Wednesday, 25 February 1931
Dáil Éireann Debate
That the Dáil disapproves of the decision of the Executive Council accepting the majority recommendation of the Tariff Commission that the application of the Irish Coachbuilders' Association, the National Union of Vehicle Builders, and the Irish Engineering Union be not granted.
On 31st January, 1927, an application from the Associations mentioned in the resolution for a 50 per cent. ad valorem duty on imported bodies of mechanically driven vehicles and on the parts of such bodies with certain exceptions, together with a duty at the rate of 10/- per vehicle on imported vehicles intended for animal traction, and 33½ per cent. ad valorem on the parts of such vehicles, was referred to the Tariff Commission. In November of last year there was presented to the Executive Council two reports in respect of that application, a majority report signed by two members of the Commission, and a minority report signed by one member. The majority report recommended that the entire application be not granted. We assume, from the fact that the report has been published, that the Executive Council have considered it, and have decided to accept the recommendation of the majority.
Before proceeding to state the case in support of the motion, I would like again to make a protest against the practice of the Tariff Commission in submitting recommendations in respect of applications that come before it. The Tariff Commission is not required by the Act that established it to make any recommendation at all. Its function is to ascertain and report to the Government all the facts relating to the industry concerned. The original intention, I take it, was that there should be an expert inquiry into each application, that the fullest possible information relating to the industry concerned would thus be made available to the Executive Council and the  Dáil, but that the decision whether or not the application should be granted or refused would rest, in the first instance, with the Executive Council, and then with the Dáil. The practice of the Tariff Commission in making recommendations as well as supplying information has, in fact, destroyed that original intention.
In respect to previous reports we suspected that they were written not for the purpose of supplying the Dáil with the information that it should possess but of supporting the recommendation, and that relevant facts were either not presented or were presented in such a manner as would make them appear to conform with the recommendation. These suspicions are now shown to be justified.
This is the first occasion on which we have had a minority report from the Tariff Commission. There is contained in that minority report important information relating to the application which is not contained in the majority report and which, we must assume, would not be made available at all if there was agreement amongst the members of the Tariff Commission. Apart from the fact that the practice of the Tariff Commission in making recommendations in respect of applications that come before it has destroyed its judicial character, the fact that the Government has bound itself to accept these recommendations means that the Tariff Commission is put into a position which the Dáil never intended. It, and not the Executive Council or the Dáil, determines questions relating to tariffs. It is obvious, in view of the fact that applications are finally decided when the report of the Tariff Commission is published, that to that extent the fiscal powers of the Executive and of the Dáil have been surrendered to an unrepresentative body. That matter is of particular importance in relation to the application which is now before the House.
This application has been under consideration for a very long time. From the nature of the case it was assumed by those concerned in the industry that a favourable decision would be forthcoming, and consequently commitments  were entered into which have been proved to be unjustified by the event.
Perhaps it would be well if, before going into details in respect of the application, I attempted to give a brief outline of the history of the industry and of the application for a tariff. At the time of the Act of Union there were from 1,700 to 2,000 hands employed in the coach-building industry in Dublin alone. For many years after that the coach-building industry was one of very considerable importance in the country. In 1849 there were in the City of Dublin 25 carriage works. A slump came after the famine, and for a long time the industry experienced very lean days, but in due course a revival came, and by 1885 the industry had been completely re-established. At that time it enjoyed a very substantial export trade. In fact, the products of the industry went all over the world and established a very high reputation, which to some extent still persists. A change in the fortunes of the industry took place with the advent of the motor car and the disappearance of horse-drawn vehicles, on which the reputation and experience of the industry were founded. But the more progressive firms in this country adapted themselves to the new situation and made bodies for motor cars. They made them satisfactorily.
The industry was rapidly acquiring in the new branch the same reputation it had acquired in the old when the war occurred. What happened then was that the skilled workers on which the industry depended were absorbed in war work, and, as Deputies are aware, it became impossible to secure chassis. The import of chassis of motor cars ceased for the entire period of the war. During the course of the war the world learned the immense possibilities of the motor car for transport purposes. When it concluded all countries endeavoured to equip themselves, and to provide their requirements in motor transport, as far as possible, within their own shores. During the course of the war the British Government imposed duties upon imported cars, which gave the  British industry a great advantage, and enabled it to make very great strides, when the demands of the war ceased, and it was possible for motor manufacturing firms and coach-building firms in that country to engage in ordinary commercial enterprise.
Unfortunately in this country the termination of the world war marked the beginning of our own troubles and it was not possible, with the factors existing here, to engage actively in such work for some years. When the troubles ended and the proprietors of these factories came to review the situation they found that a practice had grown up in the trade which made it particularly difficult for them to secure in it the place that they thought they were entitled to. Motor cars were habitually imported in the form of complete vehicles. In other countries, into which motor cars are imported, it is the usual practice to import the chassis only and have the body put on by native labour. Here, however, the practice is the reverse. Agents exist for the sale of the cars in whose interest it is to sell not the chassis alone but the complete car. The coachbuilders of this country found it very difficult to maintain themselves in that situation.
