. They are courageous enough to take action at this stage to see that these men will not be driven out of that employment. That is the opposite decision to what was come to here 35 years ago with regard to the same dockyard.

The Government have decided that they are going to carry on this and, as far as I can see, there is no justification for any attempt to stop or hold up the spending of that money in order to keep those people in employment. We have spent money for that purpose before. We have seen industries which were in danger of being completely wiped out and the Government had to step in. Today, within two miles of Rushbrooke dockyard, we have 600 men in constant employment in Irish Steel Limited, a concern which went bankrupt about 1942 or 1943, and again in 1945, and on each occasion the Government had to step in to perform the rescue operation. Today that firm is paying its way and has 600 men in constant employment. There is the example before us of the result of courage on the part of the Government and of a rescue operation by the Government. I see no justification whatever for anybody trying to hold up or deprive these 850 people who are working there of their employment. They have their own difficulties to face, but the employment is there for them and they have their jobs.

I urge the Minister to take whatever steps are necessary, by way of subsidy or otherwise, to compel Irish Shipping to have any ships they need built here in our own dockyard. While we have a dockyard, there is no justification for another subsidised Government undertaking sending their ships to Belfast or London to be built. That has happened and is happening. That is No. 1. No. 2, the Minister should get in touch immediately with the ships trading through Cobh Harbour, tying up in the port of Cork, and see that they give a fair percentage of their business to Verolme Dockyard. If that is done, the money being looked for now, or a large proportion of it, may not be required. If work is provided, pretty constant work, the need for this expenditure may not arise. The door is open.

I do not intend to make any long statement on this matter. I have gone into it as carefully as I could. The dockyard is in my constituency and I have my responsibility to my constituents. I have given the picture of what happened here in this Chamber 35 years ago when this very dockyard was under discussion before.

I should like to explain to the House, and to the Government Party in particular, that I wish to approach this matter as objectively as possible. Having said that, and before Deputy Corry leaves the House, I should like to say that the fewer occasions the Government have for acting courageously in matters such as this, the better it will be for the House and for the people. It is not right for the Minister to represent, as I took him to represent when introducing this Supplementary Estimate, that the Verolme Dockyard was suddenly stricken by a slump in shipping. It should be clearly understood by the House and by the country that in 1958, when this industry was being mooted, everybody outside the House certainly—everybody inside the House should have been in the same position —knew that the shipbuilding industry all over the world was floundering in a welter of depression. One of our northern docks at that time was full of ships, tied up for lack of trade. Whilst I accept what the Minister said about other countries subsidising, and heavily subsidising, their shipbuilding industries, I should like to point out that these shipbuilding industries were established long before the depression of which we have been speaking developed. They are industries which have known good days as well as bad. In those circumstances—does some Deputy want to say something because, if he does, I should prefer that he would say it now?

Deputy Egan has his hand to his mouth in case you might hear him.

The Chair heard only Deputy Barrett.

If he would say it out, I should be able to answer him. The steps proposed in the amendment could, I think, prove very useful, not perhaps in this particular case because here we are faced with a fait accompli; we have several acres of land reclaimed, buildings erected, machinery installed and some 850 people at work. It is important, however, that we should attempt to discover whether the Government were wise or unwise in helping to launch this project in the teeth of a shipbuilding depression. We should question and ask ourselves whether, if the Taoiseach were still Minister for Industry and Commerce, he would still launch this project back in 1958.

A discussion of all the affairs of the Verolme Dockyard called for in our motion might bring to light the fact that the Government did not approach this project as prudently as they should have, remembering that they were dealing with millions of the taxpayers' money. We do not know what advice the Government got. It is very easy to be wise after the event, but it appears patently plain to me, and I think to the country, that whatever advice they got was either very bad advice or else good advice which was disregarded. From the start, this company has evidently been operating at a loss. Every ship built has resulted in a loss and the Minister has quite honestly told the House that any ship built within the foreseeable future will also be built at a loss. I do not know whether Deputy Corry looks upon that prospect as the result of a prudent approach to the original project in 1958 or whether he would like to think that, if the old Cork dockyard had been kept going by a shot in the arm in 1935, and continued to make similar losses, that would be a good thing for the country.

Another matter the House must bear in mind is the fact that from the Minister's statement it appears quite clear we cannot compete successfully on the international market because shipbuilding prices here are higher than in most places. Possibly the Government made a mistake in taking Mr. Verolme at his face value when he came here making a suggestion—a suggestion that surprised me and many others—that he did not intend to make any profit out of the country and wanted to give all he could to us. These happy instincts on the part of Mr. Verolme have not been realised and we now find ourselves, according to my mathematics, in the position in which the taxpayer is being asked for something like £6,309,000. There is £4,750,000 from the Industrial Credit Company, £550,000 from Foras Tionscal and now this £999,000 of subsidy which the House is being asked to vote.

The House is in a tragic quandary but the quandary in which the workers in the dockyard find themselves is even more tragic. Many of them went to Holland for long periods and learned skills which may now become redundant. That is one of the big difficulties in this matter and that is one of the things which make me feel that all the affairs of the Verolme Dockyard should be investigated very fully to see if a rescue operation is worthwhile at this stage, to see if a risk should be run. If the risk is such that it can be calculated, then it might be worth taking. One thing that should be borne in mind is the fact that out of the £4,750,000 which the Industrial Credit Company is pledged to give, only about £1,800,000 has so far been used. It is possible that some of that will be rescued at this stage. The main value of any investigation that might be undertaken under Deputy Cosgrave's motion is that it might impress upon the Government the importance of investigating to the fullest the bona fides of any projects of this nature which are put before them.

I accept the bona fides of the Taoiseach in taking a chance on a matter of this sort. I can understand his anxiety to give employment. I share, and every Deputy shares, that anxiety but it is questionable whether purely in the pursuit of giving employment, projects like this should be engaged in without full investigation of the future possibilities. Had these possibilities been investigated when the project was mooted around 1958, it is doubtful if the Verolme Dockyard would be there today. If it were not, it is true that the 850 men employed in it would not be employed there but they might have been employed in some other project which would not require over £6 million of the taxpayers' money. For that reason, a discussion of the nature envisaged by Deputy Cosgrave would be worthwhile. I would press the Minister and the House to accept it, not in any “I told you so” spirit, but on the basis that he would be well advised, both from the point of view of the expenditure and from the point of view of encouraging public belief in our institutions, to have the affairs of the Verolme Dockyard investigated by an independent Committee of the House.

I am quite sure I express the view of my colleagues in the Labour Party when I say we have a great deal of sympathy with the Minister in his task of coming in to look for such a large Supplementary Estimate for Verolme Dockyard. His speech on the situation as it now stands is in very sharp contrast to the Taoiseach's speech in 1959 when this project was being launched. On that occasion, the Taoiseach with a great fanfare of trumpets made quite an enthusiastic speech regarding this project. He infected some of us in so far as some of us shared his enthusiasm because we were confident that he must have had information from reliable sources as to the viability of the project which was to be opened in Cork. Like Deputy Barrett, all of us accepted with a grain of salt the picture of the benevolent Mr. Verolme coming here with no thought of profit but simply with an interest in this country, a man who was fantastically successful in the shipbuilding sphere and who wished out of his benevolence to share part of his prosperity, and the prosperity of his country, with Ireland.

That was a little bit too thick but we suffered it in the hope that the industry which we were guaranteed by the then Minister for Industry and Commerce would give a large measure of employment and would be economically sound. We were told also at that stage that it was the intention of Mr. Verolme to invest to the extent of £5 million or £6 million and that there was only one little snag in that the regulations of his own Government might not permit the export of such an amount of capital. As it has turned out, whether or not because of the regulations in Holland precluded him from doing so, nothing like £5 million or £6 million has been invested. Only a relatively small sum has been invested by the Dutch company in the Cork project. He sought at that time an umbrella from the Industrial Credit Company and has availed of it to a large extent. Indeed, the ICC are apparently committed to giving further protection under this umbrella if the industry is to be kept going.

Those of us who had not got the Taoiseach's ear at the time, or access to the information which must have been available to the Government, took the whole thing at its face value. We were confident of course, that any efficient Minister or efficient Government would, through their agencies, have made the most searching inquiries and would have endeavoured to make the soundest forecasts possible regarding a project of this size. Now the Minister for Industry and Commerce has the unenviable task of coming along to say why the happy hopes of the Taoiseach have not been realised.

He put before us four reasons for that. He said that the shipbuilding market was depressed. As has been pointed out, anybody who thinks back to 1959 knows that the market was depressed anyway and that other nations with long histories of shipbuilding were crying to heaven over the position of their shipyards. It is scarcely an excuse now to say that between 1959 and now, we discovered that the market was depressed. It is possibly no more depressed now than it was then. Another reason was that shipbuilding costs are higher here than elsewhere. Again, one would have thought that with the expert advice available, the Government would have realised even in 1959 that shipbuilding costs were going to be higher here. Anyway, there has been no development in the intervening years which placed costs of shipbuilding on a higher scale here than in other countries that did not obtain at that time.

A further excuse is that the Verolme (Cork) Dockyard had not had the benefit of the prosperous years in shipbuilding and therefore had not accumulated reserves on which they could draw. It is all right to say that at this stage but surely that was the position in 1959. We are told of course too, as the fourth reason, that the parent company in Holland has been passing through a time of depression and is not in a position to give the assistance that might be given otherwise. One would not need to be a forecaster of note to have known in 1959 that a period of depression was coming not alone for the parent company of Verolme but for every shipbuilding industry in the world and that they were expecting to experience it for many years to come.

I was sorry to hear the Minister mention, as another reason for the lack of viability of the Cork industry, the in experience of the labour force there. Any public pronouncement I have heard—I feel sure the Minister has had the same experience—from Mr. Verolme has been in praise of the skilled craftsmen and others working the Cork yards. Indeed, the firm boasted that they had a scheme to take trainees to Holland, to keep them there for a year and to have them returned to the Cork yards. They assured us that after the year's experience, plus the inherent skill of the recruits, they returned to Cork as experienced and skilled as any of the workers the company had in their own yard in Holland.

Of course the Minister is also aware that the last batch of trainees who returned to Cork last month have been told there is no work for them and unfortunately no prospect of work in the foreseeable future. The Minister knows these were people recruited largely from the technical schools in Cork city and county who accepted the offer of being taken to Holland to work in the yards there at a very low rate of wages, which they accepted because they were getting training as well as the prospect of employment at home at good wages. Unfortunately, this last batch find now that they have worked for a year at depressed wages, acquiring certain skills for which the Verolme yard has now no further use.

Like other speakers, I admit it is quite easy to be wise after the event. The history of the Labour Party in the House in regard to State assistance in the setting up of industry is quite clear. We have at all times assisted the various Governments and stood four-square behind them when they came here to seek capital for injection into industries where private capital was not available and where the industries seemed to be worthwhile. As Deputy Cosgrave said in his contribution, I believe we must set up some method whereby we will have a list of priorities in this regard. The taxpayer is getting a little fed up of paying taxation and having State capital invested in projects that just do not materialise.

It seems extraordinary to me that we should be so naive in several respects when coming to this House seeking State capital for a project such as the Cork Dockyard, while the Minister for Transport and Power and his colleagues hardly let a day pass without upbraiding us about moneys for investment in the national transport system. We have had a sorry experience here over the past few years of seeing the company which manage the transport industry carrying out a wholesale closing down of branch lines and stations, excluding the public from facilities which they have enjoyed through the years and which they think are still essential. The reply from the Minister for Transport and Power is that he does not interfere with the day to day affairs of CIE, but if we quiz CIE regarding the closing down of lines to seaside resorts and other places, we are told: "We are not running a social service."

I would invite the Minister and his colleagues to make up their minds in that regard, to try to reconcile their position in regard to their attitude on financing projects such as CIE as against the Verolme Dockyard. Having said that, the amendment which stands in our name, as against Deputy Cosgrave's motion, makes clear what our attitude is. We feel that the secrecy which has surrounded the operation of the Verolme yard since its inception should now be swept aside. The Minister will be aware that in this House and elsewhere since 1959 Deputies have been endeavouring to get information on the ramifications of the whole set-up, with practically no success.

A veil of secrecy has surrounded the whole project and we suggest now— we agree with that part of Deputy Cosgrave's motion—that this veil of secrecy should be swept aside so that this House and the people who are paying taxes to support this company will have an opportunity of knowing exactly how the money is being spent and what are the difficulties the company face. We do not go so far as to say that we should not give the Verolme Dockyard a further opportunity of proceeding with the building of ships, pending the result of the inquiry suggested. We feel there would be no justification whatever for saying to 850 workers, their wives and families, that we were about to close down the yard, pending the result of that inquiry.

