I regret that I see in this Finance Bill no evidence that the Government is conscious of the fundamental fact which dominates the economic life of this country, that is, that, in the last analysis, every citizen of this State, whether he be doctor, lawyer, shopkeeper, civil servant, farmer or labourer, derives his living from the land. I differ from those who take the view that, by the creation of artificial prices for agricultural products in the home market, you can restore prosperity to the land. I believe that, ultimately, the price which will obtain for the produce of Irish land is controlled by the price secured for our exportable surplus. I have no reason to alter the view I have held since I first entered public life—that the only available market for the surplus agricultural produce of the land of Ireland is the British market. When Fianna Fáil came into office, they attempted, for a protracted period and at immense expense, to find alternative markets. That effort was a dismal failure and was admitted to be so by the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, speaking as Taoiseach in this House. Faced, then, with the inescapable fact that the only market available to this country for its agricultural surplus is the British market and that every man and woman in this country depends ultimately on the land for his or her livelihood, our duty is to ensure that our farmers will get not necessarily the highest price but the highest profit it is possible for a farmer who sells his produce in the British market to get. It is a most unfortunate thing that a great many of our people in every walk of life are dazzled by price when, in fact, what matters is profit. If it costs you £30 to produce a bullock, £28 for that bullock is a very bad price. It is costs you £12 to produce a bullock, £15 for that bullock may be a splendid price Yet, I venture to say that very few people, if asked to envisage conditions under which £15 would be a better price than £28, would be able to realise that such circumstances could obtain. Yet, there is the very essence of our problem.
Once we make up our minds to face the inescapable fact that the British market is our only market and that the price for our agricultural produce is, ultimately, going to be fixed by the price we get in the British market, we have got to realise that no sovereign Parliament in Ireland can control prices in Great Britain. We have got to take in Great Britain the best price we can get and the only way of getting the best price available in Great Britain is to put into the British market the best agricultural produce to be found there. On that aspect of the problem, I might say much, but what I would have to say would be more relevant to the Estimate of the Minister for Agriculture and the Estimate of the Minister for Education than to this Bill. Granted that these Ministers will do their part to enable our farmers to offer in the British market the finest agricultural produce in the world—which they are well fitted to do, given the equipment and education—their concern remains not primarily price but profit. That is where this Finance Bill reveals the utter ineptitude of the Fianna Fáil Government.
What is profit? A farmer's profit is the difference between his cost of production and the price he gets for his produce. If, by any Act of Parliament, we could raise that price, we would widen the gap. That gap is the farmer's profit—the gap between the cost of production and the price realised. But we cannot raise prices by act of this Parliament. Is there no other means, then, by which that gap can be widened? I suggest that there is. I suggest that there is a means within our power, and that is to bring down the cost of production. Do Deputies realise that by Finance Acts of our own Parliament we have put a tax on artificial manures, a tax on feeding stuffs, a tax on all agricultural machinery, on the fork, on the slean, and on every single thing that the farmer buys wherewith to produce the finished product of his industry? Bear in mind that the farmer has to pay that tax on every form of raw material, and admittedly is constrained to sell his produce in the open unprotected market, and to meet competition from the four corners of Europe.
Compare his condition and the condition created by Finance Acts of this Parliament with that of industrialists. If a man with the name of Stackalovitch from Czecho-Slovakia comes into this country to manufacture God-knows what, in the back streets of Dublin, when he arrives at the Department of Industry and Commerce there is a red carpet laid down, and the officials choke themselves pronouncing his name as it is pronounced in Czecho-Slovakia. High officials of the Department are unreservedly at his disposal as long as he cares to remain in Kildare Street. All his machinery is exempted from tax at once, whether it comes from Japan or from Ecuador; credits will be supplied to finance him, licences will be issued and monopolies granted to Mr. Stackalovitch which will prohibit anyone else in Ireland entering into the trade which he intends to enter into, when the machinery gets here, so that out of what accumulates from the monopoly conferred upon him during his period of waiting, he can reap profits from Irish farmers sufficient to pay for the machinery and all the transport charges involved. Then, when the machinery arrives, anxious inquiries are made as to whether he requires any raw material, can the Department of Supplies give any assistance, or can our Consular agents in the four corners of the earth do anything for Mr. Stackalovitch? All his raw materials are promptly exempted from taxation, ample credit is given by the Industrial Credit Corporation, while all the time Mr. Stackalovitch is enjoying a monopoly of imports as well as of the wholesale distribution of the commodity which he intends to produce when the machinery he expects arrives, and when the raw materials have been delivered.
