In considering this Budget and the speech made by the Minister for Finance in introducing it, there was a general disposition, before anything like a proper examination of the situation was possible, to take up the line that we ought to be thankful for small mercies. That particular attitude shows the opinion of the country had of the Minister for Finance and of the present Government. They expected even worse than they got. Whether or not the people have reason to be thankful for that particular relaxation may be open to doubt.
On two things I can congratulate the Minister. I congratulate him on the fact that as he did not find it necessary in the Budget—what may have been done during the year indirectly is another question—or, in his Budget speech, to deal with the imposition of new taxes, the nation and the assembly here were relieved of the pain of hearing his humour, which seems to be, as we experienced last year, in the ascendant when he has the task of imposing new burdens on the people, or, as he expressed it in his speech yesterday, "beggaring his neighbour." Let us realise that this Budget, though it does not seem to impose increased taxation, is a continuation—a very deliberate continuation—of the policy of "beggaring your neighbour." I might say that ultimately your neighbour means mankind—is everybody in this island generally. It is not merely one class of the community that will be ultimately beggared by the policy the Government has indulged in, but practically every class. It is true that yesterday, in a fit of virtue, the Minister neglected for the moment the pleasure of imposing certain burdens. How much that went to his heart and to the heart of the Government we can easily understand. However, we were relieved of what was a very shocking and regrettable feature of the Budget speech of last year—the humour of the Minister. Also, I congratulate him on the fact that, by the apparent absence of new taxes this year, he managed to throw a kind of smoke-screen over the situation. The difficulty about smoke-screens is that they have a tendency to rise, and I have no doubt that the nation will soon be able to realise the real facts of the situation. The Budget speech was not as long or as elaborate or as objectionable as was the speech of last year. A great deal of the time of the Minister was spent in obscuring the situation. In his Budget statement presented to Deputies the Minister glossed over those parts of the balance sheet presented with it that required explanation, while he spent most of the 50 minutes on the matters that were quite clear and that required no explanation. If we have regard to what the Budget represents to the country, then neither the country nor the House has any excuse for taking any pleasure in the present Budget; quite the contrary. If there was reason for uneasiness last year, there is more reason, on the part of those who think, for uneasiness this year.
There is, this year, a deliberate continuation of the policy that was enshrined in the Budget of last year. As Deputies will remember, an attempt was made last year to conceal the real nature of the Budget by dividing it into "normal" and "abnormal." That has disappeared from the present balance sheet. The word "normal" does appear, but the abnormal Budget is absent. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday stated that there was apparently a check in the Rake's Progress. To that I should like to make two reservations. The pace that was indulged in last year has been kept up even so far as the actual facts disclosed in the Budget speech are concerned. There is no diminution of the pace but, apparently, there was no acceleration of the pace. In reality, however, anybody who examines the economic situation of the country at the moment will realise that not merely was the pace of last year kept up but that it has been actually increased. The only metaphor for the recklessness of the policy of the Government that I could find when speaking on the Budget of last year was that of a man going down a crowded thoroughfare, like Grafton Street, at 50 miles per hour and hoping that there would be no disaster. I quite admit that, apparently, the speedometer still registers 50 miles an hour. The admitted pace is still dangerous. The thoroughfare is more crowded than it was. In other words, the country is less able to bear the same taxation as that of last year. In reality, although the speedometer only registers 50 miles an hour, the pace is much quicker. I shall recur to that matter in a moment. A number of charges on the community do not appear on the face of the Budget at all. Neither the Budget nor the Budget statement is any longer what it used to be—a full statement of the burdens of the community. It is a statement of a portion of the burdens of the community. Many burdens that the community has to face are not dealt with at all by this Budget statement. In reality, therefore, not merely is the mad pace of the Rake's Progress of last year maintained, but a little examination will show that there is an acceleration of the pace. These physical and mathematical similes may not appeal to the Minister for Finance, but they ought to appeal to the President.
