May I make a submission, Sir, in regard to the amendments on the paper in my name before you give a ruling from the Chair?
Industrial Alcohol (Amendment) Bill, 1946—Report and Final Stages.
There are three amendments in my name which, ordinarily, would be proper to the Committee Stage; but, owing to the peculiar nature of this Bill, I want to submit that it was impossible to put them down for the Committee Stage because the information upon which they are based did not emerge until during the debate that took place on the Committee Stage. I did not know, and I do not think anyone else in the House knew, that the Minister contemplated, in certain circumstances, the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia by Ceimicí, Teoranta, until the Committee Stage. I did not know until the Committee Stage that the Minister denied the right to any citizen, from whom he proposed to withhold a licence, to go to the courts in order to have certain matters tested there. I did not know until the Committee Stage that the Minister was engaged in some obscure negotiations with Messrs. Maguire and Paterson about the material wherewith to make match-heads. Without these three items of information, I could not have formulated these amendments. It is for that reason that they have not been tendered at an earlier stage of the Bill. For these reasons, I respectfully submit that, exceptional as their character may appear to be, I have a right to move them on the Report Stage.
As the Deputy himself said, these amendments should have been submitted on the Committee Stage. The matters to which the Deputy referred seem to me to be implicit in the Bill and, if the Deputy had any doubts on the matter, he could have elicited that information from the Minister on the Second Stage. The amendments are much too substantial to be submitted on the Report Stage and I am not allowing them.
The Minister informed us that the provision made in this measure for the company to extend its activities is to enable it to carry out a certain amount of research and that no financial provision is being made to finance these activities in a commercial way; that if necessary, the necessary measures will be introduced at a later stage. We tried to make clear on the various stages of the Bill what our attitude was: that so far as any research is necessary to explore the possibilities of developing an industry in this country we are not opposed to it, provided such an industrial development is economic and does not throw any undue burden back on the community, and, particularly, on the primary industry. So far as any research is necessary by this particular company, if the Minister feels that this is the right company to carry out such developments, there might be no objection. But we certainly do object to empowering this company to make a final decision as to whether it is economically possible to do certain things here. We felt that there should be some sort of independent tribunal set up which would carefully examine the proposals to be made by this company and that that tribunal should be satisfied as to the possibilities and how far it is economically possible. Personally, I was principally concerned regarding the proposed production of sulphate of ammonia here. I felt this was not the type of organisation to make a decision on that matter. I was particularly keen that an independent, impartial tribunal should examine the proposal. I am convinced that the question has at present wider ramifications than the Minister appears to be aware of.
During the war Great Britain discovered that synthetic sulphate of ammonia does not give the results that were expected, that Chilean nitrates were substantially superior, the reason being that Chilean rock contains the trace elements so essential in the soil. These trace elements like manganese, magnesium, iron, boron, cobalt, and so on, were absent from the synthetic product. The British Sugar Corporation has definitely established that the syrup produced from beet grown on synthetic sulphate of ammonia was unbalanced and gave rise to difficulties in crystallisation. These are matters that require expert and up-to-date advice and consideration. I do not think you have attached to this institution the type of individual who is concerned with and well informed on matters of that sort. Again I want to emphasise that, so far as we are concerned, we are opposed to the procedure the Minister has adopted in this measure. It will not get impartial examination and it will not take into consideration, from an agricultural point of view, the results that have been obtained in Great Britain and other countries and the change in outlook in regard to synthetically produced sulphate of ammonia as against the natural product from Chile.
The Minister was not prepared to meet the House in that regard. He felt this company was competent to make a decision. We felt that there was no indication of competence so far as the record of the company was concerned. While not reflecting on the individuals, we felt that the company would not take an impartial view and that they were not an impartial body to examine this proposal in an impartial way. For that reason, we were forced to oppose the measure and to express our dissatisfaction with the Minister's proposal.
