The duty which was imposed by Emergency Order, which is being confirmed by this Resolution, applies to women's outer garments. This time last year, the women's ready-made industry was only in its beginnings. I recollect speaking here during some of the discussions on the matter at that time, and indicating that comparatively little progress had been made in that industry—certainly, nothing like the progress that was made in the men's ready-made industry. A number of firms, however, had started in a comparatively small way, but during last winter very considerable developments took place, and there are now about 20 firms in the Saorstát engaged in the industry— some of them on a very substantial scale indeed. These firms were manufacturing throughout the summer and, as is the custom, making for stock in order to supply the winter demand. They found, however, at the beginning of the winter, that to a large extent they were having difficulties in disposing of their stocks. In one place a factory was temporarily closed and, altogether because of the accumulation of stocks, from 150 to 200 people became disemployed. That accumulation of stocks was due to two causes. One of these causes was the abnormally fine summer which we have had, and which lasted much longer than summers usually do in this country. The buying season opened very late, and that was the position not merely in this country, but also in Great Britain. There had accumulated, therefore, vast stocks of these goods in Great Britain as well as here, and some of the firms in Great Britain were proceeding to get rid of these stocks by dumping them into this country or anywhere they could get a market for them. Another reason why the firms were finding difficulty in disposing of stocks was the tendency, which still prevails amongst the buyers, particularly of the larger retail houses, to order supplies from abroad and not to consider the goods available to them from native factories. I should like to refer, particularly to that aspect of the case, because it applies more in relation to this industry than to others. A number of the buyers—particularly buyers of the larger houses—have shown no inclination whatever to get their requirements from the native factories, although, I think, everybody who has examined the position impartially is prepared to testify that the native manufacturers are producing goods which, for price, design and quality, are as good as those available anywhere. I can mention, perhaps, a particular incident that occurred in order to illustrate my point. The proprietor, or managing director, of a certain firm here, engaged in the production of these ladies' garments and also with connections with an English warehousing company, invited a number of Saorstát buyers to inspect his stock of winter goods produced in his Dublin factory. He could not get any orders from them.
As an experiment he arranged to have a certain number of those lines submitted, from an English warehouse, to the same buyers, put the price up 5/- above that of the Dublin factory and sold them all. Instances like that, which have occurred, indicate the difficulties that native manufacturers have to contend with. These difficulties are much greater in relation to this particular trade than others. In order to check that, and to secure that the attention of buyers in Irish houses would be directed to the stocks in Irish factories, we increased by Emergency Order the duty from 40 per cent. to 60 per cent. The effect of the increased duty has been to procure that result, and although there are still stocks to be cleared, nevertheless, the position has been considerably eased. The duty applies also to garments made of fur in respect of which there have been substantial developments, and existing firms are now able to supply all the requirements of the country. The increasing of this duty will permit us to reconsider the position in respect of the cloths used by some of the manufacturers of the cheaper garments. Heretofore we had permitted these manufacturers to import these cheaper cloths free of duty under licence. That position may have to continue for some little while, but we are anxious to use the power now possessed in order to secure as wide a production of the cloth used by those manufacturers as possible in Saorstát mills. While the lower margin of duty operated, having regard to the nature of the competition these clothing firms had to meet, it was not easy to take positive steps to that end, but with the increasing of the duty it will be possible, and we will consequently have not merely an improved position in this industry, but, possibly, increased production in another industry as well.
I want to assure the Dáil that there is no reason to doubt that existing firms will be able to supply the requirements of the country. Under the auspices of my Department a conference with representatives of these firms took place. Their productive capacity was actually measured, and we received, from a number of them, the very definite assurance that they would proceed at once with the extension of their premises, and the installation of new machinery required, to provide, not merely the quantity, but also the great range of varieties required in these goods.
One of the reasons why the buyers of this country are inclined to go abroad is that they have a much wider variety to select from. Ordinarily they only purchased one or two samples of each design in ladies' overcoats. If we are to develop industry here we must be satisfied with a smaller range of designs, but subject to that the designs produced here are very good. I had some doubts on the subject and had investigations carried out and was myself astonished at the great range of designs and patterns now produced. I do not think that any difficulty upon that score will arise even though we may produce a lesser range than was formerly available. But the position is that we will have sufficient variety to provide for all tastes. We will have excellent quality and workmanship and we will have prices lower than those at which the same goods can now be sold subject to the duty. There need not be any cause of complaint in any quarter, and if any young woman fears to meet another woman in the street wearing the same sort of dress she will have to remember that though her pride might be hurt she is really suffering for the good of the country.