The Government would be given three months to carry on and to find some way of cutting down the Estimates which have been presented to us. We have been given the Estimates for the year 1931-2, and we read inside the book containing them that there is a reduction of £246,000. When we come to examine in a rough way how the reduction is effected we find that it is not effected by economies which the country would welcome but rather by cutting down certain Votes which will probably be necessary before the year is out. For instance, one very large Vote, the Vote for Relief, has been reduced by £160,000. Does the Government really believe that a Relief Vote will not be required during the year 1931 as large as the Vote required in 1930? As a matter of fact, from figures given in answer to a question here to-day by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, we find that the number of registered unemployed is higher now than it has been for the last two years. If the number of unemployed has been going up since 1930, instead of going down, surely the Government should not be so optimistic as to cut down the Estimate for Relief from £300,000 to £140,000?
There are a few other Votes of that sort which have been reduced, which have been referred to already, and which would give more employment if they had been left as they were. The economies effected in the Estimates for this year have been made on such Votes. If these economies are to be carried out they can be carried out only at the expense of the employment that has been given in the country. We cannot afford to have any economies carried out at present at the expense of employment, because employment is far too scarce as it is. Coupled with that, we have the reduction in the Vote for Unemployment Insurance. That, with the £160,000 already quoted, would practically amount to the total saving of £246,000. We know, because we had a discussion here already, how that saving of £160,000 on the Unemployment Insurance Vote was effected. It was effected because in many instances people were so long unemployed that they went out of benefit, and not at all by the fact of their going back to employment. If unemployment lasts long enough, under the present laws in this country we shall want no unemployment benefit at all, because people will go out of benefit entirely and we will have to have relief schemes instead.
There are some other reductions also made in directions where the Government cannot claim any credit. We have such things as the reduction in the purchase of creameries or reductions in superannuation where people who were getting pensions have evidently died, and where others who were getting extra benefits under Article 10 of the Treaty got that benefit last year, but evidently do not come in for as large a share this year. Then there is the large reduction of £65,000 in Property Losses Compensation owing to the fact that the number of claims to be made during the coming year is not estimated to be as high as the number for last year. If we take the items which should be properly classed as savings under the head of sums that were voted last year to give employment, and savings on the head of items that are not recurring during the present year, and not due to any effort on behalf of the Government to make savings, we find that we could make up a sum of reductions on the Vote in that way of over half a million pounds. Against that half million pounds we have only a nett saving of £246,000. Therefore we have really to meet an increased Vote in the Estimates of this year of a quarter of a million for other services. Many of these have been already quoted by Deputy Mullins, and they are, as Deputy Mullins pointed out, very difficult for any Government to defend in present circumstances in this country.
Reference has been made here already to the cost of living and to the cost of production in this country. Deputy Good referred to that, and said that it was a question that required the most searching investigation. Deputy Good said that this country lives on its exports. That is the sort of statement that is neither true nor untrue. I suppose it can be taken that every country lives more or less on its exports and that every country lives more or less on its imports. We may be in the position in this country of living more on our exports than other countries, but further than that we cannot go. Some of us believe that it would be much better for this country if we were to develop the home market to a greater extent so that we would not be in the position of depending to such an extent on our exports. Some of us have advocated again and again that we should produce whatever we possibly can for ourselves so that we should only have to export what is necessary to pay for the imports we require. As things stand at present, we are exporting many of the things which we also import. We are not producing many of the things that we are importing and that we could produce for ourselves.
The producers who perhaps come in for most of the burden of taxation and rates, etc., in this country are at present the agricultural producers, because we find that up to a few years ago, at any rate, according to the census of production, the agriculturist was producing about 70 per cent. of the total production of the country. As it is claimed that this is a country that is paying its way, it must be taken that taxation comes out of production, in other words, that we are not living on our capital, that we are living in every respect on our production, and if we are it follows that taxation comes out of production, so that we may assume that 70 per cent. of the taxes of the country must be got either directly or indirectly from agricultural production. When the census was taken, some four or five years ago, of the output of agriculture in this country, it was estimated that the total output of agriculture amounted to £64,757,000. It was also pointed out in the little book issued by the Statistics Department that out of this output of over £64,000,000 the agriculturist had to pay certain items. He had to pay, for instance, over £8,000,000 for imported foodstuffs, fertilisers and seeds, 3¼ millions for land annuities, and for rent or interest in lieu of rent on unpurchased land he had to pay 1½ millions. For rates he had to pay 2¼ millions; for machinery, etc., necessary to the working of the land, he had to pay 1½ millions. In addition to these sums, when we come to examine the destination of the agricultural output, we find that £23,000,000 worth of this output was consumed by people engaged in agriculture themselves. If all those sums are deducted from the original £64,000,000 we find that agriculturists have left £22,920,000.
