Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 7 Mar 1930

Vol. 33 No. 12

In Committee on Finance. - Vote on Account (Resumed).

Question again proposed:—
"That a sum not exceeding £7,744,365 be granted on account for or towards defraying the charges that will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March,1931, for certain public services..."

Last night I was endeavouring to show to the House that no serious attempt has been made to solve the unemployment problem in this country. There are still 40,000 or 50,000 unemployed people amongst us who are not alone deprived of work but of the means of existence for themselves and those dependent on them. Looking around the country, instead of prosperous conditions and a fair average of material comfort amongst the working classes and the small farmers in general, I find that their standard of living is anything but adequate to secure them the means of living in decency. Through the rural parts of Ireland to-day you find that owing to the fact of there being so little tillage that there is not enough people employed on the land to produce what the people require in the way of food stuffs that could be produced by ourselves. The result is that all those people who depend on agriculture for a livelihood are leaving the rural parts and flocking into the towns to swell the already over-crowded centres of population. I refer to the workers employed in the making of agricultural implements, harness makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, masons and tradesmen of all sorts. We all know that as a matter of fact there are thousands of people who are living under conditions in this country that are not anything like what we would desire them to be.

What is the cause of this? The cause is that we have only about one and a half million acres of land under the plough in the Saorstát. Yet we are importing into this country £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 worth of foreign agricultural produce, most of which could be produced in this country by our own people and in which we could employ not only hundreds of additional hands but thousands and tens of thousands. Our unemployed could be put to work producing all these things that we import. We have these large imports of butter, bacon, beef, eggs, condensed milk, wheat, flour, and all those other things that we could produce here at home equally well. In fact, we could produce them here as good as any country in the world. These various kinds of agricultural produce are dumped into this country and we are sending about nine or ten million pounds of our money to give employment to workers in other countries to supply us with these goods on which, if we were doing the right thing, we could secure employment for all our own people. We think that that is a false policy and it is a suicidal policy. Those who bolster it up with their free trade bogey tell us that it is better for us to give up producing our own requirements and let the workers of other countries produce them for us. We are told that we should admit these duty free into our ports. These false economists tell us that in this way we will have everything cheaper. They tell us that by carrying out this policy everything the consumer requires will be cheaper, and that the condition of the people will be thereby bettered. Now, if that be so, it must necessarily follow that bread to-day in Ireland should be much cheaper than it is.

The cheap loaf cry has done more for recommending this policy to the people of England than any other political catch-word of the Cobdenites and the Smiths. Unfortunately, we have some of their disciples in this country to-day who are trying to propagate this same policy here. Now such a policy is impossible in such a little country as Ireland. It would be impossible for us to compete against the foreigner. This country has not been developed as it should have been. I do not say that that is really due to the Government or to the people in this House. But it was the policy in the past before this State was established, and we are still pursuing the same policy. If the cheap loaf cry had anything in it, would we have thousands of people unemployed in this country to-day? Would thousands of our people be on the verge of starvation? Would it be so difficult to find employment as it is? Would it be equally hard to maintain employment for those who are already employed? Would our unemployment problem be so difficult to solve if there was any truth in this catch-cry about the cheap loaf and if these bogeys were not so false as they are? This whole cry about free trade is a mockery and a delusion. The truth is that we could produce all our own requirements in this country, and in that way we would be doing for ourselves what the free traders want others to do for us at the expense of our unemployed.

Do we ever realise that the spending of our money on foreign imports which we could produce ourselves is really crushing out our own people? That is what it is. The sending out of millions of pounds annually for goods that we could produce on our own farms is crushing out thousands of our people from employment. It is sending them to the emigrant ship to save them from starvation. I would appeal to the Executive Council that in framing the next Budget, at all events, an endeavour would be made whereby our own people would be employed here to supply us with our requirements, those requirements that can possibly be produced here instead of giving employment to people in other countries. The result of this narrow old idea, this free trade bogey, is that instead of giving a means of livelihood to our own people, people in other countries are enjoying a measure of prosperity and comfort that our people are not enjoying. What we are doing is really pursuing an insane and suicidal policy by employing the foreigner to do our work and to supply our requirements while our own people are idle.

