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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Nov 1936

Vol. 64 No. 2

Public Business. - Agricultural Wages Bill, 1936—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill to deal with agricultural wages is, as far as the document itself is concerned, a very simple measure. But behind it there lies a rather difficult and complicated question which deserves to be treated at length so that the House may have an opportunity of knowing what were the reasons for bringing the legislation forward. In order to get a perspective of the whole background of this question, I am afraid I shall have to go rather deeply into figures of the economics of farming and so on, so that I may make a case, first of all, as to the necessity for this measure, and, secondly, prove that it is not going to do any undue injury to any part of the agricultural population.

We must go back to the census of the rural population to get an idea of how the numbers stand as between farmers and farmers' relatives and agricultural labourers. The latest that we have at the moment are the 1926 figures. At that time, there were 268,930 farmers; 206,382 sons and daughters; 57,713 other relatives; and others 12,695; which gives roughly 546,000 on that side—that is on the side of owners of property. On the side of the agricultural labourers we had living out—"not living in" is the census heading—89,963; and "living in" 36,446; which gives 126,000. Therefore, the holders of land, with their relatives, totalled 546,000, as compared with 126,000 agricultural labourers, as returned by the census of 1926.

The next thing that I should like to do is to get some idea of the remuneration of agriculturists. If we take the same time, there was an output of agriculture taken and a very full analysis of the figures made at that time. We find that the remuneration of all people engaged in agriculture, in the year 1926-27, was £59,250,000. It was calculated by the statisticians at the time that paid agricultural workers were in receipt, on an average, of £66 each, and the others, that is, farmers and farmers' relatives, if the remainder was divided amongst them, would be in receipt of £93 each.

The next matter that I should like to bring before the House is the distribution of agricultural labourers. The big majority of agricultural labourers are found in Leinster and Munster; the numbers in Connaught and Ulster are very much smaller. Out of the 136,000 I have spoken of, there are 102,000 in the two provinces of Leinster and Munster, and they are about equally divided between the two provinces. There are only 24,000 in Connaught and the three Ulster counties, and they are also equally divided between the two provinces. If again we look at the distribution of the agricultural labourers according to the size of farms, we find from the same Census of 1926, which enumerated the number of agricultural workers at work, there were only 32,000 on farms under 50 acres, and that compared with 391,000 farmers and relatives gives only 7.5 per cent. of the agricultural population as agricultural labourers on these farms under 50 acres. If we take farms over 50 acres, there were 75,000 labourers working on them, as against 137,000 farmers and relatives, so that they formed 35 per cent. of the population. Again, when we come to the larger-sized farms—over 100 acres—the labourers amount to about 50 per cent. of the agricultural population.

We have often been asked why this question was not dealt with sooner, and the example of England and Wales was quoted to us as having such a system of regulation of agricultural wages. The facts with regard to population and distribution of labourers are, at any rate, quite different. While the agricultural labourers form only 20 per cent. of our total agricultural population, in England and Wales they form 63 per cent. It is obvious from these figures that in England and Wales they were dealing with a situation where you have much larger farms than we have here and a much bigger proportion of hired labour. That may make our problem easier perhaps in some respects, but it may make it more difficult in others. At any rate, that is the fact.

The most striking thing about agricultural wages is the great disparity in the rates. We all know that there is a certain average given each year of wages paid. This year, 1936, the figure given is 21/9. But when we come to examine the wages paid in some detail we find that in 1935 —I have not got the detailed figures for 1936—13.2 per cent. of agricultural labourers were paid less than 17/-; 15.9 per cent. were paid 17/- and under 20/-; 46.4 per cent. were paid 20/- and under 25/-; 15 per cent. were paid 25/- and under 30/-; 7 per cent. were paid 30/- and under 35/-; and 2.5 per cent. were paid 35/- and over.

Do these figures apply to those living out?

Dr. Ryan


How many were taken into consideration in working out the figures?

Dr. Ryan

As far as I remember, the number of farms taken—I do not know the number of labourers—was somewhere about 3,000.

Do these figures take into account any payment in kind?

Dr. Ryan

No. These are the figures of labourers living out.

Getting nothing at all except remuneration?

Dr. Ryan

Getting no allowances of any kind.

What proportion of the total agricultural labourers in the country work under these conditions?

Dr. Ryan

About 90,000 were given as not living in, and 36,000 as living in.

Does that entirely cover my question? Is there not a class of labourers who are living out and yet get certain perquisites, apart from remuneration?

Dr. Ryan

Yes, they get certain perquisites. If they get perquisites, such as milk, vegetables, or things of that kind when living out, these are taken into account.

They are taken into account?

Dr. Ryan

Yes. To get some idea next of the trend of agricultural wages, taking the mean wage, in July 1931, the mean wage was given as 24/3; in July, 1934, it was given as 21/-; and in July, 1936, as 21/9. I am rather anxious to go further into this question to see how during that time, that is from 1931 to 1935, the drop in agricultural wages affected the groups I have already given—that is the 17/-, 20/-, 25/-groups and so on. A detailed examination was made in the County Cork, and it showed that 3.2 per cent. of the labourers in 1931 were in the category under 17/- and that, in 1935, 9.8 were in that category. In the category from 17/- to 20/-, there were 5.6 per cent. in 1931 and 16.9 per cent. in 1935; in the category 20/- to 25/-, 40.6 per cent. in 1931 and 41.1 per cent. in 1935; from 25/- to 30/-, 32 per cent. in 1931 and 18.2 per cent. in 1935; from 30/- to 35/-, 14 per cent. in 1931 and 9.1 per cent. in 1935; over 35/- 4.6 per cent. in 1931 and 4.9 per cent. in 1935. If these figures are examined closely, it will be found that a comparatively large number of labourers came from over 20/- to below 20/- and an equally large number from over 17/- to below 17/-. Those in the middle category—20/- to 25/—appear to have remained stationary, though they would not be the same labourers. We had the same number on the medium wage—20/- to 25/—in 1935 as we had in 1931.

Another calculation was made in 1935 to find out, if possible, what were the average wages paid on different sizes of farm. Five counties were taken—Meath, Wexford, Cork, Tipperary and Galway. On farms under 50 acres, 22/- was the average wage in 1935. On farms over 50 acres, the average wage was the same on farms between 50 to 100 acres and from 100 acres to 200 acres—20/-. On farms under 50 acres, a somewhat higher wage was paid than on farms over 50 acres. Another question we may have to consider in discussing this Bill is that of allowances. There has been no legislation here in regard to allowances but, in England and Wales, there has been. They have settled the value of allowances at from 14/- to 18/6 a week. They fixed a minimum wage and allowed a deduction in the case of a labourer who lived in, according to the district in which he lived. The deduction varied from 14/- to 18/6. Here we have had no opportunity of discussing allowances but we may ascertain what the accepted allowance is by ascertaining the difference between the average wage paid to labourers living in and the average wage paid to labourers living out. As I have already said, in 1935 the labourer who was not living in was getting an average wage of 21/3. For the same year, the labourer living in was getting an average wage of 9/6— a difference of 11/9 which might be regarded as the value of the allowance, worked out in this natural way. I give these figures as a background to the Bill so that Deputies may be able to follow the discussion and realise the difficulties we are up against in dealing with a fixed wage.

The Minister said that the average wage on farms under 50 acres was 22/- and that on farms over 50 acres it was pretty stable at 20/-. In dealing with farms over 50 acres, did the Minister take into consideration temporary labourers or did he confine himself all the time to permanently employed labourers?

Dr. Ryan

The figures are based on permanent employment. The first thing that strikes anybody in connection with these figures, and the strongest argument I can advance in favour of regulation of the wages, is their great disparity. Deputies will notice that in 1935 29 per cent. of labourers were receiving a wage under 20/-, while 24½ per cent. were receiving a wage over 25/-. We actually had some agricultural labourers being paid twice as much as others. It cannot be denied that certain classes of agricultural labourers are much more valuable than others, but I think nobody will admit that there is any justification for the great disparity shown. The ploughman and the stock man are much more valuable to a farmer than the agricultural labourer who cannot use his brains and who can only use his hands in a very imperfect way. With that great disparity, however, there would appear to be, at least, ground for discontent, if not for a sense of injustice amongst certain of the labourers.

I think everybody will admit that some of the scales I have quoted are too low and should be improved if we intend to do justice to that particular class of labourers and give them an opportunity of providing for their families in a decent way. It will be noticed from the table for County Cork from which I quoted that there was a tendency to reduce all wages between 1931 and 1935. Those who were paying between 17/- and 20/- were just as anxious to reduce as those who were paying from 25/- to 30/- or from 30/- to 35/-. In the highest grades— over 35/—there was no tendency to reduce. If these reductions were due to economic necessity, one would imagine that the big reductions would be at the top and that the wages of from 17/- to 20/- would have remained as they were. That is not the case. One can only come to the conclusion that once the opportunity offered to reduce wages, it was taken.

Can the Minister give us any indication as to where in County Cork labour was available at 15/-?

Dr. Ryan

That obtained to some extent anyway—under 17/-.

I have not met any of these labourers and I come from the County Cork.

Dr. Ryan

The Statistics Department asked the Gárda Síochána to give them as representative figures as possible. If the Gárda carried out their instructions properly, they would take the medium wage in their district so that the position may be much worse than these figures show. If they are giving representative figures they are giving medium figures. If they gave the highest and lowest figures they might be worse.

Could the Minister give us an indication of any particular place in which these low wages are paid?

Dr. Ryan

I could not give that at the moment and I am not sure whether the Statistics Department could give it.

Some of us could give that information very easily.

I should like to get it.

Mr. Murphy

Has the Deputy heard of the number of people asked by the labour exchange to go to work for 3/-a week?

Dr. Ryan

I was drawing the deduction from the figures I quoted from Cork that we do not find that farmers were able to pay any particular wage. Some of them continued to pay 35/-and some 30/- and over; but we do find there was a general tendency to reduce wages. Even in 1935, when all the reductions had been made, we find there were still one-third of the labourers in County Cork, when these examples were taken, being paid over 25/-, although many of them had gone below 17/-. I would again like to go into the case of the five counties that I have already quoted, where we took different-sized farms, and you will find from that that the smaller farmers were paying, as far as the investigations disclosed, a larger average wage than those with the larger farms. If it can be claimed—and I suppose it can be argued—that the more efficient farmer is paying a higher wage, that is only an argument that the smaller farmer is more efficient than the larger. Another explanation could be given, and it is that the smaller farmer usually employs only one man, a good man, a man who is able to look after machinery and other things, whereas the larger farmer, in addition to employing a ploughman and stock man, may employ three or four others who are not as highly qualified or trained.

I do not think I need dwell too long on the necessity of doing better for these men. I think all Parties will combine in an endeavour to do better for the agricultural labourers, if it can be done, and I do not want to delay the House any further in putting up arguments as to why that should be done. The next thing we must examine is whether, from the point of view of the farmer, that is advisable or not. I think it is certainly advisable, if the farmer can do it. In all industries, farming and other industries, it is agreed that if men are well paid they are more contented and more efficient. There is an additional argument in the case of agricultural labourers, and that is that there is a drift from rural to urban areas. If you have an ambitious worker in the country he is inclined to go to the town in order to get a better wage. In order to keep these ambitious and, perhaps, more efficient men in the country, it would be well for the farmer to pay them a good wage, if he can afford to do so. If the lower wages continue, we possibly may have to face the situation of seeing the country stripped of its best men, who will make for the towns, and we may be left with a less efficient, a worse type of worker, who will be content with the lower wage.

There is another very obvious cause of discontent amongst labourers and that is that they find, between district and district, there is a great difference in wages. Indeed, that often applies between farm and farm. I think every Deputy has the same experience—that you will get two farmers living side by side, one paying a much better wage than the other. That, naturally, leaves the worse paid labourer very discontented and, possibly, anxious to leave his employer as soon as he gets the opportunity. I think, finding, as we have found, that there are farmers who are paying less than half what others are paying, and also that there are many farmers who appear to be able to pay a much better wage, there is a case to be made for regulating the industry, for fixing some wage. The question that is naturally going to agitate our minds is whether the farmers can afford to do it. I may be told that if we increase the agricultural wage to any great extent the labourer will be better off than the farmer. I would like to find out whether that is true. I have already given some figures for 1926. I would like to refer to them again, so that we can get on to existing conditions and find out how we stand. I have stated that in 1926 hired labourers got £66 per annum of an average and the farmer and his relatives each got about £93 per annum. As regards the position to-day, we may be able to get at it by taking the output figures published for 1934.

Does the figure of £93 mean the farmer's entire income from his land?

Dr. Ryan

I should have mentioned income in cash and kind.

Net profit?

Dr. Ryan

No; income in cash and kind. The total remuneration I have mentioned represents the cash received by the agricultural population and also all food consumed by the agricultural population on their own farms at retail prices. On that basis it was calculated that each labourer was in receipt of £66 per annum and each farmer and the relatives he employed on the land was in receipt of £93.

That is, those employed on the land, not the total members of their families?

Dr. Ryan

No; only those employed on the land. The agricultural output for 1934-35 is given as £40,500,000. If we want to get the remuneration that is available for all workers in agriculture and if we follow the lines adopted in 1926-27, we would have to deduct from that figure £6,000,000 to cover rent, rates, tradesmen's bills and so on. In 1926 the figure was, I think, £8,500,000. That figure would now be reduced by £2,500,000, when we compare the amount paid by farmers in rent and rates with the amount they paid at that time. We will therefore deduct £6,000,000. We will take the number of labourers at 126,000. We do not know, of course, what the number actually was, but we will take it that the number was the same as in 1926. If we assume an average wage of 21/-, that will be an additional £6,880,000. That would leave something like £27,620,000 for distribution amongst the farmers and their relatives. If this had been done in 1934, it would give each farmer and relative working on the land £51 for the year. That is on the assumption that the number employed in agriculture, whether farmers themselves or relatives of farmers or agricultural labourers, was the same as in 1926. That is how the figures would have worked out if we had applied this scheme in 1934, but we must make certain adjustments.

Does the labourer stick at £66?

Dr. Ryan

No, 21/- a week.

You gave him £66 per annum in 1926, and that would be 24/-.

Dr. Ryan

Fifty-five pounds, I think it is. The total is £6,880,000.

According to the Minister's figures, the labourer is getting more than the farmer.

Dr. Ryan

I would say he would have in 1934.

Will Deputy Mulcahy say what he was getting in 1931?

Dr. Ryan

The figures are £51 to the farmer and £54 12s., so far as I can calculate it, to the labourer at 21/-a week. There is a difference, however. In the first place, the index of agricultural prices has risen by 12½ per cent.

Since when?

Dr. Ryan

Between May-August, 1935, and May-August, 1936, and that output was taken from June, 1934, to June, 1935. Therefore, if the output were being calculated now, there would be £5,000,000 more on account of the rise in agricultural prices. There is also a large increase in quantity of output in certain directions since 1934. I am taking only two items—cattle and wheat. And taking the number of cattle exported this year, as compared with the number exported in 1934, and taking the wheat crop this year as compared with 1934, these two items alone would account for an increase of £3,000,000 in output. I am not mentioning smaller items in respect of which there is an increased output, such as bacon and butter, because they would not account for more than a few hundred thousand pounds; but taking those two substantial items—£5,000,000 due to the increase in agricultural prices over the whole lot, and £3,000,000 due to the increase in quantity of output—we would have £8,000,000 to add on to the output in 1934, and it would bring the sum available for distribution up to £35,620,000. There is one other correction we should make and it is that, taking this year as compared with 1934, there is £250,000 more paid to agricultural labourers because the average wage is 9d. higher.

Has the cost of living not increased?

Dr. Ryan

The cost of living has nothing to do with the question I am discussing. Where you are taking the farmer's income in cash and kind, it does make a difference, because we are calculating that some of the things he buys for himself, such as farmers' butter, for instance, which is about a penny higher than it was this time two years, would raise his income to that extent. I think it is, however, negligible whether the cost of living has gone up or not for this particular calculation. At any rate, we get a final figure of £37,370,000.

The Minister said £35,000,000.

Dr. Ryan

I am sorry; I should have said £35,370,000. That must be divided, as I have mentioned already, between 546,000 farmers and relatives, and it gives us £65 each. So far I have been sticking to the figures supplied by statisticians, and whether they are any more reliable than ordinary conjecture or not, I do not know. Some people think they are not, but, at any rate, we must depart from these figures now and go on to talk about other matters which influence the situation. When I say that we had £35,000,000 odd for distribution amongst the agricultural population, other than labourers, I am sure nobody believes that that was distributed evenly. For instance, we know that more than half our agricultural population are living on holdings under £10 valuation. They have at least as big families as the people on the big farms and it is impossible to see how they could have the same income as the men on the big farms, and, therefore, they are certainly not getting their share of this £35,000,000 odd. I know that nobody in this House who comes from a congested district, or mountain area, will claim that the farmer and his two sons working on the farm, a small farm, are in receipt of £65 each per year. We all know they are getting less.

Another point is that there are many of these relatives of farmers on unemployment assistance which they do not receive until they have proved that they are not in receipt of anything. The last figure I got in respect of this was got rather a long time ago. I think it is a couple of years old. It appears to be a rather difficult figure to get, but at that time there were 22,750 farmers' relatives on unemployment assistance. It may be more or it may be less now. We also know that there are many of these small farmers and their sons working on the roads and in the fishing industry. Many of the old people have old age pensions and many of the widows have widows' and orphans' pensions. Whether they are in receipt of unemployment assistance, getting work under a local authority, getting the old age pension or a widows' and orphans' pension, all these things would go to show that they are not in receipt of £65 per year, and if they are not in receipt of £65 per year, and if the statistics I have quoted, showing that there is a sum of over £35,000,000 in a pool for those people are correct, the people in the bigger farms must be getting more than £65 a year out of the pool. The recent census figures show also that there is some reduction in the rural population. In fact, Deputies have claimed that there is a big exodus from the country to the cities, to Great Britain and to other places. If that is the case, there is still more in the pool for those who remain, so that whatever arguments may be used about poverty in the congested districts, the number of people on unemployment assistance or the number of people going off the land, it would all go to show that the people on the bigger farms and their relatives are getting more out of the pool than their share of £65 per year, if it is distributed equally. I think we may assume, therefore, that it cannot be said that the labourers are better off than the farmers. Surely the farmers are somewhat better off. I would recommend Deputies who want to study this matter for themselves to get the 1936 output, to get the Trade Journal with the recent 1934 output and also the index of farm prices, exports of cattle, the amount of wheat grown and so on. All these figures can be built up by any Deputy as I have done, and he will find out for himself what is the total amount of money available for agriculturists to divide between them.

In order to avoid possible confusion, because I am sure that other people will try to create it, is the figure for 1933 the figure for the head of the household or the average figure for the whole family?

Dr. Ryan

For everybody engaged in agriculture—the farmer, his sons and relatives.

It does not include the average income of the son who may be going to school or to college?

Dr. Ryan

No, he is not employed on the land.

Does it deal with males only?

Dr. Ryan

No, sons and daughters.

The Dublin Deputy does not know the country at all.

The Deputy is doing a lot of agricultural work where he is at present.

Dr. Ryan

We must also, all the time, keep in mind that the smaller farmer, that is, the farmer holding under 50 acres, was in fact paying a better wage than the farmer with over 50 acres. I think it is an accepted fact, although I cannot prove it by figures I think every Deputy will agree with me, that in the case of the very small farm there is a bigger output per acre than on the big farm, but there is certainly a bigger output per person on the big farm than on the small farm. If that is the case, it is almost certain that the big farmers and the ranchers get more out of the remuneration pool than the smaller ones. Again I would say that they are getting a considerably bigger amount than £65 per year. I think we should be optimistic as to the future of agriculture. Prices are improving. They have gone up by 12½ per cent. in the last 12 months. In the last four months—for the last six months, I should say, as August is the last month for which we have figures—each month was better than that which preceded it. There is no reason to think that prices are going to go back for any commodity. I think we might, perhaps, profit to a great extent by being a little more optimistic for the future and by hoping that prices will continue to improve. Even wages have been improving. As I have said already, in 1934 the average wage was 21/-; in 1935, 21/3; and in 1936, 21/9, so that if we regulate wages and fix some minimum wage, we are only helping the farmer to do in a regular, legal way what he was going to do in any case.

