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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Apr 1956

Vol. 45 No. 19

Restrictive Trade Practices (Confirmation of Order) Bill, 1955—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I should like, first of all, to deal with the amendment put down by Senator Douglas. A perusal of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953 shows that the amendment is not in accordance with the terms or intention of the Act. Both Houses of the Oireachtas debated the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill, 1952 at considerable length and there was abundant opportunity for the amendment of the Bill which was, in fact, amended in several respects before it became law. The Bill, as passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas and signed by the President, is the legislative instrument from which all the activities of the Fair Trade Commission flow and the instrument which confers upon me the power to make an Order such as I have made in regard to the radio trade.

I cannot go outside the terms of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953. That Act did not place any obligation on the Fair Trade Commission to have verbatim reports of evidence or to submit any such transcripts to me. All the Act did was to require the commission to furnish me with a report of the inquiry. They have done that and I have no power to ask them to go further and furnish me with, as the Senator has suggested, a complete transcript of the evidence presented to them. Not only did the Act limit the obligations of the commission to the presentation of a report, but it actually provided that they could regulate their own procedure. I understand that it has been the practice of the commission to have verbatim notes taken for their own assistance. But that is a matter of procedure within the competence of the commission itself and I have no power to demand that they should make any such transcript of the evidence available to me.

Apart from not having the power, I have no desire, in any event, to seek such a transcript. It was laid down by the Oireachtas in the Act that the sittings of the commission must be held in public, except where special private sittings are necessary to safeguard the legitimate business interests of any person. The inquiry into the radio trade was held in public. The whole object of having an inquiry in public is to let the public know what is happening. Any person was at liberty to attend the public sittings. It seems to me that it would have been highly illogical, in any event, to prescribe that the hearings must be in public, but that, notwithstanding this, a transcript of the evidence must be furnished.

If the Oireachtas had any intention —which was certainly not expressed— that a transcript of the evidence should be afforded to either of the Houses, there would have been no necessity to direct that the inquiries must be held in public. The commission could have been left to hold all their inquiries in private, giving due notice and affording an opportunity to all interested parties to give evidence and the Oireachtas could have prescribed that the transcript of such hearings should be furnished to me and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. That was not done, however, and it is, of course, obvious that it was not done for the very good reason that only one purpose would be served by making transcripts available to the Oireachtas, namely, to enable the Oireachtas to conduct its own detailed investigation into matters already examined and reported on by the commission.

When the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953, was before the Oireachtas, it was clearly understood that those Orders should stand as a whole, and that the Oireachtas would have the right to accept or reject, but not to amend them. It was understood also that there would be no question of the Oireachtas covering again the ground already covered in detail by the commission. The necessity for a special investigatory body to inquire into restrictive trade practices was clearly recognised. It was accepted that a detailed investigation into such practices could not effectively be undertaken by the Oireachtas, and that the sensible approach was to set up a statutory commission for the purpose, to give to the commission special powers of examination, to rely on the commission to submit fair and impartial reports of their findings, and to provide that the Oireachtas should have power to review the findings, but not the investigative processes, of the commission. It seems to me that Senator Douglas's amendment cuts right across the principles underlying the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953.

I think that, on reflection, members of the Seanad would agree that no useful purpose could, in any event, be served by any Senator or any Deputy seeking to go through a transcript of the evidence and form conclusions. The Senator's motion ignores the fact that the oral evidence comprised in a transcript is only one part of the evidence, of which the commission took account. It is clear to anyone who has read the commission's report or, indeed, who followed the public hearings, that minute books and documents of all kinds formed another and a very important part of the evidence. It is on the basis of the evidence as a whole that the commission drew up the statement of facts set forth in their report.

The Seanad will be aware that proceedings have been initiated in the High Court concerning the report of the commission and the Order which I have made. I am not prepared to enter on any line of argument which might seem to prejudge or prejudice the attitude the commission would take in their defence to this action. It must be obvious, however, to the Seanad that the members of the commission, being completely impartial and responsible persons, must be assumed to have given the weight to the evidence that it merited and I do not think it would be proper to embark on a separate evaluation of the evidence. My function under the Act is to consider the report which was made to me.

I have done that and I may say that I had no difficulty, having read the report and considered the conclusions, in making up my mind to accept the commission's recommendations and to make the Order which I made and which is now before the Seanad for confirmation in this Bill. There was, of course, no question of my accepting these recommendations automatically. I examined the report in detail and I considered each recommendation very carefully. I could have rejected the commission's recommendations in whole or in part. But my examination and consideration convinced me that the commission were fully justified in their recommendations and that I should make an Order on the lines suggested by the commission.

With regard to the Bill itself, it may facilitate Senators if I give a résumé of the commission's report and of the recommendations which the commission make with a view to terminating restrictive trade practices which are considered to be unfair or to operate against the public interest. Senators will understand that in referring to trade practices, I am referring to the position as it was stated in the commission's report and that I have no means of knowing to what extent, if any, practice has been altered in the meantime. According to the commission's report the retail trade in radio sets is regulated by agreement between two trade associations—the Federation of Irish Radio Manufacturers and the Wireless Dealers' Association. More than 90 per cent. of the radio sets marketed are handled by manufacturers and distributors who are members of either of these two associations. Entry to the retail trade is controlled by the Wireless Dealers' Association by means of the maintenance of a list of approved retailers to whom the manufacturers of radio sets agree to confine distribution. It is virtually impossible for a trader whose name is not on the approved list to engage regularly and openly in the sale of radio sets. Application for admission to the list of approved dealers must be made to the Wireless Dealers' Association. Certain conditions as to premises and the stocking and display of radio sets must be complied with by an applicant and, in addition, an applicant must maintain a repair department in his premises, and, if he is not technically qualified himself, he must employ at least one service mechanic on a whole-time basis. An applicant must undertake not to supply radio sets for resale to any person whose name is not on the list of approved retailers and he must undertake also not to sell radio sets at prices lower than the retail prices specified in the manufacturer's list of prices. These requirements are enforced vigorously by the association. Breaches of the requirements may result in fines or suspension or deletion of the retailer's name from the approved list.

Assessing the actual and potential effects of the approved list system, the Fair Trade Commission have expressed the view that the system prevents or restricts competition and restrains trade. They consider that such interference with competition and trade is unfair and operates against the public interest. The commission point out that the system places in the hands of an association composed largely of radio traders the power to determine whether these traders should allow other traders to enter into the radio business. The commission indicate also that the existing arrangements provide a means of organising boycotts of manufacturers whose discount rates or list of customers are not acceptable to the Wireless Dealers' Association; that private enterprise in distribution is stultified and, as a result, the public is deprived of the benefits of healthy competition. The commission have also adverted to the fact that the emphasis in the operation of the approved list of retailers is in favour of retailers resident in the larger towns and cities and that the restriction of business opportunities to the larger centres of population is not in accordance with public policy.

The view has been widely expressed that if the approved list system is abolished, everyone would be entitled to engage in the sale of radio sets. The commission do not, however, accept the contention that the only alternative to the approved list system is widespread and uneconomic proliferation of retail outlets. They take the view that it is for individual manufacturers to determine the economics of distribution so far as the number of outlets, is concerned and they point out that, in the absence of collective restrictions, competition between manufacturers may be expected to serve as a deterrent to distributional arrangements which are irrational and uneconomic from a manufacturer's point of view. The commission consider that, in the case of any individual manufacturer, the objective of achieving efficiency and economy in distribution justifies the making of conditions by that manufacturer, if he so wishes, as to the volume and frequency of orders, or as to the provision of service to the public provided such conditions are reasonable and are not designed or likely to restrain trade or limit competition unfairly. It is the considered view of the commission that individual manufacturers, acting in this way, can ensure the avoidance of an undue proliferation of outlets while at the same time preserving fair and equitable methods of distribution.

The retail prices of radio sets to the public are fixed by the manufacturers, and sets are sold to the retailer at the retail price less a discount of 33? per cent. giving the retailer a gross profit of 50 per cent. on the cost price. This rate of profit is substantial, and it will be observed from the commission's report that, even though retailers might be satisfied to accept a lower rate of profit, they are obliged to adhere strictly to the retail prices fixed by the manufacturers. The practical result of this arrangement is the establishment and enforcement of minimum selling prices in respect of all radio sets sold in the Irish market. In normal conditions enforcement of a fixed retail margin results in prices being higher than they would be in the absence of a fixed margin.

The purchase of a radio set involves the purchaser in a relatively substantial outlay, and the retailer's profit margin represents a large portion of that outlay. An arrangement which deprives the public of the benefit of competition in respect of one-third of the retail price of a radio set is clearly a matter which affects the public interest in a very direct way. The commission have expressed the view that resale price maintenance, to which all approved radio retailers are required to adhere, is a practice which is contrary to the public interest. The commission see no valid reason why retailers, wherever located and whatever their operating expenses and efficiency, should be compelled, regardless of their own wishes, to accept a margin of gross profit as high as 50 per cent. on the cost of radio sets. The commission are of opinion that it is contrary to the public interest that retailers should be put out of business if they choose to operate on the basis of a profit margin which, though less than the prescribed margin, is sufficiently remunerative in their own particular circumstances. The view of the commission is that resale price maintenance, whether enforced by an association or by an individual manufacturer, should be abolished, and they consider that the abolition of this practice in the radio trade would be to the advantage of the consumer, would lead to increased efficiency in retailing and would not detract from efficiency in production.

The argument most commonly advanced against the abolition of resale price maintenance is that such a step would lead to extreme price competition, with consequent instability in the trade. Radio sets would, it is feared, he used as loss leaders, that is to say, offered for sale at drastically reduced prices in order to induce customers to purchase other commodities, the price of which has not been reduced. A large concern, dealing in a wide range of goods, would be in a stronger position than a small retailer to make up for a reduction in the prices of radio sets by increased sales of other goods, and the consequence of this would be the large-scale elimination of the small retailer. Persons without any real interest in the trade, and without any intention of continuing in the business, might seek a quick profit by reducing prices in order to increase turnover and so disrupt the business of legitimate traders.

The commission consider that it is necessary to distinguish between price cutting in circumstances where resale prices are fixed, though ineffectively or only partially mantained, and a situation where price competition is accepted as a normal condition of trading. The commission take the view that, in the latter circumstances, the opportunities for unscrupulous traders will be very limited, and regular retailers will be in a position to weigh the long-term consequences of a particular price policy in relation to other forms of competition. The commission do not accept the contention that price competition would lead to the elimination of numbers of small retailers. On the contrary, the commission consider that such competition would tend in some measure to favour the small retailer by providing him with a means of countering the attractions in the way of elaborate facilities offered by larger concerns.

As regards the practice of loss leader selling, the commission's view is that, having regard to the substantial cost, radio sets are much less likely to be used as loss leaders than are other commodities which are low-priced and have a high rate of turnover. In any case, the loss leader device derives much of its sustenance from the prescription of fixed prices. The fact that a very high proportion of radio sets is sold under hire-purchase arrangements further reduces the possibility of extreme price cutting. In such cases the customer is concerned with the size of the monthly instalment, which is governed by the duration of payments and the specific terms of hire purchase, as well as by the price of the radio set. The impact of price competition is much less direct in such circumstances than in the case of cash sales.

