Committee on Finance. - Vote 50—Industry and Commerce.

I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £685,360 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, 1958, for 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.

Deputies will have noted that a revised Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce has been circulated. The revised Estimate provides for a reduction of £4,087,190 from the Estimate as contained in the Book of Estimates. That reduction in the amount required for the Department of Industry and Commerce in the year is, of course, due entirely to the elimination of the flour subsidy.

It is customary for the Minister for Industry and Commerce, when presenting his Estimate to the House, to review the progress of industry during the previous year. Outside the war years. I think it was always possible for the Minister to record some progress. It may not have been as substantial or as rapid as might have been desired in some years, but, nevertheless, there always was some improvement in the industrial position to record.

Unfortunately, that is not so now because industrial production and employment suffered a serious set-back during 1956. Comparing 1956 with 1955, the index of production of factory goods—"transportable goods", as they are called in the statistical returns—fell from 107.8 points to 102.4 points, a fall of 5.4 points. The production index for all industries and services fell from 109.4 points to 105 points, a fall of 4.4 points. During the year, the average number employed in industries producing transportable goods fell by 4,100, and the average number employed in all industries and services fell by 8,000. These figures which I have given compare the position in 1950 as a whole with 1955, but annual average figures of that kind, while they show that serious decline which I mentioned, do not reveal the much more serious trend which developed during 1956.

In the December quarter of last year, compared with the December quarter of 1955, the industrial production index had fallen by 11.6 points compared with 4.4 points for the year as a whole. Employment in manufacturing industries in that quarter had fallen by 7,000 compared with the average 4,100 for the year as a whole. Unfortunately, while that decline in industrial production and employment was taking place, there was no gain recorded on the agricultural front last year. The value of agricultural net output fell by £6,000,000 as compared with 1955. It is clear, therefore, that at the end of last year, the country was a great deal worse off than it had been 12 months previously. That is the situation which has to be faced and shared by everybody. Until it is rectified, it is clear that the people of this country cannot have, out of current income, the same standard of living as they enjoyed in the previous year.

The purpose of all the present efforts of the Government is to arrest that decline which developed last year, to restore as quickly as possible the previous levels of industrial and agricultural output and employment, and then to work on from there towards higher levels of production and employment. The situation which developed last year was, of course, foreshadowed in 1955 and indeed was largely consequential upon the rather serious deficit in the balance of international payments which developed in that year. Because of that serious deficit, and the loss of external reserves which was involved, severe restrictions upon the imports of certain goods and materials were imposed early in 1956. Of course these restrictions helped to accentuate the decline in production and employment.

Some improvement in our external payments position took place in 1956. The volume of exports in that year showed an increase of 2 per cent. over 1955, but, because the terms of trade moved against us, the value of our exports fell by slightly less than £3,000,000 to a figure of £107.4 millions. That alteration in the country's exports reflected a drop of about £10,000,000 in total exports to Great Britain, which was, however, offset to the extent of approximately £7,000,000 by increases in exports to other areas, notably a rather fortuitous opportunity of shipping cattle to France. During last year imports fell, mainly because of the import restrictions in operation and partly because of the decline in employment and in the level of industrial activity, by proportionately more than the fall in exports, so that the adverse balance of visible trade in 1956 was reduced to £73.5 million as compared with £94.4 million in the previous year. There still was, as that figure reveals, a very serious deficit in our visible balance of trade. A deficit of that order cannot be accepted with complacency.

It is obviously the duty of the Government to try to promote positive measures to reduce the gap between our imports and exports to more reasonable dimensions, preferably by increasing the level of exports. In this year, there has been a further and quite welcome recovery in the balance of payments position, but again it must be recognised that that is due almost entirely to temporary causes, principally because of increased shipments of cattle during the early months of this year, an increase of trade which cannot be continued. Deputies are aware that the number of cattle in the country is known, and having regard to the information which is available regarding the supply, it is clear that the higher shipments of cattle which have been responsible for the improved balance of payments position this year cannot be kept up.

No doubt the opportunity of shipping these cattle and the satisfactory level of prices which prevails have brought relief to our situation, but it is relief only. There has not been yet any permanent cure of our economic crisis. For the time being, that economic crisis is not quite as severe as it was, but it is fundamentally just as serious as ever and will not be put right until we have expanded our exports on a basis which will ensure permanency. It is a situation which, as I and other members of the Government have been at pains to make clear in all our public statements, cannot be rectified either easily or speedily. It requires concerted effort by all sections of the people covering the whole field of economic activity.

We are concerned in the discussion of this Estimate with the industrial sector only. There, I think, it is possible to say that the process of recovery has started but not yet with sufficient vigour to enable us to face the future with confidence. From the day that the Government took office we have been discussing and arranging proposals and actions relating to industrial development. Shortly after the change of Government we decided that the circumstances were such as to justify the modification of the import levies which were imposed last year. In the first case these levies were removed entirely from materials and equipment required for industrial production. Some of the levies were removed in respect of other goods also and the position in that regard is being reviewed at present. The extent to which it may be found possible to modify or remove any of the remaining levies cannot yet be stated but I should hope it will be possible before the end of this month to give a clearer indication of the position that may prevail until the end of the year.

Having by that means endeavoured to remove some of the impediments to industrial activity which were in force, the next step taken was in connection with the preparation of the Budget. Deputies are aware of the proposals in the Budget Statement relating to tax reliefs and inducements designed to encourage industrial expansion and particularly industrial production for export. I have indicated in the course of various public statements that other measures are intended. In the first place, there is, as we see it, a need to improve and extend the facilities available to Irish industrial concerns to enable them to obtain capital, where necessary, for the expansion of their activities. Discussions in that regard are proceeding at present.

I am not in a position to indicate what measures may be adopted or even to say whether these measures may involve legislation. I think it is likely that they will, but that is not yet certain. If they do involve legislation I should hope to have it available for the consideration of the Dáil after the summer recess. I have indicated also that we have the intention of amending the Control of Manufactures Act. A Bill for the purpose will be introduced this week and I hope to have it circulated during the recess so that it will be available for the Dáil to consider when it reassembles.

Our industrial development has clearly reached the stage when export markets for industrial products must be the main target of future development. We are approaching the end of the process of developing industry for the purpose of supplying home market needs and if we are to get from industry that increase in output and widening of employment opportunities which the country needs, it will be only by means of securing expansion of business into export markets.

Most of the new proposals relating to industrial development which are now being submitted to the Department of Industry and Commerce or to the Industrial Development Authority involve export business. Declarations of policy which have been made, or indications that the main interest is now in proposals involving export, are less effective than the situation which confines scope for new industrial activity to projects involving exports. Some of the proposals involve the exportation of a high proportion of the production intended; others not so high, but in practically every case some expectation or intention regarding exports is expressed.

In the development of industry into export markets external participation is needed for a variety of reasons, not merely because access to export markets can be facilitated by such participation but also because the organisation of industry on the scale required to achieve success in export business requires it. It is therefore, in the view of the Government, necessary to re-define the conditions in which external participation in Irish industrial development is welcomed.

In that connection I should say that it has been suggested that the absence of double-taxation agreements in some cases has been an obstacle to the development of external investment here. So far as that may have been so, I wish to take this opportunity to announce that it is the policy of the Government to complete arrangements of that kind without delay with all countries where interest in investment here might develop or where it is clear that the absence of such an agreement is operating positively to prevent new desirable external investment.

I have indicated also the intention to introduce new prices legislation. While that would be necessary in any event because of the fact that the Supplies and Services Act is due to expire finally at the end of this year, I consider it as having a very definite bearing upon the prospects of expanding industrial activities. The rather makeshift and haphazard methods of price control which have been carried on since the war years, the emphasis which was necessarily placed in these arrangements upon the profits earned by the individual firm rather than the prices which they charged for their products, have been a deterrent to investment in industry. Whether there was proper understanding of what the prices regulations and Orders were designed to achieve or not, whether the deterrent arose out of a misconception of the intentions of the Government or too accurate an understanding of them, the position will undoubtedly be considerably improved if the intentions of the Government for the future in regard to price control are made clear and expressed in legislation the purpose of which cannot be misunderstood.

I may say that the Bill to provide for the new and permanent arrangements for price control will also be introduced this week and circulated shortly. The intention is that the powers of price control will be exercised only in three sets of circumstances; first, where there is in existence something which could be described as a monopoly, whether it is a monopoly arising inevitably out of the circumstances prevailing here or one brought into being by the coming together of the traders in particular commodities, and provided it is established on inquiry that the operations of the monopoly are detrimental to the public welfare.

The second case will be where, in a protected industry, prices are unduly high because of inefficiency, because of causes within the control of those engaged in the industry, whether as owners or managers or workers. Deputies know that in such a case in the past, apart from price control which was not effective so long as it was mainly profit control, the only power of the Government to deal with evidence of inefficiency in any industry was to threaten to withdraw the protection afforded to it and that threat was never very effective because it was not believed it would be put into effect. But it is obvious that so long as we continue to protect the industries by tariffs or quotas, there is an obligation on us to see that these industries are carried on with efficiency and that where prices are unduly high because of inefficiency, power to control that situation should exist.

The third circumstance in which price control will be exercisable will be where factors arise to cause temporary scarcities, where the Government has decided that special measures are necessary in order to prevent a position of temporary scarcity being improperly exploited.

There are other measures under consideration which, however, have not yet reached the stage at which it is possible to refer to them. The question is whether the measures already taken, or which have been announced, are producing results. I think sufficient has happened to justify cautious optimism. There is a number of proposals, some of which are quite important by our standards, coming along for consideration. Nobody knows better than myself, perhaps, the tremendous distance there is between the submission to the Department of Industry and Commerce of a proposal for a new industry and the turning of the switch that starts the machinery working in a new factory. Yet I think it would not be inaccurate to say that the number of proposals justifies some confidence that industrial progress will resume. Certainly there are as many of them under discussion at the present time as at any time in the history of the Department while I was connected with it.

If any substantial number of these proposals come to maturity, then we may hope that we are at the beginning of a new period of expansion. As I have said, however, on more than one occasion, I think everything depends on how things go this year. Expansion in the industrial field is as much the fruit of psychological conditions as of tax changes and other arrangements. If there is evidence that the country wants to get ahead, that all sections of the people are prepared to combine to get ahead, then I believe that progress will come. We are, of course, whether we like it or not, now entering into a new phase in our economic development. That is probably highlighted by the proposals for a European free trade area which were formulated at the conference in Paris in February of this year. There is nothing much I can say about these proposals at this stage which is not already known. The matter will, however, be discussed upon a motion which has been tabled by the principal Opposition Party and for which time is being allowed to-morrow.

I do not want to cover now the ground that will be covered then and I think it will suffice to say that it is now clear that the timetable contemplated in February last for bringing that free trade area into operation will not be maintained and that the element of urgency which was so prominent a few months ago has now tended to decline.

Before leaving that aspect of the work of the Department, it is perhaps desirable that I should make some reference to particular sections of it. The Undeveloped Areas Act which was passed in 1953 for the purpose of encouraging the location of new industrial concerns in western seaboard counties and areas west of the Shannon generally is due to expire in the near future. The Act was framed as a temporary Act and, unless continued, will cease to operate. I am bringing before the Dáil a Bill to continue that Act and that also will be introduced before the recess.

On the whole, I think it is fair to say that measure has been successful. It may not have brought about spectacular results in the first couple of years of its operation, but nevertheless some results were secured, and I think it is remarkable that many of the proposals for new industries which are being submitted to the Department and to which I have referred are being attracted, by reason of that measure, to western locations. Up to date, the grants paid out to new industrial concerns under the authority of that Act total £1,241,000. These grants induced a total investment in new industrial equipment in these western counties of something over £4,000,000. That is not bad, in my view, even though I hope that in a year or two it will be possible to mention a more impressive figure.

