I dealt with some of the points raised during the course of the Second Stage debate on the last occasion. I concentrated mainly on the points raised by Deputy Enright about the annual allocation made to the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards and the role of that body in dealing with the question of import substitution. Deputy Desmond spoke about the consultancy study being undertaken and was interested to know if that would be confined to certain areas. Earlier this year, in the light of demands now being made on the institute, and demands likely to be made in the future on the Exchequer by a major building programme which began some years ago, it was decided that the time had arrived to undertake a detailed examination of the activities of the institute in relation to the expanding needs of industrial development here over the next decade.
That examination is not so much concerned with the role of the institute in the context of scientific or technological development—that would be a matter in the first instance for the National Board of Science and Technology—but with its role as an instrument of industrial development. The consultancy study would cover such matters as the future role and approach of the institute in meeting national needs for scientific and technological services to support industrial and related economic development, determining the implications of such future role on the requirements of institute staff, staffing policy, accommodation and facilities, organisation and finance. It will also assess and comment on the particular role of the institute as advisers to Government Departments and local authorities and advise as to the future development of this role.
Deputy Moore and other Members, spoke of the role of the institute in dealing with consumer complaints. I should like to tell the House that during 1978 the institute handled 1,198 complaints. Such was demand for this service that at one time it was necessary for the institute to refuse telephone calls for a period in order to catch up on the huge backlog. The main product categories on such complaints were received in 1978 were clothing, footwear, floor coverings, household equipment and furniture. A total of 29 per cent of those complaints were found to be unjustified; 21 per cent were doubtful, and that left 50 per cent found to be valid. Of these valid complaints all but one-quarter were settled satisfactorily. The 1,198 complaints included some 219 complaints which were referred to the IIRS by the Irish Goods Council in connection with the "guaranteed Irish" campaign. Sixty per cent of these were settled, 29 per cent were not valid, 8 per cent were doubtful, 2 per cent could not be settled because the supplíer would not co-operate and 1 per cent could not be settled because firms were in liquidation. The institute continue to play a very important role in accepting consumer complaints. Possibly a lot of pressure may be now taken from the institute with the setting up of the Director of Consumer Affairs.
The role of the institute in relation to energy was raised by a large number of Deputies. This year the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy assigned an active and leading role in the area of energy conservation to the IIRS. The initial programme proposals that the IIRS have include the setting up of a national boiler testing service to test every nondomestic sized boiler for combustion efficiency and to report on its performance to the organisation concerned. Considerable progress has been made in this area, the service has been set up and the systematic testing of every industrial boiler has begun. Their second proposal is the appointment of regional energy conservation officers whose work will include visits to factories, buildings and other installations to provide on-the-spot advice and to identify areas for further action. Another proposal is the formation of four regional energy managers' associations. The final stages of this proposal has been received and the associations are expected to commence operations early next year. The IIRS also propose to offer support advice to the IDA which will ensure that all new industries and grant-aided industries are energy efficient in industrial processes and in factory buildings. Discussions will continue with the IDA in this regard. They also propose to establish an energy task force to set energy consumption reduction targets for various industrial sectors.
They propose to provide a building energy advisory service which would provide technical support to contractors, developers, owners/occupiers, architects and engineers in the implementation of the new thermal performance standards for building and other energy related building and construction matters. They also propose to provide public building energy management which will be a support service to Government Departments and other agencies in the energy management of public buildings such as schools. The IIRS will have discussions with the various Departments and with the other public agencies involved. In relation to the production of brochures, handbooks and so on, on various aspects of energy management, the institute are holding a series of one-day seminars in 15 centres around the country on efficient boiler operation, of interest to boilermen, plant engineers and energy managers in industry and in the public service. In co-operation with Bord Fáilte the IIRS are running a series of seminars on energy conservation in hotels throughout the country. These matters will be publicised through the normal publicity channels, the television, newspapers and magazines as well as through the issue of booklets. In view of the tremendous importance placed on conservation this year and in view of the various difficulties we had early in the year it is important that at this time of the year this service should be available and that the IIRS are the body given the responsibility for the promotion of this service.
Deputy Ciaran Murphy wondered about the fee fixing by the IIRS. Under section 38 of the IIRS Act, 1961 the institute have the power to draw up their fee charging bases and to review these from time to time. Deputy Murphy also made the point that some Deputies had visited the IIRS in Glasnevin and all of us who visited there certainly benefited from the visit. The institute are to be commended for the tremendous hospitality they extended. I am sure that it is inconvenient in a place such as the institute to have large numbers of visitors on the premises, but it is important for all Deputies who visit the institute to see at first hand what the institute are doing and what they are capable of doing. Deputy Murphy also referred to the on-lying information computer services with links to international sources of information from Europe and the United States on technological processes. One can virtually press a button to obtain the most advanced information available in the world. This had been in operation in the IIRS for less than two years but some 38 organisations including seven industrial concerns have obtained passwords giving them access through the IIRS to the computerised information services of the European Space Agency and the British Library and this is very important to industry. The IIRS have developed an international reputation as an active information marketing organisation of unique character.
