I move that the Bill do now pass. Yesterday Deputy Dillon gave intimation of his intention to raise certain matters in connection with the Order imposing a duty upon cotton thread which was made for the purpose of protecting the factory at Westport of the Irish Sewing Cotton Company.
In Committee on Finance. - Imposition of Duties (Confirmation of Orders) (No. 2) Bill, 1935—Fifth Stage.
Deputy Dillon has been informed by the Ceann Comhairle that, on the Fifth Stage of a Bill, discussion is confined to what is in the Bill and may not extend to matters which Deputies might desire to see in the Bill; secondly, that the Order dealing with thread covered by this Bill is Order No. 76, and, finally, that the Order imposing the Excise duty is Order No. 70, which is not covered by this measure, and, therefore, may not be discussed.
May I make a submission on a point of order? This confirming Bill is of a character unlike any other Bill that comes before this House. By the original Imposition of Duties (Orders) Act, the Minister took power to impose, by order of the Executive Council a Customs or Excise duty. These orders have eight months currency of their own quality and, if they are to be continued, must then come before Oireachtas Eireann for confirmation. When that Act was going through the House, that provision was pointed out by the Minister for Finance as a guarantee that no Executive act would be done which would not come up for review by Oireachtas Eireann and that, therefore, there was no necessity to lay these Orders on the Table under the 21-days rule. According to the Minister, they would have only eight months currency and must come up for discussion and confirmation by the Oireachtas. Order No. 70 was made by the Executive Council and duties were levied under it. Three months after it was made, an omnibus confirmation Bill in respect of all outstanding Orders was introduced to this House and this Order No. 70 was the only one not included in the Bill. Unless you, Sir, permit us to discuss its absence from the Bill and to question the Minister as to his reasons for omitting this Order from the Bill, a situation will be created in which the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Minister for Finance can levy a fine on any individual citizen and absolutely forbid the Oireachtas to discuss it. The only occasion on which we can discuss it is on the occasion of a confirming Bill. Only you permitted us to challenge the Minister upon its absence, we would never have known what became of that Order, what was done under it or why he imposed it. It was only because you permitted us under this Bill to inquire as to the absence of any reference to Order No. 70 that we were enabled to unearth what, in my opinion, was a grave public scandal. Unless you permit us to discuss these matters on a Bill of this character, other public scandals of that kind can take place and the lips of Deputies will be sealed.
The Deputy is optimistic.
I suggest that the absence of this Order from the confirming Bill is relevant material for discussion on the Bill and that unless you so rule, we have no opportunity of raising it.
The Deputy has given his case away by stating that the absence of this Order from the Bill is his reason for desiring to raise the question. It is well-established procedure that discussion on the Fifth Stage of a Bill is limited to what is in the Bill. The Deputy admits that an opportunity has already been afforded for raising this matter. The Chair had doubts of its relevancy on that occasion. Opportunities could be found by express motion or in discussing the Estimates of the Minister concerned, for raising the matter. It may not be raised now.
I am now asked to consent to the passing of this Bill. Am I in order in putting forward as a reason for not consenting that I object to this Emergency Imposition of Duties Act being used to impose these taxes, that I am convinced the time has come when the Government should not make use of legislation which was intended for an emergency? I have already objected, and I strongly object now, to the passing of this Bill. I object as much on account of what is in the Bill as on account of what is not in it. I object because of the way this legislation has been used and abused by the Government. I hope I shall not be precluded from putting forward the strongest reason I have for objecting to the passing of this Bill.
If the Deputy were permitted to develop his argument on that line, he would be achieving what has been disallowed to Deputy Dillon.
At the moment that I get out of order, I have not the slightest doubt that the Chair will call my attention to it.
The Chair has already given a ruling on the point raised by Deputy Dillon. The whole administration of an Act permitting licensing is not open for discussion on the Fifth Stage of this Bill. Licences contained in Section 6 of Order 76 and the other duties and licences which come under the Bill are open to discussion.
I take it that I shall be in order in relating the circumstances which led to the making of this Order.
Order 76—not Order 70.
I have no intention of referring to Order 70. Deputy Dillon has frequently referred to this matter on all sorts of appropriate and inappropriate occasions and, so far as I have been able to gather the sense of his remarks, he, apparently, objects to the Government having facilitated the Irish Sewing Cotton Company in the establishment of a factory at Westport because he thinks we should, instead, have facilitated Messrs. J. & P. Coats to establish a factory at Dublin. That point of view is so extraordinary that I should probably not be justified in wasting the time of the House in refuting it, but I am prompted to speak on this occasion because the firm of J. & P. Coats have circulated to a number of people in this country a circular containing a number of extraordinary statements with which I think it is desirable to deal.
