A discussion on the financial business of this State has assumed very much the character of a serial story or a serial film—it has to be taken in instalments. That is so because the motto of the President and the Executive Council, so far as Deputies are concerned, is "Safety First." The Minister for Industry and Commerce will, I believe, go down to posterity as the originator of that salutary, if not commendable, policy. He has indicated that whenever a serious discussion affecting the welfare of the people is concerned the first consideration of the Government Party is that of the hermit crab, to protect its rear. The reasons with which they support their policy in this House, the arguments with which they endeavour to bolster it up, are not such as will bear a reply, and, therefore, as I said, whenever any important question is under discussion the first concern of the Government is to bring the discussion to an end as speedily as possible by refusing to put up speakers on their benches to urge the Government point of view.
There are one or two exceptions. We know the saying about those who walk where angels fear to tread. Occasionally the Minister for Agriculture will intervene in the midst of a debate, but he is only permitted to be on the Government Benches when a minor matter like a toffee factory is under consideration. But in cases where a Vote on Account, the Central Fund Bill, questions of finance which go to the root of good government, are before the Dáil, the Minister for Agriculture, like Deputy Heffernan, the Chairman of the Economy Committee, is either muzzled or dumb of malice aforethought. We are permitted to hear the Minister for Finance repeat the speech which he always makes upon these occasions. To-day, as yesterday, he said that the call of the Fianna Fáil Party for economies was dictated purely by political consideration. I think that he intended that to be a reflection upon the character of this Party.
If politics are the science of good government undoubtedly, in demanding that economies in administration should be sought for and carried out, we on these benches are influenced by the political consideration of making the lot of the common people of the country a little easier and somewhat better and when we talk about trying to effect economies in a Department like that of the Governor-General, in the Dáil, in the Seanad, in the Prisons and in the Gárda Síochána, we have this feeling undoubtedly at the back of our minds, that these are Departments in which economies can be most easily carried out, that these are the Departments where there could be a certain amount of cheese-paring without its reacting in any way to the detriment of the community as a whole. If we were going to economise these obviously are the Departments where we should first economise. These are the drones in the hive. No one, surely, will try to argue in this House that the Governor-General or his establishment is at all a reproductive one. No one, I think, can contend in any seriousness that if the Governor-General's residence were closed and if we were able to save £26,000 a year for the country the country as a whole would be the loser.
There would be £26,000, which is at present spent in maintaining a luxury to which the common people of the country are wholly averse, available for employment in productive industry in this country. These things, the Gárda Síochána, the Prisons, the Dáil, the Seanad, the salaries of the Executive Council and the rest of the Departments in which Deputy de Valera indicated economies might be sought, are in the nature of overhead charges upon the general administration. If the cost of them can be reduced without loss of efficiency, surely it should be reduced and surely it is no mean political consideration which would urge any Party who were imbued with a spirit of responsibility to the people who sent them here, to ask that economies in these Departments should be sought and should if possible be secured?
Where else are economies to be made? On the Old Age Pensions Vote? Well, we know that the first significant economy which the Cumann na nGaedheal Government made was on that particular Vote, and I do not think it met with the approval of the people. I do not think that to-day that would meet with the approval of any section in the House, even of the Minister's own Party. Primary and Secondary education, on the Land Commission, under that heading of the Estimate which is devoted to the improvement of estates, on Unemployment Insurance? It is true that the Government have succeeded recently in making a certain reduction in the grant for unemployment insurance, but that economy was opposed by the members on these benches, and the members on the Labour Benches. This Party, as a whole, will be very slow and very reluctant to reduce the beneficial expenditure on the services which I have indicated, and which are generally classified as social services.
