Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 6 Nov 1974

Vol. 275 No. 7

Private Members Business. Employment Policy: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann deplores the failure of the Government to produce coherent policies to combat the problem of rapidly rising unemployment.

This is a motion that was tabled after considerable thought. The workers are now involved in a tragic situation. We have examined the situation. We believe the Government are not aware of the actual situation that exists. On 23rd October, 1974, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach said, in reply to me, and I quote from the Official Report, column 17, volume 275, for that date:

The number of persons on the live register on 4th October, 1974, was 71,412 and the number on 5th October, 1973, was 60,910.

I asked :

Could the Parliamentary Secretary indicate if redundant persons are included and if professional unemployed people are included?

The Parliamentary Secretary replied:

The only information I have got is of the kind which has been circulated to Deputies and which the Deputy would have received in the post. I will inquire into the further point put by the Deputy if he wants to pursue it.

Later on I said:

In view of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that he will look into the matters raised, would he agree that the figures given do not give the entire situation in regard to the unemployment situation throughout the country?

He replied :

Naturally information about a phenomenon like unemployment contained in a single foolscap sheet will not cover every element. That is obvious.

It was quite clear that the information which has been circulated to Deputies is not comprehensive and does not give a clear picture. If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach had no indication of the actual position in relation to unemployment then it would be very difficult for other members of the Government to have this type of information. The Parliamentary Secretary really did not know how many people were unemployed. When one examines the situation and sees the vast number unemployed at present one wonders whether this is what the Labour Party meant by socialism in the seventies or the new republic or have we still got the old Fine Gael outlook that it is not the duty of the Government to find employment for the people. Have the Labour Party accepted this?

We have examined the situation in depth following the Parliamentary Secretary's reply. On 29th October the quarterly economic survey of the Economic and Social Research Institute indicated that the level of unemployment stood at 79,596. The ESRI point out that this is the highest ever since the war. Their report also forecasts that the number of unemployed will he in the region of 90,000 by January or February next. Another expert put the figure at far higher than 90,000. However, the Central Statistics Office on 25th October gave the figure on the live register as 73,477. This was the only information the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach had on that occasion. Other groups carrying out surveys have different figures, far higher figures.

That is not the whole story. We have examined the situation here as against the situation outside. Ministers have spoken at great length about outside factors. The number of people unemployed in Northern Ireland on 14th October was 30,880, some 4,694 less than the previous month. The number of unemployed in Britain, according to figures published by the Department of Employment there, was 643,442, a decrease of 39,233 as compared with September. Those are the trends in Britain and Northern Ireland, our closest neighbours. They have downward trends while the upward trend continues here.

There is a difficulty, of course, in comparing the present figures with those when Fianna Fáil left office because of the number of changes that have taken place, particularly the reduction in the retirement age from 70 to 68. If that is taken into consideration there are a further 25,000 people who would appear on the live register as unemployed. If we take that 25,000 and the figure of 79,596 given by the very responsible Economic and Social Research Institute, the figure is 104,596. That figure is bad enough but taken with the other factors such as short-time working and redundancy it indicates clearly the terrible position at the moment. It is about time the Government made a comprehensive examination of the unemployment figures and produced some policies to meet this terrible crisis.

The Taoiseach and other members of the Government being questioned in Dáil Éireann up to a couple of weeks ago indicated that there was no real problem. Then the Taoiseach decided to bring together the captains of industry and the trade unions to discuss the terrible tragedy he found on his doorstep overnight. This is a situation that has developed not overnight but over many months and possibly over a year or more. The Government took no action and tried to indicate there was no problem. We now find ourselves with over 100,000 people unemployed. I would say the figure is far higher than that indicated when one takes into consideration the number of people who have lost their jobs and who have emigrated and do not appear on the live register. There are the school-leavers seeking employment for the first time, adult students, professional people who do not appear on the live register. There are the redundant persons who need retraining; the lumpers in the building trade who do not appear on the live register; the self-employed people who have lost their employment, the semi-professional and other groups. These people do not appear on the live register and therefore the position is graver than was indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary. If people are laid off for only one day a week they do not appear on the live register. If they are out for two days possibly they do appear. This is a further reduction in the earning power of the workers. There is a very real problem on our doorstep and so far we have had no indication that the position may improve except an indication from the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the House recently that this situation will probably be with us for 18 months or so—that we will have a developing situation during the next 18 months.

We have a tragic situation, one the public would like to know the extent of, and it is only by examining it in depth and finding its real extent that we will be enabled to take measures to combat it. Many workers throughout industry have been laid off but the number of casual workers who are laid off do not appear on the live register.

The Government have no policy whatsoever to solve this problem. Indeed, I believe it was deliberately created by the Government in order to get over other problems. Mr. Killeen of the IDA estimated that 15,000 jobs would be lost this year. We can add them to the 100,000 already unemployed. Then, there have been 15,000 redundancies. That is the extent of the problem and with short time and other devices there is no hope for the workers in the foreseeable future.

If experts who have examined the situation are correct, and there has been no suggestion that their figures are erroneous, the pay-packets of many people now employed are at risk. Broken time is now becoming a widespread device used by employers. There is also short time. What the Government should be talking about and taking action on is fulltime employment for all our people. These devices of short time and broken time used by unscrupulous employers should be acted on by trade unions to protect the workers. It is being blindly accepted that workers have to be laid off. I am sure that many employers have work but that they choose these devices to hide the real situation.

