The tenor of the debate seems to suggest that this Bill is unnecessary, or that if it is necessary at all, much more should be done than is being done. As the House is aware, Córas Tráchtála Teoranta was in the nature of an experiment and once it has been established that its activities are desirable and worthwhile, it is reasonable to give it a status commensurate with the activities it has undertaken and the importance we attach to them. In order to comply with the Companies Act, Córas Tráchtála Teoranta is required to have share capital, but nevertheless it had to depend on annual voted moneys, so, in essence, it was a statutory body and its formal establishment in this fashion will recognise it as such.
I want to say to Senator O'Quigley that this Bill is not being introduced as a political measure. We do not want one ounce of kudos out of it. We are not putting on the face of appearing to do something more than is being done, so if the Senator wants to make a political point, he is welcome to it.
The intention is to make the board more effective, if that can be done through this means, and we believe it can. The members of the board are, in the main, business men. As Senators will see, the Minister has power of nomination of one-third of the members of the board at every annual meeting or at some other date in the year's operations the Minister will fix. That might satisfy Senator Quinlan's point that there is that degree of replacement or cutting off of dead wood, if it appears. There is that facility there.
As everybody knows, the export business is very complex and difficult. We all appreciate that if we are to have any measure of industrial expansion, it will have to be largely in the export field or in so far as we import commodities not yet manufactured here in that particular aspect of production as well. But, by and large, apart from increasing our industrial capacity in the export field, it is necessary, too, from a balance of payments point of view. Therefore, in order to be effectively represented in this what I have described as complex, difficult and important field of activity, we must have the best means of giving information to our exporters.
I am not suggesting, nor would I want to suggest, that exporters should depend exclusively on such an organisation.I said in the Dáil that this organisation should not relieve our exporters of the responsibility of having on their staffs people with the necessary training, ability and foresight to promote and foster exports; people who can go abroad, meet prospective purchasers and seek out markets for the commodities they have to sell. There is no better means than the personal representation of the individual firm.
I suggest to the exporting firms that they might avail of facilities now open to them for training young men in that field. The different business organisations in existence—the Management Institute, the Exporters Federation and the Federation of Irish Industries —have co-operated with the educational authorities in providing a Diploma in Export Trade. There has been at least one recipient of that Diploma after a long and difficult course. It is still available and I believe still operating in Dublin. I urge that it might be extended to other areas, if suitable candidates offer.
Furthermore, I urge on the firms interested in export markets that they should have on their staffs people who can carry on convesations in the vernacular of the countries to which they go. I would instance the facilities which are cheaply and readily available for instruction in foreign languages. I refer in particular to the vocational schools in the larger centres throughout the country.
I think that might answer Senator Quinlan's point that exporting companies themselves might invest in the funds of this Board. In so far as this is a State-sponsored body, I do not think that that would be possible under this legislation. Nevertheless, the £1,000,000 now being provided will be provided only as the Córas Tráchtála Board will require it. It is true that the expenditure, running at about £225,000 a year, is infinitesimal compared with the expenditure of other European countries. Their trade is possibly and is in fact in many cases on a larger scale.
As Deputy Norton pointed out in the Dáil, the staff of Córas Tráchtála is microscopic compared with the staffs of other export promotional organisations of other countries. If the new Board see opportunities of expanding and increasing their staff—expanding their scope of operation—I am sure they will take them. The moneys will then be used up much sooner than anticipated and they will have to come back to the Oireachtas to seek further subvention. After that period, which at best will be about four years, the Oireachtas will have the opportunity of reviewing very closely the activities and the successes which I hope the Board will attain in its activities.
In the meantime, as is contained in the provisions of the Bill, the Board, as in the case of every other State Board, will have to report annually and its report will be on the Table of each House of the Oireachtas.
Senator Quinlan mentioned the effectiveness of public representatives' criticism or queries. The activities of these Boards will always be a live issue. If we are to give such Boards their freedom of action, that flexibility that I think they deserve and certainly require to carry on their jobs effectively, we must not restrict or spancel them in any way by too much probing at Dáil Question Time in the same manner as Ministers can be in respect of their Departments. Further, if they are to get ahead with the job they have to do, they must not be bound by the Civil Service file system, with every activity minuted, checked and counter-checked. As they are dealing with businessmen, it is better that they have that freedom of activity that businessmen feel is necessary and no doubt for good reason.
Senator Quinlan made a point about the requirement that if a member of the Board is nominated to the Seanad or to the Dáil, he shall be deemed to have resigned. That is no new principle.It is an easement of the original principle contained in the first State Board Act—I think, the Electricity Supply Act, 1927. The restriction was much stronger. I think it disqualified members of the Board from being nominated or elected or from sitting or receiving payment as members of the Oireachtas. Strangely enough, that provision stood until very recently-until, in fact, last year.
Before that, there was the question which was raised in connection with the election of a Deputy to the Dáil who happened to be a member of the staff of the E.S.B. and who would have been disqualified from standing for the Dáil under this section. In fact, his election was in doubt, but he resolved it in so far as he himself was concerned by resigning his position in the E.S.B. However, that did not resolve the doubt that existed as to whether or not he was properly elected. The Deputy in question has been elected properly a number of times since then and so that point does not arise.
Latterly, in the preparation of election legislation, the Department of Local Government raised this section as perhaps being repugnant to the Constitution, or at least that it might be challenged as being repugnant to it. For that reason, the 1927 Act was amended in the last E.S.B. Bill. The provision in this Bill is exactly on all fours with that provision as far as members of the Board are concerned who will seek nomination to either House of the Oireachtas. I think it is reasonable that if employees of the Board want to stand for the Dáil or the Seanad, they should temporarily resign their positions as employees of the Board. I do not think that would impose any great hardship.
I have much sympathy with the point raised by the Senator about the loss such a person might incur. I am sure that in the case of anybody who has enjoyed or will enjoy his salary with Córas Tráchtála and who considers what he might expect to get from either House of the Oireachtas, he will think twice before he seeks election. Perhaps that restricts the quality of those coming into the Oireachtas, but if there were a means of supplementing the income of a Senator, Deputy or Minister and bringing it up to what he enjoyed before his election when he occupied one of these outside positions, I should be very glad if it could be devised. I am sure it would be difficult for the solicitors who used to pay me my fees to be expected now to give me the little extra I might have gained if I were still practising at the Bar.
Generally speaking, as far as the status of the Board is concerned, we are in effect recognising what is there already in essence and, as Senators know, people who do business internationally have available to them organisations which can report not only on the status of the organisations they are dealing with but on their affairs generally. I am sure it is well known that Córas Tráchtála in its present position depends for its existence on annually voted moneys. The new status we shall now give it will enhance its position vis-a-vis the organisations it has to deal with and particularly the hardheaded businessmen from the dollar countries and other hard currency countries.
For the reasons I have stated in my opening remarks, as well as those I have given in replying to the debate, I believe we shall be benefiting Córas Tráchtála by passing this Bill. We shall be giving it that security not only for itself but for its officers that will better enable it to achieve its purpose. I believe also we shall be enabling it to assist industrialists to find export markets and eventually assisting in a very material way the general economy of the country.