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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 23 Jul 1935

Vol. 58 No. 9

Committee on Finance. - Vote No. 57.—Industry and Commerce.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim Bhreise ná raghaidh thar £22,240 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1936, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Tionnscail agus Tráchtála, maraon le Coiste Comhairlitheach na Rátaí agus Illdeontaisí-i-gCabhair.

That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £22,240 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, including the Rates Advisory Committee, and sundry Grants-in-Aid.

This Supplementary Estimate provides £22,240 additional to the amount already provided this year for turf development. It represents a further advance by the Department to make turf a national fuel. The sum of £2,740 is provided in the first sub-head and is required for increased administrative expenses, and is chiefly due to the necessity for strengthening the engineering and supervising staff of the Board. That strengthening of the engineering and supervising staff is consequential on the increase in the number of co-operative turf societies, which now amount to 162. It is necessary, before co-operative turf societies are formed, to ensure that the bogs are suitable and that a certain return is secured from the money expended upon them. It is also necessary to make more detailed surveys of some of the bogs. Furthermore, I felt that the time had come to amalgamate the functions hitherto performed by the I.A.O.S. with the duties performed by the Turf Board. As that is now being done, I would like to take this opportunity to express appreciation of the efforts of the I.A.O.S., who placed their wide experience and trained staff at the disposal of the Department of Industry and Commerce, and made it possible to organise the co-operative societies quickly. There are three items embodied in the sums mentioned in the second sub-head. A sum of £10,000 is being provided for the purchase of storage grounds and the erection of sheds; a sum of £4,500 is being provided for the purchase of the Turraun works of the Leinster Carbonising Company, Limited; and £3,000 is provided for the Turf Board as working capital for the Turraun works.

In respect to the first undertaking, during the past year particularly, it was clearly demonstrated that in bad weather turf could not be delivered direct from the bog to the consumer in proper condition, and furthermore it was found that some producers forwarded turf of inferior quality and, in many cases, wet turf to consumers. Notwithstanding the prevalence of this dubious practice, the Turf Development Board usually succeeded in tracing this turf to the source, and the most drastic action was taken against the offending societies. Where inferior or wet turf was discovered to have been forwarded to the markets, and delivered to the consumer, the Board compelled the society to bear the cost of the poor turf, and to pay the rail, carriage and delivery costs to the consumer. If the turf had been delivered to the consumer the cost of removing the bad turf from the consumer's cellar was also borne by the societies. It was not always, however, the producer's fault that bad turf was delivered, as in many cases the turf left the producer in good condition and was damaged in transport or while awaiting transportation. For this reason, it has been decided to erect compounds and storage sheds for small quantities of turf in the areas where the societies can conform to the very rigid conditions set down, and where there is a possibility of establishing the turf scheme permanently.

It was decided during the course of the year to take steps to acquire the Turraun Peat Works owned by the Leinster Carbonising Company, Limited, and as that is now being considered by the Dáil, it is desirable to recapitulate, to some extent, the history of the Turraun Peat Works. The Irish Peat Inquiry appointed by the Fuel Research Board of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research reported to the Government in July, 1918. In September, 1919, another Committee known as the Committee of the Commission of Inquiry into the Resources and Industries of Ireland was appointed by Dáil Eireann and this Committee reported in 1921. Sir John Griffith was Chairman of the Irish Peat Committee, appointed by the Fuel Research Board for investigation of the peat resources in Ireland. This Committee made certain recommendations in its report which were not, however, acted upon and Sir John Griffith decided to finance experiments himself on the lines of the Committee's report. To this end, he acquired the Turraun property and set about experiments on a small scale, to ascertain something of the quality and general character of the fuel that might be expected from Irish peat. A small electric power plant was installed to provide for the manufacture of machine or macerated peat in the summer, and it was intended to generate electricity for distribution to the adjacent towns in the winter. It was also intended to sell any fuel, surplus to that required for electric plant, for domestic purposes in the neighbourhood of the bogs. The development of hydro power from the Shannon caused the promoters to alter their plans and to seek a market for their peat fuel in Dublin, and within a 40 mile radius of Turraun. Difficulties arising out of the bad location of the site and inadequate exit roads with consequently high transport costs militated against the sale of the turf, and it was not found possible to market such a quantity as would justify production on a scale sufficient to cover the capital charges.

Despite discouragement, Sir John Griffith persevered in his efforts and spent considerable sums on the company. He purchased 1,323 acres of bog and effected the deep drainage of over 400 acres, built a peat moss litter factory and installed power transmission plant, bog railways and macerators for the manufacture of machine-won peat. This was the principal unit of what he intended should be developed into an extended programme of fuel production. I think it would be regrettable if the physical assets now available in the Turraun bogs and the great efforts of a famous and public-spirited Irish engineer should be lost to the nation, if the enterprise could be continued with any hope of final success. Sir John Griffith, who is now of advanced age, did not feel capable of carrying the burden of these experimental works any longer. The price at which it has been agreed that the Turf Board should take over the assets and good-will of the company will make it possible to reduce the overhead charges on capital account to a minimum. In view of the fact that the Government has in contemplation steps for increasing the market available, no difficulty is anticipated in disposing of the product of the works at a reasonable price. The plant and premises will serve as a valuable field for experimental purposes and for trying out new machines and production methods. Improvements in the road system are, it is understood, being effected, including access to the railway. The latter will widen the market for the company's product and at the same time enable transport costs to be reduced.

