I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The understanding is, I believe, that when we complete the Second Reading of this Bill the Estimate which is associated with it will be put automatically to the Dáil. This capital Development Fund Bill, as Deputies will see, proposes that the Dáil should give the Government power in any year to spend up to £5,000,000 for capital development which is in the national interest. The £5,000,000 which we are asking the Dáil for this year is in addition to the £40,000,000 or so of works of capital development which the Minister for Finance announced at the time of the Budget. In order that we can see the total picture, we have to put that £45,000,000, which is proposed should be available for capital development this year, in comparison with what was done in previous years. In 1950-51 the total sum spent on capital development works by this State was £24.61 million and in 1951-52, £32.73 million.
National Development Fund Bill, 1953—Second Stage.
Or £35,000,000, which?
My figure is £32.73 million and I think that the Deputy will find that that is the correct figure.
I think the Minister will find that the other figure is £35,000,000.
That may have been what was estimated but I am talking about what was spent.
I am talking about the actual spending.
We will see about it. That is the figure I have got for 1951-52. The actual expenditure for housing, sanitary services, agricultural development, electricity development, touristdevelopment, telephone development, schools, et cetera, et cetera, was £32.73 million. The estimate for this year at the time of the Budget was £39.29 million, and if we add the £5,000,000 we are asking for now, if it can be spent in this year and there is a necessity to spend it, the total sum asked for by the Government in this financial year would amount to £44.29 million.
Did not the Minister once say that that £44.29 million would be reduced to £36.30 million?
The Deputy, I think, is talking about the sum of money that would be required to borrow for the objects of expenditure set out by the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement, as reported in column 1194 of the Official Report. He gave an estimate of the capital required for each item in the financial year and the total came to £39.29 million. The question, of course, which any citizen must put to himself, if he takes an interest in public affairs, is whether it is right that in this financial year the Government should ask the Dáil for power to spend an extra £5,000,000 on works of capital development.
Without knowing what they are?
Without knowing what they are. Is it right that the Government should ask the Dáil to entrust them with the power to spend £5,000,000 within the financial year without the items upon which it will be spent being put before the Dáil and passed in the normal way by means of Estimates? The question is whether it is right that an extra £5,000,000 should, in fact, be spent at all, no matter from where the Government get it, even if the Government got it as a gift. In order to satisfy reasonable persons with regard to that, I would refer them to the balance of payments. The balance of payments is the indicator, the best barometer that a Government has, with present statistical knowledge at any rate, as to whether there should be further expansionist activity or not.
When the balance of payments isgood and unemployment is not so good, that indicates that there should be an expansionist policy to make use of the energies of the unemployed and to develop the country further. It indicates that every opportunity should be taken to use the energies of people who are idle to the greatest extent possible and in the best available directions. When, of course, the balance of payments is dangerously adverse it indicates the necessity for internal adjustment rather than a total expansion.
It is the national duty of the Government to balance the total national economy. We have no right to spend for our own immediate comfort, or for the avoidance of political discomfort, the accumulated past savings of our people. We have a right and a duty, if we can, to translate those savings which are held in an external form into savings of an internal form if the opportunity should arise, but we have no right to spend them for current consumption and the Government certainly would be very neglectful of their duty in the last few years if they had allowed a continuance of the expenditure of £62,000,000 a year of the external savings of our people without making sure that there was an equivalent saving and addition to capital at home.
At the present time the indications are that we can add to capital expenditure in this year, over and above what the Government contemplated at the beginning of the year, without doing damage to our balance of payments and for the benefit of our people. The reason I say that is that last year the adverse balance of payments amounted to about £9,000,000, and this year coming now as we are to the end of the year, it is estimated that it will be somewhat below that figure. Now, even with modern statistics, we cannot have accurate forecasts of Government expenditure and of economic trends too far ahead, particularly in turbulent days such as those in which we live. Under the present system of preparing Estimates for the Dáil, Ministers and Departments may be trying to forecastwhat is going to happen at the end of 15 months or more. The Estimates are usually prepared in the Departments during November-December. The Estimates deal with what is thought likely to happen and with the funds that are likely to be required in the period from the following April to the end of 12 months later. It is very difficult to forecast accurately, and, therefore, we are asking the Dáil to give the Government the right to spend and to meet the needs of the next four years provided an Estimate is passed in the Dáil for the required amount—the right to spend up to £5,000,000 without having to justify in advance the purposes for which the money is going to be spent.
The Dáil might very well refuse. In normal times, the Dáil might very well say: "It is up to the Government to do its job and to prepare the Estimates well ahead, bring them before the Dáil and get them passed, and if they make a mistake in under-estimating in any way, they should, during the course of the year, introduce a Supplementary Estimate and pass it through in the normal way." Well, I am putting it to the Dáil that in times like these the Government should have a little bit of elbow room, that we should have a little bit more elasticity than would tie the Government down to the full 100 per cent. of all State funds expendable, and to the getting of approval in advance from the Dáil. What I am asking the Dáil to do to-day is to give to the Government a little bit of elasticity to the extent of 3½ per cent., or thereabouts, of the total State expenditure. After all, we did put through the Dáil Estimates for £100,000,000 odd.
On which you are pledged to economise to the extent of £3,500,000.
That is right.
Now, you are coming in to ask for £5,000,000 to skite around with although you promised to save £3,500,000.
That is just because we do not believe that we are completely and absolutely accurate prophets.
You are telling me.
Deputy Dillon is a man who knows not only what has happened in the past in every country on every particular day, but he is quite prepared to foretell what is going to happen in every country every year for the next 1,000 years. We cannot do that, and on that basis we are asking the Dáil, in this particular year, to give us a 3½ per cent. liberty to overspend on particular items. The Dáil can refuse that. They can say that the Government should know in advance every particular item, and should get prior sanction for it. We can have no quarrel if the Dáil says that, but I am putting it to the Dáil that in times like these when the normal person at any rate cannot forecast very far ahead—if Deputy Dillon does not behave himself I shall ask the Ceann Comhairle to ask him to do so. This is an important matter.
There is no temper at all but a slight indignation.
Calm down. It is too early in the morning.
I am quite calm.
The Taoiseach should send out for some iced water.
The Minister should be allowed to make his statement without interruption.
I did not interrupt.
You have been erupting there. If the Deputy wants to do that he should go out and give the people who want to discuss this in a reasonable way a chance.
Keep me out of it.
I did not accuse you of doing it. It was Deputy Dillon who was erupting.
Someone got out of bed at the wrong side this morning.
Order! EveryDeputy will have an opportunity of making his own statement.
I would say that ordinary mortals like the members of this Government cannot accurately forecast in these turbulent times the result of all the activites of the 3,000,000 people we have here to the extent of 3½ per cent. We are asking the Dáil for liberty to spend £5,000,000, which is 3½ per cent. of Government expenditure this year, if the circumstances from month to month and from week to week should warrant drawing on this money for capital expenditure, and when the balance of payments is reasonably right, when the unemployment situation is wrong and when there is an opportunity to utilise the energies of the unemployed to increase the national wealth.
Now, our export trade has increased enormously in the last couple of years. In fact, the volume of domestic exports in the January-October period of this year was 48 per cent. greater than in the corresponding period of 1951.
That is an indication that if imports are kept reasonably below the point at which they will absorb total exports, based on the current year, we can accomplish national expansion without doing national damage. The one good point about our exports is that they are more largely based on real national production than heretofore. We do not spend so many dollars on maize in order to produce pigs and beef for sale in the British market. There is better production at home. Our farmers are beginning to see the value of lime and artificial fertilisers as well as good farmyard manure for the production of crops and that has had the effect of increasing our ability to export. As I say, in the last nine months ending October our exports were 48 per cent. greater than in the corresponding period of 1952.
Well, you are now after giving the wrong date.
I sometimes make a slip of the tongue. We are not all as perfect as the Deputy.
God help you.
When a man has repeated a figure three or four times and makes a slip of the tongue, the normal intelligent person does not pass remarks. He does not want to show that he is so clever that he could pick up a small point. He rather concentrates on large points.
I am now waiting for a large point to be made. I have been waiting since 10.30 this morning but one has not turned up yet.
Would it not be refreshing if we had something about the Bill now?
This particular measure is in keeping with what the Government did at the end of the war when the Transition Development Fund was introduced. The Transition Development Fund at that time was for £5,000,000 in a single sum.
Was it not £7,000,000?
It was £7,000,000.
Deputies can make these points afterwards if they wish.
It is not from the point of view of correcting Deputy Dillon, it is merely from the point of view of getting the matter accurately stated in the Dáil that I am stating deliberately that the figure was £5,000,000. I think that if Deputy Dillon and Deputy Mulcahy check up they will find that I am right. The fund was for a single sum of £5,000,000. I was then Minister for Finance, and the fund was brought forward in order to give the Minister for Finance a little freedom in supporting capital development of variouskinds. That was a time when things were changing rapidly and one could not foretell exactly what was going to happen a few years ahead. I asked the Dáil to give me £5,000,000 so that I could promise a Department that if it went ahead and kept reasonably within the bounds of prudent expenditure I could support them out of this fund.
Take housing, for instance. In 1946 it was difficult to know whether prices were going to rise very rapidly or, perhaps, fall. People were rather inclined to the view at that time that prices would not rise very much after 1946. We felt that rather than make a permanent readjustment upwards in the level of housing subsidies we would say to the local authorities through the Minister for Local Government: "Go ahead; build your houses and we will give you what is reasonable out of the Transition Development Fund." That had the effect of enabling some local authorities to proceed with house-building much more quickly than if they had to wait until the Government made up its mind on what was likely to be the level of housing costs a year or two ahead. The fund did good work also in getting organisations like the E.S.B. moving on development work. No one could say what wire and electrical equipment was going to cost in 1947, looking forward from 1946, but we could say to the E.S.B.: "Go ahead with your plans for rural electrification and if there is a deficit we will pay it out of the Transition Development Fund." That was a system adopted at that time and it had the effect of getting development going very much more quickly after the war than that development would have proceeded if the Government had to wait in relation to that sum of £5,000,000 to expend it until detailed Estimates were passed by the Dáil.
I do not want to leave anybody in this House or in the country under the impression that I think that capital expenditure by the State is anything but a very slow and cumbersome substitute for capital expenditure by private individuals. If you can get a few thousand or more private individualstogether to take advantage of the present situation to build industries, and if we can get a few hundred thousand of our farmers to take advantage of the present situation to improve their lands, a lot more good would be done in a permanent way for the national capital wealth than if the Government spends in this year £39,000,000 or £45,000,000 or whatever number of millions it spends.
There is at the present time a magnificent opportunity for both farmers and industrialists to develop their business. We are not short of funds. A great number of individuals in the country are not short of funds. The State has provided many ways to help out those who have some funds of their own, but whose ideas for development reach beyond their own private means. We have ways and means of coming to their assistance in the form of loans and grants. I want to say I think that there may not be better times in the future for people to invest their capital than at this present moment. Our farmers are reputed to have £70,000,000 or more in the banks. I think the best bank that a farmer could put his money into is his own land. No matter what price levels may be, whether they go up or down, the farmer whose land is well cared for, well-limed and well-fertilised will be in a better position to make money than the farmer who neglects his land. I would emphasise this this Development Fund is no substitute for the efforts that private individuals should themselves make to develop their own capital resources by using their liquid capital to improve their fixed capital in land and buildings and machinery.
Consider for a moment the demonstration that is being given to farmers all over the country by the Department of Agriculture and its experts of the profitable use of some of their savings in putting lime on the land. In 1946, the then Minister for Agriculture was fortunate in getting an extensive piece of what was perhaps the most neglected land in this country. There was a magnificent building on it but the owners had not been living there for a number of years and it had almost reverted to something below its natural state. Itproved to be a magnificent place in which to carry out experiments as to the profitability of the use of various manures and fertilisers and the amount which it was profitable to apply in particular cases. By the mere expenditure of £2 on 55 cwt. of ground limestone per acre, the experts in Johnstown found that in the following six years the six crops yielded £100 extra from one acre. Therefore, by an expenditure of £2 many farmers could put themselves into the position of earning an extra £100 over a period of six years. That is a fact that cannot be denied. Possibly in some cases the original expenditure might be more than £2; in some cases it might be less but an average expenditure of £2 would yield that result in relation to the vast majority of our farmers.
Will the Minister say if it is the intention to use this fund for the distribution of ground limestone?
That is one of the purposes for which this fund is being opened. Again I want to emphasise that this fund is not offered as a substitute for what the farmers, the industrialists and the people with money should do themselves in order to increase the national wealth. It is both unreasonable and unwise for farmers to keep £2 in the bank from which they will get over a period of six years, perhaps, a few shillings when, by investing that £2 in lime and putting that lime on their land, they could get not a few shillings extra in six years but £100.
That is an exaggerated statement. There is no sense in that statement.
I will refer the Deputy to an advertisement which was issued.
Have sense, man.
The Minister should be allowed to proceed without interruption.
Deputy Dillon is almost airborne, and everyone knows that.
Can you imagine anybody saying that if you spend £2 on lime you will gain £100?
It is our misfortune that the man who was in charge of agriculture here for three years does not know that by the expenditure of a couple of pounds on lime one can, in fact, get an extra £100 in six years. It is a damned disgrace on the part of the people who put him in charge of the Department of Agriculture.
Is the Minister getting that out of his own land?
Of course, and more.
Do not be talking through your hat.
Deputy Dillon denies that by the expenditure of £2 on ground limestone a man can get an extra £100 from six crops in six years. I will read for him now what the experts of the Department of Agriculture who were put in charge of this work in 1946, and who continued it in spite of the Deputy's antipathy to ground limestone, have to say. I will put this on the records to show exactly the results that have been obtained. In 1946, they applied 55 cwt. of ground limestone per statute acre to land in Johnstown. It cost them £2. No more care was taken, no more fertilisers applied, no better seed applied to the acre that got the limestone as compared with the acre that was not limed and, everything else being equal, the following results were achieved. In 1947, the limed land produced 16½ cwts. of malting barley. From the unlimed they got 7 cwts. There was, therefore, an increase of 9½ cwts. In 1948, the land was under sugar beet and mangolds. From the limed portion they got 16½ tons of sugar beet per statute acre and 11½ tons from the unlimed. They got an extra 5 tons of sugar beet per acre from the limed land as against the unlimed. In one year they have an extra £25 for an expenditure of an extra couple of shillings. In the case of mangolds, from the limed land they got 36½ tons and from the unlimed, 20½ tons, or a surplus of 16 tons ofmangolds. Put the price at no more than £3 per ton and there is nearly £50 extra in that particular year for an expenditure of not more than a few shillings. In 1949, in spring wheat they got 39 cwts. from the limed land and only 20 cwts. from the unlimed land. They got 19 cwts. extra, probably £30 worth of wheat extra, for the expenditure of an extra few shillings on ground lime.
In 1950, limed land produced 12½ tons of grass for silage. Unlimed land produced 10 tons. There was an extra 2½ tons in the case of limed land over unlimed land. In 1951, the limed land produced 21½ tons as against 16 tons for unlimed land, an excess of 5½ tons of grass for silage from the limed land as against the unlimed land.
In 1952, limed land produced 18½ tons per acre of grass for silage and unlimed land 16 tons, an excess of 2½ tons from the limed over the unlimed land.
In these six crop years, taking typical crops produced over a large part of the country, for the expenditure of £2, the farmers got an extra £100 worth of produce per acre. I say to the farmer who has money in the bank or who can beg or borrow money to correct the calcium status of his land, that he is a fool if he does not do it. If he keeps his £2 in the bank, he will get only a few pence interest on it. By putting it into his land he can get an average of almost £20 a year interest.
Will the Minister indicate how the money under this fund will be used to increase the use of lime?
I will come to that point. First I want to contest what Deputy Dillon said here and I want to give the farmers the fact that, without touching this fund or any other Government fund, if they have a couple of pounds themselves and if their land is acid and if they restore the calcium status of the soil, without doing anything more, they can improve its capacity to produce wealth for themselves, for their children and for the country.
I have taken up sufficient time of the Dáil in explaining what the Government has in mind in introducing this particular capital Development Fund. I trust that the Dáil will give the Government power to spend in this year by means of the Estimate a sum up to £5,000,000 if, in their opinion, the objects of this expenditure will tend to boost development and to provide additional employment.
It is urgent that the Government's hands should not be tied in this regard in times that change so rapidly as the present. People are uneasy in many countries as to what will happen in a few years' time. Only a very great prophet could predict with any great conviction what will happen but, no matter whether the waters that lie ahead of us be smooth or rough, we will be better able to do our work in the Government and to get better results for the people if the Dáil gives us this little bit of elbow room to deal with the situation, gives us the power to spend up to £5,000,000, which, as I have pointed out, is about 3½ per cent. of the total sum for which the Government asked the Dáil in the Budget for both current and capital expenditure.
Would the Minister say how exactly this fund will be used to encourage the greater use of limestone?
It can be used in a variety of ways, as I pointed out.
For brazen-faced, cast-iron effrontery and audacity, commend me to this Government. The Minister for Finance, introducing the Budget here not 12 months ago, nailed his reputation to the mast on the proposition that he balanced the Budget by economising to the tune of £3,500,000 on the published Estimates and the Taoiseach came in draped in sanctity to show how everyone was going to sweat for this end. The same Government comes in and announces that they want elbow room, if you please, not to the tune of the £3,500,000 that they pledged their honour to the people they were going to save out of the published Estimates, but to the tune of £5,000,000, £1,500,000 more than thesum they solemnly undertook, when they introduced the Budget, to save.
The Deputy does not understand the difference between capital and current expenditure. It was current expenditure.
We know the difference between elbow room and palm grease.
Wait a minute until we expose this ramp for what it is. This is a Bill to put white whiskers and a red gown on Eamon de Valera, the Taoiseach, to provide him with a sleigh and reindeer to function as Father Christmas in Louth and Cork City. The late Governor Al Smith, of New York, was once asked what their prospects were in an election and his reply was: "Who votes against Father Christmas?"
The purpose of this Bill is plain and simple. People have been saying that the Taoiseach is contemplating retirement and that he is graduating into the ranks of our elder statesmen but he is going to turn out at the next campaign with a large white whisker, a long red gown, seated on a sleigh led by six reindeer, and doubtless the acting-Minister for Finance will be sitting beside him not to recall the Taoiseach's advice in Arva, when he announced that the British market was gone for ever and that the farmers should turn over to keeping bees, and if they took his advice it would be Egyptian bees, but he will be turning out as the demonstration farm for the raising of reindeer in Ireland to supply all the Father Christmases all over the country. Whiskers, gown and reindeer for sleighs and bells complete.
And the Deputy to supply the pantomime.
Now listen. I was portrayed recently on the cover of Dublin Opinioncutting the plum pudding down on top of the Taoiseach's head, and, mind you, coming events cast their shadows before. There he was portrayed as Father Christmas on the reindeer sleigh with the three bluebells sitting on the tailboard as he drove them away in triumph. Do youremember that? Here is a Bill to implement the cover ofDublin Opinion.Never was a truer word spoken than what the Taoiseach has now said. Is it not a shameful, degrading business when we come to examine what lies behind this—really the impudence of Deputy Aiken, the acting-Minister for Finance, in talking about ground limestone in this context. In February, 1948, there was not to be had in the 26 counties of Ireland enough ground limestone to fill one eggcup.
It was there and you tried to stop it.
There was not a single plant grinding limestone in the 26 counties of Ireland.
That is not true, of course.
Oh, it is true. There was one plant grinding limestone flour somewhere in Kilkenny the price of which was approximately twice that of ground limestone as we know it.
Very near it, but in any case it was a great deal more expensive and there was not a single ounce of ground limestone to be had in the whole of Ireland.
Of course that is not true.
When we went out of office unlimited supplies of ground limestone were available for delivery to the gate of every farmer in Ireland.
At 15/- per ton. By heavens, Deputy Aiken, acting-Minister for Finance, is making the case in this House this morning that Fine Gael is opposed to ground limestone and that Fianna Fáil desires to promote its use.
You were kicked into doing it by the Americans. Did you not say that it made you mad? Did you not reduce the subsidy, cut down the subsidy on both ground and burned lime?
The Deputy is entitled to be heard without interruption.
Res ipsa loquitor. In February, 1948, there was not enough ground limestone available in this country as would fill one eggcup.
The Deputy has said that already.
It is a complete exaggeration.
In June, 1951, ground limestone was being delivered at every farmer's gate at 15/- or 16/-.
And there are now nearly 1,000,000 tons a year. You stopped the subsidy on burned lime and also on ground lime and did your damnedest to refuse American money for it.
There was never a subsidy on ground lime.
Never a ground limestone subsidy.
Every Deputy is entitled here to be heard without interruption. Deputy Dillon is entitled to be heard without interruption. The Chair will have to see that every Deputy is heard without interruption. Otherwise we will never get this concluded.
Is there anything in this Bill about ground limestone?
This Bill can be used for slush, and the primary purpose of this Bill is to provide the present Fianna Fáil Government with a slush fund with which to buy votes that they cannot get any other way. That is the plain unvarnished fact. The Government of this country has power and authority to borrow any money that is required on the credit of this State for any approved projects, capital or current. Is not that so? They claim that in this year under their general powersthey propose to borrow £43,000,000 for capital projects. Now the plain fact is that keeping the whole machinery of the State geared to its maximum output—and I am talking of the Administration—to expend £43,000,000 would be a task beyond the limit of the Government's capacity to do. The only distinction between the proposal in regard to this £5,000,000 and the general programme of capital expenditure estimated to be £43,000,000 is that in regard to the £43,000,000 Oireachtas Éireann has to be told what the money is going to be spent on. They cannot tell us what this £5,000,000 is to be spent on, because they want it to buy votes, plain, open and unadorned. Now listen. If they had a purpose, if they knew a service that wanted further subyention or financing, without going into precise detail is it any excessive burden on a Government to ask them to come into Oireachtas Éireann and say: "We want £1,000,000 for this service or that," before coming to ask for the money? Is there any Deputy in this House who can accept the explanation as to why on the eve of the Christmas recess a proposal is brought in giving the Government authority to spend £5,000,000 for a purpose no man knows what? Did you hear the acting-Minister for Finance describe all the purposes for which he intends or believes the Government intends to spend the money? Do you remember the man who commended the South Sea Bubble to the investors of London? He said he wanted a large investment of the people's capital for an unprecedented enterprise of unexampled dimensions, and he raised very large sums of money on the ground that any project so eloquently described must have great potentialities, and he decamped with the money and the bubble burst and people were ruined.
The only proposition here is that the Government want £5,000,000 in case something should turn up. They have promised to save on the current Estimate £3,500,000, every penny of which they have a perfect right to spend under the law, but in addition to that they now want another £5,000,000 and the only reason they want it in this form is because they donot want to tell anybody in advance what they are going to spend it on. Why? There is only one distinction between the means whereby they ask Oireachtas Éireann to give them this £5,000,000 and the ordinary procedure of the Estimates where they would have to tell Dáil Éireann in advance what they are going to do with it. The only distinction involved in this procedure is that they ask the money without telling anybody what they want it for. Why? We all know that in the by-election in North Mayo the voters were told—and remember they were talking to people who had been thrown into unemployment by their activities, people who had lost their jobs—they went to them in Mayo and told them: "Vote for our candidate and we will employ you to make chocolate biscuits in Ballina. We will give the man who is going to build the factory £80,000 free gift to build the factory in Ballina to make chocolate biscuits and employ you all." They did not make a dog biscuit in Ballina from that day to this.
Nor will they. They had not the slightest intention.
Remember when they went to South Galway, they had been in the meantime to Cork and Wicklow and while there they announced their intention of stealing £500,000 from the ratepayers. When that was exposed they lost both the elections, so they reverted to the previous tactics when they went to Galway. In every town they went into—in one they were going to turn over to seamsters, the next was going to have a weavers' factory, and I do not know what was to happen in others. Now circumstances which we all deplore precipitate by-elections in Louth and Cork. Now we have rung the changes on chocolate biscuit factories, weaving sheds and devious other methods to give the people what they most want, an opportunity of earning their living. Now they have to go to Cork and Louth. There are not many more tunes of that kind they can play, so they are going to fare forth with £5,000,000 of public money to announce that, for every vote that is polled, there is money from thepublic purse to pay for it. Come, how low are politics going to be dragged?
Very low, indeed.
Do you deny a word of what I say?
I say it is the dirty political mind of the Deputy.
It is the truth.
It is a lie.
Do you allow that observation, a Cheann Comhairle?
I had not an opportunity to intervene.
I shall give you an opportunity now.
I withdraw the word.
It is the truth. This Bill is designed to present the Taoiseach to this country as Father Christmas, a rôle which he charged the Tánaiste to play when he was announcing the biscuit factory in Ballina and the weaving factory elsewhere. We have now got to the stage when we are going to dream, not of prospective earnings but of the pounds, the shillings and the pence. Why else should Oireachtas Éireann be asked to give the Government money for purposes they have refused to disclose in advance? Deputy General Mulcahy, the Leader of the Opposition, asks how can this be used for the provision of ground limestone. It can be used for anything. Whatever suits the Party machine of Upper Mount Street—that is what it will be used for. The Tánaiste has already had the brazen-faced impudence to go cut and announce that there is £500,000 of it going to be used for the Local Authorities (Works) Act wherewith to clear the drains. They virtually closed down the Local Authorities (Works) Act two years ago. Did these drains cease to carry water in 1951 and begin again to carry water in 1953? Were not the drainsclogged and waterlogged, and was not the land served by these drains waterlogged from 1951 to 1953? Why does the Tánaiste say now that there is £500,000 to be found to do work in 1953 that he condemned us for doing in 1948, 1949 and 1950 and that he would not allow his own Government to do in 1951 and 1952? What has happened to the drains that they suddenly began to cry out for clearance on the eve of an election in Louth? You cannot clear drains in Cork City.
