This is a Supplementary Estimate and the arrangement is that we shall be brief and allow the money to pass so that work can go on in the Department. I presume the debate is intended to end at 10.30 p.m. and I propose to share my time with the Labour Party.
The importance of the Department of Industry and Commerce transcends all the other things we have been talking about in this House for the past few weeks and all the things which bishops have been talking about outside it. All these things are of little importance compared with the employment of our people. We do not have to go very far to realise that it is only in industry that new jobs will be found. We now have an unemployment figure of 70,000 and we headed the league again in the number of work days lost. It was 900,000 odd in the previous year; it is now 1,000,000 work days lost. There should, of course, have been a Minister for Labour long before that Ministry was established. When the Minister for Labour and his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, come to ponder their stewardship they must wonder whether or not there were, in fact, faults on their and their predecessors' side as well as on the side of those directly involved. That is something we must seriously consider in this Supplementary Estimate. It would be wrong to generalise but it would be equally wrong not to advert to it. Taking the various subheads it is quite in order, in my view, to advert to these particular facets of our industrial structure which are creating a situation in which there will be no more new factories this year and a decrease in industrial expansion.
The position is that we have galloping inflation. The figure given for last year is 10 per cent. The average for European countries is exactly half that. Inflation is the robber of the poor and the feeder of the rich. Anybody with bricks, stones, mortar, green fields or holdings in industry merely waits for property to appreciate as cash values deteriorate but the poor man, the man who has no property, has to go on existing on the shilling in his pocket. That is why inflation is the robber of the poor. Inflation in this country has been absolutely savage. As I say, it is double the rate of anywhere else in Europe, with the exception of Britain. Mark you, Britain is a country in which, perhaps, there may be the most dire cutback as far as work and jobs are concerned, apart from ourselves.
The party of which I am proud to be a member—a party which, in my view, will take over before many more political moons have waxed and waned —will see to it as a first priority that the work of the prices section of the Department will be streamlined and legislation passed to ensure that that body is really effective. If the job is mine I shall see to it that that body does its work. I do not say that by way of reflection on those involved but merely to give notice that the responsibility for prices rests with the Minister for Industry and Commerce and there is grave necessity to ensure that prices do not rise too high and that jobs are not put in jeopardy because of impotence on the part of a section of a Department. If a section is impotent that is the fault of the Minister and the fault of the Government.
The present Minister has not been very long in the job. I believe that the prices section of his Department is impotent largely because of ineffective legislation. There is not the proper control that there should be. In cases in which it is vital that there should be an increase in the price of a commodity so that jobs will not be imperilled there is inordinate delay and that delay can be laid at the feet of the Minister and his predecessor. So hopeless has the position been that ordinary working people have had to make decisions to go back to their employers and seek more wages, more paper money, because increases are eaten up in inflation. Sometimes the position has been that the employer could not grant an increase because of the price of the commodity he was producing. There is the person who needs a price increase, can indisputably prove his justification for such an increase, but cannot get that increase and thereby loses his profits. On the other hand, there is the unfortunate consumer who is mulcted. How could any woman going into a gown shop say that the price of a frock had been increased by £3 since last year and she will report that increase to the prices section of the Department of Industry and Commerce? The same situation exists in regard to shoes and everything else. Can the Minister say he would pay this year the same price that he paid last year for an identical suit? These are the things that are causing galloping inflation, an inflation that is so difficult to correct, an inflation that may cause grave unemployment. It is certainly causing grave unrest.
With regard to the Industrial Development Authority, there is a serious discrepancy in the level of grants to existing industry and to new industry. Looking through the report one notes that certain industries, perhaps, industries with a high female employment content, get huge grants while other industries get minute grants. One realises here that the Government have been a little politically activated in the grants system. They have been very happy to see the local TD at the opening of a new factory, having a ball of malt with the Minister—not with this Minister, of course, because in his case it would be Club Orange— calling attention to the new jobs, jobs which may mean more votes. But there is more to it than that. Existing industry must be looked after. It will be the policy of my party that where an existing industry has made a major development—I do not say it should be 50 per cent of the capital employed —we will give grants at the same level as those given to new industry.
I do not want to develop this into a general debate, but I must advert to one self-evident fact. I have been sitting here for some years now listening to Ministers for Industry and Commerce reading their briefs and none of them has ever adverted to one self-evident fact. The reason we are becoming the highest cost country in Europe is that the east of Ireland, through indirect taxation, through PAYE and, generally, through the volume of taxation from the large number of people living in the east, has had to provide the minimum infrastructure for the rest of Ireland, for the poor areas, the areas denuded of population. The minimum infrastructure of hospitals, roads, Garda barracks and everything else has meant that the people of the east have had to bear a level of taxation unparalleled anywhere in Europe. I put it to the people of the east of Ireland that they have got to realise that, if the other areas in the country do not develop and expand at some reasonable rate, then the level of direct and indirect taxation and rates that must be levied upon them will mean that we will be the highest cost producer in Europe. If that situation develops we will reach the point of no return. My definition of the economic point of no return is where you take a county or half a county, an industry or an individual company and decide, after a dispassionate examination of the prospects, that there is no hope for it. I could give the Minister areas—and if he campaigned in the Donegal-Leitrim by-election he could give me the same areas—where there is no hope.