With the establishment of the Free State Government the coachbuilders in the Free State agitated for increased protection. They did acquire some form of protection automatically because, of course, the duties imposed in England during the war came into operation in respect of the Free State when it was established. These duties, however, were completely inadequate for the purposes of protection. I think I can say that the coach-building industry was one of the first to ask for protection from this Government, and it is a noteworthy fact that the Fiscal Inquiry Committee, which the Government set up in 1923, and which was composed of people definitely free trade in their outlook, and which produced a report of a very conservative nature, nevertheless singled out this one industry,  and recommended that the existing duties should be revised, so as to give it a measure of protection which would result in its development. Certain alterations in the existing duties were effected but merely for the purpose of securing additional revenue. The increased protection which the coachbuilders required was not granted.
When the Tariff Commission was established in 1926 the coachbuilders were one of the first industries to apply to have their case heard by that body. As I have stated the application was referred to it in January, 1927, and the report was published in January, 1931. Altogether, I think it can be stated that the Government has treated this industry in a very cavalier fashion. It has had its difficulties brought to its notice repeatedly since its inception, and yet no action has been taken to enable those engaged in it to overcome these difficulties. That attitude of the Government is all the more extraordinary in view of the importance of the industry.
This industry is important for several reasons. In the first place, it gives a considerable amount of employment and is capable of giving a much greater amount. The number of persons at present engaged in it is set out in the report to be not more than 400 excluding tramway and railway companies' employees. The amount of employment which it is capable of giving, if developed to its fullest capacity, is one of the points in respect of which there is considerable dispute. I want to direct the attention of the House, however, to the figures which can be calculated from the recently-published trade returns for 1930. During that year the value of the touring and commercial cars imported into the Free State was £1,267,000. It is contended that half of that figure can be taken as representing the value of the body-work imported, that is, £634,000. If we deduct from the second figure 20 per cent., representing the profits of agents, transport charges and the like, we get a figure of £509,000, of which, it is contended, 60 per cent. represents the wages paid to workers. In other  words, by the fact that we imported the bodies of these 8,700 touring and commercial cars in 1930, we deprived Irish workers of wages amounting to over £300,000, and I submit to the Dáil that in present circumstances we cannot afford to consider a loss of that kind lightly.
If, as I think, I can demonstrate that the case for the granting of this protection is overwhelming, I am sure Deputies will agree that the majority members of the Tariff Commission and the Government were wrong in refusing it. It is an industry in respect of which the relation which labour costs bears to the value of the gross output is much higher than in any other industry, with the exception of building and contracting. Labour costs, according to figures published in previous reports of the Tariff Commission, are 50 per cent. of the value of the gross output, and that falls to be compared with the figure, 5 per cent., for baconcuring, 6 per cent. for grain-milling, 28 per cent. for woollen and worsted manufactures, and 32 per cent. for the boot and shoe industry. We must also bear in mind that the type of labour employed is of considerable importance to us. It is not unskilled, or even semi-skilled, labour. It is very highly skilled labour, and, as I pointed out some days ago in a discussion upon another report from the Tariff Commission, it is very important for us to preserve every opportunity there is for providing employment for skilled labour in this country. We have plenty of opportunities, if they are availed of, for employing the unskilled, but our resources in skilled labour are so small that we should be very slow before we take any action likely to diminish them. It is also to be noted that a large proportion of the raw materials used in this industry are available within the country, and that relates particularly to the timber used in the manufacture of motor bodies. The exportation of the hard wood used in the construction of the coach and motor bodies, that is, ash and oak, is at present going on at a pace never witnessed before. The country is being denuded of valuable timber which will take a generation to replace.
 I have here a letter which I received in June last from Mr. O'Gorman of Clonmel, a prominent coachbuilder, an extract from which I would like to read to Deputies. He said “Our native hard wood in the shape of ash trees, the finest in the world, the principal raw material for the industry is being exported before our eyes from every station up and down the country. Notwithstanding the recent enactment regarding the cutting of timber, Scotchmen who are over here buying up these groves of ash tell me they can have a permit to cut the trees from the Department concerned by wire after receipt of their application and these trees take 60 years to mature.”
