Industrial Development Bill, 1977: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The provisions of the Bill are explained in the memorandum which was circulated to Deputies on 27th October. The Industrial Development Bill, 1976, which lapsed on the dissolution of the last Dáil, contained a number of provisions amending the powers of the Industrial Development Authority as they related to the provision of assistance for the development of new enterprise and for sectoral restructuring, together with a number of provisions which are technically necessary to keep the industrial development legislation up to date. Since the proposals in the Bill had already been announced and are awaited by certain firms and since a number of the measures were in any case long overdue from the authority's point of view the Government have decided to take a positive view of the merits of these proposals and to proceed with the present Bill, which incorporates the provisions of the 1976 Bill together with a number of amendments to which I will refer later. It is my intention however that a more comprehensive review of the authority's powers and functions will be undertaken at a later date.

As the Bill is, in its broadest sense, concerned with enchancing the job creation abilities of the authority, it will be seen to fit in very well with current Government objectives. A programme of immediate job creation has been our first priority in the months since taking office. Already the Government have initiated a series of measures in key areas which will create over 5,000 new jobs in 1977 and will contribute to the target of 20,000 new jobs in the year to mid-1978. These measures include significant extensions to the employment incentive scheme, the establishment of an Action Team on Youth Unemployment, a substantial increase in the public capital programme for housing and other capital works to boost employment in the construction industry, and the recruitment of substantial additional numbers to the Garda Síochána, health and other services. In addition, the Government have had meetings with the major national representative bodies in the economic sphere to exchange views on how best to boost job creation, and there will be further meetings at various levels.

The Bill's main objective is to enhance the capability of the IDA: to encourage and assist the development of domestic industry, and particularly the small and medium-sized indigenous firms; to stimulate the emergence in much greater numbers of new entrepreneurs. I will, of course, dwell further on this, but first I think some comments on the activities generally of the IDA, as at present constituted, would be expected from me by the House.

The reconstitution of the IDA in its present form under the Industrial Development Act, 1969, enabled the authority generally to expand its job creation capacity and, as Deputies will agree, it has addressed itself to this task with considerable success. Indeed, the results it has achieved would have been far better had it not been for the job losses that have occurred in recent years in our older industries and the impact which the recession has had on the investment plans of overseas firms.

In the period from April, 1970, to December, 1976, a total of over £237 million was approved for new industry projects with a job potential of 84,311. In the same period over £71 million was approved towards projects involving the re-equipment and modernisation of existing industries; £13 million was committed under the small industries programme towards the creation of over 12,000 jobs.

I think all Deputies are aware of the main programmes operated by the IDA, that is to say: the new industries programme—which largely but not exclusively is concerned with the attraction of new projects from overseas—the home industries programme —which is concerned with the development and maintenance of existing industry, and of whose activities the re-equipment grants scheme is a major feature—and the small industries programme. What may be less well known are the series of new measures taken by the authority in recent years to supplement and reinforce the main programmes. These new measures include a joint venture scheme, the operation of a project identification unit, a service industries programme, and a product and process development grant scheme.

Some Irish firms find that the best means of expanding is to enter into partnership with an overseas company with complementary attributes. In such cases the IDA's joint venture unit will seek a suitable partner and help to develop the ensuring project. In the period to December, 1976, 19 joint venture projects were approved which will produce a total of 1,500 jobs at full production.

Many smaller industrialists have developed by taking advantage of business opportunities presented by the establishment of larger foreign industries in this country. There are also opportunities to supply existing Irish firms with materials which are currently imported. To identify these opportunities the IDA has set up a project identification unit which takes the initiative in identifying manufacturing opportunities for Irish firms. Already the IDA has approached over 400 Irish firms with specific proposals, often based initially on import substitution but also having strong export potential. About 40 of these projects have been brought to the approval stage and 50 are under negotiation at present.

Another scheme introduced to promote employment creation is the service industries programme. This programme provides jobs for highly skilled people—such as graduates and professional and technical personnel— by encouraging Irish and foreign firms in the service industries to expand their overseas-orientated operations in Ireland. In 1976, almost 1,200 jobs were approved under this programme in 19 projects, nine of which are being promoted by Irish firms.