Then when Mr. Stackalovitch gets under way if his price is such that the tariff fixed in the first instance is not sufficient, or if anybody interferes with his monopoly, then let us raise the tariff higher and, if that is not enough, what about a quota? If the prices he charges for his merchandise are high and if the finished article can still be brought in from abroad by paying the 75 per cent. tax, and can undersell Mr. Stackalovitch, a quota is put on. There is a limit on the quantity coming in, so that Mr. Stackalovitch will be free to charge any price he likes.
If anybody thinks that Mr. Stackalovitch is charging too much the matter will be referred to the Prices Commission and after considering it for a protracted period, perhaps 1/9 will be struck off 75/6 and the price control machinery of the Department is vindicated. Mr. Stackalovitch walks away from the room after confidently expecting that his price would be reduced by at least 35/-, but the farmer still continues to sell in an open market, continues to pay the tax on the raw material, continues to pay an inflated price to Mr. Stackalovitch and to his friends and relatives of the sixth degree of kindred who continue to live in Czecho-Slovakia. I am not asking for the poor common farmer of this country the privileges which Mr. Stackalovitch claims and gets from an Irish Government. The people on whose behalf I speak cannot expect from Kildare Street the same deference as the man who rejoices in the name of Stackalovitch. All I ask is that if they have to sell in a market in which all the winds of competition from the four corners of the earth play unrestrained, at least they should not have to pay the tax on raw materials in order to fatten the Stackalovitch family to the sixth degree of kindred in Czecho-Slovakia.
I ask all Parties to combine with me in pressing the Government, not to reverse their industrial policy in the course of the next five years, not that we should institute a system of complete free trade—though I would like to see it—but if all sides in the House admit that the farmers of this country have nowhere else to sell save in the open market in Great Britain, at least they should be allowed to purchase the raw material of their industry free from taxes and free from deduction. If I can get that from this Parliament I am convinced that our farmers can earn not only a decent living for themselves, but that with that modest concession they could carry the rest of the community on their backs. Remember that if farmers do not carry them on their backs nobody else can. Other countries besides agriculture have minerals to depend upon, oil deposits, gold mines, shipping interests, or some other natural resources, but in this country we have no natural resources at all except 12,000,000 acres of arable land.
The future of every individual in Ireland depends on whether that land yields a profit to those living on it or not. There are thousands of things in the policy of the Fianna Fáil Government that are well calculated to make it difficult for a man living on the land to make a profit out of it to-day. Very many artificial burdens have been placed on the backs of the agricultural community. There is, on the occasion of a Finance Bill, only one way that they can be put right, and that is by taking the tax off the raw materials of the agricultural industry. That is a very small demand. I remember standing behind my shop counter in Ballaghadereen before this war commenced, when supplies were available to us of Indian meal which, despite what any experts say, was and ever will be the best feeding for pigs when given with a due proportion of other suitable feeding material. Indian meal, or as it is honourably known in the province of Connaught, "yellow meal," was then approximately 7/6 per cwt., when it was free to come in from mills outside this country, or when it was supplied by mills inside this country. Bear in mind that at that time 85 per cent. of the yellow meal sold in this country was supplied by mills inside this State at 7/6 per cwt. At that time I saw no barefooted millers in the streets of Dublin. I saw no ragged mill proprietors starving. Most of them managed to have a decent appearance and to own a pony and trap. Most of them ran a motor car—some of them two— when the price of meal was 7/6 per cwt.
