Cement (Amendment) Bill, 1938—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The primary purpose of this Bill is to provide machinery for controlling more effectively the importation of cement, but advantage has been taken of its introduction for the purpose of introducing certain clauses which are designed to remedy minor defects which have shown themselves in the Cement Act of 1933. Some further provision of that kind may also be necessary, which I will try to deal with by amendments on the next Stage. Under the Cement Act of 1933, a licence was granted to a company, which was called Cement, Limited, authorising that company to manufacture cement. Two cement factories are now in course of construction, one at Limerick, and one at Drogheda. It is expected that the factory at Limerick will commence production before the end of the present month, and that the factory at Drogheda will commence production some time later. These two factories, between them, will be capable of producing in a period of 12 months approximately 240,000 tons of cement. It is estimated that the requirements of the country are about 370,000 tons per year. It is necessary, therefore, to make provision for the importation of cement, but in order that a market may be reserved for the product of the Irish factories, it is desirable that the quantities of cement to be imported shall not be more than the amount by which the output of the Irish factories falls short of the needs of the country.

In Part V of the 1933 Act the importation of cement is prohibited, save under licences issued by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is only, however, in the circumstances which are set out in that Act, that an application for a licence may be refused. In fact, the Act makes it obligatory on the Minister for Industry and Commerce to issue a licence provided that the application is in correct form, that the applicant is not a person who has been convicted of an offence under the Act, and provided that the existing stocks of cement are not, in the Minister's opinion, excessive. It is difficult to determine at any given point of time whether or not stocks are excessive and, in practice, the Minister's power to refuse a licence is doubtful so long as the first and second of the conditions I have mentioned are fulfilled. This Bill proposes to repeal that Part of the Act and to give power to the Minister for Industry and Commerce to exercise discretion in the selection of persons to whom import licences shall be issued and in the determination of the amount of cement that they shall be authorised to import.

Although the Bill is framed in that form, I can inform the Dáil that it is my intention, should circumstances develop as I anticipate, to give to Cement Limited sole licence to import the quantities of cement by which the output of their factories falls short of the needs of the country. There are many and substantial advantages to be secured by dealing with this purely temporary situation in that way. I describe it as a temporary situation because, within a very short time, the entire needs of the country in cement will be manufactured here. The giving of a sole licence will be conditional on Cement Limited proceeding, without delay, to erect a third factory, and subject also to the condition that the output of the three factories will be sufficient to supply all needs so that importations will in future be unnecessary. One of the advantages in operating by that method is that the disturbances which will be caused to existing channels of trade will be kept at a minimum.

The views of the persons who are engaged in the business of importing cement at present were taken upon that aspect of the matter and, at a meeting of importers held under the auspices of my Department, a resolution was passed unanimously, recommending that the distribution of imported as well as home-manufactured cement should be left in the hands of Cement Limited. Furthermore, any quantities of cement that it may be necessary to import will be secured under such arrangement at economical prices. As Deputies are no doubt aware, the importation of cement into this country is controlled by a Committee of the Cartel of Cement Manufacturers and I am satisfied if we put the Irish Cement Company in a position to make large scale purchases of cement they can secure it from the Cartel at prices which would be substantially lower than the prices which importers are compelled to pay at present.

Who will get the benefit of that?

It is intended the State will get the benefit.

Certainly, the Exchequer.

It is not intended that Cement Limited will make any profit on the distribution of imported cement. The cement the company will be authorised to import will be sold without profit or, as an alternative arrangement, any profit made will be applied to the reduction of the guaranteed selling price of Irish manufactured cement. I should say it is unlikely any arrangement of that kind that may be made in relation to the importation of cement will extend beyond Portland and rapid hardening cements. The importation of other cements, including colour cement, will not be subject to that form of regulation; that is to say, the importation of such cement will not be confined to any one importer. The provisions of this Bill which, if enacted, will replace the provisions of Part V. of the 1933 Act, prohibiting the importation of cement save under licence, authorise the Minister to issue to such persons as he thinks fit licences authorising the importation of cement within such periods and in such quantities as may be specified in the licence, and authorise the Minister further to attach to the licence such conditions as may be necessary. Further, they provide for the payment of fees on the issue of import licences at such rates as may be directed. It is by the arrangement of fees that the difference between the price of imported cement and home-produced cement will be secured for the Exchequer.

What is the licence fee per ton at present?

It is a flat rate fee of 5/- per ton. It will, of course, take some time before the third cement factory can be constructed and brought into operation, but I think it should be possible to do that before the end of next year, so that the arrangements which are contemplated under this Bill will operate only for that comparatively limited period. I do not think it is necessary at this stage to refer in detail to the other sections of the Bill which are designed to remedy minor defects which experience has shown to exist in the other provisions of the Cement Act of 1933. If any question relating to these sections should arise, I will deal with the matter when the Bill is before the Dáil in Committee. It would be easier to deal with that aspect under such circumstances than at the moment.

Who would ever dream, from the dove-like accents of the Minister, that the cement licence fee represents an annual tax on the people in this country of nearly £100,000? It is proposed to raise more. We are importing at the present time, according to the Minister, 370,000 tons of cement and he gets 5/- on each ton, which represents £92,500. We are going to manufacture forthwith 240,000 tons, and import 130,000 tons, and he is going to levy on those 130,000 tons a sum per ton sufficient to make up the difference between the f.o.b. price of foreign cement delivered at Limerick and the cost of cement manufactured in Limerick. The Minister did not tell us what he expected that difference would be. He would probably bring cement at present into Limerick at about 32/- a ton. Is the Minister in a position to say what price he expects cement will be at the Limerick works when they are operating? Has the Minister got any figure for that? If he has, will he give it to me now?

I think it is better to deal with this matter in the usual way rather than by way of cross-examination.

The Minister forebore to give us a vital piece of information which I cannot possibly obtain even by consulting the official publications. Has the Minister's experts given him any forecast of what the price of cement manufactured at Limerick will be?

I am not prepared to stand cross - examination by the Deputy. I shall deal with the matter by speech, which is the procedure laid down.

The Minister can carry on in that way—simply not giving information and sheltering himself in that fashion. He can say: "I am damned if I will tell." We cannot take the Minister by the throat, but we shall gradually drag the information out of him. This is the sort of silly conduct which makes it difficult to get business done here. The later Stages of the Bill may have to be postponed for weeks in order that information which we want shall be dragged out of the Minister, subsequently digested and woven into the argument of which it ought to form part. We do not know of how much the Minister proposes to plunder the public in respect of this licence to import cement, but we do know that, whatever price he can get Cement Limited to put upon the Irish product, he will get for the Minister for Finance the difference between that price and the import price in the form of indirect taxation. We have already had a forecast of what indirect taxation will be. It will represent a sum of about £36,000,000, which will be levied by taxes revealed in the Budget. By this Cement Bill the Minister, if he chooses, can raise another £250,000 for the Exchequer and, in addition to that, he can raise for Cement Limited or the shareholders of that company, such further sum as he thinks fit. A lot of people in this House forget that a considerable share of the capital of Cement, Limited, is held by the Government.

