When I reported progress last night, we had just listened to a long discourse by Senator Lenihan in which he sought to prove that we on this side of the House were responsible for all the ills of the country and that the saviours were the Fianna Fáil Party and the Government. Before I make my own remarks, I must address myself to certain statements made by Senator Lenihan
If members will address themselves to the reports they will find that Senator Lenihan said that September, 1957, was the time of change and that the wonderful things done by the incoming Government earlier in that year had started to take effect in September, 1957. He instanced as proof of that the fact that unemployment figures had started to drop. He also made it quite clear that the Fianna Fáil Government were not taking any responsibility for the year 1957, that what he termed as our maladministration up to the general election of that year was still having its effect until the end of 1957. As far as his judgment was concerned, 1957 was to be our year. He gave certain figures, but if he did give certain figures, he forgot to give one of them.
I would refer him to theStatistical Abstract, 1960, page 148, section 5, which refers to external trade. If he looks at the total exports in 1957 as compared with any other year, he will find they were very good and that, in fact, the increase in 1956 was from £108,127,000 to £131,341,000. I now take 1954, the last year of Fianna Fáil administration. I take 1954 deliberately to judge him by his own judgments, because he says that 1957, the year of political change, must be our year because the new Government coming in could not change things and, in fact, did not start to change them until September of that year.
If we refer to 1954, we find that the total exports in that year were some £115,342,000 so that in fact Senator Lenihan was gilding the lily on the wrong side. Again, he said, and I took careful note of it because I knew that it was so silly that it could be disproved and should be disproved— and my memory even then told me that it was wrong—that the ten years' exemption of tax on profits from new exports and new grants for industries changed the tide in September, 1957. I want to tell him what changed the tide. The tide was changed all right as I have shown by the figure that Senator Lenihan conveniently forgot to give and by the Industrial Grants Act, 1956, and the other Act whereby the thing he referred to, the exemption of tax on profits from new exports, was granted for the first time. Their Industrial Grants Act, expanding the policy of the previous Minister for Finance, Deputy Sweetman, was passed in the year 1959, and is the Act in question. So that in fact all that we heard last night was nothing but a mere recital of political untruths meant to impress those who might not know the facts.
Again, the second Act I referred to, expanding the exemption on new exports, was passed shortly before the Industrial Grants Act of 1959 and in relation to exports for the year 1957 we gladly take responsibility. The particular departure by the previous Minister for Finance, the Minister's predecessor, was directly opposed to Fianna Fáil industrial policy down through the years. How many times have we heard "Sinn Féin"? I often felt that the true words they used in that regard were "Mé Féin". Their policy was not the policy to give exemption of tax on new exports and to give grants for industry all over the place. Their policy was to have industries here to supply our people behind the tariff wall. That is as clear as a bell to anybody in this country who has studied that phase of Irish history. I am sure some of my colleagues will have some other things to say. I just looked up the two or three figures that came to my mind when listening to the spate of eloquence from across the floor of the House last night.
This is the last Central Fund Bill this Government will bring to the Seanad. There must be an election before there is another Central Fund Bill. I expected, and I had expected on the Vote on Account in the Dáil, that the Minister would utilise the opportunity to let us know what had been done in the past four years and their policy for the next five years, if re-elected. I had hoped that opportunity would be utilised for the advantage of the people of the country who have a right to know how their money is spent, and the policies underlying the spending of this money.
The Minister will know, because I have the greatest personal regard for him, that what I say now is not personal. He threw the Central Fund Bill, 1961, to the Seanad like a bone to a dog, in the hope that we would go away and bury it. He hoped no remarks would be made except on the figures and that policy and performance would not be discussed. As far as I know from my colleagues, I assure the Minister that that is not the intention on this side of the House but rather to examine policy, past, present and future. It is quite right that such should be done.
The Government have now had four years of office and have introduced four such Bills. In the by-election occasioned by the death of Deputy Colm Gallagher, the Taoiseach made a statement as to the future policy of the Government. I shall quote from theSunday Press of February, 1958, this short extract from a very long speech:
"The test of progress is the number of workers in secure jobs engaged in productive activities."
