That a sum not exceeding £5,371,560 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1956, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, including certain Services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain Subsidies and sundry Grants-in-Aid.
In considering the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce for 1955-56, Deputies will have regard to the Supplementary Estimate for 1954-55 amounting to £250,000 which was issued after the Estimates volume for 1955-56 had been printed. The Estimate for 1955-56 thus shows a reduction of £1,182,680 as compared with the total Estimate for 1954-55. The principal decreases in the Estimate are in the provisions under sub-head J (1) for food subsidies, sub-head L (1), mineral prospecting and sub-head M (2), grants to Bord na Móna for housing. A sum of £84,650 was provided in 1954-55 for the repayment of advances for rural electrification. For reasons which I will explain later, no provision is being made for this item this year.
Taking into account the Supplementary Estimate for 1954-55, the reduction in the food subsidies for the year 1955-56 amounts to £1,053,000. As explained by the Minister for Finance, when presenting the Vote on Account for 1955-56, the decrease in the food subsidies arises from the reduced prices for home-grown wheat which have been fixed by the Government. Notwithstanding the reduction in the price the amount per ton paid for Irish wheat is in excess of the price at which foreign wheat can be imported. Another factor contributing to the reduction is that it is anticipated that the flour millers will obtain increased receipts from the sales of flour offals.
When speaking on the Supplementary Estimate I explained the position which has been reached concerning the exploratory work by Mianraí Teoranta at Avoca. The total provision for grants to Mianraí Teoranta in the year 1954-55, including the Supplementary Estimate, amounted to £89,000. The provision for 1955-56 is £40,000 representing a reduction of £49,000. The 1955-56 provision takes account of the fact that exploratory work on the present scale will continue only until 30th June, 1955. I have already referred to the possibility of arranging for the commercial exploitation of the deposits by that date.
Allowing for the Supplementary Estimate, there is a reduction of £39,410 on sub-head M (2)—Grants for housing erected by Bord na Móna. This reduction is due to the fact that the schemes undertaken by Bord na Móna for the erection of a number of houses for workers on the bogs are nearing completion. The amount of £11,400 provided in 1955-56 is estimated to be sufficient to pay all commitments which will be likely to arise during the year on these schemes.
Having dealt with the main features of the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce I propose to give a general review of the operations of my Department. As regards industrial development, Deputies may be interested to learn that, during the last year, 82 firms came to notice as having begun business or as having extended their production into one or more new lines. The number of new industrial approaches made during the same period was about 240. The total number of industrial proposals at present before the Department and the Industrial Development Authority is about 215. These proposals cover a wide range of industries and are at present in varying stages of consideration and examination. Some of them have reached an advanced stage and may reasonably be expected at an early date to result in the setting up of new factories or the extension of existing factories.
One of the more important industrial developments to which I wish to make reference is the recent development in regard to the setting up of an oil refinery. This is a matter which has engaged the attention of the Government for many years. Some years ago the Industrial Development Authority were asked to investigate the possibility of having a refinery established here. Within the last couple of months the authority have reported that the three major distributing companies, Caltex, Esso and Shell, had agreed to form a company for the erection and operation of a jointly owned refinery. Detailed proposals from the companies are now awaited.
Petroleum products are our largest single imports item, imports in 1954 being almost 241,000,000 gallons of oils and spirits at a value of over £12,500,000 and over 600,000 tons of other items, such as tar and bitumen mixture, at a value of over £900,000. It is not expected, however, that every one of the imported commodities will be produced by the new refinery— aviation spirit is one that may not, for instance—but we may expect that the bulk of them will be produced.
The advantages to the country of an oil refinery are many. Firstly, this is practically the only country in Western Europe without its own refinery and we are, I think, entitled to have one established from the point of view of national prestige alone. Apart from this, however, it would be bound to be of value in time of war, since we would be relieved of our dependence on the refined product—a vital commodity— which, at such a time, would obviously be more difficult to obtain than crude supplies.
It will create considerable employment both in the erection of the plant and later in its operation; it should also provide openings for a number of science and engineering graduates. It should provide the nucleus for the development of chemical technology and might, possibly, provide the basis for a small petro-chemical industry, or the manufacture of other specialised products. It should lead to the establishment of an Irish tanker fleet and it would certainly be of considerable benefit in our balance of payment.
Representations have been made from many quarters regarding the suitability of particular locations for the refinery, but I have refrained from making approaches to the companies in this regard as I consider that the matter of location is primarily one for the parties who are putting up the capital, particularly in view of the technical complexities involved in the erection and operation of an oil refinery. When matters have reached a more advanced stage I hope to make a further announcement.
