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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 1 Jul 1987

Vol. 116 No. 13

Labour Services Bill, 1987: Second Stage.

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

The Labour Services Bill before the House today is designed to give legislative effect to a number of decisions contained in the White Paper on Manpower Policy published last September. These include: (a) the amalgamation of the manpower agencies into a single body; and (b) changing the youth employment levy into a general employment and training levy which can be used for all age groups and not be confined to under 25s, as at present.

The Bill is broadly similar to the National Employment and Training Authority Bill which was introduced in the Dáil in November 1986 and which lapsed on the dissolution of the Dáil in January last. The major change from that Bill is the exclusion of CERT from the proposed amalgamation of the existing agencies. This decision was taken against a background of CERT's close involvement with the tourism sector which has been identified by the Government as an area with growth potential. The Government considered it unwise at this stage to change the status of CERT which has a major role to play in the development of the tourist industry.

In recent years there has been criticism of the level of support given by the hotel and catering industry towards the cost of training carried out by CERT. The value of CERT's contribution to the industry is well known and has been publicly acknowledged on many occasions. I have, therefore, initiated consultations with a view to securing a substantial increase in financial support from the industry over the next few years with an initial target of £500,000 for 1988.

In the debate in the Dáil there was agreement on the general provisions of this Bill and I am confident that the same general support will be forthcoming in this House. The major provision in the Bill is the establishment of An Foras Áiseanna Saothar, FÁS, through the amalgamation of AnCO, the National Manpower Service and the Youth Employment Agency. These three bodies have contributed to the general economic development of the country and in more recent times have been to the forefront in the battle against unemployment.

In a situation of high unemployment, however, where the agencies are directing their considerable energies at the unemployed, it is important to ensure that their resources are used in the most coherent and efficient manner. This will benefit both the users of the service and the taxpayer. The proposal to merge the bodies is prompted by the need to provide the best service possible for the public and to eliminate the confusion in people's minds about who does what. The new body will provide the gateway for the unemployed to the wide range of employment and training programmes available.

As I indicated in the Dáil, I propose to have FÁS established with effect from 1 January 1988. There are certain advantages in choosing this date in that it will coincide with the start of the financial year. In addition, it will allow me time to have the necessary arrangements in place including the appointment of the board and the director general of FÁS.

The main functions of FÁS are set out in section 4 of the Bill. They include the operation of training, re-training, work experience and similar manpower programmes, the provision of placement and guidance services and support for cooperative and community-based enterprises.

The tasks facing FÁS are formidable and challenging. We have nearly a quarter of a million unemployed and our labour force is increasing despite migration. One of the features of the steady rise in unemployment has been the growth in the numbers unemployed for more than a year.

Assistance for the long term unemployed and the unemployed generally is now being provided in a systematic way through the Jobsearch programme. Under the programme the manpower agencies will interview 150,000 people currently on the live register; provide up to 40,000 manpower opportunities for them; and provide places for a further 12,000 persons on a four week Jobsearch training course specially devised and operated by AnCO. Generally speaking, we are on schedule to meet these targets. The programme could not have got off the ground as quickly as it did but for the wholehearted commitment and support of the staff in the manpower agencies.

Despite the increase in the numbers attending second and third level educational institutions, the numbers leaving school with minimum educational qualifications have remained relatively constant over the past number of years at about 5,000 per annum. There is a need to assist these young people through special labour market and educational interventions.

There is also a need to develop our workforce so as to increase the competitiveness which is essential to the future development of the Irish economy and the preservation and growth of employment. I do not believe in training simply for the sake of training. But I do believe that training is a decisive element in skill modernisation, effectiveness and occupational mobility of workers throughout their working lives. I also believe that industry must accept primary responsibility in this area. Our future development depends upon our people producing goods and services which we can sell in the world market place. The goods being demanded and the methods of production are changing at a rate that could not have been envisaged 15 years ago when we entered the EC. Industry is in the best position to identify and anticipate its skill and training needs. FÁS will assist industry in this task.

There is also a need to encourage enterprise at both the individual and community level. It is important to assist employment growth in this area by helping people, particularly the unemployed, to start up new businesses and enterprises. This is being done through the enterprise scheme, start your own business courses and the community enterprise programme and the initial efforts have been very encouraging. FÁS will have an important role in developing and co-ordinating these programmes.

Another important function of FÁS will be the provision of pre-departure information and advice to persons contemplating employment abroad. Up to now this function has been the responsibility of the National Manpower Service under their obligations imposed by the EC regulations governing the free movement of workers within the Community. The amalgamation of the three bodies will ensure that persons trying to decide whether to go abroad or remain at home will be fully briefed on the training and other opportunities available to them here so that they can make an informed choice. If, in the end, they elect to seek employment abroad, FÁS will provide them with the best information and advice at their disposal.

These examples of the work of FÁS help to illustrate that there will be no shortage of work for them in the foreseeable future in the manpower area. The work will involve, to a large extent, face to face contacts between the personnel of FÁS and the general public. The quality of service provided will depend largely on the commitment and dedication of the staff. I have no doubt that this commitment will be forthcoming especially as the work of FÁS, while assisting the community, will also provide a real sense of purpose and job satisfaction to their employees.

The achievements of the staff of the three existing manpower agencies in recent years clearly show their potential to cope with the challenges of a changing labour market. It is entirely appropriate that this Bill should seek to minimise uncertainty for such staff as to their employment in the new organisation. Accordingly section 7, which provides for the transfer of staff from the three bodies to FÁS together with section 8, sets out to ensure that their existing conditions of employment are protected by providing that there will be no lessening in pay or terms and conditions of service. I am also of the view that staff interests can make a significant contribution in the consultation process during the coming months.

The scope and scale of work to be done will require FÁS to maximise the use of the staff resources at their disposal. This would see FÁS dealing with any imbalances in staffing as between their different services by deploying staff as required to the areas most in need. I should like to make it clear that this integration of manpower services is not intended to involve any large scale dismantling of existing services. On the contrary it should see their rapid adaptation from a relatively centralised approach to a more accessible regionalised structure. The prospect of continuous support from the European Social Fund should further help to underline the future development and maintenance of a wide range of programmes by FÁS, fully utilising the expertise, experience and adaptability of the staff for existing services.

The other main provision in the Bill is the changing of the youth employment levy into a general employment and training levy. The decision was taken in the context of the changing age structure of the labour force and the unemployed. By 1990 over half the work-force will be in the 25-44 age group. This will give FÁS more scope and flexibility in the allocation of resources and will enable programmes to be adjusted in response to labour market developments. It will also reduce the cumbersome administrative constraints required in the allocation of funds between the different bodies and different age groups as at present. This does not mean there will be a reduction in the provision for youth. I would foresee a major youth dimension in the work of FÁS.

The Bill also empowers FÁS to undertake consultancy work overseas on a commercial basis in line with Government policy. This is likely to be an important feature of the new body's activities in the years ahead. Over the past few years AnCO, particularly, have identified commercial possibilities for the export of their training expertise. Most recently AnCO were successful in securing a major sub-contract, worth about £4 million, as part of a £20 million World Bank project to improve the organisation and standards of training in Indonesia. Overseas contracts for training and employment schemes will be handled by a subsidiary company which will be set up under sections 4 (6) and 4 (7) of the Bill.

