Labour Services Bill, 1987: Second Stage.

Thursday, 18 June 1987

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 373 No. 10

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[2713]Minister for Labour (Mr. B. Ahern): Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

We had a very useful and wide ranging discussion on the provision of manpower services during the Second Stage of the National Employment and Training Authority Bill last November. Deputies will recall that there was general support for the basic principles of the Bill. A number of Deputies, including myself, however, expressed concern over the inclusion of CERT.

When I became Minister for Labour in March, one of my priorities was to examine the Bill in the light of the comments made during the Second Stage debate. I also had discussions with the boards and chief executives of the manpower agencies.

Following this examination I have decided, as I announced in my Estimates speech, to omit CERT from the new body. This decision takes account of the Government identification of the tourism sector as an area with great growth potential. It would be unwise at this juncture to change the status of CERT at a time when we are relying on the continued success of their efforts. CERT will, therefore, retain their present status as a limited company accountable to, and reporting to, the Minister for Labour. The omission of CERT is the major change from the 1986 Bill. Parallel with this move I have initiated consultations with a view to securing a substantial increase in the financial contribution of the industry to CERT and I have set a target figure of up to £0.5 million for 1988.

The major provision in the Bill before the House is to establish An Foras Áiseanna Saothair through the amalgamation of AnCO, the National Manpower Service and the Youth Employment Agency. These three bodies have served the country well and have contributed to the expansion of jobs and the reduction of unemployment. In 1987, AnCO will train about 35,000 persons; the National Manpower Service will place 27,750 on [2714] employment schemes: and the Youth Employment Agency will assist about 5,000 persons in addition to its research and co-ordinating role. The proposal to merge the bodies is prompted by the need to provide the best service possible for the public and to avoid the confusion and role duplication that has existed in recent years.

The main functions of An Foras are set out in section 4 of the Bill. These are essentially the same as those in the original draft. They include the operation of training, re-training, work experience and similar manpower programmes, the provision of placement and guidance services and support for co-operative and community-based enterprises.

The board of An Foras will consist of 17 members, including the Chairman. In deciding on the composition of the board, the conflicting objectives of having bodies which are active in the labour market represented on it had to be reconciled with effectiveness and efficiency. The achievement of this latter objective has, of necessity, meant a level of representation for many interests below what they would consider desirable. The board of An Foras will be appointed by the Minister for Labour. The board will consist of four representatives nominated by the ICTU; four representatives nominated by employer organisations; one representative of educational interests; one representative of social welfare interests; one representative nominated by youth organisations; two representatives of the employees of An Foras; and one representative from each of the Departments of Finance and Labour. In addition, the Minister will appoint the Chairman and one other representative. I have included a Department of Finance representative in order to better link the operations of An Foras with macroecomomic policy.

The Bill also empowers An Foras to undertake consultancy work overseas on a commercial basis in line with Government policy. This is likely to be an important feature of the new body's activities in the years ahead, by enabling them to take commercial advantage of their [2715] considerable experience and technical expertise and to make better use of their resources to increase their income.

Over the past few years AnCO, in particular, have identified commercial possibilities for the export of their training expertise. AnCO's reputation as an effective and professional training organisation has borne fruit in a number of overseas contracts for consultancy work and training. Most recently AnCO were successful in securing a major sub-contract, worth about £4 million, for a £20 million World Bank project to improve the organisation and standards of training in Indonesia. Overseas contracts for training and employment schemes will be handled by a subsidiary company which will be set up under section 4 (6) and 4 (7) of the Bill.

The Bill provides, in section 25, for the abolition of the upper age limit of 25 years in the use of the youth employment levy. Under the Bill the levy can be applied to any group or category, regardless of age, which happens to be particularly hard hit by unemployment. This will give An Foras more scope and flexibility in responding to labour market developments and in catering for the needs of their client population.

Changes in our manpower agencies will not of themselves solve the problems in the manpower area if the Minister and Department of Labour do not take on the enlarged role of formulating, co-ordinating and evaluating policy that was envisaged in the White Paper on Manpower Policy. The NESC Report on Manpower Policy made a valid criticism of Irish legislation governing the activities of State bodies. NESC urged that the legislation is very specific and detailed in relation to financial provisions, but completely ignores the question as to how the Minister or the Department might influence the activities of these bodies in the context of overall policy.

I accept that we have been weak in positioning our manpower services within a broad general economic and social framework. There is a relationship between our training programmes and [2716] what is done within the educational system. There is a connection between the payment of unemployment compensation and assistance being given by the National Manpower Service to the unemployed. Training activities make a major contribution to the development of industry. The only logical way to achieve a proper relationship and interface between our manpower services and economic, social and educational services is for the policy function to rest clearly with the Minister.

It is important, however, to strike a proper balance between, on the one hand, exercise of effective policy and financial control by the Minister and, on the other hand, allowing the management of An Foras to get on with the job. The Bill, as originally drafted, contained some provisions which attempted to achieve this objective. Following an examination of the Bill, I have, however, strengthened the powers of the Minister in section 12. The changes which I have made help to clarify and best give effect to the policy role by requiring An Foras to seek the approval of the Minister and the Minister for Finance for their future plans. This still leaves An Foras with a considerable degree of flexibility in conducting their day-to-day operations within the prevailing agreed policy framework. Section 12 provides for this. An Foras will, of course, contribute to policy making by the Minister through the giving of advice based on their knowledge of the labour market and the operation of programmes. Under section 17, the Minister may give a direction to An Foras to carry out, or not carry out, specified activities.

The tasks facing An Foras Áiseanna Saothair are formidable and challenging. We have nearly a quarter of a million unemployed and our labour force is increasing despite migration. One of the features of the steady rise in unemployment has been the growth in the numbers unemployed for more than a year. In the period 1979 to 1986, the proportion of the unemployed accounted for by long-term unemployment increased by 13 percentage points from [2717] 32 per cent to 45 per cent. This increase has been concentrated mainly on over 25s and older workers. Older workers in many cases find it difficult to compete for available job vacancies with better educated and more adaptable young people coming into the labour market. Prolonged unemployment and lack of work experience lead to financial hardship, skill obsolescence, demotivation and personal demoralisation.

Assistance for the long term unemployed and the unemployed generally is now being provided in a systematic way under the Jobsearch Programme. The contribution of the manpower agencies to the programme is to interview 150,000 people currently on the live register; provide 40,000 manpower opportunities for them; and provide places for a further 12,000 persons on a four week Jobsearch training course specially devised and operated by AnCO. Generally speaking we are on schedule to meet our targets. The programme could not have got off the ground as quickly as it did but for the whole-hearted commitment and support of the staff in the manpower agencies.

Despite the increase in the numbers attending second and third level education and institutions, the numbers leaving school with little or no educational qualifications have been relatively constant over the past number of years at about 5,000 per annum. There is a need to assist these people through special labour market and educational interventions.

There is also a need to develop our workforce so as to increase the competitiveness which is essential to the future development of the Irish economy. This applies in the case of our managers, our professional and technological staff, first line supervisors and operatives. Our future development depends upon our people producing goods and services which we can sell in the world marketplace. The goods being demanded, the location of production units and the methods of production are changing at a rate that could not be envisaged 15 years ago when we entered the EC.

There is also a need to develop our small businesses and enterprises. The [2718] rapid increase in the numbers employed in the US has been attributed in no small way to start-ups in small amd medium sized enterprises. Our initial efforts here through the Enterprise Scheme, Start Your Own Business Course and the Community Enterprise Programme have illustrated the scope that exists for expansion in this country.

Another important function of An Foras will be the provision of pre-departure information and advice to persons contemplating employment abroad. Up to now this function has been the responsibility of the National Manpower Service under their obligations imposed by the EC regulations governing the free movement of workers within the Community. The amalgamation of the three bodies will ensure that persons trying to decide whether to go abroad or remain at home will be fully briefed on all the training and other opportunities available to them here so that they can make an informed choice. If, in the end, they elect to seek employment abroad, An Foras will provide them with the best information and advice at their disposal.