It is unreasonable, in the view of the commission, that the consumer should have to forgo the benefits of price competition in order that retailers might be protected against the contingency that competition might at some time become excessive. It is preferable to try to meet the risk of the emergence of such competition, not by eliminating all price competition, but by devising a method of checking excessive competition should it appear. The commission consider therefore that in two sets of circumstances the general prohibition against enforcement of resale price maintenance should be modified. Firstly, if a retailer offers or sells a particular brand of radio set at a price less than or equal to the price at which he originally purchased it from the manufacturer, unfair trading might legitimately be alleged, and the supplier should not be prevented from withholding further supplies. Secondly, if the goods are offered or sold at a price so little exceeding the purchase price as materially to injure the legitimate business interests of a supplier, the supplier should be at liberty to withhold further supplies, provided that he informs the commission of his intention. If, in the latter case, the commission, having examined the matter, notify the supplier that, in their opinion, the circumstances do not justify the continued withholding of supplies, the supplier would be obliged to continue to supply the trader in question.

I have given careful thought to the recommendations of the Fair Trade Commission, and my view is that the commission are fully justified in making the recommendations which are contained in their report. I agree entirely with these recommendations, and I am satisfied that it is unfair that radio manufacturers who have the benefit of tariff protection should discriminate against dealers by refusing to supply them on the grounds that the dealers are not approved by a particular trade association. I am of opinion, also, that it is wrong that it should be within the competence of vested retail interests to restrict the right of new retailers to enter into the radio trade.

I consider also that a number of the conditions imposed by the Wireless Dealers' Association on new entrants to the retail trade are unduly onerous. I refer, in particular, to the obligation that a new dealer must maintain a repair department and, if he is not technically qualified himself, must employ at least one service mechanic on a whole-time basis. This obligation, which, it may be noted, does not apply to firms which, prior to 1946, were on the approved list maintained by the Wireless Dealers' Association, bears with severity on the retailer in rural areas where the volume of repair work would not be sufficient to justify the employment of a service mechanic on a whole-time basis. I am satisfied that it is contrary to the interests of the consumer that competition should be restricted both by the maintenance of a list of approved retailers and by the enforcement of minimum resale prices for radios.

With the object of removing the abuses which exist and restoring conditions of free and fair competition in the radio trade, the commission recommend in their report that an Order should be made prohibiting the particular practices which are considered to be harmful to the public interest. The commission recommend, for instance, that, subject to the adoption of safeguards against the contingency of excessive price competition, resale price maintenance should be prohibited and that it should be made possible for retailers to determine their own selling prices in the light of their own operating costs. Dealing with the withholding of radio sets from retailers who have not complied with the rules of the Wireless Dealers' Association, the commission recommend that it should be made unlawful for a manufacturer or wholesaler to discontinue supplies of radios to a retailer on the grounds that the retailer has not observed minimum resale prices.

As regards restraint of trade which arises from the exclusion from supplies of retailers whose names are not on an approved list, the commission recommend that it should be made unlawful for a manufacturer to withhold radio sets from a retailer on the grounds that the retailer is or is not a member of a particular organisation or association or because the retailer's name does not appear on an approved list. The commission recommend that no manufacturer, trade association or organisation should be permitted to publish lists of approved or non-approved persons which are likely to restrict entry to the retail trade or to be used as a basis for regulating the supply and distribution of radio sets. The commission recommend also that it should be made unlawful for any person to secure a boycott of any manufacturer of radio sets on the grounds that the manufacturer has refused to do any act which would be contrary to the terms of the Order.

There are, finally, two recommendations by the commission regarding the imposition by individual manufacturers of terms and conditions for the acceptance of orders. Firstly, it is recommended that a manufacturer should be permitted to impose certain conditions including conditions as to the volume and frequency of orders et cetera, provided such conditions are reasonable, are equitably applied, and are notified to the commission, which may, if the circumstances at any time so require, make fair trading rules in relation thereto. Secondly, it is recommended that there should be a prohibition against a manufacturer differentiating between customers who should, in the normal way, be supplied on the same terms and conditions, having regard to the size and frequency of their orders. The commission do not consider that a manufacturer should be prevented from advertising or specifying a resale price which is a maximum price or from withholding supplies from a retailer if the maximum price is exceeded. Any such specified or recommended price will not, however, be binding on retailers as a minimum price.

I have made an Order to give effect to the recommendations contained in the report of the Fair Trade Commission, and a copy of the Order has been circulated to Senators. Section 9 (3) of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953, provides that an Order of this kind shall not have effect unless it is confirmed by an Act of the Oireachtas. The Bill which I am sponsoring is the Confirmation Bill which is necessary to give the force of law to the Order. Senators are probably aware that proceedings have been initiated in the High Court seeking, inter alia, a declaration that the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953, the inquiry held by the Fair Trade Commission in regard to the supply and distribution of radio sets, and the Restrictive Trade Practices (Radios) Order, 1955, are unconstitutional. The hearing of the action has not yet commenced and I do not wish to say anything that might be regarded as prejudging the hearing, but I consider that, having regard to all the circumstances, it would be proper that the Oireachtas should proceed with its consideration of the Bill for the confirmation of the Order.

I commend to the House this Bill which, on enactment, will, I hope, put an end to unfair restrictive practices in the radio trade.

Mr. Douglas

I move:—

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:—

Seanad Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Restrictive Trade Practices (Confirmation of Order) Bill, 1955 until a complete transcript of the evidence presented before the Fair Trade Commission is made available for the consideration of members of the Oireachtas in view of the fact that representatives of the radio trade who gave evidence before the commission have publicly stated that certain sections of the report on which the Restrictive Trade Practices (Radios) Order, 1955 is based are, in their entirety, or in part, contrary to the evidence submitted at the inquiry.

In moving this amendment I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not opposed to legislation being passed through Parliament which deals with the type of restrictive practices which are found, on investigation, to be opposed to public interest. Every trade union in this country is guilty of restrictive practices which are opposed to the best interests of the public as a whole and this very principle is enshrined in the Trade Union Act, 1871, and I think in all subsequent Trade Union Acts.

In the Dáil, when the Minister was moving the Second Reading of this Bill, and also this evening when moving it in the Seanad, he stated he had given careful thought to the recommendations of the Fair Trade Commission. "... my view is that the commission are fully justified in making the recommendations which are contained in their report." It is because I am satisfied from the evidence given me by persons who appeared before the Fair Trade Commission that the commission were not justified in making their recommendations that I have tabled the amendment in my name.

Before proceeding with the arguments, I should like to pay a tribute to Mr. MacCarthy, who was Chairman of the Fair Trade Commission when the wireless dealers' case was being considered. Every person who has discussed the report with me has paid tribute to the fairness and the fair way in which Mr. MacCarthy presided at the inquiry. I am satisfied he did everything possible and everything in his power to see that the commission and the inquiry were conducted as fairly as possible. However, I have a feeling that, like myself, Mr. MacCarthy had decided that the 1953 Act and the setting up of the commission was in fact unworkable and that it would be quite impossible to get a fair and accurate report on any trade under the system of inquiry which had been set up under the Act.

Section 8 of the 1953 Act provides:—

"A report made by the commission under Section 6 or 7 shall—

(a) describe the conditions which obtain in regard to the supply or distribution of the goods concerned and, where appropriate, the conditions in regard to the rendering, in the course of carrying on any trade or business, of any services affecting such supply or distribution."

The complete transcript of the proceedings of the Fair Trade Commission will, I believe, show that, far from describing the conditions which obtain in regard to the supply or distribution of wireless goods, the report before us is a complete distortion of the evidence presented before the inquiry and of the facts.

I do not intend to try to prove that there are no restrictive practices in the radio trade or in the set-up of the trade union which is known as the "Wireless Dealers' Association". It is well to remember that the Wireless Dealers' Association would not have secured registration as a trade union if its rules had not provided for restrictive conditions, including the conditions upon which any members of the association shall or shall not sell their goods. But restrictive conditions were kept to the minimum required under the Trade Union Acts and the association is probably less restrictive than any other registered trade union.

The 1953 Act includes a schedule of unfair trade practices. I think the radio trade—and I have some knowledge of the trade—has contravened these less than most other trades and certainly less than any other trade union. The main objects and activities of the Wireless Dealers' Association can, I think, be summed up as follows. They are, I think, mentioned in the back of the report, but I think they can be summed up under four headings. These are (i) The protection of the interests of those engaged in the radio and television trades; (ii) the giving of advice whenever desired to individual members; (iii) the compilation of a list of approved retailers of radio receiving sets; and (iv) the prevention of the exploitation of the public and the maintenance of the reputation and standing of the radio trade. In addition, of course, they have the usual trade union object of seeing that their members get a reasonable return for their labours. I imagine all members of the association are small people, self-employed, or employing one or two assistants, and, as I hope to show later on, when considering the report in detail, few of them are making what most trade unions would consider an adequate weekly wage.

Most Senators know that I am associated with a radio shop in Dublin. I was not asked to give evidence before the Fair Trade Commission, but, if I had, I would have been prepared to give figures which, as far as I know, were not submitted to the Fair Trade Commission, I would have been prepared to give the figures of the gross profits of that radio shop with which I am associated. I would have been prepared to give the gross profits for that branch over whatever period of years the Fair Trade Commission had asked. I believe that the staff in that radio shop are efficient. I believe that, since that shop was opened, they have endeavoured to give service to the public, and I am satisfied that, if it had been asked, I could have got many of the customers of that shop to go before the Fair Trade Commission to say that they believed that they had got fair value for their money and fair value in after-sales service.

Over the past nine years—and I do not mind giving these figures to the Seanad—the average gross profit in that radio shop was £3,533. Out of that, we had to pay all overheads. In 1947, wages absorbed 46 per cent. of that gross profit. In 1955, wages absorbed 58 per cent. of the gross profit. Rates in 1947 took up 3.7 per cent. of the gross profit, whereas, in 1955, they accounted for 5 per cent. of the gross profit. Between 1947 and 1955, wage cost increased by 42.5 per cent. and rates by 48.8 per cent.; whereas the gross profit for the same period went up from £3,475 to £3,857. As far as I am concerned, I personally have not earned one penny out of the radio trade over the past nine years, but I am proud to say that I have been able, by providing the capital for that radio shop—and I suppose I am in a privileged position in that I was able to provide that capital—to maintain employment for five or six people in the radio trade. I believe that in their small way they have given efficient and able service to the public.

One of the complaints lodged against the Wireless Dealers' Association is that it has unfairly restricted entry into the trade and that it has refused membership to persons who were, in fact, fully qualified under the rules. I will deal with both points in greater detail when I am going through the report. At this stage I would just say that every union has its teething troubles and the Wireless Dealers' Association is no better or worse than any trade union. We are all aware of the unofficial strikes which occur from time to time. These should not occur in any properly organised trade union. The fact is that they do and they often impose great hardship on the public as a whole. When these strikes do occur, the Government does not try to rush through hasty legislation to deal with them. Rather, it leaves it to the good sense of the members of the union concerned to try to put their house in order. I consider that the Wireless Dealers' Association and their predecessor have, during the past number of years, tried to put their house in order and have succeeded in doing so exceedingly well.

The Minister in his speech this evening and also in the Dáil mentioned that the wireless trade was a protected body. In the report, on page 101, the commission gave the customs duty which has been chargeable on wireless sets and it is well to note that it was not until 1946 that the wireless trade got what I would call completely restrictive protection. In 1926, when there were no wireless sets made in this country, there was a duty of 33? per cent., with a preferential duty of 25 per cent. In 1938, when, I think, there were practically no wireless sets made in this country, we had a 60 per cent. and 40 per cent. tariff. The wireless trade may be a protected industry, but I am satisfied that it never sought protection, and that the Minister is not really correct in his argument when stating that, because it is a protected trade, it should not be allowed to have certain restrictions.

