The Committee, of course, is aware of all these facts, and is dealing with the matter as rapidly as it can. I do not think that I need say anything more on the question of rural housing than was said by the Minister for Local Government yesterday. With regard to urban housing, within the last year we have begun to make loans to local authorities for housing purposes. So far as the smaller urban authorities are concerned, these loans will enable them to make greater progress in the matter of housing than it was possible to make heretofore. Taking the housing position generally, it is, of course, easy to say that not enough is being done. The problem is a big one, and if it is not solved within a year or two, then anybody can say that not enough is being done. But if we look at it from the other point of view, at the amount that has been done in recent years, in comparison to what I think I may fairly call the neglect of the problem prior to that, it must be admitted that a great deal has been done, that astonishing progress has, in fact, been made in dealing with this housing problem. There has been no slackening off of effort on the part of the Government. I believe that a few more years will bring us to the point where as satisfactory a solution as is possible of this housing problem will come into view.
The main point that was discussed was what was called, in the course of this debate, the invasion of foreign capital. To some extent, I think, we were discussing not so much the invasion of foreign capital as the coming in of foreign control, which is a somewhat different thing, because in many instances the acquiring of Irish industry is not mainly a matter of capital at all. It is a matter of people who have a wider knowledge and a greater skill, as well as capital, coming in to carry on an industry, perhaps more efficiently than it was carried on before. The whole matter is one that is very difficult indeed. It is very difficult to know what is the best thing for the country. It would be quite easy to stop what is called the invasion of foreign capital, or what I would prefer to call the coming in of foreign control. It would be easy, for instance, to do that by way of taxation. It would be quite possible to devise a system of taxation which would make it unprofitable for any foreign corporation either to acquire or to establish industries here.
For the purposes of transition it would be possible perhaps after an interval to oblige companies if they were to continue to have the privileges of incorporation in this country to have, say, 51 per cent. of their shareholders resident and domiciled here. If we had the point of view, taking everything into account, that it would be good for the country to stop the acquisition and control of Irish industry by outside concerns, whether that acquisition took place by the purchase of existing concerns or the establishment of new ones—once we came to that point of view it would be very easy to devise means whereby we could accomplish the purpose that perhaps some Deputies on the other side would wish to accomplish. I do not think all the Deputies on the other side would wish it. I noticed that Deputy Lemass, and I think other Deputies too, indicated that the coming in of foreign capital was not a bad thing in itself. I believe that if we had all our industries controlled, or nearly controlled, by foreign capital it would be a bad thing. If we had the economic life of the country in its main aspects, leaving out the agricultural industry which is differently situated, under foreign control it would be bad ultimately for the interests of the whole of the people of the country. But, on the other hand, one of our great needs here is to develop industry. I think that practically all the Deputies are agreed on that.
Are we going, by taking an attitude hostile to foreign capital, to hasten the development of industry? Are we going to help the country to take the long view? Are we going to injure the country? Deputies have said that factories like Messrs. Ford were not included in any indictment that they uttered. That, of course, is natural, as no objection would be taken by any sensible person to the creation of a factory here by the firm of Ford's. Nobody regards that as objectionable in any sense. If we were now to take any stringent steps to exclude, or even discourage, the employment of foreign capital here, we would at least do this: We would shut the door to the possibility of any other firm like Ford's being established here. If we had taken steps to make it difficult for foreign capital to be employed here we would have prevented the possibility of Ford's being established here. If we were to take these steps to-morrow we would be preventing any possibility that may exist of factories of that sort being established in the Saorstát. We ought not, I think, do that. I do not think the industrial life of the country has developed to such a degree that we can close any of the avenues to progress in that direction. There are many cases in which foreign-owned factories can carry on successfully and economically here when native factories cannot do so. There is, for instance, in the City of Dublin a corset factory which is carrying on very successfully, extending its operations, increasing its premises, and which will be adding shortly, I believe, greatly to the number of hands employed.
