This afternoon, we have with us a new Minister for Finance and I am sure we all welcome him. I follow Senator Hayes in his patriotic expression of opinion, that we should all join in supporting him in his efforts to stabilise the national economy. I also share Senator Hayes's view that we should, if possible, have a short debate on this Bill so that the new Government can get down to business as soon as possible on these lines.
I will be forgiven, perhaps, if I take this opportunity of saying to a new Minister for Finance—and through him to new Ministers for Agriculture, for Health and for Education—what I think they should keep in mind as the basic first principles of our national economy.
There is grave danger in the world to-day that even the wisest of us and the most responsible of us may be bullied by long words, words like "technology" and "automation" and the like. Because they are long and pretentious and new, we are inclined to think that they hold the secret of our welfare and will control the future. I remember a few years ago, when I was in Liverpool, just opposite the university library there, I saw written on the wall: "Down with the synchrocyclotron." It was a frightening phrase. I am sure many citizens of Liverpool shuddered as they saw that simply because it was a new, long and impressive word and it looked as if it might hold the future in its hands.
I want the Minister to listen to some rather simple statements—they will be quite brief and the words short— but I really believe any Government that keeps these principles in mind will not be deflected from the right path by long words or false promises. There is a risk of confusion in our minds amid all these conflicting new terms and new ideas. What does the natural wealth of this country depend on? Simply this—the products of our lands and of our seas and the health, strength and intelligence of our people —in other words, the gifts that Nature has given us and how we use those gifts. We cannot get away from it in spite of long words and new policies. Those are the essentials, and everything else—industry and commerce or whatever you like—is secondary to the lands and seas and the people.
It was very pleasing to me, when I had thought this out in terms of what I have learned and what I have seen, to find out that, in fact, this is the recognised financial policy of the country and we are on the right lines although we are not going fast enough along them. If we look at the Estimates—and may I congratulate the unknown authors of these Estimates, because the volume is a most valuable and instructive one, and I think they deserve great credit for producing it so well and so clearly—what do we find? What are the three largest sums of money in the whole expenditure? As I see it, they are the sums to be spent on Agriculture, Health and Education. Agriculture now receives, counting the grants, £13,500,000 compared with £4,500,000 in 1948/49. Health now receives £8,000,000 compared with £1,500,000 in 1948/49. (I do not include the Estimate for Social Assistance.) But what about the Estimate which deals with our knowledge and intelligence? What about Education? It is a fairly high figure— £11,500,000, but in 1948/49 it was already £7,000,000.
In other words within the last eight years Agriculture has received three times its original estimate, Health approximately six times, and Education less than twice what it received in 1948/49. Those are rough figures but I think they are approximately accurate and sufficient to give a general picture.
I suggest to the Minister—he has been Minister for Health and so he will go some way with me at least— that there is an unwise discrepancy. Why is Education being neglected in this way? It is neglected—the figures show it. I think it is partly psychological; people do not want much education. I am a teacher myself and I know that from experience. They want as much health as they can get; they want their lands to be as good as they can be, but they do not want very much education. So long as they can read, write and add up pounds, shillings and pence they are often fairly well satisfied. I am afraid that what the people do not want—may I say it?—is not a vote-catching proposition. Health is; Agriculture is, but, I am afraid, not Education. Again in Education you have a diminishing scale of popularity. Primary education, everyone wants; secondary education, a certain number; but the universities fewer still.
This is reflected in the Estimates. Primary Education gets £9,000,000; Secondary Education £1,800,000, and University Education, £670,000. Consider those figures. It means that three-quarters of the £12,000,000 is being spent on Primary Education, roughly one-sixth on Secondary Education and one-twentieth on University Education. In what are called democratic terms, in terms of the numbers of people involved, that is fair, but if we want quality in education in this country it is unfair and unwise. We are spending as a nation £670,000 on five university colleges. The Northern Ireland Government is spending, I understand, about £1,000,000 on one university college. The Northern Ireland Government is spending approximately £1,000,000 for a population of 1,000,000 people—£1 per head, you may say. We are spending £670,000 for a population of 3,000,000; we are spending one half per cent. of our total expenditure on the universities.
Is this a wise policy in a scientific age when the use of our lands depends more and more on scientific research and scientific knowledge? Most Senators, I think, receive a copy of an excellently edited paper called "Irish Industry" and they may have read an article in the last number, I think, or perhaps the one before that, on technical research and how well it pays. It quotes figures which are impressive. In 1952 the United States spent 1 per cent. of gross national income—and that is a big gross national income—on research and it is going up by 10 per cent. a year. The United States spends 2 per cent. of the gross national income on research; the Federal Republic of Germany, 1 per cent. I do not think we are spending anything like that and yet the prosperity of our fields and forests and our seas ultimately will depend on science as well as on the health and strength and intelligence of our people.
I suggest also there is another reason for improving and fostering university education. Because I am not a scientific man, if I simply pleaded for science, I would not be acting as a vocational Senator should. Now that Ireland is beginning, in Emmet's phrase, to "take her place among the nations of the world", our politicians, our statesmen, and our own civil servants, will need to be able to compete with the highest intelligences of European countries and countries of the world in the international parliaments, committees and organisations, which will more and more control our destiny here. Unless our international statesmen and representatives are superlatively well educated, this country will suffer. There is very much more that could be said on this, but I will not say it now. I have said a good deal of it before in this House and, with a bit of luck, I hope to say a good deal more again in this House.
I must return once more to those first principles. Our national wealth and prosperity depend on our lands and on our people. They depend partly on the high quality of what nature has given us—the fertility of our fields, the physical powers and intelligence of our people. These are God-given gifts and no Government can control or improve them in any sense. But what Governments can and should foster and control is the better use of these gifts—the cultivation of our lands and the cultivation of our minds.
As a practical policy, I suggest to the new Ministers for Health and Education and Agriculture—with, I hope, the active co-operation of our new Minister for Finance—that they never yield to other Departments in insisting that the country's prosperity depends primarily on their special spheres of duty. I will go further. I suggest to the Ministers for Health and Agriculture that much of the success of their efforts in health and agriculture will depend on the education of the country in general and on university education and research in particular. If this is true, it follows that to spend only about 10 per cent. of the national income on education and only 5 per cent. of that 10 per cent.—that is, ½ per cent. of the total national income—on the universities is an unwise policy. If anything I have said can persuade the Minister to keep that in mind when he has his opportunity of preparing his own Estimates, I feel I shall have done something for the country as well as for the universities.