That Dáil Eireann hereby approves of the Control of Imports (Quota No. 37) (Amendment) Order, 1940.
Vol. 81 No. 3
That Dáil Eireann hereby approves of the Control of Imports (Quota No. 37) (Amendment) Order, 1940.
This group of orders stands together, does it not?
Four of them stand together—quota orders Nos. 39, 40, 41 and 42. Quota order No. 37 relates to fixing the quota for hats and caps.
Men's hats and caps?
Does the Minister propose to make any statement?
I think I dealt fairly fully with the matter on the previous occasion. The proposal contained in Order No. 37 is to fix the quota for the current six months at 80,000, and to exempt from the quota restrictions hats exceeding 14/11 in value.
I have raised this matter twice before. One point is that this quota order was originally put in force for the purpose of providing employment for a certain number of girls in Galway. There are a certain number of girls working in a hat factory in Galway, but the number of girls working in Galway bears little or no relation to the number of young girls who lost their jobs in millinery warehouses, as a result of the destruction of the millinery trade, consequent on the establishment of this industry in this country. In the words of the Prime Minister, however, you cannot have omelettes without breaking eggs, and the eggs which got broken on this occasion were about 500 women who had employment and livelihood in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick, who are now on the dole and who can console themselves that a certain number of girls—a far smaller number—have jobs in the City of Galway making hats which, in the early stages of this industry, their employers were unable to sell.
I would not mention that fact but for the ensuing fact which derives directly from the inability of the firm of Jabotiotinsky, or whatever the name is, the Czecho-Slovakian company running this factory in Galway, to sell their hats. When they started manufacturing, they built up an immense stock of hats which they were quite unable to sell. They ran into tens of thousands, and, in that situation, the millinery wholesalers in this country got together and formed a ring, a certain limited number of them. They went down to Galway and said: "You have your backs to the wall; your capital is all sunk in a vast agglomeration of hats which you cannot sell and never will be able to sell. Unless you are prepared to play ball with us, we will let you go bankrupt, but if you are prepared to co-operate with us in establishing a watertight ring of distributors of millinery in this country, we will undertake to sell all that unsaleable millinery for you in the country." I understand that, with the connivance of the Department of Industry and Commerce, that ring was established. What happened?
They went out and, by vigorous salesmanship throughout the country, disposed of this vast agglomeration of unsuitable millinery manufactured in Galway, and then they announced that the terms of their agreement with the Galway that factory provided that no hats were to be sold from that factory, except through this limited number of persons who belonged to the wholesalers' ring. Other people who had carried on a legitimate business in millinery wholesaling, but who did not join the ring, then found themselves faced with this situation: the quota prevented their getting hats from abroad, and the ring's agreement with the Galway Hat Factory prevented their getting hats from Galway, so that they could go out on the street and starve, which they proceeded to do. In those circumstances, some of those women—and there were women—went to the gallant masculine members of the wholesalers' ring, pointed out that their families depended on this little business which they had built up, and asked that they be given some share of the merchandise to distribute, so that they could continue to live. They, were told: "Not a hat. We did the donkey work in disposing of the rubbish for the Galway Hat Factory, and now we are going to skim the cream"—and they are skimming the cream.
Up till recently, all hats were subject to the quota, but then certain influential ladies in this country approached influential gentlemen in the Government and said: "We are damned if we are going to wear Galway hats. You can quota the cheap hats if you like. We do not give a hang what the ordinary little girls wear, but if you think we are going to plaster Galway hats on our heads you are making the mistake of your lives. Our hats run from two guineas to seven guineas a piece, and you have got to take the quota off them." They did, so that the ladies who can pay from two to seven guineas for hats can get their hats wherever they like, but the farmer's daughter or the servant girl who wants a hat has got to wear a Galway hat or go without. One of the results of this transaction is that country girls and city girls too are going without hats, and are tying handkerchiefs over their heads, and that has thrown 500 women out of a job. There are 500 women drawing the dole to-day who have lost their jobs through the ruin that has been wrought on the millinery trade. That may be damned funny to some gentlemen who are drawing £480 in this House, but it is not a bit funny for those women who had respectable homes—some of them widows, keeping families—and who made no hullabulloo about the little business they were doing, a legitimate business. They have been thrown out on the road with no one to speak for them, and—which is perhaps the most tragic element in it—they do not know what hit them. They do not know where their business has gone, but it has vanished. The reason, to anyone familiar with the millinery trade, is that you have destroyed the ability of the small milliner to have an exclusive stock; you have forced the small milliner in the country into competition with the big department store, and destroyed everyone in a small way of business in that particular trade.
