I think it is rather surprising that the Taoiseach did not take the opportunity given to him by this motion to inform the Dáil and the country on many matters upon which information is required. I am sure he is aware that many statements made during the election campaign by representatives of the various Parties forming the Government Coalition have aroused considerable anxiety in the country. It is desirable that that anxiety should be relieved, if it can be relieved, as quickly as possible. We are told there have been no bargains but it is, I think, not a secret that many discussions have taken place between the representatives of the various Coalition Parties in the past few days and, following these discussions, vague general statements were issued indicating the matters upon which agreement was reached. I am quite sure that the Taoiseach or the Deputies whom he is proposing to nominate as members of the Government cannot hope to keep secret any of the other matters that were discussed in those negotiations, if they have a bearing upon public policy. It is clearly desirable that the fullest possible information should be given as quickly as possible upon the matters concerning which anxiety exists, anxiety which can be relieved, if at all, only by a clear statement of the Government's intentions.
Perhaps I may help the Taoiseach or Deputy Mulcahy, whoever is the most authoritative spokesman of the proposed new Government, by asking some questions. We are told, for example, that this Government is not a coalition Government, that it is an inter-Party Government. I want to know, is it intended to convey a distinction? So far as the public are aware, the members of the Labour Party, the Clann na Poblachta Party, the Clann na Talmhan Party and the National Labour Party have joined with Fine Gael to form a coalition Government under a Fine Gael Taoiseach. Whether that Government is intended to act, as Governments have acted here in the past, with collective responsibility, is a matter about which some doubt has been created by the emphasis upon the term "inter-Party" rather than "coalition". Is it intended that this Government will have collective responsibility, that the members of it will each have responsibility in public and to the Dáil for every act of every member of it? That is the obligation, as I understand it, of the Constitution and it certainly has been the practice here in the past. It may be that this term "inter-Party" is intended to convey something different from a coalition. If so, that fact should be stated. Up to the present the term "inter-Party" has been used, apparently, merely for the purpose of avoiding the use of the word "coalition".
I do not know why those who have joined with Fine Gael to form a Government should object to being described as being in coalition with Fine Gael but, if they do so object, will they tell us why? If it is intended to convey that there is a difference between a coalition Government and an inter-Party Government, then, what precisely is the difference? It has been suggested that the use of the term "inter-Party" means that collective responsibility will not apply, that the Government will not meet as a team of Ministers to consider the matters that will inevitably come up for decision and to arrive at decisions in the normal way after discussion; that, instead, the members nominated from the different Parties will be merely representatives of their Parties and will be unable to give any decision at Government meetings until they have consulted their Parties. If that is intended to be the meaning to be attached to the term "inter-Party," that should be made clear because it suggests a departure of a major kind from our normal constitutional practice and the normal method of good government.
It may be that the term "inter-Party" is merely used as a means of deceiving people as to what exactly is taking place. I think that cannot be so because it has been given such prominence in the publicity statements issued to the Press and in the course of the discussion here this afternoon that it seems that the members of the proposed Government and the Deputies who support them attach some importance to it. What is that importance? Are the persons proposed as members of the Government becoming members of a Cabinet which will have collective responsibility? Will they be able to act upon their own judgment and after consultation with their Cabinet colleagues or will they be required by the arrangements that were arrived at in the secret discussions to report back to their Parties and get the approval of their Parties before intimating a decision to Cabinet meetings? That is one question which I think should be answered.
I do not know if Deputies opposite have adverted to the fact that considerable significance has been attached to the emphasis which they have placed upon the term "inter-Party". If they are not aware of it, then I am making them aware of it and I am asking them to explain precisely the manner in which it is proposed that this Government, when elected by the Dáil, will act.
There are a number of other matters upon which I think it is very desirable that a speedy declaration of the policy of the Government should be made. I will put the question of industrial development first because it is the activity with which I was personally most closely associated. This is, so far as we know up to the present, a Fine Gael Government with certain members of it drawn from other Parties in coalition with Fine Gael. The Fine Gael industrial policy in the past has left this country a legacy of ruined mills and derelict factories. There is perhaps a justifiable anxiety that history is going to repeat itself. Those who took the responsibility of putting a Fine Gael Government again into office, and a Fine Gael Deputy again into the position of Minister for Industry and Commerce, should assure us that they have got some undertakings in these secret negotiations that history is not going to repeat itself, in that regard, that the policy which Fine Gael applied when they were in office before is not going to be applied again and that we shall not have another record industrial decline which was not remedied until Fine Gael was removed from office in 1932.
This Government has taken over a country which has a strong and growing industrial organisation. It is, I think, desirable to put on record that we almost alone—I think there is one other country besides Ireland—have already achieved an expansion in the volume of industrial production greater than pre-war. There are many, very many thousands of workers in industrial employment who got that employment by reason of the industrial policy pursued by the Fianna Fáil Government, who want some assurance, and who should get some assurance, that the policy which gave them their jobs, and which brought into existence the industries in which they are employed, is going to be maintained. I know that some of them think that the mere fact that many of these new industries were established under Fianna Fáil auspices and were regarded as proof of the success of the Fianna Fáil policy, may engender hostility towards them in the minds of the Fine Gael members of the proposed new Government. I think that if that policy is not going to be followed, if there is to be no change in the general industrial position, it is desirable that a clear statement to that effect should be made soon. I should have thought that the Leader of the Government would have realised the necessity for such a statement and would have taken advantage of this particular motion to have made it to the Dáil.
