This is the usual statutory Bill confirming a number of Orders which were made during the course of the past six or eight months. The Orders which are set out in the Schedule to the Bill all involve alterations of duty of one kind or another on the commodities that are named in column four of the Schedule. These Orders require to be confirmed by statute or else they cease to be operative. Although none of them has yet reached the stage where there is immediate danger of expiration, at the same time it was considered desirable to bring them forward at this stage and get them confirmed, so that they would be done with before the House begins to be occupied with the finance business of the year. None of these Orders is of major importance. Most of them relate to slight changes in the existing duties. Any questions that Deputies desire to ask in relation to them can best be asked in the Committee Stage. It is proposed to take the Committee Stage after Easter.
Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, 1936—Money Resolution. - Imposition of Duties (Confirmation of Orders) Bill, 1937—Second Stage.
Am I correct in saying that reference No. 12 in this Bill deals with the duties imposed consequent upon Coal-Cattle Agreements, and consequent upon the reduction of duties upon certain sugar imports from Great Britain?
Would I do the Minister an injustice if I said he was a little bit disingenuous when he said that these were statutory regulations confirming Orders made, and which were of no consequence at all and might be discussed in Committee after Easter, seeing that reference No. 12 is the only legislative step it is necessary to take whereby to implement the Coal-Cattle Agreement that was made between the Government of Great Britain and the Government of the Saorstát? I think I am right in saying that it is open to this House now to discuss in detail the terms of the Coal-Cattle Agreement recently entered into. This is our consideration in exchange for certain economic concessions secured from Great Britain. Is it any wonder that the Minister for Agriculture has softly and silently slipped away? That is not surprising. Is it any wonder that the Minister for External Affairs is conspicuous by his absence? That is not surprising. We are engaged in a death struggle with Great Britain, a struggle that is described as an economic war. This war is being fought on a sacred principle about which the President of the Executive Council says no compromise of any kind can be contemplated. Accordingly, for the last three months of the calendar year, three of the chief civil servants of this State were sent over to engage in a discussion with Great Britain as to how our trading with Great Britain could be adjusted in such a way as to secure that every penny that Great Britain claims from this State would be safely collected by the British Government and safely delivered by the Irish Government. In the course of the discussion it apparently emerged that it would convenience the Irish Government if that part of the annuities, pensions and local loans which were heretofore paid by tariffs on horses were taken off horses and put on to cattle. The British Government replied: "Certainly; if you are sending a larger number of store cattle, a larger number of fat cattle, and a larger number of milch cows and bulls to which the existing duties will attach, we are quite content to take it off horses and to put it on to cattle." This was accordingly done. Surely we are entitled to inquire, not of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, but from the Minister for External Affairs, how it is that they can go and negotiate tariffs off horses on to cattle, and how is it that it would be contrary to principle that he should take tariffs off everything.
The Minister for External Affairs repeatedly admits that there is no difficulty in negotiating with Great Britain on a different question. The Minister for External Affairs has got up in this House and said:
"We deny that these moneys are due to the British Government, but we freely admit that the British Government are getting everything they claim and, in fact, a little more; we freely admit that they are getting it in a way that is doing this country much more damage than it used to do when these moneys were paid by cheque."
If there is any breach of principle from the point of view of the Minister or of the Executive Council in undertaking to pay these moneys through cattle, sheep and pigs instead of paying it through tariffs on horses, would it not be far more convenient for everybody and far more profitable for this country to pay it through a banker simply and say to the British Government: "Look here, we do not admit your right to a penny piece of this money; we say you should not get it, but if you are going to take it, it is much more convenient for you to take it through our bankers than through our cattle, sheep and pigs." If the Government insist on paying the last penny—and that is their present proposition while protesting loudly that they do not wish the British Government to get a penny—would it not be better to pay it that way by cheque? As far as I can point out the reason the Government are not prepared to adopt the course that Fine Gael believes should be adopted forthwith and which would avoid, in our judgment, the necessity of paying these moneys directly or indirectly, is because Fianna Fáil desires to maintain certain theses. The thesis they desire to adhere to is that the President of the Executive Council of Saorstát Eireann who founded this State, who built up the State in the teeth of violent opposition and of the armed opposition of the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, is a traitor and a corrupt person. Our Government insists that before they will settle this business, the British Government shall join with them in describing the first Government of Saorstát Eireann as a treacherous, corrupt and dishonest body who entered into a dishonest and secret agreement whereunder the moneys of the Irish people were fraudulently transferred to another authority. Because the British Government say: "We were no party to fraud, we never found Deputy Cosgrave's Government to be treacherous, fraudulent or contemptible; we always found that they stood sternly for the rights of the country they represented; we found them vigorous in negotiation, solicitous for the interest of their own people, and the bargain we made with them was open and above board and, in their judgment, a good bargain"—because the British Government say that that is their belief, our Government say: "No, until you admit that they were fraudulent and dishonest, we shall not negotiate." That is the contention of this Government. President de Valera has repeatedly said that until the British Government say that this was a fraudulent agreement, a secret agreement and an agreement not binding on the conscience of anybody, he will not deal with them. That is the position of the Fianna Fáil Government at the present time—that they will only discuss or negotiate terms of settlement on that hypothesis. Outside Bedlam, did ever a national Government take up such a position? Why should they be concerned to defame and blackguard men who built up this State and who, as they have learned since they came into office, defended the interest of this State time and time again—and successfully defended it?
From our point of view, this Coal-Cattle Pact is a mistake. We take the view that the settlement of matters outstanding between ourselves and Great Britain by piecemeal arrangements is seriously detrimental to the best interests of this country. What is happening at present is: we are giving to Great Britain many of the trade concessions which we ought to hold in our hand for the purpose of making the ultimate trade agreement with Great Britain, and we are getting no adequate return for them. A lot of people forget that we voluntarily threw away not alone a free entry into the British market for our agricultural produce, but a preferential position of 10 per cent. in that market. We threw that away, and we are now painfully buying back from Great Britain, with a monopoly of our coal trade and a preference in regard to our cement trade and our steel imports, the very market we ourselves rejected and for which we had to pay nothing four years ago. If the present business goes on of gradually buying back with these immense concessions what we gave away for nothing, what will we have wherewith to bargain when the time comes to make a comprehensive trade settlement with Great Britain? We of the Fine Gael Party have repeatedly stated on public platforms and in this House that we are convinced that if the present Government or their successors in office go to the British Government and offer to deal with them with a view (1) to clearing up all outstanding misunderstandings that have arisen during the past five years, and (2) with a view to improving trade relations between the two countries, an immensely valuable deal can be made for out people. I know that the Minister delights in making silly, schoolboy points and saying: "You say you are going to settle with the British. On what terms are you going to settle?" Nobody can announce before he goes into negotiation what the terms of the settlement to which that negotiation is directed are going to be. The terms are going to be the most advantageous that can be got, and, whatever they may be, they will be better than the existing condition. I believe they can be made very good indeed. I believe that the British want to settle. I believe that the British would be glad to settle. At present Great Britain is a willing buyer of almost everything of which we are a willing seller.
Great Britain has announced its intention of spending £1,500,000,000 on armaments. This is the country, mark well, which was going down, which was getting poor and whose market was shrinking. This is the country whose market was "gone, thank God," according to Ministers of the Fianna Fáil Party. The British are going to spend on shot and shell, and for ancillary purposes, £1,500,000,000. All their expenditure on shot and shell is going to avail them nothing if they have no food wherewith to feed the gentlemen who are to fire the shots and explode the shells. We have got the capacity to produce that food. If all the farmers in Great Britain and all the farmers in Ireland worked night and day for 365 days of the year, we could not supply all the food the British are prepared to consume. But in a time of emergency, when the British would be threatened with starvation and would be prepared to ration themselves and hold out until the immediate peril had been overcome, I believe the farmers of this country and Great Britain could, between them, provide the British people with that measure of food which would make the difference between defeat and ultimate victory. That is an immensely powerful bargaining weapon in our hands. I urge on the House to consider that if the British Government, who have got to make provision immediately for the possibility of war, are driven, by our refusal to make a bargain with them, to seeking other sources of supply and other means of meeting the emergency which may confront them, the day may dawn when we are still willing sellers and Great Britain is an unwilling buyer. If that day dawns, then God help the unfortunate man who is trying to make a trade agreement for Ireland.
We have seen the futility of the Government's attempt to get alternative markets—eggs for oranges, and butter being sent to Germany for 8d. per lb. while our people are paying 1/5 for butter coming in from New Zealand. There is one market where we can sell our goods profitably, and if that market becomes an unwilling buyer of the goods we have to sell, then the only effective market in which we can sell our exports is gone, and we are at the mercy of any buyer who chooses to come and make an offer for what we have got. We are in an immensely strong bargaining position at the present time, and we got into that position through purely fortuitous circumstances. We did nothing to bring it about. It is a situation that may pass, and I want to impress on the Government the vital urgency of seizing the opportunity that presents itself.
Now, we have passed through the stage when the Government spokesmen were saying from public platforms in this country that "the British market is gone, thank God." We have learned. It is part of the education to which Deputy MacDermot referred last night. We have spent five weary and expensive years teaching the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Agriculture that the passing of the British market was nothing to thank God about. In evidence of that we discover that these very Ministers negotiate with Great Britain to get the duty off horses. Why? Not because the duty itself represents a very large sum. As well as I recollect, the duty recovered from horses was in or about £160,000. The reason is because they had come to see that it was not actually the cash on the horses that was so grievous a burden, but rather the appalling dislocation of the whole horse trade that those tariffs involved; that the only useful contribution was not a reduction in the tariff, but the abolition of the tariff, so that the channels of trade might be cleared and that there might be a free flow between the two countries. Now, if it is manifest to them, and it certainly ought to be, that the tariff on horses was ruining the entire horse trade, why cannot they see that the tariff on cattle is ruining the cattle trade? The tariff on cattle is much more pernicious than the tariff on horses, because the tariff on cattle is graduated. You have a heavy tariff on a beast with four permanent teeth, a medium tariff on a beast with two permanent teeth, and a low tariff on a beast with no permanent teeth. The result is that our people are all shipping out of the country young cattle, and none of that eminently desirable feeding process that used to go on on our holdings can be profitably conducted at the present time.
In the olden days a man grew oats, barley, turnips, mangolds and crops on his little holding. He cashed those crops by feeding them to good store cattle. He sold the store cattle when forward stores. They went to England to the stall-feeders, who then fattened them in the stalls. Now you cannot keep a beast until it is a forward store, because if you do, and you give him hay, roots and cereals, when he gets the four permanent teeth you discover that he is worth less to you than when he had only two permanent teeth, so that all your feeding is gone for nothing, because the extra tariff takes £2 10s. 0d. per head off the beast. The result of all that is that our farmers are being driven into this young cattle business, which is comparatively unprofitable. A lot of the more obscurantist Deputies in this country said: "Ah, what do we care about the rancher, the rancher who is concerned only with cattle?" What I want to drive home is this: that this humble little reference No. 12 is putting a blister, not upon the back of the grazier or the big farmer, but on the back of the man upon whom this whole cattle pact is leaning—the three-cow man—the small man who has from ten to 15 acres of land. That man depends for his economy on three cows, a pig or a couple of pigs, and the crops raised on his land. He sells so much of his milk as he does not use to the local co-operative creamery, or makes it into butter and sells it. He also depends on the price that he gets for three calves. Their value means a great deal to him. At the present time the price of his milk is gone to blazes. The price that he gets for his eggs is practically finished. Deputies should remember that at one time the production of eggs was no small part of the economy of those people. Many Deputies forget that eggs represented £7,000,000 worth of exports every year, practically all of which was from the three-cow men. That trade has been practically wiped out. The price of the calves has been reduced to about half of what it was, and this Coal-Cattle Pact is going to do nothing to relieve the man that I speak of. The price that he gets for his milk is admitted on all sides to be uneconomic.
What is that man going to live on? Fianna Fáil Deputies have been inclined to say that we have been prophesying disaster year after year, and that nothing has happened. They say, "You tell us that we will be bankrupt, but we are not bankrupt yet." Is the emigration that is going on at the present time not a symptom? How did Deputies expect that this country was going to show signs of bankruptcy? Did the members of Fianna Fáil expect that some morning the Minister for Finance, when coming down Upper Merrion Street, would stop a Civic Guard and say to him, "I cannot pay you your wages any longer; you had better go home and take off your uniform?" How did they expect that financial stringency would manifest itself in the country? The way it is manifesting itself at present is that the people are finding they cannot live on the land, and they are going away from it. The Government, by their policy, have crippled the small farmer. They have made it impossible for him to earn a living. The young people who used to be able to help on the land, and out of whose joint activities the family was able to make a comfortable living, all helping to keep the wheel turning at home, have made up their minds, seeing the way that things are now going with their fathers and mothers, that there is nothing for them on the land, and they are clearing off it. They began by coming to Dublin. The result of that was that Dublin began to boom. Henry Street, Mary Street and Talbot Street did not extend in length, but the number of customers living around them, requiring food and clothes, increased enormously. The country towns began to die, and Dublin, to the amazement of all, began to prosper.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce, who would not know one end of a cow from the other, and whose native heath is on the cobblestones of Dublin, said it was looking prosperous. He said that the cinemas were full, that the shops were full, and that business was booming. Of course it was. The cities always boom when the country begins to decline. I do not know if the Minister has ever read a book called Gone With the Wind. The philosopher in that book says there are two occasions on which one can make a fortune—one is when a country is growing and another is when it is falling to bits. We have gentlemen here who are making fortunes, some of the small manufacturers whom the Minister was responsible for bringing into the country. They are making fortunes that they never dreamed of, and they will go on making them until the collapse comes when they will clear out of the country and blow across the sea like a storm-tossed seagull. What I object to is that when the birds come home to roost they should roost on my shoulder instead of on the Minister's. You have that position in the country at the present time. The people are leaving the country. I remember that on one occasion the President of the Executive Council reckoned up what was the average loss to this country of an emigrant. That, of course, was in the days when emigration was considered to be the peculiar sin of the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. The President reckoned the loss to the country of each emigrant at £400. That is a symptom of the national bankruptcy that we warned the Government was in the offing— the emigration of the young people from the country.
Was that always a symptom of bankruptcy?
The Minister is a profoundly ignorant man who does not know as much about rural conditions in this country as does the Shah of Persia. I venture to say that the agricultural expert of that potentate is possessed of far more reliable information than the Minister has ever succeeded in picking up in the course of his peregrinations around the City of Dublin.
The House has debated fully during the last two days the question of emigration. That problem should not be rediscussed to-day. The extent of the problem and the causes of it are not relevant to Order No. 12 which deals, I think, with revocation of sugar duties.
I respectfully make the submission that this is the only occasion upon which the Coal-Cattle Pact negotiated by the Government can come up for discussion.
The Chair does not object to the Deputy discussing these matters, but the figures with regard to emigration, which have been debated by Deputies this week, should not be debated again.
I submit, with respect, Sir, that reference No. 12 of this Bill is the direct cause of 50 per cent. of the emigration at present going on to Great Britain.
I submit, Sir, that the proper place to raise the question of the Coal-Cattle Pact is in connection with the appropriate Estimate.
Yes, the Estimate for Agriculture.
Surely, Sir, you will remember that the Minister was forced to discuss the terms of the former Coal-Cattle Pact, and that there was a full discussion of the matter on that occasion. I submit, with all respect, that this is the only opportunity this year to discuss this, and that there is a deliberate attempt by the Minister to slip it through the House without an adequate discussion, and I suggest that it is because it is now being dragged from the obscurity into which the Minister wanted to thrust it that he is now beginning to wriggle.
I have not wriggled noticeably.
The Minister confuses in his mind—and I submit, Sir, that it is vitally relevant to the questions which may be debated on this Bill—the matter of emigration to America and emigration to England. That is a complete illusion. The Minister said, a couple of days ago, that all the emigration to England was that of domestic servants. I submit that a man who talks like that is simply raving.
I did not say it.
When it was pointed out to the Minister that that was the purest nonsense, he said:—
"Oh, well, it did no harm in any case, and this emigration is no worse than the emigration that was going on to America in former years and, in fact, less injurious."