If we are agreed, and I hope we shall agree, that something should be done, what is the best way to do it? If we agree that labourers do deserve better treatment and that the farmer is at least in a position to do better— that is, those farmers who are paying very low wages—the next question is how it should be done. Some Deputies may be out against this Bill, but I know that if they think that it is going to be enacted by a majority, they will be anxious to see the best scheme possible for the purpose. The scheme of the Bill is to set up an arbitration board. On that board there will be four members to represent farmer employers and four to represent agricultural labourers. Unfortunately there is no organisation that can claim to represent fully these classes and these members must, therefore, be nominated. As they must be nominated, they are going to be nominated by me. There will be an independent chairman, also nominated. He will have very full powers. It is felt that there may be disagreement between representatives of farmers and the representatives of the labourers, and the chairman will have the deciding voice after he has heard their views. I looked up the 1917 Act before deciding on the scheme that we are going to adopt this time. There was one thing with which I was particularly impressed, and that was with what were called "neutral members," because I think neutral members on the board would be very helpful to the chairman. If there were no neutral members the chairman would listen to a very exaggerated case put forward on each side and he might frequently find it difficult to make up his mind. If we have three neutral members on the board, as we intend to have, they will act as a sort of jury. They will listen to the arguments from the representatives of the labourers and the farmers. They will make up their minds independently and the chairman will have the benefit of their wisdom. They will be very helpful to the chairman in deciding what will be a difficult question.

Where will you get these saints?

Dr. Ryan

I do not know, but we shall get them.

It will be very hard for you to find them.

Can you suggest any?

Dr. Ryan

I could hardly take a suggestion on that matter from Deputy Davin or Deputy Curran, but perhaps we shall ask some of the neutral Deputies to suggest them. Both sides, labourers' representatives and farmers' representatives, of that board will put forward their case. The neutral members will be there to listen.

And the chairman will be there to decide.

Dr. Ryan

I was going to say that eventually, having heard both sides express their opinions, the chairman will be in the position to have at least the advice of his jury before he comes to his own decision. Eventually he comes to a decision and decides the matter on his own responsibility. He cannot say afterwards that the neutral members said so-and-so. He will decide absolutely on his own responsibility, unless there is unanimity and then he must decide with the whole board. If there is not unanimity, he must decide on his own responsibility. As far as I understand these terms, he should be termed a compulsory arbitrator.

Why not a dictator?

He would not be an unique dictator.

Dr. Ryan

Oh, no. Areas are to be set up under the Bill. There are probably different conditions in different areas although when we come to examine the average rate of wages paid in different counties, we find that there is no great difference except in County Dublin, in which the rate is considerably higher than in the other counties. Really, as far as the rate of wages is concerned, we could put the whole Saorstát, with the exception of County Dublin, into one area. That, however, might not be advisable because we want to get as far as possible into contact with the people concerned. For that purpose, certain areas will be defined by the Minister and committees will be appointed for them. These committees will be representative of farmers and labourers and will be merely advisory committees. The chairman of the board will be also chairman of each committee. When the Act comes into force we shall set up these committees and define the areas.

Are there to be any neutral members on the committee?

Dr. Ryan

There may be, but not necessarily.

Will the Minister say how many areas are contemplated?

Dr. Ryan

I could not say exactly but I think there will be probably six. When the Act comes into force the areas are defined by Order and the committees are appointed. The first active step to be taken is that the board makes an order which it serves on the committee saying that it is going to fix a wage. The committee then gets two months within which to make its observations to the board. The committee can suggest, if it likes, that no wage should be fixed, that such and such a wage can be fixed or can say that it has no observations to make. At the meeting of each committee the chairman of the board shall preside and after two months period the board is free to meet and make an order. The chairman will come back having been present at all these committee meetings. He will have gathered a great deal of information which will be very helpful to him, I hope. He will come back to the meeting of the board and the board will consider the various suggestions from the committees all over the country. The board can then make an order fixing a minimum wage which may apply to all the areas or it may fix a different wage for each area. They may, in fact, make a different wage for different districts within an area, if they like. They may make a difference for the different classes of workers, or they may very the wage according to the conditions of work. They have very full powers with regard to the variations, and I think that they should be able to meet any case that might arise in that way. They will also, of course, fix allowances. They will have to do that. If they fix a minimum wage, they will have to fix so much for full board, so much for lodging, so much for perquisites that men are in the habit of getting, such as milk, vegetables and things like that; and also, on application, they are empowered to exempt certain people who, through physical or mental disability——

Or youth?

Dr. Ryan

——are not fit to receive this minimum wage.

I mentioned youths.

Dr. Ryan

That would come under the question of different classes.

On the application of whom would the exemption apply?

Dr. Ryan

Of the employer—on the application of either, as a matter of fact. It is not stated, but anybody can make application—either the employer or the employee. Now, I want it to be clearly understood that the committees are purely advisory. I do not know whether Deputies agree that is useful or not, but it must be remembered that in the old scheme and in the English and Welsh schemes the committees actually fix the wage and the board is there only to confirm what they have fixed. The board, of course, can refuse to confirm, but its only purpose there is to confirm.

Are there not neutral members on the committees in Great Britain?

Dr. Ryan

I am not sure of that, but I shall try to answer the Deputy later on. However, I want to have that clearly borne in mind, because there is a departure here from the system we had here before and from the English and Welsh systems. In fact, the board is the executive body and the committees are only advisory. The board does all the executive acts. The board will make an order saying: "We are going to fix a wage," and the board then gives two months for the consideration of that order. The board is then free to fix the wage. Let us suppose they do fix the wage. It is, of course, legal and binding and there are penalties provided for all those who do not observe the fixed wage; but let us take it that the wage is fixed and that everything goes on all right, for a while, and then that somebody begins to agitate for a change—whether the farmers in a district want it lowered or the labourers in the district want it raised—the body to whom they will make the application in that case is the board, and not the committee, because the board is the executive authority; and the board will then take the initiative and, if they think necessary, they will make an amending order. If they make an amending order, either raising or lowering the wage, they must serve notice of this order on the committees concerned. That is, in the case of any committee through whose territory they are going, they must serve notice of the intended order on that committee and give the committee two months to consider the position and make recommendations either approving or protesting against the amended order, as the case may be. At the end of the two months, the board is free to meet and either to make the order or perhaps amend the order to meet the wishes of the committees concerned.

I am only giving that very general outline of the working of the Bill because I think that, as far as we are concerned, on this particular discussion of the Second Reading, we only want to know the big general principles on which the Bill works, and I think that really the only thing that concerns us in this debate—that is, if we are going to discuss the Bill and its workings apart from the general principle of it—is whether the board is properly constituted and whether the powers given to the board are right and proper, and whether the House agrees that it is better to make the committees advisory rather than executive. Now, personally, I believe that the Bill will do at least a great social good to labourers who are paid a wage that is much too low. I do not think it will impose an impossible burden on employers. In fact, my own experience at any rate, knowing farmers here and there through the country, is that the farmers who pay the better wage get better value for their money than those who pay low wages, and I do not think that farmers need have any great fear or apprehension under this Bill. I think the members of the board will have a sense of reality, and they are not going to recommend a wage, or perhaps I should say to argue for a wage, that would be absolutely impossible or out of the question for the farmers to pay. The board should be able to give the greatest help to the chairman, both representatives of the interests concerned and the neutral members, and, in addition to that, the advice he gets from the committees, during his tour of the country before making the final order, should enable him to give a decision that I hope will always be marked by prudence and justice.

Sir, the principle of securing for the agricultural labourer in this country a fair wage is a principle which, I think, would be accepted by every side of the House. The machinery which has been outlined by the Minister to achieve that end seems to me to call for one criticism before we proceed to a discussion of the general principles at stake. The Minister has described to us the functions of the district committees and the wages board, but on perusal of the Bill it becomes perfectly clear that both the wages board and the district committees are merely blinds to conceal from the public eye the fact that this Bill is designed to create in the country a wages dictator. In fact, the individual who is going to be chairman of the wages board and of the district committees is going to fix the wages in every area in the country, because it is highly unlikely that we will find in any given case that the wages board, as distinguished from the wages committee, will be unanimous in its recommendation and, unless it is unanimous, the chairman has a right to fix the wages and from his fixation there is no appeal. It seems perfectly clear to me that it would be a very much better thing to carry into the machinery of these boards the same system that obtains in the trade boards in industrial relations, which provides that, in effect, the neutral members, by their votes, make the decision as to what the wage will be and what the conditions should be. If there is an even cleavage between the representatives of the workers and those of the employers, whichever side can carry the majority of the neutral members with them secures the verdict of the board. I believe that that is an infinitely preferable system to the proposal that a wage dictator should be set up, who would fix wages all over the country. I think it is an illusion to imagine that a civil servant is capable of doing everything better than those who are in intimate daily touch with the particular problem that has to be solved. I believe that it will be very much better to allow a majority of the district committee to make the recommendation to the board, and a majority of the board to fix the wage which would obtain in the particular district. The difference between the British system—under which the district committee fixes the wages and the board confirms it—and the proposed system here under which the district committee would recommend and the board fix, is not very material; it is merely a matter of words.

On this general question I am prepared to say that the principle of fixing wages for agricultural workers is a good one. Believing, as I think most Deputies of this House do, that the agricultural labourer is as skilled, or more skilled, than the worker in any other craft, I hold that he is entitled to a fair wage. But it is one thing to say that we all want to see the agricultural labourer getting a fair wage; it is quite another thing to say that under the circumstances which obtain in this country at the present time we see our way to getting that wage for him. It has been truly said of the British Constitution that the only thing which Parliament cannot do is to turn a man into a woman or a woman into a man. The person responsible for that dictum forgot one other thing which even the British Parliament cannot do, and that is to take blood from a turnip or water from a stone. No amount of legislation by this House is going to make it possible for the farmer to pay to the agricultural labourer money which the farmer himself has not got.

If agriculture were being carried on in this country on a profitable basis, the experience of most Deputies in this House, I believe, is that farmers would pay their labourers a fair wage, with very few exceptions. Under those circumstances the function of those wages boards would be not to raise the general level of wages— because the farmers of the country would be already paying a fair wage —but to bring those recalcitrant few who are failing to pay a fair wage up to the level which their more conscientious neighbours had fixed for the general run of agricultural workers in the country. That ought to be the purpose of a wages board. A wages board should primarily be established for the purpose of eliminating sweating from any particular industry, and, with the exception of very few industries, when the wages boards come to examine them they will find that the majority of employers in industry are giving a fair wage, but there are individuals who are sweating their employees. The trade board intervenes and forces the sweater to come up to the decent level of wages that ought to obtain in the industry. Under ordinary conditions that should be the function of a trade board with regard to the agricultural labourer—to make every farmer pay the wage which, in fact, the vast majority of farmers were paying. But, on the facts brought before us here, either of two things must be true: either the farmers of this country are an unscrupulous body of sweaters, or else the farmers of this country have been reduced by the present Government to a level of poverty which makes it impossible for them to pay the wages they would wish to pay. I have lived all my life amongst farmers, and the vast majority of the Deputies of this House have done likewise. I think the experience of us all is that the farmer has always been willing to pay his working man a decent wage, so long as he had the money to do so. When 90 per cent. of the farm labourers of this country are getting less than 30/-a week, and over 25 per cent. are getting less than £1 per week—without any addition or without any perquisite—on which they are supposed not only to feed themselves but to rear their families, we have got to face the fact that either the entire agricultural community of this country is unscrupulous, or else they have been reduced to very dire straits by the Government which is at present in office.

I submit to Deputies that the fact is that the farmers are paying as much as they can afford to pay, and the reason why 13.2 per cent. of the labourers of this country are getting less than 17/- and 15.9 per cent. are getting less than 20/- is because the farmers who employ those men cannot afford to pay them more. I regard such wages as a horrible scandal, but I think it would be a cruel injustice on the part of this House or of responsible Deputies in it to use their position for the purpose of suggesting that those wages are being paid by farmers who desire to put the profits in their own pockets. They are not. They are being paid by farmers who are ashamed of their lives to pay such wages but who cannot find the money to pay any more. What I seriously apprehend in the existing situation is that if we set up those wages committees and wages boards while the present state of affairs continues in agriculture we will be faced with two possible alternatives. One is that those boards will fix wages so low as to make the name of this country a byword before the whole world. I ask Deputies to realise what the situation is. I have here, in the July number of the Journal of the British Ministry of Agriculture, the farm workers' minimum rates of wages, which were fixed on June 23rd by the Agricultural Wages Board in London. In Hertfordshire the minimum wage was 11d. an hour; in Warwick the minimum wage was 31/- for a 50-hour week and 8½d. and 9d. an hour overtime. From 30/- to 32/- a week, with a sum varying between 8d. and 9d. an hour for overtime, is the average agricultural wage all over England. There may be one or two districts in Norfolk in which it is lower, but that is substantially the rate of wages being paid to agricultural workers in England at the present time. The average rate of wages being paid in this country at the present time is 21/9. Are we to anticipate that the first agricultural wages board to function in this country is going to fix the general wage for the agricultural labourers of this country at least 10/- a week—and more probably in practice 15/- a week—lower than the amount paid to men doing the same work in Great Britain? Are we going to hold ourselves out to the world as a country which treats the agricultural labourer as if he were a coolie?

You have either got to do that or else you have got to do the other thing, and that is fix what may reasonably be taken to be a fair living wage for the agricultural labourer. That will more closely approximate to 35/-than to 21/-. Suppose we do that— what is going to be the result of it? The farmers who want to employ labourers, and who would be glad to pay them 35/- if they had it, will not be able to employ them, and they will have to put them out on the road.

Is that advice to them?

It is not, and the Deputy knows perfectly well it is not. It is foolish, in discussing this matter where we are all ad idem in regard to principle, to make cheap debating points of that kind.

It is not a cheap debating point.

I am putting this case to Deputies. We have here an average wage of 21/9 all over the country. Let us suppose that if ideal wages were paid at the present time, if everyone were paying the last penny he could, you would raise that average to 23/- or 24/-. If we want to fix a fair wage where are the farmers going to get the money to pay it? Let the Deputy remember, when he interrupts me, that his leader, Deputy Norton, said in this House in the debate on the Agricultural Estimate that the Government have reduced the farmers of this country to a position in which no farmer can pay a fair wage. I agree with Deputy Norton. I think that is true. What I am afraid of——

Is Deputy Dillon purporting to quote Deputy Norton?

I am purporting to repeat, in substance, what Deputy Norton said.

To repeat in substance! Yes, the Deputy's version of the substance, of course.

Deputy Davin will have ample opportunity to speak after me and then he can contradict anything I said. I apprehend that dilemma when I say if we are forced by circumstances into fixing a wage which is grotesquely low, and which is not a living wage for the labourer, or if, on the other hand, we are forced into fixing a wage above the capacity of the farmer to pay on the ground that it is a fair living wage, we are going to do the agricultural workers of this country an immense injury instead of conferring a boon upon them. My view and the view of our Party is that there is a sensible and practicable way out of this dilemma and that is to recognise the supreme importance of the agricultural industry and to take such steps in the sphere of our international relations as may be necessary to secure for that industry a market in which its products can be profitably disposed of. If we can do that, and if we get for the industry as a whole a fair measure of prosperity, this dilemma to which I have referred will disappear and abundant resources will be there in the hands of those who own the land to pay a fair wage to those who work for them.

No one can then complain of the most trenchant measures being taken to ensure that the farmers who are enjoying a modest prosperity will share that prosperity justly with those who work for them. But if this Government is not prepared to adopt that course and designs to continue a policy which reduces the agricultural industry from £61,000,000 to £40,000,000, then there is no alternative to resorting to what in my opinion is economically and politically a thoroughly unsound expedient. It is the only expedient which is available in the appalling condition in which we find the country. That expedient is to instruct those boards, when they go to fix a wage, to have regard to two matters: (1) to fix what in their opinion is a living wage for the agricultural labourer, having regard to the cost of living and the general circumstances surrounding his case and then in the next case to fix an economic wage which—in the judgement of that board, having examined the circumstances of the farmers who will have to pay this wage themselves—will be a wage that they will be in a position to pay. It will then be for the Exchequer to intervene and make up the difference between what is essentially an economic wage and what is the living wage fixed by the board. I freely admit that that proposal is open to the greatest possible objection because it places in the hands of these committees, or of the chairman himself, the power of charging to the Exchequer various sums of money according to the disparity between the living wage and the economic wage. But in a desperate situation you have to devise desperate remedies. I would resort to a proposal as unsound as that rather than drive a large percentage of the agricultural labourers of this country on to the dole or in the alternative fix for any time, or set the seal of approval upon, a rate of wages which I would consider to be a disgrace to any civilised country which put its hand to the business of fixing the rates of wages which ought to apply in the agricultural industry.

It is to be borne in mind that whatever machinery may be ultimately devised for fixing a proper and fair wage for the labourer will serve one useful purpose. It will bring together committees in a wide number of districts throughout the country. At these committees the farmers and their labourers will sit down together and there discuss, to their own personal knowledge, the circumstances of the industry which provides a living for both. They will come face to face, perhaps for the first time, with a true appreciation of the facts of the situation in which they find themselves. I imagine a good deal of vapour about our patriotic duty in the desperate fight against the base, bloody and brutal Saxon will go up in smoke when the practical question is being discussed as to what share the farmer is entitled to get out of the total agricultural industry and what share the agricultural labourer may legitimately expect to get out of that industry. I would be glad to know from the Minister whether he proposes to amend this Bill with a view to bringing it into operation at an earlier date than 1938?

Dr. Ryan

Oh, yes; it will be in operation before 1938.

The Minister is obliged to give notice in September that he is going to bring the Bill into operation in the following January.

That is in the Bill in any case.

Dr. Ryan

In what section is that?

In Section 4, sub-section (2).

The sub-section reads:

"After the commencement of this Act the Minister may, in any calendar year, by order made not later than the 30th September in such calendar year..."

Dr. Ryan

That is after the commencement of the Act, but sub-section (1) provides for the thing to be done before the commencement of this Act. It says: "(a) group the several wage districts in Saorstát Eireann into such and so many areas..." as he thinks proper. Sub-section (3) says that every order made ... shall come into force on the 1st January next following the date of such order. But sub-section (1) deals with it immediately.

In face of sub-section (3) of Section 4 how can the Minister put the machinery into operation before 1938 in view of the fact that September, 1936, has already gone by?

Dr. Ryan

As I have already pointed out, under sub-section (1) of Section 4 the Act is put into operation immediately. Sub-section (2) is where you have to make changes afterwards.

In fact the Minister can bring the Act into operation.

Dr. Ryan


Does the Deputy want the Bill?

That is good.

Provided the Minister will do something on these lines, and in order to avoid the dilemma into which I feel the country will be led unless steps of the kind suggested are taken. I would be interested to hear from Deputy Davin, when he comes to review the position, what his estimate of a fair wage for an agricultural labourer is at the present time, and how he hopes to get it. Will he get up and seriously suggest that labourers can reasonably expect to get a wage of 30/- per week out of the agricultural industry as at present circumstanced? I do not think, if he is a responsible man, that he can maintain that that is so. If he is not going to maintain that he must tell the House what he proposes these committees should do and suggest how they can escape from the dilemma I submit. I do not think any Christian man would approve of fixing a fair wage which it would be physically impossible for farmers to pay. Out of that dilemma some way must be found. I have honestly faced it. Will the Deputy do as much?

What do you mean by "physically impossible" to pay?