The response of Irish industry to the IDA's product and process development grants scheme has grown to the stage where commitments have reached a level of about 150 projects each year involving close to £1 million of grant commitments. This underlines the growing sophistication of Irish industry and the positive attitude of Irish industrialists towards future growth and expansion.

The job creation task now facing the country necessitates further measures, however. One of these is obviously to increase considerably the numbers of new small industries that are established. It is well recongnised, not only in Ireland but throughout the EEC generally, that continuing industrial growth requires an increase in the "birth rate" of small firms. In recognition of this the Government have recently undertaken to double the rate of project approvals for small Irish industries. To enable this target to be met I recently announced a package of new measures.

In the first instance, the small industry "cluster" concept, introduced on a pilot basis a couple of years ago, is to be immediately extended throughout the country with a nationwide programme of nine small industry clusters. The new programme will involve the construction of almost 200,000 sq. ft. of factory space at a cost of over £2 million. Subject to planning permission, construction at all locations will start in the next few months and the availability of these facilities in the near future will enable companies to get into production quickly.

I also recently authorised the IDA to proceed with the building of five 7,000 sq. ft. advance factories specifically for small industries, and plans for construction are proceeding at all locations. In addition, the fixed asset investment criterion for small firms has been raised from £200,000 to £300,000, a change which will enable a greater number of projects to come within the scope of the small industries programme's generous package of incentives.

In recognition of the need to encourage and foster small industries specifically in Dublin, two further initiatives are being undertaken in conjunction with Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council. At Marley Grange the county council are making craft workshops available and these are being actively promoted by the IDA as a location for suitable craft industries. And in the Liberties area of the city the IDA is currently arranging with Dublin Corporation for the construction of a number of industrial units.

These measures represent a substantial commitment by the Government to increasing the resources available to promote local Irish enterprise. Taken together with the generous financial and aftercare advisory services at present available, I am confident that they will lead to accelerated growth of the small industry sector in Irish industry.

While emphasising this commitment to the development of domestic industry our job creation needs are such that we will continue to need—and in increasing numbers—the establishment of new overseas projects for many years to come. To illustrate this, the IDA estimate that in the four year period 1977-80 overseas investment will have to provide about half of the new job approvals needed.

The task of attracting here the sort of overseas project that we are interested in is getting tougher, however. In the first place international competition for such projects is growing, from both developing and developed countries. In addition, the volume of internatioanl mobile industrial investment, particularly from the USA, has declined in recent years. The number of investment proposals generated by our overseas industries programme has been somewhat disappointing in the past two years; only 39 projects with a total job potential of 7,896 were approved under the overseas new industry programme in 1975, and 33 projects with a job potential of 6,358 in 1976. This compares with 80 projects involving total job potential of 13,694 approved in the year 1st April, 1973, to 31st March, 1974.

In this situation the IDA has been stepping up its promotional efforts to get an increased share of mobile industrial investment for Ireland. And it is my intention to maintain overall industrial incentives at a level which will be adequate and competitive and to have the position reviewed and adjusted as circumstances require.

In the past, some Deputies on the opposite side have put forward the view that to meet our job creation needs, the establishment of a National Development Corporation was necessary. This viewpoint was most recently put forward by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions at their meeting with the Taoiseach and other Ministers and myself on 23rd September. I indicated then that with the provision for the IDA of the additional powers contained in the Bill and the establishment of an Industrial Development Consortium the need for a National Development Corporation did not in my opinion arise. The question of the establishment of the consortium was the subject of a question in the House last week. I would now like to tell the House what are my proposals in regard to the establishment of this consortiom and what objectives it would have.

The remit of the consortium will include the following: (a) setting job creation targets and monitoring and reviewing industrial progress in general, with particular reference to job creation and job maintenance; (b) identification of obstacles to growth and suggesting solutions, and (c) co-ordination of activities of existing State agencies to maximise the contribution of these agencies to industrial development.

One of the main objectives in establishing the consortium will be to ensure that industry has available to it the resources necessary to achieve industrial growth targets. Job maintenance will get as much attention as job creation, and special attention will be given to mechanisms for assisting enterprises in difficulties. The constitution and operations of Fóir Teo. and other agencies concerned in this area will be looked at. In particular I have in mind the possibility that Fóir Teo. might be revamped into a body not associated with impending "bankruptcy". Such possible restructuring might entail transfer of shareholdings acquired by the IDA and other bodies to the new entity. But further study and deliberation will be needed before we can come to final conclusions on these matters.