Apart from the proposed establishment of an oil refinery in the country and other projects which are under consideration, industrial progress still continues. A few official figures will illustrate the progress that has been made in recent years. In the year 1938 the census of industrial production showed a net output of £35,500,000 in all industries and services and a total employment of 166,000 persons. Net output increased to £75,000,000 in 1948, £84,000,000 in 1949, £93,000,000 in 1950, £101,000,000 in 1951 and £106,000,000 in 1952; employment was 197,000 in 1948, 206,000 in 1949, 219,000 in 1950, 226,000 in 1951 and 221,000 in 1952. The census of production figures for the years 1953 and 1954 are not yet available but the provisional figures of the numbers engaged in industry and services amounted to 224,000 in 1953 and 228,000 in 1954. The net output of industries engaged in the manufacture of transportable goods was £25,000,000 in 1938, £53,000,000 in 1948, £60,000,000 in 1949, £67,000,000 in 1950, £73,000,000 in 1951, £76,000,000 in 1952, an estimated £84,000,000 in 1953 and an estimated £86,000,000 in 1954.
The number employed in these industries during the same period was 100,000 in 1938, 123,000 in 1948, 129,000 in 1949, 137,000 in 1950, 144,000 in 1951, 140,000 in 1952, an estimated 142,000 in 1953, and an estimated figure of 147,000 in 1954. The numbers employed in each quarter of 1954 were 144,000 in March quarter, 147,000 persons in June quarter, 148,000 persons in September quarter, and 150,000 persons in December quarter. Allowing for the changes in the value of money, the index figure of the volume of production in industries producing transportable goods increased from 99 in 1938 to 131 in 1948, 174 in 1951, and to an estimated figure of 192 in 1954. Taking all industries and services together, the corresponding figures are 105 in 1938, 134 in 1948, 176 in 1951, and 194 in 1954. These figures are most encouraging but it is my hope that figures for the years to come will show still better results. We must rely to a large extent on industrial progress to help to reduce the amount of unemployment in the country. I must, however, sound a note of warning that, in many industries, we have reached the position that home production is sufficient to meet the full requirements of the home market. In those industries further development can only come if an export trade is developed.
I feel confident that, given the necessary zeal, drive and enthusiasm, we can export successfully. In view of the highly competitive conditions which obtain, however, it is essential that firms anxious to get an export market should ensure that their productive organisation is highly efficient. One of the most satisfactory methods to ensure this is the engagement of experts in the particular industry to make a detailed study of production techniques, lay-out, etc. If the industry finds itself unable to meet the total cost of such expert advice, the State will be prepared to give assistance in paying for suitable technical assistance projects.
I desire to take this opportunity of bringing to the notice of industrialists the facilities that are available. Under the agreement between this country and the Government of the United States, in connection with the Counterpart Fund deposited by this country under the Marshall Aid programme, a sum of £350,000 has been set aside for the financing of schemes of technical assistance for industry and agriculture.
A technical assistance project should, as far as possible, cover a whole industry so that all the firms in that industry may be in a position to benefit from the advice received. This would enable them to take steps to remove any defects in their organisation which may be revealed by expert examination. I would appeal particularly to associations of manufacturers to give serious consideration to the formulation of technical assistance projects for the industries which they represent. I address this appeal not only to associations representing industries interested in the export trade, but also to associations representing industries which are still concerned chiefly with production for the home market.
While technical assistance projects in which industry-wide participation is not proposed, may be considered, such projects will normally be considered only where the remaining firms in the industry have failed to show any interest in such a project. It is hoped, however, that such cases will be exceptional and that every firm in a particular industry for which a technical assistance project may be planned will be alive to the importance of participating in it.
Apart from the function of general industrial development by my Department, special provision has been made by the Oireachtas to encourage the establishment of industries in the undeveloped areas. This provision was made under the Undeveloped Areas Act 1952, which established An Foras Tionscal with power to give grants to persons for the purpose of establishing industry in these areas. Grants approved by An Foras Tionscal to date in the current financial year amount to £232,000. This brings the total grants approved so far under the Act to £496,000. The projects for which these grants have been approved represent a total capital investment in industrial project of approximately £1,500,000. Some time necessarily elapses between the approval of grants and their payment, as it is the practice of An Foras Tionscal to make payment only when the factories have been almost completed. For this reason, payments to date by the body amount to only £109,000.
Projects assisted by An Foras Tionscal which are already in production include woollen yarns, berets, garment labels, clay drain pipes, electrical plugs and sockets, clay tiles, buttons, knitwear and leather gloves. Other projects, covering a fairly wide field of manufacturing activity, are in various stages of development and there continues to be a steady flow of inquiries to An Foras Tionscal, which indicates that there is likely to be continuing progress in the development of industrial activities in the undeveloped areas. The progress made to date has not been spectacular, but it must be remembered that the problem of securing industries in the undeveloped areas had previously been intractable. Consequently, the progress made must be regarded as satisfactory in all the circumstances.
