BARRACK RAIDS. - THE FUEL SITUATION.

In dealing with this matter of the fuel situation and the acute position which developed for a certain period, I am afraid I will have to go back somewhat into the past in order to show what the activities of my own Department were in the matter of seeing that coal and fuel generally were coming into the country in sufficient supplies to warrant the emergency regulations which were referred to in the Dáil not being moved.

During the week immediately preceding the coal strike and the general strike in Great Britain a general stocktaking was undertaken by my Department in regard to supplies of wheat, flour, coal, petrol and paraffin in the area of the Irish Free State. The figures when they were gathered were very reassuring as it developed that there were many months' stocks of wheat and flour and many months' stocks of petrol and paraffin, and even if the general strike had extended to this country there would have been abundant supplies of these essentials for a much longer period than a general strike could in all probability have lasted. As the general strike did not extend to this country, sources of supply were, of course, always open. In addition to this the special matter of yeast was investigated, as none of it is now manufactured in the Saorstát. Arrangements were made to ensure the maintenance of supplies to all districts.

On the special matter of coal the position varied largely according to the district, but in all districts the position was such as to give no immediate cause for anxiety. Public utility services carried large stocks. I am speaking now of the period about the 30th April. The flour millers, bakers and industrialists generally were very well supplied. The more important, but, at a time of crisis, nonessential industries carried fairly heavy stocks. It is to the credit of private firms that at that time no hesitancy was shown in supplying exact information. In addition to the stocks held by consumers the coal merchants in the larger centres were well supplied. The Dublin Coal Merchants' Association in particular carried stocks which, it was stated, would suffice for six weeks under normal conditions.

Early in May—about 3rd May— there was a general meeting of the Dublin Coal Merchants' Association at which a resolution was passed—it was afterwards communicated to me— appointing a Committee "to consider the situation that has arisen owing to the strike of miners in Great Britain, and to take such steps as may be necessary: (a) to ascertain the stocks of coal held by merchants and industries; (b) to protect the public interest and (c) to give all information possible to the Government." At this time the main complaints received came from importers of coal to the effect that cargoes loading at ports in Great Britain were being held up. About a fortnight later The Protection of the Community (Special Powers) Act, 1926, was passed and draft regulations under that Act for the control of coal supplies were prepared immediately in my Department.

About this time, and up to the 2nd of June, I had very many interviews with representatives of the Dublin Coal Merchants' Association. Mr. Morrison, who was the British Coal Controller in Ireland at one time, was present. As a result of these interviews the Association undertook to work in co-operation with me and to maintain supplies. In view of these undertakings it was decided that it was unnecessary at that moment to declare a state of national emergency or to issue the regulations prepared.

On 2nd June Deputy Major Bryan Cooper put a question in the Dáil as to whether it was proposed either to reduce the number of railway services in the Saorstát or to limit the consumption of coal in any other way. My reply was:—"The action referred to in the question could only be taken under regulations made in accordance with the Protection of the Community (Special Powers) Act. According to my information such action is not necessary at the moment, though the situation may change so rapidly as to render it soon advisable. Since only one of many available sources of coal supply is at present closed, I would expect coal merchants to maintain supplies without any serious difficulty and without the need of cumbersome and drastic regulations."

There was public notice given in that of my intentions as they were at that time, and of the view-point which we had on the whole situation. From that date on my Department was in the closest possible touch and in constant communication with the Coal Merchants' Association. All applications for assistance in obtaining supplies of coal received by my Department were referred to the Association. They were not in any great numbers around about this time. As I have stated, they were referred to the Association. Applications were from time to time received from districts as far apart as Cavan, Monaghan, Athlone, Killarney, Castlebar, Cobh, Enniscorthy, Bagnalstown, Athy, Trim, Limerick and Drogheda.

Without exception these applications were duly met—until the middle of October. At that time an extreme shortage of supplies in Dublin and an almost complete lack of cargoes due, was suddenly disclosed. No warning, nor indeed hint of any kind, as to this situation impending was given to my Department by the Coal Merchants' Association, although my Department was in frequent communication with the Association during the period when this situation was impending. It appears that about the middle of September, with prices rising and some expectation of an early settlement of the dispute in England, many of the merchants decided to stop further orders. When the emergency arose in October, I was told that only five firms out of the nineteen in the Association had any orders outstanding. The prime cause of the emergency was therefore the failure of the Association, which had been meeting readily all requisitions from my Department for supplies, to give any information whatever as to the drastic change in its arrangements. This is all the more surprising in view of the assurances readily given to me personally by the Association, when I met its representatives in June.

I can understand the reluctance of the Association, or, at least, the members with restricted resources, to incur large commitments in an uncertain market, but no reason has yet been given to me why the position in which they then found themselves was not frankly anticipated, so that we might consult as to the best measures to be taken. It is remarkable that the merchants in other cities and towns, with resources less than are available to the large Dublin Association, have, notwithstanding serious difficulties, been able to maintain sufficient supplies to prevent local emergencies of the extent of that which arose in Dublin. The first hint of an acute shortage impending came from some of the smaller gas undertakings, which advised the Department early in October that they were running out of supplies. The matter was taken up with the local Merchants' Association, which considered that the position could not be-so serious as represented, since recently-arrived cargoes of coal suitable for the making of gas, had been offered to but refused by gas undertakings. Some commercial undertakings had, it was evident, taken no special trouble to secure that the supplies of coal on which they depended, would be forthcoming, and, even at a later date, they had no realisation of the position, while others had made careful and full provision for their needs for a considerable period. While admitting that supplies were short for the immediate future, large private orders were stated by the Association to have been placed. Further investigation showed the necessity for special measures. Arrangements were made to issue coal from the stocks held by Government Departments to the City Commissioners, and to suitable authorities elsewhere, with a view to making provision for the poor. The City Commissioners were provided with information as to the sources of turf supply, and put into communication with the Coal Merchants' Association in order to secure a proportion of cargoes of briquettes which the Association had on order.