Initially the consortium will consist of the Ministers and Secretaries of Departments concerned with industrial development and job creation, principally the Departments of Industry, Commerce and Energy, Finance, Economic Planning and Development and Labour, together with the chief executives of State agencies directly involved in industrial development, that is, the IDA, Córas Tráchtála, the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards, An Chomhairle Oiliúna, the Industrial Credit Co. and Fóir Teo. Provision will be made for participation by other State bodies and companies and for consultation with national representative organisations such as the CII and ICTU as required. The Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy will be chairman of the consortium and other Ministers will attend as required. I wish to stress the flexibility in our approach to both the membership and the operating methods of the new body. What we are most concerned with is achieving results.

I would like now to turn to the provisions of the present Bill. In addition to the proposals previously provided for in the Industrial Development Bill, 1976, the present Bill includes a provision which will extend the shareholding powers of the IDA. Under the Industrial Development Act, 1969, the IDA are empowered to take shares in certain industrial undertakings. Equity participation by the IDA can be an important and valuable part of the overall financial package put together to assist an industrial undertaking, and it can provide the State with a share in profitable new enterprises and thus secure a return on capital invested in industrial development.

I have found, however, on examination that there are unnecessary restrictions on the IDA's powers in this regard. Legal opinion obtained by the authority has indicated that on the basis of the existing statutory provisions, the authority could be confident of having power to take minority holdings in existing companies only. In order to remove the doubt regarding the authority's power to take majority shareholdings and to ensure that it has adequate flexibility to operate successfully in the increasingly sophisticated financial and industiial environment, I propose to extend the authority's shareholding powers to enable it to take shareholdings of up to 100 per cent in suitable industrial undertakings, or in companies participating in the ownership, control or management of suitable industrial undertakings, and to enable it to form or participate with others in the formation of new industrial companies.

This extension should not be seen as providing the authority with exceptional powers; powers similar to those which the Bill proposes to extend to the authority are already available to Gaeltarra Éireann and other bodies.

I would expect that these extended powers of participation would be particularly useful to the authority in the implementation of the new enterprise development programme. With these powers the authority would, if circumstances so warranted, be in a position to set up a company to manufacture a product successfully developed under the programme or become a shareholder in a company being set up for that purpose—for instance, in cases where the Irish party was for the time being over-burdened with technical production and marketing problems or lacked the professional support or finance to bring the project to an early start-up.

I regard this initiative as a reasonable and pragmatic extension of existing IDA powers and functions. Save in exceptional circumstances IDA personnel will not be engaged in the actual day-to-day management of commercial enterprises.

I would draw attention to the fact that under the terms of the Bill it will be necessary for the authority to seek my prior approval before it takes a majority shareholding in any company. The Bill also provides for a limit of £1 million on the amount which the authority may expend on the purchase or taking of shares in a particular body corporate without prior Government approval. All the authority's financial incentives are subject to a maximum limit for each individual case, which can be exceeded only with Government approval; this provision brings expenditure on shares into line in this respect.

In Ireland the volume of new projects promoted by first-time industrialists has been disappointingly small, even though as a country I am sure we have our due proportion of people with the necessary knowledge and skills. It is clear that in many cases one of the causes of this apparent lack of enterprise has been the inability of the entrepreneur to raise the necessary finance to carry him through the start-up situation. All too frequently Irish banks will lend only on the security of assets rather than on ability and enterprise. Accordingly it is proposed in this Bill to provide for the giving of loan guarantees and interest subsidies to first-time industrialists, in respect of loans raised to provide working capital. The new guarantee facilities will be limited to £150,000 in any one case, but the Government may permit a higher figure.

I would envisage that this proposal will get a response from a wide spectrum of Irish people, both at home and abroad, who have the qualifications, experience and enterprise to become successful industrialists. The resulting projects will generally have to be commercially exploitable within a reasonable time span. They are of course likely to be small initially, but should offer significant longer-term benefits in view of the possibilities for expansion and linkage at a later stage.

This new enterprise development programme is an experiment. It will be necessary in each case to assess the ability and commitment of the entrepreneur; in certain instances also the authority may find it necessary to support persons, by consultancy contract, while they are developing a worth-while proposal in its technical details. Assistance towards working capital will be supplemented as appropriate by the existing range of benefits for fixed assets administered by the IDA.

