Listening yesterday to the Minister for Finance, one could not help thinking that the Minister felt that it was more than likely that this would be the last Budget which he would introduce in this Parliament.
Committee on Finance. - Financial Resolution No. 6—General (Resumed).
Will not the next Parliament be a new Parliament?
That will not make the slightest difference in the statement I have just made so far as the Minister is concerned.
It makes a great difference. The Deputy said that this would be the last Budget I would introduce in this Parliament.
What the Deputy meant is another thing.
It does not matter what I meant or what the Minister thinks, the result will be the same and it is only the result that will count. The Minister will never again introduce a Budget in the national Parliament. Deputies who are opposite know that. This Budget puts a full stop to Fianna Fáil. There is no doubt about that. If it is remarkable for anything, it is remarkable for this, and I welcome it in so far as this feature of it is concerned, that it makes a very welcome departure from the woolly and muddled thinking which has gone on in Fianna Fáil since the Party was first founded. For the first time it shows an attempt, and a fairly courageous attempt, to face up to some of the facts—not all of them by any means, but to some of them. That is a very remarkable document and I invite Deputies, particularly Fianna Fáil Deputies, to get that document and to read it very carefully. They will be shocked at the difference between what is set out in that document and what they preached for so many years. As I said, there are welcome departures. In this Budget the Government have got away from what I might call the brass wall around Ireland mentality. There is a recognition that our future, our economic future particularly, is bound up with the future of the rest of the world. There is a facing up to facts to a certain extent but not to as many facts as we would like to see the Government facing up to.
If there was one feature more than another stressed by the Minister in this Budget it was the provision being made for what he called social services.
The Government and their supporters have got into the habit of boasting about their social services, boasting about the amount of money they have provided for unemployment assistance and for food vouchers and so on. In my opinion that is nothing to boast about; it is something to be ashamed of that the necessity for doing that should be there. It stamps very definitely the failure of the Government to provide work for people in this country who are fit to work, which has forced those people into a position that they have to accept, so to speak, alms from the State. It is that or starvation. When the Minister tells us and, through this House, tells the country, that this year £20,500,000 is being provided for unemployment assistance and social services, again that is not something to be proud of. The Minister, in the very first page of his statement, faced up to certain facts, but he ignored completely certain other very important and very vital facts, facts which, in my opinion, not only should have their place in this review of the nation's resources and of its position to-day, but should have a very important place in this review.
We find on page one that the Minister gives himself a pat on the back because the visible imports from the beginning of the war up to the 31st March last exceeded the visible export by some £17.3 millions in value. There is, unfortunately, one great exports of ours—a very visible one indeed—on which apparently the Minister places no value—our export of human beings. We are told that this is a Budget of which Fianna Fáil is proud. It discloses a state of affairs that any Government at the end of ten years should be ashamed of. When we are talking of our visible imports and boasting of the fact that they are supposed to be £17,000,000 over our visible exports, surely there ought to be some recognition or some mention of the fact that not since the famine period has the export of humans from this country exceeded the numbers of the last year or two.
The Minister also puts before the House and the country as a very desirable state of affairs that the deposits in the banks have increased by 40 per cent. We built up a surplus of paper money. But I put it to the Minister that, side by side with that, there is very rapidly being reduced the real wealth of the country in its men and its women, in useful material, in the fertility of the land—that is inevitable at the moment, I know. But there ought to be a recognition of the fact that if we built up deposits of paper money in the banks, we are losing doubly and trebly on the other side in real wealth. Our real wealth is being diminished. There is no getting away from that fact. That does not find any mention or emphasis in the financial statement that the Minister put before the House of his year's work.
To return for a moment to the question of unemployment, to the question of the cost of living, to the question of pegging wages at a certain point, to the situation which demands food vouchers, which demands unemployment assistance, and so on, what picture does that disclose? It discloses this picture: that a very great number of men who should be producing wealth from the land or somewhere else, because of the very high cost of living, because of the fact that they are unable to earn wages to keep place with that high cost of living, because in many cases they are unable to earn any wages and are dependent absolutely on the State for existence, are themselves and their children only half nourished. Arising out of that, we are in the position that our men to-day are not A1 men in the sense that they are not fully competent to give 100 per cent. production which would be given by healthy, well-fed men. We are storing up for ourselves, through our under-nourished children, a position that will give us all that flows from malnutrition. We are heading towards a C-3 race. People are trying to exist under conditions that can produce in children particularly, rickets, consumption, and everything else that one dreads to see even traces of in children.
In his Budget, the Minister admits that there has been an increase of 60 per cent. in the cost of living since the war started. I am very glad that the Minister for Local Government is present. Is it reasonable, is it just or fair, that working men with families should be expected to meet a cost of living which has increased by at least 60 per cent.—and, if essential foods are taken, by a higher percentage than 60 per cent.—and, to be able to provide for themselves and their dependents on the wages which they had five or six years ago, wages which even at that time, even in normal times, were admittedly low? Let me take just one class as an illustration. There are thousands of road workers in this country, employed by the county councils, and with one or two exceptions the maximum rate of wages allowed is 35/- a week. Is there any Deputy on any side of the House, with any knowledge of what it costs to run his own home or of the enormous increase in the cost of providing even the necessaries of life in his own home, who believes that a man can rear a healthy family on 35/- a week to-day? It cannot be done, and I would like the Minister for Local Government to explain to this House why, in the face of the 60 per cent. increase in the cost of living, and particularly in the cost of food, he refuses to allow local authorities to increase the rate of wages to their employees by as much as 6d. per week. He is the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. Does he believe that he is doing his duty as Minister for Public Health, or that he is helping to bring up a healthy race, when he is forcing men with families of three, seven or eight children to exist on 35/-a week at the present day?
In his statement, the Minister talks about the provision for educational services of almost £5,500,000. We provide £5,312,000 to educate the youth, but we do not provide sufficient wages to feed the children first. Does anyone think that full value will be got for the enormous sums of money that are spent on education, when we are trying to impart that education to children, many of whom are half hungry? Is the Minister aware that, during last winter and this spring, up to a fortnight agó, even in rural Ireland where there are creameries and some of the richest land in Europe, children had to go to school on breakfasts of dry bread, as there was no butter to be had, even where the price was available? I suggest to the Minister for Finance and to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, that they should consider the £5,312,000 in respect of education side by side with the problem of the man with four, five, six or seven children, trying to rear them on 30/- or 35/- per week.
May I say in passing that, whilst I am glad to see that there is £5,312,000 for education—and even if it were greater, I personally would not object, if it were spent in the right direction— it is notorious that nobody in this country, outside the Department of Education itself, believes that that money is being spent to the best advantage, to give education its proper bent, or to impart the proper knowledge to the children?
That is a matter for discussion on an Estimate.
I am just making that reference in passing. It is a question of a figure which I am taking out of the Budget statement—£5,312,000— and I submit, with all respect, that I am entitled to question whether this House should pass that money.
The opportunity would arise on the Vote for Education.
This figure is in the Budget. It is a matter of major policy and, with all respect, I submit that this is not only a Financial Statement but a review of all the resources and machinery of the State.
I was referring to the established practice—that matters proper to the Estimate should not be raised in the Budget debate.
I assure you that I have no intention whatever to deal with this in detail. I say it is notorious that no person interested in education, outside the Department, believes that we are getting as much value as we could get from the expenditure of that money.
Last year, in dealing with the Budget, I had occasion to complain that the Minister did not devote to our main industry the space to which it was entitled. This year I have to make that complaint again. The one thing that emerges from the Minister's statement, with regard to agriculture, is that, after four years of war, Irish agriculture is not producing to-day any more than it was producing four years ago. If that is so, after four years of appeal by a united Parliament, from platform, press and radio, for increased production from the land, does the Minister not consider it a very serious matter? Is it not reasonable to assume that, if the war lasts another 12 months or two or three years, we will be getting less and less, as the productive capacity of the land will be diminishing, owing to the absence of fertilisers and manures?