Now, that has been done. That grave and cruel injustice has been done. I am trying to secure now that another beastly injustice will not be done, that is, that this ring of wholesalers will not be allowed, under Government protection, to squeeze out of their livelihood another group of people who have the right to live, and throw out of business people who had been carrying on a legitimate wholesale millinery trade in this country before ever there was a ring or a quota. The Minister said to me on a previous occasion, and I accepted his word because I admit he is a man of his word when he gives it, that he would stand for no such abuse in the future. He knows the details of the case I have in mind, and I believe there are other similar cases. I have no reason to believe that effective measures have been taken to abate the scandal which I brought under his attention, and I think he ought to take this opportunity to tell the House he has broken that ring, and will not permit it to continue to squeeze citizens of this country out of the modest livelihood which they enjoyed before the Government took it on itself to interfere with this trade.
The Minister to conclude.
I am afraid that my knowledge of the millinery business is not quite as intimate as that of Deputy Dillon. Certainly, having accepted the shackles of matrimony I should not dare to discuss ladies' hats so emphatically as he does, but I have no reason to believe that the qualify, design and taste of the hat turned out by the Galway factory are at all discreditable to this country, or to the policy which has resulted in the establishment of that factory. It is not true either to say that, because certain influential persons approached Ministers, hats above a certain value were exempted from the quota. The fact of the matter is that it may be of greater advantage to the community as a whole to be able to collect the tax on a hat which is brought in here and sold for four or five guineas, or even for seven or eight guineas as the Deputy has suggested, than to exclude that hat altogether, because unfortunately we cannot draw up customs regulations so tightly, nor can we enforce customs laws so rigidly, that there would not be a possibility of evasion if one were completely to prohibit the importation of such hats when people are prepared to pay so much to get a particular article of that description.
With regard to the other point—the main point, really; I think it was the only point which is really germane to this discussion—that is, that a number of people had taken advantage of the quota restriction, and the peculiar situation which had arisen in this country by reason of the fact that there was only one supplier of hats, to try to establish a wholesale ring which would secure a monopoly of the wholesale distribution. As I indicated in this House I certainly am very strongly opposed to the utilisation by any group of persons in this country of measures which have been designed for the general national interest, to establish rings or monopolies, and to exploit, without regard to any considerations except their own personal interest, the situation which has been created.
I did approach people whom, I thought, to be attempting that, and I did say quite frankly that I would not stand for it, and if necessary would come to the House here and ask for powers which would enable me to deal with the situation they were trying to create, unless they deferred to what I believe to be the policy of the Government and the policy of the House as a whole. I think that the particular incident which the Deputy brought to my notice has been satisfactorily dealt with. I understood it to have been so dealt with, and I have no reason to believe that I was misinformed.
How long ago was the Minister informed that the matter had been satisfactorily dealt with?
About six or eight weeks ago. As I say, I have no reason to believe that I was misinformed in the matter, and I have not at any rate since been approached with an intimation that the position had not been rectified.
Will the Minister give me his word that if any similar case is brought to his attention, he will see it rectified?
I should not like to give a pledge of that sort without certain practical reservations. I gather that, in regard to the ordinary trade, there is something to be said against allowing men of straw, or women of straw, perhaps, to get into this business, and to start out, say, upon a price-cutting campaign of one sort or another, which might completely break up the normal methods of distribution, but I have reason to anticipate that where reasonably substantial people wish to engage in the business no attempt will be made to debar them. If there is such an attempt made, I will endeavour to see that at any rate there is no undue limitation of the supply to any person of good credit, of good standing and who is competent to handle the article satisfactorily, I will endeavour to see that no such person be debarred from engaging in the business. Subject to that, I think there is nothing else I can say in the matter.
Am I to understand that hats are being produced of the value of five or six guineas?
The Minister was called on to conclude.
There are no hats being produced; there are some hats the retail price of which would be in the order of five guineas.
