Private Deputies' Business. - Motion—Relief of Rates on Agricultural Land.

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That the Dáil is of opinion that owing to the increasing distress of the farming community arising out of the continuance of the economic war, the Executive Council should take steps to relieve agricultural land of rates during the financial year 1934/35—(Deputies O'Higgins and O'Donovan).

The Motion which is before the House to-night could not, in my opinion, be framed in a better setting than it is at the present time. The conditions that apply all over the country with regard to local authorities, the position of the farming community, the position in respect of uncollected annuities—in fact, the general condition of the country—demand that some steps be taken—must be taken—to deal with the present state of affairs.

From time to time I have had opportunities of reading reports of various local authorities all over the country, and all I can say is that they make very sad and very doleful reading at the present time. For some time past the finger-posts have been all directed towards a state of affairs such as exists now, but I do not think that anybody anticipated that it would come so soon. I do not think that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health thought last year that he would be confronted with such a situation as that with which he finds himself confronted to-day. Last year, when local authorities were framing their estimates the Minister for Local Government and Public Health felt quite buoyant over the situation. To-day the local authorities have got notices from the Local Government Department that they must delay the rate estimate; that they are not yet in a position to make out how much of the agricultural grant will have to be deducted, and consequently they cannot make up their rates.

This Motion really only asks, in effect, that there ought to be no rates asked for during the period of the economic war. That is really what it amounts to. I think that no fairer or no more righteous request could be made, particularly if we consider the statements made by responsible people on the opposite benches before they came into power. One wonders occasionally what it was that prompted the President to make the statements he did about derating if he did not believe in it; and if he believed in it in 1932, surely to goodness it ought to be making some impression on him to-day. Personally, I think that if we had derating in this country—if we had complete derating, and if it was part of the policy of the Government and part of the system in the country that we had derating—it is quite possible that we would have to alter our local government methods. It is quite possible. I do not know, however, that that struck the President in 1932. In 1932 the President, speaking down in Kells, said:

"The farmer's burden required to be lightened, and it could be effectively done if they retained at home the £3,000,000 of land annuities which were now needlessly being sent over to England every year. Two millions of the three would give complete derating to all agricultural holdings, big and small, and to the farm buildings as well."

I wonder what became of that promise. I wonder would Deputy Corry be able to tell us about that promise. I mention Deputy Corry specially because I am going to give him special attention later on. Deputy Corry made a speech at a meeting of the Cork County Council, which was reported in the Irish Independent on April 6th, 1932. That is a long time ago. It was before Fianna Fáil had really felt the responsibilities of Government. They were just in at the time. Deputy Corry, of course, was not as well up as the President was, because, when the President got in in April, 1932, what he said was:

"We have definitely pledged ourselves that at least £2,000,000 of the £3,000,000 a year collected in land annuities will be used for the benefit of the farming industry."

That was a way out. The President was looking for a way out then, but Deputy Corry was not. Deputy Corry was reported in the Irish Independent of the 6th April, 1932, as having said, amongst other things:

"The annuities will certainly go to complete derating. Every pledge we gave is going to be honoured."

I wonder how does Deputy Corry regard that pledge to-day? Now, no matter what speech we take up at that period—whether it is Deputy Corry, whether it is the President, whether it is the Minister for Defence, whether it is an election poster—we find them all plastered over with this idea of derating. We are asking now for derating during the period of the economic war. I wonder are we going to get it. If President de Valera thought in 1932, or if Deputy Corry thought in 1932, that we could not get on without derating at a time when we were getting practically three times as much for the export of our live stock as we are getting to-day, I wonder what do we need now? We need home assistance now. We had an election poster issued in the Irish Independent. They even took advantage of that unnational paper, as they call it, the Irish Independent, and they issued an advertisement. This is the burden of that advertisement:

"With £2,000,000 of the £3,000,000 involved the farmers can be relieved completely of the rates of their holdings. Another £1,000,000 is available for the relief of taxation or for such purposes as the Dáil may determine."

