We have no less an authority than that of the most distinguished mathematician on the Front Government Bench, President de Valera, for the proposition that the taxable capacity of this country compares with that of Great Britain as does 66 to 1, and I would remind the House that to question any of the obiter dicta of that important person is high treason. In fact, it is forecast in the leading article of the Irish Press that anyone who criticises that gentleman or his policy would, in any other country, be adjudged guilty of sabotage and deserve to be tried for a criminal offence. I do not know whether this is a shadow forecasting a coming event, but that distinguished journal over which the President presides so effectively calls on this House and the country to institute the Soviet system of sabotage trials for anyone who contradicts him. Bowing before that mighty sanction then, I adopt the 66 to 1 and, on that basis, our expenditure for Supply Services and Central Fund services this year amounts to £2,219,184,000, and our poor and decrepit neighbour, Great Britain, is managing to struggle along on £900,000,000.
That figure is in itself astonishing, but, under the modern Budget practice of this country, we have taken to accumulating Budget surpluses by the dexterous device of borrowing so much as is necessary to produce the desired result, and this year we are informed that we propose to borrow £1,970,000. Let me here again apply the yardstick of 66 to 1. I imagine that the audience of Mr. Chamberlain in Westminster would be somewhat dismayed if he announced that he calculated on having a surplus and then added in parenthesis: "After I have borrowed £130,020,000."
I can conceive the confusion that would break out in the French Chamber of Deputies if the French Minister for Finance got up and said he was glad to inform the House that he had a comfortable surplus, paused, and then added, "After I have borrowed 13,000,000,000 francs." Nevertheless, we are called upon in this country to join in the universal rejoicing when we make our proportionate borrowing here. We have a surplus, and will have a surplus, to rejoice the multitude when we have borrowed the Irish equivalent of 13,000,000,000 francs. However, this borrowing is a harmless thing, we are told. This borrowing is to finance export bounties, a non-recurrent item, and, therefore, something which may be properly borrowed for and treated as a capital item in our account.
My mind goes back to the happy days of 1933 when unemployment was a nonrecurrent item. We all remember it was going to be done away with. It was urgent that we should start housing schemes wherein to house the returning emigrants as they rushed back from the United States of America to share in the universal prosperity here. Last night, that budding statesman, Deputy Smith of Cavan, turned in anger on the Labour Party and said:
"We cannot solve the unemployment problem. How could you solve it if you had to do it?"
If unemployment, which was merely a passing symptom of the unhealthy state of the nation, resultant on the inability of Fianna Fáil to administer our affairs up to then, has not proved to be a passing fancy, are we not wise to contemplate the permanence of export bounties in our financial system? The plain fact is that unemployment continues and grows as a result of Fianna Fáil policy, and export bounties continue and grow as a result of Fianna Fáil policy. If the Fianna Fáil Government were to remain a permament factor in our affairs, this borrowing could not be justified, and we have to judge this Minister on his own record and on his own claims; but it is quite as true to say of this borrowing —if we assume, as I think we must assume, that the Minister had in mind that he intended to return to office— that he is borrowing this money to finance the reductions he has made in the food taxes.
This House will remember that the food taxes which the Minister proposes to remove were put on by the Minister not many years ago. He now proposes to take them off, and he proposes to take them off, because it has been driven in upon him that it is impossible for the people to continue to pay them. Are we not forced to a desperate expedient in this country when, in order to keep food in the mouths of the people, we have to borrow money? The sum the Minister intends to borrow is about the same as that which he proposes to take off in food taxes—4d. a lb. from tea, 10½d. a cwt. from flour, ¼d. a lb. from sugar, and 2d. a lb. from butter. I have referred to the export bounties, and I have suggested that if we assume that this Government were to continue, and God forbid that it should, we would be obliged to assume that these export bounties were a permanent charge. So far, the only transaction which this Government has made with a view to removing penal tariffs on our exports has been to induce the British Government to remove the tariff on horses. That was a concession we all welcomed, but our welcome became tempered when we discovered that the real effect of that concession was to remove the penal tariff from the horse on to the hen. Now, when we come to examine the concessions made in food taxes, we discover to our amazement that the taxes which have been taken off are the taxes which the Minister himself put on not very long ago, and that, as he makes the gesture of taking them off tea, flour, sugar and butter, he puts them on again on bacon.