I intended, in introducing the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce to open my remarks by giving a general review of the work the Department has done, the work it is doing and the work which it proposes to do in the coming year and then only to a minor degree, and, later, deal with the various matters which are mentioned in the Estimate. As, however, I would prefer that the general account of the work of the Department, which I contemplate, should not be interrupted by the adjournment, I shall reverse the order of my remarks and deal first with the matters set out on the face of the Estimate. Sub-head A provides for the salaries, wages and allowances of officers of the Department. It will be noted that there is an increase contemplated in this year under the sub-head. That increase arises from a number of causes. There was an additional Assistant Secretary appointed last year and a reorganisation in the Transport and Marine Branch was carried out which made it necessary to restore a second post of superintending officer which had been left unoccupied in the previous year, and also to add one junior executive. In the Trade and Industries Branch there has been a fairly substantial increase in the staff arising out of increased activities under recent legislation. In that connection I might particularly mention the Control of Imports Act and the Industrial Alcohol Act, both of which involved an additional staff, particularly in the Executive grade and higher grades. There has also been an increase necessitated in the Finance and Establishment Branch, and in the Statistics Branch arising out of the preparatory work in connection with the census of population which it is proposed to take in 1936.
I think most Deputies are familiar with the day to day work of the various sections of the Department, and it is not necessary to deal with this in detail. Under sub-head A comes provision for the Trade Boards which are established under the Trade Board Acts. There are 14 Trade Boards established in the Saorstát at the present time. Two new Boards were established during the past year, one for the packing trade and the other for the rope and twine industry. Notice has been given of the intention to establish Trade Boards for certain other industries in the future. During the last year the rates fixed by a number of these Trade Boards were reviewed. New rates were recommended by nine of the Boards and brought into operation during the year. Under that sub-head also comes the work of the Department arising out of the Apprenticeship Act, 1931. During 1934 preliminary investigations were conducted in connection with the designation of trades under that Act and the following trades were under review—furniture, hair-dressing, brush and broom industry, waterproof industries, electrical trades, painting and decorating. Apprenticeship Committees have been established for the hairdressing and furniture trades in Dublin and the designation of the furniture trade in the rest of the Saorstát is under consideration. It is anticipated that during the present year at least half a dozen Apprenticeship Committees will be functioning.
I do not think it is necessary to say anything arising out of sub-head B. It provides for the travelling expenses of the staff of the Department, and includes, when necessary, the expenses of members of Trade Boards, Apprenticeship Committees, Industrial Courts and members of the Mining Board. Sub-head E provides for the fees to certifying surgeons appointed under the Factory and Workshops Act and sub-head F for the fees and expenses of medical referees under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Sub-head G provides for subscriptions to international organisations of one kind or another and the details can be found in the notes attached to the Estimates.
Sub-head I provides for mineral exploration. At the end of 1932 the Executive Council decided to arrange for the exploration of the Arigna and Slieveanierin mineral areas. It was first intended that the exploration should be carried out by geo-physical methods but later on it was considered better to carry it out by the direct method of bore-holes. Accordingly, a contract was entered into with Associated Contractors (Ireland) Limited, a firm which represents a group of influential French engineering concerns, to carry out explorations and to furnish a complete report of the area. The contract stipulates that local labour is to be employed and that local materials will be utilised as far as possible. It is estimated that the cost of the work arising in the present financial year will be £10,000. It is not yet possible to say what the results of the investigation are likely to be.
The matter of the exploration of the Slieveardagh coalfield in County Tipperary with a view to its development has also been under consideration. Recently a report was made by a firm of eminent consulting engineers who are experts in the matter of coal-mining development, and this firm recommended that as an experiment a sum of £14,000 be expended on bore-holes and introducing adits. It is intended to proceed with these operations at the earliest possible date. The necessary provision is made in sub-head I.