If it were not a tragedy, would it not be a great joke? What did Fianna Fáil do, when they came into power, to carry out their promises of derating? How did they treat the ratepayers? What was their attitude towards them? When they came into power in 1932, what did they do? The grants which the county councils were then getting were very different from the grants they are getting now. As a matter of fact, if I take the case of my own county council it will probably give a better idea of what happened. When they came into power they threw £250,000 into the Agricultural Grant at the time. That was the first gesture. They wanted to show what they could do. They wanted to do something to justify the things they had been saying. Roscommon's share of the Agricultural Grant that year was £75,000. The following year, when Fianna Fáil had their first opportunity—their very first opportunity—of allocating the Agricultural Grant, they cut down our share in Roscommon to £61,000, and cut down every other county's share by a like amount. They reduced the Agricultural grant by a sum of £448,000. That was how Fianna Fáil kept their promises.

Let no member of the Government Party try to get away with the view that if they did not give derating and stopped a proportion of the Agricultural Grant that their predecessors were giving they halved the annuities. They did not. They doubled the annuities. Deputy Corry knows that and the Minister for Local Government and Public Health knows it. There is no use endeavouring to hide that fact. What has happened in regard to halving the annuities? How has it affected the farmers? The British say they have collected practically £5,000,000—£4,800,000 odd. That is their account of the matter. The President admitted on the adjournment debate before Christmas that the annuities were being paid to England, but against our will. It means little, whether it is against our will or not, when they have to be paid; the money is gone anyway. The net amount the farmers were responsible to England for was £3,000,000. England is now collecting £5,000,000, and, in addition, our Government demands 50 per cent. of the annuities. In spite of all that Fianna Fáil says they have halved the annuities. That is how they have been halved. They are at least double on the farmers of the country.

On March 3rd, 1932, at a time when we were living in wonderful prosperity, in comparison with to-day, one of the Fianna Fáil Deputies, Deputy Harris, had a motion at the Kildare County Council which was published in the Irish Independent of March 3rd for consideration. That was before the Fianna Fáil Party came into power. The motion set out, among other things, “the utter impossibility of the ratepayers meeting any demand for rates during the coming year.” That was in 1932. Immediately Deputy Harris found that his own people formed the Government he withdrew that motion. He was right. He knew what his men were made of even though Deputy Corry was saying that they were returned to redeem their promises. What happened all these promises? What was it that brought about the complete change of mind ? Or was it a change of mind, or only humbug, or a hoax thrown out to get votes? I wonder what it was. Whatever it was the Fianna Fáil Party took advantage of derating to get elected to this House and to become the elected Government of the country. In 1931 our agricultural exports amounted to £18,329,669; in 1934 they dropped to £6,015,462. And we do not want derating now, but we did want it when our exports were over £18,000,000.

What is the real situation in this country? I do not want to make any wild statements. I have here before me estimates from counties other than my own county. I have an estimate from the Offaly County Council, which has a majority of Fianna Fáil members, and of which a Fianna Fáil Deputy is chairman. What do we find there ? Here is what we find. In 1934, according to their estimates, they had a bill of £11,590 for home assistance as against £6,500 in 1931. That is the improvement that has been brought about in this country under Fianna Fáil policy. If they wanted derating in 1931 and 1932 when home assistance was £6,000 in Offaly, surely they want it now when home assistance is over £11,000.

As a matter of fact, I think the request embodied in this motion is a very modest one. All these promises made by Fianna Fáil were probably part of the Plan and the "Plan" having failed the promises went with it. The "Plan" certainly failed. I think the Minister for Local Government will admit that. They had a plan to cure unemployment. What has happened that plan? If we go into the figure of unemployment we do not seem to be convinced that the plan has worked. If I take up the Offaly County Council again, presided over by a Fianna Fáil Deputy, what do I find ? He said the other day:

"There is an advertisement published in every paper in the country asking the people to suggest ways by which the Government can reduce unemployment, and members of this Council would be well advised to put their suggestions before the Department dealing with the matter. It is a very serious problem and it concerns everybody."