The industry is also important because its development will assist in the development of a number of subsidiary industries which are referred to in paragraph 123 of the report. The applicants contended that beneficial results would accrue to the tanning industry, cotton and woollen industry, poplin, paint and varnish making, brass and metal founding, cushion spring and case making, sheet metal work and brass and nickel plating. I want to emphasise the importance of this industry for us and I would ask Deputies to bear these remarks of mine in mind when we come to consider the evidence and arguments on which the Tariff Commission's recommendation is based. We consider that this application is of very vital importance. The case for the granting of it is so strong that if it is refused there is no existing industry which can possibly hope to succeed. A much stronger case was made by the coachbuilders for protection than has ever been made in this House or out of it, at the Tariff Commission or anywhere else, for a number of industries which have succeeded in getting protection. The case of the coachbuilders is certainly much stronger than any case which could be made for the protection of the boot and shoe industry. It is one hundred times stronger than the case set out in the Tariff Commission's recent report in respect of butter. The real question which the Dáil will be asked to decide upon this motion is not so much whether this particular  tariff should be imposed but whether any opportunity at all is going to be afforded for the development of industry in this country. The attitude of the Tariff Commission and presumably the attitude of the Executive Council is that owing to our small market and limited resources it is not possible for any industry, no matter how long established or how efficiently managed, to reach the standard of efficiency which prevails abroad. They take the stand therefore that any attempt to develop these industries by protection is useless and should not be attempted. The vote upon this motion must be taken as one of approval or disapproval of that attitude.
I have emphasised the importance of the industry and the significance of the Tariff Commission's report because I think it essential that members of the Dáil should bear these facts in mind when they come to consider the actual details of the application and the case made against a tariff. The application can be divided into a number of parts, which are set out on page 12 of the report, paragraph 14, and I propose to deal with it in respect of each part separately.
First it relates to the manufacture of the bodies of vehicles intended for use on railways and tramways. We can leave out of account the question of tramways. There is, in fact, no importation of tramcar bodies, nor does it appear likely that any such importation will take place in the future. There is no case to be made for a tariff. There is no case to be made against a tariff. In respect of the application in so far as it related to railway carriages and waggons, the members of the Coachbuilders' Association stated that they had not engaged, and did not propose to engage, in that work. They gave no evidence in support of the application, which part of the case was left to the representatives of the workers' unions concerned, which are mentioned in the motion. Evidence was given by the railway companies that some 20 third class corridor carriages were imported in 1907, and 260 waggons in 1919, for the Great Southern Railways, and 250  for the Great Northern Railway in the same year. Since then no importations have taken place except certain combined engines and carriages brought in for experimental purposes.
The railway companies stated that if the application was amended to exclude from its scope certain parts, a list of which they submitted, they would be relieved of any apprehension of immediate loss if the application was granted. The applicants endeavoured to meet the difficulty of the companies by amending the application so as to exclude raw materials and parts common to other lines of industry.
Despite the fact that the railway companies admitted that if the application was amended by the exclusion of the parts to which they referred they did not anticipate they would be involved in any immediate loss if the application was granted, they nevertheless opposed the application, and they opposed it on this ground. They said they wanted freedom to purchase in the open market as an inducement to their employees to produce work of good quality and to give a reasonable output. That is the only case against the tariff. There is no condition in this report, no other argument whatever against the tariff, except this desire on the part of the railway companies to be able to threaten the importation in order to force a better output from their employees, or possibly to effect a reduction in wages. The applicants, on the other hand, stated that they desired a tariff so that the workers who are only employed for four days a week might be given fuller employment. It is between these two cases that the Dáil must decide in respect to this part of the application. On the one hand, you have the fact that workers in the railway works have been employed for only four days a  week. You have the fact that the importation of railway carriages and waggons has taken place in the past and may take place in the future. You have the admission of the companies that if the application was amended in the manner they suggested they had no apprehension of immediate loss, and against those arguments and admissions you have only the desire of the railway companies to be free to import for the purpose of forcing on their employees the working conditions that they thought should prevail.
The Tariff Commission do not appear to have considered this part of the application at all. They merely state in paragraph 108 that the fears expressed by the railway companies as to the possible ill-effects of a tariff are not without foundation. Deputies, however, can read the report two or three times, and I do not think they will succeed in discovering what exactly were the fears expressed by the railway companies concerning the possible ill-effects of the tariff. The Tariff Commission forgot to put that in the report. The railway companies secured considerable benefits from the State, and it is not unreasonable to ask in return that they should give the maximum employment possible here. It is our view that they should be given definitely to understand by this Dáil that the importation of railway waggons and carriages which are capable of being made here will not be permitted in any circumstances whatsoever. Remember there is no question whatever about the efficiency of their works. Tribute to their efficiency is contained in the Tariff Commission's Report. The witnesses who appeared on behalf of the railway companies testified as to the efficiency of the workers. The only case against the tariff submitted to the Tariff Commission was that to which I have referred, the desire of the railway companies to be in a position to use a threat of importation against the workers.
Let us take the next part of the report, the part that refers to the manufacture of the vehicles for animal traction. The evidence produced before the Commission shows that the work at present available for coachbuilders  on horse-drawn vehicles, lorries, floats, drays, is largely repairs and maintenance. It is stated, however, that there is still an extensive demand for what are known as governess cars and traps, a demand which is at present being met by the importation of second-hand vehicles from England at prices with which the Irish coachbuilders cannot and should not be expected to compete. It is to be noted that in respect of this part of the application there was no opposition forthcoming. Whatever statements are contained in the Tariff Commission's Report are not based upon the evidence of opponents to the application. The Dublin Carriers' Association opposed the application in respect to the component parts of horse-drawn vehicles, but on the applicants agreeing to the exclusion of springs and axles from their application the opposition ceased.