It may well be that, arising out of the findings of the Committee, we will come to the House again and say we think it is well worth while subsidising this dockyard in the interests of the employees, even in the knowledge that their wages bill will be something in the region of £750,000 per annum. We urge the Minister to accept our proposal that this searching inquiry be carried out by a Committee of not fewer than 15 members of this House, and in the meantime the company can rest assured of the support of the Labour Party in securing the moneys necessary to keep the yard from closing.

The task of making the small repair dockyard which was there some five or six years ago into a modern and very efficient shipbuilding unit was a very great one for those concerned in the enterprise. There were very few skilled men available and, as has been explained by Deputy Casey, workers had to be sent abroad to get the skills needed for that work. In those early days, it was not to be anticipated they would be able to produce the same amount of work as those who had spent years at their various crafts, and even up to the building of the last ship there, joinery and furniture had to be imported for the ships that were built. Now the carpenters and joiners will be able to do all that work in future ships at Rushbrooke.

It has been said that this project should not have been started. A repair yard was there where people had only very casual employment. The opportunity came when Mr. Verolme took an interest in the project through the enterprise of our Ambassador abroad, Mr. Gallagher, who at that time got this country interested in the opportunity that offered.

Another impediment was that this dockyard undertook not to build ships which could be built in the Liffey Dockyard or even to tender for them. In consequence, some work which Liffey Dockyard did not succeed in getting went abroad, although Verolme Dockyard, if they had been allowed to tender for it, might have succeeded in getting it. The idea was that one dockyard would be complementary to the other in building big ships which could not be built or repaired here up to that time.

The position at the moment is that 850 men are working there and only 35 of that number are foreign technicians. All the others are Irish people. They are turning out and have turned out excellent work at that dockyard. A ship was launched a year ago or so which is now operating on the Great Lakes. Another ship is on the stocks which will be launched towards the end of September. The idea now is to continue with that work but, unless this money is advanced, owing to the circumstances explained by the Minister, the work cannot proceed as anticipated.

The Minister has explained that a certain investigation has taken place by the Government Departments which have the responsibility of guarding the funds committed to their care as best they can. That investigation took place before the Minister came here with this proposal. In these circumstances, I appeal to every Deputy to pass the Estimate submitted by the Minister.

A modern dockyard, one of the most modern in Europe, has now been provided. All necessary equipment is available there for all stages of shipbuilding. Skilled hands have been provided. It is to be anticipated that their work in the future, due to their experience, will perhaps be more fruitful than it has been in the past, not through any fault of their own.

The project is a wonderful one in employing so many men. Of course, there was a boom period after the war when a great deal of shipping was put on the seas. The economic life of these ships, at most, is 20 years. The anticipation was that, with our own 20 ships, if this dockyard got even one-quarter of these in replacements and got whatever contracts were available from various parts of the world and, with the support of the Verolme organisation, sometimes to give a ship to the Rushbrooke Dockyard which they would not have been able to cater for themselves, continuous employment would be available for at least a thousand men.

The Minister has explained every aspect of the matter now. The House should be satisfied to continue the men in employment and to keep the industry going. The future, with such modern equipment, should be fairly bright. It is said that the dockyards that have closed down elsewhere had to do so because they had not modernised their equipment and were not able to tender competitively for such work as was offering. That set of circumstances does not prevail in the Verolme Dockyard. It is, therefore, with confidence that I support the Minister's appeal to the House for the money necessary to keep this work going.

The request by the Minister in this Supplementary Estimate for an amount of money of approximately £1 million for this dockyard is an insulting and impertinent attempt by the Government to ask this House to accede to what amounts to being yet another multimillion blunder on the part of the Government led by the Taoiseach in this particular instance. In order to do this, in order to win this money from the public, they are using as a blackmailing weapon the unfortunate men who were misled into believing they had steady, well-remunerated employment in this dockyard as a result of the propaganda and hot air talked by the Taoiseach when he initiated this absurd proposition in the context of the economic situation of that time which has been well borne out by present events.

For that reason, I support the amended motion in sympathy with the men, not because I believe for one moment this is a viable project or is ever likely to become a viable project but because I feel it may be possible as a result of an investigation such as is suggested here by the Fine Gael Party, not forgetting the obviously humanistic amendment of the Labour Party that the men should not be thrown out of employment, to bring about some effective remedial changes in this project in order to try to make it viable in some form or another, if not in its present form.

We listened to the Minister's recital of one loss after another, of one disaster after another. Not only was it a recital of loss after loss after loss but there is perhaps the prospect of a continued loss after loss after loss. Would the Minister seriously suggest he would go into the different trades or into any business in Dublin or anywhere else and issue a prospectus with that recital on the front of it of failure and blunder and misunderstanding of the situation? Would he put forward a prospectus like that to any persons outside our major mental hospitals and ask them to take shares in such an undertaking as it is at present operated? What likely subscription would he get in those circumstances from anybody with the slightest understanding of business methods or profit and loss accounts?

Which of us here would take £100 worth of shares in this company as it stands at present? Which of us would be prepared to put our own money into it to anything like the extent that we are asked to invest it here on behalf of the public? There has been too much of this megalomaniac millionaire mentality about expenditure in our country. We are a tiny country of 2,900,000 people living in a small agricultural community, slowly emerging from 700 years of subjection, and so on, but completely an economic and financially backward society. It was absurd and it is absurd to think we can invest money at this rate, in the light of our undeveloped position, in projects of this kind—projects which from our own personal knowledge, within the boundaries of our country, are demonstrably more than likely to be uneconomic.

Belfast, with all its technical know-how and skill, its long tradition of shipbuilding and with the hinterland of Great Britain and its needs to support it, was fighting a losing battle for contracts. We find the Clyde ship-workers, some of the finest in the world, working in Hamburg and Sweden because they could not get work in their shipyards. Despite the great reserve the British have in their merchant fleet, they could not provide work for their skilled shipwrights. We try to provide work for our men. Through no fault of their own, they had not the tradition or the know-how that would permit them to compete, were that a feasible proposition in normal times without a shipping depression. We had this company with its nine other subsidiaries, and they also in great difficulty. It reminds me of what somebody said after one particularly stupid decision by the British generals in the first World War, when thousands of unfortunate men were massacred: "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." This is the same thing. It is wonderful to watch, but it is not business. It does not make sense. If the Minister did not happen to be the Deputy for Cork, I doubt if we would get the same sympathy for this project.

I want to refute that straight away.

I spend my time listening to people telling us that, because we cannot make a profit in matters relating to transport or social needs of one kind or another, we have ruthlessly to cut them out, that we cannot have that kind of featherbedding. Yet £4 million or £5 million can be spent on this project in order to try to conceal the fact that the Taoiseach has made yet another financial blunder. We do not know the end of it yet. The copper mines have just closed down. Shannon is at the edge of closing down or is likely to be in very great difficulties. We have these multi-million hotels. Who is going to stay in them? It is about time we brought ourselves down to earth and started to invest in something that should be invested in.

The great economic saboteur.

Surely criticism is not sabotage?

He is always undermining. Surely I can object when my personal reputation is in question?

We are talking about a businessman running a business.

Deputy Dr. Browne.

The case has been made that this is a State scheme, but there should be a very clear distinction in regard to it. There is no State intervention at all. There is State subvention, which is quite a different thing. We are going to pay the debts; we are holding the baby for this man's decision. I notice that, as well as nine shipyards, this man also owns a finance corporation. Can he not find the £900,000? Surely we have already found enough? Surely we have made a big enough sacrifice for its success and prosperity? Surely we have demonstrated our faith in this project adequately? Is it not about time he started putting up something to show how much he believes in the future of this project? Is he prepared to face loss after loss and prospective loss after loss and say: "I will put in £900,000"? He can raise the money from his finance corporation, unless it is bankrupt, too. Can he not lay his hands on this money otherwise than from the unfortunate Irish taxpayer?

We are told in the Minister's opening remarks that this whole project is being investigated and that the reasonableness of it is being established. But by whom? By the Industrial Credit Company, the Industrial Development Authority and An Foras Tionscal. These are the very people who first decided this was likely to be a successful operation, that it was going to become a great centre for the whole south of Ireland, where ships could be built for the world. On what foundation? Lack of skill and know-how, lack of tradition and lack of capital development. Lack of any background of any reserve of merchant shipping such as the French, the Greeks, the British the Americans and the Japanese might have? This is the brains trust who are telling us that we have already invested £4 million or £5 million in this project and it has gone down the drain and who are asking us to put in another £1 million. I do not accept that advice as being sound advice. If it is, let them tell it to Mr. Verolme. Let them sell him the idea that £900,000 would be well spent on this project. You know well what he would say. He is not interested in profits! As I interpolated in Deputy Cosgrave's speech, neither is he interested in losses so long as we are fool enough to pay them.

One Deputy suggested that 850 people were employed in this project. I have the greatest sympathy for them. Even though I know it is likely to be mis-spent money. I believe we should accept the Labour Party's amendment to the Fine Gael amendment. At the same time, we have to put our decision in regard to the creation of employment into proper perspective. Queen Victoria, or whoever it was, provided employment here building walls up the sides of hills for her Irish subjects. What a damn silly thing to make a man spend his time doing!

Surely there must be some creative purpose in the provision of employment for our people? Surely we are not so bankrupt of ideas or bereft of inspiration that we cannot put our people into productive employment, which will increase our national product and allow us to have enough money to give our people the opportunities they want in their various spheres of life? Does anybody want to continue to maintain an industry, which as it appears on the balance sheet produced by the Minister, is simply a glorified form of outdoor relief? In fairness to him, he makes no pretence that this is likely to become a sound project in the foreseeable future. It is completely wrong to take anybody who comes along here and says that he will start a project, that all he needs is so much money, without giving much serious attention to it, as obviously we have done in the past.

Everybody knows I am a great believer in State enterprise. I am not suggesting this should be run by the State because I do not think it is a type of enterprise that could be successfully run by the State or by private enterprise in present circumstances. One of the great failures of the Government is that they have been utterly doctrinaire in their approach to matters of this kind and if any project is to be operated, it must be operated through private enterprise, if private enterprise is considered likely to make a success of it. If we take matters of another kind that must be considered by countries and communities in an attempt to create a viable economy, we must remember that we are primarily an agricultural country, a poor country, and our only raw material of wealth is land and the labour that will create wealth from it. Integrate land, labour and capital and then we could establish viable industries.

Take our attempt to develop air companies. There is a possibility that we might have made a success of Aer Lingus, or it may continue as an economic proposition, but if we try to extend into trans-Atlantic Airlines, that will not be successful. That is equally true, I think, in regard to shipbuilding propositions of this kind. In theory, it is a very attractive prospect but we have not the resources in our economic circumstances to sweat it out during depressions with the Japanese, the British, Americans or Scandinavian countries that can afford to pay great subsidies—great to us but negligible to them. We cannot compete in those circumstances. Obviously, we entered as a lightweight in a heavyweight bout and we are now suffering in consequence.

I believe the general principle here of handing over money without bothering to ask what is being done with it is a very bad one. I agree with Deputy Cosgrave that where we have companies, whether of this kind where we make no attempt to intervene from the State point of view, or where they are semi-State or completely State companies, there must be some reference back to the Dáil. Some system must be devised giving us the right of access to the internal workings of these companies. Vast amounts of money are being spent and if the Taoiseach is truly going left, clearly we shall be spending increasing amounts of money on companies of this kind which we intend to control or partially control. We have a responsibility to the public as their watchdog to be able to say to them : "We are satisfied this money is being well spent."

The operation of this company has been completely covered by a blanket of obscurity and there was refusal to divulge any facts here in response to repeated questions by Opposition Deputies. Now the facts are disclosed and they are most disturbing. The Minister's only contribution is: We want more money and we do not want any further inquiry into the activities of this company. That is a scandalous decision on the part of the Government in the light of the continued failure of the company and in the light of the fact that no reasonable prospect has been put forward by the Minister of any change in this record. When he wants the House to accept a suggestion of this kind, some Committee of this House should be given access to the working accounts of the company in relation to the past and for the future.

While I agree there cannot be in the operation of these companies inquisition into the day-to-day activities which would probably be impossible, there must be very much closer supervision of the way in which money is spent. This case, I think, has been established by the facts disclosed to-day by the Minister more clearly than ever before. The Minister should take the opportunity of establishing, with the agreement of the House, some form of committee in which it would be possible for him to find out what is going on, what the position is and whether we are likely to find ourselves not only losing this £900,000 but being asked in 12 or 18 months for another £1 million, with Deputy Barry having to tell us that we are facing a tragic situation—that is what it is—in which the livelihood of—it may then be 700—800 workers is involved.