Any man living in rural Ireland, or in touch with the farmers and workers on the land, knows quite well that our land is losing its fertility year after year. That is inevitable, but if the last ounce of fertility is to be taken out of it, it is a fact we cannot afford to ignore. The sowing of wheat on land which is not suitable for that purpose, and the sowing of a second, a third, and in some cases a fourth, corn crop in succession on the same land, can have only one result in the end. You are then taking a lot out of the land and not in a position to put anything back, because the manures are not available from home or imported sources in the quantities required. Apart altogether from the question of the quantities of manures, it is well known to everybody that the quality is very poor, compared to the quality available in normal times. Surely, the Minister should not have left off at that point, by saying that there was not any increase? The position is far worse than that.
It is a matter which concerns every member of this House, whether he sits on the Government Benches or not, that in a country which used to be looked upon as one of the best food-producing countries in the world, we have a shortage—I will not use any stronger language—of butter, bacon, milk and potatoes. I will not put it beyond that. I know from my own personal knowledge, as I am living in a part of the country which thank God contains some of the best land in Ireland or outside it, and even in that part of Ireland this spring and during part of the winter a section of the people and their families were not able to secure anything like a sufficiency of butter. There must be a reason for the shortage of butter, bacon, potatoes, and milk. With proper organisation, proper co-ordination and proper contacts between the various Departments concerned I believe that these shortages could be considerably lessened, if not removed. I am perfectly certain that while potatoes cannot be got in the City of Dublin, there are parts of the country where there is a surplus of potatoes. I have no doubt whatever about that. Apparently it was nobody's business to see where there was a surplus which could be transferred to places where there was a want. I put it to the Minister that the shortage of potatoes this year has arisen mainly because of what happened last year. The Government made an appeal to farmers when the wheat-growing season was over to grow more and more potatoes, stating that they could not grow enough. The farmers responded to the appeal in a magnificent way and used practically all the farmyard manure they had to grow potatoes. There was a bumper crop both in quality and quantity. What happened? Is it not known to Deputies from all parts of rural Ireland that tens of thousands of tons of potatoes were allowed to rot in the pits because the farmers could not dispose of them? As a result, nothing like the same acreage of potatoes was sown this year. Hence the explanation, in part, of the shortage that now exists. I am satisfied that if there was an even distribution of the potatoes that are available we would have more than a sufficiency for human needs to carry us on until the new crop is available.
I suggest to the Minister that when he speaks through his Budget Statement he is speaking for the Government but, in times like the present; there are more things than mere figures, money, deposits in the banks or even in the Post Office to be considered. It would be very excellent to do so if we were living in normal times, but that is not necessarily a healthy sign to-day. Unlike a great many people I do not claim to be an authority on finance, credit, currency reform or any of the other topics that we hear discussed, but I know that if a person has a 10/- note in his pocket and cannot buy a ½ stone of potatoes for his children's dinner, the 10/- note is not much good. That is the distinction that I, in my ignorance of currency, of money and finance fangles that we read of, make and that I regard as the difference between paper money and real wealth. Real wealth, in my opinion, consists of the people in the country and in the productive capacity of the land, and when I see both disappearing, I say that we have no reason to be complacent, or to think that we are doing the job placed on our shoulders to the extent that I believe it should be done. I say that there is nothing in the Budget Statement of the Minister disclosing anything in the way of dealing with what has come to be known as post-war plans. I read recently that the Executive or a committee of the Executive was sitting once or twice weekly and devoting their time exclusively to post-war planning. Apparently it is a State secret still, because in the statement we have got no whimper about its proceedings. I want to put this question to the Minister: what would be our position if the war ended in three months or in six months? I do not know the exact figures, but there are something like 50,000 of our young men in the National Army and I suppose between 50,000 and 100,000 or more of our people would return, either voluntarily or otherwise, from across the water. These and the number of people that we have unemployed would present any Government with a serious problem. In my opinion it would be a terribly grave and dangerous problem. I want to know if the present Government recognise that danger; whether they are facing up to it and whether they have any plans for dealing with it.
I do not want in any way to disparage what has been done, because it has been useful work in its own way, but a great deal more vision and imagination will be required than has been brought to bear upon the problem of unemployment during the past ten years. The making of bog roads, the starting of small relief schemes and the draining of farmers' land is all useful work, but it is merely putting a penny stamp on a broken leg as far as solving the unemployment problem is concerned and the gravity of it will be five times greater in the future. That will require vision, imagination and above all courage as well as faith in our country. One begins to wonder whether the Government has any faith in the country when one hears statements such as that made recently by the Minister for Agriculture, that he could see no future for the dairying industry. It was an appalling statement coming from a Minister charged with the responsibility of fostering and improving that industry. I do not believe that statement. If I did I would begin to lose faith in the country. It was extraordinary that a responsible Minister would make such a statement. The Budget is remarkable, so far as it affects the people to whom I referred at the beginning, those dependent on the State for a livelihood or to the extent that the State in one form or another helps to keep life in them, inasmuch as it promises nothing in the immediate future. They will find nothing in the Budget that promises them anything more than their present meagre existence. I think the statement did not go far enough. I agree that the problem has been aggravated by the emergency, but if these people have to put up with hardship the least we ought to be able to do for them is to hold out a hope that the conditions under which they have to exist will be brought to an end within a reasonable time. I believe that the resources of the country are sufficient to do it. It is only a matter of courage, vision and initiative. We should have these three qualities in this House and, properly applied and properly worked, I believe they could change the face of this country economically and socially within a comparatively short time.
"What is there in his Budget to-day?""Nothing.""He is a great man at doing nothing." That was the conversation I had yesterday with a friend of mine, and the only addition that I should have liked to have made to it was this: "So are the rest of them." The Minister for Finance, by his Budget statement, gives the House an opportunity of indulging in a little stocktaking, of considering the policy of the Government as a whole and the success of that policy. In the coming weeks, in places other than this, I do not intend to deal much with the Government or the Fianna Fáil Party. A little experience of some weeks past has shown me that that, to a large extent, is a work of supererogation. If anything, I find myself behind my audiences, that I am to a certain extent wasting rather limited and valuable time in criticising the present Government for its mistakes. But, in this annual stocktaking, it is our business here to consider whether the Government has used wisely and efficiently the immense sum of money which Parliament yearly puts at its disposal.
Again and again, on various occasions, I have urged that one of the fundamental questions that the Government should have faced and that every Government ought to face, even more than the size of the actual amount that is demanded from the taxpayer, is the value that is provided in return for that money. I would put it to Ministers, and to the Deputies of every Party in this House, to run through Department after Department, to pay attention to the increase in the costs of these various Departments— Agriculture, Education, Industry and Commerce, Supplies, Local Government, all Departments affecting the vital interests of the ordinary people of the country—and let Deputies ask themselves whether there is genuine value given for the immense sums spent. If that examination is undertaken with any degree of impartiality and calmness, I think, at the very least, grave doubts must arise in the minds of anybody whether value is given. In the case of some Departments one is sometimes driven to wonder whether they are not an obstruction rather than a help to enable the ordinary people of this country to carry on in the present emergency. That is particularly so, I should say, in the case of the Department of Supplies, and I think the Minister, if he were in any position other than that of having to shoulder the responsibility of justifying this immense expenditure, however unjustifiable it may be, would acknowledge that in very few cases is there such an increase in efficiency and in the return given to the people for the money spent.