How Deputies of this House can preserve equanimity and calm in the presence of the request that has been made of them now surpasses me to understand. The Minister for Agriculture has just run away out of this House. Is there any Deputy in the Fianna Fáil Benches who will deny that the Minister for Agriculture stated, from that seat over there, within the last six months, that a proposal was made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce before the war to establish a factory for manufacturing sulphate of ammonia in this country and that he, the Minister for Agriculture, vetoed it because it meant a permanent addition of at least 10 per cent. on the cost of sulphate of ammonia to the farmers of this country? Did he say that or did he not? Every Deputy knows he did. Would you not have to despise a man who, having pledged his faith and reputation to resisting that proposal in defence of the section of the community after whose interests he is charged in honour to look in this House, is not here when it is brought forward again by a colleague who does not give two straws for the agricultural industry of this country? Where is the Minister for Agriculture? Cowering down behind the Speaker's Chair.
On a point of order——
The Minister for Agriculture has nothing to do with this Bill. He is not in charge of it.
Is the Deputy in order in the remarks he is making about the Minister for Agriculture?
I do not think he said anything unparliamentary but the Minister for Agriculture does not arise on this measure.
The Minister for Agriculture pledged his word to this House. I appeal to Deputy Hughes.
That is on the records of the House.
It is in the Official Report, Sir. He pledged his word that he forbade this enterprise.
The Deputy has just stated that; and he stated it on the Second Stage.
Yes, and I propose to state it on the Fifth Stage, and again and again in the country.
Circumstances may have altered since the statement was made.
Six months ago he said it.
It was just before the Recess, when he was discussing his own Estimate. What has happened since then to make him change his mind? Why is he not here to tell us? Having warned us, as Minister for Agriculture of the Government, that he forbade this thing, would not it be his duty to come into the House and say, "I told you six months ago this thing was wrong. I have changed my mind now. I am going to help to get done the thing I said should not be done and I have come like an honourable man before the House to tell them why I have changed my mind"? Why is he down in the back room now, afraid to come into the House and tell us? He has full notice. I raised this on the Committee Stage again and again. I named him half-a-dozen times. I read the record of the House. But he does not dare to turn up now. Why? Because he knows that he is betraying his trust. He knows that he has been overborne by his colleague. He knows that the Tánaiste has declared that, whether the Minister for Agriculture likes it or not, he is going to do it and that, if the Minister for Agriculture does not like it, he can go back to his dispensary in Wexford. Is not that true?
He stood where you never stood.
He has no dispensary in Wexford.
Instead of having the moral courage to come in here and stand up for what he believes, and to stand by the people whom he is pledged to represent in this House, he is down in the back room.
He stood where you never stood.
Go on now and tell him and bring him up where he ought to be.
He will come here if business calls him here.
I am calling him here now and he will not come.
You are not the dictator of this Parliament.
No, but it would appear that the Tánaiste is bidding fair to developing into that.
This Bill is designed to put a tax of 2/6 per acre on every acre of land that is tilled in this country in perpetuity. Consider the history of this company. Does this House remember the circumstances in which the industrial alcohol industry was launched? In 1934 or 1935 we were told that there was an immense surplus of potatoes in the country and that Fianna Fáil had a brain wave to get rid of them. They were not going in for any old-fashioned methods like feeding them to pigs or feeding them to live stock. "The British market was gone, thank God. The live-stock industry was finished once and for all, thank God."
What has that to do with this Bill?
That is the genesis of the Industrial Alcohol Company.
Live stock is not mentioned in this Bill.
I do not blame the Ceann Comhairle for finding it hard to believe it but I suggest to him, with respect, that if he looks up the official records of this House he will find that the Industrial Alcohol Company was started in this country as an alternative method of disposing of potatoes on the ground that "the livestock industry was gone forever, thank God."
Would the Deputy explain what the origin and foundation of this factory has to do with the Bill now before the House? This might have been legitimate on the Second Stage but, on the Fifth Stage, the Deputy is confined to discussing what is in the Bill and he may not discuss the motives for which the factory was founded originally.
I am going to read the history of this.
The Deputy will read it as far as it is relevant.
Certainly. If we are going to perpetuate an industry of this kind, we certainly want to know what the object is. That codology went on for four years. Then we had the Act of 1938. If Deputies will look up the official records of this House, they will find that Deputy McGilligan, and, I think, Deputy O'Higgins, from these benches, suggested to the Minister that industrial alcohol produced in these plants would be likely to cost 3/6 per gallon, that, as he proposed to use it as a substitute for petrol by an admixture system, and that as petrol was then available for 4d. and 5d. a gallon, it would cost——
What has this Bill to do with the production of industrial alcohol?
