Wednesday, 4 June 1930
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,561 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha  i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1931, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Choimisiún na nDleacht (Uimh. 40 de 1926).
That a sum not exceeding £1,561 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Tariff Commission (No. 40 of 1926).
There is a slight change in this Vote as compared with that of last year. Certain items which appear in the details for clerical assistants and fees for expert advisers were in the original Estimate last year. When, however, the supplementary estimate was taken for allowances for members of the Commission the money was found largely from these two particular items which had not been used. The result is that the net increase in the Estimate is not large, in fact it is very small. The items for clerical assistants and experts have been inserted this year because there is a possibility that in regard to some of the applications before the Tariff Commission the money included under those heads will have to be used.
Mr. Lemass: We are opposed to the voting of this money, in the first place, because we object on principle to the establishment of a Tariff Commission of this kind at all. I do not intend to deal with that matter at any length now as, presumably, I would not be in order in doing so. We think that the economic circumstances that exist in this State require the establishment of machinery for the consideration of applications for protection of an entirely different nature to that created under the Tariff Commission Act. We are opposed to the Tariff Commission not merely on principle but also in practice. We think that the existing body has proved itself extremely dilatory and, in so far as  it is dilatory, incompetent in its work. The attitude of the members of the Commission towards applications for tariffs appears to be that it is their duty to make a case against the application except where the case for it is so clear that it cannot be opposed with any show of common-sense at all. In other words, the bias of the members of the Commission appears to be definitely free trade. Their attitude is similar to that of the Minister for Finance, namely, that tariffs should not be imposed except where the case for a tariff is overwhelming. That attitude is wrong. It should be in favour of protecting Irish industries except where it can be shown that the steps proposed in regard to any application would be more disadvantageous than advantageous to Irish industry. We expressed the opinion before that this body was established to impede rather than to facilitate the imposition of tariffs. It has worked out that way.
The Minister did not tell us what applications are now pending or in the process of being heard by the Commission. I would be glad if he would do so and also if he would indicate the various stages of decomposition which the different applications have reached. I would like if he would tell us when he expects to have the report on the application of the coach builders. As he is aware, it is almost four years since that application was made. It is certainly over three years since it was referred to the Tariff Commission, and the loss in wages to Irish workers occasioned by the delay in reporting on the application has been estimated at over £1,000,000. In reply to a Parliamentary Question a few minutes ago the Minister for Finance admitted that the report on the application of the coachbuilders had been further delayed by the fact that the members of the Tariff Commission were appointed to conduct the Grain Inquiry. At the time that the Minister was proposing to establish the Grain Inquiry the fact that the appointment of these members  would have that effect was forcibly pointed out from these benches, but the Minister took no notice. We now find that the unemployment and the wastage of capital occasioned by the Commission's delay will be continued for another period. There is work available in this country for almost 2,000 additional workers in the coach-building industry, if that industry is given an opportunity of developing here. Deputies are no doubt aware that we have the facilities for developing that industry, but for three years it has been steadily declining while its representatives have been appearing before the Tariff Commission and pleading in vain for a speedy decision on their application. Those engaged in the industry estimate that the loss in wages to Irish workers last year alone, due to the fact that protection was not afforded, was £400,000. There is not a tremendous amount of money available for the payment of wages to Irish workers, and such loss is particularly serious in present circumstances.
I think that the Commission would be well advised either to scrap the Commission altogether and to get back to the position that existed before its establishment or to do as we suggest and establish not one but two Commissions so that the work could be expedited. I would also be glad to know if the Minister would tell us the position in regard to the application for a duty on wrapping paper and whether there was any prospect of the report being available in a short time, within six or twelve months. The Minister should also inform us of the progress of the Grain Inquiry. Although there is no provision for that inquiry in the Estimate, the fact that members of the Tariff Commission are also conducting the work of the Grain Inquiry is impeding the work of the Commission. The progress made in regard to the Grain Inquiry will indicate whether anything can be done next year or whether all the time of the Commission is to be devoted to dealing with special inquiries. No matter what the answer  of the Minister is, we are dissatisfied with the result of the Commission's work and will vote against the Estimate.