I was glad to see a somewhat belated expression of opinion from a man in the position of the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance, about the importance to this country of an export trade. I often think that it is a pity that the great importance of that had not dawned earlier upon the present Ministry. However, so far as words go, they pay tribute to it now but let him ask his colleagues what is their opinion as to where this export is to come from. He must know—it has certainly been pointed out often enough in this House—that one after another they have set themselves about trying to destroy the belief that there is any possibility of an export trade for this country. Two of the Ministers in University College on separate occasions—I often wonder why that pleasant and, on the whole, rather joyful institution should have been chosen for these lugubrious statements—have rung the death knell of our principal sources of export. As he knows, if you take the statements at their face value the poultry trade is dead as an export proposition, the bacon trade is dead, as an export proposition certainly, if it is not dead even as an internal proposition, and the cattle trade has no future either. Where are these exports, to which the Minister refers on page 37 of the typewritten statement he was kind enough to give us yesterday, to come from? He stated:—
There can be no doubt, however, that if, as must be hoped, economic progress is to be resumed after the war our concern with external trade and, in consequence, international currency stability, will be greater than before. Our major task for the moment in this sphere must be to pursue a policy which will leave us in the most favourable position for taking our part in the resumption of external trade and for accommodating ourselves, in so far as it may be advisable, to any measures that may be devised in relation to the currencies of countries with which we have important economic relations.
What steps are we taking? Does the Minister believe the statements of his colleagues? If he does, what steps can he take? What can he suggest? I might have referred to the general policy of the Government but looking to the future as we should like to look to the future what is being done in regard to the future? Does the Head of the Government really believe that there is much use in troubling about the future? I am not at all underrating the difficulties. It is exceedingly difficult even vaguely to foreshadow the kind of world that will emerge from the present confusion, from the present war, from the present orgy of destruction. Economically— and that is possibly the least important side of it—and morally and spiritually as well, we shall have to face a very different world. It is hard, I admit quite readily, to form any picture of what that world is likely to be, but at least we should try as well as we can to put ourselves in a position to face whatever it may be. I agree with the Minister that we must have external trade. Are we taking any reasonable steps to see that his hopes in that respect will not be empty hopes, mere words? I doubt whether the outlook is at all as black as painted by his colleagues, but it is certainly disastrous that men in such responsible positions should have such an outlook. Surely it is defeatism, of the worst type. I am aware that modern transport developments may bring very distant competitors much nearer to us than they are at present, but I cannot forget that one of the results of the present destruction on the Continent will be the necessity of building up that Continent, and that our products may be necessary for that. However much we may regret that destruction, and we do regret it, it does suggest that there will still be a market for our most characteristic and typical products. I should like to know whether the Government is taking any steps to see that we are not shut out from two things after the war—it could easily happen—from markets on the one hand and from the supply of such materials as we cannot do without on the other? Is there any danger that, in the matter of getting supplies, we may be put very low on the list? That is a problem which will face whatever Government is in power, and I think it is a very serious one. I wonder whether the Government are facing that problem with the clarity of mind and with the courage and determination that it demands?
Export trade is necessary. The war must have convinced everybody in this country that we are not living in a universe by ourselves. There is a number of things which we can produce, and we ought to produce as much as we can. I admit that a number of industries has been established by the present Government. Those industries must naturally be kept on and if possible made economic, but it is clear that we cannot continue unless we can import a number of articles, and we cannot continue to import a number of articles unless we have something to export. Are we making efforts to see that that situation is met?
I think that, apart altogether from any mistakes that have been made in the past 10 or 20 years, any Government in this country will be put to the pin of its collar to meet the situation which will present itself after this struggle has been brought to an end. I think every effort should now be made to get at least some idea of the problems that may have to be faced, and to put the country in a position to meet as far as possible—I do not say fully satisfactorily—the situation that may arise. There is nothing to be gained by that defeatist attitude which was represented by one Minister after another in this House and elsewhere, and which was so pungently summed up by one of the chief defaulters on the Government Benches—I forget whether he was speaking as Minister for Supplies or as Minister for Industry and Commerce—when about 12 months ago he issued his now famous statement: "There is no point in disguising the fact that in present circumstances our bargaining power is practically nil. Our production of bacon and butter has fallen to the point where there is no export surplus, where in fact it is inadequate to supply even the whole of our own requirements."
Does the Minister for Finance subscribe to that summing up of our economic, international position? If so, what is the good of this Budget, taken in the light of some of the statements in it? No bargaining power? That may be an excuse by the same Minister for indulging so little in successful bargaining. Whether before the outbreak of the war or since the outbreak of the war, whether in big things or in small things, things affecting the avocations and the lives of large numbers of the community or comparatively small groups of people, there is very little to be shown in the way of successful activity on his part. When I asked a question in regard to the supply of absolutely necessary gear for fishermen, I found that it could not be got. The same applied to machine parts, and without some supply of spare parts the engines will simply stop. So many boats will be put out of commission and so many men out of employment. With regard to nets, ropes, and mending material for nets, you can ask a question either of the Minister for Fisheries or the Minister for Supplies and the answer you will get is: "Nothing doing."
Turning to the bigger things, have we not had one muddle after another? In the last four and a half years there has been no evidence of foresight in big matters or in small matters. That being so, what kind of foresight can we expect in the much more difficult times that lie ahead? It is no wonder the Government are not revealing their plans. We remember the statement of the Minister for Supplies 12 months before the war that all his time and the time of his principal officials was given over to the laying in of supplies. I am not denying that all the energy he had left in him was given over to that. The only thing is that there were no supplies, and whichever period you take—whether the time of difficulty when it was difficult to get in supplies, or the time when it was possible to get in supplies—there is no evidence of forethought on the part of the Government. Is there any now? If one were to read certain passages in the Minister's statement, one would be at least inclined to come to the conclusion that he thought there ought to be a little foresight. There ought to be, but what we are anxious to know is: is there any, or are we still drifting on in the same way? Remember, the lack of foresight strikes us every day. Whether in respect of things we produce or the things we do not produce in this country, there is no effort to deal with the fundamental business of supply. It is happening to-day. We produce potatoes, and there is a shortage of potatoes in Dublin. That shortage is dealt with when it occurs, and it was the same with everything else.
The problem in the future will be difficult and the difficulty will not be altogether due to the Government. It will be due to the whole situation and I think it will be due also—and here I agree with the hint which the Minister gave; I have spoken of it before—to a certain lack of insight on the part of our own people. Here we are, happily neutral, watching the war taking place, as it were, and, being so comparatively comfortable in that position, not facing the problems that lie before us. I am not speaking of the Government, or of this House, but of the people as a whole. One of the difficult tasks which any Government will have to face will be the awakening of some sense of the realities of the situation in the minds of our people. I wish the Government had devoted something to that point in the immense amount of propaganda they have carried on.
They have carried on propaganda, but propaganda to the farmer, which has been very strikingly responded to, is not enough. It will not bring back the land to fertility. However rotten the propaganda may be, it will not take the place of fertilisers. There is that danger there, in addition to many serious problems, to one of which Deputy Morrissey has already referred.
We need not now discuss the question of responsibility, but it might be no harm to point out that under the previous Government there was a steady increase in insurable employment of about 10,000 or 11,000 persons per year—I am referring now to the rate—and notwithstanding all the great efforts of the present Government in the way of tariffs, has that rate been kept up? I do not think it has. I do not want to make Party capital out of the very serious state of affairs which has arisen for a number of years, that is, the emigration of the young men of this country. It took place before the war, but the position now is that the draw on our young people which was previously exercised by the United States of America is now being exercised by England.
I cannot blame these young people. We must face the fact—we need not bother about the responsibility for it at the moment—that they cannot find a proper livelihood at home. Quite recently, I was paying a friendly call on a medical friend of mine in a southern county. As I was leaving, there were at least from 15 to 20 young fellows in the hall waiting for examination for migration to England. I asked my friend if that were usual. I do not want to exaggerate and I do not know whether he gave me figures for a month or for a fortnight for his very circumscribed district, but he said that the average number that he certified as fit for migration to England was 45—either per fortnight or per month.
