Seanad Éireann - Volume 46 - 01 August, 1956
Restrictive Trade Practices (Confirmation of Order) Bill, 1956—Second and Subsequent Stages.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Crotty) Patrick J. Crotty
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Crotty): The object of this Bill, the third of its kind to come before the House, is to give the force of law to an Order made on the recommendation of the Fair Trade Commission, under Section 9 of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953, relating to trade practices affecting the supply and distribution of motor vehicles, tyres, spare parts and accessories.
The report of the public inquiry which was held in the matter by the Fair Trade Commission shows that there are two associations in the motor trade, namely, the Irish Motor Traders' Association, which I shall refer to as the association and the Society of Irish Motor Traders Limited, which I shall call the society. The commission found that, for a considerable number of years, a list of approved motor traders—known as the approved list—was maintained by the association. Entry to this list was subject to certain requirements which tended to become more comprehensive with the passage of time, and admission to the list was a prerequisite to the receipt of a large proportion of motor goods on trade terms. The supply and distribution of motor goods were largely influenced by the control arrangements of the association. Assemblers and wholesalers who were members of the association or of the society, as well as approved motor traders, undertook to confine supplies of new cars and other motor goods to persons on the approved list.
 It was considered by the association to be an offence to supply goods on trade terms to unapproved traders. Two of the large assemblers were not members of either the association or the society, and did not adhere strictly to the approved list. Nevertheless, the majority of the main dealers appointed by both these assemblers were approved by the association and, consequently, had bound themselves to make supplies available only to approved traders.
The association also enforced the maintenance of resale prices fixed by assemblers for new passenger cars, and, by manufacturers, for tyres. A trader who was discovered by the association to have supplied goods on trade terms to an unapproved trader, or to have sold a new car or type for less than the manufacturers' list prices, might be subjected by the association to punitive action, such as a fine or removal from the approved list.
An important feature of the trade is the extent to which second-hand cars are taken in part exchange for new cars. It was estimated that 90 per cent. of sales of new cars involved transactions in second-hand cars. Despite frequent consideration, the association had not evolved a method of controlling the allowances made by dealers in respect of second-hand cars and this situation had rendered the maintenance of the retail prices of new cars difficult, if not anomalous.
The report indicates that an applicant for approval by the association as a motor retailer was required to meet certain onerous requirements. His garage had to have a ground floor space of at least 3,000 square feet under one roof. He was required to have specified tool and office equipment and to carry an adequate stock of accessories and parts. If not himself mechanically qualified, he was obliged to employ a motor mechanic who had completed a five year apprenticeship in an approved garage. Moreover, he had to give a written undertaking to adhere rigidly to the price maintenance regulations prescribed by the association. There were  complementary conditions for entry into the motor repairers', wholesalers' and manufacturers' sections of the approved list.
The commission have concluded that the system described in the report whereby the association apply conditions for the approval of traders, and impose requirements with the object of confining supplies of motor goods to persons on the approved list, constitutes a restriction of competition and a restraint of trade. In the opinion of the commission this interference with competition and trade is unfair and operates against the public interest. The commission are satisfied that the tendency of the conditions as a whole is to preserve the status quo, and to retard the development of new methods in the wholesale distribution of motor goods. The commission consider that assemblers, manufacturers and other suppliers should not be governed in their distribution arrangements by adherence to the approved list. As requirements for admission to the approved list are deemed by the commission to be unreasonable and unfair, it would, in their view, be contrary to the public interest that suppliers should confine the supply of their goods on trade terms to persons on such a list.
Motor goods manufactured in this country are protected by tariff or by quota and, in consequence, the sources of supply of the goods are, in many cases, necessarily limited. It is the view of the commission that, in such circumstances, a responsibility rests on suppliers to ensure that persons actively engaged in the trade are not handicapped in earning their livelihood by reason of inability to obtain supplies of the goods on trade terms. It is always open to the individual assembler or to any other supplier, acting on his own initiative, to apply conditions relating to such matters as technical service and stocks which he considers to be necessary for the efficient distribution of his goods. Any conditions of supply which he imposes should, however, be fair and reasonable.
