Committee on Finance. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Bill, 1936—Fifth Stage.

I move: "That the Bill do now pass."

I simply want to repeat a question that I asked the Minister for Agriculture on a previous occasion. It was this: would any rational man in this country tell me why the Government want the people to grow wheat? I put that question to the Minister for Agriculture before, and he said that he could not tell me.

Dr. Ryan

I did not. I answered any rational man, but I did not answer the Deputy.

I have the Minister's answer here in my hand. It was so futile that I marked it on the cover of the Dáil debates. In column 904, volume 63, the Minister for Agriculture is reported:

"Deputy Dillon wanted the big reason we have for burdening the community with extra cost in order to induce farmers to grow wheat. It is part of our protective policy."

That is the entire explanation afforded to me and to the House by the Minister for a burden of £1,500,000 per annum in order to induce the farmers to grow wheat. "It is part of our protective policy." Does that make sense to anybody outside Grangegorman? I do not think it does.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy ought to know.

Protecting what? My submission is that it is not protecting anything. Protecting what? Is it protecting the farmers from disaster? Go and ask the farmers what their position is. Ask the farmer supporters of the Minister what their experience has been in connection with the growing of wheat last year and in the present cereal year. Ask our supporters what has been their experience. Many of them have been forced by circumstances to grow wheat. I have no quarrel with them in their attempt to make some money because their other means of livelihood have been taken from them by reason of the Government's policy. What is being protected and what advantage is the community getting out of paying £1,500,000 in order to induce farmers to grow wheat? Is there any rational man on the benches of Fianna Fáil who can answer that question? I do not believe there is. I believe they are all so bewildered and bemused with this business of growing more wheat that they have absolutely lost all power to approach the question rationally.

I ask the Minister for Agriculture can he elaborate that observation any further—"it is part of our protective policy"? Whom are you trying to protect? Is it the wire worms who eat the wheat or the blight that comes on the wheat, or what is it? Surely it is not the community who have to pay £1,500,000 extra for their loaves. The House is entitled to a fuller explanation than the bald statement that "it is part of our protective policy." When the scheme was first introduced its purpose was to provide more labour on the land. Deputy Victory said that his experience was that in many places increased tillage had provided no extra labour on the land because more efficient methods of carrying out tillage had, in fact, in some places diminished employment. That excuse for the wheat policy is gone and Deputy Victory has slain it. Will the Minister dig up some other reason to explain the expenditure of £1,500,000 per annum on the production of wheat? What has the Minister for Finance to say to this expenditure? Precipitate flight is the answer, and I do not blame him.

The Minister for Finance got rid of it by putting it on the consumer of flour and bread.

The Minister for Finance has fled the House. I ask the Minister for Agriculture, who is now alone and unprotected, why it is that he wants the people of this country to grow wheat?

I would like to ask the Minister, now that he is getting this Bill, whether he anticipates that it will do anything to improve the condition of the agricultural labourers. Deputy Dillon has indicated that the farmer does not get very much in the way of results from the policy pursued in this matter, and repeatedly we have had to discuss not only the reduction in the number of permanent agricultural labourers but also the fall in agricultural labourers' wages. Take Wexford as an example. It is one of the principal counties getting advantage from these subsidised crops. It might easily be the most subsidised county in the country.

Certainly not.

Then I would like to hear what county is and I would like to hear some person, who thinks some other county is more subsidised than Wexford, discussing the condition of agricultural labourers in that county in relation to this Bill. Going back to County Wexford, the facts have been brought before the House several times and put before the Government. In this highly-subsidised county, the county committee of agriculture have three times running in the beginning of last year pointed out that married agricultural labourers had to exist on 8/- a week and procure their own food. They even went to the extent of appealing that free beef be given to them, and they wound up by asking the Government to introduce a subsidy scheme for agricultural labourers' wages so that with the Government subsidy the agricultural labourers' wages there could be raised to the enormous sum of 14/- a week. The Minister is quite aware of that. He has the statistics in regard to agricultural employment and I would like him, just as he is taking this third, fourth or fifth Bill amending cereal legislation with a view to the further production of cereals here and their further subsidisation, whether he anticipates now that this fourth or fifth Bill will do anything to improve the condition of agricultural labourers, particularly as regards their pay, but also as regards the number that he expects will be employed on the land.

Dr. Ryan

Surely it would be a mere waste of time to go once more into the reasons for growing wheat? Since we came here, nine years ago, this Party has been in favour of extended wheat-growing and many a time we have given our reasons here. The Party opposite have published as part of their political programme that they are going to keep the wheat scheme in operation. Surely they are not doing that in order to get votes. They surely have some good reason for doing it. Deputy Dillon, perhaps, does not altogether agree with them He said here the last day, in answer to Deputy MacDermot, that if his Party got power they would gradually cut that policy out.

Would the Minister be good enough to quote me?

Dr. Ryan

If I am not quoting the Deputy properly, I am sorry.

Beidh lá eile againn.

Dr. Ryan

Beidh, beidh lá eile ag an Teachta, pé scéal é.

Béidir go mbeadh sé fliuch.

