Dáil Éireann - Volume 353 - 24 October, 1984

Supplementary Estimates, 1984. - Vote 40: Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £10 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1984, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism, including certain services administered by that Office and for payment of certain loans, subsidies, grants and grants-in-aid.

—(Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism.)

Mr. R. Bruton: I agree to a considerable extent with the expressions made by Deputy O'Kennedy. However, I must express concern at his suggestion that because Ministers told the public the facts [387] about unemployment and our tax situation they were in some way undermining morale. Surely we have not reached a stage where the Opposition would encourage the concealment of such facts? It would be a very sorry day if that was to be the mark of how you build up morale. I hope he did not mean what he said.

I should like to address my remarks to the continuing concern about the contribution of foreign based investments in this country. We have to acknowledge the importance of foreign industry which employs 80,000 people. We must also bear in mind the widespread public concern about the repatriation of their profits rather than reinvestment and the highly footloose nature of some of these enterprises. Today in Cork we had the collapse of one of the industries supposed to be on the leading edge of technology. That must be a very worrying development because it is a very short period since this industry was first established here.

We must also be concerned about the low value added and the tax contribution. The fact that there is a considerable amount of transfer pricing operated by these companies means that even the figures we have on value added may be overstating the position to some degree. I do not know the full details.

There is concern also about the serious shortfall by these companies from the targets they set up for output and employment. In that context the Minister has introduced a number of measures to increase selectivity in the way grants are handed out to such companies. It is important to realise that grants are not the sole form of aid. A writer recently pointed out that only half the aids to industry are in the form of grants while the other half are in the form of tax relief, training and assistance from the ICC, Fóir Teoranta and other sources of State funding. There is need for a much more serious examination of the true impact on the economy of foreign industry than we have had to date.

I welcome the greater selectivity the [388] Minister hopes to apply but I am somewhat concerned about the slight vagueness of the terms which describe this selectivity. We need to know in greater detail what companies are saying they will achieve and to what degree they achieve their targets. We should limit the aid we give them to the achievement of those targets. That type of selectivity would have a cutting edge and the mere restatement of the desirable features of foreign companies is not enough. We must go a step further if we want to make selectivity a reality in choosing foreign industry.

I acknowledge the importance of continuity in the form of grant aid. I also acknowledge the greater effort now being made to develop linkages by these companies but we must investigate how they are affecting the economy and link the money we give them to actual performance.

There are a number of other important points. Deputy O'Kennedy touched on one of these points but regrettably he did not develop his thoughts. The question is whether our tax regime has been unduly encouraging the wrong sort of investment. There is an excessive bias in our tax regime towards property-type investment to the detriment of employment-creating investment. We have had concessions for many years towards development of flats and special concessions to pension funds, house building and mortgages generally but we have failed to step back at any stage and ask what this is achieving. Are we not encouraging savers to channel their money into property, which does not create employment, rather than into employment-creating investment? We must examine the tax regime in that area. Reform would cause a lot of headaches because many people have entered into contracts built on those reliefs. It is important that in developing industrial policy we should look at the wider issues and not confine ourselves only to the industrial agencies under the aegis of the Department of Industry.

In the same way we have an unfortunate feature in our tax system whereby we encourage companies to take on [389] machinery rather than give employment. The PRSI issue is not primarily a matter for the Department of Industry but in an overall look at industrial policy we must be conscious that we are putting an improper bias on the way people in industry decide to use their investable resources as between employing labour and employing machinery.

I was somewhat confused by Deputy O'Kennedy's reference to the need for greater marketing and greater franchising of new technology and research. He did not refer to the important new initiatives in the White Paper on Industrial Policy in precisely those areas. I welcome those initiatives but I would sound a warning. It was stated recently that it would be very difficult to distinguish between the new technology grant and the old re-equipment grant. In conception the two are entirely different. One is designed to bring an entirely new type of technology into the country and to develop small companies to franchise it from abroad, whereas the other was an improper grant which was very often made available to companies to substitute for employment. The terms under which that grant is administered must be carefully drawn up to ensure that the money made available is not used for re-equipment at the expense of employment but is actually bringing brand new technology into Irish industry.

One of the very welcome features in the White Paper is the introduction of much closer performance tests on bodies such as the IDA. This is crucially important, particularly as the White Paper envisages giving IDA executives much greater scope for personally deciding the sort of things that should or should not be assisted. If we are giving such discretion to State companies there must be much greater scrutiny of their performance and I am a little concerned about the general considerations listed in the White Paper as to the tests of performance. These are such things as employment creation, output creation and the general features of industry. We must go a good deal further and look for a comparison from the likes of the IDA of [390] the targets set by incoming companies and their performance. If the IDA are grant-aiding foreign companies setting up here and they state that they will achieve a certain employment target or bring in certain research and development facilities or new skills, these should be quantified and made the basis on which the IDA executives are tested at to their performance. That is the sort of information the public need in order to say whether the IDA and other agencies are living up to what is asked of them. We cannot allow a feeling among the public that the IDA are trying to get off the hook in regard to employment targets by their new approach. That new approach is the correct one. The IDA must look for net domestic value added rather than employment as the sole criterion. However we must fix that target and force them when they grant aid to pin down what they are grant aiding. Against those standards let them be judged. In the same way it is important that other State agencies have very visible performance targets against which their performance would be judged.

I am glad to see the Minister has included in the reports on the IDA actual employment rather than the somewhat fictitious employment figures we got in the past. That is a step in the right direction but we must go a good deal further.

Mr. Connolly: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill and coming from the midlands I also welcome the opportunity to discuss how the IDA have been operating. The IDA seem to have great difficulty attracting industry to the midland region. We have a great deal of unoccupied factory space in many major towns. In Birr we have had a 24,000 sq. ft. factory idle for some years; in Edenderry, 13,000 sq. ft. factory space is idle; in Tullamore town factories which have been built by the IDA have been idle for years, in Portlaoise there is a 40,000 sq. ft. factory which has been unoccupied since it was built, four years ago, and SFADCo built a number of small units in west Offaly.

How have the IDA been performing? [391] It seems to me and to many others that the IDA are leaning in favour of foreign industry rather than towards the Irish person who wishes to set up an industry. I have noticed in some cases where grant aid was approved for small industries that between 18 months and two years elapsed between the time of the approval and the actual payment of the grant. The delays were caused by all kinds of legal difficulties, accountancy problems and red tape of every shape and size. I want to warn firms that when this grant aid is approved, there will be a delay. Some companies who got approval for grant aid borrowed almost the full sum from their banks, but when the money finally came through they had to pay all the money to the bank plus very high interest. I think these companies should be warned.

Our tax rating is very unattractive to employers because of the amount of paperwork they have to do. If they are employing large numbers they may have three staff members looking after this paper work dealing with the Revenue Commissioners and others. Companies I know are not recruiting extra personnel. They are letting their existing staff do overtime rather than get involved with more paperwork if they employ extra staff. The different levies, different VAT rates and tax bands take up a lot of time and when the employee receives his pay cheque he notes all these deductions. This problem will have to be tackled and we must introduce a simpler form of taxation.

