I move that the Resolution be received for final consideration.
Imported Woollens and Worsteds. - Financial Resolution Report.
This is a motion which was moved in the Dáil by the Minister for Finance, to give effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Commission that the exemption limit in respect of the tariff on woollens should be reduced from 2/6 to 2/- per square yard. The Tariff Commission's recommendation represented another attempt by that body to rectify the results which came from its original action in imposing a duty on woollen cloth in a manner which, while failing to satisfy the woollen manufacturers, also failed to satisfy anybody else. As Deputies will remember, the Tariff Commission had under consideration for a period of three years an application made by the associated woollen manufacturers of the Free State for the imposition of a customs duty of 25 per cent. ad valorem on imported woollen cloth. After examining witnesses and spending three years in meditation, the Tariff Commission submitted to the Government a recommendation to the effect that a customs duty of 25 per cent. ad Valorem should be imposed upon imported woollen cloth, modified by an imperial preference rate of fourfifths, making 20 per cent. the effective rate and exempting from the application of that duty cloth under a certain weight or valued at less than 1/6 a square yard—that is, 2/6 per trade yard.
They recommended at the same time that the existing duty of 15 per cent. ad valorem on imported ready-made clothing should be increased to 20 per cent., because they realised that, under conditions then existing, the imposition of the duty on woollens would have the effect of decreasing the protection enjoyed by the manufacturers of ready-made clothing. Very shortly after the recommendation of the Tariff Commission had been put into effect by the Dáil the Tariff Commission realised that, despite its three years' meditation, it had made a mistake, and it submitted a supplementary report recommending that the exemption limit should be increased from 1/6 per square yard to 2/6 per square yard. They made that recommendation on an application made by the ready-made clothing manufacturers for an increase in their rate of protection from 20 per cent. ad valorem to 30 per cent., and they made it because they were satisfied from the evidence submitted to them that the manufacturers of ready-made clothing would have to continue to import, for some time, the cloth used in their business.
In that year, while that matter was under consideration by the Tariff Commission, the woollen manufacturers admitted that the entire amount of the cloth, hitherto imported by the ready-made clothing manufacturers, could not be substituted by home-produced cloth. Needless to remark, that recommendation of the Tariff Commission, which was accepted by the Government, did not satisfy either the ready-made clothing manufacturers, the woollen manufacturers, or anybody else. The woollen manufacturers were at the time willing that the application of the clothing manufacturers for an increase in duty to 30 per cent. should be accepted until such time as they were in a position to increase considerably their output of the cheaper cloths required in the ready-made business. The Minister for Finance, when this matter was under discussion before, said it was only natural that the woollen manufacturers should agree to the application of the ready-made clothing manufacturers in that respect. That, of course, was not the case, because the higher the ready-made clothing tariff is made, in relation to the woollen tariff, then the less is the inducement on the ready-made clothing manufacturers to use Irish cloth, and it is that difficulty of relating the tariff on clothing to the tariff on cloth which has landed the Tariff Commission in all the difficulties which followed its original recommendation.
The Woollen tariff imposed early in 1929 resulted in an increase in the production of the Irish mills, which is shown in the recently published return from the census of production to have been 31.4 per cent. over 1926. During the same period, however, our imports of woollen cloth increased by 25 per cent. The tariff, therefore, did very little more than enable the home manufacturers of woollen cloth to retain their position in the home market, in which, before that, they had been losing ground. The increased production of the Irish mills was accounted for, on the one hand by an increase in exports, and on the other hand by an increase in consumption at home. The woollen manufacturers, in their evidence before the Tariff Commission on this second application of theirs, stated that the failure of the original tariff to secure, for their industry, the benefits which were expected to accrue was due to the fact that the subsequent modification in the exemption limit had, in effect, destroyed its utility to them.
