The Minister has told us that the restructuring of the grant system is for another day, and I hope an early one. I wonder how early? Can the Minister give us any indication when this legislation is to come because here as in so many areas the time-lag that occurs between a proposal being put forward and the Government's decision on it is disturbingly long. I think I am right in saying that something approaching a year has elapsed since the Minister received the report of the consultant, A. D. Little, proposing changes in the structure of the grant system. It is over six months since he received the comments of the NIEC on that report. Over this period we have been promised this new structure but time goes on and we still have not got it. The Minister at this stage would want to give us some indication when the legislation will come because we are approaching a time of the year when new legislation which is introduced now has little chance of getting through. Is it then the case that the legislation will not be introduced until the autumn and will not be put through until the end of the year? If so, that will be a year and a half since the report on which this particular proposal is founded was received by the Minister and 18 months is a very long time to act on a report, although there are certainly many precedents.
I hope that the Minister, in considering the report, will have regard to the recommendations made to him by the NIEC. He and his predecessor have not always accepted the views of the NIEC, in some cases, I think, mistakenly. I recall several years ago that a recommendation was made— it was made originally, I think, by NIEC's predecessor, the Committee on Industrial Organisation—in respect of grants; it was a recommendation to the effect that there ought to be no discrimination against capital intensive projects. Hitherto, in this country, we have taken a very shortsighted view on capital intensive versus labour intensive projects and we have thought in terms of which type of project will give us the most employment immediately, directly, in the short run, without regard to the long-term consequences for employment and the welfare of the community. Recognising this fact, a recommendation was made to the Minister by the CIO that future legislation should remove this kind of discrimination, which had the effect of distorting our whole new industrial structure in favour of projects which were labour intensive and provided more jobs in the short run, but which, for that very reason, may be less desirable in terms of the type of employment provided, the value of the employment and the survival prospects of the industry concerned.
We are, it must be remembered, in the intermediate stage between fully industrialised and developing countries, some of which are catching up on us, and if we concentrate on industries which are labour intensive and can be undertaken without much skill, expertise, or capital, then we are concentrating on industries in respect of which competition will be most acute in the years ahead. What we should be doing is what Northern Ireland is doing. It is concentrating on industries which provide substantial employment and, indirectly, through other industries linked with them, very substantial employment and, by virtue of modern technology and capital involved, they are much less likely to meet this low-cost competition from developed countries to which we have exposed ourselves for years past. It was in recognition of this fact that they proposed that these aids should be done away with. Despite a misleading statement that the recommendation was being accepted, it was, in fact, rejected because, in the new legislation, this discrimination in favour of labour intensive projects continued, irrespective of expert views that this was contrary to long-term employment interests. I would hope that the Minister will have full regard in this instance to the recommendations made to him by the NIEC in respect of the restructuring of our whole grants system.
I should like to ask the Minister about several reports other than the one I have just mentioned, and which was handed to him a year ago. What is the position with regard to the report on the performance of new industries, which the Taoiseach mentioned, and upon which he spoke at some length at the conference of the Irish Management Institute in Killarney? This report has been available for some time past. The Taoiseach selected certain facts and figures from it and presented them to the conference at Killarney. Nothing has appeared since. The report is apparently a factual report telling us what results have been achieved over the past ten years and, judging by what the Taoiseach said, some of the conclusions are interesting and valuable. In the nature of things, this is not a report which would be particularly confidential but, if there are references to particular firms, I take it they could be deleted.
The main body of the report is a general review of progress and it is a puzzle to me and others why it has not been published, despite considerable pressure for its publication. It is unsatisfactory that the Taoiseach should select from a report which has not been published certain facts and figures and publish them selectively. Some time has elapsed since then. The Taoiseach's selection was arbitrary and ill-connected; the items did not hang together and there were a number of inconsistencies. I am sure all this can be explained away but the selection was so arbitrary and so badly done that it left one in grave doubt as to what interpretation to put on the figures. I know some of the explanations for some of the discrepancies. For example, one set of figures included Shannon and another did not. But the Taoiseach did not say that. That is not the way to publish information. This is a useful internal review of what has been achieved over the past ten years, or so, and it is in the public interest that it should be published. It should not be published piecemeal and it should not be produced in such fashion that one can make nothing of it because of lack of skill in selecting the data and because of patent inconsistencies in the information produced.