In this tragic situation, the newspapers give us more information than the Parliamentary Secretary or the Taoiseach. The Cork Examiner described the situation as the worst since the 1950s and the main victims are the wage earners. Hunger marches and dole queues are no solution. People must be put back to work so that their families will be provided with the necessities of life. The Central Statistics Office figures do not give us a true picture of the problem. When the factual position becomes clear, when the smoke-screens have been blown away, when we have had an in-depth assessment of the situation, effective counter measures must be taken. A wishbone is no substitute for backbone and it takes backbone on the part of a Government to ensure that people are put back to work.

It is only three weeks since the Taoiseach discovered that a crisis existed. That is the extent to which he is removed from reality, from the glaring fact that 100,000 people are unemployed, that an emergency situation exists. Is it still the old Fine Gael policy that it is not the duty of the Government to provide work for the people, and have the Labour Party now accepted that approach?

Review of 1973 and the Outlook for 1974 gives just two lines to this. We find paragraph 16 on page 60 :

Employment is estimated to show a slight net increase over 1973, the main increases occurring in Chemicals and Food.

This is an indication of the type of in-depth study being done, the type of consideration being given to the employment factor.

Another matter on which one might seek clarification is as to whether the Government are sacrificing jobs for the sake of monetary stability. Some Ministers make this point. Others repudiate it. One would like to know clearly what the policy of the Government is and how they intend to deal with the problem.

We have Deputy O'Leary and others——

The Minister for Labour.

We have the Minister for Labour and others saying that Fianna Fáil speakers have not offered any solution to the problem. Finding solutions to problems is the Government's job. The Government were elected for that purpose. The Government had all sorts of solutions to all manner of problems prior to the election. Now we are told Fianna Fáil should provide the solutions. It is not the duty of an Opposition to provide solutions. That is the duty of the Government. I would like to quote Deputy O'Leary speaking here on 29th October.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy, but Standing Orders ordain that Members of the House shall be referred to as Deputy and office holders as Minister, Tánaiste or Taoiseach, as the case may be.

Fair enough. The Minister for Labour speaking on the confidence motion on 29th October at col. 370 of vol. 275 of the Official Report had this to say :

There are, therefore, great factors outside our control, great issues over which we have no influence, whatever the Opposition might think, and there are factors within our control.

Of course, we knew that all along.

It is the job of the Government to distinguish between both these circumstances and to try to advise, lead and legislate our way out of the present difficulties by the direction of our economic policy to maintain this home demand that is so important. It is ludicrous for a Government to play the role of a kind of Mighty Mouse with the implication that we can remain unaffected by these outside events.

A kind of Mighty Mouse! If the Government would stop playing Mickey Mouse we might get some indication as to what they are prepared to do and we might be able to get down to business. The Minister for Labour admits there are outside factors and he implies that members of the Opposition may not think these factors are contributing in some way to the problems with which we are faced.

On 30th October I asked the Taoiseach the total number of man-days lost through industrial disputes in the 12 months ended 4th October, 1974, and for the corresponding period in previous years. The reply I got from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach was :

The latest available data are those in respect of the period to August, 1974. The number of man-days lost due to industrial disputes in the 12 months ended August, 1974, is provisionally estimated at 563,000. The number of man-days lost in the corresponding earlier periods are: 12 months ended August, 1972, 158,000...

Just think of it—563,000 man-days lost. I believe the Government are quite happy with this figure and they would be even happier if the figure were doubled because these people would not be reflected in the live register and there would not, therefore, appear to be so many people unemployed. This is a dreadful situation. Of course, if these people had been working, the fact is a great many of them would be laid off. In every Estimate during this period we were constantly told the Government would deal with industrial problems and industrial strife; they had ready solutions. I accuse the Government of sitting back and allowing a situation to develop so that there would be this development resulting in man-days being lost. This is the tragic situation with which we are faced, in addition to short-time, redundancies and 100,000 unemployed.

The situation in the building industry is a clear indication of the trend of thought on the part of the Government. We are told by the Minister for Local Government that there are no problems and no unemployment in the building industry. But the building workers signing on at the labour exchange know full well there is unemployment. If one reads the daily papers, one is aware of the numbers being laid off in the builders providers, in the sand and gravel suppliers, in the timber mills and in the industries producing accessories for housing. We were all aware that the building industry is a generating force in the employment field because there are so many subsidiaries of one kind or another. All these are, of course, affected by any lay-off in the construction industry. It is vitally important that the industry should be developed once more into its former viable position to ensure it once again becomes the generating force it always was. The unemployment figures are once again identical with those on a previous unhappy occasion. We wonder what will be next.

The Minister for Local Government has indicated on so many occasions that there is full employment in the building industry that he has convinced himself that this is the situation. The building crisis had been gaining momentum for quite a considerable time. We were told about the targets they hoped to reach, but the momentum has been gathering force for a considerable period and the repercussions are now being felt right through the industry down to the very smallest builder.

The Government took action in relation to building society mortgages but the action was too little and too late. We have now reached a point at which, even if an abundance of finance were available, those who might avail of such finance for the purpose of purchasing houses are so uncertain of their future, with inflation running at 18 per cent, that they would not take up this finance. This situation has been created by the Minister for Local Government himself and by the Government as a whole and its purpose is to ensure we have unemployment. This is a very serious situation.