We agree. I wonder what happened the "Plan." They are going out now searching the highways and the byways to make up for the loss of the "Plan." Of course, if the "Plan" has only been lost I am sure if the Government issued an advertisement it would turn up. The £5,000,000 may turn up. Even so, I doubt if it would be of any use.

Take the case of the Galway County Council. What is the position in Galway ? Take any of the county councils at random. What is the position of the ratepaying community? We had a meeting last October in Roscommon of the Finance Committee of the county council. As a matter of fact, they were all of one mind in politics with the Minister, and the business they met for was to examine the refund lists. The refund lists, as the Minister knows, are lists the collectors turn in of uncollected rates in the county. Now the Finance Committee of the Roscommon County Council, in going through these lists came to the conclusion—and they were all Fianna Fáil members—that there was a certain amount of rates that should be wiped out as irrecoverable, and that a sum of £7,800 should be carried forward to the better times that were coming this year. Some members of that county council were short-sighted enough afterwards to say it was the big men who were not paying their rates and annuities. Mark you, that Finance Committee had its responsibilities and its obligations and I have no doubt whatever that they acted up to their responsibilities and to their obligations. They could not, and should not, have passed one single item of that as being carried forward unless they were convinced that the people were not able to pay. They must first satisfy themselves that there was nothing there to seize and if there was, they should have ordered its seizure. The money was not collectable then. Why was it not collectable? Let Fianna Fáil answer that. It is a pity the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not here to tell us, as they told us at the end of last year, that on every side we had evidence of prosperity. I wonder has the Minister for Local Government evidence of prosperity. Certainly, we have not got it. Galway County Council, as reported in the Connacht Tribune of 2nd February, 1935, says:

"The demands for home assistance have been steadily increasing and the estimate of £17,500 for the coming financial year is the highest on record. In 1927, the figure was as low as £10,000."

That is from Galway. There was another statement from the West Cork Board of Health. The West Cork Board of Health was in a bad way, according to the Southern Star on 2nd February, 1935. Deputy Corry probably knows all about that. According to the report in that paper, they were in a very bad way and

"unless the board received money immediately from the county council, home assistance payments would have to stop next week because the overdraft would then be exhausted."

And the county council had none. The whole country, so far as the local authorities are concerned, at the present time is living on overdrafts. How long they can continue is a matter for speculation. I have here a very interesting statement from a very strong, stout and stern supporter of Fianna Fáil—the chairman of the Westmeath County Council. The chairman, according to the Longford Leader of 26th January, 1935, said:

"The county council find it very hard to get in the rates and the board of health has no money to pay either home help or the officials."

Now are we justified in asking for derating? At the same meeting, the secretary of the county council, Mr. Roche, in discussing the rate collectors and whether they had done their duty or not, stated:

"The sheriff took cattle recently for rates and after feeding them for a week he had to return them as he could not sell them."

That discloses a very bad state of affairs in this country. In addition to all that, we are threatened now with the withholding of our grants for the non-payment of the annuities—the annuities which have been halved. Surely to goodness, if there is that prosperity in this country which the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Industry and Commerce can see, the people ought to be well able to pay the annuities, which have been halved.

I have here reports from the Kerry County Council, the Clare County Council and the Wexford County Council, together with a very illuminating resolution passed by the Wexford County Council—a gloriously illuminating resolution, passed, of course, by a Fianna Fáil majority. This is the resolution:

"That a list of ratepayers owing three years' rates——"

I wonder how did they manage to carry on for three years without paying rates?

Apparently, your crowd did not collect them when they were in office.

Is that so ? It is the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government. Does the Deputy know the procedure? Does he know what has to be done with the refund lists? He does not ? They have to be returned to the Minister for Local Government and he has been in office since 1932. The 1932 rate, the 1933 rate and the 1934 rate represent three years' rates. My friend, Deputy Mulcahy, was not there at all. It is a miscalculation of the Deputy's. The resolution set out:

That a list of ratepayers owing three years' rates and who hold farms of a poor law valuation of £30 or over be prepared and furnished to the Land Commission, with a recommendation that if annuities in these cases are also in arrear for two or three years, the Land Commission should consider the advisability of taking over those farms and handing them over to persons who are prepared to work them.

