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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 16 May 1957

Vol. 161 No. 11

Committee on Finance. - Resolution No. 5—General (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That it it expedient to amend the law relating to customs and inland revenue (including excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.—(Minister for Finance.)

During the recent election, one of the most notable statements made repeatedly by Fianna Fáil spokesmen was that they had a plan to beat the crisis. This was repeated from many platforms in many parts of the country. The electorate were led to believe that if Fianna Fáil were returned, some proposals would be introduced which would not only solve the crisis but lead to an expansion in trade and employment.

Since this Government was elected, many speeches have been made by Ministers referring to the need for greater production. The need for greater production has been emphasised on numerous occasions by different Governments, but the present Government appear to labour under the illusion that, provided they talk sufficiently often about the need for increased production, that, in itself, will act as a solution to the problem and will act as a sufficient incentive. We have to recognise that talk is no substitute for an incentive or for a policy that will produce results.

It has become fashionable to speak in disparaging terms to the effect that agricultural production has not increased sufficiently. In fact, some people go so far as to say that any increase that has occurred has been negligible and that the position is static. It is well for a moment to reflect on what has been accomplished. It is no harm to examine briefly the position as it existed in 1948 and the expansion in agricultural production that has taken place since.

In 1948, prior to the introduction of the land reclamation scheme, prior to the negotiation of the trade agreement with Britain in that year, the position in this country was that the total value of agricultural exports amounted to about £23,000,000 and that in that year, and for some years previously, butter was rationed. Deputies will remember that at one period in that year and in the previous year the ration was as low as two ounces per head per week. The total income derived from our agricultural surplus amounted to £23,000,000. Since then, a very dramatic change has taken place. The numbers of live stock at that time were the lowest since statistics were first recorded. As a result of measures taken by the Government of that time, the calf mortality rate has been reduced considerably from an average annual death rate of 80,000 to something over 10,000. That substantial improvement was effected by better veterinary services and better application of modern veterinary science to diseases affecting young calves such as fluke, white scour, and so on. The results of that improvement were to make available for export a substantial average annual increase in the number of calves reared and brought to maturity.

It does not require much examination to see what an improvement that has made. The export figures for last year—which were not quite as high as those for the previous year—and particularly the trade figures for the first three months of this year indicate that the policy that was put into operation achieved considerable success. Not alone did we have the largest exportable surplus of cattle probably in our history but, in addition, we had a record production of milk and butter. When we talk of increased production and increased efficiency remember that there is no advantage in producing something which we cannot sell. After we supply the home market, the only place where we can sell our exportable surplus is abroad, wherever we can get a market for it.

During the course of this debate, I listened to Deputies on the Government Benches claim that what they have done in the alteration of the levies in respect of motor cars, and so forth, will provide increased employment. No one disputes that it may give some improvement to the motor assembly trade but does any Deputy opposite believe that we in this country can provide a permanent exportable surplus of motor cars? We are selling secondhand cars to limited markets and maybe occasionally new ones but, by and large, it is obvious that we cannot develop a permanent trade that will prove of any serious value to the community in the export of cars.

What is the effect of this Budget on one exportable commodity which we have? The abolition of the butter subsidy must have serious repercussions on the dairying industry. We now have an exportable surplus of butter. We have the largest output of milk since statistics were first compiled. In recent years we have been eating more butter than ever before but, after we supply the home demand, we have to sell our surplus some place and, unless we can export it, the inevitable result of the proposals in the Budget will mean that farmers will go into some other line of production.

Similarly, this year, we have more than enough wheat from home sources. I do not think the most ardent advocate of the "grow more wheat" policy would expect us in present world conditions to sell wheat abroad. The Minister for Finance said that not alone have we a carry over from last year's production into this cereal year but that if we did not sell what he described as the "bad" wheat for animal feeding stuffs we would have a carry over into the next cereal year not alone from this year but from the 1956 harvest. That position has been reached at a time when the United States has a two-year surplus supply of wheat. There is also a large surplus in Canada.

It is obvious that we cannot sell abroad any surplus supplies of wheat which we may have. We are left, therefore, in the main with live stock and live-stock products. The figures of trade returns published recently indicate that for the last three quarters of last year and for the first quarter of this year we were exporting increased numbers of cattle. Probably the most significant feature of last year's return was that our shipments to countries other than Britain and the Six Counties rose substantially. They rose from a value of £5.5 million in 1955 to £11.2 million in 1956, primarily due to increased shipments of cattle to France, The Netherlands, Germany, and other continental countries. The numbers of cattle shipped to countries other than Britain or the Six Counties increased from 8,710 head in 1951 to 68,196 head in 1956—and that compares with average annual shipments of 21,900 head in the five years 1951 to 1955. These figures are on page 12 of the Trade Statistics for the year ended December, 1956. That shows what was accomplished not alone in the expansion in the numbers of live stock available for export but in the successful negotiation of trade agreements with those continental countries. Last year, for the first time, we secured a substantial foothold in the continental market.

It is not sufficient for Ministers to lecture the farmers about increased production without indicating where the commodities which the farmers will produce can or are likely to be sold. One of the permanent features of economics is that, once a policy is put in motion, it takes some time to change it or that if a set of circumstances develops and it is in the wrong direction it may take time to arrest it. The policy of the inter-Party Government substantially increased agricultural production. It may be—and we freely acknowledge it—that it is not sufficient but there is not the slightest use in this country's producing a surplus of a commodity if, after providing for the home market, we cannot export the surplus.

This Budget places an increasing burden on the farming community as well as on urban dwellers. If we are to sell butter, milk or milk products profitably abroad, we must facilitate the farmers to produce at the lowest possible cost. The imposts on petrol and diesel oil must affect in so far as they affect the cost of transport and the cost of distribution—which is an element in the cost of production—the cost and the price at which the farmer will be enabled to sell his commodities.

It is quite obvious from recent trade figures and from the quantity of butter and milk and wheat produced that, unless we can walk these commodities off the land in the form of live stock, we shall not be able to sell abroad at a profit, and in so far as this Budget will increase the cost of production of these commodities, it will affect the cost at which the farmer will be enabled to sell these products at a profit. The result of the measures that were taken, the achievements of the policy that was put into operation, have been quite considerable. In 1947, the net output of agriculture was £99.3 million; in 1955 it had increased to £111.8 million. I have listened here to Ministers decrying the fact that we had not increased production to a greater extent, that we had not expanded output from the land. Comparing the position as it was prior to the introduction of the land reclamation scheme, prior to the negotiation of a number of trade agreements, and in particular the agreement of 1948, that was the position. We had butter rationed; we had a heavy death rate in the number of calves each year. An equivalent number of calves has since been made available for export. We had a position in which, with the exception of live stock, we had no exportable surplus of any commodity.

Since the initiation of the land reclamation scheme, we have succeeded, not alone in expanding substantially our exports of cattle, but we have been able to secure for the first time since before the war an exportable surplus of butter. I do not know what effect the decision to abolish the butter subsidy will have on butter production. It is certain it will have a dramatic effect on the work of the Milk Costings Commission. It is obvious, and I believe an understatement to say, that not alone is there no hope of any increase in the price of milk paid by the creameries, but the difficulty will be to keep the price at the existing level. That is a very different situation from the picture painted by Deputies opposite when they pressed the previous Government to furnish the Report of the Milk Costings Commission. I do not think anybody would hazard a guess at the value of the report at the present time. The abolition of the butter subsidy must have a serious effect on the possibility of exporting either milk or milk products at a profit.

The Milk Costings Commission Report will not be needed at all now.

Of course it will not be needed. Wheat is in the same position as butter. We have had in recent years—and it is obvious on the present price that we will have this year again—sufficient wheat to meet our own requirements, and not alone sufficient to meet our own requirements, but if we have anything like a reasonable year the grist will have to be again on such a basis that the quantity of imported wheat will be either one-third or less of the total grist. That, in itself, is an embarrassment to any Minister for Finance because he may be faced with the problem which the Minister has this year of providing money from the Exchequer for the conversion of the unmillable wheat into animal feeding stuffs.

We initiated last year a policy which provided a guaranteed price for feeding barley because we believed that if we were to export either pigs or bacon, we had to produce adequate supplies of feeding stuffs at home, and we had to produce a sufficient quantity of these commodities to enable us to export bacon and pork produced from homegrown feeding stuffs. The measures taken by the previous Government succeeded in increasing substantially the acreage of feeding barley, but has the position been reached in which, when we have a surplus of butter, a surplus of milk and a surplus of wheat, the only effect is that it causes embarrassment to the Minister for Finance and to the Exchequer?

Every hundredweight of butter we export at the present time involves a charge on the Exchequer, a substantial subsidy, and the position has now been reached in which the cost of an exportable surplus of butter must be borne— or some portion of the cost—by the Exchequer. In the same way the position has been reached in which, because we have such a large yield of home-grown wheat, it is an embarrassment to the Minister for Finance and to the Exchequer. That poses this question: if we are to export, is it not obvious that we must export where we can get a market, not merely where we can compete on equal terms or on favourable terms with our competitors?

It was once fashionable for Fianna Fáil to decry the value of our live-stock trade. I listened here yesterday to Deputies on the opposite benches expressing satisfaction at the abolition of the levies on car parts, because it meant some increased employment in the industries. We are all glad to see an improvement in that regard, but in so far as this country is concerned, the only thing of any substantial value, the only commodities that we have that can make a substantial contribution either to our whole balance of trade or to the maintenance of our economy, is an exportable surplus of agricultural goods, either live stock or these other commodities to which I have referred. The significant fact is that, with the exception of cattle and bacon and whatever butter we export abroad—but there again the value of it is impaired by the fact that it has to be subsidised by the Exchequer—we have nothing to export.

Deputies will remember—I think it was in the 1954 Report of the Central Bank—the phrase about the bullock again saving the day for the Irish economy. It is obvious from recent trade figures that this year we shall have to look again to the value of our live-stock exports for any worthwhile contribution to balancing our trade and to providing the wherewithal to purchase the goods we need.

When the Minister was announcing his Budget proposals he referred to the fact that steps were being taken to make the maximum economies possible and one announcement, in addition to others, which he made was that it was proposed to start with administration. There is general acceptance of the views expressed that there is some scope for a reduction in administrative costs and there is general acceptance of the view that the administrative machine has grown too large. Here again it is well to reflect that it was under Fianna Fáil that this great increase took place.

I have round figures here given in reply to a question answered this week. In 1932, there were 21,700 civil servants; in 1939 that had grown to 24,000; in 1949, it had grown to 29,100; in 1952, it was 31,600 and this year it is 31,600.

Were all these permanent officials?

Permanent and temporary.

And temporary, yes.

That is the combined total.

The position is that there has been a substantial growth in the cost of the administrative machine but the bulk of that growth took place during Fianna Fáil's term of office.

I listen here with interest to Fianna Fáil Deputies who say that they have a plan and a policy to beat the crisis. It is not as though this crisis arose only last year. We recognised that last year was a particularly difficult year, that measures had to be taken which could not be expected to increase the popularity of the Government, measures which we recognised at the time would not be popular, measures which would effect an improvement in the position of our economy and which did substantially effect an improvement but which inevitably caused some difficulties, possibly some hardship, to certain sections. When Deputies refer to the fact that those measures did cause either disabilities or hardships to any section of the community, let them remember that the proposals enshrined in this Budget will cause not only difficulties but hardships.

In framing our proposals we endeavoured to see that the steps taken impacted where the influence would be felt least and that the burdens imposed would affect those best able to bear them. The feature of this Budget is that it affects equally those better able to bear it and those least able to bear it.

When the decision was taken to remove the food subsidies it was taken on the basis of the recommendation in the Capital Investment Advisory Committee's Report but it is well to remember what was recommended in that report. On page 7, the committee said:—

"The subsidy on flour and wheatenmeal, the estimated cost of which in the current financial year is £6.4 million, should be abolished. This is not a proposal for the relief of the Exchequer. Its aim is to maintain the capital programme at a higher level than would otherwise be possible. We believe that recognition of this fact might go some way towards making the proposal generally acceptable to the community."

What has happened in this Budget? The subsidy has been abolished, not for capital purposes, but for the relief of the Exchequer and the effect is that the cost of production, because the cost of distribution will be increased, will be raised on producers, manufacturers, farmers and business people and the burden will be borne by all alike and will be borne equally by those least able to bear it.

Last year, when the previous Government introduced a proposal to increase the value of the weekly allowance to social assistance recipients, for an unemployed man who was married and had one child, the increase was 11/– a week. At that time the then Opposition said that they were glad that that had been done but that it was not sufficient. That was 11/– a week. The only increased burden that had to be borne at that time was an increase in respect of petrol and cigarettes and that was described as being sufficient to warrant an increase in wages and salaries.

This year, the only recompense for a substantial increase in the price of bread and in the price of butter is 1/– a week. I do not think that those who supported that proposal recognised that, not alone was the 5d. per lb. subsidy that had been provided by the previous Government in order to reduce the price of butter from 4/2 to 3/9 being abolished, but that, in addition, the production subsidy that was being paid to creameries was being abolished.

The moment the price increased there was some surprise expressed that butter was selling, not at 4/2 but at 4/4, but it is quite obvious now that, not alone is the 5d. a lb. that had been provided in respect of the subsidy of £2,000,000 a year which was made available from the autumn of 1954 being abolished but that, in addition, the consumer is obliged to bear the production subsidy of approximately 2d. a lb. and that, in fact, the increase in the price of butter has not been the anticipated 5d. but has been 7d.

