Vote 67—External Affairs. - Control of Imports Orders (Quota No. 11)—Motion of Approval.

I move:—

That Dáil Eireann hereby approves of Control of Imports (Quota No. 11) Order, 1934, made on the 21st day of December, 1934, by the Executive Council under the Control of Imports Act, 1934 (No. 12 of 1934).

Under this Order the importation of coal, culm, shale and slack into Saorstát Eireann was prohibited except under licence. The object of the Order was to enable effect to be given to the informal arrangement entered into with the British Government, concerning coal and cattle, of which Deputies are aware. The quota appointed under the Order for the first quota period effects no reduction in the imports of coal, but the Order appointing the quota prescribed that out of a total of 1,100,000 tons of coal for the first period, that is from the 1st of February, 1935, to the 31st July, 1935, 1,099,000 tons should be shown, to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners, to have been purchased in, and consigned from, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There is a difference between this Order and others approved of, or covered by other resolutions on the Order Paper, in so far as this is not designed to effect a reduction in imports, but to insure that the informal arrangement with Great Britain should be carried out and that the coal imported will be only consigned from that country.

The other Quota Orders are designed to effect reduction of imports for the purpose of stimulating the production of the goods involved at home. On that account the fixation of the quota was designed to ensure that there would be no limitation upon the quantity brought in having regard to the quantities imported in previous years. It will continue to operate in that manner.

The principal effect of the Order was to transfer to Great Britain orders for coal that had previously been going to continental countries, principally Germany and Poland. The agreement under which this is done is of one year's duration. It is not possible to say how long the Order will remain in operation, but certainly until the end of this year. Whether it will be continued in the following year will depend upon circumstances then existing.

One would expect a much more important statement from the Minister in putting this Quota Order before us. The arrangement under which the Order comes is certainly a very important one. It has been very elaborately described as an important one by many Ministers and their followers. The arrangement under which the Order is made puts a very big tax upon the people of this country for their coal. We will have another opportunity of discussing that with the Minister and it will give the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon that tax. But the fact is that in the full year the operation of this Order will impose a tax of £600,000 or more on the people of this country as a customs duty in respect of their coal. The arrangement out of which the Order comes has been described by Deputy Geoghegan, speaking in Mullingar on the 14th January, in these terms: "The new understanding between Britain and the Free State is a milestone in their national life. In its own small way it has placed the country's trade on a basis of equality with Great Britain." It was further referred to in a leading article of the Irish Press on the 7th January last. It first referred to the other Orders generally and then remarked: “Any trade agreement we make with these States must bring the balance nearer to equality, the ideal, of course, being absolute equality as in the cattle against coal pact,” and again in a leading article the Irish Press stated: “The agreement is a trade agreement similar to those recently made between other nations. It is in line with the new direction international trade has taken since the policy of developing native resources became general throughout Europe. This new form of trade is practically one of barter by which the surplus of one nation's products is exchanged for the surplus of another's to make up a home deficiency in the imported commodity.” So that the general stress which was made by commentators of the Government in what was involved showed that a very considerable amount of importance was attached to it. I do not know why the Minister described this as an informal agreement. If it were so made, we would like to hear a more elaborate statement of the matter from the trade aspect than the Minister gave the House on this occasion.

The question arises whether this was a war arrangement or a peace arrangement. The question of coal was first tackled by the Government as a war matter. Five shillings penal tariff was put on British coal coming into this country. Substantial volumes of coal were bought from Germany and Poland and there was no tax upon that coal. Suddenly this informal agreement changed the whole position and gives a monopoly of the coal supplies of this country to Great Britain. We would like to hear from the Minister whether the war aspect has completely gone off and if it is a trade agreement, whether we are going to be exempt from the £600,000 tax which this agreement, such as it is, imposes upon the people in respect of their coal. It has been figured out that this arrangement puts an additional burden upon the country as a whole of £876,000, as additional tariff to be levied by Britain on the increase of 150,000 head of cattle going into Britain. It has been figured out also that it imposes another burden upon the taxpayer here to the extent of £140,000 in respect of bounties.

If you take all of these figures and add them together, you find that £1,600,000 has to be paid by someone in this country to keep the coal-cattle agreement in operation. This is represented as putting the trading of the two countries on an equal footing! The Minister's figures for the trade of this country generally for 1933-34 disclose that whereas we imported from Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1933 and 1934 goods value £50,032,000 they only took from us goods value £17,939,000. In our trade with Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the year 1933 we were down £7,092,000 and for the year 1934 we were down £8,970,000. It should strike the House as a rather remarkable thing that we entered into a trade pact with a country which gave us, no doubt, the advantage of relieving the farmers of 150,000 cattle that were eating them out of their homes, and which they could not otherwise capitalise—that we should give them a chance of selling them even at the bankrupt prices at which they are selling them at the present time—and that for that advantage we incurred an expenditure of £1,600,000 on our side. On the British side, we are enabling them to put about 5,000 additional miners into employment and we give them a very substantial volume of trade involving no cost of any kind to the people of Great Britain. These superficial facts should drive the Minister or some member of the Government to make a more elaborate statement on this agreement than the Minister has given us here.