That is from a member of the county council in Wexford. If those people did their duty or if the Minister did his duty, he would not pass a single refund list on which anybody appeared who was able to pay his rates two or three years ago. That is his job; that is what he is there for. Members of the county council have a certain responsibility of their own, but the Minister has his. The county council in Wexford —whoever they were, I do not know— passes refund lists, and after they have been approved by the Minister— evidence that they were not able to pay —the council comes along and says: "We ask the Land Commission to take the land off these poor people whom the county council has decided are not able to pay their rates." That is the position.

Of course when Fianna Fáil came in we had a great flourish of trumpets with regard to the number of people who were going to be employed on the land as a result of innovations in the application of a certain amount of the grants for employment. Of course, as was admitted afterwards by the Minister, it was no more than a gesture, and a very poor one. It was a very poor gesture indeed because, taking all in all, the amount gained by the farmer by way of relief of rates for employing one labourer the year round at 25/- a week was too small to induce him to employ labour.

Mind you, the administration of these innovations was very costly. The county councils were asked first to prepare lists consolidating all the ratings belonging to the same people under £10 and then, to put into operation a credit note system. That has been in operation now for three years. It started at the end of 1932, after Fianna Fáil had come in, and they gave £250,000 to be administered by way of credit note. It cost the County Roscommon over £1,100 in the three years to make out the accounts necessary to administer the Minister's innovation.

That is what it comes to and it means a corresponding amount for each county council. And what was the net result of it? As far as the employment of labour was concerned it was, in my opinion, nil. Take the case of the Roscommon County Council, where £7,800 have been carried forward this year. That sum has been carried forward against people who are not able to pay it. That is the contention of the Finance Committee, and I believe they are right. Whatever number of people that £7,800 represents, in the way of arrears of rates those people have lost their credit notes. These notes are not operative. Instead of having carried forward against them the amount that they owed, less the credit note which ought to have been given in the proper way, the whole amount is carried forward against them.

I drew the Minister's attention to this already and I think that it is an absolutely unfair method of dealing with the matter. The county councils are free or otherwise to adopt the credit note scheme. I do not think a perusal of the accounts of the county councils to-day, taking one with another, and considering the councils that have had credit notes in operation, the county councils that have no credit notes in operation, and county councils that have two and some of them three credit notes in operation, would convince one that the system has been an inducement to the people to pay. The councils that were always foremost in paying up are still foremost and those that were always last are still last, irrespective of whether they had credit notes or not. But the unfortunate people who cannot pay their rates have those rates carried forward against them. These people are the victims of the credit-note system.

I think that the motion down in the names of Deputies O'Higgins and O'Donovan is a motion to which the Government ought to give their closest attention. It is the type of motion on which the members of the Fianna Fáil Party when on this side of the House waxed very strongly. That was in the time when the country was prosperous —before they went into power. Now we do not hear anything about it. I would like the Minister for Local Government and Public Health seriously to consider, if he has not already done so, what steps he proposes to take—if he does not have derating—in order to meet the present situation in the country. If the alarm created by the Minister for Finance with regard to the grants is going to be fulfilled and if these grants are withheld, I wonder how it is expected that we are going to carry on?