The retail price?
We are allowing only 52/- for a whole year to keep a boy or a girl up to 14 years of age.
Do not forget that after all in the sale of these hats there are people making a living here in this country and that the persons who buy those hats, if they cannot get them here, may go elsewhere.
I hope the significance of my remarks will be understood. That is all I am asking.
Is the Minister going to make a statement on Orders Nos. 39, 40 and 41? Is it correct that these Orders make an attempt to regulate the cotton textile industry in this country?
They do—it is an attempt to ensure, among other things, a supply of raw material for our cotton industry.
Perhaps the Minister would outline what the purpose of these Orders is, because I would like to know.
The House will perhaps remember that under the London Agreement of 1938 it was provided that the question of protection accorded to some of our home manufactures might be referred to the Prices Commission at the instance of the manufacturers in the United Kingdom. A request for such a reference was duly made in respect of cotton goods, but as a result of the discussions which took place between our cotton manufacturers and the British cotton manufacturers it was decided not to proceed with this reference if a certain proportion of our market here might be reserved by quota to the British manufacturers, and as a result of discussions which took place between the two groups of manufacturers the details of the Quota Orders which it is now proposed to confirm were laid down. An important consideration which weighed with the Government in accepting the proposals of the two bodies of manufacturers and allowing the reference to the Prices Commission to be withdrawn was the fact that under the agreement which had been reached a supply of raw material, of cotton yarns would be assured to our native manufacturers and that in view of this assurance, the supply of cotton goods for our people would be likewise assured to the extent to which our mills were able to supply.
The articles covered by the quota orders are briefly:—Quota Order No. 39 covers woven piece goods containing more than 60 per cent. by weight of cotton not exceeding 10 ounces in weight per square yard, comprising (a) cloths used in the manufacture of (1) bed sheets of a width not less than 45 inches; (2) bed ticks and (3) bed mattresses; (b) cloths other than terry not less than four ounces per square yard, used in the manufacture of (1) shirts and pyjamas without pattern; (2) dungarees or similar protective garments. These are all, as I have said, covered by Quota Order No. 39. The agreement which provided for the regulation of the imports of these cloths by quota also provided that the duties which were in force prior to the 26th June, 1940, should be reduced in some cases and in all cases that a preferential rate should apply to the imports from the United Kingdom and Canada.
In respect of the goods covered by Quota Order No. 39 the duties in force prior to the 26th June, 1940, were at the rate of 40 per cent. or 4d. per square yard, whichever was the higher. That is in respect of all countries. Under the amended duties which came into force as from the 26th June, 1940, the full rate of 40 per cent. still applied, with a preferential rate of 20 per cent. in the case of imports from the United Kingdom and Canada.
Quota Order No. 40 covers terry cloths. In the case of these cloths the duties in force prior to the 26th June, 1940, were, as in the case of the goods covered by Quota Order No. 39, 40 per cent., or 4d. per square yard, and the duties on these cloths have been similarly amended so that they are now as the full rate, 40 per cent., and as the preferential rate on manufactures from the United Kingdom and Canada of 20 per cent.
Quota Order No. 41 covers cloths not less than four ounces per square yard with a pattern woven therein and used in the manufacture of shirt and pyjamas. In this case the duty was 40 per cent., and the full rate since the 26th June still stands at 40 per cent., with a preferential rate of 20 per cent. in favour of imports from the United Kingdom and Canada.
Quota Order No. 42 covers cloths containing more than 60 per cent. by weight of cotton and not exceeding ten ounces in weight per square yard which are not covered by Quota Orders Nos. 39, 40 or 41. On these there was a duty in force prior to the 26th June, 1940, of 40 per cent. The full rate in the case of these cloths has been increased to 45 per cent., with a preferential rate to the United Kingdom of 30 per cent.
In the case of cloths not subject to quota, that is cotton and union cloths other than any of those that are covered by Quota Orders Nos. 39, 40, 41 and 42, the duties in force prior to the 26th June were 40 per cent. The preferential rate remains at 40 per cent. with a full rate at 60 per cent.
I do not think there is anything more I can say except perhaps to give the House some information as to the quantities licensed for importation under each quota order and the extent to which imports have been restricted.
