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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Dec 1974

Vol. 276 No. 13

Vote 41: Industry and Commerce (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That a sum not exceeding £27,989,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the period commencing on the 1st day of April, 1974, and ending on the 31st day of December, 1974, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of sundry grantsin-aid.
—(Minister for Industry and Commerce.)

I wish to single out the main and most topical part of the Department's responsibilities and to say a few words on matters that have been the subject of controversy in the last few weeks. The responsibility of the Department of Industry and Commerce in the field of prices comes under some kind of review regularly here because at least once a week questions are asked and it is my job to answer those connected with the consumer price index, to rises in the cost of living and so on.

There is no doubt that the cost of living and the prices which make up the index have risen steeply in the last year or two. Yesterday I gave the House figures provided by the Central Statistics Office which showed the staggering increase of 20 per cent in the last 12 months up to the end of the period for which I had figures. That situation is compared—quite fairly and I do not complain about it —by the Opposition with the pre-election promise of the Coalition parties to control price rises.

There is no point in denying that the Government have not delivered on that promise. I should like to add to that my personal view, and I hope it will not involve others in any embarrassment, that such a promise should not have been made. It was a pre-election promise, and I suppose many such promises are written off by the public even before the election takes place as not being seriously intended. But I invite the public and the Opposition to look through the 14 points and consider how many have been delivered on. The promise regarding prices certainly has not and the conclusion I draw from that is not that the Government are short of the will or the talent necessary to exercise control over rising prices but that the Coalition parties before the election made a promise with regard to a particular matter the difficulty of which they underestimated. That is why I say the promise should not have been made and I am fairly sure it will be the last general election in the history of the State in which any side will make a promise with regard to the control of prices.

Those words do not amount to what the Opposition Finance spokesman described as a surrender. I have heard him in this House and on radio describe the Government's position with regard to price increases as a surrender to inflation. Recently on radio he had a free run, having listened to the Ministers for Finance and Industry and Commerce, and he said three or four times that the Government were simply letting prices rip. He knows there is no question of that and he must know that we have quickly moved into a world radically different not only from 1932, about which Deputy Haughey made a speech recently recalling its glories from the point of view of his party, but radically different from 1972. That has happened very quickly and I say that not in order to cover the non-performance by the Government of one of their pre-election promises, but certainly in order to extenuate it.

That does not mean there is no such thing as price control. Everyone knows there is a mechanism for price control and to some extent it is effective. If that mechanism did not exist the price rises would have been far worse. If I may refer in the context of the pre-election promises made by Fine Gael and Labour, one of the promises—highly derided at the time by Deputy Colley and his friends—was the removal of VAT from food which makes up a substantial part of the cost of living index. That promise was instantly delivered on in the first budget of the Minister for Finance within weeks of his appointment. But for that decision and the measure taken, the figures I gave the House yesterday would have been much worse and the people on whom the cost of living and the price index chiefly bears would have been substantially worse off. While the index contains some items in which there is some area of freedom of choice in that people may decide whether or not to buy them, the food items which make up a substantial part are not areas in which consumers have much choice. I tried to get an estimate of the figure I would have had to give the House in regard to the rise in the cost of living had VAT not been removed from food but I could not get a reliable figure in percentage points. However, I am assured the figure would be a substantial one.

In addition to that, the Minister for Industry and Commerce made the point both in this House and on radio that price increases are going to continue, that they may have to be permitted in order to avoid the redundancies, the unemployment and the closures that would be inevitable if manufacturers were obliged to sell goods at a price for which they could not produce them. Anyone with even an elementary knowledge of economics, in a free society where people can stay in business if they are able but otherwise go to the wall, realises that a man who depends on raw materials, particularly imported materials, for his manufacturing business must be allowed to keep his prices in some relationship with his costs. That difference between his prices and his costs keeps him in business. There is no use in Deputy Colley, or anybody else, talking about price control in the context of Irish manufacturers' goods because unless the Irish manufacturer is allowed to establish and maintain a margin between his prices and what he has to pay for his raw materials and what he has to pay out in wages he simply cannot continue to operate. That is going to throw him out of business, it is going to throw his workers out of employment, it is going to deprive the State of whatever they get from the workers in the form of tax and it is going to put on the State the burden of sustaining those unemployed workers via a system of social benefits.

That is terribly evident to me. I was amazed that although Deputy Colley had a free hand on the radio programme last Sunday, although there was nobody there to interrupt or contradict him, he was not willing to concede that very simple point. When it was put to him that the State tried, at least so far as concerns the worst off members of the community, to enable them to meet the effects of price inflation by regularly increased social benefits, I was absolutely astounded by his reply. I listened to nearly the whole of that programme. I listened to Deputy Colley's contribution very carefully. I asked myself what would be my reaction to that if I were an uncommitted person politically trying to see what the main Opposition spokesman on economic affairs had to reply to the two Ministers who preceded him. I could not believe the feebleness of his reply particularly in regard to the question of social benefits. He said it was the wrong response and he said, in a phrase that I could scarcely credit my ears for picking up, that the social benefit response was an "across the board" response and not what was needed. Surely Deputy Colley must withdraw those words? Social benefits are not across the board. They are very carefully controlled in such a way that the big end of them goes to the people who have not got enough means of their own and only the small end of them, children's allowances and the like, are "across the board" benefits.

The Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate that there is no means test for contributory pensions, for instance.

I certainly appreciate that but there is some element of selectivity in social benefits, speaking of them globally. There is no element of selectivity in what Deputy Colley was advocating, namely, an all out effort to keep down prices by simply controlling them. What could be more "across the board"? What could be less socially selective than merely a crude pressure on, let us say, petrol prices? Nothing could be more "across the board" than that. If the Government response to the situation Deputy Colley deplores, price inflation, were simply the containment of the price of a commodity which rich and poor use in one shape or form, like petrol, that would be an "across the board" response. There would be no element of social selectivity in that and it would, therefore, be a completely wrong response.

The question of whether all social benefits should be means tested or not is a big one and not fully relevant to this debate and I will not embark on it but the proper response, I believe, to the cost of living increase is to try to compensate the people who are hardest hit by means of social benefits rather than imposing an artificial pressure on prices which would keep them down for everybody, rich and poor alike, in exactly the same proportion.

I am still waiting for a positive commitment from the Opposition, from Deputy Colley, from Deputy Barrett, or from any other Opposition spokesman, for a definite promise that if and when they return to power they are going to bring down the price of petrol again to the 50p it was a couple of weeks ago. It is all very fine to criticise the Government —we, no doubt, did it before the tables were turned—for a partial responsibility or perhaps, even a full responsibility for price rises but the real test of sincerity on the part of an Opposition in a context like this is if they were in Government tomorrow would they reverse the measure which they are criticising? That is the only test of their sincerity. I listened to a good deal of the petrol debate here last week. The Government were raked with fire by the Opposition, helped on of course by the reaction from outside—the press, motorists' organisations, the motor industry and so on—all legitimate interests and all highly indignant at price rises.

The Government were criticised for having adopted this means of trying to curtail petrol consumption and simultaneously to raise revenue but not one of the Opposition spokesmen that I heard said to the Irish people through this parliament: "As soon as we are back in power, boys, you will see that 15p come off the petrol price again." That is the test of their sincerity. To that extent, the increase in the price of petrol takes its place in a whole rank of other measures, some of them less popular than others, which this Government introduced in the face of criticism beforehand or at the time, criticism based on the alleged impracticability, unfairness, impossibility in some cases, of the measures concerned but not one of which would be reversed if we were out of office tomorrow and Fianna Fáil were back. I will not bore the House with the complete list but I will just ask Deputy Colley, who is the only occupant of the Opposition benches for a debate which was demanded by the Opposition on the grounds that it was years since we had one before——

I do not notice the Government benches very full. There is nobody there except the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister.

It was at the specific request, gladly conceded, of the Opposition that this essentially two day debate on Industry and Commerce is taking place. Out of the 40 or 50 Estimates left on the Order Paper this was the one the Opposition selected as the one which they wanted to deal with today and last Friday. This is the one they selected and there is only one occupant of the Opposition benches, Deputy Colley. I am not sure if he has already spoken. If he has, he would be stuck for a speaker if I were to sit down.

The Deputy has not spoken. It is the Parliamentary Secretary who is now speaking.

The Opposition selected this as the Estimate they wished to have discussed. We conceded that at very short notice. With less than 24 hours' notice the Minister was required to present his Estimate speech, something which Deputy Colley will agree he would have been reluctant to do or would have been unhappy at being asked to do with that kind of notice when he was on this side of the House.

This debate is taking place almost in conjunction with the petrol debate we had last week when not a single Opposition spokesman, in spite of all the gas and wind discharged against this side of the House, promised the removal of that impost if they were back in power. It is exactly the same as if I were to ask Deputy Colley, as I do now ask him, to say that if he were back in power tomorrow he would recompulsionise Irish in the schools and in the public service, that if he were back in power tomorrow he would free the whole farming community in principle from the incidence of income tax and that he would put the health and housing charges progressively back on the rates.

These are very interesting topics which I would love to pursue with the Parliamentary Secretary but I suggest they are hardly relevant on the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce.

I am entitled to as much rhethorical licence as any other Deputy. I am putting this whole matter in perspective. I accept that the Opposition must appear to be doing the job of an Opposition and, of course, they are doing the job of keeping the Government on their toes, forcing them to defend their position and explain themselves. That is as it should be but I deny the sincerity of the Opposition when they allege that things are being done by this Government which should not be done because the test of sincerity in a case like that is: "If you were back in government tomorrow would you undo these things? Would you reintroduce compulsory Irish? Would you free the farmers from income tax? Would you replace health and housing charges on the rates? Would you restore eligibility for the old age pension to 70 years?" I am certain these are all things that would not be done any more than they would bring down the price of petrol if the Government and the Opposition changed sides tomorrow.

Now that relates only to the sincerity of the Opposition. I do not believe they have any sincerity in this regard. They must make a show. When I say "make a show" I do not mean there is anything unreal about it. Of course, they must keep on the offensive and put the Government continuously in a situation of having to defend what they are doing but, so far as it represents criticism of many of the Government's concrete measures, and the list I have given is a short one—I could make it a good deal longer but I would risk being called to order—I cannot believe that Fianna Fáil have either credibility or sincerity unless they say in plain language: "Put us back in power tomorrow and we will undo all these things which we have criticised the Coalition Government for doing." Until I hear that plainly said I cannot give the other side credit for sincerity, credibility or anything else.

I want to end on a more general note. It is a kind of general reflection on the role which any Government in a country like this are obliged to play in the year 1974. The whole world has changed with astonishing rapidity in the last two years. Perhaps the change ought to have been seen coming on earlier. If the change had been seen a bit earlier the Coalition parties' promises would probably have been a little bit more reserved about holding down prices. As I say, the world has changed with astonishing speed. Deputy Colley knows it has and so do the rest of his front bench colleagues, certainly those of them who pay attention to these matters. They know from reading, even if it is only the English Sunday papers, that our nearest neighbour, on whom we are in large degree dependent so far as our export trade is concerned, is in fearful difficulties. There is talk in Britain, which used to be a byword for stability, of military takeovers. There is a complete breakdown not only of faith in Parliament but of faith in themselves. There are points of view and movements emerging which would have been unthinkable, would have been the subject of political science fiction, as it were, ten years ago. This country has not reached that stage but it is exposed to exactly the same features in the world of 1974 that have produced that stage in Britain. Maybe we have reserves of spiritual strength, a reservoir of moral stamina, some kind of backbone, or balance, or bottom, as it used to be called in the 18th century, which will preserve us from going over the top in the way that Britain appears to be doing or in the way their macro-prophets seem to be afraid they will.

Perhaps we have those reserves but a large part of the job of making sure that that will not happen devolves on whatever Government happens to be sitting on these benches. If Fianna Fáil were here they would have exactly the same task and that task is to try to lead the people—not compel them, not force them or con them or trick them—into a different attitude towards their own lives, towards their relationship with each other, towards their relationship with their Government. I use that word without party feelings; if Fianna Fáil were here on these benches, I would expect them to be doing the same job. The people have to be led into readjusting their lives in a different kind of economy, using that word in its broadest sense. They have to be led into readjusting their lives by leadership from government into an economy of resources in particular and, again in particular, of economy of imported resources, into something not too far away from the kind of self-sufficiency which the founder of Deputy Colley's party preached at a time when it was a nonsensical doctrine, but which is by no means nonsensical now, and I freely admit that.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary elaborate on that? The logic is not obvious.

I will do it on some other occasion. I do not think it would be in order to give the House my views on the founder of Deputy Colley's party now. That would lead me too far afield and down too many crooked paths.

The difficulties which this Government, or any Government sitting on these benches, must face in 1975 are difficulties which—I admit it freely— no party in this State has had any experience of handling! They will have to try to get the people to change their way of living, to have another approach to the conservation of the things which are important in their lives, to get them to reconstruct their scale of priorities, not radically and not in a revolutionary way, not in a way that will make them unhappy or unfree, but to do it voluntarily and by means of leadership and, in order to do that, a great deal of trial and error will be required. There will be a great deal of trial and effort on this side of the House and, I have no doubt, there will be a great deal of error as well. I have no doubt that if this Government are destined to remain in power for three, four, five, eight or ten years more, or if the Government change and Fianna Fáil are back here, it will be the job of whoever sits here to lead the people by trial and error into a different approach to the way their lives are led.

Life has been in some respects wasteful. It is a long time since the word "ecology" became familiar and a long time since people began to talk about husbanding natural resources, and so on, but we can see now that what was only the subject of articles in the magazine sections of the English Sunday papers a few years ago, is now biting into our lives in a way that we can both see and feel. Any Government here and any party here are completely inexperienced in dealing with a problem as radical as that. We are inexperienced in trying to get people to see that the kind of world they are living in is not just different from the world of their parents but is actually different from the world they were living in themselves a few years ago, and for very radical reasons. That is not to be interpreted as meaning that no Government have responsibility for slips and mistakes. Of course, they have and I am sure there will be slips and mistakes and, in this process of trial and error, there may be as much error as anything else, but everybody who looks fairly at the kind of world we are facing must see that the Government, trying to manage an economy and, above all, trying to keep free institutions, because these things belong close together, trying to keep our kind of economy and our kind of institutions on their feet, will have to do things that were never attempted before. Any Government will have to feel its way. There will certainly be stumbles and slips and mistakes, but this is all part of the process. So far as effort is concerned, the House and the people can be assured that this Government will put everything into it.

I heard the Deputy opposite say on the wireless the other day that he thought this Government had not yet realised that keeping the State going was a matter of unremitting slog. I do not think the Deputy is correct in that. This Government were not in office a week before they realised that. I do not know what the habits of the Fianna Fáil Government were in regard to how they did their Cabinet business, but I do know that the amount of effort put into their job by this Government, so far as Cabinet work and work of individual Ministers is concerned, could scarcely be enlarged. I cannot imagine how more could be done so far as effort is concerned.

It is open to Deputy Colley to say that the effort is misguided and that wrong decisions have been made, but I can assure him that no member of the Government or anyone who works for the Government, as I do, is under any illusion that it is an easy ride. It is a hard slog. The Deputy was perfectly right in describing it as that, but he is far from right if he imagines that he is the only person who sees that. Everybody on this side of the House who is in the Government or works for the Government knows it, and knows it out of bitter experience of his own.

As if all this were not enough, there is the Northern Ireland question. I will not assign blame for how it got as bad as it did, although the Deputy opposite knows quite well that I would not acquit his party of being neglectful, to put it at its best, in that regard. That problem alone, which has certainly got a lot to do with the economy in the sense that its repercussions have blasted the tourist industry, but is not an economic problem in the sense we are talking about here, has absorbed as much Government time as all the nation's problems together would have absorbed the time of the Fianna Fáil Government in, say, 1966 or 1967. More sweat has been put into that problem, more midnight oil has been burned, more miles have been travelled, more worry has been experienced, more earnest consultations have been held by this Government in 20 months on that question than I believe any Government here bestowed on all the national problems put together in the years gone by before the North of Ireland problem became difficult.

That, if you like, is a bonus. It is the reverse of a bonus but you know what I mean, Sir. It is an unwished for addition to the work of the Government who, quite apart from the North of Ireland, in the management of the economy are trying to keep life tolerable for people who are under intolerable pressure not generated here and, to a very large extent, not controllable from inside here and which complicates that task infinitely.