I accuse the Minister for Local Government of sabotaging the building industry. I do not know why he was so critical of certain sections of the building industry when he was in Opposition and of certain individuals in the industry. I believe the Minister is now sending these individuals to the wall. I believe that is a positive policy in order to try to strangle some of the people in the construction industry. One has only to read the newspapers to find out the desperate situation that is now upon us. Perhaps the Minister for Local Government is aware that some crises, exists, but he will not admit it. I hope the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who probably has a greater grasp of the unemployment situation than the Minister for Local Government, is convinced that there is a real crisis, that there are problems and that people are becoming unemployed. In the Evening Press of October 29th there is a report of a receiver being appointed in the case of one building contractor with a loss of 700 jobs. That was only a few days ago. This is only one of the many cases where receivers are in, and people are becoming redundant. It is reported in Liberty that the delegates of one trade union, dealing with the Labour Party document “Protecting the Future”—whose future are they protecting——

Would the Deputy please give the reference?

Liberty—“the journal of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, Liberty Hall, Dublin”, Volume 29, November, 1974. I quite sympathise with the trade union officials who are trying to protect their workers because the Government have no real interest in the workers, as we have learned from their various contributions from time to time. This shows that there are people who are concerned for the workers. I share their view that there is real concern. Whose future is this document protecting? Certainly not the future of Irish workers. It is stated :

It would have been better if the document "Protecting the Future" had been turned down by the delegates to the Labour Party Conference in Galway. This was the considered opinion of the ITGWU contingent. The draft economic policy document hurriedly put together by the Administrative Council has too many gaps in it to recommend it to trade unionists.

The trade unions are not satisfied that "Protecting the Future" is comprehensive enough. There are people in the Government who are producing documents protecting their own future and not the future of the workers. The quotation goes on:

...with a Government White Paper on the Economy coming up in a few weeks' time it was poor tactics to have such a weak document as pretentiously presented by the platform.

How can the Labour Party ministerial team now persuade the Taoiseach and his Fine Gael colleagues that they have an upsurge of opinion behind them insisting on medical policies for economic and social reform?

We see the balance. This is a weak document which is not accepted by the workers and will not be presented to the workers. It will take more than a White Paper or a green £ to cure our economic ills.

The workers enjoyed very high standards under Fianna Fáil and they are now finding it difficult to adjust themselves to lower living standards. We always hoped that there would be an improvement in living standards and that we would have full employment. Spokesmen on this side of the House have indicated continuously where they disagree with the Government. They have shown the vital weaknesses in the policies of the Coalition Government in relation to the advancement of job opportunities. We realise that Fianna Fáil will be called upon to do the same type of clearing up operation in the future as we had to do in the past after two previous Coalition Government terms of office. I do not think it will be too long until we are called upon to do that.

Apart from the redundancies, the short time, the unemployment, with the small pay packets available now we have the question of prices and promises. We all know the sad story of the solemn promises made prior to the last general election. They said that not only would they stabilise prices but they would reduce them. The Minister for Industry and Commerce thought that if he once got into office he had the solution to all the problems and all the ills, and that with one stroke of the pen he and his socialist colleagues could solve them. If this is what is meant by socialism in the seventies I do not think they will have many supporters in the future. There has been a reduction in the purchasing power of Irish workers and a rise in prices. This is the terrible situation facing the wives and children of workers in the coming year. I am sure the question of prices will be dealt with effectively during the course of this debate.

It would not be relevant to this debate. The motion deals specifically with unemployment.

When people become unemployed they have no purchasing power. A pronouncement was made recently that 24 per cent of our people are living in poverty. The indications are that this figure will be far higher before the Government leave office. If it is 24 per cent now, what will it be in a year's time or in 18 months' time which the Minister for Industry and Commerce indicated it will take before there will be any real change?

Fianna Fáil had positive policies in relation to employment. We had the setting up of the Department of Labour, AnCO, the National Manpower Service, the various reports on employment, and the various surveys. We kept abreast of an ever-changing situation and positive changes were made to meet positive needs. There can be no set policy because of the ever-changing problems outside the nation. These are real problems which must be dealt with effectively. It is not our job to propose solutions to the problem. Until the extent of the problem can be identified in positive terms no real solution can be found. The Government have no positive policy —they have no policy whatsoever—to bring people back to their jobs. This is what it is all about. People must be brought back to employment so that they can have the necessaries of life and live in reasonable comfort.

Who is next? That is the question which is posed. Trade union officials say that in every industry every day they are confronted with the same question. The worker does not know whether he is next, whether his employment will be terminated, whether he will become redundant or be put on short-time. Devices are being used to eliminate him at the moment.

I agree with the Minister for Labour on his call for people to buy Irish. I fully support a call to the nation to buy Irish commodities so that we can have an upsurge in the demand for Irish products. Irish workers, many of whom are unemployed at the moment, are as effective and efficient as the workers in any other country. I hope that this matter will be pursued and that a message from this House will go out loud and clear to the consumers to purchase as many Irish goods as possible.

Some study group should be set up to investigate redundancies. An in-depth study is now required. It is not good enough to accept that redundancies must occur in our traditional industries. Many could be averted but the blind acceptance that traditional industries must produce redundancies is not acceptable to me. We have seen in many concerns where Irish workers came together after it was indicated that the concern was not viable and they were able to carry on effectively and efficiently. There may be problems with managements and defective management is one of the curses of our industry.

The House should have no hesitation in accepting this motion deploring the failure of the Government to produce a coherent policy to combat the problems of rapidly rising unemployment. No policy has been produced and we hope that the people who claim to be realists in this House, on both sides, will see this motion as one that should be supported. Otherwise, it is like the Minister for Local Government indicating that there is no problem and that everybody is fully employed in the building industry, but nobody believes that but the Minister himself.

