Report of Imperial Committee on Economic Consultation and Co-operation. - Motion of Approval.

I move:—

That Dáil Eireann approves of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Imperial Committee on Economic Consultation and Co-operation, 1933, a copy of which was laid on the Table of the Dáil on the 22nd November, 1933, and recommends the Executive Council to take such steps as they think fit to give effect thereto.

The Committee, as will be seen from paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Report, owes its origin to a resolution of the Imperial Economic Conference, held at Ottawa in July and August of last year. The Committee was directed by the Conference to examine the functions, organisation and financial bases of the existing agencies within the Commonwealth for economic consultation and co-operation, and to consider what alterations or modifications were desirable. Those who have read the Report of the Ottawa Conference will remember that during the discussions which led to the appointment of this Committee, the representatives of South Africa and the Saorstát made it clear that their Governments would not accept the principle of the establishment of an Imperial Economic Secretariat or of any similar organ of centralisation. The statement made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be found in paragraph 4 of the Report under consideration. If Deputies will read the section of the Report entitled "Principles Underlying Co-operation," beginning on page 73, they will see that the co-operation contemplated brings it into harmony with the principles on which international bodies are organised, for example: "The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea,""International Office of Public Health,""The International Veterinary Bureau."

The task of the committee was broadly the following:

(1) a readjustment of the functions of the existing agencies for economic consultation so as to provide for that portion of the work of the Empire Marketing Board which it is decided to continue on a co-operative basis (The Empire Marketing Board was disestablished at the end of September).

(2) a weeding-out of those agencies which have proved to be of no practical benefit to the Commonwealth as a whole:

(3) the reorganisation of the remaining agencies so as to ensure the complete constitutional equality —in both administrative and financial control—of the participating Governments.

Prior to the 1st October, 1933, the Saorstát participated in the activities of the following bodies: (1) The Imperial Agricultural Bureau; (2) The Imperial Institute of Entomology; (3) The Imperial Mycological Institute; (4) The Empire Marketing Board; (5) The Imperial Economic Committee; (6) The Imperial Shipping Committee; (7) The Imperial Communications Advisory Committee.

The Saorstát Government paid annual contributions amounting to a total of £825 to the scientific information bureaux—that is, the Imperial Agricultural Bureau, the Imperial Institute of Entomology and the Imperial Mycological Institute. The services and publications of these bodies have been of great benefit to the Department of Agriculture and to research workers generally in the Saorstát, and it is proposed to continue these subscriptions.

Under the new scheme proposed by the Committee, certain economic services hitherto performed by the Empire Marketing Board, are to be undertaken by the Imperial Economic Committee. This Committee, which investigates and reports on the marketing of Commonwealth commodities, was financed up to the end of September by the Empire Marketing Board. The Board had been financed by the British Government, the sum placed at its disposal being intended to represent the money equivalent of the advantages which would have been conferred on the other States of the Commonwealth by the preferential duties on certain articles of food agreed upon at the Imperial Conference of 1923 and which, owing to a change of Government in Great Britain, were not subsequently granted. In view of recent changes in their fiscal policy, the British Government felt themselves released from the obligation to continue the financing of the Board. The Imperial Economic Committee will now have to rely upon direct contributions from the States of the Commonwealth. Our contribution will be £808 per annum.

The Imperial Shipping Committee was also financed by the British Government. Under the new system it will be financed by all the Governments of the Commonwealth. The Saorstát's share is £80 per annum. The expenses of the Imperial Communications Advisory Committee are defrayed by a grant from Imperial and International Communications, Ltd. The Saorstát representative receives for his services an annual fee of £500 which is credited to the Irish Exchequer.

There remained the question of scientific investigation. A certain portion of the Empire Marketing Board Fund was devoted to the promotion of agricultural reseach by means of grants to research organisations in the various States of the Commonwealth. In view of the disbandment of the Board the Committee has to consider the method by which research projects of general interest to the Commonwealth should, in future, be conducted. They recommend the holding of periodical conferences of research specialists throughout the Commonwealth for the purpose of framing, for submission to their respective Governments, programmes of research schemes considered suitable for co-operative financing. The cost of these schemes is to be met by subscriptions from such Governments as may decide to participate. As some time will probably elapse before the first conference is summoned, it is recommended that the Executive Council of the Imperial Agricultural Bureau should be invited to consider immediately and submit a report on the question of what research activities should, in future, be conducted on a co-operative basis. The Executive Council of the Imperial Agricultural Bureau will be entrusted with the supervision of any research activities which, by agreement, will take place in the United Kingdom. These additional activities on the part of the Executive Council of the Agricultural Bureau call for an increased contribution—so far as the Saorstát is concerned—of £72 per annum.

The total additional contribution required from the Saorstát Government is £960 per annum. The Governments of the Commonwealth are asked to provide the contributions on the new basis for a period of three years as from the 1st October, 1933.

The Report lays down the following principles in regard to the organisation of agencies for inter-commonwealth economic consultation and co-operation:

(a) The complete constitutional equality of the participating governments should be recognised in the method of appointment to, and composition and organisation of, each agency.

(b) The managing bodies should in no way be subject to financial control by the Finance Department of any one Government of the Commonwealth.

It will be seen that the Committee has not confined itself to laying down these general principles. It has pointed out the defects in the organisation of each particular agency and the modifications necessary in each case.