The fact is, however, that the emigrants who went to America—and I saw them go—were people who, in comparison, were well off. They were well clad, well furnished with cash, and they were going to prosperous relatives who were waiting to receive them. Not a single one of these people went to America, practically since 1901, who did not go out to an aunt or a cousin or a friend who was waiting to receive them, look after them, and put them into a good job almost as soon as they landed, and the moment that condition of things passed away, emigration to America stopped. We did not fill the quota that the American Government permitted us to send there. Our people would not go. Why would they not go? They would not go because they knew it was much better to stay at home. Now an entirely different situation has arisen, because now they realise that they have no means of finding a living at home, and the people who are emigrating now are people who are going with their possessions in handkerchiefs in their hands, and they are going, not to a job, as they went in former times to America, but in the hope of getting a job and, in many cases, with no friends, no relatives, and no guidance awaiting them.
How does the Deputy know?
Because I know the people. They are my own neighbours. I left the station at Ballaghaderreen a few days ago with a whole trainful of them. I saw them go. I knew their mothers, their fathers and themselves. I saw a girl of 14½ emigrating to London last week, looking for domestic employment—14½, a mere child, going to London to look for domestic employment in England. I know dozens of girls who have gone to England looking for a job. Now, Sir, that arises directly out of this policy which has destroyed the three-cow man. All those people, all those boys and girls, are the sons and daughters of three-cow men, of the small farmer. Now, I shall be perfectly frank. I do not want to overstate the case at all. If the Government finds itself in desperate difficulties, the emigration of young fellows does not particularly alarm me. If the country improves, they will come home again, and it will do no particular harm to an adventurous young fellow of 18, 19, 20 or 21 to go to England and work there for two or three years. I went to England and worked there and I went to America and worked there, and I was able to come back at the end of it. It does no harm to a young fellow to see the world for a bit. Of course, he should not be forced to emigrate, and it is a pity that economic circumstances should force young men to emigrate, but it does not unduly alarm me if a young man has to take his chance for a while. As I said, that does not alarm me unduly, but it is alarming, and it is something to which the gravest attention should be given, that there should be this exodus of girls from this country.
Does the Deputy contend that he is dealing with Order No. 12?
As already stated, many hours have been devoted to the question of emigration and its causes during the last few days. Surely the same arguments, figures and exposition cannot be relevant to every debate. The Deputy is in order in pointing out the results of the policy in this matter, but not in going into details regarding emigration.
Certainly, Sir, I am not going to wrangle.
The Deputy will not wrangle with the Chair.
I am sorry. Sir, I shall amend the words. That was not what I meant. I do not propose to wrangle at all. I do say, however, that there are consequences to the small farmer, arising out of the Coal-Cattle Pact, which give rise to the greatest possible alarm, and I want to emphasise that there is no analogy at all between the situation of the people in 1937 and the situation of the people in 1927. What was going on then was purely the result of a search for a higher standard of living than the comparatively high standard of living that then obtained in the country. What is going on now is a flight from the fear of severe hardship or destitution in this country, in the hope—the vain hope in many cases—of getting work outside the country, and that particularly applies to girls rather than to boys. All that can be made an end of. We can turn this country into a country with the highest standard of living in Europe by common sense. Some people get impatient because they say: "Why go on labouring this business about agriculture?" The reason it must be laboured is that social services, civil services, and every other type of expenditure in this country depends for its supply on the surplus produce of the agricultural industry.
Deputy Moore asks me why.
Why does it not depend on the surplus produce of industry?
Why does industry want protection, then?
Let us explain it to Deputy Moore.
A child could see it.
Let us try to explain it to the Deputy. It is a blessing to find in this House one fertile mind in which there is one chance in a hundred of one oat of common-sense germinating and growing.
Oh, that is very patronising of the Deputy.
I do not mean to be patronising. I only wish to explain to the Deputy. The source of the wealth of every country, the source of its national income, is the exploitation of its natural resources. Is not that true?
The Deputy admits that it is true, and this country's natural resources consist, practically exclusively, of 12,000,000 acres of arable land. We have no minerals, no oil, no natural deposits which can be exploited in that way.
Does the Deputy object to tillage?
As I say, we have none of these natural deposits which can be exploited in the way I have mentioned. We can import many raw materials and we can manufacture those and, admittedly, make a contribution to the national income out of our manufacture.
That is just my point.
Certainly, we can; but Deputy Moore must see that they form an infinitesimal scrap of our national income——
——and can never be anything else. All the raw materials of these manufactures are imported.
Does the Deputy see that? Let us take Guinness's, for example, or Jameson's. They distil barley or grain and they are a great national asset because they are adding something to the value of the produce of the soil which they purchase, but their use of the grain which is grown on Irish soil is merely an instance of the successful and profitable exploitation of the agricultural land, of the arable land, upon which that barley or grain was primarily grown.
The raw material represents only a small share of the cost of a great many industrial products.
The Deputy asks why I attach so much importance to this question of agriculture. Our natural resources consist of 12,000,000 acres of land. Five million acres of these will feed the Irish people with all the beef, all the beet, all the wheat, and all of every kind of foodstuffs the Irish people can eat, provided we assume that every Irish stomach is filled to bursting point three times a day.
Have you looked at the Trade Journal?
That leaves 7,000,000 acres of our arable land, the produce of which must be profitably disposed of if we are to have a profit for the 80 per cent. of our people who are living on the land. Will the Deputy set that aside in one partition of his brain?
It is not new at all.
The industrial income which is derived from industries conducted in this country, behind tariffs, depends for its prosperity on the power of the Irish people to consume their products. Few, if any, of these highly tariffed industries, the Minister will agree with me, have developed an export trade or can hope to do so. We must have a purchasing power in the hands of the agricultural community or the industrial community will not be able to earn a wage sufficient to purchase the commodities that that community requires. We will assume the industrial worker buys some of these products himself, but unless there is a home market for his products he cannot buy anything and cannot therefore support the agricultural worker. Ultimately, it all comes back to the question of getting for the agricultural producers a ready market for their goods so that they in turn may be able to buy the products of the industrial worker.
The obverse is equally true, that the industrial worker is a necessity for the agriculturalist.
I asked the Deputy to set aside in the right lobe of his brain the fact that 5,000,000 acres of land is sufficient to feed all the industrial workers, all the agricultural workers and the entire population of this country. Unless the remaining 7,000,000 acres of land, seven-twelfths of our natural resources, are properly exploited, where is the demand going to come from for the products of Irish industry? If there is no demand for the products of Irish industry, where is the income of the industrial worker going to come from? If there is no income for the industrial worker and no demand for the products of Irish industry, what national income have we? Do you not see that the whole question of the successful exploitation of that 7,000,000 acres is bound up with the matters concerned with Order No. 12? If you will give the people a chance to sell every agricultural product that that land can produce better than any other land in the world, at the preferential price that Britain is prepared to pay at the present time, so as to secure in this country not only the present-day food supply, but a guarantee that in time of war there will be an agricultural industry in this country so sufficient that it can be expended almost indefinitely, to meet the peculiar emergency that will confront the British people——
The old British argument again.
She is not doing it for her own farmers.
Let me assure the Deputy that he is entirely mistaken. She is doing it for her own farmers, and one of the reasons that the cattle trade of this country has been saved from absolute destruction, is the fact that the British Government pay a bounty of £2 10s. per head on fat cattle to their own farmers. Our store feeders are drawing off about 35/- of that bounty into the Irish market. If we had the tariffs taken off our cattle, and had free access to the British market for our live stock, we would drain as much of that off as we could produce cattle to drain. We could make common cause with the British farmer. We could make his interest our own on the British market and, acting together we would be in a position, with the British farmer, to guarantee the British Government against the danger of starvation in time of war.
I am in favour of doing that if Britain will pay me for doing it. On the other hand, if Britain says: "We do not want your supplies," we have got to come back to the Irish people and tell them: "You have got to go down to the peasant standard of living. You must live on the natural resources that the Lord Almighty gives you, because you cannot do anything else. You will have to get down to the peasant standard." But if we can get profitable markets for our produce, markets by which we can get a higher standard of living for our people than that of any other people in Europe, why should we not do it? Ministers say we cannot do it because to do it we would have to jettison a sacred principle.
There does not seem to be much prospect there for the dairying industry.
I do not want to discuss the dairying industry now, because the Chair would not allow me. The conditions in the dairying industry are not so simple as they seem. It is not a question of world prices. We can discuss that matter on the Estimate of the Minister for Agriculture. It is a very wide question. I want to confine myself now to Order No. 12, and I ask, if you have negotiated the tariff off horses, why not negotiate the tariff off cattle, sheep and pigs? If you can do that, you can get an infinitely better financial settlement from Great Britain. You can remove all the obstacles in the way of our trade, and you can build up in this country a splendid life for everybody. Deputies on the far side may ask: "How are you going to do it?" I do not see anything dishonourable or anything dishonest in going to the British Government at the present time and saying to them: "The settlement under which you were to receive an annual sum in lieu of local loans outstanding, an annual sum in respect of certain pensions you are paying, and a certain part of the land annuities payable under certain Land Acts, was made at a time when you saw your way to make a similar settlement for the payment of moneys that you owed to the United States of America by annual instalments. You have found that altered economic conditions make it impossible for you to perform that understanding in its entirety. You will say, and rightly say, that you admit it is due, that you know it is due, and that you would gladly honour your bond if you were financially able to do so. You are not, and the United States have admitted that you are not, but they have not declared war on you. We now say that we believe that the agreement made by our predecessors in office was a bad agreement and an uneconomic agreement. We know they made it in good faith, but we think it a bad agreement." I think that Fianna Fáil could, consistent with their position, take up that attitude. They could say: "We have been amply vindicated in our view, because the agreement has proved unworkable in principle and in practice. Though we think these moneys are not due, we recognise that you take up the position, with equal honesty and equal bona fides, that the moneys are due. Very well. You want a deal with America; we are prepared to deal on a basis of compromise with you.” Does any serious Deputy in this House believe that on that basis a comprehensive settlement could not be made? Does any Deputy seriously pretend that if we got a settlement of that character it would not be of immense benefit to every man, woman and child in this country? Does anybody believe that a settlement of that character would not immediately check emigration and restore prosperity all over the countryside? I am convinced it would, and I am sure every Deputy on the far side agrees with me. All we ask the Government to do is to abandon the contention that they have made before the world that their predecessors in office were traitors, frauds, and men who betrayed their trust to this State. Let them go and admit what they know to be true, and that is that Deputy Cosgrave and his colleagues, in making the settlement they made in 1925, acted in the best interests of this country.
I do not know what year it was and I do not care either, but the agreement described by the Fianna Fáil Government as a secret agreement, let them now admit was not a secret agreement. Let them admit it was made by honourable men defending, with the best ability they had, the interests of the people whose interests they undertook to defend. Let them admit everything done in pursuit of that agreement was done bona fide. I challenge the Minister for Industry and Commerce now to say that anything was done in pursuit of that agreement and in the process of completing it that in any way reflects on the honour or integrity of any one of the Ministers concerned in the transaction. Let him criticise the scheme on its merits as much as he likes; let him disown all responsibility for it when he goes to Westminster. All he has to do is to admit its validity, which is unquestionable, undoubted and unavoidable, and to say it has as much practical validity to-day as has the Washington Agreement. Let him say “We admit we have been bound by our predecessors in office, but we tell you that our people are not in a position to pay.”
Let us not wrangle as to how that position came about and what are the reasons why they cannot pay. It is certainly true to say that to attempt to pay them now would create a very serious difficulty in this country and any idea of going back on the system of payment for the last 60 or 70 years is out of the question. Let a fair compromise be made now without any sacrifice of principle. Let an end of cod agreements of this kind be made. Let us join in an effort to build up our country and put an end to the need for futile coal-cattle pacts. Let us get back again the market which we so foolishly and sillily threw away. Let us get back the whole of that market and let us undertake that we will not deliver anything to Great Britain that Great Britain is not prepared to pay us a good price for. If she is prepared to deal with us, then we are prepared to deal with her and in the long run we will find that such an arrangement will be for the ultimate benefit not only of Ireland but Great Britain as well.
While I welcome the concession with regard to horses, I must protest that the agreement has not gone far enough. I would like to remind the Government that at the 1933 election they promised the people that if they got a majority over all other Parties they would settle the economic war. They then realised the hardship it was imposing on the people. They said "Give us a majority over all Parties and England will be jumping to settle with us." What has been the position since? England has been getting her pound of flesh, and there is no denying that. The President has admitted that we have been paying the land annuities, and in a more painful way than ever we paid them before. That is quite true. I have met small farmers who said it would be a good thing for themselves if they were asked to pay five or six times the amount of the annuities rather than be deprived of their markets.
In order to bring this home to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who has not as much experience of agriculture as many Deputies here, I would like to point out to him the effect of the tariff imposed on our cattle going into Britain. If at a fair in a country village or town there were 100 cattle exposed for sale, two and three years old, the tax per head on those animals going into England would be £4 5s. For the one fair that would mean £425 and for 12 fairs it would mean £5,000. Take a fair where there would be 200 cattle. It would mean for the one fair a sum of £850 and for 12 fairs, £10,200. If there were 300 cattle at the fair it would mean a total tax of £1,275 and for 12 fairs that would represent £15,300. If there were 400 cattle at a fair it would mean £1,700 and at 12 fairs it would mean £20,400. Suppose there were 500 cattle at a fair, it would mean a total tax of £2,125 and that would represent for 12 fairs £25,000.
I would like to impress on the Government the seriousness of the situation, the seriousness of depriving the people of their purchasing power. If the people were in receipt of those moneys I have indicated, they would be in a better position to provide food and clothing for their families.
Certainly they would. Is it not a fact that they have to pay £4 5s. on every beast going into England? You are up against definite facts there. When the tariff was put on coal, Deputy Moore and the Minister for Agriculture tried to persuade us that the English people were paying the tariff on the coal. Everybody here has had experience of that tariff and the Irish people know well who had to pay the tax when it was in operation. The people have not even got the benefit of the reduction. Last night Deputy Moore declared that some banking institutions had expressed the opinion that there was an upward trend in prices for some time past. I quite agree, because at one time two and three-year-old cattle in Kerry and West Cork were sold at £1 5s. and £1 10s. each, and the price has certainly improved since then.
I suggest that the Government should take their courage in their hands and settle this question once and for all. We hear about the economic war between this country and England but, as a matter of fact, there is no economic war. The Fianna Fáil Party have settled the economic war because they have agreed to give England what she demanded. They have made arrangements to supply England with so many cattle on condition that we are supplied with so much coal. The English have a monopoly of our coal supplies and hundreds of their miners have been put to work in consequence.
Speaking of the banking institutions and the way in which they made reference to improvements in this country, Deputy Moore said there should be some expert evidence given to show the real position of agriculture here. I told Deputy Moore I had a document here from the farmers of Ballyvourney, practically all small-holders, relating to a meeting held there recently. I was not at the meeting, but I have it on good authority that the majority of those present were people who supported the Government Party at the last election. For the information of Deputy Moore I shall read a copy of a document sent to the Minister for Agriculture recently from this meeting in Ballyvourney:—
"Do tionóladh cruinniú d'fheirmeoirí Bhaile Mhúirne ar an 31/1/37. Bh'é an Sagart Paróiste, An t-Athair Pádraig O Síothcháin, a bhí i gceannas an chruinnuighthe. Tréis dul i gcómhairle a chéile dhóibh, do h-órduigheadh domh-sa sgríobh chughat, agus a innsint duit go bhfuil feirmeoirí na Gaedhealtachta so i ndeire an anama, toisc an praghas uathbhásach árd atá ar an bplúr agus ar an min bhuidhe (an measgadh) anois, agus gan ach praghas suarach go leór le fághail aca ar aon earradh a bhíonn á dhíol aca.
Tá cuid mhór de's na feirmeoirí beaga agus na sclábhaidhthe gur truagh é a gcás ag iarraidh greim bídh a sholáthar dóibh féin agus dá leanbhaí bochta; cuid aca chómh dealbh san nách féidir leo mála plúir deich gcloch a cheannach le chéile. Bíonn ortha súd an plúr a cheannach 'na chlochaibh anois, rud nár dheineadar riamh go dtí so, mar ní thugann na siopadóirí aon cháirde uatha anois. Nuair a cheannuightear an plúr 'na chlochaibh, bíonn pradhas níos aoirde fós le díol as.