I appeal to the House to see that something is done to end this state of things. There has been no curative medicine found for the solution of unemployment. Let us start now and make an attempt to end this state of things. Something must be done for agriculture. Something must be done to meet the case of the working farmer in this country to-day. It is the working farmer especially that needs having something done for him. He is in a miserable position, and he is at the mercy of every group of merchants in this and in other countries, who are prepared to give him just whatever price they desire for his crops. That price would not be sufficiently adequate to compensate him for the cultivation of the crop. I appeal to the House, in conclusion, to make some attempt to solve unemployment. The position is full of peril to the unemployed. I am quite serious in saying that if something is not done at once for the people, this country will go on declining until it reaches a condition of utter ruin and degradation.

A good deal has been said in the course of this debate about foreign capital and its effect upon the State. My policy would be to do everything possible to attract capital and persons with capital into the country, regardless of their nationality, because what we want is to create employment. A unique opportunity presents itself at present owing to the political uncertainty and the prospect of considerably increased taxation in England and other countries. I saw recently a rather good caricature of the Premier of Northern Ireland, under which he was given as saying: "Another bob on the income tax and I would be almost thinking of becoming an Irishman." When the next British Budget is introduced they may be able to make an Irishman of him. I consider that at present we have a unique opportunity here with the coming into operation of the Shannon scheme and the cheap power which it will make available. I would advocate an intensified publicity campaign drawing attention to the great possibilities of this country. In support of that I cannot give a better instance than that of Messrs. Guinness, who last year almost doubled their export trade as a result of a publicity campaign. Let us realise what that has meant in Dublin in increased employment and increased circulation of money. No doubt the product they had to sell was the best the world could produce.

There are other outstanding products of this country which could be brought to the notice of the world in the way I am suggesting. We have, for instance, the best horses in the world, and there are many other products of this country which are second to none. I hold, therefore, that we should lose no opportunity of letting the world know what we have got to sell, and in that way a tremendously increased demand can be created for Irish products. What we have to do is to bring our products under the notice of the people who have the money to buy them. Messrs. Guinness's case is a good illustration of what can be done. I believe that if we spent more money in drawing attention to the products we have to sell, such as our butter, eggs, horses, cattle, pigs, and everything else, it would be reproductive expenditure. The Irish Tourist Development Association is doing magnificent work in bringing a large number of people to this country who have money to spend. They are at present seeking a grant from the Government, and I hope the Government will come to their assistance in order to enable them to make the attractions of this country as a tourist centre more widely known. When the wireless broadcasting vote was last before the Dáil I advocated that more should be done by means of broadcasting to make known what we are doing in this country by means of the Shannon scheme and other things. Now that we are going to erect a central high power broadcasting station, the Government ought to consider the advisability of removing the tax on wireless sets and parts, the revenue from which is relatively small. In my opinion, a great deal can be done to educate the people, particularly in regard to the affairs of their own country, by means of broadcasting, and the suggestion I make is one which should be seriously considered by the Government.

I was wondering if the few brief remarks I have to make would be in order, as we have passed from the question of foreign capital. Deputy Shaw, however, has made some reference to it.

The Deputy disarmed me by passing from the question of foreign capital to publicity just as I was going to intervene. However, I shall let Deputy Fahy proceed.

There is one matter which is germane to the question of foreign capital in this country, and that is the sale of foreign goods by foreign agents on the instalment plan. My attention has been drawn to the matter by social workers, who have given me several concrete cases. One of these cases was the selling of a foreign bedstead to a woman at her own door while the husband was away and did not know of the transaction until some papers had been signed. In that instance, a sum of £4 19s. 6d. will have to be paid for an article worth £2. That article was of foreign manufacture and the agent selling it was a foreigner. The encouragement of the sale of foreign goods in that fashion is mortgaging the purchasing power of the nation, perhaps not to a very large extent at present, but the custom is growing. The financial corporations that finance these people advance money at 12 per cent., and from that we can conclude what the people buying the goods have got to pay, over and above the ordinary price, for such articles.

It is a difficult and a delicate question I know to deal with, but I would like to draw the attention of the Government to the matter. The employment given is, very often, not to Irishmen at all. These people have papers with very large splash headings, but very often they have but a very small office which is difficult to find. They are competing unfairly with those who have their business in the State, and who have their rent and rates to pay; they are hitting Irish manufacturers and, as I say, we are mortgaging our purchasing power, and doing a lot of harm. In fact this business savours rather of moneylending, because the people who purchase from those people very often do not know how much they have to pay. Evidently whatever agreement they sign is so worded as to confuse them. That, merely, is all I have to say, as I simply want to draw the attention of the Government to this matter.