What will the result be? Is the future of this country to be that it is to be a country of old age pensioners, the old age pensioner paying the old age pension of every other old age pensioner? The prospect is very serious. We all know the irresistible attraction—it was one of the problems of rural Ireland in the past, and, in my own part of my native county, it would be the Boston district of Massachusetts—of New York, Chicago, and so on. We have the same problem now. There was a young fellow, who was not a supporter of my Party, who complained to me that he could not, get sufficient material to carry on his trade. He was a craftsman and he said: "If I do not get it from the Department of Supplies"—and it was the phrase he used which gave me a shock—"I will have to leave for the ‘good' country." He was not a Fine Gael supporter and his phrase hit me, so to speak, in the eyes, confirming my belief that there is that attraction which will make it exceedingly difficult to keep the young men at home. Whether they will come back after the war and whether there is anybody thinking of what is to be done with them if they do, I do not know. If they do come back in large numbers, then you will be faced with a very dangerous, as well as a very serious, problem. As I say, that problem of emigration is very serious. I do not blame the young people for emigrating. It is a serious problem for any Government to face, and, although Deputies can form their own views as to the success of the Government in dealing with that problem, I have not tried to dwell on the Party side of it. The problem is so serious that for a couple of years past I have tried to avoid discussing it at all in reference to the various Parties. There are certain aspects of it, apart altogether from the material aspects of the problem of migration, that seem to me so important that these aspects would make me more determined not to discuss the problem in reference, even, to a criticism of the Government, however much a number of people may think they are responsible.
If we are going to resume and improve our position in the international market after the war—and in that respect we have had at last a very illuminating statement from the Minister as to where that market is to be found—we must see what we are determined to do for agriculture. Mind you, the failure of agriculture in this country, so far as it has failed—the impossibility of young men or young women finding either an attractive or even an economic life in the country— has also bedevilled the problem in the towns. Migration was one inevitable result. With regard to emigration to England, and the flocking of people from the countryside, I suppose there is not a Deputy in the House who is not deluged with demands from young men or young women in the country asking them to find positions for them in Dublin, and I think that the same would hold good of every other town.
That neglect, if I might call it so, of the fundamental interests of agriculture, has had a very bad effect on this whole problem, and I wish that these things were properly and sufficiently considered. We have been fully responsible, now, for our own fate for 20 years and over. Have we solved some of our main problems? Have we even approached a solution of some of our main problems? Apart from the prices that are due to war conditions, can anybody say that the situation to-day is not much more serious in many respects than it was, let us say, five, ten or 15 years ago? Mistakes, of course, have been made in the past. For one reason, I did not dwell too much on the past failures of the Government, because I should like, if the past were referred to, that each Party would try to make out what mistakes it made and try to remedy them. I have no doubt that every Party could learn a little, even from its opponents, but I want a proper facing of the mighty problems, even dangerous problems, that, it seems to me, will inevitably confront this country either if the war continues for any appreciable length of time or if peace should come soon. In either case, this country will have a tremendous struggle for existence and, as Deputy Morrissey said, will require vision and foresight. I wish I could believe that the Ministers have that foresight. They are still in control. They have better means than anybody else at their disposal for knowing what is the future which we shall have to face. When I think of the performance of each and every one of them, I think I would have to be a desperately optimistic man in order to think that they are capable of facing the responsibilities that will come upon any Government in the future.
I have listened to Deputy O'Sullivan with great interest, and I am glad that he approached this whole problem, not in any Party spirit, because I think that the whole situation is far too serious, far too grave, and far too dangerous, to approach the problems that confront us at the present time, and in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, with that mentality. Deputy O'Sullivan has attempted to give us a very fair and impartialrésumé of how the country stands at the moment and of the dangers that lie ahead. As far as this Budget is concerned, the people have reason to be pleased, I suppose, because there is no increase in the position of taxation for the coming year, but they have also very good reason to be alarmed at the unprecedented level of spending and the high cost of administration. The main characteristic of the Budget is the characteristic of many Fianna Fáil Budgets in the past, the fact that it is unbalanced and that we are piling up burdens, by way of borrowing, that will have to be met at some future date. As I said on a previous occasion, I would not be so much alarmed at a high bill of expenditure during an emergency such as we are passing through at the moment, if that money were spent in a proper way. During such an emergency as we are passing through, and situated as our country is, we are in a war atmosphere, and, naturally, the amount of money to be spent on the maintenance of social services, and on keeping our people in employment, would mean that there would have to be a rather high level of spending and taxation, but when one examines the ways and means adopted by the present Government in the spending of that money and using it in the national interest, one must be very seriously alarmed. The fact is that the people are getting very bad value for the money that is being taken from them by way of taxation.
I have already said that, in times like these, one would not criticise the high level of taxation if the money derived from such taxation was being wisely and judiciously spent. We find, however, that, including taxation for Central Fund purposes and also local taxation, we are facing a bill of something over £50,000,000. If you add to the figure appearing for Public Services, £1,500,000 for Supplementary Estimates, and over £5,000,000 for the Central Fund, that would put the figure up to £47,000,000, and when you include the local services, it would be long beyond £50,000,000. If we take that figure as representing the amount for the Twenty-Six Counties, it amounts to a sum of £2,000,000 per county. Now, that is an enormous bill to be faced by the different counties in Ireland. It is an enormous bill for each county to foot in present circumstances and under present conditions. We have a falling national income. We have a scarcity of raw materials for industry. We have a scarcity of essential raw materials for agriculture, and we have the emigration of over 100,000 of the finest young men in the country. Forty thousand of our young men have gone into the Army. It may be necessary to keep up the defence organisation. I am not criticising that. There has been an increase in the Civil Service of 6,000 or 7,000 people. That means that in this country the proportion of people engaged in non-productive work to the number of people in productive employment is far greater than ever it was before. The most alarming aspect of the whole situation is the tendency under present Government policy to increase the number of those engaged in non-productive work. Those people are imposing further burdens on the productive element in the country.
The Minister has boasted about the social services and the help given under various branches of public services. Surely that is not an indication of prosperity or of good conditions generally. This House has to vote large sums of money for unemployment relief, unemployment insurance and for schemes of free fuel and food for large sections of our people. Is not that a definite indication of unhealthy conditions in the State, an indication that we are socially and economically unhealthy and unsound? If there were conditions of progress and prosperity, these reliefs would not be necessary. The amount of money that it would be necessary to spend on services of that kind would be far less and the producers would be relieved of the burden of providing reliefs that under present conditions must be applied in order to keep the wolf from the doors of many people. In present circumstances, notwithstanding the drain of emigration, we still have to make these provisions.
The dole is no substitute for a good day's pay for a good day's work and reliefs of the kind adverted to by the Minister are no alternative to prosperous conditions and opportunities for people to provide their own means of livelihood. It is only because we have failed in that respect that substantial provision has to be made in the Budget for social services. The Minister, on the Vote on Account, in reply to a debate in this House, boasted about the assistance given to agriculture. He stressed the point that we are providing £700,000 for the dairying industry. Is that a sign of healthy conditions in the dairying industry? Has not that merely the effect of crystallising thestatus quo? I do not say for a moment that we should not subsidise it if the industry is in an unhealthy and decaying condition—as it definitely is. No matter what financial help the Government has given, its productive capacity is declining.
