I formally move that the Dáil adjourn to November 12th.
Private Deputies' Business. - Debate on the Adjournment—Turf Supplies.
On this question of fuel we had a rather long statement from the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday afternoon. I am not to be taken as grumbling at the length of it. The matter is of sufficient importance to warrant a long statement, but the statement presented two pictures—one I am glad to say a rather bright one and the other a very, very dark one indeed. There are many aspects of this fuel problem which, perhaps, could be spoken of with advantage in this debate, but I prefer to confine myself as far as I can to the two main questions of production—in rather a brief way, now that the production period is over—and distribution, which includes transport.
So far as the production of what has come to be known as "national turf" is concerned, having regard to all the circumstances—the late start, the amount of pioneer work that had to be done in many of the bogs, particularly where they had to tackle virgin bog, the lack at the beginning of sufficient materials, sleans, barrows and so on, and having regard in particular to the scarcity of skilled labour in relation to the magnitude of the task with which they were faced—I think the production of over 1,000,000 tons of turf has been a very creditable performance. Undoubtedly, many things in connection with its production could have been done much better. Many mistakes were made, but I think it will be admitted that, having regard again to the circumstances, these mistakes were inevitable. They were bound to happen, and I am perfectly satisfied that, not only have we got a very good return but we have a machine now ready which will ensure a far greater return for the expenditure next year.
The last occasion on which this matter was debated in the House was —as far as I remember—in July, and on that occasion I dwelt principally on the question of transport. It is not a very popular thing for anybody to get up here or elsewhere and say: "I told you so." The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that, on more than one occasion during that month and, I think, in the previous month, I emphasised that transport in this country, such as it was, would be available and free only for a certain limited time to carry turf. I appealed to him and to the Taoiseach that road, rail and canal services standing idle at that time should be used then to transport turf into places like the City of Dublin. I did not get very much of a hearing, I am afraid.
The Parliamentary Secretary, in his statement yesterday, repeated almost word for word some of the statements which I made in July. He confirmed, if I might say so, the fears which I expressed then. At that time I pointed out to the House that, once the month of September was reached, most of the transport services would be occupied in dealing with the transport of grain —mainly wheat, but also large quantities of barley and oats—and that, towards the end of October or the beginning of November, when the cartage of grain would be easing off, we would be starting on to the beet season, which would continue practically into the new year, so that very little of our limited transport would be available for transferring turf from the turf to the non-turf areas. At that time, I stated that I could not understand why such a sweeping order as the order made on the 1st July had been made. I will return to that later.
At that time, speaking about Dublin, the Parliamentary Secretary stated—in the debate on the 2nd July this year, as reported in column 812 of the Official Debates:
"At the moment I am not trying to bring turf into Dublin for sale. Some turf for sale in Dublin will come in, but June, July and August are not the months in which the obligation rests upon me to take out of the exiguous pool any stated quantity for consumption."
"June, July and August," he said. When September, October and November arrive we find that we have not the vehicles available to transport the turf into the City of Dublin.
What is the position? I should like to emphasise, as strongly as I can, that the position facing the City of Dublin for the coming winter, so far as fuel is concerned, is a desperate one. According to the figures given in this House yesterday, even if the Parliamentary Secretary's fondest hopes in relation to the transport of fuel to the City of Dublin are realised, it will mean having regard to the calorific values of turf and coal and bearing in mind the normal consumption for domestic and industrial purposes in the city, that there will be available only one quarter of the fuel required. The Parliamentary Secretary tells us that he has available a surplus of somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000 tons of turf.
He has an iron ration for the City of Dublin of 70,000 tons and he hopes to bring turf into the City of Dublin at the rate of 2,000 tons per day. Now, 70,000 tons of turf seems to be a vast quantity, but, in relation to the normal consumption of coal in the City of Dublin, it is little more than a week's supply.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Minister for Supplies, in answer to a Parliamentary question yesterday, stated that the normal consumption of coal in the City of Dublin for industrial and domestic purposes, in the five months from November to March, was 100,000 tons per month. In the absence of definite information, which even the Parliamentary Secretary was not in a position to give us, I have to assume that there will be very little, if any, coal available for ordinary domestic or commercial purposes in the City of Dublin, but to meet that shortage we have 70,000 tons of an iron ration and there will be 2,000 tons coming in per day—we hope, if the railways stand up and if something happens. That represents, roughly, between 50,000 and 60,000 tons a month. If we assume that there will be no coal available in the City of Dublin, you would want 200,000 tons of turf per month from November to March, inclusive. That would represent 1,000,000 tons of turf. The position is that we have 70,000 tons of an iron ration and we hope to bring in 2,000 tons per day.
Having regard to that position, the fuel situation facing Dublin City for the coming winter is, as I have said already, a desperate one. I am afraid that, notwithstanding any efforts which may now be made by the Parliamentary Secretary, it will not be possible to give a fire to one out of every three families in this city during the winter, and that is an appalling situation. It is a situation which, I contend, could have been met, if not completely, certainly very largely met. Some of you have before you the figures relating to the production of turf in the different counties, given yesterday by the Parliamentary Secretary. I want you to remember that the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department were in a position last July to know that it would have been perfectly safe for them to bring turf out of certain turf areas into the non-turf areas, and particularly into the City of Dublin, but, notwithstanding the fact that that information was to hand, and that it was then clear to them, with all the information that was at their disposal, that the turf was there and that there would be an excess of turf in those areas nothing was done. For those two months there was less call upon the transport system than there has been for many years, because, not only was there no corn or beet or anything else to be carried over the roads, rails or canals during those two months, but, as most Deputies are aware, there were not very many cattle to be carried during that period either. I think I would not be far wrong if I were to say that 70 per cent. of the railway rolling stock as distinct from passenger trains was practically idle over that period.
What I said last July and what I say now has been completely borne out by the Parliamentary Secretary's statement last night. By the middle of September, he said, there had been built up transport for 2,500 tons of turf a day into non-turf areas. From about September 20th, however, the position gradually began to deteriorate until, by the end of the month, it had become critical. It became worse for the first three weeks of October, partly due to the beginning of the wheat traffic. That is what the Parliamentary Secretary said, and that bears out exactly what we told the House last July would happen.
The Parliamentary Secretary, even in the light of his experience of the last two months, now tells us that he hopes by November to get up to 3,000 tons per day. Is he not aware—there are Deputies in his own Party who can tell him—that when the beet season starts it is going to make far heavier demands upon railway rolling stock than the corn has made? There will be far greater quantities of beet to be carried by rail than would be carried by road. Not only that, but, generally speaking, beet will be carried in the type of wagons that are most suitable for the carrying of turf, both from the point of loading and unloading.
That is the black side of the picture. I had hoped that the Parliamentary Secretary, in the course of his long statement, would have dwelt on that aspect at much greater length. I had hoped he would have given the House sound reasons why he refused to allow turf to be brought in by private individuals or to bring it himself into the City of Dublin during July, August and September.
This whole question has now come down to one of transport. I am very glad the Taoiseach has come in. Some months ago the Taoiseach said that the problem was not going to be a problem of providing turf; the problem was to get the turf where it is most needed, to get that turf from the production areas into the areas where it is most needed. I say deliberately that the Government have fallen down completely on the question of the transport of turf. I have already paid my little tribute to the magnificent work, having regard to all the circumstances, that has been done in the production of turf. I am quite as well aware as anybody of the difficulties that had to be overcome, and I say they were overcome in a way that reflects great credit on those responsible.
We are now faced, however, with 500,000 or 600,000 tons of turf available and, according to the figures at our disposal, every ton of that 500,000 or 600,000 tons will be required in the City of Dublin, not to talk about the rest of the eastern side of the country. We have 70,000 tons of an iron ration, and we hope we can bring in 2,000 tons a day. That means one thing to me, and one thing only, that many people in the City of Dublin, particularly the poor and more particularly those living in tenements, will be very often without a fire, I am afraid, during the coming winter.
That is so far as what we call national turf is concerned. That is so far as what we will call national organisation of transport is concerned, but when we come to deal with the class of people upon whom the Taoiseach told us we would have to rely mainly for the production and saving of turf in this country, the private producers, what are we to say? Those people were appealed to from platforms, over the radio, in the cinema and in the newspapers, to produce turf. They were told that there was a ready market available for all the good turf they produced, and the people in the turf areas responded, and responded in a magnificent way. Three, four or five families got together, with their friends and relatives and neighbours, and started producing turf in a big way, and they were helped to produce that turf, from April to the end of June, by credits extended to them by local shopkeepers, without which it would have been impossible for them, of course, to keep on at that particular work. At the end of June and the beginning of July, when the turf had been cut, saved, clamped and ready for sale, we had this standstill order, the effect of which was that the turf could not be moved, and, of course, there was consternation in most of the bogs in the country, absolute consternation amongst the men who had worked for three months and now found themselves in the position that although they had the turf cut, saved, and ready for sale, they would not be allowed to sell it. The Parliamentary Secretary may tell me, of course, that there was nothing to prevent them from selling it within their own county borders, but some of those people have never sold more than 25 per cent. of the turf they produced even in normal times, within their own county borders. I know of bogs, and one very large bog in particular, in the Taoiseach's own constituency, that sent the bulk of the turf which it produced far outside that county.
The immediate effect of that was that those men threw down their sleans, and that was the end of the turf-cutting, and, instead of having a second or third harvest, which the Parliamentary Secretary at one time hoped for, we were finished with one harvest, and not only finished with the harvest, but finished with the most experienced and efficient men that we had in the country. That turf was saved. It was there. It could have been brought from those bog areas into the cities at that period, and the ground could have been cleared to enable those men to go ahead again and save a second harvest, and, if the weather had proved sufficiently suitable, to start on a third harvest of turf.
Now, there has been a good deal of muddle and a good deal of confusion in nearly every Department of State, particularly for the last two years, but the muddling and the confusion with regard to the transport of turf and with regard to providing even an iron ration for the people in our large cities is something which, I think, calls for the condemnation of this House. It is a matter that should concern all Deputies in this House, and particularly Deputies for the City of Dublin who are responsible here. It is not my job to do it. I mean that it is not my job in particular, if I might put it that way. I suppose we are all expected to look at these things in a national way, but although my county, taking it all round, is, in the words of the Parliamentary Secretary, fairly secure because we happen to have fairly large quantities of turf, particularly in the northern parts of the county, and because of the fact that if we were driven to extremes we have timber that is not too far away from us, it is not because of that that each and every one of us here in this House has not certain responsibilities with regard to our people here in the City of Dublin or the City of Limerick, or the City of Cork, and I feel that Deputies do not even now realise the gravity of the situation.
I stated here in July that it was my opinion that if all the transport that was then available—and that was certainly three times as much as is available now or is likely to be available for the next three or four months— were to be used, and used to the fullest extent, for those two months. I doubted very much if even now there would be a sufficient amount of turf ready and stored in the City of Dublin to carry the people there over the winter. The Parliamentary Secretary used words yesterday evening upon which I should like him to elaborate a little when he is replying to-night. I confess that I, at least, did not understand him. He said that he did not want to bring in turf into the non-turf areas— I forget whether he said the non-turf areas or confined it to the City of Dublin—for sale at a rate in advance of consumption.
From particular areas.
Oh, I see. Well, if the Parliamentary Secretary made that qualification I certainly did not hear it.
Yes, I did.
Well, that clears that up. However, there are two points with which I should like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary deal, and with which I think he is bound to deal —two main points. One is why the month of July and the month of August were not used when transport was available, when, in fact, as I have stated, 75 per cent. of the rolling stock of the railways was idle, and when there were no fairs and no corn or beet being carried. I want to know why these months were not availed of to bring in turf to the non-turf areas by making use of the transport that was then available. The second point is why the very sweeping order of the 1st July was made, and why it was so rigidly applied. I can see, of course, that it was necessary to take certain precautions against people who wanted to speculate in and corner turf. I can see that it was necessary to prevent certain turf-producing counties from being completely denuded of turf and thus left in a worse position than the City of Dublin, I am afraid, is going to find itself in during the winter, but my objection to the order is that it was too sweeping. Licences to move turf were issued only to a very limited extent, I think, and as I say, those two months were lost. The other effect of it—and I have not yet heard the Parliamentary Secretary on this, and I should like to hear whether he has made any inquiries as to the effect of that order on the producers of turf—the other and principal effect of it was that when those people found that their usual channels for the sale of turf were completely blocked, that they were confined to a local market that, at the time, was not there, and that they could not sell their turf or pay the shopkeepers for the credit extended to them, they threw down their sleans and produced no more turf.
I do not want to take up any more of the time of the House. I do not want to labour the matter unduly. I have repeated a couple of points, but I think they need repetition, and need any emphasis I can give them. This is probably the most pressing matter that could be brought before this House and before the country at the moment. It is a most urgent matter. At the moment, the harvest is safe. So far as food is concerned we are fairly safe. I wish the fuel position were nearly as good, but unfortunately it is not. If I may, I should like again to congratulate those who were responsible for what I consider, in all the circumstances, having regard to the late start, the magnificent result of producing over 1,000,000 tons of turf. They had many difficulties to face this year that they will not have to face next year. In addition, the men will naturally be more efficient next year, and will probably give better results. But I must confess that I am very concerned about the position so far as the city is concerned. Careful as he was to qualify nearly every statement that he made, I think the Parliamentary Secretary painted a more optimistic picture to the House than he was warranted in doing. Having regard to the fact that we are now about to embark on the beet season, which makes the biggest demand that is on the railways at any period of the year, and having regard also to the fact that, through the fortunate disappearance of foot-and-mouth disease, all our fairs are now being held again, and there will be a double demand on the transport system of the country, unless some very extraordinary measures are taken I am afraid we will be lucky if we are able to continue getting turf into the city at the rate of 2,000 tons a day.
I agree with practically everything which Deputy Morrissey has said. The first matter to which I want to refer is the Great Southern Railway rolling stock. Since the railway company started taking turf to the different cities in the present season they have made no provision whatsoever for the more convenient haulage of turf. Their wagons are capable of carrying only three and a half tons of turf. That is a scandal, when the private lorry owner, the man who tries to earn his hire down the country, is able to carry up to five tons on an ordinary lorry.
At the present time the railway company is putting turf into covered wagons which should be used for live stock, and live stock only. We can see how beet is built up in the ordinary trucks, so that they are able to carry up to nine or ten tons, but the turf is simply fired into those trucks at the present time, so that the amount which they carry does not exceed three tons. Seeing that coal is so scarce, it is a shame that those wagons should come from Galway to Dublin with such a light load, while the man with the ordinary private lorry is able to carry five tons. He has made provision for it; he has put crates on at his own expense, but the railway company has made no provision whatsoever for dealing with the matter. I think something should be done immediately, because there is still plenty of turf out on those bogs, and if the weather gets bad it will be impossible to bring it out this season. The railway company should provide better transport. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary has been very busy in the West of Ireland during the summer going around from one bog to another, but he should now direct his whole attention to the matter of transport.