"Industrial Alcohol (Amendment) Bill"—that is the title of it. "An Act to change the name of the company"—I shall deal with that in a moment—"formed under the Industrial Alcohol Act, 1938, to authorise an extension of the objects of the said company, to control the importation of chemical products, to amend the said Act in certain respects and to make provision for certain other matters connected with the matters aforesaid." It continues the powers of the Government. Let me describe to the House how these powers are now being used. Three and sixpence was the price the Minister sneered at as being unthinkable and he said industrial alcohol was going to be produced for 1/9 per gallon. Seven and sixpence per gallon is what the alcohol is costing now. Potatoes were to be the raw material. Sugar beet from Monaghan and Louth, and treacle from Cuba, are the raw materials to-day. Remember one of the reasons for the shortage of flour in this country is that we have no ships to bring in wheat but now we are using ships to bring in treacle for this industrial alcohol factory.
Under this Bill?
I think not.
I assure you, Sir, we are, and we intend to raise revenue for the purposes of this Bill by raising the price of the industrial alcohol produced out of Cuban treacle, to compel the petrol distributors to use it, and to pay the Government for it and to appropriate the profits of that transaction to such activities as the Minister wishes to conduct through Ceimicí, Teoranta, without coming back to Dáil Éireann. And the Dáil is asked to do that with its eyes wide open! Under the legislation consisting of the first Act, the 1938 Act and this Bill, the Minister has power to charge anything he likes for industrial alcohol. He can raise the price of industrial alcohol to £1 per gallon. He can force the petrol companies to buy it and to put it into the petrol and he can authorise the petrol distributors to charge such prices to the consumer as will compensate them for the use of industrial alcohol. So that, in fact, the Minister's power to raise revenue under this Bill, to do anything he likes, is unlimited and our experience to date has been that he has not hesitated to use it. One and ninepence per gallon was the only figure he first mentioned, but he has already put the price up to 7/6 per gallon, and he does not conceal the fact that he has collected £150,000 in certain years in revenue from the industrial alcohol factory.
Is there any Deputy in this House at the moment who considers that it is desirable to ship treacle from Cuba and to convert it into industrial alcohol in this country to be sold at 7/6 per gallon when you can buy petrol at 8d. and 9d. per gallon? Is there any Deputy in this House who, in a time of acute sugar shortage, thinks it desirable to convert into industrial alcohol in the Carrickmacross factory a quantity of sugar beet which would produce for the consumers of this country some hundreds of thousands of tons of sugar? Are we all gone stark, staring mad? Do Deputies in this House consider it right that when the Cork Yeast Company has put in the most modern machinery that any company in Ireland can have for the manufacture of rectified spirit, we should authorise this Government-financed company to manufacture an identical product with a view strictly to limiting the market available to the private enterprise of the Cork Yeast Company? If we sanction that, in regard to rectified spirit, are we embarking on a code of legislation which will enable the Government to set up a rival factory in any industry they care to enter, financed and sustained out of the taxpayers' money and designed to destroy the enterprise of somebody who has invested his own capital elsewhere in the country? I do not believe there is a single Deputy in this House who believes in that, and yet Deputies over there will all trot like sheep into the Lobby.
