Dáil Éireann - Volume 342 - 11 May, 1983
Private Members' Business - Employment Protection: Motion (Resumed).
The following motion was moved by Deputy Reynolds on Tuesday, 10 May 1983:
That Dáil Éireann condemns the total failure of the Government to protect employment by not taking the necessary measures in time to prevent the collapse of an increasing number of major industrial firms.
Debate resumed on amendment No. a1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute:—
“notes that the Government is taking a number of important initiatives to assist in industrial development including the modification of arrangements for VAT on imports at point of entry, the establishment of an Employment Task Force of Ministers and a National Planning Board, and is preparing plans for a White Paper on Industrial Policy to include provision for a National Development Corporation.”
—(Minister for Industry and Energy).
Mr. Gene Fitzgerald Mr. Gene Fitzgerald
Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Last night I said very clearly that the Minister had completely ignored the motion and his amendment. I went on to explain at some length the lack of urgency the Government appeared to apply to factory closures nowadays and the death wish they appear to have imposed on many of our State industries. I said, with regard to Verolme Cork Dockyard, what a tragedy it was that the order that could have been placed in Belfast with Harland and Wolff was not placed there and was allowed to go to Japan for the second time in the  history of Coalition Governments. I honestly believe that was a major mistake by the Government. If the order for that ship had been placed in that yard the spin off could have helped Verolme and the maintenance of the skills in that yard. As well as that, the orders for the fishery research vessel and the fishery patrol vessel must be regarded as urgent because unless those orders are forthcoming it will not be a case of 400 redundancies but probably the vast majority of the work force becoming redundant. I want the next speaker from the Government side to tell me their intentions with regard to Verolme Cork Dockyard, the placing of orders and to explain in great detail why the order for the bulk carrier was placed with the Japanese yard and not given to Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast.
When in Government we made every effort to avoid factory closures and to prevent job losses. We were constantly pilloried and misrepresented for doing so. We were accused of extravagance and of mismanagement. There is no Minister or Minister of State in the benches opposite.
Mr. H. Byrne Mr. H. Byrne
Mr. H. Byrne: On a point of order, is it not necessary for a Minister to be present during a debate as serious as this one?
Minister for Industry and Energy (Mr. J. Bruton) John Bruton
Minister for Industry and Energy (Mr. J. Bruton): I am present.
Mr. H. Byrne Mr. H. Byrne
Mr. H. Byrne: The Minister is up and down like a yo-yo, as he was last night.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
Mr. J. Bruton: I am trying to find out by discussion with the Whip and, hopefully, with the Opposition Whip what will happen in respect of this debate because we have lost a quarter of an hour of the time for the debate. I want to make sure that all Deputies who want to contribute have an opportunity to do so. I was discussing the matter with my Whip with a view to him having a discussion with the Fianna Fáil Whip to find out what will be the position. That is a perfectly legitimate concern on my part.
An Ceann Comhairle Thomas J. (Cavan) Fitzpatrick
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not a point of order.
Mr. Gene Fitzgerald Mr. Gene Fitzgerald
 Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: I did not raise a point of order.
An Ceann Comhairle Thomas J. (Cavan) Fitzpatrick
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Byrne did.
Mr. Gene Fitzgerald Mr. Gene Fitzgerald
Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: I was making the point that we were constantly pilloried and misrepresented for endeavouring to protect jobs and prevent factory closures. We were accused of extravagance and mismanagement. I suggest to the House that there was a lot more hope, confidence and happiness in society then than there is now. The policies of the Government are no substitute for the efforts we tried to make at a time of what we all agree is serious international recession.
I have dwelt at length on the Irish Dunlop situation and on Verolme Cork Dockyard. One only has to read the reports of the last ten days regarding the Irish Steel situation to see how confused we are. On one particular day an account in one newspaper varied entirely from that which appeared in another newspaper. The Minister or somebody on his behalf, in the interests of the House, should tell us what the real position is with Irish Steel. The Minister will have our full support in maintaining that very important strategic industry.
Does the Taoiseach really believe that by threatening to axe State enterprises and by forecasting that the present frightening situation will get even worse, as he did last weekend, he is contributing to the restoration of public confidence and the creation of the kind of climate which we will need in order to get investment in job creation on the scale we require? I heard the Minister in the House last night and again today talking about the necessity to restore confidence. Does he think his Taoiseach is doing this House and the country a service or disservice by his public utterances on this very important issue? Does the Taoiseach or the Government really believe that we can increase the level of foreign investment here when we hear the Tánaiste threatening further dire impositions on the business and industrial community by  way of further forms of wealth taxes yet to be devised? Government spokesmen, including the Taoiseach, have tried to put across that the present appalling situation has been brought about entirely because of the world economic situation. This is not true. Let the Taoiseach try to tell that to the traders of Donegal and other Border areas. No doubt he and his party members have been there in recent weeks.