Dr. Ryan

Béidir go mbeadh. We have two big Parties here who have stood over and over again for the wheat policy. The Labour Party have supported legislation in regard to cereals, generally speaking, all through. Surely the three Parties here can scarcely be in agreement that the wheat-growing should be extended unless they all have very good reasons. Why should we go into any arguments for the growing of wheat in the circumstances? It would be an unnecessary waste of time, I think.

The Minister will not tell us why he wants wheat?

Dr. Ryan

Why should I tell you? I consider it would be a mere waste of time.

I venture to express the opinion that there is not a single member of the Minister's Party who knows why he wants wheat.

Dr. Ryan

Why is it made part of the Fine Gael programme? Surely it is not for the purpose of getting votes?

It is not in the programme.

I beg the Minister's pardon, it is not there.

Dr. Ryan

I must look up the latest Fine Gael programme to see if the scheme for the growing of wheat is going to be continued under the people opposite.

Surely, when you go out of office next year, you do not expect us to burn all the wheat in the country.

Dr. Ryan

I do not expect you to lose one vote that you think you could get by adopting any policy.

Come back to wheat, and tell us what you are going to do about wheat. Why do you want to grow wheat?

Dr. Ryan

It is absolutely ludicrous for Deputy Dillon to talk about the farmers not wanting to grow wheat because the extended growing of wheat in this country exceeded everybody's expectations.

All I want to know is why do you want people to grow wheat?

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy, when speaking on the Finance Bill—those are the words he used; I jotted them down because I thought them rather strange —said in reference to agriculture: "It is the one industry all the raw materials of which can be produced in this country." Why was the Deputy lauding the agricultural industry for that reason? He said it was the one industry on which to depend because it was the one industry all the raw materials of which could be produced in this country?

Dr. Ryan

May I take it from that that the Deputy thinks we ought to produce raw materials in this country —that it is desirable that we should do so?

Yes—that we should develop our natural resources.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy wants to make one speech on the Finance Bill and another on the Cereals Bill. On the Finance Bill he said it was a desirable thing to produce all our raw materials, because he wanted to make some point against the Minister for Finance about coming to a settlement with England and exporting some of our stuff to England. But on the Cereals Bill, because we want to grow more oats and barley, according to him we should not produce all our raw materials. It is a different Bill, so the Deputy changes his argument, and we ought not to produce all our raw materials! That is the reason why I think it is useless going into the arguments for the growing of wheat with the Deputy or the Deputy's Party. If the Deputy were in any way addicted to sticking to the same arguments on Bills one could understand it, but he gets up and makes those debating points, and God knows he takes long enough to make them too. He holds up the business of this House in order to hear himself talk and make those little points which do not matter in the least to the country. I think it would be much more important to get on with our business, and let Deputy Dillon ask his own Party what are their reasons for wanting to grow more wheat.

And let the people have some more experience of your policy.

Dr. Ryan

The people intend to have plenty of experience of our policy.

God help them!

Dr. Ryan

Deputy Mulcahy talked about agricultural wages. Of course, we have heard that speech about agricultural wages repeated a good many times in this House. It will be possible, I hope, to pay better wages under this Bill, and it will make it easier to put into operation the provisions of the new Bill that is being drafted with regard to agricultural wages. I hope the Deputy and the Party opposite who are so very much concerned about agricultural wages will be as enthusiastic as they are now when this Bill with regard to agricultural wages comes before the House.

To get blood out of a turnip? Is that it?

Dr. Ryan

I have often heard that term applied to a man who has not very much in his head, but not in regard to a case like this. Those are the only points that were raised against the Bill, as far as I know.

That was a very eloquent speech.

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

Aiken, Frank.Beegan, Patrick.Boland, Gerald.Brady, Brian.Briscoe, Robert.Concannon, Helena.Corbett, Edmond.Corish, Richard.Crowley, Timothy.Daly, Denis.Derrig, Thomas.Dowdall, Thomas P.Flynn, John.Flynn, Stephen.Fogarty, Andrew.Gibbons, Seán.Goulding, John.Hales, Thomas.Harris, Thomas.Hogan, Patrick (Clare).Keely, Séamus P.Kehoe, Patrick.Kelly, James Patrick.

Kelly, Thomas.Killilea, Mark.McEllistrim, Thomas.MacEntee, Seán.Maguire, Ben.Maguire, Conor Alexander.Moore, Séamus.Moylan, Seán.Murphy, Patrick Stephen.Murphy, Timothy Joseph.O Briain, Donnchadh.O Ceallaigh, Seán T.O'Grady, Seán.O'Reilly, Matthew.Pearse, Margaret Mary.Rice, Edward.Ryan, James.Ryan, Robert.Sheridan, Michael.Smith, Patrick.Traynor, Oscar.Victory, James.Walsh, Richard.


Alton, Ernest Henry.Beckett, James Walter.Bennett, George Cecil.Broderick, William Joseph.Burke, James Michael.Cosgrave, William T.Curran, Richard.Daly, Patrick.Dillon, James M.Dockrell, Henry Morgan.Dolan, James Nicholas.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 Doyle and Bennett.
Question declared carried.