I know the various purposes for which this Bill is designed but it is extremely difficult to get people to believe them. The truth of it is that this is one of the more grotesque brain children of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and he wants to bury it. He knows that industrial alcohol has gone up the spout, that it is a fraud, that it has been exposed as a laughable piece of codology and a shameless waste of public money. He knows that no rational man in Europe would sanction, in the times in which we live, the shipping of treacle from Cuba in order to manufacture it into industrial alcohol in Ballycroy. Therefore, we are going to extend the functions of this company. Why? Because we want to drop the manufacture of industrial alcohol in at least three of the factories and cover up our tracks in the process. He is ashamed to come before the House and say that this imbecile enterprise on which the Government embarked ten years ago has now finally collapsed, that we have got to dismantle the factories and sell them at the best price we can get. That is the right thing to do. But he is ashamed to admit that and so he wants to spend another £250,000 in saving the Fianna Fáil face and, particularly, his own. He is the great genius of the land. When the Tánaiste waves his hand, the largest office building in Dublin goes up in Kildare Street. When the Tánaiste waves his hand, industries spring up all over the country. When the Tánaiste waves his hand, millions march off to work, though we still await the day when he will snap his fingers and the first contingents of exiles will come sailing across the sea to fill up the positions which his genius has created for the labouring masses. I wish he would go down and see what happened in Ballycroy when he waved his hand. He would see a deserted, abandoned wreck. Our money paid the bill and it is now going to cost us as much more to get rid of it. If we could get rid of it and cut our losses, that would be something. But not at all. The existence of these factories is to be justified. They are all to start on research into the methods of manufacturing sulphate of ammonia. Does any Deputy believe that tripe? Does any Deputy believe that the methods of manufacturing sulphate of ammonia have not been exhaustively examined by Imperial Chemicals, Dupont's and the German dyers? Is there any Deputy so idiotic as not to know that if he walks over to the National Library, the librarian will give him books wherein the several methods of manufacture of this product are set out in detail? This business about research is the purest eyewash and fraud. It is designed to pull the wool over the less sophisticated members of this House and, to judge from the source of the attempt, there will be little difficulty in determining where the bulk of them sit.
It is common knowledge to any person who is interested in agriculture, never mind industry, that the methods of manufacturing sulphate of ammonia fall into two groups. Number 1 group is that whereunder you must manufacture the raw materials—hydrogen and nitrogen—yourself. The other group of methods are those dependent on the user of by-products of other industrial processes. Those persons who have access to the by-products of those industrial processes could acquire them as raw materials for this industry for virtually nothing. If the by-products were allowed to evaporate into the air, they would be useless but, by confining and collecting them, instead of allowing them to evaporate, the manufacturers are able to get by-product prices for them from people who want to manufacture sulphate of ammonia. But if you set out to manufacture these raw materials in whatever from you want them—liquid or gaseous—by an industrial process primarily designed for their production, instead of having them at by-product prices, you will have them at the highest price at which it is possible to obtain them. If you enter upon the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia from raw materials that cost you infinitely more than they would cost if obtained from persons more advantageously placed— in centres where other industries are conducted—the result will be that sulphate of ammonia will cost more to produce here. If it costs more to produce here, it will cost the farmer who uses it more. Deputy Hughes talks of the comparative value of Chilean nitrate and sulphate of ammonia. How much Chilean nitrate will come into the country once the wizard beyond enters upon the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia? There will be a prohibition on it. Farmers will be told to take nitrogen for their land in the form of sulphate of ammonia or to do without it. Furthermore, they will be told to take it and like it at the price they are told to pay. If anybody dares to protest, he will be told that he is sabotaging Irish industry and playing England's game and there will be poor "goms" up and down the country innocent and foolish enough to repeat that kind of trash as so many parrots.
Is there a Deputy in this House who wants to raise the price of sulphate of ammonia by 2/6 to the farmers? There are five Fianna Fáil members in the House now. Is there any one of the five who wants to do that? Is there any one of the five who doubts that sulphate of ammonia will cost the farmer more if we proceed on these lines? Remember what the Minister for Agriculture himself has said. Do you believe that your own Minister for Agriculture was telling a lie when he stood up in that bench and said he forbade this plan because he knew it would result in additional cost being put upon the farmers? If he spoke truly, do members of the Fianna Fáil Party think he was wrong and that we ought to put a charge, in perpetuity, on the land? Are the Deputies on the far side so puerile that they are afraid to face that dilemma? Are they afraid to make up their minds?
Not a bit afraid to make up our minds on any question.
When you know what the question is.
When the question is put to us.
It depends on the form of the question then——
We made up our minds on many questions before we saw or knew Deputy Dillon.
That task is largely dependent on the magnitude of the mind to be made up.
I do not understand what the Deputy means.
That does not surprise me. I propose to tell Deputies on the opposite side, so far as I can, in words of one syllable, what their vote is going to mean. A vote cast by a man for this Bill means a tax of 2/6 on each acre—that is a word of two syllables but it means a square of land —for ever—two syllables again, but "for ever" means "always". If you want to vote for it, I cannot stop you.
Very few people believe the Deputy's prophecies.
Having told the Deputy that interesting fact in words of one syllable, he understands it—or, at least, I hope so.