We will be told, of course, that the farming community can pay their rates if they grow wheat, if they grow beet and if they cut turf. But if they have cattle, no. There is no profit in cattle and there was not before Christmas. When the quota motion was discussed here immediately before Christmas there was no room in Britain for another beast of ours according to the Minister for Defence. Not a bit of room. No additional beast could be got in. That market was wanted absolutely for the British cattle. It was an extraordinary thing afterwards, and I am very glad of it, that the Minister and his party found that there was quite a lot of room in Britain for our cattle. Not alone that but they also found that it would not impair our patriotism to burn British coal. That was an extraordinary change. If it does not impair our patriotism to burn British coal, it should not impair the Minister's patriotism if he said to the President that he ought to live up to the promises which he made in 1932 and that if ever there was a case for derating in this country, conditions at the present time make that case water-tight. We have the sick, the poor and the needy to look after. There are big responsibilities on boards of health. County councils have to take responsibility with regard to roads and other social services, and we are going to be saddled with new responsibilities. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health sat idly by whilst his colleague, the Minister for Finance, demanded that those local authorities, who minister to the needs of the sick and poor, must in future pay stamp duty, a thing which the British Government never asked for because of the type of work which the local authorities had to do in maintaining public services. It was because of these services that they were exempt from stamp duty. Now why must the Minister for Finance come along and say that the rate collectors must stamp the receipts for the rates? I wonder what does the Minister for Local Government and Public Health think about it? I wonder what fight did the Minister make for his Department when that matter was brought on? We have courthouses to build and we have provision to make for their maintenance. The county councils must build the courthouses which the county registrar demands. But the councils must not have control of them. According to the Bill before the Oireachtas they must not have the custody of them. The county councils must build pounds——

The Deputy knows he cannot discuss legislation on a Motion like this.

Very well, Sir. The responsibilities of the local authorities are increasing, their expenditure is increasing; and their champion, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, or the man who ought to be their champion, does not budge while the Minister for Finance puts extra charges on them. I think that anything I may say would not be nearly so eloquent in favour of derating as the present conditions in this country. If the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and the Fianna Fáil Party look around them and if they will look at the demands on the various local authorities all over the country; the increasing demands for overdraft accommodation in the banks and the insistence of the Minister for Finance that the grants must be withheld, the Minister himself will be convinced that he must do something either by the way of derating or by some other measure in order to see that the local authorities are allowed to carry on.

To be candid I feel rather nervous to-night in following such a very excellent speech by my colleague Deputy Brennan. In rising to support this Motion I would like to have the opportunity of being able to debate this in a non-political atmosphere. One would like, in dealing with a very important and very grave matter such as is embodied in this Motion, to be able to discuss it as a matter of urgent business. But this institution is the last place in which to discuss business, whether it is good or bad.

To-day, when we were considering the Land Commission Vote, I was interested to hear Deputy Lynch making a comparison between the previous Administration and this Administration in relation to placing new holders on recently divided land and in that comparison he indicated that the activities of the present Government made a very unfavourable comparison indeed. One began to inquire as to the reason. The more I listened to Deputy Brennan's speech to-night, the more did I become convinced that land to-day is a liability and instead of being a means of earning great national revenue it is to-day a means of hurrying many into a state of bankruptcy. Even if tremendous relief were given to-morrow by the Government towards rates in different counties, that would not prevent many farmers from going to the wall within the next six or twelve months. I wonder is there any relationship between that state of affairs and the fact that so few people are anxious to earn their livelihood by the land at the present time? I wonder if the rates liability and the diminished earning capacity are the deciding factors that are keeping our people from seeking occupation on the land?

Those of us who are observant are aware that in country districts the young people are rapidly leaving in order to make their way towards the cities and large towns. Why are they leaving their own native areas and heading for the towns? The fact is that there is nothing to be gained by remaining on the land; they cannot make a decent livelihood there; there is no future for them on the land. The average holding is only capable of giving a livelihood to the father and mother and perhaps one or two of the children. As a matter of fact, they can eke out only an existence, not a livelihood. In what way can this situation be remedied? Can it be done by relief of rates? Certainly not. Relief of rates would be merely a crumb on the table, so to speak. This is an appeal to the Government, put forward in a business way, in a non-political way, to come to the rescue of the vast majority of the people.

I believe that the bounty system will have to be reinvestigated. The millions we hear of will have to be applied in some other fashion—for instance, in some manner so that they will go towards the relief of rates. I am quite convinced that a business man, if permitted to investigate the whole position of the bounty system, would agree that the bounties would be better allocated if given to the farmer in the form of relief of rates. There should be some effort made towards complete derating during the period of the economic war. I believe if a serious effort were made in that direction it would be of tremendous help to the agricultural community.

