Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Nov 1935

Vol. 59 No. 7

Private Deputies' Business. - The Agricultural Industry—Incidence of Special Duties—Motion Resumed.

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That a select committee be set up to inquire into the incidence of the special duties collected by the British Government on Saorstát agricultural produce and to report on ways and means whereby the burden of the economic war will be equitably borne by all sections of the community;
That the committee consist of 11 members who shall be nominated by the Committee of Selection;
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records.—(Deputies Belton and Kent).

When the debate was adjourned I was discussing the motion that a special committee should be set up to inquire into the incidence of the special duties collected by the British Government on Saorstát agriculture. In the course of the debate Deputy Corry speaking in column 861, volume 59 of the Official Debates said:—

"I see very little use in setting up this committee, because Deputy Belton knows as well as I do, or any sane man in the country——"

It will be observed that Deputy Corry differentiates between sane men.

"——that I can get a committee to report in favour of or against anything I like."

That in itself should be sufficient answer to Deputy Belton's proposal, that the committee should consist of 11 members and should be named by the Committee of Selection. He knows that the precedent in this House is that the majority on the commission would be got to report anything he wanted. Of course he went on to explain what he meant. He wants the country to believe that the farmers in East Cork are embarrassed at their prosperity; that they are making more money to-day than they ever made before. The Deputy went on to elaborate the way in which that is done. I pointed out before, and I do so again, despite the oration of the Minister for Agriculture in County Wexford a few days ago, in which he exhorted us to eat veal, that economic facts remain, and that the most outstanding economic fact is that there are 12,000,000 acres of arable land in this country, and that less than 5,000,000 acres will produce all the wheat, all the beet, and all the foodstuffs of every description that the population could consume. You are then left with more than 7,000,000 acres of arable land, the agricultural produce of which is to this country what the natural resources of Great Britain are to Great Britain, gold to South Africa, or oil to the United States of America. It is on this land the tariffs which are imposed by Great Britain are falling, and it is upon the prices and the productivity of the land that the losses resulting from the economic war are falling. The Minister for Agriculture recommends a diet of veal. He also suggested that we should drink milk. The President recommended a diet of light beer. As to the suggestion of these distinguished statesmen to drink light beer and milk and to eat veal— and who thanked God that the British market is gone for ever—how can even the dullest member of the Fianna Fáil Party, unless he be of Deputy Corry's mentality, doubt what the incidence of the special duties imposed by Great Britain in the course of the economic war are? What necessity is there for cloaking up these patent facts, by making them the material for a committee, when the verdict is already given in the immortal words of Deputy Corry, the honest, outspoken member of the Fianna Fáil Party?

"I see very little use in setting up this committee, because Deputy Belton knows as well as I do, or any sane man in the country, that I can get a committee to report in favour of or against anything I like."

We are sometimes told that it is not the economic war that is affecting us at all, that it was our adherence to archaic and old-fashioned ideas of agriculture before the blessed advent of Fianna Fáil, and that if we would adopt the methods recommended to us by the Minister for Agriculture and the President all would be well with the agricultural edifice that they propose to erect on wheat, tobacco and turf. Turf used to play a very great part in that agricultural renaissance. Tobacco went up the spout about six months ago. I wonder if turf has gone up the spout after it, and the bags with the turf. Now we have machine-made turf. What I want to submit to the House is that the rest of the scheme is going up the spout, and that if we abandon what they are pleased to describe as our archaic methods of agriculture we will soon be left with no methods of agriculture at all, but universal infertility over the whole land. Now the wheat scheme is going up the spout, and it is going up the spout because rational men will be forced to the conclusion, before very long, that it is not only waste of good land but is leading us to the fantastic position in which the people will be forced to eat cake because they will not be able to afford bread. All the wheat wanted in this country can be supplied from 600,000 acres of land. I venture to say that if that ideal is reached, bread will become a luxury that no one can afford except the wealthy; the entire live stock will have to be concentrated in the south-east of Ireland, and it will be illegal to keep a cow in the provinces of Connaught or Leinster. Unless that is done, the crazy ideal of producing all the wheat we can consume in this country can never be realised. Some 600,000 acres of wheat represent approximately 4,800,000 barrels, and that is going to cost us £1,000,000 per annum in subsidy, over and above the economic price for the wheat. That money is going to be charged upon the price of bread.

The select committee is not asked to inquire into that.

I am glad Deputy Belton realises what the motion asks and reminded the Deputy of it. Surely Deputy Dillon knows that he is travelling away from the motion.

I think, Sir, I am venturing to travel over the ground that was travelled on Wednesday night last.

Not in so much detail. Possibly covered, but in passing.

I have advanced the view that Deputy Corry has prejudged the issue of any matter that is submitted to the committee, that there fall to the committee the alternatives he proposed to us to the existing state of affairs, and I want to demonstrate that they are ludicrous and that as a remedy for the economic war they are worthless, and that if we attempt to use them as such we shall be wrecked.

