I understand that motion No. 24 is not being moved.
Statement of Government Policy.
I was going to ask the permission of the House to withdraw that motion. Before doing so I ask the indulgence of the House to enable me to make a few observations. I understand that Ministers propose to make statements generally on the lines in the motion, but are not desirous of having a debate on the matters outlined in it. I would suggest the desirability of having statements made which will give some assurance to the public that efforts are being made to deal with the situation.
There is not much use in trying to make a point out of the shortage of goods. My own conviction is that there is a shortage of sugar in the country—a severe shortage—and that it is interfering with manufacturers and creating grave inconvenience to householders. The system that has been adopted is a system symptomatic of the Civil Service: a scheme is outlined, the scheme should work and, if it does not work, it is not the fault of those responsible for the administration of it! For example, two months' supply of sugar from last year was taken as the standard this year. It was well known that there were hoarders and other persons buying in excess of normal requirements. Surely, in a case of that sort, even the impenetrable official mind ought to have brought in a third month and informed retailers as to what the situation was in regard to that. Similarly, in regard to manufacturers, I myself have personal knowledge of two of them who could give very much more employment if they get what they require.
The second point is that there does not appear to be in the information before us an answer to that portion of the motion which deals with the desirability of direct Ministerial negotiations with British Ministers. That, to my mind, would solve quite a number of problems which are at present engaging the attention—and perhaps wasting the time—not only of Ministers but of the Civil Service.
The third matter is with regard to censorship. If the general impression around the country is correct, considerable numbers of persons are employed, and they are being employed in the minds of the people in the country—rather to make their minds uneasy than to console them. Nobody objects to the general principle of censorship which is exercised with due regard to the conditions that are prevailing, but a censorship which, when put into practice, excites uneasiness and gives rise to apprehension is rather a nuisance than anything else; and an extension of it is a danger which, so far as we are concerned, we would like to impress upon the Government the desirability of avoiding.
In connection with the final matter— which is, perhaps, one of the most important—we would not be disposed to press for a complete statement on financial matters to-day. If we get an undertaking that the matter is under consideration and that the Minister would give us a considered statement on, say, the first—or the eighth—of November, it would satisfy me. I would point out, however, that oratorical statements or debating points, such as characterised most of the Ministerial statements at the last sitting, are not what we require in this instance. We require short sentences, giving us as much information as is available, particularly an undertaking that efforts will be made to improve the situation rather than embellish the picture that Ministers would desire to paint of the actual situation. I wish to ask permission of the House to withdraw the motion.
Are we to understand that the House is now being asked to agree to the withdrawal?
The motion has not been moved, and consequently cannot be withdrawn.
Deputy Cosgrave managed to make quite a good speech on a motion which has not been moved. What substitute are we getting for this unmoved motion?
The Chair was about to explain. Item No. 24 was not moved and could not, therefore, be withdrawn. It will simply, disappear from the Order Paper. In lieu of that motion an arrangement has been arrived at and, by a special procedure, certain Ministers will, by leave of the House, make statements furnishing the information which the motion (No. 24) was designed to elicit. After each such statement relevant questions may be asked, at the discretion of the Chair. The statements may not be debated. The Ministers to intervene, and in this order, are the Ministers for (a) Supplies, (b) Agriculture, (c) Industry and Commerce, (d) Finance and (e) Co-ordination of Defensive Measures.
Does that include Defence?
No; Co-ordination of Defence—censorship in particular.
But not the Army?
The Army is not mentioned in the motion. Censorship is. Each Minister will make that statement by leave of the House, as there will be no motion before the House. After each statement questions relevant to the statement may be asked, within reason, and at the discretion of the Chair. There is to be no debate.
That is clear so far, but it is not enough. I wish to ascertain whether it will be possible for a member to make observations on a Minister's speech.
No; that is not in the bargain. We made as hard a bargain as we could.
It is a very bad bargain —like another the Deputy made.
Our difficulty is that this is something that is not in the Order Paper and if we are not careful we may not get an answer until next June 12 months. The motion was put down to get information for the country. That I understand was the main purpose and we would get nothing at all if we simply insisted on debating the motion.
The Deputy would have fine propaganda speeches. One point is not clear. Will a Deputy be allowed to ask any number of questions?
As many as the Chair may permit.
Can he ask a question and, having got an answer, ask another arising out of that, in the nature of an extended supplementary question; or must a Deputy, rising after the Minister makes his speech, ask all his questions at one time?
Not necessarily at one time.
I understand that members of the House desire to have a statement of the position concerning the supply of a number of commodities. I hope Deputies will appreciate that it is not an easy matter to stand up here and make a full statement concerning the position in respect of a large number of commodities. There are certain commodities which were mentioned in Deputy Cosgrave's motion with which it is comparatively easy to deal; but the number of commodities in respect of which difficulties have arisen—or might be anticipated—is so large, and the circumstances relating to each one of them are so varied, that it would be difficult to make a comprehensive statement about them.
I think Deputy Cosgrave had in mind another difficulty associated with the making of a statement of this kind, when he asked for an assurance to the public that efforts are being made to deal with the situation created by the war in relation to the supply of the commodities in which he is interested. It is obviously desirable that any statement made here should be a reassuring statement, and I am glad to be able to make such a statement in respect of most of the commodities about which public concern has been expressed, but I hope it will be appreciated that there can be no certainty that whatever the position is now will continue unchanged for any length of time. The essential characteristic of a war is that it produces very unexpected developments rapidly and, in relation to any commodity, there may be such a change in conditions at quite an early date that a course of action based upon the statement I make here to-day could not be maintained. At the same time, I shall endeavour to indicate to the Dáil the extent to which we can look ahead in matters relating to the supply of these commodities.
The Dáil was concerned on the last occasion we met mainly with commodities, the supply of which would have a bearing upon agricultural production and commodities which are essentials of life. So far as the first of these classes of commodities is concerned, the position appears at the moment to be considerable better than when I spoke here on the last occasion. I referred on that occasion to the difficulties which had been experienced up to then in procuring any supply of maize. On the last occasion I spoke here, we had reached the position that the available stocks of maize had become almost exhausted and no new stocks were in sight. Since then, a substantial quantity of maize has been imported. There was a sudden and, at that time, unexpected improvement in the position. Our normal weekly requirements of maize, based upon our experience of other years, is about 8,500 tons. In the past two or three weeks, we imported somewhat more than 25,000 tons of maize into various ports. There are other cargoes at present discharging, or about to arrive at ports, which will ensure that supplies will be available for some weeks to come.
The difficulties which arose in procuring a supply of maize and which we anticipated might arise in connection with wheat induced us to promote the establishment of an organisation to deal with the purchase, importation, and distribution of all the grain required by the country which can be procured during the period of the war. A company known as Grain Importers, Limited, has been set up for that purpose. That company is now purchasing maize for this country and, in addition to the cargoes I have already mentioned, which cargoes were imported by private importers but partly taken over by this organisation, they are bringing in a number of additional cargoes on their own account. The main difficulty which has arisen in connection with the supply of grains is associated with the provision of transport facilities. There is, apparently, maize to be got if shipping facilities can be arranged. It will be the duty of this company not merely to purchase the maize required but to arrange, in conjunction with the Department of Supplies, for the transport of maize and other grains to this country. Any maize imported by this company must be distributed in accordance with the directions of the Minister for Supplies. Generally speaking, it is proposed to allocate supplies of maize to millers registered at 31st August on the basis of the quantity of maize-meal manufactured during the year ended 31st July. Private maize millers, authorised on the 3lst August, will be allocated maize on the basis of the quantity of maize licensed to them in the year ended 31st August. It is possible that that system of allocation may have to be varied but, in a general way, it indicates what is proposed. The allocation of maize to private maize millers may present a difficulty at the start, but every care will be taken to give equitable treatment to all. There are about 4,000 such millers and their total annual consumption is about 2,500 tons. It will be obvious, therefore, that many of them do not use more than two tons per annum, so that the allocation of, say, a fortnight's supply will not be an easy matter to settle. However, these private millers will not be overlooked.
Does that mean a man who mills maize for his own use?
It is not possible to say more in relation to maize at this stage than I have said. We have set up an organisation which will enable us to deal with the difficulty of purchasing and importing maize. We have established the necessary governmental control for the distribution of the maize imported. The position is that we are able to procure supplies at present. There are difficulties about transport of these supplies here, and these difficulties will be overcome as best we can by whatever arrangements can be made for that purpose.
The position regarding wheat is as I stated on the previous occasion. There is no difficulty at present in procuring supplies of wheat and no difficulties are anticipated in relation to wheat for some considerable time to come. The position in regard to fertilisers is somewhat different. The fertilisers regarded as essential for tillage are superphoshates, sulphate of ammonia, potash and compound manures. So far as superphosphates are concerned, there does not appear to be a likelihood of difficulty in maintaining the supply of raw materials to the superphosphate factories here. There are seven such factories in the country which are capable of supplying all our requirements. In the past, we had an arrangement by which the requirements of County Donegal were met by superphosphates manufactured in Derry and an arrangement has been made with the United Kingdom authorities which will permit of that system being continued. The quantity of superphosphates normally used in County Donegal will be supplied from the Derry factory.
The raw materials required by the manufacturers of superphosphates are phosphate of lime, barytes, and ammonia liquid. Phosphate of lime comes from North Africa, and the position appears to be that there are ample supplies available, subject to price and availability of shipping. As regards the question of price and shipping, discussions are proceeding at the present time, but, apart altogether from the outcome of these discussions, there are available in the country substantial quantities of that material, as well as of superphosphates manufactured for stock. It is anticipated that there will not be any real difficulty in maintaining quite a substantial supply of superphosphates. I cannot relate what that probable supply may be to normal requirements, or our requirements in the coming year, but it seems likely that we shall be able to meet the greater part of the needs of the agricultural producer of the country. Apart from phosphate of lime, barytes come from Spain and Portugal, and I think the difficulty about getting them is the provision of shipping. That matter is the subject of negotiations at the present time. There appears to be no reason to anticipate any difficulty in the matter of ammonia liquid.
What about basic slag?
I shall deal with that in a moment. The position about other fertilisers required for tillage purposes is different. So far as sulphate of ammonia is concerned, there are supplies in the country, and I think I can say that there will lie no difficulty in procuring for this country our fair proportion of the supplies that will be available. Whether these supplies will be sufficient for our purposes is another matter, hut I think we shall have, at least, the same quantity relative to our needs that other countries will have. The position in regard to potash is much more difficult. In the past our supplies came mainly from Germany and France, and at the present time these supplies are cut off. There are, however, substantial stocks of potash in the country. Potash is used either as an ingredient in the manufacture of compound manures or for the purpose of direct application. So far as the requirements of the country are concerned, it appears that there is sufficient potash here to make available in the coining year the same quantity, or almost the same quantity, as was in fact used in the past. It is, however, not possible at this moment to say whether we can procure further supplies of potash. The question of manufacturing potash from kelp was raised here, and the matter has been discussed with our Industrial Research Council, but there are obvious difficulties. The quantity that could be produced in the country would be small. Its production depends upon the production of iodine, and the economics of iodine production depend very largely upon the price in the world market. As Deputies will remember, the attempt to maintain iodine production in this country collapsed because of the high cost in relation to world market prices. However, further discussions as to the possibility of producing potash from kelp are proceeding with the Industrial Research Council and the Gaeltacht Section of the Department of Lands.
Deputy Dillon asked about basic slag. The position there is somewhat obscure. There are certain supplies in the country, less than our normal annual requirements, which we are anxious to supplement; but up to the present time no solution of the problem of supplementing these supplies has been found. Certain inquiries are proceeding, and it is possible that in the course of the next few days there will be an improvement in the position, but I should not like to be taken as saying that there will not be difficulty in maintaining the supply of basic slag, because present indications are that the difficulties will be fairly considerable. Maize and fertilisers were the matters affecting agricultural production in respect of which questions were asked.
In the course of question time to-day, we had a number of queries relating to the supply of sugar. It is, I think, necessary to explain to the Dáil what our experience has been concerning complaints that reach us. A consultative committee has been set up which consists of officers of the Sugar Company and the representatives of the Irish sugar wholesalers. That committee meets every evening for the purpose of investigating complaints received during the day. These complaints are from traders who allege that they have got no sugar from their usual wholesaler, or that their usual wholesaler has refused to supply them with their normal quantities, or from consumers that they have been refused supplies by their ordinary trader on the ground that he has not got supplies. Occasionally complaints come from industrial users of sugar, who say that they have had difficulty in getting their requirements met. A high proportion of the complaints which reach us are not bona fide, and are immediately shown to be without merit when submitted to that consultative committee. It has frequently happened that a trader has written saying that he has got no sugar for a month, and his complaint, when brought before the consultative committee, has been countered by the wholesaler present there showing that he had supplied the trader within the past few days. It is necessary for Deputies to treat with some caution a number of the complaints they receive. However, I want Deputies to understand that there is machinery in existence which results in every single complaint being investigated by people who are in a position to get at once all the facts concerning them. That committee meets daily, and every complaint that is found by them to be a bona fide complaint results in action being taken to release sugar to the trader or the manufacturer concerned or to enable the situation to be dealt with.
There are obvious difficulties which I ask Deputies to keep in mind. We had in the past, and we anticipate that we shall have in the future, sufficient sugar to meet all our normal requirements. Deputies are familiar with the position in relation to sugar in this country. We have a number of sugar factories which, if they got enough beet, could produce all the sugar we require. We know that they will not have enough beet to produce all our sugar in the current season, but they will produce two-thirds of our requirements. These factories are commencing their 1939 campaign this week, subject to no unforeseen developments arising. They will produce in the next nine, 10 or 12 weeks about eight months' supply of sugar. We had to carry on the sugar supply until this week, or until the end of this month, when the campaign begins, and we had enough sugar to do that. We shall have to bridge the gap between the end of the period during which home-produced sugar will be available and the commencement of the 1940 campaign, which will, we hope, give us sufficient sugar to supply our full twelve months' requirements.
There was not any sugar to spare, even though there was no danger of shortage if the ordinary normal trading arrangements had continued to operate. It was found necessary to limit the quantity of sugar going out to wholesalers by reason of the fact that during the last week of peace and the first week of war people were stampeded into buying abnormal quantities of sugar. I think the stampede started on an injudicious advertisement inserted in the daily papers by a well-known Dublin firm. They had experience of the last war in which there was a scarcity of sugar, forgetting that our conditions are entirely different on this occasion. As a result of that there was panic buying which was facilitated by a number of traders and wholesalers. That continued until certain merchants, whether wholesale or retail merchants, found themselves in the position that their two months' quota of sugar, which should have represented their full normal trading for that period, had become depleted before the end of the two months. The sugar company were unwilling to release to them sugar as against their October requirements knowing that that would only postpone the difficulty for a little period. That difficulty was one which was likely to be of a temporary nature, only, in so far as wholesalers or retailers got themselves into an awkward position by reason of their selling excessive quantities to individual consumers. The situation has almost remedied itself already, and I should say will have entirely disappeared by the end of the present month.
I mentioned the fact that we had a normal supply of sugar and no more, but it is to be remembered that thousands of men were called up for military service. Their requirements of sugar had to be supplied. It was not possible to take the additional sugar required for the Army to meet their needs off the quota of individual traders. A number of new housing areas had opened up about the same time to which people had moved. The traders in those areas were increasing their sales of sugar, and to meet the influx of population, were demanding more and more sugar from the wholesalers. Of course, it was not possible to determine what wholesaler or what retailer should have his allowance cut in order to increase the supplies to retailers in the new areas. These were difficulties which took some time to adjust. Arrangements have now been made to adjust them. In the meantime we have been working upon an ad hoc system. On receipt of a complaint from a trader that he had not sufficient sugar to supply his customers the complaint was investigated by the Consultative Council and, if found to be in order, some additional supplies were released through one of the wholesalers who market sugar for the Irish Sugar Company. Whatever difficulties have arisen will have ended, or should end in the immediate future, because we will have available not merely the normal supply of sugar but more sugar than will be required to meet immediate needs.
Could the Minister give the figure in cwts. of the home consumption of sugar and of the home production of sugar?
We consume about 100,000 tons of sugar per annum roughly.
And the production would be about 66,000 tons?
Somewhere about that. The production, of course, will depend on the sugar content of the beet which is now being brought into the factories. At present it is not possible to say what the figure will be. One cannot tell that until the end of the manufacturing season.
Normally, I take it the proportion would be 66 to 100?
About two-thirds. I am speaking now of white granulated sugar. There is no castor sugar available and none obtainable. People are complaining of their inability to get it, but we are unable to obtain it. There is also a difficulty in obtaining supplies of brown sugar. That difficulty is likely to persist for some time. Arrangements have been made which we hope will ease the situation at some later date, but for the present industrial users of sugar, who normally have their requirements met by brown sugar, are being supplied with white granulated sugar by the sugar company.
Some anxiety was expressed in relation to tea, mainly by reason of the fact that there was a temporary interruption in the normal movements of tea into the country. When the war started on 1st September there were supplies of tea in the country sufficient to last us for three months or so. In connection with tea, it can be said that the war started at the most inconvenient time. Most people are aware of the fact that the new season's tea becomes available some time after the 1st September, and traders normally delay purchasing their new season's supply until after that date. However, that fact does not appear to have been taken into account. Arrangements have now been made which will ensure, I think, that full supplies of tea will be available. I do not anticipate any difficulty whatever in connection with tea. Whatever difficulties have arisen so far have been due to purely temporary causes which have now been removed. Ample supplies of tea are available which will enable that trade to be carried out without any necessity for regulation or control other than the general supervision exercised by the Department of Supplies.
Is the Minister free to say now whether he intends to fix a price for tea?
We do not contemplate fixing a price for tea at present. The fixing of a price for tea involves establishing a standard tea. Until it is dear that there is likely to be a difficulty in the matter of supplies or price, which would necessitate such a course, we do not propose to do it. Present indications are that there are ample supplies of tea available in the qualities ordinarily used by our people. The trade will foe carried on without any great degree of Government control.
I do not know that it is desirable that I should say anything about petrol. Up to the present there has been no apparent difficulty in procuring quantities of petrol sufficient to maintain our petrol rationing system on the present basis. We hope to transfer the basis of our petrol rationing system from one month to three months. That will be a great convenience not merely to the users of petrol but to the staff of the Department of Supplies. It will permit of more time being available to give consideration to the individual applications for increased rations which have to be dealt with upon a very slip-shod basis at present. Perhaps they are not being dealt with at all because the task was so great there is a stack of unopened letters in the Department. If we can operate upon Use longer basis, then all the arrears of work can be cleared off, and the rationing of petrol is bound to be upon a more regular basis than we have at present.
There is a certain risk in working upon this three-months period, because the available storage in the country is only sufficient to give us a three-months supply. We can start off at the beginning of the period with our storage full, but whether we will be able to keep it full during the whole of the period is, of course, outside our knowledge. Judging by our experience to date, I should think that we will be able to maintain the existing petrol rationing system undisturbed for some time to come. Some adjustments in regard to the classes of vehicles may be necessary. In relation to certain classes of vehicles, there appears to be general agreement that we were unduly generous when compared to others. Some adjustment as between classes of vehicles can be usefully made, but the same quantity of petrol will go out under the scheme.
Will the basis be the same?
The basis will be roughly the same.
In view of the very great bearing which the rationing of petrol has on employment, and is bound to have on revenue, will the Minister say whether he has in any way gone into the question as to whether it would be possible to maintain here the normal supplies of petrol that-will enable him to depart from the rationing scheme?
I do not think we would be justified in departing from the rationing scheme at the present time. The Deputy understands that the war has not properly started yet, and it is impossible to foretell what effect it is going to have on our supply position; but upon the basis of our present knowledge it is necessary to maintain our rationing scheme, because we can anticipate a diminution in oar petrol supplies, and so long as av reason to anticipate a diminution in our total supply, it is obviously desirable to ensure that such petrol as is procurable will be used for the most essential purposes. That is what the rationing scheme is designed to do. I fully appreciate the Deputy's point concerning employment, but I would ask him to understand that the cut which we have made in the total quantity of petrol going out into the country has not been unduly severe. We may have to be more severe at some future period. We have endeavoured to be as liberal as possible, and to take such risks as we thought the circumstances would justify us in taking, in order to keep up the maximum output of petrol, because of the effect of a curtailment upon employment. If the situation should change at any time in such a manner as to appear to justify us in dropping the petrol rationing scheme, it will be done. There is no desire to maintain it one day longer than the needs of the position seem to make necessary.
Would it be possible for the Minister to extend the allowance to the medical profession in country districts? They have to cover a very large area, and their allowance is very limited.
I do not think it would be practical to discuss now the allowance to individual classes. We have tried to segregate the community into those who use motor vehicles in connection with a business or profession, and those who use motor cars purely as a convenience. We have tried to classify the people upon whose livelihood the availability of a motor car has an important bearing, and to give those people the maximum quantity of petrol we could allow them, reducing to a minimum the ration to those who use motor cars purely as a convenience.
The class to which I have referred deserves very sympathetic consideration.
The Deputy will understand that in the short period at our disposal we could only work on a rule of thumb basis. We said: "We will fix a basic ration, and give certain classed, say, three times that amount." If we could get the scheme working on a three-months basis, we may have time to go back over the allowances, and arrange them more equitably.
We have had references from time to time to the supply of building materials. I think the best way of putting the position to the House is to say that there is not at present any scarcity of building materials either existing or anticipated. That statement may not be completely accurate. In relation to some forms of building equipment, there might be certain delays in getting supplies, but so far as the main materials required are concerned, there are fairly ample supplies available in the country, or procurable.
What about cement?
I do not anticipate that that position will change for some time. Deputy Dillon asks about cement. The arrangements in relation to cement, as explained by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, were upset by an unfortunate accident. The position concerning cement is that supplies are procurable from abroad. There was a difficulty about price—the Deputy will understand what I am driving at when I mention that matter— and it was necessary to ensure that the cement which was imported was imported at what was regarded by us as a fair price to us. There was some delay before arrangements could be made which would ensure that, and on the basis of our anticipated needs arrangements were made to import a quantity of cement. Our needs increased by reason of a certain breakdown in home production plant, which caused a temporary dislocation in supply, but that will be a purely temporary dislocation. Subject to those unforeseen accidents, the full requirements of the country in cement will be available.
