Committee on Finance. - Finance Bill, 1936—Fifth Stage.

I move that the Bill do now pass.

On the Final Stage of the Finance Bill, one matter of immediate importance arises, and certain matters, arising out of the attitude adopted by the Minister for Finance on the earlier stages of the Bill, may be properly referred to. The Finance Bill affords an opportunity for reviewing the general policy of the Executive Council. In view of proceedings reported in theIrish Press and other newspapers on last Monday, July 6, the Minister for Finance should hold himself ready to answer for the policy of his Department, in particular, and that of the Executive Council, generally, in regard to the activities of a certain member of the Civil Service. We deliberately abstained from any comment on the quite unprecedented procedure of transferring an active politician into the ranks of the Civil Service on the occasion of ex-Senator Connolly's appointment to the office of chairman of the Commissioners of Public Works.

The debate on the Fifth Stage of a Bill is confined to what is contained in the measure. The matter to which the Deputy refers might have been raised on the Vote for the Office of the Minister for Finance. I fail to see how it can be made relevant on the Fifth Stage of the Finance Bill. The Minister, as Head of the Civil Service, may not on this Bill be held accountable for the administration of the Civil Service.

Your ruling, Sir, must be closely observed, and if this matter does not arise now, it will arise to-morrow on the Appropriation Bill. I should have preferred to dispose of it now, as a matter of general policy. If it must be raised on the Appropriation Bill, raised it will be in another form, subject to your approval. I would submit, Sir, that the questions of policy dealt with on the earlier stages of the Bill might be further commented on at this stage. Surely the general question of whether members of the Civil Service of this State ought to take an active part in politics or not is a matter proper for discussion on the general policy of the Executive Council, or do you hold, Sir, that that is a matter that cannot be raised?

I take it that an opportunity will arise on the Appropriation Bill?

That is a matter for future consideration.

I do want to ask the Minister for Finance, in view of the attitude which he adopted on the Financial Resolutions and on the Finance Bill, on its Second Stage, of deliberately avoiding all the arguments put to him, whether he is prepared now to deal fully with the problems that were raised by the Opposition in the course of those debates? I want to refer again to a signed article which was written by the Minister for Finance, in the Fianna Fáil Bulletin, that unfortunate manifesto which put the national policy an issue in the Municipal Elections in the City of Dublin and in the course of doing so put the national policy an issue with the disastrous results which ensued for the Government. The Minister for Finance in that article used the following words:

"It would be a very cruel deception indeed of the needy and the destitute to provide, say, widows' and orphans' pensions, for only a year or two, or unemployment assistance for a similar period, out of borrowed moneys, and then, at the end of that time to turn round and say to the people:—‘The Government cannot borrow any more money and the national financial resources are so disorganised that we shall have to deprive you of the help and assistance which your destitute condition demands. We shall have, in fact, to do as has had to be done in other countries where the Governments have borrowed what ought to have been raised by taxation, that is, to cut down or, perhaps, entirely abolish social services.'"

Let me say again that I adopt every line of that statement. I consider it an excellently phrased, coolly considered and a most necessary and timely statement of policy on the part of the Minister for Finance. On the Second Stage of this Bill the discussion ranged largely about our visible balance of trade. On the Financial Resolutions I ventured to deal at some length with the question of our invisible trade balance and I directed the attention of the Minister to the fact that the favourable balance on invisible trade which this country enjoyed was dwindling and dwindling in such a way that no Government could arrest its diminution and that, therefore, a peculiar responsibility rests upon the Government to remove the causes of that diminution and so arrest that growing adverse balance of trade, that has been increasing since the present Government came into office. Unless we do that, the very disasters which the Minister for Finance envisages in the statement which I have just read are bound to result in taxation in this country rising to dizzy heights.

