Reserved Commodity (Sewing Cotton) Order, 1935—Motion of Approval.

I move:—

That Dáil Eireann hereby approves of Reserved Commodity (Sewing Cotton) Order, 1935, made on the 2nd day of July, 1935, by the Executive Council under the Control of Manufactures Act, 1934 (No. 36 of 1934).

The main reason which the Executive Council had in the making of this Order, which is the first Order of its kind made under the Control of Manufactures Act, was to secure the development of the sewing cotton industry in the West of Ireland. It was considered to be an industry suitable for establishment in the West of Ireland, but it was anticipated that it would be difficult to get a firm to establish a factory for the purpose in the West unless such an Order was made, as a firm established in a western centre would have certain difficulties in competing with a rival firm established in Dublin or in certain other parts of the Saorstát. Arrangements were made with a firm for the establishment of a factory at Westport. This firm is called the Irish Sewing Cotton Company, and is associated with a British company called the British Thread Mills Company, Limited, Leicester.

The factory at Westport has commenced production on a limited scale at present, but in a manner which will enable it to produce a quantity of cotton thread capable of supplying the requirements of the country, which are estimated to be about £75,000 in value. It is intended, therefore, to issue a licence to that company under Part III of the Control of Manufactures Act. After the Reserved Commodity Order has become effective, the licence will be subject to the conditions set out in the Act, and will have the effect of operating over the affairs of that company a certain measure of control not exercisable in other cases.

The arrangement which has been made with the company in the matter of the price of its products ensures that the price at their factory at Westport will not be higher than the price for corresponding goods sold to the British thread combine in Great Britain which is, in our opinion, a very satisfactory arrangement. All the processes of manufacture—spooling, dyeing, bleaching, mercerising and doubling thread will be carried out at Westport. All these processes will not be carried out at the initial stages, as workers have got to be trained, but when the full processes are being carried out, as is the intention, it is estimated that employment will be found for 150 or 200 hands.

How many men?

I cannot say. A considerable proportion of those employed in the factory will be women.

Will there be 10 per cent. men?

I could not say. A number of the employees will be men. But, because of the nature of the industry, it is one which is conducted by women to a great extent in all countries. In accordance with the provisions of the Control of Manufactures Act, notice of the intention to make the Order was issued, and all interested parties desiring to do so were invited to make any objections which they thought fit to the making of the Order. A number of objections were received, but with one exception they were not relevant to the Order. They were objections such as those advanced by persons who were agents for importing firms and directed against the manufacture in the country at all of cotton thread, and not against the proposal to make sewing thread a reserved commodity. There was really only one relevant objection to the making of the Order. That was made by the Irish Thread Manufacturing Company of Dublin, a firm which was established primarily for the purpose of manufacturing linen thread. They stated that their plant was suitable for the doing of a number of the processes on cotton thread as well, and that they would propose to do that.

As I have explained, the main reason why the Order is necessary at all is to enable the industry to be satisfactorily established in the West of Ireland. Consequently, the Executive Council decided to proceed with the making of the Order despite the objection made. In any event, I do not know that that objection is being pressed by the Irish Thread Manufacturing Company, which is not yet fully in production in the manufacture of linen thread for which it was established. Another firm—a British firm —lodged an objection on the ground that they would also be prepared to make sewing cotton in the Saorstát. That, however, is not a valid objection because the licence issued under a Reserved Commodity Order is not an exclusive licence. The Order merely ensures that no firm can engage in the manufacture of a reserved commodity without such a licence. In any event, it would be in accordance with the policy of the Government not to issue a licence to an external firm to manufacture here goods that were being produced, or arrangements for the production of which had been made, in sufficient quantities to supply the requirements of the country.

I do not know if there is any further point on which information is desired at this stage. The question of issuing a licence to the Westport Company does not arise until after the Reserved Commodity Order has been made. As to the question as to whether we should make sewing cotton a reserved commodity, it is the opinion of the Executive Council that that should be done, and that it would be established in the West of Ireland. Were it not for the fact that it is proposed to establish the industry in the West, it would not be the subject of an Order of this kind. When the Order has been made the powers conferred will be exercised to secure the intention of the Government, that the industry will be established in that area, and that firms wishing to engage in it in the East or in the South will be prevented.