It is necessary that those who have been concerned with the effect of the war upon building trade and building trade employment should examine the position closely. Of the total output of our building industry, about 40 per cent. is represented by public buildings or working-class dwellings erected for local authorities under Government housing schemes. The other 60 per cent. of the output of the building industry is represented by churches, factories, hotels, shops and private dwellings erected to the order of private individuals. It is to be anticipated that there will be a decrease of activity in relation to all the forms of building comprised in that 60 per cent., because people have a natural hesitation about entering into commitments for the construction of buildings of that kind during a period of war, but principally because a rise in cost is to be expected. The cost of a number of the building materials which have to be imported will inevitably go up by reason of higher freight costs, war risk insurance and other factors. If there is a diminution in building activity of the kinds to which I have referred, then, of course, the problem of maintaining the supply required to enable the activities of the Government Departments and of local authorities to be continued will be made simpler. But if the output of the building industry is to be maintained, and if the employment given by that industry is to be kept up, then the primary matter to which consideration must be given is that of cost. It would, I think, be useful if the various parties concerned—the architects who determine the designs and the quality of the materials used in building, the contractors, the suppliers, and the representatives of the unions of workers—were to discuss amongst themselves how the problem of rising costs can be met, because, of course, unless that problem can be dealt with in some way, there is bound to be a diminution of building activity, irrespective of the course of action, whatever it may be, that the Government may take in relation to public buildings or working-class housing schemes.
I do not know that it is necessary for me to go in detail over all the building materials in respect of which there may be some doubts as to the supply. There is a quantity of timber in the country. Some timber has been imported recently. We are setting up, for the purchase of timber, an organisation similar to that already set up for the purpose of cement. This organisation will have the responsibility of procuring timber wherever it can be procured, and arranging for its shipment here. The Government will supervise the user of timber here It is intended to take control over the timber supplies that are available and that may be imported, for the purpose of ensuring that, if there is any limitation in supply, the available quantity will be used for the most urgent purposes. The normal use of native timber is roughly 1,250,000 cubic feet per annum. We have about 13,000,000 cubic feet of merchantable timber growing and available to meet that requirement.
So far as structural steel is concerned, the indications are that there will be no difficulty in obtaining whatever supplies we may require. In regard to the ordinary equipment of a building, cast iron pipes and other iron castings, copper tubing, bricks. slates, tiles and so forth, there are either no difficulties at all to be anticipated, or sufficient supplies of these commodities or of the materials to make these commodities within the country to enable normal output to be maintained for some considerable time to come.
What is the possibility of obtaining cast iron water pipes for street work?
I do not know that there is any difficulty at all in getting any class of cast iron goods.
Oh, no. Most cast iron goods are, I think, manufactured here in one or other of the iron foundries.
The Deputy means pipes of large diameter.
Street water pipes.
The Deputy, I think, is referring to certain forms of iron castings of a size too large to be manufactured here. I am not aware of any difficulties arising so far. I would not say that no difficulty will arise, but no case of difficulty has been brought to my notice.
Various local authorities are about to embark on water works schemes and will the Minister undertake to investigate the position?
It is a matter which it would be quite easy to investigate.
Will the Minister undertake to investigate it ?
Certainly. I would like some evidence that there was some difficulty experienced in procuring supplies before taking the matter up with the competent authority in another country, but I will have inquiries made in the matter We have had some difficulty in getting supplies of non-ferrous metals, but the question of meeting our requirements is at present the subject of negotiation. There is a large number of industrial raw materials in respect of which difficulties have arisen. In respect of some of them difficulties are inevitable and probably will prove insurmountable but, on the whole, I think it is possible to say that we have been able to maintain the supply of raw materials to all industries which have experienced any problem in relation to them so far. Some of these materials, certain forms of dyes, glucose, some textile yarns. vegetable oils and others which I need not enumerate, will be a constant source of difficulty for the duration of the emergency, but by various ad hoc and makeshift arrangements we hope to be able to keep up sufficient supplies to enable the work of the factories using those materials to be continued.
Before concluding I would like to say a few words concerning prices. As Deputies were informed, we have taken into the Department of Supplies and established as a branch of that Department the organisation of the Prices Commission. That organisation is now working under the terms of the Emergency Powers Order which are much wider than the terms of the Prices Control Act under which the Prices Commission previously functioned. Because there were so many unknown factors in the position it was not possible lo lay down a systematic arrangement for price control heretofore. We had to work upon a day to day basis. As Deputies are aware, we made a standstill order for the pricey of a large number of commodities that might be immediately affected by a war situation, and we have released from that order the commodities which it covered only when a case for such release was made or when the commodities concerned were made the subject of a specific order fixing prices in relation to one or two commodities only. There is, of course, a, number of commodities in respect of which the making of specific price orders constitute a very great difficulty. It may be impossible in some cases either because of the number of varieties of the commodities concerned or because of the effect of transport charges upon its retail price. Coal is a case in point. The making of a specific price order in relation to coal which would fix a price for coal in every district where it is sold retail would be a colossal task. We may be able to evolve some system which will enable us to relate the c.i.f. price at the port of importation to the cost of transport to the centre where it is sold retail and get some system of price arrangement which will permit of the maintenance of control all over the country upon some equitable basis, but Deputies who will give any thought to the matter will see at once the magnitude as well as the difficulty of that task. Consequently, in relation to coal, as well as in relation to certain other commodities, we are still working on the basis of the standstill order —a most unsatisfactory basis—but one which cannot be changed for the present. It does enable us to maintain some form of control until another system has been devised. We have now been able to accumulate the information which will permit of our attempting to put price control upon a more systematic basis. I am talking now of a general control of prices but as Deputies are aware, there are facilities available for the immediate investigation of individual complaints as to overcharging by traders either for goods or for services.
I would like to pay tribute to the very large number of public-spirited people who have sent complaints to my Department or furnished it with information concerning cases of overcharging. A very large number of representations and complaints has been received, all of which have been either investigated or are in process of investigation. In a number of cases the action taken by the Department produced the desired result of rectification of prices in respect of which complaints were made. In some cases, naturally enough, the complaints were found to be without justification. I would like to take this opportunity of urging upon the public that they should avail of that service provided by my Department as fully as possible. When making complaints, however, members of the public should appreciate that it is not possible to investigate them fully unless particulars of the deal in respect of which the complaint is made are furnished, that is, the nature of the commodity purchased and the name of the firm or the trader from which the commodity was purchased, including the price charged for it. If that information is made available, the machinery of the Department will be put into motion for the purpose of investigating the complaints and taking the appropriate action if the complaint is found to be justified. At the present time we are making arrangements for increasing the inspectorial staff of the Department dealing with that branch of its work and, consequently, there should be, and I expect there will be, no delay in dealing with all complaints received. A number of Prices Orders have been made in recent weeks fixing maximum wholesale or retail prices for particular commodities, but the greater part of the work of the Department in the matter of price control has been, of course, by way of making arrangements with the organisations of the producers or of the wholesalers of particular commodities, arrangements relating to the price that they would charge and the conditions that they would attach to the sale of their products. A number of these arrangements have been made. They are working satisfactorily and are kept constantly under review by the Prices Branch. If there are any Deputies who have complaints to make about prices I would be glad if they would give them to me In as specific a form us possible. They should understand, and will, I am sure, understand, that the investigation of prices complaints involves the examination of a great deal of data.
It is not possible to form a judgment in relation to the price that should be charged for any commodity upon a mere surface examination of the position. Such an investigation, to be of value, must be very thorough. Deputies who desire to have these complaints investigated should furnish the Department with all the information they can in relation to the complaints. If they do that, I can promise them that their complaints will be very expeditiously dealt with.
What has been the nature of the punishment inflicted in the case of proved profiteering ?
In the case of individual sales, the action taken by the Department has been to procure a refund of the overcharge.
And leave them there, to repeat the offence if they are so inclined ?
What will happen if they repeat the offence is another matter. I think we can proceed to get to the general intention: that is, the control of prices upon an equitable basis, carried out without resorting to too drastic a punishment at the beginning. We have powers to prosecute for the offence of overcharging, and these powers will be used if necessary. My experience has been that the great majority of the traders in the country have tried to conform as closely as possible to the requirements of the Government in relation to prices. It is only in very few cases that there has been any attempt at gross profiteering. We have had frequent cases of overcharging in error, where there was a misunderstanding as to the rights of the trader in relation to a particular commodity.
On the whole, the traders of the country have responded quite well to the various requests made of them and the obligations imposed upon them. However, we do not propose to leave it to their good-will. We are proposing to put the control of prices on a more systematic basis which will ensure a more automatic functioning of the control than at present. That could not have been done sooner, because we had not the data available which would enable us to work out a scheme.
It is understood that we are not to comment upon what the Minister has said; we are merely to put our observations in the form of supplementary inquiries, which the Minister will dispose of, and thus we will be enabled to conclude the discussion. I should like to make this affirmative statement: that the difficulties in securing supplies and in controlling prices are very great, and anyone who wishes to make a useful contribution to the problem should not forget the magnitude of those difficulties when feeling inclined to be critical of the Minister or the Department which is dealing with a particular matter.
I should like the Minister to tell us, broadly, what the underlying motives are of his policy. Is it correct to say that the object of price control is to ensure that no poor person in this country will be denied supplies of essential commodities for the want of the ability to pay for them? If that is the object of control, is that object achieved? Does the Minister think the object achieved if the result of his control is to abolish supplies at any cost at all? Is the Minister aware that in the last war there never was a day when supplies of everything were not available? Admittedly, prices were very high, but since the beginning of this neutrality is lie aware that there were days when we had no meal, no soap, no candles, no pollard, no linseed, no crushed flax seed, no cement, no cream of tartar? Are we achieving our purpose if, by control we abolish all supplies of certain commodities, or 'would we not Be better if we let supplies be available, albeit at a rapidly rising price?
I want the Minister to tell us what his view is. Does the Government or the Prices Controller regard it as profiteering for a merchant to base his retail price on the replacement cost of the commodity? Everybody talks loosely about profiteering. Everybody says that a merchant must do this or that. So far as I am aware, the merchants of the country are prepared to fall in with the Government's policy, whatever it is. But they must know what the Minister wants them to do, what it is the Government want them to do. If they are not allowed to charge replacement prices, will the Government protect them against the inevitable bankruptcy that awaits them at the end of the crisis? If they are allowed to charge replacement prices, have they a guarantee from the Minister that they will not be publicly convicted of profiteering? That is a categorical question, and I put it in the form of a specific query.
If a merchant has in stock 12 items the retail price of which is 1/-, and his wholesale supplier tells him that the price has advanced so that the retail price of new supplies will be 1/6, is the retail merchant entitled to raise his price for the 12 items he has in stock to 1/6, bearing in mind that at the end of the crisis he will probably have 24 such items in stock the retail price of which is 2/6, but when the slump comes he will have to take 1/- a-piece for them? Is he entitled on the up-grade to build up a reserve of surplus profit to meet the inevitable loss which he must face with the slump?
How many times will you allow him to charge replacement prices?
Always. I cannot make a speech upon this matter—we are bound not to—but I have gone fully into it. That principle was recognised in the last war. Will the Minister tell us what the view of the Prices Controller will be? Do not let this matter be determined without a, very careful review of the whole situation, lest you drive the whole commercial community into inevitable bankruptcy. What is the Government position on that question? What is the merchant to do when the August 26th standstill order requires him to sell his merchandise for less than it cost?
I can give one case to the Minister, and it is probably typical of cases in other parts of the country. Sugar was sold for a certain price in Ballaghadereen on August 26th. Under a sugar allocation scheme, merchants were allowed to draw only one week's supply. That meant that they had to pay scale rates on the railway, which increased the cost of sugar by 20/- a ton, delivered, in Ballaghaderreen. That left the price of sugar delivered in. Ballaghaderreen higher than the price that was being charged for sugar in Ballaghaderreen, and we are at present selling the sugar there for less than it cost. I fully appreciate that the Ministry is overwhelmed with inquiries. I made inquiries in order to know what we were to do. I wired to the Department once, and wrote two letters, and so far I have got no reply.
I should like the Minister to tell us what are merchants to do where that situation arises. Are they to interpret the standstill order as meaning: Take the same percentage of profit on your goods as you took on August 26th, or is it to be liberally interpreted to mean: Charge the same price precisely now as you charged on August 26th? Does the Minister think it desirable that a statutory order should be in existence which nobody in Ireland is obeying? I venture to state here publicly that no single commodity at present sold in Éire is being sold at the same price as that at which it was sold on August 26th, while the law of the land requires that every commodity, except such as have been excluded by special order, shall be sold at the prices ruling on 26th August. Is that a desirable state of affairs? Is the Minister aware that the price of Indian meal has gone up by £3 a ton since August 26th, to mention one item alone?
That is not due to freight. charges.
The Deputy will remember that I am precluded from making positive statements, and that I can only ask questions.
The Deputy is doing very well.
Can the Minister tell us what is the position in regard to soap, candles and paraffin oil? A pretty general apprehension exists of an impending shortage, and it will avoid much confusion if the Minister were in a position to say now that no shortage need be anticipated. Is the Minister in a position to say what supplies of linseed or crushed flax-seed will be available later on, and, if so, what proportion of last year's supply may we expect to get this year? Is the Minister in a position to say whether supplies of cream of tartar will be available? A very acute shortage of that commodity exists in the country at present, but it may be only a passing phase. Is the Minister aware that although ho forecast normal supplies of cement on October 6th, no cement has been delivered for the last three weeks. in some cases, and can he say when normal supplies will be available again? I fully appreciate the difficulties but I suggest to the Minister that it is very necessary that he should allow himself a margin of safety, and to say that we cannot have normal supplies until the second week of November, but that after the date he names, he should be quite certain that normal supplies would be forthcoming.
Will the Minister consider fixing minimum prices for commodities like sugar, flour, coal, and milk all over the country, and saying in respect of other commodities: Let competition fix the price of those? If he does that, he will protect any vulnerable poor person from temporary exploitation in regard to essentials which must be bought from day to day, and the force of competition will redress any temporary attempt to profiteer in other commodities. Lastly, is the Minister aware that two separate problems exist in regard to sugar? One is the manufacturers' problem, and I do not profess to know anything about that; the other is the retail distributors' problem, and I do profess to know all about that. Is the Minister aware that that problem divides itself into two parts, the city and the rural problem; and if he is not, will he send for somebody like Senator McEllin, or somebody who is familiar with the rural distribution of sugar. who will explain to him in 20 minutes what the difficulty is there. Anybody will explain the peculiar difficulty in rural Ireland which docs not operate in the city at all because, in the city, you have the big wholesaler and retailer, while in rural Ireland you have the big wholesaler, the middling wholesaler and the small wholesaler, as well as the country shop. It is in that area that 60 per cent. of the Minister's difficulties are arising.
Will the Minister then approve a permissive system of rationing, whereunder individuals could register with certain shopkeepers and, on their registration being accepted, that shopkeeper would accept responsibility to deliver a certain modicum of sugar each week, giving the purchaser a remedy against the shopkeeper if he failed to keep his bargain? If such a permissive system were established. I suggest that without any administrative expense at all to the Government, the complaints of 90 per cent. of those who at present find themselves short could be provided for.
At this point, I would appeal to the House to co-operate with the Chair in trying to carry out the arrangement come to. It is rather novel, but it is an arrangement which has been arrived at. The arrangement is that at the end of each statement, questions arising relevantly out of the statement, with some regard to number and at the discretion of the Chair, should be put. I ask the House co-operate with the Chair, because Deputy Dillon has got away with something a little beyond mere questions. I ask members to keep their questions until the Minister's statement is finished, and then to put them as shortly, as succinctly, and as generally as possible.
I think the Minister was most informative in his statement, and most anxious to give the House all the information in his possession. His statement, if it can secure the maximum publicity, will help to allay feelings of apprehension throughout the country. There are a few questions I want to put in order to ascertain more detailed information. One of the commodities we import here in large quantity is newsprint. We are relying wholly on outside sources for it and, to a large extent, for paper which is not newsprint. I should like the Minister to make some statement indicating the position in that respect. Some of it comes from across the Atlantic, from Canada, and some from the Baltic region. There may be difficulty in regard to the latter region and there may be none in regard to the former, and I should like the Minister to make some statement in respect of newsprint and paper imported generally because these matters have an important bearing on the newspaper industry and the printing industry generally. I should like the Minister also to say what stock of wheat we have in the country. Have we reason to believe that it is possible for us to maintain our existing stocks of wheat at a level sufficient to carry us over a prolonged period, and over what period exactly?
The Minister indicated that it might be possible to revise the petrol rationing scheme in order to substitute a three monthly period for the monthly period. I think that would be a considerable advantage and would import some more stability into the petrol and oil industry than is there to-day by reason of the short period of rationing. If we are to have, as has been stated in Great Britain, a war likely to last for three years, I should like the Minister to say whether he has given any consideration to the question of increasing the petrol storage capacity of the country. According to the Minister's statement, the petrol storage capacity is three months' supply. That is an extremely small storage capacity, and, if we are to continue to live in a politically yeasty Europe, it is desirable for us to provide more storage capacity than at present exists. Will the Minister therefore give some consideration to the question whether some temporary additional storage capacity can be provided, or permanent storage if necessary, so as to ensure that the country will have at its disposal and available for its internal business adequate supplies of petrol, which not only provide substantial employment in connection with importation and distribution, but provide the State with a very substantial amount of revenue?
I should also like to ask the Minister whether he would not give some further consideration to the sugar position. It was stated to-day at question time that there was a shortage of sugar in places throughout the country and, no matter what the Minister may say about his consultative council or anything else, the fact remains that thousands upon thousands of persons throughout the country can tell him that they cannot get their normal supplies of sugar and that it is not possible for them to get their usual weekly supplies. I think, therefore, the Minister ought to say, he will try to perfect the arrangements in respect of the distribution of sugar so as to ensure that the consumer will be able to get supplies.
It is an extremely uncomfortable position for a housekeeper, who has five or six young children to be fed, only to be able to get ½ lb. or 1 lb. of sugar per week. Last week a woman told me that u very large firm in Dublin, with which she had been dealing a long time would only supply her with 1 lb. sugar, although she said that for a very long time she had been getting 6 or 7 lbs. per week. The manager apologised for not being able to supply her normal needs and said that 1 lb. was all he could give that week. No representations by the woman succeeded in inducing the manager to give any more. His explanation was that there was a shortage of sugar, that he did not get it, and, consequently, could not give any more. That is a very large firm in the City of Dublin, probably one of the largest, if not the largest, of the chain stores in this country.
That is a situation which is arising every day in the week. Poor people are finding it very difficult to get sugar Even a rationing system under which everybody would be entitled to a minimum supply, of sugar would be much better than the present haphazard system, where the fortunate can buy and hoard, but the unfortunate people who can only buy on Friday or on Saturday when everybody is looking for sugar are not able to get normal supplies. I should like, therefore, to ask the Minister to give some further consideration to the sugar position, or if the present position is likely to continue.
The only other question I should like to ask the Minister is whether, in the early stages of the war—as he said himself, it has not yet started properly —when it may be easier to get raw materials for our secondary industries than 12 months hence, he will give consideration to the question of urging every industry which finds it necessary to import raw materials, because it finds it impossible to get the raw materials within the country, to buy now as much as it can, anywhere it can, so as to ensure that all industries will be able to prepare even for the most difficult times ahead. Many firms can do that, and any investment by firms in the purchase of raw materials will yield a very much better return than investments of a less important character which many of them carry. Will the Minister give some consideration to the question of issuing a general instruction to industrialists to buy as much raw material as they can now, at the lowest price they can get, because even prices now, high though they may be, may be very low compared with the prices they will have to pay at a later stage ?
I should like to know if the Minister has made any arrangement for the importation of certain types of agricultural machinery. Inquiries have been made in his Department by telephone during the last three weeks about tractors, ploughs to work with tractors, binders and seed-sowing machines. Inquiries have also been made from a firm in Dublin dealing with these machines, but one of them cannot be got. It was the Minister who first mentioned that we were to have a compulsory tillage scheme. Surely there should be some arrangement made to see that farmers can get these machines.
I should like also to know if any arrangement is contemplated in regard to importation of complete fertilisers. Perhaps that may not be a matter for the Minister, but I am sure he will be intimate with the facts. Surely when there is to be a compulsory increase in tillage we will certainly want to import a supply of complete fertilisers. They were imported last year and the year before and, in some cases, sold at a cheaper price than the fertilisers manufactured here. If we want more production, there ought to be some arrangement made to import complete fertilisers.
I am sure the Minister will realise that, so far as the future is concerned, a lot depends on how far we can keep up communications with countries abroad. Possibly the Minister will not be in a position to give any indication as to the question, but his attitude with reference to petrol rather encourages me to put it, namely, are the Government taking steps to see that communication is kept up at least with neutral countries so far as the supply of raw material to this country is concerned? I admit that it is beyond any forces that the Minister or the Government can control, but I should like to know if steps are being taken to see that there is communication between this country and other countries. I presume that the Minister is at least hopeful in that respect, because he has made it clear in connection with an important matter like petrol that he is going to adopt the three months' system of rationing, even though the storage capacity of the country is only three months. We get a great deal of petrol from the Dutch East Indies. I presume, therefore, that apart from the question of cost, the Minister and the Government are taking steps to see that there will be a normal supply, and that it will not be interfered with. The whole question of supplying the raw materials which we cannot produce here will depend on our communications being kept open. I want, therefore, an assurance that the Government are doing everything they can in that way, and some indication of what they are doing, if possible.
As regards the bringing in of supplies to the country, I should like to know if it is a fact that certain ports of import have been fixed by the Government, or if they intend to do that. I have received a resolution from the Kerry County Committee of Agriculture, objecting to Fenit, for instance, not being used as a port of call or import for maize.
