In reference to the suggestion of a ten-years' programme, I mentioned last night that a certain programme was adumbrated in the White Paper presented by the then Minister for External Affairs entitled "The European Recovery Programme" in December, 1948, and it was stated with reference to agriculture that it was expected that production would be increased by 1952-53 to the extent of 98 per cent. in the case of bacon, 39 per cent. in the case of poultry and game, 7 per cent. in the case of beef and mutton, 109 per cent. in the case of eggs, and 20 per cent. in the case of butter. The Minister for Finance has corrected the figure given as to agricultural output for last year by telling us that, instead of a decrease of 2 per cent., there was, according to the latest figure from the Statistics Office, a decrease of decimal 2 per cent.
The important point from the national view is that while our net output in 1938-39 stood at a base figure of 100, in 1950 it was 100.7, in 1951 it was 103.4, in 1952, 107.5, in 1953, 107.4, in 1954, 109.4, and in 1955 the provisional figure was 109, so I think it is generally agreed that our agricultural output has gone up by roughly 10 per cent. since pre-war, and in the case of live stock and live-stock products, the figure is 5 per cent.
Deputy Desmond referred to the agricultural industry, and I do not think his remarks were particularly helpful. While the figures I have just mentioned may indicate that results have not been as good as we could have wished, there is another side to the picture, and that is that the economy of this country, as I have been stating in the Dáil for the last year and a half or two years, has been carried by the agricultural community and by the level of agricultural production and exports that we have had. I find, according to the table in theStatistical Survey, that the proportion of agricultural exports to agricultural output was almost 40 per cent. in 1953, and in 1954 it was 38 per cent.; and although there was a significant rise in the standard of living of the non-agricultural as well as the agricultural community, running into many millions of pounds, we still have the rather happy position that we had these large agricultural exports, which we only wish could have been larger but whose importance and the value of the work behind them nobody need decry.
We have to regard agriculture as an industry in a special category, where the planning arrangements which may take place either in the O.E.E.C. or in any other sphere of, let us say, industrial activity may not apply. Farming is a way of life. It is not really a way to make riches, and it has generally been admitted that it is only during wars that the agricultural community could recoup themselves for past losses and get any kind of reasonably decent livelihood from their labours. While we have been asking agriculturists to do more and to produce more, we must not forget that costs of production have gone up. The agriculturist is not in the position, as we learned a number of years ago in our student days, of the business man who can close down and alter the rhythm of his production to suit market demands. The farmer keeps on, and, if he has a good year or a number of good years, it is more than likely he will have lean years to follow.
In 1947, the proportion of his net output attributable to the materials he had to purchase in his business, feeding stuffs, fertilisers and seeds, according to Table 57 in theStatistical Survey, was 10 per cent. In 1949, it had risen to 15½ per cent. and, in 1954, it was 20 per cent. It was estimated in 1952 that the farming industry was using, between superphosphate, potash and ammonia, less than 400,000 tons per year and that the optimum figure which could be usefully utilised on our land was about 1,200,000 tons. It was ascertained also that in regard to limestone the requirements of the land came to 12.4 million tons. That was apart from the annual spread which would be required. Those were the arrears which had to be made up. It is stated by the Emigration Commission that the use of fertilisers among our farmers is the lowest in Europe.
When the Minister for Agriculture tells us about the land project and that the value to the farmers who have been able to benefit by it comes to £10 per acre, if there are almost 700,000 acres reclaimed, that should mean an addition to their output of about £7,000,000. When the Land Project was introduced, we felt that the results, perhaps even better results, could have been achieved on a lesser expenditure and on a less extravagant scheme. What we failed to find from the Minister for Agriculture to our satisfaction is whether any survey has been made of the work done, whether there has been any follow-up and what is the extent to which fertilisers and lime, for example, have been applied.