When the IDA approve certain projects it is interesting to hear the number of new jobs involved, 100, 200 or whatever the case may be. I have noticed that the jobs targeted in these plans have not materialised. The other evening a company went into liquidation. That company was supposed to employ more than 200 people but that target was not achieved. Other companies which had been grant-aided have fallen well short of their targets. I would like to see actual jobs being created, not numbers out of a hat. As I read the situation in many cases these targets are not materialising.

[392] The foreign companies that have come to the midland region have served us well and I am happy with the employment they brought. If these firms are in the export business it is attractive to set up here, but if they are producing for the home market it is not, because the tax base is different. In the midland region unemployment was never as high as it is at present. Recently the mineral waters plant belonging to Williams closed and there is nothing to take its place. Other small companies in the region have got into difficulties also and this is having a major effect.

The young people do not see much hope for them and emigration is hitting the midlands regions. Some of our well-trained personnel are leaving for other countries because they do not see any hope for them here. That is very sad. Some of the courses arranged by the National Enterprise Agency and the Youth Employment Agency are only what I would call “standby” employment. Real jobs are not being created. Many people who do these courses have told me that on completion of the courses they are back to where they started. I am referring now to the Youth Employment Agency and to AnCO. I should like the Minister to note that in the midlands region we are the hardest hit and the unemployment figures will show that. New industries have not come to Laois-Offaly in recent times and factories that were built three years ago are still unoccupied.

Something must be done to give hope to young people. I hope the IDA will look again at the midlands region and see what can be done to improve the situation. In my opinion they are biased against our region. I hope I am wrong in that but that appears to be the position. My information is that there is nothing in the pipeline for the midlands region and inquiries are practically nil. All the industrialists are encouraged to go elsewhere. I hope the Minister will bring to the attention of the IDA the serious situation of the midlands region and give some hope to the people.

[393] Mr. Prendergast: I welcome the introduction of this supplementary Estimate which deals with the area of industry and commerce but I am of the opinion that the whole area of foreign industries needs to be looked at. I have been a trade union official for the past 15 years and there have been situations where those of us in the trade union movement suspected there was much room for improvement in the whole operation of giving huge grants to companies.

Deputy Connolly referred to the difference between job approvals and the number of jobs created. We have always looked scathingly on the announcements that accompany such grants. At the opening of a factory there is a temptation for any Government to put as good a gloss as possible on this and I have no doubt that the shrewd Americans who know the value of a buck better than any of us play up this side when they are looking for money. I have a distinct recollection of one occasion where, as a trade union official, I was invited to the opening of a factory in the mid-west region. The man who got the grant flew his own plane from America and he was like the Sheikh of Araby coming in with a white silk scarf around his neck. It was all very impressive with big dinners and so on but he was nothing more or less than a glorified scrap merchant. He went into the foundry business and employed the magnificent number of three people.

The days of the outright cash grant are gone forever. In the 1960s we had a policy of industrialisation when there was a move away from the land as the basis for employment and there were large labour-intensive industries. There are some excellent industries like that still with us. One I can think of is the Krups electronics factory which employs in excess of 1,254 people. I shudder to think what would happen to Limerick city if anything ever happened to Krups.

We must get value for our money. We must put it to the foreign companies that they have to deliver on what they say, whether in terms of jobs promised, value added or in downstream sub-contracting work which would be of indirect benefit [394] to the economy. I was very worried at the investigation by Pat Cox in the “Today Tonight” programme at what would appear to be a racket and which certainly confirms all the suspicions of the trade union movement as to what is going on by way of transfer pricing. I am aware that some of the companies in the mid-west region run up huge expense accounts at some hotels. While this is excellent for the hotels there is no doubt there is a vast amount of “uisce faoi thalamh” going on. There should be much greater scrutiny by the national job-creating authorities than has been the situation up to now. In saying that I want to pay tribute to the IDA. Other Governments have commented on the effectiveness of that body. However, we must remember that we are dealing with very shrewd people in the multinational companies. Operating in this country there are cover industries where there is nothing more than one official of a company and one secretary. They are being used by the bigger companies as transfer agencies purely for tax evasion.

I am speaking from memory but there was the case of a girl some years ago who, to her eternal credit, refused to falsify documents alleging that certain goods had been passed through. She was dismissed and she appealed her case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and won. She had been wrongfully dismissed. That is happening on a fairly significant scale. The IDA and SFADCo should look at it very closely and introduce stringent criteria in the case of a repayable loan where they do not develop the original proposal in terms of jobs, or value added, or downstream contracts.

The days of the give away grants are gone forever. There has to be greater accountability. Home industries, especially those engaged in import substitution, should be given every support. Even if they fail, at least the money is kept here. None of it finishes up in Puerto Rico or the Bahamas or the other tax havens. The money goes on a circular transfer basis and the Irish people get value for their money.

[395] As Mayor of Limerick and coming from the mid-west region I am concerned about the references to other parts of the country. I accept fully the need for a political development in Cork because of the traumatic suffering they have undergone by way of job losses over the past year or two. While in relative terms the region of the mid-west is almost doing better than most other areas, in my own city of Limerick there is still an unemployment black spot. I cannot understand the insinuations and derogatory references to SFADCo as being a cause of concern or danger to other parts of the country.

Outside of what they have actually delivered, SFADCo have performed a unique role as a second job creation agency apart from the IDA. They have the kind of flexibility which they have demonstrated so admirably in the past to roll very quickly in a new situation. They can adapt and try out new pilot schemes which can be put into effect on the national scene when they have been tried and proven.

SFADCo have done this notably under the small industries programme, but there is much room for improvement. I worked on several committees with the socialist groups in Europe over the past 12 months. The small industries programme will be a huge factor in solving the unemployment problem. I do not want to sound in any way dismissive of some of the comments made by the Opposition, but it is not true for them to say we are not doing enough about employment. They should remember that against the day when they may be sitting here. It is very useful to fall back on some of the statements made.

Technology is racing ahead at such a pace that some of our most fundamental political philosophies might seem to need to be updated against the real politik. Almost 20 million people are unemployed in Europe. None of the Governments there, whatever their political complexion or hue, can solve that problem.

I am talking about the role of [396] SFADCo. One of the great philosophies of the Common Market was that it was based on the optimisation of the indigenous resources of the region. When you go to Europe and listen to all the trite comments on doing something about the peripheral regions it is very upsetting when almost nothing worthwhile in terms of employment is done. I know the commitment is there to do something through the European Social Fund.

In the mid-west we have one of the great natural resources of the continent of Europe. I am talking about the Shannon estuary. In order to qualify for the grants which are undoubtedly available from the Regional Fund and the Social Fund something has to be done. We can only get those grants on an estuarial basis, not on a Limerick basis, or a Clare, or a County Limerick, or a Kerry basis. When the Minister brings in that authority something can be done for the whole region. We can introduce the kind of industries which can be locked into the economy there. We have to concentrate on this.

