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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 22 Feb 1946

Vol. 99 No. 12

Turf Development Bill, 1945—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed:—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

Last night, I was dealing with the question that was raised by Deputy Larkin. He referred to the very inadequate rates of pay provided for workers engaged in the development of our bogs. I think that it ought to be the duty of the board that is to be established under this Bill to see that the workers employed on this very important national work—the production of fuel—will be given decent rates of wages. As I pointed out, and as Deputy Larkin pointed out, if the worker is given a decent rate of wages it will give him an additional interest in his work and some encouragement to take good care of the very important machinery that he is in charge of while in the employment of the board. I believe that it is a wise policy, on the part of the Government, to develop our turf resources. With the full development of native fuel we should see to it that the houses erected in the future are provided with fireplaces that are suitable for the burning of turf. May I mention that houses that were built quite convenient to Clonsast bog, in my constituency, were all fitted with coal ranges, while other houses built in my constituency in the Swan and Wolfhill areas, where we have coal mines, are fitted with turf grates. That, I suggest, is a position that ought to be considered very carefully by those in charge. I think it is the duty of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to see, in regard to all future housing schemes carried out on a large scale for which he will have responsibility, that the houses are so fitted that it will be possible for the tenants to burn turf in the grates provided. It would be silly, and not in accordance with commonsense, if the houses that were erected in the centre of bogs in the Midlands were not fitted with fireplaces suitable for the burning of the local fuel product. It should be the duty of the responsible authority to see that they are suitably fitted. To the amazement of the tenants and all concerned, it has been found impossible to burn native fuel in the ranges of houses provided by the local authorities, with the approval of the Department of Local Government.

We had the very same thing in areas where coal is being produced on a large scale. We discovered that, in the neighbourhood of the Wolfhill collieries, in the County of Laoighis, where ranges should have been installed suited to the burning of coal raised in the local mines, turf grates were provided although there is no turf in the district. In the City of Dublin, there is a great deal of waste simply because the fire grates were, in the vast majority of cases, designed for the consumption of coal which was then coming in in large quantities. As the Minister pointed out yesterday, even if coal were coming in, the price would be so high that it would be impossible to procure it. Owing to the seriousness of the position in England, I believe, as the Government realises, that it will be many years before we are able to get in supplies of coal as they were being obtained before the war. I wonder if it would be possible under this Bill to give the board which is being appointed power to develop our coal resources in a manner similar to that in which our turf resources are to be developed.

That is outside the scope of the Bill, which deals only with turf development.

I agree, but I was suggesting legislation to the Minister.

The Deputy must bring his suggestions within the scope of the Bill.

I believe that there is a good deal of coal to be developed as well as turf.

The Deputy realises that he is now going outside the scope of the Bill.

The coal could be developed on an equally large scale. This Bill has my whole-hearted support. I believe that it is a wise step and that the Government realise the necessity for developing our bogs on a large scale. In years to come, I believe that a great deal of benefit will be derived as a result of the legislation contained in this measure.

The Minister gave us a good deal of explanation regarding this Bill but I noticed that he was strangely silent on some points on which Deputies would like to get precise information. He seemed to suggest that turf was to replace coal completely. As you, A Chinn Comhairle, have pointed out to the previous speaker, this is a turf-development Bill. At the same time, coal, turf, heavy oil, petrol and timber are all, more or less, related to turf and would compete with turf if they could be got cheaply enough and in sufficient quantities. Having regard to the contents of the Bill and the Minister's speech, the question at issue would seem to fall under two heads. We have to consider the position in the emergency period and the position in the post-emergency period. I have not spoken of it as the war period, because an emergency can last long after a war has ceased. During the emergency period, when we had no coal, the Minister and the Government very courageously tackled the question of fuel. Mistakes were made —bad mistakes—but nobody can make omelettes without breaking eggs, and dear, wet, poor turf, when there was nothing else available, was very acceptable. The Government are entitled to the credit for producing good, bad and indifferent turf.

Coming down to the post-emergency period, some time alternative fuels will appear as competitors with turf. The question is, how far we ought to proceed and how far those fuels will compete with turf which is at present our only source of fuel. In pre-war days, the Minister referred to a figure of 3,000,000 tons of coal as used here and others have spoken of 2,500,000 tons as the consumption in 1938. The Minister has referred to turf as having half the calorific value of coal. That is in briquette form and I am afraid that he is taking turf at its highest value. Some people would say that it takes three tons of turf to equal a ton of coal. If you take it that 2½ tons of turf are equal to a ton of coal, and if our requirements in 1938 were 2,500,000 tons of coal, it would appear as if the country would require about 6,250,000 tons of turf to be entirely self-supporting.