It is, I think, to be assumed from the Tariff Commission Act, and from the speeches in relation to it which have been made here by Ministers, that the function of the Tariff Commission is to hear evidence in relation to the applications, and furnish that evidence in handy form to the Dáil. If there is no opposition to the application, if no individual or no organised section of the community considers their interests sufficiently affected to justify them in giving evidence against the application, it surely is not the function of the Tariff Commission to set itself up as the Devil's Advocate against the applicants and make a case which no other section of the community is prepared to make.
There can be no doubt as to the efficiency of the Saorstát coachbuilders in the manufacture of those horse-drawn vehicles. I have told you before that in the past they established a world-wide reputation for their products in this particular line. At present they are capable of producing those cars and selling them at prices with which English firms cannot compete. The competition comes from imported second-hand cars, cars which are no longer required in other countries, and which are dumped in here because there is no other country  in the world into which they can be dumped. There is considerable doubt as to the prices which these cars fetch. Certain values are declared on the Customs forms which are mentioned in the Tariff Commission's Report, but as the cars are not subject to duty there is no necessity for accuracy on the part of the importers in computing the value of the cars they are bringing in. It has been brought to my notice that on occasion these cars have been sent in to agents here with instructions to sell them at whatever price they can get for them. In fact, I have been brought into touch with cases of people who bought these cars under the impression that they were getting good value at prices for which they could have secured new cars with the usual maker's twelve months guarantee. The second-hand cars they bought were worthless. They looked all right and were freshly painted, but were, in fact, of no value whatever.
Mr. Lemass: The number imported in 1928 was 1,327; in 1929, 1,239; in 1930, from January to June, the first six months, 504. The average was slightly over 1,000 per year. The value in 1928 was £18,000; in 1929, £17,451. The manufacture of these cars provides employment for a number of small coach-building works scattered throughout the country. It is true, of course, that the demand for them is declining, and in due course it will disappear altogether. But while it remains we ask that the benefits of it should be secured to the Irish manufacturers. We think it undesirable that people should be deprived of their employment and that families should be deprived of their livelihood because some people are finding it profitable to dump these second-hand cars here and dispose of them at prices which, in  some cases certainly, have been very low. The Tariff Commission holds that there would not be an increased demand for new cars produced in Free State coach-building works if the importation of these second-hand cars ceased. They hold that the purchasers of them are attracted by the low price and that if they could not get these second-hand cars they would do without cars altogether. I do not think that that contention can be maintained. I have mentioned cases in which the second-hand cars fetched prices higher than those at which new cars are obtainable. In any case, I am convinced that there would be a considerably increased production of these cars in this country if the importation of the foreign vehicles were prohibited. Remember that the only case made against that part of the application was the case made by the Tariff Commission. It was not made on any evidence submitted to the Tariff Commission. There was no opposition from any other source whatever.
Let us now turn to the application in respect of motor cars. Deputies who have read the report will have noticed the reliance which the majority of the Tariff Commission places upon the difficulties of the Irish coach manufacturers in respect of what is known as the standardised closed van. The position in respect of this particular class of vehicle is referred to so often in the report that it is quite obvious that the Tariff Commission considered it the strongest point they have in support of their recommendation. No doubt they considered that the case in respect of the private car was as strong, but they felt that the recommendation might not be as popular in that case, because the private car is generally regarded as a luxury article, as in the case of the standardised closed van, which is generally regarded as being essential for the conduct of trade and commerce.
It is set out in the report that these vans were made by British car manufacturers, who produced both the body and the chassis in such large numbers that they can use economically the most up-to-date and expensive equipment and sell bodies at low cost. The  Tariff Commission contends that if the entire home market for this class of vehicle was secured for the Free State coachbuilders they would, nevertheless, find it possible to instal the equipment which they found to exist in English works and at the same time sell van bodies at a price equal to those now prevailing. They go on to add, in paragraph 80, that apart altogether from the question of equipment, it is their opinion that the Saorstát coachbuilders could not possibly compete with the British products at present prices in view of the relatively small market here. The applicants maintain that their difficulties arose mainly in consequence of the practice of motor agents in pushing the sale of complete vehicles. They argue that they can produce the bodies of these vans at a price at least equal to those prevailing, and gave to the Tariff Commission a guarantee, that in the event of their application being granted, their prices would not exceed the prevailing British prices, plus the existing duty of twenty-two and two-ninths per cent. Their ability to produce the number of these vans required is not in question. It is admitted that they can supply our requirements, but the contention of the Tariff Commission is that they cannot do so unless they increase their prices very considerably above the prices now prevailing. Against that we have very definite statements made by those supporting the application. We have it stated on behalf of the applicants that their difficulty is that they cannot get for their products the prices quoted in the catalogues of the British manufacturers.