Deputy L. Lawlor made the point that where possible the various parts of the business of the IIRS should be relocated outside of Dublin. This is Government policy. Where possible any agency that can survive outside of Dublin as an entity should go to the country. The Deputy mentioned one agency which has gone to the mid-west region. The IIRS plan to commence work early in 1980 on a western regional laboratory for concrete testing and advice on construction technology. This building is to be in the Spiddal area of the Connemara Gaeltacht. The laboratory will initially employ five people and will provide a very important service to builders and contractors and to industry generally in the western region. It is important to note that this type of service was only available before from Cork or from Dublin and it is important that such a service should be provided in an area where so much building is taking place. This is something which all sides of the House will welcome.
Opposition Deputies have portrayed the Bill as a subterfuge for the alleged inadequate funding of the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards. In section 2 (1), the proposal to give the IIRS an overdraft facility, it is claimed by the Opposition Deputies that this would not be needed if the present Government funding were adequate. All of us would agree that any institute or any State agency would never get to the stage of asking for X pounds and on receiving X pounds would be happy. That is a Utopia we can strive for, but that will never be reached. The purpose of the Bill is to alleviate the Institute's problems arising from delays in receiving their own income from their own clients. The IIRS set their level of services to match their Government grants plus their envisaged income. Unless the Institute were to be wholly funded by the Government, it will have a cash flow problem from time to time, especially when there are delays in clients paying bills and there must be an income—expenditure cash flow problem.
Section 2 (2) has been depicted as forcing the IIRS to mortgage their lands and buildings to buy capital equipment, which is not true. The institute already purchase substantial amounts of capital equipment from their grant-in-aid. The borrowing power for capital equipment is to facilitate the institute in purchasing more equipment, where this expenditure can clearly pay for itself out of the fees earned. The rationale is clearly in line with what Deputy John Bruton put forward last March, when borrowing powers were being sought for An Foras Taluntais, on the Agriculture (An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta) Bill. The purpose of this provision is simply to give greater flexibility to the institute to meet the situation where, in the course of the year, they found that, to meet the widening needs of new industry, particular equipment was urgently needed and could be seen to pay for itself over a period. If that equipment can be provided out of the existing allocation, the question of borrowing will not arise. If the need for the equipment had not been anticipated before the end of the previous year when the Estimates were being prepared, then the other demands for the institute's allocation would not permit them to use some of that money towards the purchasing of the new equipment needed and they would have to put in a claim for a supplementary estimate.
The provisions of this Bill give a welcome flexibility to the institute, without any loss of effective control and are not new, as has been claimed by some Opposition Deputies. At present, the Industrial Development Authority, Córas Tráchtála, Bord lascaigh Mhara and An Foras Talúntais have borrowing powers, while the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards, which services most of those organisations, and certainly provides a tremendous service for industry throughout the country, has no borrowing powers. This Bill rectifies what we consider to be an anomalous situation.
To be more specific, in section 2 (1), Deputy John Kelly queried the phrase —and I quote: "borrow temporarily by arrangements with bankers". He claimed that this form of words was unusual and there was no precedent. His actual words were that if there were precedents, he would like to know what they were. The same form of words appears, for example, in the following Acts: firstly, in the Sea Fisheries Act, 1962, section 20; secondly, in the Export Promotion Act, 1959, section 17; thirdly, in the Industrial Development Act, 1969, section 20. As I have explained before, the words simply refer to short-term overdraft facilities being provided, which the IIRS have had to use since 1975 to meet their year end problems.
The wording of section 2 (2) regarding capital equipment simply makes it clear that the borrowing powers are to be used where the institute's fees from a particular piece of equipment can cover the cost of the acquisition of the capital. Deputy Kelly stated that the IIRS income is only one-third of the cost of the institute, which is true, but the one-third is an average, covering 66 different services, some of which, obviously, have much more fee-earning potential than others.
I think I have dealt with all the points raised during the course of the debate and would like, once again, to thank the many Deputies who expressed an interest in the work of the IIRS and, particularly, the facilities being provided for the institute under this Bill. I hope that the House will accept the Bill.