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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 25 Jun 1992

Vol. 421 No. 6

Estimates, 1992. - Vote 34: Industry and Commerce (Revised Estimate).

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £240,035,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1992, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain subsidies, grants and grants-in-aid.

Last week, the people of Ireland made clear their determination that this country should form an integral part of the European Community that will develop in the final years of this century and into the next. The debate leading to the referendum was, unfortunately, too often sidetracked away from the substantive economic elements of the Maastricht Treaty. In the event, the electorate cut through peripheral issues to the heart of the matter. The endorsement of the Maastricht Treaty by the Irish people was a recognition of the benefits which have already flowed to Ireland from our membership of the Community and an acknowledgment that the future development of our economy will best be secured in a Community where trade barriers will continue to be eliminated and we move further towards a single market in the true sense of the word.

Membership of the Community has been good for Ireland, and without it we would be left in splendid isolation on the edge of Europe with no voice to influence the forces which will largely determine the economic and social development of our country in the decades ahead. It is true that unemployment is at an unacceptably high level here and poses the single greatest economic and social challenge we face as a people. But our position would be far worse outside the community. It is simply not possible for a small, less-developed country today to attempt to build a modern economic structure which has the best possibility of providing adequate employment opportunities and living standards for its people if it remains apart from the mainstream international co-operation and co-ordination which is at the core of the European Community ideal.

For Ireland, one of the most important developments within the Community has been the recognition of the need to promote economic and social cohesion in the member states. This has led to a reform of the Structural Funds with a commitment to Ireland of some £3 billion over the 1989-1993 period. These funds have supported investment at a far higher level than would otherwise have been the case. Programmes sponsored by my Department have been major beneficiaries in this regard.

The Operational Programme for Industry represents the single largest programme supported by the Structural Funds here. It also represents a welcome partnership between the Irish Government and the Commission of the European Communities for the development of Irish industry. The programme, and the funding made available under it, has supported the creation of over 20,000 jobs per year on average in manufacturing industry and international services since 1989. It has also contributed to achieving greater cohesion and intergration between the various industrial promotion measures undertaken by the mainstream development agencies such as the IDA, ABT, SFADCo, Údarás na Gaeltachta and EOLAS and the industry-related measures undertaken by the Department of Labour, FÁS, the Department of Education and the various educational institutions. Most importantly, the increased funding made available to improve the marketing and technological capacity of Irish industry will pay dividends in later years in the form of increased output and employment from the industrial sector.

As the House is aware, several important commitments on cohesion are contained in the Maastricht Treaty. These include a review of the level of funding for structural reform purposes and the application of greater flexibility so that specific needs not at present covered by the funds can be met. These commitments are particularly important for Ireland.

Deputies will note that in Part II of the Estimate, as published, the costs of "Administration" and "Other Services" are now shown separately. Administration expenses relate to those subheads covered by the three year administrative budget agreement between the Minister for Finance and myself and the Secretaries of our respective Departments.

Essentially, they cover the cost of running the Department of Industry and Commerce, for which in 1992 there will be a budget of £14.4 million. Salaries account for some 70 per cent of this amount. I might mention, however, that these costs are offset to a significant extent by a number of income generating areas which are expected to yield some £9 million in 1992. The bulk of this income will come from the services provided by the Patents Office and the Companies Registration Office.

I have already mentioned how programmes sponsored by my Department benefit from Structural Fund support. It is expected that this support will amount to over £90 million in respect of expenditure on my Vote — almost half in respect of the industrial promotion activities of IDA and SFADCo. These moneys are transmitted directly to the Central Fund so that the figures shown in my Estimate represent the gross cost.

In the past year there have been a number of changes in the structure of agencies responsible for industrial promotion and marketing. The Irish Goods Council was merged with Córas Tráchtála to form An Bord Tráchtála, while NADCORP was merged into the Industrial Development Authority. There have also been fundamental changes in the organisational structure of the Department.

Prior to November 1991 this structure was based primarily on four line divisions, three of which dealt with functional aspects of industrial development, each with responsibility for one or more State agencies. The main attraction of this organisational structure was that it provided for a logical and clear-cut division of responsibilities. However, it also had a number of significant disadvantages from the point of view of the responsibility of the Department as a whole for industrial policy: programmes tended to be developed and evaluated from a functional perspective rather than from the perspective of the firms the programmes sought to support; The activities of each of the divisions tended to mirror the separate and sometimes conflicting requirements of the agencies for which they were responsible and effective evaluation of the different functional programmes and agencies and of their overall impact was made more difficult.

Responsibility for the main industrial promotion agencies and associated programmes has now been brought together under one division, with separate divisions dealing with industry, commerce, and trade and EC affairs. A separate, strengthened planning function is also in place. Industrial policy in a broader sense has become the primary focus of departmental activity and the new structure has improved the Department's internal capacity to develop and review policy for their own programmes and to better influence public policy generally in favour of development needs.

I am confident that the revised organisational structure will add to my Department's effectiveness and will enable them to better carry through the approach to industrial policy recommended in the report of the Culliton group.

I have expressed the view on a number of occasions since taking responsibility for the Department of Industry and Commerce in 1989 that a fundamental review of industrial policy is required to bring a new and more effective approach to a policy area which is so important in providing employment opportunities and improved living standards for our people. For that reason I established the Industrial Policy Review Group in June of last year and asked them to report within six months on public policy generally as it affects industrial development and to identify measures for adoption which would form the basis for the development of the indigenous sector of Irish industry over the medium to long term with a view to increasing employment and wealth creation.

We have had the opportunity to debate the report of the group on a number of occasions in this House. The group did all they were asked to do and more. They spelt out in broad terms the main elements of a new industrial strategy for the 1990s and beyond. Their recommendations generally have received generous and widespread support from all sections of this House and from various interests outside, particularly industry.

The central theme of the recommendations of the group is that industrial policy needs to be defined widely. It needs to encompass not only the grants and supports of development agencies, which for too long have masqueraded as industrial policy here, but also other areas of public policy which directly impact on investment decisions in the industrial sector and on the output, productivity and additional value created within Ireland from this investment.

The recommendations of the group are set within such a comprehensive approach to industrial policy. These recommendations are sensible, practical and mutually supportive. They cover not only the traditional scope of industrial promotion instruments in the form of grants and incentives but also taxation, education, training, transportation, infrastructure, competition policy and the institutional arrangements for industrial policy formulation and implementation. The logic and force of the recommendations are such that I believe they will be readily adopted in large measure by the Government Departments and State agencies concerned. The Government have already given their support to the approach adopted by the group.

A task force comprising the heads of the main Government departments on whom responsibility falls for the implementation of the bulk of the recommendations, together with private sector representatives and an independent chairman, has been established to follow up on the recommendations. I am glad that the task force has worked very well in carrying through the Culliton recommendations and I expect very soon to have specific decisions from the Government arising from the work of the task force.

Under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, the target is to create 20,000 gross jobs in each year of the programme in manufacturing and international services. Despite the difficult trading environment, we came close to meeting this in 1991 with the creation of more than 18,500 jobs between the three State agencies — IDA, Shannon Development and Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Some 12,500 new first time jobs were created and recruited in new and expanding IDA-backed companies around the country, while a further 3,500 jobs were filled in companies bringing their employment levels back up to their previous peak levels. The new jobs have arisen equally in Irish and overseas companies. One thousand four hundred jobs were created in the Irish industry sector in the Mid west region, which is the responsibility of Shannon Development, along with 552 new jobs in the Shannon Free Zone.

During 1991, the IDA succeeded in securing more than 92 new greenfield investments — 42 of these in manufacturing and international services and 50 in financial services. This considerable achievement resulted in the IDA substantially maintaining their market share of internationally mobile new business. The improved competitiveness in companies, and in the economy, has also helped the manufacturing base increase its share of international markets resulting in a 3.3 per cent growth in output and an 8 per cent growth in exports, in real terms, during the last year.

Overseas industry in Ireland continues to deepen its involvement and importance to the economy, with a total annual spend in the economy of almost £4.1 billion, an increase of over 50 per cent in real terms since 1983, while linkages into Irish-owned companies continue to strengthen, with well in excess of £1 billion per annum now spent on Irish raw materials and components and almost £1.3 billion on Irish services. Many of the project announcements in 1991 were for expansions, demonstrating that overseas companies are deepening their roots in Ireland.

Irish-owned medium and large companies, in the non-food sector, are also showing substantial growth in Irish economy expenditures — since 1987 they have increased their spending in Ireland by 23 per cent to nearly £1.8 billion. This contrasts sharply with the stagnant trend in the early and mid-eighties. It also shows the effect of the improved competitiveness of these companies and of the Irish economy in recent years.

In a number of industry sectors traditionally dominated by Irish companies, a more focused segment approach to business development and marketing has continued to lead to increased exports, despite the general decline in those markets. For example, furniture exports from Irish companies mainly to the UK increased by 8 per cent over the past year, despite a substantial decline in the UK market.