Similarly, in the case of bread, the increase has been greater than was anticipated and greater than was forecast by the Flour and Bread Committee when it made its report last year. Deputies who opened the newspaper this morning saw what the price of bread will be.

Deputies, last year, expressed the view, from these benches, that the increase that had been imposed, not on essential foodstuffs, not on essential commodities, but on cigarettes and, in respect of those affected by it, on petrol, would warrant a claim for increased wages or salaries. If that was so in respect of less essential commodities, if an increase last year, in respect of social welfare recipients, in the case of an unemployed man with one dependent, of 11/– a week was inadequate—

Is the Deputy right in taking it that social assistance recipients got any increase last year?

An unemployed man got an increase of 11/–——

No. Social insurance recipients.

——in the allowance paid over and above what it was in the previous September.

The contributory insurance people did.

Unemployment benefit and social insurance.

But not social assistance. Those coming under the contributory scheme got an increase. The social assistance people got nothing.

I do not think the Minister will dispute that the weekly allowance for an unemployed man with one child was raised by 11/– a week.

No, not social assistance, only social insurance.

An unemployed man——

The people who were regarded as on the dole got nothing.

The unemployed man who had stamps.

That was a contributory scheme. He paid for it himself and the employer paid for it.

But the Minister's comment on that was that it was not enough.

Maybe so. He paid for it himself.

That was the Minister's comment, that it was not sufficient to meet a position in which the only increases imposed by the Budget last year were on cigarettes and petrol.

I do not think I made any such comment.

I am only saying that was the only burden imposed last year. The Minister's comment then was that the increase was not sufficient.

I do not think so.

Deputy Corish quoted that last night. The position is that it was Deputy Briscoe, I think, who said——

Deputy Corish told us that also.

You will have to listen to it again. Deputies opposite deceived the people. When they went to the electorate, they did not tell the people that they were going to remove the subsidies. The Minister for Industry and Commerce got so annoyed about it that he went to Waterford and said: "How often have we to deny this?" It was not the first time that Fianna Fáil did that. In the 1951 general election——

Deputy Dillon said that last night.

The Minister for Health and the Tánaiste said that they would not reimpose the taxes on beer and tobacco. They got into office in June, 1951, and in April, 1952, the Budget was introduced and the taxes were put back and the subsidies reduced. This year they went to different parts of the country——

There was no balance of payments problem in 1953.

They said they would not abolish the subsidies, and, within two months, the same thing had taken place. Human nature being what is is, people generally do not like being asked to bear a burden for the benefit of others who probably can better afford to bear it and therefore is it reasonable to expect people to bear such a burden? The proposal in this Budget is to provide 1/– a week in respect of all social assistance recipients and 4/6 in respect of children's allowances. That situation compares, I think—to put it no stronger—unfavourably with the position as it existed under the Budget last year.

Of course, nobody recognises the serious consequences of these decisions better than the Minister for Industry and Commerce. When he spoke here the other day, he referred to the letter that had been sent to him from the Committee of the Provisional United Trade Union Organisation. He urged them and trade unions generally to consider and to recognise that there were great risks involved in looking for higher wages and salaries. We all recognise that. In 1955, the wage and salary increases granted were more than were necessary to meet the increase in the cost of living. That was recognised freely by economists, but of course the Party opposite did not give us credit at the time for that and the effects of these increases were felt in increased costs of production, in substantially increased imports and in a drain on the balance of payments. Remember, however, that that was to meet an entirely different situation from that which will result from this Budget, in which the prices of two essential commodities have been raised substantially.

It is significant that the Government's approach to the trade unions on this occasion is vastly different from the approach made in 1947. On that occasion, the trade unions were told that if they did not accept the proposal enshrined in the supplementary Budget, it would be enforced by legislation. In fact, instructions were given to draft a Bill for that purpose. Now the Minister's approach, based on the experience of that time, is entirely different. If he has not learned wisdom, he has learned caution and the value of an approach of sweet reasonableness. It is an entirely different approach and I think that is a good thing. I do not think that any Government has the right, when it is elected, to dictate to the people. All Governments and all members of the Dáil are the servants of the people and not their masters. It is our responsibility to point out what we believe to be in the national interest and to see, where necessary, that it is accepted. To try to dictate to one section of the community and not to others is not in the national interest or in the public interest. The real weakness in the proposals of this Budget, however, are the dangers of instability. I said earlier that once an economic policy is put in motion and once economic trends manifest themselves, it is difficult to arrest them and their consequences may not be felt for some considerable time.

If the effect of this Budget is to raise the cost of production and to increase the charges that will have to be borne by manufacturers and producers, then unless we can substantially increase output and improve efficiency, it will not be sufficient for Deputies to talk for long periods on the need for increased production and greater efficiency. That is one of the delusions under which some Deputies labour, in that they think it is the solution of the problem.

There is not in this Budget a single proposal designed to increase employment here; there is not a single proposal designed to stem the tide of emigration. When the Minister for Industry and Commerce spoke here the other day, he used a cautionary word. He referred to abnormal emigration. Deputies will note the caution and will note that, with the responsibility now imposed on him, with the transition from this side of the House to the other, it is easy to speak with caution and with reserve. It is easy to speak with a certain diffidence that was absent during the election when Deputies sought the support of the people for a policy which was not announced to them and which, in fact, has no relation to the proposals announced some months ago—the plan for full employment.

This Government is, with few exceptions, the same Government as had, during its very lengthy period of office before, the highest rate of emigration in the history of the country. We hope they can do better on this occasion.

That is not true at all.

Between 1932 and 1948 over 500,000 people emigrated——

The highest rate of emigration was when the people on the opposite benches were saying it was low.

Between 1932 and 1948 over 500,000 people emigrated. Does the Taoiseach deny that?

Does the Deputy know the meaning of the word "rate"?

Between 1932 and 1948 over 500,000 people emigrated.

It was not as bad as the last two years surely?

Will the Minister produce the figures?

Of course, we will.

Between 1932 and 1948 over 500,000 people emigrated. That is the equivalent of the whole population of the Province of Connaught——

The rate per year was greater during the period of office of the Coalition.

I want the Government to deny, if they can, that 500,000 people emigrated between 1932 and 1948——

The rate of emigration per year——

I want the Government to deny that 500,000 people emigrated——

The Deputy is dodging the issue.

All this can be expressed by way of direct statement and not by way of interruption. Deputy Cosgrave must be allowed to conclude his statement. Other statements can then be made.

The fact is that statistics prove that during that time the number of people who emigrated was over 500,000. Can we get from Fianna Fáil a policy that will solve that problem? Does the House believe or does the country believe that there is enshrined in this Budget a proposal to relieve emigration?

We do not regard it as a safety valve anyway.

The position is that under Fianna Fáil, who were 19 years in office, 500,000 people emigrated. That is more than in any comparable period——

The highest figure was in 1956 when it was 48,000.

More people emigrated under Fianna Fáil than in any other comparable period——

Last year was the highest ever.

Deputy Cosgrave must be allowed to continue his statement without interruption. Whatever corrections or alterations are desired can be made afterwards.

It is very hard to listen to wrong figures, Sir.

The position is that under this Budget every section of the community will have to bear——

When you were there the people were starving.

I invite Deputy Galvin to explain to the people of Cork why he did not tell them during the election what butter would cost if Fianna Fáil were elected and what bread would cost if Fianna Fáil were elected. This confidence trick has been perpetrated twice. On the last occasion Fianna Fáil did not get away with it. It may be that they hope, because they have a bigger majority on this occasion, that they will get away with it this time. People's memories may be short but I do not think they are that short. I believe that in time they will recognise that the results, the achievements and the occasionally somewhat unappreciated benefits which flowed from the policy of the previous Government were not too bad at all.

Deputy Ó Briain will tell the dairy farmers now that the difficulty will be to maintain the price of milk. I want Deputies opposite to press now for the publication of the Milk Costings Report and, having got it, to tell the farmers what they are going to do.

I want the Deputies opposite to explain why they are proposing to increase the price of wheat. Will the difficulty again not be to maintain it? Is it not a fact that the problem will be to maintain the price of these two commodities? If we are to maintain and expand our trade the only basis on which we can do it is the policy implemented in the programme of increased production as formulated by the inter-Party Government. On many occasions the phrase is used "one more cow, one more sow, one more acre under the plough". Sometimes that phrase has been derided. It is easy for the Minister for Lands, from the detachment of an urban dweller, to lecture farmers about increased production, about more efficient methods and about new approaches; but it was the last Government that succeeded in reducing the mortality rate of calves, in providing an increased number of live stock for export and in securing for the first time a worthwhile hold on the continental markets.

The figures I have quoted here of the shipments to the Continent indicate what was accomplished last year. Not alone are they dramatic but they indicate the value of the trade agreements that were negotiated and the value of the exportable surpluses of live stock produced here. Where in this Budget is there a proposal "to beat the crisis"? The other slogan used was "Let us get cracking"——

And you got cracked.

You are cracking down on the people now. They are bearing the burden of increased prices for bread and butter, increased charges for petrol and oil and increased health charges. Some Deputies, when they were canvassing during the election, did not tell the people——

You did not mention tea.

I shall mention beer. All these commodities that have been increased in price have been increased without the authority of a mandate from the electorate. When they voted for Fianna Fáil they were not told about this. In fact, the contrary was the case. Their indignation so welled up that repeated denials were made that these burdens would be imposed and that these charges would have to be borne by the public if Fianna Fáil were elected.

Contrary to the recommendations in the Capital Investment Advisory Committee Report, the money that is being saved on the food subsidies is being used to balance the Budget and not to any appreciable extent for capital purposes. The position that has now arisen will take time to develop. We are not in a position at this stage to say what the full consequences of the Budget may be. However, looking at past experience and looking at the situation that developed in 1952, when there was a Fianna Fáil Budget, and in subsequent years, Deputies will remember no doubt the wage and salary demands that accrued, the increases that had to be met, the demands put in, not alone by civil servants, but by the Garda, the Army, the teachers and so on. Every category of private employer in the community was obliged to meet increases in wages and salaries to meet the increased burden that had been imposed in that year by the partial reduction of food subsidies.

On this occasion, the increase in the cost of essential foodstuffs has been substantially more severe and, at the same time, there are substantially increased burdens in respect of transport, in respect of petrol and diesel oil. The full repercussions, the full results, of these decisions will not be felt and may not be seen for six or 12 months. The effects on the cost of production, on the cost of transport, on the carriage of produce by farmers, on the carriage of industrial goods, will be felt after some time in the cost of the commodities for the distribution of which such transport is necessary. Distribution and transport are always vital elements in the cost of production.

What is the use of Ministers talking and lecturing about increased production, increased efficiency, if a deliberate Government decision imposes burdens which will have to be borne by all sections? Whatever else this Budget does, it distributes those burdens equally among the rich and poor. Even the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in his broadcast talk on the Budget, admitted that the allowance in respect of social assistance recipients was entirely inadequate to meet the added burden that has been imposed by the proposals enshrined in this Budget.

We believe that the programme and the policy implemented by the previous Government provided for a substantial expansion in trade, a substantial expansion in exportable surplus of live stock, a substantial increase in employment in industry. These improvements were secured after very great difficulty, after a period in which it looked as though instability might occur. We had achieved a position in which reasonably stable conditions obtained, stability which had been secured only by hard work, by the application of a policy that endeavoured to secure that the burdens were imposed on the people best able to bear them.

The policy of the present Government has jeopardised—I will not put it any stronger—that stability. It is not reasonable or fair to expect that a policy which jeopardised that position will provide any worthwhile expansion in employment or any worthwhile expansion in our economy. Such expansion would flow only from a policy which would enable those people in the community who produce at a profit to sell all the commodities they produce. When appeals are made for greater production, when appeals are made to the people to work harder and to produce more, these appeals should be accompanied by a plan for the disposal of the increased production.

Last year—as we will probably have this year if the weather continues favourable—we had the greatest quantity of milk ever produced. We have a substantial surplus of wheat. Through the land reclamation scheme, the lime subsidy scheme and the provision abroad of markets for our surplus, we are able to produce certain commodities at competitive prices. We can produce them as good as, if not better than, those of some of our competitors. We are told from the opposite benches that it is desirable to import motor car parts. That policy will probably result in a small increase in employment, but it will never enable us to produce goods we can sell at a profit in competition elsewhere. We all know that the motor car assembly industry here is a high cost industry, that the costs of assembly cannot compare favourably with those in Britain and other countries.

However, in the case of agricultural production, in the case of the commodities we have here available—the basic raw materials, the wealth in the land, the skill and the know-how to exploit it—the Government are failing. Is it reasonable for Ministers to lecture farmers about increasing their production, about increasing their efficiency, when the only commodities we can sell competitively abroad are now so taxed that we must seek an outlet in some other form for our milk, that milk must be processed in some form other than butter. How can farmers produce efficiently more goods in the face of the increased transport charges imposed by this Budget?

There is not the slightest chance of this country, except to a limited extent and probably for a limited period, selling a commodity like motor cars abroad. In recent years, we have had a secondhand car trade with Spain and a temporary chance of selling cars in Britain because of the anxiety there to export a large proportion of the entire production. The emphasis is in the wrong direction. The emphasis is now on the aspects of our economy which will not produce any worthwhile increase in employment and which will not enable us to sell abroad an exportable surplus, either to provide us with the capital goods we need or the consumer goods we do not at present produce.