We have no reason to believe that there is to be any radical change towards prosperity in the position of this company. It would be completely irresponsible for us to give the money to the Minister in the way he has suggested without some supervisory investigation of the company's activities. By all means, give the money in order to allow the company to continue working. I think the Labour Party are right and that if we were to restrict the spending of money until the committee had reported, the workers might be laid off. The workers should not be the victims of the stupidity of the Taoiseach or his failures in the past. I think the interim proposal of maintaining the industry as it is, pending investigation, is the correct one.

I believe there is no likelihood that we can establish a shipbuilding industry in Cork. I deeply regret that. I should like it. I have as much a touch of megalomania as anybody but I tend to be realistic and I do not believe that such a shipbuilding project, at the present time, with the changing pattern of travel and the changing use of merchant shipping and the advance of air freight, has the remotest chance of succeeding.

Whatever may have been the regrettable reasons why we could not do so in the past, we are not now going to break into it. It seems as silly for us to be chasing the shadow of this idea as if we were to start thinking of the creation of a nuclear bomb or something like that. The Minister, I think, must reconsider the whole approach to this matter. He should remember that a serious principle is involved, that the public money he is seeking here he would not spend on such a project, were he presented with a prospectus such as he has presented to the House this afternoon, if it were his own money. Neither would any of us. I do not think we should spend public money on a project of this kind in such a way. I think we should take the provision put in by the Labour Party in the Fine Gael proposal. We would then have some investigation rights and the Government could take comfort from the fact that any decision then taken would be shared by the whole House instead of being the sole responsibility of the Government and, in particular, of the Taoiseach.

This is not exactly a joyful occasion. A board meeting at which the balance sheet is set out completely in red figures is generally a doleful event. I have a fair amount of sympathy with the Minister because I think he had the gloomiest and most depressing task any Minister ever had here. This Chamber is overshadowed, and those concerned at Rushbrooke, County Cork, are overshadowed, and the homes of every workman in that industry, are overshadowed by the Minister's views expressed in his speech on the outlook for this industry.

The immediate outlook.

If I were the Minister, I would get a rubber and erase the word "immediate" because I do not think he really believes it is only the immediate outlook.

I would not say it if I did not mean it.

I am as much concerned about this as the Minister or anyone else in the House. I very much regret the kind of speech made by Deputy Corry. Making the rights and wrongs of this problem an issue between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael shows a scandalous irresponsibility. Our concern in this matter is very real. For me, the problem is a real one even outside my outlook as a politician. I am anxious in the national sense that the work we do in this country should be done well and should be done in a way that will result in continuing prospects of achievement. The speech made by Deputy MacCarthy, Lord Mayor of Cork, was a change from that of Deputy Corry. It is deplorable that this matter would be treated in any but a completely objective way. This is too serious a matter to be dealt with in the way Deputy Corry dealt with it. It is not a matter of Deputy Corry getting a few hundred votes out of the 700 or 800 people who work in the dockyard.

When the original proposal came before us in 1958 or 1959, I felt as exhilarated as the Taoiseach, who was then the Minister, seemed to be in this matter. I thought it was a splendid thing that a large and successful industrialist on the continent of Europe should feel there was a satisfactory outlook for this proposition that he had put up a good deal of money and the State would contribute more money, and that there was a future for this. I wanted to measure that future in even larger terms than that of a successful balance sheet. I wanted to see that our industrial arm was strengthened and enriched with new techniques. I regarded that as very important for my area because the yard was to be situated quite close to the city of Cork. It meant we could proceed with the education of young men in modern techniques and they would be valuable assets to this country. It was a new milestone in our history.

It has come as a shock to all of us in this House to find that there is now need for more funds. I have always defended this project even to an embarrassing degree to some of my colleagues on this side of the House. I was embarrassed when the rumours started to circulate and when they asked me questions and I was unable to rebut the suggestions they were putting to me because I could not get information about it. Indeed, I asked the Minister for Finance when I was a member of the Seanad for some information about the matter and he refused to give it to me and he accused me of always attempting to sabotage Irish activities of this kind. That was positively untrue and I think the Minister for Industry and Commerce will bear me out. I have been intensely concerned about this matter. As well as telling me he would not give me the information about the Irish funds invested in this, he accused me of having bad motives. In spite of that, I kept on defending the project against my own colleagues and now my face, if not red, is at least a little pink.

We ought not to seek now to do any injury to any remaining prospects there are for the concern. We must ask ourselves now: Is this project viable at all or is it only a counterfeit project in our economy which is only of short-term duration? As I said earlier, this was a desirable development in our industrial activity and for that reason I think many of us suspended to some extent our ordinary judgment in this matter to the extent of giving the Government what amounted almost to a blank cheque. The country requires more information than the Minister has given this evening to dispel even the worst rumours that are circulating in regard to this company.

It is known that many of the Dutch technicians who were in the concern have left and returned to Holland and it is known that some of the Irish who are in posts of relatively minor importance have also left. It is also known, as Deputy Casey has disclosed, that of the number of young men who were sent to Holland to be trained, a large batch of them came back to nothing. This is a very bad time in the shipbuilding industry and even under the most settled conditions, there would be difficulties in regard to this project. Even the balance sheet of Irish Shipping, in its own way, reflects the doubtful prospects for such activities as shipbuilding. Our ships have been tramping the world and have been losing money, although these ships are modern and in good condition. The market for ships is obviously oversupplied and that means the prospects of work for this yard are doubtful.

I should like the Minister to tell us how firm is the proposal in regard to the two orders lined up for this yard? I should like the Minister to get a guarantee that the Verolme sales organisation will ensure that the Irish yard will get a fair proportion of orders and that the other yards will not elbow the Irish yard out of a reasonable priority. That is all we can ask from these people. I would like to know also how the assistance we propose to give—and I want figures, not vague words—compare with the assistance which is given in Sweden and South America. What assistance do these countries give in real terms and how does it compare with what the Minister is asking us to give now?

Several references have been made to the name and the man who is the name associated with this concern and I want to quote a line or two from yesterday's Irish Times in that connection : “What he required before he started upon the undertaking was an assurance that, if any difficulty emerged in proceeding with it because of restrictions upon the finance available, he would have access to resources here. He asked the Industrial Credit Company for what he described as an umbrella. It might be that it would not rain and he would not require the umbrella. Well, we know now that it has poured.” That is a very fortunate and most unusual condition with the complete escape clause in it which we accepted at its face value at the time. I have met Mr. Verolme a few times and he has come here with a considerable reputation as a new kind of ship builder. He is very competent at his business but I do not know if he is quite so competent in his personal public relations. I was not impressed by the speech he made at the opening function in Cork and I do not think the Minister was impressed with it, either.

Let the Deputy speak for himself.

He seemed to give the impression that he came here to set up this industry solely for the love of the country, that he admired this country and the people so much that he did not seek to make a profit from the industry. I am going to say this much in his favour, that because he was a man with a continental mind, he was not able to translate his thinking into the most appropriate words in the English language. He obviously under-estimated our Irish intelligence. We do not fall for that kind of thing because we are too sensible. There was this speech from an international industrialist who has shipbuilding interests in three other countries and also a financial company elsewhere. Such lack of modesty may be a continental trait and perhaps he thought that we would believe in his admiration and love for this country and in his non-profit seeking complex. The Minister and his colleagues should have told him that that is not the right line to take with the Irish people. His partners in the company should have told him the facts of life here.

I should also hope that these partners would explain to the Minister the difficulties the company have run into. They have a responsibility much greater than their responsibility to the company, that is, their responsibility to the Irish people, the main shareholders in the company. I should like to know the shareholding of the company and if there is any personal investment in it by Mr. Verolme himself, if there has been any withdrawing by Mr. Verolme in his personal capacity and if there have been any disagreements among the members of the board. If there have been, the Minister must be aware of them. Has he had full conversations with the members of the board? There have been many rumours of this kind flying about and this is an opportunity to put things right.

I do not know what was the loss on the last ship, the Canadian ship. We should be told whether they were permitted to add extras to the contract price. We should be told if the original tender was drawn up with any responsible relationship to the cost of building. I agree there is great difficulty when a new concern is being started and new techniques introduced and I regard as one of the assets of this set-up that a number of craftsmen were being trained in techniques they did not have before. Not the least important matter in the setting up of this project was the fact that training in these techniques was being given to men in this country. I know the kind of speech I am making here now is capable of considerable misrepresentation but I believe that if the Minister were standing where I am and I were over where he is, he would use the same words.

Again, I ask the Deputy to speak for himself and allow me to speak for myself. Nor will I misrepresent him in any way.

The atmosphere is not good here today.

There is an air of strain. I have said what I want to say but I hope the faint optimism in the Minister's speech will be justified. I think that my Party should support the amendment by the Labour Party and that we would not do anything to prevent the continuation of this employment for the year or two ahead. I hope the line I have taken will be regarded by the Minister as a very serious attempt not to injure this concern but to seek an objective result in its prosperity.

We all know that the shipbuilding industry throughout the world today is in financial difficulty. We are all aware that the Governments of practically every country where a shipbuilding industry exists provide some form of subsidy directly or indirectly to their shipbuilding industry. In our case, 850 workers are employed but the most conservative estimate of the number directly or indirectly involved is not less than 3,000. Apart altogether from any other consideration, there is a big sociological question involved. If these people were knocked out of employment, they would have to be helped by the State through some form of social welfare benefit. In other words, they would to some degree become parasitical as far as the State is concerned. Looking at it from a sane point of view, I think that, no matter what subsidy we have to pay, it is much more economic in the long run and much better for the country as a whole that these people should be employed in a subsidised industry and be able to live ordinary, normal lives, rather than exist on State aid, without any employment at all. The Government are, I think, completely justified in any action they take at this stage to keep this industry going.

Now this is a long way away from my particular territory and I cannot gain any votes by speaking for or against this proposal, but I do not forget what happened in my county back in 1954 when wholly improper action was taken in connection with an industry there, an industry employing a large number of people. It was decided to close that industry down and let the people go to the devil, to John Bull, to get out. It would be a shame if that should happen again to-day. It is much more sensible to take the proposed action and keep these people in employment.

What made me take a second look at this matter today was seeing the notice of motion signed by Deputy Cosgrave of Fine Gael. I know that Fine Gael are a Party very closely associated with industry; I refer to the closing down of industry, of course, not to the setting up of industry. That Party would be highly delighted to see this industry closing down and to be able to go about making political capital out of that closing down.

I think this debate is ill-conceived. It is bad business to discuss this matter publicly because it will inevitably go abroad that this is a failing, faltering industry, unable to keep going. That will have an adverse effect and will keep away business, badly-needed business, from this industry. It would have been better, I think, for the future of the industry, for the future of the country as a whole, and the future of our people, if, instead of putting down this motion, Deputies had come together privately and discussed the matter to find out if there was any sensible solution rather than to come in here and more or less hold up this well-known firm to ridicule, creating the impression throughout the world that it is a firm unable to carry on its business. That is both wrong and unfair, but that is what has been done here to-day. I hope when the Minister is replying, he will make it clear that this particular firm is in no different position from that of similar firms throughout the world. That is the position as I see it. I am very sorry this ill-conceived debate has taken place.

It is regrettable that the need for this discussion arises. Some few years ago, when this Dutchman came to Cork, we had high hopes of his being a most competent businessman, a most competent shipbuilder, above all. We thought that, once he had established himself, there would be regular employment in Cork for some 2,000 workers and that that employment would be made available with little or no contribution from public funds.

The last speaker, Deputy Leneghan, gave it as his opinion that it was inadvisable to discuss this matter here in the Dáil. Surely we have no right as members of the Dáil to pass the money required in this Supplementary Estimate, £1,220,000, privately. Surely it is our duty to pass it only after the most searching investigation and public discussion here. It is not our money we are approving of spending on this business. It is the people's money and the people are entitled to know all the facts.

We are naturally faced with a very difficult situation. We are told by the Minister that this firm has encountered a number of difficulties and that a big injection of public money is necessary if they are to continue in operation. We are faced with the position that the company employ 850 workers. Every member of this House is anxious naturally to keep these people in employment. We are told by the Minister that, if we do not pass this money and approve this rather big injection, the company will close down, with consequent loss of employment to 850 workers.

We in the Labour Party are, of course, very anxious about the welfare of the workers. That being the case, we approve of this motion with the reservations contained in the amendment. The reservations are that, subsequent to the handing over of this money to the company, we should have an investigation of the most searching nature possible to find out whether the company is being capably managed, ascertain whether the Irish directors are the best type of directors that could be on the board of management, whether they are appointed because of their capacity for the particular type of work, because of special knowledge and experience, or whether they are appointed by political influence.