When I ask the Minister for Agriculture for particulars in regard to specific areas or specific groups of farms, he waves me airily aside, telling me that, where there were whins before, there is now agricultural production. The point is whether we are getting the optimum production that we are entitled to, considering the large volume of expenditure and whether expenditure on this and on agricultural development generally is achieving the purpose that presumably the Government and the authorities have in mind.
If we are to get the best results, we must have organisation, and, on the Vote for the Minister's Department, I urged that the Department of Agriculture should shed itself of some of its responsibility. If we want to get back to the spirit of former days and try to get a real national effort in connection with agriculture, surely we cannot depend upon the officials of the Department of Agriculture, or any other body of officials, no matter how devoted they may be. It is necessary, and the Minister for Finance emphasised it, to get the full co-operation of agriculturel organisations. He emphasised that we must get the co-operation of the public.
We do not know whether any survey has been made of the needs of the smaller farms to the position of which special attention has been given in the Report on Emigration to which the Taoiseach referred. If we want to maintain the population upon the smaller farms which, as the report points out, carry on a more intensive and more desired form of agriculture, than some of the larger farms, we have to give some incentives. We have to have a type of organisation that will reach down to the smaller farms so that the farmers will have confidence in it, and be part of the economy, so to speak, a type of organisation that will be able to help them in their problems of providing capital, marketing their produce in the most economical way and getting the necessary advice that can be obtained for them through research and through other sources.
It is very noticeable that no reference was made by the Minister for Finance to the industrial position. Last year, the Taoiseach told us that about £80,000,000 additional capital had been put into the transportable goods industries between 1946 and 1952. We are spending large sums on organisations for the development of exports and the encouragement of tourism, and the question is whether we are getting results commensurate with that expenditure, or whether greater efforts cannot be made in the existing situation to try to secure a greater foothold for our produce in the United States of America and greater advantages to our economy by our contacts with that country. Our exports to the United States are only about one-seventh of what we import, and surely with the tremendous population of Irish extraction that we have there, it ought to be possible to build up a much larger market for our produce than appears to be the case.
With regard to the home market, the proposals of the Minister for Finance which we have just been discussing will certainly raise the question in the minds of many of the Irish public, particularly the housewives, whether the Government is taking sufficient steps to see that costs of production are being kept down, and the consumer protected.
One of the complaints one hears, when one refers to the need for exports and the imperative necessity for building up our industrial exports, is the charge that Irish goods can be obtained more cheaply in London than in Dublin. I read a statement by a manufacturer lately, in which it was stated that so far as the home market is concerned, it was comparatively easy for the manufacturer to deal with his costing problem, because apparently the consumer comes at the end of the queue; but the moment the question of the export market arises, the question of costings becomes a very serious and very significant matter. We know that if the prices of products could be reduced by 10, 15 or 20 per cent. there would be a much better chance of getting a stronger foothold in the foreign market and increasing our exports.
We have an organisation which is supposed to deal with that matter. The Tánaiste has so many activities— as have had all Ministers for Industry and Commerce—that I do not think he can give this matter the attention it deserves. Particular stress has been laid upon the necessity for better management, better relations between employers and their employees and the necessity for bringing our industrial organisation into line with modern requirements.
In connection with the proposals for which the Minister for Finance has just received sanction, I wonder whether any action is being taken by the Government, in consultation with industrial interests, to see that costs will not soar as a result of any interest taking advantage of the present situation. On the contrary, with the opportunities they now have—as I stated already when we were discussing these levies in March last—Irish manufacturers and providers ought to be able to give our people the best value in regard to price. If it is not possible for their prices to compete exactly with the possible prices of imported articles, it is our duty to see that, in quality and finish, they are satisfactory and that our people do not feel, when the home manufactured article replaces the foreign one, that they are being placed at any disadvantage either in regard to price or quality.