One is in a difficulty in discussing this kind of subject because one has only this incomplete information. Some of the things the Taoiseach said seemed to be good sense, but it is difficult to comment because one has not all the facts. He said the failure rate was relatively low and it might have been wiser for us not to be so selective and accept a higher failure rate for the sake of getting more for the grant. That could be true. Indeed, I have always taken that view myself in ignorance of the facts, because the facts are not available, but we cannot judge accurately because we have not got the report. I would press the Minister to overcome whatever reluctance there is about publishing this report. Let us have it. Let us make up our own minds on the progress being made. It is difficult to consider this Bill without having that information and it will be impossible to consider a Bill proposing to restructure the whole grants system unless we have the report before us and unless we have adequate time to consider it.
I should also like to ask the Minister at what stage is the Buchanan Report? It involves the preparation of plans for five or six of the physical planning regions not covered by the Litchfield and Wright Reports. This Buchanan Report is of great importance from the point of view of industrial development. Some of our policies for industrial development have taken a certain shape and gone on certain lines which may be invalidated as a result of the conclusions drawn in this report. The Minister will be aware that our physical planning regions at the moment were selected some years ago quite arbitrarily, without any expert knowledge or evaluation, and without any departmental consultation, as far as I am aware. The selection was defended at the time on the grounds that it was purely to get the thing off the ground; it did not represent any final commitment to these particular areas and it did not matter very much what areas one chose so long as one broke the country up into some kind of areas. Fallacious reasoning!
It is my understanding that the terms of reference of the Buchanan Report are wide enough to permit of reconsideration of these regions ultimately should they happen not to be the right regions for regional planning. It is of some significance that Bord Fáilte regions and the siting of regional schools cut across these regions, suggesting there is a divergence of view in Government circles on this matter. It is important this should be settled because the whole development centre policy around which our industrial programme will revolve in future depends on whether the present regions will be maintained or whether they will be varied because the way in which selection is proposed to be carried out is by basing it on these regions.
We were told, first of all, that this was arbitrary, not very important, and could be rectified. Then we were told that the development centres would emerge from the planning work being done in regard to these regions and from that it emerged that the intention was that there would be a development centre in each region. Therefore, the decision about physical planning regions, which was said at first to be not very important, necessarily arbitrary and purely temporary, became at that point vital to the question of how many development centres there were going to be. Now we are in the position that the Buchanan Report is, apparently, reviewing this whole question of how many regions there will be and this affects the question of how many development centres there are.
This is crucial to the Minister's industrial development policy because there are fears among people who have given thought to this subject, who have studied the experience of other countries in this regard, that the attempt to develop more or less simultaneously as many development centres as there are physical planning regions would be a mistake, that the volume of capital available, the volume of new industries coming to the country, are insufficient to secure the development simultaneously of eight or nine different development centres in the country and, therefore, if you are going to base your development centres on physical planning regions arbitrarily selected and, perhaps badly selected, and if the result of this is that you are forced into a policy of having eight or nine centres, which would be excessive and would lead to none being large enough or strong enough to succeed, the policy is defective.
It is very important that we should know what are the recommendations of the Buchanan report. Are the present regions to remain? If they are to remain, are their boundaries to remain unchanged and what recommendations will emerge from this report as regards the selection of development centres, as regards how many there should be, where they should be and the rate and tempo at which they should be developed? The Minister would need to have this information perhaps, before he makes up his mind finally on the new policies for industrial grants.
However, if waiting for the Buchanan Report meant holding up this process for any length of time, I would not recommend it but I understand that although there were earlier fears that the Buchanan Report might be held up considerably, it has, in fact, made better progress than was thought likely and it will probably be available to the Minister to help him in making up his mind on the structure of our industrialisation policy.
It would be difficult to place too much emphasis on the importance of this because our whole industrialisation policy has at all stages been misguided in conceiving the problem on too small a scale and being too local in approach. The Government's unsophisticated aim ten years ago was to have an industry in every little town and village, dispersed rather than concentrated development. The experience of every country which has faced this problem has gone to show that this is a mistake and the whole tide of expert opinion in other countries and in Ireland has gone against this and the Government have been reluctantly— with obvious reluctance at times— attracted in the direction of a more concentrated programme to the point that several years ago they finally approved of the concept of development centres, quite a number of years after the idea was first put forward.
The reason for the reluctance is evident. It is a reluctance which any Government would feel in some degree because, if you select certain centres for development, you do not select the rest of the country, which has more votes, and, politically, it is a difficult decision. It is unfortunate that the Government have been so slow to come to this decision because of the political implications and unfortunate that in coming to it they have rather plumped —and this in public statements by Ministers—for a number of development centres in excess of what is likely to prove successful. It is upon the whole policy of concentrated development that the future of the country will depend and the future of this country outside Dublin will depend.