That factory is able to carry on here and to sell its goods at the same price as the corresponding goods made by the firm in England are sold. It is able to do so because the factory here has the advantage of patterns and designs which are prepared for the firm for its English factories. It also has the advantages of the bulk purchases of the firm, and it is able to obtain its raw material at prices for which an independent Irish factory could not get it at all. The consequence is that the factory is able to supply goods corresponding exactly with the goods made in the big factories across the water; it is able to get its material at the same prices as the big factories across the water; it is able to give employment here which an independent Irish factory could not, under present circumstances, give unless it were to charge appreciably more to the public for the goods supplied; that is, that its employment is given without expense to the consuming public here. If an independent Irish factory was set up, operating with the advantage of the tariff, undoubtedly if it gave the same amount of employment it would give that employment at the expense of considerable extra cost to the public. So that in many ways we can get quicker and cheaper industrial expansion in consequence of the coming in of foreign firms. It does not matter how many foreign firms come in, it does not necessarily follow that we will have economic domination by foreign firms, and it does not follow that it will be impossible at any time for the Government to deal with dangers that may arise out of the existence of these foreign firms here.
I do not like to say too much on this head lest it should be misunderstood, but it will be clear to anybody that the firm, whatever it be, which invests its capital here, which erects its buildings, which instals its plant, gives hostages. You may say that foreign firms, by building up great employment here, by acquiring a sort of power in the country, by the giving of employment, may in some way entrench themselves against interference. On the other hand, firms which have large investments here are not anxious to be at loggerheads with the people of the country generally, or with the Government. Consequently I think that it is entirely a one-sided view; it is not taking the full facts into account to suggest that because there are large numbers of foreign firms here, the possibility of the people, through their elected representatives, regulating the economic life of the country is impaired. I think that that is entirely a one-sided view.
Reference has been made to the flour milling situation, first with regard to the question of a tariff. I believe that if a tariff has been imposed a year ago we would have had exactly the same position with regard to flour milling to-day. Perhaps we would have had this position earlier, but in any case we would have had it now. My own belief is, of course, that Messrs. Rank would have come in here earlier, would have come in immediately after the tariff had been imposed. But supposing that is not correct, I am satisfied that if the need of an Irish miller to sell his mill which arose quite independently of anything relating to a tariff, as I understand, had arisen, if the tariff had been on here and a firm like Messrs. Rank had been looking for an opening here, as it would, the purchaser, I believe, would still have been Messrs. Rank, and we would with the tariff have had exactly the same position as we have to-day.
I do not think that it matters a great deal who owns the mills provided that the work of flour milling is carried on. Somebody said yesterday that if our mills were owned by foreign firms we might find in the case of a war situation that there would be no flour at all available for the people. The real position is that, with those flour mills situated here, if there is a war situation the Government here could direct the policy of these mills. Undoubtedly in a war situation you would have firms such as these operating under the direction of a food controller, and I think it would not make one jot of difference, if a war situation arose, whether the owners of the mills were English, French, German, American or Irish. The flour mills would have to be operated as the food controller, or some similiar officer, would direct that they should be operated.
What would be serious in connection with the acquisition of Irish mills, either directly or indirectly, would be any policy of wholesale closing. My view is that if any firm or group of firms purchased the Irish mills and proposed a wholesale policy of closing, it would be the duty of the Government to intervene, it would be the duty of the Government to take the most ample powers by legislation, if such powers are not available at the moment, to prevent that policy from being carried out. I do not think that the closing of certain of the Irish mills will matter. I am satisfied, by the examination I made of the situation when the question of the proposed tariff on flour was being discussed, that certain of the mills will have to close. If we had a tariff one of the effects would have been the very speedy closing of certain mills, because the situation would have been such that there would have, been a good deal of money to be made out of flour milling, that the better equipped and the better situated mills would have extended their capacity, or that new mills would have been erected by firms like Messrs. Rank, that the competition after a time would have been increased, and that some of the smaller, less favourably situated and less well-equipped mills would have had to go out of operation, and I would not see any objection to any trading arrangement which put mills, which were clearly uneconomic and which clearly had no future before them, out of operation. But if it meant the closing of well-situated, well-equipped mills by any foreign combine, that would certainly call for drastic action on the part of the Government to see that that policy was not persisted in.
