We have had a strike in the Castlecomer collieries for almost the past two months. The Labour Court made an effort to settle the dispute and I should like to ask the Minister to use his good offices in an endeavour to have the possibility of a settlement re-examined and not to allow the position to obtain, if it is the position, that matters will be left in the air. As Deputies have mentioned, these industries in rural Ireland are of the greatest importance to the communities who depend upon them and the fact that there are nearly 500 men out of employment creates a very serious loss not alone for the men affected and their families, but for the traders and the economic life of the district.
The factory opened in Kilkenny last year for the manufacture of metal products had occasion to have recourse to the Department for certain assistance in regard to the reorganisation of their business, and I trust the Minister will be able to give them the assistance they require. It would be very unfortunate if, when an industry is started through the enterprise of local people who have shown their interest in the undertaking by subscribing a substantial amount of capital, its progress should be held up through initial difficulties and even its chances of ultimate success jeopardised.
References have been made to the boot and shoe and the woollen industries, in both of which industries I am interested. I was glad to hear the Minister state that, in respect of boots and shoes, he is examining the possibility of securing an export trade for the over capacity which apparently exists in the Irish boot and shoe manufacturing industry. There is a very considerable amount of valuable employment for skilled labour and highly paid operatives involved in this industry. This industry did very good work for the community during the emergency period and I hope that the Minister's efforts to secure an export trade will be successful. If they are not successful, I hope that any further steps that are necessary and that can be taken for the limitation of imports will be taken in order to guarantee secure employment to those employed in the boot and shoe factories.
The woollen trade is one of the oldest Irish industries. It has a special reputation even outside this country, and I would be glad if the Minister, when he is replying, would let us know what are the possibilities of developing an export trade greater than that which already exists. In 1947 we exported about 356,000 square yards of woollen and worsted tissues, and in 1948 we exported 403,000 square yards but, as far as I can read the figures, the amount which we received for the 403,000 square yards was £166,000, as against £203,000 which we received for the 356,000 square yards, so that although the amount of our exports increased there seemed to be a substantial fall, in the neighbourhood of 40 per cent., in the amount received per square yard. Then, in regard to yarns, we exported 886,000 square yards in 1947 and that brought in £286,000. In 1948 we exported only 564,000 square yards which gave a return of £241,000, so that there was an actual diminution in the return we received.
When the Minister was recommending the Anglo-Irish Agreement to the House he stated that we would have a considerable free list in the English market, and I think he mentioned that about £750,000 worth at least would be sold. At a later stage the Taoiseach mentioned that a figure of £1,500,000 worth of exports was being considered. He did not say that that amount had been exported but the implication from his words was that it was expected that about £1,500,000 worth would be exported under that free list. I think the Minister ought to give the House whatever information is at his disposal as to whether the expectations in regard to that free list have been justified or not.
The House will remember that in regard to the homespun industry the Minister for Lands told us that that industry was practically dead, that it was impossible to find an outlet although, when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, there was very extensive propaganda in some of the newspapers about the looms being set working and additional factories being started. I hope that what has happened in the homespun industry is not characteristic of what is happening in other branches.
The Minister mentioned seaweed and seaweed products. He said it would be very valuable for the Gaeltacht. We would all be glad to help the Gaeltacht if we can get markets for their products.
The Department of Industry and Commerce is a very large Department and it is, I think, charged with responsibility for the industrial alcohol factories. I understand that a certain proposal has been under consideration there for the production of sulphate of ammonia and copper sulphate. I wonder could the Minister let us know whether these proposals are to be implemented and whether the graduates who are expecting to get employment as a result may rest assured that they will not have to leave the country. The Minister might take a special interest in the position of young Irish graduates who, certainly, if they have to leave the country will not find very much difficulty in getting employment elsewhere. In Great Britain and possibly in other countries there is intense demand for Irish chemists and graduates in engineering and science, and if we cannot hold our graduates, in the first place, by trying to create openings for them, and, in the second place, by assuring them of reasonable remuneration, we shall lose them, and our industries will suffer as a consequence.
While I am very glad that the Minister has taken up the plans which were there in regard to turf and means to go ahead to the fullest possible extent, using all the resources necessary to exploit the bogs so far as the machine-won turf programme is concerned, I am sorry that he had no word to say about the hand-won turf. Even though the concentration is to be almost entirely upon machine-won turf, the hand-won turf industry is of such importance in a large part of the country that I think the Minister might at least have given Bord na Móna some kind of controlling influence, some kind of supervisory duty in regard to that industry, that he might have asked them to encourage the formation of co-operative societies or, at least, to see that producers will feel that the Government have not entirely lost interest in the hand-won turf. Even if it were only from a token point of view, some responsibility should attach to the organisation which is charged with control of machine-won turf to review the position in the hand-won turf areas occasionally.
