That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
Vol. 124 No. 13
That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
On the Vote on Account, the Minister concluded with a boast of what Fine Gael had done by saying at column 1619 of Volume 124 (10) of the Official Reports:—
"In the end, we were able to get the moneys necessary to finance our programme. That is what is hurting the Opposition Deputies."
At the end of that paragraph, I said:—
"Unfortunately, you are not paying for it. It is the future taxpayers who will have to pay for it. You are just passing the buck."
The Minister then said:—
"It is a question of the ‘know how'."
He added that I did not know how and said that he did not want to put too great a strain on me by asking me to try to understand. He suggested that I wait for another year or so and it might dawn on me. This Government has, in its three years of office, spent a fair amount of money. It will have added this year to the national expenditure for ordinary housekeeping expenses £28,000,000. The national debt. according to the Minister's estimate at the Budget, will be up by £54,000,000 and, in addition, the dollar debt will be £41,000,000 or £42,000,000. To complete the overall picture of how the Minister got the money, we have to add that our external assets were reduced by £60,000,000 in three years and we assumed a debt to America of £42,000,000. It is a fact that the yield of certain taxes has increased and it is also a fact that the Minister has put on a number of new taxes.
Is it not expenditure rather than taxation that we are on?
I am simply dealing with the point made by the Minister that we did not know how to get the money, on which he dwelt for several columns. I want to show that we realise that the Minister got the money in certain directions. We also realise that, if the Minister had inflated somewhat more during the past three years, the yield of taxation at the same rates would have increased very much more. When the Minister introduced this system of borrowing for what was normally paid for out of taxation, I and others warned him that the result of carrying out that operation in an inflationary period would be to increase the cost of living, and also, seeing that we were not a closed economy, to increase our imports, with a consequential diminution in our external assets.
Borrowing for what a person should pay for out of his annual income is not something new. Many people borrow and run their families into debt, instead of living within their annual income, but the children have to pay the bill. Borrowing, instead of meeting their annual expenditures out of current revenue, is an old dodge of weak and unscrupulous Governments. The "know how" of spending what the Government are afraid to collect is as old as Methuselah. The Minister knows how and he has not hesitated to put into effect his knowledge of how to avoid the political difficulty of taxation by passing the problem on to future taxpayers, and by inflating, which is a tax on the income of every consumer. The Minister tried to liken his inflationary campaign of these last couple of years to that of the late President Roosevelt when he assumed office. I think the Minister missed the bus in that regard. If there were two Governments who had the same financial outlook on the world in 1928 to 1932, they were the Governments that existed in this country, supplied by Fine Gael, and the American Government, under President Hoover.
We had in America and elsewhere, as a consequence, the spectacle of prices falling rapidly, Government expenditure being curtailed, bank loans being curtailed, so that the queue of unemployed men grew ever longer. We had in this country the spectacle of 30,000 people a year going out of the country, over 1,000 factories closing down, the worst housing situation in Western Europe, and we had the financial outlook of the then Government being expressed by General Mulcahy, who was then Minister for Local Government, when asked to give Government grants for the building of houses, to embark upon a campaign of rehousing our people, when he said that no such campaign could be entered upon until the cost of labour and the cost of material fell to a point at which houses could be built at such a cost that they could be let at an economic rent. That was the old deal of Fine Gael.
The fresh outlook brought to that problem by the Fianna Fáil Government enabled us to put State credit behind all productive enterprise. The Industrial Credit Corporation was started with fresh funds. The Agricultural Credit Corporation was encouraged to go ahead. Housing grants were given on a large scale. Fianna Fáil, in 1932, knew how to reverse the disastrous policy of Fine Gael up to 1932 and, during those years, we did much to restore the confidence of our people in themselves and in their ability to produce at home things which formerly had been imported.
You reversed your own policy too.
How does the Deputy make that out?
You reversed completely your own policy, the policy which you had prior to that.
Our policy, prior to 1932, in 1932 and to this day, is to make the greatest possible use of our own resources in men and material, to build up the higher standard of life that the people are willing to produce. We do not believe in miracles. We do not believe that it is sufficient to wish for a thing to believe that it is either physically or financially possible. We believe that what is physically possible is financially possible, but we do not go as far as to say that anything that is physically desirable is financially possible. My quarrel with the Minister for Finance, in his effort to hang on to office until a judgeship or a chairmanship becomes vacant, is that he has operated the finances of this State to please all the tailends of the Government and to try to satisfy them altogether and to keep them going from day to day, week to week, and month to month. If the Minister did not know what he was doing, I would have more sympathy with him, but the Minister deliberately embarked on an inflationary policy during an inflationary period, with his eyes open, knowing what the consequences would be, knowing that the consequences of pouring more money into an inflationary monetary situation, inevitably, must be to drive up the cost of living, to drive up costs of all kinds and to wipe out, for rather useless purposes, a lot of our reserves.
Other countries have gone to great trouble in recent years to build up their monetary reserves, that is, their reserves of foreign currency or other valuables, such as gold. In the last couple of years we have been acting as if our reserves were burning our fingers. That was because the Minister would not face the political consequences to himself and his Party of acting truthfully and faithfully by the people. We have always believed, and acted up to the belief, that wherever there was an opportunity of building up our reserves we should, if necessary, translate our external reserves into internal assets. We did it all during the periods when it was possible to do it. During the war it was impossible, and a reverse process took place. In the last couple of years the Minister succeeded in getting rid of about £100,000,000 out of a possible net external asset reserve of £220,000,000, or thereabouts. In three years he has almost succeeded in getting rid of half. That was not bad going. It did result, I admit, in keeping the Coalition in office for the three years and will have that result for some time longer. The Minister knew the consequences of that policy. Not only did the Minister know it, but his Leader, the Taoiseach, Mr. Costello, knew it. On 5th August, 1948, when the Taoiseach came back from London, with the British Agreement of that year, he said—column 2146, Volume 112, Dáil Debates:—
"In the intervening period"—that is from 1938—
"the adverse trade balance has gone to an extent which must cause anybody who thinks about it for one moment or who looks at the figures the utmost alarm for our economic and financial stability. The balance of payments between this country and Great Britain has, in recent years, become completely disordered. When we took office some months ago and became aware of the actual position in regard to the adverse trade balance and the nature and the alarming extent of that adverse trade balance it was one of the problems that gave us the greatest possible cause for dismay. We felt that it was essential, if this country was to retain its economic stability, that steps must urgently be taken to redress that adverse balance of trade and to try and restore order into our disordered balance of payments. That was one of the big factors that we had to keep before us during our negotiations with Great Britain. I am glad to say that we have been able to achieve agreement, embodied in the agreement that is before the House, as to the methods by which we will be enabled to deal with that very alarming and very urgent problem."
That was the Taoiseach in 1948. Now, lest it might be thought that the members of the Government were as disunited in their outlook on this problem of the adverse balance of trade a couple of years ago as they are on many other questions, let me quote what the Minister for Finance, Deputy McGilligan, said on the 4th May, 1948, in his Budget statement, as reported at column 1050, Volume 110. He said:—
"The direct State debt of £104.8 million at 31st March last compares with £100.8 million at 31st March, 1947, and £37.6 million at 31st March, 1932. We have been fortunate in not having been forced into debt to the same extent as other countries, but £105,000,000 is a large total."
In that large total debt of £105,000,000 was £10,000,000 which went into the Ultimate Financial Settlement with the British, under which we got rid of an annual payment of £5,000,000. In it also were many millions of pounds advanced to all sorts of public concerns, of advances to the Agricultural and to the Industrial Credit Corporation and to other people for the building up of agriculture and industry here. The Minister then said that £105,000,000 was a large total. That total has been driven up in less than three years by the Minister's estimate of £58,000,000. The Minister was aware, back in 1948, that the disappearance of external assets, without any corresponding upbuilding of our internal capital here, was something to be avoided. The Minister also knows that the building up of State debt simply for the purpose of avoiding taxation is also a disastrous policy.
The Minister, when replying on the Vote on Account last week, quoted what he said, through one of his colleagues, at a bankers' dinner on the 18th November, 1950. He said:—
"But this I must stress—the value of money must be tenaciously defended if we are to preserve the incentive to work and save and ensure orderly economic development."
Speaking directly here in the House at column 1620, on the same day, he said:—
"Last year we tried to get the people to understand what our purpose was. We said that we were about to indulge in a particular capital expenditure programme and we hoped we would get our return in the following manner; productivity would inevitably rise by so much as would bear over a generation the increased cost required to remunerate the moneys borrowed. If we get that, the borrowing will be easy. If we do not get it, the borrowing will be a bit of a headache; and, if the country's productivity fails completely, then the borrowing may be, what it is now described as being, a millstone round the people's necks."
Now, when the Minister is on the Bench or in some chair in a couple of years, the headache will be somebody else's. The result of inflation in other countries has been where the ports are not as open, as they are here, to drive up the cost of living very much more rapidly than it has been driven up here. I pointed out to the Minister two years ago that in France, in the year 1947, the mere borrowing of a few billions of French francs and the spending of them, resulted in one year in the cost of living being doubled The cost of living has not doubled in this country in the last few years because people were not confined in spending the increased amount of money pushed around on the limited quantity of goods produced within the country, but because all our ports were open to the inflow of a lot of useless products upon which the money was spent. The result is that the cost of living has gone up only a few per cent. so far, but the tendency is there, and do not let the Minister or any of the other Ministers, tell me that the increased cost of living to date is a consequence of the war in Korea, or of any other war, or projected war.
That is what Deputy MacEntee and Deputy Briscoe did yesterday.
The price freeze has been held on foodstuffs, and the great increase that has taken place in certain raw materials has not yet come into operation. We may take it that if by any chance our imports were to be closed off, instead of going down the cost of living would go up very much because the money that would be spent on purchasing foreign goods, thereby liquidating our external reserves, would be concentrated on buying the products available within the country from our own resources, either from our current production or from the stocks in the shops. If such a thing happened, we should see prices rise in style.
The Minister indicated in his Budget speech of 1949 that he realised the consequences of the action he took in 1949 and 1950 in borrowing for what should have been met out of taxation in an inflationary period. In that Budget speech he said:—
"The scope and scale of State capital projects raise questions which have a vital bearing on Irish monetary stability and the avoidance of inflation in the methods to finance these projects is a consideration of high importance."
The Fianna Fáil Government was not behind any Government in seeking to build up our productive capacity so that we might have an increasing standard of living for an ever-increasing population. However, we realised the consequences of trying to do more than we could do. In an inflationary situation we were prepared to compel our people to save for the building up of our productive capacity in industry, agriculture and social matters such as housing. In our last year of office, notwithstanding that it was unpopular, we collected £3,000,000 in taxation for farm improvements and housing grants. The Minister proposes to borrow £12,000,000 this year for these purposes and he borrowed £12,000,000 last year also. We want these things done but we want them done without having ill-effects on any other portion of our economy. The worst way to tax the ordinary working man, the person with a fixed income of any kind, is by inflation—and the £12,000,000 that the Minister is raising by borrowing for this expenditure is a taxation by inflation.
The cost of living has gone up 4 or 5 per cent. in the past couple of years and that rate of increase is due to the Minister's inflationary policy. If he had not permitted inflation to that extent, we would have had a decrease in the cost of living rather than an increase. It is all right for Deputy Cowan and those who are pushing the Minister for Finance along these disastrous lines to encourage him to proceed not only to the ruination of the people who have fixed incomes at the present time, but also to place a heavy burden on future taxpayers. The people who want to see this country progress in an orderly fashion will urge the Minister to pay his way as he goes.
In other words, you would like to have hardship, if possible.
No, but I realise that it is impossible to have heaven on earth.