I want to come back to the question of transfer pricing. If you couple that with the black hole which was discovered earlier in the year, you realise that there has to be a tightening up in regard to what we are getting for our money. There must be a strict cost benefit analysis. There is no doubt that somebody is playing very costly games with the Irish taxpayers' money. People are fiddling the system. The IDA, SFADCo and the Department of Finance, or whoever is responsible, should keep the closest possible eye on what is happening.

There is a case to be made for strengthening Fóir Teoranta. We must be lenient when we are dealing with a case such as we have in Castlemahon, County Limerick. The whole economy of that region is tied into poultry breeding. Fóir Teoranta may be looking askance at that because of a past poor performance record. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions are rightly critical of the national plan. We need not look to private enterprise to solve our unemployment problem [397] because that will not happen. With the deepest possible respect and consideration for our friends on the other side of the House I want to say that I recall distinctly when the then Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, said in January 1981, following a national wage agreement, that he looked to the private sector to create jobs. The FUE said job creation was not their function. Job creation will be their function only in so far as it is ancillary to their objectives or they cannot avoid it in their whole objective of making profits.

We must have high tech. industries. We have to place on record our appreciation of what the National Micro Electronics Application Centre, The Plassey Technological Park and the NIHE have done to induce companies like Analog Devices, Verbatim and others to come in here. They should be encouraged to provide facilities. We have now gone into a fifth generation of new technology. They breed very quickly. I would be worried that some of these companies might pull out at short notice and go back to the Silicon Valley in California. The primary consideration of any Irish Government must be in terms of jobs for money spent. That has to be the bottom line.

Mr. Daly: The Government are taking money away from the National Development Corporation.

Mr. Prendergast: No. I will comment on that.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Fianna Fáil should not talk about the ESB. We all know the stance they took on Moneypoint.

Mr. Prendergast: The money for the National Development Corporation will be there. We will deliver. As I said last week, you get nothing for nothing in Borrisokane and you will not get it anywhere else.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Barrett, Dublin North-West): Deputy Tunney. The Whips' Office has informed me that for [398] the remainder of this debate each speaker will be allowed ten minutes.

Mr. Tunney: I hope that I shall not require ten minutes to refer to the matter, but it is appropriate for me to speak on this debate. I am going to follow the Irish proverb which says that if you have something in small measure you are far better concentrating on one point. The point on which I am going to concentrate refers to my constitutency. I hope that the Minister when replying will be able — and I am sure he will — to give me a satisfactory answer.

Deputy Prendergast spoke about the costly game being played with taxpayers' money. In Finglas, as the Acting Chairman knows, there is an 11 acre site which was zoned as an industrial development site. We had there a very prosperous factory giving employment to a thousand people — Janelle Wear. Unfortunately, this firm met with the difficulties experienced by all industries a year or two ago and were obliged, notwithstanding the invaluable assistance which they got from Fóir Teoranta, to close. The 11 acre site and the buildings thereon remain.

The point I am putting to the House is that the IDA had invested taxpayers' money in those buildings and site and Fóir Teoranta had done likewise. Nevertheless, the site and the buildings have been extinguished and removed from industry because of a decision of the members of Dublin Corporation to give permission to the building of a shopping centre on that site. When there was such a proposal and if the IDA invested money in that industrial site, as they correctly did, and if the IDA are obliged to be concerned with every opportunity of providing employment and would know that in all that area of west and south Finglas there is at the moment an unemployment rate of something like 35 per cent and a great labour force, then why did they not indicate to Dublin Corporation the investment made by them of taxpayers' money in that site? If they are interested, as they should be and are obliged by this House to be and to be concerned all the time with the provision and protection of [399] employment, how is it that they have allowed a situation where there is no other remaining site in that whole area? There is not any point in our coming here and voting moneys for any organisation that feel free to spend it at will. They must be conscious of, and if not must be reminded of, the obligation that rests upon them to protect the investment.

I have on one or two occasions visited the IDA and have always been made to feel welcome, but if we continue to vote moneys without expressing our concern and without reminding the IDA that they must show us that they are a responsible organisation in the matter of the protection of that investment, then we must put question marks behind them.

I know that other matters have been raised here and I am not expecting that the Minister will devote any great time to this or might have the necessary information with him here, but I will be very disappointed if he cannot indicate to the House why the taxpayers' money, the investment in that industrial site, was allowed to disappear in that fashion. They were excellent buildings, and at the time the case was being made for the transformation of that site into a shopping centre. One thing which that area of Finglas does not require is a shopping centre, because the people have no money to buy what they would want in the existing shops. Any additional shopping centre there will inevitably react on the jobs of people already employed in the existing shopping centre.

There are other questions of planning which allows for the exodus of so many hundreds of cars onto a dual carriageway. However, leaving all those other considerations aside, I am asking the IDA to indicate where they were when their investment was being set aside. Where were they when something was going on which affected the spirit of their existence in the matter of safeguarding the existing employment potential? Here I am in the happy position of knowing that when I speak for myself I speak for the Acting Chairman, as one who has the honour of representing that area. I do not want [400] to labour the point beyond that. I am mindful that I said initially that I was not going to take the ten minutes available to me. I hope that the fact that I do not repeat it ad nauseam will not take away from its importance.

I hope that the Minister, when replying, will indicate if, having made an investment, the IDA have no longer an interest in it. Mindful of the fact that an 11 acre industrial site has been extinguished, do they not feel it incumbent upon them to protect the potential employment? When it was mentioned by the promoters of the shopping centre that the IDA no longer had any interest in it, why did that authority remain silent?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I rise to support the Estimate before the House this afternoon. In doing so, I should like to take the opportunity of complimenting the Minister, his Department and the IDA on some tremendous work done in recent times.

At the risk of being branded parochial, I would first like to compliment them on the tremendous work that they have done in my constituency in Clare in seeing that the Chipboard factory in Scarriff will reopen next week. There were many difficulties there and a very fine job has been done by the IDA and by the Departament of Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism and of Fisheries and Forestry.

With regard to Scarriff, a package was put forward by the previous Government. The IDA advised against that package and forecast that it was doomed to failure. They proved to be correct. The package which has now been put together and the project which is developing in Scarriff will be a very successful one. We in Clare — and particularly in east Clare — are extremely grateful to the IDA for the tremendous work that they have done there. Indeed, it could be said that the entire mid-west region has been very fortunate that it has not suffered to the same extent as other parts of the country have and the IDA, in conjunction with SFADCo, can take some of the credit for that. Let me in the course of this debate mention that in the future the traditional [401] policy adopted by the IDA may not stand. As many speakers have said, we are in the era of high technology and the degree of development taking place in high technology at the moment is astounding. The policy adopted by the IDA, SFADCo or any other development corporation must take these factors into consideration. It is upsetting to hear that in the high technology area the US are away to the forefront, followed by Japan, and in Europe we are very much behind. That is unfortunate and we as a peripheral country on the European scene must view it in a very serious light. We cannot look to the future for the same type of full employment as we have seen in the past, largely due to the development of high technology, and our entire approach must change.