The desire of the Government that cotton thread should be manufactured in the Saorstát was expressed in many ways prior to 1934, and was, I think, well known to all interested parties. As a result of that expressed desire, my Department was approached in July, 1934, by certain prominent people in the town of Westport who had considered the question of establishing there a cotton thread factory and who had succeeded in interesting in their plans a firm called British Thread Mills, Ltd.—a very eminent and highly respectable firm at present manufacturing thread in Great Britain. The representatives from Westport, accompanied by representatives of that company, put forward proposals for the establishment at Westport of a factory for the production of cotton thread. These proposals were the subject of negotiation between the representatives of my Department and the promoters of the enterprise in that month, as a result of which a scheme emerged for the establishment of the industry which, in our opinion, was quite satisfactory and which had many attractive features, the most attractive feature being that the factory was to be located at Westport. We approved of that scheme and we gave an undertaking to the group who put it forward that, if they formed a company for that purpose, a certain measure of protection would be afforded and other reasonable facilities granted. One of the major problems which obviously arose out of that scheme was this: because it had been decided in accordance with the expressed desire of the Government that the factory should be located at Westport, the firm there would obviously be placed at a considerable disadvantage if some other firm were subsequently allowed to engage in the same class of business at Dublin or some other similar centre. Because we desired to see that factory at Westport, and to afford employment in that part of the country, we not merely approved of the scheme as an industrial proposition, but we furthermore proposed to make sewing cotton a reserved commodity, so that the Government would have power to restrict the number of firms who might engage in the business, and particularly to ensure that the manufacture of sewing cotton would not be undertaken at Dublin, or some centre at which the competing firm would have obvious advantages over the pioneers of the industry located at Westport. For the purpose of protecting the industry, an ad valorem duty of 40 per cent. on thread was imposed in September, 1934. As, however, thread was not at that time being produced, licences for its importation were issued freely.
After those negotiations had been concluded, but before the imposition of the duty had been effected, my Department was approached for the first time by a representative of Messrs. J. & P. Coats. The chief director of that firm came to the Department merely for the purpose of inquiring as to the foundation for the rumours which had reached him that the manufacture of cotton sewing thread was to be undertaken in the Saorstát. There was no proposal put forward by him or on behalf of his company at that time that they should engage in that industry, but, having got information that the manufacture of thread was likely to be embarked upon, that firm, on their own admission, proceeded to bring as rapidly as they could large quantities of thread into this country. There was no legal objection to their doing that; it has happened before, and will no doubt happen again, but there was this peculiarity about the transaction in which that firm engaged, that the thread which they brought in was not offered for sale, and it has not been sold yet. It is still in store in Dublin, and when the duty was imposed in September, 1934, by a particular device—the device of consigning thread as ply yarns and not as thread—a further large quantity of thread was imported by that firm, and again stored in Dublin, until the inadequacy of the definition in the original Order was made good in the Finance Act of 1935 by the imposition of a similar duty on ply yarns.
Deputy Dillon stated here that Messrs. J. & P. Coats were willing to undertake the manufacture of thread in the Saorstát. I want to discuss that statement from two angles. Firstly, I want to say that there was no proposal from that firm to undertake the manufacture of thread here until the Irish Sewing Cotton Company had been formed, and the erection of the factory at Westport had been commenced. The Irish Sewing Cotton Company was incorporated on 2nd November, 1934.
Yes. On 18th October, 1934, we received the first written communication from Messrs. J. & P. Coats —a letter which contained the suggestion that the firm might be interested in the manufacture of thread here, but in which it was stated that they were not in a position to put forward any proposition to that effect, and indicated that they did not know whether the manufacture of thread here would be an economic proposition. There was no further approach from the firm until the proposal to make sewing cotton a reserved commodity had been published, and objections to that proposal invited. An objection was received from Messrs. J. & P. Coats, and later, on the 13th October, 1935, the firm applied for a licence to manufacture sewing cotton here—an application which was refused. It is true that the Irish Linen Thread Company, a firm which is engaged in the production of linen thread at Dublin, in putting forward an objection to the Reserve Commodity Order proposal, stated that they had been in consultation for some time with Messrs. J. & P. Coats——
Now the cat is out of the bag.
——who they stated were, subject to the completion of their inquiries, prepared to collaborate with them in the making of sewing cotton in Dublin.
When did the Minister get that communication?
On 13th June, 1935, after the factory at Westport had been built, after the duty had been in operation for eight months, and after the Irish Sewing Cotton Company had undertaken all the capital expenditure involved in the erection of the factory at Westport. That letter did not contain any firm proposal to undertake the manufacture of thread here. I informed that company then that they would be much better employed completing the undertakings they had given with respect to the production of linen thread, rather than in considering possible extensions of their activities, and that is still the case. Those statements of mine, which give the facts, deal with one aspect of Deputy Dillon's statement, but the other aspect has still to be dealt with, and it is the most inexplicable aspect of all. Why should we give a preference to the firm of Messrs. J. & P. Coats for the manufacture of thread in Dublin, rather than to the Irish Sewing Cotton Company for the manufacture of thread in Westport? Deputy Dillon's contention is that we should have given them a preference, and I know of no reason why that suggestion should be entertained. The firm which is engaged in this business at Westport is a firm which has behind it first-class technical knowledge. The company is associated with a British company of very high reputation. It is manufacturing that thread on a scheme of production which is quite satisfactory to us, but particularly it is manufacturing it at Westport.
It is not. It is not manufacturing one inch of thread.