SFADCo's key results for 1991 included: 1,419 new jobs were created in the Irish industry sector in the region; 552 new jobs were created in the Shannon Free Zone; the company assisted 50 new business start-ups, which together have an employment potential of up to 700; 27 firms at Shannon and in the region's indigenous sector were supported by Shannon Development to carry out expansion programmes, which are expected to result in over 550 new jobs, and infrastructural work commenced on the 110 acre Shannon world aviation park, and work continued on the expansion programme at the national technological park, Plassey.

In relation to the commerce area, I would like to refer briefly to developments in two areas, legal metrology and investigations under the Companies Act, 1990.

Legal metrology relates to the activities of the weights and measures office of my Department and the enforcement of weights and measures legislation through the inspectorate, which in the case of Dublin and Dún Laoghaire, is provided by the local authorities concerned, while in the rest of the country, this task is performed by Garda sergeants.

The weights and measures office of my Department is responsible for the approval of new designs of metrological instruments, the provision of national standards, the regular recalibration of inspectors' standards, the general direction of the inspectorate from a technical perspective and generally ensuring that the law is enforced throughout the country. It has become clear in recent years that while the checking procedures are reasonably satisfactory, some of the equipment is inadequate, while the fragmented organisational structure is almost certainly not the most efficient method of enforcement.

At my Department's request, a detailed examination of the structure and organisation of the service was undertaken last year by the German Metrology Institute with a view to making recommendations as to how best the service could be modernised. The report of the institute has been received and is currently under consideration. I would hope to be in a position to take final decisions soon on the revamping of the service.

I instigated three investigations under the new provisions of the Companies Act, 1990. One of these is still ongoing and is to investigate and report on the persons who have been financially interested in the success or failure of Hoddle Investments Ltd., and Chestvale Properties Ltd., arising from the purchase by Telecom Éireann of the former Johnston Mooney and O'Brien site at Ballsbridge, Dublin. The investigation has been subject to an abnormal amount of litigation, including three judicial review proceedings, the judgments on which were in the inspector's favour. The inspector continues to endeavour to pursue his task vigorously, despite continued litigation, the most recent involving yet further injunction proceedings taken against the inspector. As I indicated previously, I believe that procedurally the investigations which have taken place so far have substantially stood the test they faced and have, in practice, demonstrated the usefulness of the 1990 Act.

The year 1992 is the first full year of operation of An Bord Tráchtála — the Irish Trade Board which was created by the Trade and Marketing Promotion Act, 1991. The board resulted from a merger of Córas Tráchtála and the Irish Goods Council and was established to ensure that the State provides marketing support to Irish companies from a single source. The circumstances that face Irish companies both in the local market-place and the wider European market are changing radically. To survive in these new circumstances, and especially to thrive, our companies must develop and deepen their marketing efforts. The role of An Bord Tráchtála is to assist companies in this area in the most efficient and costeffective way possible.

The 1992 Estimate allocation for An Bord Tráchtála of £33.3 million is some £900,000 higher than the 1991 outturn. While the 1992 grant-in-aid is somewhat less than the proposals published in the Programme for Industrial Development 1989-1993, it nonetheless represents an ongoing and continuing commitment by the Government to support the marketing efforts of Irish firms.

The strength of our successful Irish exporters will lie in differentiation, quality and service. Successfully following these strategies requires a commitment to marketing, a commitment to identifying customer needs and a commitment to meeting those needs at a profit. The focus of An Bord Tráchtála's work is about identifying market opportunities for Irish companies and helping them in a developmental way to avail of those opportunities. A good example of this approach is the regional markets programme which was initiated in 1989 and focuses on the most dynamic and fastest growing regions of Europe and the United States of America. It aims to achieve an intensive involvement for Irish companies in these regions by facilitating marketing alliances, joint ventures, technology transfers and other forms of co-operative business alliances.

The application of science and technology to industry is, today, an important element of every successful country's industrial development strategy. In Ireland, the area was identified as deserving of special attention in 1987, when the Government initiated the special science and technology development programme with a budget for that year of just over £3 million. Since 1987, this programme has been expanded considerably. Last year, the allocation for the programme was £22.163 million, and this year £27.336 million is being provided to further expand the scope of the programme. The programme is supported at the maximum EC support rate of 75 per cent, which is an indication that the EC shares our concern at the need to improve in this area. The science and technology development programme comprises a number of different measures, including programmes in advanced technology, higher education — industry linkages and regional infrastructure development.

The first priority for industrial development must be the maintenance of an internationally competitive operating environment for industry. If we can combine the competitive advantages gained through the social partnership programmes of the past four years with a more sharply focused national approach to key industrial and international service sectors, I believe that companies can continue their structured programmes of growth in European and other world markets. Increasing Irish companies' market share in Europe is the only way forward to sustainable job-creation in Ireland. One of the most important conclusions of the Industrial Policy Review Group was that there are, "no single policy actions that can ensure a quick solution to the problem of unemployment". Our emphasis will be on building skills and competitive strengths as far as possible in and throughout the markets. The role of the State will be to support and facilitate that process by helping firms to upgrade their capabilities to serve and compete in defined markets and to help create the environment which encourages the investment in industrial projects necessary for firms to achieve their potential for growth and development and which will sustain existing employment and create new job opportunities throughout the economy.

I apologise to the House for the fact that I have to leave the debate to attend a Cabinet meeting that started at 11 a.m. It is not my wish to leave and I apologise particularly to the Deputies who will be contributing. I will be more than ably represented by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Rourke, who will reply, and I will read the proceedings of the debate later.

I accept the Minister's wish to attend a Cabinet meeting. I will be asking a number of questions to which the Minister of State may reply. I am intrigued that the Minister devoted so much time to legal metrology. This is not listed in the State directory as one of the functions of his Department, yet he appears to consider it a very important function. Perhaps the Minister of State would say why the Book of Estimates does not provide any sum for legal metrology in 1991, while almost £600,000 is provided for this year. There must be some significance in the Minister's bringing this to the attention of the House. Perhaps the background will be explained.

This is one of the first occasions since the publication of the Culliton report and the implementation of the Finance Act that I have had the opportunity of addressing this House on matters pertaining to business. I wish first to reinforce the point made this morning by Deputy Quinn and on a number of occasions by Deputy Noonan about the importance to the business community of the Committee Stage debate on the Finance Bill. This year the transcript of that debate will not be available until the autumn to accounting firms, solicitors and business generally to enable them to understand the fine print of the Finance Act.

I say this while you, a Cheann Comhairle, are in the Chair because the staffing arrangements of this House are very inadequate and I expect you as the Chairman of this House to go to the Government and see that the various committees of the House are properly staffed so that they can function efficiently. This applies also to the committee of which I am Chairman, the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities. We were allocated staff some 12 months ago but they were hardly hot in their seats when they were borrowed for other committees. No one committee is properly served; neither is any section of the House. Some of the people who were meant to serve the Joint Committee on European Affairs were engaged in serving the Special Committee on the Finance Bill which was meeting at the same time. We cannot function and serve democracy properly unless this House is properly funded and staffed.

In this case I am speaking to the Chair, who will apreciate the point since he has received many representations from the political parties. If we are to operate as a proper Parliament and oversee the flood of legislation and proposals from the European Community, the committee of which I am Chairman, and all the committees of the House and this Chamber, must be properly staffed. Transcripts of debates must be made available to interested parties. The most important legislation we have passed is the Finance Bill and it will be three months before the transcript of the debate is available.

The Culliton report set out an analysis of existing policy and pointed to certain institutional policy changes required to improve policy towards business. The Government set up a task force to look at the implementation of these proposals but as yet, six months after the publication of the report, we have not seen action. The Minister said he expects to have decisions taken shortly in this regard.

The Government also set up last year an interdepartmental committee on employment but we have heard nothing from that committee. Tourism, for some strange reason, was excluded from the Review of Industrial Policy, even though it is one of our largest international services. Having realised their omission in this regard, the Government set up a task force on tourism from which nothing has emerged since its establishment six months ago.

The Government also sabotaged the Fine Gael proposal for an independently chaired forum on jobs which would meet outside the politically charged atmosphere of the Oireachtas. It was our intention that in that forum public representatives would attend, as in the case of the New Ireland Forum, as members of political parties, drawing on submissions by groupings who have views on the jobs crisis. It was intended by us in Fine Gael that, as with the New Ireland Forum, the jobs forum would not meet as Government and Opposition. It was intended that Ministers would attend as politicians with power to act but not as spokespersons for their Departments. The Government's jobs committee which was set up to sabotage the Fine Gael proposal on a jobs forum is a toothless wonder and they have so far made no impact on the work they are doing.

I ask the Government, before making decisions on future policy towards industry, to consider the issues and proposals raised in the Fine Gael policy document "Towards a Jobs Economy" which was published last month. This is a comprehensive view of the jobs economy which contains very firm proposals. It is extraordinary that an Opposition party can produce a document of that detail containing a long list of suggestions in a very limited period. The Government, with all their resources, having set up three or four committees, have produced nothing in the same period. We can do it within a few weeks but the Government cannot do it within 12 months.

I ask the Minister not to give foreign- based enterprises higher levels of assistance than home-based businesses, as suggested in the Culliton report. I have listed the arguments before and I will not repeat them. I do not believe that the country of ownership is a valid basis for assessing the level of assistance which should be provided. In any event, to make decisions on State assistance to enterprises on the basis of the country of ownership is likely to be interpreted as being against the spirit of European competition law and possibly illegal.