Since they sent that resolution 5,600 tons of maize came into Fenit.
That finishes that. To return to the question of petrol, I understand that on the last occasion the, Minister in answering a question more or less indicated that the storage of petrol was in private hands and that it was not strictly speaking, a Government question. Can it not be made a Government question? I understand that there were at least four oil tankers in Cobh and that the oil could not be taken in because there was not sufficient storage. Anyway there were some tankers there.
They were not our property.
I understand they were willing to sell to the people of this country.
There were certain tankers bound for Germany with petrol, and when the war started they put into Cobh to await further instructions from their owners
I understand that in some cases they were willing to sell. People have stated that they were offered petrol but there was no storage.
I am not saying that some of the crude oil and petrol brought into Cobh was in fact purchased here.
I understand from the attitude of the Minister that he is going to consider the question of the Government's taking in hands the matter of storage for that and other commodities. Then there is the inevitable question of sugar. I presume that, whatever regulations are adopted, they will be operated with a certain amount of elasticity. The Minister himself in his statement mentioned new areas. There will be new shops in those areas. If there are new shops, obviously it would not be fair to a shopkeeper to fix any given 12 months, especially during the period in which he starts business, for his quota in future. I have a case in mind—I think I brought it before the Minister's Department—where a man started a new business say, in January. 1939. He was hard-working and built up the business and gradually, month by month, his sale of sugar increased from 42 bags in January—that was only a half month—to 71 bags in February, 89 in March, 126 in April, 129 in May, and going on up to 146 bags in July and much more in August. Now, if that man's quota depends on a 12-month period, ending 31st March, his business is largely gone. I am sure that the Minister would deal with a case like that.
Of course, we may not be able to give the person concerned the full quantity that ho himself expects.
No, I quite understand that; but what I am asking is that he will be treated as generously as possible, taking all the circumstances and all the rules into consideration.
Well, thank you very much. That is all I wanted. Now, with regard to the three-monthly period in connection with petrol, that will be very useful, but it does suggest that, in other cases, commodities will be brought into the country, and I hope that the Minister will see that there is a sufficient quantity of such commodities brought in during what, I think, he referred to as the proper course of the war—however, I do not like that word, but let us say during the normal course if the war. I am sure that the Minister will deal sympathetically with the points I have raised, and, indeed, by his attitude in connection with a number of points that have been raised, he has already indicated that he will deal sympathetically with these points.
I would ask the Minister to invite the industrialists of this country to co-operate more closely with the shipping and transport companies who are engaged in getting in the essential raw materials of the industries concerned, and I would also ask the Minister to get, as far as possible, from these industrialists, a list of the raw materials required, and classify the same for the shipping and transport companies so that they may give preference, where it must be given, to the most essential imports coming into the country. There is only a limited amount of shipping and other transport available, cross-Channel and inside the country, as well as internally in England, and the position for some time past—and I claim to have some knowledge of it—is that traffic has been allocated in advance. I know of cases where essential raw materials could be got into the country quicker if any reasonable notice wore given by the industrialists to the transport companies. I am sure that the Minister himself is sufficiently aware that demands that are made cannot be acceded to inside 24 hours in view of the limited amount of transport that is now available and also in view of the restrictions and regulations that are existing at the moment in England. I would urge the Minister to ask the industrialists to classify for him what are to be regarded as the essential raw materials of their particular industries and to keep in constant, touch with the shipping and transport companies, and I would further urge the Minister to issue whatever instructions he may deem desirable in that respect. For instance, these industrialists, through the Minister, could inform the shipping and transport companies when orders are being given to people in England, let us say, for the supply of raw materials, and, similarly, sufficient notice should be given to the transport companies in England as to when that traffic is likely to be tendered. If that a measure of co-operation were forthcoming I am sure that there would be greater speed in the supplying of the raw materials that, must come into this country to enable our new industries to carry on and to maintain whatever employment there is here at the present time.
I have two questions to put to the Minister. One of them was dealt with fairly completely, by Deputy 0'Sullivan. That was in connection with the distribution of sugar. Under the heading of "New Business and Growing Trade", I have correspondence here from the Sugar Company to say that the distribution of sugar is governed by a rule made by the merchants, and I have also a letter here from a wholesale merchant saying that sugar is being distributed according to a rule made by the Sugar Company. In neither case is the Department of Supplies mentioned. The point I want to make is that by neither body is any provision made either for the new shop or the shop with a growing trade. I take it that the Minister would agree that, if the merchants make the rule there will he no loophole for the new shop or the shop with a growing trade, and I should like to be informed, when the Minister is replying, as to what body does make the rules governing the distribution of sugar. Nominally, I am sure, it is the Minister's Department. but is it from the Sugar Company or from the merchants that he gets the advice?
Now, on the question of petrol, I regret that I was not in the House when the Minister was opening his statement, but I am glad to learn that petrol is going to be on a three-months' ration. All I would ask in that connection is this: that, as aside from the special classes specially dealt with in the present petrol system, more expeditious consideration would be given to ordinary people, such as farmers who may have a special case, either through their farms being outlying farms or through their business being mainly from fair to fair. I ask that consideration of a sympathetic kind and of an expeditious kind should be given to people who are classified at the moment as private owners.
I want to raise a couple of points and I welcome this new procedure of asking questions, because it. is not always easy to get a reply. First of all, I should like to suggest to the Minister——
I would point out that this procedure is quite exceptional and is designed to meet a special occasion.
I think the Minister's Department is already dealing with the petrol question. In some cases coupons for larger quantities might be given, instead of Having to make out a coupon for one gallon each time. Probably coupons could be given out for greater units. That might not suit in every case, but the Minister's Department could deal with the question. The Minister spoke of panic buying of sugar, and of hoarding. That may have been done by individuals, but I suggest another reason, namely, that some people got ahead of the Government and, when war broke out many of them thought that it would be very useful to have jam. Many housewives started to lay in stores of jam. I should not be surprised it that was the cause of upsetting many of the calculations that were made. Numbers of people. I who ordinarily did not make jam, did so and stored it. I do not know if that is true or not. I should like to raise another point, which is not a hypothetical one, hut concerns a problem that is exercising the minds of many people at present. In ordinary times when supplies are bought on a very narrow margin, there is probably no difference in the price charged by various retailers for certain commodities, but, in war times, conditions vary, and it might easily happen in the case of three merchants, A, B and C, that the proper price of the commodity to merchant A is £l0; to B, £15; and to C, £20. As the point has arisen, I should like to know how the Department or the Prices Commission propose to deal with that matter? Is merchant C to suspend operations and to wait until other stocks become more valuable, or will a selling price be fixed for the three merchants? I do not know how three different selling prices could be fixed for the same commodity. I do not know if the question has come before the Minister yet, but it will come before the Department.
I should like some information concerning the obtaining of stocks of raw materials or of materials for other industries. Deputy Norton was right when he said that he was surprised that larger stocks of materials had not been bought before the prices went higher. In some cases there is duty on these articles, and there is an uneasy feeling that when prices go higher, the Government, in order to cheapen things, may take off the duty. What would be the position of the importer who bought a commodity and paid duty on it if he found a couple of months later that that duty had been taken off? If the Minister can see his way to deal with the points I have raised, I will be obliged.
The Minister referred to the difficulty of getting iron pyrites. They are available in Spain if shipping could only be got to bring them here. The Minister also adverted to the fact that during the Great War Messrs. Goulding used iron pyrites from Avoca. In fact, that was the only source of supply they had then. I would not mention that now but for the fact that the Supplies Department may be going to a great deal of trouble to get materials from abroad when, possibly, good substitutes may be available in this country. The iron was used for many years by the manure manufacturers here, and I think no fault was found with it, but for some reason— probably the price—immediately the Great War concluded importation started again. The matter may not have come to the Minister's knowledge, but I suggest, if that is a material factor in causing a shortage in supplies of manure, the necessary information can be had.
Is it the intention to control the price of maize? I have been informed that a cargo of maize that was bought previous to the outbreak of war was sold since at £2 10s. a ton more than the normal price. I understand that petrol was not offered for sale for some time, but I was informed by a very responsible source that if £40,000 was available almost 1,000,000 gallons of petrol could be had.
Mr. A. Byrne
So much has been said about sugar that I would not be surprised if the Minister started to dream about it. When considering the question of distribution, I hope he will remember the manufacturing confectioners, who use a great deal of sugar. I do not know what quality sugar they use, but large numbers are engaged in the industry in the city, and I hope the Minister will see that there will be no shortage of the materials necessary to continue employment in that industry. In connection with petrol supplies, I ask the Minister to see that commercial travellers, whose livelihood depends upon being able to run small cars, in which they carry samples, will have no grievance. No matter what happens, these men should not be short of petrol. The same applies to taxi men. I do not know if they have any grievance at the moment, but they have a grievance about heavy taxation. I hope the Minister will see that the taxi men, who are dependent for their livelihood on supplies of petrol, will not be hampered. I should like to know from the Minister whether his Department has any reasonable hope that the oil refinery at the North Wall will start work soon and provide the employment that was hoped for from the industry. The establishment of the refinery was much talked about and written about in the newspapers. If materials are necessary, so that it can commence operations, the House would like to know what is causing the delay. I do not know what is the position with regard to the broadcasting of special programmes about industries. I hope that has nothing to do with the Government economy programme in not giving as many advertisements to newspapers from the Departments. I understand that newspaper men representing the daily and the evening papers met this week, and they are looking for the usual Government advertisements, so that they will not have to reduce their staffs, either by putting them on short time or by knocking off the humblest members. I sincerely sympathise with the Minister in view of all he has to contend with these times.
There is just one question I would like to ask the Minister. Has he taken steps to secure adequate steam boats of timber—adequate supplies of timber for the building trade? On Monday last we met the Builders' Federation in Cork with reference to schemes of building under the Municipal Housing Acts. The South Cork Board of Health are proposing to build, approximately, 400 houses under one particular scheme. But we are faced with the difficulty that the builders must be provided for and safeguarded with regard to either adequate supplies of timber, or else there must be an increase in their prices. Adequate supplies of timber are the chief difficulty. In the absence of this we are faced with the problem that we will have to close down and abandon the schemes altogether. The Builders' Federation will not take any risk, or else they will make use of inferior native timber. At any rate the position is that unless the Department of Supplies can help us in the matter, there is a great danger of the schemes falling through. I want to tell the Minister that immediate imports of timber are absolutely necessary. A number of tenders some time ago were submitted to the board of health, but they had to be turned down owing to the fact that they were over the engineer's estimate. The board of health had to readvertise them, and when the new tenders in reply to the second set of advertisements were sent in, they were greatly increased in price. There is there a note of warning that unless the Minister makes adequate provision for such an emergency, we are in very grave danger of having to abandon the housing schemes altogether. There was a statement made at the board meeting that there was an increase in the price of 75 per cent. over and above the pre-war prices, if we might call them so. That is a matter that must certainly engage the attention of the Minister. The probability is that profiteering will creep in in that respect. The Lord Mayor of Dublin has anticipated me in what I was about to say on the matter of the supply of petrol to taxi drivers——
The Lord Mayor of Dublin did not intervene in this debate.
I beg your pardon, I meant Deputy Byrne, the ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin. He mentioned the case of taxi drivers. I would support him in what he said in that, and I appeal for justice for this very deserving class who are making their living in this way all through the country. These men are depending on the hiring of their cars for a livelihood. Unless they can get an adequate supply of petrol they will be put out of action. That is a matter to which I would ask the Minister to give very sympathetic consideration.
I want to ask the Minister just two questions. He mentioned about the standstill order. Has there been a standstill order with regard to the price of flour? I understood flour was to be sold at a certain price.
A fixed price.
Has that been observed? As a matter of fact, merchants have informed me that they were being charged much greater prices at the mills.
Why not send these prices to me?
Has the Minister got any complaints about this matter?
I would not go so far as to say that I got no complaints. The prices were fixed for the millers as well as for the merchants.
Is the Minister satisfied that that price is being observed?
There is another question with regard to artificial manures. Have any efforts been made to urge or induce people to import artificial manures? That is a simple question, and I want an answer to it.
Import from where?
From anywhere in the world.
I have asked the Minister has any effort been made to urge or induce people to import artificial manures.
Would the Minister say whether he can Increase the petrol rations for persons who hire cars throughout the country? The people in country towns who hire out motor cars are in a great difficulty in this matter. I wrote to the Minister about it, and I did not receive any reply. I am urging the matter now, because, as I stated to the Minister in writing to him, it is clear that the basic allowance which is now available for these people will only permit them to have their vehicles on the road for only half the month. Having regard to the need of preserving the livelihoods of these people, and also having regard to the fact that numbers of private vehicles are going out of circulation, it is in the public interest that these vehicles should be kept going. I think they have a very good case, and I would strongly urge the Minister to reconsider whether he would not increase their petrol allowance. The basic allowance is 40 gallons per month. They would be able to keep on the road if they got 70 or 80 gallons in the month.
The Minister dealt at some length with the price of foodstuffs. With reference to that matter I would like to ask a question about the price of maize. I want to know if the Minister can account for the differentiation in the price of maize between this country and England?
The price of maize in England has been subsidised.
By the British Government.
Under what scheme?
The British Government are subsidising it.
By how much?
The Minister says the price of maize has been subsidised in England. I am not aware of that and I would like to have information as to by whom is the subsidy given and how much per ton? There is a difference of £3 a ton at least in the price between this country and England. One cannot buy maize at less than ten guineas a ton in this country and in some counties it is as high as £11 5s. 0d. a ton. I want now to point out that that price, taken in conjunction with the price of pigs, is an impossible price for the farmers. There is a controlled price for pigs and that price is no use to the farmers when the price of maize is at its present standard. That is a matter to which the Minister should attend at once. If the English farmer can buy maize at £7 a ton and we in this country have to pay ten guineas to £11 a ton how are we going to compete with the English pig breeder?
Is the price controlled in England?
With regard to the question of cotton seed-meal I want to point out to the Minister that that meal is absolutely essential for winter stall-feeding. In order to carry on winter stall-feeding we must have cotton seed-meal so as to have a balanced ration. I think the supplies of cotton seed-meal in this country at the present time are very limited and in that matter too I am afraid the price is all wrong.
Has the Deputy a question to put to the Minister?
Yes, Sir, I have a definite question; I do not think I am trespassing or going beyond the line taken by any previous Deputy.
It is not suggested that the Deputy is trespassing as regards the length of his speech, but the scope of the questions was laid down. Questions framed to elicit information may be asked of the Minister. Deputies are not to make statements nor debate the Minister's statement.
Very well; I want to ask this: What provision has been made for supplies of concentrated food stuffs for the stall-feeding season that is just coming in again? It is necessary to bear in mind that we are approaching the stall-feeding season and that of the winter feeding of live stock generally. For the past few years we have been exporting sugar pulp, which is a very valuable food for winter live stock. Is the pulp that is available in the sugar factories during this coming season going to be retained here for feeding live stock, or do we propose to export any of it during the coming season?
On the question of potash and artificial manures generally, I would like again to ask the Minister if any estimate has been made of the stocks of fertilisers that are in the country at the present time. I agree with the Minister that we probably will have a fairly decent supply of superphosphates, and possibly of nitrogenous manure, but I am rather worried about potash manure. I was not present at the time, but I think the Minister stated he believed there was sufficient potash manure for this coming season. I am not inclined to agree with the Minister that that is the case. From inquiries I have made I think that there are only small supplies of potash manure available at the present time.
It is essential, if we are going to have any balance in our artificial manures, that any potash manures that are offering, or can be procured at any price, be procured. I would ask the minister to give close attention to that, particularly to the supply of potash manures. I agree with him that it will be most difficult.
On the question of petrol, I do not think it is at all fair to deal with the rationing of petrol on a flat rate basis for private individuals. If you take one private individual using a car mainly for pleasure, and compare him with a cattle dealer, it is easy to realise that it is essential for the cattle trader that these people get enough petrol. They have to go around from fair to fair, and their consumption is very heavy. I know one particular man who is a very extensive cattle trader; he is rationed to eight gallons for a 10 horse-power car for the present month. It is ridiculous to think he might be able to carry on with anything like that figure. I see the difficulty of rationing, but I think closer attention ought to be given to that matter. It is essential for the agricultural community—for people like cattle traders and farmers generally—who have to go around on important business, that they should get a reasonable supply of petrol. I would like to suggest to the Minister that, if he is going to deal with tills on a three-month basis, he should eliminate the filling up of coupons. That is a terrible waste of time, and in getting out new coupons it could be eliminated. At any rate, I do not think lie is going to get much information in that way.
There is another point I wish to raise, namely, the question of agricultural machinery. A great many people—I do not know whether the Minister is aware of it or not—have bought tractors at the present time all over the country, and I am just wondering whether there will be a sufficient supply of fuel available for those tractors, and, if there is not, if the Minister does not anticipate that there will be a sufficient supply of fuel, I think the public ought to be made aware of it.
There will be plenty for that purpose.
Is he aware that there is no tractor plough available at all? No man can buy a tractor plough in any part of the country. Can the Minister do anything about that? The tractor is of no use to a farmer if he cannot get an implement, and there is not a tractor implement of any sort available at all. If the tractors are going to be used, and if there will be sufficient fuel for them, every effort ought to be made to provide implements.
Will the Minister in his reply refer to the question of steam and water tubes and fittings? There are certain sizes of which none are available. I am aware that the export of them is controlled by a board in Great Britain. Has the Minister made any representations to that board to expedite a provisional export licence to manufacturers in Great Britain?
There is also the question to which Deputy Dillon and Deputy Brennan referred, that of the "standstill" order. Is it a fact that it governs everything except certain commodities which have been exempted? I do not think it is clearly understood by the general public whether this is so. If it is so, it should be made more clear, so that the public may be able to refuse to pay more than the prices that were ruling on the 26th August last. Many commodities have risen in price since then.
Deputy Hughes mentioned the question of tractors. There are two people in my county who have bought tractors and have ordered ploughs; but the merchants have informed them that they will have no ploughs available for at least six weeks.
With reference to the rationing of petrol for farmers who are going about prepared to buy cattle, as Deputy Hughes has mentioned, it is of no use to those men, who have to make their living by going from fair to fair, and some effort should be made to increase their allowances.
Would the Minister say whether, in connection with the committee which meets every day to deal with the sugar question, the committee receives any representations from manufacturers in connection with sugar?
I would like to ask the Minister if the Department would make provision for a supply of sugar to people who recently started in the grocery business. There are a number of complaints from persons in my constituency who in the past two or three months have opened grocery businesses and who have been told that the wholesalers cannot get a supply of sugar, and that they cannot get sugar until the next quota period which, I understand, is round about March. That is going to interfere seriously with the business of those people. I am sure the Minister would be able to make some provision regarding that.
I do not suppose the Minister for Supplies will be able to deal with the question of home-grown maize, but I am sure the Minister for Agriculture— who is here in the House—could give some information regarding maize that has been grown successfully, I understand, in County Kilkenny. I do not know if Deputy Gorey will bear me out on that point.
I will not.
I understand that maize has been inspected by an inspector from the Department of Agriculture some few years ago, and I would like if the Minister would let us know if it is a success or a failure. I am no judge of maize myself, but, from what I have seen, it appeared to me to be as good as the imported grain. I just raised the question, as it is a serious problem at the moment. I wonder if the Minister for Agriculture has any report from the inspectors on that grain grown in that area?
Deputy Allen will grow some of it for us.
He cannot grow it in Roscommon, anyhow.
I would be glad if the Minister would make the position clear regarding fertilisers. It is said that we are pretty safe regarding super-phosphates; but on the question of potash ho was not very reassuring, though he expected that in compound fertilisers we would get our share. It is not of compounds that we need our share, it is the ingredients that make up the compounds, so that we will know what we are using.
I do not understand quite fully what he meant by saying that we "would get our share". Our share of what? I was listening on the radio the other evening to a talk by some Englishman on the question of increased tillage. They guaranteed adequate supplies of fertilisers at, I think, a lower price than last year, so that there was no shortage of the raw materials for increased tillage. I heard the Minister for Agriculture foreshadow compulsory tillage when broadcasting. If we are to have increased tillage—and it is absolutely essential in the national interest that we should have—there is no use breaking up good grass lands if you have not manure to put into them.
If the Deputy has any questions to ask the Minister, he should ask them.
I am explaining the force of the question which I am putting to the Minister.
The Chair would like to be clear as to what is the Deputy's question.
The Deputy's question is: What assurance can the Minister give as to the amount of fertilisers which will be available during the coming year? I should like him to be more explicit on that point.
Is the Minister aware that there are indications of a shortage of bread-soda, and is he investigating the supplies of that commodity? If supplies are not available, it will cause great inconvenience, particularly in country districts.
As I anticipate there will be a shortage of tillage equipment in the different counties, is it the intention of the Minister to purchase tractors and lend them out to the different committees of agriculture? There is a strong rumour in my county—it has persisted for the last few weeks—that the industrialists of this country are about to make an agreement with Britain whereby they will get raw material in here at a fixed price, and that in return the live-stock trade of this country is to be sacrificed, and our live stock exported to England at prices fixed by Britain. If there is no truth in that rumour, I should like the Minister to say so, because it would he grossly unfair if agriculture were to be sacrificed in the interests of the industrialists.
Has the Minister any intention of developing seaweed for fertilising purposes? I have heard a good deal about fertilisers since this debate commenced, and I should like to point out that seaweed in its raw state and in the form of kelp got a great filip during the last war. The question of seaweed as a fertiliser is largely a matter of distribution. The people concerned have a tradition in the industry and it would not require a great deal to put it on its feet. The common black weed was largely used for potash during the last war. It has a large potash-content and it is not used for kelp. It would he of considerable benefit to the congested areas if something were done in this matter.
I hope that Deputies will not expect me to refer again to matters I referred to at some length in my opening statement. A number of questions raised were answered in advance and Deputies can find out the information they want by referring to the Official Report of my previous speech. I can assure Deputy Giles that rumour in County Meath speaks, as it speaks elsewhere, with lying tongue and that there is not the slightest danger of agricultural interests being sacrificed to anybody for anything.
