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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 7 Feb 1963

Vol. 199 No. 9

Industrial Grants (Amendment) Bill, 1962—Money Resolution. - Industrial Grants (Amendment) Bill, 1962—Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

The Minister may inadvertently have given the impression that under the terms of Section 4 there are proposals, or that there was a scheme or that there was a special grant for the training of workers in cases where there was re-adaptation. I think it is a global grant for re-adaptation and that there is no special grant for retraining?

And there is no provision for redundant workers? I do not expect there would be but I gather from what the Minister has said about the Government setting up the Committee on Industrial Organisation and the other committee, that they will consider compensation at some stage for temporary redundancy. I want only to take up where Deputy McQuillan left off when he said that in re-adaptation there was a possibility of redundancy. There is nothing in this Bill to provide for redundancy or for compensation, but do I gather from what the Minister said that the Government are considering a scheme whereby there would be compensation for those who might even be temporarily rendered redundant in the re-adaptation process?

The position is that the inter-departmental Committee set up was charged with examining the implications of the European Social Fund in anticipation of our membership of the Common Market and to report back to the Government what scheme of re-training or redundancy compensation might be adopted here. That committee is continuing its work, notwithstanding the suspension of negotiations on Britain's application for membership. Therefore, it would be premature for me to say at this stage what the Government are going to do.

Before Deputy McQuillan started to get abusive, I was going to mention that the industrial re-organisation branch of the Department is keeping in close touch with the firms in respect of which the CIO reports have been made. There will be a full degree of co-operation between the industrial re-organisation branch, the inter-departmental committee and An Foras Tionscal in respect of the full implications of re-adaptation and grants. I do not think I can be expected to set out the broad plan of what will happen in all contingencies, except to say that the matter is being kept under close review and that we hope that when the time comes we will be able to make ample provision for as many contingencies as may arise.

Is it not likely that during the process of re-adaptation, there will be unemployment for three or six months and that the country will be in danger of losing some of those workers? I think that there should be some condition in the giving of those grants that as a result of re-adaptation by those firms, there would not be unemployment. I know that you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs but it is inevitable that we will lose workers if they are laid off as a result of re-adaptation schemes. That is the problem. If industry is to be helped, it is only fair to ask for continuity of employment.

I do not care what attitude the Minister takes towards me personally but I want him to realise that when I feel it necessary to take up the question of unemployment in this House, I make no apologies to him or to any member of his organisation. The word "adaptation" in the sense it is used in the Bill means automation in many phases in industry. While I am in full agreement with the most efficient and modern methods of production being introduced, when I find that State grants are to be given for the production of such machinery and such automation, I feel it is only fair that the people who will be disemployed as a result of automation paid for by the State should be entitled to the same help as the firms who are getting the adaptation grants.

I want to make it clear to the Minister that is it no good for him to tell the House: "We have it under observation. We have an investigating committee examining the position. We are not in a position to make any promises at the moment." That is the same as telling the workers who will be disemployed as a result of automation: "Live horse and you will get grass". If 40 people are to be disemployed as a result of automation, they must be given alternative work in this country and no attempt is being made at the moment to give them alternative work. If a worker is disemployed on a Friday evening, there is no use in telling him that there is an investigating committee at work and that in 12 months' time it will find a scheme whereby he can be retrained. He is a man with a family. He is the breadwinner and he cannot live on the unemployment allowance which is so meagre in this State until such time as the committee finds an alternative means of employment for him.

While the Minister talks about big State grants which will lead to automation, where are the workers' interests being looked after? I feel that the Minister should not introduce a measure which will deliberately bring about disemployment of workers. Up to this the Government have got away with a lot by saying that we were going into the European Economic Community and that we would have a right to the European Social and Investment Fund. There is no question about it: we are not going into the European Economic Community. We have not what is known as a pup's chance of getting into the European Economic Community as full members. That is quite clear to anyone who reads this morning's papers, in spite of the Taoiseach's declaration that we are fit to withstand the competition in Europe, because a neutral body, a special committee set up by the UN, has found that Ireland is an undeveloped country in the same category as the South American countries, Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Greece, and the underdeveloped countries in Africa with the exception of South Africa. That committee has found that we are an undeveloped country and as such, we have no right to apply for full membership in a fully developed community. The Minister can no longer say that the European Social Fund is open to us.