If it is a fact that this country is paying its way and that taxation is being paid out of production, we must assume that the agriculturist is responsible for 70 per cent. of the total taxation to be raised in this country each year, which would amount to 70 per cent. of £25,000,000—£17,500,000. If that is taken from £22,920,000, the net sum left to agriculturists, we find they have the very small sum of £5,500,000 to pay for everything else. They are supposed to be able to buy certain things that are not produced by agriculture, such as tea and clothes. Some of them who are in better circumstances than others are supposed to be able to buy luxuries such as motor cars. Some of them also are able to contribute a certain amount for the education of their children, but where all these items come from we do not know, so we have to come to the conclusion, when we examine this matter fully, that either the figures given by the Statistics Department for the agricultural output of the Saorstát were wrong or the statement that we are paying our way in this country is wrong, because we cannot possibly be paying our way in this country on what is given here. We cannot possibly pay for the taxation that is sought by the Government out of production when we come to examine the figures, so that we really must be living on our capital in this country, whatever capital we had before the Government came into power. Perhaps the sums of money that were sent to small farmers in the congested districts from relatives in America helped to pay the various items they had to pay as their bills became due.
Now leaving the difficulties, as given by the statistics, out of it, we may take it that we have no reduction here practically in taxation. In fact, in the last four or five years there has practically been no reduction made in any item, in any of the Budgets brought before us, and there is very little hope that in the present year the Minister for Finance will be able to reduce taxation. Take that position as compared with the position of the producer. The most important item in the farmer's production is the production of milk and butter. The average price of creamery butter for 1930 was 124/-; the average for 1929 was 166/-. The creameries had to contend with the reduction in their prices from 166/- to 124/-, but had to continue to pay the same in taxation that they paid while the price for butter was better. Naturally the price of butter had an influence on the price of milk. We find that whereas the average price of milk in 1929 was 6.6d. per gallon, the average price in 1930 was 4.9d., a reduction of 25 per cent. The farmer was living principally on the production of milk. There are certain counties where practically all the people engaged in agriculture depend on milk. They had to suffer a reduction of 25 per cent. from 1929 to 1930. Even suffering that reduction they had to continue to pay the same amount in rates and taxation. There was no attempt made by the Government to make a reduction in taxation to meet the position these farmers found themselves in. That applies to practically every item in the agricultural scheme. For instance, the second class of farmers most hardly hit by the fall in prices were the producers of grain for sale, who suffered a reduction of 20 per cent. in 1930 as compared with 1929.
The only reply made by the Government to farmers in those tillage counties has been made by the Minister for Agriculture at a meeting where he said that the Government had come to their aid, and had, to some extent, tried to meet their position by setting up a beet factory. We find during the last few weeks the Carlow factory is only prepared to offer 38/- per ton for beet during this coming season. They are asking the farmer to go down from 46/-to 38/- per ton, a reduction on an average of £4 per acre. These farmers had already suffered a reduction two years ago. Now the beet growers believe they could not grow at that price. In some counties they have threatened not to grow any more unless the factory increases the price. As against that we find in the Estimates £54,000 more for the Carlow factory than last year. Surely the Government, in presenting that Estimate, could have regarded the way the factory was treating the growers of beet? I think it is a very poor excuse for a Government to say they are bound by a contract which they entered into a few years ago to pay the subsidy to a foreign combine, whatever profits they might make and whatever price they might offer the farmers. The Minister for Agriculture also, on some previous occasion, said that their policy was to try and lower the cost of what the farmer had to buy and raise the price of what he had to sell. They may have been trying that policy. They have not succeeded in raising the price of what the farmer has to sell. I think they can hardly claim that they have succeeded in helping the farmer in anything against the fall of prices that has taken place in the last few years. They have not improved the price of Irish butter on the British market as compared with any of the other foreign butters on the British market. I do not believe they have improved the price of any other article; for instance, beef as compared with frozen beef coming from the Argentine. Comparing the imports into Great Britain from other countries, they have not improved the price of Irish exports to Great Britain.
On the other hand, they have not, in any way, tried to lower the cost of what the farmer has to buy. The only real thing the Government has direct control over is taxation, and if the Minister for Agriculture was speaking for himself and the Executive Council, and if they were really in earnest in making that statement, they would have effected a big reduction this year in the Estimates for the public services. They could have made a big saving there, and could have given that benefit to Irish agriculture, but they have not done so. I suppose that if a statement of that sort was made, we can only come to the conclusion, when the statement was not put into practice, that it was made to try and hoodwink the farmers. There could have been savings made in the public services, and some of the savings could be devoted to the relief of agriculture.
[An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.]