I rise to support this Vote. I think it is time that every section of the Dáil should join together: "For the cause that wants assistance, against the cause that needs resistance; for the future in the distance, and the good we all can do." The good we all can do is to pass unanimously these Votes associated with the public service. If they are held up it will be a serious matter. Is there any Deputy that would go so far as to hold up the Vote for education, technical instruction, old age pensions, and the Land Commission? All these tend to give employment, and they are giving employment. If Deputies are sincere and honest in opposing these Votes all I can say is that they are doing a great injury to the State. This Vote will carry on the public services until August. I imagine from the tone of the speeches I heard here, all along, that the chief cause of complaint was that there was not sufficient money to increase the public services. I tell the Opposition—the Fianna Fail Party and the Labour Deputies as well—who are complaining of unemployment that they have a great opportunity before them of applying to the Minister for Finance when he comes before the House to get permission to float the remainder of his loan. I am sorry, from the temper and attitude of the Dáil, that he is not applying for twenty millions in place of the few he is about to ask, because if he did there is not a grievance associated with the twenty-six counties that he could not remove, but, unfortunately, every step forward the Minister takes is met with criticism by the Opposition.

Let us look for one moment at countries like New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. How have these Dominions progressed? They did not do it by standing still. No. They went into the money markets of the world and got millions to develop their country. That money is reproductive and is coming back again. It would be no bad thing if the Minister for Finance to-morrow applied for a loan of forty millions. To my mind we have the greatest security of any nation on the face of the earth at the present time. We are an infant but a progressive State, and if we could, but for one moment, hang up the catch-cry of Fianna Fáil and Cumann na nGaedheal and let them remain hung up for the life of the present Dáil, there would be a very cheerful prospect before us. Some of the representatives of the nation are here criticising small points having no breadth of view, nothing large about them, but only a narrow, miserable policy that is bringing down the State and increasing unemployment. I hope there will be a unanimous vote in this Dáil in favour of the motion of the Minister for Finance and that we shall pass with enthusiasm the grants for every service in the list and that we shall face the future with high hopes.

Ní rabhamar sásta le n-a ndubhairt an tAire indé mar gheall ar an ngreim atá ag na daoine thar lár ar thionnscail Ghaolacha. Mothuighimíd go bhfuil an tír mí-shásta agus mar gheall ar ar thárla le déanaí is baol go bhfuil rún ag na daoine thar lár greim níos daingne d'fháilt ar gach a mbaineann le déantúsaí na tíre. Tá greim acu cheana ar gach a bhaineann le tráchtáil. Nílimíd sásta go bhfuil an tAire dá ríribh mar gheall ar seo agus go bhfuil sé ag déanamh gach ar féidir leis chun an tráchtáil atá sa tír fé láthair do shaora. Ní dóigh linn gur imthigh sé fada a dhóthain sa méid adubhairt sé indé agus eirighim anois chun seans a thábhairt don rialtas tríd an Aire Airgid ath-smaoineamh a dhéanamh ar an sgéul so. Ba mhaith linn dá ndeinidís rud chun stop a chur le na daoine seo go bhfuil rún aca saothar agus tráchtáil na tíre do chur fé chois. Tá a lán díobhála á dhéanamh fé láthair. Tá rudaí cheana idir lámhaibh aca. Cuir i geás plúr, gual, agus a lán earraí eile. Ba mhaith linn dá ndeireadh an Rialtas rud mar gheall ar sin, Tá rún ag daoine iasachta greim d'fháilt ar ár dtrachtáil agus deire do chur léi ar mhaithe le daoine nach mbaineann leis an tír seo. Tá dream ann go bhfuil airgead aca. Tá siad ag leathnú i dtíorthaibh cile agus ós rud é ná fuil an tír seo chó shaibhir le tíortha eile is deacair troid a dhéanamh na gcoinne.

Deir an Rialtas go ndéanfa siad rud éigin nuair a thiocfaidh an t-am. Is doigh linne go bhfuil an t-am tagaithe, go hairithe mar gheall ar an bplúr, nuair ba cheart an greim atá ag daoine eile ar mhuilne na tíre do bhoga. Shásódh sé a lán daoine dá mbeadh an tAire Airgid sásta dul níos sia ná mar a dubhairt an tAire Tionnscáil, agus Tráchtala indé. Tá cuid des na muilne plúir seo i gcruadh-chás. Tá cead ag dream thar lear teacht isteach, ó gach tír ach go mór mór ár gcomhursain. Dá mbeadh deire leis na muilne dhéanfadh sé a lán díobhála do shaol agus do bheatha na tíre. Tá beatha an náisiuin níos tachtaí ná saol na ndaoine. Ní féidir linn guth a thabhairt an son an vóta so muna ndinidh an t-Aire Tionnscail agus Trachtála níos mó i na thaobh so agus i dtaobh ceisteanna eile. Más maith leis na daoine thar lear é féadfa siad a lán díobhála do dhéanamh agus béidir go dtiocfaidh an t-am go mbeidh greim chó daingean san acu ar an dtír go mbeidh siad in án a rogha rud do dhéanamh léi.