I think his wording was:—

"I agree with these recommendations"

—that is, referring to the report of the Fair Trade Commission—

"and I am satisfied that it is unfair that radio manufacturers, who have the benefit of tariff protection, should discriminate against dealers by refusing to supply them on the ground that the dealers are not approved by a protected trade association."

I hope before the end of my speech to show that this report of the Fair Trade Commission bears little relation to the evidence and, in fact, as I have already said, in many sections is completely at variance with the weight of the evidence. To put it bluntly, the report might have been drawn up before ever the inquiry was held at all, for all the relation it bears to the facts put before the commission. The wireless trade was the first victim of the 1953 Act, because it was a comparatively young trade and did not employ a very large number of persons. A considerable amount of misinformed public comment has been made about the profit margins taken and allowed, but the fact is that the wireless trade is one of the few trades that has been able to maintain practically pre-war prices. This is due to the close co-operation that exists between manufacturers and distributors. The public wanted a victim under the 1953 Act and, so, the wireless trade was prejudged and condemned.

Since the report was published, a deputation from the Wireless Dealers' Association has endeavoured to put the facts before the Minister, but up to the present, as far as I know, he has refused to receive them.

We claim that a large part of the evidence given at this inquiry has been so distorted or misrepresented as to give a completely biassed and unfair picture of the trade and the association. We claim that, if the full transcript of the evidence were made available, it would prove that the radio trade is neither making an excessive profit, nor is it imposing restrictions on the distribution and sale of the goods which are detrimental to the public interest. The members of the association claim that the full transcript will prove that the Wireless Dealers' Association was in no way restricting entry into the trade. Rather, it has imposed certain minimum standards solely in the interests of the public and not in fact to restrict competition.

I should like to impress on the House this evening that the subject before the House is not a general consideration of the principles of restrictive practices relating to trade and industry. That, I think, was fully covered in 1953 when the original Fair Trade Act was passed in this House. It is, rather, a Bill to bring into law an Order which was made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, after he had considered the report of the Fair Trade Commission. If we are to approve the Bill, we must as a consequence approve the Order and the report. If there is any reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of the report, or that it does not reflect a true picture of the proceedings and the weight of evidence, then we should refuse to consider the Order and the Bill. The Minister has stated that we cannot amend the Order or the Bill and that we must accept or reject it in its entirety. We can, however, reject it and, at the same time, ask the Minister to introduce a revised Order which will be in keeping with the true position which will be disclosed in the complete transcript of the evidence or in the documents and facts which will become disclosed during the proceedings in the High Court. There are proceedings before the High Court and I, like the Minister, do not like to say anything that will prejudice that case. I will not bring forward any documents not already available either to the Minister or to the public.

The Minister has stated that it is not possible for us to amend the Bill. I find in 1953 in the Seanad Debates, Volume 41, column 578 that the then Minister for Industry and Commerce said:—

"The Orders made by the Minister under the appropriate section of the Bill will not have any force until they are confirmed by legislation passed by the Oireachtas. The intention is that the confirming Bills will be of a simple kind with which the Seanad will be familiar in connection with the confirmation of Orders made by various Ministers under different statutes, such as Orders imposing customs duties, or harbour works Orders."

I find my father interrupted the Minister and asked: "Can they be amended when passing?" and the Minister replied: "Certainly," and my father said: "That is very important."

The Minister on that occasion, continuing, said:—

"The power of the Oireachtas to amend any Bill proposed to it is beyond question."

That was part of Deputy Lemass's speech on the Second Reading of the 1953 Bill when it was before this House. In the absence of the complete transcript of the evidence, which I had hoped I might have been able to convince the Minister should have been made available to this House, I must take my case on the verbal evidence placed at my disposal by the secretary of the Wireless Dealers' Association, the members of the deputation who have tried without success to wait on the Minister and on the transcript of part of the proceedings of the inquiry, a copy of which was made available to the Wireless Dealers' Association for the princely sum of £11 18s. 9d. I propose, with the permission of the Chair, to quote from this available transcript of the evidence occasionally.

The actual report, at the bottom of the introduction on page five, states: "The witnesses before the commission were examined on oath." A list of witnesses is given and it states that the Wireless Dealers' Association was represented by counsel and the Irish Association of Civil Liberties by a solicitor. I consider that this paragraph implies that the witnesses from the Irish Association of Civil Liberties were examined on oath. No witness from the association is listed in appendix C of the report, nor was the Wireless Dealers' Association made aware of any representations made by anyone on behalf of that association at the inquiry. The position of that association at the inquiry was never defined by the commission and it is not indicated in the report at all that any witness from the association was examined before the commission on oath. The evidence put before me is that a representative of the Irish Association of Civil Liberties was not only never examined on oath, but was not there. That is the first inaccuracy which I find in the report.

Chapter 1 of the report is headed "Organisation of the Radio Trade" and it gives, amongst other things, details of the estimated annual turnover and particulars of retailers in the trade. According to this chapter, nearly 1,000 people—actually 971—received trade terms on radio sets. The home market is estimated in the report at 60,000 sets per annum and the retail trade turnover is estimated at £1,200,000. Let us for a moment assume these figures to be correct and take the profit at the maximum discount allowed under the rules of the Wireless Dealers' Association of 33? per cent. We find then the greatest profit distributed amongst the total retail radio trade to be £400,000 per annum. That is an average of £400 profit per dealer. It could hardly be argued that this sum is an excessive gross profit from which to pay wages, overhead charges and after sales service for the customers.

These are the best figures that the commission could produce to show that excess profits were being made and that entry into the trade was restricted. I wonder if many people really give consideration to what are gross profits. I cannot help thinking to-day that gross profits involve many more things than people take into account. It is the net profit after all expenses have been paid that is the figure by which comparison of one trade with another should be made. We have six representatives in this House who are members of university professorial staffs and I wonder what their gross profits on salaries are. I think 100 per cent. to most people in business. That is the full amount; yet I am quite satisfied that if we consider the salaries of the university professors and teaching staffs of various schools most of us would be happy to see some increase in their gross profits, but the fact is that we find, after paying all expenses arising from the continual increase in the cost of living, that their net profit is not so high.

In the Dáil recently, it was stated that there were 446,830 radio licences, other than transmitting licences, issued by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. It was estimated that there are 50,000 sets in houses already under licence because people might have two or three sets in one house and there are those who do not pay licences. There are a total of 500,000 sets in use in the Republic. In accordance with the figures available in the Statistics Office, it is estimated that there are less than 600,000 domestic establishments in the State. The average radio owner replaces his set every ten or 12 years at the most, so on the figures only 4,800 are required annually in the replacement market and the other 12,000 out of the total of 60,000 sets produced annually must find an outlet, either in new homes or in the export market.

I think it is obvious from the figures available to the commission that sales will not increase greatly and an increase in dealers will result in an increase in distribution cost for which the public must ultimately pay. It was shown at the inquiry that the present system of after sales service has reduced the manufacturers' overheads through the medium of fixed retail prices. It was obvious to the inquiry that large countries cannot absorb these 60,000 sets annually. That is the output of the manufacturers here and there would not be an adequate livelihood for even 500 people, much less 1,000 odd dealers.

The approved list was originated by the manufacturers and not the dealers, and several manufacturers who gave evidence before the commission made it clear that that was so. The evidence before the commission showed that an approved list was essential, if the radio trade was to be maintained at its present high level.

Half way down in page 7 of the report, it is stated that the sales of radio sets were carried on through the medium of hire purchase and deferred payments and it was estimated by a number of witnesses that sales on this basis represented as much as 80 per cent. of the total. The commission suggests here that radio is associated with other business, but in fact about 30 per cent. of the dealers on the Wireless Dealers' Association's approved list rely on the sales and service of radio and television sets for their livelihoods.

The reference to hire purchase is important, as this system depends on a basic price. It does not lend itself very much to price cutting as "no deposit" schemes have become very popular. It is true that very recently we had a hire-purchase Order introduced which does restrict sales under hire purchase and does provide for an initial deposit of 33? per cent. In spite of that Order there is plenty of evidence to show that there are ways and means of getting over that initial deposit and in fact certain dealers are continuing to sell on what might be described as a virtual "no deposit" system. Therefore, the benefits if any, which would accrue from the abolition of price maintenance, would be available only to a small proportion of purchasers and, at that, to the people who need it least—in other words the people who pay cash and who have cash to spare when purchasing. The poorer man who buys his set on the hire-purchase system will certainly get no benefit, but the wealthier person who can afford to pay would almost certainly benefit.

At the top of page 8 of the report, it is stated in the first line:—

" the list price less a discount of 33? per cent., thus giving him a gross profit of 50 per cent. on cost."

This is a misleading statement as in no business is profit assessed when one buys an article. Profit is always assessed as a percentage of the selling price or turnover. In fact, in most sections of the report, it does accept the principle that the average profit in radios is 33? per cent.

This same paragraph—section 2 of the report—deals with resale price maintenance. It says:—

"Resale price maintenance is in operation and is the subject of collective enforcement; the retailers are required to charge the purchasing public the fixed prices as listed, and steps to fix maximum trading allowances on used sets accepted in part payment have also been taken."

It was made perfectly clear at the inquiry that the used radio set values list, which is given in appendix E, was printed on a card for public display in each member's premises. Each member was requested to see that that was kept on public display. It was not binding for retailers, but was merely in the retailers' shops for their guidance. The list was intended to avoid unduly enhanced and uneconomic allowances which amount to price cutting, and it was also to ensure that the public would know what would be a fair price to pay for a used set. That was the reason that the association insisted that that card, referred to in appendix E, should be publicly displayed in their premises. In the report it is suggested that this was a secret document only for the use of dealers. In fact, it was quite the opposite and was meant to be for the use of the public.

On page 9, the report states:—

"Although a few manufacturers and distributors belong neither to the association nor to the federation, more than 90 per cent. of the sets marketed in this country are distributed by manufacturers and distributors who are members of either the Federation or the Wireless Dealers' Association."

According to appendix C of the report, representatives of 13 manufacturers gave evidence. Of these at least four were never members of or associated with the Wireless Dealers' Association, and one—the Gramophone Company, Limited—has since ceased to be a member because they have offered trading discounts and inducements in excess of the ceiling fixed by the association. Among the manufacturers who have never been associated with the Wireless Dealers' Association are Cossor, Ekco, Ever-Ready, K.B. and Ultra. These names are well known and respected by radio dealers, and it is ridiculous to suggest that they enjoy only 10 per cent. of the sales in this country, if that is what paragraph 4 suggests. These five makes are marketed through many outlets not on the approved list of the Wireless Dealers' Association.

This statement in the report bears no relation to the evidence submitted at the inquiry. That paragraph continues:—

"A trader whose name does not appear on the list of approved retailers has such limited varieties of sets available to him that it is virtually impossible for him to engage regularly and openly in the sale of radio sets on any significant scale."

I have already mentioned the five well-known makes which are freely available to people not members or on the approved list of the Wireless Dealers' Association. I have already shown that that statement is at variance with the evidence given before the commission.