There are at the present time a very large number of proposals for the establishment here of new industries on the files of the Department of Industry and Commerce. There are a number of new factories building at the present time and many new factories scheduled to begin this year. Because of doubt as to the policy of the Government that might result from the election, many of these plans are going slow. Naturally enough those who have taken the responsibility of promoting and financing them, have been disposed to mark time until the elections were over, until this meeting of the Dáil had taken place and the personnel and the policy of the Government were known. They will continue to go slow and mark time with their plans unless they are given through the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Taoiseach, or some authoritative spokesman of the Government a clear statement of policy that will encourage them to go ahead. They will require an assurance on the question of protection. It is, I admit, true that many industries do not require protection now. Probably in the circumstances that will exist for some years ahead, protection of the kind given before the war will not be necessary in many cases but no person will undertake to finance a substantial longterm industrial project, unless he has some assurance that, if international conditions change, and if the economic circumstances that existed before the war reappear, he will get the assistance of protection from the Government. It is on that matter that doubt exists and I am sure every member of the proposed Government and every Deputy in the benches opposite realises there is reason for these doubts having regard to the inglorious record of Fine Gael in the industrial field when they were previously in office.
The same remarks apply to agriculture. I was not merely Minister for Industry and Commerce but also Minister for Supplies during the war, and since the war came to an end, I have carried on the functions which were formerly those of the Minister for Supplies. One essential commodity concerning which I have had most anxiety during recent months was wheat. Everybody in this House knows that we had a very bad wheat harvest last year. The total yield of the wheat crop delivered to the flour mills was only half the yield of the previous year. The circumstances which reduced our yield affected the harvest in all countries so that we had very considerable difficulty in arranging for the importation of wheat in sufficient quantities to maintain the present bread ration. It is only in the present week that arrangements were concluded, or were brought almost to a conclusion, that satisfied me that the wheat ration was safe until the end of the cereal year. I use the word "cereal year," in the international sense, that is until the end of June. It will probably be safe after the end of June, assuming that the international wheat agreement which is now being negotiated, is successfully concluded and assuming that we ourselves grow the maximum acreage of wheat possible.
Having regard to the anti-wheat policy of Fine Gael and to the prejudiced opposition to wheat growing of the proposed Minister for Agriculture, I think the House should get some assurance that the necessary inducements to ensure the cultivation of the maximum acreage of wheat this year will be given. Unless we grow the maximum acreage of wheat—and that is a matter that has to be determined in the next few weeks—there is no possibility of abolishing the bread ration after next harvest. It might even be difficult to maintain the existing ration although the provisions of the international wheat agreement would appear not to be unfavourable to us from that point of view.
It appears obvious from present facts that we cannot hope to abolish bread rationing unless we ourselves produce in this country substantially more wheat than we produced last year. Our experience has been that it cannot be ensured without, not merely considerable price inducements but also some element of compulsion. We were always anxious to get rid of the element of compulsion but up to the present we were unable to effect production here of the quantity of wheat necessary to satisfy our own requirements, without it. If it can be secured without compulsion, well and good, but clearly there is a responsibility on the new Government to take all steps necessary to ensure that we shall get the maximum acreage of wheat grown, because on it depends the possibility of getting rid of bread rationing after the next harvest.
The same applies as regards sugar. Again we have to take into account the fact that the proposed new Minister for Agriculture was a strong opponent of the policy of growing sugar beet for manufacture into sugar in this country. I do not know if any assurances have been got from him by his proposed colleagues in the new Government that he will change his outlook. It is true that there is available in stock enough sugar to maintain the ration until the next sugar beet harvest. There is enough, and a little over, because it was necessary always to carry a certain working stock against possibilities of delay in the manufacture of sugar such as occurred in previous years. It is possible to buy sugar.
It is true that the world sugar situation has improved and it is now possible to buy sugar for dollars at a price which is comparable to our own or to buy it for sterling at a price higher than our own. It is, I think, desirable that the supply of sugar should be increased so that the ration can be either increased or rationing abolished altogether. Measures to that end can be taken quickly if the Government is prepared to make available the foreign exchange required in order to purchase sugar abroad. But there is no possibility of getting enough sugar to fill all our own requirements unless we produce the bulk of it ourselves; and that is dependent upon the policy the Government is going to follow in relation to this matter of growing sugar beet.
In the case of butter it will be in the memory of some Deputies here that when Fianna Fáil came into office our dairying industry was on the point of extinction and it took very substantial Government subsidies and other measures of a rather drastic kind to revive the dairying industry in the years before the war. During the war butter production declined for causes which are, I think, well known to responsible Deputies. I am glad to be able to report that in the month of January, 1948, the total production of butter was more than double the production in the month of January, 1947. If that improvement in production can be maintained it should be possible at an early date to increase the present six-ounce ration. Deputies may scoff at the present butter ration but let them not forget that it is the largest in Europe. So far as most of our rations are concerned they are larger than in any other country in Europe. If the new Government can maintain as good a record as that during whatever period they are in office they will have something to boast about when they relinquish it.
What I have said about the anxiety in the minds of the public arising out of the past records of some members of the proposed new Government and the recent statements made by some new members applies particularly in the realm of finance. We have had a number of crazy and hazy ideas voiced on public platforms by people who pose as experts in public finance. There is no sphere in which reaction can be quicker than in the sphere of finance where hazy and crazy financial ideas are concerned. Very real damage can be done to this country in the immediate future if the idea gets abroad that this new Government is committed through any secret understanding to apply any of the ideas advocated by some of the spokesmen of the Coalition Parties during the election campaign. Clearly it is desirable that anxiety on that score should be removed—if it can be removed—by a clear and unequivocal statement from the proposed new Government as soon as possible.
The fact that Deputy Mulcahy is to be Minister for Education is at least some assurance that a policy hostile to the revival of Irish in the schools, as has been expressed by some of his new colleagues, is not likely to be the policy of the Government of which he is now a member. I hope, however, that he will give a clear indication as to that fact at the earliest possible moment because there are, as he knows, in his own Party members who are——