I mention these examples of the work of An Foras to illustrate that there is no shortage of work for the foreseeable future in the manpower area. The work will involve, to a large extent, face to face contacts between the personnel of An Foras and their clients. Technology will help in providing a first class effective service but, in the final analysis, we are talking about a labour intensive service doing valuable work for the community and the economy and offering job satisfaction to their employees.

The area of concentration in the work of An Foras will vary from time to time. For example, an observer looking at the work of AnCO and the National Manpower Service in 1970 could not have foreseen, first, the extent of the training and the employment schemes being mounted by these bodies today, and secondly, the relative shift in emphasis towards employment schemes. Mobility and flexibility will, therefore, be required on the part of the staff of An Foras. The provisions in the Bill dealing with [2719] arrangements for the transfer of staff from the three bodies to the new Authority are unchanged from the original National Employment and Training Authority Bill. It is my intention to safeguard the existing conditions of employment of all the people involved.

I realise that any major restructuring of existing manpower agencies in order to provide an integrated service could give rise to some apprehension on the part of staff in the existing bodies as to what the future holds. I am confident, however, that the work to be done will require An Foras to make full use of the staff resources at their disposal. I would see An Foras dealing with any imbalances in staffing as between their different services by deploying staff as required to the areas most in need. Given the magnitude of the tasks in prospect, I would not envisage any large scale dismantling of existing services but would see instead the adaptation of these over time to achieve a more regionally based integrated service. The prospect of continuing support from the European Social Fund should further help to underline the future for the development and maintenance of a wide range of programmes by An Foras, calling on the expertise, experience and adaptability of the staff of the existing services.

When speaking on the Bill last November, I expressed the view that the success of An Foras would depend on how well they catered for the needs of different regions and areas in the country. It is no good organising well at the top if such developments fail to achieve tangible improvements at the point of delivery. The Government stated in their Programme for National Recovery their commitment to the development of the manpower services on a fully regionalised basis. It is my intention that An Foras should move rapidly to the provision of services more effectively at local and regional level. This will also involve the development of closer co-operation with the appropriate education and social welfare systems. A greater degree of devolution of decision making to local level will [2720] lead to more flexibility and innovation which can only improve the services to the unemployed, school leavers, the deprived and the unqualified. My policy on the regional and local delivery of services, decision making and co-operation with other relevant bodies will be conveyed to An Foras under the mechanism provided in the Bill.

Finally, I come to the title for the new body. It is clear from what I have said that the new body are an economic development organisation with a major social orientation. It will be operating in a dynamic situation and will need to respond quickly and flexibly. I believe that the title which I have opted for An Foras Áiseanna Saothair, best describes the mission of the new body.

I commend the Bill to the House.

I have tried to save as much time as possible by reading my speech quickly. Earlier on I said I would require half an hour at the end of the debate to reply. It is necessary for me to take that time. I will limit myself to what is absolutely essential.

Acting Chairman (Mr. M. Barrett): Information on Michael Barrett  Zoom on Michael Barrett  Is the Minister saying he does not need half an hour?

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I understand that there are a number of speakers, particularly from the Opposition parties, who wish to speak on this and I would be glad to facilitate them in any way I can.

Acting Chairman:  Under the order of the House I understand that you have to be called at 6.30 p.m.

Mr B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I was asked by the Opposition Whip if perhaps that could be changed. If it arises I will be flexible.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Toddy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Toddy O'Sullivan  Which Whip?

Mr. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  We are not going to get involved in this argument at this hour of the evening.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  It is relevant.

[2721]Mr. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  This is an important Bill. The Minister and the Opposition parties would agree that it is less than ideal that we have only a limited amount of time in which to debate it. This would be so even if we had not had divisions. It is even more so given that the time we are scheduled is further reduced.

When this subject came for debate in the past, and when there were Private Members' motions anticipating legislation of this nature, Members took advantage of the debate to hang on to their views on manpower policy generally. They expressed their views on what the priorities for the different agencies should be and what they saw as the priority target groups. It would be appropriate that we should have a full discussion on manpower policy at this stage. After all, this legislation is part of the response to the White Paper that was published by the last Government which was the first serious local manpower policy in more than 20 years. It would be appropriate that that White Paper should be the subject of a formal discussion during the autumn session. I formally request the Minister that that time be made available.

I know there is a sense of disappointment among some people that they have not got an opportunity to contribute to this debate. While it is unsatisfactory that the debate should be truncated, not to have agreed to the taking of the Bill would have been irresponsible because the truth of the matter is that those who are employed in the four agencies involved — AnCO, the YEA, Manpower and, in a sense, CERT — have all found themselves in a state of considerable uncertainty as public debate has waged during the past few years about what should be the structure of our manpower agencies. More particularly they found themselves in a state of uncertainty since the publication of the White Paper and of the National Employment and Training Authoity Bill by the last Government. It is unreasonable that that uncertainty should be allowed to continue any longer than strictly necessary. In those circumstances if we have to [2722] choose between a debate that is unsatisfactorily truncated and what I think would be the irresponsible approach of allowing that unsatisfactory state to continue the only thing a responsible Opposition could do would be to agree to the taking of the Bill.

The measure we are debating is very substantially the measure which was introduced by the previous Minister for Labour, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, during the lifetime of the last Government. It is fair to say that there are only two changes: one is a change in name from NETA to FAS and the other is the decision in relation to CERT. I am not going to quarrel about the titles. If I had to put my money on one or the other I prefer the title, NETA.

I welcome the Minister's decision in relation to CERT. Members of the House have changed their minds on this on various occasions. I recall the time when the Minister encouraged us in Government to merge them all together. Some of us at that stage pressed the case to retain CERT because of their identity and the links they have forged with the hotel and catering industry. The Minister was successful in convincing us that he changed his mind in the process — and I am of the view also — that it is best that CERT are left apart.

While the Bill must be welcomed, it can be given a two cheers welcome. The test of legislation of this nature is essentially two fold: can we say with confidence that the levy payer will get better value for his money or that those who seek a place on one of the training programmes are going to get a better service? At this stage the best one can say is that it is not proven that they will.

I am a little disappointed that more advantage was not taken of the delays, as a result of the general election and the need to reintroduce the Bill, to spell out in greater detail how this is going to work. Essentially this is enabling legislation which leaves us all guessing. There are hints in the White Paper as to what is anticipated in terms of how the agency will be divided but we are no clearer as to how this is going to work. The Minister [2723] in his contribution today and in his contributions when he was in Opposition indicated that he saw this as most important in a regional context. I very much agree with him in that. There is no point in amalgamating chief executives and doing things around Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square if the results are not felt right throughout the country.

We are no wiser now as to what the Minister's plans are to make the legislation effective throughout the country. I had hoped that the opportunity would have been taken to fill us in. For example, by this stage decisions must have been taken as to what the internal organisation is going to be. Is there, for example, a structural or organisational chart to indicate who is going to be responsible for what; what the point of delivery is going to be; what the chain of command is going to be and so on? These are the things which will determine whether this works. At present we suspend judgment. As a first principle one might say that if you replace three bodies with one you achieve a degree of co-ordination. It might or it might not. The danger of this is that you simply substitute one very large quango for three smaller ones. If you do not get the internal structures right you can forfeit the individual expertise of the three and have them lose their identity in a less effective and souless megaquango. Each of the organisations whose life will be coming to an end have served us well during the years. It is important that what they do best should be retained. While AnCO have come in for criticism, not all of it misplaced, they have a positive philosophy and have accepted enormous challenges. Sometimes their adventurous nature has led them into projects in which they should not have got involved, but that “get up and go” attitude which was central to AnCO should not be lost by the new body.

