Department of Industry and Commerce
Irish Department of Industry and Commerce was one of the original government departments created under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. It succeeded to most of the functions of the UK Board of Trade. It also succeeded to the equivalent Dáil Eireann department, including the Ministries of Labour, Industry, Trade, Commerce and Economic Affairs. These four ministries were amalgamated into the title of Minister for Industry and Commerce in 1922 to 23. The Department was granted its formal origin and its long-standing title by the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924.
The 1924 Act provided that the Department of Industry and Commerce’s functions would comprise the administration and business of public services in connection with trade, commerce, industry, and labour, industrial and commercial organisations. combinations, industrial and commercial statistics, transport, shipping and natural resources. It was to promote trade and commerce by educational grants. It took over the duties and functions of branches and officer of the public service as specified in legislation. Services specified included Minister for Labour (former UK office), Board of Trade, Registrar of Companies, Registrar of Shipping, Ministry of Transport (excluding roads), Electricity Commissioners and the Chief Inspector of Factories.
By the early 1960s, the Department consisted of a number of divisions including, :
- the establishment division,
- finance and accounts division,
- industries divisions;
- foreign trade and export division;
- labour division;
- commerce division.
The establishment division dealt largely with personnel and organisational matters. It dealt with the appointment to and governance of state-sponsored bodies and statutory corporations for which the Department was responsible. The finance and accounts division controlled expenditure,, dealt with Dáil vote, payment for all claims, collection of receipts and the records.
By the late 1950s, the Dáil, vote consisted of the following subheadings:
- industry and commerce,
- marine and transport services,
- aviation and meteorological services,
- industrial and commercial
- companies and IP registration,
- trade loan advances.
The Department of Transport and Power was created in 1959. Transport and energy-related functions were transferred out of the Department of Industry and Commerce in 1960.
The Department of Labour was created in 1966 and labor and employment matters were transferred to it.
The industries branch of the Department worked closely with IDA, which was established by the Industrial Development Act 1950. The Authority was responsible to the Department and an assistant secretary was one of the key members of the Authority. It was staffed substantially by officers of the Department. The IDA was responsible for attracting foreign industry to produce goods, both for the domestic market and for export.
An Foras Tionscail was created are under the Undeveloped Areas Acts and the Industrial Grants Acts to make grants towards industrial projects in all areas other than the Shannon Free Airport area. The body was answerable to the Department and its staff consisted of officers seconded from the Department.
The industries branch of the Department was concerned principally in developing in existing industries, the establishment of new industries and industrial protection. It sought actively to assist industries, in expanding their range of production. The Department assisted enterprises with new industrial market research, feasibility for new industrial projects. It dealt with several hundred proposals annually. The branch dealt with applications for grants from State funds by way of economic, marketing and technical assistance in improving efficiency and productivity.
The industries branch also administered the control of imports and imposition of duties legislation.
The Industrial Development (Encouragement of External Investment) Act, 1958 sought to encourage external investment and the establishment industrial undertakings in Ireland. It largely removed the restrictions on foreign capital imposed by the Control of Manufacturers Acts. The restrictions did not apply to
- companies carrying on a business primarily for export, whose home market sales did not exceed 10% of its production
- a public company managed and controlled in Ireland, which had export trade as its principal object, and which made bona fide offer of 50% of its voting share to the Irish public or to a
- company, the object of which is to export, develop export trade and secured a certificate of exemption from the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
The Department was responsible for the industrial alcohol factories that were designed to provide a market for surplus potatoes. They were operated by Ceimici Teoranta, a state-sponsored company. Petrol importers were obliged to purchase industrial alcohol when available. Two of the factories related converted to the production of starch and glucose.
Under the Grass Meal (Production) Acts, 1953-59, Min Fhéir (1959) Teo was established to undertake the acquisition, drainage and cultivation of bogland in the Bangor Erris area of Mayo and produce grassland.
Irish Steel was created in 1938 to take over the steel making facilities at Haulbowline. Initially, it used steel bars principally from scrap within the country and plain and corrugated, galvanized sheet metal from imported steel. It later expanded and manufactured steel by more conventional means..
The company developed specialist steel production on the site constructing new plant and filling in the main length of the East Camber. The venture lasted, albeit precariously, until the late 1990’s when the steelworks eventually closed leaving a derelict and heavily polluted site blighting the future use of the earlier storehouses. During 2006 clearance of the steelworks site and its reclamation for development began and at the time of writing these reclamation works are nearing completion.