In other words, you would not give the 2/6 to the old age pensioners.
I want to give as high a standard of living to our people as we can afford. If we attempt to give a higher standard of living to our people by giving them more money with which they can purchase less goods we are doing harm instead of good.
Look at all the butter they have purchased.
Let us take the figures. The Taoiseach viewed with the utmost alarm the extent of our adverse trade balance in 1948. It was a cause for dismay. It was something that must urgently be reversed. From 1939 to 1946, we built up our external assets by £140,000,000. In 1946 they had gone up by £20,000,000. In 1947 we reduced them by £20,000,000. It was that, I think, that gave the Taoiseach cause for alarm—the fact that we had dropped a mere bagatelle of £20,000,000. Inside the past three years we have dropped £60,000,000 and we have increased our external liabilities by £42,000,000. Effectively, we have dropped £100,000,000. That is a direct consequence of the Minister's inflationary policy. If we had not imported that £100,000,000 worth of goods and if the inflationary expenditure by the Minister had not occurred, the cost of living, instead of going up 5 per cent., would have dropped by 5 per cent.
Does the Deputy think it is wise for us to increase our external assets?
How do you arrive at the figure of £100,000,000?
A decrease of £20,000,000 in our external assets in 1948, a decrease of £10,000,000 in 1949, a decrease of £30,000,000, according to the Minister's estimate, in 1950, totalling £60,000,000. We must add to that the £42,000,000 external debt in the shape of American loans. That adds up to £102,000,000, if the Minister wants to be accurate. We have reduced our net external assets by £102,000,000 in three years as a consequence of the Minister's policy.
Is it a wise thing to build external assets?
That is too difficult a question.
I believe that it is no bad thing to have a few pounds laid away by either an individual or a nation.
That is why you reduced the interest on post office savings I suppose, in case people would be attracted to them.
I am dealing with Deputy Cowan. If Deputy O'Higgins wants me to deal with any question of finance I will deal with it as far as I am able. I believe that it is no ill thing for either an individual or a nation to have some reserve. I also believe that it is foolish for an individual or a nation to keep a reserve of money in the bank or invested if by investing that money within the farm or business of the individual or within the territory of the State it can increase the standard of living, that is if those savings can be translated into productive assets. I think it very foolish, however, for a country or an individual to spend the reserve just to go on a spree. If an individual has a few pounds in the bank it would be very foolish for him to spend it simply on giving his friends a good time for a year or two, and then to have to go into debt in the bank, leaving his children to meet the bill. It is very foolish for a State to spend its reserve and go into debt to give the Government's friends a good time for a couple of years. I must admit that from the point of view of avoiding headaches and of taking things easy, the present Government have had a good time. They have had the spending of money——
They are spending it wisely.
——which they did not earn. Unfortunately the subject is so complicated that it is hard for the ordinary citizen to understand the consequences of the Minister's action. Certain people who understand it support the Minister for political reasons, in the disastrous financial policy which he has undertaken.
I would not think it is disastrous.
The people of the country should know the consequences to themselves of the Minister's policy. They can note that as a result of it our external assets have gone down and our national debt has gone up to the point where they will have annually to pay in taxation of some sort a sum almost equal to the amount collected by the Supplementary Budget introduced in 1947 to meet an emergency.
If I were the Deputy I would be inclined to forget that Supplementary Budget.
I do not forget it. We are proud of it.
We are not a bit ashamed of it.
We had the "knowhow", as the Minister says, to have avoided that taxation.
You were too cocky.
We could have borrowed that £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 more easily or just as easily as the Minister has borrowed £24,000,000 in the last couple of years.
You thought you were coming back in 1948.
They would get it by an advertisement signed by certain people.
We could have borrowed it and made the plea that it was a sudden emergency which we hoped was temporary and that we were justified in borrowing instead of introducing a Supplementary Budget.
You never imagined that we could all come together.
The Deputy must be allowed to make his speech.
I want to put on record the point that the sum of money which future taxpayers will have to pay annually for even this three-year spending spree which the Minister for Finance has indulged in will be as much as was collected in the Supplementary Budget. Think of all the screaming about the Supplementary Budget. The poor fellow with the pint was going to die with thrist; everyone who wanted a drop of whiskey was lying in an extremity of death and could not be saved except by that drop of whiskey which we were putting out of his reach; people would cough themselves to death if they could not get cigarettes cheaply. These and all the other disasters which were emphasised at that time will occur for the next 30 years because of the Minister's inflationary policy. It has had three consequences.
It put you over there; what are the other two?
We put the O'Higgins's where they could get the pickings. It put you over there. We could have stayed there if we had been prepared to pay the dishonourable price which the Minister for Finance and his backers are prepared to pay. We, however, were not prepared, in order to get a few votes, to give the country a policy which would increase the cost of living, reduce our external assets by a half inside a couple of years and add 50 per cent. to the national debt, and ask the people for all of the next 30 years to pay that national debt with an annual sum for interest and sinking fund amounting to the total of that Supplementary Budget which so delighted Deputy Cowan.
Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present.
I do not want to go back over the ground covered so well by Deputy Aiken in the discussion. Provoked by Deputy Cowan, I would like to say a few words on our attitude to the supplementary taxes imposed in October, 1947. I would like to repeat what Deputy Aiken said, that we are not ashamed of having imposed those taxes and that in vast areas of the country the people showed by their votes that they understood the nature of those taxes and continued to give confidence to the same number of Deputies of our Party as they had given in 1944. I regard it as the lowest kind of politics to try to win an election on the price of stout or the price of tobacco. I regard that as the lowest kind of politics, a thing all of us should try to avoid, since once you bring politics down to that level it is impossible for any elector to consider the many complicated issues before he makes his final choice. If he has always to be driven to the point of considering his immediate selfish interest, we should have no nation. no advancement, no reconstruction, nothing. Everything would depend on simply satisfying the selfish desires of any one individual.
I have to record again in this House for, I think, the third time, that I myself told everyone in Westmeath and County Longford that I could speak to at that time, that if, because they would rather smoke five cigarettes instead of four, they were prepared to throw the Government out, we did not want them to vote for us. That was a frank way of speaking and it did not result in our losing any votes, noticeably, in my constituency. If that point had been stressed even more in other areas, we would probably have lost less than we did in those areas where we lost a few seats. It is the frank way of telling the people. They will discover before they have finished that, as far as this Government is concerned, there are worse ways of dealing with the money a man spends than taxing his beer.
As Deputy Aiken says, the cost of living has been going up as a result of the Government's inflationary programme and it would have gone up more if it were not for the fact that we have been rapidly spending our external assets, as the Minister for Finance says, on unnecessary luxuries. I should like the Minister for Finance to give us a little exposé of his present financial views, what he really believes. On the Vote on Account, he hinted that we were borrowing more than we were saving and that we were spending too much on unnecessary luxuries abroad. He made a vague appeal to stop buying luxuries. It is an idiotic thing to do, as you cannot alter consumption habits on the part of a people by making one reference, one appeal, in a debate which lasted for days and in which we noticed that none of the other Deputies in his Party made the same appeal. There was no national appeal to reduce the drain on external assets. There was the Minister's pitiful, solitary appeal to the public to stop spending money on goods which were not necessary and which were reducing our external resources.
It is just as well, since we hear so much from Clann na Poblachta about bringing back external assets, that we should give the Fianna Fáil point of view about it. The only result of the Clann na Poblachta campaign for bringing back external assets has been a wasting of them on unnecessary goods. The Fianna Fáil view is perfectly simple. First of all, it is a very good thing to have a reasonable reserve in a country with whom you trade, for buying goods. That is a reasonable thing to state and it has been to our immense benefit for years and years. Secondly, it is much better to invest whatever money we have in Irish industry and production, if we can do it in a sane, sensible way. I suppose the simplest and most elementary description of the Fianna Fáil view on the repatriation of external assets would be this. If you have £100 invested in British war loan and you are getting £3 a year on it and with the £3 you buy a pair of British boots, it would be much better to spend that £100 on boot making machinery, bring it over here and set it up in Ireland. That is a sound policy on repatriating foreign assets. We do not believe in spending them on unnecessary goods or that we are wasting our assets in bringing in machinery of that kind which would have the effect of increasing production.
I should like to ask the Minister for Finance again whether he can give any idea of the proportion of those external assets which was spent on vital stockpiling or on machinery useful to production. He told us in the course of the Vote on Account that he was unable to give figures accurately, but he feared that a great deal had been spent on unnecessary articles. Has he in the interval been able to get any further information? If a large sum were spent on stockpiling for a possible emergency one could justify the expenditure, but he did not give us that reassurance. He was not able to give it. He could not say if this money were spent on wool or cotton cloth or agricultural machinery, on parts, or on materials for defensive warfare or anything of that kind. He was extremely pessimistic and we would like to hear if he has any new information.
We have been challenged by Deputy Cowan and others as to whether we approve of an increase of 2/6 in the old age pensions. It is not a question of whether we approve or not. The question we have to face is that the Government, so far as we can gather, have no real over-all financial plan. We never know when a new Estimate is coming in, in order to maintain the Coalition in office. We have no objection to an increase of 2/6 in the old age pension. We increased it ourselves by 5/- in 1947. We added 50 per cent. to unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance and national health insurance in 1947 without charging the contributors. The charge was put on the contributors afterwards, by the present Government. We are quite used to increasing social services. We started the children's allowances. We know all about spending money on social services. When we start to raise questions about expenditure, it is because the expenditure is unplanned. We never know when it is going to stop. We have had expenditure estimated at £1,000,000 for old age pensions, £12,000,000 for the mother and child scheme and £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 for the social security scheme. We never know when these increases will stop. Most of them are carried out by Ministers who themselves on many occasions declared against, and completely against, the extension of social services.
We can all argue about a Coalition having marginal differences of opinion on policy. I do not think it is good for a country's stability or for a country's political honour, to have views so different as those that obtain between Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Clann na Poblachta in regard to a matter which is vital to this country, the extension of social security. I am going to quote again the Minister for Finance because he cannot be quoted too often. He is reported in the Irish Press of March 19th, 1949, as having stated in Dublin:
"He wished that he could get the opinion expressed at meetings where social services were claimed as being something good that they were nothing of the sort for the bulk of the community. They were not anything to be clamoured for."
Again, on the same occasion, as reported in the same newspaper, the Minister for Finance said:
"There was a danger in the development of the social services that the people would lose their sense of independence. Social services were not something to be proud of. They should be used like medicine and kept in a locker until they were required to treat disease or illness."
As I said, we on this side of the House do not object to the increase in the old age pension. The Government have raised the cost of living so much that the old age pensioners no doubt will deserve that increase. But we do object to the trotting out of Estimates involving huge amounts solely with a view to maintaining in office a Government consisting of people who differ very widely on matters of fundamental importance, because there may be, as I said, differences on matters even more fundamental which would shake the fabric of the country. I wonder whether Deputy Cowan agrees with the Minister for Finance's views on the social services.
I agree with his present views.
Does he think the Minister could alter his views fundamentally on a question like that in so short a period of time? In discussing all these questions, I should like to challenge the members of Clann na Poblachta to beg the Minister to reverse his financial policy to the extent that there will be some external assets left to spend on production and on machinery for industry, because at the rate the country is going there will not be much left to spend on the objects for which Clann na Poblachta stated the money should be spent. We should like very much to hear them appeal to the Minister and say: "The spending is going the wrong way. You are not spending on machinery or on increased production; you are frittering it away on luxuries. You should reverse that and see if we cannot get the money spent on capital goods."
Even you changed your mind.