I do not believe that the agencies for assisting business should be divided into one dealing with foreign business and one dealing with indigenous business as suggested by Culliton. The agencies giving support to business should be split on the grounds of specialised functions, not on the basis of the country of ownership of those businesses which they are assisting. Fine Gael propose to establish one agency to promote and encourage investment and one agency to develop and support marketing capabilities. That approach is much more logical and more likely to produce results than the strategy suggested by Culliton. There are large parts of the report with which I agree but these are two areas where I do not agree.

I should be grateful if the Minister would indicate when decisions on implementing the Culliton report are to be taken and announced as there is considerable uncertainty being generated as to what future policy holds for business. The Minister when replying might give some information in this regard.

In the midst of the establishment of all these committees and task forces on employment and industrial policy from which nothing has yet emerged, the Government introduced a budget and a Finance Bill which demonstrated a blatant anti-business attitude. As the Minister for Industry and Commerce and also as somebody whom, in fairness, I felt always had a high regard for the need to encourage enterprise in this country, I fail to see how he not only supported but actually tried to claim credit for the budget strategy in the Finance Act that implemented it. The budget was inspired by the dual aims of meeting the Progressive Democrats' demands for lower tax rates and by getting public servants to stave off pay increases which had already been granted to them by the Minister for Finance in his earlier role as Minister for Labour. The Minister for Finance took his revenge on the Progressive Democrats by giving in to the tax rate demands but at the cost of an anti-business budget strategy.

Incentives to encourage enterprise and risk taking were removed across the board irrespective of any assessment of the benefits which they brought. In addition, the Minister granted additional powers to the Revenue Commissioners although it was plain to see that the Revenue Commissioners do not utilise the full powers which they already have. To rub salt into the wounds the Minister for Finance had the audacity to claim on radio that the reason he was granting additional powers to the Revenue Commissioners arose from what he termed "business scandals". All of those so-called scandals — and the Minister for Industry and Commerce referred to them this morning — took place not in business transactions within the private sector but rather where they were an interface with the public sector.

The Irish Sugar Company, Telecom Éireann and the export credit insurance issues all operated in the public sector at the time of these alleged scandals. Yet this is the excuse the Minister for Finance uses for giving increased powers to the Revenue Commissioners. All of these scandals — I have had to point this out on a number of occasions — did not relate to the private sector but to the public State-owned sector. Rather than setting up the private sector as a bogeyman the Minister for Finance and the Government would be better occupied ensuring proper supervision of Government activities and enterprises.

The Minister for Finance seems to believe that everybody engaged in private sector activity is part of some big business conspiracy to rip off the consumer. Many people engaged in the private sector are self-employed, either operating on their own or employing small numbers of people. They operate under tremendous pressures and very often make little or modest sums of money despite long hours of work. These aspects of being in business on one's own do not seem to cross the minds of the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Industry and Commerce who should have been making the points I am now making at the Cabinet table instead of agreeing to the 1992 anti-business budget. To offer a tax rate of 10 per cent for placing your money on deposit in a savings account may be attractive to a civil servant in the Department of Finance but it hardly compares with the risks involved in borrowing money to try to establish a business which will employ people. The attitude of the Minister for Finance towards investment is a criticism which has been voiced over and over again by all sections of the business community. The perverse sense of where incentives are needed in Ireland, underlying this budget, was indicative of an anti-business attitude which ran right through the Finance Act.

The publicity surrounding inquiries and tribunals in Ireland is having a negative impact on the image of doing business here. I am sorry to have to say that is true. This is not to say that such inquiries should not be carried out. It does, however, point to a major indirect cost which they have on the image of Ireland and on business performance. Whether the cost is worth while will depend on the outcome of the inquiries and the extent to which they can help establish accurately not only what went on, but also why and how various happenings might have occurred and, more importantly, how wrongdoings, if any occurred, can be prevented in the future.

Unless the inquiries come up with the goods on these matters they will have been expensive not only in terms of the direct costs of carrying them out but also indirectly in terms of the damage done to the image of Irish business, both at home and abroad. Comments by Ministers without being in possession of the full facts in advance of the findings of the inquiries are not helpful.

The apparent manner in which the Minister for Industry and Commerce has behaved during the course of the inquiries suggests a certain vindictiveness, the carping attitude he has adopted and the number of times he is alleged to have telephoned one of the inspectors in the inquiry has done very little to restore people's confidence in the way the State controls affairs within its own remit.

I trust the Deputy will steer clear of matters which may be deemed sub judice.

You will be glad to hear I am finished with the subject. It is on ensuring that laxity in administrative and supervisory procedures do not allow opportunities for wrongdoing to exist that attention must now be focused. Provided the systems and structures are in place and there are people to operate them, there should be no scope for individuals wrongfully to make large gains at the expense of their own company or of those with whom they are doing business. I hope that the results of the various inquiries and tribunals will undo the damage which the process of carrying out the inquiries and tribunals is causing.

I would like to turn to another issue for which the Minister has responsibility, namely, competition policy. When the Competition Act was introduced last year and guillotined through this House without allowing for adequate discussion on it, I drew the Minister's attention to the fact that there would be many occasions where businesses would be reluctant to take on a large company in seeking an injunction to prevent what may be termed as "an abuse of a dominant position" or other actions which would be contrary to the Competition Act. The practical difficulties in business in Ireland is that people are reluctant to engage in legal redress against large potential customers or suppliers. A number of such instances have been brought to my attention since the debate on the Competition Act last year. That is one of the dangers of importing — as this Act has done — European legislation into a small country like Ireland. What may be adequate or suitable and may operate in America, Britain, Germany or France will not operate in a small country like Ireland where everybody as it were takes in each other's washing, where we all know one another. It is not satisfactory to expect small companies who feel they are being wronged to take large companies to court where they would hope, sometime in the future, to be a customer or a supplier to that large company.

There is provision in the Competition Act for the Minister to make references to the competition authority under section 11 of the Act. He may make a request for a study and analysis to be carried out by the competition authority. Can the Minister of State tell me — on the Minister's behalf — whether the Minister has made any such requests, in respect of which matters he has done so, and whether he will publish the reports of any studies and analysis carried out since the Act was introduced? I would also like to know what is the procedure by which the Minister decides to make a request to the competition authority. Does he get representations? Do his civil servants say he should do it? Do the competition authority come back and say: "If you ask us to investigate this then we will do it"? I would like to know how that is done.

Under section 14 of the Competition Act the Minister may make requests to the competition authority to carry out an investigation as to whether there has been an abuse of a dominant position. Again, I would like to know whether the Minister has made any such requests in the past year and what were the findings from such investigations. No procedure is laid down in the Act and I would like to know what procedure he uses when he is seeking such an investigation.

As a result of representations made me a number of businesses I would like the Minister to consider whether he will make a request to the competition authority under section 14 in a particular matter which I will list here. The State has a monopoly in the supply of telecommunications service through Telecom Éireann. That company are engaged in a joint venture in supplying a security alarm system to households in Ireland which operates on a radio controlled basis through the telephone service. Many small operators within the security alarm business are concerned at the extent of the marketing and advertising being carried out by the new company in which Telecom Éireann are involved.

The fact that Telecom Éireann rely in this new company on their own name and their own logo, and make references in their brochures to the fact that some other businesses in this sector might not be as trustworthy as Telecom, has led to concern that Telecom Éireann are abusing a dominant position. Given the relative size of Telecom Éireann and the smaller operators within the security alarm business, it is not surprising that there is a reluctance to engage in the cost of going to court in order to establish whether an abuse exists. Furthermore, many of the security alarm systems people might see themselves as either suppliers to or customers of Telecom Éireann in the future and again are reluctant on these grounds to take any action through the courts. On the basis of what I have said, would the Minister consider making a request to the competition authority under section 14 to have the security alarm business investigated and in particular to establish whether Telecom Éireann's activities in this sphere constitute an abuse of a dominant position? That is one of the points that was raised in the House. I understood that at the time the Minister gave an undertaking that State companies and local authorities were included under the provisions of the Competition Act. From what has happened since, it is clear that they are not.

In relation to the future of business in Ireland, I am pleased that the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was carried. The emphasis must switch away from the funds that can be obtained from Europe towards the opportunities that should exist within Europe for businesses in Ireland. In order for businesses in Ireland to be fully capable of availing of the opportunities that exist it is important that all information regarding the European Community and other international issues is freely available.

I should be grateful if the Deputy would now bring his speech to a close.

I shall do that. I should like to make one final comment. One criticism heard frequently during the campaign on the Maastricht Treaty referendum was that there was a lack of information and that the Government had failed to inform the people generally of what was involved in the Maastricht Treaty. Exactly the same thing is happening in relation to business and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The agricultural sector is the only sector receiving attention under GATT. It is important to remove the uncertainty in the business community. The Government should engage in a process of giving information to business on precisely what is involved and what opportunities are available to business and sectors other than the agricultural sector. In this regard I hope that the Minister might consider publishing a White Paper for business.

