Deputy McGovern has said that this is the best pact that the Government could make. I do not agree with that, although it is the best we ever expected them to make and the best they have made up to date. If it brings us through a certain sort of Purgatory, fired by British coal, into the Paradise when we will have no longer a surplus of cattle to send to England, that is only the irony of circumstances. At any rate, in popular language, it is a case of "Heads you win, tails we lose." On the coal-cattle pact the British win at every point. There are two questions pertaining to the whole making of the agreement that have not been answered, although these questions have been put more than once. Who made the pact? What Minister recommended it to the Executive Council? We know that the Executive Council have collective responsibility for it, but was it at the behest of the Minister for Agriculture, who wanted to get rid of some cattle by means other than killing them over here, or was it at the behest of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who repented of his attitude towards British coal and wanted to range himself against those Deputies who want others to believe that it is protection for Irish turf?
A still further point has to be made. We know that the pact broke upon an astounded Irish Free State some time early in January of this year. We know also that early in December the Minister for Defence used certain language in reference to the British market which, if a Deputy of this Party had used it, would have been denounced as traitorous. He said that we had already got the best quota that could be arranged for in the British market. This seems to indicate, reading between the lines, that prior to the middle of last December that pact had been put up at least once and had been refused. It was in these circumstances open to Ministers to use the language which they used on that occasion but then for once they did something better, the pact was resurrected and brought to a conclusion. At any rate, Deputy Norton, who talks about receiving his Nationalism from the cradle, where I think he also gets his economics, woke up from his early sleep to find that having voted for this tax, as a weapon against the British, he had imposed a tax of 5/- per ton on the only coal which the people of this country were permitted to buy. The Government had gone 100 per cent. British in the period between Christmas Day and the New Year, the holy season of peace and goodwill towards men. Probably that is what led up to this whole business. The ancient heroes were supposed to fear the Greeks when they brought gifts. The British evidently do not fear our cattle because they bring the annuities with them. There is no cause for fear so long as the money is being brought to them.
I do not know the gentlemen who negotiated this gentlemen's agreement, but I wonder if it was beneath their dignity to mention that a member of the British Government, the Secretary for the Dominions, stated on July 4th, 1932, in the House of Commons, that they wanted power to impose this tariff in their own way, at their own time—"impose it in such a way that they feel the circumstances warrant, but only to obtain the amount due and not one copper more. When that amount is obtained we shall cease." That is a specific promise made in the House of Commons by the Secretary of the Dominions. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that he is going to get £500,000 more from these duties than he expected. Why are we forcing this £500,000 on him? Did anybody say to the British when this pact was being negotiated: "Will you cease collecting tariffs on our produce when you have received all you say we owe you? According to your own statements, you have collected more than we owe you already." Why heap on them another £500,000? Unless the Minister tells us that the British were deluding themselves into the belief that they had collected more than was due to them, when as a matter of fact they had not, we shall require some explanation as to why he wants to give them £500,000 more. If there are reasons for giving them this £500,000, they are what the Minister would have described as treacherous some time ago.
In December we were told by the Minister for Defence, speaking of his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, that they had examined the quotas and that they were quite convinced they were fair, that they had to be judged by previous imports into England as if that were the only basis on which quotas could be discussed. The British gave another ground on which this matter could be discussed. At any rate, round about the time that apparently this was in contemplation, the Minister assured us: "We are republicans here, we are at daggers drawn with the British. There is an economic war on and anybody who says anything to us is a traitor, but the British are fair as far as cattle are concerned." The British claim that we have given them the full market they had in 1931 and this is put up as a good bargaining agreement. The British have got a proper consideration for what we receive from them. Let us see what they gain by this. They gain a much larger market than they had in 1931 in the Irish Free State. Secondly, they are going to get a monopoly of our coal purchases as a result of which they say they will be able to put 5,000 miners into employment together with a couple of thousand people who will get continuous employment at their ports. I think we can take that statement with a grain of salt. I do not believe that as a result of this agreement they will get 5,000 miners back into employment or a couple of thousand workers into employment at the ports, but they claim that.