Again, more attention should be given to the cutting of turf. On a few occasions here I have stressed the fact that there is no use in talking about cutting turf unless drainage and road work are attended to. Very little road work has been carried out during the summer. The answer given to me on several occasions was that that work would keep the people from cutting turf. The Department said that they would not build those roads until September or October. The answer I have got from the people concerned is: "Well, that may be a promise, but, if we undertake to cut more turf and there is no road until October, what is going to happen?" I think that, for next year, or even during the winter months, the Parliamentary Secretary should see to it that the necessary drainage and road work are carried out.
There is also another point to which I want to refer. A number of small farmers and farmers' sons have invested in second-hand lorries during the last three months. They have paid their tax and insurance and have put crates on those lorries. They have got the necessary petrol and will continue to get that petrol up to 31st October, but after that date they will be deprived of petrol for the carriage of turf on those private lorries. That is my information, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary or whatever Department is concerned will reconsider the matter. I have seen a document issued from one of the Departments, indicating that they were not entitled to any further petrol after 31st October for the carriage of turf. That is a great injustice both to the ordinary farmer and to the lorry owner who invested his money. It may be said that the farmer can cart his own turf home. It was easy enough to do that years ago when there was not so much tillage, but at the present time the farmer has not sufficient help to do it, owing to additional work on the farm. Secondly, the roads are not really suitable for horse traffic. Some of those men have to travel eight miles a day to haul the turf, and are able to bring home only one creel of turf per day. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should give this matter his consideration.
We were told here in the House by the Parliamentary Secretary or by some Minister that there could be three cuttings of turf. We did not deny it, but we were doubtful as to whether we could have three cuttings this year. I would say that last season was a perfect season for cutting turf. We could have had three cuttings this year if the first cutting had been taken away from the banks when it was dry. The people tried, after the first cutting was dry and had been clamped on the bog, to carry out a second cutting at a great disadvantage, but they were not able to finish it owing to the lack of spreading ground. It would have been quite possible this season to have carried out even a third cutting, because it was a real good season, if the Department or whatever authority was in charge had facilitated the people in taking away the first cutting and the second cutting, and so have left the banks free as a spreading ground for the third cutting. I have been out on a number of bogs, and the complaint I found amongst the people was that there was too much turf left on the bog, particularly turf cut by the local authorities, which should have been taken away to whatever place it was intended for.
There was another matter in which action was taken altogether too late. We know that workers on the bog do not get a meat dinner. They start work at 8 o'clock in the morning and their midday meal consists of a cup of tea or a can of tea. The provision regarding the extra tea allowance for these workers came altogether too late. It was certainly about the end of July, as far as I remember, when that extra allowance was given to them. I would suggest that for the future some better system of providing these extra allowances should be adopted. In this connection I might mention the necessity of ensuring supplies of sugar and of tobacco for these workers. In those districts where men are working from 8 o'clock in the morning until 6 in the evening—the farmers doing their own private work have to work from 8 o'clock until darkness sets in—some system should be adopted to ensure that such extra allowances as are granted to them will reach them in time because the ordinary allowance, say, of an ounce of tea per head is not sufficient even to meet their home requirements. The Parliamentary Secretary is aware that a man who is working in the open requires a good deal more than a man working inside.
I must congratulate the workers on the manner in which they have done their work. The engineers, too, the assistant surveyors and county surveyors throughout the country, are worthy of all praise. Many of them had no previous experience of this work, others had; but in the circumstances I think all of them performed their work very well. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should do everything in his power this winter to assist the removal of all the turf from the bogs. He should pay particular attention to the condition of the roads so that all the turf that is still left there can be removed in the months of November, December and January. For that purpose it will be necessary to give the owners of private lorries special consideration. As Deputy Morrissey has stated, the great problem is to provide fuel for the cities. Rural areas are not badly off but I was certainly surprised at the small return from some counties this year. Other counties, of course, are to be congratulated on the magnificent work they did.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the position in regard to the cutting of timber. Up to the present it was necessary to apply for a permit, and one had got to wait 21 days after making the application before cutting the timber. Apparently the idea was that if one did not get a reply within 21 days one could proceed with the cutting. I am speaking now of timber for firewood. I applied myself last June or July for a permit, but I never got a reply since. There is a big quantity of timber in the country which is only just fit for firewood and which has no commercial value otherwise. There are plenty of beech trees which are of no commercial value, and during this crisis I think they should be made available for fuel. I know that the Department of Lands and Forestry are doing their best to make as much as possible available, but the private owner, who has some trees on his land, heretofore had great trouble in getting the necessary permit to cut them. If he went out to cut a tree, the Guards were down on top of him if he had not got a permit. Apparently, he has still got to wait 21 days after making the application for the permit. I think that something should be done to speed up matters, particularly in cases where the trees which it is proposed to fell are of no commercial value except as fuel. If people do not dispose of these trees—the price is fairly good now—the Government should take some action to make the timber available for fuel. Apart from the fact that they may be ornamental, they are no use on the land.
Again I would urge on the Parliamentary Secretary that his Department should devote as much time as possible this winter to the making of roads and the draining of bogs, and that he should take steps to get out as quickly as possible all the turf that still remains on the bogs. He should also reconsider his attitude regarding the owners of private lorries, because people with horses and earts at the present time have to use these vehicles for the transportation of beet, wheat, potatoes corn and so forth, and it is most unfair to ask them to carry on without lorries in trying to save their turf.
This is a very interesting question. I think that a debate like this will be of considerable assistance to the Parliamentary Secretary in his efforts to solve this problem and will, I hope, enable him to get the cooperation necessary to make the turf-cutting campaign a success in the coming year. By all the signs and tokens, we shall need turf next year probably to a greater extent than during the present year. We can learn from the mistakes that were made this year in conducting the campaign next year, because I do hold that very grave mistakes were made in some instances. It was inevitable that that should be so because this was the first time that the production of turf was tackled on such a large scale and it had to be tackled without giving the matter very serious consideration. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary will have to decide next year that there is only one satisfactory way of producing a turf crop sufficient for the needs of the people. He will have to decide, in my opinion, that direct labour in cutting and saving turf should be utilised only as a very last resort. The one sure way of getting turf cut and saved is to leave it to the private producer and his family. That can be done, and I think that scarcely any direct labour will be needed in the cutting of turf if the Parliamentary Secretary next February, or at the very latest next March, fixes a price per ton for saved turf and guarantees that price. I think he should also grade the turf. People in the country in the past were not accustomed to producing or selling turf by the ton. It was produced and sold by the bulk and by the quality. It would be difficult, I think, to fix the price by bulk and quality when you are aiming at the production of a very large quantity of turf and have to deal with a large number of individuals, but turf should be graded first, second and third class. If a guaranteed price per ton is given next February, or at the latest next March, for first, second and third grade turf, you will get thousands of producers throughout the turf counties to go into turf cutting as a cash crop. They will produce more turf than was produced this year both by direct labour and other methods, and, I would say, 30 per cent. better quality.
The system this year was wrong in this way, that the greater number of people producing turf had no interest whatever in producing saved turf of good quality. A price was given to a man to cut a cubic area of turf. He did not care if the turf was never saved or what size he cut the turf. He flung it up on the bank and got paid for that. The people who came after him to foot the turf and turn it about did not care if it was never saved. They were paid for that job. The third set that came along to turn the turf did not care either, as they were paid for turning it. None of the people who handled it had any interest in saving turf of good quality.
You would avoid that if a price were fixed early on for first-grade turf. I would say that last season you could have got an extraordinary amount of first-quality turf at 17/- per ton. I cannot say whether that would be considered too high a price or not. I think it is not a bit too high when you realise that the carriage of turf from the West of Ireland to Dublin costs 16/- per ton. Surely the person who produces the turf, saves it, and puts it on the roadside, is entitled even to 1/- or 2/- more per ton than the railway company who carry it to Dublin. I think 17/- or 18/- per ton for saved turf is a reasonable price. It is also a very good price and an attractive price. At that figure, I think you will get thousands of families in the turf areas to go into turf-cutting very early in the season, and to produce at least two crops of turf, and that turf will be of good quality. These people will not be going into virgin bogs, but bogs which have been cut year after year, drained bogs, and that will save the Department thousands of pounds in drainage.
If the Department go in for the draining of bogs and making of roads on a large scale, I fear that thousands and thousands of pounds will be wasted, because the work will be rushed. They will not have the bogs matured or produce turf of very good quality for the coming season. It would be better to get the drained bogs cut and turf of good quality produced. You will get that by giving an attractive price to the families who cut turf. I am certain that that system will produce it at a much cheaper rate than the system adopted last season. I know men who earned as much as £7 per week cutting turf last season; a limited number earned that amount. That turf did not give the return to the Department that it should. It was cut roughly in huge big sods and flung up anyway. Men who work under that wage-earning system are tempted to earn as big wages as possible. They do not care whether the turf is of good quality or not. They have no interest in saving turf of good quality, and that is wrong. We cannot blame them for that.
If a price is fixed for the production of turf, a man with a family can get his grown-up sons and daughters to help him cut the turf and his younger children can help to save it after school hours. In that way two or three crops of turf will be saved. By fixing a price for saved turf on the roadside, hundreds of thousands of tons will be produced and placed on the roadside for the Department. That should be the main aim of the Government. It is only as a last resort, if that is thought to be a failure, that they should adopt the suggestion of producing turf by direct labour, because hundreds of men will go into turf cutting who do not know anything about it and do not care whether it is saved or not. They will not give an honest day's work. They will earn as much as they can, but will take no interest as to where they fling the turf. They will only take an interest in cutting their area. Good drying banks are necessary. These people will have to go into virgin bog and will be cutting turf of a very bad quality. Virgin bogs will not be cut by family producers. They will be cutting good drained bogs which have been worked for many years. I make that suggestion because I think the system adopted last season did not work out satisfactorily. It was rather late when the scheme was started. If what I suggest is adopted we will get a good return, and if we offer from 14/- to 18/- a ton for first-quality turf on the roadside the earnings of a man and his family will be very good.
The Department should also take up the question of the carriage of turf. Thousands of people rushed into the turf business in order to get as much as they could out of it. Middlemen bought up stocks of turf and they did not care what the consumers had to pay. In the early stages Dublin firms paid 30/- per ton for turf put on rail in the west. That was stopped by the Department, and I think rightly, because that turf was bought from the producers at 11/-, 12/- and 14/- per ton. The middlemen who brought it to a town a few miles away got the difference between that and 30/-. That should not be allowed. Then I think the price charged by the railway company for transport to Dublin is entirely too high and consumers in non-turf areas are robbed in that way. I think that 14/- or 15/- per ton for carriage is entirely exorbitant.
I also think that the Department should not rush headlong into schemes for the drainage of bogs and the making of roads. We all can suggest schemes of drainage and road work which would benefit our own areas. I think the Department should be very careful in regard to that matter and not be rushed into any big schemes of drainage. There are sufficient drained bogs in this country to produce turf for the whole community for one or two years. As I say, the Department should be very careful about rushed schemes or emergency schemes of that kind. There are some areas which would require drainage and the making of roads which should be attended to by the Department. As the problem was a very difficult one to tackle, I think the Department, county surveyors, and everyone concerned did very excellent work this year considering that they went into it late in the year and that it was tackled in the wrong way by adopting the system of direct labour instead of the system I now suggest.
While the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday evening delivered a very lengthy speech on the question of turf and fuel production generally, I felt when he had finished that we did not even then know the extent of the problem confronting us or the magnitude of the task that had yet to be faced. The most reliable information we could get from the Parliamentary Secretary was that approximately 1,000,000 tons of national turf had been cut. But the Parliamentary Secretary could not even hazard a guess as to what amount of turf has been cut privately and what was the gross quantity of turf available to make up the shortage in imported coal. Until we get figures which will show us what our normal consumption of coal was and what quantity of coal we can now import and contrast those figures with the quantity of turf and timber that is available as fuel, then it seems to me that we do not know where exactly we stand in respect to fuel supplies. The Parliamentary Secretary, like the Minister for Supplies, was unable to hazard any guess as to what the coal position would be for the next five months. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that he did not know the amount of turf cut privately that was available for sale. The only reliable figure we can get is that 1,000,000 tons were cut as national turf. One million tons cut as national turf may be a very substantial addition to the normal quantity of turf cut.
Until we know to what extent we require to cut turf to make up for the fall off in coal imports, it seems to me we will not know the precise problem that is facing us. I think by now, virtually the month of November, the Parliamentary Secretary ought to be able to give us some approximate figure as to the amount of private turf that has been cut. In any case, he ought to have been able to tell us yesterday evening, on the assumption of a continuance of present coal imports, what quantity of turf and timber would have to be made available to make up for the short fall in coal imports. We were not able to get that figure from the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday evening, and I am afraid so long as we cannot get a figure of that kind we will not be able to make any close estimation of the extent of the problem confronting us.
Deputy Cleary imagines that this whole fuel problem will be solved by depending on the man, his wife and flock of young children to cut turf. He seems to think that if we can release these people on a bog with sleans and barrows the turf problem is automatically solved and an abundance of turf is going to follow. I do not know of what area Deputy Cleary is talking, but Deputy Cleary must surely know that there are large tracts of bogs all over the country which are not owned by the small cottier of whom he is speaking and that small cottiers in a large number of places have not sufficient turf for themselves and have to buy turf for their own requirements. If there is an abundance of idle labour in areas the obvious thing is to employ the adult male labour on the bogs. To imagine that children and families, organised in the sporadic way which Deputy Cleary contemplates, will solve our fuel problem is an infantile approach to the whole problem of turf production. The plain fact of the matter is that very large numbers of people, small cottiers and rural workers, have no turbary whatever, and the only way in which you can get these people to assist in a national fuel campaign is to put them on bogs operated either by the State, centrally, or by the local authority, locally. That seems to be the only method except, perhaps, in isolated areas, perhaps in Mayo or other counties, where it is possible to imagine that you will get any substantial result from the scheme envisaged by Deputy Cleary.
My complaint about the turf scheme this year is the same as my complaint about the wheat scheme last year, namely, that we woke up too late to discover what exactly we require and then there were shock-tactics employed of a kind which were not distinguished by their brilliance. An example of the indifferent and leisurely approach to the whole problem of turf production is to be found, for instance, in the County Kildare where there are excellent bogs containing turf of very superior quality. This year the drive for national turf as applied to that county produced 12,200 tons. That is a very puny effort, as the Parliamentary Secretary will admit, in respect of a county like Kildare which is capable of producing much more turf under a national effort. Whoever is responsible for the national effort must take responsibility for such a poor return because if there had been sufficient drive and planning in the matter County Kildare would be capable of yielding a very substantial quantity of turf, many times the amount produced this year. If there had been planning and driving in respect of turf production, Kildare could act as a reservoir for the City of Dublin but, in so far as the City of Dublin is concerned, it is a relatively dry reservoir this year because, apparently, the lying down there of those who ought to have been driving there has resulted in this very inadequate return.
