The Taoiseach is the head of a Government, and the Labour Party has put down this motion to refer the Vote back because we consider that the Government, as a whole, lacks initiative, imagination, drive or direction, especially in this time of crisis and emergency and, probably, disturbance. The Government still continue to act in the old orthodox, peacetime ways, without any apparent realisation of the dangers that beset the country. The Taoiseach has told us that he apprehends a dangerous position next winter, in the cities and towns, I take it, but I want to ask the Taoiseach what plans he has made to meet that dangerous position.
So far as Deputies and the citizens of the country can see, nothing is being done that will ensure that the apprehensions of the Taoiseach will not be justified next winter. The ordinary man down the country turns to his Deputy and asks him what he is doing about it. By means of Parliament, and other means as well, Deputies have tried to impress on the Government the need for making definite plans to meet the situation which is so imminent. There is no doubt that the war effort of the belligerents will be intensified and will definitely put this country into a much more serious position than it is at present. This is evident to any thoughtful person. But I wonder does it impress on the Government the responsibility to plan and to see that the worst of the impact of that position will not be experienced next winter by our people.
Deputy Morrissey referred to the position in towns and cities with regard to fuel. I want to join in the appeal he made for a more intensive drive so far as fuel is concerned. So far as I can see, the position in Cork next winter will be a deplorable one. Even with all the turf cutting that is going on, the county council scheme, the goodwill scheme, and the work that owners of bogs are doing, there will not be sufficient fuel for Cork City next winter or for the areas east of Cork City, which comprise the greater part of my constituency. I can corroborate what Deputy Morrissey said about the restriction on the removal of turf from turf areas. A man who has supplied a good deal of turf to Cork City from the bogs over the border in Kerry told me that when this standstill No. 2 Order, as it has been called, came into force he was prohibited from taking turf to Cork City.
I do not know what the reason for that is. I made representations to the Turf Development Board in order to get that man a licence. He did a very big business in bringing turf into Cork City. He supplied some of the big coal merchants who, I am sure, are trying to lay in stocks. He also supplied the small coal merchants. Now he is stopped from doing that. Can the Taoiseach give any definite reason why that is being done? From what the man told me, what Deputy Morrissey has stated is a fact. The people from whom that man bought turf—and he spent about £3,000 on turf this season —on account of the turf being left on their hands, are not prepared to go ahead and cut any more.
I do not know what the purpose of this order is. There may be some good reason for it, but to my mind it seems ridiculous, because no matter what supplies of turf can be got into Cork City during the next few months, they will not be sufficient for the coming winter. I would like, therefore, to get from the Taoiseach some indication of the purpose of this order. The area that I mentioned is just over the border of Cork County, and supplied turf to various parts of Cork County. Why that has been stopped I do not know. That is only an indication of the Government's policy in this matter. It looks as if they have adopted a Micawber-like policy of waiting for something to turn up; waiting until the emergency is really upon them.
While that position obtains, we are exporting food to Great Britain. If there is to be a food shortage in the coming winter, and the Taoiseach himself admits that there is a danger of that, I cannot understand why we are exporting food at present. My information is that £100,000 worth of potatoes have been exported, and I do not see what we have got in return. We may have got promises to pay under the signature of the Bank of England. If we have a surplus to export, we should get some commodities in return, either materials that are wanted for industries, or some other foodstuffs such as tea, flour, etc.
The Taoiseach is very fond of describing the nation as a family, and saying that each and every member of the family is entitled to a share. That position has not obtained at any time in this country to my knowledge, and, so far as indications go, it will not obtain. People in my area who are trying to live on 14/- a week cannot get their share of food or fuel. That sum is only given to a man who has a wife and five or more children. The family idea does not go very far in those cases. Extra allowances have been promised to the recipients of unemployment assistance, home assistance, old age pensions, etc., but there is no evidence of these being put into operation, and the position at the moment is that people in those areas are in a very bad way.
I am referring to an area in my constituency bordering on Cork harbour, comprising a big population, and including Passage West and Cobh, in which there is no employment to be had. There are no bogs adjacent to that area, so that the people there cannot be employed on turf cutting. I therefore want to impress on the Taoiseach the necessity for useful schemes for employment in that district. Since the turf drive was started in Cork County the surveyors and their staffs are engaged altogether in connection with turf production. But there should be some consideration for areas where turf schemes and ancillary schemes, such as the making of bog roads, etc., cannot be put into operation. I have had letters from people in that area asking me to get something done. I have put the matter before the Department and before the Taoiseach, and I am putting it now publicly before him. Something must be done in those areas. We are supposed to be making provision so that people will not be hungry next winter, but there have been hungry people in this country for a long number of years. People are hungry at this moment, and we sit complacently here and do nothing about it. If the family idea is the key-note of the Taoiseach's operations now and in the future, let him turn his attention to these places I have mentioned.
