The Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Acts, 1933 to 1956 conferred functions on the Department in relation to cereals. The initial 1933 legislation sought to secure that wheat and flour consumed in Ireland, should be made in Ireland to arrest the contraction of the milling industry into a number of large units, prevent ownership passing into the hands of non-nationals and to encourage use of native wheat.
The legislation prohibited importation of flour and wheaten products except under licence. The purpose was to protect the domestic market.
Licenses were issued for wheaten products which were liberalised under various international agreements and where suitable wheaten products were not available domestically.
The legislation provides that wheat could not be milled except as licenced by the Department of Industry and Commerce. Existing mills were licensed. New mills required a licence from the Department of Industry and Commerce.
The industry was controlled by quotas. Mills with licence were bound to produce a prescribed amount of flour under its quota. Milling in excess of the quota was an offence and obliged the licence holder to a sum to the Department with reference to the excess. The purpose was to ensure that the domestic needs of flour were supplied while leaving room for limited amount of competition between mills.
A number of larger mills engaged in the manufacture of flour while others engaged in manufacture of wheaten meal only. The majority operated under home-grown wheat permits, who milled wheat on behalf of growers within the general vicinity.
The Minister had power to issue orders prescribing the composition of grist to be used in flour milling, the proportion of native and important wheat, which the grist should contain. These orders were not issued other than during the war years. The percentage of native wheat increased in flour miller’s grist went from 5% in 1929 to 80% in 1959.
Ireland became party to the International Wheat Agreement in 1949 in which each importing country guaranteed supplies of wheat at prices not higher than the maximum specified in the agreement.
The commerce division of the Department of Industry and Commerce had a range of functions, particularly in administering legislation related to companies, industrial and provident societies, trade unions, building societies, weights and measures legislation, restrictive practices, hire purchases, and industrial research and standards legislation.
The Department administered the Companies Acts. Following the Cox Committee, a new Companies Act was enacted in 1963. The Department prosecuted breaches of company’s legislation.
The hire purchase legislation 1946 to 1960, empowered the Minister to make orders regulating minimum terms and conditions in relation to hire purchase and the provisions in advertisements for it.
The Department administered the Mineral Developments Acts facilitating prospecting for and development of minerals. The Minister may grant the licences authorising persons to enter land for the purpose of working unworked minerals. Mining leases could be granted for the purpose of developing minerals. The Department had power to compulsorily acquire minerals, unworked minerals necessary for their proper development.
The State through its mineral company Mianrai Teoranta undertook mineral prospecting and development.
In 1959, an agreement was reached with an American group for carrying out exploration for oil and natural gas of the western and southern coast. Legislation was given effect in the Petroleum and Other Mineral Developments Act 1960.
The Office of the Geological Survey gathers and records information regarding the geological structure of the country. It makes geological maps and surveys. It sought to assist and advise persons interested in prospecting and developing mineral resources. It is also responsible for the coal exploration scheme.
The Department of Industry and Commerce regulated insurance companies. Statutory deposits were required to undertake certain classes of assurance under the Insurance Act 1909 to 1936.
The Department registered friendly societies, trade unions, industrial and provident societies. The registry was part of the commerce division and responsible under the direction of the registrar who is the member of staff of the Attorney General’s Office for registration and certification of rules.
The Merchandise Marks Acts, criminalised false descriptions and forged trademarks. The Minister may undertake prosecutions where they affect the general interest of the community. The Merchandise Marks Act, 1931 provided for restriction orders requiring that imported goods of a particular class shall bear an indication of origin.
Under the Weights and Measures Act, the Department had custody of State standards and was responsible for verifying local standards held by local authorities and standards used by inspectors of weights and measures. The Commerce Department was responsible for the general direction of the work of the inspectors of weights and measures.
The commerce division administered the law relating to the Assay Office. It is responsible for assaying and hallmarking gold and silver plate either at home or for import. The office operated under a charter from 1637.
The Department of Industry and Commerce was responsible for tourism policy. The Tourist Traffic Act provided for the encouragement and development of tourist traffic and created Bord Fáilte Eireann, which was responsible under the auspices of the Department. The body was under the Department’s vote and Department had broad policy remit in relation to Bord Pleanala.
A scheme of State guaranteed loans, grants to meet interest charges was made available to hoteliers to finance expansion of hotel premises. Applications were made to the Bord to examine the case and recommended whether the Minister should issue the guarantee.
Other schemes provided for grants for additional bedrooms and bathroom facilities in hotels and the improvement of existing hotel premises. Grants covered up to 20% of the cost.
The Fair Trade Commission responsible under the Restrictive Practices Acts 1953 and 1959 for competition and trade. Commission was staffed by officers of the Department of Industry and Commerce.
The Commission prepared fair trading rules in relation to the supply and distribution of goods and rendering of services affecting such supply and distribution. The Commission reviewed fair trading rules and reported to the Minister on their non-observance. The Commission has power to hold public inquiries in relation to the conditions affecting supply and distribution of goods or services affecting such supply and distribution.
On foot of the report, the Minister may make an order prohibiting specific arrangements, agreements and practices in relation to the supply and distribution of particular goods. The Commission must if requested by the Minister, undertake a special view of the operation of existing orders.
Twenty fair trading rules made by the early 1960s in areas such as radio sets, building materials, motor goods, groceries in the Restrictive Practices Act
The 1959 Act empowered the Commission to undertake at the Minister’s request inquiry into the refusal or alleged refusal by employers to use particular materials and methods of manufacturing. The purpose was to investigate complaints on restrictive practices relating to the use of specific materials or methods preventing the promotion of efficiency and inflated costs.
The Institute for Industrial Research and Standards was established in 1946. Its function is to undertake, encourage and foster scientific research and investigation for its utilisation of indigenous resources, improvement of existing and the discovery of new technique or processes for use in native industries and the testing, analyses of commodity.
The Institute operated an information service on technical matters in industry and publishes bulletins designed to draw the attention of industrialist to technological developments, in particular areas. It was empowered to issue standard specifications for commodity. A prescribed marked might be used by manufacturers as products conform with the specifications.
The Patents Office comprised the design and trademarks branch and the patents branch. It was under the control of the Controller of Industrial and Commercial Property, an officer appointed by the government, who was an officer and staff member of the Department of Industry and Commerce.