Since the agreement was entered into quite a number of other points have arisen. It has been pointed out in various articles in both the local and the daily Press that apart altogether from the 5/- per ton tariff that is imposed on all coal now coming into the country, the price of coal has been raised pretty substantially for the consumer here. The Irish Times reported on the 28th of February that “Householders and others who use coal are aware from experience that the price of the commodity has advanced considerably during the past two weeks.” That is since the quota came into operation. The report goes on: “It appears that, quality for quality, British coal is 6/- per ton dearer at the port of Dublin than Continental coal, and as there is also a Customs duty of 5/- per ton on British coal, the price works out at 11/- per ton more than the Continental product.” That aspect of the matter has been drawn to the Minister's notice by some Deputies in this House. The question then arises for discussion by the Minister as to what exactly is the position and what precautions he took in entering into the agreement to see that, assuming that he was levying 5/- per ton on coal, there was going to be no addition to this increase in cost because of the cutting-off of Continental supplies and the giving of a monopoly to the British coal suppliers.

We remember that when the coal taxes were imposed as part of the economic war against Britain, a number of Deputies of the Minister's Party were very vocal in pointing out how much superior German and Polish coal was to the coal that was obtainable from Great Britain. No doubt there are people who will controvert that but, nevertheless, the fact remains that when the matter of the coal supplies was under discussion at a meeting of the Cork Harbour Commissioners in January, 1934, it was stated by a supporter of the Government that "this Order was made to strengthen the morale of the Irish people when the British Government sought to beat them into submission." He was referring to the Order which put a penal tax on British coal. He went on to quote figures of the board's engineer to show that in purchasing Westphalian coal as against English, they effected a saving of £189 in one cargo, £208 in another and £167 in another. He quoted figures from the same source to show that it took 43 cwts. of English coal to accomplish what could be accomplished by 38 cwts. in one case and 31 in another of German coal.

Deputy Corry supported the amendment that they should not depart from the arrangement they had come to to buy no British coal, and he said that "the British coal was absolutely wiped out regarding price by German coal, which burned better, was cleaner and better in every way. He thought there should be prohibition of British imports —the sooner the better in view of the figures in regard to the relative value of these coals." So, members of the Fianna Fáil Party, unless they have changed their minds on the subject, consider that the people are getting an inferior class of coal now, and that they are being forced by the Minister's policy to get that because they can get nothing else. They are going to pay a higher price for it, and to pay a tax of 5/- per ton in addition. The position that we are in, as far as explaining the agreement is concerned, is that we have no more information about it than we had in the very beginning. The whole policy of the Ministry with regard to it is so contradictory as to warrant a very substantial statement on the whole matter of the agreement and the way in which it affects this country. The Minister will probably remember that when this Order was first issued one of the Dublin daily newspapers wrote:

"On Christmas Eve the Free State Executive Council gave notice of a new ‘offensive' in the economic war—for we must assume that its latest action is designed primarily as a blow against Great Britain. It issued an Order, under the Control of Imports Act, prohibiting imports of coal, culm, shale and slack from to-day until the 1st February next."

Surely when the Minister's policy on Christmas Eve was such as to draw a statement of that kind from that Dublin newspaper, which has some concern for its reputation in commenting on public matters, the Minister must understand the position in which the country as a whole is placed. It is degrading to the position of the Government and its prestige that it should now come into the House for the purpose of implementing, to some extent, that agreement, without any explanation, good, bad or indifferent, as to the reasons that brought them to make this agreement, and the effect which this agreement is going to have on the country. The House is entitled to an explanation.

In the matter of price, too, I think there is a point to which the Minister should direct his attention. If the Minister takes his own trade statistics as to the amount of coal brought in in February and March—the only months for which we have any information from him as yet—he will see that the prices of coal tend to rise. There is rather an interesting point on the other side that, if you take the British figures for imports of coal into this country and the value per ton of these imports, the coal they are sending here, according to the British figures, has fallen in value per month per ton. It would bear out the complaint that is being made by some of the people that have made complaints in the matter that an inferior class of coal is coming in here. It would be interesting to know how his statisticians place the price on the coal which they pay at the port if a different tendency is shown by the figures quoted with regard to prices and the figures quoted in the British returns. However, the Minister will surely not tell the House that it need not know any more about this agreement than what he has told them here to-night.

I want merely to make a few remarks about this quota order. I shall not go into any detail because I think we shall have another opportunity of discussing other, and, possibly, more objectionable, aspects of the general policy of the Government in this respect. There will be an opportunity afforded us, I hope, of discussing the extraordinary attitude of the Government on the whole question of the tax they still levy on the coal, and, therefore, I do not intend, as I said, to go into that particular aspect of the matter now, except in one sentence to state this, that in order to carry on a war against Great Britain, we put a tax on coal which our own people paid, and in order to bring about better relations with Great Britain—partly to cement a kind of peace with Great Britain—we keep on the tax on coal which our own people pay. Therefore, whether we were waging unrelenting war on Great Britain or making peace or friendly bargains, of a formal or informal kind, with Great Britain, the main thing was that our people had to be taxed. That is the one matter on which there has been a general line of consistency on the part of the Government, but, as I say, that particular aspect of the matter does not arise on this particular quota order, and, therefore, I shall not now discuss it. There will be ample opportunity, I trust, for discussing that particular corollary, shall I so call it, of the coal policy in general of the Government.