The employment now being given in the concerns, which were established in the western counties under the inducements given by the Act, is just slightly under 900 and the total employment which will ultimately be given by these concerns, when they have reached their full development, will be 2,500. That is a small contribution to the unemployment and emigration problem of the West of Ireland, but it is a contribution. Perhaps more important from the point of view of the results achieved to date is the indication which it gives that the policy of the Undeveloped Areas Act is likely to succeed in time in altering the balance of industrial activity in the country in favour of the West.

When that Act was being submitted here I argued strongly that such a policy was not merely beneficial to the West but would be beneficial to the country as a whole. I still believe that to be true and I hope that nobody will feel that any part of the country is losing anything by reason of the giving of these special inducements towards industrial development in these areas because, if we can build them up economically and help to retain in these counties the people who are available and who are seeking work, that will help to minimise the corresponding problems of other areas.

Last year, my predecessor introduced a Bill here called the Industrial Grants Act. I expressed some criticism of that Bill on Second Reading. The future of that Act is being considered at the moment within the context of the general plans for the financing of industrial development. While it is attractive to anybody holding the position of Minister for Industry and Commerce to have the power to help on particular industrial projects by the offer of free money, it is a power which I believe should be exercisable only in very special circumstances. Up to the present not many grants have been made under that Act—I think I am correct in saying that only two have been approved to date—and there is a great deal of misunderstanding abroad as to the limits imposed upon the Industrial Development Authority which is the administering authority under the provisions of the Act.

The Act makes provision for the giving, on the decision of the Industrial Development Authority and without reference to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, of grants towards the cost of industrial buildings where there is a proposal to establish a new industry and where there is a project of a substantial size involved or where export trade is intended. The great majority of the applications which have been made to the Industrial Development Authority under the Act are outside its scope and cannot be considered. It is perhaps necessary, therefore, to get it more widely understood that under its terms grants cannot be given for the extension of existing concerns or to help existing firms out of financial difficulties.

My predecessor took a decision, with which I agree, to exclude Dublin and Cork from the provisions of the Act. The Industrial Development Authority has been told that they are not to consider applications from industrial firms proposing to build new factories in either Dublin or Cork. That decision is causing some difficulty in its application, but nevertheless I think, on the whole, it is a right decision and where firms are seeking for an exceptional form of State aid represented by the grant of free money, they should conform to the general policy, now accepted by all Parties here, to promote and encourage the decentralisation of industrial activity. I do not wish to say anything more about that Act at the moment because the subject will inevitably come up again when I come here to explain the result of the discussions which are proceeding, as I have said, in relation to the improvement and extension of the facilities for the financing of industrial development.

The House is, I think, aware that the ramifications of the Department of Industry and Commerce extend over a very wide field and that it is only possible for me to refer to certain aspects of it which I think require comment. I must necessarily leave out of my remarks references to matters in which some Deputies may be interested, but that position can be remedied later.

The Fair Trade Commission has been operating during the year in accordance with the terms of the legislation which established it, and has submitted reports containing recommendations for the making of Orders and their confirmation by legislation. One of these reports applies to the grocery trade. I have considered very carefully the Order which was made by my predecessor and I have come to the conclusion that amendments of that Order are desirable. I have accepted the report of the commission that an Order should be made. None of the amendments will be of very great consequence. They will, I think, improve the Order and bring it more closely in some respects into accord with what I believe to be the correct interpretation of the findings of the commission.

A Bill to confirm an Order relating to the grocery trade will be produced in the winter Session. That Bill cannot be introduced now because of technical objections. The introduction of the Bill is not possible until the actual Order has been made and the Order, as amended, has not yet been made, but I hope that that position will be remedied soon.

The other report of the Fair Trade Commission dealt with the chemists' trade. The Fair Trade Commission recommended the making of an Order there. I have read the report. It has not yet been published. Having read it, I came to the conclusion that the investigations carried out by the commission did not disclose a situation which required the making of an Order. In accordance with the procedure— perhaps not quite in accordance, but as near as it is possible to get to the procedure laid down under the Act—I shall make a statement of my conclusions to the Dáil.

The report is being printed and will shortly be available. I hope that Deputies who read it will come to the conclusion that my decision is justified. While some aspects of the trade might have given cause for concern, there were not revealed any general practices requiring legislation. The fact that no Order is being made, following on the publication of the report, does not, of course, mean that the commission is not free to re-investigate the trade if at any time it thinks it necessary to do so. Neither does it prevent the making of an Order at some subsequent date should the situation require it.

There are two specific industrial projects I intend to refer to, not because I think it is desirable to deal with individual concerns in the course of a ministerial statement of this kind, but because these two concerns did come into political discussion to some extent. One is the mines at Avoca and the other is the proposed refinery at Cork.

So far as the Avoca Mines are concerned, the development operations there are proceeding according to plan. I have no reason to think that any departure from the development schedule as originally drawn up is contemplated. I have had no indication of any difficulties from the company concerned. I feel that I personally was responsible for the commencement of the Avoca development because it really began in 1947, when the Minerals Development Act of that year was passed, and when the money was provided for the commencement of the exploration work at Avoca.

That exploration work took longer to complete than was contemplated in 1947, for reasons which it is not necessary to go into now, but it was completed by 1954. I have already indicated that in so far as concerns the agreement that was made with the company to whom the mines were leased, they can be assured of my goodwill and of any practical support which they may require.

During the course of the past year or so, a number of prospecting licences was given for very wide areas of the country to a couple of Canadian groups of prospectors who interested themselves in the mineral resources here. Whether that type of interest will be forthcoming in future from Canadian sources or not, I cannot say. A couple of years ago there was a tremendous surplus of capital available for all purposes in the Canadian stock markets. There was very lively public interest in mineral shares because of evidence that some people had hit the jackpot following the financing of prospecting operations and because Canadian tax laws exempted from taxation profits earned by mineral prospectors.

That situation has changed completely. The credit squeeze in Canada has deflated the stock market considerably. The shares in the Irish companies that were floated there, which at one time were quoted at very substantial premiums, have since, fallen in value, like the shares of all other mining concerns, and it may be that the conditions in Canada which produced that interest in Irish mineral possibilities do not now exist. Nevertheless, the development and exploration work is continuing in some of the areas in respect of which prospecting leases were given.

I think it is right that I should say that these prospecting operations have not, so far as I know, been brought in any area to the point where they have revealed prospects of commercial development on anything like the Avoca scale or, indeed, have disclosed the existence of minerals in commercial quantity, except in areas where minerals were worked previously, such as Avoca, Allihies, Silvermines. I suppose the gypsum deposits in Monaghan were well known and had been fully explored. It is, of course, known that base metal prices have dropped seriously. Both copper and lead prices are now not much more than half what they were only a year ago, but that fall in base metal prices has not yet had any discernible effect upon the operations of any Irish project.

Mianraí Teoranta, the company which was set up by the Act of 1947 to carry out investigation of Irish mineral resources, has been inoperative for some time past and it is not yet certain that it will be revived. There are activities in mineral exploration now about to start. In particular, the investigation of the coal deposits of the Leinster area is about to be undertaken, but it will be undertaken by the geological branch of the Department of Industry and Commerce operating through specialist contracting firms. The future of Mianraí Teoranta is under consideration. The company has not been formally wound up, but, as I said, it is in a state of suspended animation and is costing nothing.

So far as the Cork oil refinery is concerned, Deputies will have seen the Press announcement that construction work will begin in the second half of this year. I have studied the agreement, as far as it can be so described, made between the Industrial Development Authority and the three companies which are promoting that refinery and I have had discussions with some of the companies concerned and I have no adverse observations to make in the matter.

Again, the establishment of a refinery represents the fulfilment of an effort which began long before the war. The pre-war plan contemplated a refinery in the Port of Dublin and the circumstances under which that plan was brought to a stop are known. The post-war effort to get a refinery started bogged down for a time, but ultimately got going. I cannot find any reason to believe that the decision originally made to promote the establishment of a refinery through the companies which were engaged in the distribution of petroleum products here was not the best decision. The possibility of further industrial development in that area, consequent on the establishment of the refinery, is under examination.

Deputies will be interested in the E.S.B. programme because it is also a matter upon which we have had previous discussions. The report of the board for 1956 is being printed and will be available shortly. So far as the generation programme is concerned, no change has been made in it yet. I have not yet received all the information which I need, nor indeed have I absorbed all the information which I have got, to enable me to undertake the discussions with the board which I intend to have. Perhaps, when the Dáil has adjourned, the opportunity for these discussions will present itself.

I have already indicated that I am now in full agreement with the assertion that the experience in the growth of demand for power in the years up to 1954 would be too optimistic a basis upon which to plan development in the future. I am equally convinced that the experience of 1956, when the increase in the demand was only 4.7 per cent., is far too pessimistic a basis upon which to plan for the future. Indeed, if we cannot get a rate of industrial progress which does not require or bring about an increase in the demand for current at a greater rate than that, I think our efforts must be regarded as a failure.

However, it is not too soon, apart from any estimates we may make now as to the course of events in the next few years, to sketch out the tentative plan for the five-year period from 1960 onwards. It takes a long time from the decision to build a new power station in any locality to the erection of the station. If the plan for the period 1960 to 1965 is to be properly prepared, then it is now that we should be trying to estimate requirements in that period and deciding the manner in which these requirements will be met.

In the case of the rural electrification scheme, the position, as the House knows, is that last year a decision was taken to taper off the rate of activity in rural electrification development. Of course, this decision involved the cancellation of contracts with firms supplying materials and other changes of that kind, including changes in the staff of the E.S.B.

Such a decision cannot be easily reversed, nor do I think it is desirable to reverse it as far as the firms supplying materials are concerned. They have devoted part of their plants to other activities and I do not think it is desirable to ask them to go back again— even if they were willing to do so and I doubt if they would—because in any event the completion of the rural electrification programme will take place within four years. There are 240 areas yet to be connected up with the network and, at the rate of 60 areas per year, that task will be finished by 1961.

Of course, it is to be recognised that the financial problems associated with rural electrification have become very acute following the decision to withdraw the subsidy for it. The E.S.B. lost £500,000 last year on the rural electrification scheme, and they are standing to increase that loss at the rate of £20,000 per year for each additional area connected. For that reason, it is to be understood that enthusiasm for the completion of the rural electrification scheme is not very pronounced amongst the people responsible for the financial management of the E.S.B.

It is also to be recognised that the board selected areas for development upon the basis of picking the most economical areas first, and we are now at the final stage of development when the least economical areas are coming up for selection. However, I hope that there will be no difficulty and I am sure there will be no unwillingness on the part of the board to accept the decision to maintain a rate of development which will complete the scheme by 1961.

The development of Bord na Móna must inevitably march with that of the E.S.B., at any rate, so far as the production of turf fuel is concerned. Last year saw a rather historic occasion when for the first time milled peat was used as fuel in an Irish power station for the generation of electricity. The very satisfactory reports submitted were a source of very great gratification to me because there was a long struggle before the possibilities of milled peat were generally accepted. I am glad to be able to say that Bord na Móna have informed me that all the technical problems associated with the production of milled peat for power stations are solved and that, as a result, milled peat is being delivered to power stations at a price which represents far lower fuel costs than are involved with any other type of fuel.

Indeed, it probably would be correct to say that in these milled peat stations the E.S.B. are having delivered to them cheaper fuel than is being delivered to any other power station in Europe. I have not carried out any detailed investigation to establish that, but the indications are that it must be so. Therefore, there is a very strong financial reason why the future development of power stations should be based to the maximum extent upon the utilisation of milled peat.