We have always had that point of view. We were not too extreme. We had a balanced point of view about finance; by not borrowing too much and borrowing if we thought it was a wise scheme of national reconstruction, and not to trot out expenditure to the tune of £16,000,000 in the course of a few months in order to maintain our Government in office. We simply planned our expenditure as well as we could. We did not have, comparatively speaking, boom days for agriculture. We did not have a Government in a position to negotiate a price for butter such as the Danes got. We have heard a lot about that already from Deputy Corry. We did not live in an atmosphere of being able to negotiate for famine prices. We had an economic war to face and we had even a world war to get through. My own view is that when history is written 50 years from now, allowing for the social and economic conditions under which we worked, it can be said that, in the expenditure of the money we spent and the money we borrowed, we did more national building than will be ever done by this Government in the course of their lives.
I listened to Deputy Aiken and Deputy Childers discuss this Bill. One thing which, I think, Deputies probably do understand now regarding the Fianna Fáil policy towards spending money—I should like to be challenged on this by Deputy Aiken if I am incorrect—whether the money is being spent on projects of capital development or ordinary current expenditure, is that they say that their policy is to get all that money by taxation. In recent years the only exception to that rule which has come to light as far as Fianna Fáil were concerned was their project with regard to the erection of new parliamentary buildings in Dublin. I think it was conceded by Fianna Fáil Deputies that as far as that was concerned, as far as knocking down a vast area of the City of Dublin, including some churches and hospitals, was concerned, they would permit that type of work to be done on borrowed money. But, as far as housing for the working classes and as far as other matters for which the present Minister for Finance is borrowing money are concerned, Deputy Aiken, Deputy Lemass, Deputy Childers and the other occupants of the Fianna Fáil Front Bench have time and again made it clear that their policy would be to get that money by taxation.
Without endeavouring to discuss the social security scheme, I want to make a passing reference to it in connection with this matter. In so far as the Fianna Fáil Party claim to have an alternative to the social security scheme as produced by the Tánaiste, their alternative is that all the money to finance that scheme is to come out of taxation, that none of it is to be obtained by increased contributions. I think it is quite clear that if the Fianna Fáil policy is as I state, that all the various matters are to be financed out of taxation, the people of this country should be invited to consider what their plight would be at the moment if the Fianna Fáil Government were still in office. I think it will be admitted by Fianna Fáil Deputies that the Supplementary Budget taxes would not have been removed.
On the Vote on Account, Deputy Aiken startled me somewhat by claiming that the Supplementary Budget taxes on beer, tobacco and entertainments were intended to be for one year only. But it seems quite clear, from the few words which Deputy Childers spoke here this evening and Deputy Aiken before him, that the argument was merely used as a debating point in discussing the Vote on Account, and that it was shot out by Deputy Aiken without any very mature consideration. I understood Deputy Childers's speech this evening to be in effect, not alone that he was not ashamed of the Supplementary Budget taxation, but that if Fianna Fáil were there still, the Supplementary Budget taxes would still be in existence. I think it is a fair assumption that if Fianna Fáil were returned to office the people could expect a reimposition of those taxes. Deputy Aiken and Deputy Childers have made it quite clear that their policy is to tax the people. Whatever development is to go on in this country, whether of a capital nature or not, whatever improvements of social services are to be given to the people of this country, all of that must come out of taxation, according to the enunciation of Fianna Fáil policy which we have heard from Deputy Aiken and Deputy Childers.
Deputy Aiken spent some time in discussing the reduction of our external assets and the manner in which that money was being used, the type of imports which came into the country in the last year. I think it is true that the Minister for Finance did express some disappointment that a large proportion of the imports were of a non-essential nature. I think he would express very much more disappointment if he reflected on the type of imports which came into this country when Deputy Lemass was Minister for Supplies and Minister for Industry and Commerce. All of us remember very clearly, particularly the ex-soldier who was induced to put his gratuity, as part of the Fianna Fáil resettlement scheme, into the manufacture of confectionery, the type of imports which were allowed by Deputy Lemass. I think he remembers the various types of sweets and chocolates which flooded the Irish market just when some hundreds of ex-soldiers and officers were being persuaded by Deputy Lemass's colleague, Deputy Traynor, as part of the Fianna Fáil resettlement scheme, to engage in the manufacture and production of confectionery. I think, too, that the workers in the boot factory in Drogheda remember how, in the years 1946 and 1947—at any rate, I would be surprised if his colleague, Deputy Aiken, had not remonstrated with Deputy Lemass about this—the Irish market was flooded with imports of foreign boots and foreign shoes. I think they remember that at least one of the factories in Drogheda, if it did not shut down completely, was reduced to the position of only being able to work part-time. I do not know what the reduction in staff was, but I know there was a considerable reduction due to the policy of the ex-Minister for Industry and Commerce in allowing in certain types of imports.
We all remember, too, how the market here was flooded immediately after the war with fancy breakfast foods from America. Indeed, I think the present Government has a right to regret bitterly the manner in which dollars were wasted at that particular time. Dollars are valuable now; they were also valuable then. All of us remember that for a considerable period —I do not think the imports stopped until the change of Government, though I may be wrong in that—fancy American breakfast foods were imported in large quantities under Deputy Lemass's administration. I could give various other examples but I think I have said sufficient to indicate the general type of imports which were allowed by Deputy Lemass, as Minister for Industry and Commerce, and by Deputy Aiken, the Minister for Finance, in the closing stages of the Fianna Fáil régime.
Whatever may be wrong with the imports brought in last year, the manner in which the external assets were spent, it is right to say that no Deputy on the Fianna Fáil benches, and particularly the two Deputies who were responsible for the Department of Finance and the Department of Industry and Commerce respectively, is entitled to be critical of the type of imports to-day and the manner in which our external assets are being used having regard to their own record and to the hardships they imposed on many sections of our people because of their activities in the past.
Deputy Childers said he was not ashamed and he did not think that Fianna Fáil as a whole should be ashamed of the Supplementary Budget. Perhaps they are not ashamed of it, but I doubt very much if they like to be reminded of it too often. Deputy Childers spoke of the difference between the Fine Gael outlook on social service and the Labour outlook. He quoted a speech made by the Minister in 1949. Had he been a little bit more diligent he would have been able to give the House the benefit of other speeches made by the Minister when he was Deputy McGilligan. I do not believe there is anything either contradictory or inconsistent in the speeches made by the Minister for Finance when he was in opposition and the speeches made by him since he took office.
I do not think anyone can claim that there is any inherent good in State social services as such. The Minister's point of view as expressed by him time and time again, and it is one with which I fully agree, is that if you can get on without State social services by making your people more prosperous, by giving them good employment and good conditions, by raising the national income and the general standard of living, and by encouraging your people to make provision for the future, you will reduce the necessity for State social services and I believe that ultimately that is what we should aim at; I am not saying now that we can do without State social services at the moment. While they are necessary, I believe we should endeavour to make the schemes as good as possible. I do not think there is any inconsistency whatever in the two points of view. I hope to have an opportunity of disillusioning Deputy Childers when the Social Welfare Bill is being further considered; he is completely wrong in endeavouring to make the case that Fine Gael were at any time opposed to a comprehensive scheme of social security. That has been a prominent point in Fine Gael policy as printed in their literature in the past and enunciated by their leaders from time to time. Deputy Childers took credit for the fact that the Fianna Fáil Government introduced the children's allowances scheme. I think they are entitled to credit for that, but I think the present Minister for Education and the present Minister for Agriculture are also entitled to credit as being the instigators of the idea here.
Why did they vote against it then?
They never voted against it.
Of course they did.
The Deputy knows that is untrue.
And they voted against the taxation.
Do not talk nonsense.
I think the House should allow Deputy O'Higgins to proceed without further interruption.
Deputy Lemass is very brazen at times. He believes there is a lot to be said for chancing one's arm from time to time. But he will not always get away with it.
But he voted for providing money for children's allowances. The record is there.
Up to a few weeks ago Fianna Fáil Deputies were firmly convinced that their Party directive was going to be to vote against the social security scheme. I do not know whether the same directive stands to-day.
I wonder does Deputy Lemass remember the 27th October, 1947? Why did he vote against that motion?
Deputy Lemass's memory might be refreshed. I believe Deputy Davin will keep me right if I am wrong in this, that the 27th October, 1947, was the occasion on which a motion tabled by the present Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce was under discussion here, dealing with some modification of the means test as applied to old age pensioners.
They turned it down because it would mean £500,000.
The Fianna Fáil Ministry at that time estimated that to carry into effect the proposal contained in the motion would cost something like £500,000. There was a division on that motion, and Deputy Lemass and his supporters in the Fianna Fáil Party voted solidly against it.
And one Minister said that if he had £500,000 he could spend it better.
Deputy Lemass might be reminded of this also, that was at a time when the pension was 10/-.
It was not.
Deputy Lemass was perfectly content to lose half a million or more every year for prestige purposes, flying aeroplanes between this country and America. He was not so much bothered about the means test, but he was prepared to lose money in that particular direction. I have wandered somewhat from the point I was on.
I am glad the Deputy realises that.
I was in good company, at any rate.
I am doubtful.
Perhaps you are right there; I was in Deputy Lemass's company for some of the time.
There were general interruptions.
Deputy Childers claimed credit for Fianna Fáil for the introduction of the children's allowances scheme. I am prepared to give him credit for that, but I think the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Education are also entitled to some credit as the people who prodded the Fianna Fáil Ministers into doing something in that direction.
They got a shock in an election prior to that.
Deputy Cowan might also get a shock.
Are there any old district justiceships anywhere?
We hear the voice of Cork.
Deputy Childers did not seem to be quite as enthusiastic as his financial leader, Deputy Aiken, on this idea of taxation for everything and for everyone, taxation for all the schemes that are put into operation. I think the Minister will probably deal with some of the results of Deputy Aiken's thinking, when he was thinking aloud here this evening. It did seem to me somewhat far-fetched, coming particularly from an ex-Minister for Finance, that, in the absence of the Deputy Leader, who had spoken at length with his usual assertiveness on the Vote on Account, Deputy Aiken should come out with that proposition.
It will be remembered that, when dealing with the Vote on Account, Deputy Lemass had the grace to admit that the various items of capital development, the various projects which the Minister was standing over as proper items of capital development, were all good projects, all proper projects of capital development, and that they were all sound investments. I think the very use of the word "investment" with regard to them would seem to indicate that Fianna Fáil were prepared to consider them as such and they were prepared to invest money in them. I think money invested in these schemes of capital development obviously should be borrowed and not taken out of the people's pockets in any one year.
I would like the Minister for Finance at some time to while away a happy hour totting up what would be the bill if he were to take the advice of Fianna Fáil Deputies at its face value. If he were to allow all these schemes of capital development to stand, what would finance them? Would it be all out of taxation in the same year? If, in addition to that, he was to allow to proceed the various Fianna Fáil schemes which were either discontinued by the present Government or which were just bubbling to the surface and had not quite reached the surface before the change of Government, such as the scheme for a new Parliament building, how would we find the money?
That was the idea of Deputy Dillon, the Minister for Agriculture; he told us all about it.
You were quick to follow his advice.
I think you may give Deputy Lemass credit for some imagination. It took a lot of imagination to plan that scheme.
I will show to the Deputy what Deputy Dillon said. If I had time I would get it.
I would like the Minister to do a little sum in arithmetic some day and give the House the result. The people are entitled to know it. We must remember that Fianna Fáil seriously put themselves forward as an alternative Government, with an alternative policy. If they were serious in that, I think they would be the first—being the honest men they are—to admit that their policy should reach the people and the probable effects of that policy should be considered by the people before they are called upon to cast their votes at a general election. Obviously, the ordinary elector will have some interest in knowing whether he can expect increased taxation or reduced taxation by the return of a Fianna Fáil Government.
