This is the motion that was discussed at the last meeting, and it was adjourned because the desire had been expressed that the Minister for Industry and Commerce might be able to tell us just how the relative proportions of foreign and British cement were to be adjusted. Perhaps the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be able to give us some information now on the matter.
Public Business. - Control of Imports—Quota Order. Motions of Approval (Resumed).
I think I asked on that occasion if the Minister for Industry and Commerce could inform the House whether the quota for cement was controlled by the world price or by the British price.
So far as the allocation of licences under the quota orders is concerned, the general quota and the special quota are administered as if they were two separate quotas. The manner in which the licences are granted is provided for in the terms of the Control of Imports Act. Notice is given that application should be made for licence to import, and every person upon the register of importers is entitled to make application before the commencement of a quota period. Such persons can make application for a licence to import either under the general quota or under the special quota, or both. The allocation of licences, having regard to the amount of the quota fixed for the period concerned, is determined in accordance with the information which is furnished by importers as to the amount of cement imported by them during a previous period. The allocation of licences is determined in that manner, and by the position in regard to the total amount applied for by all the applicants. The applicant, therefore, may get a licence to import under either the special or the general quota, and, as the total amount to be imported under both quotas is only 75 per cent. of the amount to be imported during the period, it is to be assumed that, during the course of the period, each importer will come back to seek a further percentage of the 25 per cent. un-allocated, and an additional licence will be issued to him if he can show that the licences previously issued have been utilised. Perhaps I may say, by way of illustration, that an importer who desired to import 100,000 tons of cement would get two licences—one under the general quota and one under the special quota —the total amount being 75,000 tons. During the course of the quota period the importer would apply for a further licence amounting to 25,000 tons, and would get this further licence if he was in a position to show that the 75,000 tons already licensed had been already imported by him. In practice it means that each importer gets two licences—one under the general quota and one under the special quota. The general licence can be used by the importer to import cement irrespective of the country of origin, but the licence under the special quota embodies the condition that the cement must be produced in Great Britain.
The making of this latter order followed on the trade agreement with Great Britain at the beginning of the year. Previously the importation of cement was controlled under the Cement Act, but because of the necessity of ensuring that, in accordance with the agreement with Great Britain, at least one-third of our cement requirements would come from Great Britain, it was not practicable to continue the provisions of the Cement Act as it stood. Consequently that was dropped, and the provisions of the Control of Imports Act took its place. It is true that certain importers in the past imported Continental cement exclusively, and that certain other importers imported British cement exclusively, and apparently certain importers still wish to import Continental cement exclusively. However, we are required by the Act to issue a licence to every registered importer who applies for a licence under the special or the general quota. It may mean that some importers, who wish to import Continental cement exclusively, may be required to import a certain proportion of British cement. The purpose of that is to ensure that our imports of British cement will be in accordance with the agreement we made some months ago.
So far as the price of cement is concerned, the trade agreement with Great Britain involved that consultation will take place between the representatives of the cement exporters in Great Britain and the importers here, through their respective Government Departments, with a view to ensuring that the price of cement will be satisfactory. In other words, any attempt by the cement exporters in Great Britain or by the cement importers here, to exploit to their own advantage this agreement between the two countries, will be checked. Discussions are proceeding and arrangements have already been made concerning cement to be imported through the Port of Dublin. The price is regarded by importers as satisfactory, but prices have not yet been fixed for the importation of cement through the very large number of ports around the coast of Ireland. I have no doubt an arrangement will be made covering all ports similar to that already made for the Port of Dublin.
The difficulty I am in is where an importer has been hitherto importing British cement, that he will now be required to import a proportion of Continental cement.
He may not be able to obtain Continental cement on as good terms as competitors who hitherto were importing only Continental cement. I do not think the Minister's explanation as to how the matter will work out clarifies that difficulty.
The Senator is misinformed. Nobody is required to import Continental cement. A licence under the general quota can be used to import British cement. There is no condition of origin at all attached to the licences issued under the general quota.
If the British importer imports all his requirements for this year from Britain, as in previous years, it will reduce the obligation on Continental importers to purchase British cement.
Has the Minister any explanation to give with regard to the proposal to establish a factory, or has it fallen through?
I think the Senator may expect to see some announcement in the Press about that this week.