This is an appropriate time to pass comment on the performance of a Minister in charge of what ought to be one of the most central and dynamic Government Departments, expecially at a time when the structural challenges facing our economy have contributed to the worst unemployment record in the history of the State. Unfortunately — tragically so far as the unemployed are concerned — today we are talking about the invisible Department and the invisible Minister. He is the Minister who commissioned the Culliton report and since publication of that report he has worn it as if it were the laurels worn by ancient emperors. However, the Minister is yet to actually do anything about the institutional, legislative or policy changes recommended by the report. If the report ever forms a monument to the Minister, it will be a monument to his inactivity.

I wish to address the Culliton report and its implications in some detail, because the report is so important for the unemployment crisis. There are other matters to which I also want to refer, such as the inquiries set up by the Minister. If time permits after I have dealt with the unemployment crisis, which is our major crisis, I intend to say a few words about those inquiries and the Minister's involvement in them.

Since the establishment some years ago of the Department of Labour and the apparent responsibility of that Department to publish the unemployment figures, the focus and the responsibility for unemployment have moved away from the Department that is relevant to the whole issue with the result that when rising unemployment figures are published we hear comments from the Department of Labour and the Minister for Labour while very little, if anything, is said by the Minister responsible for unemployment. The only thing done has been a juggling with the unemployment figures, a change in the rules by which the figures are calculated, in order to provide an artificially low figure. Such a practice certainly will not solve the problem. In the face of the appalling human crisis of unemployment and the certainty that the crisis will get worse as the years go on, it is time that the Government parties began to realise that the unemployment crisis cannot be addressed if they continue to think of the issue as one that can be swept under the carpet.

Nowadays it is noticeable that Fianna Fáil have simply stopped talking about the crisis. Of course, the Progressive Democrats never even began to talk about the crisis other than to issue the usual bland comments about confidence in the economy and tax reform for the better off. For years most other parties in the House have consistently adopted the view that if the Government created the climate the jobs would follow. We have heard that statement over and over again. However, that has not happened. It is only now that there is beginning to be an acceptance that the policies followed have been a complete failure. We in the Labour Party have campaigned for a long time to persuade the Government to intervene in the jobs crisis in several ways. We have argued that the most important intervention the Government could now take would be to start building a consensus around the issue to make sure that unemployment becomes the number one priority for the State and the community.

Building a consensus has always implied very firmly that the Government should expand and build on the social partnership model in place at the moment to enable other forces in the community to contribute to solutions. That is why in the past the Labour Party have called for a new partnership on jobs, a radical development and extension of the social partnership model to encompass an objective and detailed analysis of the problem and a new approach to solutions. That is also why the Labour Party put so much work into efforts to get off the ground an all-party committee on unemployment, a committee based on a structure that would enable the inclusion of all the key players and having terms of reference that would enable the development of consensus for radical change.

Most objective commentators examining the structure that has emerged from discussions between the Labour Party and the Government will recognise that the Labour Party have made a major input in the framing of those terms. Of course, the terms are not perfect. We have made compromises to try to secure for discussion a model that reflects the different objectives of all of the parties involved. It is also true to say that the jobs committee now set up entails a degree of risk, especially for Opposition parties, whose instinct and role is to oppose. To my memory, this is the first official document to be distributed by this Government — and by that I mean any Government going back to 1987 — which uses the word "crisis" in relation to unemployment. This is the first time that a committee structure has been established with the consent of the Government that cannot be dominated by the Government themselves. Above all, this is the first time in the history of the State that an agreement between political parties leaves room and scope for the unemployed, the voluntary agencies, the unions, the farmers, the employers and the young people to sit down together and make Government policy.

There should be no mistake about it, if this committee and their working subcommittees develop a consensus on strategic policies, the Government will ignore that consensus at their peril. The Labour Party would have preferred a wider and more embracing structure and we would have preferred more detailed terms of reference. We chose to compromise for one reason only, because the crisis is so serious. Without consensus and without the Government and the Opposition modifying their ideological positions, the crisis will get worse. With consensus there is a possibility that we will be able to do some of the difficult things that need to be done.

Unemployment is at the core of many of our fiscal problems. For example, the budget overrun this year will be largely accounted for by the excess spending on unemployment related payments. Unemployment is also at the core of the grinding poverty that afflicts thousands of families. It is at the core of many of our mounting health bills, contributing as it does to thousands of cases of depression, stress-related conditions, violence, alcoholism and a host of other conditions. Most of all, unemployment is at the core of our equality crisis. It is not an accident that unemployment is at its highest in many of the devastated and alienated suburbs of our larger cities and towns. It is not an accident that unemployment is at highest where access to education is poorest. It is not an accident that unemployment, poverty and disadvantage form part of a never-ending vicious circle of inequality.

There should be no misunderstanding about two central issues in this regard. First, there is a clear cause and effect relationship between unemployment, poverty and discrimination on the one hand and community breakdown on the other. By refusing to face up to unemployment we are creating a permanently marginalised, disenfranchised community. Second, the insult of unemployment becomes an obscenity when Government try to pretend that little or nothing can or should be done. That is what the Government, elected to represent us, have been trying to do. I am not pretending that a magic wand will solve the problem — to say that would be dishonest — but we must start from the point that a figure heading rapidly towards 300,000 unemployed is totally unacceptable on any kind of economic or social basis. It is all the more unacceptable in the context of a prosperous Europe in which our unemployment rate is by far the worst, almost twice the European average and many times more than a country like Portugal, which is regarded as one of the poorer countries in Europe.

If we had started from that point some years ago instead of trying to secretly export the problem, the problem would not be as grim today. We must recognise that crucial steps can and must be taken — some big, some small, some immediate and others long term. This is where I take issue with the central thesis of the Culliton report, which contains on its cover the assertion that there are no short term options and that no immediate response is possible. We recognise, of course, that the creation of 300,000 net extra jobs will not be implemented in the short term, but that is a far cry from saying that nothing can be done right now.

We approach the Culliton report from the perspective of a party who believe in full employment as a policy goal. I say that without an apology to anyone. We recognise that the whole concept of full employment requires elaboration and clarification. However, to those who regard the notion as fanciful, there are a number of countries whose employment performance has always been much better than ours — Japan, Switzerland, Sweden and Austria, to name a few — and people should ask what these countries have in common. They all share an underlying consensus based on values that regard unemployment as destructive. They all share values which suggest that full employment must be a central objective for Government, business, trade unions and the self-employed. In all these countries, these belief systems are actualised in national institutions where vital decisions are made on economic and social policy.

In all these countries, unemployment strategies vary considerably. Japan and, interestingly, Sweden have relied heavily in the past on the private sector. Austria, on the other hand, has used the public sector as an engine for employment growth. However, there has been one common thread in all these economies in the past: unemployment strategies have concentrated on targeted interventions to prevent the unemployed from becoming marginalised in the economy and to place them in vacancies rather than relying exclusively on general economic growth to deal with the problem through increasing employment. If we rely exclusively on growth and if we hope that it will somehow translate itself into jobs, we will wait for ever. I do not believe that we can afford to wait for ever and that is why we must concentrate on key areas where the issue of unemployment can be tackled head on.

In doing so we must recognise two basic principles. The first is that the creation of extra wealth in Ireland is crucial and that the retention of that wealth, translating it into jobs here at home, is equally crucial. The second is that the way to do that is to secure a lot more added value from everything we do. Catching fish will never produce as much wealth or as many jobs as turning the catch into fish fingers. The third principle is that we should not be prepared to wait for the medium term, because we can do a great many things in the short term. I will give a couple of examples which we have spelt out in debates like this before. One is in the area of curbing voluntary redundancies. New directions in policy require certain specific changes in our whole approach to employment, the distribution of work opportunities and investment, if industrial expansion and additional wealth are to be channelled into jobs.

To ensure the retention of the maximum number of jobs in industry and services, employers and employees must be given incentives to opt for retraining, redeployment and work sharing instead of resorting to redundancy in the case of profitable enterprises. The Government can do a lot more in the whole area of redeployment and work sharing, because there is resistance to that concept in certain State employment. In one recent year 20,000 new jobs were created, but 23,000 jobs were lost through redundancy. The banks, major multi-national companies and some of our public enterprises have paid out vast sums in redundancy payments for the purpose of maximising profits in some cases instead of saving the remaining jobs. This practice must be stopped. We have already produced a policy to counteract it in our work reorganisation scheme, which aims to save 10,000 jobs each year through a combination of the measures I outlined.

Justice in the context of wealth creation and expansion of employment must give priority to the long term unemployed. It is a simple but tragic fact that the longer an individual is out of employment the harder it is for him or her to break back into employment. Unless that vicious circle is addressed, relatively young men and women will never work again. We have consistently called for all negotiations between the Government, employers and trade unions to include an agreement to allocate a significant proportion of all vacancies in the private sector over a three to five year period to people who are long term unemployed. It is worth repeating this call at every opportunity and again making the point that the Programme for Economic and Social Progress is supposed to be about more than pay. One of the issues to which it pays most lip service is unemployment, but so far lip service is all that it has been.