The whole question, of course, of the woollen tariff was bound up all the time with the position of the ready-made clothing industry. That industry received the benefit of a 15 per cent. protection rate in 1925, before the Tariff Commission was established, and that particular tariff can be said to be fairly effective in relation to men's and boys' suits, the importation of which decreased as between 1924 and 1930 by 72 per cent. It was, however not successful in relation to overcoats, the value of the imports of which has increased very considerably each year since the tariff was imposed. Up to the present, the ready-made clothing industry has been carried on by the use of foreign cloths to the extent of about 95 per cent. of its requirements. It is that fact which has made those engaged in it so interested in any proposal to alter the woollen duty. When the Tariff Commission originally recommended that the exemption limit should be 1/6 per sq. yard it realised that in consequence of the necessity of the ready-made clothing manufacturers to continue to import foreign cloth their effective rate of protection would be reduced, and, consequently, they coupled with their proposal in respect to cloth a recommendation that the duty on clothing should be increased to 20 per cent. The clothing manufacturers, however, did not consider that increase in their protection adequate, and submitted evidence to the Tariff Commission to show that their position had been worsened to a very great degree. They, at that time, asked the Tariff Commission to recommend that their rate of protection should not be 20 per cent. ad valorem, but 30 per cent. As I have said, instead of granting that increased protection to the ready-made clothing industry the Tariff Commission increased the exemption limit to 2/6 per sq. yard, and by doing that enabled the ready-made clothing manufacturers to import, free of duty, the bulk of the cloth used in their business. As they still retain the 20 per cent. duty which had been granted as an offset against the fixing of the exemption limit at 1/6 when the exemption limit was raised their position was in fact improved.
Now the question which has arisen out of these various recommendations of the Tariff Commission and the question which I submit has not yet been settled, is how to place upon the ready-made clothing manufacturers an inducement to utilise Irish-produced cloth, without at the same time encouraging the importation of English ready-mades or placing an undue burden upon the consumer. When this application on which the Tariff Commission has now reported was being made, the application for the reduction of the exemption limit again to 1/6 per sq. yd., the woollen manufacturers stated in evidence that they are now in a position which they were not in in 1929, to produce all the cloth required for the ready-made clothing industry in this country. That contention of the cloth manufacturers has not been contested by the opponents of the application, who contend, however, that although the Irish mills can produce the quantity of cloth they are not in a position to supply the patterns, the varieties or styles which are at present in vogue in the ready-made clothing industry. The ready-made clothing manufacturers stated that if the exemption limit was reduced, as the woollen millers asked, they would still be compelled to import the bulk of their requirements and that thus their own protection would be still further reduced.
As Deputies are aware, the Tariff Commission refused the application of the woollen millers on the ground on which it was made, but stated that they found, on examining the question, that the price of cloth had fallen since the exemption was originally fixed and that classes of cloth were now being imported duty free which it was intended should be subjected to duty. Consequently the recommendation is that the exemption limit should be fixed at 2/- per sq. yard, that is, 3/3 per trade yard. The contention of the Tariff Commission, however, concerning the fall in the price of cloth has been contested by the ready-made clothing manufacturers, who stated that since the exemption limit was fixed at 2/- per sq. yard the cost of cloth has not fallen by more than 2d. per trade yard, whereas it is now intended to reduce the exemption limit by 9d. per trade yard. I understand that representations have been made by the ready-made clothing manufacturers to the Minister for Industry and Commerce pointing out that their protection is being reduced by this resolution and that it will be necessary for them, if they are to maintain their position, that their original application for an increase in their own duty will have to be granted.
In rejecting the woollen millers' application on the grounds on which it was made the Tariff Commission accepted the view that the more attractive style and pattern of English-made readymade suits would be such as to induce the purchasers to pay 20 per cent. more for them. I think that is very doubtful. No doubt there are some people who would be prepared to pay something extra for a pattern they thought was fashionable in London in preference to a suit made out of Irish tweed. But the people who use readymade clothing mostly are people for whom price is a very great consideration, and I think it is very doubtful that they would be prepared to pay an additional 20 per cent. in order to get an English-made suit. The only satisfactory way, however, of meeting the Tariff Commission's fear is to increase the duty upon readymade clothing, but only to an extent that would still leave a strong inducement to the manufacturers of readymade clothing here to use as much Irish cloth as possible.
There are two arguments against that. The first is that the duty would also apply to other apparel. The second is that the cost price of readymade clothing to the wearers of it would be increased. As regards the first of these arguments, I cannot see why it should be impossible to devise a definition of men's and boys' readymade clothing which would enable them to be tariffed independently of women's apparel or other classes of apparel which it is not intended should be subjected to the same duty as men's and boys' clothes. I do not wish to be taken as arguing that an increase in the duty on women's apparel is not justified in itself, but to bring in that now would be merely to complicate the case. I think it should be possible to arrange that a duty could be imposed upon men's and boys' clothing which would not apply to anything else.
The more important argument, however, is that which relates to price. It should be clear that if an increased duty is imposed upon readymade clothing then those who want to buy an English-made suit, made of English-made cloth, will have to pay more, and they should pay more. It is obviously the intention of the protective measures which we are adopting that they should pay more. Those who want to buy an Irish readymade suit consisting of English cloth will probably have to pay more, and I see no reason why they should not pay more. But it should be clear that it is possible to supply all the suits required by our people in Ireland out of Irish material, and there is no reason why the cost should be increased.