I can understand a certain defence being put up for this coal-cattle pact, although it has certain very strange aspects, especially when we consider the fact that we are supposed to be at war with Great Britain—only an economic war, but still a "war"—in that one of the most immediate results of this pact would be that Great Britain got more out of this country than she otherwise would have got. That must seem strange to the ordinary individual in this country, but apparently the Government and the Government supporters find no difficulty in swallowing that particular aspect of the Government's policy. A war on, waged with all the resources at our at our disposal, against what Ministers are so often anxious to tell us is the only enemy and one of the acts in that particular campaign when we complain that England is by force majeure getting from us these land annuities which we say we will not pay—we say to England “You are collecting them by force; you are relying on your superior strength and your superior position; you are taking it—” I forget the exact words of the President—as a bandit would take it. Yet one of our acts is to say “As you are not taking enough, here are three-quarters of a million pounds more. We need not fight over the mere figures.” That is the peculiar aspect of the matter, but I can understand a defence being put up for this pact. I will admit, and I always have admitted, that it did give at the time it came a considerable relief to the farming community in this country. It undoubtedly enabled the farming community to export 150,000 more cattle than they otherwise would have been able to export. In the actual state in which the farmers found themselves, the actual state to which Government policy had brought them, that was a considerable relief. There is no doubt about that. It was a considerable relief even though it cost us —I do not mention the taxation—in the way of increased tariffs going into England, possibly something like £750,000.

Even though there was that amount of additional money, so to speak, taken out of what the President represents as a very unwilling payer, it was still a relief to the farmers. But what does that show? Does it not show clearly the extraordinary straits to which the whole policy of the Government has brought the farming community? The mere fact that this coal-cattle pact, which, as I say, not merely imposed a burden of taxation in the coal we burn, but has also let us in for the payment of more tariffs on the cattle we send to England—I mean a greater aggregate amount—is looked upon as a relief and a substantial relief, is most illuminating. Can you have any better commentary on the whole policy of the Government than that, which seems to me to be the only defence that can be put up—and it is a substantial defence—for this particular agreement? Would the Government and the followers of the Government not learn the only lesson that can be learned from that? In the course of their two years carrying on this economic war, which their followers told us was to make John Bull tighten his belt—"he was starving for want of our cattle"—they brought the farmers of this country to such a pass that it was a gift to the farmers of this country to have £750,000 extra levied off them so long as they could export 150,000 more cattle.

That is the position into which the policy of the Government deliberately pursued over two years has brought the country. Therefore, it is not so much the coal-cattle pact in itself that is objectionable. It is the matter, which we can discuss afterwards, of the tax on coal, put on as a war measure and maintained apparently as a means of preserving peace. But it is the other fact that is particularly to be condemned, namely, that Government policy has made this fact necessary. I think that the idea which the Government had in mind in going to negotiate with Great Britain was a perfectly sound idea. The general idea was quite correct. Why was it? Because whatever the President and the various Ministers may have pretended about the increased prosperity of this country, the country had reached such an intolerable position as a result of their policy that any kind of bargain —even this bargain—would be hailed with relief by the people on whom they had inflicted so much suffering. The idea of negotiating was quite correct. If, under the quotas prevailing in different countries, Great Britain said: "Take more of my coal and I will take more of your cattle," that in itself, isolated—if it could be isolated—from the general situation, would be at least a sane step on the part of the Government. Unfortunately, as I say, there are certain consequences of this whole traffic in coal which will have to be discussed in certain of their more disagreeable aspects afterwards.

The Minister might enlighten us as to the effect which this pact has had upon the spirit with which the economic war is being waged by the Government. What effect has it had even on the price of coal? Even though a bargain about quotas may, in the abstract, be a good bargain, or in any case be a good thing to contemplate, we should at least know what it is costing. We should know what it is costing even so far as the price of coal is concerned. I am not taking too seriously the statements of the various Ministers or their followers, or their very useful mouthpiece, Deputy Corry, when they first determined to wage war against England by taxing our own people. I am not taking those too seriously, but I think the House ought to know what the additional cost amounts to. How has the cost of coal been affected, firstly by the tax and, secondly, by the fact that there is now a monopoly, and that except under an occasional licence only one type of coal is allowed into the country? Those are matters on which information might be given. The other facets of the question we shall have ample opportunity of discussing afterwards. I shall not, therefore, go into them now.