Consequently there is no use saying that you are putting money into drainage to win the by-election there.
Not in Cork City but a sum of £5,000,000 is being raised. £500,000 is going into the drains and £1,000,000 is being made available for the Road Fund. That leaves £3,500,000 available for votes in Cork City. Come now, let the paragons of virtue protest again. Is it or is it not true that the engineering staff in County Louth have already got notice that they are to put their schemes into operation and that on a basis which will carry them on beyond the end of this financial year?
They have got the same notice as the engineers in every other county.
So they have got it! The bluebell has let the cat out of the bag.
In the same way as the engineers of every other county.
The red gown and whiskers are on already. The largesse is being distributed. The sleigh-bells are ringing and the reindeer are trotting in every county in Ireland. (Interruptions). The three bluebells are out with a placard travelling with Father Christmas and saying: "We are on the bandwagon too!" Is there any limit to the depths to which politics can be drawn down in this country? (Interruptions). Picture Deputy Cogan seated on the bandwagon, piping here to-day to say: "Father Christmas is abroad not only in Louth but in every county in Ireland."
Shades of the United Irish League.
Deputy Davern should restrain himself.
If the Minister for Local Government were disposed to speak on that subject, we might find out something.
Politics can bring strange and horrible things into this House.
Indeed that is so.
Yes, strange and horrible things. I want to stigmatise as disgraceful the blatherskite of the Minister for Finance about lime. It is like the low-down bucket-shop operator's commendation of shares. It bears no relation whatever to the truth. He has described as exceptional the experiment on a piece of derelict land in Johnstown which happens to be the one deerpark left in Ireland on which no operation of husbandry was carried out since 1120.
There was work carried out there before ever you tried it.
This work was carried out in Johnstown on a derelict piece of land——
Two years before your time.
Except for a building which fell down which I had to rebuild——
There was liming of land.
There was no soil testing.
There was indeed.
The only soil-testing facilities were one man and a boy with a bicycle wheel and a medicine bottle tied to it with a bit of string, in one back room in the agricultural college in Ballyhaise. That was the entire soil-testing facilities of this country.
The usual exaggeration.
That is the literal truth —one man and one boy using for their agitator an old bicycle wheel, turned on a 4d. nail with a disused medicine bottle tied to it with a piece of string. These were the boasted soil-testing facilities.
There was proper soil testing.
It is sheer rot to describe the work at Johnstown about which the Minister knows as much as my foot.
You were against it.
Whether the land of this country requires lime which is now available to farmers at a price they can afford to pay is a matter on which the farmers are the best judges. On land which is deficient in lime it is prudent, economic and profit-earning to put lime but on land with a sufficient calcium content it is not economic, prudent or desirable to put lime.
I say it would be wrong to put it on it.
Exactly. On land that wants lime, the more lime that is put on it the better but on land which has an excess of calcium content it would be a great mistake.
Do you remember——
Do you remember——
Precious little he knows about agriculture. His opinions are utterly disreputable.
The Deputy gave us an example in 1951.
The acting-Minister for Finance says that when the balance of trade has improved the unemployment situation is not so good.
The balance of payments, not trade.
When the balance of payments has improved the unemploymentsituation is not so good. What made the unemployment situation in this country not so good? Was the unemployment situation in this country in 1951 not so good? I can remember later years than 1951. For the first time they beheld a situation approximating to total employment. I remember that in 1950 the grant made to the Sligo County Council under the Local Authorities (Works) Act could not be spent because the engineering staff of County Sligo reported that, having employed every available man, there were certain schemes that could not be put into operation because there were no unemployed men to employ on them.
They were not there. They were in England.
Who exported them?
I am talking of the comparison between 1951 and 1953. Since 1951, a flood of emigration has taken place to England.
At the same time, I am told by the acting-Minister for Finance that he justifies his action in asking Dáil Éireann to give him £5,000,000 for unrevealed purposes because the unemployment situation is not so good. What made it not so good?
Because not so many of them went to England as during the Coalition Government's time.
I invite the Minister for External Affairs to pay a visit to County Mayo and to examine the position for himself there.
I want these words to ring in Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, London and every industrial city in Britain where our people have been going for the past 18 months. Let them hear what the acting-Minister for Finance has to say——
In 1950, during the Coalition's term of office, 40,000 emigrated.
I want it to ring in Birmingham, Cardiff, London, Glasgow and every other industrial city in Britain that, so far as the acting-Minister for Finance is concerned, he does not know they are gone. He does not know they are gone! What made the situation in 1953 not so good?
If Deputy Dillon had his way, every young Irishman would be gone.
That is the justification for this Bill.
Unemployment cannot be discussed in detail on the Bill.
The acting-Minister for Finance asked for money without stipulating the reason. He just said that the unemployment situation was not so good. That is the ground on which he asks for this Bill. If I cannot discuss that, then I cannot discuss the Bill at all. Let us grasp this problem, then. What made the unemployment situation not so good?
The Deputy's policy helped quite a lot.
Come now. Did housing cease to employ as many people as it had been employing up to 1951? That is a fair question. I think it did cease to employ them. I knew a number of small building contractors of the very kind mentioned by the acting-Minister for Finance—small entrepreneurswho were investing their own capital and employing labour themselves—who went bankrupt and who joined their own employees at the labour exchange. I knew them. Then people who wanted to build a house for themselves found that it would cost 10/- a week extra to pay for the house under Fianna Fáil than it cost under the inter-Party Government —and the men who would have built houses for them became unemployed.
How does the question of housing arise on national development?
The acting-Minister for Finance has come to the House to say that because of growing unemployment he wants to relieve the situation. For that purpose, he wants £5,000,000 of public money to employ those who fall into unemployment. I am putting it to the acting-Minister for Finance that instead of draping the Taoiseach in a red gown and white whiskers as Father Christmas he should allow the average small builder to build houses and employ the men who have been put out of employment by the policy of the acting-Minister for Finance. That is what I am after. Is what I am saying not true?
It is not.
Is it not true that yesterday the Government itself announced that local authorities, borrowing from the Local Loans Fund for the purpose of giving loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, would have the rate of interest on their borrowings reduced by ½ per cent? Is not that true? Why did they do that? Did they not do it as some contribution towards the repair of the damage which they had wrought? Do not forget, however, that it has not been done in respect of Dublin and that it has not been done in respect of Cork and that it cannot be done in respect of Dublin and that it cannot be done in respect of Cork—because Dublin Corporation was sent to borrow £5,000,000 from the banks and insurance companies at 5 per cent. interest——
That is not correct.
I am informed that it is correct.
Deputy Dillon talks a lot of nonsense. I will answer him on that point.
Did the Dublin Corporation borrow money at 5 per cent.?
Not for what you are talking about. I will deal with that matter later.
They did. Of course, they did.
They borrowed money at 5 per cent. at the behest of our own Government.
Continue speaking. I will deal with what you are saying afterwards.
Deputy Dillon does not mind whether he is right or whether he is wrong.
Let us have no joking or jeering at the expense of people who cannot get houses. I brought to the attention of the corporation and of the Government the case of four persons living in one tenement room in a ratridden house who were told by the corporation: "We cannot even consider your case for 18 months. We are dealing now only with cases of six and five persons in one room."
When did you do that?
A week ago.
And then Deputy Dr. Browne comes along and says that the housing problem has been solved.
Can it be that members of the corporation do not themselves know of these things? If so, more shame on them. If Government Deputies are not aware that the Dublin Corporation are writing to every applicant for a municipal house, where there are less than five persons living in a room, to the effect that at present they are attending only to cases with six and five persons living in a room, and that they cannot deal with lesser numbers in a room for 18 months, then shame on Fianna Fáil.
That is untrue. Deputy Byrne can tell you that that is untrue.
Deputy Dillon does not mind.
It is not untrue—and I have a letter from the city manager to say that it is true. Come now, and, on that, let us join issue.
Deputy Briscoe will nail your hand to the desk.
I will nail his ears and his hands.
Deputy Dillon must be allowed to make his speech without interruption.
Deputy Briscoe would like to try. Let us not, however, get into acrimonious discussion across the floor of the House. There are too many Fianna Fáil Deputies who like to make smart remarks and to stick their necks out. Then, when they get hit, they cry like babies that someone has been rude to them. You are all very tender-skinned when you get a slap but you are as brave as lions when you are giving the slaps. If you do not want slaps, do not give them and do not cry if you get a slap for the slap you give. There have been too many occasions on which I gave some of you your answers and you were crying all over the place that we were slapping you.
The corporation housed a man from Monaghan with three children and I can give the Deputy his name.
I do not think the Deputy should boast of that.
There were people in Belfast making similar claims.
On a point of order. Deputy O'Sullivan has interjected a remark suggesting that Deputy Gallagher got somebody from Monaghan a house on the same basis as the houses in Belfast.
I made no such interjection, and I know Deputy Gallagher better than to say any such thing.
The Deputy says that the municipality made available a house for a man with three children. Had he a wife?
Of course, he had. Where did he get the children?
He could be a widower.
Was it a case of five people in a room—a man, his wife and three children?
That is perfectly right. The city manager said that the corporation was dealing with families who were six and five in a room. It is very relevant——
He never said anything of the kind.
——to know whether he was a widower or a man with a wife and three children. Such a man is entitled to a house under the present schedule of distribution. The person I recommended to the city manager was a man with a wife and two infant children—four in a room—and what the manager said was that they were dealing with only five and six at present and could not consider four. If the Deputy got a house for a man, his wife and three children in the city, he got it on the basis on which the city manager said the municipal housing authority was at present proceeding, and, in fairness to that authority, I think anybody could have got that house. I am complaining that a man with a wife and two children who is ready and willing and anxious to pay a rent cannot get a house, at a time when the acting-Minister for Finance says that he is actuated to ask the House for £5,000,000, without assigning reasons, because the unemployment situation is not so good.
The case I am making is: "What do you want asking us for money for unknown purposes to relieve unemployment when there are people in our own capital city eager to pay a rent who cannot get a house, when there are 200 carpenters unemployed in the city, when hundreds of building contractors are on half-time and hundreds of building labourers out of a job? There is no scarcity of cement, no scarcity of timber and no scarcity of material. What do you want £5,000,000 for an unascertained purpose when the houses are not there to house the people who wantthem and when you are preventing people, by charging a high rate of interest on the Small Dwellings Act loans, from building houses for themselves?" That is the only case I am making—that you are making people pay that high rate by driving the Dublin Corporation to borrow from the moneylenders at 5 per cent. on which they have to make a further charge when they lend that money to the person borrowing under the Small Dwellings Act. I believe that, if the truth were told, Deputy Gallagher and Deputy McCann agree with every word I say, but they do not think it is Party loyalty to say so in public.
We do our best in the Dublin Corporation.
I am not blaming the Deputy. I am merely explaining to him that I am demurring to the raising of money in this way for the relief of unemployment as if there was no means of relieving unemployment readily available to our hand such as housing of the municipal kind and, much better, the kind available under the Small Dwellings Act, if the rates charged for money would allow that Act to function.
"When the balance of trade is adverse," said the acting-Minister for Finance, "it indicates the need of internal adjustment." The acting-Minister for Finance—I ask Deputy Gallagher to listen to this—explained the austerity provisions of his colleague's Budget on the ground that, when the balance of trade is adverse, it indicates the need of internal adjustment. Deputy Gallagher must have been in the House last night when his leader was explaining that the balance of trade in 1950 and 1951 was brought about by the stockpiling, the liquidation of which caused stagnation in 1952.
And the purchase of consumer goods.
Was it not stockpiling?
There are some Fianna Fáil Deputies who are not absolutely obtuse and who remember what theTaoiseach said. Did he not say: "The stagnation in 1952 which was such an embarrassment to us was largely caused by the liquidation of the stockpiling"? Deputies will remember that he said the manufacturers stockpiled, the Government stockpiled, the wholesalers stockpiled, the retailers stockpiled—even, he said, the individual citizen bought two and three suits of clothes. He said that it was because of that that we had a kind of stagnation in 1952 and that we are only coming out of that now.
A buyers' resistance.
I can understand that case being made on Thursday night, but, on Friday morning, when I am told that the adverse balance of trade made austerity necessary lest it continually recur year after year, although I know that the Taoiseach says that the imbalance of trade in 1950 was due to the stockpiling which was so great that it created stagnation in 1952——
It was partly stockpiling and partly the buying of consumer goods.
Either there was a stockpile accumulating in 1950 of such size that it created stagnation in 1952, or there was not. That stockpile which was coming in in a magnitude sufficient to take three years to liquidate was superimposed on our normal imports. Is that not what we told the Government in 1951? There is no need to panic, we said. The adverse trade balance in 1950 is purely exceptional, due to stockpiling.
No. What about wheat and maize? You did not stockpile them.
We said: "This was purely stockpiling and there was no need to throw men out of employment, no need to cut down, no need to drive people into emigration. This thing will right itself by a dual process: the exceptional purchases of 1950 will not recur, and, in 1951 and 1952, imports will tend to go below the normal because this stockpile will be running down and agricultural exports aregoing to rise and will give very material help to the balance of trade figures."
What provision was made for the replacement of the imported maize and wheat?
I cannot see how that would be relevant to this Bill.
He is talking about stockpiling.
All I know is that, in June, 1951, there was more wheat——
——in store in this country than at any time since Brian Boru lost his life at the Battle of Clontarf. There was more wheat in store in Ireland in June, 1951, than at any time in previous recorded history. The only point I am making is that we said to the Fianna Fáil Government of 1951: "Do not get panicked by the trade figures of 1950 or 1951, because superimposed on our normal imports there is a very extensive stockpiling operation. It will not recur and its liquidation will bring our imports to practically normal in 1952-53 while, at the same time, the exports of our agricultural industry will certainly expand in dramatic style." We had good reason to expect that they would amount to £100,000,000 sterling in 1952. They did, and they will reach £105,000,000 in 1953. It is really all live stock. They are reaching those figures after you eliminate all the exports of sweetened fat and minced meat.
There is no limitation on them.
Let the Minister not get cross or silly.
I am not getting cross.
As a matter of fact, the export of sweetened fat and minced meat has virtually disappeared as a result of the derationing of sugar in Great Britain. Nevertheless, that gap is being taken up and, in addition,agriculture has forced up the level of exports to £105,000,000, so that they were all wrong about the panic in 1951. It was not necessary and it need never have been embarked upon.
The Deputy could not expand the 200 tons per week or the tonnage per year in regard to the meat trade.
Another aphorism laid down by the acting-Minister for Finance was——
There was no provision made for expansion there.
——that we have no rights to expend past savings held in external form for current consumption. Will any Deputy ask himself what is the purpose of exporting? Is not the purpose of our people producing an exportable surplus, say, of beef, over and above all we want to eat ourselves, to sell the beef abroad so that we will have the means wherewith to buy whatever we want, and if we sell beef in a market anywhere in the world with the result that we cannot buy what we want with the proceeds are not those what are called unrequited exports? Other people seem to have the daft notion in their minds that we ought to export for the purpose of looking at the figures in a bank book. People who get into that frame of mind end up in lunatic asylums gone mad with avarice.
We know elderly people in our own circle down the country who ultimately drift into the madness of sitting in cold garrets with one candle counting their money and warning their relatives that they are going to die in the poor house although they have £2,000 or £3,000 in the bank and about £150 in the stocking which not infrequently takes fire from the candle and gets burned.
What about the jug? I am not being funny.
Does not the House see the dangers of our approach to this business? During the war our exports went unrequited to Great Britain because we could not get anythingfrom Great Britain in exchange for what we sent, and was there anything wrong in getting from Great Britain and elsewhere, after the war, what we had not been able to get during the war? Is it a desirable thing to set before our people the destiny of the individual who ultimately cowers in a garret in a large house by the light of a halfpenny dip candle counting his money? That is literally and metaphorically madness. Your object, if you have any confidence in your future, is, as you earn money, profitably to invest it in a higher standard of living for your own people and so increase their productive capacity.
It is a good thing, if a man is hard working and has the spur of ambition of raising a family, to give him a decent house where there will be a couple of rooms which he has not furnished. His ambition will be to work harder in order to furnish the rooms, but if you leave him in one tenement room and tell him that there is no prospect of getting out of it no matter how hard he works the great danger is that, if he has a wife and two infant children, there is a powerful inducement for him to go down to the pub. If he goes down to the pub to get out from under the feet of the housewife who has two infant children, the danger is that when he comes back he will not be as active a man as when he left.
Some of these pests, the professional economists, will tell you that money spent on housing is non-productive expenditure. That is because they reckon on the assumption that human beings are economic machines but they are not. A man who has a wife, a couple of children and a good house with two rooms unfurnished is a powerful potential producer for the community in which he lives. The same man; the same wife with the same two children in one tenement room, is on the high road to becoming a drag on the national economy and an affliction to everybody. The man has no inducement to work or save. He has no pride in the work he is doing because the results are not those which he legitimately wants.
I think it is daft to talk of its being wrong for our people to get for ourexports between 1939 and 1945 a return in the shape of goods in 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950. I think they were right to get it. It would have been mad for them not to get it and I glory in the fact that we turned a good deal of those savings into houses, hospitals, drainage, improvement of land, provision of lime and a variety of capital projects that we financed when we were in office and which we left after us as commitments to our successors when they took over office.
The highest tribute to the quality of those commitments we left after us was that not a single one of them was brought into Dáil Éireann to be cancelled by our successors. Every one of them is being honoured. I ask the Fianna Fáil Deputies in this House to examine their consciences. Since they returned to office has there been a single new service thought up or embarked upon, one single new service thought up or embarked upon for the improvement of our people? The acting-Minister for Finance gloried in the fact, in which I do not think he is right—I wish he was—that our exports are 48 per cent. in volume higher in the January-October period of 1953 than they were in 1951. If that is true I rejoice with him but I would like to find out where that reference can be found. The latest figures I happen to have naturally are those in the Trade Journalof September, 1953. Does the acting-Minister for Finance confirm that our exports in the January-October period of 1953 were 48 per cent. higher in volume than they were in 1951?
Yes, in volume.
Is that not a remarkable thing? I ask the House to remember that in 1953 our exports are 48 per cent. higher in volume than they were in 1951. Do not forget the economic policy of this State was founded in 1951 on the proposition laid down in the White Paper of October, 1951, that there was no prospect of there being any relief forthcoming in the balanceof trade figures through increased exports. Do you remember that? Do you remember when the Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party were sent down the country to explain to their own neighbours that there was no prospect of any relief in the balance of trade situation forthcoming from an improvement in exports and that was the reason why it was necessary to put the tax on tobacco, the tax on stout, on whiskey, on bread, sugar and tea? We said to them: "Be assured there is an immense expansion of our exports coming along and the increase will amount to 50 per cent." I will ask this House to throw their minds back a little further. I remember the first time I moved the Vote for Agriculture in this House, prophesying that it should be possible for us to increase our exports by 50 per cent., and I remember being derided by the Fianna Fáil Party for hot air. Does Fianna Fáil now realise that if you compare the value of exports for 1953 with that of 1947 the increase is nearly 70 per cent.? Does Fianna Fáil now realise that they were sent down the country to make the case that there could be no increase in exports and they are now obliged to tell the House that there has been an increase of 48 per cent. in volume?
On the 12th October, 1951, Deputy Lemass is reported in the Irish Independentas having made a speech on the previous day at the Publicity Club which evoked the heading: “The Nation's Economy in Danger.” He said: “The simple facts tell us what has to be done. We must reduce imports. The current output figures for our normal exports rule out the possibility of any large increase in the volume of exports in the near future.”
Those are the words that were spoken in 1951 and on those sentiments was founded the policy that has brought about the catastrophic consequences of which we have all been witnesses and which the Government now says require exceptional measures to redress. Is 48 per cent. in volume not a substantial increase? Think where we could be now if the follies founded on the Tánaiste's, DeputyLemass's illusions of October, 1951, had never been embarked upon. Think where we could be now if we had gone full steam ahead and kept the men at home and prevented them from becoming unemployed and had not to bring in an emergency measure involving an expenditure of £5,000,000 to give employment to those who are unemployed to-day or who are exercising the right to emigrate. Think where we would be if for the last two years their energies had been harnessed to work that Fianna Fáil stopped them doing when they came into office.
I ask Deputies of Fianna Fáil to question themselves to-day—why did they do it? Was it a shameful conspiracy to denigrate their predecessors in office? Did they want to approve a policy adopted by their leaders designed to suggest that their predecesors in office had dissipated the national resources and had been improvident and reckless and put the national economy in peril? Do they now see how criminally wrong that despicable conspiracy was? Do they now appreciate the horrible price they have paid and that we are paying and are going to pay in unemployment and in emigration for that vicious conspiracy to denigrate the people who had gone before them? This Bill is a dirty fraud.
We heard that before.
This Bill is designed to make good the proposition that those in need—and there are many of them— can look to Fianna Fáil for benefactions from the public purse. This Bill should not be called the National Development Bill; it should be called "The Prostitution of Father Christmas Bill." I would be ashamed to belong to a Government that came to Oireachtas Éireann for authority to spend public money to buy votes. I do not think even the poorest member of the Fianna Fáil Party is happy about this Bill. The decency of Irish public life, no matter who is in office, is a matter of consequence to us all. This Bill does very little to maintain decent standards in our public life. It will be long remembered as the "Prostitution of Father Christmas Bill" and as suchis a disgrace to the Government which introduced it.
I have been ten years a member of the House and have been present when many Bills were presented for Second Reading by various Ministers under three Governments, but I have never witnessed such an evasion of putting the purpose of a Bill as I did this morning when the acting-Minister for Finance introduced this Bill. He ranged over every possible aspect of Government policy, he touched on agriculture, unemployment, ground limestone, external assets, housing and other things, but gave us no idea of what it is intended to do under this Bill. He spoke for the best part of an hour and I eagerly awaited information from him of the Government's plans for spending this £5,000,000. I waited in vain, as did the other Deputies who were here this morning. While the Minister was speaking on ground limestone, I recalled that about 200 years ago someone advocated the use of burned lime to increase crop production. The idea caught on and gave good results during its early years. The people of those days had not as much information as we have at present, the habit continued once it had started and, as a result, in practically the whole 32 Counties no field was considered right unless it had its own lime-kiln. The day came 120 years ago when the use of lime had to be completely abandoned, as the land had been exhausted. In my native county there are fields pointed out yet which were so exhausted they did not even grow weeds, much less crops.
Deputy Dillon says: "Hear, hear; it is bad for the land." He is up here behind me.
I want to check any possible damage that may arise as a result of the Minister's foolish statement this morning. I want to warn all farmers who might read his statement, not to take it at its face value. They should have their soil tested first by the soil testing section of the Department and should follow their instructions as to the correct amount of lime to use. The Minister spent about 22minutes—I timed him on the clock— telling us about the demonstration which took place at Johnstown in Wexford. I do not question the Minister's figures for that particular plot, which might have been only a few perches. I do not believe it was a full statute acre. He said that by the expenditure of £2 on the statute acre on the plot in Johnstown Castle the yield from the application of ground limestone was £100 over six years. There again, the Minister should know more than to give such a dangerous example. I presume he is a farmer himself. He should have qualified his statement by saying that, while that result was gained on a certain piece of ground, some of the land of this country deficient in lime would not yield similar results. He should have warned the farmers to get their soil tested first and then follow the instructions.
I am glad to say, from my own experience and knowledge of the farmers—and particularly the activities of the Young Farmers' Clubs—that most of them know it is more than foolish to experiment with any fertiliser without expert knowledge beforehand. They should know in what the soil is deficient and then should use fertiliser with prudence and skill, according to the advice given by the soil testing section. The lands of Johnstown Castle on which this demonstration was given—and which the Minister took 20 minutes to tell us about—are some of the most fertile lands in the country but they have never been tilled or broken. Deputy Dillon said it was a deer park since 1120. Without question, an application of ground limestone to that land would give astonishing results.
It depends on the land. It might not require it.
We know quite well that it is particularly fertile, it has been left untilled for 700 or 800 years, and we know that by the ordinary action of worms and gravity the soil has come to the top, the lime and other valuable clay sediments have sunk to the bottom, out of reach of even the deepest root plants except trees. Theapplication of lime would give astonishing results. The Minister's account of £100 profit over the six years does not surprise me.
Deputy Dillon said it was a complete exaggeration. I am glad to hear that Deputy Blowick is contradicting him and putting him a bit wise.
Without casting any reflection on the Chair a good deal of what the Minister said, apart from being harmful, was completely irrelevant. For that reason I do not want to go into those points in detail. If the Minister said he intended to give grants under this Bill for ground limestone plants, I would be the very first to welcome it. I hold strong views on limestone and any farmer from Connaught must also. It must not be forgotten that in our part of the country there are many short pithy sayings warning people against the immoderate use of lime and those sayings still live with us. The statement made by the Minister this morning could lead the farmers astray into overdosing the land with lime. Land can have too high a limestone content, to the detriment of certain crops. The Minister should know that and should have advised farmers to seek the expert advice of the soil testing section. That would be plain common sense.
Would the Minister tell us, when replying on the Second Reading, what the Bill is for? I listened for an hour and must confess that, even now, beyond giving the Government a free hand to spend £5,000,000 a year, I do not know what the Bill is for.
There is another point I am puzzled about. When any Department begins to outrun the amount of money voted by the House, it is usual to come in here with a Supplementary Estimate. When was a Supplementary Estimate ever denied to any Government here? I have never seen it happen. Every Minister knows all he has to do is to introduce it, and unless it is for some foolish scheme the House will not question it and the debate is usually short. I have known a Supplementary Estimate for £250,000 to be passed without debate, once Deputies knewwhat it was for. I do not see why the Government could not adopt the same attitude. This is a dangerous departure from the usual procedure, particularly when the Minister was silent as to the way in which it is intended to use the money. Clann na Talmhan will not deny the Government the use of any money which is necessary for any good purpose, for capital development or for meeting unforeseen contingencies which may arise despite the best anticipations of Government Departments.