Coming back from the flour mills to the general question, I do not think we can say that it is a fatal or a menacing thing for the country to have some one industry which really would not matter owned by outside firms. I think that the evil thing for the country would be the general ownership of all important industries by outside concerns. An ownership by outside firms would operate in two or three ways disadvantageously to the country. The case of Messrs. Ford is in one sense an exceptional one. We have there a foreign owned industry which lives by its export trade. Normally a foreign firm coming here, either to acquire an industry or to establish a new one, would do so, or would keep it running for the purpose of supplying the home market, and consequently one of the results of foreign ownership of industries would be that they would be stunted in their growth, and would not be allowed to extend beyond what was able to supply the home market. I am perfectly sure that if we had a sweet factory here owned by a firm in England, the factory in the Saorstát would never be allowed to develop more than to supply the home market. It would be the same in a number of things. I believe that if fifty or seventy years ago a firm like Messrs. Guinness had been acquired by another firm which had breweries in England, clearly the position would have been that the brewery here would never have been allowed to develop, except to the extent of supplying the Irish market, while the great export trade which Messrs. Guinness at present carry on from Dublin would never have arisen. That is one of the great objections in normal cases to the control of industries here by foreign firms. I believe the same thing would have applied in the case of Messrs. Jacob, who have now a great factory in England. If they were a British firm by origin, and if they had 70 or 80 years ago established a biscuit factory in Dublin, that factory would have been kept a small one for supplying the requirements of the Saorstát. The English trade and also the export trade would be supplied from the English factories. I think that that is a real, and consequently an important, argument against allowing the control of Irish industries to pass mainly by any process into foreign hands.
Another argument against it is the concentration of higher direction in business matters outside the country. That is the other side of the picture that I have already told you about when dealing with the corset factory. The branch factory here has great advantages in being able to get designs from London, and also materials purchased in England. The disadvantage is that you have only people who are under managers of one sort or another here, with no knowledge of the higher policy of any business, and with the possibilities of the country developing the sources of enterprise to some extent cut off.
There is further the fact that when industries are owned outside the country it is politically damaging. It is a bad thing not to have in our political life the representatives of industries in the country, to have in our political life not merely representatives of the workers but representatives of the owners of industry. If you have industries owned outside you cannot have the balance in political life that is for the common good, and that is necessary in the interests of the country if there is to be progress. But I do not think a certain growth of foreign enterprise here need be viewed with too great alarm. It is a thing the Government ought to watch. If a certain stage is reached I think the Government ought to take steps to check it, but I do not think Deputies should take the view that it is going to be very difficult to check it. My own view is that it would not be at all difficult to check. As I said before, the real danger of the situation is that firms which might be contemplating starting industries here which it would be well to have started might be frightened off by talk of action against the invasion of foreign capital. I think that is far the most likely thing. For instance, I know that when the Carlow beet sugar factory was being started, one of the matters that troubled those who were going to take charge of that enterprise was the fear of political and other changes in the country, which might result in the agreement that was being made with them about the subsidy being broken at an earlier period, and finding themselves with a large sum of money sunk in buildings and plant which would be entirely useless in the absence of the subsidy. I think generally that will be the outlook of foreign firms, and I do not think Deputies of any party need fear that foreign firms coming in are going to set out obviously to injure, to irritate or annoy the people here. They know that if they might do some injury to the people, in case of a contest, their capital is sunk here and the people could do a great deal more harm to them. I think, therefore, that while we want, in so far as we can, to have our industries owned here, and to have them run in all their branches by our own people, so that we may have captains of industry who will develop them when new opportunities come to expand and develop great export markets, while we want all these things, we ought not to be alarmed, we ought not to take an unduly serious view of the coming in of a certain number of foreign firms, or even of the passing over of Irish enterprises in a certain number of cases, to foreign firms.