The Minister for Supplies told us yesterday that the City of Dublin needs 100,000 tons of coal for domestic and household use for each of the months until March next. Quite clearly we are not going to get 100,000 tons of coal each month. I suppose if we can get in about 20,000 tons of coal it will be as much as we are likely to get for the City of Dublin in each of these months and, possibly, we will not get that. The gap then is to be bridged by timber and turf. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say to us that he will be able to get into the City of Dublin, between now and March next, sufficient turf and timber to ensure that these two commodities will make good the coal which will not be available to the people in the City of Dublin?
The figures which the Parliamentary Secretary gave yesterday evening were based on hopes, on anticipation related to other factors, but all the time it seems to me that the Parliamentary Secretary is preparing us for the certainty that there will be a very severe shortage of fuel in this city, probably by the end of March next and at intervals between now and March next. If that is going to be the position in the City of Dublin I think the Government ought to take notice of the direction in which they are drifting. Poor unfortunate people in this city, living in tenement houses, suffering from weakened physique brought about by long continued unemployment, are, apparently, going to have added to their hardships the inability to obtain fuel of a kind capable of heating them and of providing cooking facilities for them. In the long statistical statement which the Parliamentary Secretary gave us yesterday evening there does not seem to me any assurance whatever that there will not be severe privations in this city and in other cities because of the fall down—and one can only call it a fall down—on the part of the Government in the matter of turf production.
I came across a rather extraordinary case the other day which shows up in marked contrast to the efforts now being made to get turf into Dublin. Eight people in the Robertstown-Carbury area in the County Kildare who own canal boats were told they could not get a licence to load their canal boats with turf and take their turf into Dublin. I do not know what technicality prevented these unfortunate people from getting their loaded turf boats into Dublin but one would imagine, having regard to the rather pessimistic statement by the Parliamentary Secretary, that almost any possible opportunity would be availed of to get these canal boats loaded and taken to Dublin, no matter what quality turf they carried. Any quality turf is better than no turf. The turf these people are used to carrying to Dublin, which they would carry to Dublin this year, is approximately the same quality as they carried to Dublin for the last 50 or 70 years.
It may be, of course, that they ought to be asked to bring better turf. That is the business of the people who ought to direct the production of turf on the bogs. At any rate, it seems to me that at a time when there is doubt as to what the fuel position is going to be in Dublin, almost any device for getting turf into Dublin should not be spurned. There is another method of securing good quality turf—by regulating the price that will be paid for the commodity that comes into Dublin in that way, but it has got to be recognised, as Deputy Cleary recognises, that all turf is not the same; that there are various classes of turf and that from time immemorial people have been buying various classes of turf. The turf of a drayman from Kildare, sold in Dublin, would be entirely different from what is known as standard turf, and even that would be different from the briquettes produced by the Turf Development Board. We ought to plan so as to fix prices for all these classes of turf, but there is no reason why we should exclude any particular quality of turf from Dublin when it is cut and available for distribution. If that turf can be got and disposed of in Dublin, well and good. If a better quality of turf be available, use the boats for that by all means, but if these small turf cutters have turf on hands of a quality which they have been selling for 50 or 70 years in the city, and if they were not told this year they would be prohibited from selling it, there is, I suggest, an obligation by inference on the Department to let them bring in their turf, whatever may be done next year.
Does the Deputy suggest that this particular class of turf should be allowed to come in and be sold outside the rationing system?
There are provisions in the order, so far as I recollect, by which persons selling small quantities of turf need not be registered as fuel merchants.
These would come right under the system. They would have to be an absolute exception.
The less we bother about these little details and the less sense of tidiness we develop about a matter of this kind, in present circumstances, the better. If we produced sufficient turf, and if everything in the turf-garden were lovely, we could proceed to tread these by-paths, but in present circumstances we should keep to the main road. Cut all the turf you can, in all the places you can, and iron out the irregularities and inconsistencies afterwards.
I understand the Deputy was made an offer in this matter.
I was made no offer.
I will make an offer now. We are prepared to buy the turf off these canal boats at a reasonable price.
What is that?
Not a price based upon hawking sod upon sod here in the City of Dublin. What these people want is to bring this stuff in, and, outside the whole system which the Minister for Supplies has set up, to have the privilege of selling it at a high price, sod by sod. That is what they have been doing previously.
That is the way it looks on paper.
That is the way it is, in fact.
It is not. It happens that these people have been selling their turf, sod by sod, for 50 years or more, and there is no reason why we should stop it this year. We did not stop them when there was plenty of coal and turf. Now when we have not coal and not sufficient turf, we want to cut them out.
We are prepared to buy their turf or give them work for their boats carrying turf.
The boats should be utilised, but these people with a quantity of turf to dispose of and who do not want to sell it to the Turf Development Board should be allowed to sell it privately at reasonable prices. The Parliamentary Secretary could fix a reasonable price for buying turf on the canal at Kildare. Why not fix a reasonable price for selling it in Dublin? These people have been a lifetime in the business, and their fathers were in it before them. They want to be allowed to live. Some people, through a sense of tidiness, want to uproot the whole custom. When you had an abundance of turf in Dublin and did not discriminate as to quality, what case can be made, when there is a fuel famine in Dublin, for excluding turf, no matter what the quality is?
I should like to refer to the price fixed for timber—£3 a ton. That is a most extortionate price, particularly for the class of timber to be sold in Dublin. Obviously, the whole question of timber prices received very scant consideration from the Department of Supplies responsible for the fixing of these prices. I happened to inquire into a case which shows how little consideration this question of timber prices was given. Timber produced in Wicklow and Bray can be sold there at £2 a ton. If instead of stopping at Bray, the timber dealer brings it into Dún Laoghaire, he can get £2 10s. per ton, and if he carries it to Booterstown, he can sell it at £3. In a distance of seven miles, he can get three prices for one lot of timber, with the result that nobody in Bray can get timber. Nobody in Bray with timber will sell at £2 when by running on to Dún Laoghaire they can get £2 10s. or, by sitting at the wheel a little longer, get £3 at Booterstown. Can anybody justify a system which makes inequalities of that kind possible? The price of £3 for the kind of scrub timber that is offered is extortion, and the whole question of timber prices should be reexamined. Timber is more easily won and more easily got than turf. It does not cost the same amount to produce a ton of timber as to produce a ton of turf.
Are you sure of that?
I have looked up the costings. There is very little risk in cutting timber, and there is a quicker return from it than from turf. Some consideration should be given to that factor in fixing the price. I should like to get some information from the Parliamentary Secretary in connection with the employment of workers on turf schemes. In Kildare, during the past season, sleansmen were being paid 48/- a week or 8/- a day. The persons employed barrowing turf were paid 6/- a day, their function being to wheel the turf. When the cutting of the turf was finished, and it had to be clamped, the people who were paid 36/- a week for wheeling the turf found that when they came to wheel in the turf for the purpose of clamping it on the roadside, they were paid 6/- a week less. Their wages were reduced to 30/-. I understand from inquiries made that the county surveyor has not control in that matter, that he is directed to fix a wage of 30/- per week. How can you justify a difference of 6/- a week as between the wage of a man in August and in November—a man who is handling precisely the same turf and per forming the same operation? In one case he is wheeling the turf to the clamp, and in the other he is wheeling it from the top of the bog to the drying ground. I should like to know how the Parliamentary Secretary defends that anomaly.
The question of next year's turf programme must now get active consideration, but, as a preliminary, it seems to me that as many persons as possible should be employed in the drainage of accessible bogs and in the making of roads to facilitate the winning of turf from the bogs. I agree with Deputy Cleary that, well in advance of the crop being available, it is desirable that there should be a fixed price for turf, so that everybody will know it. There ought to be an effort made to steady that price over the season. I bought turf early this year in a trustee capacity at 35/- a ton. Later, out of the same clamp, I paid 40/- a ton for it, and later again, out of the same clamp of turf, I paid 45/- a ton. There you had three prices charged for turf out of the same clamp. The cost of labour had not gone up, because this was the previous season's crop. That apparently was allowed to happen because of the fact that there was no such thing as a fixed price for turf. Everyone had reason to believe, because of the absence of information about turf production, that there was likely to be a scarcity, and so they charged any price they liked.
I think there is a good deal of good-will on the part of all sections in this House in the matter of accelerating and intensifying turf production in the present emergency. I am, however, not so sure that the methods relied upon by the Parliamentary Secretary during the past year are those calculated to give the best results. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, apart from the staff of experts which he has at his disposal, he might, in conjunction with them, endeavour to get together a committee representative of all sections of the House, of people of good-will and of social consciousness in respect of fuel production to assist in the planning of the best methods by which turf can be won and made available for our people in greater abundance next year. I think that if the Parliamentary Secretary were assisted by a committee of that kind, much more drive might be imported into the campaign for the production of turf. It might then be realised generally that turf production was not a matter for a particular Government, but rather a matter for the whole nation. I think there is much to be said for any scheme, or any arrangement, by which it is possible in the present situation not merely to unite the enthusiasm of our people for the purpose of a comprehensive fuel production campaign, but at the same time to awaken them to the fact that, whatever their other differences may be, it is everybody's job in present circumstances to try to pull together for the production of the maximum amount of fuel for our people, living as they are in this virtually blockaded island to-day.
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary why he would not allow people who were in a position to get turf from friends in the country, and who were in a position to provide transport for it, to bring it to Dublin. I know dozens of people in rural Ireland with cousins or relatives in Dublin who were anxious to give them a share of their turf. In many cases they had lorries with haulage licences. They were not allowed to bring that turf to Dublin, with the result that their relatives living in Dublin are now a charge upon the common pool of turf that is being gathered in this city. If those people had been allowed to bring the turf to their relatives, turf which they offered to convey to Dublin, their relatives would not now be making any demand on the central supplies which have been accumulated here. One case brought to my notice was that of a lady in delicate health. She had a friend in the County Tipperary who offered, last July, to deliver to her house all the turf she wanted. The person who offered to give the turf and deliver it was told that he would not be given a licence to move it. I know of another case of a man in Roscommon whose father lives in Sandymount. This man had a lorry of his own and had petrol. He offered to bring turf and leave it to his father in Sandymount, but he would not be given a licence to move it. I made representations in that case to the Parliamentary Secretary and received a civil letter in reply. The gist of the letter seemed to be that the Parliamentary Secretary was resolved to prevent any person entering into a privileged position—as much as to say: "Why should this man in Sandymount, whose son in the country has a conveyance, be allowed to be better off than his neighbours who are not so fortunately circumstanced?" I think that is a dog-in-the-manger attitude and a rather imprudent one. As Deputy Norton said, if we had an abundance of turf everywhere we could afford to travel up and down these bypaths of rectitude, but where the primary purpose is to get turf into the city it seems to me to be quite daft to forbid transport to move and bring turf to individuals who are prepared to cooperate with the Government in getting fuel into the city. I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary has had many representations of that character. I would be glad if he would go fully into that question when replying, because I have yet to meet anyone who understands the reason underlying that decision. The inconveniences caused by it to numerous people have been very great. I believe they are entitled to an exhaustive explanation as to what purpose the Parliamentary Secretary had in mind when he issued these prohibitions.
Now I come to another question. In all the discussion on this fuel problem the Parliamentary Secretary has to face the fact that while he has an abundance of turf cut in certain areas his difficulty is to get it into the centres of consumption. He is hag-ridden by the difficulty of transport. That is a difficulty with which I sympathise. What will Deputies say when they listen to the Parliamentary Secretary explain how he is hag-ridden by this problem of transport, and how there are not enough railway wagons or lorries to bring up the turf that he has cut in Donegal, Galway and Kerry, when I tell the House that railway wagons are at present being taken by the Pigs and Bacon Marketing Board for the purpose of shifting live pigs from one factory to another in this country, not, mind you, in order to secure that men will remain in employment, but in order to secure that large bacon combines will get their profit on the pigs that the Bacon Marketing Board has promised to supply them with. No later than a week ago railway wagons and lorries were bespoken by the Pigs and Bacon Marketing Board to go a considerable distance empty to Ballaghaderreen, there to be filled with live pigs which were carried down to Messrs. Denny's factory in Sligo and there slaughtered. That happened at a time when turf was stacked on railway sidings and when there were no wagons and no lorries to carry it to the centres of consumption. That surely reveals a lack of co-ordination in respect to a most essential part of this problem. I suggest that the Government really do not realise what they are doing at all. I made the most urgent representations to the Department of Agriculture and to the Taoiseach's Department that somebody ought to take control of that question, and forbid any Government Department diverting railway wagons from the essential purpose of moving fuel to the wholly inessential purpose of securing profits for a bacon factory in Sligo.
I am often astonished at the equanimity with which Dáil Eireann receives this kind of activity. Can anyone conceive that railway wagons should be turned to that purpose in a time like this? Yet that is the case, and nobody seems to be in the least shocked by it.
If any person, any turf cutter or small individual down the country, displayed such complete indifference to the public welfare and such a resolute determination to get his own profit, no matter what it cost the community, he would be boycotted and would be held up to public odium; but when you have a big combine announcing that they are going to get their pound of flesh, no matter what happens in the fuel sphere, nobody seems to be in the least concerned about them. You are told quite blandly that this was a scheme for the rationing of supplies of pigs to these factories, and that in all the circumstances it was perhaps as well to allow the scheme to continue to function, but when you go to the bottom of it what it means is that the bacon curer wanted to get his profit on 50 pigs and he did not give two damns if the turf never got to Dublin, so long as wagons were provided to bring the pigs to his factory and to produce the profits he wanted to swell his already inflated plunder.
That is the kind of thing which, in my opinion, demoralises our community. What right have we to go out and ask the fellow working on the bog, the fellow who is doing a small job and getting a small pay, to make sacrifices for the common good, when, under his very nose, he sees people who are paying immense supertax demanding their lb. of flesh no matter what it costs the community? What is the meaning of going to railway porters and railway workers, and asking them to redouble their efforts to get the stuff through, when they see empty wagons being brought 40 miles to pick up those pigs and being despatched 40 more miles to deliver those pigs and when they are asked to work overtime in order to get a quick turn round for whatever wagons are in use? One of them came down to me over the question of the clearing of a wagon so that it might be released for other essential work, and I knew that he felt as I felt, that it was "codology" to be coming down and asking me to get my men to work overtime to clear that wagon in order to release it, when both of us knew that five empty wagons or so had been brought into the town that day in order to carry pigs down to the factory in Sligo so that the factory in Sligo might get its profits on that transaction.
And that is not an isolated case. That is going on now at this moment. While workers are being asked to redouble their efforts in order to get a quick turn round of wagons and in order that they may be got ready and made available to the Parliamentary Secretary so that he may get turf in from the remote areas, certain wagons are being taken out of commission in order to carry on to the end of this month this "general post" of pigs which is being operated not to keep men in employment but to ensure that the profit on these pigs will go into the pocket of the appropriate bacon curer. That kind of indecency is demoralising. If people of that kind have no more public spirit than to blackmail the Government into submitting to an outrage of that kind, steps ought to be taken to control them, because when the Government faltered at the request to undertake this preposterous use of freight space, the factories told them: "If you do not use the wagons for this purpose now of enforcing the quotas, we will take damned good care that many more wagons are used, because at the beginning of the month we will go far afield and we will buy our pigs as far away as we can from the factories."
