I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, line 11, to delete "FORFAS".
This amendment is largely similar to the first amendment moved by Deputy Cullen on Committee Stage which, unfortunately, was not completed at that time due to the extraordinary shortage of time for Committee Stage. Report Stage is even worse because we have only one hour to deal with a total of 28 amendments.
Because of competing legislation this Bill does not get a great deal of attention. Given the underlying problem of more than 300,000 people unemployed, I cannot imagine anything more important. During my period in the Department of Industry and Commerce I sought to respond to that problem by establishing the Culliton committee, asking it to work rapidly, putting considerable facilities at its disposal, which it used fully, publishing its report within a matter of days of my receiving it at the beginning of 1992 and immediately instigating the necessary steps to have it implemented.
On Committee Stage I outlined some of the history of the difficulties that the implementation of this report caused during 1992. It was discussed in this House on a number of occasions during Question Time and otherwise and the present Minister expressed to me his agreement with what Culliton had recommended. The Moriarty committee, which we set up to implement the Culliton proposals, agreed with it also. The only disagreement appeared to come from some of the Fianna Fáil members of the then Government and, it was claimed, from some parts of the Department of Finance. The matter became increasingly difficult and fraught with problems and last September it was finally decided, in default of proper agreement, that we should go forward on the basis that there would be two agencies which would be divisions of a single holding company but that the holding company would be no more than a holding company. I did not agree then nor do I agree now with that concept but one could live with that if it were to be implemented. The structure contained in this Bill in what is so inelegantly called "Forfás", is much more than just a holding company. It seems to be the central company among three agencies, which is clearly in conflict with what Culliton proposed.
It is not just a matter of detail that Culliton made certain proposals. He indicated at some length the reasons there should not be a central company, which would mean essentially carrying on as we are at the moment. It was agreed by all concerned that that was most unsatisfactory. The Minister on Committee Stage found it difficult to justify what he was trying to do and in the course of his defence of this measure he surprised me somewhat by running down the Department concerned. I thought that was very regrettable and sought to defend the situation that I had left, which I believe I was entitled to do. I have been somewhat surprised since to find that apparently one is not expected to do that. So I was informed in trenchant terms recently.
It is clear that Forfás is not part of the strategy Culliton devised, that it runs counter to that strategy, that it will not allow the achievement of what he wanted and that it will bring the two agencies together in a way that will allow the overseas success of one to cloud the difficulties the other will encounter. That is a great pity. It would be much healthier if two agencies were operating quite separately and independently from each other and not being run from a central holding agency.
The need to have a large agency devoted specifically to the encouragement and promotion of indigenous industry, with all the necessary support services, has been made abundantly clear in Culliton. We will have only some of the support services. The trade and marketing aspect is being taken out and will be located in a different Department. The training aspect, which was to be included in the Bill as envisaged last October, has been removed and FÁS remains an independent body as it always was. The effectiveness of the proposed structure is very heavily diluted. That is extremely regrettable.
I do not wish to repeat all of the arguments as they were set out fully on Committee Stage and I wish to give other Deputies the opportunity to have their say on the matter. I hope that since Committee Stage the Minister may have reconsidered the position and that he will take the sensible step of accepting this amendment which will eliminate the Forfás concept as it is proposed in this Bill.