Dá mbeadh cead agam ba mhaith liom a chur i dtuisgint gur cóir go mbeadh atharú smaoinimh in obair roinut áirithe dén Ghárda Síochána. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil cuid den Ghárda agus gan smacht ceart ag an Rialtas ortha. Is féidir le cuid aca pé rud is maith lco do dhéanamh agus a lán díobhála a dhéanamh. Níor cuireadh aon cheist i dtaobh obair na hAireachta san ach ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar an Aire mar gheall air agus a iarradh ar an Rialtas athsmaoineadh do dhéanamh ar an gceist agus iarracht do dhéanamh smacht do chur ar a lán díobh atá ag tabhairt masla do dhaoine áirithe go bhfuil tuairmí áirithe polaitíochta acu. Nílid ag déanamh aon rud ach tá tuairmí polaitíochta acu. Tá cuid den Ghárda, agus béidir nách rólíommhar an dream san, agus in áiteanna mar Bhaile Atha Cliath, an Clár, agus Coreaigh, níl aon smacht ceart ortha. Tá sean-fhocal ann "ní bhíonn an rath ach mar a mbíonn an smacht." Nílim i gcoinnibh an C.I.D. i gcásanna ina bhfuil sé riachtanach cose do cur le haon ghníomh atá i gcoinnibh gnáth-dhli na tíre. Ach rud eile ar fad isea dream polaitíochta bheith ar an C.I.D. agus cead do bheith acu daoine do chur i bpríosún uair ar bith sa ló agus deich n-uaire sa tseachtain. Ní ceart é sin agus ba chóir don Rialtas deire do chur leis.

Rud eile, nílim sásta leis an méid adubhairt an tUachtarán dtaobh tithe. Pé scéal é ní déarfad ach cúpla focal mar gheall air. Nílim sásta leis an slí ina bhfuil tithe a gcur suas. Níl leath an méid tithe a theastuíonn á chur suas in aon áit, agus isé an Rialtas fé ndeár é. Níl a ndothain airgid ag na daoine go bhfuil an obair sin idir lámhaibh acu. Níl an t-airgead le fáil i mBaile Atha Cliath agus in aiteanna eile. Béidir gur mó an gá atá leis i mBaile Atha Cliath ná in áiteanna eile. Nílim-se sásta agus nílimíd-ne sásta agus an fhaid ná beimíd sásta i dtaobh polasaí an Rialtais sna nithe seo ní féidir linn vótáil ar a son.

I would like to refer, first of all, to one or two matters that were dealt with, not at very great length, but which were somewhat casually introduced, such, for instance, as the question of coast crosion. The Government up till quite recently definitely took up the line that they would do nothing about coast crosion. As a result, however, of certain somewhat serious instances of coast erosion that took place, it was decided to appoint an inter-Departmental Committee to enquire into the matter. No decision will be taken by the Government, and no pronouncement can be made by it on the matter of coast erosion, until that inter-Departmental Committee have reported.

Can the Minister say when that Committee will report?

I think it will be some months.

Does not the Minister see the advisability of the Committee reporting as soon as possible, in view of the circumstances that prevail along the coast? The question is a very urgent one.

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.

Before the Minister leaves that point I would like to ask him a few questions. The Minister mentioned three defects which he thinks appertain to the control of Irish industries by foreign capitalists. One was that it tends to keep the output of the industry here purely for the Irish market. The second was that the higher control, and the technical knowledge connected with the higher control, is kept out of the country and is not passed on to Irishmen—that is my addendum to what he said. The Minister also stated that it is politically damaging for outside countries to see our industries controlled by foreigners. I want to get from the Minister a clear statement as to at what point he thinks these defects will vitally affect Irish industries and the Irish people. Does he think the control that foreigners have already assumed over Irish industries is bad? Is that control a bad thing for the country, or is he indifferent as to the extent to which it has developed?