One of the points that is forgotten in connection with the investment programme—and it has been referred to in the course of this debate—is that high capital investment seems necessarily to involve heavy exports, heavy demands for raw materials. It involves greater leisure, greater spending and greater consumption by those who benefit from it. One feels that the dependence on imports or on the production of durable goods even at home creates a certain instability and it is very noticeable in connection with the cost-of-living index figure. I do not know how many items are on that index figure at the present time, but it has been expanded out of all proportion, to include goods and services that have arisen through the creation of new demands and the forcing of them upon the public through publicity and so on as to the needs they think they have for the purchase of these goods.
In connection with our agricultural industry, surely we can all admit that there is nothing of more importance than proper nutrition of the population, nothing more fundamental than proper nutrition, giving our people the best food. Yet it is noticeable that, over the years, far less has been spent on food proportionately and far more on articles which I think come under the category of durable goods. For example, in theStatistical Survey, we find that, taking the 1938 prices as applying to the present time, the expenditure on food increased by over £6,000,000 or by one-eighth; the expenditure on clothing increased by £3.7 million, nearly a quarter; the expenditure on fuel and light increased by only about one-tenth; while the expenditure on alcoholic beverages and tobacco went up by nearly a quarter, by almost £5,000,000.
In the case of other goods, whatever categories that classification may cover, no less than £15.3 million was spent, an increase since pre-war of 80 per cent. in pre-war money values. Of course, it is a much greater increase, an increase of up to four times, if we take the present values of money.
It is not alone the category of other goods but other services which has increased very substantially, by another £12,000,000. Therefore, it is not in regard to food, not in regard to clothing and certainly not in regard to fuel and light, that the very heavy expenditures are apparent: it is more in connection with other items and particularly those under the heading of other goods and services, that we have this vast increase in expenditures while we have not had a corresponding increase in savings, at any rate in recent years. It seems to me that we have to take, in our planning for the future, the basis of the productivity of the worker and the output that he gives us, which should determine—and we hope would determine—his remuneration, which should increase naturally if our economy were progressive.
The Taoiseach told us last year—he is not vouchsafing any information this year—that there had been a slight increase in output per worker for 1954, only a fractional one. We do not know what the position has been over the years or whether output has been related in any of the available statistics to earnings, which seem to have kept pace with the cost of living and surpassed it at all stages since 1948.
If we do not accept the productivity of the worker in industrial employment as the basis for remuneration—and that is rather difficult if the position is, as referred to by the Taoiseach last year, that less than one-fourth of our national income is attributable to industrial production—we should adopt the basis which would seem to be proper to an agricultural country, that is, the standard of living and the cost-of-living index that the agricultural population would consider reasonable for their needs or, if you like, the prices they get for the food they produce, the net return they get having regard to their expenditure and the capital they invest in the land.
We must adopt one or the other of these bases. We have been trying to reconcile or perhaps assimilate rural standards with urban standards, when, as Deputy Aiken pointed out, even under a regular and progressive and agreed development policy for agriculture, it would take some years in the normal course before we could provide the agricultural population with all the amenities and services that we would wish. If the urban population think that, through the ballot box or through political Parties or otherwise, they will secure higher services from the State, a better standard of living, and so on, where so many people are reaping benefits and are anxious to take more out of the pool, it is difficult for the agricultural community to learn the lesson, even if they are patriotic, as we hope they are, that, in the general national interest, they should put their shoulder even more firmly to the wheel and get a higher return and higher production from the soil.
We have to persuade agriculturists that we are interested in them, that we want to help them, that we realise that their industry is in a special category, that it provides very little more than a reasonable living, even in good times, judging by present urban standards, for even the best of the farming community. It is only natural that the agricultural community should try to get all the services and amenities that the urban and non-agricultural sections are providing for themselves out of the national pool because they happen to be in a position in Dáil Éireann to secure them.