Instead of the drastic crisis in capital spending created by the Coalition budget what is urgently needed is a major programme of public and private investment to try to combat unemployment and to give hope to the many thousands of young people already unemployed and those about to leave school in the next month or so. If ever a situation of no hope was created it is being created now. I ask the Minister, in deference to this House and to the people generally, to tell us where he and his Government stand. He must tell us through some of the other speakers now because he did not do it himself last night.
I outlined at length the position of the National Development Corporation and the National Enterprise Agency. The only reference the Minister made to such bodies in his speech was to say that the National Board for Science and Technology had been transferred from the Taoiseach's office and that that will solve all our problems in that respect. He owes the House more. He owes the House an explanation of all the points made in Government with regard to the Youth Employment Agency in the Labour-Fine Gael package prepared in December 1982. I understand that we can expect in the near future some announcement regarding community enterprises. Of course I welcome that. I do not know what stage they are at. We were supposed to have some announcements in May which have not yet come. These are things that the Minister should tell the House at least in the interests of those young people who will be leaving school during the coming weeks.
What has been happening? We have had a succession of factory closures. The Taoiseach then tells us that things will  become even worse, some must close and there is no alternative to their closing. State enterprise must be checked, we must cut the costs still further and, obviously, cut employment also. He asks where the money is to come from. Where is the money to come from to meet the added needs of unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance generally?
The choice facing this Government is fairly clear. Their performance to date has been so inept, divisive and hopeless that one must ask them as a matter of urgency to go back to talk about the rapid action of the injection of £100 million in infrastructural development that they promised us in that programme of December last. It is now May and we have not seen it. We have seen withdrawal. I ask the Minister through some of his speakers to give us some information in reply to the questions that Deputy Reynolds and I have asked during this debate.
Mr. Yates Mr. Yates
Mr. Yates: I rise to support the amendment of the Minister for Industry and Energy and I welcome this opportunity to contribute to this debate. Of all the debates going through the House now this is the most significant and important when we have 187,887 unemployed of whom 56,219 are under 25. This is a tremendous economic and social problem which deserves a degree of seriousness and gravity which have not emanated from the opposite side of the House, last night expecially.
When dealing with this area there can be no running away from the simple fact of the fundamental environment for employment. While we have many indigenous advantages to attract foreign investment and for the expansion and development of various sectoral aspects of industry, essential cost inputs to industry — energy through electricity, telecommunications charges, transportation costs, through fuel costs and many industrial and other services, aside from the central industrial issue of restrictive trade practices in many of our professions — are the basic reason why we are falling down in the area of viable production.  Be it in the agri-related area or manufacturing industry, we have not the fundamental basis of competitiveness to produce goods and services profitably and viably and thereby protect jobs. The Government recognise the need to control inflation and interest rates before dealing with the symptoms that are highlighted by a debate such as this.
Listening to some of the speakers to this motion one would think that this problem of escalating unemployment had only just developed in the four months since 14 December. Perhaps it is conveniently forgotten that in the last two years, on any 12-month basis, 40,000 jobs were lost. Seeking to blame, the Fianna Fáil motion directly condemns the total failure of the Government. We should be fair and look for blame on all sides in relation to the dilemma we find ourselves in. The record shows that the previous Government did nothing to control the costs that I speak of. That is one reason why I must not support The Workers' Party amendment which seems to put the emphasis on State-owned development of manufacturing industry as a solution to the unemployment problem through State industry.
The reality is that part of our problem is the tax burden we must carry because our semi-State bodies this year will run at a loss of £170 million. The high costs and high-cost structures in the semi-State bodies provide no real alternative in the free-trading economic world in which we live. If we seek to apportion blame — in industrial relations — that is not very constructive but it is relevant when the Government are taking the flak we see in regard to the crucial pay guidelines that are to be negotiated that staff of the ESB are prepared to cause a blackout if necessary, regardless of the effects right across our whole economy. Also a major company, Asahi, are crippled on a dayto-day basis while the parent company are reviewing their future operations, and this is due to an NBU strike in CIE. In many receivership instances we see the failure of companies as going concerns because of the claims and efforts of those who are due for redundancy in the attempt to preserve the company and  whatever remaining rationalised jobs can be preserved. Their wish for severance pay and for many other claims weigh over and above statutory redundancy payments which means that the receiver does not have the money. Under law the Government do not have the money either and, therefore, the investor who wishes to take over the company cannot do so because there is a lack of co-operation.
I learned today that in a company in Dublin, which is struggling to survive, absenteeism — and this is true of many companies — on Mondays, especially during the summer, is as high as 30 per cent. These are some of the reasons. We must also look at our banking system. The interest rates, and I am not necessarily speaking about the free market rate, are simply higher and the profit percentages are also higher than in other countries and, therefore, they limit the money and costs that any business can carry. If we are apportioning blame, we should be realistic about it.
Last night Deputy Reynolds mentioned that the early warning system which he had rightly set up in Government had broken down and that the Government are doing nothing to counter the problems in this area. I have it directly from the Department and those concerned that the efforts in relation to identifying the warning signals prior to the advent of receivership have intensified over the past few years. Through a diversity of State organisations, namely IPC, the lending institutions of the ICC and the ACC and, of course, the rescue operations of the State agencies directly responsible, the rescue board of the IDA and Fóir Teoranta have weekly meetings which have been intensified. In the instances of the companies in question, Telectron, Dunlop and Black and Decker, every effort was made by the State agencies to prevent them from closing.