It was represented that it was an unpatriotic thing for a pig to eat Indian meal from Belfast. No pig that ate nasty orange meal could expect to mature into quite a good green, white and orange pig, and so the sea-green incorruptibe porkers of this country were put on native meal with this astonishing result: that what cost 7/6 on Monday, and what was being sold by the millers in Eire at a profit for 7/6 on Monday, cost 8/9 on the following Monday as soon as a tariff designed to prevent the imports of Indian meal into this country was put on. It has been costing that ever since.
The common calculation is that if you buy a ten weeks old sucker or, as we call them in the country, a bonham, it requires seven cwt. of meal to turn him into a 12 stone pig. The day that the tariff went on Indian meal the price went up by 1/3 per cwt., so that the price became 8/9. That meant that off every pig that went into a bacon factory in Ireland the farmer who fattened it paid a tax of 8/9 per pig to the millers whose weekly income amounted to a sum ten times greater than the average annual income of a small farmer. Is that just? Is it fair to ask the small farmers of this country to pay a tax of 8/9 per pig since they are carrying on their backs every other section of the community? Would you not think it more becoming that they should be given a bonus of 8/9 from the Exchequer for every pig they raise to feed the rest of the population? I am not asking any dole or any subsidy for them. I am simply asking that this tax should be taken off: that they should not be taxed in order to maintain the "fly-boys" who come in here by night to pluck what they can out of the country, or the plutocrats who want to establish monopolies to pluck those who are really doing the work.
Take superphosphate of lime. Is there any man in this country who will not agree that the more phosphates we can put out on the land of Ireland the better it will be? Super was coming into this country—and I sold it—at 6/- per two cwt. bag. It came from Belgium. If I could get it cheaper in Cochin-China or in the farthest corner of the world, I would bring it here to improve and enrich the land of this country. I would do so provided I could get it at a price which was within the reach of our poorest farmers so that they might improve their land. But the patriotic manure ring in Ireland remonstrated with the Government by saying that the nasty foreigner was putting up a degree of competition that made it impossible for them to live in the style and dignity that the manufacturers of this bag muck should enjoy. We had a tariff put on superphosphate of lime. The super that used to sell at 3/- per cwt. was being sold at 5/- before the war began. The two cwt. weight bag that I spoke of a moment ago which used to be sold at 6/- was fetching nearly 10/- per bag before the war. Therefore, if you put this six cwt. of phosphate on a statute acre of your land, you were paying a tax of 12/- per acre to the manufacturers of artificial manure in this country. Conceive what would happen to Clanricarde's bailiff if he dared go to Portumna to levy 12/- an acre on land. I am asking that this tax should be taken off. If we would not allow Clanricarde to levy it, why allow the manufacturers of bag muck in this country to levy it?
I will offend Deputy Corish now. There was a time when you could buy a plough in this country. The patriotic agricultural machinery manufacturers in this country, however, represented that it was a wicked thing to allow in a dirty Saxon plough to this Emerald Isle. It is costing us about £1 a plough to ensure that nothing but a patriotic furrow will be driven into our soil. The horse rake, the hay rake, the mowing machine, the shovel, the spade, the graip, the potato fork—every single one of these is paying its toll of tax to the vested interests which manufacture them in this country. Anyone who protests against that will be dragooned by associations rejoicing in the names of the Federation of Irish Manufacturers and Patriotic Association for the Development of Irish Industry, by men who, of course, are concerned with nothing but a disinterested service to Kathleen Ni Houlihan, individuals who think of money, profit and pelf as nauseous, men who have never given a thought to dividends, interest or sordid matters of that kind. I am thinking of sordid matters. I am thinking of the right of men who are on the very verge of poverty, men who have nothing exalted about them, nothing poetical, nothing glorious or romantic, but who just desire the right to live at a very modest level of comfort with no plush chairs, no grand pianos, no artistic interiors, but who simply just want the wherewithal to buy food to feed their families, to clothe their children, and, possibly, by great indulgence from the patriotic industrialists of this country, an occasional half-crown to buy a half-quarter of tobacco. That is the measure of luxury that I am asking for the rural community.
