Wednesday, 5 July 1939
Seanad Éireann Debate
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Lemass): This quota amendment order was made primarily for the purpose of rectifying an error in the original order. The original order excluded from its scope electric filament lamps which, in the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners, were designed, constructed and intended to be energised from a dry battery, that is, bulbs which are used in connection with pocket flash lamps and bicycle lamps. It was found, however, that the prohibition which the original order was intended to effect was being evaded in two ways. Firstly, electric filament lamps of voltages lower than four volts are capable of being used in circuits of four volts, or more, and consequently, the Revenue Commissioners found it difficult to distinguish lamps which were intended to be energised from a dry battery from lamps which were supplied by a dynamo. The amending order provides that, as from 1st August, 1939, the importation of electric filament lamps of all voltages up to and including 35 volts is prohibited except under licence, and lamps exempted under paragraph 4 (f) of the original order are no longer exempted from the prohibition, that is to say, lamps which, in the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners, are designed, constructed and intended to be energised from a dry battery.
Sir John Keane: I do not know if I am in order in asking a general question arising out of this matter, but has the Minister considered the setting up of some machinery analogous to the Bureau of Standards? Much of the production of articles is now sheltered and the public has no test, having lost the test of competition which indirectly was a test of quality. Although they may not be legal monopolists, many of our manufacturers are virtual monopolists. Has the Minister  considered any machinery, by which the public could be protected as to quality, on the lines of Bureau of Standards, which would have power to take samples of articles in course of manufacture, and test them, as cement is tested by independent bodies in the universities? Could that not be done under Government direction in the case of other articles of manufacture?
Mr. Lemass: I find myself in a position that I am in complete agreement with the Senator. The position, however, is that the establishment of an institute, with the requisite equipment to carry out the necessary tests in the case of all industrial commodities, would be a particularly costly business, and I have not been yet able to persuade the Minister for Finance that it is a cost which we should meet.
Sir John Keane: I am now speaking with the indulgence of the Chair, but this could be done step by step. In the case of electrical supplies, a very elaborate bureau would not be necessary because a body like the Electricity Supply Board could do the work.
Mr. Lemass: In fact, there are a number of makeshift arrangements for the testing of the quality of commodities of one kind or another, the most commonly used being the Post Office Purchasing Department. They are large purchasers of commodities and they have made arrangements for the testing of quality. They undertake these tests for us very regularly. There are other makeshift arrangements used from time to time, but I think that we may develop to the stage where we will have, associated with our Industrial Research Institute, a bureau for the testing of quality and publication of standards of quality.
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