In order to facilitate a scheme of priority for the long term unemployed we have already proposed that the employment incentive scheme should be reformed as follows. It should be targeted at the long term unemployed, that is, those out of work for at least 12 months, and the payments should be increased to £120 per week in the first year, £100 per week in the second year and £90 per week in the third year. The scheme we have suggested would be budgeted to eliminate long term unemployment over a five to seven year period, with 20,000 being assisted in each of the first three years. Retraining would be guaranteed under the European Social Fund. Our scheme would involve additional gross expenditure by the State; but that, in turn, would be considerably reduced by savings in social welfare payments. These are only a number of ideas. Other parties, the social partners and organisations representing the unemployed have put forward others and during the coming months we will be spelling out more in specific areas.

In conclusion, whatever our reservations, the Labour Party are prepared to welcome the framework set out by the Culliton review group as a way of moving forward. We are determined to play our part in generating ideas and in helping to build a consensus to ensure that the unemployment crisis remains at the top of the political agenda. Above all, I urge the Minister responsible for implementing the Culliton report to stop talking and start acting. There is far too much work to be done and a start on that work is long overdue.

I am glad of this opportunity to speak in the 1992 Estimates debate and to augment the information on trade and marketing provided earlier by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is very appropriate at this time, when the Irish people have voted so convincingly to be part of the new European structures, that I should look at the broad picture of our export performance in Europe. I should say that when I come to wind up the debate I will be glad to respond to the various queries posed by Deputies.

In 1973, the year Ireland joined the European Community, the value of our annual exports was £869 million; today they are in the region of £15 billion. The destination of our exports has shifted dramatically. In the fifties three-quarters of our exports were to Britain; today Britain accounts for only about one-third of our total exports. Our trade now is overwhelmingly with the European Community, which of course includes Britain. It is the European Community that now takes more than three-quarters of our exports. Two-thirds of our people employed in manufacturing are directly concerned in exports and there are few people in Ireland today whose economic wellbeing is not affected by the level of our success in external trade.

In recent decades the inward looking, protectionist philosophy of the thirties and forties has finally been laid to rest. In its place we have built on outward looking, open economy. We are building a new tradition based on a strong belief in the unfettered movement between countries of goods, capital and people. In the sixties we achieved free trade with Britain, in the seventies we joined the European Community and now we have voted to endorse that decision.

Turning now to the overall trend in marketing, expenditure from 1988 to the present time has increased significantly, due largely to Structural Funds support. In 1988 the combined grant-in-aid to Córas Tráchtála and the Irish Goods Council was £20.7 million while this year the figure if £33.3 million. The level of expenditure is a strong indication of the Government's commitment to developing a strong marketing capability in Irish companies, particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises. In the speech that I have circulated I outline the rate of increase in both moneys and employment.

The growth in indigenous exports is perhaps the single greatest success story of the economy in recent years. Irish exports are now found in over 120 countries worldwide. I am glad that the latest CSO figures demonstrate that the excellent growth trend of recent years is continuing. Exports for the first four months of 1992 reached a record level of £5,364 million, which represents an increase of 15 per cent on the same period in 1991. That is a considerable growth rate and will be welcomed on all sides of the House. We must try to build on this figure. As I said, the strength of indigenous companies lies in their employment performance and we must help them to build a strong marketing capability.

In this respect various programmes are operated by An Bord Tráchtála. In the modern highly competitive world in which Irish goods seek their niche companies need a level of sophistication in marketing which was not necessary a decade ago. In the world of high value-added products in which we trade, finding a market niche is no longer simply responding to a stated customer demand. Instead, it means foreseeing demand and developing products to meet that demand in advance of an articulated customer requirement. This means that companies must have top class people who understand not just where modern technology and production methods are going but can combine these two skills.

In relation to import substitution, as Members of the House will know, the Government are prohibited by the 1982 European Court judgment from promoting a specific "Buy Irish" campaign. Instead Government policy, as implemented by An Bord Tráchtála, has been to concentrate on helping indigenous companies to develop a professional domestic marketing capability through programmes such as the sectoral promotions and industrial sub-contract service. Again, in the speech I have circulated I go on to refer to both those schemes in greater detail outlining what the targets and strategies are. Under the sub-contract programme An Bord Tráchtála work with industrial purchasers and sub-suppliers to help win new business for Irish firms trying to supply industry.

In relation to trade development between North and South, the week before last we had an interesting debate in the House on a motion which was put forward by Fine Gael on the need to devise strategies for trade development between North and South. There was a measure of consensus on all sides of the House and no disagreement. In relation to the debate on the Maastricht Treaty, emphasis was placed on the effect greater European intergration would have on trade between North and South with regard to our industrial policies. In recent times very many eminent figures and representatives of the business communities, North and South, have signalled their recognition of the new opportunities now available to us in Ireland, North and South, to work together to strengthen the economies of both parts of the island. It does not need to be explained that if we on this island can work together as one economic unit and remove economic barriers between North and South, as time goes on barriers of all kinds, be they psychological or physical, should dissipate. It cannot be denied that a strong economic argument can be made in favour of Ireland putting itself forward as one economic unit in both Europe and the rest of the world.

The Industrial Development Board in the North and An Bord Tráchtála have increased their co-operation in recent years, both to further develop the flow of trade between the two parts of this island and to jointly increase the exports from the island of Ireland. Recently I met my newly appointed counterpart, Mr. Robert Atkins MP, in Belfast where we visited a North-South trade exhibition. He is due to visit Waterford in October. Arrangements for this visit are currently being made. We should openly express what we often say and feel deeply, and the best way to go about this is to arrange visits, both North and South.

I would like to conclude my remarks on the marketing grant-in-aid by saying that 1992 is the first full year of operation of An Bord Tráchtála which was created by the merger of Córas Tráchtála and the Irish Goods Council. It was a wise decision to merge these two agencies having regard to their performance in their first year of trading and the strong input that they have had in devising marketing strategies. I have been enormously heartened by and believe strongly in the activities of An Bord Tráchtála, and the expertise and business acumen available to them which they use to very good effect.

Ireland's membership of the EC has brought many advantages to our consumers which will continue and be strengthened by the Maastricht Treaty. I should like to refer to the protection of consumers, catered for by a wide spread of legislation constantly undergoing improvement and updating. For example, a new Consumer Credit Bill will be introduced this year whose provisions will cover the broad spectrum of credit business. It will also lay down rules applying to agreements under which credit is supplied to private consumers, especially moneylending agreements. The main effect of the provisions of this Bill will be to better inform our consumers of the commitment being undertaken and also to lay down technical rules for their protection.

The three-year plan of the EC Commission on consumer policy, which involved widespread consultation with all affected interests, seeks to help consumers realise the full economic benefits of the internal market. It sets out future priorities for the development of consumer policy within the Community in addition to proposals to boost measures in the areas of consumer representation, information, safety and transactions. I am pleased that the brief of the Director of Consumer Affairs is linked with trade and marketing. I believe strongly that high standards of quality and value are the common cause of producer and consumer alike. I perceive no tension, real or imagined, within the two arms of that brief. Surely high standards are what manufacturers and consumers want achieved. This means they have a common objective.

One of the strongest messages to emerge from the recent referendum campaign, to which Deputy Barry alluded, and from the widespread debate in other countries was the need to make the workings of Europe more understandable, accountable and relevant to its citizens. I aim to do this in my area through easier and greater access to consumer education and information. I will be working towards the formulation and adoption of a consumer's charter in which people's needs will be foremost.

The eighties was a decade of unremitting job losses. Indeed, Deputy Pattison was quite right to draw attention to the fact that the present Minister for Industry and Commerce has been in office now for three years during which period the figures for unemployment have culminated in being the worst in the history of this State. The fact that the Minister for Industry and Commerce somehow is perceived in the public eye to be the guardian of high standards in Government has managed to steer attention away from his main responsibility, which is tackling that jobs crisis.

In the House here yesterday the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Dempsey, answering a parliamentary question about the figures on the live register, admitted that had they been compiled on the same basis as in March 1990 that figure would now have reached 288,705. It is beyond the wildest, most pessimistic view of all of us that we should ever have an unemployment rate here of that level. That is all the more unacceptable after a decade of unremitting job losses in Irish industry, when the shake-out went on at an average of approximately 20,000 jobs annually — indeed, slightly in excess of that number of jobs were lost in Irish industry over the eighties.

The Minister has engaged in holding out to us the prospect of a review of industrial performance in the Culliton report and by the task force now sitting on how to implement their recommendations and so on. By and large, that has not the Minister past three years' responsibility for this jobs crisis. But very little coherent action has been taken.

It is not quite accurate of the Minister to say, as he did in the course of his introductory remarks this morning, that we have had an opportunity in this House to discuss the question of industrial policy on many occasions. We have not. Indeed, on the occasions on which we have had an opportunity, the Minister managed, as he has done again this morning, to absent himself. Indeed, he is the only Minister I have ever marked, so to speak, who makes himself so scarce. Whether that be a comment on the value of the contribution of the rest of us or that he is an inordinately busy Minister, I cannot say.

He explained to the House that he was going to a Cabinet meeting.

All right, I stand corrected on this occasion.

If I might interject, he is also very ably represented.

Certainly, I would not quibble with that——

The Deputy would or would not?

I certainly would not. Indeed, even if I thought it, I would not dare say it.

The Deputy had better not even think it.