At the present time we find local authorities, who have a big say in the handling of rates, more interested in politics than in anything else. Some months ago we had an election for urban and county councils and representatives were elected whose primary duty it is to look after the poor and sick and to control local affairs generally. Insteal of looking after that business, we have them repeatedly fighting out political matters pure and simple. The result is that at the present time there is more attention paid to politics, political clap-trap and political kudos than to the all-important question of how most economically to administer local affairs. I think it is time that the county and urban councils should be advised to attend to their affairs in a more business-like way. If they did such grave motions as this would not have to be considered.

The rates at the present time are intolerable. They are crushing farmers out of existence. Numerous homesteads throughout the country are seriously affected. The funny thing is that those who are most crushed are the people who have least to say. It is a galling thing for a public man who endeavours to invoke assistance for these unfortunate people to find himself accused of trying to make political capital out of it and of sponsoring and encouraging a non-ratepaying campaign.

I hope the Minister realises the serious condition of affairs that exists. Times were never harder. The household budget of the small farmer is gravely affected. The large farmer, if a farmer be regarded as large by reason of the property he holds, is in many instances worse off than the small man. They are both struggling to make ends meet. The Minister is a sensible man, and I sincerely hope he will have the situation examined so as to see what relief can be given. I am quite certain he will realise that what I am saying in support of my colleague Deputy Brennan is perfectly true. He will understand, I am sure, that my attitude on this question is not prompted by any reason except the good of the community whether in the towns or in the rural districts.

In my area it has been found very difficult to collect the rates, and it will surprise Deputies to know that, despite all that has been done by the Government, the cultivation of beet has done very little towards helping to relieve the situation in regard to rates. In many instances, in addition to the low prices obtained for cattle and agricultural produce, farmers found that their cheque for the beet, with which they hoped to be able to pay their rates, barely covered the artificial manure guarantees and the advance that the factory had given. Never in my recollection have conditions been so bad in the intensive tillage area from which I come. Everybody knows that the sugar beet factory was established in that part of the country to help the farmers owing to the big drop in the price of grain, and the farmers looked upon it as one of the great stand-bys to help them in that way. Unless better conditions prevail, and a better price is forthcoming for beet, the rates position will be far more acute than it is, and instead of asking for relief in this way, this House will have to demand remission of rates altogether and the giving of subsidies to the farmers; and that will be known as national home assistance.

I have been rather disappointed with this debate up to the present. The Motion on the Order Paper is:

That the Dáil is of opinion that, owing to the increasing distress of the farming community arising out of the continuance of the economic war, the Executive Council should take steps to relieve agricultural land of rates during the financial year 1934-35.

It does not ask for derating, neither does it ask for relief of rates during the economic war; but for relief of rates during the current year. I should like to see this motion debated within those limits, although what has been said in dealing with it in a wider way has been very interesting and all quite true. But the only way to get hold of a slippery adversary is to tie him down to narrow limits.

The case for derating was made before the advent of the economic war. It was accepted by the then Opposition Party, now the Government, as a necessity to keep agriculture on its feet. Apart from the conditions that warranted derating before, with the economic war an entirely new situation arose which has not been met by the Party which claimed that agricultural land should be relieved from rates even before that situation arose. Whether a good or bad case existed for derating prior to the economic war, I shall apply my argument to the demand for relief of rates during the economic war. After the special grant given in 1931-32 of £750,000, a sum of about £1,500,000 or £1,700,000 would entirely meet the bill for rates on agricultural land. It has been mentioned that the present Government as a gesture threw in £250,000 during the year 1932-33, but where did they get it? To provide the £750,000 given in 1931-32 new taxes were imposed of ½d. per lb. on sugar and 4d. per gallon on petrol. During that year these taxes were producing only for eight or nine months but they produced sufficient to cover the £750,000.