Some Deputies have spoken about the grates, ranges and boilers which were installed for the burning of turf. The Minister has pointed out that those were being installed in certain places. The last speaker spoke of turf ranges being installed in coal areas and coal ranges in turf areas, and I should like to point out that you cannot change the fuel to suit the type of range you have installed. In other words, if you opt for a grate which is efficient for coal, or if you opt for one which is efficient for turf, you have to stick to it. That is why we should welcome further particulars from the Minister as to what we are facing.

I do not know whether it would be outside the Minister's province to ask the British what amount of coal they will probably have for export to this country over a period of years, leaving out the question of an engagement about taking it. The Minister seems to think that coal is finished as far as this country is concerned and that we should have to rely on our own resources for turf. Of course, it is certain that all the turf that can be produced at the present time is all to the good. What I have said about turf and coal ranges applies also to turf and coal-houses. There are many places which are equipped to take in a little coal but they cannot take in turf in any quantity. That being so, it behoves us to make a careful estimate of the turf that will be used by this country. The Minister is really dealing only with the machine-won turf under this measure, and one wonders why this Bill had to be put through just at this time. Presumably, the three companies which were producing machine-won turf could have continued and been expanded, if necessary.

In this Bill there is a provision for erecting a steam plant on the bogs— at Clonsast and at another place somewhere further south. One would like to know from the Minister what is the reason for the development of machine-won turf, leaving out of consideration hand-won turf.

Apparently the steam plant which is to be erected on the bog will not be ready until 1952. By that time we shall still be in a position in which it will be necessary to import coal. I should like to know why the Minister wants to erect a steam plant some years before we reach the stage at which the production of turf will be sufficient to supply the whole country. Surely the Minister's attitude should be: "We are short of fuel for this country, we cannot get enough coal but we shall push on with the production of hand-won turf through the county councils and machine-won through these companies that are already working on it." It would appear as if by the time the steam plant is ready we shall not be as self-sufficient in turf. If, by that time it is found that sufficient coal can be imported surely it would be better to use coal at the Pigeon House to generate the necessary electricity and to leave the production of the bogs to the private consumer and those industries which require it?

When one comes to examine the figure at which turf can be sold, one is rather pessimistic about the price of machine-won turf. From the figures supplied it would appear that the cost of turf at Turraun is £1 0s. 8d. per ton. That is, I think, the cost delivered at the railway station or loaded in a lorry. While one is on the question of petrol lorries, I might mention that last night the Minister paid a tribute to the Turf Development Board and I think Deputy Morrissey spoke about the credit due to the Electricity Supply Board for maintaining the supply of electricity, but really during the emergency we seemed to be dependent on petrol lorries for carrying turf to such an extent that one shudders to think what would have happened if this country had been left without petrol. Certainly it would appear to the ordinary person as if the petrol lorry and petrol played as big a part in providing this country with turf as any of the other media mentioned by previous speakers.

I do not know if the Minister thinks that in the future the railway will be capable of carrying all the turf that is produced. He was silent on that point, but taking turf produced at Turraun and loaded on a railway wagon, I think the freight to Dublin is 12/- per ton. I allow 6/- per ton for cartage to the merchant's yard. The next item is delivery from the merchant's yard to the customer and for that I allow 11/-. I do not know if it is intended to distribute this machine-won turf through coal merchants but I have allowed to them, for the sake of argument, a profit of 7/6. That tots up to £2 17s. 2d. for a ton of turf. If you multiply that by 2½ it brings the price of the machine-won turf delivered to a private consumer to £7 2s. 11d. Now, I do not know what the future of coal is going to be, but I cannot imagine that either coal or, possibly, heavy oil will not be delivered to people at a price very much less than that. I would like to ask the Minister to let us know when he is replying how he can hope to compete with coal or heavy oil, if and when they return to the market. Of course, the Minister may say to me that they may never return, and from that point of view he is quite right, although I think it was Deputy Larkin who thought that coal might even become cheaper. Be that as it may, however, we have to face this heavy expenditure on turf. One wonders why there is this tremendous haste in putting up a plant on the bog, which will not be ready for six years and which, if one takes the figures as they look, will not produce fuel enough if there is a shortage of coal, which would mean taking turf from the private producer.