I have not, however, regarded the enterprise solely as a commercial proposition. The fact that the livelihood of 16 permanent and 50 casual employees is involved in the enterprise is a matter of importance, and more particularly I have been impressed by the necessity of having at the disposal of the Turf Development Board a prepared bog, where experiments with different types of machines could be carried out. In this connection it is noteworthy that, except in unusual circumstances, it takes two years before a bog can be sufficiently well drained to carry machines even for experimental purposes. The Turf Board will endeavour to make the Turraun plant, in its present form, pay for itself and it is considered that, in view of the extremely low price at which it has been offered, together with the fact that the stock of turf is being offered at a very attractive figure, it will be possible to do this and that the project can be made cover its costs in the transition period whilst a final decision is being taken on the ultimate form of mechanical turf development.

As Deputies are aware, we recently sent a delegation to the Continent to study methods of turf development in other countries. I have had a preliminary conversation with the delegation and I learned that it is their intention to recommend the purchase of an up-to-date machine to be set at work experimentally at Turraun. The delegation are, apparently, hopeful that if this machine does what is expected of it, a long step will be taken towards the solution of the turf fuel problem. However, the full report of the delegation has not yet been received. I understand that it is likely to be received about the end of the present week. On it will be based decisions as to the extent and form of experimental work in the mechanical production of turf fuel.

It will be necessary, before the end of this year, to promote legislation dealing with the turf situation, and that legislation is in course of preparation. I had hoped to have it ready for this session, but that became impossible in view of the pressure of other business. It will, I trust, be available for consideration by the Dáil when the House reassembles after the summer recess. We have informed the turf societies in a circular issued to them that the Turf Board would undertake to dispose of all standard turf, the property of the members of registered societies, cut during the 1935 season, at a minimum price of 11/6 per ton, provided certain rather stringent conditions imposed by the Board were conformed to. In order to put the Board and the Department in a position to make good in respect of that undertaking, certain legislative proposals must necessarily be forthcoming.

The third item of £2,000 appearing on the face of the Estimate is the price proposed to be paid for the stock of turf at Turraun. There are large stocks of machine-won turf there—turf of excellent quality. The £2,000 which it is proposed to pay for these stocks represents a very favourable price to the Department. There will be no difficulty in disposing of the turf available there at prices which will yield a profit to the Department.

To recapitulate, the main items are: (1) increased administrative cost, due to the necessity for increasing the engineering staff of the board and also to the fact that the officers of the I.A.O.S., who were previously engaged in the organising of these co-operative societies, are being taken over by the Turf Board; (2) the purchase of the Turraun Works at a price which is very favourable and gives the board a large area of prepared bog, particularly suitable for experimental work. It would not be possible to get any area of bog into the same condition for experimental work within a period of two years. We are proposing to carry on these works as a commercial proposition and for that purpose £3,000 working capital is being provided for the board. In addition, we are purchasing the stocks of turf available at Turraun for £2,000. That represents the total of the sum now required for this service.

It is rather interesting to hear the Minister tell us at this stage that he proposes to introduce in the autumn legislation dealing with turf. I think that it is time something was done to systematise and control what is being done as regards turf-production. I do not know whether or not the Minister's first appearance in the House on the turf question was on the 11th May, 1933. On that occasion he said:—

"If various inquiries which we are undertaking at the moment into the possibility of marketing peat in another form prove that difficulties have been overcome and that a method of doing so has been invented, we will be able to establish an industry which will be, by far, the most important in the country and which will provide us with a fuel not merely as good as, but better than, coal. These are some of the things we are planning."

That was in May of 1933. In April, 1934, speaking in Castlerea the Minister said:—

"The turf plan had been a remarkable success, all available turf being consumed before the winter was half over and he guaranteed that every sod of good quality, produced under the Government scheme, would find a market next winter."