Any honest Deputy knows that is so. I do not advance it as an excuse for failure. I am certain there will be failure as there may have been in the past. Every honest Deputy must know that this Government in the last 20 months have faced more problems, and in greater volume, than any Government who ever ruled this State since the civil war. That is absolutely certain. Anyone who looks at the position honestly will concede that.

I do not want to be interpreted as asking for understanding. It is not the Opposition's job to let us off the hook, so to speak. It is their job to be plugging away and to make sure that we do our job. I want to rebut utterly the idea that the members of this Government, or those who work for them, think the work they are doing is plain sailing. It is anything but that. The Minister, in his efforts to keep life tolerable here, both in the economic sense and in the sense of maintaining free institutions—because these things belong closely together— deserves the thanks not merely of his own party, and not merely of my party, but of the whole people. He works colossally hard, probably harder than any man should be asked to work. Of many of his colleagues exactly the same is true. I want to repeat that in choosing this Estimate as a field on which to run the Government into debating difficulties, I believe the Opposition have made a serious mistake.

We were very anxious on this side of the House that there should be a debate on the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce not, as the Parliamentary Secretary seemed to think merely to run the Government into debating difficulties—an idea which, I think, betrays a good deal of his approach to the problems we are dealing with —but rather because, first, it has never been debated since the Minister got his seal of office as Minister for Industry and Commerce and, secondly, the Department was always a very important Department from the point of view of the general life and well-being of our citizens. It is certainly a very important Department now from that point of view.

The present occupant of the position of Minister for Industry and Commerce is, in my view—a view I held when he and his colleagues were in Opposition and a view to which I adhere now—far more intelligent than any of his colleagues in Government. That is not, perhaps, as complimentary an expression as it might appear at first glance.

The Deputy had better qualify that fast. That is the one which will get the headlines.

I make no bones about it. I have always regarded the Minister as being, in intellectual ability if not in stature, head and shoulders above all of his colleagues in Fine Gael or Labour. I have never hidden that view.

What the Deputy is really saying is that the others are foolish or not so intelligent.

No. I am adding that, while it is a compliment to the Minister, it is not as great a compliment as those who do not know his colleagues as well as I do might think it was. The point I really want to make is that this is a very important Department under the control of a Minister of very considerable intelligence in relation to his colleagues. Unfortunately, on all the main areas of activity for which the Minister is responsible, we have got a panorama of failure, stagnation, inability to move and make decisions. That failure is all the more culpable because the Minister has the intelligence to know what the problems are and how to tackle them.

One can only theorise as to why this should happen. Some people believe that part of the Minister's problem is that he has some ideological hang-ups which prevent him from moving in certain areas in a way which his intelligence applied to the practical situation he finds himself in would suggest. Others would think that there are many people of considerable intelligence who can display their intelligence in political terms very adequately in Opposition, but who find it rather more difficult when they are in Government, because the qualities required in an effective Minister are wider than those of intelligence which the Minister undoubtedly has. The Minister certainly gives the impression, in some fields particularly, of being totally mesmerised by the responsibility which he bears and the necessity for making decisions.

These decisions will have long-term consequences. They are decisions for which he will have to accept responsibility both in the short and in the long term. I would have thought that he at least was a man who could face up to these responsibilities. There are some of his colleagues in the Government who are congenitally incapable of doing so but I thought the present Minister for Industry and Commerce was capable.

However, the evidence is piling up in one area after another for which he is responsible that he is either unable or unwilling to make important decisions. This is the most important criticism of the performance of the present Government in relation to their responsibilities in the field of industry and commerce. The failure is all the more culpable because the Minister should be capable and is equipped to do the job in a way far superior to that which he is doing now. The major area of responsibility which the Minister has and which rebounds on people in their everyday life is in the field of prices.

Up to recently the Minister was very fond of quoting statistics in regard to other countries to show how much better we were doing than other countries under his guidance and with his responsibility for control of prices. I have not heard the Minister quote statistics of this kind for some time. It is not surprising that we have not heard the Minister quote these statistics because the fact of the matter is that the latest statistics show that, apart from Italy whose economy is widely recognised to be in an absolutely chaotic condition, we are the highest in the level of inflation in the EEC. All of the other members of the EEC are being subjected to the raging world wide inflation, to the pressures of the oil crisis and to the undoubted difficulties that are arising around the world, difficulties about which the Minister was very eloquent in telling us. However, we are second highest in the level of increases of our inflation rate.

Of considerable significance is the fact that the figures for inflation here and in Britain calculated at mid-November for the previous 12 months show that our inflation rate is practically 2 per cent higher than that in Britain. If the economic situation in Italy is notorious, that in Britain is scarcely less so. It has been steadily disimproving in recent years and is recognised now on all sides, inside and outside Britain, as being in a pretty advanced state of disintegration. It is recognised that it will require not only a great deal of political ability and fortitude but also a great deal of luck to enable it to survive in anything like the form we have known in the past. Yet that economic morass has performed better than our economy as regards inflation in the last 12 months for which we have statistics.

There is a reason for this. It is not just something that is fortuitous; it is not just because we have found ourselves importing more inflation than Britain. The reason, in my view, is the general attitude of this Government, and the attitude of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in particular. I am concentrating on the Minister for Industry and Commerce because this is his Estimate, but he is not by any means the only member of the Government who has this attitude which has been characterised by the performance of this Government. In the early days the Government did not know but now they do not care what happens to prices. Of course, they care what happens to prices in the sense that we all care when we see prices going up but when it comes to a crunch, when it comes to making a difficult decision, we can be virtually certain that this Government's only solution will be to increase the price of something.

This attitude was illustrated in the Government's first budget introduced at a time when they did not know the consequences of what they were doing. It will be recalled that in that budget not alone were the value-added tax rates increased thereby affecting almost every commodity but other taxes were imposed. Therefore, there was an all round increase in prices created, not by imported inflation, not by wages, not by pressures or anything else, but by the Government. Following the budget we had the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs increasing postal charges by something in the region of 30 and 40 per cent, television licences were increased substantially and CIE fares and ESB charges were also increased. Few, if any, of these matters were submitted to the National Prices Commission for investigation but the thing they all have in common is that they are under the control of the Government in one way or another.

It is perfectly legitimate for the Minister for Industry and Commerce, or any of his colleagues, to argue that the Government are affected by inflation like anybody else. They have to pay more money for services and wages but I contend that this Government when they are faced with the difficult decisions that any Government are faced with in regard to these matters, in regard to the level of charges, the inevitable decision is to increase the price of the commodity or the service and to do so at a level which is way above anything that is done by home manufacturers selling on the home market or anything that would be contemplated being allowed for them. This general attitude of letting prices go up has been illustrated very clearly recently.

The imposition of 15p per gallon of petrol, and its consequences, has been dealt with at some length. I mention merely this as an example of the approach of the Government and their apparent disregard for the consequences of increasing the price of that commodity, with resultant increases in other commodities. This was done by the Government in the knowledge that another substantial increase was on the way, caused not by the Government but by outside influences. In that full knowledge the Government imposed this 15p per gallon on petrol.

Since then we have had the price of butter increased by 4p per lb. It is very interesting to examine what happened to butter. The matter was clarified, for those who might not have known what was going on, in the House yesterday when the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries answered questions. In response to questions and supplementary questions he disclosed that there was a subsidy being paid on butter which we were obliged to phase out over the transitional period of our membership of the EEC, which means that it need not have been got rid of for, I think, another three years or so. But it was got rid of at one sweep by this Government within the last few weeks. The consequence was an increase of 4p per lb. in the price of butter.

I am quite familiar with the arguments which would go on within the Government on a matter like that. I am quite familiar also with the arguments that would be made by the Department of Finance on a matter like that—where there is pressure on State expenditure, where there is difficulty in raising revenue. I know the arguments but I also know that an overall view of the economy at present clearly indicates that the first priority of the Government—where they can exercise control—is to keep prices down. I do not say reduce them but to prevent them from rising if one possibly can; go to any lengths to prevent the price of any commodity increasing, to prevent the cost of living increasing.

I say that not merely for the obvious reasons that we are all against increases in the cost of living, as we are all against sin. Our inflation rate now has reached a figure of 20 per cent, a figure which, incidentally I suggested earlier this year would be reached when the official forecast was 15 per cent, and there were some murmurings then that I was scaremongering. The fact is that inflation has reached a figure of 20 per cent per annum now. The consequences of that are that there is an enormous amount of injustice being created. Inflation, of itself, is unjust anyway in strict theory but, when it reaches a figure of 20 per cent per annum, it is much more than a theoretical injustice. There are still unfortunate people living on fixed incomes. With inflation at 20 per cent per annum those people just cannot hope to survive. There are other people who are not on fixed incomes but they are people without any assets. We have heard a great deal of talk from this Government about a more equitable distribution of wealth but the fact is that inflation at 20 per cent is the greatest mechanism that has ever been seen, certainly since the foundation of the State, to increase inequity in distribution of wealth. There is no more effective way of disimproving the position of the weak and the poor and of improving the relative position of those with some wealth or strength in the economy with which to protect themselves.

Furthermore, inflation at 20 per cent per annum is getting dangerously close to the take-off point for South American-style inflation. The inflationary psychology has now become fairly firmly embedded in our people and, understandably, when it is running at 20 per cent per annum. When it takes hold, that psychology can be almost impossible to reverse. It is not true that, if the price of a commodity increases—as, for instance in the case of petrol—that increase can be measured and that one can say it constitutes ½ per cent, or whatever it may be, of the cost of living increase. That is not the end of the story. Apart from the fact that a number of people will be affected much more than ½ per cent—such an increase in the cost of living can produce a much larger increase ultimately because of the inflationary psychology, because of people wanting to recover not alone that ½ per cent but sufficient to cushion themselves against the anticipated increase in other commodities. Therefore the thing gets into a vicious circle and out of hand.

In those circumstances the clear and inescapable obligation of the Government is to do anything open to them to prevent further increases in the cost of living. I freely acknowledge and I have never denied it— nor has anybody else on this side of the House ever denied it—that there are factors operating on the cost of living over which the Government can exercise no control. There is no dispute about that. The dispute is in regard to the areas which the Government can control and their failure so to do. With what has been happening in regard to the massive increases in various items directly under the Government's control, the indications are that the Government have now simply given up this battle against inflation. They think one cannot win it and, therefore, one might as well ride along and get the maximum benefit out of it in the way of increased tax returns and so on. In that way, hopefully, one will be able to cushion the poorer sections of the community to some extent. I do not know if that is the Government's philosophy but that certainly seems to be it. If it is not, if they have not surrendered, how else can one explain these enormous increases brought in by the Government on the various commodities I have mentioned? We have had a further example of that. I mentioned the one in regard to butter and the abolition of the subsidy. That was not a question of introducing a new subsidy; that was a subsidy that existed and yet was abolished. Then we come to the latest manifestation of this. We heard from the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in a radio programme on Sunday last, the view that it might be necessary to relax the price control machinery in order to ensure that, by improving the liquidity position of industry and business, it would survive.

I want to make it absolutely clear that so far as I am concerned I agree that there is a very serious problem in regard to liquidity shortage in Irish business, be it industry or commerce. This serious problem, if not dealt with, can lead to widespread closedowns and unemployment. Therefore, to that extent, the Minister is right to tackle it. There are many who would argue that it should have been tackled before now. But I object strenuously to the manner in which the Minister proposes to deal with the problem. While the Minister has not yet made this mistake he has given notice of his intention to make it. Since the mistake has not been made yet I urge him as strongly as possible to think again about what he proposes to do.

The Minister may say that in Britain, for instance, price control machinery has been relaxed for the same reason. He may say that he is being urged to do so by some industrialists. The course the Minister proposes is wrong. It would have serious consequences. The problem he is endeavouring to tackle can be tackled in another way. I have had representations from industrialists on this point. These are people who do not want price increases at any cost. They are people who have acute liquidity problems but they know that if their prices increase certain consequences will follow. One is that they will be priced out of the market and will not be able to sell their goods. Another is that they may manage to sell but because of the increases in prices there will be further increases in the cost of living and additions to wage claims so that back they go again to the shortage of liquidity in which they find themselves now. They see no end to this spiral unless prices can be prevented from rising.

Where the Minister can take action to prevent prices from rising, he should do so and that is the view that has been expressed to me by a number of industrialists. After the radio programme on Sunday one of these industrialists, having heard, what the Minister said but not having heard what I said in response, contacted me and expressed to me precisely the same approach as I had taken. There is a problem to be dealt with, that is, the problem of improving the cash flow and liquidity position of industry and commerce. The Minister has indicated that he is considering doing this by relaxing price control but I urge him with all the force at my command not to take that line because it would only add to the spiral. If things go extremely well the cost of living and rate of inflation in the coming year will hold at what they are this year but if the Minister does what he proposes to do we could end up with an inflation rate of 30 to 40 per cent this year, assuming that the situation will remain more or less as it is and that there will be no major explosion in the world which would cause the position to become worse. I may be accused of scaremongering but that accusation was levelled at me, too, early this year when I forecast a 20 per cent rate of inflation.

The Minister must convince himself intellectually that the first and necessary course for him in particular and for the Government in general is that where they have a choice, although it may be a difficult choice, they should choose the course that would not increase prices and then fight every battle along the way. The relaxing of price control is not an answer to the liquidity problem. The answer lies in adjusting the taxation system. I know the problem that this would create for the Minister for Finance but it is a far more sensible course, taking an overall economic view of the situation, by which to tackle the liquidity problem of industry and commerce. If the problem is dealt with on the taxation front the Government can control what is happening. They can control the amount that is involved and the manner in which the shortfall in revenue that theoretically would be involved, would be made up. I say "theoretically" because, clearly, what is happening in the absence of any action by the Government is a downturn in business, a downturn that has occurred already and which will become much worse with a resulting proportionate fall in revenue for the Government.

If the Government can improve the cash flow position of business their revenue will improve and if they have to do that by reducing their nominal take of tax, it may well result in their being in a stronger revenue position than they began in but even if this is not the effect, that action would be far preferable than to relax price control which is a euphemism for saying that they are allowing prices to increase.

I urge the Minister again to change the psychology that he and his colleagues have been following in this regard. Here is an area where it can be determined clearly that if price control is relaxed on a wide range of commodities the liquidity problems of business will not be eased but enormous problems will be created for our economy.

On the question of prices there is another comparably small matter that I want to refer to. On a number of occasions and, again, in introducing his Estimate, I have heard the Minister indulging in what can be described only as a nonsense. That nonsense is that he takes from the NPC report the figure which shows how much of an increase was applied for by each of the applicants concerned and then he shows how much was allowed. The difference is alleged to be the amount saved for the consumer and the amount by which prices would have been increased if the NPC were not operating. I would remind the Minister that the NPC were set up under us, that they operated under us but we never claimed that the amounts disallowed by the commission were the amounts that we were saving the consumer. I hope we will never be guilty of such a silly claim. The Minister must know that if an applicant for a price increase is seeking an increase of, say, 3p per article he is not, if he can avoid it and if he is one of the general run of applicants, going to apply only for 3p he will apply for more and try to justify it in the certain knowledge that the National Prices Commission will cut him back unless he can demonstrate that he will go out of business if that happens. This is the reality of the situation for most applicants—not all. The amount for which they apply exceeds what they hope and expect to get and the amount they really need. Therefore, the sum quoted as being a saving is— I do not know what word would describe it when carried out as an affair between a buyer and seller but the Minister will be quite familiar with what I am talking about—the difference between the opening position of the buyer and seller. I do not know if there is a word to describe that but it can be quite a wide gap. Eventually, when they reach a bargain, the figures come together but to suggest that one has gained or the other lost on the basis of their opening positions in that situation is ridiculous. It is not an important point but it annoys me to hear the Minister repeatedly make this silly claim.

I think it is an important point and I do not think the Deputy understands the mechanism by which applications are made or the grounds on which application for a price increase can be made.

I do; I understand how they are examined and if the Minister believes that the mechanism available to him can really sift and uncover applicants' claims which he would hope, when exposed, would not be allowed, he is more naïve than I thought.