The Deputy is misinformed.

Is not a considerable proportion held by the Industrial Trust?

That is not the Government.

What is it? All this money is going to be taken out of the pockets of people who go into Corporation houses and labourers' cottages because a large proportion of that cement will be used for the purpose of constructing workmen's houses here.

How much will that be on the rent?

I do not know.

How much?

It would be infinitesimal.

That will depend on what the increase in the price is going to be——

The Minister says he will not say what the increase is going to be——

I said nothing of the kind. I refused to give the information in a particular way.

I will flog it out of you before this debate is over. You are endeavouring to avoid revealing that figure, because it is going to be an embarrassment to you, but you will be forced to reveal it before the debate is over. You will reveal it with as good grace as you can and, probably, the information you will give will be false. That is more than an even chance.

I wish to call your attention, a Chinn Comhairle, to the remarks made by Deputy Dillon.

It is three chances to one that the information will be false.

If the Deputy insinuates that the Minister would give false information to this House, he is quite out of order.

I am sure the Chair does not wish to put words into my mouth. Did I understand the Chair to say that to state that the Minister would deliberately give false information would be quite out of order? If so, I quite agree.

I am raising a point of order. There should be some limit to the licence allowed to Deputy Dillon. He used the phrase that probably the information I would give would be false. I submit that he is not in order in making that statement and that he should withdraw it.

Deputy Dillon has made an assertion which, in my opinion, is hypothetical. The Minister has been asked for information which he refused to give and Deputy Dillon has — very properly, I respectfully submit — put the matter in a hypothetical way which the Minister has either to take or leave. The Chair must, in my opinion, submit to that until the Minister says to the contrary.

The question whether the Minister answers queries put by Deputy Dillon or declines to answer them has nothing to do with the allegation made by Deputy Dillon, that the information given by the Minister would, three chances to one, be false. That statement must be withdrawn.

I certainly withdraw it if you so direct. I can say, however, that no value whatever is to be placed on information tendered by the Minister because, in my experience, three-parts of what the Minister tells the House is not correct and I have no reason to believe that the Minister will change his form in the future. That has been my experience in the past and I have not the slightest doubt it will be my experience in the future.

I do not want to raise continuous points of order.

The Deputy has been ruled out of order for stating that the Minister's information would be incorrect.

False. The Deputy states that the Minister's form is to give false information. That statement must be withdrawn.

I withdraw anything the Chair says I should withdraw, but am I entitled to controvert any statement made by the Minister? I say that the Minister's statements have been repeatedly proven to be wrong. Is that out of order? Three statements out of every four the Minister made in the past have been wrong, and I have no reason to suspect that there will be any change in the Minister's form in the future. I have no doubt that three out of every four statements made by the Minister in the future will be wrong.

There was a time when a Deputy would be suspended for saying that.

The Deputy must withdraw the statement that, according to the Minister's form, his information will be wrong.

I said——

The Deputy will resume his seat. It is quite possible for the Minister to be mistaken in the information he gives the House. The Deputy is as well aware as any Deputy in the House of the implication when he says that it is the Minister's form to give wrong information. If that statement is repeated, the Deputy will have to sit down.

Am I not entitled to say——

The Chair does not rule on hypothetical questions.

Am I entitled to say that the Minister's statements in this House have not been borne out by the facts?

Those were not the Deputy's words.

The Minister has proven that he was not infallible. I have no doubt he will prove to be as fallible in the future as he has proven to be in the past. If the Minister likes that, he can have it.

We have no knowledge whatever as to the nature of the levy proposed to be imposed on the people of this country as a result of this licensing fee. But we have knowledge that it has been the practice of this Government to levy indirect taxation in so far as they can. We have every reason to apprehend, from our experience of certain other industries that have been established under Government patronage, that if it is possible to profiteer, profiteering will be carried out. These two facts together leave me to apprehend that there will be a very heavy burden put upon the cement users of this country in the form of an increased price of cement. Deputy Corish or anybody else may say that cement represents an infinitesimal fraction of the rent of the individual cottage.

I did not say that. I said 5/-.

I have been trying to explain to Deputy Corish that this Bill enables the Minister to put 10/- or 15/-per ton on cement. Remember that the Minister himself said, when he first put on 5/- a ton, that this was only a preparatory step to accustom the public to an increased price of cement, so that when the Irish factories began producing the jump would not be too great. To-day the Minister would not tell us what he expects that jump will be. There is no provision in this measure to restrict the price. If the excess price turns out to be 10/- or 15/-a ton, then that would be a very substantial burden on the people of this country, a burden that they should not be called upon to bear. It will mean either of two things: first, that there will have to be a larger subsidy from the rates, or secondly, that the labourers' cottage rents will have to be increased——

Or, alternatively, that the Deputy is wrong. There is another explanation.

There is another explanation. I have been trying to make what argument I can with the information at my disposal.

The Minister will give us all the information now.

He will, when I shame him into giving it, but it is only when I shame him. In this proposal he is conferring a monopoly on Cement Ltd. If that is the Government's intention, I challenge the Minister for Industry and Commerce now to tell us what defence can he put up for operating this cement monopoly as a private enterprise? Why should the profits of this monopoly be put into the pockets of a restricted class of shareholder? I am a capitalist. I believe in the capitalist system. I believe it is the best system and the system which will yield the highest standard of living to the people of this country and to the people of any other country. But if you are to have that system you ought to operate it according to the rules of that system. There is no use in having a capitalist system if you are going to tolerate all its evils and have none of its benefits. If you give a complete monopoly inside an absolutely protected market to a capitalist group in the matter of any commodity which is indispensable to the community where they live, then that capitalist group enjoys all the halfpence and the consuming public all the kicks. If you are determined to get on with this policy of pursuing the fatal chimera of national self-sufficiency, monopolies of this character ought to be governed. National self-sufficiency means, in the heel of the hunt, either social evils of the Moscow variety or social evils of the Berlin variety. Any monopoly which is going to yield a profit and a profit which the consuming public are forced to provide ought to be in the hands of the State, so that the taxpayer will derive the benefits of any profits yielded by the operation of these monopolies I think the latter is a fatal policy, because its logical conclusion is either Nazi-ism or Communism. I believe in private enterprise and in moderate competition which maintains a reasonable standard of opposition and not that sort of thing to which this measure is leading. In that way only can you get a high standard of living and a fair standard of leisure for the individual citizens of the State.

Let us not make the mistake of falling between two stools, getting the evils of both systems and the benefits of none. That is what we are doing in this business. That is what we have already done in the flour and bacon business. The pursuance of that policy has been utterly disastrous in the flour business. It has robbed the consuming public of 10/- in each sack of flour, and it has enriched beyond the dreams of avarice a small group of flour millers in this country. In the bacon business it has robbed the consuming public, and it has enriched beyond the dreams of avarice the bacon curers of this country.