If they have not got the money they cannot pay it. Suppose a man has three employees and the minimum wage is fixed at 30/- a week; if the farmer is actually making less than £4 10s. 0d. a week, how can he pay these three employees that wage? He must do one of two things. He must pay a lesser wage or dispense with one of the employees. That is the dilemma to be faced, and it is not one to be baulked by the Labour Party. It is not good enough to get up and say to those who have the courage to face that kind of difficulty that they are suggesting that farmers should dismiss their employees. That is cheap propaganda. We are all agreed on the fundamental principles of this Bill, and we are charged with the responsibility of seeing that it works effectively. Let us face it and make the only suggestion which can meet the situation if the economic war is to continue. I do not believe any difficulty will arise if accommodation is arrived at with Great Britain whereby the normal trading facilities between these two countries can continue.

Would the Deputy advocate a wage of 35/- a week for labourers if the economic war was over?

That is a most pertinent question in view of what the Deputy said.

Surely Deputy Corish and Deputy Davin will agree with me that the wages which may be fixed from time to time will fluctuate with the prosperity of the industry?

Answer the question.

The Deputy said all along that if the economic war was settled the farm labourers would get what they wanted. Now there is a straight question.

The Deputy has experience of controversy and he certainly does not suggest that any responsible man at this juncture should proceed to supersede both the wages committees and the wages board.

I suggest that that is the inference we are entitled to draw from what you have been saying.

Let us consider what is the minimum wage a labourer ought to get in the light of the existing cost of living. I am not one of those who believes that the minimum living wage a man should get ought to be ascertained and then nail him down to that.

Answer my question.

If subsequently the industry becomes more prosperous I would be glad to see every agricultural labourer getting not only a living wage, but something substantially in excess thereof. The question does not arise now of something more than a living wage. It is the difficulty we are going to be in, and we should examine the facts of the situation as we now find them. If we fix a bare living wage we will find that the industry will not be able to pay it. That is the dilemma I find myself in. It is not what we are going to give labourers over and above that, but the grave apprehension that if we fix a minimum that we think is reasonable for a Christian man to live on, if we find the industry cannot pay it, then there is nothing for the Exchequer to do but to fill the gap or else to make an end to the preposterous foreign policy which reduces the industry to the position in which it cannot pay the workers a living wage. That is the dilemma Deputies in the Labour Party have to face, and to tell the Government what is the suggested remedy for that difficulty. Unless they do that they avoid their responsibility.

You will not tell them what they ought to do.

Do not let us have any feelings on a matter of this sort. I suggest to Deputies that they have a very grave responsibility in the matter, and that it behoves them to make some practical suggestion to the Government. There is no use in saying to the Government: "We must have blood from a turnip, we must have water from a stone. It is not our business to say how you are to get it, but get it we must." They know that blood cannot be got from a turnip, water from a stone, or a quart out of a pint pot.

What about a mug?

We made a suggestion to remedy the existing situation. There should be an end to that policy. The results of it do not seem to have sunk into the minds of many of the Deputies. Let me recapitulate shortly the effects of that policy on the agricultural output of this country during the last five years. In order that Deputies may be aware of the situation which confronts us at present, let me point out that in 1929-30 the output of horses was 21,000, the value of which was £1,594,000. In 1934-35 the numbers dropped by one-third and the value was £494,000; cattle and calves numbered 830,000 in 1929, the value being £14,960,000, or say £15,000,000, but in 1934-35 the numbers were reduced to 710,000 and the value was reduced from £15,000,000 to £5,653,000. In the case of sheep there was a reduction between these years from 1,122,000 to 1,038,000, and in value from £3,207,000 to £1,600,000, or a reduction of half.

In the case of pigs the numbers increased by 80,000 between 1929 and 1935 but the value of the increased numbers is down from £8,990,000 to £5,273,000. In the output of pigs, the number of which was increased, there is a reduction in value of £3,700,000, and Deputies will remember that the cost of feeding stuffs has gone up over the same period. When we come to eggs, the output dropped from 11,700,000 to 9,915,000 and the value from £7,000,000 to £4,273,000, a fall of nearly £3,000,000. As against that, the Minister will say that we have increased the output of wheat, beet, peat and tobacco. On the amount of prosperity that the tobacco industry has brought to farmers I shall invite Deputy O'Reilly to address the House. He will tell us what a rosy prospect that industry offered when first embarked upon, and he will tell us what a gloomy realisation there has been. The Deputy knows that the farmers of Meath, Wexford and the Midlands can describe the miserable dribble they got from tobacco. The Minister will tell us what has been spent on the crop by the State, Tobacco, remarkably enough, does not appear in the estimated output of agricultural products for 1934. It is not now regarded as of sufficient consequence to be included. It was to be, in the words of the President, one of the largest branches of the agricultural industry.

Now, wheat is another mainstay which is being provided to compensate for the loss of the cattle and the live-stock industry. The output of wheat in this country has been increased, and increased substantially. In monetary value there has been an increase from £111,000 in 1929, to £703,000 in 1935, and, according to the Minister, there will be a still further increase in this year. That, however, is a matter which I think will have to be investigated and more accurately computed when the yield of the wheat crop is known with greater certainty. But, let us take the known figures. There has been an increase, as I have said, from £111,000 to £703,000. That sounds considerable, but when we come to realise that the State has spent £1,500,000 in an increase in the cost of the price of flour, to say nothing of the administrative costs, the advertising costs and the costs of the county committees of agriculture, I venture to say that it raises the total figures of expenditure to not less than £2,000,000. We discover, therefore, that, in order to increase the income of the farmer by £600,000 in respect of his wheat crop, the State has spent £2,000,000, and that we could have increased the income of those farmers by three times as much if we had given them the money instead of frittering it away in promoting the growth of wheat that nobody wants. On these figures, that means an absolute waste of the land on which the wheat has been grown. The money that we have spent to get them to grow wheat would have given them three times the compensation they have got, and would have left them with the land to grow some other crop on it. They could have given the crop away for nothing, and still have got twice as much out of the Government as they have, in fact, got for growing wheat.

That is one of the props that have been provided by the Government as a substitute for the live-stock industry. The other is beet. Admittedly, the income of the farmers growing beet has been increased from £360,000 to £820,000. The quantity grown has been nearly quadrupled. We would have expected, therefore, that the return to the farmer would also have been quadrupled. Instead, the price of beet has been substantially reduced. We have achieved an increase in the farmer's income from beet by £460,000, but it has cost the State £1,000,000 per annum to give the farmer an extra £460,000. At the same time, it has reduced the farmer who has been growing beet from the position of a moderately comfortable man, getting 37/6 a ton for his beet with a 15½ per cent. sugar content, to something approaching that of a coolie, producing beet for a price which he is glad to get in the absence of anything else, because he has got to get money somewhere and is glad to take whatever he can get.

What price are the farmers in Great Britain getting for their beet? Will the Deputy answer that?

Deputy Allen is welcome back to the House, but he has got to remember that he is not at a street corner now and, if he wants to, he can get up after I have concluded and make his speech. But he is not to interrupt while I am speaking.

Will the Deputy answer the question?

The Deputy can make his speech when I have finished. He is quite eloquent enough.

Like yourself.

The Deputy, by his interruptions, is not going to put me off now. As I was saying, it has cost the State £1,000,000 to provide the farmers of this country with £460,000 extra for beet, and at that figure we set them a standard of work which, in my opinion, reduces them to a condition to which no Irish farmer ought to be reduced.

Then we come to peat. In this connection we have to bear in mind the statement of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who has put this industry second only in importance to the entire agricultural industry of the country. The Minister did not speak of it as a branch of the agricultural industry, but said that it was second only in importance to the agricultural industry. With that pious purpose in mind we have embarked on an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds to facilitate the development of the industry, to advertise its advantages and to encourage the public to assist in its development. The result of the expenditure of these hundreds of thousands of pounds was, in fact, to reduce the output of turf from 3,567,000 tons in 1929 to 3,310,000 tons in 1935. Did we offer during the same period a dramatic increase in the price of turf? Did we see the farmers getting as much money for the smaller output in 1935 as they had got for the larger output in 1929? Not at all. By the expenditure of these hundreds of thousands of pounds we succeeded in reducing the farmers' income from turf from £3,317,000 in 1929 down to £2,814,000 in 1935. That is a distinguished record.

When we come to contemplate the difficulties with which these committees and boards are going to be confronted when they seek to do substantial justice to the agricultural labourers, we ought to bear in mind that the principal difficulty against which they are going to find themselves is one that has been created by the policy that has reduced the wages pool for farmers and labourers from £64,000,000 in 1929 to £40,000,000 in 1935. Would we have any difficulty in giving the 126,000 labourers of this country a fair wage if we had £24,000,000 sterling wherewith to do it? Is it not because this sum of £24,000,000 is gone that we are faced with the deplorable fact that 10 per cent. of the agricultural labourers of this country are getting less than £1 per week, and that not only is that true, but that, so far as we can see, the numbers that are getting less than 17/- per week and the numbers that are getting less than 20/- per week are increasing rather than decreasing. Now we are up against hard, concrete facts in regard to this business. I say it will be a public scandal and a grave injury to the good name of this country if wages boards fix, and publicly set the seal of Government approval on, a scale of wages anything like that which generally obtains through the State at the present time. I want to see a higher rate of wages fixed, and I want to see, as a consequence of that, widespread prosperity for the labourers in whose interests it is proposed to fix wages. I do not want to see the fixing of that higher rate of wages resulting in a larger number of young men being driven on to the dole or out of the country, as they are going at the present time. In existing circumstances, there can be only one thoroughly unsound expedient to which we can have resort, and that is to ask the Exchequer to make up the difference between an economic and a living wage.

Let us change the circumstances without pulling down any flags and without surrendering any principle by making some more of the trade agreements that are being made every day in the week with Great Britain; by extending just a little every day the relations that are going on between the Minister's own Department and the Department presided over until recently by Major Elliot in England. Let us recognise the fact that Great Britain has material interests in fostering good relations with this country, and that we have got material interests in fostering good relations with her. Let us realise that if labouring men in this country, and every section in it, are to have a fair and decent livelihood, agriculture has got to be prosperous.

If we are going to get agriculture to prosper, we have to provide it with a market in which it can sell its surplus produce. Let us face that fact. If this Bill achieves nothing else than bringing the Deputies on all sides of the House to a realisation of the urgent necessity from the point of view of everybody, from the poorest person in the State to the most prosperous, for an end of the idiotic situation obtaining between this country and Great Britain, the Bill will not have been introduced in vain.

I regret that the Deputy should see fit to sit down without giving any definite indication to the House as to what his Party propose to do with regard to the Second Reading of this measure. He made a speech facing both ways. I listened to it very carefully and I do not think that any impartially-minded Deputy, after having listened to the full speech made by Deputy Dillon, can say what he or his Party propose to do—whether they are going to divide on this measure or not. However, I suppose it is not a matter of very serious moment what Deputy Dillon is going to do. I hope that my colleague, Deputy Finlay, and those who sit with him in the centre seats of this House, and who know more about the agricultural conditions of Munster and Leinster, will give us a little more valuable information before this discussion concludes. Deputy Dillon, as the Minister pointed out by the figures which he gave to the House, represents an area, the whole of Connaught and the three Ulster counties, which only gives employment to 24,000 agricultural labourers.

Will the Deputy allow me to get up and bow for saying that I represent the whole of Connaught and the three Ulster counties? I appreciate that tribute.

Everybody who has any interest in the Bill is delighted to know that that viewpoint would not be the viewpoint of the representatives of Connaught and the three other counties represented in this House that provide employment for only 24,000 agricultural labourers. The figures given by the Minister show that out of a total of 126,000 agricultural labourers, either living in or living out, in the whole of the State, 102,000 are in Minister and Leinster, and the other 24,000 are in Connaught and the other three counties represented in this House.

I think the Bill is only a belated attempt on the part of the Minister and his colleagues to carry out a public promise made over two years ago. I welcome the Bill, although, as I say, it is a belated attempt to carry out a promise given such a considerable time ago. The members of this Party who have been in this House since 1922 have always given encouragement to the last Government and to this Government, since they came into office, to provide guaranteed markets and guaranteed prices for the farmers. They have given this Government encouragement, so far as they have gone in that direction already, to go still further and provide these guaranteed prices and markets in such a way as will enable the farmer-producers of this State to get a reasonable return for their labour on the land. In doing that we have always had in mind that the honest, Christian, decent-minded farmers would, when they come to such a stage, or in return for the support, at any rate realise that the agricultural labourers had a right to receive a living wage.

I am not quite sure from the Minister's speech whether the Minister intends the Bill to lay down for the agricultural labourers in the future a decent, living, minimum wage. The Minister has been very cautious and careful in anything he has said about the Bill and has, in my opinion, given very little encouragement to the chairman, who will be the dictator under the terms of the Bill, to go any further in regard to the wages for agricultural labourers than these people enjoy at present. In his concluding remarks he said the farmers need not have any apprehension as to the working of this Bill. I should like him in his reply to elaborate a little more upon the meaning of these words, because I think it is in the interests of the administration of the Bill that he should give some advice here in public to the chairman, who will be the wages dictator set up under the terms of the Bill.

I have always endeavoured in my speeches in this House and outside the House, whether I represented the Party point of view on the matter or not, to look forward to the time when the working farmers, who are the real producers in this State, would cooperate with the agricultural labourers for the purpose of getting a bigger share out of the profits of production than the farmer-producer and the agricultural labourer get to-day. I hope that, instead of the farmers as producers getting further apart from the agricultural labourers, they will see the sense of joining with them for that very desirable purpose. I do not want to share the point of view of the person who encourages agitation and division between the agricultural producers and the agricultural labourers or other workers in this country. We had an unfortunate experience recently—I hope it will never happen again—of a dispute which might have led to serious consequences, where certain well-paid gentlemen, who sit upon a State-subsidised board in this country, made it quite clear to their friends that they were anxious to provoke a quarrel and cause disunity between the beet-growing farmers and the workers in the beet factories and the agricultural labourers, who help to produce the beet for these farmers. I am glad to say that, through the intervention of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, these well-paid gentlemen were prevented from getting their point of view home in regard to that matter. The gentlemen to whom I refer are paid salaries as high as £4,150 a year.

We ought to get away from that.

I never heard Deputy Dillon or anybody else getting up in this House to protest against high salaries of that kind being paid to these gentlemen. We have heard him to-day, as on previous occasions, raising a sort of fog barrier when the rights of agricultural labourers were to be considered. I am prepared to admit that the principal sacrifices which had to be borne up to the present as a result of the economic war have been shared in the main, if not altogether, by the working farmers and their agricultural labourers. I want to see them getting an equal share in the more prosperous future that the Minister visualised in his speech this evening. The farmers and the agricultural labourers have borne the brunt of the battle up to the present.

What have the bankers and the businessmen lost, if they have lost anything, compared with the losses incurred by the working farmers and agricultural labourers? The bankers and the big businessmen have lost nothing. Not alone have they lost nothing, but many have increased their profits, as compared with the pre-economic war period. Some people may laugh at that, but everybody knows that the flour millers have been making fortunes and the bacon curers have been making increased profits as compared with what were made by these particular sections during the pre-economic war period. Who are producing the raw material that supplies the flour mills and the bacon factories? Is it not the working farmers and the agricultural labourers? I say that these people, instead of taking the bad advice tendered to them by people who get big salaries from State-subsidised institutions, should instead of getting further apart come nearer to each other and help to get a bigger share out of the profits of production. That is the point of view I have always held and will continue to advocate as long as I am privileged by the people of my constituency to represent them in this House. The Minister said that we had arrived at a more prosperous period. May I join with him in expressing the hope that a still greater measure of prosperity lies before us in the future? But are we to wait for that prosperous period in order that some of the mean-minded farmers may recognise their obligations and pay their labourers a decent, minimum rate of wages? If we are to wait for that period, how are we to give any protection to these labourers? The producer is, undoubtedly, getting a big share of the subsidies and bounties which come out of the £2,250,000 voted by this House. What share of that sum is finding its way to the pockets of the agricultural labourers?

What are the poor farmers from the mountainy districts getting?

The proof of my statement is to be found in the official statistics circulated by the Department of Industry and Commerce. These are available to every Deputy and to every citizen who wants to read them. According to these official statistics, there has been an average reduction in the wages paid to agricultural labourers of 3/- per week between 1931 and 1935. Something must be done, therefore, to bring the standard of wages paid to agricultural labourers up to a figure which will enable them to live and which will enable them to share, to some extent, the subsidies and bounties which are still being paid and the grant of which will have the support of this Party so long as they are necessary to the working farmers of the State. I am the son of a farmer and I come in contact, from time to time, with working farmers. I realise that they have been suffering both before and since the economic war. Even if the economic war were over to-morrow, there is a class of farmer who would still say, whether true or not, that he was not receiving the cost of the production of his crops. When farmers were getting 52/- for their barley, some of them complained in my constituency that they could not pay a reasonable wage to their labourers, and some of them contended at the meeting of local authorities that there was no justification for paying a fair rate of wages to the road workers.

That was Leix-Offaly.

I am sure you would have a small number of the same type to say the same thing in Cork.

They are too honest there.

I am sure Deputy Finlay will not deny——

What wages should they get at present?

I am sure Deputy Finlay, when he comes to speak, will tell us whether he proposes to vote for or against this Bill and will give us good reasons for his action.

I will do so.

I am sure you will do it in a more "understandable" way than Deputy Dillon did. I will pay you that tribute. The policy which has led to reduction of the wages of agricultural workers has had a serious effect on the wages and conditions of other sections of workers. My colleagues on these benches have had occasion to draw attention to attempts by different Government Departments to reduce the wages paid on relief schemes, peat development schemes and afforestation schemes. In every case where we did that, the Minister responsible for these Departments told us that the wages had to bear a relation to the reduced wages payable to the agricultural workers in these areas. The Minister will not deny that. I drew the attention of the Minister responsible for afforestation to the new rate of wages paid in my constituency for that work. A new rate of 24/- was being paid as against the previous standard rate of 28/-. He stated that a wages committee advised the Government in respect of schemes of that kind, and that the rate of wages was supposed to have some relation to the wages paid by representative farmers in the same localities. One hopes that the passing of this Bill and the impartial administration of the Act will prevent anything of that kind in the future.

The Minister admitted that this measure did not make any provision for fixing the rates of wages payable to living-in agricultural labourers. He gave figures to show that, of the total of 126,000 agricultural labourers, 89,000 were living-out labourers and 36,000 living-in labourers, or what are commonly called in my part of the country "servant boys". It is a serious matter if a measure of this kind excludes provision for fixing rates of wages for 36,000 people out of a total of 126,000. I hope an amendment will be brought in which will empower the Minister, or the board to be set up under the Bill, to fix the wages and working conditions of these 36,000 living-in labourers.

The Minister did not say that they were excluded.

He admitted they were.

In my opinion, they are excluded by the wording of the Bill.

What the Minister said was that account would have to be taken of the perquisites these people were receiving.

I contend that the Bill, as drafted, precludes the board from fixing a weekly wage for such labourers. If I am wrong, I shall be glad to be corrected by the Minister. I have no intention of travelling after the Minister into the foggy figures he gave the House in his attempt to justify the passing of this milk-and-water measure. I do not think there is anything in the Bill to get excited about. There is nothing in the Bill that one can thoroughly understand, because its effect will only be appreciated when it comes to be administered by the dictator, or the chairman of the board, who will have the last word in regard to the fixing of rates of wages under the Bill. The agricultural labourer will only know what the Bill will bring him when he discovers the mentality of the chairman of the board, who is to be the dictator. I hope the Minister will look around very carefully before he decides on that dictator, because the decisions of the dictator will have a great deal to do with the relations that will exist between the working farmer and the agricultural labourer in the future. I am sorry to say the Minister did not give any clear indication to the chairman of this board as to what he intended to be a reasonable rate of wages for agricultural labourers, whether they live in Leinster or Munster or any other area covered by the Bill. I hope that he will make his point of view much clearer than he did when speaking on the Second Reading.

