Industrial Development Bill, 1977: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 1 December 1977

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 302 No. 4

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  When speaking last night I referred to the remarks of the former Minister for the Gaeltacht that science, technology, research and development had failed in the creation of industrial jobs. I was making the point that the record of the previous Government in the allocation of funds for that important task was not great. The report of the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards for the year ended 31st December, 1976, gives a small indication of that Government's failure. The chairman reported that he and his colleagues had informed the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and through him the Government, of their grave concern about the inadequate funding of the institute in recent years. He also stated that there had been a reduction in real terms in the amount of money from State resources to the institute by the previous Government to deal with research and development. In their programme for future work the institute stated that in the circumstances in which no additional resources are available to the institute little could be done to introduce new services or expand existing activities and that consequently the emphasis would continue to be on the consolidation of existing services and that the resources were needed to meet immediate needs rather than to expand services. It rings hollow today to hear former Ministers criticise the failure of science and technology and research and development in the creation of industrial jobs when they did not make enough funds available so that the institute could undertake the work.

I congratulate the IDA and the other development agencies in their efforts to create employment over the [522] years. I congratulate the IDA, the Shannon Free Airport Development Company which administers for the IDA in my area, AnCO, Manpower and all the other agencies who have done such tremendous work over the years in spite of the difficulties.

We must keep in mind that from 1961 to 1971 there was a fall of about 106,000 in the numbers of people employed in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. This distorts to some degree the efforts made in relation to job creation by all these agencies over the years. But for the magnificent job being done by the industrial development agencies we would be much worse off than we are. It is expected that a further 3,500 jobs will be lost in agriculture, forestry and fisheries over the next four or five years. In these areas as well as in the industrial field it is essential that we have proper policies so as to create employment. If we could do something to employ more people in agriculture, forestry and fisheries it would help to stem the job losses that we will otherwise experience in the next two years.

In my region, the Shannon industrial zone, we have had tremendous success. Something like 4,500 people are employed there and will bring home an estimated £13 million in wage packets this year. These things should be put into perspective. We should recognise the achievements and put them on the record.

I am glad that the Minister, Deputy O'Malley, has introduced the provision to set up a consortium to deal with some of the problems we have in job creation. I am glad that one of the functions of the consortium will be to co-ordinate the activities of existing State agencies and maximise their contribution to the development. There is scope here for a formulated and co-ordinated policy for all the various agencies involved in industrial development. Some of them seem to be overlapping. It is vital that we have no overlapping of State agencies and that we have co-ordinated effort by all the agencies involved. This is where the consortium can be most effective in the matter of regional development.

All of us have been disappointed [523] with the response of the EEC to regional policy. We need now a proper regional policy and we have not got that. Within the regions the people involved in development have at all times to come to Dublin for the final decision in relation to the problems ahead. It appears that nobody at local level has the function of making decisions, particularly in small industries. First of all the project has to go to the county development team charged with responsibility for small industrial development. In turn the small industries division of the IDA do a separate projection, and then the whole decision-making process comes back to Dublin. Many small industrialists feel frustrated, give up hope and drop the project.

It is outrageous that when a company is in crisis, which is often the case, separate appraisals have to be carried out by the IDA and by Fóir Teoranta. Instead of simplifying the system for industrialists this seems to make it far more complicated. If a company is in a crisis situation the agencies should be there to come in very quickly, take up the problem and deal with it effectively. At times when separate appraisals are done by the IDA and Fóir Teoranta different decisions come from both bodies. That is undesirable and would need to be examined by the people involved in these agencies.

The regions will have to have power to make their own decisions in certain cases. You cannot deal with regional problems by applying overall national policies and some allowance will have to be made for regional imbalance within the overall national strategy of industrial development. People within the regions should not have to wait for a national overall policy decision as to whether aid should be applied in individual cases, especially in crisis cases. In this regard the local development people, who are the people most available to the region, should have the power of decision-making and the money to deal with emergencies that crop up within regions. Regarding my own area, listening to Deputy Ryan last week one [524] would form the impression that everything was well in County Clare and that they had done particularly well in the matter of job creation there. We have had the very same problems in west, north and east Clare as Deputy Ryan has had in his constituency in Tipperary. These are the problems that exist in regions. The general infrastructure is not suitable for the attraction of industry. We must go ahead with the infrastructural development needed, such as the provision of telephones, proper road networks and other developments of this nature.

We need freight subsidies as well to enable companies to compete with bigger concerns. It is difficult to attract industry into a remote region of west Clare where freight costs are very high. If some freight subsidies were made available to the remote areas it would help them to get over some of the difficulties. Interest subsidies would also be desirable. The high cost of borrowing the money now is putting many companies out of business. In the underdeveloped regions some provision should be made for the payment of subsidies in cases where companies are getting into difficulty because of high interest charges.