The Association was pressed to place further orders. I met the Association on the 26th October and explored the position fully with them. It became evident that the difficulties due to so many firms having ceased to place orders for coal had been aggravated by the putting, about the time I met the Association, of an unexpected embargo on the export of Continental coal. This meant that much of what was on order by firms who were continuing business was not being delivered when expected. Some of it has not, in fact, yet been loaded. Further, exports from America were being subjected to sudden very long delays and freights from America were rising with great rapidity. No definite forecast could be made as to deliveries for some weeks ahead, and those firms which had forward orders were not anxious to incur new commitments in a situation which in respect of prices, delivery dates and the strike position in England, were so full of uncertainties. It was on that date that the first suggestion was made by the Association that, if further orders were to be placed, the Government must assist financially.

I readily agreed to give such assistance, and after discussion it was arranged that the Association should purchase coal to a quantity which I would prescribe as the necessities of the case warranted, that the coal so purchased would be distributed through the members of the Association at a price based on the cost of the coal delivered at Dublin, plus an agreed amount to cover the Association's services and expenses, and that I would take over for Government purposes any of this coal which on arrival at Dublin the members of the Association were not prepared to handle. At the same time it was agreed that such members of the Association as had their own orders placed would maintain such supplies. As a result, orders for some 25,000 tons of coal to be delivered in November were placed on this basis, to be available in addition to some 100,000 tons on private order for delivery in November and December. Subsequently I procured a special offer of 20,000 tons of high grade Continental coal, of which some 4,000 tons have been ordered up to date.

Can the Minister tell the House something about prices; the margin between import and selling prices?

I will come to prices, and if they are not clear the Deputy can put another question. Deliveries reached a considerable total towards the end of the first week in November and, unless some unforeseen event occurs, I have no doubt that adequate supplies will be forthcoming throughout November and December. Prices are high, though on private orders placed in September and October, of which dilatory delivery is now taking place, they are substantially less than the best prices which could be obtained when the need for placing special orders was disclosed at the end of October. International competition for coal, both Continental and American, was intense, and the prices reflect this competition. The prices I have fixed for coal imported under my direction range from 86s. c.i.f. Dublin in the case of screened coal, down to 60s. c.i.f. for briquettes and brown coal. The controlled prices for delivery of that coal to the consumer in Dublin range from 108s. to 82s. per ton, or from 6s. 9d. to 5s. 1½d. per bag of 10 stone. It was simply not possible to obtain on orders placed for delivery in November lower prices, though, as I have said, prices are lower on private orders placed some time ago which are only now being delivered. American prices are lower than Continental prices, but orders for American coal could not be placed at the time of the emergency with any hope of delivery in November.

On the whole, the situation is now as satisfactory in the country as a world shortage of coal allows. Until the emergency in Dublin towards the end of October prices here were substantially less than in England. In most places the coal supply has been well maintained under serious difficulties and much credit is due to merchants who have taken considerable risks. Had the Dublin merchants informed me in time of the restriction of their forward orders the position in Dublin could have been considerably relieved and coal would be delivered at Dublin to-day at lower prices. But it is only fair to say that the sudden Continental embargo on export and the chaos into which American supplies fell during October must have made much confusion in the best laid plans, and involved inevitably a shortage until deliveries improved. Those Dublin firms who did place large forward orders certainly deserve full credit for their action. As it was, the emergency in Dublin was kept within reasonable dimensions and the acute period was comparatively short. Thanks to the energetic action of the City Commissioners, to the valuable services rendered by the Irish Motorists' Union and by theIrish Times Fund, and to the steps taken by such bodies as the Transport Union to meet the needs of their members, adequate provision for the poor was made. Lorries from the Department of Defence were used to collect and distribute fuel. A debt is due to Messrs. Guinness for having placed at my disposal to meet emergencies a substantial portion of their stocks. No industry had to close down; the worst being a temporary short stoppage in one or two places. Reasonable supplies of coal are now available, the only difficulty being that of price. But with many countries competing for limited supplies, that difficulty cannot be relieved. It has been suggested that control should have been instituted or should be instituted even now. I do not think that would have been or would now be of any benefit. It might have prevented so acute a situation arising in Dublin. But at what cost?

Control would have had to apply to the whole country and its immediate effect would have been to curtail private orders which, except for a brief period of shortage in Dublin, have kept up supplies remarkably well at reasonable prices. Government orders on a large scale, much larger than is now required, would have been necessary if the same supplies were to be maintained under control, and I need hardly say that Government incursions with large orders into an agitated and highly speculative market, needing agents familiar with the Continental and American coal trades, would have meant a very doubtful venture. Control in England and in Northern Ireland has not resulted in any better situation than there is in the Free State; indeed we have been considerably better off. The positive achievements of control it would need considerable ingenuity to establish. Prices here in Dublin are higher at the moment, but they have been lower for a long time and prices in England and Northern Ireland will rise, at least, to the level of prices in Dublin as soon as the coal ordered in September and early October is exhausted, unless there is a very early resumption of exports from England.

In some cases prices in Dublin have recently been raised to a point very difficult to justify, but it must be realised that those with forward commitments risk heavy losses for which it is not unreasonable that they should seek cover. The whole situation was one in which someone had to speculate as to when supplies from England would be resumed, what course Continental and American markets would take, what would happen to prices, and what would be the real effective demand here, allowing for the pressure of necessary economies and the measures taken by large consumers to meet their own requirements. I considered it most undesirable that it should be the Government on which all the risks of so hazardous a trading enterprise should fall and that it was for every reason preferable to leave the business to those experienced in it until they notified me, as they had undertaken to do, that it was proving too much for them. Unfortunately that notification was left in Dublin until almost too late and in consequence prices this month will be higher than they need have been. But that the procedure adopted, in spite of that one lapse, has proved much less costly to the public than any attempt at Government control, involving, as it must have done, Government buying, would have been in the actual circumstances of the case I have no doubt whatever. There has never been a "national emergency" as contemplated by the Emergency Provisions Act. As it is, the orders placed at my instance by way of insurance against any general failure of supplies may, though they are not large, involve a substantial liability should the normal sources of supply become available at a date earlier than could, with any confidence, have been anticipated.