This is a private company.

I know, but Irish people are associated with the company. The Minister in his opening statement mentioned that when the managing director of this company came here, so far as we were concerned, he required only the loan of an umbrella. Now we find he wants a gift of the umbrella and not only a gift of the umbrella but a very big overcoat as well. The Minister in his statement made known for the first time the amount of Irish money invested in this company.

Not for the first time. That was published years ago.

We got very little detail. It is the usual practice for Ministers to give as little detail as possible about the expenditure of moneys of this nature. We know now from the Minister's statement the guarantees given. First of all, there was this guarantee of £4,750,000 from the Industrial Credit Company. There was a grant of £550,000 from Foras Tionscal. According to the Minister's statement, losses to date are mainly Irish money. If I interpret the Minister's statement correctly, the total to date is £687,000.

Of course we must make comparisons when dealing with a matter such as this and possibly the best comparison would be the recent similar subventions towards St. Patrick's Copper Mines in Wicklow. Before I go any further, I should say that I hope the outcome here will be very different so far as this dockyard is concerned from the outcome in respect of the St. Patrick's Copper Mines. The Minister will recall coming in here and making a statement of a somewhat similar nature to that which he made today, asking us to approve a substantial subvention towards the St. Patrick's Copper Mines and pointing out that if we did not approve, the mine would close, with a consequent loss of employment. The House in its anxiety to continue the men in employment did give the Minister the injection he required and the term "injection" is the Minister's term. He said that St. Patrick's Copper Mines required injections of public money and we gave him the injections. He said that he hoped the future would be bright and that he had little doubt when we gave him the £250,000 that when it would be available to the company, it would put it in a workable condition and possibly it would be able to continue on its own feet, employing men for years to come. We now find that the Minister was a very poor prophet so far as St. Patrick's Copper Mines were concerned.

We are acting in a similar capacity here today as we did with St. Patrick's Copper Mines and we are more or less giving the Minister a blank cheque without the detailed statement which I think he should have made available when seeking so much money. We have received figures here today but I must say, as I mentioned before, it is difficult to get figures from Ministers of the Fianna Fáil Government; they have not a very good reputation for disclosing much information to the members of this Assembly and they only give as little information as they can.

We should like to know how this company is managed. I am sure the Minister has—and if he has not, he should have—made a most searching inquiry into the management of this firm. Are all the people associated with its management capable and efficient, men of integrity who know their business? Are they all working in a spirit of co-operation with their efforts co-ordinated towards the common aim of building up this company into a progressive one? Or, are they, as has been suggested by Deputy Barrett, at loggerheads with one another and not working in the spirit——

That is the pity about rumours, how they are built on.

I am only quoting Deputy Barrett's statement. I was very surprised to hear that that may be the position. I will use the word "may" and I am sure that will meet with the Minister's approval. I hope the previous speaker was incorrect but I must say he has created a certain amount of doubt in my mind because Deputy Barrett is a man who does not make statements lightly. I am satisfied from my personal knowledge of Deputy Barrett that he would not have made such a statement with out reasonable grounds for making it. My purpose in bringing this to the Minister's notice is now that I understand from the previous Fine Gael speaker that they have fallen in with the Labour Party amendment, and are now in agreement with us to give the Minister this money to continue operations and to continue the men's employment, that we will have the Committee set up for the purpose of investigating the company's affairs with the powers set out here, to send for people, papers and documents.

I am sure it would be very helpful to all concerned, to the members of this House, to the workers employed by the firm and to the people of the country generally, if the Minister were to give us much more detailed information in his concluding statement than he gave us in his opening speech. He should express his views on the way the firm is managed and whether he is satisfied that there is no need for a change on the board of directors, or whether he feels that now that so much is being given to them, his Department should have a greater say in the affairs of the company than they have had in the past.

Two ships have been built in this dockyard and a third is in the course of construction. The Minister in his statement visualised that two further ships would be built in the foreseeable future. He told us that the losses on the first two ships were £650 million—


Yes, £650,000. The Minister is smiling. It is great to see the Minister smiling today because, as I mentioned before, the atmosphere prevailing here was not good and the Minister was a little short with his friend from Cork——

I was quite good-humoured.

It is pleasing that my little ship brought the smile to the Minister's face.

It is not too difficult to make me smile.

The anticipated contribution from the State to offset the losses on the ship under construction at present and the two ships to be built is £570,000. That makes a total subsidy of £1¼ million. The Minister said that the annual wages bill of the company was in the neighbourhood of £750,000. That is a very big sum of money. Of course it is not only of advantage to the employees but it is also a great advantage to the shopkeepers and traders in the area, but it is depressing in the fourth year of that firm's existence that we must pay almost £1 million in the current year to keep the concern going.

The Minister should appreciate the great co-operation he is getting from the House and he should take the House into his confidence. From past experience, we may ask questions which I hope will not be deemed impertinent. They are not confined to the dockyard company or the company in the original application. We on this side of the House, particularly in the Labour Party, advocated the establishment of industries in as many places as possible. We have always advocated a policy of endeavouring to provide employment at home in order to avoid workers having to emigrate to seek employment. We have made it abundantly clear in the course of our statements here that we are always willing to co-operate in the provision of moneys for the establishment and development of industries. However, we have always had at the back of our minds that the industries we are anxious to have developed are industries that are soundly based, that are likely to last—industries which, after the initial injection of public funds, will be able to stand on their own feet and continue to give employment.

Can we say that the money already put into this dockyard, plus what we will put in when we agree to this Supplementary Estimate, if employed in other directions, if used for the development of other industries, would give employment to many more than the 850 employed at the dockyard? Is it not likely that on account of the big amount of capital involved here, not only would we have been able to employ more than 850 but that the figure might easily be in the region of 5,000?

Is it not peculiar that people coming in here from outside always seem to be more favourably treated in regard to the availability of grants than our own people? I have stressed here on many occasions that we should develop industries on our own, if possible, and that if we had not the technical know-how to do that, we should acquire it from outside and pay whatever fees were necessary for acquiring it so that we could establish these industries and run them on our own. The gloss seems to be going off the suggestion posed here quite often in the past that the only salvation for the country was to bring in foreign industrialists. The Minister, undoubtedly with the common good in mind, has endeavoured to bring in as many foreign industrialists as possible. I feel sure his aim has been to get industrialists here who would help solve our employment problem.

The Minister had a permanent representative in West Germany with that aim in mind and he also had one or two other permanent representatives in other countries for the same purpose. But the Department and An Foras Tionscal have fallen down on their job of enquiring into the credentials of industrialists coming in here. I have been endeavouring to get the annual report of An Foras Tionscal for last year but find that it is not available. In other years, it was available before 30th June. It is sad to think that this Government, despite many warnings in the House by Deputies, have, to use a common term, got caught by these people. Unfortunately, the Irish people have also got caught.

Would the Deputy name some?

The Minister knows some of them.

Let us see where the responsibility lies.

The Minister will not have too long to wait. I feel sure the Minister reads the papers and keeps in touch with the latest developments in so far as Irish industries are concerned and in regard to industries set up with the help of the money subscribed by the Irish taxpayers. What I am endeavouring to drive home is the need for the most careful, diligent scrutiny of the credentials of these people. Some foreigners with doubtful credentials have obtained grants and, having got the money here, were unable to make a success of the business. It may be no reflection on their personal character. In matters of this sort, personal integrity does not matter so much as ability to run and manage a business properly.

It is most distressing to have industries which held out prospects of good employment closing down in many areas. In instances where that has happened, and in others where it is likely to happen, I hope the Minister will study the position and, if possible, get alternative companies to take over, perhaps even in some other line of business. I trust the Minister will take cognisance of the remarks made from the Opposition benches because every Deputy from this side who has spoken has been as mindful of the interests of the Verolme Dockyard as is the Minister or any member of his Party. We have all the same aim in view but we on this side advise caution.

We all know we were over-optimistic in giving so much money to St. Patrick's Mines, that that money has gone down the drain. I am not reflecting on the Minister because I know he made every effort to ensure the success of that venture, but I hope there will be no slip-up on the part of the Minister or his advisers in ensuring that every effort will be made to see this money does not go down the drain. Though my constituency is, as the Minister knows well, far removed from this dockyard, I have been interested in its operations for a number of years. My constituents were very pleased such an industry was established in their county and all hoped it would be a marked success. Despite the depressing statements from this side of the House, I shall conclude on an optimistic note.

A ray of hope at last from the Opposition.

Yes, but the Minister cannot get blank cheques. We all know he is an intelligent man, but no matter how honest and sincere he may be, he can make mistakes. I am only endeavouring to warn him against the pitfalls. We hope the money we are voting here today will, with the help and co-operation of the Minister and the company, and through the adjustment of any differences that may have arisen in the directorship of the company, result in the development and prosperity of the undertaking. We hope that by virtue of such development, in the not too distant future, the number of men employed there will steadily increase. I hope the Minister will not be put in the embarrassing position of having to come back to the House looking for a further contribution but that as a result of this very big injection, the company will survive, become strong and robust and continue to prosper.

Deputies on every side of the House and the members of every political Party and anybody outside who thinks about the matter are all of the same view that what we want here in Ireland is very considerable, more productive investment— investment that will be viable to produce permanently a successful industry of one class or another that will bring in its wake permanent employment for our people at home. There is no need for me to say that on this Vote we fully subscribe to that view. We have always fully subscribed to it and we always shall. Indeed, everybody must do so.

The difficulty I have always felt from time to time in relation to productive investments of a substantial nature has been not the difficulty of finding the public finance to make these investments but the difficulty of finding investments that would succeed. If such an investment does succeed, we fully appreciate and understand that it brings with its success many a ray of hope for many an Irish family and enables many Irish people to earn their living and bring up their children in their own country.

At the same time, in assessing the desirability of a particular investment, we must consider the obverse of the coin. If the investment is a failure, it will not provide the type of permanent employment we all wish for. It will make employment outside that failure more difficult and, further more, it will mean substantial additional taxation to meet the cost of the failure.

If there were not that secondary risk that a failure would bring with it— danger to other people in their permanent employment; if there were not that secondary risk that a failing investment would bring substantial additional taxation to meet the cost of the failure, then every one of us would always be prepared on any project to gamble public moneys in the hope that it would succeed.

The difficulty down through the years has been not to find public money for a project that seemed probable to hold out chances of success and chances of permanent employment. I can remember certain cases brought before me when I was satisfied that the prospect being put up to me showed a good chance that the injection of public money would have the desired effect in making it a viable proposition thereafter. Deputy Dillon yesterday referred to many of those. A second ago, Deputy Murphy referred to another one, the Avoca copper mines about which I should like to say a word.

There is a very vast difference between the proposition that I put forward from the Minister's seat in relation to the copper mines and the proposition put up in respect of Verolme. In the Avoca copper mines proposition put to the House we provided that the Canadian people coming in would invest all Canadian moneys for the purpose of ascertaining the possibilities of that investment. There was no suggestion whatever at that time that any public funds would be required for that development. The bargain made by us and for which I was mercilessly slated by Fianna Fáil and, as far as I remember, by the present Minister for Industry and Commerce——

I do not think I was in on that.

——the Taoiseach and Deputy MacEntee—but I think the present Minister took a hand in these debates also—was not that I put too much money into it. The criticism was that I had made a bargain that was unfavourable to our people. In fact, as the records show, I made certain in that bargain that it would be Canadian money that would be expended and that there would not be any question of putting public funds into that proposition at all at that stage.

It was only after a large amount of Canadian money had been spent—I forget the exact amount at the moment; somewhere about £1½ million —that the present Government came to this House and asked for public money.

On a point of order, is the Deputy in order in alluding to the Avoca copper mines and their financing under this Vote?

This is a Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce.

I just wanted that for the record, in view of the ruling given here an hour ago.

That was a very different proposition from the proposition put up here in relation to the Verolme project. There, the bargain we made was that the Canadians would use their own money for the purposes of development. Here, the proposition, as I shall show later on, was a bad bargain by the Taoiseach on the basis of public money being put in at far too great dilution compared with the money being put in by the Dutch part of the concern.

It was not merely in relation to Avoca that the Fianna Fáil Government showed bad judgment at their stage—because it was at their stage and their stage alone that they were dealing with public money. In Dundalk, similarly, public money was badly used. In consequence, permanent employment would not be available for the expenditure of that money and the taxpayer has had to come to the rescue by way of additional taxation for the purpose of meeting the money that was foolishly thrown away instead of being used properly to create permanent employment on a desirable scale in Dundalk.