I was astonished here this evening when Deputy Aiken, a former Minister for Finance, made a very wide and roving examination of the things that have happened over the past 30 years. He expressed himself as proud that he had the honour to introduce the Supplementary Budget of 1947, the Budget which was ultimately responsible for removing the Fianna Fáil Government from office.
Fianna Fáil in office was a tough bird, a tough nut to crack, and many efforts had been made over a number of years, but it took the intelligent effort of Deputy Aiken to cook the Fianna Fáil goose. What was the Supplementary Budget? It was an austerity programme going back to the hair-shirt idea of a few years before.
An austerity programme. Tax amusements; tax beer; tax tobacco. That was the austerity programme of Deputy Aiken in 1947——
And reduce the prices of bread, butter, tea and sugar.
——a couple of months prior to the general election. We have kept the price of those articles down without that particular Budget, and we have kept them down for the last three years without that Budget. That Budget was expressive of the state of mind of Fianna Fáil. In other words, they had got into the state of mind that they could not be defeated. They saw opposing them Fine Gael, Farmers, Labour and Clann na Poblachta and I suppose, reasonably, they came to the conclusion that it would be impossible for these Parties to come together and oust them, and at the back of their minds they had the programme which they intended to put into operation, the programme which was to make slaves of the industrial workers of this country, the programme drafted actually into the Bill which would prevent wages being increased.
The Deputy does not know what he is talking about.
They would make it a penal offence for an employer to give a shilling increase in wages to a worker unless it was done with the consent of the Fianna Fáil Party. That was the mentality which was behind the Fianna Fáil Budget. They thought that they had reached the stage when they could say: "Damn the consequences; we can rule with a rod of iron. We will make the people suffer and make the people pay." Fortunately, it was possible to bring about a state of affairs whereby in a democratic and constitutional manner that Fianna Fáil Government with that mentality was put out of office. Immediately there was a sigh of relief all over the country.
Look at them now—three of them.
Fianna Fáil said it could not last. It was impossible, but the impossible did happen and the Government remained in office not for three months as the Leader of Fianna Fáil said, but for three years. It is admitted to-night by Deputies Aiken, Boland and Lemass that the Government is going to last until it decides to declare the general election at the time most suitable to the Government. Deputy Lemass knows that. We will go to the country——
Who are "we"?
This Government, the whole lot of us who are running this Government.
It is not a one-man show.
We will go to the country when we think it is right to go, and when we think we can get the most political advantage for ourselves.
Does the Deputy seriously think he is going to be consulted?
I know this about it, that I am satisfied that when the Taoiseach is taking that decision he will take it in the best interests of the country which happens to be the best interests of the groups that form this Government. There is no doubt about that.
You will drive Deputy Corry out.
The Fianna Fáil idea was austerity, emergency Budgets and the dictatorial aspect of mind to opposition, to the people and to everybody.
The attitude of the new Government was to improve conditions for the people generally twice in three years. We have increased the old age pensions. We increased old age pensions immediately we got into office. We removed the taxes within this Supplementary Budget and carried on without its taxes. We increased allowances for all other classes that may be considered within the social welfare scheme. We increased allowances for the unfortunate workman who might be injured during and in the course of his employment. We increased his compensation from 37/6 to 50/-. We increased wages all round for every section of employees, whether civil servants, Gardaí, Army or otherwise. We increased pensions, and not only permitted but encouraged an increase in wages for all workers whether they were employed by private individuals, by firms, by local authorities or by Government Departments. Is that a bad record?
What about the cost of living?
I will deal with the cost of living in a moment.
The cost of high living.
In addition to all those increases we engaged in schemes of capital expenditure to reclaim the land and to make it more productive. We have more men employed on drainage now and doing effective work than were ever employed on drainage in this country. The whole of the middle of Ireland is being drained at the moment. In a very short time schemes will be in progress on the coastline, in Galway——
The whole County Galway will benefit from this, also Kerry and Wexford. All those are things that we did. We did everything that could be required in regard to the land, fertilisers and lime. Every facility to purchase machinery has been made available by this Government under their capital expenditure programme.
Before we came into office—before Fianna Fáil were defeated—there was not a bed for a patient suffering from tuberculosis anywhere in the country.
We have created a new scheme of hospital building which ensures that no person suffering from tuberculosis will have to suffer or fail to get cured because of lack of hospital accommodation or lack of beds.
I should like to mention one very vital matter—a thing which I think was never done before in this country nor in any other country. When we came to deal with the transport situation, with the railway, with this difficult position of Córas Iompair Éireann not only did we deal with it by providing the finances for it but we gave a guarantee of continued employment to every one of those 20,000 workers who were engaged in the Córas Iompair Éireann concern. Could Deputy Lemass ever even have thought that it was possible to give such a guarantee to workers in any industry in this country? Deputy Davin reminds me that the Fianna Fáil programme, the Lemass programme, the de Valera programme, to deal only with politicians, was to dismiss 3,500 railway workers.
Permanent way workers. How many are employed in permanent way work now? Do you know?
Nearly as many.
Deputy Davin will be speaking subsequently and he will give the exact figures. Our policy was to guarantee employment to the workers and not to hold up the spectre of dismissal. That was an important thing. It shows the mentality that is on this side of the House and the mentality that is on the opposite side.
Somebody mentioned the cost of living. We have reached this stage in regard to living in this country that for the first time the complete butter production of this country has been consumed by the people.
That has been so for the past ten years.
700,000 cwt. of butter have been bought and eaten by the people of the country.
What about what was sold?
We sold some of it, believing the people could not eat so much but, when we found they were able to eat it, it was not a question of cutting the ration, as Fianna Fáil would have done. The Minister for Agriculture imported the quantity of butter necessary to ensure that the people could eat as much butter as they liked. Ten or 12 years ago— and I remember mentioning this from various political platforms at the time —we were exporting 400,000 cwt. of butter every year. We were paying a subsidy on that butter so that John Bull could buy it much cheaper than we could buy it here. Why did we export these 400,000 cwt. of butter? Because the workers of the country had not the wages to enable them to buy the butter, cheap and all as it was, at the time. We had to export it and to pay John Bull to eat it.
With regard to housing, can Deputy Lemass or anybody in Fianna Fáil say that we have not made extraordinary strides in the provision of housing in the past three years? In a very short time, there will be no housing problem in the rural areas in this country. In Dublin we are attacking the housing problem; the corporation is tackling it and they are getting every facility and co-operation from the Government and the Department of Local Government. Anyone who is in touch with people who are looking for houses can see the vast improvement there is in the situation from day to day. In another few years we shall have solved the housing problem in Dublin for the first time in the history of the city.
I have only touched on a few of what I might term the main headlines or outlines of Government activities for three years to show the difference there is between the inter-Party Government and the Fianna Fáil Government, but that is not the end of it all. We have introduced a social welfare scheme, and it is a scheme which is going to look after the worker from the cradle to the grave. Because of certain criticism from certain uninformed sources, it was thought by Fianna Fáil that it would be a good plan or policy to wreck this Government on that scheme, but they were just as mistaken as they were in 1947. In spite of Deputy de Valera's visit to Cavan to give his opinion of the social welfare scheme, we have now reached the position that when the Second Reading of the Bill comes to this House, there will be no opposition to it from Deputy Lemass or anybody else. I defy Deputy Lemass to vote against the social welfare scheme on its Second Stage in this House. Then we have the other scheme which is announced as an ancillary to or part of the general scheme of social welfare—the mother and child welfare scheme. Those are the indications of the mentality behind this Government, the mentality of trying to run the country in the interests of the country. That may offend the financial concepts of Deputy Aiken. It may offend the financial concepts of Deputy Childers, but when it is a matter of happiness and prosperity for the people of the country, I say to hell with financial concepts. On that note I finish my contribution to the debate.
Deputy Cowan has referred to the Government's social welfare proposals, and he did so for the purpose of suggesting that Deputies on the far side of the House are more concerned with the interests of the people who need State assistance than Deputies on this side. I want to make a proposition to him in regard to the increase in old age pensions. In regard to the main part of the Government's proposal, to make it effective all they need do is to change one word in the Old Age Pensions Act. I invite the Government to get a Bill making that change drafted to-night, to ask the Dáil to meet to-morrow, and to submit it to the Dáil. It can then be passed through the Dáil to-morrow, and become law next week. Is that not a fair offer?
Deputy Dr. Ryan would not allow that.
Will the Government allow it?
We are doing it in the Social Welfare Bill.
I will tell you exactly why you are doing it. You do not care a rap about the old age pensioners.
Are we not giving them 20/- a week?
You decided to put that into the Social Welfare Bill, even though the Bill, as originally drafted, did not provide for it, in order to overcome objections to that Bill which had been expressed by Deputies who normally support the Government. You are not changing the amount of the old age pension because you want to improve the lot of the old age pensioner or because you want to restore the purchasing power of the pension to what it was before the war. You are doing this in order to overcome the political difficulty which you anticipated if you proceeded with the Bill as it was originally drafted. Is that not true? If you are trying to pretend that the increase in the old age pension is the outcome of any concern for old age pensioners, then I invite you to come before the Dáil to-morrow with the one-clause Bill necessary to make the change, and I guarantee to you that it will be passed into law before a week is out. You will not do that because you were not interested in the old age pensioners at all until you began to realise that there was a likelihood that you might lose your jobs if the Social Welfare Bill were proceeded with in its original form. Is there one amongst the Deputies opposite who did not profess themselves to be satisfied with the Social Welfare Bill as originally introduced without any provision for the old age pensioners?
We were working behind the scenes.
You were sweating behind the scenes. Your knees were shaking behind the scenes. You thought you were going out of office, as you would go out of office if there was a general election. Then you went to the Minister for Finance, the Minister who promised to cut down Government expenditure before he took office, and having the same anxiety as you had, he coughed up £1,500,000 to enable you to increase these pensions.(Interruptions.)
Why did you not hold out for a 25/- pension? The Deputies who are interrupting me promised the old age pensioners a pension of 25/- a week. They could have got it just as easily as the £1 per week. All you had to do was to hold out long enough and he would have given you 25/- per week. Are you satisfied with 20/-? Do you think it is enough? Will one of you answer me?
I came in here on this debate expecting to hear a discussion upon the Central Fund Bill which the Minister for Finance has proposed consequential upon the introduction this year of Estimates for Government services which establish an all-time record. Instead of that, we are discussing the Fianna Fáil Budget of 1947. Whatever Fianna Fáil did in 1947 is done. Whether it was wise or foolish, it is over—it is on the record. Whether it got us votes or lost us votes, there is nothing we can do about it. We are discussing the administration of the Coalition Government in 1951, a Government who opposed that Budget on the ground that it imposed an intolerable financial burden on the Irish community. It involved governmental expenditure that year to the level of £59,000,000. This year, it will be £83,000,000. If £59,000,000 was an intolerable burden in 1947, what adjective describes a burden of £83,000,000 in 1951? Do you not think that the occasion of a Central Fund Bill of this character should be taken advantage of by some Coalition Deputy to explain just why it is they failed so dismally to fulfil their promise to reduce the cost of Government services, to fulfil their promise of a policy of retrenchment? There is still plenty of time before the Dáil adjourns to give us that explanation, if there is one.
Deputy Cowan knows the right answers and, not being subject to any Party whip, was not deterred from giving them, because the whole administration of Government since the Coalition came into office has been directed to one purpose and one purpose only—to keep it in office. Whenever any political danger threatened the Government which could be averted by spending money, the money was found, the policy of retrenchment was forgotten, and more will be found, and the only thing on which I feel like commenting in that regard is the reluctance of the Labour Party to use their power in full. Why have they trimmed down their demands? Why have they forgotten the programme they fought the election on? Every single item of that programme can be put into effect now, if they want it.