It is very difficult to get from any Minister the reason of this coal-cattle pact. On the face of it, it is a surrender in connection with the economic war. Why did the Government here tax British coal in the first instance, and why did it develop a continental coal trade? The people were told it was in order to hit back at Britain. The Government tried to gull the people of this country into believing that because Britain put a tariff of 20 per cent., 30 per cent., 40 per cent. and upwards on our goods going into Britain, by putting a tariff on British coal coming in here we were doing to Britain precisely what Britain was doing to us; that even though a tariff of 5/- per ton had been put on here and we paid it, the British public were equally paying the tariff on our cattle going in there. Of course, there was nothing further from the truth than that. I will not go into a detailed explanation of the matter. It has often been explained both here and outside, so often that the bluff of the Government has been called, and they do not now attempt to gull the public with statements that the British are paying the penal tariffs imposed by Britain. It is enough to say in that regard that those tariffs are not imposed upon our goods until our goods are sold in the open market, in free competition with other goods in the British market, and on that market price the British duty is levied.

The British coal coming in here is sold at the market price, and Britain gets its cheque at that selling price. The Irish exporter of cattle does not get his cheque at the market price for those cattle in, say, Birkenhead. From that price is deducted the British tariff. But the tariff which we impose here on British coal is imposed on top of the price that the British get on selling their coal here. A coal trade was developed with the continent, and the people here had become accustomed to using continental coal. Prior to this coal-cattle pact it was the gospel of patriotism here to burn continental coal. Without any explanation from the Government, and by forcing all the Government spokesmen to swallow overnight all they had said for a year before, it became the gospel of the highest patriotism to burn British coal. In fact, patriotism did not enter into it; you had to buy it whether you liked it or not, and pay an extra 5/- per ton for it.

From the beginning I had no illusions about this coal-cattle pact. If ever this country was sold by public or private, open or secret agreement, it was sold by this pact, so much so that we are told now it is only a kind of gentlemen's agreement. Nobody signed it. I suppose there is nobody in the Government who would have the brazen check to say that he had signed it. He would be ashamed of his signature if he did. Let us follow what it means. We all know that the price of coal immediately went up by 5/- per ton. That was the impost. In addition to that, the British put up the price of their coal, so that the cost of coal here now is 10/- or 11/- per ton higher than it was before the coal-cattle pact. In addition to that the coal is inferior. The Minister, I presume, will be speaking last on this. I hope he will come down to reason, and that his bluffing will not last eternally. The House has become accustomed to the bluffing of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He thinks that by shouting and rapping the desk before him he will get away with it. He has got away with it for a good while, but now we are coming a bit up against realities. I am speaking from what I know, and I challenge the Minister to contradict it. I do not want any academic figures to contradict it. I challenge him to come with me to the coal merchants of Dublin and deny that coal is not now 10/- and 11/- a ton dearer than before the coal-cattle pact, and that the British are sending inferior coal here.

I have been endeavouring to get the figures of this coal-cattle pact. I saw certain figures in an evening paper months ago, but I am yet in ignorance of the exact figures. Let us take the figures that have been mentioned. They indicate that £1,000,000 worth of coal extra would be admitted under this pact, and for that we would get 150,000 extra cattle exported. I am sorry the Minister for Agriculture is not here. Let us reduce to money value 150,000 head of cattle. Let us ask anybody who has ever held a bucket to a suck calf how you are going to produce 150,000 cattle and dump them into England for £1,000,000. To people who do not understand, we are only taking £1,000,000 worth of coal, but we will get sale for another 150,000 cattle. But at what price? Divide 150,000 into £1,000,000 and you find you will not have £7 a head. I wonder did they know what they were doing when they were signing the pact? Of course, the resistance was breaking. What was the situation when it became incumbent on the Government to sign this pact? Little straws show how the wind blows, and how are the straws blowing on this occasion?

There were bounties given for the export of cattle and they were fixed with a certain ratio to the penal tariffs. At the beginning of this year it was found that the farmers had been getting rid of their young stock and the old stock remained on their hands. If the Minister for Industry and Commerce does not know that, I challenge him to bring in any Minister who has any pretensions to a knowledge of the live-stock situation at that period, and I challenge anybody on the Government Benches who pretends to have any knowledge of the live-stock situation to contradict, with any show of evidence, the statements I am making. It would not be necessary even to support my arguments with anything beyond what the Government themselves did. These old store cattle, up to three years, could be bought for £7 or £8 if anyone was foolish enough to buy them. The trouble was there was no market for them. The quota had to be increased, and this is the price we had to pay for the increase. To show it was those particular cattle that were the crux of the situation at that time, the export bounties for any other cattle except cattle over two years were withdrawn. Something like 30/- a head was placed on the export of the older cattle. In the desperate situation in which the Government found themselves, they had to sign something, and this is what they signed.

I would be very glad to hear the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in calm, calculating language, defending this coal-cattle pact. I admit it was a terrible situation that had arisen. Take that situation, isolate it from its surroundings, and what produced it? We had an over-population of old store cattle and we wanted to get rid of them. A bankrupt wants to get rid of his stock; the sheriff wants to sell the cattle he has seized. Anything you have on hands that is a finished product of your industry and that you are not going to do any more with, is a dead loss, and you must get rid of it at any price. This coal-cattle pact was merely a sale of bankrupt live stock for which, in the conditions then obtaining, there was no market. No wonder we heard even the Minister for Industry and Commerce say here last week that their whole trouble was the cattle trouble. This is the puny attempt they made to face the cattle trouble.