The net point is that our unemployment position is worsening. If the Minister is seriously setting about implementing in some coherent, overall planned fashion the recommendations of Culliton, then it is about time we addressed that issue and quickly.

I do not have the same confidence — I speak now as a member of the almost all-party Oireachtas Committee on Employment — as does Deputy Pattison.

I have agreed from the very beginning with the Fine Gael criticism that without Ministers attending it is likely to be less effective than it would have been otherwise. Nonetheless, the crisis is so bad that we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines in this House and not participate in combining whatever ingenuity we have to come up with proposals that would have some impact on the extent of that crisis. But we would be assisted in our conclusions were the Minister for Industry and Commerce, for example, to attend in accordance with his schedule and enable us to prepare quickly recommendations for implementation in the short term. The question of policy review in the medium and longer term is in other hands.

I might also refer to the Minister's remarks, which I thought demonstrated a certain intolerance of people, about his regret that the Maastricht debate was not devoted to what he called the substantive economic issues —"substantive" seems to be becoming a great word now. The Minister deplored the peripheral issues that detracted from that debate. First of all, I do not consider issues like defence or the Protocol were peripheral. Second, I do not think one can blame any other body for having to contend with the impact of the Protocol. That was not our fault; it was the responsibility of Government. I do not want to go back over that debate except to say it is a pity that the Minister did not take up the point made by my party Leader this morning, or that his officials did not choose to respond to a relevant economic point concerning the Maastricht Treaty, which was in yesterday's briefing by the president of the Commission Monsieur Delors, he pointed out that he was now moderating his expectations in terms of the Cohesion Fund and preparing a proposal for the spread of those funds over seven years. I should have thought that was a material point on which the Minister for Industry and Commerce might have given us his views having regard to the fact that it was one of the main prizes held out to the people — in rather simplistic fashion, at least initially — during the debate on the Maastricht Referendum.

May I say also that one of the Major defects of the Maastricht Treaty, which was one of the principal reasons Democratic Left sought to have it renegotiated, was the absence of any common industrial policy, or any policy on jobs that would adequately tackle the question of the weaker peripheral economies and the transfer of resources from the centre to these peripheral economies. That was one of the principal issues on which we sought renegotiation. Notwithstanding that, I agree that we must not become fatalistic about unemployment or allow ourselves to be intimidated by the sheer size of the problem. Other small fringe economies have managed to create sustained jobs for their people. With energy, imagination and the right mix of policies we can do the same. All potential areas of job creation must be developed. There is scope for additional jobs in the services sector, but it is noteworthy that the figure for jobs in the manufacturing sector of 220,000 in 1971 remains precisely the same in 1991. A huge loss in the agricultural area has been offset by a huge gain in the services area, but in the manufacturing area the figure remains at 220,000 in 1991.

If we are to achieve the goal of an enterprising and competitive economy certain minimum steps are necessary. We must have a planned and co-ordinated industrial development strategy spearheaded by the Government and, as Culliton recommends, spearheaded specifically by a Department more focused than the Department of Industry and Commerce. It should involve the full participation and co-operation of both publicly and privately owned enterprises along with the relevant State agencies. There will have to be specific targeting of industrial sectors with a potential for the large scale creation of lasting jobs such as in the food sector, biotechnology and computer software. There should be an energising and supervision of industrial strategy by a statutory body representative of the Oireachtas, the business community, trade unions, the unemployed, women's organisations and other interest groups with the independence and political authority to produce rapid and radical action. There should be full workforce involvement at all levels and stages of every project, to unleash the potential creativity and commitment that has been stifled by traditional industrial structures, and major changes in the way income support is provided to both firms and individuals. This means putting personal tax and social welfare on to the industrial agenda as well as corporate taxation. Ireland's extensive and well developed financial professional research and training facilities must be focused on cultivating these targeted industrial sectors. Each sector should be allocated a special task force to help co-ordinate its development.

My main hope for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment is that it will enable us to secure a political mandate to implement certain short term job creation strategies.

I am pleased to have an opportunity of speaking on the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce. Following the points Deputy Rabbitte made, I would like to appeal to the Fine Gael Party to participate in the Oireachtas jobs forum. This is a golden opportunity for them to be fully involved in an all-party arrangement on the most serious issue facing the Irish people today, the level of unemployment and the need to create employment. The Fine Gael Party are neglecting their responsibilities to the unemployed by not participating in this forum. I wish the Chairman, Deputy Hillery, and the Members of the forum well in their work.

Regarding the job creation policies of the Department and the Government, the western constituency which I represent has not fared very well. The Rohan advance factory in Roscommon town has been idle for more than ten years. I appreciate that negotiations are at an advanced stage in the Department to attract an American corporation who will create about 80 jobs in Roscommon town. I look forward to the formal conclusion of the negotiations and on announcement by the Government on this. It is not before time that we have received such a project for the town. This area needs special attention.

The IDA have difficulty in attracting mobile industry to Ireland, particularly to the peripheral regions, the west.

A case should be made for a special allocation to be earmarked for the western region from the £6 billion, or whatever we receive from the Cohesion Fund, to assist in the creation of employment in the industrial sector. It is much more costly to establish industry away from the eastern seaboard and the main export routes for our products. In the circumstances a very strong case could be made for a permanent in-built transport subsidy for products produced in the peripheral regions in Europe. If the Cohesion Fund, and the post-Maastricht arrangements are to mean anything, they should mean the elimination of the inbuilt disadvantages of establishing industry in the peripheral regions of Europe, and nowhere is more peripheral than the west of Ireland.

I welcome a recent call by the head of GPA for the establishment of an airbridge either from Horan International Airport at Knock or Shannon Airport to assist our manufacturers in the export of products to Europe and beyond. That is a classic example of how Europe can assist. It is worth investigating and I ask my colleague the Minister with responsibility for trade and marketing, Deputy O'Rourke, and An Bord Tráchtála to investigate the possibility of developing an airbridge between our region and the main markets of Europe of 340 million people. The cost of transportation is a factor in industrial development.

I do not favour a further amalgamation between An Bord Tráchtála and the IDA. The amalgamation between Córas Tráchtála and the Irish Goods Council worked out very satisfactorily, but if we form one major conglomerate we will lose the focus which is there. After working for more than two years with An Bord Tráchtála I know they performed extremely well in assisting our exporters to get their products to markets throughout the world, particularly to the lucrative European market. We have had tremendous success in France and Germany. The regional markets programme which I helped prepare has worked very well and has great potential. The additional support we received for the targeted marketing consultancy programme has also brought results. All in all, the work in that area has a profound effect on our economy.

In 1991 our total exports reached £15 billion, and I hope the Minister will be able to say that in 1992 that sum will be exceeded. I note that the April trade figures are up but the difficulty for this or any Government is that the export figures are not translating into additional jobs. The Culliton report gave special consideration to this. I expect the Government will implement many of the report's recommendations. They have accepted the general thrust of the recommendations of that excellent report on industrial development.

The work of An Bord Tráchtála is vital to the economy and, on the home front, it is important that they continue the work of the Irish Goods Council. We could do so much by buying Irish products. The "Buy Irish" campaign is not totally in line with modern European thinking, nevertheless as a Member of the Oireachtas and a former Minister with responsibility for trade and marketing, I urge Irish people to buy Irish products. About £1 billion worth of imported products could be substituted in the Irish economy. Approximately 50,000 jobs could be created if Irish people bought Irish products. I appeal in particular to the large supermarket chains operating in the economy to buy Irish products. Some of these supermarkets do not display any great loyalty to home producers. These supermarkets should be encouraged to buy Irish products where possible so that jobs can be created. This would benefit those companies in the long run.

I wish I had more time to speak about this issue. I am glad the Patents Act, which I brought before the House, has been enacted and that the European Convention on Patents, which is vitally important, will be passed into law. I am very anxious that the new Patents Office would be located in Roscommon town under the Government's decentralisation programme. Counties Roscommon and Leitrim are the only counties on the western seaboard which have not benefited under the Government's decentralisation programme. I call on the Government to decentralise a State Department to Roscommon town as soon as possible.

I seek the permission of the House to share my time with Deputy Finucane.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I wish to refer to a few matters in the area of consumer affairs which may not have received the attention they deserve in the context of this Vote. I was very surprised during the course of the debate on the Maastricht treaty to hear the Chairman of the Consumers Association of Ireland, Mr. John Corrigan, say that voting "Yes" for the Treaty would not be good for consumers. I could not understand this remark because under the Treaty on European Union consumer protection will be enshrined in our Constitution for the first time ever. I found it extraordinary that a representative of the Consumers Association of Ireland did not see the benefits for consumers of ratifying the Treaty on European Union.

The issue of consumer affairs has not been given the priority it deserves. I welcome the Government's decision to allocate responsibility for consumer affairs to the Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Rourke, and to give this issue much higher priority than it has received in the past. I know that recently the Minister for Industry and Commerce has had to devote a great deal of his time to dealing with a large number of issues of an unsavoury nature which have not done this country much good. My colleague, Deputy Peter Barry, elaborated on the effect of these issues on investment and business. As he said, many businesses were attacked in the Finance Act because of their alleged failure to create employment opportunities, as sought by the Minister for Finance when he was Minister for Labour. Private sector have been singled out for ruthless attention in the Finance Act by the Minister for Finance as a result of scandals in the public sector. I believe this will have a detrimental effect on the creation of jobs in 1992 and the years to come.