But, as in Avoca and as in Dundalk Engineering and as in Verolme up to now, there was no proper disclosure at the appropriate time by the Minister responsible. The present Minister for Industry and Commerce was not at that time to which I am referring the Minister: it was the Taoiseach. We must consider this proposition he has put before us to-day in the light of such information as he has given us. I want to suggest that the information that has been given is wholly inadequate. He has not traced the history of the proposition in anything like the degree of detail necessary and desirable.

I can understand the Minister saying in relation to bargains made between the Industrial Development Company and other concerns that it is not desirable to disclose commercial details, but this is an absolutely different case. This is a case where the Minister has disclosed that a grant has already been made by An Foras Tionscal and is specifically asking the House to vote certain moneys. It is all wrong that the entire facts in relation to this concern should not be put to the House and that it should not have been made clear to the people concerned that, if they wanted to get something over £1¾ million of a free grant of public moneys, all the facts in relation to their project should be disclosed. I think I am right in saying that the subsidy involved here is £1,220,000 and that the grant already given is £550,000, making a total of £1¾ million of public money given as a free grant to this concern. When public money of that size is being given, it is essential, no matter how unpopular it may be, that the manner in which it has been expended should be scrutinised to the last degree.

We are, I fear, in an entirely different climate from that in which the Taoiseach announced this project in 1959. He announced it in a manner which indicated that, even then, the bargain made with these foreign interests was not a good bargain from the point of view of the Irish people. In addition, the announcement was made in glowing terms which indicated that never at any time would further public moneys be required by way of grant or otherwise—that all that would be necessary would be an umbrella, as the Taoiseach said, so that loan money could be made available, if it were required at any time. The sanguine optimism of the Taoiseach at that time compared with the sorry story the Minister has to tell today, which is not all the story, certainly provides the answer in its own comparison.

At present we are in circumstances in which we must consider not merely the individual instance of this concern, but the general shipbuilding situation. In the Financial Times of 15th July, 1963, a report by their shipping correspondent stated that 12 British shipyards had already closed down. Of the remaining 54 in the Shipbuilding Conference, four yards had no merchant shipping work on hand and 23 had no more work to lay down. It went on to say that reports indicated that there was a likelihood of a reduction in the shipbuilding industry order book of threequarters of a million gross tons in 1965 compared with the potential productive capacity of 1½ million tons a year. In other words, it is likely that the shipbuilding industry would be working only to half capacity. It is in that unfortunate position for the shipbuilding industry as a whole that we must consider the particular project we have before us today.

I found some considerable difficulty in following one portion of the Minister's speech as to which is the operating company and which is the holding company. As I understood it, the operating company is what was previously the Cork Dockyard Company Limited, which was acquired in January, 1959, or thereabouts from Irish Shipping Limited. A new company, the Verolme (Cork) Dockyard Limited, was formed. I understand what transpired was— I speak entirely subject to correction on this—that the Cork Dockyard Company was an old company. It had been there for many years. I have here a copy of the annual return furnished by the Cork Dockyard Company was an old company. It had been there for many years. I have here a copy of the annual return furnished by the Cork Dockyard Company Limited in respect of the year ended in September, 1958. I got it at an earlier date when trying to make investigations in relation to this project.

That return shows that on 3rd September, 1958, 87,508 shares had been issued and that there was a mortgage debt due by the company of £52,000. It shows under the signature, apparently, of the secretary—although that line is not clear—under the signature of somebody who looks like "Noel C. Haughey", that 87,508 shares were held, as to 87,503 by Irish Shipping Limited, which is a Government concern and which has public money, and as to five other single shares by five other single people, which shares were presumably for the purpose of qualifying the directors. The debentures to which I have referred were all issued, as far as I can make out, in favour of Irish Shipping Limited. There was one of £30,000 on 30th December, 1942; one of £12,000 on 25th June, 1947, and one of £10,000 on 30th July, 1947. The position was that at that date the total disclosed money invested in Cork Dockyard Limited was £139,000: and all, with the exception of £5 for qualifying shares, had been invested by Irish Shipping Limited.

That investment of Irish Shipping in that concern was sold by them to the present Dutch interest. I should like to ask the Minister, first, what money was paid to Irish Shipping Limited, in respect of the money Irish Shipping had invested. That is the first indication we have of any dealings in relation to public moneys. I cannot remember the exact date upon which the Minister became Minister for Industry and Commerce. The next thing that happened was that on 14th February, 1959, a motion was passed and submitted to the Minister for Industry and Commerce in March, 1959, by which the name of that company, Cork Dockyard Limited was to be changed by means of a special resolution to Verolme Dockyard Limited. That was done after the ownership of the 87,000 shares had passed from Irish Shipping to the Dutch interests concerned: the Verolme Engineering Company of Rotterdam, who had 87,507 shares, and the Verolme Dock and Shipbuilding Company of Rotterdam, who had one share.

The special resolution passed on 14th February, 1959, in respect of which consent to the change of name was given by the Minister, showed something else. Here is where I blame the Minister for not having disclosed this fact to the House. The special resolution also provided that this was not to be an ordinary public company as we understand it. It was to be a private company as it always was, but it was to be a company in respect of which Verolme was to be the governing director and no other director of any sort in relation to this transaction was to have any power whatever. The new clause 16, which is a normal clause in respect of a private family concern but which is entirely wrong in respect of a concern handling this amount of public money, was to be as follows:—

Cornelis Verolme shall be the Governing Director of the Company until he resigns that office or dies and whilst he retains the said office he shall have authority to exercise all the powers, authorities and discretions expressed to be vested in the Directors generally including the power to convene a general meeting of the company and all the other Directors (if any) for the time being of the Company shall be under his control and shall be bound to conform to his directions as regards the company's business.

That is normal enough in the case of a father and a number of his children in a company or where there is what I might call a small family company, but where it is a concern in respect of which £4,600,000 of a loan is committed for a long time from the Industrial Credit Company and in respect of which now £1,220,000 is to be given, and a free grant of £550,000 has been given, I suggest it is something, putting it mildly, of which the Dáil should have been informed.

I suggest to the Minister that if he did not remember that circumstance which took place in 1959 when the change of name came before him, it was at least desirable that it should have been brought to his attention at present so that he might advise the Dáil of it.

I was not appointed Minister for Industry and Commerce until much later than that.

I cannot remember when the Minister became Minister for Industry and Commerce but, as the Minister knows, in order to permit the changing of the name of a company, the sanction of the Minister must be obtained and sanction must, therefore, have been obtained for the special resolution passed in relation to this company, on 14th February, 1959.

The Minister should tell the House what sum was paid by the company or rather, by these foreign interests for the publicly-owned asset held by Irish Shipping at the date they took over consequent on the bargain made by the Taoiseach in June, 1959.

Let me go on to the work that has been done by the company concerned. Three ships have been built, of which one is not yet complete. The first was the Irish Rowan which was built for Irish Shipping Ltd. and we have been told, as I understand the Minister's speech, that it was built at a loss. At least in that case, I shall concede that in relation to any loss there may have been, it has come out of one Irish pocket into another Irish pocket and is held by the Irish taxpayers through Irish Shipping, if, of course, the building of the ship was a loss not because of bad management. If the loss was a result of bad management, then it is a loss to the Irish taxpayer but—I want to be perfectly fair in that respect—my information is that the price at which the ship was tendered for was one that could not under any circumstances provide a profit. The cost could not be got out and everybody concerned knew it when the tender was made.

It was not the lowest tender.

I do not know. I am giving only such information as I have been able to obtain and verify where I could. I am not in the position of the Minister and cannot have access to the fullest information that he has but such information as I had, where it could be verified either in the Companies Office or in the Registry of Deeds, I have done so.

The second ship was a Canadian ship of 24,000 tons built for the lake traffic on the new St. Lawrence waterway. I understand everybody accepts that was an extremely difficult ship to build. I think it was generally accepted by all the technical people concerned with the Verolme works in Cork that it was the most difficult ship to build that any of them had ever been asked to deal with. It was apparently very long for its beam and depth. Why that makes it more difficult, I do not know, but apparently that was the view. The Minister has said that there was a loss in respect of that ship, as I understand him. Did that loss arise on the contract itself or from the liability of the company to payment of penalties because in that case it went entirely outside the country?

The third ship being built at present is being built for a Dutch owner. Does the Minister know for whom? Is it being built for Mr. Verolme himself or one of his concerns? It is unusual that the person for whom a ship is being built should not have an engineer on the spot expressly looking after his interests. There is no such, shall we say, outside engineer for the building of this ship which I think is a ship of 30,000 tons approximately.

The tendering in relation to these ships that have been built is, I understand, not done from Cork. Is the Minister satisfied that when he is putting up this large amount of money, it is wise to have the tendering and overhead contracting done outside the country?

I have also heard but I have no means of verifying that in regard to certain work done on those ships— the first and second but not on the third—the sub-contracting in one respect left a great deal to be desired. Did the Minister himself go to any pains to ascertain the circumstances in which some of these moneys were lost by the purchase at inflated prices of lands adjacent to the dockyard? I am informed that in one case, a place called Westlands was bought for £500. I do not know from whom. As the Minister knows, it is not possible to make a search in the Registry of Deeds against premises or against purchasers but I am aware that the same place, or part of it, was sold on 15th May, 1959 to the Verolme company for £5,250. I cannot verify whether it was bought for only £500, but, if so, there seems to have been a pretty high profit on one of the places bought by the company and on which part of these funds might have gone.

The Minister also indicated in his speech four headings of the claim under which this concern came to him for the subsidy that is required. However, the Minister did not give us any indication of the basis upon which the grant of £550,000 had been given by Foras Tionscal. The second basis given by the Minister was—and Deputy MacCarthy in a particularly fair speech referred to this as well—that it would take a considerable time to train personnel, and so forth. As I understand it, that is the very thing for which the Foras Tionscal grants are given, for the purpose of ensuring that when people are setting up a new industry, they will have funds available for training Irish operatives who will be able to carry on after they have learned the technical know-how from the people concerned. If in this case that £550,000 was not given by Foras Tionscal for that purpose, will the Minister tell us for what was it given, that is, exclusive from the four headings he has indicated to us?

Will the Minister also tell us what it means in terms of £.s.d. that the Industrial Credit Company have been asked to remit interest until 1964, and will that remission of interest be paid by them out of their other profits or will the Minister be coming to this House for an Estimate to repay them that amount?

Will the Minister also say why, when this very large sum of public money was being invested, no effort whatever was made to seek adequate or proper representation to ensure that there would be some Industrial Credit Company control in relation to expenditure or in relation to the working of the company, having regard, as I understand the matter, to the provision for a governing director, to which I have already referred, the effect of which was that this money could be brought out of the country on his say-so without any control at all by the Industrial Credit Company, by the Industrial Development Authority or Foras Tionscal.

Would the Minister also tell us whether he is making the case that the immediate requirement to keep this shipyard open for the period of time during which an inquiry would take place is the whole £990,000 for which we are now asked. I do not believe it could be at all. I believe the amount necessary to keep the shipyard open during the time that such an inquiry would be held must fall vastly short of the full subsidy for which the Minister is now asking.

I should like the Minister also to tell us what is the exact present financial position? Do I understand him to mean that of the £4,600,000 promised under contract by the Industrial Credit Company, £1,800,000 has so far been expended, which means that a further £2,800,000 remains still to be expended; that we are now being asked to give the first approval towards a subsidy of £1,220,000, which would mean a further £4,000,000 still to be expended; that there is the £550,000 from Foras Tionscal of which £400,000 is to be used in repayment of the loan, and £150,000 is for other moneys?

The point I want to get clear from the Minister is what we are being asked now to do. Is it to agree, not to £990,000 but to a further £4 million? If the Minister makes the case that without this subsidy work must cease, it means clearly that this subsidy for £2,800,000 for which the Industrial Credit Company will be responsible would not be required as well. Will he say categorically what amount is necessary to carry on the concern for a period of two or three months while such an inquiry took place?

Nobody, least of all any member of the Fine Gael Party, wants any man to be thrown out of employment with the appalling consequence of hardship and misery that is bound to entail, but we should not be asked to give a sum in this Estimate in excess of that which is required to keep the concern going until such time as a proper inquiry has been made.

As far as I can calculate the figures, the proposition being put before us here today, if it goes right to the end of the story, is that Dutch interests will at the very end of the story have invested £1 for every £6 the Irish taxpayer has been asked to invest in the proposition. Deputy Norton took it as seven to one. I made it as somewhere between the two, but giving the Minister the best figure I can, it seems to me that it is at least six to one. It seems extraordinary that in a six-toone investment, no precautions were taken by the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Lemass, or by the Industrial Credit Company at his request, to provide proper and adequate control and an adequate means of protecting the people responsible for that very large investment— which I think will eventually amount to £6 million of the taxpayers' money —by some method of inquiry rather than the system of a governing director.