There is an ACOT advisory service through which there is daily communication with all the rescue agencies in an integrated and co-ordinated way to ensure that everything possible is done to avert receivership. It is fair to point out that in  the case of these companies, where they had European operations, their rationalisation programme and losses were not limited solely to Ireland. The action they had to take was regrettable but it, too, was not related only to Ireland. In the case of Black and Decker, my information is that they had been on a three day week for some years now and, although Deputy Lenihan said the closure was out of the blue, I am assured that everybody in the area knew there were problems for quite a considerable time.
I should like to mention what the Government are doing now in this area. The Minister mentioned that the planning board has been set up, that there were changes in regard to regulations relating to VAT on imports at the point of entry, the employment task force and the national planning board. I was interested in discussing with SFADCo their proposals in relation to the food sector. They have intensive development now in relation to this sector and they have a three phase programme whereby they will get existing small business people in the secondary processing of foodstuffs, such as tomato ketchup and horseradish sauce, to develop them into a large concern. They have done this by taking on board these people and by giving them advice in terms of marketing, research and development, management and will eventually help them to build units of 30 square feet which will provide a pilot project.
With regard to Limerick and Shannon, one might well ask why Mattersons were not successful. The reason is they were in the canning industry with a high volume turnover, low costs and high output but, when the State took it over, through the Sugar Company, the reality was that the low cost structure disappeared. They were not able to provide the goods and services at a competitive price.
In the areas of secondary processing of our natural resources of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, inter-departmental groups, through civil servants, tend to look after their own areas of responsibility. We hope that by raising it at the highest ministerial level they will overcome these problems. I hope that the  National Development Corporation will be actively involved in this area and that they will use the shareholding equity of the primary producers, the people already in the production business, and the retailers to provide a continuous marketing trading co-operation in sectors that will be used to ensure that there is real job creation in this area. But there is also a need for technical trade barriers within the confines of the free trading Treaty of Rome countries. It is possible, through the enforcement of technical standards for certain items, to curb the extraordinary growth of imports and, without having a protectionist policy, we could have some real structures which would help to solve that problem.
The Minister asked if Deputies had any ideas to advance which would contribute to a solution of this problem. I suggest that the National Development Corporation should be primarily involved in the post farm gate, post harbour, post forestry activity of getting involved and getting a sufficient share of the market in that area. I hope we will see expansion of the innovation centre set up in NIHE in Limerick, incubator factories as stated in The Way Forward, and that we will have a residential State run business centre. If people have a good idea for setting up a business they could go to the centre and avail of the full expertise in all the problems associated with setting up one's own industry. The old maxim is that the way to get rid of bad debts is by good management and I hope such a centre will be set up on a permanent, residential basis.
I hope the task force will try to ensure that the county development teams will be expanded and developed instead of regionalisation which has utterly failed. We should have one field officer from the IIRS, CTT and the IDA in each county development team and they should be on the ground to provide an expert, localised consultancy service. I wish to mention briefly, although it is not totally relevant to industrial policy, the activities of the Youth Employment Agency. It has already been mentioned in this debate that there are 56,000 young people without  jobs. As the youngest Member of this House I am most concerned about this aspect of the problem.
While the agency had problems with short-term policies, and had to use existing channels to expend such large amounts of money, it is time that their medium-term policy started to work. There is a need for a job development scheme for one year guaranteed to all school leavers integrated with the work experience programme and the AnCO training schemes. Our technical schools are empty in the summer where real training and education could be provided related to the need for employment opportunities and moving away from the sterile type of education and training for clerical and administrative work which has been taken over by technology.
The Goods Council in conjunction with the Youth Employment Agency should use their initiative to provide co-operative structures, and whatever, on the basis of import substitution even for small items which could be produced here by sole Irish producers or to service large manufacturing industrial units. The agency should pilot schemes. Instead of having grants paid through different Departments for house improvements, the unions should have an open viewpoint on traditional areas of labour which could be looked at again to provide schemes involving young people.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle John J. Ryan
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but we are 18 minutes behind schedule. I appeal to the Deputy to be as brief as possible. I am trying to get in three more speakers.
Mr. Yates Mr. Yates
Mr. Yates: I understood that I had 30 minutes. I hope to conclude by 7.45 p.m.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle John J. Ryan
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is grand.
Mr. Yates Mr. Yates
Mr. Yates: I hope the Youth Employment Agency will be the champion of schemes such as providing sanitary services which are essential in 1983. Instead of providing grants, young people could be employed to provide  essential services for young people, or to carry out improvements to public buildings, or whatever.