When the present Government came into office in 1932 those taxes were there producing not for eight or nine months, but for 12 months; and, as can be verified by reference to the sugar and petrol consumption, those taxes during that 12 months provided from £1,100,000 to £1,200,000. So that the new taxation imposed to provide a special grant for the relief of rates on agricultural land gave the present Government in the year 1932-33, when they gave an increased grant of £250,000, bringing the special grant up to £1,000,000, a profit on the transaction of from £100,000 to £200,000. Those taxes are still producing from £1,100,000 to £1,200,000 per year. The taxes imposed for the extra agricultural grant in 1924-25 are also still producing revenue, as are the taxes imposed to meet the £600,000 of the original agricultural grant. The present Government are getting the benefit of all these taxes.

Bearing that in mind, let us see what are the special conditions created by the economic war. Our Government refused to pay a sum of something less than £5,000,000, if we deduct the sinking fund for certain debts, to the British Government. The British said they would collect that amount and they set about collecting it. In the year ended 31st March last, the British collected off agricultural produce £4,372,622. I put it to the Minister for Agriculture and to the Minister for Local Government that that sum covers land annuities and rates. And agriculture paid it all. I am not going to deal with the annuities side of the question at all.

Besides the annuities, there were other payments to the British which, I think, can be bulked under the two headings of local loans payments and pensions. They would amount to about £2,000,000. They were provided for our Exchequer prior to the economic war by certain taxes. They were paid out of our revenue here to the British. Since the present Government came into office these same taxes have been providing this £2,000,000 odd for the Exchequer. There has been no reduction in taxation because of the fact that this £2,000,000 is no longer paid to the British, although we were told on thousands of platforms, and on as much paper as would cover the country, that once the present Government came into office this payment would not be made to the British and that there would be a corresponding relief in taxation. There has been no relief in taxation. That £2,000,000 is yet being paid by the taxpayers into our Exchequer, and it is not paid to the British. Yet the British get it. How do they get it? They have attacked our Government through the farming community. The British Government was not able to come here and put their hand in the till, so to speak, to take out the £2,000,000 and say: "This is our money. We are taking it away whether you like it or not." No, they did not do the job in that way. They imposed taxation on agricultural produce going into Britain and collected every penny of that debt. From whom? From the farmers of this country.

The position boils itself down to this: that our Government collected £2,000,000 from the taxpayers to meet a certain obligation. They said they would not meet that obligation, but the party to whom the obligation was due took £2,000,000 from the farmers of this country in respect of that obligation. Our Government then says: "Very well; sure it is only the old farmers from whom you are taking it. What about it? We have the £2,000,000 and it will help us to balance our Budget. It will help us to supply free milk, to straighten corners, to talk of wheat, beet and peat to people who know nothing about them." They collected that money to meet a certain obligation which they did not meet. The party to whom that obligation was owing came then and seized the goods of the agricultural community.

This Motion simply asks that farmers be recouped for the money which has been seized from them, to pay a debt which the Government had already collected but had not paid. It asks that the farmer be recouped by our Government for money which they have collected under false pretences or for the value of the goods which have been seized from the farmers by the British Government. That is the whole case as I understand it. I should like the Minister for Local Government to say why that money was collected here to pay a debt when that debt was not paid. I must not be misunderstood when I say "to pay a debt." I do not want to say that the Government should pay that as a debt, but the money was collected. If that payment had not been made to the British in the years prior to the present Government coming into office, quite obviously the taxation of this country would be £2,000,000 less.

Why call it a debt?

Give me a more convenient word and I shall use it. It was a payment that was made to the British. Why does our Government not reduce the national taxation because of the retention of that money? What have they done with that £2,000,000. Say, that I owe a man £10 and I say I will not pay it. Somebody takes the amount out of a company of which I am a member and we cannot prevent his doing that. Must not I in honour, recoup that company? I do not know about the legal side of it. I shall not bother about that because we have quite a number of lawyers on all sides of the House to go into the legal aspect of it. I am not going into it, but in honour, am I not bound, if another person pays a debt for me, to recoup the friend who pays it? That is the whole proposition.

What about the £3,000,000 bounties?

The Deputy wants to know about the £3,000,000 bounties. I wanted to confine the debate to the Motion but now we shall have to deal with the £3,000,000 bounties. There were £4,372,000 odd collected. During that year there were not £3,000,000 paid in bounties but £2,019,126.

What about this year?