The Bill also provides for the giving of loan guarantees and interest subsidies in respect of the finance needed for mergers and acquisitions.

Up to the present the main incentive to help existing industry become more efficient has been the re-equipment grant scheme. While this has done much to enable Irish firms to modernise, it does nothing to promote planned and orderly restructuring; instead, the existence of excess capacity in industries at a time of competitive pressure from imports is enforcing structural changes involving major costs in terms of redundancies, lost capacity and the need to create substitute employment.

Our commitment to home industry suggests that the authority should be able to take a positive and constructive part in bringing about desirable and orderly change in certain sectors. The industries most at risk are composed of smaller-scale firms and are, for the most part, not capital-intensive. Restructuring assistance is consequently unlikely to entail an outlay proportionate to its obvious benefits. The Bill would set a limit of £500,000 on the amount of borrowings which the authority could guarantee in any one such case without Government approval.

In every other European country some form of positive assistance is provided for restructuring. I am glad to make this contribution to the Irish situation, at the same time recognising that further initiatives may be necessary at a later stage.

I have no doubt that there is widespread approval in the House of the programme carried out by a number of State bodies to provide development assistance to what is called the Third World. There is a general will to do what we can in this field within the limits of our resources.

The IDA is one of the participating bodies and is highly qualified to be of assistance by reason of its extensive expertise in the assessment of projects, promotion of a wide range of industry, construction and management of industrial estates and so on. In the past, although it had no formal power to do so, the IDA has given briefings as the occasion arose to representatives of developing countries and more recently, in anticipation of this provision, has negotiated for a small number of projects in the field of overseas co-operation. There is a considerable demand for such assistance, both from the developing countries themselves and from international organisations which provide contracts for development projects abroad.

Such contracts are likely to be the main source of finance for the limited undertakings by the IDA in this area, and IDA funds as such are unlikely to bear any expense arising therefrom, taking one year with another. In fact, the amount of IDA resources in terms of personnel which can be made available for this work may be more limited than many advocates of development co-operation would like.

This Bill formally gives the IDA power to engage, with my approval, in development work of this kind on the basis of providing technical and advisory services, but not material or financial assistance.

The Bill also contains a number of provisions designed to tidy up the ceilings on aggregate expenditure set out in the existing legislation. Financial commitments under the present Bill are brought within the appropriate limits, namely, £400 million for grants of a capital nature, including interest subsidies, and £100 million for loan guarantees. Expenditures on equity which formerly were not covered by any ceiling are brought within the limit on grants of a capital nature.

Training grants are recognised in every country as an effective instrument in influencing the location of industry, in up-grading the skills of the population, in bringing forward job creation and as a direct incentive to industrial promotion. Up to now there has been no limit in money terms on the amount of training grants which could be given to any one undertaking, although of course each application is examined as to what is technically needed for the specific process in question.

Recently, however, training grants have become larger, due to increases in the scale of projects and promotion of service industries which are intensive in training grant requirement. Accordingly the Bill proposes to bring the amount of training grant which can be approved, without Government permission, into line with that for capital grants generally, namely, £850,000 per case.

Under existing legislation authentication of the authority's seal requires the attendance, sometimes at short notice, of two members of the authority. As the members of the authority are busy people in their own right, and as there is moreover a substantial volume of these papers, the present system is not easy to work. As a practical matter the Bill gives the authority power to delegate this function to two of its senior officers.

On legal advice it is proposed to make clear the purposes for which the authority may borrow temporarily. Such borrowings, I might add, are exceptional and have occurred principally when the amount of money which the IDA has been entitled to draw from the Exchequer has been exhausted, pending further legislation.

The IDA has, since 1970, given grants of up to 50 per cent of the costs involved in research and development projects, subject to an absolute maximum of £15,000, but the limit of 50 per cent of approved costs will continue to apply. The new limit is justified in the context of the increased costs of scientific work and the increased scale of projects now being undertaken by native Irish industry and, in many cases also, being delegated to Irish subsidiaries of overseas companies.