Complaint was made of prices for turf and wood and certainly there were glaring cases of profiteering in both. But after a short period supplies at reasonable prices were made available for the poor, and if others had often to pay heavily for substituted fuel it must be remembered that much of such fuel was drawn from stocks accumulated for other purposes which the owners may find it difficult to replace cheaply and that except at high prices supplies might not have been forthcoming in any sufficient quantity. They could not have reasonably been commandeered to any large extent without creating a new distress. The position is being carefully watched. Subject to the fact that coal is at present a scarce international commodity available only at high prices, which is nobody's fault, I think provision has been made for supplies sufficient for a period of two months with due economy. Briquettes which have proved suitable for domestic purposes are available at prices substantially lower than coal. Unforeseen contingencies may arise. Cargoes may be cancelled, prices may go higher. On the other hand, there may be an early termination of the strike, a consequent fall in prices, and, perhaps, early deliveries from the English mines. Exact anticipations are impossible and neither merchants nor industrialists should allow themselves to suppose that the worst is necessarily over. I invite anyone anxious as to his situation to communicate promptly with my Department which only requires to know in sufficient time what supplies are essential in order to provide for them. In respect to the poor I can still supply small quantities of coal and slack at relatively low prices from Government stocks, as I have already done to various places in the country. But such procedure has its obvious limits and organisations concerned in assisting the poor should, so far as possible, depend on fuel other than coal.

Is the Minister able to tell us the margin allowed in respect to fuel supplies which are controlled. between the cost c.i.f. and the delivery price to the consumer?

Generally 22/-.

I wish to draw attention to the latter part of the Minister's statement, in which he said that there was no national emergency. Anyone residing in Dublin will remember the second week in October, especially the second Sunday, when children of the working classes and the poor had to use ordinary table knives to cut down branches of trees on the banks of the canals around Dublin. What further proof of national emergency does the Minister require? The trees to which I refer are very well pruned to-day, and the homes of the working classes and the very poor are without fuel of any sort. It is all very fine to say that the poor were offered, and got, coal through charitable institutions, but offering an unemployed man with five or six children in a tenement house in Henrietta Street, Gardiner Street, or Gloucester Street a bag of coal at five shillings, which was the reduced price, was by no means an indication to him that the Government was looking after his interests. I cannot sit down without making my protest against the inactivity of the Government and those responsible for the plight in which they left Dublin in the first and second week of October. The position is slightly relieved at present, and now the main difficulty, so far as the poor and working classes are concerned, is the question of price. We all can see large quantities of turf along the canal banks, but it is at such a high price that those who used turf in the past cannot afford to buy it. Within a stone's throw of where I live there is a canal bank where a large supply of turf was placed a week ago, and it is still there, because those who were in the habit of using turf for cooking purposes now find it impossible to purchase it at the price demanded. I think there is some more work for the Government to do. They have responsibility in this matter. It is not right or fair to see poor people going indoors early at night, closing their windows and herding themselves together in small rooms to try and keep warm. Something should be done for that class. I had the experience of visiting some of those houses and I can assure those who are fairly comfortable to-day that the poverty and destitution of the poor were never worse. In addition to being cold, they are almost hungry. That position exists within a stone's throw of our brightly lighted streets. Some further efforts ought to be made, no matter who has to pay, to provide fuel for the classes about which I have spoken. There is a coal shortage in every home. Fairly well-to-do people who ran short of supplies found difficulty in October in meeting their needs. Many comfortable houses were left without coal or fuel of any sort, but the residents were, at least, comfortably dressed, and their plight does not deserve the same sympathy as that of unfortunate people living in the slum areas. The Government cannot say that they were not cautioned about the possibility of an emergency, or of prices going up, or of people even with decent salaries being unable to get in supplies.

While the statement of the Minister for Industry and Commerce is elaborate in showing what the Government did I hold they did not do enough, and I hold as the emergency is not over that they ought to do a little more. I am informed that only to-day a small works had to give notice to their employees that the kind of coal available was not suitable, and that unless another coal supply was forthcoming their employees would be working only on half-time during the next few weeks. Our small industries are suffering and I earnestly hope that the Minister and his Department will proceed to deal with the emergency. I think the occasion for control of prices has arisen and I hope he will give the matter some further consideration.

I do not think we can consider the coal situation in the light of supplies existing to-day. I think we have to get back to October and consider what the situation was then. If we do consider it, having regard to the meagre supplies available, then I think everyone has good reason to be thoroughly dissatisfied with the inaction of the Department of Industry and Commerce. In May last we were told it was necessary, in the interests of the community, that a certain Bill should be passed into law, and that the Government should be armed with certain powers in certain emergencies. The Government got those powers and considered that regulations were necessary in pursuance of the powers they received, but the Minister tells us now that he did not put those regulations into operation because they were cumbersome and drastic. Simply because they had that appearance Dublin was to be without its supply of fuel and profiteers were to be allowed to stalk around the streets demanding any prices they could get for a commodity which poor people were needing.

The regulations were in draft.

You described the regulations as cumbersome and drastic. You will see that in the report of your speech.

Is the Deputy making the point that the reason there was no control was because the drafting of the regulations was cumbersome?

You said the coal merchants assured you they had certain stocks of coal on hand. You said in view of that it was not necessary to allow those regulations to issue as you considered them cumbersome and drastic. I think the Dáil is entitled to say that it is not very much concerned whether the regulations are drastic or cumbersome. It is much more concerned in ensuring that an adequate supply of coal is available for the people. In May last you got all the power you required to supply coal. You did not do it in May and you have not done it yet. We are told the coal merchants gave certain assurances that they were meeting the demand, but apparently they were not subject to any supervision. They could do anything they liked when they came away from the Minister and his advisers. How was it possible for the merchants to tell the Minister that they were ordering supplies when, in fact, only five out of nineteen were ordering supplies?

The Deputy must not address the Minister across the floor.

What I said in this connection was that we were proceeding to see how far orders had been placed. There was a very definite situation which was made clear. In a particular week the other situation developed simply because they had reversed their line in a particular period.