I cannot deal with allegations that are unsupported by quotations or by attributions to particular people. Allegations were made, in fact, contradictory allegations, that we were indifferent to the situation, that we were affirming that no problem existed, and that we have no policy to deal with it in regard to the matter of employment. I do not think there is any question here or in any other country with a free market economy but that there are grave economic difficulties in the world and that these economic difficulties inevitably reflect themselves in the level of employment.

There is rising unemployment here and this is a matter of profound concern to the Government. I will be arguing that we have a coherent policy for dealing with it and also that that policy, in certain regards, is working in a way that is a credit, not only to the people who have developed it but also in a way that is a credit to very wide sectors of the whole Irish economy who are responding vigorously, courageously and effectively in the face of severe challenges. It is for that reason that I was disappointed with Deputy Dowling's speech. I can understand, especially at by-election time, with all the ammunition that the economic situation gives him, Deputy Dowling's desire to pump the Government. However, I think it dangerous at a time like this when that desire to throw political stones passes over into irresponsibility which I believe it has done in the speech we have just heard. It, therefore, has the result of damaging the people Deputy Dowling affects to be defending.

In my view Deputy Dowling has so exaggerated his case and made such crazy allegations that the whole case is hard to take seriously. He said in regard to the general unemployment situation that it had been deliberately created by this Government. In regard to the matter of industrial strife Deputy Dowling said this had been deliberately created by this Government. Referring to the Minister for Local Government, he said it was his deliberate policy to damage the building industry. Then he said, and I think this is quite scandalous, that it was a positive policy of the Minister for Local Government to strangle some of the people in the construction industry. Deputy Dowling made that allegation, under parliamentary immunity, without the faintest effort to substantiate it and that seems to me to be wildly irresponsible. Those three allegations taken together make the net effect of what he had to say simply ridiculous or, possibly, paranoiac. Either way it is a pity because this is a serious subject which deserves to be talked about seriously.

We have this important moment in our economic history. Certainly, we have rising unemployment with which this Government is deeply concerned but we have a moment where in a world crisis we have the choice of losing our nerve and being desperately damaged in regard to employment levels and our economy, or of keeping our nerve and coming through this much better than any comparable places. That is the choice and, therefore, the great need is for confidence and calm. We were told—I am in the mixed position of partly agreeing— about the terrible position and the terrible crisis in which we now find ourselves. It is a terrible position and a terrible crisis and yet if the people, with the vigorous leadership of the Government, respond with courage and dicipline we can survive this terrible situation very well. That is the choice which depends upon our own actions.

I do not have time to read detailed statistics about the economy on to the record of the House but I would like, if people are interested, to refer to the monthly industrial survey which is produced jointly by the CII and the ESRI. The most recent survey, entitled Business Forecasts, September 1974, covers up to the end of September and is the most recent detailed figures I am in possession of. In many sectors where we were deeply concerned about employment there is some hope. I think it is important to balance that hope against the gloom. Page three of that report states that there were slight increases in regard to wearing apparel, in regard to leather and footwear—both areas of deep concern—and in the area of furniture. Home sales in September are reported to have picked up slightly. Exports have also picked up over the August levels.

That is not a document which states we have no problem but, certainly, not a document saying that we are in the depth of crisis and that we are not coping. I quote that not for the sake of self praise because self praise is no praise. That is not a measure of the activities of a Government, it is a measure of the activities of industry which is responding extremely courageously and well in difficult circumstances. On the most recent figures available in the most sensitive areas, and I know the concern for things like wearing apparel, footwear and furniture—concern for employment in those areas is not the prerogative of any Member of any side of this House—the most recent evidence is not so depressing. Let us not damage them by talking ourselves into gloom and pessimism. Deputy Dowling knows, as well as I do, that confidence in continued buying, the avoidance of panic and despair is very important. It is very important that the wheels of the economic machine go on turning. They can be slowed desperately by a lack of confidence or a flight from confidence.

Again, either side could make considerable play on the matter of employment and unemployment. In my view Deputy Kelly spoke truthfully about unemployment figures. There is a figure prepared by the Central Statistics Office. One can read detailed discussions of that figure and the basis of making the figure has not changed under this Government; that mechanism has existed for some time.

That is a fairly accurate measure of unemployment but it is not perfect. That is and has been understood for decades. There are the one-day layoffs. Of course there are the things which do not show up. If one says that a figure is not exactly precise, which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach said truthfully, that does not mean that it is valueless and without meaning. It does not mean that one can play this game of picking figures out of the air, adding them together and making 100,000, 125,000, 150,000 and so on. Why stop at any particular spot? Why should the numbers game not have been played four or five years ago? The same fringe areas and soft areas, which did not occur in the Central Statistics Office figure, existed then as they do now. Why do it now if it is not to create panic, alarm or dismay? Nobody questions the seriousness of the situation. But do not play this irresponsible game of trying to pick figures out of the air and building them into a terrifying snowball which could break over all of us and bury us. A "snowball" of panic is not to be encouraged. Our trend in unemployment is very serious.

Denmark is of comparable size to Ireland. They entered the Community and were subjected to the same stresses as we were. In Denmark in July, 1973, the unemployment figure was 12,300. Their most recent figure was 76,300 an increase of six times the 1973 figure. Germany's figure has more than doubled. Our unemployment figure has risen by 20 per cent. We must put our figure into context; it is very serious but not disastrous.