There are optimists, some of whom contribute to the columns of the British newspapers, who are beginning to reconsider their whole attitude towards the economic conditions of this country who ask themselves whether they did not make a mistake in considering that the people were not too heavily taxed in the past. Perhaps that was not true and that the truth was they were never sufficiently taxed until Fianna Fáil came into office. There are sober newspapers like theIrish Times who in the past few years, having been taken into the bosom of the Minister for Finance, have discovered a new financial gospel. They have begun to discover that an adverse balance of £20,000,000 in a total export and import trade of £59,000,000 is not so injurious to the country as an adverse trade balance of £12,000,000 in a total trade of £101,000,000. In fact, there are many sober-minded people in this country who still protest that they are not members of the Fianna Fáil Party, and that they do not join in the characteristic orgies of adoration at the shrine of President de Valera, but they still manage to echo in the most extraordinary way the gentle accents of the Minister for Finance.

Some of us are beginning to ask ourselves whether it is not the pleasant social contact with the Minister, whether his charming personality is not dazzling these economists and bewildering these sober, prudent newspapers. Some of us expect theIrish Times to emerge one of these days in very small print describing itself as the Irish Times or “Small Truth in the News.” I need hardly say that if they did that there would be found no one to suggest that the Irish Press, in describing itself as “Truth in the News,” likened itself to the President, while the Irish Times, in describing itself as “Little Truth in the News,” intended to cast no reflection on the Minister for Finance. Whether they did or not, I think a good many of us observe his prophetic voice sounding in the columns of that particular newspaper. Nevertheless, there are some of us who cannot be consoled by such startling conversions, and who still prefer to look up the figures as they appear in the undramatic official returns of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance, who feel good ground for the apprehension that was clearly visible in the warning that was uttered in the “Fianna Fáil Bulletin” by the Minister for Finance.

Either we are going to husband our resources, or else our social services are going to fail to be abolished. I say the only way in which our resources can be effectively husbanded is by improving our external trade. In that connection I direct the attention of the Minister for Finance to a development which has recently taken place in Great Britain. When Fianna Fáil first came into office, they told us that the British market was of no account. They told us that they were to find alternative markets. They were two or three years in office and spent thousands, even millions of money in trying to find these alternative markets. Then President de Valera came to the House and told us that, having sought to find those markets, he found that they did not exist. Shortly after that confession was made, the then Minister for Lands, a member of the Executive Council, boasted that he rejoiced to think that he could in 100 days destroy the cattle trade which it had taken 100 years to build up. The Minister for Agriculture had to come in here two years afterwards to explain that that was never meant, that it was only a joke, and that it was quite contrary to what the then Minister for Lands had in mind. Some of us were sufficiently irreverent to ask what was it that the Minister for Lands had in mind. Some of us went further and suggested that, while we did not know what the Minister for Lands had in mind, it was clear that he did not know himself either.

Now I want to suggest to the Minister for Finance that, while Great Britain is making up its mind to make adequate provision for the food supply which would be available to them in times of war or in times when it would be extremely difficult to carry such foodstuffs over a wide expanse of ocean, part of that general scheme provides that the British fat-stock industry is going to receive a very substantial subsidy from the British Government. I suggest to the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Finance that a very large part of that subsidy, which the British Government intends for the fat-stock industry in Great Britain, can be diverted into the pockets of the Irish farmer, and as it is diverted into his pockets, my submission is that the Irish farmer will give very good value for every £ he gets if the Government of Saorstát Eireann will only co-operate with him and make it possible for him to do so.

I ask the Minister for Finance is he now prepared to induce his colleagues to open negotiations with the British Government to make an end of the penal duties on Irish cattle, so that we may co-operate with the farmers of Great Britain in building up the supply of foodstuffs for which the British people are prepared to pay an enhanced price. I apprehend that, unless steps of that kind are taken immediately, we may lose an opportunity that will never recur. The British farmer has found for years that the Irish store cattle do better in Great Britain than store cattle from any part of the world. The Irish farmer, particularly the small tenant purchaser, has found that there is no economy more suitable to the small holding in this country than mixed farming founded on the production of live stock. I now assert, and I challenge President de Valera to deny it, that President de Valera received in his office a deputation from a public body in this country who came to discuss with him rural development in Ireland and, in the course of that interview, President de Valera said to that deputation that, in his opinion, the best factory that could be provided for the rural population in this country was the bullock. I may say that I entirely endorse that statement.

