At the tail-end of this rather long debate there are really only about four matters of importance which I wish to raise. One of these is the very important matter of censorship. In that connection I feel myself in somewhat of a difficulty. I hesitate to suggest that the Minister whom I see opposite to me and who has had such enormous experience of Government business in the last three weeks —having passed, as I understand, from the Department of Education and suffered for a short period in Industry and Commerce before coming to his final reward in the Department of Lands—is entitled to discuss with me the censorship regulations, and more particularly the secret regulations issued to the Press. If he is not, I would like to have in this House somebody who can.
I do not like to have it ever recorded against me that I was responsible at any moment for bringing in here the man who used to preside over the Army and who is now engaged in defending this country by blacking out paragraphs in newspapers, but he spoke on this last night and he is apparently the person who has most authority in the matter, and if the Minister now present on the Front Bench is not in a position to discuss the secret regulations I should like to have the other Minister here. I have a, copy of the secret instructions. I have been supplied with them from two sources, from one source under a bond of secrecy and from another source without any secrecy. I find myself in a somewhat difficult position and I should like to have some leading from the particular Minister who has passed these secret instructions as to how far they may be discussed with his assent in the Dáil. If I do not get his assent to a particular type of discussion, I have to make up my mind whether I shall discuss them without that assent. I do not say that I shall be compelled to, do that because it is quite possible if he were here, by giving some specific details as to what these, instructions are, there would be sufficient material for discussion. Until I find out whether he is coming here, I shall leave the matter for the moment.
I want to discuss the censorship immediately. Deputy O'Higgins referred here to-night to the fact that An Taoiseach thought fit yesterday to lecture this House on Parliamentary ethics, and that he remarked that there appeared to have been a change in the approach by Deputies to the problems that are facing the country and the Government. I may at once admit that there has been a great change since the 2nd September and I believe there is a reason for that change. As one individual who sat here and allowed the Government to get the Emergency Powers Act, with much less discussion and in speedier time than might possibly have been the case in other circumstances, I feel that, to a certain extent, that measure was passed by false pretences. There were certain claims made here when that measure was going through, that some of the more outrageous permissions and licences that were given to the Government would not be operated. I can quote and put my finger on particular statements made by particular Ministers, but I confine myself to this general remark at the moment, that I for one left the House with the feeling that what had been guaranteed was that life was going to run, as far as the discussion of problems and the ventilation of criticism were concerned, very much as it had been before the introduction of the measure.
We were told that the Government must be aimed with certain powers and the House agreed that that was the situation. Our fears were allayed by the oft-recurring statement that there would be an effort, on the part of the Government, to interfere as little as possible with the ordinary activities of the citizens. In particular we asked as to Parliamentary meetings and a most reassuring statement was made by the Taoiseach on that. He told us that no doubt Opposition Deputies would welcome frequent meetings of the Dáil and that that would give them an opportunity of raising certain points. He went on to say:
"A meeting of the Dáil naturally gives an opportunity to the Opposition to raise the particular doubts or anxieties that may be in the minds of the public but it also gives us an opportunity of explaining here to the public, through our speeches, what are the reasons for any actions that we may take here and we are just as glad to have these opportunities of explaining our position as the Opposition are. We would be only too glad of caving the opportunity of explaining to the public the reason for, any action we might take."
That was eminently sound. It was the most reassuring statement that came from the Government Benches the night. The Government welcome frequent meetings of the Dáil here and the opportunity it gave them for explaining to the public the reasons for anything they thought fit to do.
As Deputy O'Higgins has stated, we on this side were invited to set down questions in the request made on 2nd September, in order, as we thought, to give the Government a platform from which they might make statements and to tell them the things about which the public were disquieted so that they might deal with these matters. Yesterday questions wore asked about the Army, about expenditure, about neutrality, about the Department of Supplies, the provisioning of the country, about unemployment and production. If anybody flunks that the Taoiseach has lived up to his promise of the 2nd September, and that he availed himself of the opportunity given here yesterday to explain to the public the reasons for many things that have happened since the 2nd of September, or if he himself feels that he has lived up to the promise then given, I do not know what the meaning of the English he used on that night was.
