Tuesday, 4 February 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
3. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach if he will outline (a) the number of occasions on which the Task Force on Employment, established under the central review committee of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress have met so far; (b) the number of reports submitted by them and (c) the progress that has been made in the implementation of these reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Taoiseach: I propose taking Questions Nos. 2 and 3 together. The task force on employment which was established in June 1991, under the Central Review Committee of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, have met on 24 occasions and have submitted 11 reports to the Government. Their work is on-going. The combined views of employers, trade unions, Government Departments and State agencies provide a valuable input into initiatives to increase employment and reduce unemployment.
A number of specific recommendations made by the task force are already being implemented. The task force have been responsible for proposals which should take 25,000 persons off the live register over the next year.
They recommended, with the agreement of employers and trade unions, an in-company training scheme whereby persons on the live register would be trained in a business environment for one year and receive a certificate at the end of the training period.
Following discussions I had with President Delors, the European Social Fund will now provide special Social Fund assistance amounting to up to £60 million to support schemes on these lines. Under the in-company training scheme, the Social Fund will provide 75 per cent and the employers 25 per cent of the training allowance for up to 10,000 persons to be drawn from the live register and trained for 12 months.
Under the employment incentive scheme, employers will receive a weekly subsidy of £54 for 12 months in respect of new employees drawn from the live register, paid at the normal rate for the job and employed for at least 18 months.  This employment subsidy scheme will apply to up to 15,000 persons.
Recommendations by the task force on the need for additional places in third level public and private educational institutions are being implemented. It is estimated that there will be an additional 4,200 places by 1992-93 in public institutions. A number of private third level institutions have been accepted as designated institutions and have had certain courses approved for the purposes of the higher education grants scheme.
New possibilities for the production of parts and components for multinational companies are being pursued by the IDA and certain State commercial companies involving, inter alia, joint ventures with Irish companies and multinationals. A phased expansion of the European Orientation Programme and a review of the special trading houses scheme, so as to increase its potential, will assist the business sector to increase employment.
Task force recommendations to expedite the procedures in regard to planning applications and appeals have been taken into account in the Local Government (Planning and Develpment) Bill, 1991, and the Environmental Agency Bill, 1990, currently before the Dáil. In addition, the Department of the Environment have circulated all local authorities and An Bord Pleanála, requesting their compliance with the streamlined procedures recomnmended by the task force. Planning permissions for 11,000 houses were expedited in September 1991, at the initiative of the task force.
Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Taoiseach agree that we face a crisis of emergency proportions in regard to employment over the next eight to ten years in view of the fact that the numbers leaving school will exceed the numbers reaching retirement age, by approximately 25,000,  each year; that without emigration and no increase in employment that could entail a doubling of the present level of unemployment? If the Taoiseach does agree with those demographic projections, would he further agree that the individual recommendations of the task force, while all valuable in themselves, bear no relationship to the extent of the employment crisis we face at present?
The Taoiseach: I do not accept the Deputy's overall outline of the position he suggested will emerge. It is quite true that we have an underlying problem with regard to increasing our labour force annually which is unique in Europe. I will say merely that the Government have embarked on a series of initiatives, programmes of one kind or another, to cope with the position.
The encouraging thing is that in the scheme I have been talking about for the first time we have agreement from the Commission, as to the use of the European Social Fund, to help us in mitigating the levels of unemployment. Another major approach will be the basis of the Culliton report. That report sets out quite a number of areas to be looked at and the steps to be taken. The principal recommendation was that the implementation of that report should be undertaken by a task force chaired by the Taoiseach. We have accepted that recommendation. That task force is now being set up. I believe that that report is very practical, realistic and down to earth and, as a result of the implementation of its recommendations, the majority of which I believe the Government will accept, we can expect to make considerable inroads into the level of unemployment.
Proinsias De Rossa: Would the Taoiseach not agree that to a large extent the Culliton report and the task force reports generally represent what could be regarded as common sense with regard to resolving our unemployment problems but there seems to be obstacles at various levels to implementing the recommendations of these reports? Would he  agree that perhaps one way of trying to free up these obstacles would be to take up the proposal from the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed who are proposing a forum of the various agencies and people with responsibility for dealing with the problem? It would seem to make common sense for people to work together in trying to solve this problem of unemployment. In addition may I ask him — I do not think the Taoiseach referred to this in his reply — with regard to the original proposal of the task force which sought to replace the £1 billion of imported products and components what progress has been made in relation to that?