That brings one to the question of hand-won turf and why hand-won turf has not been dealt with. An extraordinary system has been built up, which is, possibly, a result of starting in a hurry, by which the turf is handled, as far as the ordinary individual can see, far too often. I suggest that we should consider the ideal system, and the cheapest and best way of handling hand-won turf.

I am not in any way referring now to getting turf out of the bog; I am assuming that the county council engineers are working that to the best advantage; but when the turf gets to the side of the road, I am beginning to wonder whether some of the various operations that follow could not be cut out. First of all, there is the bringing of the turf to the side of the road, then bringing it to the railway station, then bringing it up to town, and then bringing it out to the Phoenix Park or to Ringsend, afterwards bringing it to the merchants' yards, and then distributing it to the consumers. One wonders why some of these operations could not be cut out. Could not turf be dried in some way by stacking it on the side of the road at the bog, and thus save bringing it up to the Park to be stacked there? I should like the Minister to tell us what the difficulty is, and why, after six years of emergency conditions, we should not be able to cut out some of the operations connected with the handling of hand-won turf. A very clever manufacturer once said that every time you touched material you added to its ultimate cost.

I remember—I think it was the winter before last—that there was some difficulty about people out in Lucan getting turf, and what, apparently, none of the people in Lucan could understand was why you could not stop some of the petrol lorries that were rolling through Lucan en route for the Phoenix Park, and fill up the depots there, thus saving in labour and saving in cost. The Minister has said that he would welcome any suggestions, but it seems to me that there are far too many handlings of the hand-won turf, and that there should be some practical way of stacking it at the side of the road at the bog, keeping it there until it was fit for use, and then bringing it up, either by railway or, possibly, even by petrol lorry, and delivering it straight to the consumer. At any rate, there are far too many handlings on the road at present, and I think that my suggestion is the only way by which you will get increased efficiency so far as the hand-won end of turf production is concerned.

I shall come now to one last remark. Apparently, in ten years we are going to work up to production of only 1,000,000 tons of machine-won turf. Some people suggested that that would fill only one-eighth of the country's requirements, but according to my calculations I think it would be about one-sixth. Now, surely, that will not solve any of our fuel problems, and, accordingly, I would urge the Minister to go slow on a plant which will not be ready for six years and for which it is doubtful if we can get the fuel without taking it from some other section of the community. In conclusion, I should like the Minister to look into the matter of whether or not he can reduce the number of handlings of hand-won turf.

While I welcome this turf development plan, still I have to protest on behalf of the people in Mayo, and to ask the Minister why he has not included Mayo in this scheme. I feel that if there is any county that should have been considered, Mayo should have been one of the first, and when I say one of the first, I say it from experience, so far as our own county council was concerned and the active part we took in the production of turf there during the emergency. When the emergency started, we were one of the first counties to be asked to go into turf production. The reason for that was that we had the turf areas and we had the best of bogs. Still, in this turf development plan that has been outlined here, Mayo has been overlooked. I feel that that is not a fair way to treat Mayo in return for the services they gave at a time when it was essential that turf should be provided, and particularly in view of the way they responded there to the appeal.

So far as the location of Mayo is concerned, if you compare its location with Kerry, Donegal, Galway or Roscommon, I think it would compare very well with those counties as regards main roads, by-roads, bog roads, and everything that would connect the bog areas with means of transport, and I am sure that it would compare very favourably with either Donegal or Kerry so far as freight and handling charges are concerned. I feel that the Minister should not have overlooked Mayo. He has given to Kerry, roughly, £125,000 for two development areas, and there is one already there.

He has given Longford £104,000; Galway, £93,000; and Roscommon £236,000. In one direction from Mayo, there are the counties of Kerry and Galway and, in the other, the county of Donegal, Mayo being practically on a line with these three counties.

In Mayo, there is a huge population living in the bog areas, the majority of whom have to go abroad to make a living. Some of them, to their credit, responded to the call and went to the counties near the city to produce turf. They had not to go to these areas for what they could earn there, as the money does not come back in full to the poorer people, but if the money had been earned in their own areas, near their own homes, the money would be of greater service and help. In Mayo, and especially in North Mayo, we have the very best of bogs along the main trunk road, with main county roads leading into the bog areas and with bog roads constructed during the emergency into the bog centres, bogs which, I believe, cannot be beaten in any other county. The Minister has overlooked Mayo, and I ask him, on behalf of the people of Mayo, to realise that there is still sufficient time to include Mayo in the scheme. We are entitled to the same benefits as counties Galway, Kerry and Donegal. We did our duty during the emergency and I feel that we are now entitled to ask that we be compensated by being put on the some footing with regard to finance as these three counties.