The Minister told us, notwithstanding what he said now, that certain coal merchants apparently believed, on information they got from somewhere, that the coal strike in Britain was likely to conclude and consequently did not desire to place orders at prices which would be high. They were allowed to get off with that attitude until the Minister discovered that they were up against a serious position. Then he tells us in extenuation of the attitude of those people that the thing proved too much for them. It did not prove too much for them at all. These people were not prepared to take the risk of ordering supplies at high prices and the Minister was not prepared to guarantee, in the early stages of this coal shortage, that supplies would have to be made available and that his Department or the Government as a whole would take the responsibility of guaranteeing people against loss in ordering supplies.

I guaranteed the day after I was asked to guarantee it.

If the guarantee had been made available earlier I think——

Is it the Deputy's suggestion that I should have gone to the merchants with a guarantee earlier than they asked for it?

I am going to suggest that the merchants did not get afraid in a hurry that they were going to lose. There must have been a suspicion all along in their minds. I am sure the Minister must have discerned the fear on the part of the coal merchants. The fact of the matter is the Minister has made an elaborate statement, by way of apology, for the inaction of his Department and for the definite refusal to use the powers which were given to him in May last. I shall quote some astonishing prices. He says that briquettes in Dublin were 60/- per ton. I can give the Minister a postcard sent out by a member of the Dublin Coal Merchants' Association offering briquettes at £5 per ton and yet the Minister tells us that briquettes are 60/- per ton at the port. They are £5 per ton to persons who desire to buy them. I do not think the Minister has given any adequate explanation of his failure to curb the profiteering. In Dublin I made inquiries as to the prices of turf and found that miserable sods of turf were sold at 1/6, 1/9 and 2/- per dozen. That was allowed to go on. If the price has since fallen it is not because of any action on the part of the Minister and his Department. It is because of the fact that more supplies are coming in. The Minister could have secured a better organisation in the early stages.

Better than the coal merchants! The coal merchants were supplying turf. Could the Government Department ensure better supplies of fuel than the people in the business?

I am suggesting that the Minister has got all the machinery to ensure a better supply of fuel than was available, and the Minister has not used those powers. Turf was sold at 1/6, 1/9 and 2/- per dozen. I asked people what the price was, and it was 2/- per dozen. The Minister has nothing to say about his failure to deal with profiteering. He allowed that kind of thing to go on until the supplies were sufficient to force down the prices. Coal has been sold at 1/- and 1/2 per stone in Dublin and still no action was taken by the Minister.

The Minister has described the situation, in certain cases, as one of gross profiteering. It was a case of widespread profiteering and the Minister did absolutely nothing to curb it. Now, we are told, when the supplies are somewhat better, that we have reason to feel fairly satisfied with the position. I do not think that we gave any reason to feel satisfied with the position as it was in October and as it is to-day. Prices are still high and I should like the Minister to explain how men working on the Shannon scheme, at 32/- per week, can provide fuel of any class and maintain a wife and family out of that wage. We have widespread unemployment, with depression in wages, and, yet, according to the Minister, we shall have to "put up with it." In other words, those who have money can buy coal, while those who have not money are to continue to suffer, not because of lack of supply of fuel, but for want of the means to buy it. I suggest that something should be done to reduce the price of fuel, in addition to the measures forecasted. If something is not done, then tens of thousands of people throughout the country will be unable to pay the high price demanded. There are tens of Thousands of unemployed. Something should be done in their case. It ought to be possible to reduce the price of coal, even if a levy be put on coal import afterwards in order to make good the loss of public money. If the Minister feels satisfied with the statement that he has done everything possible to meet the situation, then I can assure him that he is the only one who is satisfied. Nobody in touch with the situation in Dublin is satisfied. He did nothing and his Department did nothing. He had all the powers he desired to ensure that a fairly adequate supply of coal would be available. He had all the powers necessary to ensure that there would be no profiteering, and he refused to exercise his powers in any direction.

I should like the Minister to think in terms other than Dublin. I recognise that the situation in Dublin is appalling. At the same time, one is forced to infer from what appeared in the papers during the last few months that the activities of the Minister's Department are directed towards getting supplies into Dublin. The Minister has said very little about any other place in the Saorstát. I am loth to draw any comparison as between one part of the State and another, but I represent here a certain constituency and I think I am entitled to claim that other parts of the Saorstát than Dublin are entitled to consideration by the Minister and his Department. He has stated that certain things have been done for Dublin. The broad fact emerges from his statement that his Department seem content that a certain quantity of coal is brought in, regardless of the destination of that coal or whether the people who ought to get it get any portion of the supply.

The people referred to by Deputy A. Byrne and Deputy Norton will gain no advantage from those supplies. They are in such a position that they are not able to buy any coal. It is peculiar that the Minister, armed with the powers he got here as far back as May, did not see fit to take advantage of them. He says he was in touch with the merchants as far back as June, but it is apparent that he lost touch with the merchants between that date and the end of October and that nothing was done during that time by his Department to ease the situation. Take the case of turf, referred to by Deputy Norton. Is there any reason why a higher price should be charged for turf this year than last year? For any excess charges in that respect, the Minister and his Department must take responsibility. There is no justification for profiteering so far as turf and timber are concerned. It may take somewhat more to get fuel in here on account of the situation that exists, but I think the Minister is to blame for failing to prevent profiteering. I should like to ask the Minister what his Department is doing for other areas. I have written several times to the Department and got very little satisfaction. There was not an ounce of coal in Wexford town on Saturday last. The merchants there were in touch with the Department, but they got very little satisfaction. I think the Minister should direct his attention to other parts of the country which have been fireless for some time. When coal was comparatively cheap a great many people were practically unable to buy it. Now, that it has reached fabulous prices, the lot of these people is much worse. I ask the Minister to take other parts of the country, than Dublin, into consideration.