In addition to the special assistance available for undeveloped areas, industrialists all over the country can avail of assistance from the Trade Loans (Guarantee) Acts. These Acts enable firms to obtain loans, the repayment of which is guaranteed by the State. During the year, the demand by industrialists for assistance under these Acts to enable them to expand their output continued to grow and it was necessary to provide by legislation for a further £1,000,000 for trade loans. I do not propose to deal at length with this aspect as there was a very full discussion on the matter when the recent Trade Loans Act was under consideration by the Dáil.
During the year, a particular group of manufacturers were concerned at the prospect that imports of low-priced articles from Far Eastern countries would damage their industry. I informed them that it was my intention to provide adequate protection for Irish industry against unfair competition in the form of low-priced goods from Far Eastern countries. I should like to make it clear that, if it is established that any Irish industry is threatened by imports of this kind, I will be prepared to recommend to the Government that adequate measures be taken to protect Irish investment and employment. I think it is only fair to warn importers handling these goods that, if it is necessary to introduce special protective measures, import facilities will not be granted for such goods, whether or not the orders placed by them have been backed by letters of credit or otherwise.
Notwithstanding the industrial progress which has been made, there are certain fields of manufacture in which we still have to depend entirely on imports. In order to have many of these items manufactured at home, considerable investment of capital and particular technical skills would be required. I have already referred in public statements to the need for attracting investment of foreign capital and more especially technical skills in Irish industrial enterprises so as to expand industrial production into these fields. Subject to national safeguards, however, it is, in my view, essential that the investment of foreign capital and technical competence in our economy should be given more active encouragement than was considered necessary in the past when opportunities for industrial expansion were more readily available.
This country has very special advantages to offer to the external investor. Our geographical situation is favourable for easy access to markets in Britain and on the Continent and we have trade agreements with most European countries. Goods of Irish origin are, in most cases, exempt from customs duties on entry into Britain and they receive preferential tariff treatment in British Commonwealth countries. I am making arrangements to have these and other obvious advantages brought directly to the notice of manufacturing interests in the United States and in European countries.
I have had discussions with the Industrial Development Authority on the question of visiting countries abroad to discuss the possibility of interesting foreign industrialists in establishing industries in this country. At the moment, two members of the authority are visiting Sweden for this purpose, and arrangements are being made for a similar visit to Western Germany in the near future. It is expected that other European countries will be visited later on, and the question of a visit to the United States of America has been the subject of consideration and discussion.
Production of industrial alcohol by Ceimicí Teoranta is being continued at the Cooley and Carndonagh factories and the former alcohol factories at Labbadish and Corroy are being converted for liquid glucose production, which is expected to commence during the coming summer. Efforts to find an alternative use for the Carrickmacross factory have not so far been successful. Ceimicí Teoranta have completed their investigation of the possibilities of establishing an industry for the production of nitrogenous fertiliser and their report is being examined by the various Government Departments concerned.
In addition to industrial development, every effort will be made to discover minerals which are capable of commercial development. A technical assistance project for minerals exploration has been in operation for some time past. This project is intended to cover three mineralised areas in the country, and exploration has already been completed in two of these. One of the areas was Abbeytown, County Sligo, where there are State-owned deposits of lead and zinc. A drilling programme on these deposits had satisfactory results which enabled the operating company to undertake a development programme to exploit the further deposits which were discovered. The second area was Murvey, County Galway, where there are State-owned deposits of molybdenite; the material is the principal source of the metal molybdenum which is used in the manufacture of high-speed tool steel. The drilling programme carried out at Murvey failed to establish the existence of the minimum quantity of ore of a grade which would be suitable for commercial development. However, traces of molybdenite have also been found in an area adjacent to Murvey and a preliminary examination is being undertaken in this area to determine whether a drilling programme there would be justified.
A final decision has not yet been taken as to the third and final area to be selected for investigation under this technical assistance project. It had been hoped to start exploration work during the year, but this did not prove possible. I hope, however, that it will be possible to start exploration work at an early date.
In pursuing industrial progress, we must be careful to ensure that the interests of the workers are not neglected. For this purpose, there is at present before the Dáil a long overdue Bill to codify and extend the Factories and Workshops Acts. The object of the new legislation is to bring the protection provisions of the law more into line with modern thinking on this vital subject. It is scarcely necessary for me to make any further reference to this point; it was discussed at some length during the debates on the Bill, and doubtless will come up for discussion again during the stages of the Bill which yet remain to be taken.
Deputies will remember that during the Second Reading of this Bill, I undertook to examine the possibility of providing similar protection for workers in offices. Office workers are the only large class now left unprotected by law. Shop workers enjoy the protection of the Shops (Conditions of Employment) Act, and it may be that our first step towards putting an end to the kind of working conditions that some office workers have now to endure will be a simple extension to offices of the provisions of the Shops Act or of provisions of the same general kind.
