Molaim go léifear an Bille seo an Dara hUair.
Is é feidhm an Bhille seo cumhacht a thabhairt don Institiúid Taighde Tionscail agus Caighdeán iasacht a fháil chun críocha áirithe atá luaite ann.
The purpose of the Bill is to enable the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards to borrow temporarily such sums as it may require for current expenditure and to borrow on the security of its own lands and premises, without any guarantee by me, such sums as it may require for the purpose of purchasing capital equipment. These latter powers will be exercised by the institute only where it can fully service the borrowing through the earnings effected with the equipment.
Before dealing with the Bill I would like to say something briefly about the institute and its operations. This, I trust, will assist the Deputies to see the Bill in its proper setting. Deputies are, no doubt, aware of the central objective of the institute: to promote the efficient operation of industry and to maintain and stimulate where possible industrial growth. Its activities are distinguished from those of other State bodies such as CTT and IDA in that they are centred on industrial technology. The function of the IIRS is to ensure that industry has access to and uses the most up-to-date technology available for the creation of wealth, high quality employment and a higher standard of living for the Irish people.
The institute strives to achieve this objective in two ways. Firstly, the provision of technological advice to industry in the form of solving technical problems, providing technical information, and testing of manufactured products on behalf of firms to certify that they are up to certain standards of quality. The demand for the services of the institute can be gauged from the £1.6 million income which the institute earned in 1978, over half of which came from charges for the services I have just mentioned.
Simply solving industry's problems, however, is not enough. The institute also engages in applied research and development which can lead to the development of new industrial processes and products and to the creation of new jobs. This research and development service now represents about 20 per cent of the institute's activities and the institute is hopeful of increasing this figure. I am sure Deputies will agree with this aim; the more new products and ideas which originate in Irish-based industry, the more resources which are built up in Ireland for research and development, the more secure will our industrial base become.
The institute also acts as technical adviser to the Government. Indeed, as Deputies know, only recently the institute was given the lead role in the Government's Energy Saving Campaign.
The institute receives the bulk of its funding from State sources. In 1979 the total Exchequer grant-in-aid amounts to over £5.1 million, of which £1.4 million is earmarked for building and construction at the institute's headquarters at Ballymun Road, Glasnevin. On top of this £5.1 million the institute expects to increase its earned income this year to over the £2 million mark. It is this very growth in fee income which is one of the reasons for the Bill now before the House.
Over the past ten years the institute's income from clients has increased from £83,000 in 1968 to present levels. In 1968, income as a percentage of the current expenditure of the institute came to only 15 per cent. It now represents over 33 per cent.
This increase in earned income has brought its attendant problems. Experience has shown that because of the inevitable delays in clients settling their accounts, there is a substantial amount owing to the IIRS at the end of each accounting year. This money is received in the early months of the following accounting year. Since 1975 the outstanding amount has had to be financed by bank overdrafts to meet the cash flow problem at the end of the accounting year. The Industrial Research and Standards Act, 1961, makes no specific provision for borrowing powers for the institute. Section 2 (1) of this Bill proposes to permit the institute, with my consent and the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, to borrow temporarily by arrangements with bankers such sums as it may require for the purpose of providing for current expenditures.
Deputies can be assured that these overdrafts will be cleared very quickly in the new accounting year, when the first instalment of Exchequer funds for the new Vote year is paid. This has been the practice since 1975, and the overdraft facility has been a purely year-end phenomenon brought about by a combination of the usual delays in clients paying bills and the sharp growth in income from clients.
The Bill also proposes in section 2 (2) to extend the borrowing powers of the institute to cover the acquisition of capital equipment which can pay for itself on a self-financing basis from the fee income of the institute. With the increasing technological content of our exports in recent years, and the demand for certification of exports as meeting certain standards, it is more and more obvious that there are certain areas of product testing where the income generated from testing is capable of paying for the investment necessary to meet the demand. This Bill proposes, therefore, that in such cases the institute be allowed to borrow money on the security of its own assets—its lands and buildings— without State guarantee for the repayment of the sums borrowed. These borrowing powers will only be exercised with my consent and with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. Indeed, in relation to capital equipment in general it is essential for the institute to have equipment which is as technologically advanced as that available to its clients. These borrowing powers should assist the institute in keeping abreast of technological change in equipment needs.
Molaim go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair agus táim cinnte go n-aontóidh Teachtaí le críoch an Bhille, is é sin, cumhacht a thabhairt don institiúid iasacht a fháil faoi mar atá mínithe agam cheana.