It was ordered that the Votes passed in Committee on Finance be reported to-day.
DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - ESTIMATES FOR PUBLIC SERVICES—REPORT STAGE.
I move:—"That the Dáil agrees with the Committee on Finance in the Resolutions of Supply reported in respect of the several Estimates."
There was a matter raised here, I think, on Wednesday last when the President made some references to suggestions that were thrown out by Deputy Corish and Deputy Good dealing with the question of unemployment.
I happen to be the responsible Secretary of the Irish Trade Union Congress, and the suggestion that was made regarding a conference, or conferences, between employers and employees to consider a means of dealing with the problem of unemployment will, no doubt, be considered by the body of which I am Secretary. I want, however, to say here that when Deputy Good made a statement in regard to the conclusions that such conference would, in his opinion, inevitably arrive at, and a statement appeared in a newspaper which might be said to be more obviously and avowedly the mouthpiece of the larger employers, more frankly, though not less certainly than the other morning paper, the mouthpiece of employers as against the workers, and whenever there is a dispute, or the possibility of a dispute, this and the other morning paper in Dublin are always to be counted on as being against the workmen. When Deputy Good makes his statement, and the "Irish Times" makes its statement, prejudicing any possible outcome of any conference, it is rather difficult to plead for a conference of the kind suggested being held. When we are told beforehand, by the parties speaking on behalf of one side to the proposed conference, that the inevitable necessity, before entering into a conference, is that they shall agree upon a reduction in wages, it makes it difficult to advocate the acceptance of such a proposal. I want to make that point quite clear.
Deputy Johnson is a very sensible member of this House, and I think if he himself were questioned what order of the community the particular journal to which he has referred speaks for, or what deliberative assembly has suggested to its editor to write that particular article, or how the person who wrote it could be said, by any stretch of the imagination, to represent anybody in the community but the writer, he would not know. There is a good deal too much consideration given to and expressed about the Press. One speaks of the Press as if it were an institution. What is it? A man sitting in his office at a late hour at night, or during the evening, and giving out what he considers to be words of wisdom to the world, directing the Government, directing the people, directing chambers of commerce and trade unions, as the case may be, as to how they should discharge their duties. During the two or three years which we have been sitting here, discharging the business of the nation, is there any man who ever got light or leading from either of the two journals circulating in this city? I think that Deputy Johnson has stressed the matter too much. If I might point out one particular infirmity in regard to these journals, it is their reference to this House as the Lower House. Who makes it the Lower House? They do. They pass Acts of Parliament, pass their decrees, and give forth their words of wisdom whenever they please, and who accepts them?—Nobody but themselves.
This matter of conference, irrespective of what is said on the subject by Deputy Johnson's very impressive statement, arose on the question of the responsibility of the community for the unemployed. When Deputy Johnson says that the first question that must arise in connection with that conference is the question of wages, I say that, of course, if that is so there is no use in going into a conference, and there is no good purpose to be served by it. I should think that any conference that would take place should not regard the question of wages as a primary, or preliminary, matter in the solution of the problem. I say, and I said before, that the employers or the monied class, were handicapped by certain considerations, such as security and the return that money invested is going to produce. I also say that at the present time, even if the conference led to nothing, even if it became abortive, the very effort in itself would be useful, as representing a community of interests, if I may put it that way, as between the employers, or if you like to call them the capitalists, on one side, and labour on the other. Essentially, of course, one of the factors that must come into consideration in expending capital is the return that capital is going to get and the security that capital is going to enjoy. I say that in the past the question of security of capital has not been so very apparent, and that no great encouragement has been given to take more risks than people with capital are prepared to take in connection with undertakings.
I would like to take away from this whole question any atmosphere of the sort which Deputy Johnson thinks would be imported in connection with arranging any conference that might be arranged. If it is going to be of any use, it must be from a decided effort and an acknowledgment of the need of an effort on the part of both sides to give the maximum amount of employment that can be absorbed by industry or in any other direction. That I think is all that a preliminary conference can have anything to say to. So far as sitting down to consider whether wages in this industry or in that industry are too big or too small, we would get nowhere and, in fact, I would not give such a conference five minutes existence.
I appreciate very much the attitude of Deputy Hewat, but I thought it necessary to make it quite clear that when the statement of Deputy Good, containing, as it did, his final judgment on the cause of unemployment and the suggestion of a conference, which was then followed by a statement of the President, that the sequence was not helpful to the possible fruition of that proposal.
I think it was rather desirable that Deputy Johnson should have raised this matter in the way he did because, no matter what the President may say as to what he thinks about the Press, I think he will have to admit that a great many people outside look upon what the Press says as orthodox.
That may be so in Wexford but not anywhere else.
They do in Dublin and probably in Kilkenny also. I think it is desirable to see agreement, in a tentative way at any rate, between Deputy Hewat and Deputy Johnson. So far as I am concerned, when I suggested a conference, I did so because I think it is absolutely necessary, if this country is going to be put on its feet, that this conference should be brought about. At the same time I think it was desirable, as I have said, that Deputy Johnson should have raised this matter, as there would be a feeling abroad, unless Deputy Johnson did so, that the one desire on the capitalists' side, was to get a reduction in wages. I hope that is not their desire. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to go into the conference with an open mind and to do everything possible for the interests of the country as a whole. Personally, I think that that is the only way in which the matter can be approached, and I hope that both sides will approach it from that point of view, with an earnest desire to do something that will get the country out of the position in which it is at present.