What about the turf, Deputy?
This is the most important aspect of the turf. The Parliamentary Secretary has repeatedly said that freight space is his problem. Here is the freight space being used under the blackmail of bacon combines in this country who announce that unless the Government give them this freight space now, they will see that more freight space is wasted by buying their pigs at places remote from their factories in the early part of the month, so that at the end of the month they will have an ample reservoir of pigs in the immediate neighbourhood of the factories to keep them open and in profitable production. That is the kind of insolent blackmail which vested interests in this country have been trained by the present Government to use, and it is time that this Government, or any other Government in this country, told the vested interests who attempted that kind of thing that they will not be allowed to get away with it, that if that is their approach to the job they have to do and to the problem with which the whole community is confronted, there are ways and means of operating their industry without their assistance, and that these ways and means will be availed of, if the necessity arises.
I feel that one of the things the Government ought to do, and do forthwith, is to marshal the transport of the country, to see that the transport facilities available are used to the greatest advantage for the most important tasks. The United States of America have set up a priorities board, and in Great Britain there is a priorities board operating. It relates mainly to the provision of raw materials for the industrial work to be done. Our raw material here is the transport of turf from remote areas to the centres of consumption. Why should we not have a priorities board here to allot transport equitably between the various tasks that fall to be done in the order of their essential necessity for the community? If such a priorities board were operated, pigs would not be carried from one part of this country to another in order to get a profit for bacon manufacturers, while turf was lying waiting to be carted in, with no wagons ready to cart it.
I agree with Deputy Cleary when he says that one of the most fruitful methods of getting good turf cut would be to announce a guaranteed price for first, second and third quality turf delivered on the side of the road. Deputy Norton, naturally, influenced by the atmosphere of the area in which he lives, strongly favours direct labour. Deputy Cleary and I, being more familiar with the West of Ireland and the circumstances obtaining there, can see that, as was discovered in Donegal last year, where you told people that you would give them a certain price for turf if they would cut it, the family unit was able to produce turf in a way which imposed no undue burden on any member of it. You have the mothers and fathers out on the bog with their children. They will be more careful than we would be to see that no child overworks or exhausts himself unduly, but little children can give a good deal of help in footing turf and in spreading it for drying. Their backs are shorter than the backs of their fathers and mothers and very often it is easier for them to stoop at that work than it is for grown people.
If it is done in moderation, it can do no harm; on the contrary, I see them as brown as nuts and as healthy as young trout coming off the bog. The family unit does succeed in turning out an immense quantity of turf, and if they are aware that for one grade of turf, they are going to get a better price they will cut that grade. Most of the people, being brought up to the job, are better judges of turf than anybody else, and they know as well as I do that cutting grade A turf is as easy as, if not easier than, cutting "spadach" or stuff full of weeds, according to where you live. I agree with Deputy Cleary that you get a far greater quantity of first-class turf by guaranteeing a price to the family unit in the part of the country from which he and I come—and, I believe, in Donegal, Galway, Clare and Kerry—than by any attempt to extract it from the bogs by direct labour.
I was amused to hear Deputy Cleary remind the Parliamentary Secretary that to cut first-quality turf out of virgin bogs is "codology". It cannot be done. The Parliamentary Secretary, who knows as much about turf as my foot, learned from certain individuals who cut turf on shallow or mountain bogs that you could get turf out of such bogs. I suppose that is true. Most of us who come from the West of Ireland think of bogs as the bogs we know, that is, those bogs which lie in the flat part of the country, and to cut turf on virgin bogs of that character is waste of time and waste of turf. Until the large, flat, wet bogs have had an adequate period of drainage, to cut turf on them is waste of labour and waste of material. I was astonished to hear Deputy Cleary go on to say that he would discourage the Parliamentary Secretary from any bold programme of drainage. I was amazed, because if there is one thing that always returns dividends in the long run, it is drainage of bogs.
Even if on the strictest application of the term "economic"—the Board of Works interpretation—such work cannot be justified, the advantage of enabling people to cut turf without wading up to their knees in water would be incalculable. While I do not believe, even if you cut drains in bogs now, that many of them will be fit for cutting turf next spring, it is true that if you drain many of the virgin bogs, even in congested areas, we could view that with much greater equanimity than to see people going in on their bogs and cutting them out for consumption in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, knowing that the drainage we had done this year on virgin bogs would convert them into a condition where they would be fit for cutting in two or three years' time.
There is a serious danger in certain parts of the country, if we provide an attractive price for turf on the side of the road, that people will go on cutting bogs and then find themselves without any fuel. Let not Deputies forget because public memory in this country is short, that the Land Commission and the Congested Districts Board, knowing a great deal about conditions in rural Ireland, inserted in purchase agreements concerned with 90 per cent. of the holdings in these areas, that they must not cut turf on their turbary for sale. That is a red line, a warning, but in times of acute emergency it may be necessary to do things which we would not contemplate doing in normal times. If we are going to run the danger of allowing whole villages to cut out their natural fuel supplies, and sell them for consumption by people outside these districts, we ought to do our best, by comprehensive drainage now, to ensure that there will be some bogs in the vicinity in two or three years' time where they can get the turf for normal requirements. That will be impossible if they cut out the turf for sale in Dublin, Cork and elsewhere. I take it that we are now dealing not only with turf but with general questions arising out of the fuel supply. Has the Parliamentary Secretary made himself responsible for coal?
I do not know if it comes within the purview of the Parliamentary Secretary but there is a difficulty concerning smiths' coal.
I am not responsible there, but anything said within reasonable limits will be dealt with.
A supply of smiths' coal is important.
Personally, I think that turf is a big enough subject for this debate.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into the question of giving smiths' coal in areas where small quantities are used, or where blacksmiths who got licences to purchase small quantities found that their normal dealers had gone out of the business of selling coal because these are turf areas?
I will take that matter up.
I have one particular case in mind at Lifford, County Donegal. The last thing I want to inquire about is, what has become of the Clonsast and the Lyracrompane turf? I suppose it is being kept in reserve?
It would be helpful if the Parliamentary Secretary could say something about the Lyracrompane briquettes.
There are 6,000 tons of Lullymore briquettes in reserve.
So that the entire output of that bog is being put in reserve?
And the same about Clonsast?
We have about 10,000 tons there.
I understand that Clonsast turf depends upon the weather. I know that at Lyracrompane the turf does not depend on curing by the weather.
There is another process besides the weather. If the weather was not friendly it would be very hard on the work.
So that even the production of briquettes depends in some measure on the weather?
The material from which the briquettes are made has to be reduced to a briquette and then dried by the ordinary weather process.
So that production at Lyracrompane is ceasing now?
I suppose that the stuff from there will come on the market ultimately? I am not a believer in being unduly optimistic or unduly pessimistic, but it would be helpful to us if the Parliamentary Secretary would say now what he anticipates is going to happen during the winter. Does he believe that everyone in the city will get 5 cwt. of coal or its equivalent of turf until the 1st of next April, or does he believe that they will not get it, and that as far as tenement rooms are concerned a great deal of cooking will be done in community kitchens? I think it is better to tell us, because nothing in my opinion is more demoralising to public morale than the delaying of information. I do not think anyone will unduly condemn the Government in that connection. The difficulties that have arisen were largely outside their control. As usual they started late, but even if they started earlier I do not think there would be very much difference. The problem is a big one, and it was made even greater by the comparative break-down of the transport system, resulting from the inferior coal available.
I should like, in so far as we can be told with certainty, to know what we have to face. It is bad for us and bad for the morale of the country to have the feeling that the Government itself does not know, that it is a case of simply living from hand to mouth, and trusting in God that something will turn up. I want to know if the Government feels that the position will be worse, or what will happen if we can get no additional supplies of fuel between now and the 1st April. I want to know if the Parliamentary Secretary is going to co-ordinate transport with a view to establishing a priority system. I want to be assured that between now and the end of the year, persons desiring to use public haulage of anything for their own private purposes without having regard to the community will be controlled, and that the demands of the community for the various things which will have to be carried between now and the 1st April next will come before the private interests of any individual, no matter how influential he may be.
I agree with Deputies who stated last night and this evening that this is probably one of the most important questions the Dáil could discuss at the present time. I know that nobody will welcome discussion more than the Parliamentary Secretary who is charged with the very onerous task of trying to see that the shortage of fuel, due to the stoppage of supplies of coal, will bear as lightly as possible on the community. The trouble is that this question is usually approached from a dozen different angles, and that in discussing it we have small questions—they are really small as regards the actual amount— indicating certain things that might appear large, and that Deputies who raise them may consider to be of vital importance. Deputy Dillon said that certain trucks were used for carrying pigs which could be used for carrying turf.
Deputy Norton is terribly distressed because some dealers in turf accustomed to bringing turf in barges to the city in the past were not allowed to operate this time exactly as they were allowed to operate in the past. All these separate grievances in regard to certain sections of the community are grievances sometimes imagined, on the part of Deputies, as indicative of a complete want of plan or a complete dislocation of effort. That is not so. I think the best way that we can approach this, to make the discussion profitable, would be to envisage the problem as a whole as we in the Government saw it last spring. Last spring, because of the peculiar conditions which began then to obtain, we realised that it was going to be extremely difficult to get in the supplies of food which we had been getting in from outside and, just before the spring was ended, the supplies of fuel which came from outside were going to be cut off. We realised that, willy nilly, we would need to depend on ourselves if we were going to get over the crisis without extreme hardship in regard to the matter of food and fuel.
We set out to deal with the food problem by asking the farmers who were accustomed to produce food needed for human beings— in the main, wheat—to produce that food in greater quantities than they had done before. I remember at the time asking them to give us one-half again as much as in the previous year, or to double it. Because we were dealing with a relatively uniform article— in the case of wheat—for which a fixed price could be laid down covering the country as a whole, and, because we had powers of compulsion in addition, we felt that we could leave this whole question of the production of food to compulsion on the one hand and to the price inducement on the other hand. We felt that these two, operating together and complementary to one another, would get us over the difficulty, so that the State would not have of itself to go out directly and try to produce wheat by direct methods.
I must say—and I have taken this attitude all the time—that, whilst I recognise that in modern times State intervention and State regulation, particularly in times of crisis, has become a necessity, I think on the whole it is a pity that it has become a necessity. To the extent to which we can allow private effort to operate and supply each section of the community, and each individual of the community to meet the needs of the community by the ordinary inducement that is given, better results are obtained. In times of crisis, however, we cannot depend upon that alone. We did run a risk—a serious risk—in depending upon it even in the case of production of food; but, on the whole, we felt that all we had to do in that case was to exercise the powers of compulsion that we had. Fortunately, we have got through the food situation fairly comfortably. All I want to say is that, next year, we will need a greater effort than last year, as the dangers around us are likely to be increasing and not diminishing. We will require, in the food effort, from those who have come forward and done so magnificently in the past, an even greater effort in the coming year.
In all those cases where prices are concerned, the producer is never satisfied with the price that he gets. He never thinks it is enough. The consumer is always complaining that the price charged is exorbitant. Although the middleman is necessary—and probably is the cheapest way, when all is said and done—to transfer the products from the producer on the one hand to the consumer on the other, neither the producer nor the consumer want the middleman to live. When people talk about the price paid for turf on the bog and the price paid for it here, and why railways should charge so much, what is forgotten is that it is not the railway directors who are getting it. It is distributed somehow or other in wages, and so on, to the people. If it is not distributed in the buying of raw materials from outside, it is used in the distribution of wages for labour. It is important that the community as a whole should realise that there are generally three sections involved—the primary producer, the middleman, and the consumer. Each section has got to live. We in the Government, looking at it, have to try, as far as possible, to cut down the costs of production and of transferring to the consumer, until we produce the article for the consumer at the lowest price possible.
This whole question of price regulation is one of the greatest difficulty. Deputies sometimes talk here in the Dáil as if it were a simple matter, and as if all that had to be done was for the Parliamentary Secretary or somebody in authority to fix a price and that everything was then finished. If you were to examine the consequences of fixing prices and the difficulties that occur in various places, you would realise that it is not by any means a simple matter. Certainly, it is not a simple matter in the case of turf. Turf produced by family labour in one place, where they are accustomed to use it, to something in excess of the amount that they want themselves, and turf produced by direct labour, are quite different things and quite different prices have to be paid for it. You cannot have a general price: at least, that was the conclusion that the Parliamentary Secretary and his advisers arrived at at that particular time. It was a question which he naturally considered. It would be much easier for us if we could do, in the case of turf, as in the case of wheat—declare a certain price under certain conditions, either at a certain place on the roadside or wherever else we wanted to fix it.
There was one element that we had not in the case of turf that we had at our disposal in the case of wheat—the element of compulsion. You can see at once that it would be extremely difficult. People are objecting to the number of inspectors and officials examining this, that and the other throughout the country. Every time you have State regulation you must provide officials to see that the regulations are carried out. There would be difficulty, first of all, in stating what element of compulsion you were going to bring in and how you were going to enforce exactly whatever compulsion would be needed. It would be necessary to say how much was produced last year in order to estimate what in excess a man would need to produce in the coming year. Then how would you carry it out? It would mean a host of officials, which makes the question of compulsion practically impossible. We had not compulsion. Very well: what were we going to do?
This is not merely an inquest on what was done last year, as all those circumstances are important in regard to the year in front of us. There is no doubt that we have learned a great deal. Much information has been compiled and much knowledge has been secured by the efforts of the Parliamentary Secretary in getting this work done in the past year, and that is all available for the next year.
I doubt whether the main elements of the problem are not the same this year as they were last year, notwithstanding all the information we have got. I doubt whether the solution is not as difficult—looking at it in the main—this year as it was last year.
What Deputy Cleary suggested this evening is obviously one of the things you would consider. I was speaking at an early stage on this question of turf and, if you look back on some of the speeches I made then, you will see I said something similar to what Deputy Cleary said to-night. I said there were something like 3,800,000 tons of turf cut by private producers in the previous year, and if we could double that amount we would have all we required—that is, so far as the mere production of turf is concerned. I asked those who cut turf last year to double the amount. I have not the slightest doubt, from the point of view of the actual production of turf, that that was the most economic and the easiest way to get the turf produed—if we could be sure that it would be produced. We ensured that wheat would be produced—at least we thought we did—by giving what we considered a reasonable price.
In regard to turf we did not know what price we could indicate as a universal price. Then you come down to regions, such as the Parliamentary Secretary was contemplating at one time and may be contemplating again in connection with the coming year. Even when you come down to regional prices you will find extreme difficulty. You have all sorts of difficulties— whether it will be sold by weight or otherwise. There are all sorts of problems which make the production and distribution of turf a really difficult problem.
