Control of Imports (Quota No. 51) (Miscellaneons Textiles) Order, 1964: Motion of Approval.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann hereby approves of:

Control of Imports (Quota No. 51) (Miscellaneous Textiles) Order, 1964.

I shall explain both of those because they arise under he same Acts. The Orders were made under the same Acts.

The explanatory memorandum which has been circulated explains the main provisions of these measures. In 1963, consequent on the Government's decision to reduce industrial protection by progressive reductions in tariffs and increases in import quotas, competition from low cost goods from certain countries became a matter of concern. Such competition could come from countries where production costs were excessively low in comparison with Western European standards or from countries where export prices were artificially low because of State-trading practices. Deputies will recall that in 1964 the Control of Imports (Amendment) Bill, 1964, was passed. At that time, my predecessor explained to the House that the purpose of the Bill was to permit selective action to be taken in relation to imports from low cost countries, particularly in the textile field. The present two orders have been made under this Act.

Since it would not be feasible to distribute the quota appointed under the first of these orders, that is (Quota Order No. 51), owing to the wider variety of goods involved, the quota is being administered by the Revenue Commissioners on the basis that goods are charged against the quota as they are imported until the total quota is exhausted. It is not proposed to issue licences for made-up articles subject to restrictions under this Quota Order when the appointed quota has been exhausted. It may, however, be necessary to licence certain types of yarn.

The Quota appointed under Quota Order No. 52 is being distributed in the normal way to registered importers in relation to their over all imports from the specified countries.

These two Orders are designed to maintain imports of the selected commodities from the sixteen specified countries at their present over all level, and are purely of a pracautionary nature.

I cannot but think that these Orders will be welcomed by the House. The need for them arises, as the Minister has said, from the process of reducing tariffs which we have launched but which has been temporarily halted by the imposition of the British Import Surcharge and the consequent decision of the Government to postpone further tariff increases for the moment. Undoubtedly some protection of this kind is required. I do not think it is generally appreciated that our whole tariff structure is quite unlike that of other countries. We have import restrictions and high tariffs far beyond the levels needed to protect Irish industry from normal competition. The high level of tariffs provide adequate protection against dumping of imports from low-cost countries while by administrative action the Government have ensured that this high level of tariffs has not pushed up prices in this country.

With this peculiar structure, with no protection by quota arrangements of this kind against imports from low-cost countries, and with a need also for anti-dumping legislation against dumping in the form of low-cost imports from developed countries, it has become necessary with the dismantling of our protective policy to introduce some type of provision to deal with this. I am not certain that these Orders will work out smoothly. Difficulties may arise. The Minister has almost hinted at that in what he said when he points out that it would not be possible to distribute the quota appointed under the first of these Orders owing to the wide variety od the goods involved. It will be a question now of "first come, first served". That is not a satisfactory basis for people rushing to get their goods in before other people m the first months of the year, and then having to wait for 11 months before getting in another, but in the circumstances it is difficult to see how we can proceed any other way for the time being. We have to see how this works out. It is an experimental measure but also a measure which is being taken in good time. The action in the introduction of these Orders is taking place before these imports from low-cost countries become serious.

Although one may not be convinced that this will work completely smoothly, it has to be given a trial, and it is timely that the Government should take this action. Quite a number of industries admit that they were or a period quite disturbed at the absence of any provision of this kind. Many of our industries are able to stand up to competition from other developed countries or, if they are not able to stand up to it yet, they are able to get into the position of standing up to it. Many such industries which are at the point of being competitive with industries in nearby countries or which are within striking distance of being in that position, were worried at the prospect of facing imports from Far Eastern countries, and the absence of Government action and the prolonged discussion that went on before a decision was taken to deal with the matter in this way gave rise, particularly in some of the textile industries, to doubts about proceeding with adaptation measures. They considered that if the Governments were not doing anything about this competition from the Far East there would be no point in investing money in new plant and equipment.