The people of the east of Ireland must at last be made to realise that the only way in which a reasonable price level and a reasonable living can be attained for the ordinary working man is in the development of the designated areas. We industrialists must be encouraged to go further than Dublin. Otherwise, because of that infrastructure I have mentioned, the State taxation by way of rates, rents, taxes indirect and direct, on the people who are producing and who are in large number on the east coast will result in Ireland having the highest cost economy in Europe.
I am proud again to say that we on this side of the House were the first to produce a policy which faced up to that self-evident fact. The job I am trying to do tonight, before I move to the various items of the Minister's speech, is to sell to the people of Ireland this fact that it is no good for the NIEC report of 1962 to tell the Government that there should be growth centres specified when the Government, in case they would lose votes, will not act on it and we are left with Galway, Waterford, Shannon, Sligo and a couple more areas. In 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966 we should have been designating our growth centres, building our advance factories, looking at our complete national infrastructure, building roads that were fit to carry our heavy goods from the particular places where our factories should have been. We should have been telling the truth but, unfortunately, we are ruled by a Government who think only of their own political future. I often think that, perhaps, the proudest moment of the political existence of the father of the leader of Fine Gael—and the people opposite did not believe it was possible—was to hand over the machinery of State having been defeated in an election. His proudest moment was when by so doing he proved he had instituted democracy in this country without as much as a blow being struck or a gun discharged. That is not what we are here to discuss tonight, but I do want to impress upon the Minister the necessity for a policy of growth centres, advance factories, of stating where we are prepared to allow factories to be built, of giving that flexibility whereby, if a chamber of commerce or an organisation in a small western town produces a project, we will give them a grant to make a feasibility study and that we will tell them the truth and lose votes if necessary. We in Fine Gael were always ready to do that; perhaps that was one of our political mistakes. Having done that feasibility study, it is our policy to help those who are prepared to help themselves in the establishment of a factory in that small town, which might not be in the growth centre or which might not be at the location where the advance factory was built. That is our policy. We have also a "first" in that the empty railway wagons and the empty CIE lorries returning from these areas will get subsidised freight rates and that people in Mayo will be encouraged to produce goods in Mayo knowing they will get a subsidised freight rate or no freight rate at all depending on the decision of the cost of bringing the goods to the east coast for export and for selling to the people who live in what is now referred to in copying London, as Greater Dublin.
This Supplementary Estimate is introduced at a time when the attack on profits by the Government is unprecedented. I must not go into too great detail but I want to advert to the fact that we are talking on the various subheads here about encouragement for industry, about providing grants for industry, about providing salaries for people to issue grants to industry to do all these things. Not many months ago there was introduced in this House a package deal. That package deal was the Prices and Incomes Bill, 1970, and the Finance (No. 2) Bill of the same year. In the Prices and Incomes Bill that was introduced there was the abhorrent provision pegging wages, which is not practicable anyway, as everybody knows. There was the pegging of rents for furnished flats, furnished homes and so on which, in my view, is extremely desirable, from 31st December, 1971. There was the pegging of prices and various other provisions.
Of course, the Government had to do something else. They said: "We have been very rough on the working man. What will we do with the big fat business magnates who will still get their profits?" They produced the Finance (No. 2) Bill which increased company taxation to the staggering figure for a small nation like this of 58 per cent. Faced with the utter impracticality of pegging wages they removed the Prices and Incomes Bill in toto; they did not amend it and remove the abhorrent features from it. It must be remembered that in that Bill they did not peg rents. I had to advert —indeed some of my friends will not thank me for it—to the dreadful situation in Drogheda town in regard to the charging of rents for furnished homes to unfortunate people who found themselves without a corporation house in which to live. They then created a situation whereby, at 58 per cent taxation, industry is being pressurised to the stage at which it is not worth while any more to work in industry. There is no longer the profit motive and existing industry that is not exporting or is exporting an old export as distinct from a new export is giving 58 per cent, on average, of its profits back to the Government. Then the people who derive some income either through dividends or salaries from a company or an industry pay their personal tax after that again.
Where is the incentive? Why have we done this? The political correspondent of the Sunday Independent told us last Sunday week that in round figures the Budget will turn out with a deficit of £30 million, that revenue has increased by £58 million and that expenditure has increased by £88 million. The reason given for this extraordinary and incalculable loss in the development of Irish industry and the loss of Irish jobs was that in the year ending 31st March the extra revenue therefrom will be £3,500,000 and in a full year it will be £6 million. Because of this high level of taxation we are forcing out of this country people who might have developed their industry further. We are forcing out people who have not got new exports. This is absolutely against expansion but at the same time we are giving out millions of pounds in grants to create new jobs. The thinking in relation to all this is inexcusable and what is needed is a powder keg in the Departments of Finance and Industry and Commerce.