I am very pleased that this question has come up. It may give the Government an opportunity of introducing some scheme that would be instrumental in giving employment to a large number of people in the Saorstát. I refer to the development of the turbary lands of the country. You have thousands of acres of turbary capable of supplying thousands of tons of fuel. Still the Government ignores the appeals from the people to have this bogland drained. Profiteering in coal is not confined to Dublin. It is general throughout the country. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has done nothing whatever to prevent that profiteering. In fact, he has encouraged it. The daily papers have encouraged it. They have published the price of turf in Dublin, with the result that in the smaller towns the price went up four and five hundred per cent. In Athlone, where a load of turf could be purchased six weeks ago for five shillings, it is now 24/-. The same applies in Mullingar and Longford. If it is necessary to charge a higher price in Dublin for turf owing to the cost of carriage, why is it necessary to raise the price in the country districts? Why does not the Minister prevent this profiteering? A workingman cannot afford to pay 24/- for two and a half boxes of turf which fit in a crate. The unemployed man cannot possibly afford to buy any fuel. The scanty allowance he is entitled to from the Labour Exchange would not enable him to purchase one load of turf in twelve months at that price. Still the Minister will not interfere and put an end to this profiteering.

It is up to the Government to use their powers even now at the eleventh hour, so that profiteering may be put an end to. We have been told a great deal about what the Government intends to do, but that can be described as election propaganda. On every occasion on which Ministers have spoken in the last two or three months they have made glowing promises. Are they serious in the promises they have made? I am glad to see the Minister for Education shaking his head, because the country knows that they are not serious. If they are serious, now is the opportune time to fulfil these promises. Let the Minister use his powers and put an end to this profiteering and see that turf that cost nothing extra to cut this year is sold at the same price as last year. People come from the city to the country districts with lorries and purchase turf from the bogs and then charge four or five hundred per cent. more than they paid for it. That gives an opportunity to those people who have turf to sell to increase their price. Surely the least the Government can do is to see that prices are not increased. The Minister should handle this question properly in the interests of the masses of the people, and not in the interests of the coal-owners or others who have purchased large quantities of fuel for sale. It is time that something should be done to put an end to this wholesale profiteering at the expense of the working people, who are being fleeced and robbed wholesale by the Minister and his associates.

I regret that the representatives of the business party were not present during the Minister's speech, because, as far as I can understand it, it was an attempt to throw responsibility for the evils which fell upon the city of Dublin and district from his own shoulders on to those of the Dublin coal merchants. He went so far as practically to charge them with having entered into a compact with him to ensure supplies of coal for the community, and then deliberately refusing to fulfil that compact. That is a very serious statement and one which, I think, almost would require the coal merchants of Dublin to be placed in the dock, if it can be proved. The position seems to me to be that on and after the passing of the Protection of the Community (Special Powers) Act and the consultation between the Minister and the merchants, and the notification to these merchants that he was preparing certain regulations for ensuring the supply of fuel, they were then at least, if never before, placed in the position of trustees for the supply of fuel to the community. They recognised what should be their normal position, and by implication, I think, they entered into a special contract and understanding with the Minister that they would ensure that fuel supplies would be available. The Minister charges them by inference with having broken that compact, and apparently they are to be allowed to get off with a mere recital of the indictment in this House, and no further consequences are to ensue. I have no doubt that the coal merchants will have a reply to make to that charge, but whether they have or not, however completely they may reply, or however utterly they may fail to reply, it does not relieve the Minister of his responsibility. He came to the Dáil for special powers and received special powers to make such regulations as would ensure the due supply and distribution of the essentials of life to the community, including fuel. He had prepared all the regulations necessary and he had practically appointed the coal merchants as his agents in this matter. I say it was his duty to get himself informed, not merely to rely upon the voluntary statement of the merchants as to the maintenance of supplies, but to satisfy himself that the supplies were being maintained. It is not enough for the principal to say that his agents failed him and that, therefore, he should be relieved of all responsibility. The principal is surely bound to bear responsibility for the failure of his agents. So that the Minister, when he took powers to ensure a supply of fuel for the community and failed to apply those powers, leaves himself open to the charge, which he practically admits here to-day, that he failed in his responsibility.

The coal merchants had, at one point, reversed their line. Up to a point they had kept the Minister informed and he was satisfied that between stocks in hand and orders and expectations of delivery the supply of fuel for the community would, at least, be sufficient to enable the people to carry on. Then they reversed their course and the Minister found, to his surprise, at one point that they had ceased to order coal: in fact, I think he said, had cancelled orders; at least he had not been informed. If he was satisfied with the methods whereby he was to insure the supply, and these methods failed, I do not think he can relieve himself of responsibility.

But the question of responsibility for the past is one thing. The other question, which at this moment is important, is the maintenance of supply and the regulation of prices. He may take powers under this Act to regulate and control the prices charged by traders, wholesale or retail. We have been told of the probability that the supplies will not be over-abundant probably for a month or two. We must not take it as certain that the crisis or difficulties have passed away. We are told that contracts have been entered into for the delivery of coal, at different times, and at greatly varying prices. I think it is a fairly common and general experience, as a matter of fact, that when supplies of any commodity are short in relation to demand, the price of the poorer qualities and the more cheaply bought articles will approximate to the price of the highest quality and the most dearly bought articles. That is to say, that prices which can be obtained in the market for short supplies will govern the prices of the whole supplies no matter what price those supplies may have been bought at. So that we are likely to experience this: That the poor coal cheaply bought at comparatively low rates will be sold at the price of the best quality to cover the price which was paid at the highest point of the market. I think that is not satisfactory. Whosoever may be guilty, whether the coal merchants or Ministers, the position of the merchants ought not to be left in such a way that they can charge the highest possible price, or any price, to the community for the coal that they have to sell.

I think that the requirements of the case are that there should be, even at this stage, an order regulating maximum prices. It might be found necessary to go beyond that. I do not know enough about the facts and circumstances to make this statement as a definite positive statement, but it seems to me from the knowledge I have in this matter that the case requires that the Government should take control of supplies coming in, pool them with regard to prices and charge only such prices for the coal they have in their possession as would cover the pooled cost, even if they will not agree to the better proposal of Deputy Norton to charge a lower price and to let the loss be borne out of future purchases. But whatever scheme or method the Government themselves may devise I urge upon them that it is desirable that there should be a regulation of prices; that the failure to fulfil their obligations by the coal merchants or by the Minister, as may be decided between them, should not be a cause of making the poor and those who are less poor, but who, to some extent, have been greater sufferers, pay abnormal prices for their coal for the next two or three months.

