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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Mar 1949

Vol. 114 No. 10

Committee on Finance. - Vote on Account, 1949-50 (Resumed).

The Dáil, according to order, went into Committee on Finance and resumed consideration of the Vote on Account for the year ending 31st March, 1950.

Yesterday, when we were discussing the Vote on Account, Deputy Aiken seemed to be in some fear that the Deputies facing him on these benches might be as mute as mice. I think that was the phrase he used. I hope that I, at any rate, will do something to relieve Deputy Aiken of his fears. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was not able to be present for the entire of the Deputy's speech yesterday, but I went to the Fianna Fáil bible this morning, the source of all inspiration—the Irish Press—and I take it that Deputy Aiken and those sitting beside him will accept any quotations which I may make from the Deputy's speech as they appear in that paper. First of all, I should like to call the attention of Deputies to what I believe was a particularly typical type of misrepresentation indulged in yesterday by Deputy Aiken in an effort to deceive Deputies and in an effort to use the columns of the Irish Press to deceive the people outside this House. According to the Irish Press, Deputy Aiken, in the commencement of his speech, complained that the Minister for Finance had made no apology for the size of the Book of Estimates presented to the House. We had that extraordinary statement coming from the last Minister for Finance, who was responsible for the last Book of Estimates which we discussed. He is a man who should have known the size of that bill and the reception which it received from the people. We find Deputy Aiken stating, according to the Irish Press—Deputies, of course, will understand that I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement, but I take it that the Deputies opposite will be more inclined to accept it than most people throughout the country: “On the cover of the Book of Estimates appeared the figure of £65,406,570.” So far Deputy Aiken was accurate. It should seem an enormous figure to the Minister and other Fine Gael Deputies, who promised at the election that they would reduce expenditure by £10,000,000.

We now come to the interesting part. In 1946-47, the last year of the Fianna Fáil Government, the Book of Estimates had £52,000,000 on the cover. The Supplementary Budget to meet the crisis in the autumn of 1947 brought the expenditure to £58,918,000. The Government, therefore, should be looking for £42,000,000. Deputy Aiken very conveniently forgot about the Book of Estimates which was before us this time last year. We find on the cover of that Book of Estimates a figure of over £70,000,000. It is completely dishonest to go back to the Supplementary Budget or the Estimates for the year 1946-47. If Deputy Aiken wants any comparison to be made, it should be made between the Estimates we are now discussing and the Estimates we discussed this time last year. No matter how Deputy Aiken, in the full freedom of his days in opposition, may desire to shed responsibility for the Book of Estimates we discussed last year, nevertheless those Estimates were the responsibility of the Fianna Fáil Government and they were compiled through the Department of Finance, of which Deputy Aiken was Minister. There is a difference in the two Books of Estimates to the extent of something like £5,000,000.

I think it is only fair, in discussing a matter such as this, that ordinary honesty should be observed by Deputies on all sides and they should avoid statements merely for the sake of getting in cheap debating points or, worse still, for the sake of giving a wrong impression at the start of the debate—getting that false impression into the House and through the columns of the newspapers. Deputy Aiken, by reason of the fact that he was a Minister for 16 years, must be assumed by our people to have a certain sense of responsibility and to have achieved a certain status, and it is to be regretted that he should deliberately in quoting figures that he wants us to accept as accurate, leave out the only valid basis for a comparison between these Estimates and the Estimates of last year.

Yesterday, in addition to Deputy Aiken, we had speeches from Deputy Derrig and Deputy Moylan. I think I am correct in saying that the speeches made by the three Deputies have made the field of this discussion fairly wide, and it is only reasonable that those of us who so desire should have an opportunity of replying on the general lines of the arguments used by Deputies Aiken, Derrig and Moylan. I am convinced that Deputy Aiken was guilty of a deliberate piece of suppression. He may have done it purely in a spirit of mischief, in a mischievous way, in the knowledge that Deputies on this side of the House would not be misled by him. In the course of his speech he dealt with a variety of subjects, as also did Deputy Derrig. Among other things he dealt with emigration and Marshall Aid, and he finished up by proclaiming his conviction that the people of this country would have to face a general election this year.

With regard to emigration, it is perfectly fair to say that no Deputy on this side of the House is satisfied with the present position. We do not believe that the position has worsened any from the days when Fianna Fáil were in office. The situation was bad enough then. If a charge of being as mute as mice could be levelled against any body of men, it can be levelled against Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party because of their attitude for 16 years in relation to emigration. It is surprising how voluble Deputies opposite have become, both in regard to emigration and Partition, in the 12 months during which they have been in opposition. For 16 years, when they occupied these benches, we heard very little from them on either of these subjects, and it is only reasonable that this Government should expect some kind of consideration from Deputies opposite who failed so badly to do anything with regard to emigration.

The Government here made it quite clear from the moment they took office that they would not oppose any kind of constructive criticism; that they would not adopt an attitude of intolerance either towards Deputies on this side of the House or Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches. The Government have lived up to the promise they made at the beginning. They have not endeavoured to clamp down on criticism, provided it was constructive. The criticism levelled against the Government with regard to emigration by the Deputies opposite is not constructive, and it is not intended to be. I do not think the campaign initiated and carried on in their Party newspaper, has been, or was intended to be, constructive.

I think it is only fair to say to Deputies opposite that I believe the type of campaign that they have indulged in has done them far more harm than it has done the Government. Not only were Fianna Fáil Deputies as mute as mice for 16 years on this question, but some of their followers discovered that they were being as mute as mice about it, and decided that perhaps they might be able to put a little bit of a prod into their Deputies in relation to emigration.

I know that some, at any rate, of those who were prominently indentified with Fianna Fáil dissociated themselves from the Party because of its failure to do anything. I have quoted before in this House the only cure that was ever propounded by Fianna Fáil for emigration. I shall quote it again now. In 16 years of office the only suggestion put forward by Fianna Fáil in order to cure emigration was that the young people of this country should be conscripted. That was their cure for emigration. They did not even pursue that to any great extent, but at the end of 16 years we now have them on the Opposition Benches suddenly becoming very interested in this problem. In addition to that, they have suddenly become very interested in the problem of Partition. Apparently Deputy MacEntee is so perturbed about this problem of Partition that he now thinks it is possible this Government may be able to do something about it and, in the traditional manner of Fianna Fáil——

Would the Deputy state if the question of Partition has been raised so far in this debate? I have not heard it.

I do not think it has been raised before and I shall not pursue it. It was raised, perhaps, to the extent that Deputy Aiken seemed to feel somewhat perturbed because of the fact that Deputies on the Government Benches were, as he alleged, mute as mice on some of these topics and I thought it would be as well to——

Extend the scope of the debate?

——to satisfy Deputy Aiken to the full. I would like to make an appeal to the Opposition Deputies to examine their own consciences with regard to their conduct both inside and outside the House during the past 12 months. I would appeal to them to ask themselves have they done anything to assist a new Government taking office just over a year ago? Or have they, on the other hand, endeavoured to place every obstacle they could in the way of that Government? If they are honest with themselves they must admit that the general campaign of opposition carried on against this Government over the last 12 months was not such as was in any way constructive. As Deputy Aiken pointed out, the Government, when it took over office 12 months ago, stated as one of its aims that it was going to effect economies and to cut out waste and extravagance. I believe that the Government has done that. I believe that it has done it in a sensible and sound way and that it has done it in the teeth of opposition which might well have discouraged any Government. Deputy Derrig changed ground yesterday and I notice that his lead has been followed in his Party newspaper to-day. It has discovered after 12 months of bitter complaint about economy that the idea of economy was a fake and that there were no economies at all. This half-identified individual known as "Dáil reporter" starts off his article to-day with the heading: "Economy drive is fake." I do not think it has been a fake. I think that this Government has effected economies which were both sound and sensible. We are a small country and we cannot have any grandiose ideas about ourselves. This Government has cut out that vast expenditure incurred by Fianna Fáil on the ground that it was useful for prestige purposes. They have saved on these erroneous prestige ideas, and by those savings they have been able to increase, in the course of their 12 months in office, old age pensions, widows' and orphans' pensions and blind pensions, and they have been able to give benefits by way of increased wages to those workers who were most in need of them. Every time the Government, during the past year, made any effort to economise or to add to the finances available to the Minister to carry out the schemes inaugurated by the Government we were met with the most ruthless opposition from the Deputies across the House.

Some time ago the Minister for Agriculture announced his white flour scheme. Any reasonable man who considers the white flour scheme on the basis of sound finance and not on the basis of petty Party politics must I think agree that that was a perfectly logical and sensible step for the Minister to take. That scheme was calculated to ensure that the poor who were unable to afford to pay more for their bread would continue to get their bread at the old prices. The Minister in that scheme carried out the policy enunciated by him when he first took office that he was not going to compel or dragoon the people into doing this, that or the other. Consequently he left it entirely to the discretion of the bakers as to whether or not that scheme would be operated by them. It was clear that if that scheme were a success this Government would be relieved to some extent from the financial point of view. It was clear that this Government would get more money through the free will of those people who purchased white flour or who baked white bread and not through direct taxation or through any unpopular legislative measure. That was quite obvious to the Deputies opposite. Straightway, lest this Government should have more money to spend on social services and more money to give to those who needed it most, we find every single Opposition Deputy strutting up and down the country condemning the white flour scheme and pointing it out as an effort on the part of this Government to differentiate between the bread for the rich and the bread for the poor.

It was Government-sponsored black marketing. That is what it was.

We had ignorant Deputies opposite and more ignorant supporters of them complaining that it was Government-sponsored black marketing in flour.

None of our supporters is ignorant.

I wonder has the Deputy ever stood in a bread line and looked at the people who are purchasing white flour. It is the poor who are buying it. You seem anxious about it, do you not?

I can well picture Deputy Burke behind the closed doors of some Fianna Fáil cumann meeting in Dublin painting a glowing canvas of himself to an openmouthed audience and saying: "What a great fellow I am; sure, I said in the Dáil: ‘Did you ever see the bread queues?'" That is the kind of mentality that was shown when this scheme was first announced. It is true —and Deputy Traynor knows this—that the more white flour there is purchased the more certain it is that the poor man and the working man will get their bread at the old rates. I do not think that can be questioned by anyone.

No, but it will be answered.

We will answer you later on.

I am sure you will and I can picture the answer. We shall probably have another tragic picture of a widow festooned with oats.

Ask your colleague, Deputy Rooney, about it.

I shall ask another question of Deputy Burke if he cannot control himself.

I was going to deal with the last remark he made, but I had better not provoke him. We had that particular sample of opposition. We had much more serious opposition from more responsible people in the Fianna Fáil Party than either Deputy Burke or Deputy Traynor in relation to Marshall Aid.

You had a man who had, rightly or wrongly, built up for himself a reputation in this country and abroad as a good Minister, as a realist, as a man who was in fact, by repute, the mainstay of the Fianna Fáil Government, as a man that this country could not do without as a Minister of State—you had him going down to Fermoy on the 6th of this month and making what can only be characterised as a deliberate effort to sabotage our chances of securing Marshall Aid. That was another example of the type of opposition with which this Government was faced in anything which they tried to do. You had the same Deputy—I say this in order to show that it was not merely a case of a man speaking heatedly on the spur of the moment—making a somewhat similar speech in Bray on the 19th September, 1948, prior to the repeal of the External Relations Act. After it had been announced that repeal was coming, when everyone knew that it was necessary that this Government should enter into discussions with the British Government to make such adjustments as might be found necessary, you had the same Deputy making a speech in Bray, warning the British Government that they had better not have anything to do with the inter-Party Government in Ireland as they had no right to speak for the people, and stating that the only Party which had a right to speak for the people were the Fianna Fáil Deputies. I give this quotation also from the Irish Press lest it should be questioned—the Irish Press of the 20th September last:—

"There were matters on which an understanding with Britain was desirable and even necessary. If it was to be achieved it would have to be attempted by a Government which represented the Irish people and which had a clear mandate."

The implication there was quite obvious for everyone to read. On the eve of discussions between this Government and the British Government we had the Deputy-Leader of the Party opposite, the man who occupied the position of Tánaiste in the last Government, a man who, again, was 16 years a Minister and who had built up a certain reputation for himself, standing up in Bray and telling the British Government not to listen to the inter-Party Government, that they did not represent the Irish people. I think that conduct was scandalous, the more so because it was not merely the conduct of a man who says something heatedly on the spur of the moment because he repeated the same statement, or used words to the same effect a month later in Rathfarnham. The latest example of that particular type of sabotage occurred, as I have said, on the 6th of this month. In addition to that we had the activity which has been carried on by Deputy Aiken and to which I do not intend to give more publicity.

The real trouble at the back of it is that Deputies opposite cannot realise that they are now out of office and that this country is going on very well without them, that there is a new Taoiseach and that there are new Ministers.

It is well the country knows it.

If the people know it they know it but I want to make the point that Deputies opposite have done their best to see that the people do not know it and we still find the ex-Taoiseach being held up by Fianna Fáil supporters and Deputies as "the Leader"—"the Chief". We find that even as far away as Australia he allows himself to be boosted as the leader of the Irish race — accompanied, of course, by Deputy Frank Aiken. That type of mentality is one of the difficulties which this Government has had to face. They have also, as was disclosed yesterday, had to face difficulties of another type. Perhaps it would not be fair to refer to it at this stage, but I think I can say, at any rate, that I sincerely hope that we do not have any more examples of documents destroyed in Government Departments.

I dealt yesterday with the fuel position created by Deputies opposite and I was going to deal with the purchase of wheat made by Deputy Lemass two days before the change over of Government took place. As I said yesterday, I do not think that Deputies even yet appreciate the position created by that particular purchase. It was done at a time when everyone knew that the Government was going to be changed and when everyone knew that Deputy Lemass was no longer going to reign over the Department of Industry and Commerce. It was done despite the advice of everyone from whom Deputy Lemass sought advice and was done two days before the change of Government. Something in the neighbourhood of 750,000 tons of Argentine wheat were purchased at a price of £52 a ton, which meant that the taxpayers of this country had to bear in subsidies something in the region of £2,500,000, a sum which had to be borne, I think, in the year under discussion, 1948. I wonder if everyone will be prepared to take a charitable view of that transaction, to agree that a person who knew he was going out of office and knew that that purchase was going to cost that amount of money, who knew that the bill had to be footed by the Government which was coming into office two days later, a Government which was going to be embarrassed by that purchase made in the face and in the teeth of the opposition of everyone who advised him—I wonder will we be all charitable enough to assume that that was the action of a reasonable Minister for Industry and Commerce? So far as I am concerned, I propose leaving it at that, but I think it is as well that Deputies opposite should realise that that was the type of thing with which this Government found itself faced when it came into office 12 months ago.