That was in the winter we have just passed. Now, we come to the third stage. Speaking in the House in June last, the Minister said that they hoped this year to put the whole turf scheme on a national footing. The Minister tells us again to-day that, this year, his plan is to put the whole turf scheme on a national footing. The Minister is looking for an additional £22,000. I do not know exactly what the sum already voted is. In May last in reply to a question by Deputy Davin, the Minister stated that in the two years, 1933-34 and 1934-35, the amount of money expended in connection with peat-fuel development amounted to £8,005 in 1933-34 and to £24,019 in 1934-35. Now, he is asking for an additional amount. The Minister quoted figures here some time ago to indicate that in the last year for which he had available information—1933— there was less turf cut and sold than there was in 1931 before all this money was expended in connection with turf. I do not know whether he is yet in a position to give the figures of turf cut last year—1934. If he has these figures, the House would be glad to hear them. It would be interesting to get information from the Minister as to where all this money has gone. We know that £11,000 went in buying sacks last year. I suppose an additional sum went the previous year in buying sacks. I do not know how much money went in telling us through the medium of the Press:

"Where the Irish elk roamed. Countless suns have crossed the sky since the giant elk roamed Ireland. Time has shed a mellow light around these ancient days.... In those far-off days a wondrous wealth was being born, slowly, surely, steadily, the wealth that is the birthright of Irishmen to-day—turf."

I am sure a considerable sum was spent on that sort of thing.

But the position that we have, as a result of all this, is that for the last year for which information is available there was less turf cut or less turf sold, at any rate, than in 1931. The Minister has made all kinds of statements as to what is going to happen. For instance, as I stated, in April, 1934, he said that he guaranteed that every sod of good quality turf produced under the Government's scheme would find a market next winter. The fact is that he had to buy over the Turraun peat works, because they could not carry on and were left, as he says himself, and as they said in March last, with 5,000 tons of fuel in stock The Minister has not told us exactly who is going to run the Turraun peat works. Is the the Peat Development Board, which I think has been established as a company, going to run the Turraun works and try to make a success of a concern which individual enterprise, with a very considerable amount of scientific skill and of money behind it, could not make a success of?

The Minister ought to be able to tell us something about what he hopes for in that direction; or is this the putting of money into a purely experimental business? It does not seem to me, when you see the want of control that there seems to be in this whole turf business, that the Minister has any technical or administrative guidance that could possibly hope to make a success of an establishment such as the Turraun works, which, even with the skilled technical advice and experience they had, and with the benefit of all the Minister's propaganda in regard to turf, and his arrangements for cheaper railway carriage, actually failed when he was spending so much public money on the advancement of the general scheme with regard to turf and putting a considerable amount of public money into the provision of free turf in order to take some of the turf off the market.

Various statements have been made from time to time as to some big development in the making of peat briquettes, for instance. The Government organ in May of last year announced that the Minister for Industry and Commerce had then indicated his willingness to guarantee a trade loan of £90,000 for the establishment of a factory for the making of peat briquettes. Is there anything developing along that line? Was that part of the scheme under which it was understood that machinery had arrived for a new factory in Edenderry in connection with which £150,000 was going to be put into the development of a big peat industry there? Is there anything pending in regard to the development of the industry suggested by the statement in May last year that the Minister had expressed willingness to guarantee a trade loan of £90,000, or in the statement made in the public Press in April this year that machinery had actually arrived in Edenderry for a £150,000 business for the development of turf?

The present proposal is, to some extent, an extension of the unemployment assistance measure. A sum of £2,740 is going to be spent on additional administrative expenses; £10,000 is going to be spent on the building of storage accommodation; £4,500 is to buy an industry; and £3,000 to provide working capital. More than 10 per cent. of that money is being devoted to what the Minister calls administrative expenses. I say that is an extension of the unemployment assistance scheme. To some extent, some of the other money to be provided is an extension of the unemployment assistance scheme. The Minister has not told us how the £10,000 in respect of storage is going to be spent. We are confused with regard to the Minister's general plan. An experimental peat works is to be carried on at Turraun. There is the general work of development of the co-operative societies all over the country. But we do not get from the Minister any idea where the incidence of this development is. Is there any real development in Donegal or Mayo or Kerry? Where exactly are the real centres of development? Where are the areas where this is bringing any kind of assistance to the people?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands, speaking recently in Doonbeg, announced that during the last 12 months the turf scheme had brought £6,000 additional into that area. It is gratifying to hear that. The Parliamentary Secretary also said that £10,000 was to be spent on the further opening up of bogs. That is again an extension of the unemployment assistance scheme. That must be very welcome to the people of West Clare. But if these sums of money are to be available to the people in West Clare, there are other sums of money which were available to the people of West Clare that are not now going in there. I think in West Clare area the Parliamentary Secretary could pick out four centres where fairs which were held at particular periods of the year brought annually into these places a lot more than the £6,000 that went into Doonbeg. The fair at Doonbeg was perhaps worth more in any year than the £6,000 that the Parliamentary Secretary says is going there in respect of turf.

We would be glad to know from the Minister what other areas in the country, as well as West Clare, are benefiting by the sale of turf, and in what other parts of the country development of the type the Parliamentary Secretary speaks about, such as the expenditure of £10,000 on the opening up of bogs, is going on. It seems to me that the whole thing is being approached in a most absurd and mixed-up way. It would be no harm to have some kind of legislation dealing with the matter, but it would be interesting if the Minister could tell us the ground that would be covered by his legislation and whether this elaborate scheme of a company with a capital of £150,000 is simply a figment of the imagination or is actually going on; and whether it is going on entirely outside the Government's scheme of development.