As regards resale price maintenance in the motor trade, the conclusion of  the commission is that the practice operates against the public interest and should, subject to certain safeguards, be abolished. It is the view of the commission that the operation of resale price maintenance in respect of new vehicles tends to be anomalous and arbitrary in a situation where the part-exchange of second-hand vehicles plays so large a role in selling. If a trader is free to give a high trade-in allowance to one purchaser it is difficult to justify the imposition of a penalty on him if he reduces the price of a new car for another purchaser. The commission consider, however, that the individual assembler should be at liberty to withhold supplies of new vehicles from a trader who sells the vehicles at or below the prices at which he purchased them from the assembler, or, subject to notifying the commission and to the right of the commission to review the action taken, to withhold supplies from a trader who has advertised new vehicles for sale at less than the assembler's list prices. The effect of this would be to allow the individual purchaser to bargain freely with the dealer regarding the price of a new vehicle. It is the view of the commission, however, that the provision should be contingent on the continued absence of collective controls over the allowances given by traders for second-hand vehicles.
With regard to exclusive dealing in the trade, the commission refer to the advantages, as well as the risks, attaching to this system. They have not recommended any basic modification of the system as it now operates but have stated that, should the practice be extended or be made more restrictive, the commission might consider it desirable to review it in the light of the altered circumstances.
With the object of removing the abuses which exist and restoring conditions of free and fair competition in the trade in motor goods, the commission recommend in their report that an Order should be made prohibiting the particular practices which are considered to be harmful to the public interest. The commission recommend that resale price maintenance should be  prohibited and that it should be made possible for traders to determine their own selling prices in the light of their own operating costs. As a corollary, there should be a prohibition on the collective fixing of trade-in allowances for second-hand cars or of minimum charges for technical services. To provide a safeguard against the possibility that price competition in the trade may occasionally become excessive, suppliers should be free to withhold goods from a person who resells at a price equal to or less than the purchase price and fails to give an acceptable undertaking to discontinue doing so. A supplier should also be entitled to withhold supplies of new motor vehicles from a person who advertises for sale a new car at a price less than the list price indicated by the supplier and fails to give an acceptable undertaking to discontinue this practice.
As regards the arrangements and practices adopted by the trade with the object of regulating the channels of distribution, the commission recommend that it should be made unlawful for a supplier to withhold supplies from a trader on the grounds that the trader is or is not a member of a particular organisation or association or because the trader's name does not appear on an approved list. It is also recommended by the commission that no trade association should be permitted to coerce a supplier to withhold supplies from any person, and that no association should be allowed to prepare or publish lists of approved or non-approved persons which are likely to restrict entry to the trade in motor goods or to be used as a basis for regulating or influencing the supply and distribution of such goods, or the terms and conditions on which such goods will be supplied. The commission recommend that it should be made unlawful for any person to secure a boycott of any supplier on the grounds that the supplier has refused to do any act which would be contrary to the terms of the Order.
There are, finally, two recommendations by the commission regarding the imposition by individual manufacturers or assemblers of terms and conditions  for the acceptance of orders. Firstly it is recommended that a manufacturer or assembler should be permitted to impose conditions covering such matters as the size and frequency of orders, the functions of garages and the services to be rendered to the public. The only reservations are that these conditions should be reasonable, that they should be equitably applied to all persons seeking supplies and that they should be field with the commission, which may, if circumstances at any time so require, make fair trading rules in relation thereto. Secondly, it is recommended that there should be a prohibition against a manufacturer or assembler differentiating between purchasers for resale who should, in the normal way, be supplied on the same terms and conditions having regard to the size and frequency of their orders. The commission do not consider that a manufacturer or assembler should be prevented from advertising or specifying a maximum resale price or from withholding supplies from a trader who sells at a price in excess of the maximum price. Any such specified price should not, however, be binding on traders as a minimum price.
The Minister has given careful consideration to the recommendations of the Fair Trade Commission, and he is of opinion that the commission are fully justified in making the recommendations which are contained in their report and he agrees entirely with these recommendations. He has, therefore, made an Order to give effect to the recommendations contained in the report and a copy of the Order has been circulated to Senators. Section 9 (3) of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953, provides that an Order of this kind shall not have effect unless it is confirmed by an Act of the Oireachtas. The Bill now before the House is the Confirmation Bill which is necessary to give the force of law to the Order.
