The Deputy will appreciate time would be required for major improvements.
In reply to Deputy Cosgrave, the name will continue to be the British & Irish Steam Packet Company Limited and will be known, I hope, by the public as the B. & I., the name by which it has been known in the past. The name is well known to tourists who come here and there will be no change in the name for the time being at any rate. Any change of name would be a matter of long-term policy.
The question of a tribunal to examine freight rates does not arise on this Bill at all. The actual fact is that the B. & I. will have to carry out their operations on a commercial basis. The idea that the Minister for Industry and Commerce would conduct a rate review seems to me to go beyond reality. The B. & I. rates will naturally be private because they are in competition with British Railways. British Railways have been making improvements recently in their shipping services, both for passengers and freight. Therefore, any changes made in the B. & I. rates will have to be private. They cannot be disclosed to the House.
However, it will be my duty as Minister in charge of the British & Irish Steam Packet Company to make inquiries of the Board as to their progress, to make inquiries in regard to how far they are able to offer attractive freights to exporters on a package deal basis, and to examine the productivity of the company in relation to their costs and revenue. I shall give a general statement to the House on the occasion of the Estimate in exactly the same way as I do in connection with other State companies. For example, in the case of CIE I gave a mass of information to the House on the general profitability of CIE in its different sectors. Equally, I have been able to tell the House how far I regard the air companies as being efficient bodies. I have given information to show that the costs per ton mile of Aer Lingus, whether freight-carrying or passenger-carrying, I regard as being competitive with other air lines.
Obviously, there is a difference between the B. & I. and CIE in that CIE are the only company engaged in internal transport services in this country. I have been able to give more information about the profitability of various sectors — for example, the number of bus services in Dublin running on a profitable basis — than I could in connection with the B. & I., which would be in competition with a considerable number of services, specialised container services, general cargo services of all types and with the various services operated by British Railways. For that reason, anything in the nature of a tribunal to examine rates would make it impossible for the B. & I. to do their work as effectively as they should.
As the Deputy knows, there has been a change in the pattern of cross-Channel traffic with the advent of containers. The character of the traffic has shown revolutionary changes in the past three or four years. Any company engaged in carrying goods across the Irish Sea has to adjust its rates to ensure it can make adequate profit on the goods that will bear those rates, at the same time doing its utmost to provide the most reasonable rates possible because transport costs are of great importance. Therefore, it is a kind of mixed picture of varying rates on varying types of commodities. All that has to be examined by the B. & I. They are obliged to operate on a commercial basis. I hope they will be able to pay a dividend on the shares which will relate in some degree to the rates at which the Minister for Finance has to borrow in order to secure capital. That is all I can say about it. It would be quite impossible to have a detailed investigation into individual rates as it would destroy the possibility of the B. & I. being run as a commercial proposition.