We asked in particular about the censorship because the clause in the Emergency Powers Bill was very, very wide and we were assured that the censorship was to be of a very restricted character at the beginning, but that circumstances might develop in which it would be necessary to extend it. We are in the third week since that statement was made, and I presume we are still in the stage in which a censorship of a very restricted character should apply. We shall discuss the instructions given at a later point, but the promise given to us was that the censorship was to be of a very restricted character, with the possibility that developments might render more rigid control necessary later.
The Minister in charge of the measure was asked what the censorship was going to deal with, and he said:
"Some control over the publication of news in the newspapers, information which might be of a military character and be of assistance to belligerents or detrimental to some other party engaged in hostilities, is necessary in our own interests."
Later questions were put, a specific one being whether it was intended that the censorship would prevent any newspaper here, as a matter of newspaper or editorial policy, expressing particular sympathy or particular support for one or other of the protagonists in the war We were told that that was not intended. Finally, the question was asked: Would there be any suppression of the ordinary criticism which it is incumbent on Parliamentary Parties, under the Party system, to make? We were given the most categorical assurance that there would be no censorship, no suppression, of the views of Deputies. It went further than that, and although it was not so precisely stated, the deduction horn what was said here in the Dáil on September 2, was that it would be meet and proper for the newspapers to publish whatever was an ordinary matter of controversy amongst Deputies here and that there would be no attempt to censor it. One last phrase was used and that was that, in a general way, the censorship that was going to be imposed would be imposed on news and not on opinions. I complain that the measure that was passed, after guarantees had been given to us that there was going to be no censorship, except of news and particularly of news that was likely to be of aid to belligerents, was undoubtedly passed under false pretences.
Let us see how an Taoiseach yesterday took advantage of the opportunity given to him to explain to the public, through the sounding board of the Dáil, the reasons for various things the Government had done. One group of the questions down yesterday dealt from varying angles with the question of neutrality. It is quite well known here—I quote no secret instructions—and it can certainly be deduced from comment made in the newspapers, that the one thing which has been ruthlessly suppressed in the newspapers, is any discussion as to neutrality, any discussion as to whether this country should be neutral or not, any discussion which in the mind of the censor or in the mind of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, would tend to impinge on my aspect of that matter of neutrality. Yesterday a question was asked with regard to a broadcast from Hamburg. The answer that was given was evasive in the highest degree. That question was down in in name. I drew attention to the broadcast from the Hamburg radio station, and only one of the comments, and there were three which had repercussions in this country, was quoted. The answer I got was from the Minister for External Affairs—the Taoiseach:
"I have heard talk of such a broadcast, but I am not sure whether, in fact, such a reference to Ireland was made, or whether this is not another sample of the ridiculous rumours which have been passed from mouth to mouth recently."
I do not like to refer to my personal knowledge of individuals, but the individual who put up that answer for the Taoiseach is, to my knowledge, so much given to listening to the wireless that he can be described as the greatest wireless addict in, this country. It is ludicrous for this man to say to the Taoiseach, and worse lor the Taoiseach to repeat here, that he had heard talk of such a broadcast, but that he is not sure whether, in fact. such a reference to Ireland was made. I think I would be able to produce at least half a dozen people to the Taoiseach who heard it. In fact, I might be able to get half a dozen in this House who heard it. It may be nothing much to pay attention to, but in any event that particular commentator from Hamburg very definitely went out of his way to cast, suspicion on the preservation of neutrality in this country. The Taoiseach, when asked about that and asked to explain it to the public as well as whether he thought it was necessary to take any steps about it, fobbed off the question with the reply that he is not sure whether, in fact, any such statement was made.
The second question was about another matter which was also broadcast. This is the matter in regard to the sinking of an oil tanker called the Inverliffey. When notice of the sinking of that vessel first appeared in our newspapers it was given in these terms: that the s.s. Inverliffey was registered in Dublin and was sunk at a particular time. Radio Eireann that night, in terms that were very carefully chosen, declared something to this effect: that it is inaccurately stated that the Inverliffey sunk at such and such a time was registered in the Port Dublin. Everybody, who knew anything about the oil refinery projected here, knew that the Inverliffey bad at one time been registered here, so that on the clearest possible deduction there was evasion and quibble— something approaching a lie being broadcast to the people of the country. To the question put down here yesterday this answer was given by the present Minister for Industry and Commerce:—
"So far as the Minister is aware no Irish ships as defined in Emergency Powers (No. 2) Order, 1939, have been sunk since he 1st September, 1939. An oil tanker, the s.s. Inverliffey, was sunk on the 11th instant. The registration of the vessel here was closed on the 8th instant and all formalities in connection with the registration of the vessel at a port in the United Kingdom had been complied with, so far as they could be completed in respect of a vessel at sea, prior to the loss of the vessel. A reply to the other matters raised in the question does not, therefore, arise."