One must get this balance before declaring something profoundly serious. It does not mean that it is a crisis out of control. To inflate it for party political purposes is damaging. One can make comparisons year on year. February is not comparable with September because there are fluctuations through the year. In February, 1973, the figure was 75,551 which is higher than at present. The Deputies opposite were not going around during the general election trumpeting about the tremendous crisis in employment.

The Minister and his colleagues were.

Yes, we were. According to the Central Bank Report, for Autumn 1974, the average figures in 1970 were 65,000 and in 1972, 71,000. It will be higher for 1973. Put it in context. Do not run away with these wild exaggerations which are damaging to purchasing power, to investments from overseas, which are holding up very well, and to the confidence of Irish industry. If we trumpet about them enough they will become self-fulfilling prophecies because they will generate that situation which is now being so gleefully predicted.

The elements of a coherent policy are not made up of gimmicks or dramatic novelties but of pursuing all the available mechanisms as vigorously as possible. We are not in an area where there are dramatic new initiatives. I am not surprised that some speeches have been a little reminiscent of the confidence debate on the economy. I am not surprised at this useful fiction that the task of the Opposition is to oppose. It saves them from revealing their own bankruptcy of ideas.

It would be a magnificent form of Opposition if they produced ideas which were so good that we would have to adopt them—in which case the Opposition would be making policy —or else we would be so foolish as to reject them because they came from the Opposition, in which case we would be doing something very stupid. If Fianna Fáil have any good ideas they should reveal them. That would do much more damage to the credibility of this Government than the type of irresponsible exaggeration which was the real content of what Deputy Dowling had to say.

The pursuit of job creation is an extremely important way to combat unemployment. We have had decades of reports about the weak sectors of our industry. We have had some areas where there was real vigour and others where management failed—and I agree with Deputy Dowling about some of our management defects— to take the necessary vigorous steps. As soon as the boom was over, they were in very bad trouble. Everybody knew that a decade ago.

I will talk about the rescue and aid mechanisms which are being vigorously used in a moment. The greatest defence of employment is to create jobs which are viable, have a potential for expansion, will not continuously be causing trouble and that we will not be faced—I know the Opposition have faced this difficult choice—with the problem of throwing money endlessly down a hole.

The work of the IDA, supported by the Government, is being pursued vigorously and successfully. I can claim sincerely in the 20 months since I took office to have given moral and financial support to this commitment. In my view, Deputy Dowling was unfair not just to industry, to the workers or to management of industry by denigrating their magnificient efforts in a difficult time, but to the State agencies who are performing extremely well. The record of IDA new job creation is magnificent.

Hear, hear.

It is nice to hear Deputy Brennan, who is probably in a better position to know than Deputy Dowling, agreeing. That record has not been disimproving in our period of office. Our support, personal, moral and financial, has not been diminishing but increasing. It is not a new pillar of employment policy. Indeed, if one thinks back far enough, neither can it claim to be a Fianna Fáil pillar, although it was important in their time. The IDA are behaving very usefully. I will not read figures into the record but they are easily and readily available.

The other great guarantee of employment with such an open economy as ours is exports. Personally, morally and financially this Government are supporting the efforts of Córas Tráchtála, and exporters brought together by Córas Tráchtála, to attain a magnificent response in difficult times.

I have been to Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Lebanon and my colleagues have been in other parts of the Middle East in the recent past. We will be in France next week. The people in Córas Tráchtála personally, morally and financially supported by this Government, are performing prodigies, as are the exporters of Ireland.

I do not want to take a lot of time and, a Cheann Comhairle; you must warn me when I am running out of time.

The Minister has ten minutes left.

I do not want to read too many figures on to the record. But the increase in industrial exports may be illustrated by the following figures: in 1970 they rose by 17 per cent; in 1971 by 9.5 per cent; in 1972 by 23 per cent—and it is fair to recall that those years of 1971 and 1972 were years of very great boom. In 1973 they rose by 38.7 per cent. The figure for 1974—though it is a running figure; we do not have a total as yet—looks as though it will come out at 40 per cent. Therefore it is going to be as good as last year or a little better. But last year was the end of the boom. It ceased last October with the oil crisis, which took a little time to come through. This year, by common assent, is the worst period in world trade since the 1930s, when the OECD recorded the most rapid diminution of economic activity since they started keeping records. In those circumstances our export performance, which last year was the best it has ever been in industrial exports, is going to be matched again this year. Let us not denigrate it or pull it down; let us be proud of those people and hold them up, as the Government are doing physically, morally and financialy. That is a pillar of our policy in regard to employment.

I do not want to talk in detail about AnCO. I think there are others better qualified to speak on this than am I. I do, though, want to talk about the building industry because it is a crucial part of our whole economy. Nobody needs to emphasise its significance, not just in direct employment but in other sorts of employment. It is a bellwether of the health of our economy. Deputies opposite may not like to hear comparisons made with other countries. They may like to think that we are suspended, like Mohammed's coffin, between heaven and earth and that we do not in any way feel the influence of events overseas, but the building industry is in great difficulty in very many countries. The response to those difficulties on the part of this Government has been enormous. We are not declaring that there is no difficulty. We recognise the difficulty and we have responded to it with immense vigour.