Deputy Fitzgerald mentioned the real problem that we will be spending £473 million on unemployment compensation this year. These people have to live, and they have a very meagre standard of living. I appreciate all the social aspects of the problem. The reality is that this is a multiplication of the type of resources we are spending on attracting foreign investment, on the manufacturing industry, on the development of agriculture, or the development of any area related to job creation. Environment and improvement schemes should be taken away from the Youth Employment Agency as they have no training content. When the employment figure is over 10 per cent or 12 per cent, or whatever is the prescribed figure, schemes should be initiated in certain areas and people on assistance could be paid at the rate of benefit for six months.
Those are some of my personal proposals. I reject the Opposition suggestion that nothing is being done. It is very easy to play the hurler on the ditch on those benches in a debate such as this. The reality is that our fundamental structure of cost competitiveness was eroded by successive Governments to the point where we are not attracting the volume of foreign investment we need. Many vested interest groups in our industrial relations scene are more interested in protecting the stance of their members and less interested in employment creation. Our private and public sectors are up to their eyes in debt, and we must not do anything which would frighten away foreign investment which is so essential for our future. I will be supporting the Government in their endeavours in the future. I hope that with the National Development Corporation and other innovative measures, they will bring about a real resolution of this problem.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle John J. Ryan
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Before I call on Deputy Aylward, with the co-operation of the House I want to suggest the following rota to which I hope the House will agree in view of the restricted time: Deputy Aylward from 7.45 p.m. to  8.05 p.m., Deputy Mac Giolla from 8.05 p.m. to 8.15 p.m., Deputy Skelly from 8.15 p.m. to 8.20 p.m., and Deputy Reynolds to conclude for Fianna Fáil.
Mr. Aylward Mr. Aylward
Mr. Aylward: I support the motion in the name of my colleagues Deputy Fitzgerald and Deputy Reynolds:
That Dáil Éireann condemns the total failure of the Government to protect employment by not taking the necessary measures in time to prevent the collapse of an increasing number of major industrial firms.
Any public representative who is aware of his duties as a Member of this House must view with dismay and shock the number of closures in recent months. I refer in particular to the closure of the Telectron Company with the loss of 500 jobs. This closure should not have taken place. It reminds me of the situation in my own constituency not so long ago when a multinational company decided to close the Fieldcrest operation. At that time as a member of the Government party I went through a very difficult time.
Tonight I detect an air of hypocrisy on the Government side of the House. At that time they waltzed through the lobbies having put forward a proposal that the Government should nationalise the Fieldcrest operation in Kilkenny. Tonight the shoe is on the other foot and the approach is totally different. The operation in Telectron was very sound and solid for many years. I would have hoped that the Government would see it in that light, and take the necessary action to ensure that that plant continued in operation.
In my own area I felt very strongly about the Fieldcrest operation. For many months after that closure I listened to political crying from my political opponents in Kilkenny condemning the failure of the Government to keep the Fieldcrest plant in operation. The Sandtex operation in Kilkenny which was initiated by my colleague Deputy Reynolds has not been developed any further, and the empty spaces in the Fieldcrest plant have not been occupied by any alternative industry, as was promised by the Fine  Gael Party before the recent General Election.
Consistently in the south east area we have been losing jobs at an unprecedented rate. Waterford city could be described as a ghost city, and Kilkenny and Wexford are not much better. Both the Minister and Deputy Yates adopted a very philosophical approach to this problem, but the problem is far more serious than that, and the issue is different. We have 190,000 people unemployed, 70,000 of whom are young people. We have 250 companies who went into bankruptcy in the recent past. It is time for very serious action. It is time the Government introduced a plan to ensure that jobs are not lost at this rate in the future. There is no policy or direction and certainly there is very little action on the part of the Government.
We have heard references to the task force of Ministers that has been established and to the National Development Corporation. It is easy to refer to them but where is the action? I have not heard of any action by the Government. The Taoiseach, in his pessimistic approach, informed us that things will get worse, and that makes one fear for the future of the country. The programme for Government drawn up by Fine Gael and Labour — their individual programmes fell by the wayside when they entered Government — stated that a National Development Corporation would be established as an early priority, but after five months in Government we are not any nearer to establishing that body. I would be glad if it was set up as a matter of urgency and given power to tackle the desperate situation that has developed. We were told that £100 million would be allocated for the contingency fund, but that has been withdrawn. That was part of the arrangement for the task force. Job-sharing was to be discussed, but that has not taken place. I am very concerned, as are other Members, about the situation.
By their actions in the budget the Government have contributed in a big way to our unemployment situation. In the capital programme they withdrew money from various schemes and that has  added to our problem. For example, in the building industry only half of those who could be employed have a job. Money has been withdrawn from local authorities and the policy of decentralisation continued by consecutive Governments over the years has been curtailed. Money has also been withdrawn from the building and construction industry with the result that fewer houses will be built. There have been huge increases in indirect taxes, more VAT on food, drink and other commodities and that has ensured that jobs will be lost daily. The decision of the Government to add 4 per cent to the rate of inflation also contributed to the problem. One wonders where this will lead us. Huge sums of money are paid out weekly in unemployment benefit and I wonder if that could be put to some constructive use.
