It is our intention to support the passage of the Bill. It is in fact in accord with the policy of this Party, and whether introduced to deal with the special set of circumstances now existing or introduced for the purpose of giving the Government this power under any circumstances, would meet with our approval. Its introduction is in fact a further indication of the conversion of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party to the policy of Fianna Fáil, which has been going on for some time past, and needless to remark we are glad of that conversion, inasmuch as it is taking place so rapidly as to be rather embarrassing. The Dáil discussed to-day the origins of the tariff on oats. It was pointed out that during the course of a recent bye-election the Minister for Agriculture found himself in the position that certain farmers refused to support his Party's candidate unless a tariff on oats was promised. The Minister was only in a position to promise a tariff. The farmers in question, not placing much reliance on promises, voted against his candidate. As we are now approaching the possibility of a general election and certainly of bye-elections, apparently the Government are determined not to be handicapped in that manner again. If they should find it necessary to secure votes by imposing tariffs, they are taking, under this Bill, power to do it immediately, whether the Dáil is sitting or not. Apart from that, however, there is good reason that in the special circumstances of this country, and particularly circumstances likely to prevail in the near future, the Executive Council should have power in the matter of affording protection to our industries against unfair external competition, to act first and seek approval afterwards. We think that the introduction of this Bill is a very wise step, and one which will probably be justified before long.
The Minister for Finance gave to-day a very lucid account of the danger that might arise in the event of a protectionist policy being adopted in Great Britain. I do not think he exaggerated these dangers. In fact there is some reason to believe that the situation which he visualises is already beginning to develop. Perhaps the only clause in the Bill to which we might take exception is the one which prescribes that it shall continue in force only for a period of nine months. We think it is possible to make a case for keeping upon the Statute Book some Act such as is now suggested which would give to the Executive Council the power to act rapidly in matters of this kind without finding it necessary to convene a special meeting of the Dáil. We hold that in the past certain tariffs were probably held up because the Dáil was not in Session and the motion imposing a tariff could not be introduced until the Dáil reassembled. While this Bill is in operation that will not be necessary and it should not in our opinion be necessary at any time, at any rate until the economic position of the country has changed very much from what it is at present. There are one or two points in connection with the drafting which I would like to refer to, but perhaps it would be better to bring them up on the Committee Stage.