Could we have any indication from the Minister whether he would encourage in the future the acquiring of shares in this company by employees as an aid to the development of public relations?
Nítrigin Éireann Teoranta Bill, 1969: Committee and Final Stages.
The question of industrial relations within this company in the ordinary sense is one which is and must be left in the hands of the management. It is not a matter of course in which I interfere in any way. If the Senator has in mind a general proposition to be applied to all State companies I would not be prepared to commit the Government on this particular Bill to that kind of general undertaking in relation to all State companies.
I am suggesting that here you have an opportunity to improve industrial relations. I know it is a much more serious thing to ask the Minister to commit to a general principle with regard to all State bodies but can we not experiment with this one where there is a prospect of beginning something which could be of benefit with regard to industrial relations.
I would not put it any further than to say that the management will be aware of the suggestion and no doubt they have considered this particular matter in the past. If it seems appropriate to them I have no doubt they will bring forward proposals in that regard. It is unlikely to arise in practical terms for quite some time for the reason I mentioned earlier about the shares in the company at the moment and the capital structure. It would be likely to arise when the question of additional shares being issued came to be considered.
When it is a concern where there is a proper industrial climate and industrial relations are good I would urge that such a company might be used for a pilot study. This would be a very valuable service. Some of the older and more entrenched semi-State companies have more strongly drawn lines between management and employees but here you have got a new company with fresh ideas who are prepared to experiment, and so on. We could learn a good deal from such a pilot study and I am sure the company would be prepared to co-operate with the Government with regard to pioneering some such development.
I asked the Minister a question in regard to subsection (3) (2a) with regard to the terms of repayment, but the Minister did not answer it.
I thought I had dealt with this. Probably what would happen would be that there would be repayments by way of annuity during 20 to 25 years, but this has to be determined by the Minister for Finance. As regards interest rate, this would probably be 6¼ per cent which is related to the rate at which the money itself was borrowed from the State at the time it was borrowed.
Is it not the lack of the provision of grant facilities and so on inclined to give a rather distorted picture of the operations of this company? This company have got grants for specific purposes. This company owe so much to the State and the interest is mounting up at a certain rate. That is being unfair to the company in that if the grant at nominal rates had been given as is given in the case of any private enterprise groups in this regard, the financial position of the company would be much better.
They got £10 million of the taxpayers' money.
There may be something in Senator Quinlan's point. On the one hand the company have got many millions of pounds of the taxpayers' money. The sum of money lent and the interest accrued on it is being converted into equity. This could be regarded as a compensating feature for the absence of the grant. We are talking about a situation where a grant would have been issued when the company were starting up. This does not arise. As a matter of interest, the general policy in relation to grants for enterprises in which State companies participate has been changing. It is now more liberal than when this company were formed.
I wish to ask one or two questions.
Do they concern something in the Bill?
I wanted to ask the Minister is it not usual in State companies to appoint outside auditors as well as somebody on behalf of the Comptroller and Auditor General?
It is not usual to provide for both. I would be very much opposed to this. Provision can be made for one or the other. We have provided here for the auditing. There is provision in the company's articles of association for audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. There may be similar provisions in the 1963 Act. We are not amending that.
For any specific reason? You have public auditors for the ESB and other companies?
The Chair has been extremely indulgent during the passing of this Bill.
Arising on the Schedule it says in the last paragraph:
The Minister after consultation with the Minister for Finance shall appoint the directors of the Company.
If the company went in any way public in the future, directors would have to be appointed. Any public shareholders would have to have some means of electing some directors to the board.
There is provision for this in the event of the State control ceasing—that these provisions would have to be altered. There is provision in the Bill for that situation.
That would have to be done by way of another Bill.
No—probably by way of amendment of the articles of association of the company.