The cement enterprise, if operated within the terms of this Bill, can be operated for the purpose of securing to the producers of this commodity great riches, and imposing immense hardships on the people. The Minister will answer that by saying: "I mean to watch over it and to see that an excessive price will not be charged." The Minister gave the same undertaking with regard to flour. Yet at this moment 10/- a sack is being robbed from the Irish people by the flour millers. The flour consumers are being robbed of £1,500,000 a year by the flour millers as a result of the Minister's action. And these millers are in the position of saying to the Minister: "If you do not let us do that, we will close down the mills." The Minister has himself admitted that there was overcharging going on, and that he had to knuckle under and allow it to go on. He said he is trying other ways and means to deal with the flour scandal, but that he has not as yet devised a remedy. There is only one method of dealing with the flour millers, and that is to take over the mills and run them for the benefit of the country, unless you introduce into the flour-milling industry the element of competition. Otherwise, the public will continue to be robbed.

In regard to the cement business, you have either to take over the cement business and run it as a Government monopoly — a rotten system which will produce inefficiency and overcharge because there will be bad value and in the long run graft and tyranny. But it is better to face all that and try to control the industry by the power of Parliament than to leave it in the hands of a group of irresponsible individuals who impose all those evils on us without any power on our part to control them when they want to get away with the swag. If the business is turned into a Government monopoly, the excess profits will come to the relief of taxation. Bad as socialism is, it is better than a monopoly in the hands of a group of private capitalists. The best system would be a system which permitted a degree of competition which would secure for the public fair value and which would protect the consumers in this country against any attempt by a foreign combine to wipe them out so that in the long run the foreign combine might control the whole market.

The Minister has announced to-day that under the terms of this amending Bill he has power to let individual cement importers import if he wants to but he has also announced that he is not going to do that, that he is going to concentrate all the importing of cement in the hands of Cement Limited. That gives rise to a very interesting point in political morality. How far are restricted groups of persons entitled to advance knowledge from the Minister which they can exploit to their own advantage? In England a Cabinet Minister was driven out of public life for allowing Budget secrets to leak out. Is it going to be the practice in this country that a privileged few can go into the Minister's office, there discuss with him future Government policy and be calmly informed a fortnight or three weeks before the Dáil hears about it, that there is going to be a monopoly conferred on a certain company, so that if there are any profits to be got, they can purchase the shares of that company before the public hears the news? I think that is one of the perils of bureaucracy. It is bound to happen from time to time where you have a universal bureaucracy operating in a country. Has the Minister adverted to that aspect of the situation? Is it right that a small group is going to go into consultation with the Minister and ascertain from him that he is going to restrict exports to one company whose shares are on the open market? These people can then buy the shares, sit tight on them until the Minister announces that imports will be restricted to that company and dispose of them at a handsome profit or having acquired them they can retain them at an enhanced price. They get in on the ground floor. I think great precaution should be taken in future to ensure that if the Minister makes up his mind to adopt a course of that kind vitally affecting the future fortunes of a public company, the shares of which are on the Stock Exchange, he should make his intention known publicly the very moment he deems it expedient to communicate his decision to anybody but a trusted civil servant who can be depended upon to maintain strict confidence in a matter of that kind.

The Minister says that Cement Limited will import all cement and therefore they will get it cheaper. I am convinced that that statement was made with the intention of suggesting that this plan for a monopoly was going greatly to benefit the consumers of cement. The Minister is an astute debater and when he found himself lassooed, he immediately submitted and admitted that there was no intention of allowing that superior purchasing power in Cement, Limited, to benefit the purchaser at all, that the only body which would benefit was the Exchequer and that any additional benefit that might accrue to the bulk purchaser of cement was going to be collared for the Exchequer through the licence fees which he proposed to fix. Section 15 is the section under which the licence fee is to be levied and until we hear from the Minister what price he proposes to fix for domestic cement we cannot know how much revenue he intends to extract from that section. Let the House bear this in mind, that if the Exchequer ever gets into difficulties and wants money, the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be pressed by the Minister for Finance to let Cement, Limited profiteer. Every half-crown Cement Limited puts on the price of cement means 2/6 per ton on the 130,000 tons of cement this country will have to import so if the Minister is short of £30,000 or £40,000 he can get it for the Exchequer and permit Cement Limited to raise the price by 5/-. Automatically by his licence fee he rakes in a new revenue which he otherwise would have to do without. That seems to me a thoroughly unsound proposition.

The Minister swept through Part V of the original, Act by saying that it was proposed to make certain minor alterations in that part of the Act and that accordingly he was substituting Part III of this Act for Part V of the original Act.

That is not correct. We are repealing Part V. We are not making any minor alterations.

Exactly, the Minister is reproducing Part V of the original Act in Part III of the Bill but the Minister desires to mislead the House as to the effect of that. He reproduces in Part III, Part V of the original Act, but he omits Section 39 contained in that part of the original Act. I remember Section 39 and the House attached great importance to it. Section 39 provided that if the Minister gave a licence for the importation of cement, all the conditions would have to be published in Iris Oifigiúil. Not only the name and address of the licensee but all the conditions attached to the licence would have to be published in Iris Oifigiúil, —the nature and quality of the cement, the country in which such cement was manufactured, the country from which such cement was authorised by such licence to be imported, and the port through which such cement was authorised to be imported, also the quantity of cement authorised by such licence to be imported, and the rate fixed by the Minister for the purpose of the calculation of the fee payable under Part V of the Act in respect of such licence. All these items of information were to be published in Iris Oifigiúil. All that is being swept away now by the amending Bill and the Minister did not think it necessary to mention that fact to the House at all. He did not even advert to it.

That would mean that he would have to tell somebody, too.

Anything, he can get away with without telling, he likes to get away with without telling. I feel that the discussion of this Bill without the vital information relevant to Section 16, that is, the price of domestic cement, is practically impossible. However, I want to direct the attention of the House, to a proviso in Section 9 of the Bill which I think is a new section altogether and is not in substitution for any section in the original Act that I have been able to trace. Paragraph 5, sub-section I (b) provides that an order made by the Minister in relation to transport works shall specify the manner in which the transport works to which such order relates are to be constructed. I take it that that means that the Minister may by regulation, determine all the conditions under which the structural work is to be done and the terms of employment fixed. Does he intend to use these powers to correct such abuses as have been going on in connection with the erection of alcohol factories? I do not know whether the Minister has similar powers in connection with the alcohol factories or not but I do know that in alcohol factories in the County Monaghan, political supporters of the Minister have gone to the management and caused persons whom they did not like to be dismissed from their work on the construction of the alcohol factory and in the operation of the factory. Does paragraph 5 give the Minister power to interfere in such cases, if they should arise in the cement factory? If it does, I think those powers should be used, because there is no more disgusting form of tyranny than to rob the working man of his day's wages, because he is not prepared to do what the local political boss wants him to do. That has actually happened in Monaghan. It is a very notorious and disgusting abuse. Up to the time I saw this Bill, I was not aware that the Minister could be imagined to have any power in regard to any enterprise of this kind. This suggests to me that he has some power, and I want to know does he intend to use this power to prevent the corrupt abuse of political influence of the kind I have described, because, if he does, I think it would be almost worth while giving him this power to see if he can use it effectively.