We have been told that various committees and consultants will be reporting but we have had too many reports down the years. It is time we got down to the task of getting employment for our people, particularly our school leavers. I agree with the Minister when he referred to the great potential for exports by domestic companies and the need to curb imports by State companies. They are desirable. I would like to see Irish agriculture developed further and the food processing industry expanded. That must be done as a matter of urgency. It is one of the simple answers to the problem of job creation.
Daily we are made aware of the lack of funds for our local authorities. We have the personnel and expertise available at local level but less money is being spent on local projects. Those who travel through the country are aware of the poor state of our roads and the need for major repair works. If money was given to local authorities jobs could be provided at local level. When one considers the number of firms that have closed down in recent times one is prompted to ask if we have been too generous in our efforts to attract subsidiaries of foreign multinationals to the detriment of many local industries. I have found that if a local businessman wants to develop an industry every obstacle is put in his path.  Native industry seems to take second place to the larger multinational concerns. Although the small concern may not provide the same number of jobs as the multinational, it must be remembered that the small firms provide secure jobs that will last through difficult times. Many of the multinational subsidiaries must communicate with their headquarters in other countries when decisions have to be made and often those decisions arrive too late to rescue the firms. In the case of Fieldcrest the parent company in America made all the decisions for the plant in Kilkenny and the lack of communication between them meant that the marketing operation went haywire. As a result the Kilkenny concern closed down. In my view a similar situation existed in Telectron. For that reason special consideration should be given to small local industries. They should be helped, not hindered. From my experience as a public representative I am aware that every type of obstacle is put in their way from the day they seek planning permission.
It is time that a serious interest was taken in our small industries. Deputy Reynolds reminded us last night that this was the House where decisions should be taken and he warned that if that was not the case those decisions will be made elsewhere for us. That is the realistic position. Over the years reams of paper have been used in compiling reports on the industrial sector but what we need now is action in regard to the creation of jobs. In the case of Telectron there were orders for equipment to improve the telecommunication services and I find it hard to understand how a company with such orders can go out of business.
The Minister is deeply involved in Dáil reform but there are more important matters to be dealt with. He must do everything possible to provide jobs as a matter of urgency. He should introduce an emergency action plan. I accept that there are no easy options but there is not any substitute for hard work, good planning and good management. The Government must give the lead in that area. We should not adopt the attitude of the Taoiseach to succumb to despair and  pessimism. Now is the time for dedicated effort. We have high taxes and high interest rates but we must also consider how demoralising it is to be unemployed. Public representatives who have to deal with unemployed people are aware of the problems. It is difficult to hold out any hope for those people. The situation is getting out of hand. I appeal to the Minister to forget about philosophising and get down to the job of establishing the National Development Corporation, if that is the answer, to ensure that the jobs are provided for all the unemployed, particularly young people. The situation is far too serious for us as Members of the House to renege on our responsibilities to those many thousands of people.
Mr. Mac Giolla Mr. Mac Giolla
Mr. Mac Giolla: We listened to a Deputy describe himself as the youngest Deputy in the House. He made the most extraordinary reactionary speech I have heard here. He said the claims made by workers whether for more wages, better conditions or redundancy were the real cause of problems in private sector industry. He went so far as to say that claims for redundancy payments were the reason why other companies would not take over ailing companies. It would seem he is anxious to get back to the days when a worker could be dismissed with a week's pay and never have a hope of another job. Redundancy payments do not cover two or three years' wages.
He continued to make the point that public sector industry and companies are a major cause of the financial problems we have. He mentioned some figures relating to subsidies which were given to public sector companies last year. He made no reference to the cost to the State of the private sector through grants, loans, employment subsidies and so on made to them through various State agencies set up specifically to assist the private sector. He suggested that the role of some State companies should be expanded especially those which helped the private sector. He saw a special role for CTT, the IDA and IIRS which are public sector companies. He suggested setting up a new one — a residential  State-run business centre paid for by the Exchequer. This would be specially for the management of private sector companies. This is the kind of speech we are being subjected to and is typical of Fine Gael thinking in relation to the private sector.
He gave the impression that the industrial relations scene referred only to trade unions and had nothing to do with management. Management faults have been the major cause of industrial disputes over the last number of years.
The major problem in the public sector is political interference. The ESB is being brought to its knees by the imposition of a £20 million levy which they will have to pass on to the consumer. The price for gas or turf is decided on by the Government so that the Government, through An Bord Gáis, can get further funds into the Exchequer. There are directors from the private sector on the board of the ESB and other companies who are interfering with the running of those companies and preventing them from going into competition with private sector companies. All those political shackles should be removed.
There are two areas where the private sector has failed and where the State must play a strong role. One is in the electronics area which is of vital importance to the country. Telectron had hopes in the early seventies of being the base for an indigenous technology industry. It has now collapsed and the State must play a strong role in trying to bring together that very good design and development team which they had in Telectron and develop that area.
