In Committee on Finance. - Unemployment Assistance Bill, 1933—Money Resolution.

I move:—

That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of such sums as may be required to give effect to any Act of the present Session to provide for the relief of unemployed persons and to make such financial and other provisions as may be required for that purpose.

I want to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by this Money Resolution to refer briefly to figures quoted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in his concluding speech on the Second Reading Stage of this Bill. These figures, as used by him, were calculated, in my opinion, to give a false impression as to the magnitude of the unemployment problem which is facing us, and also as to the ability of our industries to shoulder the burden of that problem. The Minister for Industry and Commerce laid a lot of stress on certain figures he quoted from the Irish Trade Journal with regard to the export trade of this country and of other countries. He told the House that out of twenty-six countries in Europe, sixteen had suffered more than we had as between 1931 and 1932, in their export trade, and that only nine had suffered less. He deduces from that that the so-called economic war had had a very much slighter effect than people imagined upon the value of our export trade. The first thing to remember, with regard to this comparison of our trade with other countries, is that the year 1932 is not a complete year of the so-called economic war. The first half of that year was not affected by the war. The next is that it is not fair to compare the Irish Free State with countries that have had their export trade completely shattered by exchange difficulties, by regulations connected with exchange, and also by tariffs put up by countries which had definitely adopted a policy of not allowing anything to speak of to come in. If you compare the Irish Free State with any of those countries with which it is instructive to compare her, you find the figures give exactly the opposite impression to the one suggested by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. If you compare the Irish Free State with the other countries in what may be called the “sterling group”— countries on sterling or which have kept their currency tied to sterling—you find the Irish Free State is in the worst position of the lot. Thus, whereas our decline between 1931 and 1932 was 28.8 per cent., Sweden was only 15.8, Denmark 14.2, Norway had actually a gain of 21.8, and the United Kingdom, our opponent in the so-called economic war, had only dropped by 6.4 per cent. These figures are enough, in themselves, to show that the effect of what has occurred on the Irish export trade has been very serious indeed, and that except for our own follies there need be no such decline as 28.8 per cent. or anything near it.

There were many bad arguments used last week, but none as bad as that.

The Minister will have an opportunity of showing the fallacy of that argument, but the fact that stands out is that if he compared the Free State with the only countries with which it could have been reasonably compared for 1931 and 1932, he would have found our export trade had suffered much more than the others.

Our exports declined less than the average.

Less than the average of the whole of Europe? That is not to the purpose. The Minister is even reported in the Official Reports as having stated that "on the average our exports declined less in value than any other European country."

That is a mistake. I said the average of all European countries.

Well, it is something gained to have that corrected. If they declined less than the average of European countries it is not surprising inasmuch as our export market is one in which the exchange difficulty did not come in. It was the chaotic condition of the exchanges that destroyed trade in other countries. There was no reason for such disturbance to our exports here at all. The figures the Minister quoted, and which the President relied upon a few days later, are utterly misleading and do not bear out the contention he set out to establish.

Perhaps I might supplement these figures by some other figures of a more recent date—the figures of 1933. Now for the monthly exports—and I am only bothering about exports, because the Minister regards imports as entirely undesirable.

Exports are goods gained, imports are goods lost. We do not give our goods away for the love of giving them away.

This is a new rôle. The Minister is out to keep out imports. That is one of the guiding principles of his life. As regards exports the Minister would hardly deny that it is a good thing to export.

Exports are required to pay for imports.

The Minister does not rise to say these things, because he assumes I would not have the courtesy to give way to him as he had not the courtesy to give way to me. The monthly average of our exports in 1932 was £2,150,000. Our present monthly exports, in June and July—the two latest months I have got—are respectively £1,343,000 and £1,377,000. Compare Denmark.

The average monthly exports of Denmark in 1932 were 90,095,000 kroner. For the most recent months I have here, June and July, the exports of Denmark were respectively 103,682,000 and 95,081,000 kroner. So that there has been a very decided improvement in the case of Denmark as compared with the average of 1932. Take the other country that concerns us most and compare our state with conditions there. After all, if all the Executive Council says is to be justified, you have got to show that our adversary in the economic war is suffering ill results that are, to some extent, comparable with those we are experiencing, otherwise the war hardly appears to be worth while from our point of view. The United Kingdom in 1932 had average monthly exports value £30,428,000, and in August, the latest month for which I have figures here, the exports were value £30,997,000. Though there is only a small change, that small change is a gain of half a million pounds. That is all we have got to show that our adversary in the economic war is suffering as a result of our efforts.

Just one more figure and I have done. The Minister and the Government are continually preaching to us that the British market is something that does not concern us, that we need not bother our heads about it to any great extent, as regards its effect on unemployment or on prosperity here. I think it is a little bit striking to find that in 1913 the average monthly imports of food to Britain were £24,200,000, and that in the month of August last, the latest month for which I have figures, they were £27,000,000. So much for the alleged tremendous decline in the British imports of food. I leave the Minister to reflect on these figures and on the extent to which he misled the House in the use he made of the figures in the Irish Trade Journal.

I do not quite know what all this has got to do with the Money Resolution, but if Deputy MacDermot wants a kindergarten class again, I do not mind. I explained at great length last week to Deputies that the fundamental fallacy behind their policy was the idea that external trade figures were an index to national prosperity. They are nothing of the kind. A country with a rapidly expanding external trade could have the most deplorable conditions internally.

A Deputy

Hear, hear.