On top of that the men who found themselves, through no fault of their own, with these cattle on their hands and who could not cash them, were called conspirators; they were torpedoing the Government, sabotaging the Government. That was the language used against them because they could not find money on the roads to pay bills, and the value of their cattle was reduced by the policy of the Government. I would not blame the Government for carrying out that policy if they were able to get any loophole of escape, but here last week they threw up their hands and said: "We have not yet been able to solve the cattle problem." The Minister for Defence is solving the cattle problem by what he did in the Belfast market last week—or at least by what his agents did. We had the Minister for Agriculture solving a special phase of it by his levy on butter. He excluded the Kerry cattle area from having to contribute the levy on butter.

I submit the levy on butter hardly arises.

I am sorry if I am inviting the Minister along a thorny path.

Butter is not a thorny path.

Well, a horny path, and it is a very horny path in South Kerry —the long-horned Kerry cattle. The Minister does not see any relation between the exclusion of a certain district from paying the butter levy, he does not see any relation between the situation that must have weighed with the Government to grant that exclusion, and the position of the farmers in that area which was crowded out with a large population of old Kerry cattle that they could not sell, and that were not worth the relative tariff that the British would impose if they were exported—they would not bear the £6 a head. That is a thorny or a horny question for the Minister.

Yes, but it has nothing to do with this resolution.

Cattle have nothing to do with the coal-cattle pact? The Minister threw them away and he provided an exclusive market here for Great Britain and then waved the tri-colour—another blow at John Bull. It would be interesting to know what prompted that. I quite admit that the Quota Orders were more severe on the cattle situation here than the tariffs, because while you had only tariffs operating you had a market for all kinds of cattle, all grades and conditions of cattle at some price. But when your market was restricted, and the situation was such that you could only export the quota, then you were roughly in this position, that you had five cattle and you could only sell three. You got the cumulative effect of that surplus up to the signing of this pact. It was to relieve this pressure that this pact, which was only an S.O.S., was agreed to or signed. I do not know which. It was not signed or agreed to, we are told, and one cannot get any definite information as to how it became effective only that it did become effective.

The real pressure here was from the aged cattle, two years old and upwards. That is where the pressure was. The relief came there on that pressure when this pact was agreed to. I have heard Ministers and Government Deputies making use of the figures and boasting that 150,000 cattle extra can be exported under this pact. Knowing something about the cattle position then, and the pressure from the aged cattle that we had in this country that could not be sold at all, it is clear that the Government's anxiety was to get rid of the older class by withdrawing the bounties from the younger cattle. The bounty on the two-year old cattle and over given by the Government showed that it was to relieve the pressure, to get rid of the surplus stock, especially the aged cattle, were the compelling forces in getting this coal cattle pact signed. I do not blame the Government for signing it, being up as they were against that situation. But if these 150,000 cattle were to be got away for £1,000,000 the Government tacitly was preparing to sell 150,000 cattle of two years old and upwards for £1,000,000, that is, less than £7 apiece, or less than I often got for sucking calves.

No evidence for that whatever.

Does the Minister deny that it has happened? Has he not claimed that 150,000 cattle will be exported as a result of this pact?

At the market price.

Well, then are we to get from the Minister the conditions of this pact? Is the price to be £1,000,000?

What were the conditions? Can we import coal ad lib and send out cattle ad lib of a corresponding money value? Those figures were used, and surely if there is a gentlemanly agreement or an ungentlemanly agreement, or any sort of an agreement made, there must be some terms in that agreement. Certainly we have not got these terms. There is no authoritative source so that I could not turn round and say “This is official.” I would be glad if the Government. would give the House and through the House the country the exact terms of this agreement. I am told now by the Minister that 150,000 cattle was not the understanding and that 1,000,000 tons of coal was not the understanding. What was the understanding? There is one thing certain that the real pressure was the number of our cattle on hands. Under the conditions obtaining these could not be got rid of, so that there was a number of cattle which this pact enabled to be exported against a certain sum of money that would represent the value of the coal. I should say for certain that these cattle were 99 per cent. old cattle, every one of them carrying a tariff of £6 a head. Every one of the beasts sent over carried £6 a head. I would like the Minister, in addition to giving us the amount of coal we were to buy under the quota to give the number of cattle we were to export. What was the money value of the coal that we got and was there a quantity understanding of coal? Was there a quantity understanding in the way of cattle? Was there any quality understanding or did Britain get a free hand to dump in on the mugs any sort of coal here that she liked, such as she is dumping in at the present time? I think if the Minister will just explain the terms of the pact and the causes which promoted the Government to make that pact or to agree to it he will be giving information that the country has not yet got.

