When this debate was adjourned on Friday I was dealing with the question of unemployment, and I said that a great deal depended on the farmers in regard to the relief of distress amongst the unemployed, who are, in the majority of cases, in a destitute condition. I feel sure, after the Second Reading of the Agricultural Credit Bill to-day, that when farmers get loans they will be able to give great help in that respect. I did not use the word "farmers" in the same way as other Deputies have used it during this debate on the Budget. I did not mean to convey that the farmers were narrow-minded, or were not out to give employment, if they could possibly do so. I meant to convey that owing to high taxation and inability to market their produce and to get guaranteed prices for it, the farmers were not in the position to provide work for agricultural labourers who were unemployed. It is a well-known fact that there is not more than one agricultural labourer now working on the land where there were forty pre-war.
There are something like 3,000 agricultural labourers in Westmeath, and of that number there are not 250 in employment. In Westmeath and Longford the farming industry has gone down completely. In 1920, when there was a great circulation of money, and when everything was at top price, the farmers did well. As was mentioned to-day, during the debate on the Agricultural Credit Bill, there was at that time an Agricultural Wages Board, and the farmers in Longford and Westmeath were quite content to pay the wages fixed by that board. Owing, however, to what has happened since 1920, people have been over-taxed, and the burden is now so heavy they are not in a position to hold out any longer. Had I not read the Agricultural Credit Bill I would not have any hope for the farming community being able to give extra employment during the coming year, but some help will be given to them by means of that Bill, and I hope, in that way, they will be in a position to give more employment at a living wage to their agricultural workers.
With regard to the tax on wireless sets and parts, we are told by the Minister that this cannot possibly be removed or reduced. The yield to revenue from this tax was about £19,000. Why is there a tax on wireless parts that cannot possibly be manufactured in the Saorstát? I hold it would be better from the point of view of the State to abolish that tax because its abolition would be the means of giving employment to a number of engineers in putting those wireless parts together, and disposing of them. There is a good market for them at present. The Government might as well put a tax on tea because it is not grown in the Saorstát as to put a tax on wireless parts that are not and cannot be made here. I think some consideration should be given by the Minister for Finance to my suggestion on this matter.
I feel sure a number of Deputies regretted that they voted for the betting tax. I wonder has the £59,028 got from that tax in any way recouped the taxpayers for the amount of money they have had to contribute to the different labour exchanges towards the unemployed. It is a well-known fact that a number of motor drivers and stable hands have lost their employment owing to that tax, and those who produce food for horses also suffered. I think only about 13 Deputies in this House voted against that tax. No return is given as to what it cost to collect the £59,028, what it cost to relieve unemployment as a consequence of it, and what it has cost the county boards of health. I was sorry to see the majority of the Labour Deputies voting in favour of that tax. I am not going to ridicule them, but I really think they should have had better sense than to vote in favour of a tax that they knew would be the means of throwing numbers of people out of employment, and I cannot understand why a party who were doing everything in their power to improve the position of the workers should do such a thing and make their position far harder. I urge the Minister to abolish this tax also, as the amount of money it yields when put against the cost of collection and the distress it has caused shows that it is not worth continuing.
I am surprised that there has been no reduction in the cost of the postage stamp. It is 100 per cent. over pre-war days and one halfpenny more than in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. People living at a certain distance from a post office have to give sixpence per mile for the delivery of a telegram. A man living 3½ miles from a post office has to pay 3/6 for delivery. I know a man in Athlone area who had to pay 3/- for the delivery of a telegram, and I do not think the boy who delivered the telegram got one penny out of that. Some reduction should be made in these charges. The sixpence per mile charge is uncalled for. People who live a couple of miles outside a town will not allow telegrams to be delivered to them except the sender pays for them, and he does not like that. I do not know why the Government should charge twopence for a stamp. It might be that the extra halfpenny is charged for dyeing it green, which might be dearer than the English red. They might get their dyes cheaper from Germany like they got their engineers for the Shannon scheme. As regards beer duties, down the country a half-barrel of stout can be purchased for £4. Out of that the Government receives £2 10s. 0d., and there is left £1 10s. 0d., to pay the grower of the barley, the freight from Dublin and back, the brewer, the carters, the publican and the shop assistants.
Surely some adjustment could be made in the price of beer. If the Government could not see their way to reduce the price of spirits, they should, at least, have followed the example of the British Government, who reduced their figure of 100/- in 1923 to 80/- per barrel. Four pounds per barrel should he quite enough clear profit for the Government to get, without any labour whatsoever. The position of the Government is a very favourable one if you contrast it with the position of the man at 30/- per week who has to make eight different entries in connection with these transactions, or with the position of the workman. To the workman a drink is part of his food. For his dinner he has a sandwich and a drink. Why should not some relief be given to that man? It would be most popular for the Government to do so. I know that pressure has been brought to bear on the Minister for Finance to refuse this reduction, because these teetotallers and converted teetotallers, and people on whom total abstinence is compulsory, judge others by themselves. They say that if any relief is given there will be an abuse as regards intoxication. I do not think any workman could afford, on his present wages, to get even slightly intoxicated. The publichouse does not act as a magnet on the workman. If £1 a barrel were taken off beer, and the price of the pint reduced by a penny or twopence, it would give employment to the worker, and it would provide a market for the farmer. If the pint were reduced by twopence, the shilling per week the working man would save would be devoted to the welfare of his children. But we must stick to the prices that were fixed from 1919 to 1921, when everybody was rolling in wealth. Now we are financially embarrassed and the workman is not able to pay the same price for drink that he paid in those years. The Minister is out for temperance. He reminds me of the chairman of a district council in Edenderry who spoke from a platform in 1901 against emigration. Workers were then receiving 11/- per week. The only way, this gentleman said, to prevent emigration was to reduce the wages of the workers, so that they could not save sufficient to pay their passage. The Minister thinks he is going to foster temperance by maintaining a high duty on liquor. The Edenderry gentleman did not, prevent emigration and the Minister is not going to prevent a man getting a drink because the price is high.
I realise that the Minister has reduced the demand on the people this year from £27,000,000 to £23,000,000. The balance of the money required will be borrowed. When the Minister can borrow about three and a half million pounds, what is to prevent him borrowing a much larger sum? Succeeding generations should be made bear some of the cost of establishing this State, and particularly the amount that it has cost to keep the Free State functioning from the end of 1922. I think the figure is somewhere in the neighbourhood of £50,000,000.
The people at present have to be overtaxed until that amount is paid back. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that our credit was good. That is very welcome news for the people of the Saorstát, but it would be better if the Minister said: "We are going to borrow thirty or forty millions to reduce taxation for the purpose of paying the overdrafts of the county councils." Primarily through the political strife every county council in the country has an overdraft of from twenty thousand up to a hundred thousand pounds. The ratepayers are saddled with that. The Westmeath County Council had at one time an overdraft of £60,000. About £3,400 per year was paid as interest on the over draft. I have been a member of that Council since 1920. The overdraft is there owing to the political strife, through swearing allegiance to Dáil Eireann the grants were stopped.