Deputy Briscoe has some few seconds left. He is not here.
Private Members' Business. - Retail Grocery Trade (Special Provisions) Bill, 1981: Second Stage (Resumed).
He is here. He has ten seconds left.
They tell me I have ten seconds.
Half a minute.
Last night the reasons were stated quite clearly by me as to why we could not accept this Bill. It is full of restrictions and it would completely tie up grocery retailers with premises over 5,000 square feet in such knots that it would be impossible for them to plan their future developments and expansion.
The Deputy does not believe a word of it.
I am convinced that when they have had a chance to study this Bill carefully those interested enough to do so will find that it is wholly impracticable and, as I said before, I am confident that, if the Opposition were to return to this side of the House, this Bill would never be introduced.
They will be returned to Government.
As spokesman for my party and as a rural Deputy I would like to commend this Bill to the House. At the outset I indicate my support for the Bill, not with any idea of bashing the supermarket system but because I believe we can achieve a good mix of supermarkets and small traders. As a rural Deputy I must defend the role of the small trader and the contribution he has made to the well-being of our people down through the years. His contribution in good times and bad has been worthwhile and that is why I support wholeheartedly the efforts of the Fine Gael Party to promote the interests of the small trader in this Bill. Looking at the situation one must be concerned at its seriousness. In rural Ireland five supermarkets control 50 per cent of the trade. In Dublin city they control 70 per cent of the trade. Surely we must be concerned at this imbalance and it is my humble opinion that this serious trend must be arrested to ensure the survival of the small trader in the eighties. If that is not done frightening prospects will face consumers in the years ahead. Since 1961 small traders have decreased from 17,500 to 8,500 in a market of £900 million per annum, a substantial figure relative to the growth in GNP and in relation to an industry employing 45,000 people. In Italy 10 per cent of the market is controlled by multinationals. Surely the Government must be concerned to ensure the survival of our small traders who have served us so nobly and well down through the years. Unless corrective legislative measures are taken we will be faced with the prospect of a monopoly supermarket system. Should that occur I fear for the consequences in the foreseeable future. It was made very clear by the last speaker that the Government will vote down this Bill this evening. Like many others I will be asking why?
I will also be asking why we are not as concerned as our neighbours in the United Kingdom where the planning authorities play a vital role in decision making on the location of supermarkets and in all matters pertaining to population, layout, new towns, and so on. There is a definite planning input in England. No effort is made here under the Planning Acts to ensure that multinationals and supermarkets are planned to meet the needs of the people. Why are we not as concerned about the small man as they are in England? That is a question which will puzzle many people when this Bill is voted down here tonight.
We are a country of small traders and small businessmen. It frightens me to think that five supermarket companies control such a vast proportion of our retail trade. I stand by the small shopkeeper in a mixed retail economy, that is, a blend of the supermarket and the small trader. There is room for both. Unfortunately, because of the trend in the retail trade at the moment, the small trader is defenceless. Unless legislation is enacted his future is bleak.
The Bill is intended to curtail the frightening expansion of the multinationals, not to stop it. It is intended to promote the proper development of the trade in a combination of large and small traders. The small trader will not get much out of this Bill. This effort to defend the rights of the small trader will go by the board because of the votes of the Government Party. I consider this to be progressive legislation. In the long term it is in the interests of the consumer who is the most vital factor in this aspect of Irish life. We must be concerned about the consumer. In the short term the consumer may gain but, when the battle is over and the small trader has been wiped out, the consumer will pay the piper. The consumer will be faced with the prospect of monopoly supermarkets. There will be one price to be paid, and no alternative.
As a layman I believe below cost selling should be banned. In 1972 we went half way towards that by introducing legislation which banned the advertising of below cost selling. I am very concerned about the grim determination of five multinational companies to wipe out the small trader even at the cost of five years' losses to ensure a complete takeover of the Irish trade. We know why they can carry that loss. They have massive resources, many of them imported from abroad, and they are prepared to fight it out to the finish. We know what the finish will be. They will win. The small trader will be the loser and the consumer will be the final loser.