Another question that arises is the price of turf. Last month the Galway County Hospital and Dispensary Committee had been able to enter into a contract for 800 tons of standard turf for the hospital at 19/4 per ton. On the other hand, we had complaints from the Committee of Management of the Cork Mental Hospital in December last that, whereas they had experience of turf at 22/- per ton which gave a considerable amount of satisfaction, when they went to look for more of it the price had risen to 25/-. It would be interesting to know why, with the standard price that the railways are charging for carriage, the Cork Mental Hospital has to pay 25/- for what the Galway County Hospital and Dispensary Committee could get at 19/4. Generally, however, I suggest to the Minister that the position with regard to turf development seems to be very unsatisfactory and uncontrolled and the various sums of money spent within the last 12 months seem to have brought no co-ordination into the situation. £11,000 was spent on sacks; goodness knows how much on advertisements; and, as I say, administrative costs are comparatively very high; yet there was less turf cut. There was less turf won in 1933 than was won before the scheme was started. We have no information as to the amount of turf won last year despite the administrative expense of looking after the scheme.

Did I understand the Minister to say that there were 5,000 tons at Turraun works?

I do not know that I mentioned any quantity.

He is paying £2,000 for whatever is there.

There are about 5,000 tons but I did not mention any quantity.

Deputy Mulcahy has referred to the fact that no statement was forthcoming from the Minister as to the progress made in the production of turf. I agree with Deputy Mulcahy that that is the gist of the thing. As far as I know the country there has been no outstanding progress made in the production of turf in this country. People may ask: "What is the reason for that? There is plenty of bog and why is it not being developed?" In my opinion, the reason for that is that all the money that is being spent on this business is being spent on administration and an economic price is not being paid to the people who win the turf. If you take all the money voted here this evening, practically not a penny of it is being spent in a way that will bring about an increased production of turf. So far as I know anything about harvesting turf, and I know something about it, I think this scheme is a failure and it is going to remain a failure so long as a decent price is not being paid to the people who produce the turf. I think it is utterly ridiculous and futile to spend money in administration and development so long as you do not pay the people who produce the turf a price that will attract them. I was of opinion at the time that this 11/6 per ton was fixed that it was a ridiculous price, and I am of that opinion still. If all the money that is paid to Sir John Griffith for this land and property were passed on to the producers to enable an economic price to be paid, you would then be taking the right steps to make the scheme a success, but, in my opinion, no matter what money is spent in paying engineers and in administrative expenses that will not result in producing any more turf in this country unless an economic price is paid.

I made an attempt in parts of my constituency to get something done in this direction. A man went down, either from the Irish Agricultural Wholesale Society or the Turf Board, and a meeting was held. Prior to the meeting I had arranged with the Department of Public Works to build a new road into the bog. When this man went down he wanted an undertaking from the people to produce a certain amount of turf before the road would be built. When, however, the people heard that the price was to be 11/- per ton delivered at the railway station, that was the end of my road. I want to be quite frank. I want this thing to be a success, but, as I said at the beginning, it is ridiculous to ask people to produce turf and deliver it at the railway station, which in some cases may be three or four miles away, at 11/- per ton. At the same time, we are paying £11,000 for sacks. I think some other means should be adopted instead of spending all this money in buying sacks.

What does the Deputy suggest?

If sheds had been constructed at railway stations where this turf could be kept dry, if waggons were not available to receive it, it would not be necessary to expend this money on bags. You are also in my opinion spending money unnecessarily on engineers. If you increase the price paid to producers they can drain the bogs themselves because the people who own these lands know just as much about draining the land as the engineers. They will drain the bogs adequately if they are guaranteed a price. An open drain a couple of feet deep would be sufficient to drain most of the bogs. The very flat bogs in the province of Connacht would probably require scientific draining but the bogs in Donegal would require practically no drainage. I would urge upon the Minister that the road to success in this scheme lies along the line of increasing the price paid to the producer and in not spending so much money in administration. He emphasised a few times that the Turraun works were being carried on experimentally. A sum of £3,000 is being given for capital purposes. Much of that money could be usefully spent in increasing the price to the producer but it is little use in expending it, if the producer is only to get 11/- per ton.

I would ask the Minister to see that the experimental work carried on there will be carried on efficiently, and to see that the men who are in control will carry it out successfully so that it cannot be said afterwards that the payment of their salaries was a waste of public money. It is all right to appoint engineers down there to send up reports to the Department that they are carrying on experimental work, but I think they should be asked to produce some value for the money paid to them just as much as the people who are only paid 11/- per ton. These engineers should not get all the money on the pretext that this thing is being pushed on to a success. I appeal to the Minister to increase the price of 11/- per ton. There are many places where the turf has to be carted three and four miles to a station. That turf has to be taken out of the bog in half-loads as a horse cannot pull a full load out of the bog. All that means additional expense to the people who are producing the turf. These are the people who should derive some benefit from the money that is now being spent on administration. You can tell the people as long as you like that the Irish elk was to be found there at one time, but you will not get turf at 11/- per ton.