The great majority of the farmers, particularly the younger generation, are fully alive to the necessity of improving their methods. When the doctrine is preached to them and when they are told that attempts to cling to old methods and traditions in farming practice will not solve present-day problems, we will find ready and willing listeners who fully appreciate the position from their point of view; but, if our lessons, our advice and our anxiety to show them goodwill and to co-operate with them could be accompanied by a significant gesture in the way of reducing their costs and in the way of doing still more to ensure that the land is properly manured and limed and by taking steps, through organisations, to see that Government policy is carried out to the letter and to get the co-operation of farmers, we could hope for better results.
Whether we like it or not, there is a growing feeling among the younger farmers that they should be entrusted with more responsibility. I wonder if the time has not come to pick a group of men of practical experience, business capacity and ability, to take up some of these schemes, who, by their association with farming life, would be able to get, though their personal influence and efforts and organisational work more of the results that we would all like to secure.
Agriculture never got full value out of the co-operative movement. The co-operative movement proceeded a certain distance in the way of setting up the co-operative creameries and to a certain extent providing for the farmer his requirements in the way of fertilisers and seeds and, to a limited extent, in taking his produce, but there were many things that the co-operative movement could have done in showing farmers what could be done. What is being done at present in Johnstown Castle and in the agricultural colleges has been often referred to as the type of work that should be done on experimental farms throughout the country. That surely could be done through the co-operative organisations, if they were geared up to meet present-day requirements and if, as I am sure they would, they would give their full co-operation in the national effort.
The wealth from agriculture is clear profit to the nation, whereas in the manufacturing industries proper, as I have already said, a great deal of material has to be imported and on the basis of these imported articles a standard of living is established that cannot be justified by the real situation of our people and from which we may have to retreat at a later stage.
The Taoiseach referred to the report of the Commission on Emigration and pointed out that it had been printed. That was news to many on this side of the House because we had been under the impression—I had been, at any rate —that some nice ethical problem had arisen which had not been resolved. If it has been resolved, that is all to the good, and we will not have the trouble, in future, of an expenditure of 12/6. The Taoiseach has reminded us we can have the printed report and we will not have to wade through the typewritten copies of the report which we were given some two years ago.
The Taoiseach told us last year also that the report was being examined. I do not know whether he expects us to take that very seriously, in view of the issues that have arisen regarding the recommendations in the report as to decentralisation, for example,—the possible decentralisation of Government services, at any rate, and the building up of other centres of population, for, as example, the City of Cork, the southern capital, which has staged such a splendid Tostal festival and which boasts such progressive and able citizens. They would naturally like to feel, if there is a question of decentraliastion of economic and industrial activities, that they would be particularly in the picture and, as I have stated often in this House, towns like Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway, with their ports and their hinterland are particularly suitable for development and for trying to divert as much as possible of the new activities which tend to concentrate in Dublin to those towns.
The Taoiseach stated last year that he thought—unfortunately the publication of the Census Report has shown that his anticipation was very far removed from reality—that the long term tendency of a reduction in the male population in agriculture had been arrested. I think we can all agree with the commission that it is the desire for the improvement in material standards that makes our young people emigrate. There are, of course, other factors and one, I think, is the weakening of community life in the more out-of-the-way rural areas. When the rural population of young people falls below a certain figure, when the boys go to a ceilí and do not find sufficient girl partners there, as has been happening for years past, that is a very unfortunate situation.
When the commission made their report, they recommended to the Government that they should encourage and initiate economic and social activities favourable to increased population. We know that if the Government were going to take that recommendation very seriously, it might cost a great deal of money and a great deal of effort in the way of development of social activities which the Government might not consider its proper function, but I notice with interest that the report states that, since the Famine— which always has been my belief—the marriage rate had fallen from about eight—I think it is eight per 1,000— before the Famine, to 5 per 1,000—the comparative figures are eight and five in any case—20 years after the Famine and that there were influences at work in that period that stopped up the natural rhythm of rural life. It would be very interesting to know just what these influences were, but I believe that the sharpening and the realisation of community feeling and the love of home and country, which the report suggests should be inculcated into our young people, might do something, though it might not do everything to restore rural life and revitalise it.