That is very ingenious but it would take a very long time to consider all the alternatives to Deputy Corry's suggestion.

My sole desire is to discuss the wheat alternative.

I shall pass over it as rapidly as I possibly can. I shall not go into it further than Deputy Corry has gone into it. On another occasion I hope to have an opportunity of working out in detail how that £1,000,000 will increase the cost of bread. It has also this ridiculous aspect that if the requisite manure to fertilise the soil for the production of wheat is to be made available, we must have approximately 1,800,000 cattle in or about where the wheat is to be grown or else we shall have a Fianna Fáil plan for bringing dung from, say, Gweedore to Taghmon. It will take the manure of 1,800,000 cattle to fertilise the soil of this country for the production of the requisite quantity of wheat. Without elaborating that aspect of the matter—and I look forward to an occasion upon which we can investigate the full advantages that will accrue to the new air line of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Great Southern Railways by the transport of dung at goods rates— I shall merely ask Deputies to realise the asinine imbecility into which they are being led by the arch-priest of this folly, the Minister for Agriculture. Surely they must realise that unless we have a profitable market for the agricultural surplus that is going to be produced by the 7,000,000 acres of arable land, and unless we can dispose of that agricultural surplus at a profit, the standard of living of those people is going to fall down steadily until we get to the stage when nobody in this country will produce any more than he himself consumes on his own land, and when in fact everybody will be living at the level at which our grandfathers were living in 1849—the bare subsistence level—so that any natural cataclysm will precipitate half the population into starvation unless the English people come across and feed us. Surely that is neither a desirable nor a dignified position for what is potentially one of the greatest food-producing countries in the world.

Tariffs such as are being imposed at the present time are going inevitably to destroy agriculture as a profit-making enterprise in this country. The land will always remain, and though it may be extremely difficult to get the agricultural community back upon its feet, so long as the land is there and there are men and women there, that industry can be made to recover. It may involve more suffering for the people but still there is a way out. But the consequences of that collapse may be far greater because a great many Deputies and a great many people in this country forget one factor of vital importance. The industrial revival in this country depends not upon tariffs, not upon quotas, not upon trade loans or subsidies; it depends upon the capacity of the Irish people to buy the products of Irish factories. It does not matter how many tariffs you have, how many subsidies there are, if the farmers of this country cannot consume the products of Irish factories there is nobody else to consume them. And bear in mind that unlike land, factories do not remain. Close them down by lack of demand, scatter your skilled staff, break up the capital that keeps them going and it will be a big job to restore them. We have seen ten years of industrial progress in this country——

Every Deputy got considerable liberty in dealing with the motion and every Deputy travelled outside the terms of the motion, but I think Deputy Dillon is traversing a much wider field than anybody so far endeavoured to travel on this motion. He is traversing the whole industrial policy of the Government, not alone its agricultural policy. He is endeavouring to deal with the Government's industrial policy now. I think that is much too far removed from the terms of the motion and Deputy Dillon ought to get down to the terms of the motion now.

Surely the terms of the motion would permit discussion of the matters that might reasonably come forward for submission to the select committee?

The terms of the motion are the appointment of a select committee to investigate certain things.

May I argue that there is no use setting up a select committee because these matters will not be considered by it, or may I argue that there is no use in setting up a committee because, in considering this problem, the result would be such and such?

The Deputy may argue within the terms of the motion.

I will make the case, departing from the matter to which I was just referring now, that when the committee proceeds to inquire into the incidence of the special duties collected by the British Government, it is going to do it in the light of the public undertaking given by Deputy Corry that he will make that committee report whatever he wants them to report without reference to the evidence——

On a point of explanation, the statement I made was that any Deputy in this House with any grain of sense—I do not include Deputy Dillon in that category— knows very well that he could get the committee to report just as he wishes. Deputy Dillon, of course, is still in the moon.

I therefore say that urgent and vital considerations, far from being clarified by the setting up of such a committee, are going to be obscured. I submit to the House that one vital and urgent matter is going to be obscured and it is this, that with the destruction of the productivity of the soil by the imposition of penal tariffs on the agricultural produce of these 7,000,000 acres of land to which I have referred, you are going not only to have a disastrous effect on industry, but you are going to have something that is very much more dangerous. You are going to have the collapse of social services in this country. I ask Deputy Belton does he seriously imagine that, if that case is made and proven to a committee, of which Deputy Corry forms one of the majority, a finding will emerge from that committee which will be of any value to this House or anybody else?

It will be an enlightenment to the country.

Will it? Will that committee not combine, by their influence and position, to produce a finding calculated to reassure the people, and say that, having heard all the evidence and seen the witnesses, they are satisfied that there is no immediate danger? Deputy Corry says that is the verdict he is going to find, no matter what evidence you bring before him.

Then there is no hope for the country.