Ireland still stands out as an attractive base for international industry. We can enhance this attractiveness by maintaining competitive incentives, by building up our industrial infrastructure, by continuing to provide a hospitable environment for overseas investment and, particularly, by reducing our rate of inflation. This last will require the co-operation of all sections of the community and is vitally necessary if we are to combat the unemployment problem. The magnitude of this problem is widely recognised. A significant growth in the population and labour force is projected in the years ahead. The urgent need to absorb those who lost their jobs during the last three years and the long standing problem of structural unemployment compound the need for urgent job creation.

For all that, it is not a time for despondency or negativism. The Government have taken positive measures to create employment and additional proposals are at present under examination. The trend in price increases is significantly downward and next year, if all goes well, inflation will be reduced well into single figures. A good rate of growth is likely to be maintained in industry, with GNP as a whole likely to grow by between 4½ and 5 per cent this year. There has been an upsurge in private investment, especially in the manufacturing sector, underlining the growth in business confidence.

The measures contained in the Bill can be seen as further promoting industrial recovery and future development. As such I am confident that they will receive the support of the House. The IDA has achieved considerable success in the past and has shown itself willing constantly to reappraise its own activities and to respond to the need for change as it arises. This Bill extends the range of incentives the authority can offer and increases its ability to operate effectively. I accordingly recommend the Bill for the approval of the House.

The public memory has probably had the experience of a blackboard over which a sponge has been wiped since the early summer, what with the election and the formation of a new Government. If I might just be bold enough to remind the House, this is the second time that essentially the same Bill has been put before it. It was introduced on Second Stage in May last by me, deputising for Deputy Keating, Minister for Industry and Commerce. It progressed some distance. There were three or four speakers from the Opposition benches and when the Minister now says he is glad or proud to do this or that what he is, in fact, doing is taking up where Deputy Keating, now Senator Keating, as Minister for Industry and Commerce left off.

Earlier today I mentioned two or three exceptions since the House reassembled on 12th October. I do not want to make anything of that except to say that it underlines the fact that both sides are interested in industrial development. When that Bill was introduced in May last Deputy Brennan, who is now Ceann Comhairle, had many things to say about what the Government were doing about industrial development but he had no objection to the Bill.

This Bill is part of a series—the Principal Act is the 1969 Act—in regard to the Industrial Development Authority. The authority goes back not to the second last or third last Taoiseach, not to Mr. Seán Lemass or Mr. de Valera or any other prophet on the other side of the House, but to the first Coalition Government and to the Industrial Development Authority Act of 1950. Accordingly, everything connected with the authority is of the deepest interest to this party. We sponsored the emergence of the authority. We have watched it with anxious affection all through its existence and we welcome both in substance and in detail the contents of this Bill.

The Minister dealt with the essential points of the Bill somewhat late in his introductory remarks and I shall have something to say about that in a moment. The main point is that this Bill enables the authority for the first time to assist by guarantee activities it could not formerly assist, notably the merger of enterprises which, but for a merger, might continue in such a manner that one would write off the other or drive the other out of the field. Secondly, it is designed to encourage the setting up in industry of people who formerly did not know much about industry. Both these objectives are long established and identified. The Government I served were associated with the drafting of the Bill. That measure was repeatedly held up while the Minister dealt with other Bills of more immediate importance designed to help the authority out of financial constraints, but intending at all stages, as in the end he did, to produce legislation such as the Bill now before us which would extend the essential nature of the authority's powers. I did not notice the Minister saying anything about the new functions being given to the authority in regard to assistance to developing countries. If his speech did contain something about that, I apologise as I must have missed it but there was no great emphasis laid on it.

I gave one and a half pages of my speech to it.

I am sorry if I missed it. That is an important formalisation of what the authority is now being formally given power to do. Even before this, it had, of course, taken part in operations of a development aid nature but I, and everybody on this side of the House, will be glad to see this part of its function formally expressed.

The remaining parts of the Bill mainly deal with bringing under the existing financial ceiling the various forms of financial risk and activity in which the authority engages. If that were all the Minister had said I could not, perhaps, sit down because as far as the material in the Bill goes this party is in entire agreement on it. We were part of a Government which sponsored it and we had got some distance on Second Stage in bringing this virtually identical Bill before the House. The Minister's speech, however, ranged a good deal wider than the material of the Bill. I have forgotten at what stage the Chair changed but in case you were not here when the change was signalled by the Minister, I direct your attention to the fact that the Minister said, after he had gone half way through his speech: "I would like now to turn to the provisions of the present Bill". In other words, a considerable part of this speech, apart from a perfunctory mention of the Bill at the outset, was devoted to matters other than matters contained in the Bill. I hope that, as the Minister was indulged by the House and the Chair in that respect I shall be indulged if, without any notice, I say something of a general kind about some of the matters which the Minister produced under the umbrella of his speech on the Industrial Development Bill.