I very much doubt if this cement experiment is going to be of advantage to anybody in the country. Cement is the raw material of the building industry. The building industry has employed more men in the last five years than any new industry which has been started under the high tariffs which have been established. The building industry has provided indirect employment in the form of slate quarries, timber, and a variety of other commodities produced in this country. If the raw materials of that industry are forced up too high, it must result in a reduction of building. If it does, it will result in a very serious loss to several industries that depend for their existence on the steady maintenance of the present rate of building.

A great many people think that this cement factory is going to provide immense additional employment. If you offset the unemployment that will be created by the increased cost of cement, plus the unemployment that will be created at every port and dock in Ireland amongst the dockers who habitually handle cement—and, mind you, that means a very big thing to a small port like Sligo—against the number of men who will get the very unpleasant type of work that a cement factory affords, I doubt very much whether there will be an additional man put in a job in this country. It is going to cost a very large sum, and I say it is going to provide a very questionable class of employment. It is one of those classes of employment that seriously jeopardise the health of everyone engaged in them, although, of course, adequate protection can be provided by wearing masks and taking precautions of that kind. I take it that the Minister will see that these precautions are taken. But, it is by no means one of the most attractive forms of work that a man could earn his living at.

On the balance, I do not know what advantage we are getting by this experiment. On the balance, I have very little doubt that looking at the thing from the community point of view, it is going to involve the State in a substantial national loss. The only basis upon which it can be justified is that it makes some contribution towards the realisation of the ideal of national self-sufficiency. I say that no greater curse ever descended upon a nation than the loathsome delusion that national self-sufficiency was a desirable end towards which one should work. Of all the hateful and abominable doctrines that were ever advanced by any economic heretic in the world that of economic self-sufficiency is the worst. It is absolutely impossible of realisation, and every step you take towards it involves your people in untold suffering and hastens the dissolution of all civilised inter-relation between States in the world. This is not a perfect world, and we have got to endure in many cases the lesser of two evils. Sometimes it may be necessary and right to impose a tariff so as to avert greater evil; but the insane chase after tariffs that has gone on in this country for the last five years, I have no doubt whatever has imposed immense hardship on our people. This tariff is going to do its share in increasing the burden.

At a later stage, in the light of knowledge which we will have when the Minister gives us relevant facts, there may be more to be said. But, in the meantime, I think the proposals here contained should be looked upon with a very critical eye with a view to protecting, so far as we can, under the scheme proposed by the Minister, the legitimate interests of those who consume cement and whose very existence may depend on being able to get it at a reasonable price. We ought to remember that children who live in rotten houses may very likely die and, therefore, their existence depends upon getting into a decent house. This Bill may operate to keep many such a one out of such a house until it is too late to bring him in.

I do not think the Minister made certain points quite clear when introducing this Bill. He said that Cement Limited were not to be allowed to make any profit on the importation of cement, or, if there were profits made, they were to be applied for the benefit of the company or for the reduction of the price of cement. There is a very great difference between these two alternatives, and I should like the Minister, when replying, definitely to select one or the other. I think there is a great deal to be said for Cement Limited having the licence to import all the cement that is necessary and, probably, the Minister has arrived at a right conclusion in giving them that power. At the same time, there should be some safeguards, first of all, that the interests, which were not involved in the manufacture of cement, but were engaged in the business of distributing cement, when they are switched over to serve another master, should have some consideration.

The Minister stated that the 5/-licence fee which was imposed on the importation of cement was going to be done away with. But that is not the only duty imposed on cement. There is a 10 per cent. emergency duty imposed on English cement, which at present comes to another 4/6, bringing the duty on some cements up to 9/6. Is that going to be done away with as well as the 5/- licence duty? Another point that the Minister can readily understand is that cement cannot be just blown about the country. It is a very heavy bulky article and is subject to considerable costs in handling it.

While there may be a very fair supply in one part of the country another part of the country may be absolutely without supplies. How does the Minister intend to treat the people who have got in what I will call an adequate stock of cement, because I do not think anybody has got in an enormous stock of it. It is a perishable commodity, and nobody, I think, has an extraordinary stock in. At the same time, as between what is the ordinary stock of cement, and the time that people will take to dispose of it, there must be, I suggest, some machinery for give and take. The Minister simply cannot blow a whistle or sound a gong and say that after that no licence fees will be refunded, and that no cement can be imported. I take it that some consideration is going to be given to the cement that at the moment is in the course of transit, as well as to people who have 50 tons or a couple of hundred tons of cement in stock at the moment and who think that they will be out of it in a certain time. If the quantity that they can import is reduced what position will they be in? Can they claim a refund of the duty? I would like the Minister to deal with that fully; to explain the machinery that he proposes for dealing with that situation, because he can quite easily, in his desire to leave to Cement Limited all the orders possible when they get into production, just miss the tide, and leave the building industry without cement for a couple of months. I am sure he does not wish to do that.

I think I heard him aright when he said that this company, Cement Limited, are going to manufacture cement of B.S.S. quality and also rapid hardening, and are going to neglect the other minor kinds of specialised cement which are at present being imported into this country. I take it that these will be imported without duty and without reference to Cement Limited. I would like to suggest what those are: white cement, coloured crete, buff and red, acrocrete or water repellant, coloured cements and cement mixtures, which include cement and sand. I have nothing but praise for the Minister's Department, because they are at last seeing sense—not the nonsense that goes on at the present time in connection with things that are not manufactured in this country, and that could not be manufactured here without considerable steps being taken by the manufacturers. I would like to bring to the Minister's notice what happens in the case of certain other commodities. Now, this refers to a commodity which is not manufactured in this country and which if it was intended to manufacture it would, for the plant required, involve an expenditure running into six figures.

Before we get a licence we must obtain an invoice from the manufacfacturer, which takes two or three days, which we have to submit to the local manufacturer, who will give us a letter stating that they cannot supply. This means another two days. These letters and invoices we then send to the Department of Industry and Commerce. After three or four days we get a letter stating that they have instructed the Revenue Commissioners to send us a licence. This we get after a further three or four days. We then have to submit the licence to the shipping company, who will hand it to the Customs officer, who will release the goods after three or four days. At least 14 days' delay occurs in all these transactions.

I put it that at least 14 days' delay occurs in all those transactions. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce takes three or four days. In some cases it may take five or six. The local manufacturer, if his liver is out of order, paws your letter and the invoice over, and he says: "You want a letter about it; surely the people can take my goods; this is most unreasonable. Cannot they take the products of the country?" Apparently, the Minister's Department now sees that that sort of thing cannot go on. It is nonsense. I do not believe it takes place anywhere else on the face of the earth, and it is awful for business.