The only reason that people can express relief at the Budget, or at the speech of the Minister for Finance yesterday, is that they expected worse. At a certain critical portion of his speech, the Minister took up the line: "Now we come to a serious situation; I am faced with a deficit of £5,000,000—an appalling situation." In ten minutes he gets over the difficulty by the time-honoured expedient of borrowing, pledging the future, as spend thrift prodigal Governments of the past have done. It is quite easy for him bravely to face up to a situation like that, this terrific task, on paper, in the course of five or six pages. As everybody will remember, he had no difficulty in getting over it. That task was quite easily dealt with. I suggest that neither so far as his conduct is concerned, so far as the form is concerned, nor so far as this Budget represents the policy of the Government, is there any reason for congratulation or for any kind of diminution of the uneasiness that was felt last year when the Minister introduced his first Budget. I will admit that it is not quite so spectacular in its destructiveness as the Budget of last year. Why is that? It is because the country now expects nothing except a continuance of that destructive line from the Government. That is the best they hope for, and they view with relief any apparent—and the word "apparent" is one of the Minister's pet words; he was particularly keen on using it yesterday—any apparent relief, though momentary, from that policy of rushing along the road of economic and national destruction in which the Government is engaged.
Balancing the Budget! Of course everybody knows how it was achieved. It is easy for the Minister to make a comparison with previous Budgets when so far as can be seen from his own speech yesterday, he had five millions a year to play with. That five millions per annum that has cost the country so dear, is frittered away, has disappeared, has been eaten up, and in addition, there is borrowing. That from the Party that always preached economy and that when they were on these benches protested that the taxable capacity of the nation had been overstrained!
I am not overstanding the case so far as the real burdens of the country are concerned. It is merely a policy of "beggaring my neighbour." I will admit beggaring them may be the aim but if you compare this Budget with last year's Budget I suggest that this Budget is as much in advance—and we can all give our own meaning to the word "advance"—of last year's Budget as last year's Budget was on any previous Budget. As for the way in which the Budget has been balanced, the Minister by the external policy of the Government had got hold of an annual sum of over five millions. That undoubtedly helped him to go a certain distance to balance the Budget, but does anybody suggest that there is an advance in national economy in that particular direction? I will admit that two millions odd may come back to producers in this country by way of bounties. Opportunities will be offered to this House I have no doubt of discussing this policy of bounties. I have heard various views on the matter. It is extremely difficult to know what percentage of these bounties actually comes back to the farmers and the taxpayers, to the people who produce, for instance, cattle.
I have heard that one result of the whole policy so far as bounties and everything else are concerned is —it probably sums up the situation— that a certain amount of the bounties do go to the farmer but only a certain amount. What percentage goes back it is extremely difficult to determine but in counties like my own this policy has meant the disappearance of a certain class of buyer called "truckers," who have kept up prices in these local markets. I very much question if any large amount of these bounties come back to the producers of cattle on the land, in counties like my own. We shall have an opportunity, as I say, subsequently of discussing these bounties. At the very best what can we say of them but that they are an indirect way of paying the land annuities to England. Is not that what it amounts to? Having adopted a policy that we will not pay the land annuities, that under no circumstances will we part with a penny until a decision has been given in the courts against us, we have really adopted a policy of paying the land annuities in this indirect way, paying them in a way that will inflict a maximum of damage on us and on the farming community of the country. Apart from the question of bounties, in reality the Minister had five million pounds to play with, then naturally he was able to pretend to show a balance; but even then he has to borrow.
When the Budget came up last year, we on these benches had occasion to refer to the fact that at the time there was a world crisis, a world crisis that was affecting every country and to a certain extent was affecting this country. Whether we were in office or out of office we never concealed that the world crisis to some extent would affect this country. In office we warned the people that they would be bound to feel some of the effects and that it was their duty as Irishmen to consider how these effects could be lessened. Out of office we are quite willing to admit that some of the present difficulties are due to the world crisis, but it is quite clear that only some of the difficulties are due to it. Many more of the difficulties are due to the policy of our own Government. The greater percentage of the difficulties are due to the policy of our own Government. At a time, as has been pointed out again and again when ordinary prudence, ordinary regard for the welfare of the nation demanded that particular care should be taken, that was the time chosen by the present Government to add to the difficulties which the world crisis would inflict on this country in any case. No body of men were more eloquent—eloquence is a matter in which they excel—and no person amongst that body of men was more eloquent than the present Minister for Finance when they were in Opposition, in pointing out that this country had reached the limits of its taxable capacity. Last year, undoubtedly, the future was being pawned and jeopardised by the policy of the Government. If that was true last year, it is still truer now, a result that everybody in the country, except apparently the Ministry, has experienced during the last 12 months, especially since the start of the economic war.