In relation to this particular part of the application there is a definite conflict of evidence. You have the statement of the Tariff Commission that the coachbuilders cannot produce these vans at prices equal to those prevailing. You have the statement of the coachbuilders that not merely is the Tariff Commission's contention wrong, but that they would be quite satisfied if they could get for the vans they produce the prices quoted in the British manufacturers catalogue. Since the report was published a statement  was issued by the Coachbuilders' Association which contained a definite proposal for resolving doubts in relation to this question of fact. The coachbuilders undertake to build in one of their factories a standardised closed van, using existing equipment, availing of the services of existing workmen, using only materials at present in their factory, charging against that van a due proportion of overhead costs, and they say they can market that one van at a price equal to, or less than the price at which British vans are now available here. They say, and they say rightly, that if they can produce one van in that manner at that price, then obviously they can produce ten vans at a lower price, because overhead charges would be less. They say that if they can produce ten vans at a lower price, they can still further reduce prices if they get reserved for them the entire market available in this country. That was the definite challenge issued by the coachbuilders. They are fighting for their existence. They undertake to have this test carried out under the supervision of any competent person appointed. Surely before they are condemned and their industry condemned to extinction this challenge should be taken up. The opportunity should be given to them to prove the truth of their contention. They argue that the statements of the Tariff Commission in respect to this particular class of vehicle are entirely against the weight of evidence submitted, and they are quite confident that they can prove that to be so, if their challenge is taken up. They say it will probably and naturally now be asked if this can be done what is the need for protection. This aspect, they say, has been fully thrashed out in evidence tendered to the Commission, and the simple answer is that manufactures, without the country, have a market here and will hold it unless the people desire it otherwise.
When we leave the question of standardised closed vans and come to consider the application in respect to other commercial vehicles, we come up against a most extraordinary part of the Tariff Commission's report. The increased protection in this case is  sought to enable the applicants to obtain a stronger hold upon the home market and to turn the attention of users of such vehicles to the home industry for the supply of their requirements. They argue that the existing duty of 22 2-9 per cent. is not high enough to compel every Saorstát Eireann purchaser to buy his vehicle at home. Now the majority of the Tariff Commission admitted in their report that the existing factories in the Free State are efficiently equipped to produce all our requirements in this class of vehicle. They go further and admit that the bodies produced are satisfactory in comparison with similar bodies produced in other countries, and that they are being sold here at prices less than the price at which these bodies are being produced in other countries. They were forced to make that admission by the evidence given before them by the opponents of the application in respect to other cars who said that the prices of Saorstát Eireann trucks and lorries and special kinds of closed vans are lower than those at which similar bodies could be obtained at the works in other countries.
Then I would like to turn to paragraph 106. Having admitted what I have just said, that both in quality and in price the commercial motor vehicles produced in Saorstát Eireann works compare favourably with similar bodies constructed elsewhere, they go on to admit that if the application were granted it is possible that the home market, in trucks and lorries, would be entirely supplied by Saorstát Eireann coachbuilders, and the additional output, they say, would undoubtedly tend to increase efficiency in the construction of these vehicles. They say elsewhere in the report that despite the existing duty a considerable number of these vehicles are imported. Note their admission. They admit that those vehicles are produced in this country now at a price less than they are produced in other countries, but remember that those cars imported here from other countries have to pay a 22 2-9 per cent. ad valorem duty.
 The Tariff Commission are not referring to the prices at which these foreign cars can be secured here. They are referring to the prices at which they can be secured ex-works in the country of production, and they admit that the Saorstát works are producing them at prices lower than they are produced ex-works in other countries. They admit that if the application was granted the increased market made available here would result in an increase in the efficiency of the Saorstát coachbuilders in the production of this class of cars, and by that presumably they mean that Saorstát coachbuilders would be able to produce, and market them more cheaply still, but they say they recommend that the tariff be not granted, because if it was granted it would be burdensome upon the consumer. Is there any Deputy who can make any sense out of that? “We consider, however, that the existing tariff rates afford a sufficient protection to the home coachbuilders without being unduly burdensome to the home consumers.” Surely that is nothing but sheer blithering idiotcy. Is there any Deputy who can pretend to make sense out of it? They admit the coachbuilders can produce them at a price less than elsewhere, and they admit that if the tariff was imposed they would produce them more cheaply still, yet they say that the imposition of a tariff would be unduly burdensome on the consumer. It is by arguments such as that that this industry is to be condemned to death. I wonder are Deputies satisfied to have it so.
They next refer to the manufacture of bodies for motor omnibuses. It is pointed out that in consequence of the manner in which bus transport was introduced into this country the demand for new buses in the early stages arose principally in the spring months, and immediate delivery was required. The Saorstát coachbuilders, having no experience of the construction of bus bodies, were unable to meet the demand, and the completed vehicles were imported from England. But to gain experience, it is stated in paragraph 35, the Saorstát Eireann coachbuilders quoted prices  when tendering for contracts without being fully satisfied that the transactions would at such prices result in profits. And although they first sustained loss, they ultimately put their business on a paying basis. It is argued in the report that such success as they attained was not attributable to the existing duty, but to the action taken by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the operation of the Railway (Road Motor Service) Act, 1927.