At the same time, the Government are carrying out reductions in tariffs preparing us for membership and giving re-adaptation grants which will lead to the disemployment of workers, and no attempt is being made by the Government to put those disemployed workers into alternative work. Is there any sane reason why we should spend hundreds of thousands of pounds re-adapting industrial concerns which will cause big unemployment in the country and not make an effort to solve that problem? Does the Minister still look to Britain as a solution to the unemployment that will be caused as a result of that adaptation? Does the Minister think that conditions in England are such that Irish workers can get employment there? Does he not know that this is the biggest crisis to face this Government or any other Government for 40 years with bad conditions of employment in Britain and worse conditions here? The Government are giving big grants to industries to get cracking——

To get industries going.

To get industries going, you must have people to work in them. The Deputy from Cork——

The Deputy from Cork did more for the country than the Deputy or anyone belonging to him.

I want to see Irish people working in Ireland. There is no use in giving State grants to an industry if 40 people are to be disemployed and have to go to work in England. That is the position we are facing and it is something which the Irish people will not tolerate when they realise what is happening. The disemployment will take place on a gradual basis, on the basis of ten on a Friday night, five the following week and ten the week after. By the time the re-adaptation grant is given and the modernisation has taken place, the greatest percentage of the workers have gone and those who remain are no longer a strong unit to protest and fight on their own behalf. It is at this stage that the danger of what is likely to happen must be brought home to the Minister so that he will introduce new legislation side by side with these measures, not only to help the private entrepreneur but to help the Irish worker as well.

I have actually seen in operation in my constituency the re-adaptation methods to which the last speaker referred. I have seen it in Irish Steel. There has been a change there. Large numbers had to be disemployed whilst the works were being changed over. In no case did I see the horrible position that Deputy McQuillan has talked about. These men were laid off in Irish Steel. They were taken on the following morning by the contractors to work on the re-adaptation. There was no unemployment. As a result of the scheme, there is now permanent employment for an increased number of workers. I will not follow the Deputy in his moaning as to what will or will not happen in the Common Market. We have set ourselves out as being independent of everybody. We can look after our own people. We are looking after them and, if we got a little assistance from a few of the drones I hear talking in this House, we would make a great deal more progress.

I do not know why Deputy McQuillan has to be both aggressive and abusive in every contribution he has to offer here. I am quite prepared to meet Deputy McQuillan on any matter like this.

Then do not start the abuse first.

I did not start any abuse.

Of course the Minister did, and so did his Party.

I said that I am just as much concerned for the worker as Deputy McQuillan, or anyone else. If that is abuse, then I am guilty. So far, no disemployment has occurred by reason of our exposure to a greater degree of competition. Secondly, in these adaptation grants provided under this Bill, the industrialist himself will have to put up a very high proportion. We are providing as a maximum only 25 per cent. of what the cost of the re-adaptation will be; the industrialist will have to provide at least 75 per cent.

In answer to the general proposition —this was part of what Deputy Corish had to say—when industrial grants are given for new industries or the development of existing industries, the effect on employment is one of the factors taken into account by An Foras Tionscal. The protection of the employment of workers is a factor taken into account in the giving of any grants. Finally, and I do not say this in disregard of existing workers, unless these re-adaptation measures are carried out, there will be a grave danger of there being no employment at all for workers in particular factories unless those factories are made more competitive under freer trading conditions.

I think the Minister must agree that in the transitional period, efforts must be made to keep the workers in the country.

I agree entirely, and I am fully conscious of that.

But the Minister is doing nothing at all about it.

Is there any legislation for re-adaptation at the moment?

No, other than these Bills.

And that is the answer.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 5 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 8 stand part of the Bill".

I criticise this section because I believe it has no effective meaning. It is intended apparently as a headline, but I do not believe it is capable of being enforced. I do not believe, in fact, that any of the bodies concerned, Foras Tionscal or any others, need give any serious consideration to it. This problem has been the subject of comment in both the report on Economic Development published in 1958 and also of comment and examination in the fourth Interim Report of the CIO. Both reports expressed the view, with certain reservations, that it is not practical for some localities to have special attractions or attributes rendering them more desirable or suitable for particular industrial developments. In the main, any suggestion that there were economic considerations in favour of action, either by these bodies or by the Government, to decentralise industry, or to establish industries for reasons other than economic ones, in the context of possible membership of EEC or, in any event, in order to meet trading conditions in the future, would not be justified.

In the light of these two reports, one resulting from a study conducted over four years and one received within the past few months, I do not believe there is any sound reason for this section. It is, in fact, incapable of being implemented and is therefore meaningless. For that reason, it should be deleted.

I am in complete agreement with Deputy Cosgrave. It is absolutely nonsensical. There is no power given to this Board to promote industrial development in the west of Ireland. This provision is a mere platitude, shoved in to placate the unfortunate Fianna Fáil Deputies who have, by their support of this Bill, sounded the death knell of industrial development in the west. We had Deputy Gilbride and other Fianna Fáil Deputies admitting they were worried and perturbed about the effect of this legislation on the west. This Bill will give the same attractions to the east coast as to the west coast, and it will do so under statute.