I think everybody who has read the Bill gathers that the area committees are only meant to be purely advisory bodies. I am not making any objection to that, and I am not taking any exception to that particular section, but I would like to know how the Minister proposes to select the different representatives to comprise the area committee, and what bodies, if any, he proposes to consult before he makes the selection of the representatives of the agricultural workers and the farmers. The Minister seems to think there are no organised bodies representing the farmers. I do not agree with him. I do not know if Deputies on the centre benches, representing the Fine Gael Party, will disagree with me when I say that I think the Beet Growers' Association is thoroughly representative of the tillage farmers.

I would not agree with that at all.

I am not sure whether the Deputy tills a high percentage of his land.

I do, but I am talking now of the people who cannot grow beet, wheat or anything else.

I submit that the Beet Growers' Association is as representative a body of the tillage farmers as you could find in this country.

Will the Deputy come down to my parish next Saturday? I will pay his way and I will take him to people who can grow neither beet, wheat nor anything else. He can discuss the matter impartially with these people.

I have travelled a fair share of Cork on holiday and I am not going to accept the Deputy's invitation now, because I have just spent four days in my own constituency in bad weather.

It shows that you are not anxious to learn the truth.

I promise on another occasion to pay a visit to West Cork and other good tillage areas. Does the Deputy not agree that the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, representing the dairy farmers, would be entitled to be taken into consultation by the Minister in connection with this Bill?

The unfortunate thing is that there are people in some parts of the country interested in the growing of wheat, in other parts of the country they are interested in growing beet and in other parts they deal in milk. I want every man to have his market the same as he had before you helped to deprive him of it and let the people work out their own salvation in their own way. You helped to bring the present position about, to a great extent.

I suggest that the Minister would be well advised, when considering the selection of area representatives on the farmers' side, to consult with the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, which is supposed to represent the dairy farmers, and also with the executive or members of the Beet Growers' Association, who represent large numbers of tillage farmers. I think it will be generally agreed that there are many farmers who should be compelled to pay their agricultural labourers better wages, who should be compelled to take the Christian point of view in relation to the labourers in their employment. There are a lot of people talking about the Christian Front and a Christian policy, but a lot of the people who talk in that vein do not practise what they preach. I hope when the Minister comes to appoint his committees he will have amongst those selected some of the people who talk so much about a Christian policy. If they have any Christian outlook I hope they will practise it and carry out their obligations in a proper manner.

One of my colleagues suggests that it might be a very risky experiment. I do not think the Minister would be taking any risk if he consults the various farmers' organisations. I would like to see him consulting them and also consulting some representatives of organised bodies on behalf of the agricultural labourers. The Minister evaded stating how he proposed to select these bodies whom he intends to consult before he nominates the area committees. I am anxious to know how the Minister's mind is running, because I would like to ensure that only persons who are truly representative of both sides will be nominated on the area advisory committees.

I would like to know if it is the intention of the Minister to make provision for the payment of out-of-pocket expenses to persons who will be serving on the area committees. There is no reference to that matter in the Bill. If expenses are incurred in connection with the carrying out of the work of bodies of this kind, some provision should be made for payment in the same way as provision is made for out-of-pocket expenses in connection with other bodies under the same Department. I do not think it is right that an agricultural labourer should be invited, say, from County Cork and be obliged to pay his own expenses.

There is a very important point that the Minister either overlooked or evaded. Deputy Dillon drew attention to it in a passing way. I am not sure that he drew attention to it in an effort to induce the Minister to make the Bill operative at an early date. I would like to know when the Minister hopes to bring this measure into operation. He has had it under consideration for at least two years and I assume that he has carried out a good deal of the preliminary work necessary in order to make the measure operative as soon as it passes into law. Has he taken steps towards the establishment of the machinery necessary when this Bill becomes an Act? When does he think he will be able to bring the measure into operation? I hope that this piece of legislation will not be put into a pigeon-hole in the Department and that the farmers and agricultural labourers will not be left in the hope that at any moment it will become operative only to find out later that the Minister does not intend that it should come into operation until after the next General Election.

I welcome the Bill as a belated attempt to carry out a promise made by the Minister over two years ago. I hope that he will succeed in finding a chairman with a decent, independent outlook. A lot will depend on the chairman to see that this Bill implements the intentions of the Minister for Agriculture, the Executive Council and the Fianna Fáil Party and those others of us who are prepared to welcome it as a step on the road to provide better wages and working conditions for agricultural labourers.

I suppose almost every Deputy realises that the wages paid to agricultural labourers at present are not the wages that any Deputy would like to see paid. Deputy Davin accused Deputy Dillon of raising a fog barrier and I think he made the same accusation against the Minister. Deputy Davin himself did not give us any of the minute information he tried to drag out of Deputy Dillon and the Minister. He made no suggestion whatever as to what wage a farmer might reasonably be expected to pay now or what a living wage would be for an agricultural labourer. He kept as far away as he could from it.

I think that is very wise.


But the Deputy did not think it right for the Minister to do so.

Deputy Davin did not think it right for the Minister, or for Deputy Dillon, and it cannot be right for Deputy Davin. I am only giving the Deputy a taste of his own medicine. There are two things on which we must all agree. The first is that what the farmer can pay now is very much less than what he could pay five or six years ago.

Who told you?

I think the consensus of opinion in the House is in agreement with that statement. The second is that the sum which would represent a living wage now is much greater than it was five or six years ago, and there is the dilemma. Deputy Davin said that the labourers' wage was reduced by something like 3/- in the last five years. Unfortunately, I think that is so. The resources of the farmer have dropped by infinitely more than is represented by that loss of 3/-. That reduction of 3/- is regrettable, and nobody suggests that, even before that reduction took place, the agricultural labourer was getting an abnormal wage, or, in fact, that he was getting a wage on which he could live with any degree of extra comfort. Nobody suggests, except Deputy Davin, perhaps, that it was the niggardliness of the farmer that caused that reduction of 3/- in the labourers' wages. That 3/-represents at most ten per cent. of a reduction on the extreme wage labourers were getting five or six years ago. Does Deputy Davin or any other Deputy deny that the resources of the farmers have dropped very much more than 10 per cent. in that period? I do not say that even the mean wage of 25/-, the minimum of 21/- and the extreme wage of 32/- or 35/—represents a good living wage for an agricultural labourer, or any other labourer, and I should very much like to see the labourer getting infinitely more than the amounts mentioned by the Minister as being the extreme wages even in the best of counties, but how is it going to be provided?

That is the rub. That is what Deputy Davin very carefully kept away from. Is this Bill going to provide it? I do not believe it is. I believe the position after this Bill becomes law will be worse than it is now, if certain almost miraculous circumstances do not arise and the farmer's position is improved beyond all recognition. Even if his position is improved by the ending of the economic war further than any of us can see it being improved, is it going to make it possible to pay a reasonable wage out of agriculture in the next ten years when we remember the losses the farmer has sustained and the effort which the resuscitation of his income and the settling of his borrowings will require? If a reasonable wage is to be provided for the labourer, and it must be provided, there must be some way of bridging the difference between what the farmer can pay and what the labourer should reasonably expect to receive, and I see no possible way of bridging that difference unless the State comes to its aid with its Exchequer.

The Minister gave a lot of figures into which I do not propose to go. Deputy Dillon made some remarks on them in respect of the losses on various portions of the farmer's economy. There is just one point which I propose to put to the House. We are constantly reminded of the extra income that accrued to farmers through the medium of beet and wheat. Deputy Davin seems to think there is a fortune in beet. Perhaps he was right—there was for some people.

What did I say?

You said there was for some people.

I said no such thing.

The Deputy said that there was a fortune in beet for some people.

I did not use the words at all.

I think you suggested that certain gentlemen were getting thousands a year out of it, and that we raised no dispute about it. I am not suggesting that anybody was getting thousands out of it.

I said that one gentleman was getting a salary of £4,150.

You suggested something anyway. I am getting it out of you bit by bit. You did actually mention that somebody was getting a bit out of it, but you did not say that the farmer was getting anything extra out of it.

I did not say he was a farmer. I know he is not.

The Deputy did not suggest that any single farmer was getting anything very big out of it.

That is right.

I am not suggesting, either, that any labourer is getting anything too big out of it. I am suggesting that on the combined schemes of beet and wheat, the farmers are getting something like £1,000,000 extra compared with what they were getting before the wheat and beet schemes came to be extended. I will not go into all the items of the losses, but that sum represents just one-third of the losses which the farmers have sustained on one item alone, the egg. His gain from extra receipts on beet and wheat represents one-third of what he has lost on the export of eggs, without taking into consideration cattle, horses, pigs or any other item. I believe that if this Bill is passed and the machinery suggested set up, the consequence, unless some provision is made, such as Deputy Dillon suggested, of bridging the gap between a fair wage and what can be paid in the industry, will be that the wage set up will be so low that no Deputy will be satisfied with it. I think that will be one of the inevitable results if the circumstances of the agricultural industry are gone into and a decision come to as to what can reasonably be paid out of agriculture at present. If, for some reason or another, the gentleman at the head of this board, influenced, perhaps, by humanitarian or other motives, thinks that a wage should be established which would give the agricultural labourer a fair and decent living, and, if he fixes such a wage, it will not be provided out of agriculture, and the consequence will be—and this is not a threat because I, for one, hope that it will not take place—that, instead of there being extra employment, there will be reduced employment of necessity by many farmers. That will be a lamentable thing to happen, and I see a danger of it happening if this Bill becomes law without some financial provisions behind it. It will raise a barrier between the farmer and the agricultural labourer. If a wage is fixed which he finds impossible to pay it will probably raise a barrier between the farmer and his employees.

There are many things which made the lives of the small farmer, and I may say the big farmer also, and his labourers fairly happy. They had many things in common. They settled their differences in various ways that would not appeal to workers and employers in the cities and towns. There were many little things received by a farm labourer outside his wages that were not mentioned as part of his remuneration. Every Deputy knows that a farm labourer received firewood, milk, and a hundred and one other things that were not stipulated when his wages were being fixed. There are thousands of decent farmers in the country who never confined themselves to the letter of the agreement in what they paid their labourers. I do not say that even these allowances, added to their actual wages, would provide a decent wage for the agricultural labourer. I realise as fully as any Deputy in this House that the wages received by the unfortunate agricultural labourer do not reach a standard on which he might reasonably be expected to rear a family, but I want to see, if we attempt to remedy this problem, that we approach it in a way in which it can be remedied. I do not believe this Bill is the way to remedy it.

What would you say should be done?

One suggestion I would make is, if in the present state of the agricultural industry, we are going to provide a sufficient wage for the agricultural labourer, that there must be State assistance. I believe that in his heart Deputy Davin has the same feeling. Deputy Davin did not make any comment on that particular portion of Deputy Dillon's speech although he did refer to other matters which Deputy Dillon mentioned. Deputy Davin knows just as well as any Deputy on this side of the House, and I believe many Deputies on the Government Benches know it too, that owing to the condition of the agricultural industry at the present time—and I may say I am not going to argue the question of the economic war; God knows we have had enough of it— without even the handicap of the economic war, the farmer found it difficult to pay a good wage to his labourer at the best of times. It is more difficult now than ever. The farmer's income has been reduced. The amount he receives for his produce has been reduced, whilst the cost of producing the commodities he sells has increased. The amount that he can pay his labourer has, of necessity, been reduced. Again, the purchasing power of that reduced wage which he pays to his labourer is much less than it would have been a few years ago. The problem would appear, on the face of it, impossible of solution by any set of Deputies except on the lines of some decent Government financial help. I, for one, do not see any other possible way out of the difficulty.

I believe that any attempt by the best-intentioned men the Government can select under this Bill to fix a fair wage for the agricultural labourer must fail because of the circumstances. While all of us in this House are agreed that the necessity has arisen to improve the lot of the agricultural worker, it does not seem that many Deputies will agree that this Bill provides the way to do so. Some other method must be found. Every Deputy in this House, irrespective of Party, would like to support any effort to improve the conditions of the agricultural labourer. I, for one, should not like to oppose this Bill, and while I do not believe that it is going to achieve what it is intended to achieve, it may be that I am looking at the matter from a wrong angle and that there is some good in the Bill that I cannot see. For that reason I shall vote for the Bill, but I do believe honestly—I think every Deputy in the House looks on this as a non-Party question—that this Bill is not going to achieve the purpose which we all desire, namely, that of raising the standard of living of the agricultural labourer and of providing a decent living wage for him.

I desire to offer a few observations on the Bill before the House. As a farmer who comes into contact with agricultural workers every day of my life, I do not think that the setting up of committees of one kind or another to deal with agricultural wages, is going to solve this problem. I know that the wage we can afford to pay our labourers is not a fair wage or a living wage, but, on the other hand, if we increase the wage which we pay them, we know that it will simply mean that we ourselves will have to go short or run into debt. There may be some few farmers here and there in the country who are not prepared to pay their labourers the average wage which is paid at the moment. I do not know whether there are or not, but I know that the big majority of the farmers are prepared to meet their labourers fairly and to pay them as good a wage as they can possibly afford to pay them. From my own experience, I do not think that the setting up of this wages board, although I am not opposed to it, will improve the position of the worker in any way. If it is not very carefully handled it may bring about what would be a very undesirable state of affairs, a bitterness between the agricultural worker and the farmer which I should be very sorry to see. At the moment they are on the most friendly terms, trying to carry on their work as best they can.

Let us take, for instance, the fixing of a wage for a worker of 17 years of age, of 20 years of age or of 25 years of age, or the fixing of a wage for a man who is considered to be a ploughman or a cattle man. We have a number of very good ploughmen and cattle men but I am sorry to say we have a lot of others who do not give the care and attention that we expect them to give to their employer's work. You have men who are prepared always to give you good service, and we always like to do the very best we can for these men and to pay them the very best wage. We have, on the other hand, a number of workers sometimes who are, perhaps, careless. I do not want to say anything against them. I should be sorry to speak against them, but undoubtedly they are careless, and through their own carelessness and through their not being able to carry on their work as other men would— it may not be their fault—we do not get the same return from them as from good workmen. The amount which you are able to pay a man depends largely on what he does for you. The amount of his wages depends on the manner in which he tries to give you satisfaction.

Now, I do not know how wages are going to be fixed. Wages can be fixed all right, perhaps—a fair wage—for the ploughman or the cattle man, but I do not know how a rate of wage is going to be fixed for the grade of men under that that will be satisfactory for both the labourers and the employers. That will be a big problem for the board, and I maintain that if that matter is not properly settled and if the wage is not fixed in such a way as to satisfy both parties—and that will be a very hard thing to do—you will only succeed in bringing about bitterness between the agricultural worker and the farmer, a thing which I would be very sorry to see. As I said before, that would be a very bad thing to have happen, because we have at the moment a good friendly feeling between the agricultural worker and the farmer, and I should not like to see that good feeling interfered with in any way.

In order to improve the condition of the workers, speaking here as a farmer and one who would like to see the position of the agricultural workers much better than it is, I say honestly that before a better rate of wages or better conditions can be achieved for the agricultural workers, you have, first of all, to improve the conditions of the farmers in the country. The farmers themselves have no better wages than the labourers. We cannot afford to pay a higher wage. We have our own standard of living, which we are entitled to, and we find that we are not able to maintain the ordinary standard of wages. We have to maintain our homes and to bring up and educate our children just like the ordinary man, and you will see from the figures that have been quoted already that there is very little difference between what is fixed for us and what is fixed for the agricultural workers. We have the responsibility of our homes; we have to rear and educate our children and we have quite a number of overhead charges which may not be considered at all in the Minister's figures. We must try to keep the home going and to maintain it, and we have to do so in both good weather conditions and bad weather conditions. We have our ups and downs—good seasons and bad seasons. We have got to take what is coming to us and to be satisfied with it. For the last three or four years— and I am not going to speak about the economic war or the land annuities dispute—for the last three or four years I can honestly say that any man who has been paying a wage of 25/- a week, or up to 30/- a week, to his labourers, is paying that out of some other source than that of his farm. I do not believe that any farmer could afford to pay more than 25/- a week in the last three or four years. It is impossible. It might, perhaps, be possible if he were only employing one man, but where there are three or four or more men employed it would be impossible to pay such a wage. I say that, as a farmer myself, and one who employs men all the year round and gives a good deal of charitable work as well. Unless these committees take all these things into consideration, and unless they handle this matter properly, they will do more harm than good all round; and if the wage that is fixed is not a wage that can be paid by the farmer, at the same time giving every consideration to the labourers as far as we can afford to pay them, it will only bring about bitterness and lead to more unemployment, which I would be sorry to see. If we have not the money to pay our workers every Saturday night, there is no use in going to them and saying: "We will have to leave it over till next Saturday night." That will not do. If we have not the money to give to them, we will have to reduce the number of our workers, and that is a bad practice on any farm, because you are leaving work that should be done and that could be done and that, perhaps, would pay for itself in the long run. There is plenty of work on the farms—plenty of it—and we could employ men if we had the money to pay the men for the work they do, but unfortunately the position at the moment as it stands and for the last four or five years will have to be very much improved. If that is done and if any improvements are being made in that direction, I can assure you in this House that the farmers of this country are prepared to respond in the same way to the men who are working with them.

I am afraid, Sir, Deputies opposite seem to be approaching this measure, to my mind at any rate, from the wrong light. I think that this Bill is, if I may say so, the first charter of liberty, not only for the agricultural labourer, but for the farmer as well, and it is about time that it came. Deputies, who are familiar in any way with negotiations on sales of farm produce during the past few years know that the farmer has always been met with this point: "Oh, why, agricultural labour is at 4d. or 4½d. an hour, and there is the price of your stuff—so many hours of it." Is it not time that the agricultural labourer should get a proper wage? Is he not as much entitled to 1/- an hour as the man in the factory? Is not the agricultural labourer, who is down in the rain to-day pulling beet and loading it at the railway station, as much entitled to a fair wage as the man in the factory? Is it not up to us to see that he gets it? Our agricultural labourers and our unpaid agricultural labourers, the farmers' sons, have been long enough slaves to other classes in this country. It is time it ended, and it is going to be ended now. I will take any of the get-rich-quick gentlemen in this country to-day, from the men in the building trade up. They all come along with 55/- a week or 54/- a week to the builder's labourer. That is all right. It will be paid for, and it will be got—every farthing of it. The man who to-day goes into the beet factory gets his price, and it is paid for.

Casual labour.

Yes, and permanent labour in the flour mills. The moment the man walks into the flour mill or the factory, he gets his wage and is paid for it, and I see no reason why the worker, who works out in the fields producing that beet or that wheat, is not entitled to his wage, and a decent wage too, as well as any man working in an industrial concern. As I have said already, Deputies over there are approaching this from the wrong light. They have been accustomed, and I have been accustomed also to working on their farms in that way. All through my lifetime, up to the age of 30 years, I worked as an unpaid labourer. I could not call it anything else, because you cannot call the farmer's son anything else but an unpaid labourer, working there from morning till night in order that somebody might eat cheap food produced by him on his father's farm. The person who buys and eats that food is paid a fair wage and why should not the same wage, or something approaching it, be paid to the unfortunate person who is producing the food? When we walked into the beet factory directors in connection with the price of beet we were met with the point about agricultural wages in the country being at 4½d. an hour and when we asked what they were going to allow to the farmers who were producing the beet, these gentlemen, with £1,700 a year or £2,000 or whatever it is, began to look at one another to know what the farmer was going to get, and I suggested that the least they could give the farmers was what the Government is paying to a gardener for one of the directors, and that is £360 a year.

You are met with that kind of thing. It has been going on, and it is statements such as I have heard here in the House to-day that keeps us that way. I hope that when we have this Bill working we will see £2 a week fixed as a minimum wage for the agricultural labourer, and then we can walk into the Sugar Board and look for 60/- for our beet and get it. If such a wage were fixed, we could then walk into the factories and get a proper price for our beet, our wheat, our bacon, our butter, and every other article of agricultural produce.