I do not agree with those who say that the Government has done nothing or that they made no attempt to meet this difficulty. I think when they woke up they made kinds of attempts and I admit freely that they were able to tide over many difficulties and to avoid the possibility, even the probability, of much greater trouble coming upon the community through the disemployment that would have been caused had several of the works that threatened to close down been allowed to do so. But I believe they are at fault and that they have failed lamentably in not carrying out the obligations which they took upon themselves when they asked the Dáil to pass this Special Powers Act, and that it is still necessary they should make regulations within the powers they have to control prices and to insure that the people shall get fuel for the next few weeks at prices that they can reasonably afford to pay. I think the Minister's case has been one intended rather as an indictment of the coal merchants. It was very weak indeed as a defence of his own failure and I shall await with interest, if not pleasure, the answer that will be made by the coal merchants to his attack.

Deputy Johnson spoke of people suddenly waking up to their responsibilities. I wonder does he remember that when the Protection of the Community (Special Powers) Bill was being urged, after the British general strike had finished, he asserted in the Dáil that by proceeding with this legislation we were "likely to give occasion for panic in the country." He expressed his feeling that it might be better to say "now that the difficulty that faced us is passed there is no need for us to take upon ourselves these special powers." Since that date, of the 12th May, the Deputy has never given any hint here, or even privately, to me until about the second week in October that he thought there was any necessity for any use of the powers conferred upon us, despite his objection in the month of May.

Would the Minister read the passage in which I stated that the power should not be one of acting by proclamation in a case of national emergency, but should be one of normal power of the Executive Council?

I will give the report over to the Deputy and he can quote anything he pleases. He also said, and it was to that I was referring when I talked of a national emergency in the sense referred to in the Dáil when the special legislation was under consideration: "It seems to me that if you are going to legislate for the purpose of meeting difficulties in two or three places in the country you cannot do so on the plea that a national emergency has arisen." I have not had any indication from Deputy Johnson as to whether the localities were so numerous now or a month ago as to show that a national emergency could be said to have arisen. Neither do I admit his interpretation or distortion—I do not say wilful distortion—of what I said to-night in regard to the Coal Merchants' Association as representing in any degree what I did say. I stated frankly what I thought was the cause of the trouble, and I gave certain things that justified the Coal Merchants' Association in being a little bit averse to placing orders ahead. Similarly in regard to Deputy Norton. He made a certain amount of cumbersome play with the phrase I used about cumbersome and drastic regulations.

The Minister made cumbersome play with the regulations.

I have made no cumbersome regulations.

You said cumbersome regulations.

Read the report of what you said.

I read what I have here on record. It was previously given in the Dáil as an answer to a question when I was asked if I was going to restrict train services. I then said that the action referred to in the question could only be effected under special powers of legislation. I said "according to my information such action is not necessary at the moment. though the situation may change so rapidly as to render it soon advisable. Since only one of many available sources of coal supply is at present closed, I would expect coal merchants to maintain supplies without any serious difficulty and without the need of cumbersome and drastic regulations." Is that a description of the regulations I had made?

Decidedly no.

I see, but it leaves out of consideration the main reason, that mentioned first, namely, that only one of many sources of supply had been closed, and that I expected the coal merchants to maintain supplies without the necessity of these things. That was the gist of that argument. The arguments used all along with regard to the coal supply in the country was that the people ought to have faced—remember not the coal merchants only—but that the people generally ought to have faced the position that one source or supply had been closed, but that there were others available—that how far those others were available depended on how far industrialists, the ordinary domestic consumers and manufacturers had placed their orders with the coal merchants, so as to enable the coal merchants to have a certain amount of money coming into them to place their orders abroad at the extremely high price at which coal was then being bought. With regard to the coal merchants, it is quite easy to see why they should have been reluctant to place orders abroad. Take the ordinary financial resources of the coal merchants of Dublin and the normal orders for coal coming into them month after month. If you take it that they were paying for coal from 25s. to 35s. a ton, and that this price was raised to 80s., you get some idea of the extra financial responsibility thrown on these men. If you consider further that I should take control of the whole coal supply of Dublin, a control which, I am sure, the coal merchants; in its financial aspect, would be glad to throw on to the Government, and that there are orders for 100,000 tons of coal privately placed up to December at an average price of 80/-, that the coal strike came to an end more speedily than people expected, that supplies of English coal came in and there was a drop of even £1 on that price—a very ordinary thing to look forward to—you have there a loss of £100,000 on the orders placed, as between now and December. I think that the Coal Merchants' Association did continue to place orders ahead and that they are to be congratulated for the risks they took considering what their finances were. There has been a lot of argument here as to my failure to take powers. I have powers that I could have availed of to the fullest. I have heard no Deputy in the House put forward any argument to convince me to-night that it was necessary to enforce these powers at this time. It was necessary to have them there. I do say this that I found no reluctance on the part of the Coal Merchants' Association to deal with the situation.

Does the Minister consider that it was not necessary to enforce those powers when you had people charging 2d. and 2½d. a sod for turf in the city of Dublin?

I investigated one case where turf was being sold at 1½d. a sod. As far as the individual who was selling that turf is concerned I discovered that he was making no extraordinary profit on it. Neither was the man from whom he bought it, nor the man from whom that man bought it, but about five places down the line there had been some person or other making a big profit on it.

Why did you not stop it?

If I were to get down to the man who got the turf for his own domestic needs and expected a good price for parting with it, and if I were to commandeer any large amount from such people, I would be merely shifting the distress from now to the spring.

I would like to point out to the Minister that I know a place, not twenty miles from Dublin, where turf was being sold at 4d. per dozen sods. I can assure the Minister that the same turf was being sold here in Dublin at 2/- per dozen sods.

I am aware that in some places turf was offered at 1/6 per dozen sods in Dublin, but I am also aware that turf was being sold in Clanbrassil Street at 4d. per dozen sods and that buyers could not be found for it. That occurred on a Saturday evening.