At the bottom of page 9, we find in paragraph (5), which deals with the application form for membership of the Wireless Dealers' Association:—

"The application form is a detailed and lengthy document in which, apart from names and addresses, information is sought under 13 heads and, in addition, undertakings are required on 11 different matters. The form also incorporates an agreement on the part of the applicant that, if at any time he ceases to maintain all or any of the standards or requirements set out in the application form or fails in any of the undertakings given, the control committee shall be at liberty to delete his name forthwith without objection from him."

This, in my opinion, suggests that the form is as complicated as an income-tax form; yet a glance at appendix F shows that that is not so. The applicant is merely asked his name, address, trade name, description of his shop, the poor law valuation, and particulars of his radio repair department and the ability of himself or his staff to repair sets. Surely there is nothing very difficult about that. Yet, this paragraph in the report suggests it is one of the most complicated forms, and one which would require a university professor to unravel it. The undertakings in this application form were framed to ensure that the applicant would keep his shop open, display and keep in stock radio receivers, keep a service department, adhere to the manufacturer's prices and not wholesale through other retailers or part-time canvassers or agents on a commission basis.

Page 10 of the report states:—

"The control committee of the Wireless Dealers' Association, by which applications are considered, consists of 12 members of whom six are manufacturers and six retailers, and the chairmanship (with casting vote) alternates between a manufacturer and a retailer. The control committee is also charged with the periodical review of the list with a view to the deletion of names of persons no longer considered by the committee to be reasonably active in the sale of sets or of persons who are deemed to be unsuitable for retention on the lists because they have not continued to comply with undertakings given when they were approved."

If you refer to appendix G on page 111 of the report, it will show that the rules of the association do not provide for alternative chairmanship, in spite of the statements in page 10 of the report; neither does it show that the control committee is charged with periodical review of the list with a view to deletion of some person deemed to be unsuitable for retention. This part of the report is a complete misrepresentation of the rules of the Wireless Dealers' Association and of the evidence submitted before the commission.

On the next page, page 11, section (f) under the heading "Price Maintenance," it is stated:—

"Appendix — contains a directive issued by the Wireless Dealers' Association regarding calculation of trading allowances and specifying that the allowances so calculated must not be exceeded by any member of the trade."

I have already dealt with that section in Appendix E and I could not say anything about it other than that it is incorrect.

Now let us examine Chapter 2 of the report. Chapter 2 purports to be the evidence which was taken at the inquiry from 18 persons who complained of being excluded from full participation in the radio trade through the operations of the Wireless Dealers' Association and the federation, and it continues:—"A summary of the evidence is given below." Chapter 2 is the sole evidence provided in this commission's report against the radio trade as a whole, and I want to examine this chapter with particular care, because it is the full evidence on which the report is based. In all the statements regarding the Fair Trade Commission, it has been clearly suggested that the commission's function is to look after the public interest. If this is true, we would expect that at least one chapter of the report would show that some section of the public found the wireless trade or the Wireless Dealers' Association acting to its detriment. Not one member of the general public felt sufficiently aggrieved to appear before the commission—not even that jack-of-all trades, the Housewives' Association, who, I think, appeared before every other commission. Not even they could find sufficient complaints against the trade to come before the commission.

The only complaints that can be found were from 18 people who had a desire to enter the trade. They had every intention of coming into the business, if they could, and of transacting it on what they considered the same terms as the present people in the trade. They are hailed in this report as public benefactors, while existing radio traders are painted as public enemies. Before examining the cases given in this chapter may I read a very short excerpt from the transcript of evidence, or part of the transcript of evidence, taken before the commission? It is from a speech which was made before the commission by the senior counsel who was representing the wireless trade. Mr. McGilligan said:—

"There are special circumstances in the wireless radio business. It is not one that touches the community at all. It is only fringing the matter at the very worst and in the circumstances that prevail it is an astoundingly good industry to be able to keep its costs of manufacture and distribution at a cost where the manufacturers can sell at a little less than what they did pre-war, the dealer, at the same time, getting the same percentage discount; he is getting into his hands money that is far less so far as purchasing power is concerned than pre-war. Nevertheless we have been unfortunate because openly— there is no question of any secret— it is common knowledge—manufacturers and dealers in this particular business had two things—they had an approved list and they tried to restrict the sales of receivers to that particular group,..."

Unfortunately the person taking down the transcription could not get the next couple of words uttered by Mr. McGilligan. Mr. McGilligan continues for quite a long period in a similar strain. All his speech in this available transcript of evidence goes to show that in the evidence brought before the commission there was no case built up against the wireless trade.

If I may deal now with these 18 cases, the first case was a Mr. Snee of Kilkelly, County Mayo. It appears that this man deserted the radio business when things were slack. He did not worry about his customers who might require service. That was too bad, but he had emigrated. He decided to return to the business when he thought money was again in it. He flatly refused to show that he was qualified to give after sales service that his customers were paying for at the time when they purchased a radio from him. What had he to offer to the public? We are not told, nor are we told that it was serving the public interest to have him in the radio business. The only organisation mentioned as having dealt with Mr. Snee is the Wireless Dealers' Association, who did not add him to the list of approved dealers in 1946.

This report mentions the Wireless Dealers' Association approved list, which did not exist in 1946. The Wireless Dealers' Association approved list was first published in January, 1950, and I would ask Senators to bear that date in mind in dealing with other cases. It is perfectly true that the manufacturers had an approved list before that, and it was in fact the Federation of Irish Radio Manufacturers who dealt with this case of Mr. Snee. The three morning newspapers of the 15th January, 1953, all quoted Mr. Snee as stating that he was dealing with the Federation of Irish Radio Manufacturers, yet apparently the Fair Trade Commission were not aware of that, although the newspapers quoted him as having said it; and all the morning papers quoted Mr. Snee as claiming to be one of the original founders of the Wireless Dealers' Association, so obviously he is a subscriber to the principles of that association.

Again, that is not made clear in this commission's report. The Wireless Dealers' Association's case with regard to Mr. Snee only gets four lines. The report says "he had been asked to undergo a test to prove that he was capable of undertaking repair work, but had objected, in principle, on the ground that he had the requisite experience and skill and undergoing the tests entailed expense for him". As I say, the Wireless Dealers' Association's case is only given that short reference in that case. According to the newspapers, arrangements were made for Mr. Snee to undergo the tests in his immediate locality at no great inconvenience to himself. He refused to do this, but lost far more trouble and time coming to an inquiry in Dublin seven or eight years later. Why does the commission not tell us that this man has failed to show any reason as to why he should be considered as being in a position to honestly take money from a customer?

On a point of order, it is bad enough to have to listen to Senator Douglas retrying the whole case tried by a competent tribunal, but I do not think he is in order.

What is the point of order?

He is reading his speech.

I do not think he is reading. He could not do so under the Standing Orders.

There is another point which I wanted to raise, though I did not want to interrupt the Senator. I was wondering was it fair —it is certainly not our practice—that charges should be made against persons who are not in a position to reply here. We are actually mentioning them by name. I do not wish to criticise in any way what the Senator was doing. I quite understand that he should put forward the case of his associates in this matter, and the Minister is here to reply on the action taken by the Government, but it is hardly fair that persons should be mentioned by name.

It was never intended that the Dáil and Seanad should retry the whole case.

That is what we are doing.

On the first point of order, I accept that Senator Douglas is not in fact reading his speech. He must quote from the report and deal with it.

He is reading his whole speech as far as I can see.

Reading from a report. On the second point of order raised by Dr. ffrench O'Carroll, it does seem to me to be necessary that he should refer to the names of individuals who gave evidence, but I would suggest to the Senator that, in making reference to those individuals, he should just choose to make known their names without some of the comments which he deems necessary to make to illustrate his point. I will just leave the matter at that.

Mr. Douglas

I am proposing to give the names in these cases, because they have all appeared in the daily newspapers, and I would like to make it quite clear that I do not consider that I cannot comment on the cases put before the commission. I am examining the report issued by the Fair Trade Commission. I am endeavouring to show that, in my opinion, the report does not reflect the evidence submitted. I agree with Senator ffrench O'Carroll that it is not our place to try the case in the way the commission did. I am trying to show that I am satisfied—and I wish the members of the House to feel the same—that this report is not a fair report on the evidence submitted at that commission. I might also mention that I recall that Senator Sheehy Skeffington, when dealing with the matter of the school children, was ruled out of order because he did not give the names.

Could I put this to the House for consideration?

Is it a point of order?

Yes. Senator Douglas is now inviting the Seanad to retry the case by quoting his version of what happened before the commission and how wrong the commission were in coming to the conclusions, which he thinks were erroneous conclusions. This House cannot possibly test the veracity of what Senator Douglas is saying, unless it proceeds to examine the members of the commission who wrote this report and ask them what they have got to say about Senator Douglas's charges, but there is no machinery in the restrictive Trade Practices Act whereby the Seanad has any such functions in that regard. I do not know what Senator Douglas is now inviting this House to do. He is telling the House that the commission made an incorrect report as far as the evidence is concerned, but how the Senator is going to check the accuracy of that I do not know, nor do I yet know what is the purpose of it.

I do not think the Minister's point is really a point of order, but, on the amendment which Senator Douglas has put on the Order Paper, he is quite in order in the case he is making. If members will take the trouble to read the amendment on the Order Paper, they will discover that he is dealing specifically with certain sections of the report.

There is no power in the Act to make the transcript available and there is no instruction given.

The Minister stated that in his speech. Senator Douglas is conscious of that fact I am sure.

Mr. Douglas

With regard to the second case—case B—which refers to a Mr. Leetch, Kilkelly, County Mayo, this man also forgot about his customers when supplies got scarce, but he decided to come back to business when sales started again. He showed no concern whatsoever for service. The commission suggests that he tried to get on the wireless dealers' approved list in November, 1949, and claimed to be able to do normal service work. The official transcript of the evidence shows that Mr. McGilligan submitted in his summing-up that Leetch admitted during the inquiry that he had never filled in an application form to the Wireless Dealers' Association. He also admitted that he had no technical knowledge whatsoever. He claims to have gained practical experience through the sale of sets over a period of years, but admitted during questioning that he had never received a complaint in respect of a set he had sold. Where then did he get this practical experience of servicing sets? Can we take the five lines of the Wireless Dealers' Association case given by the commission as being a fair summary of the evidence? Can we accept it that the commission has been fair in not showing clearly that Leetch failed to establish it was in the interest of the consuming public that he should be allowed to accept money when he was not in a position to give after sales service? That is not brought out in the commission's report. The report says:—

"In November, 1949, he applied to the Wireless Dealers' Association to be put on the approved list of radio retailers, but was refused on the grounds that he had not a person in his whole-time employment who was capable of carrying out repair work."

Case C refers to a Mr. T. Gray, of Shercock, County Cavan. Here is a case of a man accepted by the Federation of Radio Manufacturers in 1948 and deleted again from its list within 12 months because he was found not to be a shopkeeper. He came before the commission and described himself as a radio and cycle dealer prevented from making a living. None of the newspapers, nor the summing-up on behalf of the Wireless Dealers' Association referred to the fact that he claimed to be able to do any service work. The commission says he did make this claim. This is something upon which we should have some more information as it seems extraordinary that the Wireless Dealers' Association or the federation did not deal with this point, if it were ever made. The Wireless Dealers' Association stated that the witness had, in fact, told its former secretary that he knew nothing whatsoever about repair work. The commission's own summary indicates that Gray asked to be put in touch with a suitable service man. Is the commission correct, therefore, that the witness actually claimed to be able to do service work when he gave his evidence? There seems to be a serious mistake on a very material point.