The last reason for which I implore the House to vote against the Bill is as follows. Section 8, incidentally, is the section under which the importation of anything which is a rival to the sulphate of ammonia manufactured by the Tánaiste will be prohibited. Section 11 has an interesting history. It appears to refer to stamp duty, but does the House know to what it really refers? Match-heads—a daft, crazy scheme for manufacturing chlorate of potash to incorporate in the heads of matches. Does the House know the history of it? At one stage, when we were preparing to hurl back the combined forces of the German Reich, the United States of America and the British Commonwealth of Nations, which, as we remember, were all about to invade us at any moment, we determined that the most effective instrument for that purpose was a smoke-bomb and, accordingly, plant was installed in the Magazine in the Park to manufacture smoke-bombs. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures, I need scarcely tell you, was at the back of this project.
What has that to do with this Bill?
It is not surprising that you should wonder.
If the Deputy does not know, it is difficult to see how it is relevant.
Section 11 was put into the Bill to take over from the Army all the rubbish collected by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures for the manufacture of smoke-bombs in the Park. One would never dream that, to read it, but that is its purpose, and I dare the Minister to deny it. In the process of manufacturing the smoke-bombs, he scorched all the trees in the Park and when the threatening invader had been disposed of, the chief ranger in the Park said: "For God's sake, take yourself and your smoke-bombs out of the Park, or there will not be a blade of grass left or a leaf left on a tree." The Minister was evicted, leaving behind him the treasure trove which he had planted there to manufacture the smoke-bombs. One of the constituents of these potent weapons of defence is, I think, called chlorate of potash. It is a chemical product which is an integral part of a smoke-bomb, but which can also be used as an integral part of the head of a safety match. The wizard of industry, the Tánaiste, then had a brain-wave. He would take over the smoke-bomb apparatus and start a grand new industry in Ireland, the manufacture of the raw material for the heads of safety matches. There is only one firm manufacturing safety matches in this country—Messrs. Maguire and Paterson—and a deputation from the Government was dispatched to the board of Messrs. Maguire and Paterson to find out if they would buy the products of this factory. If my information is correct, the board said: "No, we will not." Further representations were made and the board eventually said: "What do you want to charge us for it?" to which the reply was "7/6 per lb." Messrs. Maguire and Paterson said: "We can buy it for 4/6 in abundance in Liverpool or from any factory in Great Britain but, for the sake of peace and because you were very kind to us in the Budget a couple of years ago when you knocked ? of a 1d. off the box of matches and left it to us, if you, the Government, like to pay out of the pockets of the taxpayer the difference between 4/6 and 7/6, we will give you 4/6 for the chlorate of potash." Section 11 is the charter of this great new industrial development in Ireland to manufacture a commodity which is to cost us 3/- a lb. so long as we produce it.
How many will it employ?
Deputy O'Leary wants to know how many it will employ. I do not know, but of this the Deputy may be pretty sure: if it employs a manager, a secretary, two assistant secretaries and a dozen workmen, it would pay this country well to give them all their salaries in perpetuity, with the right of survival to their children and their children's children, under a plan analogous to the pension scheme in respect of Lord Nelson of Trafalgar, and it would save us money. Do not let us yield to the superstition that work is something we ought to yearn for. In so far as we can occupy our faculties outside the process of earning our living, we may use them far better than in the manual labour required to make chlorate of potash for the heads of safety matches, and if all these people can be pensioned and allowed to follow their bent or their hobby, or to use their faculties in some other direction, we should not compel them to make chlorate of potash and lose money on the transaction, if it would be cheaper to give them pensions.
I am so sick of watching this combination of fraud, pretence and deceit, so sick of seeing our people corrupted by misrepresentation as to what is being done in their name, that I sometimes almost despair of restoring any kind of decency or straight-forwardness in the public life of this country. I know the rotten and fraudulent propaganda which will be started in connection with this Bill and I know the shameless clamour which will be initiated to blackmail the agricultural community into accepting this burden of 2/6 per acre in perpetuity as a patriotic duty. There is nothing patriotic about it; there is nothing commonsense about it; there is nothing in it but an effort to save the face of Fianna Fáil and justify the various economic imbecilities with which they have tied themselves into knots.