I shall finish by reminding Deputy Aiken of one other matter. A certain amount of noise has been made by reason of the advice which Deputy McGilligan, when he first became Minister for Finance, gave to the people of this country to use discretion in purchases which they proposed making. If they did that, it was one way of reducing prices and helping to reduce the cost of living. When that advice was given we found Deputy Lemass and, I think, Deputy Derrig protesting that it was advice which should not have been given. Yesterday Deputy Derrig, in an oblique way, again criticised the advice given by the Minister for Finance. I want to remind those Deputies and all the Deputies opposite that the advice given by the Minister for Finance on that occasion was exactly similar to advice which was given by Deputy Aiken when he was Minister for Finance. I would ask Deputies opposite, if Deputy Aiken was right, is the present Minister not right? If the present Minister is not right, then was not Deputy Aiken wrong? They can have their choice. According to the Parliamentary Debates, Volume 104, column 812, Deputy Alderman Byrne put a question to the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Aiken, regarding the purchasing power of the £ and he put this supplementary question to him:—

"Can the Minister say what is responsible for the fact that our £1 note is able to purchase only 11/-worth of goods in this country and has he any remedy for such a situation?"

The advice given on that occasion, which was about two years ago, by Deputy Aiken was this:—

"I have stated the causes. If there were no purchases on the market to-morrow the price of goods would fall. The people, in this matter, have the remedy largely in their own hands. If they would refrain from purchasing or over-buying when goods are in short supply, the price of goods would fall. If a person who happens to have £100 or £1 in his pocket could keep it over the next 12 months it would probably appreciate greatly in value."

How is it that that advice becomes entirely wrong when it comes out of the mouth of the present Minister for Finance, but that it is the acme of financial wisdom when it comes from the mouth of Deputy Aiken? I again ask the Deputies opposite to examine their own consciences. Is their criticism the type which will assist the Government to assist the people? Is it constructive criticism or is it perpetually going to be the type of criticism which is discovering gunpowder plots in Dundalk to such effect that Deputy Aiken was known throughout the County of Donegal during the recent by-election as Titus Oates?

The last Deputy ended on a very unpleasant note. I hope I shall not be tempted to give that sort of nonsense and drivel about Titus Oates. I am afraid it would be very difficult for anybody to live up to the Deputy's expectations, because it appears that whatever we may say about the present Government, unless we say they are a God-sent Government, we are indulging in destructive criticism. I suppose we have to take a chance on that. We have to say a few things, at any rate, about this Government and let us hope that they are not altogether destructive.

What reason has the Deputy for saying that they made all their savings on what are known as prestige notions? Where was there a saving on the Estimates of 1948-49 on a prestige notion? What were the big savings made by that Government when they came into office? The biggest savings were made by the Tánaiste on the Widows' and Orphans' Fund and by raising the contributions of the workers. Does Deputy O'Higgins think that is a prestige notion for us to build up the Widows' and Orphans' Fund and then for the Minister for Finance to take the prestige away by taking money out of the Widows' and Orphans' Fund?

They are getting better benefits than you gave them.

I am talking about the prestige notion where the big savings were made by the Minister for Finance. Another saving he made was on this question of wheat about which the Deputy spoke. The Deputy would give an innocent person the impression that Deputies on this side of the House were indulging in unfair criticism. Could any advocate, however ingeniously he thought out his speech, misrepresent the position of the import of wheat by Deputy Lemass as well as that Deputy did? It was brought in two days before the Government went out. Sometimes there is a bit of truth in what a person says when he speaks 1 per cent. of the truth, but that does not give a good impression of the whole thing. Deputy O'Higgins may be fairly good at that type of misrepresentation.

What did I say that was wrong?

The Deputy said it was brought in two days before the election. He tried to give the impression that the Government met and said, "Let us put difficulties in the way of the new Government." In fact, he said that we succeeded in putting difficulties in the Government's way. This question of wheat was being considered for a long time. The figures were there and if the Deputy goes back over the wheat transactions of the past 12 months he will find we were right in our estimate of the position at that time. The position was that unless we got this wheat the bread ration would have to be decreased. If the Deputy were as assiduous in looking up these figures as he is in searching the Irish Press for statements made by Deputy Lemass and so forth he would know that the amount of wheat which came in all through the year 1948 was used practically as it came in. If this particular wheat had not come from the Argentine the bread ration would have had to be reduced. There was no doubt about that. The decision to be made by the Fianna Fáil Government was whether we should buy this dear wheat or reduce the bread ration.

Would you not wait for 48 hours for the new Government?

The Deputies did not know what price was being paid to from another Government.

The Tánaiste is a dabhand at misrepresentation. I want to put this point and I do not care, of course, whether the Deputies agree or not because they were never very constructive in their criticism either. The consideration of the question before us was going on for weeks and not for two days before the new Government came in. The final decision had to be come to that day or the wheat was not available and the Tánaiste knows that, too. The discussion was going on in the Government for some weeks as to whether we should take this expensive wheat or reduce the bread ration and we in the Government at that time voted in favour of taking this wheat. The word had to be given before this Government came in. We did not know, as my colleague beside me says, that Deputy Norton, Deputy McGilligan and Deputy Mulcahy were going to pay the price to the National Labour Party at that time. We did not know what Government was coming in but we took the chance. The wheat came in and, if it had not, bread supplies could not have been maintained.

That is not true.

It is true and the Tánaiste knows it is. It is true, and, what is more, if the Minister examines the figures—they were given in the Dáil not so very long ago—for the imports of wheat all through 1948 and the stocks there at certain times, he will know that it was necessary to have that wheat or the bread ration would have been reduced. The Deputy who spoke gave the impression that the former Government met to decide how they were going to put the new Government in the greatest difficulty, and that they decided on bringing in wheat from the Argentine. Another thing he said was that it put £2,500,000 on bread subsidies which were raised in the last financial year. That is not true either, because one of the big savings made by the Minister for Finance last year in the Book of Estimates prepared by the Fianna Fáil Government before they left was the spreading of wheat subsidies over five years on a national basis. In that way he saved something like £2,000,000 on the Estimates prepared by the Fianna Fáil Government. That is another prestige idea which the Minister for Finance had killed.

Another myth of the Party opposite which was mentioned by the Deputy was that the Minister for Agriculture had stopped compelling people or dragooning the farmer. In what way? I asked that question before and I should like any Deputy opposite to answer it. Perhaps the Minister, who is a man of great resource in cases like this, will be able to give me some indication as to the way in which the Minister has brought about any difference, in the matter of compelling the farmer to do this or that, compared with the position before he came in. There is one difference, I admit—compulsory tillage. That was brought in by the Fianna Fáil Government—with the approval, so far as I know, of the Labour Party in the Dáil at the time and other Parties—as an emergency measure. It has been dropped now. It is another matter whether we agree with it or not, whether we agree that the emergency is really over, but it has been dropped and it is the only difference which the Minister has brought about. But, in spite of that, Deputies continue to say that the Minister has ceased compelling the farmers. Because the Minister says that himself, they keep on repeating it, but I do not know where or how that is taking place. It is only in the mind of the Minister that it is taking place, and the other Ministers appear to take up the catch-cry from him. That is the claim made by these Deputies.

I hope that if I try to elicit from the Government why they have not done certain things which they promised to do, I shall not be accused by the Minister or by Deputies opposite of indulging in destructive criticism. If we expected the Government, by reason of their pronouncements and so on, to do certain things and if they have not done them, it is fair to ask why they have not done them and try to get an explanation of the postponement. If the Parties opposite succeeded in convincing a certain proportion of the electorate that they intended to do certain things which Fianna Fáil were not doing, and then, when they came into office, failed to do them, surely it is not too much to ask why they have been postponed.

I should like to ask the Minister about the comprehensive social welfare scheme. When I left that Department, I know that the date was there. It took many months to prepare but it was then possible for the officials in the Department to say what would be the cost of, for instance, a sickness scheme at 20/-, 25/- or 30/- per week or whatever amount the Minister might decide on and the same would apply to unemployment, to old age pensions at 65 or 70 years or whatever age the Minister might select, on the basis of 20/-, 25/- or 30/-. If the Minister had gone to them at that stage and said: "I want to see if we can afford to produce a scheme at such and such a level", the officials could have told him in a few days what it would cost. They could also have told the Minister what a decision to levy a 1d., a 1/- or 2/- a week from the workers would come to and in that way the Minister would be in a position to produce a scheme, if he had a scheme in mind, very quickly.

I had undertaken to the Dáil during 1947 to produce a White Paper embodying the Fianna Fáil plan of social welfare, roughly within 12 months of the time I took over in that Department. When the election came along there was a hiatus of a couple of months in the Minister's work which naturally would have postponed it, but I do not think it would have been impossible to produce the plan by May, 1948. The Minister, when he took over that Department, had his plan ready. His Party had published a plan three or four years previously. They had told the Irish people the benefits they had in mind for the sick, the unemployed, the old people the blind, the widows, and all the classes entitled to benefits under these various schemes. If the Minister had put that scheme to the Department when he went in, I am quite sure the officials would have told him within two or three days what his scheme would cost. In fact, I think they had already given an estimate of what that scheme would cost before he went in at all, because, when preparing the data I refer to, they had given an estimate of what the Beveridge Plan would cost in this country, what the Labour Plan would cost and, so far as details were given, what the Dr. Dignan Plan would cost, so that if the Minister had asked for the figures he would have got them in a few days. That is why I find it rather difficult to know why the thing has been postponed from time to time.

It has not been postponed.

The Minister, on 15th April, 1948, at column 781 of the Official Reports, said that he would have a White Paper before the Dáil, possibly before the summer. Later, at column 1636, on 28th July, he said that in the course of a few months a White Paper would be issued in connection with the full scheme. On 13th March, a week ago, in Athy, he said that the officers of his Department were working on the production of a scheme which would crystallise in the form of a White Paper. Why should the Minister think last April that he could do the thing in a couple of months and say again in July that he could do it in a couple of months, but now, when March comes, and 12 months have gone, go to Athy to a meeting of his Labour supporters and tell them that the officers of his Department are still working on it and, again, that it will be ready in a few months, crystallised in a White Paper?

It will disappoint you when you see it.

I would not be surprised if it did disappoint me, but not in the way the Minister means.

Sixteen idle years.

When we got to the end of the 16 years we had made progress. In fact, if the Minister wants to know, we had raised social services by many millions, and I am quite sure that if he is there for 16 years he will not do as much, though he talks a lot. The Labour scheme was all ready. It was put up to the Government of the time —the Fianna Fáil Government—as a workable scheme which was not going to cost very much. The Beveridge Plan had been published in England at the time and many people thought that the Beveridge Plan was very generous and far better in its benefits than anything known in England before that, but Irish Labour was not going to be outdone by Beveridge. They brought in a scheme which was better than Beveridge's. It gave bigger benefits and in every way it was going to give more to the Irish people than Beveridge had recommended for the British people. They had to talk about the cost, naturally. In the Department of Social Welfare it was estimated that the Beveridge scheme would cost about £44,000,000 on this country, whether it was paid by the workers, employers and the State combined or whatever way it might be paid. It would cost £44,000,000 in present conditions, but as the Labour Party were going to do better than that, their scheme would, therefore, cost about £50,000,000 and that was nothing to them. When they came to finance it they said there would be full employment with the Labour Party in power. We see the full employment now! The people would be so healthy that they would hardly ever go sick and, anyway, it would not cost very much because of the good conditions there would be.

They were going to have a stamp amounting to about 5/-, but that would not bring in a lot. It was calculated that it would bring in about £7,000,000 out of the £50,000,000 and the rest was going to be financed through full employment and good health down to a margin of £2,000,000. That was all they had to raise and they proposed to raise it by putting increased income-tax on the very wealthy. The very wealthy were the only people who would be hit by this thing. That was the scheme which the Labour Party had ready and which they presented to the Government for implementation back in 1945 or 1946. But when the leader of the Labour Party comes in and takes charge of the Department where the scheme could be implemented he goes down to Athy and every few months he always says that it will be ready in another two months. That is the way the thing is going and it is evident that he is afraid to face it. He cannot face the Government with the scheme the Labour Party put up because they would throw him out, and he cannot face the country with a much lesser scheme because the people would ask where was the scheme that was produced in 1945 or 1946. We can understand the Minister's dilemma and we will have to put up with two months' delay until we have an election.

Would the figures cover the cost of administration?

They would. At least, they would under Fianna Fáil; I do not know what it would be now.

They were going to finance the scheme by increasing the stamp to 5/-from what it is at the moment and all they would need to raise from taxation —£2,000,000 according to the estimate —would be taken off the very wealthy. That is a fairly popular sort of statement to make, that nothing would be taken off anybody but the very wealthy; but what happened during the past 12 months? The Minister came in here with a Bill to increase old age pensions to 17/6—not 25/- or 30/—at age 70—not 65, which was in the Labour programme—and with a means test which, of course, in the Labour programme was going to be abolished. With all these things he comes along and gives this very small increase, compared with what was promised, to old age pensioners. How did they finance it? Did they take it off the very wealthy? No, they took £500,000 off the Widows' and Orphans' Fund. When they were out in the open and able to make whatever statements they liked to the Government as to how they would finance their schemes, they were going to take everything off the very wealthy, but when the Minister goes into the Coalition Government he leaves the wealthy alone and takes the money off the widows. That is the fulfilment of the Labour Party's programme for social welfare. Now the Minister says, and said to-day, that the scheme will be ready in another two months' time. We are to listen to stories of postponement from one period to another for I do not know how long. I will be very interested to see if the Minister can bring in the Labour Party scheme that was published three or four years ago giving the benefits and costing the taxpayers and contributors the same as was set out in that scheme at that time. It appears to me to be a rather impossible thing to do.