Sub-head J deals with the production of industrial alcohol. It is hoped to have the five alcohol distilleries in production in time to utilise the produce of the coming crop. There have been certain unavoidable delays in completing the plans of these distilleries. I think most of the difficulties have now been overcome, and the work is being pushed ahead as rapidly as possible. I do not anticipate that the distilleries will be completed earlier than the month of October and if difficulties should arise it might be the month of November in some cases.
Sub-heads K 1, 2 and 3 deal with the Prices Commission established under the Control of Prices Act. During the past financial year the Commission held 37 meetings, 15 of which were held in public. Their investigations, which were pushed ahead during the year, may be divided into two classes: (1) Those that were partially completed during the previous year; and (2) the new investigations which the Commission undertook in the year just concluded. Particulars of the investigations under (1) have already been given to the Dáil on, I think, more than one occasion. The only matter arising out of these investigations left uncompleted was the submission of the report on the prices charged for bread throughout the Saorstát. That report has now been submitted by the Commission and is under examination in the Department. A number of investigations, which were commenced during last year, included: (1) An investigation into the prices charged for bodies on certain classes of mechanically propelled vehicles by persons manufacturing such goods in the Saorstát; (2) an investigation into the wholesale prices charged for certain classes of filleted fish in the county borough and County Dublin; and (3) an investigation into the wholesale and retail prices charged for fresh fish in the City and County of Dublin.
The Commission was mainly engaged during the year upon a public enquiry for the purposes of Section 17 of the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1932, into the cost of all materials and appliances used in the building of houses. That investigation, which is a very wide one, covered a very large number of industries and a great variety of commodities. It has occupied a great deal of the time of the Commission. The Commission have completed part of their investigation and are now proceeding with the rest of it. The Commission have informed me that in accordance with the powers conferred upon them by Section 41 (3) of the Control of Prices Act, they have decided to hold an investigation into the prices charged for fertilisers by persons manufacturing such commodities in the Saorstát, and they hope to commence that inquiry at an early date. The Controller of Prices, whose functions are somewhat different from those of the Commission, received a large number of complaints during the year from members of the public which he investigated. Those complaints affected a number of commodities in common use, such as tea, vegetables, sugar, coal, wearing apparel, etc.
Sub-head L deals with the Turf Development Board. The work of the Board during the past financial year was very largely experimental and was directed towards investigating the most satisfactory method of undertaking the development of turf production in the Saorstát. It is true that they have been operating a scheme for the encouragement and formation of peat production societies on a co-operative basis, and have been assisting these societies to market their turf. That scheme has more or less worked satisfactorily, but there are still a number of matters in respect of which the general position as regards turf can be improved. During this year we hope, definitely, to put the whole turf scheme on a national footing. The money which is now being asked is only by way of an instalment in connection with the general scheme which will be submitted to the Dáil at a later date. During last year it was estimated that some 200,000 tons of turf were cut by the co-operative turf societies, the number of which is now 156. The greater part of that production of turf was disposed of locally by the societies and more of it through the marketing organisation of the Turf Board. There is, however, still a quantity of turf on the hands of the societies which it has not been found possible to market. It is the intention to advance money on certain conditions to societies which still have turf on their hands, the money to be advanced against the security of the turf. It is further intended to encourage the cutting of turf on a very extensive scale during the present season. Steps will be taken to secure a market for producers, and certain legislative proposals to that end will be brought before the Dáil in due course.
It has been found difficult to maintain the quality and regularity of supplies in face of the bad weather experienced in the winter and autumn. Difficulties in maintaining the quality of the supply were further increased by the attitude of some producers, whose desire for a quick profit sometimes persuaded them to put wet turf into the sacks. It is the intention to eliminate the difficulties experienced in transporting the turf by the establishment, in certain suitable areas, of ricking spaces or compounds, where the turf can be stacked under proper supervision, and to establish sheds where it may be stacked and stored in sacks against the weather. These sheds and compounds will be erected only for such co-operative societies as conform to certain conditions as regards numbers and the price, quantity and quality of the turf produced. It is also proposed to enlarge the Turf Development Board and to extend its functions. As Deputies are aware, a delegation from the Board has been sent to the Continent for the purpose of studying what is being done in other countries in connection with turf development, particularly in relation to its mechanical winning and use for electric power. It is proposed also to provide funds for the Turf Development Board to enable it to acquire and work the Turraun plant, now owned by the Leinster Carbonising Company, on an experimental scale. If the experiment proves successful, steps will be taken to extend the operations at Turraun and to establishing similar plants in suitable localities, relating the production of such plants to the requirements of the localities.