I read a supermarket advertisement recently which referred to price war prices. That is a clear indication of their vicious determination to eradicate people who have always been part of our community. Since I was a young boy the small trader was regarded as a man who served us well at all hours, every day, in good and in bad times. In bad times we had the "book" as it was called. As elected representatives we owe it to the small traders to ensure that they, their families and their employees, have an equitable share of the market, and a fair opportunity to fight for survival in the eighties against the might of the multinationals.
The price cutting campaign is a gimmick. If they were genuine in their effort to reduce prices they would give a greater spread over the needs of the consumer. Instead they pick on several items of lesser importance to get people into the shop. After that you are at the mercy of their gimmicks. They are very selective. They will not service a non-viable area. They are prepared to go into a substantial market area only. They are not prepared to serve the public where losses may be involved.
As spokesman on employment for my party I am also concerned that the excessive development of the supermarket system has affected the food processing industry to a great extent. There were 1,200 jobs lost in that industry last year. We had 35,000 people employed in that industry. Unless serious steps are taken to curtail the sale of foreign processed goods through supermarkets there will be further substantial redundancies in the processing industry.
One question bedevils me. Where is the Government's concern, as stated in their 1977 manifesto, to develop and promote our food processing industry? The vast majority of the supermarkets are not concerned with the Buy Irish campaign. This can be confirmed by anybody looking at the shelves in a supermarket to see where the goods were made. The supermarkets are not concerned about our jobs, our economy, or our people.
Another aspect which has helped the supermarkets in their efforts to beat the small traders is their lack of interest in the trade union movement, salary structures and proper wages for their staff. Travelling through the country I can see that they employ young cheap labour. By under paying their staffs they can cut prices. As I said, I presume the Bill is doomed. I am concerned and I will continue to be concerned about the small shopkeepers. Unless legislation is enacted by whatever Dáil is here after 5 May to defend our small traders they will face a doomsday situation.
I should like to give the House a resume of my credentials when I speak in support of this Bill. My father was a small shopkeeper. I am sure the Minister will be glad to hear I am a qualified and trained supermarket manager. In my day we ran a chain of supermarkets and a wholesale group in the west of Ireland, not as far down as Mayo but in Sligo and Donegal. Sometimes I wonder why, but I gave it all up to represent the people of Donegal in this House. Twenty years ago I was a supermarket manager in London and all we were concerned with was building up our turnover and making as much profit and as much commission as we could. When H. Williams opened their first supermarket here in Dublin——
The Deputy should not mention names of firms or of individuals.
The first supermarket was opened in Dublin and when I came back from England a year or two later we opened the second supermarket in Sligo and we gradually built up a chain of three supermarkets. Of course the square footage involved 17 or 18 years ago was quite small in comparison to presentday supermarkets. In those days a supermarket measured around 2,000 to 4,000 square feet. They were not on the massive scale of the hyper stores in the city at present. Some of these massive establishments are bigger than 30,000 square feet. The supermarkets are not the only attraction. They have possibly two or three acres of free car parking space around them and also nowadays supermarkets are combined with a butchers shop, a drapers shop, a chemist and so on. A supermarket can sell anything that anyone would want and this creates the tremendous attraction.
I do not object to the attraction but I object to multiples being determined to put a lot of the smaller shops out of business. This is not just a party political thing and the Minister should know this. Ten years ago there were 15,000 shops here and they have now been reduced to 7,500. Over 50 per cent of them have gone. From my experience in the business I know what these big supermarkets are liable to do and I would be very concerned if the Minister had not some legislation in mind to introduce here. Our Bill is not perfect and as a spokesman said last night we would not necessarily introduce it in this form were we in Government with the kind of advice and expertise that the Government have. The Minister should at least give us a commitment that he has some legislation along these lines to safeguard the welfare of small shopkeepers.
Groups such as VG, Mace, Spar and NMC were set up to safeguard the livelihood of small shopkeepers. In such a group they could combine their purchasing power. This is important because as we know the price is based on the number of case lots that any firm or group can purchase. These groups were also set up to introduce special offers and they had the advice of experts in marketing. However the multi-nationals have outpaced these groups because many of them do not need to make a profit like the small shopkeeper. An English firm with a number of outlets here lost millions in Irish trading last year but they are not worried because the parent firm in England has made hundreds of millions of pounds and they can write off one against the other. Their thinking is that they do not mind losing money for a short time because in the long term when they have the market to themselves prices will gradually be increased and consumers will have nowhere else to go and they will gradually make up their losses. I defy any supermarket organisation to contradict that.
