Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Clothes Imports.

4.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he has referred any aspect of the importation of clothing to An Coimisiún Dumpála; and, if so, with what result.

I have not referred any aspect of the importation of clothing to An Coimisiún Dumpála. The normal procedure is for the manufacturer or the trade association conconcerned to make the request; no recent request has been made to the commission for an investigation in regard to clothing.

The same supplementary questions apply here.

In view of the serious unemployment situation among textile workers at the moment would the Minister not agree that his most important function is to preserve and protect these jobs? Surely some means must be at his disposal to prevent what we all know is dumping of textiles from third countries. Surely that is the first function of the Minister for Industry and Commerce of the day. Does the Minister not agree?

Brief questions, please, Deputy.

I do not agree I am failing in my duty. I affirm that it is an important responsibility with other important responsibilities of a Minister for Industry and Commerce, but I would point out that I function under an accession treaty and in a framework of law which was lightheartedly and irresponsibly urged on the Irish people primarily by those now in Opposition.

I hope to deal with that later.

Is it not a fact that there is machinery in existence for dealing with this problem provided for in the negotiations and in the Rome Treaty and the real problem is that the Minister has not initiated the working of that mechanism until pushed, and pushed, and pushed——

Absolutely untrue.

——and it was only in the last week that he has done anything about the footwear industry?

The Deputy is now entering into the realm of argument.

In reply to the Deputy, that is a mischievous non-fact.

Further, is it not a fact that there are a number of methods open to a Minister for Industry and Commerce who has a little bit of ingenuity provided he is willing to deal with the problem instead of trying to prove that he was right?

The Deputy is now beginning to debate this matter.

May I ask one short supplementary? Is the Minister aware that, one of his own party members, Deputy Barry Desmond, talking on radio this morning, said if we were not in the EEC the unemployment problem would be much greater?

This is more argument. I am calling Question No. 5.

Just one very important question. We have a great many people unemployed——

I would remind the Deputy that there will be a debate this evening on this matter.

Not on textiles, on footwear. Why were steps not taken eight months ago when unemployment first threatened to adjust the situation and prevent these imports?

We really must make some progress.

We must and let us hear the Minister answer that question. It will be an indication of progress if he does.

Deputies will be aware—this is available to them through the committee of this House concerned with Community problems —that the question of imports from the Third World has been the subject matter of discussion with the Commission and the Council of Ministers since before the date referred to by Deputy Fitzgerald. We have been participating in these activities and we have been urging the maximum despatch in regard to them and that is a matter of record.

That is not an answer to the question.

The suggestion that we have made no intervention and had no concern for these things until the recent past is untrue.

This is an assurance the House and the country would like to get: will the Minister assure the House and the country that his initial hostility to and disaffection with the Common Market is not a factor in all this unemployment situation?

From a leader of the Opposition that is an extraordinarily irresponsible statement.

(Interruptions.)

Anyone who is familiar with my participation in Community institutions and that goes far beyond members of the Government or the Opposition or the Parliament of this country, is aware that I accepted wholeheartedly the verdict of the people and that the whole tenor of my efforts is to make the Community work more effectively, more satisfactorily and more quickly, and the suggestion that I am wanting is a scandalous and villainously irresponsible suggestion. It is scandalous to suggest that I am deliberately trying to obstruct things or deliberately trying to make a situation worse, a situation I had the wit to see as a danger at times when the Deputy and many others did not. It is a disgraceful and irresponsible suggestion and there is no tittle of evidence in my participation in any Community institution which would sustain it.

Why does the Minister continue then to throw across the floor of the House the charge against us that it was we who got the country into the Common Market and therefore it is not his fault, it is our fault.

It is not a charge. It is a fact. You were the Government at the time.

(Interruptions.)

Order. I am calling Question No. 5.

On a point of order, may I suggest that Deputy Gene Fitzgerald asked a very important question and the Minister has not replied to it? He replied to another question. The question was why did he not initiate action under the machinery already available in the EEC eight months ago. That was the question and he has not answered it.

The Chair cannot be held responsible for that.

A Cheann Comhairle——

Would the Deputy please allow questions to continue?

A Cheann Comhairle, if you are shielding the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that is fine.

That is an unfair accusation against the Chair. Would the Deputy please desist from that kind of attack on the Chair? The Chair would be placed in an absolutely intolerable position if it were held responsible for Ministers' replies in this House.

I do not wish to argue with you, but I am sure you will agree with me——

Would the Deputy please allow Questions to continue? I am calling Question No. 5.