I think there is. The hope I have is that, while Deputy Corry can perform any kind of miracle within the committee where he has a majority, we still have this House. We still have an opportunity in this country of speaking the truth with perfect liberty so far as the rules of order will permit in this House. That is why I want to direct Deputy Belton's attention to the danger of removing from the forum of this House to the committee room questions of such vital interest as those upon which I am touching now. I say that if the productivity of that 7,000,000 acres of land is made uneconomic by the imposition of these tariffs you are going to have a situation arising in this country when the Exchequer will be no longer able to find money to pay old age pensions on the scale on which they are at present paid, or unemployment assistance, or the grants which they are making for a variety of other social purposes. So we are brought face to face with the fact that one of the first sections of the community which will suffer, and suffer hardest, are the poor; and they are going to suffer not only as a direct result of the tariffs themselves, but very largely from the crazy efforts of the Government to offset the effects. They are going to get it fore and at.

What I apprehend is this: that if the State fails in its duty to the poor, in its duty to alleviate the suffering of those economically embarrassed, for one reason or another, they are handing those people over into the hands of any agitator who inveighs not against the mistakes of a democratic Government, not against the mistakes of a particular Party, but against the institutions of the State. If you make a people sufficiently desperate by poverty and hopelessness you make their minds very fertile soil for subversionary doctrines which put the case to them: "You have tried everything else; you cannot be any worse than you are; try what we have to offer now." Any Deputy who lives in rural Ireland knows that the people living in the country are falling steadily in their standard of living. Deputy Corry says that if I bring those people before the committee he will find others who will come and swear them down. What is the use of my summoning friends or neighbours to come and tell——

I did not catch the Deputy. What is he saying?

I will give the Deputy the same advice that the Minister for Local Government gave to my colleague, let him read the Official Reports and he will find out. If I bring people before that committee there will be others brought. What is the use? I can bring dozens of men and women who will swear before that committee that they find money becoming so scarce they are no longer able to keep the same standard of living in their houses as they used to have. I see myself, and I know people who have told me, and who will be quite ready to come and give that testimony before such a committee as Deputy Belton has in mind, that two or three years ago they considered it to be the hallmark of comfort that they had a bag of flour, a bag of oatmeal, a side of bacon, a stone of sugar, a pound of tea home with them from the market. Those same people bring to-day, instead of a bag of flour, a stone of flour; instead of a bag of oatmeal, a stone of oatmeal. Those same people, who used to buy the best tea that money could buy, now buy the cheapest. They skimp their children in sugar and they wear clogs instead of boots. They can get on; they are not starving. They can live; but life is a very different thing for them from what it was. Their standard of living is falling, they are getting poorer.

I know it is hard for Deputies who sit here, or who prosper in East Cork, to sympathise with people in that condition. I know it is hard for Ministers, who are in receipt of large salaries and generous perquisites, living in Dublin, seldom if ever going down the country, never coming in contact with the daily lives of the people, to realise that the affluence they enjoy is confined to the Government Benches. It is not reflected even in their own supporters; it is reflected nowhere in the country in the homes of the people. It is notorious to everybody that it takes a long time to tear down an agricultural community founded on the small holder. They will slowly sink down to the level of subsistence. It is only then that the town dweller will really begin to suffer. But, in the process of sinking down, our people are suffering terribly at the present time.

Does Deputy Belton think that there is any use in my bringing evidence before a committee, on which Deputy Corry has a majority, to prove that? Of course there is not. So I put it to you, lest I strain your patience by straying into paths on which I should like to travel—because I think it is good that Deputies should learn something of what is passing in the country—that there is no use in my bringing evidence of any kind before such a committee. Far from its being any use, I should be co-operating with Deputy Corry in perpetrating a fraud on the people. Here is the place to tell the Government what they do not know, and that is, the condition into which people are being driven by their folly. Here is the place to tell the Government that the people are getting poorer. Here is the place to tell the Government and their supporters that the taxes they are piling up are falling on the backs of those least able to bear them.

Will it avail anything for me to bring evidence before that committee to show that the wife of a small farmer, whose every article of production is suffering under these penal taxes, when she goes into a shop to buy her weekly supplies of groceries and household goods, drapery, hardware, and boots, is to-day paying into the Exchequer in indirect taxes at least 4/- out of every pound she spends? That is a very conservative estimate. Every small farmer's wife who goes in to do her marketing in any town pays into the Exchequer 4/- in indirect taxes for every pound she spends. Is it any use bringing evidence of that before Deputy Corry's commission? The facts are simple. The economic war and the taxes which flow therefrom are ruining agriculture in this country. It will take some time to consummate that ruin, but when it comes, industry and the social services will be ruined with it. Not only the farmer will fall but every other section of the community will fall with him, and, in the collapse of the Irish people, this nation, as an independent nation, will be disgraced for all time.