From the beginning the Youth Employment Agency have been criticised. Some of those criticisms were on the basis that expectations had been raised which could probably never have been fulfilled. There was the constant [2724] complaint that much of the levy funding was going on training programmes and it was suggested that this was not what was intended. That criticism is unfair as a reading of the Youth Employment Agency legislation will indicate but notwithstanding the criticism, the agency carved a quite distinctive niche for themselves in the areas of local employment initiatives, in responding to co-operatives of small-scale activity and so on. What the Youth Employment Agency did was worthwhile. It would be unfortunate if that was to be set aside.

The success or failure of this new agency will depend on leadership and on the morale of those who work there. Will the Minister clarify his thinking on these areas? What are the Minister's intentions on the question of leadership? In Opposition the Minister floated the idea of a full-time Chairman. Is that still the Minister's view? There are three executives who will have to find a role for themselves in this new amalgamated FÁS. What will be their role? If we do not get the top management structures right at the beginning, there is every danger this will backfire and do more harm than good because the areas of expertise the individual bodies built up will be lost and the sense of drive and commitment will be lost in a much bigger organisation. It is absolutely essential to get the management structures right.

The second important aspect is the extent to which those who serve it can be motivated and their morale boosted and maintained. There have been some difficulties of morale within some existing agencies for one reason or another. Manpower, for instance, have seen their role change substantially since their inception. Originally, they saw their role as being to identify more or less comparable numbers of vacancies with more or less comparable numbers of applicants and to match them. They found they were not in a position to offer employment prospects to many of the people coming to them and they increasingly became involved in the administration of schemes of one sort or another, the Teamwork schemes, the enterprise allowances [2725] schemes and so on. That had an effect on morale. The Youth Employment Agency suffered from the beginning because they never had clarity of role. People saw them doing things they never saw as being their function. The Youth Employment Agency constantly had to be careful that they did not step on others' toes. In the case of AnCO, there has been a substantial change of direction. From an organisation who were to provide skills that were in short supply at a time of economic growth, they found themselves in the area of social training, community workshops, travellers' workshops, work in relation to the social guarantee and so on. AnCO had to move away from what should have been their primary objective which was to provide a highly skilled workforce to take advantage of opportunities and to contribute to the creation of opportunities.

It is important that the way in which this agency is launched is such that those who work in it and for it will be determined to give of their best. There is no doubt that for some of the people who will find themselves moving over to FAS it is a potentially traumatic business. For those who decided as school leavers that their career was to be in the Civil Service to find that they are no longer to be civil servants is something that, understandably, causes alarm. That alarm is heightened in an instance such as this where they know that the agency will be substantially dependent on funding from outside the State and that to that extent it will be less under the direct control of the Government or this House in terms of future intentions. Understandably, those who find themselves about to be moved out will be anxious about their position.

Section 7 of this Bill purports to address this concern and it probably goes a considerable distance towards meeting those concerns, but the anxiety remains. It is appropriate that the Minister should make himself available to meet with the staff interests involved. I know that some meetings have already taken place. It is appropriate that the Minister should bend over backwards to respond to legitimate concerns, but he should not negate [2726] the whole purpose of the Bill. Part of the purpose of the Bill involves a transfer of functions from the Civil Service to the new body.

At this stage it has not been proved that this will represent a better deal for the consumer, the would-be trainee, the would-be job-seeker, or for the taxpayer.

I hope the Minister and his Department will avail of the opportunity provided by the delay in bringing it forward to indicate where the savings and efficiencies will be and the scale of those efficiencies. One assumes there is an expectation that economies of scale will apply. How many offices fewer will be required? How many offices can now be surrendered and what will the savings on those be? What is the expectation in relation to staff numbers? Is there a belief that the one merged agency will be able to do the same job more efficiently with smaller numbers in the future? If that is so, what is the scale of the savings there? What numbers are involved? If that is not the expectation, if the assumption is that more or less the same number of people will be operating, what will they be doing, since presumably there will have been some duplication of staff?

Another area of substance in the Bill is the decision that the youth employment levy will be no longer confined to those under 25 years of age. This makes sense. The age limit was at any stage an arbitrary one. As our population has aged and as the percentage of our unemployed in the age group 25 to 44 has risen the distinction between under and over 25 became less and less easy to define. The Minister should guarantee that there will not be a diminution of the response to the problem of youth unemployment. That problem is not reducing simply because there are more and more people aged 25 to 44 unemployed. It just means that we have a problem in that area as well.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Would it be possible to agree on even an ad hoc arrangement of restricting speeches? There are at least three more speakers on these benches and three on the other benches who want to get in before 6.30 p.m.

[2727]Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  There are several speakers on this side. If we insist on the normal order of the House, the Government side will be taking more time on this.

Mr. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  I want to put Deputy Roche right on that. If he insists on the normal run of the House we will not be getting this Bill tonight. The basis on which the Opposition parties agreed to take this debate was that the time that was available would be for the Opposition benches.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  According to the order made in the House this morning, I must call the Minister at 6.30 p.m.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I was just asking if the speaker would consider that there are others.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That would be a matter between the speakers.

Mr. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  Deputy De Rossa's point is well made, and I will do that. My concern is that the problem of youth unemployment would be somehow reduced in priority and the special attention it has received would be wiped out. That would be a most unhappy position because the decision to identify the young unemployed as a special priority group was made for a good reason. It recognised that in pursuing whatever job opportunities are available the young unemployed are disadvantaged simply by reason of their lack of experience. The social consequences of failing to address that target are unthinkable. Therefore, when the Minister replies this evening I hope he will be able to give assurances to that group.

A side issue to that which is causing some anxiety is that if the youth interests on the board of the new agency are reduced in their representation on the YEA that may represent a sign of the times. I hope the Minister can give some assurance on that. If not we will be tabling amendments overnight.

Conscious of the time, I will make just [2728] one further comment on the position of CERT. While I said I am happy that the Minister is to allow them to maintain their identity, the question arises as to how they will relate to the new Authority and what sort of structures will be put in place to ensure that the two work hand in hand. It is important that this new agency should work closely with the world of education and there is some concern that, even in their formative status, they have not been going out of their way to make contact with the education world. I know there is a limit to what they can do until this is put through the House, but a deal of work has been done in anticipation of the House's decision. One would like to think there will be maximum contact with the education world so that the work that will be done by this agency can be co-ordinated with what is happening in the RTCs, the NIHE and the vocational sector in particular.

In deference to Deputy De Rossa I will not go further. The measure must be welcomed on the basis of a widespread view that we must move towards some merger of existing agencies, but really we have to suspend judgment to some extent until we see how it operates in practice. The Minister can give us some reassurance by indicating how he sees the agency operating on the ground in the regions and what structures he sees them taking to themselves once they get up and going.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  The PDs object very strongly to the truncating of this debate. I realise that it has been arranged between the Whips of the Government party and Fine Gael, and we take grave exception to it. I remind Deputy Birmingham that the choice was not between taking a truncated version of the debate and no debate. The Government and Fine Gael Whips agreed this on the basis that the House would not sit in July.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy, I must ask you to speak on the Bill.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  I intend to.

[2729]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That was decided this morning.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  It is very important because we have a number of speakers with whom I sympathise because they may not get in on this debate on the Labour Services Bill and I am referring to the truncated version of this debate. Also I draw attention to Committee Stage for which we are being allowed one and a half hours tomorrow. I find that indefensible.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That does not arise. I would like you to speak on the Bill.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  The Progressive Democrats in their policy discussion papers for the first national conference last year proposed the amalgamation of the State training agencies into a single service. We felt that the existing agencies had outlived their original usefulness in their existing form.

