This type of legislation making grants available for the whole country for the first time in 1956 was introduced by the late Deputy William Norton as Minister for Industry and Commerce, in the case of the Industrial Grants Act, and by Deputy Gerard Sweetman, as Minister for Finance, in the case of the Miscellaneous Provisions Act of that year, and was opposed by Fianna Fáil and particularly by Deputy Seán Lemass, and then adopted by them when they came into power. In fact they have now reached the stage where £50 million will be spent within this financial year. This means that another policy proposed by the Fine Gael Party while in the interParty Government and by Deputy Norton of the Labour Party has been adopted by Fianna Fáil, namely, that if all the countries of Europe decided to subsidise and to encourage by financial inducement the provision of jobs we would have to do it too, that the world is getting smaller, the Continent of Europe is becoming smaller as far as communication between countries is concerned and that if free trade moves slowly towards culmination we will have to take our place with other countries. It is sad that the present Minister, who was not here and does not know the violent opposition of Deputy Seán Lemass at the time, with the full force of his Party behind him, should now find himself asking for more money for what was good parliamentary practice, good policy and necessary for this country.
However, let us not worry about the past. This Party for the last seven or eight years, certainly for five years, have been advocating change in the application of these grants. They were not alone because in the NIEC Report of 1962 it was the straight recommendation that the Government should indicate the growth areas. The idea of indicating those growth areas would of course have meant that the local authorities and everybody else who had capital moneys to spend would know where to spend them, would know what roads to improve to a very high standard to take heavy traffic, would know what facilities to provide for workers, would know the housing requirements and could make their case for capital funds from the Local Loans Fund and could ask the Government, through their agencies, to carry out the necessary infra-structure work that should have been done.
We now find ourselves in 1969 with the changes that were adumbrated from this side of the House announced in a press release from the present Minister some months ago and in the third paragraph of his speech he mentions the comprehensive legislation that is necessary. He says it is taking far longer than he thought and it is much more tedious than he anticipated. Be that as it may, in 1962 we had this report of the NIEC and nothing was done about it. Nothing was done about it because the Government were more interested in political affairs. They were more interested in the votes they would get in Leitrim, which I always use as an example, and what would happen if they decided that there should be an industrial estate and large-scale industrial development in, perhaps, Sligo. Whatever the loss of votes one way or the other, it is necessary to accept the fact that it is better for an Irishman or an Irish woman to move from one county in Ireland to a neighbouring county or even to the far side of the country than it is for that person to move from his own county to Birmingham, London or Coventry. That would be fundamental in our national thinking and proper in the furtherance of our industrial future.
In fact the spending of £50 million should have that thinking behind it as a prerequisite so that the spending of this money would not be clearly based on political advantage or disadvantage but on what was best for the country. As far as I can see, quite a bit of the comprehensive legislation mentioned by the Minister, if it follows the lines of his press release, is stolen from Fine Gael. We have had for five years at our Ard Fheis a proposal for the institution of a small industries grant with different application throughout the country. There is, in addition, the objection we lodged to the fact that adaptation grants, when they were produced first by the Minister some years ago, did not take in supply industries that might perhaps, in free trade conditions find themselves completely wiped out by competition from abroad. Unless the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement is changed, in 1975—I quote the words of the NIEC—72 per cent of our industrial products will be subject to the full blast of British competition. Therefore, the home market should be looked after as well as the export market.
Adaptation grants were available only for export—orientated industries. We welcome the suggestion of moving on to re-equipment grants and find it a little gratifying, but only a little gratifying, that the Government and the Minister have adopted our suggestion after perhaps three, four or five years' waste. The failure of the Government to make the necessary changes over the years means that now, after they have been in office since 1957, they tell us that the legislation necessary for the changes in those grants is tedious and will take a long time to prepare, when we have been telling them over the last decade, certainly over the last six or seven years, that the changes were necessary. In fact, if the Minister's predecessors had been doing their job those changes would have been carried out one by one, so that we would now find ourselves on the eve of an election, or in an election year at any rate, with our industrial thinking or industrial legislation up to date and not, as we are, in the position of waiting for long and tedious legislation to be prepared after a run in Government of 12 years by Fianna Fáil. This is entirely due to the failure of the Government to make these changes year by year.