As the Minister points out, this is the first occasion on which an Order of this kind has been presented to the House. We see from the Minister's procedure what an outrageous scheme the whole business is for getting the House to take decisions, not only concerning an Irish industry but some of the most important aspects of Irish industry. The Minister has placed an Order before us which simply says: "Sewing cotton is hereby declared to be a reserved commodity." The only information we have in the Order is that the Executive Council considers either that this commodity is not being manufactured in Saorstát Eireann, or is not being manufactured to any substantial extent. Because of that, they consider that it should be established, and therefore they want to make it a reserved commodity. The Minister extends that to say that they want this to be a reserved commodity, as there is a market of £75,000 here; that a company appeared on the horizon, in some kind of way, and undertakes to establish itself in Westport, to provide the whole of the requirements needed, and to employ approximately 150 persons at the work, on condition that it is made a reserved commodity, and that no one else will be allowed to have anything to do with its manufacture.

And nobody is going to be allowed to have anything to do with the manufacture or the importation of this commodity in future. The Minister says "No" with regard to manufacture.

That does not necessarily follow.

It does not necessarily follow, because the Act gives the Minister power to give a licence to someone else. But the Minister tells us that his policy is not to give a licence to anyone else, and the attitude of the company, as we understand from the Minister, is that the company is going into this business on condition that no one else is allowed to import cotton thread or allowed to manufacture it. The Minister said that this company has commenced production, and that while not doing so at present it will carry on spooling, dyeing and bleaching. A question was put to the Minister by Deputy Dillon on the 19th of June as to whether this company was preparing to manufacture thread from raw cotton, and the Minister was asked to state explicitly if the company had undertaken to manufacture all their thread here, as well as spooling, bleaching and dyeing.

They will do all processes of manufacture from the yarn.

That brings us to the conditions of the licence. The Minister put a notice in the Press that it was the intention to make this a reserved commodity. He says that he has got no substantial objections, and that he is going ahead. He also stated that the licence is not issued. Surely, if an important Irish industry is going to develop in this way, and if Irish capital is induced to put itself into an industry with the protected terms, that no one else will be allowed to manufacture or to import, the Minister should examine the situation most carefully before we would give that particular type of protection and assistance to any group of people setting themselves up in this matter. The fact that they have to get so much protection shows that there is a considerable amount of danger in going into this business unless they are completely protected.

The Minister has given no evidence that he has examined the situation, and not only that, but, as it were, covers himself from telling us the conditions under which he is to give a licence by saying that a licence has not yet issued. When the Minister, in spite of considerable criticism, forced his legislative proposals dealing with reserved commodities generally in the Dáil, he said he was going to impose a number of conditions. We want to know what conditions he has imposed on this company. The first question that arises is: Did the Minister go into this question himself? Did he take the initiative in selecting this as a reserved commodity, or was it because persons applied as the Act provides in Section 20? The Act says:—

(1) Any persons who proposes to manufacture a reserved commodity may apply to the Minister for a reserved commodity manufacture licence.

Was the Minister approached by a body to make this a reserved commodity or did he take the initiative? If he took the initiative I would like to hear what kind of inquiries he carried out, and what he found. The Act also provides that:—

(a) such application shall be in the prescribed form and be made in the prescribed manner, and

(b) such application shall state—

(i) the area within which the applicant proposes to manufacture such reserved commodity, and

(ii) such other particulars as may be prescribed.

Can the Minister tell us what area the present application is for, and what other particulars he required the company to supply? Apparently they applied for a Reserved Commodity Order to cover the whole of the Free State, and apparently it was part of their stipulation that they should be given a monopoly in that area. Again, the Minister requires some other particulars, and I would like to know what the particulars were, and what general information he got. Section 23 says:

(1) Whenever the Minister grants a reserved commodity manufacture licence in respect of a particular area, the Minister may attach to such licence conditions in respect of all or any of the following matters, that is to say:—

I take it that the Minister is allowing them to manufacture for the whole of the Free State.