Leaving the Minister to tell us when this comprehensive scheme will be produced, I want to refer to the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture when he took office had, we all know, a set mind on certain things, that is, as far as the Minister for Agriculture can have a mind set on anything, because I think we have found from experience during the past 12 months that he was liable to change from time to time. He had prejudices rather than a set mind. He was prejudiced, for instance, against wheat growing and beet and so on; and his prejudice against wheat got him into a great deal of difficulty. After going into office, he issued a couple of advertisements and one of them advised the people to grow oats. Here in this very big advertisement which appeared on the papers at the time he tells you the advantages of growing oats, its value as a human food, and so on, and he says—this is the point we want to watch—that oats not required on the farm commands remunerative prices. That phrase, I think, has caused more hardship in this country to the farmers than has been caused to them for many a long year. Then this famous advertisement, on which we have not been able to get very much elucidation—"How Farmers Can Help"—appeared and he says in ending up his advice to farmers to grow oats, barley and potatoes—he did not mention wheat in any of the advertisements—"I believe that co-operation works better than compulsion." Why he put that into the advertisement I do not know. "I believe that co-operation works better than compulsion." Then he says: "Let us show them." I do not know who "us" are or who "they" are, but he said "Let us show them", and it was signed James M. Dillon, Minister for Agriculture, and it was paid for by the State. It was the first time, I believe, since this State was set up that a Minister for Agriculture had put his own name to his own propaganda and got the State to pay for it. It has been changed since; a lot of changes have been made since then.

At any rate, that advertisement was issued advising farmers to grow oats, barley and potatoes—no mention of wheat. The result was that a lot of foolish farmers evidently took the Minister's advice and we got about 50,000 acres more under oats than in the previous year. It was a very good crop, but there was no market for it. Then the trouble started. When the oats were harvested the farmers could get no market for the oats. The Minister for Agriculture was appealed to to do something about the crop, to try to create a market, to try to fix a price, to try to take the oats off the farmers' hands. But he remained adamant. On several occasions he said that he would not fix a price for oats. Then he gave certain advice to the farmers, such as to feed it to their pigs, to put it in stacks and thatch it until the spring, and various other things of that kind, but he refused absolutely to agree to make any provision for the disposal of the oats. As those of us who come from rural constituencies know, oats were sold at 20/- or 22/- per barrel, or 1/6 per stone.

Then the Minister went to America. What was more important, however, there was a by-election in Donegal and the Government made up their minds that something must be done. The Minister for Defence, who was acting for the Minister for Agriculture, announced in the Dáil on 25th November, in reply to a question from Deputy Cogan, that buyers would be appointed to take the oats at a fixed price. My colleague, Deputy Allen, who sensed a certain danger in the scheme, put a supplementary question. He asked whether every merchant who purchased oats last year would be permitted to take part in the scheme, and the Minister in charge said that every reputable merchant would be put on the panel. We know how their reputableness was assessed afterwards. That is the history of the growing of oats last year. We shall see as we go on what happened.

One of the things, probably, that acted as a deterrent to merchants that time in the buying of oats, was an announcement of the Minister for Agriculture which he made to the Mayo County Committee of Agriculture on 24th October, that maize meal would be available in the new year at about £1 per cwt. He emphasised the point that the maize meal would be the same price in Mayo and Dublin. That certainly acted as a deterrent on the buying of oats. It would have been good news if it had been true. But, as we shall find, it was not true either. When the scheme came along for the buying of oats at a certain price, much of the oats had, of course, been sold. If a farmer was embarrassed financially or had not storage facilities, he had to get rid of the oats, and the oats were got rid of at a much lower price. There was no way out of that for the farmer; he had to put up with his loss. Then, again, a lot of the oats in the country was below the bushel weight fixed under the scheme. It was fairly good oats, but not top quality, because the standard was put very high, and what was known as black oats did not come under the scheme. All that oats failed to find a market. What was worse, the announcement about the maize, which had such a bad effect on the oats position, did not prove to be true. Maize meal, in the new year, was retailed to the farmers at 24/6 or 25/- a cwt., not £1. That was the history of the oats.

A Deputy who, perhaps, does not know much about the country districts might say to me: "What should he have done?" What he should have done was pointed out that wheat was the crop which had a guaranteed price and a guaranteed market. But, as I said, the Minister for Agriculture had a very strong prejudice against wheat. I am sure Deputies who were in the House at the time will remember that the Minister on more than one occasion said that wheat growing was all a cod. On one occasion he said that he would not be got dead in a field of wheat—I suppose if he could avoid it. These were the expressions he was using about wheat. When he took office he allowed the prejudice which he had against wheat growing to influence him in advising farmers to grow oats, barley and potatoes and to change over from wheat as far as possible. What was the result? The result was that we had an increase of 50,000 acres of oats and a decrease of 50,000 acres of wheat. The acreage of wheat was down, but it turned out to be a good crop, as all crops did last year. There was an assured market for the wheat and there was a fixed price, and farmers who grew wheat were reasonably satisfied, as satisfied as farmers are as a rule. They were reasonably satisfied with the price and they got rid of the wheat.

Another point we should remember is this. Leaving the farmer out of it, every barrel of wheat we produce here saves dollars, because when we had our own wheat it was not necessary to bring in wheat from the United States or Canada, and in that way we saved dollars. Let us take even a fairly low yield of wheat, say, six barrels. That would mean that every acre of wheat produced here would save about 12 dollars to the country. If you take the 50,000 acres that the Minister was responsible for diverting from wheat to oats, it meant about 3,500,000 dollars loss to the country under the Marshall Plan or whatever plan you like. Therefore, we had that loss in dollars to the country as well as the great loss that the farmers suffered.

I am glad to see that it is not impossible to teach the Minister. He did learn his lesson, but he learned it at enormous expense to this country. He set out with that prejudice against wheat and said we all ought to grow oats, barley, potatoes, and so on. He got a number of farmers to agree with him and caused huge losses to the farmers and a great deal of worry. But he has learned his lesson and now we find that in this year 1949 we have an advertisement issued which is reminiscent of the advertisements issued in the Department of Agriculture for the past 15 or 16 years, the same type of advertisement as was issued from 1933 to 1947, inclusive. The Minister has learned that that was the proper type of advertisement, but has learned it at great expense to this country.

Now, what does he say this year? "Farmers who want a cash crop should sow wheat or malting barley; there is an unlimited market for wheat at 62/6 a barrel for top quality." That is the thing that should be pointed out to the farmer. That is the truth. The farmer can see that there is an unlimited market for wheat and a fixed price, and he is told here that it is the only cash crop that he can be sure of. Is it not a great pity that that was not done last year? Was it not at enormous expense that we educated the Minister for Agriculture over the last 12 months? We brought him, at any rate, to see that the advertisements, issued by the Department for 15 years under Fianna Fáil were sensible advertisements for the farmers. He issued these to all the weekly papers, including the Times Pictorial. I wonder how many farmers read that production. At any rate, they are getting the advertisement.

There is another change. Instead of this offensive advertisement of 1948: "Let us show them—James M. Dillon, Minister for Agriculture." which meant putting his name under offensive propaganda of that kind, we have gone back to decency again and we have an advertisement issued from the Department. There is no insult to any Party in it; it is an appeal to the farmers to grow more wheat and it is a sensible appeal. Farmers, if they grow more wheat, have an assured market and the wheat will be sold at a fixed price, and for every barrel of wheat we produce we will save dollars for wheat coming in.

Then there was potatoes in this "Let us show them" advertisement. We were asked to grow more potatoes. The acreage was not increased very much, as a matter of fact, but only very slightly. When the Ministers came from London after making their agreement, we were told by the Minister for Agriculture that under this agreement the farmer had an assured market for all the produce of his farm at a remunerative price. I remember saying to the Minister for Agriculture: "But you said in another part of your speech that you were not too satisfied with the price of potatoes." He said: "That is true, it is not a very attractive price, but it will put a bottom to the market, £10 16s. 0d. a ton, and to that extent it is not so bad." Well, we went on with our crop and it turned out to be a good crop and we had a very big surplus of potatoes. When the people went to market them there was no market, or at least no remunerative market for them. Many people sold potatoes at £5 or £6 a ton, and this remunerative market which was to take all the farmers' potatoes, as far as we could see, disappeared. It was months and months after people had commenced selling their potatoes that an announcement was made that the surplus potatoes would be taken at, I think, £8 5s. 0d., delivered to the store or railway station by the farmer. That was for the best potatoes, good ware potatoes, of course. The promise that was held out from this agreement made with Great Britain did not materialise and we got nothing like £10 16s. 0d. In fact we got £8 5s. 0d. for some and less than that for most of them, as a good lot had been sold, and even still a lot of potatoes are sold in the towns and cities by farmers at less than £8 5s. 0d. a ton. I do not know what the consumer is paying for them. A lot cannot be sold at all.

There was a little crop I was very interested in. I do not want to make any pronouncement about it now, but I would like to get some information. It is the production of root seeds— mangolds, turnips and so on. The Minister at one stage announced that the contracts would be cancelled in that particular scheme, but since then he has sent a letter to the growers in County Wexford—I do not know whether it went to other growers or not —telling them it was quite safe to go along making their arrangements; but as far as I know no official or public announcement has been made and I would like to know how things stand.

Then we have the question of flax. I do not know much about flax except in an official way, when I had to deal with it as Minister for Agriculture. At one stage in the 30's, I brought in a Bill to guarantee a minimum price. It was very low at the time, but it gave some assurance to growers that they would get some market at a price. Even if it was fairly low, it was some guarantee and it had the effect of saving the flax industry over a small area during those years, until the war and the emergency came and flax became popular again. I do not know what view the Minister takes of flax, but one of the first things he did on going into office was to remove the control on the price for scutching. When I was Minister for Agriculture, I found it necessary to fix a price for scutching, as there was so much controversy and disagreement between the farmer and the scutcher and it was necessary to do something of that kind. The price fixing was continued by my successor, Deputy Smith, but when the present Minister went in he removed that—in his anxiety for freedom.

However, when he met his constituents in County Monaghan a few weeks later, he came back and put the control on again, so his anxiety for freedom was not strong enough to overcome the prejudice of the farmers in County Monaghan. Now, he told us here one day lately of his negotiations with the flax spinners of the North of Ireland in regard to the disposal of the crop in the Twenty-Six Counties to those spinners.

He told us that the first offer they made to him was 31/3 per stone for grade 5 flax of a maximum 4,000 tons. Now, 4,000 tons were quite sufficient: we would never exceed that, I think, under any estimate; so that part of it was quite all right. The Minister thought that 31/3 was too low and he refused to agree. After some months, they came back and said they would give 32/- on 2,000 tons. That was worse, in this way, that, as producers know, you cannot very well estimate exactly what the production is going to be and it is a bad thing to be limited in quantity. It would be better to take a little lower price and to have a guaranteed market for the entire product. From that point of view, the 32/- for 2,000 tons was worse than the 31/3 for 4,000 tons. The Minister again refused.

The Minister is to blame in two ways. First, he did not consult the flax growers to find out what their views were with regard to the marketing of flax and the price. Secondly, he tried to confuse the issue, in this House at any rate, to this extent, that where the Six County growers were getting 40/-a stone for their flax, the Northern Government were giving 7/4 by way of subsidy out of that 40/-, so that, as far as the flax millers were concerned, they were paying the Northern growers 32/8, and I think any reasonable person would say that the Minister could not expect people who were living by commerce, like these millers in the North of Ireland, to pay more for flax here than they were paying in the Six Counties. If the Minister thought that anything more than 32/-should be given, he should have gone to his Government and got his Government to give a subsidy to make up the difference between that 32/- and what he considered a remunerative price, just as the Northern Government were giving a subsidy to the Six County growers.

There was no use in trying to confuse the issue as the Minister did in this House by saying that the Northern grower was getting 40/-; he was getting more than he got last year, which was something like 34/6; and our growers were expected to take less. That was confusing the issue, because, as far as the Northern spinner was concerned, he was giving almost as much here as he was giving in the Six Counties. I would say that the Minister would be justified in saying: "You must give me the same as you give the Northern grower," but he would not be justified in saying: "Give me also something against the subsidy you are getting in the North of Ireland for what is grown in the Six Counties."

In these two respects I would say the Minister was to blame and the result was that the growers, when they saw that negotiations had broken down between the Northern spinners and the Minister who was negotiating on their behalf, stepped in and accepted what was a worse settlement, that is, 28/-per stone for grade 5 flax, for 3,000 tons, instead of the first offer of 31/3. What does that amount to? I would find it hard to say that the Minister should have accepted the first offer because, in weighing up the position, he probably had come to the conclusion that they were trying to use him against the Northern growers in order to bring down the price on both sides of the Border but he should not have so lightly, as it appeared, thrown over the whole thing and told the flax growers in the Twenty-Six Counties to turn over to something else. He should have consulted them and he should have done something about it. He should not have thrown it to the wolves and let them negotiate for themselves with the result that they are now accepting on a good crop of flax—100 stones to the Irish acre—£15 an acre less than the Minister could have got for them last November. On an average, poorish crop, they are accepting about £6 less per acre. That shows you how these men have been treated between the various interests concerned.

But, the Minister is learning a lesson. He is learning by these various blunders and mistakes. When these flax negotiations had failed an announcement was made in the Press on the 4th March, 1949, that anyone who wished to grow flax for sale on the terms proposed, that is, 32/- per stone for grade 5, dam-retted, hand-scutched flax, was, of course, perfectly free to do so and take his chance of being able to sell it after the harvest, but if anyone did so he did it at his own risk and in the full knowledge that the Department of Agriculture did not recommend it and could give no assurance whatever of a satisfactory market for it. I say the Minister is learning. What a pity the Minister did not talk like that this time last year about oats and potatoes. If, this time last year, he had said about oats and potatoes that the Department would like to see farmers growing oats and potatoes but could give no guarantee of a market or a price, that they could grow it at their own risk, then nobody could say a word against the Minister for Agriculture. Nobody could blame him, even if there was no market for potatoes or oats when the harvest came, because he would have given his warning and the farmer would have grown them at his own risk. What he has been blamed for is that he advised the farmer to grow potatoes, oats and so on, that there would be a remunerative market for the produce that was not used on the farm, and that when the harvest came the remunerative market could not be found.