The fact that we have to vote a substantial sum of money for that industry is not an indication of healthy conditions. The thing the Minister boasted about, to my mind, is the thing that he cannot boast about. We all must agree that, in view of the conditions developing in that industry, the provision of a subsidy was necessary to keep the industry going. That was not enough. Side by side with that, the responsible Minister should have had the condition of the industry properly examined and properly investigated with a view to removing whatever defects were in its structure. That has not been done and the dairying industry in this country has been permitted to decay. I suppose that is understandable, judging by the attitude of the responsible Minister who, when he went down to Cork, said that he saw no future for the dairying industry and the pig industry in this country. If there is no future for great branches of Irish agriculture, how are we to live, what future is there for industry generally, to what are we to turn our hands?
The Minister refers to our external trade. Deputy O'Sullivan has referred to it also. He has drawn the attention of the House to the Minister's reference to the importance of our external trade. It is true that the basis of our economy is our ability to purchase and to import essential materials with our surplus agricultural production. In a complacent way the Government have permitted great branches of Irish agriculture to decay and completely to disappear so far as exports are concerned. We have only cattle left. Butter, bacon, live pigs, eggs, poultry, even mutton, for the last two years, have completely disappeared so far as exports are concerned.
Is it not time to stop the rot? What attempt has been made to stop the rot? In not a single sentence in the whole Budget statement has the Minister made reference to the necessity for stopping the rot. It is an extraordinary thing that that rot should exist at a time when one would expect production from the land would reach peak levels. Instead of that, there is a definite decline. The Minister himself has admitted that. He said the general volume of production in agriculture has not increased. In fact, the Minister should have said that the general volume of agricultural production has definitely and very substantially decreased during the present administration. The subsidisation of industries is not enough. The provision of largesse is no cure for an industry that is in a decaying condition. It may be necessary to provide, for the time being, a subsidy that will help an industry; but surely it is only common sense to suggest that, side by side with that, the problem should be vigorously tackled, and that we should reorganise those industries if we believe that they have a future or that the exports from them will be advantageous to this country. The Minister is right when he indicates that our exports must be watched in order to see that our position will be improved in the post-war period.
What have the Government done about that? The Minister has made no attempt to lift the curtain so far as future intentions are concerned. He has made no reference to any provision about post-war planning or what our position is likely to be after this war. The Minister for Local Government went down to my constituency a few weeks ago to open some new houses in Kildare town and he envisaged a post-war condition when we would have no export trade, either livestock or anything else. What is the policy of the Government in that respect? Was the Minister for Local Government right when he spoke in Kildare, or was the Minister for Finance right when, in the Dáil yesterday, he said:—
"Our major task for the moment in this sphere must be to pursue a policy which will leave us in the most favourable position for taking our part in the resumption of external trade and for accommodating ourselves, so far as it may be advisable, to any measures that may be devised in relation to the currencies of countries with which we have important economic relations."
We know there are many essential articles that we must import—coal, steel, iron, petrol, kerosene, crude oil, raw materials for industries, industrial machinery, vehicles of all descriptions for road transport, tea, coffee, and other essentials of life. We must continue to import these articles if we are to maintain decent standards in this country and they can be imported only by exchanging for them the commodities that we are in a position to export. So far as exportable goods are concerned, we are now exporting only cattle, and evidently the Government are quite complacent about that situation.
I think the most dangerous aspect of all is the fact that the Taoiseach, the Minister and, indeed, the Fianna Fáil Party generally, have admitted that for us there is only one export market, and we have failed to supply our only customer, Great Britain, at a time when her people are desperately in need of food, when they have to face the perils of the Atlantic and the menace of the U-boats in order to provide their people with the food that they normally got from this country. One would expect that it would be the policy of our Government to strain every nerve and muscle in order to keep up our exports with Great Britain, so that in the post-war period we could say that they were damn glad to get our food during the period of the war and, in the circumstances, that we were best entitled to supply their markets in the post-war years.
What measures are we taking to develop our trade and to be in a position to chip-in during the post-war years? Take the pig industry as an example. It may be advanced as an excuse that the raw material for the production of bacon disappeared when our imports of maize fell off. Have any experiments been carried out in order to find an alternative? Is there any home product that we could substitute for maize? The Northern Ireland Government have carried out a series of experiments and they have shown that pigs can be profitably produced on a mixture of 75 per cent. of oats, 25 per cent. of potatoes, with a small amount of meat meal in order to provide proteins. That experiment was referred to in theBritish and Scottish Journal of Agriculture.
We are simply letting the position slip between our fingers, as it were, and we have let a great industry almost die. We are not able to provide 50 per cent of our own requirements of bacon. As a matter of fact, before the summer is out rashers will be so expensive that they will appear only on the tables of the rich. It is true that the Canadians have cut us in the matter of price. We were not able to compete with them. They foresaw a situation where their normal market for wheat would be interfered with by the U-boat blockade. They decided to convert that wheat into bacon and they set out to supply the British breakfast table, and they were prepared to supply the bacon at a price below our cost of production. Of course, we had bacon of a better quality, our bacon was worth more and, from the British point of view, the point had to be considered that, whatever bacon could be secured here, it would not involve any risk so far as men's lives and shipping were concerned. Notwithstanding that, we found ourselves unable to meet the situation.
As regards post-war conditions I believe, notwithstanding what the Minister for Agriculture may say, that when the war is over and we are facing a starving Europe, the Canadians will revert to their former position and will supply the finest wheat in the world, Manitoba wheat, to Europe. I believe that in a large measure they will go out of bacon production. The Danes will not be able to supply the British market. Will we have a basic stock sufficient to meet the expanding trade? Do we intend to make any provision for that basic stock? If the Minister for Agriculture is right, that there is no future for the pig industry, then we do not intend to make any provision. What attempt was made in this country, even before the war, to improve that industry, to make it comparable with the pig industry in other countries, to adopt modern methods and the new technique in the matter of production? There was nothing done about it. It seems an extraordinary state of affairs that, in a country always associated with pig production, we should permit it to decay and to die in a period when it should be in a healthy condition, in a period of high prices.
The Minister for Supplies, when discussing trade matters here some time ago, stated that our power to bargain was nil and the sooner Deputies made up their minds about it the better. That is a dreadful thing to say. I do not believe the Minister's statement. I think we have more than one bargaining factor. I pointed out on one occasion here that we can produce dairy stock second to none, that this is the only country where Great Britain can get dairy stock, and in that alone we hold a powerful bargaining factor. I say we should encourage our people to breed more of that stock that is now necessary for milk production in England. The problem of restocking Europe when the war is over offers great possibilities to this country from the point of view of providing the essential basic stock. It will probably take a decade to complete that work. No provision seems to have been made in that connection here and no thought has been given to the possibilities, so far as I can see, by any member of the Government. Take the case of the Government's pet scheme—wheat. We have there the extraordinary anomaly that the admixture fixed here for milling early in the year at 70 per cent. Irish wheat as against 30 per cent. imported has had to be reduced to 50 per cent., notwithstanding the very substantial increase in the acreage under wheat. The position now is that we are only able to supply 50 per cent. of our wheat requirements. That, I suggest, is a sad reflection on the work of the Department of Agriculture. We have not got the results simply because no attempt was made to organise and harness our people in the work of production. The failure to get results was referred to by the Minister for Supplies when speaking on his Vote. He spoke of the small quantity of wheat delivered to the mills despite the large acreage under the crop. He tried to suggest that there had been some invisible drain on that wheat. He cannot say now that the pigs are eating it because the pigs have disappeared. The fact remains that the wheat was not produced, especially off the lands with substantial reserves of fertility that should have given the best results. Production was not properly organised. The equipment was not there to get production, and no effort is being made by the Government to secure it.
I was speaking lately to a man who had been a distributing agent for Messrs. Ford in this country and who, in the past, supplied many tractors in the Leinster counties. He told me that he had been speaking to the manager of Messrs. Ford at Dagenham—this man was formerly Ford's manager in Cork—and when he asked him what the chances were of sending over here a few hundred tractors he replied that there would be no difficulty in doing so. He said that they had them and could supply them but, he added:—
"Your Government, in my opinion, have not made the necessary representation to secure the tractors and equipment."