I hope I will be allowed to speak without those interruptions from Deputy Dillon. It is manufacturing that thread at Westport on that scheme of production of which we have approved, and, in my opinion, it is much more desirable that that industry should be located there than that it should be located at Dublin. I know that Deputy Dillon is proposing to make some point that the firm is not yet doing all the processes of manufacturing. That is so. It was never proposed to it——
——that it should immediately undertake all the processes of manufacture. As I have said, a definite scheme of production was discussed and agreed with the firm, under which additional processes would be undertaken at various stages, spread over a period of time. So far as I am aware, that scheme of production has been adhered to by the firm. There is another consideration, however, which it is necessary to bear in mind in this connection; even if we would have been justified in telling the firm which had come first with its thread proposition, and which had formed a company and built a factory, that, because subsequently we had got another proposal from another firm, they were to be wiped out and the other firm encouraged to proceed, we would have good grounds for not doing so because we distrusted the bona fides of the second firm. That distrust arose out of the fact that the firm had engaged in this device of bringing in large stocks of thread, which stocks are still in store in Dublin.
I have said here before, that if anybody tries to purchase that thread they cannot do it. That thread was not brought in in the ordinary course of commercial business. It was not brought in for the purpose, as the firm contend in their circular, of ensuring that their customers would be facilitated by having stocks available for them after the duty was imposed, because the stocks were not available. When, after the duty was imposed, customers went to purchase some of the stocks, they were refused supplies from these stocks and told to apply to the Department of Industry and Commerce for licence to import additional supplies. The menace to the Irish industry at Westport——
Can the Minister substantiate that last statement?
That there was a menace to the industry?
That customers were refused supplies.
Certainly, customers were refused and are still being refused any opportunity of purchasing these stocks. The menace which the existence of these stocks in Dublin constituted to the factory at Westport is something which we endeavoured to deal with by another method which is not in order to discuss now, and I do not propose to discuss it. I refer to it merely to indicate that it gave us good grounds for distrusting the bona fides of the firm which pretended to be interested in the possibility of engaging in this industry here although they had put up no proposals to do so, and although they had shown no interest in the matter, until the scheme for the production of these goods had in fact been approved and was being acted upon. The business is not of very great importance. Its importance arises from the fact that it is necessary to indicate clearly to all parties, who might have similar ideas in relation to future industrial propositions, that the Government's aim to secure industrial development here will not be allowed to be defeated by any combine, such as this Coats combine, using its resources for the purpose of destroying the market which an Irish factory might regard as its own.
Reference has been made to the issue of licences for the importation of cotton thread. I stated that, when the duty was first imposed licences were freely issued, and continued to be issued, except during the short period in which we attempted to compel this company to disgorge its stocks without success. They are still being issued. At the present time, as I explained to the Dáil before, licences are being issued direct to manufacturers requiring thread for manufacturing purposes. We were issuing licences similarly to retailers, but we were approached by the Drapers' Chamber of Trade which urged on us the advisability, in their interests, of issuing licences for the importation of thread for the retail trade only to the Westport company. I indicated that there were objections to that device from our point of view but, on the strong representations of the Drapers' Chamber of Trade we adopted that scheme temporarily. They have stated that it is working very satisfactorily from their point of view, but there are reasons which may make it necessary for us, from our point of view, to drop it again.
There was for a long time no complaint received from any responsible quarter concerning the operation of this Customs duty or the manner in which the licence provision was being applied. Some complaints have been received recently and a conference between the parties concerned and representatives of the manufacturing company is being arranged. These complaints relate more to matters of price than to other matters. So far as the price is concerned, the company at Westport is operating under a licence, one of the conditions of which is that the price charged ex-factory at Westport will not exceed, quality for quality, and in like conditions of sale, the price charged for thread produced by the British Thread Mills at Leicester. That is a condition of the licence of the company at Westport, and if that condition is not observed the whole licence can be revoked. It has not, however, yet been demonstrated that that condition has been broken, but if it is broken I agree that there is a new situation. Up to the present, however, apart from the few complaints to which I have referred, the only evidence we have had is that supplied by the Chamber of Trade who testified that the price at which thread was being supplied from Westport did not exceed the price charged by Coats for similar thread and that, in many respects, the quality was better.
This matter has got an undue amount of publicity mainly because of the rather stupid allegations which Deputy Dillon thought fit to make. I have given the facts now because I know he has not got the facts already from any responsible quarter. I have given him facts now which he is learning for the first time and which will perhaps induce him to admit that there is no foundation whatever for the allegations he made, and that, on grounds of policy, on the grounds of establishing at Westport, rather than in Dublin, a factory for the manufacture of thread, on the grounds of dealing with the very reputable firm which put up that proposal and which had backed that proposal with their capital, rather than with another firm which came along subsequently and reluctantly, I think the Government can justify itself beyond question. I move that the Bill do now pass.
This proceeding, Sir, is a seedy transaction, a transaction which reflects unfavourably on the Government and on the Minister responsible for it. Fortunately, we have been able to drag it into the light of day, and the castigation which the Minister has received will, I hope, secure the State against a repetition of underhand activities of this kind in future. The Minister ought to have been warned when he was at last dragged into the light of day, but he has proceeded to mend his hand. As reported in column 1617 of the Official Report of the Debates, I said:
"The Minister has stated that J. & P. Coats were proposing to paralyse the Irish industry and that they sought to prevent its development—that is the allegation—and in order to prevent it they imported these huge quantities of thread. Far from that being true, they had an option on a premises in Dublin where they offered to spin, dye and reel thread—an Irish company which would be controlled by Irish nationals on the board of which there would be a majority of Irish nationals."