The other area is forestry and the timber industry. For 60 years our parents and grandparents paid taxes to build up forests for us to take advantage of today. We were told in reply to a question last week that we export 50,000 tonnes of timber which contractors can buy at £1 per tonne standing in the forest. It is cut down and exported. We have no processing industry. This is an indictment of the policies pursued by Government. There is a strong role for the State to play in this area apart from the processing of  timber through chipboard industries and papermills. There is need for a national kiln drying plant which would cost approximately £3 million. Approximately £200 million of timber was imported last year. It would enable us to provide our own timber for the construction industry. We have no such kiln drying plant.
In reply to a question I put down I was told there were a few kiln drying plants. The capacity of all of them put together would be for 1,440 cubic metres of timber. That is just a laugh.
Forestry must be taken out of the hands of the civil service. It is a dead hand on the industry. There should be a State forestry board established or it should be put into the hands of Bord na Móna who have shown that the job can be done. That is essential if we are to make use of the money which was invested in forests over the years. Up to 15,000 jobs could be created in addition to the 4,000 which exist at present. By 1990 the amount of mature timber in the forests will have doubled. We have no capacity for dealing with this. There is a plant being brought in by the IDA but they will not deal with one-third of the capacity which will exist in 1990. The State must become involved in this industry because private industry has collapsed. The timber is there for them now at a cost of £1 per tonne standing in the forests and yet they cannot develop a processing industry. The State must do it as Seán Lemass insisted it do with the bogs in the past.
Mr. Skelly Mr. Skelly
Mr. Skelly: I noticed that the most thumbed document in the Opposition must be the Joint Programme for Government. Deputy Reynolds thumbed through it and then passed it to Deputy Fitzgerald, who thumbed through it. Now I see that Deputy Aylward is also referring to it. I am glad that we have made some progress since that document issued. Deputy Fitzgerald spoke about failure and lack of hope, as did some of his colleagues on that side.
If that situation exists, it is a comment on their performance while in Government, when the country was brought to  a position of no hope. This Government have laid the groundwork of hope by establishing the ministerial task force, the National Planning Board, plus the White Paper which the Minister proposes to bring out on Industrial Policy. There is also the committee on small businesses. Have the Opposition no confidence in the State institutions such as the IDA, Córas Tráchtála and Fóir Teoranta, which the able Deputy Reynolds used to the full while he was in office? These institutions have been there: even after changes in Government, they have not changed. It is generally agreed they are performing very well and they did not stop performing with changes of Government.
A planned approach to any situation, particularly a no hope situation, requires immediate corrective action, such as the modification of VAT at the point of entry. This time, the Government were faced with a more difficult task than in 1973 when inflation was 24 per cent and total cumulative foreign borrowings since the beginning of the State amounted to £1 billion. In the space of four years after their return to power in 1977, the Fianna Fáil Government succeeded in adding 6 per cent to the inflation rate and £4 billion to the foreign borrowing figure. Therefore, this Government when they returned to office faced a total of £5 billion of foreign borrowing.
The Government in the past few months have been laying the base for recovery through their planning. I believe this to be the best Government we have had in the history of the State. The Government are led by the best Taoiseach we have had in the history of the State. His performance in the 24th Dáil, I predict, will make the late Seán Lemass pale by comparison. The Taoiseach's immediate predecessor has been made to look like a ball boy. I have confidence in this Government and the Taoiseach, to whom the country looks with hope, because the people have confidence that he will save it from the appalling situation that we were left with by Fianna Fáil.
I was disappointed at the approach of the two former Ministers during this  debate. There was nothing very positive in their remarks, which they did not seem to have prepared. There were plenty of jokes and fun about a situation which is extremely serious, nothing to be laughed at. I was particularly disappointed to hear the unresearched comments about Telectron by Deputy Aylward and Lenihan.
This morning Deputy Lenihan accused the Government of not taking the necessary action to prevent the closure of manufacturing firms and in this connection he instanced the case of Telectron. I would like to tell the House that after hearing that accusation I made some inquiries myself about the action being taken to prevent closures and that, as a result, I can now say that I am convinced that after the Government took up office in December last the amount of time, attention and resources devoted by the Department of Industry and Energy, by the IDA, by Fóir Teoranta and by the other State agencies to the problems of firms in difficulties and to preventing the closure of such firms increased significantly as compared with the period during which Deputy Lenihan's party were in office. And as the Minister for Industry and Energy pointed out this afternoon, that party were in office for 56 of the past 71 months.
As regards the particular case of Telectron, I have been advised by the Minister for Industry and Energy that after the take-over of that company by A T & T International, both the IDA and the Department of Posts and Telegraphs were in frequent contact with the company, the former with a view to ensuring that it would honour the “aspirations” to which it had subscribed at the time of the take-over and the latter in connection with orders for pulse code modulation equipment and digital radio equipment which it had given to the company. The fact that the company was making losses was known but this was not considered a matter for serious concern because at the time of the take-over it was widely accepted, not least by A T & T itself, that the company would continue to incur losses for some time and, particularly, until it secured European markets for its products.
 There was no indication whatsoever by the company that it intended to close its Tallaght plant — in fact all the indications were that the company was considering the transfer of the manufacture of other products from the US to Tallaght to improve the position at the latter location. Even when the company announced on 30 March that it intended to make 197 of its workers at Tallaght redundant because they had not at that time a sufficient workload to sustain a work force of 500 at the plant, there was no question of the closure of the plant.
