For once, I agree wholeheartedly with the claim put forward by Senator Quirke when he said: "Now is not the time to put one's head in the sand." That came, curiously enough, from the opposite side of the House, because while Senators there may be facing certain conditions and drawing attention to the deterioration in world events, they seem to be peculiarly oblivious of the facts regarding this country. I, like Senator O'Brien, want to draw attention to the Taoiseach's very remarkable speech which he made in the Dáil on last Thursday. It has been aptly described as a second Budget speech. Well, comparisons are odious and so we will not compare it with the Minister's, but I would like to draw attention to certain very interesting features in that speech.
First of all, the Taoiseach started out by explaining that the Statistics Office was now under his Department. I think in view of some of the figures we are getting, that there is in the Office of Statistics a wider conception in regard to its work than there used to be. In days gone by, the chief function of the statistical department was to know where we had gone. The officers there acted as an historian who measures factors. Perhaps a few years ago they were even allowed to show, by measurement, where exactly we were or where we are, but they were always, practically, excluded from making any suggestion by figures as to where we were going. It is interesting to note that we are beginning to get figures that tend to point where we are going, and, of course, from the point of view of those who have to carry the burden of the management and direction of the State, the most important figures we want are ones which point to where we are going. We all know where we have gone.
The Taoiseach in his speech—I am quoting from column 1760 of the Dáil Debates of last Thursday—drew attention to the substantial rise in the national income, and carefully warned us that most of that rise was merely a price change. He said:
"The real improvement in the standard of living since before the war has been experienced for the greater part, if not entirely, by the agricultural section of the community where, as it will presently appear, the improvement was most needed."
Now, I think that is true, but it is well to stress that that improvement in the standard of living of the agricultural community could be more aptly described as a redress of the want of balance, because all figures previously seemed to show that there was an undoubted disparity in the standard of living of the rural community as against their more fortunate brethren in urban areas. So, while it is undoubted that there has been this improvement in rural Ireland, it is more in the nature, as I have said, of a redress of the want of balance.
The national income rise to £352,000,000 as against £156,000,000 in 1938 can, as we say, in the main be accounted for in price change. In other words, the real improvement is not as substantial as one would have liked. Now in this House—I think Senator O'Brien referred to it just now—the question as to the desirability of how far one should go in the repatriation of our external assets for capital development is a matter for debate. It is very nice to say that we must bring back all our assets held abroad and utilise them at home. It is not altogether wise to do that, unless we take very good care that when we repatriate these assets we will use them for productive purposes. If we merely continue to bring them back for the purchase of consumer goods which, presumably, we will consume as quickly as we can, we may easily be left in the condition that we will have no more to bring back, that we will have no income from them, and that we shall have consumed the goods. Therefore, I say it is highly desirable that we keep a very careful watch on how our accumulated external assets are dealt with. May I say, in parenthesis, that these external assets were, to a very large extent, made by the agricultural community, though they no longer hold control of them? They are now being utilised by the community, and not always too wisely. If we bring these assets back and use them for capital purposes of a productive nature, well and good. Of course it is a wide subject; the question arises as to exactly what is, strictly speaking, "a productive nature"—whether it is self-liquidating, merely very desirable, or a necessity like housing. We can justify large capital expenditure, I think, on houses provided we have regard to the real reason why we build these houses. It is very nice to say that we must rehouse the population. Are we going to put new houses always where the people we wish to rehouse are living under bad conditions? We must remember that a house, even a modern house, as I am told by a builder, is expected to last three generations. Therefore, if we always consider, when we are rehousing the population, that the rate at which houses are to be built and the location of these houses must be determined by where the people are living to-day, we may create trouble in future.
In a democracy almost the only means the Government has of directing willingly the movement of population is by means of subsidised houses. Nobody in a democracy wants to see people directed to where they are to live. Yet, as I think Senator Baxter pointed out, Dublin is becoming an overloaded incubus on the rest of the country. I think the population of Dublin is one-sixth of the total population, just about the same proportion as London is to the rest of Great Britain. It is generally in that case referred to as the Great Wen. We have an opportunity now and in the course of the next generation or so, of preventing, to some extent, any further excessive overgrowth of our capital because by providing houses and occupations in alternative places you can to some extent at the same time willingly move labour and decentralise industry. You cannot do the two things separately. They must go together and now is the time to attempt that rather difficult process.