What does the Minister mean by saying in Section 8 that it is the duty of the Board to do its best to ensure that the west gets preference? It is like the guest who enters a hotel and is given a list of the charges; an industrialist will be given a little piece of cardboard with a printed notice: "According to Section 8 of the Act of 1963, it is our duty to exhort you to go to the West." The Minister feels he has a duty to put that in to save his own Party embarrassment in Dáil Éireann. That is all the section amounts to.

Leaving that aside, I want the Minister to tell me now has he seen the report issued by the United Nations World Economic Survey, 1961? Has he seen that report which refers specifically to Ireland as an undeveloped country? How does he reconcile that view from an official body with his statement that only portion of Ireland is undeveloped?

If we are going to pursue our application for full membership of EEC— about which both the Opposition and the Government seem to be obsessed —do they realise that the country as a whole is described as undeveloped? Therefore, as far as Section 8 is concerned, it is even more ridiculous to-day to put in that section and talk about undeveloped areas when, within 12 months, the entire country will be officially described as an undeveloped area.

Whether industrialists will go to the west or not is a matter for themselves because although the Government may give them grants, the Minister has no power to site an industry in any part of the west. The Minister should put it up to the Government, if necessary, to build factories in areas where he thinks they should be sited; he should equip them with machinery, send the operatives to be trained and hand the matter over to one of his representatives, or a representative of the Department of Finance, to see that the money expended on it would be recovered some time. If necessary, if they thought it worthwhile, they should then hand it over to private enterprise. That should be done with regard to the western areas.

I often wonder on what side Deputy McQuillan is. I know that he is against the Government, no matter what Government are sitting here.

There is no difference between the two of you.

I wonder is he in favour of the efforts we are making for the economic development of the country or why does he take every effort to denigrate us both inside and outside the House? I commend Deputy McQuillan to read the leading article in today's Irish Independent. It is something that might help him.

He read it and he probably read it before the Minister got up.

That is possible. I do not get into my office before 9.30 a.m. That is not too late, I hope.

I also read the report about undeveloped countries.

The leading article I refer to said that no matter in what category of development they place us, we must work as hard as we can to develop our——

Hear, hear.

——our economy and that is what I am trying to do through the aegis of these Bills. Deputy Cosgrave's point was that this section is meaningless as it stands because it does not impose an obligation on the body examining these grants which can be made effective. I think it is right that there should be written into this legislation what is Government, and I think national, policy, that the policy of decentralisation should be continued as long as it is economically feasible in the interests of industrial expansion.

I might say in general that in regard to the undeveloped areas as such, as defined in this Bill, and for the purpose only of these Bills, there is maintained a differential in their favour as far as maximum grants are concerned. Let that not be forgotten. In the case of grants, up to a maximum of £250,000 the differential will remain. That maximum is not the total capital investment in the undertaking but in the case of grants up to that maximum, two-thirds of the cost of the fixed capital is available by way of grants in the undeveloped areas as against, except in exceptional circumstances, 50 per cent.—and I am speaking of maxima—in the case of grants in the rest of the country. Therefore, not only is the differential there in principle, as stated in this Section 8, but it is there in fact.

Deputy Cosgrave, in the course of his Second Reading speech, quoted from the Grey Book, known as Economic Development and also from the CIO Report on Industrial Grants. His reference to the CIO Report was in regard to Paragraph 22 on Page 10 which states:

On the other hand, we are satisfied for the reasons set out in the succeeding paragraphs that direction of industrial grants policy towards achieving a widespread dispersal of industry would in the circumstances facing us under free trade, be economically justifiable.

But there is also Paragraph 43 of the Report which summarises the conclusions of the CIO and says:

First, experience has shown that industrial grants are an effective ingredient in any policy which aims at accelerating the pace of industrial development in Ireland.

Second, the policy of decentralisation should be continued but in such a way as to give the maximum help to the general policy of economic development under free trade conditions.

That acknowledges that this policy of decentralisation should be continued. I am in agreement with it and I am sure most Deputies will be, as long as the decentralisation does not affect the viability of industries. It is Government policy and I see nothing wrong in writing it into the Industrial Grants Act. I think it would be an effective guide to whoever will be responsible for the making of these grants as members of Foras Tionscal. The section is desirable and therefore I do not propose to agree that it should be deleted.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 9 and 10 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

This is a Money Bill for the purpose of Article 22 of the Constitution.