Changes in our manpower agencies will not of themselves solve all the problems in the manpower area if the Minister and Department of Labour do not take on the enlarged role of formulating, co-ordinating and evaluating policy, as envisaged in the White Paper on Manpower policy. I accept that in the past manpower policy has not always been placed within a broad general economic and social framework. There is a relationship between our training programmes and what is done within the educational system. There is a connection between the payment of unemployment compensation and assistance being given by the National Manpower Service to the unemployed. Training activities make a major contribution to the development of industry. The only logical way to achieve a proper relationship and interface between our manpower services and economic, social and educational services is for the policy function to rest clearly with the Minister.

It is important, however, to strike a proper balance between, on the one hand, exercise of effective policy and financial control by the Minister and, on the other hand, allowing the management of FÁS to get on with the job. This I have endeavoured to do in section 12 of the Bill. While FÁS must obtain the approval of the Minister and the Minister for Finance for their plans for the following year they will still have a considerable degree of flexibility in conducting their day-to-day operations within the prevailing agreed policy framework. FÁS will, of course, contribute to the formulation of policy by giving advice to the Department and the Minister based on their knowledge of the labour market and the operation of programmes. Under section 17, the Minister may give a direction to FÁS to carry out specified activities.

The success of FÁS will depend on how well they cater for the needs of different regions and areas in the country. This Government stated in their Programme for National Recovery their commitment to the development of the manpower services on a fully regionalised basis. It is my intention that FÁS should move rapidly to the provision of services more efficiently at local and regional level. This will also involve the development of closer co-ordination with the education and social welfare systems. A greater degree of devolution of decision making to local level will lead to more flexibility and innovation which can only improve the services to the unemployed, school leavers, the deprived and the unqualified. My policy on the regional and local delivery of services, decision making and cooperation with other relevant bodies will be reflected in the structure of the new body and will form part of the policy guidelines which will be conveyed to FÁS.

The board of FÁS will consist of 17 members, including the chairman. In deciding on the composition of the board, the conflicting objectives of having bodies which are active in the labour market represented on them had to be reconciled with the need for effectiveness and efficiency. The achievement of this latter objective has, of necessity, meant a level of representation for some interests below what they would consider desirable.

The board of FÁS will be appointed by the Minister for Labour. The board will consist of four representatives nominated by the ICTU; four representatives nominated by employer organisations; one representative of educational interests; one representative of social welfare interests; one representative nominated by youth organisations; two representatives of the employees of FÁS and one representative from each of the Departments of Labour and Finance. In addition, the Minister will appoint the chairman and one other representative. The board will comprise 15 members until the appointment of the two employee representatives following an election among the staff.

Other policies and in particular macroeconomic policy impinge on manpower policy and we therefore considered it necessary and useful to have a Department of Finance representative on the board of FÁS. This will help not only in the formulation of policy for FÁS but the first hand experience and knowledge of the activities of FÁS will assist in the consideration and approval of the reports to be submitted by FÁS under sections 11 and 12.

The new body are clearly an economic development organisation with a major social orientation. They will be operating in a dynamic situation and will need to respond quickly and flexibly. I believe the title which I have opted for, An Foras Áiseanna Saothair, best describes the mission of the new body.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Is mian liomsa ar dtús fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Saothair go dtí an Teach seo, agus fáilte a chur roimh an nBille seo, an Bille um Áiseanna Saothair, 1987.

The NESC in their 1985 publication entitled Manpower Policy in Ireland on page 23 said: “The economic and social environment within which manpower policy must operate has altered radically in the course of the two decades since 1965.” In that context, therefore, I welcome the timely introduction of this Bill, the Labour Services Bill, 1987, a Bill which, as the Minister has indicated, is almost a verbatim and carbon copy of the National Employment and Training Authority Bill, 1986, which was introduced into Dáil Éireann by the previous Administration in November 1986, a Bill the legislative provisions of which arose from the White Paper on Manpower Policy published by the previous Government in September 1986. This is a Bill the major provision of which is to establish An Foras Áiseanna Saothair, now to be known as FÁS, through the amalgamation of the three existing bodies, An Comhairle Oiliúna, the National Manpower Service and the Youth Employment Agency.

I am convinced that the new policy directions identified in the White Paper on Manpower Policy and in this Bill and the improved penetration and effectiveness of the existing agencies can be achieved, and can be best achieved by integrating the existing manpower agencies into one body. There are, I believe, compelling reasons supporting a single integrated organisation, for there is and there has been much confusion in the minds of the public as to who does what. The existence of a number of bodies makes it more difficult to establish clear priorities between the various programmes and to place these activities within a comprehensive social and economic framework.

The increasing rate of change demands quick decisions and points to the need for a single body rather than a multi-pronged response. The establishment of a single body should lead to economies of scale and better integration of the services. The area of concentration of the new body will vary from time to time, as the Minister has indicated, and mobility and flexibility will, therefore, be required on the part of the staff of the new foras.

For example, an observer looking at the work of AnCO, who were established in 1967, and the National Manpower Service, who were established in 1971, could scarcely have foreseen the extent of the training and the employment schemes being mounted by these agencies today and the relative shift in emphasis towards employment schemes. The provisions in this Bill which deal with the arrangements for the transfer of staff from the existing bodies to the new Authority are unchanged from those of the original National Employment and Training Authority Bill, 1986. I am pleased with the Minister's assurance that it is the intention to safeguard the existing terms and conditions of employment of all people involved.

However, I wish to go further and to endorse the recommendation of the NESC in Manpower Policy in Ireland when they state on page 33:

We wish to emphasise that in recommending the integration of existing agencies we envisage it as being a real amalgamation. We do not have in mind something marginally more than a mere change of name with a largely ineffectual higher management tier with operational components which consist essentially of existing agencies. Our proposals involve abolishing all existing agencies and reorganising them within a more coherent and efficient framework.

I should like to join with the Minister in paying special tribute to the excellent work being done and continuing to be done by the staff of the existing manpower agencies. These bodies have served our country well over these past years. This can be seen from the fact that in 1987 An Comhairle Oiliúna will train about 35,000 people; the National Manpower Service will place about 28,000 people on unemployment schemes and the Youth Employment Agency will assist about 5,000 young people in addition to their research and co-ordinating role. Many of the staff of these organisations take a justifiable and legitimate pride in their work. I hope the new integrated body will maintain the high morale and dedication already there and that they will utilise this morale to the fullest extent for the benefit of our country.

Part I of the Schedule to the Bill deals with the composition of the board of the new body. It endeavours to combine the best compromise between being representative of the organisations which are active in the labour market and being effective and efficient. Paragraph 2 (1) of Part I of the Schedule provides that FÁS shall consist of a chairman and 16 ordinary members. Paragraph 7 (1) provides that of the ordinary members four shall be trade union members, four shall be employers' members, one shall be an educational member, one shall be a youth member, two shall be employees of FÁS, one shall be a representative of the Minister for Finance and two shall be representatives of the Minister for Labour.

However, I should like to put it on record that the National, Economic and Social Council in their publication of December 1985 identified four major sets of objectives for a labour market policy. One of these is the need, and I quote, "to improve the employment opportunities of groups with special labour market problems and hence to contribute to social equity".