He has often sold a beast himself and knows exactly the point being made. You ask so much anticipating a certain offer and you know that ultimately it is a matter of splitting the difference. You cannot assume that the opening offer and what is being demanded are the figures on which you operate.

The Minister is a little more sophisticated than that but apparently he believes that the machinery available to him will uncover false claims for increases to such an extent that people would not make them and thereby be exposed. I think that is roughly what is in his mind but I want to say that if he could get in touch privately with a number of those who make applications and get the truth of the matter he would find that they are a great deal more sophisticated than any machinery he can bring to bear on them. I do not blame him when I say that; I know this problem; I was through it, but the sophistication which can be brought to bear by many applicants for price increases in covering up claims which are not really justified is a great deal more than the sophistication which can be exercised on the Minister's behalf in examining those claims.

I want to refer to another aspect of the Minister's responsibility, one which was always very important but is now more important than ever and that is the matter of exports. Of course our exports have been expanding year after year and, in some cases, expanding extremely satisfactorily. Since we joined the EEC we are achieving a degree of diversification from the British market which is certainly welcome but in the long run this country ultimately depends on its exports. In the shorter, medium term, in view of what has happened about the price of oil and other commodities, but particularly oil, we can juggle around by borrowing to pay the oil deficit and postpone it for a number of years but the ultimate reality is this: that we can either meet increased oil prices by increased sales abroad or reduce our standard of living. Ultimately, there is no other choice. Consequently, the necessity to step up our exports and the efforts we are making to export around the world is greater than ever now. This has been very clear to all of us for the whole of the present calendar year at least. I urged certain steps in this regard last April, I think, in the budget debate but the furthest we have gone, according to official information, is the reference made in the White Paper recently issued by the Government — I think it is known as "Towards a National Partnership." In that we find that approaches are being, or will be made to the banks in regard to the scheme of special terms of credit for exporters of certain types of commodities, a scheme which I had the privilege of introducing of an experimental basis with the full intention of expanding it when it had proved itself. Many other competitors both inside and in some cases outside the EEC have schemes available which are far more advantageous than our scheme. In addition, there is an insurance scheme available to our exporters which is not as advantageous as that available in a number of other exporting countries.

I do not say these matters can be remedied overnight; I know there are problems but it is not good enough to find, coming towards the end of this year, that there is no indication of any move on the insurance scheme and that there is this leisurely "We are talking" or "We will talk" approach regarding the exporters' credit scheme. That is not good enough in a situation in which early this year it was clear to us that we would have an increased deficit in our balance of payments of about £200 million and in a situation earlier described by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach as being a radical change in the world and in our way of life. We have this dilatory approach by the Minister and his Department in this vital area which, if we are ever to solve our problems regarding oil prices without lowering our standard of living, is the only area in which we can do it, by increasing exports. This dilatory approach is unforgiveable as far as I am concerned. We also have the situation in regard to imports about which we have heard a good deal, for instance, footwear and textiles and we have had the Minister maintaining that his position was that he had been talking in the EEC councils for some time and that he was trying to get them to assist. He also suggested that people on this side, and by implication people on his own side in Fine Gael who had campaigned for entry into the EEC, had a lot to answer for in this regard. I want to pin down the Minister on this. He may have talked in the EEC councils about the general problem of low-cost imports within the EEC but he did not take action with regard to low-cost imports into this country until the last couple of weeks——

I categorically deny that.

Is the Minister saying he did take action? Let us be quite clear—what is the Minister denying?

I categorically deny the statement that I took no action until the last few weeks.

Is the Minister saying he did take action?

The Minister will appreciate that if he did take action it was singularly ineffective until the last few weeks. Presumably he is aware that a course of action was open to him which demonstrably he did not take. He is aware that other countries in the EEC took certain actions in regard to this problem and he did not. He can argue the issue that, on balance, he should not do what they did but he should not pretend that was the only course open to him. He should not pretend that we were walked into a situation about which he can do nothing, a situation about which he warned the people. That argument from a person in his position raises doubts in people's minds that should not be there in the present situation.

The Minister is also responsible for the Industrial Development Authority. We can be thankful that that organisation are continuing the successful work they were doing under the previous Government but I seldom, if ever, hear the Minister point out why their work is continuing successfully. The major reason is that we are in the EEC. That is the major attraction of this country as a location for industry, especially in times of economic difficulty such as we have at the moment. The only reason that programme is keeping up is because we are in the EEC and that is what the people who compaigned for entry into the EEC said would happen. However, I do not hear the Minister mention that, although he is prepared to talk about what we said in the campaign for entry when he is discussing imports. He never mentions it when he refers to the thousands of new jobs being created as a direct consequence of our entry into the EEC.

I cannot say with certainty that under the previous Government when figures were quoted for the number of jobs created as a result of projects negotiated by the IDA the figures were given as they are at the moment. I think they were somewhat different and I would ask the Minister to consider that giving an overall figure for the number of jobs created as a result of projects negotiated can be misleading if one is talking about the number of jobs over a number of years. It gives a more accurate picture if one indicates the number of jobs created in the first year the industry is on stream, together with the number of jobs envisaged over the entire project. When it is the position that 600 men will be employed over a period of six years but only 100 men will be employed in the first year, it is misleading to refer to 600 jobs as such. I accept it is fair to mention that there are 600 jobs involved but there should also be an indication of what will be involved in the first year of production.

There is no intention to mislead and if the matter is correctly read there is no misleading.

Perhaps my appeal should not be addressed to the Minister but rather to those who report the figures from the IDA because that is how it comes out in the media.

I wish to turn to another important aspect of the Minister's responsibilities, namely, the matter of mining. One of the greatest "con" jobs that has been done in Irish politics for a long time has been done with a reasonable degree of success by the Minister and his colleagues in regard to mining. They have conveyed the impression that Fianna Fáil sold out our mining resources—at the moment I am speaking of mining on land, as distinct from offshore—and that the Coalition saved the resources of the nation.

The facts of the matter are that Fianna Fáil produced generous incentives that got this country on its feet as a centre attracting mining exploration. Of course the more attractive a place is the better are the terms one can dictate but it is necessary to make it attractive in the first instance. That is what Fianna Fáil did. No mining lease was granted for many years before they left office. In fact, the first one that was coming up was Tara which we were about to grant. The Minister knows, as I know, that we set up an inter-departmental committee to consider the best possible terms we could get in regard to the Tara mines in the light of the various responsibilities involved. The Minister has had occasion to spell them out from time to time—the interests of the community, of the people who discovered the mines and who were going to invest in their exploitation. The fact that the committee was set up clearly demonstrates that the policy of the Fianna Fáil Government was that having established Ireland as an attractive centre we were going to step up the terms. What really gets me is that when this Government came into office they made a lot of noise as though they were going to save the day but what did they do? First, with a great flourish they announced they were taking away the concession which applied to existing mines. They took away that right but with a very small saving to the State. The Minister for Finance wriggled on that one for a long time, as he usually does, but it turned out to be a very small saving. However, it did enormous damage to our good name.

Then they introduced mining tax legislation in relation to future mines which, when you analyse it, you find is taking from the new mines nothing like what should be got in the interests of the community. The whole thing is a con job and what happens then in regard to the Navan mines and Bula? The previous Minister for Industry and Commerce made an order which was found by the courts to be invalid largely on the grounds that the order did not specify precisely what the minerals involved were. The present Minister for Industry and Commerce finding this situation when the court decision was made had the option of making another order. In view of the judgment of the court it was almost certain that he could make an order which would be found to be valid and in accordance with the powers vested in him. He did not attempt to make such an order and when questioned in the House the reason he gave was that the order might be challenged.

Any order or any Act of Parliament may be challenged. He made no order. What is the consequence? A handful of people have each got millions of pounds into their pockets because the Minister did not make such an order, millions of pounds which should belong to this community. This is the Minister who talks to us about throwing away Ireland's mineral rights, who makes noises about being in favour of nationalisation only that he is constrained by being in Coalition. What kind of nonsense is this? Would the Minister for Industry and Commerce explain why it was that he failed to make an order and, as a result, millions of pounds which should have accrued to the community did not accrue to them and went into the pockets of a handful of people? We had no satisfactory explanation of that. We are entitled to it. The Irish people are entitled to that. Let us have an end to this nonsense of the Coalition saving the resources of the people. They are throwing them away as fast as they can. They are chasing people away from off-shore oil and gas exploitation.

The Minister promised to introduce sufficiently clear regulations and so on to enable him to grant exclusive licences by the middle of 1974. He did not do it. He has been promising it since and the last promise was that it would be before Christmas. Now a spokesman for Industry and Commerce says we will not have it before Christmas, we will have it in the new year. What is the consequence of that? The consequence is that there is no new exploitation going to go on of our off-shore resources in 1975 and possibly even in 1976.

We need action from the Minister for Industry and Commerce, not talk. He is good at talking; we will grant him that. Now we need performance and we have not had it from the Minister. In all the main areas of his responsibility we have had failure, we have had stagnation, we have had inability to make decisions. It is time the Minister got down to his responsibilities. I do not say he does not work; he works hard but he has nothing to show for it. The Irish people have nothing to show for it. I would ask him even at this late stage to get a move on in the areas where he can do things and not, for God's sake, agree lightheartedly to increase the price of various commodities. Let him remember that the consequences of what he is doing affect every man, woman and child.

I listened with some interest to Deputy Colley's speech. For a very long time he waffled about the prices position, the extent of inflation in the economy about which we all know and which did not give me any meat on which to comment. It was only in his latter remarks that he made a few points on which I would like to comment.

Deputy Colley took the Government and the Minister to task particularly for Government policy or alleged Government inactivity in regard to the off-shore oil position. He used words such as "dilatory". He believes what he describes as this inactivity of the Government to be unforgiveable. He said the Minister should take action, that he was good at talking but that it was action that was needed. It made me reflect on some fundamentals of our off-shore oil activity. The Norwegian and British Governments are at this moment physically getting oil onshore which will be of immense benefit to their balance of payments. Norway, which is a maritime nation like ours, is in the unique and privileged position of being practically entirely unaffected by the rampant economic problems affecting the world. Through the massive benefits that will accrue to them in the off-shore oil area they may well have a credit balance where most other European countries will be in very serious difficulty.

I should like to put it to Deputy Colley that it is utter nonsense for an Opposition spokesman to attempt to lecture a Government that has been in office for about 18 months on the necessity for fundamental pronouncements in an area as important as off-shore oil when the Government that had been in power for 16 years until February of last year made no official policy statement on this matter apart from the disastrous sellout to Marathon for a pittance. In fairness to Deputy Colley, there is some point in what he said about the Marathon position because, frankly, at that time this issue was not as serious as it is at present. That point is arguable but what we see happening in Norway and Britain at present is a result of long-term policy decisions made by Norwegian and British Governments going back over a decade and certainly at the most recent time five or six years ago because from the time of policy announcements of Governments, commercial enterprises taking up an initiative in the area of research and development and through these projects eventually coming on-stream takes a number of years. If we want to talk about dilatoriness, about unforgiveable inactivity, about the necessity for action and not talking and about the fact that oil is not coming in on Irish shores at present, the primary responsibility for this situation rests with the Government which we had until last year.

I agree with Deputy Colley on one thing and I see this area as being vital to our economic development. I, too, regret that we have not yet had the definitive policy of the Government in the area of licences but I know the Minister is working actively in this area and while there had been a promise that details would emerge before Christmas, I am hopeful that they will emerge very shortly in the new year. This is, of course, of vital importance. Some available statistics suggest that there is not all that much oil off our shores. My own view is that we cannot begin to assess those resources until we begin to physically tackle the job. I am hopeful looking at the Gulf Stream—and I am connected outside this House with an industry which has associations along the west coast of this country and in Scotland and in Norway—and looking at the similarities on the Continental Shelf that the deposits we will find may be more substantial than many people envisage. Should this come about for us there is immense benefit to accrue to the country so the more quickly this can happen the better.

I welcome the statement in regard to this area by the Minister and his definition of the areas in which he sees Irish participation. I agree completely with him. We are not looking for gombeen men or passive activity which might encourage multi-nationals outside the country to delude themselves that they will get privileged positions. We are looking for good Irish input. I agree with the Minister that if there are circumstances in applications for licences in which we have the right kind of Irish participation, where there will be an input and participation, then without question we should to a degree help such applications in particular.

Deputy Colley spoke about mining policy and said that the policy of his Government at the time of the introduction of tax reliefs was designed to offer attractive terms and that policy would have been stiffened at a later stage. We had the introduction of the attractive terms but there was no stiffening at a later stage and it was not until the election of the National Coalition Government that this problem was tackled. Deputy Colley, referring to that, talked about the enormous damage done by the initial announcement. I dispute that. In the mining industry experts in the Canadian mining industry actually asked why this had not happened many years earlier and they asked this at a time when the Canadian Government was tightening up incentives in Canada.

The analogy with the broader economy is patently absurd. Our country, in the midst of an economic crisis, but with stable government and a development authority, is managing to attract an identical number of jobs and the same number of companies to this country as was attracted last year. To suggest that what was done in regard to mining is ruining the good name of the country is simply absurd. For far too long we kowtowed to certain commercial interests; that might have been necessary in the earlier stages of development but it must be questioned at this level of sophistication. If a government introduces a new policy in so far as taxation is concerned that does create a problem for the Government in the short term because the Government, with a high level of unemployment, can run into very difficult situations, as it has done in this instance with large multi-national commercial interests from outside the country. The whip can be wielded and there can be attempts to suggest that, because 200 or 300 become unemployed, that reflects on the Government and Government policy should be changed. We must stand fast on issues like this. We must hold true to our principles because long-term interests are involved.

I shall deal briefly with inflation and prices. What is happening here is also happening elsewhere. A responsible British journal forecast a fortnight ago that inflation in Britain would be running between 20 per cent and 25 per cent in the not too distant future. How can this tiny country, depending to a very large degree on exports and imports, shelter herself from the winds that are blowing from outside? Deputy Colley's lecture to the world on the answer to inflation is really no answer. The monitoring of prices by the Prices Commission is probably the only option open to the Government. I am probably more pessimistic than other Members about the possibility of controlling prices because control is a two-edged weapon. As the Minister said last Sunday, it is open-ended. If we starve enterprise of profits the spin-off will be undesirable in terms of unemployment and a wholly unsatisfactory situation.

Our Minister is Minister for Industry and Commerce. Industry and commerce are two entirely different things. To the uninitiated they may appear to be related but they are not. There are two entirely different areas involved and it is questionable whether a rational assessment of Government Departments would incorporate both in the same Department. Industry is in a developmental area and commerce is in an entirely different area. Matters like prices are taking away from many of the achievements of the Minister and his Department in the developmental side of the economy.

Where redundancy is concerned, it might seem on surface judgment that redundancies are the result of the present economic situation. That is the argument of political critics certainly. The fact is that the redundancies occurring now were forecast five to ten years ago. We had a protected industry. The first change away from protection came with the free trade area agreement. Under that there were successive reductions in British tariffs and in our tariffs. On entry into the EEC the same thing happened with regard to imports from the other member states. On examination, it will be found that a very large number of redundancies are occurring in an area in which they were bound to occur, even had there been a boom. They are due to peculiar circumstances in the industrial sector rather than to world conditions. It is important that we should isolate this problem from what is regarded as the general problem.

A noted back bench Deputy in Fianna Fáil, whose speech was quoted in the newspapers, suggested we should develop completely new policies, philosophies and ideas in order to tackle health in industry and help companies in trouble. That was a lot of nonsense because there was no single, practicable, concise thought. There is a range of support such as does not exist in many other countries. There is the Industrial Development Authority, CTT with marketing support, the Institute of Industrial Research and Standards, to say nothing of support in the follow-up with long-term finance.

We have the work of the people in the county development offices. We have the county development teams. Finally, we have the rescue operations of Fóir Teoranta. If through all of that process, a company cannot find a niche and a means of producing a product, find a market and provide a reasonable level of employment, the problem does not lie with the Government. Today we are living in an era when everything is expected of the Government, when the umbrella of the Government is supposed to be all-embracing. In the area of free enterprise industry, there is a limit to which any Government can help. I would respectfully suggest that a range of incentives and facilities and sympathy exist at present.