As I have said, I have nothing but praise for the Minister if he leaves outside the scope of Cement Limited the things that they do not intend to manufacture. I would like if he would go further, look back and see if he cannot apply some of his newer ideas to some of the old disabilities that we are groaning under. If he would do that we would feel very much obliged to him. There is one other matter that I want to deal with, because it is at the bottom of everything where cement is concerned. Cement used to be the cinderella of the building trade. It has ceased to be that, and now has crept from the foundations to every part of a building. When you get cement B.S.S. you are always talking about price, but if it is not B.S.S., price does not matter. I hope the Minister is going to be very particular about the quality of the cement sent out. I know that it is difficult for the Minister's Department to go into complaints about quality or various other matters when complaints are made. Remember that the attitude taken about some other things at present cannot be taken up in this respect—a sort of indication "we know one of you is lying but we cannot tell which." If there is going to be anything wrong with the quality of the cement, it will be a sorry day for the building industry. For that reason I ask the Minister to pay particular attention to quality. When the quality is right, the talk is all about price, but if the quality is not right, price does not matter.

I am very interested in welcoming this Bill, because it clarifies the position of the cement industry in the immediate future. I think it is recognised by everybody that if the large commercial interests involved, and the group forming Cement Limited, have been so successful in Great Britain, they can be equally successful here. If they can make cement in Great Britain we can make it here. I have not heard any mention in the criticisms of the Bill of the terrible vulnerability of the cement industry in this country in time of war, or in case of an upset in the cement markets of the world. It seems to me that the position of this country is this, that it is either a dumping ground for cement so that importers do not know where they are, and what price they will get, or that the price is fixed so high by the cartel that in the case of any independent organisation in the building trade or concerned with the importation of cement it is impossible to plan ahead. Everyone who remembers the last war knows the enormous jumps that took place in the price of cement. Prices became almost prohibitive. If we have a cement industry here operated by a successful group of men associated with Irish directors who know their job, men acknowledged as leading figures in commercial circles, and with clean records, it is quite obvious that this industry is in safe hands and can be made a great success. If any criticism is offered it would be to ask, why is it that those with influence, and with an inside connection with the cement industry, who are importing cement for their own use, cannot make some inroads into the international cartel and get cement here on the same terms as some of the larger consumers in Great Britain? If they cannot do so now it is because the new arrangements which have taken place in Éire in the last 18 months were unforeseen.

In future the cartel which imports 140,000 tons of cement, might be able to make arrangements by which cement would come here on the same terms as to big consumers in Great Britain. It amazed me to find out that if some of the big exporters here broke the rule that was arranged amongst themselves, and gave the same price per ton for cement as the big importers here, they would be fined 10/- a ton. That is a position which shows the vulnerability of Éire as far as cement is concerned even in normal times. It has been proved beyond the shadow of doubt by those who are in a position to know that we can make first-class cement here. If it can be made in Great Britain we can make it here. I think cement importers and those engaged in the trade will be very secure in abnormal times and can visualise the home market being made secure by production here. I welcome the announcement that there is a possibility of a third factory being set up, which will not be in the hands of an irresponsible group, but in the hands of Irishmen who know their job and whose commercial morality is second to none. I believe that the Irish cement industry is in safe hands, and that the cement produced will be equal to, if not better, than any in the world. As far as Cement Limited is concerned, if the profits made or the commissions paid as subsidiary agents are criticised, the Minister has power to investigate and has certain power to fix what is a fair profit. I am sure that if there is a fair guarantee of reciprocity this big industry is going to be a success.

The Government naturally is watching its interests and has certain powers of control and perhaps certain financial advantages of a limited kind. I cannot juggle with figures or reply to some of the speeches that have been made, but I know that politics and business never mix, and never will. Statistics can be brought forward to riddle any statements that are made. Anything can be proved with figures. I sincerely hope the Minister will in the interim between Cement Limited coming into full production, and the period during which cement will be imported, keep in touch with those who are in the trade and, if necessary, seek their advice. As Deputy Dockrell mentioned they have their troubles in trying to get quick deliveries and to burst through the reams of tape that are encountered before getting clearances from warehouses and docks. I take this opportunity to suggest to the Minister that possibly the time has arrived when a special office with special advisers should be set up, to give short-cuts and reasonable help, not only in connection with cement but with many other things so as to facilitate the business community in clearing warehouses at the different ports at which they carry on their lawful trade. I am certain that Deputy Dockrell can bear me out in one thing, that while nothing but courtesy is shown by these officials, they are tied up by slow, cumbersome methods.

I should like to hear the Minister, when he is concluding, going into the details which I am sure he has been waiting for this debate to bring out, and in which the public will be interested. Not knowing the Bill in its detailed form, it is difficult to debate it here and extract from the Minister the various details which those interested will seek in his reply. We will leave it to the generosity of the Minister himself to be as detailed as possible, as this is a big industry with a big influence on one of the greatest necessities in Éire, namely, housing. I understand that coloured cement will not be manufactured in this country, and therefore there will be the normal methods of purchase from outside. In conclusion, whatever the costs may be—and I am sure there will be control to ensure that in the matter of costs there will be no exploitation of the consumer, whether he is big or small—I hope that this industry will have a huge success. I hope it will add to our independence in the event of war, and in the event of abnormal conditions which nobody can foresee one year ahead or even one week ahead.

I am not going to say very much on the present Bill before the House, but there are a few remarks I want to make. On reading through the measure, I came to the conclusion—and I think it is a right one—that this present legislation is going to create a monopoly, that is, assuming that Cement Limited are the possessors of the sole manufacturing licence for cement in Éire, and secondly, that they are going to be the possessors of the sole licence for importing cement. I agree with Deputy Dillon that, if you are going to create a monopoly, that monopoly should at least be in the hands of the Government. As a result of past experience, the first thing that struck me is that, if we are going to have a monopoly, we are going to pay more for our cement here in Éire than we were paying before the setting up of Cement Limited. Taking an associated commodity, that is, asbestos slates, I think a factory was started in Athy, and up to a few months ago, at any rate, asbestos slates up to the standard of the slates made in Athy could be sold in this country after paying the duty at a lower price than the actual slates produced here. Is that going to happen in regard to cement? If a monopoly is given to Cement Limited, it is logical to assume, judging by past experience, that we are going to pay more for our cement. I do not know whether we are or not. I should like to have the Minister's views on that matter when he is concluding.

Secondly, on looking through the measure, I find that Cement Limited are given practically complete control over cement. I think that in this Bill, which is supposed to be a Bill to amend the recent cement legislation, the Minister should tighten up his control over those companies which are getting a monopoly in this country. I know that under previous legislation the Minister has power, before he grants a licence, to demand that the people seeking the licence shall do certain things, that they shall have a certain amount of capital, and so forth. On looking through the list of directors of Cement Limited, I came across a couple of names which certainly do not belong to Cork or Kerry men. I think at least two of the directors come from Central Europe. I do not know whether or not facilities were granted to Irish men here to take up that amount of shares and have that much interest in the company; I am seeking for information.