Who is going to pay for all this?

Let ye pay for it. It is about time ye paid for something. We have stood this kind of thing too long. If I have one pride it is that I had a hand in seeing that this measure was introduced here. The day on which I see it introduced is the proudest day of my life, and I hope it will be made a definite success. I do not care anything about elections. I could stand on my own two feet in any constituency I ever went into. I hope, like Deputy Davin, that this measure is not going to be put into a pigeon hole. I want to see it put into definite operation immediately. If the arguments of Deputies opposite are true, then there will be disclosed such a condition of affairs in the agricultural community that, for shame's sake, legislation will have to be introduced to rectify it. I believe that if we tackled this matter in the proper way we could afford to pay a minimum wage of at least 30/-a week. If, instead of walking into the wheat millers and being told: "Oh, well, with so much for annuity, so much for rates, so many hours labour, so much for seed, and so much for manure, there is the price." we could walk into them with a Labour Bill, there would be a different price for wheat. The extra penny in the loaf will not mean so much to the "get-rich-quick" people.

There will be a demand for it, too.

There will, and I hope they will get it. Under this Bill we are dealing with two equally unorganised bodies of people—the unorganised agricultural labourer and the unorganised farmer. It is because they are unorganised that they are the football for every other class in this country. If there is one thing I have against the farmer it is that he has been, in a great many unfortunate cases, delighted that there is some fellow lower than himself. The position in regard to the farmer and the agricultural labourer is that there is a shake-hands between Jack-in-a-rag and Jack-in-a-rag-and-a-half. It is about time the agriculturists of this country —who have no Conditions of Employment Act, who have to work on Sunday as well as on Monday, and who have no opportunity of having the 48-hour weck introduced-got their backs up and said: "Very well; we are going to see that the man who works for us is put on a par with the man working in the factory." Do you mean to tell me that Messrs. Pierce, of Wexford, care a hang what they are asked to pay their labourers, or what Conditions of Employment Bill is brought in? They do not. They shove it along to you on your plough or your harrow; so do Messrs. Goulding, in regard to artificial manures; so does every other industrialist in this country. Every one shoves it along. We will do a bit of the shoving along now and see how they like it. They can very well afford to pay a little extra for what the farmer produces on the land. Let them pay it. When they do that, there is one tribe that will benefit by it, and that is the fellows who are getting nothing at all—the farmers' sons. They will have some "bobs" in their pockets when they go out on Sundays.

If we get a wage of 8d. or 9d. an hour fixed for the agricultural labourer, as I expect we will—and that is small enough, comparing him with the man in the factory—we will be able to go to the beet factory people and say: "Very well; that price was met by 4½d. an hour for the agricultural labourer. Now, under an Act of Parliament, we have to pay them so much; jump up your price." The same thing will apply to everything else, and it is about time. The one thing that is wrong with the farming community is that, from my knowledge of them, they are quite satisfied, the moment their sons are able to work, to keep them there as unpaid labourers, paying in the old days the rack rent to the landlord and paying at the present day bloated salaries, wages and profits to everybody except themselves. It is about time that ended. There is only one way it can be ended, and that is by getting this Bill through first of all, so that we can see where we are in regard to the agricultural labourer; so that, at the present price for agricultural produce, we will be able to see what we can afford to pay, and then see that those prices are driven up to a point at which we can pay a decent living wage to the hardest-worked man and the only white slave left in this country at the present day—the agricultural labourer. He is nothing more or less than a white slave.

I am sorry that certain advantages were taken, but I do not want to touch on past sores, in regard to this Bill. I think the further away we keep from recriminations the better, so I do not want to touch on the reason why wages, as Deputy Bennett said a while ago, are down to from 3/- to 5/- a week. I do not want to touch on the particular period in which they were brought down to that figure, nor on the campaign carried on to drive them down. I think that those of us who are representing the agricultural community here ought to stick together and see that this measure is brought through the House as a decent Bill, a good Bill, and a Bill that is going to benefit the agricultural worker and ensure that he will get at least a living wage on which he can support his wife and family. Let us see to that in the first instance, and then let us stick together on another matter; let us stick together in seeing that we get such a price for our produce as will enable us to pay them that wage.

That will be the trouble.

There is no trouble. I can guarantee to you that as far as these industrialists are concerned they are supposed to be clever business men, but every time we met them they were unable to answer our case. This Bill will undoubtedly raise the lot of the agricultural labourer. It is to my mind a charter of freedom.

Before you sit down, are you going to vote for this Bill or not?

I will vote for anything that will make Deputy Donnelly pay an extra couple of pence for his morning rasher. I do not see much necessity for dealing any further with this measure until it comes up on the Committee Stage, when we will have an opportunity of going into it more closely. To my mind the Bill supplies a long-felt want and should be welcomed by every Deputy in this House, whether he represents the farming community or is a Labour representative. We should look at this Bill as a legislative enactment that is going at last to do justice to the ordinary agricultural workers in this country.

Deputy Davin expressed the hope that I would deal with this measure in a clearer manner than Deputy Dillon did.

Deputy Finlay said he would.

Do not bother about that.

It is to me a very welcome Bill and I have been wondering for the last couple of years, since the fall in wages came about, how the labourers had been at all able to manage. When others like myself pay a man 10/- or 12/- on a Saturday night and when he takes that home to his wife and family I am wondering how he is going to maintain them after paying for his cottage. That has seriously exercised my mind time and again. Any man with a tender heart cannot but feel for the children of such a man when he meets them along the road. In truth, the agricultural labourers are the worst paid body in the community. The farmer himself is badly paid for his services to the State but the agricultural labourer is even worse paid. It is only natural if you have a loaf and if you are going to divide it with another that you will probably be tempted to keep the big end for yourself. Unless a man has a very kind heart that is what happens, and I am afraid that is what happens as between the farmer and the agricultural labourer. With the friendly relations that exist between the farmer and the agricultural labourer I know that it is very hard on most farmers to find themselves in the position of not being able to pay a better wage than they are paying at present. These two classes will have to keep together and to stand together. It is these men, between them, who maintain the community; they have to pay for the upkeep of every other class, from the king to the beggar. It is pretty hard to remember that while that is so, both are so badly paid. As Deputy Corry mentioned the Thurles beet factory, I might say that the farmers of Leix-Offaly keep this factory going by sending their beet to it. I have been at that factory on several occasions and I have seen a shift of 200 men coming off work. These are all what might be called green labourers. I would say that not five out of the 200 would be employed by any farmer. Why should these men be paid 50/- a week when the farm labourer is only paid 10/- or 15/-? I say it is grossly unjust. I want to tell the Minister that I consider this Bill, as far as the agricultural community is concerned, is two years overdue.

All of us know that the farmer to-day is not able to pay the wage he paid up to a few years ago. My colleagues, Deputies Bennett and Holohan, said they would not like to mention the economic war in the debate on this Bill. Neither do I like to mention it, but still, is it not the case that we are all losing an enormous amount of money on the sales of our agricultural produce, the value of which has gone down from £61,000,000 to £40,000,000? That is a loss of over £20,000,000 to the agricultural industry. The Government, no doubt, wants this country to succeed and, if they do, then the sooner they get away from the economic war the better. Let them give the farmers an open and free market. I remember when we had a free market we were able to pay and we did pay a decent wage to our labourers. I myself paid them 30/- a week and so did many farmers in my constituency. Deputy Corry mentioned that the farmers cut agricultural wages for one reason alone. I could not agree with him in that. If a farm hand is useful to the farmer it is not the wages he now pays him that he would like to give him but a good deal more. The more wages the labourer is paid the more helpful he is on the farm and, the lower the wage the labourer is paid, the less useful he is. On my farm I employ a good many hands. I work on the land myself side by side with the men and I know how strenuous the work is. I often say to them at night: "You men earned your day's hire anyway." I hope this Bill will not be put into a pigeon-hole until the election campaign is over. I trust it is not being brought before the House by the Government as propaganda. The Minister said it would take two months to put it into operation. Well, if it is in operation in two months I am one of the Deputies who will be satisfied. Deputy Davin asked me this evening was I going to vote for or against the Bill. I now reply to him and say I am going to vote for it.

Deputies on the Opposition side when speaking on this Bill said that they feared that the setting up of the various committees will in some way lead to bitterness between employers and employees. I look upon the section of the Bill which makes provision for the appointment of advisory committees as one of its best features. The very fact that advisory committees will be set up in each area, committees who will be composed of men intimately connected with the agricultural industry in the district, men who throughly understand the agricultural industry and will be able to contribute to the advisory committees their experience of farming, will in itself ensure that all parties will get a fair hearing and that any recommendations made to the board will embody the majority vote of the committee. Pleas have been made for an increase in the price of agricultural produce. A plea has been made for guaranteed prices. In the one particular item of wheat, we have already in operation a guaranteed price for the farmer. Perhaps the Minister can visualise that he will be in a position to introduce still further guarantees in respect of other crops. I believe that the Minister is satisfied that the agricultural position at the moment warrants the step he is taking and that he believes that the future will be a bright one for the farming industry.

I agree with Deputies who have asked the Minister to speed up the operation of the Bill when it becomes an Act. The Minister told us that at least a space of two months will be allowed to the committees to decide the wages or conditions they are going to recommend to the board. I think the Minister has stated that the chairman of the board will also be chairman of the committees. I should like to know what length it will take to dispose of the work of the six areas. If one area is cleared, will the extra wage to be paid be made retrospective in other areas seeing that the work was not complete there? Will the board have any standard as to what a living wage should be? I would be glad to know how the standard wage will be fixed. Will it be taken from the circumstances of a single man whose weekly outlay is small, or from the outlay of a man with a family of four or five children? Does the Minister contemplate setting up any rules to govern the working of the board in that respect? Will the representatives of the workers and of the employers be men actively engaged in agriculture in their districts?

I listened with some interest to the speech of Deputy Dillon on behalf of the Opposition. As the Deputy did not say whether he was going to vote for or against the Bill, his speech may be taken at its proper value. He said that he believed 21/9, the mean wage all over the country, is not a living wage, and that a living wage would more closely approximate to 35/- a week. When Deputy Dillon's Party had the opportunity of fixing 35/- as the minimum wage in 1931 why did they not do so? Why did his Party not raise an outcry then, when 9 per cent. of the agricultural workers were earning less than 20/- per week?

I find the Deputy stated that Government policy on agriculture was responsible for the reduction in wages here. The Deputy is following closely on the lines laid down by Deputy Cosgrave in a recent speech in Navan, in which, he said that in the course of the election campaign they proposed to develop every phase of their policy, and to demonstrate that Government policy was responsible for the reduction in wages paid to labourers. Deputy Dillon endeavoured to prove that statement. It might not be in order to go into that matter now, but it is quite evident that wages were not reduced as a result of Government policy. There are several instances where wages were reduced in an effort to defeat the Fianna Fáil Government, and in an effort to force people to vote against this Government. Deputy Dillon stated that if we settled the economic war farmers would be able to pay their workers, and that if they had a free market for their produce they would be able to pay a living wage. Deputy Cosgrave stated that if his Party was returned to power they would see that people who were amongst the most poorly paid would get their share of what was realised from the sale of agricultural produce in a free market. That means that agricultural workers will be compelled to wait for a living wage until Irish produce put on the English market, in competition not only with the farm produce of England but of the Colonies, the Argentine, Denmark, Russia and other countries that send agricultural produce to that market, is remunerative. As Irish farmers would be in competition with those countries that dumped their surplus produce on the English market, agricultural workers would only get their due share out of what was left. Listening to Deputy Dillon, one would imagine that his Party had some guarantee that if Irish produce was going to that free market that he spoke of, good prices would be got for it. There is no such guarantee. If the economic war was settled in the morning no one could guarantee that good prices would be obtained by farmers for produce sent to the English markets. Even countries in the Commonwealth of Nations would not have any guarantee that their farmers would get such a decent price for produce as to enable them to pay a living wage to their workers.

When this Bill becomes law Deputy Dillon and Deputy Cosgrave will find that another plank in the Opposition platform has been removed, as it will be the means of fixing decent wages for agricultural workers. Accordingly Deputy Cosgrave will not have to go ahead with the campaign which he outlined in his speech. This question of dealing with the agricultural workers is really one of grave concern for the country generally, and cannot be left to chance. There are honest farmers who will pay a decent wage to their workmen, but there are others who will not. We had examples of that in the past under the Agricultural Wages Board, when some farmers were found evading the regulations laid down at that time. Even though they were getting good prices for their cattle, and even though it was a war period when inflated prices prevailed, yet we know that in many cases farmers did not pay that wage although they were bound by law to do so at the time. If there was evasion then, there can be evasion now, and I am sure there are many farmer-Deputies who will agree with that.

The Minister said that farmers need have no apprehensions so far as this Bill is concerned. I am satisfied that, as far as guaranteed prices are concerned, they may not have any apprehensions. I would like to point out that any increase in the rate of wages paid to agricultural workers will not mean a loss to the farmers. The extra wages paid will be spent in purchasing either agricultural produce or the industrial products in the towns. Heretofore, the agricultural worker and the town worker were compelled to purchase foreign manufactured goods and foreign produce, the result being that their money went out to pay the farmers and workers in other countries. That position has now been changed. The extra wages that will now be paid to the workers must, of necessity, go back to the pockets of the farmers. If we have a higher rate of wages prevailing, that will mean that we will need to have increased production. I think that cannot be doubted, because if the purchasing power of the working classes is improved you must have an increase in production to meet the increased demand. If the output of industrial workers in the towns is increased, and if there is a greater demand for the goods they produce, it will mean that more of them will be employed, and that there will be a greater demand for agricultural produce. An increase in the wages of agricultural workers will ensure increased production of agricultural produce, so that we can look forward to big developments along those lines.

The Minister referred to the influx of agricultural workers to the cities. I believe that all Deputies in the House would be glad to see the members of the agricultural community remaining on the land. We believe that the land should be made capable of carrying all the members of the rural community. We have often heard Deputies representing the City of Dublin complain of the inflow of country people to the city, and that the city authorities have been forced to provide work or maintenance for them. We sympathise with them in that, and we are only too willing to retain those people in the country. I believe that this Bill will be a help towards doing that. During the past couple of years we have been engaged in erecting new houses for the agricultural community, but fresh air alone is not sufficient to guarantee a healthy up-bringing for a family in a new house in the country. The members of the family require clothing and plenty of good food. This Bill will, I think, help to meet that situation.

There is another aspect of the situation and it is this: that when country people come into a city they are attracted to it not so much by the glamour of the city as the prospect of obtaining higher wages than heretofore could be obtained in the country. After some time in the city many of them, unfortunately, drifted into the slum areas. As a result of the praise worthy campaign started by the Irish Press and by other bodies to eliminate the slums, that question is now receiving much attention, and I think all Deputies will agree that in future country people should not look to Dublin, as they have been forced to do in the past, for the opportunity to earn a livelihood. Emphasis has been laid on the fact, when dealing with the slum question, that very often when a slum area has been cleared the houses in it, a week or two later, are again relet. We should at all times do everything in our power to strive to keep country people from coming to the city.

I welcome this Bill. Some Deputies who have spoken on it did not say whether or not they were going to vote for it. I propose to vote for it, and I do so with enthusiasm. I would have preferred if the Minister had been in a position to say that he would lay down a fixed wage. I realise, however, the many difficulties that have confronted him in placing this measure before the House. I know quite well that different conditions prevail in different counties, and that different rates of wages are paid in different areas. I believe that the Minister has taken the right step in proposing to appoint a board and advisory committees. All Deputies, I think, should give the measure their whole-hearted support. I believe that its operation will bring about a very decided improvement in the condition of agricultural workers.

It is a matter for sincere congratulation that this much-belated measure has got such a friendly reception from practically every Deputy who has spoken on it this evening. That, I think, indicates that there is a general recognition amongst the members of all Parties and all sections of the community that the agricultural worker has, for a considerable time, been a pariah in this country. We have been again and again told in this House of the importance of the agricultural industry: that it represents something like 75 per cent. of the wealth of the country. If these statements be related to the number of propertyless people that it carries and to the conditions under which they have been obliged to work, then I think it must be confessed that the standards maintained in that industry fall very far short indeed of what they should be. I welcome the tone of Deputy Corry's speech. This is a measure that we should not approach in any half-hearted or mealy-mouthed fashion. We have been urging on the Government for many years that a measure such as this was absolutely necessary, that the agricultural worker was entitled to a living wage and that he has got to get it. I do not think that we should be too squeamish as to where the means to do that are to come from.

Deputy Dillon indicated that there was only one possible method by which this measure could be made a success, and that was by settling the economic war. I was glad to observe that the Deputies who followed him did not fall into the trap of endorsing his method for shelving this and every other issue that comes before the House. I believe that they will face up to the situation which this Bill envisages and will deal with it in a genuine way, irrespective of whether the economic war is settled or not. Deputy Corry suggested, I think, the right method by which the farmers who will be obliged to pay the wages fixed by the board may recoup themselves, and that is by passing on the increase to the consumer. I think that is a perfectly fair and obvious way. If there is depression in the agricultural industry, nobody, surely, suggests that the farmers be asked to pay increased wages to their labourers from their depleted financial resources while there is the method available of having the burden of that increase shared by the community at large.

It is the responsibility of the entire community that the labourers in the agricultural industry should be paid a reasonable wage to enable them to keep themselves and their families in that frugal comfort which has been indicated by the head of Christendom in this country where we boast so much about our Christianity.

I do not think that very much can be said at this juncture on the Bill, because it is purely a matter of machinery. I have very grave doubt as to the wisdom of entrusting the chairman with the supreme and complete power with which he is to be invested. It means, practically, that in all cases the chairman will be the dictator, except the miracle happens of there being unanimity amongst all the people constituting the committee. If they are all unanimous, then the chairman has to agree. But it is very difficult to anticipate unanimity among representatives of the farmers and of the labourers and the neutrals—whoever the neutrals will be I am not quite sure, because it is not easy to get neutrals in this country. Of course, the chairman is going to be also the chairman of the area advisory committees. I think that is a rather wise provision as he would glean a good deal of knowledge thereby and be better equipped to carry out his functions as dictator.

There is a further matter as to the wisdom of which I am not so sure. It is estimated that there will be about six areas and there may be six different rates of wages for these six areas, with additional rates for districts inside these areas. In addition, there will be special rates for special types of agricultural workers. If I envisage the thing rightly from the Minister's statement, there is going to be a whole flood of conflicting rates. After all, the country is not so big and I do not think we ought to have such diversity of rates. If the Minister cannot see his way to fix one rate which would be considered necessary to maintain an agricultural worker with an average family in this country, or even one for each province, I think he ought to try and minimise, as far as possible, this diversity of rates and, particularly, the fixing of different rates inside one particular area. In my opinion, it is going to lead to confusion and chaos later on in the administration of the Act. The less intricate and the more simple the machinery, the better the chance will be for its success.

There is another point which I find it rather difficult to understand. Section 2 says that "the expression `agricultural worker' means a person employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship whose work under such contract is or includes work in agriculture, but does not include a person whose work under any such contract is or includes domestic service." That would be rather difficult of interpretation, because we know that in most parts of the country the servant girl who does the agricultural work must do some domestic work as well, and which of these two is going to govern that sentence, I do not know. It will be a cause of great confusion. The person engaged in milking the cows, etc., and who incidentally does some household work, should not be struck out from the provisions of the Act. Provision should be made to regulate the wages of such persons. This is a definition which ought to be clarified and I would be thankful if the Minister would clarify the point as to what is to be done with girls who do domestic work as a secondary consideration, but whose main function is the milking of cows, dairy work, etc. They ought not to be excluded from the scope of the measure.