I shall refer now to the Buy Irish Campaign. The Minister said he hoped that existing industry would put up £10,000 towards this campaign but he now finds that he must provide the full amount of £20,000 himself. Why should industry, having been treated so shabbily, put up anything? The fact that they have not done so is a measure of their confidence in the Government. One of the first things done by Mr. Faulkner in Northern Ireland was to discontinue the campaign aimed at attracting industry to the north at a cost of £100,000. He did this because he knew that while there were disturbances in that part of the country, no campaign would succeed in attracting industrialists. Is it not an insult to the Minister and to his predecessors that the many industries in this country, some of them employing thousands of workers, would not, between them, contribute 100 subscriptions of £100 each?
In relation to the east European countries, I can tell the Minister that our efforts in this direction are a waste of money. I have some little experience of dealing with these people. They will sell to you if they want hard currency and they will buy from you if they have not got the particular commodity themselves but they will buy them of the lowest quality and at the lowest price possible in any part of the world. They will not live up to the spirit of their bargaining. Therefore, we would be far better off intensifying our efforts towards exporting to Britain. We would be far better off searching, as I am searching at the moment in respect of one particular factory in my constituency, for a country in western Europe who, via the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement, are anxious to get their goods into Britain and who can send partially manufactured goods here to be completed or who could have goods produced under licence at their plant here. These industrial goods could then be sent to Britain. If we did this we would not have to go behind the Iron Curtain and make asses of ourselves. All I could do in my dealing with these people was lose money.
Deputies have been asking questions about the imbalance of trade between east European countries and our own country. From time to time they have said we should force these people to do this or do that and that if we buy £100,000 worth of goods from them, we should ensure that they buy goods to the same value from us. They are not interested in doing business in that way. Trade pacts have been made with Britain and can be made with America. They can be made, too, with the traditionally governed countries but there is not a hope in so far as these east European countries are concerned.
In relation to the Castlecomer collieries, I am not sure that enough has been done. I remember hearing a very helpful comment in this House from Deputy Crotty's late father when first there was trouble in relation to these collieries. This party was firmly behind any efforts made to mitigate hardship or displacement of workers in the area. I hope that matters will go well in so far as the Ballingarry collieries are concerned. I know that the people down there are doing their best. They are decent people. So far as my party are concerned every help will be given to them.
Under the subhead for geological survey, there is merely an indication that machinery was late in arriving. There is not much point in referring to this except to say that I hope the most energetic efforts will be made in relation to geological surveys and that we will keep abreast of all mining developments as they occur. In this regard, I might say that the debate on the Adjournment the other night was interesting. The Minister acted wisely. The proper procedure was adopted in relation to Tara Mines. The Minister was courteous and his approach was fair. That is what I would expect from a Minister whom I believe to be an honest man.
The appropriations-in-aid remind us that we now have royalties accruing from mineral exploration. The Minister mentioned the other evening that he expects greater royalties from the present strike which is the subject of some comment. My view is that the Minister is entitled to these and I hope he will approach this in a business-like manner, in a manner in which nobody kills the goose who lays the golden egg but where, at the same time, one expects to be in a position to pick the golden egg from the nest and leave the goose to lay another the following day. It is my belief that the Government have acted correctly in this instance. Since this matter is sub judice at the moment I suppose it is not right for us to discuss it in detail but I would say to the Minister that he is entitled to seek extra royalties and I wish him luck in that regard.
Let the appropriations-in-aid increase. Any ratepayer in this country knows how much he must contribute. Therefore, it is necessary that there be an equality of the carrying of the burden and in this regard, royalties accruing from mineral strikes are necessary and proper. I am sure this is international practice. The extra money for the Institute of Industrial Research and Standards I am pleased to see included in the Supplementary Estimate. I am aware of the work of this institute. It is good work and I hope it will be proceeded with.
The Irish National Productivity Committee are spending quite a bit of money and sometimes I wonder as I wondered at one stage in relation to the Agricultural Institute and still wonder sometimes if the work of that body is related in a commercial way to the benefits that the country can enjoy. I would hope that there would be a less academic approach than there might be and a more practical approach. I will say no more about that except that I would hope that practical benefits would be emerging and that we would not be paying money without getting something back. I think we are not but at the same time it might well be that a more practical approach might be possible.
Having said that, I shall sit down because this is but a Supplementary Estimate. I have made a general case in brief which I shall expand upon on the main Estimate. The Minister is facing a most difficult time in industry. Most of the difficulties spring from the economic and fiscal policies of his own party.