I believe that because the Party opposite have so bemused themselves with talk about policy for beating the crisis that they think talk is a substitute for a policy for production. There is not in any part of this Budget the slightest indication of a policy, a plan or programme which will solve our difficulties. In fact, looking at their past record, it is obvious there is not available the semblance of a policy that will solve our problem. It has been said that people get the Government they deserve. I have no doubt our people deserve a better Government than they have at the present time.

Speakers on the opposite side are adepts at dodging the issue. The purpose of the annual Budget is mainly—primarily, at any rate—to see that proper provision is made, by revenue, to meet anticipated expenditure. In other words, we have the anticipated State expenditure for the year before us and we have to consider what means are to be taken so as to provide the revenue to meet that expenditure. If we do not make proper provision and if, as we had last year, we have a deficit in our current account, the only ways of meeting that deficit are by borrowing, which means going into debt, or by using up savings from the past.

As I have said on many occasions on which we have been dealing with these accounts, the position in regard to the State differs very little—in this matter, anyhow—from the position of a family looking forward to its year's expenditure and to the means by which that expenditure is to be met. If earnings, or revenue or income—whatever term you like to use—are not sufficient to meet outgoings, a position will arise for the ordinary family in which it will run into debt or use up whatever savings have been accumulated.

As a community, we have been using up national savings for a number of years at a very great rate and we have now come to the point at which we cannot afford to go on using them at that rate, but we must make provision from our annual earnings for our current expenses and not merely that, but we must also make provision from our earnings for the necessary capital for further development.

This Budget is introduced, as every Budget is introduced, in order that Deputies may consider the matter as a whole. The expenditure of the State for its various purposes has to be met; the revenue to meet it has to be obtained by taxation. The yearly outgoings must be met by taxation. Everybody knows that taxation is burdensome. Everybody who smokes cigarettes dislikes having to pay more for them as a result of taxation. Everybody who drinks a bottle of stout——

Or light beer.

Or light beer. I was told once that plain Guinness was the lightest beer produced.

So it is.

It is not lighter now.

The man who drinks objects to having to pay more for it because of taxation. The person who has to pay perhaps up to one-third of his income in taxation objects very strongly to taxation. He wonders why, out of every pound he earns, he must pay about one-third of it, roughly speaking, to the State in taxation. Of course it is burdensome. Why does he do it? Why do citizens of a State submit to taxation? Why do they bear these burdens? They bear them because they are able to live individually better lives by living in a community by means of their compactness and co-operation as a community.

If taxation provides them with a police force, then the police force saves them from being attacked by some bully, and sees that such a bully, if he exists, is punished, and sees that the individual's property is looked after. That is one of the reasons why the individual pays taxation—so that he will have the protection of a police force and will not have to go about with a gun in his pocket to defend himself from the bully. Instead, he is being defended by the force of the community, the police force, which is maintained by the community. He pays taxes in order that such a force may be maintained.

Again, some force from outside or some group in the community may desire to build a private army and those who have force behind them may try to become the real government in the community. The ordinary citizen is prepared to pay for an army for domestic reasons, apart from defending the State against outside attack. He is prepared to pay for the upkeep of an army because that army is his defence against some private group of individuals forming themselves into a private army and taking control of the whole community and making slaves of the other citizens. A citizen pays taxes for that purpose and he also pays rates and so on. For instance, he pays taxes for the roads in order to have means of communication. He also pays rates in order that he may have a water supply and so on.

These taxes and the burdens which individual members of the community undertake to bear are undertaken so that the members of the community may have the value of the community's services. One can go through the Book of Estimates and see what the various services are. It would take a separate speech to analyse them and consider the various services which the citizens get for the taxes they pay. When these services are demanded, the question naturally arises of what the cost will be, and whether the advantage to be gained is worth the cost or the burden to be borne. These are the general principles behind taxation, and the undertaking by the individual of burdens which will give to organs of the community the necessary money to supply such services.

When the Dáil considers the Estimates, what it is considering is how the services which are rendered by the State, the organised community, to the individual are to be paid for, and what burdens have to be put on the individual in order that these services may be maintained. We have a Book of Estimates here of £102,000,000 for the current Supply Services for the present year, and the money to provide these services has to be secured. Deputy Costello suggested that the previous Government had, at one time, decided that those services would not exceed £96,500,000 for the present year. We did not print the Book of Estimates; these are Estimates of expenditure that were produced by the previous Government and they had the usual time that is given before the Book of Estimates is printed to consider any possible reductions in them. It is not our Book of Estimates; these are Estimates of the expenditure which was anticipated by the previous Government as expenditure necessary to supply the services to be rendered in accordance with that Book.

Our task here is to see how the revenue to meet that expenditure is to be obtained. That is the task of the Minister for Finance—to bring forward proposals by which the revenue necessary to meet the expenditure may be found, and those who are speaking on the opposite side of the House are, of course, dodging the issue. They are talking about burdens. I could talk for hours about the burdens on certain sections of the community caused by the imposition of taxation. I could talk for a long time on the hardships that are caused by the various imposts either on the individual or on the organised sections of the community, but there is no use talking about those burdens. We cannot have it both ways. I have often quoted the Irish proverb: "Is milis an t-ól; is searbh an t-íoc" (The drink is pleasant; the paying is bitter). It is very pleasant for the individual to get all those services. It is not so pleasant when he has to put his hand in his pocket to pay for them by way of taxation, but, as I say, he cannot have it both ways.

When the Minister for Finance came to face this task, he found, after various adjustments, that there was a sum of £8,000,000 by which the anticipated revenue would be short of anticipated expenditure. The magnitude of that sum can be realised when you consider that when all the additional taxes which are referred to and about which there has been a great deal of talk, are put together, they make only £2.9 million, that they would not go half-way to meet that £8,000,000, and that if we added another 2d., for instance, to the cost of cigarettes we would not get in anything like the amount—about £1,000,000—we are likely to get from the additional tax of 2d. imposed by the Budget; we would probably get in only two-thirds of that amount for another 2d.

Therefore the extent to which you can impose extra taxation on the usual taxable commodities is strictly limited. We all know that it is a pity to put a further tax on petrol, but if you were to double the amount that was put on, you can clearly see you would increase the burden tremendously and you would not get double the amount estimated in the Budget. We have reached a point at which there is a strict limit to the amount which we can hope to obtain from taxation on the commodities which are ordinarily available for effective taxation—effective in the sense that they will give a return commensurate with the expense of collection.

Will Deputies on the opposite side address themselves to the task which the Minister for Finance had to face in bridging that gap of £8,000,000? When we had to bridge a gap of £15,000,000 in 1952, they tried to dodge that by saying there was no such gap, that we were looking for £10,000,000 more than was required. When it was shown at once that the allegation was absurd, they still maintained that it was true. Even when the year's accounts were there to prove it was false, and the year's accounts showed not merely that there was no surplus but that there was, in fact, a deficit of £2,000,000, they still had the audacity and pretence to maintain that £10,000,000 additional taxation had been imposed which was not required.

Will they tell us how this gap of £8,000,000 could be bridged this year? Two ways are always available for bridging gaps like that. One way is to bring down your expenditure and the other is to increase revenue or income. Will they tell us what items could be reduced? We have looked through the various items of expenditure in the time at our disposal, bearing in mind the hardships and the complete change of policy which reductions would involve and the extent to which they would make any appreciable advance in bridging the gap.

The gap of £8,000,000 is a very big one to bridge in this country in present circumstances. One of the biggest items of expenditure is food subsidies. There is a good deal of talk about them now as there was before when we had to deal with a similar problem left to us in 1952. I know the arguments for and against food subsidies, but I never approached the question on those lines at all. I had no intention in 1952, nor had I the intention on this occasion of interfering with the food subsidies unless budgetary difficulties required it.

The Deputies on the opposite benches knew full well what the position is. They say they took a decision in regard to subsidies. I see no record of any such decision. I see no record of a decision that under no circumstances, such as the circumstances of this Budget, would they interfere with them. I admit that there would be a good tug-of-war in regard to this issue, as there always will be when there is an important question to be decided within a Coalition Government, but they did not, as far as I know, ever publish a decision that they did not intend, in their term of office or if they were again in power, to interfere with the food subsidies.

If they did not intend to abolish food subsidies, will they tell us how they expected to produce this £8,000,000? Deputy Costello, when he was speaking here, said they left a clean sheet. That is audacity comparable with their audacity in accusing us of taxing for a surplus of £10,000,000 in 1952. It is true the State is not bankrupt, thank God. The State was able to meet its expenditure of the past year, but how did it meet it? I would like to know the reaction of shareholders in a company in which the board of directors would claim they had a clean sheet in a year in which they had a deficit of practically £6,000,000 on the year's trading. The previous Government failed to meet current expenditure by some £6,000,000.

What was that money paid for? The Guards and the teachers had to be paid. Various expenses of State had to be met during the year. They were met, but how? They were not met from the revenue. They were met by realising some of the past savings of the State, of the community as a whole, and by going into further debt. Is that denied? These expenses had to be met by the realisation of existing assets and by the incurring of further debts. Is that a clean sheet? These debts were passed on. Admittedly the proceeds of the Prize Bonds issue were also passed on but the Opposition speakers did not tell you that £3,000,000 had to be paid from these proceeds in the first month of this financial year to meet the short term debts that had been incurred in order to finance the operations of the previous year.

The previous Government had not a clean sheet on last year's financial operations. The unfortunate thing has been that for a number of years past there has not been a clean sheet on these operations. For a number of years, current revenue has not met current expenditure, and the result has been an encroachment upon the savings of the past. The first thing necessary to put this nation right, to give confidence to the people, is to see that our yearly outgoings are met by our yearly income. We have to do that. Nobody will trust us at home or abroad if we do not do that. We are told, of course, that we are all agreed upon balancing the Budget but when the necessary steps are taken to balance the Budget we are attacked, as if we were the people who had brought about the deficit.

We are all aware that we are at a critical stage in our country's progress and if we are going to save this nation and maintain its independence we will have to give up the dodging of issues. We will have to face them. I have been listening to the speeches made by speakers on the opposite benches. I know what would be said if I had made those speeches. I know what was said when I was sitting over there and they were over here. We have got to give up that. We have a serious situation to face in this country. We believe that we can get through these difficulties just as we got through difficulties in the past.

The primary purpose of this Budget is to lay the true foundation for future progress, for employment and for increased production, by balancing the current expenses by current revenue.

Did you not say the same thing in 1952?

We almost balanced the Budget in 1952 and consequently 1953 was one of the most prosperous years in the country.

90,000 unemployed.

Unemployment was going down rapidly in 1953. There were more people in employment towards the end of 1953 than there were for many years previously and the upsurge continued up to 1954.

There were 100,000 unemployed last year.

People will trust us and have confidence in us if we face these problems and deal with them in a realistic way. If anything was really wrong in 1952-53, it was that we had a deficit of £2,000,000—not a surplus of £10,000,000 as the Opposition had forecast.

Deputy Costello reminded me of the daring young man on the flying trapeze who swung through the air with the greatest of ease. Whenever he wanted to balance the current Budget he took the money from the capital account, and when he wanted to balance the capital account he took it from the current account. Let us, deal with these two things separately. I am dealing at the moment with the current account, which determines the level of taxation and I say that to bridge the deficit of £8,000,000 we had to fall back on the subsidies, not because of any doctrinaire consideration. I know the economic arguments against subsidies and I also know some reasons why we introduced them originally. I dislike very much violent changes, if they can be avoided but we had, nevertheless, to fall back on the subsidies. The total cost of the subsidies for the present year was about £9.6 million. For the part of this financial year in which abolition of the subsidies would be effective, the saving would amount to about £7,000,000. We were anxious now, as we were anxious in 1952, to do our best to lighten the burden on the sections of the community that were least able to bear it and certain compensatory allowances were introduced. The effect of these was to reduce the net savings that could be got from the abolition of the subsidies to £5,000,000. We could have saved £2,000,000 more if we did not give those compensatory allowances to the weaker sections of the community. The Minister for Finance might, of course, have tried to get some of the £5,000,000 by additional taxation. Those who are talking on these lines have taken very great care not to say what extra taxes they propose or what articles should bear the extra taxation and how much would be realised. We went into that matter very closely and satisfied ourselves that the whole of that £5,000,000 was required in order to bridge the gap but it was £3,000,000 short of the amount required and the additional taxes on tobacco, on stout and on petrol were the only additional taxes that seemed to us to be capable of bringing in £3,000,000. That is how we balanced the Budget, by saving a net £5,000,000 on the abolition of the subsidies, and by obtaining £3,000,000 from additional taxation.

Will those who are speaking and attacking this Budget from the opposite benches give us, and not pretend as Deputy Costello did pretend that he was giving, some alternative solutions to the problem? We would be very glad indeed if we had some of the wizards whom Deputy Costello used to boast he had in his Party, the wizards of finance that had £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 knocking about for any Minister for Finance that knew where to look for them. We did not pretend to have such wizards but we did make an honest attempt to try to bridge that gap and do it in the way in which the burden on the community would be least.

The balancing of the Budget, then, is the first objective. I have outlined our proposals. Let those who think they are able to give better ones, give them; but, for goodness' sake, let them not pretend they are solving the problem by talking about the hardships that are imposed. Of course, there are hardships imposed. There are inevitably hardships imposed whenever one has to cut expenditure or whenever one has to work harder in order to equate income and outgoings. These are the methods by which the private individual balances income and expenditure. So, likewise, there are two methods by which the State balances income and expenditure; the private individual must reduce spending and increase earnings and the State, likewise, must reduce expenditure and increase revenue.

