It strikes me that the discussion on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill is bound to be more or less a barren discussion. We have no power to refuse a Second Reading to it, and it is merely to register their opinion I suppose that Senators have made short speeches upon this Bill. I wish at any rate to record my opinion, which is that the fiscal policy which has been followed in this country for about 80 years cannot show such results as would justify the continuance of that policy now when we have the power to adopt a fiscal policy suited to the needs of the country. Our industries, or mose of them, are ruined and our population is reduced to one half. Some of the Senators who spoke from the agricultural point of view expressed an opinion not dissimilar to that which formed the leading point of an article in the "Irish Times" of the 12th June, and which contained this passage:—"For all practical purposes, during the lifetime of the present generation at any rate the Free State will have only one industry and only one customer." I cannot think that Senators would be voicing the opinion of the country if they were to endorse that statement, and yet the continuance of the fiscal policy that has obtained in this country until the passing of this Bill in the Dáil must have resulted in the way described.
Our industries, or many of them. were in a decaying condition, and as to the single customer to whom we were to send our agricultural produce, we must recollect that we have not now for agriculture that protection for our live stock which we had for many years, until the admission of store cattle from Canada on the same conditions that affected store cattle in this country. I am told they are likely to be dangerous rivals; at any rate it must diminish the demand for our store cattle. As to increasing the supply of beef cattle, that is not likely to take place without some considerable help from the Government, though we are informed by the Department of Agriculture in their journal that no crop that we can produce under present conditions will pay the cost of production. That means the falling off or decay of tillage and with the decay of tillage it means the creation of more unemployment. If industries are to be allowed to go it means that there is no outlet for our surplus agricultural population except to cross the Atlantic; that surely, from the point of view of the welfare of the State, is not a desirable end, and therefore I have held always and continue to hold that industries in this country must be encouraged and strengthened if necessary by means of protective duties. Otherwise the State is ill-balanced resting on one leg only, and that is agriculture, and our produce, which we sent to England, is that which gives the least employment, that is cattle off the grass. There is a statement made by Senator Sir J. Keane which he did not attempt to prove by figures or facts. He suggests that owing to the very limited measure of protection afforded by the Government in the Finance Bill that the cost of living had increased.
I have had reports from industries that came in for a measure of Protection that that is absolutely opposite to the fact. I have particulars as regards two industries, the only industries that really have been so far much affected. One is the boot industry. We must bear in mind also that the amount of boots that were dumped in this country previous to the duties coming into operation amounted to practically six months' supply for the country. It would be rather difficult to judge the effects of Protection when 536,000 pairs of boots were dumped in the brief interval between the fixing of the duties and their coming into operation. I have a letter from one firm of bootmakers, the Lee Boot Manufacturing Company, which states: "My firm are turning down no orders that come along and are not behind time in their deliveries. I have sent orders amounting to 2,000 pairs per week since Protection came into being." Not only are they meeting this demand, but they are prepared to extend their present factories, and should extra trade warrant it they will make still further extensions. That is merely one firm. As regards the confectionery industry, I had a statement from Williams and Woods, and it is only one of twenty manufacturing companies in connection with the confectionery trade. "Since a measure of protection has been afforded to the confectionery trade we have been extremely busy, and have increased our staff of workers by 150, between reinstating hands who were out owing to slackness, and new hands. Our building contractors are making considerable additions to our new works. We are installing new machinery, and expect to considerably increase our output with consequent addition of employment." As regards the soap industry, 1,212 tons of soap, four months' supply, were dumped in this country previous to the duties coming into force.
In the bottle trade, 200 tons of foreign bottles in the case of one company alone were dumped here. That shows that manufacturers under these protective duties have not had a fair opportunity of extending their works, but it may be a satisfaction to know that so far none of these trades have increased their prices. How these protective duties which were made merely as an experiment can be said to have increased the cost of living, I fail to see. Perhaps when we come to the Committee Stage we can get information on the point, more information than I have been able to get, but I think it well as I have this information in my possession, I should give it to the House. The principal object of these changes is to provide employment. That is mainly a question concerning labour. It affects the general taxpayer, because if there is no employment these unfortunate men who are failing to find any means of living must be supported by the State in the form of the dole. Therefore, whatever measure the Government has introduced in the form of protection, and I am merely speaking of such protection as is afforded by the duties in this Finance Bill must be to the benefit of the country at large, as it does not increase prices, and it provides employment.
I do not wish to take up the time of the Seanad by a long dissertation on the comparative merits of Protection and Free Trade; both are merely shibboleths. We have no such thing as Free Trade, and never had, nor had England. Free import is all Free Trade means. There is no freedom of trade between different countries. As to agriculture wanting protection, I suppose no industry in the country gets more protection than agriculture. If you take the Free Trade policy, thislaisser faire policy, what justification can there be for the millions now spent in the protection of agriculture? It is being done by the acquisition of land and the distribution of it, by the improvement of stock, and in the teaching of agriculture. That is not at all in conformity with the principles of laisser faire, so that for the agriculturists to say that they object to Protection or assistance given to other industries seems to me an inconsistent policy. I do not wish to do more than to draw your attention to the fact that the resolution which was proposed by Mr. John Milroy, who spoke as President of the Irish Protectionist League, was debated by the Dáil. It is not suggested that it is committed to an all-round policy of Protection, and if you recollect, the terms of it were as follows:—“That the Dáil is of opinion that the Government, in considering fiscal problems, should have regard not merely to the admittedly restricted view of the matter taken by the Fiscal Enquiry Committee as indicated in the final report, but should examine the problem in the broadest possible aspect, due regard being taken to the factors affecting the general welfare of the Saorstát.” That is a matter we all agree with. The general well-being of the Saorstát is what we are concerned with, and as a means of promoting that well-being I do not see how we could adopt any other method than a limited measure of protection.
We have this evidence from a well-known English economist. Mr. John A. Hobson, than whom there is no more robust Free Trader, is responsible for the following statement in one of his most recent publications, "The Evolution of Modern Capitalism," page 100:
"It must be generally admitted that English industries would not have advanced so rapidly without protection, but as we built up our manufacturing industries by protection, so we undoubtedly conserved and strengthened them by free trade; first, by the remission of tariffs upon the raw material of manufacture and the machine making, and later on by the free admission of food-stuffs, which were a prime essential to a nation destined to specialise in manufacture."
I think most people in the country assume that when we can control our own destinies the first object to which the efforts of the Government could be devoted would be to build up our industries, and, as you will recognise from this quotation, the industries of England were built up under Protection. Personally I can see no other way when you are dealing with industries that are capitalised in other countries. Industries in this poor country should have all the assistance the Government can give them to develop. We know that mass manufacture, as it is called, is the only way in which the cheapest boots can be produced. We are faced with the difficulty that with the exception of one or two industries such other industries as we have are not highly capitalised. They are producing on a small scale, and their expenses must be greater, but the only way, so far as I can see, to keep the crisis within bounds is to give our industries a chance, and the more produced, the cheaper will be the cost of producing the goods. As I have already pointed out, it has not followed on the adoption of this limited measure of Protection that the cost of goods has been increased in this country or what is supposed by political economists is bound to take place, that is, the duty being added to the price and the consumer paying it, has not taken place. Therefore, I have every reason to believe that instead of following the experience of other countries the protection of our industries does not mean increasing the cost of those goods. Naturally, I can only express an opinion, but that opinion is based on the experience of other countries and the very limited experience we have so far of the effect of protection upon our own.