The commission said that almost all the influences which determine population growth are matters which probably depend on personal decisions. That is quite true, but in the case of the rural community we have a great many farmers and a great many spinsters in the farmhouses who did not get married because, for some reason or other, the opportunities were not there. In my opinion—and some of the criticisms regarding our educational system that have been made recently have, perhaps, a good kernel of truth —their minds were not directed at an early stage to marriage as they would have been across the water.
The first thing that strikes one when one looks at these population statistics is the comparatively early age of marriage in Great Britain and in the Six Counties, as compared with ours. I think one of the reasons for that is that the moment the young person goes out to employment in these areas in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, from that moment he, and, I suppose, she, makes up his or her mind that the next step, and an early step, must be marriage. In our rural households, that is not quite the situation, in the same way as the tendency may be to hoard their savings, as has been pointed out, rather than invest them— when they could be invested far more profitably—in their own land, in their own farms, and keep them deposited in the bank for a rainy day or for dowries that have to be paid.
In some way, farmers are often slow to take these decisions. There is the household situation. There is the patriarchal background, if you like, and the individual does not feel himself quite as free to make this personal decision because of the responsibilities upon him and the tradition of the farm and the rural household, but if the position is that we have had this decline in the marriage rate going on right down through the Famine, it is, of course, very hard to root it out. However, I think that in the same way as, through co-operative effort and organisation, we could build up our production, we could also give these social amenities and give a certain glamour, a certain life and a certain social intercourse to the rural communities which, perhaps, does not exist at present. It is true that the motor car has made this difference, that the tendency is to get away to the seaside or to a hurling match or to some other function.
A combined effort might be made to have parish festivals and parish assemblies in connection with the Young Farmers' Clubs or the Irish Countrywomen's Association or any other association in all parishes. The people could be got to see that it is what they have themselves and what has come down to them that distinguishes us as a nation and that when tourists and educated foreigners come to this country it is not to see a Dublin that is very little different externally from an English provincial city but to see the life of the people, to see our own customs, our own festivities, our own social gatherings and our own sports meetings in the natural habitat of the people in the Irish countryside. That is what maintains the life and tradition of the nation more than anything else. It certainly has a powerful influence as we all know in keeping our young people at home if they feel they have the outlet and that measure of social life.
The commission dealt with the necessity, to which the Taoiseach has referred, of developing our agriculture as the primary and fundamental means of developing our economy, our production and our wealth. It is said that only on the basis of a resolution—and I think we can all agree with this— never yet exhibited to develop the economy freely and a ready acceptance of the sacrifices which this would involve, can we deal with this question of emigration. We are all very ready to give advice. We are all very ready to tell the other man what he should do but it is another thing when it comes to giving practical example and accepting the sacrifice which is necessary if we are to get results— results which we in public life must also bear in mind and do our share to achieve. It is not always realised that people are affected by example. The hurler on the ditch is not the man who gets results; it is the man of idealism and enthusiasm and spirit. The unselfish worker who goes down amongst the people will get them to respond. It is because I feel this is largely a social question and one which should be dealt with from the social point of view that I stress it here. In that way we will get other results, more effective and more relevant to our economic needs.
The necessity for giving all possible encouragement to the smaller farms is envisaged by the report of the commission when it points out that the gross output from the smaller farms is nearly twice as much as on the very large ones of over 200 acres, relatively speaking. There are substantially more cows, far more cattle, fewer sheep and more pigs. Of course, there is a great deal more poultry. Even since the time the commission has examined this question, the position has moved more unfavourably I think to the smaller farms because the products which were associated in particular with their economy—poultry, eggs, pigs, bacon— have not been doing so well and the present position regarding them is rather uncertain. The commission suggested that special efforts ought to be made to improve the grassland on these farms, to encourage more cows and more pigs and to try and get back to the traditional economy of the small holding which was characterised by a large cow population.