I believe that is right, that the Government have not tackled this problem of supply on the right lines. I do not think that the policy of using the Civil Service as a channel to secure necessary requirements for our productive efforts is the right line of approach on this matter. By adopting it we are never going to get results, nor will we be able to secure the things that are essential to efficient production. Our Ministers should have the courage to go across themselves and make representations along the right lines. If there is expansion in production here the people at the other side will get the benefit of it, after our own requirements have been satisfied. I think that if they were approached on the right lines they would be found reasonable enough, and would release the necessary amount of essential equipment for an expansion in our production. I suppose it is considered beneath the dignity of a Fianna Fáil Minister to make any approach along those lines. If that is the attitude of the Ministry generally, then the reference the Minister made in his Budget to the need for giving attention to an expansion in our exports was merely a pious wish, and there is no sincerity at all behind the Ministry in that regard. There is no evidence of courage to face up to the situation that we find here. If our export trade is as essential as the Minister for Finance suggested it is, and I agree with him that it is, then surely it is worth while making the effort to try to secure those essential requirements. So far as I am concerned, I will continue to blame the Government while no effort is being made in that regard.
So far as post-war production is concerned, and even so far as our present production is concerned, we should realise that if war has the effect of doing tremendous destruction to material it also has the effect of quickening the means of production and of invention. It has had precisely that effect on British agriculture. The expansion there has been enormous. There has been the greatest attention given to organisation and detail, to the provision of credit and other things, all of which are vital to the bloodstream of the industry. They have got results. British agriculture to-day is far more efficient than ever it was before. It is probably the most highly mechanised agriculture in the world to-day. As regards the Minister's reference to an expansion of exports, he must appreciate to-day that if we are not as efficient as the British farmer we cannot hope to compete against him. We are using the same money and selling in the same market. Our efficiency must, at least, be as great as his. Possibly, it must be even higher than his because we have to try to provide him with those goods that he possibly finds it more difficult to provide for himself. In my opinion no attention whatever has been given to our major industry.
We must face the facts. Normally, we should expect a prosperous and expanding industry when the level of prices is high and when the market is attractive to the producer. What we find here is that production is contracting, and that the results are disappointing. That is not because our people are lazy or indifferent, but because the organisation that is essential for increased production is not there. The Government have not given the attention necessary to ensure that our people are in a position to produce. They thought that the making of a compulsory order was sufficient to ensure production and left it at that. They are sending officials through the country to compel men, by the threat of prosecution, to comply with their orders, ignoring the fact that those men are not equipped to do the work that is required of them, and that, financially, they are not in a position to perform efficiently what is required. The result is that we have not got the production we should have got.
The record of the Government is a record of blundering along from day to day, a record of planning for to-morrow's breakfast. There is no vision about their policy and there is no long-term planning. They envisage no future. There was no reference or suggestion by the Minister as to what provision should be made to secure better conditions or to expand production. In replying to the debate on the Vote on Account, the only thing the Minister could boast of was the largesse which he provides—the bolstering up of dying industries and what he thinks are fine social services such as the giving of doles and food and fuel vouchers. There are many items in the financial statement—tables 2 and 3—that indicate a diseased condition of the body politic. One may take as an example the potato situation. It seems an extraordinary anomaly that in a country like this we should be short of potatoes. A country with 12,000,000 acres of arable land and with less than 3,000,000 people should have no difficulty in providing native foods for the population.
What is the cause of the present crisis as regards potatoes? We had a big surplus of potatoes last year, much of which had to be sold for a song to the alcohol factories, while hundreds and thousands of tons were permitted to rot in the pits. The farmers, remembering that and knowing that the price early in the season was unattractive and unprofitable, fed the bulk of their potato crop to cattle —not to pigs. I know many farmers who fed all their potatoes except what they required for household use to cattle. That is what has brought about the present situation. It is not because we did not produce enough potatoes that the present situation exists. But there was no provision to ensure that a sufficient supply of potatoes would be available all the year round.
Take the turf position. The cost of turf here is prohibitive. The fixed price is 64/- and, in addition, the State provides a subsidy of 23/6 per ton, making the cost 87/6. To that must be added £600,000 which we vote to the Turf Development Board. That puts the cost of turf in the neighbourhood of £5 10s. 0d. per ton. When national turf costs £5 10s. 0d. per ton, there must be bad management and bad bungling on the part of the Minister's Department. No attempt is made to encourage private enterprise. The political mind is at work all the time—the greater the number you have feeding out of the Taoiseach's hand the better for the Fianna Fáil Party. That is the mentality which has brought about the unhealthy condition which exists in the country. There is no indication of prosperity or improved conditions. The future, with the present Administration in office, is difficult, dark and gloomy in the extreme. The position regarding our exports in the post-war period is doubtful.
I do not think that the Minister's attitude to the producer is the right one. In his heart, I think, he has no respect for the producer in rural Ireland. When replying to the debate on the Vote on Account, he had the discourtesy to tell me that I was always too near the pig's tail. At least, I can claim to be a producer. The Minister can claim to be only a parasite. The most he ever produced was a lot of hot air. I take it that that represents the Minister's general attitude to the producer. His attitude to the producer and the farmer is one of contempt-they are too near the pig's tail. If that is the mentality of the Ministry generally, God help agriculture. There is only one hope of a more efficient and expanded agriculture, of better conditions and of prosperity and that is to get rid of the present Ministry.
The Minister has, certainly, displayed a keen knowledge of conditions in the country by making no attempt to balance his Budget by further taxation. He knows that the country cannot bear any more taxation. I agree that his policy of borrowing, during these days of emergency, when money is cheap, is a very proper one. I do not propose to complain of the Government's expenditure. My complaint will be as to the way the money is expended, but I am going to ask them to expend more. I suggest to the Minister that he should borrow more so as to relieve the very grave hardships that many thousands of our people are at present bearing. To relieve that hardship and to ease that situation, it might be a very wise policy to borrow. Thousands of children in this city are suffering from serious malnutrition. I do not know much about country life but I have seen children in our city streets and one would know by their little pale faces that they were not getting sufficient nourishing food. They may be getting a certain type of food in sufficient quantities, but it is not of the nourishing class. "Get ready for the good days that approach." That was the slogan used in somebody's election address in 1933. If the Minister would borrow more to relieve the present hardships, people might get ready for the good days that approach and I, at least, would say "thanks" to him. Very many efforts have been made to ease the situation. But I would ask the Minister, if it is possible, at a very early date to reduce the age for old age pensions to 65 years. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women between 65 and 70 who are eking out a very miserable existence and who have to apply to the relief authorities for assistance. I am hopeful that when the new social reforms are introduced all these things will get consideration.
I understand the Minister intends to bring in a scheme of family allowances, a matter which was discussed in this House on a motion that has not yet been finally dealt with. The family allowances scheme I believe will get the wholehearted support of every Deputy. No Deputy, whether belonging to the Government or the Opposition, will claim any credit for something being done in that matter, because it is a scheme that will be accepted by all Parties who would like to be in the position of the Government to introduce family allowances. I hope that the rotten means test which is applied in connection with other allowances will be, if not abolished, at least considerably modified. I hope the Minister will borrow more money to relieve the distress amongst the old people between 65 and 70 who are not getting any allowances and the children who are suffering for want of suitable nourishment and who are insufficiently clad. Mothers are not in a position to buy clothing for these children at the prices demanded to-day. If we have to go through another winter with clothing prices as they are to-day, something will have to be done to relieve the situation. I have seen schoolboys and girls between the ages of ten and 14 shivering in school from the cold and in some cases barefooted. As I mentioned before in this House, on a cold winter's day I saw a little girl wearing washed-out, thread-bare summer clothes and barefooted in a school within one minute's walk of O'Connell Street. These things must be ended. I believe that the Minister desires to end them if possible. He knows Dublin as well as I do. If it is possible for the Minister to bring about the relief that I have mentioned, I believe he will do it, and I earnestly appeal to him to do it. Within the past couple of months I have seen women and children very scantily clad. A few weeks ago I visited a certain school with a young priest who was a member of the School Meals Committee. In one class there we saw nine children out of 20 who were barefooted and cold. I hope something will be done under the family allowances scheme to see that that state of affairs in Dublin and in the rest of Ireland will be brought to an end. Any proposal of the Minister's to borrow money to spend on the relief of distress will have my wholehearted approval and I believe the approval of every other Deputy.