Perhaps it is time too that we had some sort of State intervention or purchasing agency who would undertake to purchase the produce of small, delicate companies especially when they are undergoing temporary difficulties. This would ensure maintenance of employment and of some of our basic skills. In the mid-west region of my constituency in the past few years we have seen a magnificent industry go to the wall because we did not have the financial resources to keep it in operation. That was the piano industry which had a highly skilled and competent work force completely shattered because the parent company decided to run down the plant at Shannon and eventually to close it down. Foreign industrialists are important to us. We need to attract them in here, and once they are in we should try to make our basic skills and techniques available to them. With a work force capable of dealing with the problem we should [525] at a very early stage work towards Irish participation and when the parent or other companies decide that their operations are no longer important here we should have the management and basic skills to enable us to take over these companies and run them ourselves.

Although we have had some setbacks, the overall situation is pretty bright. We can press ahead with the drive to attract further industries. In this regard quite a lot can be done in the regions to create white-collar jobs and some work has already been done in the Shannon region to attract this type of work. We have had some success in getting overseas companies to set up their offices here. There is great scope for development in this field.

It is going to take time, energy and thought to make this Department of Industry, Commerce and Energy work. The Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary have the capacity, the intellect and the will to tackle these problems. The electorate have given them some time but time is running out and we have got to be active in pursuing the goal of full employment. Every effort we can make in this House and elsewhere should be made to do that. I welcome the Bill and hope that industrial development in this country will continue to be successful in the next few years.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  In common with my colleagues I welcome this Bill and in doing so pay tribute to the work the IDA have been doing since they were founded in the early 1950s. I should like to pay a tribute also, based on personal experience, to the efficiency of the officials dealing with industrial development, indeed with all aspects of its responsibilities in the Department of Industry, Commerce and Energy. The Minister has a large task to fulfil but, if he fails, it will be his fault and not that of his officials because I know them to be people of a very high level of dedication and competence.

I have not a great deal to say about the detail of the Bill beyond making two points. First, it is evident from the IDA five-year plan drawn up for the [526] 1973-77 period that the targets set were exceeded in all regions apart from the eastern region. One might argue that the targets originally set were inadequate in the case of the regions in question but the fact is that they were set in 1973 at a time of great economic optimism. Yet, as matters turned out, they were exceeded in a five-year period which was marked by a great deal of economic pessimism.

The eastern region, as Deputies may know, includes my own constituency; it includes County Meath, County Kildare, County Wicklow and County Dublin, including the city and county of Dublin. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to convey to the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy my concern that, given that the people are now living in the eastern region, it behoves us to bring jobs to them, ensuring that employment is provided where they are residing. I know the previous Government took a number of initiatives in this direction. These included the introduction of a large advance factory programme in Dublin, including the building of, I think, the largest ever advance factories at Finglas and Coolock—if I am not mistaken—of 40,000 sq. feet as against the previous standard size of advance factory of 6,000 square feet. They also extended the provisions of the small industries programme in respect of engineering, and one or two other forms of industry to Dublin where previously these grants had not been provided. I would ask the new Minister to keep a close eye on these measures and, if they are inadequate, if jobs are not being attracted to the eastern region on a scale commensurate with the level of unemployment in the area, to consider further action. I realise this poses problems because there are other parts of the country feeling that their claims are equally strong. I would not wish anything that would be done to favour the eastern region to act to the detriment of any other area. Indeed there is no reason why it should because, in many ways, a healthy industrial base in Dublin will have its effect in promoting development elsewhere; whereas if the capital, and the region around it, including [527] Counties Kildare and Meath are allowed to run down, this will have an overspill, detrimental effect on the west and south, and other areas as well.

There is one other point I should like to make. It concerns the development of inventions or new ideas in technology. There are perhaps quite a number of people employed in State companies or the academic field—we have a very good example of this in Professor Timoney and the armoured car—people who have ideas but perhaps who do not have the capital to take the risk of going out on their own and developing. They also run the risk that if they leave a job in the public service or the academic world they are leaving one which is both permanent and pensionable to go into the industrial field where there is no permanency and where, unless one is prepared to pay a handsome sum to an insurance company, there is no pension either. We need to encourage such people who have these ideas and techniques to leave the safe haven of the public service, of the academic world, and go out and create jobs rather than remain in public employment where they are being paid out of the taxpayers' money by other people engaged in directly-productive activity.

A suggestion was made to me—and I conveyed it while I was in office to various people in the industrial field —that some form of tax relief might be granted to people who propose to develop patented inventions, or some other limited category, which would distinguish the novel idea which would otherwise not be developed without the expertise of that particular person. One cannot envisage every new industry as availing of a tax relief of this sort, which would obviously include many which would be mere developments or replicas of other ideas. If such relief was granted one must confine it to genuinely new inventions or new industrial processes. I believe there is something to be said for such an initiative. Quite clearly the bait of tax relief is a good deal more attractive to people than is the bait of a grant, again possibly because, as a people, we have a fascination with getting [528] away without paying tax or doing the Revenue man, whereas the possible receipt of a grant does not carry the same sense of excitement even though the monetary advantage may be even greater than the tax relief. The success of the export tax relief is very good evidence of the particular attraction of tax reliefs in getting, in that case, exports and, I would argue, in this case, new inventive ideas put into practice in the interest of the creation of employment.

