Tuesday, 6 February 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
260. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications whether he has approved the expansion of Aer Rianta into China; and the concerns, if any, he has about the expansion in view of the fact that controversy continues to surround China and its treatment of orphans. [2325/96]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): Duty free is an important element of Aer Rianta's revenue. The income from duty free helps to keep airport charges to a minimum thus reducing access costs to Ireland.
Duty free sales to travellers between EU member states are due to be abolished from 1 July 1999. Aer Rianta is endeavouring to reduce the potential serious negative impact to the company of the loss of these sales by extending its portfolio of duty free businesses in countries other than member states of the EU.
Against this background my Department and the Department of Finance approved, in July 1995, the formation of a subsidiary company by Aer Rianta International to exploit developing business opportunities in China and the Asia Pacific region.
I understand that the new subsidiary, ARI East Asia, has recently signed a business consultancy contract with the China National Duty Free Corporation to provide a number of services at Beijing International Airport including retail management, computer systems, business training, marketing etc. I should point out that individual contracts entered into by the company which do not involve any significant capital exposure are a day-to-day management matter for the company and are not subject to my approval.
I do, of course, share the wide concerns expressed about the recent Channel Four programme “Return to the Dying Rooms” and the report by Human Rights Watch/Asia about the treatment of children in State-run orphanages in China.
While the reaction of the Chinese authorities was to reject the allegations as a fabrication, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs has written to the Chinese Ambassador expressing the Government's deep concern about the contents of the programme. He asked for complete transparency and openness in respect of the allegations. I support him fully in this approach.
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