Under Quota Order No. 39, the quota for the period from the 27th August to the 31st October was fixed at 50,000 yards, of which 49,720 yards were licensed for importation. The quota for the succeeding three months, the current quarter, from the 1st November to the 31st January next, is a further 50,000 yards. In the case of Quota Order No. 40, the first quota, covering the period from 7th August to the 31st October, 1940, was fixed at 90,000 yards, of which 74,715 were licensed for importation. For the current quarter the quota has been fixed at 90,000 yards. In the case of Quota Order No. 41, the quota from 7th August to 31st October was 200,000 yards, of which 186,948 were licensed for importation. For the current quarter the quota has also been fixed at 200,000 yards. In respect of Quota Order No. 42, the quota for the period 7th August to 31st October was 9,000,000 yards and the quantity licensed for importation was 8,563,000 yards. In the current quarter for this year the quota has similarly been fixed at 9,000,000 yards.
Some day this House will have to face the question of whether we will go on with the quota racket or not. I am as certain as that I am standing here that if this quota racket is allowed to continue this country will go the way of the Third Republic of France and the way of other countries that eventually became overwhelmed by corruption, by permitting this system to weigh down the Government and everybody else in the country. There is no use in the Minister telling this House that he has made provision for the admission of immense quantities of stuff under these quota orders. Quota orders beget rings— they cannot do anything else. God knows it is nearly time the Labour Party, who protest so much about the robbing of the poor consumer in this country, should wake up to that.
Every quota order that comes into this House is the foundation, upon which is built a new machine for squeezing the blood out of the poorest elements of this community. The Labour Party have voted for them time and time again, and have stood for quotas and high protection. Eyery quota adopted by the House has been used for the purpose of robbing the people of this country. There you have the situation in front of you; you know what is going on and you know what is going to happen, and still these orders are brought before the House for ratification and extension. Some of the men responsible for them may approach the matter in the best of good faith, not realising whither they are going, but the result of the whole thing is that flannelette, sheeting, ticken, shirting, terry towelling and all the current goods that the pour normally buy, are going to be handed over as a complete monopoly to a tiny group of industrialists and a microscopic group of wholesalers, and nothing is going to happen for at least six months. Everything will go on like a wedding bell, and a most conservative course will be pursued; but, at the end of six months, somebody responsible for the manufacturing costs will be making up the price of a new fabric and will probably say: "Seven-sixteenths of a penny is all we can take on that." Someone else will ask: "Why do you say that is all we can take on it?" The reply will be: "Competition will knock us out if we put on any more." Then will come the statement: "There is not any competition in this country any longer; that is the old fashioned way to do business. You do not make competitive price now; you put on a mark up that will give you a decent profit."
The trade union organiser comes round and the demands of the trade unions have to be dealt with. Put it on the calico; who the hell cares? The poor fools in the country will have to pay it; they cannot go out naked, and so we stick it on. Put on a penny and seven-sixteenths of a penny, and if anyone criticises it, call him a West Briton. In all probability Deputy Childers will write a letter to the papers about the persistent persecution of Irish industry by the dastardly Deputy Dillon. That will go down well. Give a banquet, and for God's sake do not forget to play the Soldier's Song at the end of it. That is always worth three-farthings a yard if you are able to do it. How long is this thing going to go on? It will have to stop some day, and if it does not stop soon the people will make it stop. And the worst of it is that when they rise up in protest against this kind of exploitation they will have grounds for rising that no honest man will be in a position to resist. This quota system is designed for the persecution of the defenceless elements in our community.
On many previous occasions, when quota orders were before the House for approval, the Deputy was informed that he must confine himself to the actual quota order before the House and not range over the whole field of the quota system. The debate is limited to the proposals submitted for approval or disapproval.
And the Deputy should not sneer at those who were out in Easter Week.
I did not sneer at them, but I deplore the use of such methods as have been adopted. They were unworthy of people of excellent national record in this country. Let such records never be quoted in defence of the type of thing that is done to-day. Many people who suffered in the past gave everything and got nothing. Many people who boast to-day that they are patriots get everything and give nothing. It sickens me to hear decent national records claimed as a justification for the disreputable transactions that are going on to-day.