The subject, however, will require extensive examination, and, although a good deal of work has been done, I would not like to give a definite date for the introduction of legislation. In the interval between now and the enactment of the legislation associations of employers and associations of workers can do much to put an end to the abuses with which the legislation will deal and I hope that they will do so. It should, I think, be the aim not only of associations of workers but of associations of employers as well to secure that in every place where people are employed, whether in factories, in shops or in offices, working conditions are as healthy and comfortable as they can be made. It does not cost much to keep an office clean, to keep it resonably warm and properly ventilated or to provide washing facilities for the staff, and it is a reflection on the outlook and attitude of those responsible that legislation should be needed to secure that these things are done.
The reforms which are necessary should be introduced in advance of the legislation, and if, during the next two or three months, the different associations in which employers are organised give a little attention to the subject of accommodation for office workers, it may be that, when the legislative proposals are brought before the Dáil, many of the associations will be able to say that the proposals are not coercive in effect since the standards obtaining in offices are at least as high as the minimum standards which it is proposed to prescribe by legislation.
A full delegation, representative of the Government, employers and workers in this country attended the International Labour Conference which was held in Geneva, in June, 1954, under the auspices of the International Labour Organisation. The conference approved a recommendation on holidays with pay for industrial and commercial workers generally. The principal feature of the recommendation was a proposal for a minimum annual paid holiday of a fortnight for these workers. These provisions are being examined in my Department in conjunction with other proposals for the amendment of the Holidays Act, 1939, made to my Department by representatives of workers.
The European Regional Conference of the International Labour Office was held in January, 1955, and Ireland was again represented by a full delegation. The problems discussed at this conference were the role of workers and employers in programmes to raise productivity in Europe, the age of retirement, and the financing of social security.
Having regard to the protection which is given by the State to industrial enterprise, it is obviously necessary that there should also be an effective system for controlling the prices and the profits of those enterprises so as to ensure that the consuming public gets a fair deal. There was a full discussion on prices and the cost of living during the recent debate on the Supplies and Services Act, and I do not, therefore, think it is necessary again to refer to the subject at this stage.
With some fluctuations, world prices show a slight tendency to harden since the end of 1953. The import price index for December, 1954, was 289.9 as compared with 286.3 for December, 1953. The internal wholesale price index, however, shows a decline over the same period, the average for 1954 being 293.6 compared with 299.1 for 1953.
During the year 1954 the Prices Advisory Body held 41 private meetings and eight public sittings. I am satisfied that the Prices Advisory Body performs a very useful and, indeed, essential function, by turning the searchlight of publicity on the reasons for suggested price increases. As I have already indicated, it is my intention to introduce permanent legislation for the control of prices as soon as possible. I have not yet arrived at final conclusions as to the nature and extent of the improvements which it would be desirable to make in the existing machinery of price control.
The work of the Fair Trade Commision is complementary to the work of the Prices Advisory Body. I feel that the House will agree that the Fair Trade Commission has done very useful work in the short time since it was established. It has turned the spotlight on the question of restrictive practices and has also intervened in individual cases, as a result of which traders who had previously been excluded from regular channels of supply are now receiving supplies. The commission has completed its public inquiries in relation to the supply and distribution of radio sets, building materials and motor cars. I have received reports of the inquiries relating to radio sets and building materials. I hope to present these reports to the Oireachtas and to have them published at an early date.
A fourth inquiry into the supply and distribution of proprietary and patent medicines, infant foods and medical and toilet preparations, has also been initiated by the commission, but has not yet been completed.
The commission recently announced its intention to hold an inquiry into the supply and distribution of grocery goods and provisions. The commission has also made fair trading rules in relation to a number of commodities or groups of commodities.
The work in progress on the development programme of Bord na Móna has been well maintained. Despite the very adverse weather conditions which we experienced in the 1954 season, the board's output of turf amounted to about 600,000 tons. The board's development programmes are coordinated with the plans of the E.S.B. for increased electricity generating capacity based on native resources. Two power stations (one at Clonsast and one at Allenwood) are already in full operation on sod peat. The first of the bog power stations at Ferbane, Offaly, designed to burn milled peat, is due to come into operation this year. Several more are planned in the major bog areas which were once derelict wastes. By the year 1960 Bord na Móna expects that its total annual output of sod peat will be about 920,000 tons, while output of milled peat will be over 2,800,000. Five hundred and eighty thousand tons of the sod peat will be used in the electricity generating stations and the remaining 340,000 tons will be available for industrial and domestic consumers. With the exception of 130,000 tons which will be used for the manufacture of briquettes, all of the milled peat produced will be used for the generation of electricity.
The operations of Bord na Móna afforded employment to over 6,200 men during the peak production period last year. It is expected that peak employment will rise to a figure of 9,000 men in 1960, while constant all the year round employment will be available for nearly 5,000 men by that time.
Progress has also been made in the erection by the E.S.B. of four small electricity generating stations which will operate on hand-won peat. These stations are designed to use 30,000 tons each annually and will ensure a market in the areas concerned for hand-won turf produced surplus to local needs. It is expected that the stations in Counties Clare and Galway will be ready to come into operation in the early part of 1956 and that the stations in Counties Donegal and Kerry will be ready later in that year.