If there was any truth in the contention last year, as there undoubtedly was, that this country was not in a position to bear the heavy imposts put upon it by the Government, everybody who is moving amongst the people in the country districts and the towns and villages knows that this country is less able to bear them at present. In reality, of course, this Budget does not reveal the full charges on the people inflicted by the Government. I shall leave out of account matters which we have discussed in this House on other occasions, such as what we have to pay, for instance, owing to the butter policy. I am leaving aside what are the merits and demerits of that policy, but in practice it is a tax on the people and there was no reference to it in the Budget.
I leave out of account what their wheat policy and their flour policy will cost the consumer. It may be a policy of beggar-my-neighbour or it may be a policy—the Minister is very rich in these metaphors—of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It may be all that, but when you are considering the taxable weight that oppresses the country it must be taken into account. Let us leave out of account even the real charge that that question we discussed the other day of maize meal means to a large portion of the country, especially the poorer portion. There are any number of these things. In addition, there is the cost that the tariffs imposed. I am not now referring to the cost of the tariffs as revealed in the Budget and in the taxation returns. There is another cost as well that is practically impossible to determine. What it means in the way of taxation can be clearly demonstrated —so much tax collected at the ports. What it means in the way of increase in the price of the articles produced in this country above what otherwise they might have cost, is not revealed in the Budget. All these things which are not revealed in the Budget are so many tax burdens on the population. Above all that there is the outstanding case to which no reference has been made in the Budget, but which is in the minds of every man or woman in the towns and country districts—perhaps not so much in the cities—the tax that is levied at the English ports on agriculture produce. There was no reference to that particular tax in the Budget, but it is the most serious and the most damaging of all the taxes that the country is labouring under at present. Therefore, again to use that favourite word of the Minister, what is "apparent" in the Budget is one thing; what is the reality that confronts the Irish nation at present is an entirely different thing. There are what I might, for lack of a better term, call a number of concealed taxes, a number of burdens put upon the people by the policy of the Government, of which no mention is made in the Budget. As I say, apparently the Budget statement is no longer a statement of the tax burden on the people. In reality, from what we can gather from the Minister's statement, it is an attempt to conceal from the people what the real tax situation is.
An amazing attitude towards trade was taken up by the Minister yesterday. If it merely represented his own personal view we could leave it at that, but every speech they have made and their whole policy and conduct show perfectly well that it represents the considered—if I might use that phrase —view of the Executive Council. Apparently the view genuinely and seriously held by the Executive Council is that the more your external trade diminishes the better—that applies to the export and import trade alike— that the less trade this country has with countries outside, especially with England, the better for the country. I will say for them that in that they have reached a position unique probably so far as nations are concerned. What other people regard as a calamity they regard as a blessing. With the tortuous mind that appears to rule the policy of the Executive Council, that can reason about any number of things, but apparently must see things in a completely different light from that of every other people, apparently what, as I say, most nations and most statesmen would regard as a serious calamity is held by the present Government as one of their greatest achievements. Reference was made yesterday in the Budget statement to the diminution of our foreign trade. A stray tear forced out of the sympathetic eyes—not so very sympathetic indeed —of the Minister for Finance was cast upon it, but did not do much damage to the page. It was said that the loss was more than compensated by the development of the home market. So far as that is concerned, everybody who has attended this House for the last couple of months knows the impossibility of getting any information out of the Executive Council as to what the home market is worth in the way of employment or anything else.
Again and again they have refused information as to where the factories are. Each Deputy, if he knows his own constituency, can answer as to the number of factories that are operative in his constituency and the increased amount of employment that is given. He may believe, of course, that in the next constituency, or three constituencies further off, there are industries, but let each Deputy examine his own constituency and consider the amount of real employment at proper wages that is given in any new industry started. In that way, as the Ministry refuses absolutely to give any information to enable us to form any real view as to whether their policy has been a success or not, each man will have to judge from his own constituency. Let him put no faith in what he is told about some constituency 100 miles off, let him look to his own and see what real employment is given there.
