I informed the House on 30 September 1997 that, following discussions between myself, my officials and Guinness Ireland Group, they notified their proposed take-over of United Beverages Holdings to the Competition Authority on 4 September 1997 seeking clearance of the proposal under the Competition Acts. This means the proposal is now being examined by the Competition Authority, and I understand the Authority yesterday issued a detailed statement of objections which is currently being considered by the parties.
This alternative course of action became necessary as the original referral by me on 8 August, 1997, was made out of time. This occurred because it had been understood in my Department that the deadline of 3 August could be extended by making a further request for information from the parties. However, this was queried by the Competition Authority and the Attorney General advised that the original deadline of 3 August was unaffected by the request.
As Minister, I take full responsibility for the errors that occurred. However, in the circumstances of this case I am satisfied that the course of action taken by Guinness will have the same effect as the original course I had intended to take.