There is only one remedy for that state of affairs. There is only one finding that that committee could honestly come to, and that is that the incidence of this taxation is upon the agricultural surplus which is the source, and the only source, of the national wealth of this country, and that any responsible Government of the Irish people have as their first and paramount duty to settle by negotiation the economic war which President de Valera has boasted he had the honour to commence. The only honest finding they could arrive at is to give to the President and the Executive Council of this country the same advice that the President so eloquently gave at Geneva to Signor Mussolini two or three weeks ago: Let there be a peace conference before the war instead of after the war. Let there be a peace conference now. Let there be a settlement now. Let there be an end to sanctions here. Let there be an example shown to Italy and every other country by the Government of this country; and let there be prosperity returned to the agricultural community of Ireland, and the other sections of the community will look after themselves.

This motion has been on the Order Paper of this House for nearly 12 months, and during that 12 months every Party in this House, on public platforms and in the public Press all over this country, has told the farmers of this country what they have been suffering and that a remedy must be found for those sufferings. I would like the Press to expose that hypocrisy in their issues to-morrow and show that politicians do not care one tuppenny hoot about what the agricultural community is suffering at the present time. If proof is wanted of that, I wish they could show a photographic picture to-morrow of this House and the interest that is taken in this motion. It is time the mask of hypocrisy was taken off this House and off all political Parties. I have here an illuminating leading article apropos of that. It is the leading article, in its issue of last week, in a journal published in the constituency represented by the one Minister who now adorns the Government Benches. I refer to the Kilkenny People of the 16th November. The article is as follows:

"This country is suffering, amongst other ailments, from a severe attack of sanctions-itis. It is a self-imposed disease. What are the facts? The Dáil, now omnipotent—for the the Senate is on its last legs—is made up of three political Parties: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour."

They forgot you.

Well, nobody will forget Deputy Corry for his ignorance. The article continues:

"Those three Parties cannot be got to agree on any mortal thing concerning their own country, which should have the first claim on their allegiance. They cannot be got to agree on any common line of policy to get rid of the sanctions which the British Government has imposed on the Free State, but they can all agree in aiding the British Government to impose sanctions on another country that has never done us any harm, a country, indeed, that has many ancient ties with our own."

They are right in saying that they did agree in aiding the British Government to impose sanctions on another country. Now, that form is reproduced in this House on this motion. I followed Deputy Dillon's long speech very closely to find if he would commit himself to any line; but he did not. On the other hand, with the exception of two back benchers, Deputies Moore and Corry, no Deputy on the Government Benches considered it worth his while to speak. None of those patriots who wanted to wade in the blood of Britain, and who have now allied themselves to Britain, thought it worth his while to get up and speak on this motion. Deputy Dillon made an attack, not on this motion, not on the proposal set out here, but upon the agricultural policy of the Government. If my eyes did not deceive me, I read in the public Press within the last two or three weeks, after the exist of Deputy MacDermot, who followed after me, where Deputy Dillon's Party had adopted that agricultural policy. Now, are we living in an age of pure deception?

There are a few other interesting points that I should like to hear something about. Deputy McMenamin, in speaking on this motion, talked about the select committee. Having quoted the first part of the motion, he said:

"That is the first part. I candidly say I do not like that at all, nor can I support it. I am not going to ask anybody in this country to support the continuance of the economic war."

This motion does not ask anybody to do so. However, he goes on as follows:

"My opinion is that they have borne it so long that they are no longer fit to bear anything. For that reason, I cannot understand why Deputies Belton and Kent put down the motion in this form. The second part of the motion says: `That the committee consist of 11 members who shall be nominated by the Committee of Selection.' What is this committee to do? They are to distribute the incidence of the economic war. Speaking for myself, if I were to help to distribute the incidence of the economic war, more than it is distributed at the present time, I would not be discharging my duty. I do not think there is one individual in my constituency, or in any constituency, who has not borne this burden up to the breaking point; and I think everybody would be delighted if some method were found to put an end to this thing."

The Deputy goes on to speak further, but I shall not burden the House with the whole quotation. However, I have quoted enough to indicate that Deputy McMenamin, representing the municipality of the County Donegal, will not support this motion. Now we come to Deputy McGilligan. It is strange that the echo of the voices of all these people, who make these sweeping statements on this motion, can still be found in the land where they have addressed meetings of farmers, telling them what they are suffering and their policy to alleviate those sufferings. Deputy McGilligan said:

"I do not see that it is possible to distribute more equitably the burden of the economic war."

Deputy Brennan said something similar. Now, we have Deputies Brennan, McMenamin, McGilligan, and Dillon. Well, let us see the authority that those Deputies have from their own people. I challenge contradiction on this. Organisations in this country are nearly all similarly constituted. There is an annual convention, or an Ard Fheis, held, and that is the supreme authority of that organisation. Those Deputies, whom I have just quoted, held that Ard Fheis last March, and I am going to quote a motion proposed at that Ard Fheis last March and carried unanimously. The motion was sent forward by the Cappawhite branch of Fine Gael, County Tipperary, Cashel district executive. I am quoting from the agenda, and this was given to me on Sunday last by a man who was at that meeting and who came up from the country to help the passage of this motion. He informed me that it was carried unanimously. This is the motion and I will ask anybody here to think it over and say how much it differs—if it differs even in a comma from the motion that I have put up here, seconded by Deputy Kent—the motion that Deputies on those benches said they will not support. Here is the motion:

"That as a result of the financial dispute between the Saorstát and Great Britain, the burden of the annual payments previously paid by the Saorstát as a whole is now borne by the agricultural industry and, in consequence, prices for agricultural produce have been depressed on the export market, and the home market prices with the exception of butter have been lowered to the export price level; that we call on the Government to remedy this injustice by shifting the burden from agriculture to the whole nation and that we suggest the most feasible way to do this is to increase the bounties to the level of the tariffs imposed by England."