Deputy Dillon asked me what was the object of price control. The object is to ensure that commodities will be sold at a reasonable profit. We are not aiming to do more than that at the present time. On the question of the replacement price, the Deputy has put forward a contention which a number of industrialists and traders have urged during the past few weeks in discussions with the price control organisation. That is a question that strikes at the root of the whole position. If we allow everybody to hell goods now at the price which it will cost him to replace them, there is not much need for price control at all. I do not think it would be possible for us to ensure that he would continue to sell those goods at the replacement price when the price was going down. We have to work the other way round. That is what our price control organisation are doing. They are trying to ensure that stocks purchased at pre-war prices will be sold now at pre-war prices. It is obvious that the mere enunciation of a principle of that kind does not enable it to be carried into effect. It is not true in the case of any commodity that stocks purchased before the war will become exhausted automatically in every part of the country and be automatically replaced by new stocks purchased at higher prices at the same time. Stocks are gradually renewed and pre-war stocks will become exhausted with one trader before they become exhausted with another, and they will become exhausted in one district before they become exhausted in another district. Consequently, adjustments of price are necessary to ensure equity as between consumer and trader. The general principle is that stock purchased pre-war will be sold at pre-war prices, subject to such special adjustments as are considered equitable by the price control authority.
What happens when the slump comes?
That will be dealt with at the time. The Deputy is leaving out of consideration certain factors. The termination of the war will not be accompanied by an immediate influx of consignments of goods at cheap prices. Our traders have had experience of the last war. They know that the downward movement did not seriously take place until a considerable time after the war had ended. They had ample warning of what was to come and could limit their commitments. There did not exist then an Irish Government with the powers this Government has to protect the interests of its own traders, merchants and manufacturers against violent fluctuations in price. I think that the proper procedure is to try to ensure that pre-war stocks will be sold at pre-war prices, recognising that there is not going to be built up in the bank accounts of the traders a reserve of profits that will enable them to meet the slump which will take place on the termination of hostilities. We can deal with the circumstances that will arise on the termination of hostilities at that time and in the light of the circumstances of that time. In certain cases we may have to give assurances.
We may get an individual company or a group of companies to purchase abnormal stocks of a particular commodity at inflated war prices and hold these stocks on an undertaking by the Government that such control will be maintained at the end of the war as will enable these stocks to be liquidated or otherwise disposed of in the circumstances of a falling market. We do not think that it is necessary to give that assurance all round. I think that the merchants of the country can be assured that the Government in office when the war ends, when dealing with the circumstances, will be concerned only with their interests and the interests of the country generally and can be relied upon to make such arrangements as are necessary to protect any section of the community which may be threatened with financial loss.
Would it not be far simpler to let the other system work and take any excess by way of excess profits duty?
I do not think that that would enable the position to be so easily dealt with. I think that the better way is to ensure control throughout so that excess profits will not be made at any stage. The Deputy referred to supplies of paraffin. Ample supplies of paraffin arc available and no shortage is anticipated. As regards linseed, flax-seed and other oil cakes and as regards supplies of soap and candles, the position is somewhat complicated. Normally, our importations of vegetable oils and seeds for manufacture into oil cake come to this country through Rotterdam. The Dutch Government have, in fact, prohibited, or until quite recently had prohibited, the export of these commodities from that country. A cargo has, however, arrived in this country in the last few days which seems to suggest that the embargo has now been lifted although we have no official intimation of that fact. Furthermore, cargoes coming to that country are liable to be stopped and searched with a view to the ultimate destination of the cargo being ascertained. That has led to quite a considerable number of delays. There has, consequently, been some considerable dislocation in trade and in the manufacture of these oil cakes and vegetable oils here. Whether we are going to be able to smooth out that dislocation and keep normal supplies going, it is perhaps too early to say but I think we should be able to make some arrangement which will ensure that, to some extent at least, our requirements will be met. That appears to be possible on the face of it but we have not yet succeeded in getting such working arrangement. That refers to oil cakes which were spoken of by Deputy Dillon and Deputy Hughes and also to soap and candles which are manufactured from vegetable oils. There are certain vegetable oils which are imported—whale oil is a, case in point—for manufacture into margarine.
That is the same as whale oil. In relation to these commodities some difficulties must be anticipated but we are not without hope that we shall be able to effect some arrangement that will enable work to continue into the future. At the present moment it is purely a haphazard matter.
Some Deputy asked whether the standstill order for sugar still operates. It still operates for the sale of sugar. We do not anticipate any immediate change in the price of sugar. Perhaps if the idea became widespread that no immediate change in the price of sugar due to increased manufacturing costs or any similar cost is anticipated, some of the sugar which has been lost en route from the wholesalers to the consumers might be released and some of the difficulties relating to the sugar supply might disappear.
The Minister has not dealt with the case of Ballaghaderreen, where we are required to sell sugar under cost price.
I am anxious to get rid of the standstill order, but the only way we can deal with it until we get a different system of price control is to maintain it until somebody makes a case for removing it.
I have made the case repeatedly by letter and by telegram.
In that case I shall inquire into the Deputy's representations. That is the system we are working at the moment, and we cannot abolish it until a case is made for doing so. I hope that in the near future we shall be able to get rid of the whole system and to introduce Some new system. I do not want to minimise the difficulties. It may be very difficult in relation to some commodities, but nevertheless we hope to be able to do it. A number of Deputies referred to the matter of sugar supplies for grocery establishments recently opened. There must have been an extraordinary number of grocery establishments opened in the past year. We have tried to make some arrangement to deal with such establishments in new areas. The whole problem in connection with new grocery shops, when one is rationing out the supply, is to determine the supply of sugar that each of these shops should receive. There is a certain normal requirement going out from the wholesalers, and if a new shopkeeper gets a cwt. of sugar, somebody else in some other locality will be without that cwt. The whole problem is to try to deal with the situation so as to ensure that the mere existence of new shops and growing business in particular districts is not going to mean that the demand for sugar is going to become abnormal. We have now discovered an arrangement which will enable us to meet, to some extent, the demands of shopkeepers in new areas by creating a reserve pool of sugar from which their immediate requirements can be met. Perhaps in the course of time their difficulties will disappear. In the meantime, we are dealing with these cases as they arise on a day-to-day basis.
Deputy Norton raised the question of newsprint and paper generally. So far as newsprint is concerned, I understand that the principal newspaper concerns in the country are all carrying fairly adequate stocks. Some are carrying fairly substantial stocks. In any event, difficulty in obtaining newsprint supplies is not anticipated. Some substantial quantities have, in fact, been imported since the emergency began. Offers of newsprint for sale are being fairly frequently made, which would seem to indicate that the market is not altogether a buyer's market. With regard to paper generally, I do not think that any difficulty has arisen except in regard to one or two specific classes which are not essential to the maintenance of any industry.
Deputy Norton asked what was the position regarding wheat. I explained the position on an earlier occasion. We built up a reserve of wheat which represents roughly a six months' supply. We hope to carry that reserve into the future and to find our day-to-day requirements with day-to-day imports without touching that reserve. In addition to the six months' supply, there is, of course, coming into the granaries of the country at present from three to four months' supply of native wheat. If we can, therefore, merely bring in a small fraction of our normal imports of wheat, we should still have sufficient to carry us up to the beginning of the next harvest, which we hope will supply our requirements for a longer period that the present harvest can. It is clear, therefore, in the case of wheat, even assuming that conditions become very bad so far as imports are concerned, that we can carry on until 1941 without shortage. In fact, we hope to be able to bring in a substantial quantity of imported wheat which will carry us up to the 1942 harvest if the need should arise. What I have said is sufficient to indicate that apart from a catastrophe like the destruction by fire or by bombs of the wheat reserves of the country, or some such upheaval of that kind, there is no reason to apprehend any scarcity of wheat at all.
It is not possible quickly to increase our petrol storage. Some reference has been made to the oil refinery. That project is going ahead, and it is a matter with which the Minister for Industry and Commerce can deal if he so desires. It is a pity it was delayed, because if the project had gone ahead as originally planned, and when originally planned, our position in relation to petrol supplies would be very much better at present. It is possible in connection with that project that some expansion of our storage capacity will be effected. In the meantime we have got to work on the present storage capacity.
I am very much concerned by the position in relation to agricultural machinery. That is receiving constant attention. It is recognised, however, that difficulties in the importation of agricultural machinery will arise. At one time, in fact, the Government of the United Kingdom was speaking of putting an embargo on the export of agricultural machinery from their country. Their need in that respect is also a considerable one. We have been able to ensure that there will be a supply of the raw material required by our own agricultural machinery manufacturers. We are endeavouring, at the present time, to ensure that there will be no restriction put upon the exportation of other agricultural machines which we may require. Apart from these negotiations, inquiries are being made to procure them in the United States of America. In the case of agricultural machinery, Deputies should understand that such difficulties as there are are not of our making. If the Government of the United Kingdom should decide to put an embargo on the importation of agricultural machinery from that country, we are bound to be affected by it. I do not think they will do it except their need becomes much more serious than it is at present. It is clear that there is an abnormal demand there, as well as here, and in certain other countries as well. If there is any difficulty in relation to particular machines, such as were referred to, then if I get a note from the Deputies who are familiar with the position the matter will be immediately taken up with the appropriate quarters with a view to having action taken to ease the position.
Deputy O'Sullivan spoke of the importance of maintaining our communications with neutral countries. It can be said that that is the main purpose of the Department of Supplies: to see that these communications are kept open, and that supplies of essential materials and commodities are brought in in any way possible, and from any place where they can be procured. That is what we are doing. Deputy Davin spoke about the necessity for co-operation between importers and the transport companies. With what he said, I am largely in agreement.
As regards maize, there is complete control over it at the present time. That control extends not merely to the matter of price but also to the distribution of maize throughout the country. There is complete Governmental control. The price has at present been fixed on a purely economic basis— on its cost, freight and distribution throughout the country. In Great Britain, I understand, the Grain Import Control Board is, in fact, selling maize at a price below that which it is paying for it. If Deputies ask me how they are able to do that, my answer is that I do not know. Presumably, there is a subsidy of some kind paid, or else it is intended to meet the loss that is being experienced in some particular way. So far as the price here is concerned, I can assure the House that there is no element of excess profits. The control which is being exercised here extends over every stage—from the purchase of the maize down to its sale to the ultimate consumer.
The cargo that I referred to was sold at £2 10s. per ton more than it should have been sold at.
In the case of all these grain crops it is the practice to sell at that day's price. Deputy Dillon wanted that arrangement for other commodities. I do not agree that we should adopt that principle and apply it to other commodities. In the case of commodities like maize and wheat, which are turned over very rapidly, the practice is to sell to-day wheat or maize at the current price at which it can be bought upon the same day. In that way maize and grain merchants occasionally make a profit by disposing of lots of grain at a higher price than they paid for it. It is equally true that they frequently make a loss by reason of a fall in price compared to the purchase price. However, our purchases ensure that for any reasonable period of time excess profits are not being made. Our grain control, in the full sense, only commenced to operate last week.
Can the Minister say what the price will be?
I could not. It is coming in at about £8 10s. per ton. I could not say what the price will be because the cost of the grain to Importers Limited will have to be averaged out as between one port and another and between one cargo and another.
Can the Minister tell us the ports into which grain is coming?
In the last couple of weeks grain was delivered at the ports of Sligo, Tralee, Cork, Limerick and Dublin as required.
Did any come into the port of Waterford?
Apparently not in the last couple of weeks.
We will have to start growing it ourselves.
I would not advise farmers to concentrate on the growing of maize if they can grow all the oats and barley needed to meet the requirements of the country. Deputy Moore spoke about producing iron pyrites in County Wicklow. I can assure the House that the effort to substitute imported products by home products is not being overlooked by the Department of Industry and Commerce, whether it be iron pyrites in the County Wicklow, phosphate rock in the County Clare or any other commodity the exploitation of which might not have been a commercial proposition in times of peace but which could be profitably undertaken in present circumstances. I know that these are matters which are engaging the attention of the present Minister for Industry and Commerce.
I do not propose to deal with the individual cases of manufacturers or of others who have been unable to get supplies of sugar, or with the classes of people in relation to whom claims were made for increased petrol rations. All cases of that kind can be dealt with in my Department. Deputies who want to make representations relating to such matters can best do so by getting in touch with the officers of my Department, or by writing to the Department. Deputy Brooke Brasier spoke about timber. I think it is inevitable that the cost of imported timber is going to increase considerably. We have arrangements made with the Timber Importers' Association that the existing stocks purchased at pre-war prices will be sold at these prices. Fresh cargoes of timber are going to be considerably dearer. That is to be anticipated by reason of the fact that higher freights will have to be charged for the transportation of these cargoes, the cost of insuring them against war risks, as well as the great scarcity which is making this market a difficult one to buy in.
In the case that I quoted, the price charged represented an increase of 75 per cent.
Where a public man, a contractor, or any purchaser has any doubt as to the justification of the price that is being charged to him, there is available to him the whole machinery of the Prices Branch of my Department. That branch will carry out a most detailed investigation and fix a price which will be a fair price. It has full power to examine books, inspect invoices and question people as to the relevant facts. If, in Cork or elsewhere, people think that they are being charged excessive prices, then I would ask the parties concerned to get in touch immediately with the Department and give the facts.
Has the Minister any recommendation to make with regard to substituting home timber?
On the basis of our annual consumption of home-grown timber, we have growing at the present time, suitable for cutting, a ten or 12 years' supply. To what extent that timber can be used for the purposes that imported timber is ordinarily used, is a matter upon which I would not purport at the present time to offer an opinion.
Why not substitute oak and other hard timbers for wall plating and work of that kind?
The supply of hard wood appears to be adequate. The difficulty arises in connection with the soft timber. In conclusion, I want to say to Deputies that whenever it comes to their knowledge that any difficulty arises in relation to the supply of any commodity or the price of that commodity, they should not wait for a meeting of the Dáil for the purpose of getting action taken. The Department of Supplies is open to them to have such complaints investigated. The Department may not be able to overcome all the difficulties that arise on every occasion, hut it will at least try.
The Minister did not deal with the point I raised about industrial manufacturers and their supplies of sugar. Were their representations considered by this committee?
Every complaint and every representation that has been made to me by anybody, to the effect that they have been unable to get supplies of sugar, has been considered by that committee.
Did the Minister make inquiries as to whether boats coming in here have brought in goods and brought them back again, and brought them in again and brought them back again?
I am aware that rumours have been circulated to the effect that cargoes of various kinds which have come in here have been re-exported.
Not re-exported, but brought back in the same boat without having been unloaded.
It is quite usual for ships to come to ports in this country and discharge part of their cargo. That is not merely usual; it is probably more frequent than not in relation to certain classes of goods.
That is not the case to which I am referring. I am referring to boats that come over here, and go back from here. Would the Minister make inquiries?
I do not know of any such case. I know there have been boats coming in here with part-cargoes, and taken out again, part of the cargo not being consigned to anybody in this country. I know that in the earlier weeks certain neutral ships——
Those are not the ones to which I am referring. I am referring to boats from English ports.
I am not aware of any such cases.
Would the Minister make inquiries?
I shall be glad to make inquiries.
I have only to add more up-to-date information, as it were, to what I said here the last time the Dáil met. It will be remembered that on that occasion I pointed out that the normal trade between ourselves and Great Britain with regard to agricultural produce was interrupted because the food controller in Great Britain had proposed to take over certain imports. Some of the imports I mentioned were bacon and milk products, and eventually also cattle, sheep, live pigs and potatoes. I mentioned on that occasion also that we had to consider, therefore, our position in those new circumstances, and I said that officers from my Department had conferred with the British Government or the Departments concerned with regard to the procedure that we might have to adopt here to meet the circumstances there, and also had discussed with them the prices that would be payable for our agricultural produce exported to Great Britain. Since that meeting of the Dáil some further progress has been made, but not very much. The position has not changed very much. Since then, in the case of live pigs, bacon and pork, we have set up an export committee which will control the export of all bacon and live pigs. The committee, as has been announced already, consists of the chairman of the Pigs and Bacon Boards and two officers of my Department. The committee will control entirely the export of bacon and live pigs. For the present they will not interfere with the export of pork. The committee has power to charge licence fees to pay any expenses they may incur, and they arc getting their work done through the staff of the Pigs and Bacon Boards. This export committee will have at its disposal an advisory body on the question of selling bacon, exporting bacon, and so on, a body consisting of the Pigs Board—which consists of three producer members and three curers—with the addition of a representative of the live pig exporters. All receipts for the baron which is exported will come through the Department of Agriculture, and will in turn be paid to the exporter on the certification of two members of this committee. I am not sure yet whether the payment for the live pigs exported will come through in that way or will go directly to the exporter of live pigs.
As far as we on this side are concerned, as I have said already here, our aim has been to carry on the trade in the same normal way as before the war started, but the British Government has not agreed, in many cases, to continue the trade in the old normal way. For instance, in the ease of bacon, they refused to trade with a number of exporters and said that they would require one exporter. Our committee, of course, will fulfil that purpose. Whether they will continue to trade with the various live pig exporters I am not sure. It may be necessary to take over complete control of the export of live pigs also and have the money passed back through the Department and on to the traders here who are dealing in live pigs. For the present that is not being done. That is one point, however, which is under discussion at the moment. The members of the export committee, with certain advisers both in the bacon trade and the live stock trade, are negotiating with regard to that particular point—the export of live pigs—and also with regard to the price of bacon.
There has been a great deal of confusion, on this side at any rate, with regard to the price of bacon. The British Government has made certain orders, and it is not too clear to us whether they refer to the price payable for our bacon on landing in Great Britain, or whether they refer to the wholesale price, or to the price, say, delivered in London or Birmingham or whatever is the place of destination of the bacon. Those points are being discussed at the moment. I hope that, as a result of those discussions which are taking place just now, we may be clear on all those issues, and that further we may be satisfied with the price which is to be paid from now on. Up to the moment I can say that the prices which have been fixed for bacon and pigs have been more or less provisional, but the Food Ministry in England has been intending for some time to fix the price which they think may be the price for at least some time to come.
I said that this committee is not at the moment dealing with pork, nor do they intend to deal with pork if control is not adopted by the importers on the other side. For the present, pork can go across to England and be disposed of there as it was before any war broke out. If that position continues, naturally we do not intend to make any change here, but to allow the export of pork to go on as it has normally gone on for the last few years.
Is there any quota on the import of bacon into England?
There is no quota on pork.
No, but is there any quota on bacon?
There is a nominal quota on bacon. I should say nominal, in this way, that no change has been made in the quota, but I am quite sure that if we made a request for an enlarged quota we would get it. We are not in a position to make that request at the moment. We are sending out more live pigs than the quota would entitle us to, but no objection has been raised.
Would you not be in a position to end the quota?
I think so. All the bacon we can send will be taken.
You should get rid of the quota with a view to increasing your exports.
I think the quota has been forgotten. It is just put aside. However, there will be a quota to this extent, that the food controller on the other side will be very anxious to know from month to month at least how much bacon we are likely to send him. I do not think he is going to object to the quantity being too high, but to that extent there will be a quota.
Are you controlling the export of live pigs?
Merely by the issue of licences but not any further than that.
But you will give a licence for any quantity of live pigs?
No, not exactly. The system we have been trying to adopt— and I think it is a fair system—is this: For the last couple of years live pigs were going out under two categories, (1) under licence and (2) free pigs, as they were referred to in the trade, went out without a licence. Pigs going into England, if consigned to a bacon factory, had to have a licence, but pigs going into England for pork had no licence. Quite a number of exporters here sent out pigs to bacon factories under licence and sent pigs for pork without a licence. Now, all pigs going into England must have a licence from this committee because they are being taken over when they arrive on the other side. We have, as far as possible, tried to get the total exports of every regular exporter in the last 12 months, whether they went out as free pigs or under licence, and we have tried as far as possible to give them licences for the total whatever it may be, so that we would keep our exports of live pigs at least up to what they have been for the last 12 months. They have been somewhat higher for the last 12 months than they were in previous years.
Do you not want to increase the export of live pigs?
I am not so sure about that for the present. I think we on our side would raise no objection if the British allowed in more live pigs but for the moment they have kept the imports of live pigs to in or about the number that they were.
With regard to butter, all butter arriving in Great Britain is taken over by the Food Controller that is, since the 22nd September. The maximum wholesale price fixed by the Order of the 23rd September was, for butter sold in the United Kingdom, 145/- for the sales at first hand ex-store and 152/- to retailers. We had not very much butter at this stage and we are getting rid of that butter at 145/-. I do not say that that price is sufficient for the creameries to give the farmers what would be a fair cost of production at the moment and certainly it would not be sufficient in the coming year to induce farmers to go stronger into the r reduction of milk and butter. The British Government, however, has not consented to negotiate a price for the coming year and we do not know what their intentions may be but whatever butter we have for the remainder of this season will be going out at 145/-. We must, therefore, wait a little longer before we can make any announcement with regard to the price of butter for the coming year. There are other prices fixed, for instance, condensed milk, and we shall have to set up an export committee to deal with all milk products next year. That committee would probably be set up somewhat on the same lines as the bacon export committee and it will have a consultative council at its disposal. That committee would be set up soon because one of the first tasks that we would have to put before it would be to try to get the British Government to discuss prices for the coming year as soon as possible so that we may give our producers in the country an idea, if possible, before the winter commences of the prices that will be in force next year. If the prices are good, they may be induced to go more into milk production than they have for the last few years.
On the last occasion when I was speaking in the Dáil I said that some of our officers were negotiating with regard to eggs. The British Government pleaded for time. They said they had not got their scheme ready for prices and they had to let the arrangements stand as they were for a few weeks. I think the Deputies here were all very familiar with the prices that were paid at that time. We were getting 14/9 for our eggs—the same as was paid for Danish eggs and the eggs from some of the "near European" countries, as they were called. The farther European countries were getting somewhat less and the native eggs, that is, eggs produced in the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, were getting up to 22/- or 22/6. That has continued pending an announcement by the Food Controller of a more permanent price for eggs. If the Food Controller has made as good progress as he hoped to make when our people met him on that occasion he should be in a position to discuss the price of eggs on a more permanent basis by the end of this week, or the beginning of next week and our representatives will be ready to discuss the matter with him whenever he is ready.