I should also like to hear from the Minister if he has formed any particular idea as to whom he is going to consult in the selection of the representatives of the agricultural labourers. Deputy Davin has indicated some channels through which the farmers' representatives might be selected. But the representation of the agricultural labourers, owing to the fact that they are pretty disorganised, should be a matter of great concern to the Minister and he should get in touch with some people who will truly represent these labourers to see that their interests are not neglected or overlooked at the all-important function of wage fixing in the areas or suggesting wages to the chairman of the board when the time comes.

There is not very much more that can be said on the Bill, except that I heartily welcome this effort on behalf of the Government to lift up at last the social standard of the lowest paid people in the land. They are actually serfs in their own land, although they are the basis on which the whole fabric of the State is really built. They have been a menace to other industries because of the fact that they are paid so low a wage. I think it is only in keeping with the progress we are making that they should now have a hand reached out to them. I am glad to see that the measure has got such a friendly reception from practically all parts of the House and I trust it will result in their being given a fair, decent standard of living.

It has been rather a surprise to me that Deputy Keyes should so enthusiastically throw his arms round what Deputy Davin described as a milk-and-water measure, because that is what it is. A very belated milk-and-water measure, Deputy Davin called it, and that is what it is.

It is very belated all right.

It is a milk-and-water attempt to settle a very important question. As far as I am concerned, I say frankly that I have no hopes of the Bill.

I do not want to be misrepresented. Is it not a fact that I said that the measure depended, in the long run, on the mentality of the chairman?

I wrote down what Deputy Davin said and he said: "It is a milk-and-water measure." I think Deputy Davin is right and I compliment him on saying that. In so far as it brings the farmers and labourers together to realise the position in which they are, I certainly welcome the Bill and, further, as an alternative to warring unions, certainly we ought to have a wages board. As a farmer I say that the farm labourers all over the country, or in many parts of the country, are not being paid, and the farmers are not able to pay them anything like a decent living wage at present. I do not think that there is any use in people burying their heads in the sand like the ostrich and ignoring the cause of the poverty of the farming community, which is the economic war. You are going to gain nothing by doing that. According to the figures quoted, since 1929 the value of our agricultural output has dropped by over £20,000,000. Surely that is going to affect agricultural wages. There is no use in endeavouring to avoid that.

Deputy Kelly wanted to avoid the economic war. He was glad that it had been avoided But he made the most extraordinary statement which I ever heard made in this House and which appeared to me ill-informed. He was quoting something that Deputy Cosgrave said at some meeting in his constituency with regard to the economic war, and he said that apparently Deputy Cosgrave felt that there could be no increase in agricultural wages until we settled the economic war, which, Deputy Kelly said, would mean going on the British market in competition with England and Scotland, the Argentine and every other part of the world. Are we not there already? Have we any other market? Are we not in competition with all these people at present in the British market? The Fianna Fáil Government cannot get us any other market. Are not all our cattle going there and are they not carrying a sum of £4 5s. 0d. on their backs over to the British? It serves no purpose to avoid all this. It is better for us to face up to the facts.

The economic war is responsible for the position in which the farmers are at present, and there is no doubt about it. Of course, as Deputy Kelly said, there are guaranteed prices for wheat and beet. After all, what percentage is that of the farmer's income? When all is said and done, it is a very small percentage. Deputy Kelly appeared to think that we were in the unique position in which we will probably find ourselves when the new Constitution is in force—that we were neither in nor out of the British Commonwealth. In fact he said: "If we become members of the British Commonwealth." I thought we were members. I have not heard anything to the contrary.

The principle of the Bill is right— that a wages board should be set up. That course is certainly preferable to having warring unions of any kind. If we had the farmers in a union and the labourers in another union, and the two unions at war, we should certainly be shouting for a wages board. I am sorry, however, that we must do this, because I am not at all satisfied that it will not lead to the establishment of a kind of "class" as between farmer and labourer, such as we have not had in this country. Between farmer and labourer there has been the utmost cordiality and there was no distinction of class between them as there is between employers and labourers in other occupations. Once we do a thing like this, I am afraid we shall have the barrier of class between the farmer and the labourer. However, we must only wait and see what the result will be.

If we are to discuss the machinery necessary for the fixing of wages, I think we ought to consider what is going to be the deciding factor in the Bill. Deputy Kelly referred to the area committees and hoped they would be representative of agriculture and labour. I hope they will. But, to my mind, they will not count at all. What we are doing in this Bill is setting up a nominee of the Minister for the time being—let him be who he will—as dictator of the wages all over the country. That is what the Bill amounts to. I am surprised that the Labour Party did not make a comparison between the British Act, on which this Bill is based, and the Bill before us. The Bill is based on the British Act of 1924, but while that Act is, in part, adopted into our measure, there has been introduced into our Bill a type of autocratic dictation which has no place in the British Act. I do not believe that these area committees will even meet. My experience of committees set up for various purposes is that, when they find that their advice is not being acted upon, they do not meet at all. The result may be that you will not have even meetings of these area committees.

There is another bad feature of this proposal. We have been endeavouring since the Government came into power to lead the people along some particular line of industry or cultivation. We are going even further in this Bill. Not alone have we told the farmer that he must drop this and take up that, but we are now going to fix the wages he is to pay. In other words, we are taking away all initiative from the people. We are destroying their character and, if we could succeed without the assistance of this Bill, I would say that we should do without it. I did make a proposal when a motion dealing with this matter was before the House on a previous occasion. The proposal was that a commission be set up to see what was the cause of the decline in the farmers' income which prevented him from paying a decent rate of wages. I think that should have been done. In so far as this Bill provides for that, in so far as it is going to bring farmers and labourers to a realisation of the position to which they have both been driven, I welcome the Bill. As I said, I have no hope for the Bill. I am afraid that, like most of the Bills we got in connection with agriculture in late years, it will go by the board. It will, however, create more officials and inspectors. That may be good politics but I doubt that it is good economics. The more inspectors there are, the more organisers for political purposes there will be. However, I do not think that the principle is a good one. I do not think that Government interference at every stage is good. In so far as this Bill is taking from the people their initiative, I deplore its introduction. In so far as it will show up what has been happening as between farmer and labourer, I welcome it.

I intend to support this measure. Indeed, I do not know if any division is to be taken upon it. But if a division were taken, I should support the Bill. I want to say a few words to explain that I do not support the measure with any exaggerated expectations as to its results. Indeed, the general attitude of Deputy Brennan towards the Bill corresponds pretty closely with my own. I do not believe that this Bill, by itself, can accomplish the results that are evidently hoped for from it by some of the Deputies on the Government and Labour Benches who have spoken in its favour.

In suggesting that it involves an undesirable form of interference with individual initiative, I think Deputy Brennan has been more pessimistic than seems to me to be altogether justifiable. Assuming that other conditions in this country were satisfactory in respect to agriculture, I should not hesitate, on the ground of not interfering with individual initiative, to support a measure of this kind. I hope that Deputy Brennan is not a true prophet when he tells us that this Bill will lead to bad feeling or, at any rate, to deterioration of the relations that exist between farmer and labourer. As he justly says, these relations have been, on the whole, cordial and friendly in the past and it would be very much to be regretted if the setting up of these committees or the wages board were to lead to their deterioration. Personally, I do not think that that consequence need follow or that that consequence will, in fact, follow if the machinery of the Act is handled wisely and prudently from the top downwards.

There is absolutely no blinking the truth of the statement that agriculture is the Cinderella of Irish industries. It is the Cinderella of industries in most countries, but especially is it so in Ireland and one really valuable thing this Bill can hardly fail to accomplish, as Deputy Brennan pointed out, is that it will bring people all through the country up against the facts and it will let in a flood of light upon the agricultural situation. My own belief is that it is likely to contribute very greatly to the settlement of the financial dispute with Great Britain. I once again protest against the description of that situation as an economic war, because it tends to dignify it too much to call it an economic war. What I believe it will make an end of is the system by which we will pay the land annuities through tariffs, because that is what the situation is. It is not an economic war; it is merely a system by which we pay land annuities through tariffs. I believe that the more farmers of all grades and agricultural labourers throughout the country realise that situation, the more impossible that situation will become and I have strong hopes that, as a result of this Bill, that idiotic state of affairs will be brought to an end.

But I am not satisfied that even the ending of that system of paying land annuities through tariffs is enough to put agriculture in the position that it ought to be in. I think that more attention still must be given to the whole problem of rehabilitating agriculture, organising it on a better basis, and securing to the farmer and the farm labourer alike a better return for their work. It is all very well for Deputy Corry to talk lightly about passing on the extra costs to the consumer, as if we could fix any price we like for agricultural produce. That is entirely to ignore the fact that we depend to such a large extent for the prosperity of our agriculture upon a market overseas. It is not as if we were in a position to control prices in that market, because we are not. I believe agricultural in this country requires more scientific and laborious study than it has yet received from the Department. I think that more study is necessary of what is being done abroad, especially in Denmark, in the hope of putting our agriculture on a better footing altogether.

For the past three years the members of this Party have been endeavouring to get the Minister for Agriculture to introduce some machinery which will enable him to fix a minimum wage for agricultural workers. Like Deputy Davin, I am not so very enthusiastic as to what this Bill will be able to accomplish. Wages boards of themselves are all very well, but in connection with the fixing of wages for farm labourers, these boards may be faced with a very difficult problem. Deputy Dillon rightly said that these boards may succeed in discovering what an economic wage might be without making any effort at all to secure a living wage or something approaching a living wage for agricultural labourers. During the debate on the Estimate for the Department of the Minister for Agriculture this year we laid it down very definitely that what we required was that the Minister should establish a minimum wage for agricultural labourers. There is nothing in this Bill to indicate that the Minister has anything like that in his mind, and we would like to know if the Minister has any idea of setting any kind of standard before the area committees when they meet, because we would object very strenuously to a Bill of this kind if all these area committees succeeded in doing would be merely to find out the economic wage that could be paid to agricultural labourers in an area.

It is with certain reservations that we give our support to the Bill. If in an area it is ascertained by one of these committees that the economic wage should be a certain amount and if that economic wage were not sufficient to keep a man and his family in any sort of frugal comfort, one wonders if the deliberations of the committee will end there, or will anything further be done. Is the Minister prepared to pay a subsidy to the farmer to cover the difference between the economic wage and what the Minister would consider a minimum living wage? I do not know what the position of the farmers is, whether they are able to pay a wage at the moment which would be considered a living wage. From all we hear from people who speak for the farmers, they are not in a position to do that. That remains to be found out through the medium of these committees. What I would like is some kind of statement from the Minister to the effect that if it were discovered that the economic wage would not be sufficient to keep a man and his family in frugal comfort, the Government are prepared to pay a subsidy to the farmers to enable a living wage to be paid. I think that is not asking too much.

Deputy Dillon suggested that we were faced with a dilemma and that it was brought nearer to us because of the introduction of this Bill. Once again he brought forward the old remedy that we should settle the economic war. One hears that from time to time, but I have never yet heard from Deputy Dillon on what lines the economic war could be or should be settled. He led one to infer by his reference to the subject that if the so-called economic war were settled in the morning the wages question would settle itself. He was asked then was he satisfied if this thing were settled that immediately agricultural labourers would be given a living wage. Everybody knows there are a good number of farmers in this country who, whether or not there was an economic war, would not fulfil their obligations from the point of view of paying decent wages to agricultural labourers. There are decent farmers in this country, but on the other hand, there are some who have always paid a miserable wage. There was another war, the European War, some years ago, when farmers were paid good prices for their produce, and we know that the machinery set up under the Corn Production Act had to be brought into operation on various occasions in order to compel farmers to pay the wages laid down under that Act. It is absolutely necessary, therefore, that some kind of machinery should be provided in order that labourers be paid a decent wage.

I would like the Minister to make some statement as to whether he proposes to indicate to these area committees what he considers would be a living wage and, if it is found after investigation by these area committees that what is considered to be an economic wage is nothing like what is required by a farm labourer and his family to live upon, that some subsidy will be given by the Government to enable the living wage to be paid. We hear a good deal about the farmers suffering. I know they have suffered during a certain period recently, but things are recovering. But what the farmer has suffered is nothing compared with what the agricultural labourer has suffered. People may say what they like, but wages have been cut in this country for political reasons. I know of cases in my own constituency where farm labourers were called together, prior to the 1933 election, and told that if they voted in a certain way their wages would be cut, and their wages have been cut.

I want to protest against that statement because Fianna Fáil farmers cut their labourers' wages as well as other farmers.

I do not know whether they did or not. I am stating what actually happened.

I can prove it if the Deputy wants the information.

There is really nothing further to be said in the matter. We welcome the Bill, as I said, with certain reservations. We should like the Minister to say that if an economic wage is found by any of these area committees which is not considered to be a living wage, he will take some steps to secure that money will be forthcoming from some quarter to enable a decent living wage to be paid to agricultural labourers.

I wish to say a few words in support of this Bill, which may have the effect of bringing what is agreed on all sides of the House is a thoroughly deserved relief to agricultural labourers in the form of increased wages. What that increase will be nobody at the moment knows. Everyone seems to fight shy of defining what should be a minimum wage for the agricultural labourer. I could never understand why the worker in the town or the city should receive £2 10s. 0d. or £3 a week, while the agricultural labourer received only from 16/- to £1 a week. The all-round agricultural labourer, in my opinion, is the most highly-skilled type of artisan that can be found in this or any other country. He has to display to a very marked degree the greatest versatility in his work, and he is, in fact, a living example of the truth of the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. If there is a breakdown in machinery, or in any of the agricultural implements, the agricultural labourer has to turn his hand to fixing that breakdown in many cases. He has to be a veritable jack-of-all-trades and for that reason, I think he is entitled to a wage almost equal to that paid to the workers in our towns and cities.

I cannot understand why the agricultural labourer who assists in the growing of beet should be paid at the rate of 4d. an hour, while the worker in the factory is paid at the rate of 11d. If it comes to a question of hard work, there is no comparison between the two. One is out in all classes of weather, trudging through heavy soil on wet days, while the other is inside under shelter. Again, one cannot understand why the agricultural labourer who assists in the growing of beet should be paid at the rate of 4d., while the labourer in the flour mill, who works under ideal conditions, is paid at a rate, in some cases, exceeding 1/- an hour. I am not objecting to that wage. I only wish it could be £5 a week but, in my opinion, there should never have been such a difference between the wages paid to the workers in the country and to the workers in the towns. For that reason, I welcome the Bill, but, at the same time, as one who understands the position in the country, I cannot see how this Bill will achieve the object which the Minister, I believe, honestly intends it should achieve. In the first place, there is no mention of what the minimum wage will be. Judging by the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, it is not going to exceed 22/- a week, or a maximum of 24/-. Therefore, so far as this Bill is concerned, we cannot hope, even when it is put into operation, that the wage will exceed only 24/- a week.

I should also like to ask the Minister if and when these committees comprising representatives of the farmers and of the labourers under the chairmanship of a nominee of the Minister is set up, whether there will be any conditions governing the payment of these wages. I am referring to the question of wet weather, and I can see that this Bill will possibly mean less wages for the agricultural labourer because if he is to be paid at the rate of 4/- a day, and if he is to be sent home on a wet day, it could easily happen that, in a particular week or set of weeks, that agricultural labourer would go home with only 8/- or 10/- a week wages. That is one of the aspects of the situation which seems to have escaped the notice of Deputies. At the moment, there is an old method of working between a farmer and agricultural labourer whereby there is no such thing as a stoppage for wet weather, so far as pay is concerned. I think that is a very important aspect of this question of the payment of wages to agricultural labourers. I think Deputy Corry should know something about it. In a particularly wet week, there might possibly be not one day in six on which the labourer could work. Will the farmer be entitled to send him home on such days and make no allowance to him? It is the same as the question of the builder's labourer who may have 1/1 per hour on paper, but who, instead of getting an average of 47/-a week might go home after a succession of weeks with £1 or 25/-. There might come a time in severe weather when there would be six or seven weeks' continuous frost and the average earnings of these men would not exceed 3d. an hour. All these are very important questions to be considered in connection with this Bill.

Then there is the eternal question— the ability of the farmer to pay. I know that so far as the farmers of Louth are concerned, they are a very decent type of farmer who would like to pay their agricultural labourers as good a wage as they possibly could afford. I have known them to state in public that their only regret was that they could not pay a higher wage, and I know for a fact that many of the farmers there who were engaged, to a very large extent, in the raising of live stock have been severely hit by the economic war. I do not propose to go into that. God knows it has been discussed enough, but I do know, from experience and from enquiries I have made, that there are numerous farmers in County Louth who have suffered very heavy financial losses as a result of the poor prices they have received for their cattle during the past four or five years. Much of the capital they had saved in previous years has gone by the board, and, to-day, having no reserves, they are not in a position to pay the wages they paid previous to this economic war. That is the position in general, and it is only right to say that although the criticism has been levelled at farmers in general throughout the country, that they are not willing to pay wages, I think they are willing if they get a fair chance. Up to the present many of them who have been engaged in that particular branch of agricultural production, cattle, have not been able to make ends meet. They have not been able to make as much money during the past two or three years as they had been able to make previously.

There is one peculiar section in the Bill, Section 18, which I should like the Minister to explain. It states:—

If, on application, the board are satisfied that any person employed or desiring to be employed as an agricultural worker, on time-work to which a minimum rate fixed under the Act is applicable, is so affected by any physical injury or mental deficiency or any infirmity due to age or to any other cause that he is incapacitated from earning that minimum rate, the board shall grant to the person a permit exempting as from the date of the application, or from any later date specified in the permit, the employment of the workers from the provisions of this Act requiring wages to be paid at not less than the minimum rate, subject to such conditions as may be specified in the permit.

That is a peculiar section, and it might give rise to great confusion. I can visualise a farmer employing four or five labourers. Possibly, at a particular time of the year, when it would be necessary for the farmer to dispense with the services of two out of the five workers, some clever fellow, in order to be kept on, might say that he was suffering from lumbago or some other disease which could be feigned for the time being. He might say to the farmer: "I shall work for a few shillings less than the minimum wage. You can make application to the board and the thing will be regularised." I think that is a very dangerous section to incorporate in the Bill. It would create a loophole which might cause a great deal of confusion. I can quite understand what the Minister had in view. He may be thinking of an old servant who has worked all his life with a farmer, a worker who is coming up to 65 or 70 years of age, and who might not be able to do the same work as he would have done in his younger days. This section, however, undoubtedly gives a loophole to pay less than the standardised rate of wages and I think the Minister should be very careful in putting it into operation.

Speaking of the Bill as a whole, I wish the Minister every good luck with it, but I am still of the opinion that when all is said and done, it is a question of economics. There is a thing called economic pressure, which has very little regard for wages boards or bodies of that kind. By that I mean, that what a person is not earning he cannot pay. Whilst undoubtedly there has been an improvement during the past year or two, and whilst we hope that that improvement may continue, we think that there could be a much greater improvement effected in a very short space of time by enabling the farmer to get a full price for his cattle, a price he is not getting at the moment. We must all face up to that fact. Even Deputy Corry must admit that is a fact. The farmers and agricultural labourers have made very many sacrifices during the past few years, and I think it is about time now that we changed our policy so that they would not be compelled to make any further sacrifices, sacrifices that are, in my opinion and in the opinion of many people in this country, absolutely unnecessary. If this Bill did nothing more than to bring the farmer and labourer together to a realisation of the position as it exists, it would be worth while introducing it and putting it into operation. I commend the Bill for the reason that it is undoubtedly the intention to do some little good to a class of the community which is badly in need of it, a community which is the backbone of this or any other country—the agricultural labourers.