It has to be borne in mind by Deputies that the turf scheme, in addition to being a medium for increasing the wealth of the country and giving employment, is, by its nature, an experiment in social organisation; and it is hoped, in any future development, to maintain the co-operative character of the scheme and ensure that all the benefits reach the turf producers who, in general, represent the very poorest class of the community.
The next sub-head in the Estimate relates to the Industrial Research Council. The report of the Industrial Research Council was laid before the Dáil recently and I think Deputies are aware of the work it is doing and the various investigations which it has in progress at the present time. I do not think that anything I could say would add to the information of Deputies upon that matter. The investigations, if I may remind Deputies, cover the more extensive use of the Portacloy clay deposits and the utilisation of the residual sand for glass making, the extraction of industrial waxes from peat, the industrial possibilities of seaweed as a raw material for cellulose, the design of turf-burning apparatus, the best form of milk-powder for bread-making, and also certain investigations into foundry sands and clays.
Deputies will note that the provision made last year for the payment of certain subsidies in respect of coal carried upon Irish steamers in certain quantities into the smaller ports was terminated when the circumstances which called for that subsidy came to an end with the coal-cattle arrangement with Great Britain.
The work of the statistics branch was increased very considerably during the year in consequence of certain investigations which were undertaken —particularly, investigations undertaken on behalf of the Board of Works, which sought information which would enable it to plan its public works programme upon a better basis than was possible in the past, a basis which would have very close regard to the employment needs of particular areas at particular times of the year. To that end, a voluntary census of unemployed was carried out and the information obtained in that way was prepared in convenient form and is now being utilised by the Board of Works in planning the public works programme for this year. Furthermore, Deputies will have noticed this month a change in the method of compilation of the trade and shipping statistics. In future, these statistics will indicate the inward movement of goods by countries of origin instead of by countries of consignment, as in the past. It is, in a way, more important to know the source of the goods that arrive here than the country of consignment, particularly in these days when trade relations with other countries are very largely based upon quantitative trade treaties. The change, coming into operation, as it does, on 1st April, may create temporary difficulties in relation to certain figures for this year, in so far as the figures for the first quarter will be prepared upon a different basis from the figures for the other three quarters. The change will not, of course, affect the figures for total trade or the figures in relation to specified classes of goods. The change will only affect the figures concerning the total importation of goods of all kinds from named countries. It is proposed next year to undertake a census of population similar to that which was undertaken in 1926. The necessary arrangements to that end are being put in hand now and certain increases of staff in that section of the Department have been sanctioned, so that everything will be ready to enable the census to be taken and the information ascertained to be made available as early as possible.
Under the control of Imports Act, 20 Quota Orders have been made to date and, in addition, certain amending Orders of which the Dáil is aware have also been made. The making of these Orders and the fulfilment of the statutory obligations that fall upon the Department after they are made have imposed a very considerable volume of additional work on the Trade and Industries Branch and is mainly responsible for the increase of staff indicated in the Estimates. In addition, work under the other Acts recently passed has shown no sign of abating. Under the Control of Manufactures Act, there were a number of applications for licences, all of which had to be considered in detail. The total number of applications made, so far, under that Act is 112. Of these, 49 were granted and 34 were refused, or withdrawn when it was indicated that they were likely to be refused. Twenty-nine are still under consideration. Under the Mines and Minerals Act, there was also a considerable amount of work done. I am referring to this item at the close because I shall continue to deal with it to-morrow, when I hope to be able to dispose finally of the insinuations and innuendoes which Deputy McGilligan has made.