By the early 1960s, the Control of Imports Act reserved quantitative control over certain commodities. This was designed to protect existing industries. Protection was generally awarded through the imposition of customs duties on goods through the Imposition of Duties Acts. Licences were granted to permit duty free importation of commodities, which would otherwise be charged to duty. The Department dealt with duty free import licensing. It allowed duty-free imports where commodities or a reasonable substitute were not available from home sources.
The foreign trade division dealt with matters affecting export trade in industrial products. In the early 1960s it considered issues concerning the
- European Free Trade Area,
- European Economic Community;
- relationships with members of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation;
- to encourage in conjunction with Córas Tráchtála the development of industrial exports;
- disseminate information to trade associations and industrialists on trading opportunities abroad, industrial fairs, exhibitions,
- tariffs, quotas and other legal measures in other jurisdictions affecting trade;
- supervise exhibition of Irish goods in international trade fairs;
- to administer a scheme of political risk insurance designed to protect exports against adverse political change in foreign jurisdictions;
- to represent the Department in interdepartmental groups;
- to administer the sugar and tea import legislation;
- to administer the export control legislation.
By the 1960s, international markets were liberalising. Ireland had sought membership of the EEC. Bilateral trade arrangements were entered reducing quotas and tariffs.
Agreements were concluded in the postwar period with the United Kingdom and some Western European countries. Agreements with the United Kingdom, in 1938 (following the so-called economic war) and in 1948 and 1960 substantially liberalised trade with the United Kingdom.
The Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement 1965 provided that Britain would abolish all import duties on Irish goods on 1 July 1966. Ireland would cut import duties on all British goods by 10 percent—and by another 10 percent each successive year until all industrial duties eventually disappeared in 1975.
The Department dealt with economic matters arising from Ireland’s membership of the United Nations, Council of Europe, the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation, which was later reorganised into the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Ireland had been an active member of the OEEC and was involved in the negotiations and arrangements for the formation of OECD, of which it became an active member.
The Department was involved in and supported negotiations for membership of the EEC in the 1960s and early 1970s.
The foreign trade division participated in the Council of Europe and in the United Nation’s economic activities. The UN was active in provision of aid for economic development in undeveloped countries through its regional economic agency, the Economic Commission for Europe.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was established in 1947 with the objective of the raising living standards and employment and developing resources through an increase in free trade. It sought through reciprocal and mutually advantageous arrangements, to reduce trade barriers.
Under the Export Promotion Act, 1959 Córas Tráchtála was established and took over export promotion functions carried on by Córas Tráchtála Ltd. formed as a company under the auspices of the Department in 1951. Córas Tráchtála’s function was to stimulate interest in exports by giving exporting firms assistance in trade.
Its services included
- detailed market research through its overseas office and the Department of External Affairs;
- sending trading advisers to carry out overseas market investigations;
- publicising Ireland as a source of export products;
- advising on lines of productions suitable for export markets;
- providing training facilities for export sales executives,
- encouraging and organizing visits by Irish exporters to overseas markets and visits by foreign buyers to Ireland;
- providing Irish businessmen with the introductions and with offices and secretarial facilities in countries where Córas Tráchtála had offices;
- advising on import regulations, customs duties, financial and insurance facilities, shipping packaging, selection of agents;
- organisation of collective marketing plans,
- assisting in the development of technical assistance projects for export market research.
The Department operated a scheme of political risks insurance under an agreement with the Irish insurance companies. The Insurance Acts 1953 facilitated the making of arrangements to cover risks arising out of change of government, emergency, cancellation of export licenses and such like. It supplemented ordinary commercial risks insurance.
The Department dealt with sugar import control. This covered the importation of raw sugar and goods containing sugar. By annual government order, imports of sugar were confined to Cómhlucht Siúicre Éireann to enable it to use its monopoly position to develop the sugar industry on a rational basis. Ireland acceded to the International Sugar Agreement in 1958, which sought to provide for orderly word trade in sugar.
Tea legislation sought to ensure that tea imported in Ireland was imported directly from the country of origin. The purpose was to stabilise direct trade with suppliers to prevent risks.
Export controls were operated under annual license, under the export legislation by the Department. The principal purpose of controls was to preserve supplies of materials for the home industry. The controls were applied in relation to aluminum, copper, lead, iron, steel, timber, cement and sugar.
Prior to the separation from the Department into the Department of Labour, the labour division of the Department of Industry and Commerce dealt with industrial relations and employment matters. It also dealt with factories and workplace legislation.