A question was raised to-day, and has been raised as often as we could do it, on the condition of the blind pensioners in this city. The blind pensioners draw 6/- per week from the Dublin Corporation. If they get any money from the relief authorities, well and good. If they can earn any money by any kind of work, they struggle hard to do it. The Dublin Corporation passed a resolution to give them a 25 per cent. increase. Those of us who were interested in the matter at the time thought it would mean an increase of 25 per cent. of their total allowance, but subsequently it turned out, according to the legal advisers, that it was only 25 per cent. of 6/-, namely, 1/3. That is over a year ago. We have appealed to the Minister for Local Government time and again to permit us to pay that miserable 1/3 extra to the blind pensioners, but we were refused permission. Later the corporation asked the Minister to agree to a 4/- increase. The blind pensioners should not have to ask the corporation for 4/- or 5/- or 6/- or 7/-. The Minister should decide what it takes to keep a blind man and his family—if he has a family—until the family reach an age when they can look after themselves. The Minister should provide a suitable allowance out of some fund for that purpose, which will give them the reasonable comfort which anybody else who had his sight, and who is capable of working and looking after his family, would have. There should not be any hardship imposed on them. They should be well treated, because they are sightless, and incapable of providing for themselves and their families. The same thing applies to other people who may not be able to earn a living for themselves. When the family allowances scheme is introduced, I appeal to the Minister to take all these things into consideration.
Then there is the question of the allowances for soldiers' wives, which are very miserable indeed. When I pass through a working-class district wives of soldiers will stop me and say: "What are you going to do for us in the Dáil to get us a decent increase in our allowance? We cannot buy things at the prices asked for them. We cannot clothe our children. It would be better if we had our men at home. They would get something equally as good as they are getting now and there is a chance that they would get something better." I appeal to the Minister to see that the allowances for soldiers' wives and children will be increased immediately so that the children will not have to bear further hardships.
I had a question on the Order Paper to-day regarding retired officials. Recently, I met a couple of men of the type that I have referred to already, between 65 and 70. They were retired postal workers, on a small allowance of about 18/- or 20/- per week. They were retired in pre-emergency days, when their small allowance purchased at least double the amount of necessaries that it would purchase to-day. No member of the House will deny that foodstuffs have doubled in price within the past three or four years. Those retired officials of the postal services got £1 per week pension as reasonable when they were 65 and their Minister was satisfied that it was a reasonable allowance. Now the high cost of foodstuffs means that that 20/- per week is being reduced by at least 50 per cent., to 10/-. This State should be more gracious to them, and I am sure the Minister will get the wholehearted support of the House and the people outside if he will increase their allowance, and let the money that he gives them purchase at least what it was thought it would purchase three or four years ago when the men came out. I make an earnest appeal on behalf of that type of State official, who is retired after giving 40 years' service. The increased cost of living, owing to the high prices charged—possibly because of production and handling— should be taken into consideration in such cases by the Government. I would ask the Minister, in nearly every phrase, to borrow and borrow still more, in order to relieve these hardships.
Some time ago, some members of the Labour Party and myself raised a question about the 50,000 to 100,000 men away in other lands earning their living. Talking about post-war planning, what are we doing to absorb the 100,000 men when they come home? What will we do if demobilisation starts compulsorily? I do hope it will not. If men want to leave the Army voluntarily to take up employment, I would give them every opportunity, when the emergency is over, to do so. But if compulsory mobilisation should start in the bad days, what provision are we making for those who will be thrown on the unemployment list? One hundred thousand men went to other lands, and I think the Minister has admitted that they were all unemployed. At least 50,000 are out of benefit if they come back to Ireland with a little money in their pocket— which probably will not last a month— and they are not eligible for national health benefits, unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance. I ask the Minister to make some arrangement with the British Government, or those who are putting stamps on their cards now, or even that the Government themselves pay the contribution to the benefit fund, in order to leave them in benefit, so that, when the time comes, they will benefit under the national health, the unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance.
Another matter was mentioned by myself and several other members of the House. We know at the present moment that there are people trying to pay high rents on inadequate allowances and that unemployment is overtaking them. Unfortunately, the unemployment has increased considerably in the last couple of weeks. Taxi drivers and those employed in garages appear to be the latest victims. I know it is a question of the petrol supply, and we are told that, if the petrol is not there, it cannot be given out, but I think the Minister ought to try to get some petrol, if it is possible.
No one is going to say that it can be done. We know the Minister's difficulty in that direction, but he should try to do something, knowing that it will ease unemployment or prevent further unemployment.
I agree with members on the Fine Gael Bench who said that we have something to barter. We should arrange more barter, and exchange the surplus goods which we have with our neighbours across the water, or across the Border, and not for paper money. There is paper money in plenty, so we should exchange our goods for goods which would be of some value, and should not allow any of our goods to leave without something that our own people require coming in in exchange.
Two years ago, I put forward in this House a proposal that we should appoint a food controller. We were told that we had a Minister for Supplies. I agree that we had a Minister for Supplies, but he had to deal with steel, iron, petrol, and other things, as well as food. As I said two years ago, a food controller was essential, and time has proved that I was right. A food controller, with nothing else to do, should look after the arranging of our food supply. I hope it is not too late to do something now, and that we will read some day, in a very short period, that a food controller has been appointed.
Take, for instance, our potatoes, our butter, our sugar, the half ounce of tea. All these things might be improved. I had a question on the Order Paper yesterday regarding the scarcity of potatoes and flake meal. Flake meal is a very essential foodstuff for our Dublin people, and the Minister had to say that there was a scarcity of it, due to the fact that the oats was not there, or was not ready. When flake meal will come in, I do not know. The people are in queues in the City of Dublin, looking for potatoes. Yesterday I asked the Minister if he would supply Army lorries, if it were a question of transport, to collect the potatoes and bring them here. No matter what it cost the Army and no matter what petrol had to be used, the potatoes should be brought in to Dublin and sold at the lowest possible price. In some areas they should not be sold at all; they should be given away for nothing. There are areas in this city where people, on inadequate wages and inadequate allowances, may be supposed to be getting something because of the rationing system. Oh, no; the price prevents them getting anything at all; the price is so high that their ration books are no good; and they are rationed in another way, because of the high prices.
I appeal again to the Minister who, I know, would do something if it were possible. I am only giving a reminder and assuring him that the House will give him its wholehearted support in the matter. This morning, coming down Wexford Street into Aungier Street, I noticed there was a queue 50 yards long outside one green-grocer's shop. Our people are very good humoured—good humoured enough to stop me and have a chat. They were all hoping, out of the small quantity of potatoes going into that shop, to get a quarter stone each— where each one of them needed eight times that quantity for the family. A food controller would get busy immediately and see that any potatoes or flake meal or other nourishing foodstuffs in the country, which it is possible to bring into the city, would be brought in. In the old days, we used to talk about "bacon and potatoes and cabbage." Bacon, potatoes and cabbage are great luxuries now, and beyond the reach of the people who used to exist on them in those days.