Perhaps it is wrong to say that what the Minister has done is unprecedented. That is a word that is freely and, perhaps, wrongly used; it may be that there is a precedent for what the Minister has just done but, if so, I think it is a precedent that he would have done well to avoid. Without any notice, certainly without any notice that reached me he has given the House details of an absolutely major project which has nothing to do with the Industrial Development Authority except that the IDA will form part of it, a very subordinate part, as far as I can see. He has given quite substantial detail, admittedly with the reservation that he is going to keep an open mind and retain flexibility and so on, of a major new project which, to some extent, figured in his party's election manifesto but which we are now hearing about for the first time in any detail. He has done that under the cover of a Bill to which it has only very indirect relevance. Without making too much of a song and dance about it and with all the modesty that may be expected from a very new spokesman in this field I must protest at this being done without notice. I shall ask the Whip of my party to request that the debate on the matter which the Minister has opened up be not continued until we have had a chance to think about what the Minister has been saying because we are no longer discussing the Industrial Development Bill; what is now under discussion is the ball that the Minister has thrown into the field at no notice, namely, the question of an industrial development consortium.

That consortium is one which the Minister may or may not envisage— that is a vital detail he did not give— as having a statutory basis. If it has a statutory basis, and I can scarcely imagine it without one, it will be before the House in due course but I must make some protest if the House is expected to debate the Bill that is before it in print by allowing the Minister at no notice to produce quite a detailed statement, the grounds for which were laid in the first half of his speech, in regard to a consortium, the statutory basis for which is not yet before the House. That is not to be taken as being a preliminary adverse judgment on a consortium. It is because I am not able and could not be expected to be able on my feet to produce a reasoned and thought-out judgment on it. I shall ask my party Whip to request from the Government Whip that further debate on this Bill, because of the matter which the Minister has introduced, be deferred after the closing of business this evening until such time as my party get a chance to look at what the Minister has said, absorb it and think about it, and come to a conclusion about it.

The preparatory matter with which the Minister dealt before coming to provisions of the Bill included some material about the achievements of his own Government. "Already" he said, "the Government has initiated a series of measures in key areas" whatever they are "which will create over 5,000 new jobs in 1977 and will contribute to the target of 20,000 new jobs in the year to mid-1978. These measures," he says, "include significant extensions to the employment incentive scheme, the establishment of an action team on youth unemployment..." and other things. In regard to the first two matters I want to say that the employment incentive scheme which was introduced by the Government in which I served was not an Irish invention; it exists in other European countries at times of recession but it seems to me to be essentially a weapon for use at times of severe recession. If we build it into our way of doing business, into our relationship between Government and industry in the manner in which food subsidies may easily become builtin in the people's budgetary expectations regarding the way they and their families live, we are taking a very serious step. I want to make it absolutely clear that not only did I and do I support the employment incentive scheme but before it was ever introduced I inquired about its operation in other countries and wrote to Ministers in my Government urging that it be introduced here. Please let me not be understood as being in any way against it but I want to warn the Minister because he has mentioned it now—I shall come back to the theme on a more appropriate occasion—that anything about the employment incentive scheme should be very cautiously done and always done on the understanding that a scheme such as that must be seen as an emergency scheme. Perhaps to some extent we are still in an emergency. We still have an unprecedently high unemployment level.

Even though the economy is showing very positive indicators and we seem to be pulling out of the recession in some degree, we still have extremely serious problems which will get more serious because of the unfavourable demographic movement which is tending to give us a very large proportion of dependent people compared with wage earners. Every time an employment incentive scheme is continued or extended it means, essentially, that the State is taking upon itself the role of employer. It means that the State is becoming the employer of people who are not State servants and the State is encouraging expectations among those people and among others. Any member of a Government and any member of a watchdog Opposition must be very cautious about that. We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where the State is the universal employer.