There is also a provision in the Estimates for a grant towards the work in the experimental and research station conducted by Bord na Móna. The station has made a valuable contribution to the more efficient production and utilisation of turf and turf products.
In the Estimates for the year 1954-55 a sum of £84,600 was provided for the repayment of advances for rural electrification. No provision is made in 1955-56 for a payment of this nature as it is considered that the need for State assistance from voted moneys in pushing forward with the work of rural electrification has passed. It is intended that the E.S.B. should in future meet the total cost of rural electrification from their own resources. The financial position of the board is sound and expanding sales of electricity will ensure that this position will be maintained. The board's financial position is such that they will be able to meet the cost of rural electrification without impeding the rate of progress of the scheme. It is hoped to extend rural electrification to all areas by about 1959. Sixty areas were developed in 1953-54, but the rate of development has been increased substantially and work is now proceeding at a rate of 100 areas annually.
The decision to terminate State assistance from voted moneys for rural electrification will necessitate amending legislation which is being prepared at present and which I hope to introduce at an early date. Provision will also be included in this legislation for additional capital which will be required for rural electrification over the next few years. Investment in rural electrification will reach £16,000,000 this year and it will be necessary to provide for such sums as will enable the scheme to progress for the next few years.
Total investment in the electricity undertaking is expected to increase to between £130,000,000 and £140,000,000 by the year 1961. The demand for electricity is increasing steadily as will be evident from the fact that in the year 1939 total output was 378,000,000 units, while in 1954 total output had reached 1,295,000,000 units. Total employment is afforded by the E.S.B. to approximately 8,600 persons, of whom 2,400 are engaged in rural electrification.
The need for developing our native resources of fuel is demonstrated by experience during the past winter. Supplies of coal were well maintained over the greater part of the year but owing to the disruption of British shipments there were some shortages in the early part of 1955 aggravated by the poor hand-cut turf harvest last year. These deficiencies were adequately met by drawing from the stocks of American coal held by Fuel Importers, Limited, but it is clear that the maximum development of our turf resources is not only good national housekeeping but is essential as an insurance against such dislocations.
Deputies will have noted from the trade returns that the upward trend in the value of exports continued during 1954. The value of exports in 1954 was £115.1 million, an increase of £1,000,000 over 1953. Apart from the rise in value the volume of exports in 1954 was 3 per cent. higher than in 1953. Imports for 1954 were £179.9 million as against £182.7 million for 1953, and, as a result of these movements, the adverse balance of trade fell from £68.6 million to £64.8 million.
With a view to providing markets abroad for Irish goods it has been the policy of the Government to make and maintain trade agreements with the countries to which our exports are mainly directed. In pursuance of this policy our trade agreement with France was renewed during the year. Under trade agreements, already in existence with Germany, Finland, Spain and Norway undertakings were obtained for the grant by these countries of special import facilities for goods still subject to import control. It must be understood that the value of any trade agreement depends on the ability and willingness of Irish manufacturers to exploit to the full the opportunities for additional trade so provided. Trade fairs and exhibitions abroad afford a useful opportunity to expand exports and Irish manufacturers are encouraged to participate to the maximum extent possible in such fairs. A permanent Irish pavilion is maintained at the Frankfurt Trade Fair at which many Irish manufacturers exhibit their goods.
The cost of such participation to the manufacturer is low. An Irish exhibitor at the recent Spring Fair at Frankfurt informed me that he anticipates a substantial expansion of his exports to European countries as a result. This experience confirms the experience of other manufacturers who exhibited at the Canadian International Trade Fair at Toronto in June last, and which led to a noticeable expansion in our dollar exports.
During the year it was decided to authorise Córas Tráchtála Teoranta to extend its activities to cover other areas. Córas Tráchtála Teoranta was originally set up to promote exports to the dollar area, but it was considered that the experience it has acquired in promoting exports to the American market would be of considerable value to exporters to other countries. In view of the special circumstances which govern trade between Ireland and Great Britain it was not thought necessary to include trade with that country within the scope of the new arrangements. It is worthy of note that since Córas Tráchtála was established, exports of manufactured goods to the dollar area have increased substantially. There has also been a noticeable increase in the export-mindedness of our manufacturers due in no small measure to the activities of Córas Tráchtála Teoranta. It must, of course, be borne in mind that the success of this organisation, Córas Tráchtála Teoranta, cannot be judged entirely on the amount of immediate increases shown in exports. The fruits of the steady work which the company is performing will not be evident for some time.