Since the Order was published it has been represented to the Minister that it will, when confirmed, have adverse effects on the level of employment and on wage rates in the motor trade. Employment is given in the assembly  of motor vehicles, in the manufacture of motor goods and in garages on servicing and repair work. The Order can have no effect on the public demand for motor vehicles and other motor goods or on the public demand for essential servicing and repair work. It is, therefore, ridiculous for anyone to suggest that this Order can have any effect, however remote, on employment or wage rates in the industry. It has been suggested to the Minister also that the Order may result in a lowering of the standard of skilled service provided by garages. The Minister repudiates this suggestion also. The position is that, under Article 14 of the Order, an individual assembler will be free to impose reasonable conditions as to “after sales” service on motor traders. Since assemblers must protect the reputation of their brands, it may be taken as certain that, when the Order is law, assemblers will ensure that traders selling their particular brands will continue to give efficient “after sales” service. Of course, the “after sales” service is only a small part of the repair and maintenance work done by garages. Most of such work is undertaken subject to charges made to car owners. Any garage which, in the matter of repair and maintenance, does not give the motorist value for his money, will find that it is losing business. It has been said, also, that the abolition of the approved list system will mean that anyone who wishes to enter the motor trade will have to be given motor goods on trade terms and that the abolition of resale price maintenance will give rise to conditions of “cut throat” competition in the trade.
This Order will not involve any basic modification of the present system under which assemblers are free to arrange their own channels of distribution through the appointment of main dealers and sub-dealers of their own choice. Furthermore, as I have already explained, all car assemblers, as well as suppliers of other motor goods, will, under Article 14 of the Order, be free to apply to the acceptance of orders conditions covering such matters as the size and frequency of orders, the functions of garages, and  the services to be rendered to the public. With regard to the abolition of resale price maintenance the position is that price competition in the trade in new cars exists at present and the only effect of the Order will be to allow that competition to come into the open. I have already drawn attention to the fact that, subject to certain safeguards, the individual assembler will be at liberty to withhold supplies from a trader who has advertised new vehicles for sale at less than the assembler's list prices.
In the case of confirmation Bills of this kind, the arrangement is that the Order, which it is proposed to confirm, would not be capable of being amended by the House, but must be accepted or rejected as it stands. The matters dealt with in the Order have been the subject of a detailed public inquiry by the Fair Trade Commission and the arguments in favour of adopting the provisions embodied in the Order are set out fully in the commission's report. I have no hesitation in commending to the House this Confirmation Bill which, on enactment, will, I hope, put and end to unfair restrictive practices in the trade in motor goods.
Éamon Ó Ciosáin Éamon Ó Ciosáin
Éamon Ó Ciosáin: Is mór an trua ná raibh sé d'uain againn ráiteas an Rúnaí Pharlaiminte do léamh agus do mhionscrúdú ionas go mbeadh níos mó eolais againn ar ábhar na ceiste. Do mheasas go mbeadh sé de cheart ag an Rúnaí Parlaiminte, nuair a bhí sé féin ag léamh an ráitis, cóip den ráiteas a thabhairt dúinn ar an dtaobh seo den Teach.
This little Bill which we have before us this afternoon is a highly technical one, and I must say a highly involved one, and it is not unnatural then for the Parliamentary Secretary to give us the detailed statement which he read to the House. In that regard, I submit it would be expected, in accordance with the ordinary rules of courtesy, that a copy of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement would have been supplied to us over here, so that we would have a better chance of grasping the details mentioned in the statement.
This question of restrictive trade practices is a very important one, no  matter what trade or line of business one has in mind. That being so, every facility should be given to the House to study the Order in question and the impact of the Order on the motor trade in this country. I do not hold myself out as an authority on matters of this kind. I have only the ordinary views of the passer-by in relation to the motor trade, but I must confess that I was not aware there existed in the motor trade any great degree of restrictive trade practices.
However, I am prepared to admit that those practices could exist without my knowledge and if they do, in fact, exist, then the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary or whoever is in charge of the Department of Industry and Commerce for the time being, could not be blamed for taking the appropriate measures to deal with such a situation, but whether this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will have the desired effect is another question.