The previous Government in their 1986 White Paper on Manpower Policy stated: "The Government have decided that the needs of disabled people require the adoption of more flexible criteria". I believe, therefore, that the voluntary organisations which have displayed such marvellous dedication and commitment to the advancement and promotion of the interests and needs of mentally and physically disabled people should be represented on the board of this new manpower authority. I welcome the publication by the previous Government of the Green Paper on Services for Disabled People entitled Towards a Full Life. I welcome in particular the comprehensive response of the Union of Voluntary Organisations for the Handicapped to the Green Paper, a union which acts as an umbrella organisation for approximately 37 voluntary organisations affiliated to it. There is no doubt that many problems with which disabled people and professional and voluntary workers have to cope could more easily be eradicated were there greater flexibility within the statutory services to innovate quickly new responses to new ideas.

We in Ireland are fortunate in having a long tradition of voluntary support services for disabled people. Voluntary organisations have been a major provider of services for disabled and handicapped people. Meaningful arrangements must, therefore, be made for the involvement of the voluntary organisations in the future planning and monitoring of services for the disabled as equal partners. We must ensure that all initiatives and programmes at every level make it possible for disabled people to take part in the designing and organising of such services.

I believe strongly, therefore, that this new body should be given a lead responsibility for vocational training, leading towards open employment for the disabled, and that these organisations which have served the country so well should be represented by such a national organisation as the Union of Voluntary Organisations on the board of the new body. The principal functions of the new Authority, as the Minister has indicated, are comprehensive and flexible and are listed in section 4 of the Bill as including training, retraining, illustration of employment schemes, work experience programmes, placement services, assistance for co-operatives and small enterprises and the operations of the European Community's free movement of workers provisions.

I welcome the provision in the Bill, which was also in the previous Bill, which enables this new body to undertake consultancy and manpower related services overseas on a strictly commercial basis, to ensure that these overseas contracts for training and employment schemes are carried out according to commercial criteria, the new Authority will be obliged to set up a separate subsidiary company, as the Minister has indicated, under section 4 (6) and (7) of the Bill.

In recent years AnCO in particular have identified commercial possibilities for the export of the considerable experience and technical expertise. For example, in 1985-86 they considerably expanded the scope of their overseas activities and provided consultancy services to the Governments of Greece and Portugal and for the Royal Commission for Jubail in Saudi Arabia. In conjunction with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, An Comhairle Oiliúna ran a maintenance and management training programme in Cairo for participants from 11 African nations. Recently, as the Minister has indicated, they obtained a £4 million training subcontract in respect of the £20 million World Bank training project in Indonesia.

In parallel with the establishment of the new Authority I welcome the provisions in the Bill for the strengthening of the Department of Labour so as to enable the Minister and the Department to assume responsibility for developing policy, as envisaged in the 1986 White Paper on Manpower Policy, for monitoring programmes and for providing policy specifications for the new Authority. This structural weakness at the core of manpower policy in respect of the policy making role of the Minister and the Department of Labour has been highlighted by the 1986 NESC publication. It states:

The Council therefore sees the primary deficiency in the manpower area as the weakness of the Department of Labour and believes that the most immediate priority must be to strengthen the Department. This priority assumes even more urgency in the context of the recommended extension of the objectives of manpower policy.

This deficiency was also noted in the 1974 report on manpower policy in Ireland by the OECD study team which stated:

The Department has few qualified staff to interpret economic information, to contribute to the design of active manpower policies, to complement short-term economic strategy or to forecast developments in the manpower field and examine policy options for possible application in the future.

The provisions in the Bill should ensure that central control and the direction of policy will rest with the Minister for Labour and the Department of Labour. The Authority, of course, will be responsible for the execution of policy already determined and they will have an important role to play in advising on policy, based on their knowledge of the labour market and the operation of the various programmes.

At the end of the day, as the Minister has indicated, however, the success of the new Authority will depend on how well they cater for the needs of the local areas and the different regions in the country, I welcome, therefore, his statement that it is his intention that the new Authority must move rapidly to the provision of services more effectively at local and regional level. This will involve the desirable development of closer co-operation with the educational and social welfare systems.

In the 1982 report on youth training in the European Economic Communities by the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities, they stated — and they were applying their judgment to the United Kingdom but, indeed, their judgment equally applies to Ireland:

There is urgent need to bring together the whole education, training and employment of young people in a coherent framework which can be understood by employers, parents, educators and trainers and above all by the young people themselves.

This was the urgent need as they saw it. The concept of an active manpower policy was, of course, the subject of considerable debate in Ireland in the sixties. This debate, however, was largely informed by external developments, notably the 1964 OECD Council recommendation on manpower policy which culminated in the publication by the then Government of the First White Paper on Manpower Policy in 1965.

The objectives set out in the White Paper and the means chosen to implement them were developed against the background which assumed continuous growth and rapid expansion of the economy, for in Europe the sixties were characterised by strong and stable economic growth and, indeed, steady full employment. The major objective was to ensure the supply of a modern, well-trained workforce to meet the requirements of incoming foreign investment. Thus the measures adopted were primarily concerned with the supply side of the labour market. As we know since 1965, however, our country has undergone major social and economic changes. In particular, we have moved from rapid economic growth into a prolonged period of recession, an extremely rapid structural change. Indeed, in the 22 years since 1965 the population has grown by approximately 700,000 people, while the labour force has grown by over 150,000. The important fact remains, however, that the high unacceptable level of unemployment is the greatest social and economic problem facing this country and certain groups in particular in the labour market such as the young unemployed and the long term unemployed, suffer particular difficulties.

As regards young people, employment and training programmes are at high levels since the introduction of the youth employment levy in 1982. In Ireland, the proportion of total unemployment accounted for by youth is now one of the lowest in the European Communities despite our having proportionately the highest youth population in the member states. Long term unemployment is now a major problem for this country and it has been described by the authors of the 1975 NESC Report as follows:

A trap from which it is very difficult to escape and the longer one is in there the more difficult it is to escape.

There are, therefore, compelling reasons for helping the long term unemployed and interventions through special measures and direct actions programmes can be justified on both equity and efficiency grounds. In the words of the 1986 White Paper:

Economic improvement and employment expansion will not automatically enhance employment prospects for the long-term unemployed. The danger exists that the skills and experience and the potential contribution of long-term unemployed people could be irretrievably lost to the economy if special action is not taken to assist them. The Government considers that direct action is also justified on grounds of social equity. This is reinforced when the age profile of the long-term unemployed is taken into account. Just over half of the long-term unemployed are in the 25 to 44 age group, many of whom have dependants and other family related commitments.

Social employment schemes, which were introduced in 1985, have enabled local authorities throughout the country to do much invaluable work and to improve environmental standards and amenities. However, there is just one matter that I would like to raise with the Minister for Labour today, a problem which has arisen as regards the operation of this scheme as it affects my own city, namely, Limerick Corporation.

In May 1985, Limerick Corporation submitted to the Department of Labour six social employment schemes for approval. These schemes were subsequently approved and work commenced in November 1985. The city manager, however, in a report to the Limerick City Council, dated 4 June 1987, stated:

The position at present is that five schemes are due for renewal of extensions, two going back to November, 1986. Despite meetings with the Department of Labour and the local National Manpower Office, approvals have not been forthcoming. It is understood that the problem lies with the national monitoring committee.