Yet, the point I want to bring out is that if we do not make economies in regard to the first group, we shall be compelled, whether we like it or not, ultimately to make economies in regard to the second group. We shall be compelled to reduce our present expenditure on the social services, because we cannot go on borrowing indefinitely, and we cannot borrow at all and avoid an adverse reaction on our social expenditure. Every year since the Cumann na nGaedheal Government has come into office, we have failed to balance our Budget. Every year there has been a deficit which was met by borrowing. During the coming year, for which the Minister proposes to budget upon the basis which he has submitted to the House, there will probably be a total expenditure of £26,521,000. To meet that, the probable revenue will be £24,172,000, leaving us with a deficit at the end of the year of £2,349,000, a deficit which has got to be met, and which, up to the present, the Minister has met annually by borrowing. The consequence of his borrowing has been that our annual charge for the public debt has gone up year by year until at present it is more than last year's deficit. At present, it is roughly £2,150,000. That means that when we raise in taxation £24,000,000, as we have done roughly every year since 1927-28, whereas before we had, say, £23,000,000 available for expenditure other than the charges on the public debt, this year and in the years to come, even if we do not increase that debt by further borrowing, we are only going to have available for the ordinary expenses of Government something like £22,000,000.
If we continue, as the Minister has done, the policy which the Minister inaugurated when he first took responsibility for the finances of this country, of refusing to balance his Budget, ultimately and inevitably, since we have to meet our commitments to people from whom we have borrowed the money unless we are going to become defaulters, we shall have to reduce expenditure upon the social services. The Minister for Finance has stated that there are no possible avenues of economy. Is there any person in this Dáil who believes the Minister when he says that? Are not all of us familiar with the conditions that prevail in the Civil Service in every department of the administration? Do not we all know that each department has a dual staff, the trained administrators from the old régime, the people who carry the real burden of the administration, and the placemen—the creatures of the Cumann na nGaedheal Government? The first people do the real administrative work and carry on the public services. Most of the second group are there as passengers to do the political work, the publicity and general propaganda work of the Government. Does any one, for the moment, believe that if there were a thorough combout of the Departments of the State, we would not find that there were very many redundant officials who could be got rid of, who are at present doing nothing to earn their salaries?
I would have very little fault to find with the Government if every officer were giving a fair return for the salary paid to him. I would stand for generous salaries if I were certain we were getting a fair return. But any person who has gone into a single Government Department, unless he was prepared to doubt his eyes, must know that there is wholesale overstaffing in these Departments, and overstaffing leads to inefficiency. "Too many cooks spoil the broth," is an old saying and is a true one, and it undoubtedly applies to Government Departments as well as it applies to ordinary business organisations. Therefore, every one of us must be conscious of the fact that the Minister for Finance who gets up and declares that economies are impossible is making that statement, not because he believes it to be true, but because he is unwilling to set on foot that searching investigation into the Departments which would result in the economies which we are working for and which the people require.
I listened to the Minister making another point in his speech in reply to Deputy de Valera, how at one time his Department was faced with a shortage of officials of a particular type, and how inconvenienced it was by the resignation of income tax inspectors. He told us how these people went out and how immediately they were employed by other concerns at salaries which ranged from 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. more than they had been receiving. That is a typical instance of the half truths with which the Dáil and the country are being continually deceived by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. He did not tell the Dáil the reason for this general resignation of these particular officers. He did not tell them that the reason was that at that particular time the banks of the country were starting income tax departments and were very anxious to get trained men, familiar with income tax procedure, and income tax law, and that because there was a shortage of this particular class they were prepared to offer to them inducements which would lead them to leave the civil service. There was at that particular time an abnormal demand for men of this type, and due to abnormal demand that these particular salaries were offered when the shortage arose. You may be sure that what he said, with reference to that particular side of his Department, would not apply as a whole to the civil service.
The Minister, in criticising Deputy de Valera, said, "if he cited a figure of £10,000 or £100,000 as a possible economy, we might have listened to him." We know the Minister for Finance and the Government Party too well to believe that for a moment. We know that no matter what figure Deputy de Valera suggested as the measure of the possible economy that might be secured, Deputy de Valera would receive the same answer from the Government Benches. He would be told that these figures were ridiculous, that they had been given without any advertence whatever to the real position. One of the Departments in which Deputy Lemass indicated there might be economies was the Army, and again we are told that it was because we were actuated by political bias that we suggested the Army as a possible field for economy.