I should like the Minister also to indicate how it is possible that on 23rd February, 1962, this company borrowed money from the National Building Agency Ltd., and registered a debenture mortgage at the Company's office on 14th March, 1962, in favour of the National Building Agency, another State body lending public funds.

One of the reasons I would personally like an inquiry to be held is that a categorical statement should be made beyond all question, killing the rumour, if the rumour is false, or substantiating it, if it is true, that a great deal of the machinery and plant in this shipyard in Cork is secondhand, that it came from Holland and that in respect of it the Dutch interests obtained from the Dutch Government a substantial grant for its installation in their works in Rotterdam, and that new machinery was taken instead. The Minister must have heard, as well as I have, that rumour floating around everywhere. If the machinery was secondhand, the implication is obvious. There is some suggestion, while it was not used machinery, it was machinery that had been ordered and had not been delivered, that more modern machinery had come on the market and that the older machinery was switched to Cork and the ultramodern machinery, shall I call it, delivered to Rotterdam.

I want to make it clear that this is the worst possible type of subsidy that can ever be brought in by any Minister to the Dáil. This is a subsidy for an individual industry. If it is to be a subsidy for shipbuilding, it should be available not merely to this one selected concern but also to the Liffey Dockyard or any other shipbuilding concern in the country that qualifies for it in the same way as the concern in Cork. It is a bad principle to come in here for a subsidy for an individual industry rather than for the industry as a whole. It is quite untenable that a concern should be singled out for a subsidy while another concern carrying out the same type of work is not qualified in this way. Will the Minister at least give an assurance to the House that the subsidy he is proposing now is a subsidy for the industry as a whole rather than for one concern and that any other concern on the same pattern will be treated equally by the House?

The Minister should also make clear whether he is satisfied beyond question that what is now being proposed here cannot have any adverse effects on the other similar but unsubsidised shipyards in Ireland. It would be a bad day if what we are doing in relation to this one concern meant that what we were doing to improve one concern was doing damage to another.

Let me say to the Minister that in relation to this concern, I appreciate that the rise of this Dutch firm in shipbuilding has been meteoric. The manner in which, starting from nothing in Holland, they grew up to be a shipyard of the size they are today reflects the greatest credit on them. But it is well known that any concern that grows too fast is a concern which is also likely to be somewhat tied up as regards liquid resources. In those circumstances, is it not highly desirable that when so much public money is involved in this concern, we should do everything possible to prevent any possibility of the temptation being availed of to utilise any of these funds for the purposes of financing, not Cork, but concerns such as Cork elsewhere in the world!

We have seen in the papers recently the difficulty which this concern is having in relation to the American continent where, apparently, things are not entirely plain sailing for them. I want to say that it is our anxiety at all times to ensure that productive capital investment should be kept up to the maximum possible degree. The difficulty in relation to that is the difficulty of finding proper viable concerns for investment. If the concern is not an ultimately viable project and a permanent one, all that happens is that there will be a loss of employment for more than the actual number of people disemployed in the particular concern. It is bound to have ripple repercussions all over the place, which means that there will have to be additional taxation to make up the bad investment that has been made. There is a duty on us to ensure that when we are engaged in investments of this sort, we make certain that they are in business of a proper kind. It is for the purpose of having such an investigation that we have on the Order Paper a motion that is being discussed together with this question. It is for the Minister to say how long this concern can manage without the grant and how much will be needed to keep it going while that inquiry is being held.

The question was put here today as to who would give a fiver to this concern on the statement of the Minister. The answer to that question would be a clamorous "nobody". Nobody would put a fiver of his own money into this concern or advise his friends to do so on what the Minister has said. Here is the prospectus. The Minister tells us in paragraph 9, page 3:

A detailed examination of the company's representations and of their financial situation has been carried out by a group consisting of representatives of the Industrial Credit Company, Limited, the Industrial Development Authority and An Foras Tionscal.

What are their conclusions? The Minister says:

As a result, the Government are satisfied that financial assistance by way of subsidy is necessary in order to avoid the danger of the Verolme Dockyard Company Limited being forced to close down.

That is tantamount to saying that if you do not pay up the company closes up. I can imagine a company coming along to its shareholders and saying that they require more money to keep going but, if you are going to ask for money in that way, the shareholders are going to ask you what are the prospects? What does the Minister tell us about the prospects? He says:

The future prospects of the company appear to depend on a substantial and progressive increase in labour productivity and the achievement and maintenance of a high level of activity in shipbuilding and repairs. I am informed that a marked increase in productivity has taken place recently in the yard and I feel that the financial assistance now proposed to be provided and the progressively increasing labour productivity should enable the company to overcome the shortcomings experienced hitherto. The company's association with the modern organisation of Verolme United Shipyards should make readily available considerable technological expertise and the services of a selling association with wide experience in world markets.

The amazing conclusion is that this association should be of assistance in obtaining orders for new ships. This statement does not say it will do that. If they would do this, that, and the other, that should result in certain benefits to the company.

Finally, he says:

This association should be of assistance in obtaining orders for new ships.

If that was the finale for a company with a group of shareholders and a good productive association behind them, not hampered because they could not get new orders, then the future was fairly bright. There were prospects of new orders. But every order the company has got so far has resulted in a loss. They have built two ships at a loss that amounts to 25 per cent of the cost. I do not know if that means cost and profit. They have three more ships, one on the stocks and two still to be built, and all we are told is that the losses on these should not be so heavy. This is not a case of a company hampered by lack of orders. It has more orders than it can fill at the moment, three out of five ships and two more on the order book. The feeling is the losses on the next three ought not to be as heavy as the loss on the first two. Deputy Dr. Browne is, I think, correct in saying that if anybody brought that as a company report before a group of shareholders, nobody would subscribe a "bob" to it. Certainly none of us would subscribe a "fiver", let alone put £100 into it. This seven page statement contains no promise for the future. In that, I think the Minister is sound. He should not make any promises for the future. This is a salvage operation, but do not forget it started off with great promises for the future.

I heard comments the time this was opened—January, 1959. The Minister in the second paragraph says that the development was welcomed at the time and was considered—he should put this in inverted commas—a major gesture of confidence in the industrial future of Ireland. That was a phrase used by the Taoiseach, the Minister's predecessor in Industry and Commerce. He went on a jamboree to some part of Holland, with a whole lot of journalists. The same comment was bruited around the whole area—a great gesture of confidence by a foreigner in the future of this country.

Deputy A. Barry spoke in very mild terms today about the phrases used. He said that probably the excuse is that this man is a foreigner, does not understand our ideas, and does not understand our approach to problems. He may have thought that what was noised abroad was a result of our having this penchant for blarney, giving it and receiving it; he may have thought it would work down there. I have here a comment made. It is recorded in the press of 10th January, 1959—the Irish Independent. The headline is: “Big future predicted for the Cork Dockyards”. The less publicised phrase after that was that, if everything went well, the biggest ships in the world would be built in Cork in a matter of five or six years. That was said by Mr. Cornelius Verolme, head of the United Shipyards. That was monstrous nonsense. He went on to add that in Holland his shipbuilding industry had been built by his own capital and he was not coming to Ireland to look for credit. Irish credit was only used as an umbrella.

In the Irish Times of 10th January, 1959, there was a more detailed exposition than in the Irish Independent of 8th January. Here is a businessman who, the Taoiseach—he was then Minister for Industry and Commerce— said was fantastically wealthy and who had an astounding success. He came across to Cork and told the populace on a day of rejoicing: “I have not come here looking for profit.” Immediately I read that, I began to wonder what sort of phoney businessman was this. Businessmen are in business only for profit. There are very few benevolent associations that masquerade under the names of business firms, but this man came here and promised the biggest ships in the world would probably be built in the next five or six years and, whatever way they would be built, he was not looking for profit.

He said this was a historic day for our country—8th January, 1959, Irish Independent—and then he added: “I am not here to make money. I come at the request of your Government and I am ready to help you to do everything for the welfare of your country and look forward to corresponding support for my interests here”. He praised himself as a man who made money by a fantastic organisation, disclosed in the Minister's statement — shipping companies, ten or 12 companies, finance corporations, shipbuilding corporations all over the world. Here was this colossus of the business world coming here not to make money because, as he said at a later stage, he was “a deeply religious man” and we were “a deeply religious country”. The moment I read that, I put a note of interrogation against him in my mind. No businessman goes into any venture except to make money. This man told us he had been persecuted by the efforts of our representative in Holland, Mr. Bryan Gallagher, and all the other influences brought to bear on him.

Do not forget that the phrase quoted here in the second paragraph of the Minister's speech was the phrase used by the present Taoiseach—"a major gesture of confidence in the industrial future" of Ireland. He talked about his financial resources. He said he had plenty of capital and he did not want any capital. He said he had told Dr. Beddy, Chairman of the Industrial Credit Company, when the agreement was signed, that he had no intention of looking for credit. That is the report of 10th January, 1959. It was his intention, he said, to use it only as an umbrella in case of need and there was no limit set to the terms set out in the agreement.

Here was a man coming here, not to make a profit, not to make money, not going to use our credit, but his own credit, and making an arrangement with the trade unions—he stressed this in the interview—for a private shareholding scheme of remuneration in the new industry so that, as far as labour was concerned, there was no trade union restriction. As far as credit was concerned, he had plenty in Holland and the only accommodation he might require was in case he had to put up an umbrella from time to time if the weather got rough as far as credit commitments were concerned in Holland.

We are asking here—I think we are entitled to ask—was that view of his examined? The Minister says these interviews started about May, 1957, and came to a conclusion in the early part of 1959. There was a year and a half in which to get his proposals examined. His proposals included a labour condition equal to what he had in Holland. That was given to him. The second thing was credit. He was not looking for our credit; he had more than sufficient credit at home. All he wanted was the umbrella to put up if the weather got rough. There is this comment in yesterday's Irish Times:“It was not merely a question of an umbrella in a shower of rain. It was pouring rain all the time.”

I have gone over the Minister's seven-page statement and I still would not like to say that I know what our financial commitments are. I asked the Minister for Finance in July, 1961, what commitments had we beyond the £4.6 million which were stated as the commitments of the dockyard company at 31st October, 1959, by the Chairman of the Industrial Credit Company. I was told no information could be given to me. Then the Minister limps in here to tell us that three groups of people have analysed the situation and all they can tell us is: "If you do not give us this money, the place will close down." What about the future? Passing over the "major gesture of confidence in the industrial future of Ireland," one can say it is very easy to have confidence if you are guaranteed against losses and if you can simply put your profits in your pocket, where apparently Mr. Verolme thought he could put them if the suckers who supported him in Government agreed to his plan. We bore the losses and he took the profits, if there were any.

Turning to page 2, the Minister says that there were teething troubles, normally associated with the development of any new industry and in this case they had been seriously aggravated by the world-wide depression which has developed in the international shipbuilding industry. Would the Minister turn his mind back to January, 1959?

I might go back a bit further than that yet.

Were there shipbuilding difficulties in 1959? Was it a surprise when the Verolme group found there were shipbuilding difficulties? We now hear of the teething difficulties and not only that, but that they were seriously aggravated by the world-wide depression which has developed in the international shipbuilding industry. Paragraph 6 of the Minister's speech says:

The shipbuilding industry is in a different position from that of other industries in that it must secure its business in competition with shipbuilding industries in other countries and cannot be sheltered from this competition by protection in the ordinary way.

Was it not recognised in 1959 that any shipyard operating from Cork or elsewhere was going to be up against the difficulty of not being sheltered from competition by protection in the ordinary way? The Minister goes on to say that it is obvious that there is not a sufficient Irish home market for new ships to maintain a shipyard of the size of the Cork yard.

I ask again the same question: will people get back to January, 1959? Was there no realisation in January, 1959, that you could not protect shipping from competition and that there was not a sufficient Irish home market to enable the industry to get an output of ships to make the Verolme (Cork) dockyard a good concern? It is madness in 1963 to pretend that any group of people who are attentive to our best interests would not have recognised in 1959 that they could not get protection for shipbuilding and that the Irish home market was not sufficient to maintain it.

Within the last fortnight, I read a report of Irish Shipping Limited. They lost £860,000 last year. That is a fierce sum. In the course of their report, they say the same thing as is said here: their whole difficulty is that in shipping there are more ships at sea than are sufficient for the demand for shipping facilities. They say that it was the bleakest and grimmest year they have ever had. In the body of the report, despite the fact that more ships are sailing the sea than are required, they go on to announce in their new programme that they are going to have two new tankers—in an already saturated market in which we have lost £860,000.