We considered this point, whether we should leave it to the people who have been in the habit of producing turf to continue to do so and give them a certain price. There was a feeling that if we did not interfere, if the State did not interfere, it was possible the ordinary inducements that exist in times of shortage of supply would be sufficient—that the profit inducements would be sufficient to get adequate quantities of turf produced. At the same time we felt that we would be running a tremendous risk and that we would be very blameworthy if we ran such a risk without having some assurance at the start that we would come right out of it.
If we did not come out of it, then the House would have very serious reason to complain that the Government, in a matter of such vital importance, had let things slide and had not tried to do anything to make sure that we would have adequate supplies. Every time I spoke I asked the people to produce as much turf as they could— all the private producers—and I assured them that the turf would be taken from them. I believe that all that turf will ultimately be taken, although it may not be taken from them immediately. There will be no trouble in Dublin, so far as fuel is concerned, if all that turf that is available in the country can be transported here. I believe the turf is available and there would be no trouble if we had the transport to bring it to where it is immediately needed.
The Parliamentary Secretary, feeling that he had a very big responsibility with regard to the supply of turf, was not prepared to leave it to the private producer alone. He had to make a plan and it was conceived in a general way. He took the country as a whole and he said that there were certain areas where they could hope, on account of the man-power and the availability of the bog, to get a good deal of turf in excess of local requirements. As transport was a matter of importance, he was not prepared to waste it in the manner Deputy Dillon suggested—that is, sending down coal to places where there was turf, if there was coal available, and then transporting turf out of these areas. He said:
"We will try to make the places producing turf first of all self-supporting and, in the case of those that can give us an excess, we will bring that excess into the non-turf areas, but let it be known that the areas that are self-supporting in regard to turf are not going to get coal."
Any coal coming into the country would have to be made available for the areas where there would be no turf supply.
I think you will all agree that that is common sense, but, straightforward and simple as it seems to be, it involves a great many difficulties in individual cases. There were, for instance, Aga stoves and other stoves; there were people who recently put in these stoves from a patriotic as well as an economic point of view, because they were anxious to burn Irish fuel products. It is only when you make general regulations that you realise how many exceptions you will have to each general regulation if it is not going to bear unfairly on a certain section of the community.
The first thing in the general plan was to divide the country into turf and non-turf areas. Will anyone deny that that was a reasonable basis to begin with? Can the Parliamentary Secretary not feel assured that in that part of his plan he has the support of every reasonable person? I do not think anyone will deny that that is a good sound basis for a national plan. He showed you a map yesterday which indicated that we have no fuel problem whatever with regard to three-fourths of the part of the country that we have jurisdiction over and two-thirds of the population. That is no small thing in a time of crisis; it is no small thing at such a period to be able to say that a fuel problem to that extent does not exist for us.
We will not be able, in the nature of things, even with that plan, to reduce the consumption in that area. When we think of the hardships that will exist elsewhere, there will be a relative waste. There will be such an abundance of fuel in certain areas that there will be, from one point of view, looking at the country as a whole, a relative waste. The position would be met, to some extent, if we could extract fuel from those areas, if we had the method of doing it, the transport and the other things which are necessary. If we could reach this position, that many of the people in those areas could get on practically without any of the fuel that they have been accustomed to use in other years, if they could manage even for a year or two, the problem, would be partly solved. For instance, there are many farmers who could utilise butts of trees that have not been cut, they could cut down hedges that have been allowed to overgrow. Perhaps for a season or two they would not have as convenient a fuel as they have been accustomed to use. The idea is that in the actual rural areas, for one or two years, the people might be able to get on even if their normal supplies of fuel, turf or coal, were cut off.
If we are able to abstract from these areas the extra fuel which they have we certainly would not need to worry about any fuel problem, even in towns, but we cannot do that and if anybody can indicate how that extra fuel, which is there in abundance if we have merely regard to the local needs, can be got up to the cities, then our problem as regards the cities will not exist.
However, we have our problems now reduced, and the Parliamentary Secretary saw from the start that he was going to reduce his problem to that of one-third of the population, chiefly along the eastern and south-eastern seaboard, and to an area of one-fourth of the country. In order to release the greatest quantities of turf from the turf areas and make it available for the city areas, the Parliamentary Secretary said: "We have public institutions: these institutions have in the past been using coal, in the main, and we will try to get these institutions in the turf areas to get their supplies of fuel themselves." That was the basis of his general idea of using the county surveyors. The first thing was to see that we would not have the county institutions coming in on whatever central supply of fuel was available and was really needed for the city supplies, and he set out to organise the county surveyors and the local officials to get the county institutions and any other local public activity, for which fuel was required, provided for by means of turf cut by themselves. Then he went a step further and said "Why should we not get them to do more than that?" Not merely to provide for their own needs but also, in the first instance, to provide fuel that would be necessary in some of the cases to add to the fuel that was got by individual private effort—to have that available for local areas. So that power was given to the county councils and, through them, to the county surveyors, to cut not merely the amount of turf that was needed for the public institutions and the public purposes with which they were connected but also to have it available either for sale locally or for sale to the central authority for transfer to the cities and towns. Now, you see, again there was the basis of a plan, and I doubt if there is anybody in this House who can find fault with it as a general idea. It was not, as some people think, to be in substitution for the private effort.
It was to be by way of addition to the private effort. Very early on, the Parliamentary Secretary made a calculation, however, as to how much turf would be likely to be got in that particular way, and he estimated that if he got the amount which, I think, his latest figures indicate he has got, and that is 1,000,000 tons of turf, he would have done extremely well, but we wanted, not 1,000,000 tons of turf, to meet our needs as far as we saw them, but three or four times that amount, and we wanted that 1,000,000 tons of turf, in the main, if we got the whole of it and there was no local lien on it, practically all for the City of Dublin. We would require practically all of it for the City of Dublin. How was he going to get it to the City of Dublin? The question again became one of transport because the unfortunate fact is that where you have the man-power to cut the turf, and where you have the bogs to get the turf from, you have these particular places at the points along the coast which are most remote from the very places where you want the turf most. I have no doubt that Deputy Norton would suggest very quickly: why not use direct labour on the bogs of Kildare? Well, next year it is proposed to attempt it or to try it, but I must confess that I regard it as a very unsatisfactory alternative though it may be the only alternative and is being adopted as the only alternative that is feasible.
If you take people from Dublin, where there is unemployment, and put them down in Kildare, see what you would get in return for their labour. They are not accustomed to the work and you will find it very hard to keep them on that work. You will practically have to conscript them, probably, to keep them on the work. Now, the men are not in Kildare itself. Deputy Norton was talking about the small number that was employed in Kildare. Well, it is not through any lack of effort on the part of the Parliamentary Secretary to get them. The Parliamentary Secretary tried to get men to cut turf wherever they were available. He went so hard at it that the Minister for Agriculture was complaining at times that the farmers found it difficult to get men to do their work. So it cannot be said that there were men idle who had no employment offered to them in cutting turf in Kildare or, as far as I know, anywhere else that men were available.
Accordingly, if we are going to the bogs that are near Dublin, which will simplify our transport problem next year, you have to try to get men who know how to cut turf, or people who are accustomed to that sort of work. Otherwise it is not likely that they will remain at the work, and if they do remain, the amount they will produce will cause the price of turf to run up until it will become altogether unobtainable for people with ordinary wages. What are we to do about it? Will you think for a moment of the size of this problem of producing turf? I have told you that 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 tons of turf would be required if we are not to feel the pinch. Now, some expert told me recently that, taking it on the average, there are about 100 days in the year for the producing of turf. A man, I believe, will cut about three tons of turf on the average in a day, but that man will have two others working with him. On the average, it works out to be over three men; that is, when you take into consideration carting, spreading, footing, and all the various operations, it works out roughly at about a ton a man per day. Very well, then. In the season we get 100 days per man, and if we want 1,000,000 tons it means that we have to have 10,000 persons constantly at work for the season to produce that 1,000,000 tons. If, therefore, you try to produce the 1,000,000 tons of turf which the Parliamentary Secretary has produced from all parts of the country—about half of it was got between Donegal, Galway and Kerry—in the bogs of Kildare, you will have to encamp 10,000 people on that bog for 100 days or, roughly, about one-third of the year. Do you realise what it means to establish an encampment for 10,000 men over that period, particularly at this particular time, when there is a shortage of building materials and when, if you build with concrete and so on, you will be left with the buildings practically useless after the time of emergency has passed? That is going to be £500,000 that you are going to sink into that. Therefore, although it is the alternative we are facing in the coming year, I say that it is not by any means a satisfactory alternative, but we have to remember that we are not choosers in this matter, and that in times of crisis the best we can do, whether it be satisfactory or not, is all that can be done. We can only do the best we can, but I do want to point out that there is not easily obtainable that alternative which Deputy Norton seemed to suggest was there. First of all, it takes time to do this, and even starting now to try to get turf produced in Kildare in the quantity and on the scale which we would require, it is doubtful whether they would be able to have the huts, encampments, and other provisions made for 10,000 people.
Take the size of some of our cities. Kilkenny, I think, has a population of somewhere about 10,000. Just imagine building up suddenly in the bogs of Kildare a city as big, let us say, as Kilkenny, composed of grownup individuals. I am talking now of the general plan, because I think what Deputies want to see is that this thing has been envisaged as a whole; that it is not a question, as somebody said, of a makeshift business, living from hand to mouth. It is a question that has been considered in the large, with regard to the country as a whole, in an endeavour to meet the problem as far as the country as a whole is concerned. Is there anyone who will tell us then that the idea of dividing up the country was not the right one; that the idea of using the county surveyors to produce this extra 1,000,000 tons of turf, which are there anyhow, was not wise?
Who said it was not wise?
I want to point out step by step the elements of this plan. Nobody has said that the other was not wise either, but I want to show that there is a common foundation, and when, on the basis of that, we examine the principal difficulties, it will be seen that those are difficulties which arise out of special circumstances due to the acceptance of some plan. There would be very many more of those difficulties, but of a different type, if you had no plan, but the difficulties and the individual hardships that have arisen have arisen because, mainly, there has been a plan. No plan is perfect. The conditions of individuals are different throughout the whole country. Well, then, I do not see that, in this coming year, we can do better than improve what we did last year; try to get the private producer again to do it; try to make as much excess turf as possible available from those areas that can produce excess turf. Then comes the problem of transport; the fundamental problem. The first thing is that the transport problem was considerably eased, no matter what anybody may say, by this method of localising the area in which the turf could be distributed— preventing the turf from coming out of the turf areas. If that had not been prevented, there would have been a great deal more waste of transport. If we had let it come out, a whole lot of problems would have arisen, the details of which I will leave to the Parliamentary Secretary, who knows them very much better than I do. I know that there has not been any single question raised here, at any time when I was present at the debate, that had not been carefully considered in advance from all angles both by the Parliamentary Secretary and his advisers, and on which a decision was not taken with a view to the greatest good of the greatest number, and harm, so to speak, to as few as possible. It is not possible to get a perfect scheme.
Let us see how far we are in agreement. It would appear that we are in agreement on this: that it is well to divide the country into two areas, and to say to those areas that can produce turf: "Look here, you will get no coal from outside; you will have to be self-supporting in turf, and if you have extra turf we will be very glad to buy it from you." The next question was that of using local organisations by way of addition, so as to supply the local public needs, and to give us a surplus which we could use for the towns. There have been two points which have come up constantly in the debate. One is: Why was not a price fixed for the turf on the roadside or somewhere else at an early stage, and then everything would have been all right? I have given one reason. You could not fix a common price. It would be almost impossible to fix a regional price, in my opinion. You had not even sufficient experience to know at what price it would be produced for you. It is foolish to think it is quite the same problem as the problem in regard to wheat prices. It is quite different. That is the answer to one point.
The next question is: Why did you have a standstill order? Why did you not let everybody move the turf as they pleased? The result of that would have been to create all sorts of extraordinary prices, and difficulties with regard to price, in every area. People who are prepared to sell now would not have been prepared to sell at all in those other circumstances, because if people who were getting a reasonable return for their labour, let us say, in Mayo, saw that turf was coming in and could be sent in by people from other areas, and was fetching fancy prices here in Dublin, £7 a ton or whatever it might go to, those people would look for bigger prices, and the whole question of production was going to stop. The Parliamentary Secretary, I am perfectly certain, will be able to satisfy you, as he satisfied us at the time, that it was wiser to have this standstill order rather than to allow people to go out and purchase it at whatever price they wanted. Deputy Dillon has made a suggestion. He asks: "Why are people in the country who have friends here prevented from sending to them as a present the turf that they have available?" It looks grand on the face of it. If I have some friends in the country who have cut turf, why should they not be allowed to send me some turf as a present? It is no other person's business what price they charge me, or even whether they deprive themselves of the turf and run short because they gave it to me. But it can easily be seen that if you allow that you will have opened a gap through which any amount of turf can come out. Even if it were not going to create difficulties here in the city, you would have a poor person, who had no friends in the country, seeing his neighbour having plenty of fuel, an abundance of it. We have those problems. They are psychological problems of a certain type. It makes it harder to put up with hardships if your neighbours appear not to have to bear those hardships at all. That is not the reason—although that is in it —why I would object to Deputy Dillon's suggestion. There is also this in it: turf would be coming in from all quarters, and how were you going to tell that this was a genuine transaction between one friend and another?
It would be a great job if it were coming in from all quarters.
Is not that the unfortunate part—that it did not come in?
First of all you would have inequalities, which would make the hardships more difficult to bear for a large section of the community. Every one of us will have to bear those hardships. There is equalisation. That is number one. The other reason is that you would have those surreptitious methods of getting around the difficulties, and the price would go up. A new organisation of would be set up, an organisation of friends, in which you would have people buying turf locally in order to send it up——
How small the problem would be now, if that were done.
It would not be small. You would have other problems.
You would have the turf, anyway.
You would not have the turf.
The people in Dublin would have it.
Some of the people in Dublin would have it. Those who could pay fancy prices would have it.
Is not that the position to-day?
It is not the position to-day. The position will be, I hope, in the main——
That is a different thing.
The position will be, I hope, in the main, that whatever quantity is available will be distributed equitably. I hope it will.
"I hope"? There are implications in that.
The point is that nothing can be made perfect, but the aim will be there anyway.
It would be better if the turf were there.
It would not be better to have turf in certain places at fancy prices which would send up the price for everybody.
That could be managed and controlled.
Is the Deputy for control or no control?
I am for having turf in Dublin.
Are you for control or no control?
Control of what?
In regulating this whole problem.
Control of what?
Control of the production and distribution of turf.
Certainly, and my whole case is that there has not been any control.
What you are objecting to is control.
What else is it? Is not that the whole question, whether individuals, private individuals, are going to be allowed to send up turf——
That is a side issue. Deal with fundamentals.
It is not.
You know it is.
