I had been dealing with the new capital investment in Irish Steel Holdings for the purpose of extending the company's activities.
The Irish Steel Holdings Limited, Act, 1960, permits the Company to increase its share capital to £4 million, to be subscribed, as required, by the Minister for Finance. All major contracts in connection with the Company's development programme have now been placed. Payments made in respect of commitments to 31st March, 1961—excluding expenditure amounting to £30,000 which has been charged against the Company's own resources —total £1.4 million approximately.
It is expected that the expansion plans of the steel works at Haulbowline Island will take at least three years to complete.
Virtually a new steelworks is being built on the site of the existing one; and I would like to pay tribute to management and workers at Haulbowline for their efforts which have resulted in not only maintaining but actually increasing output despite the large-scale development which is going on. It is estimated that deliveries to the home market in the year 1960-61 will be up by as much as 15 per cent. on deliveries in 1959-60.
Payments, as approved by Dáil Éireann on 2nd March, 1961, were made during 1960/61 to mitigate the hardships of shop grade workers of the former Great Northern Railway workshops at Dundalk who were found to be temporarily or permanently redundant.
Payments were at the rate of 30/- and 50/- a week for single and married men respectively during temporary disemployment with increases equal to the benefits lost in the case of workers who were deprived of unemployment assistance owing to the receipt of theseex gratia payments. All payments made in respect of temporary disemployment were deducted from severance payments in any case where a worker who being first declared temporarily redundant was subsequently declared permanently redundant. Severance payments were at the rate of one month's pay for each complete year of service up to a maximum of 24. Actual payments during 1960-61 were : stand-off pay, £6,275, severance pay, £143,149.
There are uncertainties existing which preclude the termination of the scheme just at present but I expect that the position regarding the future employment prospects of the workers will very soon be sufficiently clear to allow of the cessation of theseex gratia payments.
In accordance with the Grass Meal (Production) (Amendment) Act, 1959, a new company—Min Fhéir (1959) Teoranta—with share capital of £200,000 to be subscribed by the Minister for Finance has been formed and drainage operations have commenced on land acquired at Geesala, County Mayo. It is hoped to commence the sowing of grass on a small scale and the construction of a grass-drying plant in the course of the year.
As Deputies will be aware, I arranged for the issue through the post of a series of leaflets urging the public to "Buy Irish". I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the Press, the individuals and the organisations who lent their support to the idea behind this campaign and I would urge them to continue their support for Irish products.
The gross national product is provisionally estimated to have increased in 1960 by 4 per cent. compared with 1959 as against an annual increase of 2 per cent. envisaged in the Government'sProgramme for Economic Expansion. It is pleasant to be able to record a further year of progress and expanding economic activity and to thank all sections of the community, who by their co-operation, have enabled us to exceed the target set in that programme.
The increasing number of factories established by external interests to cater for export markets should lay the foundation for a further expansion in industrial output and employment but we must not overlook the vital part which has been and is being played by our own people—by the Irish industrialists who have steadily increased their output and who are now meeting with increasing success in export markets and by the Irish workers who have shown skill and adaptability and a willingness to co-operate in the expansion of production and the adoption of new and more efficient methods.
I would urge any of our industrialists who have not yet done so to examine the possibility of expanding into export markets. The rewards are considerable from the points of view both of the individual and of the nation as a whole. I would also urge trade unionists and workers to co-operate in the efforts of employers to increase exports. By doing so they will not only be securing their own future, through the increased prosperity of the concerns in which they work; they will also be helping in the provision of employment for fellow citizens who might otherwise have to emigrate.
The State has continued to do its part to stimulate increased industrial activity. During the past financial year An Foras Tionscal approved grants amounting to £1,591,250 for projects located in the undeveloped areas, bringing the total provision for such grants to £4,614,600. Of this amount grants totalling £2,115,700 were paid to 31st March, 1961, leaving outstanding commitments of £2,498,900. The total capital investment involved in the approved projects amounts to over £11 million and it is expected that they will give employment to over 8,000 persons. Sixty-one projects assisted by An Foras Tionscal are in production in the undeveloped areas and there are 29 other projects for which grants have been promised and which are in varying stages of development. A substantial number of these projects are related mainly to exports.
The increase of £150,000 in this year's provision for the undeveloped areas, as compared with last year's may be taken as an indication that the tempo of industrial development is still increasing in the undeveloped areas and that commitments entered into by An Foras Tionscal in respect of projects which have not yet reached the grant paying stage, warrant an increase of this order.
As regards grants by An Foras Tionscal for industries outside the undeveloped areas, during the year ended 31st March, 1961, An Foras Tionscal approved grants amounting to £1,686,000, bringing the total grants approved for such projects to £2,779,000.
