I move to reduce sub-head F by £10,000. The Minister gave us a fairly exhaustive account of the present position of the rural industries carried on under his Department. He gave us one or two assurances, which I welcome, but I cannot help thinking that a little more detailed and exhaustive inquiry into the present condition of those industries may be a good thing and may lead to a direction from the Dáil to the Minister as to the policy he is to pursue in connection therewith. It will not, I think, be in any material degree different from the policy which he intends to pursue, but it may induce him to adopt that policy more quickly and possibly more drastically. These rural industries are an inheritance from the Congested Districts Board. I do not quite know why they were transferred to the Minister for Fisheries. But they were transferred, and it is opportune to look into their history for a few minutes. Originally, the Congested Districts Board did not run industries of any kind. Mr. Micks, in his account of the Congested Districts Board, says the principle was laid down that ownership or managership of any industrial enterprise would not be undertaken. That rule was subsequently departed from, but I believe it was a sound principle. The object can be attained without the necessity of having a Government Department for rural industries at all. What the Congested Districts Board did in its early days was to make grants of money to places where they believed industries could be successfully set up. In one case—that of the tweed manufactory at Foxford—that policy was eminently successful. Now, we have the Trade Loans Act, which would provide for that without the need for the Department under the Minister at all.
Gradually, as time went on, there was a very considerable development of rural industries under the C.D.B. That was almost entirely due to the work of two very remarkable men—the late Mr. W.J.D. Walker, whose death we all regret, and Mr. Gilbert Phelan, who, in turn, were in special charge of the Industries Department. Mr. Walker was a man of business knowledge and training and, as Mr. Micks states, the Board very soon discovered that commercial knowledge and training are essential to the success of an undertaking in the hands of the State. He began by organising the industries and by assisting them with loans. His successor, Mr. Gilbert Phelan, was a man of great enterprise. He was always watching the markets of the world, and he was accustomed to pay frequent visits to London, Manchester, Paris and other centres where the goods produced by these industries were marketed. As a result, he was able to attain considerable success, though he had also some failures. A remarkable instance of his capacity was the way in which—when the outbreak of the war made many of the goods produced by the rural industries in congested districts quite unsaleable, because they were luxuries—Mr. Phelan discovered that there was a shortage of buttons for ladies' clothes. There was a shortage of bone and celluloid buttons, and he made an industry by covering little bits of wood and cardboard with various colours of silk and other materials, which filled the want for the time. That, of course, had to be abandoned at the close of the war.
So far as I can discover, there is nobody in the Minister's Department in the position that Mr. Walker and Mr. Phelan occupied. There is no directing head or general staff for this work. The technical and outdoor staff of the Ministry, so far as I can see, is connected entirely with fisheries. I am very doubtful as to whether a Government Department can carry on industries at all, but I am quite sure that it cannot when it has not what I call a general staff. The result is that when an industry is established it is regarded as a thing that must be carried on. Somebody with a salary will naturally carry it on until they are told not to do so. The result might be that you would have them going on producing goods that would be unsaleable and unsuitable to the times. Deputy McGoldrick yesterday spoke about lace-making. The people are not wearing lace. I remember the time when every lady in evening dress wore a large amount of lace. But lace is not used now with ladies' dresses. Money spent on lace-making is, to a large extent, money wasted, owing to the change of fashion and also owing to the fact that the Japanese have learned to produce lace and can produce it more cheaply than we can. They can under-cut us in the markets. The same thing applies in the case of homespuns and tweeds. We are going on making our homespuns in the old way, regardless of the fact that nobody in the United States will wear heavy suits, because their houses are all steel-sheeted, and they wear heavy overcoats when they go out.
Unless you have some directing intelligence—and it would be unfair to expect the Minister to give up all his directing intelligence to rural industries, when he has to attend to fisheries —you will lose money on these industries. Look at the accounts and you will see that we are losing money. One would be glad of more detailed information regarding the position of these industries. The Minister gave us the number of them yesterday, but I should like to know the number of person employed and the total turnover. Looking at the Estimate, we have, on one side, as an Appropriation in-Aid, "Receipts from rural industries, £17,470." We may put that on the credit side. On the debit side you have, omitting any item for wages or capital charges—Purchase of raw material, £16,000; postage for finished articles, £1,000; travelling expenses to markets—what you might call commercial travelling charges—£300, and freight and carriage, £100. That is, £17,400 as against £17,470.
Therefore the total profit of these industries, so far as can be judged from this Estimate, to meet all items, wages, capital charges, repairs to plant, rents, rates, and so on, is £70 a year. Obviously that is not a business proposition. It could only be justified on the ground either of exceptional need or because of the fact that the industries are being carried through their most difficult and struggling years. But some of these industries have been carried on for nearly ten years. The Galway toy industry, to which the Minister referred, is one. That has apparently been run, year after year, at a loss, and it has now been decided to close it down. If there is no prospect of expansion in that toy factory now, I do not believe that there was any chance two years ago. I believe it would have been desirable to cut the losses sooner. But unless you have some directing intelligence applied to this question you will never know what is the right time to cut your losses. The Comptroller and Auditor-General has commented on some of the glove industries showing certain shortages. One glove industry cost £550, and no sales appear to have been made during the financial year.
I do not think you are going to get any rural industries of value to the country on those lines. I think the Minister is partly persuaded to that himself, from what he said yesterday, but I do suggest to the Dáil that if we have this money to spend, it would be better spent for fishery purposes and for purposes allied to fishery purposes, within the congested districts, than in this manner. The kelp industry is an industry we ought to assist, because it will employ the fishermen on days when they cannot go out to sea or when the fish are not there. I think if we are going to promote industries they ought to be promoted by one Department, and that is the Department of Industry and Commerce. The present situation is that where there might be trade enough for one industry you might have the Minister for Fisheries subsidising one industry in the congested districts and the Minister for Industry and Commerce giving a Trades Loan guarantee to another industry in another part of the country, with the two industries set up in competition with each other and cutting each others throats. As a matter of fact, the functions of the Minister for Fisheries, under Section 1 of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, is "Fisheries and all industries connected with or auxiliary to the same." I do not quite know how, except on the grounds of established practice, the making of toy rocking-horses could be described as auxiliary to fisheries.