When we speak of restrictive trade practices in relation to motor cars at this juncture, we have to consider the picture as a whole. It appears to me at any rate to be rather ironical to be dealing with a position of this kind, when the greatest restriction of all comes from the Government itself in relation to the motor trade and to many other activities in the country to-day. The greatest restriction of all comes from the Government itself in relation to the sale and resale of motor cars in this country. However, that is a matter we will have an opportunity of discussing later on. If the rather harsh levies imposed by the Minister for Finance at the present time are put into effect, I think the time is not far off when the motor trade business will have shrunk considerably in this country and it will be very easy then to regulate it.
As regards restrictive trade practices generally, I do not know whether there would be scope for a debate on the principle involved. We all know that anything that tends to interfere with healthy competition in any sphere of activity is not a wholesome thing for the community as a whole. As I say, if, as a result of his investigations or as a result of the inquiry held into this  matter by the Fair Trade Commission, the Minister has found there is a necessity for the Order he has made and for this Bill to implement and give legal effect to the Order, then we cannot have any objection to it.
I know, of course, that certain conditions were being imposed on people who intended setting up in the motor trade, but whether those conditions could be regarded as unjust or too drastic is another question. There has been for years the condition that before anybody could engage in the motor garage business, he had to have a certain minimum floor space and had to have always at hand a competent mechanic. I am inclined to think that that condition was sometimes pushed a bit too far to the exclusion of certain individuals.
I am not in a position to say who was responsible for the imposition of these conditions the first day, whether it was the Irish Motor Traders' Association or the Society of Irish Motor Traders—whatever they are called—but I realise that there are two sides to this question. I realise that it would not be right to let every Tom, Dick and Harry set up in business in the motor trade, even for the sake of promoting what is described as healthy competition. I admit that competition is the life of trade—that is the old adage—but at the same time I submit that competition can be carried too far. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the fact that that view could be held. It certainly could be held that, if you waive all these conditions governing the motor trade, abuses of another kind could very well creep in.
I do not know what legal effect the passing of this measure will really have on the motor trade. The Parliamentary Secretary has referred to these two bodies, the Irish Motor Traders' Association and the Society of Irish Motor Traders, and he has referred to the fact that they have a list of people whom they will admit into the motor trade. I do not know the basis on which this list has been compiled. Probably the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some more information about that.
 If we are enacting this Bill in connection with the sale of motor cars, motor tyres, and motor accessories, it is strange that we are doing nothing in relation to the sale of petrol. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, there can be also restrictive practices in the sale of petrol. In recent times, there was one glaring example in a certain part of the country where a certain individual was not permitted to sell petrol even though he had erected a petrol pump. Public opinion was brought to bear on that position and in the long run rectified the position, and I think that public opinion sometimes is the best method of all for eliminating abuses that we sometimes want to deal with in the Oireachtas.
As I said, this Bill, entitled an Act to confirm the Restrictive Trade Practices (Motor Cars) Order, 1956, made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce under Section 9 of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1953, is the result of an inquiry held by the Fair Trade Commission into the motor trade and I take it that all the interests concerned were given an opportunity to put their points of view before the Fair Trade Commission. What strikes me in that connection is that, as far as I can remember, it is now about six months since the report of the Fair Trade Commission was made available and there appears to have been a considerable time lag between the making of the report and the present time, when we are dealing with this measure.
As I said, I do not propose to go deeply into this question, for two reasons: first, that I am not skilled enough to deal with a matter of this kind and, secondly, that the scope of the measure is rather restricted.
Mr. McGuire Mr. McGuire
Mr. McGuire: Senator Kissane has put his finger on one or two of the points that I wanted to make in connection with this Bill, but I should like to take up the last thing he said first, which is that he rather complains that there has been a time lag between the presentation of the report and the Minister's production of this Bill. For my part, I think that is a very good thing because the Minister is supposed  to examine the report and it is not necessarily incumbent upon him to make an Order as a result of it. I would be all for plenty of examination of the reports from the Fair Trade Commission to the Minister before anything so drastic as a Bill is introduced and, therefore, I rather welcome that aspect of the matter.
On the general question of seeing that there is fair trading and that there is competition, I am wholeheartedly in favour of that principle. In the preamble to the Parliamentary Secretary's introductory statement, he made what I thought were slightly complaining or critical remarks about these trade associations and about their having rules in regard to people becoming members of this association or the society. With that I could not agree. Societies such as the Motor Traders' Association and the Society of Irish Motor Traders are most desirable bodies in our own form of society here and we should have more of them, because the only hope of a really sensible and Christian society in our country is one based on vocational bodies; and these are two notable vocational bodies with very high standards of trading and very high standards of workmanship, which they insist on before persons are allowed to enter. That is a very good thing and to hold it up as something that must be dealt with and as something that must be attacked is absolutely wrong.