The transcript of the Wireless Dealers' Association's summing-up—a document which I have here—shows that questioning elicited that Gray was a substantial farmer who owns two farms in the neighbourhood of Shercock. I believe he has never been regarded as a shopkeeper and lost all cycle or other agencies granted to him because he never had a shop open during the day. He is obviously a man who would never give any service whatsoever to the public and merely wanted to make a few pounds as a sideline at night when it suited him.

With regard to Case D——

On a point of order, may I ask for some further information? If this amendment is put down because the final decision by the Minister was not based on a fair report of what was made available, I cannot see how we can get down to discussing the position between the members of the wireless trade and those 18 persons who objected because they were not admitted into the wireless trade. That has nothing to do with the actual substance of the amendment. Apart from that fact, I think it is quite unfair that we should discuss the position and attack people who are not in a position to defend themselves. It seems to me to be retrying the case.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

It has been the procedure in this House that Senators should refrain as far as possible from mentioning the names of people unable to defend themselves, but if the Senator feels that it is necessary in order to make his case in connection with this amendment, the Chair cannot prevent him from doing so.

Mr. Douglas

I am sorry if Senator ffrench O'Carroll feels I am making an unfair or unnecessary attack on those who appeared before the commission. I can assure him that I have no real intention of doing that, but every quotation I have given this evening is available and could have been made available to the Minister, either through the daily newspapers which covered the inquiry of the Fair Trade Commission or through the transcript of the evidence from which I am quoting. Perhaps the Senator would prefer that I should read in extenso from the Fair Trade Commission report. I can only give a résumé of what is available to the Minister or what might be available to members if they were prepared to pay £11 odd for it.

Is it suggested that the House, having got the transcript, should examine the three members to see why they wrote certain things in the book?

Mr. Douglas

All I am trying to do is show that this House is being asked, like the Dáil, to accept a Bill based on an Order which itself was based on a report which I am satisfied from the transcript of evidence made available to me is not a fair report of the proceedings. All I am asking the House to do, having heard the case, is not to accept this Bill.

Case D refers to a Mr. J.G. Daly, of Castleisland, County Kerry. The commission should be ashamed to have given this as an alleged "summary of the evidence" in the transcript. It is an absolute travesty of the facts available. This gentleman is quoted in the daily newspapers of the 16th December, 1953, as having made some extraordinary statements to which the commission did not even refer and that is probably just as well. It is vitally important that the full transcript of the evidence be carefully examined in this case and compared with the evidence of Mr. Jeremiah Kelleher who gave evidence at the inquiry as a director of a company in Castleisland. In the end of the commission's summary they referred to the witness' reference to "his position as a service man with a firm of radio dealers" following a breakdown in business. That is referred to in the report. Yet, a director of that firm gave evidence before the commission that that person had not been employed by his company. Why did the Fair Trade Commission decide not to make that available either to the public in its report or to the members of Parliament?

I do not intend to go through every one of these cases this evening. I could take each one separately and show, as I have done on the first four cases, that not a single one of these cases has been fairly reported in accordance with the evidence. I should just like to take out one or two others where I think there is blatant evidence from Mr. McGilligan's own speech at the commission that there is a deliberate attempt to mislead the Minister and the Oireachtas on the evidence given before the commission.

I will refer now to case J, which is from Kilrush, County Clare. I am referring to this case because this is one in which the Wireless Dealers' Association was involved. It refers to a Mr. E.R. Walker. Mr. Walker should have been on the approved list of the Wireless Dealers' Association but, in the case of Mr. Norton—Mr. Norton is another dealer referred to earlier in the report and he comes from Dublin —there was a misunderstanding. Mr. Walker was asked to give evidence of his serviceability but he felt he was being singled out and questioned because he was an Englishman. On hearing at the inquiry that everyone got the same treatment, he actually told the commission that he had no complaint. He is now a member of the Wireless Dealers' Association. On page 17 of the transcript of evidence, Mr. McGilligan said of Mr. Walker: He was a man who did say he would go on the list on condition that it was cleared up. He had not appreciated the distinction between those who were on before March 1946, and the later group but when it was explained he said that while he still objected he thought they were doing good work, et cetera. He said he would apply and be perfectly happy to come in. He was clearly a man who had sufficient qualifications to be able to walk right on to the list. He was one of those who made the point that the margin on which they were allowed to deal was too high, that it was too attractive to people who were merely interested in money not radio, a remark which would apply to most of the people who complained they were only interested in the money which they thought was in it.

There were just two other cases which I should like to pick out because the report is typically flagrant in its dealings with these two cases. Case P. deals with a Mr. Garvey of New Inn, Ballinasloe, County Galway. He has one of the biggest businesses in his area. He owns a cinema, a ballroom, a large garage, large showrooms, shops, a sand washing plant, and so forth, but he still grudged employing a man who knew something about radio. However, the commission concedes that the Wireless Dealers' Association had not an opportunity of dealing with the application as it was only made at the time of the inquiry and its bona fides can be doubted since, as in the case of O'Duffy and the cycle dealers from Dun Laoire, not another word has been heard from him by the Wireless Dealers' Association. The application seems to have been made for the purpose of qualifying as witnesses at the inquiry and may in fact have been made at the instance of the Fair Trade Commission. I just do not know.

There was one other case in the report which I feel I should deal with. It is the last one I intend to deal with under this section. It is case E., a particularly interesting case. A gentleman—I will mention his name if the Seanad so desires—appeared at the inquiry as representing the owners of a family business. The "business", however, consists of two brothers, one of whom was the witness. As I say, this is case E., Portlaoise. The commission saw from the Wireless Dealers' Association files that this gentleman, the witness, is a full-time employee of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and possibly a member of the Post Office Workers' Union. He still submitted himself to the association as being a full-time radio service man in his family business. The other brother, alleged to be also dependent on the business, holds a full-time position with a woollen mills. The commission suggests that the Wireless Dealers' Association implied that there were considerations affecting these matters influencing their decision on the application. The transcript, however, will show that immediately Mr. McGilligan tried to put questions to the witness concerning the fact that he proposed selling radio sets from a Post Office van, which he drives, during the hours for which he is paid to work by the State, the then chairman of the commission advised the witness to plead privilege and not to answer the question and the witness accepted this advice. Is the report of the commission a fair summary of that man's evidence? Incidentally, this family business has not even got a shop nor had it in fact got a business. These things were hidden, as Mr. McGilligan himself says in his report. That is a case which is given here amongst 18 others—the only case the commission could put up against the Wireless Dealers' Association.

As I have already said, there was not a single member of the public who was prepared to come forward and say there was any justification for the charges made against the manufacturers and the trade that they were grossly overcharging or in fact restricting entry to the trade. This Fair Trade Commission Report deals with 18 people who gave evidence before the commission, but on page 19 of this particular transcript there is the evidence of another gentleman who gave evidence before the commission. I wonder why his evidence has been suppressed from the report and is not available in it.

This is what Deputy McGilligan had to say about this witness:—

"I was not present when he gave evidence, but I have read Mr. Prentice's notes."

Mr. Prentice, I believe, was another barrister acting with him. Mr. McGilligan went on:—

"I am told that his case is a perfect example of the necessity for personal contacts as to whether or not an individual is competent. He came here as an associate member of the Society of Electrical Engineers. He spoke of his years in the Signal Corps, and his argument was such that he should not have been stopped on account of his service in radio. A few questions, however, I am told, indicated that he was a dangerous man to operate in any part of the country. He was unqualified, and in the interests of the public I think it was perfectly legitimate to keep him out, until he became qualified."

I wonder why the commission did not think fit to let us hear about that case.

Chapter 2, as I have said, is the basis of the case which is supposed to have been built up against the radio trade and the Wireless Dealers' Association. I hope I have shown that it is a travesty of the evidence submitted, but this can only be proved, if we are in possession of the full transcript of the evidence. The Minister has said that he has no power to provide a transcript of evidence and that the 1953 Act gives him no power to do so. It is rather strange that in one case I have seen and in two cases have been offered transcripts of the evidence, in the inquiries concerning the building trade, the grocers, and the motor trade; yet, for some peculiar reason, the transcript of the evidence has been suppressed in the case of the wireless dealers' inquiry in spite of the fact that I have here in front of me a sworn statement by the present secretary of the Wireless Dealers' Association to the effect that he was promised that it would be made available to the association, and subsequently, when he applied for it, was told that he could not have it. It is a very significant fact that the other traders have been offered transcripts of the evidence, but it has not been made available in the case of the wireless dealers' inquiry.

It is important to remember that Deputy McGilligan's summing up which I have quoted from was made before the publication of the report. Based on the summing-up and on the verbal evidence given to me, I have shown how often this second chapter of the report is at variance with the truth. The transcript of evidence may, for all we know, show up even more glaring untruths, if it were available to this House. If, as I believe, this House is made up of fair-minded men, anxious to see justice done fairly, I believe we should defer the Second Reading of this Bill, until we have seen and read the full transcript of the proceedings of the Fair Trade Commission.

As I have already said, I am in favour of curtailing restrictive practices, if there is evidence that they are detrimental to the public interest. Not one iota of evidence was produced to show that the regulations of the wireless trade were detrimental to the public interest. In fact, the evidence submitted was quite the reverse. According to this report 61 complaints were received by the commission. Only 21 were considered to be worthy of examination. I could show, but I have not in fact taken the time to show, that only three or four had grievances which would hold water, and in each of these cases the grievances were personal and had nothing to do with the public interest.

The remaining sections of the report deal, in the main, with the restrictions which pertained in the radio trade, and as no attempt has been made to deny that there are regulations covering the manufacture, supply and distribution of wireless sets, I need not deal with them in such detail, except where they deliberately twist the evidence.

Section 27 on page 24 of the report is confused, in my opinion. It examines the origin and development of the approved list system, and I have already pointed out that the Wireless Dealers' Association did not prepare and publish an approved list until October, 1949. Neither did its predecesor, the National Radio Traders' Association. Over and over again, this report refers to the Wireless Dealers' Association's approved list in connection with dates prior to October, 1949. Surely it must have been abundantly clear to the members of the commission that, in referring to any date prior, in fact, to January, 1950, on which the approved list was first published, they were in fact making statements contrary to the truth.

Page 35 of the report states—this is at the end of section 37:—

"It was explained by the former secretary of the association that action in this case was taken because of the fact that he had based his prices on a discount of 25 per cent. to the retailer instead of the customary 33? per cent."

This is the direct opposite of the evidence which was given by the former secretary of the association, Mr. McCann. What McCann actually stated was that certain individual dealers had refused to support manufacturers because of a lower discount. The Wireless Dealers' Association was never opposed to lower discounts being allowed. It has, however, imposed a ceiling of 33? per cent. Yet this statement in the report would suggest quite the opposite to the evidence.

Again on page 35, section 38 suggests that the Wireless Dealers' Association acted unfairly in the case of a person who wished to import television sets. It is interesting and I think worth while to read what Deputy McGilligan had to say on that particular case. He says:—

"Mr. Wilson was mainly on the question of T.V. sets. Whether or not he had an interest in the circumstances of the inquiry, I do not know, but I suggest that the objection in his case was well founded."

Letters sent to him were before the commission and I assume that those letters would be available if we had a transcript of the evidence. Unfortunately, I have not got those letters to quote from. Mr. McGilligan went on:—

"Mr. Wilson's object was to become a member of the Wireless Dealers' Association so that he could sell sets and not offer maintenance, which was in the interests of the public, according to him. Mr. Brownlee—"

One of the manufacturing representatives who gave evidence at the inquiry—

"said that a lot of people thought that T.V. was a simple proposition. There was, however, no equipment for real servicing of T.V., and if it came in the public were being deluded; they were being asked would they spend a good deal of money on an apparatus which could not be adequately or efficiently serviced."