This Bill is one of the few Bills that go through the House with general approval. I think it deserves a certain amount of support, because the development of turf is very essential, simply because it seems to be the only type of fuel on which we can fall back when the pinch comes. Our coal supplies are inadequate. Whether they can be improved or not, we do not know, but a survey has been carried out, and it seems they cannot be added to or increased in any way. Our timber supply has been almost entirely cut, and therefore our only source of fuel is turf, of which we seem to have a fair amount, and it is only natural that we should develop the raw material of which we have most plentiful supplies. The scheme deserves support also for the reason that an industry like the turf industry is bound to absorb a certain amount of labour and the more labour we absorb, the less emigration there will be. For these reasons, the scheme is worthy of support.

Almost £4,000,000 of the people's money is being invested in this scheme, but nobody will find fault with that, because, if we do not venture we cannot win, and we cannot embark on schemes of any sort unless we provide the money to finance them. As several Deputies have pointed out, turf during the past few years was a very necessary commodity, but the position will eventually be reached, when the world gets back to normal, in which it will be possible to import coal, perhaps much more cheaply. When outside countries start looking for markets, they will try to dump a certain amount of coal in this country, and the question will then arise as to which the people will prefer. So far as the rural population are concerned, turf is the natural fuel, but will the people in the cities and the towns prefer turf to coal, if coal can be got at a reasonable price? Deputies seem to think they will. Being a rural dweller, I do not know, but I do know that the city or town dweller can never have as good a fire with turf as he can have with coal. Whether turf briquettes will be a better type of fuel than ordinary hand-won turf, time alone will tell, but I hope the dwellers in the cities and towns will be satisfied with this turf development scheme and with the spending of so much money on it.

There are several matters closely connected with this scheme. An effort should be made to leave the bogs which are cut away in a condition in which they will be fit for replanting or reclamation. It may be hard to do that, because, when ten, 15 or 20 feet of the surface is taken away, the land will be inclined to get waterlogged, being then below the level of the rivers in the locality, so that side by side with any turf scheme must go a drainage scheme. I hope that when everything gets into motion, that aspect will be considered. If they all move with each other, there will be entire satisfaction for everybody.

It seems from the Minister's statement that one of the chief objects of the scheme is not so much the production of turf for domestic purposes as for the operation of electric power stations. That is a very good proposal, and it would be a good thing if all the turf which can be produced by the briquette factory could be used for the development of hydro-electric power in the various localities.

Firstly, it would mean that there would be no freightage, no carrying out from there and, secondly, it would leave the coal that now has to be used in the Pigeon House and places like that for the development of hydro-electric power, for domestic purposes. Therefore, I think that is a very good idea and it would help the turf development plan. It seems the amount that will be over and above, at the present estimation, will not be so great as to arouse any fears in the minds of those who produce hand-won turf that that turf will be left on their hands.

The only other objection I have to the scheme has been referred to already by some of my colleagues from Mayo. I am surprised we have not been included in this turf development scheme, because we have bogs, especially in North Mayo, between 14 and 20 miles in extent. There is one such bog running on towards Belmullet and Bangor Erris. That is a long way from here, I admit, but, nevertheless, why not have a hydro-electric station there as well? I am disappointed that we have not been included in this scheme and I hope the Minister will be able to grant a certain amount of money, as soon as it is possible to do so, in order that we will be able to partake in the benefits, the employment and everything else, that will accrue from this turf development scheme.

Labour Deputies mentioned the working conditions and the wages of the workers in these schemes. Wages in turf development schemes so far have been fairly good. With a little overtime and piece-work, men have been able to make a reasonably good wage, much better than the other wage-earners to whom references were made in the debate last week. I have heard complaints about conditions in the turf camps. I hope those things will be investigated because, from the public health point of view as well as from other angles, it is essential that it would be.

A lot has been said about the middlemen's profit, which seem to leave a very bad flavour behind. When turf is produced, either hand-won or machine-won turf, the cost of production reaches a certain figure, but there is a terrible difference between that figure and what the turf is sold at to consumers in the towns and cities.

