Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 19 Apr 1978

Shipbuilding Industry.

On a point of information, in the absence of Senator Mulcahy, am I right in assuming that the Committee have not seen this documentation on the shipbuilding industry?

I think we could speak on the draft report as long as we do not finalise anything in his absence.

The Government own 47 per cent of the Verolme Cork Dockyard. I should like to know from the relevant Department the position of the Irish Government, their attitude to the future of Verolme and any future plans they have for its extension, modification or reorientation.

Secondly, I should like to know the position of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. It disturbs me that reference is made at the end of the report by way of thanks and acknowledgement to the Verolme Cork Dockyard Limited. This is obviously only one side of the case. I should like to know what the Government's attitude is to this State industry in which they have substantial investment.

If the Deputy feels very strongly about this perhaps we could postpone consideration and see if we could get in a trade union representative to advise us.

I am qualifying my remarks by apologising for not having been at the relevant sub-committee meeting. We should have a clear indication from, first of all, the Government, who have a 47 per cent stake in the company, what their particular plans are and, secondly, we should know the position of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

We got the civil service memorandum on it, but in accordance with normal practice it did not deal with policy issues.

With all due respect to the civil servants, who have their own brief and so on, is this not the entire problem of this Committee? The future of industry of this kind is a very political issue and political decisions are being made about it by politicians in Brussels. Either the Minister or his relevant Minister of State should be invited to come in here.

Is this not what we are after in seeking to have reports brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas and discussed there? If any Member feels strongly enough about this he can look for such a report to be placed before the Houses and we can discuss it then.

That seems to me to be unnecessarily complicating the business of the Houses on what is a matter that should properly be discussed at this Committee. It would serve the interests of the Oireachtas better if the people who can make political comments and who are responsible come to this Committee talk to us and give us their political views.

Had the sub-committee any paper before them from the trade union movement in relation to the shipbuilding industry?

Is it not desirable that we should have this?

This was passed by the sub-committee and that is the trouble. Would Members agree to a postponement to have such a delegation here to advise the Committee?

I am not pushing for a specific delegation but we should get a reaction.

Before our next meeting we will try, if possible, to get a reaction. We are not finalising anything today in relation to this. Before next Wednesday we might have something.

Forty-seven per cent of this is owned by us as the community. Do the Government, as distinct from the Administration, have any position or attitude to this? If so, could we get some indication from the political side of the Administration as to what it might be?

That was discussed earlier. It is unlikely that we will get Ministers to come in here regularly and give us their political views. I do not think they will do it. On occasions it could be injurious for them to do so.

I can appreciate Deputy Quinn's problem. But, obviously, when it is a matter that must be finalised in negotiations in Brussels, it would be difficult to see how a Minister could play his hand openly. Perhaps our function is to try to discover every possible angle we can to give assistance to the State in putting a case and to do what we can to ensure that the fullest knowledge and effort is made to ensure that we get the best concessions.

Deputy Quinn has raised a point on which there is probably no difference of opinion at all between the Government and the trade unions. They all want to do the same thing—to continue shipbuilding at Verolme at the highest level consistent with our obligations as members of the Community. Deputy Quinn is anxious that we should get a Government view, a policy view on this, apart from the Administrative view, the civil service view. It is unlikely that we will get this unless we bring in a report to the Houses.

On this issue it is likely that there will be little divergence of opinion. It seems that there is no principle involved in saying, at one stage, that we cannot expect Ministers to come before this Committee and somehow or another tip their hands in negotiations and yet at the same time say we can put a document down for debate before the Dáil or the Seanad because the Ministers will have to do just that there.

Not necessarily.

To ask Ministers to talk to us and to indicate what they are thinking is a totally different thing from asking them to display every card they have in their hand with regard to negotiations.

Does the Deputy not agree that when the Minister comes in and gives a view it is very hard to get a committee to accept that that is not, in fact, the Government's decision? There is a distinction here that could make it very awkward to do business. I have an open mind on this, but I can see the difficulties.

I feel strongly about this. This Committee is a Committee of the Oireachtas, not a Committee of the Government of the day. If we adopt the attitude which has been indicated we are simply making ourselves an appendix to the Administration of the day, whatever its political complexion. We might as well wrap up and go home if that is the case.

The Deputy has misunderstood us. We have to produce reports and we can only produce those reports if we get a majority in favour or against. Even if we go into the Dáil with a report that is all we will get there. If a Minister wants to give us information he will give it; and if he wants to stonewall he will stonewall, as we all know. He will certainly not do two things: he will not come in here and give information and then give us the right to go in with a report to the Dáil and have a further debate there. The procedure we decided to adopt earlier was to have the privilege of going in to the House if we feel strongly about something and have the opportunity of airing our views there.

What happened in the case of the shipbuilding industry report was that it was discussed at sub-committee and it was accepted that we had done what was needed. If in the sub-committee it had been said that further consultation was needed we could have had it. We expedited the report and got it before the Joint Committee.

I was suggesting in the Senator's absence that before next Wednesday we should get a view from the trade union movement, if possible. We could have that before us when deciding whether this should be amended or not.

Are we abandoning any attempt to get a political response from the Government?

We decided that the way we could look for a political response would be to submit reports and have the right to debate them. We have not got agreement on that, but we do not have a rejection of that approach either. I do not think we will get Ministers to attend these meetings. We can try.

I do not wish to be unnecessarily argumentative but quite frankly we are a Committee that has committed itself to meeting regularly once a week and do we seriously think we are going to get time in the Dáil to debate it?

Only occasionally would Members feel so strong about a matter that they would decide it was necessary to bring it before the Houses for debate.

My view, and the view of my party colleagues—this does not necessarily relate to the Administration that happens to be in office—is that we should try to establish the principle that Ministers of the day come to this Committee. We may not be successful but as far as we are concerned we will be pushing for that principle to be established to give this Committee some kind of teeth.

Perhaps I am looking at it from my own experience. A Minister for Agriculture would be dived on for information as to what his stance would be in Brussels on, say, price fixing if he came here. It would be bad for the country if a Minister had to put his cards upwards on this table because they would be upwards in O'Connell Street within minutes. I say that with all due respect to the people present. It is difficult enough to keep what a Cabinet discusses from getting outside the Government. That would be damaging to his efforts on behalf of the country in Brussels. I should not be helping the present Administration but I am concerned about the country.

In fairness to the Chair, we discussed this at some length previously. It was not the view of the Chair solely; it was a view taken generally the last time we discussed it. Unless we want to have a broader discussion on the subject later, perhaps we should leave that for now.

The Deputy could raise it again as a positive item. If we got notice we could put it on the agenda.

If Senator Mulcahy and the Committee are going to obtain the trade union views in relation to the shipbuilding industry, may I take it that it will be in general and not alone relate to Verolme Cork Dockyard that we all know so well and have such admiration for? It should also include the shipbuilding industry in general throughout the country, lest that at some future date there might be problems. I should like to have it on record that we had the trade union views in relation to the entire shipbuilding.

I agree.

The Joint Committee adjourned at 5.40 p.m.