What about the classification? Do not they class our eggs as "foreign"?
They do, yes, but if we could get our eggs, classed as foreign, at as good a price as the native eggs, we would be satisfied.
But we are not getting the same price.
No. We are only getting the price of the Danish egg or the "near European" egg and far below what the native, that is, the United Kingdom or Northern Ireland egg, is getting. As I said on the last occasion, I consider that is unjust because I think we could claim that our eggs are as good as the Northern Ireland eggs or the British eggs, for that matter, but I think we are not going to suffer that great inequality in prices as soon as they come to a more permanent arrangement. As a matter of fact, because we had to wait a few weeks or so before the Food Minister in England could make up his mind to a more permanent scheme and because in the ordinary way our eggs would be going up in price at this time of the year, we had, as a temporary measure, to increase our export bounty. Of course, we could not possibly tolerate paying a large export bounty on eggs for a long period because if the British consumers want our eggs, especially in a time of war, we think that they should at least give us the cost of production. I considered giving some sort of explanation at the time we were increasing the export bounty because I did think that Deputies and others interested would consider it a very strange move to increase the export bounty at this particular time. It was as a temporary expedient——
And a very wise one in the circumstances.
——and in order to give the Food Controller in Great Britain the two or three weeks that he asked for to allow him to consider a more permanent scheme. As I say, these two or three weeks are now up and we hope to have further negotiations on the price of eggs by the beginning of next week.
Is there any hope of getting as good a price as Northern Ireland?
That is what we should get. I think we will go very near it.
We should go the whole way.
You can bring a horse to the well but you cannot make him drink. You do not want to have it both ways.
I think we should go the whole way.
At the end of each statement questions may be asked.
The position in regard to the export of potatoes is that it is understood in the event of control now —and I think it is very likely that there will be control on the other side —of the import of potatoes, that a representative will be sent here to look after the purchase of potatoes which he will buy on an f.o.b. basis. That is quite satisfactory as far as the arrangement goes. We consider it quite satisfactory but, of course, we have still to talk about the price. That is a matter, of course, that has to be discussed in all those matters, and we will try to get the best price possible. One worry we had about our potatoes was this: we had built up a very good connection for our seed potatoes, both in Great Britain and other places, and we were very very anxious here that there should be no disturbance, especially as between our clients beyond and our producers here. It has meant a good deal of time and labour, and so on, to build up that connection. We got a very good name for our seed potatoes, and we are afraid if we lose that connection that it may take a number of years, when the war is over, to build up a similar one. I think we may succeed in keeping that connection. We have an assurance that if this control takes place there will be as little disturbance as possible in our seed export trade. The same would apply to our export trade to other countries. The United Kingdom is not interfering in that matter, and we hope to retain our connection with other countries as far as we can.
With regard to cattle and sheep, negotiations are very actively in progress, and I think, in the course of a week or so at the outside—it may be sooner—we will have the last word from the food controller on the other side. I do not want to say at this moment whether it is going to be satisfactory or unsatisfactory. I think the less we discuss the matter here the better. As soon as we get the best arrangement we can get from them, I mean to have the advice of the trade, and indeed everybody interested, as to whether the scheme would be workable or not. I think there would be no good purpose served by giving any information just at the moment with regard to the outlines of these negotiations.
I promised at Question Time to give further information with regard to certain questions that were asked. I think I can take advantage of this opportunity now, because it may save some queries later. There was a question asked by Deputy Dillon with regard to the use of kelp as a source of potash. I think the Minister for Supplies dealt with this matter, but I do not know if he gave the information that might he given from the point of view of the Department of Agriculture. The Deputy asked if we had consulted the Industrial Research Council. Yes, they have been consulted. The Committee of Emergency Supplies did consult the Industrial Research Council, and also my Department, as far back as last June, and I understand the Industrial Research Council have reported that under the circumstances that then existed, and that probably still exist, it would be entirely uneconomic to purchase kelp even at the present price of £3 10s. a ton, and manufacture potash, principally for the reason that the price of iodine is so very much lower than it was in the Great War of 1914-18.
The Industrial Research Council are making inquiries. They are considering other methods of extraction, and they hope to reach a conclusion in their experiments within a very short time. I do not know how long it will take. I cannot say whether they are hopeful or not, but they have intimated to the Department that they hope to be able to make a report as to their final conclusions in a very short time. That is all I have to say with regard to that matter.
Another question that was asked had reference to the subsidy on fertilisers. A subsidy is given on super-phosphates, potassic superphosphates, compound manures and complete fertilisers of home manufacture. It is not given on semsol or ground mineral phosphates.
Or basic slag.
There is a difference between this year and last year. It is not given so far this year on semsol or ground mineral phosphates. If, however, the manufacturers are able to give us a more optimistic forecast in regard to supplies, the Department of Agriculture will, I am sure, have no trouble in extending the subsidy this year to semsol and ground mineral phosphates. We do not anticipate any opposition from the Minister for Finance. The difficulty is that the manufacturers are not sure that they will have sufficient manures to extend to all ensilage crops and, as well as that, to grass. They are for the present leaving what might be regarded as the supply of grass manures, short.
With regard to a price, the present price list shows that manures, taking the subsidy into account last year and this year, are 3/9 a ton higher than last year. That price list will extend to 31st December. I could not give any guarantee that the price will remain at that level after 31st December. I am inclined to think it will go somewhat higher compared to last year.
We have been offered no artificial manures yet by the manufacturers.
I understand the price list is now out. I do not know if it has reached the trade.
Why does the Minister debar basic slag from the subsidy? Because it is a grass manure?
I explained last year that I was advised that the price of basic slag compared to the price of semsol was too high, and we thought it inadvisable to encourage farmers in any way to use basic slag last year, considering the price of it. This year there is an additional reason. It will be almost impossible to get it this year.
There was another question put to me by Deputy Dillon to-day, a question which I answered in the affirmative. He asked me if we had taken any steps to extend the practice of grass and clover ensilage during the next year. The position is that during the last 12 months we arranged for demonstrations with regard to grass and clover to be carried out during the season at a number of centres and in different districts. We also had demonstrations carried out at the agricultural colleges and, of course, the other agricultural institutions, as well as our own colleges.
It is proposed to make the results of these demonstrations available to all farmers. We mean to have them printed and published, and we are also arranging to have the county instructors in the different counties fully supplied with whatever material we can give them, so that they may be in a position to give lectures during the coming winter on the advisability of ensilage, and also to discuss the matter with individual farmers who in their opinion, might set examples in their districts. We are pushing that as far as we can.
Deputies will have observed that recently we issued appeals over the radio and through the Press to all farmers. Immediately after the war commenced, early in September, we issued appeals to farmers to do, even at that stage, some ensilage, and we suggested that they could use aftergrass for ensilage, and it would be a great help to them.
Are you going to give a certain person, any special facilities to experiment along those lines?
I promise the Deputy to consider that point. The question has been discussed, not by me personally, but I am sure I will go into it before very long.
With regard to leaflets, the position is that the British Government, the Northern Ireland Government and ourselves cover practically the same subjects in our leaflets. They are not exactly similar, because conditions here may not be the same as in England or Scotland, and in, for instance, a very simple leaflet dealing with fattening of cattle, we may stress something which is peculiar to us, or more important to us, than it is in England or in Scotland, while they may stress something else. Generally speaking, however, we cover the same subjects. We have no objection in principle to doing what the Deputy asks if we thought it necessary or worth the cost—asking the British Government and the Northern Ireland Government if they had any objection to our publishing their leaflets. We have no objection in principle because, as a matter of fact, the Northern Government has on a few occasions published some of ours, and if they were willing to ask us, we should have no objection to asking them in return. I do not think, however, that it is necessary. If there is any particular leaflet the Deputy had in mind, I should like to hear of it. We could look into it more particularly, but, generally speaking, so far as the Department has considered the question, they think there is no necessity to do so.
Has the Minister seen the recent collection of Department booklets from the British Ministry of Agriculture, beginning with the diseases of animals and going through a long series to the use of home-grown cereals for feeding live stock? They are beautifully brought out, with elaborate diagrams, and very attractively set up. While not in any way disparaging the value of our own leaflets, most of which I very carefully peruse, I wonder has the Minister adverted to the attractive form of the British Ministry of Agriculture's publication, and if he has not, will he send for a set of them? I understand they have only just been published in the last fortnight, and they are very well worth perusal. I am convinced that they would attract considerable attention from a vast number of people who find our own publications somewhat dry reading.
Again, Sir, we have to restrict ourselves to question and answer. Does the Minister appreciate the importance, in view of the guaranteed price for wheat, of reassuring those who propose to grow oats and barley that on the conversion of those crops into pigs, fowl or eggs they will get a remunerative price for them?
The primary purpose for which we are going to grow barley —after the malting barley has been disposed of—is to convert it into pigs and bacon, and to convert oats into eggs.
I am amazed to hear Deputy Dillon suggesting the feeding of barley to pigs.
And oats to hens, for the production of eggs.
Shades of the admixture scheme!
I wonder has the Minister adverted to the basis of questions 47 and 48 on to-day's Order Paper? Has he adverted to the fact that unless we persuade the fowl-keepers of this country to produce chickens before the end of March, none of these fowl will lay next year at all; that the only hope we have of getting that done on any sort of comprehensive scale is to promote the day-old chick scheme, the feasibility of which I cannot see unless we widen the use of the hover and Putnam lamp, because the average country house has no accommodation for the maintenance of day-old chicks, or for their rearing; and that unless the poultry instructresses take vigorous measures to familiarise farmers' wives with the use of the hover and Putnam lamp, I cannot see that we shall get any rapid increase in the output of eggs next year. The questions I wanted to ask of the Minister have largely appeared on the Order Paper to-day, and I assume that he has given us all the information at his disposal in answer to these questions. I do not want to press him unduly or unreasonably, if there are certain matters about which he cannot be more communicative than he has been, but I do urge most strongly the vital urgency of taking measures now to stimulate the production of eggs which he wants delivered next autumn.
I take this occasion, in conclusion, to emphasise the vital necessity of persuading the people to take the necessary steps now to produce increased supplies of fowl and pigs because there is no use in trying to do it in the spring. I appreciate the fact that the Minister has spoken on the wireless and that he is surrounded all day long by the activities of the Department of Agriculture, but does he appreciate that the people down the country are not in daily contact with these problems, as he is, and explicit as he may have been in speaking on the wireless, it is often necessary to say several times what you want country people to understand and appreciate before their attention is directed finally to it, and I suggest to the Minister that two things require urgently to be said now. The first is: produce fowl that will lay eggs next autumn, and the second: wherever it is possible to keep one pig out of a good litter for a breeding sow, let her be kept, in the certain knowledge that her progeny will pay well and that there is nothing better calculated to yield a profit, or to serve the public good than the production of increased quantities of pigs, fowl and similar products.
I want to ask the Minister if he would give us some further information on a subject which he did not mention—the working of the compulsory tillage order. I am sure the Minister has considered it, but has he considered what the full effect of the enforcement of a compulsory tillage order will be on the dairy districts? Has he had regard to the fact that the enforcement of a 12½ per cent. tillage in a dairy county will necessitate practically a 12½ per cent. reduction in the dairy herds and consequent loss in the production of butter and cheese, and eventually live stock? Does he consider that the production of milk, butter and live stock is not as essential as the production of cereals? As conditions vary in each county, has the Minister thought of some other way in which the necessary amount of extra tillage which we all hope will be, secured, might be brought about? There are various ways. There might be, if you wish, a greater inducement to the tillage counties to till an extra share.
One suggestion I did get was that the counties that could not till might be compelled, in effect, to give a bounty to the counties that did till. There may be something in that, but I am not sure that it would be a very popular remedy, although I can see that there might be some reason for it. I am not objecting to tillage on principle but I say to the Minister that the enforcement of the order will have a serious effect in dairying counties at all events. If you are going to till land, you must till arable land, and that is where you graze your cattle. You do not graze them on meadow land, but on arable land. If this order is enforced in every county you will be compelling people to till land on which they usually graze their dairy cows and from which are produced the butter, cheese, and live stock on which the country relies. I think that farmers, as law-abiding people, will, so far as they can, fall in with a general order, but I should like the Minister to consider the matter fully again.
There is another question that the Minister did not mention. I would ask him to take further precautions to see that the best of the young heifer calves or yearlings will be kept in the country; that in the increased export of cattle which may be possible in the near future there will not be an unnecessary export of the best of our heifer stock. That is what happened in the last war when a lot of useful and necessary dairy stock was exported. I know the Minister is interested in the matter, and I hope he will take precautions to see that that will not occur again.
I should like to ask if the Minister is going to compel farmers in Meath and Westmeath to break up 12½ per cent. of their land. He should consider that the land in these counties is more valuable to the country for fattening cattle and that it would be practically useless for tillage. I know that the farmers will comply with the order, but they will plough up a field, take a crop of oats off it, and leave it there so that it will be useless to the country. The Minister should reconsider this matter in connection with the Counties of Meath and Westmeath, because a lot of the land there is not suitable for tillage and it would be only waste of money to till it. If you increase the tillage in the tillage counties it will meet the requirements of the country and the fattening land would meet our requirements in connection with the fattening and raising of live stock.
There is another matter to which I should like to direct the Minister's attention. The Minister said that loans up to £100 would be given to farmers to help them to increase the land under tillage. I have come across some cases where farmers wanted, say, to buy a tractor and a plough but found these would cost £200. One of them asked me if three farmers joined together to buy a tractor and a plough would £200 be advanced to them on the one tractor and the plough. I should like to put that proposition to the Minister. It would be a great help to these farmers. because the tractor and plough would do for the three farmers and the £200 could be spread over the three.
Has the Minister considered the hardship that this extra tillage will impose on a number of farmers and will he consider giving them some bounty? There are some places where wheat cannot be grown and the farmers will have to grow oats and barley. There should be a guaranteed price given for oats and barley. It is not fair that a farmer who is growing wheat should get a guaranteed price, while the farmer who grows oats, if the war ends in 12 months, as we hope it will, will have the oats left on his hands and he will have nothing for his labour. The Minister should consider giving so much per acre or some guaranteed price for barley and oats.
There is another matter which I was asked to bring to the Minister's attention, and that is that he should take into consideration the question of cattle and horse stud farms and that they should be exempt from the tillage order. I hope the Minister will see that the good land in Meath and Westmeath will not be broken up at great loss, as happened in the last war, and that a loan of £200 will be given to two or three farmers to buy a tractor and a plough or other necessary machinery, such as reapers and binders.
I think that the Minister, instead of making a flat-rate order that each farmer should till 12½ per cent. of his land, should model his scheme on the British method during the last war. I am amazed that neither the Minister nor any Deputy referred to the British method introduced, I think, in 1916. It was not a flat-rate method. Their order was that each farmer should till 10 per cent. in addition to what he tilled before. I ask the Minister to take into consideration the wisdom of that order for several reasons. First of all, in favour of that order you have the skill of the tillage farmer and the equipment that he has. Tillage farmers have horses and in some cases now have power machinery and all the equipment for tilling. In addition there is the suitability of the soil.
In some counties like Limerick, Meath, Westmeath, Kilkenny, and Tipperary you have land that is unsuitable for tillage. Many of the farmers have very little equipment or facilities for tilling. There is also the question of labour and skill. In Limerick they are very skilful as haymakers but they would not compare with those in Queen's County and Wexford with regard to tillage operations. We will have to learn to make hay after the Limerick man's fashion, as it is far and away the best in Ireland. I ask the Minister to take these matters into consideration and make a commonsense order which will be fair to all the people. If you make a flat-rate order you will not increase the percentage of tillage done in half the counties by the tillage farmers while compelling farmers to till who do not go in for tillage at all. A flat-rate order is nonsensical, unjust, and impracticable and will be utterly impossible to carry out in some cases. I ask the Minister to consider these points and to make a sensible order.
I understand that compulsory tillage applies only to holdings over ten acres. I think that in a scheme of this kind in order to be quite fair and just to everybody there should be no exceptions whatever and that it should apply equally to holdings of less than ten acres. Otherwise you may have a sense of grievance or a feeling that he has been unjustly treated in the case of the farmer who has 11 or 12 acres as compared with the farmer who has nine or nine and a half acres. I should also like to ask the Minister if he has considered the desirability of a subsidy for such crops as oats and potatoes. I do not, think that we can reasonably ask the Minister for a guaranteed price for oats or potatoes, as such crops are required mainly for foodstuffs on the farms. At the same time, however, it is exceptionally important that the acreage under these two crops—and particularly under the potato crop—should be increased extensively. I should like to ask the Minister, therefore, could be consider the advisability of providing a subsidy per acre on the potato crop? Such a subsidy might be of great assistance to the farmers, particularly farmers in the poorer districts, which are the districts where potatoes can be grown very extensively. A subsidy of this kind would enable them to purchase at least the necessary seed. I should also ask the Minister to take whatever steps may be necessary to ensure that the necessary supplies of seed potatoes will be available. I am sure the Minister is aware that, so far at least as oats are concerned, there is a danger of a grave shortage of seed, owing to the fact that the crop has been badly damaged in various parts of the country as a result of the weather and also owing to the fact that there was an amount of grass and weeds in the crop which made it difficult to save. The result of that is that oats will be difficult to secure.
Another point which I should like the Minister to consider—and which I think has been mentioned already by Deputy Broderick—is in connection with the improvement of live stock during this period. I think the Minister should take steps to restrict the export of the best heifers and endeavour to secure the building up of a first-class herd of dairy cows in this country. A time such as this is exceptionally appropriate for putting such a scheme into operation, and I think there should be something in the nature of a registration of cows—not necessarily compulsory registration, but perhaps voluntary registration— for a period at any rate, in order to secure that, at the end of the war, and particularly if the war should last for a few years, we shall have nothing in this country except first-class cows, and, by first-class cows I mean cows of high productivity and free from disease.
Now, in connection with the growing of certain crops, such as oats, potatoes, barley, and so on, it is generally recognised that these crops are required as a raw material for the production of bacon and eggs and of poultry products. I should like to know whether or not the Minister, in addition to doing what has been suggested by Deputy Dillon—that is, forecasting and giving advice—could give a guarantee of a remunerative price, at least for pigs, for one year. I suggest that that would be an incentive to the farmers to extend the acreage under oats and such crops, with the intention of turning those products into bacon and eggs.
I would ask the Minister to proceed, if he must, with the compulsory tillage order—with the flat order—and if there are some counties in which people do not know how to till, then it is time they learned it. Now, this year and the years ahead are years for work, and not years for experimenting. I think that our live stock is good enough and I would ask the Minister to regulate his policy on lines of productivity, for that is what we want. I would also ask him, if it comes to a question of fixing prices, to consider the crop most essential for the country in these years of emergency, and I think that the Minister will have no doubt in selecting that crop as the wheat crop. That is the crop that will give us the staff of life. Now, I do not think there is any cereal crop which takes as much out of the land as wheat. It is what the country wants most and it also takes most out of the land, and, therefore, for two most important reasons, I hold that that crop should get first consideration in the matter of price, because you must have it.
I would ask the Minister to look very carefully into the sources of supply of the seeds of our agricultural and horticultural crops. I do not think we save any seeds in this country, and it is a terrible commentary on us that we have to depend for our mangolds, our beet, our turnips, our onions, our cabbage, and so on, on foreign seeds. As a matter of fact, I think there is a little difficulty in getting imported seed wheat this year. I tried to get, from a very reputable seedsman, even a half dozen barrels to put in stock for next year, and he could hold out very little hope. I am glad to notice that the Taoiseach is here in the House. On the last occasion he was rather puzzled that, in the last war, we had not the quantity increase that might have been expected.
The Chair is rather puzzled, as there was an understanding, agreed to by the whole House, that, after the statement of a Minister had concluded, questions relevant to that statement might be put briefly: that no speeches would be made and that the Minister's speech would not be replied to.
Yes, Sir, I understand, but I am putting the question again to the Minister for Agriculture—whose important function it is to look after this matter—that we want more production. The Minister has forecast his way of doing that, by means of increased tillage, and I put it to the Minister that increased tillage will be of no use if he does not see to the matter of fertilisers. The wisdom of increasing your tillage will be very doubtful if you cannot keep up fertility.
I hope the Minister will be able to accede to the suggestion made regarding loans. I do not know how it can be done after the admission that was made here to-day by the Minister for Finance. However, I hope it can be done, and that the Minister will consider it very carefully, and not drive the fool further and further into debt. In any negotiations with Great Britain concerning prices, I ask the Minister to endeavour to get prices fixed on the basis of quality. Our roast beef should be as good as the roast beef of the Six Counties, and we should get as good price for our store cattle and potatoes. As a matter of fact, I am sure the Minister knows that potatoes from the North of Ireland do not fetch anything like the price of South of Ireland potatoes in the Dublin market. Why should we consider a price for our potatoes that is less in the English market than that for North of Ireland potatoes?
I suggest that the Minister should say to the people at the other side, when carrying on negotiations, that prices should be fixed on the basis on which prices are fixed the world over, and that is on quality. If we get a fair price on the quality of our products we have nothing to grumble about. If the Minister is going to consider the suggestion about restricting the export of certain live stock, it should be done with great care, so that one section of the community was not injured to benefit another section.
I wish to congratulate the Minister on announcing so soon the decision to renew the provision of plots for the unemployed. The announcement gives public bodies an opportunity of making arrangements, and informs the unemployed men, who had plots last year, that they will have them next year. I should like to refer to some difficulties that arose in connection with the matter. A man who may be unemployed at present may be temporarily employed later up to February and I should like if some arrangement could be made, seeing that he has only temporary work, so that he would not be deprived of the facilities that he would otherwise have got. In County Wicklow a large number of cottages have been built in the rural areas for the working-class people to which are attached half-acre plots. Owing to the war the board of health is not in a position to continue the building of cottages. If the Minister made arrangements now boards of health would be able to provide extra plots for labourers' cottages. Otherwise, a great deal of preliminaries and compliance with regulations under Acts of Parliament would be required.
