Dáil Éireann - Volume 353 - 24 October, 1984

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Standard of Imported Cement.

[291] 9. Mr. J. Leonard asked the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he is satisfied with the quality of cement being imported; and if it is up to Irish standards.

Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism (Mr. J. Bruton): I continue to be concerned at the quality of imported cement.

The Institute for Industrial Research and Standards operates a certification scheme for cement complying to the Irish standard for cement. Manufacturers certified by the institute under the scheme are licensed to use this standard mark. The use of this standard mark is an assurance of high quality. The scheme is open to both Irish and foreign manufacturers. An Irish manufacturer is licensed to use the Irish standard mark. Two Northern Ireland companies are licensed in respect of the re-importation of Irish manufactured cement.

I am particularly concerned about claims that imported cement complies with the Irish standard for cement, IS 1:1963, when, in fact, it does not satisfy the standard. These claims are being investigated by the Director of Consumer Affairs. Where a purchaser has doubts as to the quality of imported cement, he should request Irish certified cement.

Mr. J. Leonard: The Minister is telling us that he is only now investigating the matter, when about 50,000 tonnes have already come in? Is he aware that there are many foreign producers selling here who have no access to this licensing scheme? Is he satisfied regarding the quality of imports from foreign producers? Are they licensed under the scheme?

Mr. J. Bruton: This is a voluntary scheme. People are free to sell cement in this country whether it complies with the standard or not. However, if they claim that it complies with the standard when it does not, then they are liable to prosecution. As soon as Irish Cement [292] complained to us that some people were claiming that their cement complied with the Irish standard when this was not the case, action was taken.

Mr. J. Leonard: At a time when so many cement products are being imported, is there any way to monitor the quality?

Mr. J. Bruton: There is a ready-made system of monitoring, namely, the existence of an Irish standard. If people are buying cement I strongly advise them to buy it only when it is stated to comply with the Irish standard. If it is claimed to comply but it does not, I am quite sure the licensed suppliers will be quick to complain, as in this case, and ready procedures exist through the Director of Consumer Affairs to bring them to justice.

Mr. Taylor: What is the extent of penetration of the Irish market by foreign cement manufacturers? Is it open to the Minister to provide by regulation or otherwise for a certain standard in relation to imports of foreign cement? Can the Minister make a regulation to ensure that only cement up to that standard will be permitted to come in?

Mr. J. Bruton: The first part of the supplementary does not, strictly speaking, arise on this question. However, I can tell the Deputy that Irish Cement supply 95 per cent of the market. Secondly, I have powers under the Act to make mandatory standards only where matters of human safety are involved.

Mr. J. Leonard: Would the Minister agree that if a person wanted to have a product tested he would have to bear the expense himself and that it would be fairly costly? People are buying products which may contain cement which is not up to the Irish standard.

Mr. J. Bruton: I think I have answered that. If it is not claimed to comply with the Irish standard a person buying it does so with his eyes open, knowing there is a [293] risk. However, if a person buys something which falsely claims to comply with the Irish standard I am quite confident that the competitors who are complying with the standard will be quick to complain about that abuse.

Mr. Taylor: If cement is not up to a satisfactory standard, would the Minister not agree that it could have implications for safety if used, for example, for stress reinforcement?

Mr. J. Bruton: I will draw the Deputy's observations to the attention of the IIRS. This is a matter on which I would prefer to take technical advice rather than make up my own mind.

Mr. Lyons: Could I ask——

An Ceann Comhairle: I have allowed several supplementaries. We are moving the next question.