I have figures which were prepared by the same people, using the same methods as when the Opposition were in government—again Deputy Dowling may attack those figures— but let us not attack those people who are civil servants doing a job according to the same parameters. I do not think those civil servants were subverted by Fianna Fáil to twist the figures. We are not subverting them to twist the figures and they are the same figures prepared under the same rules. I think we can trust them. The figures I have indicate that in the private sector of the building industry employment in September, 1974, was about 600 down on what it was in 1973. Now, that is down, and nobody likes it going down. It would be nicer if it went up, but that is not a disaster. Further, the figures I have indicate that unemployment in building contracting and the work of construction is up by about 14,000 on the most recent figures I possess over 12 months. All right; it is up, and up seriously. But if one considers the sort of volume of money being put into building, the figures are very large. All right; some people might say they were always very large but they are growing quite dramatically.

I want to talk about the provision of local authority house purchase loans. The total amount for these loans was £26.8 million for the nine months to December, 1974. Since we have the nine-month financial period this year, that would mean an annual rate of £35.8 million. For the previous comparable full financial year it was £21.74 million and, for the financial year before that, it was £9.9 million. Let us look at this explosion of money available in that area—£9.9 million, £21.74 million and £35.8 million, a very rapid growth, a profound indication of the understanding by the Government of the difficulties in the building sector and of their commitment to spend large amounts of public money to solve it. The total provision for housing now stands at £71.05 million for nine months, an annual rate of £92.81 million. In 1972-73 the sum was £46 million; in 1973-74 it was £68 million. Consider that over three years—I am taking round figures—£46 million, £68 million, £93 million, very rapid growth, a profound indication in the hardest possible way that one can indicate a commitment to helping the building industry. Then there was a special interest subsidy for the building societies; the moneys made available by the associated banks to the building societies. Not enough?

If one man loses his job in building, that is worth responding to. But that does not spell a crisis; that does not spell indifference by the Government; that does not spell disaster; in fact it spells profound concern. The figures indicate that, while there is some turning down, without these extremely vigorous measures there would be a crisis. These extremely vigorous measures, with large amounts of public money committed in time, do not totally neutralise the adverse effects but make them much less damaging and much more manageable. To claim that we could live in this ivory tower and not at all be influenced by external factors is to claim something impossible.

I want to say a word too—because, again, it is always worth paying tribute to work well done—on the rescue service put together by the IDA, by the officers of my own Department and by other agencies when their co-operation is deemed necessary. We have an extremely vigorous, alert and efficient rescue service. The tragedy is that often industrialists leave it too late before they seek help. They are inclined not to call in that rescue service in time. I think I could use this occasion and this forum—where we have the good fortune to be listened to more widely outside than inside—to say to industry and to beg of industry: please do not wait until you get into desperate financial difficulties, until you are worrying about how you will pay the wages bill next Friday, or whenever it may be. Please come quickly while there is time for this rescue service to be mounted, because there is an effective rescue service consisting of the IDA, of my own Department, and of other appropriate agencies when necessary, whether in regard to helping with exports, with management difficulties, with other sorts of finance, the export credit schemes—a whole package of schemes. These are direct contributions to the staving off of redundancies, to the keeping of the increase in unemployment—which we affirm, and which we regret deeply—within manageable proportions and to keeping the industrial performance of the Irish economy as good as it is currently in difficult circumstances. If I seem resentful in tone, I am not resentful for myself because of a political attack, for my party, or for this Government because that is the stuff of politics—we go at each other. But I am resentful of these attacks on Irish industry, whether it be management or worker. I am resentful of these attacks on State agencies because both industry and State agencies are performing very well and extremely courageously in very difficult circumstances. It is not for me to anticipate the contents of the economic white paper or indeed, at a later stage, to anticipate the contents of the budget. But, so far as I know the contents of the economic white paper will be seen as a vigorous response, as the recognition of a difficult situation and as a vigorous response to it.

Finally, it would seem that there is a great contribution, we, as a Government, can offer to the surmounting of difficulties. I do not pretend they are going to go away quickly. Whether one wants to quote 12 months or 18 months, I do not care. We are in a difficult time and the difficulties are not going to blow away suddenly.

The great contribution we have to make towards controlling unemployment and keeping our economy healthy—and they are two sides of the same thing—is the concept of a national partnership. It was easy to sneer at our having in the major economic agencies, industry, the farmers and the trade unions but we told the truth from the economic point of view at that time, as we did in our party conferences. It is not nice for Labour Party members to have to tell those economic truths; it is not nice to have to say to people that they must forego growth in real income for a period of a year or longer. It would be equally unpleasant for people on the opposite side because all politicians want to see growth in the real incomes of their constituents and the citizens of the country. It was courageous and honest to say that we must forego that growth in view of the transfer of wealth from this country due to the rise in the price of oil and other commodities.

However, we offered something instead, namely, that an increase of social justice could continue even though growth in real incomes had to be deferred for a year or so. In the realm where we said that when growth is resumed the distribution will be more equitable, that we will have advanced to social justice even though we cannot give more income, we had the basis for building a national partnership. This partnership will surmount the crisis; it is the great guarantee of the continuing success of the economy in difficult times, of the continuing control of unemployment, with some rise but not with a catastrophic one.

The whole package of taxation reform, of reform of social welfare and health, of law reform, of a resources policy resulting in a much more equitable distribution, of worker participation, of a fairer deal for women and the massive investment in housing, are offered as a national partnership. This is the great contribution to social calm, to the defending of the economy and to the guaranteeing that while we cannot protect every job we can protect the vast majority of jobs and keep the economy healthy and expanding in desperately difficult circumstances.