Let those who attack this Budget tell us plainly how this £8,000,000 gap can be bridged, other than by the proposals the Minister has put before the House. Let there be no half-way; let them tell us how the whole £8,000,000 can be got and not just how a certain amount can be got. In the background of the Budget, of course, one has always to consider the incidence of taxation and one has to do one's best, against that background, to balance the Budget. There is no use in talking about the burden imposed, unless those who cavil are prepared to show an alternative way of raising the money. Every Government and every Minister for Finance must consider the incidence of taxation when dealing with his Budget proposals. He must examine the way in which the incidence of taxation will affect the various sections of the community and he must do his utmost to ensure that the interests of the community as a whole are served and that the burden is spread equitably.

The main purpose behind our Budget, apart from laying an assured foundation for future progress, is to try to induce conditions which will lead to increased employment and production, which will give greater opportunities to our people for earning a livelihood and, through increased production, provide at least the same standard of living coupled with the opportunity to save. Does this Budget serve that main purpose? I say that it does.

The essential task of the Budget is the filling of the gap that exists and one cannot, therefore, put aside £250,000 for any purpose without looking at it twice. A quarter of a million pounds have been put aside to provide for an investigation of possible markets abroad and to improve our marketing methods, and thus enable us to solve the problems about which Deputy Cosgrave has been talking. We can improve production here, but, as he said—and it was the only sensible thing I heard from him—there is no use in increasing production unless there is a market to absorb that production, a market which will take that increased production at remunerative prices, at prices which will give a fair return for the labour and the expense involved. This Government, anxious to meet that situation and solve that problem, have put aside in this Budget £250,000 for that purpose.

There are also inducements for investment. We are anxious to get more money, if possible, invested in private enterprise here. We believe, and the last Government had the same belief apparently, judging by their professions, that we should depend as far as possible on private enterprise and, as time goes on, we should lean more and more towards private enterprise, towards getting Irish capital invested in private enterprise here so that industry can expand and produce more for consumption at home and for export abroad. One should not forget that when one is producing goods for the home market one is, to that extent, helping to balance the external payments position; because, if you produce at home, be it motor cars or anything else that one would otherwise have to import, you are meeting the needs of the community, and helping to cut down on imports. Therefore, when one is considering the export and import position one must not forget that there are two ways of helping to balance the account.

There is the export side and there is the import side. If we are able to supply our needs with home produced goods, then, to that extent, we lessen the necessity for exports. I am one of those who agree that it is better to balance at a high rather than at a low level; if we can do that, we can provide a better standard of living for all our people. But, however it is done, the external payments account must be balanced. We have to keep our eye on that very closely and we have, therefore, not merely to try to increase our exports but, at the same time, to ensure as far as possible that we substitute home produced goods for imports.

Now, producing goods at home reduces the necessity for importing. It certainly reduces the necessity for importing consumable goods. Increased exports, such as agricultural exports, give one the means of paying for the things one must import either in the form of raw material or otherwise.

This Budget is aimed, on the one hand, at keeping down imports, while, at the same time, helping, on the other hand, to increase exports. It aims at providing employment at home and a decent standard of living for our people. It is no use our deluding ourselves into thinking we are an empire. We have not 3,000,000 square miles of territory with many natural resources, like the United States of America, and it will be very difficult indeed for us here to achieve standards for our people comparable to the standards that they have in the United States with all their vast resources. We are situated between two rich countries which, because of the wealth they have accumulated, their natural resources and their industrial organisation have attained very high standards of living. These are the countries with which we have the closest contact and they serve to set a headline for us. But we have none of their vast resources and it will be extremely difficult for us, with limited territory and a relatively small population—to say nothing of Partition—to emulate their standards. Indeed, it will require great effort on our part to maintain our present standards. We can do it only by working intelligently. We shall certainly have to work harder.

We must use science and any knowledge that science can give us and we must realise that we are in a competitive world. We must not forget that life is a struggle. It is a constant struggle and if we sit back and think that we can drift along, we will have the standard to which drift will bring us; but if we realise that we are as intelligent as the people of other nations, that, man for man and woman for woman, our people are as good as any on the earth and are as capable as other people of intelligent cooperation and intelligent work we can be confident that we can supply ourselves with the fundamental necessities of life. We cannot have everything other countries have but we can provide ourselves with the essentials here.

It was in that spirit we approached our national position many years ago. I remember when the same arguments were used in 1917 and 1918 as are used by some people now, that a small country like ours cannot exist alone and so on. We had to face these before and we faced them, and we believe to-day, as strongly as we believed then, that we can have a decent and a full life and a good standard of living in this country, provided we make a reasonable effort to attain it. We cannot have it if everybody thinks they will be happy by doing nothing. They cannot be. We have got to make up our minds that, because of our size, it will require a somewhat greater effort and more intelligent work on our part to achieve a reasonable standard of living than is, perhaps, required in other countries.

We heard a lot of talk about unity. The one place I can see where unity can be achieved is in the nation's council, here in this Dáil. We can have the right unity here, the unity which will make for progress, the unity which will mean that each and every one of us, upon whatever benches he may sit, will try to do his part in order to improve the condition of the people of the country and advance the status of our nation. I think we can have unity and it is on the secure foundation of the Budget that we can build.

I hope the year that is to come will show, as the year 1953 showed, that when we did face the fundamental task of settling the national accounts, when we did that boldly and when the people understood what we had done, we will have in the coming year fruits to show exactly like those we had to show in 1953. If an attempt is made, by people who do not understand the fundamental problem, to stir up all sorts of friction and difficulties, the task will be made much harder.

With regard to some of the speeches that have been made, I cannot find fault with their being made because it is very difficult to show what might happen without having people say that you wish it to happen, but it is very important that the country should face up to the situation and that every section of the community should realise that the changes effected by the Budget are for the benefit of the community as a whole and, therefore, for the benefit of every section of the community, that every section of the community will gain by increased employment. If companies, for example, increase their profits, they will be able to put those increased profits into the expansion of their industries and thus increase output and employment in those industries.

As I grow older, I have realised more fully than I did many years ago, that a wealthy person—I knew, of course, he could not take his wealth with him to the grave—could not enjoy his present wealth without giving employment. If he drinks a glass of whiskey he gives revenue to the State and helps to provide an income for the maltsters and the growers of barley, and so on. Practically everything he does helps other people to obtain a livelihood. The amount an individual can consume or the material goods he can enjoy is strictly limited so that his envy of those who happen to have more money than he has is very foolish. If wealthy people put their money in the bank, it is used by the banks to give advances to others. If in the old days they had gold and put it away like a miser, I suppose in that way they would have it and the miser's enjoyment of it, but they would have it without, as it were, sharing it.

If company profits increase, then these profits will be used for expansion or put to some other use for the benefit of the community as a whole. In this country individual savings, private savings, compare favourably, at least in some years, with the savings of individual people in other countries. Where we are falling short is that the savings of industrial and other companies are relatively less than in other countries and thus we have a shortage.

It would take a very long time to go into the details of all the points which have been raised by the Opposition. The Minister for Finance will be able to deal with some of the individual items. I have tried to bring before the Dáil the essential task which faces us at the moment, the task of seeing how the expenditure for the coming year is to be met by revenue. I have asked the Opposition not to dodge that issue but to face it. If they have proposals let us have them. We have to confess —and we have gone into the matter very carefully—that we cannot find better proposals in the interest of the community as a whole than the proposals in the Budget.

We should like, of course, to have no deficit to meet; and to have services provided without imposing hardships on anybody; but we are not wizards. We cannot do these things. Therefore, we have brought before the Dáil the only practical means there are of balancing this Budget. I said that it was sheer necessity which compelled us to take the steps which we took, but as I listened to a few of the speeches here, and saw some accounts of those in the Press made on occasions when I was not present, I became convinced that nobody here is able to improve upon them and still balance the Budget.

I appeal to the members of the Dáil to realise that we are in a serious position in the country. I do not want to pretend for one moment that the position cannot be rectified, if we make the proper effort. Fortunately, we are neither on the rocks nor at the last penny of our resources, but we are in a position in which we can take no chances. If we deal properly with this position then the hopes we have behind this Budget can be realised. It is our hope that it will increase commercial and industrial activity and that it will finally enable us to deal with our agricultural problems, which are the most serious. I am very far from pretending that there are not serious problems in connection with our agricultural industry. Deputy Cosgrave spoke about butter; that is one of them. However, we believe all of these problems can be dealt with on the basis of the programme which has been indicated through the proposals in the Budget.

There are a few comments which I should like to make on this Budget with some particular reference to the background leading up to it. It would be unrealistic not to admit that the position of affairs in which the country finds itself to-day is the result of the improvident practices followed by successive Governments, particularly since the war, and of a policy that seemed to be encouraged more by political exigencies than by sound economics.

I shall refer to a few statistics which, so far as I am aware, were not adverted to in this House during the past three days. In spite of the efforts of successive Governments during the past 30 odd years, we had the dismal record during the fiscal year just ended of having fewer people in this country than ever before in our long history. Irrespective of remarks or statistics quoted from either side of the House, we had in fact during the past 12 months or two years the highest rate of emigration since the famine years and, during the past two years, we must also have had the near-highest number of unemployed ever. It would be wrong to blame any particular Government for that state of affairs.

When this State was set up more than 30 years ago a number of amenities had to be provided within the meagre resources of the State and at the expense of more productive employment for our financial resources. I refer to housing, hospitals, roads, schools and such like amenities. These had to be provided and credit for their provision must go to past Governments. Unfortunately, in the provision of these amenities, we neglected to set aside sufficient capital from our resources to invest in agriculture, in particular, over the past 20 or 25 years to ensure an expanding economy.

In the past six years, despite every effort, there was a net reduction of 73,000 persons in employment. That was due mainly to the huge decline in the number of people employed in agriculture. During the same period, we ran successive deficits in our balance of payments which, at the end of 1956, amounted to £163,000,000. Whether statisticians agree with me or not, according to rational accountancy practices we have in fact run Budget deficits in every one of the past six or seven years. It is obvious that we cannot continue with an economic rake's progress without coming to a day of reckoning and, judging from the figures which the Minister for Finance presented to this House on Budget day, it is obvious that the day of reckoning has arrived.

What is sad—and it is my greatest criticism of this Budget—is that the weaker section of the community is being called on to bear the heaviest share of the load. I do not believe the Irish people would object, as they never objected in the past, to sharing a burden or a difficulty. Our history is a sufficient indication of the qualities of our people when they realise they are up against it. Our survival as a nation would never have become a reality if we had not had these qualities in the past.

If you call on the people to make a sacrifice one of the prerequisites to ensure that they will make the sacrifice is that it is borne equitably and particularly that the lightest share of the burden falls on the lightest shoulders. I have no doctrinaire views on the question of food subsidies. In normal circumstances, I consider them a wasteful means of giving out social services. I believe that, in normal circumstances, in ensuring a stable price level for bread, flour and butter, the money could be put to better use if it were given directly to the recipients concerned. I am certain that if there had not been a change of Government the food subsidies would inevitably have been withdrawn—perhaps in stages, as suggested by certain Fine Gael speakers. Inevitably, however, some Government or other would have had to face the fact that, with our present system of national housekeeping, we could not afford to spend £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 a year on subsidising food.

My quarrel with the Minister for Finance in his withdrawal of the food subsidies is that he has not made fair compensatory payments to people in the lower income groups to offset the effect of the withdrawal. I have in mind in particular what I might describe as the least fortunate class in the whole community—those who at present draw unemployment assistance or what is more commonly known as the "dole." Even up to the introduction of this Budget, these people enjoyed the magnificent income of 38/– per week, irrespective of the size of the family. They are the one class which the previous Government completely neglected to include when giving increases some months ago. Nobody will agree that 38/– per week for a man with a wife and five, six or seven children is adequate to keep even body and soul together. Were it not that the local authorities have to supplement that 38/– out of their own funds a large number of people in every county to-day would be at the near-starvation level. I appeal to the Minister to increase the provisions in that respect.

We were told by the Minister when he was introducing his Budget that it is a "back-to-work" Budget, and that the sacrifices he is asking the community to bear are being sought to ensure that sufficient capital will be available to invest in agricultural and industrial undertakings to provide employment, by some means or other, under the substantial capital Budget of over £40,000,000 which the Government envisages spending during the current fiscal year. If that is the case, it should mean, logically, that the amount required for unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance would be less. I should like to suggest to the Minister that that figure should not be reduced pro rata with the reduction in the numbers drawing unemployment benefit or assistance, but that at the earliest opportunity, the figure for unemployment assistance should be brought up, at least to the level of unemployment benefit.

I do not see why there should be any difference between the two classes of assistance because a person drawing on stamps, as it is commonly described, or unemployment assistance must still draw sufficient to keep him at least in frugal comfort during this period of unemployment. I should like to address a particular appeal to the Minister to consider that point.

There is no doubt that the withdrawal of the subsidies will cause considerable hardship and disruption. I do not know if the Taoiseach's appeal to the wage earners to refrain from industrial unrest will be heeded. It is very hard to expect persons in the lower income group to refrain from seeking wage increases to offset the withdrawal of the subsidies and unless the Government itself takes the necessary steps to increase the meagre provision of a shilling per head per week, I think we are bound to have industrial unrest, even assuming that the community as a whole realises that the country is in a difficult position and is prepared to play its part in getting the country out of that position.

I subscribe completely to the theory that the basis of prosperity and national development and the expansion of the economy, must be a sound fiscal policy. I think one of the reasons, as I pointed out a few minutes ago, that we find ourselves in the present deplorable position is because successive Governments, for one reason or another, did not have a sound fiscal policy.