May I say also that the price which is being charged for milled peat by Bord na Móna to the E.S.B. yields a very nice profit to Bord na Móna? Now that we can feel that the skill of Bord na Móna engineers has solved all the technical problems associated with that stage of national development, we can regard it as completely outside the range of any possible controversy. Of course, this year has been an exceptionally good year for the production of peat fuel. Indeed it is clear that the output of Bord na Móna in the various bogs supplying power stations is likely to be in excess of the requirements of the E.S.B. That is not a very grave problem, but it has brought Bord na Móna to the point where they are considering extending the market for sod peat by propaganda among industrial and other users of fuel. At my request, the Minister for Health has reiterated to health authorities throughout the country his appeal to utilise peat fuel for their boilers and other operations to the maximum extent possible.

It might have been possible some time ago to argue that there would be some saving in cost in switching over to fuel oil. That is no longer true and I believe that every industrial firm which is located within a reasonable distance of a source of supply of sod peat, and every local authority similarly situated, can effect quite a saving in costs by going back to the utilisation of peat instead of oil. By doing so they will be contributing to the wealth of the country in two ways— utilising an entirely home produced product and avoiding the importation of an entirely foreign product.

How about setting the good example so far as the heating of this House is concerned?

As I have already pointed out, that has been conveyed to all appropriate authorities. Bord na Móna are also extending the production of peat moss and have very great hopes of expanding the market for their peat moss which is of a very high quality. Their plans for the expansion of briquette production are going ahead. There are other peat products which they are looking into and which may open up an opportunity for development, but that is a long way in the future. The most remarkable thing about the operations of Bord na Móna over the past five years is that so substantially have they improved their technical efficiency, that notwithstanding the many and quite substantial increases in wages paid to their workers during that period, their costs have not increased to anything like a corresponding degree. Indeed, in respect of some of their products, their costs have not increased at all.

Deputies will no doubt have read with interest, and perhaps with concern, the Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Internal Transport which my predecessor set up about this time last year. That committee was given, if I may say so with respect, the impossible assignment of reporting in three months. It produced this report in about eight months and even though it took that longer period I still feel it was rushed unduly to produce its report. The recommendations of that committee are under consideration. Copies of the report have been furnished to interested organisations and all these organisations and the board of C.I.E. have been requested to submit their observations on the recommendations. The Government do not intend to consider the recommendations until these observations and comments have been received.

It is clear however, as I said a short time after the change of Government on a Supplementary Estimate which I had to introduce, that major decisions on internal transport policy can no longer be avoided. They have not yet been made but must be made in the course of this year. The losses incurred by C.I.E. last year were £1,850,000. The estimated losses this year are somewhat round the same figure. The provision in the Estimate is for £2,846,000 but of that figure £793,000 is for the purpose of repaying to the Exchequer money paid out in interest on transport stocks. A further £803,000 is for repayment of a special advance made last year, details of which it is not necessary for me to give.

The amount voted to meet the cash needs of C.I.E. is £1,250,000. That will not be enough to the end of the financial year. There were, I gather, some views held in the previous Government that the Report of the Committee on Internal Transport could be received, and its recommendations implemented, before the autumn of this year and that that would alter the basis of estimating C.I.E.'s cash requirements. I do not know if that view was seriously held or whether it was just a plausible argument advanced for writing down the Estimate.

It is clear that we cannot hope to have decisions affecting the future of C.I.E. made and in operation before the autumn of this year. At this stage it is not possible for me to do more than indicate what is the policy of the Government, the policy that will apply in any decisions which it may make on the recommendations of the committee. The Government believe that it is desirable to maintain public transport services operating on road and rail. We do not believe that the economic development of the country and the efficiency of its organisation, will be increased by withdrawing public transport services either from road or rail.

The question which has to be decided is the part which railways will play within that public transport organisation within the next ten years. For reasons which I have explained elsewhere, I do not think it practicable to attempt to plan for more than ten years ahead. Secondly, we have to consider the conditions which are required to enable these public transport services to be operated without loss, without subvention from the taxpayers.

Apart altogether from the serious financial position of C.I.E. and the problems arising from that position, there is a need to review and revise the whole of our internal transport position. We have been forced into that by the decision of the Minister of Commerce in Belfast regarding the G.N.R. The House is aware that the agreement made in 1953 for the setting up of a joint board to carry on the G.N.R. contemplated that internal services in either area could be terminated by the decision of the authority in that area but that joint services operating across the Border could be terminated only by joint agreement; that it was open to either party, in the event of one of them wishing to terminate the joint services, to carry them on, bearing all the financial consequences of their operation.

In October, 1955, the Minister of Commerce in Belfast notified my predecessor of his intention to propose the closing down of three of the cross-Border lines. Later, at a date in last year, he informed him that when considering that proposal he should assume that it was his intention to close also the line to Derry via Portadown. The particular proposal relating to the cross-Border services was referred, in accordance with the agreement, to the Joint Chairmen of the two Transport Tribunals and, as might have been expected, two contradictory reports were received and the matter stood there until I resumed office as Minister. I was reminded by the Minister in Belfast of his decision and informed that his decision involved the withdrawal by him of financial support for the operation of these services from 30th September next.

I went to Belfast for the purposes of discussion with him, in order to get some clarification of his intentions and to explore various possibilities. The outcome of that discussion is known. The Government considered the position. It was faced with the fact that, if it did not concur in the decision to terminate these services as from 30th September next, it would assume all the financial obligations associated with the continuance of the services and that we, and we alone, would be responsible for meeting the losses. These losses were estimated in 1955 to amount to about £220,000 per year and it was reasonable to assume they would be a great deal more in 1957 and 1958.

Apart altogether from the financial impossibility of carrying that burden in continuing to operate railway lines within the Six Counties, there were other factors which left the Government with no option but to concur in the closing of these lines. The agreement made in 1953 was expressed to last for five years. It could continue after five years, if both parties were agreeable to continue it, but it was open to either of the parties to terminate it after October, 1958, or propose its amendment in any respect. The Minister of Industry and Commerce in Belfast told me that it was his intention to propose to terminate the agreement at the end of the five years period, in October, 1958.

It was clear that any decision on our part to continue to operate these Six Counties lines, and to carry the losses on their operation, would be affected by that development. Our right under that agreement to continue to operate the lines at our expense would cease on the termination of the agreement. Secondly, there was no prospect of reducing the losses on the operation of those lines. While I think these losses could certainly be reduced by putting new equipment into service, by purchasing diesel locomotives to replace the steam locomotives and making the other changes contemplated generally over the C.I.E. system, it would, of course, be folly to invest money in such equipment for the purposes of only one year's working.

Apart from that, there was the announced intention of the Six County Government to decontrol completely road freight transport operations—to establish a free-for-all on the roads of the Six Counties, as far as road freight is concerned. That would almost certainly mean that in the conditions that would prevail then, no freight traffic could be secured for these railway lines. I have expressed a view as to how that is likely to work out, but with these three circumstances combined, the fact that we have not got the money to meet the heavy losses on the operation of the railway lines within the Six Counties, the fact that the agreement which entitles us to carry them on at our expense will terminate in a year's time, and the fact that the losses could not be made good in the light of completely decontrolled road freight, we took the decision to notify the G.N.R. to close the lines from 30th September.

It is quite obvious that the whole future of the G.N.R. is now very uncertain. If the agreement terminates— and there are to be further discussions in that regard—then I assume the position will be as it would have been in 1953, if the agreement of that year had not been made. That raises a number of problems. There are problems relating to the development of the substitute road services in the areas served by these lines. It, of course, raises some very difficult problems in regard to the operation of road freight activities across the Border and it brings up in a very definite way the future of the Dundalk workshops, which are the principal workshops of the whole G.N.R. system.

I have had consultations with representatives of the organisations concerned. Working parties have been set up which are examining all these matters and decisions must be taken on them within a matter of weeks. I do not believe it is desirable that we should allow things to drift on as they are until next year and then start to cope with the resultant problems. I think we can now see ahead and understand what is likely to emerge. We can now make our plans to deal with the problems that will arise.

The closing of the Six County railway lines brings into the picture the continuation of the Sligo-Leitrim line. I do not know what the position is in that regard. It is a Six County company. It has continued in operation by reason of subsidies paid here by us, after the Six County Government had refused to pay any subsidy. I do not think the line could be saved in any case. It is in a very decrepit condition. It would take literally hundreds of thousands of pounds to put it into condition for its safe operation. It is as I said a Six County company, with headquarters in Enniskillen, and I expect we will have some communication from them with an indication of their intentions.

The G.N.R. has been losing money almost as heavily as C.I.E. Its financial year terminates on 30th September, and in its financial year which ended in September, 1956, its losses were £1,178,000. Our share of that loss which has to be met by the taxpayers of this country is £489,500. It is estimated that in the financial year ending 30th September next, its losses will be considerably greater, £1,323,000, and our share of that will be £481,000. The Estimate provides for £400,000. There was a little paring down there, but I do not think we will be able to avoid meeting our full obligations under the agreement.

Leaving for a moment that position of internal transport, I would like to turn to another subject which is very much more cheerful, that is, the success story of Irish Shipping, Limited. Irish Shipping had a very good year. They made very substantial profits. I have no doubt that the successful year which they have had was in a large measure attributable to the special conditions following on the Suez Canal crisis. Since, in the past few weeks, shipping freights are tumbling down so very definitely, it is unrealistic to think that the company can do as well this year as they did last year.

During the past 12 months, the company took possession of three new dry cargo vessels of 10,000 tons as well as two coasting vessels of 2,000 tons. At present, they have 15 vessels totalling 93,000 tons. There are three new cargo ships due for delivery in this year, each of 10,000 tons, and also the first of the two 18,000 tons tankers which are on order.

The House will understand that Irish Shipping Ltd. operates in a highly competitive market and without the benefit of protection of any kind. At present, it has no new building programme in contemplation. I have had one meeting with the board of directors and discussed that situation with them but we did not get round to the point of considering the preparation of a new building programme, that is, a programme designed to add to the total tonnage operated by the company. With the present delay in securing delivery of new ships, any such programme would have to take into account the conditions that would prevail as from 1962 onwards. The company is, however, beginning its fleet replacement operations. Its aim is to sell off the ships at from 12 to 15 years of age and replace them with new vessels so as to keep the fleet up to the highest standards of operating efficiency. One such replacement has already been ordered.

When one looks at the outstanding success of Irish Shipping Limited, the wonderful achievement in building up an Irish merchant shipping service and operating it, notwithstanding the competitive conditions prevailing in the world, at a substantial profit, one is disappointed to see on the other side the failure of the private shipping industry to expand. No doubt there are reasons for that. A heavy capital expenditure is involved in the acquisition of ships and there is the difficulty in our circumstances of raising capital. That is probably the main factor. It was to encourage increased investment in shipping by private interests that the Minister for Finance was persuaded to provide for the special investment allowance of 40 per cent. mentioned in his Budget statement in addition to the increased wear and tear allowances which have been introduced.

The next and most obvious direction for development of Irish shipping activities is the cross-Channel trade. The possibility of Irish participation in that trade is being explored. I recognise that the difficulties are very considerable. The obstacles are very great indeed but nevertheless we must regard that as a natural and inevitable direction for expansion of our maritime interests.

Deputies will have noticed the announcement of intention to incur substantial expenditure on the improvement of the runways at Shannon Airport for the purpose of providing for the new heavier aircraft which will be in operation on the transatlantic air routes from 1959 onwards. I know there still persists in the minds of many people in this country the idea that air transport is still something of a novelty or a luxury. I want to make clear that the Government regard it as nothing of the sort. Our policy is based on the belief that the future lies with air transport—that, so far as external transport is concerned, we are well into the air age and that no intelligent plan of national development can fail to make provision for the growth of air transport.