Why should people pay 1/6 for it if they could get it for 4d.?

People do not look as accurately at these things as the Deputy.

I think if the Minister were to look into the matter again he would find that the price was 1/4 and not 4d. as he states.

It is quite possible that if I got a huge staff in with tremendous machinery and that if I incurred tremendous cost I could have commandeered turf and got it retailed here in the city at much less than 1/6 per dozen sods. That certainly could have been done. On the question of control, no one has used any argument to me indicating that control was necessary for the purpose of ensuring supplies of coal, or to put it this way: that if there had been control better supplies of fuel would have been got into the country. Control is useful and necessary if people are not co-operating together to get supplies into the country, but there was no lack of co-operation. Control might be useful and necessary if the body set up under control could give you a more efficient organisation for the bringing in of supplies than any existing medium. No one can use the argument that a Government Department was going to get into the coal trade at a moment's notice and bring in coal cheaper and in greater amount than the coal merchants were doing.

Is the Minister aware that the supply of turf in the country this year has been more plentiful than for very many years past? In view of that fact, does the Minister not think it was wrong to allow the wilful profiteering that went on in turf, especially when he could have stopped it by the exercise of the powers vested in him?

I am speaking on the question of control at the moment and I do not want to be diverted in my argument. Am I to be allowed to make my own speech in my own way, or am I only to do so in accordance with Deputy Morrissey's views?

The Minister interrupted Deputy Norton when he was speaking and put several questions to him. I have put a question to the Minister now and he has refused to answer it.

I interrupted Deputy Norton at a relevant moment, and asked him a question which he could answer in the stride of his argument. I am asked now a question about profiteering and I will deal with that at the proper time. There has been no argument brought forward in the House to show that control would have ensured better supplies of fuel. If there is any argument proved it must be based on either of two things: that it would have given better organisation or that it would have given me an organisation that was willing to do what other people efficiently equipped for it were not willing to do, and I say that both those propositions are false. Deputy Byrne said we had got cautions as to an emergency, as to the obvious difficulties from prices rising, and he referred to the point that people with big salaries were laying in supplies of fuel. It required no great caution as to the possibility of an emergency arising. That is why I got Regulations drafted. I had meetings with the Coal Merchants' Association as early as 3rd May, on the matter of prices, about which I felt there was not merely a possibility of a rise but that a rise was inevitable. It was seen clearly that the price of fuel from America and of freight from America, and also from Germany, was going to rise, but with all the powers with which the Dáil could endow me I could not keep the prices down.

They could be kept at a certain level.

I asked the Minister was not an unreasonable profit made on briquettes.

I would say so on the price the Deputy quoted, but before determination is made as to whether there is profiteering or not one must compare the purchase with the sale price. I do not know what the purchase price was in the Deputy's case. All I say with regard to some coal is that it was bought at 30s. per ton, and as regards other coal 80s. per ton.

Would you say all the briquettes that came in were ordered on your instructions?

I do not, and if I gave that impression I withdraw it. The briquettes were ordered before I had anything to do with the Coal Merchants' Association, or came to close quarters with them. As to Deputy Byrne's point about people laying in stocks of coal because they had big salaries, one of the difficulties was that people with big salaries did not order in coal early enough. No one was willing to have in his cellar more than a week's supply at the same time, and if people had done more of what Deputy Byrne spoke about there would have been a less acute situation about October. The Deputy spoke of a certain industry that is closing down. I do not know what excuse there is for that except they have not funds enough to buy coal at the prices now ruling. It is not a matter of not being able to get coal if they pay the price, and if notice of orders is given in time. Deputy Norton spoke of my power in preventing profiteering. I say as against that that there has been no great evidence of profiteering. There have been cases which have been made quite a lot of here. You can raise individual cases, but if you take the relative amount of fuel for sale in the country, say since the beginning of October, there has been very little profiteering, and where there has been it would have required tremendous machinery and personnel to catch it and stop it. You have to guard right down along the line until you get to the individual who sells in the first instance. I was faced with a difficulty here recently when it was put to me that I should declare a certain price for the coal which was being bought at Government orders. If that price had been fixed the net result would have been that the Coal Merchants' Association would have netted about 25s. per ton average over all their privately placed orders, because we had bought dearly where they had bought cheaply, having bought earlier. The question is, where is the exercise of powers going to lead? Is it going to achieve the object sought? We do not think it would. To return to Deputy Johnson—

Before the Minister leaves that point, he has been dealing with profiteering in coal and turf in the city. and he has talked about the difficulty of getting at the person who first sold the turf. Is the Minister aware that in the country people who had turf brought it into the towns, and the people who bought it were charged 35/- per load for turf which they previously got at 15/- or 20/-, and would he consider that profiteering in view of the fact, as I have already stated, that turf is more plentiful in the country this year, as most Deputies are aware, than it has been for many years?

My difficulty is to answer a general proposition on an individual case. It is a fact that there is about twice as much turf saved this year as last year, but I cannot deal with the position of an unnamed individual in a town not mentioned.

My point is that if the Minister's Department was doing its duty in this matter he would have information not only from Dublin, but from every town showing what was happening with regard to fuel, but as far as we see the Minister had no information.

Did the Minister or any of his officials take steps to ascertain the prices charged for turf and wood in Dublin? Did he use the Civic Guards, as he could have done, to make inquiries? They could have furnished particulars as to prices charged, and if they had done so the Minister would not have made the statement he did.

What statement?

The statement that there is no evidence of gross profiteering.

I did not say that at all.

I do not know then what you did say.

Taking in the whole situation and the amount of fuel on sale from September to October I suggest that there was relatively little profiteering. I know of a particular case which was described as gross profiteering. One and sixpence for a dozen sods of turf was described as gross profiteering. It was not.

It must have been somewhere.

Yes, I said that five places down that line there was profiteering.

And you did nothing.

I did nothing. I confess that. I did not get out my few civil servants to arrest them, or the Civic Guards to do anything. I considered the situation was on the whole moving as well I could expect it to do, and that I would not ease the situation now to cause distress in the spring. Even if I took all the powers under the Act, and I went personally to make inquiries of the merchants themselves—

If you were without fuel you would have moved in the matter.