We should be taking these things into consideration when the people on the other side of the bargaining table say that is what they are getting. We should say: "Very well, we will write that down against you." In addition they say that the British Government will effect a very useful saving in unemployment relief and, lastly, that British industry will receive a not inconsiderable stimulus towards improvement. That is a fair tot. They are going to get £500,000 in duties more than they wanted, they are going to get virtually the entire market in this country for their coal. We will leave out for the moment what we are paying for that coal because that is another disadvantage to us. They are going to put back about 5,000 miners into employment and a couple of thousand workers at the port with a useful saving in their Unemployment Fund and, lastly, they are going to get a valuable stimulus for British trade. According to the Minister's estimate, by buying all British coal we are going to tax ourselves by an additional £600,000 a year.
But this arrangement goes much worse than that. In commenting upon it the English Times used the phrase, that “the special import duties now imposed on Irish cattle will be maintained, and, therefore, the Irish producer cannot expect a higher price for his cattle,” but at least, the newspaper says, “his market will be increased and his industry will not be threatened with a contraction”—I ask Deputies to mark the phrase at the end—“which in the long run and particularly in times of emergency, would not be to the advantage of either country.” The British do recognise that it is an advantage, from their angle, that in times of emergency there should be a thriving cattle industry here. Surely whoever negotiated this agreement for us must have had that somewhere in the foreground of his consciousness and must have brought it out as an item for consideration.
I ask Deputies to add all that up: £500,000 more than the British say they wanted, miners and workers at the ports getting back into employment, the stimulus to British industry and the recapture of virtually the entire market for their coal here. They also dangle in front of our noses this fact that we can still continue to export at a loss. That is the position that has been brought about by Fianna Fáil. We will continue to encourage the live-stock industry here because the British would like to have it in times of emergency.
The last feature of this arrangement is possibly the worst of all. In the same leading article the London Times wrote that “in view of the frequently canvassed suggestion that a levy on imports should be made and used for the benefit of British producers of beef, the large prospective increase in the total yield of the duties will not pass without notice.” In saying that they were pointing the moral that, apparently nobody here could see that this £500,000 going across the Channel is not being appropriated to recoup the British for the withheld moneys. It is not ear-marked for that purpose. When it is asked what that money will be used for, immediately the London Times throws out that bait to the British producer of beef and he fastens on to it at once. “A large prospective increase in the total yield of the duties will not pass without notice.” It was noticed at once by the National Farmers' Union in England. Two meetings were held to discuss the matter. At first they were inclined to be restive about the idea of letting in this number of Irish Free State cattle. Then, apparently, the President of the Association got in touch with the Minister for Agriculture on the other side and brought back to the National Farmers' Union a message which stilled all further comment upon this. The message can be gleaned from the reports published in the newspapers. It amounted to this. At the moment, Mr. Ratcliffe said to the Union, we are looking for help for the British producer of beef. The subsidy that was being granted will expire on the 31st March next. It will lapse then unless a Bill is introduced in the House of Commons. Here, he said, is a new fund; here is £500,000 dropped into England, and here is the nucleus of a big subsidy for cattle producers in England. We are going to fasten on to it. They have fastened on to it, and have made good their argument. The result was that before the 31st March of this year, the Minister for Agriculture in England introduced a measure granting a subsidy for a period of three months. Possibly it will be continued for another three months. The position with regard to Free State cattle is again in the balance, because we understand they are considering in England the imposition of a levy on meat imported. Do we know what is likely to happen in connection with that? Have our delegates who negotiated this agreement been in consultation with the people on the other side in connection with that?
Can we be told what the British do mean with regard to a levy? Is this £500,000, that we are giving them for nothing, going to be counted as our contribution to the levy to help the British producer and to enable him to get into the things that we are so anxious to get out of? Have the Government any philosophy on this, and was it expressed by a Minister the other day when he said that the position we want to reach here is that we will have no surplus to export? If that is the philosophy of the Government, why not go out and make a bargain definitely and decently asking the British to buy our herds from us? Give them over to England and get some money for them. I suggest that it would be better to do that than to be sending over our cattle in this haphazard way and making agreements of this description. The President has admitted that the money is now taken from us in a way that hurts us more than if it were being paid over directly as formerly.
