I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill has two main purposes. One is to provide a more effective organisation for the prosecution of industrial research, and the other is to formulate standard specifications for industrial commodities, processes and practices. For these purposes provision is made in the Bill for the establishment and maintenance of an institute for industrial research and standards.
The functions of the institute to be established under the Bill are set out in the Bill and are, firstly, to undertake scientific research and investigation with the object of promoting the utilisation of the natural resources of the State, improving the technical processes and methods used in the industries of the State and discovering technical processes and methods which may promote or facilitate the expansion of existing or the development of new industries, and the utilisation of the waste products of industry. Secondly, to make recommendations to the Minister for Industry and Commerce as to the formulation of standard specifications for commodities and the provision and use of standard marks for commodities which conform to standard specifications. Thirdly, to test and analyse commodities intended for sale and for use by the public and to publish the results of such tests and analyses.
Before describing more fully the status and functions of the proposed institute, I should like to review briefly the position in this country with regard to industrial research activities. Deputies will be aware that the scientific research conducted in our universities includes a certain amount of research work bearing on industry. Research on manufacturing problems is also carried on as an adjunct to the routine work of testing and analysis in the laboratories of some of our larger industrial concerns, while activities of a research nature are carried on in connection with a number of technical services administered by Government Departments.
Special steps to organise research activities have already been taken by the Government in the setting up of such bodies as the Industrial Research Council, the Emergency Scientific Research Bureau, the Building Research Committee and the provision for an experimental station in connection with turf development.
The Industrial Research Council was set up in 1934 and is functioning at present. The general function of the council is to furnish advice or to take such action as may be approved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce for promoting the use of natural resources and for furthering industrial development by scientific research. The council, the members of which are unpaid, functions under the auspices of the Department of Industry and Commerce. It was established by means of a formal Minute of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and it is intended that it will cease to function as soon as the new body is established under this Bill.
Despite the energy and enthusiasm of the council, the financial arrangements made in relation to its work were not such as to give it the freedom of action which experience has shown to be necessary to implement a useful research programme. The practice is that the council obtains the approval of the Minister for its general programme and, before work involving expenditure can be undertaken, the sanction of the Minister for Finance is also required. The council has no laboratory or permanent research staff. Most of its research work has been carried out in the laboratories of the universities.
In addition to the conduct of research, the council advises the Minister in the administration of a scheme for the annual award of maintenance allowances to students for training in scientific research.
Another feature of the council's activities is the organisation of a library and an information bureau for the benefit of industrialists and others requiring information on technical matters relating to industry. That library and bureau service, which enabled information to be regularly furnished on a variety of problems which were presented to industry by the emergency, proved to be of great value to the Emergency Scientific Research Bureau.
The Emergency Scientific Research Bureau was established in February, 1941, to give the Government technical advice and to conduct research on emergency problems relating to industrial processes and raw materials. The Dáil is already aware of the valuable work done by the bureau in helping to resolve many of the special problems that arose out of the emergency. The bureau worked in co-ordination with the Industrial Research Council and took advantage of the council's organisation and experience. The activities of the bureau were terminated, as the emergency eased, early in 1945. Since then, the services of the Industrial Research Council have been available in connection with problems arising out of emergency conditions.
In December of 1944 a special committee called the Building Research Committee was appointed to furnish advice or take such action as might be approved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in technical matters relating to the building industry, including the preparation of standards for building materials. A number of standards specifications have been prepared by that Committee.
This Bill has been framed in the light of our past experience. The new institute which this Bill is intended to set up will be so constituted as to preserve the advantages of the three research bodies to which I have referred and to include other features found in research and standards organisations in other countries and considered desirable in the circumstances of this country. The Bill has been framed with recognition of the fact that for research, especially industrial research, elastic conditions of control and development are required.
In order to give the proposed institute as great as measure of independence as is practicable, the Bill provides that the institute shall be a body corporate. The constituent parts of the institute will be: a council, an industrial research committee, a standards committee, and a director of industrial research and standards. It might help the Dáil to understand the scheme of organisation if I explained the separate function of each of these organs of the institute:
The council will consist of the members of the industrial research committee to be appointed under the Bill and of the standards committee to be appointed who shall be ex officio members of the council and, in addition, there will be not more than fifty other members, each of whom shall be appointed for his special attainments. To the first council there shall be appointed as many members of the existing Industrial Research Council as are willing to act. The first council will be appointed by the Government and succeeding councils will be appointed by the Minister. The council of the institute will have advisory functions only.
It will meet at least once a year and will have the duty of considering and making observations on the draft annual report and the programme of work of the institute. It is hoped and contemplated that the annual meeting of the council, which will be held in public, will ultimately take the form of a scientific convention which, by providing an occasion for the reading of special papers for discussion, will help to arouse interest in the work of the institute.
The industrial research committee will consist of nine members appointed for their special scientific attainments applied to industry or because they are capable of giving substantial, practical assistance in the work of the institute. The committee will be appointed every three years by the Minister and will be charged with the general government of the institute and the administration of its affairs, subject to the reservations to the standards committee and to the director.
The standards committee will consist of seven members of whom three must be members of the industrial research committee. The members of the standards committee will also be appointed by the Minister and they will have the duty of formulating specifications for standards at the request of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Provision has been made for a standards committee as a separate organ of the institute as it is considered that it would not be desirable to give the standards committee a status inferior to that of the industrial research committee. The two committees will be linked by having a common director, as well as by having some members in common. The director of industrial research and standards will be appointed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and his primary duties will be to direct and supervise the conduct of research decided upon by the industrial research committee and the formulation of standards by the standards committee. The director will, however, have the right, independent of the industrial research committee, to direct such research as he may think proper on behalf of the institute.