Of this latter sum, grants totalling £537,000 were paid to 31st March, 1961, leaving outstanding commitments of £2,242,000. The total capital investment in the 34 approved projects amounts to about £15½ millon. It is estimated that these projects, which are mainly in the export field, will employ about 6,500 persons.
Deputies will probably be aware, particularly from local press reports, that I have been under considerable pressure, especially in the past few months, to abolish the distinction between the undeveloped areas and the rest of the country, thereby removing the disparity in the maximum grants available for industry as between the undeveloped areas and the rest of the country. In support of this view, it is sometimes suggested that the labour pool in the parts of the existing scheduled areas will be exhausted shortly and that the labour demands of projects sited in these areas can then only be met by importing labour from other parts of or outside the undeveloped areas. Also, it is suggested that the rate of industrial development in the undeveloped areas has been enormous,vis-à-vis the rest of the country. This is not so; figures available to me disprove conclusively this suggestion. As regards the suggestion that the labour pool in the undeveloped areas will shortly be exhausted, I feel that we are still some distance from that goal.
I do believe, however, that the time is approaching when a review must be undertaken of the original concept of the undeveloped areas and of the industrial grants scheme. Among the matters which would be covered by such a review would be the desirability of making greater use of the discretionary authority granted to the Minister for Industry and Commerce under the Undeveloped Areas Acts to enable other parts of the country to qualify for the more favourable grants applicable in the undeveloped areas. Experience of the industrial grants scheme to date makes it clear that a review of the type mentioned would be a complicated and lengthy process. Pending the undertaking and completion of such a review, it will be my general policy to continue to schedule areas outside the undeveloped areas only where they are "fringe" areas contiguous to the undeveloped areas proper.
It is necessary, however, to make certain limited amendments of the legislation in the near future and a Bill containing these amendments was introduced to-day. Its main purpose is to provide additional moneys for the payment of industrial grants by An Foras Tionscal: it is now clear that the amount of money authorised for industrial grants, up to 31st December, 1963, is likely to be committed well in advance of that date.
The exploration and development of our mineral resources continued at a steady pace during the past year. The agreement which was concluded with American interests for the carrying out of a comprehensive scheme of exploration for oil and natural gas in this country came into force on the enactment of the Petroleum and other Minerals Development Act, 1960, and the granting of an exploration licence to Ambassador Irish Oil Ltd. in March, 1960. The Company furnished me with a report on their first year's operations up to the end of March, 1961. The report shows that the Company are proceeding in accordance with the terms of the agreement and the exploration licence. They carried out geological and other investigations over all areas considered prospective throughout the year, and they had a seismic survey undertaken in the midland and north-western counties in the period October to December, 1960. The results of the investigations and survey are stated to have been encouraging. The Company is at present carrying out an overwater seismic survey along the coast from Galway to Tralee.
I have recently agreed to proposals for the reorganisation of the structure of the oil exploration group. These proposals involve the dissolution of the Irish Company and its replacement by American registered subsidiaries of Ambassador Oil Corporation, Continental Oil Company of Texas, and the Ohio Oil Company. I am satisfied that the Continental and Ohio Oil Companies are efficient and reputable and that they have at their disposal financial and technical resources which will enable the work of exploring for oil in this country to be completed more quickly and will thus make available sooner any benefits that would accrue to the country from the discovery of oil.
St. Patrick's Copper Mines Ltd. continued in production of copper and pyrites at Avoca throughout the year giving employment to about 500 workers. A decline in the world price of copper during the second half of 1960 did not help the Company. There has, however, been some recovery in copper prices recently and this, together with increasing production and an improvement in the grade of copper produced, should put the Company's operations on a better basis.
The new Abbeytown Mining Co. Ltd. which resumed production of lead and zinc at Abbeytown, County Sligo, in 1959 continued in production throughout the past year. Exploration work for copper at Allihies, County Cork, by the Emerald Isle Mining Co. Ltd. has continued but the stage has not yet been reached where the mine can be brought into production. There has recently been an infusion of fresh capital into the venture by Denison Mines of Canada, a large scale uranium company and it is understood that an extensive drilling programme will be carried out in the area in the coming year.
The exploration in the Leinster and Connaught coalfield which is being financed from American Grant Counterpart Funds is progressing satisfactorily. The drilling so far carried out has been effective in giving precise information as to the existence of coal, the thickness of the seams and the quality of the coal in certain areas, and as to the absence of coal in other areas. The drilling campaigns in both coalfields are still some way short of completion and the full significance of the results being obtained cannot be deduced until information has been gathered from all the planned boreholes.