One of the first tariffs imposed by the Government was the tax on agricultural machinery. Efforts by Deputy Keating to find out the increase in employment in these factories that turned out agricultural machinery—and by increase in employment I mean of skilled employees, not merely apprentices— ended in a failure to get information.
Perhaps Deputy Corish is in a position to say something decisive in this matter as to whether or not there has been actually a tremendous increase. I do not say now what is promised but the actual increase in the number of people employed in that industry. It is the same with many other industries. Is it not clear that the home market has been reserved to the home manufacturer but the purchasing power of the home market has been destroyed? What is the good of giving a manufacturer or, if you like, certain manufacturers the whole market to supply the farmers when you have deprived these farmers of the power of buying? You have ruined the benefit that you are giving. The Minister referred you to the success of the tariffs. He referred to the faulty estimation— I am not blaming him—I might perhaps use another word instead of "faulty."
I am not criticising the estimate of £910,000 that was given last year as to the probable yield of the tariffs imposed twelve months ago. The Minister confessed that that was not a true estimate. I am finding no fault with that. He then began to explain that the reason that, from the revenue point of view, these tariffs were a comparative failure was because from the protective point of view—in building up industries and in giving employment—they were such a success. He said, in fact, that the policy of the Minister for Industry and Commerce was so successful that it hit the Budget. Now we know the Minister can say that or anything else, but not merely has the Government refused to bring forward any facts to support that particular view but they have refused, when pressed for information, to give it so that the House and country would be in a position scientifically to check the statement of the Minister for Finance or, indeed, of the other Ministers. That information was refused.
I suggest this to every Deputy in the House. Each Deputy knows his own constituency. He knows the view that prevails in the country towns throughout this State and I suggest that he should ask himself whether there is not another explanation as to the failure of these tariffs to yield the expected taxes. That explanation is the diminution in the purchasing power of the community. It is one thing to live here in Dublin, in this big city. It is one thing to see the apparent life of this city going on in the normal way. But I have met a number of people engaged in business in the country who come up here to the city and who are surprised at the gaiety of this city in comparison with the depression that they, as business people, felt in their own towns. That is the position in every town in the country. This is a question really for the Deputies and for the people as well as the Deputies, because no matter what the Deputies may say the people know the situation. It is a question for the Deputies and the people to make up their minds whether or not the purchasing power of this community is the same as it was 12 months ago.
No wonder there is depression in the towns. No wonder there is decreased yield from revenue, even from customs revenue, when as everybody knows—I mean everybody who has been through the towns of the country—that there has been a serious decline in the purchasing power of the people. Remember that it is not a question merely of the employer that I am considering at the moment. The whole future position of the employee is equally in peril. It may be that the members of the Government have no respect for or pay no attention to the particular form of employment that is given, for instance, in what are generally called the distributing trades. But it is employment and that particular form of employment is necessary and that particular form of trade is necessary. It is one thing to manufacture goods but they must be brought to the people. It may be that the Government has no respect for any other form of employment except what is given in the industries that have sprung up so quickly but about which we can get no information. It may be that that is the only form of employment for which they have any respect. But I challenge any Deputy to go to the country towns and consult the ordinary people in these towns and he will learn there what the real position is in the small towns in the country and not merely in the towns but in the country round about, the people of which buy in these towns.
Naturally big cities like Cork and Dublin may be hit last but they are bound to be hit. If the farmer cannot buy in the local town the trader in the local town is up against a very serious situation. Every Deputy listening to me knows that. The local trader is up against a very serious situation, and in consequence so is the wholesale dealer in the cities, and so ultimately is the manufacturer. The whole policy of the Government is a policy leading towards a policy of "beggar-my-neighbour." If the Ministry is determined to persist in this policy it ultimately means beggary for everybody in the country.