At that time there were no facilities in the Republic to service television sets. Of course, as everybody knows, that has been remedied since the commission held the inquiry.

Chapter 5, paragraph 40 commences by saying: "It was alleged or implied by complainants that the system of control was devised and applied with the object of limiting the number of retailers to the advantage of those remaining on the approved list. It was represented on behalf of the Wireless Dealers' Association that the purpose of the control was not restrictive, and that new applicants were welcome provided they were qualified and that the object was to ensure that only genuine traders who were prepared to afford adequate service to the public would be admitted to the list and that, on being so admitted, they would not engage in price competition." Appendix H of the report clearly deals with this point, but I think it is much more clearly summed up in the Wireless Dealers' Association 1954 report, which states that the total number of applications dealt with between January, 1950, and December, 1953, was 438. According to the Irish Times report of 27th January—that would be 1954, I think—the chairman of the commission told Mr. McCann, then secretary of the Wireless Dealers' Association, that evidence had been given that 219 people had been rejected and 241 delayed. The same paper on the following day reported the chairman as saying that 530 people had been excluded from commerce in which they wished to engage. There you have on two consecutive days the chairman of the commission giving completely different statements.

The figures not given to the commission and not available at the time at the inquiry show the true picture that the public has not yet seen. The figures mentioned by the chairman were obtained by totalling all the decisions in the minute book, but without having any regard for the number of times applications were dealt with, or the fact that some of the applications were dealt with over and over again. The commission were made aware of that situation and their figures in this case are yet another example of the inaccuracies in the report. The figures included cases which the Wireless Dealers' Association had dealt with, in one instance, on two occasions and they were represented as being two separate cases. There was the case of a person who was rejected on two occasions before approval was given.

Of the 180 deletions from the approved list, some 50 were cases of people who had become ineffective in the trade or had closed their business. There were cases of others who were on the list of approved dealers when that list was first taken over by the Wireless Dealers' Association. Of the remaining 138 involved in the removals, ten were deceased members of the trade, 113 raised no objection to removal either with the association or the commission and of 15 who objected the committee reinstated 11. That information is supposed to be contained in appendix A of the report.

I will now refer to section 54——

What the Senator has just referred to is contained in page 114 of the report.

Mr. Douglas

If that is included in the report, I must have overlooked it, and I apologise. Section 54 of the report at page 45 states:—

"The various objections raised by witnesses to the conditions regarding repair services on the premises may be summarised as follows:

(a) that the Wireless Dealers' Association regulations were merely a pretext for limiting entry to the list, and were unnecessary because a satisfactory repair service could be provided in a variety of other ways, e.g., by sharing facilities among a number of dealers, by having repairs done by another dealer, or by making a contract with an independent service man;

(b) that dealers in country areas who, over a prolonged period, had provided service to the satisfaction of their customers, and had even repaired sets for approved retailers, had not been admitted to the list;

(c) that insistence on the employment of a service man on a whole-time basis was unreasonable for small retailers operating in rural areas as the volume of their business in radio would not provide enough work for a service man."

May I return in that connection to the official transcript of the evidence? Mr. McGilligan says that the use of this document was pointed and was sent in by the Federation of Manufacturers. He produced a sample of the application form for entry on to the approved list which dealt with this question of repairs and service. That is not contained in the report. Many of the people referred to as not having to provide service men were people who had been in the business prior to the taking over of the list by the Wireless Dealers' Association.

The Senator says he is reading from the transcript of the evidence but surely what he is now doing is reading from the transcript of counsel's speech. That is not evidence, but is merely an interpretation of the evidence.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator is entitled to make his case.

Mr. Douglas

I am endeavouring to make my case from the transcript of the evidence available to me. I can only read from the sections of it which are available to me and I have not the remainder of the transcript; that is the part of the evidence which I hope might be made available by the Minister to the Seanad in due course.

Section D at page 45 of the report says:—

"As service men were not readily obtainable and even if it were economic to employ them that it would be difficult to induce them to accept employment in small towns and villages."

Not one person came before the commission to prove that.

In the next section (e), the report states:—

"that the extent of the service necessary has been exaggerated."

In regard to that section, only two independent expert witnesses were called before the commission. They were Mr. Honan, instructor at Kevin Street Technical Schools and Mr. O'Keeffe, Chief Engineer of Radio Eireann. Both gave evidence completely contrary to the suggestion implied in paragraph 54 (e).

Section 65 of the report at page 51 states——

Senator Douglas has read quite an amount of this report and he might read the matters contained on page 48.

Mr. Douglas

I think I have dealt with that earlier in my speech when I said that the Wireless Dealers' Association over a number of years have been endeavouring to put their house in order. It was perfectly true that certain members of the trade were not fully equipped, but these were people who had been in the business prior to 1946.

Section 65 at page 51 makes a brief reference to radio prices in other countries and says:—

"The relevance of the point in the present context and indeed of comparisons in distant countries such as New Zealand and Canada was not considered to be such as to warrant the expenditure of time and effort necessary for a full examination of the matter."

It is a pity that no examination was made of prices in other countries, but I doubt if it would have suited the commission's purposes, for it would have confirmed the evidence produced at the inquiry that prices in this country were amongst the lowest. Catalogues of many manufacturers were presented, showing the prices over the past 15 to 20 years and these were put in evidence before the commission. In spite of the documentary evidence produced, the report in section 64 suggests that the average price to-day is some 50 per cent. higher. It is true that modern sets incorporate many improvements over pre-war models, and there are many expensive models for which comparative sets were not available in pre-war days, but in the cheaper classes, as I call them, up to, say, £25, I find that the equivalent set to-day value for value in these reasonable price classes costs less than it did ten to 15 years ago. We find that the cost is £15 2s. 6d. as compared with £16 2s. 6d. in 1938-39.

I have here two examples. They are two Pye catalogues, one for 1938-39 and the other current at the time of the inquiry. In 1938-39 the cheapest electric set available was 15 guineas, and at the time of the inquiry, it was £12 10s. To-day, the Pye five valve set costs £15 2s. 6d. and a comparative set cost £16 2s. 6d. in 1938-39. Other manufacturers produced similar evidence. Chapter 7 of the report was obviously prepared to tell the public what they thought the public wanted to hear. The evidence which will be disclosed in the complete transcript of evidence will tell the truth on that matter. All the evidence in that regard was submitted to the commission.

Section 73 on page 55 is another example of the twisting of evidence, but I have already dealt with that point.

On page 57, the report reads:—

"Under the present requirements, a businessman who wishes to take on radio as one of his lines of trade is required as a prerequisite of approval, either (a) to be already possessed himself of a certain skill in servicing radio sets—which may not be the case, and in most instances cannot be, since he has not been in the trade previously, or (b) to acquire that skill—which may be impracticable because a correspondence course was said to be inadequate without practical experience in addition and because the only other alternative is to go to Cork or Dublin and take a course in a technical school."

No evidence whatsoever was brought before the commission with regard to the value, good or bad, of correspondence courses; and I may say in passing, in regard to that paragraph, that the Wireless Dealers' Association has provided scholarships in the technical schools and has done everything within its power to encourage new entrants into the trade who are fully qualified to deal with wireless sets.

At the top of page 67, in section 94, the report says:—

"In the meantime the number of small-scale outlets has, in fact, been considerably reduced mainly as a result of direct intervention by the Trade Association. So far from price competition having a similar effect on the existence of the small retailer, it is suggested in a subsequent paragraph that it would tend in some measure to favour him by providing him with the means of countering the attractions in the way of elaborate facilities offered by the large concerns."

The Wireless Dealers' Association have always kept a careful check on price cutting and, since the inquiry, there has been no evidence that any small retailer has engaged in price cutting, although it would appear that that is the suggestion being made. One man, not a member of the Wireless Dealers' Association, has been deleted from the approved list for price cutting, but he is one of the larger dealers in Dublin and owns three well-stocked stores. I have here with me the Wireless Dealers' Association's file dealing with this chain-store dealer, and this was also brought before the commission. It is interesting to find that during the war years and after the war, from 1943 to 1948, when wireless sets were in short supply, this particular dealer was, on no less than ten occasions, approached by the Wireless Dealers' Association for overcharging —for asking a higher price than the recognised list price. In 1943, for instance, the complaint against the firm was in respect of selling a Bush receiver at 30 guineas when the manufacturer's list price and that charged by every other dealer was 25 guineas. In 1947, to take another year, they supplied a customer in Limerick with a Philips radio receiver for £25 when the manufacturer's list price was £18. This is the sort of thing which is going to happen, if the larger dealers of this type get a monopoly.

Was he ever struck off for overcharging?

Mr. Douglas

He was. I have already said he is not a member of the association, but, because he qualified, he was on the approved list.

And he remains on the approved list?

Mr. Douglas

He was struck off the approved list.

For underpricing?

Mr. Douglas

He was already struck off for overcharging and was then reinstated. In this case, the most blatant case was one in which a price of £21 was charged for a set which happened to be one of the cheapest sets on the list at 9½ guineas. I might mention that it was sold to a member of the teaching profession. I think, even from that short quotation from this file, it is easy to see how this company would treat the public were they to drive small competitors with little capital out of business by price-cutting.

Section 108 again repeats the lie that the Wireless Dealers' Association took action against a manufacturer who provided a trade discount of 25 per cent. I have shown already that there is no truth in this allegation and that no such evidence was ever given before the inquiry. Individual dealers may decide not to buy from the manufacturer offering 25 per cent. discount, but that is not prevented by the Bill we are considering to-day. Another manufacturer, who is quoted in the report, said he thought 30 per cent. discount was not unreasonable for his make of set provided his outlets were reduced and he is satisfied that all dealers gave adequate after-sale service. Since the inquiry, he has put this policy into effect and is allowing 30 per cent. discount on his sets. As I have already said, the Wireless Dealers' Association fixed a maximum discount of 33? per cent., but no minimum, and, in fact, they took action against two manufacturers for exceeding this rate. At the present time, they are actually dealing with another manufacturer who has attempted to exceed that rate in his discount.

I am afraid I have been talking for a long time on this report, but I feel very strongly that the Oireachtas should be made aware of the type of justice which, in my opinion, is being meted out to its citizens. We have a small group of manufacturers and traders working together, in my opinion, for the common good in the wireless trade. They have over 25 years' experience behind them and, from that experience, they have built up a system whereby their goods are offered to the public at competitive world prices. Their trading arrangements and common objective are to ensure that people living in the remoter parts of the country will get their radio sets at the same prices, in the same condition and with the same after-sales service as persons living in Dublin.

We have an endeavour by the present Government to decentralise industry, and at the same time we are now endeavouring in this House to pass legislation which will have the effect of penalising the person who goes to live in the remoter parts of the country. It means that for the future wireless manufacturers will have to fix an ex-factory price, and if there is no adequate service provided in the remoter country districts, then the set will be going back and forth to the manufacturer, and the user will have to pay the costs of transport and will have to pay the additional charges to and fro. The controlled price has enabled the manufacturer to see that his wireless set is only supplied to a dealer who is able to give that service on the spot to the consumer.