Now he is getting over-cautious as you may read from that statement. He advises the farmer that if he grows flax the Department will have no responsibility whatever, that he can grow the flax at his own risk. That shows that the Minister is learning. It is rather an expensive education, particularly for the flax growers. If they grow 3,000 acres of flax at, let us say, an average of £10 or £12 per acre, they will lose £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000 this year on educating the Minister, and those who grew oats and potatoes last year lost several thousand pounds. It must be one of the most expensive educations that have taken place in this country for a long time.

As we know, the Minister has many things to deal with in the Department of Agriculture in addition to crops. There is milk, for instance. All through the summer and into the autumn of 1948 the Minister on several occasions told milk producers that he would not increase the price of milk. For instance, he made a very specific reply to a deputation at Rathluirc on the 30th October that he had no intention of increasing the price of milk. A deputation of Munster dairy farmers came to see him a day or two before Christmas. They made their case and the Minister said he would reopen the whole question, that he was sure any recommendations he would make would be favourably considered by the Government.

"He was sure any recommendation he would make would be favourably considered by the Government."

These are words taken from the Irish Independent. Anybody who has had experience of being a Minister knows well that a Minister would never say a thing like that to a deputation unless he intended to make favourable representations. If a Minister had no intention of recommending a proposal he would end the discussion by saying that he could not see the case and could not make a convincing case to the Government, or something to that effect. He would not hold out any hope unless he was sure that he had a good case to put to the Government, and that he had a good chance of succeeding. The Minister said that he was quite sure that if he made a good case the Government would favourably consider it. Now, he did one of two things. Either he made a good case to the Government and it was turned down or he did not make any case at all to the Government, and the price of milk remains the same as that fixed by the Fianna Fáil Government early in 1947.

What about the price of calves?

What about the increased cost of farm labour since?

I am glad Deputy Rooney has mentioned the price of calves, because he has been talking a lot of nonsense about calf prices.

Have you any for sale?

Deputy Dr. Ryan is in possession.

The price of calves is a sore point.

Why do you say so?

Deputy Rooney should tell the truth about it.

You paid people to destroy them.

I am glad the Deputy said that, because it reminds me of something.

It will remind you of a lot before long.

In April, 1947, the price of milk was fixed. Since then the price of calves has gone up, according to the Deputy, but the price of labour has gone up twice and rates have gone up very much. In fact, they would have gone up a whole lot more than what they are at the moment if some people had got their way in trying to shift central taxation to the local authority. The farmer now has greater expenses; nobody will deny that. The farmer is paying higher rates and higher labour costs, but the price of milk is the same as it was when we fixed it early in 1947.

But the price of calves is better than it was in 1947.

I suppose it is if the Deputy says so.

They can be sold. They could not be sold in 1947.

A Deputy

You paid people to kill them.

Deputy Rooney should come down to the West of Ireland.

The Deputy says that we paid people to kill the calves at one time. We did so. We had to get rid of calves at one time because the "big nobs" of Fine Gael, to whom the Deputy is looking with reverence, tried to sabotage—I am using that word because Deputies on the Government side of the House seem to be rather fond of using it—the efforts of the Government at that time to make a good settlement with England. When we had that fifth column here, Fine Gael and so forth, we had to do desperate things in order to hold them in check, on the one hand, and the British on the other hand, and we won in the end.

"We won in the end."

And we suppressed the Blue Shirts at the same time.

What about the CoalCattle Pact?

The price of milk has remained the same, labour costs have gone up and rates have gone up. I was always an ardent protagonist of Fianna Fáil policy since Fianna Fáil started but I never, in 1947, went down the country to the farmers and told them that they were getting too much for their milk. But the Minister and Deputy Rooney think they were getting too much for their milk at that time because they say that they are getting enough now although the farmers have to pay higher wages and higher rates.

They are selling calves too.

Let Deputy Rooney try to equate the increased price of calves with the price of milk and I do not think he will find that he has a good case. He would want a great price for his calf to raise the price of milk 2d. or 3d. per gallon.

It represents £6 per cow.

She must be having twins.

I would ask Deputies to face this matter and tell me whether they believe—because I know they are defending the Minister for Agriculture in regard to the price of milk—Fianna Fáil paid too much for milk in 1947. I am quite sure their reply will not be in the affirmative and yet, if it is not, well, all they can then say is that the present Minister for Agriculture is paying too little. Sometimes the Minister says "Look at the increase in the number of heifers in calf." He gives that as an indication that the price of milk is satisfactory. The Minister appears to be talking to people who think that heifers can have calves on a factory basis and can turn them out in two or three days. Anybody from the country knows well that if a farmer wants to go into breeding calves he has first to select the heifers. He will then have to wait a month or two, on an average, before they go in calf and then he will have to wait nine months or so before the calf arrives. But that waiting period is ignored by the Minister. He regards the number of heifers in calf on the 1st June, 1948, as a tribute to his régime in the Department of Agriculture. One would think that the farmers came along and circumvented the thing—that they had heifers in calf quicker than ever before just because he was in office, and that the number went up because he was in office. Does everybody not know that when the price of milk was put up by Fianna Fáil in the spring of 1947 the farmers were satisfied with the price and a number of them made up their minds to select heifers to breed from? They were in calf and things were going smoothly until this recent increase in rates, wages and so forth, and now the farmers think they are not getting enough for their milk. If there should be a big number of heifers in calf next June then there is no doubt that the Minister for Agriculture will be able to claim that the farmers are satisfied under his régime, but not until then.

While I am on that subject I should like to say that the same remarks apply in the case of pigs. An increased number of pigs went to the factory last autumn. Deputies who were supporting the Coalition Government gave the impression that that increased number of pigs to the factory was due to the Coalition Government. I could excuse some of those city Deputies for that because they do not know the difference but I suppose Deputy Rooney does. If a farmer is going to increase the number of pigs, he first of all selects a young sow and says he will put it to breed. It will take at least four months before the bonhams arrive and it will take another six or eight months before they are fat for the factory so, in all, it is a 12 months' job. How the Minister, who goes into office in February, can have pigs for the factory in October, is a mystery to the farmers.

He had eggs in the basket.

What about the black market?

Will Deputy Dr. Ryan enlighten one of the ignorant city Deputies and tell us whether he stands for increasing the price of milk to the consumers in the city?

If necessary.

It is useful to have that on the record. Would Deputy Colley or Deputy Lemass agree with that?

I do not know that. Whatever Deputies opposite may think about it, we have our own views. However, I notice that city Deputies are always in favour of giving plenty to the tradesman, plenty to the town labourer, plenty to the tram driver, and so forth, but they will starve the farmer in regard to his price for milk, for potatoes, for vegetables. They say that the farmer is all right. He is the man to be sat on by the city Deputies. Of course, they do not care because they are not looking for any votes from the farmers and it makes no difference to them, but the farmer must live like everybody else.

But they put up the bus fares.

As I say, when the farmer makes up his mind that he is going to increase his cows and his pigs it is about a 12 months' job before he sees any result. It is the same, to a limited extent, in the case of eggs. If the farmer's wife is going to go more into layers she goes to a neighbour for a setting or to the day-old chick people at this time of the year, or, better still, in February. But these particular birds will not be laying until next October so that, too, takes some time. The Minister for Agriculture did have that in mind a year ago, on the 20th March, 1948, because in this famous advertisement, from which I have already quoted, he says that "every farmer's wife who sells an extra 100 eggs to the eggler will help materially." No doubt, the farmers' wives have helped, but they are beginning to ask questions now.

I think it was about October, 1947, that Deputy de Valera, Deputy Aiken, Deputy Lemass and Deputy Smith, went over as Ministers and negotiated a trade agreement with Great Britain. They negotiated an agreement on eggs and poultry. The present Government went over last May and made another trade agreement, and they had the good sense to leave eggs and poultry alone. That agreement had already been made and they did not interfere with it. Anything that they did interfere with was not to the benefit of the country. The agreement with regard to eggs and poultry was not interfered with. The prices under it were good. I think it was 2/6 for cockerels and 3/-per dozen for eggs. People were doing well under that agreement that was made by Deputy Smith. When this Government went over they thought that they would leave these things alone and they did, but, of course, we could not expect the blessing of Fianna Fáil to last for all time. Somebody had to interfere, and so the Minister for Agriculture went across lately for talks with Mr. Strachey, and when he came back the price of cockerels went down to 1/5 and the price of eggs to 2/6.

Does not the Deputy understand why that is so?

I would like to know what happened.

Do you want the cost of living down?

That is another point of view. The Deputy wants the cost of living down. These prices went down. I think it is because we produced too much. When I met the Minister for Food in England, Mr. Strachey, in 1946, he told me—and, in fact, he signed an agreement at that time—that the more eggs we produced the higher the price would go. The more you produced, the better the price you would get for your eggs. Now, it appears that when eggs get plentiful and when England, perhaps, is not so hard up, the more you produce the less you get, and prices are coming down. They have gone down as a result of this recent meeting.

Deputy Smith arranged to reduce it as from the 1st February. The producers were to get 1/8 from that date, and the Deputy knows it.

He did not. I do not know where the Deputy is getting his information. He must be taking it secondhand from some of the front-benchers over there. There is no truth in his statement at all, absolutely none. Last May, when the agreement was made between this Government and the British Government, we were told by the Ministers when they came back —by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture—that we had a market there for every type of farm produce at remunerative prices. Nobody will deny that that statement was made by the Ministers when they came back, and if Deputy Rooney is satisfied that we are now getting remunerative prices for our cockerels and eggs, well, that is his point of view. I do not know whether everybody would agree with him on that or not.

I said at the beginning that I wanted to raise matters that were done and that were not done by certain Ministers. I did not want to be accused of making destructive criticism. The Deputy who spoke before me appeared to think that if you pointed out any little deficiency, or any little fault, in any of the Ministers in this Government, that you were indulging in destructive criticism. I think that we are entitled to point out things that were done and to ask why certain things were not done by those Ministers since they came into office.

I want to deal with one of the matters that was raised by Deputy Ryan. I shall leave it to the Minister for Agriculture to deal with other allegations that were made by the Deputy. Deputy Ryan opened his speech by expressing some doubt as to the Government's intention in respect to a comprehensive scheme of social insurance, and appeared to be worried because he was not seeing the White Paper more speedily than he had anticipated. Now, I should have imagined that a person with the depressing and colourless record which Deputy Ryan had in the Department of Social Welfare would have cultivated a more becoming modesty when talking about social welfare schemes. All that I can say to the Deputy, if his own conscience does not tell him, is that his performance in the Department of Social Welfare was marked by no achievement at all. I put this to him now, or to any of his colleagues when speaking in this debate: will he tell me what piece of legislation of a valuable kind that did something to raise the standard of living of the masses of the people he was responsible for during his period in that Department? Does he not know perfectly well that his reign there was marked by drabness and bleakness, and that, in fact, he was not responsible for any worth-while piece of legislation while in charge of that Department?

About the same as you did.

Drabness and bleakness came out of the Department during the Deputy's reign and not a single piece of worth-while legislation was produced by the Deputy who is now so inoculated with enthusiasm for social welfare schemes that he cannot wait. He is in a fuss and a hurry. I suggest to him that he should have displayed some of that fussiness when he was in the Department. In any case, he had 16 years as a Minister to urge——

In the Department?

I did not say that. I leave the inaccuracy to the Deputy. The Deputy should follow me now and keep to the narrow path of accuracy. I know, of course, that he will have a troublesome time trying to follow that path, but I shall do my best to lead him along that way.


The bad tradesman always blames his predecessor.

The Deputy knows little about tradesmen, and showed bad judgment as a tradesman, legislatively. Now, let me come back to Deputy Ryan's fussiness, impetuosity and peevishness over the White Paper this evening. Is it not true that the Deputy was a member of a Government which, for 16 years, could have produced White Papers galore? Was any such paper produced in relation to social services?

The Deputy is now stating what is not true.

There were papers in relation to childrén's allowances and all sorts of things.

I am talking about a comprehensive scheme of social insurance. Did any member of the last Government, during their 16 years of office, introduce a White Paper or a scheme covering social insurance?

Mr. de Valera

Why not go back 50 years before that?

I will leave that to the Deputy. Whenever the struggle on earth becomes harder and more stern, Deputy de Valera can hit celestial heights; he can easily do that, while the ordinary people find it difficult to exist. There is no need for Deputies opposite to get fussy about this. I only want to mention the facts, even though they may disturb the serenity of Deputy Ryan. I will give the Deputy and the House the facts.

Major de Valera

Unemployment and emigration facts, for instance.

Quite a number emigrated when the Deputy's Party was responsible for Government here. Why are Deputies so annoyed when I merely want to tell them some facts in relation to social welfare? Deputy Ryan's association with the Department, I assert clearly, was marked by drabness and bleakness so far as any benefit to the community was concerned. I applied myself to a double-barrelled task. My task was to lift up certain social services which I felt were at a low standard. It was my duty to provide better rates of benefit than Deputy Ryan provided during the time he was head of the Department. In addition to that, I applied myself to the production of a White Paper. In my view both were urgent tasks. I was anxious to put forward both of them with the utmost expedition.

Deputy Ryan will remember speaking from these benches about two years ago on a motion to modify the means test for old age pension purposes. It would cost, he said, about £500,000, and he will remember telling the House and the country that it simply could not be done, that there was no £500,000 there and that the Fianna Fáil Government would not modify the means test even though it would cost only £500,000.

The Minister himself rejected an amendment that would cost only £1,000.

There is no need to get excited. I got a fair share of satisfaction out of the Deputy's speech. It is quite clear that in opposition he is a very different person compared with when he was a Minister. He is now developing some enthusiasm. I introduced a scheme to lift up the rates of benefit and I undertook to produce a White Paper which would set out the details of a comprehensive social insurance scheme.

What has been done since this Government took over office? The Social Welfare Act of last year has given many old age pensioners 17/6 a week—35/- a week to two persons of 70 years or over. There are 132,000 old age pensioners now getting 17/6 a week. Why did they not get it when Deputy Ryan was in the Department of Social Welfare? There may be a very good explanation for that, but I think the Deputy owes it to humanity to tell us what the explanation is. The 132,000 old age pensioners now getting 17/6 a week would like to know why they did not get it earlier than this year and why they had to wait for this Government to give it to them.