That motion was carried by the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis last March and it was carried unanimously. I state emphatically that any member of the Fine Gael Party who votes against the motion that we have down here is betraying the trust given him by that Ard-Fheis. There is a mandate there to support a certain policy. That is the policy in the resolution I have just read. I will give way to any Deputy on those benches who can claim that he has authority to go against the direction of his own Ard-Fheis.

In, moving this motion I have kept as close to the exact wording as I possibly could. In my short address I did not mention the economic war. I did not mention any policy. I stated there the facts as they appeared to me and I asked for this select committee to be set up to investigate the incidence of these tariffs and to ascertain if there was anything in the allegation that agriculture is bearing the whole burden of the economic war. I submit that the Government Party did not face facts. They cannot face them, because the members on the Front Bench and the President himself have admitted so much that they cannot make a case against this motion. The President cannot make a case against this motion unless he wants all of us clearly and emphatically to see that he does not want the truth to come out. Of course the position has not been improved by the silence on the Government Benches. Labour, who are concerned about agricultural wages do not think it worth their while to speak on this motion. Surely Labour sees the relation between agricultural output, agricultural profits and the capacity of that industry to pay wages, large or small. But Labour, too, will not face the issue fairly and clearly. Deputy Moore paid me the more or less left-handed compliment of saying that I am an agriculturist and an economist and that, in his opinion, it would take ten years to carry through this investigation. Of course it would take ten years to carry through any investigation when you do not want to carry the investigation through. For example, if I wanted to walk over to the opposite door and started in the contrary direction I would never reach that door. That is the sort of investigation that Deputy Moore visualised and that is the sort of investigation that Deputy Corry had in mind when he said he could get a committee to do anything or to find anything he wanted.

No wonder that this House is getting into contempt in the country. Speak of the Dáil anywhere to a man to-day and the man to whom you speak laughs. Is there any wonder that responsible members of this House will go down the country, preach one thing there and come in here and do another thing? I have given quotations now that are irrefutable. Then red herrings are pulled across. Deputy Corry is an adept at that thing. He never gets up to speak on agriculture— and to speak intelligently on it—but he draws across the red herrings. He talks about John Bull's bullocks. Why is the Government subsidising the sending of bullocks to John Bull? The thing is a farce and it is about time we got down to business. Better send the bullocks to John Bull than old cows to Roscrea. Better send the animals to John Bull than to continue the slaughter of the innocent calves for 10/- of a subsidy on a calf skin that is not worth a tanner.

Deputy Broderick was quoted as saying that anybody who went in for the Government's agricultural policy made money. Of course you cannot argue on national affairs with men whose vision is not beyond the tips of their noses. Nobody can deny that when, in the first or second year of office of the present Government, they remitted the excise duty on tobacco grown in this country, it was giving the grower of tobacco a market worth 9/- to 10/- a lb. for tobacco of which the commercial value was only 5d. or 6d. The manufacturer would have to pay 9/- or 10/- a lb. for that. What happened? The grower and the manufacturer split the 9/- or the 10/- between them. The grower made a handsome profit, got money for nothing, and the manufacturer got money for nothing. The Minister for Finance wiped the cobwebs off his eyes the following year because he saw what the Exchequer and the country lost, and he realised he could not sustain that. Anybody who thinks nationally in economic or political affairs must look beyond his nose and it is no use thinking individually or selfishly of "What can I make if I do so and so?"

Even before the people now on the Government Benches thought that a plough was any use in the country, I advocated the policy of the plough, and I still advocate it. Deputy Corry put up a case about growing wheat and beet, doing more tillage. Suppose we all go in for a big drive in that direction, what will the produce be worth to you? It will be worth the international price, because the day we export it we must sell on the international market and we cannot get more than the international price.

I do not want to develop a discussion on that. I have mentioned it sufficiently to get to a point of relevancy in connection with the motion. Deputy Corry pointed out that the market we have got in the shape of a wheat market is compensation for what we lost on the export market in connection with our cattle and other farm produce. Let us visualise what the situation would be like if there were no economic war. I would like to know if the Fianna Fáil Party had in mind the agricultural policy they have put into operation before there was any danger of an economic war or, to give it its up-to-date name, before there was any danger of sanctions. Before the imposition of these sanctions by the Government's friend, John Bull, the Government had in mind the development of a scheme of tillage economy here. That tillage economy could not be put over unless an inducement was offered to the farmers, unless there was some indication that putting more land under the plough would be a profitable operation for them. All the inducements that have been given to increase the area under tillage would have to be given, and possibly more would have to be given, if there had not been an economic war, so that anything that has been paid to the farmers by way of subsidy for more wheat or beet or any of those things—more corn—would have been a necessary consequence of a Fianna Fáil tillage economy scheme.