It will be recalled that in November last there was a full debate in the Dáil on the possibility of finding export markets for Irish whiskey. In general, I think it was agreed that the best prospect for an immediate increase in Irish whiskey exports lay in the production of a suitably blended whiskey and, at that time, I expressed the hope that it would be possible to increase the exports of Irish whiskey. I have taken a keen interest in expanding our whiskey exports and Deputies will have seen the recent Press announcement of the formation of a new Irish company which will undertake, in association with American interests, the production of a blended whiskey specially suited to the American taste. A particularly welcome feature of this most recent development is that, as well as the production of the whiskey itself, the bottling and packing of the product will be undertaken here. Additional employment will also be provided in the ancillary industries producing the bottles and cases.
As I have stated on earlier occasions, it is not intended, nor would it be desirable, that the new product should displace the traditional Irish product which, with adequate advertising of its quality, can find an expanding sale in the American market. I see no reason why it should do so. On the contrary, there is reason to believe that the publicity associated with the introduction of the new Irish product to the American market may lead to increased sales there of the traditional Irish potstill whiskey, as well as of the other blended Irish whiskeys, the export of which has developed in the past few years.
With the object of encouraging exports it is my policy to remove all emergency controls on exports as quickly as possible. There was a further substantial relaxation of export controls during the year. The few controls which now remain are necessary either to ensure that certain raw materials required by home industries will continue to be available to them or to comply with international obligations in regard to strategic materials. These controls are kept under constant review and as circumstances permit they will be abolished.
The control of exports is at present exercised mainly under powers conferred by the Supplies and Services Act. It is my intention to present legislation to the Dáil in the near future which will put these powers on a more regular basis and so render reliance on the Supplies and Services Act unnecessary.
The Estimate for Aviation and Meteorological Services amounts to £323,000, showing a decrease of £91,530 as compared with last year. £55,400 of this represents an expected increase in revenue mainly from aircraft landings and from the catering service at the Shannon Airport.
It will be observed that there is no provision in the Estimate for subsidy to Aer Lingus. I am hopeful that it will not be necessary to make provision at any time for such a subsidy provided Aer Lingus continues to progress. As I pointed out last year, the British Government had indicated that they were anxious to have the bilateral air agreements amended. There have been informal talks and correspondence on this subject with the British Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation during the past year. I expect that the formal discussions will be resumed soon. I cannot at this stage make any statement as to the possible outcome but I am hopeful that it will not be such as to interrupt the progress of Aer Lingus. It was necessary last year to sound a warning about problems that were arising in connection with the financial position of this company. At that time the company estimated that they would lose £105,000 in the year 1953-54 and £220,000 in 1954-55. This picture, however, has undergone a change for the better.
Losses for 1953-54 were £62,000 as against the estimate of £105,000. Present indications are that the loss for the year 1954-55 will be less than £62,000 as against an estimate of £220,000. This change is a very welcome and encouraging one. The energetic and efficient way in which the directors and management of the company and their staffs have worked during the past year has helped to bring about the improvement in the company's financial position.
During the summer of 1954 Aer Lingus operated a regular service to Lourdes for the first time. It proved so popular that it has been decided to expand it next summer by extending some of the flights to Barcelona. On some of the flights Biarritz will be a transit stop. Aer Rianta continue to manage Dublin Airport. In the year ended 31st March, 1954, they showed a surplus of £24,201 on the management of the airport and a surplus of £20,900 is expected for this year. These surpluses are surrendered to the Exchequer but they do not indicate that the airport is being run at a profit. The management account does not carry the cost of the various technical services provided by the State. Neither is there any provision in it for depreciation and interest on the State's capital investment in the airport. The actual deficit on the operation of the airport for the year ended 31st March, 1954, when the cost of various services provided by the State is taken into account, was £64,038. The additional charges for depreciation and interest on the State's capital investment and pension liability would bring this figure to a total of £206,871.
The number of aircraft landing at Dublin Airport increased from 9,108 in 1953 to 9,256 in 1954. The total number of passengers using the airport increased from 303,997 in 1953 to 342,890 in 1954. Proposals for extending the airport buildings to cope with increased traffic in Dublin have been under consideration. At first it had been thought that a very extensive and costly scheme of reconstruction would be necessary. On further close study of the matter, however, by Aer Rianta and my Department it was found that a comparatively modest scheme would meet requirements for many years to come. Certain parts of the scheme have already been carried out. Some further work on the extension and adaptation of the buildings will be carried out during the coming year.
Shannon Airport continues to be one of the main airports on the North Atlantic route even though bigger and faster aircraft which are capable of flying non-stop from North America to Europe have been introduced in increasing numbers by the operating companies. In 1954, 8,208 aircraft landed at the airport as against 7,111 in 1953. Passengers passing through the airport numbered 304,540 in 1954 as against 262,767 in 1953. There is no sign that the future of the airport will be endangered by any developments that may take place in the foreseeable future. There is evidence now, in fact, that even when the operating companies may not have technical reasons for bringing their aircraft into Shannon they have to take account of the attractions which Shannon Airport provides for passengers. It is understood that many passengers express a desire to make a stop at Shannon on their journey to or from America. This is a very satisfactory state of affairs. The scheme introduced in 1951 for the sale of duty-free wines, spirits and tobacco to passengers in transit is proving increasingly popular. The total dollar receipts from the sales made by the catering comptroller at Shannon Airport during the year 1954 amounted to $1,048,350 as compared with $806,062 in 1953 and $585,063 in 1952.