There is a steel works in Cobh which has been closed down since 11th February last. I know for a fact that the Taoiseach was appealed to in the matter, because the Minister for Industry and Commerce did not seem to take any further interest in it. Private enterprise had failed and, therefore, it was not the duty of the Government to do anything further. There is a need for that industry, if industries which are useful, such as house building, railways and a number of subsidiary industries are to be kept going. I should like the Taoiseach to listen to the appeals made in this matter. Very probably there will be a further appeal made, because I understand that a conference of public bodies is to be held on next Monday night and a deputation may be sent to the Taoiseach in an effort to get him to do something. Private enterprise having failed on this occasion, the Government has a responsibility and a duty to an industry which is vital almost to the very existence of the State. It was an industry which gave a certain amount of employment. Probably the war caused its dislocation but, at the same time, there is enough scrap material available to keep the industry going and to keep the other industries I speak of going as well.
I think it was the Minister for Supplies who said, in reply to a question by my colleague, Deputy Corry, that no scrap was being exported from this country, but I think Deputy Corry proved to the satisfaction of the House that 30,000 tons of scrap iron were exported under licence from this country last year. My information is that with that amount of material and the amount which can be collected, if there is a drive for it, Haulbowline could be kept going as a major industry in the country. I am sure the Taoiseach knows very well what I am talking about, and I hold that it is his duty to see that this industry is kept going. There is definitely room for it, and there is definitely a demand, even at present, for such material as was being turned out there. There are 2,600 tons of rails there which, if the industry was put going, could be utilised. It is the duty of the Taoiseach and the Government to see that where there is employment for people who cannot find employment in the fuel and food drives, these people should be put to work. I have given one example of what could be done. I do not want to go into the matter in detail, but I want to bring it to the notice of the Taoiseach that the people down there believe that a responsibility rests on him as head of the Government to do something to get this industry going again.
What is the position in the country to-day? We have numbers of people who cannot get employment, no matter how the fuel drive is arranged. They cannot be absorbed in that drive. We have in Cork City 2,300 applications from people who are anxious to cut turf. Half of them could not be employed in the fuel drive, with the result that many of them have gone across to Britain. I am not arguing that they should be kept here in the conditions of starvation which they experienced while they were here, but it is a fact that these people are facing the bombs and the submarines, the dangers and the hardships in Britain in order to get work there. My contention is that if the Government plans its operations in regard to fuel, industries and whatever other schemes are available—and I have a number of schemes which I can give to the Taoiseach, to the Minister for Local Government or whatever Minister is concerned—these men need not go across to Britain.
My information is that there are at present 30,000 men seeking passports to go to England. The Government are well aware of that position and, side by side with that, we have large numbers of young men, the best of our young men, leaving the country to join the British Army to become cannon fodder for one of the belligerents. That is the position because the Taoiseach and his Government have not so arranged matters that these people would have—and they do not expect much more—frugal comfort in their own land by the work of their hands and their brains. The only remedy for the position is to put people into useful employment in which they will have purchasing power in respect of the necessaries of life for themselves and their families. There is very little use in talking of the family as a unit when families are being broken up, and when the head of the family has to go across to Britain to find work, or to join the British Army, so that he can send something home to keep his family.
Does it not show a callous indifference to the whole principle of family life? Is 14/- a week for a man, his wife, and five, six or seven children in a rural area, sufficient to provide the ordinary necessaries of life at present? Surely that is not the conception of family life that should obtain in a Christian Parliament. We are looking complacently on at that position. On the one hand we are told that the work is not there, that schemes cannot be got—and £500,000 has to go back into the Exchequer because schemes cannot be found on which to use the money—but, on the other hand, we are told that the money cannot be got. The men, however, can be got, because they are there in thousands, ready and willing to work, and the work, I contend, is available.
I want to come back again to this question of fuel. In connection with the food and fuel problem, there was a system of parish councils set up some time ago, and I want to say to the Taoiseach that I cannot see any practical good being accomplished by those councils down in my constituency.