I do not like the principle embodied in this Bill. If the Minister had told us, for instance, that revenue may become more flush at a particular time of the year, say, in September, October or November, leaving the Government with money in hands which they would like to put to some useful purpose, I would take that as an explanation. If he told us that at the time the Estimates were prepared a certain inflow of money which took place since was not anticipated with the result that works were whittled down in the preparing of the Estimates this time last year, I would take that as an explanation. But the Minister walks in and calmly tells us that he is asking the House to give him this Bill and does not give a single word of explanation as to how the money is to be spent. That is treating the House in a cavalier fashion and treating the country in a way in which it should not be treated.
Some time ago the Tánaiste stated that, anticipating the passage through the House of this Bill, £500,000 would be spent on Local Authorities (Works) Act drainage. That was a little bit high-handed on his part. I am delighted, however, to see that because on several occasions I have deprecated the Government's attitude in cutting down the money which should be available for county councils under that Act because, from the farmer's point of view, that was one of the best measures ever passed in this House. From the point of view of increased production of land, I think that and the land project have contributed more to increased production than anything else from which this country hasbenefited for very many years. I am sorry, however, that the Government did not go back to our figure of £1,500,000 and give £1,000,000 out of this £5,000,000 for Local Authorities (Works) Act drainage. If the Government are keen on increased agricultural production, on which the Minister spent a lot of time this morning, one way to do that is to subsidise fertilisers.
The Minister made a rough shot in the dark and said that the farmers have from £70,000,000 to £80,000,000 in savings. How does the Minister know that? Has he any accurate figures for it? I do not believe the farmers have that amount of savings. He also said that the best thing they could do would be to plough that back into the land. This Government have given the farmers very little encouragement to plough their profits back into the land. The farmers have been so crushed by Fianna Fáil that they are very chary of ploughing back anything into the land. Any time they did that, they were treated in the same way as they were treated by the landlords in the past by having further impositions put on them.
I am sure the Deputy and the Minister must appreciate that if a certain amount of money has been accumulated by farmers it is intended for providing for their daughters.
It is only ordinary foresight for an intelligent farmer to set aside a sum of money for his family. Furthermore, apart from the fact that the average farmer, if he has a couple of daughters, must make provision for their marriage or education or setting them up in some business or way of life, a good deal of the £70,000,000 or £80,000,000—if it exists, and I do not say it does—must come from emigrants' remittances. In my part of the country the custom is for boys and girls when they go to England to send their savings home to their parents to bank for them. To say that the farmers have savings amounting to £70,000,000 or £80,000,000, and to tell them toplough that back into the land is absolute rubbish. I do not think the sum would be one-fifth or one-sixth of that. I should like the Minister to give us more accurate figures than he has given us.
They could use some of it on the land rather than getting 1 per cent. interest on it in the banks.
Surely Deputy Hickey does not suggest that a farmer should gamble with the money that he has put aside for the setting up of his daughters. I put it to Deputy Hickey and to the Minister that the amount of money the farmers have which can be called real savings is negligible.
It was well earned, anyway, whatever they have.
There may be some money lying to their credit, but we must remember that remittances from abroad come to about £15,000,000 a year.
It should be better used.
I should like to ask the Minister at this stage if he has the figures for the actual savings. I do not think he has.
He said £70,000,000 or £80,000,000.
He did. In the Province of Connaught, most of the savings consist of money that sons and daughters have sent back from England for the parents to lodge in their names in the bank for safe keeping. The Minister is only talking through his hat if he thinks any father or mother, having money in trust for children which has been sent to them from abroad, will gamble with it by ploughing it back into the land. They will not do it, and I would not advise them to do it.
Then they can keep it in the bank at 1 per cent.
It is easy to say these things. These things work out grand on paper. But the Minister is a farmer and he must know the thousand andone blows which a farmer gets from the weather, unforeseen accidents, mortality and losses in many other ways that nobody can appreciate except the man who suffers from them. Take the case of turkeys. There is one item of production on the land. Most farmers were certain that they would get 4/- a lb. for turkeys this year the same as last year, but in every town in Connaught the producers have been selling them at 10/- apiece this year.
I do not see how the price of turkeys arises.
It is one of the items of production.
The price of turkeys last year was not 4/- a lb.
What was it?
The Deputy should know.
I know what I got myself. I know that I got 4/- a lb.
It was 4/4 when Deputy Dillon was in office.
Did the Deputy get 4/- a lb.?
Yes and more some years before that. The Minister is asking the farmers to plough their profits into the land. How much of their profits are the dairy farmers ploughing into the land? Take the farmers in the West who go in for mixed farming instead of a specialised line of farming, as I may describe it. Are they going to plough their profits into the land? Every single one of these blows has a psychological effect on the average farmer and makes him very conservative.
The Minister talked about ploughing back farmers' savings into the land. I do not believe that the savings are there. If a farmer, as a result of his hard work over a lifetime, has saved a few hundred pounds, £1,000 or £2,000 to make provision for members of his family, I am not going to ask him to invest his £2,000 in his land. I would advise him to hold on to it forthe laudable purpose which he had in his mind.
The Minister also dealt with the question of external assets. He seemed to blame the inter-Party Government for repatriating certain assets which had accumulated in England from the sale of our produce to that country during the war years. I have no apology whatever to make for being a party to that. In fact, I am proud of it. My view is that these assets were built up in England during the war years as a result of the agricultural produce which we sent across at that time. We got nothing in return for it except paper tokens. We sent over during that time produce from our land amounting to about £161,000,000.
And got nothing at all for a lot of the cattle that went over at that time.
That is right. We sent over cattle, sheep, eggs, poultry and pigs. England was then engaged in a big war and was not able to give us any value in return for what we sent to her—the world's best food. All that produce came out of our land and, therefore, I say it was right to reinstate these assets in the land. The Minister talked glibly about ploughing back savings, which the farmers have not got, into their own land, while at the same time he wants these assets amounting to £161,000,000 to be left in England, although she is only paying an interest rate of 1½ per cent. on them. Will the Minister tell me what right we have to make England a present of £161,000,000, the value of our agricultural produce, and not ask her in return to send us the fertilisers, machinery and coal which we require? We repatriated £148,000,000 to buy machinery to drain our land and to buy fertilisers, because we held that the land out of which the produce we sold to England came, was best entitled to receive the benefit of that money.
The farmers were better entitled than anybody else to have those assets repatriated. Our policy was to repatriate every penny of them for the benefit of the country. We have no apology to make for doing that. I amrather proud of it. What is wrong with the Minister is that, when speaking of the repatriation of external assets, he is mixing up the investments by private people with the moneys which had accumulated in England during the war years when, as I have said, we got nothing for the agricultural produce that we sent across at that time. I would like the Minister to know that we never touched the investments of private people. As regards the other assets, which had accumulated during the war, we held that it was the land which produced what we sent to England at that time that had first claim on them.
My prophecy is that not one penny of this £5,000,000 will be spent on the establishment of ground limestone plants and on the provision of ground limestone for the farmers. If the Minister is able to contradict me on that he can do so when replying. I should like to know if the rebuilding of Dublin Castle and the erection of new Houses of Parliament are to be regarded as projects within the meaning of Section 4 of the Bill which reads:—
"The Minister may apply the fund for the purpose of financing projects which, in his opinion, are projects of development of a public character and are in the national interest."
The wording of that section is very vague. In fact, I do not think I have ever seen in any Bill such loose wording. Almost two years ago the Undeveloped Areas Act was passed through this House. I said at the time that I had high hopes of something useful being done under it for the undeveloped areas in the West. Now, I have to confess that that Act has been a complete flop.
During the by-election in North Mayo, the Tánaiste at a public meeting in Ballina said that Ballina was going to have a biscuit factory. I say that it was a downright piece of black-guarding for the Deputy Prime Minister of the country to say that from a public platform. It was fooling the people of that whole constituency to tell them that they were going to get a grant of £80,000 for a factory. Whenquestioned on it in the House by Deputy O'Hara the Minister gave some lame excuse to the effect that the project had fallen through. In view of that, how can anyone have any faith or confidence in anything which this Government brings in? There has been nothing done for the West under that Act except the establishment of a small factory at Kiltimagh. I am proud of that factory. Its establishment was assisted by An Foras Tionscal. But since that Act was passed that is the only thing that I have seen done under it in Mayo or Galway. In fact, I want to say that it was not the Undeveloped Areas Act that was responsible for the establishment of that factory at Kiltimagh, but rather the initiative of the townspeople who put their money into it and got it going.
You did not advise them to keep their money in the bank at 1 per cent. You had that much wit.
That is not a very intelligent observation from the Minister. It is not even witty, and I fail to see what the Minister can smile at. Will the Minister tell us how this Bill is going to benefit the towns and the cities? I have no hope that it is going to benefit the people of the country. I agree with the view that was expressed by Deputy Dillon that, in bringing forward this Bill, the Government are asking for a free hand to spend money for vote catching. I will deal with that down the country. If the Government can throw about £5,000,000, I will take jolly good care to see that my supporters, and the inter-Party supporters in general, will get as much good out of it as the Fianna Fáil supporters and maybe a whole lot more.
The Minister dealt with the increase in the volume of exports. Deputy Dillon got the admission from the Minister that, since 1951, the volume of exports has increased by 48 per cent. That is true. I am afraid, however, that the volume of exports does not provide an accurate yardstick for measuring actual production. This Government, when it came back to office, proceeded to make things asdifficult as possible for the people. If their object was to compel youngsters to fly out of this country, then they have achieved that object, because within the last 18 months 27,000 boys and girls have left this country, while the withdrawal of the subsidies, coupled with other taxes, has resulted in increasing the cost of living. That increased cost of living has denied bread, butter, meat, milk and other necessaries of life to the people.
I cannot see how all these things arise on the National Development Fund Bill.
I am trying to deal with points made by the Minister in introducing the Bill.
I did not deal with the cost of living; but it does not matter, nobody minds what the Deputy says, anyway.
Did not the Minister deal with the volume of exports? I do not want to dwell very much on that particular aspect of the Minister's speech except to say that the volume of exports as a yardstick by which to measure increased production is not an accurate one. Say we send out an extra tonnage of goods to England, the next question is, how was that extra tonnage come by? It could be either of two ways: by increased production, or else by cutting down on the amount of that particular commodity used at home. I say that the increased production was achieved, to some extent, by reduced consumption at home. It was admitted, in the Budget speech of the Minister for Finance last May, that the increased production was due to the fact that our own people, because of the increased cost of living, were denied the wherewithal to purchase the ordinary necessaries of life which they enjoyed under the inter-Party Government.
How does that arise on this Bill?
I quite agree that it should not arise and how the Minister sought to make that relevant in hisopening speech I do not know. If I go any further than that I will find myself casting reflections on the Ceann Comhairle, who was in the Chair at the time, and that is something I do not wish to do. I do wish to take the points the Minister made when making his speech and deal with them.
I am afraid this Bill is nothing more than a vote-catching business. If the Minister could point to one occasion on which a Supplementary Estimate was denied or even delayed in this House, then I would say a Bill like this might be necessary to by-pass delays and hold-ups that might occur. I do not like the principle involved in the Minister coming in here and asking for leave to spend £5,000,000 in any way he likes. The wording of Section 4 of this Bill is as loose as any dictator could wish for. It is a complete departure from any established practice in this House. If the Minister said he was going to use this money, for instance, to bring down the cost of living for the unfortunate people in the towns and cities who were forced from butter to margarine and are now forced off margarine by the price, I would not speak at all. I would give the Bill my silent consent.
All we have to do is to bring down milk to 1/- a gallon.
The Minister will not get away on that. Butter was only 2/8 a lb. during the period of the inter-Party Government and milk was 1/4 a gallon.
The price of butter does not seem to be relevant to this debate.
Then the Minister should not interrupt on a point like that.
Would we not like to see some provision for development?
That is the cause of my trouble and my grumbling—the Minister never told us what development he had in mind. I do not believe he had any development in mind, and I believe the cause of his silence is that he does not mean to spend themoney on development. I believe he means to spend it on how best to catch votes for his own Party. That is the cause of my trouble and grumbling.
I am very slow to make an accusation, but I do say in view of the Minister's extraordinary speech this morning there is no other construction left to be put on the purpose of this Bill. If I were acting-Minister for Finance and in a position to come into the Dáil and ask permission to spend £5,000,000, I would be boiling up to give information on what I was going to spend it, and I think any other decent Deputy who would find himself in a Minister's chair would do the same. Instead, the Minister calmly asked permission here to spend £5,000,000 but does not tell us what he is going to spend it on. In the hope of catching out farmers down the country, he talked for 22 minutes on fertilisers and ground limestone, and when I asked him a few questions by way of interruption I discovered to my horror and amazement that the Minister knows as much about ground limestone as the man in the moon. He simply hustles his colleague the Minister for Agriculture aside as he has been hustling him since this Government was formed—a very decent man, I must say, judging by my experience with the few requests I had to make to him. The poor man came in and sat beside the acting-Minister for Finance, but every time he attempted to open his mouth he was hushed by the acting-Minister for Finance and told to shut up.
That is completely untrue.
I have every sympathy with the Minister for Agriculture, but I have a certain amount of contempt for him, too.
I do not know how we can discuss the Minister for Agriculture on this Vote.
The acting-Minister for Finance took the Department of Agriculture to small bits this morning with the Minister for Agriculture sitting beside him. It is a good job I amnot Minister for Agriculture in the present Government.
The acting-Minister for Finance would find that he could not walk over me quite as easily, physically or otherwise.
He would have to get a ladder.
He would find there was an obstacle in his way. I want to close on this note. I am very perturbed about this new method of coming to the Dáil and asking for money without any explanation as to what it is for. I am afraid at the risk of repetition I must say that if the Minister had £5,000,000 at his disposal to spend I would not see anything wrong if he wanted to develop forestry or speed up the work of the Land Commission which has been slowed down. Forestry has also been chiselled down and it was shocking to see during the last 12 months men being laid off in practically every nursery and forestry centre throughout the country. If the Minister had come in with a Supplementary Estimate for anything like that, it would have been passed without a murmur. If the Parliamentary Secretary had wanted money for the Special Employment Schemes Office or the Board of Works Office I am sure all he would have to do would be to ask for it and there would be very little debate.
All I can say is that it now appears that as a result of taxation which was imposed by way of withdrawal of food subsidies, tax on petrol, and the flood of taxes that were imposed, it emerges that the Government has made a saving of a few million pounds. I do not think it will be great comfort or relief to the people to know that they had to go without butter, with less bread, less milk, less clothing, less fire, than they ever had before at the behest of the Fianna Fáil Government in order that the Minister for Finance might be able to walk in here and ask Dáil Éireann for leave to spend £5,000,000. That is the net result of Government policy. All the scrimping and saving for two and a half years of blood and sweat andtears and privation have the net result of leaving the Government with £5,000,000 on their hands and they are asking this House for a blank cheque to go and spend it for catching votes.
On a point of order. It has been my experience here, and I think it is the practice, that one speaker from each Party is allowed to speak before a second member of the Government Party speaks.
And that has been allowed.
Two members of the Opposition have spoken.
I am talking about Party representation.
Opposition Deputies have been called.
I do not want to cast any reflections, but there was one speaker from Fine Gael and one from a Party with six members. Our Party has a membership of 14 and it has not been allowed a speaker yet. Now we have a second speaker from the Government Benches.
I am sorry that Deputy Corish, by raising a point of order, prevented me from extending an invitation to Deputy Blowick to remain here while I was speaking, because I was hoping that the boiler that threatened to burst in giving the Dáil information as to how he, Deputy Blowick, would spend £5,000,000 might be relieved of a certain amount of pressure in absorbing some information relative to this very simple issue before the House.
It is some three months now since the Taoiseach and his Government announced their intention to set up a special fund for certain specific purposes, and to bring before the Dáil in the shortest possible time a Bill to implement that intention. At the time that that announcement was made it was suggested that it was made specifically for the purpose of vote-catching in the Galway by-election. Now that we have the Bill before us, it is suggestedthat it has been introduced specifically for the purpose of vote-catching generally. Possibly some of the people who take that point of view may fear that there will be a dissoluion of the Dáil during the Christmas recess and that it might do them some harm in their political activities.
Deputy Dillon, in his amazing performance here to-day, made certain definite statements and allegations. One of them was that under all the heads of money for capital expenditure the Government was providing something like £43,000,000 and he could not see how that money would be spent or how it could be spent, and that this Party is now coming along in the guise of Father Christmas with another £5,000,000, the fund to be replenished when that money is spent each year. He said this was just a promise of a Father Christmas present.
I do not know why it is that people are so dense or why they pretend to be so dense. I do not know whether it is that some of the statements they make arise from ignorance of what is going on around them. Here is a sum of money being made available in order to permit capital expenditure on special works wherever there may be unemployed people—it does not matter what area they are in—and where the local authority in the area in which they happen to reside can put up schemes for their employment without the cost of these schemes falling on the shoulders of the local ratepayers. I think that is a very simple proposition.
Every local authority has been notified by circular of the Government's intention and desire in this matter. We in the City of Dublin have also been notified and, in fact, I can say on behalf of the Dublin Corporation that we have been more than generously treated in order to enable us to do our part in helping to solve a problem which must be solved in a proper way.
Now Deputy Blowick wanted information about certain works and in the course of his speech he condemned the type of work that may be done. We in the City of Dublin have been notified that we may now build bridges across the Liffey to solve our trafficproblem as a result of the growth of the city. We have been told that a sum of money will be made available to us equal to 75 per cent. of the cost of the proposed bridge, or bridges. We will be permitted, too, to build certain much-needed offices in order to improve the accommodation for local authority officials, of whom we have some 2,000 odd. Again, we will get a grant of 75 per cent. and, over and above that, we have been notified that we may now employ people on what are described as amenity schemes for the improvement of the city as a whole. These are schemes which would not normally be carried out by the corporation in particular areas and streets and laneways which do not happen to come under the charge of the corporation; but, for carrying out these schemes, we will be given a grant of 80 per cent. We do not look upon this as an election promise.
We have already set up a special works committee. We have appointed to that committee an enthusiastic and efficient engineer to take complete charge. He will recruit his own special staff. Already we have in employment over 400 people and the schemes submitted for the 80 per cent. subsidy from the State from this fund have been notified and we are now in the position that we can plan ahead, not for the purpose of dealing with an immediate problem of a relief nature but for the purpose of long term employment. We have schemes on our files, planned, designed, costed and approved by the Department of Local Government. We can go ahead and we are invited to do so on the basis of the five year period during which this Bill will operate. We estimate that we will spend in Dublin City about £1,200,000 per year on these special works and extra schemes.
Will that come from this fund?
The greater part of it will come from this fund. We will ourselves contribute 20 per cent. In negotiations with the Taoiseach and the Government, we agreed that in large-scale expenditure on amenity schemes, in particular, it was only fairthat some contribution should come from the city itself. In certain cases, we have agreed to contribute 20 per cent.; in other cases we have agreed to contribute 25 per cent.
Now there will be, on the one hand, an outcry because the rates may go up 6d. in the £ in order to enable us to give employment to something over 1,000 people; on the other hand, the same people will scream about the unemployed. We are serious in this matter. No man could have been more genuine in his approach to this problem than the Taoiseach himself. Not so many months ago, when he saw and understood the trend of things, he sent for the representatives of the corporation who happen to be members of this House and he discussed with them the problem. He gave us his views and asked us for our suggestions as to how we could help and how we could get from the corporation as a whole unanimous agreement as to what we would do. Because of his approach, because of his understanding of the human aspect, we, as a corporation, composed of members of all Parties, are delighted by the manner in which we have been treated in this respect.
I do not know the extent to which individual local authorities will participate in grants but it is up to them. Deputy Hickey, probably, is as interested in this as anybody else.
We suggested it to the Taoiseach long before now.
I am not being offensive to Deputy Hickey.
I know you are not.
Deputy Hickey will see that as much as possible of this money will go to Cork, by Cork itself putting up schemes for which they need assistance from this fund.
Deputy Dillon talked about Louth being notified of this because we are on the eve of a by-election in Louth. Did he expect that, in sending out the circular to local authorities, Louth should be left out because there is to be a by-election? He says that this particular announcement is made on the eve of the recess. It was made three months ago and, to my knowledge andthe knowledge of many members of this House, was being studied by the Government six and nine months ago. Deputies of some years' experience in this House must know that a serious body such as the Fianna Fáil Cabinet will not make an announcement in the Dáil without first having examined the feasibility of the project, the expenditure on which they are asking the House to endorse.
Deputy Dillon has very many years' experience of State accounting and of the Public Accounts Committee. When he says that the savings on various Estimates could have been diverted to this purpose without the announcement the Government are making, he knows that he is saying something that is incorrect. Does not Deputy Dillon know that if the money voted by the House for a particular Department is not spent in strict accordance with the Vote, it must be surrendered to the Exchequer, and that if money is required for any purpose not envisaged in any of the Estimates, the House must decide that matter as a separate issue? There is no sense in pretending that the ordinary Departments of State can implement this particular item. There are two or three Departments involved, who will support local authorities in the special kind of works they will suggest.
It was clear throughout part of Deputy Dillon's speech that he had an obsession about losing future by-elections. He is under the delusion that this particular money is for the specific purpose of winning a by-election. His exhibitionism and histrionics tempted me to say it was a pity we were not discussing an amendment to the Mental Treatment Bill to-day instead of yesterday. He talked about Dublin Corporation housing. It is obvious that he has no knowledge or experience of local authority administration. He referred to a single instance of a family of four people living in a single room who were not housed by the corporation, notwithstanding the fact that he had brought the case to the notice of the city manager. He inferred from that that nothing wasbeing done as far as housing is concerned.
I want to put on record, so that people who read the debates will have a correct view of things, that in 1932, when this Government took office, there were 18,000 families in Dublin living in single rooms in tenements. There are in Dublin to-day more than 20,000 houses which have been built since that date. Deputy Dillon seemed to be under the impression that unless the condition as to the number in family was complied with, housing would not follow. He does not seem to realise that the Dublin Corporation have agreed on certain priorities. We do not give houses solely on the ground of number in family. There is priority where there is a case of T.B. in a family living in a tenement or slum. There is priority for people living in a dangerous building or in a clearance area.
In connection with the case referred to by Deputy Dillon, of a family living in New Bride Street, I telephoned the housing officer and asked for particulars. The Deputy did not tell the House that the mother-in-law also lives in the same house in another room and that it is really a family of five sharing two rooms and that the position is not as bad from the point of view of rat infestation as he suggested. As everybody knows, the health section deals with that matter.
How could this arise on the Bill?
Deputy Dillon spent a considerable amount of time showing that the Dublin Corporation and the Government were not dealing with housing by instancing a case of a family living in a room that is infested by rats. Houses can be built only at a certain rate. There are 11,000 more families on our list for housing. We cannot build 11,000 houses in a month or a year. That is physically impossible. We can only build them at a certain rate taking into consideration all the circumstances—the availability of sites, the development of sites, sewerage, water, acquisition and so forth. In Dublin we have reached what we think is the maximum we can deal with inour aim, which is somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 houses per year, with a certain number of dwellings in addition. The Deputy talked about the Government not being serious, and when he talked about the £43,000,000 capital investment and the rates of interest he got all confused. Strange to say notwithstanding all the talk of the increased rate of interest charged in the last few years the Dublin Corporation has to-day the largest number of applications for loans under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act that they ever had in any single year in the whole history of that Act. We have something like 1,500 applications at the moment of people who are seeking to borrow money at present rates of interest and with present charges for houses.
Is not that a matter for the Dublin Corporation rather than the national questions we should deal with here this morning?
Deputy Dillon tried to show, in the course of his argument, that the reason we have unemployed is because nobody now is engaged in the building of houses due to the high rate of interest and with particular reference to the borrowers under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. I am just telling the House, notwithstanding everything that Deputy Dillon has said in that matter, that we have never had as many applications as we have this year under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, which means that, in addition to the houses the corporation themselves will build either for sale or for letting, over and above the flats that they will build, there will be these numbers of houses built by people under the Small Dwellings Act loans, plus others who get their money either through building societies or through the banks.
The Government is responsible for making it possible for the building of houses to go on as it is going. They subsidise by grant and by contribution to the interest charges, and they make it possible for us to do what we can. I agree with Deputy Hickey that if we could give people better houses at cheaper rents or cheaper prices we would like to do that, but what we areconfronted with on that particular aspect of the problem is that there are large numbers of families still needing to be housed and our job is to provide the houses as soon as we can and as best we can. There are 400 families to-day listed on our books, consisting of five members in single rooms, and there are 1,200 families living in one, two or three rooms with six in family listed also. There was a time when we had families of eight, ten, 11 and 14 to deal with but they have been dealt with. We are down now to what we call reasonable numbers.
This Bill has been lost sight of. Deputy Blowick was talking and I thought it was on an Estimate for the Department for Agriculture that he was talking. At a later stage I thought it was on the Vote for the Department of Industry and Commerce, with particular reference to subsidies and the cost of living. The Bill has been lost sight of. It is a very simple Bill. I think that Deputy Corish and the Labour Party understand what is behind this and I am sure that they will indicate that they welcome it and that they will do their part in trying to make it a success——
When we get an opportunity.
——and seeing that every penny of the £5,000,000 is spent in every year. I am not going to delay the Deputy very long.
The Ceann Comhairle will determine that.
I am not going to talk about the imbalance in payments or about capital investments. I am not going to be drawn into it, although I would like to say in regard to the manner in which it was attempted to draw this red herring across this particular issue that it was deliberately done to mislead.