The Taoiseach: It is well under way because, as I said, the IDA are working with a number of commercial semi-State and private sector people to set about supplying that vast market for parts and components that exist to supply the multinationals. That is a central recommendation by the task force and one which is being followed up very vigorously. I have no particular belief in the idea of a forum. I do not think there is anything that can emerge from it that we do not already know. I do think at this stage we are already mobilising in different ways all the forces in our economy that can make a contribution. Briefly, I will go over them again. There are the 12 pilot areas in the long term unemployment black spots. That offers major possibilities because it does the sort of thing that Deputy De Rossa has been talking about, it brings together everybody in the region — trade unions, employers, social groups, Government  agencies — to combine their efforts to see what can be done to generate employment in these particular pilot areas. If they can come up with a successful formula then, of course, that will be extended to cover the whole country. Another encouraging feature in that regard is that the Commission has now recognised that as a very important instrument for tackling unemployment and are giving it full support. In fact — I am not sure if it is finally agreed — the Commission is almost certain to give us £8 million this year in support of those pilot areas. Then there is the Culliton report which, I believe, offers great prospects too and the task force will continue its work. I cannot see that there is much more energy or otherwise that anybody can contribute that is not being harnessed.
Mr. Barry: I am glad The Workers' Party have joined Fine Gael in recognising the benefits of a jobs forum; they are welcome on board. I am sorry the Taoiseach is not part of that band yet but now that he will have some time to reflect on his past mistakes perhaps he might reconsider the matter and influence some of his friends in the party. Will the Taoiseach explain the relationship between the task force which he set up last summer and the one which was set up last week by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to oversee the implementation of the Culliton report? It seems they will be doing almost the same task and that it would be better if the one task force did the work rather than having two task forces?
The Taoiseach: If I may say so, that is a good question and it is one which has been exercising our minds. They would appear to be working in the same area but there is a difference in their methods. What we will have to do is to arrange that they work in parallel and not in any sort of infusion. The new task force, chaired by the Taoiseach, will be a direct Government implementing body with direct access to Cabinet and all Government  Departments. Under it there will be a very high level group consisting of some people from the private sector and the Secretaries of the key Departments. I do not think one can get a much higher level group than that to set about the specific recommendations in the Culliton report which deal with various areas and suggest things that could be done, things that should be eliminated and so on. The task force as such has a different sort of brief, it has a much more roaming remit. It consists of people who are in the real world of companies, jobs and employment. They are pooling their wisdom and experience to make specific recommendations with regard to particular projects or things that can be done from their perspective. At first sight it might seem that they are covering the same territory but I would think not; I think there is still a role for both. The important thing is to make sure they are working in parallel and relating to each other.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach aware that not only has the Culliton report been published but all the consultancy studies prepared in preparation for it have also been published? It seems, therefore, rather anomalous. If there have been 11 reports from this other task force, prepared at public expense, and if the Taoiseach is refusing to allow other Members to participate in any way in dealing with the jobs crisis through an all-party jobs forum, the least he could do is publish the reports that have been prepared at public expense so that other Members can see to what extent the Government are implementing them?
The Taoiseach: There is no great ideological aspect to it. The Culliton group was set up specifically to make a report. It had a secretariat and so on and it has produced a report. The other group is an ongoing group which meets regularly and consistently to examine ideas, suggestions and proposals from within their own knowledge of the situation and come up with recommendations. There is no reason why the report should not be published.
Mr. Spring: In relation to the jobs schemes the Taoiseach said were announced by the Minister for Finance and himself, have discussions taken place with the employers and have guarantees been given that jobs will be retained after the training periods?
The Taoiseach: Yes. Full and comprehensive discussions have been held with both employers and trade unions and agreement has been reached. There is a proviso that employees who are employed for 12 months must be kept on for six months after that.
Proinsias De Rossa: Let us return to the point relating to an employment forum. Given that the proposal emanates from the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed, who seek to represent the interests of the unemployed and are virtually the only voice they have outside this House at this time, would the Taoiseach not agree that it would only be fair to give their proposal an adequate hearing? There is a number of parties in this House, including Fine Gael, who  have recently discovered the idea of a forum. May I suggest that it would be important that we should——
Proinsias De Rossa: Could we not agree that at least the idea being put forward by the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed be considered by the Government in an adequate way given that this group feel that all these task force reports and the Culliton report are technocratic reports which do not consider their view and position?
The Taoiseach: Briefly and finally, there is absolutely no reason any suggestions, proposals or input from anybody would not be fully considered. That will be done, particularly by the Culliton report initiative but that is completely different from having a task force, about which the Deputy is speaking.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I put it to the Taoiseach that a very serious omission in the Culliton report, which is an otherwise excellent report, is the fact that it neither studied nor reported on the tourism industry. May I ask the Taoiseach if he would ensure that the job creation capacity of the tourism industry would be part of the remit of the task force under the Taoiseach and, because the Culliton report is being referred to that task force, if he would add on the tourism industry to ensure that there is a group at the highest level responsible for the development of the tourism industry?
The Taoiseach: Again, there is no particular problem with that. A task force for the tourism industry, in which the banks will be involved, is now being established. This task force will have the job of trying to identify prospects for commercial investment in the tourism industry. As I say, the banks will be involved in it. That should be a very effective way of developing the commercial possibilities of the tourism industry. I have no particular objection to the Culliton report also looking at the tourism industry. In fact it would be unnatural if they did not.
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