The Report goes on:
"Mr. Lemass: To whom did they offer it?
Mr. Dillon: To you.
Mr. Lemass: That is not so."
It is not so.
I took down the Minister's words to-day:
"On 13th June, 1935, the Irish Linen Thread Company approached me and told me that they were prepared to establish a factory for the manufacture of cotton thread in collaboration with Messrs. J. & P. Coats."
These are not the words I used.
I am entitled to say they are not.
The Official Report will decide between us. The Minister said not five minutes ago that the directors of the Irish Linen Company approached him and offered to establish an industry in collaboration with Messrs. Coats for the manufacture of cotton thread.
Will the Deputy allow me to correct him? What I said was that on the 13th June the Irish Linen Thread Company lodged a formal objection to the making of sewing cotton a reserved commodity in which they stated that they had been discussing with Messrs. Coats the question of Messrs. Coats' collaboration in the extension of their existing industry to include cotton thread.
There is no use in the Minister wriggling. The fact is that the Irish Linen Thread Company, an Irish company composed of Irish capital, with a majority of Irishmen on the board, came to him and said: "We are prepared in collaboration with Messrs. Coats to manufacture cotton thread."
They did not say they were prepared; they said they were discussing it.
That is the first clear contradiction of what he said here a week ago, hoping and believing that I did not know the facts. When he discovered that I did know the facts of this discreditable and scandalous transaction, he wriggled further, consulted his files, and made up his mind that it would be better to make a clean breast of it here to-day.
On 13th June, the Westport factory had been built.
That is the first falsehood. No doubt it was not intentional. I would not dream of saying it was.
Is it permissible for a Deputy to say that it was a falsehood?
The second the Minister has repeated in order to try and cover his flank. I said, as reported in column 1618 of the Official Report:—
"Does the Minister assert that no approach was made to his Department by a group of businessmen offering to set up a business to manufacture cotton thread in collaboration with Messrs. Coats in this city and that his Department informed them that they could not entertain the proposal?"
The Minister replied:—
"I state there was no indication that Messrs. Coats had any interest in the manufacture of thread here until after the Westport factory had been constructed."
I took down the Minister's words to-day. In July, 1934, Westport approached him. In October, 1934, Messrs. J. and P. Coats approached him.
In October, 1934, they stated they were not in a position to put up any proposition.
These are the Minister's words:—
"I state there was no indication that Messrs. Coats had any interest in the manufacture of thread here until after the Westport factory had been constructed."
These words are clearly meant to convey to Deputies that Messrs. Coats never opened the question with the Minister until the factory at Westport had been constructed, and then, with nothing in their minds but to sabotage that industry and destroy it, they opened negotiations. That is what the Minister said on 28th November. Now he is warned that he is being dragged out of the rat hole, and here is what he says on 6th December:
"Messrs. Coats came to me in October, 1934."
The Irish Sewing Cotton Thread Company was not incorporated until November, 1934; not a brick had been laid upon a brick in Westport; no company was incorporated. The group which had approached him on behalf of Westport had no legal existence at the time Messrs. Coats first approached him. That is the exact reversal of what the Minister said in this House on November 28th, when he thought I did not know the facts.
You do not know them yet, although I have tried to tell them to you for half-an-hour.
The Minister to-day says that Deputy Dillon contended that Messrs. Coats should get a preference. That statement is not true.
You are still contending it.
What I said was that the Minister had no good ground for penalising Messrs. Coats on the allegation that they sought to sabotage or destroy an Irish industry or that they sought to upset any policy decided upon by the legitimately-elected Government of the country. Far from that being true, when Messrs. Coats discovered that it was the policy of the Government to manufacture thread in this country they came to the Government and said: "We have been dealing in thread for 70 years in Ireland; 10,000 of our shareholders are citizens of Saorstát Eireann; every distributor of thread and every manufacturer who uses thread in Saorstát Eireann is a customer of ours; we have had trade relations with everyone of them since they started; we are anxious to maintain that business connection and we are prepared to come to Ireland, set up a factory, twist, dye and manufacture thread..."
When did they say that?
The Minister has admitted it himself.
When did they say that?
If the Minister will allow me to finish the sentence I will tell him: "We are prepared to twist, dye, manufacture, reel and distribute thread." The Minister's reply was: "No, we will not let you manufacture any thread in this country, because we have made it a reserved commodity for Westport, where thread is going to be manufactured." I want this House to understand that not one yard, one foot, or one inch of thread has been manufactured in Westport to this day. Every yard of thread sold in this country at present is being manufactured in Great Britain, brought in under licence by the Westport Thread Company and put on reels in Westport. That is the only manufacturing process being carried on there, save, perhaps, that I think a little dyeing of thread may be done. There is no manufacture of thread, good, bad or indifferent, going on at Westport at present. I doubt if they even make the wooden reels on which the thread is put, but that I cannot vouch for. Messrs. Coats had a long business connection with this country and never did anything deserving of any censure or attack by the Government of the country. Messrs. Coats were associated in their approach to the Government with a body of businessmen whom the Government ought to think very highly of; some of the foremost men in Irish Industry at present. They were prepared to do all the operations of thread spinning in this country if given the opportunity.