Deputy Blowick did make one statement which I would like to have repeated so that when we get a chance during the recess we can look up the statistics. He said that in the three and a half years of the inter-Party Government—I was almost going to say interparliamentary Government;the manner of his speech put me in mind of it—£149,000,000 was repatriated from our external assets to bring into this country machinery and fertilisers and other items for the improvement of the lands. That is a most statesmanlike and, what I would call, well-informed statement from a man who was willing to burst his boiler in explaining how this £5,000,000 would be spent if he was trying to do it. How in the name of goodness could we tell? Every one of us who is a member of a local authority—and there are a good few of us in this House—will in the next few months, I hope, when the Dáil is in recess, be looking for schemes and sending them up to the Minister, saying, "Here is a good scheme." We have it in Dublin, going on deputations to the Minister for Local Government and explaining that a particular scheme is a good one.
The Government is insisting on this, too, and perhaps it is well for the House to know it—and on this I am sure there will be full agreement from the Labour Party—that the Government does not want this money spent on edifices where there is no labour content. In Dublin we are trying to average out the money spent as near as possible so that 60 per cent. of the expenditure will be on wages content. In other words for every £100 we spend on whatever we are doing we want to see that there is £60 of that in wages and £40 for material and whatever the other costs may be. That is what the Government wants. The Government wants this scheme to be elastic so that if a situation arises such as has arisen now in Kildare where there is seasonal unemployment in turf work, there will be ready and available in the local authority some other scheme to employ those people for the period when they will not be needed on this other work.
Surely it would not be a question of looking for schemes. Deputy Blowick wants the Government to come in and mention them.
There will be no difficulty in looking for schemes. We found no difficulty in finding a greatnumber of them. I hope that if this Bill gets a speedy passage, and is allowed to go into operation quickly, in a matter of 12 or 18 months we will all be able to see the benefits it will create not only in each local authority area, and that we will also be able to realise the extent by which it is possible to reduce the number of unemployed and to employ them on worthwhile schemes—not on what we call a relief basis but on special works in the ordinary way of ordinary employment for people available for them when the circumstances are such that they need other employment.
It seems to me, and I am sure it must seem to anybody who has been listening for the last 20 minutes, that Deputy Briscoe knows much more or has displayed much more knowledge about this Bill than the acting-Minister for Finance. If, as Deputy Briscoe suggests, the Bill will be put to such uses, then the acting-Minister for Finance never got it into proper focus. If I express dissatisfaction at the speech that was made by the acting-Minister for Finance, it does not at all represent my attitude or that of the Labour Party towards any proposal to make moneys available and to spend them for capital development and for any work that would go towards the general development of the nation. I want to say, following an earlier interjection by Deputy Hickey, that the trade union organisation in this country, plus the Labour Party, as far back as last June, issued a statement with regard to unemployment, and in July sent representatives to see the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, put before them exactly what is contained in this Bill and described exactly the type of work to which Deputy Briscoe referred this morning and which he also referred to when he spoke on the Estimate for the Taoiseach's Department. The attitude of the Labour Party and the trade union movement then was that the unemployment situation was such that it was the duty of the Government to make money available for schemes that were already prepared by the various local authorities in the country and which, in the majority ofcases, have been submitted to the Department of Local Government. From that point of view I have no hesitation in saying that this change of attitude by the Government is welcome as far as we are concerned.
The acting-Minister for Finance was side-tracked this morning, and shame on him for being side-tracked, because he devoted much of his speech to types of work to which money would not be devoted and did not indicate to the House how it was intended to spend this money. I had a general idea as to how it would be spent and Deputy Briscoe has also a very good idea but I think every Deputy is entitled to complain that the acting-Minister for Finance did not throw much light on the Bill. Would it not be right to say that the unemployed in Dublin City, and indeed all over the Twenty-Six Counties, are entitled to feel very angry and very cynical towards a Government which has been in office since the 13th June, 1951, having regard to the fact that the unemployed were since compelled to live on the miserable pittance of the dole, that some of them were forced to emigrate during that period and that only now, after two and a half years, have the Government awakened to their responsibility with regard to the 67,000 unemployed in the country? Even though this is a rather belated change of attitude, we welcome it as a change in any case.
We can only take the Bill at its face value, as expressing the intention to provide money for certain types of work. We can, however, judge this Bill only in the months to come, say after three or six months' time, when we hope we shall be able to see some benefits from it.
That is very doubtful.
I am a trusting sort of Deputy.
It is operating already in Dublin.
It is operating on a greater scale in Dublin than in the country.
Deputy Murphy should refrain from interrupting.
There was no indication from the Acting-Minister for Finance that part of the money would be devoted to roads but it has been announced by some Government Deputies, or information has leaked through from the Department, to the effect that £1,000,000 is to be spent on the roads.
Exclusive of the cities.
It applies to the county councils.
That is right.
The suggestion was made this morning that £500,000 was to be given to the county councils by way of grant to enable them to undertake drainage schemes under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. Is that a fact?
We are grateful for that information but why did the acting-Minister not say that? Surely his introductory speech should have been of such a nature that we could have discussed this Bill in relation to what it contains, and not behave in the way we have been behaving, talking about everything but what we should talk about.
You do not include me in that "we".
You have got your acquittal. The Parliamentary Secretary says that £100,000 is being provided for schemes under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. That is not half enough. Whilst some members of the Fianna Fáil Party welcomed the Act when it was passed in 1949 and approved wholeheartedly of the idea of devoting a big sum to these drainage schemes, there has been in the last four or five years a further gradual conversion amongst the majority of rural Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party. If they were to speak their minds, they would agree, I think, that £100,000under this heading is not adequate to do the good work that could be done in this form of national development. Deputy Blowick mentioned some places which had benefited considerably from the Local Authorities (Works) Act and, speaking here some time ago, I also gave examples of the success of these particular schemes in my own constituency.
Virtually every day Deputies stress the importance of agriculture and the need for investment of money in the agricultural industry. I submit there is no better way in which we could develop and encourage agriculture and invest money in the industry than by drainage work under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. I very seldom delve into the subject of agriculture, but I heard references here this morning by some people who object to farmers ploughing their profits into the land, in the sense that there might be no return for it. Surely it is not a question of ploughing profits back into the land but rather a question of reinvestment for the benefit of farmers themselves in the agricultural industry? I would humbly suggest that it is a far better proposition that the savings of the country should be put back into the land rather than that they should be kept at a very small rate of interest lying in the banks. I am not suggesting that farmers should be forced to do that. I suppose the farmer himself is the best judge, but there seems to be a long-standing tradition in this country that we are saving as long as we have money in the bank. Our people are not an investing people and never have been. Whether or not that is the tradition handed down from the time when we were under foreign rule I do not know, but I think it will not be denied now that any money we invest in the land will show a return that will be of benefit to the country generally.
As I have already complained, the acting-Minister for Finance did not specify the type of work which it was intended to finance by the moneys to be paid into this fund.
I have approved of the idea of the expenditure of some of the money onroads. I have advocated that a substantial portion of the fund be devoted to drainage work in the rural areas. I believe that if we can make any contribution towards solving the unemployment problem in the rural areas we shall be going a great deal of the way towards solving the problem in the urban areas. There is evidence that there is a gradual increase in the number of workers in industrial employment in this country. Everybody welcomes that trend. The reason we have an unemployment problem is because unemployment springs, in the first instance, from the rural areas by reason of the fact that the agricultural industry does not now employ as many as it did when we had not modern methods of working the land, that is, in the matter of up-to-date machinery.
The average flight from the land or unemployment in rural areas in the past few years runs to about 14,000 or 15,000. I think that, last year, 22,000 persons left the land. These persons have drifted into the towns and cities. If we could make any contribution towards relieving unemployment in the rural areas we would be going a good part of the way towards relieving unemployment in the towns and cities.
Housing has been discussed at length on this Bill. I would advocate, also, that portion of these moneys be devoted to housing—if not for the actual building of the houses by the local authorities at least for the clearance and preparation of sites. Many local authorities have clamoured for assistance in this respect for years and years back. If the Government are sincere in their statement that they want to have this country developed, I suggest that one of the best contributions they could make would be to reduce the cost of housing by having applied to the work of clearance and preparation of housing sites some of the moneys that will be paid into the National Development Fund.
Another very desirable type of work in this country—and something that has been neglected to a very great extent over the years—is the development of our harbours. I believe thatif we could develop our harbours we would make a contribution towards reducing the cost of living in the areas which these harbours would serve. The best example I could give in that respect would be coal. If some of this money were applied to the development of some of our harbours that are not at present fit to take big ships, then the larger ships could enter and discharge their cargoes there. That would substantially cut down carriage and other transportation costs. Take, for example, Wexford town or even Wicklow town, both of which have harbours. It is remarkable that the larger type of boat cannot enter these harbours. The alternative is that coal, for example, must be imported through Rosslare Harbour or Dublin or Waterford and then transported from these places to towns such as Carlow, Wexford and Wicklow.
I approve of Deputy Blowick's suggestion that part of this money might be applied to afforestation, in addition to what is already provided in the Estimate. Many of us could give a long list of suggestions as to how this money might usefully be spent, and the obvious reply would be that only a limited amount of work can be done with £5,000,000. I think that drainage in rural areas, housing, harbours and afforestation are four admirable headings for general development in this country. I trust that the acting-Minister for Finance will mend his hand and undo the damage which he has undoubtedly done to this discussion and to the general idea of national development. He should list at least some of the national development projects which it is intended to undertake with the moneys in the National Development Fund—and not leave it to Deputy Briscoe or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach or any other member of this House to suggest, merely by way of interjection, the objects of this Bill. It is the duty of the acting-Minister for Finance to do that. He should have done it this morning. I trust that when he comes to reply to this debate he will be a little more constructive in his attitude and a little more informative than he was when introducing the Bill this morning.
I have the honour of being a member of this House for the past 12 years and during that time I have never seen a Bill as extraordinary and peculiar and strange as this Bill. The National Development Fund Bill was first mentioned by the Taoiseach at Ballinasloe during the South Galway by-election. In the course of a speech which he made there he told his audience that it was the intention of the Government to introduce legislation whereby a large sum of money would be provided for development works in the national interest. He went further and said that the title of the Bill under which this fund would be organised and allocated would be the National Development Fund Bill. It is very strange that it was practically on the eve of a by-election that the Taoiseach promised the National Development Fund Bill and that the country heard nothing further about the matter until now when we are, perhaps, on the threshold of two other by-elections. I have not heard some of the speeches which were made earlier to-day. For my own part, however, I feel that this is a most dishonest piece of political trick-o'-the-loop. In my view, there is no sincerity whatever behind the Bill.
For the Deputy's information, we advocated this last June and July.
This House is asked to vote a very substantial sum of money for the Minister for Finance to spend as he likes. Let me quote Section 4 of the Bill:
"The Minister may apply the fund for the purpose of financing projects which, in his opinion, are projects of development of a public character and are in the national interest."
A scheme which, in the opinion of the Minister for Finance, is of a public character and in the national interest might not, in the opinion of anybody else, be a scheme of a public character or in the national interest. It is very wrong for this House to lend itself to passing legislation which hands over millions of pounds to be spent bythe Minister without his first giving details of the manner in which it is proposed to spend it. There is nothing in this Bill which proves to me that one penny piece will be spent on road works, nor is there anything in it to give us an idea of the amount which will be spent on drainage works. The only thing we can see from the Bill is that the Minister will have power to spend this money at his own discretion and in accordance with his own wishes and desires and that he alone may decide what a scheme of a public character is and whether a scheme is in the national interest or otherwise.
I thought that, when this Bill was circulated, we would find in it a section giving details of what national development schemes were and confining expenditure under the Bill to these various schemes, which should be set out. We should have information as to whether this money is to be spent on road works, on drainage, on the provision of playing grounds or parks in the cities or large provincial towns, on the development of forestry, the construction or reconstruction of parish halls in rural areas or on the repair of cul-de-sac roads, for the maintenance of which country councils have no responsibility and on which they cannot legally spend money, in spite of the fact that the Minister for Local Government on more than one occasion promised to introduce certain legislation which would enable county councils to take over and maintain these cul-de-sac roads. There is nothing in the Bill to show the extent to which money can be spent on any scheme.
Let us assume that the Minister gets an idea for another wild or crazy scheme such as the Dublin Castle scheme. He may feel that it is a scheme in the national interest and a development of a public character. What guarantee have we that this money will not be spent on some of the insane and unsound ideas that have been at the back of the minds of the Fianna Fáil Ministers for many years past? I am strongly opposed to voting large sums of money to Ministers to spend without being given in advancean idea of what the money is to be spent on. If money is to be spent on roads, are we again going to have additional grants made available to local authorities for the taking off of corners and the widening of main roads? If I thought that type of work was to be financed by a measure such as this, I would ask the Minister to see to it that such funds were not spent on work on ordinary main roads but on by-roads, lanes and cul-de-sac roads and on schemes in respect of which local applicants find great difficulty in raising the necessary percentage to qualify for a grant under the rural improvements scheme.
There are many such roadways, lane-ways and byways in rural Ireland and on another occasion some time ago I indicated to the House, and particularly to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, a scheme on which no public money could be spent, a scheme in Ballycommon, County Offaly, where there is a Catholic Church with no road whatever leading to it so that people have to take to the fields to get to Mass. The situation there has now become such that clergy cannot enter the church. The Grand Canal runs beside the church and the repair of the canal line will not be permitted by C.I.E., with the result that it is the only Catholic Church in Ireland to-day——
Surely that is a matter of administration?
What is the county council doing?
I was merely suggesting to the Minister that a scheme of that kind is a scheme which could be dealt with. There are cases in which county councils have no authority to expend public moneys on roadways which are in the interest of the general public and I think there should be some fund for the provision of roadways to houses of worship. It is most unfortunate that we have this particular case in County Offaly and I believe there are many other similar cases in which the local authority has no function or responsibility. I would pay a compliment to any Minister who would bring forward legislation to enablelocal authorities to spend money in cases where they were prevented from spending in the past.
The Minister said that this is a Bill to provide employment and that is what was at the back of the Taoiseach's mind in Galway when he was endeavouring to capture votes, and succeeded in doing so, on the promise of this and similar legislation. Are we to understand that it is only now the Government realise that there is an unemployment problem in the country? As soon as this sum of £5,000,000 is available for the provision of employment, I should like to know whether the unemployed in a particular area must be registered at the local exchange and whether they will not be employed on these schemes unless they are sent out from the various exchanges. The full benefits of such a scheme will not be made available if we have to depend on the unemployed who register. In the remote parts of Ireland, you will not get people to register. They will not waste their time registering, but will find something else to do—helping a friend or neighbour. They look on signing on at the labour exchange as a waste of time, and I strongly recommend that anybody who is unemployed or who wants to work should be given work and that it should not be confined to those sent out from the labour exchange.
I agree that there is a huge volume of work which can be very usefully undertaken, such as the erection of bridges and the development of all bog roads to assist in the production of turf. In the constituency I represent, no increase in road grants has been given to compensate for the amount of road work which was not undertaken during the emergency, when all the council staffs were engaged in the production of fuel. I feel that in the case of counties like Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Mayo and Kerry, which were particularly concerned in turf production and which, during the years of the emergency, were unable to keep the county roads in a state of proper repair, in recognition of the very great national services rendered by these county councils and workers on turf production, they should at least begiven special financial consideration to bring the roads in their areas up to the same standard as the roads in other counties, where the men were employed all during the emergency.
Under this scheme, I would recommend that the Minister for Finance should ascertain the number of counties actively engaged in turf production during the emergency. When he has ascertained that, he should provide a larger sum of money from the National Development Fund for the county councils who produced turf than for any other county council. Up to this, no special scheme of grants had been provided for those county councils to bring back the county roads or other roads within these counties to at least as good a state as the roads in other areas where county councils were not engaged in turf production.
I should like to hear whether consideration would be given to the provision of funds for the development of sports fields or playgrounds in large provincial towns. There are no funds whatever to provide sports fields or playgrounds. When housing schemes are erected in accordance with the present-day design, you may have anything from 300 to 400 children playing on the streets. We have all seen the rising number of accidents among young children playing on the streets. It is only right that some consideration should be given to the provision of suitable parks or playing grounds. There are no funds available for this purpose to local authorities, urban councils or town commissioners. I think corporations have been given some consideration in this respect. Funds should be provided in order to keep the children off the streets for their own safety.
I do not know whether we are going to have further regulations governing the amount of money to be spent in particular areas or whether the money is going to be provided by the Minister for Finance to the local authority on the amount of work which the various county engineers or town clerks, or whoever is responsible, submit to the Department.
I want to say that it is very late in the day the Government thought ofgiving a helping hand towards the relief of unemployment. I say, as other speakers have properly said, this Bill is a stunt. It has come in practically on Christmas morning to be passed at express speed so that an allocation will probably be made either to Cork City or Louth before the by-elections take place so that it can be used, as has been stated, and rightly so, as an instalment on the purchase of votes to keep the present Government in office. I think this Bill is a bribe. It is nothing but throwing out a sprat to catch a salmon. I think the Bill is nothing short of a very cheap and mean trick for the purpose of purchasing votes at the expense of the taxpayers of this country. If I thought that the Bill was going to have all the useful consequences which Deputy Briscoe said it would have, I might be inclined to pause for a moment to see whether I could give any favourable consideration to the Bill on the merits as he presented them. There is no comparison between what Deputy Briscoe said of the Bill and what the Acting-Minister said when introducing the Bill. From Deputy Briscoe's statement in regard to so much being spent on roads, he seems to know more about the workings of the Bill than the Minister who introduced it. If Deputy Briscoe has that knowledge, I am certain that it is for the purpose of vote-catching. That is the responsible department that Deputy Briscoe for many years has held in Fianna Fáil——
The Deputy will not make any charge of that kind. That is a personal charge.
I do not agree. Surely it is a political charge?
To say that the Deputy is in charge of a department to purchase votes is a personal charge.
What Deputy is that?
I do not know. The Deputy will not make that charge.
That cannot be suggested.
That is what the Deputy has suggested.
That could not be taken by any reasonable person.
Am I not reasonable then? I feel that is the charge and the Deputy will not be allowed to make it.
I believe the £5,000,000 will be spent buying votes. That is the charge I make. I believe that the £5,000,000 will be spent on the eve of the by-elections and in those areas where the Government will get the best support and where particular schemes will be submitted by the Fianna Fáil Party and organisation. If we see that this Bill works on the lines suggested by Deputy Briscoe, then we will probably have a different view to express on it when it comes up for review at a later stage. I think the Bill is a very cleverly designed political trick for that purpose. This Bill should be entitled the Vote-catching Fund Bill of 1953.
And you will vote against it.
That in my opinion is what the Bill should be called. I am sorry that any Minister should ask for public moneys to be spent in the fashion provided by this Bill without any consideration whatever being given to providing the details of the schemes which the Bill proposes to have carried out.
I intend to be very brief in regard to this Bill. I sat very patiently for an opportunity to say a few words in regard to the Bill. I listened to and heard a very considerable amount said against the Bill which to my mind was a complete waste of time. This is simply a Bill to provide employment for our people on work of national development. The Clann na Talmhan Party and the Fine Gael Party are opposed to such a measure and their spokesmen spoke ferociously in deriding this Bill.
Deputy Flanagan described the Bill as a dishonest piece of political trickery and Deputy Dillon described it as a dirty fraud. I think we allheard those words, particularly the phrase, "dirty fraud", applied before to describe every scheme of capital development in this country which was designed for the purpose of bettering the lot of our people and improving the national output and income. In replying to the statement of Deputy Flanagan that the Bill was a dishonest piece of political trickery, might I draw attention to the fact that Deputy Mac Fheórais stated the proposal in this Bill was approved of by the trade union movement as far back as last June? Is it suggested that the whole trade union movement is linked up with the Government in a dirty fraud, as Deputy Dillon pointed out, or in a piece of dishonest political trickery, as Deputy Flanagan suggested? There is nothing dishonest or dishonourable in providing a special fund for the provision of employment for our people in work of national development. It is a common-sense policy dictated by the circumstances that prevail in this nation.
It has been suggested that adequate funds could be made available through the annual Estimates for the various Departments and that there is no need to supplement those funds by a special development fund such as is provided here. Those of us who are members of local authorities and those of us who have contact with the ordinary people of the country know that it does very often happen that unemployment might occur in a particular district and through the operation of the various regulations governing the Civil Service it is impossible to apply immediately the funds that are required to relieve that unemployment. Our economic circumstances in this State make it necessary to have such a flexible fund always available to the Government and I am sure the leaders of the trade union movement, who have apparently studied this matter carefully and discussed it with the Government, are convinced that that is so.
Many of our main sources of employment are of a seasonal nature. We have such things as turf production from which men may be disemployed at a particular period of the year. Wehave the beet-growing and sugar-manufacturing industries which are seasonal in their operations. I have experience of the Irish Sugar Company in Carlow having to send out as far as 20 miles from the factory in order to secure men, and I have experience of men having been cut off the dole because they did not consent to travel 20 miles to work. That is an indication that in one particular area at a particular time of the year you may have the need for works. In the Carlow area I can assume that in a few months time the sugar-manufacturing industry will be closed down and a number of men will be thrown on the exchange. That is why we need a special measure such as this in our economic set-up. I would entirely disagree with Deputy Flanagan when he says that work should not be confined to men on the labour exchanges. I think the labour exchanges should be the main source from which the men are taken.
There is always a certain risk in providing large sums of money in a particular area for the relief of unemployment inasmuch as you might draw men away from employment. I had that experience under the Local Authorities (Works) Act when it was in operation in Wicklow and large grants were made available for certain rivers. The net result was that in these areas for a few months—and it happened to be the busiest months of the year—it was almost impossible for farmers to secure workers. The system of employment should be so flexible that we should be able to provide work to suit the number of people on the labour exchanges and take them into employment without disorganising or dislocating in any way the ordinary productive work in the country.
This can be done by dovetailing special employment and work of national development, such as is provided for in this Bill, into our ordinary economic life. We cannot leave the matter entirely to the funds that are provided in the annual Estimates. Circumstances will arise from time to time in which additional money may be required for perhaps a short period in some area and it is very desirable that the Government should have thefunds at their disposal to utilise for this purpose.
Some people supporting this Bill might be inclined to question the wisdom of confining the fund to £5,000,000 per year. I believe there are certain reasons why it is desirable to have some limit. We cannot, as a national Parliament, abrogate our control over expenditure and what the Minister has asked for in introducing this Bill is that a sum amounting to about 3½ per cent. of the total annual Estimate should be given in such a way that it could be applied to any particular purpose for which it might be found necessary.
There is nothing to be condemned in the fact that this Bill is now coming at the end of the session. The Bill has been on the Order Paper for a considerable amount of time and it simply was not reached. As far as the local authorities are concerned they have received information of the grants that are to be provided under this Bill and they are working on schemes to be put into operation. Deputy Dillon suggested that this Bill is designed for the particular constituencies in which by-elections will shortly take place. Those of us who are members of local authorities know that that is not so, that all the details of this scheme have been circulated to all the county councils and they have been asked to prepare schemes with a view to seeing how best the money could be allocated. Deputy Dillon is not a member of a local authority and, therefore, he may be excused for his ignorance in regard to this particular matter. I think he made such a public nuisance of himself in the county council of which he was a member that they got rid of him.
Will we ever stop going into these matters?
There are Ministers of this Government who were treated like that, too.
I am dealing as briefly as I can with this legislation.
The Deputy might have excluded that reference.
It is a very important measure and it has been to a very large extent misrepresented by two speakers from Fine Gael and one speaker from the Clann na Talmhan Party. It is right that the Bill should be presented as it really is, and it is a tribute to Deputy Corish that he has done so. He did make it clear that the purpose of this measure is not in any way associated with political intrigue, fraud or dishonesty, but that it is a measure introduced in consultation with the organised trade union movement. For that reason we can take it that it is reasonably sound. I do not know why some Deputies have to introduce matters connected with agriculture. Deputy Mac Fheórais blamed the acting-Minister for Finance for that, but I do not think that is correct. When Deputy Dillon decides to put on a performance here, he will put it on regardless of how the debate may be going. When he decides to come in his red feathers and hula hula skirt no one can stop him. On one point he should be contradicted emphatically. He claimed that he alone was responsible for the ground limestone scheme and its being supplied to the farmers. Those of us who were in this House in 1946-47 know that the scheme was under way then, and that limestone was being produced. I had the unhappy experience of having to go on a deputation to Deputy Dillon when he was Minister for Agriculture to protest against his refusal to provide a subsidy for ground limestone. The subsidy was there for burnt lime and Deputy Dillon issued a specific Order prohibiting county committees applying that subsidy to ground limestone. The seven farmer members of the county committee of which I am a member waited on Deputy Dillon at his own office and, to put it figuratively, we were thrown out on our necks; we were told there was no need whatever to subsidise ground limestone. It was only later, when the American E.C.A. representative insisted on its being done, that it was subsidised—nearly two years later. It is foolish of Deputy Dillon to go on in his brazen way asserting that he alone should get the credit for this beneficial scheme.
Some Deputies said the Government waited too long to bring in this Bill and have done nothing until now. There has been a substantial increase in labour employed on capital works over the last two years. The land rehabilitation project was increased in scope and the amount expended on it was increased five-fold over the last three years. We did not have to wait for this Bill in order to find ways and means of providing additional employment. Afforestation and drainage works have been increased. Over and above those, there is need for the special scheme envisaged in this Bill. It will enable the Government to provide special funds in whatever area they are required, by making special grants to the local authorities for drainage or road improvement.
I am not in favour of spending too much of this money on main roads while some larger mileage of the county roads is still unsurfaced. I believe the £1,000,000 being allocated to the county councils under this Bill, or a very large portion of it, will go to the reconstruction of county roads, in the provision of employment, widely distributed over the whole country, as it is work that has a fairly high labour content. Many of our county roads have very narrow surfaces and need to be widened. That means the employment of a considerable amount of local labour in widening those narrow roads and rolling them. In the same way there could be careful investigation of rivers and streams which could be widened and deepened by human labour. This is a matter to which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, now present, should give close consideration in the Office of Public Works, in consultation with county councils. I had a little experience of such work done in my constituency and in Carlow. In some places there was good work, but there was also bad work in other places. Where it was unsatisfactory it was not due very much to the fault of the engineer but to the urgent need to provide work immediately for large pockets of unemployed.
