We on this side of the House have every intention of supporting this Bill because, of course, it was this Party and the Labour Party as members of the inter-Party Government who in 1956 introduced the first Industrial Grants Act and at the same time, the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. The structure of the giving of grants remains largely unchanged since. Our Party have been extremely critical of this situation in that surely from the expenditure of £30 million experience would have been gained which would have led to improvements. Nobody would expect the whole case resolved in one day, but one would have expected that there would have been something to encourage industry, but it is now quite clear that there is not. The fact that the stolidity was caused by the Government themselves has meant a lost opportunity, loss of employment in industry.
No doubt the growth centre policy which has been in a tiny way implemented in Waterford and Galway is of paramount necessity for various areas of the country. These growth centres would probably mean a loss of votes, and the people who are so concerned with vote material have not established more growth centres for the reason that they fear that if they gave a growth centre to Sligo, they would lose votes in Leitrim. We in the Fine Gael Party have made it clear that we have the guts, for want of a more explanatory word, to see that growth centres are created where it is felt they are needed in the country. The Minister has told us that over the past two years he has had a firm of consultants looking at this. It is quite clear that in various areas of the country the reports of consultants will retain specific places for growth centres, places where large populations have been built up, and will say that the growth centres should be in those places.
This type of delay is delaying the work of local authorities as well. Surely if we are to have heavy industry, we need all our communications stepped up: we need better roads, power and all the necessaries for building up industry. It is a pecular thing that if we go into the EEC, we will not be allowed to operate the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1956, or the changed-over name which Fianna Fáil gave it. It strikes me that we will not be in a position to give freedom from income tax for our new exports, but at the same time, we would be in a position so long as we indicate growth centres, to provide grants for industry. We have been stolid and unchanging in our operation of these grants.
There have been spectacular failures, but when they are mentioned, the Government take either of two lines: they say we are opposing the creation of new jobs in new industry or they say that the number of failures is extremely small in relation to the successes and that in fact compared with other countries, we have done extremely well. I do not accept that at all. I think the percentage of failures has been extremely high. I do not believe there would have been such spectacular failures if there had been prior investigation on the part of the Government. When the grant becomes high enough, it becomes vital, and it must be accepted that the attention to detail and the safety of the money given were not entirely what they should have been.
I do not want to go into the story of these industries. I could instance one which is still operating and for that reason I am not giving its name. There was a subscribed capital of £40,000 and this resulted in an investment one way or the other of Government funds of almost £600,000. Profit has not yet been made. My responsibility is not to mention it. My responsibility is in no way to affect the 150 people employed there, but at the same time, one must, as an Opposition speaker on a particular facet of our growth, advert to these spectacular failures. The fact is that one hears of a Government speaker who told every other public representative in a constituency to go away but the factory was not opened. The Frenchman who provided this machinery still has it in a packing case on the factory floor and was informed that he might get 5/- in the £. Those things, if they were small enough in volume, would be regarded as a natural risk, but we must realise the lack of attention to change by the Government since 1956 in the giving of these moneys.
There is a sequence of events in relation to industrial grants which should be again adverted to, that is, the fact that in Clerys Restaurant in 1956 Deputy Lemass, who was then out of office, addressed a representative meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party and he circulated then a statement—I have it at home on my files—to the Irish Press indicating the principle whereby in industry, from public and private sources, there would be spent in the succeeding seven years some £100 million, with the creation of 100,000 new jobs. I had perhaps political mischief in mind when I went to my files the other day and found that the present Taoiseach has indicated that since the start of the industrial grants system, which incidentally was rejected by the Fianna Fáil Party in 1956 when they spoke so viciously against it, there has been an expenditure in industry here of £97 million, of which grants from State funds were something less than £30 million. During that time the Taoiseach claimed 35,000 new jobs but what he did not say was that there were 170,000 fewer people employed and that our effort has been a failure. The fact that we are now awaiting the report of a firm of international consultants means that we are probably about eight years too late.
I want to refer to two departures which I thought might have been referred to by the Minister in his opening speech. One is the change from adaptation grants, if I am using the right term, to re-equipment grants, which appears to be a development arising at long last from prodding from this side of the House over a long period of time. The scope of the adaptation grants has been enlarged, and is now approaching somewhat nearer the Northern Ireland and English situation, where, if you buy a piece of machinery for your industry, all you have to do is to send the receipted account to the relevant Department of State and you get the grant almost automatically. Apparently we have stepped a little nearer them as a result of prodding from this side of the House and the fact that we have lost quite a few industries to Northern Ireland—which is a somewhat happier situation than losing them to England. Anybody who has been trying to promote industry and getting people to come to one's constituency knows that what I say is true. I welcome this change but I criticise it, and point to the difference between Fine Gael policy and Fianna Fáil policy in this regard.