The corporation has done much invaluable work through the social employment schemes which have been favourably commented upon. Employment reached an all-time high, at 198 people, and a structure has been developed to supervise those people. Unless approvals to extensions are granted urgently, it is anticapated that there will be only 75 people, approximately, employed by the end of June, 1987. Consequently, there has been a significant drop in output due to the delay in sanctioning the required extension.

The recoupment of expenditure on social employment schemes is also of concern to the corporation. The City Manager met with Department officials on 19 May 1987, at which time a sum in excess of £350,000 was due to the corporation.

I would be most grateful to the Minister if he would have this urgent matter for an important local authority investigated, and if perhaps he might be able to indicate what his investigation reveals later in the debate or perhaps he would communicate directly with me on this matter.

Finally, as the Minister has indicated in his speech, the tasks facing An Foras Áiseanna Saothair are formidable and challenging. I would like to take this opportunity not alone on my own behalf but I am sure on behalf of every Member of this House, to wish the new Authority, FÁS and the Minister for Labour, every success in their efforts and endeavours to deal effectively and flexibly with this challenge.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister, Deputy Bertie Ahern, on his appointment as Minister for Labour. I wish him well in his interesting and demanding ministerial position for which he is exceptionally well equipped. I would like to be associated with the remarks made earlier in connection with the retirement of Mr. Jack Tobin, the retiring Clerk of Seanad Éireann, and the incoming Clerk, Kieran Coughlan. Mr. Tobin was a man of competence and integrity who had a profound knowledge of all aspects of the work of this House. He was an exemplary civil servant and at a personal level I wish to record my thanks to him for the courtesy and help he extended to me at all times. I wish him many happy and active years in his retirement. In welcoming Kieran Coughlan, we know him, of course, for some years already as an Assistant Clerk of the Seanad. He has been a most helpful officer in the past and I wish him well in the years ahead.

Turning to the Bill, there is obviously widespread agreement on the principles underlining the Bill before us. The Bill received a welcome in the Dáil and has already received a welcome here in the Seanad today from the Opposition side. The amalgamation of the existing manpower agencies into a single body was, as has already been stated, advocated by the National Economic and Social Council in their "Report on Manpower Policy in Ireland", in December 1985 and also in the last Government's White Paper of September 1986. The Bill gives statutory effect to this amalgamation and also changes the youth employment levy into a general employment and training levy which can be used for all age groups as distinct to being confined to those under 25.

It is worth recalling that the expert view of the NESC came down in favour of a united single executive agency. The Bill is intended to give effect to the reorganisation and the real amalgamation envisaged by the NESC. The sheer scale of the unemployment problem at present demands that Manpower services should be delivered in the most co-ordinated and coherent manner possible. A central sense of direction is vital to make an impact on our major unemployment problem. Circumstances have, indeed, changed dramatically since the first White Paper on Manpower Policy published in 1965. This is underlined, for example, by the fact that economic growth averaged about 4 per cent per year during the sixties and 3.5 per cent in the seventies.

As regards unemployment, a major social and economic problem of the present time, as recently as 1980 the rate of unemployment was 7 per cent while today it has more than doubled, to a figure of 18 per cent. Unemployment is already extremely high, too high. It is vital that FÁS play their role in the Government's head-on attack on unemployment. This single body, FÁS, is intended to ensure that a new emphasis will be provided to tackle the unemployment problem and to ensure that the users of this central manpower service — and the taxpayer who pays for it of course — will secure the best possible return.

In particular I welcome the Minister's commitment to regionalise the structure of FÁS. We should get as much decision making as possible out of Dublin. Therefore, I welcome the proposal of a regionalised structure. I agree with the Minister that the success of FÁS will largely depend on how they meet the needs of different regions. The Government stated in their Programme for National Recovery their commitment to the development of the Manpower services on a regionalised basis. FÁS will only be as good as the services they deliver at local level.

The Bill also reflects the general Government policy on decentralisation. There is an over-concentration of decision making in Dublin, a fact of which I was regularly reminded during an extensive tour of the country in the recent Seanad election campaign. By pushing decision making down to local level, a greater degree of flexibility and innovation will be possible to improve the services at local level. I welcome, therefore, the Minister's commitment to decentralise decision making in the area of Manpower services which, as he said in his speech, will be reflected in the structure of FÁS and will form part of the policy guidelines which will be conveyed to FÁS.

I wish to refer now to the unemployment problem, especially as it relates to the over 25 age group. By 1990 over half the workforce will be in the 25 to 44 age group. For many years we have been talking about half of the population being under 25. What is now developing is a shift in the bulge in unemployment to the over 25 age group. The Bill provides for changing the youth employment levy into a general employment and training levy. This is a recognition of the changing unemployment pattern. It was obviously taken in the context of the changing age structure and the unemployment figures within that structure. This change does not mean a reduction in the provision for youth. I am glad the Minister underlined that. It will however, introduce more equity and more Government discretion so that expenditure on Manpower services can be focussed on the hardest hit age groups at any given point in time.

The policy role of the Minister is, of course, very important and the more executive type work that can be removed from the Department the better in that regard. The central role of the Minister in the determination of Manpower policy is restored in the Bill, thus giving statutory effect to the proper relationship which should exist between a Minister and subsidiary bodies. Under section 12, FÁS are required to submit annually to the Minister a report on their activities within six months after the year in question. In addition, they are required to furnish a report outlining their programme of work including expenditure estimates for the coming year. Any Minister and his Department need to strike a balance — the Minister touched on this in his speech — between policy issues and necessary departmental controls and the freedom and flexibility which any State body require to carry out their day to day functions. This control relationship between the Minister and his Department and State bodies is an area that received considerable attention in a somewhat different context on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies, of which I have been a member for several years. The relationship between the Minister for Labour and his Department and FÁS in the Manpower area is indeed analogous to the relationship which we considered in the commercial State-sponsored bodies area. I welcome the requirement in section 12 whereby FÁS will have to submit annually to the Minister a report of their activities within six months after the year in question. The time limit is important. If it were any more it could adversely affect corrective policy action by the Minister and his Department. In this same context I also welcome the requirement in section 12 whereby FÁS will be required to furnish a report outlining their programme of work including expenditure estimates for the coming year. This requirement will impose a planning discipline which should be of benefit to all concerned, to FÁS, the user of their services, to the taxpayer who pays for it and of course to the Minister and his Department.

I wish the Bill, for which there is widespread agreement, a speedy passage through the House, not least because much work needs to be done before the new body can go into action. The Minister is, of course, aiming — and I am sure he will achieve it — to get the body into action and into effect by 1 January 1988. In the interim, of course, a new chairman and board, a director general and an organisational structure need to be put in place. The new body will have substantial implications for the Department of Labour. Something like a policy unit to liaise with and monitor their activities will be needed. It is obviously of key importance that such a unit be built up with people of appropriate expertise who can do the job adequately. A quote from NESC on Manpower policy in Ireland is relevant in this regard:

We have already been critical of the fact that the Department of Labour has not become sufficiently involved in policy formulation, even within the narrow approach to Manpower issues which has prevailed up to now. However, the role now envisaged for the Department, embracing the concept of a labour market policy and involvement in Manpower issues in a much broader context, represents a considerable extension of its functions. To adequately fulfil this role the Department will have to be provided with the appropriate resources. In this regard the principal requirement would be for staff with analytic and interpretive skills.

