When I moved to report progress last night, I had then pointed out to the House three matters in respect of which I submitted the House had been misled by the Minister, three matters which, I submitted, in themselves constituted good ground for rejecting Section 4. I do not propose to recapitulate one word of what I said last night, but I want to add two other considerations to the case I have made already and upon which I stand. I direct the attention of this House to sub-section (1) (c) (iii) of this section. It empowers the company set up under the Act of 1938—the House will remember that that Act repealed the Act of 1934—to include in its objects "the manufacture and sale of any substance, all or any portion of which is produced or obtained by chemical process".
I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce to tell us now what product or products he has in mind in that sub-section. I have adverted to the impropriety of producing a rectified spirit, to which he referred in the Second Reading speech, on the ground that an independent firm was already equipped to do so. He challenged the contention that the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia, to which he himself referred, should necessarily be more expensive if produced by the company under the sub-section than if it were bought on the world market. I feel in the despairing position that I am unable to bring home to the House the critical decision which is about to be taken by it. I know what is intended by this Bill. It is really a design to get, ultimately, sanction to produce this indispensable raw material of the agricultural industry through the mediumship of this company. The Minister has said, most disingenuously, to the House that the presence of deposits of gypsum in this country renders this country a pre-eminently suitable place for the manufacture of this commodity, thereby suggesting that we may anticipate its being produced at a price which would compete with the price from any factory in the world. But the fact is that the indispensable raw materials of the sulphate of ammonia industry are hydrogen and nitrogen, the fact is that, in industrial countries, these indispensable raw materials are the waste products of other industries and can be purchased by the sulphate of ammonia manufacturers from those other industries at waste price. If they were not taken over by the sulphate of ammonia factories, they would have to be thrown away; and as a result of their ability to buy on those terms, the cost of production of sulphate of ammonia is comparatively low. If, however, you have to set out on an independent industrial chemical process to manufacture nitrogen and hydrogen, for this purpose of ultimately using it in the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia, it is an extremely expensive operation. Nitrogen and hydrogen so procured are very expensive.
The Minister must know—his experts must have told him—that the only methods available to us for the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia in this country are incomparably more expensive than those readily available to manufacturers in industrial centres where they use the by-products of other industries. He has not told us that. If he had told the House that, many people who do not realise now the danger in which we stand at present would realise it. If this section remains in its present form, it will be used to levy, on all arable land in Ireland on which sulphate of ammonia of nitrogen in any form is used, a tax of 2/6 to 5/- per acre, in perpetuity. That is so monstrous a proposition that I have a horrible Cassandra feeling that I cannot persuade those who listen to me to believe it—and the horrible part of it is that, if this Minister gets away with it—in face of what the Minister for Agriculture declared here, when he condemned them both—once we are saddled with it, it will be almost impossible to free ourselves from it.
The last reason I want to adduce for rejecting this section relates to what appears to me to be a very serious point—and I cannot help feeling that it is somewhat disheartening to find about 15 members of Dáil Éireann in the House when the whole future of agriculture is in jeopardy and when we are asked widely to extend the way in which a company of this character will function and the powers this company has. Remember that when the Minister was justifying this wide extension provided for in Section 4, one of the strongest arguments he adduced was this. "It is not intended," he said "to spend one penny piece out of the Exchequer on these wider purposes, without first coming back to Dáil Éireann, stating the purpose and seeking the money." Now, on that representation, many men might shrug their shoulders and say: "Well, we do not want to be on the records as being opposed to Irish industry and the Minister says there must be another discussion about this matter before any additional expenditure can be put on the people."
Any persons who accept that are sadly misled. If they turn to the Principal Act, they will find that this company has power under Part V to obtain from every petrol distributor in the State a precise return of the petrol sold by him. They can then serve an order on the petrol companies requiring them to buy any quantity of industrial alcohol that the company, with the approval of the Minister, cares to compel them to take. They can then compel the oil company to incorporate that quantity of industrial alcohol in the petrol to be sold to the consumer. Under the protection of this Act, the petrol company can increase the price of petrol by a sum to be approved by the Minister but calculated at a rate to compensate the company for having incorporated industrial alcohol in the petrol sold. The Minister has told the House that that levy amounted to ½d. per gallon on all the petrol sold in the State. That levy did not go to the Exchequer. It was collected by the Industrial Alcohol Company and that is revenue which they may employ without any reference to this House good, bad or indifferent, for any or all the purposes of Section 4. So far, they have levied only ½d. a gallon on all the petrol used in the State. There is no reason why, under the powers conferred in the 1938 Act, they should not levy 2d. or 3d. a gallon by a device identical with that which I described to the House. Article 17, paragraph (2) of the Constitution provides:—
"Dáil Eireann shall not pass any vote or resolution, and no law shall be enacted, for the appropriation of revenue or other public moneys unless the purpose of the appropriation shall have been recommended to Dáil Éireann by a message from the Government signed by the Taoiseach."
Is the money levied from the public in the price of petrol public money or is it not?