It should be remembered by Deputies that it is not the practice in England or elsewhere for the bodies of omnibuses to be produced by the manufacturer of the chassis. It is the practice for the manufacturer of the chassis to sell it as such, the agent who sells it being usually an agent for some coachbuilder as well, and, having arranged for the sale of the complete vehicle, he has the chassis sent from the manufacturer of it to the bodybuilder, and then it is imported into this country as a complete vehicle. The Saorstát 'bus-owners at the commencement of 'bus traffic transport in this country, wanting rapid delivery of their cars, placed orders for same with the agents in their own locality, and these agents passed that order over to British agents, who were generally in a position to offer hire-purchase facilities. These facilities were a considerable inducement to the purchasers to place the orders with them.
In paragraph 36 of the report the Tariff Commission admit that it is now possible for 'bus bodies to be produced here and sold at prices which are less than those at which British bodies of similar capacity can be obtained. The applicants urged that the additional protection should be granted, not because of any inefficiency on their part, but in order definitely to compel all purchasers in the Saorstát to obtain home-made articles. They pointed out that although the bodies produced by them are cheaper and better than those imported, they could not hope to secure the entire home market so long as intending purchasers would not place their orders sufficiently long in advance of the time when they would  want delivery to enable the Saorstát coachbuilders to meet their needs. Incidentally, the applicants urged that the existing protection is considerably reduced by the fact that duty is levied upon certain parts which could not in any case be produced within this country.
The position, therefore, is that the Saorstát coachbuilders are at present capable of producing bus bodies at prices lower than those at which British bus bodies can be obtained here. Nevertheless, considerable importations of buses takes place because of the hire-purchase facilities which the British manufacturers are able to offer and because of the fact that intending purchasers do not exercise prevision as to their requirements and so place their orders sufficiently long in advance. There is also, of course, the constant difficulty that the agents for the chassis are usually agents for the English bodybuilders as well, and they generally succeed in securing orders for completed cars. Nevertheless, the Tariff Commission say that this increased protection should not be granted. They admit that if the increased protection were imposed, the importation of foreign bus bodies would stop and that the increased business thus secured for the Irish coachbuilders would further increase their efficiency and presumably enable them further to reduce prices. They appear to have the impression that the existing duty is enough. They say that if we wait long enough the importation of foreign buses may stop, and then the coachbuilders will have got what they desire if they are still there, without having their application granted. They do not advance one single reason why the application should not now be granted.
It surely is no answer to their case that in the fullness of time the existing duty may prove to be sufficiently effective to stop importation. These foreign buses are coming in. Irish workers who could be engaged in the production of the bodies for them are idle. The equipment in our factories is not being used; some of our factories are closing down; the capital  invested in the industry has been wasted, and yet the Tariff Commission are prepared to contemplate a continuance of that situation, without being able to advance one good reason for it, sooner than recommend an increase in the duty.
I would like to draw attention to paragraph 128 of the report, which states that evidence was given on behalf of the Irish Omnibus Company that they had reason to fear that if the application were granted there would be a combination amongst the Irish coachbuilders to force up prices, and that they had found in the past some such tendency to combine operating. The Tariff Commission go on to say: “We are satisfied from inquiries which we have made that the prices tendered”—in the cases which they examined—“were identical and were settled by the coachbuilders concerned in consultation.”
Will Deputies believe that that statement of the Irish Omnibus Company, to which the Tariff Commission referred, was not submitted in evidence? It was a written statement of which the applicants were not aware. Those associated with the application have informed me that they did not know of the existence of that statement until the report was published, and they were given no opportunity of offering rebutting evidence. This Tariff Commission, whose duty it was to get all possible information in relation to this industry, did not ask for that rebutting evidence in connection with that statement. The coachbuilders, of course, deny it entirely, but their denial is of little value. They were not given an opportunity of denying it before the Tariff Commission when the case was under consideration. We now come to the final part of the application—that is, in relation to private motor cars. The Tariff Commission state, at the beginning of the report, that they found four of the five principal applicants have not engaged in the manufacture of bodies, and the fifth had little experience in producing them. They further state that they consider the application as being one in respect of articles which it is proposed  to manufacture here if a tariff at the rate suggested by the applicants is imposed.
As Deputies are aware applications for a tariff can be made either in respect of existing industries or by persons proposing to engage in the industry concerned if the application is granted. Having stated that they considered this part of the application as having been made in respect of an industry which it was intended to establish if the tariff were granted, they then proceed to make the case against the application on the ground that the existing factories are not efficiently equipped for the production of these bodies. Their entire case against this part of the application is based upon a criticism of the existing concerns. They say these concerns are not as efficiently equipped as some of the factories they saw in England. They criticise the coachbuilders because they have not availed of the existing duty to engage in the production of bodies for private cars. They did not consider the application at all as being one in relation to an industry not yet existing but which it was proposed to establish if the application were granted.