As I mentioned, I have been on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on State-Sponsored Bodies for several years and in that context and otherwise I have come to regard the intelligence and integrity of civil servants with great respect. It is a fact, however, that particular skills are required not only at the Department of Labour but in all other Government Departments as well. The Ministers, typically, have very heavy workloads. The Minister for Labour is a classic example of somebody with a huge volume of work which, somehow, he gets through. However, the Minister for Labour and any other Minister must, inevitably, rely on their advisers for crucial advice on various issues. To secure suitably qualified people, preferably from within the Civil Service, to provide this type of advice requires resources. While I would be the first to admit that there is considerable pressure on the public finances at present and that that in turn may make it difficult to provide additional funds for any purpose, it could be argued that it is precisely at this time of economic difficulty that the quality of advice which Ministers receive should be at its highest. If additional funding is necessary to ensure that people with particular skills are available in various Government Departments, such additional funding, if provided, would be very well spent.

There is a widespread welcome for the Bill and I reiterate that I welcome the amalgamation of the existing manpower agencies. I should add, however, that the Minister for Labour, Deputy Bertie Ahern, who is present here, has long advocated the amalgamation envisaged and which is now about to get legislative effect by way of this Bill. He publicly promoted this idea when he was Opposition spokesman for Labour. I am particularly glad, therefore, that he is here in person as Minister for Labour to give effect to one of his strongly held views in the area of Manpower policy.

The Bill also reflects the Government's policy on decentralisation of services. It fits basically into that general purpose and commitment. I strongly share the view of the Government that decision making should, as far as possible, be pushed out of Dublin down to local level where the various services, including Manpower services, are delivered on the ground. I welcome the Bill and wish it a speedy passage through the House so that FÁS will be established with effect from 1 January 1988.

We all recognise that this Bill is necessary in principle. It is also legislation to deal with the method by which a quite substantial amount of money is to be organised, disbursed and used. The Minister may have mentioned a budget in this speech but I did not come across it. I collected a copy of the Estimates for the Public Service. The figures I arrived at were £125 million for AnCO, £7 million for the Youth Employment Agency, £5 million on salaries for the Manpower Service, totalling £137 million. I am not sure that this Bill constitutes the proper way for the Oireachtas to deal with an agency of that scale. Admittedly it was introduced last November, was redrafted to some extent by the present Government, was republished early in June and is now being debated by the Seanad. It received not much more than two or three hours in the other House. As my small contribution to accountability and because I have had some representations made to me I have a fairly long list of amendments for Committee Stage. I hasten to add they are not being submitted simply to prove that the Oireachtas is in charge but rather because they are valid points needing to be made.

A number of previous speakers referred to the necessity for manpower services policies. We need to remember that planning is needed in all these areas of policies. The reason I emphasise the word "planning" is that there appears to be a reluctance on the part of many in our society to accept that planning is something that can be done in a market economy. Planning is confused with centrally planned economies. That is not what I advocated or what we are ever likely to have here anyway. In the words of Julius Kambarage Nyrere planning is about making choices. Some of those choices will go astray. Therefore there is, unfortunately, considerable temptation in the way of all of us politicians — whether we be in Government or languishing in the perpetuity of the Opposition benches in the Seanad, like myself — to avoid making up our minds, to confuse aspirations with policy and with decisions. Therefore, what I would hope — and which is not evident from a reading of the Minister's remarks — is that one of the things that will spring from the provisions of this Bill and the establishment of An Foras Áiseanna Saothair will be a fundamental reappraisal of the role of all the bodies being amalgamated in FAS.

We desperately need a fairly rigorous zero-based accounting system for all our State agencies in which the justification for any area of expenditure is need and not precedent. I do not know that there is anything written into the provisions of this Bill — other than the very welcome extra role for the Minister in determining the broad policy parameters — to ensure that this will happen. Therefore, I hope the role envisaged for the Minister will be seen to be operated positively. Let me emphasise that a determination to ensure that a service is provided on the basis of need is not a negative aspiration; it is a very positive one. It is a determination to ensure that the resources are used in the best possible way.

The trouble about policy and planning is that you have to take decisions. Once decisions are taken they are not always proven to be right. This country in particular is awash with people who have a huge line in hindsight. There is a natural tendency in any democratic society for hindsight to figure largely. In this country that capacity is huge and, as somebody said, hindsight is the only exact science. At the centre of decisions on manpower have to be some decisions about realistic assessments of what we can do in the areas of economic growth, industrial production, agricultural production and internationally traded services, all requiring specific targets and assessments. Some decisions a Government may have to take in this area may not be particularly compatible with their aspirations to be re-elected. Either we should accept, as a national policy or consensus that large scale emigration is necessary or the direct opposite, which is that we are not going to accept large scale emigration but rather are going to put together an economic policy in the services area which will minimise if not abolish emigration. You cannot plan even a medium term manpower policy for this country without putting a figure on emigration. The numbers of people who will be needing the services of FÁS will be of the order of 20,000, 30,000 if not 40,000 per annum depending on your estimation of emigration figures.

I know these propositions are not very pleasant. Indeed, a number of NESC reports on social planning emphasise that. One of the great successes of northern European economies has been their capacity to link social and economic planning, to link targets in the area of social policy to the achievement of targets in the area of economic policy. We have not been particularly successful in that respect. Many of our policies have been developed piecemeal, have been developed in response to pressures or to a particular need at a given time. It is not Governments alone who are subjected to this temptation. For example the Youth Employment Agency was a well-intentioned response to a perceived need. There were arguments advanced on its establishment — with which I did not agree — that it was not necessary to set up a separate agency, that whatever about the extra funding or levy involved there was a serious question posed as to whether an extra agency was needed to do the same things. Where we have ended up confirms the view, which was regarded as somewhat stuffy and conservative six or seven years ago, that we did not really need another agency, that perhaps we needed a revamped general manpower service but that another agency did not constitute the way forward.

Now that we have one agency I hope specific decisions will be taken about specific targets and objectives. I am sure the Minister will appreciate taking three agencies and placing them under the management of one board of directors does not necessarily mean that they will all operate or progress in the same direction. There are simple details that have to be attended to, some of which may take years. For instance, all of these agencies must now have massive data banks. One wonders will they be wildly enthusiastic about what they used to see as somewhat competitive agencies having access to all that information. Will the computer records turn out to be mysteriously incompatible for months, if not years, while each subgroup within the overall body struggles to establish its identity? Will the largest, dominant body which is AnCo continue to dominate? Will it be simply AnCO under another name the other two agencies being swallowed up by the enormous agency which is AnCO? If that is the case then will we ever reach the stage — and perhaps I should direct this question to the Minister for Education rather than the Minister for Labour — at which the whole area of training and labour services fits snugly into the overall area of education?

I have to confess an interest here because I work in the educational sector. Superficially — and I have neither the resources nor the time to do a study in detail — there appears to be quite a considerable degree of competition between AnCO and the educational sector to carry out similar areas of work. We can neither afford nor do we need that sort of needless competition. Therefore, I hope that when the Minister is appointing the director of FÁS he chooses somebody who has a vision beyond simply the construction of a large agency. I hope that the Minister's and the Department's role in the area of policy formulation will not be taken in isolation from the policies being developed by his colleague in the Department of Education.