If that is the idea of the present Minister for Industry and Commerce as to how he should explain to the public certain matters of concern to them, then it is certainly not the idea that We were given here on the 2nd September. What is the situation as far as we are given it? That the Inverliffey left a particular port: that her captain believed that the boat was still registered here and, in that belief, the, captain of that boat flew the Tricolour. A Belfast newspaper which did circuit late with that piece of information came into Dublin and passed from hand to hand. It gave in effect this version of the conversation which took place between the captain of the tanker and the commander of the submarine:
"I see your flag but I will sink you first and take the consequences after."
It is surely of concern to know whether the commander of the submarine did behave in that way and, if so, if there is any way of dealing with the matter. Is there no way, even by protest, of calling attention to thin, or is it simply that the Government here are so minded that if boats carrying cargoes, not being contraband, consigned in neutral vessels coming in here or if boats flying the Irish flag are sunk, the only response to that is going to be evasion and quibble when the matter is raised here in tire Parliamentary Assembly. So bad indeed did the evasion become yesterday that the Taoiseach, who had previously evaded the question about Hamburg, had here publicly to reprimand, by implication. his own Minister, and to ay that enquiries were on foot with regard to this matter.
The third question—this again was revealing no secret because it was one of the points referred to in the Hamburg broadcast—dealt with the black out here. Citizens here have been be-wildered as to what the situation is with regard to the black out. Why is a black out required here? What is the purpose of it? Who decided that it should be done? A question was asked about it here yesterday, and that particular question produced, I suppose, the greatest exhibition of confused incompetency that has ever been exhibited in this House. We were told, first of all—and I think it was a surprise to most people—that, in fact, if there was any black out it was not official. Questions were then raised by means of supplementaries. It was asked, did not the Guards enforce the black out in certain towns? The Minister replied that if the Guards did that they were not under his control. He was asked if the Electricity Supply Board had cut off the lighting to any extent. He did not answer that, but by implication made it clear that the Electricity Supply Board were under his control. He was asked finally had the local authorities got instructions with regard to institutions under their control with regard to lighting. The casual answer given was that that was a matter for the Minister for Local Government, and not his business.
If we have a Minister in charge of A.R.P. and if there is so much confusion that two Government Departments give instructions with regard to institutions under their care, or with regard to the country generally, surely there is some lack of co-ordination in the background. If the Minister in charge of A.R.P. did not make it clear to his own colleagues that, if there was any black out, it was not an official order, it certainly reveals a disquieting situation. There was one gem which the Minister uttered which ought to be recorded for fear it might be forgotten. When asked about people having been killed because motorists dimmed their headlights, and when referred to the statement that morn than one person had been killed, the Minister's casual reply was: that he had seen in a newspaper a heading to a paragraph saying that a man had been killed, but that when he went on to read the paragraph he found that "the man had been driving with his full lights on and turned them off after the accident"—that is the man who had been killed in the accident. At what point he turned off his headlights, and at what stage approaching death he was, we are not told. But people have been killed; it was not alone one single individual. Quite a number of casualties—fatal consequences—have resulted from this black out, and the Minister told us it was not official; that if the Guards authorised or enforced such an order they were not enforcing an order passed by the Government and, if the Minister for Local Government did it, he did it on his own responsibility.
There were three points. They were really put down to find out what was the situation here with regard to keeping a neutral position. I do not think anybody who had doubts in his mind about the continuance of neutrality here would have had his doubts allayed by the answers that were given here. Was it not clearly revealed here yesterday that Ministers did not like questions, no matter how distantly removed, which dealt with the question of neutrality, because they might have to reveal that they were definitely running away from that matter, and that rather than test the point once and for all on some issue of importance they preferred to have ships sunk, men lost, cargoes destroyed, and our position as a nation prejudiced? I have been advised that certain shippers from the South of Ireland have wearied themselves importuning the Department of External Affairs to take cognisance of certain ships leaving Scandinavian countries with non-contraband cargoes consigned to this country, and to try to got, in so far as Departmental activity could do it, such information spread as would get those boats safe passage. They could not get an answer from any Department of Government, either from the Department of External Affairs or the Department of Supplies, that that matter would be attended to or that any such activity had already been set on foot.