Indeed, there was still no question of the closure when problems related to these redundancies came before the Labour Court on Friday, 22 April 1983. However, as the House now knows, while those discussions relating to the redundancies were taking place in the Labour Court on 22 April, a decision was being taken by A T & T International in the US, to close the plant; and that decision was announced on the following Monday morning, 25 April. I would ask Deputy Lenihan how the present Government — or, for that matter, any Government — could have prevented that closure announcement? I suggest that, if Deputy Lenihan is honest, his only answer must be the Government could not.
Deputies know that, despite that announcement, the Government and the appropriate State agencies made strenuous efforts to avert the closure of the Tallaght operation. The fact that these efforts were unsuccessful does not point to inaction or failure on the part of the Government but to the harsh reality that in the final analysis the decision as to whether an enterprise remains open or is closed down rests with the proprietors of such enterprises.
It does not take a lot of reasoning to find that out but heavy-handed Deputies have come in to lambast the Government who are using the same agencies that the Opposition used when they were in Government. It is naive to expect that the public will fall for that. The same strenuous efforts are being made when any company in the country, especially  those with large work forces, are threatened with closure. I do not think Deputy Mac Giolla's approach would solve all the problems. He suggested everything should be taken over by the State. This total anti-private enterprise attitude that The Workers' Party have suggests that it is foreigners who run all private enterprise here. We have a mixed economy and we should make the most of it. I am happy to support the ministerial amendment.
Mr. Reynolds Mr. Reynolds
Mr. Reynolds: It is amazing to sit here and listen to the inaccuracies poured out from time to time from the opposite benches. They talk about research, but themselves never trouble to check their information. When they get the opportunity they should check what the inflation rate was in 1973. I can tell them from the top of my head that it was not 23 per cent or 24 per cent. They hold the record for the highest inflation rate ever seen in the Irish economy during the term of that Coalition Government from 1973 to 1977, and in the last seven months as well. They added 4 per cent or 5 per cent to the inflation rate through the February budget. If they had not done that, what would the inflation rate be at the end of this year?
That is what bringing down costs is all about, but the Government are going in the opposite direction. When they talk, they should talk facts. Nobody here castigated the State agencies, but the responsibility rests in this House. The agencies are responsible to the Minister of the day. I disagree sometimes with what Deputy Mac Giolla says in relation to some of those agencies. For instance, would Deputy Mac Giolla or this House condone a situation in which a chief executive in a semi-State body would deprive a backward part of the country of 70 jobs? Is that the sort of action that any Minister should tolerate? I say it is not. If the situation I am referring to is not resolved I will be bringing it to the floor of this House. I have tried to do it on two occasions but I was refused permission to raise it. People are afraid to bring such incidents to the floor of the House and that will not get us anywhere.
 I begin to wonder where we are going when I hear Deputy Skelly come in here to say that the people of the country are looking to the Taoiseach, the man that will give them hope, and, at the same time, he is the greatest preacher of no hope. The Government have given themselves the label of “no hope”. The words that have issued from the mouth of their leader are not like the words of a future leader, and probable Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton. He has spoken about optimism. I applauded him for that last night and I asked him to convey those sentiments to his Leader. The Taoiseach has said that no Government could do anything about our present situation.
The policies of the Government are diametrically opposed to what the employment situation requires. Last night I said that the total thrust of the Government's policy was diametrically opposed to what the employment situation demanded and today in his speech the Taoiseach said the same thing. Fine Gael should not try to tell us that the Taoiseach knows where he is going. Perhaps he does, but I wonder if the rest of the people with him know where they are going.
Time and again we hear the Taoiseach say one thing while the Tánaiste says something else. Last weekend in Cork there were two different statements: the Tánaiste said there will be State aid for industry and that he believed in semi-State industries but the Taoiseach and many in Fine Gael do not. I said last night, and I repeat, that the philosophy existing in the Fine Gael benches today is the same kind of philosophy that existed during the time of the late Paddy McGilligan when he said the State had no responsibility to provide work. Fine Gael have not changed and they will never change. It is time they changed the name of their party. They have the same philosophy that they had in the fifties. Fine Gael produced a booklet which they called their Programme for Government which conned the Labour Party in Limerick. Is it any wonder they are under very considerable pressure now? There is no hope of work for 70,000 young  people, without considering the young school leavers this summer. What message is given to them? It is that the Government are pursuing policies diametrically opposed to what the employment situation requires. These are the words of the Taoiseach today.
That is the man who has no hope. He does not believe in the capacity of the people to solve their problems. Fine Gael recently showed that not all of their members will follow the Taoiseach. Last night the Minister produced selective statistics to try to prove a point. It was said that for the first four months of this year 2,451 jobs were saved as against 1,660 for the corresponding four months last year. Has the Minister forgotten that for much of that time his party were in Government? We went into Government on 9 March. The first case that appeared on my desk was Fieldcrest which the Government tried to nationalise but they changed their philosophy. Some Members of the Government side have spoken about “the hurlers on the ditch”. They should not forget about the policies and philosophies they put forward when they were in Opposition.