I allege that successive Finance Acts passed here have challenged the right of the farmers living on the land, the small farmers, to enjoy those things. I am asking no doles; I am asking no subsidies and I am asking for no silly undertakings that we are going to raise the level of prices in this country to a figure which will enable the farmer to bear any burden of expense that is put on him by the legislation of this House because that is all chimerical. The attempt to remedy the situation in which the farmers are at present by fixing prices on the domestic market is utterly fallacious. It can do nothing to relieve them. They have got to sell their produce on the open market and have to take on that market the best price they can get for what they produce.
We cannot raise it and they cannot make a profit if their costs of production in that task are infinitely raised. There is a solemn duty on every Deputy to combine with me in forcing down the costs of production of the agricultural community. I do not care whether the Deputy is elected from a Dublin constituency or a Cork constituency, or comes from Leinster, Connaught, Munster or Ulster: whomever he represents in this House, those for whom he speaks ultimately depend for their living on the land. Unless we make that land profitable, labourer, professional man, farmer and everyone else must perish. There is a duty on every Deputy, no matter to what Party he belongs, to join with me in bringing pressure on the Government at this stage to do only one thing and that is take the taxes off the raw materials of the agricultural industry.
It is six years since I first adumbrated, in an unsympathetic House, a proposal for family allowances. Six years' remonstrance brought the whole House round to my view and a great social service has been initiated. To-day I am starting a new campaign, to take the taxes off the raw materials of the agricultural industry, as certain as that I am standing here that, sooner or later, the whole House will come round to my view. Every year they wait to do so, the economic existence of our people will be put in greater jeopardy. Could they but persuade themselves to join me now, they would have taken the first really effective step in the task of post-war planning. Is it too much to expect that even those Deputies groaning under the lash of the Fianna Fáil Party Whip will consider this question on its merits? If they have not the courage to speak out here, will they speak in the discreet secrecy of their Party room? I do not expect—none of us could reasonably expect—the Minister for Finance, with his city traditions, to understand the full implications of what I am saying here now; but he has behind him many Deputies who in their heart know that what I am saying is true. It took me six years to bring them round to family allowances: do not let it take as long to bring them round to this.
When he was opening to-day, Deputy Hughes seemed to me to express some slight temerity, for that he challenged the economic policy of a Government which had just been elected in this country. Would that he were here now, that I might give him heart of courage. Surely the dullest Deputy will agree with me that it would be a travesty of the truth to suggest that it was the economic policy of Fianna Fáil that was being argued on the hustings during the general election? The general election was fought and won on the issue of whether de Valera kept the bombs off or not. That issue is past and, whether by fair means or foul, Fianna Fáil has won, but the fact that the argument that he kept the bombs off has won de Valera a victory causes me no doubt, no hesitation and no temerity in pointing out the detestable fallacies that have inspired the Fianna Fáil policy up to date.
I do not believe that we are confronted with a situation like that of the Walls of Jericho, which were brought crashing down by the blast of a bugle. All I am hoping to do is to dislodge one of many keystones. Ultimately, the pressure of events will bring the arch of their economic heresies crashing. This is the first stone which must be dislodged and, if they part with it willingly, instead of forcing us to hammer it out, it will come out intact and may be used for a laudable purpose, as the corner-stone of a new structure of agricultural prosperity in this country. Whether we have to take it out in splinters and find a new stone for the new building, or whether they are prepared to surrender it to usin toto, with the consoling thought that it will be turned to a newer and better purpose, is a matter of indifference to me. I am starting now to take it out, if necessary in splinters, and, in anticipation, I tell them that I should be grateful if they surrender it to me intact.