The existing accommodation in the terminal building at Shannon has been barely adequate to cope with the traffic passing through in 1954. In order to cope with the expected increased traffic it will be necessary to expand the restaurant and other facilities provided there. A beginning is being made on these extensions almost at once.
There is a reduction shown in the Estimate of £40,000 for constructional works at Shannon and Dublin Airports. This is not to be taken as an indication of any lack of interest in the development of the airports. As I have already indicated it is my intention to effect extensions both at Dublin and at Shannon Airports. Experience has shown, however, that payments arising out of constructional alterations do not fall due for some time after the alterations have been undertaken. Accordingly, the Estimate makes provision only for the payments which it is anticipated will arise during the year 1955-56.
The cost to the State of operating Shannon Airport is, of course, very heavy. The net deficit on this operation for the year ended 31st March, 1954, was £102,327. If depreciation and interest on the State's capital investment and pension liability are taken into account this figure would be £362,348.
I am satisfied that apart from the benefits derived by travellers and by those who are exporting or importing goods by air the community in general is receiving very substantial benefits in return for the heavy expenditure on Dublin and Shannon Airports.
The Estimate for Transport and Marine Services shows a reduction of £384,770 as compared with the year 1954-55. The reduction is due principally to a reduction in the provision for C.I.E. The board of C.I.E. estimate that as a result of the change to diesel traction and the general reorganisation programme C.I.E. will within a few years be in a position to meet from their resources revenue charges other than interest on transport stock. The prospects for complete solvency within a few further years appear to be good. Accordingly, the Government does not think it necessary that C.I.E. should continue to receive subsidy from the Exchequer to meet operating losses. The relatively small sums likely to be needed to cover losses within the next few years should be found by shortterm borrowing. These borrowings will be guaranteed as necessary by the Minister for Finance under the Transport Act, 1950. Accordingly, no provision has been made in the Estimate this year for the payment of subsidy to meet operation losses. The provision that was made in the Vote for 1954-55 for this item will not be utilised. It is clear, however, that C.I.E. will not be able for some time to come to meet the interest on transport stock. It will be necessary to meet this cost from the Central Fund and the Central Fund must be reimbursed for this expenditure. The Estimate contains provisions for the repayment of stock interest met out of the Central Fund in 1954-55 to the amount of £602,000.
Deputies will recall that in the Budget statement last year reference was made to a pending financial adjustment between C.I.E. and the Exchequer in respect of apparent over-payments of subsidy in the years 1952-53 and 1953-54. This adjustment was expected to be of the order of £1,000,000 or so and arose out of the charging of certain expenditure of a capital nature against subsidy rather than against the £2,500,000 stock issue made by C.I.E. in May, 1953. Details of this adjustment have since been settled, the figure being agreed at £829,000 and C.I.E. have repaid this sum to the Exchequer out of the unexpended proceeds of the stock issue.
The position of the G.N.R. Board is not as good as that of C.I.E. The G.N.R. Board assumed responsibility for the operation of the G.N.R. railway system on 1st September, 1953. The first accounting period ended on 30th September, 1954. Owing to an inevitable delay involved in settling details of the scheme for ascertainment and apportionment of profits and losses and, secondly, the form in which the accounts should be published, the audited accounts and annual report for the first accounting period are not yet available. Estimates, however, indicate that the losses on the operation of the system from 1st September, 1953, to 30th September, 1954, amounted to £677,000. Of this amount £188,000 being our share of the loss will have to be defrayed from the Exchequer. In the year ended 31st December, 1952, which was the last full year of operation by the company prior to its acquisition by the G.N.R. Board the losses were £671,000. Of this amount approximately £225,000 fell to be met from the Exchequer.
Capital expenditure by the board up to 30th September, 1954, amounted to £243,000. Of this sum £195,000 will be met by issues from the Exchequer. The capital expenditure includes a sum of £150,000 for road vehicles which will be used exclusively in the State. The heavy losses incurred by the board in both areas have convinced the board that the only hope of operating the railway without substantial losses lies in changing to diesel traction and modernising rolling stock. As part of the reorganisation the purchase of 24 diesel rail cars has been authorised.
The operation of the railway as a joint undertaking involves regular consultation between my Department and the Ministry of Commerce in Belfast. This applied particularly to the past year when the settlement of the scheme of ascertainment and apportionment of the profits and losses of the board and other matters pertaining especially to this initial period necessitated frequent discussions and considerable correspondence. I myself had discussions with the Minister of Commerce during the year. I am happy to say that these consultations were conducted in an atmosphere of mutual co-operation.