The motion in the name of our spokesman for Labour reads:

That Dáil Éireann deplores the failure of the Government to produce coherent policies to combat the problem of rapidly rising unemployment.

We have heard the Minister for Industry and Commerce but those whose job it is to employ people will go to bed tonight less enlightened than they were last night—after hearing that statement. What I take from the statement is that Fianna Fáil had unemployment in their time but that that was due to Fianna Fáil's failure to cope with the problem—we have unemployment now but nothing can be done about it because it is world-wide and we must accept it. The attitude of the Government is that while they say they can do nothing about it, if there is any slight glimmer of an improvement anywhere they will take credit for it. This hypocrisy is more than the people can stomach; there must be a limit to it.

I remember being on television with the Minister about a year ago and then we spoke about the matters that have inevitably lead to the situation existing today although at that period the Government still had time to do something about them. What the Minister tried to do on that occasion was to tell the people that anything that happened was due to circumstances over which the Government had no control but that the Government were doing something about these matters and that the best was about to happen.

In the Irish Independent dated 21st January, 1974, the Minister is quoted as follows:

The Government had been slowing the rate of increase since taking office, and improving our performance vis-à-vis comparable countries.

The opening paragraph of the article in the Irish Independent of the same date reads:

A strong defence of the Government's record on prices, and a call to workers to give their backing to the proposed National Wage Agreement, was made yesterday by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr. Keating.

The article does not state where this statement was made. It continues:

He said Ireland had improved its position in the EEC inflation league, from being the country with the fastest inflation of the Nine in 1972, to a present position of joint third with two other countries.

Here the Minister is immediately taking credit for doing something— although we are not told what is was —that brought the country to the point where we were joint third with two other countries. This is the same kind of performance we have just heard; the attitude of the Government that the Opposition should keep quiet, should continually express confidence in the economy. The Minister tried to deflect an attack on his own inactivity when he stated we were attacking the industrialists. I do not want to be vindictive but I am sick and tired listening to people I meet every day asking me what we are doing about the present state of affairs and wondering when we are coming back to power. Their constant question is, "What is happening to the present outfit?"

We are listening to a lot of ostentatious talk, to the demagogue's approach to everything, but nothing practical is emerging. I listened carefully to the Minister's speech for any concrete suggestion of an effort on the part of the Government to alleviate the serious situation in which we find ourselves. The only such suggestion was in regard to industrialists and the great job they were doing and he said he was giving them physical, moral and financial support. The physical support was that he went to a number of countries and asked industry to come here. The moral support he is offering is that he is continually telling them they are doing a good job. I do not know what the financial support entails.

In today's Irish Press a speech by the secretary of the Limerick Chamber of Commerce is quoted. That body had a lot to say about the inactivity of the Government. Had it been said by one of us we would be accused of rocking the boat, of creating a lack of confidence and of damaging the credibility of our industrialists the people and institutions Fianna Fáil built up which even a Coalition Government cannot destroy. They have considerable resilience and they will come back despite their present difficult circumstances. The secretary of the Limerick Chamber of Commerce said that business people and wage and salary earners must be released from the tax death grip in which they were held by bad Government administration.

I am not questioning the Minister's statement when he said he would give physical and moral support but I am questioning his statement that he would give financial support. This is what this motion is about. All the economic indicators are pointing to a decline in domestic consumer purchasing. This is resulting in unexpected stockpiling by many of the firms whose liquidity has been so eroded in recent times that they have not the facilities to retain that stock and they are being pressed by the banks to make good their commitments in the area of extended credit. I trust that the Minister will come to their assistance in the first instance by providing the necessary credit facilities and by ensuring that the extension of credit will be available to enable them to stockpile rather than to lay off some of their workers. The Minister could help, too, by easing the tax burden so as to enable industrialists to retain employees. This move would ease considerably the demands which undoubtedly will be made in negotiating the next national pay agreement.

With the Cork by-election in mind the people are being told that there is no crisis, that there is merely a little rub-off of world conditions and that if we remain quiet and if the Opposition are as mute as mice, everything will pass off nicely. At the same time the Government held a summit conference to which they invited trade unionists, industrialists and farmers. The Government told them that there is a serious crisis, that we must tighten our belts and be prepared to accept no rise in our standard of living. We are told that we must be prepared to moderate demands for income increases because we are facing a disastrous situation while, for political reasons, we are being told that there will be an improvement soon in the economic situation.

The first hitch in regard to the credibility of the Coalition was in relation to prices. One has no wish to harp forever on the famous 14-point programme on which the Coalition came to power and which they talked of for their first six months in office but of which we have heard nothing in more recent times. Those people who had hoped that this Government would perform in relation to prices have now lost all confidence in anything that the Government may do or say in this area.

When the National Prices Commission were brought into being, they were welcomed by the Confederation of Irish Industries. I was one of those who sat at the Government table at the time that the NPC were being set up. However, I am not happy with the criteria which the NPC have been using recently in regard to price increases. I am surprised that the Minister would allow to be included in the NPC's report a statement which says that, if it were not for the NPC, the consumers would be paying £31 million more than they are paying. In other words, the NPC are saying that they have reduced demands— although they have acceded to every demand—to the extent that the percentage increase in the cost of consumer goods is not as great as it would be if we had no NPC.