If we are a neutral country, people are asking themselves, why all the amazing hold-up of certain supplies? After one spectacular piece of muddling, we are due to undergo a rationing in regard to petrol. Where did our petrol supplies come from? By looking up the statistics we can find certain figures which give part of the answer. In the main, they came from non-belligerent countries. We are neutral. Can we not get petrol in? What is the difficulty? It is obviously not scarcity. If it were scarcity, that matter would be reflected in the price. It is not scarcity. For some reason, rationing is being imposed in this country. By far the greater proportion of the 40,000,000 gallons of motor spirit that we get in comes from two countries which have nothing to do with the war, two countries which, I understand, have their own tankers. Therefore, the boats are neutral, and the cargoes are coming to a distinctly neutral country. Why is there a hold-up? Why has it been necessary to ration us in this particular supply? I am told it is not because of the demand for supplies for military purposes hero, because we have not got in any appreciable extra quantities. There has not been any great storage done for military purposes. Why then are ordinary citizens going to be rationed? People might be rationed according to a price scheme if the matter were one of scarcity. But it apparently is not a matter of scarcity. Whatever is coming in is being sold at the same old price. If we are a neutral country, it ought to be possible to make arrangements for supplies. I am not saving that those arrangements will always be carried out, but certainly in the first three weeks of a war I fail to see any reason why our ordinary supplies of that particular commodity could not have been brought in. Questions having some relation to that matter were asked here yesterday, and I think the public are still confused as to why it has been found necessary to have this rationing system.
That question of petrol leads on to the general question of supplies. Quite a series of questions asked here yesterday dealt with the matter of supplies. I was amazed to find that the only answer we could get were three pieces of declamation about our policy of self-sufficiency. I should have thought that one of the things that were blown sky-high with the first little explosion of the war was this whole matter of self-sufficiency. One gathers from the gospel of the superman, as it is written in a particular book, that vital space or expansion room is a necessity for certain select people. Though a certain select people, occupying territory of far greater extent than this country has, and being blessed with natural resources far greater than anything we have any hopes of ever discovering, finds that it needs what it calls expansion room over half a continent in an endeavour to make itself self-sufficient, this country still believes, or Ministers speaking from the Government Benches in this country profess to believe, that self-sufficiency is still a policy, and that, in fact, self-sufficiency as a policy has proved a success.
In brief, let us see how it has worked out. Here we were spending money extravagantly in order to bolster up this move towards self-sufficiency. We got twelve months' notice of a conflict, a major European conflict, as the answer put it yesterday. In any event, whether there was notice of it or not—sometimes find Ministers holding that they had no notice of it— a Department of Supplies with a view to a major European conflict was set up in September, 1938, and they made preparations. When we got to the details of those preparations the answer and the tones of the Minister reading it got a little bit hollow and insufficient. They advised and encouraged traders to get in supplies. There was one obvious thing that should have been answered. If any of those traders asked tor money, asked for credit facilities, asked for an approach to the banks in order that the banks would give credit facilities, we should have been told that those things were done, so that we could see what aid to the advice and encouragement was given to the private traders on whom we were relying for our supplies. I understand that the banks were approached about a week before war broke out, and that certain traders in this country had the ironic satisfaction of receiving, two days after war broke out, a letter stating that arrangements had been made with the banks to advance them credit for the purchase of materials. Of course when that letter was taken to the banks they knew how to treat it.
The Department of Supplies was set up. We got the scheme of the Department yesterday. It was the ex-Minister for Industry and Commerce, now Minister for Supplies, who was in control of it and was responsible for it. Surely it is possible for him to tell us what supplies or what commodities beyond normal requirements were got in? I do not know how he proposes in the future to establish a price fixing régime if he does not know what stocks were in the country. I understand that the prices fixed are going to have some relation to the time at which those stocks were bought, and when they were brought in. How does the Minister propose to fix prices if he does not know what stocks were brought in, and at what time? The Minister who spoke here yesterday on this matter is so well known for his boastfulness that I think it is easy to make the deduction that if he had done his job, and if he had in supplies of any essential commodities, we would have heard of them in the greatest detail. He is not the one to neglect such an opportunity as that. What did we hear from him yesterday? A lung statement about sugar and a certain less-convincing statement about flour. Then a general grandiose lecture about the virtues of self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, a colleague—his colleague who has gone to the Department of Industry and Commerce—had answered a question on supplies in relation to unemployment and that reveals just what self-sufficiency in this country means.