And will be.
Why are they trimming? Why did you settle for 20/- when you promised 25/-?
Step by step.
Where? But, of course, the answer is as I have said: they do not quite know how far they can push without risking a situation that will cause a general election and they want that general election, as Deputy Cowan confesses, only in circumstances that are likely to secure electoral victories for themselves.
That is their only concern in the matter. Honest men might have thought that, having put one programme before the country and having subsequently abandoned it, they should go back to the electors who voted for them and get a renewal of authority to speak in their name; but Deputy Cowan has no such intention, and Deputy Cowan is fully qualified as a Coalition Deputy by his confession, because they all have the same idea, although they are not stupid enough to express it in public, as Deputy Cowan was.
Honesty is the best policy.
It all depends on what you regard as the best policy. The best policy does not necessarily get the votes. We found that out.
You were found out.
We do not mind. We prefer to stand for the best policy on this side than for the worst policy on the other side. A great deal of play has been made with the various matters the Fianna Fáil Government discussed from time to time and did not proceed with. The Minister for Finance has established a precedent— understand that it is a precedent—of quoting from confidential documents circulated to the previous Cabinet in relation to various matters discussed there, and has endeavoured, upon the basis of these documents, to misrepresent what the previous Government were proposing to do.
I have no hesitation in confessing that many times during my years as a Minister, I put up propositions to the Government of which I was a member which were turned down by that Government, and which were turned down for reasons I accepted, because it seemed to me that the arguments advanced against them were stronger than the arguments I could advance in favour of them. I do not mind confessing also that there were many times when other Ministers brought before that Cabinet propositions which I did not like and the withdrawal of which followed upon the arguments which were advanced against them. If this precedent is to be established in our political life, I am quite certain that some time I will have a most enjoyable time reading the minutes which are now circulated to the Cabinet in relation to various proposals which from time to time raised their heads in the Coalition Benches and were never seen again. I could spend half an hour referring to projects that individual Ministers on the benches opposite stated they were going to embark upon and then forgot about, because, presumably, when they brought these propositions to the Cabinet, they were rejected, and rejected perhaps for a good reason.
I do not care what documents you quote in relation to any of these matters to which reference has been made here. I would much prefer that all the documents were made available for public examination, or at least for examination by Deputies. I do not mind confessing that many times during those war years, or in the two more difficult years that followed the war, we thought it necessary to embark upon courses of action, or to examine the wisdom of embarking on courses of action, which we would not contemplate now, actions which would have no relation to present-day circumstances. Surely, in 1951, we adult men should be able to discuss policy for 1951 with reference to the facts as we know them and not solely for the purpose of scoring some debating point by quoting partially and unfairly from documents relating to ideas discussed four or five years ago.
Like Deputy MacEntee.
I am afraid I do not follow the reference.
He does not know how to quote any document.
He has not spoken on this Bill.
A good job.
For you, yes.
So far as I am concerned, I am quite prepared to let the record of the Fianna Fáil Government during the war years stand as a whole. The Minister for Finance can say that I was in favour of this form of control or that form of control. That may be true or it may not be true. In so far as our aim was to bring this nation through the war with a minimum of hardship for its people, with a minimum of damage to its economy and with the capacity within it to go forward, as soon as war-time difficulties were over, to economic expansion, to the improvement of the social welfare services, I claim we did it and did it reasonably well. We made plenty mistakes, of course—not half as many as this Government are making—but the net result was good, and on the net result I am prepared to stand before any group of Irish electors.
It is perfectly true that I said here during the debate on the Vote on Account that the public of this country want capital expenditure upon housing, drainage, afforestation, telephone development, electricity development and all the things that are in the Government's capital investment list. I could double that list. I could name as many other activities in which capital could be invested usefully and should be invested, if we had it. Deputy O'Higgins appears to think that money borrowed and spent upon these capital purposes is not money taken out of the pockets of our citizens. If it does not come out of the pockets of our citizens, where does it come from? It is quite true that at the present time the nation has the benefit of substantial funds contributed by the American authorities. A sum of £40,000,000 is available in the Counterpart Fund for capital investment purposes here. I often lie awake at night thinking of what we might have done in the years before the war if we had had half that sum made available here by the Americans or by somebody else. Do you really think you are making the best use of it? Do you think that this passing advantage which the nation now has is being availed of to give it permanent advantages which will enable it to pay its way when, next year, that revenue dries up? Is it not true that a substantial part of that money has been dissipated in the higher cost of Government administration? Is it not true that some of it has been used to meet Budget deficits used in that way because of the reluctance of the Minister for Finance to balance his Budget, his inflated Budget, by increasing taxation?
I think that is what the record will be of these five years, a period of tremendous advantage, with the whole world situation favouring economic expansion here, with this tremendous financial asset of £40,000,000 given us free by the great United States of America. Can you show, as compared with the development of the five years before the war, anything comparable as a result of these advantages? We had not a world situation such as now exists. We had every country in the world trying to dump goods on our shores, subsidising exports, subsidising shipping freights, trying to break down our efforts to build up industries by under-selling. We had a world-wide slump. We had an economic war on top of that. We had nobody giving us money for nothing but everyone demanding that we should pay them money. Yet, I would say, the record of that five years will stand in comparison with the record of these last five years and we have no need to be ashamed of the comparison.
I am not going to deny that progress has been made in housing. I will controvert the assertion that that progress would not have taken place under any Government, and I am not talking about the Fianna Fáil Government only. Is housing a political matter, a matter of Party controversy? Has it not been said by people on each side of the House that there is one matter upon which we are not in disagreement, the need to eliminate the legacy of slums that we got from years of British misrule by building decent homes for our people through the local authorities? Is there a single Deputy opposite who believes that there would be one house less built if a Fianna Fáil Government were in office or if a Labour Government were in office or a Clann na Poblachta Government or a Fine Gael Government?
When Deputy Cowan talks about hospitalisation, is it necessary to lie, to say that there was not a single bed for a tuberculosis patient in this country in 1947? Will Deputy Cowan or any Deputy opposite name one hospital that has been built since that was not begun or planned before the change of Government?
We have now certain problems which are grave enough to be securing the attention of this House without all this effort to score Party points, and it is in relation to those problems that we have been endeavouring in the past few weeks to get some information from the Government. Price control is one of them. I think there has been a complete mishandling of this price control situation, and I am anxious to get from the Government some elucidation of the principles upon which they are working.
We know that an Order was made on 2nd January freezing the prices of a number of goods. Last week, an advertisement was surreptitiously put into the newspapers amending that Order significantly. There was no statement from the Government Information Bureau. There was none of the ballyhoo which accompanied the making of the original Order. An advertising agency came late at night to each newspaper with a vaguely worded Order which merely said: "The schedule of the Price Control Order will be amended by substituting the following list for the list already appearing therein." It appeared in every newspaper on a Saturday morning. It will show how astutely the advertisement was framed when not a single newspaper in this country grasped its significance or made any editorial reference to it. It was not until the following day that people began to wake up to the fact that the whole price freezing Order had been put into the discard, or appeared to have been put into the discard. Subsequently, the Minister for Finance revealed that the goods which appeared to have been decontrolled by that amending Order were not decontrolled at all.
Why was there not issued with that advertisement an explanatory statement of the reasons why the Government was making the change, what the effect of the change was, so as to help the trading community and the buying public of this country to understand the position?
Let me give an example of what I have in mind. The Price Control Order made on 2nd January applied to potatoes and it was expressed to apply to the wholesale and retail prices of potatoes. At that time, the wholesale price of potatoes in Dublin was £11 per ton, but the Order was retrospective in its effect and purported to fix, as maximum prices, those which prevailed upon 2nd December, 1950. On 2nd December, 1950, the wholesale price of potatoes was £9 a ton. The position, therefore, was that, under that Order, the wholesale price of potatoes should have been reduced to £9 a ton and the retail price should have been related to a wholesale cost of £9. By the 2nd January, however, the wholesale price of potatoes had risen to £11 per ton, and it is still £11 per ton. Either by secret arrangement with the Department—because no public notice appeared—or because of the failure of the Department to enforce its Order, the wholesale price of potatoes has remained since at the £11 per ton it was on 2nd January and not the £9 a ton it was on 2nd December. But, every retail trader in this city has been told that he must continue to sell at the 2nd December price, the price which was related to a wholesale price of £9 per ton. Is that reasonable? Does it not indicate the need for creating some organisation within the Government which will explain to the public these apparent anomalies in the administration of their Orders and what precisely the Government is trying to do.
I can tell you, from years of experience in administering price control, that it is impossible to achieve success of it by administrative methods alone. Unless you can get public co-operation and goodwill behind your control arrangements, they will not work. It took us a long time, after the beginning of the war, before public co-operation was forthcoming in any degree. Time and again I had to speak on the radio, to speak in public, explaining the need for that co-operation, pleading for it, endeavouring to get the public to understand that price control was, in the main, a matter for themselves and that, unless they helped to make it effective, it could not be made effective.
We had to supplement these appeals for public co-operation with legislation of a terroristic kind, to make it an offence, triable before a military court, to infringe a price control Order, and to secure the imposition and enforcement of severe penalties. Even with all that, even with the public knowledge that we were in a war situation, with the realisation that commodities were scarce and that rationing and price control alone gave a prospect of fair distribution of scarce commodities, despite the continued appeals to the public for co-operation, despite the existence of the military court, and the heavy penalties imposed by it, nevertheless, I say that price control was not more than 50 per cent. effective. There was a widespread black market —not as widespread as was alleged— but in every part of the country there were people evading that price control and cashing in on scarcity conditions.
If we are now again entering into circumstances in which price control is necessary, do you think it can be made effective by this hole and corner method of administration, this surreptitious publication of advertisements in the newspapers? Do you not realise that, unless the public back you, you cannot succeed? The case I am making to the Government, that I have been trying to make, is that their existing administrative arrangements are ineffective and inefficient and that, if they are going to make price control work in present circumstances—and I think that we must have price control in present circumstances—then, they have got to apply in this year the accumulated experience of the war years and that experience is available to them amongst the officers of the Department of Industry and Commerce. I think it was next door to lunacy to forgo that experience and to entrust this task to people who had no previous contact with it, a part-time advisory committee of people whose main interest is in other matters.
We have now also the prospect of a fuel crisis. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and I had an argument here during the debate on the Vote on Account as to who in the Government was responsible for the supervision of the turf production arrangements. And merely to justify the assumption upon which I based my contention then that that responsibility had been transferred to the Minister for Social Welfare, I want to quote from a report which appeared in the Irish Independent on the 18th January last. On that date there was published the details of a conference held between the Minister for Social Welfare, the Minister for Local Government and all the county managers and county engineers, and to that gathering of county managers and county engineers the Minister for Social Welfare, according to the report published in the Irish Independent, said:
"The Government has charged me with general supervision over fuel requirements for 1951."
Taking that assertion of the Minister for Social Welfare, I said it was a foolish arrangement, that I could not see how the head of that Department, with his current responsibilities in relation to the Government's legislative programme and the absence of any one in the Department who knows anything about the problem, could effectively supervise the turf production programme on the scale required, and that there were available in the Department of Industry and Commerce, and the organisations linked with that Department, not merely competent officials quite capable of exercising that supervision but also, as in the case of price control, with a great deal of experience which would be of inestimable benefit to them.
The Minister was sick then.
That was the explanation which the Parliamentary Secretary gave me, that Mr. Norton, the Minister for Social Welfare, took that conference because he—the Parliamentary Secretary—was absent in Belfast, and because the Minister was sick. But what the Minister for Social Welfare, according to the Irish Independent, is reported to have said is this: “The Government has charged me with general supervision over fuel requirements for 1951.” That is either true or it is not.