SFADCo in the mid-west region have done tremendous work in the small industries section, and for success in the future we must put much more effort into developing small industries and industries that are home based and based on our indigenous produce. From experience throughout the country we know that foreign companies have come in, been highly grant-aided and within a few years have left this country. Somebody who is a native of the country will have far more commitment to the country and will be far more prepared to make a real success in this area. Therefore, every effort should be made to support our native entrepreneurs.

I hope that in the future the IDA will take far more seriously requests particularly from younger people who have a great deal of talent but not much money. We have the ability within the country, we have the talent in our people, we have a very well educated young people who can be used fully in the development of this country, but we must be aware of our talent and also of the restrictions we have in this island of ours. It would be useful if the Minister in his reply would give us some idea of the number of foreign industries that have come into this country over the past ten years, the number of jobs that they have promised on coming in and the number of jobs they [402] produced. In my experience I have come across many industries which came in and started by employing 20 or 30 people with a promise of having perhaps 100 or 200 employed in a year or so. In very many cases that has not happened. We cannot afford the luxury of grant-aiding companies who come in on a promise of producing so many jobs in a number of years. That situation cannot be allowed to continue.

Some small industries have proved extremely successful, but other companies have come into the country and their after-sales service to the country to which they are marketing their produce is extremely poor. The IDA would do well to research in detail the after-sales service of many companies set up here. Coming from Clare and driving through Newbridge I saw the Polaroid factory, a really wonderful establishment, being set up there and then folding up. At the time that factory was being set up a number of people said to me that they could not understand why the IDA were doing this because the reality was that in America their business was on the downturn. Why was that type of support given to that company at that time? I thought that another company which was set up in my constituency was an excellent company with a great future, but somebody in business pointed out to me that the future of that company was very much in jeopardy because their after-sales service in Europe was extremely poor. The IDA should do more research into the background and history of these companies. Against that, they made a very wise judgment in not allowing the De Lorean company in here. We must balance failures against success stories.

One natural asset that we have which has been mentioned by previous speakers is the Shannon estuary. It is one of the finest waterways in Europe, not alone in Ireland. For the future of this country the IDA, the Department of Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism and SFADCo would do well to examine seriously the potential of the Shannon estuary because major industry, particularly heavy industry, can be attracted to [403] that region. The Shannon estuary needs very coherent and close examination. SFADCo, who have done such a good job in promoting industry in the mid-west, should be given a heavy responsibility in monitoring, overseeing and attracting industry to the Shannon estuarial area which includes County Kerry, County Clare and County Limerick. There is great potential there but it needs some industrial body to monitor and oversee the future development of that fine waterway.

We could talk about many areas here this evening, but I understand we are restricted by time. Therefore, I will confine my contribution and take the opportunity again of complimenting the IDA on the tremendous work they have done. I advise them to be aware of the future because of the high technology that is developing so rapidly, to take into consideration the fact that over 20 million people are unemployed in Europe, that Europe as a continent is not to the forefront in high technology and that we, a small country on the periphery of that continent, need to be cautious and aware of the limitations set upon us and so concentrate on smaller industries, on industries based on home produce and on export substitution. I compliment the Minister and his Minister of State on the very progressive, logical, farseeing approach that they have adopted within their Department. They are doing a tremendous job and I have no hesitation in supporting the Estimate before the House today.

Mr. Wallace: According to the Minister, on 9 June 333 small industrial units were vacant in the country. In the Shannon region there were 111 and in the Cork region there were eight, excluding the Shandon Craft Centre which had only been opened. Deputy Prendergast was somewhat critical in his remarks about Deputies on this side expressing concern about some regions getting more attention than others, and he can be quite justified in expressing such concern. I add for his benefit that some of his colleagues [404] in the Coalition benches were equally critical and concerned about this situation. The debate this morning became very wide-ranging, particularly regarding the Cork region. I would like to refer to a few of the points raised.

The Mayfield area in Cork was referred to. It is on the eastern side of the city and has a population of 20,000 or more. It has no industrial development of any description and no factories employing any local people. I understand that the plan originally formulated was that the development of an industrial estate in Little Island, County Cork, would cater for the needs of the Mayfield area. Time has shown that that was not good planning. As a representative for the Cork area it appears to me that the IDA do not have any commitment to that part of the country. In areas such as Knocknaheeny, Churchfield, Mahon, Togher where there is a mixture of corporation and private houses, industrial estates with small units are operating. For some reason we have not been able to convince the IDA that Mayfield is entitled to similar development.

Some Members on the Government side referred to the fact that this matter is the subject of a motion for debate at a meeting of Cork Corporation. I was the first Member from that area to highlight the problem in regard to Mayfield and I am critical of the IDA in regard to it. When we get in touch with the IDA we are informed that if people want to build a factory in Mayfield services will be provided for them. The job of the IDA is to establish industries in an area and not be asking outsiders to do their work for them. We have been told that the Kilbarry industrial estate which is about 2 miles from Mayfield should satisfy the needs of the area. I reject that. The Minister should use his influence with the IDA with regard to that area. There is no doubt that the IDA have played a major part in the industrial development of other areas. Last February the Government sent a high powered delegation to Cork when some major industries were closing down but we did not hear very much about that task force since. [405] Government Deputies from the region proclaimed loudly about what will happen following the presentation of the report of that task force. While I accept that it takes time to deal with such matters it should not have taken so long to do something about the problem in Cork.

We have been told that some areas will be given special assistance. I am worried about some of those areas. In the Hollyhill and Knocknaheeny area there is no more land available for industrial development and that is why I question the sincerity of the Government's commitment regarding the unemployment problem. The absence of a ferry service to and from Cork has created problems for those trying to attract industries to the area. If it is not possible to get in or out of an area by sea there is little point in spending money on public relations trying to attract industrialists. I understand that negotiations are taking place to try to encourage the Minister to provide a ferry service for next year when the city will celebrate its 800th anniversary. Many tourists are expected in the city for those celebrations. The Government should provide the money needed for a ferry service. It is imperative that the IDA be able to tell prospective industrialists that they can get to Cork directly without having to travel through Dublin or Rosslare.

The services provied by Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta for the Cork area are important. The Minister of State is sighing at the thought of me dealing with those companies but had he been present in the House this morning he would have heard a statement from one of his colleagues on the national plan. That should not have been allowed. If his colleague was given latitude this morning there is no reason why Members on this side are not given the same latitude. The IDA are not identifying the Cork areas that are in need and the Minister should ensure that the money being voted by the House today is spent in the best interests of the entire country taking into account the fact that the Cork region has suffered severely in recent years. This morning we heard a litany from the Government side [406] of all the good things that will happen and how we can all look forward to a bright future. The Minister has told us that by 1990 we can all expect jobs. Jobs are needed now and the IDA must play their part in getting industries to the Cork area. Listening to a Government Member this morning we learned that a factory in Fermoy is to close. Sincerity on the part of the Government is needed. I had not intended being so wide-ranging in my contribution but I had to answer the hyprocisy from the Government side this morning. The Minister should ensure that there is closer liaison between the IDA and Cork local authorities who are endeavouring to identify the problems.