I would like to know from the Minister, since he has talked about the danger of Deputies referring to the action that should be taken in the event of foreign combines coming in, and to the effect it would have on foreigners who wished to come in, how he reconciles that statement with the action of the Minister for Agriculture in compulsorily buying out a whole industry here.

With reference to what Deputy Aiken asked, I think that the coming in of foreign firms has been good. It is difficult to say in advance when a point would be reached when we would have to consider that it was bad, but foreign firms that have come in so far have given great employment. The tobacco firms have given great employment, and given it without any charge substantially on the people. If home tobacco firms had given that employment, my belief is that for a considerable time they would have done it at the expense of the people, whether that expense would be in the form of inferior or unsatisfactory goods or somewhat higher prices I do not know. Take the very big case which is the most important of all, namely, Ford's factory. If it goes on as it is going at present, it will have a very great effect on the economic life of the whole of the south of Ireland.

The Minister is assuming that all foreign firms that have come in have done so in order to establish factories. The number of foreign firms engaged in manufacture here is small in comparison to the total number that have come in. The majority of foreign firms here only engage in trade. Does the Government view the activities of a trading firm in the same light as those of a manufacturing firm?

I think that the position of trading firms coming in is that they are of no advantage. On the other hand, I do not know that there is very much harm. I do not think that the disadvantages of having, say, a distributive industry in foreign hands are equal to the disadvantages of having a manufacturing industry in foreign hands. There is the other aspect, that I do not think that a foreign distributing firm coming in confers any benefit whatever. The debate, as I understood it, was mainly centred around manufacturing firms, though distributing firms were referred to. In reply to Deputy Aiken, I would point out that one of the reasons why we should not be too hasty in jumping to the conclusion that it was bad for the country to have foreign firms coming in, is that it is very difficult to get industries started here by home firms. In certain cases, there have been suggestions to us that tariffs should be increased, but we did not increase them, even before the Tariff Commission was set up, when we were taking action on inquiry made privately by the Government. We did not take action because we knew that such increase would bring in foreign firms, and we had reason to believe that Irish firms in the industry of which I am thinking about would gradually extend their operations. If we increased the tariff by 5 per cent. or 7½ per cent. in that particular industry, foreign firms in considerable numbers would have come in. A great deal more employment would have been given, and it would be hard to say where the balance of advantage would have been.

I do not believe that Irish firms in that industry would have been put out of operation, but the possibility of their expansion into large firms would have been destroyed because the foreign firms coming in would have overshadowed them. In a country such as this it is a great thing, whether it is foreign or native capital, to have the building, the equipment, and the technical skill, even though it is the technical skill of the artisan, developed, because, if you have that and if circumstances changed, it would be very much easier for Irish firms to develop or, if they were able to do so, to acquire existing factories and carry on the industry. Generally, our position is —I think it was stated by the Minister for Industry and Commerce yesterday—that, while this position needs to be watched and while we need to have in mind the possibility of taking steps, it has not yet reached a point where it would at all be in the interests of the country to take any step against the entry of foreign capital or the development of industry under the control of people who are not our citizens.

In addition to such firms giving employment and bringing some knowledge into the country, does the Minister see no danger of having political influence exercised by these large combines? Take, for instance, the flour-milling industry in England. It must have almost a bigger turnover in the year than the Free State Government. Does the Minister not think it dangerous to have political influence exercised in this country by such a combine?

The Minister referred to a particular industry which he has in mind. It has apparently been doing well and developing, and he stated, if a tariff were put on the goods that that firm were manufacturing, that foreign firms would come in and start industry on the same lines. Why should foreign firms be allowed to come in to interfere with an industry that was getting on well?

That is the whole point we are discussing. If a foreign firm does not come in, the development of the industry will go on very slowly, whereas if a foreign firm comes in in this industry you might in two or three years have, perhaps, five times the amount of employment given at present. If no foreign firms come in, the thousand or so employees at present engaged will increase in number very slowly. It is actually a question whether we think that factories mean nothing and employment means nothing, or whether we are going to weigh up the relative advantages of having more and better factories, some of which would be foreign-owned, or have fewer factories less well-equipped and have them all owned at home. With reference to the question of political influence mentioned by Deputy Aiken, I do not think that, say, the flour milling combine will have any political influence. As a matter of fact. I think that if it were doing anything here that was objectionable to any substantial section of the people it would be completely at the mercy of the forces which it would raise up against itself. I do not like to discuss this subject at great length, as very often such matters are subject to misrepresentation outside, but if the whole flour milling industry of the country passed into the hands of a foreign combine which was charging, say, exorbitant prices, prices that could be shown to be not merely one-tenth of one per cent. but greatly above those charged outside, then that combine would be completely at the mercy of the people here. After all, it would be a serious thing if even the biggest firm put itself into the position of forfeiting its property here or subjecting itself to drastic action.