How much should they get?

Well, more than that. If you pay £2 per ton for coal you should pay at least £1 per ton for turf.

I am afraid judging by the manner in which the Minister introduced this Estimate, he is not very heartened at his proposal. Personally, I think that there is no justification at the present time for the introduction of this Estimate. Firstly, if we have sent a deputation out to some foreign country to inquire whether the production of peat fuel in that country is on an economic basis, we should have some report from them. The House should be made aware——

They are only back. The Deputy is in a very big hurry.

Is there any hurry about this? Is there any hurry to make a white elephant out of this, if it is possible to make a white elephant out of peat? That is what we are doing on the face of the Estimate. We are voting £22,240, £2,240 of which is for engineering and administrative expenses. Might I ask the Minister what is the position, really of the Turf Development Board, and its officials? Are these officials, for whom we are providing £2,740 here, to be permanent or temporary? Are they holding pensionable offices?

They are not Government employees at all.

What are they then? They are officials of the Turf Development Board. What are to be the duties of those people in connection with the production of peat in this country? I think the Minister will admit that no defence has been made in any way. Deputy McMenamin spoke of 11/- per ton; the Minister mentioned 11/6. I do not recognise either figure as an economic price. I do not recognise the production of peat, at all, as economic if it has to be carried about. The public Press contained reports of the Turraun Peat Works. Has the Minister inquired through any engineering source, or from any people who have experience, as to the qualities of airdried turf and pressed or broken up turf? I do not know whether the Minister knows the difference between the two. I have seen the two. My own opinion is that turf out of which the water has been pressed will never make a satisfactory fuel.

It appears to me that while we are paying £7,500 for Turraun, in fact £9,500 including the stock, we are only coming to a point at which further expenditure will be necessary. That is how it appears to me. I am afraid we are only experimenting with something which we already know is going to prove a failure. I would like to see some steps taken to make it a success, if possible. But until we have had further reports from the deputation sent abroad, as to the suitability, or otherwise, of pursuing this type of development, we should not have made a proposal to buy out this white elephant in Turraun. I think we should have waited for the report of the experts if they are experts.

The Minister said that there is a certain amount of sentiment attached to it. A certain gentleman undertook to develop this thing, and went to expense, and possibly the nation would not like to see him let down. Are we justified in pursuing it further and expending more money in the circumstances? I do not think the House is justified in going forward with this plan until we get some further hope. I know the Minister is not very hopeful. As to the erection of sheds and storage to the extent of £10,000, I would like to know, from the Minister, how many societies have been established and are working now in 1935 and how many went out? I know one society where there is no production. The people are still cutting turf, and selling it, but they are not cutting more than before the Minister's scheme started. I do not see any improvement or advance, or any more money coming to people, as a result of the peat development. I would be very glad if it could be developed. I am afraid, if the Minister endeavours to develop the turf before he gets a report from those people he sent out to inquire, he is moving in the wrong direction. The House is entitled to some information before passing this Estimate.

I know very little about turf, and I do not propose to offer the Minister any advice as to draining bogs or marketing turf. But there is one aspect of the case that I would like to point out to the Minister. It seems to me we cannot make up our minds as to whether we want to burn turf or coal. There is no doubt about that. I would like to hear the Minister deal with this aspect of the question. Grates or ranges made to burn turf will not economically burn coal. And you cannot get turf to burn satisfactorily in ranges that have been built to burn coal. I do not mean to say that you could not light a fire in a grate that was especially designed for some other fuel; but there is no doubt about it that the average person has not made up his mind to give up coal and to burn turf.

As there is a Turf Development Board, to be logical, they ought to go round to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and say to him: "Look here! You are building a whole lot of houses and putting ranges into those houses that are not suitable for burning turf." That is partly at the bottom of this uncertainty. People cannot make up their minds to take in turf. Turf is not taking its place as a regular supply on the market where it could be got at a certain price, and would be always available. I do not mean that there are not plenty of houses in the country where they have fireplaces suitable for turf burning. These people have always been burning turf and will continue to do so. But if the Minister is really anxious to get turf developed as a suitable industry there ought to be some very radical changes made in the methods of burning turf. I would be glad if the Minister, in his reply, would answer the questions I have put to him.

The Minister to conclude.