Some people have said here, while being opposed to the pact, that it was a step in the right direction. No, a bad bargain is never a step in the right direction. It would make the country nervous if the Government sits down to settle bigger problems and says to the people "Now you keep quiet, trust to us and we will see you through," after the shameful way in which the Government have acquitted themselves in this comparatively minor agreement of the coal-cattle pact.

Not a minor agreement at all.

It is minor in comparison with the big issues at stake. If it is a major or a semi-major agreement then the Government have nothing to boast of in agreeing to it. When we had developed a continental trade what were the reasons for abandoning it? Were they monetary reasons? Were they exchange reasons? What were they? We were getting a good article from Germany where we were told that a market lay for our butter and livestock and the German buyers were in the market in Dublin every week. A good deal of easy money was made by those who were hanging around the German buyers in the market and public money was being spent to develop the trade. Is it a fact that actually this coal-cattle pact was signed while the Minister was in consultation with the German Ministers over here about developing a coal trade with Germany? The people had become accustomed to using German coal and were prepared to go on with it as they were getting it cheaper than British coal, quality for quality. The coal which the people were buying then was better than the coal they are now getting, and they were saving 10/- or 11/- per ton.

What were the reasons that prompted the Government to abandon buying that good quality coal at 10/- or 11/- per ton below what they are paying for coal now? Was it anxiety to balance the Budget? Was it that, no matter what it cost the consumer of coal, the Minister for Finance wanted to get 5/- per ton out of British coal coming in? Was the whole pact only camouflaged to bring more money into the Exchequer and to balance the Budget? The country should know what prompted this agreement and what were the considerations. I frankly see only one, which I have already mentioned, and that was the surplus of old cattle. It was necessary to get rid of them even at bankrupt prices. The prices we have got for these cattle were bankrupt prices.

They are not all old cattle.

How can the Deputy say that they are anything else? Is the Deputy unaware of the cattle situation as I have depicted it here? The young cattle were, relatively, fetching a higher price here in the fairs than the older cattle, and people, in desperate straits for money, with sheriffs' notices being sent out for the annuities, special squads being organised by the Government, special police being sent to buy the cattle as well as special supporters of the Government, with a line of communication into the North through Donegal and Dundalk to get the cattle into the Belfast market, as the Cork cattle were sent last week, sold anything they had to get money. They sold their young stock and were left with their old stock. The Government were confronted with that situation, so that by the end of this year a whole generation, or two generations, of cattle would be wiped out and you would have nothing but very young and very old cattle. That was the situation that was developing. The Government woke up at the eleventh hour and this desperate pact was signed.

It was not signed.

It was not signed.

Nobody knows for certain.

We are not learning anything now.

Certainly not from the Minister.

Like the other document we saw.

We had an alleged secret document exhibited here, but we had nothing representing that agreement or understanding exhibited here.

Will that satisfy you?

I am prepared to lay a wages that if the Minister for Industry and Commerce told us the terms of this alleged pact now and another Minister, who had not heard the statement of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, was asked to tell us what the terms of the pact were, the two Ministers would not agree.

It is a damned good bargain!

It is a damned good bargain, because the terms of the bargain have never been disclosed, and terms can be dished up to suit every occasion. I hope the Minister will give us some information about this and some reason for having this understanding; that he will show us what good there is in it. Are we to accept this as the prelude to the type of bargain and conditions generally for which the Government are continuing to fight the economic war? When it comes to a deal, can we not expect to have anything better than this? The Minister should tell us how he will be able to injure John Bull in the fight now. If there was any vulnerable point it was through the coal supply. The British Government were more or less perturbed over the trouble in the South Wales coal-field. Welsh M.P.s were perturbed about their constituents and brought pressure to bear on the British Government to come to terms with this country. It seems to me that our Government gave way on the only vulnerable point in Great Britain's armour. Where are we going to hit John Bull now?

Between the two eyes.

Do not hit him in the back.

John Bull does not mind being hit in the back or in the front, so long as you do not hit him in his pocket. How is the Minister going to hit him in the pocket now with 5,000 or 6,000 miners put back into work and a guaranteed market for coal at John Bull's own price? That represents about £1,000,000, while we will send over our cattle at whatever price Great Britain likes to pay for them, so long as it is covered by that amount of money. We are helping Great Britain to fix a low price for our cattle. Fianna Fáil Deputies have gone round the country telling the farmers that they have got a market for another 150,000 cattle. Great Britain can buy our old cattle at £6 or £7 per head, and we can wrap the green flag round us.

I should like to get back to the question of the coal. I should like the Minister to give us a little more information, when he is concluding, as to the background of this pact. Will the Minister tell us what exactly induced the Government to make the pact? Was it altogether for the purpose of getting rid, even at any price, of the 150,000 cattle? Can the Minister tell us whether the conferences which were going on at the time between those interested in the coal trade in Germany, Poland, and Great Britain had anything to do with forcing us into agreeing with such a one-sided pact as this? Something must have happened unexpectedly. The Government, at the end of December, made a certain Order. The Government, as Deputy Belton has pointed out, were actually negotiating with German representatives regarding a trade pact, particularly regarding a coal pact between this country and Germany.