What with the haulage and the different times the turf has to be handled, there is an excuse for some increase in price, but I should like to see that difference in price cut to the very minimum, so that it will be possible for the consumers to buy the turf at a reasonable price. I have not the slightest doubt that if it could be bought at a reasonable figure, and if it gave reasonable satisfaction, the city people would feel more inclined to use the turf, and would soon grow to realise that the home-produced fuel could be just as good as the type of fuel we have got in times gone by from outside countries.

This scheme is one that definitely requires consideration. I wonder would it have come at all but for the lesson we have been taught during the emergency? We saw for ourselves that we had no coal supplies; our timber supplies were limited, and we were left only with the turf. We in the country had first-class turf. We always had good fires, just as good as we had before the emergency came. There was no difference whatever in the country. But the city people had not that to say. As has been mentioned, bad, wet turf was better than having no fire at all. The only thing is that we should try to get a drier and better type of turf for distribution in the cities and towns.

As regards those gigantic turf dumps in the Phoenix Park, definitely the condition of the turf leaving some of those dumps is bound to be bad. If turf could be kept under cover of some sort, it would be a great thing. Deputy Blowick suggested something along those lines. Even in the transport of the turf from the bog centres to the dumps, and from that to the consumers in the cities, the turf, in getting so much handling, becomes wet and otherwise affected, and if it could be provided with some sort of cover and brought in as good a condition as possible to the consumer, satisfaction all round will be the result.

Another thing that I sincerely hope will come through this turf development scheme is an improvement of bog roads, even in areas where the turf scheme does not operate. When we go into gigantic bog centres roads will have to be made, and I hope those people who have to fight and struggle to get out hand-won turf for their own use as well as a percentage for sale to the city consumers, will get better concessions in the way of an improvement of the roads into their bogs.

I welcome this Bill. I believe it has come as a result of the lesson we have been taught. Perhaps it will be for the betterment of this country that we have been taught that lesson. At least it has given us an incentive to start an industry which, we hope, will be one of the best and most profitable of the industries which we have started so far.

The general approval of this measure from all sides of the House is, perhaps, the greatest tribute that could be paid to the Minister's foresight when, in 1934, he embarked on a turf development scheme. I was in the House at that time and I can well remember all the adverse criticism. I think that were it not for that scheme at that time, and the preparations that were made then, we would be in a rather awkward position during the emergency. I am sure also that it was not the emergency that brought about this idea of machine-won turf. That is no new idea at all in the Minister's mind. He foresaw that and took steps in connection with it long before the war started.

A good deal has been said about hand-won turf. I believe hand-won turf will always find a ready market within a reasonable distance of the various towns. One of the best ways to secure that ready market is by having the turf societies reorganised. Some of them have continued on and have done very fine work during the emergency, but some fell away because the county councils took over the bogs. I think if they were worked on business lines they would be able to compete fairly well with any outside fuel or even with the machine-won fuel, if they do things in a businesslike way, as I have known them to do it in past years.

I have heard a good deal about Mayo's claims. It is no blame to the Mayo Deputies to put forward the claims of Mayo, but I can assure them that to my mind we have not got the scheme in Galway because of any favour to Galway. The scheme in Galway is ideally situated in every way. The turf is of superior quality, it is over 30 feet in depth and the railway runs right through the centre of the bog. I think that all these things were taken into consideration and that is why the scheme will be operated there. I could put forward claims for other bogs in County Galway if I wanted to do so. I am sure the bog at Attymon was selected solely because of its situation.

There is only one point that I wish to make on this Bill. It was mentioned by Deputy Commons when he referred to drainage. Very often when a benefit is conferred on one section it only creates trouble for others. I am sure the Minister and the Turf Board, when it is in existence, will take cognisance of that position and that there will be an understanding between the Turf Board and the National Drainage Board. If there is not proper drainage of a river leading from bogs that are to be drained, considerable hardship will be caused to people with land and to those engaged in agriculture. That has already happened in the case of a bog that the county council entered upon. The bog was drained and while on the one hand useful work was done, it also caused great hardship and meant the loss of crops belonging to many farmers. The main artery leading from the bog was not properly cleaned up and there was not a proper flow of water from it. That could happen on a bigger scale on other schemes. I do not want farmers to be coming along later on, complaining of the great hardship that had been inflicted upon them. That is why I suggest that, when bog development schemes are being carried on, there should be drainage schemes under the national plan, in order to prevent anything like what I mentioned happening. I join with other Deputies in welcoming this Bill, believing as I do that it is a great step forward, and one that I am sure will give useful employment in my constituency.

