He may have, but, in fact, he has not. Apart from that, if I buy a pair of shoes now and a similar pair six months later, they will be different models. The factory will given them different names, one name now and a different name in the next six months. The prices can be different. We can do nothing about that. Men's suits stay more or less the same but ladies' wear changes as time goes on and the price for such articles cannot be controlled by any means. The Minister for Industry and Commerce obviously has very little business experience when he says that strict price control will be applied.
Take things that can be controlled, such as the price of bread, because the two-pound or the four-pound loaf is a standard commodity. You can also control the price of Guinness stout. You can control the price of certain things like that but you cannot control the price of food. If a housewife buys rib-steak or sirloin steak or any cut of meat, the place where the butcher stops cutting that particular cut and begins on another is a matter for himself. Even how he describes the cuts differs from one part of the country to another. We cannot do anything about bacon or meat or a wide variety of articles. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, in suggesting that we could control and would control prices and that we would not have increases because of this Budget, was being extremely innocent.
A shop in the west of Ireland had to buy eggs from people who came in because there was nobody else in the place from whom they could buy. There was always a loss on the eggs but when the loss on the eggs became intolerable they increased the price of tea. Does that make the Minister for Industry and Commerce understand that you cannot have price control? You may try but you will fail. Therefore, the imposts put on in this Budget will result in increased costs.
Of course this is an election Budget and the Minister for Industry and Commerce tried to make a virtue of this by suggesting that if it was a Budget that the people liked it was therefore a good Budget. I believe some of the things that have been done are a little bit shady. I think the Minister has little or no control on the eventual out-turn of the financial year but when he comes to what is above the line and what is below the line in expenditure he has very considerable control.
I was in the office of a local authority not so long ago when a phone call came through from the Department in connection with a project costing £400,000, for which tenders were out. The man at the end of the phone asked when it was expected to have the contractor in and he was told "Around about August." The voice at the other end said: "Then you will not spend the whole of the £400,000 and we shall make that £200,000." The truth is that if a contractor completes the work by the end of the financial year he will draw his £400,000 because the manner in which he will be paid will be written into his contract and if he gets a certificate that the work is done he will draw the money, and more luck to him. Yet, the pruning of the capital Budget is being done in this manner.
You have, also, as I said, the question of what is above the line and what is below the line. There is a certain advantage that can be taken here by the Minister and in relation to the coming general election I believe he has taken it to utilise it for the benefit of the Fianna Fáil Party.
The Second Programme has gone: it failed. In the Minister's glorious phrase, which he invented, there was excessive qualification in the Second Programme. So, in the Third Programme there will not be excessive quantification. This means that in the Second Programme the Minister was hoist on his own petard and he will not allow that to happen again. We shall find the Third Programme more vague and we shall have far less detail in it. In fact, it will be a programme that we will not be able to pin on the Government when it fails.
I am not usually a harbinger of bad news or a doleful Johnny, but before passing from this I want to say that the position in relation to bank lending appears to me, according to any information I could get in the last few days, to be parlous, to say the least of it, and that the situation is that, if the ratio of money lent to money on call is as high as is indicated, then we are in trouble. Those of us who run businesses on large overdrafts are in serious trouble. This is because, of course, of mismanagement by the Govenrment.
Much play has been made this morning in relation to the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement and there was a sort of antidote produced for the fact that our trading balance with Britain had deteriorated. It was said that we are taking more from Britain and less from other countries. When I asked what about the £50 million deficit, the Minister for Industry and Commerce retorted that the £50 million included a very large measure of capital goods and capital goods were nonrecurring in a lot of cases and were for the good of the country in regard to the creation of employment here. I do not accept that.
The situation is that in 1965 a balance of payments deficit of £41.8 million resulted in a credit squeeze, in a slowing up of economic activity, in a slowing up of activity by the local authorities, in a slowing up of our whole economic and active life here. Such a deficit now which on March 18th, when the Minister wanted to go to the trade unions and make a bargain, was a national catastrophe is not a catastrophe at all. It is tweedle-dum and tweedledee in many things in relation to the Minister. He is on two sides of the see-saw trying to balance himself with his weight on each side at the same time when he cannot be in two places at the same time. He cannot say that the economy of the country was in a dreadful condition on 18th March and then say last week in the Dáil that everything in the garden was rosy and be reported in the Evening Herald last night as saying it was the best year of our lives. If there is a scarcity of money in the banks, if there is a situation whereby the Central Bank cannot redeem £50 million worth of Exchequer Bills, then we have a financial crisis on our hands. If we have, then this Budget should have done something about it; or, even if very little was done about it, the Minister should have taken the opportunity of his Financial Statement to tell the people what to do about it. Neither was done because there is an election in the offing and Fianna Fáil desire to get themselves back into office.
The small helps for agriculture pinpoint the fact that Fianna Fáil sincerely believe, as they always did— and there may be some truth in what they think—that the farmers are extremely loyal to their political Parties and there is not much sign of a swing in farmers' votes. They may be wrong because I think the farmers have taken enough from Fianna Fáil. The very small advantage they get in relation to lambs is related entirely to mountain sheep farmers. It is not of any use to the ordinary farmers. The 3s per barrel on feeding barley, which was mentioned as an advantage of this Budget, is just like feeding a dog with his own tail. If the Government underwrite the price of feeding barley, because of the system of buying the barley from An Bord Gráin itself, what will happen is that if farmers get 3s more per barrel, other farmers will pay 3s more per barrel when they buy it back as feed or as an ingredient of compound feed for their livestock.
The claim made by the Minister this morning that the fact that the price of cattle was never better was because of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement is, of course, all cod. The truth is that the fact that the price was never better is because of the foot and mouth disease and the slaughter policy in Britain and this may carry on for another six or nine months. The truth also is that anybody buying store cattle at present could not make money unless there was a spectacular increase in price or unless it stood at a level never reached before. It does not seem as if that would be possible. Therefore, while certain farmers could be getting an advantage at the moment, certain others are not. It is not the Minister's fault or the Government's fault. It just happened because of the foot and mouth disease in Britain and the fact that the numbers in Britain were reduced by the slaughter policy. He cannot take credit for it and no one should blame him either. It is just one of those things that happen. It had nothing to do with the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. All that Agreement did for us was to give us a subsidy on 25,000 tons of beef. That I freely accept as an advantage. When that outlet is done, then that is the end of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement as far as cattle go because, whatever may be said about 68,000 head of stores, the fact is we had access for 1,068,000, if you like, before the Agreement and that without reducing tariffs against British industrial goods.
Let us face the fact—and I agree completely with the Minister for Industry and Commerce—that you must look forward to free trade, that, in 1975, 72 per cent of our industrial production will be open to the full blast of free competition, with no tariff, if there is no change in the Agreement. We heard from the Minister for Industry and Commerce this morning that we are looking towards the Common Market again. Of course, we are looking towards the Common Market. But let me say that I believe that de Gaulle is not alone in France in not wanting Britain in, which means we do not get in, and that the opposition in France to the entry of Britain to the Common Market, and therefore to our entry, may well be just as strong as it was before de Gaulle left office.
I sincerely believe that there is a very strong view in France that if Britain gets in an enormous number of Britain's difficulties will be transferred to France because of the difference in price level in the two countries. That is the reason France wants Britain kept out. The fact that there is a lower price level for commodities in Britain would give Britain an advantage which would remove a lot of her troubles at the moment and transfer them straight into France's lap. This is a personal opinion. I think, if you examine it, it does hold water. One way or the other, whatever you say about it, the position simply is that the Minister or the Government cannot take credit for the present high price of cattle.