The need to get the country back on a sound fiscal policy now will cause a good deal of hardship and I think it is the first duty of the Government to ensure that the weaker sections of the community are not called on to bear that burden. In the Budget framed by the Minister for Finance the weaker sections will suffer most. I voted with the Government for the imposition of duties on tobacco and beer because I believe if you must raise money the first things to tax are luxuries and non-essentials. I voted against the Government on the question of the imposition of taxes on petrol and diesel oil. In the first instance, I think it is too much to ask the ordinary motorist or private haulier to bear an additional burden of 6d. a gallon on petrol. I think it is quite inequitable that the private section of the passenger car or the motor truck industry should be asked to bear this completely, while the national transport system is completely excluded although it is competing with the private section of the truck industry.

One thing lacking here at the moment, and which the Government must restore, is confidence in the Government. I think that the huge increase in emigration, particularly among the younger and more vigorous sections of the population in recent years, is indicative of that lack of confidence. I sat in this House yesterday afternoon and heard Deputy Dillon say that nobody need leave the country. I could not possibly subscribe to that theory. People do not leave their homeland just because they feel like wandering, although there will always be a certain section who want to travel abroad because they are of the adventurous type. The big bulk of the people are leaving because they cannot find decent employment at home. They go because there are better opportunities abroad, in England, in the U.S. or elsewhere. They lack confidence in the future of their own country. I think what I say in this regard would be supported by most people in public life in Ireland to-day. It is tragic to meet young men with families—they come to every T.D. or public man—seeking work of any kind so that they can stay at home, and yet finding that they have to leave their wives and families and go abroad.

Perhaps I am the only one in this House who regrets it, but I am sorry that the Minister has decided to discontinue the Irish News Agency. I know it is losing quite a substantial amount of money but I feel that with this Agency we had an opportunity of breaking through what is known as the paper wall and getting the Irish point of view recognised abroad. I believe there is great necessity for Irish propaganda and publicity abroad. Recently I spent a few weeks in the U.S., and while it would be unwise—and I would not attempt it—to give a complete opinion after such a short time, I feel there is no doubt but that there is a tremendous need for more publicity and propaganda, not only among Americans of pure American descent, but also among Irish-Americans of the second and third generation. I think the News Agency offered one medium for promoting our views abroad and for collecting the views of other countries, and for seeing that Irish news and views were disseminated particularly in the U.S. That does not happen at the present time. As a matter of fact, Irish news items in the American papers, when they do appear, are to a large degree distorted, and very much in our disfavour.

The question of the substantial increase in the price of flour has been mentioned. I think it is quite wrong that the price of flour should be lower than the price of pig feed which has been the position up to now. There is no doubt that, due to that fact, a big amount of flour is being fed to animals.

That is not correct. That is nonsensical.

That is an absolute fact. I know something about it and I know what I am talking about.

The cost of administration in this country, considering the size of it, must be one of the highest, if not the highest in the world, and it is a disappointment to me, and I am sure to most members of the House, to have heard the Minister for Finance say that, out of a Civil Service expenditure of £17,000,000 a year, he anticipates a saving of only £250,000. In any business where the overheads are too high and where the business is running at a deficit, one of the first things to be attacked is the cost of overheads, and I would suggest to the Minister that a more energetic attack should be made on this dead hand that is impeding the country's progress and development. Seventeen million pounds for a tiny country of less than 2,000,000 people seems to me to be completely out of proportion.

Surely the population has not shrunk so much?

The success of the prize bonds scheme is a tribute to the previous Minister for Finance and, in spite of what has been said from this side of the House, I should like to join in the tributes paid to him for getting that scheme going. I do not know whether or not it is a great compliment to us as a people that, for the purpose of investment, money cannot be raised through National Loans, but that when it comes to gambling on the future of the country, the effort is an unqualified success. Perhaps that is indicative of the position in which the country finds itself at present.

If we are to raise capital for investment in the country, it can be raised from only two sources. One is our own resources, by savings, either voluntary or through taxation; the other is the savings of some other country. Everybody in this House would prefer that the capital requirements for investment, in agriculture particularly, and in industry should come from our own savings, but that would necessitate such a reduction in our standard of living that it would not work. I feel that we will have to offer inducements, even more attractive inducements than the Minister envisages in his Budget, to get outside capital invested in this country. I would direct the Minister's attention to the possibility of outside capital, particularly American capital, being invested here. The return must be attractive and very attractive, but if we do want to attract foreign capital quickly, that is one of the likely ways of getting it—that and tourism.

Tourism, at long last, has been placed on a business-like and hopeful basis. I should like to pay a tribute to the board of directors of An Bord Fáilte for the efforts they are making and have made since their appointment in recent years to expand the tourist industry. I have no doubt that there will be a very substantial increase in the number of tourists coming to this country, particularly from the United States, this year and in subsequent years. That, again, is one sure way of increasing the national income quickly.

The Government were elected to put the people back to work. That was the cry on which they went to the country. The Budget which they have produced will cause a good deal of hardship. The Government owe it to the weaker sections to make better provision than they have made in the Budget to lighten the burden caused by the withdrawal of the food subsidies. If the Government are to succeed in their efforts to put people back to work, they must attack the problem with more energy and certainly more seriously than has been the case so far.

Capital investment of itself will not secure employment. The country needs more than that. It needs leadership, in the first place; it needs a sound policy; above all, it needs amongst the electorate a firm belief and confidence that the people who are leading it know where they are going. If the present Government can apply these qualities, everybody in the House will, I am sure, give them support but if they fail in the effort, they will have deserved any criticism the House can give them, from whatever quarter it may come.

Irrespective of the glossy statements made by the Taoiseach and other members of the Government regarding this Budget, it must be asserted that the Budget was introduced with callous disregard of the general position of the people. It is all right for the Taoiseach to make statements here regarding the necessity for such a Budget and to imply that he and his Ministers are honest and straightforward with the people and that there was no alternative to this Budget or to the increased taxation and the removal of the subsidies, but, if the Taoiseach and the people behind him are as honest and straightforward as that, why did they not during the month of February and up to 5th March indicate clearly to the people that these measures would be essential?

I dislike the Government Party claiming a monopoly of honesty in political affairs because I believe they are not honest and were not honest with the people during the recent election campaign. I feel sure that, if the people had known that Fianna Fáil's remedy for the problems of the country was to impose these numerous burdens that have been imposed in the Budget, Fianna Fáil would not now be the Government.

If the inter-Party Government were to adopt such measures, they would have had no difficulty in solving their problems. If the inter-Party Government had told the housewife that she would have to pay more than 2/6 extra for a stone of flour, that she would have to pay more than 3d. extra for the loaf of bread and if they had told the owner of a hackney car, a taxi or a private lorry that he would have to pay 6d. a gallon more for petrol, with a view to getting a further £1,000,000 from him in the current year, it would have been very easy for them to solve their problems, but the likelihood is that, in the natural dispensation, money will not be available to meet this heavy taxation.

Last year, when the Budget was exceptionally light and the impositions extremely moderate in comparison with the present Budget, it was alleged by Fianna Fáil critics, from their leader down, that the commodities they have now taxed could not bear further taxation. That was clearly set out by the leader of the Fianna Fáil Party and by Fianna Fáil Ministers and backbenchers in the debate on last year's Budget.

I do not blame all Fianna Fáil Deputies—only a few—for inflicting this Budget on the Irish nation. I know that many of them are as disappointed and as disgruntled as I am or as any other Deputy on this side of the House is. They had no say in it. I am well aware of that. This Budget could be brought in only through the system of Government that now obtains—a dictatorial system of Government. If, say, the inter-Party Government were to suggest the introduction of that type of Budget, they could not succeed in doing so because the elected representatives supporting the inter-Party Government in its two terms of office had a say in what legislation should be enacted. There was no question of disclosing Budget secrets or any other State secrets, but every Deputy supporting the inter-Party Government had a right to express his or her personal views to the Cabinet and to offer opinions as to what he or she thought was reasonable.

The same position, of course, does not obtain in the case of the Fianna Fáil Government. It does not matter what the scores of Deputies from the country may think. What matters is what the leader of the Party thinks and possibly what a few others think. That is the reason that we have this infliction on the people in the current year.

It is all very well to appeal to trade unionists or to lower income groups of workers, to farmers, industrialists and everyone else to take no notice of this. "Pay up and look merry" is more or less the theme of the Taoiseach's speech—"Do not take any notice; do not look for any increases in incomes to offset these burdens; reduce your standard of living, because it is too high". The Leader of the House made that point very clear in his speech a short while ago. I cannot see why the wife of the ordinary worker is not entitled to some increased remuneration to offset paying more than 2/6 a stone for flour and to offset the other increases imposed by the Budget. A few years ago, when small increases were imposed Fianna Fáil incited the people to seek increases, both here in the Parliament and in the local authorities in the country.

I would like the members of the Government to put themselves in the position of the thousand and one families throughout the country composed of six or seven members and living on incomes of £3, £4 or £5 a week. How are they to get the money to pay the extra prices for these essential foodstuffs? Hardship is going to be imposed on them and they have no alternative but to seek increases. Where is that going to lead to? I cannot see that this Budget is going to bear any fruit one way or the other.

We have an increase of 7d. per pound in the price of butter. Let us examine the position minutely. Ministers in this Government and in previous Governments have asked the people to increase agricultural production and have said that, by increasing agricultural production, all our difficulties will be solved. The position, whether we like it or not, is that we are producing much more butter than we need. The previous Government thought it advisable, having regard to that fact, along with a number of other factors, to subsidise the home-produced butter with a view to increasing consumption at home and thus saving the expense of subsidising it to dispose of the surplus. It must be taken into account of course that it is a very sound food and a very nourishing one for families with lower incomes who need it most.

I am assuming that, due to the subsidy given to butter by the inter-Party Government, we did consume more butter in this country than would otherwise have been the case. Now where do we find ourselves? We have the position that Fianna Fáil has increased the price from 3/9 to 4/4 a lb., that is, 7d. a lb. increase. What will the result be? I am offering my personal opinion that the result will be, as it is bound to be, a reduction in the consumption of butter and a much greater exportable surplus. The figures available to me for the export of butter show that it costs the taxpayers 1/8 per lb. for every extra lb. of butter we produced to sell in England or in any other country. The result is that for the 1 lb. of butter we sell to England, we will have to pay as much by way of subsidy on it as we would have to pay on 4 lb. of butter which we use at home.

Whilst listening to the last speaker, I made some small calculations regarding that matter. On the basis that our exportable surplus of butter will be 1/8 per lb., it means that every 12 lb. of butter we export will cost us £1. If we are to export, say, 12,000,000 lb. of butter, it will mean that we will have to subsidise it, at present figures, to the extent of £1,000,000, and 12,000,000 lb. of butter represents 4 lb. of butter per head of population. On my calculation, as a result of this imposition the overall consumption of butter will be reduced by an average or at least 4 lb. per head, per year. That means an additional imposition in taxation of £1,000,000 and, in my opinion, the general reduction will be much more than 4 lb. per head as a result of the price of butter going beyond that which the ordinary people can afford.

I cannot understand why we have not got some more definite explanation about increased agricultural production and I could not understand the previous Minister for Agriculture either in this regard. We have an exportable surplus of milk and milk products but we cannot find a market for them. Everyone knows that so far as increased agricultural production in other lines is concerned, the same position applies. The farmer who has 14 or 15 pigs fattened and ready for a fair has the one hope that at the time he sells them, the supply will be down, because then the demand increases and the price increases. If he is unfortunate enough to have the pigs for sale when the supply exceeds demand, he knows very well that he will not make any profit.

The previous Minister for Agriculture did help in that regard, so far as pigs are concerned, by assuring farmers, or pig producers, of a minimum price of £11 15s. per cwt. Of course, that is the price that is now paid when pigs are in plentiful supply, but, when they are not, it is exceeded by an average of £2 per head. So far as the production of pigs is concerned, there is an element of gambling involved. One has to gamble as regards supply and demand.

During the election campaign, Fianna Fáil speakers, in West Cork at any rate, made use of propaganda which gulled some innocent people regarding the poultry position. I am particularly interested in that industry because it was of great consequence in West Cork and provided self employment for many womenfolk. That, unfortunately, has now disappeared. The position is, as the Minister for Agriculture intimated to the Dáil fairly recently, that we have no market at present for poultry products. England, our main market for eggs, has more eggs than it requires. The same applies to turkeys. Because of the importance of the poultry industry, I believe it is incumbent on the Minister for Agriculture to state from time to time his policies in regard to that industry. At present, there is a tendency on the part of many people to get out of eggs and poultry altogether.

There is another matter to which I should like to refer. I made a brief reference to it previously—the tax on petrol and diesel oil. I am not in agreement with that tax. It is all right for some Fianna Fáil Deputies to say that petrol is mainly used by joyriders and holiday makers. That is completely false. I can visualise the difficulties of hackney owners, of farmers with tractors and small trucks, of small business people with lorries and vans, trying to meet this extra imposition. If the Government need money, I do not see why they should obtain it from these already overtaxed items. Of course, they are handy items and the tax is easily collectable.