The position is that the maximum re-equipment grant for an existing industry which the Minister is prepared to give, even on his changed system, is 25 per cent of the cost, whereas this Party announced as their policy two years ago— which they enunciated at every possible opportunity—the giving to every existing industry—and I emphasise it—the same grants as are given to new industries. The people employed, Irishmen working here in good conditions over the years, dealing with trade unions as they always have, not like other people who come in, are entitled to this if the money is spent on adaptation and re-equipment. In the battle we have to face, we have to defend the jobs we have and they should get as high a level of grants as new industries. Experience has shown that the new industry always gets a higher grant even though the phraseology "up to the maximum limit" was included in the regulations in relation to these grants.
Sometimes industries coming in are industries which employ largely female labour and our production of new industrial jobs has shown this as a feature of many of the new jobs produced and boasted about in this House, very often ad nauseam, from the Government benches. In fact, the new jobs were for girls. In a town in my constituency, I had the experience, before the present Minister became Minister for Industry and Commerce, at a chamber of commerce dinner, of hearing great praise of an industry that had arrived which was employing a large number of girls and which was doing the same sort of work as an industry in which a neighbour of mine was involved. When this was going on, my neighbour, who was not a great supporter of our Party, nearly swallowed his glass when he heard that over £100,000 was being spent on employing girls when he could not get anything.
This is a feature that must be looked at. There is more to be said in favour of a situation in which a man leaves his work on Friday, goes down the street and has a few drinks, goes back to his wife and gives her two-thirds of his pay than there is to be said for girls leaving work, dropping down to the drapers to buy a pair of nylons and giving their mothers enough for their keep for that week and then proceeding to the pictures with the boy-friend. We have not succeeded in creating male jobs. We have not been fluid enough in our approach. A change to suit changing conditions has not been looked at and there have been spectacular failures in a great number of cases.
I hope that this firm of international consultants who will soon produce their report will give the Minister a lead towards considering the question of other incentives. Is the Minister aware that if you buy capital goods in England at present, you get two to five years payment on them from moneys from the British Government as long as the goods are for export? This is something which might be considered wasteful of capital here which we need for housing and other things but it is something that could be looked at. Whether it will be a valid incentive within the EEC I do not know, but it seems to me that to leave the measure as it has been since 1956 is a mistake. It appears to me that we should have changed and that we have too many spectacular failures.
I should like to refer to the small industries grants, and if I might criticise the Minister on this, the reported change to adaptation grants was not according to the publicity he should have sought and got. He made a hash of it of course by announcing one change at a Fianna Fáil meeting and we had to wait three weeks or a month before we got the draft circular from the Industrial Development Authority. In relation to small industrial grants, most people who are in areas where they are operating still do not know about them. I had experience of a small industrialist in Donegal who wanted to expand and I happened to come in contact with him. We had a chat about it and I put stuff on paper and sent it in, only to find that while Donegal had not been mentioned, there was, in fact, a development team working in Lifford County Council offices. I found it out by accident from a man in Donegal who had not thought of expanding but who when his son decided to stay at home with him, decided to expand. Where small industries are available and are not expanding, the Minister should avail of every opportunity to discuss outside this House, and particularly inside it, the re-equipment of such industries.
Perhaps I might reiterate the policy of Fine Gael in this matter. First of all, there has not been enough change. Changes have been too slow from the time we instituted these grants in 1956. We are not saying that we should go around as if it were a headstone over a grave. We say it should be looked at and we should take every opportunity we have to re-employ our people. There are 127,000 fewer employed now than there were in 1957. Therefore, this system has not succeeded in doing what we wanted it to do, that is, to keep employment up.
The Lemass plan of 1956 is now proved by the Taoiseach not to have succeeded. They are within £3 million of an expenditure of £100 million and there is a figure of 100,000 jobs less than Lemass decided he was going to produce in seven years. The policy of Fine Gael on industry is to give, within the EEC, to old jobs of the same type as much as is given to the institution of new ones. There is political advantage in the creation of a new job and a new factory and expounding it at the crossroads. We are all aware of that.
A possibility is, first of all, to expand the jobs in industry that are there and then establish new industries alongside those. It is Fine Gael policy to back existing industry, to give as good a grant and opportunity of Government assistance as is given to new industry and, at the same time, to bring in new industries. The approach to change should have been an approach of advance and we should get this thing moving instead of sitting down.