In many cases extra half-acre plots have been offered to the boards of health. Where the public boards are satisfied that these extra half-acres would be tilled, an arrangement might be made, by way of an emergency order, to give power to acquire them for labourers. In that way tillage and also the production of vegetables would be increased. We will give every co-operation in that regard in my constituency. The extra half-acre would be a boon to the tenants and I believe that farmers or land owners will not object to giving the land at the same price. As far as my constituency is concerned, it is felt that the additional half-acre would benefit the unemployed if that arrangement could be made now instead of in February.
Certain questions have been put to me as a Deputy and I wish merely to convey them to the Minister without any observations from me. In connection with the compulsory tillage order, I have been asked whether it will be permissible for a holder of land to take land elsewhere so as to comply with the order. If a man has 100 acres of good grass land that he does not desire to break up, can he rent 15 acres elsewhere in order to do the necessary percentage of tillage—one-eighth of the 115 acres? The next question is: If the price of a crop is guaranteed, I presume it is guaranteed under the emergency powers to meet an emergency situation. Even if the emergency situation passes away in the course of the crop year, that is, if the seed is laid down in the winter and the emergency situation passes away in the following spring, will the next harvest crop price remain a guaranteed price?
The third question is: In the case of people who, through lack of assistance, lack of help, or in many cases, poverty, where large holdings have been let from year to year, and where people have neither horses nor implements to do the percentage of tillage required, will any special effort be made to provide easy loans for the purpose of adequately equipping such holdings for purposes of tillage? There is not a considerable number of these, but I am sure the Minister knows that there is a number of very genuine cases, where the holdings have been set through the death of the supervisor or principal worker or through lack of finance. If those people find themselves quite suddenly faced with the necessity of doing 12 per cent. of tillage, without implements, without horses and without labour, it just cannot be done, unless some easy loan facilities by way of mortgages or otherwise are made available.
I should like to ask the Minister to make it perfectly clear to the House that, in negotiating any arrangements with the British Government concerning the export of our live stock and live-stock products, and before sending any officials of the Department across to the British Ministry, the cattle trade and agricultural interests will be fully consulted. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of the fact, that there is a general feeling in the country that officials in his Department were on the verge of agreeing to British proposals about the export of live stock. Naturally it is in the interests of our live-stock trade before any agreement would be made, that the people who have practical experience of the implications of that agreement should be fully consulted. In the matter of these representations, I would also suggest to the Minister that some consideration should be given in the fixing of prices to the differentiation between the prices of winter-fed cattle and summer-fed cattle. In the prices that were fixed during the Great War, there was considerable difference between the price of winter-fed or stall-fed beef and summer-produced grass beef. That should be done immediately if any encouragement is to be given to increasing the number of cattle that are to be stall-fed this coming winter. We should have information on that matter now.
On the question of compulsory tillage Deputy Gorey suggested there should be an all-round increase of 10 per cent. I have no objection to that, coming as I do from a tillage area, provided that a maximum figure should be fixed. To illustrate that point, it would be hardly fair to expect a man who is tilling at the present time 40 per cent. or 50 per cent. of his holding to increase from that 40 or 50 per cent to 50 or 60. In fact, that would be very bad farming. You have in this country at the moment men who are tilling the maximum amount they possibly can. You cannot with good farming methods expect an increase in such cases. The percentage could be increased, but I do not believe it would be in the interests either of the farmers or in the interests of the country. I think you will have increased tillage in the tillage areas without any difficulty, provided there is an inducement. And the inducement is the all-important matter. I do not think the price already announced for wheat this year is sufficient inducement for obtaining a considerable increase in wheat growing. I had expected that the Minister would fix the minimum price at £2 per barrel. I would now suggest to the Minister that he should fix a price for oats and barley. We require a considerable increase in oats and barley in order to substitute for the reduction we may expect in the imports of maize and other foodstuffs. On this question of foodstuffs I would like to ask the Minister whether he is prepared to take off the restrictions on the importation of seed oats? I do not think there will be sufficient seed oats available this year. I believe the quality of our seed oats is deteriorating because of the restrictions put on at the present time. I believe the quantity of oats grown this year was small. I do not agree with Deputy Cogan that oats or any other grain crop has been damaged this season to any extent in any part of the country; we had admirable harvesting weather. I believe the farmer who could not harvest his grain this year could never save his corn crop, because this year there was an excellent opportunity of saving it, and very excellent grain has been produced. I again ask the Minister to take off the restrictions on the importation of oats and grass seeds. If we are to increase our tillage it is essential that we should have available oats and grass seeds of the best kind. I urge very strongly on the Minister to consider this matter. As no doubt he is aware, a number of farmers in the tillage areas have adopted the policy of ploughing in the aftergrass because of its nitrogenous qualities, which are excellent for the growing of winter wheat. If that policy is going to be successful it will not be successful unless high priced grass seeds are made available to the farmers.
The Minister is aware that, in regard to beet, the crop this year is generally a poor one. I am afraid the yield will be below the average. In any event, the acreage under beet is not an economic supply for four factories. Is the Minister prepared to increase the price of beet by a considerable amount in the coming season? It will be absolutely essential that there must be a considerable increase in the price if an economic supply is to be provided for the four factories. There is just one other matter to which I would like to refer, and that is the rabbit pest. I already raised this matter in the House, but during this particular season the rabbits have done considerable damage to the farmers. During the Great War a serious loss occurred as a result of the depredations by the rabbits. I think something ought to be done to encourage people to do away with them. We would have a considerable increase in production this year if we had got rid of the rabbit pest, and we could have done that even without any additional tillage. Quite recently one man assured me that he was quite satisfied that in a particular field of wheat he would have 18 barrels of wheat to the Irish acre. That field panned out at less than ten barrels to the acre. That will give one an idea of the serious losses to the farmers. Two years ago that man spent as much as £50 in gassing out rabbits. But while his neighbours were making no attempt to destroy the rabbits on their land, little good could come from his efforts. When he had all the rabbits on his own land destroyed, rabbits came on from his neighbours' land and created a fresh problem. I think the rabbit pest might be tackled by paying a bounty on rabbits. Agricultural labourers would in that way be got to trap them. It has been suggested to me, and I ask the Minister to consider it, that the trapper would preserve the scuts of the rabbits, and that the Government should pay a bounty on the number of scuts brought in. That is rather a novel suggestion, but it is worth considering, as something that would help towards the destruction of the rabbit pest.
I would like to know from the Minister whether it is his intention, as part of his policy towards inducing increased tillage, to develop the production of manure from seaweed. Years ago it was developed on the Western seaboard, and it was used to very great extent by the farmers. I do not know why it was the industry died out—or whether it was because it was too great a hardship to gather the sea-weed—or whether it was that artificial manures became so cheap. But down in the West at present the whole cry is the shortage of artificial manures. Up to ten years ago seaweed was used extensively in the West. It had a second advantage, inasmuch as the owners of the foreshore where the seaweed was got were at that time paying rates on the foreshore. I would like if the Minister would make inquiries as to whether this could not be produced economically and used as a manure, as it was up to 10 years ago. As there is such an amount of tillage on the Western seaboard, something should be done to promote its use. That district requires much warmer manure than do the Midlands; that is because our subsoil is light.
At the present time, as the Minister himself knows, in one little district in County Galway there are 1,200 acres under potatoes for export purposes alone, and for ordinary purposes there are up to 30,000 acres tilled for potatoes alone. Then, if you take the beet side of it, if it takes 14,000 acres to work a factory, I am sure out of that 14,000 acres there must be about 8,000 or 9,000 acres produced in the County Galway. The position is that there is danger that if the fertilisers are not available there will be no produce. There is no use in talking about increased tillage unless the manure is there for that particular purpose. There is no use in placing it in the same ratio as the land in the Midlands, because we take at least four times as much manure on our land.
The next thing that I would like to draw the Minister's attention to is that of land which is acquired by the Land Commission where they are not in a position to divide it. I know of several estates in some of the congested areas. In those areas people obtain land by what we call conacre and pay £4 or £5 per acre. Their own holdings are so small that they cannot have continuous tillage; they have got to provide themselves with other land, and it costs them £4 or £5 an acre.
In the case of land which is being acquired by the Land Commission, if they are not in a position to divide it, why not set it in conacre to a tenant at a reasonable rent? I know that in the West, at any rate, there are men willing to work as long as it gives them a fair return: they are quite willing to work, and I would suggest to the Department that this question be taken seriously, and that, where the Land Commission acquires land which they cannot divide at the moment, or, in the case of lands about to be acquired, that for the time being they might give it in conacre at a very reasonable rent. I would also like to point out to the Minister, in the matter of turf production, that there may be a great danger of a coal shortage or of coal being sold at a very high price.
That is not a question for the Minister for Agriculture.
They are the only points that I wish to raise at the moment.
There is one point to which I wish to draw the Minister's particular notice. It is referred to in the motion that was on the Order Paper but which, strictly speaking, we are not debating. It is paragraph (b), that is, direct negotiations by a Minister or Ministers with Ministers on the other side. Now, I wish to make it quite clear at the start that anything I have to say does not imply in any way that there is any slur to be cast on the ability of our civil servants. I believe that they can hold their own in negotiation, but I think this—and I think it will be the experience of this Government as it was of the last Government—that, in dealing with the English Civil Service —and it is rather meeting the Ministers on the other side that I have in mind than meeting the civil servants—when one deals only with the civil servants on the other side one is working against a machine. One very quickly comes to a stone wall so there is no resistance.
I think it will be the experience of both Governments that personal contact between Ministers—in order to get the personal interference of the English Minister concerned—can be most useful in this respect. It has often happened that the English Minister in such negotiations has had to interfere to override the, shall I call it, inertia, the unwillingness of the permanent civil servant on the other side to meet reasonable demands.
As I say, it is not so much the question of our civil servants not being able to hold their own: it is really that, if you want to strike a bargain in any way, especially if it is a question of coming to an accommodation satisfactory to both sides, you are much more likely—and this has been the experience in the past—to get a satisfactory result more quickly when you have the interference of the responsible Minister on the other side. Otherwise, it becomes very much a matter of routine beyond which the civil servants on the other side will refuse to go. There have been many instances of that, I suggest, in the past, where, even when an apparent agreement could be come to between Ministers engaged, the civil servants on the other side would try to go back on it. There is no chance of getting beyond a certain point unless there is personal contact on the matter at issue.
It is for that reason, and not with the intention of suggesting that there is any lack in our civil servants, that this is put down. We feel that you are more likely—when there is a difference of viewpoints—to strike a satisfactory agreement as regards, for example, the interchange of goods between the two countries—which is what is concerned here—if there is at some time or other personal contact between the Ministers.
I would like to get some information from the Minister with regard to seeds, and particularly with regard to flax seed. It affects a big portion of my constituency where people take advantage of the wheat and beet schemes, and also Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal, big flax-growing counties. We are always at the mercy of the Northern Government and the Northern Department, to send us our supply of flax seed. Would the Minister say to-day that a supply of flax seed will be available for the coming season?
I would also like to know whether there will be a sufficient supply of grass seeds for the coming season. It is very important that we should have grass seeds, and the farmers are anxious to know where they stand. There is no saving of grass seed here outside one county.
With regard to wheat, and particularly to lea wheat, the Department's officers advise the use of potassic super as a top dressing. I would like to know whether there is any potassic super available for wheat growers, so that they can sow lea ground. It is very important to make that known immediately, to avoid sowing in lea ground unless manures are available.
I would also be very anxious to know from the Minister whether there are any credit facilities for farmers who are not in a position to go into a shop and pay for manures, even if they are available; and if he is making any arrangements that would help them out when they have not seed of their own, or if credit facilities will be made available for that purpose.
I would like some information also regarding grass seeds, but from somewhat a different angle from the previous speakers. The laying down of land to temporary grass is a very essential part of the rotation and is absolutely essential to those engaged in tillage areas. As a matter of fact, the ground needs to be very well prepared and heavily manured and laid down with a corn crop, and a succeeding crop of hay is part of the rotation and is an essential part of the work on the farm.
I am not aware as to whether the Minister is allowing that area to be included in the area for compulsory tillage. It is a crop which requires as much care—and very nearly as much labour—as the saving of the corn crop, and it is very much part of the essential economy of a small or large farmer. I feel that to exclude the following hay crop, that of first crop hay, from the area that would be included in the compulsory tillage scheme would be rather a hardship. If there is a very large area to be tilled, if the farm is a large one, it involves a high degree of work and is really an important part of the economy of the farm and absolutely could not be done without.
During the Great War, in the period when compulsory tillage was in force, first crop hay was included in that portion of the economy of the farm which was devoted to tillage. In order to carry out even that side of it, proper and good mixtures of grass seeds will have to be guaranteed, and it will be part and parcel of the economy of the Minister's Department to see that farmers are adequately supplied. I need not reiterate what other speakers emphasised so clearly, namely, the necessity for essential supplies of artificial manures. That is simply the life of the whole agricultural economy of this country. Perhaps the Minister will say, in his reply, what steps he has taken to safeguard farmers in that respect. The Minister promised that supplies of flaked wheat would be made available to meet the maize shortage. Has he been able to put that on the market? Apparently, no supplies are vet available and the only thing available is ground-damaged wheat. This supply of flaked wheat is essential if we are to have a big output of fat pigs. I should like to know, if a man has a farm and a certain amount of outside grazing, can he carry out on his own farm the necessary amount of tillage for the whole area he is working? Some speakers have referred to the question of credit. There are a large number of farmers with unstocked holdings and absolutely no means of carrying on. They are at the mercy of the graziers or others who can give them anything they like. I know a case in which an offer of £40 for 11 months was made for 146 acres. On that land, the unfortunate owner has to pay £30 annuity and rated on a valuation of £60. Yet, some graziers had the temerity to offer £40 for that land for 11 months. Cases of that kind would really require the Minister's attention.
The Minister has plenty of difficulties to contend with in the number and nature of the questions raised, and he will have serious trouble in putting into operation any scheme which will satisfy everybody. He has wisely promised to take the views, of the farmers and co-operate with them. I should like to ask him to put no compulsory scheme of any kind into operation until he has consulted those entitled to speak on behalf of the farmers. In many counties there are organisations of farmers and he can get in touch with them. No hard and fast flat compulsory scheme will operate satisfactorily or will get the best results. There should be a certain amount of elasticity in it, and the difficulties that will arise in many counties should be taken into consideration by the Minister. So far as possible farmers will co-operate in pointing out these difficulties. In Cavan we have our own difficulties. There is a lot of land there and you could hardly say whether it was arable or not. Wherever it is broken up, it requires fertilisers. Otherwise there would be a waste of time and labour because there would be no result. The nature of the land is poor, and it requires to be generously treated when broken up. There is another point to which I should like to refer——
According to the agreement arrived at there are to be no speeches and no debate on the Minister's statement. If Deputies would refrain from discussing the economy of agriculture, and introducing oratorical flourishes, business could be got through in the manner proposed.
Some Deputies referred to land in the hands of the Land Commission. Would the Minister consider putting in crops in this land and using the labour available in the locality for that purpose? That would serve a double purpose. It would give employment and at the same time provide increased supplies which are so necessary at the present time. If the Minister could devise a workable scheme in co-operation with the other Ministers, it would be worth while. It has been brought to the notice of the Minister on many occasions that a great loss is suffered by the farmers through sterility in cattle. Some farmers are being robbed through their cows going wrong. They can only get a few pounds for their cows when they fail to produce calves. There is no practical remedy for this condition of affairs. I have boon in consultation with the chief inspector of the Department and he admits that there is no remedy.
I am afraid that the Chair will have to exercise its discretion to restrict questions.
Does the Minister propose to do the next best thing and provide a sufficiency of bulls, especially for people who want bulls to put with their own stock and not to let them out for service? That matter has been brought to the notice of the Minister several times, and I should like him to give an answer to it because it is of urgent importance in some parts of the country.
Has the Minister taken any steps to have inspection of stocks of artificial manures in the hands of merchants and of Messrs. Goulding carried out? Farmers in my district are setting wheat, and it is usual for them to put in artificial manures with wheat. Merchants in Cork say that there are no artificial manures, that Messrs. Goulding have refused to let a sack of manure out of their premises. It is about time that that was remedied, and I should like the Minister to make a definite statement as to the reason for that state of affairs. I am also anxious that there should be some publication of the controlled price of foodstuffs. We were very grateful to the Minister for his prompt action in connection with flaked wheat, because it meant an increase of something like 8/- per barrel to the farmers concerned. But it was sold at a controlled price of £9 per ton ex-mill, and farmers were charged by merchants from £11 to £13 for the same article.
It is about time that that was stopped. On the one hand, we are expected to produce at a controlled price. On the other hand, we have the millers who are controlled as to the price they will charge, namely £9 ex-mill. Then you have a lad of a merchant making £4 a ton. I think it an outrage. I suggest that, instead of being made to refund the money, the merchant guilty of profiteering in that way should be prosecuted and jailed. Until there is an example made of an offender in that way, there is no use in our speaking here. I should like the Minister to take some steps to ensure that stocks of artificial manure at present in the country will be made available for distribution amongst farmers. It seems that merchants and manufacturers have got an idea that by holding up supplies they will get an inflated price. At the same time, we expect our producers to produce food at the old price. I should like also when wheat is being imported that the Minister's officers should have power to inspect the manifest to see what is the actual price of the seed wheat that is being landed here, and that they should relate that price to the price the merchants are charging for it. I think if we are to have a price control and no profiteering, that system has got to be worked from the root up. It is all very well to say to the farmer: "You will have to sell at such a price." If he is going to be controlled in that way, the price of his raw materials will have to be controlled also.
Is the Minister aware that many of the county committees of agriculture are nothing more than packed committees, which do not represent agricultural interests at all? I speak with particular reference to my own county. There is a committee there which does not represent agricultural interests in any way. There are two or three farmers on it but the remaining members of the committee are political hacks put there for their own ends. If you expect co-operation from this side of the House, you will get it if you give us a fair crack of the, whip. I would suggest that these committees should be constituted only of men who have a practical knowledge of the working of land and who have the interests of the nation at heart. I would ask the Minister to take special notice of that. I would also ask the Minister to make an effort to see that in the various counties the wages paid to road workers are not more than those paid to agricultural workers. In my county we are in the unfortunate position that we cannot get decent men to work on the land. They all try to get on the roads where they receive 35/- a week while as agricultural workers they would get only 27/6. Any person of commonsense knows that the position should be reversed. Until there is a levelling up, or a levelling down, you cannot get justice in agricultural areas.
I was not here when the Minister was speaking but I should like to hear him explain why he has resorted to compulsory tillage. The one thing to which the farmer objects is compulsion. He has got years of compulsion and there was no need to introduce it at this time. The farmer is as good a nationalist as anybody else and he will till his land in the interests of the nation if he gets a fair price for his produce. I would ask the Minister not to resort to compulsion until he has first tried the voluntary method.
As regards the seed schemes, operated by the county councils last year, they were of considerable assistance to farmers, and I would ask the Minister to have these schemes continued for this year also. In my county we have a large number of men who were given some of the newly divided farms. These men had no capital or no resources whatever, and if this seed scheme were continued it would put them on their feet. At the present moment many of them are walking about because they have no means of working their land. I would ask the Minister also to endeavour to have land which is held by the Land Commission divided as soon as possible and to see that it is allotted to farmers' sons and decent workers with capital who will be able to work that land. I would appeal to him to stop these schemes under which migrants arc brought from the West at a big expense to the ratepayers and the taxpayers.
The Minister, has no responsibility in that matter.
It is a pity he has not. I would also ask the Minister to say whether it is his intention to subsidise the employment of additional workers on the land. If he does not, there will be very little increased employment given on the land because the farmers are unable to pay the standard wages at present.
I want to ask the Minister whether consideration will be given to the wages and conditions of agricultural workers now that there is to be an increased price and a guaranteed price for agricultural produce. That, I think, is a very important question, because the number of agricultural workers is very large and certainly their wages at present are not what they should be. I want to get a definite answer to that question. Will the Minister consider the advisability of providing decent remuneration for those persons who are co-partners with the farmers in the work of agriculture in the country?
I would appeal to the Minister to see that the farmer in Éire will get the same price on the English market as the Northern farmer for his cattle, sheep, pigs, eggs and dairy produce. If he does not get a fair price, he will not be able to continue in production. I think if he is prepared to help Britain out of her difficulty as regards food supplies, he should get the same price for his produce as the farmer in Northern Ireland.
I would like to support the appeal made to the Minister by Deputy Hughes on the question of the destruction of rabbits. They are a regular pest in the country, and they do even more harm than Deputy Hughes suggested. The motion on the Order Paper deals with the export of pigs, hut I should like to say a word or two as regards the import of pigs. It seems that we are importing more pigs from Northern Ireland. We have, I think, plenty of our own at present and feeding stuffs arc scarce enough without bringing more stock into the country to consume them. I think that we ought to he able to produce all the pigs we require here and that the Minister should allow pigs to be brought in only under a special licence. The same thing applies to beef. There are some men who go down to Belfast, buy beef and bring it down to sell it in counties on the Éire side of the Border. I think that that should be only allowed under licence. I made a statement here on the occasion of the last debate when we were discussing compulsory tillage in which I suggested that the Government ought to give a subsidy to enable farmers to employ additional labour.
I said they were doing that in Northern Ireland, and I was questioned on that statement. Since then I have had the advantage of writing to the Secretary of the Agricultural Committee in County Fermanagh, and I got a reply from him this afternoon. In that reply he states that the Government gives a grant on the following scale: On a farm up to £100 valuation they pay 85 per cent. of the cost of the extra labour. On a farm from £100 to £150 valuation they pay 75 per cent., and on a farm of from £150 to £200 valuation they pay 50 per cent. of the extra cost of labour. I may say that such extra labour has to be employed only for cleaning the land, not for producing crops. It is only paid for removing ditches, whins, and other obstructions of that kind. I am informed in the letter that these grants have been of great advantage to the farmers.
I am waiting for the Deputy's question.