I wish to call attention to another point, concerning camp accommodation. I understand it is likely that labour will be migrated certain distances on some of these schemes, and that it is likely that local authorities will be asked to erect or to assist in the erection of cottages. It was stated that the scheme was likely to last much longer than 30 years. If it were only to last for 30 years, I am sure that local authorities would be very slow to undertake the expense of building cottages which might, at the end of that period, be left on their hands. I am glad that we have had an assurance to the contrary, and I believe that when the time comes local authorities will be as generous as they can afford to be in providing the necessary accommodation for the workers.

I find it rather difficult to get at the back of the Minister's mind in relation to this scheme and the plans in it for our general economy. I ask the Minister not to be misled by the suggestions made that the Bill has been received with great gratification in the House. There is no opposition to this work being gone ahead with, even in the absence of much information that we should like to have. But the Minister ought not to be misled by the expressions of approval into feeling that we can go ahead in this matter without our eyes being fully opened so as to gather, through the next year or two, details and information that we feel we ought to have before this measure passes through the House. The Minister has been interested in turf for a very long time. I think it was in the first Budget introduced by his Party in 1933 that the Minister declared he was going to make turf our second largest industry. As Deputies pointed out, we have had a considerable amount of experience of working with turf since then. Before 1938 something close on £500,000 was spent in assisting the turf industry, and yet we find, with the stimulus of the emergency, and all the other work done that the work of the Turf Board shows that the cost of production has differed in quite a number of places. At Lyrecrumpane the cost was 25/4; at Clonsast 34/11; at Turraun 20/8; at Lullymore 24/9 a ton. The explanation given with regard to the differences in price is certainly in very general terms. I do not think we can go ahead without having information presented to us in a much more systematic and critical way. On the Minister's general plan I find it difficult to visualise what he has in mind.

In the appendix to the turf development programme given in the White Paper, the number of centres in counties where development work has taken place is shown, and the total cost comes to £3,673,000. Taking one of these centres, at Littleton, in Tipperary, where the cost of development is given as £161,000, I should like to know what is covered by that amount and under what heading of expenditure it is contemplated that the money will be spent. In the second place, with regard to the other places, I should like to know whether there is an order of priority in relation to the centres at which work will be begun. I take it that it is hardly the intention to start off with all these places at once. I also ask, in relation to the work to be carried on, whether there is any relation between that work and the experimental stations mentioned on page 2 of the White Paper. If all the work is to be on machine-won turf, considering that the plan is going to work out for only ten years, then I take it it is going to be begun in a concentrated way, and that the earlier years will be years of experiment. It is very important that that should be so, because there are certain aspects which suggest that we ought to be careful to see that we make the best use of such resources as we have; that we are not led into any misunderstanding with regard to a great and successful ultimate development; that we are not misled in that way to neglect opportunities that we should be pursuing. In relation to the Minister's indication of cost—between 20/- and 25/- a ton—I ask on what general rate of wages that estimate is based. On page 25 of the report of the board dealing with turf, information is given with regard to Clonsast.

The total production expenses are there shown as £44,000; the interest on advances is shown as £15,000, so that there you have the position in which the cost of capital covers one-third of the total production expenses. It is true that the report indicates that capital has been lent to the board by the Government at an average ranging between 5¾ per cent. and 4¾ per cent. interest. I take it that that is going to be changed in the immediate future but I think it would be desirable to let us know in relation to, say, the 20/- or the 25/- estimate for the turning out of turf, how much of that is actually labour and in relation to what rate of wages it has been estimated, and how much is going to be payment for capital.

The Minister has indicated that he has a rather poor outlook on the possibility of our getting coal in future to the extent to which we used normally require it. I think the Minister is entirely wrong there. I think it is a very remarkable thing that British production of coal at the present day is only about 25 per cent. below what it was pre-war. I think nobody connected with the ordinary industrial or commercial life of Great Britain and closely interested in the whole situation there could be persuaded that, say, within a year even, the coal production in Great Britain is not going to be restored to what it was. When we consider that we used only about 2,500,000 tons pre-war and when we figure out how little impression on that total amount the amount of turf production that is arranged for here will make, it is rather silly on our part to think that we could not get as much coal from Great Britain in a year's time or certainly in two years' time, as we ever got before the war. At this stage of our knowledge of turf, taking into consideration domestic users and industrial users, particularly industrial users who are in very great difficulties to-day with regard to fuel, I think the Minister could get no support at all for the idea that we could do without coal and substitute turf for it, say, in Dublin as a domestic fuel or throughout the greater part of the country as an industrial fuel.