We believe that, in ever-increasing degree, all kinds of traffic will take to the air and that that is a matter of very special significance for us because, while air transport offers a new realm for development to every country, it has very special significance for an island state. We believe that sound national policy requires that we must keep abreast of world developments in that respect. It is, therefore, our aim to keep our airports up to the highest standards required by the services operating from them. That is the reason we took the decision to make Shannon Airport capable of handling the new aircraft coming into service on the transatlantic routes and why other changes are being introduced as required both there and at Dublin Airport.

It explains also a decision we have taken to provide an airport at Cork. That decision is now being implemented. The plans and other arrangements are being made. The decision was arrived at following an examination of the position, an estimate of the traffic likely to be available for the airport there and particularly on the basis of the view expressed by An Bord Fáilte that the existence of an airport at Cork would increase the tourist traffic of the South of Ireland by 20 to 25 per cent. We believe, therefore, it is good business to go ahead with that development. It will, of course, be some years yet before it is available.

We recognise that airports do not pay their way directly. Indeed, Shannon and Dublin Airports do better in that respect than most airports in the world. Shannon Airport produced a surplus revenue last year—surplus to its operating expenses—and Dublin can do the same but these airports cannot remunerate all the capital investment in them or carry the cost of providing meteorological, air traffic control and other services which the State must maintain at them. We believe, however, they indirectly provide economic benefits of great importance to the country. There are some 4,000 or 5,000 people employed in connection with air operations in this country already, but, apart altogether from that very direct employment of personnel—many of them highly skilled —the other benefits which they bring the country are of very great significance to its economy.

We do not believe it is good business to drop out of air traffic development. On the contrary, we believe the whole effort to expand the economy of this country and provide a better livelihood for its people depends on the intelligent and energetic pursuit of air transport development.

As I referred to An Bord Fáilte, I should, perhaps, make some reference to our tourist trade. As we know, the annual receipts estimated from tourists visiting this country are about £35,000,000. That is a very significant factor in our balance of payments. We believe that that income from tourism can be very greatly expanded; we believe that not merely can it be greatly expanded but, of all the activities open to us, it is the one which offers the speediest prospect of an expansion of the national income.

I do not believe that we have made sufficient progress in recent years in encouraging the expansion of tourism. I think we have to do a great deal more. There are many problems to be solved in that regard. I have had to express to An Bord Fáilte my feeling that they have not been administering their trust as effectively as they should have done. The amount of money which is available to them is, no doubt, less than they were led to expect they would receive when the Tourist Traffic Act was passed; but, nevertheless, I think they could use it more effectively than they have used it. I think their administration costs are far too high.

We had some discussion here some years ago, when two boards which were concerned with tourist development were amalgamated, on the expectation that the amalgamation would lead to a saving in administrative costs. The House will, no doubt, be disappointed to hear that there was no such thing— that administrative costs are much higher than they were under those two boards combined.

I am dissatisfied with the progress made in the improvement of our hotel accommodation. I believe that the inadequacy of our hotel accommodation is the main bottleneck restricting the expansion of our tourist income. The guaranteed loans scheme for hotel improvement which was enshrined in the Tourist Traffic Act has proved to be almost ineffective. That may be due to some defect in the Act. It was, I think, far more obviously due to a defect in its administration.

It was contemplated that loans to the extent of £3,000,000 would be guaranteed for hotel extensions and improvements under that Act. Instead, the amount guaranteed to-day is under £200,000. That power to guarantee loans for hotel improvements expires to-day and I have not had time to prepare or bring to the Dáil the legislation to continue it. I want to say, however, that it is intended to continue it. It may be that other changes in the Tourist Traffic Act will also be proposed; it may be that the provisions relating to hotel loans will be improved also; but, at the worst, the existing provisions will be re-enacted.

Therefore, any hotel proprietor who is planning to avail of these provisions during the second part of this year can go ahead with his plans, in the realisation that the continuation of the provision is intended and that legislation for that purpose will be enacted. As an indication of that intention, the First Reading of the Bill to amend the Act will be taken before the recess.

The whole position in that regard, however, requires review and I am proposing to have that review made. The board has been reappointed, with some changes in personnel, as from yesterday and I have arranged to meet the new board for the purpose of having a general discussion on the whole policy of tourist development, with a view to seeing what we can do to bring about a far more rapid rate of progress than we have achieved so far.

There are a number of statutory corporations and institutions which work through the Department of Industry and Commerce and concerning which I have no particular observations to make—with the exception, perhaps, of two of them. One of them is the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards and the other is the Organisation, Córas Tráchtála Teoranta. The Institute for Industrial Research and Standards requires examination, at any rate on the research side. The standards committee appears to be doing the work planned for it, although even there I think there is need to consider the position which has been attained and the use which is being made of the standard specifications prepared by that committee. On the research side, I think there is very grave reason for dissatisfaction and it does not appear to me that there is any systematic plan of research in operation. That is another matter to which I intend to give early attention.

Córas Tráchtála Teoranta is another body which, in my view, has not done all that was contemplated of it. It has, no doubt, done some very good work and it has achieved quite spectacular results in some fields, but I think the position of that body also requires examination.

One other organisation to which I should refer is Ceimicí Teoranta. I have asked from the Board of Ceimicí Teoranta, and received, a report upon the possibility of developing here the manufacture of nitrogenous fertiliser. It was, as the House will remember, one of the main activities upon which that board was engaged some years ago—preparing plans for the purpose. I have received that report, but have not considered it. I intend, however, to have a meeting with that board also at an early date, in order to discuss that particular project and other possible extensions of the activities of Ceimicí Teoranta.

There are some matters to which it was customary for the Minister for Industry and Commerce to refer in previous years, the most notable being the cost of living and changes in prices. I have not attempted to refer to them now, because they were very fully discussed in the Budget debate and I have no doubt that if any Deputy wants to refer to them, I will have an opportunity of referring to them later.

Some of the things which the Minister stated in the course of his speech on his Estimate indicate clearly that, now that he has access to documents and to the fountains of truth, he is developing a greater appreciation of things, as compared with the irresponsible attitude which he adopted on a number of occasions when he was in opposition.

I have here before me, Sir, theEvening Press of 21st November, 1956. It reports a speech which the Minister made at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis. It opens with the heading: “Lemass tells Árd Fheis of Coalition Policy; Hostile to Rural Electrification.” Then it goes on to report, in inverted commas, the Minister's statement:

"The attitude of the Coalition to rural electrification seems to be one of hostility. Everything they did in regard to it was directed towards curtailing it or retarding it."

Later in the same speech:

"During the first Coalition period of office, no effort," he said, "was made to push ahead with it."

That is, rural electrification—

"At the rate of progress during the first Coalition, it would have taken more than 20 years to complete instead of the ten first contemplated."

Later, he says:

"The Coalition had denied that there would be any curtailment in the rate of progress of the rural electrification scheme or any increase in charges. Within 12 months they had both a 10 per cent. increase in charges and a 25 per cent. curtailment of development."

These were the charges then made by the present Minister, that the last Government was hostile to rural electrification and that it had done its best to curtail and retard the development.

I want to compare that statement— which I say at the outset is a false statement—with the realities of the situation, so as to enable the House to appreciate what exactly was done by the last Government in respect to rural electrification.

In 1947, no area had been completed in respect of rural electrification. In 1948, seven areas were completed; in 1949, 30 areas; in 1950, 45 areas; in 1951, 49 areas; in 1952, 49 areas; in 1953, 49 areas and in 1954, 60 areas. That was up to March, 1954, the last year in which the Fianna Fáil Government was in office. In 1955, however, the number had jumped from 60 areas to 75 areas. In 1956 it jumped still further to 99 areas. In 1957, it is 80 areas. Now the Minister for Industry and Commerce complains about the retardation of rural electrical development while under Fianna Fáil the number of areas for the next 12 months will be reduced to 60.

If one looks at the amount of capital made available for rural electrification, the figures are even more illuminating. In 1948—I will omit the odd hundreds —a sum of £82,000 was made available; in 1949, £634,000; in 1950, £1,052,000; in 1951, £1,441,000; in 1952, £1,342,000; in 1953, £1,745,000; in 1954, £2,623,000. Then the inter-Party Government came into office and in 1955 it went up to £3,132,000; in 1956, to £3,930,000, and in 1957, to £3,450,000. Anybody who attempts to say that these figures support a charge of curtailment or obstruction of rural electrification simply ought to have his head examined.

Let us look at the number of subscribers. In 1949, the number of people connected to the rural electrification scheme—I take the thousands—was 9,000. In 1950 it was 13,000; in 1951, 15,000; 1952, 18,000; in 1953, 18,000; in 1954, 23,000. Then the inter-Party Government came into office and in 1955 the number was 29,000; in 1956, 34,000; and in 1957, 34,000. An examination of these subscriber figures shows that in the three years ended March, 1954, under the Fianna Fáil Government, 60,000 new subscribers were connected. In the three years ended March, 1957, 98,600 subscribers were connected—in other words, an increase of approximately 65 per cent. in the number of additional subscribers connected to rural electrification.

Notwithstanding these figures, we get the Minister for Industry and Commerce fooling the simple people at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis saying that the attitude of the Coalition Government to rural electrification seems to be one of hostility. It seems to be one of hostility in the face of these things. Now that the Minister has access to the figures, I put them on record and challenge him to deny their accuracy. I hope some amends will be made by the Minister if not through the virtue of truth at least for his insult to the intelligence of the people who had to listen to the clap-trap he dished out to the delegates to the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis at the end of last year.

I think that every activity in connection with rural electrification or E.S.B. development generally will show that, so far as the last Government was concerned and so far as I personally had any responsibility in the matter, the E.S.B. got every possible assistance. They got that assistance not merely to continue their activity in the field that would give us greater electrical development, but whenever they were in difficulties from a financial point of view, I certainly, and the Government also, did everything within our power to make sure that the moneys they needed for essential development were found for them. I think it is grossly unfair for the Minister at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis, when he could have known the figures—the figures must have been available to him; they are certainly available to him now—to make a charge of that kind when he knew the facts to indicate the contrary.

The Minister made reference to a number of matters of considerable national importance—matters the evolution of which are likely to impact in one way or another on the whole national economy. I noticed that the Minister referred to the Control of Manufactures Act and said it was his intention to amend the Act. I said already on other occasions before now that an amendment to the Control of Manufactures Act was, in fact, long overdue.

The Act came into operation in circumstances which have since completely changed but, of course, the Act was a political Act and the subject of quite considerable heat and acrimony on many occasions. I intended to amend the Act but I felt it would do much more damage nationally to bring in an amendment to the Act here and have it made a plaything of Party politics in this House than allow the Act to stand and operate the provision which I operated generously of giving a new manufacture licence to any worthwhile, creditworthy group which indicated they were prepared to establish an industry here for the purpose of providing employment and additional wealth for the nation.

But, of course, against the background of the free trade area, the Control of Manufactures Act is simply a piece of waste paper. If the free trade area develops and we are in it, the Control of Manufactures Act has no meaning whatsoever. If we are in the free trade area, then all the other groups in the area, including the British, will be able to send their goods in here free of duty and there will be no point in our setting up factories here whether they be completely independent units or branch factories. In the free trade area, many of the branch factories which are here could, in fact, be closed down and the parent firm export from its main centre of activities in England. It does not require a branch factory here in order to continue its activities here. It will be entitled to export to this country without the imposition of any duty whatsoever.

That is one of the big dangers confronting a small country like this in respect of the Free Trade Area. On the other hand, if we stay outside the Free Trade Area, and Britain goes in, then the British will be obliged by the terms of the Free Trade Area Agreement to impose tariffs against countries outside. Thus, we will have tariffs imposed against commodities which are at present admitted free of duty in Britain. Against a position of that kind, the Control of Manufactures Act is just a piece of waste paper, when it comes into operation.