The Minister forLocal Government blamed it on the engineers.
I suppose that in the last analysis you could express a certain amount of blame. I would say the other factor came into it very strongly. The engineers were trying to provide the labour convenient to these large pockets of unemployment. There were mistakes made in South Carlow.
Surely this is not dealing with the National Development Fund Bill?
The matter the Deputy is referring to was mentioned earlier in the debate.
Yes, unfortunately a lot of other matters not dealing with development work were mentioned in the debate.
Is that a reflection on the Chair?
Not at all; the Chair cannot watch everybody. It is necessary to outline the two main points—that these are flexible funds that can be made over to county councils and used for the reconstruction of roads and for works of drainage wherever suitable. In some counties there is a large volume of such works; in other counties the amount of work is not so great. Between the drainage and the roads it should be possible to absorb the great majority of the unemployed.
Some Deputies have spoken of the desirability of providing various local amenities, playing fields, village halls and so on. In so far as some may have a high labour content, money should be provided for them. At frequent intervals in this House I have strongly advocated the recognition of local or parish councils and the provision of money to them out of local funds to relieve unemployment and to help them to provide these amenities. They could clear derelict sites, provide small gardens, brighten rural districts and villages, provide footpaths and generally add to the amenities of a village, a town or a parish.
As this Bill is a very important one and is a far-reaching measure of reemployedform, in that it provides something which did not exist before in our administrative system, it ought to be welcomed and should not be as violently misrepresented as it has been. It will provide work for a very large number of people scattered throughout the length and breadth of the country. It will not draw those men from existing employment but will take them off the labour exchange. It will raise their standard of living and their standard of self-respect and will also add not only to the local amenities but to the wealth of the nation.
I should like to correct the impression which has been created by the speech just delivered. I made it clear when I spoke on the Taoiseach's Estimate that this Party welcomes any scheme the provision of which would tend towards increased production and greater employment, and that is our attitude now towards this Bill. I do not think it is right or fair that Deputy Cogan should try to misrepresent what Deputy Blowick said. I was not present during the whole of Deputy Blowick's speech, but he did not convey the impression to me which he evidently left on the mind of the Deputy. At any rate, I want to make it quite clear now that as far as I am concerned and this Party are concerned the introduction of any measure which, in our opinion, serves the two-fold object of increasing production and providing employment in rural areas will have our approval. For that reason I am not prepared to accept suggestions which have been made that this measure is put forward for any other purpose. I am prepared to accept that until I find the contrary proved. If and when I do find the contrary proved, I will give voice to my opinions, too. I may say, however, for the information of Deputy Cogan and to have it on the records of this House that, while I do not hold any brief whatever for Deputy Dillon, as Deputy Cogan is aware, he was not got rid of from Roscommon County Council. He resigned from Roscommon County Council, and while he was there he proved a very valuable member of that council.
My main reason for intervening in this debate is this. It has been indicated to-day, and it was indicated at our county council meeting, that the ratio of expenditure under this scheme as between drainage and roads will be in the nature of ten to one; that is, that for every £1 spent on drainage there will be about £10 spent on roads. It is with that point alone that I want to deal. I think that that is a mistake both from the point of view of the productive value of the scheme and from the point of view of employment. It is quite obvious, as far as the Local Government Department are concerned, that when they come to road expenditure they have in mind main roads. I submit that the expenditure of large sums of money on main roads does not serve either of the two objects which this scheme should serve, because (1) it does not provide the labour content which minor roads would provide, and (2) it does not increase production.
If we proposed that a ten-to-one ratio should exist in favour of the drainage of land, I think that scheme would be a very considerable improvement because, as was indicated in the Taoiseach's speech, our first important consideration is increased production, and we can never maintain the services or the standard of living we have without a constant effort to increase production. The essential preliminary to increased production is the drainage of the land, because it is the principal weapon by which we can bring about increased production. The Taoiseach indicated quite clearly that he accepted that as an axiom of his policy, and I was gratified to hear the Taoiseach agree with what I said on his Estimate, that our production can be stepped up 50 per cent. by the application of fertilisers.
I do not want to enter into the discussion as to who was responsible for the introduction of the ground limestone scheme or who was not. I am not interested in that as long as the scheme is there. But ground limestone alone will not bring about the fertility and the production which we would all like to see. It is a useful adjunct, but it is not sufficient initself, as ground limestone only assists other fertilisers to bring about the fertility necessary for increased production. If, as a result of this Bill, some system could be introduced that would make fertilisers more readily available to the farmer I believe that we would reap vast benefit from it.
Does not the Deputy admit that there are great tracts of land in this country on which you can put all the phosphate and potash you can pour on them but unless at the same time you correct the calcium standard you will not get any increased production?
I am accepting that. I also want the Minister to bear in mind, however, that there are areas of land in this country which are not capable of full production but which are not in need of lime. Does the Minister accept that?
Yes, but they are only a tiny fraction of the total.
I would not think so. What I want to bring to the Government's attention, and I do not want this to be taken as opposition to the scheme, is that in my view it is far more important to spend public money on the drainage and the improvement of the land than on the roads. When it is indicated that £1,000,000 will be spent on roads and £100,000 on land drainage, I say to the Government, and I would say it if I were a member on the Government side, that it is a mistake. If you reverse the ratio and spend your £1,000,000 on the land and your £100,000 on the roads, you will be rendering far greater service to the community.
I feel that very much of this money which will be spent on roads will be spent on roads which are already quite good enough, will be spent on removing corners, as has been stated, and that the roads which ordinary people really need will be neglected. You can spend a colossal amount with advantage on roads far removed from main roads, because in many rural areas I know that farmers cannot get threshing machines intotheir haggards because there is no access to them. They cannot get tractors into their fields to do tillage because of the condition of the narrow little boreens leading to their homes and to the fields. In this age, when agricultural mechanisation is growing every year, how can we claim that we are assisting the farmer towards increased production if we do not recognise his difficulties and endeavour by expenditure on a scheme like this to remove the many obstacles which are in his way and which he is labouring under and will continue to labour under? Can he hope that this measure, valuable and all as it is, will make his problems any more easy if he sees the ratio of expenditure of public money ten to one against the drainage of the land?
During the next five, or perhaps ten years, State money could, and should, be usefully spent on the drainage of land. I do not want anyone to think that I want the farmers pampered. I do not, but I want it borne in mind constantly that our one hope of survival here is the improvement of agricultural production. When mention was made here to-day about the recovery in our balance of payments position, I wonder did it occur to people how that was brought about? I suggest that it was brought about almost entirely, if not entirely, by agricultural exports, in the main of live stock. There are many in this House, and outside of it, who contend that the farmer who produces live stock is a national loss and that, because he does not embark on tillage, he is not doing his duty. If we had to depend on the export of tillage crops— potatoes, corn, root crops and so on— could we ever hope to reduce the balance of payments which, while they exist, adversely affect the national economic interest? It is pure nonsense to suggest that anything, other than our live-stock industry, is the important industry here. I know full well that tillage is a valuable asset in the production of live stock. It helps it enormously, but what is important is what is walked off the land from the produce we get from our tillage. Our greatest asset in agriculture is represented by our store cattle.
The Deputy seems to be getting away from the Bill.
I only mentioned it because the Minister referred to the question here this morning. It is to be regretted that the Minister for Local Government was not present at this debate because it is obvious that this scheme will be operated almost entirely by his Department. Therefore, I think it only right that he should have heard the views of Deputies in this debate. I think that the best thanks of Deputies, on all sides, are due to Deputy Briscoe for his exposition of the scheme. Without that exposition, many Deputies who are not members of local authorities would have found it very difficult to follow what is in the mind of the Government.
Are you contending that Deputy Briscoe was speaking on behalf of the Government? Did he not only make his contribution the same as any other Deputy?
He explained the scheme as it is intended, I understand, by the Government. In view of what I was told at a meeting of my own local authority, I am prepared to accept what Deputy Briscoe has said as being correct. I think myself that this debate could have been ended long ago if it had not been for the uninformative way in which it was introduced. I want to say, in conclusion, that I think it is highly desirable that Ministers should present their facts clearly to the House, because if not it is quite possible that erroneous opinions may be formed and that acrimonious discussions, which otherwise would not take place, will ensue.
I do not intend to delay the House very long. I understand that this Bill will deal with depressed areas. I would ask the Minister to take a particular interest in two very depressed towns in my constituency, Passage and Kinsale. They are ghost towns, not due to any fault on the part of individuals in those areas, but rather to the fact that times havechanged. The shipbuilding industry has been removed to Dublin, and Kinsale was a garrison town. If the Minister has a lot of money to use for the development of industries, I think he should consider these two very depressed areas in the County Cork.
I have been trying to take an intelligent interest in the discussion that we have had on this Bill. I may say that I am in a complete fog as regards the Government's policy and the policy of the Opposition. As far as I can gather, the Opposition want the Government to do certain things that are quite impossible, certain things which the Opposition would never even suggest doing themselves if they were on the Government Benches. I do not subscribe to, nor do I believe in, a policy of a person saying: "You do something that I would not do if I were there." I know, of course, that if the Government were on the Opposition Benches they would do exactly the same. They would exploit every weakness which they could find in an inter-Party Government and would say: "Why are you not doing this, that or the other thing?" Obviously, the inter-Party Government could not do the things which the Opposition would ask them to do.
I think that we should have some respect for the intelligence of the people in the country. There is no use in the Opposition now asking the Government to do some things, because we are in the very fortunate position that we have a very intelligent electorate.
Deputy Blowick, when speaking, indicated that he wanted to disperse all our external assets. I think it would be a bad thing for us to disperse or to get rid of our external assets. I know that Deputy Hickey will refer to me as "Lehane, the reactionary Deputy", but I think it is a very safe and sound thing to have credit that is more or less internationally recognised. If we had not that credit, we would have to buy everything on the name of the goods and services of the Twenty-Six Counties. If we were Ireland, which we are not, we could probably give a blank cheque and say, "Ireland will pay this", but we are not Ireland; weare only the Twenty-Six Counties of Ireland. A great deal has been said about development and about Borders and, again, even at the risk of being called reactionary by Deputy Hickey——
I suggest the Deputy make his own speech and not mind about mine. I have certain views and let the Deputy not attempt to interpret my mind.
The point I want to make is that I believe a great deal of harm is being done in relation to the development of this country by speakers from the Opposition Benches who make outlandish statements. I am an Independent Deputy. I can make any statement I like. I do not tie anybody to anything.
Like Mahomet's coffin —in mid-air.
Deputy Lehane should be allowed to speak without interruption.
I am not like Mahomet's coffin at all. I will leave it at that. I am an Independent Deputy. I have stated my policy. Deputy Hickey has described it as reactionary. We have on one side of the House, Deputies speaking from the same benches with completely different policies. I want to know where I am. I will support the Government, as I have already announced, in any question of development in relation to this country and in relation to the maintenance of law and order. I now want both the Government and the Opposition to tell me what their respective policies are. Deputy Cafferky says "Mahomet's coffin". I want to know where I am with Fine Gael. I want to know where I am with Labour.
The Deputy knows where he is with Labour.
Deputy Hickey tells me I am reactionary.
There is no doubt about that.
Personally, I think I amthe most progressive Deputy in this House.
The Deputy is entitled to his opinion.
I am dubbed reactionary because I object to increased expenditure being laid on the people as a whole to provide the plums that Labour, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are dangling in front of them. I believe that our people are, or were, a decent, respectable people who do not want any free this, that or the other until these plums are dangled in front of them by the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. There is now a sort of competition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and this Bill is just another effort in that respect. I have come to the use of reason and, if this £5,000,000 is now being dangled before the people, I think I am legitimately entitled to ask the Minister to use some of that money in the two depressed areas in my constituency, even though I disagree with the policy. I think I am reasonably entitled to point out to the Minister that there are two very depressed areas in my constituency and he should consider them in relation to this £5,000,000.
Deputy Blowick, speaking earlier to-day, mentioned the fact that turkeys are being sold at 10/- apiece. I have turkeys at home. I have sold turkeys. If Deputy Blowick will give me turkeys at 10/- apiece I guarantee I will resell them at a very considerable profit. I have been looking in the shop windows, in Lipton's and in a number of other places, and I saw small, miserable turkeys marked £2 10s. and £2 7s. 6d. These statements are ridiculous. When we come in here as representatives of the people we should have a certain sense of responsibility and there should be some little weight behind what we say. When we come in and talk utter nonsense, the prestige of this House is lowered.
I believed that the introduction of this measure would meet with the unanimous approval of every Deputy here. I was here for the introduction this morning and I was amazed, if not disgusted, when I heard the speeches made by Opposition Deputies. Deputy Dillon's speech canonly be stigmatised as one calculater to lower the reputation of this House everywhere. He described this measure as a dirty fraud. I do not think it is good politics, even for an Opposition Deputy, to describe something introduced for the benefit of the country as a dirty fraud. Deputy Dillon referred to it as a prostitution of Santa Claus. I do not think there is any justification for such an attack.
I do not come from either of the areas in which by-elections are pending but I come from an area where capital development is very badly needed. I am perfectly satisfied we will get our fair share of anything that is going, irrespective of whether or not there is a by-election pending. I am perfectly satisfied that by-elections have nothing whatsoever to do with the introduction of this measure at this stage, and to portray us as having been influenced by such events is a mean political trick which will not redound to the credit of any Party here.
I can understand the mentality of Deputy Dillon when he tries to portray this measure in the light of the circumstances in which he painted it to-day. I have a pretty good recollection and I remember a by-election held not so very long ago in West Donegal. Prior to the lamented decease of the Deputy concerned the land rehabilitation project was launched by Deputy Dillon. It applied to a number of counties, but Donegal was not one of them. Indeed, Donegal was more or less on the long finger then in relation to the counties to which the scheme would apply. The Deputy was not dead a week when the scheme was switched to Donegal. That was simply a political trick; and there was not a single inspector at the disposal of any Department, particularly the Department of Agriculture, who was not rushed into West Donegal at that time. I remember canvassing votes in a very congested area of that constituency and as one was going in the front door the free chick inspector was going out the back door. The people were so confused they did not know who was who.
The man who was behind that is theman who now comes in here and accuses this Government of introducing this measure because there are by-elections pending. In all fairness, it must be admitted that this scheme was announced long before any of these by-elections could be foreseen.
It was announced in the middle of a by-election.
It is when there are by-elections that we hear about these things. That, in itself, is rather peculiar.
Fianna Fáil have brought in many schemes and, let it be said to their credit, they have been administered fairly and squarely. This scheme will be administered in the same way. As a member of the Fianna Fáil Party I have absolute confidence that the scheme will be administered fairly and that not one penny will be improperly devoted to the two constituencies in which by-elections are pending. I am satisfied we will all get our share and I would not support this measure if I did not think that were true.
An attempt is being made to blacken this scheme by pronouncing it a dirty fraud. At some future date when this fund will have been found to be the most useful fund ever established, as it is bound to be, the Opposition will be sorry that they ever branded it in the way they did to-day. I can see the desirability of having a fund of this type. Those of us who have experienced the red tape and the intricacies surrounding every scheme for which money is required will appreciate how necessary it is to have a fund such as this which will allow of some elasticity so that we can go ahead with urgently needed schemes without delay. There are all sorts of ramifications when one approaches Government Departments; there are reports and counter-reports, approvals and submissions, inspections which go on and on and, finally, there is the difficulty of getting the money out of the Department of Finance. A fund of this type will short-circuit a good deal of the red tape at present involved in getting schemes under way. We will, in future, be in a position topromote schemes of urgent national importance without undue delay. That is why I think this is a good scheme.
Deputy Lehane mentioned some areas in his own constituency which require attention. Every Deputy here could mention 100 schemes in his own constituency for which he would like to get funds. We do not expect to get approval for all our schemes, but we do expect to get our just share of this fund. The fund out of which these moneys will come will not be to us a dirty fraud. This measure will be administered irrespective of political affiliations and nobody here believes anything to the contrary. Nevertheless, there are Deputies who will stand up here and say the contrary in order to damn the scheme at the outset. There never was a useful scheme introduced here that Opposition Deputies did not endeavour to damn it at the outset. I listened to the speeches made on another occasion on the introduction of a very beneficial measure. I refer to the Undeveloped Areas Act. The statements made in relation to that measure have not been justified by the passage of time.
That is a dead measure.
Not so dead at all. Deputy Dillon to-day discussed the entire scope of his office while he held it. He referred to the emigration figures as if emigration was something that only started in 1951. I think there is far too much propaganda being made in relation to emigration. Can anybody gainsay the fact that during the years in which the Coalition was in office, with Marshall Aid and money from various other sources, 40,000 people left this country? I do not accuse the Coalition Government of deliberately sending them away but let us recognise the fact that they did just as little, if not less, to stop emigration as any other Government.
The Local Authorities (Works) Act is held up as something that was supposed to be a panacea for all our ills. That measure had some good points and it had some bad points. The money spent under that Act was money spent on schemes of atemporary nature. While it provided employment for a time for those who would otherwise be registered as unemployed, it did not keep one solitary individual from emigrating because no man would stay at home for the sake of a fortnight's work on a drain along a roadside. I have always said that, too, in relation to special employment schemes. Such schemes do not create a feeling among the people that they can stay at home and look forward to permanent and stable employment. Such schemes are of a purely temporary nature. I would rather see ten men going into permanent employment in a factory than 100 men employed on what can only be described as a relief scheme for a fortnight. As far as I remember other counties got far more money under the Local Authorities (Works) Act than did Donegal. The money was strictly confined to drains along the roads or directly associated with main and county roads. We had a B. list which deviated slightly from that but, in the strict terms of the circular issued to local authorities at the time, the work done had to have some connection with county or main roads.
That is not so.
That was our interpretation of the Local Authorities (Works) Act.
If the Deputy will permit me to say so, it was a misinterpretation.
If that is so, I would like to know if under that scheme local authorities were permitted to go in and drain a farmer's land one mile from the county road?
That does not arise on this Bill.
I have listened to this Local Authorities (Works) Act being discussed for a long time. I have listened to election speeches in which we were condemned for not taking full advantage of it. The fact is that we submitted schemes for much more than we were allowed.
I cannot see how that arises on this.
Play has been made on that in this debate; otherwise I would be slow in referring to it.
The Deputy is going into too much detail.
I will leave it at that. A circular has been issued to every local authority in the country in relation to this National Development Fund. Deputy Dillon insinuated that it was introduced for the benefit of two constituencies which were already informed and compiling schemes. We are compiling schemes in Donegal at the moment for submission under this measure and we are very hopeful that a fair proportion of them will be sanctioned. We would be very jealous if any county got more than their just share of the money. I have not the slightest fear that that will happen. I take a very poor view of the effort to brand the Bill as a measure brought in for ulterior purposes, for political corruption.
Deputy Dillon went to great pains to explain that stockpiling took place just before the Coalition Government went out of office and that it was the depletion of stocks that caused the slump. If stockpiling took place, as he insinuated, as a result of laxity in regard to bank credit, it was very ill-advised and had serious reactions on the national economy.
The Deputy cannot have been listening to the Taoiseach last night.
Did not stockpiling take place arising out of the Korean war?
If stockpiling took place, the manner in which it did was very ill-advised. The County of Donegal is not industrialised, unfortunately, but the people of Donegal jealously watch and guard the few industries they have and for which they have a tradition, such as the manufacture of cloth second to none in the world and knitwear of first quality. What was the position of theseindustries as a result of stockpiling? When Deputy Lemass was returned to power he imposed an embargo on the importation of woollen goods as our industries were almost ready to close because imported knitwear was selling at a lower price than the price at which we could produce in our factories in Donegal.
The Deputy seems to be getting away from the Bill.
I am replying to the insinuation that stockpiling was essential. Our few industries were almost on the verge of closing down as a result of stockpiling and it was not until an embargo was imposed on the importation of these commodities that they got into full swing and reached the happy position that they are in to-day, with workers on full time and overtime, exporting high class goods rather than importing inferior substitutes. The Government which allowed stockpiling to take place, whether in the guise of precaution against war or anything else, was not carrying out the duty that is imposed on any responsible Government. They add insult to injury by coming into this House two years afterwards to hold up that policy as a laudable policy and to take credit for it.
This does not seem to have any relation to the Bill before the House.
Did the Deputy hear the Taoiseach's reply last night?
I am not refuting one word that the Taoiseach said. That type of stockpiling did unfortunately take place. The depletion of the stocks caused many headaches to shopkeepers and manufacturers and workers who were on short time. What is the position of firms like Salts of Tullamore at the moment?
How does this relate to the National Development Fund that is at present before the House?
To be quite honest, it has no relation to it. I am replying to statements made, in spite of attempts to keep him to the point, by Deputy Dillon. Any Deputy who was in the House at that time would agree that he dealt in detail with these matters and I feel that I have some right to reply. Any Deputy who was not present can read the official report of his speech.
I hope I will be allowed to follow the same road.
I agree that these matters are not strictly related to the measure before the House. The fund for national development covers any or every grant. Deputy Dillon said it covers even slush. I have no misgivings about the administration of the measure. I am perfectly satisfied that it is a good measure that will be used to finance important projects of national development. I have no fear that it will be used in a corrupt political manner.
One can see the object of the Opposition in trying to brand this as a political measure. It is a good measure but in order to serve their purpose, the best line is to attack it at the outset and to condemn it in the minds of the people.
I welcome the measure as a step in the right direction. In so far as it may help to speed projects of national development that would otherwise remain in abeyance for years it should be welcomed by every Deputy.
The country and the House should be able to draw a picture from the Budget statement of the Government's proposals for the year. One remarkable statement in the Budget speech for the current year was that economies to the extent of £3,500,000 would be effected. Now, on the very eve of Christmas, the acting-Minister for Finance comes into the House and adopts as his Christmas carol: "Give me £5,000,000 more." We cannot be blamed if we associate this proposal with by-elections because it was originally announced by the Taoiseach at a political rally in the largest town of a constituency in which a by-election was in progress.
How long ago?
During the South Galway by-election, in Ballinasloe.
Is not that sufficient notice for you?
It was mentioned there and introduced there and conceived during a by-election, and it is now put before us in these rushed few hours before Christmas.
That is a most unworthy statement.
It is claimed that it is designed for work of national development. As I understand the procedure, each Department estimates its expenditure 12 months in advance and the Minister outlines the proposals for expenditure in the Budget statement. If something unforeseen arises in the course of the year, as the acting-Minister for Finance referred to, he is at liberty to come before the House and by way of a Supplementary Estimate obtain the additional moneys that may be required, but he is required before obtaining those moneys to give an indication of the works for which they are intended. This morning the acting-Minister gave details as regards £1,500,000 of the £5,000,000.
I would support Deputy Finan in saying that the proposed ratio of spending £1,000,000 on roads compared with £500,000 under the Local Authorities (Works) Act development is not a good one. If the work under that scheme which was interrupted a couple of years ago was continued the country would now be able to make an even greater contribution to increased production. Many works under the land project have been delayed because of the practical cessation of work under that scheme. I put a question to the Minister for Local Government quite some time ago as to what was expended in Cork County in the previous year under that scheme and he told me it was £48,000. I asked him what was proposed to be spent under it this year and he said half of that amount, £24,000. Consequently there was no intimation to the staffs of the countycouncils that they might expect any increased moneys under this. They got no opportunity to pave the way for the work which is now proposed. This is a complete reversal of Government attitude to the good work that can be done under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. When a motion was put here by the Clann na Talmhan Party the member of the Cabinet responsible in his reply indicated that he was not in a position to accept its terms. The Tanaiste's statement that the Government had at last seen the light and was now prepared to give even £500,000 towards this scheme is something to be welcomed, because we have ever held the view that there was never a scheme initiated which gave such valuable employment in the rural areas and did such valuable work for people who needed it most as did that scheme. As well as that, without going into further detail much road repairs would have been completely unnecessary if the work had persisted which operated some years ago under that Act.
Deputy Brennan seemed to be surprised to know that it was possible to get work done under that Act far removed from main roads. My experience was that in my local authority area such work was carried out under the Act, but some priority was given, naturally, where possibly roads were in danger by flooding before attention was given to those secondary streams and rivers. I would ask the Minister for Local Government to see that those schemes which were put forward by local representatives and sanctioned by the county engineers as being valuable works and were then left in abeyance when the moneys were curtailed would now get priority in the expenditure of the proportion of this fund designed to renew operations under the Local Authorities (Works) Act.
I agree with Deputy Finan that we have been pretty generous towards road improvements in recent times and that the degree of labour content in the operations that have been in progress has not been enough to ease the situation which the acting-Ministerfor Finance described so clearly this morning as being not so good. It is hoped that the implementation of these moneys will in some way mitigate the circumstances in which people have had to exist—people in unemployment, people in part-time employment throughout the country in the course of the last two years. If Deputies on the Government side feel that we are unfair in ascribing any political motives to them I would say that we will be extremely watchful that no political credit will be looked for by some local potentates arising out of the distribution of moneys under this, that any schemes introduced will be legitimate ones, and that it will be realised that it is the country that is putting up the money and not the Party in office. Deputy Cogan referred to employment on the land project having been increased fivefold. That is a good tribute to the scheme which Deputy Brennan says Deputy Dillon initiated at a time when Deputy Brennan was unsuccessful in a by-election in Donegal.