A scheme of technical assistance grants for private exploration of minerals in accordance with the White Paper Programme for Economic Expansion is also in operation. Grants of up to one-half of the cost may be given where there are likely to be commercially workable deposits of minerals in an area and their development is desirable in the national interest. During the past year Canadian and American firms have shown a continuing interest in the investigation of the mineral resources of the country. Facilities were granted to some of these firms to enable them to carry out exploration work.
Exports in 1960 attained the record level of £152.4 million, representing an increase of £21.7 million (or 16.6 per cent.) over the 1959 figure. Imports totalled £226.4 million an increase of £13.7 million (or 6.5 per cent.) over the previous highest figure of £212.6 million attained in 1959. In the result the import excess, which was £81.9 million in 1959, fell by £7.9 million to £74 million in 1960.
The substantial improvement in export trade affected all export groupings, the most marked improvement being in the category "Other Raw Materials and Manufactured Goods" which showed a rise of £8 million over 1959. Exports of food, drink and tobacco increased by £7.6 million, and of live animals by £5.6 million. A feature of the latter trade was its change in structure, the emphasis in 1960 being on fat instead of store cattle. While imports exceeded the 1959 figure by £13.8 million, a very large part of that amount, namely £12.7 million was in respect of materials for manufacturing industries.
Provision is made for a further extension of the activities of Córas Tráchtála in accordance with the Government's policy of intensifying export promotion activity. It has been arranged that the Board will take over general responsibility for the promotion of design in industry. A sum of £40,000 is being provided this year to continue the advertising and promotion of Irish whiskey in the U.S.A.. While results are necessarily slow, they indicate a measure of success in stimulating interest in Irish whiskey in the American market. Export sales to the United States in the past two years were 57,726 proof gallons in 1959 and 52,905 proof gallons in 1960, representing in each year a substantial increase over the 1955 export sales figure of 39,513 proof gallons which was the previous highest total. The Irish whiskey distillers have been bearing a substantial and increasing share of the cost of the joint campaign of institutional and brand advertising. With the reduced subvention from State funds, the distillers must now assume a greater share of the cost.
Encouraging as has been the expansion of our industrial exports we must not allow ourselves to be lulled into any false sense of security. It should be obvious to everybody that it will become progressively more difficult for us to sell in certain export markets, namely the Common Market and the EFTA Market. The gradual reduction of tariff barriers between the members of each of these groups will naturally intensify competition in their markets. For us this is particularly important in so far as the British market is concerned. We have had the substantial advantage of free entry. That advantage will contract in value according as other countries approach and achieve free entry. There is, as Deputies will be aware, the possibility, if not indeed the probability, that some re-grouping may occur in the not too distant future which may further affect our competitive position in the British market. It is imperative, therefore, that we should constantly strive for greater efficiency if we are to maintain, not to say expand, our exports even to our nearest market.
The necessity to strive constantly for greater efficiency is not however limited to the export trade. It applies with equal force and urgency to manufacture for the home market. For some years past, manufacturers have been warned of the possibility of Ireland becoming associated with some European free trade movement which would involve the reduction and eventual elimination of tariffs and the abandonment of other forms of protection. Time and again it has been emphasised that in the light of this possibility it was incumbent on every manufacturer to make increased efficiency his first concern.
I am sure that most manufacturers took these warnings seriously, but I fear that the atmosphere of alertness which prevailed when the proposal for a European Free Trade area was first under active consideration may have relaxed with the abandonment of that proposal and that with the passage of time some at least of our manufacturers may allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security. This would be a grave mistake. It is obvious that trading relationships in Europe may change, and change quickly. In this situation the only sensible course for our manufacturers is to plan their business, as stated by the Taoiseach during the course of a recent speech at Killarney, on the assumption that if a Western European economic community, including Britain, comes about, this country will go along with it, and will have to accept, with membership, an obligation to dismantle our industrial tariffs and quotas over some period of years.
It has been several times said to me that this is a difficult period for manufacturers because they cannot forecast the future. I do not accept this. Any sensible manufacturer will be doing himself good, and doing well by the country, if he assumes that the era of protection is ending and if he puts himself, by all the means at his disposal, in a position to meet unrestricted competition in the home market.
It may be recalled that in the course of my speech last year on the Estimates for my Department I ventured the opinion that the coming year would bring significant progress in the tourist industry. I think it will be agreed that that confidence has to a great extent been justified. Estimated income from visitors in 1960 reached a record figure of £42.4 million compared with £37.8 million in 1959. This means that in the three-year period since 1957 there has been an increase of about 30% in earnings from this source.
As I also mentioned last year, shortage of hotel accommodation was threatening to become the chief barrier to the further development of the industry and so certain new grant and tax incentives were introduced in January, 1960, to encourage the expansion and improvement of such accommodation. These incentives have already produced beneficial results. During 1960, 76 hotel projects were undertaken which have resulted,inter alia, in the provision of more than 600 new bedrooms. The overall capital investment involved in these projects was of the order of £1 million. Other projects have been initiated which will result in a substantial increase in the volume of accommodation for visitors.