Thirdly, I think it is only right when a company is given complete control over producing any commodity in this country, and when they are not under any big supervision by a Government Department, that at least every year their books should be inspected by the Auditor-General. We know they have to make certain returns to the companies office each year, but I do not think they are satisfactory. I certainly think that the Minister should avail of this present Bill going through the Dáil to ensure that there will be adequate control over people who are given a monopoly, particularly when we have a lot of foreign gentlemen concerned who we know are sound business men who are not in it for the love of it, but for the sake of what they can get out of it. I suppose we would all be the same, but I think the books of those companies should certainly be subject to inspection each year by the Auditor-General. From what I can gather there have been manipulations, in view of the fact that some of them happened to be also directors of kindred companies— manipulations, which if they had come to light, would not have received the sanction of the Minister. As I say, I think the Minister should definitely avail of this legislation going through Dáil Éireann to tighten up this control over the people to whom he grants a monopoly.

I do not know whether the Minister has any say in the question as to where the cement factories are to be started. I should like to hear what he has to say on that matter. I do know that for the past ten or twelve years down around Skerries when a child reaches three years of age the mother says: "Come on, Johnny, eat plenty of stirabout, because when you grow up you will get a job in the cement factory which is going to be started in Skerries." That was promised not alone by this Government, but by the last Government. Quite recently we read in the paper one morning that we were having a cement factory in Limerick and a cement factory in Drogheda. I do not know whether or not they are afraid to interfere with the crops of early potatoes in Skerries, or whether the eloquence of Deputy Walsh in Drogheda and the eloquence of Deputy Keyes and Deputy Burke in Limerick has been more effective than that of the public representatives in Dublin. I do not know whether it is that the walls of the Shannon and the Boyne are better than those of the Irish Sea. It has actually happened, I think, that a company interested in cement about eight years ago purchased a big amount of land in Skerries for the purpose of starting a cement factory, and we were to have it on our breakfast table wrapped up in paper the following morning. We have not got it yet. I wonder whether it is contemplated that we are to have in Skerries the third cement factory mentioned by the Minister? I do not know whether or not he has any control over that, and I simply suggest that he should certainly avail of this legislation to tighten up his control over those companies to which he gives a monopoly, particularly when there are a lot, or certainly a great many foreign gentlemen concerned, who are mixed up in a great many things in the country we now call Éire.

I had not any intention of taking part in this debate, but when I heard Deputy McGowan talking about what the people of Skerries expected and what they told the children they expected to get, I was reminded of the fact that Drinagh, in my constituency, had a cement factory for 50 long years. That factory was closed down in the last few years, and previous to this Government taking office in 1932 various promises were made by Fianna Fáil representatives in the County Wexford that one of the first things they would do on obtaining office would be to secure the reestablishment of the Drinagh Cement Works in County Wexford. I do hope that if the Minister has anything to do with the selecting of the locality in which a third factory is to be located he will bear County Wexford in mind, and I suggest to the Minister that County Wexford has a perfect right to the third factory, if it is to be started. It has been proved beyond yea or nay that the cement manufactured there in years gone by was second to none and was as good as any cement that has ever been imported into this country. I am prepared to admit that the machinery there is not up to date machinery, but there is plenty of limestone there and the facilities by way of clay and limestone that would be required for the manufacture of cement. I earnestly hope that the Minister will do something to ensure that the cement factory will be re-established there. Quite recently, there have been inspections made in the vicinity by representatives of Cement Ltd., and the people of Wexford are expecting that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will intervene on their behalf, especially in view of the fact that very definite promises were made by his representatives in the County Wexford immediately prior to the General Election of 1932.

I think that some members of the Party opposite should advise Deputy Dillon that his personal influence, and the influence of his Party in this House, is considerably reduced whenever he resorts to personal abuse in order to conceal his inability to deal adequately with some question that is under discussion. I can assure Deputy Dillon and his colleagues that, as regards myself, the various insinuations he makes against me do not worry me very much; but there is required from Deputies some contribution to the dignity of this assembly, which is, I think, independent of any purely Party consideration. I did not come here in my personal capacity, whatever Deputy Dillon may think of me personally, and my personal characteristics are of no importance to anybody except himself. I come here in a representative capacity as a representative of an Irish Government and, as such, I think I am entitled to protection against that form of personal attack, and I think Deputies should try to encourage one another to refrain from it. That is all I want to say on that matter, but I feel a certain amount of humiliation as an Irishman on every occasion that these tactics are resorted to.

May I be allowed to congratulate the Minister on that change of front? It is a very important change in the last few years.

Well, I propose to get on with the Bill now. Reference was made to the licence fee now chargeable and which will continue to be chargeable in connection with the importation of cement. Deputies are apparently under serious misunderstandings concerning both the intention of the Government in providing for that fee and its effectiveness as regards the price of cement. When the Cement Act of 1933 was before the Dáil, this country constituted the only competitive market for cement in Europe. It was the only part of Europe in which cement prices were not controlled by the international cartel. In consequence of that, the price at which cement was sold here was very much below the price in any other country. The imposition of a licence fee was decided upon then in order to effect an increase in the price of cement so that the variation that would take place when Irish-made cement became available would not be too considerable. We, of course, contemplated then that Irish-made cement would be available much earlier than now, but difficulties arose, of which the Dáil is aware, which prevented the plans which were in contemplation in that year being brought to fruition. In the interval, however, a very substantial change has taken place. I expressed the opinion in the Dáil on that occasion that the circumstance which left a free market here for cement was purely accidental and would inevitably end, and at the present time, not merely is the price of cement here controlled by a body called the Irish Committee of the Cement Manufacturers' Cartel but that committee also decides from what sources we are going to get our supplies and the percentage of the market which is to be allocated to producers in various countries. Deputies who may be concerned with the possibility of a monopoly being set up should know that that monopoly exists in its most complete form at the present time, and there is no escape from it, but the institution of this control over our market involved, of course, a very substantial increase in the price of cement, and an increase the extent of which was determined by considerations which had no relation whatever to the licence fee. I think it is an entirely false assumption to make, that the withdrawal of the licence fee would result in a reduction in the selling price of cement by a penny. I think the price at which it is sold here is fixed by the cartel only in relation to its saleability. If a higher price could be secured without any diminution in sales, I think we would have to pay that higher price, and if a falling off in sales necessitated a reduction in price, we would probably get it, and that is entirely independent of the licence fee.

Now, that circumstance was bound inevitably to arise. It exists in every other European country, but it is going to exist here only until the importation of cement has ceased in consequence of the establishment of its manufacture here. Deputy Dillon spoke of this fee being a tax upon the consumers. I do not think the consumers in this country paid one penny extra for cement in consequence of that fee, and furthermore, in so far as working-class houses are concerned, Deputy Dillon should remember that two-thirds of the cost of such houses is being borne by the State, and therefore all his remarks about the fee being a device to pay revenue in a hidden way were completely beside the point. Undoubtedly, the State gets revenue from the licence fee, a revenue which is now going to diminish very considerably and which will commence to diminish in the course of a week or two if this is made available here.

It will go into the pocket of the manufacturer instead of into that of the Government.