There is another factor which must be mentioned in relation to the expenditure of this huge sum of money. We have had reports of international consultants such as Colin Buchanan and Partners in regard to where our industries should be sited. These reports have not seen the light of day yet. When I put down a question about certain areas in my constituency I was told here that this report was confidential and that it was improper of me to put down a question in relation to the development of industry in the north-eastern part of the State. At that time, as chairman of Louth County Council I had had that report lying in my desk for nine months. What are the Government doing? Will they give us this information or is it, in fact, being deliberately withheld from us? My view is that we should be a young State in a hurry, and the Minister should be a young man in a hurry. The evidence is that such has not been the case. The evidence is that we have been sitting down thinking of our votes and not heeding the recommendations of the NIEC. We are heeding them now because we are approaching an election. But, no matter when this election is held, perhaps all that will happen before it is that the legislation will be passed.
I am aware that from the Minister's press release that the people who applied for grants have been dealt with and they have letters to say that they are entitled to £X or £Y grant in relation to expenditure specified. That is all they have. The detailed legislation that will govern these grants has been delayed, wrongfully in my view, by the Government. I welcome the fact that we are heading for an expenditure of £50 million but it would be wrong in relation to this expenditure not to say that there has been a wastage. I deliberately refrain from mentioning individual cases but the Minister knows as well as I know that there has been a wastage of something in the order of well over £10 million. I agree completely with those on the other side of the House who say in defence of this situation that we must take risks and that there must be failures. I have no objection at all to the people in the Industrial Development Authority or in An Foras Tionscal or the Minister himself taking a calculated risk, because if we are to employ the number of people leaving the land and stem the tide of emigration we must take risks and we should be prepared to take them. All I am saying is that, as opposed to what is said from the Government benches, the incidence of risks has been far too high. I do not want to labour that point because it might perhaps tend to inhibit development of future industry here, but if the Minister wishes to have a list of industries which have failed he can have it from me privately or from most Deputies who have been here for the last 12 years. The number of industries which have failed is far too high in relation to the expenditure on them. I could visualise a ten per cent failure rate.
I want to say also—again I will not mention individual cases but the Minister can have a list from me privately —that, where there have been failures and attempts were made to redeem the failure by getting somebody else into the industrial building that was left behind, very often the second inhabitant of the building was not nearly as important to the economy or to the local situation as the first. It has been proved that, where there have been failures, employers of large-scale female labour have been induced to come in on the second occasion.
It is my view that in many of these cases larger grants were given than commonsense would indicate as proper. It would be wrong to mention individual cases but when one scans a list of grants and the amount of employment given—that is all you can do because most people who apply for these grants are pretty flamboyant when conjecturing about potential employment—one finds that in some instances industries have been set up in very expensive buildings, industries which will never have the same advantages for this country or for the local situation as the first inhabitant.
In relation to the failures, I feel that the new departure—brought about perhaps by constant hammering for change from this side of the House— will bring about a better situation. I feel, too, that there should be a change in relation to the method of payment of these grants. If industries have to wait too long and are told that the legislation is not there but it may be there after six or nine months, you will find that some of them will move off to Northern Ireland or across the water to England. This has happened far too often. I can give the Minister an instance of a small industry in County Donegal with which I was involved myself. A principal of the industry approached me. He took up the matter with the county development team in Lifford. The matter went on and on ad nauseam and he is now shifting the entire industry across to Scotland where he got action inside one month. Therefore, the delay I have referred to in the passing of this legislation, at a time when other legislation was passed which had no interest for anybody except political interest, is something that has brought about the transfer of potential industries and, in this case, an existing industry from this country.
If the Government are now voting £50 million, there is not the slightest objection from this side. We were the first people to introduce this type of legislation. The people on the far side of the House objected to it at that time and objected strongly, not only by their voices but by their votes. We, on, this side, would not object to getting legislation through if it would mean that grants would be paid under the new system and that we would not have the situation I have indicated, namely, the losing of industries to other countries when they should be snapped up by what must be for many years to come a young State in a hurry.