The most economic and the most valuable factory that operates in this country to-day is the small farm, which is supporting the farmer and his wife and family, who are growing on the land of that farm the raw materials of their industry and who, on that farm, are converting those raw materials into the finished products of the agricultural industry. Those are the factories of inestimable value to the community in this country. There are 200,000 or 250,000 such factories in the country at present, and I say that the duty devolves upon the Government to ensure, by agreement with Great Britain, that permanent prosperity will be secured for these factories and, through them, for the people who work in them.

I make this last point to the Minister: that, bearing in mind the note of apprehension he so properly sounded in the "Fianna Fáil Bulletin," I suggest to him that ultimately the resources of this State depend upon the prosperity of agriculture; that we can neither maintain social services, and such other services as we wish to maintain; nor hope to maintain industries in our cities, or any other form of commercial activity, unless the prosperity of agriculture is first secured. I put it to him that the best insurance he can get against the catastrophes which he appears to apprehend in his statement to the "Fianna Fáil Bulletin" is the prosperity of the tenant purchasers of the country. I submit to him that all the experience he has had in office during the past five years and all the intelligent advice that is available to him at the present time, must lead him to the conclusion that the only system of agriculture which can bring prosperity to the small farmers and, through them, to the community as a whole, is that form of agriculture founded on the live-stock industry and requiring mixed farming—that form of agricultural industry which induces the farmer to produce on his own land all the raw materials and to convert those raw materials on his own holding into a finished product. That is the one industry in Ireland all the raw materials of which this country can produce.

I do urge on Deputies most strongly to remember that there is one industry only in this country all the raw materials of which are available in Ireland, and that is the agricultural industry. It is the one industrypar excellence which can make a contribution to the people directly employed in it and to every section of the community where it is functioning. I press upon the Minister that, with the considerations he has to bear in mind as to the ultimate financial solvency of this country, he should use all his influence with the Minister for Agriculture, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the Executive Council as a whole to ensure that energetic steps will be taken immediately to dispose of the economic war and to substitute for it such a trade agreement as will secure for us a substantial share of what is going to be the most valuable market in the world for agricultural produce.

I do not know that there is very much for me to say in reply to the speech we have just listened to from Deputy Dillon. As you, Sir, very pertinently remarked, the purpose of the Fifth Stage of the Bill is to review what is in the Bill and, upon such merits or demerits as that review discloses, to take that action which seems to serve the country best in regard to the Bill. The Deputy has not addressed himself to the general proposals of the Bill. He has chosen instead to discuss matters of wide general policy, particularly those dealing with our external relations. The House, a week or two ago, had an opportunity to go over the whole field in that regard, and I do not think that it would be advisable, in view of the very heavy programme of work which we hope to get through this evening, to reopen that discussion and to resurvey that field afresh. I do not propose therefore to deal with the speech of the Deputy in regard to that matter.

As to the other matter which he raised, the necessity for securing that our farmers will have a fair opportunity to share in the British market, I think we have already had indications of the zeal with which the Government have served the interests of the Irish farmers in that connection, and I have no reason to believe that the agricultural interest is in any way dissatisfied with what we have done. If it were not that I feel myself confined by your ruling, Sir, I should like very much to discuss the aspects of the Dublin elections to which Deputy Dillon referred. I can only say that we do not regard them as unsatisfactory. In any event, both in the county and in the city they have marked an advance for the Fianna Fáil programme and the Fianna Fáil Party.

What have—the Dublin municipal elections?

It was the rain that kept them in.

The Minister turned round. That is how they advanced— backwards.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 46; Níl, 26.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corbett, Edmond.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • Norton, William.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.

Níl

  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett. George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Burke, James Michael.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Good, John.
  • Keating, John.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
  • Rowlette, Robert James.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Smith and Moylan; Níl: Deputies P.S. Doyle and Bennett.
Question declared carried.