A country with a rapidly declining external trade could have the most prosperous conditions internally. To say, therefore, that the only index to national prosperity is external trade figures is obviously fallacious. That argument was advanced by Deputy Mulcahy last week when I quoted the International Labour Office figures relating to external trade. I was trying to meet Deputy Mulcahy on his own ground and trying to prove that even accepting his idea, that that was a true index of national prosperity, the deductions he had drawn from the existing position were entirely fallacious. The main fact that Deputy MacDermot cannot get over is that the external trade of this country declined less than the average of European countries. In the majority of European countries the figures in relation to the value of exports declined in 1932 more than they declined here. Deputy MacDermot says that we ought not compare our circumstances with all European countries, that we should only pick out countries where conditions were better than here and compare this country with them.

I should like to correct the Minister. I said that we should compare our conditions with those of countries where no exchange difficulties come in.

Because they do not come in here.

Why not take a country where there is a majority of red-headed men or a majority of red-headed women, or some such basis as that? What Deputy MacDermot did was to get a list of countries where the decline in external trade was less than here, and he says we must compare our conditions with these. Apparently his regret is that we had not suffered more than any other country. We did not. We are not at the bottom of the table. We are not even half way down the table. Why should we compare ourselves with Denmark now? Is not the whole complaint of members of the Government and members on these benches that the type of economic organisation established in Denmark was absent here, and that the reason we are suffering more than Denmark is that our predecessors had not the wit or the ability to establish here the type of organisation that exists in Denmark, a type of organisation that we are trying to establish here now? If there is any reason why Denmark is able to withstand world depression better than we are here it is due to that fact, that we had a Government here for ten years that did not know their job, and if we are able to withstand the next depression, it is because we have a Government here that is trying to do for this country what Governments in Denmark have done for Denmark.

Have we tried to make a trade treaty with England?

They could not make a trade agreement with anybody. Point to one occasion where you tried to make a trade agreement.

I see that the Deputy's Party has made a treaty with Deputy Coburn.

The Fianna Fáil Party would not make a treaty with anybody and stand over it.

We have not had much experience of the matter, I admit.

You are afraid to make an agreement with England and stand over it.

Do not mind the flappers' darling.

It seems the Deputy is becoming so angry that he is incoherent. Whenever we make an agreement we keep it.

You might, but your President will never make one anyhow and keep it.

We shall wait and see. Deputy MacDermot then proceeds to give the monthly average exports from this country and Denmark. Again he is ignoring the fundamental fact that conditions here are such that we cannot possibly maintain ourselves in present circumstances as successfully as Denmark can. In Denmark more than 60 per cent. of the arable land is tilled. Only 12 per cent. is tilled here. In Denmark production per acre for all kind of crops is substantially higher than here. Naturally Denmark is in a better position than we are, but we hope that when we have succeeded in reorganising our agricultural economy we shall be able to stand up to our competitors as successfully as Denmark. I at no time tried to misrepresent conditions here. When I adverted to these figures relating to external trade, I was merely trying to contróvert the ridiculous statement made that because of our actions here our external trade had suffered substantially more than that of any other country, whereas I have shown that on the average it had suffered less. The main fact, however, is this, that there are more people in employment here now than ever there were since the Free State was established.


In spite of all the people you sacked.


There is one fact that justifies the Deputy in contradicting that statement, and it is that the matter cannot be really established until there is another census. A census was taken in 1926 and in that we have the figures of those in employment——

The introduction of the previous Bill.

——and when we take another census we will be in a position to compare the figures——

The introduction of the Unemployment Bill will tell the public the story.

Let me tell the Deputy a few facts——

Was it not your contention that you were not beaten, and yet we have this Bill?


Nonsense you! The Minister talks about tillage and says we have only 12 per cent. tillage here. You have 12 per cent. too much tillage.

How much tillage did your father do?

I know as much about your father as he knew about you when he was in charge of the baton.

The Deputy will have to conduct himself.

The bullocks!

Your father did not know much about bullocks but he would know what a baton was.

You knew what batons were.

If the Deputy intervenes in that fashion again, I shall have to ask the House to dispense with his services for the remainder of the sitting. The Minister surely is entitled to make his speech without that kind of interruption.

I want to give a few indices of the position——

I hope you will give them accurately.

The Deputy can be certain of that.

I hope they will be accurate. I will listen to them.

In the first place, I should like to give the number of unemployment insurance books exchanged and new books issued in each insurance year from 1928-1929 to date. These figures are not a precise indication of the numbers of people in insurable employment in these years, but when we compare one year with another they indicate what the trend is. In 1928, the figure was 210,000; in 1929, 213,000; in 1930, 209,000; in 1932, 230,000, and for the 12 months ending in March this year, 274,000. These are figures for men only. The total for men, women, boys and girls was, in 1931, 294,000, and in the 12 months ending March, 1933, 366,000. The income from the sale of unemployment insurance stamps in 1928 was £655,000; in 1929, £679,000; in 1930, £703,000; and in 1933, if the old rates of contribution had continued to be paid, the income would have been £760,000, an increase of £60,000, which represents 15,000 men getting employment for 50 weeks. It is on facts like these that I base my contention that there are more people in insurable employment in this country now than ever there were since the Free State was established. We are getting the job done and Deputies opposite who come in here periodically and wail their jeremiads for the amusement of the back benchers of their own Party cannot conceal the fact that the job is being done. They quote statistics which they obviously do not understand. They misrepresent facts in their own constituencies. They talk about circumstances outside their constituencies about which they know nothing at all, and the whole purpose of it is to try to pretend that this country is not weathering the storm when, in fact, it is. There are several ways of defeating the efforts of the Government and the people to improve the position in this country, and one of them is to keep up that continuous wail which Deputies opposite are always at. They wail every day here and every week-end they wail around the country and there is no justification for the wailing except their own disappointment and disillusionment about their prospects of ever getting back into office.

You asked for it and you got it.

Resolution agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 11th October.