This is a typical example of what happens. When you introduce control of anything, you have to control universally or not at all, because if you do not do that, you are going to have a surreptitious type of trade in which people will be buying down the country and sending up their purchases as presents to their friends from whom they can easily get cheques afterwards. That is the method that might be adopted. You are dealing with human minds, and people with intelligence are trying to get around every barrier you put up, by every possible means. The same sort of thing happens elsewhere. You have the black markets in other countries.
We have them here too.
You have them here unfortunately. They are consequences of the situation, and no means can be found effectively to stop them. They are part of the situation which necessitates control. We have decided definitely that there will be control rather than no control. I have pointed out to you that if you want control you have got to make it universal. If you do not make it universal, you leave openings for the abuses that Deputy Dillon pointed out. The Parliamentary Secretary is stopping something that may look quite innocent, but when it begins to work it might develop into a regular trade.
Why not allow it to be done under licence?
After the situation has been properly examined, if necessary, licences can be given.
It is too late.
It is not too late.
I hope you are right.
It is not too late for licences if that can help.
The Deputy is talking about our being too late, but we were on this question of turf four or five years ago trying to get the people to produce their own requirements. We have not been too late. It is the community, and the representatives of the community, who have not been early enough in starting these projects to try to make the country as self-sufficient as possible. We have been very early on it but we cannot create things out of nothing. We cannot start transporting turf from Donegal here without means of transporting it. We cannot put on the bogs at Kildare people that are not there. We cannot start building the city that would be required in order to get a sufficient supply in Kildare. Let us be reasonable about these things and see to what extent it is possible to solve the problem.
The problem now is really reduced to the problem of the City of Dublin. That problem is reduced to a single particular point and it is far less difficult to handle than if we had to deal with districts scattered all over the country. We have, therefore, this problem here in the city and if there is one point in the country on which we have converging all possible lines of communication, it is the city. As regards the railway lines, there is no other point to which you could transport the trucks and the necessary fuel for the engines so easily. There is no point in the whole country which you would select as more easily accessible from the point of view of transport than the city. If you were actually selecting a point towards which you might transport a particular commodity more easily than any other point, you would select the city.
What is the best that the Parliamentary Secretary can do in transporting the turf which we know is available? He tells you that he does not see any chance of transferring to Dublin all the turf that is available, even the turf that is available from the results of the labour of the county surveyors. He does not see how he can do that. There is no question then of Dublin being in need because some people have not cut more turf in Donegal. There is enough turf actually cut to relieve us of any serious anxiety in Dublin if we could transport it here. His efforts in recent times have been mainly concentrated on this problem of getting it into Dublin. I am talking now about turf. We can deal with timber later. Anybody who examines the economics of the question at all will very quickly be driven to the conclusion that he must, in the main, rely on rail transport if the job is to be done. Motor transport, when you go outside a particular narrow belt, becomes altogether uneconomic because the prices would be so high that people could hardly afford to burn the turf when it came here. The Parliamentary Secretary is, therefore, concentrating on the railways and he has been, as I know, day in and day out, trying to get the railways to accommodate themselves to this new type of work, to prepare themselves for it, to get all sorts of devices for shortening the work and making it more convenient to bring turf into Dublin. He told you last night of the rate of progress in that regard up to a certain point when railway transport began to be completely dislocated on account of the quality of the fuel supplied. He then had a new problem. Instead of the amount brought to the city steadily going up and up, as it was for a certain period, suddenly the whole thing collapsed. It collapsed almost for a period of a month.
Let nobody say that it was due to want of planning before hand or want of seeing the material at his disposal. It was not. It was outside the problem as it ordinarily presented itself. The graphs are there to show how, for three or four or five weeks, the whole bottom was knocked out of the transport system. Whereas he had been able to get up to 1,600 tons per day into Dublin, the transport arrangements completely, broke down and there was a period of three or four weeks, at any rate, before he was able to get the thing going again. He has got it going again now to a point which is very near the peak which he had reached before. I do not want to deny for one moment that even at the peak we are going to have difficulties. If anybody asked me what is the likelihood of our being able to get sufficient supplies of fuel in this coming winter I would have to admit that, as I see it, the prospect is gloomy and black. This question of fuel for Dublin has given us more worry than any problem we have to deal with at the moment.
The Parliamentary Secretary hopes to be able to get turf into Dublin at the rate of 2,000 tons per day. I asked him this morning whether he was not too optimistic in that, whether, looking over the matter, he did not seem to be too optimistic. He said he would go over it again to see whether, taking it more or less at its worst, which is the thing we ought to provide for—not the best but what we regard as the worst—he could feel that he could guarantee 2,000 tons per day for Dublin.
That, of course, will be very difficult. It depends entirely on the provision of railway wagons.
I was going to add that the Parliamentary Secretary, in discussing that matter, said: "Very well, it will be now a question of priority of goods for transport." As one Deputy mentioned, there is, first of all, the question of the transport of beet, and then there is the question of the transport of cattle. Farmers' cattle have been held up by foot-and-mouth disease for a long period and there is a natural desire to get rid of those cattle now. That takes up the rolling stock and other transport. We will have to sit down at once and get a scale of priorities. There has been one fixed but I doubt very much whether it can stand. In order that the people in Dublin may not suffer from cold, we may have to say to the farmers that we cannot transport more than a certain amount of stock at the present time, or we may have to say, in regard to something else, that we have only a certain amount of transport available and that we will have, to use an old phrase I used to hear, "to cut the gad next the neck". We have to deal with the immediate danger to the best of our ability.
Is every lorry in the country in commission to do the work?
The point is that lorries cannot do the work.
I know that, but are all the lorries in commission?
You may be perfectly certain that everything that can humanly be done by people who see the problem as a whole will be done. The trouble is that Deputies—and I am not blaming them for that—who have not got an opportunity of knowing all the details see it in particular parts.
Some of us do not.
In this particular matter I happen to be probably better acquainted with the details than I am with regard to a number of other economic matters, because I felt it was so important that I should keep in close touch. From time to time I have heard criticisms of various kinds, and I know the answer to them, and the answer can only be given in this way. Taking it as a whole, the plan is better than it would be to leave it to individuals. The difficulties that arise are due to the adoption of a plan. When you have this plan it must be more or less universally applied, because if you allow any holes in the dam the whole thing will rush through. The difficulties arise not from want of a plan, but through the adoption of a plan and the regulations which follow such a plan.
Are you satisfied that all the lorries in the country are in commission?
I am satisfied that it has been brought to the notice of the people who have to deal with this problem not once but a thousand times, partly by individuals, partly by newspapers, partly by their own knowledge, and partly by representations made by Deputies. They are dealing with this from day to day and come up against these problems. Nothing is more natural than for people who are anxious for transport to say: "Is there any of it idle or being wasted?" You may be certain that the Minister for Agriculture would have a hard time trying to get the quota system maintained if there were a question of any serious dislocation or wastage of transport in that method. It would be bound to come to the notice of those trying to look after transport in the general interests of the community, and it would be their business to get after that at once and try to stop it. But they are not omniscient and they cannot foresee everything. The value of a House like this is that there are individuals in it who see it in each little particular spot and observe the way it has been working as a whole, and whether there are not parts of it that inflict hardship, and who bring these matters to the notice of the people concerned.
I am certain that since last Spring this whole problem has been given the attention which it deserves. Probably there is not an aspect of it that could occur to any Deputy that has not been brought to the notice, in one way or another, of those engaged in dealing with the problem, and they have tried to find a solution that would appear to them best as sensible people with no axe to grind, but to do the best they can, and to whom credit would go if they do it well, and who would have to take the blame if anything went wrong. That has been done. But, as I pointed out when the war began, during this time we will be faced with difficulties, no matter what human ingenuity can do to avoid them.
Is the Taoiseach in a position to inform the House why during the period when from 50 to 75 per cent. of the railway rolling stock was idle turf was not transported, namely, during July and August?
Yes. I asked the question myself, because it was raised in this House a couple of times. It was the obvious thing to do. One of the things was that there was a good deal of shifting of turf at that time. There was a good deal of shifting of turf internally at that time within the turf areas. Before you knew what was your surplus in some of those places, you wanted to have the local needs met. You must remember that the most valuable period, the period in which they were going full steam ahead, and the natural period of shifting excess turf, was the period during which the railways failed. It is said that the railways have not done everything they could do fit their lorries and wagons so as to take the most economical loads. I know that that problem has been engaging the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary for a considerable period. He has been making every effort to get the railways to meet the needs. When they did begin they did pretty well.
I have been trying to get the House to realise that there has been a plan. Do not say that there has not been a plan. The basis of that plan is one which should commend itself and does, I believe, commend itself to every Deputy. That plan has brought with it difficulties and people who are pointing to those difficulties are only pointing out objections that there are to any plan. As I say, Dublin is the real problem and we can practically forget everywhere else. We have reduced it to that point, that we can practically forget everywhere else except Dublin at present. With regard to Dublin, the whole question is how far can we utilise what transport is available to bring the turf into Dublin. The turf is available at distant points. All I can say about that is that everything that can humanly be done to transport that turf will be done. But there will be those points. Just imagine the outcry there would be from the farmers—I see the Deputy smiling already—and the difficulties there would be for the Government the moment they said: "No, we are going to give priority to turf rather than to the transport of cattle."
I was smiling at the fact that the railways were idle for two months.
They were not idle for two months.
For July and August.
They were not.
Could the Taoiseach give an estimate of how much turf will be transported daily by available lorry transport? I understand that 2,000 tons per day are to be transported by the railways, but what is the estimate as to what can be transported by lorries?
I know the Parliamentary Secretary has had the question of the utilisation of lorries as far as possible before him for a considerable period. I know he has been trying to employ that method for the belt immediately around Dublin, that he has been trying to use the lorry method for getting in all that was available. I cannot tell you what is the maximum or what is the average. I will have to leave it to himself to tell you in regard to that. I can say from the graphs I have seen showing the amount that has been brought in by canal—which is the smallest—by road transport and by rail that the rail is two or three times as big as the others combined together. It is about that. So that, if the rail fails us, the amount we can get otherwise will be only a small portion of it. That is what I imagine. Everything that can be done to supplement the rail will be done. What I am anxious to do is to see if we could get something like a firm assurance, or as firm as human things can be, that we can get the 2,000 tons a day from the rail. The Parliamentary Secretary thinks that, if he is allowed to use the transport with the necessary priorities, he can guarantee that, but it is a question of getting the necessary priorities and I can tell you, when it comes to a lot of needs, and when it comes to saying which is the primary need and whether the needs of one section of the community have to be put in priority to the needs of other sections which are no small needs either—it becomes an extremely difficult problem. That is the problem that the Government or whoever is put in control has to try to solve. Seeing that there is a shortage, he cannot possibly do these things without getting complaints and, mind, the more evenly he divides the hardship the more certain he is to have complaints. If he were able to allow the hardship to fall on only one section he would have complaints only from that section. The moment he averages it amongst all sections he has every section of the community complaining because they are all feeling the pinch to a certain extent.
I have said enough, I hope, to convince Deputies that whatever difficulties have arisen, or whatever hardships there have been, have not been due to neglect. They have not been due to want of foresight. They have not been due in any way to want of realisation of the nature of the problem and its difficulties. Neither have they been due to any want of setting up an organisation to deal with them. It is probably the one Department in which there has been a person put in charge who had power of co-ordinating generally, and it was because we realised how difficult the problem was that that extreme and extraordinary measure was taken—because it has been, as far as we are concerned generally, an extraordinary measure. With regard to details, I feel the Parliamentary Secretary could point out with regard to every single one of the answers which he will give to the detailed questions which are put to him, that they are due to the adoption of a plan which had to be adopted; otherwise there would have been no organised effort made at all. We have got to put up with these.
The Taoiseach has painted a very black picture for the people of Dublin for the coming winter. I well remember every member of this House, especially the members for the City of Dublin, drawing attention last May, June and July to the difficulties with which we would be faced. I asked a question in the House on the 10th July, four months ago. I asked the Minister for Local Government and Public Health if, in view of the present scarcity of coal and of the increasing danger of a greater shortage of fuel, he will take such steps as may be necessary to secure public cooking, heating and drying facilities for those who may have need for them owing to their inability to secure the necessary fuel for those purposes. The Minister answered, on the 10th July, as follows:—
"The Government are taking appropriate steps to ensure a supply of fuel for domestic use during the coming winter. I may also say that full consideration is being given to arrangements for the provision of cooked meals if such a course should be found necessary."
Four months after that question was asked and answered, after we were told that adequate steps were being taken to ensure a supply of fuel for Dublin, I say the picture that has been painted to us is a very gloomy one, and does not reveal very much activity on the part of any of the Departments since then.
I raised the question last night and the Parliamentary Secretary replied that, so far as it was possible, everything was being done for the City of Dublin. But I am aware, and I drew attention to it several times, that in the tenement quarters of Dublin amongst the unemployed classes, they were paying 2½d. a piece for coal blocks. That worked out at £7 10s. a ton. They were paying 6d. a stone for wet, green timber, cut too large for their fireplaces. Evidently the sawmills that are cutting it, although they know that most of the timber is for Dublin consumption, have cut it, in order to save labour, and I suppose wages, double the size of the ordinary Dublin fireplaces, especially those used in tenement houses. I would suggest that if timber is to be used—and I think timber ought to be used—it ought to come in cut in 6-inch blocks or 4-inch blocks or, at any rate, in small sizes that would suit the Dublin tenement and cottage fireplaces.
The question of transport has arisen as it did in the past four months, and two Deputies have drawn attention to the fact that for June and July most of the rolling stock was idle. About a week after I asked this question I was up in Cabra, just beyond Phibsborough. Three public officials were passing by and I asked them could they tell me how many empty wagons were between the bridge and the Cabra siding. There were 230 empty wagons there in the month of July. Three days afterwards we went back and the same 230 empty wagons were still there. I understand that there was a scarcity of coal suitable for the engines, and that was one of the difficulties there.
It has been put to me recently that before we take the risk of facing a serious crisis in the City of Dublin in regard to heating and drying facilities, for our poor people especially, we ought to declare something on the lines of one national holiday on which every other transport should cease and everything that is on wheels, no matter who owns it—well-to-do classes, working classes, business people—should be driven to the areas where turf and timber are available and that the owners should be requested to draw it in here and distribute it to depôts in various parts of Dublin so that those in need would get it.
At the moment the Parliamentary Secretary appears to have put all his turf, coal blocks and coal slack in one area, at the North Wall, and various parts of Dublin where there might be space for storage of turf have been neglected. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he is aware —I know some of his officials are aware —of the fact that Mr. Gordon, of Gordon's turf bank— Harold's Cross Bridge—I think it is Robert Emmet Bridge now—has been refused a licence to carry on his trade. Mr. Gordon is a former member of the Minister's Party, a man who served his country and served it well according to his lights, and his father and grandfather were in the turf business for over 100 years. He is the type of man who, when he saw a boat coming up the canal a couple of hundred yards away, from the depth of the boat in the water, could tell how many sods of turf were on it. That experienced man has been refused a licence by the Department, while, as he complained to me, newcomers who scarcely knew the weight of a sod of turf were allowed to come into the business and drive him out. That is not fair to a man who earns his living at the trade, and, what is more, who supplied a whole parish. He had his regular customers amongst the class of persons who came to his turf bank to buy turf in small lots. A fortnight ago, I appealed for a licence for that man, and I was refused. He himself was also refused, but the Government graciously allowed him to draw sufficient turf to his bank to cover some money he had advanced to turf producers. I understand he had about 30 men engaged in the business on some contract work and he was bringing turf into the city to supply not the people who buy in ton lots, or any new customers, because he did not seek new contracts, but the people whom his family have been supplying for very many years. I think a man like him ought to be encouraged and not driven out of business.