Let us come down to these quota orders. The Minister is a bit disingenuous when he thinks he has nothing to tell us in regard to these matters. What is the history of the factory in Athlone? Are not these orders designed to rescue the rotten hulk of that wrecked enterprise in Athlone? Is it not true that the Minister for Industry and Commerce gave his consent to the putting there of a bankrupt Belgian company—consented to the establishment of a semi-fraudulent concern that was largely equipped with second-hand machinery and that then proceeded to turn out terry cloth and certain other products which no fish and chip shop would have attempted to offer to the public if it was not protected by a quota order? And, despite the unsatisfactory nature of its products, and the scandalous prices asked for them, that company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Is that not a fact, and is it not so that in that state of affairs the company had either to be allowed to close down or had to be rescued by a kind of reorganisation of the cotton industry whereunder the bankrupt Athlone concern was to be taken over by a solvent concern? All that is to be glossed over and hidden. All that is to be forgotten once these four quota orders are passed, but it will not be forgotten so long as I am here. I say now that if transactions of this kind are to go on, they will lead our country into misunderstandings and difficulties far greater than those immediately concerned with the trifling industries affected by these orders.
It is very easy, when you are speaking from the Olympian heights of Government, to forget the detailed application of orders of this kind. The Minister does not reflect when he puts a quota on flannelette that when I stand behind my counter in Ballaghaderreen every person who comes in to buy a garment of flannelette— and it is the poor who buy it—pays me a tax of from 7d. to 10d. a garment which goes into the coffers of the cotton millers of the country. There is no escaping from it; nobody challenges it. Nobody pretends that flannelette manufactured in this country, quality for quality, can compete in price with flannelette manufactured in Manchester. The differential, in my judgment, is about 2d. a yard. That is a matter we could argue about for ever, because you have to consider the quality of the cloth and a variety of other surrounding circumstances, in addition to the actual price demanded for it. I put the differential about 2d. a yard on the 1/- flannelette, going up to nearly 3d. on the 1/6 flannelette. That means that a person who buys 3½ yards pays me a tax of between 10½d. and 1/6 a garment. As a matter of fact, I have seen good flannelette produced in this country but it is the price, the differential, upon which I am dwelling.
The same applies to sheeting. Say that a woman comes in to buy a pair of sheets. Whatever approach the Irish manufacturers can make with regard to equality of price in the higher-grade sheeting, so far as the lower grades are concerned, they cannot compete at all. I think it is no exaggeration to say that for a pair of sheets which a poor person buys—that is, the 54 inch sheeting; I am not referring to the 63 inch or the 72 inch—that person pays a tax of nearly 2/-. In regard to ticken, there is good ticken made in this country. There was always Irish linen ticken sold in competition with ticken from any other part of the world, but here again it is the cheap cotton ticken that the poor must buy, which is going to bear the brunt of this burden. That is not produced in this country at all, and the parson who buys two-and-a-half yards of double-width ticken, or five yards of single width ticken, to make a feather-bed or a tick, is going to pay a tax approximately of 4/- or 5/- more than if he could have bought it from England.
Terry towelling is a quality of fabric you do not see in the houses of aristocrats. It is very largely used in the small country houses for the roller towel or for the coloured terry towel or the white terry towel. The towels the Athlone Mills were asking 8/11 a dozen for were not worth 4/11 a dozen. I could have bought better towels in Great Britain for 4/11 than Athlone is asking 8/11 for. I cannot carry the figures for all these products in my mind, but I remember that one. We are going to have a Quota Order now to prevent us from getting the extern product at all and to force us to take the home product. I think it is only right to sound this note of warning, that if you go too far in that direction the people will cease using terry towelling altogether; they will use bits of flour bags instead. They will stand exploitation up to a point but, if you go too far, they will cease using it altogether.
Then, printed shirting used in the manufacture of tunic shirts and sateen and woven shirting used in the manufacture of working shirts, are going to be made the subject of a Quota Order. Does the Minister understand what the quota on sateen shirting has meant in the price of a shirt? It has increased the price of the average man's working shirt by about 10d. or 1/3 each. I have sold shirts, quite good shirts, for 2/-, and the increase resulting from the quota is about 1/3 per shirt. Is the House daft? We are supposed to represent the people. We spend the greater part of our time providing limited groups of individuals in this country with opportunities to plunder the people and the rest of the time stumping the country telling the people they ought to like it and that, if they do not like being plundered by these small groups of individuals, they are not patriots, that they are frauds and traitors. I am asking the Minister will he justify the further extension of quotas on cotton goods such as is suggested in these four orders, for I have heard nobody so far try to do it. There is one argument put forward, that it is vital to secure supplies of cotton yarn and that we might not have been supplied with them, were it not for the quota scheme. I deny that.