Before I go on to that, I would like to remind the House also of the criticism which the Minister for Finance advanced upon Deputy Lemass's speech. Deputy Lemass said that the cost of Government has got to come down and then he said, I think, that that statement did not necessarily imply that the expenditure upon the social services had got to be decreased. The Minister putting those two statements in juxtaposition said it confirmed him in the belief that a lot of the Fianna Fáil talk in regard to economy is humbug. But what is the real cost of Government? When Deputy Lemass said the cost of Government had got to come down, I take it that what he meant and what was quite obvious from his speech, was that the real cost of Government had to come down, because, remember, all Government expenditure is not waste. A large part of it is reproductive and to the extent that it is reproductive the real cost of Government is reduced. When I say and when Deputy Lemass and Deputy de Valera say that the Army is a possible field for economy, our criticism in that regard is not possibly so much on account of the amount of money that would be voted for the maintenance of an Army but that in the present circumstances and at the present time whatever amount of money you vote for the maintenance of an Army in this country, whether it be £1,400,000, as it is proposed to spend under these Estimates or whether it be a million, that £1,400,000 or that million will be wasted. We have on record the opinion of those who are competent to judge in this connection. We know Deputy Seán McEoin's opinion of the expenditure of £14,000,000 which has taken place in the Army during the past five or six years. What Deputy Seán MacEoin stated in the memorandum which was issued on behalf of the defunct National Defence Association is confirmed by every candid serving officer in the Army that you will meet. There is no real air force in the Army; there is no gunnery, there are no technical services of any kind whatsoever, at least in anything but name, and that £1,400,000 which is being spent on the Army is being spent merely upon labels with nothing behind them, spent on green uniforms and yellow braid. It is because it is being spent in that way and without any return, either immediate or prospective, to the people of this country that we are opposed—at least I am—to it, so far as the maintenance of the Army for the purpose of national defence is concerned.
I do recognise, to a certain extent, the force of what the Minister has said, that if we are to be secure not only in the present position, but in the political position which I hope under another Government and in more favourable circumstances we shall attain to, if we are to be secure in our independence, we must have an efficient Army. If we could do it and if the circumstances of the time were propitious, now would be the time to lay the foundation of such an Army. The £1,400,000 which is being spent on the Army at the present moment is certainly not going to provide a real basis of national defence in this country.
If I did not think it too much of a digression, I might stress the conflict of opinion which has arisen and is quite patent between the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Agriculture in regard to the Army. The Minister for Finance cherishes the Army. We have the opinion of the Minister for Agriculture, I think, uttered in this House, upon record. I think he said the army is not worth a damn. When you have such a serious difference of opinion in the Executive as to the Army, then I think the humblest private member of this House might become sceptical as to the return which the country as a whole is going to reap from the expenditure of this £1,400,000.
I commented at the outset upon the strange silence of the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Heffernan, during this debate. In yesterday's discussion upon the Vote on Account and on the Second Stage of the Central Fund Bill, Deputy Heffernan was silent. He is the Chairman of the Economy Committee. It surely is his particular duty to recommend these Estimates to the House if he agrees with them. But the Deputy is muzzled. Is it a fact that he believes that serious economies could be made and that because that is his belief he prefers to be silent in this debate? Deputy Lemass said that the principal function of this Economy Committee would be to eliminate waste and he urged Deputy Heffernan to set a good example by eliminating waste. That is rather hard on Deputy Heffernan—to ask him to emulate the spirit of the ancient Japanese heroes and to immolate or eliminate himself in the cause of economy, because I understand that he is one of the veritable passengers upon the Government Benches. I suggest that if the Deputy were prepared to take the heroic step to which Deputy Lemass urges him— if he were prepared to eliminate waste and in doing so to eliminate himself, and in that spirit of self-immolation to inbue the Government with a similar spirit—it would react very much to the benefit of the country as a whole.
If we had on the Government Benches at the present moment, as I said yesterday, a Government which was not so blinded by prejudice, which had not so doped itself by auto-suggestion as President Cosgrave seems to have done, if, instead of believing that we are living in an era of prosperity, they felt we were part of the ordinary economic system of the world, and were going through hard times, as admittedly the greater part of the world is, and that, therefore, in view of these hard times it was incumbent upon them to take special steps to reduce the burden upon the people—if we had a Government imbued with that spirit in power, then there would be some hope for this country. There would even be some prospect that within a short period the rosy picture with which the Government put the Treaty before us might come to be realised, and for the common people of Ireland there might dawn an era of frugal prosperity and comfort, such as has been denied us through the generations.