That does not take out the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Again that observation.
In 1946 or 1947 the then Taoiseach took a conference of county managers in the Department of Local Government, but it still did not take the Department from Deputy MacEntee.
Was he entrusted with the general supervision of turf development? I do not care who is in charge. What I am trying to impress on the Government is this—let the public know what they are doing. If there is confusion caused in the public mind by misleading pronouncements such as the Minister for Social Welfare seems to have made let the position be clarified and clarified beyond doubt. I thought that the Parliamentary Secretary had taken some steps towards its clarification by his interjections here during my speech on the Vote of Account, but this afternoon he again confused the issue as to who is responsible for turf production. If there is failure to procure the production in this country of sufficient turf to avoid a fuel crisis next winter who will be to blame? Remember that the fuel crisis we are facing this year was not foreseen by the Government in time. As far back as last August the Parliamentary Secretary to the British Minister of Fuel and Power spoke of an impending fuel crisis in Great Britain. I want to put on record that on the 4th September, 1950, the Irish Press published a leading article referring to that statement made by the British Minister and referring to the possibility of a fuel crisis here and urging upon the Government that they should put into train the measures that were then thought to be practicable to minimise the effect of that crisis upon our people. Not merely was nothing done but the Parliamentary Secretary, when the Dáil reassembled at the end of October said there was going to be no fuel crisis. In the middle of October the Irish coal merchants went to the Department of Finance and asked for an allocation of dollars to buy American coal and were refused.
When the Dáil reassembled the Minister for Finance was questioned on that matter and he said that unfortunately all the available dollars had been allocated and that none could be made available for coal. A few days later the British Minister of Fuel and Power announced that Britain was starting to import coal and immediately there was a realisation amongst our own Ministers of the reality of the crisis and the dollars which a week earlier were not available for coal were then suddenly made available. The Government then took a belated decision to organise the turf production programme. More luck to their turf production programme, but let it be directed with competence, let it be directed by a single authority because you cannot get the co-ordination of all the forces necessary to make it a success if there is going to be a division of responsibility between individual departments. Concentrate the responsibility in one department and let the public know which department has the responsibility, which department will be entitled to praise or entitled to the blame according as their programme succeeds or fails.
These are matters that we should now be discussing. There are other matters perhaps equally grave and equally urgent. Some are referred to on the Vote on Account. They are far more important than the petty debating points which Deputies have been making, far more important than whether Fianna Fáil made wise decisions or wrong decisions during their term of office. I have said that whatever we did is on record and we have got to stand over it. The record of the Coalition is now being made. What you do to-day or next week or next month will constitute your record. Will you at least take the precaution of telling us what you are trying to do so that we will be able to relate your actual achievement with your intentions? We will give you credit for good intentions if you have them.
Will you help us?
But so long as we get this purely political approach, this cynical allocation of funds diverted to solution of Party political problems, this blatant admission that we have just got from some of the spokesmen over there that their sole concern is to win the next election, I promise you our undying opposition.
I hope that after that bullying lecture the Deputy will not leave before I get an opportunity of answering it.
I will leave if I like.
I have no illusions as to which was the better policy as far as these matters are concerned. I had no illusions as to whether it was better to tax luxuries or to come along as one of the present Ministers did and describe here, in his most exuberant mood, the pip-squeak inspectors who were then being sent from door to door into every grocery and bakehouse in the country to see that as far as the ordinary individual was concerned he was not going to get one ounce of bread extra except what he could purchase in the black market. Where did this Government get the money which their predecessors proposed to raise out of taxation on beer spirits and cigarettes? They got it from the black market in tea, the black market in sugar and the black market in bread. So far as the ordinary individual was concerned, flour remained so scarce that the ration had to be kept on for him. But there was a lovely white loaf for the fellow who could pay for it. I want to know from the Minister what did he do with the £7,000,000 worth of fuel that was handed over to him by the former Minister for Industry and Commerce? What did he do with the money when he sold it, and what stocks did he put in instead of it? Seven million pounds worth of fuel. There was a total of 368,000 tons of turf, 390,000 tons of timber and 480,000 tons of coal—and all he has left now is 11,000 tons of turf and 118,000 tons of coal. The balance is gone——
To Córas Iompair Éireann.
——in filling in the gap to make up for the taxes on the beer and the spirits and the tobacco. And now it is going to be replaced. How? How is it going to be replaced and where is the replacement going to come from? You pay more to-day for bringing coal from America into this country than the entire cost of the coal, freightage and all, would have come to 12 months ago. Just consider that state of affairs.
We heard Deputy O'Higgins talk about factories and the unemployment in the factories. I have a kind of a recollection that, about three months after this mixum-gatherum team came in here, two little factories which we had in East Cork were seriously affected because there was a flooding of foreign material into this country. Protests were made to the Minister for Industry and Commerce in connection with it. One of these factories had to do what Deputy Norton did with this Government. It had to close down. When it closed down and all the employees were told that they were idle, action was taken, and it got the protection to which it was entitled. I want to know what this money is for. There is a sum of 19,000,000 dollars for wheat. A couple of million pounds was sent off last year to Formosa for sugar. A sum of £3,500,000 is being sent out of this Vote. The Cuban will get £1,200,000 more for 67,000 tons of sugar than the Irish farmer and the Irish factory worker would get for producing that amount of sugar here. That is what this Vote is for. That is what this money is wanted for. It is wanted in order to pay the foreigner for what our Irish people should be producing— and the Labour Party, of course, stand behind that.
We hear talk about Córas Iompair Éireann. The Labour Deputies know that over 70 per cent. of the total freightage carried by Córas Iompair Éireann is beet and sugar. Just take that 67,000 tons of sugar. You can fancy some 40,000 acres of beet and the employment it would give on the land. The beet would then be taken over by a lorry-owner and transported to the railway station. Just think of the freightage money that Córas Iompair Éireann would draw in respect of it and the extra couple of months' employment that it would mean for 5,000 or 6,000 men in the factories.
Last March I appealed to the then Minister for Industry and Commerce to call a conference in regard to that matter. I was not listened to. When the Formosan sugar was brought in, I appealed to the then Minister for Industry and Commerce to call a conference of representatives of his own Department, of the Department of Finance, of the Sugar Company and of the Beet Growers' Association. I appealed to him to call these four groups of people together in order to see if some method could be arrived at by which that 67,000 tons of sugar would be produced here. I was asked what inducement I thought should be offered. That was the only answer I got. It was 36,000 tons then. It is 67,000 tons now. Just consider a price of £54 12s. Od. a ton to the foreigner as compared with £37 a ton for Irish sugar leaving an Irish factory. That is what the money is for and that is the new policy of the Labour Party. We went from that to 19,000,000 dollars for the wheat. We went to the Argentine for oats, we travelled to Iraq for barley, and then, glory be to God, we would up by buying back Brian Boru's butter from the Danes.
We are told about the prosperity this Coalition Government have given to the people. I wonder where it is. I wonder what the farmers in Mayo feel now about the 2/- for a dozen of eggs after the glorious picture that was painted of 3/6 a dozen. I wonder what they think of the £20 maize which now costs £29 odd. I wonder how they like it. I wonder how the Minister fixes up his costs of production on that basis. When I heard Deputy Cowan repenting, on the stool of repentance, for the bad acts he had done, I saw the Minister writing down his name in the book. I can assure Deputy Cowan that he is going to get something. I have often seen a fairly degrading spectacle, but I have never yet seen a more degrading spectacle than that of the farmers' representatives trotting into the lobby after Deputy Cowan to vote against an increase in the price of milk to the farmers. I have never seen anything more degrading than that—and if that is the depth to which politics have sunk in this country then there is only one cure for it.
Deputy Cowan told us all about the glorious Social Security Bill. He issued his challenge because he had tacked on to the Social Security Bill —what?— 2/6 to pay the difference between the £5 a ton coal which the old age pensioner was able to buy in our time and the £10 that he has to pay for coal to-day. We all know that the aged people are fond of a cup of tea. They can get their extra cup of tea——
There was no cup of tea in your time.
——but they must pay through the nose for it. Then we see the pip-squeaks—to use the term applied by the previous Minister for Industry and Commerce to his employees—who come to the baker and demand to see his list and his ration cards to find out how much bread he has sold for fear the labourer would get one ounce of subsidised bread more than he is entitled to on the ration. If he buys on the black market he can get the stuff.
We doubled the old age pensions.
We all know what happened to the Deputy's tomatoes. A challenge was issued here to-night. We can do it. The Government wants to tie up the old age pensions and use them to say "strike me now with a child in my arms". That old game is played out for a long time. The people of this country are demanding something of us and I can assure Deputy Cowan and the rest that we will kick them out first and look after the old age pensioners then.
Three years ago you wanted to do that.
I do not intend to keep the House.
We want to get this finished. Am I not entitled to some time?
There is still an hour to conclude. I propose to speak on the Second Stage, with all due respects to the Minister, and I am entitled to speak.
There was an arrangement.
An arrangement that the business would be completed to-night.
By half-past ten?
By half-past ten.
The Minister should be allowed a reasonable time to reply.
What is a reasonable time?
That is not for me to say.
It is not for me to say either.
I do not propose to keep the House unduly long.
In the case of any agreement we made in our day the Minister was the man who broke it.
As long as you admit you are breaking it I do not mind.
An undertaking was given that the financial business would be completed this evening. It will be completed this evening.
With an adequate opportunity for the Minister to reply?
No such undertaking was given or asked for.
I know now why the Deputy was so plucky to-night; he knew that I could not reply.
Does the Minister think I am afraid of him?
I think so. I have seen the Deputy cowering when I was speaking and I will see him to-night.
There is an aspect of this matter which has not been sufficiently brought before the minds of this House and of the public with which I would like to deal for a few moments. To-night we are voting a sum of over £31,000,000 to defray the balance of the cost of the Supply Services for the year which is just ending and we are voting something less than one-third of the estimated total cost of the Supply Services for the year which will begin on the 1st April. That £31,000,000 is already, as the House has been reminded, in excess of the Budgets which Fianna Fáil introduced in the years prior to 1939 which were denounced by the present Minister for Finance, then in opposition, as extravagant and oppressive. I do not, however, propose to dilate on that aspect of the matter.
What I do want to draw to the attention of the House is that this £31,088,031 represents less than half of the £83,000,000 which the Minister for Finance anticipates we shall have to find either out of borrowing or taxation to defray the cost of the services for the coming year. I might ask, perhaps, what this £83,000,000 is required for. Judging by what we know of the mismanagement of the public concerns by the Government since it took office one might sum it all up by saying: "£83,000,000 for a policy of mess and muddle." At the beginning of 1948 they closed down upon the various schemes of national reconstruction which had been initiated by their predecessors, the Fianna Fáil Administration. I do not want to recount them now, the shutting down of mineral exploration and development and of the short-wave broadcasting station, the sabotaging of the transatlantic air service or of the Farm Improvements Fund. There are dozens of them which I could mention. I do not want to discuss them at length but it is is no harm that we should keep these in mind.
Other things have been happening, like the prices freeze Order. It is called the prices freeze Order but everybody knows that it did not freeze prices. The first public announcement of the advisory body which they set up was that it could not freeze prices, that prices were bound to increase. But it did freeze something. What it did free was business, enterprise and industry, and before this emergency passes the people of the country will blame and condemn in no uncertain fashion the Coalition which allowed itself to be led by the nose by the Tánaiste, the Minister for Social Welfare, into that sorry blunder. That is an important point and it is as well that it should be put on record.