Daoine tionnscálacha, a oibrigheann go cruaidh agus go bhfuil eolas a ngnótha aca, iseadh feirmeoirí Bhaile Mhúirne, agus go dtí gur tháinig an cogadh econaimíochta, d'eirigh leo maireachtaint go seascair neamh-spleadhach ar a gcuid bó, a gcuid ime, a gcuid muc, a gcuid éanlaithe, agus a gcuid ubh. Do sgrios an cogadh econaimíochta iad, agus do dhein sé bocht dealbh iad; agus níor dhein aon scéim de scéimeannaibh an Riaghaltais aon bhlúire thairbhe dhóibh.
Caithtear beatha-lámh a thabhairt dos na ba bainne sa cheanntar so ar feadh naoi mí den bhliain. An mhin bhuidhe a thugtí dhóibh. Caitheadh eirghe as nuair d'eirigh pradhas na mine buidhe (an measgadh) thar fóir ar fad. Aon tairbhe a thiocfadh de bharr scéim an bhainne agus an ime, tá sé curtha, ar neamh-nídh mar nuair ná faghann na ba bainne an beatha-láimh, is beag an bainne ná an t-im a fachtar uatha.
Tá tionnscal na muc ar bruachaibh báis. Pradhas na mine agus gan í bheith le fághail ar cáirde fé ndeár san. Tá na feirmeoirí ag eirghe as bheith ag tógaint banbhaí, agus ag ramhrú muc. Aoinne go bhfuil cránta aige fós, caitheann sé na banbhaí óga a dhíol. Na ceannaidhthe mine agus na muilteoirí a cheannuighean iad agus a ramhruigheann iad, agus is aca san a bhíonn an sochar. Ar an gcuma gcéadna tá luigheadú éactach tigithe ar an méid eanlaithe a coimeádtar anois, agus mar thoradh ar sin ar líon na n-ubh. Pradhas na mine fé ndeár so.
Maidir le scéim na cruithneachtan agus scéim an bhiatais, ní h-aon tairbhe iad dos na feirmeoirí imeasg na sléibhte annso. Is beag é achar an méid tailimh atá ann chun curadóireachta agus é sin ró-neamhthoramhail chun cruithneacht nú biatas d'fhás.
An deontas a tugadh ar chroicinn na ngamhan, ba mhar a chéile ann nú as é chómh fada agus a bhain sé le feirmeoirí na h-áite seo. Beireann furmhór na mbó i Mí Eanair, i Mí Feabhra, agus i Mí na Márta. Díoladh na gamhna nú na croicinn ar 1/6 an ceann anuiridh agus arbhú anuiridh, agus nuair a bhí an deontas le fághail i mí Abráin, is beag bó a bhí gan breith. Gheibhtí £2 agus £3 an ceann ar na gamhna roimis seo. Is beag é an tairbhe a dhein luigheadú na gcíosanna sá cheanntar so mar bhí na cíosanna beag.
Tá bran agus bárr-fhuigealachá eile an ghráinne a usáidtí go fairsing chun ba agus muca agus éanlaithe do cothughadh, gann agus daor anois. Ba chóir go mbeadh na h-adhbhair bidh seo raidhseamhail agus saor, ós rnd é go bhfuil an plúr go léir 'ghá mheilt sa bhaile anois. Ach tuigtear dúinn go bhfuil na muilteoirí 'ghá gccimeád istig chun ganntanas bréige a dhéanamh, i dtreó is go mbeadh leath-sgéal aca ar ball chun na bpradhasanna d'ardú.
Roimis seo, bhí sé ar chumas feirmeoirí Bhaile Mhúirne a gclann a choimeád sa bhaile agus iad a chur i gcrích. Anois, caitheann na buachaillí óga agus na cailíní óga imtheacht go Sasana, nú isteach ins na cathracha, ar lorg oibre, ó baineadh díobh an tslighe maireachtana ba dhual dóibh. Sé an sgéal céadna ag na sclábhaidhthe é. Níl sé ar chumas na bhfeirmeoirí obair a thabhairt dóibh mar ní féidir leo iad a dhíol.
Sé ár dtuairim ná tuigeann an Riaghaltas chómh dona agus atá an sgéal ag muinntir na Gaedhealtachta, ná an dealbhas agus an gábhatar atá ann. Is mó uair i gcaitheamh na gceithre mblian so caithte a iarramair mar athchuinge ar an Riaghaltas fóirithin éigin a dhéanamh orainn. Fiú amháin do cuireadh toscaireacht go Baile Atha Cliath sa bhliain 1933 thar ceann muinntir na gceithre bparóistí, Baile Mhuirne, Uibh Laoghaire, Cill na Martara, agus Cluain Droichead. Ach is bodhar an chluas a thug an Riaghaltas dúinn.
Ní féidir linn an t-ualach trom atá curtha ar ár nguailnibh d'iomchar a thuille. Nílimíd ag iarraidh déarca ar an Riaghaltas in aon chor. Níl ghá éileamh againn ach ár gceart, caoi a thabhairt dúinn chun maireachtaint i n-ár ndúthaigh féin fé mar a dheinimís.
Seo iad ár n-éilighthe:—
(1) Go bhfaghaimís plúr ar 14/- an mála deich gclóch.
(2) Go bhfaghaimís an mhín bhuidhe ar 14/- an mála fiche cloch.
(3) Go n-árdófaí pradhas an bhainne ag na h-uachtarlainn.
(4) Go gcuirfí d'iachaibh ar na muilteoirí barr-fhuighealach an ghráinne (bran, &rl) do scaoileadh amach agus iad a dhíol ar phradhas réasúnta.
(5) Go mbeadh síol coirce agus síol prátaí le fághail againn ar phradhas réasúnta."
This document was sent about a month ago to the Minister for Agriculture, but so far he has done nothing more than to acknowledge it. If Deputy Moore will get that translated, I am sure that he will be satisfied that the people who were present at that meeting and who were responsible for the sending of that statement are at least authorities on agriculture. On more than one occasion I appealed to the Government to set up a commission to inquire into the real position. Within the last fortnight I appealed to the President in this House to have this document considered and to send down a representative to report on the situation in that district.
In the past we have had members of the Government talking a good deal about the 1/- taken off the old age pensioners some years ago. The Minister for Industry and Commerce told us that within the last fortnight there were 40,000 small farmers signing on for unemployment assistance. Is there not some reason why these people are seeking unemployment assistance? The Government are now setting up a commission to inquire into their own allowances. At one time they were satisfied that they could live on £1,000 a year. Now evidently, after further experience, they are satisfied that there is nothing to shout about in that. As they are setting up such a commission, I appeal to them to set up a commission to inquire into the position of those unfortunate people who are being placed in this position by the Government.
This new Coal-Cattle Pact has been a great disappointment to farmers. Indeed, I might say that the disappointment which it has caused has been very considerable indeed. As a farmer going amongst the people every day, I have reason to know that. I know the way in which the people were anxiously waiting for the result of the negotiations, and I know that the Government have cost the country thousands of pounds owing to the delay in announcing the terms of the Coal-Cattle Pact, because people had to feed cattle for a longer period than last year and the cost of feeding stuffs has gone up. The result is that all these cattle are left on their hands, and they are nothing better off after the extra feeding which they had to give to the cattle. The pact has certainly given relief to the horse-breeding industry. As a horse-breeder I must say that I felt great relief and a great load taken off my shoulders when the duties were removed from horses, because I know that I am now free to bring them over to England, or that Englishmen need not be afraid to come over here to buy them. Heretofore men in England who bought horses could not come over here to do so and had to act through a recognised auctioneer. If they did not do their business in that way, but came over and bought horses and gave a cheque, when the horses were sent forward the customs authorities would not accept their statement. As a result these buyers did not know what to give for horses. Now that the duties on horses are gone, we will have Englishmen coming over to buy. As a matter of fact, they have come within the last fortnight to two neighbours of mine, who got £300 for two-year-old colts that they could not sell three weeks ago.
With regard to the cattle trade, I beg of the Government to look at the position in the country and at the poverty of the farmers. At least 600 cattle were loaded and shipped from Mullingar every month. The average tax on these cattle would be £3 a head, representing £1,800 every month collected at Mullingar fair. That is only one fair in County Westmeath. There would be a couple of hundred cattle shipped from Castlepollard, about 500 from Moate, and also 500 from Athlone every month on which tax would have to be paid. That amount of money is leaving the county every month, along with what is leaving other stations in the county every day. Take my own case to-day. I sold ten heifers for ten guineas each. If there was no tariff on them I would have got £42 10s. 0d. more for these animals. They cost the Welshman who bought them £18 15s. 0d. before they left the ring, but all I got for them was 10 guineas a head. If the tariff was not there I would have got £18 15s. 0d. a head. My half-year's annuity amounts to £50, and it would be nearly paid if I got that price for my cattle. The Government should think of these things, because at present the farmers are being slowly but surely robbed. There is no use denying the fact but that the farmers are broke, and the smaller they are the worse is their position. I have some chance of carrying on, as when I get 10 guineas for an animal I can go and buy other stock at £7. What about the poor man who sells young cattle to me at £7 a head? If he buys a weanling he has to pay £5 or £6 for it. Because it has no teeth he has to face the competition of English buyers for such stock. I ask the Government seriously to do something for the cattle trade. If they do not settle the economic war they should give a bounty on cattle in order to recompense the farmers. Otherwise they should not collect the annuities, because the farmers are paying the annuities three times over. I only sold ten cattle to-day, but if I got the full value for them it would nearly pay my half-year's rent. How many times have I paid my annuities on the cattle that I turn over in the year? I know more about cattle and about the farmers of Ireland than any Deputy in this House. I sell and buy more cattle than any other Deputy. I challenge contradiction of that statement. I know that the farmers of Ireland are broken, because they are head over heels in debt, and the smaller they are the worse off are they. I had a letter recently from a farmer who has three yearlings to sell every year and no other income, craving me to try to get a job for his daughter, as he said that he had nothing else coming into his farm except from two cows. Last year he said that he could make a little bit on butter, but now inspectors went round looking into the baskets when his daughter went into Mullingar to see if she had any butter for sale. I beg the Government to think seriously about the position of the farmers and to note the report of a meeting of cattle traders that was held in Dublin recently.
In connection with the issuing of licences, I wish the Minister for Industry and Commerce would call the attention of the Minister for Agriculture to this question. Last year the quota for fat cattle was not nearly filled. This year the farmers are not applying for any licences. I suggest that licences should be given out at the boat or at the ports, because we have not enough fat catle for all the licences that are available. The farmers will not give 1/6 for the licences. They did so in December and January, but some of them could not be used. The position would be made easier for everyone concerned in the cattle trade, and there would be less loss caused to the Government, if the licences were available at the ports, where they could be got easily and without expense. I ask the Minister to urge the Minister for Agriculture to do something in the way of giving a bounty on cattle. Otherwise something serious will happen to the cattle trade. At present the country is on the verge of a beef shortage. People from Galway and Mullingar and other places are coming to Dublin to buy beef. What is the reason for that? Because people are getting out of making beef. The Government will have to give a bounty to people here to feed beef. It is being done in England. From the way things are going at present it looks as if there will be no beef for sale by June. The people have got out of feeding beef, and something should be done to encourage them to continue feeding beef in the winter months.
Give the people cheap feeding stuffs and they will feed beef.
I implore the Government to face facts and to look at the position of the farmers, because they are being slowly but surely robbed by these tariffs.
I have no doubt about the sincerity of the Deputy who has just spoken, and about his anxiety for farmers, but I claim to be equally anxious about their position. We seem to approach the matter from different angles. The Deputy forgets that the Government has a responsibility to the people, and that at two general elections and at one local election, they approved of the line of action that has been taken. The country is now faced with another general election, and knowing the feelings of the people I have no doubt what the result will be.
Do not be too sure; you might get a "sell."
When this Government took up office the farmers were poor; they were down-and-out. They are certainly not poorer now. The Government is really asked in an indirect way to surrender. If there is any meaning in the questions that have been asked that is what is meant.
They have already surrendered.
If we are going to have a settlement of the dispute, I do not want it to be on the lines of "a damn good bargain" or the Feetham Commission.
You would rather have a bad bargain.
I do not want either of these settlements. What did the Government ask the British Government to do in connection with the economic war? They asked that Ireland should be allowed to plead her case before an international tribunal but England refused to agree. Are we to agree to have the matter decided as the Feetham Commission decided the Boundary question, while our representative sat there until partition was signed, sealed and delivered? To-day, some of the people who were the means of putting that commission there are charging us in this House with not declaring a republic for the whole of Ireland. The very people who put the Boundary there are asking us to do that. We heard Deputy O'Leary and Deputy Fagan counting up what the farmers are losing, and giving from their angle what the farmer losses are. Let us take the case of a farmer who bought out his land under the Land Act; who has roughly 30 acres of land; whose rent would be roughly £26, and whose valuation would be about £28. I think that is a typical case. That farmer will be doing well in mixed farming if he keeps six cows. He will be equally lucky and doing well every year if he sells five yearling heifers. On those five cattle he pays £1 15s. a head, and his rent of £26 has been reduced by £13.
He pays £2 on a calf.
Very well; that is £10.
Only five calves? I rear 40 or 50 calves each year. One cow rears two calves.
To start off with, that man has a profit through the halving of the annuity. Of course, the people opposite, when the last election was about to be won, said: "If you put us in we will halve the annuities," but the people ridiculed the idea of it because they had the Feetham Commission before them. Where was the money going to come from except by keeping the annuities here? Will it be denied in this House that the Opposition asked time for payment of £250,000, and were refused?
You have not refused to pay.
We came into office and that money is kept here to-day. What is it used for? I said at the start of this speech that the farmers are not as well off as I should like to see them. The Government realised that; they halved the annuities. Every man with a valuation of £25 got a free grant of £40. They have derated up to £20, and they have given an allowance on everything over £20. The argument of the Opposition seems to be that if we could get the whole country into cattle the country would be saved. I should like to ask Deputies opposite if there is a big European war within the next year what provision for food is going to be made in this country? Is it a cattle ranch we want? In case of a world war, the John Bradburys for cattle will not feed our population. In the case of that war breaking out to-morrow, it would be the duty of the Government to meet immediately and see what food was available for the people of this country. How does the Opposition think they would act in similar circumstances? The Government, having fought two Dáil elections and one local government election would be unfair to the people who sent them here if there was to be any surrender, more particularly if it was on the lines which I say are enshrined in those two first questions to-day. If we are going to have a settlement we must have it on the basis of pound for pound. We are not going to hand over to any commission set up by England the right to say what this country will have to pay, or what they must take from England. If the settlement is not on an equal basis we will fight the matter out in the way we are doing. That is the wish of the Irish people, and unless they decide otherwise at the election, I say that there is no inclination to surrender on the part of the country.
Deputy Victory said that the people of this country have approved of the Government action in connection with the economic war at two Dáil elections and at the local government elections of 1933. I do not wonder that Deputy Victory has forgotten all the election promises which were made by his Party. It would be very difficult for any Fianna Fáil Deputy to remember all the promises that were made by his Party.
On a point of order, the matter which we are discussing is the Imposition of Duties Bill, and not the general election.
In any event, Deputy Victory knows perfectly well, and the Minister knows perfectly well also, that prior to the last general election the Fianna Fáil Party promised the people of this country that if they voted for them again they would settle this economic war, and settle it in such a fashion as would be eminently satisfactory to the people.
Make that speech at the post office in Sligo and deal with the Bill now.
It is perfectly obvious that the Minister has forgotten some of those promises himself, as was evident from listening to his speech yesterday on another subject. Talking about emigration, he threw up his hands in despair, saying that there is no solution for the problem of emigration, forgetting the promises that he himself made on the subject of emigration when on the Opposition Benches, and even prior to the last general election when he had had the responsibilities of government thrust on his shoulders. It is certainly amusing to hear members of the Fianna Fáil Party now trying to recant every one of those pre-general election promises. Deputy Victory talked about the farmers being in as good a position to pay their annuities to-day and meet their debts as they were at the time when the last Government was in office.
You have that in the returns.
I have a return here which I am sure will be very interesting to the Deputy, a return furnished to members of the Dáil only yesterday by the Minister for Finance himself. We know perfectly well that the British collect the full amount of the annuities. That is perfectly clear from returns issued by the British Treasury. They collect every penny. The farmers of this country are paying their annuities——
And the loans.