The Minister for Supplies was very eloquent about the situation in regard to sugar. That is a matter which ought to be clarified by the publication of certain figures which can well be done. After the statement yesterday, I still find in the public mind a remnant of confusion. The Minister, in the most specific way, told us that we had supplies of sugar sufficient up to, I think, the year 1940. When I heard that I said: "That is one rumour settled once and for all." Despite the statement made yesterday, rumours still persist amongst people who have been endeavouring to get sugar. I am not talking about the family man going around looking for a small quantity of sugar. I am speaking of people in the trade. They cannot ascertain what the situation in regard to sugar is. The Minister's statement, when analysed, comes to this—that we have certain beet-sugar factories and that when they produce 100 per cent. of our requirements, the position will be all right. He was able to ride off on that statement as if he were saying that they were now producing 100 per cent. of our requirements and that everything was all right.
I find that the beet-sugar factories since their institution at no time produced all our requirements. They got within about a fifth of our requirements in one year. They have gone down very rapidly since. On the 31st March of this year, it was found necessary to import slightly more than the annual production of sugar in this country. That meant that the sugar factories were producing only 50 per cent. of the country's requirements. We know from statements in the House that the acreage under tillage, so far as sugar beet is concerned, has gone down by about a fifth since last year. So far as I can judge from the figures given in column 150 of the Official Debates of the 24th May, the annual consumption of sugar here amounts to 110,000 tons. Of that amount of 110,000 tons, the sugar factories last year did not produce 50,000 tons and this year they will produce less than 50,000 tons. The Minister can set at rest the whole country's disquiet by simply stating what amount of sugar has been imported and is now, held as against the country's requirements this year. When I ask that question, I want its terms attended to. I do not want to be answered in terms of sugar ordered and now on sea or in terms of sugar ordered and about to be consigned. I want to know the amount of sugar actually held in the country.
So far as I can make out from the figures we imported last year 1,110,000 cwts. In the year we are in, we have to import something more than that if we are to meet normal requirements. I want to know has that amount already been imported because, if it has not, it was a fabrication for the Minister to say yesterday that this country has all the sugar it. requires and will be self-sufficient in sugar up to 1940. That is a matter of detail and can be attended to by figures, but the Minister's statement yesterday depended upon a hypothesis—that is, that when the sugar factories produce 100 per cent. of our requirements, we shall be all right. It is unnecessary to insult the intelligence of this House by saying a thing like that. What we did want to hear was what was the estimate of the sugar about to be produced in the country, what importation was necessary to make up our requirements and what importation had been achieved. That was one matter in respect to which an approach to self-sufficiency might, I thought, be made. One of these days it will be possible to sit down and make calculations over the years during which we have been running the sugar beet industry as to the cost of building and equipping the factories, setting against, that the cost of buying and storing all the sugar we will need, the cost of bringing it in and paying the increased rate. Then, I think, we shall be able to realise whether the experiment of four sugar-beet factories was a success economically or not.
Leave that aside. What were we told yesterday about industry generally? Dealing with the question of unemployment, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce told us that some unemployment had been considered likely here as a result of a major European conflict and that the special committee set up fay the Minister in September, 1938, came to this conclusion—that if there was unemployment it would be due mainly to interruption in the overseas supply of raw materials, partly finished materials, fuel, machinery, mechanical replacements and stores. After seven years aiming at self-sufficiency in industry, that is the point we have got to—that if there is a European war we are all right—this self-sufficient country will be a happy land—if only we can secure raw materials, partly finished materials, fuel, machinery, replacements and stores. When you knock that out of self-sufficiency, there is not a great deal of self-sufficiency left. That is what we have got at the end of seven years.