There will always be a place for the small efficient corner shopkeeper because that person is willing to work until 10 or 11 at night for his livelihood. There will also be a place for the small shop beside a supermarket because the overflow from the supermarket will keep that shop alive. However over the past 10 years nearly 50 per cent of the small shopkeepers have gone to the wall. Unless legislation is introduced shortly a lot more shops will close up. There is legislation to curb the size of supermarkets in England, France, Holland and Belgium. There is legislation in all the countries around us but we have not awakened to the fact that legislation is needed here.
This Bill may not be exactly right but there are some good points in it. This Bill says that any supermarket organisation over 5,000 square feet wishing to open here should get a licence from the Minister. That is a reasonable thing to ask. We are not asking existing supermarkets to get a licence to operate. We are only asking for a licence for new supermarkets. Surely it is terrifying to realise that five supermarket chains in Dublin city control 70 per cent of the entire retail turnover of the city. Is it too much to ask the Minister to guarantee that three supermarket chains combined should not have more than 45 per cent of the market. If legislation is not introduced and the small shopkeepers come to us in a few years' time we will not be talking about a 45 per cent share of the market but possibly about a 70 per cent share of the market for three supermarket chains.
I am all for low prices and fair competition but I condemn the present setup where supermarkets are undercutting each other. We all know from our experience that we can get people into our store by picking out four or five items and selling them below cost. The items generally picked will be butter, sugar, cornflakes and so on. Few of these supermarket chains have not picked three or four of this type of item to entice people into their stores. We know also that many of these supermarkets are not making their profits out of the grocery section — much of their turnover may be from the grocery section — but a lot of their profit emanates from the hardware, soft goods, wines and drapery sections, commodities having nothing whatever to do with the retailing of food. These people are tremendously organised as far as merchandising is concerned and, once they entice people into their shops, impulse buying takes place. They do not mind losing 2p on two lbs. of sugar or 3p on a packet of cornflakes, because if they manage to sell a pair of shoes probably they will get approximately £2 back on that sale alone.
Of late I have wondered whether we have gone stark, staring mad when we walk into any of our supermarkets today. Unlike the supermarkets about which I was speaking, of 2,000 or 3,000 square feet only, those nowadays are not interested in selling Irish goods. I can remember ten or 15 years ago when cornflakes were manufactured here, when Willwoods were going strong on the far side of the city selling Irish products. I can remember Irish eggs and chickens being sold here. I would ask the Minister the next time he goes into a supermarket to lift the packet of cornflakes and see where they have been manufactured, or the pot of jam, or packet of biscuits. The chances are that it will be no longer Jacobs or Bolands but some other brand imported from England or Germany. What is even worse, lift a box of eggs and see where they have come from. Today one in every three eggs eaten in southern Ireland is imported from Britain or Northern Ireland. In addition, one in every four chickens eaten in southern Ireland is imported from Northern Ireland. The point I am making is that these people do not give two damns as long as they can get their commodities cheaper than the small shopkeeper, cheaper than the groups. They do not give two damns about unemployment in Ireland at present. Of late I have asked myself are we sane at all here, when one sees the amount of imported goods being used, the amount of food eaten in southern Ireland which has been imported, when the next day in the papers we see an unemployment figure of 130,000. Unless we get across the message to housewives, to storekeepers, to stock Irish goods, to promote and merchandise them, it will only be a matter of time before practically every egg, chicken and packet of biscuits eaten in Ireland is imported.
This might not be a perfect Bill but, before this country goes down on its knees, before the remaining small shopkeepers go down on their knees, before another 2,000 or 3,000 of them have to close their doors because of unfair competition, let us look into our hearts and realise that this is indeed unfair competition. The multinationals in this country do not care whether they make £200,000 today because they know they will make a lot more in four or five years' time. Somebody once said that nobody gains from a war. Nobody will gain from this war. In the long term the people who will lose will be the shopkeepers, the housewives, who will eventually be asked to pay the piper to get their goods, thereby ensuring that these multinationals make the millions they do in other countries.
