Dáil Éireann - Volume 433 - 30 June, 1993

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Semi-State Bodies.

7. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade if, following the publication of the Government's response to the Culliton report, he will give details of the proposed relationship between An Bord Tráchtála and the proposed new agencies Forfás and Forbairt, and the relationship between his Department and the two agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

26. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade if he would clarify the future relationship which An Bord Tráchála will have with Forfás; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. McCreevy: I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 26 together.

As Deputies will be aware, my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, announced, on 3 May the Government's decisions on the Moriarty Task Force recommendations in relation to the Culliton report and subsequently published the Industrial Development Bill, 1993, which deals with the structure of the industrial development agencies and which is before the Oireachtas at present.

The reorganisation of the agencies [476] involve the creation of Forfás, in a co-ordinating role, with Forbairt and IDA (Ireland) being responsible for, respectively, the development of indigenous industry and the attraction of internationally-mobile investment.

As Minister for Tourism and Trade, I continue to be responsible for, and give policy direction to, An Bord Tráchtála.

Forfás will advise on the development and co-ordination of policy within which all three agencies — that is, Forbairt, IDA (Ireland) and An Bord Tráchtála — will operate. Co-ordination will be enhanced by the appointment of the three agency chief executives to the board of Forfás.

As regards Forbairt and ABT, the existing excellent relationship between the present IDA and ABT will be improved, in whatever respects may be considered necessary, at both national and regional levels, enabling them to fulfil their complementary roles, with the common objective of maximising the potential of indigenous industry.

The Departments of Enterprise and Employment and Tourism and Trade and the agencies concerned will operate from a common database to ensure consistency in the treatment of particular sectors and individual clients.

Mr. Rabbitte: May I ask the Minister whether the turf dispute between himself and the Minister for Enterprise and Employment has now ended?

Mr. McCreevy: Since this is the first time I have been asked that question directly I should like to clear up this matter once and for all.

Mr. Rabbitte: That was why I asked it, to allow the Minister that opportunity.

Mr. McCreevy: Within my short time in Government I have realised that agencies and their officials spend much of their time worrying about their positions and that it is much easier to deal with the Minister concerned. As far as the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and I are concerned, we did not have any [477] differences at all. We are well able to resolve this matter of the relationship with An Bord Tráchtála. Within the Programme for a Partnership Government and the decision to establish a Department of Tourism and Trade it would be a most nonsensical idea a few months later to hive off the executive arm of the Minister for Tourism and Trade to another body. It was not an issue. Since this is the first time I have been asked this question either inside or outside the House I am glad to have had an opportunity to reply. I read all of the speculation on the matter. The Minister for Enterprise and Employment and I had no difficulty whatsoever in resolving this matter, much to the chagrin of officials within a wide variety of agencies.

Mr. Rabbitte: I am very happy to hear that everything is peace and joy between the two Ministers. How does the Minister reconcile that with the version of events the Minister for Enterprise and Employment gave us in this House in the course of the past week in our discussions of the Industrial Development Bill, 1993? Does the Minister accept that I would not in any circumstances wish him anything but good in his new ministry? Does he agree, having regard to the speculation to which he referred, that I am entitled to ask him if he does not agree that it is daft that we should break up the prospect recommended by Culliton of providing an integrated support service for Irish business by including An Bord Tráchtála in Forbairt, which is the new agency designed to promote and develop indigenous industry?

Mr. McCreevy: I do not agree and I do not want to step across any replies any other Ministers might want to give. I will give the Deputy as open an assessment as I can of the position. No experts or group of experts, whether under the chairmanship of Culliton or anybody else, remain experts on any given subject indefinitely; they are experts at a given time and give an opinion as they see fit. While Culliton came forward with a set of recommendations, the Government is [478] entitled to make its own recommendations. In the Programme for a Partnership Government it was decided to establish a Department of Tourism and Trade, placing a whole new focus on our operations abroad, to increase our foreign earnings, ensuring a sharply defined focus. That was a decision taken by Fianna Fáil and Labour when they came to negotiate the Programme for Government. Culliton never recommended the establishment of a new Department of Tourism and Trade; he never mentioned such an idea. Had we taken An Bord Tráchtála out of the remit of the Department of Tourism and Trade we might as well have scrapped the idea of establishing a Department of Tourism and Trade in the first instance. I stand over the statement that there were no difficulties experienced by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and me in recognising that fact.