The Deputy, unfortunately, again resurrected a matter which was very controversial some time ago and which was completely disposed of by the Taoiseach last night. That was in relation to the stockpiling of the inter-Party Government in their time. The vindication by the Taoiseach last night was one which I thought would not be questioned by any member of the House, let alone a member of the Taoiseach's Party, and it comes badly from a Party which in the last year of their office before the inter-Party Government took over brought into this country £1,250,000 worth of Dutch chocolates which are still cluttering up the shelves of unfortunate small shops throughout rural Ireland.
These are the comments I would propose to make on this measure. Some left-handed references were made by the acting-Minister for Finance to the advisability of farmers extending the ground limestone scheme and using more fertilisers. He did not indicate that any of these moneys would be directed to reducing in some way the difficulties farmers have in paying the very high prices charged forfertilisers to-day. They recognise the need for fertilisers, but at a time when perhaps they are incurring additional expense in relation to rural electrification, mechanising their holdings, increasing many of their activities, though realising the importance of increased production they may not be able to face additional costs. After all, it is recognised by all Parties that costs have increased considerably in recent years, and if it would be possible for some of this money to be set aside towards in some way reducing the cost of fertilisers to the farmers it would serve a very useful purpose. As a little measure towards that aim the Government should remove the present tax, the £12,000 profit which the Exchequer is making on the land of this country by the tax on fertilisers.
I was amazed that Deputy Lehane, in the course of his remarks following some earlier statements by Deputy Blowick, said that he was in a position to make some considerable profit this year out of selling turkeys. My information from my constituency is that there was never a Christmas in which cottiers' wives, small farmers' wives or daughters, who looked to doing their Christmas shopping out of their little income they would get from turkeys, did so badly. They looked to the returns, extremely well earned, after overcoming the many hazards that face turkey rearers. Deputy Lehane states that notwithstanding the reduced prices this year some profit accrued. He may have been fortunate. Deputy Blowick told us about people getting 10/- a head for turkeys.
That is not the full story about 10/- a turkey. The Deputy said he could get £2 10s. That was all.
The Deputy went a little further than that. This is a matter on which any representative from the rural areas could very well inform the Minister. The unfortunate people in the rural areas rearing and producing birds were in an extremely hazardous position, and the indications are that they are discouraged to the point that next year production may reveal their discouragement.
4/- a lb. does not seem to be so bad.
I can inform the Parliamentary Secretary that as far as my constituency goes I know of no market where 4/- a lb. was paid.
The consumer may pay 4/- but the producer would not get it.
I understand that an election is fast approaching in his constituency and naturally he is interested in the consumer, and more concerned about the price the consumer has to pay at the moment. I would say to any representative of the consuming interest in this House that there will be scarcity prices next Christmas that will amaze them, seeing that the organisation which existed and which ensured some fair play to producer and consumer was completely wiped away by the present Minister for Agriculture.
All I am saying is that I read a report in the papers yesterday that 4/- per lb. was paid at a certain market for turkeys.
Where was that market?
It was an English market.
It was an Irish market.
It may interest the Parliamentary Secretary to know that the radio broadcast that turkeys were sold at a market in my constituency at 3/10 per lb. whereas, as a matter of fact, I know that they were sold as low as 1/4 per lb.
It may interest the Deputy to know that that has no relevance to this Bill.
I want to say that the prices obtaining this year in my constituency have been considerably less than in former years notwithstanding increased production costs. In consequence, we shall have scarcity prices obtaining in future years since people will not feed turkeys. The inasloecome of these people in rural areas has been considerably reduced this Christmastide because of this development. I merely mention that in passing. I consider the moneys which we are now asked to vote towards this Development Fund could have been voted at any time by way of a Supplementary Estimate and made applicable to particular expenditure. To bring in a proposal in this fashion, throw it on the table and say that you want £5,000,000 more without giving complete details of the manner in which it is proposed to expend the money is not, I suggest, the proper way to approach Parliament with a Bill of this nature. One Deputy has remarked that a succeeding speaker gave more information than the Minister, but I say that it is the duty of the Minister who introduced the Bill to give us the details of the proposed expenditure, since the authority which this Bill confers on the Government will be exercised by the Minister. A full explanation of the purpose of the measure should be vouchsafed to the House by the Minister so as to enable other Parties in the House to make up their minds as to the attitude they should adopt in regard to it. There was no clear indication from the Minister as to what this sum is required for. I would repeat in conclusion that the Bill does not seem to be in keeping with the solemn undertaking given by the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement, and that, in a year in which we were told the Government were about to embark on a record borrowing spree, not alone is no effort being made to bring about the £3,500,000 economies which the Minister wants, but the Government now come in with an additional demand for £5,000,000.
On behalf of the Labour Party I am supporting this Bill. I think it is regrettable that we should have any opposition to the proposal to provide £5,000,000 to finance schemes of public work. I treat the remarks of Deputy Lehane, when he said that we were dangling a carrot before the eyes of the people, with contempt. I want to tell Deputy Lehane that it is a very poor carrot to dangle before the67,400 people who are looking for work and cannot get it. When Deputy Lehane presumes to lecture other members of the House as to the manner in which they should exercise their responsibilities here, I think that Deputy Lehane should try to apply that lecture to himself. What are we asked for in this Bill? The Dáil is being asked to vote £5,000,000 which it is proposed to expend on schemes to provide employment. Spread that amount over the Twenty-Six Counties and it works out at something like £192,307 per county or £74 per unemployed worker registered at our labour exchanges. It is annoying, not to say disgusting, to have to listen to some of the things that were raked up while we were discussing this question of providing money to develop our country. Who will deny that we have in this country a wide scope for productive work on the lands and in the factories? We have this huge army of unemployed labour, men whose skill has gone for nought over a number of years.
I think it well to point out that it is only usefully employed labour that can create social values and that all the money in the country could not put one brick on top of another, unless labour is employed. Listening to the debate here one would be almost convinced that the £ was mightier than the people. That is the mentality that has been displayed here since 10.30 a.m. this morning. I would suggest to the acting-Minister for Finance and the Government that £5,000,000 is not even enough to ensure that all our unemployed people will be provided with work. It is only when we produce goods and services and thereby provide work for our unemployed that we can maintain and improve our standards of living. If that conviction were impressed on Deputies on all sides of the House, we would not be wasting the time of the House in discussing whether we should give the Government permission to spend £5,000,000 on developing the country. Deputies should try to remember all the things that await development. Just think for a moment how agriculture could be developed by the expenditure of a further £5,000,000. I suggest too thatif we could purchase half a dozen ships, that would have the result of raising the standard of living of our people all round. There are hundreds of other things on which we could employ not alone £5,000,000 but £50,000,000 if it could be made available.
I suggest to Deputies who spoke in criticism of the proposed expenditure that they should give a little more serious consideration to matters of this kind. I do not propose to waste the time of the House further in dealing with some of the nonsensical talk we heard here. I am only sorry that it is not proposed to spend a much larger sum than £5,000,000 to provide work for the large number of our people who are at present unemployed.
I thought this morning that this Bill would be welcomed from every side of the House. Therefore, I was amazed when I heard Deputy Blowick, Deputy Dillon and Deputy Oliver Flanagan indulging in a most reckless criticism of the Bill. They would remind one of three novice heavyweights, swinging around without any sense of direction or balance whatever. They attacked this Bill and pointed out that as far as Dublin was concerned there was a fear that it would get too much money. We in Dublin welcome this Bill because we see that under it we shall be able to provide employment for at least 1,200 persons. I do not see what is wrong with that. I should like to know what the Fine Gael Dublin Deputies say about it. We have heard all sorts of cries that we should try to keep the unemployed off the streets. We say that if we get £500,000 spent under this Bill we should be able to provide useful work to take the unemployed off the streets. Only last week Deputy Blowick was crying salt tears about the condition of the Dublin people and saying that they could not get even clothes to wear. I am still looking forward to Deputy Blowick coming in here sometime in his underwear, having given his suit of clothes to some unemployed person outside.
Perhaps his suit would clothe two instead of one.
Time and again on the various Estimates we hear references to work that should be done in Dublin. I remember Deputy O. Flanagan worrying because he could not get safely down from here to O'Connell Bridge owing to the density of traffic. He said that the traffic was something dreadful and that something should be done about it. Under this Bill we get 75 per cent. of the cost of building bridges in Dublin. What is wrong with that? It will provide useful work which should have been done 30 years ago. We will get an 80 per cent. grant towards amenity schemes and a 75 per cent. grant for civic offices.
I said on a previous Estimate that it is grand to see the provincial Deputies fighting their own corner. I can tell the Labour Party—who are claiming that they went to see the Taoiseach in June, and so forth—that Fianna Fáil Deputies went to see the Taoiseach long before June last and put up schemes and mentioned plans to provide employment when we had the money. We are not boasting about what we did. We feel that it is our duty to do that and I do not think anyone should claim credit for doing his duty.
What amazes me are the things which Deputy Dillon says in his reckless moods. He says that we always introduce a Bill of this type on the eve of a by-election. Deputy D.J. O'Sullivan followed along the same lines: it seems to be the Fine Gael Party line. The script-writers of Hume Street must have given them that line and they are following every word of it. You must remember that Fianna Fáil reduced the food subsidies when a by-election was pending. That was, if you like, a dangerous time to do such a thing. Still, we had the courage to do it because we considered that it was necessary. We will not go into all the reasons why it was necessary: that was explained last night by the Taoiseach. It must also be remembered that when the Shannon Airport project was first mooted, Deputy Dillon looked upon it as a crazy and a daft scheme and he referred to rabbits trotting around Shannon Airport.We were also told that the Bill to encourage the establishment of industries in the West of Ireland was a crazy scheme and a by-election scheme. Whatever motives the Opposition may allege, the results are good and that is what we want. I do not think we should approach the consideration of this Bill in a destructive fashion. Our approach should be that this Bill will do a lot of good and that it is needed.
During his speech this morning, Deputy Dillon got on to the subject of housing and once more attacked the Dublin Corporation. Any time, I try to answer remarks like that, I am told that I am out of order and that my remarks do not apply to whatever is under discussion at the time. It amazes me that members of the Opposition Front Bench, and even some members of the Government Front Bench, can get away with certain things while an insignificant backbencher like myself cannot——
That is a reflection on the Chair.
That is an implicit charge on the Chair.
I did not mean it that way.
It has no other meaning, nor can it have any other meaning.
I withdraw it, Sir, and I am sorry. I saw you looking towards me and I thought that you were about to tell me that I could not go into the matter of housing.
In the first place, this is not an Estimate: it is a Bill.
This morning, Deputy Dillon then got on to the subject of the increased interest charges on borrowings under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. He again claimed that there was a complete slowing-up in the building of houses due to the increased rates of interest. I should like, if it is in order for me to do so, to point out that the figurescertainly give the lie to Deputy Dillon's assertion. It is constantly being asserted by Opposition Deputies that the increase in the rate of interest, which took place in October, 1952, was mainly responsible for the slowing-up in the housing drive. The figures prove that there has been an increase of 50 per cent. in the issue of such loans between 1950 and 1952 in Dublin. In 1951-52 there were 2,181 loans, the amount advanced being £2,273,435. In 1952-53, there were 3,032 loans and well over £3,000,000 was alvanced by the Dublin Corporation. I think that these figures prove that Deputy Dillon's charge that the increased rates of interest have had the effect of slowing-up house building in Dublin is unfounded. We have 1,500 applications, and we are dealing with them as fast as possible. So far as the Government and Dublin Corporation are concerned, we are satisfied that there will be no shortage whatsoever of money for house building in Dublin.
Deputy Dillon referred to some acquaintance of his who is living in one room with four other persons and who cannot get a house. It is a pity that Deputy Dillon was not present in the House this morning when Deputy Briscoe was replying to that point. The impression which Deputy Dillon gave was that these five persons were living in one room. We have since checked up on that statement with the city manager and the Dublin Corporation, and it would appear that the man's mother-in-law is living in the next room. The position, therefore, is that five persons are living in two rooms. That is the reason for the holdup in that case. I hope that Deputy Dillon will agree that it is a question of five persons living in two rooms.
Details or matters of that kind are not relevant now.
Surely Deputy Gallagher would not recommend that they should all get together in the one room?
Is Deputy Gallagher saying that the man should live with his mother-in-law as well?
Nobody is more active than I am in getting houses forpeople. I know Dublin just as well as Deputy Dillon knows it.
Look at the Mayor of Drogheda. He is breaking his back in an effort to give Deputy Gallagher a word of advice.
Keep quiet. Your bluff has been called.
Deputy Dillon should cease interrupting Deputy Gallagher. These interruptions are disorderly.
The Mayor of Drogheda nearly fell out of his seat in trying to say something to Deputy Gallagher.
I will let it go at that. I welcome this Bill and we in Dublin welcome it because it means that we shall be able to get sufficient money to put at least 1,000 to 1,200 persons in employment. We in Dublin will make sure to avail of every opportunity to get our schemes going. I am a member of the works committee of the Dublin Corporation. We have placed many schemes before the Department of Local Government and I am satisfied that we will get co-operation there and get people to work on them.
This Bill should be welcomed by all sides of the House. It is a question of giving employment to persons who need it. We should not, therefore, be treated to reckless speeches by Deputy Dillon, Deputy Blowick and Deputy Oliver Flanagan.
I join with Deputies on all sides of the House in welcoming this Bill. The very fact that it has been introduced is an admission by the Government of the seriousness of the present situation so far as unemployment is concerned. Even at this late hour, so close to Christmas, they are making an effort—"small and all as it is", in the words of Deputy Hickey—to bring about some easement in the situation. Undoubtedly, £5,000,000 is a small sum when it is allocated between 26 counties and 27 local authorities. When you consider all the circumstances, it is obvious that it will not do a great deal of good,but nevertheless the Bill is to be welcomed because it is a sign that the Government appreciate how things stand outside Dublin City.
I am in full agreement with Deputy Finan that the Government should see to it that a big percentage of this money which will be allocated to the various local authorities in rural Ireland will be spent on drainage. I think that the Taoiseach and the Minister realise full well that drainage is a very important factor in our agricultural life. As my colleague pointed out, we cannot have increased production unless our land is properly drained. We cannot apply fertilisers or ground limestone to waterlogged land. That would be futile, a waste of money and a waste of good materials. Neither can you avail of the Land Rehabilitation Scheme unless the land is drained. It must be admitted that it is generally agreed that the Local Authorities (Works) Act was a good Act and that, apart from the fact that it provided substantial employment, it brought considerable relief to farmers. It is regrettable that, since the change of Government took place two-and-a-half years ago, that Act can almost be described as dead because of the very small and insignificant amount of money which has been provided under it by this Government in comparison with the money which was provided and the work which was carried out under it during the term of office of the inter-Party Government.
I often wonder why it is that the Government are not more interested in drainage. I do not know what grievances they have against the farming community. Many of their backbenchers represent rural areas and are themselves farmers, and how it is that they react so strongly against the farmers on every possible occasion, I do not know. The Taoiseach may smile, but that is a fact. Since the coming into office of this Government, not one drainage scheme in relation to arterial drainage has been put into operation. We find also that the Local Authorities (Works) Act. which brought the cleaning and opening up of brooks and small rivers and main drains and which did agreat lot of good, has been completely cut out, so far as the provision of the essential funds for local authorities. Am I not, then, entitled to conclude that the Government has something against the farmer and I should like some reasonable explanation from the Minister or the Taoiseach in that regard.
I want to say also, as I have said on many an occasion before, that, if we are to get the increased production we all desire, fertilisers must be made much more reasonable in price and brought within the purchasing power of the farming community. Admittedly, ground limestone is essential, but it is not everything. There are other fertilisers, as Deputy Finan said but the purchasing of these fertilisers is completely outside the capacity of the small farmer. I know of no subsidy or assistance given by the Government to any section of the community that will pay greater dividends than the provision of cheap fertilisers. The Minister and the Taoiseach know that, as does every Deputy. Yet we find this heavy load placed on the shoulders of the farmer, with the result that he cannot manure his crops sufficiently to bring about the increased production which he ought to get.
With regard to ground limestone, I do not know why it is that Mayo was left out of consideration by the inter-Party Government and by this Government.
We have no manufacture or grinding of limestone in County Mayo.
What is stopping you?
The Department of Agriculture did not provide the necessary funds for the purpose.
Nor did they anywhere else.
I understand that you, as head of the Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Department of Finance, opened up the limestone quarries in Roscommon and elsewhere.
They were all of them opened by private enterprise.
The ground limestone drove Deputy Dillon mad.
I ask the Minister to make it possible to open up the limestone quarries in County Mayo, so that ground limestone can be manufactured there. In the area between Ballyhaunis, Knock and Swinford, and particularly in the parish of Aughamore, there is an abundance of limestone of the best quality and suitable for grinding and distribution. It is not fair that a large county like Mayo, the third largest in the country, should be importing ground limestone from Roscommon and elsewhere and sending it to the far ends of Belmullet and Achill.
With regard to what Deputy Blowick said about the Bill, Deputy Gallagher has stated that he misrepresented the Bill and opposed it. I do not think he did. He may have criticised it adversely—perhaps and perhaps not— but I do not think he is so foolish as to oppose the spending of £5,000,000 for the relief of unemployment.
I shall read what he said during the Christmas recess, but, so far as our Party are concerned, we are at one with the Government in the provision of any money or assistance for the relief of unemployment and increased production. However, I should like to say that the main roads in my county are reasonably good—I do not say they are perfect—in relation to the amount of traffic they carry. It is a peculiar thing that it is when you take away corners that you have the accidents. The wider and better you make a road, the surer someone is to be killed. If a corner is dangerous, the motorist will slow down, if only for his own sake. Although millions have been spent over the past 30 years on the reconstruction of trunk and main roads, the removal of dangerous corners and so on, the number of fatal accidents has increased, so that we are not effecting a saving in life.
I want to impress on the Taoiseach, who knows rural Ireland, on the Minister and on those who will administerthis money, the need for realising that there are boreens and agricultural and other roads leading into villages which require repair. In the case of the rural contributory scheme, which is very much availed of in my county, I know that people who made application over the past 12 months have got the reply that the matter cannot be dealt with as there is no money, and I hope that some of this money will go towards the reconstruction of these roads in order to enable machinery to be brought in and out, agricultural produce to be brought to market and so on, and so remove much of the drudgery of rural life. The man who lives in a remote part away from the main road is entitled to a decent roadway to enable him to get to the church, to the fair and elsewhere. He pays rent and rates just the same as the man on the main or the trunk road. I hope that, when this Bill comes to be implemented, there will be drainage first and, when that has been dealt with, they can do what they like with the roads.
The manner in which this Bill was introduced to the House is certainly an innovation. The acting-Minister for Finance asks the House to give him a cheque for £5,000,000, to spend when and as he likes. He told us that the reason for this request was that he required a little elasticity and elbow room. I do not believe it ever happened in any Parliament in the world that a Minister came before it and asked for such a substantial sum of money—and £5,000,000 is a very substantial sum, so far as this country is concerned—giving as his reason that he wanted a bit of elbow room and elasticity.
Despite the fact that the Minister was unable to give the House any information as to how the money was to be expended, his colleague, Deputy Briscoe, speaking after him, had no difficulty in telling the House how it was to be expended. It is a very peculiar position that the acting-Minister for Finance has no fixed ideas as to how this money is to be expended, but that Deputy Briscoe knows all about it.
He was told in the Party room.
He knew how much was to be provided for roads, for drainage schemes, for housing, and so on. That being the way the measure was introduced, I am very doubtful about it. My own firm and honest belief is that political expediency is the main motive for its introduction.
The Labour Party have always been consistent in their support of every move towards national development. They helped in every way possible any measure that would tend in that direction. While I hope that my calculations in regard to this measure are incorrect, at the same time I am of opinion that they are not. The purpose behind this Bill is not so much to promote Irish industry as to provide political fodder for Fianna Fáil speakers in the future as their status is now a bit on the low side. Particularly will that be the case in regard to the by-elec-tions. I am honestly and sincerely convinced that that is one of the main reasons behind this measure.
What is the constituency which I represent going to get from this measure? Is it going to get the same treatment under this Bill that it received under the Undeveloped Areas Act? That Bill was introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government. We were told we were going to have heaven on earth in the congested districts. Unemployment would cease and every man would feel happy and contented but what is the position? Scarcely a penny was spent in West Cork. There was very little money spent in any other part of Ireland either under that measure. Promises were made during the by-election campaign in Mayo. At the present time there are more discontented and disgruntled people among the workers of West Cork than ever before—that is, among those of them who are left. The vast majority of the unemployed workers in West Cork have gone to England during the past seven or eight months to earn a livelihood which is denied them at home.
That is the position. I firmly believe that the Government is very anxious to see these unemployed people departfrom the country because that is one method by which they can reduce the unemployment figure. I believe they are very anxious to see these unemployed people leave the country. The National Development Fund Bill is supposed to develop our Irish economy. We heard a good deal about unemployment during the course of this debate. Deputy Gallagher and others referred to the marches of the unemployed in Dublin. I saw these 400 or 500 men marching in Dublin and I have sympathy for them.
The population of Dublin and suburbs is 624,000 people according to the latest census. The total adult population of Castletownbere and district is 2,750. If the Minister went down there, what would he find after two and a half years of a Fianna Fáil Government? He would find that out of that population of 2,750 people in Castletownbere and district 627 were registered in the labour exchange as being unemployed the week before last. If there was an organised march of the unemployed in Castletownbere and district we would find that the number marching would be greater than the number which marched in Dublin.
Is it any wonder that I, as the representative of the people of that district, Bantry and Skibbereen, am rather doubtful about this measure having regard to the fact that a measure was introduced in this House in October, 1951, without any benefits accruing from it? I am of opinion that the same will happen in regard to this measure. I represent a constituency where there is little or no industrial development whatsoever. The same could be said in respect of my colleague Deputy Desmond. Native industrial development has cost us a great deal. We do not mind that. We would like to see industries established in this country. We are as broadminded and as nationally minded as any other people but instead of these industries being a source of benefit to us the opposite is the case.
We have to pay in taxation to subsidise industries in other places, particularlya few industries which proved to be uneconomic. That is the position. We have to pay our proportion to help the people in other districts. I am afraid that the same thing is going to happen with this £5,000,000. The people of West Cork will again be asked to contribute so that industries may be established in Dublin where there is a big vote or in some provincial towns and we will not get any benefit.
I want to impress upon the Minister that that kind of work will have to cease and cognisance must be taken of the people in the isolated districts. I gave an illustration to the Minister in regard to the unemployment position in West Cork. He can look up the figures in the Department of Social Welfare to see whether I am correct. If he does that he will see that 627 people were registered as unemployed in Castletownbere and district. That is a scandalous position. No wonder these people flee to England. Who would blame them? The Government are quite complacent about the position. Here is what they did when representations were made to them by me—and I am very sure by my other two colleagues—about getting something done for the people of Castletownbere.
We were told that instead of doing anything for the people of Castletownbere they were going to withdraw from us every penny that was given annually by way of minor employment schemes. The reason for that was because £10,000 was devoted towards road improvements under the Gaeltacht Services Act. They gave us that £10,000 and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government made a lot of noise about it. He told us about all the benefits that would be conferred on the people. Now they are taking it back with the other hand by withdrawing other grants. That is a shame. It is a matter that deserves the immediate attention of the Government.
Since I became a member of the House, I have repeatedly suggested that something should be done to help the agricultural industry in the congested districts. I had hoped that,following the introduction of this white elephant described as the Undeveloped Areas Bill, some useful effort would be made to benefit the farmers and the workers of these areas who are labouring under difficult conditions. I do not want to delay the House by going any further into that matter. All I wanted to do was to refer to it briefly.
The casual workers in Dunmanway, Skibbereen and other towns throughout the country are unemployed with few exceptions at the present moment— that is those of them who have not gone to England. The Government has done nothing whatsoever so far as the constituency of West Cork is concerned. We have no industry. We have nothing and the Minister cannot expect the representatives of West Cork to be complacent about the position.
The Minister has solved the farmers' problems in a very easy manner in this House to-day. He has brought in a new formula which will make farmers rich in a very short time. Briefly it is this: you push £2 worth of limestone into an acre of land this year and over the next six years it gives an extra profit of £100 per acre. That statement would hardly be made by an inmate of Grangegorman. It has no substance in fact. The general bulk of farmers in this country know much more about agriculture than the Minister for External Affairs, and they are sick and tired, in my constituency at least, of applying fertilisers to their land. The land is below the average in fertility and if they do not feed it with fertilisers they will get very little out of it. But there is no justification for a responsible Minister making the statement to which I have referred. If that were the case every farmer in the country would be within the next six years rolling in money. The Minister got an opportunity of denying that statement, but instead of denying it he affirmed it.
It is interesting to know that the Deputy holds those views and to have them on record.
I do not know whether Deputy Briscoe mentioned itor not, but I wonder what is going to be devoted towards the development of our fishing industry. If any industry is starved for capital, it is surely the fishing industry. The majority of fishermen have no modern equipment and they have not the capital to provide it. It is all right for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture to say that loans are available. You have to have very solvent sureties and you have to have some measure of capital yourself and the unfortunate position is that, while these people are exceptionally honest and decent people, because they have little or no means they cannot get guarantors and, therefore, cannot benefit from loans. I wonder could any scheme be adopted whereby reasonable grants would be made available to these people. It would be not only of benefit to the fishermen but to the country in general. Fishing was the second industry to agriculture 30 or 40 years ago according to the information I have from these people and according to the statistics, and I do not see why it should not be put back in that place to-day. It is a peculiar feature that in some coastal towns you cannot even get a pound of fish, and that in some of these towns and villages they have nothing but out-of-date equipment to endeavour to catch the fish.