In many cases it takes a long time for EC Directives to be put into effect here by way of legislation. I hope this situation can be improved in the future. The EC Directive on product safety which was passed some time ago gave us an ideal opportunity to correct the difficulties experienced by the Director of Consumer Affairs in removing unsafe products from the market. I wish to give an example which will illustrate the lack of legislative teeth in the area of product safety. The "Toymaster" magazine advertises the toys on the market and the shops in which they are sold. This magazine recently carried an advertisement for a water gun called the Super Soaker. The dangers of this lethal weapon were recently brought to my attention by parents whose children have purchased it. These guns are able to project water over a distance of 30 feet. If they are fired at close range they can have a significant impact, for example, serious damage could be caused to a person's eye.

It has also been brought to my attention that this weapon is widely sold in the United States. Iodine and ammonia bleach are used in some of these guns. Children have lost their lives as a result of being squirted by these substances. What is even more disturbing is the trend by urban criminal gangs to use this weapon in order to carry out warfare in many cities along the east coast of the United States. In the light of this information, I find it very difficult to understand how the Director of Consumer Affairs still deems this product to be safe. I ask the Minister to refer this issue to Eolas or some testing authority in the United Kingdom so as to ascertain whether this product deemed to be safe under our product safety legislation. I have to say that I would find it difficult to regard this as a safe toy. In the light of experience in other countries, this product should be removed from the market immediately.

The Minister referred to the EC Directive on consumer credit. We continually talk about the need to eliminate money-lending and bring financial institutions to heel over the irresponsible advertising and sales techniques they use to promote their financial packages. There is no code of conduct or consistency in the way financial institutions deal with consumers. Many of the advertising techniques used by financial institutions leave much to be desired in terms of how they explain to people who are making very important decisions in respect of mortgages or life assurance policies the costs involved, the hidden costs and the processing costs. Consumers are never told how these costs can affect the cost of their policies. I wish to register my protest at the lack of urgency shown by the Government in the past in the enactment of EC Directives on consumer affairs. I hope they will not be as lethargic in this respect in the future as they have been in the past.

I ask the Minister in her reply to refer to the small claims court. This court is being operated on a pilot basis at present. I should like the Minister to say whether an annual report will be published on the progress made by this court to date and whether there are any plans to extend it throughout the country. I see a role for this court as citizens' information centres which could disseminate further information. In addition, regional offices of the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs could be set up in various areas. These offices could be manned by the Customs and Excise officers who will be surplus to requirements after 1 January 1993. I appeal to the Minister to consider this suggestion, thus enabling information to be disseminated locally.

I believe we were all pleased with the results of the recent Referendum on the Maastricht Treaty in view of its implications for our economy and the creation of jobs. I shudder to think about the implications for this small island if we had rejected the Treaty. In their document The Jobs Economy Fine Gael put forward a number of proposals on the creation of jobs. This document was regarded by many media people as an interesting and refreshing approach to the jobs issue.

I wish to refer to the mid-west region and the role played there by the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. While it is true to say that SFADCo have been used as a model of the success which can be achieved in this regard, I believe they may have lost their sense of direction. I am pleased that in recent times the Minister stated that he wants to see Shannon Free Airport Development Company focusing and redefining their involvement in certain areas.

In relation to job creation for the area, I am a little concerned that we have fallen between two stools. On the one hand, Shannon Free Airport Development Company are involved while on the other hand there is involvement by the Industrial Development Authority. The IDA operate with an almost remote control approach in that they are based in Dublin and have no regional office in the mid-west region but yet they are supposed to be in liaison with the Shannon Free Airport Development Company. The success story of the area over the past year amounts to one overseas industry in the entire mid-west region, and fortunately that industry came to Newcastle West. My constant reminders in the Chamber to the Minister for Industry and Commerce ensured that Newcastle West was considered in terms of the advance factory there.

Developments have taken place along the estuary, particularly in relation to the trans-shipment project. I sincerely hope that the Minister is not using this project as an election gimmick in order to placate three areas — Clare, North Kerry and Limerick. He has directed his economic advisers to advance this theory, but we will have to wait to see what happens. We tend to be a little cynical when we hear of this idea because it has been mentioned many times in the past 20 years.

One matter of concern in the Shannon area relates to the Shannon stop-over. I wonder whether the Minister was trying to placate local interests when he made his announcement in Killarney. We may float the idea of trans-shipment but Shannon could lose its status. The Minister's colleague on several occasions stated that she will make a decision shortly in relation to the Shannon stop-over. I wonder whether there is a deliberate delay in making an announcement until such time as an election has taken place.

In regard to the matter of time, there will be two or three minutes remaining before questions start. Deputy Cullimore, who will be called at 12.35 p.m. will have ten minutes and if the House agrees we can give the extra three minutes to Deputy Finucane. Is that agreed? Agreed.

As a result of the indecision on the Shannon stop-over, there is concern in the area about jobs. I notice recently that Aer Lingus have taken an optional lease of jets for long-haul journeys and I wonder whether there is something sinister in that. I also notice in The Irish Times this week a certain buoyancy in the property section in that many hotels are mooted for the Dublin area to cater for American travellers. I wonder whether there is a feeling within Dublin circles that a decision in this regard is inevitable. It is almost like spinning a trout on a rod — maybe to a certain degree the Government are hoping that there will be a lack of motivation in the Shannon area if a decision is not made for some time. Perhaps they feel that the drive, energy and commitment will dissipate but I do not believe that will happen because it is much too important an issue for the region. In terms of the EC, people talk about regional development, subsidiarity and such “buzz” words. Shannon is extremely important in this regard and I trust that the Government will recognise that when they eventually make a decision.

In relation to Shannon Airport, I welcome the development of the aviation park, and the tremendous in-roads that have been made in terms of developments which have helped to create jobs in the area. One matter which has developed over the last few years is the export of large quantities of softwood to Sweden. Much of that softwood is being re-imported as pulpwood products for the printing industry. It has been stated for some time that a pulp mill industry would be set up in this country. Such an industry would be very important in the creation of jobs.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to contribute to the Estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce. I compliment both Ministers on the work they are doing in this area, particularly Deputy O'Rourke, for the very progressive policy of highlighting the excellent products we have in Ireland.

At this late stage I would ask Fine Gael to reconsider their position of not participating in the jobs forum. The Government must be complimented on the excellent idea of involving all political parties and the social partners in this forum which is working very well. The committee have been divided into three groups dealing with employment strategies, anomalies in the social welfare system, incentives created in that area and the role of the European Community in solving the unemployment problem. All aspects for policy must be considered — industrial policy, tourism policy and agricultural policy. We started with a clean sheet in the sense that we can examine and make recommendations on all aspects of economic and social policy relating to employment. We are not confined to a narrow range of experts. On the contrary, we are seeking to unite all sectors of the community in the drive to create more jobs.

A number of anomalies in the system have come to light. I have been involved in the area of unemployment and I have met people from the unemployment centres in my constituency. These centres administer many social employment schemes that benefit young people and they play a very positive role in helping the community but they are crippled with PRSI payments and bank interest charges. I hope that through the jobs forum we will be able to remove these anomalies and help create an incentive for the people who are doing an excellent job.

Discussion and analysis must take place with communities to find out how the unemployment figures can be reduced. Each community must be considered separately. I would like to raise a query I have received from the Gorey Town Commissioners. There is very high unemployment in Gorey town but the commissioners are not in a position to conduct a feasibility study to address the needs and skills that exist in the area. I hope that central Government provide the necessary finance and the mechanism to help local communities look at individual needs and skills. If we are unable to identify the skills and the needs in each locality we will be unable to solve the unemployment problem.

We will also have to face up to the problems of rural society. The role of conventional agriculture is contracting and there will be fewer farm jobs in the future. We welcome the decision of Government to fund the operational programme for rural development, particularly the Leader programme. These programmes should be carefully monitored to find out why they are not working in certain areas. The existing support for agri-tourism, small industries and alternative farm enterprises, as well as training and education in these areas, will have to be considered. The surest means of developing indigenous enterprises that will stand the test of time is by combining the innate talents and enterprise of these communities with local resources. Small firms need to be freed up so that they can grow.

It is interesting to look at a report published recently by the Small Firms Association which shows that in 1988-89 the Government outlined the Programme for Recovery. The employment target was 37,000 new jobs between 1988 and 1990. This was broken down into three areas — small businesses, a target of 10,000; Irish industry, a target of 10,500; and overseas industry, a target of 16,500. It was interesting to note that small businesses achieved in the region of 8,654 jobs; Irish industry, 6,366; and overseas industry, 9,995. In percentage terms small businesses achieved a delivery of 86.5 per cent. That compares with Irish industry which achieved a delivery of 60.5 per cent and overseas industry which delivered 60.5 per cent. It is interesting to note that in the IDA budget small firms have only received 13 per cent of that budget.

