MOTION BY MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN. - IRISH MANUFACTURE AND TRADE UNION LABOUR.

This Motion standing in my name may seem very humdrum and commonplace by comparison with the matters of high politics we have been just discussing, but nevertheless, it is one that we attach a very great deal of importance to. It deals with two distinct but closely related matters — the questions of Irish manufacture and Trade Union labour. Possibly many of the delegates may think, on reading it, that there was no necessity at all for such a Motion, but I regret very much that that is not so. The Resolution is as follows:—

"That contracts for goods, by the Government shall be made only with persons or companies who guarantee that the goods, if capable of being produced in Ireland, within a limit of preference to be hereinafter specified, are of Irish manufacture and produced under fair conditions by Trade Union labour."

The words "within a limit of preference to be hereafter specified" are meant to provide for a contingency where the cost of the Irish article would very much exceed the cost of a non-Irish article, and it would have to be agreed to that some limit of preference would have to be drawn up and that in the case of, say, an article that might cost four, or five, or six times the cost of a non-Irish article we would not ask the Parliament to be committed to purchasing the Irish article. With that limitation we ask that it shall be laid down as a cardinal principle, in connection with Government contracts that Irish manufacture and Trade Union labour shall be specified. I regret to say that during recent months instances have come to our knowledge in which the Government has very radically departed from the principles laid down here. I refer, in particular, to very extensive purchases made by the Ministry of Defence for the Army, and I am assured on information I consider reliable that there were articles such as blankets, brushes, cutlery, boots and commodities of that kind which were not of Irish manufacture, and which could easily be procured in this country. So far as we can find out in connection with the purchases, no restrictions or stipulations have been laid down as to the question of Trade Union labour or Irish manufacture. The persons responsible seem to be entirely ignorant that they should stipulate that those articles should be of Irish manufacture and made by Trade Union labour, and we ought to have some explanation from some Department of the Ministry as to why these elementary requirements were not made in the purchase of those articles. So far as we can gather, up to recently at any rate, there seems to be no settled method of purchasing supplies of this kind. We understand that when advertisements are inserted and tenders are sent in there are no stipulations as to Irish manufacture and Trade Union labour. Some explanation, more or less reasonable, may be offered for that state of affairs, that it only covered a short period or that it was impossible in the circumstances to insist on these stipulations. We are concerned a great deal more with the future than the past, and we do ask for a specific binding pledge on the part of the Ministry that so far as the future is concerned, at any rate, these two stipulations will be rigidly adhered to.

I formally second the Motion.

This Resolution was considered by the Government. We would be prepared to recommend the Dáil to pass a resolution couched in somewhat similar terms, but if the Resolution were to be passed as it is at present it could not, so to speak, be implemented because it is not sufficiently specific. The Ministry were of opinion that the Minister for Industry and Commerce should go into the matter and confer with Alderman O'Brien or any other of the Labour Members and arrive at some idea as to what the degree of preference might reasonably be, and that the Resolution could come up again, and we could then give time for Alderman O'Brien to move the Motion. We could undertake to act on it, or it could come before the Dáil as Government business. We thought it would be better not to pass a Resolution like this. It cannot be made operative until the matter of the limit of preference has been settled. It should come up again and a Resolution should be brought forward setting out in detail what exactly is the duty of the Government in the matter. So I would suggest that Alderman O'Brien would postpone this Motion.

I think the Dáil will be pleased with the assurance that has been given by the Minister for Local Government on behalf, I take it, of the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. The point that I see where a possible difference may arise, and which perhaps would require a decision of the Dáil itself, is as to the limit. That is a point at which I think discussion might usefully take place.

I do not advise it at all.

It may vary according to the class of article that is being bought, and we must draw attention to the fact that there have been very frequent cases of the purchase of articles produced outside Ireland which ought to be purchased in Ireland if produced under fair conditions. I am glad that we have an assurance that that will be done.

I think it right I should say here, that the Minister for Local Government had already established a branch for dealing with collective purchase all over the country, and that the gentleman who is in charge of that establishment has recently been in touch with the Army. I think if the Alderman looked up the newspaper files he would find an advertisement in the last fortnight dealing with the articles.

I safeguarded myself by saying "up to recently."

Yes. I would advise that that be left out altogether. If it is known that you are going to give a preference you will pay for it. If it is known you are not going to give a preference you will get a fair price. I do not think, from the point of view of business, it would be wise to lay down any percentage. It would not be good business to do so. That is the practice that has been adopted by the Trade Department of the Local Government Section of the Ministry. It has been successful. There are cases in which preference has been given to Irish manufactured goods, and I think where reasonably possible such preference has always been given and in no instance in which the case was fair has Irish manufacture been turned down. Now it is proposed to accommodate as far as possible Government contracts in one central depot. We have not completed the arrangements yet; they have been under consideration for the past month or longer. I think, however, it would be as well not to pass a Resolution in the form set down. Deputy Alderman O'Brien could get in touch with the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Local Government, and myself, as Minister for Finance, and I think we will be able to meet his wishes as regards the general purposes of the Resolution.

I accept that undertaking and I withdraw the Motion.