I should like to make a few remarks about the specifics of industrial development policy. For a number of years before I became a Member of this House, I was a critic of the degree of centralisation of activity in many Government areas, and particularly in the area of industry and industrial development policy. Recently we have seen some welcome developments. There is obviously in the Department, and in the IDA in particular, a realisation of the necessity for more regional activity. We have seen the development of IDA regional offices around the country bringing a much greater awareness of the activities and the plans of the organisation to people at local level in our towns, in our chambers of commerce and in our trade unions.

That development is very desirable. I approve completely of it. We want to extend it to a certain degree. While the IDA, like Government Departments, are developing regional offices, we still have great centralisation in the sense that these offices might be termed branch offices. Until we look more fundamentally at this issue and attempt to get a higher level of local participation, there will still continue to be an undue degree of centralisation. Recently, in this House the Minister expressed his profound belief in the necessity to develop an Irish interest in industrial development and an Irish participation in manufacturing companies. What I am saying supports him, and gives some pointers as to what I believe should be done if we are to achieve this.

The industrial revolution by-passed us. We had no option in diversifying our economy from its agricultural base other than to attract industrialists from other countries to invest here. This has led to an unduly high level of ownership and technology and expertise in this area of activity rather than in the Irish-owned area. To a degree we have neglected to educate Irish interests in what industry is about. There is an analogy there with what I said a few moments ago. The very incorporation of industry and commerce in the same Department tends to make one think they are much the same thing. We have been a nation of commerce, a nation of shopkeepers, to a greater degree than the British. We overlooked the fact—and some cognisance should be taken of it—that while we have shopkeepers and merchants of substance and background and resources in our towns their kind of activity is in an entirely different area from industry. Many of these people, because of their training and background, simply do not know what industry is about and have not got the capacity, because of their lack of knowledge, to get the show on the road in this area.

I should like to suggest something in the specific area of grants. There is something lacking in the small industries' section. They are doing a very good job, but there are many projects which are never even developed on paper because of the expense involved to small companies and the lack of incentives to do something about them. It would be worthwhile to introduce grants for what I would term feasibility studies to cover a proportion of the considerable costs involved in the area of studies, work, travel, costings, prospecting for machinery, assessing markets, and in the consultancy area. The result is that many possible projects are not even developed on paper.

I know that in the IDA there is a research and development division but it is pitched largely at larger industries. In the smaller sector we should consider initiating some system of grants from which, in the judgment of the people looking at these applications, there is a reasonable chance of a useful study emerging. The possibility is that certain projects will develop as a result of such studies. At the very least the knowledge achieved by people in going through these exercises could be quite valuable.

In expending this issue of greater participation the same applies to the promotional activities of the IDA outside the country. This is the source. This is where we are going for our knowledge and for our technology. This is where we are meeting on the ground the individuals and companies who will ultimately decide on whether or not they will invest here. Other countries have arranged a supplementary type of promotional activity from regions, from chambers of commerce and from local authorities. Views on this matter tend to differ. It is my considered view that such work supplements to a considerable degree the work being done very well by IDA representatives abroad.

I say that for a number of reasons. The work of the IDA people is national. It is not their role to be discriminatory or to express preferences for regions. If you have the right kind of people who are sufficiently articulate and know what they are talking about visiting France, Germany or Britain, I would argue that provided the liaison is satisfactory—and, of course, this is very important—the role they are performing will be supportive and will possibly lead to projects coming to this country which otherwise might not come here. In addition, at the very least it will increase the level of self-confidence and the amount of knowledge which will be brought back into the commercial area and into the local authority field as a result of such visits.

This is part of the more fundamental regional participation in this area which I believe to be desirable. If we look at the chambers of commerce structure on the Continent of Europe and compare it with this country, we find that they are much more powerful organisations which are funded to a degree by municipal taxation. One of the problems here is that the umbrella of the State is so pervasive, and so powerful, and is controlling such large sectors of the economy, that private enterprise and its representation, especially in the provinces, is a very weak animal in comparison.

Some thought should be given to this. In the past we had, perhaps, too many instances of people in Irish towns being overawed by visiting German, American and Japanese industrialists. If we think a little bit more fundamentally of what needs to be done if we are to get greater participation by Irish commercial enterprises and by our chambers of commerce, we find that we need to take certain decisions along the areas I have spelled out.

That is not in any sense taking away from the activities of the Government, and the IDA in particular which have been enormously successful. At present, in difficult circumstances, the IDA are managing to attract a very high number of industrial projects to the country, many of them of very good quality. Whilst we have problems in our economy they are only a fraction of the problems we would have if the level of investment in the country dried up. One of the staggering successes of the country in the past year has been the extraordinary increase in the level of exports. In 1973 exports were running at a level of £869 million of which industry accounted for £552 million, an increase of 34 per cent. Exports at present are running at a level of more than £1,000 million. This is of tremendous significance and we tend to underestimate it. If there was not this buoyancy in this particular sector as a result of investment over the last two years the problems which we have would be much greater.

Until recently there was discontent in many parts of the provinces because of the imbalance in development. Happily, the position now is much better. In County Mayo we have some major projects planned such as Asahi in Ballina who are talking about employing close on 2,000 people over the next five years. This is a welcome development in an area suffering from the haemorrhage of emigration, an area which in terms of farm sizes and farm structures and per capita income has had a harrowing history. Many of us have held the view that the only answer in the long term to this is to build up our better towns and improve the quality of life in them taking into account the recognition around the world of the assets we have, our lakes and close proximity to the sea. The wheel has now almost turned full circle to the degree where it is at last appearing to be an attractive area in addition to being economically desirable to site industries in such locations. This development is welcome and the Members from that part of the country are committed to give the Minister full support in this work.

However, I should like to refer to one aspect of incentives to industry. I referred to this on a number of occasions but it never saw the light of day in the form of print. The matter I should like to refer to is the range of incentives and supposed additional incentives for the designated areas against those for the undesignated areas. There may be reasons for the present policy but I should like to make some qualified criticism of it. My criticism is in relation to the level of industrial development in Dublin. I hasten to add that I am not saying this in an unduly sectional sense. I have always attempted to be national in my comments in this House. One of the topics in recent years has been the imbalance of population, the extent to which Dublin is growing, the massive population in that city, the problems it is creating in the area of infrastructure and the denuding of the population in the country. This has been recognised to a degree in the incentives offered to manufacturing industry. It has become fashionable to say the incentives being offered to the designated are greater than those offered for undesignated areas and to say that the Government's policy is to hold the level of population in Dublin to its natural level of increase and not to offer any incentives to manufacturing industry in Dublin.

There are a range of incentives offered to manufacturing industry but if we are talking about the major ones we are talking about two; the cash grant and the complete relief of taxation on export scales. It is unfortunate that in the press, reports emanating from the IDA, and in speeches by Ministers we hear too much about the grants which have been given, the lumps of money which are physical and to which people respond. To many people who do not know about finance this is real money. However, we tend not to be commenting sufficiently on the tax incentives and on the fact that many of the better companies who do not have a liquidity problem and who are assessing their investment entirely on a return for investment basis forego the advantages of the grant and establish their industries in Dublin because of the tax relief on export sales.

It may be argued by the Government that this is valid and that we should encourage industry in Dublin to increase. When we read the annual reports of the IDA we read of what are known as "job approvals". What does the term mean? I think the terminology means that these are jobs sanctioned by the IDA for industrial grants but I do not think in their tabulation of industrial development they tabulate industrial development in the economy at large. Many industrial jobs are being created entirely outside the area of the grants given by the IDA. The proof of that is that 12 months ago when I wanted to check this matter out I found that about half of the jobs in manufacturing industry are still in Dublin. This is after a generation of policy to get jobs into the provinces. Therefore, when we talk about "job approvals" we are talking about jobs which have been approved for Government grants but we are not talking about the total creation of jobs in the country.

Obviously, the work of the Government, and the IDA, in their promotional activities abroad is all-embracing and covers the totality of industrial development. To a degree they are responsible for this development in Dublin as much as in the rest of the country. In my view the statistics we are given should show us the fullest level of development that is talking place, whether they are jobs which are termed "job approvals" or not.

Statements about attempting to hold Dublin to its present level of development are factually incorrect. The IDA do not hold responsibility for this position. It is the Government who bear the responsibility. As long as the Government offer complete relief of taxation on export sales in Dublin they are offering substantial incentives to such industrial development. We should think this out. If the Government consider it necessary that should be Government policy, we should face these facts and not use euphemisms or subterfuges to suggest something else.

There are many people in Dublin who would agree with me and who want to contain the level of development in Dublin. What I should like to see happening is a review of the position where the export sales tax relief is concerned in Dublin because at present the transport disadvantage in the south and south west militates so much against them there may be nothing in it in the end. It is my view that we are reaching the stage where we should consider scrapping the tax relief on export sales of manufacturing companies established henceforth in Dublin. Then we are being serious about statements about containing Dublin to its natural level of growth. But, unless we do that, we must stop this nonsense we are talking about. I want to temper my statement by saying that in regard to companies that have been established to date and to which successive Governments have made commitments in the tax area we should, of course, honour those commitments. For the full tenure within which companies which have started up to the present are in a position to avail of those incentives, we should, of course, continue to honour that contract. It is a fundamental point and one which I believe should be given some consideration.

Looking at the IDA report, it is heartening to see that they take the view—and, presumably, they have taken it after a certain amount of consideration, a view which many of us had at a surface level—that Ireland still retains significant cost advantages over her European competitors. In these depressing time it is important to say that and to say it again. Despite the gloom, despite the problems—inflation and its resultant problems for the nation—it is a relative thing. It is a reality. But the reality also is that this tiger is eating up Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, the United States and Japan as well as our country. Therefore, at least there is this to say for it, as the IDA have expressed in good language, we still retain significant cost advantages over our European competitors. Anybody who has travelled outside the country in the past year or two comes back horrified at the level of prices in cities and towns outside the country. It is important to bear that in mind because it is one of the reasons why there is still buoyancy in the industrial sector and, unless the world economy collapses, we can continue to expect such buoyancy to continue.

Another fundamental matter which should be looked at—and there has been some comment from some semi-State sectors—is the totality of employment not merely in industry but in the services sector as well. We have had the policy of encouraging industrial development, by grant, but we have ignored completely the services sector which has expanded terrifically, without control. I am not certain whether or not there should be control. I take the view that we should look at the position in Britain at present where, in addition to attempting to get industry moving into the provinces, they are making an attempt to get the services sector out of London and into the provinces also. They are doing this by the provision of a range of incentives in that area. I believe it is something we should examine.

The last point I want to make relates to the problems Irish industry is experiencing and the redundancies problem. I think I could compliment —as would many others in this House—Telefís Éireann on one or two recent programmes on "7 Days" about the redundancy issue and on the extent to which they spelt out the necessity to buy Irish products. To a degree we have been living in a fool's paradise here, a small, relatively underdeveloped country, placed geographically between two of the wealthiest countries in the world, the United States and Britain, countries with which we have strong ethnic associations and the continual comparison of incomes, aspirations and job opportunities which is damn nonsense. But, when the chips are down, the necessity to buy Irish—if the article is reasonable and can, in any sense, compare with its imported counterpart—is more important at present than ever. To a degree we have been living in what might be termed a fool's paradise. Without question—if we could instil the urgency of this matter, the extent to which jobs could be saved and created by buying Irish—our people could help solve this problem to a very substantial degree.

I should like to compliment the Minister on his introductory speech and wish him well in the running of a most important Department during the coming year.

I should like to take up the point on which the previous speaker finished to express a view I have expressed here on several occasions before—that whether in good or bad times, as far as I am concerned, a basic premise is that separate identity is of crucial value for the Irish people. If it becomes more noticeable or, perhaps, desirable only in adversity, that does not detract from its general relevance. Here I would join issue, to some degree, with all of those who would parade it only in times of difficulty. National identity is not responsive to the pressing of buttons. National identity, and concern for one's neighbour living in a given strip of land, are not things which are responsive to the pressing of an over-night button. They are things which must be cultivated, things which must be nurtured. I would hope—by drawing the attention of the House to it— I would get their ready acceptance of how important it is. The Minister himself devoted two pages to that philosophy based on the old Irish seanfhocal which says: "Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine". I must admit to having been at a great loss to understand why, when we get acceptance of that from the Minister and from Deputies like Deputy Staunton, at other times they are not as ready as I would hope to accept the importance of the Irish language as that which must be and is foremost in reminding each other that there is this kinship, of the fact that we, on this island, are one ethnic group.

I have never advocated that we should foster the restoration of the Irish language to the exclusion of other languages. I have never advocated that we should restore the language merely as a means of communication: not at all, but, indeed, for the very purposes which Deputy Staunton, the Minister and many others advocate. I see in it something that has a social and an economic significance, something which will bind us together and help us, especially in times of need, to rally round and indicate by a spirit of unselfishness, of dedication and of propriety our desire to help each other. This is a spirit which, unfortunately, is all too absent today because of Ministers in this Government parading themselves at home and abroad apologising for the fact that we are Irish and that the majority of our people are Catholic. It is a matter of indifference to me as to what faith anyone professes but it would be my hope that people would live according to the tenets of the religion they profess. I do not see why either the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs should consider themselves obliged at any stage to indicate to anybody that because the majority of the people in this 26-county State are Catholic, there are not any inhibitions on the Irish people. I suggest that pursuance of that point tends to impose on the Irish people some feeling of inferiority and suggest to them that they are not Irish at all but that, perhaps, they are tangential to the neighbouring island.

Have I come in on the wrong Estimate? I thought we were debating the Estimate for Industry and Commerce.

If the Minister for Local Government had read the Minister's speech and if he had been listening to Deputy Staunton and to other speakers, all of whom appealed to Irishmen to be prepared in the present circumstances to make sacrifices and to help each other, he would have to accept that what I am saying is relevant and pertinent to the question of whether, down through the years, we have been indicating to the Irish people that they are one. If the Minister cannot accept the relevance of that argument, I am afraid that it is not due to lack of intelligence on his part but that it is merely another example of his burying his head in the sand. This whole area is vital to our survival. I shall not pursue it beyond that which I have said but would stress again the importance of our building up among our people a sense of respect for each other and an acceptance that we are a people who, understandably and acceptably, are a European people who are prepared to consider ourselves as Europeans.

The better the Irishman the better will be the European but for the moment the better the Irishman the greater will be the acceptance of the need to help each other and to help especially the many people who are finding it very difficult to manage at the moment.

Deputy Colley was magnanimous enough to concede that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is an intelligent man. Accepting that, I am placed in a difficult situation because, then, I would have to be suspicious of the Minister in other areas. Dealing with the question of prices and price control, the Minister said in his introductory speech that when the present Government took up office early in 1973 they found the economy suffering from inflation and that one of their first priorities was to tackle that situation.

Neither the Minister for Industry and Commerce nor any of his colleagues in the Cabinet appeared overnight on the scene in 1973. They were already hardened, enlightened, experienced and practised politicians. I am staying with the point as to whether the Minister is an intelligent man or whether he might be something else. All these men in the Cabinet were very familiar with the economic situation in 1973. The Minister admits that there was inflation then of which he and his colleagues were aware. That being so, why did he and his colleagues for the purpose of getting control of the country and for the purpose, as their Leader has said openly, of getting their hands on the loot, put forward a 14-point plan——

On a point of order. when did the leader of the Government refer to the Government getting their hands on the loot?

It is on the record at least ten times. When the present Taoiseach was in Opposition he always talked of his party getting their hands on the loot.

That is very different from accusing the Government of the day of getting their hands on the loot. What the Deputy said suggested that the leader of the Government had referred to his having now got his hands on the loot. He never said any such thing nor thought it either.

It is a political charge and the Deputy must be allowed continue without any interruption.

But not to make false accusations.

On several occasions the Taoiseach, while he was in Opposition, referred to what it meant to get one's hands on the loot. Indeed, I was surprised that a man whose opinion I would normally respect would so refer to the position of any Government who happened to be in power or would so describe the behaviour of any group of men presuming to run the country. The reference is there and must be accepted. My point, and one that understandably does not appeal to a decent, respectable, sincere and honest man like Deputy Dockrell, must be made. These gentlemen, for whom the Minister for Industry and Commerce, was, I understand, the script-writer on matters referring to industry and commerce, said in 1973 that they would stabilise prices. Can that be denied? Can it be denied that because of that more than any other fact the people made the change which they now realise was their greatest mistake ever?