I am not in a position, like other Deputies, to give expression to the hope that as a result of this Bill the agricultural worker will receive 40/- per week. This Bill only gives the Minister power to set up wages boards and area committees. It will be the function of these committees to regulate the wages for their respective areas. I hope that neither the statements which have been used here to-night nor the statements which have been made by Government officials as to the rate of wages paid to agricultural workers, will be taken by those committees as dictation or as a line to work on, in fixing wages for agricultural labourers. In my own area, a much higher wage has been fixed without any friction with the farmers. Deputy Coburn stated that he wished to see this Bill passed for no other purpose than to bring farmers and labourers together. Before ever this Bill was introduced we have been meeting employing farmers and discussing matters affecting rates of wages with them, and we have come to a settlement with them regarding these matters. Unfortunately, however, you will always have some outside group of employers who, no matter what agreement is come to, will take a different line and will pay the smallest rate of wages they can. Then with the large number of unemployed in the area it is impossible, without some Act of Parliament, to prevent their reducing the standard rate of wages in the locality. In some districts where rates have been increased for social services, it has been the practice of farmers to reduce wages in order to meet the increased rates they have to pay.

Speaking from personal experience of the old Agricultural Wages Board set up in 1917, I do not visualise the friction or discontent that Deputies on the other side spoke of, but I can see that the Minister will be placed in a somewhat difficult position. In a number of places rural workers are unorganised, and there will be some difficulty in selecting men who are genuine agricultural labourers from rural areas for this committee. Deputy Coburn spoke about there being no work for agricultural labourers on wet days. Statements such as that remind us of the necessity for selecting men to represent agricultural workers who have a complete knowledge of farming and agricultural wages. Our experience is that wet weather is sometimes the busiest period for a farmer. The Minister had adopted practically the provisions of the Corn Production Act in the method of selecting labourers representatives, but he has given more power to the chairman than was given in the case of the Corn Production Act. Speaking again from personal experience, I can say that neither the farmer nor the labourer need have any fear in connection with the chairman of the board if he has the same mentality as the chairman of the old board had. His decision always met with the approval of both sides. He fixed only a minimum wage, but there was nothing to prevent the workers from getting a much higher wage if they could. If a chairman with similar powers and similar mentality is employed, I have no fear whatever, because he will not have the power that is suggested in this Bill when you consider that the representatives of the workers and the representatives of the employers will be equal in number and that you will also have independent or neutral members. My experience has been that the neutral members very often voted with the chairman, so that there would be no need for him to give a casting vote.

I do not see that this Bill is going to be the great boon that Deputy Corry sees. My experience is that the farmers have always said that they were willing to pay if they got the proper men, and if they had the money to pay, but it has not been my experience that they ever paid a living wage voluntarily. You have always had to have an organisation in order to extract a living wage from a number of farmers. I suggest to Deputies that there are areas where neither beet nor wheat is grown. I have areas in mind where there are not two acres of wheat growing. There is white and black oats, but there is no wheat. Conditions are entirely different in such areas from those where you have wheat and beet. Well, the farmers must get a guarantee, and I agree with Deputy Corry that the Government should give a subsidy in that case to enable a farmer to pay the living wage that I hope the workers in this country will demand on behalf of the most important men they have in the country, the agricultural workers.

Why should you put the farm labourers on the dole?

I am not putting them on the dole, but you are even depriving them of the dole under your own Administration as a result of the six months period under the Unemployment Assistance Act, and I am afraid that Deputy Corry voted for that.

What is the subsidy for?

What is the subsidy for? If we were the Government we would deal with these things. It is for the Government to see that the men whom they promised to right will be righted. The men who, by their votes, put the Government into their present position are the men who are most neglected at the present moment, as Deputy Corry is aware, and I hope that, as a result of the setting up of these boards, a minimum wage will be established that will give those workers some sense of security and that will show what can be done by organisation. Unfortunately, they are not well organised, but where they were organised they were able to get much more than your Parliamentary Secretary states was a proper wage. As to this question of areas, I think that under the old wages board you had not six areas. You grouped them and even under these groups you sometimes had two different wages in the one county.

I am sure that the board will go into this matter very carefully and I hope that some improvement will result, but I have not the same admiration for this Bill that other Deputies, even including Labour Deputies, seem to have. I can readily see that there will be discontent in certain areas where wages may be much less than the people even are receiving at the present time. However, from the point of view of the general good, it may be able to bring up the lowest-paid men, some of whom, unfortunately, I have heard it stated, are working for as low a wage as 8/-a week. Deputy Finlay said that it broke his heart to see his man paid only 12/- a week and to see him going home to try to maintain his wife and family on that wage, but Deputy Finlay's heart continued to bleed. Deputy Finlay did not increase the wages, and I suppose Deputy Finlay is a very good employer, just the same as others, but they never seem to increase the wage. They admit that it is very low, but they do not increase it, and they put the whole blame on the fact that they want a guaranteed price. They say "Give us a guaranteed price and we will be able to pay the wages."

What wages does the Deputy pay?

Probably, if I had got a place like the Deputy's I would be able to employ a good many more.

It is a pity you have not.

Probably I would have as much sympathy for the people I am representing as the Deputy has.

I do not believe the Deputy would.

Deputy Finlay may be as good an employer as we have in the country. He probably is, but unfortunately he follows the example of the bad ones. I do not think this Bill will do all that either Deputy Finlay or Deputy Corry says it will. Deputy Corry would like to see the agricultural workers getting £2 a week. So should I, but I do not believe they will get it under this Bill, because it is not as good a Bill as the old British Corn Production Bill. I only hope that the Minister, in selecting the committees, will select men who can speak on behalf of and are representative of the genuine agricultural workers in the area, and that we will have none of these city men representing or speaking on behalf of the agricultural workers. If we take that line, I am certain that we will not have any friction or class war in connection with the establishment of a minimum wage, and when both parties on the committee get together and hear the evidence, and knowing the wages in the area and the prices the farmer is receiving for his produce, that will be a guidance for that committee in fixing the wages. I have no fear whatsoever that the terrors that have been pointed out on the other side will take place, because there will be men from all parties represented on the committees, and men who will do their best under the present economic circumstances to try to improve the wages of the agricultural workers while, at the same time, having due consideration for the interests of the farmers in the area concerned. That being so, I hope it will be an encouragement for the other men to go further and secure Deputy Corry's dream of 50/- a week.

I have not heard, Sir, the optimistic comments that apparently have been passed by Deputy Corry on this Bill, but whether the Bill is good or not, it can be described here as the most important piece of literature that has been produced in this country, with the possible exception of the Census of Population Report this year, because, between the two, we are going to get some approach to the question of what are the real conditions in this country. It may not be quite in accord with Deputy Everett's sincere wishes in connection with this Bill, but it will give him something hereafter on which to base himself solidly when discussing what wages people are to get and having back of his mind some standard as to what they can be paid. The Census of Population Report came as a shock to most people in this country. There had been a promise made, when the land was fruitful in promises, that Fianna Fáil policy was going to do two things: it was going to prevent emigration out of the country, and it was going to prevent a second type of migration, migration from the country areas into towns. This report showed that both these promises had failed to be fulfilled.

The Agricultural Wages Bill is brought in at this time in answer to pressure put upon the Government by the Labour Party at a time when they were very nearly meeting defeat in this House, and the only good that is going to come of it is that it is going to make people in certain areas sit down and consider certain things, and they will have to consider—inevitably will have to consider in relation to agriculture in this country—two things: What ought to be paid, from the angle of a living wage, and what can be paid—an economic wage. Most of the attention of the House, apparently, has been concentrated on how that gap is going to be bridged. There is an implication in the House concentrating on that point, and that is that the House has some vague idea as to what is a living wage and that it has an uneasy feeling, amounting to practical uncertainty, that, whatever it is, it cannot be paid. There will be good, even if it is only an exposure, in getting people from different districts to sit down and consider these things, and I hope we will see on what they will base their calculation—whether they will base it on what the industry, in its present distressed condition, can afford to pay, or whether they will take their base on what the worker ought to get, based on the new principle in England of inferior nutrition. As far as the machinery of the Bill itself is concerned, I want to speak only of one thing. Although from the ideal viewpoint, from the standard of the passage of good legislation in this House, one ought to deplore it, I cannot find it possible to deplore it in this instance. There is going to be a variety of boards set up. In the Bill there is insistence on unanimity. If there is not unanimity, the Minister's nominee fixes the wage. Remember, the Minister's nominee can prevent unanimity by not agreeing himself.

Dr. Ryan

That is not right.

We will have that discussed on the Committee Stage. If there is not unanimity, the Minister's nominee will fix it. In fact, we may take it that the Minister's nominee is going to fix the wages throughout the country. That is all to the good, because it will put more responsibility on the Minister for his nominees. It will mean that when we see the wages which are set out we will see what the Minister in his heart—acting through his nominees—thinks of the conditions in various parts of the country, and the wages that can be paid. The sort of machinery that is in this Bill with regard to unanimity, as an ordinary practical piece of legislation, is fatuous from the point of view of expecting good results, but it is worth while experimenting if it were only to be done in this case, because we will have practical people who will be there in a sort of advisory capacity, men working on the land, who, from the depth of their experience, will be able to say what can be paid. Possibly we will also have on those boards humane people who will have their views on what a man ought to get if he is to live on the fruits of his labour. The House has to-night, I gather, vainly asked the Minister to agree that— recognising that there is going to be a gap between those two points—that gap should be bridged by the Government which has made it impossible for agriculture to pay a living wage. Let us put the blame where it should be laid. Years ago, agriculture could have paid better wages than are being paid at the moment. The Minister has confessed that.

So they said in Wexford.

So who said?

The farmers.

I am going to read you a bit of what the farmers said in Wexford. Years ago, agriculture could have paid better wages than are being paid now. The Minister has given figures which show that agriculture did pay better—better than subsidised agriculture; agriculture that is represented as rolling in millions of the taxpayers' money. They are getting a lot of the taxpayers' money, and they are getting so much deducted from it by the blunderings of the present Government that agriculture cannot pay anything approaching a living wage. We will get those views expressed around the committees. We will have it laid down in figures, and the figures will possibly speak a language which Deputy Corry can understand. Before I go on to what is happening, let us see what we were told was going to happen. I do not know if Deputy Corry remembers the Plan, but it dealt with tillage and it dealt with agricultural labourers, and it was precise in its dealing with them. We were to grow our own requirements of a variety of things—I am sure the Deputy helped in the making of this—wheat, oats, barley, peas and beans. Then we were going to have 1,410,000 acres additional tillage. "The Department of Agriculture has calculated the wages payable on an acre of wheat at £2 6s. 6d., and on oats or barley at £2 2s. 0d. On Department figures, this additional tillage will increase the earnings of agricultural workers and small farmers by £3,130,000 a year." All this is under the heading of: "Here is what the Fianna Fáil Government will do for you." There was to be an increase of £3,130,000.

I pass over the delicacy with regard to the feeding of offals to pigs and come to the increased home production. Here is what it says: "The increased production will add no less than £11,000,000 to our agricultural output; an equivalent to £16 a year for every male or female person over 12 years of age, whether farmer or labourer." Sixteen pounds for every male or female over 12 years of age, whether farmer or labourer! Here is what the Fianna Fáil Government will do for you! Now we will get them half way through their course. They fought an election here in County Dublin. Here is what had been done. Their candidate at that point said: "160,000 acres more wheat have been grown by Irish farmers since the present Government came into power. That is worth at least £1,600,000 in cash to Irish farmers. (b) 46,000 acres more beet have been grown as a result of the construction of the three great beet sugar factories. This market was worth £1,018,480 to Irish farmers last year. (c) 20,000 tons of extra turf have been cut by 161 co-operative societies, realising a gross yield of over £115,000 to farmers in bog areas. There has been an enormous increase in other products to the value of close on £1,000,000 per annum. "The home-market for oats, worth £80,000; for barley, worth £100,000; for feeding stuffs, worth £3,000,000, is reserved for the farmer." I have not made an exact calculation, but there is something thrown to the Irish farmer worth nearly £6,000,000 a year. In addition. that figure was turned another way. I take it this is more or less the same calculation, and not an overlapping: "The home market has been reserved for Irish farm produce, a market that is going to go on as long as the Irish people exist. Imports of foodstuffs have been reduced from £17,000,000 to £11,000,000 in three years. This money has gone into the pockets of the Irish farmers." There is £6,000,000. That was no promise. The promise was £11,000,000. The position was not so bad; after two or three years they were able to say that the Irish farmer was richer by £6,000,000 a year. I was asked to deal with what Wexford thought about this. I know what the present Minister for Agriculture thought when he went to Wexford long ago and complained that the farmers and agricultural labourers carried the country on their backs, and had to maintain an expensive and extravagant Government at a cost of £30,000,000 a year.

That was a bad county to quote.

It was an excellent county. The Minister visited it personally to make that speech, and he has since visited it through his policy. £30,000,000 a year was the cost of the expensive and extravagant Government, and it was the farmer and the agricultural labourer who had to bear that burden on their backs. If the cost of government has grown, at any rate the back has been broadened. £6,000,000 extra has been given over to the Irish farmers, and we presume the labourers are getting some of that. That is the plus side of the situation; that is the credit side of the account as far as the Irish farmers are concerned. They were to do well to the extent of £11,000,000 a year. In three years they had done well to the extent of £6,000,000 a year. Deputy Norton, speaking in Kildare in April of this year, commented on a statement made here by Deputy Harris that agricultural workers could not be secured for 25/- a week. Deputy Norton thought that was absurd. Deputy Norton, speaking with a knowledge of his constituency, puts himself on record as saying that hundreds of labourers in County Kildare were working for wages as low as 12/6 and 15/- a week. Cork was examined by the Bishop there. Speaking in 1935 at Watergrasshill, Dr. Cohalan said:—

"I am not speaking with any political motives, and when I single out the farmers' labourers I would like to say that it is not the farmers' fault that labourers are not paid more. The farmers are unable to pay any more."

Who said that?

Dr. Cohalan. I know you commented in a scandalous way on his Lordship recently.

It is not the first queer thing he said.

Possibly not. Everything is queer that is not in line with Fianna Fáil. Continuing, Dr. Cohalan said:—

"It would be well for the Government to realise that there are many labourers with families who are not getting more than 10/- a week."

In Tipperary the rent collectors reported to the Commissioner operating in the south part of the county that they were unable to collect the rents. The excuse given with regard to some of those was that the farm labourers were unemployed. The excuse given with regard to others was that they were getting 8/- a week, and that rents could not be taken from them. So we are told about 12/6 in Kildare; 10/- in Cork and 8/- in Tipperary. I am interested in Wexford. Wexford is a tillage county. The people there have been brought to believe by the use of propaganda that if you only get something that is called tillage going in this country, the land is going to overflow with milk and honey. You have also the propaganda that while there is tillage there is a diminution of emigration, and that when tillage goes down emigration increases. You have also this view promulgated throughout the country that if you are working a farm economy that centres around live stock you do not need many men on your farm, but that if you go in for the growing of wheat you are tending it every day in the year. The statistics disprove all these contentions. Wexford is a tillage county and Wexford, I presume, has got its whack of the £6,000,000 a year that Fianna Fáil said was made available for Irish farmers. Wexford has got its share of the £11,000,000 that, according to the Fianna Fáil plan, was going to be made available for labour. That would result in £16 a year for every male or female person over 12 years of age, whether farmer or labourer.

What is the situation in Wexford as revealed by the County Committee of Agriculture? I have got here a report of a meeting for the month of February, 1935, where a motion was brought forward calling upon the Minister for Agriculture to set up a wages board for agricultural labourers, and at that meeting Mr. Kelly gave it as his view that the average wage at that time for a labourer was 8/- a week and his support. That matter was adjourned and it came on at a later meeting. At the later meeting Mr. Kinsella proposed that the wage be brought to 14/- a week by a subsidy of 6/-. They were all of the belief that Wexford was only able to pay 8/-a week, and they wanted a subsidy of 6/- on that wage. It is now almost ancient history where in 1933 the Revenue Commissioners definitely held up to scorn some farmer who apparently had returned himself as paying in wages to milkmen 32/- a week, 25/-a week and 14/- a week. The proposition was made by the Revenue Commissioners that this was work that was usually done by women and that the services of women could be obtained at from 5/- to 7/- per week. What the reality of this situation is as between those figures and what was said was to be achieved by Fianna Fáil is a difficult matter to find out. It is one of the things which this agricultural board will probably find out.

The Minister gave some figures. I understand that he said here to-day that the average wage in 1931 was supposed to be a little over 24/- a week. Three years later it had gone down to 21/- a week and in 1935 it had crept up from 21/- to 21/9. However, there is some percentage of people who got under 17/- a week. Whatever that percentage was it has considerably increased since Fianna Fáil came into power. In 1931 there used to be only 3 per cent. who got under 17/-, but a percentage of 9.8 of the agricultural labourers of the country are now getting under 17/- a week. The percentage of those who got under £1 a week has gone up by 5½ under the Fianna Fáil régime. That percentage has gone up to 16.9 or almost 17 per cent. The official figures were supplied here to-night. There are 126,000 labourers in the country. Of these 90,000 live out and 36,000 live in. The average wage all over the country for those who live in is 9/6 per week. Those people get their keep whatever that amounts to. The old-time slave was kept also but in addition to what the old-time slave got, these people got 16d. a day and, if they work eight hours a day they are paid 2d. an hour for every hour they work. That is the position to which Fianna Fáil, after all its promises, has brought this country. This is the condition of things in the country when the agricultural wages boards are going to be set up to fix what wages people are going to get. Probably they are going to tell us how they are going to get it. Those are the startling figures that emerge from the Minister's statement. There are 36,000 people who are forced to do work of a skilled type. As well as getting what sustains life they are getting 16d. a day or 2d. an hour. One does remember reading books long ago where the wages of labourers were stated to be so much in pence. Those were the days when a penny bought as much as sixpence would buy now. That 2d. an hour now does not buy what it bought five years ago. Those men work in whatever degree of discomfort and toil they are expected to work and they get 2d. an hour put into their hands at the end of the hour. That is paid to them by the farmers who have had already handed over to them £6,000,000 of a market in this country. That is only half of what they were promised. There is one other interesting figure that emerges from the Minister's statement to-night. There is the wages pool. In 1926 the draw from the pool created was, apparently, in this proportion: that the labourer drew from the pool £66 a year and the farmer and such of his children as worked on the land drew £93 a year each. By 1935 this peculiar situation had been brought about that from the pool the labourer was drawing more than the farmer. The labourer drew £55 from the pool in 1935 and the farmer and such of his children as were working, drew £51. The employer gave from the pool £4 a year more to the employee than he and his children drew. In 1935 we find the position to be that in Wexford the farmer was paying 8/- a week. That was close to the time of which the Minister speaks, the time when a man living in got two pennies to dangle in his pocket for his hour's work. At that he has got more than the farmer possibly. That is the agricultural situation.

In that condition of things Labour feels that it is right to plead for more wages for this depressed section of the community. No doubt such a plea should be made. But what is the good of making that plea? The only use of a plea on sympathetic grounds, in the way that the Labour people spoke, would be in circumstances in which they believed that farmers had more to give and were unwilling to give it. I doubt if that view prevails. I believe through the country there is a feeling generally that, in the desperate times we are passing through, farmers and servants have drawn closer together, and that servants are, in fact, taking less because they realise the impossibility of being paid more. There is a better community of interest. There will be always when there is little to spare. It is only when there is a certain amount of plenitude that people begin to squabble as to who is to get the surplus. What is the good of Labour addressing humane pleas? We can all join in and hope for the best, but surely what we have to face is the question: what is to be done to rectify the situation?

It is amazing to me that the situation should be as good as it is. I take up the Trade Journal for September of this year and I find that the estimated output of agricultural produce for three years, comparing one year with the other two, in 1929-30, was estimated to yield £64,865,000. In 1934-35 under Fianna Fáil the yield was down to £40,500,000, a drop of £24,000,000. How is it to be expected agriculture could thrive if the value of agricultural produce was brought down in five years from almost £65,000,000 to £40,500,000? Remember that is not the whole story.