I want as usual to refer to one or two agricultural matters. The Taoiseach in his speech drew attention to the fact that, at long last, the volume of agricultural production had got back to its pre-war or 1938-39 figure. There was a slight increase, in fact, in the net volume of production. One of the things that always strikes the uninitiated is how slowly the volume of production in agriculture changes. People seem to forget, or seem not to remember, that agriculture unlike industry, operates on diminishing returns as against increasing returns and that it is a very slow production process. You cannot get the rapid build up or the rapid fall that is admittedly a feature of industry. While the volume of agricultural production has now regained the 1939 figure, it is well to remember that over that period it succeeded in doing that and at the same time in handing over to industry, and possibly to emigration, some 80,000 people. I cannot give the exact figure because we have got only the intercensual period of 1936-46 and 40,000 since 1946 leaving agriculture. Admittedly it is quite legitimate to say that in the past there was over-employment in agriculture. There were some areas where people were not fully and usefully employed but now, in the eastern counties anyway, we have reached a stage where it is going to be difficult to bring about a large intensification of agricultural production if, at the same time, that requires additional manpower.
Some of us on the coming into force of the land rehabilitation scheme undertook to do work on our own farms. Most of us who said that we would do that after six months looking for workers have not yet succeeded in getting anybody to dig the drains. That is the position to some extent in the eastern counties. Therefore I think we must realise that if, as we hope, we are to get increased agricultural production it can only be brought about by methods which will tend to make better use of the available manpower. In other words, despite the warnings, we must go on using a number of machines to increase output with the same number of employees.
One of the things, of course, that have been holding up agriculture, one of the factors that have contributed to the chronic static nature of the volume of production, has been want of price stability and lack of confidence in the future. That has been inbred into the farmers from bitter experience. Another factor is that despite an excellent advisory service, despite masses of leaflets, books and pamphlets, we as yet have no real detailed knowledge of how to make the best use of the facilities available on the land. We use things wastefully; we do not know; we have not enough research, enough detailed knowledge; to use a rather objectionable but very descriptive phrase from the United States, the farmer's trouble is the "know-how." We have not got it yet although we are getting a little towards it. In the past when we were young we used to be told that if we did this, that or the other it would lead to better animals, better crops, better farms and better farming. We were never told what "better" meant; "better" for whom? That was always left out and unless at all times when we are investigating technical problems that are directly related to the economic results we are just wasting our time.
The Taoiseach in his speech pointed out that over the period 1938 to 1949 the total output of those industries that are normally enumerated rose by 43 per cent. He used a rather remarkable phrase to which I would like to draw attention when he said:—
"The increases in the index of the volume of production have, of course, been accompanied by an increase in the total number of persons engaged in industries covered by the Census of Industrial Production from 166,000 in 1938 to 206,000 in 1949."
The operative word is "of course". I wonder does this House realise what has taken place. Over the same period agriculture has regained its 1938 volume of production and it lost a rather larger number of people. I think we need not go any further into it but it just presents one point to one's mind. It rather looks as if, over the period 1938 to 1949 agriculture has become very much more efficient and one would hope that industry is doing so as well.
Just a note on industry: our industrial expansion is something to be proud of. We had a lot of leeway to make up, but while it may be completely justified while we have infant industries to give them all that measure of protection one would give to an infant, I wonder how long one should consider an industry is an infant. How long must the consumer protect that infant? Some of these industries have reached the stage when cutting teeth is over but do I see any marked change in the measure of protection that some of them are finding necessary? After all, I know it is a little hard to say that the only measure of efficiency is to be able to face world competition. That is not always a right viewpoint. A late starter in the field cannot be expected to be able to face world competition. In another country I have heard the complaint made that there were "featherbed" farmers. I wonder have we a corresponding word for some of our industries here? I stress this point about the industries because of these figures that appear in the Taoiseach's speech of the internal movement of population, what we might call the purchasing of workers from the countryside and bringing them into the town. It is a process which has gone on for centuries, but it cannot go on ad infinitum. The time must come when we arrive at a balance between agriculture and industry. It is very hard to see what that balance is. Naturally, it depends upon the productivity of the agriculturist: how many earners on the land can provide for how many other earners? You must have a balance somewhere if you are ever to achieve a satisfactory life for both.
Some Senators were asking to-day what the Government are doing to prepare this country in the event of another emergency coming upon us. We are asked: are they storing this and storing that? I maintain the best place to store food for danger ahead is in the fertility of the land. The Minister for Agriculture, in his closing remarks on his Estimate, urged farmers to buy fertilisers in the late summer and autumn in order to facilitate the manufacturers so that they can deal with greater quantities. That is one point which, obviously, the Minister for Agriculture is stressing as a means to increase the storage of fertilisers. I suggest that some Senators should bring their minds back to June or July, 1937, just for a moment and inquire what the position of the phosphate rock store of our manufacturers was on that date. Normally, they hold about 100,000 tons. They had practically none then, as they did not buy that year because the price was going up. We started the war period with practically no phosphate rock on hands, if my recollection is correct. We are doing something this time.
If I have done nothing else, I think I have drawn attention to one of the outstanding speeches which is full of information and as to which, as Senator O'Brien says, it would be most interesting if we were given the basis on which some of those figures were arrived at and how they were compiled, because if we are to know what is happening and what is going to happen, we want what is called "hot" statistics, statistics giving us a measure of what is happening in our own time and not merely what happened in the past.