Its amendment now, while it would modernise the approach to industrial development here, is quite immaterial if, in fact, we go into the Free Trade Area. If we go into it, we will have greater reasons than ever for getting rid of the Control of Manufactures Act. One of the possibilities of a beneficial character which the Free Trade Area opens up is that it might encourage American industrialists to come here to open factories, this country being within the orbit of the Free Trade Area, and find a market for these American goods or American finance production goods in a Europe of 225,000,000 into which they could not possibly get except over a tariff wall if the Free Trade Area comes into operation. You face a situation in which there is the possibility of American industries coming in here and setting up factories for the purpose of vaulting the wall which the Free Trade Area will impose. A financial development of that kind is possibly the best and the only development that is likely to flow to this country from association with the Free Trade Area.

It is not very important what the Minister does at the moment with regard to the Control of Manufactures Act. Speaking for my own Party I should like to say that we recognise it is out of date, that it has lost its early significance, that there is a change in the whole industrial and economic situation and that, in contemplation of these circumstances, the Act should be substantially modified, if not in fact abolished altogether. Except for the purpose of the directional powers it gives the Minister, it has little or no value in present circumstances.

The Minister referred to the oil refinery in Cork. I remember that last year the oil refinery was a hot political subject in this House. The Minister himself put many questions as to what was in the agreement negotiated with the oil companies. It was a very hard and tough agreement and if the Minister looks at the early negotiations with the companies, sees what the demands were in the first instance and what the final agreement was, he will realise there was a very substantial change in the whole situation.

I think we drove a very good bargain with the oil companies. The Minister has now the opportunity of examining the agreement and, especially in view of the innuendoes he shot across the House last year, we should like to know now whether he proposes to honour the agreement, whether he feels there is anything in the agreement which is dishonourable or disrespectful to the country and whether he considers that he would have negotiated a better agreement, and in what way.

I would have no objection to publishing the agreement, but I think the oil companies do not want to have their business talked about throughout the world. I feel it would be a good thing to take the risk of publishing the agreement in order to end forever the allegations that were made here last year. That agreement got for this country for the first time in its history an oil refinery involving a capital investment of £12,000,000, able to process 1,500,000 gallons of crude oil per day to help provide for our requirements of petroleum products. It was the biggest single private investment the country ever got. I think it is an agreement that will stand any scrutiny and the test of time. The Minister may now recognise that a lot of the things he suggested and a lot of the innuendoes he flung across the House were quite unjustified.

The Minister made reference also to the Avoca mines and claimed he was really the author of Avoca mineral development. I do not mind the Minister's idiosyncrasies in claiming the ownership of mines or other things. I do not think that is important. What I do regard as important is that the mines should be kept going, that they should provide a livelihood for our people, and that they should add to the national wealth and improve the economic fabric of the country.

When we went into office in 1954, the Avoca mines were left with a staff of about 80, 60 of whom had dismissal notices in their pockets. We were told the 60 would go and that the other 20 would settle down and keep the thing running on a care and maintenance basis. I disliked the idea of dismissing 60 people, especially since it was during the winter and coming on towards Christmas. I urged the Government to provide money to keep these people going; I pointed out that the prospect of selling a mine in operation was much better than of selling a mine for the amount of grass that grew on it. I called on my officials, on the Industrial Development Authority and on Mianraí Teoranta to make searching inquiries throughout the world in an endeavour to find some group which had the necessary technical resources and finances to operate the mines.

It was not a very easy job to find anybody interested in the mines. The Minister for Finance made a speech in Wexford about how we had sold the Avoca mines to the Canadians. One would think there was a queue looking for these mines. The Minister should peruse the files and see how much it took to complete an agreement with the group who finally decided to work the mines. It was not a problem of having a whole lot of people interested in the mines; it was a problem of wooing the few who were interested, of convincing them that there was in Avoca not merely an extensive complex deposit of copper, but that there was an extensive mineral area and that, even though the grade of copper was low, the modern methods of production which were available would make it possible to process the minerals advantageously, especially at the high price then available for copper.

As a result, we negotiated an agreement with the Canadians. Again, I should like to know from the Minister whether there is anything in the agreement which he does not like, or if he knows whether there was any other group in the world who would agree to operate the mines on the same basis. We tried the world for them and could not find them. We got advice from people who were friendly to Ireland, but the advice did not provide us with people who were interested in the mines. In spite of everything to-day, instead of having 60 workers with notices of dismissal in their pockets and 20 caretakers, we have about 350 workers engaged in the mines with more workers engaged erecting buildings, offices and houses nearby.

It is true, of course, that the prices of copper and base metals have fallen, but Avoca is in the position that it has no base metal and it may be that copper, being that kind of pendulous product which goes up, down, right and left, may get back to close on its price of two years ago before long. I regard the agreement to operate the Avoca mines as a very good agreement from a national point of view. I feel sure that the 350 workers who are getting employment there share my view in that respect.

The incentive which we gave to mining companies of not paying any income-tax for the first four years on profits and 50 per cent. of income-tax for the subsequent four years did aid considerably in the negotiations of the agreement on the Avoca mines, and I had hoped and still hope that facility will attract other mining groups here. A number of such groups came here and asked for mining licences. I gave them mining licences once I was satisfied they werebona fide groups, that they had the technical resources and sufficient financial support to enable them to ascertain whether in fact there were minerals in the area for which they sought a prospecting licence.

A number of these groups have done pretty good work; one group certainly, in Allihies in West Cork, has spent a very considerable sum of money operating there on the old copper deposits. Their expenditure cannot be far short of £200,000 and if their early reports are correct the character of the deposits there is something that may give grounds for hope that a vigorous company can be established on the site of that old mine. Similarly, activities in Bunmahon, at Slane and at Clontibret in County Monaghan, have given hope that valuable deposits may be found in these areas. At all events, there is not one penny of the State's money given by way of grant or any type of financial assistance to those groups who sought prospecting licences. They are backing their belief with their own money. They are drilling the earth with their own tools. They are providing employment for Irish workers and if they are willing to do that in order to ascertain whether minerals are merchantable in those areas, it is a nationally sound investment to give them these licences.

I hope more of these folk will come here looking for more and more licences. I hope they will be given these licences in order to enable us, once and for all, to discover whether in fact minerals in this country are of a type, a quantity and a quality which make it possible for us to explore them to the national advantage.

The Minister said it is intended to carry out some exploration work in the Leinster coalfield. It is, of course, because I had decided that a sum of approximately £80,000 which is coming from the American Counterpart Fund by way of technical assistance grant would be utilised for development in the Leinster coalfield. Mianraí Teoranta wanted to continue in existence to do that kind of work, but I took the view that Mianraí Teoranta had been set up to do two particular jobs—to explore in Ballingarry and Avoca, and that the work in both places had come to an end and that there was no further justification, at present at all events, for continuing Mianraí Teoranta in operation. I had in mind that the work should be in the Leinster coalfield and that the sum of £80,000 which was hypothecated should be used under the direction of the Geological Survey Office in order to ascertain the extent of the coal deposits and their accessibility.

If there are any further moneys available which could be used for coal exploration work, I should like to see them used in the Munster coalfield which up to the present did not get the probing which has gone on in the Leinster coalfield. While I agree that on the basis of the information at present available, the Leinster coalfield looks the best bet from the point of view of exploration work, I still think, especially in our circumstances, that an examination of the Munster deposits is well worthy of consideration and of an investment.

The Minister spoke about the development of Irish shipping. Irish shipping has been a great national enterprise. Like Bord na Móna, the E.S.B., the Sugar Company and Aer Lingus, Irish Shipping is a first-class State-sponsored body. All these bodies are a credit to the country and a credit to those who administer their affairs. They have shown themselves capable of doing in their respective spheres something which private enterprise was unable or unwilling to tackle.

If one looks at the accounts of these firms, looks at the uphill fight they have had to establish themselves, looks at the way they have built themselves up in esteem here and in respect abroad, looks at the volume of employment they provide, one cannot fail to come to the conclusion that they are all first-class bodies. I do not say they are perfect in every detail. Human beings are never perfect in every detail, but tested by any criterion you like, they have stood the test well and will stand such tests well. I must say that both in respect of Irish Shipping and these other bodies, I took more than an ordinary interest in helping them to develop their efforts to attain the targets which they had set before themselves.

Irish Shipping, as the Minister says, is a first-class enterprise. I had the pleasure early last year of giving them instructions from the Government to order two 18,000 ton tankers. This is the first time a tanker of that size will be owned by Irish nationals. The biggest tanker Irish Shipping has is a 4,000 or 5,000 ton tanker which is on charter to Irish Shell. We gave them instructions to buy these 18,000 ton tankers at a cost of about £3.4 million. One of these tankers will be off the slips at the end of this year. That tanker is already chartered to one of the oil companies—I think it is the Shell Oil Company—for a period of five years at rates which will ensure that the amount of money spent on the tanker will be amortised without undue delay.

I should like to see Irish Shipping develop still further. There is a considerable outlet for their activities. When you compare the total tonnage of ships which we have with that of small countries with a somewhat comparable population numerically, you see how far back we are in the queue from the standpoint of having shipping tonnage available for our people and available for the earning of money for the country as a whole. Countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, all have gigantic shipping fleets available. The fleet owned by Irish Shipping has a tonnage of about 94,000 tons. Two or three ships are to go off the slips this year but when you compare that tonnage with the 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 tons owned by Norway, and a similar tonnage owned by Greece, you see how long the road is before we can hope to approach these countries, both of which suffered very heavily in the recent war and both of which have financial obligations in no way comparable, because of their burdensome character, to what we have to bear here.

Anybody who seems content at any time to believe that Irish Shipping has reached journey's end in the matter of providing new ships ought to look at the shipping fleets of some of the small countries that can make a substantial profit on their shipping earnings, in order to realise how far away we are from the target of being able to occupy a position comparable to them.

The Minister referred to the C.I.E. Report, the report which we got from the Special Committee set up last year to examine the finances of C.I.E. That Committee was set up because C.I.E. had written to me a report which indicated that they had rather lost faith in their ability to weather the storm financially in view of all the difficulties with which they were surrounded. They themselves saw nothing but bleakness in front of them, and at the time they asked that certain things should be done in order to enable them to survive, but the doing of these things involved hitting, and hitting very hard, a number of other people whom C.I.E. regarded as their deadly competitors. Thus it was decided that the matter should be examined thoroughly by a competent body which, having faced the facts, would give a report to the Government to enable it to take decisions on what the future of C.I.E. should be.

Of course the real trouble with C.I.E. is that there was a situation in 1944 or 1945 in which there were about 10,000 lorries on the road, the bulk of them small ones. They hauled goods in competition with C.I.E. But now C.I.E. has 45,000 lorries on the road all hauling goods in competition with C.I.E. rail services, all bigger than the earlier lorries. Some of these lorries particularly the big eight-wheel trailer type carrying 12 or 15 tons are now deadly enemies of C.I.E., but mark you, this House and the people generally sat by from 1945 to 1956 while 35,000 new lorries appeared on the road. These 35,000 new lorries just played ducks and drakes with the traffic and finances of C.I.E.

It may well be that that was a development which it was undesirable to arrest, that the whole community, as was evidenced to some extent last year, was converted to the idea that house-to-house delivery is the proper method of transport and that it is much easier to reverse your own lorry into a manufacturer's yard, load up and unload, perhaps a few hours afterwards, in your own yard 150 miles away than it is to have the goods sent by the manufacturer in his own car, unloaded at the railway station, reloaded and taken on a trip on a freight train, unloaded again and reloaded on the purchaser's cart and taken to the warehouse and there again unloaded.