Deputy McMenamin, who has apparently gone, thinks that we ought to sell more turf, pay higher prices for it, but not advertise it for sale and arrange to have the turf carried loose in railway waggons instead of in sacks and delivered loose to the consumers. He thinks bog drainage should be done without engineering assistance. He seems to have devised some way in which that could be done, but he carefully avoided telling us. I do not know how it can. We can get plenty of turf produced at 11/6 per ton delivered at the railway and canal stations as the turf is required. It is necessary to have the turf packed in sacks because otherwise the cost of the transportation by rail or canal would be prohibitive. The device of packing the turf in sacks which has been inaugurated in the past few years has made possible the cheap transportation of the turf to areas in which turf was not ordinarily used for fuel for a long number of years past. The expenditure on sacks is something in the nature of capital expenditure. These sacks will remain available for a number of years, and it is not necessary to charge against each ton of turf sold anything more than a fraction of the cost of the sacks.

The advertising of the turf is essential to the campaign. There would be little possibility in the circumstances which have existed up to this of securing an increased sale of turf without advertising its qualities and advertising the places and premises at which it was available. I agree that we have now reached the stage when we will not be able to rely entirely upon the voluntary demand for turf in order to secure a sale for the quantities of turf produced, and that a certain element of compulsion will have to be introduced in some form or other. But until that stage of compulsion is reached we have no means of securing a sale for turf except by advertising in one form or another.

It would, of course, be complete lunacy to spend large sums of money upon the drainage of bogs and the construction of roads into bogs without competent engineering advice, and only Deputy McMenamin would have suggested it. Last year, certain difficulties arose. In 1933, as was stated by me in the speech from which Deputy Mulcahy quoted, by far the larger quantity of turf produced for sale under the Government scheme was sold before the winter was over. There was a scarcity of turf and the Department of Industry and Commerce, who were dealing with the matter direct, was unable to meet the demand for turf. But in 1934 the campaign for the sale of turf started very badly. There was two reasons for this:—One was that the weather was very bad; the weather turned wet early in the autumn. But apart from the bad weather a number of turf societies, without consideration of the consequences of their action or without consideration for their own interests, sent forward wet, unsuitable and badly won turf. It was of an inferior quality. There were numerous complaints about the turf and that injured the sale of the turf; at the beginning of the season much damage was done. That was damage that could not be repaired during the season. The result was that at the end of the season the co-operative societies had quantities of this hand-won turf lying unsold on their hands. That will be sold this season. In the meantime the societies are receiving advances on this turf to the amount of two-thirds of the standard prices. We hope to be able to eliminate these causes which had an adverse effect on the sales. In the first place, drastic punishment will be meted out to societies that supplied wet or unsuitable turf last year. In the second place, by the erection of sheds at the transport points, the danger of the turf getting damaged will be eliminated. This will enable the turf to be placed dry in the sacks and to be kept dry in the sacks so that it can be transported to the centres of consumption without damage.

The board are quite confident of their ability to make a success of the scheme for the development of hand-won turf. The board and the Department of Industry and Commerce recognise that no matter what development there may be in turf-producing machinery or as to what may be decided in regard to the new methods of winning turf by mechanical processes, that for many years to come hand-won turf for fuel is going to be an important feature of their activities. Consequently all the expenditure that has taken place upon the preparation of the bogs, the making of roads, the provision of sacks, the erection of sheds, and so forth, is likely to be recouped by the development of hand-turf in the future.

It is well that Deputies would visualise the turf scheme in two parts first as that which is now in operation, the organisation of co-operative societies of turf producers to produce turf for sale at the fixed price of 11/6 a ton—the turf which is marketed through the coal merchants throughout the country under the regulation and supervision and control of the Turf Development Board. In the second part there is a scheme of experimental work on turf production—the mechanical winning of turf, the utilisation of turf for power purposes and for purposes other than for fuel. These are all matters which are in progress at the moment. The Industrial Research Council has been entrusted with this matter and the Turf Development Board has been making investigations in other countries. They will have recommendations to make in that regard.

Apart from that, other developments have taken place here independently of what the Government is doing. I have mentioned the desirability of acquiring the Turraun bog from the Leinster Carbonising Company. We considered that Turraun as a turf producing centre can be made very important for the country. There is no place in the country where the experimental work of winning peat can be done more satisfactorily. It would take two years to get any other bog in the country into the position that Turraun bog is at the moment. Very extensive sums have been spent in that way in Turraun. Turraun turf is infinitely superior to hand-won turf. Most people will agree with that. The only question that has arisen is the difference in price. Turraun is dearer. One difficulty there, was the difficulty of transport and consequently the high cost which had to be charged for transport purposes. In the second place Turraun never got production on the scale which would enable its capital charges to be recovered. The briquetting plant, which is independent of this scheme, has been erected by a privately owned company. This private company has a capital of £150,000. Half of it was secured by a Government guarantee and half of it was independently subscribed by the company which has the right to certain patented processes owned by certain people outside this country. They are erecting their factory in Lullymore Bog near Ticknevin in County Kildare. The factory is now being constructed, but will not come into production until the winter time in accordance with their plans of campaign. I doubt if it will be in full production this winter. The work on the bog is proceeding. They have a new method of winning the turf. The method is a patented method, and involves the use of a very specialised type of machinery. They have been laying out the bog for that method of winning, which involved a very considerable amount of work, and the factory is being constructed. The briquetting factory will probably be ready for work in the winter, but it is doubtful that there will be any considerable store of turf ready for briquetting this winter. There will be briquettes on sale, but they do not anticipate getting into full production until next year. That is, however, something independent of what we are doing. If that company prove that their process is a commercial success, and that they are able to produce and sell those briquettes at the price they anticipate, I think it will be a matter of very great importance to this country, because the fuel which they produce is a first-class fuel, having many qualities which make it superior to coal. But the whole development is, of course, experimental, and although the persons who are behind the project are very confident of the future, nevertheless they cannot be certain that unexpected difficulties will not emerge. Hitherto, apart from certain delay in getting their factory erected, they are satisfied that everything is going well. In any event it is quite big enough to enable me to say that nobody can possibly mistake it for a figment of the imagination.