The current situation here in which multinational groups can capture such a huge slice of our grocery trade would have met with all-party disapproval heretofore. I am disappointed this evening that we have had no commitment from the Minister that the Government will really tackle this problem in order to curtail the development of these multinational supermarket groups and their chains around the country. I would have thought that the Fianna Fáil Party, the present Government, would have agreed with the Labour Party on this motion. Indeed, I would have thought that all three parties would have been in agreement on this subject and I am really disappointed that there is not this cooperative spirit which is needed in regard to this very important matter. The present Government represent a group of people many of whom were small farmers, shopkeepers or business people in the past. I put it to the two Government representatives sitting here this evening to look inside their own cumainn throughout the length and breadth of the country and establish whom they represent. The present Government were not sent here by the multinationals. They were sent here to do a job on behalf of the people of Ireland. That is why this Bill is so relevant. Unless the direction the Government are taking at present is realised, unless they are fully aware of exactly what they are doing, then they have completely lost sight of and are out of touch with the people they represent.
We are speaking here this evening about the uncurtailed development of supermarkets in this country. We are speaking of a situation in which the major portion of our grocery trade is moving out of the hands of Irish men and women. We in Fine Gael — I should like this to be clearly understood — are in favour of supermarkets, we are in favour of progress, we are in favour of the consumer. But we are not in favour — and this is where we differ from the present Government — of allowing these multinational chains and supermarket groups to continue to develop, the ultimate result of which will be the total elimination of other people engaged in the business. We want progress, we want growth, but we do not want them at the expense of other people involved in this very important sector of our grocery trade.
I cannot understand why the Government have not taken action before now. With a general election in the offing, I should have thought the present Government would have had the commonsense to realise what a major issue this is with the people of Ireland who are concerned at what is happening at present in the grocery trade. The people are concerned about the growth in the importation of every type of food sold in supermarkets. The Government have refused to take any action. There is no check on the funds that are paid into political parties. I believe that it is necessary to have such checks carried out. Why do the multinationals continue to wield the power they are exercising at the moment?
A large supermarket group have stated that they intend to continue the price war until they wipe out their opposition. That is the most ruthless statement I have ever heard. Who are the opposition that particular supermarket group intend to wipe out? They are a number of Irish supermarket groups and small grocery shops throughout the country. We have a duty to ensure, irrespective of what price war is going on, that they can continue in business. The power of Dáil Éireann should be used to ensure that those people are not wiped out. It will not be the fault of the Fine Gael Party or the Labour party if those small supermarkets and grocery shops throughout the country go out of business. The blame will rest squarely on the shoulders of the Government because they have waited until it is too late.
This matter has been mentioned on radio, television and in our national newspapers. It has received widespread publicity throughout the country but the Government are not doing anything. The final responsibility rests with the Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. They will have to carry the responsibility for failing to act.
The geography department of UCD carried out a survey late last year and presented a report. I hope that report has been studied by the Minister. I have not been able to verify the accuracy of it but there were some disquieting points raised in it. The report showed that the supermarket chains were manipulating prices to eliminate competition from the small family grocers and the small supermarkets by cut-price selling. Quite a number of our national papers referred to this report. It showed that the large supermarket chains were charging higher prices for food in the poor areas of this city than they were charging in the better off areas. That should have led to immediate action by the Government but nothing has been done. The elderly and the poor people have no means of travelling long distances to where some of the large supermarkets are, if there is not a supermarket in their own area. Perhaps the large supermarket chains know that in the better-off areas of the city people are more selective. This report showed they made excessive profits from the poor areas of the city.