The scheme of grants for the development of major tourist resorts is now well under way and proposals for projects at the various resorts are taking firmer shape. The nature of these projects, however, calls for careful co-ordination between Bord Fáilte Éireann and the local interest concerned and for that reason progress in the initial stages is necessarily slow.
During the past year, the Fair Trade Commission completed their inquiry into the supply and distribution of motor spirit and motor lubricating oil and they have recently furnished me with their Report. The Report is at present being studied and it will be published in due course. The Commission have recently held an inquiry into certain aspects of the supply and distribution of cookers and ranges.
During the past year, the Commission have also made Fair Trading Rules relating to entry into the wholesale trade in domestic and household electrical appliances. In addition, the Commission continued to keep under review the operation of Orders and Fair Trading Rules and, as in previous years, they gave advice and assistance to manufacturers and traders who experienced difficulties in relation to the supply and distribution of goods not covered by existing Rules or Orders.
Recent strikes in essential industries —an example was the C.I.E. bus strike —have prompted me to consider whether our present industrial relations machinery can be improved. This question is at present under examination but no decisions have as yet been taken. Before a decision is made, I will arrange consultation with representatives of employers and workers.
The Government have introduced legislation to provide for increased holidays for workers. At present, in addition to the public holidays or days in lieu, workers are entitled to one week's annual leave with pay. Very many workers have, through collective bargaining, secured an additional week's annual leave and the new legislation will make this standard of two weeks' holidays, plus the Public Holidays or compensatory days off, a statutory minimum. It is the Government's hope to have this legislation in force so that it will benefit workers in the coming holiday season.
The review of insurance legislation is at present proceeding. While an amount of work has been done, it will not be possible to introduce a comprehensive amending Bill in the present session. Present indications are that the Bill will not provide for any radical changes in the existing law.
It will probably be necessary, however, to introduce a special Bill to increase the limit of £2,000,000 for export credit insurance provided for in Section 2 of the Insurance Act, 1953. The increase in our export trade is tending to make that limit too low.
An Cheard Comhairle was established in April, 1960, under the Apprenticeship Act, 1959. Its function is to secure improvements in existing arrangements for the recruitment and training of apprentices. An Chomhairle is representative of employers, workers and educational interests. Its first task was to determine policy and I am glad to be able to report that, within a few months of its establishment, An Chomhairle agreed unanimously on a progressive and imaginative statement of policy.
The next step in the progress of An Chomhairle—and this is already in hands—is promotional in nature. It must attempt to create a climate of opinion among the various interests concerned which will be favourable to change and improvement. It must, at the same time, commence to implement its policy in the various craft trades. I understand that An Chomhairle hopes, in the near future, to commence the examination of a number of trades under the Act and, since it cannot examine all the Trades simultaneously, to promote voluntary efforts at improvement in a number of other trades.
Apprenticeship as a method of training can be regarded as successful only if it produces an adequate and adaptable force of skilled men to meet the problems arising in an era of industrial expansion. The apprenticeship system in Ireland is not at present geared to do this. An Cheard Chomhairle has the important, but difficult, task of securing the necessary changes. It has made a good start; but if it is to make rapid progress it must have the goodwill and co-operation of the trade unions and the employers. One thing is certain, we cannot allow the impetus which has been achieved to be checked in the years to come by shortage of skilled men, and by deficiencies in skill arising from inadequate training methods. It is up to An Chomhairle to use its powers firmly, but fairly, to see to it that this does not happen.
Considerable progress has been made with the drafting of legislation to amend and consolidate the Companies Acts. In addition to effecting such amendments as have been shown to be desirable, it is intended that the new Act will bring together in a single measure all the law in this field, at present scattered throughout a number of enactments. It is not possible as yet to say when the Bill will be introduced, but every effort is being made to expedite its preparation.
A review of the law relating to trade marks, designs and patents is being carried out by the Patents Office in orderinter alia to meet certain changes in the international Convention on these matters, to which this country is a party, and also to keep in line with the international trend in trade mark design and patent practice. It is already clear that legislative proposals will have to be submitted to the Dáil in due course.
A review of the law of copyright, which is contained in the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Acts, 1927-1958, has been completed and I hope to have a Bill prepared on the subject before very long which will provide for the protection of sound and television broadcasts and for various other amendments of the law.
That represents the statement as already prepared on the administration of the Department of Industry and Commerce during the past year. If there are any other details or facts the House would like me to elucidate, I shall be glad to do so in my reply.