We heard a lot from Deputy Lemass and others during the Budget debate last year on the question of an increase on cigarettes. Now the old men's plug tobacco has been increased by 5d. That was not told to them during the election campaign. Neither were the cigarette smokers told about the increase that has gone on the price of cigarettes. The previous speaker mentioned that these were luxuries. I believe it is out of place to describe those items as luxuries to-day. For many of our people, they are their main relaxation—a drink in the evening after work and a smoke discussing their problems with their neighbours. I do not regard these commodities as luxuries. That is what the people got from Fianna Fáil before. They should have been wiser on 5th March. If they had been, they would not have these burdens to bear at present.

Another item is this question of the availability of money for employment. I know it is a very vexed question. I know there is not much justification for making money available except for productive work and economic schemes. I know very well that money has always been in short supply in this country and is likely to be in the future. I know it is difficult to arrange matters so that full employment will be available for all, even despite the fact that we have a small population. What I am worried about are the large sums of money made available by the State for non-productive purposes without any return whatever. Unfortunately, because of the present set-up, these moneys must be paid. I am referring to unemployment benefit and so on. I believe the majority of our people do not want unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance or any other type of benefit; what they want is work.

I have in mind the rural parts of the country where the average wage is about £5 5s. per week. At present, every man who has been in insurable employment, who has a wife and at least two children, and who is now unemployed, receives £3 1s. from the State. That money is going dead. That man has to remain idle in order to draw that money. If he does any work, it is a criminal offence to draw the money and he is liable to be indicted for it.

Could we devise some system whereby this money, paid by the Department of Social Welfare for this most unproductive purpose, could be supplemented by money from other State Departments? Instead of giving a man £3 1s. per week for doing nothing, give him an extra £2 4s. or £2 9s. a week more and get him to do some productive work. The result would be that, for the expenditure of an extra £2 10s. per week in rural districts, we would have a full week's work from a worker instead of having the situation in which he has to degrade himself by going along and signing forms to obtain assistance which most of our workers do not like.

I was hopeful that the previous Government would make better efforts to solve that problem by having some co-ordination between the Department of Social Welfare and other State Departments employing people. If we had more co-operation, there is a world of useful productive work to be done throughout the country. There are roads to be improved, rivers to be cleaned, drainage schemes to be put into operation and other schemes such as afforestation, etc. I appeal to the present Government and I appeal to the Minister who happens to be present. I know Deputy Lynch is a sensible man and he understands the problem reasonably well.

I appeal to him to try and endeavour, in his capacity as a member of the Government, to achieve some co-ordination between the moneys made available from, say, the Special Employment Schemes Office and other sources and that provided by the Department of Social Welfare, in order to avoid having to make money available in a manner which everybody in the country, including the recipients, dislikes. I have made that statement previously and I reiterate it to-day. I have taken a special interest in it. Many of the people who helped to put me here and who are in receipt of this money dislike having to receive it. They would prefer to have another couple of pounds and be put into productive employment.

We had a campaign by the Party now in Government that general hospital and mental hospital services should be provided free of charge. The previous Government brought in legislation, which apparently did not measure up to the requirements of Fianna Fáil because it included charges for certain items. However, the position now is that the present Government proposes, along with the other impositions placed on the people by this Budget, to make them chargeable for fees where hitherto they paid nothing. In some instances, specialist services are now to be charged for. Under the inter-Party Government legislation these services were free. Hospital charges have been increased by 4/– a day, from 6/– to 10/–. I think that the money spent on the Milk Costings Commission set up by Fianna Fáil when previously in office is money that has gone completely down the drain.

In conclusion, I want again to voice my indignation at the proposals in this Budget which imposed such sudden burdens on so many people. The people who will be hit hardest are those in the lower income groups—people in self-employment, small farmers and small businessmen. I cannot believe that these proposals will have the effect of bridging the gap in our economy since they will give rise to strife, insecurity and instability. The difficulties we already had will, I believe, be multiplied by this savage Budget.

Might I raise a point of order? Of the last five speakers, four have been from the other side of the House.

The Chair is endeavouring to be fair to each side of the House. Up to the moment the Government have had eight speakers, Fine Gael seven, Labour three, Clann na Talmhan one and Independents three. The Deputy will see the Chair is endeavouring to apportion speakers as fairly as possible.

I might further add that when Deputy Corry finished last night both Deputy Cosgrave and I rose. I also rose to speak this morning. Deputy Cosgrave was followed by the Taoiseach. Then Deputy Russell spoke and we have just had Deputy M. P. Murphy.

Deputy Loughman will be called upon in due time.

If I might further add——

The Deputy has succeeded in making a speech already.

On the same point, on the Estimate for the Department of Local Government I endeavoured to make my contribution while nine speakers were called upon.

Does the Deputy think——

I may raise the matter with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

The Chair has dealt fairly with all sides of the House. If the Deputy thinks he has a grievance against the Chair he has a remedy.

I shall take that remedy.

Very well. Deputy Jones.

I suppose it is rather easy for members of the Government to be upset by references from this side of the House as to what they said this time 12 months. On that occasion we had the present Tánaiste saying that there was not a Deputy supporting the Government at that time who did not owe his seat to the repeated pledges he had made to his constituents that he would endeavour to reduce the cost of living. On that occasion I think the Tánaiste used the words: "What a pack of phoneys you have proved to be". He was also at pains to speak of the taxation which was imposed at the time. He spoke of dearer matches, dearer lemonade for the children. I wonder if the Tánaiste, in his capacity as an Opposition Deputy at that time, ever thought it would be the turn of the Opposition to speak of dearer bread and butter for the children?

On the same occasion Deputy MacEntee, when speaking on the Budget, said that an effective Budget was one based on a reduction of expenditure, a reduction in taxation, and he contrasted that with the record of the previous Fianna Fáil Government in keeping prices stable. Surely that is in strange contrast with what has now happened in this Budget. I think we may be pardoned if one this side of the House we refer to what was then stated from this side of the House and what now comes from the opposite side of the House.

There was reference at that time also to bank deposits and to rumours which were alleged to have been afloat that the Government might make demands on the banks. In the meantime, of course, by the operation of the inter-Party policy, and particularly in the past year, the figures show that deposits have gone up, that investments have increased, that external assets have expanded.

External assets have increased?

That there has been an improvement in the balance of payments. In the light of these facts I suppose it would be taken as unfair if, at this stage, we drew attention to the suggestion of the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement that, if public support should be insufficient, recourse to the banks might be necessary.

In his Budget statement, the Minister also referred to agriculture. I think everybody in the House will agree that it is to agriculture in all its phases we must continue to look for expansion in our economy which will enable us to produce the standard of living of which we hear so much. In that connection, I wonder what the effects of the removal of the subsidies on bread and butter will do. I speak on behalf of a dairying constituency, so naturally I wish to speak about butter and milk. If the price which creameries will now have to pay for their milk is dependent upon the sales of their butter, I wonder how the small creameries in County Limerick will be able to compete with the larger creameries. They will have, of necessity, to sell their butter stocks. How will they get on in the ensuing situation as a result of what I believe will be a diminution in the consumption of butter here at home?

Surely it must follow that if the price of butter increases, as it has, by 7d. a lb., the average household, at the present level of income, must reduce their consumption of that commodity. This will create a problem for the dairying industry at a time when they have old problems to contend with. In the past year, instead of an increase in the number of milch cattle you had a reduction from 11 per cent. to 13 per cent. in production in the first few months of this year. At this juncture, when the dairy farmers were expecting an increase in the price of their milk, the position now is that the support has been taken away with the subsidies. That will immediately mean that where a dairy farmer intended expanding he will now have to review his proposed expenditure in that respect. This is not just a single industry: it is a basic industry on which many others depend and from which many others spring. Where ordinary industrial concerns have a measure of protection by the imposition of tariffs, in this case the subsidy was a production subsidy as well as being a support or a cushion for the consuming public.

We learned yesterday that our production of wheat evidently is now reaching the stage when it will become rather an embarrassment to the economy of the country. It would seem at this stage as if what Fianna Fáil said when in opposition is now the opposite, when they are at the other side of the House. Last year, a Deputy on the Fianna Fáil Benches complained of the complacency of a Minister who said he would be prepared to face his constituents on the latest Budget. I wonder how many of the Ministers or Deputies on the opposite side of the House now would, with the same complacency, face the electorate?

On that occasion, too, Deputy Corry, I think, shed a lot of tears about the old age pensioners' tobacco. He also was very upset about the private hauliers; he said the Government last year was putting them out of business. I am sure he will agree that, equally so on this occasion, the same arguments can be used. It is hard to understand what arguments can be used at the present time for removing an import duty on non-essential and luxury goods such as had been applied in the levies, while at the same time increasing the cost of living by removing subsidies and increasing the price of essential commodities.

There has been an appeal for savings. Savings are very desirable and very necessary, but how can the ordinary wage earner afford to save, if the essentials which he needs for everyday consumption are increasing in price? Similarly, how can those who have money to spare be induced to spare it, if at the same time what may only be classed as luxuries become freely available through the removal of those levies?

We have a transition period in the dairying industry at the moment. It would need time to readjust itself to what is now about to become its biggest problem, that is, how the milk may best be disposed of at a profit to the farmer and without embarrassment to the finances of the country. When farmers are faced as well with the problems of the eradication of bovine tuberculosis, the improvement of cow byres, the installation of water, and so on, surely it was the wrong time to bring the dairying industry into the state of uncertainty which I feel will be bound to occur in the circumstances of the present Budget?

The previous speaker referred to the increase in the cost of living by the removal of those two supports, and by the imposition of the petrol tax. That tax is bound to have another effect, as Deputy Russell said—in regard to tourism. You have in this particular year two increases—the increase in food prices and the increase in transport charges. The transport charges will, I suppose, increase the cost of materials which are moved. In that respect, particularly in rural areas, there are very many people who depend on private transport of the lorry type or who are hackney owners who depend for a living on it. Times have been lean enough, but this further impost will not make them any easier for them.

I listened carefully to what the Taoiseach had to say in regard to the general Budget problems and I was struck by the philosophy which he expressed of the happiness that is to be obtained in sharing one's money. We all realise that people cannot take money with them but I am afraid that not too many people like to allow other people to spend their own money for them.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,

Deputy Cosgrave in his speech expressed as emphatically as he could the value which the Fianna Fáil Deputies seemed to set on repetition. It is very evident since this debate began the enormous value which the members of the Opposition set on repetition. Every speech to which I have listened from the beginning was not only repetition of other Deputies but repetition of many things which I have heard from the same Deputies 20 years ago in this House. I listened, for instance, to the first speech made here in this debate by Deputy Norton and I would say that I could have repeated that speech ten years ago having heard him make practically the same speech many times during the period I have been a member of the Oireachtas.

He began by saying how surprised the people would be when they read the papers the morning after the Budget statement had been made and what a shock the people would get when they read the terms of that Budget. I do not know where Deputy Norton had been living for the fortnight before the Budget was introduced, but it is common knowledge that every ordinary citizen, for a fortnight before the Budget, anticipated almost accurately what was made known to us on Budget day.

Take the tobacco increase. The only thing the people wondered about was would the Minister leave it at the 2d. or make it more. As to the increase in the price of petrol, they wondered would it be as much as 6d. In relation to the food subsidies all citizens, both those represented by the Deputies opposite and the Deputies on these benches, having seen what was stated in the Book of Estimates, anticipated the absolute necessity on the part of the Government to take drastic steps this time in order that our Budget might be balanced. For him to express the feeling that the people would be surprised, that they would be shocked, was the greatest bit of hypocrisy to which I have listened since I became a member of this House very many years ago.

When the Taoiseach was elected, Deputy Norton asked a question of him as to whether he intended to abandon the food subsidies.

Because he knew they intended to do it.

Deputy Norton expressed surprise that he was not answered that they did or did not intend to abandon them. This was the day the Taoiseach was elected. The Deputy knows that the Book of Estimates was not issued before the general election. It was published after the general election. When the former Tánaiste asked that question he was well aware of the financial position and he knew positively that any Government succeeding the outgoing Government would have to take drastic steps if they were to provide a balance at the end of this year. There is no doubt that what was in Deputy Norton's mind when asking that question was what he was going to say when the Budget was introduced a fortnight later.

As I have said before, Deputy Norton is in this House quite a long time. He has made the same speech here after every Budget: "Fianna Fáil never did anything right in this country." I do not know what Deputy Norton did right while he has been a member of the House. Maybe the only right thing he did was to throw in his allegiance with the Party to which he should belong when he joined Fine Gael during the period of the Coalition. Deputy Norton was one of the men who spoke about pledges, and we have been hearing a good deal about pledges during the last few days. He was the man who gave an undertaking he would join no Government except a Labour Government but, of course, he forgot that pledge, and several other Deputies forgot the pledges they made, too. I do not want to weary the House with further talk about Deputy Norton.

Deputy Blowick is the Leader of what is called the Clann na Talmhan Party. There is no such thing as the Clann na Talmhan Party so far as this House is concerned. He is perhaps the Leader of three people here.

I suppose the Deputy will eventually come to the Budget?

I have a pretty clear knowledge of the procedure of this House.

We are discussing the Budget. I am not surprised the Deputy does not want to talk about it.

I am talking about Deputy Blowick. He spoke here as Leader of the Clann na Talmhan Party, and I am challenging his right to be reckoned in this House as the Leader of a Party.

Is this in order, Sir?

When the Ceann Comhairle tells me I am out of order I shall accept his ruling.

I was about to intervene.

I shall not go too far. Deputy Blowick spoke about all the pledges which Fianna Fáil gave and broke, and he nearly became hysterical in making all those statements. I was listening to Deputy Blowick in Clonmel at a time when Clann na Talmhan had a few members, announcing that under no circumstances would they coalesce with Fine Gael.