It is one of the faults of the set-up of the Fair Trade Commission that it does tend to give people the idea that there is something wrong going on in all these societies. The same thing applies to the chemists' profession. All these trade associations are good and desirable. In fact, the Fair Trade Commission is looked upon by a lot of business people as the “Unfair to Traders Commission”: that is commonly what it is called amongst business people.
We had a debate last week in regard to the danger on the roads. Yesterday, I think, there was a leading article in one of the newspapers which said, in effect, that nothing was done by the Dáil to deal with the slaughter  on the roads before they went off on a well-earned holiday. This has to do with safety and good service. You are dealing with a vehicle which is very powerful—either a motor car or a motor vehicle of any kind. These vehicles are made of very intricate machinery and, as well as being very useful, they are very dangerous. The driver, his passengers and the users of the road are all concerned in the matter. It seems only reasonable that anybody dealing with an instrument like that should have proper equipment to handle the vehicle at all stages of its life, from the time it is sold to the time it is eventually put away out of use.
Surely it is but common sense that there should be garages with proper equipment to service and deal with vehicles and, above all, that there should be qualified workmen to work on them? I should not feel very happy if I thought a man working on my car had not much experience and that there was a danger of a handle coming away in my hands or the steering wheel coming off, and so on. Therefore, it was not unreasonable to insist that the garages should be properly equipped and should have suitably qualified persons to handle the cars.
Another very important matter in this connection concerns the employment of men and staff in these places and proper working conditions. It is not fair to allow a man to compete in the trade, if he is not paying proper wages to his staffs and is, perhaps, using people who are not physically fit, and so on, to work under very unsuitable conditions. Such a person, surely, should not be allowed to compete on equal terms with people who are paying proper wages and giving suitable conditions of employment to their staffs, as well as giving efficient service to the public. Therefore, the Motor Traders' Association and the Society of Motor Traders are perfectly right in their views and these things are slid over in the presentation of the case against the motor trade. I am for fair competition where there is a reasonable degree of real and equal competition.
The Parliamentary Secretary told us  that, as a safeguard, assemblers can insist on certain conditions from the people who are marketing their cars. Are they allowed to impose the conditions which the motor traders want to impose? If they are not, I do not think the public are getting the service they should get. Perhaps, in the past, the Motor Traders' Association were a bit too tight. Like all associations, in time they may become rather conservative and close their ranks pretty tightly. That could have been dealt with. I think this principle of the Fair Trade Commission is unfair to traders and is out of touch with the realities of good modern business which can and should give good service to customers.
I shall end by saying that it is rather ironical that to-day we should have the Appropriation Bill on the same Order Paper as that on which this Bill appears at a time when the Minister is trying to get us to cut down on expenditure of all kinds. On the same day, we are introducing a Bill which is making this a free for all and cut price margins of all kinds are being introduced into the motor trade in order to induce the public to buy cars of all kinds, the parts of which have to be imported, and on which we have to pay high tariffs, upsetting our balance of payments.
Mr. Walsh Mr. Walsh
Mr. Walsh: Senator McGuire has referred to the time lag in this matter. Perhaps it is only right to point out that the Report of the Fair Trade Commission was published on 28th February, 1955. Seventeen months have elapsed since the report of the commission was submitted to the Minister. The Fair Trade Commission held a very long inquiry which lasted over a period of two months—September and October, 1954. Therefore, the Minister and the public had a reasonably good chance of going into the question.
I believe and I hope all the expectations that have been set out by the Parliamentary Secretary as to the desirability of the provisions of this Bill will be effective. From the point of view of rural areas, I consider that the fact that main dealers have had  such a monopoly was bad and that it centralised profits unduly. When we consider that 75 per cent. of retail sales were made by the main dealers, that frequently a main dealer has an area comprising a whole county and that he may be an agent not merely for one model but for three or four different models, such as in the county in which I reside, we will have some idea of the problem. When one considers the number of garages there are in my county and the fact that this main agent will get a proportion of the profits of the sub-dealer, irrespective of whether or not he handles a car, it would seem that the provisions contained in the Bill will give a certain amount of equality and tend towards sales by the sub-agents as against the present high percentage of sales by the main dealer.