It is not true that we had to buy Turraun because it could not carry on. Turraun was never carried on for a profit. It was started, as I explained, with two ideas; one was the production of electricity, and secondly it was proposed to sell the surplus turf in the surrounding area. The electricity scheme had to be dropped because of the development of the Shannon scheme, and the company undertook the sale of the briquettes in Dublin and other areas, but because of their transport difficulties they never sold sufficient turf to make the undertaking a profitable one. Those transport difficulties have been overcome. New roads have been constructed, and a new entrance to the works has been created. Furthermore, Turraun peat fits into the general scheme in a way which makes it almost certain that the Board will be able to operate it at a profit apart from the fact that they will have much lower capital charges than the old Leinster Carbonising Company. They have acquired for £4,500 what cost the Leinster Carbonising Company a good deal more.

One of the matters on which the Industrial Research Council has been asked to report has been the design of grates and ranges, so as to enable turf to be used economically. It is true that the great majority of the grates and ranges now being used in this country are primarily designed to burn coal, and very largely to burn British coal. When the Industrial Research Council have completed their report on that matter, it may be that certain changes in the instructions of the Department of Local Government will follow. Deputy Brennan was not very optimistic. His speech was very largely a caoin over what he regarded as the death of the whole turf business. It is not going to die. I am quite optimistic of the future.

You do not look it.

I am quite satisfied that we have a store of wealth in our bogs, which in due course we will be able to exploit to the advantage of the country. There is no need to be as mournful over the whole thing as Deputy Brennan was. We are proceeding according to plan. The work upon which we are engaged is experimental work. Other Governments in other countries have spent millions of pounds upon various experiments in relation to turf.

Have they succeeded?

That is what we have got to find out.

Exactly. That is what I wanted to know.

Those people are investigating only one aspect of the problem. Other aspects have been investigated by the Industrial Research Council, who are availing of the experience of other countries. We cannot afford to spend the millions of pounds a year on turf research which the Russian Government expends, or the huge sums which the British Government spent not so very many years ago, or the sums which the Canadian Government are now spending. There was a Canadian Commission in this country only a few weeks ago, trying to get the benefit of our experience and discover what was to be learned through what we are doing. Many of the best engineers in the world are at the present time engaged on researches into turf production, and many Governments are spending large sums of money on that matter. The briquetting plant which is being erected, and to which I have referred, if of a similar kind to that erected by the Danish Government, at Government expense, on a bog in Denmark. It was following upon the partial success of that Danish Government factory that the company here was organised, because benefiting by the experience gained in Denmark certain difficulties and faults in their plant could be eradicated.

The Danish Government, the Canadian Government and other Governments are particularly interested in this development here, and are awaiting a report upon the success of the development here before determining on their own plans in their own country. There is one other thing which I would suggest to Deputy Brennan, and that is that he should not disparage everything related to the country. We have a few things to be proud of.

"Our experts, if they are experts," was the term he used. It happens that one of them is not merely an expert, but probably the greatest expert in the world at the present time on questions relating to peat, and is recognised as such in all countries.

You ought to wait for his advice.

Certainly, and we propose to wait for his advice. We purchased Turraun because Turraun was available, and otherwise would have been closed down at the beginning of this season, Sir John P. Griffith being too old to carry on the business, and in any case the continued losses on the undertaking were telling. The plant at Turraun became available for purchase, and we purchased it without delay because of the effects which its closing down would have had upon employment locally, as well as because of the fact that we regarded it as a good stroke of business for the Government to acquire the plant, believing that we can make it a commercial success as part of our hand won turf scheme, but having due regard to the fact that the ownership of that prepared bog was going to be a useful asset in connection with any experimental developments that might follow upon the experts' report after their visit to other countries. That is all we are spending in anticipation of their report—expenditure which is obviously desirable in any event. The rest of the expenditure provided for here is in connection with the hand won turf development scheme. It is true that there has been a substantial difference in the prices charged for turf in Galway and Cork. The matter of the price charged in Cork and the price charged in Limerick and certain other centres in the South will have to receive particular attention in the coming winter. I do not think there is any good reason why the price of standard turf in Cork should be in excess of the price in Dublin, but I understand it has been so in the past.