With such a thing I would be 100 per cent. in agreement, but my point is that it is in no way a compensation for the losses entailed by the economic war. It is entirely irrelevant to drag that in. It would have to be done in any case if there were never an economic war. There would have to be some inducement to get farmers to till the land. If there had been no economic war the inducement would have to be even greater, because the old system of economy would be more profitable and a higher bid would have to be made by the Government to get the farmers to change their system of economy. That is quite obvious to anybody. But anybody whose mind is saturated with the philosophy: "I will get a committee to find anything" will not see that. We have had all this twaddle, this red-herring across the path, of "Look at what we have got for wheat." What was got for wheat was necessary in order to encourage the growing of wheat here and it was entirely apart from the economic war and the Government should have visualised that before there was any danger of an economic war or sanctions.

The same applies to beet and the little odds and ends that the Government dishonestly claim as a set-off to the economic war. If they feel there is any substance in their claim, why do they not accept this committee? If there is any truth in what Deputy Corry says, that they can get this committee, no matter how it is constituted, to report any way they want, why do they not get it? They are afraid of it; they know the position and they are afraid of the issue. They know that the report of any committee of 11 that takes evidence must be related to that evidence and they know that evidence can be put up that cannot be refuted by any hostile witness. There are Deputies who wonder if there are people ready to put up a case to this committee. I can assure them there are people ready to submit a case they can stand over and that cannot be refuted. I know a case has been put up to the Government by farmer supporters of their own, by, for instance, farmers from the County Meath, from Deputy Kelly's constituency. They met in Ballivor and they invited him to the meeting.

I think he was not there.

When you go there again you will regret that you had not been there before. If they are not afraid of the case that would be put up then why is the Government afraid to provide the machinery to try this case as asked for in this motion? For Heaven's sake, let Deputies opposite not be "Yes men" all their lives. Let them not forever remain as overgrown babies and dummies. The case which I have now to go into in some detail would I consider be better dealt with before the committee for which this motion asks. It will scarcely now get an opportunity of being heard by such committee. It will have to be considered by those in this House who listen to it, and by the committee of public opinion at the next election to be held in this country. I regret that I have to go in some detail into the case, especially as it has been gone into, in certain aspects, in great detail by those who have spoken upon this motion. Certain Deputies have said they do not want this motion; that they were against the economic war, lock, stock and barrel; but there, they were only seeking an easy line of retreat. I have been against the economic war and against sanctions, lock, stock and barrel. But a certain thing happened which, while it did not make me change my opinion upon the economic war, did make me change my attitude upon the matter. The reason for that was the straight fight, upon that issue that took place at the local elections last year.

Those of us who stood on platforms in opposition to the economic war, taking it all round, were fairly and squarely beaten at that election. After that we could not keep on shouting, and I have never since, in public, spoken the way I did before the economic war, though I am still opposed to the economic war. But I hold it is not relevant to be always voicing the case of hostility to the economic war when the voters of this country have spoken on that issue. I accept that verdict, but when the time comes again I shall fight against the economic war as before. But until that time I must try to alleviate the hardships created by the economic war. Consequently I put down this motion in consultation with Deputy Kent, and whilst leaving the issue, that is the question of the economic war, severely alone, we consider that there is a very good sound case to be made for an equitable distribution of the burden of this economic war, and, I think, upon that principle no Deputy in this House would say that the burden should not be equitably distributed. Some hold that it is not equitably distributed, and that one particular section of the community is bearing the whole burden. Other people say it is equitably distributed. Deputy Moore gave us the Government's point of view and I accepted it in full. He gave us the Government's point of view and no one else has spoken on the Government side except Deputy Corry who indulged in his usual eccentricities about wheat and beet and John Bull. I accept Deputy Moore's announcement of the Government point of view that the burden of the economic war is equally distributed.

May I interrupt Deputy Belton to say I was wondering how far he thinks the vote at the local elections would justify him in the action he has taken. If the local elections settled the economic war, how is it that they have not settled the question as to the distribution of the burden?