That sort of personal argument does not get us anywhere. Unless Deputy Morrissey is now simulating anger and that he did not feel the pinch himself, there is an ugly word to be applied to his action.

Perhaps if I told the Minister I did feel the pinch, he might not believe me.

We are getting to personal experiences. If I also said I had not a sufficient supply of fuel I might not be believed. Deputy Johnson spoke with regard to my allegations against the coal merchants. I made what I considered to be a frank statement about the position, and I doubt if any member of the Coal Merchants' Association who will consider what I have said will object to it. I said I had investigations and negotiations. There were investigations as to what the merchants were doing. At a certain point, about the middle of October, it was suddenly discovered there was a shortage of supplies in Dublin. I say there was a failure on the part of the Coal Merchants' Association to indicate to me the difficulties they were meeting at the time, and a failure to take action to overcome these difficulties. I want to put these difficulties clearly. I have spoken already of the strain upon their financial resources. That could have been met, as it was later met, by a Government guarantee, if the guarantee had been asked for. But I do not consider it any part of my duty to go to the coal merchants with a guarantee before they claimed that such was due them. There was that point about the finances. There was, further, the point that certain individuals, domestic consumers and manufacturers, apparently closed down on orders that had been placed by them. I mention as an individual case one cargo of coal brought in, suitable for gas purposes, refused by certain gas undertakings, and sold at a loss to the particular merchant concerned.

Was that on account of quality or price?

It was because the gas undertakings had some idea that the coal strike was coming to an end and that industrial coal would be released to their undertakings. They thought they could get coal cheaper if they could only hang on for a certain period. At that time I say further that there were two difficulties in addition to that domestic type of difficulty. There was the fact that certain foreign Governments placed embargoes on the exportation of coal from their countries. Coal was held up at Danzig; there was Polish coal held up in Germany, and an embargo at the ports was put on coal coming from Germany. In addition, American coal was prevented from coming. Further, there was the question of the tremendous increase in freight charges between America and here, and the fact that even at that time, with the high freights, boats were not available. Boats had been diverted from grain-carrying, their ordinary business, and they reverted back to grain-carrying, leaving the coal business. There was the impact of these three things which caused the coal merchants to withdraw from the line they had previously been advancing on. It has been complained that I should not have accepted statements from the coal merchants. I have not said that I accepted statements from them.

Deputy Johnson said that I should have satisfied myself that supplies were being maintained. How is one to be satisfied on that? In the last resort only by seeing that supplies were coming in. That puts off the matter for the fortnight or three weeks at the end of which American boats would arrive. I hold that all that could have been done to see whether coal orders were being placed up to requirements was done It was not within my power to know that certain orders were going to be withdrawn, that certain orders placed by coal merchants in Dublin were going to be cancelled by foreign Governments, or that certain orders ready for confirmation were not confirmed when the date for confirmation came along. That all happened in a very short period and the emergency arose. But there had been definite investigation and definite in quiry as to what was going on. I have no charge to make against the Coal Merchants' Association save what I did say, that in a particular week they failed to give information to me of a certain line of action taken by them out of the ordinary course that they had been pursuing. I complain of a want of frankness during that period. Deputy Johnson asked: "What of the future?" The question is to ensure supplies and to regulate prices." Let some argument be adduced to me to show that supplies will be better maintained through a Government department, using the powers under the Special Powers Act and coercing the Coal Merchants' Association to do at Government expense what they are doing pretty voluntarily to-day at their own expense, with the exception of this small amount of coal with which I am involved and for which I will have to seek the sanction of the Dáil if any liability falls upon the State by reason of that order.

As regards the regulation of prices, again let there be some argument to show that the establishment of a maximum price—which would immediately become the ordinary price—or that any attempt to deal with these prices would create on the whole a better situation with regard to fuel than exists at the moment. It could stop a glaring case of profiteering, but what would you do if, as I suggest, the maximum price tended to become the ordinary price, or even the minimum price? While you may stop a glaring case of profiteering, you would raise prices at which fuel of all kinds would be sold. But if there are arguments that one could regard as reasonable, and if it could be proved that control would effect either of these two things—the provision of better supplies, or the better regulation of prices—then there would be no hesitation in assuming all the powers that have been granted. No argument has been advanced to show that either of these things would follow from the application of these powers.

May I put a point to the Minister on a matter that he has not dealt with, the supplies which normally, in the pre-emergency days in Dublin and district, had been distributed through the small factors and bellmen. It is not possible to-day, I am informed, for these men, who supply a very considerable proportion of the community in normal times, to obtain supplies from the merchants. I understand that certain arrangements were made with respect to that portion of the import which has been at the order of the Department, but that is a comparatively small proportion of the total. But in respect of the main supplies of coal the position is that that portion of the community which has been in the habit of buying from the small factors and bellmen are not now able to get any coal at all. I should not, perhaps, go so far as to say that they cannot get any at all, but it is difficult, and that particular body of factors and merchants are losing their trade, which is being taken over by the merchants. There is a clear divergence from the normal course owing to the fact that these men are not able to get supplies from the importers. I wonder whether the Minister has any policy in that respect, or whether he is able to exert any influence on the merchants to ensure that at least apro rata proportion of the trade that has usually been done by these men will continue to be done through that channel.

I feel quite sure with regard to, say, one-fifth of the orders due for unloading between now and the end of December, the amount which was purchased on Government guarantee, that some arrangement can be made, and I feel pretty sure also that some of the coal merchants will make some such arrangement with regard to coal brought in at their own expense. But I would like Deputy Johnson to know that to a certain extent I was actively instrumental in getting supplies denied to these men. The most vehement allegations in regard to profiteering were made against these very men, and certain action was taken by way of limiting supplies to them, or at least insisting that supplies would only be given when the proper promises were given by them. That was done on my own instigation. However. that matter can be taken up. I feel pretty certain that the coal merchants will divert portions of the coal to selected bellmen or small dealers, conditional upon these people not being the very same gentlemen as those who had been pointed out to me as being most concerned in increasing prices.