Miss M. Barry: Our industrial policy is in need of urgent review. I admit that in the course of the last 12 months the Government published a White Paper on industrial policy and, more recently, a national plan. I was happy to see in those documents a change in direction. The White Paper recognises the danger of over reliance on foreign-owned industry. We need a secure industrial future based on our own resources and the skills of our people. I am not decrying investment from any place. In fact, I would welcome investment from any nation as long as it was credible and the company concerned had the necessary commitment to Ireland. As was pointed out to me on one occasion there is only one thing worse than multinationals, not having any of them. While there is an element of logic in that statement we should not rely entirely on multinationals to produce the sustainable employment that is needed to take us into the next century.

I sought permission to raise on the Adjournment the closure of the Beehive International company in Fermoy but my request was refused in by the Chair. That factory created great hopes for the area. It was badly needed and we looked upon it as a source of confidence in the future. The factory went into production in March 1982 in Fermoy which has infrastructural advantages over other towns. It is also an excellent work force and Beehive were quick to recognise that. [407] There was great harmony in the factory, but, unfortunately, two and a half years later the parent company in Salt Lake City are in severe financial difficulty. What is their solution? They are writing the plant in Fermoy off their books. It is as simple as that. Those in Fermoy and the surrounding area depended on Beehive International. This is a crisis for Fermoy.

I spoke to the Minister yesterday about the problem. I sincerely and strongly urge that everything possible be done by all the agencies to ensure either a management buy-out or a take-over by another firm. Time is not on our side. There are only 60 days left before the company closes. If there is to be a management buy-out it will have to be soon. We must have something to replace this firm. The town has suffered from severe industrial hardship. What was once our biggest factory, Faber Castell, now employs 20 people. The closure of Beehive International is a major shock. I appeal to the Department and the Minister to do everything they can to ensure that the factory doors are open again as soon as possible.

Mr. Kirk: I am glad of the opportunity to deal with the unemployment and industrial development problems which confront us. This debate is taking place against the background of a steady upward spiral in the number of people unemployed. Between 60,000 and 70,000 young people under the age of 25 do not actively participate in the economic life of this nation. They are probably the best educated young people to come through the system. One thing successive Governments cannot be blamed for is their lack of commitment to education. At different levels we have developed institutions which provide ample opportunity for young people to obtain education which allows them to carve out a niche for themselves in whatever sphere they choose.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that Government commitment to employment creation and industrial development [408] and to the encouragement of investment in areas where employment could be created has not been what it might be. We have hundreds of thousands of people who are unemployed. At the age of 40 unemployment means that a person's working life is finished. With the advancement of technology and changes in the work place, skills acquired have effectively become redundant. The opportunity to embark on a different course and become involved in a different type of work regime is not easy once one reaches that age. The Government have a duty to ensure that those who have reached the age of 40 plus will not be thrown on the economic scrap heap. Their commitment to the creation of jobs has not been what it should be. The task of creating viable jobs which will absorb our ever-increasing work force has not been tackled. The priorities are wrong.

It must be recognised that work experience programmes have limited benefit. What we need are viable long-term jobs which will give people security and allow them to participate fully in the economic activity of the nation. People can then build for the future.

Unemployment has a knock-on effect. If a person is unemployed and does not have a satisfactory income their long-term plans are unsure. Building on Reality does not give the hope and confidence that the country sorely needs. The process of examining areas with potential for development was disregarded in that document. Agriculture is one of our primary producing areas. The farm modernisation scheme was withdrawn and later reintroduced in a restricted form. Unless we ensure that raw materials are produced economically we will have a knock-on effect of greater unemployment in the services, processing, distribution and sales areas.

If we look at the across-the-board, non-selective application of the public service recruitment embargo we see that ACOT, the advisory service for agriculture, is severely restricted. An Foras Talúntais which carries out research and development which is so essential is restricted because of cutbacks in staff [409] with natural wastage and the fact that those who are involved in this necessary role are advancing in age. The food industry is one which has been long identified by economists and political commentators as the real area with potential for job creation. Yet the commitment to provide finance and a carrot by way of grant aid to those who wish to invest in this area has been neglected. The national plan completely disregards this area. There was an ideal opportunity to provide money and grant aid to encourage the development of this industry but that did not happen. Research for markets, whether in America, Germany or wherever, has been severely curtailed.

Is the Minister satisfied with the slaughtering and processing facilities which are available? Are they of sufficient quality to ensure that the products coming through them will mean we have a ready road to the German and American markets? Will we get licences to export to these areas? Would it not be advisable to provide grant aid to bring these facilities up to the required standard? New processes have not been developed nor has any encouragement or motivation to do so been given. Unless the Government wake up to what is happening and change course very quickly we will have social upheaval on our hands. I hope that commonsense will prevail and that many of the proposals in the national plan will be re-examined and will be identified as merely short term measures to tide us over a particular political difficulty.

In the minute or so remaining to me I shall deal with aspects pertinent to my constituency of Louth. I come from a county that has a long and very proud tradition of industrial activity but anyone who examines the unemployment figures for the past number of years for the towns of Dundalk, Drogheda or Ardee will realise the neglect of those towns in terms of lack of commitment to investment for industry. In addition we suffer the effects of the very high rates of VAT and of the price differentials as between the two parts of the country. Dundalk, which is [410] the biggest provincial town in the country, is now a for-sale town. That is a sad reflection on the type of economic policies being pursued by a Government who claim the ability to do so much. Neglect has been the order of the day.

Mr. G. Mitchell: I intend making some comments that relate to areas which have not been mentioned already. First, though, I welcome the Minister's plan for a common board for the IDA and CTT. However, I would ask him to think again about the National Board for Science and Technology. I understand there are moves afoot to incorporate this body with the IIRS. The terms of reference of the NBST make it particularly suitable as a body to act in an advisory capacity to the various committees of Parliament. We are very much in need of a back-up service for our committees and for Members generally. Instead of re-assigning the board to the committees of the Houses we are talking about abolishing them while the committees have to look elsewhere for back-up and research facilities. There is an obvious pool of talent which could be applied in a very supportive manner to Parliament helping the various committees to hold responsible both individuals and public bodies.

Regarding tourism, while I have no objection to the kind of seminar held recently by Aer Lingus, I hope that people who are interested in tourism from the consumer angle should be given access to Dáil committees. I hope that other boards will follow the example of Aer Lingus in what they have done.

Regarding air fares, I cannot understand why the London-Dublin route should be so expensive. It is one of the most used routes in Europe. Apart from its usage by tourists it is availed of on a large scale by industrialists. The fare on the route is much higher than is the Belfast to London air fare, for example. I hope that a consultative procedure for consumers can be devised.