Is there any crime in wishing to fully protect a delicate product and in seeing that it reaches the consumer in factory condition? I do not think there is. Is there any crime in providing that the price of that article includes a certain amount in respect of after-sale service? I do not think there is. Is there any crime in seeing that a person working for an employer should get a moderate return for his labour? I do not think so. That is one of the objects of the Wireless Dealers' Association. Is it now a crime for a group of people to band together in a union for the purpose of protecting their own interests and of seeing that the public get a fair deal from their members? I do not think so.

By far the majority of radio dealers are small men, self-employed or with one or two assistants. They are in the position of skilled tradesmen. Are they now to be denied the full protection of the Trade Union Acts? Up to the present, we have believed in this country that a man or group of men were entitled to a fair trial and if, on the weight of evidence, they were found guilty, they would be duly condemned. Now we have adopted the Soviet system of a mock trial and we find the defendants guilty without any evidence at all.

The only concrete evidence which did emerge from the inquisition was, under the restrictions of the Wireless Dealers' Association, manufacturers were able to keep their prices down to pre-war level and at the same time provide greater service and protection to the public. As Deputy McGilligan so ably put it before the inquiry, it makes us unique among manufacturers and traders in this country. As I have already said, not one single member of the consumer public gave evidence at the inquiry or lodged complaints of unfair trading by members of the trade. No evidence was produced to show that legitimate members of the trade were making an excess, much less an adequate, profit, but the report contains plenty of veiled references to that effect. The only evidence produced against the trade was given by people who wanted to get into the business because they believe there are vast profits to be made. They have no interest in giving after-sales service and, if I may put it bluntly, they wanted to get into the trade to fleece the public.

The present Bill seeks to confirm the Order made by the Minister in May, 1955. The Order is supposed to be based on this report. We are just being asked to approve legislation which will allow persons who attended and gave evidence against the trade to enter the business. On their own evidence, they have shown that they have no interest in fair trading or in serving the public. The present Bill, when it becomes law, will allow them to enter the wireless business, but it will take them some time to realise that the profits in the radio trade are much less than in most other businesses. In the meantime, many of the existing dealers, who have given many years' service to the public, and who have banded together in a trade union to prevent exploitation of the public and to maintain the standards of the radio trade, will be deprived of their livelihood.

To end, I want to deal with one section in the actual Order. In the Dáil, the Minister stated that it was not the purpose under the 1953 Act to deal with the workers' trade unions. I find that Section 14 of the Order, which is disguised under the heading "Publication of lists of approved traders" says in Section 14 (1):—

"No association, organisation, or other combination shall prepare, maintain, publish or issue, or cause to be prepared, maintained, published, or issued, any lists of approved or non-approved persons or of persons classified in any way which have, or are likely to have, the effect of limiting or restricting entry to trade in goods to which this Order applies."

Now the Wireless Dealers' Association have in the past endeavoured to fix a minimum wage rate for its employees in the radio trade who are not members of a workers' trade union. If they did not fix that particular wage, it would be possible for the members to employ what might be vulgarly described as scab labour, but they have insisted that their members should pay the minimum wage to such people as they might employ. Under Section 14 of the Order, it will now be impossible for that association, or for any other trade union, to issue, maintain, publish or cause to be maintained or published any lists of approved or non-approved persons. In other words, the trade unions will no longer be able to say to the radio manufacturers that they must employ a person at a certain wage rate, because, by employing him at that particular wage rate, you may restrict entry into the trade.

That is quite clearly covered by Section 14, but it is made more clear in the Order issued a few days ago in relation to the trade, because, if you read the section, it is not put nearly as veiled as it is in this Order. I agree that it was not the intention to deal with a workers' trade union and I was exceedingly surprised to find in this Section 14 that the Order would in fact apply to the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union, who are the only trade union, besides the Wireless Dealers' Association, concerned with this trade.

I have tried, possibly at too great length, to show that this report on which this Order is based is contrary to the evidence submitted to the commission. If I have been able to raise any doubts at all in the minds of Senators, then I feel we would be justified in saying that we wish to defer the Second Reading until such time as the transcript is made available to the Seanad. My case is based on the facts that, in all the other inquiries, a transcript has been available to the people concerned. It is not available in this case. As I said earlier, I should like to know why. I feel that we in the Seanad should ask the Minister, if necessary, to take steps to provide that a full transcript be made available to a committee of the House, or of both Houses of the Oireachtas, so that we can see for ourselves whether the evidence is in accord with the report of the commission.

I would have put down a similar motion on the Restrictive Trade Practices (No. 2) Bill but I am satisfied from the transcript that it was quite unnecessary to put down a motion of that kind.

I wish formally to second the amendment standing in the name of Senator Douglas and I reserve the right to speak later.

I should like to speak in opposition to this amendment, and indirectly, consequently, in support of the Bill put before us this night by the Minister. I think we can all recognise that Senator Douglas has put as good a case as could be put. I think we can admire his placidity; I think we can admire his stamina. I think I can promise to cut my own speech to not more than 33? per cent. of the time occupied by Senator Douglas. I shall endeavour, indeed, to do better than that.

Senator Douglas started off by saying that the transcript, if it were available—although he himself seemed to have a reasonably good copy—would show that the report is a "complete distortion" of the facts. I was half tempted to ask him to lay this transcript of evidence, from which he quoted so freely, on the Table of the House, but I refrained from doing so because I was afraid he might do it.

My own impression is that he has made a very skilful case out of very little material. He did not refer, as in other connections one hears similar phrases, to the delicate dealer-consumer relationship in the radio trade, but he gave us to understand that the consumer of radio can only be handled in the luxury and comfort to which he has been accustomed if he dealt with a dealer, not necessarily a member of the association, but, at any rate, one on their approved list.

He referred to the "very simple" objects of the Wireless Dealers' Association, and they gave us to understand that they were simply for the benefit of the community in general and, of course, a certain amount for the protection of themselves. On the last page of the report, page 120, I find the conditions under which a member can be expelled from such an association. I find that if a person refuses to abide by the "policy and decisions" of the executive council, that executive council can, by a two-thirds of the vote given thereon, remove that member from the association or federation and that member will "not have any redress" against the association or federation. Furthermore, I note, on the same page, that a quorum at a meeting of the executive council shall be four members. Well, that seems harsh. Senator Douglas employs two analogies. He said the Fair Trade Commission was like a Soviet trial and he said it was like an inquisition. I am not sure what kind of a trial a member of the association gets before the executive, but, apparently, he, too, has no redress.

Now, Senator Douglas, I am afraid, went into the realm of fantasy when he said the commission "wanted a victim," and so they hit upon the poor little radio dealer's trade. It is true that it was the first trade to be examined, but it was only the first trade. Quite a number of other trades have been examined. Some of them have protested, but the fact is that the wireless dealers have not in any sense been singled out. The building trade has been gone into; the grocery trade has been gone into; the chemists' trade has been gone into; the motor trade has been gone into and so on. The wireless dealers have by no means been singled out. They were the first, but there had to be a first trade to be so examined.

In my opinion, Senator Douglas made two excellent points. First, he challenged the Minister when the Minister stated that these Orders were incapable of amendment and he was able, very appositely, to quote from the debates in the Seanad when the Bill was originally going through and when the then Minister, Deputy Lemass, said that "certainly" these Orders could be amended in the House. I feel the Minister is in honour bound to answer that. I feel that was certainly a valuable point.

But it is also true that he quoted from that same debate that these Orders were to be considered like any other Orders such as the Imposition of Duties Order which comes before this House from time to time. I am familiar with the matter, and I have not a very distant experience that the only way in which you can, in fact, amend these Orders coming before the House is by deleting a section. You cannot amend these Orders in the sense that you can change their wording or purport. When we get the Imposition of Duties Order before us, we can amend it by suggesting the deletion of one or other item, but we are not allowed to amend it in any fuller sense. That might be the defence put up by the Minister in the case.

The other excellent point to which the Minister must advert was that made by Senator Douglas in relation to the employment of trade union labour in Clause 14 of the Order. I would not anticipate the Minister's answer, but I should like to say that one must, if one is impartial, feel a certain sympathy with the indignation of Senator Douglas when he objects to certain types of restriction on trade being prevented while other types of restriction on trade are not affected.

We all know it would be irrelevant to go into detail about the existing restrictive practices of that kind, but I am prepared to support Senator Douglas in any stand he may take for the purpose of removing that type of restriction also. Unfortunately, however, I understood from him that he is rather opposed to the removal of any kind of restriction altogether. I am afraid that on that point I might part company with him.

He said, earlier on, that there were not, quoting average figures, excessive profits in the retail radio trade. I think that is quite possible. I do not propose to challenge his figures because I think his figures were accurate. I am quite certain he made them as accurate as he could. He made a passing jest about "gross profits" and he suggested that such people as myself —he did not mention me by name—he doubted if university lecturers would consider all of their salaries as gross profits. He did not mention, however, that such people have not got "expense accounts." I think, to complete the picture, he might have given us some insight into what is meant in the business world by an "expense account."

However, his figures I am not challenging. I think in general it is possibly true to say that, on the average, there are not excessive profits in the trade but that might indicate that there are too many people in the business, too many such retailers and too many wireless dealers. I think that on that point, too, Senator Douglas would agree with me. The question then must be asked: how shall we decide who is to enter the trade; who shall stay in the trade, and who shall be thrown out? How shall we decide that? Again, who shall decide who shall enter this trade, who shall stay in it and who shall be thrown out?

I suggest that of the alternatives I am going to mention the second is preferable. Should it be a small private group with a vested interest in the trade that should decide who shall come in, who shall stay in, and who shall be thrown out, or shall it be the consuming public who shall be the controlling group through the often-mentioned law of supply and demand? If there is not a public demand in a free competitive regime, it is the least efficient producers who will go by the board and go out of business. I recognise that that may be harsh in individual cases. It is a fairer test, however, than leaving it to a private group with a vested interest in the profits of the trade.

I should not like to follow Senator Douglas into all the intricacies of the points he made arising out of the report but I should like to mention one or two things. He mentioned page seven with a great air of condemnation and the fact that the report suggests that "generally" the sale of radio sets is carried out in conjunction with the sale of other goods, particularly electrical appliances, cycles, hardware and furniture. That is the statement, if I heard the Senator correctly.

Now Senator Douglas stated that 30 per cent. of the trade is carried out quite independently of any other goods; so that we find that 70 per cent. of the trade is carried on in conjunction with the sale of other goods. Consequently, he is objecting to the Fair Trade Commission using the word "generally" to apply to 70 per cent. of the trade. He may have established a point there, but it seems to be a small and finicky debating point.

He went on to a more important point when he suggested that if the Order is to go through and if resale price maintenance is to disappear from the trade—that is really the kernel of the matter—he suggested that the benefit of the reduction in price resulting therefrom will not be enjoyed by about 80 per cent. of the people buying radios since, on the evidence of the report, about 80 per cent. of the people buy their radios on hire purchase, therefore, these 80 per cent. would not enjoy the benefit of the price reduction.

I would make a twofold answer to that. There will be less than 80 per cent. buying on the hire purchase if you have a more reasonable cash price, because one of the reasons why people are forced to buy certain commodities through hire purchase is because the cash price is unnecessarily and artificially inflated. Therefore that figure of 80 per cent. will drop if the price is lowered. Secondly, the hire purchase prices are always, as far as I understand it, related to the cash price. Consequently, if the cash price drops, presumably the hire purchase price will drop also, and so, in that second way also, those who buy their radio sets through hire purchase will benefit if, in fact, the Minister's Order is implemented, as I hope it will be.