I have given the pith of what I wanted to say. I would ask the Minister to consider a scheme of that nature. Would he not think it better than letting working men go on the dole?
I desire to ascertain from the Minister the area of land held by the Land Commission which was taken over by the Congested Districts Board about 20 years ago and which the Land Commission have on their hands at the present time undivided. I also want to ascertain from him the area of land held by the Land Commission which they have taken over themselves since 1923 and still have on their hands, what they intend to do with that land, and to suggest to him that he should endeavour to get the Land Commission to divide it up.
That question should be addressed to the Minister for Lands.
The Minister, after all, if he wants to make his compulsory tillage scheme a success, will have to get the land. With regard to the compulsory tillage scheme, will the Minister say what provision he intends to make in the matter of loans for farmers? Does he intend to make any arrangements to have complete derating of agricultural land in order to help this compulsory tillage scheme? Does he intend to make arrangements to provide seeds and artificial manures at reduced prices to farmers? If seeds and artificial manures are going to be given to farmers, I hope that they will be given in time. In the County Mayo our experience has been that, generally speaking, the spring seeds for farmers are not made available until about the month of April although they should be available at the beginning of February. If we want to have a tillage scheme carried out successfully in this country, then in my opinion, the farmers should be given a guaranteed price for oats, potatoes, beet, wheat, and for practically every crop grown on the land. If the Minister wants to got tillage increased by an extra 12½ per cent., I suggest to him that he should endeavour to get the land in the hands of the Land Commission divided. There is no use in leaving that land in the hands of the Land Commission unless the Land Commission are prepared to cultivate it, and in that way obey the law like other people. As I have already pointed out, they have land in their hands for the last 20 years which should have been divided long ago. In conclusion, I suggest to the Minister that if he wants his compulsory tillage scheme to be a success, he should use his influence with the Land Commission to do their duty.
I want to ask the Minister, in connection with his compulsory tillage plan, if he will say by whom, and in what form, ploughing orders will be issued under his plan: whether he has made any arrangements with regard to that, and whether his plan is going to differentiate between different counties or between different areas, and, as regards the amount of land that will be ploughed up, whether there is going to be a difference between the administrative plan adopted here and the plan, say, that is being adopted in Great Britain? I understand that in Great Britain they have county war agricultural committees, and that it is these committees, consisting of experienced farmers with local knowledge, who make the orders and not the Ministry.
It would seem that there very great discretion is allowed to these committees as to the orders to be made in respect of each individual farmer and the amount of land that is to be ploughed up. Not only is discretion given to these local committees in that respect, but apparently discretion is also given as to the treatment of the grass land which is to be ploughed up. It would seem that the same subsidy will be available for grass land which is old and sour, that is ploughed up and left fallow for a year, as for the better class of grass land that is ploughed up. Will the Minister indicate what his plans along these particular lines are?
May I also ask him, in view of the desire that has been expressed from the Government Benches and by the Taoiseach for decentralisation of a particular kind as well as the desire expressed that more vocationalism would be brought into the control and direction of matters that are purely economic, whether the initiation of a compulsory tillage plan at the present time does not offer an outstanding opportunity for applying vocationalism to a most important and economic matter: as a matter of fact, whether the ploughing order does not offer an opportunity that will not easily present itself again for testing whether vocationalism cannot be tried in an industry in which it can perhaps most readily serve a useful purpose? I raise these points because I think that in the interests of the well-being of our agricultural production and of the smooth working of any compulsory tillage plan that is embarked upon, now is the time to review these matters and ascertain the lines on which the Minister intends to administer his plan.
I desire to ask the Minister, on the important matter of providing credit for increased tillage and for the farming industry generally, whether he has explored that question from the point of view of providing short-term loans? By short-term loans I mean something in the nature of a loan which would be guaranteed to a particular farmer on his giving certain undertakings at the commencement of the farming year; a loan which could be guaranteed, if necessary, by the crop to be harvested at the end of that year. Such a scheme would involve the State in no financial outlay, but would be an earnest on the part of the State that the farmer would be assured of some result for his labours. In other words, there would be a unity of interest between the State and the individual farmer in producing the best crops possible. May I also ask the Minister whether he has considered the question—I have to put the matter in this form because of the procedure adopted by the House—of the total failure of the increased tillage programme this year in the absence of such credit facilities, and particularly in view of the fact that the Government require a large increase in the acreage to be put under the plough. That, as the Minister must know, will involve not only the purchase of considerably increased quantities of seeds and manures as compared with previous years, but the employment of additional labour. If the scheme is to be a success that is absolutely necessary. It the Minister is prepared to consider my suggestion for short-term loans, I would ask him to explore it from the point of view of providing such loans at a rate much below the rate which the banks charge for a general mortgage. I would ask him if he would not consider this a matter of urgency because, if necessary, I can furnish him with the names of very reputable people in my own constituency who will be unable to take part in the Government campaign for increased tillage, due to the fact that they have not got either ready money or the credit to take its place to purchase seeds and manures and employ the extra labour required.
Would the Minister say whether he has considered the advisability of setting up an appeal board in certain counties—counties where the tillage which was undertaken during the course of the last war was not a success, and was responsible for a loss rather than a profit—and giving the farmers in those counties an opportunity of making their case in the event of pasture being more suitable there than tillage?
There has been a big number of questions asked and I do not think it would be possible to cover them all, but I should like to say a few words with regard to some of the principal questions. We are doing everything possible, both directly from the Department and through the county committees of agriculture, to have day-old chickens distributed, and also to have credit facilities given, both to station-holders and those who are purchasing those day-old chickens, to provide the necessary equipment. There is also a scheme by the Pigs Marketing Board, as Deputies are aware, for the purchase of young sows.
With regard to compulsory tillage, quite a lot of questions were asked. The figure of 12½ per cent. is what will appear in the order which will be issued in the course of a day or two. That 12½ per cent. of arable land will apply in all cases where the farm is more than ten acres. I have been asked why we are excluding ten-acre farms. That is done largely for administrative purposes, because we would require a very much bigger staff if we had to bring the smaller farms under the order, and also because of the fact that in the case of the great majority of small farms there is at least an acre of tillage, so that they are fulfilling their obligations. I was asked, too, why we did not follow the order made by the British during the Great War, and ask for 10 per cent. all round. Again, I think it is only just to get everybody tilling some percentage of their land first. If we go on, we may have that scheme, perhaps, next year, but for the first year I think it is better to get everybody tilling some percentage of their land, and also it will be easier for us to administer an order of that kind than to look for 10 per cent. all round.
I do not agree at all that it is difficult for the Limerick dairy farmers to till one-eighth of their arable land, and I certainly do not agree that it would be bad for them. I think a great deal of the troubles of the County Limerick farmers, where there are troubles, is due to the fact that they do not till their land. Their cows go out in the spring in very poor condition, and, as a foreign economist over here said, the dearest way you can feed a cow is on beefsteak, and that is what they do. They feed their cows on their own meat during the winter. If those farmers were tilling their land and feeding the cows properly with roots and oats they would get better results. With regard to Meath and Westmeath, again I do not think there is any injustice in getting the farmers there to till their land. It will produce good crops. There is no doubt that during the Great War some of the holders in Meath and Westmeath did a considerable amount of harm to their land because they did not want to carry out the tillage order. They just ploughed up their land, and left it there to go back into grass itself. If they would adopt this scheme in a more conciliatory way, if they would adopt it in the best interests of the country and try to do the tillage on proper lines, getting the particular plot or field properly back into grass again when the tillage is finished, it will not do the slightest injury to their land; in fact it will probably do a great deal of good in many cases.
I was asked if we could prevent good heifers from leaving the country. That is not an easy matter. It may appear a very desirable thing, but would any Deputy suggest how it can be done? Taking a rough estimate, about 300,000 heifers leave this country every year, between fats and stores. We do not want to keep them all at home. How are we going to pick them out? Are we going to issue a quota to the various exporters, and in that way restrict their exports? The machinery for carrying out a thing like that is extremely difficult to provide. I admit that it would be an advisable thing to make sure we have enough good heifers in the country, and, if any Deputy can suggest a scheme, it will be considered.
I was asked a definite question as to whether three farmers combining to pay £300 for a tractor and plough can get a loan under the scheme issued by the Department. Our limit being £100, I do not see how it can be done, but it is a sort of question which I think we may consider, and I have taken a note of the matter to see if we can get round it in any way.
You can give £100 to one man?
If one bought the tractor and the other bought the plough, and if the loan did not exceed our requirements it could be done, but the tractor costs the most of £300. I was asked also whether stud farms were exempt. There will be an allowance made for stud farms, and various questions like that will be fully considered. In fact, there will be exemptions mentioned in the order which I said will be issued in the course of a few days. I was asked whether a man could take land for tillage and graze his own land. Suppose a man has, say, 100 acres of land, and does not like to till any part of it, I was asked could he take by conacre, say, 15 acres and till it. Legally, he cannot, but I said in announcing this order that we would be as considerate as we possibly could, and if any special circumstances are put up in regard to questions like that they will be considered.
What part of it is illegal?
It will be illegal under the order. Of course we could amend the order. I was asked whether a man who has two farms of 100 acres each can plough 25 acres in one and none in the other. Again, it would be illegal, but I think that in regard to matters like that we will have to take a sympathetic and considerate view, and make them legal if necessary where good cases are put up. We have been considering the question of seed. I was asked about various seeds. The matter of seed wheat of course is the most urgent. I think we will get in our supplies of seed wheat for winter crops all right; we will import what we require. We have quite a sufficiency of potatoes and oats in the country, and I do not agree that the oats crop was saved in bad condition. It was in some cases, but on the whole it was fairly well saved. We should not have any great trouble in supplying our own seed oats and potatoes. However, we do-not mean to refuse applications for licences to import seed oats. If any farmer feels that he can get it better or cheaper by importing it, I do not think we will offer much opposition.
Will you allow them to import it in bulk, where a number co-operate for their own convenience?
I think we can consider that. With regard to other seeds, what Deputy Belton said is true; we do not produce our own root seeds, like mangolds, turnips, cabbage, and other things. One of the matters that we have been impressing on the Minister for Supplies is the desirability of seeing that we have a sufficiency of those seeds, and I know that he is doing everything possible to see that we are assured of such a supply.
I was also asked about flax. That is also under consideration at the moment. I know that fertilisers are essential. We have done everything we possibly can both direct with the manufacturers here and importers and through the Minister for Supplies to see that we get a sufficiency of fertilisers imported. We are hopeful that we will have sufficient but, as the Minister for Supplies said here before, it is so hard to give any guarantee in a matter like that at this time because we do not know what may happen in two or three months' time or how we may he situated in regard to shipping and so on.
I was asked a question by Deputy Everett about allotments. What he says is true. A man may be unemployed now and his name may be taken for a plot for next February and in February he may be temporarily employed and, therefore, ineligible, and there may be some difficulty with the local authority about disposing of the plot. We will try to get over all these difficulties somehow or other. They are receiving the attention of the Department at the moment and I think we should be able to get over them. The other matter which he mentioned about the extra half acre for cottagers is, I think, entirely a matter for the Department of Local Government.
I was asked would our guaranteed prices hold if the war were to stop between now and next August. Yes. For instance, the price of wheat would be fixed. It would be a minimum price order under the Cereals Act of 1933 and, therefore, of course, would be absolutely binding on everybody, once the order was made, for next harvest. I would like to say in passing on that matter that that must be regarded as a fixed price as well as a minimum price, and I would like farmers to realise at this stage that if they are going to sow wheat that will be the price they will get—35/— next harvest.
And no more?
We cannot hold out any hope whatever that they will get more. If the world price exceeds that they will get it but it is not very likely.
I think it was Deputy Hughes who said that it was rumoured that officials of my Department were on the verge of agreeing to undesirable conditions with regard to the export of cattle or sheep. That is absolutely wrong.
I did not state that. I said there was a rumour to that effect.
I know. As a matter of fact it may have happened in this way: the officials of my Department, when they got the conditions that were first proposed, put them before the cattle trade without comment and said, "What do you think of them?" But, as a matter of fact, internally, we had thought, before putting them down, that they would certainly not think well of them. They were put without comment and, of course, the cattle trade did not think very much of them. I do not remember exactly the price of cattle in the Great War or whether there was a differentiation between summer and winter prices.
They were going up all the time and they went too high.
I think the summer price was higher than the winter price as a rule.
Not at all.
We have experienced a good deal of trouble in trying to find a solution for the rabbit pest. We had thought the fact that the price of meat generally was going up might create a good market for rabbits. That has not happened and we are considering various suggestions, including suggestions by Deputy Hughes, that we should give some sort of subsidy either on catching the rabbits or on the export of rabbits.
Deputy O'Sullivan raised the point about Ministers dealing with Ministers. If at any time the Government thinks that better work can be done by Ministers going across to discuss matters with Ministers on the other side certainly the Government will arrange for such a meeting, but we do not think there is any necessity, so far anyway.
I was asked about grass seed. There is one point I would like Deputies to keep in mind. We did induce certain farmers in the northern counties of this part of the country to go into the production of grass seed. We must see that they are safeguarded, but apart from that everything possible will be done.
Does the Minister realise that he induced, many farmers in the South of Ireland to sow dirt?
I do not know about that. The same amount of grass seed is being used. Some Deputy asked about potassium superphosphates. The price list has already been issued by the manufacturers. If it has not reached the trade yet it will reach them very soon and all these things will be found out.
Is the price the same as last year?
It is 3/9 a ton over last year. That price will obtain until December. I cannot guarantee what may happen after Christmas. I do not think that the question of sterility in cattle can be got over so easily as Deputy McGovern would suggest, that is, by relaxing the regulations in regard to the licensing of bulls. It is a terrible problem and we have given a great deal of attention to it through our veterinary surgeons and so on but, unfortunately, we have not found any remedy.
I suppose the Minister is aware that the licensing as far as it applies to shorthorns has been abolished in Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the same reason. They did not do it without considering the matter.
They may not be as particular as we are.
Is the Minister satisfied that there is any justification for an increase of 3/9 a ton in the cost of potassium superphosphates?
There is an increase in the freight on the raw material.
A lot of the raw material is in the country now.
That was taken into account by the Prices Commission. They took the price before the war started and they levelled it out. The difference in price comes to 3/9 a ton.
I am afraid that was arrived at on the basis of replacement.
Deputy Corry mentioned artificial manures and flaked wheat. I am not sure about Deputy Giles' assertion that committees of agriculture are not representative of farmers but, in any case, I have no power to change them. It is entirely a matter for the county council. Of course, I have no control over the wages of road workers. Neither have I any control over the wages of agricultural labourers. That is a matter for the Agricultural Wages Board. They fixed a minimum wage. If any farmer feels he is more prosperous now or that he will be more prosperous in the coming year he is quite entitled to give more to his labourers. The wage fixed is the minimum wage. Of course, the Agricultural Wages Board can fix a higher wage if they think well of it.
The scheme mentioned by Deputy Cole is a farm improvements scheme. It does not apply to extra men taken on for ordinary work. As a matter of fact, we had been considering a similar scheme here and, were it not for the war, we would, I think, have succeeded in getting it into operation this winter, at least on a small scale. We do mean to come back to that scheme and consider it further as soon as we have time, and see if we can do something about it next year.
There is no differentiation between areas or counties so far as the Compulsory Tillage Order is concerned. It will be the same right through; 12½ per cent. of the arable land must be tilled and it must be put under a recognised crop which will be mentioned in the order, that is, one of the cereal crops or one of the root crops, so that fallowing will not be allowed.
Deputy Mulcahy raised a point also about the "vocationalism" of this scheme. I think what he meant was the decentralisation of the administration of the scheme. We have not time to consider that aspect of it now because we think it rather urgent to get on with the order but it may be considered next year if we have to go ahead with it again.
Deputy Cosgrave's last question was if I considered the advisability of setting up a board specially to consider cases in counties like Meath where damage rather than good had been done during the last war. I am very hopeful that the tillage order will be taken in a different spirit this time and I think any farmer who takes the tillage order in the proper spirit will not damage his land. He will get good crops and will get that land back again into grass. He will have done no harm whatever to his farm in the meantime. He will have done some good to his country and will be a whole lot better for it.
That was not my question. My question dealt with where a loss had been entailed.
I know, but that is really the point. I think if they had adopted the tillage order in 1917-18 in the proper spirit——
I am assuming that, and my case was where an actual loss was entailed by reason of the operation of the order.
I do not know the position exactly—perhaps I am not familiar with what the Deputy has in mind— but I promise to go into it to see if there is any necessity for an appeal board.
Did I understand the Minister to say that there is no fallowing to be allowed even where the land is dirty?
It, must be cropped; there must be a crop taken out of it.
Will there he no guaranteed price for oats and barley?
The Minister has stated that the land must be cropped. What crops has he in mind?
Cereal crops or root crops—mangolds, turnips or beet.
Or rape, which could be put in on the 1st July. It would be only a clown's order if it was otherwise.
On the question of retaining our best heifers for breeding purposes, the Minister was in sympathy with that idea and he invited a solution. Would he consider a proposal of this nature, that a premium be paid on selected choice heifers for breeding purposes? What happens is that the exporter is a better purchaser of our best heifers for the export trade, known as the Bristol trade. If the breeder at home got a premium and if the heifers were selected at heifer shows in the same way as bulls are selected at bull shows, and marked for breeding purposes, giving them a premium, in that way you could retain these heifers.
If I had half a million to spare I could draw up a scheme all right.
We are breeding from second-rate stock all the time.
Would the Minister consider a subsidy on tillage, in respect of crops for which there is not a guaranteed price?
Perhaps the Minister will answer Deputy Esmonde's question regarding credit for farmers?
The credit scheme announced is for implements. Apart from that the Department will have no credit scheme. For implements up to £100 the Department will give a loan under certain conditions with regard to solvency and so on, but apart from that there will be no credit scheme.
Will there be a credit scheme for buying horses?
Horses are an awful price now, some of them as much as £50.
The Agricultural Credit Corporation or the ordinary banks go into that type of business.
Perhaps I might start by pointing out that the increase in the number of persons registered on the live register since 21st August last amounts to 8,250. Of this number about 3,000 may be taken to represent what would be the normal seasonal increase at this time. Not all of those included in that 3,000 are to be taken as unemployed in the sense of having lost their jobs; a large number of them indeed are farmers' sons and rural workers who have registered at certain offices in the hope of securing employment at the sugar factories when those factories open. But, deducting this figure of 3,000 from the total increase of 8,250 in the register, we are left with an increase in the register of 5,250 persons, due to other than seasonal causes. Of these, special local circumstances, such as the break down of plant, stocktaking, labour disputes and causes other than the outbreak of war may, be taken as accounting for 1,000 people.
Accordingly, of the total increase in the live register, only 4,250 or, say, 50 per cent., is strictly ascribable to the outbreak of the war. But not all of this 4,250 has been due to unemployment arising in this country. In fact, of that number about 2,600 persons who have registered for agricultural employment largely, though not entirely, at the western employment exchanges and branch offices, may be taken as representing those who have been disemployed in Great Britain and have returned to this country. Of the balance, that is to say, the remaining 1,650 people, one-third or more are persons who were engaged in the construction and repair of motor vehicles and cycles and garage work generally. A further 200 were persons who registered as seeking employment as private domestic servants and most of these, it may be taken, have also returned to this country.
Then there are former employees in the entertainment and such-like businesses to the number of about 200, to which number racing and betting offices have been the main contributors. We have in the next category persons formerly engaged in the hospitals sweepstakes and we find, compared with last year, that there is an increase of 180 persons. This leaves a balance of 500 or 600 persons scattered over various other industries and services, whose unemployment may be ascribed to a shortage of raw and semi-manufactured materials arising out of the war.
May I intervene to remind the Minister that there was more employment in different districts in rural Ireland? I am sure the Minister will agree that in the whole Carlow area, where there is beet, there was never more employment; in the Tullow area, where there is beet, there was never more employment; in Mallow and in Tuam areas also there was never more employment and this may be ascribed to the state of the climate this year.
The Deputy cannot be permitted to point out anything; he must confine himself to asking questions.
I hold there are thousands employed in those areas who would be unemployed in the ordinary way.
The Deputy must resume his seat.
I can only deal with the position as it has up to present manifested itself. There is a balance of between 500 and 600 persons, scattered over various industries whose unemployment might be ascribed to a shortage of supplies occasioned by the present war. Of these 500 or 600, unemployment in the wool-spinning industry and in other manufactures, arising directly out of a shortage of supplies, has probably accounted for 100; the oil seed crushing industry accounts for 80 and the hosiery and making-up trades for another 100. The carpet and rug industries, textile manufactures and all sorts of miscellaneous industries and services accounted for the balance.
It will be realised that the figures which I have given are to some extent conjectural. They serve, however, to indicate not merely the extent, but also the pattern of the problem with which we have to deal. It will be seen that while it is not at the moment of the magnitude which might have been expected, it is of a most diversified character. Even within those categories in regard to which increased registration has been most pronounced, there are great diversities of circumstances and character. Take, for instance, those 2,600 persons who have registered for agricultural employment. No doubt a large number of these are migratory labourers who have returned to their homes earlier than usual this year. The balance of them, perhaps an equally large number, were men coming from rural areas in this country who were engaged in industrial employment in Great Britain, and who normally would not return to this country so long as opportunities for remunerative employment offered in Great Britain.
It will be seen that the circumstances of these two groups within the same category differ. The persons in the first group, that of the returned migratory labourers, have the possibility of employing themselves upon their own or their families' farms during some part of the year. The second group possibly have no such opportunity. The two groups, however, have this in common, that their present unemployment, has not arisen in this country and is not due to a shortage of raw or semi-manufactured materials, or of industrial supplies of any description; but in whatsoever way the unemployment of persons in these groups has arisen, it may be anticipated that the order which the Minister for Agriculture has made in regard to compulsory tillage will provide most of them with some opportunity for employment. It may not represent a full year's employment for every person in the group; perhaps not every man within it would be available for such whole-time employment, if offered; but, presumably, with an increase in agricultural production, commensurate opportunities for increased agricultural employment will be offered. To the extent that they are offered, the position of those seeking employment in agriculture will be less difficult than the position of those engaged in other industries.