The question of our ability to supply our needs in quantity is not contested. There should be no difficulty in calculating the duties on cloth and on apparel which would give the clothing manufacturers a 15 per cent. protection against foreign competitors, but, at the same time, leaving them under an inducement of 10 or 15 per cent. to use Irish cloth when Irish cloth is available. There would be no justification whatsoever for a rise in the price of suits made here out of Irish cloth, no matter what the tariff imposed might be. It was not contended before the Tariff Commission that protection was needed in order to get manufacturers better prices. Protection was asked for because of the willingness of our people to buy the English product in the belief that it is the more fashionable article. The Tariff Commission's attempts to avoid the necessity of imposing increased duties upon readymade clothing have landed them already into trouble, and are going to land them into more trouble. They have not succeeded in satisfying anyone in consequence of any of the recommendations made. This recommendation which we are now discussing was followed immediately by a protest from the ready-made clothiers who are again going to the Tariff Commission to have the matter reconsidered in relation to the amount of their own duty. Our anxiety is to arrange the duties so that the readymade clothing industry will be adequately protected against foreign competition while, at the same time, there will be a strong inducement on them to use Irish cloth and on purchasers to demand suits made out of Irish cloth. I do not think that is impossible, but the method which the Tariff Commission have adopted is making it impossible. They grant protection to the woollen mills that hit the clothing manufacturers. Then they mend their hand and facilitate the clothing manufacturers at the expense of the woollen millers. Now they change their hand again and are hitting both the woollen millers and the clothing manufacturers. I think that, although the situation is such that the Dáil should pass this motion, they should indicate so the Minister for Finance that they are thoroughly dissatisfied with the whole manner in which this question has been handled, and should get from him a fuller explanation than he has given so far as to why the reasonable claim of the clothing manufacturers has not been granted.
I welcome the recommendation of the Tariff Commission contained in this resolution. I believe they were wise in making it. I should like to go into the whole matter of the tariff which was imposed two years ago. Has this tariff that was imposed in 1929 had the results the Tariff Commission expected it would have in relation to all classes of woollen and worsted goods manufactured in the Saorstát? I say it has not. The higher class of cloths have not benefited by this tariff. The blanket trade has certainly improved very much, and so also has the rug trade, but the high-class or the middle-class cloths have not benefited very much by it. The twelve mills that made the application to the Tariff Commission last April for a modification of the exemption from 2/6 to 2/- were justified in making the application; in fact, they were compelled to do it. They did not specialise in these cheaper cloths. They are now compelled to go in for the cheaper cloths in order to get the trade. Why is it high-class and middle-grade cloth cannot compete with the cross-Channel cloths? In Athlone, where I live, we have one of the largest woollen mills in the Saorstát. Everybody knows that the cloths produced in that mill are equal to any produced across Channel—worsteds, fine serges, Saxons, Botanys, and thornproofs; in fact, very many kinds of high-class and middle-class cloths. Have the dozen mills that have petitioned in connection with this tariff improved their position? I can go back to 1913, although it is outside the scope of this resolution. In the Athlone Mills at that time we had 700 people employed. What number have we employed in it to-day? The number of people employed in the woollen mills in Athlone, according to the census of production in 1926, was 383. Here is an industry in this State with less than 3,000 employees, while we ought to have three times that number employed. As I said, we had 700 persons in the Athlone Mills pre-war. I make allowance for the fact that the introduction of up-to-date machinery in that mill and in every other mill in the Saorstát has accounted for some of the reduction. But it does not account for a reduction of from 700 to 350.
In addition we find that in that mill and other mills the employees are not working full time. They are supposed to be working five days per week. Numbers of them out of one department go to the Unemployment Exchange one week. There are a number of weavers out of the weaving department another week. Then they are brought in for two or three weeks, although they are supposed to be working five days a week. No such thing. That mill has 25 high-power looms, and 60 more are standing idle for want of orders. There is something wrong there. What is wrong? I know the workers in these mills, and I know that they are skilled and highly efficient at their work; but what about the management? Can we also assume that the management is efficient? I leave it to the House to draw its own conclusion.