I do not think, to take that case, that it can have any political influence whatever. In fact, unless it were pursuing an absolutely straightforward course and giving as good service as the people in other countries were getting it would be living in fear and trembling. Really we might as well talk about what the political influence of the landlords of the country would have been. Suppose we had inherited the landlord system and that there was a native government, a native police and a native army, and that the landlord system were still in existence, you might as well talk about the political influence of the landlords as the political influence that a foreign combine would have.

The Minister talked about the Government taking drastic action in the event of a foreign combine purchasing Irish mills and closing them down. Would the Minister indicate what form of action the Government could take except the action they have already taken in the case of Messrs. Lovell and Christmas?

Combines such as the one contemplated here have been the cause of international trouble before in the case of small nations, principally in America. These small nations are supposed by the Press to have a double dose of original sin, but when the matter was inquired into, it is well known that it was found that the cause of the trouble was the interference of outside combines. I suggest to the Minister that the big danger of international complications will arise that way more than in any other way. If the Government are forced by the operations of such a trust to tackle a problem of such magnitude, then the danger of a war would arise and the nation might not be able to defend itself against a powerful nation outside. That is the big point.

Then somebody would be talking of a tax of £1 per head on cattle.

I think that what Deputy Boland is talking about are the natural resources of the soil. Undoubtedly trouble is caused by disputes over the natural resources of the soil, say, where there is a question of oil.

Mr. Boland

A vital necessity like flour would be in the same category. The question of railways, shipping, or flour would be on the same plane as oil.

I think that is quite a different thing. I do not know of any case where you have international complications arising as a result of trade or manufacture. The question of oil is a different thing. If a small country has oil and if another country gets ownership of the oil-bearing land, then the oil cannot be got anywhere else and you have the claim of the company to oil supported, but I think there is no analogy at all between that case and the case of a manufacturing concern.

[Mr. Goulding rose.]

I would suggest that the Minister should be allowed to conclude his speech and Deputies could then ask him any questions they wished.

Deputy Lemass referred to the case of Messrs. Lovell and Christmas. We did not buy out Messrs. Lovell and Christmas simply because they were an outside firm. As a matter of fact we proceeded to buy out some home firms. I do not know whether the Minister for Agriculture produced in the Dáil, but certainly he had in his possession and produced at a meeting of the Executive Council, a map showing how the creameries of the country were situated. Around each dot which indicated a creamery on that map there was drawn a circle with a three mile radius. His view quite clearly was that there should be only one creamery within the three mile circle, that the three-mile circle was the normal supply for the creamery, and that a farmer should be within range of only one circle. We could see instances in which one farm was within four or five circles, where there was an excessive number of creameries. We could see that they could not be economically run where two or three creameries were dividing up the supply that should go to one creamery.

To come to the history of the thing, we did not set out to remove Messrs. Lovell and Christmas. What happened was that we showed indications of supporting the co-operative creameries and Votes were taken here in the Dáil authorising advances to the co-operative creameries. Messrs. Lovell and Christmas then foresaw a sort of trade war in which the co-operative creameries were going to get a certain amount of support from the Government and Messrs. Lovell and Christmas decided to take time by the forelock. They decided not to enter on a fight, on a commercial war in which they might have lost a considerable amount of money and in which the State might also have lost considerably by giving advances to the co-operative creameries to enable them to continue the fight. Accordingly the Government decided that that was a favourable opportunity for putting the whole creamery industry of the country on a rational basis and they bought out Messrs. Lovell and Christmas. They proceeded to buy out other creameries also and to carry the whole thing through. If an outside trust came in quite clearly and quite obviously for the purpose of closing factories here and supplying the goods from England, then we would be entitled in my opinion to take steps of a more penal character than were taken in the case of Messrs. Lovell and Christmas. In that case there was a free bargain and they were bought out. The only form of coercion brought to bear on them was that there was a certain obvious intention on the part of the Government to support the co-operative creameries, that intention having been demonstrated by Votes in the Dáil.

On the other hand, if a combine came in, acquired flour mills and ran them for five or ten years and then proceeded, perhaps as a result of a change in its own policy, to close down the mills, the situation might be a little more difficult, and one might feel that there would be no justification for any measures that would savour of a penal character. But if some foreign flour combine bought out our mills and bought them with the obvious intention of transferring the operations to England or anywhere else, we would certainly have grounds for taking action of a drastic character.