When did they say that and to whom?
It was said in express terms on June 13th, 1935, when the Irish Linen Thread Company formally approached the Minister. It was repeatedly said prior to that.
Who told the Deputy that?
The Minister cannot alarm me by producing files. Never mind who said it.
I am anxious to know.
Never mind who told me. It is hard enough to get information in this country without exposing the source of it to the victimisation of the Minister and his Department. It is very hard to get information. Nobody is going to pull wool over the eyes of experienced Deputies. They know well that negotiations of this kind are conducted verbally to a large extent with the Minister or his representatives, and that because of their nature that must be so. The Minister has himself admitted to-day that negotiations of that kind, proposals of that kind, went on.
After the Westport factory had been built.
The first approach was made to the Minister, on his own admission, in October, 1934, before the Westport Company was incorporated.
You say Messrs. Coats proposed to establish the industry here?
I say they first approached the Minister and showed an interest in the manufacture of thread in this country which the Minister denied the existence of at column 1618 of the Official Report of November 28th. In justification of the Minister's attitude towards this firm, he alleged that they had accumulated in this country an enormous stock of thread, which he foresaw was going to be used for the purpose of crippling the Westport industry.
What are the facts? This thread was imported into this country prior to the 31st July, 1935. At the present time, four months after that thread was imported, the Minister is issuing licences freely for the importation of cotton thread because the Westport Company cannot produce the supply of thread that is required. The Minister says that Coats have £30,000 of thread in a store here. I do not know how much they have, but I know that since July last there has been used in this country £60,000 to £70,000 worth of thread. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that that amount of thread has been imported since July last. At the present moment thread is passing into use in this country which has been brought in free of duty just the same as the thread of J. and P. Coats.
The Minister advanced another justification for his spleen against this firm. He says they brought in the thread by a subterfuge. Anyone listening to the Minister would imagine that they brought in the thread and declared it as something which it was not. The truth is that they brought a parcel of merchandise to the Custom House at the North Wall. From that parcel they extracted a sample and sent it to the State analyst and said: "Here is a sample of merchandise that we have in the Custom House; please examine it; refer to the schedule of dutiable goods and see whether this is dutiable or not." The State analyst analysed the sample and returned a certificate that the product was not dutiable and it was then imported into the country. The Minister says that was a dark conspiracy. I say that J. and P. Coats could not have paid duty on that thread and the Revenue Commissioners could not have collected on it. It was not liable to duty. The Minister may have said: "I meant to make it liable to duty but I forgot." If the Minister forgot or if he was so incompetent that he was not able to make it liable to duty how could any importer pay the duty which the law did not require him to pay?
If you want to make a Grant-in-Aid to this country you must make it through the Minister for Finance. The Board of Revenue Commissioners have no statutory power to accept gifts, and if J. and P. Coats wanted to make a grant-in-aid to the Revenue Commissioners no method was open to them except to go and ask the Minister for Finance would he accept from them a certain sum of money towards the national debt. Then they would have to get an acknowledgment from the Minister for Finance that he gratefully accepted from an anonymous donor this grant-in-aid. That was the only way in which J. and P. Coats could pay the duty which the Minister says they were allowed to escape by a subterfuge.
Then the Minister proceeded to deal with the matter of the Westport company. There is no particular case to be made against Westport that could not be made against any factory. Westport is not perfect. All that Westport is undertaking to do is to put the thread on reels. That is all they are doing now and they are not doing it very well. It does not make very much difference, so long as the thread is put on the reels at all, whether it is put on neatly or untidily.
The Deputy says that is all Westport have undertaken to do.
That is all the Westport company have undertaken to do for the present. I have no doubt that in the future they may do other things.
The Deputy is misinformed.
I am sick and tired of hearing that phrase from the Minister, but when I rub his nose in the mud we get the facts. The Minister told me last week that I was entirely misinformed. This morning, on this Bill, he admits that it was he who was misinformed—that he was quite wrong in what he said last week. However, the Minister will have an opportunity when winding up the debate of saying what he wants to say. The Westport company are putting the thread on the reels all right and there is no complaint in that respect. But it is ludicrous to say that the prices charged by the Westport company are as low as the Paisley prices. I do not know what the prices at Leicester are but I know that the English Cotton Thread Company never sold any thread in this country. They may have sold an infinitesimal quantity of thread but they were always looked upon as a second-rate firm compared with Coats or Clarkes, the two leading cotton manufacturers in England. This is a firm with a tiny output of restricted trade and it has always been second-grade. They are at present—and if the Minister takes the slightest trouble to find out the facts he will find that this is so—about 3d. per gross dearer for ordinary sewing cotton than Coats of Paisley. I am informed by manufacturers that their prices are very substantially higher even, but of that fact I have no personal knowledge. But if there is a condition in their licence that, quality for quality, their prices are identical with those obtaining ex-factory at Paisley, they are not carrying out the terms of their licence. They are getting more money and charging a higher price than Paisley.