Two years ago this very same thing was discussed in this House. We talked about a number of our mills not being able to spin the different classes of yarns used in the manufacture of those different cloths. I told the House at that time that the particular mill that I was well acquainted with was spinning almost all the yarns they require, except the yarn that was used for the manufacture of worsteds and fine serges, which they had to import. There is no reason why other mills should not manufacture such yarns as that particular mill; they ought to do it, and they ought to put up fine combing machinery and carding machinery for spinning this fine yarn, so that all the cloth can be manufactured in the mills. Even the shrinking should be done at home. I understand that the Athlone mill has got in this week new combing and carding machines, and that they will be able to spin a very fine yarn in order to manufacture the cloths they are going to make. A number of very fine cloths which they are going to manufacture for the cheap ready-made clothing industry will be turned out there. They can make a rougher material quite easily, but that is manufactured out of our own wool, but we are not able to manufacture the finer cloths out of the wool produced in this country. However, this tariff should be helpful. They are compelled to go in for this cheap trade, and I would strongly advise those mills whose high-class material is as good if not better than that of the cross-Channel mills to look to this end of the business.
You can see the high-class materials that our mills manufacture in tailors' windows which are a credit to the manufacture. There is not so much of that cloth wanted now. What the people want now is a cheaper middle class article. The high class durable article is not so much in the market now as the middle class article, which gives an opportunity to the ordinary workman with £2 or £2 10s. a week to get a suit or two in the year. I would advise those mills to be keener on manufacturing more cloth in variety and design, and not the old dull grey which nobody would bother about wearing. Let them give the colour and design the same as the cross-Channel manufacturers. That is the trouble with the wholesale clothing people. That is what they brought before the Tariff Commission; that our mills were prepared to turn out a cheap ready-made cloth, but with no variety or design. I understand that the evidence which has been placed lately before the Tariff Commission and the range of samples placed before them show that they were wise in recommending this modification of the exemption. I believe they have been convinced that our mills are capable of manufacturing this class of material which Deputy Lemass referred to, and that it will be a better stuff and that it will have colour and design in it that will catch the eye of the man who wants to purchase a cheap or middle class ready-made. It will be a better suit than a suit made out of imported stuff. In conclusion, I want to say a word to the people who are going to make up the ready-made clothes out of the material the mills are going to manufacture. These people are the opponents of what the Tariff Commission recommended. Are they perfect in their end of the industry? I know what I am talking about, and I say they are not efficient. They ought to make up ready-made clothing, finish it better, and put better tailoring into it, and if they do, our Irish people will buy it in preference to the manufactured article which comes across from Britain. It would be far better for them, and I hope they will take my advice because I happen to know a good deal about this particular subject.
The motion that is before the Dáil can be made productive of very good results. If the clothing manufacturers, the cap-making manufacturers and the general public will co-operate with the Irish woollen manufacturers, a very great advance indeed will be made. If the people generally would only purchase the home-manufactured suit of ready-made clothing, even though it may be two shillings or three shillings dearer than the imported article, they would be giving immense help towards reviving a great industry and giving much-needed employment. Their money will be well spend. If the co-operation to which I have referred is brought about between the woollen manufacturers and the ready-made manufacturers, then before this time twelve months I feel that this motion will have fully justified all that is expected of it.
Looking over the latest census of production in relation to the woollen industry, I find that there has been a general increase in the quantities of woollen and worsted goods manufactured in the Saorstát in 1929 as compared with 1926. An examination of the statistics shows a considerable increase in the imports of certain items in 1929 as compared with 1926. I find that the persons employed in the woollen and worsted industry during a week ending in October, 1929, numbered 2,617. In the corresponding period in 1926 there were 2,364 persons engaged. That shows that after the imposition of a tariff there was extra employment given to 253 persons. I will show the significance of these figures in a few moments. According to the census of production, on November 13th, 1926, there were 2,032 wage-earners engaged. On November 16th, 1929, there were 2,372 wage earners engaged, showing an increase of only 340 persons.
I come now to what I consider the most important end of the whole industry—spinning. We had woollen yarn to the value of £27,288 used in 1926, whilst in 1929 the figure rose to £48,946. That was certainly a very big increase. One member of the Tariff Commission, who is looked upon in this country, at any rate, as an authority in these matters—Professor Whelehan— was very emphatic, in an addendum to the report, on the great importance to be attached to the spinning end of the industry. He declares in one portion of his report that in some cases the manufacture of a certain quantity of raw wool into yarn affords as much employment as do the processes which the resultant yarn subsequently undergoes in its manufacture into the finished tissue. I mention this because of the fact that I have watched the imports of yarn into Cork for a long period of months. I find these imports are increasing month after month.
That is not so. The Deputy is incorrect in that.
Belgian and French yarn.
The quantity imported in 1930 was less than the quantity imported in 1929.