I think it right, however, to say this in conclusion: so long as you have a majority in the House, you can do these things, but they will be undone sometime. Have no doubt of that. All these shameful and rotten transactions will one day be put right. The longer they are allowed to survive, the more precarious the state of our people will become and the greater the hardships which the simple people who live upon the land will have to endure. It is their democratic right to choose that if they will, but, some day, reason and decency will reassert themselves in this country, and, when they do, this kind of folly will disappear, all the other blisters which Fianna Fáil have put upon our people will be remedied, the resources of our people, the wealth of our people, will be used for worthwhile things and these imbecilities will survive only in their memory as a warning of the price which has to be paid for putting people like the Tánaiste in the position he occupies to-day.
I think Deputy Hughes misunderstood the provisions of the Bill in one important respect. He referred to my observations that the Bill contains no proposals for altering the financial structure of the company and assumed therefrom that it would not have available to it capital resources to undertake new forms of manufacture without fresh legislation. That is not quite the position. I stated that the company could not undertake any new form of manufacture involving a substantial capital expenditure without fresh legislation; but there is available under the original Act a proportion of the amount there provided, which could be utilised to finance a limited extension of the company's activities. The original Act authorised the Minister for Finance to invest in the shares of the company to a maximum limit of £500,000, but the total amount invested under that provision by the Minister for Finance is approximately £275,000. So it will be appreciated that the company could extend the scope of its activities in some directions and to a limited extent, without the necessity for fresh legislation.
To the extent of £225,000?
What I did state was that any major development, such as the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia, would involve additional capital far in excess of that unused balance and could not, therefore, be undertaken without fresh legislation to provide the capital required. There is a provision in the Bill to ensure that any proposal to authorise the company to engage in the manufacture of a chemical product must be published, so that private business firms who feel that their interests might be adversely affected by the proposal will have an opportunity of knowing what is intended and making objection. That publication of intention to license the company to undertake any form of chemical manufacture ensures that there will be no extension of the company's activities without due notice.
I do not know what Deputy Hughes had in mind when he said that this company would not have available to it expert advice on the matters which it is going to examine or concerning the production of chemicals on which it might engage. It will have available to it, either in its own organisation or otherwise, the most expert advice that is available in the country, and I cannot imagine any more suitable organisation to carry out the investigations which we contemplate than this company. Whatever objections there may be to the continuance of industrial alcohol manufacture, I do not think it can be seriously contended by any responsible person that the organisation of this company is not eminently suitable for the work we are now proposing to give it, or that the scientific and engineering staff available to it are not as highly competent as any similar body in the country.
It has been suggested that the company has been in some way at fault in carrying on the manufacture of industrial alcohol. I doubt if that suggestion can be supported by any reference to the facts. It is true, of course, that the facts have been distorted. Not merely have they been distorted during debates in this House, by a Deputy from whom we expect nothing else, but they have been, to my astonishment, distorted in no less a place than the leading article column of the Irish Independent. I stated, when introducing the Industrial Alcohol Bill originally, that industrial alcohol could be sold at a profit by this company at 3/- a gallon. I find that the Irish Independent misquoted that statement in an extraordinary manner: they gave me as having stated that industrial alcohol would be sold at a profit of 3/- a gallon. A statement that it could be sold at 3/- a gallon at a profit is entirely a different statement from that attributed to me, that it could sell at a profit of 3/- a gallon. In fact, the Irish Independent proceeded to make a fantastic calculation based upon that misinterpretation, to the effect that the company should have made a profit of £225,000 per year, which would represent very nearly a 100 per cent. return on the invested capital. If they had attempted to advert to the known facts, they would have realised how fantastic was that assumption and the calculation based on it. That, however, is the statement I made—that, on the basis of costs as existing before the war, the known price of fuel, the anticipated wages that would be paid to the workers employed and the cost of the potatoes and barley that would be purchased as materials, industrial alcohol would be manufactured and sold at 3/- a gallon and at that price would realise a profit. In fact, that happened. Industrial alcohol produced by the company before the war was sold at 3/- a gallon and realised a profit.