It is extremely important that we do not have competition either in the third level area or in the nebulous area between second and third level where a lot of training takes place. We should not have people coming out of, say, technical colleges in particular and out of AnCO with what appear to be similar qualifications produced in different ways and under different curricula. If people are being trained, for instance, as electronic technicians, it would not really matter whether they are trained by AnCO or trained by a regional technical college. They ought to be of a similar level of skill and training.

Since the Minister referred to the present intense activity that goes under the heading of Jobsearch I ought to refer to it as well. I have said before that the idea of carefully going through the numbers of the long term unemployed, carefully and sensitively attempting to discover areas of potential work, skill and activity that these people might be interested in or qualified for, is very worth while. The country whose economic and social success I admire most is Sweden. Sweden is remarkably active in ensuring that nobody loses the habit of work because he or she is unemployed. They take quite extraordinary, what one here could call draconian, measures to ensure that. These draconian measures are based on levels of unemployment assistance which are close to 90 per cent of average take home pay. Our levels of unemployment assistance, unfortunately, do not compare, at least for many groups of people.

What concerns me is the quickness of implementation of Jobsearch and also the reputed brevity of the interviews that are taking place. In a five or ten minute interview one cannot determine the possibly obscure skills of somebody who has suffered unemployment for perhaps two or three years or determine potential areas of learning or of interest of people who have been unemployed for a year or two or three years. First, many unemployed people are understandably wary of many of the State's services. They are not treated with great dignity in the labour exchange, for instance.

The fact that the notification about Jobsearch comes via the labour exchange is not in any way going to reassure people that this is not just another addition to the indignity that is imposed on them because they are unemployed. To bring people in, interview them for five, ten or 15 minutes and tell them that this is the discovering of all of their possible skills seems to be a little presumptious and unkind and the imposition of another indignity.

Of the 150,000 people who will be interviewed, we are talking about 40,000 Manpower opportunities for them and a further 12,000 on a four week Jobsearch, that is 52,000. What are we going to do for the other 100,000 to whom we cannot offer anything? Are we going to insist still that they go through the ridiculous ritual of signing on once a week to prove that they are available for work when the combined resources of two State agencies, the Department of Social Welfare and of FÁS will have accepted that there is no work available for them? Will we insist that they prove they are still actively searching for work when the combined resources of the State have accepted that there is no work for which they could be actively searching?

Will we, at least, get around to accepting that these people are the victims of a recession, that whatever compensation we choose to give them for being unemployed ought not to necessitate the humiliations of the labour exchange and of frequent challenges to their integrity? It simply ought to become a pension to be paid to the unemployed, separate from the labour exchange, which can be terminated if these people do emerge again in the national labour force. Since people now have a common PRSI number it ought to be possible to devise a scheme which does not penalise in terms of their dignity as well as of their pockets those who are the victims of long term unemployment. If the Jobsearch programme is what it is intended to be, we ought to be thinking about radical reassessment of the method of income support for the 100,000 of those 150,000 for whom, it appears, we are not going to be able to do anything.

That is the sort of areas of social policy and Manpower policy at which a dynamic new body should be looking. That is my concern and fear about this whole Bill. The Minister is young and able. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he is dynamic. He has the potential to be dynamic.

What this agency will need more than anything else is an impetus to give their management a very clear impression that what the Government and the Oireachtas expect is not just more of the same but something fundamentally different which will, first, be defined in its differences by the policies outlined by the Minister, but will also be defined in its differences in the service it provides.

I was given a document that was put together by a group of voluntary community groups. I am not quite sure of the groups involved and therefore I will not quote statistics from it but what I will say is that the collective impression given by the 12 or 15 groups involved about the difficulties of any of these groups getting support from the various State agencies, AnCO, Youth Employment and Manpower, is not very pleasant reading. They talk about delays and frustrations. They have a cartoon which is effectively the same person smiling, then with two days' beard, then with a week's beard and then eventually with a six months' beard, outside in the agency waiting room waiting for a decision on his application. If we are to have an agency who are to respond to needs and do all the things that are listed under section 4 where the functions of FÁS are set out, they will have to be able to decide quickly. They would also have to devise procedures by which people could make contact with FÁS without, as these groups say, needing an expert negotiator to be able to convince FÁS. This agency must be user orientated and must be directed towards encouraging people to seek the supports of the agency, not to making people feel that one needs a professional intermediary to be able to negotiate one's way through the quagmire. It is not necessary, in order to ensure that State money is used efficiently, that people go through a series of hoops and over a series of hurdles in order to achieve what they wish to achieve. I will go through a number of my detailed considerations on Committee Stage.

It is a good idea to amalgamate AnCO, the Youth Employment Agency and the National Manpower Service. It is a good idea to have a more dynamic role for the Government and for the Minister in the broad formulation of Manpower policy. But neither of those two good ideas will achieve any great impact on the lives and experiences of the unemployed, nor on the provision of adequately trained manpower for the changing economic needs one hopes we will have in the future if there is not a dynamism injected into the operations of the new agency and if the new agency do not become user orientated and see themselves as a provider of services almost in a commercial way. I look forward to what the Minister has to say and I look forward to the Committee Stage of the Bill where I hope a number of my queries can be teased out in some detail.

Ba mhaith liomsa ar dtús fíilte a chur roimh an Aire sa Teach seo agus comhgairdeas a dhéanamh leis as ucht bheith sa phost ina bhfuil sé. Tá súil agam go ndéanfaidh sé togha oibre mar Aire.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I congratulate him belatedly on his appointment as Minister for Labour. I have no doubt that he will do an excellent job in that position. To allay the fears of Senator Ryan, I know that the Minister is young, I know that he is able and I also know that he is dynamic.

Like Senator Ryan, I have an educational interest. It is in that general sphere that I make my comments on this Bill. The general objective of the Bill which aims at the better co-ordination of the work of the Manpower agencies is to be sincerely welcomed. In this era of high unemployment, with such great pressure on public finances, it is imperative that everything possible is done to provide an effective and economic service in training as well as in other public sector areas. There are compelling arguments to support the establishment of a well integrated agency which would assist those who have not yet found a job or have become unemployed, in finding their rightful place on the labour market.

The preamble to the Bill states that its purpose is:

to make further provision in relation to the provision of training and retraining for employment, the provision of work experience and the establishment of employment schemes and job placement services,

There are other agencies or bodies involved in making somewhat similar provisions. Will the Minister ensure that the total State services in this area are co-ordinated so that any overlap will be eliminated, thereby minimising the total cost to the Exchequer? I have in mind the educational system which obviously has such a major role to play in providing basic literacy and numeracy skills and in preparing young people for direct entry into various professions and careers as well as in post graduate research training and continuing formation and updating after they have entered into employment.