I think the time has come when I should ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he will make arrangements in the City of Dublin for certain depôts for people who are bearing untold hardships and who have always borne hardships, that is, the unemployed element in the city whom you can see, if you wish to see them, carrying under their shawl two sods of turf or one coal-block, valued 2½d. That had to do for the day for the cooking of meals, the heating of water and the washing and drying of probably eight or ten children in a tenement room. There were many organisations for some years which gave out free fuel like coal, firewood and timber blocks to these people. Who is going to look after that element for the next three or four months? Surely not the big coal merchants who want £3 10s. a ton for turf delivered to the doors on the outskirts of the city? They are not going into the tenement quarters to sell coal and turf in pennyworths, two-pennyworths or threepennyworths, as the huckster's cart goes around and sells green timber at 6d. a stone. I want to know who is going to provide for that element. I read in the paper a few days ago of a lorry which tumbled over and threw three or four tons of timber blocks over the road. Unfortunately, that happened on the outskirts of the city, and I said to myself: "What a pity it is that something like that would not happen in the tenement quarters." It would be cleared very quickly.
The Deputy did not own the lorry?
I did not, but nobody can realise the amount of good that would be done by distributing these commodities to such people and the advantage it would be to the country if they were helped in bearing the burdens they are bearing to-day and if something were done to ease their hardships. I know that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are anxious to do that, and probably would be more anxious in that respect than any of us, or than all of us put together, but it is something to be aimed at. We have the tenements of Summerhill, of Gloucester Street, of Seán MacDermott Street, of Newmarket and the Coombe. The people there are not to be neglected any further. I feel confident that the Government will not allow them to be neglected, and I appeal to them to see that depôts are opened immediately and either turf or timber blocks placed at the disposal of these people.
I do not think the Taoiseach's speech to-night was either helpful or necessary. It was very largely a type of window-dressing which was not at all called for. He started by telling us he thought it was a pity that Government control should exist at all. Of course it is; that is admitted by everybody. I do not think anybody wants Government control, if he can have ordinary control, but what struck me more than anything else about his speech was that for the greater part of it he stressed the importance of a plan for the production of turf. I do not think there is a member of the House who did not pay a tribute to that plan of production of turf long ago and there is no necessity whatever to endeavour to impress it on the House. I remember that on 1st July last in this House, from Deputy Morrissey, the Labour Benches and other parts of the House, there was general praise of the plan for the production of turf. The county surveyors deserved congratulation, as did the Department of Local Government, and the Parliamentary Secretary, in the first instance, for co-ordinating the efforts of everybody in producing turf. But that is not the problem to-day, and what the Taoiseach avoided very adroitly was the transport of turf into Dublin at present and the failure of somebody in the months of July and August to take advantage of the then idle transport. The Taoiseach endeavoured to say that the matter was not neglected during those months. I do not know exactly what he meant by that, but it certainly was not in operation during those months. He said that at that time there was a certain local shifting of turf, but that was no explanation at all, because I remember perfectly well that on what we call "bonfire night," 23rd June, the Roscommon County Council had tons and tons of turf ready to deliver to anybody.
On 23rd June. At the end of June and in the early days of July, turf was available and ready for delivery all over the country, and while it was a very difficult matter for the Parliamentary Secretary to estimate the turf needs of the people because it was a new matter, and very difficult also because he did not know what supply of coal would come in, it was, to my mind at least, a comparatively easy matter to estimate transport requirements. In comparison with the other matters, that was perfectly easy. I remember being told in the precincts of this House in the month of July that if the railway company ceased every other activity, it had not the rolling stock to take turf into this city at the rate at which it would be required, unless the matter were tackled at once. I made use of that statement when speaking on 1st July here, but no advantage was apparently taken of it. I do not know who may have been at fault—perhaps it was the railway company—but in any case we do not appear to have any record of turf worth talking about taken into Dublin during July and August.
As Deputy Morrissey pointed out to-day, those were the months in which we had no rail traffic in connection with livestock, because all our fairs were held up, and in which we had no traffic in connection with beet or corn, but all these are rushing on us now. That is the period in which there was, to my mind, the lapse, and that was the matter about which I should have liked to hear the Taoiseach tell us to-night. I should have liked to hear him explain to us and to the people of Dublin why advantage was not taken of these months.
I do not know why. Perhaps there is a very good reason, but at the moment nobody can give any reason. The Parliamentary Secretary rightly pointed out last night that there is a very severe call upon railway transport. You have the beet position, the corn position and the livestock position, all crowding on top of one another, plus the very unfortunate position in Dublin with regard to fuel. The Taoiseach said it may become a question of priorities. If so, I think the sooner the matter is tackled fairly and squarely the better for everybody. But, in the absence of some explanation, we are convinced that there was a let-down in July and August as far as transport is concerned.
I do not want, by any word of mine, to aggravate the position. Deputy Byrne said that the Parliamentary Secretary and every member of the House want to do the right thing. Every member of the House is interested in the position of people who have no fuel, but for the Taoiseach to tell us that the position in Dublin would be aggravated by allowing certain people to have turf while others did not have it was the greatest nonsense and piffle I ever listened to. It is like the Taoiseach—this thing of always being afraid of the psychological effect upon people's minds. Mind you, that did not occur to him in the early stages of the war when, as I thought, a sensible move was made by asking people down the country who were able to purchase flour to buy all the flour they could and take it out of the mills so that it would be available for somebody if transport were stopped completely. Let me put that point to the Parliamentary Secretary in this way: that if there was at the moment a supply of turf for, say, 50,000 people in Dublin, extra to what he has at the moment, would not that be an advantage, even though the turf was in the hands of the richer people? Would it not be an advantage to have a certain number of people taken off the general pool? The Taoiseach appears to think that that should not be allowed because, in his view, it would be an interference with the general plan: it would put up the price. I certainly did not follow him as far as putting up the price goes.
I will try to explain it. It is a rather difficult question.
The way to keep prices down is to have it scarce.
I will try to explain it.
If we are to take the Government's attempt at price control in other matters I am afraid we cannot have very much confidence in them. They seem to have fallen down in all their attempts at price control. They are not competent to deal with price orders. They simply fix prices on papers, but do not enforce them. If they did that in the case of turf I suppose we would have the same thing occurring, but that is no reason why the thing could not be done by competent people.
The Parliamentary Secretary said in July "Better dear turf than no turf."
And I repeat it.
Apropos of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said one may say, "Better have turf in somebody's yard in Dublin than in nobody's yard." As Deputy Dillon pointed out, would it not be better to have allowed the man down in Roscommon to send the turf up to Dublin than to refuse him permission to move it? At any rate his relatives here would have the turf now instead of being without it. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to organise transport for the removal of the turf though I do not know how he is going to do it. If he was not able to do it in July or August, I do not know how he is going to do it now, but I hope he will be able to do it. There is one matter that I want to bring to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary. The Taoiseach has told us on more than one occasion that the people upon whom he relied more than anybody else to cut turf this year were the people who, in the ordinary way, cut turf. He relied on them to cut extra quantities. I remember the Parliamentary Secretary saying that he wanted a second and a third crop from those people, but I do not think he got very much. The people did what they could and did it manfully and well. I do not think there was a third crop got anywhere. A second crop was got.
Some people got a third crop, but it was not done extensively.
At the last meeting of the Roscommon County Council the county surveyor, dealing with the question of turf production, said that the production of it cost more than he had anticipated, but that the increased cost was due entirely to the second crop. The first crop was got, he said, at a reasonable price. The second crop, owing to the weather and other difficulties, was much dearer.
August was a very expensive month for everybody.
I want to know what steps the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government are going to take to redeem the promises they made to the people whom they asked to cut turf. They promised them a market for their turf. We have a difficulty in Roscommon which was discussed the other day at the meeting of the county council. There we had even members of the county council asking that priority be given to individual producers, as against the county council as a producer, to get their turf away on rail. The difficulty is that there are a lot of individuals in the county, but no central organisation. There are plenty of individuals who have tons of turf, but they have no buyers, notwithstanding the promises made by the Parliamentary Secretary and the Taoiseach.
Would the Deputy estimate that there are 10,000 or 20,000 tons of turf available in the County Roscommon? Could he give a rough estimate?
I am sure there are 10,000 tons. I think that figure was mentioned the other day by one of the members who was pleading for a priority.
I am not raising this in any controversial way. I am taking the Deputy as a responsible man who has been around through his constituency. Can he say within reason, to his own knowledge, that there is anything like 10,000 tons of turf there?
No, I cannot say that of my own knowledge. But whether it be 10,000 tons or 1,000 tons, the people cut the turf on your invitation that it would be taken from them at a good price.
I say "yes".
Leave out the word "good".
Well, the Parliamentary Secretary's statement was "a reasonable price".
I maintain that a reasonable price is a good price.
The answer is that I will take it.
On the 1st July last the Parliamentary Secretary made the following promise:—
"For all properly saved turf offered at a reasonable price a market will be found. There need be no hesitation whatever about that."
That I will take the Roscommon turf is the answer. The Deputy need not argue it any further.
Whatever was the position in other counties, the Parliamentary Secretary does not appear to have had any organisation in the County Roscommon to deal with individuals. You have individuals there, some with ten tons of turf, some with 20 tons and some with perhaps 50 tons, but they have no organisation. The Parliamentary Secretary has no representative in the county to deal with those individuals.
That was no part of our contract, but I will look into it along those lines.
But you made the promise. Those are people who, as Deputy Morrissey has pointed out, went into the bogs and worked very hard—people who were supplied with the necessaries of life by the shopkeepers.
Has not the Deputy got the answer that I will take the turf? What more does he want?
I was told that on the 1st July last by the Parliamentary Secretary speaking from those benches. It is now the 30th day of October, and the turf has not been taken from them yet. Some of it is still in the bogs or where it cannot be easily removed. These people cut turf believing, rightly or wrongly, that in a reasonable time they would be able to cash it.
Is it dry?
If it is fully dry and stacked in places from which it can be taken, very well.
I know that the same circumstances prevail in Donegal, where people cut turf which has not been taken from them. What arrangement is the Parliamentary Secretary going to make about that? It is about time that something was done for these people; that some plan was reached, seeing that they did their job.
Pay them a deposit.
They did their job when a promise was made that their turf would be taken. They cut and saved the turf and their end of the work is finished. The Department's end is not yet finished. It is not enough to say to them, practically on November 1st: "It is all right; the turf will be taken." I think some sort of organisation should be set up, whether through the county councils or otherwise, to deal with the matter. There was a clamour at county councils' meetings about turf and there has been great dissatisfaction expressed. I advise the Parliamentary Secretary to do the right thing by the people who have done the right thing by the nation and to fulfil his end of the bargain.
I want the Parliamentary Secretary to understand that his end of the bargain must be attended to. If he does that, I will be very grateful. I know that he wants to do it, but there is no organisation in the counties. I appeal to him to set up some kind of machinery, so that these people will be paid in some way, whether the turf is impounded or not. If they are to be asked to work next year the Parliamentary Secretary ought to stand by them now that they have done their work.
Deputies will understand that the Parliamentary Secretary will be called upon to conclude at 9.30 p.m.
It has been acknowledged on all sides that this question has resolved itself essentially into one for the Government. Up to the present only one Dublin Deputy and myself have had an opportunity of speaking. We are asked to approve of plans for the production of turf. We agree that a plan had to be devised but, on the face of it, it was unsound, because the Government knew, as we knew, that the difficulty was not the cutting of turf but transporting it to the centres where it was wanted. A fatal mistake was made about the 1,000,000 tons of turf that it was proposed to produce when, according to the figures supplied, practically 60 per cent. of that turf was produced in four counties on the Atlantic seaboard. Dublin was the principal centre for the consumption of extra turf. The supply of fuel to the City of Dublin, to the Borough of Dún Laoghaire and to the City of Cork was the big problem. The extra turf was produced on the Atlantic seaboard at a time when it was known that transport would be scarce. That was the fatal mistake. I agree with Deputy Norton that we have not yet been supplied with figures that would indicate the amount of turf that would be available if it could be got to the principal centres; and how much we could rely upon getting, considering the circumstances confronting us; and the amount that would be necessary to keep the home fires burning in Dublin.
It has been admitted by the Taoiseach that turf will be competing for the available transport with beet and cattle, and that there is not now sufficient transport to bring fuel to the City of Dublin. That is an appalling situation. In turf-producing areas farmers fit in that work by drawing home turf in July and August when their transport has nothing else to do. At that period of this year when our national transport had nothing else to do it was not put to work on turf. The Taoiseach stated that it would be an unfair advantage if people in Dublin with friends in the country were allowed to bring in turf. When dealing with the fuel problem, the coal merchants in Dublin work on a business basis. Why did the Parliamentary Secretary refuse to give the coal merchants in Dublin licences to transport turf to their yards? The borough of Dun Laoghaire requires 29,000 tons for the winter, practically all of it for domestic purposes, but the merchants there were refused licences to bring in turf. Now they have neither coal nor turf in the yards. I think the Parliamentary Secretary referred to Dun Laoghaire yesterday and stated that the merchants there had some turf now.
That was not the borough I referred to, but they have now 2,000 or 3,000 tons of turf in Dun Laoghaire.
That is all the fuel they have, except local supplies of timber. A major mistake was made in permitting turf to be cut in remote districts when the country was confronted with a shortage of transport. That was known when the turf campaign began. It was known to every intelligent person last spring. Any businessman dealing with fuel knew that the big problem was transport, and we should have economised in transport by having turf cut near the big centres of consumption. Was not that the promise held out by the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday and by the Taoiseach to-night?
I consider that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government instead of receiving bouquets will merit the censure of the citizens of Dublin, who will be deprived of fuel during the coming winter. The Parliamentary Secretary smiles. It was his problem to provide the fuel. He has not done it. He will not tell the House how much turf is available even if he had the transport. He will not tell us what the shortage will be. I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that it would take 2,500 tons of fuel coming to Dublin daily to square with consumption. Furthermore, he allowed turf to be transported to Dublin that no practical turf cutter would allow to be cut on a bog in any part of Ireland.
Even by the Dublin County Council?