If we slacken our demand on Great Britain for all the coal that she possibly can give us at this particular time we will probably injure our national economy very considerably. We will naturally require a considerable amount of industrial development here if we are to maintain our population and keep our increasing population here. For the purpose fuel is one of the really important things. One would imagine that additional industrial development here within the next ten years would consume in power and in fuel much more than the additional amount of fuel that this plan contemplates. Therefore, granted that we are able to attain that, we would want, perhaps, even more coal than we were getting before the war to maintain the amount of industrial development we ought to have here inside the next ten years.

There may be a tendency, as it were, to lessen the insistence of our demands on Great Britain for the coal that we want and which we could use with great advantage to our national economy. We will be warping the development of our industrial plant here towards the use of turf when we may not be able to supply it adequately or at a reasonable cost when the experiments are fully carried out. That is why I appeal to the Minister that as we go forward, particularly for the next two or three years, in the matter of turf development or the extension of this turf plan, we must go forward with our eyes completely open and we surely should keep in our mind that the industrial development that we want here, as insistently as we want the additional employment that turf development would give us, would absorb more fuel than was represented by our pre-war requirements and more than we are likely to develop within the next few years here.

Deputy McGilligan yesterday spoke of the recent speech of the Minister for Mines in Glasgow, where he indicated that Great Britain owed very considerable amounts to the three countries, Sweden, Denmark and ourselves, and that they would have to pay these debts in full, that we had sent them, and would continue to send them, considerable food supplies, and that these had to be paid for. The implication surely was that, as far as his responsibilities were, we should be able to get coal in payment for our food supplies and in payment for the debts they owe to us. At any rate, it is imperative that we should be able to provide against difficulties that might arise out of our not being able to get it, but if we can get turf as cheaply as the Minister indicates and as useful for fuel as the Minister indicates and if we can get it even to the quantity the Minister suggests here, we also want coal, and we want it to as large a quantity as we ever got before the war. People closely connected with British industry, at the present moment, see no reason why British production of coal would not be back to its pre-war level in a year or two. If that is so, our requirements are so small that we should be able to get our full requirements from them.

In the limited time available to me it would not be possible to deal with many of the matters which were raised in the course of the discussion. I, therefore, have to decide between the temptation to get the Bill through its Second Stage to-day and to leave these points unanswered or to postpone my observations on them until the Dáil resumes next week.

I suggest to the Minister that he would not curtail what he has to say.

I think the Deputy is wise in that, because it is desirable that the maximum amount of information should be available to the Dáil, and I am sensitive to the criticism which has been advanced during the debate that insufficient data had been made available to Deputies to enable them to judge the merits of this proposal. When introducing the Bill I thought it desirable to emphasise that our present fuel difficulties were not due entirely to war-time conditions and would not end in the near future when problems created by the war in relation to other commodities might be expected to disappear. I think we will have fuel difficulties of one kind or another for many years to come. I gave that opinion, however, merely as an additional reason why it was desirable to develop our turf resources and, particularly, to exploit the method of producing turf by the mechanical means which the Turf Development Board is now employing. I certainly did not intend to convey any suggestion that this particular project is being embarked upon because of present or anticipated future difficulties. In the Government's view, the development of our turf resources and, particularly, the increasing of the mechanical production of turf is desirable and would have been embarked upon even if no fuel difficulties had arisen or were anticipated in the future.

The House, I think, is aware that the Turf Development Board was established before the war and commenced operations at Clonsast, Turraun and Lyrecrumpane before the war and, but for the war, its activities would probably have now reached the scale contemplated in the scheme outlined in the White Paper. From every angle from which any national project can be judged, the development of our turf resources is desirable. It will involve a strengthening of the national economy, it will have beneficial social consequences by the provision of employment in districts where an improvement in social and employment conditions is necessary, and it will also add to the national security in times of emergency.