Still on the question of tourism, I trust there will be consultation with the interests concerned about the proposal to extend opening hours in licensed [411] premises during the summer season. There is a need for a clear explanation of this proposal so that the public may understand that the Government are not creating a situation that will give rise to a greater abuse of alcohol and, consequently, to a greater number of accidents on the roads. I question the proposal to extend until midnight or 1 a.m. the licensing hours. I say this because of the human psychology which urges one, after having two or three drinks, to continue drinking for another hour or so on the basis that he will be thrown out then anyway. The situation on the Continent, for example, is very different: one can have a drink whenever one requires it. The question I am asking is whether we should be setting a closing time at all. Are we not encouraging people to stay on for that extra hour or so? Whatever the thinking behind the proposal is, I should like it to be explained before there is an outburst of concern and hysteria on the part of those who rightly are concerned about alcohol abuse and about traffic accidents late at night.

Mr. Wilson: In some countries there are no fixed hours during which drink is sold.

Mr. G. Mitchell: That is the point I am making.

Mr. Wilson: I do not know how the Deputy is relating this to tourism.

Mr. G. Mitchell: The Minister tells us that the number of IDA site visits by industrialists from abroad is increasing. That is a very welcome development but I should like to refer to one area that we might consider in this context. In a short number of years from now there is to be a change of structure in the government of Hong Kong and I understand that there are many well-established business men there who are anxious to re-invest outside Hong Kong. I am surprised that the IDA or CTT or the Minister have not set a specific target in this respect. Those people in Hong Kong have millions of pounds to invest. They have access to [412] other foreign markets and are capable of giving a good deal of employment but apparently there is a problem about even allowing them to come here on a three-month visa to investigate the possibility of investing in Ireland. That is shameful. If a foreigner goes to the UK and has in the region of about £250,000 he will be allowed move in on the basis that so much of that money will go to the purchase of a house while the rest will be channelled into a business.

In the light of the difficulties we are experiencing we should be exploring the possibility of those Hong Kong business men investing here. I had great difficulty in getting permission for one such person to come here although the person concerned is involved with a business whose chairman is used to entertaining foreign Prime Ministers with a view to attracting foreign investors to establish here. These people from Hong Kong are anxious to re-invest in Europe and we should avail of whatever opportunity presents itself in that regard. That type of investment here would improve the quality of life of many of our workers.

We hear a good deal about leadership or the lack of leadership in the country and inevitably this whole question of leadership is laid at the feet of politicians. While politicians are responsible in many respects, they are not responsible for everything. There are others in the community with responsibility for leadership, too. Included among those are industrialists. It makes me angry to hear some of our leading industrialists whingeing whenever they are asked to take a small share of the burden in these difficult times. Many of these people between 1973 and 1977 were also very vocal in that regard. I am sick and tired of listening to people who want the Government to take stringent measures which they themselves would not take in industry because it would create strikes. However, they want us to take these measures in the public service which would create further unemployment. It is time they woke up and realised that they also have a role to [413] play. They should not expect the Government to buttress them against a small diminution in their standard of living.

In his speech the Minister raised the question of a saving of £3 million on bread subsidies. When the elimination of food subsidies was announced we were told that the bread manufacturers were going to put another 4p on the loaf and that that would be examined by the Prices Commission to see if it was justified. I would like to know the outcome of that examination. It was outrageous for bread manufacturers to put another 4p on bread at the same time. Presumably it has been investigated, but what is the outcome? Why has it taken so long to be reported on? Is it justified? Where is the report? I hope the Minister will take cognisance of comments made here today, especially in relation to Hong Kong, because I believe there is a great potential for investment here by that country.

Mr. Wilson: I should like to add my support to Deputy Mitchell's remarks about Hong Kong. Perhaps there is not such a rush out of it now because the establishment there are pleased enough with the kind of deal they got and do not seem in any hurry to get out. I agree that we should, if we think we have a chance, try to attract investment from there. We should be beavering away out there as we have many people from this country working in Hong Kong in various official capacities and they should be utilised to the fullest possible extent.

I did not intend to speak on this Estimate but, as I listened on the monitor, I thought that perhaps the House needed a lesson in geography and that they should be reminded that there are other provinces besides Munster. I know SFADCo and the developing region is important and that Cork also needs plenty of attention because of the disastrous industrial situation there. However, there is the province of Ulster as well and that is why I came in to speak here. It may sound facetious but that province tends to be forgotten. The Industrial Development Authority [414] should direct their attention in that direction. The North East Regional Development Organisation, which covers Counties Cavan, Monaghan and Louth, commissioned a special study for the development of that area, so the Minister and the Industrial Development Authority are not without a ground plan and an indication of where development should take place. There have been one or two very bad areas there since the recession. If you look at the statistics, the percentage of losses might not appear to be great although there are a couple of closures in the offing in my county. We are at such a low stage of development and have had such little development that it is very difficult for us to lose jobs when they were never there. We are not losing from a full sack, so to speak.

As well as the NERDO study there has also been an indication from the EC Committee of how development could take place and this was debated in this House. The IDA and the Minister are aware of this and I am making a plea for attention for those two reports as a basis for industrial development. In his speech, the Minister referred to foreign investment and Deputy Barry in a light mood said that there was only one thing worse than multinationals and that was not to have them. We have not a great deal of foreign investment in our area. We have the Pauwels-Trafo factory in Cavan town, which makes transformers, and which is a great boon. We also have a factory in Mullagh on the County Meath border which gives substantial employment to about 500 people. We are very pleased to have that kind of investment. The county development team and NERDO are very conscious of the potential of small industry and they were preaching the small industry philosophy long before it gained favour at higher levels, especially in the Industrial Development Authority. Because we are small territorially we find it more difficult to catch the attention of the media but that is no reason why there should be neglect of the area.

In his speech the Minister said:

[415] I am looking to the future with optimism. The decline in manufacturing employment is being halted. Site-visits throughout the country by industrialists from abroad are almost one-third higher in number so far this year....

I know the Minister has to do his best to bolster his Department and it is no harm to inspire confidence. However, conducting Cooks Tours around places where there are advance factories is no substitution for industries delivered on the ground. I do not think there is a basis for the kind of optimism which the Minister is preaching.

Reference was also made to increased production. Recently there have been increased production and increasing exports, especially in the electronic and chemical industries. However, to have that while at the same time the numbers employed in the manufacturing industry are going down seems to be cockeyed. Wealth accumulates, men decay, is an old saying. You could reach a stage where you had the best performance in the EC and still had fewer people working here. I do not know what the general experience of the House is but in my own area, legally or illegally — mostly illegally — the trail to the United States is being hit by young people straight out of school. New legislation has been passed in the United States and we may have them all trailing back to us in the very near future when the authorities there catch up with them. Productivity and export performance are highly commendable but the emphasis should be on employment of our young people. It is difficult to see how we can get commitment from our young people otherwise. We have in our region very advanced co-operatives and these can be the vehicles for development. I see a concerted move to attack our semi-State companies and I regret that I have not time to go into this. In food processing we should concentrate on co-operatives and examine the import figures for food, especially potatoes. Nature has been more than lavish this year in supplying potatoes, beet and fruit. [416] Because of lack of processing I can see much of nature's bounty going to loss and certainly not being translated into increased employment.

I regret that neither the IDA nor the Government have taken seriously the most hopeful and fruitful study of the employment and unemployment situation during the past 12 months. I refer to the study produced by the Economic and Social Research Institute which not merely diagnosed what was wrong but pointed out ways to try to remedy it.