I say it is a perfectly rational thing to say to Britain: "Very well; we will give you a preferential rate if you give us cotton yarns." Some Deputies in this House will say: "What is the difference between a tariff and a quota? Why are you so vehement on the subject of quotas while you are prepared to tolerate a tariff?" There is this difference; that the tariff can never bring about the hide-bound ring and the ruthless exploitation that the quota invites. Once a quota is got going, you have absolutely no remedy whatever against the quota racketeer. A lot of people imagine that if you make a quota which provides for the importation of goods far in excess of the nation's probable consumption, anybody can go in and import goods, and that so long as the quota is not exceeded the goods will come in. That is not so. If you want to import quotaed goods you first get your name inserted on the register. Let us suppose that the Department adopts a liberal attitude in regard to such applications. Then you get a licence. Suppose you buy a parcel of goods, your parcel of goods comes to the port and you then have got to dispatch your licence and the goods are then checked off from the licence. The licence is then returned to you and your goods are subsequently released. Now, if you are in a large way of business with a considerable clerical staff experienced in the handling of such documents, that really presents no serious difficulty. But 90 per cent. of the merchants of this country are not in a large way of business; 90 per cent. of them have not got a large clerical staff; 90 per cent. of them would simply give up importing altogether if they have to go through the elaborate machinery of dealing with the import quota system. I admit freely that once you get accustomed to it and know the run of it, it is comparatively easy to deal with. But 90 per cent. of the people are not so accustomed, and the result is that you get a limited group of persons who make it their business to become accustomed to do it and who avail of the privilege they get as a result of exercising the quota freely to plunder the rest of the country who do not know how to go about it or who cannot take advantage of the licensing system.
I am telling you now again that quotas beget racketeering in every industry to which they apply. I am telling you that this quota should not be imposed. The Chair limits our discussion to the particular quota here contemplated. But I oppose this quota, not only on the merits but as part of a rotten system, and I am certain that this quota and all those analogous to it will ultimately wreak havoc with our public life if they are continued. I understood the Minister himself to say, about a year ago, that he himself had no love for quotas, that he shared my apprehension and dislike of the quota system and that, whatever our differences might be as to the expediency of using tariffs, we were probably much nearer one another on the subject of quotas. This does not seem to look like it. If this is a herald of what he is going to embark upon in the immediate future, it augurs ill for the future of the country. So far as I am concerned, in any case, I want to make this clear: that so long as I can get a sufficient number of thousands of people to return me here I will attack quotas whenever they put their head up. I will expose the combinations and organisations designed to foist them on the community, and wherever and whenever I can I shall take such steps as may be available to me to oppose them, to abolish them, no matter what the consequences to individuals may be, because they are the cruellest instrument of exploitation that could possibly be devised by Parliament, they are the surest and broadest path down to corruption in public life and general demoralisation of the kind which undid and ultimately destroyed public affairs in France.
As to Quota No. 42, I understood the Minister to say that the idea of these quotas was to assist local manufactures.
I think No. 42 is being taken separately.
Then it is being discussed with the other three?
I understand that these are designed to foster local manufactures. Can the Minister say if tape is manufactured in the country, because it comes under No. 42 for a quota, not for duty?
No. 42 is, in fact, not restrictive. The quota there has been fixed at so high a figure that it will not restrict imports.
But it means that you must get a licence.
What is the use of having it on then? It only causes a great lot of trouble.
It is designed to reserve to British manufacturers a certain proportion of ths market.
They will get it anyway.