Senator Douglas also referred to the application form for members to the Wireless Dealers' Association. He referred rather lightly to it, and he did not quote very extensively from it. He said it was a perfectly simple form, and that anybody could understand it, and that it was not as complicated as an income-tax form. It is quite a simple form. It asks for 19 pieces of information, it is true, and it is divided up into four or five sub-sections. Nevertheless, it is of interest to note items Nos. 16, 17 and 18. Item No. 16 reads as follows: "Do you undertake to maintain at all times the Manufacturers' List Prices?" Item No. 17 asks: "In connection with the sale of new sets do you undertake to refrain from making allowances on secondhand receivers which are, in the opinion of the Control Committee, excessive and above their true market value?" Item No. 18 reads: "Do you undertake to refrain from supplying radio receivers or equipment for resale to the public, to any person, firm or corporation whose name does not appear on the Approved List?" That is very simple. We can all understand it, but it represents a very big basic document for restrictive practices.

Mr. Douglas

I never attempted to say there were never restrictive practices in the retail trade. I said there were restrictive practices. I admitted there were.

I should not like to be taken as suggesting that Senator Douglas denied there were restrictive practices. I would point out, however, that in this simple document the reasons why some of us, not Senator Douglas, object to this kind of restrictive practice, against which this Bill before us to-day is directed, are clearly stated.

I noticed, not with surprise, that Senator Douglas made very little reference to Chapter IV which starts on page 28. It refers to "Enforcement Arrangements." On page 29, a very alarming circular is reproduced which was sent out by the Wireless Dealers' Association. It has a lot of capital letters and it is a very frightening document. It starts off in enormous capitals: "Our Members must keep a Close Watch on a very Dangerous Situation." The very dangerous situation is that some members of the Wireless Dealers' Association might give a slight cut in price to some of their friends, or might sell sets to people off the approved list.

If you are a member getting this circular, you are informed under paragraph (a), page 29, that you are acting as a wholesaler if you do these things with radio sets and, "when your guilt is established by the simple process of checking serial numbers, your name will be recommended for deletion from the approved list of dealers". You can imagine that "guilty" person in sackcloth and ashes promising never again to cut prices because that is his "crime." The word was used by Senator Douglas later in his speech. He did not quite put the question: is this a crime? I think it might be put to him: is it a crime to have competitive retail pricing? Personally, I do not regard it as a crime, and there are many occasions on which it may considerably benefit the consuming public.

The Minister, in opening, made a point, arising out of this request for the transcript, which seems to me legitimate. I see no particular objection to allowing anybody interested to buy the transcript of evidence of any of these commissions. I would think it would be quite a good thing. I see no objection at all to it. As far as I can see, the main object, as far as Senator Douglas is concerned, would be to discover what were the two words in the speech of Deputy McGilligan which were missed by his official stenographer. I also am intrigued to know what these two words were. I have no doubt they were full of dynamite. I see no objection then to making available to those prepared to pay for it a copy of the transcript of evidence. The Minister, however, has made a good rebutting point on that. He said the transcript of evidence was only part of the evidence before the commission. Senator Douglas did not answer that point at all. All the books, documents and files, I understand, in the possession of the various Government Departments, relative to the trade, were placed at the disposal of the Fair Trade Commission, and rightly so. Naturally, they based their conclusion, not only upon the verbal evidence given before them, but also on the documentary evidence already in the possession of the Government. I do not know whether Senator Douglas wants the publication of all these Government files.

Mr. Douglas

On a point of order, I never questioned the documentary evidence submitted to the inquiry. If the Senator would read my motion, he would realise I was dealing only with the section of the report in reference to which it was publicly stated that certain sections are in their entirety, or in part, contrary to the evidence submitted at the inquiry.

I am afraid Senator Douglas is missing the point I am making, and also what the Minister said: namely, to formulate a report on the weight of the evidence, you must weigh not only the verbal evidence, to which Senator Douglas referred, but also the documentary evidence. If you examined verbal evidence only the weight might go one way, whereas, if you examine the verbal evidence and the documentary evidence, the weight may go overwhelmingly the other way. That is what can happen if you are in possession not only of verbal evidence but of documentary evidence. It seems to me the Senator has been answered by the Minister on that point.

Listening to Senator Douglas, I got the impression that we got in his speech a pretty full transcript of all the proceedings of the Fair Trade Commission. He did not spare us any details, or very few at any rate. Any of them which do not appear on the Official Report of the Seanad must be small indeed.

The second point I would make in relation to the demand for the transcript of evidence is that, if the public were to be given it, I still feel we are not the people to judge. Which is the best body, who is best suited to weigh the evidence? Obviously, the body officially appointed and required to do so—the Fair Trade Commission. Unless we vote "no confidence" in the commission, I submit we are bound to accept their judicial opinion as to their conclusions upon the weight of evidence, they being the people best suited to judge. The Minister made the point well, I think, and established it, that his Order did not attempt in any way to interfere with the right of the trade to prevent "lost leaders" or unfair competition; but he made the case that you do not decide to stop all price competition, which is what the wireless dealers did and admittedly still want, simply because some price competition may be excessive. I did not feel Senator Douglas answered that point.

I should like to come now to the main and obvious reasons why we must support the Minister and the Government on this Order. I suggest they are summed up in a chapter ignored in toto by Senator Douglas, Chapter XI. I hope I do not want to wrong him when I say that that chapter was ignored by the Senator, but I notice in Chapter XI, which is the chapter on the general summary of conclusions and recommendations on the conditions obtaining, that in paragraph 118 we read:—

"The exclusive dealing and resale price maintenance arrangements described in the report prevent and restrict competition and restrain trade by limiting the numbers of retailers and preventing or restricting competition in price amongst those retailers who are permitted to engage in the trade."

That is the first main reason for the Order. The second is contained in paragraph 119 (i):—

"It is unfair that radio manufacturers to whom the market is virtually reserved by the tariff and on whom retailers are thus dependent should discriminate against certain persons by refusing to supply them solely because they are not sponsored or approved by an association."

That is the second reason, and it is a good reason. The third reason is, as stated in the same paragraph:—

"(ii) It is unfair that restriction of the right of any person to engage effectively in the retail trade should be within the competence of vested retailer interests."

The fourth reason in the same paragraph is the tariff protection. I think this touches us in the Oireachtas even more closely:—

"(iii) The tariff protection afforded to the home manufacturer against external competition has been availed of to protect retailers by restricting intornal competition."

I think that is a vital point. The fifth and last reason I want to quote is:—

"(ix) The arrangements made between the manufacturers and the retailers acting in concert have made compulsory the taking of profit margins beyond the levels which might otherwise have obtained."

These are clear reasons. These are reasons which, I think, are cogent and compelling reasons why we should accept this Bill and be very grateful (a) that we have a Fair Trade Commission which has done such excellent work and (b) that the Minister has decided to act so promptly upon their recommendations.

I would suggest, as I have suggested before, that the Fair Trade Commission has, in fact, set an example. It is one of the pieces of legislation by means of which we have set a headline to other countries. In Britain to-day, they may well be examining the methods whereby we have decided that the Fair Trade Commission will deal with the whole question of unfair restrictions in trade. Therefore, I am disappointed when I find a prominent businessman—I do not intend to mention him by name— the other day, and I quote from the Evening Mail of the 7th February of this year, calling for “the abolition of the Fair Trade Commission” because he says it is “interfering,” and so on. He says there are trading conditions to-day where “competition is intense” and so forth. He calls for the abolition not only of the Fair Trade Commission, but of the Prices Advisory Body and the prices section of the Department of Industry and Commerce as well. He pays great tribute, however, to the way in which that Department put protective tariffs on foreign textiles being brought in, and to Córas Tráchtála for aiding manufacturers to export their goods. If these businessmen are prepared to use the tariffs and protection put on by the State, they should be prepared to allow the State to have some say in the way they fix and maintain prices.

I would put the proposition to the Seanad that the removal by the Fair Trade Commission and by this Bill of such restrictions imposed by private bodies, private groups and associations, cannot in any way be said to be hampering trade. The object of all too many of these private bodies is, in fact. the maintenance of privilege and sectionalism. On page 38 of the report, reference is made to the desire in the country to trim down the list, which means squeezing out marginal members on the approved list.

It is always hotly denied furthermore by such associations that they indulge in fixing prices. They "suggest" prices; but, if you do not accept their suggestions, you do not get their sets. It is nonsense to say that that is not price fixing.

I come now to resale price maintenance. There is no question but that very frequently in certain trades—one thinks of the fruit and vegetable trade and other trades—a high profit margin is justified, or appears justifiable, because the goods in question are perishable. They cannot be kept for long. Refrigerators may be required, in which to keep such goods. There is a loss on certain goods that go bad, if they are kept too long. But that does not apply to this trade. Yet, the wireless trade is insisting up to this day, until this Order goes through, that their dealers should take a gross profit of 50 per cent. although this is a trade in which the goods cannot be said in any vital way to be perishable or to require refrigeration, and so forth.

I suggest that this is a trade which is protected by high tariffs and which uses what are meant to be defence weapons placed in their hands by the community—the consumers, the public and the Oireachtas—in order to hit the community, and sometimes hit it very hard. Their motto seems to be to stick together and sting the consumer. They act as though competitive pricing was quite dead and they try to keep the trade small and tight, and the profits high. It is we in the Oireachtas who gave that protection and we have the right to see that that protection is not abused in order to mulct the public. A healthy breath of competition would do some sections of our business community a world of good.

Many people complain that they hate "controls". They really object to control in the community interest. They clearly foster and build up controls by controlling commodities for their own private interests. Consequently, I congratulate the Minister and the Government on their swift and effective action, in the community interest, based upon what is an eminently fair report. I would congratulate even more the Fair Trade Commission for both the manner and the high public value of their work. I think they have been extremely fair and extremely courageous. We have set a headline in this matter; and it is excellent that we have had, through their work, a ventilation of all the backroom arrangements and methods which are worked out in order to sting and charge the public more than they should pay. It is high time that kind of thing was shown up and it is high time effective action was taken to protect the consuming public from what are nothing but predatory tradesmen. It is in that spirit that I support this Bill and heartily approve the Minister for bringing it forward.

I do not think this House to-night will have an opportunity of deciding for or against this amendment or for or against this Bill. It would be desirable, in view of the importance of the measure, that Senators should have perhaps a little time to think over the case that was made very ably by the Minister in favour of this Bill and the case that was made by the Minister, also very ably, against this amendment. Furthermore, we would need to consider very carefully the lengthy case that was made by Senator Douglas in support of this amendment. Without a doubt, he devoted a very great deal of time to consideration of this matter. He must have studied the case very carefully and certainly he presented it very well. I am not completely convinced that what Senator Douglas asked for might be granted by this House. What is involved to a more important degree by his amendment is whether or not this commission gave a fair report. The decision the House will be called upon to make is one of confidence, or otherwise, in the Fair Trade Commission. If we are certain that the report presented by the commission to the Government was absolutely fair, then we must adopt it; but if there is any doubt whatever in our minds in regard to the fairness of that report, then we ought to defer consideration of this Bill. To defer that consideration might mean defeating the measure for the time being, but it would be desirable perhaps that this House should at least show that, on matters of this kind, we are prepared to take an independent stand. We have to examine the points made by Senator Douglas very carefully. We have to see whether the Bill is or is not desirable.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 10 o'clock until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 19th April, 1956.