Are you satisfied with that?

No, I hope they get more.

Mr. de Valera

Deputy Ryan did not hope it at all, of course.

Hope springs eternal— and dies inevitably.

What about the proposal to give people £1 or more a week at 65?

Deputy Ryan is a fire extinguisher on hope. There is no need for Deputies opposite to get annoyed. I thought they would be delighted that the old age pensioners are getting the increased benefit.

We are delighted.

The Deputies show their delight in a peculiar way. We are giving the old age pensioners an extra £1,500,000 in a full financial year. We are giving it to them in the form of a higher rate of pension and there is a modified means test.

We gave them the same.

That is not so. The Deputy should state the facts. While the Deputy was in office 105,000 old age pensioners had a maximum pension of 12/6 a week. These pensioners are now getting 17/6—5/- a week more under this Government than they got while Deputy Ryan was in charge.

How many had 15/-?

There were 25,000 who had 15/- a week, but they are now getting 17/6. Deputy Beegan need not get depressed over this.

It was better to give them a higher pension than to purchase aeroplanes, for instance.

Fianna Fáil told the old age pensioners during the last election that gloom and disaster would overtake them if there was a change of Government. Those pensioners are now much better off than ever they were under Fianna Fáil. You may think the pensioners are not politically wise, but they can recognise the difference between 12/6 and 17/6. Fianna Fáil may think the old people are not wise and that they can be fooled at election times. The pensioners know now that I gathered up 105,000 old age pension books issued by the Fianna Fáil Government when the pension was 12/6, that I burned them and that I gave them instead new books with 17/6 stamped on each book. Fianna Fáil may think the old people do not realise that, but they do, and Fianna Fáil will be disillusioned if they try anything on.

What about the 25/- you promised them at one time? They know that 17/6 is much less than 25/-.

Deputy Aiken might show better in civil war and in military strategy. I suggest that Deputy Aiken should continue to look after our foreign affairs.

You told the old people they would get 25/-, but you gave them only 17/6. You promised them one thing, but it worked out at 7/6 less.

The Chair will have to take serious notice of interruptions. A Deputy does not lose his right to address the House without interruption by becoming a Minister.

All I want is information as to the 25/- that he was going to give them.

He has only three and a half years to go.

When I was speaking yesterday I was continually interrupted, and there was no notice taken.

Deputy Killilea will withdraw that statement at once.

I withdraw it, but I was interrupted yesterday evening.

If Deputy Killilea has a charge to make against the Chair he has a perfectly easy way of doing it. The Deputy is implying that the Chair does not take notice of interruptions from one side of the House.

I said no such thing.

Then I do not understand English.

Thank you for rescuing me from the clutches of Deputy Aiken in this matter. I suggest that Deputy Aiken has a natural bent and that it is in a militaristic rôle.

That is an incitement to a reply and I suggest it is not in order. It is not a sensible statement to make.

The Chair is the best judge of sense.

Then the Minister cannot complain if he is answered.

I am not complaining.

You are thanking the Ceann Comhairle for rescuing you from a military strategist.

But I am not terribly depressed. I think Deputy Traynor is unconsciously unfair to Deputy Aiken. Deputy Traynor apparently thinks that Deputy Aiken will fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. Deputy Traynor may have some grounds for that belief, but I am prepared to trust Deputy Aiken.

We are not discussing Deputy Aiken. We are discussing the Vote on Account.

That is true and I want to get back to the other point dealing with the comprehensive scheme. Let me put one point to Deputy Dr. Ryan. I do not think he will have much difficulty in understanding its significance. The Fianna Fáil Government was in office for 16 years. During that period old age pensions reached the normal ceiling of 12/6 in the rural areas. In 11 months that ceiling has been raised from 12/6 to 17/6. Is not that some achievement in relation to old age pensioners?

I ask about the comprehensive scheme.

Apparently, as far as old age pensioners are concerned, we did much more than you ever dreamed of doing.

That is not so.

We similarly improved blind pensions and we abolished four non-contributory widows' and orphans' pensions rates. The devil himself must have devised the scales of benefit provided under those four rates. We substituted two new ones and both of those were higher than the old rates. That was sound work. That was good work. When you in the Fianna Fáil Party could not afford £500,000 to modify the means test for old age pensions purposes we put another £2,500,000 into the pockets of these people.

We could have taken it out of the widows' pension fund as you did.

Is that the cause of the Deputy's worry?

No. We did not want to raid the widows' fund.

They are getting more now than they ever got and will get more than they are getting now. There is no need for the Deputy to worry. Do not imagine that because these people are poor they are incapable of thinking. You will get a rude awakening if you proceed on that assumption.

They will all vote for you the next time.

Not all you say will induce them to think otherwise.

What about the lads paying unemployment and national health insurance.

What about them?

They are paying a little more through the nose, too.

That is a harrowing operation, is it not? The Deputy is forgetting the consolidated rates of benefit guaranteed by statute instead of supplementary allowances, which could be taken away any day of the week.

That is nonsense. What about the widows' pensions?

Let us come to the comprehensive scheme. My task in the Department of Social Welfare over the past 13 months has been to step up the rates of benefit, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to proceed with the comprehensive scheme. If the Deputy cares to put down a question to find out what was done in the Department of Social Welfare during his period there and my period there, he will get the benefit of a full examination of the position. We made substantial improvements last year in old age pensions, blind pensions and widows' and orphans' pensions and in the rates of benefits to injured workmen. By negotiating agreements with the British we have got certain benefits for our people which they had not got before. Useful work has been done in the field of wages. In addition to all that, I tried to push forward the comprehensive scheme. The Deputy may take my word for it that so far as the officials of my Department are concerned they have worked tirelessly to get the comprehensive scheme assembled so that it might be circulated to every Government Department and the advice of those Departments obtained on it before submitting it to the Government. The Deputy is not unacquainted with the officials of my Department. I asked those officials to get on with the work of preparing the scheme with the utmost expedition. I did not impede them in any way. I did not ask them to delay their activities. The only impression I have left on their minds is that I am impatient with them to get on with the comprehensive scheme. They have been working to their utmost limits in the matter, whilst, at the same time, keeping the other work of the Department going. They had to prepare the legislation covering the increased benefits to which I have referred. They had to undertake the task of implementing that legislation when it was enacted. My officials have instructions to prepare the comprehensive scheme with the utmost expedition. It is no fault of mine and no fault of theirs that the scheme is not ready and Deputy Dr. Ryan does them less than justice when he complains of slothfulness in that regard. I can only pay tribute to them, because they have worked as hard as human beings can work to get this scheme prepared.

I would ask the Minister not to put me in the position of attacking officials. I did not attack them.

I accept the Deputy's word that he did not intend to do that.

I did not do it. Neither did I imply it.

I will take the Deputy's word on that. I want the House to be clear that there is no delay in producing the scheme. It requires actuarial, trained minds to assemble a scheme of that kind. No Minister could do it. He may give decisions under broad heads or make suggestions, but in the long run it is the actuarial, trained minds which assemble the data on which the decisions are based. My officials have worked as hard as they could to produce the scheme. I have been trying to push it forward with the utmost expedition. Decisions have been taken on all the major points. I hoped that the scheme would have been ready for circulation by this, but that was physically impossible. It will leave my hands for circulation to other Government Departments within the next month. It is in process of being typed. If the Deputy takes the trouble to inquire, even unofficially, as to the amount of energy put into the preparation of the scheme he will find that, far from anybody desiring to delay the scheme, the whole impetus was to push it forward as quickly as possible. I hope that will inoculate the Deputy against any feeling that there is a desire to keep the scheme back. Because of his association with the Department of Social Welfare I would have thought the Deputy would appreciate the difficulties involved and that he would not try to make political capital out of the production of a comprehensive insurance scheme, the desirability of which we are all agreed on and which, in the long run, confers benefits on a class of the community which must be covered by the State because they are unable to cover themselves against certain risks out of their own resources.

Last year Deputy O'Reilly and myself urgently appealed for the establishment of a national Government. We were of opinion then that Opposition Parties serve no useful purpose in this country. Everything that has happened since only tends to confirm that opinion. I believe there are very strong reasons why all Parties should co-operate with one another in running this country, but you cannot reasonably expect to get co-operation from all Parties unless all Parties are represented in the Government. That was the idea we had in suggesting that the Government should invite members of the Opposition to participate in the Government. That is an offer which I think the Government should again make to the Opposition Party, ask them to come into the Government and accept a share of the responsibility for the running of the country—to share in the credit for the things that are done well and to share in the blame for whatever may go wrong, because everything cannot always go right.

Who will decide who are to be the Ministers in that Government?

I decline to be drawn into a controversy on matters of that kind.

It is rather premature, in any case.

I think it is an idea which should be acceptable. Deputies of the Opposition Party who spoke on this Vote have been somewhat disappointing in the manner in which they have approached various national problems. A bad headline, I think, was set by Deputy Aiken. He spent almost two hours in chasing mice. In the matter of hunting mice, I do not think there is a tom cat in the city who could compete with Deputy Aiken. Yet the whole case he made in regard to Deputies blindly following the Government was completely destroyed by Deputy Traynor, who declared that Deputies who invariably support the present Government in a division are simply following the example set for them by members of the Fianna Fáil Party, who in the past always displayed loyal and blind obedience to the former Government. I think that, on reflection, Deputy Aiken will have to agree that he would not have been in office for 16 years if it were not for the blind mice of his Party, who blindly supported him during all that period.

I am in the happy or unhappy position that I am not bound by any obligations of loyalty to any Party blindly to support any Government. I have not done so since I came into this House 11 years ago. I have always taken an independent stand. On every question brought before the House, I have voted on the merits of the question and on the merits of the question alone. May I say that I was shocked and alarmed by something that happened in this House within the last fortnight? We had Deputies on the Front Benches on both sides of the House machine-gunning one another for half an hour—verbally of course— and then, two hours after that, we had the same Deputies from both sides going into the division lobby to vote against a motion brought forward on behalf of the farmers. Evidently there is one thing upon which all political Parties can combine and that is to keep the farmer down at any cost.

I say without hesitation that the farmers' position in this country is still very difficult. I know that it suits a lot of people to pretend that the farmers are prosperous. I was disappointed, very disappointed, at the statement of Deputy Rooney. When Deputy Rooney said that the farmers were extremely prosperous he was making a foolish statement. I think before he made that statement he should have got in touch with and consulted the President of the Irish Farmers' Federation. If he had done so, he would have convinced himself that there is not in the agricultural industry that prosperity which he claims exists. We all know that in the past year there have been no general increases in agricultural prices and that, on the other hand, there have been several very substantial reductions. I have brought these reductions to the notice of the Minister and the House on a number of occasions. We have had an increase in wages, a very substantial increase in some cases. In some counties the rates on agricultural land have increased by 8/- in the £ in the last two years. That means an increase of £8 in the rates of a farmer with a valuation of £20. That is a substantial amount, an amount which the ordinary farmer finds it difficult to meet. Wages have increased very substantially over the same period. There has been no increase in agricultural prices; on the contrary, as I have said, there have been substantial reductions.

When we look across at Great Britain, we see there a Socialist Government, a Government that is supposed to have an anti-agricultural bias, that is supposed to be opposed to the man who owns property, particularly to small property owners, a Government that is predominantly industrial-minded and urban-minded. There we find that, although the whole range of agricultural prices was up to a month ago substantially in excess of agricultural prices here, they have been very substantially increased during the past week. Milk has been increased in Great Britain by 2½d. a gallon although the price before the increase took place was substantially higher than the price paid here. For eggs which have been recently reduced in price by 6d. per dozen here, the average price paid to the British producer for the coming year will be 4/1 per dozen. The lowest price that the British farmer will get even during the most plentiful season, will be 3/9 per dozen.

I want to know why Irish farmers and the Irish farm workers are expected to exist on a very substantially lower standard of living than that which is afforded to farmers and farm workers in Great Britain. We live very close to Great Britain and Northern Ireland and if there is to be a higher standard of remuneration for farm workers in these countries, it will certainly mean that there will be a draw on the farm workers of this country and a steady rise in the tide of emigration. Farm workers will not be satisfied to work for a lower rate of wages here than obtains in Great Britain. In the same way, farmers' sons will take note of the higher remuneration that is provided at the other side. I think the first duty of the Government should be to raise the standard of living of our rural population to that which exists in Great Britain. That can only be done by increasing the margin of profit between the cost of production and the prices paid for agricultural produce. When, as a first step to bringing about that approach to agricultural problems, we put down a motion seeking to have costings investigated all Parties, both the Opposition and the Government, combined to defeat it. Surely that is the most important consideration in an agricultural country. You cannot expect production to increase unless you pay the producer a reasonable price. That is a basic principle which must be accepted. We now have the example of a neighbouring country, a country where conditions are somewhat similar to curs, giving the farmer a higher rate of profit in practically every important branch of agriculture.

A good deal has been said about the proposed scheme of land reclamation. Nothing is more desirable than that we should have an all-out effort made by our Government to assist the farmer in bringing the more inferior land of this country up to a reasonable standard of fertility and production. Such a scheme must demand the whole-hearted support of every section of the community and not only of the farmers. Do not let that scheme be misrepresented, however. Let us not have our Dublin newspapers saying that the farmer is getting something which is equivalent to shopkeepers having the Government coming in and improving their shops. There is no comparison whatever. In this scheme, land that is very unproductive will be made more productive. There is no concrete assurance, however, that a very substantial increased profit will come to the farmer. There is, on the other hand, implied in this land reclamation scheme an obligation upon the farmer to contribute a very substantial portion of the cost of the scheme. While the newspapers and important people talk about £40,000,000 being spent upon this land reclamation scheme, they do not refer to the fact that before that £40,000,000 is spent the farmers will have to put up £48,000,000. In other words, it is proposed to reclaim 4,000,000 acres of land, and the farmer is required to contribute £12 per acre. This means that the farming community have got to put up £48,000,000 in order to make this scheme effective. There are a lot of matters which the farmer will have to consider before he will be prepared to embark upon a scheme of that kind on a very large scale.