As I stated in my speech on the Estimates for this Department recently, I would welcome a move to amalgamate the various agencies as being a step in the right direction, but I believe that it must go much further. With a net Exchequer cost of £57 million in 1986 the role and function of AnCO as one of the three proposed agencies being amalgamated should be urgently and radically reviewed. Their role in the provision of apprenticeship courses is a much needed one. However, these courses all need to be properly structured and to provide the trainees with recognised trades and crafts. There is no point in having six months courses which are intended to look like apprenticeship courses, for example blocklaying, when any tradesman or craftsman will tell you that after six months apprenticeship normally the trainee is still at the stage of carrying the tools.

The same problems arise concerning the National Manpower Service. I regret to say that this service is now in a position where neither employers nor employees have confidence in them. They have not [2730] been successful in placing a significant number of people in employment, which they were initially intended to do on a widespread national basis. They have now been transformed into an agency who promote and administer temporary employment schemes, together with AnCO and the Youth Employment Agency. The latter agency have played a nebulous role, weaving in and out of the other agencies and schemes. They are, after all, called the Youth Employment Agency. Where is the emphasis on the word “employment” to be seen in their activities? How could they be said to be different from the activities of the other agencies. It can be seen, therefore, that all three agencies have overlapping responsibilities and, as a direct result, inefficient and unnecessary administrative expenditure.

Nothing in this Bill conveys the impression that the Government will deal with the problem of unemployment. What we have here is a Bill to shift adminmistrative responsibililty from three organisations to one. In effect, however, it is merely leaving all three in place and adding a further layer of administration and bureaucracy. There is no proposal to reduce the size or the cost of the staff or property of these bodies. On the contrary, significant portions of this Bill are devoted to cast iron protections ensuring the transfer and preservation of all features of the existing bodies. There is also provision for the expansion and development of the functions of the existing bodies under the new umbrella.

We must first look at the fundamental philosophy underlying the area of industrial training and temporary employment schemes. Surely it is essential that we have regard to job creation and educational policy in conjunction with training and employment schemes? If there is not close co-operation between the bodies responsible in these different areas much public funds will be wasted and opportunities lost to effectively plan for the future. There should be strong links between the IDA, the new FÁS and [2731] also with vocational education committees throughout the country. It seems most unfortunate that we are experiencing at present a change in emphasis in vocational education, which should surely be seen to work in tandem with the training authorities. The news that the second level curriculum review committee's work is to be held up is also a blow to co-ordinated planning in this area, so is the news of the cessation of the career guidance section of the Department of Labour.

We have been hoping for many years that the curriculum for second level education will reflect what is there in reality, differing aptitudes as between children who are, on the one hand, academically inclined, and on the other, inclined towards practical skills. We have, however, reached the stage where even to register on many AnCO courses the level of formal education required is such that those who are orientated towards practical skills often find themselves excluded from these training courses. While as high a standard of education in a formal sense is to be desired we should be providing a realistic option for those who are not academically inclined, and not force them into the unemployed masses by our unrealistic attitude.

I am worried that the whole thrust of this Bill and of the White Paper on Manpower Policy do not concern themselves with the realistic world of work and job creation. After all, what can employment mean except that it refers to real jobs? The problems we have experienced up to now with the various agencies are not being fundamentally attacked in this Bill. They relate to a lack of co-ordination between the agencies themselves and, as I have mentioned, between them and the job creation agencies. We must question whether the fact that the European Social Fund has presented us with an opportunity to use extra moneys that would not have been available to us otherwise has made us forget the real planning involved. That fund and the youth employment levy provided the State with a great amount of resources [2732] which I would submit have been spent in a haphazard and ad hoc way.

What we have lacked up to now is a proper and coherent review of the Manpower and training areas authorising a policy to be followed when spending these funds. The whole notion of a special levy for youth employment or, as it is now to be known, the training and employment levy, is a complete misnomer. It is not only another tax on income. It is a tax which takes no account of allowances of degrees of liability, being levied on gross income.

We would abolish the levy and, in the process, dismantle the whole training and employment schemes edifice, replacing it with fully-thought-out and effective programmes for job creation and proper training.

For instance, the whole issue of the numbers of unemployed in various areas of the country and the way in which we tackle these individually should be re-examined. There are undoubtedly crisis areas to which priority should be given in the allocation of funds from this new agency. We know the east is the hardest hit in unemployment terms but we should also know from the figures supplied by the Central Statistics Office every month that there are real black spots represented in those figures, such as Dublin itself with 72,000 plus people unemployed and areas like Dundalk which has an unemployment rate approaching 32 per cent. Surely there is a real need to concentrate on these priority areas and avoid dotting resources all around the country? There should be a realistic attempt made to solve the problems in a particular area and then move on to an area of lesser priority. It is in the nature of any of these agencies that are set up that they will wish to see themselves operating nationally and the impetus will be to spread throughout the country. We must ask ourselves the question whether this is the most effective use of our available resources.

The Minister when in Opposition spoke about the dual purposes of the former Bill as being that of amalgamating the administrative structures and of [2733] improving efficiency and effecting economies. This Bill will not have the effect of reducing administration or effecting economies. Indeed there is built in it that the existing structures of the agencies are to be fully protected, adding one further administrative layer. There is no evidence that the sense of amalgamation will spread throughout the three existing agencies. There is no structure, as shown in this Bill, to effect an amalgamation right down the line. It would appear to be occurring simply at the top level. I notice that the Minister, when in Opposition, in November last referred to a lack of structure set out in the Bill and expressed himself as being very worried that the task of amalgamation would not be effected. I would echo those worries and put them to the Minister now when he is in a position to do something about them.

The co-operation that has taken place between the agencies heretofore has been on an ad hoc basis and depended greatly on the particular personnel on the ground. It is absolutely essential that we simplify the whole procedure of registering either for employment or training schemes. The red tape will have to be cut through.

Young people are particularly cynical about transparent attempts to fob them off with unreal placements and jobs. They also become extremely frustrated when they have to register with a number of bodies, one after another, when they can see the waste and inefficiency involved in this process. This Bill makes no provision for the reduction in the number of these applications and interviews. I am very disappointed at the Bill the Minister has introduced, particularly in the light of the speech he made on Second Stage of the last Bill and would ask him to address this matter when he replies to the debate.

On the matter of the exclusion of CERT from this Bill, I have no strong opinion personally one way or another as to whether CERT should be included. I can understand the rationale behind allowing a body that has been successful at its work to continue to work as before. [2734] I would accept there is not the same case for the amalgamation of CERT as there is with the other three agencies.

I would like to refer to another aspect of the Minister's contribution to the debate in November last. It is on a subject with which I can agree with him. He spoke of the enormous reduction in numbers entering apprenticeships and the lack of skilled tradespeople and crafts-people. I would agree with him that there are many half-baked apprentices around the country who have been on “on-the-job training” with AnCO but who were unable to finish their training in other employment. There are also many thousands of building workers and others who would be in a position to take on apprentices who are, unfortunately, due to the recession in the building industry unemployed and have been for some time.

Why could we not divert some of the resources available to FÁS under the auspices of the present AnCO Authority to taking some of these tradespeople off the unemployed lists and allocating groups of young people also from the unemployed lists to them for training? It would have the advantage of making use of the skills and experience of many of these men and women. It would also enable young people of 16 or 17 years to receive proper training for trades or crafts which would stand to them in the future. Many of these young people will emigrate, but we should provide them with as much training as possible, before they leave, so that they can make something of their lives wherever they go. By employing this mechanism we are also preparing a body of skilled workers who will be there ready and willing to take up work if the economy picks up in the next few years.

If young people are left to rot on the dole queues for the first few years and more of their working lives, they may never find it possible to enter the working population. All sorts of other social problems are being stored up by allowing this to happen. Surely the net cost of providing such training for great numbers of our young people who would be interested in this would be quite small. It is an example of the radical rethink that [2735] I feel must occur when we are faced with the choice of continuing present training schemes and investigating new approaches. There are a few particular points which I would like to bring to the Minister's attention during Second Stage and ask him to reply to them.