The Dublin County Council cut no turf and had no responsibility for turf. The county surveyor had responsibility. Dublin County Council expressed itself in no uncertain way as to the manner in which the scheme was worked. I will say no more about that matter. The county surveyor can look after his own job. We are left without fuel in the City of Dublin and the responsibility is on the shoulders of the Government, that undertook to supply us and then refused to allow the private transport that was available in July, August and September to bring turf to Dublin. No reason that will wash or that will be accepted by the people has been given to show that the Government were wise in deciding not to allow that transport to function. This debate will be a severe shock to the economy of this country, that has already suffered terrific losses this year owing to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The country has had to carry twice the cattle population this year owing to the outbreak of the disease. They will learn to-morrow that they will be unable to get the rolling-stock of the railways to transport the cattle that they have available to the markets, owing to the incompetency of another Department in allowing the ravages of foot-and-mouth disease to run.
Is the Deputy in order in referring to that matter when dealing with turf?
The Deputy considers that he is in order. If the Deputy would cease his disorder we could get on.
Has the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease anything to do with the supply of turf?
Wagons that should be transporting cattle are now going to be used to transport turf.
Can the Deputy see the clock?
I can. I want to protest against time being curtailed for this debate, and Deputies who wanted to speak not getting an opportunity to put their point of view before the House.
Deputy Belton says that one of the mistakes made was to cut turf in distant areas. I do not regret any turf which is left cut in Kerry or in Donegal. I want turf cut elsewhere next year. Deputy Brennan said that some time in June there were many thousands of tons of turf available in Roscommon, but that due to defects in transport the turf could not be got away. We have bought 10,000 tons of turf from the county surveyor in Roscommon, and it is being delivered. While Deputies may be entirely wrong about statements they make in this House they may be also quite sincere in believing that they are true. Deputy Brennan said that nobody was paying any attention to private producers of turf in Roscommon who were induced to cut turf, that it was left on their hands, and that there is no organisation to take it from them. We have bought 10,000 tons of privately produced turf in Roscommon and it is in process of being transported here. The Deputy also says that the one thing in the wide world it would be easy to estimate would be the capacity of a transport system. That is one of the things that is mathematically easy, apparently.
"Comparatively easy" is what I said.
We will say "comparatively easy", just the same as I used the words "reasonable terms". It needs more than assumption and it apparently needs more than expert knowledge. It needs the gift of prophecy in a very high order to say from day to day what the transport system of this country will carry, with the variation in the quality of fuel.
A fortnight ago, which one Deputy in this House would estimate how long it would take a mail train—to within two or three hours of the time—to go from Cork to Dublin? How many hours do you think it took a train to get from Kilkee to Ennis, and from Kilkee to Limerick? It was measured in days— literally in days. If I had worked from the reasonable calculations of the actual experience of the months of August and September, I would have said that I would be carrying 3,000 or more tons of turf a day at the end of September and that I would be carrying 4,000 tons in the middle of October; but I was down to 500, because the absolute bottom fell out of the railway system in this matter, not through their default but due to the fact that they had a fuel which simply could not be kept alight. Not merely was a train lucky enough to start off and lucky enough to keep going itself, but it was asking altogether too much of Providence to hope that the train that was stopped in front of it on the line would be able to go. There were actual cases in which a particular train had three engines, one after another, brought out to try and help it.
I am only telling you now so that you will understand the actual position into which we ran. Everything looked extremely promising up to 20th September and from that on, due purely to the nature of the fuel, it actually reached a stage when, in one day, I think there was no turf carried across the border by rail. Now, it is very curious—life is full of humours—that at this particular moment, among the other things that happened, a certain amount of coal rained from heaven on the railways, and the effect of that was to cut off the whole turf transport, as the company took every wagon they had, the cranes and the iron tubs with which we were unloading turf, as they wanted to deliver this God-sent manna of coal which they had received. These are the actual circumstances, as distinct from the simple and facile calculations which Deputy Brennan thinks can be made in the matter.
From the time the transport started —and it started, I think, on the day on which the turf control was inaugurated—every day and all day we looked for the whole of the transport we could get across rails. There was a breakdown on our own part through an accumulation of wagons. That was got rid of and from that day, every day up to the present, the organisation which is engaged in transport has been pressing for more and more service out of the existing organisation. It was under those circumstances that it was gradually able to come up to the peak which was reached in the middle of September— a peak which, in my opinion, would be maintained and improved but for the unfortunate conditions which supervened.
That does not mean that the whole of us engaged in this matter have not learned something and have not learned also that there are things we do not yet know. I do not yet know enough about the transport system of this country to say to this House that all that could be got out of it was got out of it in that time. But I have learned enough to know that it is a matter into which I shall be bound to make inquiry. I shall be bound to be in a position to satisfy myself that I can give the House such a certificate, that full examination has been made of the facilities and that full use has been made of them.
I do not want to deal with the controversial matter introduced by Deputy Dillon in relation to pigs and bacon factories and the rest. All that stuff, as far as that portion of it was concerned, was denied here by the responsible Minister; but I am concerned with the suggestion that there may be a wrong or inefficient user of transport, that either through wagons being used for things for which they ought not to be used—used on wrong hauls instead of right hauls—through duplication in the sense of goods going to a district and similar goods, or goods which could be substituted for them, coming from that district, and with the allegation that wagons which ought to be in transit are being held up in the depôts due to failure to discharge them.
These are matters which, in my opinion, do now require examination, and it will be necessary for all those concerned to satisfy themselves, and to satisfy the community to whom they are responsible, that absolutely the fullest and most efficient use is being made. I feel that I have a responsibility in taking a share in the investigation that will lead up to a certificate that that is being done.
Deputy Byrne asked that there should be other dumps in Dublin instead of merely concentrating on the huge dumps which we have. There are quite a few. There are about seven dumps altogether in the City of Dublin at the present moment. Others, to the extent to which it is necessary, will be opened. A very rigorous and careful, and, I think, through examination has been made in relation to the facilities for storage next year. It means long, careful, and expensive preparation in order to get new facilities of an adequate character. Those are in hand. The smaller dumps can be used for purposes which are in the mind of Deputy Byrne, if it is considered necessary to have a wider distribution of supply. He asked a question in relation to timber: that will be referred to the Minister concerned. I do not think that a national day of prayer by the transport system will be an effective means of doing it. It would be far better to build up gradually out of the existing system we have, and see that each of them does its work.
Deputy Norton raised a question in relation to a particularly small body in his own constituency. It is one of the cases hard cases, if he regards it as a hard case, which I do not—which would make very bad law indeed. What was happening in that particular case was hawking at a very expensive price among the poor. Now, that does not mean that I have not a great deal of sympathy and a desire to help even those who may be put out of that kind of business by an order of this kind. We are prepared to buy their turf, we are prepared to transport their turf or to give them an opportunity to transport it at a reasonable price; but we are not prepared to break up the whole system of distribution in the City of Dublin in order to make them an exception.
The Taoiseach spoke of the camps which we have to build in Kildare for the purpose of enabling turf to be cut near to the point of issue. That is a highly speculative proposition—there is no question at all about that—and it will not produce cheap turf. If I had unlimited petrol, I would go a very long distance out to collect expensive turf rather than commit myself to that. But it is not a question of the price of petrol; it is the possibility of it at all. We cannot afford to take that risk. We do propose, therefore, to go as far as we can in the matter of camps, even though it is going to produce expensive turf. We propose to stimulate production in the inner belt to any extent we can, and I am quite sure that, when Deputy Brennan comes back and tells his constituents that, not merely have the 10,000 tons of turf which we have bought from the county surveyor of Roscommon been taken and delivered, but that we have arranged a price which we regard as reasonable for 10,000 tons more from the private producers, he will be able to back us up in stimulating production next year in his area, in order that there may be more of the inner belt turf which can be taken, to the extent to which we have lorry transport available, into the City of Dublin or elsewhere, as the case may be.
Deputy Dillon spoke on the question of a fixed price. A fixed price for the whole of Ireland is impossible. Regional prices may be a possible proposition. It is not an easy proposition and in this year it was practically impossible, because we did not know what the prices were going to be. Any price that had been set, either as a general or a regional price, with the knowledge we then had, would now have been wrong. It would have been set lower than it is now and there is no means of getting a product such as turf out of the hands of the producer at a price which is other than that which the conditions of affairs have, as a matter of fact, built up. There was no possibility of entering into such contracts or enforcing such contracts. With the information we now have with relation to the trend of prices, and our knowledge of transport, I am going to look into that question as to whether regional prices can be arranged—I am not clear that they can.
Another matter raised by Deputy Cleary, Deputy Dillon and Deputy Norton was the method under which turf should be cut. Deputy Norton wants it cut by direct labour, Deputy Cleary by family labour, some other people want it cut by contract, while others would prefer piece work. My experience is that, given the right men running the show, you can get good turf and economic turf under any one of those four methods. Next year these methods will be applied in the different counties and districts to which they are most suitable. Personally, I should like to see a great deal more contract turf and a great deal more of private producer's turf. My experience is that you can get, under those circumstances, as good turf as can be got in any other way.
In Mayo the two systems were worked side by side. I was out on the bogs where the two kinds of turf were being cut under the supervision of the county surveyor. In the return, Mayo was put down at 74,000 tons, but that is nothing like what Mayo has produced. What happened in Mayo was that the county surveyor decided not to cut any direct labour turf. He started out to get the whole of his turf cut by contract, but various speculators,entrepreneurs, came down from the City of Dublin looking for turf for special customers and they began to offer any price; they simply drove the market in the west mad and, before that order was put in operation in the western districts, we were being asked to pay the sort of price that Deputy Cleary alluded to—30/— and it looked as if the price would simply have the sky as the limit. That was the basis upon which we had to add all the costs of transport and labour and everything else before we could get the turf into the City of Dublin.
There were two reasons for the standstill Order. First of all, it was to break the ramp in the west, to prevent the prices all over the turf areas being driven out of sight, not by men who were going to take the responsibility of shifting the bulk of the turf, but by the people who were prepared to gather up the few hundreds of tons of turf which, in June and the beginning of July, were available. This year's turf was not available in June and July. I have a list showing all the turf as it was saved. There was practically no turf of this year's saving in these western districts at the time, no turf that was in good and proper condition which could in the circumstances be made available to be brought along here.
Was that in July?
Yes, at the end of June and the beginning of July. The harvest only begins then. The turf which is cut early in the year—you can cut turf in February—will take, perhaps, a longer time in the saving.
Who cuts turf in February?
A lot of people do, and we may cut turf in the month of February next year.
It is a wonder you did not say that people cut turf in January.
You can cut the turf early in the year if you have the spreading ground available and that turf will be in as good condition as the turf which you cut in June, but you may not save much time. There seems to be an idea that at the end of June and the beginning of July there was any amount of available turf in the places where we wanted it. That is not true. The second thing we were concerned with, and the chief object of this order was to settle the price in the turf areas, and the result of that single order, the only price regulating order that has yet been issued, was that no other order of any kind had to be issued in the whole of the turf areas, which cover three-quarters of the county. What happened was that this artificial speculative gambling which was disturbing the market was taken out, and in the whole turf area which had an adequate supply the ordinary means of distribution and exchange regulated a price which, on the whole, was reasonable.
You will have the June turf next year lying in the bogs at the rate you are going.
You made no attempt whatsoever to get it out this year.
We are getting out the turf all right and the Deputy need not worry.
Are you getting it into Dublin?
Is the Parliamentary Secretary quite sure that the speculators went down to the west from Dublin?
Most of them had that kind of an accent. I will not say that they had not certain accomplices nearer the western fringe, but the origin of the whole thing, where the demand for the speculative turf came from, the urge to disturb the whole price position in the west, came from a very few interested people here in the City of Dublin.
I am very glad to know that.
I do not think the westerners are racketeers at all: I think the Government are the only racketeers in this country.
They can resist everything but temptation.
The Parliamentary Secretary is resisting the temptation to discuss the turf position in Dublin.
Deputy Norton was against family-cut turf. Personally, I should like to see a great deal of that done. I do not know what were the particular circumstances in relation to the wage point to which Deputy Norton alluded. I do not know of any regulation from headquarters which affected the wages of anybody engaged in turf cutting. Of course, there was a period when they were off turf cutting and they were back on the county council work. I shall look up that matter in order to see what happened. Deputy Brodrick complains of lorries not being crated. I have been trying very hard to get that done. There are 600 wagons of the Great Southern Railways actually crated. They are being crated at the rate of 100 a week, which is not anything like as fast as I would wish it done.
Those wagons did not carry the February turf.
The railway company have actually taken the roofs off passenger wagons and converted them into ordinary wagons. They have also taken the roofs off cattle wagons. That does not show that there is that indifference which the Deputy thinks there is in this matter. I do not think there is any indifference. I am not sure whether there was, from the very beginning, that enthusiastic urge towards improvisation of that kind, but I am satisfied that at the present moment they are anxious, within the limitations of their transport facilities, to do the best they can. I was down to-day at the dump and I saw a lot of wagons which were uncrated —there were more uncrated wagons than I was satisfied to see. But I also saw a great many newly crated wagons and I hope they are going to have a lot of children in the next few days.
We have a controversy between Deputies on the subject of the best method of turf production and distribution. Deputy Morrissey is concerned with why we did not bring in more turf in the earlier stages. From the day on which we took over control of turf, every possible effort has been made from the point of view of distribution. There has not been one wagon that we could get hold of that was not used.
Was that the position in July and August?
Throughout the whole of August and September we were increasing the amount of turf which the railway people were carrying for us. We have all been serving together in the solution of a common difficulty. We have all spent a year at this work, and we have learned quite a lot. There were a great many things we did not know when we began, and there are a great many things that even now we do not know. With good feeling and co-operation between us all, it will be our business during the next year to turn all that knowledge to the best account. I believe we will start earlier, we will start with more men, with better organisation, and with probably 5,000 miles of new bog faces which were created in last year's campaign and put into a condition to enable us to start cutting turf, if we choose, in February, and go on all through March, April, May, June and July, in order to provide an amount of turf over the whole country which will meet the requirements of the community. We hope, by carrying on a transport system, not as something which started in August, but which will be available right through, that we will accumulate in the critical places during the time in which there is some latitude in regard to transport, reserves of turf which will enable us to face next winter with some confidence that we will get through without real hardship to anybody.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary say when he expects to recoup county councils for the moneys advanced for the turf campaign?
Most of the money advanced by county councils will be recouped in the process of sale. I do not regard any county council as being in any difficulty or danger whatever in relation to money advanced—none whatever.
What about the price of the turf that is in the stores of the merchants? I have seen turf purchased in Cork at 9d. a peck, and that works out about £3 a ton. I have seen some of that turf and I went to the trouble of weighing it. I have also seen coal blocks. I could get one cwt. of blocks delivered for 4/9 and the merchants selling them pay £3 7s. 6d. to a carter and storeman. Fifty of those blocks would go to the cwt.
I was prepared to answer a question——
I am not expecting an answer.
I was not expecting a speech, after the debate we had this evening. At another time I will be most happy to discuss this matter with the Deputy and to give him any information I can.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until 3 p.m., Wednesday, 12th November.