The position is this as I see it: The contention of one group in this country is that the bigger issue— the economic war—is settled, and the question then is how should we adapt ourselves internally in fighting that issue? I know farmers who have said to me, collectively, that on the issue of the economic war or sanctions, between this country and Great Britain, rather than strike our colours they would be prepared to starve, but that they were going to let the President know that they were not going to carry the whole burden. That is precisely my attitude in this matter I am not prepared to starve to fight this ridiculous economic war, but I make no point on that, because I accept the verdict of the country on it. The issue before us between the late elections, and the time in which we will have to consult the electorate again, is how to distribute the burden of the economic war equitably amongst all classes of the community. And it is to endeavour to get that equitable distribution that we have put down this motion. I think it is only fair to ask the Government to give us the opportunity we seek of having an investigation. If they do not give it their refusal can only be interpreted in one light, namely, they are afraid of the issue. They know the position really is as Deputy Kent and myself and other speakers have put it before the House. Why should they be afraid of it? If that committee were set up, made thorough investigations, and reported that there is at present an equitable distribution of the burden, then in regard to the farmer who would get up and squeal I would be the first man here to say he is a traitor to his country. If he is called upon to bear no greater part of the load than any other member of the community—no greater part of the burden which has been decided on by the men and women voters of this country in a free election—then the farmer has no right to squeal any more than anyone else. If he is carrying only an equal share of the load he has no right to squeal. I hold that he is carrying the whole of the load, despite all the little intricacies of economies into which Deputy McGilligan tried to lead us. He is carrying the whole load; that is a case which we want investigated, and which the Government is afraid to investigate. When they refuse to make that investigation they cannot refute the charge made by agriculture that agriculture has to bear the whole burden. They did not get any verdict from the people to make one section of the community bear the whole load. They got a verdict from the people to fight Britain on this issue. That is the only verdict that they got; they would not get 20 per cent. of the votes on the other issue— the issue we are putting up here. I would challenge Deputy Corry—or anybody else on those benches—to stand up here and say that the farmer should bear more than his share of the burden. Of course he will not. He may have an honest opinion that the farmer has only to bear his equitable share, but he cannot deny the fact that there are thousands of people in this country who hold that the farmer is bearing the whole lot.

I do not think you have any right to speak for farmers at all.

You are a city representative.

I farmed more land in ten years than you would farm in ten lifetimes.

I am elected by farmers; you are not.

Then I must apologise for the low intelligence of farmers, and I think I am wasting any intelligence I have in speaking on their behalf here if that is all they can elect.

They were intelligent enough to kick you out anyway.

Deputy Belton will continue.

Only you kept tied on to the coat-tails of a Party you would not get elected as a poor law guardian.

The Deputy ought to use the third person in this House.

What are the grounds we have for our claim that agriculture is bearing the whole burden? Just in passing I might say that if I have no right to speak for agriculture, if I have no constituents but city constituents, surely I cannot be accused of any selfish motives if I make a case for the farming community. The Deputy has said that I am not elected by a farming constituency. I do not think I got the vote of one farmer coming in here. Mine is purely a city constituency; I cannot then be accused of being prompted by any selfish motives or of looking for votes if I speak here on behalf of agriculture. I am sure if the Deputy represented a city constituency he would not say much about wheat, beet and peat. What is the case that can be made? What is the case that is sticking out? There was a payment of £5,000,000 to Britain. That £5,000,000 was withheld by our Government—it does not matter for what reason. The British Government said: "If you do not pay us that £5,000,000, we will collect it." They set about collecting it, and they have collected it. All these steps are agreed to; it is all common ground. On the figures published, out of the £5,000,000 collected there was only about £100,000 collected off the goods exported from this country other than agricultural produce, so that, dealing with the figures here in a general way, the substantial case is that agriculture has paid that £5,000,000. How is it paid? Is it paid in the ordinary way by a tariff imposed on goods going into Britain? No; it was paid in the following way: our goods are sent over to the British market, and sold at the British market price. Then those tariffs are taken off that price and withheld by the British. They collected in this way until they had £5,000,000—the amount they wanted.

That £5,000,000 was taken directly out of the pockets of agriculture. That £5,000,000, spread over our total exports, was £5,000,000 off the total world price of the stuff we exported. If that £5,000,000 had not been taken off, the price of agricultural produce at home here would have been, in the aggregate, £5,000,000 more than it was. Roughly speaking, about 50 per cent. of our agricultural produce was consumed at home, and 50 per cent. exported. £5,000,000 was lopped off the agricultural produce which was exported. That, as I have explained, came directly out of the pockets of agriculture, but it had the effect of depressing the wholesale price of agricultural produce by £5,000,000, so that, in the aggregate, agriculture lost £10,000,000 instead of £5,000,000. Then there were some export bounties given. Those, of necessity, must come out of that £10,000,000. I have already referred to the bounties given for a change in agricultural economy in the case of wheat-growing. It is not right to make any deduction for those, because that is a change in economy which would have to be paid for if there were never any economic war. I think the bounties at the highest were about £2,000,000 a year. Taking that £2,000,000 off the £10,000,000 which I have given as a rough estimate, it leaves £8,000,000 of a loss to agriculture. There are about £2,000,000 land annuities remitted. That leaves £6,000,000 of a dead loss.