The only figures I have are the figures for 1929. The quantity imported in 1930 was less because there was a smaller output. At the peak point immediately after the imposition of the tariff there was a good deal of speeding-up in the mills. I know a certain amount of yarn is essential for the finer cloths, but Professor Whelehan, who is an authority, and is accepted as an authority, has stressed the importance of this end of the industry. I am not going to quote extensively from his report, but he pointed out that the effect of granting a measure of protection to the woollen and worsted industry as a whole should result in increased employment, etc. He points out that the great value to be attached to any of these tariffs is the resultant employment brought about.
I know the position fairly well in my own area, where there are five very important mills. We have the mills at Blarney and Douglas, within a few miles of the City of Cork. We find there that the men engaged in the spinning industry are working on very short time. As Deputy Broderick pointed out, whilst you have a certain number of persons returned as working, they are largely working short time. You might have two or three hundred people working two or three days a week. The returning officers would give the number as two or three hundred people, but the lamentable state of affairs is that they are working short time. I do not know what is occurring in Athlone, but I understand that there they manufacture from the raw wool. That is not done in several other important mills in this country. What is the use of a tariff that does not tend to increase employment? We have a relatively small increase in employment since the tariff was put on.
I am supporting this motion because it will help the readymade industry, and it may help some of the millers who will accommodate themselves to circumstances and respond to a demand that is present. I stated here before that there is a great demand in this country and in other countries for a cheap class of goods. I do not believe in the stuff myself, but there is a great demand for it and I am rather surprised that nobody here has yet attempted to manufacture shoddy. It is not a desirable thing to do, of course, but the demand is there, and why should not the demand be satisfied? It is a class of material that is cheap, and it is imported in large quantities. If it is a profitable thing for the foreigner to send in this cheap class of material, surely we ought to have somebody here capable of supplying our home demands.
I want to stress this point. In the Tariff Commission Report a period of five years was suggested, during which the millers were advised to become as efficient as possible. By using the word "efficient" it was implied that they should, as far as they possibly could, spin all the yarn which they required in their own mills. In other countries some towns specialise in spinning and others in weaving. In Lancashire the mills in one town are given up to spinning and in other towns they carry out the dyeing process. In Ireland we have the plant for spinning. We may not have the plant for spinning the finer materials, but why cannot the millers instal that plant? There is a demand for it, and I do not believe in spoon-feeding those merchants who are prepared to take the last ounce out of tariffs but are prepared to give nothing in the way of employment.
I look upon two hundred or three hundred extra persons employed in the industry in the last couple of years as a very small contribution by the woollen millers in this country. I think it should be intimated to those people that they owe something to the public, to the ordinary working-class people, and others who might not be considered ordinary working-class people, who have to pay a little more for their cloth than they had to pay before. They cannot be expected to make sacrifices all the time and build up fortunes for certain woollen manufactures in this country. It is up to the woollen merchants to respond to the fairly decent treatment they got from the Dáil and the fairly decent treatment meted out to them by the ordinary working-class people who have to foot the bills. What is the position? The ordinary working man or small farmer who has to purchase two or three suits of readymade clothes in the year for his children has, under the present circumstances, if he wants to support Irish manufacture, to pay at least 3/- or 4/- or 5/- extra for that. In the present depressed state of agriculture and in the present economic depression can the public continue that? Can they be expected to do that? Something is expected of those for whom sacrifices were made. I mean the woollen millers. They cannot be expected to be spoon-fed always. We would all like to see these woollen mills running night and day if it were possible.
The imports of woollen material are astounding when we have regard to the fact that we grow wool in this country. What is being done by the alleged economists who fathered the proposal? Wool is grown on the sheep's back. It is clipped, removed and sent away to other countries to be spun into yarn, and is re-imported. Is that good internal economy? I suggest it is not, and I suggest that these millers who, up to now, have been fairly well treated in the way of tariffs, should respond and do something for the consuming public that has done so much for them. This report was issued in February, 1929. Since then I have not seen any increase in the spinning end of the industry. I know that in Blarney, where one of the most famous mills in Ireland is situate, there is little or no spinning done. When the operatives in the industry, and those sympathetic with the industry, clamoured for a tariff they firmly believed that when a tariff would be imposed it would increase employment in this industry. The results have not justified that anticipation. We find that in the village of Blarney the spinners are walking about unemployed. They are signing the unemployment register so long as they are entitled to draw unemployment benefit, and when that is over they do not go there any longer.