The figures for turf cut in 1933 as against 1931 are of little significance. The quantity of turf that is cut in one year as against another very often depends on the weather and other causes, and no conclusion can be drawn by comparing one year with another. It is true, generally speaking, that for a number of years past the production of turf has been declining. We are not concerned with the quantity of turf cut because, of course, by far the greater proportion is cut for the producer's own use. It is not being produced for sale. Our object in promoting the turf scheme was to try and increase the production of turf for sale and thus secure the circulation of money in districts that are very badly in need of it, because the bog areas, as a rule, are the poorest parts of the country.

Are there any statistics available with regard to that progress?

The only statistics that we have are the statistics of the turf marketed through the Turf Development Board, but even that would be only a small part of the total amount of turf sold under the Government scheme by the co-operative societies, because even the co-operative societies sell the greater part of their production, when they can, in their own localities where they can get a higher price for it.

How long are we going to be spending money in this way without knowing what progress is being made?

It is known what progress is being made and that is checked up through the other end. The number of societies that are producing turf, and the number of persons engaged in turf production under the Government scheme, are known. The increase in the number of societies is an indication of the progress which is being made, and, incidentally, an indication that the standard price fixed is not generally regarded as unsatisfactory.

But we have no information about increased sales or decreased sales.

No, except that whatever turf is being sold through the Turf Development Board is additional to whatever sales took place before.

Surely, if the Minister eliminates the total amount of turf won in the year from any consideration bearing on progress, the test of progress is whether there is an increased amount of turf sold in the country, and the Minister says that he is not able to tell us about that. He does not know whether he will ever be able to tell us what progress is being made.

I did not say that. We will be able to tell the Deputy as soon as the scheme is put on a more organised basis, but at the present time the Turf Development Board has no control over the societies except the threat of refusing to sell their turf for them or of giving them the advantage in the expenditure of Government funds for the doing of drainage work or the construction of roads. Before we can get the turf scheme upon a properly organised basis, it will be necessary to have legislation which will give the Turf Board certain statutory functions and certain control over the co-operative societies when it is working them. That control is only secured in a secondhand way at the present time.

Could the Minister tell us the quantities of turf carried over the railways in the last two years?

It should be possible to get that figure, but I have not got it available at the moment. Even that figure would not be a complete indication of the quantity of turf sold because very large quantities go by canal, and, as in the case of the railways, it should be possible to get the figure with regard to the quantities carried by canal. I do not think there is any other point arising out of the discussion. The increase in the cost of administration expenses is not entirely due to increased staff. It is, to a large extent, due to the fact that the staff of the I.A.O.S., and paid by the I.A.O.S., is being taken over by the Turf Development Board to continue to do under the control of the board the work they formerly did under the I.A.O.S. The £10,000 for the erection of sheds and compounds adjacent to transport points——

Who is going to own these?

The Turf Development Board.

And who is going to see about the putting up of them?

The Turf Development Board.

Who is to select the sites?

The co-operative society is expected to provide a site free. I do not say that it will always do so, but the board are, I think, working on a system under which they will give preference to the society that provides a site free for the erection of sheds.

Is it the intention to erect the sheds at railway stations and canal stations, or in the bogs?

They will be erected as near as possible to the railway station or the canal station, where that is considered suitable. In some cases, it may be considered more advisable to have them on the bog where considerable quantities of turf may be transported by road into adjacent towns or for some such reason.

Generally, the intention is to have the sheds at the point from which the greatest quantity of turf is likely to be transported. The remainder of the sum provided here arises out of the purchase of Turraun—£4,500 for the assets. There is £3,000 working capital for the board. That is an advance which is repayable. There is also £2,000 for the purchase of existing stocks at Turraun. This sum will be repayable when the stocks are sold, as they will be sold, at the end of the present year.

The Minister has suggested that this type of expenditure and development is not going to lead to anything worth while until the point is reached at which the Minister can introduce a certain form of compulsion to use turf. Would the Minister say in what direction that compulsion is intended to be applied, because, apparently, it is part of the general scheme?

I would not like to say that in advance of legislation. I say that it will be necessary to have certain powers in that regard to enable us to honour our undertaking to the societies to dispose of whatever quantity of turf which they produce in conformity to our requirements and which they cannot sell themselves. But, generally speaking, the powers that we will seek will probably be designed to enable the turf to be sold in the areas where it is of greatest economic value. These would be the areas adjacent to the bogs.

So that the Minister proposes to introduce compulsion to make people adjacent to the bogs burn turf, and to prevent them getting other kinds of fuel?

That is so. Legislative proposals to that end will be introduced.

Vote put and agreed to.
Progress reported; the Committee to sit again to-morrow.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.40 p.m. until Wednesday, 24th July, at 3 p.m.