The educational sector plays an important role in preparing young people for many and varied aspects of work, ranging from providing young people with basic numeracy skills and literacy skills to the highest levels of technical and technological formations, of professional degrees and post graduate work. In terms of total numbers, the participation in the educational system is in excess of one million, including some 325,000 following second level programmes, 55,000 fulltime third level students, approximately 10,000 apprentices and nearly 100,000 part time day and evening students pursuing a variety of continuing and adult education courses, many of which have strong training elements. These figures speak for themselves. It is to be hoped that the present close and effective cooperation between the Manpower agencies and the educational sector in many areas will continue. Indeed I strongly urge that it be developed further for the benefit of all concerned.

Will the Minister consider including in the preamble to the Bill that such provision shall have regard to the preparation and training programmes available to the educational system and to Government policy or guidelines issued from time to time.

The Government policy is that the educational authorities will have primary responsibility for preparing young people for working life, that the Manpower bodies will have a role in assisting those who have left the educational system and experienced difficulties in achieving a foothold in the labour market and that the educational and Manpower policies should complement and assist one another towards serving the overall objectives of Government employment strategy.

The VEC system, in which I am directly involved and which I represent, plays a very important role in relation to many of the areas where, with the establishment of FÁS, there is definite opportunity for very close co-operation and development with the type of mechanisms in place there. The VEC system has the following assets; a range of strategically located premises, educational programmes geared to and derived from the world of work, trained and expert staff, experience in dealing with a whole range of working population from young to old, from unskilled to highly skilled, employers, a commitment to social betterment, a long and successful track record in this area, and a quick response capacity in relation to training for specific industries and in relation to social requirements. The VEC have a direct involvement with many of the functions now proposed for FÁS. This should be an opportunity to build on what is a long established and well programmed infrastructure.

The role of the VEC in training could be summarised as being second and third level training, both professional and technical, vocational preparation and training programmes, literacy programmes, remedial and special education, apprenticeship training, guidance services and psychological counselling services, external training, adult and second chance education, catering programmes in co-operation with CERT, new community programmes, prison education, community workshops, sport and cultural programmes, outward bound activities, management and administration and curriculum development.

The VEC system provides and arranges for training and retraining for employment; it provides assistance in obtaining employment; it provides and arranges for work experience; it arranges for people seeking employment and those offering employment to come into contact; it provides and arranges for guidance, advice and information in respect of choice of career and employment and it facilitates community groups, co-operatives and members of local communities in the provision of employment.

It is obvious from an examination of the multi-facet approach and diverse levels operated by the VECs that co-operation, liaison and partnership is extremely important. It is essential that it would take place between the vocational system and the Manpower agencies at local level. I am very pleased to see the Minister's attitude towards the regionalisation of this service because this is extremely important. I reiterate the sentiments expressed by a number of the other speakers in relation to that development. The co-operation which has existed between the agencies and the educational sector in the past should be developed and improved to ensure the overall success of this very important body. I compliment the Minister on his foresight, on the work he did during the past number of years and on his attitude, towards the amalgamation of the State agencies. The Bill is to be sincerely welcomed. There is a tremendous opportunity at the moment for improving manpower planning. I know the Minister and his Department will make a great success of this national body and I ask him to take the suggestions I have made into account in the future.

It is an appropriate opportunity for the House to be discussing and reviewing the implementation of manpower policy against the very difficult employment situation prevailing. Heretofore, policy objectives for manpower always assumed economic growth and the rapid expansion of various sectors of the economy but unfortunately the growth and the expansion we have witnessed and experienced in the past decade or two no longer exists. The primary concern of our policy now is to match the supply side of labour, which is rapidly increasing, with the skills that are required to meet the diminishing demand side of the labour force. Economic policy nationally and the economic policy being pursued by the Government of the day is essential and important to get the foundations right in order to create the incentive to give more employment in the various traditional sectors of our economy. Because the assumptions I referred to cannot be made, radical measures are necessary in order to improve the employment positions.

The difficulties on the economic front have been assisted by the unique demographic structure in our economy. Unfortunately, it is the young sector of the population who must go abroad in order to achieve their objective of gaining employment. The supply and demand sides of our labour force are not in tandem at present and the safety valve of emigration is necessary for thousands of those young people. Our traditional attitude in the way that we perceive emigration must change. When one considers the wider territorial and economic domain of which we are now part — the European Community — and because we have consolidated our position in recent times by voting through the Single European Act, we should consider the word migration within the Community as more appropriate than emigration abroad. Migration within the European Community will be necessary for many years to come if our young people are unable to find work at home. We should assist them in making the decision to migrate if it is their preference, to go to other parts of Europe rather than just moan and groan about the appalling situation we have at present. We must face reality.

As a nation we must seek to employ as many people as possible in our country but we must never allow our educational or employment policy to deteriorate to such an extent that the emigrant is ill-equipped for the wider world of work. I am glad the Minister has made reference to this in his speech and that he is conscious of supplying the necessary resources and staff in his Department to ensure that the migrant within the Community is sufficiently equipped so that he or she is not lost, as it were, in the wider world of work. I challenge anyone in this House to suggest that emigration will cease to be a reality shortly. It is against this background that we must fine tune our present manpower policy to meet the enormous challenge of creating sufficient employment to match the rapidly increasing and ever frustrated supply side of labour.

I welcome the amalgamation of the various State agencies referred to in the Bill — AnCO, the Youth Employment Agency, and the National Manpower Service — into one body, An Foras Áiseanna Saothar. It is essential to avoid the rampant duplication of State resources we have become accustomed to and to eliminate the confusion of the general public in seeking the services of these agencies. There is no doubt that better value for money could be achieved by the rationalisation of these services and agencies. However, we must remember that organisational arrangements alone will not create employment. Manpower policy must take cognisance of many other factors. These include taxation, social welfare policies and industrial relations policies and their impact on the participation rate in employment.

There is certainly a blatant lack of incentive to become employed. From the employer's point of view he or she is saddled with an enormous bureaucracy in relation to taxation or social welfare while the unemployed often find it more financially secure to stay at home rather than become employed. Enlightened and radical measures are needed now in this area to boost employment. Perhaps one of the options that could be considered is the idea of a minimum incomes policy in order to ensure that there is a certain minimum income available to people and that where they find employment in the course of their working week that this will not be treated harshly in the taxation and social welfare code. While it is necessary to have special employment schemes to assist specific groups such as the disabled to enter employment, the public are punch drunk with the number and the dubious quality of many of the training and temporary employment schemes at present in operation. I want to mention four schemes which are having an impact on unemployment and which perhaps could be extended.

The social employment scheme came into operation some two years ago and I would like to pay tribute to the trade union movement in co-operating with the implementation of this scheme particularly through community groups and local authorities. This was a tremendous boost to many people, particularly single people who were unable to find employment in their own communities and who felt that they could make a contribution to their communities through this scheme. Throughout the various local authorities in particular very useful work has been done in assisting in the development of recreational facilities and in the improvement of amenity areas. The general value for money of this scheme is much appreciated by the people involved and the wider community. This scheme could be extended further and I hope that the trade union movement would see the usefulness of extending this scheme without putting an embargo on it. It would be important that their own members would be safeguarded in the extension of the scheme, particularly the members who are employed at present in local authorities throughout the country.