And the loans as well, as Deputy Bennett has reminded me. In addition to that, what do we find? From a reply given by the Minister for Finance yesterday to a question by Deputy O'Leary, we find that since August, 1932, the farmers, by way of annuities and revised annuities, have paid into the Exchequer of this State the sum of approximately £11,000,000. Mark you, they have paid their full annuities to England. They have paid the full amount of the withheld moneys which gave rise to this dispute, and in addition they have paid into the Treasury of this State the sum of approximately £11,000,000—to be more accurate, £10,800,000 odd—according to the reply given by the Minister for Finance. Yet, according to Deputy Victory, after paying the sum of £11,000,000, in addition to the annuities and to the other withheld moneys, the farmers are better off to-day than they were during the lifetime of the last Government.
I do not remember hearing the Minister's explanation of this Bill. I do not know whether he condescended to offer us any more information on the subject of the recent pact than the Minister for Agriculture gave us a few nights ago in the Dáil. In any event, it would be interesting to have some explanation from some Minister as to what the latest Sugar-Horse Pact does really mean. What really are its terms? What are the full benefits which the farmers of this country will gain by the conclusion of this particular pact? We heard a great deal during the last few weeks, especially at the crossroads and occasionally in this Dáil, about freedom and national advance, and so on. Surely to goodness the Minister is not prepared to state here in the Dáil to-day that we were improving our national position by the conclusion of the latest Sugar-Horse Pact? The late Arthur Griffith said on very many occasions that political freedom was valueless unless we had fiscal and economic freedom as well.
We did secure fiscal and economic freedom under the Treaty, but, with the conclusion of every one of these Coal-Cattle Pacts, and the latest Sugar-Horse Pact, we are sacrificing the fiscal and economic freedom we secured under the Treaty. With every successive Coal-Cattle and Sugar-Horse Pact—and I do not know what the name of the next pact will be—we are surrendering in ever greater degree all that fiscal and economic freedom we secured under the Treaty, and to-day we are reduced to this humiliating position, that the number of cattle we can send into the British market is to be determined by the amount of coal which the people of this country can purchase from Great Britain at a price to be fixed by Great Britain. That is the position, and, surely, it is a humiliating position. Yet, we have the President telling us that if we effect a settlement, we are surrendering. Surely, when we negotiated the first Coal-Cattle Pact, we surrendered our initiative in the matter. We have placed ourselves in the humiliating position since that we have to accept whatever terms the British are prepared to offer us, and it is perfectly obvious, from the conclusion of the latest Sugar-Horse Pact, that the British Treasury officials who are responsible for negotiating these trade agreements will insist on getting every penny piece of the withheld moneys due to them by this country.
Deputy Victory talks about the general prosperity of the country being on the same level as it was in 1931 when the present Government assumed responsibility. The Minister has only to look up the returns of his own Department to know that the internal consumption of agricultural products in this country itself has declined as compared with 1926. In 1926-27, there was approximately £23,000,000 worth of agricultural produce consumed in this country, and for the financial year 1934-1935, the last year for which returns are available, the figure was £16,500,000 or, if the Minister likes, I will say £17,000,000, which shows that, notwithstanding the much-boosted self-sufficiency policy of the Government, the consumption of agricultural produce in this country is declining, and the alternative markets which the Minister and other members of the Government were to find for the people to compensate them for the loss of the British market have vanished. We hear no more about alternative markets now and yet, notwithstanding all the evidence there is on every side that the wealth of the agricultural community is diminishing, that the standard of prosperity amongst farmers is steadily going down and that many farmers at present are in really very straitened circumstances, the Government still persists in pursuing this policy which is so detrimental to the country as a whole and, according to the last statement of the President, no effort whatever is going to be made to bring about a settlement.
Surely it is time that the members of the Government showed some appreciation of the hardship which is being inflicted on the people to-day, some appreciation of their own responsibilities and some appreciation also of what the future of this country requires, if we are to exist normally or attain the same standard of prosperity as the peoples of other countries. Surely it is time the Government showed some responsibility and made an effort to negotiate some settlement that will be satisfactory to the people of this country. I do imagine that if the members of the Government dropped all this nonsense which we hear so frequently from the Government Benches, and especially from platforms down the country, and if they set seriously to effect a settlement of this problem, they could negotiate a settlement that would be satisfactory, not alone to the Government, but to the people and that would be the means of saving the agricultural industry in this country. In the absence of such settlement, I fail to see how the agricultural industry can survive on any sort of a satisfactory basis for many years longer.
I am sure the renewal of the Coal-Cattle Pact has come as a disappointment to the farmers. They expected some concessions and they expected that a little would be taken off the British tariffs. We have backbenchers of the Fianna Fáil Party making speeches in which they say they are not going to surrender. The President says he is not going to surrender. There is no surrendering about it at all and if the farmers who have to carry the entire burden are not going to surrender, I think it only fair that they should get a bounty equal to the British tariffs. The people have to carry the burden on their backs and, up to now, they have carried it very patiently, but they have almost exhausted any money they had from the old days and, as the House is aware, they will get no credit from the banks. The President says it would be madness on the part of the Government to surrender and that he is asking the farmers to pay only half the annuities.
When members of the Fianna Fáil Party were seeking power, I heard it stated from every platform, "We will have alternative markets," and "We really believe we do not owe Britain the annuities or the other £2,000,000." There is no one would be better pleased than I if we could get out of paying Britain anything. I do not want to pay anything to Britain, but where are the alternative markets? The British Treasury told you last year that the one bright spot for them was the Free State. They wanted to collect £5,000,000 from the Free State farmer in respect of annuities and £2,000,000 for which he had no responsibility, and they collected £5,500,000. Now the Government say they will not collect half the annuities, and that that is £2,000,000. That is not half the annuities, and what the Government are collecting is a land tax and not annuities at all. If they got the alternative markets, it would be up to the British to do what our Government did with the hard-pressed farmers, that is, to seize their stock and furniture. Those alternative markets, however, were not on the map of the world. There are no alternative markets. You would have no Continental buyers coming in here if it was not for the British tariffs. I know a little about the Continent. I have sent stock to the Continent, but what class of stock was it? Cast horses, and they would not be buying our beef only for the British tariffs. If there was a settlement to-morrow, we would see no Continental buyers in this country.
It was rather laughable in Wexford town last Saturday to see people giving 2/- a lb. for farmers' hand-made butter, while our Government supplied the British consumer with Free State creamery butter at 11d. We are so fond of the enemy that we butter his bread on both sides. It is time the Government woke up. They say they have been elected twice, but if they were, they got in on false promises. They told the people all the things they would do except the way they are persecuting the people at present. It is nearly time that Fianna Fáil back benchers began to talk as farmers. Two or three of them have spoken and they say that the people are satisfied with their policy. I tell you that they are not satisfied. They have swallowed the sugar-coated pill in the past, but they are not going to swallow it for ever. We had Deputy O'Reilly here last Thursday shedding crocodile tears for the British farmers because they were so badly off. The Government there is giving them 5/- a cwt. live-weight as a bounty on home fed cattle and they are not satisfied. They want 10/-, and, through the policy of this Government and the policy of the British Government, the farmer here is taxed £4 5s. a head on two-year-old cattle. That means that the British farmer is getting £7 a head more than the Irish farmer for his cattle.
The sooner the Government realise where they are the better. This country will be no good to anybody if agriculture, the staple industry, is killed. If that becomes bankrupt, the State becomes bankrupt. I admire the Minister for Industry and Commerce as an energetic Minister who is doing all in his power to start new industries. I will help him every way I can, but I must tell him that you cannot build up new industries in a bankrupt country. There must be money to buy the products of these new industries. Is it not deplorable to see agricultural labourers in County Wexford going home to their wives with 10/—and they are not all getting that? How far will that go when they go to a country shop to buy the necessaries of life? It would not support a man, his wife, and three children for two days. The condition of the country, and especially the agricultural part of the community, is very far from being right. The sooner the Government realise that fact the better.
We heard some talk here recently about increasing Ministers' salaries. It is all very fine to talk about increasing the salaries of Ministers. Those Ministers, when seeking power five years ago, told the electors that £1,000 a year was enough for any man. Now, after five years in office, they tell us that a Minister could not get on all right on less than £1,700 a year, and they make that statement in view of the fact that a very large proportion of the people down the country have not £1 a week on which to live.
The agricultural people want the economic war settled and the sooner this House awakes to that fact the better it will be for the country. That settlement need not be a surrender. Before attaining office the members of the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party generally were very confident in their assertions about the existence of alternative markets. Now they find that they have no alternatives to the British market. There is one and only one market for Irish agricultural produce, and that is the British market. The Irish farmer has been deprived of that market. How in face of the farmer being deprived of his market can he give his workers or his own family a decent living? I tell the Government that there are in the Free State to-day many working farmers who are not only badly off, but hungry. While that is the actual state of things, we have Fianna Fáil Deputies and Ministers telling us that the condition of the people is improving and that agriculture is improving.
I am aware that farmers in the County Wexford are selling their fat cattle at 23/- to 24/- a cwt. Anyone who knows the cost of foodstuffs will tell you that it would be better for such farmers they never saw these cattle. No man can make a living by producing fat cattle at 23/- to 24/- a cwt. We all know how much the prices of foodstuffs have gone up and in that state of things it is utterly impossible for a County Wexford farmer to live by fattening cattle and selling them at 23/- a cwt, especially when stores are being sold at 32/- to 33/- a cwt. Let Deputies ask themselves how long that state of things can continue. Prior to the 1932 General Election the people were told on every dead wall and cement wall in the country, "burn everything that comes from England but English coal." The Government have on their lips the cry of "no surrender." But what has really happened? While we were listening to all this cry of "no surrender" and "boycott of English goods," the Government entered into a pact under which we could burn no coal but British coal. The British can charge anything they like for that coal. There is no competition now in the matter of coal. Surely that is a ridiculous state of things. Is it not time for the people to wake up and make up their minds what they are to do?
Another matter that is causing great loss to the farmers at present is this question of the distribution of fat cattle licences. These licences are sent to the county councils in the Free State. In many places the farmers are not applying for them and the licences are lying dead in the offices of the county councils. In the Dublin Cattle Market, dealers buy one, two or three cattle off farmers, but because they have no licences they are unable to complete the sale. Last week I introduced a deputation to the Minister for Agriculture on this matter. I must say the Minister met us fairly and tried to do all in his power to help us. But that is little good to us. I saw one dealer who bought 350 fat cattle in the Dublin market. There were licences available for only 100. That meant that 250 fat cattle were kept hanging around the Dublin lairages waiting for export licences. Is not all that to the prejudice of the farmers? All this loss comes out of his pocket. If these men had their licences on Thursday night they could have shipped their cattle. That meant that the cattle would be slaughtered before Sunday and the farmers would be saved the cost and delay of having the cattle on their hands and perhaps great deterioration in the condition of the cattle. Considerable sums of money are lost to the farmers in this way; everything the Government are doing in this matter of exports of live stock and agricultural produce they are doing wrongly. Surely it is time for the people to open their eyes and to ask themselves how long can this state of muddle hold. We heard a great deal of talk some time ago about wheat growing being a source of great wealth. Being a farmer myself, I know that is not so.
The question of wheat growing is not before the House.
We have heard a great deal about making the country self-supporting. What is happening? The consumer is being charged war prices in peace times. If the consumer is paying high prices in peace time what price will he have to pay in war time? You can buy wheat in the world's market and better wheat——
Now that does not arise.
I suppose anything I say does not arise. I suppose if I am not quite up to the point I will have to go out; therefore, I bow to your ruling. I appeal to the Government and the President not to be up in the air as they are and not to go on telling the people that any settlement of the economic war would be a surrender. It must be settled sometime for it cannot go on for ever. There is no country in the world that is in the same position and has the same advantages for the supplying of store cattle to Great Britain as Ireland has. As long as the British Government is giving the farmer there a bounty of 5s. a cwt. on home fattened cattle there is an excellent market there for our stores. According to Deputy O'Reilly the British farmer wanted a bounty of 10s. but the more he gets in the way of bounty the better it would be for the Free State farmer. Again I say to the Government that the sooner they settle the economic war the better it will be for themselves and for the country.
When this Coal-Cattle Pact was first agreed upon, more than a couple of years ago, we all looked on it with relief, for we all hoped it was the beginning of the end of the nonsense that had been going on, the end of the so-called economic war. But once that Coal-Cattle Pact was signed there was an end of the economic war for that was a complete surrender by our Government on that issue. The signing of the Coal-Cattle Pact by our Government was simply an abandonment of the only weapon that this country could use against its supposed enemy. That weapon was its refusal to buy British coal. The signing, therefore, of that pact meant that we had surrendered the only weapon with which we could strike back. It is strange, in the face of that, to find the President standing up here and making the statement that any compromise now on this economic war would be a surrender. I confess I cannot understand that attitude. The British, by that pact, were given a monopoly in the supply of coal to this country. I do not know that that was altogether a surrender. It was a sensible agreement when better terms could not be got. There was no question of surrender because there was nothing to surrender. If two combatants are engaged in a fight and if one lays down his arms while the other fires away any reasonable person would conclude that the one who laid down his arms had surrendered. By continuing in the fighting line he was only making himself a target for the other fellow. In this matter of the economic war and its settlement the word "surrender" should not be used. I think the time has come when the people are beginning to understand the meaning of these things. I think those phrases about surrender used by the President are nonsense.
Personally I believe that the Coal-Cattle Pact was a relief to the agricultural community and the Sugar-Cattle Pact was a relief also to a certain extent. Now if these were good things would it not be much better to have the whole question settled? This country would be surrendering nothing by a settlement. Surely it would surrender less by making a good settlement than by laying down its arms and allowing the other fellow to fire away. That is what has happened up to now. At the time the Horse Sugar Pact was signed, I happened to read some comments in the Irish Press. It seems that that paper went to great trouble to get the opinions of different people throughout the country. I was very much surprised to learn what a boon and a blessing it was to the people of this country. I understand that the total relief in respect of horses was about £40,000. Although that £40,000 was taken off horses, it was put on other things. The whole of the money is still being collected. Not one penny was taken off the tariffs. The parmers are paying it all the time. If the pact meant anything, it meant that the more prosperous farmers were relieved and that the small farmers who rear pigs and cattle had to carry the whole burden. There was undoubtedly, relief in respect of horses, but that only went to the men who had horses to sell. It increased the burden on the farmers in the county I represent. That is why I do not consider it any boon. The reason why we welcomed the Coal-Cattle Pact at the start was that we hoped it was the beginning of the end and that it was an indication of a return to common sense on the part of the members of the Government.
The President was recently asked to state his attitude to the imperial conference which is shortly to be held. There will be a good opportunity to make a decent settlement at that conference. His answer to that question means that he is not going to make a trade settlement with Great Britain until Britain compels the Six Counties to come into a thirty-two county republic. Until Britain does that, there will be no settlement. Is not that what the President's answer amounts to? On another occasion he told us that he never expected to see that republic, but that he hoped to lay the foundation in his lifetime. What is called the "economic war" is, therefore, to go on for the President's lifetime. I hope the President will enjoy a long life, but I hope he will not have the right to say whether or not this conflict is to continue during his lifetime. That is the only conclusion that we can come to from the attitude of the President and of the Fianna Fáil Party on this question. A few minutes ago Deputy Victory used the old argument, which has been used a hundred times to answer every question raised in this House—that Fianna Fáil had won two elections, the election in 1932 and the election in 1933. He did not tell us that they won the two by-elections in Galway and Wexford. They did win these elections, but they won them by false promises.
No election was ever won by false promises.
The people were told that they were to get a good settlement. Did not the President go over and tell them in Galway at the by-election to give them "the last year" so as to make a good settlement? They were to reap the fruit of the five years' work in that year. Did the Vice-President not tell them that negotiations were actually pending and that a good settlement was in the offing? Was it not on these promises the by-elections were won? Did the President or Vice-President or Minister for Industry and Commerce or any other Minister tell the people that what they were to get was a Coal-Cattle Pact or a Horse-Sugar pact? Was it on promises like that they won the election? There was no talk then about the "no surrender" policy. They knew what would win the election. They knew that by promising a good settlement they were going to win. The people are not going to be taken in by that promise again. On the next occasion they will want to get something new. Perhaps the new Constitution will serve, but I am afraid the other game is played out. They have got five years and they have not got a settlement. A few months still remain, and I hope that in these few months they will redeem their promises and relieve the position of the farmers.