During the war years, as I said in introducing the Bill, the production was irregular. The House will remember that one of the primary purposes in establishing the industry was to operate a device by which a floor would be put to potato prices. It was felt that, if there were an organisation in the company, prepared to purchase potatoes at a previously announced price and take all those that might be offered to them, it would effectively prevent potatoes falling to an uneconomic level, as they had done for many years prior to the war. During the war, of course, entirely different circumstances operated and the factories were only brought into production from time to time as circumstances appeared to require. It was certainly not desired to attract to the factories, for the purpose of manufacturing into industrial alcohol, potatoes that might be required for other more necessary purposes. Consequently, the experience of the war years is no reliable guide to the normal costs of producing industrial alcohol. Prices were fixed in relation to the actual cost and so as to prevent the company making a loss.
Before the war, the company had utilised imported molasses to supplement its output from potatoes and latterly it has made arrangements to resume the importation of molasses to a limited extent. Any increase in production which results, or improved continuity of production over a longer season will, of course, effectively reduce the operating costs. This year the company has experimented in the production of alcohol from sugar beet —sugar beet which was grown mainly in Donegal and in other areas in which beet for the manufacture of sugar was not grown previously and where, in fact, it would not be economic to grow it for sugar. A limited acreage was contracted for and grown, but the results of that working are not yet fully known.
With regard to sulphate of ammonia, I want to make it clear that, whatever may be the results of manufacturing it in this country, the position is at present—and will be for the future— that, if we do not undertake its manufacture ourselves, we will be dependent for a supply on a monopoly concern operating in Great Britain.
There is only one source of supply open that I know of.
Not necessarily. Is the Minister aware that the sugar company has purchased 6,000 tons of Chilean nitrate?
I am talking of sulphate of ammonia.
It amounts to the same thing.
I say that the only source of supply, other than the natural nitrate of Chile——
You buy the nitrate and make sulphate of ammonia.
I am trying to explain it as best I can.
I am trying to educate the Minister.
The only source of supply of sulphate of ammonia open to us is one monopoly undertaking in Great Britain——
We are aware of that.
——which will supply us with whatever quantity they consider convenient and at whatever price they choose to charge. Deputies opposite may regard that as a more desirable arrangement than having it manufactured here. I could not agree with that point of view. It seems to me to be economic imbecility, a phrase which I heard while dozing here. I do not know in what connection it was used——
It was used in reference to yourself.
——but it suits the point of view which Deputies opposite have expressed. We examined the possibility of manufacturing sulphate of ammonia before the war. May I say, in passing, that nothing which the Minister for Agriculture has said in that connection differs from what I have said? We examined it very carefully because it appeared to be an industry suitable to this country. It is true that it requires a great deal of electricity, and that we could not hope to provide the large amount of electricity required at as low price as electricity can be generated and supplied in some other countries; but there were natural advantages, including the large deposits of gypsum in the County Monaghan, a necessary raw material, which would off-set the higher charges that would exist here for electricity, and which appeared to make it possible for us to produce sulphate of ammonia as economically as it was or is being produced in any other country. There was a protracted examination. At the time, the price of sulphate of ammonia here was an uneconomic price. The price had been cut for supplies to this country. Deputies can work out for themselves why that should have been so: why a concern in another country should sell sulphate of ammonia here at a lower price than it was selling it in the country where it was being produced. But that was so. It gave a temporary advantage to purchasers of sulphate of ammonia in this country.
There are various processes of production, and we had to consider which process was most suited to our circumstances, or most likely to be economic in operation here. There was a very strong desire on the part of the Minister for Agriculture that we should so endeavour to organise the production here as to involve no increase in price. It seemed from the examination we gave it that some increase in price, over and above that actually prevailing here at the time, would be necessary by any of the processes which we investigated. The price at which we could have manufactured it before the war was about £6 10s. 0d. a ton. The price at which it was being supplied at the time was about £6 a ton. The difference was regarded as not being inconsiderable before the war. The price to-day is £17 a ton. If we had succeeded in establishing the industry here before the war—the most substantial item in the cost of production is the capital charge arising from the provision and erection of the plant—we would have it now at a price which would probably be less than half the price at which we can buy from abroad.
And we cannot turn any light on between 4 and 6 p.m. for want of electricity.
Unfortunately, we did not succeed in doing so. Now, whether it would be practicable to establish the industry here in the near future is a matter for investigation. Clearly, we could not supply the quantity of electricity earlier than probably the year 1949.
But we could before the war.