I hope my views will not be in any way misrepresented as being in opposition to this measure. It is my Party's policy to support every measure such as this, but there is an obligation on every member of this House to express his own opinion as to what he thinks of a particular measure. I am afraid it is going to be a dead horse just the same as the Undeveloped Areas Act. However, if any benefits were to accrue we should have as much decentralisation as possible of industries. There is no use in increasing the population of this city up to 700,000 or 800,000, more than one-fifth of what is in Ireland, and rural centres becoming depopulated day by day. I could mention a particular section of the people who have got very little from any Government, the islanders, and I believe that island life will disappear altogether. I have offered that view in this House before,and that is the opinion which is strongly held by these islanders themselves. Things are becoming so difficult for them—on Whiddy Island, Bere Island and the other islands around the coast—that they have no alternative but to adopt the measures adopted by the Blasket islanders and depart from the islands altogether.
On the eve of Christmas I do not wish to delay the House to go into measures such as the Local Authorities (Works) Act and other measures that would be definitely of great benefit and give to the workers in towns and rural districts opportunities of obtaining productive employment. So far as the towns are concerned, the townspeople in West Cork have given up all hope of getting anything from this Government or, indeed, from any Government. I may say they have been disappointed by all. Business is not very good for many of them. I have had, in many cases, to make representations to the county council to get time on behalf of these people to pay their rates. I know a number of small business people who have to adopt that measure of asking time for the payment of their rates. Some efforts should be made to make money available to do something for these people.
I am fully behind the motives as expressed in the wording of the Bill. I agree entirely with my colleague, Deputy Hickey, that this House would have no objection even if the sum was much bigger than £5,000,000 but it gives me cause for doubt when a responsible Minister of State cannot give an indication to the House in regard to this £5,000,000 other than in connection with the two items I mentioned, and says that he wants elbow room and elasticity and it is not to avoid political discomfort that the measure is being brought in. I do not see why the Minister should use such a term. They say there is no smoke without fire and perhaps that is an intimation of the intention. It is very strange that the Minister for External Affairs could give no other indication to the House as to its value. I believe it is not honest on the part of theGovernment to bring in this measure and that it is purely for political purposes the Bill is being introduced. They have had plenty of opportunity over the past two and a half years to provide useful schemes and they have completely failed to do so.
Unemployment must be for every Government a matter of serious concern. Any of us who have been looking at world affairs over a number of years know it was a matter of very serious concern before the war in a number of countries and that it is a most baffling problem to solve. When we came into office in 1951, the most immediate and fundamental problems we had to deal with were the problems of bringing about a balance in the Budget and a reasonable balance in our international payments. At the beginning of this year it seemed pretty evident that we had succeeded in dealing with those two problems.
When I came back from Utrecht at the beginning of this year, the most serious problem facing us was the problem of unemployment. I was aware, of course, that the numbers on the register had been swollen considerably by the coming into operation of the Social Welfare Act. Investigations had been made and it was found that, as a result of the introduction of new classes, the increase of benefits, the relaxation of the limits of benefit and so on, there had been brought into the register, it was estimated at that time, about 10,000 additional persons. That is to say, in order to get comparable figures with previous years for that period of the year, you had to make a subtraction of about 10,000. Without the subtraction, I was aware that figures very nearly the same for that period of the year could be found back in 1949 when the Coalition had already been in office for a year. Figures of the same magnitude without the subtraction could be found back in the years before the war. Nevertheless, even with the subtraction, the figure was a very high one.
Anyone with any conception of what unemployment means for any family must feel that if any measures can be taken to deal with that situation they should be taken. The trouble is thatmany of the measures suggested, although they may ease it in one way, may eventually have the effect of worsening it elsewhere. No one who has given serious thought to the subject will deny that the best way is to try to put people to work at productive enterprises, enterprises which will give a return for the money spent on them. Purely relief schemes— which can degenerate almost to the type of filling a hole and emptying it again—are costly and give no satisfactory solution.
Some statements made by me were quoted last night by Deputy Norton. I was not as well acquainted when I made those statements as I am now, after the years' experience, with the nature of some of the problems. I thought that by putting people into industry, by building up industries where they had not existed before, we would absorb the unemployed element of our people and, gradually, unemployment would disappear. As I indicated last night, there was a counterflow. According as we were putting people into employment in industry, people were going off the land, there was less employment on the land, fewer people were being retained there and fewer people were continuing to live in the rural parts of the country.
Looking over the world, at some of the Western European countries, their statistics show that what unfortunately was happening here had also happened in many other countries in Europe, that is, there was a drift from the country to the towns and cities. However, although our work did not result in ending large-scale unemployment as I had hoped, we had the satisfaction of knowing that over 100,000 people were put into employment that would not have been available for them if industries had not been set up.
We believe that by continuing to develop our industries we will continue to give employment to more and more people. Therefore, the drive to develop industries is going to go on, as far as we can press it forward, as rapidly as before. At any rate, the effort will beas strong as before. The opportunities are not as great as they were. The cream has already been taken off, inasmuch as we have now a large number of enterprises which give large employment, as in the case of textiles. There is still, however, considerable room for building up industry to supply our own needs, the things we import from abroad and the production of which at present gives employment abroad.
An important aspect of the problem is that we have not got enough raw materials. Unfortunately, this country is not as rich in mineral resources as some of us thought in the old Sinn Féin days, before there had been a thorough investigation. Our greatest source of wealth ultimately lies in the land. Before I come to agriculture, I want to say that the best way to cure unemployment is to continue the old programme of building up manufacturing industries. After that, what can we do to increase employment on the land?
We are now experiencing a new movement affecting employment on the land, the introduction of machinery. To what extent that will cause unemployment and to what extent it will give increased employment are questions which we will have to wait a little longer before we can answer fully. It is obvious that the more we produce from the land the greater the population we will be able to support in the country.
The next best way of finding a fundamental cure for unemployment is to try to get from the land all that the land can give us. That was the reason why the acting-Minister for Finance spoke to-day on fertilisers and ground limestone. The figures he gave, which were controverted, were figures definitely got from the experimental station in Johnstown Castle. It might be argued that the circumstances were specially favourable there, but even if you discount the figures by a considerable amount, even if you do not get a return of £100 on an outlay of £2 but get only £20, surely it would be worth it? I would ask everyone in this Dáil not to try to stop the drive to get this thing done—the provision of ground limestone so as to improve the fertilityof the land to the utmost extent. Instead of saying and doing things which would counteract the effect of the drive, Deputies should put their shoulders to the wheel and help to move it along. The most important single thing that can be done for the country at the present time is to increase the productivity of agriculture and to improve the fertility of the soil. We know from experiments that it can be done. If we can get any way in which we can speed up the process it will mean that we can increase production by millions of pounds or, to put it the other way, that we are losing millions by reason of the delay.
I have not myself studied the statistics, but I have been told that per 100 acres of land they are able to get on the Continent some two, three, four and even, possibly, five times as great a yield from the soil as we get here. Surely that should not be. When you examine it and see how that is done, you find it is due to the attention that is given to supplying the soil with the proper fertilisers, with the ground limestone and other things which are necessary, and also to greater tillage. The reason these countries are capable of getting these big yields from the soil is that they use more fertilisers than we do and they have a higher percentage of tillage than we have. Our percentage of tillage is only about 15 per cent. It is 63 per cent. in Denmark, I think, and about 50 per cent. in Belgium.
Surely, then, every Deputy who wants to find a fundamental cure for unemployment will help the Government in that matter. It does not matter what Government is in power, the duty of every member of the House is to try and get our industries built up as rapidly as possible so as to give permanent employment and to have our land so treated as to get a greater yield from the soil. I hope that that will give greater employment on the land, though I am not so certain on account of this question of machinery. Before the war, there were only about 2,000 tractors in this country. There are now 19,000 tractors, or there were at the beginning of the year—more than nine times as many. Whether the extra production and the extratillage, if we get it, will give employment to counteract the effect of the machinery, I do not know. We have only to try and see.
I think we should do everything we can to enable us to put people at work and to keep them at work producing from the land, and I ask every member of the House to help us in making that a success. During the war years I asked the members of every Party to help us to get the necessary food grown in this country, to get the wheat and the crops for cattle-feeding grown in the country. I ask Deputies now, as head of the Government and for the time being responsible for trying to promote the well-being of the country, to help us in the drive to have the soil tested and treated properly. The facilities for testing are being expanded, and we should try to have the soil tested to see to what extent lime is required. Then let us all go out to try and see that the ground limestone is provided. The question of fertilisers will also have to be considered. I have given more consideration personally to the ground limestone question than to the other fertilisers, but both are necessary.
These are the fundamental ways in which unemployment can be cured, if it can be cured, namely by providing permanent employment for our people in the manufacturing industries, on the one hand, and on the land on the other. But, even while these things are being done, I am afraid there will be a fair amount of unemployment. I have looked over the figures for some years, to see when unemployment was at its lowest.
We were told by the Coalition that when they were in office unemployment had ceased, that there was full employment. The figures do not show that. For the last full year in which the Coalition were in office the figure for unemployment was 53,800; last year it was 60,800. I admit that there is a difference of 7,000. I do not want to see that figure continue. In fact, in the year 1951, for part of which we were in office, it went down to 51,000 odd. I think that is the lowest annual figure. These figures are the average of the monthly figures. The lowest figure on record at any time for anyone week was, I think, that for the 6th September, 1947, when the figure was 34,978. That is the lowest ever. But remember that 34,978 individuals, many of whom would-be breadwinners with families, were without employment.
A certain statement of mine was referred to. I said many years ago that if the existing system was not capable of dealing with the problem of unemployment then we could go outside the system. The reason we did not then suggest going outside the system was that we should wait and see whether there were other systems of organisation of society than that which we had which would give better results. But my own conclusion ultimately was that, although you could, by regimentation of the population, probably see that those who could work were not unemployed, that they were put at something or other even if it were only digging holes or something of that sort, you would have a host of other evils. For the regimentation of the population you would have to take control of each individual in the country.
One of the difficulties we have in dealing with unemployment is in regard to the mobility of labour. There would be little use telling people in the City of Dublin who were unemployed in the tailoring trade that there was good work for them in the bogs in Kildare or somewhere else. A young unmarried man can go into a camp in Kildare, or move from Mayo if there is work available in Tipperary. If he is a married man with a wife and young children, it is not so easy for him to move, and you cannot bring the work in Tipperary up to Mayo. Therefore it is a difficult problem.
Once you have tried the fundamental methods of getting permanent employment in industry and in agriculture, you can then see what employment can be given in improving the national estate in other respects. We ought not to go too far with that, however, because if you spend the resources of the country largely on amenities and if you have not got the economic sub-structure to support that expenditure, in a very short time you will get into a more serious positionthan the position from which you started. Therefore, we have to be very careful.
We are not an empire. I remember, at the beginning of the war looking at the area and the resources of several countries in the world. I saw that Russia, with Siberia, had a continuous stretch of about 8,000,000 square miles. The United States of America had about 3,000,000 square miles with a population of 150,000,000 people. The British Empire, as it was called at that time, in the book I was looking at, to my amazement covered an area of 18,000,000 square miles. It took in Canada, Australia and South Africa. All these areas were taken in as part of the British Empire. Remember that Britain, as the centre of that Empire, was benefiting by all the advantages which its connection with that vast territory gave it.
Now we are not the centre of an Empire. Nor have we 3,000,000 square miles with a population of 150,000,000 people to develop the resources of that area. We are a relatively small country, with unfortunately, except in the case of agricultural land, none of the great basic resources on which the life and prosperity of other countries have been built up. We must, therefore, move cautiously in regard to matters in which there is expenditure on anything that is not really productive.
Now, housing is essential. No matter what has been said here, the records prove that we have pushed on housing as fast as it could go. As far as this Government is concerned, there has been no lack of support for the building of houses. The time is coming when we will have supplied the most urgent needs. There is a considerable amount of unemployment at present in the building and construction industry. We require, therefore, to provide additional work for that industry. We want to get, as far as possible, schemes that will be productive in their character, or, in the last resort, schemes that will be of amenity value.
When I made an examination of all this I received deputations. I assured the members of the deputations that they were coming to a person who was already very troubled about this particularmatter. They said: "We can do so-and-so, if money is provided; there are in the Departments a number of useful schemes and what about providing money to see that these schemes are carried out?" There has been a great deal of talk about the reduction of the grant for the Local Authorities (Works) Act. In the case of that Act, there was a rush after it was passed to give employment on drainage, bog work and so on. As far as my information goes, there was good work and bad work done. I have not been able to go as an inspector myself to see these works, but my information is that there has been good work and bad work, and some very wasteful work, done through the operation of that Act. Now, I think that nobody, even those who brought in the Act, would like to see money wasted. They would want to see the money well employed and see some fruits, some permanent results, from the money that is spent.
I asked the Departments, and particularly the offices that are presided over and directed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, what was the position as far as their works were concerned. We came to the conclusion that if there was a proper sifting of the various works had been in contemplation— that if these were sifted and examined by a committee from the point of view of seeing what useful works there were with a high labour content—we would try to see that the money was provided. But, again, money that is to be spent in that way ought to be spent, if possible, on works of a productive character. Now, are our roads works of a productive character? They are. It is essential to have good roads for transport. The vehicles working on them will have a longer life, and so there is an economic value in having good roads.
Again, I was told that, on account of the amount of money that has to be spent on some of the main roads, the plan, a sort of five-years' plan which was under consideration for the development of the whole road system —the main roads with certain branchesinto them and county roads—had to be operated more slowly than it would be operated if more money were available. We said: "Well, that is one piece of work which would have to be done in the national interest some time, and the sooner it is done the better." The question then was, can we supply the extra amount of money to enable more rapid progress to be made along these lines?
Similarly, in regard to the Local Authorities (Works) Act. As I have said, the position, as far as I understood, was that there was good work and bad work. The problem was to pick out the schemes that were really good, get these things done, and then, perhaps, tail off on to the ones that were not of such high priority value. When we had considered the matter, we decided to make available another £100,000 to be added to what is in the Estimate, so that those concerned might go ahead more quickly with the schemes in hands and pick out the best of them, in accordance with the need for giving employment and their fundamental economic value.
The problem of the Gaeltacht is one of special national importance. Was there any additional way in which we could help the Gaeltacht and keep in that area the people who know the language, by trying to preserve these very small areas? We felt that if £250,000 was made available for schemes that would give employment in these areas they also could be considered.
It was for these reasons that we thought of having something like the Transition Development Fund That was brought in here in 1946 when the war had ended. There was the question of high prices at the time which we felt might deter local authorities from going on with certain schemes. We wanted to encourage them and not have them waiting until prices would fall, which would mean that work would be postponed and that there would be unemployment. We, therefore, brought that fund of £5,000,000 into existence. Our successors added almost another £2,000,000. When I mentioned earlier the figure of £5,000,000 someone said it was£7,000,000. I believe the Coalition Government added another £2,000,000, and actually used it. It was a good idea because it did give an opportunity for dealing with particular cases and dealing with them quickly.
The position we found ourselves in, this year, was that we wanted to act fairly quickly, and we did act even before we got the full authority to get this money, because we felt that every member of the Dáil who was concerned about the condition of the unemployed would support us in finding the money to try and deal with this which, I hope, as far as its magnitude is concerned, will certainly not be more than a temporary evil.
I ask the members of the Dáil to vote for this Bill. I do not think that any worse service can be rendered to this country than to suggest—always suggest—that everything that a Government is doing is from a sordid motive; that there is nothing but sordid intentions behind measures of this kind. This measure is brought in in good faith to try to give the Government an opportunity of dealing in the first place with unemployment, but dealing with it in a way that will at the same time be national development. It means giving us an opportunity of advancing in many ways schemes to be dealt with, which, if a fund like this were not available, would be put back in the queue and have to remain there for a number of years. I think I can appeal to all fair-minded Deputies to support this Bill.
The more the Taoiseach spoke in relation to this Bill, the more frankly I felt that he convinced me that my interpretation of the position is correct. When this Bill was being introduced this morning by the acting-Minister for Finance, he gave us no reasons for it except that he wanted to have elbow room in circumstances of grave economic uncertainty and danger —I think those were his words. Last night the Taoiseach spoke on his Estimate and the heading we get from the Irish Press—the Taoiseach's own newspaper—is: “We are on an even keel.” It seems to me that there is a slightdifference of opinion between the two ideas that were expressed.
But the Taoiseach at least did this in his speech: He made some effort— certainly more than the acting-Minister for Finance made—to explain what type of work was visualised and the more he explained the type of work that was visualised the more apparent it became that it was all work which comes within the ambit of one or other of the various items of the various Estimates of the various Departments.
We were told about roads. You do not need a Bill like this to deal with the road problem. You have the appropriate machinery for dealing with grants for roads out of the Road Fund. You already have appropriate machinery and if it is deemed desirable and necessary to supplement the income of the Road Fund by borrowing on the strength of the Road Fund, that is a method that has been adopted frequently before. If it was deemed necessary and desirable to have greater grants for roads than the income of the Road Fund would stand—and that, as far as I could understand, was what the Taoiseach had in his mind—then it could have been done perfectly satisfactorily and to the satisfaction of everyone quite easily under existing machinery and no such green document as this was required for the purpose.
We had another Deputy coming in to tell us that one of the things this Bill was required for was to get grants for bridges. Grants for bridges were given long before anybody ever thought of the National Development Fund Bill and they will be given long after it. There is existing machinery there for the purpose and this Bill was not necessary to ensure that those grants would be made available for local authorities.
It was mentioned also that there would be grants to local authorities for amenity schemes on the basis of the provision of a certain proportion of money which the local authorities would make up out of the rates and another proportion provided by this fund. Again the provision can be made under ordinary Estimates.
The Local Authorities (Works) Act was mentioned by the Taoiseach, whosaid that out of this Bill a proportion of the fund is going to be made available for the purposes of that Act. I ask the Taoiseach in all sincerity would it not have been more honest merely to increase the item in the Estimate that is already there, rather than go through this camouflage, for camouflage it is.
It is not. One of the difficulties, if I may explain it to the Deputy, is the time. There is a time factor in all these and if you are to go through all this with all the time factors you would have very slow progress.
I heard the Taoiseach talk about this in Ballinasloe. A great deal of time has gone since then and it would have been more than easy to get all the Supplementary Estimates that the various Ministers wanted in that time during which the Bill itself has been hatched.
Work has been going on all the time.
I am not denying that, but I am denying that this Bill was necessary to do these things. They could all have been done quite easily under existing machinery.
On a point of order. I just want to clarify the position. I understand that the Dáil adjourns at 6 o'clock. I want to know—I think I am entitled to know—whether in fact we are going to get this stage of the Bill through by 6 o'clock or whether it is going to be talked out. I want to draw this to the attention of the Chair that this very constructive measure is being held up and that there is nobody on the Fine Gael side of the House except Deputy Sweetman.
That is scarcely a point of order.
I want to say this on a point of order. Here is a constructive measure to provide very substantial sums for constructive purposes and it is being held up, and we may have to meet again next Tuesday because of the time that is wasted.
The Chair has no function in the matter referred to by the Deputy.
If the Government wants to address a question to me on the Order of Business it will be answered without any question but it is certainly not going to be answered when it is addressed by this particular Deputy to me through the Chair. I have been here all day and the Deputy has just dropped into the House.
The Chair knows that I have been in this House since it opened this morning.
I have been in here the whole time and the Deputy has not.
The other thing the Taoiseach mentioned in his speech was in relation to special employment schemes under the aegis of Deputy Beegan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, and therefore in charge of the Board of Works. Again I fail to see how it is that any schemes that are required in respect of any office could not have been dealt with by Supplementary Estimates brought forward. We have got no indication, no suggestion from the Minister for Finance as to how this fund is going to be operated because if it is going to be operated in a different manner from the manner in which ordinary funds voted on Estimates were operated it was the function of the Minister to make that perfectly clear to us. I think that the Taoiseach himself will agree that the greatest administrative delay in any project for the expenditure of money is the system which operates by virtue of which Departments must refer so much to the Department of Finance for financial sanction. I am not at this stage obviously going to go into the question as to whether that is a good or bad practice but it is a practice which has grown up over the years and it is the main cause of delay. I would suggest that if the Government were sincere in their anxiety to get a means of expediting the outflow of this amount it could have been done far better by permitting the various Departments to expand their Estimatesand expand them in such a way that they would not have, within certain limitation of figures, to submit them for financial sanction. That is the real cause of delay in the administration of schemes and that is the real reason why things are from time to time held up.
There is nothing that we have yet heard mentioned to-day on this Bill that could not have been dealt with quite easily under existing legislation, and under existing Estimates, by expansion of those Estimates and by ensuring that in the expansion of those Estimates there was going to be less red tape from financial control. This Bill is not going to touch that. This Bill is not going to short circuit any of the existing difficulty or existing delay.
In so far as the moneys that are provided under this Bill are going to relieve unemployment, all of us naturally are glad that unemployment is going to be relieved but it is unfortunate that the necessity for that relief is there. It is unfortunate that the positive policy of the Government which has been adopted over the last two years has caused that. I want to take issue with the Taoiseach on his analysis of the unemployment situation and point out that the worst thing there can be towards creating an unemployment problem is a lack of effective demand. One of the things that Government policy did deliberately and of design—because it misread the economic situation—was to prevent effective demand. Government policy set out to take more money out of the people's pockets for the Government, rather than allow the people to spend it themselves. That must of necessity mean that there is a lesser effective demand than there would be otherwise.
It is an unfortunate thing in which on both sides of the House we are prepared to agree with the Taoiseach, that after 30 years of self-government the last 21 of which, with the exception of three years, have been under the aegis of Fianna Fáil, we still have the twin problems of emigration and unemployment. So far as ourfuture is concerned it should be clear that it is in the land that the best hope lies. I can well remember some eight or nine years ago a Deputy speaking from this side of the House who is now gone to his reward and trying to impress on the Taoiseach's then Minister for Agriculture that one of the reasons why we were not able to get so much out of our land as we might get was that we were sadly behind in the provision—and in the awareness of the desirability—of fertilisers for the land. When the late Deputy James Hughes put that view time and time again from this side of the House prior to 1946, he was always told by the Fianna Fáil Government that it was ridiculous for us to compare our position with that of Denmark or that of Holland. I was delighted at least that the passage of years has shown that the Taoiseach has come round to the view advocated so frequently and so cogently by the late Deputy Hughes in those days.
There are others who want to speak on this Bill and the Minister for Finance knows the arrangements that have been made in respect of it, and I do not want to hold up others any longer. But I want to say quite positively I have yet to hear of anything that is going to be done under this Bill for which the machinery is not already available and which could not have been done equally well under the existing arrangements by the ordinary segregation in the Estimates. If something is required to be done as a capital service, it could have been brought in by way of Supplementary Estimate and put through, and it would have been through before the Bill itself even saw the light of day. In those circumstances, I fail to understand how it can be felt that the method—I am not talking about the money, the works or the relief of unemployment, all of which may be very desirable and are very desirable, but I am talking about the method—I fail to understand how anyone can see that the method itself was other than political.
It is now 5.15 p.m. and if we are to finish this Bill I would like to be let in now.
There are other speakers who want to say something.
You can talk it out if you want to.
Well, if you take that attitude——
If you will allow me, I will not keep the Minister three minutes and I have been here all day. It was quite obvious having listened to the speech of the Taoiseach that, in our opinion at any rate, unfortunately the past two and a half years have shown that the policy of the Government has been what we may consider a careful and close-studied but undoubtedly conservative policy, and unfortunately we are now placed in the position because of the reaction to that policy of looking for this money. All we are sorry for, those of us in the Labour Party Benches, is that the amount of money which is asked for is not much greater. But we believe it will be of some small measure of help in some areas—very little in other parts—but in the present conditions and at this time of the year, Christmas, if it will help unemployment to any little degree let us get on with it, and the sooner the better.
I want to say only a few words. In respect of this measure where the Government have in fact done something for which there has been a very general request from the House one might have imagined that this measure would have been welcome and that there should have been no necessity for long explanations or long debates. I do think that to-day when the majority of Deputies have left the House and gone home, it is absurd that there should have been this delay and this opposition from a particular section of the House to this measure.
It is not being opposed.
It is not being opposed but it is being criticised. The coldest of cold water is being thrown on it.
All of us who want to build up this country are fighting against a numberof problems, unemployment, the destitution that arises from unemployment, and are trying to do something constructive. We are being forced into a fight against a fifth column exemplified in the speech of Deputy Sweetman. It was a fifth column opposition to this constructive measure.
I am glad that Deputy Desmond welcomes the Bill. It is a vital Bill. We will not solve problems by increasing the departmental Votes by £5, £50 or £500. This is a new idea of dealing with a big problem. The Government has put forward this Bill and it should be accepted on the opening speech of the Minister. We are told by a Deputy that the Government might have approached this matter differently. There should be some reason in the House. The country wants this Bill. The country wants any constructive proposal that the Government may make.
The country needs it.
The country wants it and the country needs it. Deputy Rooney says that this is not being opposed.
Because it is needed.
It is not being opposed, but Deputies are talking about it. I want to know from Deputy Rooney is the Minister getting this part of the measure this evening or not? Have Deputy Rooney, Deputy Sweetman and other Deputies decided to talk it over for a longer period? Deputy Sweetman is coming back to the House now. He has discussed this matter with the Chief Whip on the Government side. Do we take it that the measure will be finished this evening? Is that agreed?
There is nothing agreed.
Here we have the fifth column of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Sweetman and Deputy Rooney, and they will not tell the Government straight: "You can have this measure this evening."
You are not the Government, thank God.
I am not the Government.
They are hanging on by you all the same.
I am a Deputy with a sense of responsibility to the people, and I find these fifth columnists trying to obstruct anything that we want to get done.
There may be a reasonable chance.
We are entitled to cooperation.
The House, the Minister, and the Government, when they are doing something constructive for the people, are entitled to cooperation. This measure is acceptable to the House and the country. Why cannot we get it through? Why must we talk a lot of nonsense about it?
Hear hear! Why? I was wondering why the Deputy was speaking.