(b) The extent to which materials for the construction or adaptation by such holder of any factory within such area and the plant, equipment, and apparatus of such factory shall be materials, plant, equipment and apparatus produced or manufactured in Saorstát Eireann.

I should like to know what kind of conditions applied in that respect.

(c) The time within which such holder shall commence to manufacture such reserved commodity within such area.

The Minister told us that these people have commenced production. What does he mean by "production"? It was put to the Minister the other day that this company was simply importing thread and spooling it. I should like to know what the Minister means by "production". Does he mean production of thread from raw cotton? What condition did he impose on the company to begin the manufacture of thread in that way by any particular date?

(d) The maximum quantity of such reserved commodity which may be manufactured in any year at the factory in such area in which such holder manufactures such reserved commodity.

The Minister tells us that £75,000 is the annual market for this trade here. Will the Minister say what conditions he imposed on this company as regards the amount of thread they will manufacture in their first, second and third years, and when he will require them to be in a position to manufacture, from the raw yarn, the full requirements of the country? The Minister may impose restrictions with regard to the amount that may be sold in any year. Has he done anything in that connection? He may impose conditions with regard to the minimum quantity to be manufactured. That arises under the other point. He may impose conditions as regards the maximum price which may be charged by such holder for any such reserved commodity. He may impose conditions with regard to the nature and quality of such reserved commodity. Dealing with these two conditions—maximum price and nature and quality—Deputy Dillon drew attention in the House on the 19th June to quotations that had been given by one of these firms. He said:

"At the present moment, if my information is correct, quotations have been given by these firms for certain types of thread. According to these quotations, threads that are available in Great Britain at 112/- to 120/- are going to cost 200/- here; threads that are quoted in Great Britain at from 48/- to 52/- are going to cost us here 60/-; and thread that is costing from 52/- to 58/- in Great Britain is going to cost 80/- here."

The Deputy went on to say that if the industry were going to convert the raw material into the finished product, a case might be made for permitting the Irish manufacturer to charge 150/- or 160/- for what costs in Great Britain 120/- because he would be going into a business which requires technical skill and would be in a competition with firms which had led the world in that trade. These quotations were, I understand, already given to firms requiring thread here and the matter was brought directly to the Minister's attention by Deputy Dillon on the 19th June. As regards the nature and quality of the reserved commodity and the general difficulties which the users of thread in this country expected they would have to face, Deputy Dillon said:—

"I understand that one of these concessionaires has informed thread buyers that if they want coloured thread—coloured thread is a very important raw material of the readymade clothing industry—they must buy not less than six gross of a shade. The Irish producers will not be in a position to furnish less than 6 gross of a particular shade. That means about £20 worth. Heretofore, the ready-made clothing manufacturer could get his choice of 260 shades, in 5/- lots of any shade, from a central agency for a world-wide firm of English thread manufacturers. I have repeatedly pointed out that this system of imposing tariffs without careful inquiry into the probable consequences of their imposition very often does far more harm to established industries than you can hope to balance by the good you are going to do in setting up the new industry you have in mind."

I am sure it has been pointed out to the Minister that some manufacturers have very considerable difficulty in getting the right type of thread to suit their machines and that very often it takes years of experience to arrive at the proper type. With shirt manufacturers and, probably, with clothing manufacturers, the thread problem is not simply one of price. However, the Minister has power to control the price and the nature and quality of reserved commodities. The licence may also contain conditions regarding the mode of manufacture and packing of such commodity. It may also contain conditions as regards the employment of Saorstát nationals. The Minister was not able to tell Deputy Norton what sort of people were going to be employed in the factory, though it was stated that women would dominate the factory. Surely, in asking the House to give a monopoly to a particular firm and practically to exclude the importation of all other manufactures of that type, the Minister should come to the House better equipped with information than he has come in this case, when he is not able to give the House an idea of the percentage of employees who will be women in this industry.