The point is whether the Minister for Industry and Commerce is an enlightened, intelligent man or the other type on which I do not like to put words. Obviously, if he is the former type, on his own admission here he realised that there was inflation at the beginning of 1973 and, therefore, as an intelligent, enlightened man he should not have been a party to promising the people stabilisation of prices. That is a fair submission: the Minister cannot have it both ways. Either he is not an intelligent, capable and enlightened man or he is a dishonest man. I hope he is the former and that the action which he was a party to in 1973 was a mistake.

I believe that he and his colleagues reaily believed that, notwithstanding the blizzard already blowing, notwithstanding that the Government of the day had indicated that prices could not be stabilised, they could be stabilised and it was on that assumption and on others that they went to the people and were returned to Government. It should also be said—here I speak as the proud owner of a small piece of land which is mine only because I inherited it—that I am happy with what the Minister says apropos the mining situation. I agree that no Government should, no behalf of a speculative company, take from a farmer what he owns. But having said that, I may add that this view seems to diverge considerably from what he would have preached a year ago. I heard him during the week and last Sunday on Radio Éireann and I was very pleased to hear him accept—and I acknowledge his conversion—that in the way of life we now have there is nothing wrong with a company making profits. He was glad to agree that profits are essential.

Since I came to this House I have made no apology for asserting that profits and wealth are highly desirable and that without that motivation, open to any citizen who is anxious to make profit leading to personal wealth, there is a loss to the nation. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for Finance and many other Ministers within months of their appointment were traipsing the country indicating how they, the great socialists, were going to distribute wealth. They now realise that any fool can distribute wealth; no wonderful IQ is needed to act as a prodigal but you cannot distribute wealth that has not been created and it is only created by effort. It will not be created without incentive.

The Minister for Finance and some colleagues of his went through a period in which they gave the impression that socially it was a sin to have wealth or have anything. In this House I said, and it is on record, that if they pursued the policy they advocated in falling for this emotional socialism, appealing to the understandable and natural envy we all share of somebody with more than we have, if they were to continue with that policy and proceed with their threats to distribute wealth they would reach a point where they would have equalised wealth in the only way you can guarantee to do that—and I have to use a double negative which expresses it better than anything else—they would reach the stage where there would be nothing for nobody. That is the road they were travelling but I am happy that this conversion has occurred. I fear, however, that what has been lost will take a considerable time to recover. Blame for the loss must lie not in toto I freely admit but to a large extent, on the Members of this Government.

The people of another country must have a feeling of security which comes when those in authority know what they are about and there is consistency. That applies in the household, the company and the country where those in authority do not yield automatically to satisfy the immediate or the ephemeral. People in authority have obligations but this Government are not prepared to accept that. There has been no solidarity and, because of that, it was inevitable that there would be a feeling of insecurity and no confidence among the people. Those with money to invest were not prepared to bring it here, to a country where the Government members instead of acting as one each went his own way.

Earlier in the debate we heard some agricultural metaphors. Deputy Colley mentioned the men at the fair and the Minister and other speakers spoke about the farmers. Recently a farmer spoke to me about the Government and members of the Cabinet in particular and I was rather attracted to the manner in which he described them. He said they reminded him of an old fool of a dog he had owned in the past who went out chasing crows.

What was the dog called? Was it Fianna Fáil?

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the canine metaphor I used might be used in connection with the Minister. On occasion he has been running in a direction different from that of another Minister but we will not go into the details now. I am suggesting to the Minister that since early 1973 he and other members of the Cabinet have been tugging at each other on certain points. Each one has been doing his own thing and this has not given a feeling of security to the people. This is not too difficult to understand when we remember that on one occasion the Minister for Defence said there would not be a wealth tax while on the following Sunday the Minister for Labour said on Radio Éireann that the Government were absolutely and utterly committed to a wealth tax, that the schedule had been prepared and that it would be introduced immediately. The following evening in Galway the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach tried to undo what the Minister for Labour had done. In Galway recently the Tánaiste and the Ministers for Local Government, Industry and Commerce and Posts and Telegraphs were present but did not attempt to defend the Minister for Education who was being attacked by the dogs——

I am anxious that the Deputy would relate his remarks more closely to the Estimate.

I do not know if the Chair has read the speech of the Minister for Industry and Commerce but he referred specifically to matters to which I am referring. If we are to have commerce and industry, the Government must have the confidence of the people. The purpose of my contribution has been to remind the Government that by word and action they have been remiss in this regard and, as a result, we have the present appalling situation. Although it is not easy for me to say this, I welcome the slight change of heart and attitude of members of the Government. I hope that this recognition by me will help them to develop that change, that they will act as one and that henceforth we will not have Ministers moving in different directions. It would be nice if I could go back and tell my farmer friend that although what he had said about the Government might have been true in the past it no longer was the case.

I am glad that the Minister for Industry and Commerce has said that he accepts private ownership, that he accepts the right of a farmer on whose land ore has been found to have the right to sell. I am glad the Minister accepts it is not equitable or just that the State should deprive the farmer without ensuring that proper and adequate compensation has been made. On this point I may not be in absolute agreement with Deputy Colley because I am not as well versed in matters dealing with mining and our resources.

If the Minister for Industry and Commerce had given the House details of the agreement he has made with the Bula Company possibly I might not have been critical of it. I am not saying I am critical. He has indicated that with regard to the voluntary agreement which has been negotiated he is happy about it and that there will be great advantages to the Irish people. I accept that. It might have been advisable for the Minister to have shown us the basis for his optimism and he might have given the House details of the agreement. I am not convinced that it would not have been accepted by Members on this side of the House.

Anything which can be shown to have merit attaching to it will be accepted by me but I think he will accept that the nature of profits is such that when any Minister comes into this House and says he has done something about which he is very happy there is a tendency on the part of the Opposition and, indeed, on the part of some of his own colleagues to say: "I would prefer that you would do me the honour of indicating to me what exactly the deal is before you ask me to accept it." Nobody rejects the principle he has enunciated here, the fact that he now accepts what has always been the Fianna Fáil policy, this fusion of private enterprise and State, that such a deal has now been made by him, that he is happy with it and that value will accrue to the people. Nobody rejects that and I am hoping he can demonstrate that this will be more beneficial to the people than the agreements which existed before.

I agree with what Deputy Colley has said, and indeed the Minister prompted him to say it, that in respect of the wealth that lies underground in the Navan area it goes without saying that all economies should and indeed must be used towards the exploitation and the development of what is there to the best advantage. No mining company will listen to what I say but the Minister has indicated to us that there is an agreement between himself and one company engaged in that area and I hope the third company can come in and form the shamrock development there which presumably would be advantageous to the company and to the other two elements already operating.

The biggest untapped resource we have here is that of labour. This is not something which I am saying because of the unfortunate circumstances obtaining at present. For far too long there was an acceptance in this country of an erroneous idea than anything attached to work was not respectable or honourable. It moves into the field of education. There seemed to be an idea abroad that an education was something which would permit of one's earning a salary or a wage without having to work. This idea still unfortunately obtains. There was an attitude in factories and elsewhere that physical work was something of which one need not feel proud and because of that one did not get the interest, the care and precision which would make our finished article stand up with that produced elsewhere. Later on I hope to listen to Deputy Dockrell's contribution. If he thinks it worthy of comment I would be anxious to hear his views on this with his years of experience.

I found, as a principal in a school, that parents came and were interested in their children getting an education so that, please God, they would not have to work. That is possibly an over-simplification of it but I quote it to show what has been rather unfortunate in this country and it does not obtain in others. It probably goes back to the time when we had the aristocracy and the rest of us and there was nothing for the rest except the physical work for which there was very little pay. I am absolutely convinced that there is an untapped resource in the country, an untapped labour, and again I am not referring solely to the physical, which if attended to and treated in the proper fashion could contribute more than many other factors towards solving our problems and guaranteeing that our problems will not visit us again. We must encourage people to the realisation that whether we are employed in a factory, in an office or in any sector of society, the less we do and the more carelessly we do it the dearer the commodity we are producing must be. It is extremely important to emphasise this. Deputy Staunton talked about money and fiscal arrangements and services in other countries. In the ultimate what are we doing in trading except purchasing the labours and the services of others and unless ours compare with theirs obviously we must have this inflation which exists at present continuing.

For my own sake, I would like to oblige the Minister for Local Government. I had intended to speak until a quarter to two but I am opting out now so that the Minister will come in and I shall have the pleasure of listening to him.

We do not pull rank on this side of the House.

Deputy Tunney's opening speech was somewhat confused. The Minister for Local Government found it irrelevant. Deputy Tunney said some nice things about me——

Not too many, though.

——and it seems a little unkind for me to say now that I agree with the Minister for Local Government that Deputy Tunney's opening remarks were irrelevant. I fail to understand their relevance to industry and commerce. I am quite honest in that. Deputy Tunney obviously failed to make communication with us. I have no doubt of the high degree of intelligence of the Minister for Local Government and, while I do not want to be too humble about myself, I certainly could not understand the point Deputy Tunney was trying to make. I thank him for the nice remarks he made about me.

The Deputy understood those all right.

Deputy Tunney, in the course of his confused opening, referred to the Taoiseach and to something the Taoiseach said, or was alleged to have said when he was in Opposition, about getting hands on the loot. Inadvertently I think, Deputy Tunney made it appear that the Taoiseach had made that remark as head of the Government. It is a very different thing to make a remark like that in Government and that is why I put this on the record: I shall not argue as to whether it was fair or unfair, but it would be quite wrong—I am sure Deputy Tunney will agree with me-to make it appear that the Taoiseach referred in such facetious terms to the high office he holds and the great responsibilities he carries so admirably and so well.

Deputy Tunney also spoke about the dignity of labour. Many people for many years now have been cogitating on this. I agree with Deputy Tunney that there has been a lack of understanding of the important position of labour and craftsmanship. Irish workers have held their own, and frequently excelled, from early times in all sorts of crafts and I think this lack of understanding stems from the fact that we are a Celtic race and Celtic peoples value the things of the mind. There has always been a natural desire on the part of parents to give their children the best education possible and then put them into what are called "white collar jobs".

I shall not go into the question of spirituality because it would not be appropriate on this Estimate. Possibly the desire of parents is founded on their anxiety to put their children in what they regard as safe jobs, the professions, semi-professions and so on. I do not know that these are safer than industry. A trade or a craft can be carried anywhere in the world. In the tragic days when the Jewish people were being persecuted by the Nazis a doctor in Vienna had his daughter trained as a pastry cook and his son trained in some trade or craft. When the family were forced to flee from Vienna the daughter carried with her the know-how necessary to make the most beautiful Viennese pastries and cakes; she was quite competent to earn a living in England, and very welcome. That is just one small example of the dignity and usefulness of a trade in the industrial sector. I believe people are now learning that industry can be a very satisfying thing and that the craftsman or factory hand can lead as full an intellectual life as the white collar worker and I think that earlier attitudes are changing.

Deputy Staunton referred to something which I cannot allow to pass unchallenged. He said he was not speaking as a person from the west but that he was speaking as an Irishman. He referred to the massive growth in industry in Dublin and its immediate environs and suggested that tax incentives for exports should be withheld from businesses starting in Dublin. He graciously said he would like to see them continued for existing businesses and industries in Dublin and its environs. I must take issue with him on that. I would remind the Minister, if that were necessary, as a representative of the city of Dublin for many years that, apart from anything else, Dublin and its environs have over a third of the total votes and of the population. This cannot be interfered with lightly. This Government are unlikely to run the risk of letting the grass grow in Dublin streets on the chance of starting small industries in scattered parts of Ireland. However necessary they may be, sometimes they are at risk. They should start off on their own feet with whatever help the Government can give them but, in the process, businesses in Dublin should not be left in a less advantageous position.

I do not entirely share the state of euphoria of some speakers, nor do I share the unmitigated gloom of the political attacks made by Deputy Colley and other speakers on the other side of the House. The Minister is doing a good job in a very difficult situation. A serious trade recession seems to be creeping across the world and even the mighty Governments of Europe, the Americas and even the Soviet Union seem to be powerless to stop this creeping paralysis in world trade. There seem to be some gleams of light and of hope shining through, but undoubtedly we are in for a bad time and we have been going through a bad time.

We have been going through a bad time in the building and construction industry. It does not serve any purpose to try to say that is not so. It exists in a very serious way in the business in which I have spent my whole life. The Government are in a position to help. The big difficulty is the question of £sd. Fóir Teoranta will help but they can only do so as far as the Government can finance them. I do not need to remind the House that this is our second largest industry. In normal conditions it employs the greatest number of adults next to agriculture. The industry needs all the help it can get.

The Minister said his chief areas of concern were industrial policy, employment, the adequate and best use of our natural resources, and prices generally. Some areas of our natural resources have been touched on by other speakers. The Minister mentioned them in his opening speech and will doubtless refer to them in his closing speech. There are the two big questions of mining and oil. With regard to mining the position is rather obscure. Part of that question is probably sub judice at the moment. As it has been discussed here I will say something about it.

It is a desperately complicated situation. It is very difficult for the ordinary individual who has not got all the facts at his finger-tips and in his mind and intelligence to understand it. There are many aspects to it. One aspect is whether further development could be carried out on the finished product in the nature of refining and so on. Without going into the technicalities, far too much time has been allowed to elapse without coming to a firm decision. It has taken nearly two years. The industry, the public and, above all, the people in the Navan area have a right to know firmly and unequivocally exactly what the Government's policy is. It does not give me any pleasure to say this, but I have read articles in responsible business journals which would make your hair stand on end, giving their opinion of what the Irish are doing. We are new to mining, an industry which is carried on by big concerns with vast resources. Such concerns have a great deal of know-how.

Granted that the previous Government may have erred on the side of leniency towards these companies it should be remembered that these companies have sunk a lot of money in Irish enterprises and no Irish Government, none that I belong to, will act unfairly towards them if I have my way. A company, a great lawyer once said, was neither a soul to be saved nor a body to be kicked but it certainly has a body to be kicked. We must be very careful because it has not a soul to be saved that we do not kick its body. If we do, we will lose our reputation for fairness and justice and, in my mind, we have gone dangerously close to that.

It is high time we settled this matter which has gone on for two years. In my view we should be able to finish it up and get the wheels turning as fast as possible with justice for the companies and the Irish people. On the question of oil we must be careful that we do not open our months too wide for a share. We must not seek too much because this would have the effect of frightening the companies involved off. England has been accused of doing just that. The British economy is not one that we would envy but our economic position usually follows the British after a short time lag. It would be a very foolish man who would say that the position Britain finds herself in, vis-á-vis the North Sea, would not happen here. I hope we can manage to find oil in sufficient quantities to help our energy and financial problems and that explorations go ahead as soon as possible.

I hope I have not appeared to be harsh on the Minister in that criticism on the mining policy but I am only echoing what a number of people are saying and what has appeared regularly in responsible financial journals. I trust we will go ahead in that field. In the meantime, I realise that in the field of prices there are great difficulties. The Minister has handled these difficulties skilfully and well. We have to prevent exploitation of our people by undue price rises.

Being a small country, we cannot control outside prices. The greatest countries in the world, including the United States, have not been able to control increases in the price of oil. Many other products which we must import have also increased in price and this has radically affected our standard of living. If industry and business concerns are not given an opportunity to make an adequate profit to finance the increased cost of imported raw materials not only will many people be thrown out of work but many concerns will be bankrupt. This country, like others in western Europe, seems to be approaching a situation more like a country at war than a country at peace.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the Government, can do no more in that situation than any other European country has done. All we can do is watch the situation closely and take steps to see that our people are not charged high prices without justification and that our business concerns are not starved for the profit which will enable them to finance the greatly increased price of commodities. It should be remembered that oil is only one of the many commodities that have increased in price recently. The price of timber has increased and this has affected the building industry. That has had its effect on the prices of not only commodities but minerals and so on which have risen enormously above their level of a few years ago. That means, in turn, that the modernisation of plant and the hoped-for extensions of businesses are so expensive that few firms can afford them at their present level of profits.

I do not wish to hold up the House unduly but I would say that over a very wide and complex field the Minister for Industry and Commerce is doing a very good job. He is doing it skilfully. But I would ask him to get a move on in the natural resources field as far as is possible. The initiative rests with himself. It takes two sides to form a confrontation and we must avoid that at all costs. We must get industry going and all that that means for the country.