What action could the Government take to ensure that the mills would start again?

Are we going to develop industry by a discussion of this sort? We want to develop confidence and we want to attract capital and a discussion of this kind is not likely to establish confidence.

We certainly think so.

Deputy Lemass can think of thousands of things we can do if we really regard the action taken as something deserving of penalties.

I can only think of one course that could be taken, that is the course that was taken in the case of Lovell and Christmas.

It is very good to hear that coming from the Fianna Fáil benches. That is an excellent remark and would be, no doubt, very reassuring. I could send the Deputy a note of two or three ways that I could think of at the moment.

I would like if the Minister will consider this in relation to some other industry—the cement industry.

The cement industry was a hopeless case. I do not believe that that factory could have continued. It did happen that it was closed down after it had been taken over by an English company, but from all I was ever able to hear I do not believe it could ever have hoped to have carried on against the competition with which it was face to face, and if it had never been acquired by an outsider I believe the results would have been the same. Taking this question of insurance which was also discussed—I do not know to what extent the Minister for Industry and Commerce replied to it— there is no doubt the Government examination of the thing has not proceeded to a conclusion. There is, however, no doubt that the view about the drain on the country in connection with insurance that we see put forward from time to time in the newspapers is entirely a wrong one. It is very doubtful whether there is any loss to the country really in connection with foreign insurance; whether it is fair to regard the operations of foreign insurance companies otherwise than as an invisible import in which we pay the ordinary commercial sum for services rendered. I think that view is probably the correct view; it is a view that can be supported by very strong arguments indeed.

That view is not held in England.

I do not know about that.

The Minister does know that the British Government passed an Act prohibiting foreign companies from doing business, the business of industrial insurance, in England.

I think the Minister should be allowed to continue without interruption.

That does not indicate anything. It is quite probably an invisible import, for which we pay the ordinary commercial price, in the same way as we pay a price for tea or rubber or anything else that has to be got in. It is more than that only if excessive salaries are paid by insurance companies to their head office officials and only in the case of non-mutual firms if excessive dividends are paid to their shareholders. But if reasonable commercial salaries are paid to their officials, and, if in the case of proprietary companies, reasonable dividends are paid to the shareholders, those operations of foreign insurance companies here simply represent an invisible import for which anything that goes out of the country and does not come back is the price for services rendered. It corresponds, in fact, with the price we pay for tea or any other import that is brought in. That involves taking the view which, I think, is a just view, that the building up of reserves is of benefit to this country when there are substantial numbers of insurers here, just as it is a benefit to England or any other country. I think that is reasonable, because the upbuilding of reserves enables people who insure here to get better bonuses and better treatment in other directions.

Undoubtedly the reserves are invested abroad. But if in existing circumstances you had Irish companies operating here on a large scale they would have to invest their funds very largely abroad. Their reserve funds would certainly have to be invested very largely abroad. I have no reason to believe that if there were investments here of a suitable character, the insurance companies that do insurance business here, though situated outside the Saorstát, would be unwilling to invest any reasonable sums in those investments. But they cannot be expected to do so now when the investments are not available. I admit that this matter of insurance is a matter that has not been fully threshed out. I would just like to put up as against the theory which is currently propagated that there is an enormous loss of millions a year incurred by the people of this country in the matter of sending premiums to insurance companies out of this country, that it is at least arguable that there is no loss at all; that the people simply pay in connection with insurance for invisible imports, and that they pay a certain amount for services rendered. These services are perhaps as efficiently rendered as, and perhaps more efficiently, and cheaply rendered by foreign companies than they could be rendered by any firm carrying on operations here.

If we were, for the sake of argument, to have an insurance company carrying on operations here it is not at all certain that it would make any substantial changes in the general financial and economic life of the country. The really correct point of view in connection with this whole question of foreign capital is simply that we have, as a people, control of the situation, that we will always have control of the situation, that it cannot pass out of our hands; that for the present the coming in of the foreign companies is causing industrial development to take place at a more rapid rate and with greater efficiency than it would take place if we were relying entirely on home firms; that there are distinct disadvantages in the development of industry in the country by foreigners; that when the time comes to check the passing of industry here into the control of people outside the country, or when the time comes to check the establishment of any new industries by outsiders in this country, there is nothing easier than to check it; that for the present no good, but only an amount of harm, can be done by undue propaganda about the matter. The sort of harm that can be done, as I have said, is the sort of harm that would be done if Mr. Ford, instead of having established his factory, was thinking of establishing it. There is no doubt that if to-day Mr. Ford were just thinking about putting up the Cork factory, and if we had discussions of this sort, his reaction would be to decide that he would put up his factory somewhere else. People like that are undoubtedly very touchy, and naturally so, because the minute they put up their factory they give a hostage to the country in which that factory is situated, and they are very careful about where they put up a factory and what treatment is going to be meted out to them when they have put it up. Consequently, if Mr. Ford were thinking of it to-day and this propaganda which is at present going on were going on, he would not set up the factory.