In February, 1958, that was the test of the future Government's progress and that is how they want to be judged.
Prior to that, on Wednesday, 15th October, 1955, the Taoiseach produced the policy of the Government in the hope that they would be elected, a hope that was realised and realised no doubt because of the policy that was announced. The policy in this four-page news supplement was announced in Clerys Ballroom. The banner headline on the front page is "Full Employment". The Taoiseach is pictured cutting the tape at the opening of a new factory. Then we read:
Mr. Seán Lemass last night spoke to Comh-Comhairle Átha Cliath on Proposals for a Full Employment Policy at the first of its winter meetings in Clery's Restaurant, Dublin. The talk was the first of a series outlining the Fianna Fáil proposals for the full development of our resources.
The process of full discussion of the proposals by Fianna Fáil started last night will continue until the complete programme fully outlined and tested in debate is adopted in final form.
Mr. Lemass said: The proposals, which I will outline in this address dealing with financial aspects of a Full Employment Policy, have for some time past been under consideration by the Fianna Fáil Party Committee.
The Committee decided that it would help to the elaboration and completion of these proposals to have them debated by Comh-Comhairle Átha Cliath, and by other units of the Fianna Fáil organisation, and it has authorised me to place them before you for your examination.
Then we move from the banner headline to the conclusion. This must be quoted because it is highly important. It is headed:
100,000 New Jobs after 5 Years.
It will be noted that in the first year of the proposed programme, it is contemplated that public investment outlay will be expanded by £13 million, raising national expenditure by £20 million and creating 20,000 new jobs. No contribution from the private sector is reckoned in this year.
In the second year, it is assumed that gross national expenditure is again increased by £20 million bringing the total increase to £40 million with a corresponding effect on employment and that this will result from £18 million increase in private capital outlay plus £15 million of further public expenditure adding £22 million.
In the third year, a further rise in gross expenditure by £20 million is assumed (making the cumulative increase £60 million) to which the additional private capital outlay of the previous year is reckoned to contribute £18 million, and new private capital outlay a further £20 million, increased public expenditure being kept at £17 million.
By the fifth year, on this calculation, full employment should be achieved, with the level of gross expenditure raised by £100 million, and 100,000 new jobs created.
In the by-election I have referred to, the Taoiseach requested that the judgment of him and the test of his policy should be employment.
Let us then examine the results. I refer the House to page 46 of theStatistical Abstract, 1960, Table 39. “Labour Force. Estimated Number of Persons at Work in the Main Branches of Economic Activity in 1951 to 1959.” We will take our year —the year Senator Lenihan said was so disastrous. In round figures, the labour force was 703,000 persons. In 1959, that labour force had deteriorated to 692,000 persons. The House is aware that the present figures show there are 51,000 fewer people in employment now than in the so-called year of disaster.
Nowhere has Government policy failed more abjectly than in the important field of housing. Before the last election, Senators will remember Deputy Briscoe's statement in Dáil Éireann. They will remember the suggestions bandied about—and according as one was nailed the next one sprang up—that county council cheques were refused. Nobody has ever yet shown a cheque drawn by a county council with "R.D." on the back of it. However, these statements were made. The people believed, almost, that the State had reached bankruptcy.
Let us examine the situation in those days and the situation to-day. I would refer the Seanad to the Official Report of Dáil Éireann for Wednesday, 1st March, 1961, Volume 186, No. 7. In reply to Question No. 35 addressed by Deputy O'Donnell to the Minister for Local Government, the following answer is given:
Details of expenditure on private enterprise housing are not available in my Department. Capital expenditure on the provision of local authority houses was as follows...
Then follows a table. I shall take the figures for the year which was supposed to be the year of disaster. In 1953-54, £9,276,585 was spent on providing houses for the working people; in 1954-55, £7,619,230; 1955-56, £6,993,246; 1956-57, £7,064,081; 1957-58, £4,456,085; 1958-59, £3,493,035; and in 1959-60, £3,041,327.