If a farmer has one or two acres of inferior land I am sure he will be very pleased to contribute £12 towards having it reclaimed, just as farmers have been contributing towards the improvement of their land under the various farm improvements schemes. However, take the case of a farmer who has, perhaps, half or more than half his land requiring drainage and reclamation. Take the case of a farmer with 40 acres, half of which requires reclamation. Can you expect that small farmer to put up the £12 per acre that is required? Alternatively, can you expect him to undertake the obligation of debt by having that contribution spread over a period of years? It seems to be a fairly substantial contribution and one which has caused some disappointment, because when the scheme was originally announced it was understood that the farmer's contribution would not be so great. I am quite in agreement with the general principle that bog lands ought to be drained and reclaimed, but I should like to hear a little more detail in regard to the clearing of water courses and the clearing of streams. That is the first essential towards field draining. There is no use in draining fields unless the water courses are cleared so that the water can be removed from the farms. There is, however, another aspect of this whole question of land rehabilitation and improvement.

In addition to land that is waterlogged and land that is marshy we also have a very large acreage of land in this country which is poor in fertility and which, though dry and sound, requires rehabilitation by the addition of manures, fertilisers and lime. I should like to see a substantial contribution made by the State towards putting that type of land into production, because that dried-up land which is low in fertility will, if returned to fertility, give a much quicker return to the community than the bogland which it is proposed to drain. Therefore, in addition to the drainage of bogland I should like to hear the Government announcing a scheme for the rehabilitation of really impoverished farm land. It is that type of land that can add most to the productive output of this country by being brought up to a proper state of fertility.

I should like to hear some announcement from the Minister for Finance, who is the all-important member of the Government controlling the finances, in regard to the question of agricultural credit. Here again is a question which is linked up very closely with the question of land rehabilitation and improvement. It is a good thing to improve land and to make it produce more grass and better crops. It is necessary, however, if that scheme is to give the maximum benefit to the farming community, that the farmer should have an adequate stock to utilise his land to the fullest advantage. That is why I suggest that a long-term credit scheme is urgently desirable in order to put agriculture into a profitable position.

The Deputy knows that under the reclamation scheme there is no interest required whatever.

I quite appreciate that point.

But the Deputy thinks that a loan with no interest charged, that grants up to two-thirds free of interest will not be taken up by the farmer.

I quite agree with grants for reclamation and improvement of land.

The Deputy thinks that one-third is too heavy a charge to put on the farmers?

The point I am making is that in addition to land reclamation and land rehabilitation it is necessary to provide for the improvement of crops. Only a short time ago the Minister for Agriculture asked me whether I could bring to his notice any case in which the Agricultural Credit Corporation had turned down the application of a farmer. I have brought to his notice the case of an industrious farmer who wanted some little addition of capital to increase the stock on his land. He went to the Agricultural Credit Corporation for a loan of £100. He was turned down. He then asked for £50 and was again turned down. He went to the bank and he succeeded in securing a loan of £50 on the same security. In face of that one instance, and it is only one of thousands happening every day, can the Minister say that the credit facilities provided by the Agricultural Credit Corporation are adequate for the agricultural needs of the country?

There is also another very important scheme of agricultural development— the improvement of farm out-buildings. That is something that is very urgently needed. Apart from the improvement of the soil, there is nothing more essential than that farmers should have suitable buildings for their stock, and, particularly in view of the need for increasing pig production; it is absolutely essential that that type of stock should have proper housing accommodation. There are grants available, and I am not quarrelling with the amount of the grants provided for this purpose but, here again, there is need to supplement these grants with a long-term loan scheme to enable the farmer who has not the necessary capital to avail of these substantial State grants. Otherwise, these grants will go to the better-off farmer and the man who is short of capital will be deprived of this very necessary State assistance. That is not what was intended and I ask the Minister to look into the matter to see whether the credit facilities for agriculture cannot be generally reviewed and improved.

There are many aspects of Government policy which require to be reviewed, but those which I have mentioned are, from the farmers' point of view and the farm workers' point of view, the most important. We must give active and real assistance to those who are engaged in agricultural production. Fine words and fine promises are no use—we want actual assistance, and it is about time it was given. There are some people who say that the farmer is always complaining, always grumbling.

They would not say that if they heard the Deputy speaking to-night.

I have always been an incurable optimist. I believe there is a future for agriculture and I believe that agriculture can be made the most profitable industry in this country, but I hold that there is never any necessity for the farmer to grumble. All the grumbling the farmer wants to do has always been done for him by whatever Party happens to be in opposition. We remember how eloquently Fianna Fáil grumbled in 1930 when prices were bad and we remember how eloquently the Fine Gael Party grumbled when prices were bad in 1934 and 1935, and we have seen during the past couple of days how eloquently the Fianna Fáil Party have renewed the grumbling which they left off in 1932. There is no need for the farmer to grumble. He can sit back and leave all the whining, all the whinging and all the complaining to whatever political Party happens to be in opposition; but it does not get him very far.

I have always tried to be constructive and many of the things I have suggested to the Government have been adopted after long years of hesitation and consideration. I hope the suggestion I have made to the Government to-night will be implemented, and I hope that we will keep in step with increased prices which have been provided for the agriculturists in Great Britain. We were told, when the trade agreement was signed last year, that one of its great advantages was that it hitched agricultural prices in this country to the prices paid to the British farmer, but we see now that there is a widening gap between the prices paid to the Irish farmer for pigs and the price paid to the British farmer for pigs and the price paid to the Irish farmer for milk and the price paid to the British farmer. We see also a very wide gap between the price paid to the Irish farmer's wife for eggs and the price paid to the British farmer and the farm labourer's wife for eggs. Is that gap to be allowed to continue to widen or is it to be closed? Are we going to put our agricultural community on an equal footing with their competitors on the other side? That is a most important question at present.

I want to raise one matter which arises out of the Estimate for Agriculture. There has been some reduction in the Vote for the subsidising of fertilisers. I should like to have a statement from the Minister to the effect that the farmer will not be adversely affected, because, while the land reclamation scheme may confer considerable benefits on a number of farmers, there may be a very large number who heretofore benefited by the fertiliser subsidy who may not be in a position to benefit under the new land reclamation scheme and it is most important that nothing should be done to give a setback to the nationally desirable policy of improving the fertility of the soil.

Some Deputies referred to the drastic reduction in the Estimate for the defence of this country. I do not intend to go into that question, but any consideration of defence policy must be linked up with Governmental policy in regard to defence, and I feel very strongly that serious consideration must be given to the international arrangements which are being made for the collective defence of Western Europe. I think our Government should be prepared at least to discuss the question of collective security with the Governments of independent and freedom-loving nations in Western Europe and America.

Any hasty decision on this question may be disastrous in the long run and I have a very strong feeling that a hasty decision may be taken by our Government without having the matter fully and fairly discussed from every conceivable angle.

I think it was Deputy O'Higgins who, when he was speaking, told us that this country was doing very well. That is the sort of wishful thinking that has taken place for the last year in this country and I think it would be much better for everybody concerned if the realities were faced. What are the realities in the rural districts of Ireland, or anyway in Meath? Emigration has become almost continuous. Unemployment is rife and naturally that has given rise to emigration and there is actually semi-starvation among the workers. Many farmers in Meath have been in the habit of letting their land, some through necessity and some because they thought it was good business during the war when prices were very high. At this present moment 40 per cent. of the land of County Meath is not stocked and that 40 per cent. of Meath will eventually become meadow. Hay is unsaleable at the present moment. No doubt the weather was fine and sometimes that contributes to low prices, but hay was not needed and next year it will not be wanted.

On the other hand, we have the question of rates. They would have been increased, I take it, in Meath—I am not a member of the county council— to the tune of 6/- in the £. The poor law valuation in Meath is £1 per acre. I am gradually coming to the opinion that with such high valuation farmers are entirely penalised in favour of town dwellers and business people in the town. Therefore rating now has become a very serious business. I have heard farmers state that it is the new type of landlord but rating authorities have infinitely more power to recover rates than ever the landlord had. I would ask the Minister for Finance to advise the Minister for Local Government or whoever controls rates to be a bit more moderate. There are hundreds of men who have not done any work on the roads during the last three weeks. There was no money but it is starting to trickle through now. Red herrings like that cannot continue. It is a red herring. What is the use of deceiving people by these methods? The Minister for Local Government has some kind of drainage scheme and the Minister for Agriculture has another, but they are all red herrings. What is the use of them if 40 per cent. of the land of Meath is idle? Why is it idle? Because an agreement was made with Great Britain in reference to cattle and in reference to eggs. What was the result of the trade agreement with Great Britain? Its result was that the Minister for Agriculture came home with two prices, one for the Continent, at least £5 per beast more than the British would pay, and the other price for the British market. In such confusion as that, how were the farmers to stock their land? That agreement indicated that a fresh agreement was to be made next June and that agreement is going to cut down as far as 10 per cent. our total exports to the best buyers we have. Can that be denied? I would like if the Government could deny it because it is next to sheer madness to do that. It is true that the Minister for Agriculture, in some magic way, made the fowl lay three or four eggs per day, but evidently the Minister in Great Britain was quicker on the move and he got to work so quickly that there is a surplus of eggs in Great Britain and our eggs are not wanted.

The situation is extremely serious. One of the things that hit the farmers is the question of surplus. We had a surplus of oats and a surplus of potatoes which created the greatest possible confusion.

Is not that a blessing?

Mr. O'Reilly

What the farmers want is——

The Minister put the words into my mouth. Just before the war started I heard a farmer speaking to a man who was passing by. He saluted him and the fellow said to him in a very mild way: "I am afraid there is going to be another war". The farmer said: "In the name of God what are you afraid of? We never get a chance here except during a war". That is one of the things we have to face up to.

Nobody can deny that use was made of the wireless. We had the wireless when they came to the aerodrome, the wireless when they came here and broadcasts from London and some foolish farmers believed that they were going to get something out of it. What they got out of it is that 40 per cent. of the land of Meath is not stocked.

As a result of the slaughter of the calves.

There are any amount of calves in Ireland that should be slaughtered because they are useless. That is political claptrap.

They are worth £10 each now.

We have got to face the facts and the facts are that 40 per cent. of the land of Meath is not stocked. Forty per cent. of that land was tilled and not laid down and it will never be laid down.

We sent up good men to do it. I suppose you have no objection?

Most of those who did come up are gone now as a result of mismanagement. Holding the carrot in front of the donkey does not succeed and I hope that when the Minister is replying he will come down to brass tacks and tell us exactly what he is going to do.

Get you a new war?

Something like that. It would be the only relief you would have now because the damage is done. I would be afraid of a new war because I do not believe we would have enough men to till the land or feed us. They are not going to stop here hungry and wait until the Minister for Agriculture's scheme comes in or the Minister for Local Government's. They are going to look for work. What is the position in Great Britain in comparision with us? What are they doing? They are tilling and producing on every inch of land they have and employing 50 or 60 per cent. more people on the land than they did at any previous time. They have conscription there and not alone are they employing men but they are employing, women on the buses to release men for conscription. With our mud-slinging, talking on the wireless and talking nonsense, with two prices for cattle and another next June, how are our farmers to arrange for export? Is it any wonder if they have left the land idle? If some change is not brought about and if some commonsense is not used, we will have more parades like the one we had in Limerick.

Lord Muskerry was hunted out of the country in the Tan time.

He is not here to defend himself.

That is some of the confusion. The rest of the confusion was caused when this Government came into office and turf became taboo; there was to be no turf cut. We were to have English coal at half the price. As soon as the turf stopped, the English coal went up in price and got extremely scarce. Now what are we doing? We have gone back as fast as we could to develop the briquette business. I wonder why that sort of thing happens. Why cannot people make up their minds in advance as to what they want? British coal agents actually came across here to see what stock of fuel we had and, when they found that the stock was going down and likely to go down further, they put up the price of coal. Is it not a fact that the price of coal to householders and manufacturers in Great Britain is much less than the price at which it is sold to the merchants in Great Britain for delivery to this country?

It has been so for the last five or six years. Why did your people let it be so?

You had the last opportunity.

We got a bad heritage.

You should have resisted. It was your business to change that and not have it. It affects our industries and our manufactures and the cost of living.

It always did.

I think that should not have been allowed. Now we are going to use briquettes. We are not going to get coal even at the high price. The pig trade is in a somewhat similar position. I was at the fair of Oldcastle last Wednesday, which is an extremely large pig fair. No pigs were sold there except to farmers—one farmer buying from another. The lighter pigs for the factories had to be bundled into lorries and delivered to Messrs. Donnelly in Dublin.

There are a lot of pigs' heads in the windows.

I have already warned Deputy O'Leary and I shall not do so again.

I have always been in favour of farmers having a little bacon at home. I think farmers are wise to buy these pigs. That would help Deputy Con Lehane. I should like to see farmers giving an answer to what Deputy Lehane stated. According to Deputy Lehane, the city people must have cheaper food. The last figures we got from the Minister for Finance—I do not know if there are any later figures—showed that the agriculturists produce 75 per cent. of the wealth of this country and only get 50 per cent. of it back. I do not know what the position is now. I think we should try to change that. Certainly Deputy Con Lehane does not want to change that. If that is not changed, the farmers will not continue to supply at slave prices.

I am rather disappointed with the tone of this discussion, because we are dealing with general policy which affects everything concerning the livelihood of the people. It seems to me that rather than dealing with a very difficult problem we are trying to make political points. Personally I am glad that the Estimate of expenditure for the year has shown a very substantial reduction. I am also glad that we have decided to abandon some of these grandiose schemes which this country cannot afford, which would not be remunerative, and which were luxuries that it would be injudicious for us to try to have. On the other hand, I am glad that we have tried to develop the natural resources of the country and I believe that that will bring in a dividend from which every section of the people will benefit.

There would be no necessity to expend this colossal sum of money on the rehabilitation of agriculture were it not for the fact that agriculture was neglected deplorably in the past. We failed to recognise that in this agricultural country we were depending on that as our primary industry to keep the country going. We did everything we possibly could to kill that industry and we tried to become more industrialised and more urbanised than our highly industrialised neighbour. It is because of what we did in the past that we have to expend this considerable amount of money in the future to try to get back to commonsense, because we had not commonsense before. It has been suggested that the farmers are getting something for nothing. They are not. The effort is to try to put them in a position where they can produce so as to keep the rest of the country going. We are trying to prevent the killing of the goose that is laying the golden eggs. That is the only reason for this particular scheme.