Under section 4 (1) (f), An Foras are given the power to facilitate and assist community groups and co-operatives in the provision of employment by establishing or enlarging enterprises of any kind. I am concerned at the looseness of the drafting of this subsection and can foresee difficulties arising where the phrase of any kind is concerned. Perhaps it would be more appropriate if the Bill indicated the kinds of enterprises which it foresees assisting, as a general indication, while not excluding others.

Also under section 4 (1) (h), An Foras are to collect and publish data and information on services or activities, including statistics and forecasts in relation to their services or activities, and such other matters respecting their functions as the Minister may specify. Surely it would be more efficient if the Central Statistics Office could take on as much of the gathering of statistics as is possible. To duplicate the functions of both bodies seems unnecessary.

Under section 6 (5), I note that the Minister retains the power to remove the first director general from office. I cannot understand why he should retain this power as An Foras will be in place at that stage and in the Bill they hold the power to remove any subsequent director general from office. In fact I am not certain that the Minister should have the power to appoint the director general. Should it not be that an independent commission would make this appointment and remove it completely from the political arena, whether or not that label is deserved?

Lastly, I note that under section 12 (2) the Minister has control over the form in which the annual reports shall be presented. Some balance has to be achieved in who should decide what is to be presented in an annual report. However, [2736] I think it is not a healthy sign that the Minister alone has control over this and I ask the Minister for his thoughts on this.

In conclusion, the Progressive Democrats will oppose this Bill. They feel it is not achieving the ends which we would wish it to achieve. The amalgamation of the agencies under another banner is not enough. We need a far more radical rethink on training, on employment schemes and on manpower and labour services generally and this is not the Bill to do so.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Toddy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Toddy O'Sullivan  Like other speakers, I wish to express my reservations about the time given to this debate. Nonetheless, I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. As has been mentioned already by Deputy Birmingham, this Bill reflects largely the thinking of Deputy Quinn. It can be said that Deputy Birmingham, as Minister of State at the Department of Labour in the last Administration made an input to the Bill. For this reason, I am sorry that the Bill has been retitled but that is only a small change. To some degree the Bill has been changed in the area that refers to CERT.

The National Employment and Training Authority Bill, 1986, followed rapidly on the publication of the White Paper on Manpower Policy which was published in September 1986. This paper was the most detailed study of manpower policy in Ireland since 1965 and it provided a comprehensive look at the problems, the changes, the prospects and indeed the general profile of the features of the Irish workforce in the eighties. In addition, it attempted to project the workforce needs into the nineties, providing a breakdown of the population in terms of age and skills.

The Bill introduced by Deputy Quinn addressed the features which were outlined in the White Paper and attempted to meet the changing needs of the workforce. The main purpose of the Bill was to integrate the main manpower agencies into one joint manpower agency, which Deputy Quinn felt would meet, in a realistic way, the growing problem of unemployment in Ireland. Equally [2737] important, the new agency would make the most efficient and economic use of funding, both regional and local, which would be provided to the agency rather than dispersing it between a number of bodies. Such dispersal had been found to cause duplication and, of course, waste. Waste in this economic climate is simply not acceptable.

Regrettably, the Bill presented by Deputy Quinn, as Minister for Labour, lapsed with the fall of the last Government and so we have the Labour Services Bill before us this evening. I must admit that I have no quarrel with the majority of sections in this Bill, because it reflects the work of the previous Administration, and I will vote for the Bill, but regrettably there are serious changes which this Administration have chosen to introduce and I must express my concern about them.

At the outset, I must express disappointment that a large agency such as CERT, were able to exert muscle on the Minister and cause a big change in the original Bill. The new Bill proposes to exclude this agency from the general integrated plan recommended in the White Paper on Manpower Policy and presented in the National Employment and Training Authority Bill, 1986. This exclusion makes nonsense of an overall plan for manpower training and education because, so long as one manpower training agency remains outside, the resources must be duplicated, that is, the training centres, teachers, instructors, equipment and budgetary planning.

On reading through the Second Stage debate on the National Employment and Training Authority Bill I note that the present Minister for Labour, the then spokesperson for the Opposition in this area, spoke about the successes of CERT which I agree with. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the staff concerned. But, at the time Deputy Ahern spoke about these successes and the 100 per cent job placement success rate which he presented as an argument for leaving CERT as a limited company. This line of thought would seem to suggest that the other agencies, AnCO, the [2738] National Manpower Service, and the YEA, who are somewhat less successful, need to be integrated because of their lack of success, while CERT would be left to forge ahead.

This is a line of thought which was also put forward by Deputy Colley and which I do not agree with. I recognise the good job being done by CERT but it can be said that CERT recruited and tailormade the requirements to the needs of the tourist industry. Therefore, unlike the other agencies which had to take on people who had in many cases very little chance of placement, CERT took on precisely the amount they thought would be absorbed into that industry. It was very easy to come back with a 100 per cent performance. We are not comparing like with like. With all due respect to Deputy Colley, that was not a very fair analogy to make with the other agencies which had an extremely difficult task.

I should like to make one important point about this view. The entire philosophy behind the integration of the agencies was to eliminate some of the confusion in the minds of the public as to who does what. At present manpower services are provided by four agencies. The existence of four bodies makes it more difficult to establish clear priorities between various programmes and place these activities within a comprehensive economic and social framework. The increasing rate of change demands quick decisions and points to the need for a single body rather than a four pronged response.

With integration the agencies will be in a better position to help one another, but more important, to help those who are most in need of their services and together present a number of lucrative choices to our young people and our unemployed.

Another point which I should like to make and which I feel is very important is that all these agencies are funded largely by public finances. They must be seen to be under the watchful eye of the Minister concerned and not dictating to the Minister. They should be answerable and accountable to him in their use of [2739] funds, their performance and in their placement and education services.

I again draw Deputies' attention to the White Paper on Manpower Policy with regard to funding for the various agencies. I have a number of figures but there is one about which I am concerned. The tourist industry provided only £121,058 and it can be said they got real value for money whereas the same cannot be said for other industries and this created an imbalance.

I wish to refer to the Minister's remarks in regard to the growth in the tourism sector as compared with the growth in other areas. In recent times much emphasis has been put on the service industries as an area of potential growth. It must be realised that there is a limit to this growth. We must at all times bear in mind the magnitude of the unemployment problem and try to quantify how many people can be absorbed in the services sector. In my view we are close to reaching the limit in that regard.

In the course of his speech the Minister referred to the number of small industries in the United States but there is evidence that the bubble is about to burst there. We should not look too long in that direction. It is true that for many years the economy in the US was growing and jobs were being created but there is frightening evidence which I read in recent reports that there will be a serious problem in the near future.

I welcome the decision to abolish the upper age limit. Up to now we discriminated against people when they passed the age of 25 years. The Minister should consider the plight of those who are 50-plus who are finding it extremely difficult to secure employment. There is a need for greater cohesion between Government Departments to ensure that people do not lose out on pension rights when they are over a certain age. There should be continuity in regard to pensions. The manpower agency and the Department of Social Welfare should introduce a scheme permitting people to transfer their pension rights from one job to another.

[2740] People fail to admit that the root cause of the unemployment problem is the system under which we operate. I may be accused of making an ideological point but it is important to keep in mind that 250,000 people are unemployed. Time and again the press bombard us with statements to the effect that the climate is not right for investment. What is meant by that statement? In my view it means that people are investing abroad to get 1 per cent or 2 per cent extra in interest. When we reach that stage the system becomes immoral. It is wrong that people are prepared to export their capital to make a greater profit at the expense of increasing the numbers on the dole queue. Until there is recognition of that there will not be any great change. I accept that I represent a minority view here but if we do not recognise that fact now we will have to pay the price in years to come. If people continue to send their money abroad to a more lucrative market to earn greater interest we will end up with trouble on our streets.