The House has been asked to approve of an arrangement under which we are to admit into this country nothing except British coal. The British have not Deputy Maguire's feelings about Irish coal or turf, because they know quite well that they have virtually the entire of the Irish market for coal. They have no competitor here, and they can charge what they please. As a matter of fact, they are charging more than what was expected would be the increase. The increase in the price of coal is not merely 5/- per ton. It has been somewhere in the neighbourhood —at least the minimum increase—of 6/- per ton, while the average would be about 7/- per ton. That is what we are asked to do so far as payments here are concerned. We are to give the British a monopoly here for their coal, and to export our cattle at a loss. The Fianna Fáil philosophy at one moment appears to be that it is better to export at a loss than never to export at all? We are going to export at that loss, and the British are going to get the money that these cattle will carry into England on their horns. That money is going to give the British £500,000 more than they want. We either say to them: "We are sorry, there is a miscalculation; you have not got all the money that we think you should get," or else we say: "What about the extra £500,000 that you are getting, and which you say is going to put back British miners and, to some extent, British dockers into employment?" I do not accept the figures that have been given but, at any rate, this extra £500,000 is going to relieve to some extent the British unemployment fund. At the same time we are building up the nucleus of a fund which will be added to, apparently, by a tax on other meat and possibly a further tax on our meat. All that is going to enable the British producer to get into that commodity that we are so desperately anxious to get out of on patriotic grounds.
Why the British producer should want a subsidy is hard to find from anyone in this country, when you take the prices that were paid on the Dublin market on Thursday, 6th June. The average price for beasts ranged from 22/- per cwt. down to 18/6. Take the quotations for the same class of stock in Northern Ireland. The prices there ranged from 60/- per cwt. down to 32/-. With those prices prevailing, the farmers in Northern Ireland say that they want a subsidy, while our Minister thinks that we ought to be well satisfied by getting our cattle sent abroad, thus bringing in an extra £500,000 to the British, which they say they do not want. The best price that can be obtained for cattle here is from 22/- to 18/6 per cwt. The Minister for Industry and Commerce at one time disputed the idea that there was any smuggling going on. He did not believe that there was any cross-the-Border traffic in cattle. After much argument he said that he would not even admit to 100 going across the Border. It was necessary for his argument that that should not be admitted because, otherwise, there has to be admitted some reason why the people on this side should be so anxious, other than for the mere joy of the thing, to send cattle across the Border.
Deputy Norton feels aggrieved about this arrangement now, but believing himself to be a patriot, he voted for certain of the emergency imposition of duties. He need not be annoyed about having walked his very people into this, because the Minister for Finance said the other day that if he could not get the money from coal, then he would have to get it from some other source. But the Minister himself knows that the Budget is a complete revelation of this fact: that the ordinary sources of revenue, such as Excise and income tax, have reached the point that it is impossible to put any further taxation on them. Therefore, the Government when hard pressed for money have to turn to the things that the people must eat: butter, sugar and tea.
When you get to that point, it is a very easy matter to jump in a tax on coal. As the Minister says, if we had not got this £500,000 from that source, we should have to get it elsewhere. We should have to put a little extra on tea or sugar, or butter or bread. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance asked the other day: "Why should not taxes fall on the working classes?" That is the Parliamentary Secretary with whom the Labour Party have been so often disputing on the question of having wages paid on relief schemes equated to the wages paid to agricultural labourers. The view of the Parliamentary Secretary is that if the wage that is being paid on these works, 22/-, were not paid, the workers in certain areas would tear the man who took the money from them limb from limb. That shows the level which has been reached. If this tax had not been put on coal, it would have been put on something else used by the working classes. It is not a mere accident that it is imposed on the working classes. The Parliamentary Secretary has asked: "Why should not the working classes be taxed?"