It is desirable that this should be ended and that timely action should be taken to ensure that difficulties arising as we proceed towards freer trade will be overcome. Therefore, as I say, although some difficulties may arise out of these Orders—we may have a period of some slight confusion—this seems to be the correct kind of approach to adopt. It is not more restrictive than other countries in that all countries, with in some degree, the exception of the United Kingdom, do have restrictions of this kind. When they talk of freeing trade they do not mean freeing trade with the countries listed here. If these highly developed countries are unable to face this highly developed competition at the moment, we cannot afford to be quixotic about it. Irish industry must first find its feet in competition with industries in Britain and the EEC countries and then together with them we can move gradually towards liberalisation of our trade with these developed countries.

We have a duty over a period of years to increase our trade with these countries and to help them to raise their low standard of living and we can help them in their development better by trade than by aid. But we can hardly be expected to set a lead in this respect and to open to these developing countries our market ahead of other countries in Europe, with the possible exception of the United Kingdom.

On these grounds I would endorse these Orders in this form. We must see how they will work out and we mav have to consider reviewing them in the future.

The Labour Party welcome the provisions contained in these Orders. I think the Minister is to be commended for his foresight in introducing these Orders at the present time. I do not think that it is any secret to suggest that many people are concerned with maintaining the high level of employment we give in this country. According to some of the evidence at my disposal, quite a number of people are concerned with the possible impact of free importation of goods such as are provided for control under this Order. We think it essential that some reasonable control must be maintained while we are moving steadily perhaps to a free system of importation. We think that control of this type is essential. We, therefore, welcome the order and commend its adoption to the House as a whole.

There is just one small point. I entirely agree that the Order is necessary, but apparently the Order was made as far back as the 30th December, 1964, and it only reaches us now in a flurry to meet a deadline date. The Minister here is not responsible for that delay.

We would not have had the benefit of your contribution.

I do think that, perhaps, a more leisurely debate and, perhaps, a more useful one could be had if we had a little more time. This kind of delay imposes unnecessary restriction upon the Members of the House and causes the Leader of the House some concern to see that this Order goes through. I commend to the Minister that when Orders of this kind come through in future they should be brought before the House a little earlier than this one.

I should like to refer to one aspect, the selectivity which the Minister referred to in his statement in presenting this Order to the House. To my knowledge, and I am sure to that of many Members of the Seanad, some of our exporters have grave difficulties in securing the prices which the export of their goods requires in certain of those low cost countries referred to. Would it be possible in the enactment of Orders before us today and in general in the application of the Control of Imports Orders to exercise some retaliatory measures on some of those countries to ensure that those of our industrialists who are engaged in exports to those countries will be met with the same fair play that we present to those people in their exports to our country as reflected in the volume of imports from them? Perhaps, the Minister might like to get specific information relative to the particular countries I have in mind. I know of leaders of State having the magic carpet rolled out when they visited here, and when our people responded in establishing factories for export to those countries it has been impossible for them to secure any payment for the goods they exported. On occasion I have been with our Department of External Affairs and I am only too conscious of the opinion which is held in our Department relative to the standard of reliability one can place upon those people. If we could in the exercise of Orders such as this pursue some measure o retaliation against such countries it would be in the interests of people engaged in this country in an effort to develop our exports.

I do not think that there is much to say except that the reason these Orders come before the House now is that under the 1934 Act the effectiveness of the Order would lapse if not confirmed by both Houses within six months. The past six months has seen some interruption of the business of both Houses which explains this late stage of their being brought for confirmation.

I should like to tell the Seanad that all the signs are that the quotas are working effectively and in spite of what one would imagine there has not been a rush. More than half of the quota in actual value is still left unfilled. This may, perhaps, be due to the reluctance of people to get quotas for material which may not be able to come in but it fits in with what we want to do anyway.

What Senator O'Sullivan has referred to raises a principle of a State taking responsibility for the private obligations of trading companies in other countries. I should like to think a lot more before I would make any comment on it at all.

Question put and agreed to.