asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce the total tonnage of cement for which import licences into this country have been issued since the commencement of the present cement strike; and if he will make a statement concerning his Department's policy on the issue of such licences.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Cement Import Licences.
Since the commencement of the strike 1,283 licences remitting the import duty on 370,000 tons of cement have been issued but nothing like this quantity has been imported.
The purpose of the duty is to protect Irish manufacturers and, in accordance with normal practice, the duty is being remitted because the Irish manufacturers are unable to supply their customers.
Licences are valid for one month only and the quantities licensed are limited to current needs.
For what tonnage have permits been issued to Senator McGowan, the Fianna Fáil Senator from Donegal, and how much has he imported under them? He is the major importer of cement there.
That is a separate question.
I have not that information.
He has other imports on his mind.
How much cement has Senator McGowan imported?
On what does the Minister base his statement that nothing like this amount of cement was imported when referring to the number of licences issued? How does he come to that conclusion? How does he know how much cement was imported?
I do not know the actual volume imported. The actual user of the licences indicates that only a portion of the amount of cement covered under a number of the licences has been imported officially.
How does the Minister know?
My information is that a number of those licences have not been used fully.
Have any discussions taken place in this regard between the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Justice in the situation?
That is a separate question.
Would the Minister be prepared to table in the Dáil Library the details of the licences issued and the names and addresses of those who obtained licences in these particular circumstances?
I do not think there is any reason why I should.
It is in the public interest that this information should generally be available. We are quite well aware that there is 500 per cent, 600 per cent, profit being made on imported cement by means of licences. I am quite certain this information would be of interest to the Revenue Commissioners. I have no doubt many people in this country to whom the Minister has a public obligation and to whom he should make this particular information available——
In the same way, according to the Deputy's argument, I should make available a list of everybody who gets any sort of an import licence for anything.
There has been a black market in cement all through the duration of the strike.
That is a separate question. The question asked by Deputy Thornley concerned the total tonnage of cement for which import licences into this country have been issued since the commencement of the present cement strike.
Has the Minister any figure of how many licences have been used of the total that were issued?
I have not.
Could the Minister say if half of the licences were used?
My information is that the particular figure is misleading since the actual quantity imported under the licences granted was in all probability far less——
Can the Minister not give us anything more substantial than "probability"? Can he give any hard and fast figures?
No. I have no hard and fast figures.
Is the Minister making any effort to discover——
In addition to the licences issued, there is wholesale importation of cement of which, seemingly, the Minister has no track——
That is a separate question. I am calling the next question.
When the licences are used up, will they be returned to his Department?
The Minister for Industry and Commerce is extremely interested in this subject.
The Minister is not giving much information.
The qualification for a licence is to be a member of Fianna Fáil.
I am trying to make it quite clear that it has been stated by my predecessor—I repeat it now—that there is no restriction on the issue of duty-free licences for the importation of cement.
The majority of those receiving such licences are supporters of Fianna Fáil. All you have to do is to be a member of a Fianna Fáil cumann.