The Estimate includes a provision of £390,010 for grants to improvement works at harbours including approximately £50,000 for dredging. This is less than the sum voted in 1954. The reason is that many of the larger improvement schemes have been completed or are nearing completion. Payments from the Vote for 1954-55 amounted to £429,000 approximately. I should emphasise that the reduced provision does not mean that there has been a curtailment in the degree of assistance for the improvement of harbour works. The reduced provision represents the amount which in the light of experience over a number of years is likely to be actually spent during the year 1955-56.
As regards mercantile shipping, I wish to mention that the present fleet of Irish Shipping, Limited, numbers nine vessels of 56,684 tons dead weight. During the year the company took delivery of two vessels; one a tanker of 3,350 tons, and the other a collier of 1,397 tons. At present there are nine vessels being constructed for the company. These vessels consist of four dry cargo vessels of 9,500 tons each, two similar vessels of 9,000 tons each and three coaster vessels of 2,000 tons each. One of these coasters is on order from Liffey Dockyard. It is expected that the last of these vessels will be delivered before the middle of 1957. When the deliveries are completed the company will have 17 dry cargo vessels of 115,334 tons total cargo capacity, together with a coastal tanker of 3,350 tons. Irish Shipping, Limited, at my request are at present examining the possibilities of entering the transatlantic passenger trade and of extra Irish participation in the cross-Channel trade. Proposals for the acquisition of deep-sea tanker tonnage are also under consideration. These matters require very careful and detailed examination and it will be some time before I will be able to make any further statement on them.
The amount of cargo carried by Irish Shipping showed an increase for the year ended 30th June, 1954, as compared with the previous year. Owing, however, to a decline in certain freight rates and because of increased operation costs the profit for 1954 was only £107,420 as compared with £193,396 in 1953. Ocean freight rates fell steadily through 1953 and the first half of 1954 but have since returned to 1952 levels. The higher rates will be reflected in due course in the trading results of the company. The company provides employment for approximately 500 personnel ashore and afloat. During the year its vessels travelled as far afield as Australia, Cuba, Canada and Western and Central American ports.
Whilst the Tourist Traffic Bill, 1955, was under consideration in the Dáil there was a very full discussion on all aspects of tourism. Accordingly, I do not propose to traverse the same ground on this Estimate. The Estimate for 1955-56 provides a sum of £400,000 as compared with £478,000 for 1954-55. This, however, does not mean that the Government is endeavouring to economise on the expenditure on tourism. The actual expenditure in 1954-55 is estimated to be less than £400,000. The provision for 1955-56 is, therefore, greater than the actual expenditure this year. Moreover, the main object of the recent legislation was to amalgamate the two existing tourist organisations. It is expected that this amalgamation will promote greater efficiency by eliminating the overlapping of functions and the duplication of staff, transport and premises. I am satisfied that the provision of £400,000 will be adequate to enable still greater progress to be made with the development and publicising of the tourist industry than was made in 1954-55.
I am not satisfied that in the past the potentialities of the Irish tourist industry have been exploited to the full. An essential prerequisite to the further expansion of the industry is the appointment to a new board of persons who will work together as a team and who will display drive and imagination in the discharge of their functions. I hope to get together a board of persons who will have these qualities. I will make it clear to the persons whom I am appointing to the new board that I will expect them to make an all-out effort to expand the tourist trade and to encourage the provision here of the amenities which are necessary to attract tourists and to encourage our own people to spend their holidays at home.
Considerable public interest was aroused last year in the possibility of developing river passenger services on the Shannon. I asked C.I.E. to investigate the possibilities of such services being provided by the board. I now understand that the board have acquired a vessel for this purpose and are negotiating for the acquisition of a second vessel with a view to inaugurating holiday and tourist services on the River Shannon during the coming summer.
When the Tourist Traffic Bill was being debated in the Oireachtas I made it clear that An Tóstal had my full support and the full support of the Government. An Tóstal is however essentially a communal effort and if it is to be fully successful every section of the community must co-operate wholeheartedly with the official tourist organisations in preparing a colourful programme of events for the festival. I would, therefore, urge local Tóstal councils, hoteliers and business people generally to do their utmost to ensure that An Tóstal in 1955 will be even more successful than it was in previous years.
I explained the position about vessels on the Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead route very fully during the course of the debate on the Tourist Traffic Bill. Officers of my Department have had further discussions to-day with officials of British Railways so as to ensure that a really adequate service will be provided on the route during the coming summer. The question of improved facilities for the transport of tourist cars on the Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead route is also being discussed with British Railways.
It is scarcely necessary for me to refer to the Vote for the Industrial and Commercial Property Registration Office. There are no major changes in the Vote as compared with last year but there is a slight decrease of £510 in the provision, which is due to recruitment of officers at lower points on their salary scales.
I think that covers a review of the activities of my Department for the past 12 months, but if there are any points which require elucidation or clarification during the course of the debate I shall be happy to try and assist in providing the necessary elucidation.