It is vitally important that taxation should be reduced. I am glad that an effort is being made to reduce it because the country cannot afford to carry the very heavy burden that it is being asked to carry. This is a small country, a comparatively poor country, a country with a population of some 3,000,000, and we cannot afford general taxation amounting to £70,000,000 or £80,000,000. I believe that the farmers, the shopkeepers, the hoteliers and the restaurant people are all in a much worse position now to pay increased taxation than they were in the past. The farmer's position is that since 1947 he has had to meet wages increases of 50 per cent., rate increases which are very considerable and increases in social service charges which are also very considerable. On the other hand, he is tied down and fixed to a price for his milk which prevailed when these charges were considerably less. The price of milk was anchored in 1947 and no change has been made in the price since, even though, as I say, wages have increased 50 per cent., rates have increased astronomically and other charges have also increased. The farmer's position to-day is that he has got less for oats, flax, potatoes and poultry and at the same time he is asked to bear increased costs. The shopkeeper is feeling the pinch at the moment also. The days of his prosperity are almost over and he is not in a position to pay higher rates and taxes in the future. The hotel business has passed its boom and the tourist trade, which was an important industry, is dwindling and is not as important now as it was before. These people cannot afford to meet increased taxes and for that reason I am glad that the Estimate has been reduced.

One point which has given me a certain amount of worry is something which has happened in this House in the past. There has been a tendency for Ministers of Governments here to introduce legislation and then make Orders which have the effect of compelling local authorities to increase the rates and which put on local taxpayers charges which should be in this Vote on Account. It is all right for the Minister for Local Government to be magnanimous to certain sections in the Local Government Department; it is all right for the Minister for Health to distribute largesse to people in mental hospitals; it is all right for the Minister for Agriculture to increase the travelling allowances of members of county committees of agriculture to a shilling a mile each way and provide various other services, including a veterinary service; but if they do those things the charges should be made in the Estimates presented here and should not be passed down to the local authority as something the local authority is compelled to bear.

It may be suggested that the local authorities have certain rights themselves to decide whether or not they would inflict these impositions on the ratepayers, but we must remember that Fianna Fáil—for their own particular reasons, probably political reasons— decided that the local councils should not be elected by the ratepayers. The ratepayers are only in a minority in electing county councils and, by enabling legislation that we enact here and pass down to the county council, we are in effect putting an imposition on ratepayers who have not the right to say how the money they are providing is to be expended. That is something I disagree with and something to which the people in the country take very serious exception. It is something which should not occur in the future. I hope that if any particular Minister wants to be generous he will have to go to the Minister for Finance—who, some people tell us, is a very hard man, while others tell us he is a very soft man—and make his case and prove the justification of the particular scheme he has in mind and then come into this House with an Estimate for that particular scheme and stand over it here. As long as county councils are elected on the present basis, that is, with the ratepayers being a minority of the voters, it is quite unfair and unreasonable for this House to pass any enabling legislation that will empower the county councils to increase the rates. That is one point I want to make as strongly as I can.

I am very glad that the Estimate has been reduced and I believe it was necessary to reduce it. If it had not been reduced, it would hamper and retard agricultural and industrial production at a time when it is most important for us to expand and develop that production, if we are to fulfil our commitments under the Marshall Plan.

Apparently, emigration is debated and exposed more often than it should be in this debate on the Vote on Account. The Opposition seem to think that emigration is a creation of the inter-Party Government. Quite recently, some young men in my area were looking for a visa to go to America and they were informed that there was what the Yanks call a "back log" or what we call a "waiting list". That "back log" went back a bit— three years—and some of them were on it. It is surprising that the present Opposition did not do something at that particular time, when the war was over and we were just on the crest of the wave. Why did they not do something similar to what they did to prevent our emigrants coming home from England in 1944-45, when the English Government wanted them to work in the coal mines and in more arduous types of labour than they could get their own Englishmen to do? The Fianna Fáil Government tacitly agreed and there had to be several ways and means, such as doctors' certificates and bogus wires, before an Irish boy or girl could come home for a holiday. The people who are so solicitous at the moment regarding emigration prevented, by tacit agreement, the emigrants coming home from England on holidays, because the English Minister of Labour was afraid these young men and women would remain at home. They were wanted very badly by John Bull and were kept there by mutual agreement.

Some of the emigrants going to America at the moment are not going through force of circumstances, but they are going as many went before them in the tradition of our race; they are going as wild geese, going to better their lot. I know people who are in receipt of £8 a week in wages at the moment and they will be sailing in June for America. No circumstance attaching to their particular case makes them leave this country, but of course Deputy O'Reilly is an old dog and it is very hard to break him off his bark. I did not hear him mentioning the 5d. a gallon extra that was put on petrol last year. He said that the farmers of County Meath who were producing foodstuffs for the people of Dublin—and he did not seem to think a lot about them, while he related his remarks to those of Deputy ConLehane, who is supposed to be solicitous for the Dublin people, though last year he was more solicitous—would have to charge extra for the potatoes, turnips, parsnips and other vegetables coming up from County Meath, because of the 5d. a gallon put on petrol. We did not hear anything about that to-day. We heard about Limerick last Saturday. We also heard a lot about Fontenoy when Lord Clare made a charge but in Limerick last Saturday another lord made a charge and, bringing up the rearguard, was a Fianna Fáil county councillor in case there would be any retreats.

The vanguard was a Blucher.

The Bluchers did some good work in their time, maybe. They brought us a little freedom of speech in this country.

On Saturday?

And others stifled freedom of speech. This time, thanks be to goodness, it is a lord who is at the head of it and I suppose his henchmen are ex-patriots. In my charity I will not call him anything only an exloyalist. As far as this vile propaganda is concerned the more we get of it the better the plain people of Ireland will support the inter-Party Government and the more it will cement the Government together. I have heard a great deal about rates and the increase in rates, even from some of the Deputies on this side of the House. I have been a member of a county council for the past 15 years. In every year since I became a member of that county council I have heard it said that certain people could not pay their rates, that they had arrived at saturation point. The next year came and they paid them.

Is that why you put them up 5/- this year?

I would like to point out to Deputy Lehane that I have never yet heard the forgotten people of this country, that is, the small enterprising shopkeepers of the towns, screaming. According to Deputy Lehane, there is a slump. As far as my town is concerned, I have not seen any slump. Nor have I seen a slump in the town next to it. A shopkeeper in my town with a valuation of £18 has to pay £15 in rates. A farmer on the outskirts of the town with a valuation of £31 has to pay £14 in rates. That is a big difference.

There is something wrong with your mathematics.

Nothing is said by the shopkeeper but there is a frightful grumble from the farmer. My mathematics may not be as brilliant, as substantial or as correct as Deputy Lehane's but my commonsense is just as good. The farmers on this side of the House are not confined to the Farmers' Party.

We have heard from Deputy O'Reilly about 10 per cent. of the fat cattle going to the Continent. I would like to ask Deputy O'Reilly how many of the store cattle are going to the Continent. Did Deputy O'Reilly hear the prices at the Dublin market this morning or does he know the price of calves in the country at the present moment? If he did, there would not be too many acres left idle in Leitrim. The Meath men would come down, and perhaps they would be led by another lord, to buy a lot of stuff down the country because it looks as if there will be good prices and I am sure that is the one worry as far as Deputy O'Reilly is concerned.

Personally, I am worried about the reduction in defence. I am not worried so much about the Army as a wonderful fighting machine because I quite realise that in future when wars will be fought they will be fought from above rather than on terra firma. I am concerned that the soldier should get a fair break. Is he going to get a fair increase in his pay? I think the soldiers deserve that, particularly those who have given the best part of their lives to Army service. When the Minister for Defence is speaking to the Minister for Finance—who is neither a hard man nor a soft man but may be three-quarters solid, like the old handball—I hope he will be able to convince him that these men are entitled to some consideration and that he will give it to them.

As regards coal, and as regards the English people that came across and inspected the dumps, I wonder does Deputy O'Reilly know that there is always a fluctuation in the price of Lancashire and other coals that are produced for household use in England and that at the moment the production of English coal is more or less governed by markets over which we have no control. If we could extend our outlook to Silesia, from where we got coal at one time, or if we went further afield to South Africa, we might get cheaper coal. I would ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce to box the compass some time and investigate the possibilities of getting coal from Silesia. Some of us in the coal trade know what it is like. It is pretty good coal to put out a fire sometimes.

Deputy Aiken last night very nearly went into hysterics about the state this country is going into. I heard the tribute that was paid to him by Deputy Traynor, that he organised a certain force when he was Minister for Defence, the Volunteer force. Yes, I have, and had, the greatest appreciation of the Volunteer force. The name under which they were recruited is a name that will be revered in my memory always, but I am afraid that I cannot appreciate the manner in which some of the sluagh committees were recruited.

That is hardly in this year's Estimate.

It was referred to by Deputy Traynor last night. However, in deference to the Chair, if the Chair wishes, I will say no more.

Already, it is said.

It was mentioned last night by Deputy Traynor. However, they did not look for the old 1916 men in my town when they were appointing the sluagh committees.

The meaning of local government, as it stands, is that the local representatives should be looking after the local affairs. I pay tribute to the Fianna Fáil Government for introducing the Act that gave every man and woman of 21 years and over a vote in that connection. It inculcated in these people a new outlook. It gave them a sense of responsibility. Deputy P.D. Lehane thinks that only vested interests should look after the local councils. We may as well get back to the grand jury days. Undoubtedly, however, Fianna Fáil did a good day's work for this country when they introduced that particular Act.

On a point of explanation. Deputy Keane has said that I suggested that vested interests should look after local affairs. I said no such thing. I said that the ratepayers should look after the rates.

And are the ratepayers not people with vested interests? I am not classifying the vested interests. I am not referring to people with astronomical sums in the banks. I am referring to the ordinary people who have very modest means. But the family which these people bring up and rear to the age of 21 years and over should not, according to some people, be entitled to a vote in local government affairs.

Social services have increased. Credit must be given to the last Government for that and we hope that this Government will increase them still further.

There is no doubt that since the advent of our native Government hospitalisation has improved year by year until we have now arrived at a stage when we can say, almost with certainty, that anybody who wishes to get a bed in a hospital will be given one. There may be exceptions, of course, such as epidemics and other circumstances over which we have no control. But surely nobody will cavil at any increase in local taxation or central taxation which is imposed for the purpose of obviating disease but will, instead, pay a tribute to everybody who has helped to bring social services to their present level.

In conclusion, I hope that we shall arrive at a datum year for taxation both local and central. I hope that by virtue of certain contemplated schemes which will be in operation before the autumn we will be in a better position to increase our production on the land—and production on the land is the whole secret of success as far as the people of this country are concerned. It is the only way in which we can bring about prosperity and, if you like, affluence. I hope that, in this financial year, by virtue of our people becoming better off, it will be possible more or less to grade down local taxation. I hope that we shall be in a position to say that saturation point will not be reached although I have heard it said, and so has my friend Deputy Corry heard it said every year for the past 15 years that it was reached.

This time 12 months ago and for shortly before it we in Dublin had dinned into our ears the tremendous injustice of the then cost of living. We had also dinned into our ears, and unfortunately a large number of the citizens of Dublin were fooled by it, how easy it was to reduce that cost of living and how very necessary it was to do so. The Taoiseach, in his election address, said that it must be the first task of the new Government vigorously to grapple with and provide a solution for the problem of the soaring cost of living which is menacing the economic life of this State and the happiness of its people. He said that all other considerations must under present conditions be subordinated to the overriding necessity of reducing the cost of living and increasing the value of the people's income. The Taoiseach has now been in office for 12 months. Other members of his Government who said that they would reduce the cost of living by 30 per cent. have had, with him, an opportunity of doing something about it but it looks now as if they are just running away from it. On the 1st December, 1948, the Taoiseach, in reply to a question in regard to the cost of living, said that all possible precautions have been and are being taken to ensure that the profits earned by manufacturers' agents, importers and distributors are reasonable. He said that the principal consideration which prevents a fall in prices is the high cost of imported commodities and raw materials and that retail prices have remained steady. In reply to a supplementary question by Deputy Captain Cowan as to whether the Taoiseach would be prepared to slash the prices of essential articles the Taoiseach replied that he could not so promise. In reply to a further supplementary question by Deputy Aiken as to whether he would implement a Clann promise to reduce the cost of living by 30 per cent. the Taoiseach stated: "I would give an answer to that question if I thought it was in the least bit sincere." Therefore, one of the vital undertakings that was given by the groups opposite to the people is not now, and was not even in December last, to be treated as a serious matter. It looks as if the Taoiseach at any rate has given up the ghost as far as the cost of living is concerned. He has stated quite accurately that the principal consideration is the cost of imported goods but, I would point out, that was so too before he took up office but it would not be believed by him nor by his colleagues when they were on these benches. It is time that the truth of the matter was faced. If we are to do what Deputy O'Higgins said to-day we should do, namely, that at least ordinary honesty should be observed among all Deputies, the people ought to be told that what they were told about reducing the cost of living is an impossibility. Most people at the time knew that to reduce the cost of living considerably at that time would be impossible because it depended on so many things outside of our control. It is time now that they were told the truth of the matter.

We have been told from the opposite benches that there is a reduction of £6,000,000 in the Estimates, but practically every bit of that is an automatic reduction that would have occurred even if we just had a lot of broomsticks as a Government. It has occurred through causes absolutely outside our control—to a reduction in the price of wheat and to the fact that fuel is now available and has not to be subsidised. In a word, it is due to the easing of the situation following the war and not in any way to Government endeavour. No matter what Government was in power, if it was not using money for development purposes, it could not have avoided having that reduction. Therefore, there is no credit to be claimed for that result.