I have said to this House several times already that even if we did everything correctly we could still suffer when the dollar hardens because of the crazy situation regarding international exchange rates. The total GNP of the ten EC states is greater than that of the United States and there is a weapon to hand which could be developed, namely the ECU, so that we could have a currency with which to pay for oil. We would not then have this crazy system whereby OPEC say that oil should be sold at 29 dollars a barrel. The spot price as of now is $27.90, but the dollar hardens, the country is down and customers, whether industrialists or ordinary users of oil, suffer due to rising prices.

I have too short a time to develop a number of other points but I will conclude by calling the attention of the House to the fact that there is a province of Ulster waiting for development. It has suffered severely during the past few years both commercially and industrially and it has a special claim on the attention of the House and the attention of those whose duty it is to develop our country industrially.

Mr. J. O'Leary: I represent a constituency where there is an unacceptably high level of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. While the IDA did good work in South Kerry in former years their activities recently have been very few. I would offer a few suggestions as to how jobs could be created in a practical way in the south and south-west.

There is tremendouns potential in both agriculture and tourism and we have not [417] tapped these resources to the full. The IDA should move into the area of agriculture in consultation with other Government Departments. About 10,000 jobs could be created within a few years in Cork and Kerry by the setting up of food processing plants and the encouragement of farmers to become involved in intensive forms of agriculture and horticulture. Farmers involved in these activities would supply their produce to food processing plants managed by a public company. I should not like to see these plants being managed by a semi-State body. There should be a public company in which farmers, management and all concerned would hold shares. Such a developmemt would give much summer employment to young people and would create the type of jobs necessary to keep pace with the numbers coming on the job market. I spoke about this in the budget debate in 1983 and again this year and I mentioned it to numerous State and semi-State organisations, yet nothing seems to be happening.

The south-western region is being grossly neglected in regard to tourism. Many additional jobs could be created in this industry if the will was there on the part of the Government, Bord Fáilte and the various other agencies. The lead must come from the top. It is scandalous, disgraceful and insulting to those involved in promoting tourism in Kerry and Cork that there is no ferry service during the summer season between Britain and Cork. Nobody working in tourism in that region can understand why the Government let the service lapse. We are doing the best we can to have the Swansea-Cork service operating in the coming year. Now is the time when those involved in tourism must engage in marketing, especially in Britain, and it is important that they should know now whether there will be a summer service in 1985. I have tried on several occasions during the past 10 days to raise this matter in the House by way of question.

I attended a meeting in Cork some months ago where it was made crystal clear that the Swansea port authority were prepared to put money into the [418] operation of such a ferry. The local council for the Swansea area were also prepared to help. I understand that Cork Harbour Commissioners, Cork Corporation and Cork County Council as well as certain interests in Kerry are prepared to put money into this venture but the Government are very reluctant to encourage the development of the service. It would give a great impetus to the promotion of tourism in 1985 and would encourage hotel owners and other employers to take on more staff. These are two areas which the Government and the IDA should reconsider.

There is a feeling in the south-west, particularly in Kerry, that the Government, Bord Fáilte and other agencies are working more and more to encourage and develop tourism along the east coast rather than in the south-west. The proof is the lack of interest by the Government in the ferry service to Cork and Kerry. There is a service into Rosslare for the south-east and a service into Dublin to cover the eastern region. There is also a service to Larne and Belfast. The whole tourism promotion is geared towards the east coast, at tremendous cost to those involved in tourism in the south-west. I would ask the Minister and the IDA to take a hard look at this matter.

There is also a high level of unemployment in Killarney, Kenmare and Caherciveen, the most south westerly area of the country. Perhaps the Minister would try to have these vacant factories filled. The situation is very serious in Kenmare and it is very bad in the Kilorglin area. In Killarney we have empty factories in the industrial estate and there is rising unemployment in the town and the hinterland.

I ask the Minister, the Government and all the agencies involved in the job creation programme to do something positive and to take into account the practical suggestions I made here this evening. We must get back to the basics — tourism, agriculture, the sea, fishing and the development of fish processing plants. The sooner we do this the better for the future of this country.

Mr. Conaghan: I am sorry the IDA did [419] not adopt their present policies years ago. If they had done so they would have been assisting local industries and encouraging local people who have initiative to start their own businesses. It is very difficult now to attract foreigners and that is why they adopted their present policies. The IDA have totally neglected Irish industrialists with the result that a great deal of money was spent promoting advance factories which are lying empty. There is no need to spend money on buildings or procuring further land to build advance factories. The IDA should concentrate on getting people to take over existing empty factories and so generate employment.

I endorse what my colleague, Deputy Wilson, said about the three counties of Ulster — Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan — and say that as far as the IDA are concerned, that area has been neglected and was never promoted properly. How many of the industrialists mentioned by the Minister in his report were taken to Donegal region or the Cavan-Monaghan region to be shown the possibilities of setting up an industry there?

Mr. Wilson: A good question. I think they faced them the other way.

Mr. Conaghan: No great effort was put into promoting that area despite the fact that the local offices have done everything they can to interest industrialists. The policy of the IDA seems to be to promote other regions. There is an outcry about unemployment in Cork, Dublin and along the east coast, but in our area there was never any worthwhile industrial development. That is not a credit to the IDA.

A report by the Economic and Social Committee of the European Community was submitted recently. In that report it was indicated that an industrial development zone was proposed for the Derry/Letterkenny/Strabane triangle which should be promoted by a new local agency jointly backed by the IDA and the IDB with financial support from the EC. The agency could co-ordinate incentives, [420] launch technical and commercial promotion schemes, provide advice and backup facilities for small businesses and in general try to attract investment and create jobs in an area of particularly high unemployment.

What have the IDA done about that report? Has any research been carried out? Has any approach been made within the region to establish the possibility of setting up what is proposed in this report? Have the Government given any commitment to the recommendations in that report? We have argued consistently in this House that there is a strong case for the development of that region, and there is an argument for that region to be given special consideration, first because of our high unemployment and second because of the troubles in the North.

I believe there is no commitment from the Government or the IDA to do anything about creating jobs in that area nor do they have the will to promote the area. The local IDA offices representing Donegal face very great difficulties with which other regions do not have to contend. The area has a very bad transport service. We do not have an air service nor do we have good roads to Dublin or other parts of the country. The Government must create the climate to attract industry and their first priority must be to deal with the present chronic infrastructure; then the local offices could sell the area but they are not able to do that at present. The IDA offices in Dublin and the Government must do something about this.

In Buncrana at least three factories have closed over the last six months and there is no prospect that they will reopen. Another factory is on the verge of closure. This will mean that four home-based industries are going to the wall. The only industry we can depend on is the textile industry which has survived many handicaps over the last number of years, but if that industry goes that area will be denuded of any source of employment.

So far as the industrial zone is concerned I consider that my area lends itself [421] to that type of development because it has a natural outlet to the European markets through the port of Larne. We have natural waterways — Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle — which have never been developed. We talk about harbours in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick but we have two of the greatest natural waterways in the country which are totally under-utilised and underdeveloped.