I presume the Deputy's view is that we shall have a bigger payment in bounties this year. If we have, that is all the greater justification for the demand made in this Motion. If a bounty of £3,000,000 was required in 1934-35 why was 1933-34 left with only a £2,000,000 bounty?

Who is getting the bounty?

Who are getting the bounties? What is relevant to the proposition is the amount of bounties that the Government paid out, as a set-off against what they had received, and by not making these payments to the British. The relevant proposition is: Who got the bounties? That question can be dealt with when the Vote comes on.

It is part of the balance sheet.

I will be glad to hear the Deputy's views on this question especially as he represents an agricultural constituency where the weekly wage is about 18/-.

Who pays that?

The prosperous farmers of Leix-Offaly. I should be glad if the Deputy could contradict that statement. Is he satisfied as the representative of hard-working and industrious farmers in Leix-Offaly that 18/- a week is enough to pay? If he is, he is not the Deputy Davin that I understand him to be.

I did not say that.

The Deputy cannot deny that the wages paid agricultural labourers in Leix-Offaly are 18/- weekly. Those are the people who put the Deputy in. As the object of the Motion is to give the farmers of Leix-Offaly a chance to pay decent wages I hope the Deputy will go into the right Lobby this time. It must be some of the far-seeing butchers in Leix-Offaly who were heard to say that they bought 100 head of cattle before the prices were fixed. The Deputy wants an investigation into that. I say good luck to him. He should be proud of such constituents.

I hope they did not get any of the bounties.

The Deputy interrupted me when I was dealing with bounties, which will amount to three millions this year. I invited the Deputy to explain why three millions are necessary this year, when two millions were sufficient last year, and £600,000 the year before.

What about the extra 150,000 cattle we are to send over to England?

The price will come back in the coal-scuttle. If it takes £3,000,000 to cover bounties this year, when two millions were sufficient last year, surely the farmers were cheated out of £2,400,000 the year before.

Are you looking for a refund?

Surely. As Deputy Davin knows, the grass is growing on the railways because the farmers' end has not been looked after.

It would be growing in every place if the Deputy's friends were in power.

Even one of the central railway stations in Dublin is being closed down because the company could not pay stationmasters and porters.

The whole system would be closed down if the Deputy's friends were still in power.

I do not want to go into the question of bounties now. Obviously the Deputy mentioned them in order to show that they were a complete set-off to the amount the British are collecting on our exports. The bounties for the year under review amounted to £2,000,000, but the British collected special duties amounting to £4,500,000. I am sure the Deputy and his colleagues will appreciate that the £2,500,000 of a difference represents what agriculturists lost, because the £2,500,000 were knocked off the wholesale prices of agricultural exports and about fifty-fifty of what was consumed in the home market. The Deputy will appreciate that producers lost £2,500,000 on the export surplus and an equal amount on the home market.

More, because there were no bounties there.

It must be remembered that the export prices regulate the prices on the home market, so that after allowing £2,000,000 for bounties, producers lost £3,000,000 that year. The amount of bounties according to a statement of the Minister for Agriculture was £2,019,126 for the financial year ending 31st March last.

That has nothing to do with the Motion. It refers to 1934-35.

We cannot handle figures for 1934-35 yet, because they are not available.

They are.

No one, not even the British, can say how much will be collected up to the 31st March. One set of figures is of no use unless you have the other set. If the British collected all they required last year on a certain number of cattle exported, and if 150,000 extra cattle are to be exported this year under the coal-scuttle pact on which John Bull will collect £4, £5 or £6 a head, no one knows what the total will reach.

As well as helping the enemy to find employment for his people.

As the Deputy knows, we cannot compare the figures until we get the two sets. The Deputy tries to compare estimates. No one could give the figures as to what the tax on exports will produce up to the 31st March of this year. Even the British Chancellor has not got them yet.

Mr. Thomas will give them on the 1st April.

Wait until the 1st April and I will deal with them. We cannot deal with them now. We can only deal with the figures we have got. The Deputy knows that income tax is collected on profits, not of the current year but of the previous year. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.