The commission also dealt with the necessity for giving special care and attention to what are called subsistence farms. In that connection they went on to make what was one of their most important recommendations, namely, that as far as possible schemes of drainage, afforestation and land reclamation should be worked conjointly with the economy of the small farms and that, in fact, as a counter to the migration which has been such a strong feature for generations past of life in the West of Ireland, there should be a national scheme even at a heavy expenditure of £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 a year by which a large number of families—they mentioned a figure of 50,000—could look forward to supplementary earnings for half the year. The estimate was £100 for the half year.
In paragraph 420 they went on to say that if the scheme were too large, too costly, a pilot scheme should be undertaken of 5 to 10 per cent. of the holdings in these congested areas and that, by the expenditure of between £250,000 and £500,000 per year their suggestions and their proposals could be tried out on a smaller scale. Having regard to the expenditure on forestry, land reclamation and land improvement work, I think it was not by any means extravagant of the commission to suggest that a fairly large pilot scheme should be established. I am quite sure that, in the hands of enthusiastic men with the necessary technical knowledge and business capacity to which I have already referred, the time would come when we would be able to settle new homesteads, new villages and perhaps even new towns on some of these schemes.
At the present time there is a shortage of rural labour in some areas of the country but in these areas, whereas the families only migrated for a season before, the danger is that, with the high wages and good employment on the atomic stations, on the big constructional works and even perhaps in the motor or armament factories, they will take their families, as they have been doing, across to England with them. Therefore, even with our best endeavours we may not succeed in holding them but at any rate it would show the people generally that there was some inspiration and some vision in the approach to the problems if we could get a large scheme of this kind which would aim simply at resettling a compartively large population of several score families in their own neighbourhood on reclaimed land and showing them under expert advice and supervision what could be achieved.
I should like to echo the opinions given from this side of the House to-day. In the first place, we do not know the full facts regarding the situation. We can only assume from what has been said that it is very grave indeed and those of us who have administrative experience must take the risk of being exposed to the adjurations of Deputy MacBride or others who may charge us with trying to cause alarm. There is no necessity whatever to cause alarm or panic but what is necessary is to make certain, as Deputy MacEntee has emphasised, that the steps that are being taken will be effective and that we shall not be coming back taking in a few months' time other steps which may still not be effective. The important thing is to take steps in very good time.
We do not know whether the proposals put before the House represent the whole of what the best advice the Government can get in this matter would offer and would suggest as being necessary. What is necessary may not always be practicable, but what would be very dangerous would be that in a deteriorating situation any time would be lost in taking steps which could have been taken before and that there would be a consequent and unnecessary loss in the meantime.
It is not a matter for the Government or for us in the long run. It is for the forces outside this House and for public opinion to determine in the time to come whether the steps that are being taken are sufficient. If they are not steps that will give confidence that the situation is being grappled vigorously and thoroughly by the Government then we will not have the results because, as the Minister for Finance said, the psychological approach is most important. The country realises that the situation is serious. The people must also be made to realise—and it is to the Government they must look for leadership—that the steps that are being taken are sufficient, that they will be effective and will give the necessary results.
For some time past I have had the same qualms as the Minister referred to regarding savings and whether we can get by publicity the necessary results that we would wish in that regard. Unless there is a thorough plan, a thorough organisation throughout the country such as there has been in Great Britain for years past, unless it is in the factories and in the workshops and unless it is brought into touch with the farms it is very difficult to accomplish the work which in the long run can best be done, if it is feasible, by personal canvass, so to speak, and by personal contact with the public. You send out a circular or you put up a poster but it is not quite the same thing as if you have somebody who goes to the factory, to a place like Guinness's, Jacob's, Ford's, Dunlop's or any of these big firms and organises the workers there to contribute a share of their savings and to signify that they are prepared to do that as part of their contribution to the national effort.