We stand over what we say and we published it in our document The Way Forward. Today the Minister was selective when he spoke about how grants should be given in the future, how companies and IDA grants should be organised. All of that is printed in The Way Forward. If the Government wish to discard that document they should do so for the whole of the document and not use sections that suit them.
Now I will give the figures for rescues in 1981 as against 1982 from a recent Fóir Teoranta report. The figures for jobs saved to December 1981 was 4,187 and to December 1982 it was 7,679. Does that indicate that efforts are being made to save jobs? I challenge the Minister to look at the figures which I have since I was in office, and I will give them to the Minister if he wants them. In June last year 2,295 jobs were saved and in September 2,718 jobs. That clearly demonstrates the commitment of the Fianna Fáil Government to saving jobs. Since Fine  Gael took office the trend has been in the other direction.
Would the Minister say if he is withdrawing the subvention to Fóir Teoranta or if he will supply the money required to save jobs? Government Deputies ask where will we get the money for this or that. They borrow for current expenditure because they have not the courage to tackle the root cause of our problem. We started to remedy this situation last July but they did not continue it. When they saw our expenditure worked out on line for last year, they did not have the courage to cut current expenditure. That is the root cause of our problem and the Minister knows it as well as I do. Instead, the Government have taken the easy way out. They reduced the capital programme by £220 million. They say it is all right to borrow money to pay the dole and for current expenditure, but it is not all right to borrow money for capital expenditure which could be put into the building and construction industry which would pay off the money four-fold in jobs.
People talk about the thousands of workers in the construction industry who have lost their jobs. Look at what they are getting under the pay-related scheme and unemployment benefit. When one compares that with the pay for local authority workers one realises that these people are getting more than they would if they were working for the local authorities. These workers are badly needed by the local authorities. All that is needed are stones and tar to fix the potholes in our roads. If the Government want practical solutions we can give them plenty.
We have a national unemployment crisis and this Government have not taken any fire brigade action. Last night the Minister put down an amendment to the motion saying he was setting up the task force of Ministers, a planning board and so on — more nails of bureaucracy — but not a single line in the Minister's speech said what those agencies were doing, if they had met or if they were producing any policies or programmes. I asked those questions last night and it is easy to see why the Minister did not answer them  — the Government are not taking any action.
The Minister explained the Government's philosophy in relation to the food industry. I will back any measure he brings in to develop that industry, but as long as it is left in the Department of Agriculture it will never be developed properly. The Minister knows as well as I do that there has to be a single Minister responsible for the development and marketing of agricultural produce and the sooner this is done the better.
Why is there such unemployment in the meat factories? Why are men being let go? As a farmer the Minister knows the variable premium is the reason cattle are being sent to Northern Ireland to be killed, to the detriment of jobs in the Republic. When the Minister for Agriculture put our case in Brussels he was immediately accosted by Mr. Walker, the British Minister for Agriculture, who said if our Minister did not withdraw his objections the British would look at the suckler scheme. Our Minister cowed down and let Mr. Walker get away with it because there is a bonanza in it for the farmers in Northern Ireland and England. Is that the sort of commitment we need in a time of emergency? Is that the kind of Minister we need? I say no. A Minister needs to take his courage in his hands and stand up for what he believes in.
I wonder what some members of this Government believe in. Last night I tried to find out if they had any policy to deal with our unemployment situation. Have they any message for the 220,000 unemployed? Have they any short-term policy? Do they intend letting matters roll on and, as the Taoiseach said, throw up their hands in despair and say nothing can be done? If that is the message going out to the 220,000 people, including 70,000 young people, then this Government are a failure in their eyes and the system is failing to deal with the problem.
The Coalition were elected to govern. They campaigned during the last general election and had the Book of Estimates put at their disposal. This had never happened before. They had the programme we had laid out, and they knew all the  problems before they went into office. Immediately they got into office, got the numbers right, got the cars distributed to the boys, they threw that document into the basket and it will be forgotten until they have to go back to Limerick or some other place. They forgot about every document they ever believed in. They are forgetting their own policies. I do not know where the policies or philosophies of the Labour Party have gone. If the Labour Party stand for the closing down of the semi-State industries which they are destined to do and have every intention of doing then fair play to them.
Mr. Quinn Mr. Quinn
Mr. Quinn: The Deputy made a very good start in Cork.
Mr. Reynolds Mr. Reynolds
Mr. Reynolds: But the Labour Party will experience the wrath of their supporters when they go back to the electorate. Here we have a Minister for Finance——
Mr. Reynolds Mr. Reynolds
Mr. Reynolds: ——saying that the capital investment in this country will no longer be an engine of investment. Do the Labour Party share that view? If they do, fine. We do not share it. We believe in taking courage in our hands and getting down to doing the job that the Government are elected to do. Else the Government will be for all time the Government of no hope.
Amendment put and declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.
Dáil Éireann 342 Private Members' Business Employment Protection: Motion (Resumed).