I asked the Minister to investigate what was said in this report and to bring in legislation if necessary. Nothing was done. Some people say that the large supermarkets help to keep down the price of food. When they are making food dearer in the poorer areas of the city it shows the regard they have for consumers. The Minister will not be able to do anything at the moment because we are going into recess. He should certainly do something after the recess. If he does not want to get involved in the low cost selling I will give him an idea which might help. When one goes into a supermarket to buy an item which is being sold at below cost one is permitted to buy one, two or three items but one is not allowed to purchase any more of that particular item. If an article is offered at below cost on a shelf in a supermarket, a purchaser should be allowed to buy out the entire stock if he wishes. If people were allowed to do this below cost selling would be sorted out very quickly.
I am not in favour of below cost selling because of the serious effect it has on small supermarkets and grocery shops throughout the country but people should be allowed to purchase unlimited quantities of whatever items are being sold at below cost. That could wipe out below cost selling very rapidly but I do not understand why the Government are not acting at this stage. All I am asking is that they would find the energy to do something now in this area because if positive action is not taken we will lose up to 80 per cent of our grocery trade. The remaining 20 per cent will be those in the really small towns and villages and in scattered rural areas. These will survive. Before this happens I am confident that the people will decide that they want action and that they will let their views in this respect be known at the next general election, whether that may be in the near future or at the end of the year. I expect this issue to be a major one in that election.
There have been a number of reports in this area, the last one having been commissioned in August 1979. That report was completed in December 1979 and was in the hands of the Minister in November 1980 but during all of that time he allowed a certain situation to develop the result of which has been the price war. We have seen the results of this price war. More than half of the Irish food market has been taken out of the hands of the Irish people and about 50 per cent of that market consists now of imported foods. What further proof does the Minister need before taking action? He must know that there are between 45,000 and 47,000 people involved in the food industry. If some action is not taken now there will be further redundancies in this industry. The action that the Minister is being asked to take is simple and straightforward. It is to curtail the size of these supermarkets, as is happening in many other European countries where the efforts are proving successful. We should have been able to take note of the lesson that we were getting from other countries but we failed to do so. Efforts to limit the size of supermarkets would not prevent the orderly development of these premises. Such efforts together with a ban on below cost selling would have provided the answer to the problem.
The action we are advocating is important, too, in another respect. Life in our towns has been centred around the main streets but what is happening now is that the big supermarket chains are building on the edges of towns, sometimes a mile outside them, with the result that life is going out of the centre of our towns. Such a development cannot be of benefit to our people. The whole structure of life in our towns is being changed by the development of these supermarkets on the outskirts. In many areas such development is causing problems of congestion and so on.
The size of the supermarkets being built is to the detriment of the orderly development of our food industry. We are speaking mainly here about the grocery trade and I shall not depart from that except in passing to ask the Minister to remember that we are speaking about the food industry. Tomorrow evening, perhaps, we shall be speaking about the hardware section of Irish business or about the electrical or some other such aspect of our business activity as they are affected by the takeovers by these multinational chains. This whole process is something that we should be giving a lead in now and that lead can be given by the way in which we tackle the development of the food industry. If we fail to take action in respect of that industry these multinational groups will come in and, having taken over our food industry, will take over also many other sections of our business and industrial life.
We as a nation must learn to stand on our own feet and realise that we are in a competitive world. Having regard to our record in terms of inflation we are losing our competitiveness and because of this we must make every effort to help the people in industrial life to survive. The Minister must understand fully that if we fail to help these people we are failing in our responsibilities. In years to come people will be very critical of the kind of growth which the Government have allowed in this industry.
The Minister's purpose in accepting the report of the Restrictive Practices Commission was to distract public attention from the basic problem of food price increases. The report was a convenient way out. The Minister wishes the public to believe that he is doing something about controlling prices by accepting this report, but the contrary is the case. While supermarkets may reduce the prices of some items, the consumer will suffer in the long term. In many instances similar prices may be offered by other shops in the vicinity but the massive advertising of the large supermarkets succeeds in attracting customers to their premises.
This may be the last opportunity to discuss the matter in this House during the life of the present Government. In my view it will be a major issue in the coming general election. It is a matter which has received considerable attention from the media. This whole question concerns the manufacturing and processing of food, its packaging and distribution and sale to consumers. Jobs are at stake in our food industry and the editors of our national newspapers have a responsibility to examine this matter.
I am disappointed that the Government are opposing this Bill and I believe the people will give them their answer when the general election is called.