Roughly, that is the case which we have to put before this select committee, if it is set up, and I challenge any Deputy on any bench here to refute that case. I look around, and, of the 11 Deputies elected on a farmers' ticket at the last general election, only Deputy Kent and Deputy MacDermot are here in this House now. I challenge any Deputy here to refute that substantial case. I am not going to say that those figures are audited figures, but it is a substantial case which I challenge anybody to refute. I appeal to the Government to divest themselves of their Party manner and have this matter investigated. Let the House agree unanimously to an investigation of this matter. Surely if our case is fiction, and thousands of people in the country believe in this fiction, the best thing the Government can do is to set up this committee and expose it as fiction. If they do not set up that committee, it is quite obvious that they are afraid to face the issue. I am afraid Deputy Moore let the cat out of the bag when he said that if the Government accepted the setting up of this committee, they would, in effect, be accepting the position that they have been dishonest towards the agricultural community for the last three years. In effect, that is what Deputy Moore said.

That statement was based on the wording of the motion.

Was it not based on the Deputy's conviction?

I was dealing with the wording of the motion at the time.

If the Government accepted this motion to set up a select committee, would it in the Deputy's opinion be accepting that the Government had deliberately treated the agricultural community unfairly? There is no need for the Deputy to quibble about words.

I am not trying to quibble, I assure the Deputy.

No, and I do not think the sheep farmers of Wicklow will quibble about words when the time comes.

The Deputy has made the case, so far as I could follow him, that the loss to the agricultural community is approximately £10,000,000.

The net loss is £6,000,000.

The total loss to the agricultural community is £10,000,000, made up, as he says, of £5,000,000 due to the present crisis at home and £5,000,000 being the difference in prices that would have been obtained but for the economic war, and from that figure the Deputy deducts two amounts of £2,000,000—one representing bounties and the other land annuities. Is the Deputy then admitting that the cost to the country, as distinct from the cost to the agricultural community, of this economic war is approximately £1,000,000 a year?

I do not follow the Deputy. I have made the case that the loss to the agricultural community is £6,000,000 a year.

I am asking the Deputy if he is prepared to admit that the total cost to this country of the economic war is £1,000,000 a year.

I am not going to admit any such thing.

Those are the Deputy's figures.

I cannot follow them.

The Deputy stated that there was a loss to the agricultural community of £10,000,000, £5,000,000 of which is due to the present crisis within the Twenty-Six Counties. The other £5,000,000 was brought about by the difference between the prices that would have been obtained had these tariffs not existed in England and the prices obtained. Against that figure, the Deputy put £2,000,000 for bounties and £2,000,000 for land annuities, making a total of £4,000,000, which left a balance of £1,000,000 from the £5,000,000 which the country lost.


No, the amount which the country lost. I am following the Deputy's argument closely. There are two losses. The agricultural community lost £10,000,000 and the country £5,000,000, against which there was this sum of £4,000,000, so that the total cost, according to the Deputy, of the economic war is £1,000,000 a year.

I must congratulate the Deputy on his mathematics, but I certainly cannot follow him. I often heard of the man who tried to prove that two and two make five, but I never saw anybody attempt, as the Deputy has done, to prove to his own satisfaction that four from ten leaves one.

The Deputy has tried to prove that five is ten. I am proving to the Deputy that five is five.

Get a blackboard.

The gross loss to agriculture was £10,000,000. The Deputy tries to make the point that because half of that £10,000,000 was lost to agriculture and was gained by other sections of the community who purchased agricultural produce in the home market—they paid £5,000,000 less for what they had to buy—the total loss to the country was only £1,000,000 a year. Now, deliberately, I wanted to keep away from finessing like that. Deputy McGilligan in his speech implied a little finessing of that kind.

Let me follow that point for a moment and only for a moment. Even if a certain section of the community which was purchasing agricultural produce got their total supplies for the year £5,000,000 less than they would get them in normal circumstances, agriculture was £5,000,000 poorer and the purchasing power of agriculture was £5,000,000 less. The Deputy, if he puts his financial brain to work, can work out the amount of business which the circulation of another £5,000,000 would bring about in the year, and I suggest that there is not a Deputy in this House more capable of solving that problem than Deputy Briscoe.

I think you are both wrong.

I am sorry it is so near the time for adjournment. I have figures of prices that we can get for our cattle and food products if the Government were only interested in getting the best market for the producers of this country. We can get 20 per cent. more than is obtainable in the British market if the Government —aye, and the Opposition, too—were true to the people of this country and did not impose sanctions against Italy. We have the Italian market ready to buy at 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. higher prices that those at which the British market is prepared to absorb our stuff now. Italy will send ships to Dublin Bay and to Cork Harbour to transport any surplus stuff we have in this country. The Minister for Education smiles. I will give him figures, and I will produce to him confidentially my authority for those figures. We have a market in Italy if these sanctions are only taken away and if we are only given freedom to get out of the hole as preached by Arthur Griffith during his life. Tear down the paper wall, get out of John Bull's back door and into the sunshine of the Continent.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 21st November.