I think the Minister would have been more helpful if he put these particular orders in a clearer perspective, because, so far as I understand what is being done here in connection with cotton imports, something is being done which is a very considerable improvement on anything that has been done by quotas in the past; that it represents a piece of work for industrial development in the country and whatever is right, or whatever is wrong with it, deserves to be put in proper perspective. As I understand, this is the result of an agreement come to before the outbreak of the war, that is, that in the circumstances mentioned by the Minister discussions went on between the cotton manufacturers in this country and cotton manufacturers in Great Britain. There was a complete review of the situation and, as a result of a complete review of the situation by consultations between the manufacturers on both sides and the Department of Industry and Commerce, a certain view of the situation was taken and certain actions were proposed arising out of that. An agreement was come to which, I understand, arranged for the reduction of tariffs on certain cotton goods; that is, that tariffs which had been put on cotton goods coming into the country were to be reduced and that a quota system was to be introduced entirely of a directional nature intended to improve the amount of trade the British manufacturers were getting in this country; and that the Department approved of that on the merits before ever the war came about. It was recognised that there were over 3,000 persons living out of the cotton and linen industry in this country, that about £308,000 was paid in wages, and that under the system which was being adopted the industry was being reviewed here in order to see in what way, in fairness to the workers and in fairness to the general public here, an arrangement could be come to that would secure the retention, development and perfection of the industry here, retain the workers, reduce the price to the purchasers of even home manufactures, and give a better opening in our market to the British producers.
That seems to be a fair and reasonable approach to the situation, whatever may have been the circumstances or the complaints about building up the industry or the development of it, or whatever complaints there may have been previously with regard to tariffs or quotas. I understand that there were no quotas applied to these goods before. But, as I say, the scheme appears to me to reduce some of the tariffs, to apply quotas for a purpose for which quotas have not been applied before, simply for a directional purpose, and that, arising out of that, when the war situation came, we found that even the making of an agreement which has not been completely implemented had so improved relations in trading between ourselves and Great Britain that we were able in very difficult times to secure for this country, as you might say, any yarn supplies that were necessary and to secure them at a reasonable price.
I think, therefore, that it would be a pity, in discussing this proposal here, not to recognise it for what it is, that is, a facing up to the situation that existed pre-September, 1939, a reduction in tariffs, establishing satisfactory arrangements for trading between ourselves and Great Britain, arising out of which, when the war came, we were able to secure yarn supplies for the country at a fairly favourable price. When in our present situation, we consider that there are, in fact, 3,590 persons employed in the industry, and that a sum of £308,000 is paid in salaries and wages, whatever complaints we may have had about the Government and, their industrial policy and the way they handled things, we ought not to pile on them more than they can bear. We ought to try to look clearly at what exactly is being done in this case, and to feel that something is being done which is useful and which can be looked at from other points some other time, but from my point of view it is satisfactory to see the Government reducing tariffs, to see it establishing better trading relations between ourselves and Great Britain, to see it securing supplies of raw material, and to see that being done in circumstances in which the prices would be fairly reasonable and the supplies fairly secure. As I say, it is satisfactory to see these things being done, and if there are 3,500 people depending on that industry in this country at the present moment, it is satisfactory for these people, at least, to see that they have some hope of continuity and fair conditions in employment.
I rather disagree with the whole system of quotas, because, after all, if it is necessary to have protection, a reasonable tariff is certainly something that can be defended, but then a quota, after that, is for nothing else except to increase the price of the home-manufactured article still more. I cannot see any other purpose, because by raising the tariff or by lowering it you can regulate the inflow of goods into this country, and if a reasonable tariff is not able to keep these competitive goods from being imported here, then it is plain that there must be profiteering. If the unfortunate consumer were able to bear this increased cost, I would not complain, but what is the position? I wish that this House would only examine the position and see how the people who are producing down the country are handicapped as compared with the people who are manufacturing these goods. The people who are purchasing these articles, that are paying 100 per cent. over their world value, are selling their own produce at 50 per cent. under world value, and you may take the prices upon the open market in Great Britain as being the world value.
These people are hit in two ways, and, as Deputy Dillon has pointed out, it is all part of the system, and of the settled policy of differentiating in favour of one section of the people as against the other section, protecting one section of the people and keeping them at the top whilst treating others as inferior—treating as inferior the people who are the backbone of the country. It is time that that distinction should be stopped, and it is time that the thing should be considered from a broad, national point of view and that the different classes in one part of the country should be treated as similar classes in other parts are treated. It is time that there should be fair consideration and that this whole thing should be looked into. I do not want to go into details, because I am becoming disgusted with details, but I want the whole system to be debated in this House, and I have a motion on the order paper for two years asking the Government and the House to deal with this question.
