In continuing the debate on this Industrial Alcohol Bill, I should like to say that I approach the Bill with mixed feelings. In fact I might say that the Bill is, in many respects, a characteristic product of the Minister's mentality and outlook on life. I think we must recognise— at least I consider—that the Minister has a kind of dual personality, a kind of Jekyll and Hyde combination in his composition. I would not go so far as to say that he suffers in any degree from that mental disease known as schizophrenia, but I am sure we must all recognise the fact that, even before the invention of D.D.T., there were no flies on the Minister, not one, and it would be, I think, a valuable public service if we could eliminate entirely from the Minister's character the Hyde element and facilitate him in appearing consistently before the nation as the beneficent Dr. Jekyll character that he tends to be more and more as his political maturity develops. Now, there are certain elements in this Bill which reflect the Dr. Jekyll aspect of the Minister's character, and I thoroughly welcome and approve of those elements.
I agree that money, to any reasonable amount, is well spent in facilitating industrial research, and I am also of opinion that it is desirable that there should be, side by side with the activities of the Industrial Research Bureau, a pilot firm of the character which this industrial alcohol concern will shortly assume which will be in a position to explore the possibility of producing, on a commercial scale and at an economic cost, the various chemical products which we know from laboratory tests are capable of being produced in the laboratory.
I think we must recognise that scientific research, and the application of it to agricultural and industrial problems, has performed great service in improving the efficiency of both economic activities and in adding to the number of valuable materials, both agricultural and industrial. I do not know whether penicillin might be regarded as an illustration in that connection, but it has been a most valuable discovery, the product of the application of scientific investigation to the various problems of life, and not only has it been an important agent of a therapeutic character in dealing with human diseases, but it has had valuable effects also in dealing with animal diseases. I understand that penicillin is being successfully used in the treatment of mastitis, one of the most serious diseases that afflicts our herds of cows. In so far as this Bill tends to bring about that kind of result in the agricultural and industrial problems that confront us, and facilitates an increase of our agricultural and industrial output, I welcome it. I feel it is thoroughly desirable.
I think it would be in order at this stage to say what I believe should be the principles governing our economic development as a whole, with special reference to the contribution which this Bill will make to that end. We should endeavour to increase the real income of the nation, while at the same time ensuring its more equitable distribution among the various classes of the community and, recognising that in the main our natural resources are agricultural rather than industrial, we should emphasise agricultural rather than industrial development. But that is not to say that we should entirely exclude industrial development. On the contrary, although I speak mainly from an agricultural point of view, I recognise the desirability of an industrial development which will be in harmony with and closely integrated with our major agricultural interests. The most direct method of achieving such industrial development is not necessarily the most successful method. It may be that by putting the emphasis mainly on agricultural development we shall achieve more permanent and successful industrial development than if we concentrate attention excessively and unduly on a limited objective of industrial development.
There was some comparison yesterday between Denmark and Ireland in another connection. I would like to compare the two countries in one aspect from the point of view of industrial development. We hear ad nauseam of the marvellous agricultural achievements of that small continental country, but it is not so widely known that industrially Denmark is a much more advanced and more highly developed country than ours. The figures illustrating that phenomenon are most revealing and ought to be kept permanently before us. In Denmark only 35.7 per cent. of the occupied population are engaged in primary, that is mainly agricultural, production; in Éire about 50 per cent. are so occupied. In Denmark, 27.5 per cent. of the population are engaged in industrial production; in Éire, only 13.1 per cent. are so engaged. Consequently, Denmark, in spite of or because of the fact that she puts first things first and concentrates on developing her agricultural production, is industrially much more advanced than we are, and in that respect commands our envy and admiration and, I hope, our imitation.
Industrial development should be based on and closely integrated with our agricultural development and the emphasis should be on agricultural development, not only for its own sake but because of its effects in facilitating the best and most permanent kind of industrial development. In illustrating that point of view, I should like to develop certain positive aspects of that principle but it would carry me beyond the scope of the present debate, and the present occasion is not a suitable one for such development. On the other hand, in certain negative respects I think there are certain matters which ought to be pointed out. One of them is that industrial development, however desirable in itself, must not take a form which adds to the raw material costs of agricultural production.
In this connection I would like to examine, quite briefly, the Minister's past record in this matter and, in the course of such examination, I may have occasion to refer to some of the Minister's past sins. There is a proverb which says that the greater the sinner the greater the saint—that is, when he becomes a reformed character—and if I refer to any of the Minister's past sins it will only be with the hope and intention of stimulating him to unheard of achievements in political and economic sainthood during the rest of his political career, which is by no means finished.