What Deputy Blowick said in respect of the Budget would be relevant to the discussion but what he said on other matters does not arise in this debate.

What I was trying to get around to was that a man who lives in a glass-house should not throw stones.

I am not an authority on that.

Perhaps I shall have another opportunity to speak about it elsewhere.

At an election.

Tipperary is well able to look after itself.

I listened to Deputy M. J. O'Higgins entertaining us the night before last and yesterday morning. I have heard that speech before. It was the same old speech again. He referred to the announcements of the Fianna Fáil Party, the very effective announcements, that put Fine Gael on that side of the House. He quoted up to June of last year. He did not go any further. It was in June of last year that the writing was on the wall for Fine Gael and the inter-Party Government. It was at that time they should have given the country a chance by retiring and allowing a Government that was capable to take over the affairs of the country. It was at that time that the mess became so huge. All they could do was struggle along, notwithstanding all that the people said about them and notwithstanding the results of the by-elections.

Then came the second break-up similar to the one which put them out of office previously. What Deputy O'Higgins said has no concern with the people of Ireland. They pay no heed to anything he says. If I am talking in this strain on the Budget it is because this was the trend of the speeches made by practically all the speakers on the benches opposite with, perhaps, the exception of Deputy Cosgrave. Nobody attempted to deal with the Budget. They were mainly concerned with the Deputies on this side of the House, with the personalities and characters of Ministers. Very little was said about the Budget in any of their statements, and my excuse to the House for speaking in these terms is simply that I follow the bad example given by other Deputies.

I listened to Deputy Dillon for a long time. He even told us about his ancestors. He referred to John Dillon. When Deputy James Dillon was, perhaps, a youngster, I was a follower of John Redmond, before John Redmond, in my opinion, caused a split in this country.

Deputy Loughman's assessment of policies at that time is very interesting but it is another matter which is entirely irrelevant.

I understand that last night Deputy Dillon told us something about Mr. John Dillon and Mr. John Redmond.

The Deputy has not spoken on the Budget yet.

There has been very little said on the Budget yet.

That is another reflection on the Chair.

I am just doing what I am allowed to do. I have, perhaps, more respect for the Chair than Deputy O'Sullivan has.

The Chair will insist on respect for the Chair which is respect for the House, on every occasion.

What I was going to say about Deputy Dillon perhaps I may have the opportunity of saying elsewhere. I regard the persons mentioned as national figures. The people who speak of them should have certain rights to do so and should deserve to speak of them. I shall leave it at that.

I listened also to Deputy Corish last night. The main burden of his speech was the small reliefs which this Budget provides for people enjoying unemployment assistance, the old age pensioners, the widows and orphans and also the small relief in family allowances. I think he was quite surprised when I reminded him of the fact that all these services were provided by Fianna Fáil. I would like to remind Deputy Corish, who was Minister for Social Welfare, that the social welfare services of that description handed over to us in 1932 were unemployment assistance and old age pensions. They had been handed over to this State by the British when they left in 1922. Any social services, over and above these two, that we have in this country to-day for the benefit of the underpaid sections of the community, are due entirely to the Fianna Fáil Party. In the main they were carried through this House when Fianna Fáil had an absolute majority over all Parties and when they had no need for a push from the Labour Party which Deputy Corish represents.

Deputy Corish mentioned the great loyalty of Fianna Fáil members. He said that, like little sheep, we would follow the Taoiseach into the lobby regardless of what the Taoiseach asked us to vote for. Before Deputy Corish was born we were following that same leader and, on the front benches of this House, there are still people who followed him with guns on their shoulders. If we do follow de Valera we are conscious of the fact that he never led us astray and that when we follow him we will be following in the right direction. We resent very much the suggestion of Deputy Corish that our leader, the Taoiseach, would expect us to follow him blindly anywhere.

The Deputy is living in the past.

I remember the time when Deputy Dillon was Minister for Agriculture. He told us in the Seanad when he was introducing the holidays-with-pay measure for agricultural workers that the Labour Party were as quiet as mice when that measure was going through.

That has no bearing on the Budget.

I was dealing with the suggestion made by Deputy Corish last night that we followed our leader blindly and if I cannot deal with that I do not know where I am. He said we followed our leader regardless of where he led us and I was refuting that statement. I feel, with all respect, that I am entitled to refute that.

Having refuted it, the Deputy might come to the Budget.

I mentioned Deputy Cosgrave's taking exception to the repetition which Fianna Fáil speakers, according to him, have indulged in and I said, too, that I thought his speech was the most constructive speech we had had from the Opposition Benches during this debate. At the same time, it was, in my opinion, full of errors. When reading the list of increases in the Civil Service over the past 20 years or so, he said that all these increases occurred during the period in which Fianna Fáil was in office. I asked him if the list he was giving was a list of permanent officials and he told me, in reply, that it contained both permanent and temporary civil servants. The odd thing is that, while these temporary civil servants, numbering more than 5,000, we were told last night by Deputy Corry, were appointed during the emergency to deal with rationing and various other matters, all 5,000 were made permanent by the inter-Party Government. Therefore, instead of Fianna Fáil being responsible for the increase which did take place in the Civil Service, at least 5,000 were appointed, possibly in one block, by the inter-Party Government.

Deputy M. P. Murphy, I thought, was another Opposition speaker who dealt fairly with the Budget. He dealt with it in a better fashion than most of the other Opposition Deputies who have spoken here so far. He, of course, wanted to know why we did not tell the people in February that we were going to remove the food subsidies and tax tobacco and beer. I heard many speakers say that we promised the people that we would not do these things, though the complaint was levelled against us by another Deputy that we went before the people looking for a blank cheque. According to one section of the Opposition, we were making no promises and, according to another section, we were making all manner of promises. The Opposition, of course, has always had the unhappy habit of wanting things both ways.

How could we in February, without any knowledge of the position of the country's finances, tell the people that we would or would not either increase or decrease taxation? We could not do that. We might say to the people that it was not our intention to do that, but that was the most that we could say. We might say to them that, if we found there was something in the "kitty", we would give reliefs, but we did not know what was in the "kitty". I listened to the present Minister for Finance speaking in Carrick-on-Suir on 3rd March, two days before the election, at a public meeting. He said then that he would not promise any reliefs in taxation; neither could he, except by guessing, say that there would be any increases; these things would have to be dealt with when the finances of the country had been examined.

In view of these statements, why is it we must be asked now why we did not tell the people in February that we were going to remove the food subsidies and increase taxation? Deputy M. P. Murphy said that it was incumbent on the Minister for Agriculture to adumbrate State policy in relation to poultry and to make statements of policy in this matter from time to time. It was a great pity that he did not make that recommendation to Deputy Dillon early last year, when he was Minister for Agriculture, before the people started to go in for the production of turkeys on a large scale. I mention turkeys because the Deputy mentioned them. If Deputy Dillon had his eye on the market, he must have known early last year that it was going to be tremendously difficult to sell the birds produced last year. If Deputy Dillon had warned producers last year that the market would not be there for them, I venture to say that thousands of our people would not have found themselves in the mess in which they were when they had to sell their birds at a price lower than the cost of raising them.

We stand over the changes we have made in this Budget and, when the time comes, we will face the people with confidence—the confidence that we have always had in them. It has been my experience in a long public life that the failure of the Parties opposite is due entirely to their underestimating the people's intelligence. We have gone to the people under the most severe circumstances. We have told them the actual position, as we saw it, and the sufferings they were going to endure because of actions we proposed to take, and they have never let us down. Since 1932, we have been the greatest single Party in this House and to-day, having been in existence since 1926, this Party is at the peak of its strength, and all that, because we have confidence in the people and because the people have confidence in the leadership which Fianna Fáil gives to the Irish nation.

The Deputy who has just spoken rather startled me in his opening remarks by saying that the Budget which he was going to defend was a Budget which the people expected and, he rather suggested, eagerly awaited. I wonder whether his colleagues in the Government Party, listening to him, felt the same difficulty as I felt in restraining a gasp at the audacity of the Deputy in suggesting that, since the last general election and since the new Government took office on 20th March, the people accepted that the new Government had their authority to bring in a Budget of this kind. That, in my opinion, is an insult to the intelligence of this House.

The same Deputy said that many of the speeches made on this side of the House contained repetition. Had he remained, he would have had the embarrassing experience of hearing me repeat, in a different fashion, many of the things that have already been said. I assert that the present Government have no authority or mandate from the people to bring in this kind of Budget. More particularly, they allowed the people to vote for Fianna Fáil candidates in every constituency in the country in the belief that all these candidates were pledged to retain food subsidies until such time as the cost of food——

Not at all. That is nonsense.

I hope the Deputy who interrupts will remain to listen to some of the points I have to make.

I will speak for myself.

There is no member of the Deputy's Party remaining.

Deputy O'Higgins is in possession at the moment.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,

I should like to place on record that it is the duty and responsibility of the Government always to maintain a House. It is reprehensible that Fianna Fáil members will not remain in this Chamber to permit the proper discussion of this Budget. I should like to tell them that if they cease to maintain a House, the attention of the Chair will be given to it.

On a point of order, is it a breach of the Rules of Procedure for a speaker on the Opposition side to call for a House because he has no other Fine Gael Deputy on the benches to do so?

I am calling for a House to ensure that Fianna Fáil Deputies will be here to listen to some of the false promises they made to the people only four weeks ago.

In 1954, we were promised better times.

Deputy Galvin was elected to galvanise this House.

If Deputy Giles goes, the Deputy speaking will have to call a House for himself.

I assert that every Fianna Fáil candidate standing in the recent general election was a candidate pledged to maintain food subsidies——

Nonsense. There was not a promise.

——until such time as the cost of food fell. I wonder do Deputies on the other side who were elected recently remember the important planning speeches made on their behalf in the last 12 or 18 months. I have here a specimen, printed in the Irish Press of 14th March, 1956, under the heading “Lemass Analyses National Economy.” It is a very intensively thought out speech and a comprehensive survey of all the things a Fianna Fáil Government would do, if elected to office. Here is what the then Deputy Lemass pledged on behalf of Fianna Fáil in relation to food subsidies. He says:—

"Food subsidies must be accepted as likely to remain a permanent feature in the Estimates unless a very steep fall in the cost of living should take place and that is not very likely, to put it mildly."

Then he goes on to give a personal view of his own:—

"I would like to express the personal viewpoint which I hold strongly that the maximum advantage can be obtained by concentrating all the money which can be voted for food subsidies on flour and bread prices alone."

Mind you, it is important in the interests of democracy here that these things should not be just shrugged aside. There is a pledge, given by the deputy-leader of the Fianna Fáil Party to the people of this country some 12 months before the general election, to the effect that their Party was committed to maintaining food subsidies as a permanent feature in our Finance Estimates until such time as the cost of living fell steeply. Deputy Lemass said that, to put it mildly, that did not appear likely.

Our people can stand a lot, but I have yet to hear that they justify anything approaching false pretences. If the then Deputy Lemass did not believe what he then said, then he was pretending something falsely to himself and falsely to the people. Unfortunately, the miserable story does not end there. Unfortunately that speech by the Minister was not the end of the false pretences of the Fianna Fáil Party. During the general election we, representing the then Government, had to face —and we did not shirk it—criticism and opposition because of the things we had to do and because of the economic and financial problems which faced the country and which were common to all political Parties. We were faced by the Fianna Fáil Party who had their slogan: "We can beat the crisis; vote Fianna Fáil; let's get cracking."

During their speeches coming up to the eve of the poll, the leaders of Fianna Fáil started complaining about blood-curdling stories that Coalition speakers, as they called it, were telling. I have here a very fine account in the Irish Press of 1st March this year of a speech by the Minister for Justice, then Deputy Traynor. In this speech, the Minister for Justice complained of the suggestion made by the then Tánaiste that a Fianna Fáil Government, if elected, would take as its first action the withdrawal of the food subsidies. That was a blood-curdling story, the Minister told his audience, spread in order to deceive them.

Is it fair for me to suggest that those who listened to the then Deputy Traynor making that speech came away satisfied in their own minds that what Deputy Norton had said was untrue and that Deputy Traynor and his colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party were pledged to maintain existing food subsidies? Of course, the story does not even end there. The Tánaiste who we have known from his speeches during the past two years was determined on behalf of Fianna Fáil to maintain food subsidies spoke just a few days before the people voted in Waterford. It has been referred to already, but there is no harm in referring to it again. He said, as reported in the Irish Press of 1st March, 1957:—

"Some Coalition leaders are threatening the country with all sorts of unpleasant things if Fianna Fáil becomes the Government, compulsory tillage——"

we have not had that yet—

"wage control——"

that has not yet taken place—

"cuts in Civil Service salaries——"

not yet—

"higher food prices and a lot more besides. A Fianna Fáil Government does not intend to do any of these things because we do not believe in them. How definite can we make our denial of these stupid allegations? They are falsehoods."

How, in any democracy, can any Deputy sitting over there who has any sense of honour or personal dignity continue to support, as the Deputy Leader of the Government, a man who gave that clear pledge to the people and who, having been elected to office, very quickly and very definitely supported a Budget which increased the price of bread by 5d. a 2-lb. loaf, which put up the price of butter by 7d. to 4/4 a lb. and who did all that despite his pledge on behalf of his Party that none of these things would be done and that to suggest otherwise was to state a falsehood? Who told the falsehood? Is it not now as clear as daylight that the blood-curdling stories we told the people in the last General Election were unfortunately only too accurate and that those Deputies sitting on the other side of the House who called our allegations falsehoods were themselves indulging in a false pretence on the people of the country?