On page 3 of the Minister's commentary, he says that the firm sustained heavy losses and that further losses are anticipated, although it is hoped that these will be at a diminishing rate as "the skill and productivity of the workers improves with experience". We do not know what that is. There have been heavy losses so far and the forecast is more losses and for that we are asked to subscribe nearly £1 million. The Minister says that there were four main grounds on which the representations were based. First of all, shipbuilding is depressed. It was always so since 1959. The second was that shipbuilding costs are higher here than in other countries because there was no experienced labour. Were they not always greater? The third is that the company had not the benefit of prosperous years. Good heavens, launching a new industry in a depressed economy and then complaining that you have not had prosperous years in which to build up reserves.

The fourth reason was that the parent company in Holland had not escaped the depression and were unable to provide additional finance for the Cork company. So the Holland company, this company, under the millionaire, Mr. Verolme, had not enough reserves to finance the venture in Cork, although in Cork he said that the biggest ships in the world would be built there in a matter of five or six years. That was blandly accepted by the Minister and his predecessor as being good ground for believing a prosperous shipbuilding industry could be built in Cork. There was not one of those four grounds which could not have been experienced in 1959. We are asking that a Committee should be set up to examine into this.

I do not know anything about this credit business. I am told it is partly a Dutch Governmental prohibition on capital being exported. Was that told to the Government when they went on their jamboree in some part of Holland before this concern was inaugurated? Did they hear that there was a possibility that the Dutch Government would not allow capital to be exported? Did they consider the conditions under which the umbrella might have to be raised in order to protect this company from the vagaries of the weather? Apart from that, did they get any assurances?

It must have been obvious to anybody that there was a depression in the shipbuilding industry, that our costs were likely to be higher because we had inexperienced labour, and that there was not a big enough home demand to make a prosperous industry. Did they know that the parent company in Holland had not escaped the depression? The depression was there before January, 1959, and therefore they were not in a position to provide additional finance for the Cork company.

We are told on page 3 of the Minister's speech that an examination of the company's representations had been carried out. That is marvellous. The Industrial Credit Company, the Industrial Development Authority and Foras Tionscal carried out the examination and their conclusion— the conclusion on which we are asked to vote nearly £1 million of money— does not hold out any prospect for the future. The conclusion is that the Government are satisfied that financial assistance by way of subsidy is necessary in order to avoid the danger of the Verolme Cork dockyard being forced to close down. That is the beginning and the end. There is no statement about the future.

I will go on to deal with the future so far as the Minister's tentative reference to it is concerned. The only reference is that otherwise the company may be forced to close down. I am quite sure that is correct, but how do we reach that situation? Over what period of months has it developed? The contract was signed in January 1959 and we are now in July 1963. Over what period of months can this group carry on if they get this financial assistance to this very substantial extent?

I have gone through the Minister's statement very thoroughly but I still do not know what we are committed to. There is no promise that our commitment will be less in the future, no indication in the statement that there are any good prospects of a successful operation in the future. Some Deputies talked about the courage of the Government in voting £1 million. I think it is a completely wrong description to apply. If it is courage that is required, we would be doubly courageous if we voted twice the amount.

It is prudence that is required. What hope have we for the future or are we to reach the situation we reached in relation to the Avoca mines? First of all, we were told that the Avoca mines operation was a sale of national assets; then came subsidies and more subsidies; and then the close-down. If the Minister ever received a final report on the future of Avoca, we still have not heard of it. First, we close down the place and get rid of so many people in employment there and then the Minister gives us a definite statement.

On page 5 of his statement, the Minister tells us:

In the circumstances, the Government consider that in order to maintain the shipyards in operation and the substantial employment which it affords a shipbuilding subsidy must be provided.

This is a solemn conclusion after all the messing. There is no prospect for the future—just to maintain the place as it is, we must give another £1 million. We go on then to the mournful message on page 5 about five separate items. The loss on two ships was £650,000 which, according to the Minister's statement, represents 25 per cent of the contract price of these two ships. I want to know does that 25 per cent mean 25 per cent of the building costs or 25 per cent plus the legitimate profit—are we providing not only for the losses but for some element of profit?

In the case of the third, fourth, and fifth ships, the subsidy would be less than actual losses, the Minister tells us. There is going to be some tricking around with the art of depreciation, but it is abundantly clear that two ships have incurred substantial losses which the taxpayer must meet and that the next three will incur losses but they will not be as great as those on the first two. That is the cheerless message we get. I pass over the comments he makes on page 6 because I want to ask the Minister to tell the House, when he rises to reply, exactly what are our commitments between every type of subsidy, Industrial Credit Company loans, waiver of interest, moneys paid out in other directions—in fact, how much are we in for altogether and what are the taxpayers going to be charged?

Next we come to the mournful litany of the Minister on page 7:

So far as can be judged, the outlook for the immediate future is not promising ....

Deputy A. Barry suggested we should cut out the word "immediate". Is it not the Minister's conclusion that the outlook for the future is not promising, that we cannot live in competition with ships built abroad? We are told the Cork yard is modern in its lay-out and equipment, but in the last half page of his statement, the Minister says:

The future prospects of the company appear to depend on a substantial and progressive increase in labour productivity ....

The same old litany.

This is the third time the Deputy has repeated that.

It is worth repeating.

"If you only produce more, perhaps we might do better". Is that not the effect of that statement? Is it not a suggestion that if they work more, longer hours without overtime payment, production might go up and the company might survive?

The Minister in his statement also wants the achievement and maintenance of a high level of activity in shipbuilding and ship repairs. Is it not the effect of that that if labour would give in a bit more, if they did not ask for more wages, if they worked overtime without overtime rates, maybe things would improve? But, mark you, the prospect even then is not bright. In the last few sentences, the Minister had this to say:

I am informed that a marked increase in productivity has taken place recently in the yard and I feel that the financial assistance now proposed to be provided, and the progressively increasing labour productivity, should enable the company to overcome the shortcomings experienced hitherto.

He says "the company should", not that it will.

The Deputy said that before, too.

I am saying it again because I might get it to seep into your head. He says it should, not that it will. It all boils down to this conclusion:

The company's association with the modern organisation of Verolme United Shipyards should make readily available a considerable technological expertise....

Again we have the "should". Deputy Dr. Browne made the case that if such a statement were made before a general meeting of shareholders, you would not get five shillings into the concern; people would be in fact selling at a loss to get out of it. Instead of that, here we are asked to put in another £1 million.

Does the Minister, even at this late stage, July, 1963, have any idea of how long this new subvention will carry us? Will the Minister be coming back in April or May next looking for more money? He has done it in regard to Irish Steel Holdings Limited. He has done it in regard to Avoca— creeping from one subvention to another. Nobody can say this is the final subvention in this respect. Is the same operation to occur in another six months? That is not the way to run a business concern. While nobody wants to put 800 men out of employment, at the same time, it must be possible for the expenditure of this vast amount of money to give employment with greater promise for the future. Here the Minister gives no conclusion with regard to the future. His only conclusion is: "If you do not give this money now, they will close down." Let us examine the matter and see whether this company is worthy of support in the years ahead. Somebody said this is only one of a group which we are subsidising and which we are not allowed to discuss here.

On the Minister's Estimate, we had such matters before us as Irish Steel Holdings Limited, Nitrigín Éireann Teoranta, the Galway plant, the Dundalk Engineering Works and several others, representing between them a loss of £20 million to this State. That is what the Minister is responsible for with his so-called efficiency. In all these concerns, we are trying to give employment at a tremendous cost. Surely all this vast amount of money could be better spent with better employment content?

I do not know what truth there is in the story, but there is a general view held in the community that in Holland the situation developed to this point: people got export subventions if they got rid of old machinery to other countries and installed new machinery instead. The general view is that this Verolme firm got rid of a whole lot of second-rate, bad machinery into Cork and got a subvention from the Dutch Government for that and then got a subvention from the Irish Government for installing bad, secondhand machinery in Cork. That is the view that is current.

The background is that we have invested about £5 million in this industry and nobody has said a word to indicate whether there is a successful future ahead for it. We have already lost a lot of money. The only thing is that we are going to invest more to prevent the shipyard from closing down. But the Minister has not yet told us, and I hope he will tell us in the end, if he has any hope whatever that within the next five or ten years—conditions being as we foresee them—this company will be able to pay its way, leaving out the money we have already given to it.

The debate was conducted in a reasonably objective way except, of course, when Deputy McGilligan with his usual cynical approach gave us the benefit of his observations and started to impute monstrous nonsense to the principal promoter of this industry—"suckers" in Government he called those whom Mr. Verolme met when he came here —that it was all boloney, and so on. He went back a bit in quotations. I hope, if the Deputy stays with us a while, to remind him of a few quotations.

Deputy McGilligan's attitude and indeed the motion by the Fianna Gael Party are typical of the Fine Gael attitude to all progressive measures. It is typical of their attitude of delay in decision, a miss-the-bus attitude. It is indicative of the type of government we shall get if Fine Gael ever achieve the status of single-Party government or, indeed, if they have a reasonable say in any other combination in government that they might aspire to.

This "wait and see" attitude that is being promulgated now from the other side is obviously not in tune with present economic conditions. Certainly, in the case of an industry like this it would be completely disastrous. The attitude of the Government in relation to industry is that we must broaden the base of our industry and take reasonable risks to do so in order to provide diversified and more employment for our people and in order to generate new industrial activity in many other directions. I think this is one such industry and I think everybody who witnessed or read of the advent of this industry to the country was glad we had the opportunity of a first class shipbuilding industry being set up in Cork where there was a cadre, admittedly a small one, of marine engineering skill.

We were confident, then, with the background of success of the promoters of this industry, with the known adaptability of Irish workers and with the location in deep-water harbour in the main channels of world shipping that there was a good prospect of success for this industry. If we are to find new industrial jobs to absorb the happily now increasing population of this country, to absorb the numbers that continue to leave the land, then we must broaden the base of our industry and we must find new industrial enterprises to open up the opportunities for these people. If we do not do things like this, then we might as well throw our hats at trying to expand our industrial activities, throw our hats at trying to create a decent balance between the agricultural and industrial arms of our economy.

This yard was commenced in 1959 on the site of the old Rushbrooke Dockyard. Deputy Sweetman's summary of the financial history of the company is absolutely accurate. He mentioned the shareholding by Irish Shipping Limited, in the Cork Dockyard Company when it was reorganised in 1945 mainly with the object of servicing and repairing Irish Shipping vessels and any other vessels that would require the services of the dockyard.

Subsequently, Irish Shipping, Limited, for one reason or another, did not find sufficient use for the dockyard and asked the Government to be relieved of the responsibility of contributing to its maintenance. Irish Shipping, Limited, were paid on a valuation of the dockyard and its plant as it stood at the time of its acquisition by the Verolme United Shipyard Company. That represented the purchase of the share capital held by Cork Dockyard of £45,000 and the clearing of a loan by Irish Shipping, Limited, of £100,000 making a sum of £145,000 which was part of the Verolme United Shipyard Company's contribution in the financial set-up in the new promotion. That was built into the Verolme contribution.

As we know, the Verolme contribution invested since has exceeded that which would have been payable pro rata with the rate of development of the yard. There has not been £4.75 million of Irish taxpayers' money put into this. As I said at the outset, £1.8 million has been given by way of debenture loan on what I think is a reasonably good security. The value of the yard as it stands at present is about £3½ million. That is the security and I think a very good security. The Verolme expenditure has far exceeded the pro rata rate of expenditure that the agreement required.

This subsidy is not part of the arrangement for the development of the yard. The yard is being developed with two major slipways. The old dry dock has been expanded and because of the prolongation of the period of depression in shipping and in shipbuilding, the further development programme has been put in abeyance. The subsidy now sought from the Government, the approval of which I ask from the House, refers to shipbuilding activities. It refers to the losses incurred on the two ships already built and launched, one ship on the slipway and the next two, one of which it is hoped will be ordered in the near future.

This yard has been described as one of the most modern in the world. Certainly, so far as its plant and lay-out are concerned, it is one of the most modern in the world. The agreement secured by the proprietors of the yard with the trade unions ensures that the old lines of demarcation that have bedevilled the economic working of other shipyards have been broken through. Therefore, this yard has the double advantage over many of the old yards, to which I referred in my opening statement as likely to close down in the near future, in that the old lines of demarcation are gone and that methods of construction and other amenities are completely up to date.

I do not think it is unreasonable that we should give the workers in this highly-specialised industry time to prove their skills. It was never envisaged, even after many hundreds of them were trained in Holland and put to work immediately in the physical construction of a ship, that they would be as productive as those who build ships in other countries and who have long years of experience and tradition in building ships. As I said, many of them have been trained in Holland, and trained without training grant. I might deal with Deputy Sweetman's question in that respect here. The Foras Tionscal grants mentioned are not training grants. They are inducement grants to attract new industries or to encourage the expansion of existing industries. When training grants are given, they are given separately. The grant of £550,000 referred to was not a training grant, but a grant that would normally be earned by a new industry.