A reference to the Unemployment Insurance people will show that the employment given is very precarious. The workers might have a full week at the beginning of the month, and two or three days a week after that in some sections of the industry, as Deputy Broderick has pointed out. That is a state of affairs that should not prevail under present conditions. When I say present conditions I mean under conditions brought about by the tariff. A little more enterprise on the part of the millers, and a little more co-operation, perhaps, on the part of the general public, would mean a great deal, not alone to the industry but to the country as a whole. When this tariff was imposed on woollens it was expected that it would have very beneficial results for the industry, but so far these anticipations have not been fulfilled.
Deputy Authony said that up to the present the expectations excited in 1929 have not been fulfilled. If the information which is available in the reports that have already been published, can be relied upon, the expectations aroused in February, 1929, were abundantly fulfilled in the interval between February, 1929, and May, 1929, when the Tariff Commission reconsidered the whole matter, and, I say it without offence, went back upon the protection they had given to the woollen millers in the previous February. I do not know if Deputy Anthony really meant to convey the impression that the treatment meted out to the woollen millers in February, 1929, still obtains. The grievance of the woollen millers is that in February, 1929, a tariff was imposed upon conditions that were attractive to them, upon conditions which resulted in an enormous increase in production. That increase was so great that when in May, 1929, the limit was altered from 1/6 per square yard to 2/6 per square yard the woollen millers found themselves with a large quantity of stock manufactured under the February conditions. That stock was then virtually unsaleable, because the alteration of the limit to 2/6 diverted to foreign sources of supply orders which had been flowing into the Irish mills under the first tariff. Deputy Anthony, more than once in the course of his speech, incited the Irish millers to greater enterprise. He seems to think that all that is needed to increase production and employment in the Irish woollen trade is enterprise. Enterprise is, of course, a very good thing and nobody wishes to decry it, but enterprise has not been found a sufficient solution in the United States or in Canada or in Australia during the past twelve months. At least enterprise on the part of the millers has not been found sufficient, but enterprise on the part of the Governments of the United States, Canada and Australia has done a great deal for their woollen trade during the past twelve months. I would like to know if Deputy Broderick and Deputy Anthony are aware that quantities of our cloths were formerly exported to the United States, Canada and Australia, and that within the past twelve months those markets for our cloths have been practically closed because of the enterprise of the Governments of these countries in raising the tariff wall for the promotion of their own industries to the detriment of ours? I wonder the Governments of these countries and their public representatives did not turn to their millers and say "Do not bother about Irish tweeds coming in; have more enterprise."
The House will, I think, feel satisfied that, when the Irish millers received encouragement in February, 1929, they proved themselves worthy of it. It is well known that new machinery was installed and that production reached almost peak heights, but all that was blasted because of the unfortunate change made in May, 1929. The woollen millers merely want the conditions of February, 1929, restored. They have not got them. There has been some slight redress given by the alteration of this limit to 2/-. It looks like half a loaf, but it is not half a loaf at all. We do not reject it, of course, but until you get the tariff altered to correspond with the tariff of February, 1929, having regard to the altered prices of raw materials, there is no use in members sitting on the Labour Benches simply talking about enterprise, nor is there much to be gained by the fastidiousness of people like Deputy Broderick, who says to the Irish millers: "Give us more colour and design." It is found here in these reports that the Irish millers produced an abundant quantity of cloth. I see that it has not been suggested that they are profiteering in the cloth. The most that can be said against them is that their range of patterns and varieties is not equal to that of the British or foreign manufacturers.
It is agreed that the range is now as good as the British, but that it was not in 1929.
I am very glad to hear from Deputy Anthony that the range of patterns in the Free State mills is now substantially as good as the British, because that disposes, I think, or part of the argument that Deputy Broderick urged against the Free State millers.
I would like to say that, so far as the Blarney and Douglas mills are concerned, the stuff they produce is equal to, if not better than, the stuff produced on the other side.
I am very glad to hear that.
I do not want to be put into the cart by a K.C.
I will not put Deputy Anthony in the cart for the very good reason that I am not able. I envy the Deputy his debating power. In all seriousness I am ready to confess that I have not got it, but I hope that when I am as long a member of the House as the Deputy——
When the Deputy is here as long as I am he will be sick of it.
Deputy Anthony's blarney is very seductive. The Deputy is very proud of his Cork mills. He tells us that in variety, pattern, design and quality the tweeds produced by them are equal to, if not better than, the British or foreign goods. I re-echo that sentiment so far as my less intimate knowledge of these Cork fabrics extends. I regret that my colleague, Deputy Broderick, should, even by innuendo, suggest that in the Athlone mills there is a deficiency of enterprise in the management or in the design and pattern of the goods. I think it is regrettable that such a suggestion should be made, because, although I am not perhaps as intimate with some of these technical processes as Deputies on the Labour Benches, I do know this for a fact, that the Athlone mills have had to restrain English manufacturers from passing goods off under the name of the "Shannon tweeds" and such like. The British manufacturers apparently hold different ideas from those held by Deputy Broderick as to the attractiveness of the Athlone tweeds when they try to palm off their goods as Athlone-made.