And we made it.

The Minister says they made a pact. I am talking about the coal pact with Germany.

There was one pact only.

Well, the newspapers of the day——

Are usually misinformed.

——the newspapers of the day, including "Truth in the News" must be misinformed, because they all had, as one of the principal items to be discussed with the Minister and the German representatives, the question of coal. That was the biggest item between this country and Germany at the time, as I think the Minister will admit. In any case, however, did the Government only realise between December, 1934, and somewhere in January, 1935, the necessity of getting rid of the cattle at any price, and were they forced, because of that, into concluding this coal-cattle pact? I am not satisfied that their sole reason, or even the main reason, for concluding the pact, was the question of cattle. I believe that the conferences going on at the time between the Polish, German and English representatives, had a good deal to do with it. The Minister may smile.

There was no such conference.

There were conferences between the coal interests in Poland, Germany and Great Britain.

There was a Polish-British conference, with which Germany had nothing whatever to do.

Germany had nothing to do with it? Well, I accept the Minister's correction, but, in any case, had the conference between Poland and Britain any bearing on this pact?

None whatever.

Of course, I accept the Minister's word for it, but the country does not know whether it had or not. This pact has been described as a coal-cattle pact. The President himself, on the morning it was made public, described it as an understanding. I think Mr. Thomas had a different word for it. The Minister himself described it as an informal arrangement. When the Minister so describes it, was it merely an arrangement made sitting around a table, with nothing committed to writing and nothing definite about it? Were the dates chosen haphazardly, or were they set down? Were the numbers and the value of the cattle and the value of the coal decided on haphazardly, or were they set down, signed and sealed? It certainly meant this to this country—I am leaving inside altogether its effect on the cattle trade since Deputy Belton has dealt with that question very fully—that, so far as the coal consumers here were concerned, the immediate effect was that they were paying from 10/- to 12/- a ton more for household coal than they had been paying prior to that pact. I do not know about the coal prices in the City of Dublin but, generally speaking, I know that in the provincial towns of this country the price paid for coal to-day—I am including, of course, the 5/- tax by our own Government—is at least 10/- a ton more that it was prior to the pact. I am prepared to say also, from my own personal knowledge —and this view is supported by many people in the coal trade—that the coal sent from Britain since February is inferior. I am referring now to the general supply of household coal. I am not thinking of high-class coal such as Best Orrel, but of the ordinary household coal, and it is very much inferior to the Silesian or Polish coal that was coming in here prior to the pact. That is the position, and the Minister cannot get away from it. I admit that there has been some little improvement in the last month or so in the coal coming in here, but for the first three months it was absolute rubbish.

You used to say that Polish coal was rubbish also.

We did not say so.

It was usually described by members opposite as rubbish.

I never described the Polish coal as rubbish, nor did I ever go to the other extreme, like Deputy Corry, and say that one ton of Polish coal would give him as much as a ton and a half of British coal, which is all bunk. We know that. In any case, the price is definitely higher. I am putting it at 10/-, including the tax, and the quality is not as good as that of the Polish and Silesian coal that was coming in prior to the pact. Another and rather important matter is that, as a result of this pact, and as a result of quotas which operate on certain mines in England, there is a very definite danger of a great scarcity of coal in this country. I do not know whether that has been brought to the Minister's notice before now, but it is the fact, and if it were not for the stocks of continental coal, when this pact came into operation, we would be very short of coal in this country at present. I should like the Minister to bear that in mind when he is fixing the new Quota Order which, I understand, is to be fixed on the 31st July. Certainly, the whole coal trade has been upset and put into a position of uncertainty. They find it difficult to get coal of a good quality at a reasonable price and they are very uncertain as to future supplies of British coal. I think myself that the Government have nothing at all to be proud of so far as this pact is concerned. I have no hesitation in saying that if that pact had been concluded by any other Party in the House we would hear all about it from members of the Government Party. It is a very one-sided pact and a pact from which all the advantages flow to Great Britain, both from the cattle and the coal side. It seems to me that the only person who is getting anything out of it on this side of the water is the Minister for Finance, and, in order to get that advantage, he has taxed the consumers of coal to the tune of 5/- a ton, which, as Deputy Mulcahy pointed out, has given him between £600,000 and £700,000 a year. When the Minister is concluding, I should like him to inform the House, first, what induced him to enter into the pact and, secondly, whether he has been informed of the present position regarding stocks, and what steps he proposes to take with regard to the new Quota Order at the end of July.