It would be an inducement grant in the normal case?

But in this case there is no inducement because the industry is already here. That is why I felt it must be for something else.

The project started in Rushbrooke before the passing of the amended Industrial Grants Acts, under which such industry could have qualified for a grant. The project is in four or five stages, so that it is possible to apply a grant to a stage commencing after the coming into operation of the amended Act. In that respect, it is an ordinary industrial grant that a new industry would have earned in any event.

It may be so, but it makes a liar of the Taoiseach in what he said in 1959.

These are subsequent events. By delaying giving this subsidy or by refusing to give it at all, which delaying would be tantamount to, are we to throw to the winds the skills acquired by these young men in the yard and tell them to go abroad to any country in which they can exploit their skills? That is what the Fine Gael motion means because, unless we can make this subsidy available, it will not be possible for the yard to continue.

Will the Minister tell us have the company the right to draw on the balance of the £4,760,000 which the Industrial Credit Company have undertaken to make available to them by way of debenture loan? They have drawn only £1.8 million out of that.

They can draw on that only according as the development of the yard progresses.

The stages are outlined clearly?

It must be capital expenditure only?

Capital expenditure only.

Is that the agreement with the Industrial Credit Company?

Yes. For every £1 spent by the Industrial Credit Company by way of debenture loan or by Verolme United Shipyard Company, we have solid assets. We have, possibly the best slipway in the world and we have a modernly laid out shipyard that has been acclaimed by people from many parts of the world, even by our nearest neighbours in Belfast, whose comments on the yards I have seen.

It is necessary that this money should be given now in order to permit the yard a reasonable opportunity of making a success of itself. As everybody knows, shipbuilding in order to be economic must be a continuing business. When a ship is on a slipway and nearing completion, it is necessary to have another ship on order, for the keelwork to be progressing in the workshops and the keel to be laid as soon as possible after the launch of the first ship. Towards the end of the construction of that first ship, other fabrication must go on in the workshop in order to ensure continuity of employment.

I have outlined the rate of subsidy to be applied to the first five ships, after which it is envisaged this subsidy would cease. But the third ship is shortly to be launched, and it is necessary that these processes I have just mentioned should go on now in relation to the next ship. It is essential that the amount of subsidy for the building of the next ship be known so that the order can be placed.

Could the Minister say what is the amount of subsidy that will be hypothecated to the two ships already launched and to the third one about to be launched?

I said that very clearly in my opening statement.

Not the amounts for the individual ships.

I said:

In the case of these two ships, the amount of the losses being made good by subsidy is £650,000, which represents 25 per cent of the contract price of these two ships. In the cases of the third, fourth and fifth ships, the subsidy will also be less than the actual losses ...

Further on, I said:

The maximum commitment, which represents percentages reducing from 15 per cent to ten per cent of the contract prices, amounts in all to £570,000 for these three ships.

You may take it that the subsidy on the next ship will be 15 per cent of the contract approximately.

Do any of these figures include penalties?

I do not think so.

My information is that they do.

I am trying to reply to a rather complicated debate. I should like the courtesy of being given a chance to develop my points. There were many suggestions of rumours but I shall not chase rumours. When people introduce allegations based on what they themselves acknowledge to be rumours. I do not think I should be expected to reply to them but I may say it is not the practice of An Foras Tionscal to advance grants to industries in respect of secondhand machinery.

To accept the Fine Gael motion— I shall refer to the Labour amendment later—would be tantamount to telling this industry to stop everything, not to place any orders and as soon as your present ship is launched you will be out of business. It is necessary then to have this continuity of operation in order to keep a shipyard going successfully and in this instance, in order to ensure that the productivity of the skilled labour force there will reach the highest standards. I believe if we in any way hinder the activity there by negative action here, we shall have lost this industry for ever.

What purpose would this Select Committee achieve? This is a highly technical industry, highly specialised, and I doubt if any group selected from this House, no matter what their capacity, their professional or technical qualifications, would be in a position, if proof were required, to supply the House with it and prove that it was worth our while to pass this Supplementary Estimate. I doubt if the Select Committee could give us the necessary information. Deputy Cosgrave suggested that it could be a confidential, secret investigation knowing that it would be very difficult for any company to subject itself to public scrutiny of this kind. I doubt if any degree of secrecy could be secured.

I want to assure the House that before the Government took a decision in this matter, before I brought the matter to the Government recommending the decision the implementation of which I now propose, the most careful scrutiny of the matter was undertaken. I myself saw the directors and executives in both the Verolme Cork dockyards and in Verolme United Shipyards Limited. I and officers of my Department had consultations with the Industrial Credit Company who had been familiar with the financial structure of this dockyard from the beginning. Then, in consultation with the Chairman of ICC I had set up a special investigating team to examine the request for the subsidy and its background. The team consisted of an economist, a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, a member of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and a member of the Association of Costs and Works Accountants, all men who have achieved high positions in our public service, men who examined this matter objectively and whose appraisal of the situation I certainly would be willing to accept.

Were they all public servants?

Yes. They are on the staffs of the Industrial Credit Company, the Industrial Development Authority and there was one member of my own staff, who is a qualified accountant.

Would the Minister say what was the burden of the report?

They reported that it would be necessary to give the subsidy, having regard to the position of the company and the fact that every country in the world, practically, was subsidising its shipbuilding industry and because this industry had to compete with the products of such countries. They went into the figures in great detail. They visited the dockyard; they visited Verolme United Shipyard Company and reported on the measure of the subsidy which might be given.

And they were hopeful that the subsidy would see the company through these difficulties?

That is the net purpose of my coming here today for a subsidy on the first five ships to be built.

I detect a note of reserve in the Minister's reply.

It is very difficult when I am being cross-examined on every sentence.

It could be unfair.

I think it is unfair that questions like that should be thrown across the House. I did not interrupt or cross-examine Deputies. I have assured the House that the most skilled team we could possibly get examined this application. They reported back to me and to the Chairman of ICC with whom I had several interviews and discussions on the matter. I think I can satisfy the House that this decision was not taken lightly but after the most realistic and businesslike examination and appraisal of the issues involved.

I said earlier that this company had to compete with shipbuilding yards all over the world whose Governments subsidise shipbuilding. In many cases, these subsidies are hidden. It is not very easy to get information about them. I doubt if any other Government went before its Parliament in the open manner I have come here to look for a shipbuilding subsidy. Obviously, there is some risk about it and in view of some of the remarks that were hurled at the promoters of this industry here today, there is obviously some merit in the action of these other Governments. So far as I could get information, the Governments of the United States and Canada pay subsidies of roughly 50 per cent and 40 per cent respectively of the cost of building ships.

In France, there is an Act of Parliament called the Deferre Act under which subsidies are given to shipping which can amount to about 20 per cent. In Italy, subsidies for building and repair are also based on an Act of Parliament. I have not full details here but I understand that the subsidies amount to roughly 30 per cent of the cost. I have not been able to get much information about Spain but judging by the low quotations coming from Spanish shipyards, it is believed with conviction that Spanish shipyards are very heavily subsidised at present. In West Germany, I understand they operate a loan system, as is also the case in Japan. In Sweden, since Deputy Barry asked about it, I believe the necessary legislation is now being discussed. In Brazil, where there is also a Verolme yard, I am told the subsidies have reached a very high level—I cannot give the exact figures but I understand it is well over the rates of subsidy I have mentioned in respect of other countries.

Therefore, when I ask the House here today to agree to this subsidy, I am doing nothing more than is being done in other countries in relation to shipyards with which this shipyard in Cork will have to compete. I want to know if it is wrong for me to come to the House and ask to have the maintenance of employment in Cork of Irishmen assisted against the competition of countries who help in the same way the shipbuilding workers in the yards of their respective countries. I do not think it is. I have been pilloried here from the other side of the House about the occasions when I have sought assistance for the Avoca Coppermines. Phrases such as "damn cheek" and "impudence" have been used in connection with my approach here to this enterprise. However, there is nothing more impudent than the Party opposite who upbraided me with the times I have come here seeking assistance for the Avoca Copper Mines when it was the Party opposite who started the development of the Avoca Copper Mines in which £2½ million of Government money was lost.

Not one penny by us.

Not on any occasion when I come to this House on that matter was there any request for an inquiry by a Select Committee of the House. Why should there be a request for an inquiry in this case? Is it not obvious that if we are to attract industry and capital to this country from people who have the know-how from outside to come here and set up industries, and if we are to appoint Select Committees of the House to examine their books and their methods, to pry into what are their normal private affairs, we might as well throw our hats at industrial development, especially industrial development with the aid of foreign capital. I do not believe it would be possible in any way to ensure that a Committee of the House would be permitted to get the required information.

The Minister should bear in mind he is giving this company £999,000 in the current year.

The Deputy will not worry what happens to 850 workers.

That is what we are afraid of, that somebody with Deputy Corry's mind might have something to do with this.

Deputy Sweetman raised a number of other points with which I think I can deal. As regards the national building agency, this body was set up to assist industrialists to provide houses for key men and for others in circumstances where they could not get housing from the local authorities. The Verolme Cork Dockyards Limited were entitled to make their agreement for the necessary moneys advanced, by the National Building Agency Limited in the same way that any other industrial promoter would have been entitled to do it.

I have no knowledge of the purchase of Westland's land referred to by him. If land was purchased for £500 at one stage and appreciated to £2,500 at some later time it is not, I suppose, in modern circumstances a very great rate of appreciation. In any event, as I said, I have no knowledge of it and I hope Deputy Sweetman does not imply that there is any scandal about this transaction. If there is it is very small meat in comparison with what we are discussing now.

Deputy McGilligan went back to the statement which Mr. Verolme made when he came here first and when the first ship was launched. He quoted extensively from newspaper cuttings. He invited me to go back to 1959 and perhaps earlier. In reply I told him I proposed to go back a bit earlier. When Deputy McGilligan occupied the position I now have he stated here in the House—and it shows his mentality has not changed—and I quote:

If it is said that the Government has failed to adopt effective means to find useful work for willing workers, I can only answer that it is no function of Government to provide work for anybody.

I am quoting from volume 9, column 583 of the Dáil Debates.

That is a quotation from a Fianna Fáil Paper.

I have given the quotation from the Dáil Debates.

Anybody who looks up the Dáil Debates will find it is a false quotation which I have corrected six separate times in this House.

I shall rely on the testimony of a Deputy of no less stature than Deputy Norton when he said on the 27th September 1933 with reference to Deputy McGilligan, and I quote:

Some of us who know Deputy McGilligan longer than some of his new-found friends can remember that he was almost an industrial tank in this country during his period as Minister for Industry and Commerce—levelling one industry after the other.

If my first quotation is wrong, then I shall rely on the testimony of Deputy Norton to see me right in regard to the attitude of Deputy McGilligan in relation to work for the people and in relation to industrial development.

Deputy Norton was equally wrong.

I hope that in three years' time we shall not be quoting the words the Minister is using tonight.

We in Fianna Fáil have confidence in the Irish industrial advance. We have confidence in Irish workers that given the same opportunities, the same advantages, the same support as other Governments in other parts of the world give their workers, our workers can produce goods as well as the workers in any other country, and that the workers in this yard can ultimately make this a viable project.

For the reasons I have already mentioned, I ask the House to reject the motion and the amendment. First of all, there is the lack of competence in any group in the House to give a sufficient and competent appraisal of the business of the company. There is the reason that I know it would delay the making available of this money to the company to the point that it would perhaps have to close down. It certainly would not have been able to secure an order for the next ship. There is also the reason—and this applies to the Labour Party amendment as well —that I know if we put the companies that are not State companies but are private or public companies under scrutiny in the way suggested in the motion and the amendment, then I know we shall stop forever any participation by outside capital in the industrial advance of this country. For these reasons, I ask the House to reject the motion and the amendment.

In other words, we shall give all public money blindfold.

I shall put the motion: "That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration".

Does that have to be decided before the motion?

I think the procedure is that in order to discuss this motion, it was necessary to put down a separate motion. Originally, my amendment was to refer it back and to set up a Select Committee. In order to comply with procedure, it was necessary to submit a separate motion to refer back and to put down a separate motion on the Order Paper for a Select Committee. I am prepared to withdraw the motion to refer back and to take a decision on the motion to appoint a Select Committee.

Motion: "That the Supplementary Estimate be referred back for reconsideration", by leave, withdrawn.
Vote put and agreed to.
Vote reported and agreed to.