There are, as Deputies will learn from the report, three types of bodies for private cars. There is the all-metal body, the body consisting of a wooden frame covered with metal plates, and the body consisting of a wooden frame with a fabric covering. It is admitted it would be uneconomic for any coach-building factory here to instal the machinery required for the production of the all-metal body. In paragraph 23 the Tariff Commission state that during their visit to the works of some of the largest manufacturing firms in England they were informed that owing to the high cost of these presses—the presses required in the manufacture of the all-metal body —they did not instal a sufficient number of them in their own works to produce all the metal body parts and panels they required. These metal presses are very expensive to instal. The dies used in the stamping out of the parts are also very expensive. They cannot be fully availed of unless  there is a huge market for the bodies they produce.
The question which we must ask ourselves is: Were we so desirous of having all-metal bodies upon cars used in this country that we are not prepared to take action for the development of an industry for the production of wooden bodies with either metal or fabric covering? It is our view that we can meet our transport needs if we have the cars equipped with wooden framed bodies, and that if necessary we can do without metal bodies.
There is a Minority Report which recommends that the duty upon completed car bodies should be increased and that the duty on parts should be maintained as it is, to encourage the industry for the assembling of these bodies here with imported parts. It is pointed out in the Minority Report that such an industry would be capable of giving employment to 700 men. It is argued by the member of the Commission who wrote the report that in the construction of bodies for private cars there are two divisions of labour; in the first place, the making of the standard parts from the raw material, and, in the second place, the assembling of these parts. The signatory of the Minority Report goes on to consider the opportunites for employment available in the assembling of these parts. He concludes that these opportunities are very considerable and that that work could quite well be done in this country. As I have said, he demonstrates that on the number of cars imported into this country in 1929, work in the assembling of the parts alone could be provided for 700 men. I say, therefore, that we can establish and maintain here an industry for the production of wooden bodies covered over with imported metal parts—the parts to be imported duty free—or covered with fabric, and that we can get on very well, utilising the cars equipped with such bodies.
The coach-building industry has been considerably developed in other countries by the imposition of tariffs, even though it has not been found possible to instal machinery for the production of the metal parts from raw material in these countries. That applies even  to Australia where metal parts are imported and assembled and a very considerable amount of employment is given in the process. The Tariff Commission argue that if an increased tariff were imposed there would be an equivalent increase in the price of the bodies and that the higher tariff would, therefore, not be effective in preventing the importation of the completed cars. I do not think that that contention of the Tariff Commission can be sustained at all. There is no reason whatever why motor bodies other than all-metal bodies cannot be produced in this country as cheaply as they can be produced elsewhere. The Tariff Commission state that none of the applicants possesses the plant or equipment necessary for the production of standardised lines of wooden parts for the frame-work of coach-built or fabric bodies. They state that in paragraph 30. That statement is simply not true.
There is at least one factory in the country equipped for the production of these parts on standardised lines, and it is our view that if the protection asked for was afforded a substantial industry could be built up capable of giving employment to a very large number of skilled workers in this country.
The opposition to this tariff came from two associations. The first of these was the Royal Irish Automobile Association. The witnesses who appeared on its behalf, however, admitted that not merely were they not in a position to speak for the general body of motor users, but they could not speak even for their own members. The membership of the Association is stated to be 1,800 out of a total number of 25,000 users of private cars. The witnesses who appeared against the application could not speak for even 1,800. They did not consult them and their evidence must be regarded as valueless. They appeared solely in their personal capacity. The other association was the Irish Motor Traders' Association, and in respect of their opposition I would refer Deputies to the paragraph concerning it in  the Minority Report, paragraph 9, which says:
During the hearing of the application counsel for the applicants handed in copy of an extract from the minutes of a general meeting of the Irish Motor Traders' Association held on 16th December, 1926, recording a resolution by the Association in which it was agreed not to oppose the application for an increased tariff on motor bodies, provided the coachbuilders were pre pared to work for the free admission of chassis or a reduction of the duty to which these are subject to not more than 5 per cent. ad valorem, and also that they reduce their demands to a maximum of £20 duty on a two-seater car and £30 duty on a four-seater car. It would appear, therefore, that in December, 1926, there were not any serious misgivings on the part of the Irish motor traders as to the efficiency and capacity of the Saorstát manufacturers to meet the demands of the motor traders' customers in car bodies, and that, on their part, there was no objection in principle to an increase in the tariff on such bodies when imported.