I was rather surprised at the obsequious manner of members of this supposedly democratic and sovereign assembly in dealing with the insolent and rather contemptuous Hitlerism of the Government in expecting us now to ratify a pact the terms of which we and the country do not know. I presume that this is the first and the last time that this House will have the opportunity of expressing approval or disapproval of this coal-cattle pact. We are, in fact, in this position, that we are expected to give ratification, so far as it can be given, without knowing the terms. It is a curious form of ratification, particularly as it ratifies an agreement the terms of which are unknown. One Party, some years ago, were very particularly about the correct diplomatic form which ratification should take with reference to another allegedly secret agreement. I am referring to the agreement of 1923. Although that agreement was read out to the House, and although the terms of the agreement were embodied in Section 12 of the Land Act of that year, still it was dubbed a secret agreement. Whatever may be the case with regard to the form and ratification of that agreement, there can be no doubt that this is a secret agreement, an agreement which is being entered into behind the backs of the Dáil and of the Irish people: an agreement which the Dáil is asked to ratify without even knowing its terms. Deputy Belton was absolutely right when he pointed to the fact that there are no two Ministers who can give the same account of what the actual agreement is, and apparently this free, sovereign and elected assembly is expected to lie down humbly under such an exhibition of democracy. This agreement, so far as we have heard from the rumours of what it contains, appears to be a very bad and unfavourable one from the point of view of this country. We are throwing away the only valuable asset we had, from a bargaining point of view, with the British Government. Not only that, but in doing so we are in fact making permanent what is known fictitiously as a state of economic war, because once that asset is gone there is no reason whatever why the British should wish that the present situation should come to an end.

Judging from Press reports and the various contradictory statements of Ministers, we have agreed apparently under this pact, which we are now asked to ratify, to give the British Government or, rather, as the President would prefer to say to let them take, £1,000,000 more in land annuities than Deputy Cosgrave agreed they should take 12 years ago under the alleged secret agreement of 1923. We have agreed that they should get £1,000,000 more than they agreed to and finally accepted at the time that Mr. Baldwin agreed to pay the sum of £30,000,000 a year to America. That, remember, was at a time when the Irish farmers were making three and four times as much as they are making to-day, when they were not being asked to pay their annuities twice. We must remember, also, that at that time we had not got 100 per cent. of an adverse trade balance.

There is one good thing that this so-called agreement has done and it is this: it has shown up the fake and the farce of the alleged economic war. I have always maintained that there never was such a thing as an economic war between his Majesty the King's Governments in Dublin and in London. They have always been as thick as thieves. In all this elaborately staged-managed, artificial, political play-acting which they call an economic war, they have been both engaged in robbing the Irish farmer. There has been no more of an economic war between the Governments in Dublin and in London than you can say there is an economic war between two pigs feeding with their snouts in a trough. Sooner or later that trough will go dry. When it does, I do not know what agreement they will come to.

They will settle then.

There is undoubtedly an economic war between the combined forces of his Majesty's Ministers in London and in Dublin and the poor unfortunate people of this State. Recently, in England I noticed that, with the exception of the King, there is no more popular man in England than the President of the Executive Council of this State. Everywhere I went in London I found that everybody was very fond of him. I found that he was extremely popular in the House of Commons. I found Parliamentarians from overseas all sounding his praises. Certainly, the farmers of England sound his praises because he has done something for them which they could never have done for themselves, and as a result of this pact the miners on the other side are also sounding his praises. When you, find such general chorus of approval for the head of this Government in England, I wonder would it not be wise if we added his personality to this country's list of exports to that country, because then possibly we might have the chance of getting other people who might not be so easily fooled by the people on the other side of the Channel.

The House is dealing with this question of the coal-cattle pact. It would seem that in prosecuting this economic war we are to have pacts, more pacts, and still more pacts. It reminds one of the cry that was heard during the Great War: men, more men, and still more men. When these pacts are made they are presented to this House, and Deputies are appealed to or asked or coerced to ratify and sanction them. It seems to me that the permanent officials of the Government are now becoming a sort of international chamber of commerce rather than mere officials in their departments, whether they be engaged in the Department of Industry and Commerce or of External Affairs. These pacts deal with trade matters, but when they are being made the people engaged in trade are not consulted as to the form they should take. The result is that traders, whether they be exporters or importers, know nothing about them until they open their morning newspapers or get a message over the wireless as to the new arrangements that have been entered into by our Government. I submit that sort of thing is going to kill private enterprise and initiative, and eventually must bring about here a totalitarian State—a State in which officialdom will rule, in which individualism will be completely sunk, and in which trade enterprise will be surrounded with all kinds of legislative forms, Government arrangements, Government sanctions, Government control and interference.

What about the Shannon Scheme?

Pacts of this kind are now becoming quite common. They average nearly two a month. One is prompted to ask, who is in control? Is it the people who are affected by these pacts or those who make them? It is quite obvious, I think, that it is the people who make them. They are based on theory and are worked out by the theorists who are now in complete control. The result is that the impacts and the repercussions that follow from them are not foreseen at the time they are made. One consequence of that is that either new legislation or new pacts are required to rectify the weaknesses that show themselves later. The outcome of all that is confusion, more confusion, and still more confusion. I am satisfied that there is a certain amount of sincere endeavour in all this to remedy the lopsidedness that has arisen in our economic position. I am sure that those making them do the best they can for the country, considering what the present economic position is. At the same time, I think that importers and exporters should be consulted before these pacts are made. They should not be left completely out in the cold as they are at present. At the present time we have representatives in certain foreign countries, and those countries have representatives here. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 5th June, 1935.