Holding the views I do, I have no objection, naturally, to this motion; but I cannot forbear from pointing out that it is a motion which is very difficult to reconcile with the general policy of the Government. There are a large number of the more feeble-minded citizens of this country, including, apparently, even one High Court Judge, who have been persuaded that we are at present engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the British Commonwealth, provoked by the brutal aggression of Great Britain. Nevertheless, here we are faced by the Government with a proposal for Imperial co-operation. I have not heard previously in this House a speech in which the word "Imperial" came in so often as it did in the speech to which we have just listened, nor have I heard previously in this House a speech which had, in general, such an imperialist tendency. I am glad to find that the President, apparently, accepts, without demur, one of the principles laid down in these recommendations and this Report, and that there is recognition of the complete constitutional equality of all the participating Governments in the Commonwealth. But it really is a little startling and confusing to find that we are invited, after recent public utterances and in view of the general trend of Government policy, to make contribution to a work of inter-imperial co-operation such as this Report is concerned with.

It is, perhaps, noteworthy that one of the recommendations of the Report, which the President of the Executive Council is asking us to accept, states not only that adequate financial provision shall be forthcoming, but that it shall be forthcoming in such a manner that there is a reasonable certainty of income over a definite period of years. I take it, therefore, that the Government is committed to the view that this contribution of £960 by the Irish Free State is something that we are undertaking to continue paying for a number of years ahead. Now, as I say, I welcome work of this kind. As the President has pointed out, it has got a real practical value; but I ask the President and other members of the Government once again to reflect, from the point of view of public order and the maintenance of law, upon the impossible position that they have created and the confusing effect that all this must have on the minds of the young people who, in one breath, are told that we are in the middle of a life-and-death struggle with the British Commonwealth and yet are asked to join in inter-imperial co-operation of this kind. It is not to be hoped for that any amount of firm administration will maintain law and order if the younger citizens of the country are left in such mental chaos as to the constitutional status of this House and of the Government.

Before the motion is put, I should like to make a few remarks on the speech we have just heard. A few minutes ago we had a personal explanation. The last person in the world, of course, to create any trouble would be Deputy MacDermot. He does not want to create any trouble of any sort—nothing like it. He does not want to get any political advantage out of anything he has to say. He is willing to stand up and be unpopular with his own supporters, we are told. I have listened to many a speech in this House and there were few speeches, to which I have listened, so calculated to do harm and to misrepresent as the speech to which we have just listened. Everybody in the country knows full well what the policy of this Government is. It was put definitely to them at the last election. They got certain guarantees as to the line of action we would adopt and we have held strictly to those guarantees. There was nobody in the country who did not know that as long as we were forced—and I use the word "forced" deliberately as I believe we were forced by threats held out in 1921—that as long as the threats were there, and until we went definitely to the people and told the people to defy these threats—as we did on a former occasion—the position we inherited would be availed of to the fullest extent to secure for the people whatever advantages were in this forced connection. We were taunted by the British Minister with wishing to have it both ways the other day. Now evidently Deputy MacDermot would like that the British should have it both ways—that we should be forced into a certain position and denied whatever advantages might be in that position. Is that the attitude of Deputy MacDermot and members on the opposite benches.

All right. Then what is the inconsistency in our administration continuing to co-operate on terms that we would be prepared to co-operate on if we were completely and absolutely free? I can imagine the Government of a Republic for the whole of this country coming in here and, if there was a group of nations prepared to co-operate with them for scientific research or other international purposes, proposing that we should take part in such co-operation. Now what our Government is doing is insisting that where there is co-operation it shall be co-operation on a basis of equality. And if Deputy MacDermot cared to be a little bit more careful of his terms a good deal of the confusion which he tries to create would not be created. He uses the word "Imperial," which has been mentioned several times in this statement. Remember that a number of these institutions, to which the present Report refers, had their origin long before the Treaty and, though the original names have persisted, their character is completely and absolutely changed. The co-operation suggested here is a free co-operation which at any time our Government can withdraw from and will withdraw whenever it does not suit its purpose (Hear, hear). Now I ask a question. I have heard several cries of "hear, hear" from the opposite side, but I have not heard any "hear, hear" from Mr. Thomas. We are very anxious to get a statement from Mr. Thomas. Deputy MacDermot and others go round the country suggesting a certain position. We are anxious to get confirmation of that suggestion, but we have not got it yet. Our people are entitled to know what the position exactly is. As regards this particular motion we are simply fulfilling our contract to the people. We are using the position we found and inherited in order to get for our people whatever advantages there may be, and we do not wish to let the British Government have it both ways, as Deputy MacDermot would desire. It is our duty. There is nothing inconsistent about it. There is nothing Imperialistic in this tendency. The tendency is to get co-operation between nations, on a footing of equality, in matters of common concern in which it is their interest to co-operate, each nation retaining its freedom. That is the position, and in that sense I recommend this motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

If I might say one word further. There was a remark made by the Deputy to which I would like to refer. He said that we had stated that there was a life-and-death struggle with the Commonwealth—i.e., with Australia, Canada and other countries. There is nothing of the kind. There is a struggle between Great Britain and ourselves on certain issues, but that struggle, as far as we are concerned, does not extend to Australia, South Africa or the other countries with which we have agreements.