The Minister may include in the licence a condition dealing with the extent to which the capital invested in the business is, from time to time, to be owned by nationals in Saorstát Eireann. He has not given us any idea of the amount of capital involved in the establishment of this new industry. The licence may contain a condition as to extent to which the management of such business is, from time to time, to be controlled by nationals of Saorstát Eireann and the extent to which the directors of the company shall be nationals of Saorstát Eireann. There may be also a condition as to the return to be made to the Minister and as to the taking of samples. There is a general provision under Section 25 that the wages paid by the holder of a "reserved commodity manufacture licence" to persons employed by him shall not be less than would be payable if such business were carried on under a contract between the Minister and such holder containing a fair-wages clause. The Minister has not told us anything as regards the rate of wages which will be paid in this establishment or the nature of the general wages bill.

There is another aspect of the matter to which the Minister might address himself in dealing with this motion. On the 19th June, the Minister told Deputy Dillon that cotton thread was not yet being manufactured in Saorstát Eireann, but that the issue of licences for the importation of cotton thread free of duty was suspended while he was considering whether or not the issue of such licences in future would be justified. Does the Minister propose to continue to hold up the issue of licences for the importation of cotton thread? Will he say if there is a complete hold-up or whether the people running this company are getting a permit for the importation of cotton thread free of duty? If so, will the licence continue to be issued to them for the duty-free importation of cotton thread? If licences are not being issued at present for the importation of cotton thread free of duty, will the Minister say to what extent cotton thread is being imported at all and to what tariff the cotton thread that is being imported is subject? In this case, we have a sample of the way in which the Minister approaches these subjects. So far as we know, the Minister has been simply approached by somebody who said, "If you give us a monopoly we will set up machinery for the manufacture of cotton thread?" He thought over the matter and issued an Order simply stating that cotton thread would be a reserved commodity, without going into details as to the amount of capital involved, the wages to be paid, the type of stuff to be turned out, or the extent to which the present requirements of the thread trade in the country were going to be met. The Minister has given no indication, good, bad, or indifferent, that he has examined these matters at all. That is why I say the whole procedure for which power was taken in the Control of Manufactures Act to deal with Irish industry in this particular way is simply outrageous.

The Minister has displayed remarkable skill to-day in not telling the House the conditions which he proposes to impose on this company which is to manufacture cotton thread at Westport. We are entitled to know from the Minister what precise conditions he has in mind in granting a licence to this firm. It is true that the Minister has power to issue other licences, but it is equally true that if the Minister once grants a licence to the Westport firm, allows it to capitalise itself heavily, to purchase machinery, to build up its hopes on the assumption that it will be the one firm engaged in the manufacture of this commodity, the Minister will be confronted with all kinds of pressure, political and otherwise, to ensure that no other firm will be allowed to operate in competition with the Westport firm. I think, therefore, that the issue of a licence by the Minister under this Order virtually means that the State is conferring monopoly powers on this factory at Westport. While there might, in certain circumstances, be some plausible reason for granting such monopoly powers to ensure the manufacture of a commodity, we ought to be very careful before we confer on a privately-owned monopoly the right to engage in the manufacture of this reserved commodity.

I, personally, am not in sympathy with the idea of the State conferring monopoly powers on a privately-owned industry. Neither in this country nor in any other country has there been any benefit to the plain people or to the community in general derived from conferring monopolies on privately-owned undertakings. In many countries, and in many instances in many countries, there has been abundant evidence that monopolistic control over a particular industry by a private group has had serious effects on the well-being of the community, and on the circumstances under which that community may purchase the products of these undertakings. As a matter of fact, many countries have found it necessary to control by specific legislation, and even then the control has been found to be very inadequate, the trusts and monopolies which have been allowed to come into existence, either by the exercise of political pressure on an Administration to secure such monopoly, or by the creation of highly-capitalised undertakings which, in the course of time, have eliminated their competitors.