The position of the people on the land is indicated by the flight to the towns and to the slums, not alone of this country, but of England, where these people have to take up work that would only be accepted by the most needy. On this question of emigration, the Minister yesterday compared the figures of the present time with those for the 1920's. There is no comparison. The conditions that tempted the people to go from this country ten years ago are very different from the conditions obtaining across the water, where our people are going, at the present time. These people are anxious to get off the land because the Fianna Fáil Government have reduced them to a condition of impoverishment. The Minister for Agriculture told us that in 1926 the farmer was getting £94 and the agricultural labourer £66 per annum for their work. In 1934 the Fianna Fáil Government had reduced the income of the farmer to £51 and the income of the farm labourer to £55. That is the answer to Deputy Victory which was supplied by the Minister for Agriculture himself to this House. There is no necessity for anybody on this side to make that case, because it has been made by the Minister for Agriculture. No matter how the Minister for Industry and Commerce may try to misrepresent the position, these figures prove that the condition of the agricultural community is very much worse than it was four or five years ago. Anybody who looks at the value of our exports for 1931-2, and compares them with our exports at the present time, will see what the country has gained from this Government. He will see that the value of our exports has been reduced by half, while the consumer has to pay more. It is little wonder that the numbers of those who are being relieved by means of home help and dole are increasing and that the people are getting sick of it all and are fleeing from the country in the hope of getting a job somewhere. Deputy Victory told us that the farmers were only paying £1 15s. 0d. per beast as a result of this economic war, and that they had gained by the reduction in the annuities. The Deputy did not tell us about the £5,000,000 which is in dispute between this country and Great Britain. Does anybody on that side of the House deny that Great Britain is collecting all the money she claims and a little bit in addition? Does the Minister for Agriculture deny that? That sum of £5,000,000 is about £2,000,000 more than the whole of the annuities. Does the Minister deny that we are also paying tariffs to Germany and Belgium on whatever stock they buy, because they are buying at even worse prices than those obtainable under the British tariffs? Not only are we paying these £5,000,000 odd to Great Britain, but we are paying on our exports to the countries that purchase the remainder of our produce. We never owed those countries anything, and yet we have to pay them, so that our farmers are paying very much more than £5,000,000. In the payments that they are making to Britain, Germany, Belgium and Spain they are paying more than double the amount of the annuities on their exports, and in addition they are paying half the amount of the old annuity to our own Government. If the farmers are as prosperous as we are told they are, why is it that the sheriff has such a busy time and that the rates have had to be increased by about 2/- in the £ in most counties? In some counties the increase in the rates has been greater, because the farmers are not able to pay their annuities.
The Deputy can deal with that matter on the Estimate. It does not arise on this Bill.
I hope it is not contended that our people have grown suddenly dishonest, because if that contention is made, the counties which have returned the largest number of Fianna Fáil Deputies are, according to the figures, the most dishonest. The Government have an opportunity now, and as it may be the last one that Fianna Fáil will get, I hope they will avail of it to settle the economic war. Let them make a good settlement and redeem their promises. I hope that, if the Government avail of this opportunity to make a settlement, and if they send over representatives for that purpose, that when a settlement is made, the President will accept it, thereby redeeming the promises that he and his Government have made.
It would be idle to deny that the remission of the duty on horses, which we are dealing with in this Bill, did not give a certain amount of satisfaction to a great number of farmers. It is also true to say that a great deal of disappointment is felt at the fact that the pact does not go further, and provide for a remission of the duties on cattle, which affect the bulk of the farmers of the country. The sum of money involved in connection with the horse duties is not very large. The great thing which the pact achieves is the freedom to trade. If satisfaction is felt at the remission of the duties on horses, the Government should realise the measure of satisfaction that would be felt if steps had been taken by them to secure a remission of the major duties on cattle and farm produce.
We had an interesting speech from Deputy Victory. He is the first Fianna Fáil member that I have heard make a candid admission that the farmers of the country are not better off now than they were under the previous Government. That was interesting, because when we have stressed the poverty of the agricultural community, we have usually been met with the argument from the opposite side that the farmers are better off now than ever before. Deputy Victory does not share that view, so that the conversion of even one member of the Government Party to a realisation of what is the true position in the country, is all to the good. There has been a good deal of argument on this particular pact, as to whether it is a good bargain or not. It can be said, however, that since the dispute with Great Britain started, the farmers have got the worst end of the bargain. The original sum in dispute was about £4,000,000. It was alleged that we owed that sum, but whether we did or not, as a result of the policy pursued by the Government during the last four years, the position arising out of the dispute is this: up to the spring of this year the British have collected from us the sum of £17,200,000; they estimate to collect £4,800,000 during the year, making a total of £22,000,000. According to a statement issued yesterday by the Department of Finance, a sum of about £11,000,000 has been collected directly off the tenant farmers of this country during the same period. That gives a gross total of £33,000,000 collected in the four years since the dispute started. That is the sum that has been collected directly off the farmers. The original sum in dispute was £4,000,000, so that if the farmers had continued to pay it over the last four years, they would have paid a total sum of £16,000,000, as against this £33,000,000. Indirectly they have paid a far greater sum than £33,000,000. For instance, the farmers ship 40, 50 or 60 per cent. of the cattle that they produce, and on these their losses during the last four years have amounted to £16,000,000 or £17,000,000. They have certainly lost a considerable sum also on the cattle sold at home, whether on the local fairs or to the factories in Roscrea and Waterford. Those cattle were sold at a figure much under the price that they would have realised if trading were carried on under normal conditions. Therefore, more millions have to be added to the £33,000,000 before one can arrive at the total losses that the farmers of this country have sustained since this dispute started. In addition to all that, it became necessary for us to meet the British attempt to coerce us into paying to them the amount in dispute. Resort had to be had to the passing of resolutions, Emergency Imposition of Duties Orders, and other legislative enactments. A considerable sum of money was collected from the people of this State in that particular manner. Then there were bounties and subsidies and other aids in order to try to carry the people over what was supposed to be a war—which really ought never to have been called a war, because it was not a war—but what the number of millions that were incidentally spent on the whole thing besides, added to the direct contribution of £33,000,000, would eventually amount to, I do not know.
The state of the farmers, collectively, at the present time, is that they are at least £20,000,000 to £30,000,000 worse off than they would have been if there had been no interference. These figures are rather illustrative if they are correct, and they must be correct since they are taken from official figures. For a sum of £4,000,000 we paid the sum of £33,000,000. If we paid nothing except what we have paid directly, it means that the farmers have paid, in four years, eight years' purchase of the original sum in dispute. When the farmers were bargaining with the old landlords, some of them paid 17 and 18 years' purchase for their lands, and they bought their lands out from the landlords. If we continue to go on in the manner in which we are going on, it will mean that the farmers will be able to say in a few years more that they have redeemed their land from the State and that the least that should be done for them is that they should have the land free for ever because they have already paid eight years' purchase, and that means that in a few years more the land ought certainly to belong to the farmers. The whole thing is rather Gilbertian, and one does not see any possible reason why there should not be a similar approach to a final settlement as there was to the settlement with which we are immediately concerned now. Nobody is accusing the Ministry of surrender because they made a settlement in the matter of sugar versus horses. I certainly should be the last to say the Ministry surrendered because they made that pact. Perhaps, if we were to examine more closely into the matter, it might be found that the figures might be a little against us and in favour of the other side to the pact, or vice versa, but in any case nobody has accused, or is going to accuse, the Ministry of surrender because they made that pact, nor will anybody accuse them of surrender if they make a similar pact in relation to the other items of agriculture in dispute.
If they can start the cattle industry and the butter industry and other things going on the same terms as they have settled the question of horses and sugar at the moment, nobody is going to accuse them of surrender. It would only mean that there would be rather a magnified expression of the satisfaction that has been everywhere expressed at the settlement that has been come to within the last week or ten days. That expression of satisfaction would be magnified many times over. Even if they were to make a settlement now, between this and the election—and I make a present of it to the Government themselves—I, for one, believe that if even now, within the next few months, the Government were to take their courage in their hands and settle this dispute, they would be presenting a greater programme in their favour to the farmers and the industrialists and every other section of this community than any other programme they could put forward, and I, for one, would wish them luck in it.
But the Deputy would not vote for us.
I am not so sure that I would not. Now, there was a lot of trash talked here and a lot of red herrings drawn across the track. Deputy Victory, speaking of the Government's policy, said that if they had not acted as they did in regard to agriculture, the people of this country would all starve if there were a war in this country. We have not altogether such short memories as Deputy Victory seems to think. There was a great war all over Europe 20 years ago, and we did not starve. As a matter of fact, we were the best-fed people in Europe. We were the very best-fed people in Europe during that war. We laughed and grew fat when all Europe was suffering and it is idle for any Deputy, or for anybody else, to tell us that we could not feed ourselves. Not only did we feed ourselves during that war, but we fed a lot of other people outside of this country, and we are able to do that any time we are called on to do it again. So that sort of argument leads one nowhere. Deputy Victory, again, tried to prove that the half remission of the annuities was better for the farmers than any settlement of the economic warbetter than the whole of it. The figures, however, beat the Deputy there, if nothing else does. The half-year's remission amounts to £2,000,000 a year instead of £4,000,000, and they have paid £33,000,000 under the new system instead of £4,000,000. If Deputy Victory holds that one is as good as another, it is useless to engage in any debate in this House along those lines.
If it is not altogether hopeless, I would again appeal to the Ministry, having embarked on two or three different occasions on trading agreements, or pacts as we might call them, with the so-called enemy across the water, to take their courage in their hands and to extend their efforts towards making these agreements. I appeal to them to make, once and for all, a great, big, generous, honest agreement, which would include all the things in dispute, and then I can assure them that general satisfaction would be expressed in this House, because we would be debating the final settlement of the matters in dispute.
It is now close on five years, Sir, since the present Government promised the people of this country, if they returned them to power, that they would have an almost immediate settlement of the economic war. Five years have gone by, and the people of this country find themselves in the same position. We still have the economic war, and the greatest shock the people of this country got for a long time was the announcement made by the President here some few days ago of the terms of this latest pact. For the past four years the farmers of this country have paid to Great Britain in penal taxes the sum of over £20,000,000, and they have paid to the Irish Government a sum of over £11,000,000 in annuities. They are still collecting the annuities with the help of the bailiff and the flying squads— harassing the unfortunate bankrupt farmers of this country, who are unable to meet their liabilities, and it is all due to the continuance of this economic war.
We hear a lot of talk about surrender. We on this side do not want the Government to surrender, but we hold that it is the duty of the Government, since they started this economic war, to end it. We see the effects of it all over the country, not alone on the farmers, but on the business people and on the unfortunate workers. There is no business doing in our towns. For six weeks previous to the announcement of this latest pact there were never greater sales for the daily papers of this country, because the people were hoping that they were going to wake up some morning and find that the economic war was settled and that they could start off again and make an honest living. They are still buying the papers, however, and there is no settlement of the economic war. The farmers of this country were never in such a state as they are in at the present time. Their sons are flying from the land and going into the industrial centres in the hope of getting employment. If they are lucky enough to be the sons of Government supporters, they have some chance of getting jobs, if they have a pull. If they have not, they will have to take the boat.
The same is true of the sons of the decent workers of this country. Before they would take free beef from the Minister for Agriculture they prefer to take the boat. The workers of this country do not want free beef or unemployment assistance from their native Government. They want work and it is the duty of the Government to find work for the workers of this country. We had the Minister for Industry and Commerce last evening boasting of the industrial expansion that he was carrying out in this country. We agree with that and we shall help him to carry on that industrial progress, but it is no use in trying to carry on industries in this country if at the same time the main industry of the country is crippled by Government policy. In the few industrial centres we have like Dublin, Cork and Limerick—there are only a few——
There are several of them.
——one can see signs of prosperity, but it would be well worth the Minister's while to go down the country and into the homes of the small farmers to see the conditions there. It is the small farmers and the workers of the country who are paying for the upkeep of the new industries that have been started here. If the people of the country who are buying the products of these industries have to pay an increased price, as compared with that which they paid previously for the same commodities, in order that these industries may be maintained, I think it is most unfair to the people of the country. For the past few years we have seen a great increase in the taxation of our people. We have had to pay an increased price for bread, butter, flour, sugar, coal and other commodities. At the present time the people are paying 1/5 per lb. for butter that is being imported at 9½d. per lb.
When did they pay less?
It is not so long since they paid less. Before the Minister came into office they paid less.
Never; not since 1914.
They never paid less than 1/5 per lb.?
They paid up to 1/7 and 1/8.
The price was as low as 1/- per lb.
Not for butter; it might have been for margarine.
We hear a lot of talk about improved social services. If the Government are giving social services to the people, the people are paying very dearly for them.
I am afraid the Deputy is travelling very far away from the Bill before us. I have given him a good deal of latitude. I must ask him to confine himself to the Bill.
I shall confine myself to the matter before me. I say that the standard of living of the agricultural community at present is deplorable, and that it is the duty of the Government to settle this economic war. There seems, however, to be no hope that the present Government will settle the economic war. We had that from the President himself in answer to a question by Deputy MacDermot last week. We are to have an election this year, I believe during the summer, and when the Government go to the people again to ask them for another five years, and tell them that the economic war will be settled in three weeks after the date on which they are returned to power, I am afraid they will get a very different answer from that which they expect. I am very hopeful that they will. If the Government of this country have been educated during the past five years, one thing even more certain is that the people of the country have been educated for the past five years, too. They will not be fooled by the election programme that will be put forward by the Party opposite. The people of the country have been let down by the Government. They were returned in 1933 by the people in the hope that the economic war would be settled and that they would carry out the great agricultural and industrial policy that they put before the people. What have they achieved? They have ruined the agricultural industry in the country. They have hunted the young men who made a decent honest living in this country previous to their coming into power. These young men have gone across to John Bull, to the people whom this Government detest, but to whom, at the same time, while they are in office, they have given everything they asked. They have given them aerial rights——
That is a long way from the Bill under discussion.
——to enable them to prepare for this great war about which the Minister for Industry and Commerce spoke last week. If we are a free people, as I hold we are, I do not see why we should give everything that the British Government wants. They got their Non-Intervention Act from the present Government.
The Deputy ought to come to this Bill now.
It is time that the people of the country discovered that the present Government are not a fit group of men to control this country. They are not a fit group of men to put this country back on a sound economic foundation. The people will soon get their opportunity. I firmly believe that the writing is on the wall for the Party opposite, and that when the people of this country wake up one fine summer's morning in July or August next, they will get their morning paper and they will not be as disappointed as they were a few weeks ago. They will be glad to read then that they are rid of the Party opposite for ever.
There is a good old adage which runs, "Never prophesy unless you know." I would recommend the Deputy who has just sat down to study that adage in full, with all its implications. Never prophesy unless you know. If I would be permitted to indulge in a prophecy, I would say that after the next election the present Government will still be where it is and the opposite Party will just be where they are. I am quite willing here and now to take a bet off any sportsman in the opposite Party.
Follow your own advice.
Nobody over there accepts that.
I do not hear any acceptance of it; no backers, the odds are too great. We have heard a lot of what I may describe as little better than raiméis. The old economic war stalks across the horizon as gaily as ever, but all the oratory of the Opposition cannot galvanise it into life, for it is as dead as Queen Anne. It is the Opposition who, by their actions in the past, were mainly responsible for its continuance.
We have been lectured about the shock of the last pact. I do not know that the last Coal-Cattle Pact, or, as one Deputy opposite christened it, in his eagerness to find new epithets, the sugar-horse pact, has resulted in any shock at all to the agriculturists. The agricultural community are fairly solid and fairly enduring; the people are possessed of great commonsense and do not expect miracles in season and out of season. They may or may not have hoped for a more considerable amelioration of their circumstances than they actually got, but I am confident that the sugar-horse pact, or whatever type of pact you may wish to call it, came as no shock. If there were a shock, then, according to the evidence of the horse-breeders of the country, the most famous of them, it must have come as a very pleasant shock. One of the leading horse-breeders of our State gave it as his declared opinion that the last pact resulted in the taking of the first trench in the economic war. That was his stated opinion, and I do not think that this gentleman could be accused of having any partiality or any bias in favour of this Government.
