Dáil Éireann - Volume 321 - 21 May, 1980

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Tripartite Committee on Employment Grants.

16. Mr. Kelly asked the Minister for Finance, in relation to the grant made by the Tripartite Committee on Employment on 1 May 1980 to a hotel (details supplied) in County Westmeath, (a) if assistance for this enterprise was first sought from Bord Fáilte, and, if so, if it was refused; (b) the factors which led the committee to make the grant; and (c) if he will define the committee's role, in promoting the hotel industry in relation to Bord Fáilte.

17. Mr. Kelly asked the Minister for Finance in relation to the grants announced after the meeting on 1 May 1980 of the Tripartite Committee on employment which he chaired (a) whether either of two companies in County Wicklow and County Tipperary had already received any advance from the Industrial Credit Company, or assistance from Fóir Teoranta or the IDA, in the situation which led the committee to award [254] them grants; (b) if he will define the function of the committee, in relation to each of these State bodies, in promoting industrial employment; and (c) the factors which led these companies to seek and the committee to grant, assistance which might have been sought from one or more of these bodies.

Mr. O'Kennedy: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to answer Questions No. 16 and No. 17 together.

The Tripartite Standing Committee on Employment is established under the terms of the National Understanding for Economic and Social Development and is representative of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Federated Union of Employers and the Confederation of Irish Industry as well as of the Government. The question of moneys being made available by the committee from the Employment Guarantee Fund is one for decision by the committee itself exclusively. The decisions of the committee in this matter are taken having regard to such considerations as other sources of finance and is subject to the committee being satisfied that support from the Employment Guarantee Fund is necessary in order to guarantee the creation or maintenance of certain levels of employment which would not otherwise be achieved.

The decision of the Tripartite Standing Committee on 1 May was to assist specific development programmes for Arklow Pottery Limited and Castle Brand Limited by means of grants from the Employment Guarantee Fund of £160,500 and £100,000 respectively and to make a grant of £100,000 to the Bloomfield House Hotel Limited. Payment of these grants is strictly conditional on the creation or maintenance of levels of employment as follows:

Arklow Pottery Limited creation of 35-40 additional jobs in 1980;

Castle Brand Limited, maintenance of 10 jobs which would otherwise be lost and creation of 13 additional jobs by end-1980:

[255] Bloomfield House Hotel Limited, maintenance of the present level of employment (34 permanent persons and 12 on a casual basis) and creation of 27 additional jobs.

It was the view of the committee that these employment targets would not be achieved if the grants in question were not approved.

The applications for assistance from the Employment Guarantee Fund for Arklow Pottery Limited, Castle Brand Limited and the Bloomfield House Hotel Limited were brought before the committee and sponsored by the Federated Union of Employers.

The Bloomfield House Hotel Limited had requested grant assistance from Bord Fáilte before an approach was made on its behalf to the Tripartite Standing Committee on Employment, but this grant assistance had not been forthcoming as the venture was undertaken at a time when Bord Fáilte did not have a grant scheme for new projects. As regards Castle Brand Limited, the position is that, when the committee made its decision to support the development programme for this company, the only assistance granted from such State sources as the ICC, the IDA and Fóir Teoranta for that programme specifically was an R & D grant for £2,500 approved by the IDA. In the case of Arklow Pottery Limited, the development programme being assisted by the committee had been approved for a 25 per cent grant by the IDA in 1977, but, due to financial difficulties, the company had not been in a position to avail of this facility. The grant from the Employment Guarantee Fund to Arklow Pottery Limited approved by the Tripartite Standing Committee on Employment will enable the company to launch this programme and to accept the grant approved by the IDA in 1977.

Mr. Kelly: I am not sure that I got every detail of this answer which, long though it was, the Minister read very fast. Had any of the three firms, Castle Brand in Nenagh, Bloomfield Hotel in Mullingar or Arklow Potteries, applied [256] to Bord Fáilte in the case of the hotel, or to Fóir Teoranta or the IDA or the ICC in the case of the other two for any assistance which had been refused or declined by any of these four bodies?

Mr. O'Kennedy: I have dealt with each of those points. I read the reply very quickly so perhaps I had better repeat them.

Mr. Kelly: I am not asking the Minister to read it again. Had these three firms gone the whole way with all the existing statutory modes of help and gone the whole way in vain before they came to this committee?

Mr. O'Kennedy: No. Each case is different. As I indicated, in respect of the hotel application there were no funds available from Bord Fáilte at that time. In relation to Castle Brand they got a research and development grant in respect of the work programme which enabled them to create these extra jobs. Arklow Potteries have received grant assistance but this was in respect of maintaining employment at a certain level and in fact in some cases increasing employment which is the particular responsibility of the tripartite committee. The fact that grants are not made available by any other State agency is not in itself a determining factor in the consideration by the tripartite committee. There is no condition precedent that they have to discharge in terms of dealing with applications.

Mr. Kelly: Would the Minister not admit that at the very least if it is not absolutely undesirable it is an extremely messy administrative scene when we have on the industrial front no less than three statutory agencies with a function in this matter and now we have a fourth which has only recently become a statutory body and the relationship between them is not properly defined? Would the Minister not agree that that is a messy and unsatisfactory scene particularly when there is a potential £10 million in public money involved?

[257] Mr. O'Kennedy: It is not a statutory agency. It does not in any way correspond to the IDA or CTT or Bord Fáilte. It has been found to be very effective in areas of maintaining employment or increasing employment by way of immediate and urgent reaction while the other agencies might not be able to give the same immediate response.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Kelly: This is the first question on which I have intervened. Was any other hotel's application before the committee at that particular meeting?

Mr. O'Kennedy: I do not think so.

Mr. Kelly: Was any other industrial firm, apart from Castle Brand, before the committee?

Mr. O'Kennedy: There were quite a number.

Mr. Kelly: Why were they turned down?

Mr. O'Kennedy: They were not turned down. The Deputy should not assume they were turned down. I mentioned decisions taken on that date. The Deputy's question related to particular companies. Decisions have been made in respect of other industries as well but the Deputy did not ask me about those.

Mr. Kelly: How does the Minister propose to allow this House and the public access to the proceedings of this committee which has the disposal of public funds? Does he propose to subject it to the scrutiny of the Oireachtas Committee on State-Sponsored Bodies?

Mr. O'Kennedy: I will make available to the House the decisions taken by this committee in respect of each project sanctioned by them. I certainly could not undertake to make available to the House decisions refusing applications for the reason that these are submitted confidentially and I cannot make them available to the House on that basis.