In the course of his speech the Minister referred to the fact that work was available in EC countries. Are we trying to provide a safety valve through emigration? We see evidence daily near Leinster House of the number of people anxious to leave the country in the form of lengthy queues outside the Passport Office. We must recognise that most of those people are preparing for lengthy though not leisurely stays abroad. Once again we are treated to buzz words such as skill obsolescence, demotivation and personal demoralisation but they do not mean anything to me because I am concerned about the fact that more than 250,000 people are unemployed.

There is a recognition in the Minister's speech that future development depends on producing more goods. The emphasis must be on production and our manpower agencies should ensure, now that they have the services sector and the tourist industry separated from them, that there is greater production. If we do not put greater emphasis on that we will find [2741] ourselves in serious trouble. I will concede the remainder of my time to Deputy De Rossa.

Acting Chairman (Mr. M. Barrett): Information on Michael Barrett  Zoom on Michael Barrett  I am calling Deputy Mary Mooney.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I understood that the time up to 6.30 p.m. was to be available to the Opposition.

Acting Chairman:  I am advised that I must now call on a Government speaker.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Toddy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Toddy O'Sullivan  On a point of order, I was prepared to give Deputy De Rossa some of my time.

Acting Chairman:  The Deputy has concluded his contribution.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Toddy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Toddy O'Sullivan  The agreement was that the Opposition would have until 6.30 p.m. and I am prepared to give Deputy De Rossa the remainder of my time.

Acting Chairman:  I am advised that there is no such agreement and I am calling on Deputy Mooney.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Toddy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Toddy O'Sullivan  As a Member of the Opposition I am entitled to give some of my time to Deputy De Rossa.

Miss Mooney: Information on Mary Mooney  Zoom on Mary Mooney  I am willing to give Deputy De Rossa that time.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  This should be recorded as being a little unfortunate because Deputy Mooney has waited for one hour to make her maiden speech. It should be recognised that it is her maiden contribution.

Acting Chairman:  The Minister will allow her some of his time.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I have no wish to interfere with Deputy Mooney's maiden contribution and I thank her for giving me an opportunity to contribute to the debate. For anybody to believe that any rationalisation or reorganisation of our training services is in any way significantly going to dent the unemployment figures [2742] is wrong and to oppose the Bill on that basis is a mistake. While I have some criticisms of some of the provisions in the Bill generally speaking I welcome it. I welcome the exclusion of CERT. Deputy Mac Giolla on Second Stage of the original Bill made our position clear in regard to that.

In my view the unemployment figures in real terms are closer to 400,000 than to the official figure of 230,000 because one must take into account those who are on different types of training schemes. A number of matters concern me about the Bill. The Youth Employment Agency are being absorbed into this new structure. The levy which pays for this new structure was sold by and large to the PAYE sector on the basis that it was a youth employment levy. Some weeks ago the Minister, in response to a question, told me that of the £400 million collected only 24 per cent was spent on job creation. I understand that 17,000 jobs were assisted by the levy but there is no indication of how many of those jobs still exist. I hope the Minister has information in regard to that tonight. I understand an assessment of £56 million on the self employed and farmers has not been collected and that the Revenue Commissioners have stated they do not expect to collect more than £10 million of that figure. However, that amount should be collected. I have no doubt that there are many self employed people and farmers who are availing of the services of AnCO, CERT and the YEA.

The Minister said he intends to safeguard the interests of staff and I hope he will outline the steps he proposes to take to protect the interests of staff who will be transferred from existing agencies to An Foras. I am sure the Minister is aware that this is causing great concern. The relationship between the new body and the VECs is important. Will the VECs be represented on the new Authority? I understand that one board member will represent educational interests and I should like to know if that person will be from the VECs. I note that there is no reference in the Bill to youth employment or youth training. In my view there [2743] should be a specific reference in the legislation to the question of training and employment of youth. The Minister will be aware that 30 per cent of those on the Live Register are under 25 years of age and that 21,000, or 80 per cent, have been on the Live Register for one year or more. That is one reason there is a need to refer to youth employment in the Bill and increase the number of youth representatives on the new Authority.

The National Development Corportion were set up to develop industry and to provide employment. What role will they have in relation to the new body? Will there be co-ordination and, if so, what form will it take? It is essential that there be some connection between the two. Clearly, in a rapidly changing world, training and retraining will be necessary and the creation of employment in endemic industry is the key to the entire problem.

Acting Chairman:  I understand the Minister wishes to share some of his time.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I should like to give five minutes to Deputy Mooney and I understand Deputy Hussey requires some time.

Acting Chairman:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Miss Mooney: Information on Mary Mooney  Zoom on Mary Mooney  There is no doubt that the current level of unemployment in Ireland is unacceptably high and the scale of the problem which we are facing is, indeed horrifying. At the moment there are more than 246,000 people registered as unemployed, almost 19 per cent of the entire labour force. Over the last five years alone, 100,000 people have joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Certain groups within the labour market, however, suffer particular difficulties. A very disturbing feature of the unemployment statistics is the increase in long-term unemployment. The latest figures show that more than 100,000 [2744] people, or 45 per cent of all those registered as unemployed, have been without work for more than one year.

The effects of long term unemployment are particularly severe for those over 25 years of age. In fact 52 per cent of all those over 25 who are unemployed have been without work for more than 12 months compared to 30 per cent among those under 25.

Unemployment affects far more than just the persons who are unemployed. One-third of those on unemployment assistance and one-quarter of those on unemployment benefit have at least one adult and two child dependants. The highest concentrations of unemployment are found in areas which are deprived in many other ways. These factors compound the trauma of unemployment. The hardship caused by unemployment are brought home to me day in, day out in my dealings with constituents. Households who in better times would have had most of their family earning have now three, four or even five members unemployed.

Although the growth in unemployment appears to have stabilised for the moment all indications are a continuing difficult employment situation accompanied by major structural changes with consequential effects for the labour market.

One of the objectives of manpower policy must be investment in the workplace, in the education skills and technical competence of workers to enable them to cope with, and to capitalise on, new technologies. The primary responsibility for such skill-investment rests with employers because they know what skills they have and what skills they need for new products and new processes.

The State also has a responsibility to those entering the labour force for the first time and to the unemployed. It has a particular responsibility for those at the end of the jobs queue — the long term unemployed, young people with no eductional qualifications or marketable skills; the low achievers and drop-outs from school; the socially deprived and disadvantaged and the disabled and the handicapped.

The Government are doing their best [2745] to help those people but its resources are limited due to the Exchequer situation. It is important, therefore, that all those involved, particularly both sides of industry, work closely together to minimise the hardship and stress of those affected by unemployment, by co-operating with the State in sponsoring schemes and projects which offer worthwhile work experience and training. Otherwise many of those on the live register will be condemned to a state of enforced idleness with all its attendant evils of despondency, depression and despair. We cannot, and must not, allow that to happen. This is why I welcome and support the Government's Jobsearch programme which offers a life line to those who could otherwise feel abandoned and rejected.

The direction and pace of change are becoming harder to predict; it is difficult to anticipate what knowledge and skills will be in demand two or three years from now. Workers and managers will have to learn to be more adaptable, more mobile and capable of responding more quickly to market changes. Otherwise business and jobs will disappear.

An Foras will have a major role to play in bringing about changes of attitudes and practices in the work place. Whether we like it or not, the trend is towards the versatile generalist instead of the traditional specialist. An Foras will have to act as a catalyst for change if industry is to survive. There is something terribly wrong if goods such as shoes, clothes and even agricultural produce, can be produced cheaper in Britain and on the Continent and can be sold here at lower prices than home produced goods. We must become more competitive both on the home market and overseas if we are to sell our products and expand our markets; the alternative is so frightening that we really do not have a choice.