Yet, in the so-called year of disaster, we spent twice as much money to provide houses for the working people. I want to tell the Minister for Finance now what I am sure he already knows: in most areas in this country, there is a dire need for housing. The Bill we passed here last week to provide houses for Garda and civil servants who move from one place to another was an excellent measure. I questioned the Minister for Local Government on local authority housing and his answer was that if the local authorities would prepare schemes and send them to him, there would not be a day's delay. "There is no such thing as delay in my Department," he said.
I shall tell the House now just what I think of that statement. When I was a lot more innocent about politics than I am now, I was a young member of the Lower House and I put down a Question to our own Minister with regard to delay in the granting of housing applications to local authorities over a period of Fianna Fáil administration. I got an answer to that question which shocked me for five minutes, and then I saw the light. I was told that the delay after the final application, was a three days' delay. In other words, when a housing scheme comes to the Department and they do not want to grant the application because the money has not been sent from the Department of Finance, it is said that the windows are an inch too wide, the doors and inch too high, the wrong thing has been put on the floor of the hall, or that the gutter should be a quarter of an inch bigger. All those things postpone the application and when everything is ready, when the county manager has made his periodic visit to the Minister's office and knows the money is available, up comes the application and it is granted in three days. The answer given to me was: "Get your scheme ready", but it will never be ready until the money is ready. The brake is the local authority and the brake is the Minister for Finance. That is the Fianna Fáil record on housing.
For the first time in three years, the farmers are now enjoying the first little break they got. Any bank manager will tell you that the increased overdrafts granted to farmers enabled them to pay their bills and enabled them to live on their own fat for a little longer, but those overdrafts did not increase agricultural production. When one considers the policy put before the farmers by the Government before they got into power, and then considers the results, one must again realise just how low politically people can stoop.
I want to refer to a publication known asAn Gléas which was sent to me for a period, for some reason. There is another person called Donegan in the Oireachtas and perhaps that may be the reason. However, An Gléas arrived and I perused it. In January, 1956, when the Government were seeking election, the heading was: “Call To The Government”—that was not a Fianna Fáil Government but ours —and the call was made:
Enough time has now passed since the slashing of the wheat price by 12/6 a barrel for it to be possible to make some estimate of the damage done by Mr. Dillon's campaign against the tillage farmers.
The acreage under wheat fell last year by over a quarter, representing a loss to wheat-growers of some £3,000,000. There is every indication that a still greater fall in acreage is about to take place this year. But that is not the whole story— along with this loss to the Irish farmer, there has been a loss to the nation as a whole.
In the first nine months of 1955, we spent almost £3,000,000 more on wheat imports than in the corresponding period of 1954. And this increased dollar-spending has been taking place at a time when the balance of trade was moving strongly against us, while exports lagged behind.
I quote now from the end of the article:
It is now recognised by all that the slashing of the wheat price was a grave error of judgment by the Government. The results of this error will become still more serious should there be another fall this year in the acreage under wheat. Only an immediate Government decision to restore the 1954 price can save Irish wheat-growing from disaster.
That is an official publication of the Party which now form the Government. They reduced wheat by another 12/6 a barrel, and they further reduced it a fortnight ago by fixing a lower bushelling price so that the farmers will get still less for wheat. Has there ever been anything more politically dishonest?
The truth is, of course, that the agricultural vote does not sway an election. As astute and knowledgeable a politician as the Minister for Finance knows that quite well, and knows that, in fact, the vote in country districts does not vary and swing as much as the urban vote. Whatever could be got out of the agricultural vote for the 1957 election was got, because of the fact that cattle prices had been extremely bad for the previous 18 months, and because of the fact that the members of the Party which now have the right to govern the country spent their time up and down the country drawing attention to the bad cattle prices and suggesting that those prices were the result of maladministration on the part of the then Government.
The Government, of course, have now decided that the agricultural vote will remain static and that they will get their share. No matter how often the Taoiseach goes to Pallaskenry and talks to Macra na Feirme, and no matter how often he speaks at N.F.A. dinners, the poor relation is the farmer, because the Fianna Fáil Party— and I commend them for this—are the best judges of the voting public in Ireland to-day. They can judge where the votes lie, and men like Senator O'Reilly and the Minister for Finance have contact with the rural areas and know the rural vote does not change.