We were led to believe before the election that the cost of administration could be reduced by £10,000,000. If I could see any sign that the promise to do that was being carried out, I would be prepared to give credit for it, but I do not see any. The policy of the Government in the last year was not one of progress for the country. We have increased unemployment in spite of the fact that the Minister responsible is the man who said that there was no reason why all the unemployed in the country could not be put to work within 24 hours. He has now been in office for 12 months, and we have more unemployed than ever. We also have increased emigration. Deputy O'Higgins talked to-day about honesty. He told us he did not believe that the position with regard to emigration was worse than it was under the Fianna Fáil régime, but he did not advert to the fact that during that period we had a war situation, or to the fact that before the outbreak of war we had brought down the emigration figure to about 7,000, or to the fact that, taking the average over the war period, the figure was only something like 11,000. The Government that the Deputy is now supporting admits that the emigration figure for last year was practically 13,000. Neither did Deputy O'Higgins advert to the fact that 11,000 odd extra people came back here in 1947. To-day, as I say, the emigration figure is in or about 13,000. I cannot see that any effort whatever has been made by the Government to deal with these two problems of emigration and unemployment which are so intimately related.

Despite the fact that during the past year materials of all kinds have become rather plentiful—we know the shortages there were of all classes of materials during the war—only about 300 extra people have been put into employment in industry. That does not represent much of an effort to build up our industries. Whatever may be the reason for it, there is not the development going on in the country now that we had under the last Government. I do not know if that is due to statements by different Ministers vilifying people who did try to develop our industries or to other causes, but the fact remains. At the present time in Dublin there is not only an increase in unemployment but an absolute slump in trade. I am in a better position perhaps than most to know that. I cannot see any effort by the Government to deal with that situation and, if something is not done about it, it will get worse.

We have been promised some grandiose schemes, but whether they will ever come to anything I do not know. We were promised a reduction of 30 per cent. in the cost of living which did not take place. Now, there is the promise to employ 50,000 people on big schemes in the rural areas but, I want to ask what is going to be done for the 15,000 or 16,000 unemployed that we have in Dublin at the moment, with the likelihood of a further increase in that number? Nothing has been offered to them. I know there are members on the other side of the House who are just as keen in trying to deal with that situation as we were. None of us likes to see it, and so I hope that steps will be taken to try to improve the position. It is quite evident that things have been getting worse and that some change is necessary.

The Defence Estimate has been reduced by something like £860,000. That, following on a reduction the previous year of some £600,000, if my memory serves me, is to my mind going to leave the Army in such a position that it will be only a police force. I know that Deputies on the other side when they were in opposition expressed that view. I definitely disagree with them. I think it is the most foolish economy we could make in the present circumstances.

One is forced to believe that the Government thinks that this country is not worth defending. That is contrary to our whole history. History shows that if it was only pitchforks the people had, they would jump to the defence of the country. This Government is, apparently, going to leave them, if anything happens, in such a position that they will have nothing better than pitchforks.

I see that there is a reduction of £36,000 with reference to civilian employment. In view of what happened last year, I take that to mean that more 1916 men, more Old I.R.A. men will be thrown into the ranks of the unemployed. They were the first victims of the Government's economy axe last year. It now looks as if those who remain will have to go. I think it is a disgrace that at this time in their lives these men should be singled out, should be the first to be singled out, for throwing on the streets after the service they have given this country. They are the real founders of this State, and that is the way they were treated last year by this Government. Presumably there is more of that in the offing. I hope that the sacrifices of those men will not be in vain and I trust the Government will reconsider their attitude in regard to defence and will give the country a reasonable chance of doing something to defend itself if the necessity should arise.

We read of the great promise of the Taoiseach to help Canada, we know of the attitude taken up by the Minister for Agriculture some years ago—that we should go to save America—and we heard of other grandiose ideas as to what we would be able to do in the matter of defence. It is my view that we should consider this matter of defence in a realistic way. The Government are not doing that, if one is to judge by these Estimates.

There has been a comparatively small sum provided for the construction of a Garden of Remembrance in Dublin for the men who died for the founding of this State. Apparently this matter is to be left in the same position for another year, though materials and other requirements are now available. At the same time, money is being provided for the erection of a memorial to two men who took part in the work of establishing this State. I think the men of 1916 were the real founders of this State and they are the first to whom any token of remembrance should be made. The money that is necessary is comparatively small and I hope the Government will reconsider their attitude.

In the matter of price control, we heard a lot about the laxity of Fianna Fáil. Twelve months have elapsed and I cannot see any change. I have just read a quotation from the Taoiseach where he said that all steps were being taken. But these steps are just the same as the steps that were taken by Fianna Fáil. There is no change in the system for detecting overcharges. Apparently it was found that the system was as watertight as it could be. The people should be told that all the talk we heard about profiteering was just hot air and that now, with all the machinery at their disposal, the Government are not able to do any more than their predecessors. I think all the talk we heard was grossly exaggerated and profiteering never existed to any large extent—it could not exist under the system that was in operation. It is clear now that no more can be done even by this Government, the members of which set themselves up as the champions of the people for fair prices as against the profiteers. They can do no more than their predecessors.

I would like to know what is the policy in connection with social services. The Minister for Social Welfare, speaking on the Social Welfare Bill on the 28th July, said:

"Much more remains to be done before we can regard our social services as adequate to the requirements of our people and no time must be lost in bringing before the House measures designed to lift our social services to a plane of which we can feel proud."

The Minister for Finance speaking last Saturday to the Chartered Institute of Secretaries said that he wished he "could get the opinion expressed at meetings where social services were claimed as being something good that they were not anything of the sort; social services were necessary for those who had been unable in early life to save for their upkeep later, but for the bulk of the community they were not anything to be clamoured for."

There we have two diametrically opposite views expressed by two Ministers. Is it not time for the Government to put their house in order in that respect? Is there no longer a question of collective responsibility? Can a Minister go outside and give his personal viewpoint differing altogether from the viewpoint of his colleague? Is he to speak as a Minister all the time as was hitherto the practice? How are we to know which is the Government view? Social services have been paraded by members of the Government and by its supporters as one of the big items in which they were interested and one of the items in which they have done so much. What is the position going to be in view of these two contradictory statements made by two Ministers? What is the policy with regard to social services? I think we are entitled to know that.

In connection with Córas Iompair Éireann, it has been officially, announced that the whole system is to be nationalised. No later than last week the Minister for Finance stated that he is opposed to nationalisation. I think the Government is going a little too far in treating the people like that. There should be some definite policy on these things—some policy upon which all the Ministers are agreed. I cannot see any scheme of nationalisation coming into effect unless with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. But only last week he announced that he is opposed to nationalisation.

Looking back on the past year, despite all that Deputies on the Government Benches may say, I do not think one can regard the year as a year of progress, unless one thinks in terms of progress in the wrong direction. It is time that an examination of the position should be made by the Government in the interests of the country. It is time for the Government to face up to the consequences. We know that a number of the schemes which are being implemented now were schemes inaugurated by Fianna Fáil, schemes to which apparently the present Government would not give acceptance at one stage. But as the year went on they found that they were forced to accept them. Let them be big enough now to admit that and let them be honest enough to face the situation in its entirety and, if necessary, meet the situation now facing us and proved by events over the last 12 months by adopting Fianna Fáil policy.

I do not share any of the extraordinary assumed gloom spewed out in such a doleful manner by Deputy Colley. I think the last 12 months show an earnest of great things to come. I think the realistic approach of the Government and of the Minister for Finance to the problem of the nation's bill for the coming year is a very creditable one. Poor Deputy Colley seems to labour under the delusion that the schemes announced for land reclamation and drainage were conceived by Fianna Fáil. I would like to disabuse his mind of that. I do not think the collective intelligence of the Fianna Fáil Party was capable of envisaging any scheme within a mile of the scope or magnitude of those now under consideration. The reason for that was that policy was evolved and executed, willy-nilly, in a stop-gap way by the late Government. The present Government has the tremendous advantage of having a collective intelligence of which the country can well be proud. They have a realistic perspective. They are prepared to tackle the problem of national re-employment on the basis of spending money where it will bring ultimate revenue to the country and where it will enhance the real assets of the nation and rehabilitate and re-establish the land by giving back to the farming community acres upon acres that have been too long water-logged and which, in my opinion, should have been and could have been reclaimed if there was anybody in the late Administration who had the intelligence to deal with the problem.

Without any hesitation and without equivocation, I admire and congratulate the Government on the present situation. Throughout the length and breadth of this country there is now a deep appreciation of what I shall describe as the wizardry of our Minister for Finance. Once more in this Estimate he has been able to reduce the more useless types of expenditure so that this country may face a future, not of very large spending but of spending on a reproductive basis.

I should hate to think that there was any truth in the prognostications made by Deputy Colley that certain reductions in the Estimates would lead to the "axing" of 1916 men. I am sure that that is a statement made with typical Opposition generality, and with no foundation in reality. Like him, if there was any real truth in the statement, I should regard with acute regret that any 1916 men should become the victims of the "axe" under any guise. I do not for one moment believe that Deputy Colley himself when he was making his semi-sanctimonious observations believed that to be true. It was done wilfully to excite and engender unrest, where there should not be any, because whether you like it or not on the Opposition Benches, the heritage of nationality in this country is not yours alone. In supporting this Government, I realise that the debt due to our heroes is as deeply appreciated and understood by this Government as it was by any Government in the past and that any debt of gratitude due to them will be adequately and properly discharged. I do not think we should, in this type of discussion, try to create any unrest among the people who have given national service in the winning of independence for this country. I feel that we should be big enough to keep away from that. These men deserve more from us than making them the pawn in cheap politics.

There is a certain apprehension about the reduction in the Defence Estimate. The suggestion made by the last speaker is that suddenly we are to be left with virtually nothing but pitchforks to defend this nation. I do not think that that is true; I go further and say I know it is not true but the trouble with our defence problem in this country is a peculiar one. It is a problem of which I can claim to have some little understanding. I had the honour of serving in the Army right through the emergency, and I can say that the problem is one that is above politics altogether, and the sooner some of the "craw-thumpers" in this House get to grips with it properly the better. There was a time in this country when we had an Army that responded in the most generous Irish tradition to the nation's call. The record of the control of that Army does not redound to the glory of Fianna Fáil because we have reached a stage where, what I would like to describe as administrative stupidity, has left the question of recruitment or the prospect of getting young Irishmen into the Army a very remote one. The reason is simple. This country could have kept a good Army if, before general demobilisation had commenced, an announcement had been made as to the increased pay and better conditions that were to be given to soldiers, and if that announcement had not been withheld until after the cream of those who had served throughout the emergency had left the Army, never to be got back.

If you look at the Estimates in an honest way, you will find that the main reduction occurs under two heads. One is the non-calling up of reservists. Shout how you like about it, but it does seem to anybody with even a minute Army experience or a minute experience in any type of volunteer organisation that reservists, who in the main have been on permanent service for five or six years during the emergency, should not again be called up annually. They should be called up only when some new type of defence equipment necessitates a special course of training for that personnel.

There has been a big reduction in the provision for Army stores generally. That brings back the old argument, that we are in the position at the moment in which it would be most unwise and injudicious on the part of the Government to expend large sums on buying a type of equipment which becomes obsolete in a very short period. The time has come when the Government planning the defence of this country must face this problem and, in expending money, try to expend it on the most modern and most up-to-date equipment they can find. I am not so sure that the type of equipment available to them at the moment is any great improvement on the equipment which the Army at present possesses. I think no matter how you may prate and rant about it that there is a logical and reasonable basis on which such a reduction can be defended.

I want to say that I welcome on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of West Cork, irrespective of political allegiance, the proposed new schemes that are to be concentrated in rural Ireland. Deputy Colley worries now about what might happen to 10,000 or 12,000 unemployed in Dublin. I hope the day is very near at hand when the flight in this country will be out of Dublin back to the land and not from the land into Dublin. If there is this drive and expenditure to rehabilitate and recapitalise the value of Irish land there should be a possibility of killing the drive for the office job and the city lights that is urging many of our fathers' sons and daughters from rural Ireland into the city. I say without hesitation that I admire a Government that is facing a colossal task for announcing the schemes they have announced. There are going to be progressive schemes over which all the cheap jibes and satire of an already infuriated Opposition are going to become more intense. They are schemes that, to the ordinary man in this country living on his farm, have a realism and an attraction that the Opposition will wake up to very soon. It is an Irish Government facing in a realistic way the job of doing as much as they possibly can and as rapidly as they can for the real aristocrat of this country, the man who works on the land to give us the real basis of our economy.

We have had an Irish Government in this country for over a quarter of a century now and much credit will go to successive Governments for many things they did. I think, however, that very little real credit redounds to any of the previous Governments because they did not tackle the question of local and small-type drainage in a realistic way. There are acres and acres of land in every county in this country that will become useful land practically overnight if this local government drainage scheme is a success. It might serve the purpose of this nation far better if, instead of arguing on the basis that these schemes might never be seen, all of us on every side of this House would ensure by a willing and a ready co-operation that not only would those schemes be seen but they would be properly and adequately carried out as rapidly as possible throughout this country. That is the service that we, as responsible representatives of this country, should try to give to our people. Much has been uprooted from musty files by the busy little bees of the Opposition purporting that one Minister says in one breath he is for something and another Minister says he is against it. The classic bull was Deputy Colley announcing that the Minister for Finance had said he was against nationalisation. I am against nationalisation if it goes too far but when a transport system reaches the stage of Córas Iompair Éireann you are then faced with the necessity of tackling the question of the preservation of national transport on the basis of nationalisation. I should hate to see nationalisation become a code. I think nationalisation should be kept virtually in the character of a last resource and I am absolutely convinced that with regard to Córas Iompair Éireann it is the last resource. Fortunately the wisdom of this country gave us a new Government in time to save that organisation from complete and utter collapse. I am proud to be able to stand here and say that I was able to play in the last 12 months my part in keeping this Government in office, that in one short 12 months we have a Book of Estimates showing a downward trend at last. I have no hesitation in saying to the people of this country that if there had not been a change of Government the Estimates for this year, on the trend of the last administration's outlook, would have been somewhere in the region of £100,000,000 and more wild fantastic schemes would have been perpetrated on the taxpayers. Unless some fortutious chance were to remould many of the last administration, never could they in their wildest moments conceive schemes of an ultimate national value such as the schemes now announced by this Government. These schemes are not going to leave money to be rotted in turf bogs or useless fuel dumps but they are going to put more land at the disposal of the farming community of this country and more fertility and heart into that land. Above all they are going to put more heart and courage into the people who live on that land. I say this fearlessly and without any hesitation. The progress shown by this Government during the past 12 months is an earnest that at last the Irish people are going to get a Government that they really deserve—a really good and worthwhile Government.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.