I wonder if the Minister has ever brought a cow to the fair or whether he knows anything of the practicalities of the economic life in the country where people must work and try to balance their household budgets. Does the Minister realise that people who seek increases in prices ask for twice as much as they expect to get and that they are happy to get a fraction of what they demand although they usually get more than what they expected? On a previous occasion I have heard the Minister take credit for the situation whereby the NPC claims that, if it were not for them, the percentage increase in the cost of consumer goods would be greater. There is nobody who is prepared to swallow a statement of that kind. The Minister is suave and slick when it comes to passing backhanded compliments but I would ask him to ensure that in future no such statement as that to which I have referred appears either in an NPC or in any other report.

The NPC were intended to act in a capacity of surveillance, to monitor prices and to report to the Minister. The Minister should have available to him a good advisory body who would tell him what should or should not be done. This does not mean merely looking at prices in the supermarkets or any other retail establishments. The question of costs should be monitored from the stage at which the raw material is purchased, along the line through the wholesaler, through the retailer and to the consumer. This is where the surveillance must take place but where it is not taking place with the same care as should be applied and as was applied when the NPC were established. This lack of surveillance is obvious from the number of commodities—70 or 80— that increase in price every month. The impression has been created among business people that the correct thing to do when selling something is to get the highest price possible so long as you can get away with that.

We must confine our discussion to the question of employment.

I am dealing with a matter that is connected directly with the motion—the question of rising prices which are contributing and which have led to the situation regarding employment.

Acting Chairman

The terms of the motion are fairly specific.

I trust that the Chair will allow me that part of my time he is taking up.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy seems to be challenging the Chair on this question.

Acting Chairman

I have allowed the Deputy enough leniency in respect of prices because the subject matter of the motion deals specifically with unemployment.

With due respect to the Chair and to his advice, am I to be admonished for dealing with something that hurts the Government?

Acting Chairman

The Deputy may resume his seat for a moment.

I trust that the Chair will allow me the time he is taking from me now.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy is taking from his own time. Overtly he has made a charge against the Chair to the effect that it is because of status that the Chair is leaning on him. That is not so. Any time the Deputy loses from now on will be because of his engaging in this sort of speech.

I cannot discuss unemployment without referring to something that is very much within the context of the motion, that is, the problem of rising prices. I am dealing with what would lead to less unemployment. Therefore the question of prices is totally relevant. If the Chair will not allow me to discuss that question, I shall leave the House.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy has expended his time, but if he wishes to move the Adjournment of the debate I shall permit him to do so. However, if he does not wish to do that, he is at liberty to do what he will; but I must point out to him that there are certain rules of the House which have to be observed.

The Deputy knows a little more about the rules of this House than the Acting Chairman knows.

Shame on the Deputy.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy will withdraw that statement. I cannot take it from him.

I shall not withdraw it. I must discuss prices in the context of this motion.

Acting Chairman

Either the Deputy will withdraw the statement or the Chair will have to rule on the matter in accordance with the rules of this House.

I made a statement.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy made a statement saying he knew more about the rules of the Chair than the Chair did. The Deputy will withdraw that statement.

I think that is a correct statement.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy will withdraw that statement.

I will not.

Acting Chairman

We will send for the Ceann Comhairle. The Deputy will resume his seat.

Deputy Brennan appreciates it is a serious matter to reflect on the occupant of the Chair and on that basis I have no doubt he will withdraw any insinuation he made.

What am I asked to withdraw? Will you please repeat the charge?

I understand the Deputy made a reflection on the occupant of the Chair.

I said I knew more about the rules of the House than he did. I am prepared to substantiate that. I was Chief Whip, for three years.

The Ceann Comhairle accepts the report of the Chairman at the time and I must ask the Deputy in all the circumstances to withdraw the allegation made.

Must one withdraw something which in conscience one knows is not either offensive or incorrect?

It was clearly offensive, Deputy.

But it is not incorrect.

I am asking the Deputy to be good enough to withdraw the allegation.

The Ceann Comhairle may have to elaborate on this homily he is delivering.

I again repeat that the Ceann Comhairle accepts the report of the Chairman. The Chairman reports that the Deputy made an unfair allegation against him.

In his estimation.

I am asking that it be withdrawn.

In my opinion it was not an unfair allegation.

I must ask that the reflection made be withdrawn.

It is very difficult——

We are wasting precious time, Deputy Brennan.

I do not know. There are few people in this House who have a better record of accepting the ruling of the Chair than I have or a better record of compliance with what should be the ordinary decorum of the House. I feel very much humiliated in having to withdraw something which I know to be true.

Nevertheless, I must ask the Deputy to withdraw the allegation made.

I simply said I knew more about the rules of the House than the Chairman. I believe that.

I must ask the Deputy to withdraw the reference.

Even though it is true?

Yes, Deputy, even if you think so.

That is the ruling of the Chair?

I have to accept the Chair's ruling, but I very reluctantly do it. You have already wasted part of my time. I hope I will get extra time. I should like to point out to the Ceann Comhairle, by way of explanation on a point of order, that I was dealing with the effect of price increases on the present employment situation, the manner in which it was allowed to develop by the Government and how they were doing nothing about it. The Chairman ruled that that was not relevant to the motion. I consider it was absolutely and directly relevant to the motion before the House.

It is a long standing precedent, Deputy Brennan, that the Ceann Comhairle accepts only the report of the Chairman at the time. Will the Deputy please move the Adjournment of the debate? Our time has expired.

I will. I hope that on the next occasion I will get the extra time that has been wasted.

The Deputy is entitled to time but I cannot say precisely how much at this stage.

Fifteen minutes.

The Chair will look into the matter.

Injury time.

The Acting Chairman is due injury time.

Debate adjourned.