About ten years ago, in days when Government seemed to have a bit more backbone than they have lately, when Deputy Blaney was Minister for Agriculture, I remember him saying to the farmers in so many words when they were complaining about their low incomes that the Government were not the farmers' employer and that they could not talk to him as if they were employed by him. I am not a member of Deputy Blaney's fan club but he was talking the naked truth. Anything to do with an employment or administrative scheme right though it may be in a time of emergency, once the thing becomes settled in, even when the emergency is past, a certain expectation becomes centred in the Government that they will take up the bill for employment in matters that are not State directed, in which the State has no direct control. I support, and even advocated before this appeared, such a scheme. I hope that the Minister is not offended when I call this his glib recital of an employment incentive scheme, as though his Government had invented it and as though it were to become a permanent feature of the landscape. I hope the Minister has the same reservations as I have about this.

The Action Team on Youth Unemployment so far seems to be no more than the title of an administrative group. I put down a question to the Minister for Labour in relation to this, which I hope will be answered in the next few sitting days, inquiring into the activities of this action team. By the extreme breadth of its composition it seems to have disabled itself from anything which could be described as action. It has representatives from no less than nine Government Departments and representatives from other organisations. Any Government official will tell the Minister that this is a pure recipe for inertia and frustration. It will get nothing done with that many representatives. It might be called an action team but it will not take any more action than one Minister sitting down and deciding to allocate so much funds to this or that project. It is a piece of electioneering eyewash which is wasting the time of people who are not in the public service at all and who could be far better employed getting on with their own jobs. I will not express a final judgment although I am not optimistic about this employment action team, until we see what it does. I will be surprised if it works efficiently. This team was set up on 4th August and its first meeting was at the end of September. It took seven weeks to arrange a meeting of this action team. What can one expect from a team that takes seven weeks to meet, let alone produce a job? If I turn out to be wrong about this I will admit it with more grace than the Minister has ever shown when he was wrong.

I was never wrong as often as the Deputy.

I do not expect much of that team. I am not sure who has responsibility for it as so many responsibilities have been shovelled around to different Ministers. The Minister for Economic Planning and Development has taken over this evening the field of the Board of Science and Technology. I thought that the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, was going to be the man with all the answers, so I originally put down my question about the employment action team to him, but now I find that it has been transferred to the Minister for Labour. The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, is willing to take on the Board for Science and Technology but will not take on the employment action team. That fact in itself is significant.

The Deputy did not ask him.

I put down the question to him and it was transferred, presumably because Deputy O'Donoghue's Department would not touch it.

The Minister has no responsibility for it. It has always been the Minister for Labour.

This employment action team is an entirely new thing and the Minister I believe is wrong in saying that the Minister for Labour is responsible for creating employment. The Minister for Labour is not responsible for creating employment although his operations have some relevance. If the Minister were to say in the presence of Deputy Gene Fitzgerald, the Minister for Labour, that his was the prime responsibility for creating employment, I am certain Deputy Fitzgerald would be the first man to contradict him. It is the job of the Government as a whole. The Minister for Labour would be involved in relation to industrial relations, it would involve the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy, the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach, as well as the Minister for Economic Planning and Development. The Minister for Labour was saddled with this problem because Deputy O'Donoghue's Department would not answer the question about the employment action team. Although they are full of ideas, plans and promises the question I want answered, namely what is this team doing now, cannot be answered by the man in charge of economic planning and development. I am referred to the Minister for Labour who I now hear for the first time is responsible for job creation. I am grateful to the Minister for that information which was certainly not given to the House before.

The Minister is responsible for youth employment.

We are not talking about youth employment but about the employment action team. The employment of a man who is no longer a youth is every bit as important, perhaps even more important, than the employment of a youth.

The Minister began his speech by mentioning matters which the Minister has already undertaken such as substantial additional numbers to the Garda Siochána. The truth, as the House knows, is that the Government which I served had already made provision for a very substantial increase in the membership of the Garda Síochána and it is doubtful if that rate of recruitment can be improved or accelerated without dropping the standard, or bringing somewhat into question the standard of recruitment. Nobody on either side of the House wishes to do that. These were some of the introductory remarks of the Minister along with a general review of the Government and the work of the Industrial Development Authority. The Minister then produced some brand new projects in regard to an industrial development consortium. Before mentioning this consortium the Minister mentioned what he called the establishment of a national development corporation which had been recommended by Deputies on the opposite side.

Debate adjourned.