I was surprised by the attitude conveyed by the speeches of some of the Deputies opposite, particularly Deputy Hughes, Deputy Coogan and Deputy McGilligan. For some reason, these Deputies considered it necessary to disparage and to discourage this project, just as they and some of their colleagues usually seek to disparage and to discourage projects for the development of our resources or any plans which seem to involve or are designed to secure a reduction of our dependency upon external sources of supply for essential materials. That attitude is incomprehensible to me. I do not think there is any considered opinion behind it, and, if it is based upon any conception of good Party tactics, it seems to be merely foolish. Deputy Hughes went so far as to suggest that we should not attempt to develop our peat resources at all unless we had a definite statement from the British Minister of Fuel and Power that full and adequate supplies of coal from British sources would not be available. I think it would be the height of folly to neglect to develop any resource here which appears to be worthy of development, and it is obviously to the national advantage that we should, if we can, reduce our dependency upon our external sources of supply for our essential commodities, and fuel is one of the most essential commodities of all.

During a recent visit to England, I had an opportunity of discussing with the British Minister of Fuel and Power the present supply position and future prospects. It is true that I was concerned mainly with the quantity and quality of the coal now reaching us and the prospect of improving supplies in the immediate future. I found Mr. Shinwell optimistic as to the future trend of British coal production when the process of nationalisation was completed and I hope that his optimism proves justified. I think an improvement of the British coal position is practicable, although, judging by some reports recently published, it will involve the opening of new mines which will take some time. I must, however, have regard to existing conditions and to the trend disclosed by recent British statistics. The output of coal in Great Britain has declined continuously since the beginning of the war and, at the present time, it has reached a dangerously low level, so low a level that any further diminution in output must inevitably mean that no surplus for export will be available at all.

I saw from a recent Press report that British ships are travelling from British ports on light bunkers hoping to fill their bunkers at ports in other countries. That is certainly a new development and is an indication to us that we must endeavour to ensure, to the extent we can do it, that our complete dependence upon British coal supplies will be reduced. We cannot possibly in any reasonable time hope to reach a position when imported coal will not be essential for us. It is essential now and will be essential for many years to come, and, if we get into a position where we can buy all the coal we need, that would be very satisfactory. But, merely because we may get into such a position at some stage is no reason why we should not develop our own natural resources of power, whether water or coal or turf, if it is practicable to do it, and particularly when, as in the case of turf, it can be shown to be an entirely economic proposition.

Deputy Coogan thinks that my fears as to the future trend of coal prices are unfounded. I hope he is right. It may be that, by intensive mechanisation of the British mines, the increased cost of production which has been evident will be offset. I think it is extremely unlikely that coal prices will ever again fall as low as they were before the war. My own personal opinion is that they will not fall below a point which will represent a 100 per cent. increase upon pre-war prices.

Neither will turf.

That is the very point I was going to make. If circumstances should arise which will mean that coal prices will fall, either because of a reduction in the price of capital or the cost of machinery or in the general standard of living and, consequently, the wage level, presumably similar factors will operate here and the cost of production of turf by the mechanical means which the Turf Development Board will employ will fall also. When the Clonsast scheme was started it was anticipated that the cost of production of turf would be 10/6 per ton.

Clonsast was never fully developed. It is not a fair criticism of that scheme to say that the present cost is 34/- per ton, because Clonsast was intended to produce 120,000 tons a year and the capital invested in it was designed to reach such a production. The area of the bog, the extent of the drainage done, the railway lines, and the other physical equipment installed there were all designed to meet a production of 120,000 tons per year. But production at that rate would involve the use of seven of the big bagging machines, and because of difficulties caused by the war, only three such machines are now in operation. Consequently, the incidence of the capital charges on the cost of production to which Deputy Mulcahy has just referred is abnormally high, and the present cost of turf per ton produced at Clonsast is no indication of what will be practicable when an output at the rate of 120,000 tons per year is secured. It is estimated that even at that stage, because of the higher costs which have arisen since the beginning of the war, the price per ton will be around 22/1 or 23/-, and it will not be possible to get back to 10/6 per ton upon which the scheme was originally started. I have mentioned that wages are 50 per cent. of the total cost and wages there have practically doubled. Other charges have equally increased. As an indication that the figures given in the White Paper are well based upon the board's experience, I instanced the case of Turraun bog, which is fully developed and where the capital employed is in no sense fallow. The production is proceeding there at the maximum rate at which it is practicable and last year the all-in cost of that turf, loaded on railway wagon or lorry, was 20/8 per ton. It is reasonable to assume that some of the costs which were experienced in Turraun last year will decline.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.