Let us compare some of the outstanding facts of our economic position in the year 1929-30 with the year 1938-39. In those two years, according to official records and statistics, the physical volume of our agricultural output was much the same, though its pattern had been drastically altered in the interval. The money value of agricultural income in 1938-39 was about £12,000,000 less than the money value of agricultural income in 1929-30. The real national income on the later date was practically the same or very little more than it was in 1929-30. In other words, in the interval—an interval in which the Minister was trying his 'prentice hand on our economic salvation—the principal thing that happened was a transfer of income among various sections of the community, but a failure to increase the total real income of the nation. In fact, the national economy was going round and round in circles, like a kitten chasing its tail.
We want to get away from that situation and, if possible, to do whatever we can to facilitate an increase in the real national income, both agricultural and industrial, and its more equitable division among the various classes of the community.
Coming now to closer quarters with the problem of chemical industries in relation to our general economic situation, I have no doubt the Minister has got phosphorus in the brain, but he seems to have sulphate of ammonia on the brain. I would much prefer that he would have phosphates on the brain, as I have, and I think other thoughtful students of our present agricultural situation also have.
If we look at the statistics of the consumption of chemical manures during the last 14 to 20 years—they are conveniently set out at page 32 of the Majority Report on Post-Emergency Agricultural Policy—we will find that in 1929-30 there were two fat years of phosphate consumption in Irish agriculture. I should mention that the data related to rock phosphate, which is the raw material used by our own superphosphate producing factories and, in that connection, one should bear in mind that one ton of imported rock phosphate is the means of making about two tons of superphosphates. The other elements in the phosphate position are imports of basic slag and superphosphate. If you make certain arithmetical calculations, as I did, you will find that, aggregating the total phosphate consumption with reference to these two fat years—1929-30—the annual consumption of our agriculture of phosphate amounted in those two years to 268,600 tons. Then came seven lean years, between 1933 and 1939. If you average the phosphate consumption of our agriculture in those years you will find that it averaged annually only 163,600 tons; in other words, roughly 100,000 tons a year less than in the two fat years. Then came the seven absolutely starvation years of the war in which it was almost impossible to get any phosphate manures at all and, in fact, practically no artificial manures of any kind. Consequently, if you take together these 14 years and make any kind of estimate of phosphate consumption, you must admit that, at a moderate estimate, there is a phosphate deficiency of about 2,000,000 tons spread over the last 14 years, as compared with what would have been the case if the rate of consumption of 1929-30 had been maintained. That being so, I hold that the No. 1 priority need of Irish agriculture is phosphate and still more phosphate. Already we have factories which produce phosphate manures and there is no immediate problem there.
On the other hand, I am not so sure about the desirability of increasing the dosage of sulphate of ammonia so far as our agriculture is concerned. It is a manure which can be used in excess and, according to some authorities, is calculated to poison the land rather than add to its permanent fertility. It also tends to diminish the lime content of it. One way and another it does not seem to matter quite so much about sulphate of ammonia but it does matter and is of the most vital importance that the phosphate content of our soil should be restored and increased.
I am not blaming the Minister for that phosphate deficiency of 2,000,000 tons but, nevertheless, he cannot escape some share of responsibility for the fact that Irish agriculture used less phosphate during the last 14 years. In 1932 the Minister, apparently, was approached by the superphosphate manufacturing interests who were alarmed at the tendency of their output to diminish by reason of considerable imports of superphosphate from abroad, mainly from Belgium. In deference to those representations, he restricted the import of superphosphate. One immediate effect of that restriction was that the cost of fertilisers generally to the Irish farmer between 1932 and 1933 rose in the ratio of 84.9 to 89.6. It was a case of hitting agriculture when it was down, a case of sacrificing the interests and welfare of 600,000 agriculture producers to the supposed interests of about 1,000 people occupied in producing superphosphates. From what I know, all these manure factories in Éire form a pretty close combination amongst themselves, if they are not a virtual monopoly. They are well able to look after themselves financially and they could have taken a knock in 1932-33 much more conveniently than the unfortunate victims of their higher price policy facilitated by the action of the Minister.
However, what was done then was done and it certainly had the effect of increasing the price of artificial manures, notably phosphates, to the Irish consumer and, to that extent, of encouraging the farmer to use less of these manures than he would otherwise have done. Therefore, to that extent, the Minister must accept some responsibility for the fact that our phosphate deficiency is what it is, although I do not blame him for the whole 2,000,000 ton phosphate deficiency. If we now suffer from impoverished pastures and diminished crop yields throughout the country, as we do, it is mainly because of this phosphate deficiency.