If we are in that position and must depend on outside suppliers for raw materials, partly finished materials, fuel, machinery, replacements and stores, surely the question of our neutrality and whether non-contraband can be carried into this? country on neutral boats is of tremendous importance. Surely, it is of sufficient importance to make the Taoiseach realise that an important point of principle was in dispute when the Inverliffey flying_maybe mistakenly_ the Irish flag was sunk by a submarine. That is not the only boat we have lost. It is the only boat—if it was an Irish boat—which we have lost by enemy action. But, by Government action, we have lost a fair amount. I put down a, question to find out what was the strength, tonnage and numbers of the mercantile marine we had on two dates. The two dates I chose were the 1st September of last year and the present date. I find that there used to be registered at Irish ports motor shipping of a gross tonnage of 88,000 and that, since the 1st September, 66,000 of that tonnage has been removed from our register. We have lost 65,000 tons out of 88,000. We have lost only seven vessels; we used to have 365; we still have 358, but the tonnage is about 66,000 gross. We have lost the seven most important ships registered here. We have also lost eleven steam vessels with a gross tonnage of nearly 19,000 out of a total of 68,000. That has been done by Government action. It required Government acceptance and the Government consent was given. Why was that done? Was not that a point on which the Taoiseach should have thought this a proper platform from which to enlighten the public? We know that an order was made under the first emergency order issued that boats registered here must fly the Tricolour.
We know that, as a consequence of that, it was discovered that certain shipping insurance conditions did not apply to our ships, and it was known further that once boats registered here sailed under the Tricolour they would not get the advantages of the legislation that applied in England to the dependents of those lost at sea; and, by incautiously, and at the wrong moment, insisting on the Tricolour being flown, we have suddenly removed from our register the only seven boats of real value that we had. Without entering into the particular tonnage or capacity of those seven boats, I think it would be admitted that they may be very valuable boats before this war is over. As the war progresses, and even as things are at the moment, it may be very important that these boats should be able to sail under the flag of a neutral country, but for some reason—although whatever the reason may be, it is not given to us—we lost so much tonnage. It seems that the Inverliffey was sunk by a German submarine, and that was not a very substantial loss of tonnage, but our own Government, by their actions, have lost us about five-sixths of the shipping that used to be registered here. Why way it necessary to achieve that? Was any thought given to this matter before that particular order was applied? Did anybody foresee these consequences? Even if these consequences were not foreseen, what was the advantage of insisting on the application of that order at the time it was insisted upon?
The other matter that was raised here, and which I do not want to go into in any detail, is the all-important matter of agricultural prices. As far as one can make out, from the answers that were given here, there is almost definite acceptance of the viewpoint that the British Government have decided to control, much more rigidly than they did in the case of the last war, the prices of the stuff they have to buy. That, of course, may be a very wise viewpoint from the British point of view, and it is quite possible that, if one looks ahead, or if one looks long enough ahead, it is a point of view that might not be without value for the people of this country; but the position is that our farmers here have no future to look forward to such as they had to look forward to in the last war. It has been pointed out here, and I have no doubt that Deputy Dillon is right when he says that, as time goes on, and while this war lasts and supplies that, possibly, at present are in competition with our supplies, are prevented from going into England, the prices of our produce undoubtedly will rise somewhat. Apparently, however, it is accepted here—and negotiations were going on —negotiations which, apparently, were almost perfected until the angered farmers broke into the discussions and got these negotiations postponed— apparently, the view is accepted here that it is right and proper for Britain so to control these prices. That they may have the power to do so and that we have to yield to that power is one matter, but the acceptance of that point of view is a different matter. Are we going to suffer from the fact that the prices of our produce are to be prevented from rising and that the prices we have to pay for our raw materials for this policy of self-sufficiency are to be permitted to rise —not to speak of the cost of A.R.P., war risks, and everything else? Are the fanning community going to be put in the position that what they will buy in the way of industrial goods will be raised in price because of the increase in the price of raw materials coming in, while the prices of their own produce are to be prevented from rising?
Surely, all these matters are proper for discussion here, and matters on which the public have a right to be informed. So far, however, it can be said that the only efficient Department of Government in regard to any matter that has been handed over to them under the Emergency Powers Act is the Department assigned to the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence. The Minister for Co-ordination of Defence has issued Orders both drastic and severe, but is he cognisant of these Orders? He is not in the House at the moment. Is the Minister now prepared to enlighten me as to any point in the discussion which I may make? Does the Minister understand that I am addressing him?