With regard to costs per job created and sustained in 1983/1989, in Irish and overseas industry the cost was £19,830 and in the small business and enterprise development programme it was £9,773. There was an enormous difference between the cost of providing jobs in small firms and in the other sectors. We in the jobs forum must pay careful attention to how we can rectify that position and provide finance for small firms to grow. All Deputies are aware of successful companies in their constituencies which started out in a very small way. From every deputation, chamber of commerce and business meeting the same question is being asked — how does one get the seed capital to start an enterprise? There is a great deal of willingness to start up projects, but the difficulty is getting the start-up capital. I hope the Government and the jobs forum can rectify this problem.

The ultimate purpose of the jobs forum is to tackle the rising problems of unemployment. The first step must be to examine all aspects of economic policy. The social partners have agreed to join the jobs forum. As a member of the jobs forum, I will be delighted to hear the contributions from the trade unions, the farming community, the centres for the unemployed and the youth organisations. Up to now people involved in the centres for the unemployed have been marginalised and left out of the system. The Government, through the jobs forum have recognised the role that they can play in helping to solve unemployment. From visiting unemployed centres in my constituency I know that many people now feel that they are part of the process of creating jobs.

I hope Fine Gael will reconsider their position and join in the jobs forum the social partners and the people who have been marginalised. I would ask Fine Gael to reconsider their position and join with us to try to solve this problem.

There will now be five minutes during which Deputies may put questions to the Minister on certain points.

Deputy O'Rourke is the first Minister for Consumer Affairs that we have had and I congratulate her on starting quite well. I hope activity will equal the talk we have had up to now.

With regard to consumer affairs, will the Minister in her capacity as Minister for Consumer Affairs take up the need for a time share Bill to curb the practice of time share holidays in this State? I understand that the European Parliament have made some directives on the matter, but Ireland at the moment is being used as a dumping ground. Many of the time share holiday operators have had to vacate places like the UK and France and they are selling their wares in this country. This is causing a lot of problems and we need legislation to curb it. The hands of the Director of Consumer Affairs are tied and he is looking for legislation. Members of the public are being duped by the fraudulent activity of many time share operators here. Will the Minister look at it with a view to bringing in the necessary legislation to restrict this unsavoury practice?

Earlier I referred to the Minister's reference to legal metrology and said that I could not find reference to it in the State Directory. There is a reference in the State Directory, but that does not take away from the point I made which I hope the Minister will address. Is there some significance in the amount? This is probably the first time it has ever been adverted to in the Minister's Estimate speech. The amount of money is extremely small and the Minister has devoted a significant amount of his time to it. What prompted this?

It should be possible to get permanent offices for the Director of Consumer Affairs in major population centres. I know the authorities periodically visit certain areas. I hope the Minister can take on board this suggestion of establishing an office for the Director of Consumer Affairs in major areas of population, because there is no doubt that under European Community Union consumer affairs will prove to be of greater importance. The fact that we will be subject to the consumers' interest is part of the Maastricht Treaty. The future of Europe will be very much consumer based. There should be a means by which a consumer can get his complaints or concerns to the authorities — whether it is the Government here or authorities in Brussels — at local level. The Director of Consumer Affairs does a very good job with, I presume, a very small staff and an inadequate budget; but if he is to be truly effective he should be visible in as many locations as possible.

Lest it be misunderstood, I repeat that my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, is unable to be here because of his primary responsibility to the Cabinet. There was a Cabinet meeting at 11 a.m. and that was accepted by all. However, one of the Opposition Deputies was not here when the Minister's apology was made, so I repeat it. Indeed, Deputy O'Malley is always very assiduous about his duties to the House.

I thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate on the important Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce. I will deal with the queries in the order they arose and then I will reply to queries from across the floor. Deputy Barry asked how and when the proposals in the Culliton report will be implemented. In his speech Deputy O'Malley said that he expected the Government to make their decision shortly on the task force proposals. As I understand it, this will happen in the very near future. Many other Deputies, including Deputy Ferris, asked for a Government commitment to implement the task force proposals.

I asked also if the task force proposals will be published?

As I understand it, the task force report will first have to be scrutinised by Government and a decision on its publication will then be made. Obviously the proposals will have to be scrutinised by the Government as this was the decision taken when the task force was set up and I expect that it may then be——

Publication of the task force proposals would allow us to see what is happening.

Transparency will certainly be the prime objective. Indeed, it has been their modus operandi to date and I am sure the task force will continue with their policy of transparency.

I remember being present in the House when Deputy Barry asked why tourism was being excluded from the terms of reference of the Culliton Industrial Policy Review Group — indeed I remember thinking at the time that this was odd. However, a task force on tourism was established and we await their report.

The jobs forum was also raised. Labour, The Democratic Left and the Government parties are working together on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment and Deputies on this side of the House have asked the Fine Gael Party to reconsider their position. Again, let me put it to them that we would like to see them participate in this committee.

I note with interest Deputy Barry's suggestion that we should have one agency to deal with marketing and another to deal with investment as he did not see the reason for breaking up the IDA into two separate agencies, one to deal with home industries and the other to deal with overseas matters. I have a certain sympathy with the Deputy in that regard. Deputy Barry then went on to condemn the budget, but I think it was a very well thought out strategy and it is part of the evolving process of tax reform by cutting what were heretofore subsidies to certain sectors. Of course that is painful, but I totally reject the assertion that it is anti-business.

Deputy Barry asserted that Telecom Éireann were abusing their premier position and he queried whether they would be covered by the Competition Act. I had this matter checked out by my officials and to date the Minister has not made any request to the Competition Authority under section 11 or 14 of the Act. He made one reference to the authority in relation to a merger application and the Deputy will remember that this concerned the newspapers. The Competition Act applies to all engaged in economic gain through the provision of the goods and services. Deputy Barry also expressed his concern about Telecom Éireann's potentially dominant position in the security industry. As I understood it, the Department have not received any allegations or complaints from any person in that regard. I realise that Deputy Barry made his complaint in good faith so we would be interested in hearing the allegation made to him.

It is on the record of this House.

We will certainly follow it up then. There is a provision in the legislation for people to apply to the High Court but the Deputy, as a public representative, has made a clear case and we will certainly follow it up.

Deputy Barry said he was rather puzzled at the length of time which the Minister spent on legal metrology, but he then went on to say that he found it interesting and I am glad of that. This is particularly relevant in the consumer area. It is quite amazing that the debate focused on so many matters of consumer interest. That is one of the reasons that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, focused on that area. It is a major part of the Department's activities and has consequences for employment. Measurement is fundamental to the operation of the markeplace — indeed as fundamental as the currency. The legal metrology section of the Department oversee the implementation of the EC Directive on units of measurement. The legal metrology section have a very important role in ensuring consumers' rights are not infringed. Our office are issuing a very strong press release on EC Directive 86/617 on the units of measurement. As Deputies know, we have made progress in converting to the metric system.

We are the only country using both systems, the imperial and the metric system.

The pint is going to remain, but the remaining measurements are all going to alter and that is why the Minister emphasised this point.

I would like to say that the Minister of State has enlightened me but I am afraid she has not and I am as confused as ever.

Deputy Barry wondered why the Minister gave so much weight to this subject but he regards it as a very important component of the Department of Industry and Commerce——

That was an unconscious pun.

Quite obviously it is in line with the press release that will be issued today and the Minister took the opportunity to give weight to this point in his speech.

I look forward to seeing the press release.

In grammes or pounds?

That is exactly my point.

Acting Chairman

The Minister without interruption, please. There are just two minutes remaining.

But it is such good fun.

Both the Labour Party and The Democratic Left Party spokespersons dwelt extensively on the need for a jobs forum and what they expected from the Culliton report. If this appears to be very truncated, it is that I wish to deal with consumer affairs and in particular to respond to Deputy Flanagan, who raised the need for legislation on time share properties. Time share is going to be discussed next Monday at the meeting of Consumer Council Ministers in Luxembourg. This topic is on the formal agenda for discussion and we are at the stage of seeking advice on this matter. I share the Deputy's concern. Time share is becoming a rampant problem as people are gullible and are falling for the salesman's pitch.

In the same vein Deputy Barry spoke about the need for consumer affairs offices around the country. I wish to echo this praise of the Director of Consumer Affairs. However, there is a greater need for awareness about this service and this will have to come about. We cannot on the one hand talk about the need for consumer representation and information and on the other do nothing about it. Deputy Hogan, my very worthy adversary on consumer affairs, brought a particular product, a water pistol, to our attention. He felt that this was very dangerous and he asked that it be subject to the General Product Safety Directive. As I understand this will also be discussed at next Mondays's meeting in Luxembourg, I now undertake on the floor of the House to bring up this specific matter at that meeting and discuss it fully with my fellow Ministers. Deputy Hogan said the gun has been examined and it has been suggested that it is not dangerous but I do not take that at face value and I believe the matter warrants further examination.

May I take this opportunity to thank the Members for their very informative contributions and I am glad to have participated in this debate.

Acting Chairman

As it is now 1 o'clock I am required in accordance with an order of the House, to put the question: "That the revised Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce, Vote 34, for the year ending 31 December 1992 is hereby agreed".

Vote put.
A division being demanded, the taking of the division was postponed until 6.30 p.m. on Wednesday next, 1 July 1992, in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day.