Deputy Sweetman has intervened in this debate and has talked the height of nonsense about it. Why does he not allow the Bill to be passed? If it is a good measure, that is not opposed, why should it not be passed? Why should Deputy Sweetman throw cold water on it? If there is anything in the Bill that the other members of his Party want to criticise, why are they not here to criticise it or to make constructive suggestions? Deputy Sweetman knows very well that when there is any measure that will benefit the Irish people he feels he must oppose it. I do not know why.
I had not intended to intervene in the debate. I thought the Bill would have been passed long ago. I object to the type of criticism to which the measure has been subjected. I take exception to the line that Deputy Sweetman has taken in regard to it. When a measure is proposed by the Government that is generally accepted and decided to be in the interests of the nation, Deputy Sweetman has no right to be critical of it in this House.
On a point of procedure.I will require at least 20 minutes to reply to this debate, which has been going on all day.
Is it agreed that the Minister will get 20 minutes?
No. I told the Parliamentary Secretary that you will get your Bill and your Estimate.
I will require 20 minutes to reply. As Minister responsible for this Bill, which has been called a dirty fraud by the deputy-leader of the Opposition, I will require 20 minutes to reply to the debate.
They can have it at 6 o'clock.
This Bill has been introduced because it is needed. We must be clear on that issue. The necessity has arisen in consequence of the difficult unemployment situation created by the policy of the present Government. The position has become so serious that they find it necessary, on the eve of Christmas, to embark on this new departure. What they call the National Development Fund Bill is a departure from the financial pattern. On the eve of Christmas, the Government come in and ask us to accept the purpose for which this Bill is designed and allow it through to-day, the real purpose being to prevent it being properly discussed and to prevent Opposition Deputies from pointing out the real reason for the introduction of this Bill, the necessity for it and the activities of the Government which made it necessary.
That is why we on this side of the House have been particularly critical of the Government in relation to this measure. We have pointed out that the policy pursued by them has made this Bill necessary. It is a last minute move on the eve of Christmas because they realise that all the Christmas relief schemes in the country are unable to meet fully the needs of destitute families. I have a telegram here from the Commissioners of Balbriggan:—
"Unemployment situation serious in Balbriggan. Further relief schemes essential."
That is because there were hundreds of unemployed queuing outside the labour exchange yesterday and, I suppose, to-day. That is the reason for this measure.
The Bill asks for power to spend £5,000,000 between now and the 31st March and £5,000,000 annually thereafter. It asks permission to increase the national debt annually by £5,000,000. Instead of spending the savings of the people, the Government ask for an adjustment in relation to the national debt.
In Christmas, 1950, there was no need for a Christmas relief scheme in County Dublin because there were not sufficient persons registered at the exchanges in Dublin County to justify the planning of a relief scheme. In 1953 the relief schemes devised by the various county councils throughout the country have not been sufficient to meet the considerable destitution and hardship that exists. The Bill is clearly needed in consequence of the policy pursued by the present Government. We should be grateful to Deputy Briscoe for telling us actually in what way this money is going to be spent. He pointed out that, in fact, Dublin Corporation can expect over £1,000,000 out of it in relation to emergency schemes in the area of Dublin Corporation. I know that Dublin County Council got a letter from the Minister for Local Government saying that he was going to give the council £50,000 for the purpose of expenditure on various schemes to be approved which would be put up by the county engineer. He was not asked to write down to the county council, but offered them £50,000. He wrote down to them and he probably has written down to other county councils as well. We ought to be told how much is going to be spent in County Louth and in Cork City during the next few months. Is the power to be conferred by this Bill going to be used or abused in order to buy votes in those two constituencies where we will have elections? We know that we did have the buying of votes before.
We had the example of £11,000,000 being spent on ten years' fuel supplytowards the end of 1947 just before the General Election of 1948. Much of that fuel went waste but there was ten years' supply brought into the Park; and of course the purpose of it was to keep persons employed while the general election campaign was under way. I am critical of the circumstances which brought about the necessity for this Bill. It is unfortunate that it was necessary to bring into this House a Bill of this nature. It is unfortunate that the present Government did not pursue a policy which brought prosperity.
On a point of order. I want to point out that Deputy Rooney has repeated that at least four times already. This is from the point of view of talking the business out.
What did I say? The Minister——
The acting-Minister for Finance had better be rather careful.
The acting-Minister for Finance is just imagining things now. He is happy to draw on his imagination in this matter. I wonder if the recent national loan was filled and if it had not fallen short by £5,000,000 in the form of subscriptions from the public would the necessity for this Bill have arisen? We know that the public subscribed £5,000,000 less than was expected from them in the last national loan. Strangely enough, £5,000,000 is the figure mentioned in this Bill. The only difference is that it is proposed now in addition to a policy of an annual loan from the public to use this device for the purpose of getting a further £5,000,000 which will be added in the ordinary way to the national debt from one year to another. We did did not hear from the Minister any detail, and we should have, of what it is proposed to spend this money on. We ought to be told, for instance, whether it is going to be used for the purpose of rebuilding a portion of Dublin Castle or whether, in fact, it is going to be allocated for the purposeof building the road from Dublin to Bray against which there is a good deal of public resentment. Anything we heard about what this money would be used for we heard from Deputy Briscoe. Obviously, it has been discussed in the Party room, and at least the House ought to be told something that may have taken place at that general discussion even if the expediency of having this money spent during the by-elections in Cork and Louth is not admitted as having been discussed there in the Party room.
The Deputy did not read the debates on the Taoiseach's Estimate, did he?
I have not got the Taoiseach's statement yet.
But all you heard to-day you heard then.
We remember before we had the Fianna Fáil Party blowing about the Transition Development Bill of 1946 and all it was going to do for the nation. We found in 1948 when the Fianna Fáil Party were put out by the vast majority of the people that no arrangement was made to put any money into that fund and we found that in fact when the first national loan of £12,000,000 was floated, when the debts of the Fianna Fáil Party were paid, including the fuel in the Park, there was not sufficient money even to meet the £4,500,000 that was to be put up at that time in the Transition Development Fund. We must, therefore, beware of these devices and these Bills with nice names that are introduced in the House and carried in the Dáil by the Fianna Fáil Party, because we have seen from the past that many of these Bills, even the Undeveloped Areas Bill, are introduced here for the purpose of painting a picture and for the purpose of giving an opportunity for a certain amount of window dressing and giving an opportunity also to build up people's imaginations at election times. The nation deserves better from any Government in this House. We have seen from the record of the Fianna Fáil Party that they have not been honest with the people and that they have deceived them particularly in relation to passing measureswhich in the long run, in fact, they do not intend to implement.
In this particular discussion, I am not interested in introducing the motives that may have been operating in the minds of people in the formulation of this Bill. I intervene in this debate purely for the purpose of inquiring from the Minister what hope and expectation we can have under this Bill. Can I take back a measure of hope to the people in the Beara Peninsula, in Dingle Peninsula and in Kilcrohane, and in the far-flung areas towards the Mizzen? Can I take back a message of hope to them that many of the schemes so long in the files and offices of the Board of Works that would usefully benefit the area will now be expeditiously dealt with? This particular measure may have many defects, but from my point of view it has one saving grace, and that is, that the Government is subscribing to the principle of putting Irish money quickly into investment at home in Ireland.
I want to get this Bill in its proper picture. Is this Bill an expediency measure of only pointed or partial practicality? Is it a Bill designed to deal with problems that may be arising in by-election areas and problems that have already arisen in the City of Dublin, or is this Bill a genuine effort to come to grips in an expeditious way with the problem of rural unemployment generally?
And metropolitan unemployment.
I think that if you allow me to develop my argument you will find——
If the Deputy does not finish within one minute he is coming up on Tuesday.
I have no objection to coming up on Tuesday—none whatever.
None whatever; and if the Minister is going to take that attitude I will be talking at 6 o'clock.
If you are not, I will.
It is quite obvious that the Fine Gael crowd are obstructing.
On a point of order, I want to make this perfectly clear and I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach is in the House. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach knows that the position is that there was no agreement that the Second Reading and the Estimate would be finished by 6 o'clock, but that notwithstanding the fact that there was no such agreement he has been assured by me that he is going to get it.
We will get it in 20 minutes.
If the acting-Minister for Finance wants to prevent——
At this stage I should like to inform Deputies that it would be possible to extend the sitting until 6.15 p.m., if necessary.
I want 20 minutes to reply.
Would Deputy Collins finish at 5.50 p.m., and then the Minister could get in?
I can assure the Ceann Comhairle that if the Minister kept quiet, I would be finished by now.
I do not want to intervene at all but, if necessary, we could extend the time by the unanimous wish of Deputies.
I think that my colleague, Deputy O'Higgins, would like to say a few words and, to ensure that the Minister will have time to reply, we are agreeable that the time should be extended.
We have no objection.
I want 20 minutes to conclude.
On the basis of the Minister's last remark, I object to any extension of the sitting. There will be no agreement.
Let the debate go on to 6.30.
We could allow the debate to continue until 6.30 by the unanimous wish of the House.
Not until the acting-Minister for Finance withdraws the remark he has made.
I do not know what remark the Minister made.
I do, Sir.
May I say that we are not disposed to grant any facilities to the Minister, having regard to the attitude which he has adopted. I am not taking the view that we are here to obstruct, but he has been interfering for the past 20 minutes. I would have finished long since, if it were not for his interruptions.
What about the unemployed who are waiting for work?
I suggest that it be agreed that the House sit until 6.30.
Not after that remark from the Minister.
Will you take the responsibility for delaying the Bill before the unemployed who are waiting for work?
If the Minister were in any way co-operative, he could have the Bill by 6.10 p.m.
You are a great example to me on the eve of Christmas.
Let him who is without sin amongst us cast the first stone.
I said you were a great example to me on the eve of Christmas.
I want to know from the Minister if there is any hope that these schemes will be put into operation in cases in which they are already prepared and waiting for financial sanction. I want to put on record my appreciation of the fact that the Governmenthas somersaulted back to a practical belief in the inter-Party Government policy, that is, putting Irish money back into schemes to provide employment for the Irish people at home and the development of useful projects here in Ireland. I want to know in a specific way what message I am to take back to the people in the various outlying districts of the constitutency I have the honour to represent, the people, for instance, who are looking for a breakwater in Schull. Will the Bill provide a medium through which money will be made available for that one scheme in particular, the erection of Schull breakwater for the protection of the most prosperous and progressive industry we have in this country? There may be a lot of "ballyhoo" in the Bill. Many motives have been attributed to the Party responsible for the Bill. These allegations may or may not be true, but what I really want to know is, will it be a Bill under which the money available will be spent as the urgency of the situation demands, whether it be in Dublin city or county or in áiteanna iargúlta on the western seaboard or the south-western seaboard? If this Bill is to be anything but a "cod" then the particular type of financial support that flows from it will have to start flowing from the very beginning of the new year. If the Government were in earnest about the difficulties of the situation, this Bill would not be hanging fire for so long. That is why we must look on it with a great deal of suspicion. There has been immense difficulty in the employment situation and an immense increase in emigration for the last couple of months. If we were fully alive to that, and if the Government did not wish to prevent the effective financing of schemes, there should not be this kind of window-dressing at all.
I want to ask the Minister what he wants the Bill for. If he were in earnest about financing schemes of road development, bog development, bridge building or any other type of development, is there not every possible facility under our financial system, either by introducing a Supplementary Estimate or asking for an additional grant to get all the money we want?Why dress the Bill up under a grandiose name when, in fact, if the Government were in earnest, they already have facilities at their disposal to make the necessary money available for these purposes? Are we to be criticised then because we look with suspicion on the attitude of the acting-Minister? The acting-Minister for Finance knows as well as I do that if he wanted to pour money into these schemes, if he wanted to give Deputy Briscoe's committee in the Dublin Corporation a £1,000,000 for certain works, he did not have to bring in this Bill to do that.
Of course he had to.
He had not. That is all eye-wash.
You do not know what you are talking about. You are just bluffing.
You need not get "waxy" and show your bad temper. If the Minister wanted to give £1,000,000 for the Dublin schemes, he could have given it long ago without this Bill. He had only to ask for a Supplementary Estimate for this purpose.
When you are Minister for Finance, you will do that.
I would not be so touchy about it if I were you. There is no use in dressing up this Bill with a grandiose name when the purpose which it is sought to achieve could have been easily achieved by other means. If there was any earnestness about it, the money could have been made available and schemes could have been implemented to give relief in areas in which relief is most needed around Christmas.
I move that the Dáil sit until 6.30 in order to finish the business.
I have made inquiries and I understand that Deputy Sweetman misunderstood what the Minister said, and that there was no offensive remark made by the Minister.He merely said that he wanted 20 minutes to finish.
That is not what he said. I could hear it over here. If the Parliamentary Secretary is moving that the House sit until 6.30, I have no objection. I heard what the Minister said but the Chair did not.
It is perfectly clear to everyone that on the passing of the Second Reading of this Bill, the House will be sending a Christmas message to the people of Cork and to the people of Louth, a Christmas message in the way of a by-election stunt.
Mr. J. Lynch
We will win Cork without it.
If the Parliamentary Secretary wants to make a bet I will take him up on that. I will give him any money at three to one that Fine Gael will win that seat.
I will take that bet at £100. Are you on?
On the eve of Christmas I am offering that bet.
I will take it up for £100.
The Deputy will make his bet somewhere else.
Here is the message that we are giving in the Bill, on the eve of the by-election, to the people of Cork and Louth: we want to cod you, the same as we codded the people of South Galway, by bringing in a National Development Fund Bill.
That is the same thing——
Deputy Briscoe must cease interrupting.
Deputy Briscoe does not understand what we are talking about. He might at least keep silent. This Bill has had a notable history. It was announced and introduced not when this patched together Government came into office two years ago but during the by-election in South Galway. It was announced in thesummer of this year by the Taoiseach in the course of the South Galway by-election for the purpose of that by-election and for no other purpose. It would never have seen the light of day in this Dáil were it not for the fact that two by-elections now face this House.
It was on the Order Paper of the 20th October.
Nonsense. Any number of Bills that appear on the Order Paper and have their First Reading never have a Second Reading, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach is well aware.
Like your Health Bill.
This Bill would not be on the Order Paper to-day were it not for the fact that two by-elections face this House.
That is how Fine Gael does things.
Has the date of the by-elections been announced yet?
I take it that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach is beginning to regret the motion he proposed a while ago.
The big stick.
I am not using any big stick.
Order! Deputy O'Higgins on the Bill.
I regard this Bill as nothing but a stunt. I regard it as being designed merely for election purposes. It was first announced for that purpose and it is being brought forward again now for that very same purpose.
It was negotiated months before that——
Order! Deputy Briscoe must cease making these interruptions.
How can people be expected to stomach that?
The people of this House have often had to stomach Deputy Briscoe. He might at least try to digest me for a while.
I should have to bring you up again.
I am not Jonah, you know. We have had previous experience of Fianna Fáil Development Funds. The Transition Development Fund, which they introduced a few years ago, developed nothing but a national debt. That fund was proposed to deal with the situation after the emergency and during the twilight between the decadent Fianna Fáil Government and the taking of office by the inter-Party Government.
When the inter-Party Government took over, there was nothing in the kitty except a debt and a charge upon public funds. What is the idea behind this Bill? A sum of £5,000,000 will be spent, not as Oireachtas Éireann desires it to be spent, but merely in accordance with the wishes of the political chieftain of the Department of Finance from time to time. Why is it that in the past two or three weeks every county council in the country received a chit from the Department of Finance, saying: Spend all you like. Do what you like with public funds. There is money in the kitty now?
This is the greatest political ramp that has ever been seen, and it is designed as nothing else but that. I have no doubt but that, for the first time in three years, people in Cork City and in Louth will have carrots dangled in front of their noses as if they were donkeys, as a result of this Bill.
What about the Coalition Government's Social Welfare Bill?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government had better not talk along those lines. I have plenty of quotations from his speeches——
Recently, Deputy Lynch talked about the upright policyof Fianna Fáil. I hope that he will say that publicly in Cork City.
I will say it to-morrow night in Cork City.
I shall be interested to hear the Deputy say that. This Bill is a stunt. In one of Deputy Briscoe's interruptions during the past 20 minutes or so, he said that if this Bill were not passed by Dáil Éireann this evening, men would not be put back to work. That, I think, is a very good phrase—"men would not be put back to work".
I did not say anything of the kind. Deputy O'Higgins is misquoting me. I said: "put to work"— to put the unemployed to work.
What is this Bill designed to do? Assume for it sincerity, assume for it a genuine desire to get something done: What is behind this Bill? Surely, the only thing behind it is a step to undo the damage done by Fianna Fáil since June, 1951. There is no other case to be made for this Bill except that. There are unemployed and impoverished people in this country who have been thrown out of work by Fianna Fáil and their policy since they resumed office. That is the only case to be made for this Bill. Deputy Briscoe must feel hot under the collar whenever he walks around the south side of the city and sees the people whose votes he asked for in June, 1951, rubbing shoulders with one another in the unemployment queue. No wonder the desire of Fianna Fáil is to see this Bill passed in order to put back into work some of those whom Fianna Fáil threw out of work.
The word "back" is introduced by you.
The word "back" is Deputy Briscoe's own word.
I never used it. Deputy O'Higgins is deliberately misquoting what I said and is trying to mislead the people.
"To put men back into work." That is an important statement by Deputy Briscoe. That is why this Bill is before this House now, with two by-elections pending. Fianna Fáil like funds. They loved the Transition Development Fund. They regard the National Development Fund as something which also must be revered. What the people want is work. What they want is a stable Government and a decent policy. Not one of these things can they get from Fianna Fáil, whether or not this Bill is passed.
For the past two-and-a-half years we have had little or no national development. We have had a retrogression and a very serious retrogression in the capital programme that the inter-Party Government had in operation. During the past two or three months, Fianna Fáil have begun to see the sense in what we were doing. There are no longer speeches from Deputy Briscoe and the quondamMinister for Finance, the present Minister for External Affairs, about the danger of borrowing. There is no longer talk by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs likening our external assets to troops of occupation in Britain. There is no longer talk by Deputy Major de Valera about money in the Bank of England as being in the safest place in the world. That is all beginning to be softened down. Now we have the present Taoiseach saying that it is desirable—that it is necessary—to have a loan not once in a while but every year, if you please. Because Fianna Fáil are now beginning to realise the havoc, the hardships and the real damage they have done by their policy in the past two-and-a-half years we will have a series of Bills of this kind. The National Development Fund Bill, 1953, will be followed by a number of similiar measures garbed, cloaked and designed to cod the people of this country. The fact is that every single one of the 4,000 or 5,000 persons to whom this Bill is designed to appeal would be in constant and permanent and decent employment if Deputy Cogan, and the rest of them, had not put Fianna Fáil in as the Government of this country. May I come back to theParliamentary Secretary? I guarantee to him that, when the result of the Cork city by-election is given, he will find that the people of Cork City think as I do of a Bill of this kind.
The bet is on.
Deputy O'Higgins thought he was down in Cork when he said there had been a retrogression in the rate of spending on capital development in the last few years. In the last year of the Coalition, they spent £24.6 million on capital development, below and above the line. Last year, the amount was £32.27 million and at the time of the Budget this year, Fianna Fáil proposed to spend £39.29 million, to which we are now asking the House to add £5,000,000. It is quite natural that Deputy Dillon should describe everything introduced by Fianna Fáil as "a dirty fraud". I remember introducing a proposition to the House in 1947 which he described —Deputies will find it at column 1035 of Volume 108 of the Dáil Debates— as "a dirty fraud", a "dirty and detestable game", "flat-footed incompetence", a "shuffling, cloutish way of dealing with the problem", and a "vicious contemptible jab". Within two years, the Coalition confirmed the very same measure as he described in those terms.
If we get down to this Development Fund, it is on all fours with the Transition Development Fund introduced in 1946. Exactly the same powers were given to the Minister for Finance to spend ahead of detailed Dáil sanction, and, when the Coalition came in, do you think they regarded it as a "dirty fraud"? Not on your life—they continued to operate it for the time they were in office, and, not only did they operate it, but they added £2,000,000 to it making the fund which we had fixed at £5,000,000, £7,000,000.
In other words, we put money into it.
It was not a "dirty fraud". They continued to operate it —they had that much sense.
There are a few matters which were raised by Deputy Dillon and others to which I want to reply. Deputy Blowickwould not advise any farmer to take money from the bank on which he was getting one per cent, and put it into his land, although he afterwards patted on the back a number of people in his constituency who took some money out of the bank and put it into industry. I should like to know what industry in this country offers the same opportunities for profitable investment as some of our acid soils. I gave figures that are incontestable, and they apply not only to Johnstown but to probably 80 or 90 per cent. of the land of the country which is acid and requires lime. I know that Deputy Dillon does not like ground limestone and that is the reason he told me to "have a bit of sense" when I described the Johnstown experiment. "Can you imagine anyone saying," he asked, "that, if you spend £2 on lime, you gain £100?" What I pointed out was that the results shown in Johnstown confirm what every practical farmer knows, that, if you have acid soil, you must put on the limestone, if you are to get proper crops and results from the other manurial constituents which you add to the soil.
It is too bad that, in this year of Our Lord, a man who was Minister for Agriculture for three years and who had the experts available to him should come out against the liming of the land of the country. We know that one of the first things he did when he came in in 1948 was to order that the ground limestone subsidy scheme which Fianna Fáil had in operation should be discontinued.
Ground limestone, in 1948—when he sent a circular to the county councils. Deputy Cogan was on the deputation to him and it is on the files and was all published.
In December, 1948, the county councils got notification that the then Coalition Government were not proceeding with the Fianna Fáil scheme for the subsidisation of ground limestone. It was later on that he abolished the subsidy on burned limestoneand it was only a couple of months before the Government left office, when he was kicked into it, that he agreed to expend some dollars on the subsidisation of the transport of ground limestone. If Deputies want to see the file, they may do so. When it was first suggested to him, he said: "This makes me mad" and wrote it all over the page. He tried to get his officials to prove that money spent on superphosphate would be better, but, to their credit be it said, they reported to him that the right thing to do was to adopt the scheme Fianna Fáil had and get the ground limestone on the land.
The figures for ground limestone are now, thank goodness, going up. It was started only a month or so before the Government left office. When the Agricultural Estimate had been before the House for nearly a month and when they were shivering in their boots about putting it to a vote, the scheme was announced. Scarcely two tons of it had been distributed under their scheme when they went out of office. That went up to 73,000 tons in the first year of our time and now it has gone up to 500,000 tons. It should be going into millions of tons, because there is a shortage of 12,000,000 tons which are required in order to put our acid soils into a proper calcium state.
If we do not put it on, we are not going to get the results we should get from the other manures, and it is crazy—I want to repeat this—that our farmers should be keeping money, say, £2, in the bank and getting 5d. a year interest when, if they put it into their soil, after proper analysis, and with other constituents, they might gain something like £16 13s. per year from additional crops. It is absolutely crazy. Deputy Blowick credits himself with repatriating our external assets and then objects to the farmer taking steps to buy fertilisers with his bank deposit which would operate to cash in some of our external assets for a real capital asset in the soil.
Deputy Finan was really interesting because he was so completely wrong in certain regards. He said that the great advantage to this country was the production of cattle versus tillage.
He did not make any such statement.
He said our live stock were of greater advantage than tillage, because it was live stock we could sell abroad. I want Deputy Finan or any other Deputy to make this calculation with me. Is there anyone who will claim that two acres of average land in this country will keep more than a bullock? That represents a product of, say, £10 per acres for two acres, or £20 extra when the bullock is sold in the British market. Let us take the same two acres and put them under wheat. You would get, on the average, for the same sort of quality land—two acres to a bullock—at least one ton of wheat to the acre.
How could the Minister make out that increased exports could be credited to canning?
If, instead of putting on the bullock and getting an increase of £20, we put the same two acres under wheat and got a ton of wheat to the acre—and that is small—it would be £64 for the two acres. Surely to goodness it is a good proposition, if we want to balance our payments, that we should use our land to help produce at home the wheat for which we pay an additional £44, or $126, rather than use the same two acres of land in order to get an increase of £20 in our sterling assets?
The Minister misrepresents the Deputy—deliberately.
Those are my calculations. It is bad economics and bad social policy for this country to concentrate on building up sterling assets through a cattle population if there is any conflict between that and building up our wheat crops to avoid the necessity of importing dollar wheat. Having said that much, I want to say again that if we adopt a proper wheat, beet and tillage policy, instead of having less live stock to send to Britain and elsewhere we will have more live stock or dead stock for sale on the hoof or on the hook.
Indeed, the extra 100,000 acres of wheat that we produced last year saved us, I suppose, at least 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 dollars. That was a reasonable sum and it certainly helped our balance of payments particularly with the dollar area. One of the things I cannot forgive the Coalition Government for was that they allowed Deputy Dillon so to decrease the tillage of this country that it fell by 500,000 acres. If one takes the value of the wheat or barley they produced at that time to be even £20 an acre one can see the number of dollars we had to spend in order to buy the substitutes for our own native tillage products. It was, in fact, a criminal policy.
There was more tillage than you proposed to O.E.E.C.
The fact is that Deputy Dillon spent the dollars. We had a series of advertisements asking farmers to grow wheat in the winter of 1947-48. The moment Deputy Dillon came in, down came the shutter on the wheat. A few months afterwards he asked the people to grow oats and when the time came to sell the oats and the price collapsed Deputy Dillon went to America and let the late Deputy Dr. O'Higgins hold the baby. We will not go into that any further.
What Deputy O'Higgins said was not enough will, we believe, enable the Government to take effective measures to deal with pockets of unemployment should they occur. It will also enable the Government, should the balance of payments and other conditions be right, to go ahead very much more quickly with national capital resources than we could without its assistance. There is no doubt that the Government will have a better opportunity of boosting production and providing additional employment. I ask the Dáil to pass the Estimate which will give us the £5,000,000 for this year.