The Deputy is misquoting me. I stated that in 1929, when fabrics were submitted, they had not the colour or design in the cheap tweeds. I did not mention anything at all about their high-class tweeds, which are the best on the market. What I said was that the cheap ready-mades had not the colour or design that they had when last submitted to the Tariff Commission.
The Labour members are rapidly coming round to the position of the members on the Fianna Fáil Benches: they will soon think that Irish tweed is quite good enough for any Irishman to wear, and that so much of the argument as is founded on the lack of design or lack of pattern for the ready-made people will vanish. There has been a reference to the manufacturers' cheap tweeds. I will be glad to be corrected if I am wrong as to this, but, as I understand the position, the various Irish mills, in applying for a reconsideration of the tariff that is now taking place, entered into a written guarantee that they would supply goods at prices which, to the ordinary observer, seem very cheap. According to the application, there is an undertaking here that the goods will be manufactured at a very cheap price, at prices that even the wholesale clothing manufacturers could hardly suggest are exorbitant. What then is left? The argument that once prevailed, that the Irish mills could not produce enough cheap stuff for the wholesale clothiers and ready-made clothing people, is gone. The argument that there is not enough colour and design in them is not quite surrendered yet by Deputy Broderick. He still retains a little of his fastidiousness, but he has very nearly surrendered.
What you want is something that will encourage our Irish woollen millers to increase their production, because as soon as you increase production you lower the cost, and as soon as you increase production I think it will inevitably follow the number of patterns and the number of designs will increase. All you want is increased production. If you increase production employment will assuredly follow. There has been a suggestion from the Labour Benches that something more will have to be paid for the suit. The report does not make that by any means clear. But even granting that some slight increase will have to be made, think of the wages that will be available to pay that increase. I understand also from the official documents that, in applying for the revision of the conditions of the tariff to bring it into accord with the 1929 conditions, the millers undertook to employ 436 additional persons. If 436 persons are employed it is a very substantial number, and that will be only the beginning of the improvement. It really puzzles me to understand why the occupants of the Labour Benches should be so ready to damn the efforts of the Irish millers.
On a point of order, would it be any harm to remind the Deputy that this is not a court in which to indict a prisoner?
That is not a point of order.
I am glad to see that we are getting on. The Deputies now concede that the Irish millers are producing enough, and I think they concede that they are not profiteering.
That is the question.
That is the question. The Deputies challenge that. Has either of the Labour Deputies who spoke studied the undertaking given in regard to prices by the various millers who made the application? It is all available for them.
That is only begging the question.
It may possibly be begging the question, but, curiously enough, some of my arguments, coupled with other arguments, appealed to Professor Whelehan, for whom Deputy Anthony, in one breath, has very great respect, and in another breath does not seem to think much of. I am sorry if I have unduly trespassed on the time and the patience of the House. What I am trying to get at is: what is really at the bottom of the antipathy to the wool millers in the Irish Free State getting the tariff they applied for? I understand it comes mainly from the Labour Benches.
There is no opposition.
I would suggest then in all seriousness to the Minister that as every section of the House that has been vocal up to the present supports this application of the woollen millers for a return to the 1/6 condition, a condition that so greatly increased production and increased employment in 1929, the Minister should bring all fair influences to bear upon the Commission to reconsider this and go back to the 1/6 limit. Every section seems to support it. The woollen millers, as proprietors or managers, are very few. The people employed in the mills are very numerous. It is chiefly their concern. This is not a capitalistic venture, and as every section of the House now seems to regard their application as reasonable, and as that application is calculated greatly to increase production, thereby lowering costs, and increasing the variety of patterns and designs, I again suggest to the Minister that he should endeavour to have this matter reconsidered in a more favourable atmosphere, and in a more favourable light, with a view to having conceded to these woollen millers the very reasonable demand that they made on the Commission.