We were told by the last Deputy who spoke that he did not want us to surrender. If he, or the other gentlemen now in the wilds of opposition, do not want us to surrender, why did they not back us up when we took up an uncompromising position with John Bull and declared our intention of not paying the annuities? When we made our position extremely clear, why did not the members of the last Government, who are now in the wilderness, say to us: "We may not approve of your policy or your coquetting with the Left Wing, but in this case we recognise you are fighting the common enemy and we are behind you to the end"? If they did that, I feel confident there would be no economic war now. They and they alone are, in my opinion, primarily responsible for the existing state of affairs. They gave the British Government to understand, tacitly and by implication, that if they held out long enough they would best us. To that extent, and I say it is a very considerable extent, they are responsible for the continuance of the economic war.
We have had a cheap jibe from the Deputy who just sat down about the exodus of the young men. He told us that the young men were being hunted from the country and he told us also about the getting of jobs for the sons of Government supporters. I think that jibe well worthy of the calibre of the Opposition we have to confront. The Deputy told us it was the duty of the Government to find work for the unemployed. I welcome that tardy conversion. His leaders in days gone by did not say that. It was the oftdeclared dictum of the occupants of the opposite benches, when they were in office, that it was not the duty of the Government to find work for the unemployed. I welcome the Deputy's conversion, tardy no doubt, but if it is any evidence of a changed mentality on the part of the Opposition, it is to be welcomed.
Conversion to what?
Conversion to commonsense. The Deputy also suggested that the Minister should go into the houses of the small farmers. I maintain that our Ministers are as thoroughly conversant with the problems of the small farmers as any man on the Opposition benches. The mentality of many Deputies in the Opposition is not such as would make them weep over the woes of the small farmers.
Reference has been made to our social services. Why is it that, necessary as they have been and are, these social services were not conceded in the days when we were told that Ireland was flowing with milk and honey—in the days of the Fine Gael or the Cumann na nGaedheal régime?
If we had the £35,000,000 we could do a lot.
I think even Deputy O'Leary will admit that I very seldom, if ever, interrupt in the House. In the last four years I have seldom interrupted and I merely ask the same lenity from the Deputy. I know that, as a sportsman, he will concede it. I would like to know why it is, when these social services could have been given without the community at large being asked to shoulder too heavy a burden——
The Chair does not see how social services can at this stage be discussed.
That being so, I will not proceed any further along that line. Apparently, from what Deputies opposite say, it is the duty of the Government to settle the economic war. I agree it is the duty of the Government, but it takes two sides to settle a quarrel. Why is the assumption always made from the opposite benches that we alone are at fault? That assumption is futile, provocative and fallacious. I do not see why it should be assumed that our men are to blame. They have done the best they can to settle this so-called economic dispute. Why should it be assumed that they are in the wrong and that our British friends, with whom, as a matter of fact, the Opposition ought to have more in common than we, are always in the right? We have done everything possible, consistent with the exigencies of national honour, to settle this matter. I think I am entitled to make that statement and to base my arguments upon it.
Mention has been made of the exodus of our people. There is nothing new about an exodus in this country. We all know the condition of things in England at the moment conduces to high wages, and high wages are definitely an attraction, whether they are given in America or England or anywhere else. There will always be a certain proportion of our people lured by a spirit of adventure, by high wages or by the roll of the drum, and no Government will stop them. Anyone who will argue that people will remain here, no matter how satisfactory conditions may be, is arguing on a false basis; there will always be a certain element who will go away from this country, and the Opposition know that as well as we do.
The economic war and all its consequences have been laid at the door of the Government. I deny that the Government are responsible. I say that the economic war and all the dire consequences which it is alleged have arisen from it are to be laid as much at the door of the Opposition as at our door. If they are to be laid at our door we do not shrink from any responsibility. We went to the country twice and we will go soon a third time, and I am quite willing to indulge in the old Asquithian axiom,"Wait and see." Deputies on the Opposition Benches are like the small boy passing a graveyard; they are merely whistling to keep up their courage. There is one thing, anyway, about their prognostications —they are reassuringly predictable. We can always envisage Deputy O'Higgins telling us to face the consequences and, incidentally, throwing a few bricks at the President. We can envisage Deputy Belton who, whatever other faults he has, is more cognisant of the agricultural situation than his quasi, his pseudo colleagues.
Will Deputy Kehoe deny that?
I deny nothing. We can envisage Deputy McGilligan coming in with a sheaf of quotations and asking virtually in other words: "What did Gladstone say in 1889?" But Opposition Deputies must envisage one fact anyway. It may be a galling one, but it is condensed in the little French axiom, J'y suis, J'y reste. In spite of all the jeremiads put forward by them in the past, in spite of every allegation as to why we should not exist, nevertheless we do exist. We went to the country twice, in fact I might say three times, and the country sent us back.
I beg leave to deny what was said in another debate. At the last election we did not go before the electorate on the new Constitution. We went to the country and faced our opponents and stated what our Government had done and what they intended to do, if possible. We were not ashamed of their exploits in the past; we foresaw their victory in the future, and simply said: "If you like our programme elect us again." We did not deceive them in any way. Speaking as one man who was on many platforms, I can say for myself and my colleagues that we did not go before the people on any Constitution or vague promises whatever. We made the thing perfectly clear. We made clear the pains and penalties they would have to undergo, possibly, if they adopted our programme and, with a full knowledge of what that entailed, they sent us back. I for one have absolutely no doubt of their verdict in the future. Even if their verdict was adverse to us, it would not alter our opinion that we are right.
Deputies on the opposite benches should really think out a set of new arguments. The arguments which they adduce on occasions like this are so painfully similar and familiar that really one becomes positively somnolent when one hears the speeches and contemplates the people who utter them. Appeals have been made to the Government. I do not wish to differentiate, but may I appeal to Deputies on the opposite benches at least to adduce some original arguments and find some original way of presenting them; otherwise I foresee the occupants of these benches all turning into Rip Van Winkles, a consummation which I, for one, do not wish.
The last speech was very entertaining certainly, if not very illuminating. The Deputy told us that the Governments were not responsible for the economic war, neither for the starting of it nor for its continuance, and that all the responsibility for it is on this side of the House. We are accustomed to hearing that. Before the Minister for Agriculture leaves the House, I should like to say this to him. He made a statement here, by way of interjection, that the price of creamery butter in this country has never fallen below 1/5 a lb. to the consumer since 1914. That statement from the man who is Minister for Agriculture just shows how conversant the Minister is with the industry which he is, unfortunately, in charge of at the moment.
What I got on my feet for was to ask some questions about the other side of this Pact—the coal side of it. I should like to know from the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he has any information about the coal side of the Pact; whether he is satisfied that guarantees were obtained regarding the questions of price and quality of the coal to be supplied here; whether he is satisfied, in view of present conditions in the coal industry in Great Britain, that the people of this country will be able to obtain the supplies that they need at the price agreed upon; whether it is true that the price of coal in this country is to be increased very soon; and, if so, can the Minister say whether that was part of the agreement; how much the increase is to be; and when the increase is to be put on?
I am afraid that, in the very natural anxiety about the cattle part of it and the other agricultural products affected we are inclined to forget the other side, which is of very great importance to us. Under this Pact we have given a complete monopoly to Great Britain for the supply of over 3,000,000 tons of coal. We are not allowed to import coal from any other country. Is the Minister satisfied that this country will be able to obtain its full needs in the way of coal without any substantial increase, or without any increase, over the period of this Pact which has been concluded? I should be glad if the Minister could give us any information that he can on that matter, because it is of very great importance.
I am not going to try to go into all the statements made on one side or the other. But, unquestionably, it is impossible to believe that Deputies like Deputy Victory and Deputy Kehoe are so completely divorced from touch with the ordinary people of this country that they believe what they have said here. It is utterly impossible to believe it. Deputy Victory told us that farmers were in fact worse off five, six, seven or eight years ago than to-day.
So they were.
Deputy Allen says "So they were." It is an amazing situation. Does the Deputy believe that?
The Deputy believes that? He finds it very difficult to say that without smiling.
Not a bit.
The Deputy told us that they were no worse off because the annuities were halved; that as a result of halving the annuities they were making money out of the economic war with Great Britain rather than losing it. Does Deputy Allen know how much Great Britain collected by way of tariffs in 1935-36?
I know all about it.
Therefore, he knows that Great Britain collected £5,420,000. The Deputy knows also, I presume, that in the same period this Government here collected under the various Land Acts £2,500,000. The Deputy is perfectly aware of that?
I saw it in the book.
That is approximately £8,000,000 and that has had no effect on the farmers; not only has it had no adverse effect, but it has had a beneficial effect. There is no farmer in this country, even the most enthusiastic supporter, if there are any enthusiastic supporters left, of the present Government that will subscribe to that statement. When we get, not a relief, mind you, but a transfer of approximately £40,000 off horses on to cattle, sheep, and other things, the relief is supposed to be so tremendous that the Irish Press features it as a wonderful gain for the people of the country. We cannot have it both ways. There was no reduction of the £40,000.
The horse-breeders profited.
Yes, but what about the duties on cattle, sheep and pigs? The Deputy cannot get away from this fact, that the British Government are collecting every penny of the money that they allege is due to them, and the Government here is collecting about £2,500,000 a year as well.
Who paid the coal tax?
The people of this country. I would not advise the Deputy to say much about the Coal-Cattle Pact, or about the coal tax, as the Minister might not be at all grateful to him. They cannot talk about the Coal-Cattle Pact, or the new addition of it that we have got, while at the same time the President talks about no compromise and no surrender. Deputy Kehoe spoke about the uncompromising attitude of the Government. Have they not given a complete monopoly of the coal trade to the enemy and put people here in this position that they cannot buy one pound of coal from any country other than Great Britain?
Has the Deputy never heard of coals of fire?
It is almost futile to go any further when we have Deputies telling us that the farmers are better off to-day than they were before the present Government came into office.
They say so themselves.
Why? We have heard a great deal of boasting from the Minister, Deputy Kehoe, Deputy Victory and Deputy Allen about having won two general elections. We did not hear them boasting of the fact that they were beaten at four other elections. There have been six general elections in 15 years.
The Deputy was beaten.
The Deputy won every election in spite of the efforts of the Fianna Fáil Party, including the Minister.
And will again.
At six general elections the Party opposite were beaten badly and decisively. I have not broken my continuous service in this House like Deputy Allen.
When the Deputy severed his connection with this House it was not any loss to him.
I did not refer to the Deputy personally. I referred to his Party.
The private business or avocations of Deputies should not be discussed in the House.
With all respect, I submit that I am not responsible, but if these matters are introduced I am entitled to defend myself. If I misunderstood what the Deputy said I apologise to him. I am concerned about another side to this pact, because there are rumours across the Channel that there will be difficulty in obtaining supplies owing to a greater demand for coal in Great Britain at present than for a number of years. Prices are rising on the home market and on the Continent, and I want to know from the Minister when this pact was being negotiated if any steps were taken to safeguard the coal supplies of this country, so that adequate supplies will be available under the monopoly; and if any steps were taken to see that there will be no increase in prices.
I have a good deal of sympathy with what I heard of Deputy Kehoe's speech. I concede that to him and to the Government without equivocation, so that the country will wake up to the exact position and that those responsible will know that the responsibility is theirs. I concede that in 1932 the Party to which Deputy Kehoe belongs won the general election. It put forward the policy of retaining the annuities and, of course, was lavish in its promises about what could be done with the money. The outstanding promise was that there would be complete de-rating of agricultural land. That was not carried out. It was also stated that England would not retaliate. It is an historical fact that in 1932 £2,250,000 was voted by this Government for the relief of rates on agricultural land.
The question of de-rating does not arise.
That was only a passing reference by way of reply to the remarks of Deputy Kehoe.
Surely Deputy Kehoe did not discuss de-rating.
No, but he boasted, and made it the bedrock of his argument, that the Government had gone to the people twice in the last five years and were returned to power. I mentioned de-rating when conceding the net claim made by Deputy Kehoe. I may say in passing, as an opponent of the Government, that if there is one section of the people more than another that the Government may thank for their return to power, it is the farmers. I say that without fear of contradiction. If the farmers are in the bad condition that I know them to be in, let them take that home and ponder over it. They have nobody to blame but themselves. I say that as a farmer and as a supporter of the farmers' cause. The Deputy will concede that after the 1933 election there was not the same measure of relief given to the rating of agricultural land. He has this in favour of his argument, that the farming community knew in 1933 what they did not know in 1932, that the economic war was on, that the £5,000,000 was being withheld from Great Britain, and that Great Britain had retaliated and was collecting that money by duties on our produce. The Deputy should remember that this fight had only started, being only six or seven months in existence.
The question before the House is the confirmation of certain orders. The debate has strayed somewhat. It is not clear to me that any programme put before the people in 1932 or 1933 is relevant to this Bill.
Item 12 in the Schedule deals with the remission of duties arising out of the Coal-Cattle Pact. Listening to the debate as it developed here, it was on the Coal-Cattle Pact; it was on the position created by the withholding of those payments to Britain. I am sorry if I am lacking in understanding, but I submit, with all deference to the Chair, that in my opinion I am not going outside the bounds marked by previous speakers. I do not want to do so, because there is plenty of scope within those confines to put up all the relevant arguments that there are. However, if, in your opinion, Sir, I am transgressing, I will narrow my bounds. In passing, I should like to submit that I do not think it is an argument in favour of a certain course, of the rights or wrongs of a particular line, simply to say that an election has been won on that point, with others, because the presentation of a case very often wins a case rather than the intrinsic value of it. The whole thing has arisen out of a policy rather than a conviction, because I know quite well that there was no conviction in the Government Party that those moneys were not due; it was only taken as a political stunt.
However, they were withheld. Britain said, "Well, we will collect them," and Britain is collecting them. I submit that this Coal-Cattle Pact and its predecessors were a surrender to Britain's policy of collecting those annuities; they were an agreement that Britain should collect them in this particular way. The only difference between the present state of affairs and the old state of affairs is a difference in the method of collecting the annuities and the other payments. There is also this difference, that instead of the whole community bearing its share —as those debts were incurred in years gone by before the advent of the Treaty —the agricultural community now has to bear its own share, plus half its own share, plus what the whole community had to bear. The figures were given roughly by Deputy Morrissey when he was speaking. Let us leave politics and the winning or losing of general elections out of it, and deal with the equity of the case before the House. I would challenge any farmer or any man in this House who knows anything about agriculture to give the names of a dozen farmers in this country who are better off than they were five or six years ago. Let us be candid about this matter when we come in here. I know farmers who voted for the Government at the last election and will vote for them again. To-day, I drove into town with one of them. He came to me to ask whether I could get the county council to accept from him arrears of rates that were due on 31st March last, without any of the rates of the current year. That farmer will vote for the Government again, although he will tell you that conditions are appalling and he cannot carry on. I cannot understand his mentality. That will be a No. 1 vote from this neighbour of mine for the Government candidate at the next general election, and the man cannot pay his rates and will tell you that that is because of this economic war. He is a friend of mine—in other respects a very decent man. I see the meaning that draws the laughter. I will make you a present of it, because it has cheered up the sad faces I was looking at.
It shows your sense of humour anyway.
It would be a pity to spoil your sense of humour, especially when Deputy Jordan is about; he has a sense of humour which I very much appreciate. What is the difference in principle between our paying the annuities into the Land Commission to be transferred to Britain, and agreeing to pay them £4 5s. a head on a certain kind of cattle, £2 10s. a head on another kind of cattle, and I think 25/- or £1 a head on another class? What is the difference. Our Government have made a commercial agreement on the principle of allowing Britain to collect this tax on our cattle going over. What is that tax for? It is deliberately to collect those moneys. Is not that agreeing to pay them? What is the use of perpetuating the farce and saying, "We will not pay them; we will not surrender?" Each Coal-Cattle Pact has been a surrender.