If anybody else were thinking about setting up another factory of some sort he also would be deterred. We might never hear of it, and the proposal might simply fade away and never come to light at all. I think when people create alarm or allow themselves to be unduly and prematurely alarmed about these things, they do a certain amount of damage. If the Government were at any time to take steps to prevent further Irish industries passing under foreign control, or if it were to take steps to prevent the initiation of new industries by outsiders, then it would be a matter of public policy that it would have to take steps in such a way as not to injure those firms who had already come in, or who had established factories; that is, any steps it might ever take ought not to be steps with a retrospective effect, but ought only to be steps which would indicate its opinion that the process had gone far enough and could go no further. Any person who had come in heretofore or who might come in up to the time when the Oireachtas decides upon some definite steps, must be given ground to feel that what he had done in good faith would prove to be absolutely safe, and that there would be no treating of such a person in an unfair way by retrospective legislation.

Is the Minister aware that, according to to-day's Press, the Limerick flour mills, the best equipped in Europe, have been closed down, and will he take any steps to have them reopened?

I saw that they were closed down temporarily, as I understand, and that has happened before. I would not like to take the point of view that the Government must, as it were, take a hand in the running of an industry.

Hear, hear!

What about the building rings?

An industry must really fight its own battles. The Government may put on a tariff or something like that to help an industry, but if it does not do that or does not give a subsidy on a definite scale in order to help the industry, that industry must fight its own battles. If any industry were to have its hands, as it were, held by the Government, if it were able to fall back on the Government at any time it was in difficulties, then it is clear the most undesirable results would follow. I am clear as regards what the Government has got to do about any industry that is not, like the Shannon electricity scheme, something of a public service nature. Any ordinary industry must be simply allowed to go its own way. If the owner succeeds, he makes his profits; if he mismanages it, he must suffer the loss. It is only on that basis that industry can be carried on.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 56.

  • Aird, William P.
  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Blythe, Ernest.
  • Bourke, Séamus A.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Byrne, John Joseph.
  • Carey, Edmund.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cole, John James.
  • Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
  • Conlan, Martin.
  • Connolly, Michael P.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Craig, Sir James.
  • Daly, John.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • De Loughrey, Peter.
  • Doherty, Eugene.
  • Dolan, James N.
  • Doyle, Peadar Seán.
  • Duggan, Edmund John.
  • Dwyer, James.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Good, John.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Haslett, Alexander.
  • Hassett, John J.
  • Heffernan, Michael R.
  • Hennessy, Thomas.
  • Hennigan, John.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Jordan, Michael.
  • Kelly, Patrick Michael.
  • Law, Hugh Alexander.
  • Leonard, Patrick.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
  • McDonogh, Martin.
  • MacEóin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Joseph Xavier.
  • Nally, Martin Michael.
  • O'Connell, Richard.
  • O'Connor, Bartholomew.
  • O'Hanlon, John F.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
  • O'Reilly, John J.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Shaw, Patrick W.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
  • Thrift, William Edward.
  • Tierney, Michael.
  • Vaughan, Daniel.
  • White, Vincent Joseph.
  • Wolfe, George.


  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Broderick, Henry.
  • Buckley, Daniel.
  • Carney, Frank.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Cassidy, Archie J.
  • Colbert, James.
  • Colohan, Hugh.
  • Cooney, Eamon.
  • Corkery, Dan.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • Doyle, Edward.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fahy, Frank.
  • Flinn, Hugo.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
  • Kent, William R.
  • Kerlin, Frank.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • O'Connell, Thomas J.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.
  • O'Kelly, Seán T.
  • O'Leary, William.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Powell, Thomas P.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Sexton, Martin.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Tubridy, John.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Duggan and P.S. Doyle; Níl, Deputies G. Boland and Allen.
Motion declared carried.
Resolution reported and agreed to.