The last two speakers, Deputy Coburn and Deputy Anthony, dealt to a certain extent with the question of unemployment. There may be a certain amount of difference between them as to the exact duties of a Government in that respect, but I think that for practical purposes for the moment we need not discuss these abstract doctrines about the duties of Governments. There will be agreement, I think, between many Parties in the House—we can hardly expect agreement from Fianna Fáil or, possibly, even from the Labour Party branch of it—that, as Deputy Anthony has pointed out, the result of the policy of Fianna Fáil to deal with unemployment has not been a diminution of unemployment but an increase of it in town and country. If we are to believe what we are told by the people in these districts, not only has unemployment increased but, what is still worse, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future; uncertainty for the shopkeeper, for the shop-assistant, for the ordinary farmer and labourer. That is the result, I submit, of 12 months' effort on the part of the Fianna Fáil Government to deal with the problem of unemployment, to put into operation the plan that they boasted they had for dealing with unemployment.
We must be rather surprised—I think many Deputies are—at the difference in tone that has begun to make itself felt in Government speeches in the last couple of days. I cannot imagine that precise tone pervading their speeches, say, a couple of years or even a couple of months ago. But if we are to listen to Ministers, and to some of their supporters, the whole burden of what they have been telling us in the last couple of weeks and days has been this: that really the farmer does not know how well off he is; he does not appreciate all that this beneficent Government has done for him. It has been pointed out to him in no uncertain language if clouded over in figures. In reality he has been getting a big slice of his own tail to feed upon and he ought to be very well satisfied with that. That is, practically, what the policy and the speeches of the Government amount to— cynically put forward now.
I wonder why that line was not taken up before: that really the farmers are remarkably well off, that as a Minister put it last week the Government really find it rather difficult to satisfy themselves that they have not done too much for the farmer in the way of giving him relief. But the farmer, on the other hand, for several months past, and now more than ever, is beginning to feel what the Government has done against him. Even the various sums of money that have been given by the Government to the farmer out of his own pocket do not compensate him. They do not even go a fair distance on the road to compensate him for the losses that have been inflicted on him, for the loss of his trade.
The farmer was, of course, told that the loss of his market would be temporary. He was told: "Put the Fianna Fáil Government back into power; give them a majority—between themselves and the Labour Party they now have a majority—and there will be an immediate settlement." Are we nearer that settlement? If so, why is not the farmer given some hope? Possibilities are discussed. Carrots are occasionally dangled before his eyes; e.g., the possibility that somehow a settlement may come about. What is the foundation for that talk? There is no foundation for it at all except the obvious thing that anything is possible. The farmer was told that he need only put Fianna Fáil back into power to convince the British Government once and for all that the country was behind Fianna Fáil and that a settlement would come. Has that settlement come? He was told, too, that his market would be restored. Is there any trace of that? Is the price which the farmer is getting for his produce rising from week to week? We know the opposite is taking place.
I said here last week that hardly a week passes that some new blow is not struck at the agricultural industry or promised against it. I asked what was the policy in regard to the bounties. In the book of estimates which we got this morning we saw that there was no provision made for the continuance of the bounties. I suggest that when the Minister is replying he should avail of the occasion to tell the country and the House what is the policy of the Government in that respect. He may say that they are going to cut down the bounties given on our exports. Why? Is it because the farming community, with a still further decrease in prices, is in a better position to face up to its tasks in the coming 12 months than it was in the past 12 months, or is it because the Government will contend that the farming community get very little out of these bounties? Which is it? Remember the policy here is entirely the Government's. I do not think they will contend that the farmer will be in any better position in the coming 12 months to bear the losses that the Government still insists in inflicting on him than he was in the past 12 months. If the Government take up the line, as they may do, that the farmer got very little benefit out of these bounties what are we to say to a Government that in that case would be convicted out of its own mouth of throwing away well over £1,000,000 in that particular direction? Remember the responsibility is not on anybody's shoulders except the shoulders of the Government. It will be its business either to justify the withdrawing of the bounties or their continuance, but it cannot hold the people responsible or the farmer who protested that he got very little out of them. If the farmer got little out of the policy of bounties in operation in the last 12 months, then the responsibility for gross waste must rest on the shoulders of the Government.