If the Drapers' Chamber of Trade have said that their prices were no dearer than Coats' prices then the Drapers' Chamber of Trade is out of its mind, because from any invoice they can find the facts. The Drapers' Chamber of Trade represent a certain body of traders, but there is a very large body of traders in this country who are not represented by the Drapers' Chamber of Trade. I am amazed to hear that the Drapers' Chamber of Trade asked the Minister to allow imports of thread by licence only to the Westport factory. I regard that as a most unjust arrangement. I submit that if licences are to be issued for the free importation of thread, these licences ought to be obtainable by anybody who in the past was engaged in the importation of thread. To force people to buy from one individual is most unfair and inequitable.
I think, Sir, I have made it pretty clear that this transaction is an extremely disreputable one. It was a transaction into which the light ought be let and which should then cease. I can only express the hope that in the future similar transactions will not take place. I submit to the Minister that it has been a very good thing that these machinations should have been exposed to the light of day. I submit to the Minister that a great many people in the commercial life of this country take the view that the whole licensing system which is sought to be implemented by this Bill is of the same seedy character as this transaction. Merchants are agreed that these questionable and undesirable elements in the licensing system can be removed by full publicity being thrown on them. No honest merchant who is conducting his business straightforwardly can object to the particulars of any licence which he gets for the free importation of goods being made public even though only to a restricted public. I, therefore, urge upon the Minister for Industry and Commerce to open a register in which every licence to import goods free of duty shall be entered with the full particulars set out. If any merchant comes to him and says "I want a licence to import something free of duty, but I do not want it published in the register," the Minister will have the support of every side of this House if he says to such an applicant: "Then you will have to do without your licence; the thing will have to be open and above board or it will not take place at all." A very great evil can be abated if the Minister will adopt this course. Inevitably the most undesirable developments are going to come about unless he does adopt this course. For the sake of the country as a whole, and for the sake of the Government, I urge on him most strongly to put an end to the public unrest and the deep-rooted conviction in the minds of many businessmen that the existing licensing system is highly undesirable and is demoralising the public life of the country. By opening a register on the lines which I suggest it will put an end to it. It involves the Government in no liability and involves no straightforward businessman in any disadvantage. It will tend to cleanse and purify something that threatens to become a most malodorous scandal in the public life of the country. I leave the general issue to those who will come after me, but I am really glad to have this opportunity of vindicating——
Of throwing mud.
——the attitude I adopted on the 18th November, when I cautioned the Minister that the next time he began to make reckless statements without investigating the facts he would be brought to book and exposed in this House. The sooner he makes up his mind as to the inevitableness of the consequences of his own folly the better it will be for all concerned.
The Deputy stated Messrs. J. & P. Coats took a sample of certain commodities they were importing and sent that to the State chemist and they received from the State chemist a certificate as to the nature of the sample. Has the Deputy been informed that that was actually done?
I will quote from a letter published in the Irish Times of to-day from Messrs. J. & P. Coats in which the following paragraph occurs:—
"It was stated by the Minister in the Dáil that duty on these goods on importation had been evaded by a `particular device.' These words —whether by design or not we do not know—in our opinion, convey to the average mind that there was some subterfuge or underhand method used. This is entirely incorrect. The larger part of the stock now held on our behalf in Dublin was imported prior to the imposition of the duty, and the balance after specimens had been submitted to the State analyst and passed as free of duty."
That is the source of my information.
Has the Deputy seen the certificate in question?
That is the source of my information.
I gather from the Minister that nobody can bring a subject up in this House for ventilation unless he has seen all the certificates.
I merely wanted to know the authority upon which Deputy Dillon made the statement.
I know who prepared the Deputy's brief all right.
My interest in this debate is really on the general question to which Deputy Dillon referred towards the close of his remarks. I should like to make an appeal to the Minister. I realise his difficulties in connection with the licensing system, but I do not think, if the system continues as at present, that any Minister can prevent abuse.
Can the Deputy produce any example of abuse or get any responsible body of traders in the country to support his contention?
I can assure the Minister I have a responsible body of traders who are of the opinion that as long as the present system continues the Minister will not be able to allay unrest. It was a responsible trader in this city who, a short time ago, approached me on this subject and put forward the suggestion that the only way to allay the unrest that prevails amongst traders is to have a register such as has been suggested by Deputy Dillon. I can assure the Minister that the suggestion of a register did come from a responsible trader. Other traders may object to it on the grounds of publicity, but, as we are committed to a licensing system, it must be for the Minister a choice between two evils. I think the present system inevitably will lead, must lead, to a tendency towards abuse and you must correct that as well as you can. I can understand why there should be an objection on the part of some traders to publicity, but you will have to choose between the greater and the lesser evil. It was a very responsible trader in this city who approached me and suggested there should be a register available for traders to see on the payment of a fee. I ask the House to consider whether it is not time that this particular method of dealing with duties should be scrapped.
I think the Ceann Comhairle has determined that that is not in order on a discussion of this Bill.
He decided nothing of the kind. He said I could not debate No. 70, and I am not going to do it.
Nor, I submit, is the Deputy in order in discussing whether the Dáil should have passed the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act.
I am not discussing that. The Minister at least might wait until I open my discussion. I am suggesting the Dáil should not approve of the use of that. I am suggesting, as a reason for the Dáil not passing the Fifth Stage of this Bill, that the time has come, as a result of the experience they have had of the operation of the Act of 1932, for some of the promises then made in order to induce the House to pass it, to be redeemed. This Act was brought in for one particular purpose and in a particular atmosphere. It is not being used for that purpose. The House was induced to pass the Act to meet a certain situation, but it is not being used to deal with that situation.