What must appal everybody who listened to yesterday's Budget speech, and I presume it represents not merely the personal attitude of the Minister but the attitude of the whole Government—if it were merely the attitude of the Minister we could brush it aside and pay no attention to it—but we presume it must represent the collective attitude of the Executive Council and stands for their settled policy—is the complete failure on the part of the Government to understand the real situation that is confronting the people in town and country right through this State at the present moment. What must shock anybody who is looking at the position of the country is the state of hopeless depression with which the people look to the future. The Government might naturally have been misled last year, the more simple minded of them might have been naturally optimistic and been misled into hoping for something better in the first twelve months from this great "victorious policy." But it is now clear that the people are to get nothing. The people are to get no relief. They must suffer on. They can hope for no relief from a continuation of the economic war, a policy that is bringing ruin to the country.
That policy has placed a burden on the people of this country a burden that was not referred to in the Budget speech yesterday. True, a certain amount of relief has been promised. I presume the promise will be fulfilled. It has been promised in the shape of their being allowed off half their land annuities. What is the value of that relief to the farmers in Co. Kerry, when on a two-year-old beast worth £8 or £10 there is imposed a sum of £6 in the way of tariffs? What relief is that to the farmer? Ultimately of course there is a policy envisaged in the tortuous twistings of the Executive Council's mind, a policy which envisages the total disappearance of the export trade of the country. Then, we are to suppose the economic position of the people of the country will be perfect. Then the farmer, having lost the foreign market, will be told— as he has been frequently told from those benches—that he has got the home market. When you ask them what is the home market worth to the farmer you get no answer. When you ask what price the farmer got for his beasts, you get no answer. Of course the farmer has the home market. He cannot help having it. He has to dispose of his beasts. They have to be sold at whatever price offers. In that sense the market is there and he has it to the full. Does that mean he has got a return for his labour or expenditure? Does that mean that he is going to be at a loss year after year, and continue in the production of beasts of that kind? What is to take its place?
Into the substitutes that the Government have to offer for the present form of agricultural industry, we need not go at the present moment. That has been discussed sufficiently in this House already. Apparently the ideal striven after by the Government, and the idea revealed in yesterday's speech by the Minister for Finance, is the total disappearance of foreign trade, export and import. The farmer can then have the benefit of the home market for any cattle he is unwise enough to produce in those circumstances. It is quite obvious of course that it means ruin for the present community. What may come in the distant future we cannot deal with.
A complete neglect of the real situation facing the country was revealed in the speech made here yesterday by the Minister for Finance, as representing Government policy. There is apparently a determination—not merely a theoretical statement, but every step taken goes to show that this policy will be continued—on the part of the Executive Council to continue at all costs the disastrous economic war which is the real burden on the people of the country at the present moment. What have they done? Have they not taken steps to pledge anything of this money that remains over? Have they not taken steps, even in the present Budget, to see that there will be no going back, and that there will be no possibility of settlement of the economic war so far as they can manage it? That may be the view of many of their followers through the country. There are, however, a number of people in the country who were undoubtedly captivated by the appeal made in the various propagandist statements and literature in the last election that if the present Government was returned with the renewed confidence of the people there would be a quick end of the economic war. They have had their opportunity. We see no approach to that end. On the contrary this Budget nails down the situation more firmly. We are more definitely committed than ever before to the continuance of the economic war. The real situation was not dealt with in yesterday's Budget. I would ask the Deputies of this House, before they give approval to this particular policy as represented by the motion we are now discussing, to consider the real dangers that are ahead for this country, and to consider whither the policy of the Government is leading.
I have had occasion again and again to criticise, from many points of view, the policy of the present Government, and whither it was tending. A situation has been created under the victorious policy announced by the Minister which is really his —though for the moment, like Julius Cæsar, he put the crown aside,—the policy of "beggaring" the country. Out of that particular situation any crisis, no matter how dangerous, can arise for this country. The Budget is, from the point of view of securing the destruction of this country, as much an advance on last year's Budget as last year's Budget was on previous Budgets. When you examine the situation there is no reason for any kind of even momentary satisfaction, or any momentary suspension of the feeling of uneasiness which prevailed last year. There may have been some excuse for a feeling of hope last year. Now not merely is there no evidence of any growing sense of the real situation but the fact is quite the opposite. It is quite evident that after 12 months of experience the Government has learned nothing, but is determined to sacrifice this country to satisfy the passion of some of its members for shibboleths.