What is the case made for the policy we are now discussing, not the policy of the Government for the last 12 months but the policy represented by the Central Fund Bill and the Estimates for the next 12 months? What is the case for putting new burdens on the farmer when, during the last 12 months, the Government had to come to his assistance to the extent of three and a half million pounds? In other words, the Government themselves realised the parlous position in which the farmer was in the last 12 months. They had to come to his assistance. As the Minister for Education, speaking last week, put it, they did not collect the annuities for two gales. If that held good in the last 12 months what are they going to do in the next 12 months? To use the language of the Minister, in another part of his speech, it would appear that the farmer would be worse off. A large amount of annuities were not collected in the last 12 months, but half are to be collected. We are told great assistance was given to the farmer. But why is it not to be continued? Certainly in none of the proposals of the Government was there any indication that that relief would be continued. In fact, there are excuses put forward for putting new burdens upon the farmers as if they were now able to bear them though they were not able to do so in the last 12 months. The Fianna Fáil Party comes to the farmer and finds him in a worse position, from the point of view of his markets and from the point of view of what he gets for his produce, but they are not going to give him the same assistance. They helped him when he had a lesser load, in the last 12 months, but they are not going to give him even the same help in the next 12 months when his condition is worse. This is an extraordinary position for the Government to take up. They have tried to justify their circular to the county councils, cutting down the agricultural rates, but they have not met the case put from the various parts of the House. We hear from most of the farmers in the country with whom we discussed matters that the reliefs given to the agricultural community, in the last 12 months, have far from compensated them for the loss of their markets; and that is to be a continuing loss.
The Ministers spoke of the diminished yield of taxation. They have taken steps to see that there is a diminished yield from taxation. More than that, they have struck blows at the economic wealth of the country. But surely, when there is a diminished yield is not the time to increase taxation as they did last year. The Government are quite cynically going back on everything they professed to favour before they came into office. Largely, as a result of their policy, and the decreased power on the part of the community to bear it, high taxation is to be continued. The operation of it is to be shifted, in time, from the central Government to the local bodies. There is no justification for that. We are told of all the services that are to be at the disposal of the farmer. The Minister for Local Government put forward the view that in fact if more relief was given to the farmers the local bodies would have to be abolished altogether. Why did not that strike the Minister and his colleagues when they stood for complete derating? Now they have gone back not only on complete de-rating but on the amount of de-rating already given. Why, when standing for complete de-rating and restoration of the old councils, did they not realise the immense amount of money contributed by the taxpayers and the ratepayers to the local bodies? They are growing wise. But I suggest now that the elections are over they are going back and becoming quite cynical. They take up the line that the farmers really do not know how well off they are, how much the Government is pampering them. That is an extraordinary attitude to take up on the Government Benches. We did not hear it at all two months ago but we hear it now. If the local bodies with the new duties thrown upon them will not meet the wishes of the Government then there are threats. If the farmer will not do what the Government tells him, there are threats; and there will be compulsion used against him. The farmer has to pay higher rates, if he does not run his farm the way the Government wants him to run it.
The local bodies also have to face the prospect of abolition if they cannot meet the situation which is largely the creation of the Government. What holds true about central taxation applies with equal force to local taxation. There is no greater capacity to bear local taxation than central taxation. Yet this is the time that the central Government determines to unload its responsibilities on to the local bodies. Is the farming community in any better position to bear these new charges and rates than it was in 12 months ago? What position is the farmer likely to be in in the next 12 months with the continued paralysis of his market? Will he not be much worse off? He was cajoled, to a certain extent, that whatever loss he sustained in the foreign market he would get it back in some other market; and if he did not get it back in some other market, he would surely get it back in the home market. Is there anybody who knows the farmer who believes that within the next 12 months, the period that we are now dealing with, the home market is going to compensate him for the loss of the foreign market? If not, what measures have been taken by the Government to compensate the farmer for the loss inflicted on him by the Government? If we take the view not even of 12 months, but a long period, it is quite clear that the Government are not merely sacrificing the present to the future which they had before their minds, but are sacrificing every advantage in town and country, and bringing about such improverishment that there cannot be any economic prospect before this country for generations. That is the real tragedy of the present Government.