We had last night the performance of the Minister for Finance, giving a number of quotations that were quite irrelevant. We had the statements of Ministers given in approval of what the law was. I put it to the House that when the Government induced the Dáil to pass an Act for a certain purpose, when they induced the House to pass it on the grounds of certain arguments, and now when this Act is being used for quite another purpose, then the House should not pass the Fifth Stage of this Bill which is based on that Act.
Clearly it is the administration of an Act of Parliament that the Deputy is discussing. He said the Act was introduced and the House was induced to pass it by reason of certain promises made by Ministers. He alleges these promises are not being fulfilled and that what the House then inferred was going to be carried out is not being carried out. That surely is a point of administration and would be more appropriate on another occasion, but not on the Fifth Stage of this Bill.
I am discussing this Bill which, I suggest, is being brought in under that Act. I suggest the Bill is not in keeping with the promises made to us when the Act was being introduced. I am not dealing with the question of administration. I am dealing with the fact that this Bill is a violation of the promises and the whole atmosphere in which that Act was passed.
The Deputy seems to me to be dealing with the administration of the other Act.
I assure you I am not dealing with the administration of the other Act. This Bill is not dealing with the administration of that Act.
I am not saying it is, but the Deputy clearly is saying that, as regards what the Minister induced the House to accept as his functions and duties under the other Act, he is not carrying these out. That is surely dealing with the administration of the previous Act.
I am afraid I have not made the situation quite clear. One of the promises was that this Act would be scrapped at the earliest opportunity.
The only thing, I submit, that the Deputy is entitled to discuss, is whether the particular Orders mentioned in the Schedule should or should not have been made.
I am entitled to discuss whether this House should pass this Bill under this machinery. Certainly a reference is made here in sub-section (1) to the Imposition of Duties Act, 1932.
Is not that machinery already provided for by this House?
Am I not entitled to contend that it should not be used here?
If the House allowed that Bill to go through and become an Act we certainly cannot open it up on this Bill.
I suggest we are entitled to discuss whether this Bill, if implemented, should use the machinery of the previous Act.
That would clearly be attempting to discuss machinery upon which the House already expressed its opinion.
I am sorry the Chair takes that view and gives that ruling. My main objection is to this Bill itself. It is using the Act of 1932 in a way that that Act was never intended to be used. It is not the administration of the Department I am discussing but the Bill now before the House, and that this Bill is utilising the Act of 1932 in a way that was not intended.
That appears to me to be discussing the administration of the Act of 1932.
I submit to your ruling, Sir, but I certainly cannot follow it.
Deputy Dillon used a number of adjectives—"malodorous,""scandalous,""corrupt," and so-forth. That was according to his usual tactics. Whenever he has a bad case he increases the number of his adjectives. Whenever he has a case to argue he uses few adjectives. We are learning, from long experience, that the more adjectives he uses the clearer it is that he has no case to put forward. But there is something "malodorous"—that is one of his adjectives—about this matter. It is, I think, a shocking state of affairs that we should have a Deputy who is a leader of one of the responsible Parties in this House, using his position here in order to slander an Irish industry, and to endeavour to prevent the development of that industry, and doing so on a brief supplied to him by a British combine whose main purpose, in this matter, is to prevent that Irish industry developing. Most of Deputy Dillon's statements of fact were wrong. I gave, as fully as time permitted, a history of the circumstances that led up to the present position, in my opening statement. Deputy Dillon chooses to ignore what I said, and started with a misconception or misrepresentation of the facts. He has no authority whatever from any of the parties concerned, except Coats, for any of the allegations he has made. I am still at a loss to understand what is his purpose, if he has any purpose, if not to sabotage the Westport industry.
What is the attitude of the Party opposite on this question as to whether the industry should be located at Westport or Dublin? Even if Coats were first in the field, and came on with a detailed proposition, which they never produced, even if they were otherwise not under suspicion in my Department, we would, nevertheless, be justified in rejecting them, and accepting the proposition of the Irish Sewing-Cotton Company because they were prepared to locate their factory in Westport. But that was not the position. Messrs. Coats were not the first in the field. They have not, up to this, put up a proposal, or a detailed proposition, for the establishment of a factory here. The negotiations with the Westport group took place in July, 1934; the duty was imposed in September, 1934, and, in October, 1934, because of that duty in operation, Messrs. Coats wrote to the Department. In that letter they stated they were not in a position to put up a proposition, and they only asked for certain information to investigate the matter. We heard nothing further from them until June, 1935, when they wrote their objection to the making of sewing cotton a reserved commodity. Even then they put forward no proposition for the establishment of the industry here. They merely showed their willingness to investigate the matter.