The grant of a concession to a firm to engage in the manufacture of this commodity at Westport virtually means that the State is conferring a substantial advantage on that firm an advantage which will, in fact, not be conferred upon any other firm, and we ought to know from the Minister what conditions he has in mind in contemplating the granting of a licence of that kind. The Minister stated that this firm would probably be able to supply the home demand for £75,000 worth of cotton thread. We ought to know when the whole of the home demand will be satisfied; how soon the firm proposes to undertake the manufacture of all ranges of that commodity; how soon it hopes to be in a position to supply the whole home market and, generally, under what conditions the commodity is to be manufactured.

I understood from the Minister that it was expected that this firm would employ 150 employees, but the Minister did not seem to know how many of these employees would be women, how many would be girls, how many would be boys, and how many would be men. If we are starting out to grant concessions to private undertakings, surely it is desirable that we should have information of that kind and not allow these factories to be carried on under unsatisfactory conditions. I do not say it is the intention of the proprietors of this factory to put into operation unsatisfactory conditions of wages or of labour, but, at all events, we ought, as far as this House can ensure it, to have some precise information that it is intended to control in a very drastic way the type of employment afforded in the factory. The State has been altogether too prone to grant concessions, either in the form of very definite tariff preference or by the indiscriminate use of its own money, to private enterprise without being satisfied as to the conditions of employment in these industries. I had one recent notorious case——

I submit this is entirely out of order.

It is not out of order. If it were out of order, I think we could depend on the Ceann Comhairle to see that point without any assistance from the Minister.

A Minister or a Deputy is quite entitled to ask whether certain matters are in order.

Yes, but instead of doing it in that humble way the Minister asserted that this was quite out of order, which is a different matter to submitting to you, Sir, a point as to whether it is or is not in order. Of course, the Minister does not want to hear this case. That is why he wants to have my reference to it regarded as out of order. I had a case some time ago where the State put up £3,000 to assist a private undertaking to manufacture a certain commodity, and the rates of wages paid in that undertaking were intolerably low, were disgracefully low.

I again ask if this is in order upon the resolution we are now discussing.

The resolution asks the House to approve of an order with reference to sewing cotton. The Deputy is pointing out the possible evil results of making such an order.

Thank you, Sir. I want to show the danger of granting monopolies or generous State concessions without taking steps to ensure that reasonable conditions in respect of wages are observed in these undertakings which the State proposes to assist and does, in fact, actually assist. In this case it came to my notice that the State put up £3,000 under the Trade Loans (Guarantee) Acts——

It was not under the Control of Manufactures Acts.

I want to ensure that the same rake's progress does not take place under this Order as took place in the instance I brought to the notice of the Minister. In that particular case the State put up £3,000, which was a substantial concession to that firm, just as we are proposing to grant a substantial concession to the firm in question here.

On a point of order. The motion before the House grants a concession to nobody.

It gives the Minister power to do it.

It gives him power to do it. Does the Minister object to the introduction of low wages——

I am objecting to the introduction of the conditions of employment in a firm that makes bolts and nuts in County Kildare, which was assisted by a trade loans guarantee, because that has nothing to do with an Order under the Control of Manufactures Acts in respect to sewing cotton.

The Minister knows the case.

The Deputy and the Minister apparently know the case——

It has been mentioned.

The Deputy while drawing attention to it, might refrain from going into all the details.

I want to call attention to the fact that in that particular instance about a dozen persons were employed, seven at the rate of 5/- per week and five, I think, at 33/- per week for a 12-hour day. Three thousand pounds of State money was put up to assist a firm of that kind.

There is nothing about State money in this Order.

But there will be concessions to this firm even more valuable than the mere grant of £3,000.

There was no grant of £3,000. The Deputy's statement is quite inaccurate and it has been repeatedly refuted.

The Minister is so impetuous that he will not reason out the case for himself.

I resent very much this blackguarding of Irish industry on every occasion that offers, whether it is relevant or irrelevant.

I am going to expose sweat shops and child farms whether the Minister likes it or not. I am not going to stand up for that type of employment, and the Minister is making a mistake if he thinks that he will succeed in muzzling me inside or outside this House. Whether the Minister likes it or not, I shall use this House, as the proper legislative assembly of the people, to expose the sweating of Irish workers.