Of course, it does not end there, as we all know. On the very same day, the Taoiseach, as Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, also gave a pledge that a Fianna Fáil Government would not increase the price of bread. His speech at Belmullet was reported in the Press on the 1st March, 1957. It is noteworthy that at least three leaders of Fianna Fáil, coming up to the eve of poll, should, each of them, make the same kind of speech about the same subject, that is, food subsidies.

Three leaders?

One leader and two aides-de-camp. They made a speech about the same subject, each of them intending to convince the people that they need have no fears about the abolition of food subsidies if they supported Fianna Fáil.

It is deplorable that it should have to be said in this country, where we should not only value but honour our democratic institutions, that we now have in office a Government that, within three or four weeks of assuming office, has discredited its name, besmirched its reputation and acted quite contrary to the pledges it gave to the people. I suppose that, having secured a majority in this House, the hard-headed political bosses of Fianna Fáil feel they can get away with anything. Maybe they can and maybe they cannot. However, so far as Fine Gael is concerned, it is our duty and our concern here, as long as we are in this House, to stand for and to defend democratic principles.

It is fundamental, if we are to retain decency in Government, that each political Party facing the people must be prepared to do so with clean hands and must be prepared to put its policy before the people rather than to get the people's support by pretences of different kinds and then, when in office, do something quite contrary to the impression created when the people went to vote. I do not know whether or not the Fianna Fáil Party would have won the last General Election if they had said to the people of Cork, whom Deputy Galvin represents, and to the people of Dublin and to the people elsewhere throughout the country who unfortunately have to depend largely on bread and butter: "A vote for Galvin means that you will pay 1/2d, instead of 9¼d. for your 2-lb. loaf. A vote for Galvin means that, instead of 3/9d., you will pay 4/4d. a lb. for butter."

Do not forget to mention tea.

I am certain that if that had been done the people might have been galvanised into action. Of course, we do not know what would have happened. If the Fianna Fáil Party had come clean with the people it is possible that Deputy Galvin would not now be sitting over there on the Government Benches——

If you had come clean in 1954 you would not have been the Government.

——and perhaps Deputy Mooney might be reclining now in Monaghan rather than here.

The people got tired of you.

Deputy Mooney will get an opportunity of making his statement.

There are some Deputies over there who would not be here to-day if the Fianna Fáil Party had indicated their intentions to the people.

The Deputy was very nervous.

The Deputy was shaky for a time.

Possibly I would not have been nervous if Fianna Fáil had told the people their intentions.

Who is shaky now?

Leaving aside the miserable election campaign indulged in by the Government Party, leaving aside whether or not they have authority to introduce this Budget, leaving aside all that and faced, as we are, with the unpalatable fact that the Budget contains this very revolutionary proposal in present circumstances that there should be a complete abolition of food subsidies, I should like to discuss the merits of that proposal. We all know, I think, the economic arguments that from time to time have been advanced against food subsidies. It has been pointed out that food subsidies are a subsidy towards consumption and that, to that extent, they are not a healthy form of expenditure for the State. These considerations, like many other economic proposals, are all right, provided they are seen both by the speaker and the listener in the same light, but I think Deputies will appreciate that food subsidies which have existed here for ten years, despite a previous abortive attempt by Fianna Fáil, have long ago ceased to be merely a way of making food cheaper for the people.

We could have cheap bread without difficulty by importing cheap foreign wheat; we could have cheap butter quite easily by importing cheap New Zealand butter; and therefore these subsidies were not given merely for the purpose of providing a cheap loaf or cheap butter for the people. They were given for another and an important purpose, in order to encourage production. They were production subsidies aimed at increasing production from the land. Food subsidies were part of an effort to encourage the growing of native wheat and to increase milk production. They were essential for the purpose of encouraging production even on lines in respect of which we could not economically meet competition. They had that aspect.

The food subsidies also represented a subsidy towards the maintenance of a particular wage level. No one can doubt the fact that when those charged with responsibility negotiate a wage structure, an important element in the discussions is the cost-of-living index, and the cost of living plays an integral part in the entire wage structure of the State. There-fore, any expenditure by the central Government which helps to keep down the cost of living is an expenditure which helps to keep wage levels lower than they might otherwise be. It therefore follows that the subsidisation of food plays not only an important part in increasing production, but also in maintaining wages at a particular level, and to that extent, enables us, or should enable us, to export goods we might not otherwise export.

I mention this because there are as many arguments from an economic point of view in favour of food subsidies as are often advanced against them. Whether they are to be regarded as a temporary expedient or a more permanent feature of our economy as Deputy Lemass, as he then was, seemed to regard them, the fact remains that, at a time when the country needs an expansion of exports, it is scarcely appropriate that a prop to production, cushioning it in respect of wages and other kinds of costs, should be suddenly removed. It appears, to my mind, that the time is not auspicious for a step of that kind. I know that the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement expressed the hope that the removal of the food subsidies would not result in an increase in the level of wages. I wonder whether the Minister made that statement with his tongue in his check. It is very like the case of the man who lays a fuse to a keg of gunpowder and then expresses the hope that it will not explode. I wonder what kind of muddled thinking could have permitted this action to have been taken.

During the past two and a half years, the Government had many difficulties to face, not the least of them being the effect on our economy of a dramatic increase in wages. We were, and we are, well aware that such an occurrence can have quite disastrous effects on the economy, but, in the past 12 or 18 months, we had reached a position of stability so far as wage levels were concerned. Employers and employees recognised that an unprovoked wage increase could, in present circumstances, have a very disastrous effect. Certainly, the Government now must have had the same advice as we had; the facts must have been as apparent to them as to us. Nevertheless, in a most capricious and irresponsible manner, the Government has taken this action which is bound to have the effect of destroying the stability so dearly won in the past 18 months.

If there is a further increase in wages, it must be conceded that the economic arguments in favour of the abolition of food subsidies will have disappeared and, indeed, our later position may be considerably worse, and the national economy may be faced with many new and quite terrifying problems; but if that takes place, the responsibility rests entirely on the Government who brought this situation about, contrary to their pledges, without a mandate and, I believe, contrary to the national interests.

May I just mention one or two other facets of this Budget? I hope Fianna Fáil Deputies will realise that the Budget does not end merely in making the poor person in Dublin pay 5d. more for the 2-lb. loaf and 7d. more for the lb. of butter, or the farmer's wife in my constituency pay 32/– more for the sack of flour—it does not end there, because the effect of this Budget will permeate right through the financial structure of the State. The cost of all local authority institutions will increase substantially this year. The rates which people will have to pay for their maintenance will increase. In every sphere of activity, as a result of this Budget, taxation, direct or indirect, will be heavier. Again, if rates increase this year, how will Fianna Fáil Deputies explain the position?

Rates have been increasing over quite a number of years. Last year was the first time that a position of stability seemed to have been reached. In the rate for this financial year, many local authorities were able to report that the corner had been turned and, for the first time in many counties, this year, rates were reduced. Again, that position has been thrown aside and we will have a further increase in local taxation.

All these things flow from a Budget which I feel cannot represent the considered opinion of men of ability concerned for the national interest. It is a simple thing to say, if there is a gap of £5,000,000, that that can be found by spending £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 less on the subsidisation of food. Might it not have been worth the Government's while and more in the national interest to have considered alternative methods in order to get the country out of its present difficulties?

The Government took over on 20th March without a penny piece of debt. They took over, and were fortunate to be able to take over, with the premium bond scheme initiated and in a position to obtain some £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 of small savings in a short space of weeks. They had no urgent or critical financial crisis facing them. All that needed to be done was a bit of intelligent planning and the introduction of a tonic Budget to get the country out of its temporary financial difficulties. The balance of trade problem had been eased, if not solved, by the actions taken by the previous Government. A savings campaign had been initiated and money was coming in and was available to the Exchequer.

Of course, the import levies were pinching some toes. It was inevitable that import levies on luxury articles must cause dissatisfaction to some people, but they were temporary and they were aimed at getting the country over a hump. They yielded last year close on £5,000,000, which, in fact, was the money needed for current purposes in this financial year.

The Government might have thought of retaining food subsidies, certainly for another year, or reducing them gradually and using the revenue from these levies for current purposes. That, at least, was an expedient that might have been considered. There is nothing wrong in it because these levies represent the yield of taxation on imported luxury articles. Instead of that, the Government proceeded to slash the levies. The levies disappear from high-powered motor cars because those interested in the motor car industry were opposed to the levies. The levies disappear from television sets because, again, those interested in selling television sets to the Irish people were against the levies. To all these sectional interests, the Government yields and reduces the levies, which this year are estimated to yield only some £2,500,000, about half the yield last year.

Again, it seems to me that action of that kind was scarcely in the public interest, if it was done by a Government that intended to make up the leeway by taxing the food of the people. How can a Fianna Fáil Deputy having any regard for his own conscience explain the action of a Government who remove taxation from television sets and high-powered vehicles, umbrellas and all the rest of it and impose taxation on bread, make the loaf dearer in order, amongst other things, to enable Irish wheat to be sold for animal feed? Do Deputies realise that in this Budget statement there is shown a loss of £150,000 on the sale of Irish wheat for pig meal and feeding for greyhounds, which loss is covered, amongst other things, of course, by increasing the 2-lb. loaf from 9¼d. to 1/2? That appears to me to be the economics of a lunatic asylum—to subsidise, by charging more for bread, the sale of native wheat for animal feed.

All these considerations are matters for individual Fianna Fáil Deputies and their individual or communal conscience. It is our concern, on this side of the House, and in this Party particularly, to defend the people, in so far as we can, against burdens which we regard as unjust and against a breach of faith by the Government Party, and we will continue to do that.

I know that, in the Budget, tardy and grudging recognition is given to the fact that dearer food may mean want may mean suffering, for many families and, accordingly, some compensation is given to recipients of social assistance. It was my task as Minister for Health in the previous Government to make some decisions which I knew to be hard decisions and which I might have liked to have been otherwise.

I had on many occasions, sometimes at the insistence of Fianna Fáil Deputies, to say to recipients of tuberculosis allowances that our financial circumstances could not permit an increase in the payments they received. Again, on discussions on Health Estimates, I had to say to Deputies here that the disablement allowance of £1 per week, for the person incapable of working, was as far as we could go in present financial circumstances. The people in receipt of these allowances were either sick or were odd lots on the labour market, unfortunate people who, by reason of illness or infirmity, were forced to depend on assistance from the State. Like all the rest of us, however, they have to eat and they have formed the habit of eating bread and butter. Like all the rest of us, these people will now pay more for their bread and more for their butter, but they are not to be compensated. A person who has tuberculosis or who has any other infectious disease and requires good food and building up is not to be compensated in the slightest for the fact that he now has to pay more for bread and butter, and accordingly can buy less bread and less butter.

May I express the hope to the Government that, irrespective of whether they had authority from the people to introduce this Budget, and irrespective of whether it is a sound or an unsound thing to abolish food subsidies, they will provide some form of real compensation to those who are really in need? I am glad that recipients of the old age pension, the widows' noncontributory pensions and recipients of unemployment assistance are getting some slight increase, but it is not enough by any means. It is tragic that the sick and the disabled should be entirely excluded. I do hope that the Government, even at this late hour, will reconsider that aspect of this appalling budgetary proposal and will at least take some steps to cushion the less fortunate sections of the community from the effects of this drastic step.

I think it would be wrong for me as a former Minister for Health to conclude what I have to say on this debate without referring to the proposal in the Budget, which was confirmed yesterday by its circulation, to increase charges under the Health Act. The Health Act, in its passage through this House and in its acceptance by the people outside, was a highly controversial measure. I never concealed my views with regard to it. I always felt that fundamentally its philosophy was at fault. I always felt that it was inclined to encourage our people not to rely on their own efforts when they could.

The Deputy appears to be discussing the Health Act instead of the Budget.

This is in the Budget.

The Deputy's Party was always against the Health Act.

I did more to bring in the Health Act than the Deputy did.

He had a dirty job bringing it in.

I want to remind the new Deputy from Cork who came here to galvanise us all that when I became Minister for Health and had the duty and responsibility of bringing the Health Act into operation, I faced considerable difficulties, but I was pressed by Fianna Fáil Deputies time and time again as to when and how I was bringing the services into operation. They were brought fully into operation this time 12 months ago, on 1st April, 1956.

How does this relate to the Budget? The Deputy is going into too much detail.

I am referring to the increased charge of 10/– per week contained in the Budget statement.

The Deputy has not referred to it yet.

I am about to refer to it.

The Deputy has been dealing with the Health Act.

May I proceed to discuss the Budget reference to the health contributions?

That is what the Chair hopes the Deputy will do.

These services which are now being dealt with in the Budget came into operation 12 months ago. For the first time, insured workers and others had to pay a hospital contribution of 6/– a day. That is scarcely 12 months old and there were many insured workers that I knew to my cost who were surprised to learn that, under the Health Act, they had to pay a charge of two guineas per week. Many of them made the case to me that that charge was too severe in certain circumstances. It is now proposed under this Budget that, instead of a charge of 6/– per day, each insured person will pay 10/– per day. I wonder how do Fianna Fáil Deputies make that fresh charge conform with their slogan of a few years ago: "Should wealth mean health?"

Of course, it does not stop there. The provision in the Health Act for free specialist services to all eligible persons is now thrown overboard and it is proposed to impose, for the first time in this State, a charge for the specialist services on those in respect of whom the State has a duty.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.