Mr. Moore: If the Minister intends to adhere to the present system of hearing applications for tariffs, I suggest that that system would be improved by issuing interim reports. There must be instances in which after a first examination the Commission would be in a position to recommend a tariff, perhaps a tariff limited to certain branches of the manufacture concerned. In the case of coach-building, for instance, I think that it must have been obvious, and that certain Ministers expected that it would be obvious, to the Commission that a tariff on farmers' carts and traps, commercial lorries, bus bodies, and so forth, would result from the hearing by the Commission. I think with regard to these lines that the Commission must have had no difficulty in ascertaining the position. One of the real reasons for the delay in issuing the report is, I take it, the very involved and intricate problem that surrounds the question of import duties on the bodies of private motor cars. It seems, however, very unreasonable and a great hardship on those who manufacture bus bodies and farmers' traps if they must have their industry crippled and if, as is happening, the workers have to be disbanded simply because there has to be a delay in granting protection to them until the Commission has fully examined into another department of the industry—a department that is altogether different in its circumstances from the particular branches to which I refer.
In the case of the inquiry into an application for a tariff on woollens, that must also have occurred. It would seem that the Commission had no difficulty in making up its mind that a tariff on certain woollen goods was a desirable and necessary thing. In that case, too, an interim report, recommending a tariff on certain woollen goods, might have saved the emigration of a great number of woollen workers and  might have resulted in a great deal of employment and a great deal of income, which was lost to this country through the long delay. There is room for that improvement, at least, in the present system of inquiry, and I hope the Minister will give the suggestion consideration.
Mr. Blythe: Deputy Lemass referred to the application for a tariff by the coach-builders. I admit that since the Grain Inquiry was begun there has been a delay of which the applicants might complain. Up to that, a number of these delays were due to action and inaction on the part of those who made the application. The Grain Inquiry is a special inquiry which is not conducted under the Tariff Commission Act. Although it does not actually propose a tariff, the application is really of the same nature as the applications that are made for tariffs. It seemed to us that the Tariff Commission was the best body to carry out that inquiry, as the matters that would be submitted to it and the matters that would have to be decided were of the same sort as had been before the Tariff Commission in relation to manufacturing industry. Although it is a special inquiry, the Tariff Commission is, I think, doing as good work in investigating that particular matter as in investigating an industrial application. The drafting of the report, I am informed, has reached a very advanced stage and the report is likely to be in my hands at a very early date. The same remark applies to the tariff on wrapping paper. There is very little to be done to complete that report and it is expected to reach me even before the report on the coach-building application.
There are only a comparatively small number of applications actually before the Tariff Commission at present. The principal one is at present being dealt with—an application for a modification of the tariff on woollens, the modification being to lower the exemption limit. There is also coming up—I do not know what stage it has reached at  the moment—an application by the ready-made clothing manufacturers for an increase of the tariff in respect of their productions. There is also before the Commission an application in respect of gold, silver and electro-plated ware. There is an application in respect of cement which those making it would seem not to be proceeding with at the moment. A number of other applications have come to the Department of Finance and consideration is being given as to whether or not those sending in the applications are really substantially representative of the industries concerned. There is nothing to indicate that you could find work for two Tariff Commissions, even if it were desirable to have two Commissions. I think that would not be desirable on general grounds, because you could not get two commissions which would have exactly the same outlook or which would pursue the same methods. It would be undesirable to have one application considered by a commission which might look at things in one way and a second application considered by a group of men who would have a different outlook altogether. Apart from that objection, there would not be work for two commissions. I dare say there would be plenty of work if applications were not thoroughly examined and if tariffs were recommended almost automatically as applications came in. In that case, I have no doubt that all sorts of industries and sections of industries would roll up with applications. But if applications are to be examined impartially and seriously and if it is to be necessary to make a case, I think there are not going to be many more applications —at least not so many applications as would keep even one commission occupied full time, not to speak of justifying the appointment of a second commission.
As regards the Grain Inquiry, I understand that the Commission's view is that there is not much more than a month or six weeks' work be fore them. They have heard the grain growers' evidence and a great deal of time has been given, at private  meetings of the Commission, to consideration of that evidence. They may possibly look for certain other evidence but that is not expected to take a great deal of time. There will remain only the drafting of the report. I understand that, as the matter has been the subject of discussion at quite a number of private meetings of the Commission, they believe it will be possible to present a report within six weeks or so.
Mr. Moore: May I ask the Minister if all applications are dealt with in the order in which they are received? Is it not possible that, in the case of the cement application, the applicants finding that they might have to wait for two or three years for the result of their application, abandoned interest in the proposal, especially as it is understood they were not natives of the country? Does the Minister not think that in a case like that there would be some advantage in guaranteeing that the application for a tariff would be considered within a certain time?