If at some later stage we find there is a better way of doing it, if things do not work out as expected, then neither he nor I will be too proud to come back and say to the House we will do it another way. The Minister for Enterprise and Employment and all members of the Government are determined that industrial policy formulation will revert to Kildare Street and not remain with the Industrial Development Authority where it has resided for many years. We endeavoured to set up a structure which would develop that concept of policy formulation, devising the best possible system for Irish business. We will worry about other problems thereafter.

Miss Harney: I am delighted to note there is such a unique friendship between the two parties in Government but it might well be the rock on which they will collectively perish. Would the Minister agree that it was a mistake to establish a separate Department of Tourism and Trade? Where was the initiative for such an establishment? Was it from the Fianna Fáil Party or Labour Party in the negotiations leading up to the Programme for Government? Will the Minister agree that in a small, open economy such as [479] ours there is a need for more integration and less fragmentation? In addition to the agencies mentioned by Deputy Rabbitte we also have An Bord Bia. Will the Minister accept that instead of setting up more quangos there is a need to cut bureaucracy and bring people together if we want to develop the economy to its full potential?

Mr. McCreevy: The Deputy asked whose idea it was to establish a Department of Tourism and Trade. He will find it was included in the Labour Party manifesto. I accept the Deputy's point that there is a need for more integration but we also need to create a business climate where people can make money and create jobs. Five years ago many of the countries in which we are seeking a niche market would have been considered to be in a poor state of development but they are making rapid progress and breaking down layers of regulations. However, in Europe we are introducing more regulations to hamper and control businesses. The developing countries have enormous growth rates and are creating jobs.

I agree that business people want to have easy access to State agencies. The Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Quinn, other members of the Government and I — we are hoping for success — are testing a particular formula at present. Forfás, the co-ordinating body, will work in co-operation with IDA (Ireland) and Forbairt. It is recognised that we have been successful in attracting foreign investment but there is a weakness when it comes to promoting indigenous industry.

The Deputy mentioned An Bord Bia which is the subject of a separate question. I have commissioned a study of our overseas representation and I accept that there is a need for rationalisation, be it An Bord Tráchtála, the IDA, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Bord Fáilte and so on. A study is being carried out to see how this can be done. The Minister for Enterprise and Employment, the Government and I are trying [480] to give business an opportunity to deal with State agencies in a rational way and to eliminate duplication. As the Minister for Enterprise and Employment said last week, if the system is not seen to be working in two years time we will change it; we will not be afraid to admit to our mistakes.

Mr. Rabbitte: The Minister made reference to the undoubted fact that the Culliton report never recommended this but is that not the point? Was it necessary to establish a complex network of new agencies specifically to replace one agency? Would it not have been in keeping with the spirit of the text of the Culliton report, which the Government states in every interview it is implementing, to allocate some of the tasks to the Department of Enterprise and Employment and the remaining tasks to the Department of Foreign Affairs some of whose officers are somewhat reluctant to take up the cudgels on behalf of Irish trade abroad? I am not suggesting that the Minister's Department be abolished; the Minister would make an excellent Minister for Foreign Affairs and he could conduct our trade at the same time.

Mr. McCreevy: The Deputy raised some interesting questions about our overseas representation. There is no doubt that we are under-represented in many countries. Therefore, there is a need for rationalisation so that everyone focuses on the main task which is to sell Ireland and create opportunities for business. My Department is carrying out a study in this regard. The aim in establishing a Department of Tourism and Trade was to focus on the need to secure foreign earnings, as agreed between Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party in negotiating the Programme for Government. This was not recommended by the Culliton report but the elected representatives have decided to set up a Department of Tourism and Trade. Our aim is to have an effective mechanism in regard to the new agencies and we should wait and see how they work. We will not criticise them before they are put into [481] operation. In two years the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and I will review their operations.