It may well be that public taste is for door-to-door delivery and that the lorry has come to stay but I have no doubt that the more lorries develop, the more house-to-house delivery develops, the more difficulty C.I.E. will have. The problem at the moment is to ascertain where, in present circumstances, you can carve out for C.I.E. an area of activity which can be reasonably free from the devastating inroads which have been made on it in the past. In other words, in short, the problem is to define C.I.E.'s limits of operation and also the freedom of movement.

I share the Minister's view that it is essential to maintain public road and rail transport. If there is no public transport I think it would be to the disadvantage of the small, weak man in the country. It will always be quite easy for some people with small consignments of goods to get a carrier to transport these goods if they are willing to pay the carrier's prices but if some poor woman wants to send a perambulator to her daughter 150 miles away she will be a long time finding a carrier to transport it whereas C.I.E. can now be required on the telephone to collect and deliver it. Somebody has to think of the ordinary, weak person without power or influence or money who has to depend on public transport in matters of that kind.

Personally, I think the report of the Committee on Internal Transport Services is far too drastic. When it is stated that C.I.E. requires money each year to subsidise it, that it does not pay its way, I answer that by asking: does any road in this country pay its way? We are spending £11,000,000 on the maintenance of roads here and we do that annually and cheerfully, and everybody is pleased when more and more is given for road grants. Every Deputy wants to get more money spent on the roads. We have reached the stage now when we are polishing the roads and everybody seems to be happy about that. It is a case of: "More road grants; Keep the road grants going." Nobody asks whether the roads pay; nobody produces a balance sheet for the roads but, when you get an iron road such as the railway, everybody wants to see a balance sheet and everybody howls about the fact that it does not pay although C.I.E., without a tariff, is giving regular employment to over 15,000 people and at the same time providing essential transport.

I think there should be some objective examination of our transport problems and difficulties but I think, too, that we ought not, in using a microscope on our transport services, completely ignore the entirely different view that one can get from a national point of view by looking at them through a telescope as well as a microscope.

Shannon Airport has been mentioned by the Minister. I should like to say that during our term of office we spent money generously at Shannon and Dublin Airports in effecting necessary improvements. It may well be that Shannon will run into some difficulties. I hope it will not, but with the evolution of the aero engine problems may arise in the near future. When I was in the Department of Industry and Commerce I was informed that American companies proposed to operate a plane which would carry about 240 or 250 people into Europe, that it would fly non-stop into Europe and that it would require a runway of 10,000 feet at least. Although Shannon runway is, I think, 7,000 feet, that 7,000 feet would be no asset in the provision of a 10,000 foot runway because the runway suitable for existing planes would not be adequate to take the impact of the new jet aircraft.

It was first contemplated that these planes would be used as luxury planes taking over well-to-do passengers who wanted to travel speedily and either disembark them at certain suitable large airports in Europe or where services would be provided to transport these passengers to their destinations if it happened that these destinations were not located near a suitable airport.

I was so interested in preserving Shannon and so concerned to ensure that the air companies would have no excuse for by-passing Shannon that I asked the Secretary of the Department to go to the United States to see the top-line people in the air companies. I also asked him to go to Canada to discuss this whole development and to see what could be done in the way of using Shannon.

I felt that if we could provide the runway at Shannon—mark you, it will cost about £1,000,000—we would at least remove the excuse that Shannon had no runway to take this plane. But it is by no means certain that, if we spend £1,000,000 and provide the runway, we will get this heavy type of jet aircraft to land at Shannon.

It may well be that the landing stations for these aircraft will be spaced out at different points in Europe. The air companies may feel it would be better to over-fly Shannon and land elsewhere, having regard to the time it takes to come down at Shannon and the time it takes to get into the air again. I agree, however, and I felt so at the time, that the provision of the longer airstrip, especially a reinforced airstrip, would at least remove any possibility of Shannon being ruled out on the grounds that it had not the required facilities.

So long as the piston-driven engine remains in aircraft using the Atlantic, Shannon is perfectly safe. It may even weather any new developments in the respective aircraft engines. When I was Minister for Industry and Commerce, I certainly took a decision, and I think I told the Government, that we would have to face up to spending £1,000,000 on the construction of a new runway at Shannon in order to service aircraft which were likely to be put on the transatlantic route by 1959. I hoped that the fact that Shannon would have the longer airstrip would ensure its continuance as an international airport, not merely for the piston-driven engine but for jet craft as well.

The Minister talked about cross-Channel shipping by way of annexe to what he said in respect of Irish Shipping. I felt it was undesirable that our cross-Channel passenger services and, in the main, our cross-Channel freight services, should be monopolised by interests which had their headquarters outside this country. I, therefore, caused inquiries to be made to ascertain what it would cost this country to participate in the operation of these services. I do not want to discuss this matter in detail now, but I can tell the Minister that he can find what the cost will be by reference to the files in his Department. He will see there that, if one wants to participate in the operation of an existing cross-Channel service, one can do so, but one has to recognise the fact that such participation will not give cheaper freight rates and one will have to pay extra, therefore, for the right to participate.

Because of the fact that we do not control the railway lines on the other side of the Channel, I think, too, that it may be extremely difficult for any exclusively Irish-based cross-Channel organisation to offer freight rates, particularly cattle freight rates, to British centres as cheaply as the British based organisation, with a cross-Channel shipping service, can offer them, but it is a problem well worth examination. It is a difficult problem. It may be an expensive problem but it may equally well be that, in the long run, it would be better to pay the price of participation in a cross-Channel shipping service rather than permit the present situation, which has gone on for 35 years under an Irish Government, to continue indefinitely. But the House need have no doubt it can have its cake; it will be an expensive cake, not merely immediately but in the future under certain conditions, and for quite a long time to come.

The Minister talked about Bord Fáilte and felt that there was scope for much greater activity on the part of the board. I felt so too and I told the board so. But Bord Fáilte has had a rather difficult birth, if I may say so. When I became Minister for Industry and Commerce, I found two organisations looking after our tourist business, one, Fogra Fáilte, and the other, Bord Fáilte. One took the publicity side and the other looked after general tourist development. I do not think I have ever seen two supposedly complementary organisations act with such acrimony towards each other. There was a perpetual war between them.

When I tried to get them to merge temporarily by having joint meetings, pending the introduction of legislation to merge both permanently, their relations were such that I could not get them to meet. If I did manage to get them to meet, there was war and, when the meeting was over, there were two reports as to what happened at the meeting and frequent disagreement as to what was decided. That was the kind of tourist organisation that I inherited.

I never claimed that the merging of the two would necessarily produce cheaper administration; I claimed that it would avoid overlapping and waste, that it would avoid duplication. I was not concerned with just cutting down staff. I was concerned with making the single organisation a better instrument of tourist policy. I told them, therefore, that my object was to get them to streamline the two organisations into one. Even then, it was not easy to bring about that marriage, notwithstanding the fact that an Act to do so had been passed in this House.

The two organisations grew up, not horizontally but vertically. They had separate buildings and it was the devil's own job to get people in one building to recognise that they were now part of the organisation in the other building. These were the incipient difficulties which had to be faced by the new board of An Bord Fáilte. I was at times somewhat irritated by the slothfulness of the approach to some of the problems, problems which I felt ought to be decided much more quickly and with greater drive and greater dynamism than I saw there. At the same time, the new board did very useful work in getting the two organisations welded together and getting them to recognise that they were no longer separate organisations but an indivisible unit. Whatever may be said about delay on the part of the board and its officers in not getting into gear as quickly as they might have, on the whole I think they have managed to get rid of the bad and odorous reputation which the two separate bodies had. They have been rapidly building up for themselves an esteem and respect among those who take an interest in their activities. Anything that can be done to get them to accelerate the attainment of their objective of bringing more and more tourists here has, of course, everything to commend it.

I agree with the Minister that, for purposes of balance of payments, the development of the tourist trade offers the quickest and probably the most durable method by which we can increase our invisible exports. If we can bring more and more tourists here, who spend on an average about £35 per visit, and increase the numbers who come each year, then I believe we can convert our tourist industry into something not just second to the cattle trade but ahead of the cattle trade, enhancing thereby the value of the cattle trade because the best place in which to sell our cattle is not in the British market, but in the stomach of the satisfied tourist. There you get the best price for it. There you can sell it with greatest advantage.

The Minister mentioned that he contemplates introducing a Prices Bill. When I left the Department of Industry and Commerce, the heads of a Prices Bill had been drafted and were with the Parliamentary Draftsmen to put into order as a Bill. I do not know whether or not the Minister has made many changes in the heads of the Bill which were then left available for him but, judging by what has already happened in the way of releasing a number of articles from price control and in the adoption of what appears to be a deliberate policy of decontrol, I imagine the new Prices Bill will be a rather anaemic document if it will deal only with prices in respect of the three categories mentioned by the Minister.

I take the view that the Prices Advisory Body did very valuable work for the community. If the Prices Advisory Body had not been in operation, many consumers would have been paying much higher prices for goods than they have been paying and many consumers would now be paying higher prices than they are paying. If the chairman or members of the Prices Advisory Body were permitted to publish the applications for price increases which came before them and were to contrast them with the final decisions on those applications, there would be deep and widespread appreciation of the value of the services of the Prices Advisory Body in looking after the interests of the consuming public.

I would regret any decision, especially at this stage, to curtail the activities of the Prices Advisory Body. I do not think we have reached such an understanding of price levels or price difficulties as would justify the replacement of the present machinery by an anaemic Bill, which is probably introduced only because of the fact that something has to replace the present machinery but which in practice may well be found to be useless, as perhaps it is intended to be.

I should like to return to the activities of the E.S.B. on another plane, that is, the old time controversy which existed between the E.S.B. and Bord na Móna as to the most economical method of producing electricity. Every time you met somebody from the E.S.B. he told you that the use of turf was hopelessly uneconomic and necessitated spending more than was necessary on the generation of current and every time you met somebody from Bord na Móna and asked him about turf as a fuel for generating electricity, he said it was much cheaper than anything the E.S.B. were using but that the E.S.B. were so prejudiced against turf that they would not use turf. There was this constant swing between them, the E.S.B. maintaining that oil and coal were much better than turf and Bord na Móna saying that turf was better than the other two products. Both organisations have managed to live together so far as that barren controversy is concerned. I always took the view that it was a barren, academic controversy.

We had a balance of payments problem. We have now got rid of that problem and are building up external assets again but we still have levies at a high rate which are necessary in order to enable us to discipline purchases of goods which the community may desire to import. The E.S.B. is one of the largest consumers of coal and oil. It may be worth our while to give the E.S.B. a direction that, after using water, they should use turf, that, so long as water and turf are available in sufficient quantities, they should not use oil or coal.

It is true to say, with the present prices of oil and coal and the possibility that at least coal will go higher, if oil does not, that turf, particularly milled peat, which has not to be processed as extensively as sod turf, is a cheaper fuel than oil or coal. Even if there were some margin, when you remember the volume of employment that Bord na Móna can give by the production of milled peat, when you remember the reduction in imports resulting from cutting back on oil and coal and when you remember the ever-present necessity for disciplined buying in order to prevent our balance of payments going out of control, it would appear that the time has arrived when it is in the national interest that the E.S.B. should be told that, subject to turf being available, it should be their policy to utilise turf to the fullest extent and that it is only because of the non-availability at the moment of turf, particularly milled peat, that they should resort to the use of oil and coal. There is a sound national reason for doing that.

It may well be that it is difficult to wean the E.S.B. from their old love of oil and coal but the national interests demand that there should be preference for the Irish product and if the price can compare, or nearly compare, with the price of the imported product, then, having regard to the clear national advantage flowing from the use of the Irish-produced product, the E.S.B. should be told that, as a matter of policy, they should use the Irish product in preference to the imported product.