Meantime the Westport company was formed and was acquired; its factory was built, and workers were sent to England to be trained. The Irish Linen Thread Company did not put forward any proposal for the establishment of this industry. They indicated that they had been considering the extension of their activities to cover cotton thread. They stated not in the form of a proposition to the Department, but in the form of a memorandum, their objection to the reserve commodity. They submitted it to the Secretary of the Executive Council and stated that they had been for some months in touch with Messrs. Coats, who were, subject to the completion of their inquiry, prepared to collaborate with them, in the matter of providing technical assistance, if the Linen Thread Company should decide to proceed with the extension of their activities. But even in that memorandum they indicated that they had not come to a firm conclusion as to whether it would be an economic proposition for them or not.
We were to shut down the factory at Westport, to call back from England the workers who were sent to be trained there, to liquidate this company formed to establish a factory at Westport, in order that we might get the possible extension of a Dublin factory by a company formed for another purpose—and which had not completed that purpose— in collaboration with Messrs. Coats. I think the whole thing is ridiculous, and the effort to give it substance by adding malodorous adjectives is merely typical of Deputy Dillon and does not improve his case in any way.
So far as the factory at Westport is concerned, it was established with the clear recognition of the fact that time was necessary in order to train workers, and that it would not be possible for them to go into the whole process of manufacture at the start. Workers were sent to England to be trained. On that basis the business was commenced in the factory, and other workers were sent to undergo training in Great Britain. In accordance with plan, the approved process in the factory was extended and approach is made to a point in which complete manufacture will be undertaken. There are some 50 workers now employed there, and to suggest that they are employed in merely putting imported thread upon reels is nonsense. Deputy Dillon made the statement without the slightest justification. Even Messrs. Coats in their circular—the brief from which Deputy Dillon spoke—did not make that allegation. I am quite certain that he made no inquiries from any source—either from the Westport factory, from the central agency in Dublin, whose interests he is so concerned about, from the Irish Thread Company, to which he referred, or from any other source, before he made that statement. That statement was the product of his own mind, and he made it with no other intention except to damage and do as much harm as he could to the factory in Westport, in the apparent belief that, in some way, in damaging that concern he would be helping the interests of his own Party. I am sure that Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney does not agree with him.
All this talk about dragging me into the light of day, and all the rest of it, is merely typical of Deputy Dillon's technique in covering up a bad case. There was at no time any hesitation on my part to give all the facts in the matter to the Dáil. On every occasion it was raised here— even when it was out of order—I gave these facts, and the facts have been consistent throughout. The attempt to contend that there is any difference between what I stated to-day and what I stated on an earlier occasion, is quite fruitless. Messrs. Coats made no proposal at any time to the Department to establish a factory for the manufacture of cotton thread here. They indicated, after the duty had been imposed, after the negotiations with the Westport factory had been completed, an interest in the matter, but stated definitely that they were not putting up a proposition. They indicated an intention of doing so in June of 1935 after the Westport factory had been built.
Were they discouraged by the Minister?
They were, of course. In October, 1935, they applied for a licence and it was refused.
Why did you refuse it?
I stated here, when the Reserve Commodities Order was being discussed, the reason why we were going to refuse any such application for a licence: Because this factory is being established in Westport and because we want to keep it there and not allow it to be transferred up to Dublin. I think that is a perfectly good reason for refusing a licence to any company to establish a competing factory here in the Capital.
There is nothing more that I want to say in the matter. I hope we will have fewer attempts on the part of Deputies opposite to make these vague allegations of corrupt practices and abuses unsupported by any evidence. Deputy O'Sullivan stated that there were abuses in the matter of issuing licences for the importation of dutiable goods. I want evidence of these abuses, or the assertion that they exist, supported by some responsible body of traders in this country. I agree, as I have said before, that individual traders will complain that they did not get a licence when they thought they should have got it, or individual traders will complain that they did not receive sufficient licence for the quantities they wanted. These complaints are inevitable, but they are no proof or evidence of abuse, and it is abuses that are alleged to exist. I want these allegations withdrawn altogether, or else that they should be supported by evidence of some kind. If, in fact, the allegation is repeated here, I may be compelled to give Deputies opposite an opportunity of producing the evidence, if any, upon which they base the contention.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Bourke, Daniel.
- Brady, Brian.
- Breen, Daniel.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Browne, William Frazer.
- Cleary, Mícheál.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Corbett, Edmond.
- Corry, Martin John.
- Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
- Crowley, Timothy.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Doherty, Hugh.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Gibbons, Seán.
- Goulding, John.
- Hales, Thomas.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Houlihan, Patrick.
- Keely, Séamus P.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Kelly, James Patrick.
- Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
- Keyes, Michael.
- Kissane, Eamonn.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little, Patrick John.
- MacDermot, Frank.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Maguire, Ben.
- Maguire, Conor Alexander.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Norton, William
- O'Briain, Donnchadh.
- O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
- O'Dowd, Patrick.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- Pattison, James P.
- Pearse, Margaret Mary.
- Rice, Edward.
- Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Martin.
- Ryan, Robert.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Victory, James.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Anthony, Richard.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Burke, James Michael.
- Burke, Patrick.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Curran, Richard.
- Desmond, William.
- Dillon, James M.
- Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
- Dolan, James Nicholas.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
- Finlay, John.
- O'Neill, Eamonn.
- O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Good, John.
- Holohan, Richard.
- Keating, John.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McGovern, Patrick.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Morrisroe, James.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Nally, Martin.
- O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- Reidy, James.
- Rogers, Patrick James.
- Thrift, William Edward.