Apart from the other peculiarities of his Parliamentary conduct, I think Deputy Dillon might make a habit of finding out something about the subjects he intends to discuss. I informed the Dáil that the intention was that imported cement should be sold at the same price as home-produced cement. The cement which will be made available from the Irish factories will be sold at a lower price than that now prevailing for cement. The price of Irish cement is controlled. Deputies concerned about the possibility of the cement company making undue profits are forgetting the fact, made known to them, that a very rigid control exists over the activities of the company. The price at which it will sell cement is fixed in relation to a formula, and it is liable to vary with the variations of certain charges, such as the cost of coal, labour and electricity. The price at which cement will be sold will vary in different parts of the country, as transport charges constitute a very important element in the price which the consumer pays for the cement. The commencement of manufacture here and the inauguration of the system contemplated by this Bill are going to mean for by far the greater part of the country, if not all the country, a reduction in the price of cement which will be effected despite the fact that the licence fee of 5/- will continue to be chargeable upon imported cement. This arrangement, therefore, is going to benefit consumers, although the State will continue to get its 5/- fee on imported cement. There is going to be a reduction which will be of a different size in different parts of the country, but which in the case of Dublin may be 3/- or 4/- per ton.

This sounds very like the reduction in taxation by £2,000,000, the increase in our social services and the maintenance of salaries.

It is sound common sense, and that is why Deputy Dillon has so much difficulty in understanding it. It is intended that the cement company, by reason of getting the sole licence, will make no profit on the importation of cement. The maintenance of the licence fee merely ensures that the profit which would otherwise go, if not to Cement Limited, then to the cartel or the distributors, will go instead into the Exchequer, but the price of cement will be no different. It will be the price at which the Irish cement will be sold and that is regulated by contract between the company and the Government.

You said that Irish cement will be sold cheaper than imported cement?

I said it will be sold cheaper than imported cement is being sold now; but even imported cement will also be sold cheaper in consequence of the arrangements that we will make under this Bill.

Apparently this is going to be a most wonderful Bill.

A considerable amount of nonsense can be talked about the benefits of competition in industry, and we had a fair amount of talk of that description this afternoon. Let me point out that competition in industry can often be the source of higher prices. Most Deputies who have given the question of industrial organisation any sort of deep consideration will agree with that statement. I do not think that anybody will seriously contend that the price of flour would be reduced if competition in the manufacture of flour were intensified. Deputy Dillon alleged that we have eliminated competition altogether, although every other Deputy knows that that is not merely untrue but that it is the very reverse of the truth. In fact, the bulk of the complaints we get from Deputies concerning the flour-milling industry is in relation to overproduction, about the flour mills being on part-time and about the closing down of flour mills because they are unable to dispose of their stocks. The existence of excessive stocks and of part-time working in flour mills is not compatible with the contention that competition is entirely eliminated. It is entirely incorrect to assert that an excess profit amounting to 10/- a sack is being made by Irish flour millers. That contention is so ridiculous that it is not necessary for me to spend any time dealing with it.

What is the correct figure?

I could not say. I am aware that some flour millers have made no profit at all and some mills closed down because they were working at a loss. On the other hand, other flour millers may have been making profits which I or the Deputy might consider excessive; but it is impossible to generalise in this manner. If we are going to get to the point where we would consider, as Deputy Dillon seems now prepared to consider, the nationalisation of the flour-milling industry, it might be as well to recollect that nationalising the flour-milling industry will not make the slightest bit of difference unless it is followed by rationalisation, unless the process of rationalisation is undertaken for the purpose of eliminating the uneconomic units. There are some who would consider that a good policy. In certain circumstances perhaps I would, but I believe we could get that without rationalisation, if we wanted to. If that line of policy were to be pursued are we going to get the support of the Dáil when a number of flour mills are to be closed down in order to effect what would be, in practice, a comparatively small reduction in the price of flour?

Some of the mills are closed by a ring which will not let them sell their flour below the figure fixed by the ring.

The Deputy is misinformed. A flour mill is obliged by law to mill 85 per cent. of its quota. If it fails to mill 85 per cent. it becomes liable to penalties. The Deputy can easily ascertain by way of parliamentary question how many flour mills have, in fact, become liable to penalties because of their failure to dispose of 85 per cent. of their quota.

They will not be let reduce the price to the capacity of the purchaser's purse.

The Deputy obviously misunderstands my point, and I will not waste any further time by explaining it to him.

There is no question at all about the Bill; I am talking about the ring.

We are told by some people that the only way effectively to control price is by intensifying competition. I think that is wrong. It will mean the utilisation of capital for equipment purposes and it may mean the working of that equipment in such an uneconomic manner as will raise the cost of production. It would mean for the workers the tremendous disadvantage of always being liable to broken time and periodic disemployment, periods in which they will have to be maintained by somebody. If there are Deputies who think that that is a sound and economic and efficient way to engage in industrial production, I disagree entirely. I think efficiency, and by efficiency I mean the production of goods of the best quality at the lowest price at which they can be made available, involves the regulation of the quantity of production so as to ensure that it will not run too far in excess of the requirements of the market.

What about the putting out of employment of a couple of hundred men, as was the case in Limerick? They knocked down two mills there and built a new one and then sacked 100 or 150 men, and there is just the same output.

The Deputy was one of those who protested about the price of flour. He cannot have it both ways. We can reduce the price of flour undoubtedly by acting in a variety of directions, but they are all going to be detrimental to somebody's interest. The greatest good for the greatest number might be secured by bringing down the price of flour, but that is a matter concerning which there will be a difference of opinion varying in extent according to the effect on local or individual interests. However, that is beside the present point, but I am prepared to discuss the subject with Deputies at any time.

Is what happened at Limerick your idea of rationalisation?

The Government have not required any flour miller to do anything of the kind the Deputy is indicating. The only question the Government had to decide was whether they would prevent a flour miller taking action of that kind. I do not know what case could be argued here or elsewhere for the Government using its powers to prevent a flour miller substituting a new plant for obsolescent mills.

It was done to increase the profits and to wipe out most of the men although they already had sufficient profits.

It is a case of machinery taking the place of man-power.

It is taking the place of human labour in every industry but it has not resulted in diminution of human employment. Quite the reverse. There is a much larger number of people employed in this country than ever there was.

In the flour-milling business?

In industry as a whole.

Give us the flour-milling figures.

The same is probably true of most countries. The mechanisation of industry and the adoption of those devices called "labour-saving improvements" in industrial organisation, whatever immediate effect they may have had on individuals, have increased the total number of persons employed for wages in industry and the total volume of industrial production.

Give us the figures for flour milling.

Let us stick to the question of cement.

You will stick in the mud if you go on milling flour on those lines.

I am prepared to stand with the Deputy to this extent, that if, in any controlled industry of that kind, development of the nature indicated results in the displacement of workers, some provision for such workers should be made and, in the particular case to which Deputy Keyes refers, an assurance was obtained by me, as he knows, in advance, that any workers displaced in consequence of the change would be provided for by way of pension or in such other way as would be considered satisfactory by me.