I was extremely interested in the contribution of Deputy Maurice Dockrell. In relation to the question of mineral resources, I must say it was a very objective presentation of the case. In the course of my contribution I would hope to add to or make comments on what Deputy Maurice Dockrell said in addition of course to what the Minister said in his opening remarks.

Naturally, I welcome this opportunity of discussing this Estimate on Industry and Commerce. This is the first opportunity we have had to do so since the present Government took office. It is probably unfortunate for the Minister for Industry and Commerce that it should have taken almost two years to get round to this debate because, had we had a discussion on it last year, it is possible the Minister would have been able to dress up the situation in some way as being one of progress in view of the fact that he was, if you like, cashing in on work already done. But at present when we face tremendous unemployment, when prices have spiralled out of all proportion and continue to rise, the only actual achievements within the Minister's ambit have been those of Córas Tráchtála and the Industrial Development Authority—one body charged with responsibility for expansion of exports and the other for attracting industries both of whose achievements are attributable fairly and squarely to our entry into the EEC which the Minister opposed fundamentally. When the present Minister for Industry and Commerce wants to find something to hide behind to account for the failures of his administration, he points to our entry into the EEC, its effect, world inflation and the various problems that free trade has created. As he said in his speech, free trade has created problems for the textile, footwear and furniture industries. However, he continues even at present to dress himself up with credit for the expansion of exports and the attraction of foreign industry to a country which even after almost two years of mismanagement is economically sound.

While I was Minister for Industry and Commerce, naturally, I had a lot of contact with the personnel and the boards of the Industrial Development Authority and of Córas Tráchtála Teoranta. I am extremely pleased to note that both operate from the top right down to base very efficiently and satisfactorily.

The Leader of our party complained in this House on a number of occasions about the fact that Members of the Oireachtas are deprived of information issued to the media. For example, I read in this morning's paper of there being laid before the House the report of the Industrial Development Authority. I proposed making a contribution on this Estimate today but I did not have the benefit of a copy of that IDA report. I made an inquiry in the Dáil General Office and found they were expecting copies which had not arrived. As a result of a complaint made by our party Leader some time ago, we were assured that that sort of thing would not recur. But in the middle of a debate on Industry and Commerce it happens again. Copies of that report were delivered to the staff here and were left into Deputies pigeonholes only at 12.30 p.m. today. That is not good enough. The Minister for Industry and Commerce some time ago, and particularly in his speech on this occasion was using figures from that report which is in respect of the year ended 31st March last. There is no reason whatever why this report should not have been sent over for distribution yesterday so that Deputies would have received it in their post this morning and be able to claim that Parliament had been respected, that Members of this Assembly who are today voting money for the Department of Industry and Commerce and for the IDA received the report of the IDA in time for its perusal. We are asked to provide money here for the IDA but when it comes to letting us have their report we are slighted in that way. This is extremely wrong and should not be allowed to happen. That is not something I had intended or expected to have to say in this discussion. It is unfortunate that it has had to be said once again.

However, since 12.30 p.m. I have had an opportunity to study this report. It is remarkable that, in the presentation of the report as signed by the Chairman, Mr. Donovan and the Managing Director, Mr. Killeen, they attribute the reasons for their success, and undoubtedly they have been successful in so far as the period under review is concerned, its commencement being less than two months after the change of Government, to the fact that there have been created 23,000 new job opportunities—not jobs, job opportunities. We are very often told and it is accepted that those job opportunities are actual jobs but they are not.

We hear today that the total number of job approvals—23,000—at full production was equal to the total created in the previous two financial years. Accepting that, I would point out that there was a big hold-up during the course of 1972 in the finalising of commitments from outside industrialists until such time as they were satisfied we were joining the EEC. This is borne out in the report where it is outlined that the number of overseas projects totalled 80 with a projected employment potential of 13,000 and that 30 per cent of the projects originated in the US while a number originated in Canada, Australia, Sweden, Japan and Norway. Perhaps as many as 95 per cent of them were attracted to this country because of our having negotiated entry to the EEC. The Minister never wants to concede this because he wishes to be able to ride on his favourite hobbyhorse of saying, when anything goes wrong, that the present Opposition contributed to our membership of the EEC. He forgets that more than half the present Cabinet contributed to it also.

Under the heading "Reasons for Success", we are told in the report that within the global total of the 23,000 job approvals a number of distinctive characteristics emerge: that investment commitments by food processing firms "took off" powered by the market possibilities within the EEC for processed meat, fish, yogurt and so on. We are told that the IDA approved £8.3 million in grants towards a fixed asset investment of £32 million by domestic industry in this sector alone.

Because of the new Standing Orders one must endeavour to say everything one wishes to say on an Estimate within the space of one hour but, because there are so many points I would like to raise, this time limit will prove difficult for me.

I take this opportunity of paying tribute to the staff of the various State-sponsored bodies that are under the aegis of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Despite rising prices during the past year we have succeeded in an expansion of our export trade. This has been due not only to the exporters and their workers but to the efforts of CTT personnel, particularly their overseas personnel. The same can be said of the IDA staff in relation to the success of their planning.

In this Estimate £19 million was provided by way of capital for the development of IDA in this year as compared with £24 million in 1973. In the coming year, £42 million is being provided to help the IDA grantaid developing industries. It is remarkable that 12 months ago the Government, knowing the problems that were emerging at that time, should only have provided in the Estimate a sum of £19 million, even if only for a nine-month period, as against £24 million for the previous year.

It was obvious then that additional capital would be required by the IDA to help the industrial development that is required so badly to generate jobs and to counteract the job losses that are due to inflation, inflation which can be attributed considerably to the Government.

As a Deputy from Laois/Offaly I am extremely disappointed with the manner in which that area has been neglected. Laois County Council have made repeated applications to the Minister to meet them to discuss the serious situation that has arisen in Portlaoise as a result of the closing of the worsted mills but the Minister is too busy to meet us. Earlier this week we met a deputation at the IDA premises and we had been given to understand that there would be present senior officials both of the Department and of the IDA. However, we were let down because there were not senior officials present but we were met fairly by the people who were there. The problem is too serious so far as Laois is concerned for us to be treated in that way. The same can be said in regard to Offaly.

I appeal to the Minister and to the IDA to give serious attention to an application from Salts of Tullamore for grant-aiding towards re-equipping and diversification. It is only natural for the IDA to point to progress and to achievement but I must criticise them under one heading, that is, that they are inclined to over-do the promises of the creation of new jobs. They are probably tempted to do that at present in an effort to stabilise the position. I accept that when a new industry is approved the industrialist concerned projects the creation of so many jobs. In this report in regard to projects approved prior to 1973-74 and which commenced production during that period—this would include the 23,000 potential new jobs—there is reference to Tretorn, a Swedish firm, being set up with a potential of 425 new jobs. That firm are working well in Portlaoise and giving much needed employment to 56 people. Eventually, according to this report, over a two-year period they will provide employment for 425. I want to tell the Minister and the IDA that this is not so. Another firm projected as having an employment potential of 65 are employing 39. Those firms are welcome but I am becoming cynical about projections in this regard because while in 10 per cent or 5 per cent of cases the figures may eventually exceed the projection, in 95 per cent of cases this is not so. They should be more realistic in approaching this matter. I cannot spend more time discussing this because there are so many matters about which the Minister spoke and did not speak to which I wish to refer that I must move on.

We are talking of an estimate of £1.755 million for CTT as part of this Estimate. The provision for 1975 is £2.950 million. In view of the amount of work CTT are expected to do I think the Minister for Finance has pruned this figure too much. I have not the figure for the Supplementary Estimates but I have no doubt that the £1.755 million provided for CTT in the Estimate under discussion was not sufficient and, as the Minister said, there is also a Supplementary Estimate on which he might have an opportunity of speaking. I suggest that the £2.950 million provided for CTT next year is completely inadequate in relation to the amount of work they have to do. The Minister spoke about the downturn in export markets due to the economic situation and at the same time—peculiarly— about the record of CTT which was one of remarkable achievement. There was a record figure of £869 million mentioned by the Minister for industries encouraged by CTT. This was a 34 per cent increase in 1973 and for the year under review, up to the end of July, it has gone over the £1,000 million mark for the first time ever.

There is no doubt that this arises from our EEC membership. I think the Minister finds himself in the position of having to accept that because in his speech he said that the increase was a significant feature of our exports last year, an increase of over two-third in value to the EEC. This was one of the major objectives in joining the EEC.

Would the Deputy like to quote the increase to the EFTA countries?

Yes, exports to EFTA countries increased by 80 per cent. I accept that but I hope the intervention by the Minister does not mean that he does not accept that membership of the EEC has been responsible for a tremendous amount of the expansion in industry attracted here and expansion of exports.

One thing I found remarkable in the Minister's speech was also mentioned by Deputy Dockrell who said the Minister had stated that a number of adverse factors had come together at a crucial point. He said:

The current economic blizzard came at a critical stage in the process I have referred to and as a result the orderly progress towards free trade has been thrown off course.

He spelt out the four factors:

(i) sharply rising production costs due to energy and raw material price increases:

(ii) a downturn in domestic demand due to the effects of inflation and a reduction in agricultural incomes;

(iii) a downturn in export markets due to the economic situation abroad;

(iv) pressure on the home markets from imports.

Actually, he had already established that there was not a downturn in export markets although he includes it as a problem.

During his complete speech the Minister made no reference to—and I drew his attention to this last week— and never seemed to be serious about the Buy Irish—Sell Irish campaign. Even though 50 per cent of the adverse factors—the fall in domestic demand and the pressure on home markets, both of which go together— were relevant he made no reference whatever to the need of which everybody else was conscious of buying Irish and selling Irish. He made no reference to the National Development Association. There is provision in this Estimate of £20,700 for the NDA, a drop of £4,000 from 1973. We have been told that the Government were aware of and had seen this problem coming, that everything possible had been done in the past 12 months to generate home demands. Nothing was done. There was a cutback in money and even the increase provided for next year in the Book of Estimates from £20,000 to £40,000 is sufficient for the NDA which is only a small outfit in Ireland House.

Last week the Minister spoke about having set up a little information centre there where people could go if they wanted to know where to get Irish products. That small information desk—which is what it is—was set up, not by the Minister but by his predecessor and I confess that inadequate provision was made in my time for the NDA. The NDA was never more necessary than in the past 12 months and it will be just as necessary in the next 12 months and I would ask the Minister to seek more money for the generation and expansion of a Buy Irish—Sell Irish campaign.

I spent an hour in Grafton Street this morning looking for an Irish-made white shirt and I went to the last but three of the drapery stores before I could get one. Strangely, in that store they had three different kinds. The Minister, the trade unions can do what they like about trying to get a Buy Irish campaign going but we cannot buy Irish if the stores do not stock the Irish goods. I admit that the Minister and his staff have a problem here. While Minister for Industry and Commerce I talked to the Grafton Street traders. I mention Grafton Street because it is the most convenient place I could go. Personally, I never have a problem about buying Irish shirts in my own town. However, when a man in Dublin wants to get an Irish-made shirt in a hurry there is a problem. Eight stores were visited in an hour without any success. This is at a time when people want to buy Irish products but they cannot get them.

When I was Minister for Industry and Commerce I spoke to traders about this matter and I have continued to do so since leaving office. The boot and shoe industry had my attention for a considerable period and I know there is a problem. Whenever I complained to traders about not stocking Irish products I was told that when they placed their orders they were not met with satisfaction and that they did not get the goods in time. The producer was more interested in the export market and only sent the home producer what was left.

In all sincerity I would tell the Minister that the time has come when some effort should be made to get the CII and ICTU together to talk about the matter. There is no point in both ends pulling against each other. At the conclusion of his speech the Minister spoke about the national partnership. We have a national problem now and there is a great need for national cooperation, when all would pull together.

I am afraid that the phrases used by the Minister in his speech are ones to which I cannot fully subscribe. I realise it is a lovely sentiment to say: "Anyone who seeks his own advantage above his fellow-Irishmen is not merely betraying his countrymen, he is betraying himself". That is a lovely quotable statement but we should not lose our sense of initiative. We all need our individual anxiety to get ahead and to keep going and if we accept too fully the philosophy outlined by the Minister we could find ourselves as leaderless and as rudderless as the present Government.

There was no reference to the problem of motor insurance in the Minister's speech. I have endeavoured to raise this matter over a long period. It is true that the Minister said he wanted to deal only with the major issues but I regard motor insurance as a major issue. The Minister did not resolve that problem. I remember one of the first deeds, or perhaps misdeeds, of my term of office as Minister was to sanction an increase of 17½ per cent in motor car insurance. I did this less than a month after becoming Minister. As a result of my action all hell broke loose. I was lacerated by the media, but that was a favourite pastime for them, and naturally I was attacked by the motorists.

At that stage I did not use the gimmick of the present Minister, to which Deputy Colley referred today. As far as I recollect the application from the motor insurers collectively with one exception was for an increase of 33 per cent. If I had followed the present open Government pattern I should not have announced an increase of 17½ per cent; I should have announced that I saved the motorist a 15½ per cent increase because I had refused to give the 33 per cent increase. That is open Government; the concealed way I did it was to accept the fact that I had increased insurance by 17½ per cent. The motor insurers said they could not carry on and they introduced the loading system which the Minister has declared has been finalised. From my experience and correspondence which I have received—I have been checking with a number of Deputies also—it is obvious that the loading business has not been completed. What we have had recently was the 30 per cent increase in motor insurance in addition to any loading that is thought necessary.

In his speech the Minister invited the public to lodge their complaints with regard to prices and he told them they would be investigated. Again, the experience I have of such investigations is that they have no effect on prices and I know of the few people who have got any refunds.

I should like to make a few comments about the IIRS, the major organisation under the ambit of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and to pay due credit to them. They are an extremely effective organisation and they do important work but they have not been referred to in the Minister's statement. They do not get the same headlines or the same opportunities as the IDA or the CTT. When I was Minister I told them they should be able to sell themselves more effectively and, in fact, the provision made for them in the Estimate is a sizeable one. This links what Deputy Colley said this morning about prices and the Minister's admission that he has had to give up the battle——

There was no such admission.

That he proposes to give it up.

There was no such proposal.

There was the statement that the Minister proposes to relax price control. My interpretation of that is that the Minister has given up the battle.

Two newspapers had a fair transcript of what I said.

That is the point. The Minister gives it to the newspapers but we are not told anything.

We were on radio. Two of them wrote it down fairly and the populace at large heard it.

I am part of the populace and I heard it. I am amused to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach has come in to back up the Minister. Although I did not hear him this morning I was given to understand that he confessed that the only stupid thing the National Coalition had done since the beginning of the election campaign was to promise to stabilise prices.

I did not use the word "stupid" about myself.

The Parliamentary Secretary would not do that. When he is lecturing in this House, the only stupid people are those on this side. I did not interrupt the Parliamentary Secretary this morning.

Was the Deputy up?

I deliberately stayed out of the way for fear I would. He conceded that it was a non-serious promise and that he did not expect to be believed.

No, I did not say that.

I did not hear the Parliamentary Secretary but I was given to understand he said that.

I said that with hindsight it was probably wrong to have made such a promise. I also said that I did not believe any party would ever go into a general election again making promises about prices.

Of course, nobody would be believed any more after the mess the Government have made of it. I was the fellow who was carrying the can and even with hindsight the Minister for Industry and Commerce still attributes blame to the former Minister for Industry and Commerce and the former Government for inflation at that stage. There is such a thing as learning. Deputy Colley did not quite say the Minister for Industry and Commerce is the only intelligent man in the Government at present but what he said almost amounted to that.

That is a very fair paraphrasing of what he did say.

He is right.

I know exactly what was in his mind.

The Parliamentary Secretary should not be defending the Government because he is not a member yet.

I am not defending the Government. I am talking about what Deputy Colley said. It was not in his mind to slap the Minister on the back but to have a slap, in their absence, at certain other members of the Government.

I am sure the Minister for Industry and Commerce does not need anyone to defend him. He knows I did not come in here to slap him on the back either.

On the backside perhaps.

I have attracted a few fellows in though I am not complimented by my achievement.

The Deputy in possession, without interruption.