That disposes of the opposition. I think I have gone very fully into the case for the passing of this motion, much more fully than I intended on rising. I will ask Deputies, when considering the facts which I have been able to put before them, to consider also the whole question of industrial policy which should be operated in this country. Do we wish to develop industries here for the purpose of providing employment for those who cannot be engaged on the land? If we do, then here is one industry which should be developed but unfortunately it is disappearing. It is definitely stated in the report that the employment now being given in the industry is gradually decreasing. As Deputies know, since the application was made, the productive capacity of the industry has been definitely diminishing. While the Tariff Commission was sitting in judgment on the applicants' case the industry was going. If the Dáil rejects the motion, and if the protection asked  for is not given, the industry will disappear altogether for all effective purposes.
No doubt some coach-building works will remain for the purpose of executing repairs and will be successful in getting occasional orders, but an efficient industry capable of supplying our own needs, as is possible, will not be there. I have said already, and I now say it again, that there is no industry now protected or likely to seek protection in the future which can make a stronger case than that which the Coachbuilders' Association has made. I would ask also that this question should not be decided on Party lines. I am certain that if we can get a free expression of mind on the part of every member in the Dáil we will find that there is a majority of the members prepared to give this industry a chance. I am certain that that plea will be supported by some of the members opposite, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, who, I think, has given an undertaking that he will not vote against it in any case.
Mr. Lemass: I withdraw the statement, but I say this, namely, that the coachbuilders who operate in the Deputy's constituency are under the impression that the Deputy did give such an undertaking. I do not say that, however, for the purpose of making any debating point. I hope to have an opportunity of visiting the Deputy's constituency again. I have said all I want to say, and I ask the Dáil to consider the motion on its merits. I am certain that if Deputies read the report and examine the case made in support of the application they will agree with me in saying that the Executive Council were wrong in accepting the recommendations of the majority of the Commission. The Executive Council had the report before them for some six weeks before they published it. Presumably, therefore, their decision was only arrived at after the matter had been given very  considerable consideration. I am quite certain, therefore, that if a strong expression of opinion is forthcoming from the Dáil the members of the Executive Council will be prepared to reconsider their attitude. That is all I have to say.
Cassidy, Archie J.
Corry, Martin John.
De Valera, Eamon.
|Gorry, Patrick J.
Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
Kent, William R.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick John.
O'Connell, Thomas J.
Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
Ward, Francis C.
|Beckett, James Walter.
Bennett, George Cecil.
Bourke, Séamus A.
Byrne, John Joseph.
Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
Connolly, Michael P.
Cosgrave, William T.
Craig, Sir James.
De Loughrey, Peter.
Dolan, James N.
Doyle, Peadar Seán.
Duggan, Edmund John.
Egan, Barry M.
Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
Finlay, Thomas A.
Hassett, John J.
Heffernan, Michael R.
Hennessy, Michael Joseph.
|Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
Kelly, Patrick Michael.
Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
McFadden, Michael Og.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Myles, James Sproule.
Nally, Martin Michael.
Nolan, John Thomas.
O'Hanlon, John F.
O'Reilly, John J.
O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
Thrift, William Edward.
White, Vincent Joseph.
Mr. de Valera: Before we proceed with the next business might I ask the President what is the idea of allocating Government time for a discussion of a motion of this sort when no member of the Executive Council, apparently, is prepared to define the Government's attitude in the matter? As pointed out by Deputy Lemass, the death-knell of a very important industry has been rung by the action of the Executive Council. Surely the Executive Council must have discussed this matter amongst themselves, and there must have been some reason in justification of their attitude in agreeing with the report of the Tariff Commission. It was not an ordinary report, as there was a difference of opinion among members of the Commission. Are we to assume that there is a difference of opinion also in the Executive Council with regard to the matter?
The President: It is most unusual to answer a question such as that which the leader of the Opposition has put, but I should say offhand that there were two very good reasons for not answering the case that was put, or rather, the motion. First, no case was made by the Deputy who moved the motion, and secondly, he got no support from his Party, or from any other Party in the House, and there was no case to answer. The reading of the report would afford ample opportunity to any person of business capacity or knowledge of affairs to see that no case was made and that the report answered practically everything that the Deputy said in moving the motion.
Mr. de Valera: Surely the President does not mean to give that as a serious answer? Is it not obviously frivolous? A very full case was made by the mover of the motion and, naturally, we expected to get a reply from the Government Benches. When the case was made completely for the motion why should we go on making the same case again until some answer is given? I think it is ridiculous.
The President: The first three-quarters of an hour were spent by Deputy Lemass in preparing the ground and, when he came to deal with  the motion, we found that the matters he dealt with were fully answered in the report. If the Deputy had fully read the report he would have known that.
Mr. de Valera: I hope that we will hear no more sneers from the President about reading reports. Time after time we have heard a Minister here who did not make up his own case. We know quite well why the Minister did not speak.
An Ceann Comhairle: There is a point of order to be decided. What has happened is unusual. A motion was moved and formally seconded and, as nobody offered to continue the debate, the Chair had no option but to put the question. In these circumstances, I have just allowed the leader of the Opposition, quite properly, to put a question. We have had a reply, but we cannot go into the merits of a motion which has been decided by the House.
|Last Updated: 17/05/2011 19:00:31||Page of 52|