It is equally advisable to remind the House, as Deputy Lemass has already done, that in so far as there is a coal crisis at the present moment it is largely due, or at least the aggravation of it is due, to the neglect of the Government to take steps to forestall it, the stupidity of the Government in closing its mind to the indications, and not only to the indications but to the plain public statements of people who are in a position to know what the future is likely to bring with regard to fuel, that is, that we would be facing a fuel crisis before the end of the year.
I do not want to refer to the sorry performance of the British trade agreement under which we were guaranteed to get the coal which we are not getting and bound ourselves to restrict the opportunities which present world circumstances offered to develop our export trade with the Continent.
We can leave these things aside for one minute because I want to come back to what is really the fundamental factor in this situation. We are going to spend £83,000,000. That money is being voted by the Dáil. It is conventional to say that it is being provided by the Dáil, but that, of course, is not the situation. It is being provided by the people, but we take the responsibility by our votes here for that £83,000,000, and taking that responsibility there is another responsibility which is being imposed on us, that is the responsibility of seeing that this money is properly spent and properly accounted for. If we turn to these Estimates we will not see at the head of any statement that the vote for the office of the Minister for Social Welfare, for instance, will be accounted for by the Minister for Social Welfare. Instead, we see that the Vote and the expenditure on the Vote is to be accounted for by the office of the Minister for Social Welfare, which is a very different thing. Even though it may be under the political control of the Minister, he has no power to direct expenditure and he has, in fact, only a certain indirect power, acting through the Secretary of his Department, to control his staff. It applies to every Minister in the Government.
What we have to consider is what steps we are going to take to ensure that the 20,000 public officers who are being paid out of this £83,000,000 of the people's money will do their duty and obey the rules and regulations of the service. What precautions are we going to take to ensure that this £83,000,000 will be spent by the responsible officers for the purpose for which it was provided? That is an issue which has been raised in a very acute and critical form during the past few weeks. Under the Ministers and Secretaries Acts, the man who is responsible for the general administration and conduct of the Department is the secretary of the Department; the man who is responsible for the expenditure of any money provided for the service of the Department out of any particular Vote is the accounting officer for the Department and the accounting officer for the Vote. If the position of the accounting officer is going to be undermined——
I do not think that bringing in one case of a civil servant is——
I am raising the general principle. I am pointing out that, according to the first statement made by the first head, by the first permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance, made to the Public Accounts Committee, the accounting officers are responsible to this Dáil through the Public Accounts Committee.
And they have been.
That is so, Sir. That is the point. Every accounting officer in the State is responsible for the expenditure of his share, for that portion of this £83,000,000, which is allocated to the service of his Department. The Ministers are not responsible except in so far as they override the accounting officer and direct him to obey without accepting responsibility. If they are going to do that, they must put that direction in writing. It is a strange thing that the Government, acting as a collective authority, cannot direct any accounting officer to spend any money that he feels he is not entitled to spend in the fulfilment of his obligations to Dáil Éireann. The Minister, who is the political head of his Department and, indeed, the effective head, too, may direct that officer in writing, having said first of all that he has taken note of the officer's objections and that, notwithstanding those objections, he directs that officer to obey without responsibility and to pay the money as directed. That is the position of every accounting officer in this State.
These accounting officers, in their capacity as accounting officers, are not the servants of their Ministers but are the servants of Dáil Éireann. They are the custodians of the public moneys which we entrust to them for expenditure, and it is their duty to see that those public moneys are properly expended. The first Public Accounts Committee, which was set up here to deal with the public accounts of 1922-23, made the position of accounting officers clear beyond any doubt. They said this—and it will be found in paragraph 9 of their first report:—
"A serious personal responsibility attaches to them if they fail in this respect, for if a post factum application to that Department——"
the Department of Finance
"——does not disclose any grounds justifying the expenditure, the responsibility is likely to come back to that individual."
In the year 1927, the third Public Accounts Committee—which had been set up to consider the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General for the year 1925-26—disallowed a payment of some thousands of pounds which the then Minister for Finance had directed his accounting officer to make. The then Minister for Finance, I am happy to say, acted strictly in accordance with the regulations that had been laid down. He did not go off and try to get the Government to carry his responsibility. He issued a minute to his accounting officer directing him—let me remind the House of the phrase—directing him to obey without responsibility. The accounting officer, in discharge of his duty and in fulfilment of the obligations imposed on him by the rules for accounting officers, sent the papers to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. In due course, the Comptroller and Auditor-General reported upon this matter to the Public Accounts Committee, stating that he had been directed by the Minister to make this payment—the Minister did not deny it—and what happened? The Public Accounts Committee disallowed that payment, even though it had been personally directed by the Minister for Finance, and in order to clear himself and secure parliamentary indemnity for the breach, for going outside the ambit of the Vote, the Minister, Mr. Blythe, had to come to this House and present a Supplementary Estimate and ask the House to give him the some thousands of pounds necessary, in order that he might be relieved of the responsibility of making good to the Central Fund the payment which he had wrongfully directed.
It is upon that principle that the whole of our public accounting system is based, the personal responsibility of the accounting officer for every penny that is spent from his Vote. In so far as anything is done by any Minister or by any Government which will weaken that principle, which will tend to undermine the responsibility of the accounting officer or indeed weaken the control over his staff, or tend to destroy discipline in the Civil Service, we are bringing this State down to the ground, we are reducing, and we tend to reduce the control over public finances, and it will not be very long until we reduce the whole administrative machine to chaos. I want to raise this issue because I believe it has been very seriously attacked in recent days. It is not the last we are going to hear of it.
The Deputy stated that he was dealing with a general matter, not a particular case.
This issue has been raised and it will have to be faced in Dáil Éireann when we resume after the Recess.
Deputy MacEntee has joined groups of people who are out to do two damaging things to this country. He joined with those who are trying to give industrialists and traders every encouragement not to do the stockpiling that their business instincts would make them do and their national instincts would certainly drive them to do in a much more intense way. He also joined with a group of people who are encouraging, as fast as may be, traders to charge prices which they are not entitled to. That championship has disgusted quite a number of decent traders and industrialists and, in fact, even those who are not so decent and not so honest are getting ashamed of the open sabotage which is being done to the knowledge of these two classes. However, these people may well live to rue the day when they listened to irresponsible comment of the type to which Deputy MacEntee has given forth. He has made a long-winded effort which I do not think has done him any good.
The Deputy spoke again from the same polluted source of the muddy waters in which he has been splashing and disporting himself for some weeks past in the hope that he may be able to spatter a bit of the mud away from himself. The Deputy, if he is interested in the matter discussed through a series of questions, ought to accept the definite challenge made to him by the Taoiseach, that if the Opposition want a day to discuss that unfortunate civil servant, who I am sure is now rueing the day that he behaved in such an uncritical fashion, they can get it.
Deputy MacEntee was refused permission to discuss a particular case.
The Opposition were offered a day if they wanted to put down a motion, but they have not asked for it.
We will have plenty of days.
They are going to ask for it if Deputy MacEntee can work his leader up to giving him a full day's exhibitionism in this House. I hope if he gets this day the Deputy will tell us how long it is since he resumed friendship with that gentleman.
I never have been anything but a friend. I am glad to be able to say that I can consort with him rather than with some of the people around the Minister.
Your choice is a good one because you have very few to consort with. I hope the Deputy will not forget that when he was at the Custom House he had that same gentleman under orders of dismissal for a breach of orders.
That statement has been repeated on several occasions. I never had any reason to tell the gentlemen referred to that I proposed to have him dismissed. If I had told him that, I would have done it, and I would have done it with good cause. I would not have done it at the behest of Deputy Dunne out of spite and vindictiveness.
When that gentleman occupied a position in the County Dublin as a commissioner he had to be brought down to the Custom House under sealed orders and the next morning walked the plank. That was the order. That is the gentleman who is now such a permanent friend of the Deputy.
I was with him before 1921 and I have been with him since.
I am sure you have.
His wife seems to have a good opinion of the Deputy.
That is more than most wives have of you.
Deputy Corry spoke of degrading spectacles. He is a good judge of degrading spectacles and if he develops the habit of introspection he has he will be a better one. I cannot follow his hallucination with regard to the price of what was left in the Phoenix Park masquerading as fuel left to us. There was a debt of over £4,000,000 still to be paid by the citizens on account of what Deputy Corry, apparently, is under a grave hallucination as to what happened.
You charged £9 a ton for it.
Even at that it did not pay the cost of bringing it here or the cost of the commission which some people got for bringing it here.
Is that an insinuation against some people?
There were commissions paid.
To traders who were always in the business?
Yes, and nobody else.
I want to direct attention to Deputy Lemass' speech and to ask the House to remember the arrogance of the last phrase, after the Deputy had travelled in bullying fashion over several matters, that his speech was the appropriate type of speech to make and not one about the pettifogging little political things spoken of by others. The Deputy always had a good conceit of himself. He showed himself in his appropriate mood to-night. I want people to recollect the hoarse anger, the vigour, the contempt for everybody, the criticism of everybody who went before him. That was the mood. Add that mood to this, that he was annoyed at its being revealed that he left behind him his plan to freeze wages, making it a criminal offence for any employer to give an increase in wages. He was, of course, going to take in the rise in profits, but only on a selective basis. He would choose for it industrialists who had not obeyed orders about fixing prices according to a profit margin. He would pick them and there might be an appeal for his victims to a certain body and they would be a very select group, selected as much for their political opinions as anything else. When these people were picked, they had a right to appeal to a certain body which the Deputy would set up, but the one thing he insisted upon was that there would be no right of appeal to the courts.
Deputy Cowan is perfectly right. There was in process of making here, by a group of people who forced themselves to the conviction that they were impregnable in office, before the election at which they were defeated, the tightest little tyranny ever fastened on any democratic country. Wages frozen, profits to be taken from the people who had earned the displeasure of Ministers, and then the austerity programme that Deputy Cowan spoke of. In addition to that, in 1947, Deputy de Valera told us: "As for emigration, we cannot stop it. There is a tendency there and it will probably go on to the end of the world. There is a tendency all over the world to drift from the rural areas to the towns and we cannot stop that, either. As far as agriculture is concerned, if any of you people are in a position to give us a plan, we will accept that plan and try to work it." That was the desolation that people were faced with. There was certainly no enterprise in borrowing or spending for the good of the people in that—there was just taxation.
Then we had Deputy Childers coming in here and speaking like somebody you would hear on the Third Programme of the B.B.C. He told us that there was nothing wrong about taxing beer or smokes, that that is something which ought to be considered in conjunction with vast schemes of Government policy. The vast schemes are revealed to be—even announced tonight—transatlantic planes and a short-wave broadcasting station, but, always left out by Deputy Lemass, the grand, magnificent £11,500,000 building for civil servants, a new Parliament House, by the destruction of a considerable part of Merrion Square.
Deputy Lemass seems angered and worked up over what the Tánaiste did with regard to old age pensions and offers this: bring in a single phrase Bill and I will get the House to pass it immediately. Is not that the offer? Yet on the 22nd October, 1947, as Deputy Davin reminded him, when there was not £1,000,000 in the kitty for the old age pensioners but some £500,000, the Deputy and his Party flocked into the lobbies against the proposal made then on the grounds that they could not afford it, and the phrase was used that if they had £500,000 they could afford they would put it to better uses than giving it to old age pensioners. The Deputy is angered by the fact that the old age pensioners will get more money.