I fully appreciate the problem outlined by the Minister for Industry and Commerce on radio last Sunday. I did not come in to slap the Minister on the back or to kick him unfairly. He is fair game as far as I am concerned but in the matter of prices I must accept there is a serious problem. I know that before the National Prices Commission was set up when the officials of my Department and myself were saving the housewives fortunes by not conceding all that was asked for, various manufacturers came in screaming and complaining. No matter how busy I was I had to receive deputations from those people. They came to make the case that the senior staff in the prices section were being unfair in pruning down prices and that they could not continue to operate with the increase that had been conceded. I had to go through the papers to see, to the best of my ability, whether their complaints were justified or not. The National Prices Commission, under Professor Louden Ryan, are doing an extremely good job, only conceding what they see as justifiable increases but, at the same time, because of purning down confining manufacturers to probably too restrictive a profit and thereby creating a problem. I am paraphrasing what I understand the Minister to have said last Sunday. I accept there is a problem here but I would join with Deputy Colley in appealing to the Minister not to abandon price control.

I never had any intention of abandoning it.

The Minister could have fooled me. There is the problem of the efficient and the inefficient manufacturer. I recall the publicans, when I was Minister, making an application for a price increase. We looked for balance sheets from about 40 different publicans. There was desolation. Eventually we requisitioned balance sheets and looked at them. Naturally some of the publicans were making more money than others. Some were more efficient than others but the publicans were a ring and the vintners' association fixed prices, despite the best efforts of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to have free competition in the licensed trade. I knew from my country experience that the publicans in any town get together after a budget and decide what they will charge. Mind you, when we put an old penny on the pint we were slated from the other side of the House. Now we have a budget a day. I wonder what will be announced today. Yesterday it was the drink. A problem arises when you have a number of firms making a collective application for a price increase. The less efficient ones can justify it, the more efficient ones cannot, unless like the flour millers, they have an extremely efficient auditor who can justify it. This is the problem the former Minister had and the present Minister has. I know that there were certain publicans in my time who needed to get out of business because they could not make a profit due to inefficient management. The problem was that the worker in that business or in any manufacturing business will lose his job. I know the Minister has enough committees but there is a need for him to set up some type of board made up of the trade unions and the Confederation of Irish Industry, something like my National Prices Commission.

When I set up the National Prices Commission it was approved. Why? Because it was on lines recommended to me following on an appeal from ICTU. I remember getting into trouble when the director general of CII; he made a similar suggestion to me three months previously and I did nothing about it and he wanted to know why I did not give him credit. Had I endeavoured to set up the NPC, as a result of a request from CII, ICTU would not have had it. I say that quite seriously. It was a different situation when it came from the other direction and I was in the happy position of having had a similar request from CII earlier. There is need for a fusion of both employer and worker if industry is to survive.

I have only ten minutes left and so there are several matters I shall have to leave out but I must deal with the Minister's comments on natural resources. I shall be very interested in seeing the increased receipts in income from mining enterprises arising from the legislation passed during the year. I cannot see this happening because, as the Minister says, the legislation includes a special provision for tax relief where marginal mining is concerned.

Deputy Dockrell said that responsible trade journals—I have not seen them and I am taking his word for this —are saying that the Irish Government seemed to be rather foolish in their handling of the present situation and frightening away prospective developers. In his opening statement the Minister said he wished to make it clear that there was no intention on his part to discourage private prospectors. He said:

I recognise the contribution they have made in the development of our minerals and I believe that they will continue to play an important role in partnership with the State in future. Prospectors discovering commercial deposits can rest assured that they will receive leases on terms which will be fair and reasonable.

I should really have put down a question as to how many prospecting licences are current at the moment but, had I done so, the answer would probably have been that there has been an increase on last year and the year before. I think the life of a prospecting lease is two years. I am told that very few prospecting licences are being worked at the moment. Unless they are worked and the licensee can show at the end of the term of the licence that he has made use of the licence and done prospecting he is not entitled to a renewal. I find it remarkable that the Minister should have found it necessary here to make a statement making it clear that he did not want to discourage prospecting. Naturally he cannot be too explicit about the potential or actual legal battle between himself and Tara. It was laughable to hear Deputy Staunton say that one could not expect the Minister to offer a policy on mining development after 18 months; that Fianna Fáil were there for 16½ years and there was no policy from them. The Minister says I left him a bare cupboard. Peculiarly enough, if the Minister had a bare cupboard as far as mineral resources were concerned, he did nothing to fill it. According to the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Industry and Commerce could not get into the Department because of all the piles of paper. He fell over deferred prices applications which his predecessor had not dealt with. I would love the Minister to nail that lie, but I cannot expect him to do that.

In his opening statement, the Minister said:

I am at present engaged in the formulation of policy for the grant of exclusive exploration facilities outside the Marathon area.

Later on he said:

My Department are finalising the terms and conditions for the grant of exclusive licences and I expect to be able to announce these shortly.

This is the man for whom Deputy Staunton was apologising because he had not cut his teeth after 18 months in office. It all depends on the way one looks at it; the Minister for Local Government talked about two years' progress yesterday. When nothing is done it is 18 months but, when something seems to have been done, it is progress over a two-year period. The Minister cannot be forgiven and cannot be excused—he cannot excuse himself—for having made no decisions in regard to a national resources policy over almost two years.

He is not giving them away anyway.

I am glad the Deputy— I do not know his name—said that.

That comment is beneath the Deputy.

I apologise to Deputy O'Brien. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach admitted this morning that the promises about prices were false promises. Despite the galaxy of stars on the Government front bench, the promises have now proved to be foolish promises. What hurts me most—this is what gave rise to my outburst a month ago—was this jibe about selling Tara when actually nothing had been done.

Sell Tynagh.

Bula was the place sold.


Deputy Lalor is in possession and his time is limited. He must be allowed to speak without interruption.

If the Minister can take his mind off the Minister for Finance I would love him to give the House some clarification of the following statement:

Speaking as a farmer, as well as Minister for Industry and Commerce, we should, I believe, be careful not to be stampeded into a situation where farmers who own the minerals under their land are subjected to compulsory procedures which have as their object the transfer of ownership to other private interest, whether the latter be foreign or Irish controlled.

I cannot quite understand that. I hope the Minister will explain it at some stage. When I made the order to acquire the rights on behalf of the State the farmer was entitled to compensation from the State for those rights. I hope the Minister is not suggesting that the former Government proposed to acquire it compulsorily and hand it over to some other private interest.

That is what they were doing.

They were not.

They were trying to take it away from the person who owned it by a compulsory mechanism before exhausting the normal mechanism of negotiation.

To take it over for the State, but not to hand it over to private enterprise as the Minister did.

And to pay £6 million compensation for the £500,000 Bula paid. I am sorry I have not got more time. I have to obey the rules of order.

Never a day passes but that the members of the Fianna Fáil Party do not thank their lucky stars they are not in Government now. When things were much easier than they are now——

On a point of order, is the Minister speaking on the Estimate or is he concluding the debate?

The Minister is intervening in the debate.

I am asking the Ceann Comhairle.

The Minister is intervening in the debate. In accordance with the Order of Business, the Minister for Finance was to get in at 4 o'clock.

If Deputy Lalor does not know what the Order of Business for the day is, he can hardly expect me to guide him now. Is Deputy Lalor taking exception to the fact that the Minister for Finance is speaking on the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce?

We had the Minister for Foreign Affairs too.

Now that I have the permission of the Opposition to contribute to the debate, perhaps I could continue on uninterrupted. I was emphasising that Deputy Lalor and his colleagues thank their lucky stars every day that they are not in power at present. When things were much easier than they are now, because of international forces, they made a complete mess of it. They did nothing to prepare the country for the opportunities which lay ahead. Ever since they retired to the Opposition benches, where they will dwell for many years to come, they have been chastising us for not making up in about 20 months for their 16 years of gross neglect. I should like to draw the attention of the country to remarks made by Deputy Brennan, the Fianna Fáil spokesman on Industry and Commerce who offered to the country the Fianna Fáil remedy for inflation.

What is he going to tax now?

The Fianna Fáil policy was to apply monetary and fiscal controls. Monetary controls, to use Deputy Brennan's words, mean the control of credit, a credit squeeze. Fiscal measures mean increased taxation so as to draw out of the economy that element of purchasing power which is deemed to be the cause of inflation. If nothing else, this debate has produced the Fianna Fáil remedy for our present ills: strict and vicious credit controls which would generate worse unemployment, and a very substantial increase in taxation with the one purpose of drawing off purchasing power, at the very time when it is clear to any person with any reasonable understanding of ordinary life, just as it is equally clear to objective economists, that one of the causes of our difficulties, not merely in the Irish market but also in foreign markets, is reduced demand. How could Fianna Fáil think they could solve this country's problems by a severe contraction of credit on the one hand, and massive taxation increases on the other hand with a similar intention of constricting demand? Nevertheless, that is the proposal of the official spokesman of the Fianna Fáil Party who is primarily concerned in the field of industry, and business, and commerce, and employment generation.

Deputy Brennan also said that one of the cures was available to the Government by what he called the manipulation of the Government's expansionary policy. In other words, the Government's expansionary policy, which has been severely criticised by Fianna Fáil since 1973, should be reversed, in Fianna Fáil's view. We should try to tackle our problems of unemployment, our problems with the deficit in the balance of payments, our problems of a lowering in the standard of living, by severe credit controls, by massive punitive taxation with the intention of reducing demand, and by a reversal of the Government's expansionary programme.

Deputy Brennan gave voice to something equally heretical, equally untrue, when he said the principal factors in our inflation were attributable to domestic causes. He knows—and if he does not know perhaps Deputy Barrett or somebody else would tell him—that the principal factor in the rise of inflation here in 1974 was the increase in the price of oil and basic commodities, none of which is available at present here.

Fianna Fáil had a massive increase in living costs. They had Ireland at the top of the international league of inflation when the rate of imported inflation was only 10 per cent of the total inflation. This Government have brought down Ireland's position in the international league of inflation, in the European environment, from being on the top to being third, and across the whole world we are several places below the top, at a time when we are importing inflation at a rate six times greater than obtained two years ago.

Of course, people do not generally see the Government's performance against the extremely difficult conditions in which the Government had to perform. If we had not the problem of imported inflation to tackle, our current rate of inflation would be about 8 per cent, which is on a par with that which obtains in Germany. If the rate of imported inflation was no greater than it was when Fianna Fáil came into power, we would still be less than 10 per cent in our total rate of inflation. This indicates that, far from abandoning control, the Government have a very effective control over all elements of inflation which are within the control of the Irish Government or Irish business generally. This is a very praiseworthy achievement at a time of almost impossible world conditions. At the same time we are not complacent about it.

A number of Deputies opposite criticised the words of the Minister for Industry and Commerce speaking on radio last Sunday when I had the privilege of accompanying him in an adult debate with an interviewer about the economic and financial problems facing the country. What the Minister said then is something he has said and other members of the Government have said on a number of occasions and will keep on repeating. If it is necessary to give price increases in order to maintain employment this Government will give those increases. Those who fault that philosophy—and apparently Deputy Brennan as the official spokesman of the Fianna Fáil Party would fault it—should say that if Fianna Fáil were in power they would withhold the increases and would not be concerned with the unemployment generated by withholding them. That in essence, is what they are saying. That is the only effect of following the policy they are recommending.

Alone among European countries and, although I have not had the opportunity to complete my research, alone among oil importing countries, at the end of 1974 we will have the same number of people engaged in manufacturing industry as we had at the outset of the year. Such unemployment as has occurred throughout the year had been from several sectors. Some have been more sensitive than others to current world trends but the really significant thing and the development which should give us most courage is that by the end of the year we will have as many working in manufacturing industry as we had at the outset. That occurred in a year in which the world has experienced a recession in duration and in extent far greater than anything ever previously experienced by mankind.

The principal economic development since the last world war when we had the last most significant economic upset was that the whole world has become far more interdependent than ever before. While our prosperity has arisen because we have increased our exports it has also increased because the outside world was experiencing a boom. Just as we go up in times of boom we must expect to come down in times of depression and recession and that is what is happening now. Our prosperity over the last 15 or 16 years has been attributable to a very significant switch in industrial activity from the very limited domestic market to the greater opportunities available in the export market.

It is worthwhile recalling that when our predecessors in government on this side of the House made that switch they were very severely criticised by our opponents of that time and of now for embarking on a policy which they said was a reversal of the fundamental thinking of the Sinn Féin philosophers who gave birth to this independent Irish State. Those who saw the Irish State as a place which would be self-sufficient to the point which we would neither import nor bother to export were people who had a distorted view of the Sinn Féin philosophy. The real Sinn Féin philosophy was one of self-reliance, of confidence in oneself, of self-respect which believed that our people were capable not merely of living on a self-sufficiency economy but were also capable of competing with the rest of the world.

The sad thing for us is that it took several decades of independence before the true and expansionary outlook of the Sinn Féin gospels was understood and put into practice. It was put into practice in the fifties and that is why we have had such singular and very significant economic success in the intervening years. One of the principal instruments of that success was the IDA. At a time when the general tendency is to think only of the difficulties ahead we should relish the good news that in the year ended 31st March, 1974, 23,316 new job approvals were granted by the IDA. That was very significantly higher than what had obtained in the previous years. In 1972-73 it was only 14,000 and in 1971-72 it was 8,700. The programme for this year is not only in keeping with what we experienced to March, 1974 but is again on the increase. This is radically different from the experience of any comparable European economy.

These new jobs reflect not merely new opportunities for employment but also a tremendous level of confidence on the part of investors in our economy, confidence on the part of people who have the world from which to choose that Ireland offers them the very best prospects. These developments also ensure a new level of output and growing exports. It also involves an investment in this country of more than £300 million in fixed assets. There is no other European or comparable country that in this time of depression is so assured of such a massive investment in fixed assets as we are in 1975.

The year 1974 has been, perhaps, the most difficult period in world history because of the very rapid change from a boom of unprecedented dimensions to a recession which is unprecedentally severe. That in itself is bad enough but one of the most grievous problems of the present time is the global uncertainty about the future of investment and the future of world demand. As all this has occurred we have been faced with the menace of increasing costs and with stretching insufficient financial resources to meet the demands upon the State and the private sector. In every country unemployment has been growing and while we are concerned about the growth of unemployment it is pertinent to observe that the growth here is small compared with the multiplication in the number of people unemployed in many countries including all our sister members of the EEC.

The fact that we have had this very significant departure from the behaviour of the rest of the world over the past nine months is an indication that we are in a better position than any other country to face the problems ahead; we are in a better position to meet the passing difficulties at the same time. The disappointment is that as we have created these new job opportunities we have also had an amount of redundancy. These redundancies are matters which are largely beyond the control of government. The important thing is to direct governmental and public policy to the provision of replacement opportunities for people who are declared redundant because of the new development in world markets.

Most reasonable and independent commentators expect there will be an end to the decline and economic slippage we have experienced for the last two years some time in mid-1975 or, perhaps, later in that year. It is very important, therefore, that our industrialists would in the meantime keep calm, that they would not lose confidence, that they should plan for the inevitable growth which will take off towards the end of 1975 and will become quite remarkable throughout 1976 and 1977. Success in business, as in many other things, usually lies in those who reject the herd instinct, those who refuse to follow the first fearful sheep through the gap. If we can avoid the herd instinct and keep our cool, we will be in a position to avail of the new opportunities which will present themselves to Western Europe in 1975 and 1976.

We have been concerned in government to promote not merely foreign investment which is still the most significant new investor in Ireland but to promote also traditional Irish industries. When all is said and done in times of difficulty, particularly, we rely upon indigenous Irish industry for the really sure wealth and future opportunities. The IDA will, in the short budgetary period of nine months this year, approve of no fewer than 270 re-equipment and expansion grants for Irish industry. Deputy Fitzpatrick of Dublin queries the wisdom of providing money for re-equipment and modernisation if as a consequence of re-equipment and modernisation redundancies take place.

I think this Deputy, and others, miss what is so essential in this field, that is, that Irish industry is fully equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities of the modern age. Some of the industries most affected this year in the depression which is engulfing all of western Europe have been those which failed to modernise, which failed to re-equip, which failed to prepare for the challenge of free trade, which failed to improve their management and to have proper cost controls. These are the industries coming today —too late in many cases—to Fóir Teoranta, or other agencies looking for last ditch aid. If many of our industries had not re-equipped and had not modernised over the last decade, they would not be in a position today to face the storms now blowing about them.