I appeal to the Minister to impress on the IDA the necessity to give recognition to the recommendations in the report issued on 14 February 1984 by the Economic and Social Committee of the European Communities. The regional development authority and the cross-Border committees have given many hours of their time in promoting the reports and in setting out for the EC the facilities in the area and also the problems of the people. It is incumbent on the Government and the IDA to recognise the problems of an area which is the most underprivileged in the entire Community, namely, the three counties of Ulster.

Minister of State at the Department of Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism (Mr. E. Collins): I wish to thank Deputies on all sides who have contributed to the debate. Technically the debate was an narrow one in so far as it was dealing with a token £10 Supplementary Estimate. The debate ranged widely. It touched on matters that are not directly the responsibility of my Department and obviously I do not intend to deal with such matters.

I share the optimism expressed today by the Minister, Deputy Bruton. It is an optimism we can rightly, but carefully, claim. It cannot be an unbounded optimism or one that does not have attached to it certain conditions. These conditions are quite simple and clear, namely, that we manage our economy properly, that we ensure that the rate of inflation comes down comparable with our main competitors and that we bring under control our current budget situation and make it managable in terms of macro-economics. We have severe constraints placed on us because of past borrowings——

[422] Mr. Wilson: Are we going to hear the same old story again? The Minister spoke about optimism — Nero was an optimist.

Mr. E. Collins: I am attempting to bring some realism into the debate. I was a Member of the House in the four lost years——

Mr. Wilson: Not again.

Mr. E. Collins: Deputy Wilson who is moaning and groaning on the opposite benches was a Member of the Government at that time.

Mr. Wilson: A Government that had almost full employment until the 1979 price hike in oil threw us off course.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Prendergast): I ask the Deputy to forego his generous attempt to help the Minister.

Mr. E. Collins: The only thing the Deputy and his Government did from 1977 to 1981 was to blow up an economic balloon whose only end could be to burst.

Mr. Wilson: If the Minister's expertise in economics is the level that obtains in the Government it is no bloody wonder we are in the state we are in now.

Mr. E. Collins: I can assure the Deputy I have a better grasp of the subject than Senator O'Donoghue had when he was in charge. He nearly had this country in ruin in three years flat. I am glad the Government took their time to produce two major documents, one on industrial policy which the Minister, Deputy Bruton, published earlier this year and the second the document Building on Reality. Both documents will guide this country through the crisis and back on the road to recovery.

In this debate I shall try to reply to questions raised by Members although I will not be able to reply to some because they do not pertain to my Department. Deputy Lyons expressed concern about the reduction in the building activities of the IDA but he has no cause for such concern. Expenditure under the subhead [423] in question will be increased by £3 million in 1984. He also asked for more details of companies who receive grants from the IDA. It would not be appropriate to list such information in the House on every occasion. The information is available in detail in the annual report of the IDA.

With regard to grant payments, every effort is made to pay grants to firms as quickly as possible but if the Deputy has specific complaints to make I will have them investigated. He also suggested that job creation was no longer a priority in industrial policy. That is a silly statement. It is simply not true. Job creation is still a primary target of the IDA and this has been spelled out quite clearly in the White Paper and in the national plan. It appears to me that Deputy Lyons has not read either document.

Deputy Lyons queried the removal of £2 million from the allocation of the National Enterprise Agency and he suggested that it would adversely affect their activities. That is not correct. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, specifically reactivated the National Enterprise Agency in advance of setting up a national development corporation. They have only recently become operational and they are now assessing a number of project inquiries. Their chief executive does not expect an investment of more that £1 million to be made in 1984. We are adopting a professional approach to project assessment and we will carefully analyse all applications only when the commercial prospects are supported and when we are satisfied they will stand up to strict examination on commercial grounds.

Deputy E. O'Keeffe asked for more regionalisation of the services of the IDA. They are at present regionalising their services to small industries by establishing regional boards with grant approval responsibilities. It is hoped that three of the boards will be operational by 1 January 1985 and the remainder by the middle of 1985.

Mr. Wilson: Will the Minister tell us where the three are located?

[424] Mr. E. Collins: One is already in existence in Cork, another will be in the southeast region and the other in Donegal, the place the Deputy was so concerned about. It has the high priority it deserves from this Government and the Deputy can be assured Ulster will not be forgotten.

Deputy O'Keeffe also referred to the National Micro-electronics Centre. They are doing valuable work and have been given full financial support by the Government. In 1984 the grant-in-aid was £189,000 and in 1985 the amount will be in excess of that figure.

I agree with much of what Deputy O'Keeffe said regarding the number of agencies. That is why the boards of CTT and the IDA are being amalgamated. They will have the same personnel and this will allow them to have a clear idea of what is going on in each board. The same situation will arise with regard to the NBST and the IIRS. This is to avoid duplication. All this is spelled out in the White Paper which Deputies opposite should read sometime. The national plan states quite clearly that it is the Government's intention to reduce the number of State agencies in this area.

Deputy O'Keeffe also referred to the closure of Dunlops. Every effort was made — and I was personally involved in some of them — to avert the closure. My Department and the IDA were deeply involved in trying to save that company. It could not be done on economically viable terms. It was as simple as that.

Deputy Richard Bruton expressed concern about the bias in the tax code in favour of property rather than the production of traded goods. This question is addressed in the White Paper and it is a valid question to raise. Measures are being taken by the Government to maximise investment in the traded goods sector. That is quite clearly spelled out. Restrictions on bond washing were introduced in this year's budget and tax based financing was restricted. In addition special tax concessions were introduced to encourage personal investment in unquoted manufacturing companies.

The Minister, Deputy Bruton, has met [425] representatives of the pensions funds and insurance corporations with a view to encouraging them to invest directly their funds into the traded goods sector. Hopefully something will come of this. Deputy Carey emphasised the need to attract service industries to Ireland. Proposals for the development of the international services sector in Ireland are set out in chapter 9 of the White Paper on Industrial Policy. Among the initiatives recently taken are the extension of a 10 per cent manufacturing tax rate to computer services and the establishment of a national softwear centre in Dublin to speed up development of infrastructural supports for the area.

Many other points were raised. Deputy O'Kennedy's contribution was somewhat contradictory and mystifying. All the points made have been noted and in particular the points made by Cork Deputies about the Beehive closure. Primarily this was caused by the troubles experienced by the parent company and its bank. The company here was viable. The IDA and my Department are fully involved in trying to rescue the Irish end of the company. Pressure to close came not at the Irish end but at the American end.

Other points raised by Deputies will be taken into account by my Department in formulating policy. Deputies on all sides of the House can be assured that we are more than aware of the needs of Munster, Connacht, Ulster and Leinster. This afternoon I felt I had a mini Cook's Tour of Ireland. It brought home to me that our economic problems are national. Deputies can be assured that my Department will be fully involved in all aspects of developing industrial policy and ensuring the maintenance of industry in all parts of the country.

Vote put and agreed to.