These figures showing a slump from £65,000,000 to £40,000,000 would have slumped still further if it had not been for subsidies. I have a calculation with regard to matters in which agricultural produce shows an increase. In this Journal the increases are very small. Where are they? Wheat is up, sugar beet is up, barley is up, and oats is up. These crops are up almost by £2,000,000. In other words, the figures would have dropped another £2,000,000 were it not for these four crops. Two of these crops are heavily subsidised; two of them are responsible for over £1,000,000. It comes to this that the table would show a drop not merely from £65,000,000 to £40,000,000 but to £38,000,000 if it had not been for the policy of subsidies. What is the cost? To prevent the figures slumping by £1,500,000, this country has been taxed £2,500,000 to subsidise crops. By paying that to the farmers they prevented the slump in production falling by another £1,500,000. Long ago there were two famous people who used to have their say on a variety of subjects. I think they were known as the "Two Black Crows." They bought two pigs and after feeding them for some time sold them at the same price as they had paid. The comment was made "you cannot go on doing that." They said "we know; we found that out." We are finding this out. How is it possible to continue subsidies at the rate of £2,500,000 to prevent agricultural produce dropping another £1,500,000? Although we are doing that we find that agricultural production has been reduced by what the figures represent, the difference between £65,000,000 and £40,500,000. How can the country last? Subsidies have been tried and all they do is to put a small barrier on the devastation that has been worked. They have stopped it. Take credit for it, and particularly take credit when the farmers have paid in the main the cost of the subsidies. They should take credit as by providing nearly £2,500,000, they prevented the agricultural table appearing worse than it is.

If the Labour Party in this House would join with this Party, and if they got Fianna Fáil to get a glimmer, or, even the small amount of economic sense that must spring to the mind of anyone looking into these figures, we could get the situation rectified. It is not going to be done by simply saying to a board: "fix the wages to be paid to agricultural labourers." If farmers cannot pay wages fixed by the board there is only one result. We have already seen that result during years of depression. It meant that the number of permanent labourers was reduced and the number of those employed temporarily increased. It is the obvious resort but not the obvious resort to defeat a Wages Bill. It is the obvious resort of people who find they cannot pay, who cannot meet certain demands made upon them and who have to take the only way open to them. I have no experience of this, but I had detailed examples of occasions where employers finding the strain too great went to employees and suggested that the only way out was that one of them or a group should leave and there was the very pitiable suggestion that if a man went out and went on the dole he could do as well as if he was working. Numbers of farmers have taken that resort. They have a wages bill at the same figure and they are spreading it over a smaller number of people. They find that if the wages they were forced to offer were diminished the result would be so scandalous that they would not tolerate it. We know what happened before. The number of people permanently employed in agriculture diminished while the number temporarily employed rose slightly. The people paid off their permanent hands and got others when they needed extra help.

If you have these agricultural wages boards and this squeezing of farmers, if they are not to get help to pay the wages that may be fixed, is there anything else open to them? Let them be given credit as being humane and as being closely in touch with the people they employ; let them be given credit for these virtues. If up to the moment they are paying, as in 1934, more than they are getting out of the land, and if, as I suggest, there is pressure one way, agricultural production will either fall or be only infinitesimally increased if there is an upward pressure coming through the wages boards that will extract whatever earnings they had to pay their employees. I said in the beginning—although it is a pitiful suggestion—that in justice the Government must meet the difference. Deputy Corry intervened to ask if the suggestion was that the labourers should be put on the dole. It is late for Deputy Corry to be alarmed about the dole. It is a scandalous thing that agriculture has got to the point that all the farms in the country must become a sort of subsidised workshops. Who brought the situation about? The people who got into power on the promise of the £11,000,000 are now to be tested by results. If they even believed that soon, although not immediately, agriculture is going to be in a position by reason of their efforts in which these wages can be paid, then the Government should bridge the gap for the time being, because it is the Government is responsible for what has happened with regard to agriculture.

How would they bridge it? What do you suggest?

They could only do what they are doing with regard to subsidies, and subsidies in the main are paid by the farmers. I have no less an authority for that than the present Minister for Agriculture. If the gap is going to be bridged by some sort of subvention from the Government, then it has got to be met in either of two ways: out of taxation and production—that means out of the farmers although there may be a lag in it—or, alternatively, out of borrowing. The Government have borrowed apace for all sorts of things. The National Debt has been increased, and the debts of local authorities have been increased. If the Government believe—this is a test of their own sincerity—that the policy they are pursuing at the moment, although it shows the results that are indicated in 1935, will produce better results hereafter, then they are entitled to borrow. I do not believe they will borrow. I do not think they could face the public on those figures. Are they going to ask the individuals, whom they have crushed out of existence by their policy, to pay the new wages? I may be wrong in that because the wages fixed may be lower than what they are at the moment— 8/- and 10/- and 12/6. I do not think they can go lower but that is, luckily, not our dilemma. It is not a dilemma of our making and not a situation that we have brought about. It is impossible to ask the farmers to pay more, but at the moment I believe the Bill is going to make farmers pay more. They cannot do it if agricultural production has been reduced by nearly £24,000,000 in this period. It is scandalous that this country can be represented historically in this way: that we are paying our agricultural labourers, with a certain amount of food given to them, 2d. per hour for every hour they put into their skilled toil.

I have only a few words to say on the Bill. Like Deputy McGilligan, I think it is a sad state of affairs that the main industry of the country has to be subsidised. The Government gave the farmers of the country the impression that all would be well when they got into office. What is the position to-day? Deputy Corish has admitted that for three years the Labour Party have been pressing on the Government to fix a minimum wage for agricultural labourers. That clearly shows that for three years the Government did not consider that there was any necessity for having an organisation such as this Bill proposes. During the past five years we on this side have been warning the Government and the Labour Party that their policy would lead to the present position, and that farmers would not be able to pay a fair wage to their workers. I have always believed that farmers and their labourers should live on good terms and understand each other. In the absence of that there is no hope for one or the other. Deputy Davin asked if a decision on this question should not be left to the farmers' organisations, to the beet and the wheat growers and the other classes of people subsidised by the State? On behalf of the great majority of my constituents I protest against such a suggestion.

I represent a constituency that is probably one of the poorest in the country, a constituency in which the people are most industrious, and, when given a chance, were able to make their business pay. I have asked Deputy Davin to come down to my constituency and spend a week-end there. If he is prepared to come I will take him around amongst the people and give him the opportunity of discussing matters with people holding different political opinions. One would imagine, listening to some of the Labour Deputies to-night, that it was for political motives that the wages of agricultural workers were reduced by some farmers, but is it not a well-known fact that Fianna Fáil farmers, as well as other farmers, reduced the wages of their labourers?

The Labour Party in this House stand for a policy which no Labour Party in the world stands for, and that is the policy of increasing the cost of living not only to the agricultural worker but to all workers. When that is the case, it is natural enough that the workers should demand some increase in their wages. But, unfortunately, in this country, as Deputy McGilligan has pointed out, subsidies and bounties as well as the money required to pay the dole, all come out of the farmer's pocket. The Minister for Agriculture himself admitted that as far back as 1928 when he said that the farmers produced 80 per cent. of the wealth of the country, and, therefore, paid 80 per cent. of the taxation. As I pointed out last week, the Government are simply playing a game of bluff. I ask, would it not be better for them to be honest with the people? What has been the result of their policy? They have increased the price of tea, sugar, bread, butter, tobacco, and of every article going into the houses of the workers of this country. They are spending extravagantly and we are in a much worse position to-day than we were five years ago. We have more unemployment than we had then, and we have more people leaving the country. The President denied that, but he did not think it worth his while to go into the matter. It is, however, a well-known fact that hundreds of people are leaving this country every year.

Deputy Corish said that we were using the argument that the economic war was responsible for the present position. He did not tell us how the economic war was going to be settled, although the Minister for Finance told us in Bantry a few years ago that the economic war was all over. I am afraid that Deputy Corish is not in touch with things in this country at all. Unfortunately the economic war is not settled, and I believe that until it is, and until the people get back the market that they had when this Government came into power, we will still be faced with the problems that are agitating us to-day. What is the good in fixing wages for agricultural workers if the farmers cannot find the money to pay them? You cannot knock blood out of a turnip. This Bill may help to bring farmers and their workers more closely together, and may eventuate in getting for us the commission that we have been agitating for for some years, a commission to inquire into the real position in this country. For that reason I welcome the bill.

The Minister gave one figure relating to the rise in the index of agricultural prices for the year 1935. He took the months of May and August and compared them with the months of May and August of this year. I think I am correct in saying that the figure for August of this year has not been published.

Dr. Ryan

The July and August figures are available but they have not been issued yet. The figure for July is 90.7 and for August 92.2.

In an earlier issue of the Trade Journal the advice is given not to take particular months with regard to these prices. For the year 1934 I think the Minister has taken one of the lowest months for his figures. It was, I think, 79.9 for August.

Dr. Ryan

We took the period at which the output was calculated.

But it was not the output for that month that was taken, but the output for the year.

Dr. Ryan

That is the period over which the output was calculated.

Obviously if figures are for a year it is the year's average that we ought to get. While a man may have sold cattle, sheep, pigs, butter, horses or anything else in January it is very little satisfaction to him to know that in the following August the agricultural index price has gone up by 8 or 10 per cent. I put it to the Minister: Is not this 12½ per cent. a rather optimistic calculation? I wish it were true.

It is impossible to be enthusiastic about the provisions of this Bill because, as has been already pointed out, the Bill is just providing machinery for a certain purpose. One regrets that there is no indication in the measure as to what the Minister regards as the minimum need in the shape of wages for agricultural workers. The condition of the agricultural labourers is an extremely sad and miserable one. It has been suggested this evening, as it has often been suggested before, that this is a comparatively recent condition. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth than that, because the miserable, underpaid and wretched condition of agricultural labourers existed long before the two or three years that have been so frequently discussed from time to time in this House. The fact is, and it is a sorry reflection for all of us, that since an Irish Parliament was set up in 1922 nothing has been done for the agricultural workers. In fact, nothing has been done for the agricultural worker in our life-time except what the British Parliament did in the way of providing him with a house, and even that wise provision was suspended for a good number of years. When that provision was again invoked in recent years, even within the past 12 months, despite the sympathy that has been freely offered this evening and is offered on occasions like this, one has seen the fiercest opposition offered to the acquisition of a plot of land to build a cottage for a rural labourer, and very often from people to whom he has given years of service and who, we are told, live on such terms of harmony and friendship with him.

It has been stated here that the wages of agricultural labourers have declined in recent years by 3/- per week. Does anybody suggest that the wages of the agricultural labourer before that were reasonable or fair? Assuming the conditions are worse now in the country, does anybody say that, even before 1931, there was not need for an agricultural wages board? Deputy O'Leary knows well the answer to the question he asked as to why the Labour Party did not advocate and demand an agricultural wages board then, because the Labour Party knew very well that there was no use in demanding an agricultural wages board then.

Reference has been made to an economic wage. I do not want to pose as an authority on that matter—it would be an impertinence for me to do so—but, I think, there can be no disputing the fact that the lowest standard you can possibly set is far higher than the wages paid in many cases. I have been present at sittings of the Court of Referees—I speak now with particular reference to the type of workers who are not included within the provisions of this Bill, workers described as servant men who are kept indoor—at which I came across cases of young men, some of them hired out from industrial schools, and we had the amazing statement, substantiated fully from subsequent inquiries, that in some cases of the kind the men were not actually getting any wages. They were working for what food they could get during the week. Does anybody want to defend that state of affairs and say, whatever the difficulties of the agricultural community are, that that was a reasonable position, or that it was not a very sad commentary on the management of the whole agricultural industry and on the country as a whole?

There have been numerous cases within the last two or three years of people deprived of unemployment assistance because they would not accept employment at scandalously low wages. It has been the common practice in many parts of the country to come to the labour exchange with offers of employment for agricultural workers that no agricultural worker, no matter how degraded his position, could regard with anything but contempt. Many men have had the courage to refuse offers of employment at 2/-, 3/-, 4/- or 5/- per week and because of that they were deprived of unemployment assistance. If there is any doubt about that, records can be very easily found as to what offers of employment were made.

We have never made any secret of the fact that we believe the producers and the farmers in this country should be guaranteed a reasonable price for their output. We have no hesitation in repeating that. I believe that we are reaching the time when all the agricultural products in this country will be sold at a guaranteed price. I think it is not too much to hope that, in such circumstances, the agricultural workers, with only one commodity to sell, should have some share in that general guarantee. I hope the Minister will, in consultation with workers' organisations, as well as organisations representing producers, see that men with a reasonable and humane outlook approach this question, not from the point of view of scoring off each other, but of seeing how far the policy of this measure in future can be reconciled with the great need there is for doing justice to the agricultural workers. We live at a time when our lecturers, theorists, and professors of all kinds are very profuse in their homage to the doctrine of social justice. We live at a time when Christianity and Christian needs are happily being talked about very much more than, perhaps, they used to be in certain quarters. It is a happy augury that, at such a time, and in such favourable circumstances, at least a first step has been taken to do some tardy and belated measure of social justice to the most degraded and wretched section of the workers in this country.

I want to join with the other Deputies who have extended to the Minister their good wishes for the successful operation of this measure. As a member of a Party that has for some considerable time agitated for some legislation on behalf of that important section of the community, the agricultural labourers, I wish to add my personal welcome to this measure, and I hope it will bring some of the relief that has for so long been awaited by the agricultural labourers. While listening to the speeches from the opposite side of the House this evening, I was not a bit surprised at anything I heard. I could actually have written some of them out before I came into the House, I have heard them so often. We heard a good deal about the harmony that exists between the farmers and the labourers, and how anxious the farmers are to pay wages if they could only afford to do so. I have the utmost disrespect for that kind of nonsense.

Like Deputy Murphy, I have been, not only in recent years, but since the Unemployment Insurance Act came into operation, a member of the Court of Referees, and my experience has been that in all cases the poor working farmers treat their men generously. It is the big farmer, who can go to the races, and who drives around in his motor car, who does not provide the men who live in with sleeping accommodation under the same roof as himself. They are forced to sleep in some back shed. On many occasions we have had to listen to harrowing tales of men having to run out of their employment because of the verminous places in which they were asked to sleep. I hope that this Bill will not only do something to provide more wages——

Did you report that to the board of health?

——but that it might be possible to extend the powers of the Bill and provide them with a full measure of protection. If I may answer the interrupter, that measure of protection has failed in all cases throughout the country to be afforded by boards of health. Deputy O'Leary knows more than I do about boards of health. He has, I think, been a member of a board of health, which I have not been. He knows that their machinery has utterly failed to deal with the complaint I am making regarding the sleeping accommodation of the agricultural worker who is employed on the indoor system. I hope, on other stages of the Bill, to have an opportunity to help, but I should not like to let the present occasion pass without expressing my resentment at the hypocrisy I have heard from the opposite benches this evening.

Mr. Brodrick

I think it is a most atrocious charge for Deputy Pattison to make—that in this country farmers have their workmen and workwomen living in out-offices. If Deputy Pattison said that of Scotland or England, it might be good enough.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce can give the information.

Mr. Brodrick

I can give as much information about my own constituency as the Minister can. I have travelled the West of Ireland, and I have never known such conditions to exist for workmen or workwomen there.

I am sorry to have to say it.

We do not know anything about it in our country.

Mr. Brodrick

In the West of Ireland we have, I think, more of that employment—in parts of Connemara— than in Deputy Pattison's constituency, and I think it is a shame for any Deputy——

I thought you had none of it.

Mr. Brodrick

I think it is a shame for Deputy Pattison to make the remarks he did about the farmer-employers of the country. I should like to ask Deputy Pattison what interest he has in young men or young girls who are flying to England and Scotland every day, and who have been doing so for the past three years? How are they housed? Was there not a report in the Press a week ago by a respected Archbishop as to the conditions under which these people were working in Scotland and England? Will Deputy Pattison, or the Labour Party, or the Government, ascertain the conditions under which they are working?

That question does not arise on this Bill.

Does it not arise by way of comparison with conditions obtaining here?

We are not responsible for what is happening in England or Scotland.

Mr. Brodrick

You are responsible for the people leaving the country at the present time because you are supporting the Government which hounded them out of the country. Are you not responsible in that way and is not the Government responsible for thousands of young men and women seeking employment in the enemy country at the present time?

We got a lot of them in Galway.

Mr. Brodrick

We know how you got them.

Dr. Ryan

We got them, at any rate.

Mr. Brodrick

You got them under false pretences. The Government should consider, when dealing with this Bill, the man employing labour. I know farmers who are prepared to pay a good, living wage if they get a fair deal. But they are not getting a fair deal. It might be said that we are getting it in the West of Ireland, with the beet factory there, or under the Conditions of Employment Act, which provides for any amount of holidays. But somebody has to pay for these holidays afterwards. If the farmer is put in a position in which he can market his stock and his produce at a price which another country is prepared to pay and not have such produce and live stock tariffed, then the farmer will be able to pay his employee. I again wish to challenge Deputy Pattison and the Labour Party on the statement made as to the conditions under which men workers and women workers are housed.

This Bill got an unexpectedly good reception. The various speakers throughout the day were as helpful as they could possibly be in giving advice on its various provisions. Were it not for the intervention of Deputy McGilligan, who tried to introduce the usual bitterness into the debate, we could say that things had gone very smoothly. Deputy McGilligan showed his usual courage by walking out when he had said all he could say. The Deputy made a great point about labourers working at 2d. per hour. If that be true, then, under Deputy McGilligan's Government, they worked for 2¼d. If he lays the charge of starving the labourers at our door, then he can hardly claim that these men were treated as human beings under his Administration. The same applies to some extent to what the other Opposition speakers said. They stressed the point that, owing to the economic war, farmers cannot afford to pay a decent wage. We find that in 1931 farmers paid a wage of 24/3, while in 1936 they paid a wage of 21/9. That is a difference of 2/6 per week. If that margin of 2/6 represents the difference between starvation and princely comfort, then it must be the critical 2/6 at the top of the wage.

Is the Minister talking of money wages or real wages?

Dr. Ryan

I am speaking of what the labourer receives in cash and kind and I am speaking of the same thing in both years—1931 and 1935. Deputy Dillon took the line—other Deputies followed suit—that he would like to see the labourer getting a better wage while asking "What can the farmer pay on account of the economic war?" The Deputy said that 25/-was not enough and he mentioned 30/-. But, before the economic war, they were paying 24/3. If supporters of the Party opposite were of the same mind then as they are now, they should have done something about that. While Deputies on the opposite side were willing to say that 21/9 was too little, none of them was prepared to say that if the labourer got 2/6 more, he would have everything he wanted and that he could clothe himself, pay his rent, and provide for his wife and children. The position is similar to that which we have had on every other debate here. The economic war is blamed and, when we come to ascertain the extent to which the economic war is really responsible, we find that it is not very much.

It amounts to a reduction of £20,000,000 in the output of agriculture.

Dr. Ryan

It amounts to 2/6 per week in the agricultural wage. It is held by the Deputy and other Deputies opposite that if there were no economic war the farmers would be able to give, and would give, a princely wage to their labourers, and everything would be right.

What does the Minister mean by a princely wage?

Dr. Ryan

I do not know what Deputies opposite have in mind in that connection.

Perhaps Deputy Flinn might be able to tell you. He fixes the rate at 24/- a week.

Dr. Ryan

Deputy Dillon says he would be ashamed to see anything less than 30/-. He is sitting with a Party, the members of which showed no shame in 1931, when they were sitting here and not doing anything about it, while labourers were getting 24/3.

Mr. Brodrick

What is the Forestry Department paying?

Dr. Ryan

They pay a margin above the agricultural wage, whatever it may be.

Mr. Brodrick

What do they pay to the labourers?

Dr. Ryan

I could tell the Deputy to-morrow, if he wishes. If the Deputy thinks, that he is putting me a smart question, he is making a mistake.

Mr. Brodrick

Do they not pay 22/-a week in the West of Ireland?

Dr. Ryan

If you think that is correct, why do you ask me?

Mr. Brodrick

You are the Minister and I am asking you.

Dr. Ryan

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.