The only hope for true decentralisation and for the growth of population and of economic activity in the areas outside Dublin lies in the emergence of centres big enough to be viable on their own, not just satellites to Dublin. It would be very unfortunate if this were prejudiced by the Government's unwillingness to concentrate their efforts sufficiently and by half measures involving the dispersal of activity so that out of any eight or nine development centres, none was successful, none was able to rival Dublin, none was able to hold its own, so that the magnet of Dublin would continue to draw to it far too large a share of the industrialisation of the country.
The scale of Government thinking has been too small in this matter also because it has visualised at all times— this the Government will not readily admit but it is the clear implication of their approach to these problems— relatively small industries coming. The industries we have got have been relatively small. We regard an industry employing 500 people as big. It would be regarded as small to medium-sized in other countries, including Northern Ireland. Government thinking has been related to this scale of industry because, in fact, nothing has been done in the past ten years to develop the infrastructure anywhere in Ireland, almost including Dublin, on such a scale as to be able to absorb a really large industry if we could attract one and because there is, nowhere in Ireland, even, perhaps, including Dublin, where you could put a really large industry with water and sewerage facilities, roads, communications and the housing required for workers, we have not attracted such industries. All such industries, without exception, have gone to Northern Ireland. The nearest thing to large industries that we have attracted are a couple of factories employing 1,000, almost all young women, and in a country where we have a pretty even balance of supply and demand for women workers and where there is a very substantial number of male workers, that is not really the kind of industry we most need.
There is nowhere in this country where we could put a really large industry. If one of the industries that Northern Ireland attracts, employing 2,000 men, were willing to come here, to what existing centre in Ireland could it be sent, where it could be absorbed, where there would be houses within the time-scale required, where water and sewerage facilities, roads and communications, schools, education could be provided? Not only have we not got that anywhere, but our administrative structure is still so cumbersome, so out of date, that we could not readily within any acceptable time-scale achieve that position. The time taken from the time when a need is established until it is fulfilled for housing, sewerage, water supplies, roads and schools in this country is so long that no modern industry would be prepared to wait that long.
In Northern Ireland, on the other hand, recognising this problem, they have built up certain areas in such a way, that Northern Ireland programmes, having flexibility in regard to housing them, can attract such industries and guarantee that facilities will be available within the short space of time required and that workers will be available and housed. We have not yet tackled this problem seriously. We are still thinking in the small-scale, piecemeal terms of the 1950s and have not begun to think in terms of the 1960s, never mind the 1970s.
Here, the Minister has a lot to do. It is not an easy job because it is not all within his compass. If the problem were really one for the Department of Industry and Commerce, then the Minister, by applying his energies, could hope to solve the problem fairly easily. The difficulty is in so many Departments being involved and the structure of our Departments, so many Departments with very independent-minded Ministers, not always co-operative with each other, and very independent Departments operating separate policies and absolutely opposed to any type of co-ordination very often, as distinct from agreement to co-operate on their own terms, simply not adapted to solving these problems with the speed required.
Therefore, in criticising the failures in this area I am not criticising the Minister particularly but the whole structure of Government. It is simply inadequate for this purpose. If we are serious about decentralisation and propose to try to do something to create really dynamic centres of growth outside Dublin, as distinct from shifting reluctant civil servants to towns which happen to suit the Ministers concerned, we will have to revise our policies pretty drastically and revise the whole way in which decisions are taken within the public service.
If we are to be able to offer to large industries the kind of service they want, we must be able to say to the American manufacturer willing to establish an industry here employing 2,000 male workers, wanting to get going within 18 months: "Yes, we will be able to provide you with a site, with a water supply, sewerage, roads, houses, schools and workers within that time because we have a system of working under which all this can be put into operation and in which the red tape is cut and the different interests concerned co-operate in such a way as to produce a dynamic result." Until we can get to that point, we will continue to trot along as we are now, getting medium-sized industries and small industries, dispersed around the country. The rate of growth of industrial development is totally inadequate to absorb those leaving school and leaving the land. Until we tackle this seriously, we will continue along that path and in that way.
The unwillingness effectively to decentralise authority has been evident in the work of the Industrial Grants Board, An Foras Tionscal, in respect of the new industrial estates in Waterford and Galway. This is a matter I have raised several times in the House, including no later than last week. This Government throughout their life have shown great reluctance to devolve authority at local level, and indeed in the last few minutes of the speech of the Minister for Agriculture, reluctance to devolve authority even in the field of State enterprise. I thought his remarks on this subject extremely revealing of the attitude of mind of Government Ministers. He made perfectly clear his determination to take power to himself and to hold on to it, and showed his contempt for other Ministers who might think of allowing anything to be done in their area of competence by State bodies which he described as faceless men.