Deputy Allen interjected a remark about the relief of the tax on horses. But is it a relief? Is there going to be remitted to us the £ x which Britain was collecting off our horses? Is it any part of the disputed moneys? Is Britain going to reduce her collection in the current year by the amount she takes off the tax on horses? Of course she is not. Deputy Allen laughed when he got the reply to his interjection from Deputy Morrissey. Deputy Allen had asked: “Who paid the coal tax?” Deputy Morrissey, of course, said that the consumer here paid it, and Deputy Allen laughed. If that laugh was genuine, and if that represents the mentality of the farmers of this country then we can understand how the farmers' eyes are being wiped; we can understand it if their mentality is not above that. Coal landed here on the Dublin quays came in at a commercial price. When 5/- per ton was put on it, that had to be paid by the consumer. The price to the consumer was increased by that 5/-. If Deputy Allen sends a bullock to Birkenhead there is no tax collected on that bullock when he lands. He is sold in the Birkenhead market or in some other British market at the commercial price there. Instead of adding a tariff to that price, the British tariff is taken off that price. The Minister for Industry and Commerce shakes his head?
The tax is collected at the port in both cases.
The tax is collected by the salesman.
And paid for by the people of this country in both cases.
Of course it is.
Of course it always works out against us!
That is the fact in any case.
That is the one mistake the Deputy makes; he tries to get the best of every argument.
And your one mistake is always denying the truth.
If, when he says "the Deputy," the Minister is referring to me and the argument I am putting up, I should like to say that I have been putting up this argument until I am tired putting it up. No Minister on the Government Benches has ever taken up that argument, or attempted to refute it, because it is irrefutable. It is not my argument; it is the country's argument. It is not increasing the price of cattle to the British consumer by one penny because our cattle are sold in the British market at the British market price and handed out to the consumer at that price, without any additions. When the Irish exporter, however, comes to be paid out of that market price, in addition to the other deductions for commission, etc., there is the deduction of the tax, and I have produced here documents, returns of sales in the Birkenhead market, showing that that is how the transaction takes place. I challenge the Minister for Industry and Commerce to deny that. The reverse happens here. This is not a tariff the British are putting on our stuff going over—it is a tax taken off the market value of our stuff. Consequently, the person who suffers the deduction has to bear the loss, whereas, if it were in addition to the market price, it is the consumer would have to pay it. In the case of our stuff going over, it comes off the market price, and, therefore, we who send it over have to bear that tax. The opposite was the case when coal was tariffed here at the ports. It came in here at the world price, the market price.
British coal came in at the world price? Why did they increase the price when the tax was taken off?
That is what we should like to hear from the Minister.
Because they were paying the tax before that.
If the Minister gives me a monopoly in respect of supplying, in the season, 500 tons of potatoes to him, will I be working at a loss?
You gave a monopoly to the British coal merchant. He was trying to get coal in here when there was a tax on and he was competing with the European countries.
And he was cutting his price to meet the tax.
Then the consumer here did not pay it.
But were we not getting cheaper coal from the Continent?
The British coal prices were reduced to meet the tax and, therefore, the British exporter paid the tax.
We were getting coal from the Continent. The Coal-Cattle Pact was made, and was defended here by the Minister, giving Britain the monopoly of the coal, and Britain did what every monopolist would do. She sent in coal of a lesser value at a higher price.
And the tax was continued.
The Minister has just admitted that now. That is the transaction he defended last year and that is the transaction he is here to-night to defend—a perpetuation of that monopoly for Britain to send what quality coal she likes and to charge whatever prices she likes for it. We have given her that market and we are agreeing in the same document to pay Britain her £5,000,000 which we are codding the country is not being paid and will never be paid to Britain again. We are appealing to the people not to surrender and we know why the people are cajoled into it. We know the Government is trading on the patriotism of the people. We know that they are trading on what they call "the centuries-old conflict with England," instead of this being a new conflict of a few years ago. They are trading on that, appealing to the patriotism of the people and asking them not to lower the flag now, when they know that they themselves have lowered it and that they only have pulled it down.
We do not want to go into the background of this matter. We have seen ragged documents alleged to be secret agreements and alleged to be 12 or 13 years old produced here last year, or the year before, when we were discussing this pact, and everybody who followed public affairs at that time knew that a deal like that had taken place, and that the very people who are resurrecting those documents were conspicuous by their absence in looking after the interests of this country during those years. Now, they refuse to admit that they are responsible for precipitating this. Of course, they are. Who else is responsible? If they genuinely believe that we do not owe these moneys and if they are prepared to fight to the last ditch in their determination not to pay them, why agree to the Coal-Cattle Pact? The official Opposition Party here, when in office, accepted the position that these moneys were due, and I could understand the Opposition making a Coal-Cattle Agreement with the British for the payment of the annuities if some dislocation in the method of collecting the annuities arose; but I cannot for the life of me appreciate the mentality of the Government who say that these payments are not due to Britain, and that they will not pay them, and who then sign a document agreeing to pay them by agreeing to a tax on cattle going into England.
I have observed your ruling, Sir, on the development of the argument about emigration, but I just want to say that, in the reference I make to that subject, I do not propose to develop the question of emigration. It has been pretty well argued in the last couple of days and whether it could be worked in on this occasion is immaterial. But the very serious part and the very serious consequence of this economic war, this economic peace if you like, this economic surrender if you like, or this economic swindle is a tragic affair for the Irish people.
Agriculture is the basic industry of this country and if it is not flourishing, if it is not showing a profit no other industry can be sustained here. For it is out of the profits of agriculture that industry can be built up. There are no profits in agriculture now. One Wexford Deputy spoke here to-day. I heard some of his speech; he did not go deeply into the question of agriculture. I was told that Deputy Victory spoke and I am sorry I was not here at the time because the Deputy happens to represent my own native county in this House. I know the condition of farmers in the County Longford—very well I know them. I know even the condition of farmers in the County Wexford. Only this morning I had a long letter from a Wexford farmer depicting the conditions of agriculture there. I am sure that farmer will read with interest the speech Deputy Kehoe made here to-day. I hope he will see the whole of that speech and read it and I hope also that he will get the interjection made by Deputy Allen.
It would be very hard to reconcile the cases put up here by Deputies Kehoe and Allen with the information that I got this morning from a County Wexford farmer. I am sure they and every country Deputy here knew the usual course of life in a farmer's house prior to this economic war. As the family grew up, according to the size of the farm and according to the size of the income, the parents were able to place the sons and daughters in some kind of a position in life. If the farm were a substantial one they were able to educate their children for the professions. Some of the children developed a taste for agriculture and out of the profits they were able to make during their young years of manhood and womanhood they and their fathers were able to buy other farms and go into occupation of these farms. Is there any farmer doing that to-day? Are not the farmers' houses throughout the country getting filled up with young men and young women from 15 to 25 years of age whose parents are unable to put any of them into any profession or any calling in life and unable to save any money to buy farms for them so that they could start out on their own?
Is not the position really that these farmhouses are filled with young men and young women who have no prospect in life? And how is farming being carried on? By the slavery of these young men and young women working on their parents' farms for the bit they eat. That is the story all over the country, in Wexford, Galway, Roscommon, Donegal, Cork, Dublin and the Midland and Southern Counties. That is the precise position. Were those young peope to get the lowest wage that is paid to farm labourers in this country, their parents could not carry on. It is only on the slavery of the farming community of this country that this economic war is possible. That is the answer. If anybody wants to investigate the position he will find that that is precisely what is happening and that is the answer to the jibe thrown from the Government Benches about people in this House who prophesied two or three years ago that we were heading for bankruptcy. That prophecy was true. But we are told we are not bankrupt. This country is not bankrupt because of the slavery of the farming community. I would ask any Deputy here who would like to contradict that statement to get any farmer or any group of farmers anywhere, no matter what their politics are, to contradict it.
We did get them. We got them in Galway and Wexford.
Deputy Donnelly was not here when I told the House about a neighbour of mine who is very hard up and who blames the economic war for his financial position. That man voted for Fianna Fáil at the last election and he will vote again for them. But he blames the economic war for his impoverished condition and the impossibility of his carrying on. I can concede this to Deputies on the Government Benches—you won the bye-election in Galway and in Wexford. You need not ask me to concede that. I concede all that——
Is there any moral?
Will the Deputy or any of his colleagues refute the case that I am making that the farmers of this country are not able to carry on and provide for their families in the way the people reared in similar homesteads and actually in these same homesteads were provided for in an humble way prior to the economic war?
Surely they did not vote for their own destruction.
Evidently they did. I do not want to repeat what I said in the beginning of my speech in which I dealt with the matter from this angle. I am not making an anti-Government speech. I am not making a partisan speech. I am putting the case, as I see it and as I understand it and as I know the conditions obtaining in farming at the present time. I would be glad if any Deputy on the Government Benches would attempt to refute the case I am making. What is the wage being paid in agriculture under the conditions arising out of the economic war and continued under the Coal-Cattle Pact? What are the overheads in agriculture? Five millions instead of four millions, and one and a half millions for half the annuities. Five millions are collected off our export produce to England. That lowers the wholesale price for the produce that is sold by the farmers in the home market. We are losing five millions on our export produce and we are losing as much more on the home market. No wonder agriculture is impoverished. Those homesteads heretofore provided for the previous generations of young men and young women who were raised in those houses; now owing to the economic war or the economic peace they are not able to provide for them. It is from these houses that the stream of emigration is now flowing to Great Britain and that is one of the direct results of the economic war. It is because of this economic war that the rates are not being paid and that the overdrafts from the banks to the local bodies have gone up. The policy of the Minister for Industry and Commerce has just a passing success, simply through the exploitation of agriculture and simply through the impoverishment of the farmers' families. Will any Deputy here who knows agricultural conditions in his constituency tell us that wages are being paid to farm workers? Do they pay farm workers 25/- a week in Laoighise, Wexford, Galway, Meath, Westmeath or Donegal? Of course they do not. Can any man live and rear a family on 25/- a week? Is there any industry that is being created by the Minister's policy and that depends for its existence on the exploitation of agriculture paying a wage of 25/- a week to adult men? Of course there is not; so that the whole economic policy of the Minister is being carried out on one condition only, and that is the slavery and exploitation of agriculture.
The economic war relieves the Exchequer of payments but it does not relieve the taxpayer. Were there no economic war, were those payments not withheld, the Exchequer would find three millions from the farmers in the way of annuities. But there would be two millions more to be found by the Exchequer. Now there has been no remission of taxation to balance that two million pounds, so that if the economic war were ended two million pounds extra would have to be found by the Minister for Finance out of taxation.
The £2,500,000 that come in as annuities to the Exchequer would not be coming in if the farmers had to pay their annuities to only one Government. The Government have a gift of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 which agriculture has to pay above and beyond what it had to pay before the economic war. It is this money, scattered in grants for public works throughout the country at election times, that is giving this Government its grip rather than the policy it is putting over. Perhaps the only solution is to let the thing wear itself out. There is a terrible responsibility on this House and particularly on the Government, who understand the position as well as, and perhaps better than, ony other body of men in the country. Yet they keep the thing going. This has euphemistically been called a war. It has lasted for five years. The President stated in effect only a few days ago that there was no hope of a settlement and that we must carry on. When a dispute has gone on for five years with no serious attempt at settlement, something must be wrong somewhere. A settlement of the Great War came after four years. Why is not some attempt at settlement of the economic war made now? The President saw Mr. McDonald. What happened between them? I have not read an account of it in any paper. Surely if the President makes a pact with the British Government to continue the collection of these moneys off our goods and if nothing better can be done, he ought to come to this House and tell us what obstacles are in the way. He has not done so. In effect, he says: "Carry on; pay the annuities by way of tariffs on the goods going into the British market."
What is your own idea of a settlement?
If no better arrangement can be made than that which the President has made, it would be much better for this country to revert to the old arrangement and have the annuities paid directly by the Land Commission. We would win on it. No sinking fund is being provided. The Land Commission is keeping its accounts as if the land annuities had not been halved. Remember, all these things are on record, to come before us for settlement in the future. I challenge the Minister to contradict that. The halving of the annuities is only eyewash, because it is there recorded that they are still due, and the accounting system is carried on accordingly. Why should not we revert to the old arrangement if the President cannot produce anything better than this pact? The farmers, as a whole, had £3,000,000 as annuities to pay to Britain, and that finished the job. Now they have to pay £5,000,000 to Britain and £2,000,000 to our Government.
The Deputy should not repeat his figures.
Deputy Donnelly put me a question.
The Deputy should ignore interruptions.
The Deputy is now making his speech for the third time.
It is about the twentieth time I have made a similar speech and the Minister has never been able to refute it.
Does the Deputy intend to finish to-night?
I am not working against time. So long as I conform to the rules of order, I am entitled to go on.
Until I make my case.
Only once. I realise that it is almost superfluous to discuss this matter here at all because the motion will be carried. No argument is put up in its favour and it is superfluous to put up an argument against it. The whole country knows the position quite well and I am now taking the philosophic view that the only remedy is to let it work itself out and, when the farmers get a sufficient squelching, they will realise they have been wrongly led. Perhaps they will, before it is too late, realise their mistake and rectify it. The Government know the position better than the ordinary farmer, who is troubled about the weather and other matters, who does not, perhaps, read a daily or a weekly paper and who does not know the "ins" and "outs" of this matter. In these circumstances, our Government should be fairer to the farmer and when, after five years, they cannot see any hope of winning in this dispute, they ought to try to make an honourable settlement of some kind and not a dishonourable settlement such as this Coal-Cattle Pact, which is a complete surrender of the whole position, a loss to the country and a loss to the farmer. It is driving the country directly to bankruptcy. One manifestation of the condition of the country is when a certain class of the community, who were able heretofore to provide for their families at home, have now to send them to be domestic servants in Great Britain.
This Bill is a formal measure of no great importance. It is necessary it should be passed in order to confirm certain orders, none of which is of very great significance, made under the Imposition of Duties Acts. The orders effected a number of minor changes in the tariff schedule of the country, all of which are being confirmed by this Bill. I must say I did not anticipate anything more than a formal discussion on the measure. Instead, we have had a field-day in connection with the economic war and the condition of the agricultural community. Apparently there is a big flood of election oratory dammed up in the breasts of the back benchers of the Opposition, some of which is bound to spit out every time they shake themselves. We have had a fair amount of it to-day and I think it was bad tactics on their part. Because not merely have they revealed that their election arguments are not very strong but they have brought prematurely into the House arguments that will be a bit fly-blown by the time the election takes place. It is a bad thing to shoot off all your guns before battle. These speeches would sound very well from a platform at the crossroads. They might even convince people who had never heard a speech before or who were particularly misinformed about conditions in the country, but it is merely wasting the time of the Dáil to produce them here, although, apparently, we are going to have them on the slightest provocation upon any Bill to which they can be regarded as even remotely relevant from this until the election takes place.
That is an argument in favour of an early election, but unfortunately there is a considerable amount of business to be disposed of. If we are going to have a general dress rehearsal of the election battle on every one of these Bills, then I feel that a statutory time limit is likely to be necessary before the required measures can be enacted and the election take place. It will mean campaigning next January, and I appeal to Deputies not to force us into that because January, in weather such as we are experiencing just now, would be most unpleasant for electioneering.
Deputy Fagan appealed to the Government to face realities, to come down out of the air and to get their feet on the ground. The Deputy spoke in most moving tones. The only mistake he made was that he addressed his appeal to the wrong side of the House. It is to the other side of the House that the appeal should be made to get into grips with realities and to face facts: to come down out of the clouds and on to the earth. We have been trying to get them to face up to facts for the last four years without success. We have heard in the last couple of days a lot of talk about educating the Government and educating the people. We had a reiteration of that talk to-day. The Party opposite may have succeeded in teaching the Government something during the past five years. It may even have succeeded in teaching the people something in that period, but one thing certain is that we have succeeded in teaching them nothing. We have done our best.
We have brought the facts before them with great patience and explained the facts to them. We have shown, in every sphere of national activity, how a particular policy could produce beneficial results, but they will not see it. They refuse to see it. They are still purblind about national interests as they were in 1932. We may not be very effective teachers, and despite all our efforts it is necessary, here at the end of our term of office, to confess that we have failed to teach them anything. I think it would be the merest waste of time to try again to get any sense of realities into them.