I should like to thank those who have contributed to the debate on this Bill. Some of the contributions were very effective and informative and showed that the contributors had a grasp of the problem and saw the efficacy of the Bill in squarely confronting the difficulties which now face the retail grocery industry. Normally a Private Members' Bill is torn to shreds by the Government who have at their disposal the expertise of the parliamentary draftsman in pointing out anomalies and inadequacies in the Bill. I am heartened to note that this has not happened in the case of this Bill.
There was one pathetic effort last night by a Deputy from the Government side who, having been stopped from reading his script, resorted to reading the Bill. All he could say after each section was that the Minister was being given too much power. That may be a fault, but as things stand I would prefer the Minister of the day, even a Fianna Fáil Minister, to have power rather than have it in the hands of multiples and multinationals, where it lies at present.
Where is the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism? Is he afraid to contribute to a debate on a Bill concerning an industry for which he is responsible? Ministers are important and very busy people but I have seen Deputy O'Malley around the House both last week and this week. There may be some excuse in the case of a one-week debate because a Minister may be out of the country, but this Minister is within the precincts of this building and in some minutes will probably vote against this Bill. I am damned if he will come in and speak to defend his action. This surprises me because through the years the one thing Deputy O'Malley has shown is guts but even that seems to be deserting him now.
This Bill has come hot on the heels of the publication of the report of the Restrictive Practices Commission on below cost selling. When that report appeared, having been eagerly awaited by the industry and by all of us in this House, its recommendations were accepted willy-nilly by the Minister.
Section 7 of this Bill deals with below cost selling. There was some excuse for those who compiled the report in not recommending a ban on below cost selling. In 1978 and 1979, when the report was complied, these people had no experience of the kind of vicious price war that has raged here for the past few months. The Minister, however, has not the same excuse. He has had the advantage of reading the report and of seeing this price war in action. With the experience of hindsight he ought to have been able to say that he would have accepted the recommendations in the report on below cost selling were it not for the fact that due to recent experience he now knows it ought to be banned. He flunked it and accepted the recommendations in the report. What do we get from the Minister and from his Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher? A promise that the Restrictive Practices Commission will sit once more to consider the real issue, the trading terms which multiples get from suppliers and manufacturers. This offer is being made despite the fact that the grocery trade — RGDATA, IADT and NAIR, the three arms that represent the trade — are painfully aware that since 1972 a report was available to the Minister giving the exact replies to the specific questions which will be asked to be considered by this promised commission. As these people rightly said, it is a waste of public money and they have publicly expressed their non-desire to take part in their hearings. They can be subpoenaed and summoned to give evidence at the hearings because of the official standing of the commission, but they are going there under protest and reluctantly, and rightly so.
The Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, in a statement issued by the Government Information Services referring to a meeting held between him and the IADT/RGDATA representatives on 12 November 1980, said:
The Minister assured the delegation that he shared the concern of the independent sector of the trade and that he was determined that the correct course of action to deal with these problems be identified and implemented at the earliest possible time.
The problem with Fianna Fáil is that they are forever trying to identify things and never reach the identification stage. I am sure if they had ten murderers in a line up of 11, they would not pick out the one non-murderer. We, are in an economic mess for the same reason, that is, that they will not admit there is a problem nor identify it. The Minister is still trying to identify the problem relating to the grocery industry when any five year old son or daughter of a grocer could tell him in ten minutes what the problem is.
In the commission's report, paragraph 2.21, there is reference to the expansion of multiples.
Most of the multiples indicated that they planned continued expansion. Where one multiple opens a new store in an area already served by another, the trade which the former gains may be largely at the expense of the latter, but over all it is to be expected that the opening of new multiple branches will bring about a further transfer of trade from the independent to the multiple sector.
That is the considered view of the commission. The same view has been expreseed by the Confederation of Irish Industry who gave evidence to this commission. We have now reached the stage where close on 50 per cent of the total trade of £900 million is in the hands of the multiples. Yet the Minister is prepared to sit back and try to identify, according to him, the problem that exists when the problem is staring him in the face. There are none so blind as those who will not see.