Naturally, in these machine-won turf projects certain parts of the country will not benefit. I think we can all agree with Deputy Lemass that there is a great deal that could be done by voluntary effort to encourage local authorities to provide turf for their institutions, as they have been doing, to encourage State Departments—the Army has always given a very good example in that matter—to get their fuel requirements as far as possible from the turf areas, and also to try and get the local authorities to do their share. It was the intention that, where State assistance was being given to industries or institutions or local authorities, the State should endeavour to see that, in so far as was possible, home-produced fuel would be utilised. I am sure it is only necessary to mention that matter to get the Minister to take an interest in it. Otherwise, if home-produced fuel is to disappear completely nobody is going to have any responsibility in regard to the matter.
I notice that in Westport when the Minister was addressing the chamber of commerce—I did not know they had a chamber of commerce in my native town, but apparently they have—one of the statements he is reported to have made was that
"the need for considering carefully the wider implications of major proposals was the main reason for the apparent slowness in making decisions which the public found so hard to understand. The development of industry came within that category."
I do not know exactly what that means. It seems to me that Government policy in general in regard to larger issues has to be determined and decisions have to be come to in regard to larger issues before smaller issues dealing with industrial development can be reached. The general complaint we have of the present administration of the Department is that it is lacking in that drive and enthusiasm and that capacity for quick decisions which is necessary if industrial development is to proceed as speedily as Deputies from all sides of this House seem to desire. In setting up this Industrial Development Authority, as Deputy Lemass has pointed out, it is surely obvious that instead of speeding up industrial projects there is the greatest likelihood that they will be further delayed. As Deputy Lemass said, it is like adding a fifth wheel to a coach. I do not intend to go into the question of the industrial authority very fully at this stage. I simply want to remind the House that its terms of reference are as follows:—
(i) to initiate proposals and schemes for the creation and development of Irish industries;
(ii) to survey possibilities of further industrial development;
(iii) to advise on steps necessary and desirable for establishing new industries;
(iv) to advise on steps necessary for the expansion and modernisation of existing industries;
(v) to investigate the effects of protective measures, with special reference to employment, prices, quality of goods, wage levels and conditions of employment;
(vi) to examine, if and when required, any proposals submitted to the authority by the Government relating to the imposition or revision of tariffs, quotas or other protective or developmental measures;
(vii) to give advice and guidance to persons contemplating starting new industries or expanding existing industries, and
(viii) to advise on any other matter relating to industrial development referred to the authority by the Government.
We had a full-time tariff commission here and I think most of the time of the commission was occupied in dealing with matters which came before them. In regard to any one of these eight headings which I have read out I think it would nearly take a full-time body to deal with them adequately. It is obvious that unless this authority is going to have quite a large number of officials and a great many specialists to hand—if they are given work to do under all of these headings or even under most of these headings—there is bound to be considerable delay. When the authority reports to the Minister, obviously, no matter what Deputy Larkin or others may say, there will be questions of Governmental policy. It will not be entirely, I presume, a question for the Minister although the principle of collective responsibility is not always strictly adhered to in the present Government. There is also the question of the personnel of the authority. In appointing representatives to commissions or authorities which are going to have executive or advisory powers, I think we will all agree that it is not advisable that those appointed should be said to represent specific particular interests. There can be no objection, I think, to putting a banker or an industrialist or a labour man or a civil servant on an authority. It does not matter what particular interest the individual may come from, but if the individual feels that on that authority he is there to represent that particular interest, obviously difficulties may arise. Take, for example, the appointment of a labour representative on a concern dealing with banking. He goes on to that banking concern, not by any means giving up his own particular point of view, but simply acting as he thinks right in the general national interest. He does the best he can from day to day, as matters arise, and he deals with them, like his colleagues, having regard to the general interest. He does not come to the decisions he has to make hampered by previous announcements and statements in which he expressed definitely particular points of view.
For example, let us take the question of nationalisation. If a person who is appointed to a particular authority of this kind has definitely and publicly proclaimed in his former capacity that he stands for nationalisation, and that certain industries in the country should be nationalised, are we to take it—if the question of the future of these industries is referred to the industrial authority—that they are to be considered from the point of view of nationalisation, having regard to the former Party programme of a member of the industrial authority or have we any assurance that such a person will forget his previous predilections or previous pronouncements in regard to nationalisation?