What are the facts about the economic war? All the speeches which we heard to-day from Deputy Dillon', down to Deputy Belton's, if they were condensed and the rhetoric left out, and flights of oratory abandoned, would mean this: that the economic war is not beneficial to the farmers of this country, it has done the country harm, it has done the farmers harm, and it is desirable that it should be ended, if possible. That is the sum total of their speeches, and so far as that is what they intended to say, they were right. The economic war was not started by Great Britain for the benefit of this country. They intended to do as much harm as they could to the economic system here, to depress the country as deeply as they could, to lower the standard of living of our people, to undermine the prosperity of this nation, and, particularly, the prosperity of our farmers. That is what they intended to do, and they had been assured by people in this country, whom they regarded as well-informed, and particularly by front-bench members of the Opposition Party, that if they started the economic war and imposed tariffs generally on our agricultural exports, they would get those results.
Now who is at the crossroads?
I am merely dealing with historical facts.
And the Minister is now asking the House to pass a Bill to facilitate Great Britain in further depressing the country.
Some of the speakers went back as far as the Flood and others as far as the Famine. I am only going back as far as 1932. That is how the economic war started, and it is quite a waste of time for Deputies to announce, as if they had just discovered it for the first time, that it is not doing us any good. It is not doing us all the harm that it was intended to do. This attack upon our economic organisation was intended to destroy us, to force us into a position in which we would have to accept dictation from Great Britain upon a vital matter affecting our interests.
You are accepting that dictation in the Coal-Cattle Pact.
That is what they intended. They did that because they had been assured of that result. The people who gave them that assurance were, of course, wrong in that matter just as they have since proved themselves to be wrong in most other matters. We have survived the attack which was intended to destroy us. We have reached a position in which we can contemplate a survival of our independence, a survival of our economic organisation and a gradual improvement and prosperity of our people irrespective of the outcome of the economic dispute. The various measures which have been adopted in order to lessen the hardships involved in that attack upon us have had results. These measures were drastic in their nature. They had to be operated hurriedly and not always perfectly; nevertheless, they have succeeded in enabling us to weather the storm. That being so, it is necessary to bring another fact before the Deputies opposite, a fact which they persistently ignore. A determination of this economic dispute would have had less noticeable effects upon the prosperity of our farmers and the fortunes of this country than the Deputies opposite profess to believe. It is sheer nonsense for Deputy Dillon to say, as he did to-day, that if the economic war was ended this would be the most prosperous country in the world. I am quite certain that the Deputy does not believe that. If that is true, why was not this the most prosperous country in the world in 1931?
Has there been no change in the circumstances?
If the Deputy objects to 1931 I am prepared to select any year since the State was established. If the ending of the economic war now is going to make this country overnight the most prosperous in the world, as Deputy Dillon said it would, why were we not in that position during the years before the economic war started?
We were in that position.
Australia has improved her position since this economic dispute started here.
During those years this country was disimproving and that is the central fact that the Deputies opposite choose to ignore. There has been a fall in agricultural prices since 1932. The value of agricultural output diminished, but that diminution in the value of agricultural output during that period of five years was less, and substantially less, than the fall in the value of agricultural output during the previous two years. I tried yesterday to get into the minds of Deputies on the opposite benches the fact that something happened to this country in 1929 long before the economic war started, long before the land annuities dispute originated and long before this Government came into office which had an appalling effect upon the whole economic system here and upon the prosperity of our people. During the three years 1929, 1930 and 1931, the year before the change of Government took place, there had been a steady and continuous decline in every sphere of economic activity: a decline in agricultural production and agricultural employment, a decline in industrial production and in industrial employment. That change took place in consequence of circumstances which had nothing whatever to do with the economic war or the special tariffs imposed on our exports or with the land annuities dispute or the election of a Fianna Fáil Government or anything else. The events that took place in 1932 merely accentuated something which had begun long before that, but we succeeded in the ensuing two years in arresting that decline and in stopping the rot. Since 1934 there has been a substantial increase in the volume and value of agricultural production, an increase in the volume and value of agricultural exports, a substantial increase in the number of persons employed in agriculture—an increase which is continuing during the present year—and, side by side with that improvement in the position of agriculture, there was a much more substantial, a much more spectacular increase in the output of industry and in employment in industry—an increase represented by the figure I gave here yesterday: £13,500,000 increase in the gross value of industrial production and £1,600,000 additional in wages paid to industry, and an increase in the average weekly number employed of 54,000 in 1936 as against 1931.
Had we not all that yesterday?
Yes, the whole of it.
Is it in this Bill?
Well, apparently, we are going to have this on every Bill from now on till the election. If it succeeds in impressing the Deputy, it is all the better. I know, of course, that he wants to impress us, but I hope we will succeed in impressing on him that our election speeches are going to be very much better than his.
I hope they will not be as long.
So far as the economic war is concerned, I want to say that nothing has happened yet which would seem to suggest that there is any prospect of securing a settlement of that dispute by negotiation on terms which would not involve concessions by us that this Government is not prepared to give.
What are the conces sions?
What about the result of the MacDonald-de Valera Conference?
We have no objection in principle, as was alleged here, to the negotiation of trade agreements with Great Britain. We have, in fact, availed of any opportunity that offered for the negotiation of these agreements. These agreements were not always entirely satisfactory to us. We had to take due cognisance of the economic conditions prevailing here. If we were completely masters of our destiny, if economic conditions were better, and if there had not been this dependence on the British market for the sale of a large proportion of our agricultural exports, we could afford to take a different attitude; but we had to take into full account these economic circumstances to which I have referred and to frame a policy accordingly, and we have done it. That is why this agreement was made. It was made because we took into account these circumstances and, in these circumstances, tried to do the best thing possible for the people of this country, and I submit that we have done it. It is not perfect. The situation is not one of our choosing. Certainly, it is not one we wished to see, but if Deputies opposite think that this Government, at any rate, is going to secure an improvement in that situation by surrendering upon principles which are vital to our people, then they are mistaken.
Deputy Dillon, of course, announced here this afternoon that his Party knew of a course which would settle the dispute and, at the same time, avoid payment of the moneys directly or indirectly, but he took good care not to give the slightest hint of what that course was. He was just talking humbug. That sort of "boloney" may fool the members of his own Party, but it will not fool anybody else. I am quite sure that it will not fool Deputy Belton.
I am quite sure it will not fool me, any more than the Minister will.
Well, I will say for Deputy Belton, that, judging by the average standard prevailing on the opposite benches——
Standard of what?
Of intelligence. I will say of him that, judging by the average standard prevailing on the opposite benches, Deputy Belton must be reckoned as intelligent, but, of course, the average standard there is very low.
That is a very useful contribution to the debate.
Tell us about the prosperity of the farmers.
Deputy Dillon made that assertion here, and I am quite certain we are going to hear it again. In any event, whether other Deputies in that Party are as foolish as he was and whether they will be so foolish as to make that assertion in so many words, it will certainly be implied by many of them that there are some means by which, at the present time, it is possible to secure a settlement of the dispute without payment of these moneys, directly or indirectly, or without surrendering upon a question of vital principle. There is no such course at present. No one, of course, can tell what circumstances will arise in the future, but it is an entire illusion, and a dangerous illusion, to think that we can benefit the farmers of this country by accepting terms in settlement of this dispute which would involve the concession by us of principles to which, in our opinion, we must adhere——
What are they?
——because, if we permit the British Government to get the idea that, by applying tariffs upon our agricultural exports, they can force us to accept conditions which are otherwise intolerable to us, then it is inevitable that, time and again, that device will be resorted to whenever any other matter comes into dispute between the two countries. If once we accept that position, our independence—economic, fiscal and political—will be meaningless.
Will the Minister tell us the Ottawa terms?
I do not know what the Deputy is referring to.
The interviews given.
The Deputy is probably relying upon certain statements which appeared in a book published over the name of J.H. Thomas. Well, I can assure the Deputy that the members of this Party and the people of this country would believe whatever assertion was made by President de Valera in connection with that matter much sooner, and long before, they would believe anything that was said on the matter by Mr. Thomas.
Or by the Vice-President?
Yes, or by the Vice-President, or the meanest member of that Party. Well, I should not have used that adjective. I should have said the least significant.
The truth does come out occasionally.
Will that Deputy, to whom the Minister referred, stand up?
He has not been elected yet.
Well, then there is no use complaining.
That is class distinction, evidently.
It is, of course, completely misleading to talk about the tariff having been taken off horses and put on to something else. It has been put on to nothing else. There was no change with regard to anything else, and no tariff was put on anything else.
Of course not, because it was last season.
Then the Deputy admits he was wrong. Then, Deputy Morrissey spoke about the price of coal. It is not possible to forecast the tendency of prices or to be able to say what the price of coal is going to be in the future. Prices of raw materials are rising steadily all over the world. Some raw materials, such as timber, have gone up by 100 per cent. in a short time, and other raw materials, such as copper, have gone up even more than that. It is inevitable, in the circumstances now prevailing, that the tendency of coal prices will be upward, but when Deputy Morrissey talks about giving a monopoly to the British coal producers he is using a word that conveys a definite meaning which has no relation to the circumstances existing in connection with the coal trade between this country and Great Britain. If there had not been a tariff imposed upon Continental coal, no Continental coal would have been imported here in circumstances in which all coal is brought into this country duty free. It is inevitable that all our coal imports in such circumstances will come from Great Britain, not because the coal is produced more cheaply in Great Britain, but because it can be transported so much more cheaply to this country. We frequently had arguments here in the past as to whether the duty was paid by our consumers or by the British exporters. The increase in the price of coal which took place after the removal of the duty proves the contention that we then made, that the duty on coal previous to that was paid by the exporters, except for the short period during which the coal quota was in operation simultaneously with the duty. During that period, of course, the duty was paid by our people.
In the earlier years, the duty on British coal was partly offset by a reduction in the price to producers, and, secondly, by a reduction in the cost of transporting it here. As soon as the duty went off, these reductions were eliminated and the price went up. I do not think we lost by that, either. The people of this country are certainly paying no more than they would have to pay if the quota order had never been made. The coal quota order is necessary for the implementation of our agreement, and, in fact, the very removal of the duty would have produced the same result, that only British coal would have been purchased. The net result was to put the coal trade of this country into precisely the same position as it was before 1932, when all our coal supplies came from Britain. But in the interval something had happened in Great Britain. In the interval what was tantamount to a central selling organisation had been created, and, in these circumstances, I agree our importers are less able to protect their interests than they were previously. It may be necessary, if we cannot get voluntary action, to protect our interests in the matter of price and quality, to establish some counter-organisation on this side which will at least put this country as a purchasing country in the same position of strength as Great Britain is as a seller of coal at the present time. I would prefer that that necessity should not arise, but it will undoubtedly arise if the discussions which are periodically taking place, concerning the guarantees to our coal importers in respect to price and quality, do not prove to yield beneficial results from our point of view.
Before the Minister departs from that subject, I should like to ask him a question. May I take it from what the Minister has said, that there is nothing in the Coal-Cattle Pact which will prevent us, should there be an unreasonable increase in the price of coal in Britain from getting coal from alternative sources?
An organisation has been set up, similar in its nature to the organisations that were set up between Britain and certain other countries which had contracted to take stated quantities of coal from Great Britain, to negotiate and regulate the price at which coal would be supplied, to supervise the quality of the coal and the availability of supplies. That organisation is in existence, and meetings have taken place between representatives of this country and representatives of the British coal producers.
These meetings are for the purpose of negotiating and settling any question in dispute in these matters. I merely indicate that, in the event of that organisation not being 100 per cent. effective in meeting what we regard as reasonable requests, we may have to supplement it on our side by a more effective method of controlling purchases. If, in the last resort, we cannot get satisfaction, as in fact occurred last year in the case of cement, when after we made a quota order for the benefit of Great Britain in regard to cement, we found that we could not get supplies or could only get them at exorbitant prices, and that it was necessary to reopen the agreement, as we did, and secured a release from our obligations to purchase a certain quantity of cement——
The point I want to get clear is this. The Minister talks about other countries in connection with stated quantities. It is not a question of stated quantities in our case.
It comes to the same thing.
No. Under this particular pact we have got to take all the coal we require from Britain. Whether the purchasing organisation here and the selling organisation on the other side come to an agreement or not as to quality and price, we cannot go outside Britain for supplies without definitely breaking the pact. I want to know are we being committed for 12 months to purchase coal from Great Britain, and from nowhere else, irrespective of price or quality? Supposing the two organisations, one buying and the other selling, fail to come to an agreement, are we empowered to go outside Britain to purchase coal?
I gave a concrete example of what happened, in the case of cement. We made a quota order in regard to cement.
That is not the point I am at.
We found that the supplies were not available and that the prices, in our opinion, increased unduly. That created a situation in which we were not prepared to carry out the obligation to purchase a stated quantity of cement from Britain; therefore, we went back to the British Government and said that we were going to purchase that cement elsewhere in these circumstances. There was a question of whether the countervailing concession which the British Government had made would be withdrawn, but it was not withdrawn. The same thing may arise in connection with coal.
There is no stated quantity in that case.
If we, as a result of an increase in prices or a difficulty in getting supplies, found that a situation had been created in which we had to go abroad for our coal, then the question of the agreement would be reopened.
Before the expiry of the 12 months?
At any time.
So that this pact can be reopened and, if necessary, broken?
If a critical situation were created as a result of which sufficient supplies of coal could not be procured from Britain, or only procured at prices which were exorbitant, then the question would have to be reopened.
That is very wide.
We have by agreement with the British Government secured an understanding with the British Coal Miners' Association and set up machinery for the implementation of that understanding which we think will prevent this situation arising.
What increase has been agreed upon?
I could not answer that.
Could the Minister say beyond what limits we are not prepared to go?
The price at which we will purchase the coal will have to depend on the price at which it is sold in Britain or elsewhere.
Is there a copy of the agreement available for Deputies?
The nature of the understanding concerning coal prices was given on the pact last year. The same understanding operates this year.
This aspect was never dealt with before.
It was, indeed.
Might I have the Minister's permission to put a question to him? I want to be clear on the case he is making. The Minister drew a parallel between the cement crux of last year and a possible coal crux which may arise this year, through the possibility of a British coal-ring inflating their prices excessively. He said it occurred in the case of cement and that he went back to the British Government and said that he could not take cement at that price. It strikes me that that is not anything like a reasonable parallel, because the main agreement, as far as I understand it, is one of coal against cattle.
The other was cement against bacon.
The other agreement was a little bit of trimming.
It was, but it meant an increased bacon quota. It was offset by a concession in the matter of the bacon quota.
They agreed to take so many cattle against something over a million tons of coal. There was only a small amount of cement to be taken in comparison with the coal. The breakdown of the cement end of the pact was only a breakdown in a very small percentage.
The purchase by us of a specified quantity of cement was in consideration of the purchase by Great Britain of an increased quantity of bacon. One was definitely set against the other, and when the cement end of it broke down there was a possibility that the increased quota in respect of bacon would be withdrawn also. In fact it was not. In fact in the circumstances existing the British cement producers had to meet an increased demand in Great Britain and they ceased to be interested in selling cement here.
Is it correct to say that the main framework of the annual agreement is coal against cattle?
They are the big items.
If we break down on the coal side by refusing to take our agreed commitments in the way of coal, that would be equivalent to a repudiation of the cattle side?
That is a stick to hold over you with regard to the price and quality of coal.
The undertaking on our side is to purchase the coal if price, quality and regularity of supply are satisfactory.
Is there any "if" on the other side?
They will take the cattle whether we purchase the coal or not?
He did not say that.
They gave to this country certain quota allocations. We may reach the number in respect of each class. We did not last year. If we had more fat cattle last year we could have sold more and be still within the quota, but in fact we did not.
Why did you kill the calves so?
The Deputy knows what happened. We had an excess of stores and in respect of stores we sold more than our quota.
I followed the Minister through the bacon, the cement and his last statement with regard to coal and cattle. There is apparently an "if" on the coal side and no "if" on the cattle side. We are prohibited from buying coal elsewhere than from Great Britain except we reopen the agreement, but supposing the position arose that we discovered some other type of fuel here and we bought no coal from Great Britain, would the cattle side of the agreement hold?
It would still hold. We are under no obligation to purchase a specific quantity of coal from Great Britain. We purchase our coal requirements.
We purchase just whatever we require?
In so far as we might develop our native resources of coal or other fuel, that is a matter for ourselves, and I hope we will succeed in doing so. I understand that public business is to be interrupted at 9 o'clock and I desire to conclude now, as I hope to get another Bill through to-night.