The Minister did not interrupt the Deputy.
He said that he slept.
I think, however, it would certainly be that year before we could hope to have the plant established and in production. Whether it would be possible to get delivery in time of the substantial plant and equipment which would be necessary, is also a matter for examination. There are still some questions to be settled concerning the process to be used and certain other matters upon which competent technical opinion would be required, including the location of the plant. These are matters which we hope this company will examine, and examine with the intention of solving any difficulties that may exist, and so make possible the establishment of the industry here. If they do succeed in solving the remaining difficulties and convince the Government that the establishment of the industry is practicable then the procedure set out in the Bill, and outlined by me in introducing the Bill, will be followed. Notice will be given, and if, following on the publication of that notice and the consideration of any objections that may be forthcoming from persons interested in the industry here, it is decided to grant a licence, then we will have to come back to the Dáil with a new Bill to provide the capital required, and the Dáil will have an ample opportunity of discussing the matter and of deciding on the issue involved.
And the Minister will act on the recommendations of the company?
The Minister will act on his own decision, based on the recommendations made to him.
What machinery will be available to you as to whether the advice of the company is sound or otherwise?
The manure ring.
The advice of the company will be regarded as sound technically.
Will there be no further examination?
We could keep on examining this for 100 years and do nothing. We have here, at least, an organisation which has available to it, or which can make available to it, the best technical advice it can get. What more assistance would the Government require in making up its mind on the matter?
What agricultural expert will you have?
The Minister for Agriculture.
Any agricultural expert that the Deputy can think of is available. I should like to make it clear, however, that if it should be decided to go ahead with the industry—and I hope myself it will prove to be practicable because I think it is a particularly suitable industry for us to contemplate—then the merits of the proposition can be fully debated here. There is certainly no intention to put a tax on any land in order to start the industry.
The manufacture of chemicals required for the production of explosives, and utilised during the war for the production of matches, by the Department of Defence, has terminated. I expressed here on the Second Reading a considerable doubt as to whether any of those electro-chemical industries will prove practicable in this country, very largely because of the high cost of electricity as compared with certain other countries, and for certain other reasons. Deputy Dillon, of course, is completely misinformed in that regard. The attitude of the firm to which he referred was that they wished to take over this plant and process from the Department of Defence and continue the manufacture of those chemicals. They were produced at that plant by the Department of Defence at a high cost. That is admitted. The plant was a very make-shift affair, and the system of organising the factory was not conducive to economical working, but they did ensure a supply of an essential commodity for the period during the war when that commodity could not be obtained otherwise. Whether or not this company will engage in the production of these chemicals is a very open matter. I do not want to suggest that it will do so. The possibility of production on a more economic basis than has proved practicable up to the present will be investigated by it.
I do not think there is any other matter that I want to deal with. The purpose of this Bill is clearly limited to extending the powers of the company so that it can legally investigate these commercial possibilities which we have in mind and carry on these different forms of manufacture, if it should be licensed to do so, in accordance with the provisions set out in the Bill. We could have set up another organisation for the purpose. If we had done so, there would have been at least a saving of Dáil time, and a certain saving of wind on the part of a certain Deputy if we had established another organisation instead of using the existing organisation, the Industrial Alcohol Company, but it seemed to us to be a more efficient and a more economical arrangement to use the organisation of that company. That is why the Bill is on these lines.
Will the Minister be good enough to tell us if, arising out of any examination of this problem that has so far been made in his Department, he has received any estimate of the number of units of electricity that will be consumed in the manufacture of that quantity of sulphate of ammonia which he thinks it is likely might be undertaken by such an industry as he has in mind?
That is too academical a question to answer now.
Will the quantity of electricity be greater than that which was saved as a result of the restrictions put on during the war, and where are we to get the electricity except through the medium of coal?
There was no difficulty in installing electricity generating plant before the war.
And it was done as required.
Is it not a fact that coal is a more vital material in producing electricity?
Will the Minister take into account the results from research work by the British Sugar Corporation, which has definitely established to-day the advantages of Chilean nitrate of ammonia over synthetically produced ammonia?
What is the sense of talking like that when we cannot get it?
We can get 6,000 tons.
We cannot get a fraction of what we need.
You can get anything you like at present—and the Minister ought to know that.
I know it is not so.
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