For the last couple of years we have been hearing of de-rating. We have heard talk of a reduction of freights, and we have heard of many other ways in which agriculture could be helped. But we have not seen any of these schemes put into practice. In fact, while this agitation for de-rating is going on we find on every occasion on which the Government had an opportunity they put the cost under Bills which they introduced on to the ratepayer instead of adding it to central taxation. Instead of relieving the agricultural ratepayer of rates, they have succeeded in increasing the rates on agriculture during the last few years by almost a shilling in the £. They have, for instance, forced a certain local government scheme on the ratepayer. Take this Vote of £300,000 passed here before Christmas. In practice we find when they are distributing this to the local authorities in many cases they are only offering to pay 30 per cent., or perhaps less, of the cost of the scheme, and the local ratepayer is compelled to put up the other 70 per cent. The inducement to any local council is to try and relieve unemployment, and naturally they take even the 30 per cent. of the scheme and try to pay the other 70 per cent., with the result that they have to increase the local rate.
Then we had a Bill that went through a couple of weeks ago—the Local Government (Special Expenses) Bill, under which schemes for water supplies were to be provided. We find that there also there will be an increase in the local rates. Under the Agriculture Bill that went through a few days ago, it was made mandatory on local councils to strike a rate of 2d. in the £, which will also increase the rates. There were other Bills such as the Tourist (Traffic) Bill, which may also raise the rates. Surely in these instances the Government, whose members go through the country talking about de-rating, and the prospects of de-rating, cannot be taken as in earnest, when in the meantime at every opportunity they increase the local rates. If they are really in earnest in the preparation of a scheme for the de-rating of agriculture, they should at least have suspended the imposition of any further additions to the local rates, and would arrange to pay the expenses out of the Central Fund. Even apart from the reduction of overheads and a scheme for de-rating, we find that on other matters of policy, which concern the agricultural community, we can hardly accept the statements of Ministers. Only a few days ago we had one Minister pointing out the benefits of tariffs, telling his audience that as a result of tariffs we had 15,000 more people employed now than before the tariffs, but the very same day, to another audience, another Minister was pointing out the ill effects of tariffs, and how they would tend to drive the farmer out of business. On a big question of that sort, the protection of our industries, whether the agricultural industry or any other industry, if we have Ministers in the Executive Council preaching to two audiences in different parts of the country, two completely different view-points about the benefits or the ill effects of tariffs, we cannot expect from such an Executive Council to get any sane policy which will rescue this country from the depression into which it has fallen during recent years.
Deputy Mullins mentioned that other countries had already tried to cut down expenditure, and that even some of the Governments under his Britannic Majesty—New Zealand and Northern Ireland—had intimated their intention to cut down the higher salaries, and that the Ministers had announced their intention of commencing with their own salaries. If we have other countries in Europe and in other parts of the British Empire that have not been afraid to tackle this question in a big way, and to cut down the higher salaries, surely a State such as ours which has been suffering from depression and unemployment for the last few years, should tackle this question seriously, and should try to effect economies.
We heard a reference to the Inter-Departmental Committee that was set up. In 1927 we were told that a Committee had been set up to examine expenditure, and to try to effect economies. We were told at that time that Deputy Heffernan had been appointed Chairman of the Committee. Since then we have heard very little about it. Perhaps Deputy Heffernan has been too busy with the administration of the Post Office to effect economies, because I believe it was as a result of the severe criticism of Government expenditure on the part of the Farmers' Party, with which Deputy Heffernan was associated, that this committee was set up. Evidently the Government thought they would placate the Farmers' Party by setting up the committee, and by making their own nominee chairman of it. Since that, Deputy Heffernan has forgotten about the economies that were to be effected, and has forgotten about the farmers on whose behalf he spoke. He is looking after the Post Office, and amongst other things has deprived the farmers of three posts in the week. I think the Government should take this matter seriously. They have evidently got into a stereotyped manner of preparing Estimates, as year after year they bring in practically the same Estimates, with this exception that in practically every department where a number of civil servants are employed the amount has gone up slightly. Every Budget for the last three or four years—and it will probably be the same this year —is similar to the previous one, there being no reduction whatever in taxation.
I think we should be very thankful to Deputy Good for the speech he made here to-day, because speeches from the Fianna Fáil or the Labour Benches on the reduction of Government expenditure are not going to have much effect. When Deputy Good and his Party speak they generally have a salutary effect on the Government, and I believe that the Minister for Finance when replying—if he thinks it worth his while to reply, because he does not always reply lately— will be much more pliable than he would have been if he found that he had Deputy Good and Deputy Good's Party with him. On that account I think we should be thankful to Deputy Good for making the protest he did make, even though he said he is not going into the Division Lobby or to embarrass the Government for the present.