Deputy Dillon waxed very eloquent about my iniquity in consulting cement importers as to the arrangements to be made concerning the importation of cement. If I had taken a contrary course of action, he would have criticised me for not consulting the cement importers. The obvious course for me in a matter of this kind was to get a conference called by my Department of all the cement importers and to discuss with them the arrangements that would be most convenient to meet the difficulties of the temporary period during which a limited quantity of cement would have to be imported. If I had ignored the cement importers, made a decision on my own and brought that decision into operation without any regard to the convenience of the parties affected, I would have been open to criticism, but I am not open to criticism because I consulted these interests. They gave me unanimous advice—all the parties directly interested in this Bill—and I decided to act on that advice. That advice is embodied in this Bill.

What is the Minister's view of letting a restricted section know of Government action in advance?

The Deputy is an adept at twisting my words to mean something different from what I said. I did not say I let these people know what we proposed to do. I said I got their advice and that I decided to act on their advice.

You said a minute ago that you told them what you were going to do.

Deputy Dillon made references to Section 9 (5) of this Bill. He said it was a new paragraph, which shows his lack of research. The paragraph appears in the original Bill. He dragged that in for the purpose of making certain allegations with reference to the employment of labour in the alcohol factories. If Deputy Dillon has received one-tenth of the complaints concerning the politics of the persons employed in these factories that I have received, he must have employed a special staff to deal with them, because I am deluged with allegations from every area in which such a factory exists that nobody is getting employment there except Blueshirts and the sons of Blueshirts.

Did you get any complaints that certain men were driven out of factories by secretaries of Fianna Fáil clubs who went up and threatened the manager?

I have nothing whatever to do with the persons employed there, and have never attempted to influence the managing-director of that enterprise in the selection of persons for employment. Nor do I intend to do so.

I am sure you do not.

Deputy Dillon spoke about the manufacture of cement resulting in a substantial national loss. I know he has peculiar ideas on these matters, but I would like him to develop that idea at some time. I cannot see how the utilisation of Irish raw materials in an Irish factory by Irish workers who produce cement to be sold at a lower price than we are at present paying for imported cement can, under any circumstances, result in a substantial national loss. If Deputy Dillon is able to prove that, his argumentative powers are greater than I thought.

I can prove that the promises of 1931 were excellent, but that they were not carried into effect.

Every single one of them.

Including the reduction of taxation by £2,000,000?

Including, in effect, the reduction of taxation.

The Ceann Comhairle called me to order for stating that the majority of the Minister's statements were false.

The Deputy spoke on flour, and now we are going into a discussion of general taxation on a Cement Bill.

Deputy Dockrell, unlike Deputy Dillon, had some intelligent observations to make on the Bill. He asked which of the alternatives to which I referred we were going to adopt—if the cement was to be imported by the cement company without profit, or if any profit made by them was to be utilised for the purpose of effecting an ail-round reduction in prices. We will adopt, I think, the first of these alternatives. It will be a more satisfactory arrangement, but I should like to keep myself free to effect a change if that arrangement did not appear to be working out well. This matter is on a tentative basis. The arrangements which we might make with the company in relation to the issue to them of a licence to import cement could not be fixed in detail until the Bill becomes law. In any event, I should have to retain liberty to determine that arrangement if it appeared to be working unsatisfactorily from the public point of view.

The Deputy need have no apprehension in regard to the quality of the cement. The Act of 1933 gave us power to fix a standard specification of our own. It prescribes a standard of quality considerably higher than that required by the British standard specification, and it is the intention of the company to ensure that not merely will their own cement conform to that Irish standard, but that the cement to be imported will also conform to that standard, so that the Deputy need have no apprehension whatever that the standard of quality will not be as high as it is.

Is the Minister aware that the British standard specification bears no relation whatever to ordinary commercial cement?

If the Deputy had been here he would have learned that Deputy Dockrell asked me if the cement to be manufactured here would conform to the British standard specification.

That is to say, the Minister does not know.

I have answered Deputy Dockrell, and Deputy Dillon's interruption is both unmannerly and unnecessary.

The Minister is, apparently, not aware of what I stated.

What I told the Deputy in relation to cements other than Portland and rapid-hardening cement is that the arrangement contemplated in respect of them—the issue of sole import licences—will not apply to these other cements, but it will be necessary for importers of these other cements to get a licence. It would be impossible to allow their importation free of all control because of the difficulties of definition and the possibility of evasion of the regulations.

Some reference was made to the location of the third factory to be established. I am not aware that the Government gave any promise to any locality that a cement factory would be established there. In fact, I am quite certain that no such promise was given because, of course, there are very many areas in this country where the materials which would enable cement to be manufactured exist. I suppose the basic material in the manufacture of cement is limestone and limestone is one thing we have in abundance in this country.

Will the Minister give us information as to how far the individual members of the Fianna Fáil Party gave such a promise?

I am quite sure that the Fianna Fáil and the Labour Deputies gave, each in his constituency, all the promises necessary at the time.

What did the Minister do to carry them out?

The Deputy asks what did I do to carry them out. I asked the promoters of the cement company to inspect each one of these areas and to consider as carefully and as fully as possible their suitability as centres for cement manufacture and to choose for the location of their factories places where cement could be made most efficiently and cheaply and where its distribution to the consumers of the country could be best arranged for. That is what I propose to do in the future. In these circumstances, I think it is extremely improbable that this particular cement factory will be established at Skerries or anywhere in the vicinity of Drogheda, and I think that it is just equally improbable that it will be established in the vicinity of Limerick. I think it likely that it will be established somewhere in the south-eastern portion of this country because, as Deputies know, the cost of the transport of cement is considerable. The price of cement is not the price ex-factory. The price of cement is the price as delivered where it is to be used. Therefore, the facilities available for the distribution of the cement with the least possible costs for transport is a very important factor in determining the location of the factory. In view of what I have said, I think it is fair enough to describe the situation as this—that the people of Wexford are likely to win, that the people of Skerries have not succeeded in getting the ticket at all. Whether the Wexford runner is to be the winner it is not for me to determine. I think there is very little else for me to add. I think the various matters of importance raised in the debate have been dealt with. I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time and I recommend the Dáil to agree with that.

Would the Minister give us this information—there used to be what is known as the British standard specification for cement——

There still is.

This is the question I want to put:—Is it true that there is a revised British standard specification, because it was the case two years ago that the British standard specification for the manufacture of cement had advanced far beyond the old British standard specification, and we are now having something very much superior. I gather now that there is a general revision of the old specification and that the new specification is to be substituted. I would be glad if the Minister would look into this matter and see whether in the guarantees given when they spoke of the British standard specification the cement company meant the old standard and not the new one?

I do not propose to accept the British standard at all. We are instituting a standard of our own which has been prepared by a very competent body of people set up for that purpose and which I am informed sets up a higher standard than that set up by the British.

That will correspond to the red triangle and the ordinary specification of cement coming into this country?

It will occasion an improvement in the standard of cement available.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 30th March.