Mr. Blythe: Applications for tariffs are made to the Minister for Finance, in the first instance. They are considered, in so far as consideration is necessary, in the Department of Finance. There is generally no great delay there. In some cases, practically no consideration is necessary because it is obvious that those making the application are substantially representative of the industry concerned and are people whose application should be considered seriously. The applications go, then, to the Tariff Commission and the Tariff Commission, after fixing the fee, requires the applicants to submit their detailed case. It would be impossible to say that applications would be taken in any particular order. Some applicants have been able to submit the detailed case very quickly and in very full and satisfactory form. Others have delayed very considerably in making the detailed application. There have been a great many instances in which, after the detailed application was sent in or  when the applicants were drafting their detailed application, the parties concerned desired to alter the scope of the tariff for which they had applied. All sorts of delays have been occasioned in that particular way, so that the Tariff Commission has, in a sense, to deal with business as business offers. Then, if it is a very complex matter, the members of the Commission may have not only to consider the detailed case before arranging the public hearing, but may have to seek a good deal of other information.
In the case of the woollen inquiry the public sitting was postponed for a considerable time after the detailed case had been received. Nevertheless, an enormous amount of work was done by the members of the Commission before the public hearing. Reports were obtained and various written authorities dealing with the industry were considered, so that although the public hearing was delayed, the report was not delayed at all. I do not know that they could have dealt with the matter in any way other than they have done. There was an application made in regard to cement. Then, for no reason that we are aware of, the applicants seem to have decided not to go on. It was not in consequence of delay on the part of the Commission that that happened.
Mr. Moore: Do I understand that the Tariff Commission has the power, in a case such as that of the cement application, to take into account that the people concerned must get a reply fairly quickly? Has the Commission the discretion to go ahead with a particular application if the circumstances seem to require expedition?
Mr. Blythe: Certainly. But I think that if such an inquiry as the Tariff Commission carries out is to take place it is impossible to have a decision within two or three months. The different stages involve delay. After the preliminary stages have been dealt with, the consideration of the detailed application involves  some study. The Commissioners cannot simply read over the detailed application and proceed to a public hearing. The position is like that of Deputy Lemass listening to the explanation of the Minister for Industry and Commerce in regard to the Electricity Supply Bill. In order that members of the Commission may get the benefit they ought to get from the public hearing, it is necessary that they should have given a fair amount of time to the study of the application in advance. After the preliminary hearing, it is necessary to give those who object to the application an opportunity of being heard. It is impossible to do that, with fairness to them, within a week or two weeks. There must be some delay. It is generally necessary to hear the applicants again after the opponents of the application have been heard.
There must be some delay over that and, finally, there is the actual consideration of the case, the checking, the trying to find the truth between contradictory statements, and all that kind of thing. So with the greatest possible speed, no matter how a case was being expedited and no matter how straightforward it was, it would not be easy to have it  dealt with very much within a year, if it could be dealt with at all within a year.
Mr. Lemass: Will the Minister state if he has made any inquiries as to the reason why it was possible for committees established by the British Board of Trade under the safeguarding proposals of the late Government to check and report on the safeguarding of industries in England in many cases did so within four or five months, in view of the fact that these industries are very much larger and more complicated than they are here?
Mr. Moore: I hope the Minister will appreciate that it would be a very serious thing if there were applicants for a tariff duty who were going to start a new industry that was not likely to be started with native capital, but who became discouraged by being told that they might have to wait two, three and even four years. I think it would be very serious if there were lost an industry like artificial silk or cement or things like that through such circumstances.
|Alton, Ernest Henry.
Beckett, James Walter.
Bennett, George Cecil.
Byrne, John Joseph.
Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
Craig, Sir James.
Doyle, Peadar Seán.
Duggan, Edmund John.
Egan, Barry M.
Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
Hassett, John J.
|Law, Hugh Alexander.
Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Murphy, James E.
Murphy, Joseph Xavier.
Nally, Martin Michael.
O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
O'Reilly, John J.
O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
Thrift, William Edward.
White, Vincent Joseph.
Wolfe, Jasper Travers.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick John.
O'Kelly, Seán T.
Powell, Thomas P.
Ward, Francis C.
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