I should like to ask the Minister to say whether the contract for one of the briquetting stations has yet been signed. I understood the position to be that Bord na Móna were working out with the potential manufacturer the precise type of machine required and that they anticipated that the contract would have been signed by now. I should like to ascertain from the Minister whether that is so and if he can say when the machinery is likely to be delivered. My understanding of the situation was that it would probably be available for delivery about 1959 and that the briquetting factory would probably be operating by the end of 1959. I should like to ascertain the latest position from the Minister.

These, Sir, are some of the matters I wanted to raise on the Estimate. In the main, they consist of comments on the views expressed by the Minister. I want to conclude, as I opened, by saying that I am glad, now that the Minister has access to official information and to reliable figures, that he has adjusted his mind so far as his earlier comments on some of my activities and the Department's activities are concerned.

This Estimate was prepared by the previous Government and we have no disagreement with the manner of its presentation. It is hardly necessary to say that progress is essential in the national interest. We are prepared to give the Government an adequate chance to implement its policy, if it has one. Undoubtedly considerable advances have been made in many spheres, but greater advances still might have been accomplished if more attention were paid to economics rather than to political questions. I do not think there is much advantage from any point of view in trying to score a point about who was responsible for this or that activity. As Deputy Norton remarked, the essential thing is to see that once a worthwhile project is started, it keeps going.

However, I was interested in the Minister's remark that he thought the number of proposals before his Department justified cautious optimism. It is strange how the mere change from one side of the House to the other justifies that cautious optimism. I believe the explanation for that is somewhat different, that the great improvement that took place in the balance of payments, as a result of the measures taken by the previous Government, laid the foundation and is in fact the basis for progress. I think that without the decisions which were taken, without the application of the remedies that had necessarily to be applied, we would not have had that progress; and whatever about the disagreement which resulted over the measures taken, there was no conflict of opinion in any quarter of the House about the need for rectifying that situation.

Therefore, it seems that the improvements which have occurred this year, the substantial expansion in trade, and in particular the expansion in our exports, were not only foretold by the previous Government but were recognised as essential if we were to maintain, not to say increase, our standard of living. The deterioration in the balance of payments, which occurred in 1955 and in the early part of last year, has not only been stemmed but the trade figures for the first six months of this year will, I have no doubt, indicate that the measures taken to remedy that situation resulted in a substantial improvement in the general economic position.

Therefore, we welcome any proposals which will help further to increase employment, expand either industry or agriculture and generally raise the level of economic development; but I believe it is essential that, having said that, we should recognise that whatever improvements have taken place have been due more to the measures taken by the previous Government than to the mere fact that there has been a change of Government.

The Minister referred to a number of matters on which I want to comment. I think it is generally recognised that the Control of Manufactures Act should be amended. While I know it is not permissible to discuss legislation on an Estimate, may I say that experience has shown that probably the greatest deterrent to foreign investment here has been the fact that that Act is on the Statute Book? Probably that is not so much because of the terms of the Act or the fact that means have not been freely used to avoid its consequences or the fact that successive Ministers have, wherever necessary, given new manufacturer licences to those who made application for them. Undoubtedly, in the United States, there is an abhorrence of that form of legislation and the mere fact that it exists on the Statute Book in the form in which it does is a deterrent to would-be investors. A great number of them are reluctant to invest in a country where statutory control of that type exists. Consequently, I agree entirely with the view that it should be amended, if not repealed. It may well be that if the free trade area comes into existence, circumstances will alter considerably concerning it, but undoubtedly a great number of people have been deterred by the mere existence of the Act.

The Minister referred to the report of the committee set up to inquire into C.I.E. He said that the report had been submitted to different organisations and bodies concerned for their observations. He went on to say that although the Government did not intend to consider the recommendations until all observations were received, the Government nevertheless took the view that it was desirable to maintain public transport on road and rail, but that the part which railways will play is a matter which will have to receive further consideration.

The end of the session, particularly when it is obvious that the matter will have to receive further consideration, is hardly the occasion to discuss the whole transport question. However, I think we should advert to the fact that we cannot continue to charge the taxpayers with the responsibility of paying deficits on public transport undertakings. At the same time, I feel that the proposal which was made in the Advisory Committee's report that an extra charge should be put on other road users is not alone impracticable but entirely unwarranted. Whatever decisions are taken should be taken in the light of the very considerable growth in privately-owned lorries and privately-owned motor vehicles since the end of the second World War.

When criticism is made, as it is freely made of C.I.E. and other public transport undertakings, sufficient advertence is not paid to that aspect of the question. By and large, the volume of goods available for carriage has not changed substantially since the end of the war. While C.I.E. is expected to maintain not alone its services but to maintain them in competition with private hauliers, firms and individuals with their own lorries, I believe a number of decisions will have to be reached and in reaching them all these various aspects will have to receive, and should receive due consideration. We cannot have it both ways. It is impossible to expect a public transport undertaking to compete with the enormous growth in the numbers of private hauliers and at the same time to ask private hauliers and private motorists to bear burdens for the purpose of maintaining a public transport undertaking to compete with them.

This matter will have to receive a great deal more consideration with a view to adopting a plan which, over a limited period ahead, can give some prospects of enabling the important transport undertakings, and the important position they occupy in the economy of the country, to be maintained not alone from the point of view of maintaining transport, but also from the point of view of the large numbers of people who are employed in these undertakings. I hope that there will be no undue delay in the submission of observations on the report by these bodies and that the Government will be in a position to introduce definite decisions after the Recess. It may well be that the report of the committee seems to be drastic, but it may be that it is realistic. It is only fair to expect the State to go a certain distance first, and possibly they see the ultimate position rather than the period of transition which will have to elapse before the developments which they foresee are realised.

I agree with the views expressed concerning the value which the tourist trade plays in the national economy. Not only does it give the most rapid prospects of expansion, particularly from the point of view of redressing the adverse trade balance, but, in addition, it improves trade and business in many parts of the country, the value of which it is difficult to assess in strictly economic terms. Every effort should be made to develop the trade. Considerable improvements have been made in regard to the accommodation which has been provided, but much still remains to be done. The Minister criticised what has been done by An Bord Fáilte, but I have the impression, and I think a great many people have the impression also, that An Bord Fáilte and its predecessor, the Tourist Board, and subsequently An Bord Fáilte and Fogra Fáilte, were the playthings of politics. The Minister, or the present Government, must accept some of the responsibility for that position.

I believe that recently an improvement has taken place and I only hope that the era of politics in tourism has ended. I cannot say that with certainty, but time will tell. Certainly, if the industry and those concerned in it are to have confidence in the future working of that organisation and if the maximum co-operation and goodwill, which should be forthcoming from all concerned, are to be secured, then it is essential that any suggestion that political considerations are involved should no longer exist.

The Minister referred very briefly to the question of price control. Frankly, I have no great belief in price control, but it is true to say that at present it is virtually non-existent, except in some cases where maximum price limits are imposed by Order, or direction from the Minister's Department. I feel, however, that while price control cannot be wholly effective in certain circumstances, it has a useful part to play. Some form of price control or direction by the appropriate Government Department can act, and does act, as a deterrent to over-charging and to the exploitation of the consumer by particular interests.

On many occasions, we have seen cases where it has been possible to prevent that by direct action. On other occasions, price control is operative only because direction is given or an Order is made by the appropriate Department. I believe, however, that the Minister and the prices section should give consideration to exploitation of scarcity commodities at particular times. I have in mind a particular commodity which is normally subject to seasonal fluctuation.

At present potatoes are commanding very high prices. They do so at this particular time of the year because of the exhaustion of the old season's crop and the slowness in the new season's crop arriving on the market. When a situation of that sort arises the Department should be vigilant to see that wherever possible action is taken to prevent exploitation and to prevent prices rising unduly. The public generally are satisfied if they understand that a reasonable effort is being made to prevent exploitation in any commodity. It is not possible to have a perfect system and, by and large, price control has proved everywhere to be ineffective except in cases of monopolies and where there is a scarcity for a limited period. Otherwise, I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of competition between those interested.

The Minister referred to the E.S.B. generation programme. He said considerable attention would have to be given now to the proposals for the generation programme between 1960 and 1965. I want to ask if consideration has been given by the E.S.B. to atomic energy as a source of power, and whether the Minister can say when a report is expected from the Atomic Energy Advisory Committee?

The Minister referred to the activities of Bord na Móna and the proposal to provide supplies of sod-turf for domestic and industrial users. I have received, as probably other Deputies have, complaints concerning the supply of briquettes. Briquettes are a very satisfactory form of domestic fuel and from time to time I have received complaints from small traders that they find it difficult to get supplies. I know briquette production is not sufficient to meet the demand but I believe a system of distribution should be devised, to enable all traders who wish to get a supply, at least to get a quota. If one trader has a supply of briquettes and his competitor down the street has not, he has an advantage. Certainly, with the present high prices for fuel, briquettes are regarded as a very useful commodity to have by a number of traders.

Can the Minister say has the full benefit of the reopening of the Suez Canal been passed on to consumers of petrol and oil? There is a view held by a number of people that the full benefit of any improvement in the situation has not been passed on to consumers.

In recent years petrol and oil companies have opened a number of petrol filling stations which either have been leased to operators, or have been operated directly by the petrol and oil companies. I feel that if they were in a position to do that, if they have sufficient funds available to start that type of development, it would be better to pass on any benefits of that sort in the way of a reduction in the prices of their commodities. There is a sufficient number of people willing and anxious to supply petrol and oil without having these vast organisations in competition with them.

Lastly, I want to refer to the substantial improvement in our trade last year with France. I want to ask the Minister — probably I shall have another opportunity on the Estimate for the Department of External Affairs —to urge on the Government the desirability of impressing upon the French authorities our dissatisfaction with their recent refusal to grant licences for imports from Ireland. While this may be excused on a number of grounds, it is, in our view, a breach of the terms of our trade agreement with them. If it continues, we should seriously consider taking appropriate action here to manifest our rights under the agreement, to adopt whatever steps we believe are necessary to ensure that the agreement will work on a mutually satisfactory basis.

The French authorities cannot expect to have the right to invoke certain clauses and balance of payments considerations, particularly when our own situation is such that we had to take measures to deal with it, and that we feel ourselves at liberty to take similar measures to redress what up to last year, and for a great number of years previously, was an adverse trade balance. Last year was the first year in which we had a favourable balance of trade with France. Certainly, if there was one other occasion, that would be the most.

Deputy Norton was, I think, disposed to rake over the ashes of old controversies and I do not want to join him in that activity. I have already expressed the view that by the time it is necessary for us to advertise our individual merits to the electorate all the matters we are now debating will have been largely forgotten. In my view the merits of the Government will be determined by the people, when they get the opportunity, by the practical results they have achieved and not by their skill in debate here, or by their ability in claiming exclusive credit for anything that may have happened.

In the course of introducing the Estimate I was at pains to deal with the situation in the country in a manner which would bring home to Deputies the extreme gravity of it. I do not think there is anything to be gained by trying to induce a belief that our troubles are of temporary and accidental character which will pass on their own account. We are only beginning to emerge from a situation of crisis proportions, and the slightest setback could destroy our prospects of recovery permanently. I have emphasised, again and again, that my view is that this year is the important year, that everything turns on our ability to show that the country is going ahead this year. If we can get any indication of progress which looks like being permanent, we will build up again what is most urgently needed, and that is confidence in our own people in the country's future. It was the loss of confidence which developed during the past few years which was at the root of our difficulties, and which was far more serious for the country's welfare than the loss of external assets, or the temporary closing down of some industrial activities.

I was disappointed for a moment to find my predecessor more concerned to see that he got his due share of the credit for anything that was done in regard to mineral development, or anything of that kind, than to express a point of view, and particularly the right point of view on these important issues. I do not want to deal now with any of the matters that will be the subject of legislation later on.

