Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Wicklow Soap Factory.


asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if his attention has been drawn to the recent controversy in relation to the grant-aiding of a soap factory in County Wicklow; whether or not there are guidelines and criteria in place in relation to such matters as public safety and international human rights, in the context of grant-aiding potential industrial development applications; if he will lay a copy of such criteria in the Library of the Oireachtas; when such matters were last revised; and whether or not the Government, as opposed to the Industrial Development Authority itself, have any specific policy or interest in these matters.

I am aware of the industrial project referred to by the Deputy. In considering proposals to locate in Ireland, the IDA takes into account all of the relevant legal requirements, both national and international, including those relating to the environment, the rights of the workforce and the safety of users of the products. In so far as the work of the IDA is concerned, I am satisfied that a policy change is not required.

Relevant Acts and regulations are the responsibility of the Ministers who exercise the appropriate function. For example, the Ministers for the Environment, Health and Labour are responsible for regulations covering the areas that I have already mentioned. Such regulations are available in the Library of the Oireachtas. Questions related to the review of specific measures covering the areas indicated in the question should be addressed to the particular Ministers concerned.

The Minister is missing the point of my question. That question was not so much about the aspect of compliance with legal requirements or regulations but whether there are criteria in place, based on the policy of the Government, to guide the IDA, whose work we all commend, when making judgments about the type of proposals they should sympathetically consider or whether it is Government policy to facilitate any type of enterprise from any part of the world regardless of the social or economic implications here or in Third World or other countries. I am certain there has not been any breaking of the law or regulations in regard to this but I am anxious to know if the Minister has a view that goes beyond that, particularly in view of the implications of the proposal for the Third World.

This grant approval was subject to the conditions that the product and premises were to receive any necessary regulatory approvals from the relevant authorities such as, for example, the National Drugs Advisory Board, the Department of Health and the relevant bodies as regards the protection of the environment and the health and safety of workers. That is the regulatory position and the grant was subject to it. Production was to commence on 1 October 1987 and employment was to rise from 35 in year one to 60 in year three. The IDA have entered into legal commitments to the company as regards the grant and some 30 people are now employed there. The environmental impact study has been completed and is satisfactory. The Department of Health initiated procedures to determine if a manufacturing licence needed for the manufacture of this product under the health Acts could be issued. The company have now obtained such a licence having been cleared by the Department of Health. When the plant is operational the factory inspectorate will have to be satisfied that the regulations for the protection of people at work are fully met.

Are there criteria available from the Minister's Department to guide agencies involved in job creation as to the policy of the Government in relation to our lack of enthusiasm for doing business with certain regimes and enterprises which are in the business of exploiting people?

The criteria have always been in existence. This is not a dumping ground for any type of industry and people cannot come in here and set up whatever type of industry they like. The Deputy is aware of that as well as I am.

Will the Minister give me a copy of the criteria?

The Deputy raised a question about Third World countries and I should like to point out to him that the EC have reached agreement on a directive concerning the export and import of certain dangerous chemicals. Legislation will enable a Third World country to prohibit the importation of certain products prior to them being exported from the Community. As far as the IDA are aware that directive will not pose significant problems for the project, as they understand it. When that directive is in place, any Third World country can refuse such products. They can give prior notice to the EC and ban the export of such products from the Community by that action.

Will the Minister let me have a copy of the criteria he referred to?

They are no different to the criteria that have always been in existence. If the Deputy is asking me if any new criteria have been put in place I am telling him that they have not.

I am asking for a copy of the existing criteria which the Minister has said are in place. I want them in writing from the Minister.

The Deputy should not try to twist the question.

This is leading to argument.

I have asked a simple question.

My Department do not deal with health aspects or the safety of workers. The criteria the Deputy is seeking in relation to those aspects must be obtained from the relevant Department.

Do they exist?

I am sure that if the Deputy communicates with those Departments they will be only too delighted to give the information to him.