There can be really no question about the inability of the millers at present to supply cheaper cloths in the variety required by the ready-made clothing manufacturers. Representatives of the mills admit that they cannot do it, so that it is not worth while taking up time to argue about it. If we impose our tariffs in such a way that the ready-made clothiers cannot get the cloths they require for their trade without paying duty on them, the protection to the ready-made clothiers is reduced, and the question then arises as to the extent to which we could modify the woollen tariff without being obliged to modify the tariff on ready-made clothes. The Fianna Fáil remedy is that we should increase the tariff on ready-made clothing to the extent which the ready-made clothiers might ask it to be increased. I do not think that is a good remedy. If we have a tariff on ready-made clothing limited to 20 per cent., that ensures that there can be no increase to the consumer beyond that figure. If it is increased beyond that figure there may or may not be an increase to the limit of the new tariff, but, at any rate, there is a possibility of an increase to the new limit, a possibility which, as we know in most cases in regard to most tariffs, actually operates in fact. The Tariff Commission recommended when that first tariff was before them that the tariff on ready-made clothing should be increased by 5 per cent. I think the Tariff Commission were wise, at any rate, in not recommending a doubling of the tariff on ready-made clothing, or anything of that nature.
If there is going to be an enormous increase in some particular tariff it ought not to come by a side wind, as a result of an application in regard to some other matter, but it ought to follow an application in regard to that particular article itself. The tariff on woollens, as it stands at present, gives the woollen manufacturers a very wide field in which they are protected. There is a good deal of that field of which they have not yet possession. There is ample scope for them to make the most of the field in which they are given advantages by means of the tariff. When they have made the most of that field there would be stronger grounds for extension. There is no doubt that some new machinery was, at least, ordered in the period during the imposition of the first tariff and the date of its modification. I was not able to learn in conferences which I had with the manufacturers that any machinery had been actually installed. I knew that a few orders were given which were afterwards cancelled. There was none of that great increase in output or large installation of machinery which Deputy Geoghegan gave the House to understand took place. There was a certain movement for an increase which ceased when the tariff was modified, but, on the other hand, if that action had not been taken which checked that movement there would have been a decrease in employment in the readymade clothing industry.
If we took the other line, namely, that we would increase the tariff on readymade clothing, we would probably have burdened the cost on the public, which was not called for, at the time at any rate, and which would not, I think, be justified in present circumstances. Everybody knows that the Irish woollen mills produce excellent material and that some of them have been very enterprising indeed. Some of them have been able to build up a big export trade in competition with all outsiders. That particular trade has in most cases been lost owing to circumstances over which the manufacturers had no control, but it was evidence of enterprise and efficiency, and there is a good deal of enterprise and efficiency in the Irish mills. Possibly the industry, taken as a whole, is not as efficient as the individual mill, or as many individual mills. There seems to be a lack of any sort of coordination, and I understand that when it has been put to the woollen millers that the industry, taken as a whole, ought to be better organised, that there ought to be some specialisation, there was not any favourable response from the representatives of the millers. It was not so much that those with whom it was discussed denied the advantages of better organisation and an effort for specialisation, but rather because of a spirit of conservatism and the fact that some of the mills were really family concerns, and so on.
I think, now that this modification has taken place, that it would be well if people associated with the industry would sit down seriously to consider whether it would not be possible to make some arrangement which would lead to a degree of specialisation in the mills which does not exist at present. There is another point, namely, that it is not really quite a fair thing to estimate the effect of the tariff by comparing the increase in employment between the years 1926 and 1929. You have to have regard to the fact that between that interval some of that foreign trade to which I have referred was lost through the imposition of tariffs outside, and also to the fact that, before the imposition of a tariff, the trade of the mills was distinctly on the down grade. That there has been not only a cessation of that decline, but also an actual recovery, is in some ways more important than the figures showing an increase in employment. It shows that the tariff suffices to counteract the influences which caused the trade to decline, and which put the trade and those concerned with it in a position to fight for increased trade. I, for one, hold that it is not desirable to have a tariff which makes it easy for people engaged in a particular industry to get the whole of the trade even inside the tariff ring.
I think it is much better that the tariff should be sufficiently high so that with hard work they could gain the trade. In that way the industry must be organised and carried on efficiently, and in that way you ensure that the public are not burdened with the costs of running concerns which ought not to be run, concerns with ill-designed workshops, with bad equipment, or with bad management in a variety of ways. If we have done enough to make it possible for the mills to use their best endeavours to gain a larger trade and to gain practically the whole field covered by the tariff, then that tariff is high enough; and when the period mentioned in the report lapses and the exemption limit is still further lowered, it is to be hoped that by that time two things will have happened, namely, that the clothing industry will have still further established itself, will have become stronger, and that the people concerned with it will be able to bear, if necessary, some small margin of loss. It is also hoped that during that time the mills will have been able to make various arrangements which will enable them to supply cloth not merely in the quantity and at the price required, but also in the variety of designs which will enable wholesale clothiers to carry on their business and not have people turning away from their goods in preference for English goods.