I was interested to know that both Deputy Norton and Deputy Cosgrave, speaking for the two main Opposition Parties, agreed that the amendment of the Control of Manufactures Act is desirable and that both of them rather indicated a preference for its total repeal rather than its amendment. I do not think it would be wise to repeal it altogether. It is still true that the greater part of the industrial progress we will achieve for some years to come will result from the expansion of activities by existing firms rather than the establishment of new firms. Most of these existing firms are Irish owned and controlled and will be hesitant to take the risks involved in financing extension if they think the result will be that other stronger firms with established international reputations can come in free to exploit the home market in competition with them.

We need external participation in industry for the purpose of equipping industry to undertake export, and no other reason. In so far as supplying the home market with goods which are now imported is concerned, we could hope to complete that process without any change of the Control of Manufactures Act. It is to make it clear that the country welcomes external participation in Irish industrial development when that participation is aimed at the expansion of the export trade that the amendment of the Control of Manufactures Act is to be undertaken. I do not think it matters a lot how we frame these amendments. It is important to give an indication which will be understood generally that we recognise we are at a stage in our development in which a change in policy in that regard is necessary, an indication that, from now on, in the sphere of industrial activity, particularly industrial activity directed at export markets, we shall be glad to get help from expert foreign firms or the power of expansion through the investment of external capital in existing companies. However, I will bring to the Dáil the proposals that seem good to me.

I should not like even to suggest that I have completely finalised these proposals in my mind. I have a general indication of the direction in which it is desirable to go and that will be translated into specific amendments of the legislation in due course. The proposals I will make to the Dáil will not be like the laws of the Medes and the Persians. They will be open for debate and amendment here if someone can improve on them. In so far as we are all apparently of one mind on what it is desirable to do, I hope we can pool our wisdom in the doing of it.

With regard to the reference by Deputy Norton to rural electrification, while I think he was mainly concerned to ensure that his place in the hall of fame will not be disturbed, it could be misleading to some extent. It is true that the pace of rural electrification last year was slowed down mainly because of the difficulty of financing the full scale of activities planned by the E.S.B. The slowing down of rural electrification development had consequences not merely for the E.S.B. involving changes in their organisation but for the firms occupied in producing the equipment for rural electrification. I do not know that it matters much whether I say, as I was alleged to have said at the Árd-Fheis, that rural electrification was being sabotaged or whether I say that Deputy Norton as Minister decided that rural electrification was to be "tapered off". I suppose that is what the French revolutionaries said when they put the aristocrats under the guillotine—that they had "tapered them off". The effect was the same, nevertheless.

Because the number of areas scheduled for development was cut down, some of the staffs employed by the E.S.B. for rural electrification purposes were paid off, and the firms making the equipment were told their orders for the equipment were being cut down. A number of these firms were in difficulty, as a consequence. They paid off their workers. They cut down the rate of output. Then, naturally enough, they set about considering ways and means by which the spare space in their factories, the idle equipment and the idle men could be re-employed for other purposes.

I am glad to say that most of the firms concerned are now back in full production, employing the same number of workers, but they are not now employing them in the production of equipment for rural electrification. I do not think it is desirable to go to them and urge them to switch over again to the production of rural electrification equipment. They probably would not do it, anyway, because this development will come to an end in four years' time. Therefore, I feel the programme proposed by the E.S.B., the programme they believe they can finance and which involves no difficulty for the firms producing the equipment —the development of 60 areas per year—is quite feasible. I think it is desirable to maintain it.

That means that the initial development of rural electrification will have ceased in four years' time. There will still be what the E.S.B. call "post-development work" that is, bringing a supply to people in areas already developed who did not take the supply when they were originally given the chance but who now want it even though it will cost them a little more to get it now.

The big change that has taken place in regard to rural electrification follows upon the decision of the previous Government to withdraw the subsidy. That has had quite serious repercussions upon the finances of the E.S.B. I have mentioned already that their loss on rural electrification last year was £500,000. That loss will grow year after year. Each area now connected means an addition to that loss of £20,000 a year. Obviously, the loss on rural electrification will increase to £1,000,000 a year before the scheme is completed. I did not try to persuade the Minister for Finance to reinstate the subsidy; I do not think I would succeed if I did so. Changes of that kind, once made, cannot easily be reversed, particularly as the subsidy for rural electrification was, as the House knows, withdrawn with retrospective effect. It would be a matter very largely of bookkeeping now to deal with that situation.

To the extent to which the Exchequer can get resources for capital purposes, I think we could make better use of them now than merely to improve the appearance of the E.S.B's balance sheet. If there is any argument to develop between Deputy Norton and myself with regard to what happened in that respect, I merely want to say that contentions which I made when that Bill was introduced by him here a couple of years ago have been proved 100 per cent. correct. I said the E.S.B. charges would have to be increased by 10 per cent. Deputy Norton, as Minister, said they would not increase at all and pledged his personal faith that they would not increase. They did increase 10 per cent.

I said the enthusiasm of the E.S.B. for rural electrification would contract sharply when they stood to lose £20,000 a year on each area developed —and take it from me that their enthusiasm does not show whenever I talk to them about rural electrification. I am quite certain they will fulfil the programme which has been prepared even though we must recognise that, apart from the fact of the withdrawal of the subsidy, the fact that they are now moving into the least economic areas of the country will itself have an effect upon the finances of the scheme.

Deputy Cosgrave asked if the board is considering the utilisation of atomic energy. They are. In their most recent report they mention that they are keeping in touch with developments in that field. The Committee on the Utilisation of Atomic Energy has not yet reported. It is well known, however, that atomic energy is by no means the cheapest source of electric power at present. On the contrary, it is probably the dearest source of electric power. The countries mainly concerned with the establishment of power stations for the utilisation of atomic energy, such as Britain, are countries which are in the market to sell the equipment used for such purposes. They hope to build up reputations for themselves for that equipment. They consider it worth their while to put up power stations, even though the power is dearer, because it gives them the "know-how" which, over the next half-century, they will be selling around the world. We will not have to use that energy until it is cheaper to us than any other source of energy.

There is no question at present but that the cheapest manner in which we can get power in this country—apart from the utilisation of water power, which is near the end of its development—is the utilisation of peat in milled form. Now that the problems of producing peat have been completely solved, there is no other type of fuel available or which could possibly become available which could come within reach of milled peat on grounds of cost. I think I am right in saying that milled peat has been delivered to the E.S.B. at a price equivalent to about £4 5s. per ton for coal. That is an achievement by the technicians of Bord na Móna of which we are all entitled to be very proud indeed.

The future of coal prices is uncertain. Deputies will have seen that coal prices have been advanced in England and Northern Ireland. They have not yet been advanced here. We do not think they should be advanced here and we have been expressing that point of view very forcibly. The situation is emerging where it may be cheaper to buy coal in America than in Britain. There would be some practical difficulties in doing so because our coal trade is not really equipped for the handling of the larger cargoes involved in transatlantic shipments. Neverthless, it is an indication of the limit beyond which we need not be pushed in the matter of coal prices.

I come now to the subject of oil prices. I have expressed the view to the Minister for Finance, which I expressed to his predecessor, that the maddest thing ever done in this country was to put a tax on fuel oil. Unfortunately, I was not able to persuade him, due to the Budget situation, to take it off this year but I can assure the House that my efforts to persuade him to do so will be continued. Apart altogether from the possibility of removing that tax some time in the future, there is some prospect that oil prices may move down but not very much. We have recovered some of the increased cost resulting from the Suez situation. I would not say as Deputy Cosgrave asked me, that we have recovered that excess cost completely but, as Deputies will understand, it is a matter on which it is difficult for us to be certain that we are fully informed in all respects.

Reference was made here to flour and bread prices. I think I would not like to say more at this stage than that I am not very satisfied about the way that situation is developing. I recognise all the difficulties involved in getting two industries like the flour milling and the bakery industries out of a situation in which, for 20 years, they had been completely controlled by the Government in every respect—controlled as to the prices they paid for material, as to the prices they charged, as to allowances for depreciation, profit, and so on—and putting them back into the position of freedom to charge whatever price they like in competition with one another. They do not like the idea of being decontrolled.

Somebody once said that I was forced by the bakers to restore control of bread prices shortly after the Budget was introduced. I am not at all sure I was not walked into the position of restoring control. From my contact with the bakers, I received the impression they did not wish to be decontrolled and that their aim at the time was to get Government control put back into operation. It may be said that, on an average, control of prices by the Government means higher prices because inevitably in an industry of that kind control must be based upon some calculation of the average costs of production. The Flour and Bread Committee, whose report was published a couple of months ago, brought to light the extraordinary divergence between the costs of individual bakery concerns and it was because of that extraordinary divergence in the costs of individual concerns either because of location or relative efficiencies that they urged the decontrol of bread prices. They said no system of control could apply properly to that situation. That is possibly also the case in the flour milling industry.

We have to consider the question of whether it is entirely in the national interest to insist on decontrol and giving full play to competition. It is almost certain that in circumstances of free competition a number of bakery concerns and probably some flour mills may go out of business as they may not be able to maintain their trade in such circumstances. That might be a situation which would affect the welfare of particular localities or the employment of persons. It might also reduce the price of flour and bread for a time or perhaps permanently. It is clear that there are some policy decisions which will have to be taken in that regard.

At the present time we are still trying to give effect to the intention in the Budget statement of letting competition determine the price of these commodities. We are not meeting with all the success we anticipated in that respect not merely with the bakery trade but also even with the creameries who very quickly met together and decided they would not cut each other's throats by excessive competition with each other. However, I hope that in the course of time a normal outlook will develop even in these trades and that the public will come to expect that prices will be fixed on the basis of the costs of individual concerns and that those concerns that cannot work to a competitive basis of cost will pay the penalty of losing their trade.

I certainly do not accept in full the viewpoint expressed by Deputy Cosgrave that it is desirable to give the public the impression that the Government can do something to regulate the level of prices by making Orders. The sooner the public understand that when economic factors are forcing prices upwards no Government Orders, no matter how numerous or voluminously worded, can stop prices from rising, the better. Our experience over 20 years should have convinced us that it is far better to get a situation in which the people will understand that any alteration in costs will have its effect on prices unless it is offset by greater productivity or more efficient working methods. That may mean that occasionally the price of bread, flour, butter or something else will go up and I hope will occasionally go down just as the price of tea has gone down—and I am not taking any credit for the reduction in the price of tea—and that all these prices will fluctuate as circumstances cause them.

The reduction in the price of tea was due mainly to the fact that Tea Importers (Eire) Limited were able to buy for the coming year a substantial part of the country's tea requirements at a lower price than that at which they were able to buy last year. By marrying the price of the teas coming forward with the price of the teas in stock, they were able to bring about a reduction in their issue price. There was also a reduction attributable to the fact that the last of the debt— which was incurred by Tea Importers during that mad period when Tea Importers were not allowed to increase the price of tea, although the world price was shooting upwards—has now been liquidated.

There was nothing else which required comment at this stage. The various observations which were made on matters which are going to be the subject of legislation are, of course, of interest but I would not like to comment on them now, because I would like to take them into consideration in the framing of these measures. All those measures will be open to debate here, and to amendment here if they can be improved. Their purposes are to bring into operation the factors which tend to promote progress and development in a private enterprise economy and, while providing the necessary stimuli, nevertheless result in a lesser degree of interference by the Government and a lesser degree of dependence upon Government aid.

Sir, if I may ask the Minister a question—will the Minister take every opportunity which occurs to encourage profit sharing in industry, as an incentive to greater production?

That is a big question. I am told that the Report of the Committee on the Reform of Company Law will be available at the end of the long vacation.

We will believe that when we see it.

I pressed for the report and I am told I will get it then. I do not know what form the report will take—whether it will deal with matters in a comprehensive way or merely as a matter of piecemeal amendment.

Vote put and agreed to.