I move amendment 22:
Before Section 35 to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) The Excise duty on unmanufactured tobacco containing 10 lb. or more of moisture in every 100 lb. weight thereof shall be charged, levied and paid at the rate of three-fourths of eight shillings, in lieu of the rate charged at present of five-sixth of eight shillings per lb.
(2) The Customs allowance on tobacco in a marketable condition and fully cured upon being exported from a warehouse or curers premises or upon being manufactured into Cavendish or Negrohead in bond shall be allowed at rate of 10d. per lb. in lieu of the present rate of 2d. per lb.
In the second portion of the amendment the word "Excise" should be substituted for the word "Customs." I move this amendment for many reasons. In the first place, I think it is desirable to put what was a great industry in this country at one time on a sound, workable basis. Tobacco-growing is an industry that gives a great amount of employment. The amount of employment given by the tobacco crop is about 35 per cent. greater than that provided by any other crop produced. It is fostered almost in every country in the world on account of the employment it gives to both sexes, and also because it is the means of providing the poor with almost their only luxury at a cheap rate. From that point of view alone, the industry should be fostered. From the agricultural point of view also, it is an industry that should be fostered. The tobacco crop is grown on land that has been manured the previous year and that has grown a crop of roots. It is prepared the following season for a crop of tobacco. That tobacco is planted in June and removed by the end of September. It leaves the land then free to be ploughed up and sown with a crop of wheat. There is no crop, I believe, so beneficial or so useful as the tobacco crop, because it can be got out in time and wheat can be got in in time. If wheat growing is to be a success, it must be sown at the right time, which is the month of October. The tobacco crop is not alone favourable to wheat growing on that ground, but it is favourable to it for the reason that the land has been manured first with farmyard manure and then with artificial manure, the latter being for the purpose of the tobacco crop. Consequently, the wheat yield from land on which tobacco is grown is at least 20 per cent. greater than that on any other land on which wheat can be produced.
Prior to 1830, there were 35 tobacco factories supplied from this country with Irish-grown tobacco. At that time there was in the Co. Wexford alone 1,000 acres of tobacco. In the year 1830, a Royal Commission was set up to inquire into the industry, and, in the result, it was believed that the growing of tobacco in this country had so interfered with the English trade that the Government immediately passed legislation forbidding and banning the growing of tobacco here. In the year 1779, as a concession to the Irish demand, the British Government repealed all Acts prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco in Ireland because, as stated in the preamble of the Act, it would not materially interfere with the commercial interests of Great Britain.
The industry, unburdened by duties and restrictions, increased to such an extent that it was able to supply the bulk of the leaf required by English factories during the Napoleonic and American Wars. By 1830 it had ousted the English manufactured tobacco from the Irish market. Mainly for this reason, the British Government passed an Act again suppressing it. The growers emigrated, and for nearly 100 years this valuable industry has been lost to Ireland. It is not alone that this is a crop that gives employment and that it is a useful crop in the ordinary course of farming, but it is really a most beneficial crop to the small holder, because one acre of tobacco will give employment to a household. The work can be done by the members of the family, and there is no crop that can be grown on a small holding which will pay its way so well or be so beneficial to the small holder if given the chance to survive. We have at present the produce of the 1923-24 crop grown in the Co. Meath locked up in bond.
The object of the amendment is particularly to give relief to the County Meath growers, so that this tobacco that is locked up in bond to the extent of about 120,000 lbs. may be put on the market, and also that the growers may be enabled to continue this useful industry, and that it may be extended throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. I appeal to the Minister and to the Government to take this amendment into consideration. We are not asking for very much; we are only asking for a little encouragement and sympathy to carry on the industry. Surely we want industries. We had them at one time, and we were unanimous in condemning the British Government for killing them by legislation. British legislation has killed the tobacco industry. Is an Irish Government going to carry on the methods of the British Government for which we condemned them? I say if we are, we are doing the wrong thing. Let us, even at a little sacrifice, help whatever little industries we have in the country to survive and to extend in every shape and form, if possible. I believe this is about the only country where the products of the soil are taxed. I think on the face of it that is bad. We heard a good deal the other evening as regards the starting of the beet-growing industry in this country. I am not against beet-growing. I am not against anything that will relieve unemployment and that will get us thinking of work and business. While we are working we will have less time to think of villainy.
I mentioned the small holder. In County Meath I know one small holder who grows about an acre of tobacco. With the assistance of his family, he attends to this, and he has found it to be a profitable crop, and one that gives employment to himself and his family. I should mention that this small holder spent twenty years in Kentucky, and, consequently, he knows something about the tobacco industry. He has a wife and four sons, and he told me some time ago that if something was not done to give relief to the industry there was nothing for him to do but to send his sons over to Kentucky, where he spent twenty years. I do not think that I am asking too much in asking that something be done to give help to this valuable industry. It has been said that we cannot produce tobacco of a good quality in this country. I have here extracts from letters written to Sir Nugent Everard by various people in the tobacco trade. One is from C.B. Campbell, Louisville, Kentucky, United States, an old-established firm of rehandlers and exporters. He states:
"It was most interesting to me to see your tobacco this year, and I can safely say your progress in the past twelve months has been wonderful. As you know, I see a large quantity of tobacco in the process of curing and handling in America, and I believe I can truthfully say your crop at this stage will compare favourably with the average crops at the same period in Kentucky."
Here is another from Messers. Edwards, Goodwin and Co., one of the largest tobacco brokers in Liverpool:
"With reference to the tobacco grown on your own and neighbouring estates, which I had the pleasure of examining in your barn last week, I beg to say that up to then I had shared the impression which appears to be general—that the climate of Ireland was too most and deficient in sunshine to admit of anything but very indifferent or common tobacco being raised there. I was surprised, however, to find that you have succeeded in producing several types of the weed of a considerable standard of excellence—in particular, a dark-fired leaf which you called "lizard tail"—a dark Pryor leaf and a red Burley, whilst a short and very light-coloured Burley which you showed me seems to have great possibilities. You have certainly proved (presuming 1906 to have been a not unduly favourably season) that it is possible to grow several classes of merchantable tobacco of American types in Ireland."
I think that does away with the general impression that tobacco of good quality cannot be successfully grown in Ireland. In conclusion, I will read an extract from an article on tobacco growing, written for the "Standard Encyclopaedia" by Sir George Watt, author of "Economic Products of India":
"The repressive legislation of the British Government was entirely a consequence of the desire to favour the then British Colony of Virginia.
Recently experimental cultivation in England, Ireland and Scotland has been authorised, and the success so far attained gives promise of an extended industry in the future, if the production can be freed from antiquated restrictions that have far too long outlived the conditions under which they came into existence."
I ask the members of the Government: Are we going to continue these repressive measures? Are we going to perpetuate them, or are we going to help on this industry, as well as every other industry that can be conducted, so that we can produce all we can in our own country, let it be tobacco, beet, or anything else, anything that will help to relieve unemployment, to bring revenue into the country, and to make Ireland once more a happy, peaceful and industrious nation?