Perhaps the same at the moment might apply to those who have registered for employment as private domestic servants. Many of these, as I have said, also have returned to the country since the outbreak of the war. Prior to the outbreak of the war, I understand it was difficult to induce girls to enter domestic employment here, due to the greater attractions which employers elsewhere were prepared to offer. It may be that the same offers for such girls will continue to be available. I know that the question is one of some doubt, in view of the way in which rising costs and increasing uncertainty affect the domestic circumstances of all classes, but provided there is not a general and pronounced depression in our standards of living in this country, and provided also that those seeking domestic employment accommodate themselves to the altered conditions, those within this group may be comparatively easily provided for.
That leaves the position of about 1,450 persons whose unemployment has arisen in this country and has been directly occasioned by the war situation to be considered. The size of this group is not to he taken as proportionate to the magnitude of the problem with which we may be faced, but an examination of its characteristics will give us a better appreciation of the nature of that problem.
The first thing that emerges from such an examination is that out of 1,450 persons within the group, almost 900 have been unemployed not because of any shortage in supplies of raw materials for their occupations, but to other causes arising out of the war. Take, for instance, those who were formerly employed in the construction and repair of motor vehicles. These number about 500 persons and the position in their industry, I understand, is that there is not at the moment a shortage of motor parts, so that if other factors had remained the same, the motor car assembly industry could have been maintained. But the factors have not in fact remained the same. The most important of them, the demand for motor vehicles, has almost disappeared, due to the shortage of petrol supplies and also to the general uncertainty as to their own future position which former purchasers of motor cars feel. The trade in these vehicles is dead. It has practically ceased, leaving many assemblers with stocks of such motorcars on hands. It is clear that the possibility of reviving this industry depends, firstly, upon freer supplies of petrol becoming available; secondly, upon those who formerly purchased cars continuing to be in a position to do so, bearing in mind that the price of such cars is likely to rise disproportionately to incomes here; and, thirdly, upon its being possible for assemblers here to get continuously the supplies of manufactured and semi-manufactured parts required to maintain the industry. The point to be emphasised in connection with these three conditions is that the fulfilment of all of them is essential, and even if we have a free supply of parts, the industry cannot be carried on if we have either no petrol or no buyers, a position with which it is difficult to deal.
The position of those formerly employed in the Hospitals Sweepstake is not dissimilar. Their unemployment is due to the fact that the sale of sweepstake tickets has decreased, and apparently tends to decrease still further. Until that tendency is reversed, employment on Hospital Sweepstakes work must be precarious and uncertain. Perhaps the Bill which passed the Dáil this evening may make it less so. It might also be mentioned in this connection that it is commonly, believed that many of those concerned here are not the mainstay of their households. I have mentioned that unemployment, due to causes arising out of the war has manifested itself among entertainment employees, in which classification those who have been employed in racing and betting offices are included. Those so employed, to the number of 200, have been among the first casualties of the war. The curtailment of English racing has been responsible. How far it may be possible to compensate for this by the encouragement of Irish racing, or increases in the number of Irish fixtures, is a matter of much doubt, but it offers the only possible alternative avenue for this very specialised type of employment.
We come now to consider the position of those whose unemployment is primarily due to the shortage of raw or semi-manufactured articles, machinery and replacements. According to the figures which I have given, which are the latest at my disposal, these number between 500 and 600 persons, scattered, as I have already said, over various industries and services. They include about 100 persons engaged in woollen spinning and manufacture, about a further 100 engaged in the hosiery and the making-up trades; I suppose we have about another 100 in other textile manufactures and in carpets, rugs and felt carpets; about 80 who are engaged, as I informed the House, in the oil seed crushing and cake manufacture. The remnant consists of 100 or 200 persons whose position is similar to that of those to whom I have just made specific reference. We may hope that the unemployment which they are now experiencing may be temporary only and will disappear as soon as the dislocation in deliveries from Great Britain is rectified.
So far then as the increase in the number of persons registered as unemployed which has occurred since 21st August last is concerned, and which may be ascribable to the war, we find that to the extent of 61 per cent. it may be due to the return to this country of males formerly employed abroad and that, in the main, those have registered for agricultural employment. About 5 per cent. may be due to the return to this country of females formerly employed abroad and who have mainly registered for private domestic employment. A further 15 per cent. is, perhaps, due to a temporary shortage of supplies of raw and semi-manufactured materials hitherto obtained from Great Britain.
I have indicated that, so far as these three groups are concerned, the problems presented by them may not be unduly difficult nor of long duration. This, however, is less true of those accounting for between 8 and 9 per cent. of the total increase who have been employed in bookmakers' offices or by the Hospitals Trust, and it is much less true of the 12 per cent. or so who were engaged in the construction and repair of motor vehicles. In their case revival of employment depends, as I have said, immediately and directly upon a revival of the demand for the products of their industry. It is difficult to believe that such a revival is likely to take place in the near future.
What, then, is to be done about this type of problem? It may be said: why not transfer those concerned to another industry? To what industry? Such positions as at present exist in this country for skilled or semi-skilled men are filled and, in the main, those who hold them have a somewhat precarious tenure, for their employment depends on the extent to which supplies of those raw or semi-manufactured materials required for their industry continue to be available. Whether they do so or not depends, in the last resort, upon our ability to buy these in a seller's market, bidding against the strongest of competitors, and upon our further ability to ensure delivery of them here. In both respects our resources are of the most limited kind. We can, in fact, only secure most of the essential supplies for our secondary manufacturing industries by arrangement with our neighbours.
I need scarcely say that, in the present circumstances, the negotiation of such an arrangement upon a satisfactory basis is a matter of no little difficulty. The extent to which the Minister for Supplies has succeeded in this regard hitherto is beyond all praise. Furthermore, it may be said, if his success continues upon the same scale, it is not likely that we shall experience any serious increase in unemployment arising in our already established industries.
It may be contended that apart from these secondary industries there ought to be other occupations in which alternative employment may be found for those who are displaced by reason of the shortage of supplies. Many people writing to the papers on this matter, no doubt with the laudable object of spurring the Government on to further effort, seem to be seriously misinformed in regard to these possibilities. They say: "Why cannot we push forward with greatly expanded road schemes, with public health works, and with housing schemes?" apparently under the impression that we are able, out of our own resources, to provide all the materials for such works.
I should like to be able at this stage to give some countenance to the somewhat optimistic view which these publicists take of that situation. I regret, however, that this is not possible. They talk, for instance, of our cement factories and tell, us that we are independent of foreign supplies of cement. They quite forget that at the present moment the factories can only supply between two-thirds and three-fourths of our requirements; that the Government's programme in regard to the cement industry had not been completed when the war broke out. It is true that we had envisaged an extension of the factories which would have enabled us to meet all our present-day requirements. Arrangements had already been made for that. Orders for machinery had been placed; the extension of the factories is proceeding; but the extensions have not yet been completed. The plant has not yet been delivered, and until it has been and is in working order, naturally we are greatly dependent even to-day upon imports to meet our requirements of cement. Not merely that, but we are also dependent upon the day-to-day vicissitudes of manufacture.
I answered a question to day put down by Deputy Dillon asking me why it was that the cement factories were not in a position to give free deliveries of material and I had to explain in that connection that owing to a breakdown in the works the output of one of the factories had been considerably reduced and that, apart from the question of meeting priority supplies, it was very doubtful whether for some little time—I hope it will not be very long—more than 50 per cent. of the ordinary requirements will be provided.
Now, it is essential that we should bear these limitations in mind when we talk of providing alternative employment for those who are displaced owing to the war. We are not, as I have said, self-sufficing in regard to a considerable number of our materials, though we have made great strides in that regard. Unfortunately, the Government's programme was not completed when war broke out. All we can hope to do at the moment is, by maintaining our existing employment, by expanding, where we can, those industries which are as near as possible self-sufficing, and by trying to provide supplies for those other secondary industries which have been established here, to maintain the existing volume of production so long as we can.
Our ability to do that depends, first of all, on our ability to secure, either by arrangement with our neighbours or with some other people—and if we are not able to make this arrangement, then by bidding in the open market— the raw materials which are necessary, and then to ensure delivery of them to our shores. I think he would be a fool and a charlatan who would attempt at this stage to tell the House that he was confident that in all circumstances he would be able to discharge that task. I certainly am not. I can only say that I trust the position will not become worse.
We are having the possibility of establishing industries exhaustively examined. We are endeavouring to see to what extent we can develop latent sources of raw materials, materials which hitherto have been unused. But, in regard even to these, it has got to be remembered that the difficulty of plant still remains. We are not the only country in Europe that is trying to develop hitherto un-utilised resources. There are other countries in the market against us for plant and for the technical skill necessary. Against some of these competitors we cannot compete. We may, perhaps, by taking time by the forelock and getting in early, be able to make an arrangement. We are trying to do that wherever the opportunity seems to offer.
At the present moment, however, we are very largely or entirely dependent on imported supplies of raw and semi-manufactured goods for the maintenance of our secondary industries. When we shall become independent of these supplies I, frankly, cannot foresee. These are the points I wished to make and, in the circumstances that exist, I cannot usefully say any more.
Is the Minister aware that most of his statement was that of a propagandist department and that, in so far as the picture he has drawn for us is one of present conditions, it is a picture of his own problems? What we hoped to hear from him was a statement as to how in some way employment could be increased. Only this evening I was informed of a person who lost an order because he could not get certain essential materials. Has the Minister considered whether it would be possible for certain manufacturers to export certain of their manufactures if they get raw materials from the other side or here which, for some reason or another, are not made available through the manufacturers? I am not making a debating point of that but I have been informed that essential raw materials were denied to a manufacturer by reason of which he lost an order that he could have fulfilled for export out of this country. It was for the purpose of giving information of that kind that I thought the Minister was going to contribute to the debate this evening.
Is the Minister aware that, prior to the month of October, in each of the last two or three years, local authorities were informed of provisions that would be made to tide them over the winter period, and is he aware that no information to that effect was given to local authorities this year notwithstanding the fact that they have been asked to make, and have made, provision to supplement the grant? I should like the Minister to tell us something about that, as there is a great deal of apprehension in local bodies on that point.
At the moment there are a few thousand people employed who will be unemployed in a very short time. For instance, there are about 2,600 in the beet factories who will be unemployed in a few weeks. I mentioned that because of the position in the country. The Minister has said that his compulsory tillage scheme will absorb these people, but it must be remembered that the farmers have no credit. These 2,600 people in the beet factories are temporary, and how does the Minister propose to employ them?
How can the Minister refer to the number of people unemployed in the building industry as being unemployed because of the war? He also mentioned that there are 2,600 unemployed among agricultural workers and so on, and said that much of that was due, among other things, to labour disputes. I would point out that anybody involved in disputes cannot go to the Labour Exchange. Then there is the question of the people coming back from England. He also said there were 100 unemployed in the woollen and hosiery trade owing to a shortage due to the war. How are these figures ascertained? I have experience of the two hosiery factories, in Cork City, the Blarney and Douglas factories, and is the Minister aware that one of the principal factories there offered to get in very large supplies from England in order to carry on normally and offered storage without any cost, but the Minister would not allow the supplies in because they would come through a certain channel? I expected to hear something more from the Minister when he spoke of the 1,400 unemployed as a result of the war. I think anybody who has any knowledge could not take that statement lightly without any statement as to how these figures were arrived at or how the information was got.
I would ask the Minister to let us know if we really understood him to say that a person would be a fool and a charlatan to expect him to discharge the task——
If the Minister were not interrupted.
I would ask the Minister if we understood him to say that, to clear away the impression he made on the House by the general tone of his speech because that seemed to be epitomised in that phrase. When the Minister speaks of 1,450 people as being unemployed directly as a result of the war I would like to ask him to examine whether the number of persons who, he says, are disemployed in the petrol and motor business includes those who lost their employment in petrol distribution. I should also like him to give us the total number of persons who before the war were employed on the construction of motor vehicles and in petrol distribution, because if we had those figures we would be able to see the Minister's figures, of the number of people disemployed, in better perspective. I think he himself said that the figure was somewhat conjectural. Again, I would ask him, as the Lord Mayor of Cork, Deputy Hickey, has asked him, what exactly has been done in connection with the building industry, particularly in the City of Dublin, and whether he has satisfied himself that the Minister for Supplies is correct in saying that we have a 12 months' supply of timber here; also whether what is holding up the building programme in Dublin is the increased price of the tenders being offered now, and not the supply of materials: also whether, in connection with the supplies for the City of Dublin any stoppage of building operations in Great Britain might be taken advantage of with a view to obtaining supplies of fittings in Great Britain. Have any steps been taken to get these supplies for building operations here and with what result?
Following the question put to the Minister to-day about the possibility of getting employment in the Dublin Dockyard, is he aware that a considerable number of additional ships are wanted, particularly trawlers, in Great Britain, and have any definite steps been taken by the Department in that connection, or has it assisted the dockyard in the City of Dublin in approaching people who want to get these ships built, to have some of the work brought to Dublin? Having in mind the amount of employment that was given under similar circumstances during the Great War, does the Minister not consider that it should be possible to bring a substantial amount of employment to the dockyard in Dublin, in view of the fact that during the last war between 3,000 and 4,000 men were engaged in shipbuilding and in repairs?
I should like to know from the Minister if it is not up to the Department to review more critically what is happening in connection with the sailing of goods and passenger ships from the Port of Dublin. From the Minister's answer the impression created on me was that he has reviewed that situation rather superficially, or that he was too easily satisfied with the answers he got from the shipping companies. I should like to know if the Minister has critically examined the figures that were quoted to-day concerning the number of cattle, sheep and pigs exported for the week ending October 15th, and if he has compared them with the same period last year; and whether it is a fact that the number of cattle exported in the week ending October 15th was down by 21 per cent., pigs down by 21 per cent., and sheep down by 41 per cent., and if these figures do not bear some implications for him as to the reduction in the shipping services from the Port of Dublin; and whether he has made any inquiry as to the actual number of persons disemployed, either on ships sailing from Dublin or in activities at the docks; and whether he does not attach an amount of significance to a statement made in the Railway Gazette to the effect that in order to facilitate the system of convoy across the Irish Sea, shipping from Dublin had to be reduced and diverted elsewhere; and whether, in view of the fact that the route to which it was likely to be diverted means that the convoy journey is going to be twice as far from the other Irish port; and if there is not a strong reason for getting even increased shipping from the Port of Dublin rather than having it reduced?
I should like the Minister to hark back to a question that was put to him previously, and to say if he can give, in a simple, comprehensive way, an account of the efforts made by his Department to deal with the unemployment that is growing here, and that he suggests is likely to grow. The Minister referred to roads and drainage, and I should like him to say what that has to do with the road problem, and whether, in view of the fact that for the last few years the Road Fund has been substantially underspent, it is the intention, when the situation with regard to agricultural employment has more definitely disclosed itself, that a suitable road planning scheme is going to be worked, and the Road Fund more fully used for the purpose of giving employment in the necessary directions.
I should like to know also from the Minister whether he proposes, when the Dáil reassembles in three weeks' time, having reviewed the situation in the meantime, to make a further statement that will give both the House and the people generally, better heart to face an unemployment situation, such as the Minister indicated that he believes is growing.
In determining the 1,450 persons unemployed as a result of the emergency situation, did the Minister take into account the mobilisation of the Reserve, the Volunteers and recruits, where these men left employment, and if the mobilisation had any effect in producing employment for others?
I understood the Minister to say that 1,450 people were unemployed as a result of the outbreak of war.
No, I did not say that. The Deputy must not have heard what I said. I said that the unemployment arising out of the war was due directly to a shortage of raw materials. That is a matter many Deputies are overlooking.
I want to know if my information is correct, that there are hundreds of men unemployed in the building industry in Cork City and in the surroundings, due to the shortage of materials.
Surely it was stated by a Deputy that the number unemployed due to shortage of raw materials was between 500 and 600.
These are the figures I got, and I went to some trouble to get them. I want to know if they are correct. I want to know if the Minister is aware that during the last two or three weeks a number of tradesmen, carpenters, plasterers and others, have left Cork City to take up work in Great Britain. Is the Minister aware of that exodus or can he tell the number of such tradesmen that have left? I do not know what the figure would be in Dublin, but I assume that emigration to a similar extent has taken place there. I am giving the figures that I have gone to a good deal of trouble to get in Cork City. The Minister mentioned the question of the cement factories and I understood him to say that we had two-thirds or three-fourths of our supplies. He mentioned the plant difficulty. Is there a difficulty also in the matter of the raw material, gypsum, for the cement factories? People have said that that is the reason for the shortage of cement. Is the Minister aware that in Wexford and in Cavan there are very fine deposits of this raw material, gypsum, that have not been utilised so far? Is it a fact that the gypsum deposits in Wexford were bought over by the Portland cement people some years ago and closed down? That is my information. Is it correct? Would it be possible for the Minister to reopen these deposits and use them? Is the material that we can get locally as well as the imported material, or is there any difficulty about getting that locally? Is the Minister aware that there are imports of fire bricks into this country and, that for the last seven months, about £30,000 worth has been imported? Is the Minister aware that there is a brick works in my constituency at Ballinphellig where this fire brick can be turned out, and that if all imports of fire brick were prohibited these works could supply the whole country? Would the Minister please take a note of that and inquire and explore the possibility of doing away with that £30,000 worth of imports in seven months?
I would also like to know what steps the Minister has taken with regard to the woollen industry? I am particularly interested in that because in my constituency there are at least three or four woollen mills. I wonder would he take into consideration the fact that a good deal of the cloth which is used by the ready-made factories could be produced in those mills? I see no reason why these imports of ready-made cloth should continue to be allowed, even the imports of what is known as cloth of inferior quality when we have our own woollen mills standing idle. It is true that there were until Monday last 300 people unemployed in the Blarney factory. During the present week 170 of these went back to employment. Not alone could the remainder of that 300 be taken back, but the 300 could be increased considerably if these imports were prohibited. Would the Minister take into consideration that the cloth which is used by the ready-made clothing people can be manufactured in our local mills? That in all probability would offset the unemployment in other directions. I do not know if the Minister gave us figures with regard to unemployment in garages and such places. I have been informed that quite a number of employees have been dispensed with in this industry; this, I understand, is due to the rationing of petrol. What is the position with regard to employment in this direction? Is there any possibility of these people being reabsorbed into employment in other directions? Deputy Mulcahy spoke of the Dublin dockyards and of the numbers in Dublin disemployed because of the war. If the dockyards in Cork Harbour were put into commission at very little expense, considerable employment could be given. Perhaps the Minister would consider the necessity for putting the Cork dockyard into commission. During the last war there were 7,000 to 8,000 men employed there all earning good wages. Perhaps the necessity would again arise for having these dockyards put into commission. I would like if the Minister would explore the suggestions I have made and in that way open up new avenues of employment. In this matter I am inclined to be critical because I have gone carefully into the figures. I would like to know if my figures correspond with those of the Minister? The building industry in Cork as in Dublin is a very important industry. One must take into account not alone those who were actually employed in the building of houses and hospitals, but also the people who are working in the firms of the builders' suppliers——
The Deputy is making a speech.
I want to know from the Minister is he aware of the position with regard to the people employed in the yards of the builders' suppliers? That is a very important factor in the building industry. I know that owing to shortage of materials numbers of men are being dispensed with in these yards. I think that number is fairly large in Cork City. I have been told that between the whole lot about 500 people have been disemployed in Cork City since the war crisis has arisen. I would like to know what is the reason for prolonging the Employment Order this year? This order usually terminated on the 15th October. This year it is to go on to the 20th November. Is it that the lifting of the beet takes place earlier this year than in other years? Surely the numbers engaged in that work would not be increased by reason of the fact that the beet is lifted earlier. I cannot see what is the idea of prolonging this Employment Order and thereby keeping numbers of single men from the benefits of unemployment assistance or in some areas home assistance, because that is what is happening. These are some of the questions I would like to have answered. I also put them in the hope that Ministers may be able to give me and the House some information on these points.
I would like to urge on the Minister that if he does not terminate the Employment Order before the 20th November, he will at least terminate it on that day and that some information be given to the local authorities as to the matter of the relief works this winter.
Is it in order to ask a further question?
The understanding was that business would be concluded to-day. I would like to know now whether it is the intention to continue to 11 o'clock to finish the discussion.
We were not a party to that understanding. I understood that five Ministers would be making statements on the various aspects of the situation that confronts the country. Two Ministers have not yet spoken. One of these Ministers will deal with matters on which we are anxious to get some information. If we do not get that information to-night or to-morrow we cannot possibly get it until the 8th November. We have not met now for some weeks and surely there does not seem any reason why we should meet for one day only and then adjourn. I urge that point because if we do not get the information now or to-morrow we cannot get it until the 8th November.
I join with Deputy Norton in these protests.
There are no grounds for protesting yet. The question is whether it is proposed to go on until 11 o'clock. The Chair seeks information.
Adjourn until 3 p.m. to-morrow.
If there is a desire on the part of a substantial section of the House to meet to-morrow, all right. It is not the fault of the Minister that he has not spoken or been given an opportunity of speaking up to now. If there was an understanding I do not know how it has fallen through. If there is a substantial feeling in the House that we should meet to-morrow and continue the debate, all right.
I was asked to keep my speech particularly short in view of the time taken in putting questions to other Ministers.
We are prepared to take it that, if the time is used up to-day, the Minister for Lands or the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures might be in a better position to give a more lengthy and detailed statement of the position in three weeks' time; and as far as we are concerned we would not have any objection to the House adjourning, if everybody is satisfied; but if, as the Taoiseach says, there are any people in the House who would wish the House to meet again to-morrow to conclude the business, we would be prepared to sit to-morrow to do so.
Are we to take it that the representatives of Labour desire that there should be a meeting to-morrow?
We wish to put some further questions to the Minister for Finance, to hear his reply, and to hear a statement from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures.
I take it, then, that there is an objection, and that we should adjourn until to-morrow.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.35 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 19th October, 1939.