Dáil Éireann - Volume 474 - 30 January, 1997

Ceisteanna — Questions. Priority Questions. - Tourism Marketing.

5. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the plans, if any, he has to review the operation and policy direction of the product and marketing management boards; and if he will make a statement on their operations to date and the policy relationship with his Department. [2629/97]

Mr. E. Kenny: The Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-99, agreed between the Irish Government and the European Commission, provides that in the case of the marketing sub-programme and in the case of Bord Fáilte and Shannon Development areas under the product development sub-programme, the decision making authority on grant applications shall be exercised by independent management boards, with the exception of large projects which also require the specific approval of the Government and the European Commission. These independent management boards are required to operate within the policy guidelines as set out in the operational programme. Each of these boards comprises three independent business-professional members, two relevant State agency personnel and one official from my Department. The membership thus brings broad practical business and professional experience to the decision-making process to augment the tourism-related expertise [307] of the tourism agencies and my Department. Each management board is required to furnish me with an annual report listing all board decisions and advising of any significant developments or trends in relation to applications falling under their aegis. The first of these reports for the period to end December 1995 were published and laid before both Houses of Oireachtas. The boards have their annual reports for 1996 in preparation at present.

As part of the overall mid-term review of the community support framework and in common with other operational programmes, a review of all aspects of the Operational Programme for Tourism has already commenced. This review process is due for completion by July.

Mr. Killeen: Will the Minister agree that the mid-term review offers an opportunity for him and for the Government to address the regional disparities which have arisen in relation to tourism growth and to make a policy intervention which would ensure that future funding by the Government is directed to those areas deficient in terms of product to give them an opportunity to compete on an even footing with the other regions? What is the Minister's view on the recent report by Professor Dineen and Professor Deegan of Limerick University which referred to an absence of any serious attempt to monitor the return by the Irish tourism product?

Mr. E. Kenny: The objectives of the Operational Programme for Tourism mid-term evaluation are to identify any adjustments which should be made, financial and otherwise, within and across sub-programmes and measures to the operational programme; to ensure the achievement of its targets; and, should it prove necessary, to make recommendations for the amendment of the programme's targets. Paragraph 10 (20) of the operational programme provides the following:

As this will be a six year Programme, it is planned to undertake the review of the operational Programme after three years. The review may be undertaken by an independent evaluator. The purpose of this will be to assess performance to date and to recommend to the Programme Monitoring Committee any changes needed to secure the aims and objectives of the programme by the end of 1999.

The mid-term evaluator is concluding his work and the mid-term evaluation is due to be completed on 14 February this year. It will then issue to each member of the monitoring committee of the operational programme. A number of meetings will follow subsequent to that and in due course the CSF committee under the Department of Finance will discuss that matter with the European Commission.

The points raised by the Deputy about value for work and any necessary adjustment will be taken into account in that evaluation. As Minister, [308] I can communicate directly to the European Commission if, following the mid-term evaluation, I consider there are other issues, such as those raised by the Deputy, not catered for.

Mr. Killeen: Will the Minister consider making pay and conditions of staff one of the conditions under which projects would qualify for funding, as it is a matter about which there is a good deal of concern? It would be inappropriate for the State to grant aid a hotel or any project in which there were serious questions about the pay and conditions of staff.

Mr. E. Kenny: The pay and conditions of staff is a matter for employers under Programme 2000, and unions in regard to rates of pay. It is not up to me or the Department to lay down such pay and conditions. It is significant to note that in recent times the Irish Hotels Federation adopted a new code of practice on working conditions, pay arrangements, career prospects and other matters of concern to those working in the industry and that is as it should be. The industry should be attractive, particularly to young people, with strong promotional outlets, long-term career prospects and good wages and working conditions. This is a matter outside my remit. Applications for assistance under any of these programmes are only considered in the interests of long-term, sustainable and viable projects.