Those are the main points I wanted to make. I am glad this Bill has been introduced. A great deal of the preparatory work for it was done in the period of office of the previous Government. I do not make that point in any party political sense—merely to set the record straight—because industrial development here has never been a party political issue; rather it has been one on which both sides of the House were agreed. Therefore, for a third time, I welcome the Bill.

Mr. Conaghan: Information on Hugh Conaghan  Zoom on Hugh Conaghan  I welcome this Bill on the grounds that it will do something for the establishment of small industries here.

Unemployment has always been our biggest problem. The question has been: how shall we tackle it? This Bill will afford us an opportunity of dealing with this ever-prevailing problem. There are plenty of opportunities for industry, based on agriculture. It is time we realised this fact and took advantage of it. Some might say: why the long delay? The fact is we have had to overcome many difficult problems in the past but now conditions for improvement have emerged very clearly. I can see a tremendous future for agricultural development and I can see the same opportunities for industries based on agriculture. Since 1968 our young people have had free education and they are today far better prepared for the challenges ahead. The people have a tremendous potential, given a lead. They think this lead should come from the Government without any undue delay. I believe that lead must be given immediately by setting up a support [529] system in terms of organisation, distribution and financial encouragement. Financial encouragement or support—call it what you will—will act as the spark but to achieve the best results it must be accompanied by plenty of advice to every young person so that every young person will be in a position to establish an enterprise on his own and get on with his own project. It should be remembered that no venture is too insignificant. Every venture deserves encouragement and our young people should be given every opportunity to do their own thing both on the farm and in industries based on agriculture and native raw materials.

In the 1960s the whole emphasis was on the establishment of major industries. We forgot all about the small man and woman wishing to start in business. We forgot the important fact that the bulk of employment in England, France and the United States of America, to mention a few countries, occurs in small industry, in home and farm industry. This is the type of industry we must develop now. We must concentrate heavily on helping people to set up their own industries using their own resources. We must give them every encouragement because not only will they provide good employment, and plenty of it, within a very short time but they will also provide tremendous social advantages and give a tremendous boost to national morale. We should never lose sight of this because what is basically needed today is a boost to morale. We should give the young men a chance to prove themselves. Quite a few have set up their own little industries, many of them based on agriculture, and the employment created is not founded in money but rather on the sense of achievement and satisfaction it gives. Financial rewards admittedly follow in time and these rewards will grow with the expansion of their efforts.

The real wealth is in the land and what it produces. The spin-off from agriculture is not yet fully appreciated. There are thousands of young people who can only realise their potential in achievement on the land or on processing what they take off the land. [530] It is clear that here the Government must give the lead. Small and beautiful can be applied to home industries based on agriculture. It will create a healthy development and, if the Government follow this line and face realities, Ireland and her youth will benefit.

I would ask the Minister to take a special look at the north-west and Donegal especially. It is a county with twice the national average in unemployment. It is a county that is underdeveloped. It has a great potential in agriculture, forestry, bogland, tourism and so on which has never really been properly developed. We had a thriving textile industry but, due to circumstances beyond our control, this industry has fallen off badly and unemployment in that industry is very high. In the Inishowen peninsula 25 per cent of the male population is unemployed. I would appeal to the Minister to give special consideration to the many small industries there working at a disadvantage because their opposite numbers in the Six Counties in the timber and cement industry are subsidised. Indeed, this affects people right along the Border. They are all at a disadvantage vis-à-vis their opposite numbers in the Six Counties.

Is there some grant aid that could be given to these small industries? There is at the moment a cross-Border study going on and possibly Donegal will benefit as a result of this study. Inishowen is the hinterland to Derry city. It is envisaged there will be major developments in Derry and so we in Donegal should get special consideration in this particular region. The IDA, the county development team and other agencies have been working hard but with little success to date. The fault does not lie with the local organisations. I believe a great deal of the blame must rest on the previous Government who removed the incentives given to industrialists coming into the north-west. The same incentives as those given to industrialists setting up in the east should be given to the west and north-west.

I pass through three northern counties on my way to Dublin and I see in them industrial sites being established. I see them in Derry, Strabane [531] and Omagh. It would appear that in that region the people are being geared for the establishment of industry. It would be to our advantage if a similar drive were in progress in the north-west and western areas. When this drive occurs I trust it will give a better opportunity to small industrialists, to our own people, who will be prepared to avail of the opportunities offered by this Bill.

Debate adjourned.

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