I just want to make it clear at the outset that the position of General Textiles, Limited, had nothing whatsoever to do with the making of this quota order. As I explained—perhaps not too lucidly—in introducing these quota orders the decision to make cotton imports subject to quota restrictions was arrived at as a result of an agreement made between the British and Irish cotton manufacturers, somewhere, I think, in July of 1939. In the making of that agreement, all the cotton manufacturers in this country participated, including, of course, General Textiles, Limited, Athlone. I think it was very unwise, very unfair, and very injudicious of Deputy Dillon to take this occasion to attack an undertaking which is, at any rate, giving considerable employment in the town of Athlone, and which is now meeting the Irish market with products which, whether they are as good as they should be or not, at any rate are the only products available. To hear Deputy McGovern and Deputy Dillon talking one would imagine that the people of this country had the whole wide world to choose from when they wanted to buy flannelette or any cotton commodity whatever. The fact of the matter is that for a large proportion of our requirements in these lines we are dependent upon the mills that are at present operating in this country and these mills, in turn, are dependent on the cotton supplies they are able to secure from Great Britain, and if we had not these mills and these supplies the people would have to go out and use flour bags, not merely, as Deputy Dillon suggested, for towels, but possibly for shirts as well.
It was because of my recognition that it was essential that we should have some source of supply for these articles that I consented to give effect to this agreement. Indeed the main consideration which weighed with me in giving effect to the agreement and in asking the Government to make these goods subject to quota restrictions was that, under the agreement, the supplies of raw materials would be reasonably assured for cotton mills and that 3,500 people would be maintained in employment. In that connection I think that, from the point of view of the farming community with which Deputy McGovern professes to be so concerned, it is a very important thing that 3,500 people should be kept in employment in towns like Athlone, towns like Dundalk and, of course, the City of Dublin, because these 3,500 people and their families are affording a very much bettor market for Deputy McGovern's constituents than can be got anywhere else in the world at the present time.
Let us not forget that we should think of these problems as a whole. There is no use in coming along and crying down one sector of our industrial activity and starting to talk about how unfair it is to the country people that they should have to pay so much for the products of the townspeople, when the townsman could easily turn around and say how unfair it is to him to have to pay so much for the products of the country people. That is not the way this country will win through the present world situation. We have got to be fair to one another, and no Deputy in this House is capable of carrying the responsibilities of membership who, in present circumstances, simply for the sake of making a petty point in a debate like this, would try to get some section of the community against another.
What will you do if they all come into the cities? They are coming in, and you cannot keep them out.
At any rate, in the country, they are secure in their food supplies, in their houses, and in their fuel, and that is much more than can be said for a great many townspeople. For goodness sake, do not let us start this kind of petty factionism in this House. That is the sort of thing that brought down France, because you had one man trying to play off the peasants in the South of France against industrial workers in Paris and other large cities. That is what brings down any community. Let Deputy McGovern try in these matters to be an Irishman and to forget that he is a mere village pump politician.
A little more than that happened.
Can we have an answer to a clear question? Are the tariffs being reduced as a result of the agreement?
I said so. Some of them are.
Is the quota purely in one direction?
That is so. It does reserve to British manufacturers that part of the market which we cannot supply ourselves.
Does it reserve a market here that our merchants can meet when they get into full capacity and can supply?
Some questions were raised about quotas developing rings of wholesalers. Will the Minister say what restrictions there are upon persons importing cotton fabrics, as part production as compared with total consumption is rather small, and there are very large importations? Can the Minister say if there are serious restrictions on ordinary shopkeepers importing cotton goods?
I am not aware of any serious restrictions. I move:—
That Dáil Eireann hereby approves of the Control of Imports (Quota No. 39) Order, 1940.
That Dáil Eireann hereby approves of the Control of Imports (Quota No. 40) Order, 1940.
That Dáil Eireann hereby approves of the Control of Imports (Quota No. 41) Order, 1940.
I move "that Dáil Eireann hereby approves of the Control of Imports (Quota No. 42) Order, 1940.