The second scheme I want to mention is the enterprise allowance scheme. This was a very important scheme which helped to bring people into self-employment. It provided a useful incentive of £50 a week if one was married and £30 a week if one was single. During the course of 12 months a person could be sure of an income while, at the same time, generating a source of revenue from the new found self-employment. It was a necessary step in order to get into the world of work and the self-employed status. The embargo and the quote that at present exists on the numbers of people going into the enterprise allowance scheme should be lifted and the scheme should be extended further. The loss to the Exchequer is non-existent because otherwise these people would be on social welfare payments.

The community youth training programme operated by AnCO is a very successful one. It is so successful that the Confederation of Irish Industry now regard this body as probably one of the main building contractors in the country, to their detriment, to the detriment of the CIF. I suggest that the present position of influence of the Confederation of Irish Industry at local level on the operation of this scheme militates against the improvement and expansion of the community youth training programme under AnCO. I am aware of various schemes that unfortunately will not start to create necessary apprenticeship places, necessary employment at community level and necessary repair and renovation to community facilities because of the failure and lack of co-operation of the Construction Industry Federation at local level. While I appreciate that AnCO can extend their influence too far, a fine balance is necessary to ensure that the communities are assisted and that the young people who benefit enormously from this programme continue to get the opportunity of gaining these apprenticeship places.

The community enterprise programme under the Youth Employment Agency is a very valuable scheme. Many communities have succeeded in gaining finance through this particular agency — the Youth Employment Agency — to set up community development committees in their own areas. Senator Ryan referred to the frustration people will experience in getting finance from this scheme. It is my experience that the Youth Employment Agency have liberally applied the finances to communities who have a programme of work for a year or for two years. I can vouch for the experience of the Kilkenny Regional Employment Council which have utilised this scheme to carry out very worth-while assistance to community groups throughout the county. Individuals have come to seek advice and information on the various schemes that could assist them into employment and that is to be encouraged.

It is regrettable that manpower policy is in such a state at the moment that the Youth Employment Agency could fund an enterprise worker in order to plough through the bureaucracy that exists in many of the State support schemes presently in operation. This in my view focuses in on the importance of having all these schemes amalgamated under the one banner and administered by the one organisation, the National Manpower Authority. I hope the Minister will also take the opportunity of appraising the various schemes under the present agencies to see if he could rationalise any of them in order to ensure that we get better value for money.

The educational system and the educational policy has been moving gradually towards being more relevant to the work place in recent years. However, there is a need for greater flexibility into the system to open the way for a wider range of career options. The traditional secondary school programme and the points system as a means of entering third level education will not discern the student's various talents accurately and thereby it will not ensure an interesting and rewarding career for that student. The educational system at present is breeding dependency rather than self reliance, and with a scarcity of financial resources nationally that policy must change. It must also change if we are to create economic conditions to sustain people in existing employment. The educational system in my opinion must seek to change the tired old attitude that the State owes me a job. The consequences for our future generations will be even more bleak if our present attitude continues. I hope the new National Manpower Authority will succeed in the job of effectively co-ordinating manpower schemes. The country has had enough review bodies. It has had enough reports on the action that needs to be taken to create employment and to satisfy manpower policy requirements. I sincerely hope that we will not yet again be just one more decision away from making a decision in such a vital area for our social and economic future and particularly for the future of our young people.

I thank Senators Kennedy, McKenna, Ryan, Hillery and Hogan for their contributions. Most of the points made were in support of items we should take account of when we get the authority set up, and appoint the chief executive hopefully before the end of the year. In regard to the fears which everybody has and the fears which I have had for a certain number of years, I am well aware that to take three organisations and amalgamate them under one roof with one set of guidelines will not make a manpower authority. There is much work to be done. It is a fairly major area. Senator Ryan said that manpower expenditure is £127 million according to his calculations. In actual fact the expenditure of the manpower organisations is £200 million with almost 3,000 employees, which makes it a very large organisation. Everybody agrees and a number of Senators have referred to the overlap, the duplication, the dissipation of services and all the other difficulties we have had over the years, not because of any lack of effort by the organisations but because as has been outlined by Senator Hogan, it has all changed in the last 15 or 16 years. The job of this Government and particularly myself and the organisation FÁS is to try to come to grips with the present position and to try to use the large amount of money and staff available to provide for unemployed and disadvantaged people the best service possible in the most effective and efficient way. That is the objective of the organisation and that is what we intend to deliver on.

I should like to reply to a few precise questions which were put to me about the voluntary bodies. I said at the start there was a difficulty about having every organisation involved but I assure Senator Kennedy we will take account of the input in the policy area of the voluntary bodies and we will consult with them. There have already been discussions with the Department of Health. As I said at the outset because it was necessary to keep numbers within a manageable basis, we were not able to give everyone the representation they wanted.

Regarding the area of policy on which Senators Hillery, McKenna and Ryan asked questions, the Minister's policy role will take account of the priorities. We will link the manpower policies with the programmes and take into account the economic, industrial and social policy and, as well as that, have regard to the realities of the frightening emigration position. Some valid points have been made here. There is a distinction to be made: the emigration position is frightening in some areas and welcoming in other areas. The reality is being brought home to more people every day.

A number of points were raised about the co-operation and the communication between education and manpower policy. I could not agree with that. There are many more relationships now than there were in the past and the links are tighter. Senator McKenna asked that we strengthen these links and I agree with him. There is no point in people trying to compete for who does what and who helps whom, and so on. We must ensure that the taxpayer's money, the money which was taken through the youth employment levy, now the employment levy — and the money we get from the European Social Fund is used properly to help unemployed people. We keep coming back to that. This organisation has a major task in trying to achieve that. My argument over the years was that they were competing with each other. We had so many programmes that were duplicated and some people lost confidence. In other areas Senators referred to some of the successful schemes but there seemed to be duplication. They can rest assured that if schemes should be eliminated they will be eliminated. If necessary we will seek to create new schemes. This organisation is not being set up to convenience anyone or anything; its sole purpose is to help unemployed people and I am confident we can do that.

I look forward to Committee Stage next week when, with the co-operation of the Whips and the Leader of the House, we can go through the various sections of the Bill. The Jobsearch programme is a positive step to take people from the live register and try to restore their motivation, initiative and self respect. Senator Ryan said that in a short interview you cannot understand the difficulties of a person who has been unemployed for a number of years. I agree with him and that is why the four week course is a particularly good idea. On a four week course they will have an opportunity to talk through the difficulties and see areas of hope and where their future lies. While some people are not happy about going on a four week course, the feed back generally is that it is helping to motivate people. The people giving the courses put forward new ideas and ways of chasing a job or trying to start a business. The agencies put a massive range of ideas before people on the Jobsearch course. The scheme was a good idea. It is not perfect, but no scheme is. It was set up quickly because we thought people who had been unemployed for a number of years deserved an opportunity to be motivated and that a substantial amount of the resources spent in the manpower organisation should go to helping the long term unemployed. That is precisely what the Jobsearch programme is doing. It is not the most ideal way, but at least it is a help. A substantial number of people are being referred to courses of one kind or another. As was pointed out, it is not 150,000 but it is a substantial number.

I will certainly take account of the other points which were raised. They dealt mainly with how the Department and the agency will be organised in the next four or five months to meet this challenge. This will be a major State organisation with a budget of over £200 million and almost 3,000 people. If we ensure that the money is available and the motivation of the staff involved is focused on the one objective of helping people who require help, a good day's work will be done. I think that is possible.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 8 July 1987.