Over the years the manpower agencies have played a significant role in the general economic development of the country. The Irish labour force is now better educated, trained and more productive than ever before. However, with the rise in unemployment, the role of manpower [2746] policy, and the agencies established to implement it, have increasingly focused on the needs of the unemployed. A significant range of specific measures have been introduced in an effort to contain the unemployment situation and to assist the less advantaged.

For some time however, there has tended to be a certain amount of confusion in the public's mind as to which manpower agency is responsible for what. CERT, who have a clear role in the hotel and catering industry, would be excluded from this criticism. In this context, therefore, it is essential that our scarce resources are developed and utilised to the maximum possible extent. There is general consensus that the various manpower services provided by the Department and their agencies could best be delivered in the context of a single integrated manpower body.

The establishment of An Foras Áiseanna Saothair, which constitutes the major part of the Bill before us, will, I am convinced, lead to economies of scale and better integration.

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  I wish to thank the Minister for having given me five minutes. I was very glad to have been in the House to hear Deputy Mooney. I should like to congratulate her on her speech. I have only a few words to say on the Bill and I hope the Minister will forgive me if I begin with a criticism of the name, which I regard as peculiar. I join with Deputy Birmingham in saying that I would have preferred a neater name. “An Foras” reminds me of “Fiche Bliain ag Fás” or An Bord Glas — it is all very strange.

However, one does not bring down a Bill for that reason. I have long felt, and I should like the Minister to put this into his think tank, that the whole matter of the employment function, the employment support section of the Department of Social Welfare should be amalgamated with all the other agencies dealing with placement of the unemployed. That should be seriously considered. I speak as a former Minister for Labour, albeit for a very short time.

Close liaison and co-operation were [2747] developed between the Department of Education and AnCO during my term of office as Minister for Education. There was much discussion at that time about overlapping between the Department of Education and AnCO, but when Deputy Birmingham was appointed to investigate the matter he cleared up a great deal of the problems and enhanced AnCO's role in bridging the gap between the education sector and the modern workplace. The decision then to have a Minister of State with responsibility for both sectors proved most beneficial and a much happier and more fruitful relationship between Education and Labour ensured.

I am not happy about the representation from the education sector on the new board. I understand that we will be submitting an amendment to have the educational representation on the board increased. Education has a great deal to do with training of our young workforce.

I regret very much the passing of the name “AnCO”. AnCO have been the beacon of hope for many young people and their parents over the years. They have equipped hundreds of thousands of young people for very good employment, mostly at home but sometimes abroad, and the training is considered to be of the highest international standard.

The IDA have boasted they can sell this country to investing companies because we have a first-class, well educated workforce. I believe the excellence of AnCo's training service was part of that selling exercise. A constant flow of Ministers for Labour from EC and other countries visited AnCO which had acquired a very strong reputation abroad. A body which holds AnCO in very high esteem is the Manpower Services Commission in the United Kingdom which referred many people to AnCO so that they could see training at its best.

The AnCO advisory service have carried out training assignments across the world, and have won valuable contracts in the face of multinational competition as the Minister mentioned earlier. As a former Minister for Education I am [2748] aware of the achievement of AnCO apprentices in international competitions.

AnCO have sometimes caused controversy. They have sometimes been misunderstood. They sold themselves so well that some Irish people begrudged them their success, as they do when people blow their own trumpets. However, we owe a great debt of gratitude to AnCO and so do industry. They have been prepared to pay for the service which AnCO provided. They realised it was an essential part in their fight for survival in a difficult world.

AnCO also became involved in the management area and played a very important role. The Minister is on record in Opposition, and I am sure in Government although I do not recall it recently, as saying that we tend to blame the trade unions for work problems. In my view, not half enough attention has been paid to the role of management and improvement in management to avoid the kind of problems we have seen.

I want to put on record my thanks to the AnCO staff for their innovation, dedication and excellence over the past 20 years. I hope the three bodies coming together will be able to fulfil their mandate more efficiently and satisfactorily. In conclusion, I ask the Minister to consider the employment function as well as the unemployment support function of the Department of Social Welfare in any future rationalisation of our public services.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Chair notes with pleasure the sense of understanding of the House, especially of the Minister whom I now call.

Minister for Labour (Mr. B. Ahern): Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  May I thank Deputies for their contributions. I regret their contributions were not as long as they might have wished and that some Deputies were unable to contribute. I know a number of my colleagues wished to contribute but because of the time constraint, did not do so.

I accept without reservation the point [2749] made by Deputy Birmingham and we will have a debate on the White Paper on Manpower in the autumn. I will go through the points raised by the Deputies but if I do not mention them all I give an undertaking they will all be seriously looked at in the Department. I am sure Deputies realise why we must get this legislation passed. We have been talking about amending the Manpower policy for a number of years. We must take into account the morale of the staff — that is the point Deputy Hussey made. Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned CERT. I want to put on record our appreciation of all the organisations concerned. As I said on a number of occasions, they were set up under different circumstances to do different jobs but times change and it is necessary for the legislation as well as the ground rules to change. The introduction of this legislation is not meant to take from the very good work done by middle and senior management as well as the employees in all those agencies. This legislation is not a reflection on the contributions these organisations have made over the years. We must look at reality and see how conditions have changed. We must look at the difficult circumstances in which the Manpower agencies now find themselves because of our high unemployment.

A number of people this evening reminded me of what I said in Opposition. One of the points I made over and over again was that it was not the job of the Manpower agencies to change the unemployment position. At almost every Question Time Miniters quoted this to me when I was in Opposition but I repeat again this is an economic measure based on the performance of the economy and the agencies are under pressure to provide courses and employment schemes for the large number unemployed. This is a challenging task for them. Again, may I thank Deputy Birmingham and other Deputies for their understanding in giving us this Bill.

I was asked the timescale for the establishment of the agency. As I said already, I propose to appoint 1 January 1988 as the establishment day. This will allow [2750] sufficient time to implement the organisational arrangements involving discussions with staff interest. Deputies will appreciate that considerable discussions will have to take place because there are 3,000 staff members involved. Secondly, there is the matter of the appointment of the Director General, an extremely important post. Deputies asked if the name of the appointee had been decided; it has not. Thirdly, the appointment of the board has been extended until the end of the year. Fourthly, there is the matter of the development of policy guidelines for FAS. In addition, from an accounting point of view 1 January would be the most suitable date as it is the beginning of the financial year of all the bodies concerned. This would eliminate the administrative burden of producing and maintaining different accounts for the bodies concerned if the change-over were to take place during the financial year.

The estimates and programmes for 1988 will have to be agreed. As I mentioned, staff discussions will have to take place and items such as personnel and accounts, bringing the computer programmes together and negotiations regarding the Social Fund are matters which will have to be looked at.

Deputy Birmingham asked me about the major tasks. There are employment schemes, the ISDS, community enterprise, temporary employment schemes, transition from school to working life, the position for low achievers, which Deputy Colley asked me to look at in conjunction with the Jobsearch programme the long term unemployed, other groups with specific problems and the whole area of training.

I stated many times, in Opposition and in Government, that it is no use concentrating on those at the top in regional structures. As Deputy Birmingham said, the CEs have expertise in particular areas and their skills must be taken into account in relation to the formal structure of these organisations. This will be the case as employment schemes will be taken into account on the one hand and training schemes on the other. The administrative [2751] area will also be involved in bringing together the research and organisation of personnel functions. I do not think there will be a problem in that regard but the details must be worked out with the chief executives involved and I hope to spend much of the summer having more discussions to put a proper organisational structure in place.