The Shops (Hours of Trading) legislation empowered the Minister to regulate hours of shop trading. The Act was availed of by shopkeepers and trades in areas which wished to have their hours regulated. By the early 1960s, orders were in operation in certain areas of drapery, footwear, hardware, hairdressing, butchers, and boot repairing.
The Night Bakeries Act 1956 prohibited baking during the night except in limited circumstances.
The Conditions of Employment Acts 1936 and 1944 governed working hours in industry. Orders were made granting exemptions for particular industries and some of the limitations on working hours. The Shops (Conditions of Employment) Act, regulated working hours in weeks for shop workers, hairdressers, restaurants and other retail and service industries. Both sets of legislation made particular provision for young persons, overtime, weekly rests and holidays.
The Holidays (Employees) Act, 1961 allowed for a fortnight annual leave and six public holiday days or days in lieu.
The Factories Act dealt with safety, health and welfare in factories. It also applied to other sectors including docks, building, engineering and construction sites.
The mines and quarries legislation provided for health and safety in extractive industries. The new Mines and Quarries Act was enacted in 1965.
The Office Premises Act, 1958 extended protection for the health, welfare, and safety of employees in offices and similar employments for the first time.
The Trade Union Acts regulate the registration of trade unions. The Trade Union Act, 1941, required the holding of a negotiation licence to authorize a trade union to engage in industrial relations activity.
The Industrial Relations Act 1946 was established to assist the settlement of terms and conditions of employment. Although the matter was generally one of private negotiation, the Labour Court was granted powers to assist and intervene in labour disputes and make recommendations.
The Labour Court sought to prevent industrial disputes in certain sectors by provision of joint industrial councils and joint labor committees. These involved representatives from employers and employees organized as formal councils and bodies, in setting terms and conditions of employment.
The Apprenticeship Act 1931 facilitated the establishment of schemes of apprenticeship in trades and industries. The Minister for Industry and Commerce could designate a trade and establish an Apprenticeship Committee or a number of committees for such trade. They were empowered to make rules regarding age of entry, period of apprenticeship, courses and training, rates and wages. Committee rules were legally binding. The original 1931 Act operated only in four trades, namely, house painting, decorating, brush and broom making, hairdressing and furniture making.
The Apprenticeship Act 1959 empowered the Minister for Industry and Commerce to appoint a central apprenticeship authority on Cheard Chomhirle for the regulation of the apprentice system schemes. It consisted of representatives of employees, employers and educational bodies, with a full-time staff from the Department of Industry and Commerce.
Trades which operated a satisfactory scheme under the prior legislation continued to operate. Where necessary, the body designated trades and brought apprenticeship arrangements into being. Inducements were offered to apprenticeships by way of scholarship and prizes.
The Department of Industry and Commerce, later, Department of Labour, enforced employment legislation largely through prosecutions.
The Labour division was also responsible for the administration of the Aliens Order 1946 dealing with employment permit for non-nationals taking up work in Ireland. It considered applications on a case-by-case basis. It considered whether the unemployed Irish nationals were available to undertake the same work.
The labor division also operated the Irish Stagiaire Committee arrangements with certain European countries in order to facilitate persons in industry, commerce, and agriculture and other professions spending a period in training in Continental Europe.
The labour division was involved in the International Labor Organisation, the Council for Europe and OEEC on labor issues. The ILO sought to promote social justice in labor by evolving standards in hours of work, wages, health, pensions, vocational and technical education.
Department of Labour
On establishment of the Irish Free State, the Ministry of Labour function’s was absorbed into the Department of Industry and Commerce. There was a Dail ministry for labour prior to establishment of the Free State.
In 1947 the employment service of the Department of Industry and Commerce was transferred to the newly formed Department of Social Welfare.
The Department of Labour was established in 1966. Its primary function was the protection and fostering of the interests of employees.
The Department assumed responsibility for the existing Factories act, the Mines and Quarry legislation and the Office Premises Act. Its inspectors enforced the legislation. The Department was responsible generally for safety in an industry.
The Department of Labour assumed responsibility for industry relation. The Industrial Relation Act 1946 established the Labour Court and 1967 legislation provided for Rights Commissioners. It administered the trade union legislation.
It was responsible for manpower and training. The Industrial Training Act 1967 provided for the establishment of FAS an Foras Aiseanna Saothair . It was responsible for replacement and guidance service. Its functions were transferred to SOLAS.The Department maintained relationships with the international labour organization and the OECD in relation to employment matters.