I have here an excerpt from two of our morning newspapers the Saturday after the announcement was made. I have the Irish Press saying: “Below in tabular form are the Fianna Fáil proposals for social welfare as outlined by Dr. Ryan.” The Irish Independent put it more honestly: “Fianna Fáil offices last night issued the following announcement showing their proposals.” Lo and behold! there was, of course, in that tabular statement something for old age pensions and something about a means test. They had forgotten that they had circulated part of their proposals before that Friday morning and there was a bit of a scurry that morning to get their proposals back so that they could include in them something for old age pensions. It is there now, and the amusing thing is that, according to the Deputies on the Opposition Benches, it was at one time a bribe on this side of the House, but now, because Deputy Lemass backs it, it is honest politics.
There was a time when I used to amuse myself reading the mythological stories of ancient Ireland and the heroes of long ago. It was interesting to read about the heroes of that heroic period; before they went into battle they used to suffer all manner of bodily contortions in order to work up their enthusiasm for the fight. Deputy Lemass was in that mood to-night The only difference is that mythological heroes were of heroic stature: there is nothing more undignified than the spectacle of a small man in a rage when the rage is such that the small man is unable to contain it. That was the spectacle Deputy Lemass presented here to-night.
Deputy Lemass told us during the course of the debate on the Vote on Account that lawyers were an essentially stupid tribe, outside of their court work. But lawyers have occasionally been hired by business men, and even by politicians, to get them out of trouble when they find themselves in the courts.
We were not in the trouble.
I think there was one man who was. In any event, the Deputy has quite definitely said that lawyers are stupid. From what eminence does the Deputy speak? If the Deputy were remarkable in this country for his performance in the arts, in science or in the humanities, or, indeed, in anything, one might see some excuse for him. For three years back as far as politics are concerned this House has been entertained more often by records of the Deputy's failures rather than of his successes.
The Deputy was in business at one time. Possibly he may tell he has a business stature. There is one business which will be remembered as long as people's memories last. I believe to-day when business men meet around the town they sometimes toast Deputy Lemass and the way he handled the Argentine dictator, Péron. Does the House remember the way he did it? Péron had wheat that had been mouldering over the autumn and through the winter. Deputy Lemass was looking for wheat. Péron raised the price of it. It came to the close of the Deputy's period in office and the Deputy conceived a plan; it was overwhelming in its simplicity, and I think "simplicity" is the operative word. He would offer Péron his price. He did so, and he paid him £50 a ton, the price that Péron asked. It was the worst bargain ever made in the history of this country and, if the Deputy wants to found his reputation on that, I think he should get his reputation established publicily on that transaction.
We paid the same price as everyone else paid. The price was controlled.
It could have been bought much cheaper earlier but, as the stuff went bad, the price went up. The Deputy thinks that price control is difficult and he thinks that the one thing necessary is that it should be done before the public. What are we doing? The Prices Tribunal sits in public. The great trouble the Deputy is in with some of his supporters is that they do not like to appear before a public tribunal and the clamour that the Opposition Deputies set up is that it is a scandal that people should have their business discussed in public or have the group profits disclosed in public. We want public confidences. That was the reason put forward by the Tánaiste in his speech when he spoke in support of the establishment of this tribunal. He said that we must make the public conscious so that, if prices had to go up, at least the people would know the reason for the inevitable increase and would no longer continue to exist in the state of confusion in which they were left in the past, a state in which people crawled around to the Deputy's Department and came out with the results of the machinery of price control working there which gave them unheard of profits.
But we answered here.
The answer was made for nothing that happened. In any event do not forget that Deputy Lemass says price control is ineffective. What has been the clamour since the Prices Advisory Body was set up? That there is no necessity for a new tribunal because there was most effective machinery for controlling prices already in existence.
If it was allowed to work.
Did the Deputy allow it to work?
The Deputy said that price control was ineffective. The corollary then is that either he did not work it in his time or it was not effective.
But you decontrolled.
I have examined the method. The manufacturer got a price fixed and then on to that was put a percentage which the wholesaler would charge; the goods went to the wholesaler and, after that, there was a retail percentage fixed and, after that, the goods were marketed. I asked one day what happened where a wholesaler did not exist and I was told: "Oh, you stick it on to the retail price."
What is the system now?
We are definitely getting away from that.
It is exactly the same price.
The wholesale price was allowed where there was no wholesaler. That was the system. As a stupid member of the Bar, I was once asked to advise certain people going before the Department to get a price fixed. I looked at the papers. I was just about to write on them when the papers were collected from me. I asked what had happened. I was told that it was all over as far as I was concerned. I was anxious to find out what happened. I was told that another group of people were asking for a certain percentage of profit. They went into the Department of Industry and Commerce where they were interviewed by one of the Deputy's staff, who told them they could not get more.
You mean one of the officials of the Department.
One of the officials, who told them they could not get more than the profit suggested. But the profit suggested was more than they were looking for.
That did not happen.
That is the story told to me.
The same official is in charge of the prices branch as was in charge in my time.
There was never effective control.
That is exactly what I said.
The only way to have effective control is to get the people to appear publicly and get their profits disclosed and, if necessary, get the individual profits disclosed in secrecy.
What about the university professors' salaries then? You will not tell us about that.
I will tell the Deputy anything he likes. He can go out and link arms with Deputy MacEntee and be quite happy in doing all the dirty work he wants to do. I take it he is annoyed because I am not giving him some attention. Deputy Aiken spoke here about "passing the buck". He applied the phrase to borrowing. I suppose it can be applied to borrowing; anybody who borrows can be said to be "passing the buck". The Deputies passed the buck in their time; there was a lot of borrowing. Where is the good in using a meaningless phrase like that? The Deputy should really address himself to our programme.
We have told him what we intend to spend. We have told him the projects on which we intend to spend the money. We have told him what our objectives are. We have asked the Deputies to challenge them if they did not consider them proper for investment purposes. We waited here through all the long and weary days of the Financial Resolutions and the Finance Bill. Did anybody object to the programme we had laid down? We came to the present year then and all that Deputy Lemass could say in relation to the present Book of Estimates was that there were some flipperies with which he could quarrel, but that when it came to the borrowing programme there was nothing to which he could take exception. The only peculiar thing was that he used the very peculiar expression that one should not borrow for investment purposes. Now that is where we part company. We think our projects are good borrowing projects. We think we are borrowing quite properly for them. Deputy Aiken said on one occasion that costs had been increased by reason of inflation because of all the extra money poured out. Later on he said that costs had not risen and that, if they had, it was only by a few points, and he suggested that few points was due to the impact of the Korean war, and the stockpiling which has taken place since.
Deputy Aiken did see the gap which Deputy Lemass, apparently, did not see. Deputy Aiken says that as long as the ports are open you will get in the goods; you will never have the type of inflation of having too much money chasing too few goods. I deplore the rate at which some of the goods are coming in, but will Deputies put up their alternative proposals? Deputy Lemass wants physical controls in order to stop goods coming in. But then we will have the classic type of inflation—too much money chasing too few goods.
Deputy Lemass would have us going back to the good old days of beer and tobacco and a lot of other taxation, and you are taking the money out of the people's hands so that they will not have to spend it. Deputy Aiken on several occasions said that assets are down by £100,000,000. Some of these days Deputy MacEntee and Deputy Aiken will be coming in arm-in-arm, but they will realise that we have sounder ideas in relation to economics. Deputy Lemass was rather anguished. He spends sleepless nights thinking of what he would do if only he had 40 millions of American money.
Deputy Aiken thinks we have spent it and it is a debt; he thinks it is gone. There seems to be some lack of cohesion between whoever it is who co-ordinates the efforts of the Opposition. There used to be a single mind, but now there are as many minds as there are individuals, now that they are in Opposition. Deputy Aiken finally came to the point of believing that having a bit in reserve was a great thing. He was challenged about the reserve and he was asked was it better to spend it at home or leave your money in fast-declining securities abroad. The only way to get over the difficulty, in his opinion, was to have a good bit in reserve and not spend your money on a spree. Now, it is interesting to observe Deputy Aiken's attitude and Deputy Lemass's attitude in relation to this matter.
According to Deputy Aiken, money is being spent on a spree. There is only one peculiarity over a spree. A spree generally causes a headache. This has certainly caused a headache, but not to the people who are on the spree.
Deputy Childers speaks like a B.B.C. Third Programme. Some of these days he, too, will get to know something about this country. The last Government gave Deputy Childers a naturalisation certificate, but there was some ambiguity about it; they failed to make him a naturalised Irishman. He has no conception of what this country needs.
Having murdered his father.
And he has a much less conception even of what this country objects to. He passes over in an airy way the idea of anybody being aggravated over smokes—over tobacco or beer. He thought we had reached the lowest depths of politics in a parliamentary assembly where actual play was made with taxation which affected smoking and drinking. Even if the Deputy wanders up and down the Irish countryside, he has not yet got himself attuned to Irish conditions. If that is the type of mind he has, and if that is at the background of Fianna Fáil, I wish them luck with him and I hope he will long remain something of a leader amongst them.
Why did you murder his father?
Deputy Cowan is licking his chops.
The last Government came to the end of its tether in 1947. They did not know where they stood with regard to emigration or unemployment. They told us, with regard to our main industry, agriculture: "Give us any plan you have and we will try to operate it". And the background of it all was Deputy Lemass's preparations for a wage freeze and a selective attack on people making unreasonable profits. If it was not for the people's anger over what Deputy Childers thinks is inconsequential, they could have forced that programme home.
The programme had been abandoned long before that. Price control legislation ended when war ended. The wage freeze ended in 1946.
That is not so.
According to the Deputy, the new programme ended when he met the trade unions before the election, in 1947 or early in 1948. It was a thought in the Deputy's mind up to that point. Is not that so—up to November, 1947?
The Trade Union Congresses met and agreed——
There was no agreement.
The records do not disclose any agreement. There was no agreement.
The final discussion was after the election and they agreed that——
Deputy Lemass was drifting around Government Buildings, keeping in touch with the parliamentary draftsman. He was up and down and he had a scheme. Suggestions were made by his colleagues. There was no overpowering argument that he should drop it, but there were suggestions for changes. And all this is on the file in the Deputy's handwriting. He wanted this new plan hurriedly drawn up in the parliamentary drafts-man's office because he wanted it as a weapon when he met the trade unions. Is not that right?
It is also true that the Taoiseach had informed the Dáil that the alternative to agreement was legislation.
He wanted a scheme bearing on the taking away of the protection of the Trade Disputes Act.
Do not ask any questions if you do not want answers.
I am speaking out of my own knowledge from the files. The Deputy did want this weapon against his meeting with the trade unions. He wanted to have against the two Trade Union Congresses this weapon, with this in mind: "If you do not agree, I have something in store for you." And here it is. No increased wage beyond what was there in mid-October, 1947, beyond that related to the cost-of-living new figure, and if any employer gave more than that it would be a crime——
Or did not give the increase proposed—do not forget that.
If any employee struck to get more than that, then that employee was going to have removed from him the protection of the Trade Disputes Act. If that scheme had gone through it would unquestionably have brought the industrial activities of this country back to pre-Napoleonic days, back to the period when labourers could not combine in order to get themselves betterment in their industrial occupations. Conditions of that description existed in those days, but by degrees civilisation progressed and one reformer after another came along and you got this thing gradually built up and ulitmately you had the protection of the Trade Disputes Act under which any of the people who were looking for improved conditions or extra wages could engage in a proper wage dispute and have an opportunity of making their case.
But what was it the Deputy wanted? If he did not get the agreement he wanted to get back to the conditions that prevailed in pre-Napoleonic times. And if he got his agreement, could he boast that the conditions would be such that people could hammer matters out and arrive at some satisfactory conclusion? No, it was not anything of the kind. It was the biggest piece of coercion ever known in this country for years, and the whole thing comes to this, that there was in the process of manufacture in this country at that time the tightest little tyranny that was ever contemplated by any group of people.
This Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of Article 22 of the Constitution. Seanad Éireann will be informed accordingly.