Deputy Colley asked why CERT was omitted from the new body. I was advised that as it is a framework Bill in which the new body can be established, it would not be appropriate to enshrine in legislation details of organisational structures while they are being discussed because they are better dealt with on an administrative basis which would allow for greater flexibility afterwards, which is a valid point. As a number of Deputies said, these organisations have been extremely flexible, particularly AnCO and Jobsearch, and they could, in conjunction with the National Manpower Service, get the organisation off the ground. Also in relation to CERT, Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned the tourist industry and that it had a great potential for growth. CERT are an extremely successful organisation — I had a different view of them formerly — but they have now proved that they are capable of undertaking the job. It has been argued that their contribution to tourism was not up to the mark but we have reached an agreement that the figure for 1988 will be £500,000 and that a further increase in funding can be best achieved through the continuation of CERT and their close identification with the industry. The motivation and morale at present in CERT would not last if they were amalgamated with another body.

Deputy Birmingham asked about the intention to ensure value for money in regard to FÁS, particularly in regard to regionalisation. This should be left to the IDA instead of having further regionalisation structures. However, I have not made a final decision on the matter. We should also take account of existing structures in education and industrial and social welfare. Redeployment will be based on value for money. [2752] Deputy Colley also referred to economies of scale. We need a better service with some expansion of programmes, for example, the recent expansion of the SES which attempted to motivate the unemployed through face to face contact. We must also consider economies of scale in redeployment and training and more employment schemes. That does not mean a downgrading of AnCO who have done very useful work which it will be necessary to continue, especially for those who have not reached very high educational standards.

Youth unemployment will receive priority within FAS and I intend to give a direction in that regard. However, the abolition of the age limit will provide greater flexibility in the allocation of funds. Of course, I take Deputy Birmingham's point that the position must be continually monitored. Youth unemployment will benefit to a greater extent than others if there is an upswing in the economy. It is proposed to have a part time chairman which is a more suitable arrangement.

Deputy Colley said that FAS will not solve unemployment. However, they can help through schemes like the ISDS and by putting major emphasis on community enterprise and local initiatives which will not overlap the IDA schemes. Labour market information is based on the administration of the schemes and local knowledge. I accept that we need to look at all the training programmes and I gave such an undertaking recently.

Deputy Birmingham requested a debate on the White Paper on manpower to which I agreed. Such a debate could highlight the contents of the annual report and I am open to suggestions in that regard. Indeed, the annual report for Labour is out quicker than any other departmental report and the Ministers involved should be congratulated.

The Bill does not encourage emigration, it merely enables FÁS to provide a service consistent with our EC obligations and it will help people who wish to go abroad. We must respond to realities and try to advise people who must emigrate. I also accept the need to look [2753] at all the opportunities for employment and policies in regard to tourism. In reply to Deputy De Rossa, FÁS will deal with all organisational arrangements involving discussions with staff interests and they will adopt a flexible approach and target resources at various groups in need. We will also, of course, liaise with other development bodies. Staff consultations and insurance is a sensitive area and later on we will follow through the whole organisational structure. I have had informal discussions over the last number of days in the Department and with the staff representatives today.

Deputies will see from the contents of sections 7 and 8 of the Bill that I am seeking to secure the assurances for staff transferring to An Foras as proposed in the previous Bill and as adopted in the Postal and Telecommunications Act, 1983, to cover the staff of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs transferring to An Post and Bord Telecom Éireann. The provisions enacted in 1983 were the subject of extensive consultations with the staff over a prolonged period of some four years or so. The timescale available to me and determined by reference to the need for urgent action on integrating manpower services will not allow me the luxury of protracted consultations. In taking on board these provisions as agreed with staff interests as recently as 1983 I have signalled to the staff of AnCO, the Youth Employment Agency and the National Manpower Service that I am sensitive to their concerns but I wish to give them the assurances on tenure of office, pay and conditions of service and superannuation arrangements won by their colleagues in An Post and Bord Telecom.

The distinction in the nature of service of the public servants and civil servants involved in the setting up of An Foras has required adaptation of the provisions of the 1983 Act which catered for the establishment of two separate bodies in the public sector. This Bill involves the amalgamation of existing bodies in the public service with a service of my [2754] Department in the Civil Service into a new body in the public service.

Section 7 contains comprehensive provisions designed to ensure the continuity of employment of all transferred staff, to guarantee that there will be no worsening of the pay and conditions of transferred staff and to ensure that transferred staff will have the same degree of security of tenure as they would have had they continued in their existing employment.

Section 8 gives comprehensive protection of the pension entitlements of transferred staff and makes the necessary legal provision to transfer existing pension funds.

The arrangements as set out in section 7 (4) are in two parts. First, the present employees of AnCO and YEA will become members of the staff of An Foras as from the establishment day. Secondly, I will have power to designate by name civil servants of my Department who will, on such designation, become members of the staff of An Foras. All these designations must occur before an appointed day which will mark the end of this transfer process. I have discussed these matters at length with the staff concerned and have offered to forward a letter to the individuals concerned explaining the basis, so that there will not be any confusion.

The Bill, where it allows for this period so that people can feel happy and settled, at the end of the day deals with an integrated organisation. For the three organisations concerned and with regard to the earlier discussions with the other agencies, that is understood. I have made myself available for any further consultations desired by any of the groups. The organisations are to consult with me after Second Stage on some important points of clarification.

Finally, I should like to say that this Bill is all my own work, but it is not. I should like to put on record not alone the work of the officials but in particular the excellent work done by previous Ministers for Labour, Deputy Quinn in particular, who pioneered most of the work, [2755] and Deputy Hussey who continued the work in her period of office. I should like to thank these Deputies for the work [2756] done, which made it easy for me to follow through.

Question put.

Abbott, Henry.
Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady, Vincent.
Brennan, Matthew.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John.
Byrne, Hugh.
Calleary, Seán.
Collins, Gerard.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Coughlan, Mary T.
Cowen, Brian.
Daly, Brendan.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Desmond, Barry.
de Valera, Síle.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fahey, Jackie.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Fitzpatrick, Dermott.
Flood, Chris.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hilliard, Colm Michael.
Hyland, Liam.
Jacob, Joe.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Lynch, Michael.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán.
McCreevy, Charlie.
MacSharry, Ray.
Mooney Mary.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West).
O'Dea, William Gerard.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Rourke, Mary.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Power, Paddy.
Roche, Dick.
Smith, Michael.
Spring, Dick.
Stafford, John.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G.V.

Clohessy, Peadar.
Colley, Anne.
Cullen, Martin.
Gibbons, Martin Patrick.
Harney, Mary.
Keating, Michael.
Kennedy, Geraldine.
McDowell, Michael.
Molloy, Robert.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
O'Malley, Pat.
Quill, Máirín.
Wyse, Pearse.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage of this Bill?

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Next Tuesday, subject to the agreement of the Whips.

[2757]Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  On a point of order, could we clarify when Committee Stage is going to be held because it is set down for 10.30 a.m. tomorrow and it does not appear to be on next week's Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  It is ordered for next Tuesday, subject to the agreement of the Whips.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  Could I have confirmation from the Taoiseach that the Progressive Democrats will be at the meeting that confirms this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will allow the business of the House to proceed.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  I am trying to establish what the order is.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I have already announced It.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  In order to facilitate the Progressive Democrats, and in order, if possible, to ensure that they do not walk out in a huff again, we will take this Bill tomorrow morning at 10.30 a.m.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is what you are doing all the time.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  I am not actually asking for it to be on tomorrow morning, because I do not wish to curtail debate on Committee Stage.

(Interruptions.)

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  I wish to have a very full debate on Committee Stage and, if it cannot be taken tomorrow, I am perfectly happy to have it taken next week, as long as our Whip is present at the meeting at which it is arranged.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I would like to [2758] be clear. Is it to be taken next Tuesday or tomorrow?

The Taoiseach: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  Tomorrow morning.

Miss Colley: Information on Anne Marie Colley  Zoom on Anne Marie Colley  Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Friday, 19 June 1987.


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