I did not rise in any way as a harping critic of the Government nor to question the Minister's desire to do the right thing. I want to emphasise that boys' suits, for youngsters of 10 to 14, should be produced, of a standard design, of different patterns of material—so long as they are warm —and ought to be available for about £1. Some of the people will not know where to get the £1 but, at least, we would be making some attempt to clothe the children one sees in the streets.
Any day of the week barefooted and poorly-clad children can be seen in O'Connell Street, outside the picture houses. It is the position of these children we should have in mind. When family allowances are being considered the allowances made to soldiers' wives should be increased, and the means test should not be as rigidly enforced as it is in other cases. There is no allowance for children over 16 years of age, except they are going to school. I know a man who worked at the North Wall whose daughter is a complete cripple. She is a nice girl but is not capable of earning a living as, owing to her infirmity, nobody would employ her. While the father worked at the docks and earned good wages he thought a great deal about his daughter's comfort. He joined the Army and then found that the daughter, because she was over age, could not get the 4d. or 6d. a day allowed to dependents. There may not be 100 cases of that kind in our Army but, as we have talked so much about freedom, people in that position should receive special consideration.
The Budget is just what the people expected. Nobody was disappointed. We did not expect that things could be any better because this Budget is really an accumulation of all the defects of the Budgets of the past ten years. Taxation has increased steadily, and now borrowing has to be resorted to. Borrowing has gone on at an increasing rate from year to year. With all the increased taxation and increased borrowing it would be something if we had accomplished anything but, as Deputy Byrne and other Deputies pointed out, the object aimed at has not been accomplished. For instance, a scheme of family allowances, despite the high cost of living, has not been put into operation. Many families are suffering at present. Many other things might have been done, such as the derating of land, which was promised ten years ago, but which is not mentioned in this Budget. Even if we have reached the limit of taxation, and have to borrow to make ends meet, it is a serious matter to have a shortage of essential services. We have many social services but, in spite of that, we have also many people who could be producing and who could help their neighbours, who are now a burden on the country. They could be enabled to keep themselves and their families in decency and comfort if work of a reproductive nature was available for them. The trouble about the whole situation is that the Government seem to have no capacity to make sound plans that would put people into employment and encourage production. They would not ask advice from people who could help them. As Deputy Morrissey pointed out, the unemployment problem is a serious one and the prospects in the future will be worse, when those who have left the country return. What plans have been made to deal with that position? Ministers did not seek the co-operation of people who could be of assistance. That problem will loom up very seriously in the future. Whether we are approaching the end of the emergency or passing into the post-war period, nothing but difficulties seem to confront us. It is a gloomy prospect. The Minister should take the long view by trying to get all the co-operation and assistance that it is possible to get, and not depend upon the co-called Fianna Fáil plan that has proved a complete failure. My advice to the Minister is to seek advice and co-operation from any quarter outside this House, or outside the Seanad, and amongst business and industrial representatives who could give much better advice than anyone in this House. Anyone who could help should be invited to assist.
According to the Minister things are very serious. Certainly, that could be seen from the tone of his statement. Many families are suffering severely because of the shortage of commodities. The poor must be suffering seriously. The trouble is reflected in the Department of Supplies. We recently discussed the Estimate of that Department and the Minister then stated that they received 20,000 letters daily. If that was the position many of these were complaints about tea, sugar, flour, petrol and supplies of different kinds. There are many people suffering who do not write to the Department as they think it is no use to do so. If the 20,000 were multiplied by 20, we might have an idea of the number of complaints that could be made to the Department. That is a terrible commentary upon a Department which is costing this State nearly £3,000,000. A sum of £2,700,000 odd is estimated as the initial cost of that Department and I suppose we may expect Supplementary Estimates in the course of the year. It is a reflection upon the manner in which that Department is being run and it shows that there is something wrong there.
The same remarks apply to the Department of Agriculture. These two Departments overlap in certain directions. It is hard to say which is responsible for certain of the supplies of which we are short at present. For instance, there is a shortage of manure, a shortage of sugar, a shortage of butter and a shortage of pigs and bacon. Both Departments are more or less responsible for these supplies. On some occasions in this House when I refer to these matters while the Vote of one Department is being considered, I am told that the responsibility is that of the other Department. I do not think that anybody could definitely draw a line of demarcation and say which Department really is responsible. I would say that both Departments are responsible, but whoever is responsible, one, or both Departments together, should try to clear up the muddle that has set in with regard to these supplies. It is a terrible shame that in a country such as this there should be a shortage of sugar when we can grow such a large quantity of beet or that there should be a shortage of butter, pigs or potatoes. It proves beyond doubt that there is something radically wrong in these Departments. There would be no shortage of anything if the men on the land were paid the cost of production plus a reasonable profit. They have been demanding that year after year and the Minister for Agriculture has denied it to them. Last year there was an abundance of potatoes in this country and I warned the Minister that, unless he allowed the people a reasonable price for pigs, the result would be a shortage of pigs and eventually a shortage of potatoes because when people would find that they could not feed potatoes profitably to pigs, they would not chance growing potatoes again lest they might find them lying on their hands as they did last year. It was inevitable that this shortage should have arisen even if there had not been a bad season, because the people on the land, having in mind their experiences of last year, did not go in for such extensive production again, whereas if the Minister for Agriculture had acted as I suggested, to ensure that people who had produced some extra acres of potatoes on his advice could turn them to proper use at reasonable profit, it would have encouraged them to grow more potatoes last season and there would be no shortage such as we are experiencing at present. The same observations apply to oats. There was a price fixed for oats but no farmer could afford to sell oats at that price.
I am very loth to interfere with the Deputy, but he is now entering upon a criticism of the Department of Supplies and the Department of Agriculture rather than dealing with financial administration which is covered by the Budget.
I am dealing with general policy, and I am only referring to these Departments as examples.
The Deputy is following the bad example of some Deputy who spoke before him.
I shall pass away from that, but I would say that these are very important points. It seems to be the general policy of the Government to discourage agricultural production, but agriculture is our main industry. I suggest that, at a time like this, in an emergency, agricultural production should be encouraged so as to ensure that our people may be fed. There should be no shortage of such necessaries of life as we can produce in abundance in our own country, commodities of which we should have a surplus for export. Instead of that, we have not sufficient for ourselves. Was a shortage of bacon ever previously known in the history of this country? We got the Pigs and Bacon Commission, but no pigs and bacon. We have the commission, but we would prefer to have the pigs and bacon.
I should like the Government to consider the difficult problems which are cropping up, and which unfortunately are growing worse and threatening to grow worse from year to year and day to day. They should start planning for the immediate future, to try to relieve the present situation and to encourage the production of essential commodities to feed our people and to give employment to the people on the land. There should also be long-term planning, because post-war planning is most essential at present. Virtually, all countries are looking ahead and planning against the post-war period. It is most important that this country should also look ahead and prepare plans for the future. Is any consideration being given to making arrangements for markets in post-war times? I am afraid that our Government is failing in its duty in regard to post-war planning.
The various States of the Commonwealth, neutral countries and others, are all taking steps to provide for future trade and the exchange of essential commodities, but this country seems to be determined to proceed with the old discredited policy of self-sufficiency. I think the people now know—even if the Government does not —that we have to export certain commodities from this country in order that we may import the essential supplies to keep our industries going and to maintain a reasonable standard of living here. Therefore, I think it is most important that the Government should, without any further delay, take some steps with regard to post-war planning. I am sorry that I cannot congratulate the Minister on the Budget which he presented to the House. I do congratulate him upon showing some appreciation of the difficulties and on speaking in a sensible manner, but he has not given any indication that the Government have any idea as to what they ought to do to improve the position.
I move to report progress.