Senator Sir John Keane opened his remarks with a question, why the banks cannot lend this money. I think that rather implies something amounting to slander on people's respectability, or something in that way. If he had out it, why the banks will not lend, he would be simply echoing a groan that I emitted for the last few months when schemes came before me, and when I referred the people who presented them to me—essentially sound schemes—to the banks. I asked them why they could not go to the banks. I rather think that the effect of the Trades Facilities Act in England and in Northern Ireland, and pretty well in every country, where the problem of unemployment has to be faced, seems to me to imply a certain criticism of banking institutions all over the world; that they cannot adapt themselves to the circumstances of the present day. The fact of the matter is, whether that criticism be applied rightly or not, that every government in the world is faced at this time with the question of unemployment, and the main plank of every party in every state has been to rely upon something in the nature of a Trade Loans (Guarantee) Act and a Trades Facilities Act.
This Bill of ours is not by any means new. With one exception—Section 2 —it is pretty well a copy of the British Act. Section 2 is, I think, totally new, and is certainly not in any Trades Facilities Act so far. It is the answer, in so far as the Government have been able to find an answer, to the repeated claims that have been brought forward for an anti-profiteering Bill. The question was considered, and it was discovered that the control set up during the war had only led to the establishment of rings which cut out competition. Apparently the only way to break rings is to increase competition. This Bill aims at that. It is an experiment that we are going to watch with close attention. Although a certain small sum is set down for the purpose of Section 2, I may mention that the Minister for Finance has been so far prevailed upon as to give me an assurance that if the working of that section is successful, other moneys will be advanced under it. It has been pretty well decided that of the different projects brought forward to revive and create industry in this country, these Trade Facilities, or Trade Loans (Guaranteed) Acts are a better remedy and a better answer to the problem of unemployment than fiscal adjustments.
Senator Sir John Keane raised a few technical points which I may as well advert to. He said that the Ministry was not going to guarantee unless the project showed good hopes of success. The Ministry is carefully protected in this Bill from guaranteeing until an Advisory Committee has considered the project and passed it. I may say—and this is a point that was raised in the Dáil that I can make clear here—that the recommendation of the Advisory Committee is not going to be accepted automatically. It is purely an Advisory Committee. It has been thought advisable in all countries, and here, to remove the supervising machinery under the Bill outside the Department. We thought it better to get an Advisory Committee of a certain expert type of people, and when they come along to the Department, their recommendation will naturally fortify a good claim. I am sure Senator Sir John Keane was not intentionally misleading, but his remark might have a wrong effect. Of course, the Ministers will be the final persons in deciding if the scheme is passed. If it has run the gauntlet of severe criticism, and if it has successfully emerged from the Advisory Committee, it will come along to the two Ministers concerned.
As to the alternative in Section 1, I agree with the Senator that it does not seem to be much of an alternative, and that it is something pretty well comprised in the first one. I think I may stress the intention. The intention was to single out the question of Irish manufacture, but not bank on it completely. As the Senator has pointed out, there are many industries where it will be impossible to get things, such as machinery, in Ireland. It has been considered wise to stress that point. Where no alternative scheme comes up, which would have the effect of involving a larger sum than is allowed, then such a scheme will take precedence, whether or not the material is going to be manufactured in the country. It stresses one point and that is not meant as a definitely complete alternative to the phrase quoted by Senator Sir John Keane. Now the other point raised by him is, of course, the most delicate matter in the whole Bill. I would avoid the responsibility, as I have avoided it, of defining "working capital." I do not think in a House of business men I should be asked to define anything so elusive as working capital. I think what might be considered capital expenditure in one scheme, might be accounted working capital in another. I hope to leave it to the Advisory Committee to define this. I hope to be able to pick out an expert body for that purpose. I prefer to leave it to the Committee as to whether or not the expenditure concerned is to be considered capital expenditure or working capital.
Now, Senator Guinness raised a point as to the amounts to be made available under the Bill. Clause 1 provides for £750,000, and Clause 2 for £250,000 of which no more than £50,000 is to be paid out in actual loans. That, as I have already stated, is definitely recognised as being a beginning and nothing more. The Minister for Finance has guaranteed that if these schemes go well there will be no restriction in the way of money. There will be necessary restrictions in the way of how far we can get to guard ourselves, but within that limit there will be no undue holding up of schemes. I am specially concerned with clause 2. I look upon it as of a snowball character. If one or two good schemes are to be started for the purpose of reducing the cost of commodities I believe it will have a big cumulative effect, and that the cost of living will be brought down with a run. A considerable amount of our trouble would then be passed. The Trades Facilities Act in England, Senator Guinness has told us, has through its operations expended £110,000,000 so far. I accept that statement from him. One of the first acts of the Labour Government was to announce an extension of from 60 to 65 millions and in Northern Ireland whatever has been required under the same Act has been granted.