This Bill is realistic and implementable. The fact that it has not been torn to shreds by the Government, that it has been accepted as being a practical effort to solve this problem, should mean it will be accepted by the Government, and amended to their way of thinking, without destroying the fundamental parts which deal with the two main factors — the uncontrolled expansion of multiples and below cost selling. The modus operandi in which expansion is to be controlled is practical. I have been careful to draw on existing legislation — for example, the Mergers Act, 1978, and the Casual Trading Act, 1980 — to ensure that the method used to apply control is practical and in accordance with the wishes of the parliamentary drafts people.
On below cost selling the commission recommended that it be allowed to continue. Deputy White, who had some years experience, has given the Minister a lesson in what he should already know. Where below cost selling some items takes place the housewife is paying through the nose for other items. If a multiple store drops 2p, 3p or 10p on the price of a loaf or a pound of butter, they will make not 2p or 10p, but £2 or £3, on a pair of shoes in the footwear section, or they might make £5, £6 or £10 on a suit or a dress in the drapery section. That is the way they operate and it is a well known fact.
We must keep in mind that the multiple outlets account for nearly 50 per cent of the grocery trade. To back up what Deputy White said, only yesterday from no less a man than the Taoiseach, I got the following figures in relation to imports of clothing and footwear. The value in millions of pounds in clothing imports since 1977, when it stood at £90.2 million, is now £201.6 million, and footwear imports have risen from £22.9 million in 1977 to £56.9 million today. These facts are also relevant to food and vegetables, because approximately half of our total food and vegetable requirements are imported.
The Minister sought to wheel the scrum around and be seen as the saviour of the consumers, but he is now off-side If he can stand up and shed crocodile tears for the consumer, why has he allowed prices to spiral over the last three years? Below-cost selling is not favourable to the consumer, and the Minister knows it. The Consumers' Association of Ireland and the Irish Housewifes' Association have expressed that view publicly on radio and television. Two supermarkets who were in on the ground floor and who gave evidence supporting below-cost selling are now screaming for mercy and asking the Minister to intervene.
I should like to thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate and express my dismay and disappointment at the fact that Deputy O'Malley did not have the guts to come into the House and speak to this Bill.
- Barry, Myra.
- Barry, Peter.
- Barry, Richard.
- Belton, Luke.
- Boland, John.
- Bruton, John.
- Burke, Joan.
- Burke, Liam.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Collins, Edward.
- Corish, Brendan.
- Cosgrave, Michael J.
- Creed, Donal.
- D'Arcy, Michael J.
- Deasy, Martin A.
- Donnellan, John F.
- Enright, Thomas W.
- FitzGerald, Garret.
- Flanagan, Oliver J.
- Griffin, Brendan.
- Keating, Michael.
- Kenny, Enda.
- L'Estrange, Gerry.
- Lipper, Mick.
- McMahon, Larry.
- Mannion, John M.
- O'Brien, William.
- O'Keeffe, Jim.
- O'Toole, Paddy.
- Pattison, Séamus.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Ryan, John J.
- Taylor, Frank.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
- Treacy, Seán.
- Tully, James.
- White, James.
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Kit.
- Allen, Lorcan.
- Andrews, David.
- Andrews, Niall.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Doherty, Seán.
- Farrell, Joe.
- Filgate, Eddie.
- Fitzgerald, Gene.
- Fitzpatrick, Tom. (Dublin South-Central).
- Fitzsimons, James N.
- Flynn, Pádraig.
- Fox, Christopher J.
- French, Seán.
- Gallagher, Dennis.
- Gibbons, Jim.
- Keegan, Seán.
- Kenneally, William.
- Killeen, Tim.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Lawlor, Liam.
- Lemass, Eileen.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, Seán.
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Cogan, Barry.
- Conaghan, Hugh.
- Coughlan, Clement.
- Crinion, Brendan.
- Leonard, Tom.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Loughnane, William.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Moore, Seán. Morley, P.J.
- Murphy, Ciarán P.
- Noonan, Michael.
- O'Connor, Timothy C.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- Power, Paddy.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Smith, Michael.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Walsh, Seán.
- Wilson, John P.
- Woods, Michael J.
- Wyse, Pearse.