I would plead with Deputies who may be fearful about temporary redundancies to take a look at the broad picture and assess properly what would be the disasterous consequences if industry did not re-equip and did not modernise. There are still many opportunities and people should not pretend that all is bad because many industries this year are doing extremely well. They are doing better than formerly. That they should be able to survive in difficult circumstances is commendable. That they should be doing extremely well in difficult circumstances is trebly commendable. Because of the Government's anxiety to ensure the modernisation and adaption of Irish industry, we will be providing in next year's budget a 25 per cent increase in the moneys being made available to the IDA for modernisation.

For many years past our principal difficulty has been to match the decline in job opportunities with new job creation. With the increasing number of people moving out of agriculture and the tremendous young population explosion, there is a necessity to have a substantially greater number of new jobs than anything we generated previously. We should not be dismayed by those challenges. We should be encouraged by them. Particularly encouraging is the massive growth in the comparative youth of our population. Equally exhilarating is the disinclination of young people to find a solution to their problems through emigration. It is an excellent thing for this country that people are no longer disposed to running from the country. People have sufficient confidence in the ability of this country to generate sufficient activity within it with which to provide people with an adequate standard of living. This is good not only for public psychology and morale but will also expand our opportunities for employment at home and on that account strengthen the base we must have to maintain our future growth in foreign markets.

Naturally, some attention has been paid in this debate to increases in the prices of petroleum products and in particular the increase in the price of petrol in Britain yesterday. The Government had anticipated that this might occur. As the House knows, since November, 1973, the National Prices Commission have agreed that petrol prices in Ireland could keep in line with those charged in the outer zone of the United Kingdom. But, because the new price increase in petrol in Britain incorporates a number of factors which have been domestically injected, by decisions of the British Government and of oil distributors, the Government here consider it only proper that the whole regime of petrol prices be examined by the National Prices Commission. Accordingly, the Minister for Industry and Commerce some days ago arranged that the seven-day advance notice provision would not apply on this occasion. He is requiring that any new proposals received from the oil companies will be referred to the National Prices Commission for consideration. The Minister has asked the commission to have particular regard to stocks of petroleum products held already in this country to ensure that, even if increases in the price of petrol are required—again, through circumstances dictated by the oil producers and international handlers—they will not apply to an existing stock of petrol.

A great deal of comment was made throughout this debate on mining. I am glad to see Deputy Brennan coming into the House with open ears because I hope to be able to correct——

What is the Minister putting up now?

——some of the statements he made during the course of his contribution. First of all, Deputy Brennan quoted some remarks which he attributed to the chairman of the Irish petroleum exploration group. I do not blame Deputy Brennan for making the wrong attribution there because the remarks were quoted beneath a photograph which was attributed to being that of the chairman, though I gather the photograph was not that of the chairman but of another person. A number of mis-statements have been made over the past year about mining in Ireland. I would have thought we had now reached the stage where it was no longer necessary to refute a great deal of the false propaganda put out by people who have most to gain by so doing. But, unfortunately, a great deal of it was repeated throughout this debate here. Therefore, I must spend just a little time in refuting what was said. First of all, I would pose these questions to the Opposition: "What is their objection to the policy of this Government, which is to ensure the greatest possible Irish involvement in the development of our natural resources? Why is it that they perpetually criticise an Irish Government for having a determination to ensure that the maximum possible benefit flows to the people of Ireland from the development of their own resources?"

That is being a bit naive. The Minister might tell us what is Government policy.

A great deal of the resources of this country, including those in Navan, including those which have been explored by Tara, are within the ownership of the Irish people. The Irish people own them and we repudiate entirely the Fianna Fáil suggestion that we should barter these natural resources in order to reap a quick profit for people who are begrudging, to say the least of it, in their attitude towards the Irish people in allowing them a share equivalent——

Is the Minister referring to Bula?

——to what is obtained by every other sovereign country in the world. I shall deal with Bula. The situation in relation to Bula was this. As a result of the mishandling of the situation by our predecessors, a court ruling established that Bula were the sole owners of the minerals registered in their name. As a result of what this Governhave done—between the special arrangement worked out very conscientiously and with a great deal of labour by the Minister for Industry and Commerce over several months and the Government's tax proposals—not less than 62 per cent of what Bula possesses will come back to the benefit of the Irish people without any payment whatsoever by the State. How anybody can conceive that as being a sell-out to Bula, or making a present of something to Bula, is beyond my comprehension. Remembering that this was a voluntary arrangement, it produces 62 per cent of the wealth of Bula for the Irish nation without any payment whatsoever, remembering also that the State had no interest in Bula until this was worked out, had no proprietary rights in Bula until this was worked out, I simply cannot understand the thinking of people who think that such an arrangement was against the national interest.

The Minister had merely to make an amending order. All he had to do was make a new order.

The new order is something which to say the least of it was charged with a multitude of risks.

The only reason given for it was the delay.

The Minister will not get away with that nonsense.

The Minister, without interruption.

First of all, we assume that the Fianna Fáil Government of the day received legal advice and consulted their own legal draftsmen in the preparation of the order affecting the land on which the Bula interest is situated. Nevertheless, that order was challenged in the High Court and in the Supreme Court and was knocked.

On a technical point.

The Fianna Fáil suggestion is that we ought to have embarked on another period of uncertainty for several years for the making of a new order.

It could be no longer than the delay that has occurred since.

Regarding the delay that has occured since, I would point out that it was not this Government that brought the activities of the Tara Mines to a closure. Neither was it this Government that instituted legal proceedings to frustrate the action taken by the Government to secure an adequate interest for the people of Ireland in our mineral resources. It was not this Government, either, which frustrated the discussions about the terms of the lease. Once again Deputy Brennan and some of his colleagues trotted out the old argument that royalties could have been used to avoid any conflict, that royalties could have been fixed at any rate imaginable in order to secure a return equal to what the State proposes to get by way of a share in the profits and tax. Somebody should tell Deputy Brennan that royalties are fixed in a lease the terms of which are not open to alteration once the lease is signed. We have taken the view that we are right in relating the conditions affecting any mine to the known information about that mine.

Is the Minister saying that royalties could be fixed?

Of course, royalties could be fixed.

Is the Minister saying that they have been fixed?

They will be fixed in the lease.

When is the Minister going to spell them out?

A system in which profits can be ploughed back through a right to a share of profits by way of taxation or otherwise is far more preferable to royalties. It is interesting to note that while Deputy Brennan and others elsewhere have spoken about the right to fix royalties at any level, the mining interests in the discussions we have had with them repudiated the argument that royalties can be fixed at a level equivalent to what we hope to get by way of return through the taxation system and the terms of the leases which we are hopeful of negotiating.

There was some criticism to the effect that the Minister for Industry and Commerce did not speak in greater detail regarding the arrangements affecting Tara and Bula. The Minister was criticised for pointing out that many of these issues are still sub judice. Perhaps in Opposition there are those who do not consider themselves to be restrained by that consideration but it is something that restrains members of the Government from spelling out all the details. It would be contrary to the public interest for us to develop the matter further. The basic principles we have laid down are obviously fair and I suggest to the Opposition that they put themselves very much on the wrong foot in their continuing efforts to endeavour to embarrass the Government for doing no more than what any sovereign Government would do in a similar situation.

We have criticised the Government for doing nothing.

Coming from the other side that is a piece of effrontery. They sat on their can for 16 years and they now have the impertinence to level this criticism at us.

The suggestion was made of a fall-off in exploration activity. Again, this suggestion is without foundation. Clear evidence of this is that those companies having exploration licences are falling over one another in their efforts to retain them. If they were that disinterested in exploratory work many of the existing licences would fall in but the holders of these licences are holding on to them jealously. We are satisfied that the future prospect for mining here is not only attractive but is seen to be attractive by people who operate on a global basis and who are as anxious as ever to mine in Ireland.

I would remind the House that when the prodigal tax holiday of 20 years was given in 1967 it was described then in the mining capital of the world, Toronto, as being too good to last and as something which some Irish Government would have to set aside within ten years. The prophets in Toronto who operate on a world basis know that only a fool would give such a concession and that within a decade there would be in power in Ireland a Government that would not be so foolish as to give away the massive wealth of Ireland for no return. When the tax free holiday was brought to an end the same mining capital commentators said that that was what they expected, that it was extraordinary the concession lasted so long, particularly having regard to developments which occurred here and internationally in the meantime.

When are we to hear what is the Government's policy on mining?

Our mining policy has been spelled out on numerous occasions. If Deputies opposite would take the trouble to read rather than to rush into comment they would know exactly what the Government have in mind. The mining interests are aware of what is Government policy in relation to mining. They have accepted it as being fair and the situation is no longer fraught with all the uncertainty that accompanied the tax free holiday and other ridiculous operations. The situation is settled now and on land the mining industry is in a position to move ahead with some degree of certainty.

Is mining to go ahead immediately?

There is nothing to hold up mining so far as the Government are concerned. Those who have the mines under their control are free to reopen them tomorrow if they so wish——

The Government have made a mess of the situation.

——and if they are prepared to accept from the Irish Government the same conditions as would apply in other parts of the world but they need not think that this Government will yield to them in the same way as Fianna Fáil yielded.

We yielded nothing.

They have a package that is equivalent to that which is available in any other part of the world.

The Government are making a political football of the situation.

I come now to the question of off-shore minerals. When we assumed power, we found two very serious omissions in the energy field. One was that there was not as much as a thought on record in any Government Department about off-shore oil and gas or of the possibility of their being found. Meanwhile, there have been very dramatic developments in relation to energy across the world but even before these occurred we were active in Government in the preparation of a policy to cover the exploration, off-shore, of oil and gas. I would remind Deputies opposite that in my first budget which was produced nine weeks after I had become Minister for Finance, I provided in the law that any profits accruing from the developments of off-shore oil and gas would be taxable.

We found a situation in which the law was so defective that money could have been made from the development of off-shore oil and gas without any benefit accruing to the Irish Exchequer. It was exactly the same prodigal system as operated in relation to the mining of minerals on land. We corrected that and since then we have had experts from abroad to give us the best advice obtainable on the proper regime to govern the development of off-shore oil and gas. We found it necessary to seek the advice of these experts because our predecessors had not recruited any such experts here. In the meantime we have had the additional benefit of more recent experiences in the North Sea and elsewhere which enable us to benefit by both the successes and the mistake of others. Nothing has been lost to this country and in the very near future the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be spelling out in detail the rules which will apply to the development of possible off-shore oil in Irish waters.

Will that be before Christmas?

We are quite satisfied that these provisions, like the mining ones, will be acceptable generally and that they will ensure that the major part of their returns from the development of these resources will operate for the benefit of the Irish people. We will ensure also that there is an adequate and a fair award to people who explore with no certainty of success and also for those, who, having explored, then develop.

All the various emotional epithets that have been flung at the Government by people who have a special interest in this field are, to say the least, unfortunate and I would hope that the people concerned would desist from such activity. The interests concerned may rest assured that we value highly and will properly reward all private enterprise whether it be in this or any other field. That does not say that we will allow anybody to take a share which is not warranted by the circumstances or a share which would be unfair to the Irish people.

I appreciate that Deputy Dockrell is motivated by the same concern as the Government for the proper development of these resources. He knows—he has testified to this—that this or any other Irish Government is concerned about acting fairly and justly towards all interests. The fact that propaganda has been indulged in by people who would look for a little more is something that we must regret but it must not cause us to lose courage or in any way minimise our determination to ensure a fair return that would be just to the Irish people and also to the investors.

Deputy Dockrell referred to what he called responsible financial journals offering criticism but I quoted two of these journals earlier in relation to mining taxation saying, on the one hand, in 1967 the tax-free holiday was too good to last and in 1973 when it ended, that it was no more than they expected. Sometimes, I wonder what exactly is a responsible financial journal. All these journals are dedicated primarily to the promotion of profits uncurtailed by social consideration. That is not to say that whatever financial comment they may offer is not valid in the financial context. But Governments have a responsibility which extends beyond the reward payable to financial investors and there must always be a balance between the public interest and the private interest and this Government will endeavour to ensure that this balance is maintained.

A number of problems affect Irish industry and all industry at present in countries where it is dependent on foreign imports. One of the main growth areas in Irish industry in the last decade has been the area of industries which have a very high import content and this has meant for many of them that the cost of working capital in the last year has multiplied because of very substantial increases in raw material costs. Also, the majority of Irish industry is now dependent on very costly and scarce energy all of which has eaten into the liquidity of firms. Notwithstanding a great deal of public comment about liquidity problems——

They are taxed to the tonsils.

——the tax applicable to Irish companies is that which we inherited from our predecessors with some alleviation which we have since given. The Confederation of Irish Industry, on getting a return from manufacturing industry in October, found that less than 2 per cent of them were complaining about liquidity problems. The principal difficulties at present relate to the non-availability of markets for produce which has already been produced. It means that our industries are holding substantial stocks and the outlets for them have diminished because of the recession which has occurred in their principal markets. It is Government policy to do everything we can to improve the liquidity position of firms and do everything possible to stimulate domestic demand. We are deeply and continuously engaged in discussions with our principal trading partners to stimulate activity in the markets where we sell.

One of the most encouraging signs in recent times is the declaration by Germany that she proposes to deflate. This is in keeping with what was announced in the Netherlands three weeks ago and is also in line with the policy Belgium proposes to promote. These developments are very significant particularly in Germany because previously Germany was of the view that there were other priorities which had to be attended to before the problems of taxing, such as their growing unemployment. It is worth noting that unemployment in Germany has increased at a far faster rate than it has here in the past six months.

The fact that these turns in the cycle have now occurred means that they will be reflected, not in the short run but in the foreseeable future, here some time in 1975. There are also encouraging sounds coming from the other side of the Atlantic and so it would appear that the principal economic forces in the world, in Germany and the US, are now moving away from the era of recession towards an era of growth. As we are dependent to such a massive extent on our foreign exports, these are signs which should encourage us.

It sounds like a weather forecast.

I do not regard as a jibe what Deputy Brennan has said because we are subject to world economic weather conditions—in Europe and far beyond it. Perhaps that is something that is only now beginning to strike Deputy Brennan and many other people. An economic change in the Middle East can have a serious impact here——

They had nothing to do with it when you were over here.


The Minister without interruption, please.

We have never pretended that economic forces abroad did not have their impact on this country but what we assert and what nobody can contradict is that the economic forces in the world which are now affecting this country are much stronger in impact and likely to have a far more extensive effect than anything experienced since the last war.

Emphasis has very properly been laid by several Deputies on the necessity to promote the purchase of Irish goods at home. This is critically important. I share with Deputy Lalor his criticism of many stores—and he identified several in my own native city—where it has been very difficult if not impossible for people to purchase Irish goods. I was on the Opposition benches when I complained about this on several occasions and I think people are right to protest about it and if enough people protest in the stores where they go to purchase and if they were to walk out if disappointed, we might find a substantial change on the part of Irish retailers who have not done their fair share in the promotion of Irish goods.

We are under severe constraint in relation to the imposition of import controls and if we impose controls willy-nilly this country could be the principal sufferer because it could lead to a situation where there could be retaliation against Irish exports and, as any possibility of maintaining our existing standard and any remote possibility of improving it, is entirely dependent on the promotion of Irish exports, we need to maintain open markets so that Irish goods may be sold abroad. It would be suicidal for us to set off a chain reaction in the world by the imposition of import controls here which would operate against our interest.

There is nothing in the world to stop any person who is of the view that he should buy Irish from doing so and from buying nothing but Irish. If we had more individual readiness to do that, this country might be much better off than it is at the moment.

Perhaps I would be permitted to make a point of personal explanation. In the course of his intervention in this debate, the Minister for Finance in reference to remarks I had made to reputable financial journals said that I must be reading financial journals that paid more attention to the making of profit than to economic or social considerations. I can assure the Minister that I do not read such journals and if they exist I certainly do not know them.

I accept entirely what the Deputy has said. I did not mean it to be taken that way.

As a matter of fact, the journal I was thinking of was the Financial Times which is one of the finest journals.

May I say that in relation to this and subsequent Estimates there is an understanding between the Whips that they will be passed without a vote? For the record, I wish to make it clear that it does not mean that if circumstances were different there would not be votes on a number of them, including the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce.

Vote put and agreed to.