It was obviously impossible to control the commission because 90 per cent. of the sales were in part exchange for a second-hand car. Therefore, it was only the inexperienced purchaser or the poor person who bought a car for the first time, and who frequently had a hire-purchase agreement, who was the victim. Frequently he had to pay the full list price of the car while many other motor owners who were experienced in purchasing could get a very big cut. A main dealer's profits are approximately 20 per cent. and, on a £700 car, that would represent approximately £140. It seems to me it is difficult to justify that large amount, particularly now when cars are increasing in price and the percentage will, as far as I know, be based on the retail price of the car.
It also seems unfair that the Motor Traders' Association should prescribe a minimum floor space, considering the fact that 75 per cent. of their own garages do not comply with that requirement. It has to a large extent created a closed shop and prevented young, enterprising and enthusiastic people from coming into the business. It was suggested that one of the reasons for the high commission was the fact that a number of free services have to be carried out to the vehicle before it is purchased, but, on the evidence submitted to the Fair Trade  Commission, it was estimated that the full amount of those free services would not exceed £5. On page 102 of the report it is stated:—
“If a marked proportion of approved traders have not been compelled to achieve minimum standards it is unreasonable that new entrants with limited resources should be so compelled.”
I certainly agree with that part of the commission's findings. In connection with plugs, the commission found that the profit on the distribution of plugs was 66⅔ per cent. and in some cases nearly 100 per cent. on ex-factory prices. Since plugs are manufactured in the country and being produced inside a very high tariff wall and since two firms have a monopoly of the plug sales in the country, it seems unwarranted that their profits should be so high, particularly when you consider that plugs are not expensive articles to keep in stock and that the amount of money a trader would have to put into them would not be very great.
The commission sets out that approximately 25 per cent. of the purchases are under a hire-purchase agreement. As I said, I feel those are principally the people who are paying the rather high prices for cars and who are, to a certain extent, helping the other more wealthy members of the community to purchase cars with a fairly big cut. I should like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the fact that in connection with some cars it is necessary, for instance, in the case of a cable for a windscreen wiper, to purchase a complete unit which includes the case attached to the chassis. The approximate cost of that complete unit would be about £2 10s., whereas the cable itself, which is detachable, could be purchased for a few shillings. There seems to be something wrong there. The trader is getting too big a profit on selling something which is not required and there is a considerable amount of waste. Now that it is so necessary to reduce the important of goods from Britain, it seems an opportunate time to draw the attention of the assemblers to the fact that it is  unfair to the general motoring public that they should have on various occasions to purchase a much greater number of spare parts than they actually require.
For all these reasons, I feel that the Bill is good and I trust it will result in levelling up the amounts people will have to pay in the future for cars and encourage smaller garages to become agents and to service different makes of cars.
Mr. Douglas Mr. Douglas
Mr. Douglas: This is the third Restrictive Trade Practices Bill which we have had in the past year. In regard to the Restrictive Trade Practices Act of 1953 and the subsequent confirming Orders Bills, I think I made my position perfectly clear and I do not propose to take up the time of the Seanad by going over all that ground again. At the time when the first confirming Bill was before the Seanad, I pointed out that I believed that the Orders which would be passed under the various confirming Bills would not achieve the objects which the Minister and the Government had in mind, and that, on the contrary, they might easily result in increased costs to the consumer and in redundancy in the trades concerned.
When the Parliamentary Secretary was introducing the Bill this afternoon, he said that the Minister was satisfied that it would not result in any redundancy or unemployment in the motor trade. I have not got the debates with me here, and I must depend on my memory, but I have a recollection that the Minister made a very similar statement when he was introducing the measure concerning the wireless trade. At the time I pointed out that I believed it would in fact cause unemployment in the trade. I do not think anything has happened since we passed the Restrictive Trade Practices Bills both on radios and on builders' supplies to change my opinion. I understand there has been quite considerable unemployment amongst service men in the radio trade and I am told that subsequent to the passing of this Bill there is a danger that there will be redundancy, particularly  amongst repair and service men throughout the country.