We are speaking of the farmers, but every remark that applies to them, except the relief of the agricultural rates, applies equally to the people in the towns. The cities and the towns suffer also. The farmer is no longer selling his produce. Go to any town and ask: "How is business?" You will be told that it is bad. You will be told that the farmer cannot buy. He can live; he has the produce of his land. He has food for himself, better than he ever had before, because he cannot sell his produce. All that may be an advantage. But he cannot buy. And how, under these circumstances, are we to expect the towns to continue prosperous, and towns especially that depend upon the farming community? How can they give employment as they have done up to the present? If the shops in the towns are not prosperous, and the farmer does not buy, how can they carry on business? If the farming community is faced with bankruptcy surely that also must be the position in the towns. Remember, if the ordinary country towns are in that position it must react on the cities and the manufacturers in the cities. How can the big wholesale firms who buy from the manufacturers expect a clientele from the smaller towns when the smaller towns are brought to the verge of bankruptcy?
The home market was to compensate everybody, compensate the manufacturer and the farmer, and has not that home market in many cases, or at least the purchasing power of it, diminished like the foreign market has been destroyed? Everywhere you are simply hitting employment, making employment impossible at present and diminishing the prospect of anything like reasonable ordinary employment in future. It is quite obvious of course that relief works will have to be undertaken on a larger scale this year unless we are to accept the cynical view that relief works were on a larger scale last year because there was an election coming. Supposing we do not take that view, is there any prospect that ordinary employment will be better within the next twelve months than in the past twelve months? If that is so what becomes of the Estimate we see here for relief works. Is there to be another abnormal Budget? It is quite obvious from the policy of the Government that they can only think of an abnormal situation, an abnormal situation that becomes chronic until ultimately the patient dies.
I should like the Government to face up to the issue and to the state to which they have brought the farmer. Certainly considering the losses they have inflicted on the farmers, they ought to stop making speeches in this House, to the effect that they are a bountiful Government, that nobody has ever done as much, and that, in fact, when they come to examine their consciences, they begin to think they have done too much and that the farmers do not know how well off they are as a result of the beneficent policy the Government has pursued. Ask any farmer, big or small; I do not mind what way he voted at the elections—do not approach him as a politician; ask him what he has lost, how much more he has lost than the amount of his annuities for the last twelve months. What then do the Government tell him? When he says he cannot continue this any longer the Government says: "You can and you must. You are really much better off than you think." That is, as I say, the extraordinary attitude taken up by the Fianna Fáil Party whom we heard so often, when they were on these benches, pointing out that this country was overtaxed, that it could not bear the burden of taxation. They even went beyond that and said that the farming community, in so far as they were the principal producers of the country had to bear the burden of all taxation. They say now "See the great services you get and what do you pay for them?" Certainly that is an extraordinary change of attitude as far as that Party is concerned. Their cynicism, however, wins through. Possibly it will take the people some time to wake up to the real effects of their policy and the real value of the interest they have always professed in the farming community.
The Minister for Finance here, last week, and, I understand, in another place to-day, also dropped hints, vague hints, about the possibility of a settlement; that if a settlement comes then something will be done. What basis is there for that? Is that simply a statement like that which was made when the economic war was started? Everybody remembers how the farming community was told that next month, in five weeks time, in six weeks time, there was going to be a settlement. In July it was to be the end of August, and at the end of August it was to be the beginning of October. In fact it was actually arranged, we were told, at Ottawa. We were told it was to be all right. From week to week, from month to month, hope was held out to the farmers until, as I always feared, a state was reached when his position was so bad that he almost ceased to have any interest in a settlement, his market was so destroyed by the policy of the Government. Now when, any longer there cannot be the same— propaganda value behind the imminence of a settlement, we have vague hints dropped by the Minister for Finance as to what will happen when this thing is settled. Has any effort been made by the Government? where now are the pledges made that when Fianna Fáil were returned to power there would be a quick settlement of the financial and other disputes? What steps are being taken to carry out these promises? Surely the Dáil and the country are entitled to know. A number of points have been raised in this debate to which no answers have been given. I think it is quite obvious that the Government, having got the election over, is now determined to go on no matter what it costs the country. No matter how the farming community may suffer the Government is determined to go on, and if the farmer grumbles he is pointed out the excellent social services he has and how little he has to pay for them.