The Deputy is representing it as something which it is not.

I am representing it as a sweat shop.

The Deputy was challenged to go down there.

I am willing to go down with the Minister.

You did not go.

And the Minister will have no guard of honour if he goes down to that factory, as he had the other day at a Rathmines factory. Let the Minister go down and investigate these conditions. Let the Minister send his inspectors down to investigate the conditions. Let the Minister get the wages books produced and we shall see the rates of wages paid. The Minister comes in here full of mock indignation at what he calls an attack on Irish industry. It is no such thing as an attack on Irish industry. It is an attack upon the bad sweating type of employer in that industry. It should be the Minister's concern to eliminate that type of employer rather than to stand up to make a defence for him. At all events, as far as I am concerned, I shall expose that type of case at every opportunity and I shall make sure, as far as my voice can do it, that Irish workers will not be meekly compelled to accept these conditions. They certainly will not be allowed meekly to accept these conditions from firms which are substantially assisted by the State. I am not much concerned whether the Minister objects to the denunciation of that particular type of employment.

I have no objection to the Deputy dealing with it if I get an opportunity of dealing with his allegations.

Has not the Minister an opportunity of doing that now and of assuring us that we are not going to have the same thing repeated in this instance? At all events, Sir, State assistance to private employers, in my view, should only be granted when we are satisfied that decent conditions in respect of labour, decent working conditions, obtain in the industries to be protected or in any way assisted. In this instance there has been a singular disinclination on the part of the Minister to give us particulars as to the conditions which he proposes to impose in the licences, which he is authorised by this Order to issue. I think we are entitled to claim in a matter of this kind that we ought to have from the Minister detailed particulars as to the conditions which he proposes to lay down.

One would imagine, for instance, that when coming to the House with an Order of this kind—an Order under which precedents will be set up, because it is the first—the Minister would have some precise information as to the kind of people it is proposed to employ in the factory. He said that it was intended that 150 hands should be employed. I asked one simple question of the Minister on that point—how many of the employees will be women and how many will be men? The Minister said he did not know. Surely this elementary information should be obtained from the Minister. Surely we ought to know the kind of industry to which we are going to grant a monopoly, because one could be very enthusiastic in granting a monopoly, if there are to be well paid men employed in the factory rather than underpaid women? Yet the Minister has no information on that aspect of the matter. I asked another simple question— would ten per cent. of the employees be men, but even expressed as a percentage, the Minister could give no information.

Again I say we are entitled to have some idea, some clear picture as to the kind of industry to which we are going to facilitate the Minister to grant a licence. It is not unreasonable, when you are going to exclude competition from within and without the country, that we should endeavour, as in this instance, to enthrone conditions which are as near satisfactory as this House can make them. I would say that one of the objects we ought to try to achieve in that respect would be to ensure that as many male employees would secure employment in this industry as possible. Recently, on another Bill, the Minister told us of the desirability of checking the tendency of women to enter industry.

There is no power under the Control of Manufactures Act to make any such condition.

The Minister has power to deal with it under the fair wages clause.

Does the Minister deny that he has power to insist on the observance of the fair wages clause?

That is in the Act. That is the law.

It is not the law.

It is the law.

There is a fair wages clause in it——

The obligation to enforce it is set out in the conditions of the statute, and the matter was discussed here at length about two years ago.

What has that got to do with the point I am making?

That is the point—the point the Deputy is making is entirely irrelevant.

It is a pity the Minister could not be Ceann Comhairle as well as Minister. We should then have a satisfactory discussion.

I pointed out that there was no power under the particular Act to do what the Deputy suggested.

I suggest to the Minister that in the licence which he proposes to grant, he should do everything he possibly can to ensure that effect is given to the ideas which he expressed on the Conditions of Employment Bill, in the employment which will obtain in this proposed factory. I want to ensure that if the State is going to grant concessions in this case, they will be granted on the best possible conditions so far as the workers in the industry are concerned. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.