I agree with Senator McGuire that the Motor Traders' Association have done a great deal to maintain the standard of service available to motorists throughout the country and I believe it is essential, in any trade where you have mechanical goods like a motor car or a wireless set, that those people who are doing repair work should have the necessary experience and knowledge. I believe the restrictions on entering the trade, which were imposed by the Motor Traders' Association, were of benefit not only to the motorists themselves but to the public at large.
On the first Bill in connection with radio, the Minister made it perfectly clear in his speech that he did not consider that technical or other training was essential for the wireless trade. As he is not here, I must assume from this measure that he feels rather in the same way towards the motor trade. When the first Bill was passing through the House, I mentioned the matter of the repairing of television sets. I believe that the motor trade comes under the same category. Since we passed that Bill here, there has been another case in England where an inexperienced man installed a television set and where, as a result of faulty connections, a child lost its life. I regard it as absolutely essential to have technical training in these traders.
I have not read the transcript of the evidence given before the Fair Trade Commission in connection with the motor trade, and I have not, therefore, been able to compare it with the report of the commission in the way in which I was able to do it in the case of the radio trade. However, I have been assured by people who gave evidence at the inquiry that it is a reasonably accurate summary of the proceedings. I did emphasise, when discussing the first of these Bills, that I should like to pay a tribute to the impartiality of the chairman of the Fair Trade Commission. I did not pay the same tribute to the Fair Trade Commission as a whole, but of the  chairman I have heard nothing but praise. I feel I should reiterate that praise now, seeing that the chairman of the commission is in the House.
On the two previous Bills, I asked the Minister whether the sections dealing with the prohibition on entry to the trade would affect the trade unions. If I remember correctly, when introducing one of the two previous Bills, the Minister said it was not the intention of the Government to interfere in any way with the existing rights of the trade unions. I asked the Minister then whether the sections of the two previous Orders did not, in fact, prevent trade unions from dealing with the trades concerned. If I remember correctly, the Minister did not give me any definite reply on that point.
I should like to deal particularly with Sections 16 and 17 of the Order before us to-day. I believe that Section 16, and particularly Section 17, paragraph 2, will prevent a recognised trade union from approaching the members of the trade and endeavouring or encouraging them to employ members of that trade union. I have looked at the Report of the Fair Trade Commission and I cannot see whether any representatives of recognised trade unions were present at the inquiry or whether they were consulted in regard to Sections 16 and 17. Paragraph 2 of Section 17 says:—
“No supplier or other person shall publish or issue or cause to be published or issued any such list as is referred to in paragraph (1) of this Article which has or is likely to have the effect of limiting or restricting entry to trade in goods to which this Order applies or which is intended to be used as a basis for regulating or influencing the supply and distribution of such goods or the terms and conditions on which goods will be supplied.”
Paragraph 1 of Section 17 says:—
“No trade association shall prepare, maintain, publish or issue or cause to be prepared, maintained, published or issued any lists of approved or non-approved persons or  of persons classified in any way, which have or are likely to have the effect of limiting or restricting entry to trade in goods to which this Order applies or which are intended to be used as a basis for regulating or influencing the supply and distribution of such goods or the terms and conditions on which such goods will be supplied.”
It has been suggested that if a recognised trade union in the motor trade should endeavour to persuade either the manufacturers or retailers to employ only trade union labour, they would be contravening this Order when it became law. I should like to have the assurance of the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister, and of the representatives of the Labour Party in the House, that they are satisfied that this is not so, because I feel that most industrialists and business people prefer to be able to deal with a fully responsible representative of a trade union, as far as negotiations are concerned. I should not like to feel there is any danger that their rights under the Trade Union Acts would be altered by the passing of this Order.
Mr. Cox Mr. Cox
Mr. Cox: I should like to make only one very small point. I understand that on this Bill we are not supposed to discuss the general principles of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, nor can we suggest variations in the actual Order. However, there is one point which I think is relevant to all these Acts: it is a mistake that these Acts are passed in what I might call permanent form. I should have thought that an Order of this kind, which is made by a very careful body after very great scrutiny, should not be on such a permanent basis. I would suggest that legislation such as the Bill we are considering to-day should be of a limited duration—say, two or three years—so as to leave it open as a matter of certainty that after some experience had been had of dealing with the Order and the working of the Order, it might come up again before the Legislature.
There are quite a number of classes of Acts which are dealt with in that  way and which have to be repeated at certain periods, such as the Acts dealing, let us say, with rent restrictions and so on. It has been felt that it is not a wise thing to pass such an Act in a permanent form. I should think that in dealing with an Order such as we are dealing with to-day, it would be much wiser that its duration should be for a limited period. I think it is obvious to everyone that there is a terribly fine and delicate balance in these matters. On the one hand, one does not want associations of manufacturers and traders to be able to assert a monopolistic power; on the other hand, it is equally obvious that it might result disastrously to the trade and to the public. I would suggest that in future such confirmatory Orders should be of a comparatively temporary nature so as to make quite certain they would come again before the Legislature to be reviewed in the light of experience.
Mr. Crotty Mr. Crotty
Mr. Crotty: I shall deal with Senator McGuire's references first. He referred to attacks by the Fair Trade Commission on trade associations. I do not think that is a fair statement to make. The Fair Trade Commission, the Government and the Minister welcome trade associations. They feel that the trade associations and organisations are good for any industry, but when, as sometimes happen, these associations go beyond a certain limit and take too much power into their hands, then it is time to call a halt.
As regards the motor trade, I feel sure there should have been no necessity for the Bill at all. The Fair Trade Commission suggested to the trade that fair trading rules be drawn up. However, apparently the members of the trade were not unanimous about accepting that proposal. Accordingly, it became impossible to draw up fair trading rules and the commission felt it their duty to take action under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. They held an inquiry. I understand they had 15 public sittings, quite a number of private sittings and that they examined 91 witnesses. They did not intend to have cut-throat competition thrown open, but they did intend that  the public interest would be safeguarded in all these matters.
The Fair Trade Commission was as anxious as any Senator here that garages would be put into proper condition and that the people running them would be able to have a proper industry and proper conditions. Senator McGuire also suggested that you might have people with poor equipment which was not kept in the proper condition. I am sure the Senator realises that we have factory inspectors who inspect this equipment and who see to it that the trade and the garage owners keep that equipment in proper condition, whether it be a large garage or a small one. We are all anxious that we should have proper garages and skilled operatives, but, even if we have them, that does not mean that the man who keeps a car will keep it in a proper condition. That will have to be dealt with by another Department, the Department of Justice; it has nothing to do with the Department of Industry and Commerce. The main function of the Fair Trade Commission is to provide an opportunity for having the trade carried on on a proper basis and to give the ordinary man, coming up in the trade, an opportunity to develop. We want decentralisation and we want the smaller garages to have an opportunity of becoming dealers in cars. That should not be confined to people with garages of 3,000 square feet, who are able to keep a full range of stock and membership of the approved list should not be confined to these people.
Any ordinary association will welcome members into its ranks, but the motor traders, for some years past, have got to the point where they made it prohibitive to enter the trade. This Bill is to enable the ordinary man and the ordinary person who is skilled and who is starting up on his own of getting the opportunity to give service to people in general. There are conditions in the Bill that where there is an appearance of cut-throat competition, such as people selling cars at or below the price at which they were bought, the distributor or assembler  may refuse to supply him; but if a man is refused, the particulars must be given to the Fair Trade Commission.
Senator Walsh referred to people in certain cases having to purchase a whole unit rather than a portion of it which would only cost a few shillings. That does not come under this Bill; neither does the Bill affect trade terms and discounts. This Bill merely seeks to put right the question of entry and distribution. It seeks to ensure an equitable position as between one man and another.
Senator Douglas asked would this affect trade unions promoting the employment of trade union labour in garages. The Bill does not affect that. There is no objection to any trade union putting forward claims to have their members employed doing skilled work.
Senator Cox said that the Bill should only be put in force for two or three years and then be revised. If at any time it is found to be too onerous on any section of the community, it can always be referred to the Fair Trade Commission and they can look into the matter. I am sure if the motor traders find that it is severely detrimental to their interests, they can put up a case and I am sure the commission will look into it.
Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.
Bill put through Committee; reported without amendment; received for final consideration and passed.
Seanad Éireann 46 Restrictive Trade Practices (Confirmation of Order) Bill, 1956—Second and Subsequent Stages.